The December 1864 Battle of Nashville – TTG

This account/essay about the 1864 Battle of Nashville was written by Matt Palmquist, a freelance writer with a great interest in the Civil War. He maintains a twitter account at @CivilWarHumor. He often writes such interesting accounts of Civil War battles that go beyond dry chronologies of military movements and casualties. Unfortunately, reading these long essays on twitter is a PITA. I’ve done the control-c, control-v and slight editing to make it more readable.

I admire George Thomas more than any other general in The Late Unpleasantness. That he defeated Hood at Nashville is no surprise. The numbers were on Thomas’ side. He didn’t just want a victory, his intent was to utterly destroy Hood’s army and remove it from the battlefield for all time. He did just that. Hood’s army was already mortally wounded at Battle of Franklin two weeks earlier. His frontal assault against Union defensive lines at Franklin dwarfed Pickett’s charge at Gettysburg in size and casualties. In addition to over 6,000 killed, wounded and captured, Hood lost 14 generals and 44 regimental commanders in that one fateful charge.

The Battle of Nashville   

OTD [15 December] in 1864, as a heavy fog at 4 a.m. masked their movements, George Thomas’s army left its Nashville fortifications and marched out to battle John Hood’s Rebels, dug into their own fieldworks ringing the city. But Thomas almost didn’t get a chance to lead his men that day…

For the past few weeks, an impatient U.S. Grant, newly in charge of all the Union armies, had been urging Thomas from D.C. to ATTACK. Thomas explained he was waiting on cavalry mounts and a break in the weather. But even as Thomas moved out, Grant was moving to replace him. Indeed, Gen. John Logan was already on a train, sent ahead by Grant to relieve Thomas – the famed Rock of Chickamauga! – on the eve of battle. It was an unenviable mission for Logan, but I guess you could say he was caught between a rock (of Chickaumaga) and a hard place. Later, Logan’s wife claimed he heroically dragged his heels, even sending an aide ahead to warn Thomas that he was coming. I picture Logan lingering in a railway bathroom, applying an extra coat of Bedazzling Cream to his ‘stache until … “Oops, I missed the train again. Darn.”

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7 Responses to The December 1864 Battle of Nashville – TTG

  1. Pat Lang says:

    I never paid much attention to Nashville. As you mention the outcome had been settled at Franklin. There MG Pat Cleburne, the former British Army sergeant become an Arkansas lawyer died inside the Union front line. His body was found the next day surrounded by dead Union infantrymen. He was a division commander. One of his men wrote that “after the first couple of assaults, we knew that Pat was dead because he would have stopped the hopeless madness.” No order came and they kept reforming and attacking again and again. Hood was altogether responsible for this disaster. He had insulted his soldiers by saying that in Virginia men fought better.

    Cleburne the previous year had written the famous “Cleburne Memorial” which recommended that Blacks be offered their liberty in return for voluntary military service. The planter element in the Confederate Senate blocked that although Lee had said that it was acceptable to him.

  2. scott s. says:

    I also am a George Thomas fan. My view is that Grant developed a hatred of Rosecrans from Iuka, and this was reflected in dislike of his subordinates including Thomas and Granger.

    Hood’s memoirs I found interesting. It’s actually three books in one. One part a worship of Jackson. One part an attack and defense of Hood’s role under Johnson. This I found sort of tedious as it is little more than playing the blame game after the fact. Though I think Hood was correct in his observation that if Johnson coulodn’t stop Sherman in the mountains of NE Georgia, there was no way to stop him before Atlanta. The final part of his memoirs was has defense for the Nashville campaign. His places all the blame on his corps commanders and in particular for them not being “Jackson”s and instead allowing troops to construct hasty field fortifications. In this I think he was living in a dream land.

    • Harlan Easley says:

      Scott S.,

      I live near those mountains in NE Georgia. Camped on them as a young boy. Did a Civil war presentation for a fair in Middle School winning the History prize. Not sure I had any competition.

