General’s Night Fight

Rear Guard Action at the West Harpeth River

December 17, 1864


Updated: 8 JUN 2017

John B. Hood’s 100 mile running rear guard, led for the most part by Lt. General Bedford Forrest*, is one of the most amazing feats of the war. Although it is some of the most daring fighting of the Army of Tennessee, it may never be fully appreciated as real estate worthy of preservation. It is that fear, that led me into Virtual Reality photography for battlefield preservation.

Given the fact that the actions at the West Harpeth River are so close to the relatively new I-840 corridor, this land will more than likely be lost in the next decade. As of June, 2017 core battlefield property is for sale.

To categorize these heroic clashes as delaying actions, is a disservice to the men that fought on both sides.

From ‘In the Lions Mouth’:

“In the gathering darkness, the Confederates at first were unsure if the approaching horsemen were friend or foe since so many Southern cavalrymen, like the rest of Hood’s army, wore captured Union clothing. ‘This was a critical moment, and I felt great anxiety as to its effect upon the men, who, fewer in numbers, had just had the shameful example of the cavalry added to the terrible trial of the day before, Stevenson [Major General Carter Stevenson] noted.”

“… the gray cavalry was immersed in some of the toughest combat in this phase of the retreat, with their generals just as – or more – involved in actual fighting than their infantry counterparts. Abraham Buford was assailed by a Union trooper, who twice slashed at him over the shoulder with a saber. General Chalmers quickly came to Buford’s aid, killing the Federal with two revolver shots. Chalmers also captured another Union soldier amid the engagement. Apparently in the same encounter, another bluecoat swung his saber at Buford, but the blade was diverted by a Confederate trooper using the barrel of his empty carbine. Buford, a big man, weighing about 300 pounds, then grabbed his assailant and yanked him from his horse. Squeezing him so tightly that the Federal later said it, was like being ‘hugged by a bear,’ Buford spurred to safety, with his prisoner.”

From the Official Record:

“HDQRS. CAVALRY CORPS, MIL. DIV. OF THE MISSISSIPPI, Three Miles North of Thompson’s Station, on West Harpeth, December 17, 1864-6 p. m.

Brigadier General W. D. WHIPPLE,

Chief of Staff:

GENERAL: We have “bust up” Stevenson’s division of infantry, a brigade of cavalry, and taken three guns. The Fourth Cavalry and Hatch’s division, supported by Knipe, made several beautiful charges, breaking the rebel infantry in all directions. There has been a great deal of night firing, volleys and cannonading from our guns – the rebels have none. It is very dark, and our men are considerably scattered, but I’ll collect them on this bank of the stream – West Harpeth. Hatch is a brick!

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Brevet Major-General, Commanding.”

Tennessee 3D 17 – Hood’s Retreat – December 17, 1864

Columbia Pike

“Moving rapidly south through Franklin, Stephen D. Lee’s Corps with Chalmers’ Cavalry Division attached, took up a delaying position in this area about 1:00 PM They beat off attacks by Wood’s IV Corps & Wilson’s Cavalry. Here, Gen. Lee was wounded; command passed to Maj. Gen. Carter L. Stevenson. The Army of Tennessee bivouacked that night around Spring Hill.”

Location: North Side of the West Harpeth River:

4443-4479 Columbia Pike
Franklin, TN 37064


Highly Recommended Reading:


*Forrest was in route to join up with Hood’s Army when the Battle at the West Harpeth River occurred. Coming from Murfreesboro, he would catch up at the Duck River, in Columbia a few days later. Major General Carter Stevenson, was in command of Lee’s Corp here after Lt. Gen. Stephen D. Lee was wounded. Lee was hit in the foot by shell fragments here December 17.

#hoodsretreat #battleofnashville

Sugar Creek

The Battle of Sugar Creek | Hood’s Retreat

440 Appleton Road, Five Points, TN 38457


 In The Lion’s Mouth – by Derek Smith

“What followed over the next twelve days would be one of the most spellbinding and tragic episodes in American military history, as hunters and hunted left bloody footprints on the bayonet-sharp ice for more than 100 miles. Grizzled Confederates who survived claimed, it was worse than the patriots’ sufferings at Valley Forge. One general wrote ‘that it was a most painful march, characterized by more suffering than had ever before, been my misfortune to witness.’ ”

Sugar Creek was the last battle* of the Confederate Army of Tennessee – in Tennessee. It was fought on the Giles and Lawrence county line, near the Tennessee, Alabama border in late 1864. For ten bitter December days, and over one hundred miles, Lt. General Forrest defended Hood’s vanquished army, in a sequence of valiant rear-guard delaying actions, following the crushing rout at Nashville. From Brentwood, to Sugar Creek, Tennessee, these final desperate maneuvers, enabled the war-weary Confederates to break out, over the Tennessee River into Alabama. But the game would soon be up. The South would capitulate a few months later, ending the long bloody war between the States.

*the Battle of Bentonville, NC was the last battle of the Army of Tennessee before the Army was surrendered by Gen. Joseph is E. Johnston at Bennett Place near Durham Station, North Carolina.

