Bled From the Top: Confederate Officer Corps in the 1864 Tennessee Campaign

When the Army of Tennessee returned to its namesake Confederate state in November 1864, the chance to provide a glimmer of hope for the South in the West marched with it.

By early December, that same force was decimated after the combined battles of Franklin and Nashville. Not only did Lieutenant General John Bell Hood lose close to 20,000 soldiers killed, wounded, captured, or missing in less than a month, he left in field hospitals and in the Volunteer State soil the cream of his officer corps.

In a recent history by yours truly, I took a look at the decimation of Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s officer corps during the Overland Campaign of 1864. In a one month period he lost 31 of 40 brigade commanders that had served in his Army of Northern Virginia.

When doing some reading for the 150th anniversaries of the campaign that culminated at Nashville, I was struck by the severe loss in general officers that Hood’s army suffered.

As Hood’s army made its way north into Tennessee, the infantry had the following general officers:

1-army commander
3–corps  & commanders
9–divisions & commanders
29 brigades & commanders

The casualties began at the first major battle in the campaign; Franklin

At the Battle of Franklin on November 30, 1864 six of the generals from the count above were killed.

L to R - Maj. Gen. Patrick Cleburne, Brig. Gens. Hiram Granbury, States Rights Gist, & Otto F. Strahl
L to R, Maj. Gen. Patrick Cleburne, Brig. Gens. Hiram Granbury, States Rights Gist, & Otto F. Strahl
Brig. Gens. John C. Cater & John Adams
Brig. Gens. John C. Cater & John Adams

Another six generals were wounded;

L to R, Maj. Gen. John C. Brown, Brig. Gens. Francis Cockrell & Zachariah Deas
L to R, Maj. Gen. John C. Brown, Brig. Gens. Francis Cockrell & Zachariah Deas
L to R, Brig. Gens. Jacob Sharp, Thomas Scott, & Arthur Manigault
L to R, Brig. Gens. Jacob Sharp, Thomas Scott, & Arthur Manigault

And one general captured after being wounded.

Brigadier General George Washington Gordon
Brigadier General George Washington Gordon

Following the action at Franklin, Hood moved his army toward the environs of Nashville where it was defeated on December 15 & 16, 1864 and began a retreat back to Mississippi.

Yet, before the engagement around the capital of Tennessee began, Hood lost the services of one of his division commanders, Major General Samuel French, who had to be relieved from command because of a serious eye infection.

Maj. Gen. Samuel G. French
Maj. Gen. Samuel G. French

The following officers were wounded during this phase of the campaign.

Brigadier Generals Daniel Govan & Robert Bullock
Brigadier Generals Daniel Govan & Robert Bullock

Three other officers were captured, with one, Brigadier General Thomas Benton Smith also being wounded. However, that wound was received after he had surrendered when he was attacked by a Union officer.

L to R, Maj. Gen. Edward Johnson, Brig. Gens. Henry Jackson & Thomas Smith
L to R, Maj. Gen. Edward Johnson, Brig. Gens. Henry Jackson & Thomas Smith

During the retreat from Nashville, at Spring Hill, Tennessee on December 17, 1964, Hood lost his first corps commander. Lieutenant General Stephen Dill Lee was severely wounded in the foot.

Lt. Gen. Stephen D. Lee
Lt. Gen. Stephen D. Lee

As Hood’s army limped back into Mississippi to spend the winter, 19 out of the 42 generals that had headed north in command of the army and infantry had been killed, wounded, or captured. That is a staggering 45% casualty rate among the general officer corps.

One corps, four division, fourteen brigade commanders.

If you add in the cavalry generals, which there were only four, the others being colonels or below (and that is a separate study for other officers that became casualties during this campaign) the percentage of general officers that became casualties is at 41%.

There is an old saying, that Hood lost three things in the war; “the use of his left arm, his right leg, and the Army of Tennessee.”

Unfortunately, there is as much truth in the last of those three losses as the first two. As the casualty returns suggest, not only did Hood lose approximately 20,000 irreplaceable veterans in the campaign, the army was bled from the top as well.

