On this day in 1864, the broken and defeated Confederate Army of Tennessee finishes crossing the Tennessee River as General John Bell Hood's force retreats into Mississippi.
The last half of 1864 was a disaster for the army. In May, Union General William T. Sherman began his drive on Atlanta from Chattanooga, Tennessee. The Confederate army was commanded then by Joseph Johnston, who responded to Sherman's flanking maneuvers by retreating slightly each time. From May to July, Johnston slowly backed into Atlanta, exchanging territory for time. When the troops reached Atlanta, Confederate President Jefferson Davis replaced Johnston with the offensive-minded Hood.
Hood immediately attacked Sherman three times in late July, losing each time. His offensive capabilities spent, Hood endured a month-long siege of Atlanta. In early September, he was finally forced to relinquish the city to Sherman. Hood hung around to try cutting into Sherman's supply lines but then retreated into Alabama. In November, Hood tried to draw Sherman from the deep South by moving towards Nashville, Tennessee. In response, Sherman dispatched part of his army back to Tennessee while taking the rest on his devastating march across Georgia, during which the Yankees destroyed nearly everything in their path.
Hood moved north and fought two battles that were disastrous for the Confederates. At Franklin, Tennessee, on November 30, Confederate attacks on entrenched Union soldiers resulted in significant casualties and the loss of six of the army's finest generals. On December 15 and 16, the Confederates were crushed by the Yankees in front of Nashville. The dwindling numbers of participating soldiers tell the story of the Rebel army. In May, some 65,000 Confederates faced Sherman in northern Georgia. On September 20, after Atlanta fell, Hood's force numbered around 40,400. After crossing the Tennessee River in December, Hood reported some 18,700 officers and enlisted men, a figure that another Confederate general, Pierre Beauregard, thought was significantly inflated. The Confederate Army of Tennessee was no longer a viable fighting force.