The September 1864 loss of Atlanta was a major blow to the Confederacy. Without the city’s supply and rail network, the South was living on borrowed time. To retrieve the situation, General John Bell Hood launched an offensive against Federal lines supplying Atlanta on September 29.
Hood’s initial movements met with small successes before a setback at Allatoona and pressure from General William T. Sherman which forced Hood into Alabama. Sherman abandoned any pursuit, however, and returned to Atlanta to prepare for his March to the Sea. The task of dealing with Hood was assigned to Generals John Schofield and George Thomas. Learning of Sherman’s return to Atlanta, Hood decided to invade Tennessee, and capture Nashville. After some delays, the aggressive Southern commander chased Schofield’s army towards Columbia, Tennessee, where the Federal army found safety behind hastily erected works.
Schofield received orders to fall back from Columbia but Hood beat him to the march and attempted to attack the retreating Federals on the road. Despite getting his men into positions from which to attack Schofield’s forces at Spring Hill, Union forces managed to slip by to Franklin where they immediately went to work erecting fortifications. Hood pursued Schofield and launched a massive frontal assault against the prepared Federal positions. During the Battle of Franklin, Hood lost 6,000 men including six generals killed.
Schofield retreated from Franklin and Hood pursued him to Nashville but failed to engage him before he could unite with Thomas. Though heavily outnumbered, Hood took up defensive positions on December 2 in the hopes that Thomas would attack him, be repulsed, and remain vulnerable to a counter attack. Thomas attacked during the Battle of Nashville on December 15-16, and virtually destroyed Hood’s army, ending the invasion of Tennessee.