Following the loss of Atlanta in early September 1864, Confederate Gen. John Bell Hood led his 38,000-man army north toward Middle Tennessee. The Confederates hoped not only to reclaim territory long lost to Union forces but also to scare Northern officials by moving quickly toward Nashville and the Ohio River. The Confederates also hoped to disrupt or recall to Tennessee Union Gen. William T. Sherman, who was then marching toward Savannah and “the sea.”
Hood’s army, screened by Gen. N.B. Forrest’s cavalry, crossed the Tennessee River at Florence, Ala., on Nov. 21. His first objective in Tennessee was Columbia on the Duck River and the direct road to Nashville. Opposing Hood were Gen. John Schofield’s 30,000 troops, assigned by Sherman to join Gen. George Thomas (then in Nashville with about 30,000 men of his own) to neutralize the Confederate threat.
Hood saw a chance to get his army between the two Federal forces, possibly defeating Schofield, then Thomas.
Schofield won the race to Columbia with Hood hot on his heels. But before most of his men got back on the road to Nashville, Hood managed to slip around Schofield’s flank and theoretically stand directly in his path at Spring Hill. There was some fighting at Spring Hill during the afternoon of Nov. 29, but in one of the war’s most famous and still-argued-about blunders, the Confederates let Schofield’s troops march past them that night — right under their noses.
An irate Hood gave chase north toward Franklin. Schofield waited for him there behind sturdy defenses. Unleashing his army in an ill-considered attack Nov. 30, Hood battered his army against those defenses at Franklin for five hours, losing more than 6,000 men. Six Confederate generals, including the brilliant Gen. Patrick Cleburne, were killed or mortally wounded.
Following the battle, Schofield again marched north, joining Thomas in the fortress Nashville had become after nearly three years of Union occupation. Hood, his army now badly wounded, limped after him and deployed south of the city.
As the Union army gathered strength in the Tennessee capital, the Federal high command pestered Thomas to attack and get rid of Hood, who they feared might sidestep Nashville and continue to the Ohio River. Thomas finally unleashed his army and on Dec. 14–15 defeated Hood and forced his broken away from Nashville. What remained of the once-grand Confederate army straggled south and nearly disintegrated.
About half the Southerners who fought around Nashville later joined their former commander Joseph Johnston opposing Sherman in North Carolina in March 1865.
Visiting Hood’s Tennessee Campaign
Fouche Springs Engagement
- Trails sign at the Fouche Springs Picnic Area, Highway 20, Summertown TN
Some of the first significant fighting of the campaign occurred near this crossroads Nov. 23, 1864, as Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest’s cavalry led Hood’s army into Tennessee. Forrest snapped up scores of Union prisoners as his force fanned out over the area. These small, but bloody, battles alerted Federal commanders in Tennessee that a serious threat was coming.
Battle of Campbellsville
- Trails sign at 107 Locke Road, Pulaski TN 38478
On Nov. 24, 1864, Confederates following Schofield’s advance from Pulaski attacked the Federal cavalry rearguard in a running battle over the fields and streams here. Southern infantry and artillery forced the Northern troopers back through Campbellsville to Lynnville. Both armies continued marching toward Columbia.
Columbia and Area
Both Union and Confederate forces briefly occupied Columbia during the campaign. A good rundown of Columbia and area’s historic sites: historicmaury.com/mchs-history/historic-sites.
Among points of interest with little or no Civil War interpretation:
• St. John’s Church, west of Columbia – Confederate Gen. Patrick Cleburne, passing this church on the way to Columbia, said it “is almost worth dying for to be buried in such a beautiful spot.” Days later, after the Battle of Franklin, his body and others were temporarily buried here.
• Zion Church, 2322 Zion Road – Sam Watkins, author of the famous soldier account Co. AYTCH is buried here.
