November 21, 1864 (Monday)
“Push on active offensive immediately,” wrote General P.G.T. Beauregard to John Bell Hood.
All was now ready for Hood to make his northerly advance into Tennessee. The same day Beauregard had sent the message, Hood brought his last corps across the Tennessee River in preparation for the campaign’s first march.
“Early dawn of the 21st found the Army in motion,” he related in his memoirs. “I hoped by a rapid march to get in rear of [John] Schofield’s forces, then at Pulaski, before they were able to reach Duck river.”
In the years after the war, Hood painting this ordeal as a race between his own army and Schofield’s corps to Columbia, Tennessee. However, the pace he set on the march told a much different story. Also, at the time his army stepped off, he believed Schofield to be unmoving and still in Pulaski. This was the case, yet it would not be for long as Schofield would was ready to issue marching orders as soon as he learned that Hood was on the move. For the Federals, then, it might have been a race. For Hood, it was simply the beginning of his march.
In Pulaski, Schofield had under his command the entire Fourth Corps, as well as the Third Divison of the Twenty-third. Also, he had with him nearly two divisions of cavalry. This gave him a force of around 21,000. Hood, on the other hand, commanded nearly twice as many, 40,000.
As Hood marched, he placed his cavalry, helmed by Nathan Bedford Forrest, along his right flank, and moved in three columns. The main was on the road from Florence to Waynesborough.
This movement was observed by Schofield’s scouts and relayed to their cavalry commander, Edward Hatch. In turn, he wrote to General George Thomas, in command at Nashville, gathering together troops, unknown to Hood.
They relayed the approximate location of all of Hood’s columns and the headquarters of the army. They concluded that it had “the appearance of an advance on Columbia rather than Pulaski,” a slight surprise, considering. Hatch vowed to probe further.
Over the course of the day, General Thomas ordered Schofield to fall back north for Columbia, “so as to reach that place before Hood could, if he should really move against that place.”
Schofield, soon convinced that Hood was on the march, acted quickly, though was uncertain of Forrest’s intent. “I propose to move tomorrow morning with two divisions to Lynnville,” he wrote Thomas at noon, “leaving Stanley here with the other two. This will be the best disposition we can make to meet Forrest if he attempts a raid.”
If Hood was truly moving with his entire army, Schofield assured Thomas that he could concentrate at Lynnville, “where we can fight Hood, or retire to Columbia, according to circumstance. I do not believe Hood can get this far, if he attempts it, while the roads are so bad.”
By the end of the letter, however, Schofield reconsidered dividing his forces. “Upon reflection, I think it wisest not to leave a small garrison here. We ought to concentrate as much as possible.”
Before the night was through, Schofield had issued his marching orders, placing Jacob Cox’s Division from the Twenty-third Corps in the lead. “I desire you to move to Lynnville tomorrow morning,” he wrote to Cox. He warned Cox of Forrest, making sure that the Rebel troopers were kept away from the railroad. The army would not concentrate at Lynnville, but push on toward Columbia and the Duck River.1
- Sources: Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 45, Part 1, p341, 652, 669, 970, 974; Advance and Retreat by John Bell Hood; Military Reminiscences by Jacob Cox; The Confederacy’s Last Hurrah by Wiley Sword; Autumn of Glory by Thomas Lawrence Connelly. [↩]