January 3, 1865 (Tuesday)
In the time that Sherman’s forces were in Savannah, Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard, operating now out of Charleston, South Carolina, was busy trying to pull troops from anywhere he could. Word from John Bell Hood’s defeat before Nashville was slow in coming, as was news of the hellish, slogging retreat back across the Tennessee River.
Through Christmas week, Beauregard had some suspicions that things had gone poorly, even disastrously, and he even went as far as to suggest Richard Taylor as an officer who might replace Hood. Davis, after some consideration, agreed, but only if Beauregard thought it absolutely necessary. Still, not a thing had been heard directly from Hood in weeks.
On the 26th, he had ordered Hood to send (not bring) “all forces not absolutely needed for that defensive line” to Augusta “should he be unable to gain any material advantage in Tennessee.”
Beauregard decided to leave Charleston for Corinth, Mississippi where Hood was now supposedly making his headquarters. Reaching the place, however, would take a week. By the time he arrived in Macon, Georgia, on the 6th, he would finally have word from Hood, written on this date.
“The army has recrossed the Tennessee River without material loss since the battle of Franklin,” wrote Hood, redefining the phrase “without material loss.” It will be assembled in a few days in the vicinity of Tupelo, to be supplied with shoes and clothing, and to obtain forage for the animals.” Hood also suggested that a huge chunk of his men receive 100-day furloughs, a luxury that the South simply couldn’t afford.
Hood couldn’t even afford to stay in Corinth, ordering his army to continue their march another fifty miles south to Tupelo. But while in Corinth, Hood had a meeting with Nathan Bedford Forrest, telling him that the infantry had been ordered to Augusta, Georgia, and that he would be left behind with his command to defend Mississippi.
Disgruntled by the prospect, Forrest vented to Richard Taylor, stating the true condition of Hood’s forces. “The Army of Tennessee was badly defeated and is greatly demoralized, and to save it during the retreat from Nashville I was compelled almost to sacrifice my command. Aside from the killed, wounded, and captured of my command, many were sent to the rear with barefooted, lame, and unserviceable horses, who have taken advantage of all the confusion and disorder attending the hasty retreat of a beaten army, and are now scattered through the country or have gone to their homes.”
The land between Corinth and Tupelo was barren, stripped clean by years of war. Officers and men alike grumbled and wondered aloud how they might feed themselves though such desolation. They would arrive in Tupelo on the 5th, and Richard Taylor would come a day later to see for himself the condition of things. Beauregard, too, was still on his way.
“To make the army effective for operations,” wrote Hood to Beauregard, “some rest is absolutely necessary, and a good supply of clothing and shoes.” Just how they would receive any of these things was beyond Hood’s comprehension. Fortunately, he would have others around him soon who could make the needed decisions.1
- Sources: Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 45, Part 2, p736-739, 753, 758-759; The Military Operations of General Beauregard by Alfred Roman; Advance and Retreat by John Bell Hood. [↩]