Retreat From Nashville "A Hell Of A Fix" December 16 - 29, 1864
Winter came early to Tennessee in 1864 and it was the coldest the natives had known for 20 years. On December 16, the last day of the Battle of Nashville, the hungry, freezing veterans of Gen. John B. Hood's Confederate Army of Tennessee were routed from the hills around Nashville, TN, and fled toward the Franklin Pike, the only route of retreat left open to them. Behind them rose loud cheers from Gen. George Thomas's victorious Union soldiers. "I doubt if any soldiers in the world ever needed so much cumulative evidence to convince them they were beaten", said a Union general about the Rebel army that had held out for two days against a force more than twice its size. The once mighty Southern army had fought as long as muscle and heart could endure, but now it was finished as a fighting force and its soldiers' only thought was that of retreat.
Gen. Stephen D. Lee found enough stalwart soldiers in the retreating army to form a rear guard that kept Union soldiers away from the disorderly gray mob thronging the Franklin Pike until darkness stopped the pursuit. The next morning Lee's rear guard held back the Yankees at Hollow Tree while the Rebel army crossed over the Harpeth River at Franklin. Then Lee's men crossed and took another defensive position on Winstead Hill, where Lee was wounded. On the following morning the Southerners had a bit of good fortune: a Union pontoon bridge was sent to the wrong place, and the pursuers could not cross Rutherford Creek once the Rebels had burned the turnpike bridge. The two days' respite from pursuit allowed Hood's men to continue down the pike toward the safety of the Tennessee River.
Good fortune also came on the evening of December 18, when Gen. Nathan B. Forrest and his cavalry arrived to take over rear guard duties. Each day, Forrest's men held back Union forces until finally, on December 28, the last Rebel completed the 120-mile retreat and crossed the Tennessee River. The next day Thomas called off the pursuit.
Fascinating Fact: A cold Southern veteran picked himself up out of the mud in which he had fallen and groaned disgustedly: "Ain't we in a hell of a fix? Ain't we in a hell of a fix: a one-eyed President, a one-legged general, and a one-horse Confederacy!"
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