Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Battle Of Nashville - The Strategic Importance Of Nashville

Ft. Negley 
  On December 2, 1864 the Confederate Army arrived in Nashville after marching from Franklin. Union General Schofield and his army had arrived the day before swelling General George H. Thomas's army at Nashville to 55,000 men. The Union Army had been fortifying the city since March of 1862, just shortly after the capture of Nashville in late February. Nashville has been considered by many historians to be one of the two most fortified cities on the North American continent. The other was Washington D.C. This implies the strategic importance of Nashville. Because Washington was the seat of Northern government Lincoln was determined to guard it at all costs. Much blood, and treasure was spent during the course of the war in protecting Washington. Washington for all practical purposes was the city that the Army of the Potomac was tasked to protect. One hundred miles separated Washington and Richmond, the Confederate Capital. The Eastern theater included pretty much all of the east coast past the Appalachian mountains but most of the military action took place in that 100 mile area between Richmond and Washington. Nashville on the other hand was the strategic center of the Western theater which was a vast area that encompassed all of Tennessee, southern Kentucky, northern Georgia, northern Alabama, and northern Mississippi. This was an area the size of Western Europe and in essence the "Heartland of the Confederacy". 

  As the war progressed certain Union strategies evolved that were designed to win the war. The first was put forward by General Winfield Scott, the first commander of the Union Army, called the "Anaconda Plan". It's purpose was, as the name implied, to squeeze the life out of the Confederacy. A Navy blockade would stop most traffic into and out of Southern seaports along the East Atlantic Coast and Gulf Coast. The second part of this strategy would be to capture the Mississippi River stopping the flow of commercial products up and down the river and the transfer of men and supplies from the trans Mississippi Confederate states of Arkansas, Texas, and Louisiana to the eastern states and vice versa. This part of the strategy was fulfilled with the capture of places like Island # 10, Memphis, Vicksburg and Port Hudson. Another plan that evolved was the capture of the Nashville and Chattanooga corridor. Nashville was like the hub of a wheel. There were good roads that entered the city from every direction. There were good north, south rail connections  and the Cumberland River was a tributary of the Ohio River in which supplies of every kind, along with troops could be shipped by boat from the North to the wharves of Nashville. Nashville became the supply center and medical center for the main Union army, the Army of the Cumberland, that was tasked to capture the Nashville and Chattanooga corridor. The goal was the capture of Chattanooga, which became the gateway to the deep south. As the strategy developed and Chattanooga was captured after the hard fought and bloody battles of Stones River, Chickamauga and Missionary Ridge the way was open to eventually capture Atlanta. From there Sherman devised a war winning strategy of laying waste to the deep South, cutting a swath of destruction sixty miles wide to Savannah. From Savannah he would move North, straight up into Lee's rear in Virginia. If Grant couldn't defeat Lee before his arrival Sherman would double Grant's forces at Petersburg, which would guarantee a quicker end to the war. 

  As it turned out Lee was forced to surrender before Sherman could link up with Grant on April 9, 1865. The Army of Tennessee would surrender to Sherman at Durham North Carolina on April 26, 1865, which for the exception of scattered Confederate forces would virtually end the Civil War. When Atlanta fell to Sherman the Confederate commander John Bell Hood, had to make a strategic decision. He could continue fighting Sherman with his outnumbered army. This might slow Sherman's progress but he had no real hope of stopping him. His other option was to move north and threaten such cities as Nashville or Cincinnati. Or he could try to eventually link up with Lee besieged at Petersburg. After the fall of Atlanta Hood decided to threaten Nashville in the hope that Sherman would follow. This would draw Sherman out of the deep South. Sherman did follow for a while but he was not willing to take the bait. In northern Georgia he decided to send General George H. Thomas, in my opinion the North's greatest general, to Nashville to build an army overnight from scattered forces in the region. Hood's decision led to the bloody battle of Franklin. His decimated Army of 25,000 starving men, of which a third of them were barefooted, showed up in the southern suburbs of Nashville on December 2, 1864. To the north and east Nashville was protected by the Cumberland River. An army could only approach the city from the south and west. The Union army was protected by a string of forts starting with Ft. Negley and interspersed with such forts as Ft, Casino, where the present water reservoir is on 8th ave. Ft. Morton which was near Ft. Casino. Ft. Houston which was close to Music Row. Hill 210, which was where Washington Jr. High School sat in North Nashville. Ft. Gillem was on the site of present day Jubilee Hall at Fisk University. Ft. Garasche overlooked the Cumberland River in North Nashville. 

  After Thomas took command he set troops to digging trenches between the forts. There was an inner and outer line of defense. The outer line began at Ft. Casino. He would eventually amass an army of 75,000 men of which 55,000 were considered an effective fighting force. If Hood had had more men than Thomas he would have still been crazy attacking Nashville's defenses because they were considered impregnable. With 25,000 men his plan was to dig in and wait for Thomas to attack. Hood had few good options. The Confederate right was placed just to the right of a deep railroad cut of the Nashville and Chattanooga railroad. A small fort was constructed and named Lunette Granbury. The remains of the fort can still be seen today on Polk Avenue near Murfreesboro road. From there the line ran across Nolensville road over Rain's Hill, which is the hill overlooking the present Tennessee State Fairgrounds. Then it ran over through what is now the high ground in Woodlawn Cemetery just north of Thompson lane. From there it paralleled Woodmont Blvd. ending on either side of Hillsboro road. Five redoubts were built on either side of Hillsboro road. Because of the lack of men these were small forts that housed several cannon each. There was Redoubt 1, which was to the right of Hillsboro road near the present day Boy Scout headquarters. Redoubt 2 was at the corner of Hillsboro road and Woodmont Blvd. There are now condominium's where the redoubt was. Redoubt 3 was behind present day Calvary United Methodist Church. Redoubt 4 was off present Foster Hill Drive near Hillsboro road. Redoubt 5 was on a high hill to the right of Hillsboro road and near Harding Place. Condominium's now sit on the spot where Redoubt 5 once sat.

Position of Norther and Southern Troops

Union Outer Defense Line / Nashville

Railroad Yards / Nashville

Union Encampment In Edgefield / Site of Present Day Titans Stadium

Union Dress Parade / West Side Of Square Next To Present Day Deaderick St.


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