The Anthenaeum Rectory
- 808 Athenaeum St, Columbia TN 38401
This is the last surviving building from a school for girls founded in 1852. Union Gen. John Schofield used the building as his headquarters during his brief occupation of the town in November 1864. Confederate Gen. N.B. Forrest was reported to be a frequent visitor. Tours of the building do not focus on its Civil War history.
Open February–December Tuesday–Saturday 10 am–4 pm; Sunday 1–4 pm. $5/adult.
- Trails sign at St. John’s Church, TN Route 243 and Polk Lane, Columbia TN 38401
Along this road on Nov. 23, a small contingent of poorly-armed Union cavalry delayed the advance of Confederate horsemen under Gen. N.B. Forrest who were riding ahead of Hood’s main army. The Federals made a stand here and fought off swarming attacks. The time bought by this Union cavalry unit prevented the immediate capture of Columbia and allowed more time for Schofield’s troops to withdraw toward Nashville.
Road to Nashville
- Trails sign at 1412 Trotwood Ave, Columbia 38401
This was the site of a Nov. 26 artillery duel and a feigned Confederate attack on Union forces defending Columbia. Hood hoped to pin the Federals in place here with this demonstration. then march around the Union flank and block the road to Franklin and Nashville. Despite Hood’s effort here, Union Gen. Schofield managed to withdraw and win the race to Franklin.
- Trails sign located at the Zion Presbyterian Church, 2322 Zion Road, Columbia TN 38401
Sam Watkins, author of perhaps the most famous “soldier” memoir of the Civil War, “Company Atych,” is buried here with his wife, Virginia. Watkins left his home a few miles from here and fought at Shiloh, Murfreesboro and Franklin, among others. He was one of only seven of his original company remaining when Gen. Joseph Johnston surrendered the Army of Tennessee.
Side by Side: Rose Hill and Rosemont Cemeteries
- Trails sign located in the Rose Hill Cemetery, 401 Cemetery Drive, Columbia TN 38401
Several hundred Union and Confederate troops were interred at Rose Hill Cemetery following the battles of Franklin and Nashville in late 1864. Confederate Gen. Patrick Cleburne’s body (killed at Franklin) was first buried here before being moved at nearby St. John’s Church. Envisioned as a national cemetery following the war, the site was not chosen in part because of the Confederates buried here. The Union dead were reburied at the Stones River National Cemetery. Rosemont Cemetery was established by local African Americans, and at least two members of the United States Colored Troops are buried there.
Nelson House Hotel
- Trails sign located at 706 N Main St, Columbia TN 38401 (This is a privately funded site.)
Confederate Lt. Andrew Wills Gould, an artillerist under Gen Nathan B. Forrest, died here following a fight with his famous commander. Forrest held Gould responsible for losing a two-gun section during fighting in Alabama. Gould took issue and confronted Forrest in downtown Columbia. Both men were injured but Gould developed an infection and died June 26, 1863.
- Trails sign located at the International SCV HQ, 740 Mooresville Pike, Columbia TN 38401
As Confederates under Gen. John Bell Hood approached Columbia Nov 26, 1864, Union Gen. John Schofield prepared a defense near here. Intending to create a “burn line” to open fields of fire, Union soldiers broke into the house and tried to set it on fire but Confederate cavalry soon arrived, chasing the burners away and saving the structure.
- Trails sign located at 301 W Seventh St, Columbia TN
President James K. Polk lived in this 1816 building during much of his life. Polk became a staunch Unionist and ran for governor against pro-secessionist Isham Harris. Polk lost badly and was widely criticized by his opponents. He joined Union troops when they occupied Columbia, joining the staff of U.S. Gen. Thomas Crittenden. Polk died in Nashville Dec 16, 1862. He is buried in Columbia.
Hood had his great chance to defeat Schofield here at Spring Hill Nov. 29, 1864. The Confederates had managed to put themselves in position to attack the Union troops marching north, strung out and vulnerable on the Columbia-Franklin Pike. But the Southerners failed to deliver a knock-out blow as darkness fell on the 29th and, by the morning of the 30th, Schofield’s men had escaped, marching unmolested that night past Confederate campfires. It’s one of the most controversial events of the war.
