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Army Of Tennessee

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

ON August the thirty-first Hood fought and lost the battle of Jonesboro. On September the first he evacuated Atlanta, besieged now for forty days, bombarded and wrecked and ruined. On the second, with hurrahing, with music of bands and waving of flags, Sherman occupied the forlorn and shattered place.

Forty thousand men, Hood and the Army of Tennessee lingered a full month in this region of Georgia, first around Lovejoy's Station, then at Palmetto. On the first of October they crossed the Chattahoochee. Four days later was fought the engagement of Allatoona. On northward went Hood over the old route that had been travelled — though in an opposite direction — in the spring and the early summer-time. Toward the middle of the month he was at Resaca, and a day or two after he captured a small garrison at Dalton. Behind him came, fast and furious, a blue host. He made a forced march west to Gadsden on the Coosa. He was now in Alabama and presently he marched past Decatur to Florence on the Tennessee. Sherman sent by rail Schofield and two army corps to Nashville, where was already George Thomas and his corps. The blue commanding general had now sixty thousand men in Tennessee, and sixty thousand in Georgia. To oppose these last there was left Wheeler's cavalry and Cobb's Georgia State troops. On the last day of October Hood crossed into Tennessee. Before him and his army lay now the thirtieth of November and the fifteenth and sixteenth of December — lay the most disastrous battles of Franklin and Nashville.

About the middle of September Sherman evicted the inhabitants of Atlanta. "I take the ground," he states upon the occasion, with the frankness that was an engaging trait in his character, "I take the ground that Atlanta is a conquered place, and I propose to use it purely for our own military purposes, which are inconsistent with its inhabitation by the families of a brave people. I am shipping them all, and by next Wednesday the town will be a real military town, with no women boring me every order I give."

In mid-November, quitting the place, he burned it before he went. "Behind us," he remarks, "lay Atlanta, smouldering and in ruins, the black smoke rising high in air and hanging like a pall over the ruined city. . . . The men are marching steadily and rapidly with a cheery look and a swinging pace."

Of his March to the Sea upon which he was now entered, he says, "Had General Grant overwhelmed and scattered Lee's Army and occupied Richmond he would have come to Atlanta; but as I happened to occupy Atlanta first, and had driven :Hood off to a divergent line of operations far to the west, it was good strategy to leave him to a subordinate force and with my main army join Grant at Richmond. The most practicable route to Richmond was nearly a thousand miles in distance, too long for a single march; hence the necessity to reach the seacoast for a new base. Savannah, distant three hundred miles, was the nearest point, and this distance we accomplished from November 12th to December 21st." And he telegraphs to Grant that he will send back all his wounded and worthless and, with his effective army, "move through Georgia, smashing things to the sea." He kept his word. They were thoroughly smashed.

The men, marching "with a cheery look and a steady pace" listened to a General Order directing them to "forage liberally on the country," and "generally to so damage the country as to make it untenable to the enemy." They obeyed and made it untenable to all, including women and children, the sick and the old. They heard that their commander meant "to make Georgia howl," and they did what they could to further his wish. He states indeed — in a letter to his wife — that "this universal burning and wanton destruction of private property is not justified in war," and "I know all the principal officers detest the infamous practice as much as I do," but the practice went on — and he was commander. He left behind him, from north to south of a great State a swathe of misery, horror, and destruction fifty miles wide. There were good and gallant men in his legions, good and gallant men by the thousand, but "Sherman's bummers" went unchecked, and so far as is known, unrebuked. The swathe was undeniably there, and the insult and the agony and the horror. Georgia was "made to howl." "War is Hell," said Sherman, and is qualified to know whereof he speaks.

In the mean time Hood had crossed the Tennessee in chilly, snowy weather and was moving northward. The snow did not hold. The weather cleared and there came a season as of an autumnal after-glow. The sun shone bright though all the trees were bare. Forrest, recalled in this month from Mississippi, rode ahead of the army, then came the corps of Stephen D. Lee, — Hood's old corps, — of A. P. Stewart, and of Cheatham. The last was Hardee's old corps. Hardee himself, irreconcilably opposed to Hood and asking for transferral, had been sent to take command of the Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. Something more than forty thousand men, cavalry, infantry, and artillery, the Army of Tennessee pursued the late November road. It was a haggard and depleted army, but it could and did fight very grimly.

