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We recently asked Dr. Woodworth this question: Did Hood’s Tennessee Campaign ever have a chance?
With Lincoln’s reelection, the North had demonstrated that it had the will to continue the war, if necessary, for another four years. Can anyone imagine that the Confederacy could possibly have resisted that long? Or, to put it another way, what would have had to happen, after Lincoln’s reelection, for the Confederacy to win its independence? Can we come up with any plausible scenario in which Hood’s Tennessee campaign could have started a chain of events leading to Confederate independence? If Hood had trapped and annihilated Schofield at Spring Hill, it certainly would have been an unwelcome development for the Union, but would it have enabled Hood to defeat Thomas in the fortifications of Nashville? I can’t imagine that it would have. What if Hood had pressed on into Kentucky or even Ohio? Would Union morale have collapsed, prompting Lincoln to sue for peace? Again, I can’t imagine such a reaction. And how might Hood’s ill-clad troops have fared in Ohio in December?
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Dec 28th 1864
I received a long letter from you today. I reply not because there is anything of importance transpiring just at present, but because when the most happens is the time I am entirely unable to write. Since I was last at Columbia we have had some stirring times. Hood drove us back to Nashville. We had a very severe battle at Franklin during which our Regiment lost in killed wounded & captured some thing over half its men. After that we were in the big fight at Nashville & our company lost its Commanding Officer, a fine man who was shot through the breast & had an arm broken by a musket ball. But the success atoned for all the loss & more. Hood has halted at Columbia again. The rest of the Army has gone down after Hood. How long we shall remain here idle I know not but presume we shall have plenty to do. Sherman has taken Savannah & Hardee has escaped with his 15,000 men & will probably reinforce Hood which will give him a chance to show us considerable fight. But we shall conquer in the end. The right will triumph in the end. Charleston will be taken next and all important Sea ports. Christmas is over & I thought often of the fine times you were having at home. We had rather hard times living on hard tack & sow belly. It is quite cold to night, I have just had an argument on Slavery with the Captain who is for allowing the slaveholders credit for honesty on account of early education and I am not. I would just as — take a horse or hoe from one of these men as not. But I must stop writing. Having passed safely through the Battle of Franklin I expect good times for a while. Let me know if any thing new happening and you hear from Thomas.
Your Bro. A.M.Weston
(Asa M. Weston enlisted on 8/11/62 as Sergeant in Company K, 50th Ohio Infantry, 3/4/65 promoted to Sgt Major, 4/22/65 promoted to 2nd Lt, 6/26/65 mustered out at Salisbury, NC)
Asa M. Weston, a member of the 50th Ohio. Weston was a sergeant in Company K.
The Position of the Opposing Armies.
NO FIGHTING SINCE WEDNESDAY
Hood Demonstrating Toward Murfreesboro
Further Details of the Battle of Franklin
THE REBEL GENERAL CLEBURNE KILLED
The Rebel Loss Fully Six Thousand — Our Loss One Thousand
GEN. THOMAS MASTER OF THE SITUATION
Nashville, Friday, Dec. 2
I have received full accounts of the late battle at Franklin, and its antecedents, which was one of the the most brilliant in its general results of the war. For three days sharp skirmishing was kept up during the retirement of our army from Duck River to Franklin, during which time a multiplicity of exploits and successes resulted to the Federal arms.
Gen. Cox conducted the rear guard, and on the 29th ultimately achieved a splendid victory over the rebels at Spring Hill, while General Wilson’s cavalry gained a series of important successes over Forrest’s advance, under Roddy, on the pike between Turner’s and Spring Hill.
During the afternoon of the 30th ultimately the rebel army was sorely pressed under Hood, who had Cheatam’s and Stewart’s corps, and a portion of Dick Taylor’s command, numbering in all over 22,009 men. Owing to Cox’s gallant check at Spring Hill, and portion of the Fourth and Twenty-third Corps were enabled to gain Franklin early in the day, where they threw up a line of breastworks, extending from one end to the other of the curve in the river, behind which our entire infantry command took position.
At precise four o’clock (afternoon) the entire rebel force made a charge, and succeeded in making a temporary break in our centre, commanded by Wagner. With characteristic impetuosity the soldiers composing Cheatham’s Corps dashed into the breastworks, and cooperating with the attacking party on their left, attempted to envelop and destroy our right. In the nick of time the troops of Wagner were rallied, and throwing their whole force on the rebel column, drove back the storming party in great disorder, capturing several hundred prisoner. Four hours after the rebels charged on these lines, but were repulsed as often with great slaughter.