Among the sites in Spring Hill is Ferguson Hall, 5350 Main St, site of the murder of Confederate Gen. Earl Van Dorn, who was shot by a jealous husband in 1863.
Spring Hill Battlefield Tour
A nine-stop driving tour brochure of the Spring Hill battlefield is available at the visitor center in Columbia, 302 W Seventh St, and at Rippavilla. Each stop features interpretive signage. Highlights are Oaklawn (Hood’s headquarters, not open to public), and a key part of the battlefield, preserved in a 110-acre park.
- 5700 Main St, Spring Hill TN 37174
RippavilleFine 1855 mansion was the site of a meeting of the Confederate high command the morning of Nov. 30. An angry Hood berated his generals for letting Schofield escape the night before. Much of Civil War interest here during the excellent house tours and on the grounds. Open Monday-Saturday 9 am–5 pm and Sunday 1–5 pm (tours on the half-hour). $8/adult.
Early Nov. 30, Hood, smoldering with anger at Schofield’s escape at Spring Hill, ordered his soldiers north on the Columbia Pike (modern Hwy 31) toward Franklin. Schofield, hoping to escape to Nashville, didn’t expect an attack that day but dug in anyway at the Harpeth River. The controversial Confederate attacks at Franklin Nov. 30, 1864, were some of the bloodiest of the war. Many historians believe that Hood’s army, suffering more than 6,000 casualties in five hours, suffered a fatal blow at Franklin.
Animated map from Civil War Preservation Trust
Williamson County Visitor Center
- 209 E Main St, Franklin TN 37064
Note: A discounted combination ticket for Carnton, Carter House and the Lotz House is available for $30 at each site.
- Trails sign at 1550 Thompson’s Station Road West, Thompson’s Station TN 37179
Confederate cavalry attacked a Federal position here Nov. 29, alarming Union Gen. John Schofield as he attempted to slip his troops and supplies past large numbers of Southern infantry at Spring Hill, south of here. Unable to put a coordinated attack together, the confused Confederates allowed the Union troops to pass on toward Franklin.
- 1140 Columbia Ave, Franklin TN 37064
This brick house, located on the Columbia Pike and about the center of the Union line, became the focal point of Confederate attacks. The bullet-scarred house and outbuildings are a natural place to start a tour of the Franklin battlefield. Highlights are a film, house and grounds guided tour, and a museum dedicated to the battle. Focus here is almost entirely Civil War.
Open Monday–Saturday 9 am–5 pm; Sunday 1–5 pm. Closed Sundays in January and closes one hour earlier during Daylight Savings Time. $15/adult.
Carter’s Cotton Gin
- Trails sign at 109 Cleburne St., Franklin TN 37064
Entrenchments here were the heart of the Union defensive line at Franklin and the focus of Confederate Gen. Patrick Cleburne’s division during the attack. Fighting here was ferocious as waves of Southerners attempted to storm the breastworks. Cleburne was killed a few dozen yards from this spot.
Lotz House Civil War House Museum
- 1111 Columbia Ave., Franklin TN 37064
Fighting was severe near this 1858 home as Union reserves under Gen. Emerson Opdycke moved forward from here to confront a Confederate breakthrough. The house became a hospital after the battle. Tours of the home feature period antiques and battle scars. Open Monday–Saturday 9 am–5 pm and Sunday 1–4 pm.
- Trails sign at St. Paul’s Church, 510 W. Main St., Franklin TN 37064
With a population of fewer than 1,000 at the time of the battle, Franklin was overwhelmed by the estimated 4,000 Union and Confederate wounded left behind. Private residences, barns, public buildings and churches (including St. Paul’s) were used to care for the injured. The last of the wounded did not leave Franklin until the summer of 1865.
