The Battle of Franklin
by Allen Parfitt
In late 1864, with the war looking bleak for the Confederacy on all fronts, the
Army of Tennessee under the leadership of General John Bell Hood marched north
on the last great Confederate offensive of the war. This is a brief account of
that offensive through the Battle of Franklin on November 30, 1864.
On November 21 the stepchild army of the Confederacy crossed over the Tennessee
River Chaplain Charles Todd Quintard wrote in his diary, "The ground is frozen
and a sharp wind is blowing, but as my face is toward Tennessee, I heed none of
these things. God in mercy, grant us a successful campaign."
Following the fall of Atlanta on September 2nd, the Army of Tennessee had taken
advantage of the only benefit to be gained from the loss of the second city of
the Confederacy. No longer tied to the defense of Atlanta, it could move where
it wished. "Unless the army could be heavily re-enforced, there was but only
one plan to be adopted: by maneuvers to draw Sherman back into the mountains,
and at least regain our lost territory" began Major General J.B. Hood many
years later in his account of the ensuing campaign. "Sam" Hood had already had
a very eventful war. He had established himself as one of the Confederacy's
young lions by leading a desperate and successful assault on a strong Federal
position in 1862 at the Battle of Gaines' Mill. He had fought well at Antietam,
and commanded a division in Longstreet's corps at Gettysburg. Assigned the task
of turning the Union right on the second day of the battle, his troops narrowly
failed to storm the Little Round Top. Hood was wounded in the arm, and although
the surgeons decided not to amputate, he never fully regained the proper use of
his hand. After recovering he went west with Longstreet to join the army of
Tennessee. At Chickamauga his men poured through the Union lines but Hood,
leading from the front as usual, was seriously wounded again, this time in the
leg, which was amputated.
While Hood was recovering in Richmond, he met Sally Buchanan Preston. Pretty,
vivacious, flirty, she captivated Hood. He courted her vigorously. She was
interested in the tall wounded hero, but not willing to commit herself.
Although a man who had given so much for the cause might have been forgiven for
asking for a job in the rear areas, Hood's ambition and devotion led him to
accept another command. General J.E. Johnston, commanding the Army of the
Tennessee after the debacle at Chattanooga was in need of a corps commander. At
32 years of age Hood was promoted to lieutenant general and given the job.
Having fought the war in the aggressive style of the Army of Northern Virginia,
Hood was not happy with the cautious Johnston. As the Army of Tennessee
retreated toward Atlanta under pressure from Sherman's greater numbers, Hood
let it be known that he was in favor of a more aggressive style of defense. On
July 17th he got his chance. Jefferson Davis was also fed up with Johnston's
retreating. He named Hood to take his place.
Although Hood was unable to prevent Sherman from taking Atlanta, he fought back
aggressively. Three times he attacked the Sherman's army and three times he was
repulsed. But Davis was satisfied with his leadership, and his determination to
bring an offensive spirit to his army, and retained him in command.
For two months Sherman protected the railroad from Chattanooga to Atlanta and
defended the city itself. He hated it. He had no interest in going back north
into the Georgia hills to try and chase down Hood. This in itself offers some
justification for Hood's "go north" strategy. Instead Sherman was working on a
scheme to march south and east across the heartland of the Confederacy, casting
off his supply trains and bringing despair and devastation to the people of the
deep South. When he finally received approval from Grant in November he took
care of a few details and pushed off on November 12th, out of our story.
One of these details was Hood and his army. Sherman had to make some provision
for preventing these annoying Confederates from marching clear to Cleveland. He
detached General George Thomas to form an army to deal with Hood. He gave
Thomas two corps from his army, and left orders for other troops north and west
to join him. Thomas had two tasks: defeat Hood, and do it without giving up
Nashville, the Union supply hub in Tennessee.