Lawrenceburg — Mt. Pleasant — Columbia — and then the Duck River to cross. The night of the twenty-eighth the engineers laid the pontoon bridge. At dawn of the twenty-ninth the Army began to cross — slow work as always and masses of men waiting their turn around fires on the river bank. "Fire feels good! Autumn dies cold like everything else. Wish I had a cup of coffee." — "Last time I had a cup of coffee —" — "O go to h —! We've heard that story before! Somebody tell a good story. J. H. you tell a story! Tell about the mule and the darkey and the bag of sugar —"

Down to the water and over the pontoon bridge in the wintry dawn went the companies and the regiments. The fires on the bank blazed high, the soldiers talked. "A year ago was Missionary Ridge." — "Missionary Ridge!" — " Missionary Ridge!" —"Missionary Ridge was the place good missionaries never go to!" — " We ran hard in hell, but we fought hard in hell, too. Fought hard — fought hard — " "Up on Lookout, and Cleburne holding the hollow ground — D' ye remember how the moon was sick that night ?"—"A year ago! It was awful long when you were little from Christmas to Christmas — but the length of a year nowadays is some-thing awful! "— "That's so! It 's always long when so much hap-pens. I've seen men grow old from Missionary Ridge to Atlanta. I've seen men grow old from Atlanta to — what's the biggish place across the river ? Franklin ? Franklin, Tennessee."

The light grew stronger — a winter light, cold and steel-like upon the flowing river and the moving stream of men. Fall in! Fall in! cried the sergeants, and the men about the fires left the red warmth, and stood in ranks waiting to move down to the water. "- -! These crossings of rivers! - -! Seeing that men have always warred and I reckon are always going to war, I don't see why Nature and God — if Nature 's got a god — did n't make the earth a smooth round battlefield where enemies could clinch just as easy and keep clinched till one or the other went over the edge of all things, and went down, down, past whatever stars were on that side! What's the use of scooping rivers and heaping mountains in the way ? Just a nice, smooth, black, eternal plain — with maybe one wide river to carry the blood away —"

The soldiers, breaking step, crossed and crossed by the pontoon bridge. "The Duck River! — Quack! quack! -- Franklin's on the Harpeth." "Benjamin Franklin or Franklin Pierce?" — "Benjamin was a peaceful kind of fellow for a revolutionary — did n't believe in war! Neither did Jefferson. Not on general principles. Thought it barbarous. Fought on necessity, but believed in making necessity occur more rarely. Perfectly feasible thing! Necessity's much more malleable than we think. When we don't want it war won't be necessary." — "Want it! Do you reckon any one wants . it ?"—"Lord, yes! until they've got it. — Of course there's some that likes it even after they've got it — but they're getting scarce." — "I don't know. Sometimes it's necessary, and sometimes it's good fun." — "Yes. A hard necessity and a savage pastime. `Patriotism'? There 's a bigger phrase — `Mother Earth and Fellow Men."' —Column forward !

On through the leafless country marched the somewhat tattered, somewhat shoeless Army of Tennessee. Tramp of feet and roll of wheels, tramp of feet and roll of wheels . . "Listen! Firing ahead! That's Forrest!" The marching Army took up the praise of For-rest. "Forrest! Forrest 's like Stonewall Jackson — always in front making personal observations." — "Forrest! If I was a company in trouble I'd rather see Forrest coming on King Phillip than King Arthur or the Angel Gabriel I" — " Forrest! Did you ever see Forrest rally his men? Draws a pistol and shoots a retreating colour-bearer — takes the colours and says `Come on!' "— "Forrest 's had twenty-five horses killed under him." — "Did you ever hear him ad-dress his men? He's an orator born. It gets to be music. It gets grammatical — it gets to be great sonorous poetry." — "Yes, it does. I've heard him. And then an hour after I've heard him tell an officer `Yes, that mought do' and `It's got to be fit.' — And I've heard him say he never saw a pen but he thought of a snake." — "Forrest? You fellows talking about Forrest? Did you hear what Forrest said about tactics? Said he'd `give more for fifteen minutes of bulge than for a week of tactics."' — "Don't care! He 's right good at tactics himself. Murfreesboro and Streight 's Raid and other places and times without number! `Whenever you see anything blue,' he says, `shoot at it, and do all you can to keep up the scare!' Somebody told me he said about Okalona, `Saw Grierson make a bad move, and then I rode right over him.' Tactics! Says it 's his habit `to git thar first with the most men.' That's tactics! — and strategics — and bulge — and the art of War! " — "Old Jack him-self did n't know more about flanking than Forrest does." — "Did you hear what the old lady said to him at Cowan's Station?"

