Historians have called the Battle of Nashville one of the most decisive of the Civil War. In February 1862, Nashville had been the first major Southern city to fall to Union forces. After losing Atlanta to Sherman in September, 1864, Confederate Gen. John Bell Hood moved his Army ofTennessee north, hoping to reclaim Nashville for the Confederacy. It is thought that Hood planned to use Federal supplies captured here and to move on, either through Kentucky and Ohio, splitting the Union in two, or to Virginia to meet up with Robert E. Lee, where the two would take on Ulysses S. Grant. Either of these plans, if successful, would have changed the course of the war. But the Battle of Nashville sent Hood’s forces runningto the south in defeat, ending his hope of saving the Confederacy. The Battle of Nashville was the last major engagement of the Civil War.
During the three years the Union occupied Nashville, the city became a fortified supply center for the Western Theater (everything west of the Appalachians and east of theMississippi River). It was the most fortified city of the war, second only to Washington, D.C. Nashville was guarded by Gen. George Thomas, a Virginian who remained loyal to theUnion. He had a force of 66,000 soldiers. Hood’s strategy was to dig in with his force of 21,000 south of town and draw Thomas out to attack his positions, hoping to move in and take the city on a counter charge. Hood had advanced to within sight of Nashville by December 2, 1864. Thomas, cautious and deliberate, waited to attack until he was ready despite nearly continuous nagging over the telegraph from General Grant and President Lincoln who feared he would lose his advantage if he waited and allowed Hood to fortify himself.
A severe ice storm paralyzed the area on December 8. A thaw finally came on the fourteenth and Thomas attacked the next day. Accompanied by bombardment from Fort Negley onthe morning of the fifteenth, Thomas moved from the river west of town toward the south and east, engaging Confederate forces and pushing them back. On the sixteenth both sides hadformed new lines. During the day on the sixteenth, the three main Confederate positions fell like dominoes, first the left at Shy’s Hill, then the center, a few miles to the east. After the evacuation of the right position at Peach Orchard Hill, the remaining Confederate forces fled to the south. Hood’s army had been virtually wiped out. He resigned his command the following January. General Thomas was promoted to Major General in theRegular Army.
Source: BONPS Brochure