Thomas is one of the Northern heroes of the Civil War, not forgotten by
historians and students of the war, but not as well known to the general public
as Grant or Sherman. His finest hour had been at Chickamauga, where his stand
on the Union left had kept a defeat from turning into a total disaster. He had
also had an interesting experience at the Battle of Chattanooga. Grant had
characteristically given Sherman the job of winning the battle with a strong
flanking movement. But Sherman's attack bogged down on fierce Confederate
resistance and some unexpected terrain features. Concerned that the
Confederates were shifting troops from the center to meet the attack, Grant
told Thomas to order his troops to make a "demonstration" by seizing rifle pits
at the foot of towering Missionary Ridge. They did so, and finding themselves
at the foot of the hill with people shooting down on them, they spontaneously
went up. Grant was not too pleased at this seemingly doomed attack going
forward without orders, but as he and Thomas watched, the blue-coated soldiers
climbed the ridge and, aided by faulty Confederate positions, threw the enemy
off and won the battle.
Thomas's reward was this big chance as a theatre commander, and he had a lot to
do. He was very popular with the Army of the Cumberland, but most of those men
were marching to the sea, and he had to weld a mixture of troops, some
experienced, some not, into an army capable of beating Hood's veterans.
Although he had potentially more men than Hood, they were scattered all over
place. Logistic support also had to be created.
Thomas chose to stay in Nashville to take care of administration. He sent
Major General John Scofield into southern Tennessee with an army somewhat
smaller than Hood's to slow the Southerners down until he could get things
organized. Scofield had been Hood's classmate at West Point. He was a short,
stocky, intelligent man--before the war he had left the army to be a college
professor. When the war started he had rejoined the army. In 1861 he had been
sent to Missouri where he had served as General Lyons' adjutant general and had
been at the battle of Wilson's Creek. For the next two years he had been
employed in various posts in Missouri where he had accumulated quite a bit of
rank and a lot of interesting political experience, but not much military
action. In 1864 he was transferred to command of the Army of the Ohio at
Knoxville, and commanded that Army, the smallest of the three "armies" in
Sherman's command, during the campaign which culminated in the capture of
Atlanta. In a sense he was learning his trade at a very high level. Scofield
and Thomas were not close, and Thomas was clearly unsure about Scofield's
Scofield's job was to stay in front of Hood, retard his advance on Nashville,
and avoid getting cut off and defeated in a major battle. The biggest problem
for both Hood and Scofield was the existence of two major rivers, the Duck and
the Harpeth, between the southern border of the state and Nashville. On one
hand Scofield could contest the crossing of both rivers and force Hood to go up
or downstream in search of a way to the other bank. On the other hand, if
Scofield were caught in a bad position south of either river he could have
trouble getting his army to safety.
Hood had some trouble in getting his offensive started. He had to find a
suitable place to cross the Tennessee River, his logistics were insecure, and
he was struggling with another of Jefferson Davis's goofy command schemes.
Davis had appointed General P.T. Beauregard as "theatre commander" with some
nebulous authority over all Confederate troops from Tennessee on west.
Beauregard had been told not to assume command of Hood's troops, and neither
man could quite figure out how they stood in relationship to each other.
Beauregard was skeptical about the move north, but saw clearly that if it was
going to be done, it needed to be done quickly. He tried to give Hood some
logistical support and a kick in the pants. "Push on active offensive
immediately", he wired on November 20. Hood was hoping that Beauregard might be
able to find him some reinforcements from across the Mississippi. This dream of
finding troops in Texas was also shared by Jefferson Davis. There were
Confederate soldiers out there, nothing much was happening; maybe they could
come east where troops were so badly needed. But the Texas troops that were
willing to march had done so a long time ago, and the Federals controlled a lot
of territory in between. Hood would have to make do with the soldiers he had.
But once Hood got moving he moved fast. Starting north on November 21st, by the
27th he was moving up to Columbia Tennessee, on the south bank of the Duck
River, more than half of the way to Nashville. Scofield was retreating
cautiously. He could not find a good place to contest Hood's advance near
Columbia, and his cavalry, inferior in quality to the Confederates, did not
hold the fords. At the same time he was getting telegrams from Thomas urging
him to make sure that Hood did not advance too quickly. He planned to delay
Hood and then retreat north toward Nashville.
