In late 1864, the last major campaign of the Civil War swept into Middle Tennessee. The Confederate Army of Tennessee commanded by Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood, moved out of Georgia after the fall of Atlanta, marched across Alabama, and pushed north toward these fields.
Pursuing Hood was his old West Point classmate, Union Major General John Schofield and his army of nearly equal size, who were ordered to delay Hood's advance while other Federal forces gathered at Nashville. Hood began his campaign in earnest on November 21. For the next nine days the two armies fought at Lawrenceburg, Pulaski, Lynnville, and Columbia.
Then on November 29, just 11 miles (18km) south of here at Spring Hill, Hood's army nearly flanked Schofield, but they inexplicably failed to block the Federal army's route of retreat. Under the cover of the night, Schofield and his troops slipped past the Confederates into Franklin. Once there, the Federal constructed a defensive line south of the town, because they were unable to cross the Harpeth River north of the town due to issues with the bridges.
Hood immediately pursued Schofield on the morning of November 30, and that afternoon his army reached the southern outskirts of Franklin. The Confederate general determined that to reach Nashville, he had to go through Schofield, so he issued
orders for a frontal assault.
The attack began at 4 pm...
John Bell Hood
Lieutenant General John Bell Hood was only 33 years old when he commanded the Army of the Tennessee at Franklin. With a withered left arm (wounded at Gettysburg), and nearly his entire left leg missing (amputated at Chickamauga), he had the added pressure of commanding the largest mobile army left in the Confederacy. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia was then under siege, trapped in Richmond and Petersburg, unable to move and running out of supplies against the much larger Army of the Potomac.
Union Major General John McAllister Schofield, also 33 years old at the Battle of Franklin, was hoping that his army would not need to fight here. But the high waters of the Harpeth River and problems with the two bridges that spanned it delayed his rush to reach Nashville and its vast network of Union forts. When the sun began to set here on November 30, 1864, it appeared that the darkness would help prevent a battle he wished to avoid. The battle came nonetheless.