The Battle of Nashville: December 15, 1864

This entry is part 9 of 10 in the series The Franklin-Nashville Campaign

The Battle of Nashville:

December 15, 1864

Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas, the overall Union commander, was a thorough and methodical officer who spent a great deal of time preparing his army for the coming Battle of Nashville. He had secured the city with a double line of entrenchments, resupplied his troops and upgraded his cavalry with fresh horses and better weaponry.

By December 15, 1864, he was ready to begin his maneuvers to bring the Confederate Army of Tennessee to battle. Thomas planned a diversionary attack on the Confederate left in an effort to distract them from the main effort on their left.

Battle of NashvilleThe Union diversionary force consisted of two brigades drawn from Maj. Gen. James B. Steedman‘s Provisional Division: the 1st Colored Brigade consisting of three regiments of United States Colored Troops and a brigade composed of rear echelon white troops described by their commander as “new conscripts, convalescents, and bounty jumpers.”

The Confederate right was anchored by a deep railroad cut on the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad. East of the tracks, the Confederate had a weak skirmish line. On December 14th, this was supplemented by a 4-gun lunette manned by Granbury’s (Houghton’s after Granbury’s death at Franklin) Texas Brigade. The battery was well-masked by brush and trees.

The two Union brigades advanced and overran the skirmish line. They came under heavy artillery fire from the west side of the railroad tracks. As they passed the Texas battery, they came under heavy enfilade fire. The two brigades retreated in some disorder but reformed on the former skirmish line where they spent the rest of the day firing on the Confederate works. However, they failed in their primary objective and did not distract the Confederates from the Union attack on the left.

On the Confederate left, Thomas had planned a huge wheeling movement that would come down on the exposed Confederate flank. Maj. Gen. James H. Wilson‘s cavalry drove off the Confederate cavalry to the west and then drove south on the flank of the Union infantry.

Wilson was followed by three Union corps under Maj. Gen. A.J. Smith on the Union right, Brig. Gen. Thomas J. Wood on the left and Maj. Gen. John Schofield in reserve. Wilson cavalry secured Smith’s right flank. As the infantry moved south a gap opened between Smith and Wood which Schofield was directed to fill.

Starting at about 2:30 PM, the Union troops attacked the five redoubts that were securing the Confederate left. Four brigades, two of cavalry and General Andrew Jackson Smithtwo of infantry, overran Redoubt No. 4 and Redoubt No. 5, notwithstanding the spirited resistance of the defenders of Redoubt No. 4. 

Another of Smith’s brigades captured Redoubt No. 3; however, its commander was killed by a Confederate sharpshooter firing from Redoubt No. 2. Smith’s troops proceeded to Redoubt No. 2, which was quickly captured. Redoubt No. 1, the last bastion on the Confederate left flank, was captured by troops coming from the north, south, and west.

Wood’s troops advanced against the Confederate line on Montgomery Hill but when they arrived there, they found only a thin skirmish line. The Confederates had withdrawn their forces to the south side of Brown’s Creek where they were outside of the range of Union artillery in the city. After reorganizing, they advanced against the main Confederate line.

Lt. Gen. Alexander P. Stewart’s corps had been wrecked by the day’s fighting and retreated to a new line of defense a mile or two to the south. Rear guard actions by reinforcements from Lt. Gen. Stephen D. Lee’s Corps kept the retreat from becoming a rout. With the collapse of the Confederate left Maj. Gen. Benjamin F. Cheatham’s and Lee’s Corps followed to the new line. The Confederate withdrawal ended the fighting on December 15th.




Series Navigation<< The Battle of Nashville: Setting the StageThe Battle of Nashville: December 16, 1864 >>

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