But there was no question of attacking Nashville. The city was well fortified and the Federals outnumbered Hood more than two to one. But Hood knew he could force them to attack him and, in doing so, he could win a defensive victory that might rescue the Confederacy from the chasm of collapse.
Unfortunately for Hood, he faced George Thomas, one of the Union’s best leaders, who commanded men tested in the fires of Chickamauga, Chattanooga, and Franklin.
But with battle imminent, the ground iced over, and Thomas had to wait. An impatient Ulysses S. Grant nearly sacked him, but on December 15–16, Thomas struck and routed Hood’s army. He then chased him out of Tennessee and into Mississippi in a grueling winter campaign.
After Nashville, the Army of Tennessee was never again a major fighting force. Combined with William Tecumseh Sher man’s march through Georgia and the Carolinas and Grant’s capture of Petersburg and Richmond, Nashville was the first peal in the long death knell of the Confederate States of America. In They Came Only to Die: The Battle of Nashville, December 15–16, 1864, historian Sean Michael Chick offers a fast-paced, well-analyzed narrative of John Bell Hood’s final campaign, complete with the most accurate maps yet made of this crucial battle.