Here’s a look at what was happening in the Civil War 150 years ago this week. Unlike past years, many armies had not gone into winter quarters.
Sherman was marching through Georgia, Grant was looking at the Carolinas, and the US commanders in Tennessee were in uproar as the South’s General John Bell Hood advanced north through that state, unfazed by muddy roads, bitter cold, and heavy rains.
Two retreating US divisions under General Jacob D. Cox managed to make it to Columbia, Tennessee, this week just a few hours before CS General Nathan Bedford Forrest could block them, thus setting the stage for days of fighting that would end in a US retreat…at the cost of almost 6,300 Confederate casualties, including 14 generals (six dead or mortally wounded, including Patrick Cleburne; seven wounded; one a POW) and 55 regiment commanders.
Other: The USA celebrates Thanksgiving. The Union League Club of New York declares its program to provide every US soldier and sailor with a Thanksgiving dinner is a complete success. Their effort includes almost 375,000 pounds of poultry, as well as “an enormous quantity of cakes, doughnuts, gingerbread, pickles, preserved fruits, apples, vegetables, and all the other things which go to make up a Northern Thanksgiving Dinner.”
Battles: Tennessee operations: The Battle of Columbia continues. Lieutenant Alfred Dale Owen, 80th Indiana Infantry, is among US reinforcements, having come to Columbia after surviving Forrest’s attack on the Federal depot at Johnsonville earlier in the month. He later reports:
…Leaving that place [Johnsonville] November 23, 1864, by railroad, via Nashville, we arrived at Columbia, Tenn., about 2 a.m. of the 24th instant…, where we were ordered by Colonel Moore into the earth-works on the south side of town and the fort. About 10 a.m. I received orders to march out on the Mount Pleasant pike. After proceeding about a mile I was detached from the brigade, and moved to the right of the pike, where I relieved a battalion of cavalry, who were guarding a ford across the creek that ran into Duck River, and about one mile from its mouth. Have I threw up a barricade of rails, and at 10 p.m. Captain Lee, assistant commissary of musters, brought me orders to move to a commanding position 250 yards to my left, and relieved me by the One hundred and twenty-ninth Regiment Indiana Volunteer Infantry. After completing another barricade I permitted my men to rest during the remainder of the night, and at 8 a.m. on the 25th Colonel Moore moved my regiment to the left of the One hundred and eleventh Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry, where I constructed earth-works to the pike, a distance of 300 yards. Company B, Captain Mosier commanding, was on picket and under fire during the day, but sustained no loss. At 6 p.m. I received orders to march at 12 that night to Duck River railroad bridge, following the Twenty-third Regiment Michigan Volunteer Infantry, but in consequence of a misundering the Twenty-third Michigan and my regiment were separated from the remainder of the brigade about 1 o’clock in the morning and compelled to return to the pike, when we marched to Duck River bridge…
Other: The three famous Booth family actors appear on stage together at New York’s Winter Garden for the first and only time. Their performance of Julius Caesar is to raise funds for a statue of Shakespeare that still stands Central Park today. (24)
Battles: Tennessee operations: The Battle of Columbia, “a series of skirmishes and artillery attacks against the Union over a five day period (source),” continues. The bulk of Hood’s army reaches the town by evening. (31)
Battles: Tennessee operations: The Battle of Columbia continues. Captain W. O. Dodd remembered after the war, when he was president of the Louisville Southern Historical Society:
Our division, commanded by General Chalmers, covered the left of the army, and about the 19th of November, 1864, the army was put in motion.
General Hood commanded the expedition, with three army corps of infantry commanded by Generals Stewart, S.D. Lee and Cheatham, with Forrest in command of the cavalry. The entire force numbered about thirty thousand. It was as gallant an army as ever any Captain commanded. The long march from Atlanta had caused the timid and sick to be left behind, and every man remaining was a veteran. Then the long and sad experience of retreating was now reversed, and we were going to redeem Tennessee and Kentucky, and the morale of the army was excellent.
We hoped to cut off a large body of Federals at Pulaski, but by a forced march they got into Columbia just in time to prevent capture. On the 27th of November we formed around Columbia, the two wings of the army resting on Duck river, Cheatham being to the right.
General Schofield retired to the north side of Duck river…
Battles: Tennessee operations: The Battle of Columbia continues.
Georgia operations/Sherman’s March to the Sea: The Battle of Buck Head Creek.