"No. What did she say?" — "Well, he and his men were kind of sauntering at a gallop through the place with a few million Yankees at their heels. The old lady did n't like men in grey to do that-away, so out she runs into the middle of the street, and spreads her skirts, and stops dead short, unless he was going to run over her, a big grey horse and a six-feet-two cavalryman with eyes like a hawk, and a black beard and grey head.—' Why don't you turn and fight?' — she hollers, never noticing the stars on his collar. `Turn and fight, you great, cowardly lump! turn and fight! If General Forrest could see you, he'd take out his sword and cut your head off!' "

The firing ahead continued — the Tennessee men said that it was near Spring Hill — and Spring Hill was twelve miles from Franklin. "Going to be a battle ? "—" Yes, think so. Understand Thomas is at Franklin behind breastworks." — "All right! `Rock of Chickamauga' is one of the best — even if he is a Virginian!" — "Thomas is n't there himself — he 's at Nashville. It's Schofield." — "All right! We 'll meet Schofield." — "Column halted again! — Firing getting louder — Franklin getting nearer — the wind rising — Smoke over the hill-tops —" —"Who's this going by? — Give him a cheer! — Patrick Romayne Cleburne!" Column forward !

"Did you notice that old graveyard back there at Mt. Pleasant — a beautiful, quiet place? Well, General Cleburne rode up and looked over the wall, and he said, says he, `If I die in this country, I should like to be buried here.' " — Column forward !

Spring Hill — Spring Hill at three o'clock, and Schofield's troops scattered through this region, concentrating hurriedly, with intent to give battle if needs be, but with a preference for moving north along the pike to Thomas at Franklin. What they wished was granted them. Here and there through the afternoon musketry rolled, but there was no determined attack. Hood says Cheatham was at fault, and Cheatham says General Hood dreamed the details and the orders he describes. However that may be, no check was given to Schofield that day, and in the dark night-time, he and his trains and troops went by the sleeping Confederate host and escaped, all but unmolested, to Franklin — and henceforth the Tennessee campaign was lost, lost!

Dawn and marching on Franklin — red dawn and the great beech trees of the region spreading their leafless arms across the way — sunrise and a cold, bright day — Column forward 1— Column forward ! — Hood " the fighter" at the head, tall and blue-eyed and tawny-bearded — S. D. Lee and Stewart and Cheatham — the division commanders, Patrick Cleburne and " Alleghany" Johnson and Carter Stevenson and Clayton and French and Loring and Walthall and Bate and Brown, and the artillerymen and the rumbling guns, and, tramp, tramp, tramp, tramp! the infantry of the Army of Tennessee. Eighteen hundred of these men were to die at Franklin. Four thousand were to be wounded. Two thousand were going to prison. A division commander was to die. Four brigade commanders were to die, others to be wounded or taken. Fifty-three commanders of regiments were to be among the killed, wounded, and captured. The execution was to take place in three or four hours of a November afternoon and a moonless night. Tramp, tramp, tramp, tramp! under the leafless beeches on the Franklin Pike. Close up, men — close up ! Column forward ! "What is that place in the distance with the hills behind it? — That 's Franklin on the Harpeth."

The battle opened at four o'clock, and the sun set before five. There was an open, quite unobstructed plain running full to an abatis and long earthworks, and behind these were the divisions of Cox and Ruger and Kimball. Wood's division was over the Harpeth and a portion of Wagner's occupied a hill a short distance from the front. There were twenty-six guns mounted on the works and twelve in reserve. "At four o'clock," says a Federal officer, "the whole Confederate line could be seen, stretching in battle array, from the dark fringe of chestnuts along the river bank, far across the Columbia Pike, the colours gaily fluttering, and the muskets gleaming brightly, and advancing steadily, in perfect order, dressed on the centre, straight for the works."

