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Battle of Franklin: Not the sharpest Confederate knife in the drawer
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Image by sniggie
With United States flags surrounding it to give the weight and air of officiality, a statue of a Confederate soldier stands in downtown Franklin, Tennessee. Dedicated by the United Daughters of the Confederacy on November 30, 1899, a statue of a Confederate soldier is lifted high in the air where it is not easy to deface.

Frankly, why there was even a battle in Franklin baffles me. I just don’t understand Confederate General Hood and his fantasy of a military strategy. What made him think that U.S. General William Tecumseh Sherman would stop his march to Savanah and double back to Nashville if by some miracle Nashville fell to Hood?

That is a big assumption. I think a bad one.

Hood attacked the railroad lines and reasoned that Sherman could not go forward from Atlanta if Nashville were part of the Confederacy again and its rail lines disrupted. The reality was that General William Tecumseh Sherman adapted. He would no longer need Nashville, or any other occupied city, for supplies. Sherman’s march from Atlanta to Savanah was famously off the land, free of the need to be supplied. The U.S. Army from Atlanta onwards captured what it needed.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis appointed John Hood to replace General Bragg and his command of the Army of Tennessee after a young Hood went behind his commanding officer’s back (Bragg’s) to tell Davis that he could do a better and more aggressive job than Bragg. The plan was to get the Union to focus on a fallen Nashville that it had occupied instead of seeing Sherman carve a path to the coast.

However, the war had changed. The strategic points that would decide the war now were different than a year or two earlier. It would be Savanah on the coast, which could be supplied by Union ships virtually free of opposition, and the Confederate capital of Richmond. As General Ulysses S. Grant in his Overland Campaign pushed and ground on Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, that’s where the Army of Tennessee and its men were desperately needed, not Nashville, and especially not Franklin. At this point in November of 1864 near the end of the war, the occupied city of Nashville was beside the point. A campaign that concentrated on it simply cost the shrunken Confederacy seasoned fighters that it could not afford to lose.

If by some miracle, Hood, who was a native of Eastern Kentucky, could defeat the undefeated Major General George Henry Thomas, who was his former instructor at West Point, and his tens of thousands of troops in the Union stronghold of Nashville, reasoned that surely Sherman would hightail it back to Nashville and Hood could then have a lick at the great Sherman too.

After defeating these incredible generals, Hood’s ever-ambitious plan was to march up to Kentucky to replenish his army with Kentuckians who were supposedly eager to join the Confederacy. Huh?!? What Kentucky on what planet is that? Successfully replenishing a Confederate army with Kentuckians would not have even happened at the beginning of the war, let alone at the end when the Confederacy was about to lose it all. Kentucky recruitment for the Confederacy already had been tried and miserably failed on the path to the Battle of Perryville, Kentucky in 1862. Kentuckians overwhelmingly preferred the Union. I guess if Kentucky didn’t work out, Hood might as well have considered recruiting Confederate volunteers in southern Ohio.

Frankly, Hood’s attention seemed to be captured by Tennessee and his home state of Kentucky to the detriment of the rest of the Confederate states.

The Confederate general’s plan was that his refreshed Army of Tennessee in Kentucky would march on to battle in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Maryland until it finally reached General Lee in Richmond and saved the Confederacy.


Unfortunately for the Confederacy, the Army of Tennessee’s left arm and left leg were quickly shot off in Franklin before it even reached Nashville. Rather than recoup and reconsider options, Hood marched his critically wounded army straight on to Nashville to meet its fatal end at the hands of U.S. General Thomas on Tennessee soil, even though these Confederate troops were desperately needed elsewhere. The Army of Tennessee did not survive.

What a crazy and bad strategy. I know we can pin the blame on Hood but it was also Davis who replaced General Bragg with the young Hood and his aggressive but flawed strategy. I think there is a bigger question here: How was such poor strategic thinking possible and allowed to dominate?

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