Battles: Tennessee operations: The Battle of Columbia ends. Hood leaves all of his artillery and two divisions of General Stephen D. Lee’s corps at Columbia to fool the Federals into thinking a general assault is planned there. Then Hood advances over the Duck River toward Spring Hill, on a flanking maneuver, with the rest of his army. (25, 31) The Battle of Spring Hill. Schofield escapes overnight toward Franklin. (25)
Military events: North Carolina operations: General Grant, General Butler, and Admiral David D. Porter discuss an expedition to capture Fort Fisher and Wilmington. (6)
Other: Western operations: Sand Creek. Colonel John Chivington, USA, the “hero of Glorieta Pass,” earns his other sobriquet, “the butcher of Sand Creek.” (Note: It isn’t possible to bring US-Native American relations in the 19th century within the scope of this timeline, even extended to 1869; I have skipped all references to it that didn’t involve direct participation in the war. However, Chivington’s role in the battle of Glorieta Pass back in 1862 – and the stain that this massacre gave all US soldiers in Native American eyes, including the “buffalo soldiers” who went west in large numbers after the Civil War ended – make it worth mentioning here.)
Tennessee operations: The Second Battle of Franklin.
Military events: Tennessee operations: Schofield’s vanguard, under General Cox, reaches Franklin at around 4:30 a.m. and begins preparing fortified positions while Schofield manages to get almost all of his supplies across the Harpeth River at Franklin and on the way to Nashville. General Hood suspends fighting in the evening, and Schofield and his men escape overnight. (25) And, per source (29):
Confederate cavalry commander Forrest attempted to turn the Union left. His two divisions on Stewart’s right (Brig. Gens. Abraham Buford and William H. Jackson) engaged some Federal cavalry pickets and pushed them back. They crossed the Harpeth at Hughes Ford, about 3 miles (4.8 km) upstream from Franklin. When Union cavalry commander Brig. Gen. James H. Wilson learned at 3 p.m. that Forrest was crossing the river, he ordered his division under Brig. Gen. Edward Hatch to move south from his position on the Brentwood Turnpike and attack Forrest from the front. He ordered Brig. Gen. John T. Croxton’s brigade to move against Forrest’s flank and held Col. Thomas J. Harrison’s brigade in reserve. The dismounted cavalrymen of Hatch’s division charged the Confederate cavalrymen, also dismounted, and drove them back across the river. Some of Croxton’s men were armed with seven-shot Spencer carbines, which had a devastating effect on the Confederate line. Wilson was proud of his men’s accomplishment because this was the first time that Forrest had been defeated by a smaller force in a standup fight during the war.
After the battle of Franklin, local people had to deal with thousands of dead bodies and mortally wounded soldiers – from privates on up through generals – some of whom lingered for months. The result was the McGavock Confederate Cemetery, the country’s largest privately owned military cemetery.
(2) Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson (2003 – see side bar for link).
(3) The Campaigns of Lieut.-Gen. N.B. Forrest, and of Forrest’s Cavalry by Thomas Jordan, J. P. Pryor (1868).
(4) The Lincoln Log timeline.
(6) Grant Chronology, Mississippi State University.
(8) Life of Lieutenant-General Nathan Bedford Forrest, by John A. Wyeth (1908/2011).
(10) The Siege of Charleston, “The State.” (South Carolina)
(12) The Longest Night: A Military History of the Civil War.” (2002) David J. Eicher.
(14) The Pictorial Book of Anecdotes and Incidents of the War of the Rebellion…, Richard Miller Devens (1866).
(16) The Louisiana Native Guards: The Black Military Experience During the Civil War. James G. Hollandsworth, Jr., 1995.
(17) A. Lincoln, A Biography, Ronald C. White, Jr. (2009)
(18) Confederate Strategy, Fort Tyler Association.
(19) The Sword of Lincoln, the Army of the Potomac. Jeffrey Wert (2005)
(20) Black Artillerymen from the Civil War through World War I (PDF), Roger D. Cunningham.
(21) Siege of Petersburg, Wikipedia.
(23) James F. Epperson’s Siege of Petersburg site.
(24) Michael W. Kauffman. American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies. Random House. New York. 2004.
(25) The Franklin-Nashville Campaign. Wikipedia
(26) Timeline 1864 (PDF). State of Tennessee
(27) Up From Slavery. Booker T. Washington
(28) Civil war battles in Alabama list.
(29) Battle of Franklin (Wikipedia)
(30) General John Bell Hood’s Invasion of Tennessee, October 1864-January 1865/Wayne County Passage.
(31) Battle of Columbia (Wikipedia),
(32) Sherman’s March to the Sea. New Georgia Encyclopedia.
Categories: American Civil War