After the fall of Atlanta, Hood marched his army north to try and lure Sherman
out into the open where the Confederates could worry him to death with
guerilla warfare. It did not work; Sherman had his own plans that involved
marching the other way.
Grant did not support Sherman’s plans at first, he was concerned that Hood
would be free to attack isolated Union positions stretching between Atlanta and
Murfreesboro cutting Sherman off and leaving his army stranded deep in
hostile territory. Hood’s march north seemed to support Grant in this worry.
Sherman finally convinced Grant that using his army to protect already
captured territory would waist his manpower to no good effect.
Sherman proposed to split his forces, sending 60,000 men north to counter
Hood and force him to keep his forces together, while Sherman himself led
62,000 men south and east to the sea. Sherman told Grant that he would insure
that no one in Georgia would ever want to make war again. While Sherman
marched off to make history, Hood continued his march north which was had
Hood had 39,000 men under his command when he started north; this was all
that was left of the 50,000 men that Hood had inherited when he took command
from Joseph Johnston at Atlanta. With the 60,000 Union soldiers under Gen
Thomas, the Rock of Chickamauga, blocking his way there really wasn’t a lot
that Hood could hope to accomplish.
Hood thought he saw a chance to attack an isolated division of Thomas’ forces
holding an intersection at Spring Hill, TN and he issued orders to attack them
on Nov. 29, 1864. Hood’s orders were confusing at best and the attack did not
come off as planned, during the night the Union soldiers slipped away and
joined the rest of their mates dug in at Franklin.
Hood was furious. He thought his army had deliberately disobeyed his orders
and needed to be taught a lesson. Also, only a part of Thomas’ forces were at
Franklin, under the command of Gen John Schofield. Hood thought he still had
a chance to hit the Union hard, but because two of his divisions being to far to
the rear to get into line, Hood would still be numerically inferior in any
engagement. Hood’s commanders wanted him to flank the Union defenders out
of their position but on Nov. 30th Hood ordered repeated frontal assaults.
There has been the accusation made that Hood ordered the assaults to punish
his army for the failures at Franklin. But it is also true that Franklin was Hood’s
best chance at striking a significant blow at the Union forces before they were
combined at Nashville. I suspect that both thoughts were true to some degree;
but either way Hood wasted his army at Franklin.
The Confederates suffered 6,300 casualties, nearly three times the Unions
losses. Schofield fell back to Nashville and joined the rest of Thomas’ army.
Hood took a position on the hills south of the city. There was nothing Hood
could hope to accomplish at Nashville; his army was too weak to attack, to
small to besiege and too demoralized to wage any kind of an insurgency; but he
refused to retreat and just sat in the hills and waited.
Thomas took his time, Grant thought he was taking far too much time, but
Thomas wanted to deliver a decisive blow on Hood and on Dec. 15 he did just
that. By the time Thomas finished driving Hood back to Tupelo, Miss. Hood
only had 15.000 men left. For all practical purposes the Confederate Army of
Tennessee had ceased to exist.
Thomas had taken a lot of heat for taking so long in planning his attack. Like
Rosecrans before him Thomas was thought to be too careful; but Thomas did
not just win his battle against Hood, he destroyed him. Few Civil War
campaigns concluded so decisively.