The rebels numbered at least two to our one, as nearly half of the Fourth and Twenty-third Corps were in reserve. The rebels loss in killed is three times ours, while their wounded is at least six times as large as ours. The wounded of our men are mostly in the head, arms and body.
The artillery fire of the enemy was great precision, but their ammunition consisted chiefly of shot and shell, while for two hours immense quantities of more murderous missles were hurled with fearful fury into the rebel lines. All the attempt of the rebels to gain a permanent advantage were frustrated, and at dark the Federal position was uncharged, while the rebels retired, under cover of the woods, south of the Columbia pike.
The rebel loss, as before stated, is fully 6,000, including over 1,000 prisoners, an unsual number of whom were officers. Our loss reached a total of about 1,000.
An artillery duel was kept up till nearly midnight, when our troops commenced crossing Harpeth River, bringing all our trains and paraphernalia over in safety before daylight.
The army then retired to within four miles of this city, at which point our frontline confronts the enemy. The falling back of the army is in accordance with the programme, and the battle at Franklin, although of the most brilliant kind, was an impromptu affair, and brought about owing to the necessity of checking the rebel advance to secure a safe crossing of the river by our troops.
Nashville, Friday, Dec. 2
Additional reports received increase the magnitude of the late victory at Franklin. Thirty stands of colors were captured by our forces. The Forty-ninth Indiana captured five, the Eighty-eighth Illinois three, Reilly’s old brigade eight, and the Twenty-third Corps captured four.
Gen. Stanley, commanding the Fourth Corps, had a very narrow escape, having had a horse killed under him, and was shot in the right shoulder, the ball travelling the back and going out of the left shoulder. He is in the city, and though suffering considerably, is still attending to duty.
It is confirmed that Gen. Cleburne, of Tennessee, is killed.
Gen. Kimball, commanding the Second Division of General Stanley’s Corps, in the heat of the battle passed a rebel Major-General, who told him he was mortally wounded. His men succeeded in carrying off his body.
It is believed that Hood’s main army is threatening Murfreesboro. Forrest’s rebel cavalry is demonstrating on our front and right flank.
Commander Fitch is here with a fleet of boats and Iron-clads. Sufficient forces have arrived to insure not only the safety of Nashville, but another Union victory, is case of a battle, under any circumstances.
The military men all unite in the opinion that Gen. Stanley and Schofield conducted the retirement from Pulaski in the face of the enemy with admirable skill, and crowning all with a magnificent Union victory at Franklin.
A Severe Battle at Franklin, Tenn.
HOOD DEFEATED BY THOMAS.
The Rebels Desperately Assault Our Works.
They are Repulsed with Fearful Carnage.
Six Thousand Rebels Killed and Wounded.
TWELVE HUNDRED PRISONERS CAPTURED
Our Loss Less Than One Thousand.
MAGNIFICENT BEHAVIOR OF OUR TROOPS
Full and Graphic Account from Our Special Correspondent.
Washington, Thursday, Dec.1.
The following official dispatch concerning the report of the victory in Tennessee, has been received at headquarters:
FRANKLIN, Tenn., Wednesday, Nov.30.
The enemy made a heavy and persistent attack with two corps, commencing at 4 P.M., and lasting till after dark. He was repulsed at all points with heavy loss — probably of five or six thousand men. Our loss is probably not more than one-fourth of that number. We have captured about one thousand prisoners, including one Brigadier-General.
(Signed,) JOHN SCHOFIELD
OUR SPECIAL ACCOUNT.
Special Dispatch to the New-York Times.
FOUR MILES SOUTH OF NASHVILLE.
Gen. SCHOFIELD yesterday fought one of the prettiest fights of the war, resulting most disastrously to the rebels, with little loss to ourselves. After three days’ skirmishing, the rebels crowded our first line of works yesterday afternoon, and at 4 P.M. made a most desperate attack on our right and centre, forcing our lines to our breastworks, which were thrown up from river to river in an open field on the Cumberland Pike, which ran through the centre of the field.
At least half the rebel force engaged endeavored to pierce our centre, and come down vicuously on WAGNER’S Division, which, after desperate fighting, fell back, and MANY’S rebel division, of FRANK CHEATAM’S corps, got inside our works and captured two guns. Our centre was not broken, however, and, better still, Gen. WAGNER successfully rallied our troops, wgho charged on the enemy, recaptured the two guns, and drove the division over the breastworks, capturing one entire brigade and its commander.
