Nashville

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Strategic Overview

The Battle of Nashville was part of a string of defeats for the Confederate States. The Union had removed nearly all of the other rebel forces, and the Army of Tennessee was the last hope for the Confederates. Nashville was a follow up to the Battle of Franklin in which the Confederates had sustained heavy casualties. The Union troops had fortified the city of Nashville and they held the advantage. The Battle of Nashville was an extension of a plan to remove the Union troops from Georgia.

Opposing Leaders

Political

Jefferson Davis was the President of the Confederate States during the Civil War. Under the administration of Franklin Pierce, Davis served in both houses of Congress. Davis also had an extensive military career, which began in Mexico, and gained him respect from his colleagues. When the Slave states separated to form the Confederate States of America, Jefferson was a key proponent in its formation. Davis was the reason the Civil War continued even when there was no chance of victory. After the Union had won the Civil War, was tried for treason, but never convicted due to constitutional reasons. He was also stripped of his American citizenship, which disabled him from participating in government even when he had been elected.

Abraham Lincoln was the President of the United States, more commonly known as the Union, and was the Commander-in-chief of the army. When the secession of the Confederate States occurred, Lincoln’s goal was to preserve the union at all costs, even if it meant a civil war. Prior to being president, Lincoln served in the House of Representatives. The Republican Party nominated Lincoln, and his election was the real cause for the secession. Lincoln did not have a significant military career, however he was enlisted in the Black Hawk war and the volunteer company he served with elected him Captain. Lincoln emerged from the Civil War victorious, but was assassinated only two days after General Lee’s surrender.

Military

John Bell Hood grew up in Kentucky. He was the son of a doctor, however on both sides of his family, there were military veterans. His father had hoped we would pursue a career in medicine. Instead, Hood enrolled at the Military Academy in West Point. In 1853 he graduated 44th out of 52 other graduates. Hood began his service in Fort Scott, California. By 1853, he had been promoted to second lieutenant of cavalry in Fort Mason, Texas. During his tenure at Fort Mason, Hood became acquainted with Albert Johnston, and Robert Lee. When Civil War broke out, Hood resigned from the United States army, and instead enlisted in the Confederate States army.

Not long after Hood’s enlistment he received a number promotions in a short time frame. By March 1862, Hood was a Brigadier General in command of the Texas Brigade. Hood earned respect from his contemporaries for some of his military triumphs, which resulted in further promotion. John Bell Hood and the president of the Confederate States, Jefferson Davis, were close friends. When it was discussed whether or not Hood should replace Johnston as a full general, it was chosen that he would be a general, but only temporarily. In the final days of the Confederacy John Bell Hood was sent to Texas to gain more military support. On the way there, Hood learned of the capture of Jefferson Davis and instead gave himself up.

George H. Thomas grew up in the state of Virginia. Just like John Bell Hood, Thomas was also able to enrol in the military academy at West Point. Thomas was well known for his actions in the Nat Turner Slave rebellion. He had warned his neighbours and helped put down the rebellion, which made him a prime candidate for military academy. Interestingly enough, Thomas was trained alongside many confederate generals, and fought in Mexico with them. The North was wary to give command to Thomas, as he was a southerner. However, in wake of Civil War, Thomas joined the North in combating the Southern rebels. In 1862 he disproved any doubts of Thomas’ loyalty were removed after his stunning victory at Mill Springs.

Thomas was an accomplished leader in battle and had not received rapid promotions as Hood had. He is especially famous for his role in the battle of Chattanooga. The position held by Thomas was nearly captured by Confederate troops, but he was able to hold on until reinforcements relieved him of his strenuous post. This remarkable feat earned him the nickname “Rock of Chattanooga.” The Battle of Nashville was Thomas’ only other major contribution to the war against the Confederate States of America. This involved him essentially defending Sherman’s communication lines. When the Union defeated the Confederacy, Congress gave Thomas special thanks. He stayed with the military, and took a post in San Francisco, which is where he remained until he died.

