The Atlanta Campaign

 

The Atlanta Campaign began in April 1864 following the Union's victory at Chattanooga, TN III on November 23-25, 1863.  Chattanooga, the “Gateway to the Lower South,”  became the supply and logistics base for Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman’s 1864 Atlanta Campaign. The campaign pitted Sherman against Gen. Joseph E. Johnston and Gen. John Bell Hood, who relieved Johnston on July 17, 1864. Johnston's strategy was to find to fight a defensive battle.  Unfortunately, this approach was unsatisfactory to Jefferson Davis who replaced Johnston with Hood. A good place to begin your road trip would be Atlanta: The Battle for the Heart of the South on the HistoryAnimated web page.

The campaign started with the Union's seizure of Tunnel Hill on May 7, 1864. There is a small museum on the site, but the real attraction is the 1,477 foot-long railroad tunnel. The first train passed through the mountain tunnel on  May 9, 1850. The General had passed through the tunnel closely pursued by the Texas in April 1862.  There is an annual reenactment.


Johnston had entrenched his army on the long, high mountain of Rocky Face Ridge and eastward across Crow Valley. As Sherman approached, he decided to demonstrate against the position with two columns while he sent a third one through Snake Creek Gap, to the right, to hit the Western & Atlantic Railroad at Resaca. The two columns engaged the enemy at Buzzard Roost (Mill Creek Gap) and at Dug Gap. In the meantime, the third column, under Maj. Gen. James Birdseye McPherson, passed through Snake Creek Gap and on the 9th advanced to the outskirts of Resaca where it found Confederates entrenched. Fearing defeat, McPherson pulled his column back to Snake Creek Gap. On the 10th, Sherman decided to take most of his men and join McPherson to take Resaca. The next morning, Sherman’ s army withdrew from in front of Rocky Face Ridge. Discovering Sherman’s movement, Johnston retired south towards Resaca on the 12th. Although listed in tour brochures, the Battle of Dug Gap State Park is closed. There is an Atlanta Roadside Pavilion, located U.S. Highway 41, which describes the Sherman's and Johnston's movements on May 7-13th.  There is also a statue of General Johnston in Dalton at the corner of Hamilton and Crawford streets.

Please click on link below for map. Dalton, Georgia, United States


Johnston had withdrawn from Rocky Face Ridge to the hills around Resaca. On May 13th, Union troops established the location of the Confederate lines and the next day full scale fighting occurred at Resaca. The Union troops were generally repulsed except on the Confederate right flank where Sherman did not fully exploit his advantage. On the 15th, the battle continued with no advantage to either side until Sherman sent a force across the Oostanula River, at Lay’s Ferry, towards Johnston’s railroad supply line. Unable to halt this Union movement, Johnston was forced to retire. There is a small roadside park that describes the fighting.   There is an Atlanta Roadside Pavilion, located U.S. Highway 41, which describes the battle. The Resaca Confederate Cemetery is located off U.S. 41 just north of the pavilion.

Please click on link below for map. Resaca, Gordon, Georgia, United States


Following the Battle of Resaca, May 13-15th, Johnston’ s army retreated southward with Sherman in pursuit. Failing to find a good defensive position south of Calhoun, Johnston continued to Adairsville while the Confederate cavalry fought a skillful rearguard action. On the 17th, skirmish fire continued throughout the day and into the early evening. Maj. Gen. O. O. Howard’s IV Corps ran into entrenched infantry of Lt. Gen. William J. Hardee’ s corps about two miles north of Adairsville. The 44th Illinois and 24th Wisconsin under the command of Maj. Arthur MacArthur attacked Cheatham’s Division at Robert Saxon (the Octagon House) and incurred heavy losses. Three Union divisions prepared for battle, but Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas halted them due to the approach of darkness. Sherman then concentrated his men in the Adairsville area to attack Johnston the next day. Johnston had originally expected to find a suitable valley at Adairsville to deploy his men and anchor his line with the flanks on hills. However, the valley was too wide and Johnston disengaged and withdrew.

Capt. Fuller boarded the Texas in Adairsville and pursued the General in the Great Locomotive Chase.  The Adairsville Depot which is off U.S. Highway 41 has historic displays.

Please click on link below for map. Adairsville, Bartow, Georgia, United States


After Johnston retreated to Allatoona Pass on May 19-20th, Sherman decided to move around Johnston’s left flank toward Dallas rather attack Confederate forces at Allatoona.  Johnston anticipated Sherman’s move and met the Union forces at New Hope Church. Sherman believed that Johnston had a token force and ordered Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker’s corps to attack. This Union corps was severely defeated with 1,600 casualties. On the 26th, both sides en-trenched, and skirmishing continued throughout the day. There is an Atlanta Roadside Pavilion, located four miles northeast of Dallas on Dallas-Acworth Road, which describes the Battle of New Hope Church.


