December 14, 1864 (Wednesday)
Since the first week of December, General George Thomas’ forces inside the defenses of Nashville had been ready to advance upon those of John Bell Hood’s doing their best to beseige the city. Washington and General Grant had both been on his back, urging him to attack. Grant even went as far as to releive him from command, until he learned that Nashville had been set upon by an ice storm, and he gave Thomas another chance.
“During the time of the ice blockade,” wrote Jacob Cox, commanding a division of the Twenty-third Corps, “the slopes in front of the lines were a continuous glare of ice, so that movements away form the roads and broken paths could be made only with the greatest difficult and at a snail’s pace. Men and horses were seen falling whenever they attempted to move across country. A man slipping on the hillside had no choice but to sit down and slide to the bottom, and groups of men in the forts and lines found constant entertainment watching these mishaps.”
In Cox’s opinion, “maneuverers were out of the question for nearly a week.” The same was true for General Hood’s Confederates, whose position had been unchanged for about a week. However, reports from deserters coming in through Union lines held that Hood was planning on retreating, if only for the weather. True or not, the weather effected the Rebels more than the Federals, who at least had the supplies of nearby Nashville at their disposal.
Hood sent to Montgomery, Alabama for blankets, urging P.G.T. Beauregard to push them through. “The weather is severe, the ground covered with snow, and the men stand much in need of them.” Additionally, he wanted 10,000 new uniforms. He mentions no such weather or pleading in his post-war memoirs.
But on this day, according to Thomas, “the weather moderated,” and he looked again to an attack. Thomas called together his corps commanders and together they hammered out a plan.
On Thomas’ right, a Detachment of the Army of the Tennessee, three divisions-strong, was commanded by General Andrew J. Smith. He was to form his troops on the Hardin pike and “make a vigorous assault on the enemy’s left.” This attack would bring him squarely onto Hood’s flank. Smith’s number would be augmented by Thomas Wood’s Fourth Corps, which would move along the Hillsborough Pike, on Smith’s left. His objective was Montgomery Hill, just south of his position.
With the addition of cavalry on Smith’s right, this was more ore less the plan. The Twenty-third Corps would replace the works held by Smith’s attacking troops, while additional forces would cover those left vacant by Wood’s. If the weather held, the assault would come the following day at 6am.
By 8pm that evening, Thomas was resolved. “The ice having melted away to-day,” he wrote to Chief of Staff Henry Halleck in Washington, “the enemy will be attacked to-morrow morning. Much as I regret the apparent delay in attacking the enemy, it could not have been done before with any reasonable hope of success.”1
- Sources: Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 45, Part 1, p37-38; Part 2, p180, 685; Advance and Retreat by John Bell Hood; Military Reminisces by Jacob Cox; The March to the Sea: Franklin and Nashville by Jacob Cox. [↩]