Thursday, June 2, 2022

Official Reports of the Campaign in North Alabama and Middle Tennessee, November 14, 1864-January 23, 1865: No. 231. — Report of General G. T. Beauregard, C. S. Army, commanding Military Division of the West.

No. 231.

Report of General G. T. Beauregard, C. S. Army, commanding Military Division of the West.

HEADQUARTERS, &c.,        
Greensborough, N. C., April 15, 1865.

GENERAL: I have read in the Richmond Enquirer of the 25th ultimo the report of General J. B. Hood touching the operations of the Army of Tennessee from July 18, 1864, to January 23, 1865. During a portion of the period embraced in that report, General Hood having been under my command, his report should have passed through me for my consideration and remarks before it reached the War Department. The regular channel of communication should have been observed, as my own acts and conduct as his commanding officer are referred to by him. I am the more surprised at this irregularity, as I informed General Hood, at Tupelo, a few days previous to his being relieved that I desired and expected his report to be addressed to and pass through me to the Department. At that time he expressed his intention of making through me a report covering the operations of the Army of Tennessee from the date of his assumption of command, to which I objected, as I only had a right to call for one embracing his operations from the time I took command. There are several errors and inaccuracies in the report which I cannot leave unnoticed, while reserving for some more suitable occasion a more extended report of operations in the Military Division of the West while under my command.

Unexpectedly to me His Excellency the President, on October 2, 1864, called me to the command of the departments then under General J. B. Hood and Lieut. Gen. R. Taylor, respectively, embracing together the States of Mississippi, Alabama, East Louisiana, Tennessee, and Georgia, with my headquarters to be established at the most convenient point for purposes of communication, but with the understanding that my personal presence would be given wheresoever in my judgment the interest of my command rendered it necessary, and that when present with an army in the field I should exercise the immediate command.

On the 1st of November, the President, repeating his instructions that I should exercise immediate command when present with the troops, added: That in order to retain freedom of motion it was expected I would not relieve the commander of the particular army, but by retaining the existing organization be enabled to leave it when expedient at any moment without impairing its administration and efficiency.

In pursuance of orders I repaired to the headquarters of General Hood, at Cave Spring, Ga., on or about the 9th of October, and there conferred with him in regard to his future movements. General Hood is, therefore, in error in saying that I joined the army at Gadsden, Ala. Being at the time unprovided with my staff and horses, and desirous also to confer with Lieutenant-General Taylor, I hastened thence to Jacksonville, Ala., which had then become the new base of operations, intending to return in the event a battle should become probable.

On the 19th of October, supposing that General Hood was near Alpine or Summerville, Ga., I proceeded to rejoin the Army of Tennessee. In the meantime, however, he had commenced his movement toward Middle Tennessee without advising me, and had marched as far as Gadsden—

a fact which I ascertained at Round Mountain Iron-Works (in advance of Center)—when, retracing my steps, I joined him on the 21st of October.

In an interview with General Hood he informed me that he was then en route to Middle Tennessee, via Gunter's Landing, on the Tennessee River. At Gadsden I had conferences during two days with him in relation to the future operations of the army, in the course of which he stated that his general plan had been submitted to and approved by General Bragg, then commanding the Armies of the Confederate States. In view of existing condition of affairs the movement then in progress met my approval also, for reasons, some of which are as follows:

First. General Hood alleged that Sherman was short of provisions and forage at Atlanta, while his wheel transportation was in wretched condition.

Second. That the destruction of the railroad near Marietta and Dalton by our forces had been so thorough it would require at least five or six weeks to repair it, during which the Army of Tennessee could be thrown into Middle Tennessee, via Gunter's Landing, distance about forty miles from Gadsden, and destroy the railroad bridges at Bridgeport and across the Elk and Duck Rivers before Sherman could finish the repairs of the road below Chattanooga, thus forcing him to return to Tennessee to protect his communications and obtain supplies.

