On this day in 1864, Confederate General John Bell Hood invades Tennessee in a desperate attempt to draw Union General William T. Sherman out of Georgia.
This movement was part of the saga of Hood’s Army of Tennessee in 1864. In the spring, the army, commanded then by Joseph Johnston, blocked Sherman’s path to Atlanta from Chattanooga. During the summer, Sherman and Johnston fought a series of relatively small engagements as Sherman tried to flank the Rebel army. Johnston slowly retreated toward Atlanta, but kept his army intact. By July, Confederate President Jefferson Davis had seen enough territory lost to the Yankees, so he replaced the defensive Johnston with the aggressive Hood. Hood made a series of attacks on Sherman outside of Atlanta that did nothing but diminish his own army’s capabilities. After a one-month siege, Hood was forced to withdraw from Atlanta.
He took his army south, then swung around west of Atlanta in an attempt to cut Sherman’s supply line. This line ran down the corridor from Chattanooga covering the same ground over which the two armies had fought in the summer. Although Sherman had to commit a substantial part of his force to protect the lines, Hood could do little more than pick at them. In October, Hood headed into Alabama to rest his beleaguered army.
Hood then embarked on a bold expedition to save the western theater for the Confederates. He planned to move toward Nashville, into Kentucky and maybe even into the Northern states before turning east and joining up with General Robert E. Lee’s army, which was under siege at Petersburg, Virginia. It was an enormous task, but Hood was determined to carry it out.
The November 22 passage into Tennessee marked the start of a new campaign that spelled disaster for the Confederates. In early November, Sherman took part of his force, cut loose from his supply lines, and began his March to the Sea, which would end with the capture of Savannah, Georgia,just before Christmas. He sent the rest of the force under George Thomas back to Nashville to guard against Hood. Hood charged toward Thomas and attacked part of his force at Franklin, Tennessee, on November 30. Hood suffered a devastating defeat there but continued on to attack Thomas at Nashville on December 15. After that attack, little remained of Hood’s once-proud Army of Tennessee.