Apr 1, 2021 in History

The Army of Tennessee


The Army of Tennessee was founded in late 1862 during the American civil war. The Army was active between the year 1862 and 1865 and fought several important battles that took place between the Mississippi River and the Appalachian Mountains. It is important to note that the Army of Tennessee was the main Confederate Army which was very effective during the civil wars. The Army of Tennessee operated mainly in the Western Theatre where it fought several battles but won on few occasions. The failures were attributed to the recurring command and supply issues that the Army faced. It is for this particular reason that the commanders had to be changed from time to time, with the hope of improving the operations. This paper seeks to study the history of the Army of Tennessee by focusing on the events that took place during the reign of Lieutenant General William Hardee and his successor Joseph Johnston.


The Army of Tennessee under Lieutenant General William Hardee

The Army of Tennessee was founded in the year 1862 by Braxton Bragg. Bragg decided to rename the former army and ended up splitting it into two troops. Lieutenant General William Hardee and Lieutenant Leonidas Polk were appointed to command two different groups. Additionally, a third troop was formed and put under the command of Edmund Smith. However, the third troop did not last long as most of its members were instructed to join the Mississippi troops. Edmund was forced to go back to East Tennessee leaving his remaining troops for Hardee. Even though Hardee was in command of his troops, Bragg deemed it wise to unite the army under the command of Joseph Wheeler who led the army to its first ever battle. The armys first assignment was to fight the battle against the Army of the Cumberland. As the General of the Army of Tennessee, Bragg was responsible for all the activities undertaken by the troops. The army marched to the battles of the Stones River, Chickamauga, and the battle of Chattanooga. The army was forced to move out of Chattanooga in November 1863 after it was defeated by Grants Army. The defeat prompted the Confederate president, Jefferson Davis to evaluate Braggs position. After careful considerations, he decided to replace Bragg with General Johnston to reorganize the army and to make it more effective.

Based on the historical record the confederates defeat during the American Civil War could be attributed to the high number of defats that the Army of Tennessee encountered in various battles. After failing to annex Chattanooga, Bragg and his army decided to seek reinforcements from different troops. For instance, Bragg received support from General Robert Lee and James Longstreet. The Army of Tennessee emerges victorious only once under the command of Bragg when they marched to Chickamauga. The resilience and determination of the Unions army were one of the factors that made it difficult for the Army of Tennessee and the Confederates to win. Also, General James ability to organize and command his army inspired the Union troops to fight the confederates. General James and his troops were pushed up the mountains after they had lost the battle to the Confederates. decided to retreat to the mountains. Braggs failure to go after them gave them the opportunity to get supplies and to reorganize themselves. Consequently, Bragg faced a lot of criticisms from his Lieutenants who had tried to persuade him to pursue the troops. Also, the disagreements caused divisions in the army since most of the lieutenants thought it would be wise to replace the commander.

Lieutenant William Hardee was one of the leaders who wanted Braxton Bragg to be replaced after his failures. As a lieutenant, William Hardee commanded his troops under the command of Bragg. It is important to underline the fact that Hardee played a vital role in the battle of Stone River after he had taken over the troops that were once under the command of Leonidas Polk. Additionally, Hardee led his corps to defeat by the Unions troops at the Battle of Missionary Ridge. After the defeat, Hardee blamed Bragg, and he joined other Lieutenants who opposed working under the general. As a result, they convinced the president, Jefferson Davis to dismiss Bragg and replace him with another general. It is for this particular reason that the president sought for the services of Joseph Johnston who was also reluctant to take the job

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The Army of Tennessee under Joseph Johnston

Braxton Bragg and his army settled at Dalton in the winter where he tendered his resignation. His request for replacement was accepted, and William Hardee took over temporarily as the commander of the army. William Hardee took over as the temporary leader on the first day of December 1863. It is important to note that Hardee refused to take the offer as a permanent job. As a result, the president requested Johnston to lead the army to the Atlanta campaign. Therefore, Atlanta campaign was the first major assignment for Joseph as the General of the Army.

According to Tucker, Johnston made instant improvements in the Army despite the fact that he had not been working with the troops. Johnston had been known for ranks and files before he took over the command of the Army of Tennessee. When Johnston took over in 1863, the troops were in very low spirit. Therefore, he thought it would be good to start by lifting the morale of the soldiers. Johnston managed to improve the conditions of the soldiers and inspired them to gain more confidence than ever before. After working with the army for a few days, they looked more confident, motivated and reenergized for the forthcoming campaign. The fact that the army was motivated yet they were going to face a combination of three Union Armies implies that Johnston had improved the army within the few days that he had been in command.