General Stanley was not entirely happy with his situation. Stanley actually
outranked Scofield, but in a piece of bureaucratic legerdemain, it had been
ruled that Scofield was an army commander, and Stanley only a corps commander,
so Scofield was in charge. The reason that Stanley was playing second fiddle in
Scofield's army instead of marching through Georgia was that he had had a
run-in with Sherman the previous summer. "He [Sherman] liked to lay his
failures on other's shoulders, and when the scapegoat attempted to argue or
explain he was never forgiven", Stanley recalled later. And he had drawn the
least glamorous job in the army--covering the wagon trains and the Corps
artillery in Spring Hill. He had a Wagner's division of the Fourth Corps, some
cavalry, the Corps artillery, and a few miscellaneous units, maybe 4000 men in
all, about a fifth of the army. In the late morning Stanley was a little
surprised to find out that his troops were being harassed by cavalry from the
east. Led by the infamous Nathan Bedford Forrest, these cavalrymen were probing
the Union position. Dismounted Union cavalry held them off for a while, but
Stanley eventually deployed infantry to the east to screen his position. Then
as the afternoon wore on Stanley realized that Confederate infantry was
threatening him from the south. In a clever move, Hood had crossed the Duck to
the east of Columbia, left Lee's corps to engage Scofield, and was moving on
Spring Hill with his other two corps. The Union army, strung out and
outflanked, was in serious danger. And Scofield, expecting to Hood to move to
the west, wasn't even quite aware of the danger.
When Scofield heard that Confederate infantry was moving up on his left, he
decided it was time to leave. He started the first of his divisions up the road
toward Spring Hill. He himself left about 3:30, and the last of his troops,
after repulsing a tentative attack by Lee's Confederates, didn't get on the
road until about ten.
Meanwhile the Confederates were pressing in on Stanley at Spring Hill. Hood
arrived on the field around 3:00. He immediately began to organize an attack,
using mainly troops from Cheatham's corps. At first he concentrated mainly on
Stanley's outnumbered men, but then, realizing that he could move west and cut
the road from Columbia to Spring Hill, he began deploying Cleburne's division
with that in view. However, Hood failed to communicate his intentions to
Cheatham, and when Hood went to the rear to direct the rest of the army as it
came up,. Cheatham began to redeploy his troops with the single-minded
intention of driving Stanley's troops out of town.
Stanley and his veteran division commander Wagner handled their troops well.
When their first brigade, composed mostly of green troops, was driven back,
Stanley had posted most of the Corps artillery in such a way as to cover
their retreat. Then he deployed his other two brigades, and set about
reorganizing the routed men.
As Cheatham prepared for the big push, the short winter day was coming to an
end. Already shadows were falling over the battlefield. Looking out into the
gloom the Confederate officers on the end of the line thought they perceived
Union troops flanking the line of their attack. They stopped to consider and
confer, the darkness deepened, and the attack was never made. Cheatham gave up,
and gave orders for his men to bivouac and wait for morning. He did not extend
his lines so as to cover the road.
So as Scofield's men came marching up toward Spring Hill, they found no one in
their way. They could see the fires of the Confederate army east of the road,
but they marched through unscathed. When he reached Spring Hill, Scofield was
not finished. As he put it in his memoirs, "Since the Confederates were all
asleep and the Union troops were all awake, there was no reason not to continue
the march to Franklin." Somehow Stanley and Scofield got the entire army out of
town. There was some talk about burning and abandoning the supply train, but
the army needed those supplies, and they got them moving, too. By dawn the only
Union soldiers left around was a tiny guard that Scofield had left on the first
crossroads south of Spring Hill to secure a path to the north for his troops in
case the main road was blocked.
A great deal of ink has been expended discussing the failure of the
Confederates to take advantage of their position around Spring Hill on November
29th, 1864. Cheatham and Hood have both come in for bitter criticism. Certainly
there was a lack of communication and coordination. But the biggest thing the
Confederates lacked was daylight. If this battle had been fought on June 29th,
there is little doubt that the Union would have suffered a serous defeat. But
Civil War generals hated to fight after dark. Given the tactical systems in use
at that time, it was hard enough to get the troops in the right place when they
could see. Even when battles like Shiloh and Gettysburg stretched over several
days, the shooting stopped when the sun went down.
