The Battle of Nashville opened with a Union attack on the Confederate right on the morning of December 15, 1864. This was a feint. The real attack was coming on the Confederate left but Thomas hoped that this attack would force Hood to draw troops from his left to reinforce his right. General Benjamin Franklin Cheatham commanded the Confederate right flank. General Stephen D. Lee commanded the center and General A.P. Stewart commanded the Confederate left. There was a small fort named Lunette Granbury on the east side of a deep railroad cut of the Nashville and Chattanooga railroad. The remnants of this fort can still be seen next to Polk ave.
Two brigades of Union General James Steedman's Division attacked the Confederate right. They moved straight out Murfreesboro Road from their lines about where Nashville's General Hospital once was. Most of these troops were black troops led by white officers. Some units attacked from the direction of Murfreesboro Road or east to west. These troops suffered heavy losses when the four cannon in the Lunette and infantry enfiladed these troops with a heavy fire causing severe casualties. Other black troops attacked north to south along a nearby deep railroad cut. Rebel troops lay in ambush and opened up on these troops killing many in the railroad cut and alongside of the cut. Many men jumped into the railroad cut in a panic causing death or broken bones. The black troops were former slaves who had never fought the white man and the rebels had never fought black troops. Rebels were enraged to see black soldiers.
The following are personal accounts of the battle. Private Charles B. Martin of the 1st Georgia Volunteers wrote "After crossing the railroad, the darkies formed a line of battle and, thinking they had not been discovered, prepared to surprise the men in our works by an attack on the rear. When they had moved forward enough to enable our brigade to form in their rear, one of the divisions in the works about-faced. The other did likewise and wheeled to the left. We had the darkies in our trap. When we commenced firing on them, complete demoralization developed. We took no prisoners. Many of the Negroes died in their tracks with brave astonishment. Others leaped into the railroad cut and were killed or crippled by their fall. Not a single white man was seen among the killed. Where were their officers?" Another Confederate wrote "We knocked down 800 of them and that was the end of it. They retired."
When General Thomas rode over the field later he saw many corpses of black soldiers. Their clothing had been removed by the ragged Rebels. Many Union Generals were not convinced that the black soldier was as good as the white soldier or as brave. General Sherman, unlike General Grant, did not want them in his army. He used them to guard railroad bridges in rear areas or for manual labor. General Sherman's racism was one of the reasons that black units were being used at Nashville. To get them away from his army and because the North was desperately needing combat troops to fight Hood. Thomas, upon seeing these dead soldiers stated "This proves the manhood of the negro". One slave named Steve wasn't so brave, he had run away from Charlotte Tennessee to, in his words to "jine de yankees" in Nashville. After hearing of this battle he quickly returned to Charlotte. " Why, dey jes made breas'works of dem niggers. Dey took a brogan of niggers, dem Yankees did. and driv' 'em up to dem Rebels, and de Rebels shoot 'em down: and den dey driv up another brogan of niggers, and de Rebels dey shoot dem down. Den I lef. And here I is, and here I stays".