Protecting the Army of Tennessee
— Hood's Campaign —
In September 1864, after Union Gen. William T. Sherman defeated Confederate Gen. John Bell Hood at Atlanta, Hood led the Army of Tennessee northwest against Sherman's supply lines. Rather than contest Sherman's "March to the Sea," Hood moved north into Tennessee. Gen. John M. Schofield, detached from Sherman's army, delayed Hood at Columbia and Spring Hill before falling back to Franklin. The bloodbath there on November 30 crippled the Confederates, but they followed Schofield to the outskirts of Nashville and Union Gen. George H. Thomas's strong defenses. Hood's campaign ended when Thomas crushed his army on December 15-16.
The Army of Tennessee's last military action in its namesake state occurred a mile northeast of here on Sugar Creek on December 26, 1864. Retreating south after Confederate Gen. John Bell Hood's defeat in Nashville, the army waited the arrival of pontoon boats there so it could cross the Tennessee River to safety.
After fighting the previous day at Anthony Hill in neighboring Giles County, Forrest's troops camped for the night along Sugar Creek and prepared for a Federal attack. Among the Confederate cavalry were Col. George H. Nixon's Lawrence County men. Forrest told his subordinates, "The Yankees are coming. We are going to have a fight, and when the infantry break their lines, I'll throw Ross's Cavalry on them." The battle unfolded that way.
Just before 8 A.M. on a cold winter morning, U.S. Gen. James H. Wilson's cavalry corps advanced slowly through a thick fog. Forrest had stationed two brigades under Gen. Edward C. Walthall about 200 yards south of the creek's main ford behind rock-and-log breastworks. Additional infantrymen were posted downstream, while cavalrymen protected the flanks, lying concealed until the Federals came within 50 yards. After firing a volley, the Confederates charged. Surprised by the unexpected onslaught, the Union troopers hastily fell back, losing at least 150 casualties and prisoners, plus many horses.
Federal forces made no further attacks, and the Army of Tennessee crossed the river for the next two days. What happened at Sugar Creek "showed Forrest at his best - in command of himself and in control of the situation," concluded on if his biographers.