It seems strange that Scofield and Stanley don't receive more credit for
extricating themselves from the situation. It was obvious that Scofield needed
to march north from Columbia. It was not so obvious that he needed to keep
marching. That he and Stanley were able to get an army which had already fought
and marched all day on the road in the middle of the night and keep it moving
toward Franklin was quite a feat.
When Hood woke up the next morning and found that the Yankees were gone, he was
not happy. One of his staff officers reported that he was "wrathy as a
rattlesnake…, striking at everything." Mostly he blamed
Cheatham. "the best move in my career as a soldier I was thus
destined to behold come to naught", he later said and claimed that Cheatham
admitted responsibility for the debacle. But when Cheatham read the article, he
wrote a thousand word rebuttal challenging Hood's "recollections" of the
events, and there are no less than four footnotes to Hood's article in "Battles
and Leaders" where Cheatham disagreed with Hood's version.
In any case, Hood soon had the army on the road toward Franklin, Stewart's
corps in the lead, Cheatham's second, Lee's bringing up the rear. He was still
hoping to force a decisive battle with Scofield's army before it joined with
the troops Thomas had assembled in Nashville.
When Scofield got to Franklin, which sits on the south bank of the Harpeth
River, he was annoyed to find that there was no pontoon bridge waiting for him.
The wagon bridge was broken, and the railroad bridge was not suitable for
wheeled traffic. All he found was a message from Thomas telling him to use the
pontoons he had. With some justice he pointed out in his memoirs that he
wouldn't have asked for pontoons if he hadn't needed them. He assigned to
Wagner's division to establish a rear guard outside town, and the rest of the
army entered Franklin to get some food and a little sleep while the engineers
went to work to put some kind of temporary bridge over the Harpeth using the
wreckage of the one that had been destroyed. The also began to plank over the
railroad bridge. There was a usable ford near the town and after some work
on the approaches, artillery and cavalry began splashing through. Scofield got
a little sleep, then he and Stanley crossed over to the other side to oversee
the placement of artillery on the north shore, leaving 23rd corps commander
General Jacob Cox as the ranking officer on the south side. Soon the bridge was
usable, and the endless train of wagons began crossing over. Meanwhile the
infantry was throwing up fortifications around the bridgehead. At this stage of
the war, experienced soldiers didn't need much encouragement to start building
field fortifications. They had found that some rocks, a few rails, a fence, or
even the bodies of their fallen comrades could be the different between life
In the midst of all this activity General Wagner became convinced that his
division had been directed to hold its position beyond the fortifications. One
of his colonels, Emerson Opdyke, refused. His brigade had been standing
rearguard ever since they had left Spring Hill. He was sick of it, knew his men
were exhausted and hungry, and could see no point in hanging around in such an
exposed position. In a short but violent exchange with Wagner he informed his
commander that he would not obey Wagner's orders, marched his brigade to a
position inside the lines that were forming around Franklin, and let them fall
out to eat and rest. The other two brigades of Wagner's division obeyed orders
and stayed out in front of the rest of the Union army. Some of them tried to
improve their positions, but most of them just sat down to see what would
happen. They didn't have long to wait.
Everyone liked General Patrick Cleburne. He was born in Ireland, and served a
hitch as a private in the British army before coming to America and settling in
Arkansas. When the war broke out he joined up and rose rapidly in the
Confederate army. Considered the best fighting general in the west, he had seen
plenty of action--it had been his division that had given Sherman such a hard
time at Chattanooga. Many soldiers then and military historians since felt that
he should have received the corps that went to Hood in March of 1864. When Hood
took over the Army of Tennessee he was passed over again in favor of Cheatham.