12 Responses to Bled From the Top: Confederate Officer Corps in the 1864 Tennessee Campaign

  1. Excellent and interesting article Mr. Greenwalt. The only corrections I would suggest are that SD Lee was wounded during the retreat from Nashville, not at Spring Hill on the 29th. Thus, Lee was available for the entire Tennessee Campaign (not including the retreat.) Also, Hood did not sustain 20,000 losses during the Tennessee Campaign. His losses were more along the lines of 13,000; approximately 6,000 at Franklin, 6,000 at Nashville, and 1,000 during other actions (Spring Hill and the retreat.) Hood also incurred approximately 10,000 losses during his defense of Atlanta. As you know, calculating Confederate losses late in the war is difficult if not impossible, due to the absence of records, the definition of “wounded,” and desertions. Thus, the best interpretation of available records, seasoned with some reasonable assumptions place Hood’s total losses during his Army of Tennessee command tenure at 22,500-25,000. All, as you say, like all Confederate armies, irreplaceable troops.

    1. Mr. Hood,

      Thanks for the comment and the catch. I had the right place for Lee, Spring Hill, just the wrong date. He was wounded during rearguard action at Spring Hill on December 17, 1864 by a piece of shrapnel that punctured his boot and entered his heel. A painful wound nonetheless. Thanks also for the insight into the casualties. My goal was to try and figure out how many how fallen, wounded, captured, or deserted, from the time the Army of Tennessee entered the Volunteer State until the entire campaign was over. Trying to use as many sources as I could, I approached the number stated in the post. But, as you said it is very difficult to approach a definitive number for Hood’s campaign or for the last campaigns of the Confederacy as a whole.

      Thanks again for the insight and for reading the blog. Happy Holidays!

      1. Yours really was an interesting article Mr. Greenwalt. I had never seen a specific analysis of the losses in commanding officers of any army, in any campaign. In fact, I’ll have to admit, I hadn’t even thought of such a battle statistic when it would indeed be an important analytical resource.

        Your article piqued my memory and I recalled that after Franklin, Hood, in addition to requesting reinforcements from many quarters, specifically sought officers from the provost office in Corinth MS, asking that they be immediately sent to Nashville. (OR 45, pt. 1, 690). In an earlier dispatch to either Seddon or Beauregard (I don’t recall and don’t have it at hand) Hood actually acknowledged that the loss of officers at Franklin was disproportionately high, and his later request for officers from Corinth was probably an effort to remedy that serious problem.

        Again…excellent article.

  2. Another angle to this is the enormous loss in the AOT’s staff officers during this interval. Only one staff officer in John C. Brown’s entire division was unscathed at Franklin.

    1. Much like the 4th Texas after Lee’s ordered assault at Gaines’s Mill. In fullfilment of a promise made to his old regiment when he was promoted, Hood personally led the attack, and was the only officer above the rank of captain who wasn’t killed or wounded.

      1. And a little tidbit: Vaulx is the sole source of Brown’s famous comment that Hood, on the morning after Spring Hill, was “Wrathy as a rattlesnake.” That description of Hood, which appears in nearly every book on the Civil War in the West, was conveyed to Vaulx by Brown, then Vaulx told it to JP Young, who then published it in an article in “Confederate Veteran” 44 years later.

  3. Arthur Manigault was wounded at Franklin on 30 November 1864. When he died in 1886, a resolution passed by the S.C. Legislature said “…just as he was about to enter on his third term [in a State position] of honorable office, he is stricken down–not having recovered from a serious wound received in 1864 in the battle of Franklin, Tenn.” Can anyone tell us more about a wound that killed him nearly 22 years later? (Source: Times & Democrat, Orangeburg, S.C., 26 August 1886, p. 6)

  4. C. Irvine Walker, in Great Things are Expected of Us at p. 147 indicates that a ball went in through Manigault’s ear and came out about three inches in back of that, causing a “slight fracture” of the bones in that area.

  5. Nice article on this 154th anniversary Family in Johnson’s Division .: Deas Brigade – 22nd Alabama & Manigault’s Brigade – 28th Alabama .. nothing like going in with torches as your only source of light.. besides the Muzzle flashes ahead..

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