Union Headquarters (Dr. McPhail’s Office)
- Trails sign and visitor information, 209 E. Main St., Franklin TN 37064
Union Gen. John Schofield established his headquarters in this small building and the home of Dr. Daniel Cliffe early in the day, Nov. 30. He directed the organization of the Franklin defenses from here before moving to the Truett House, north of the Harpeth River in the mid-afternoon.
Attack on the Union Left (Collins Farm)
- Trails sign at 418 Lewisburg Ave., Franklin TN 37064
Confederates under Gen. William Loring attacking over this ground toward the Union left were forced to try to cut through the thorny branches of Osage orange hedges while under intense fire from infantry and artillery. Southern losses were appalling here. Many of the Confederates who fell here were buried on the spot and later reburied in the McGavock Confederate Cemetery.
- 1345 Carnton Lane, Franklin TN 37064
Bloodstains remain on the floors of this fine 1826 mansion, home of the McGavocks during the war. Confederate troops passed through the grounds en route to their disastrous encounter with the Federals entrenched nearby, and the home served as a field hospital for hundreds following the fighting. The bodies of four Confederate generals were laid out on the porch the day after the battle. After the war the family donated two acres to bury nearly 1,500 Confederate soldiers.
Open Monday-Saturday 9 am-5 pm; Sunday 1-5 pm. Tours on the half-hour. $15/adult.
Other Trails signs at Carnton Plantation:
• “Confederate Eastern Front” describes the beginning of the advance of the Confederate right wing, which formed under Federal artillery fire near the Carnton house.
• “McGavock Confederate Cemetery” tells the story of this small cemetery formed in the spring of 1866 to relocate the Confederates killed at Franklin, many of whom were buried where they fell during the battle. This well-cared-for spot is the largest private military cemetery in the country.
• “Women in Civil War Franklin” describes the trials of women on all sides during the Union occupation, the 1864 battle and its aftermath.
• African-Americans in Franklin” outlines the various roles of the black population including slaves and freemen. African-Americans made up more than half the Franklin population in 1860.
Eastern Flank Battlefield Park
- Parking at Carnton
A series of interpretive signs and a paved walking trail in a 110-acre park tell the story of the Confederate attack on the eastern flank of the Franklin battlefield. Confederate attackers, under Gen. William Loring, came under fire shortly after passing Carnton. Open daylight hours. Free.
WinsteadWinstead Hill Park
- Columbia Pike and Mack Hatcher Memorial Parkway, Franklin TN 37064
This was the Confederate “jumping off” place for the attacks at Franklin. Nice park includes interpretive exhibits and memorials. A bas-relief map of the battlefield is a good orientation from here. Park open daylight hours.
- Use the pathway to the fort from Pinkerton Park, 407 Murfreesboro Road, Franklin TN 37064. Trails sign along the path.
Strong Federal position on the north bank of the Harpeth River delivered artillery fire into the Confederate attack during the battle. Well-preserved fort gives nice perspective opposite the Winstead Hill site. Open daylight hours.
Retreat from Nashville (Harlinsdale Farm)
- Trails sign at 239 Franklin Road, Franklin TN 37064
Following his defeat at Nashville Dec. 15-16, Confederate Gen. John Bell Hood and his dispirited army trudged back south toward Franklin, followed closely by Union pursuers. Federal cavalry attacked the Confederate rear guard here Dec. 17, forcing the Southerners into a narrow escape and temporary safety across the Harpeth River.
Fight at Hollow Tree Gap (Hood’s retreat from Nashville)
- Trails sign located at 1116 Davenport Blvd, Franklin TN 37069
Exhausted Confederates under Gen. John Bell Hood retreated through here Dec. 17, 1864, after enduring defeat at the Battle of Nashville. Union pursuers caught up near here. After an hour-long fight, the Confederates withdrew south minus 250 captured.
Nashville and Area
Union troops occupied the Tennessee capital in February 1862 shortly after the fall of Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River. It was the first Southern capital to fall. The city became one of the most fortified in the country protecting a vast Union supply depot serving the entire Western Theater.
