Historic Markers Across Tennessee

Schofield's Retreat

Marker ID:  
Location: 5700 Main Street, Spring Hill, TN
County: Maury
Coordinates: N 35° 43.927    W 086° 57.205
  35.73211666    -86.95341666
Waymark: None


Schofield's Retreat
Night of November 29-30 —

For a number of reasons, Major General John Schofield had been tardy in evacuating his position at Columbia and retreating to Franklin. Although starting late, the Federal army performed a well planned and executed retreat. Schofield and his subordinates made their headquarters in the saddle, and issued clear, concise instructions. All that evening and past midnight the Federal wagons, artillery, and long columns of infantry marched north toward Franklin on the dark macadam road. Lieutenant Chesley Mosman of the 59th Illinois Infantry remembered: “The rebels were in line of battle south of town, a quarter of a mile from the Pike along which we marched, and their long lines of campfires burnt brightly. Staff officers were stationed along the Pike to caution the men not to talk or let their canteens rattle so as to make a noise; that those were the fires of the enemy. So we passed time sub silentio if not “with averted eye.’ We…realized our situation…and move rapidly and march to Franklin.” The Union army had lost the “Spring Hill races,” but had escaped the trap unscathed
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.