December 2, 1864: Non-Siege of Nashville Begins

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Nashville_campaign_svg

 

One of the oddest episodes in the history of the Civil War begins.  His army badly mangled at the battle of Franklin, Hood entrenches his army before the Union lines at Nashville.

Hood explained his rationale for doing so in his official report of the campaign which he submitted on February 15, 1865:

On the 2d of December the army took position in front of Nashville, about two miles from the city. Lieutenant-General Lee’s corps constituted our center, resting upon the Franklin pike, with Cheatham’s corps upon the right and Stewart’s on the left, and the cavalry on either flank, extending to the river. I was causing strong detached works to be built to cover our flanks, intending to make them inclosed works, so as to defeat any attempt of the enemy should he undertake offensive movements against our flank and rear. The enemy still held Murfrees-borough with about 6,000 men, strongly fortified; he also held small forces at Chattanooga and Knoxville. It was apparent that he would soon have to take the offensive to relieve his garrisons at those points or cause them to be evacuated, in which case I hoped to capture the forces at Murfreesborough, and should then be able to open communication with Georgia and Virginia. Should he attack me in position I felt that I could defeat him, and thus gain possession of Nashville with abundant supplies for the army. This would give me possession of Tennessee. Necessary steps were taken to furnish the army with supplies, which the people were ready and willing to furnish. Shoe-shops were in operation in each brigade. We had captured sufficient railroad stock to use the road to Pulaski, and it was already in successful operation. Having possession of the State, we should have gained largely in recruits, and could at an early day have moved forward to the Ohio, which would have frustrated the plans of the enemy, as developed in his campaign toward the Atlantic coast.

None of this makes much sense.  Hood had to know that the forces under Thomas in Nashville were twice the size of his depleted army.  Additionally Hood lacked the resources to place Nashville under siege, and thus Thomas received substantial reinforcements and never lacked for either supplies or ammunition.  By the time he moved against Hood Thomas had three to one odds, superbly equipped, facing a foe dependent upon a tenuous supply chain.  Hood’s decision to remain before Nashville under such conditions defies military common sense, and can only be seen as a desperate attempt to find a path to victory where none existed.

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2 Comments

  1. Hood ran away from Sherman who ignored him and told Gen’l Thomas to stop him. Sherman had taken Gen’l Thomas best troops with him on the march to the sea. Gen’l Schofield had already bloodied Hood badly at Franklin. I don’t think Hood knew what else to do. The war was lost after Vicksburg and Gettysburg and Jefferson and Lee kept the Lost Cause going and the “useless effusion of blood” is on their heads IMHO. Poor old Hood was just a fighter and he did what he thought he had to do. If it was dumb, the whole end of the war was tragically dumb. Where do you get those great maps? Is it a source one may copy?

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