On this day in 1864, Confederate General John Bell Hood pulls his battered army into Guntersville, Alabama, but finds the Tennessee River difficult to cross. Plotting another attack against the Yankees, he continues traveling westward with his defeated army.
Hood’s Army of Tennessee had been having a difficult time in the previous months. Hood became commander in July 1864 as the army was pinned inside of Atlanta by Union General William T. Sherman. Hood made a series of desperate attacks to drive the Yankees away, but failed and nearly destroyed his force. After holding Sherman off for a month, Hood was forced to evacuate Atlanta to the south. After Union troops captured the city, Hood moved his force west and attacked Sherman’s supply line, which ran from Chattanooga, Tennessee, 100 miles northwest of Atlanta. On October 5, Union troops held off the Confederates at Allatoona, Georgia. Over the next two weeks, Hoodmanaged tocapture parts of Sherman’s supply line and forced the Union general to move back toward Chattanooga to take on Hood. The Rebel leader hoped to draw Sherman into battle, but his own generals were unanimously opposed to such a move. A shocked Hood consented to their opinion,and headed into Alabama before Sherman arrived.
Hood had no intention of retreating for long. Although his army was demoralized after Atlanta,he still hoped to draw Sherman from Georgia. He planned an invasion of Union-held Tennessee, where he wanted to recapture Chattanooga and Nashville. But now Hood, usually confident and determined, began to show signs of confusion and timidity. On October 22, Hood’s army marched from Gadsden to Guntersville to cross the mighty Tennessee River. However, Hood forgot to retrieve his army’s pontoon bridge, which lay across the Coosa River in eastern Alabama. Hood’s superior officer, General Pierre G.T. Beauregard, sent the bridge to Guntersville but arrived to find that the army was gone. Hood had continued west past Decatur, Alabama, before finally crossing the Tennessee at Courtland. The move took the Rebels more than 50 miles out of their way and made a surprise attack on the state of Tennessee unlikely. When Hood did move into Tennessee, Sherman’s force was ready and waiting. In November and December, Hood nearly destroyed the remnants of his army at the battles of Franklin and Nashville.