      I lack knowledge compared to Colonel Lang and TTG on terrain and anything military. Dug Gap Mountain(Large Hill) and Crow Valley Mtn across the Valley seemed to be an ideal defensive position to me. There still is canon emplacements easily seen climbing the ridge and an old wall on Crow Valley on top of the ridge. There is a gravesite on top of Rocky Face Mountain found in 1912 by the local Boy Scout troop of a Colonel George Disney. Grave robbers long ago took anything in the grave away with them. Apparently died of a stray random bullet.

      Rattlesnakes all over that mountain. My question is why didn’t the South have a reconnaissance force out to the left flank were there was a wide open plain to be out flanked and marched around which is what happened? There was a brief skirmish later at the Battle of Resaca after being outflanked.

      My father ancestors were living in Dalton, GA during the Civil War. I always wonder how they survived knowing the impulsive streak that runs in our family name. Turns out timing was everything. The elder of the family was just old enough to avoid the draft and his sons were just young enough to avoid the war. Or I may not be here. No lose for the world. But still I prefer my turn on Earth.

      The elder was a shoe repairman for the local company which I found out was a very important job in the South and a protected job.

      Greenberry Easley was his name. They misspelled his last name in the article.

      Greenberry ended up being Justice of the Peace in the county later. He died in old age falling out of a barn breaking his neck. They say the women were at his side for 4 days praying. I am told he was an extremely religious man.

    • TTG says:

      Scott and Harlan,

      The mountains of northern Georgia offered terrific defensive terrain. Johnston’s dilemma was that he was usually forced to abandon good defensive position when Sherman performed outflanking maneuvers rather than attacks against those defensive positions. Sherman tried a frontal attack at Kennesaw and had his ass handed to him. If Hood was in command, he would have been more aggressive. Unfortunately, that would have whittled away as his army more than Sherman’s. He might have engaged in a Franklin type battle a lot earlier. Sherman could afford high casualties. Hood would have ended up at Atlanta with only a shadow of his army.

      My experience with the mountains of north Georgia was at Camp Merrill for the mountain phase of Ranger School. I remember the long, steep climb up the TVD carrying the PRC-77, spare batteries, 2 DR-8s and TA-1s along with the excessively heavy winter ranger packing list. I carried an M-14 as well. What a ball buster that was. The Atlanta campaign must have tough for both sides.

  3. Harlan Easley says:

    In my view the only chance the South had to win their independence would have been to free their slaves and enlist them in mass into the army.

    It was never going to happen but they stood no chance from the beginning being outmanned and outgunned 4 to 1. And then being embargoed. And with little manufacturing capacity compared to the North.

    Granted they were baited for 30+ years by the North sending pamphlets to the South encouraging the slaves to rise up and kill their masters but they should have played the long game and made the North invade without succeeding in the first place. It may have never happened due to the evolving economy.

    Nothing has changed. The left is still as odious and malicious as then. Passive aggressive and hates the South. So be it.

    • TTG says:

      Harlan Easley,

      That’s an interesting proposition. I just don’t see it as a possibility either prior to or during the nearly stages of the war. It would be philosophically unacceptable to the Southern planter and political classes. It would mean giving up the push for allowing slavery in new states to the west and dropping all the hullabaloo about The Fugitive Slave Act. It would have also taken all the wind out of the abolitionists’ sails.

      If the war was avoided, I think slavery would have soon given way to a system similar to northern mill towns. Remember Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “Sixteen Tons” and owing one’s soul to the company soul. Back in 8th grade we had a mock debate over the Civil War and this point was brought up. Northern mill towns and company stores created conditions very similar to the South’s system of chattel slavery. Eventually both systems would have disappeared.

  4. Leith says:

    TTG –

    My maternal grandma and her sisters worked in mill towns in Maine and later down in Haverill Mass. No company stores there, too much competition in retail in those places. But there certainly were company stores at the mines in the north primarily because they were usually remote.

    My father, a Virginia boy, worked on a large tobacco farm with a company store during the Great Depression. No pay just board and room plus one free bag of tobacco for rolling your own per week. But he said the tobacco old and dry and full of stems. So he and his buddy were fired one week when they demanded Bull Durham instead of the company trade.

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