This Week in the American Civil War: December 14-20, 1864

MN150Logo_OL_FNLInformation courtesy of the

Minnesota Civil War Commemoration Task Force

(www.mncivilwar150.com and “Minnesota Civil War 150” on Facebook)

 

Major Highlights for the Week

Wednesday December 14, 1864

In Nashville, Tennessee, Federal Major General George H. Thomas informed officials in Washington that the ice had melted and that he would attack the Confederate Army of Tennessee the next day. Field orders for the advance were issued.

In Georgia, Federal naval units began their week-long bombardment of Forts Rosedew and Beaulieu on the Vernon River.

Skirmishing occurred on the Germantown Road near Memphis, Tennessee, and in the Cypress Swamp near Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis deferred to General Robert E. Lee’s judgment as to whether troops could be spared from Petersburg to operate against Federal Major General William T. Sherman’s forces.

Thursday December 15, 1864

BATTLE OF NASHVILLE

Federal Major General George H. Thomas’s Army of the Cumberland, having been recently reinforced by elements of the Sixteenth Corps which arrived two weeks earlier from Missouri, came out of their works in a heavy fog and struck Confederate Lieutenant General John Bell Hood’s Army of Tennessee. The Federal force, totaling 35,000 troops, attacked the thin Confederate left flank, carried redoubts and then successfully assaulted Montgomery Hill and drove the enemy from the main defensive line to a position about a mile to the rear along the Brentwood Hills. Hood had been beaten back but still held the main road to Franklin. Both sides made troop adjustments during the night and Hood made the effort to shorten his line. When Thomas notified officials in Washington, Lieutenant General Ulysses Grant canceled his plans to go farther than Washington.

Friday December 16, 1864

BATTLE OF NASHVILLE CONTINUES

At 6 a.m. in rain and sleet, Federal troops on the left pressed back the Confederate right on the Franklin Pike to the main entrenchments, but Lieutenant General Stephen D. Lee’s corps held. The Federals completed their alignment for battle south of Nashville and the movement against the Confederate left flank continued along Granny White Pike. Late in the afternoon, after a heavy artillery bombardment, the main Federal assault commenced. Making their way up the Confederate left flank at Shy’s Hill, Federal Brigadier General John McArthur’s division, including the 5th, 7th, 9th and 10th Minnesota Infantry regiments, made their way up the Confederate left flank at Shy’s (formerly Compton’s) Hill, which gave way, forcing the center of the Confederate lines to fall back. The now-broken Confederates withdrew in confusion and Hood retreated. The Federal losses amounted to 387 killed, 2,562 wounded and 112 missing for a total of 3,061 out of approximately 55,000 engaged. Confederate losses are unknown but believed to be about 1,500 out of less than 30,000 troops available. The fight for Nashville was the last major battle in the Western Theater. Though the Confederate Army of Tennessee was decimated both at Nashville and at Franklin, two weeks prior, it was not destroyed.      

Saturday December 17, 1864

Federal Major General James H. Wilson’s cavalry and some infantry led the Federal pursuit of Confederate Lieutenant General John Bell Hood and the Army of Tennessee from Nashville. Hood managed to concentrate towards Columbia, encamping at Spring Hill. Skirmishing broke out between the Federals and Hood’s rear guard at Hollow Tree Gap, West Harpeth River, and Franklin. The rear guard action allowed the rest of the Confederates to withdraw through Franklin.

Sunday December 18, 1864

     Major General James H. Wilson’s Federal cavalry in Tennessee pursued Confederate Lieutenant General John Bell Hood’s Army of Tennessee as far as Rutherford Creek, north of Columbia, which was impassable.

The only recorded fighting for the day occurred at Spring Hill, Tennessee; and on Little River in New Madrid County, Missouri.

Hearing the news of the Battle of Nashville, people throughout both North and South realized that it was a serious blow to Confederate hopes.

Confederate Lieutenant General William J. Hardee refused Federal Major General William T. Sherman’s surrender request at Savannah, Georgia, that Sherman had issued the previous day. However, it was clear that the city had to be evacuated before the escape route to the north closed. General P.G.T. Beauregard was with Hardee at the moment and urged evacuation at once, even though Hardee seemed reluctant to leave.

The Congress and President of the United States engaged in continuing discussions that concerned reconstruction of the seceded states.

Monday December 19, 1864

Major General James H. Wilson’s Federal cavalry attempted to ford the flooded Rutherford Creek, north of Columbia, Tennessee. Confederate Lieutenant General John Bell Hood hoped to halt his retreat at Columbia, on the line of the Duck River. Skirmishing broke out at Rutherford Creek and Curtis Creek.

In Virginia, Confederate Lieutenant General Jubal Early and Federal Major General Phil Sheridan dispatched troops from the Shenandoah Valley back to the Richmond-Petersburg front.