One reason that Jefferson Davis, who was making these decisions, would not
promote Cleburne was that he had never graduated from West Point. Davis was a
West Pointer himself, and had an almost mystical belief in the need for a
proper military education for the Confederacy's top commanders. He preferred to
appoint men he disliked and distrusted (such as Beauregard) to important
commands rather than try a men who had not passed through those hallowed gates.
Worse, early in 1864 Cleburne had made a shocking proposal. Looking at the
Confederacy's declining fortunes, he perceived that the South was running out
of soldiers. Generals everywhere were clamoring for reinforcements, but there
were no reinforcements to be had. The South had only one untapped source of
manpower: black slaves. Slaves were already making a big contribution to the
war effort, growing food, building fortifications, working as cooks, teamsters,
batmen. But Cleburne proposed to train slaves, arm them, and promise them
freedom if they would fight for the South. The North had already shown the way,
increasing its already crushing manpower advantage by recruiting black
regiments. These black Yankee soldiers had to contend with plenty of prejudice,
and were often relegated to support roles. But even doing this they freed up
troops for the front lines, and when they did get into a fight, they did pretty
well. Perhaps because Cleburne was not from the deep South he didn't realize
how upsetting his proposal would be to men steeped in the belief that blacks
were inferior and incapable by nature. Or maybe he did--he never lacked
courage, physical or moral. In any case the proposal was considered so
unacceptable that it couldn't even be discussed. It went into a drawer
somewhere, and a black mark was entered beside Cleburne's name. So he was still
commanding a division as he marched north toward Franklin.
Hood reached the a place where he could see the Union forces at Franklin at
mid-afternoon. Apparently he decided almost immediately on a full scale
assault, but he did meet with the officers from his two leading corps. They
were unanimous in opposing the attack. Forrest suggested a flanking move to the
east, and offered to lead it. Everyone thought that the Union position was too
strong. But Hood was determined. He would send the 20,000 men of his two
leading corps against the center and left of the Union position. And there was
not a lot of time to waste. By the time the army was deployed, it would be
getting late, and Hood did not want this attack to be called on account of
The Union position at Franklin was strong. Nestled in a bend of the Harpeth,
the Union lines rested firmly on the river, and could not be turned tactically.
The lines were short enough to be held by Scofield's small army, and although
the fortifications had been hastily built, they were continuous, and had some
depth. There were only two weaknesses. One was the poor placement of those
two brigades of Wagner's division sitting out in front of everyone else. The
other was that Scofield's army had its back to the river. If its position was
broken, it had no place to retreat. The entire army could be lost.
Because the ground in front of the Union positions was quite open, the soldiers
on both sides had a perfect view of the Confederates forming for the assault.
Numerous eyewitness accounts speak of the impressive sight. "It was worth a
year of one's lifetime to witness the marshalling and advance of the Rebel
line. Nothing could be more suggestive of strength, discipline, and resistless
power.", said one Federal soldier. General Cheatham thought it was the most
magnificent sight he had ever seen..
But there were two groups of very different Union soldiers who were not so much
impressed as frightened. One was the two ranking officers of the army. Generals
Stanley and Scofield had assumed, like everyone else, that their lines were too
strong to be attacked. They were both across the river supervising the
placement of artillery. As it became obvious that an attack was imminent, all
they could do was watch. The other was the two hapless brigades of Wagner's
division, stranded out in front of the lines. Some soldiers begged their
officers to lead them back where they belonged, but Wagner's orders had been
peremptory, and the officers insisted that the soldiers stay put. But not for
long. Outnumbered, outflanked, and intimidated, the Federal brigades managed to
get off one good volley, then the Confederates were among them and around them,
and they were racing desperately for the safety of the fortified lines. Some of
them made it, some of them didn't.
As the confused mass of fleeing Federal soldiers approached the Union
fortifications, Rebels close behind them, the defenders were in a quandary.
They could not shoot at the approaching Confederates without hitting their own
men. The Southerners saw the situation and took up the cry: "Into the works
with them." They swept over the breastworks, and surged forward. Across the
river, Scofield could only watch in dismay. "For a moment, my heart sank within
me.", he recalled in his memoirs. It looked as if Hood's audacious gamble was
on the brink of success.
