Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Army of Northern Virginia versus the Army of Tennessee

The Army of Tennessee has gotten a bad rap in history. During the conflict it possessed low manpower and tended to have highs and lows in terms of morale. Meanwhile the Army of Northern Virginia tended to enjoy the fruits of victory and rose to the occasion on many battlefields. Today, I just want to take a look at both armies "win-loss-tie" records from the time that they were created until the time that they were surrendered to General Grant and Sherman. Of course I will not included all the engagements but rather focus on the major ones like Gettysburg or Stones River.

Army of Northern Virginia Created June 1862

Gaines Mill* 1-0
Malvern Hill* 0-1
Second Manassas 2-1
Sharpsburg 2-2
Fredricksburg 3-2
Chancellorsville 4-2
Gettysburg 4-3
The Wilderness 5-3
Spotsylvania 6-3
Cold Harbor 7-3
Petersburg 7-4
Petersburg to Appommattox** 7-5
Total Victories=7
Total Defeates=5
Total Ties=0
Winning Percentage & Record=58.3%, 7-5-0

Army of Tennessee Created Noivember 20, 1862 under the command of General Braxton Bragg

Stones River*** Tie
Chickamauga Win
Chattanooga Loss
Kennesaw Mt. Win
Peachtree Creek Loss
Battle of Atlanta Loss
Ezra Church Loss
Jonesborough Loss
Franklin Loss
Nashville Loss
Bentonville Loss
Total Victories=2
Total Defeates=8
Total Ties=1
Winning Percentage & Record= 20%, 2-8-1

*I didn't include all the Battles of the Seven Days here. I only included the two major battles of the campaign. Some argue that the Seven Days struggle was a tie but I will go with my opinion here.

**This includes the final battles of Petersburg until Lee's surrender. The Battle of Five Forks is included here.

***Some argue that the Battle of Stones River was a victory for the Confederacy. Some other historians argue that it was a tie. I will go with the latter rather than the former.

What does all this mean? What is my point here? I think that a lot of people put the Army of Northern Virginia ahead of the Army of Tennessee. The record of each army invites this as you see one army enjoying seven or more victories and the other enjoying only two victories. To put it simply the Army of Northern Virginia had just one commander as its leader from June 1862 until April 1865. This propelled Lee into becoming one of the greatest generals of all time. Meanwhile, the Army of Tennessee endured the commands of Bragg, Johnston, Hood, Taylor, Stewart and Johnston again. So from Nov. 1862 until April 26, 1865 the western army of the Confederacy had six command changes. However, despite having more defeats and lack of manpower the Army of Tennessee held out longer before surrendering at the end of April 1865. Both armies fought bravely but one had the discinction of having many more of its needs fulfilled. In many ways both armies were like two children. One child got all the latest gadgets, new clothes and was allowed to stay out later. The stepchild (Army of Tennessee) got the smaller room, the "hand-me-downs" and had to be home by curfew.

Over the years many books have been written about the army and I will include best of the best at the end of this blog. Personally, I have always had a special place in my heart for the Army of Tennessee. It was a good fighting force with men who sacrificed their blood, sweat and tears for the Confederacy. Just like the Union Army of the Ohio the Army Tennessee is rarely remembered except for its defeats at Franklin and Atlanta. I will write more about this army in a future blog. Until then goodbye.

Great books on the Army of Tennessee:

Connelly, Thomas Lawrence. Army of the Heartland; The Army of Tennessee, 1861-1862. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1967.

Connelly, Thomas Lawrence. Autumn of Glory; The Army of Tennessee, 1862-1865. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1971.

Daniel, Larry J. Soldiering in the Army of Tennessee: A Portrait of Life in a Confederate Army. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1991.

Hood, John Bell. Advance and Retreat Personal Experiences in the United States and Confederate States Armies. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1996.

Hughes, Nathaniel Cheairs. The Pride of the Confederate Artillery The Washington Artillery in the Army of Tennessee. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1997.

Horn, Stanley Fitzgerald. The Army of Tennessee. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1953.

Johnston, Joseph E. Narrative of Military Operations, Directed, During the Late War between the States. New York: D. Appleton and Co, 1874.

Sherman, William T. Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman. Library of America, 51. New York: Library of America, 1990.

Watkins, Samuel R. Co. Aytch: A Side Show of the Big Show. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1997.

Woodworth, Steven E. Jefferson Davis and His Generals: The Failure of Confederate Command in the West. Modern war studies. Lawrence, Kan: University Press of Kansas, 1990.

Woodworth, Steven E. Nothing but Victory: The Army of the Tennessee, 1861-1865. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005.

A great website on the Army of Tennessee and the Union army of the Cumberland is located here:


Anonymous said...

What do you think of McMurray's book "Two Great Rebel Armies?"


Mike said...

Honestly, I have never read that book but I will look into it. I am currently finishing Reading the Man (a book on Lee)

Mike said...


I am currently reading Two Great Rebel Armies. I've already posted a blog on it. Interesting stuff.