Page images



consisting, among other troops, of the garrison of Saltville, that had started in pursuit. He at once made arrangements to attack it the next morning; but morning found Breckenridge gone. He then moved directly to Saltville, and destroyed the extensive salt works at that place, a large amount of stores, and captured eight pieces of artillery. Having thus successfully executed his instructions, he returned General Burbridge to Lexington, and General Gillem to Knoxville.”

These, however, were minor movements—the great interest centered around Hood's army, which Sherman had left behind him. When the former found himself north of the Tennessee, and his pursuer back to Atlanta, his surprise was complete. He knew that it would be useless to turn about and attempt to overtake him, and so he determined to advance north and attack Nashville.

Schofield, with the Fourth and Twenty-third Corps, was directed to keep the field and check, as much as possible, his advance, so as to give Thomas time to concentrate his troops. Steedman, at this time, held Chattanooga, Bridgeport, and that line of railroad.

After Hood crossed the Tennessee River, Schofield fell back across Duck River, where he made a stand, but the former pressed him so severely that he had to retreat. Setting fire to his own pontoon bridge, he marched swiftly for Franklin, eighteen miles from Nashville, for he knew if he did not cross Harpeth River first, his army would be hopelessly cut off. Hood was aware of this, and strained every nerve to reach the river before him.

Schofield's immense train crippled him sadly, and at one time it was doubtful if he could save it. It was a life and death race, but he won it nobly. Once over the river, where, if defeated, he could fall back on Nashville, he esolved to deal his powerful adversary one blow before



retreating, farther; and hastily throwing up breastworks, he calmly awaited his approach. Hood, confident of success, boldly advanced to the attack, on the last day of November, and the battle of Franklin commenced. Throwing himself, with his accustomed impetuosity, on the centre cf Schofield's position, he carried it, and Wagner, who commanded here, was forced back, losing two guns. He, however, rallied his men, and charging back, re-took his guus, and captured a whole brigade.

In spite of Cox, Wagner, Opdyke, and Stanley, Hood, at last, got possession of the first line of works, though at a terrible sacrifice of life. But just at sunset, when Cox and Stanley, with their re-formed lines, advanced to drive back the enemy, the struggle became terrible, and assumed a sav. age ferocity. The rebels, though the canister and grape of the close batteries cut frightful lanes through their ranks, refused to yield an inch of the ground they had so gallantly won, and a gladiatorial contest followed, in which the com. batants stood face to face, thrusting their bayonets into each cther's bosoms—and with clubbed muskets, and demoniacal yells, fought in the deepening twilight, more like savages than civilized men.

Darkness, at length, closed on this strange battle, and Hood was at last compelled to give it up and retire from the captured works-tu mourn over the loss of over six thousand men, and six general officers killed, six wounded, and one captured. Our loss was only twenty-three hundred, yet Schofield having done all that he intended to do-dealt his adversary a blow that severely crippled him-fell back that night to Nashville, leaving him in possession of the battle field.

On the same day that Schofield reached Nashville, A. J. Smith, with his command, arrived in transports from St. Louis, together with Steedman. with five thousand men and



a brigade of colored troops from Chattanooga. The latter barely got through, for after the battle of Franklin, Hood at once advanced his lines around the city, and effectually cut off all communications south.

The rebel army occupied a series of hills, some four or five miles out of Nashville, while Thomas lay behind defensive works, erected on a similar range of hills near the city. Hood's only chance of success was in a sudden assault; but the moment he sat down before the place, in a regular siege, his doom was sealed.

The people were at once set to work on the fortifications, and two lines of works, exterior and interior, were constructed at a distance from the city, varying from one to two miles, with forts, redoubts, and rifle-pits, at every available point, until the range of hills, occupied by our forces, was a perfect net-work of fortifications.

Early in December, Thomas opened on the enemy with artillery, but designed to act only on the defensive until his preparations were complete. In the meantime, eight gunboats, with the iron-clad Neosho, came up the Cumberland, and were quite able to take care of the rebel batteries in that direction. Hood evidently designed to isolate Nashville as Sherman did Atlanta, by cutting its communications, yet it was not so clear how this was to be done with our gunboats patrolling the river.

Thomas was at length ready to take the field, but expecting to defeat his adversary, he wanted a cavalry force with which to follow up his victory, and make an utter end of him, and so telegraphed to the Secretary of War. The latter immediately directed Wilson, the chief of cavalry, to seize and impress all serviceable horses that could be found in Tennessee and Kentucky.

In the meantime, Grant became nervous over Thomas' delay, and telegraphed to him to move at once. The latter



replied that he was not ready, and requested Grant, if he was dissatisfied with his course, to appoint a Commander in his place, and he would cheerfully serve under him. Grant sent back word that he had more confidence in him than in any other man, and that he might take his own time--still, he wanted to know the reasons of his delay.

Thomas not thinking it prudent to give them, lest they should leak out on the way, kept silent. This did not tend to lessen Grant's solicitude, and he says

“I grew very impatient over, as it appeared to me, the unnecessary delay. This impatience was increased, upon learning that the enemy had sent a force of cavalry across the Cumberland into Kentucky. I feared Hood would cross his whole army, and give us great trouble there. After urging upon General Thomas the necessity of immediately assuming the offensive, I started West to superintend matters there in person. Reaching Washington City, I received General Thomas' dispatch, announcing his attack upon the enemy, and the result, as far as the battle had progressed. I was delighted. All fears and apprehensions were dispelled.”

It was strange that Grant did not feel that it was perfectly safe to let Thomas have his own way, as Sherman did when he placed his reputation in his keeping, and turned his back on Atlanta.

Near the middle of December, Thomas finding that he had all the cavalry that he could expect, though not all he wanted, resolved to attack Hood behind his works. But just then came a cold snap, glazing the hills with ice, so that neither men nor animals could keep upon their feet, and the advance was delayed until there should come a thaw. In a day or two the weather changed, and on the night of the 14th, Thomas gave orders to be ready to attack at daylight next morning. His plan was to make a feint on Hood's



right flank, and then fill with sudden, overwhelming power on his left, and roll it back on the centre. A. J. Smith was stationed on the right, with the Sixteenth Corps, and at day-break moved forward-Wilson's cavalry keeping on his right along the river shore, while Wood, with the Fourth Corps, closed in on his left. Schofield, with the Twentythird Corps, came in on Wood's left as a reserve. Three Corps were thus concentrated on the rebel left.

Far away, on our left, Steedman, commanding a mixed body of troops, was directed to push out a heavy force of skirmishers before daylight, and threaten the rebel right. He did so, and driving in the enemy's pickets, followed close on their heels, until he came upon a battery, planted behind a deep railroad cut, which the troops could not get over, and hence were forced to retire. Hood, aroused at early dawn by the heavy firing on his extreme right, called to horse, but before he had time to ascertain the true state of things there, down on his left came the two Corps of Smith and Wood.

So sudden and awful was the onset, that only a feeble resistance could be offered, and the rebel line crumbled swiftly before it, and in a twinkling the left was hurled, in confusion, back on the centre. “This let the cavalry loose, and now Wilson swept round and past the right like a thunderbolt, and hung like an avenging cloud on the flank and rear of the rebels, as they fell suddenly back on their centre.”

Aroused to the imminent peril that threatened him, Hood now ordered over troops from his right to stay the reversed tide of battle—and from all the heights around Nashville, could be seen the hurrying lines of infantry and artillery sweeping to the rescue.

But though his left was gone, the position he held in the centre was a strong one; high hills—covered with breast.

« PreviousContinue »