Historic Markers Across Tennessee

The Battle of Spring Hill / The Great Escape

Marker ID:  
Location: 5700 Main Street, Spring Hill, TN
County: Maury
Coordinates: N 35° 43.921    W 086° 57.177
  35.73201666    -86.95295
Waymark: None


By 3 p.m. on November 29, 1864, Union Gen. John M. Schofield realized that his command was in great danger. The bulk of his army was posted near Columbia, Tennessee, while Confederates Gen. John Bell Hood’s troops were north of him, approaching the Columbia Turnpike near Spring Hill. To prevent being cut off from the rest of the Federal army at Nashville, Schofield moved northward. At about nightfall, the leading elements of his army were approaching Spring Hill.

Gen. Thomas H. Ruger’s division led Schofield’s column and soon passed to the north, moving right past the Confederate troops camped here. Union Gen. Jacob D. Cox’s division followed and next came Gen. Thomas J. Wood’s division. As these troops passed, they saw the shimmering lights of thousands of Southern campfires in the fields around you. The hours ticked by. At about 1 a.m., Gen. Nathan Kimball’s division marched north and also slipped away. Finally, at about 5 a. m., Gen. George D Wagner’s division, which had arrived at Spring Hill about noon on November 29 and helped fend off Gen. Patrick Cleburne’s movement toward the turnpike, began to withdraw and move north toward Franklin. Five relatively vulnerable Federal divisions had just marched directly past Hood’s Confederates in perhaps the greatest escape in the history of the war.
“We came within plain view of Hood’s army as they were in bivouac to our right, not more than half a mile. They had thousands of fires burning brightly…It was a rare and grand spectacle.” — Pvt. Tillman Stevens, 124th Indiana Infantry, USA

(upper left) With Federal soldiers marching directly past a campfire-lit Confederate camp near Spring Hill, the scene must have looked very much like this Edwin Forbes drawing, made somewhere in the eastern theater. Courtesy Library of Congress

(lower left) Gen. John Bell Hood, left, and Gen. John McAllister Schofield both graduated from West Point in 1853. They began the war on opposite sides as lieutenant and captain, respectively, but both were generals within a year. Both compiled impressive war records and marched to Spring Hill as experienced commanders. Within one month, Hood was relieved at his own request while Schofield continued his rise to the very top of the postwar army.— Both images courtesy Library of Congress

(lower right) As Union Gen. William T. Sherman left Atlanta and marched to the sea, Confederate Gen. John Bell Hood, joined by renowned Confederate cavalryman Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, moved toward Middle Tennessee. Here, at Spring Hill, Hood lost the opportunity to cut off Gen. John M. Schofield’s forces from Union troops at Nashville under Gens. Andrew J. Smith and George H. Thomas.

Tennessee Civil War Trails & Civil War Trust.