A Victorious Military Salute
The Nation's Celebration over Nashville

     On December 2, 1864, shortly after the repulse of the Army of Tennessee at Franklin, the General in Chief had urged Major General George H. Thomas of the importance in attacking and defeating the rebels then collected to drive the federals from the state. The conditions however, played on Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant's anxiety as the rain, sleet and miserable weather prevented any bold and decisive strike in conjunction with his time schedule. Unfavorable climate took hold of the Nashville area and following such aggressive orders as an attack made the safety of performing it humanly impossible.

     Nearly two week passed before conditions favored an assault, but the timing almost cost Major General George H. Thomas his job. Headquarters Armies of the United States had gotten anxious about ending General John Bell Hood's invasion into Tennessee during the final winter of the war. For the nineteenth century armies, weather always played a major factor in active campaigning and by late November most had already ordered their soldiers into winter camps. Events in Tennessee that late fall of 1864 proved winter quarters would be late in coming that season, and no one would sleep until the task at hand had been completed.

     Once the ball opened on December 15th, the Army of the Cumberland had slammed into the left flank of the rebel defense causing them to fly down the Franklin Pike in great disorder. The General in Chief had been in motion from Washington to Nashville with intent to relieve General Thomas of his command, when word reached him of his resounding victory over the rebel army.

     The following day, the President of the United States sent his well earned national appreciation to the Army of the Cumberland. The War Department, equally ecstatic, with the great hope that the end of the war was within sight; Washington City, by order of Secretary Edwin Stanton, had fired off a one hundred gun salute in celebration of the news.

     Greetings and congratulations was sent to Thomas's headquarters from Major General Philip Sheridan commanding the Army of the Shenandoah adding to the national salute as two hundred more artillery pieces cleared their throats causing the local residence to shake from the thunder. Twenty two miles south of Richmond as the sun rose over the landscape of Petersburg, Virginia on December 18th; General Meade followed suit as the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia was awoken to a one hundred gun salvo.

     The defeat was one of great significance. General John Bell Hood reported to the Confederate War Department the loss of fifty pieces of artillery and the ordnance wagons that supported them. Adding to the list of general officers lost during the engagement two weeks earlier at Franklin, Major General Edward Johnson, Brigadier General Thomas B. Smith and Brigadier General Henry Rootes Jackson were captured and now topped the campaign list. In the follow up operations, the pursuit of these shattered ranks, approximately three hundred stragglers had been snagged, along with Brigadier General Edmund Rucker and Brigadier General William A. Quarles.

     The great invasion cost the Confederacy dearly in the defense of the deep south; a lost hope in retaking Tennessee, and the roads wide open for a sweep of federal blue to the sea and up into the Carolinas. The reverberation of cannon among the hills and valley's marked a decided celebration that the very steam had gone out of the Confederacy. The Union armies in the field could go into quarters with every expectation that the final death blow would come as active campaigning began once again in the spring of 1865.

Dan (Aldie) Daniel Moran
© 2005

Editors Note: Mr.Moran is a feature writer on the US-Civilwar.com writers staff. He may be contacted with your questions, ideas and requests at dmoran@us-civilwars.net