ThomasIn early December 1864, following the Battle of Franklin, Schofield’s troops joined Thomas and other Union reinforcements in Nashville, giving the Federals a nearly 3:1 advantage in manpower. Hood’s Confederate army deployed south of the city, hoping to draw the Federals out of their defenses.
Finally stirred to action after weeks of increasingly fervent dispatches from Washington, Thomas staged a strong attack against Hood’s left Dec. 15–16, 1864. Overwhelming the outnumbered Confederates, for all practical purposes, the battle ended the war in the West.
Touring Nashville’s Civil War sites
Most of the Battle of Nashville has been lost to development, but some reminders in the form of historic homes, monuments and scattered earthworks remain south of Nashville. Fortunately, good resources are available for guiding visitors around the city and the area:
A Battle of Nashville tour map and guide is available from the Battle of Nashville Preservation Society (BONPS). Download or order a free copy from www.bonps.org/tour/tour.htm.
For those interested in an excellent, comprehensive tour with good maps and illustrations of Nashville’s Civil War sites, order a copy of the 76-page Guide to Civil War Nashville by Mark Zimmerman ($19.95) from BONPS.
Tennessee State Museum
- 505 Deaderick St, Nashville TN 37243
- (lower level of the James K. Polk Cultural Center)
Excellent permanent Civil War exhibition tells the story of Tennessee and the war using a variety of uniforms, flags and other artifacts. Highlights include N.B. Forrest’s revolver, Patrick Cleburne’s cap and a hand-drawn map of the Shiloh battlefield made for Gen. PGT Beauregard. Exhibits also examine the role of Andrew Johnson during the war as military governor and as President.
Open Tuesday–Saturday 10 am–5 pm; Sunday 1–5 pm. Free.
Tennessee State Capitol
- Charlotte Avenue and Seventh Avenue North, Nashville TN 37243
- 615-741-2692, 615-741-0830
Finished in 1859, the Greek Revival-style building became a Federal Fort Andrew Johnson 1862-1865, it’s walkways studded with cannon (never fired in anger). Civil War interpretation on the spot is slim, but it’s fun to go up and have a look around. Guided tours of the building offered at 10 and 11 am, 1,2 and 3 pm Monday–Friday. Statue of “boy hero” Sam Davis on the grounds.
- 4580 Rachel’s Lane, Nashville TN 37076
Although no Civil War battles were fought here, the war touched Andrew Jackson’s farm in other ways. Jackson had been a firm Unionist, putting down Nullification and its potential for civil war during his presidency. But his grandsons and other descendents joined the Confederate army. Andrew Jackson III was taken prisoner twice. The Union army controlled Nashville from early 1862, but the surrounding countryside was very much in dispute and members of both armies visited Jackson’s estate, sometimes inflicting damage and taking livestock.
Following the war, the Tennessee Confederate Soldier’s Home was established here and remained open until 1933, housing more than 700 veterans during that time. Trails signs describe The Hermitage during the war and the Soldier’s Home and cemetery here.
- 1100 Fort Negley Blvd, Nashville TN 37203
- (just southeast of intersection of I-40 and I-65)
Wonderful job bringing back a 1940 reconstruction of one of the Union forts defending Nashville. An interpreted trail leads from the parking lot through the fort. Signs describe the Battle of Nashville from the fort’s perspective. Great Nashville skyline views from this city park. Open daylight hours. Free. A visitor center, also free, with exhibits and an introduction to the fort is open Tuesday-Thursday noon-4 pm, and Friday and Saturday 9 am-4 pm (June-August). From September through May Friday hours shortened to noon-4 pm.
- 1900 Belmont Blvd, Nashville TN 37212
This 1853 mansion served as a Union headquarters before the battle. Orders were given from here for the first day’s attack. Brick water tower was a Federal signal station. The mistress of the house during the war negotiated with both sides to have her cotton shipped secretly to England. Open Monday–Saturday 10 am–4 pm; Sunday 1–4 pm. Last tour begins 3:15 pm. $10/adults.