At 4:30 o’clock the battle was waged with unabating vigor, the enemy having made during a half hour several attempts to break our centre.
The Federal position was a magnificent one, and the result of these four days’ work were magnificently grand.
All thi s while the rebels had appeared in front of our right. The plan was to pierce our centre and crush our right wing before dark. A portion of our infantry were engaged three-quarters of an hour firing on the rebel columns who stood their ground like madmen. During the every charge made on our right and centre, volleys of grape and cannister were hurled into their lines, and only darkness prevented their sacrifice being more awful. It is said that no canister shot was used by the rebels during the day, but fired shot and shell.
After the first break of WAGNER’S division and its recovery, our line never budged a step. All was quiet after 10 P.M. It was not only one of the prettiest but cleanest battles of the war. The excessive slaughter of the enemy was owing to our wholesale use of cannister and grape, and our selection of ground. The battle was fought in an open field, with no trees or undergrowth, or other interruption. The enemy’s loss in killed and wounded approximates 7,000, and we have over 1,200 prisoners, and one general officer and several field officers. The Colonel of the Fifteenth Mississippi, a Northern man, of Illinois, was wounded and taken prisoner. Four-fifths of his regiment were killed, wounded or captured. Our loss does not reach a thousand, hors du cambat. Gen. Bradley, of Illinois, while gallantly leading his troops, was severly wounded in the shoulder. Our loss in field officers is very small. Our troops behaved handsomely. SCHOFIELD commanded on the field, STANLEY on the right, and Cox on the left. Gen. Stanley was wounded slightly in the neck, but remained on the field and is all right to-day.
I have told you all along the programme of Gen. Thomas would electrify you, and this is but the epilogue of the battle to come off.
After our dead, wounded and prisoners were cared for, our army fell back to this point, and are in line of battle while I write. Up to this time, 3 P.M., the enemy has not made his appearance. The Third Corps of Veterans are in readiness, and a battle is expected before daylight to-morrow. All Government work is suspended, and all are under arms, from Gen. DONALDSON down to the unscientific laborers.
The falling back of our troops was accomplished at 8 o’clock this morning, and bridges burned across Harpeth River to retard the transportation of rebel supplies. The calvary was handled prettilt by Gen. WILSON, between Spring Hill and Triune.
A.J. SMITH’s corps is in line of battle, and the situation is particularly grand. Forts Negley, Morton, Cairo and Houston are alive, and the infantry movement perfectly satisfacoty. Something must immediately transpire, as Gen. THOMAS is ready to strike no matter how the rebels move.
BENJ. C. TRUMAN
Nov. 23rd 1864
Since I commenced the letter on the other page circumstances prevented my finishing it. We started immediately from Franklin & when we got here I was sent away & in the mean time the cars which had my things on were sent back before they were unloaded. A man was with the whole of the luggage & he just returned to us the other day. So I concluded to write on the same sheet nevertheless. Nearly all I care about writing at present is that I am perfectly well and doing well for a soldier. Cold weather has commenced. Day before yesterday we had a little spotting of snow just enough to be seen on the ground, when it cleared off the ground froze hard so that now we consider ourselves embarked in the winter campaign. Yet winters with the exception of a few days are not so very disagreeable and soon you know almost before we are aware of it spring will come & its heels another summer which will let us out of the service even if the war is not as I hope it will be ended. How I wish a few of the northern democrats or Copperheads for there is very little difference between them were in the place of some of these Rebs so that they could try the effect of our bullets. George writes that his house is burned down. He takes it hard! P Shah! I could whistle over such misfortunes as that. Haven’t I seen thousands of such buildings burned in the South. Black smoking ruins where the house once stood. Every fence burned down, every particle of corn potatoes etc. destroyed & every part of the farm rendered so barren that even a rat would not be secure from starvation. I like to see it done here for the South has sown the wind & they should reap the whirlwind. The worst men that God ever suffered to live are in my mind the Aristocrats of the south. And side by side with them are their sympathizers in the North. Have your heard from Thomas lately. According to my understanding his time will be out in ten or fifteen days. He enlisted on the first of December & I the following August. I have nine months & a few days yet. We have been notified several times since we have been here to look out for Hood & [Nathan Bedford] Forrest. They have not paid us a visit yet & I hope will not attempt to at present. We don’t care about fighting them but can & will if they come this way. Our regt. is in excellent condition though small & we hope may be able to go out without losing many more men. Excuse this letter which was hastily written & though in two parts, may perhaps be as good as any I could write were I to commence anew. Remember me to all the friends. Write the news as soon as possible.