After the Battle of New Hope Church Sherman's army tested the Confederate line. The Battle of Dallas occurred from May 26th to June 1st.  On May 28, Hardee's corps probed the Union defensive line, held by Maj. Gen. John A. Logan's corps, to exploit any weakness or possible withdrawal. Fighting began at two different points, but the Confederates were repulsed, suffering high casualties. We visited Dallas on our campaign tour, mainly because we live near the "other Dallas."  

Please click on link below for map. Dallas, Georgia, United States


Sherman continued looking for a way around Johnston's line, and on June 1, his cavalry occupied Allatoona Pass, which had a railroad and would allow his men and supplies to reach him by train. Sherman abandoned his lines at Dallas on June 5 and moved toward the railhead at Allatoona Pass, forcing Johnston to follow soon afterwards.

After the Union defeat at New Hope Church, Sherman ordered Maj. Gen. O. O. Howard to attack  Johnston’ s right flank which Sherman thought was exposed. The Battle of Pickett's Mill took place on May 27th.  The Confederates were ready for the attack, which did not occur as planned because supporting Union troops never appeared. The Confederates repulsed the attack causing high casualties. There is an excellent state park on the site with three different walking trails that cover the battlefield. Information on the battle can be found on the Pickett's Mill Battlefield Historic Site.  The park contains an excellent museum. (See Pickett's Mills, GA page for location and more information.)

Please click on link below for map. Picketts Mill State Historic Site (state park), Georgia, United States


When Sherman first found Johnston entrenched in the Marietta area on June 9, he began extending his lines beyond the Confederate lines, causing some Confederate withdrawal to new positions. On June 18–June 19, Johnston, fearing envelopment, moved his army to a new, previously selected position astride Kennesaw Mountain, an entrenched arc-shaped line to the west of Marietta, to protect his supply line, the Western & Atlantic Railroad. Sherman made some unsuccessful attacks on this position but eventually extended the line on his right and forced Johnston to withdraw from the Marietta area on July 2–July 3. Having encountered entrenched Confederates astride Kennesaw Mountain stretching southward, Sherman fixed them in front and extended his right wing to envelop their flank and menace the railroad. Johnston countered by moving John B. Hood's corps from the left flank to the right on June 22. Arriving in his new position at Mt. Zion Church, Hood decided on his own to attack. Warned of Hood's intentions, Union generals John Schofield and Joseph Hooker entrenched. Union artillery and swampy terrain thwarted Hood's attack and forced him to withdraw with heavy casualties. Although the victor, Sherman's attempts at envelopment had momentarily failed.

The Battle of Kennesaw Mountain was a notable exception to Sherman's campaign policy of avoiding frontal assaults and moving around the enemy's left flank. Sherman was sure that Johnston had stretched his line on Kennesaw Mountain too thin and decided on a frontal attack with some diversions on the flanks. On the morning of June 27, Sherman sent his troops forward after an artillery bombardment. At first, they made some headway overrunning Confederate pickets south of the Burnt Hickory Road, but attacking an enemy that was dug in was futile. The fighting ended by noon, and Sherman suffered heavy casualties.  The National Park Service Kennesaw Mountain battlefield site earned our award for hardest to find National Battlefield.  Plan on following the directions provided on the park website because there are not many signs to the park from other directions.

Please click on link below for map. Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park (national battlefield), Georgia, United States


Johnston had retired south of Peachtree Creek, about three miles north of Atlanta. Sherman split his army into three columns for the assault on Atlanta with Thomas' Army of the Cumberland moving from the north. Johnston had decided to attack Thomas, but Confederate President Jefferson Davis relieved him of command and appointed John B. Hood to take his place. Hood attacked Thomas on July 20th after his army crossed Peachtree Creek. The determined assault threatened to overrun the Union troops at various locations, but eventually the Union held, and the Confederates fell back. Historic markers describing the battle can be found in Tanyard Creek Park

Hood determined to attack McPherson's Army of the Tennessee. Hood withdrew his main army at night from Atlanta's outer line to the inner line, enticing Sherman to follow. In the meantime, Hood sent William J. Hardee with his corps on a fifteen-mile march to hit the unprotected Union left and rear, east of the city. Joseph Wheeler's cavalry was to operate farther out on Sherman's supply line, and Gen. Benjamin F. Cheatham's corps was to attack the Union front. Hood, however, miscalculated the time necessary to make the march, and Hardee was unable to attack until afternoon. McPherson sent Grenville Dodge's XVI Corps to support the Union left flank. Two of Hood's divisions ran into this reserve force and were repulsed. The Confederate attack stalled on the Union rear but began to roll up the left flank. McPherson was killed when he rode out to observe the fighting. Determined attacks continued, but the Union forces held. About 4:00 p.m., Cheatham's corps broke through the Union front, but massed artillery near Sherman's headquarters halted the Confederate assault. Logan's XV Corps then led a counterattack that restored the Union line. The Union troops held, and Hood suffered high casualties.

