- Series: Modern War Studies
- Paperback: 528 pages
- Publisher: University Press of Kansas; Reprint edition (October 18, 1993)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0700606505
- ISBN-13: 978-0700606504
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 88 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #378,799 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Confederacy's Last Hurrah: Spring Hill, Franklin, and Nashville (Modern War Studies) Paperback – October 18, 1993
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"Sword compellingly recreates the heroism, missed chances, political backbiting, and flawed rebel leadership underlying the outcome at these killing grounds. . . . Narrated with brisk attention to the nuances of strategy—and with measured solemnity over the waste of life in war."—Kirkus Reviews
"A blockbuster. . . . Narrative history at its best."—Edwin C. Bearss, chief historian, National Park Service
"Civil War history superbly reported by a master storyteller. Thoroughly researched, rich in drama and detail, rendered in vivid colors with flesh-and-blood characters—just as it occurred."—Rod Gragg, author of Confederate Goliath: The Battle of Fort Fisher
"By far the best book written on Hood's Tennessee campaign. Sword's description of the Confederate tragedy at Franklin is superb; it could serve as a model for painting combat in words."—Albert Castel, author of Decision in the West: The Atlanta Campaign of 1864
"A masterful combination of historical fact and human interest . . . both brilliantly informative and deeply moving."—Richard Wheeler, author of Sherman’s March
"This is the fullest, most judicious narrative produced to date on the mortal wounding of the Confederacy's second principal army. The book also ranks among the best narratives of Union activities in that climactic campaign for control of Tennessee."—James Robertson in the Richmond News Leader
"The best book ever written on the campaign. There is no way anyone can write a better one."—Thomas Y. Cartwright, Curator, The Carter House, Franklin, Tennessee
About the Author
Wiley Sword is the author of Shiloh: Bloody April.
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Now for the rest. I knew this book was somewhat controversial when I picked it up, with some saying it is nothing more than a hatchet job on General Hood. As I read, I wondered what the deal was. The book is certainly critical of Hood, but it is a fact that there is a lot to be critical of. The campaign was a questionable move to begin with (leaving Sherman free to ravage Georgia), and Hood made a hash of the logistical planning essential for such a movement. Spring Hill was botched largely because of Hood's failure to communicate and his distance from the field. Franklin honestly cannot be spun as anything other than a senseless slaughter of good troops, and Nashville was the most decisive defeat of any Civil War army. Clearly there is a lot to criticize Hood for. HOWEVER, Sword does go too far. He harps too much on questionable claims, such as Hood's laudanum addiction, and discredited assertions including that Hood ordered the Franklin assault to punish his army, particularly Cheatham, for Spring Hill. In his conclusion, Sword FINALLY pulls the hatchet out and asserts Hood was never a good general, that his battlefield success in the East was essentially dumb luck, was a "sad, pathetic failure" as a man and a soldier, was a stupid anachronism, and that he essentially murdered his army.
Needless to say, this is too much. There is indeed a lot to be critical of, from the campaign itself, to logistics, to tactical performance, to judgement. I think few would argue that Hood was the man for this job. But anyone who thinks he was not a good battlefield leader in the ANV is beyond biased. John Bell Hood was a born fighter and as a brigade or division commander he was one of the Confederacy's best. As a corps and especially an army commander in the West, he was out of his depth and it showed. I would argue he simply was promoted beyond his ability and the tragedy is he had only his own scheming and ambition to blame for that. Thus does a good soldier become a reviled commander. Grounds for harsh criticism certainly abound, but ultimately Sword took the low road. I recommend the book for the narrative of the campaign, especially Franklin, but not as an unbiased appraisal of General Hood.
The battles of Spring Hill, Franklin and Nashville occurred concurrently with Sherman's March to the Sea and Grant's investiture of Petersburg. Although overshadowed by the latter, Sword is of the opinion that Thomas's eventual destruction of the Confederacy's western army was central to the Union's victory in our Civil War. I'm not sure I'd go that far, but for savagry of combat, quirks of personality, and impact of military politics, its tough to beat.
The Battle of Franklin featured a Confederate charge that was arguably more costly and viscious than Pickett's at Gettysburg. The Battle of Nashville featured a Union attack that was more thorough in it's success than perhaps any other similar scale engagement. In the aftermath of the Battle of Spring Hill, lady luck smiled upon the Union more brightly than when she delivered Lee's "cigar orders" to McClellan before Anteitam.
General's Hood, Thomas, Cleborne, Schofield and other principals are fascinating characters whose personalities figured large in their conduct during the campaign. Sword does a good job of describing these figures as men, providing enough backgorund to allow the reader to understand their motives and actions during the story.
This was a desperate winter campaign fought by Hood. Sword correctly portrays him as a man elevated beyond his command capacity. His soldiers valient and full of heart. Hood's lack of tactical finess wastes them against the breastworks of Franklin. He then marched them to confront Thomas's growing federal legions at Nashville. A cold, ragged army enduring snow, sleet and sub zero temperatures was perhaps tempermentally ill suited to withstand the onslaught of Thomas's superior numbers. When the final battle came, it removed an entire army from the Civil War Chessboard.
Sword is an engaging writer and this intersting story moves along. The book is thorough but not boring. The only weaknesses were the maps -- I did not think there were enough and some of the ones provided were not detailed enough to allow an easy visualization of the action. Sword also sometimes does not identify commanders as Union or Confederate, which can be confusing at the division or brigade level when one is relatively unfamiliar with these armies.
All in all, this in a very good book about a fascinating Civil War campaign.