The Retreat From Pulaski To Nashville, Tenn., by Levi T. Schofield
When you read a book it is interesting to note the perspective that is often involved. This particular book is written about the more interesting aspects of the Civil War, when Sherman took 2/3 of his army and marched away from his intact enemy into the heart of the Confederacy to burn and loot to his bummers’ content, while leaving General Thomas to form a patchwork of veterans, convalescents, and garrison troops to successfully stop Hood’s invasion of Tennessee. Spoiler alert: he was spectacularly successful in this at the Battle of Nashville. This book, though, is not about that glorious conclusion, but rather about the slow retreat of Schofield’s forces, which made a substantial part of Thomas’ army, from Pulaski to Nashville. This retreat was slow and gradual, meant to buy time for Thomas to collect his forces together at the Tennessee capital, and was quite dangerous in that it forced Schofield’s armies to try to avoid being cut off from their only road to Nashville, which almost happened at Spring Hill, when the Union troops were nearly cut off and had to march by Confederate pickets at night to reach safety at Franklin.
This book is a short one of about 60-70 pages or so. It begins with a discussion of the decision of Sherman to divide his army and the task that was left to Thomas. It appears as if there was a clear division of labor, with Thomas working to get a complex mixture of troops to form a coherent army and train them and get the horses necessary to complete his battle plan and Schofield doing the work of delaying the invasion of Tennessee long enough for everything to work out for the best. And while we know in retrospect that this is indeed what happened, the author talks about the specific places where Schofield made a stand and paused and forced Hood to slowly march up to Nashville. Fortunately, Schofield was able to keep his force together despite difficulties, and the author spends a lot of time talking about the dramatic moments at Spring Hill, where Schofield let himself get flanked and nearly surrounded, and then at Franklin where Hood ordered frontal charges against a strong position, and the end of the book seems a bit anticlimactic as it is perhaps understandable why the author would not focus on a battle in which his chief did not get the credit.
It is unclear whether there was a relationship between the author and his general, both of whom share the same last name. General Schofield was eventually the lead general of the United States army after the death of Sheridan, and the author was a famous postwar architect, but I was unable to find any blood relation between the two. The author, though, definitely takes the side of the general when it comes to the debates that have existed over the Battle of Franklin. There is some dispute over whether Wagner was ordered to hold in an area outside of the rest of the army or whether he was told to slow down the attack and then retreat behind the lines and form part of a reserve. He decided to fight it out and was killed along with many of his men, the rest of whom retreated when the Confederates nearly overwhelmed the Union lines there. Likewise, the book significantly downplays the battle of Nashville, only including it as a brief commentary at the end, not enough to discuss Schofield’s bad reputation with Thomas as a result of having fed Grant some false stories about Thomas in order to gain his position. He seemed not to suffer for it, at any rate.