Union Occupation of Nashville
Photographs from 1864 capture scenes in and around Nashville, Tennessee, during the Union occupation of that city. The images, credited to George N. Barnard, who had been hired as an official Union army photographer, include this famous photograph of the columns, statuary, and covered cannon on the steps of the city's Capitol building. The other photographs show a group of spectators on a hillside overlooking army maneuvers; a fortified bridge over the Cumberland River; encampments along Union lines defending Nashville; and a crenelated building—formerly the Literary Department at the University of Nashville—that was then being used as military hospital for Union officers.
The Library of Congress suggests that the photograph of the spectators was taken on December 15, 1864, and the image of the Union encampments on December 16, which, if true, would make them eyewitness scenes of Union general George H. Thomas's successful defense of Nashville from attack by Confederate general John Bell Hood's Army of the Tennessee. Thomas attacked Hood outside the city on December 15, 1864, and in a two-day battle crushed Hood's army. This left Tennessee in secure Union control and rendered Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia vulnerable to Union raids. The two images however, were either misdated or taken by another photographer, for Barnard was not in Nashville at that time. He joined Union general William T. Sherman in Atlanta, Georgia, in September 1864, and followed him on his subsequent "March to the Sea," which culminated in the fall of Savannah on December 21, 1864.