Belle Meade Plantation
- 5025 Harding Road, Nashville TN 37205
The plantation was headquarters to Confederate Gen. James Chalmers during the initial part of the battle, and skirmishing erupted on the grounds early Dec. 15. Bullet scars are still visible on this mansion’s massive front columns. Interesting house tours by costumed guides focus on lifestyle and horse racing rather than the Civil War.
Open Monday–Saturday 9 am–5 pm, Sunday 11 am–5 pm. Last tour begins 4 pm. $14/adult. Three Civil War Trails signs describe the action here in 1864.
Battle of Nashville Monument
Granny White Pike and Battlefield Drive, Nashville TN
Small piece of the battlefield preserved here — the center of the Confederate line on Dec. 15 — with a 1926 Peace Monument. Open daylight hours.
Critical strong point on the Confederate left flank was taken by the Federals Dec. 16, 1864, resulting in a decisive Federal victory in the Battle of Nashville. State historical marker at the base of the hill. A steep path leads to the top where Southern defenders tried to hold off the Union attack. Some Confederate earthworks remain at the top.
- Travellers’ Rest Plantation and Museum
- 636 Farrell Parkway, Nashville TN 37220
Part of this house dates to 1799 with additions made by the Overton family by the time of the Civil War. Hood made Travellers’ Rest his headquarters during the weeks leading up to the battle. Some fighting occurred on the plantation grounds Dec. 16. Tours cover Civil War history and the house’s role in the battle.
Open Monday-Saturday 10 am-4 pm, Sunday 1-4 pm. Closed second week of January. $10/adults.
Nashville City Cemetery
- Fourth Avenue South and Oak Street, Nashville TN 37203
- (very short distance from Fort Negley – easy to visit both)
The city’s first cemetery, established in 1822, holds the remains of several notable Confederate generals including Richard Ewell, Bushrod Johnson and Felix Zollicoffer. Interprettive markers on some graves. Open daylight hours.
Mount Olivet Cemetery
- 1101 Lebanon Road, Nashville TN 37201
The Confederate Circle area of this cemetery (established 1856) honors the nearly 1,500 Southern soldiers buried here. The graves of Confederate Gens. Benjamin Cheatham and William Bate are here.
Nashville National Cemetery
- 1420 Gallatin Pike South, Madison TN 37115
The remains of more than 12,000 Civil War-era Union soldiers are buried here. Many of the bodies were removed from Middle Tennessee and Southern Kentucky battlefields. Most came from burial grounds around hospitals in the area. Open daylight hours.
Two Governors, Two Governments
- Trails sign at 312 Rosa L Parks Ave, Nashville TN 37243
Trails sign near the Tennessee State Capitol describes the two very different wartime governors here. The first, Isham Harris, supported secession and the Confederacy and helped raise troops early in the war. After Nashville fell in February 1862, former U.S. Senator Andrew Johnson took over as Federal military governor and managed the state from this capitol building.
Baseball in Civil War Nashville
- Trails sign at 312 Rosa L Parks Ave, Nashville TN 37243
Soon after Union occupation in early 1862, Nashville became the center for Federal operations in Tennessee. Camps were established in this area and the soldiers soon introduced baseball as a recreation activity, a sport relatively new to Nashville. The game was much different than today’s, with scores high, teams sometimes scoring 60 runs.
NOTE: Information about cavalry skirmishes connected with both the beginning and end of the Tennessee portion of Hood’s Campaign is found in material available from the Giles County Tourism Foundation in Pulaski. Call 931-363-3789.
Sugar Creek Engagement
- Trails sign at the Old Red Store, 440 Appleton Road, Five Points TN 38457
Following the battle of Nashville and the resulting retreat of the Army of Tennessee, Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest’s troops, who were screening the march south, were camped near here. On Dec. 26, Union cavalry attacked, hoping to catch the Confederates before they crossed the Tennessee River. Forrest’s men successfully repelled the attack and the Army of Tennessee crossed the river unmolested