At Washington, D.C., President Abraham Lincoln issued a call for 300,000 more volunteers to replace casualties.

Tuesday December 20, 1864

CONFEDERATES EVACUATE SAVANNAH, GEORGIA

The Federal left at Savannah, Georgia moved slowly to cut off Confederate Lieutenant General William J. Hardee’s escape route across the Savannah River into South Carolina, but they did not succeed. Hardee, urged by General P.G.T. Beauregard and others to evacuate, finally left the area. Without opposition, he headed northward towards concentration with other Confederate units. Hardee left behind 250 heavy guns and larage amounts of cotton, but with an ingenious pontoon bridge of 30 rice flats, he was able to evacuate all of his 10,000 troops. The loss of the important port city was another psychological blow to the Confederates, still stinging from the defeat at Nashville earlier in the week.

Federal Major General George H. Thomas’s troops, following up Confederate Lieutenant General John Bell Hood’s retreat in Tennessee, constructed a floating bridge over Rutherford Creek and pushed on for Columbia where they found the bridges destroyed and the Confederates across the Duck River. Some skirmishing occurred near Columbia.

Where Minnesota Regiments were the week of December 14-20, 1864 

Active units:

1st Battalion Minnesota Infantry – Participated in the Siege of Petersburg, Virginia until April 2, 1865. 

2nd Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty in Savannah, Georgia until December 21, 1864.

3rd Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty at Duvall’s Bluff, Arkansas until May 13, 1865.

4th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty in Savannah, Georgia until December 21, 1864.

5th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On pursuit of Confederate Lieutenant General John Bell Hood’s forces to the Tennessee River until December 28, 1864.

6th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On provost duty at St. Louis, Missouri until January 29, 1865.

7th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On pursuit of Confederate Lieutenant General John Bell Hood’s forces to the Tennessee River until December 28, 1864.

8th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty at Murfreesboro, Tennessee until January 19, 1865.

9th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On pursuit of Confederate Lieutenant General John Bell Hood’s forces to the Tennessee River until December 28, 1864.

10th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On pursuit of Confederate Lieutenant General John Bell Hood’s forces to the Tennessee River until December 28, 1864.

11th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – Assigned to duty guarding the line of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad from Nashville to the Kentucky line. Companies E, G, and I were at Gallatin, Tennessee. Company A was at Buck Lodge. Company B at Edgefield Junction. Company C at Richland. Company D at Sandersville. Company H was at Mitchellsville. The location of companies F and K are unknown at this time. The regiment remained on duty at these locations until June 25, 1865.

2nd Regiment Minnesota Cavalry – Engaged in frontier and patrol duty between Forts Wadsworth, Abercrombie, Ripley and Ridgely with headquarters at Fort Snelling, until November 17, 1865.

Brackett’s Battalion of Minnesota Cavalry – Engaged in frontier and patrol duty between Forts Wadsworth, Abercrombie, Ripley and Ridgely with headquarters at Fort Snelling until May 1866.

Hatch’s Independent Battalion of Cavalry – Companies A, B, C and D moved to Fort Abercrombie. Companies A and B assigned to garrison at Fort Abercrombie.  Company C assigned to garrison at Alexandria and Pomme de Terre. Company D on patrol duty from Fort Abercrombie to Pembina.  Companies E and F on frontier duty. The battalion would remain in these duty locations for the duration of the war – until April 26, 1866.

1st Minnesota Heavy Artillery Battery – Organized at St. Paul and Rochester until February 1865.

1st Minnesota Light Artillery Battery – On duty in Savannah, Georgia until December 21, 1864.

2nd Independent Battery Minnesota Light Artillery – On duty as infantry at Fort Irwin, Defenses of Chattanooga until March 30, 1865.

3rd Independent Battery Minnesota Light Artillery – Various sections on duty at Fort Ridgely, Fort Ripley and Fort Sisseton until May 1865.

1st United States Sharpshooters Company I – Attached to the 1st Battalion, Minnesota Infantry at Petersburg, Virginia until Feb. 20, 1865. 

2nd United States Sharpshooters, Company A – Participated in the Siege of Petersburg until Feb. 20, 1865.

Inactive units: 

1st Regiment Minnesota Cavalry “Mounted Rangers” – Formally mustered out of service on December 7, 1863. Inactive.  

1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – Mustered out of Federal service on April 29, 1864. Inactive.

About civilwarweek

Member - Minnesota Civil War Commemoration Task Force, Civil War reenactor and historian since 1993, holds Bachelor's Degree in History from Concordia University-St. Paul, currently pursuing Master's Degree in History at St. Cloud State University and is author of the forthcoming book, "Muskets and Memories: A Modern Man's Journey through the Civil War."
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