I asked the Battle of Franklin Facebook Group – accessed at FranklinMatters.com – the following question recently,”How important do you think Hood’s Middle Tennessee Campaign (i.e., Franklin-Nashville) was to the overall Confederate war strategy by late 1864?” Our Facebook Group has almost 3,500 fans. One can tell by the following comments and responses just how ‘intelligent’ some of the members of this group is.
Here is a sampling of the responses.
Rick Boone It was an important but desperate part of the last gasps of Confederate military action. I have admiration for J.B. Hood, but I think he could have handled Franklin a whole lot better. After that, it was lights out for the Army of Tennessee.
The options left to the CSA and its armies were few, but the way Hood conducted this campaign was not among the better ones. Along with Braxton Bragg’s generalship, it was about as bad as it got for the Confederacy. And they lost Cleburne!
Paul Caudell It was a last ditch effort by Davis and the C.S. government.A vain hope and a waste of men and materiel. Hood was completely the wrong man for the job and completely out of his depth. It had no significant effect on the war except to reduce the Army Of Tennessee’s ability to continue fighting in any meaningful fashion.
Terry Smallwood I really think that the campaign was a total waste in time and men. The strength of the union army made it futile to in any attempt to pull Sherman out of Georgia. The federal army had plenty of troops to handle Hood and destroy Georgia. What affect would the confederate soldiers who fell at Franklin and Nashville ,have had at Bentonville , Maybe have aided in the hookup with Lee. The Generals that fell in the campaign would be sorely missed . The time spent in the Tennessee campaign would have been better spent trying to link up with Lee whie it was still intact as a viable army. That Johnston salvaged what was left can only be attributed to his ability as one of the great commanders in the confederacy. Many returned to the ranks because of Uncle Joe, they knew he would not throw their lives away. It was a desperate attempt by Hood to salvage some respect of tenure as a commanding General, it was dream ,that became a nightmare.
Johnny Vaughan Texas Hold-Em. You’ve fought and battled and find yourself short-stacked. All you can do is go “all in” with a weak hand. In hindsight the tragedy is easily apparent and I’ve been quick to judge Hood completely inept when describing Franklin. But, I wonder what degree of hope was going thru Hood and his men at the time… what sense of “my brothers have died for this – I’m spending every last ounce of myself in an attempt to rally the cause”.
Bobby Whitson Until recent years, most historians have focused their efforts on the War in the East when the war was actually won and lost in the West. When Nashville (Donelson and Henry) fell, the Confederacy was doomed. I’ll argue that protecting Tennessee should have been more important than protecting Virginia. Tennessee’s vast resources, river, and rail system protected could have enabled the Confederacy to sustain its war effort much more efficiently and effectively. Middle Tennessee proved to be the gateway for the Federal Army to the Confederate Heartland. The Tennessee Campaign of 1864 was the last effort with any hope (little as it was) of success. Had Hood moved quicker, cut off and defeated Schofield earlier, and turned on Thomas at Nashville, it is possible, but doubtful that he could have taken Nashville or that Thomas could have abandoned it. Both Schofield and Thomas were very afraid that Hood could best both of them if he could do what Hood said he would do when at Tuscumbia which was that the Army of Tennessee would only fight on its terms and on land that it chose. Hood got half way there at Spring Hill, but then he forgot those terms when he threw those brave boys against the works of Franklin. Hood proved at Atlanta that he was incapable of leading the Army. Cleburne should have been at the helm.
Todd Hunter Binkley Utter desperation! Sherman unopposed, Lee besieged at Petersburg, Richmond powerless and bankrupt. Gross incompetence abound. Very little glory in the West. The beginning was bad and progressively worsened throughout the war in this theater. Severing the head at Richmond was the war!
Richard Young It is a wonder that Hood made it as far as he did. He ran into trouble at Decatur, Al and then at Florance. His fastest route north to Nashville was the broken railroad from Decatur but he could not take the small Union force stationed there. He had no plan as to how to drive east if he captured Nashville. In the dead of winter, crossing the Cumberland Plateau would be like crossing the dessert in the summer. His grand march to join Lee was full of unthough of problems.
Kevin Spencer There was one, and only one, potential ‘game changer’ left to the Confederates in late 1864. The one thing they hadn’t accomplished yet in the war: the capture of a Union Army. There was no way Hood was going to capture Nashville, much less march on the Ohio; but the capture of an Union Army, that, maybe, could change the public opinion of a war weary North. And Hood came within a dose of laudanum of accomplishing it. If he could have captured Schofield at Spring Hill, maybe then have taken Murfreesboro and it’s mountain of supplies, and then entrenched behind the Duck to await Thomas…well, that’s a lot of ifs, but I’d argue it was a gamble worth taking.
I asked Professor Steven Woodworth essentially the same question and here was his answer:
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.