At first Success, with an enigmatical smile, rode with the grey. The th Virginia yelled as they rode with her. Cheatham's men, Stewart's men, Cleburne's famed veteran division yelled. Yaaaihhhh! Yaaaaihhh! Yaaaaaiiihhh! rang the Rebel yell, and echoed from beyond the Harpeth and from the Winstead hills. They yelled and drove Wagner's brigades and followed at a double, on straight to the gun-crowned works. As the sun dipped came a momentary halt. Cleburne was at the front of his troops, about him his officers, be-hind him his regiments waiting. It was growing cold and the earth in shadow. A man, a good and gallant soldier, was sitting on a hump of earth trying to tie a collection of more or less blood-stained rags around his bare, half-frozen feet. He worked patiently, but just once he uttered a groan. Cleburne heard the sound and turned his head. Sitting his good horse he regarded the soldier for a moment with a half-wistful look, then he `dismounted, and without saying anything to any one, drew off his boots. With them in his hand he stepped across, in his stockinged feet, the bit of frosty earth to the soldier. He held out the boots. "Put them on!" he ordered. The man, astonished, would have scrambled up and saluted, but Cleburne pushed him back. "Put them on!" he said. "It's an order. Put them on." Stammering protests, the soldier obeyed. "There! they seem to fit you," said General Cleburne. "You need them more than I do." He moved back to his horse, put his stockinged foot in the stirrup and mounted.

There sounded the charge. In went the corps of Stewart and Cheatham, in went Cleburne's division with the blue flag, Alabama, and Mississippi, Arkansas and Texas, a great veteran division, "General Pat" leading. In the winter dusk came the whirlwind.

There was a cotton-gin in an open field — there were breastworks — every gun had opened, every musket was blazing, Casement's brigade was using magazine breech-loaders. There grew a welter, a darkness, a shrieking. General Adams, of Loring's division, sprang, bay horse and all, across a ditch and to the top of a parapet. Above him flared in the dark a flag. His hands were upon the staff. "Fire!" said the colour-guard, and their bullets killed him and the bay horse. Gist and Strahl were killed, Granbury was killed. And Patrick Romayne Cleburne was killed, and lay in his stockinged feet a few yards in front of the breastwork across which was stretched Adams's horse.

Thirteen times the grey charged. There was no wind to blow the smoke away. It lay like a level sea, and men fought in it and beneath it, and it would have been dark even in daytime. As it was, night was here, and it was dark indeed, save for the red murder light.

The Virginia fought with the same desperation that its fellow regiments displayed. A wild energy seemed to inform the entire grey army. Edward Cary, rushing with his men to the assault, staggering back, going forward again, felt three times the earth of the breastworks in his hands.

He fought, since that was the business in hand, as though he loved it. He did not love it, but he was skilful, poised, and sure, and he knew no fear. His men had a strange love for and confidence in him. They never put it into words but "He comes from a sunrise land and knows more than we" was what they meant. He called half-gods by their names and had that detachment which perforce men honour. Now, sword in hand, striving to overmount the breastworks at Franklin, rallying and leading his men with a certain clean efficiency, he acted an approved part in the strife, but kept all the time a distance in his soul. He could not be all savage again and exult or howl. Nor was he merely civilized, to feel weakness and horror and repugnance before this blood and dirt and butchery, and yet for pure pride, fear of disgrace, and confusion of intellect, to call on every coarser fibre of the past, and exalt in the brain all the old sounding, suggestive words, the words to make you feel and not to think! He did not call upon the past though he acted automatically as the past had acted. He put horror and pity and cold distaste and a sense of the absurd to one side and did the work, since it still seemed to him that on the whole it must be done, with a kind of deadly calm. Had he been more than a dawn type, had he been a very little nearer to the future which he presaged, he might not have been there, somehow, in that dusk at all. He might have declined solutions practised by boar and wolf, and died persuading his kind toward a cleaner fashion of solving their problems. As it was, he hated what he did but did it.

Again and again the grey wave surged to the top of the breast-works. There it was as though it embraced the blue — blue and grey swayed, locked in each other's arms. Oh! fire and smoke and darkness, and a roaring as of sea and land risen each against the other— then down and back went the grey sea, down and back, down and back. . . . At nine o'clock the battle rested.

Long and mournful looked the line of camp-fires. There lay on the groaning field beneath the smoke that would not rise well-nigh as many dressed in blue as dressed in grey. But all loss now to the grey, with never a recruiting ground behind it, was double loss and treble loss. Every living man knew it, and knew that the field of Franklin was vain, vain! Another artery had been opened, that was all. The South was bleeding, bleeding to death.

