November 23, 1864 (Wednesday)
The Federal encampment in Pulaski, Tennessee was one of waiting. Situated northeast of John Bell Hood’s position in Florance, on the Tennessee River, it was in a perfect position to intercept the Rebel army whether it moved north to Columbia on the Duck River or to receive battle itself if Hood struck towards it.
Though nobody knew for certain which way Hood’s beard would point, the camp was absolutely temporary. Putting down roots when Hood was so clearly about to make his move would be folly. For this, the troops paid in comfort.
“During the week we were at Pulaski,” wrote Jacob Cox, commanding the Twenty-third Corps, “the rain had made our camp anything but a pleasant one, yet, as we were daily in expectation of Hood’s advance, we could do nothing to improve our shelter or the means of warming our tents. The forests were near enough to furning us the fuel for rousing camp-fires, and we made the most of them. At night I fastened back the flaps of my tent, and a blazing pile of logs through in heat enough to temper the cold, and one slept sweetly in the fresh air as long as the wind was in the right direction.”
On the 21st, word was received that Hood was on the march and that the Army of Ohio would pursue, stepping off with Cox upon the dawn of this date. “The night was a freezing one,” continued Cox, “the mud was frozen stiff on the surface in the morning [of the 22nd], making the worst possible marching for the infantry, while the artillery and horses broke through the crust at every step. Our only consolation was in the reflection that it was as bad for Hood as for us.”
Now on the march, Cox’s Corps reached Lynnville, fifteen miles north, by noon. All through the 22nd, Cox placed his troops, and some from the Fourth Corps, around the town. With still no immediate sign of Hood, General Schofield, commanding the Army, joined Cox, arriving on the march at noon of this date.
Schofield’s scouts had Hood in Lawrenceburg the night previous, and he related to Cox that General Edward Hatch, commanding the cavalry, believed Nathan Bedford Forrest to be about to strike the railroad between Lynnville and Columbia. “I only want to hold the railroad until I can get all the stores from here,” wrote Schofield to Cox, “when I will withdraw to Columbia.”
The day’s march for Cox was a short one, beginning at three in the afternoon and moving till 6pm, covering only ten miles. Word arrived that Hood didn’t really seem all that interested in the railroad, and was keeping to parallel roads, still pushing north, but at a slow, driving pace, with Forrest to the front.
General Hatch and his cavalry had been in Lawrenceburg on the 21st, keeping an eye upon Hood’s route. The following day, he was pecked at by Forrest’s pickets and skirmishers, but holding the town. A the day went on, the firing grew more intense, so as by evening, three batteries of artillery were pounding away at them. By night, Forrest had turned Hatch’s flank and they began to retreat toward Pulaski, though only for about a mile’s distance.
“On the morning of the 23rd,” wrote Hatch in his report, “fell back on the Pulaski pike nine miles, where Croxton’s [cavalry] brigade, which had been in reserve the day before, became engaged with the enemy in force and gallantly held them until 8 o’clock that night, and then joined the command on the Campbellsville road.”
Hood’s rate of march was impressive for such conditions. Having divided his forces, his left wing, comprised of Benjamin Cheatham’s and Stephen Lee’s Corps, began what would be a much longer route north, passing through Waynesborough. The right wing, made up of most of Alexander Stewart’s Corps, marched along the more direct road through Henryville, twenty-five miles east.
But Hood’s right wing wasn’t simply keeping to the roads. Hatch reported having a run in with them near Lawrenceburg on the morning of this date. This seemed to place the infantry much closer to the railroad than previously expected. In truth, the bulk of Hood’s right was much farther left. Forrest found himself around Henryville, but was still probing east toward Hatch’s command near Campbellville. The march, though covering much ground, was anything but a direct run on Columbia.
Still, no Federal could know this. George Thomas, commanding at Nashville, was doing everything he could to draw troops to him. He wired Washington to convince the governor of Indiana to spare whatever militia he could afford. He also sent word to Missouri to hurry along their reinforcements. Looking to Chattanooga, he ordered Gordon Granger to abandon Athens, Decatur and Huntsville for Stevenson along the Tennessee River, and west of the city of concern.
In all, it was a day of marching and waiting, probing and guessing at the intension of the enemy.1
- Sources: Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 45, Part 1, p357, 575, 687, 712, 985, 994-995, 998, 1003, 1014; Military Remembrances, Vol. 2 by Jacob Cox; The Confederacy’s Greatest Cavalryman by Brian Steel Wills; Autumn of Glory by Thomas Lawrence Connelly. [↩]