The Last Battle of The Civil War In Tennessee
Some information presented on this page was excerpted from the book,
On the Banks of Sugar Creek,
Compiled by Sue (Hendrix) Davis and Linda Jo (Hendrix) Dean.
The book was published in July 2003 and is no longer in print.
The last battle of the Civil War fought in Tennessee took place on Sugar Creek in Lawrence County near Appleton.
This battle was a delaying tactic to protect the retreat of General Hood's Army of Tennessee after their disastrous defeat at the Battle of Nashville in December of 1864. The Confederate Army was pursued by twice their number of Federal troops under the command of General Wilson. Unless some drastic action was taken, General Hood's army would be annihilated.
A plan to delay General Wilson long enough for General Hood's army to escape included General Nathan Bedford Forrest, 1,000 cavalry and 4,000 infantry. The escape route was from Nashville to Columbia, through Pulaski and down the Old Pulaski-Florence Turnpike through Appleton to the Tennessee River. This led to the last battle fought in Tennessee.
The plan was put into effect at Columbia December 21,1864 with the burning of the Duck River Bridge. The weather turned icy cold and many of the Confederate Infantry were barefoot and had their feet wrapped in pieces of blankets. As they hobbled along, the frozen ground was stained with their blood. General Forrest finally ordered some of the wagons emptied and let the men ride until it was necessary to stop and fight. The two armies had three fierce encounters that occurred between Columbia and Sugar Creek. One encounter was south of Columbia, one at Lynnville, and one at Anthony HilI.
The Confederates retreated from Anthony Hill on Christmas night on a road as bad as any army had ever encountered. They marched through the mud with sleet beating on their heads until they reached Sugar Creek about 1 O'clock in the morning. The battered army halted and made camp at clear, pebble bottomed Sugar Creek. It was evident that another desperate fight would have to be made here in order to insure the escape of the Confederate troops.
At dawn, two brigades were put in position 200 yards south of the ford on a high ridge. Two other brigades were established in a strong position half a mile to the rear. The men used logs and rails to strengthen their position. A dense fog enveloped the area, and enabled the Confederates to remain concealed. About 8: 00 a.m., the Federal Cavalry was heard fording the creek, just 100 yards in front of the barefoot Confederate troops. The fog veiled the Confederates until the Federals were within about 30 yards. Death spread through the Federal ranks as rifle balls blazed through the fog and confusion. The Confederates pushed the Federals back through waist deep Sugar Creek, and as they retreated, General Forrest's men followed. The Battle of Sugar Creek raged for five hours, and the water of Sugar Creek was said to have run red with blood. The rest of General Wilson's men reinforced the Federal Army, and the Confederates withdrew and continued toward the Tennessee River.
The Battle of Sugar Creek resulted in the capture of 150 horses and a large number of overcoats. Over 400 Federal troops were put out of action. The Army of Tennessee, numbering over 20,000 men, was allowed to cross safely over the Tennessee River on a pontoon bridge on the afternoon of December 27, 1864.
Revised: February 28, 2014