Colonel Emerson Opdyke had allowed his brigade to fall out behind the lines and
get some much needed rest. Their arms were stacked behind them. When the noise
of battle grew in front of them, Opdyke called his men to arms, intending to
form them up beside the road. But some of his officers actually perceived the
peril before he did, and began urging the men "To the works!" Together with two
regiments of Kentuckians that were also standing in reserve, the brigade
charged into the mass of attacking Rebels. A desperate melee of hand-to-hand
combat took place right in front of and around the F.B Carter house. Slowly the
Confederates were driven back into the outer works. But as if they were aware
of how close they had came to success, they did not retreat, and in the
gathering darkness a desperate firefight raged across the Carter's garden.
On the Union left things did not go as well for the charging Confederates. The
Union troops had cut down a thick hedge of tough osage orange trees around the
Franklin cotton gin to about four feet. So when the Southerners struggled
through heavy fire to the base of the hedge, they found that they could not get
through. Here too a vicious and lengthy exchange of fire caused heavy
casualties on both sides.
All along the line the Confederates were at a disadvantage. Their numbers had
been thinned by the long advance, and they were exposed to flanking fire from
both sides of the salient they clung to in the Union lines. Still they held on,
firing until they ran out of ammunition, generals handing up muskets to
sergeants, small groups of desperate men trying to climb into the Federal
positions. But it was futile, and at last, well into the night, the few that
were left made their way back to the rest of their army.
No sooner had the firing stopped than Scofield gave the order to retreat. He
had already started the wagon trains toward Nashville, 15 miles away. The
wounded were loaded up, the prisoners were herded down the road, and by 2 AM
the Union army was gone. They arrived at Nashville the next morning, and
probably fell down and slept. Some of them had fought a minor battle, a major
battle, and conducted two night marches, all in the space of 48 hours. Scofield
reported that he talked to Thomas, went to bed about noon, and slept until
sunset the following day.
Hood was making plans to renew the battle the next morning. But all the
Confederates had to do was take possession of the battlefield and bury their
dead. There were a lot of them. An estimated 2500 dead soldiers littered the
ground, 1800 of them Confederates. In all Hood's army had suffered an estimated
7000 casualties, killed, wounded, captured, about a quarter of his army. Among
the dead were five Confederate generals, John Adams, States Rights Gist, Otto
Strahl, Hiram Granbury, and Patrick Cleburne. General George Gordon had been
captured. Hood's army would miss all these men, none more than Cleburne, and
the terrible casualties crippled an army already too small for its mission.
Hood sent a surprisingly optimistic report to Richmond, overestimating the
Federal casualties and emphasizing that he held the battlefield, often seen as
a sign of victory. Then, twenty-four hours later, he marched for Nashville. It
is not easy to see what he expected to accomplish there. Perhaps, having come
this far, he was determined to continue to the end. In his memoirs he says he
was hoping for those elusive reinforcements from Texas.
Historians have not treated John Bell Hood very kindly. Bevin Alexander
mentions him in passing in his "How Wars Are Won": "Hood was a man of little
intellect who never grasped the profound change in war brought on by the minie
ball rifle, field fortifications, and cannister-filled cannons...." Wiley Sword
says, "Hood, ultimately, was a tragic failure, a sad, pathetic soldier whose
ambitions totally outstripped his abilities." Ouch!
It's easy to see why. Hood led the Army of Tennessee into major battles five
times, three in defense of Atlanta, plus Franklin, and Nashville. He suffered
five defeats. He also had the bad judgment to harp repeatedly in his post-war
writings on how the Army of Tennessee had lost its ability to fight other than
from behind field fortifications. This has led to the widespread opinion that
Hood's motive in attacking at Franklin was to "discipline" the army for its
lack of initiative at Spring Hill. It is strange and unfortunate that Hood
should have been writing this way after the war. Although the Army of Tennessee
did not accomplish its goal at Franklin, it proved beyond a doubt that it was
still capable of delivering a ferocious assault in the best Rebel tradition.
