Today, ECW is pleased to welcome guest author Sam Hood. Sam Hood is an descendant of Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood and author of the forthcoming The Lost Papers of John Bell Hood. He has also written a biography of his ancestor, John Bell Hood: The Rise, Fall and Resurrection of a Confederate General, based on those papers.
After the fall of Atlanta, Jefferson Davis visited the Army of Tennessee in Palmetto, Georgia, in late September, 1864. Consultations with army commander John Bell Hood and his senior subordinates resulted in a decision to send the Army of Tennessee on an offensive campaign, intended to arrest anticipated desertions and retain the effectiveness of the army. Davis unwisely revealed the plan during a public address on September 26. “Be of good cheer,” he encouraged the soldiers, “for in a short while your faces will be turned homeward and your feet will press Tennessee soil.” William T. Sherman responded that Davis “made no concealment of [his] vainglorious boasts and thus gave us the full key to his future designs.”
After two weeks spent harassing Sherman’s supply lines in north Georgia, plans for Hood’s Tennessee Campaign were detailed in early October by Hood and P.G.T. Beauregard, who had been appointed commander of a newly created military department, encompassing most of the Western Theater. Hood began moving his army in a westerly direction through northern Alabama for supplies, and to rendezvous with Nathan Bedford Forrest, whose 7,000-man cavalry force would accompany the Army of Tennessee in the campaign.
Supplies would be provided from Richard Taylor’s department. Serious logistical problems and Forrest’s delayed arrival postponed the commencement of the invasion by 3-4 weeks—a fatal delay that allowed George Thomas to consolidate Federal troops in and around Nashville, and organize a potent defense to resist Hood.
On November 21 the Army of Tennessee began crossing the Tennessee River, moving north in three columns. The three corps of A.P. Stewart, Frank Cheatham, and S.D. Lee would converge five days later at Columbia, Tennessee, where a 25,000-man Union force under the command of Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield awaited them.