Tennessee was the last state to secede from the Union, holding off until June 8th 1861, or nearly two months after the war’s first shots were fired at Fort Sumter. Eastern Tennessee had a large population of Union loyalists but it was not enough to outvote the secessionists once fighting broke out. And the state would see its share of fighting, as only Virginia had more battles fought within its borders than Tennessee.
General Ulysses S. Grant rose to national prominence with his victory at Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River near Dover on February 16th, 1862. Less than two months later, both sides were shocked at the appalling losses at the Battle of Shiloh near Savannah on April 6th and 7th. Union losses (killed, wounded, and missing) at Shiloh exceeded 13,000, while Confederate casualties were approximately 10,700. Of these totals, both sides had over 1700 dead.
General William Rosecrans and his Army of the Cumberland engaged the Confederate Army of Tennessee under General Braxton Bragg at the Battle of Stones River near Murfreesboro on December 31, 1862 to January 2nd, 1863, achieving a costly victory. In September of 1863, Bragg defeated Rosecrans at the Battle of Chickamauga in northern Georgia, forcing the Federal forces to retreat to Chattanooga. In late November, Union forces under Grant attacked Bragg’s Confederates on Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge, driving the southerners back into Georgia.
On November 30th, 1864, the Army of Tennessee, now under the command of General John B. Hood, attacked a dug in Union army under the command of General John B. Schofield at Franklin. Hood ordered repeated charges against the Federal positions, and suffered appalling losses of over 6200 total casualties, including 1750 dead. Schofield’s army had over 2300 casualties, but only 189 were killed. After the battle, Schofield pulled his army out of Franklin and linked up with General George Thomas’s force at Nashville. Hood pursued and took up positions south of Nashville. Thomas attacked Hood’s army on December 15th and 16th, and defeated the Army of Tennessee, forcing a retreat out of the state entirely all the way to Mississippi.
Besides these large battles, hundreds of other battles and actions took place in Tennessee. The Tennessee Sesquicentennial Commission will be offering a series of conferences about the Civil War from now through 2015. For Information on sesquicentennial activities in Tennessee, see the commission’s event web page.