Much of the Civil War was fought in Tennessee’s cities and farms; only Virginia saw more battles. Geography dictated a central role for Tennessee. As a border state with its rivers being key arteries to the Deep South, it was a major target for the Federals. From the early days of the war, Union efforts focused on securing control of those transportation routes and major roads and mountain passes such as the Cumberland Gap.
Tennessee was one of the border states that sent large numbers of men to fight on both sides of the Civil War. A sizeable part of the male population — 187,000 Confederate and 51,000 Federal soldiers — mustered in from Tennessee.
Many important battles occurred in Tennessee, including the vicious fighting at the Battle of Shiloh, which was the deadliest battle in American History at the time. Other large battles included Stones River, Chattanooga, Nashville, and Franklin. Making matters worse for the Tennessee Confederates were pockets of strong pro-Union sentiments, which remained throughout the war, particularly in East Tennessee’s mountains.
The Vice President of the United States, Andrew Johnson, was a loyalist, a number of congressmen and state politicians. On the Confederate side, significant leaders included noted cavalryman Nathan B. Forrest and Corps Commanders Leonidas Polk and Benjamin F. Cheatham and Governor Isham Harris.
When the war was over, Tennessee would see more than its share of devastation resulting from years of warring armies traveling through the state.
Tennessee Civil War Battles
Fort Henry (February 6, 1862)
Fort Donelson (February 11-16, 1862)
Shiloh (April 6-7, 1862)
Plum Run Bend (May 10, 1862)
Memphis (June 6, 1862)
Chattanooga (August 21, 1863)
Murfreesboro (July 13, 1862)
Hatchie’s Bridge (October 5, 1862)
Hartsville (December 7, 1862)
Stones River (Dec 31, 1862-Jan 2, 1863)
Lexington (December 18, 1862)
Jackson (December 19, 1862)
Trenton (December 20, 1862)
Parker’s Cross Roads (December 31, 1862)
Dover (February 3, 1863)
Thompson’s Station (March 5, 1863)
Vaught’s Hill (March 20, 1863)
Brentwood (March 25, 1863)
Franklin (April 10, 1863)
Hoover’s Gap (June 24-26, 1863)
Chattanooga (August 21, 1863)
Blountsville (September 22, 1863)
Wheeler’s Raid (October 1-9, 1863)
Blue Springs (October 10, 1863)
Wauhatchie (October 28-29, 1863)
Collierville (October 11, 1863)
Collierville (November 3, 1863)
Orchard Knob (November 23, 1863)
Lookout Mountain (November 24, 1863)
Missionary Ridge (November 25, 1863)
Campbell’s Station (November 16, 1863)
Siege of Knoxville (November 17-December 4, 1863)
Fort Sanders (November 29, 1863)
Bean’s Station (December 14, 1863)
Mossy Creek (December 29, 1863)
Dandridge (January 17, 1864)
Fair Garden (January 27, 1864)
Fort Pillow (April 12, 1864)
Memphis (August 21, 1864)
Johnsonville (November 4-5, 1864)
Columbia (November 24-29, 1864)
Spring Hill (November 29, 1864)
Franklin (November 30, 1864)
Murfreesboro (December 5-7, 1864)
Nashville (December 15-16, 1864)
Bull’s Gap (November 11-13, 1864)
Tennessee Battle Summaries:
Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers Campaign (February – June 1862)
Also called the “Mississippi River Campaign” and the “Fort Henry and Fort Donelson Campaign,” this force by the Union began on February 6, 1862, as a strategy to allow the North invasion routes by land and by water, as well as cutting off supplies to Confederate Forces. General Ulysses S. Grant moved swiftly, moving his troops down the Tennessee River toward Fort Henry on river transports on February 2nd and coordinating with United States Navy Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote. The campaign ended with the Siege of Corinth, Mississippi, in May 1862.
Fort Henry (February 6, 1862) – Taking place on February 6, 1862, in Stewart and Henry Counties of Tennessee and Calloway County in Kentucky, this battle resulted in a Union victory. By the time of the attack, Fort Henry, a Confederate earthen fort on the Tennessee River with outdated guns, was partially inundated, and the river threatened to flood the rest. On February 4-5, Union General Ulysses S. Grant landed his divisions in two different locations, one on the Tennessee River’s east bank to prevent the garrison’s escape and the other from occupying the high ground on the Kentucky side, which would ensure the fort’s fall. At the same time, Flag-Officer Andrew H. Foote’s seven gunboats began bombarding the fort. Commanding Fort Henry’s garrison, Confederate Brigadier General Lloyd Tilghman quickly realized that it was only a matter of time before Fort Henry fell. While leaving artillery in the fort to hold off the Union fleet, he escorted the rest of his force out of the area and sent them safely off on the route to Fort Donelson, some ten miles away. Tilghman then returned to the fort and, soon afterward, surrendered to the fleet, which had engaged the fort and closed within 400 yards. Fort Henry’s fall opened the Tennessee River to Union gunboats and shipping as far as Muscle Shoals, Alabama. After Fort Donelson’s fall, ten days later, the two major water transportation routes in the Confederate west, bounded by the Appalachians and the Mississippi River, became Union highways for the movement of troops and material. The conflict resulted in estimated casualties of 40 Union. and 79 Confederate.