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Notes from the Professor. We asked the Professor this question; “In your view, did Franklin/Nashville have a significant impact on the overall Civil War?”

Franklin and Nashville had a limited impact on the overall course of the war simply because they failed to change anything. The Union controlled Tennessee before the campaign and controlled it even more solidly afterward. Confederate chances for success in the campaign were, from the outset, rather desperate. The impact of the battles was 1) to increase the overall Confederate death toll of the war, and 2) to remove whatever latent threat to Union control of Tennessee might have been posed by Hood’s army lurking in north Alabama. For example, it seems unlikely that Schofield’s two corps would have been shifted to the east coast if Hood, with an as yet unbroken Army of Tennessee, were still lurking just outside the state, threatening to move north.

And yet, would that have changed the outcome of the war? No, Sherman could have accomplished his purpose without Schofield, and the overall outcome would have been the same. Perhaps the crowning irony of the battles of Franklin and Nashville is that they were fought at a time when the war was already decided. by late November 1864 it is difficult to imagine any train of events that could have led to Confederate victory.

Steven E. Woodworth is Professor of History at TCU in Texas.

Among his publications are Jefferson Davis and His Generals (University Press of Kansas, 1990), Davis and Lee at War (University Press of Kansas, 1995), Leadership and Command in the American Civil War (Savas Woodbury, 1996), The American Civil War: A Handbook of Literature and Research (Greenwood, 1996), A Deep Steady Thunder (McWhiney Foundation, 1996), Six Armies in Tennessee (1998), The Musick of the Mocking Birds, The Roar of the Cannon (University of Nebraska Press, 1998), The Art of Command in the Civil War (University of Nebraska Press, 1998), Civil War Generals in Defeat (University Press of Kansas, 1999), This Grand Spectacle (McWhiney Foundation, 1999), Chickamauga: A Battlefield Guide (University of Nebraska Press, 1999), No Band of Brothers (University of Missouri Press, 1999), The Human Tradition in the Civil War and Reconstruction (Scholarly Resources, 2000), Cultures in Conflict (Greenwood, 2000), Grant’s Lieutenants from Cairo to Vicksburg (University Press of Kansas, 2001), While God is Marching On: The Religious World of Civil War Soldiers (University Press of Kansas, 2001), Beneath a Northern Sky: A Short History of the Gettysburg Campaign (Rowman & Littlefield, 2003), The Oxford Atlas of the Civil War (Oxford University Press, 2004), Nothing but Victory: The Army of the Tennessee, 1861-1865 (Alfred A. Knopf, 2005), and Shiloh: A Battlefield Guide (University of Nebraska Press, 2006).

Dr. Chris Losson, an author and teacher, explains how the Franklin action was a continuation of the Atlanta Campaign. This is an excerpt from a lecture Dr. Losson gave at the June 2008 Franklin’s Charge symposium in Franklin, TN. Listen why.

Video credit: 2008 Franklin’s Charge symposium

More: Was the potential of a Confederate capture of Nashville in 1864 likely?

Professor Steven Woodworth tackles that question.

Notes from the Professor: Dr. Steven E. Woodworth. We asked the Professor this question: Was the potential of a Confederate capture of Nashville in 1864 likely in your estimation?

Actually, I think a Confederate capture of Nashville in 1864 was as close to being impossible as almost anything we study in history. The more likely means by which Hood might have achieved greater success would have been by by-passing Nashville and penetrating much farther north–though the season of the year was much against it. And even at that, he wouldn’t have changed the course of the war. If he could, by some miracle, have taken Nashville, that certainly would have been a major headache for the Union high command, but ultimately, with Lincoln having been reelected, the North was committed to waging the war for up to another 4 years if necessary. Lee’s army could not have survived more than a couple of weeks longer than it did, and then Hood’s would have been the only major Confederate army left in the field. Can you imagine him with, say, 30,000 men, besieged in Nashville by perhaps 200,000 or more Union troops, led once again–as had not occurred since Chattanooga–by the combined leadership skills of Grant, Sherman, Thomas, and Sheridan? And with not even the most remote possibility of a Confederate army marching to his relief? In short, the final outcome might have been delayed, and thus attended with even more brutality and destruction, but it would have been the same. The last point in the war at which I can see any remote but semi-realistic hope of Confederate victory was the day before election-day, 1864. And for practical purposes, that election was probably decided on September 1, when Atlanta fell.

Steven E. Woodworth is Professor of History at TCU in Texas.

Among his publications are Jefferson Davis and His Generals (University Press of Kansas, 1990), Davis and Lee at War (University Press of Kansas, 1995), Leadership and Command in the American Civil War (Savas Woodbury, 1996), The American Civil War: A Handbook of Literature and Research (Greenwood, 1996), A Deep Steady Thunder (McWhiney Foundation, 1996), Six Armies in Tennessee (1998), The Musick of the Mocking Birds, The Roar of the Cannon (University of Nebraska Press, 1998), The Art of Command in the Civil War (University of Nebraska Press, 1998), Civil War Generals in Defeat (University Press of Kansas, 1999), This Grand Spectacle (McWhiney Foundation, 1999), Chickamauga: A Battlefield Guide (University of Nebraska Press, 1999), No Band of Brothers (University of Missouri Press, 1999), The Human Tradition in the Civil War and Reconstruction (Scholarly Resources, 2000), Cultures in Conflict (Greenwood, 2000), Grant’s Lieutenants from Cairo to Vicksburg (University Press of Kansas, 2001), While God is Marching On: The Religious World of Civil War Soldiers (University Press of Kansas, 2001), Beneath a Northern Sky: A Short History of the Gettysburg Campaign (Rowman & Littlefield, 2003), The Oxford Atlas of the Civil War (Oxford University Press, 2004), Nothing but Victory: The Army of the Tennessee, 1861-1865 (Alfred A. Knopf, 2005), and Shiloh: A Battlefield Guide (University of Nebraska Press, 2006).

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Kraig McNutt is the author and publisher of this blog. He has been blogging on Franklin for over five years and on the Civil War in general since 1995. Email him.

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Summary of the Battle of Franklin

The Battle of Franklin was fought on November 30, 1864 in Franklin, Tennessee; in Williamson County. John Bell Hood's Army of Tennessee (around 33,000 men) faced off with John M. Schofield's Army of the Ohio and the Cumberland (around 30,000 men). Often cited as "the bloodiest five hours" during the American Civil War, the Confederates lost between 6,500 - 7,500 men, with 1,750 dead. The Federals lost around 2,000 - 2,500 men, with just 250 or less killed. Hood lost 30,000 men in just six months (from July 1864 until December 15). The Battle of Franklin was fought mostly at night. Several Confederate Generals were killed, including Patrick Cleburne, and the Rebels also lost 50% of their field commanders. Hood would limp into Nashville two weeks later before suffering his final defeat before retreating to Pulaski in mid December. Hundreds of wounded Confederate soldiers were taken to the John and Carrie McGavock home - Carnton - after the battle. She became known as the Widow of the South. The McGavock's eventually donated two acres to inter the Confederate dead. Almost 1,500 Rebel soldiers are buried in McGavock Confederate Cemetery, just in view of the Carnton house.

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