December 15, 1864: Battle of Nashville

Gen. George Thomas

From Sherman’s official report:

After making communications to those officers, and a short communication to the War Department, I returned to Fort McAllister that night, and before daylight was overtaken by Major Strong, of General Foster’s staff, advising me that General Foster had arrived in the Ogeechee, near Fort McAllister, and was very anxious to meet me on board his boat. I accordingly returned with him, and met General Foster on board the steamer Nemaha; and after consultation determined to proceed with him down the sound in hopes to meet Admiral Dahlgren.

But we did not meet him until we reached Wassaw Sound, about noon. I there went on board the admiral’s flag-ship, the Harvest Moon, after having arranged with General Foster to send us from Hilton Head some siege ordnance and some boats suitable for navigating the Ogeechee River. Admiral Dahlgren very kindly furnished me with all the data concerning his fleet and the numerous forts that guarded the inland channels between the sea and Savannah.

I explained to him how completely Savannah was invested at all points, save only the plank road on the South Carolina shore, known as the Union Causeway, which I thought I could reach from my left flank across the Savannah River. I explained to him that if he would simply engage the attention of the forts along Wilmington Channel, at Beaulieu and Rosedew, I thought I could carry the defenses of Savannah by assault as soon as the heavy ordnance arrived from Hilton Head. On the 15th the admiral carried me back to Fort McAllister, whence I returned to our lines in the rear of Savannah.

Having received and carefully considered all the reports of division commanders, I determined to assault the lines of the enemy as soon as my heavy ordnance came from Port Royal, first making a formal demand for surrender.

Meanwhile, Thomas was finally ready to attack Hood’s troops outside Nashville. Grant had been ready to relieve him from command, having ordered him to go after Thomas for months. Thomas may have been deliberate, but once he was ready he didn’t hold back. Hood’s lines were broken and he was routed thoroughly, with large numbers of cannon and prisoners taken. Thomas would pursue the next day as well. Grant got word as he was en route to give him the sack, and turned around instead, sending his congratulations.


NASHVILLE, TENN., December 15, 1864-10.30 p. m.
(Received 11 p. m.)
Major T. T. ECKERT:

Our line advanced and engaged the rebel line at 9 this a. m. The line was formed thus: Steedman on the left; T. J. Wood, with the Fourth Corps, next; A. J. Smith next; with Cox, in reserve, next; and the cavalry, under Wilson, fighting dismounted, occupying the extreme right, aided by gun-boats on the river.

The artillery practice has been fine, and at times the musketry firing continuous and heavy, and, though the casualties have been slight, the results are very fair. The left occupies the same ground as at morning, but right has advanced five miles, driving enemy from river, from his entrenchments, from the range of hills on which his left rested, and forced back upon his right and center. His center pushed back from one to three miles, with loss, in all, of 17 guns and about 1,500 prisoners, and his whole line of earth-works, except about a mile on his extreme right, where no serious attempt was made to dislodge him.

From our new line General Thomas expects to be able to drive the enemy at daylight east of the road to Franklin, and so open communication with our forces at Murfreesborough. The whole of Hood’s army is here, except the cavalry and one division, which has been detached to threaten or attack Murfreesborough.

The whole action of to-day was splendidly successful. The divisions commanded by General Kimball, of the Fourth Corps, by General Garrard, of the command under General A. J. Smith, and the cavalry division under General Knipe, were under my observation, and I have never seen better work. General Kimball’s division carried two fortified positions by assault, with very slight loss, capturing at one point 400 prisoners and 6 guns. No doubt the other parts of the line did as well; I only speak of what I saw.

J. C. VAN DUZER.

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NASHVILLE, TENN., December 15, 1864-9 p. m.
(Received 11.25 p. m.)
Major General H. W. HALLECK,
Washington, D. C.:

I attacked the enemy’s left this morning and drove it from the river, below the city, very nearly to the Franklin pike, a distance about eight miles. Have captured General Chalmers’ headquarters and train, and a second train of about 20 wagons, with between 800 and 1,000 prisoners and 16 pieces of artillery. The troops behaved splendidly, all taking their share in assaulting and carrying the enemy’s breast-works. I shall attack the enemy again to-morrow, if he retreats during the night, will pursue him, throwing a heavy cavalry force in his rear, to destroy his trains, if possible.

GEO. H. THOMAS,
Major-General, U. S. Volunteers, Commanding.

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WASHINGTON, D. C., December 15, 1864-11.30 p. m.
Major-General THOMAS,
Nashville, Tenn.:

I was just on my way to Nashville, but receiving a dispatch from Van Duzer, detailing your splendid success of to-day, I shall go no farther. Push the enemy now, and give him no rest until he is entirely destroyed. Your army will cheerfully suffer many privations to break up Hood’s army and render it useless for future operations. Do not stop for trains or supplies, but take them from the country, as the enemy have done. Much is now expected.

U. S. GRANT,
Lieutenant-General.

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2 Responses to December 15, 1864: Battle of Nashville

  1. Here is a letter from my gg-grandfather’s commanding officer to his father on December 8 (Some civil war letters of A. Piatt Andrew III privately printed, 1925):

    Headquarters,
    TWENTY-FIRST Indiana Battery,
    NASHVILLE, Tenn, Dec. 8, 1864.

    Dear Father:
    I have not written for some time, as movements have kept me busy. As you doubtless heard, Columbia was evacuated on the night of the twenty-seventh. We were
    compelled to leave our comfortable quarters and commence soldiering again. The heavy guns in the fort were destroyed as it was impossible to get them over the river, and the light guns, six in number, were brought with us. We are now in Nashville, where Thomas’ army is principally concentrated. Hood is in front of the city though I think he intends to make no attack. I understand the Twenty-ninth is here. I have not seen it however. Shall try to find them today.

    There has been some artillery firing and some skirmishing along the lines, not to amount to much, however. Nashville is strongly defended and any attempt to take the place would be madness. Artillery covers every approach.

    The fight at Franklin was quite severe, the only fight, in fact, this side of the Tennessee.

    At Columbia there was only light skirmishing. The enemy have followed closely, in fact, pressed us from Columbia here. It is hard to determine their intentions. Surmises are numerous, here, and doubtless at home. Time alone will tell.

    My health continues good, could not be better. Orville is well also. Lieutenant Elliott has returned, bringing me some clothing — very acceptable. I have intended to apply for a leave of absence, but the present situation will not permit.

    Love to all. A. P. A.*

    * Abram Piatt Andrew III — still living in 1925 when his son had the book printed. It is available for download at the University of Michigan with partner credentials.

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