The Battle of Nashville: Summary & Outcome

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  • 0:07 The Aftermath of Atlanta
  • 1:10 The Road to Nashville
  • 2:52 The Battle of Nashville
  • 4:34 The Results
  • 5:13 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amy Troolin

Amy has MA degrees in History, English, and Theology. She has taught college English and religious education classes and currently works as a freelance writer.

In this lesson, we will examine the Battle of Nashville, which took place on December 15 and 16, 1864. This battle was between the Union soldiers under General George H. Thomas and the Confederate forces commanded by General John Bell Hood.

The Aftermath of Atlanta

In early September 1864, Union Major General William T. Sherman defeated Confederate General John Bell Hood and captured the Confederate industrial city of Atlanta, Georgia. Hood was understandably upset and frustrated by the loss of this key city, and he desperately wanted revenge on the Union. He also knew that he needed to take action quickly if he wanted to prevent Sherman from setting off from Atlanta and marching across Georgia to the east.

Hood determined that his best course of action would be to attack Sherman's supply line, which connected Union forces with Northern resources and support. Hood began moving north from Atlanta, hoping to cut the line or at least cause as much damage as possible. For a while, Sherman sent troops after Hood's soldiers, but eventually he tired of the chase and decided to abandon the supply line and live off the land as he marched through Georgia. He deployed Major General George H. Thomas with 70,000 soldiers to keep tabs on Hood.

The Road to Nashville

When he realized that Sherman no longer cared about his supply line, Hood decided to aim for Nashville, Tennessee. If he could capture the city, he would be in a prime position to threaten the North and perhaps even reinforce Robert E. Lee's army in the East.

Hood's army was in rough shape. With fewer than 25,000 men, the Confederates lacked the strength they needed to face Thomas' Union force. Further, supplies and energy were both running low. One Confederate soldier explained, 'Our shoes were worn out and our feet were torn and bleeding...the snow was on the ground and there was no food.'

Hood himself wasn't in very good shape either. He had already been wounded more than once, he was missing a leg, and he was taking high doses of opiates for his pain. These factors might account for his poor judgment as he guided his army toward Nashville.

On November 27, Hood and his Confederates clashed with Union soldiers at Colombia, Tennessee. The Confederates attacked and carried on a sharp fight, which only ended when night fell. Then, Hood made a mistake; he neglected to place pickets who would watch out for any movement from the enemy, and the Union troops slipped away into the night.

On November 30, Hood's Confederates fought again, this time at Franklin, Tennessee. Hood's men repeatedly and directly attacked a division of firmly entrenched Union troops. After five hours of heavy, hand-to-hand fighting, the Confederates had suffered approximately 7,000 casualties and lost six generals. Hood's already small force was shrinking rapidly, but Hood was determined to keep moving.

The Battle of Nashville

By the time the Confederates arrived at the outskirts of Nashville on December 2, Hood's army had fewer than 20,000 men. Union General Thomas, on the other hand, was securely entrenched just south of the city with over 50,000 soldiers. Hood's men immediately began building their own fortifications. Both sides settled in and waited while an ice storm delayed the battle.

On the morning of December 15, the weather finally cleared, and Thomas ordered his troops to attack the Confederates' right flank. The fight raged all day and expanded around noon when the Union attacked the Confederates' left flank. By nightfall, Northern soldiers had driven their Southern opponents over a mile to the rear.

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