North to Nashville

Sherman’s victory wasn’t as complete as it seemed Hood’s army had escaped and begun hit-and-run raids on Sherman’s railroad communications with Chattanooga. Sherman though it would be useless to chase Hood along the railroad. Instead, he sent Thomas back to Tennessee to take command and gave him some 32,000 men under General John M. Schofield. He ordered Thomas, at Nashville, to assemble more troops in Tennessee and keep Hood out of the state. With his remaining men, Sherman planned to cross Georgia to Savannah, near the Atlantic coast. Hood boldly decided to invade Tennessee in the hope that Sherman would follow him. He felt sure that he could beat Sherman in the mountains. He would then either invade Kentucky or cross into Virginia and join Lee. But Hood’s plan was for his army.

John Hood (1831-1879)

was a Confederate general during the American Civil War. Hood had a reputation for bravery and aggressiveness that sometimes bordered on recklessness. Arguably one of the best brigade and division commanders in the Confederate States Army, Hood gradually became increasingly ineffective as he was promoted to lead larger, independent commands late in the war, but his career and reputation were marred by his decisive defeats leading an army in the Atlanta Campaign and the Franklin–Nashville Campaign.

Hood’s education at the United States Military Academy led to a career as a junior officer in both the infantry and cavalry of the antebellum U.S. Army in California and Texas. At the start of the Civil War, he offered his services to his adopted state of Texas. He achieved his reputation for aggressive leadership as a brigade commander in the army of Robert E. Lee during the Seven Days Battles in 1862, after which he was promoted to division command. He led a division under James Longstreet in the campaigns of 1862–63. At the Battle of Gettysburg, he was severely wounded, rendering his left arm useless for the rest of his life. Transferred with many of Longstreet’s troops to the Western Theater, Hood led a massive assault into a gap in the Union line at the Battle of Chickamauga, but was wounded again, requiring the amputation of his right leg.

Hood returned to field service during the Atlanta Campaign of 1864, and at the age of 33 was promoted to temporary full general and command of the Army of Tennessee at the outskirts of Atlanta. There, he dissipated his army in a series of bold, calculated, but unfortunate assaults, and was forced to evacuate the besieged city. Leading his men through Alabama and into Tennessee, his army was severely damaged in a massive frontal assault at the Battle of Franklin and he was decisively defeated at the Battle of Nashville by his former West Point instructor, Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas, after which he was relieved of command.

After the war, Hood moved to Louisiana and worked as a cotton broker and in the insurance business. His business was ruined by a yellow fever epidemic in New Orleans during the winter of 1878–79 and he succumbed to the disease himself, dying just days after his wife and oldest child, leaving 10 destitute orphans.

Battle of Franklin

Hood might have won a partial success if he had moved into Tennessee immediately. But he deployed and met Schofield’s force at Franklin, Tennessee, on November 30, 1864. Hood, an aggressive commander, had complained that his army had retreated so much under Johnston that it had forgotten how to attack. His generals seemed determined to prove him wrong. In six reckless charges, the Confederates suffered about 6,300 casualties, including 6 generals killed.

Battle of Nashville

Hood had no chance of success after his defeat at Franklin. He took a position south of Nashville and waited. In the city Thomas had time to gather an army of about 55,000. He attacked Hood on December 15-16 1864, and won one of the biggest victories of the war. The Confederates beat a bitter retreat to Mississippi.

Sherman’s march through Georgia began on November 15, 1864, when he left Atlanta in flames. His army, numbering about 62,000 men, swept almost unopposed on a 50-mile (80—kilometer) front across the state.

Advance troops scouted an area. The men who followed stripped houses, burns, and fields and destroyed everything they couldn’t use. Sherman hoped the horrible destruction would break the South’s will to continue the war.

Sherman occupied Savannah on December 21, and sent a message to Lincoln: “I beg to present to you as a Christmas gift the city of Savannah, Sherman swung north into South Carolina. There, on the breeding ground of the Southern independence movement, his army seemed bent on revenge.

They burned and looted on a scale even worse than in Georgia. When Charleston surrendered, it was spared. Although Sherman tried to prevent it, most of Columbia, the state capital, was burned. Sherman and his troops then moved on into North Carolina. Johnston tried to oppose them, but he had only one-third as army men. The Northerners drove on toward Virginia to link up with Grant.

South Surrenders

In Virginia, Grant at last achieved his goal. In April 1865, he seized the railroads supplying Richmond. The Confederate troops had to evacuate Petersburg and Richmond. Lee retreated westward with nearly 50,000 men. He hoped to join forces with Johnston in North Carolina. But Grant overtook him and barred his way with an army of almost 113,000 troops. Lee realized that continued fighting would mean useless loss of lives. He wrote Grant and asked for an interview to arrange surrender terms.

On April 9, 1865, the two great generals met in a house owned by a Southern former named Wilmer McLean in the little country settlement of Appomattox Court House, Virginia. The meeting was one of the most dramatic scenes in American history. Grant wore a mud-spattered private’s coat, with only his shoulder straps indicating his rank.

Lee had put on a spotless uniform, complete with sword. Grant offered generous terms, and Lee accepted them with deep appreciations. The Confederate soldiers received a day’s rations and were released on parole. They were allowed to keep their horses and mules to take home “to put in a crop”, officers could keep their side arms.

Five days later, on April 14, 1865, President Lincoln was assassinated, at Ford’s Theatre in Washington DC, by actor John Wilkes Booth, while attending the play Our American Cousin, on Good Friday, and later died the next day on April 15, 1865.

The Northerners cried out for revenge for Lincoln’s death and for the hundreds of thousands killed in the war.

Before Lincoln’s death, he had advised “malice toward none charity for all” to heal the country’s wounds.

Although feelings were strong, no major incidents occurred. With Lee’s army gone, Johnston surrendered to Sherman on April 26 at Bennett Place near Durham, North Carolina.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis fled southward and was captured in Georgia on May 10, 1865

General Richard Taylor surrendered the Confederate forces in Alabama and Mississippi on May 4. On May 26, General Edmund Kirby Smith surrendered the last Confederate army still in the field. The war to preserve the American Union was over.

Tragic Costs

About 620,000 soldiers died during the Civil War, almost as many as the combined American dead of all other wars from the Revolutionary War (1775-1781) through Vietnam War (1957-1975). Union lost about 360,000 troops, and the Confederacy lost about 260,000. More than half the deaths were caused by disease About a third of all Southern soldiers died in the war, captured with about a sixth of all Northern soldiers. Both North and South paid an enormous economic price as well. But the direct damages caused by the war were especially severe in the South. The destruction in the South extended from the beautiful Shenandoah Valley in the north to Georgia in the south and from South Carolina in the east to Tennessee in the west. Towns, and farms, industry and trade, and the lives of men, women, and children were ruined throughout the south. The whole Southern way of life was lost. Was given almost no voice in the social, political, and cultural affairs of the nation.

End of Slavery

The Declaration of Independence, which gave birth to the US in 1776, stated that “all men are created equal”.