In Atlanta, Joseph was supposed to face the Unions army under the command of General Sherman. At the time, the fighters considered Atlanta one of the most important cities. Therefore, both the Confederates and the Union Armies were determined to fight for the city at any costs. The Atlanta Campaign took place from 7th May 1864 to 2nd September 1864. In preparation for the Atlanta Campaign, the Army of Tennessee made other significant changes which were meant to reorganize and strengthen the army. For instance: Leonidas Polk was instructed to join the Army of Mississippi, John Hood became the commander of the Second Corps, the Army of Mississippi was changed to the Third Corps. Davis thought that restructuring the Army and changing its command was one of the strategies that would improve its performance. It was also important for the army to be well prepared since it was about to face the biggest challenge since its foundation in 1862.

On the other hand, Shermans main objective was to destroy the Army of Tennessee and to kill its commanders to ensure that it would never rise again. The secondary goal of Sherman and his combined forces was to take Atlanta which was one of the most important and strategic cities in the region. While Sherman though territory was the most important thing, Johnston thought the lives of his soldiers were far more important than defending the territories. As a result, Johnston took precautions and was also more concerned with defense rather than offensive tactics. As Johnston was taking covers and defensive positions, Sherman, and his troops ensured that they every time they were making advancements towards them and thus forcing them to retreat. Even though Johnston was using tactics that were meant to preserve the lives of his soldiers, most of his lieutenants were annoyed and wanted him to attack instead of retreating. The tactics gave the enemies the opportunity to occupy the lands that they were all fighting for.

As a result of the war, several soldiers lost their lives. For instance, Leonidas Polk was killed by the Union troops in June 1864. After the death of Polk, Loring was appointed to take over temporarily until July when Stewart took over as the commander of the corps. The fact that Johnston and his troops kept retreating southwards means that he was defeated and his soldiers were hurt more than the enemies. Jefferson Davis lost patience and decided to replace Joseph with another general. Davis promoted John Hood to take the place of Johnston and to command the troops to continue fighting the enemies. Unlike Johnston, Hood was not cautious. Instead, he thought it was important to launch several attacks in different parts of Atlanta. Additionally, his attacks were neither organized nor coordinated. His actions and poor styles of leadership led to his defeat and loss of more lives. The Army of Tennessee lost its only chance of winning an important battle when they lost the Atlanta Campaign. Hood was forced to flee Atlanta after most of his plan and tactics failed to work.

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Consequences of William Hardees Replacement

Replacement of William Hardee as the General of the Army of Tennessee gave Johnston the chance to show his leadership skills. It is important to note that William Hardee did not lead the Army of Tennessee to any battle since he only served as a temporary General. Also, Hardee turned down the offer from the Jefferson Davis who wanted him to take over as a permanent General. Johnston commanded the army during the Atlanta Campaign in 1864. Even though he did not win the war, Johnston troops were far much better and more motivated than Braxton Bragg. It is not possible to compare Johnstons style of leadership with Hardees style since Hardee did not get the opportunity to command in any battle.

As a result of the replacement, the Army of Tennessee became more energetic and motivated. When Johnston took over from Bragg, the soldiers were demoralized after a series of defeats. Also, the army had lost several soldiers to the battles, and they had been pushed from one place to another. Johnston made a few command changes to motivate the soldiers. For instance, John Hood took charge of the Second Corps. Also, Leonidas Polk was forced to take the leadership of another troop which was later named the Third Corps. Johnstons appointment as the General of the Army of Tennessee led to the annexation of Atlanta by Sherman and his combined forces. Unlike Bragg, Joseph Johnston was a cautious general who believed that the lives of his soldiers were more important than the territories that they were fighting for. Johnstons tactics encouraged the enemies to advance thus forcing them out of the mountains and Atlanta. It is therefore worth noting that Johnston contributed to the loss of the Atlanta Campaign. Atlanta was considered to be the second most important city in the region, and its loss to the Unions army was considered a big defeat.

Furthermore, Johnstons appointment as the General of the Army of Tennessee led to the deaths of many soldiers and Leonidas Polk. Like any other war, the Atlanta Campaign led to the loss of lives. However, it is reasonable to deduce that Johnstons war tactics worsened the situation since he was only retreating instead of attacking the enemies. The continuous retreats and the possibility of losing the battle to Shermans armies prompted the Confederate president, Jefferson Davis to remove Joseph Johnston from command and replace him with John Hood. Lastly, the replacement of William Hardee with Johnston led to significant changes of command. The most notable changes took place in the Corps and troops leaderships. For instance, John Hood was appointed to command the Second Corps. On the same note, Leonidas who had been in command of the troops was forced to take charge as the commander of the Army of Mississippi. The Army of Mississippi was later named the Third Corps under the leadership of Johnston.


In conclusion, the Army of Tennessee was one of the most important armies that fought various battles during the American Civil War that took place between 1861 and 1865. Even though historians consider the army important, it is important to underline the fact that it fought several wars but lost most of them to the Union Armies. General Braxton Bragg served as the first commander before being replaced with Lieutenant William Hardee in the year 1863. However, Hardee did not lead the troops to any battle since he refused to take the role as the permanent general. He was replaced with Joseph Johnston who led the army to the Atlanta Campaign as his first major assignment. It was under Johnston that the Unions armies, under the command of Sherman, pushed the Confederates out of Atlanta.


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