However, it is possible that a closer look at Franklin might allow us to take a
slightly more positive view of Hood's conduct as commander of the Army of
Tennessee. We will start by quoting from his opponent, John Scofield
"Hood's assault at Franklin has been severely criticized. Even so able a
general as J.E.Johnston has characterized it as ‘useless butchery'. These
criticisms are based on a misapprehension of the facts, and are essentially
erroneous. Hood must have been aware of our relative weakness of numbers at
Franklin, and of the probable, if not certain, concentration of large
reinforcements at Nashville. He could not hope to have at any future time
anything like so great an advantage in that respect. The army at Franklin and
the troops at Nashville were within one night's march of each other; Hood must
therefore attack on November 30 or loose the advantage of greatly superior
numbers. It was impossible, after the pursuit from Spring Hill, in a short day
to turn our position or make any other attack but a direct one in front.
Besides our position with the river on our rear, gave him the chance of vastly
greater results, if his assault were successful, than could be hoped for by any
attack he could make after we had crossed the Harpeth. Still more, there was no
unusual obstacle to a successful assault at Franklin. The defenses were of the
slightest character, and it was not possible to make them formidable during the
short time our troops were in position, after the previous exhausting
operations of both day and night, which had rendered some rest on the 30th
"The Confederate cause had reached a condition closely verging on desperation,
and Hood's commander-in-chief had called upon him to undertake operations which
he thought appropriate to such an emergency. Franklin was the last opportunity
he could expect to have to reap the results hoped for in his aggressive
movement. He must strike there, as best he could, or give up his cause as
Like A.S. Johnston at Shiloh and Lee at Gettysburg, Hood saw that political
necessity required a military success. Like them, he failed. Perhaps the reason
he is judged more harshly is that even had he routed Scofield at Franklin, by
late 1864 the Confederate cause was hopeless. And he almost did. The other
justification for his attack is that it came so close to success. All accounts
seem to agree that had Colonel Opdyke obeyed his orders and remained with the
rest of his division, it is very possible, even likely, that the Union army
would have been destroyed.
So, rather than seeing Hood as an idiot and a butcher, it is probably fairer to
see him as a very aggressive general who pushed his army to the limit--and
beyond--in search of an elusive victory.
Notes on Sources (in order of importance):
Sword, Wiley, "The Confederacy's Last Hurrah", University Press of Kansas, 1992
Well written, well researched, the main source for this account. The caveat:
Sword has no use for Hood, and isn't shy about saying so.
"Battles and Leaders of the Civil War Volume 4" pp425-437. Hood's account,
taken from his memoirs. Also Cheatham's reply pp438-439, and "Repelling Hood's
Invasion of Tennessee" pp440-464 by one of Thomas's staff officers.
Scofield, John M. Forty-Six Years in the Army", University of Oklahoma Press
1998 edition, first published in 1897
JohnBellHood.org--a pro-Hood website, containing, not surprisingly, a very
negative review of the Sword book.
Woodward, Steven E. "Jefferson Davis and his Generals", University of Kansas
Press 1990 Well written study of the Confederate command problems in the west.
Other Sources (in alphabetical order)
Alexander, Bevin "How Wars Are Won" Crown Publishers 2002
Catton, Bruce "Bruce Catton's Civil War" Fairfax Press 1984
Davis, Jefferson "The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government" Collier
Books, 1961 edition
Davis, Steven "Atlanta Will Fall" Scholarly Resources 2001
McPherson, James M. "Battle Cry of Freedom" Oxford University Press 1988
McWhiney, Grady and Jamieson, Perry D. "Attack and Die" University of Alabama
Copyright © 2005 Allen Parfitt.
Written by Allen Parfitt. If you have questions or comments on this article,
please contact Allen Parfitt at:
About the author:
Allen Parfitt is a retired teacher. He has had a life-long interest in military affairs. He lives near Kalamazoo, Michigan with
his wife and four cats. He is continually adding to his library of books on military history.
Published online: 12/04/2005.