Nov 27th We have had quite a battle here I am well & unhurt
Asa M. Weston, a member of the 50th Ohio. Weston was a sergeant in Company K.
The following letter were written by Asa M. Weston, a member of the 50th Ohio. Weston was a sergeant in Company K.
Nov 12th 1864
It has been a long time since we have had any thing like regular mail communication and consequently I have not attempted to write to you. I am now on the cars some thirty miles from Nashville. We have stopped to wait for another & then we go on to Pulaski. [John Bell] Hood’s old army is up here some where & part of Shermans army is here to watch him while Sherman himself with the main force is advancing from Atlanta to Savannah or Charleston. He will destroy the entire railroads of the Confederacy and then they will be reduced to still greater straits than before. Old Abe is elected & if Jeff Davis wishes to try his hand for four years longer let him do so. The Southern Confederacy will by that time be effectually destroyed while the North will be flourishing as the rose. If southern traitors wish desolation and destruction of their entire country Abolition of Slavery included let them have it.
Asa M. Weston, a member of the 50th Ohio. Weston was a sergeant in Company K.
“Be of good cheer, for within a short while your faces will be turned homeward and your feet pressing Tennessee soil.”
Source: web site
With the loss of Tennessee in early 1862 – the capture and surrender of Forts Henry and Donelson (Feb 62) – the Union victory at Shiloh (April 62) , and the surrender of Vicksburg in July 1863; the South’s Western Theater military strategy had zero margin for error by mid/late 1864.
In light of that background, John Bell Hood seems to have singlehandedly cost the war for the South, or the Western Theater, at the very least, due to his performance in the last six months of 1864, having assumed command of the Army of Tennessee on July 17th, 1864.
a. Hood lost Atlanta on his watch, even though he’d say Johnston lost it. But, Hood wreckless, fight at any cost attitude (having assumed command in mid July 1864) resulted in losing 20,000 men in nine days after he took the AoT over. Hood hastened the loss of Atlanta and then his loss of the supply train to the Federals only showed his strategy for Atlanta was an inch thick. He then over-estimated his ability to draw Sherman out into a fight in the open. Sherman was brilliant in Atlanta.
b. Hood saw some measure of success in the Eastern Theater as a Brigade commander but seems to have had an almost racial dislike for the soldier in the Western Theater. He seemed to think the ANV soldier was superior in essence to the Western Theater soldier.
c. His loss of his leg and arm (1863) probably caused him to over-compensate for being less a man, in his own mind. Then throw in his failure to win the love of Preston Buck and you have a man with mixed passions in 1864.
d. He was no mental heavyweight. He barely survived West Point. He clearly lacked strategic and logistical/administrative abilities. He was a good Brigade Commander because he did not have to execute on those higher levels. A fighter he was. Being able to translate the will and passion to fight in light of the ‘then’-modern technologies, strategies and challenges was another thing.
e. Hood’s propensity for direct frontal assaults was simply ridiculous. He seems to have interpreted using the steel bayonet as a more manly way to fight, combined with assaulting breastworks. Henry repeating rifles could fire off about 20-30 rounds a minute compared to the 3-minute minnie ball. To fail to take this into account at Franklin was beyond my imagination to allow him room for being anything but being virtually insane after the escape of the Federals at Spring Hill.
f. Hood’s losses from Atlanta were devastating to the AoT. Losing 20,000 men in nine days – for his army – would be like Sherman losing perhaps 3-4 times that number. What was he thinking? That he’d actually defeat Sherman by fighting and winning tactically?g. The Spring Hill situation really showed his weaknesses in many ways.
g. The Spring Hill situation really showed his weaknesses in many ways.
(1) His physical disabilities prevented him from being mobile and active enough to truely lead an army. His Division and Brigade commanders exhibited some of the bravest action in war at Franklin.
(2) How much did his opium-like medicine impair his ability?
(3) He was so disingenuous in his treatment of his commanders (especially after the war) in assigning blame for Spring Hill.
(4) The performance, or lack thereof, of his division commanders at Spring Hill are a direct reflection of Hood’s own poor logistical oversight. He seems to have very poorly understood the geography of the region.
(5) His lack of and poor administration of Forrest at Spring Hill/Franklin is mysterious.The assault upon the Federals at Franklin displays Hood’s total ineptitude as a commander of an Army. Why?
The assault upon the Federals at Franklin displays Hood’s total ineptitude as a commander of an Army. Why?
1). Did he actually think he could destroy Schofield at Franklin by using just two of his three Corps and mostly not engaging his own artillery?
