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Franklin-Nashville Campaign

September 18–December 27, 1864

The Franklin-Nashville Campaign, also known as Hood's Campaign and Hood's Tennessee Campaign, was a Confederate offensive conducted in northern Georgia, northern Alabama, and middle Tennessee from September through December 1864.

In September 1863, Confederate General Braxton Bragg's Army of Tennessee was attempting to recapture Chattanooga, Tennessee from Federal forces by besieging the city. Union leaders responded by sending Major General Ulysses S. Grant and reinforcements to Chattanooga with orders to break the siege. After establishing a new supply line into the city, Grant ordered a breakout offensive in late November that successfully drove Bragg's army back into northern Georgia. With the "Gateway to the South" secured, Union forces were well situated to launch an offensive aimed at capturing Atlanta.

Following the breakout at Chattanooga, Grant was promoted to the special rank of Lieutenant General and placed in command of all Union armies. Grant moved his headquarters to Washington, DC, leaving his trusted subordinate, Major General William T. Sherman, in command of Federal operations in the Western Theater. Grant's primary military strategy was a coordinated effort to attack and defeat the two main Confederate armies in the field, Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia in the east, and Joseph E. Johnston's Army of Tennessee in the west. On May 5, 1864, Grant launched his Overland Campaign against Lee in Virginia. Two days later, Sherman launched his Atlanta Campaign in the West.

Employing a series of flanking maneuvers, Sherman persistently drove the Army of Tennessee south toward Atlanta. On July 17, 1863, Confederate President Jefferson Davis, relieved Johnston of his command and placed General John Bell Hood in charge of the Army of Tennessee. Hood proved more willing to fight than Johnston, but the results were the same. By July, Hood's army was bottled up in Atlanta. On July 20, Sherman ordered his artillery to begin bombarding Hood's lines, as well as the city, which still harbored about 3,000 civilians. The shelling lasted for five weeks, but Hood continued to hold on as long as he was receiving supplies. Toward the end of August, Sherman stopped the flow of supplies into Atlanta. With his main supply line severed, Hood evacuated Atlanta on the night of September 1, burning all military stores and installations. Sherman's forces occupied the city on September 2, ending the Atlanta Campaign.

After evacuating Atlanta, Hood reorganized his forces at Lovejoy's Station, south of Atlanta, and Sherman chose not to pursue. On September 21, Hood moved north to Palmetto, Georgia, where he met with Confederate President Davis on September 25. Davis and Hood devised a plan that would have Hood's 39,000 soldiers move north toward Chattanooga, destroying Sherman's supply lines back to Tennessee along the way. Sherman was alerted to Hood's intentions when Davis foolishly revealed the plan in a series of speeches on his way back to the Confederate capital at Richmond. Sherman responded by sending Major General George H. Thomas to Nashville on September 29, to organize all of the Union troops in Tennessee. He also sent troops to reinforce the garrison at Chattanooga.

During October, Hood's infantry and Major General Joseph Wheeler's cavalry conducted a series of raids along the Western & Atlantic Railroad, Sherman's main supply line from Chattanooga to Atlanta. Sherman's army quickly repaired the damage but was not able to keep pace with the faster moving Rebels.

By late October, Sherman convinced Grant that his time would be better spent making Georgia howl on his March to the Sea than by chasing Hood around the South. Consequently, Sherman turned the pursuit of Hood over to Thomas and about 60,000 soldiers, 30,000 of whom were in the Nashville area. The other 30,000, commanded by Major General John M. Schofield, were moving north to join Thomas. At the same time, Hood moved into northern Alabama and focused his attention on Tennessee, hoping to defeat Thomas before the two Northern armies could be united.

After waiting to join forces with Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest's cavalry, Hood left Alabama on November 21, 1864. His goal was Columbia, Tennessee, about midway between Thomas's army in Nashville and Schofield's army at Pulaski, about 75 miles south of Nashville. Anticipating Hood's intentions, Schofield raced to Columbia, arriving just hours ahead of the Confederates on November 24. There, the Federals blocked Hood's advance for five days by controlling an important bridge over the Duck River.