To add to the chances of success I remained two days at Gadsden after the departure of the army, to issue the necessary orders to secure railroad communications in Mississippi and Middle Alabama for the transportation of supplies, and to direct Major-General Forrest, who was then operating in West Tennessee, to report to General Hood with his command.

While en route to Gunter's Landing I learned, casually and to my surprise, that the line of march of our forces had been changed to one in the direction of Decatur, at which point I overtook it, and where the enemy was found strongly intrenched. As it was impossible to effect a crossing without great and unnecessary sacrifice of life, it was now judged proper by General Hood to attempt a passage, first, at Lamb's Ferry, that failing, then at Bainbridge, or, finally, at Tuscumbia, which had become our base of supplies. He determined, however, soon after leaving Decatur, to undertake the passage of the river at the latter point, which he reached on the 30th of October. There and at Florence, on the opposite or north bank of the Tennessee, he remained until the 21st of November.

The effective strength of the force at this date was as follows: Three corps—infantry, 25,085; artillery, 2,200; total, 27,285.

No report has been received of the strength of the cavalry. Jackson's division consisted of three brigades, estimated at 2,000 men; General Forrest's command estimated at 3,500 men, and General Roddey's at 2,000; making an aggregate of 34,785.

General Roddey with his command was to cover the line of communication from Tuscumbia to Corinth, and thence toward Meridian.

When it became apparent that Sherman (still at Atlanta) was dividing his army by assembling two corps, the Fourth and Twenty-third, (about 20,000 infantry and artillery), at Pulaski, Huntsville, and Decatur, it was determined by General Hood, after a discussion between us, that our army should move promptly into Tennessee and strike the enemy before a junction could be effected with the forces of A. J. Smith (about 8,000 effectives), known to be moving from Missouri, and of Steele (about the same strength), from Arkansas. To this end our forces were to be thrown forward as speedily as possible from Florence to Lawrenceburg, and thence either to Pulaski or Columbia, as circumstances might indicate; and I repeated my orders to General Forrest to form a junction with the Army of Tennessee in the direction of Lawrenceburg or Waynesborough, making first, however, a demonstration toward Columbia to distract and harass the enemy. The movement of the Army of Tennessee did not commence, however, on the 9th of November, as arranged, and I addressed General Hood, on the 15th of that month, a communication, from which the following are extracts:

My purpose was to call again your attention, as I did yesterday, first, to the necessity of guarding well your right flank and rear in advancing toward Lawrenceburg and Pulaski against a sudden movement of the enemy from Huntsville or Athens across the Elk River; second, to the necessity of securing from the passage of the enemy's gun-boats another point above Savannah or Clifton, besides Florence, for the army to recross the Tennessee in case of disaster; third, to the necessity of giving still greater protection to Corinth and the Mobile and Ohio Railroad to that point. * * *

I was aware that those points had already been discussed between us, but my anxiety for the safety of the troops under your command made it incumbent upon me to call again your attention to those important matters. * * *

General Taylor and myself will always be anxious to aid you in your present campaign with all the means at our control; but these being limited, ample previous notice for what may be required should be given, to enable us to make all necessary preparations. * * *

G. T. BEAUREGARD,          


Lieutenant-General Taylor was then directed to repair to Georgia to assume command of all forces there, with instructions to call on the Governors of Georgia and South Carolina for the militia of their respective States; and General Hood, in view of the fact that General Sherman had divided his army, was directed to hasten his movement and strike the enemy a vigorous blow before he could unite with his re-enforcements. He was likewise ordered to send to Major-General Wheeler, who was closely watching General Sherman, the cavalry division of Brigadier-General Jackson. In consequence, however, of the urgent solicitation of General Hood, who represented his deficiency in cavalry, the order for Jackson's division was countermanded so far as to direct only one brigade to be detached.

On the 17th of November the following order was given General Hood:

General Beauregard directs me to say he desires that you will fake the offensive at the earliest practicable moment and deal the enemy rapid and vigorous blows, striking him while thus dispersed, and by this means distract Sherman's advance into Georgia. To relieve you from any embarrassment while operating in North Alabama and Middle Tennessee, he authorizes you to issue all such orders in General Taylor's department you may deem necessary to secure the efficient and successful administration and operations of your army, sending to Lieutenant-General Taylor, or whosoever may be in command, copies of all such orders. He wishes you to send forthwith to Major-General Wheeler one brigade of cavalry of Jackson's division, and the balance of that division, as soon as it can be spared, should Sherman advance into Georgia, and also to advise General Wheeler that in such a case Clanton's brigade is subject to his orders. * * *

GEO. WM. BRENT,              

 Colonel and Assistant Adjutant-General.

General Hood in his report states:

General Beauregard left it optional with me either to divide the army, sending a part after Sherman and to push on with the remainder, or to move at once against Thomas with the entire force. The army I thought too small to divide. I so informed him, when he directed me by telegraph to push forward at once.

General Hood's request to retain all the cavalry having then been repeated, I adhered to the order for the one brigade and telegraphed him accordingly, leaving him with his three corps and artillery intact, as well as a large cavalry force. He was confronted in Middle Tennessee by General Thomas with only two corps (about 20,000 infantry and artillery) and about 6,000 cavalry, General Sherman being in Georgia with four corps (about 40,000 infantry and artillery) and about 4,000 cavalry, at a long distance from us, with muddy roads, burned bridges, and broad devastated districts between the two armies. It was, therefore, our clear policy to strike Thomas with the utmost celerity before he could be re-enforced, rather than to retrace our march and pursue Sherman. But the offensive in Middle Tennessee could only be successful if undertaken at once and executed with energy, without any division or material diminution of our forces. I certainly contemplated in that event no such division, for I could not regard it as compatible with the plan of the campaign, though under existing circumstances a division and active employment of forces would doubtless have been preferable to inaction.

On the 6th day of December, in answer to a telegram from the President, I addressed him, from Augusta, a communication, stating that all had been done practicable under existing conditions, with the limited means at command, to oppose the advance of Sherman toward the Atlantic coast, and that I had deemed it inexpedient to countermand the campaign of General Hood into Tennessee to attempt the pursuit of Sherman, for the following reasons, namely:

First. The roads and creeks from the Tennessee to the Coosa River across Sand and Lookout Mountains had been rendered impassable by the prevailing rains.

Second. Sherman, with an army better appointed and of superior numbers, had the start of about 275 miles on comparatively good roads.

Third. To pursue Sherman, the march of the Army of Tennessee would necessarily have been over roads with all the bridges destroyed, and through a desolated country, affording neither subsistence nor forage, while a retrograde movement of the army must have seriously depleted its ranks by desertions.

Fourth. Moreover, to have recalled the army to follow Sherman, would have opened to Thomas the richest portions of Alabama. Montgomery, Mobile, and Selma would have easily fallen, without insuring the defeat of Sherman.

Fifth. From the assurances of Governor Brown and Major-General Cobb, it was a reasonable supposition that about 17,000 men would be furnished in a great emergency by the State of Georgia, which force, added to thirteen brigades of cavalry, under Major-General Wheeler, and some 5,000 men, who, it was thought, might be drawn from the States of North and South Carolina, would have given us about 29,000 men to throw across Sherman's path. Although the delays and changes of line of march were not satisfactory to me, nevertheless, I had not felt it to be necessary to assume, as authorized to do, the immediate command of the Army of Tennessee, because I had found it in good spirits, resulting in part from its recent successful blows at the enemy's railroad communications from Dalton to Atlanta; all appeared confident of a successful issue to the impending campaign, and the commanders immediately subordinate to General Hood seemed to regard him as capable to lead them. Moreover, I knew that he possessed in a high degree the confidence of the Government as likewise of General Bragg, at the time commander of the Armies of the Confederate States. Nevertheless, I thought it proper, so long as my presence elsewhere was not exigent, that I should accompany the troops; but as soon as Sherman's purposes were fully developed in Georgia I deemed myself called on to repair at once to that theatre of operations, to do what I might to baffle them, assured that I left General Hood quite strong enough for the proposed campaign. On reaching there the forces I had been led to expect were not available. The cavalry of Major-General Wheeler and a small force of Georgia militia, under Major-General Smith, with the detailed men from our workshops, and State reserves, were all that could be organized and brought into the field against the overwhelming numbers of the thoroughly organized, disciplined, and equipped veterans of the enemy.

