"'Pickett's charge at Gettysburg' has come to be a synonym for unflinching courage in the raw. The slaughter-pen at Franklin even more deserves the gory honor." (Stanley F. Horn, The Army of Tennessee)
As Sherman began his infamous march to the sea, Lincoln instructed Grant to redirect General George H. Thomas' efforts back to Tennessee to protect Union supply lines and stop the offensive mounted by Confederate general John Bell Hood. Hood had broken away from Atlanta and was trying to compel Sherman to follow him, thus diverting him from his intended path of destruction. With Sherman marching east toward the sea, he directed Thomas to try to block Hood around Nashville.
In late November the Army of the Ohio, being led by Thomas' principal subordinate, John Schofield, all but blindly stumbled into Hood's forces, and it was only through luck that some of them had not been bottled up before they could regroup together. Receiving word of Union troop movement in the Nashville area, General Hood sent for his generals while attempting to hold off Schofield's advance. Hood knew that if Schofield reached Thomas' position, their combined armies would number more than twice his. Though the Confederates successfully blocked Schofield's route to Nashville, the Union general managed to execute an all-night maneuver that brought him to Franklin, about 18 miles south of Nashville.
On November 30, the Union army began digging in around Franklin, and that afternoon Hood ordered a frontal assault on the dug-in Union army, which deeply upset his own officers. Hood stressed the necessity of defeating Schofield's forces before Thomas could arrive, though some historians believe his decision to mount a frontal attack was a rash decision made out of fury at the fact that Schofield had escaped his grasp.