The Battle of Nashville was a two-day battle in the Franklin-Nashville Campaign that represented the end of large-scale fighting in the Western Theater of the American Civil War. It was fought at Nashville, Tennessee, on December 15–16, 1864, between the Confederate Army of Tennessee under Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood and Federal forces under Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas. In one of the largest victories achieved by the Union Army during the war, Thomas attacked and routed Hood's army, largely destroying it as an effective fighting force.
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Schofield withdrew from Franklin during the night and marched into the defensive works of Nashville on December 1, there coming under the command of Thomas, who now had a combined force of approximately 55,000 men. The 7-mile-long semicircular Union defensive line surrounded Nashville from the west to the east; the remainder of the circle, to the north, was the Cumberland River, patrolled by U.S. Navy gunboats. Clockwise around the line was the division of Maj. Gen. James B. Steedman on the Union left, Schofield's XXIII Corps, Brig. Gen. Thomas J. Wood's IV Corps, and Maj. Gen. Andrew J. Smith's "Detachment Army of the Tennessee" (Smith's XVI Corps was redesignated with this unusual name on December 6). Maj. Gen. James H. Wilson's Cavalry Corps was stationed just north of the river.
Hood's army arrived south of the city on December 2 and took up positions facing the Union forces within the city. Not nearly strong enough to assault the Federal fortifications, Hood opted for the defensive. Rather than repeating his fruitless frontal attack at Franklin, he entrenched and waited, hoping that Thomas would attack him. Then, after Thomas smashed his army against the Confederate entrenchments, Hood could counterattack and take Nashville.
The Confederate line of about 4 miles of fortifications strongly opposed the southeasterly facing portion of the Union line (the part occupied by Steedman and Schofield). From right to left were the corps of Maj. Gen. Benjamin F. Cheatham, Lt. Gen. Stephen D. Lee, and Lt. Gen. Alexander P. Stewart. Cavalry commanded by Maj. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest was off to the southwest of the city.
Hood made a tactical error before the battle. On December 5, he detached a force commanded by Forrest—two brigades of infantry and two divisions of cavalry, nearly a quarter of its total army—to attack the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad and the Union garrison at Murfreesboro, a move that proved ineffective in achieving its immediate objective. But by doing so, he further diminished his already weaker force, and also deprived his army of its most mobile units.