Recommended Reading:

“Just before 8 A.M. on a cold winter morning, U.S. Gen. James H. Wilson’s cavalry corps advanced slowly through a thick fog. Forrest had stationed two brigades under Gen. Edward C. Walthall about 200 yards south of the creek’s main ford behind rock-and-log breastworks”… read more

The core battlefield of this last stand, is about 3 miles northwest of the Highway 11 bridge crossing at Sugar Creek. The battlefield is on private property, but can be viewed from several street views. The closest public perspective is on Puncheon Branch Road. PLEASE RESPECT PRIVATE PROPERTY HERE. This is not a public park.

This virtual tour is the final leg of that 100 mile battle. Tour points include the following historical Civil War sites in southern Giles & Lawrence County, Tennessee:

  • Appleton, TN at The Big Red Store
  • The Lower Ford
  • The Upper (Peach) Ford
  • Puncheon Branch Road
  • Sugar Creek Road
  • Dobbin’s Cemetery
  • Cemetery at Anthony Hill
  • Lytle-Noblit House

The Lytle-Noblit House

Dismantled in 2017

“Thomas H. Noblit (1812-1899), who served the community as justice of the peace, doctor, merchant, and farmer, built this log dogtrot farmhouse in the 1840s. The Civil War battle at Sugar Creek occurred nearby in December 1864. In the 1890s, his son-in-law, William Franklin “Will” Lytle (1858-1942), renovated the house in the Queen Anne style. Will’s daughter, Mary Will Lytle (1897-1990), was among Tennessee’s first women dentists.”

NOTE: The historical marker for this site disappeared around 2014, as well as the Sugar Creek marker a few miles away.

Take a 360 degree virtual tour of the battlefield land below:

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Battle Map Courtesy of Bob Boyd

The Big Red Store

440 Appleton Road, Five Points, TN 38457

The Big Red Store in Appleton, Tennessee is said to be the largest historic rural General Store in the country. It host’s several events during the year, including one on the 4th of July, and the anniversary of the Battle of Sugar Creek, each December 26th.

The event center is open by appointment only, and on special occasions. Contact Linda Boyd for details at (931) 556-2023. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated to help with restoration and upkeep of the building.

More battle sites on Hood’s Retreat

Chronology of General Hood’s Champaign

Reports from the Military Official Record


Nashville Virtual Tour

Confederate Battle of Nashville Virtual Tour:  



Revised: 27 Nov 2018

360º Virtual Tour starting point: Kelley’s Point: 7002 Charlotte Pike, Nashville, TN 37209

From Kelley’s Point, to Granbury’s Lunette, the Nashville American Civil War battlefield is one of the largest in the United States. It’s over nine miles as the crow nashville-tour-imgflies. This virtual tour starts with Kelley’s Point on the Cumberland River on the west side of Nashville, and goes to the Belle Meade Plantation, Redoubts #1, #3 and #4, Travelers Rest, Granbury’s Lunette, Sunnyside, Shy’s Hill, Peach Orchard Hill and the Peace Monument Park. There are interconnecting tours to the Nashville National Cemetery, Fort Negley, Belmont Mansion, Love Circle and the Mount Olivet Cemetery. 

Note: get the full screen experience by clicking the icon in the lower left of the video frame.  A zoom option is available also for reading the historical signage. Some markers are embedded in the floating icons.

#battleofnashville #virtualtour

Tour Stop locations: 

Kelley’s Point: 7002 Charlotte Pike, Nashville, TN 37209

Belle Meade Plantation: 5025 Harding Pike, Nashville, TN 37205

Redoubt #1: 3421 Benham Ave, Nashville, TN 37215

Redoubt #3: 3701 Hillsboro Pike, Nashville, TN 37215


Redoubt #4: private property

Travelers Rest: 636 Farrell Pkwy, Nashville, TN 37220

Granbury’s Lunette: 190-194 Polk Avenue, Nashville, TN 37210

Shy’s Hill: 4615 Benton Smith Rd, Nashville, TN 37215

Peach Orchard Hill:  4700 Franklin Pike, Nashville, TN 37220

Sunnyside: 3000 Granny White Pike, Nashville, TN 37204

Peace Monument Park: 1200 Clifton Lane, Nashville, TN 37215

Fort Casino Park: 824 W Argyle Ave, Nashville, TN 37203

Suggested readings:


152 Years Ago

Battle of Franklin


4023 Columbia Ave, Franklin, TN 37064

The once mighty Army of Tennessee was brought to it’s knees in the late afternoon of November 30th, 1864. From Winstead Hill south of Franklin, Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood launched a frontal attack on U.S. Army entrenched troops, that was far worse than Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg the previous year. This 2 mile long frontal assault killed more General Officers than any other battle in American History.

“Six generals were killed, including Patrick Cleburne, one of the Confederate army’s finest division commanders. Another five were wounded, one more captured, and 60 of Hood’s 100 regimental commanders were killed or wounded.” …read more

Virtual Tour Point at The Carter House. Take a 360º augmented virtual tour of the site below. Click on the full screen icon at the bottom of the panorama for a full size few.


Suggested Reading: