02091 - Fortified bridge; Cumberland River, Nashville, TN, 1864 [LC-DIG-cwpb-02091]
In September 1864, General Hood stood in defense of Atlanta. He knew that his 30,000 Confederates would not be able to repel the 80,000 soldiers that Sherman commanded. He decided on a bold move, he would go to Tennessee and defeat General George Thomas, whose army was divided geographically. This would allow Hood both the element of surprise and size. Leaving Atlanta undefended he burned strategic supplies that might fall into Union hands and left the citizens to fend for themselves. Initially Sherman pursued Hood, but quickly realized that the bigger prize was Atlanta and ultimately his march to the sea.
With Hood’s army free to march into Tennessee, General Thomas was in grave danger. His first attempt was to attack General Schofield at Spring Hill. Due to a series of Confederate communication blunders, Schofield slipped away with little impact. Enraged by his failure, Hood sent 20,000 men to attack Schofield at Franklin. Suffering casualties for ¼ of his men, including a number of key generals, Hood was again dealt a heavy blow. By the time Hood reached Nashville, Schofield had managed to rejoin General Thomas and now with a combined force of 55,000 Hood now had lost both surprise and size.
Being at a numerical disadvantage, Hood setup a defensive position and waited for Thomas to attack. With the Union army unable to break Hood’s he would then be able to counter attack and take Nashville. To add further pressure on the Union forces, he sent General Nathan Bedford Forrest on a cavalry raid with 25% of his army. This greatly weakened Hood and left him without his fastest and best troops. Thomas was able to capitalize on Hoods mistake and on December 15th put pressure on the Confederate flank. By the next day it was clear that Hood had to either evacuate or he would lose his entire army. With that the battle of Nashville came to an end and one of the largest Union numerical victories during the Civil War was mostly forgotten because of Sherman’s news a few days later on having reached Savannah.