In January, 1865, General Hood furnished me with a copy of a letter from him to the War Office giving a general summary of his campaign from the 29th of September, 1864, to the 7th of January, 1865; but although repeatedly called for, no official detailed report either from General Hood or his subordinate officers has passed through me, as required by the regulations of the service.

And now, in conclusion, I deem it in place to give expression to my conviction that the campaign, instead of the unhappy day at Franklin and the disastrous culmination at Nashville, would have led to the signal defeat of Thomas, and such troops as might have been hurriedly brought up to his assistance, had the original plan been executed without undue delay and modifications and with vigor and skill; Sherman most probably would have been compelled to return to Middle Tennessee to repair and protect his line of communications before he could have collected sufficient supplies for the march from Atlanta to the sea-coast, or, in the event that he had been able to reach the coast of Georgia, he must have been forced to abandon it and hasten to the rescue of Kentucky, or perchance, the defense of Ohio, and thus have been prevented from attempting any operations looking to a junction on his part with Grant in Virginia, or any substantial diversion in favor of that commander; meantime, too, we would have been enabled to glean and send supplies from Middle and East Tennessee to Virginia, and re-establish our railway communications between our capital and those well-stored sections of the country. But instead of crossing the Tennessee River at Gunter's Landing, as General Hood intended at Gadsden, he suddenly changed his line of march, as mentioned hereinbefore, and repaired to Tuscumbia and Florence, where the want of supplies, due to the bad condition of the Mobile and Ohio and Memphis and Charleston Railroads and prevailing rains, delayed his advance for nearly three weeks, whereby Sherman was given time to repair the damage done to the Chattanooga and Atlanta Railroad and to collect sufficient supplies for his march across Georgia. It is clear, also, to my mind that after the great loss and waste of life at Franklin, the army was in no condition to make a successful attack on Nashville—a strongly fortified city, defended by an army nearly as strong as our own, and which was being re-enforced constantly by river and railroads. From Franklin, General Hood should have marched, not on Nashville, but on Murfreesborough, which could doubtless have been captured, with its garrison of about 8,000 men; and after having destroyed the railroad bridges across Duck and Elk Rivers, which surely would have caused the evacuation of Bridgeport and Chattanooga, he might have returned, with the prestige of success, into winter quarters behind the Duck or Tennessee Rivers, as circumstances might have dictated, detaching then a force for the protection of South Carolina.

Untoward and calamitous as were the issues of this campaign, never in the course of this war have the best qualities of our soldiery been more conspicuously shown; never more enthusiasm evinced than when our troops once more crossed the Tennessee River; never greater gallantry than that which was so general at Franklin; and never higher fortitude and uncomplaining devotion to duty than were displayed on the retreat from Nashville to Tupelo.

The heroic dead of that campaign will ever be recollected with honor by their countrymen, and the survivors have the proud consolation that no share of the disaster can be laid to them, who have so worthily served their country, and have stood by their colors even to the last dark hours of the republic.

Respectfully, your obedient servant,
G. T. BEAUREGARD,        
General SAM. COOPER,
        Adjutant and Inspector-General, C. S. Army.

SOURCE: The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Volume 45, Part 1 (Serial No. 93), p. 646-51

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