ECWS Preview: The Battle of Nashville and They Came Only to Die

We have some cool book covers to show off for you over the next few days as we prep some titles for release later this year in the Emerging Civil War Series. Here’s the first, They Came Only To Die: The Battle of Nashville, December 15-16, 1864, by Sean Michael Chick. Sean’s book picks up where Lee White’s Let Us Die Like Men: The Battle of Franklin left off, with John Bell Hood’s Army of Tennessee making a push northward to the state capital in a desperate effort to shake things up late in the war.

The cover features a full-color copy of the painting Battle of Nashville by Howard Pyle, courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society.

About the Book:

The November 1864 battle of Franklin left the Army of Tennessee stunned. In only a few hours, the army lost 6,000 men and a score of generals. Rather than pause, John Bell Hood marched his army north to Nashville. He had risked everything on a successful campaign and saw his offensive as the Confederacy’s last hope. There was no time to mourn.

There was no question of attacking Nashville. Too many Federals occupied too many strong positions. But Hood knew he could force them to attack him and, in doing so, he could win a defensive victory that might rescue the Confederacy from the chasm of collapse.

Unfortunately for Hood, he faced George Thomas. He was one of the Union’s best commanders, and he had planned and prepared his forces. But with battle imminent, the ground iced over, and Thomas had to wait. An impatient Ulysses S. Grant nearly sacked him, but on December 15-16, Thomas struck and routed Hood’s army. He then chased him out of Tennessee and into Mississippi in a grueling winter campaign.

After Nashville, the Army of Tennessee was never again a major fighting force. Combined with William Tecumseh Sherman’s march through Georgia and the Carolinas and Grant’s capture of Petersburg and Richmond, Nashville was the first peal in the long death knell of the Confederate States of America.

In They Came Only To Die: The Battle of Nashville, historian Sean Michael Chick offers a fast-paced, well analyzed narrative of John Bell Hood’s final campaign, complete with the most accurate maps yet made of this crucial battle.

5 Responses to ECWS Preview: The Battle of Nashville and They Came Only to Die

  1. Talk about the death ride of the Confederacy! After Lincoln’s reelection, and Republican control of Congress, the game was over. Though it predated the Fall of Richmond, Nashville was their Waterloo. They could not have fought any harder, or more skillfully (especially on the second day) than they did. But this was George Thomas, and he took no prisoners!

  2. I have always felt that Lee’s final surrender in April 1865 without a final “Alamo” (i.e., Let’s all die like men!) at Appomattox was in large measure based on his knowledge of the destruction of Hood’s army and the terrible casualties. Lee couldn’t bring himself to sacrifice his tattered army just to make a point. To his credit.

  3. I look forward to the new book. It’s true, “Let Us Die Like Men” leaves us asking for Nashville. The point that Lee may have learned from Hood’s misfortune is a valid one I hadn’t ever considered before. My initial take on this new-to-me intelligent line of reasoning, without knowing the communications going on in December between Hood/Richmond/Lee. “Let Us Die Like Men” doesn’t seem to say Hood threw his army at Schofield’s entrenched position just to make a point, although I believe Cleburne dying among his men was him making a point. It does, however, say that Confederate General Johnson’s men were wasted in night fighting just for them to share the bloodletting. This article above says that Hood was not attacking Thomas but strategically trying to get Thomas to attack him, seemingly not to sacrifice his army to make a point, but with a hope of a defensive victory to build on. E’en so, getting to Lee, I feel that Lee saw the end coming, and imo had hoped a sniper’s bullet would relieve him of the duty of surrendering his army. In 1864 Lee said that if it got to be a seige it would be over. And on the road to Appomatox, as he saw his army disappearing, and the ribs of his artillery horses appearing, he expressed dismay over the catastrophe befalling his once mighty legions within earshot of others, being fully aware of an inability to feed his army, the disciplined general stated he must see General Grant although he would prefer a thousand deaths. Maybe if he could have sent Pickett alone against Wright’s band of brothers he would have to make a point (smiley face.) At Appomatox when he corrected Porter Alexander on the topic of going guerrilla, he did not reference out loud Hood’s battles, he said, I am too old to go about bushwacking, among other points. Lee could play poker, the more men he had available to surrender, the stronger his negotiating position was, although he let his calvary get away if they could. And looking at his final address to his former troops, you gotta say the guy was a class act. Make as good citizens as you were soldiers.

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