Opposing Armies

The Confederate Army of Tennessee was formed on November 20th 1862. It was formed by General Braxton Bragg’s reformation of the Army of Mississippi. The most notable victory was at Chickamauga. The leader of the Army of Tennessee was replaced many times. John Bell Hood eventually assumed leadership. While under Hood’s leadership, the army experienced defeats at Franklin, and Nashville. At the time of the battle of Nashville, the army numbered at about 25,000 and was starving, cold, and exhausted. The Army was also noted to have a low morale. Hood was replaced, and the army then retreated into Mississippi. The remnants of the Army of Tennessee were dispatched to North Carolina, which is where they surrendered in April 1865.

The Union Army of the Cumberland was formed on October of 1862. It was formed through the renaming of the renaming of the Army of the Ohio. The initial commander of this new army was William S. Rosencrans. George H. Thomas assumed leadership in October the following year. The Army of Cumberland was known as the second-most powerful army in the North. At the time of the battle of Nashville it numbered close to 60,000 men. It was also known to have a higher morale than that of the opposing Confederate army. After the Union victory in the Civil war the Cumberland detachment ceased to exist.

Opposing Plans

The Confederate army of Tennessee was attempting to crush the communication lines of Union General William Sherman. The Confederate army could not allow the Union troops to hold Nashville. This battle was to be the last hope for Confederate troops. Hood planned on fortifying the hills surrounding Nashville. From there, he could overtake the city of Nashville, he wanted the Union troops to attack first so he could use the steep hills to his advantage.

The Union army of the Cumberland made it to Nashville first. They needed to first and foremost defend their post at Nashville. He also was obligated to prevent Hood from crushing Sherman’s supply and communication lines. The North was focusing on the Confederate Army of Tennessee at this time. Thomas planned on making an attack on the Confederate troops under good weather. Since Thomas had 60,000 men to Hood’s 25,000 he figured the victory would be simple as there were many weak spots in Hood’s lines of fortification.

Course of the Battle

The initial conflict was over which army was to reach Nashville first and secure it. The Union troops were the first to make it to Nashville and they wasted no time in fortifying it. He had at his disposal 60,000 troops, and he would utilize this to hold the city against the Confederates. General Thomas was left in an offensive position in which he could easily repel Hood’s troops. Hood arrives in Nashville later and was forced to keep his troops at the hills. This gave the Union troops the advantage in position, and in numbers.

Hood was cutting off the lines of communication and supply to Sherman. Thomas was waiting for favourable weather to attack. Finally, the day came. The first rush of Union troops took the Confederates off guard and they were unable to use their position on the steep hills to their advantage. They were giving ground on all fronts. The army split into a left and right flank and both retreated to a significant fortification. The stronghold held by the Confederates, were easily destroyed by Union troops. Evidently, the Confederates lost this battle. The remainder of Hood’s army was sent up to the Carolinas for the final stages of the Civil War.

Results

The Battle of Nashville was a failure for the South. It was their last attempt at weakening the North’s position and they failed to do so in their final battle of their campaign. Not only was it unsuccessful in achieving its goal, it also inflicted staggering casualties on the Confederate troops. In the earlier conflict at Franklin, the Confederate troops lost 6,000, and in Nashville another 5,000. In Franklin, Hood lost many officers, it was the highest casualty toll for officers in the Civil War. The North experienced close to 2,000 casualties and managed to hold on to Nashville. This battle ultimately attributed to the fall of the Confederacy.


Equipment

The Confederate Army relied on buying weaponry from abroad. There are records of deals the government of the Confederate States of America made with European firms. It is estimated that 350,000 arms were brought in from Europe. The Union army relied more on home producers and purchased much less from abroad.

The most common gun on both sides was the 1854 French Lefaucheux. It was used in a 12mm format, although the Confederates sometimes also used 9mm or 7mm. The other more prominent gun was the 1861 Springfield rifle. The Sharps Carbine was another firearm used by both sides. The Union used about 100,000, whereas the Confederacy is estimated to have used about 10,000.

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