On November 28, Hood found a way across the Duck River east of Columbia. In danger of being outflanked, Schofield began to fall back toward Franklin. Hood's army attacked Schofield's forces at Spring Hill, ten miles north of Columbia as the Northerners withdrew. After a series of command blunders, Hood ended the attack after dark. During the night, Schofield safely moved his entire army and supply train along the main turnpike past the sleeping Rebels. The movement did not go entirely undetected, but inexplicably, neither Hood nor any subordinate officers took any action to stop the Federal evacuation. By the morning of November 30, Schofield's army was safely in Franklin, where the men engaged in building breastworks in a semi-circle in front of the town, but they had their backs to the Harpeth River. Here they awaited Hood's next assault.

The wait was not long. Enraged that the Federals had slipped past him at Spring Hill, Hood berated his subordinate officers and then ordered his army to resume its pursuit. Hood's army began to arrive outside of Franklin at about 1:00 p.m. on November 30, 1864. Once in position, Hood ordered an all-out attack that began approximately at 4:00 p.m. Initially, the Confederates exploited a weakness in the center of the Union defenses, but the Federals were able to recover. Rebel attacks on both flanks were also unsuccessful. Repulsed on all fronts, Hood called off the assault after darkness descended. By 11:00 p.m. that night, Schofield's army began crossing the Harpeth River and was on its way to Nashville. The Battle of Franklin was a devastating loss for the Confederacy. The Rebels suffered over 6,000 casualties, including 1,750 killed, compared to fewer than 2,500 Union casualties, including 189 killed. In addition, Hood lost fourteen generals (six killed, seven wounded and one captured), plus fifty-five regimental commanders. Most importantly, Schofield had once more escaped and was on his way to uniting his army with Thomas's army in Nashville.

Despite the fact that the Army of Tennessee was decimated at the Battle of Franklin, Hood chose to continue his pursuit and advanced against the combined Union armies firmly entrenched at Nashville. On December 5-6, 1864, Hood ordered Nathan Bedford Forrest on a cavalry raid against Murfreesboro, which succeeded in destroying a few miles of railroad track but little else.

Bad weather deterred further action from either side, despite pressure that Ulysses S. Grant was exerting on Thomas to advance from Nashville and destroy Hood's debilitated army. On December 13, Grant went so far as to order Major General John A. Logan to proceed to Nashville and assume command of the Union army if Thomas had not engaged Hood by the time of his arrival. Logan was in Louisville on December 15, when Thomas left his fortifications in Nashville and attacked Hood's army.

Enjoying a numerical advantage in manpower of nearly two-to-one and facing a demoralized army bereft of senior commanders, Thomas' victory at the Battle of Nashville was no surprise. On December 15, the Federals successfully attacked Hood's army on both flanks. When the fighting stopped because of darkness, Hood reestablished his lines during the night but to no avail. Following another wave of Union assaults the next day, the Rebel line crumbled, and Hood's army fled. Thomas pursued Hood for ten more days, driving the Confederate army out of Tennessee. The retreat ended at Tupelo, Mississippi, where Hood resigned his command on January 23, 1865.

Ohio units that participated in the Franklin-Nashville Campaign included:

Infantry units:

  • 13th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 15th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 18th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 19th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 26th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 40th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 41st Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 45th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 49th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 50th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 51st Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 64th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 65th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 71st Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 72nd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 90th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 93rd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 95th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 97th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 99th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 100th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 101st Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 103rd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 104th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 111th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 118th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 124th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 125th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 173rd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 175th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 176th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 179th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 182nd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 183rd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

Artillery units:

  • Battery A, 1st Ohio Light Artillery Regiment
  • Battery D, 1st Ohio Light Artillery Regiment
  • Battery E, 1st Ohio Light Artillery Regiment
  • Battery G, 1st Ohio Light Artillery Regiment
  • 6th Ohio Light Artillery Regiment
  • 14th Ohio Light Artillery Regiment
  • 18th Ohio Artillery Battery
  • 19th Ohio Light Artillery Regiment
  • 20th Ohio Light Artillery Regiment

Cavalry Units:

  • 7th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry Regiment

The failure of Hood's Franklin-Nashville Campaign was one of the final nails in the Confederacy's coffin. The Federals in the West had defeated the Rebels' second largest standing army. Only one week after the Battle of Nashville, Sherman completed his March to the Sea by capturing Savannah, Georgia, and the war in the West was won. Less than a week after Hood resigned, Sherman embarked on his Carolinas Campaign, aimed at ending the stalemate around Petersburg and Richmond, by reinforcing Grant's army. Before summer arrived, Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia (April 9), the Confederate Cabinet met for the last time (May 5), Jefferson Davis was captured (May 10), and the Union was preserved.


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