Tuesday, January 6, 2015

November 29, 1864

November 29, 1864

--- Franklin-Nashville Campaign:  Maj. Gen. John Schofield is expecting reinforcements, namely A.J. Smith’s corps fresh from the disastrous Red River campaign.  Also, Jacob Cox’s division is being sent from Nashville by Thomas.  Hood, with Cheatham and Stewart’s corps, crosses the river and marches for Spring Hill, between Schofield and his base at Nashville.  Schofield receives messages from his cavalry and others that Hood is behind him, north of Columbia, but does not believe it under after noon, when he starts to send his troops northward.

Major General John Schofield, USA

Battle of Spring Hill:  Schofield first sends his 800-wagon supply train up the Columbia Pike, along with Gen. Stanley and a division of his corps, to protect the wagons and also to hold the crossroads at Spring Hill so that the rest of Schofield’s troops can pass through, and avoid being trapped by Hood’s sweep around the rear of Columbia.  But it is not until 3:00 PM that Schofield orders the rest of his troops to start marching north to Franklin.  Stanley quickly arrives and deploys Wagner’s division into lines around three sides of Spring Hill.  Forrest, with his dismounted cavalry, strikes at the Union lines but finds them solid; the Rebel cavalry are driven off with losses.  Later in the afternoon, Hood and the infantry begin to arrive, moving north along the Rally Hill Pike.  Hood gives orders to deploy and conduct a right wheel into the Columbia Pike, thus isolating Stanley and blocking the rest of Schofield’s force.  

Afternoon at Spring Hill

But the orders are muddled, and units go astray.  Gen. Cheatham sends Cleburne and Granbury from his corps to advance, and intends that Bate’s division shall accompany this advance, shielding the left flank.  But Hood then orders Bate to advance straight forward to the Columbia Pike.  Cheatham does not know of the change.  As Bate approaches the Columbia Pike, his skirmishers encounter Gen. Thomas Ruger’s troops from the Federal XXIII Corps, marching up the pike.  At this moment, messengers from Cheatham arrive and re-direct Bate to turn north and go with Cleburne in the original sweep.  Bate later tells his superiors of the presence of Union columns on the Pike, but Cheatham does not consider it to be a significant force.  By a little after 4:00 PM, Cleburne’s advance strikes Bradley’s brigade of Federals, but the brigades go in piecemeal, and heavy artillery fire from the Yankees slows them down.  Cheatham wants to attack with Brown’s division, but Brown informs him that Federals are posted out on their flank.  By 11:00PM, after desultory fighting and after more orders go awry, the Confederates stop where they are and bivouac in the field.  Bate’s division and that of Edward Johnson, of Lee’s corps, camp right along the Columbia Pike, many of the tents less than 20 yards away from the road.  

Confederate divisions in bivouac as Schofield's troops slip by

But the bulk of Schofield’s army, over 20,000 men, marching with muffled equipment, pass silently up the road to Franklin, unnoticed by the slumbering Confederates, who were sure that they had Schofield trapped.  The Federals slip by, and Hood loses his greatest chance to inflict a heavy blow to the Union forces in Tennessee.  Union Victory.

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