2). Hood really thought these AoT troops lacked the courage to assault defended breastworks. The Union – at Franklin – had the advantage of strategically placed artillery, defended breastworks, the choice of location to fight, abatis, superior numbers, superior equipment, men who were not nearly as hungry, etc.
3). He marched across two miles of open ground before his corps reached the breastworks. It was more insane than Pickett’s Charge, with a greater loss of life too.
4). His inability to size up the situation, post-battle at Franklin, also reveals he did not deserve such authority he was given. To go after Thomas two weeks later was even more insane. At Franklin, Hood lost at least 1,700 in death and nearly 5,000 in wounded, captured or missing.
5). Had Wagner’s troops not been left out in the open to take the initial beating, then having to run for their lives, resulting in the Federals not being able to shoot the Confederates, the loss of life of Hood’s men would have been even much worse.
Hood fought (late 1864) from a mixture of motives and demons that cost tens of thousands of lives. He had to prove to himself, Davis, and Buck Preston he was a real man; probably to his father as well. Not to mention proving his worthiness to the likes of Lee, Hardee, Johnston, Richard Taylor, and Stonewall Jackson. I think he was intimated by the likes of Cleburne and A.P. Stewart. He was a man of highly questionable integrity and character, as he showed in “reporting” on Johnston during Atlanta.
John Bell Hood got his time in the spotlight from July until December 1864 and the reality is that he was an abysmal failure as a commander of an army.
What a lesson?
When one is finally in a position of authority, one must be ready to execute from the foundation of a character molded in integrity, courage, and capability – birthed in humility. Anything less will reveal the deeply hidden or masked flaws of one’s character in the heat of battle.
November 20th 1864
Letter reads in part:
We are just getting the particulars of the Election, and as an old ‘darky’ in ‘Alabam’ said one day as we were passing a plantation where about ‘five thousand’ were congregated along the road side. One of the boys ask him what he thought of the music (our comet band was playing) – his answer was ‘dunno suh, but pears like tis getting mity glorious Shuah’ – it pears like the election news from Sherman, begin to make things look ‘mity glorious’ for the Union cause. As the particulars are brought out – the frauds on the part of the copperheads – their total everlasting defeat, it surely is encouraging to all. I believe the end is nigh. ‘Hood’ with his rebel hart is supposed to be on the southern shore of the Tenn. River, about making an attempt to get into East Tenn. I hardly think he will win for we have the army of the Cumberland and Ohio here to whip him with in case he wishes to fight or make a forward movement. I am longing to have this war play out that we may return home to the social haunts in our native town. I rather fear that all the young ladies will have taken the ‘oath of allegiance’ ere our time expires and we will be obliged to ‘migrate’.
Messinger mustered into Company D on 30 August 1862 and was later promoted to First Sergeant. He was reduced to Private at his own request on 7 April 1865 and mustered out on 17 June 1865 at Greensboro, North Carolina. The 104th Ohio saw action at Resaca, Dallas, New Hope Church, Kennesaw, Atlanta, Jonesboro, Franklin and Wilmington.
Source: Nate Sanders online auction
About 4pm on November 30, 1864, C.S.A. General John Bell Hood launched a frontal attack against the Federal troops of the 23rd and 4th Corps of General John M. Schofield. The Confederate Army of Tennessee marched in mass formation across open ground, mostly flat, for nearly two miles before clashing with the Federal line.
On a few battlefields, massed enemy formations could be seen at a considerable distance, at least before the firing began in earnest. Robert G. Carter of the 22nd Massachusetts wrote of the sight of oncoming Confederates on the second day of Gettysburg: “The indistinct form of masses of men, presenting the usual, dirty, greyish, irregular line, were dimly visible and moving up with defiant yells, while here and there the cross-barred Confederate battle flags were plainly to be seen.” Rebel lines also were fully visible at Antietam, Franklin, Bentonville, and a number of other engagements.
The Union Soldier in Battle: Enduring the Ordeal of Combat. Earl J. Hess, p. 12
View of terrain, looking south, Confederate Army of Tennessee marched across for over one mile at Battle of Franklin
Confederate General John Bell Hood had this basic view of the (then) open ground between Winstead Hill and the entrenched Federal line near Fountain Branch Carter’s property in November 1864. The entire Confederate Army of Tennessee (about 20,000) was positioned here, facing north as in the picture, before they started the quick-step march toward the Federal army (about 22,000).
Picture credit: Historical Markers of Williamson County, Rick Warwick, p. 174
Picture credit: author of blog