Civilian morale in the western Confederacy, fall 1864?

What was civilian morale like in the western Confederacy like in late 1864?

This is an important question because it gives us a window into the civilian soul as Hood’s Tennessee campaign unfolded.

“By November 1864, after three and a half years of warfare, and in the aftermath of the fall of Atlanta, civilian morale in the western Confederacy reached a new low for the year . . .

By late 1864 . . . western Confederate civilians as a whole had not yet submitted, but increasing defeatism unquestionably undercut their confidence in the cause.”

Source: The Confederate Heartland: Military and Civilian Morale in the Western Confederacy, Bradley R. Clampitt.

John Bell Hood’s performance in the latter part of the Atlanta Campaign and the entire Franklin-Nashville campaign was one of utter failure for the Confederacy.

When Jefferson Davis replaced Johnston with Hood on July 17th 1864 in Atlanta, no doubt Davis wanted and needed a fighter.  But he also needed a fighter who could deliver results. Measured against even that simple mark, John Bell Hood’s performance between mid July 1864, in the latter half of the Atlanta Campaign (which had begun in May 1864), and late December 1864 was an abysmal failure personally and militarily.

In short, in those entire six months, Hood lost every single engagement that was of any importance. Worse, Hood virtually destroyed his own army – the glorious and proud Army of Tennessee – by constantly throwing it against perilous frontal assaults, failing to reconnoiter the battlefield prior to an engagement, and losing some of his best and most competent senior commanders in the process.

I don’t lay all the blame on Hood in that Davis must surely be held accountable for a ridiculous strategy that Hood was apparently all too-willingly obliged to pursue.

Here is my summary of Hood’s performance in the last half of 1864, the twilight of his military career:

1. The AOT is reduced to a shell of its former self by the end of Nashville. It is no longer a serious or vital fighting force after Dec 1864.

2. He loses Atlanta to Sherman, thus resulting in Abraham Lincoln being re-elected in November.

3. He allows Sherman to execute the famous March to the Sea.

4. Hood does not win one vital or strategic engagement during this entire period, from July – Dec 1864.

5. Hood completely fails in his objective to prevent Schofield form reaching Nashville, and thus from executing whatever plans he did have after securing Nashville again.

6. He does nothing – in six months – to (a) either slow the Union war machine in the Western theater, or (b) to actually gain some strategic military wins that could lead to Confederate momentum in the Western theater.

7. He gained a reputation as a reckless commander, suffering staggering casualties when the AOT could hardly afford it.

8. He resigns in disgrace in early January 1865.

63rd Indiana soldier (A.L. Ewing) remembers Franklin 25 years later

A few weeks ago I blogged about a newly discovered letter from Addison Lee Ewing, Captain of Company I of the 63rd Indiana [read the post]. I’ve been doing more research on Ewing and the 63rd Indiana.

One quite interesting discovery is this.  On November 30th, 1889 – on the 25th anniversary of the Battle of Franklin – Ewing notates the anniversary in his 1889 diary for that day.  This would seemingly be uninteresting except for this fact. He does not refer to any other battle or engagement he was involved with in the Civil War except Franklin twenty-five years after the battle.

The experience at Franklin (30 November 1864) must have been a seminal experience in the mind of Ewing.  In his diary for 1888-1889 he did not mention any of the  other battle-anniversaries he could have like: Resaca, Lost Mountain, Kennesaw Mountain, Atlanta or even Nashville.

How did the Franklin-Nashville Campaign relate to the Atlanta Campaign?

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.

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

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).