There fell upon the Army of Tennessee a great melancholy. Reckless daring, yes! but what had reckless daring done? Opportunity at Spring Hill lost — Franklin, where there was no opportunity, lost, lost! — Cleburne dead — So many of the bravest and best dead or laid low or taken, so many slipped forever from the Army of Tennessee — cold, hunger, nakedness, Giant Fatigue, Giant Lack-of-Confidence, Giant Little-Hope, Giant Much-Despair — a wailing wind that like an ζolian harp brought a distant crying, a crying from home. . . . Not Atlanta, not Missionary Ridge, not Vicksburg, — not anything was so bad as the night and day after Franklin, Tennessee.

The night of the thirtieth, Schofield, leaving his dead and wounded, fell back from Franklin to Thomas at Nashville a few miles to the north. Now there were at Nashville between fifty and sixty thousand men in blue. On the second of December Hood put his army into motion, and that evening saw it drawn up and facing Thomas. Returns conflict, but he had now probably less than thirty thousand men. The loss on the field had been great, and the straggling was great and continued so. Also, now at last, there was an amount of desertion.

The weather changed. It became cold winter. For fourteen days Hood who so despised breastworks, dug and entrenched. "The only remaining chance of success in the campaign at this juncture," he says, "was to take position, entrench about Nashville, and await Thomas's attack, which, if handsomely repulsed, might afford us an opportunity to follow up our advantage on the spot and enter the city on the heels of the enemy." — But George Thomas was a better general though not a braver man than Hood, and he had two men to Hood's one, and his men were clothed and fed and confident. He had no better lieutenants than had Hood, and his army was no braver than the grey army and not one half so desperate — but when all is weighed and allowed for his advantage remains of the greatest. And as at Franklin so at Nashville, the grey cavalry was divided and Forrest was fatally sent on side expeditions.

It began to snow, and as the snow fell it froze. The trees and the country side were mailed in ice and the skies hung grey as iron and low as the roof of a cavern. The Army of Tennessee, behind its frozen earthworks, suffered after a ghastly fashion. There was little wood for fires, and little food for cooking, and little covering for warmth. On the thirteenth there set in a thaw, and the fifteenth dawned, not cold, with a winter fog. Through it the `Rock of Chickamauga' moved out in force from Nashville, and with his whole strength struck fair and full the Army of Tennessee.

Two days the two armies fought. In the slant sunshine of the late afternoon of the second day, the Federal commander brought a great concentration of artillery against the Confederate centre, and under cover of that storm of shot and shell, massed his troops and charged the centre. It broke. The blue poured over the breast-works. At the same moment other and dire blue strokes were delivered against the right and left. The grey army was crumpled together like a piece of cloth. Then in a torrent of shouting and a thunder of guns came the rout. The grey cloth was torn in strips and fled like shreds in a high wind. Beside the killed and wounded the grey left in the hands of the enemy fifty-four guns and four thousand five hundred prisoners. Night came down; night over the Confederacy.

Ten days and nights the shattered army fell back to the Tennessee, moving at first through a hail-storm of cavalry attacks. Forrest beat these off, Forrest and a greatly heroic rear guard under Walt-hall. This infantry command and Forrest saved the remnant of the army.

The weather grew atrocious. The country now was hilly, wooded, thinly populated. Snow fell and then sleet, and the ground grew ice and the rail fences and the trees were mailed in ice. The feet of the men left blood-marks on the ice, the hands of the men were frozen where they rested on the gun stocks. Men lay down by the roadside and died or were gathered by the blue force hard on the heels of the rear guard. The ambulances bore their load, the empty ammunition and commissary wagons carried as many as they might, the caissons were overlaid with moaning men, the mounted officers took men up behind them. Others, weak, ill, frozen, shoeless did their piteous best to keep up with the " boys." They fell behind, they sank upon the roadside, they drew themselves into the gaunt woods and lay down upon the frozen snow, arms over eyes. Tramp, tramp, tramp, tramp ! went the column on the road. Close up, men, close up—dose up ! "It's the end, it 's the end!" said the men. "For God's sake, strike up Dixie!"

"'Way down South in the land of cotton,
Old times there are not forgotten—"

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