The Confederates Advance into Tennessee

This entry is part 2 of 10 in the series The Franklin-Nashville Campaign
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The Confederates Advance

into Tennessee

After their defeat at Atlanta, the Confederate Army of Tennessee, commanded by General John Bell Hood, had retreated to Palmetto, Georgia. After meeting with Confederate President Jefferson Davis, the Confederate strategy called for Hood to advance across Georgia, into Alabama and ultimately into Tennessee. The objective was to circumvent Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman’s army group and disrupt his supply lines back to Chattanooga.

Sherman remained in Atlanta for the rest of September 1864 and into October. He began the planning for his famous March to the Sea. Part of this called for a secure supply line to Atlanta via the Western & Atlantic Railroad, the line used in the Andrews Raid (commonly referred to as the Great Locomotive Chase), which took place  on the morning of April 12, 1862.

Map of the Franklin-Nashville CampaignHood headed to the northwest with his 40,000 man army on September 29, 1864. Along the way, Hood skirmished with Union cavalry under Brig. Gens. Judson Kilpatrick and Kenner Garrard in a raid on the railroad near Marietta. Hood moved fast and managed to elude Union reconnaissance parties. This partly due to the lack of training that the Union cavalry had received.

Click Map to enlarge.

Hood’s forces captured Union garrisons at Big Shanty (present-day Kennesaw) with its garrison of 175 men, and the following day Acworth, with an additional 250. Leaving one division at Atlanta, Sherman took his army of 55,000 and began to pursue Hood.

On October 5th, a Confederate division (approximately 3,276) under  Maj. Gen. Samuel G. French attacked a Union garrison under Brig. Gen. John M. Corse at Allatoona, Georgia. The Federal troops (approximately 2,025 men) occupied strong defensive positions in two earthen redoubts on each side of a 180 feet, 65 feet deep railroad cut and many of the men, including the entire 7th Illinois, were armed with Henry repeating rifles.

After a two-hour bombardment, French sent a demand for surrender, which was refused. The Confederates commander then sent his three brigades forward to assault the Union fortifications. The battle lasted two hours and it appeared that the Union garrison might have to surrender. However, a false report that Union reinforcements were on their way forced French to withdraw.Battle of Allatoona Pass

This small affair was fairly bloody with the Union force sustaining 706 total casualties while the Confederates took 897 total casualties. French was unsuccessful in seizing the railroad cut and Federal garrison, regretting in particular that he was unable to seize the one million rations stored there, or to burn them before he retreated.

Hood moved his forces on and on October 12th, demanded the surrender of the 700-man Union garrison at Resaca, Georgia. The Union commander, Col. Clark R. Weaver, refused Hood’s ultimatum to surrender, which warned that no prisoners would be taken. Weaver replied “In my opinion I can hold this post. If you want it, come and take it.”

Hood declined to attack the Union position because he believed that it would be too costly, instead bypassing the city, moving north, and continuing the destruction of the railroad.

After the surrender of the Union garrison at Dalton, Georgia, one of the uglier incidents of the war took place. Some 600 of the Union soldiers were African-Americans. The Union commander, Col. Lewis Johnson, demanded that they be treated as prisoners-of-war but General Hood replied that “all slaves belonging to persons in the Confederacy” would be returned to their masters.

Hubbard Pryor, 44th USCTThe African-Americans were marched to the railroad and forced to tear up the rails. Six were shot for refusing to work or being unable to keep up. Col. Lewis Johnson later wrote that the abuse his men received “exceeded anything in brutality I have ever witnessed.” Johnson and his white officers were paroled the following day, but some of his black soldiers were returned to slavery.

Hood now began to plan his long-term strategy. Up to now his troops had destroyed 24 miles of track but Sherman employed upwards of 10,000 men and the line was back in service by October 28th.

Hood realized that he would need to engage Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas’ Army of the Cumberland before Sherman joined forces with him to have any chance of success. After defeating Thomas, he planned to move into Kentucky to replenish both his troops and their supplies. If Sherman followed him, he would engage him in Kentucky. After defeating Sherman, he would then move through the Cumberland Gap and aid Robert E. Lee at Petersburg.

On October 21st, General P.G.T. Beauregard, Hood’s immediate superior, reluctantly approved Hood’s plan, although he had his doubts with the daunting logistics of it.

Meanwhile, Sherman had received preliminary approval for the March to the Sea. In order to secure his rear, Sherman decided to assist Thomas in the destruction of Hood’s army. He ordered the IV Corps under Maj. Gen.
David S. Stanley to Chattanooga and the XXIII Corps under Maj. Gen. John Schofield to Nashville, as well as Maj. Gen. Andrew J. Smith‘s XVI Corps from Missouri to Nashville.

 

 

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