Report of Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas, U.S. Army,
Commanding Department of the Cumberland,
Battle of Nashville
DEPARTMENT OF THE CUMBERLAND,
Eastport, Miss., January 20, 1865.
Lieut. Col. R. M. SAWYER,
Asst. Adjt. Gen.,
Military Division of the Mississippi.
Johnson’s division of cavalry was sent by General Wilson direct to Harpeth River, on the Hillsborough pike, with directions to cross and move rapidly toward Franklin. The main cavalry column, with Knipe’s division in advance, came up with the enemy’s rear guard strongly posted at Hollow Tree Gap, four miles north of Franklin; the position was charged in front and in flank simultaneously, and handsomely carried, capturing 413 prisoners and 3 colors. The enemy then fell back rapidly to Franklin, and endeavored to defend the crossing of Harpeth River at that place; but Johnson’s division coming up from below on the south side of the stream, forced him to retire from the river-bank, and our cavalry took possession of the town, capturing the enemy’s hospital, containing over 2,000 wounded, of whom about 200 were our own men.
The pursuit was immediately continued, by Wilson, toward Columbia, the enemy’s rear guard slowly retiring before him to a distance of about five miles south of Franklin, where the enemy made a stand in some open fields just north of West Harpeth River, and seemed to await our coming. Deploying Knipe’s division as skirmishers, with Hatch’s in close support, General Wilson ordered his body guard–the Fourth U. S. Cavalry, Lieutenant Hedges commanding–to charge the enemy. Forming on the pike in column of fours, the gallant little command charged, with sabers drawn, breaking the enemy’s center, whilst Knipe’s and Hatch’s men pressed back the flanks, scattering the whole command and causing them to abandon their artillery. Darkness coming on during the engagement enabled a great many to escape, and put an end to the day’s operations.
The Fourth Corps, under General Wood, followed immediately in rear of the cavalry as far as Harpeth River, where it found the bridges destroyed and too much water on the fords for infantry to cross. A trestle bridge was hastily constructed from such materials as lay at hand, but could not be made available before night-fall. General Steedman’s command moved in rear of General Wood, and camped near him on the banks of the Harpeth. Generals Smith and Schofield marched with their corps along the Granny White pike, and camped for the night at the intersection with the Franklin pike. The trains moved with their respective commands, carrying ten days’ supplies and 100 rounds of ammunition.
On the [Dec] 18th the pursuit of the enemy was continued by General Wilson, who pushed on as far as Rutherford’s Creek, three miles from Columbia. Wood’s corps crossed to the south side of Harpeth River and closed up with the cavalry. The enemy did not offer to make a stand during the day. On arriving at Rutherford’s Creek the stream was found to be impassable on account of high water, and running a perfect torrent. A pontoon bridge, hastily constructed at Nashville during the presence of the army at that place, was on its way to the front, but the bad condition of the roads, together with the incompleteness of the train itself, had retarded its arrived. I would here remark that the splendid pontoon train properly belonging to my command, with its trained corps of pontoniers, was absent with General Sherman.