16 thoughts on “The Sunday Question: The Battle of Nashville

  1. Bryn Monnery November 13, 2011 / 10:32 am

    Whilst solid, Thomas did commit serious errors. Most seriously he was not ready to exploit the disintegration of the Confederate force because he had committed his Corps de Chasse. With a formed body of mounted cavalry in hand he could have inflicted a Napoleonic victory. As it was Hood regrouped and conducted a masterful retreat and saved much of his army.

  2. Margaret Blough November 13, 2011 / 10:32 am

    Can the answer be both? There are many cases where a general blows a golden chance at success. McClellan’s sluggish reaction to the recovery of the Lost Order in 1862 is way up there on the list. As I read somewhere, in order to have the results of the Battle of Cannae, 216 B.C. (CW generals obsessed over attaining this kind of victory), one not only needs Hannibal commanding the victorious forces, one needs C.Terrentius Varro commanding the losing forces.

    • Bryn Monnery November 13, 2011 / 4:50 pm

      FWIW the quote is, I believe, Brian Holden Reid’s in America’s Civil War: The Operational Battlefield 1861-3.

      He donated all the books he used to the King’s College library. Darned useful they are too.

  3. wgdavis November 13, 2011 / 10:38 am

    I think the prevailing factor was a laudanum-saturated Hood. I think both men were better than they performed…Hood’s insistence on frontal assaults, and Thomas’ ubiquitous slowness were both in play here, and as you mention, Hood’s Franklin debacle seriously weakened not only his troop strength but their morale as well.

    That said, weather had almost as much to do with the outcome as the above. And said weather certainly favors the defender.

  4. wgdavis November 13, 2011 / 10:39 am

    BTW, do I detect a note of sarcasm in your description of George Thomas? 8>)

    • Brooks D. Simpson November 13, 2011 / 3:54 pm

      I think George H. Thomas was an extremely capable general. Although he made his mistakes, on the whole he was a quality commander.

  5. TF Smith November 13, 2011 / 11:30 am

    I think it was Thomas Kinkaid who was quoted as saying something like “never give a sucker an even break” in regards to Surigao Strait; Thomas, presumably, felt the same way re Hood.

    I guess another way to look at Thomas’ generalship at Nashville would be to ask how his predecessors in the command would have handled a similar strategic situation – would Buell or Rosecrans have done “better”, based on Perryville or Stones River?

    Granted, Hood was no Braxton Bragg, but still…

    • wgdavis November 13, 2011 / 6:08 pm

      I agree. He was an excellent leader, great on the battlefield but in planning he tended to over-prepare…and conditions had to be just right before he moved. Hence the rap on having “a case of the slows”, like several others.

      Thomas was quite popular with the troops.

      • TF Smith November 15, 2011 / 8:58 pm

        Thomas was a great defensive coordinator. Grant was head coach.

        • wgdavis November 17, 2011 / 8:36 am

          I generally agree, though by accident or plan he did well at Missionary Ridge where the 14th Corps boys gained redemption for Rosie’s debacle at Chickamauga, though even there, Thomas and the 14th Corps did well ‘on defense” as you say.

  6. Bob Huddleston November 13, 2011 / 1:54 pm

    At Nashville, Thomas commanded about 50 to 60,000 men – against an already nearly destroyed Army of the Tennessee with less than half that number. Thomas’ casualties were in the neighborhood of 3,000. According to Wiley Sword, Hood’s losses were about 2,300 killed and wounded and about 5,000 men captured at Nashville.

    Contrast that with the real victory that made Nashville possible: Franklin.

    Schofield had a force of around 23,000 against Hood’s 29,000. Schofield lost about 2300 men – but inflicted around 6,200 casualties on the Rebels, including what must have seemed to the Confederates an entire brigade of generals!

    Given the relative strengths of the opposing sides, Schofield, with a slightly superior force, took out 3 Confederates for every one he lost. Thomas, two weeks later, facing a dispirited Army of Tennessee, minus the best of its generals, and with the Yankees outnumbering the Rebels two to one, was only able to remove two of the enemy for every one he lost.

    The Army of Tennessee was broken at Franklin, not Nashville.

    • Bob Huddleston November 14, 2011 / 11:26 am

      Thanks for the correction. I can’t find my copy of Wiley Sword, but Richard McMurray in Current, ed., _Encyclopedia of the Confederacy_, vol. 2, says 28,000 Yankees with 2,326 lost, and 28,000 Rebels with 5,000 lost. James McDonough in Heidler, eds., _Encyclopedia of the American Civil War_, says 23,000 Rebels with 7,250 casualties, versus “more than” 15,000 Yankees taking 2,500 dead, wounded and missing. Aren’t statistics wonderful!
      Either way, Schofield, with Hood’s assistance, did a whole lot more damage, man for man, than did Thomas.

  7. John Foskett November 14, 2011 / 11:34 am

    I think the laudanum theory has been pretty much debunked by Steve Davis There appears to be absolutely no evidence of an addiction by Hood other than a deduction that he must have been using it for pain which was inevitable from his wounds. The story appears to have emerged in a 1940 biography and got simply accepted by later historians. i believe that Richard McMurry recanted it in his early ’80’s short bio and Davis took it on vehemently in B&G magazine c. 2000. Eric Jacobsen in a recent and well done book on Franklin also does not accept it.. That’s the good news for Hoodophiles. The bad news is that it leaves the disastrous events at Spring Hill/Franklin/Nashville to his “generalship”. I have a hard time giving much credit to anybody for waiting at his leisure and then pounding that shell of an army at nashville.

  8. John Buchanan November 15, 2011 / 1:40 pm


    Thomas was supposed to make it a fair fight?!?!?

    He was a very effective commander. As stated, the weather had more to do with the outcome than much of anything.

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