A Missouri Confederate Recalls the Retreat to Nashville

Keith Rocco’s depiction of the Battle of Franklin, specifically showing troops in the Army of Tennessee. Courtesy of Keith Rocco.

In 1899, Confederate veteran from De Kalb, Missouri, Sam B. Dunlap, wrote to The Confederate Veteran about his experience with the Army of Tennessee, particularly during the retreat from Franklin to Nashville. Dunlap volunteered to served in Boyd’s Battalion of the First Missouri Artillery. He was captured during the Vicksburg Campaign, but was paroled in time to serve in the 1864 Tennessee Campaign, now with Guibor’s Battery. The Confederate Veteran article was written as Dunlap was writing his own memoirs, which is currently in the collection of The State Historical Society of Missouri.

Following their disastrous defeat at the Battle of Franklin on November 30, 1864, the Army of Tennessee was completely demoralized as they moved north toward Nashville. They had lost over a quarter of the army, including many unit commanders, yet Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood wanted to try to take Union-occuped Nashville. Dunlap recalled his experiences during the army’s retreat, including the crossing of the Duck River and the search for shoes. The article, though post-war, certainly gives an inside look into the Army of Tennessee’s hardships during their retreat to Nashville.

Map depicting Hood’s Tennessee Campaign from September to December of 1864. Looking at Franklin, you can see where the column moves due east to Murfreesboro, which is recalled by Dunlap in his article to the Confederate Veteran in 1908. Courtesy of Wikimedia.

In the evening of December 2, we arrived within three or four miles of Nashville. On December 5, our battery was ordered to report to Brigadier General Sears’s Mississippi Brigade, and with several other infantry brigades and Forrest’s Cavalry, we marched to Murfreesboro, but failed to capture it; and when our lines were broken at Nashville, we were compelled to retreat over a very rough and seldom traveled road. Our horses soon became so greatly fatigued from pulling through the med that we had to double teams, frequently hitching as many as twelve horses to one gun. Our intention was to ford Duck River about three miles from Chapel Hill; but continued rains had made it impossible, and in making our way back to the Nashville Pike we passed over some of the same territory when endeavoring to cut off the Federals on our northern march. Many of the troops were barefooted. I was the same as barefooted for about ten days, and entirely so two days previous to recrossing Duck River. The wind shifted to the north, turning the rain to sleet, and then a light snow. The crossing of the river was very slow, as the whole army had to use the same pontoon; and by permission of our first lieutenant, Sam Kennard, a comrade, Taylor, and I crossed in advance of the company. My intention was to get some shoes if possible. We entered an unused livery stable, and at that time filled with soldiers trying to dry and warm themselves around some smoldering fires. I inquired for shoes of a boy about fifteen years old standing in the office door. He invited me in and handed me a pair of half-work cloth shoes about two sizes too large for me. He said they were worth fifteen dollars. I handed him a twenty dollar bill and while he was out for change, I spied under his bunk, secured under a blue Federal overcoat, a pair of hale-worn leather shoes, and upon his return had them secure under the folds of a coat of the same color worn by myself. Failing to get the proper change, I got the cloth shoes for ten dollars. My comrade and I left the barn, making tracks in the snow tinged with blood. We then had shoes, but for fear of detection did not stop to put them on until we reached camp, one mile distant. I was just a boy then myself, and mention this incident, hoping that I may hear from that “other fellow.” Haven’t paid for those shoes yet. The remainder of this retreat was attended with many more hardships. 

 

Sources:

Sam B. Dunlap, “Experiences on the Hood Campaign,” The Confederate Veteran, April 1908, 187-188.


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