Sherman's forces had previously approached Atlanta from the east and north and had not been able to break through, so Sherman decided to attack from the west. He ordered Howard's Army of the Tennessee to move from the left wing to the right and cut Hood's last railroad supply line between East Point and Atlanta. Hood foresaw such a maneuver and sent the two corps of Lt. Gen. Stephen D. Lee and Lt. Gen. Alexander P. Stewart to intercept and destroy the Union force at Ezra Church. Howard had anticipated such a thrust, entrenched one of his corps in the Confederates' path, and repulsed the determined attack, inflicting numerous casualties. Howard, however, failed to cut the railroad. Concurrent attempts by two columns of Union cavalry to cut the railroads south of Atlanta ended in failure, with one division under Edward M. McCook completely smashed at the Battle of Brown's Mill and the other force also repulsed and its commander, George Stoneman, taken prisoner.

After failing to envelop Hood's left flank at Ezra Church, Sherman still wanted to extend his right flank to hit the railroad between East Point and Atlanta. He transferred Schofield's Army of the Ohio from his left to his right flank and sent him to the north bank of Utoy Creek. Although Schofield's troops were at Utoy Creek on August 2nd, they, along with the XIV Corps, Army of the Cumberland, did not cross until August 4th. Schofield's force began its movement to exploit this situation on the morning of August 5, which was initially successful. Schofield then had to regroup his forces, which took the rest of the day. The delay allowed the Confederates to strengthen their defenses with abatis, which slowed the Union attack when it restarted on the morning of August 6th. The Federals were repulsed with heavy losses and failed in an attempt to break the railroad. On August 7, the Union troops moved toward the Confederate main line and entrenched. They remained there until late August.

The second battle of Dalton took place on August 14 – 15th when Wheeler's cavalry conducted raids to destroy railroad tracks and supplies in North Georgia. They approached Dalton on August 14th and demanded the surrender of the garrison. The Union refused to surrender and fighting ensued. Greatly outnumbered, the Union garrison retired to fortifications on a hill outside the town where they successfully held out, although the attack continued until after midnight. Around 5:00 a.m. on August 15, Wheeler retired and became engaged with relieving infantry and cavalry under Maj. Gen. James B. Steedman's command. Eventually, Wheeler withdrew.

Please click on link below for map. Dalton, Georgia, United States


While Wheeler was absent raiding Union supply lines from North Georgia to East Tennessee, Sherman sent cavalry Brig. Gen. Judson Kilpatrick to raid Confederate supply lines. Leaving on August 18, Kilpatrick hit the Atlanta & West Point Railroad that evening, tearing up a small area of tracks. Next, he headed for Lovejoy's Station on the Macon & Western Railroad. In transit, on August 19, Kilpatrick's men hit the Jonesborough supply depot on the Macon & Western Railroad, burning great amounts of supplies. On August 20, they reached Lovejoy's Station and began their destruction. Confederate infantry (Patrick Cleburne's Division) appeared and the raiders were forced to fight into the night, finally fleeing to prevent encirclement. Although Kilpatrick had destroyed supplies and track at Lovejoy's Station, the railroad line was back in operation in two days.
Sherman had successfully cut Hood's supply lines in the past by sending out detachments, but the Confederates quickly repaired the damage. In late August, Sherman determined that if he could cut Hood's railroad supply lines, the Confederates would have to evacuate Atlanta. He therefore decided to move six of his seven infantry corps against the supply lines. The army began pulling out of its positions on August 25 to hit the Macon & Western Railroad between Rough and Ready and Jonesborough. To counter the move, Hood sent Hardee with two corps to halt and possibly rout the Union troops, not realizing Sherman's army was there in force. The Battle of Jonesborough occurred from August 31 – September 1. On August 31, Hardee attacked two Union corps west of Jonesborough but was easily repulsed. Fearing an attack on Atlanta, Hood withdrew one corps from Hardee's force that night. The next day, a Union corps broke through Hardee's line, and his troops retreated to Lovejoy's Station. On the night of September 1, Hood evacuated Atlanta, burning military supplies and installations, causing a great conflagration in the city Union troops occupied Atlanta on September 2. Sherman cut Hood's supply line but failed to destroy Hardee's command.
Unfortunately this battlefield has "lost its integrity" and there is no site to visit. 

On September 2, 1864 Major James Calhoun surrendered Atlanta to Union forces.

Sherman was victorious and Hood established a reputation as the most recklessly aggressive general in the Confederate Army. While casualties were roughly equal for the campaign 31,687 Union and 34,979 Confederate, Hood and Johnston lost over half of their armies.  Sherman's capture of Atlanta improved Northern morale and was an important factor in the re-election of President Abraham Lincoln.


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