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Again Hood pressed hastily on; crossed the Coosa River after menacing Rome - to which place Sherman advanced on the 11th — and destroyed the railway from Resaca to the Tunnel. Howard was sent westward to Snake Creek Gap, where he was to detain the enemy by skirmishing, while Stanley with his own and Davis's corps should move upon his rear; but Hood could neither be intercepted nor overtaken. Sherman gave up the chase, halting at Gaylesville (Alabama). The small force already sent with Thomas to Nashville was to be the nucleus of a separate army. On learning that Hood had crossed Sand Mountain, and was making for Middle Tennessee, Sherman left the care of the receding foe to Thomas, to whom Stanley and Schofield were ordered to report from Chattanooga. Giving a like destination to other troops, including the greater part of his cavalry, Sherman prepared to move with the remainder of his force in the opposite direction. The plan to “ draw Sherman out of Georgia” had not entirely succeeded. Hood, not Sherman, was the one eliminated.
On the 26th, Hood appeared before Decatur, and made secure his possession of Florence, by way of which he was to receive supplies from the South. Sherman's last instructions to Thomas were to follow Hood should he return to Georgia, but at all events to hold Tennessee. The Fourth Corps (Stanley's) and the Twenty-third (Schofield's), with such cavalry as was available, were ordered by Thomas to Pulaski — an army of observation, greatly inferior to the enemy's strength, lately reinforced with infantry from the southwest, and with additions to the large cavalry commands under Forrest and Buford.
Hood was generally quiescent for more than two weeks. Cheatham's corps at length crossed the Ten-nessee on the 17th of November, and two days later there was a general advance. Schofield, having before removed the Government property, withdrew on the 23d from Pulaski (seventy-three miles from Nashville), and took position at Columbia, thirty miles nearer the State capital. After much skirmishing during the next few days, he succeeded in eluding the enemy by a night march, and safely reached Franklin, eighteen miles from Nashville, at an early hour on the morning of the 30th. To avoid a serious engagement was no longer possible. During the afternoon furious assaults on his lines along the Harpeth River were made by the two corps of Cheatham and Lee. The conflict was kept up until long after dark, ending in final defeat of the assailants. Hood's losses were much the greater, desperate onslaughts having been made again and again with his characteristic vigor. The killed and wounded on that side numbered over five thousand, among the former being Major-General Cleburne and five Brigadiers. The total Union loss, as officially reported, was less than two thousand. *
During the night Schofield withdrew securely, his trains having already passed danger, and after a day's march went into camp three miles south of Nashville. Hood followed closely, and began skirmishing in the
* Losses according to War Records : Union-killed, 189; wounded, 1,750. Confederate-killed, 1,033; wounded, 4,500.
evening (December ist). It was a masterly retreat,
, Schofield saving all his artillery and trains in a march of more than seventy miles, during which there was much skirmishing, with one severe battle.
Hood, with headquarters six miles from Nashville, on the Franklin pike, advanced his front close to the outer lines of Thomas, and threw up a circuit of counterintrenchments. His forces were so disposed as also to threaten an advance on Murfreesboro and Chattanooga, and to keep the way open for the expected approach of Breckinridge with a detachment which had been sent into East Tennessee and the Virginia valley beyond. The latter, however, was soon after driven into the mountains of North Carolina. For many days Thomas and Hood remained without actual collision or material change of position.
In the meantime Sherman, returning from his chase of Hood, proceeded to execute his bold plan of marching through the Empire State of the South to the Atlantic coast. His army was organized in two wings: the Fifteenth Corps (Osterhaus) and the Seventeenth (Blair) under the command of Howard, and the Fourteenth (Davis) and Twentieth (Williams) under Slocum - a total infantry and artillery force of about sixty thousand men. Under the chief command of Kilpatrick was a cavalry force about five thousand five hundred strong. On the 11th of November, after sending parting messages to Washington and City Point, Sherman (then at Kingston) cut the wires and set his troops in motion, reaching Atlanta on the 14th. From Atlanta Howard, on the right (Sherman accompanying Blair's
corps, the last to depart, on the 16th), marched by McDonough to Gordon, not far from Milledgeville, arriving on the 23d; while Slocum moved by Covington to the latter place then the Georgia capital where he arrived at the same date. Kilpatrick started from Atlanta on the 15th, covering one wing or the other as required, and having only an occasional brush with inferior cavalry forces. The enemy was as yet uncertain - as were the Northern public — whether Sherman intended to venture further than Milledgeville, or, if he did, whether his objective point was the Andersonville prisons, or Augusta, Mobile, or Savannah.
On the 24th and 25th Howard moved to Ball's Ferry, on the Oconee River, the small defensive force there retiring on his approach. Slocum moved at the same time from Milledgeville, Kilpatrick swinging to his left, covering it, and diverging as if to strike Augusta, the great source of Confederate supplies of ordnance and ammunition. Already the Union prisoners had been removed from Andersonville. There was no effective obstruction to the right wing until Hazen's division appeared before Fort McAllister. At Waynesboro, on the 4th of December, Kilpatrick fought Wheeler, while Baird tore up the railway track in that neighborhood. Slocum's two corps came together at Jacksonboro, and then marched rapidly towards Savannah. On the 13th, Hazen carried Fort McAllister by storm - a brief, brilliant action. A summons to surrender the city of Savannah was declined by Hardee, who was in command there with a force of about fifteen thousand men. But Hardee soon evacuated the city at night, and Sherman telegraphed to the President:
I beg to present to you, as a Christmas gift, the city of Savannah, with one hundred and fifty guns and plenty of ammunition, and also about twenty-five hundred bales of cotton.
My Dear General Sherman:- Many, many thanks for your Christmas gift — the capture of Savannah. Now, the undertaking being a success, the honor is all yours, for I believe none of us went further than to acquiesce. And, taking the work of General Thomas into the account, as it should be taken, it is indeed a great success. Please make my grateful acknowledgments to your whole army, officers and men.
In the meantime "the work of General Thomas" in Tennessee had reached its culmination. Hood was in no haste to bring on the expected action at Nashville. That he was so long tolerated in Tennessee began to cause impatience in Washington - a feeling that was shared by Grant. An icy condition of the ground, rendering movement extremely difficult, prevailed for a week prior to the 14th of December, prolonging the inaction beyond the inclination and original intention of Thomas.
On the morning of the 15th he assumed the aggressive. On his extreme right, Wilson's cavalry, fighting on foot, supported by Fitch's gunboats, assaulted the enemy's breastworks, and carried them grandly. The advantage was followed up by the infantry corps of Wood and A. J. Smith — driving the enemy, doubling his left upon his center and right, and pushing him back, at one point and another, from one to three miles. From the river nearly to the Franklin pike, a front