Atlanta Campaign Civil War

Thomas' Legion
American Civil War HOMEPAGE
American Civil War
Causes of the Civil War : What Caused the Civil War
Organization of Union and Confederate Armies: Infantry, Cavalry, Artillery
Civil War Navy: Union Navy and Confederate Navy
American Civil War: The Soldier's Life
Civil War Turning Points
American Civil War: Casualties, Battles and Battlefields
Civil War Casualties, Fatalities & Statistics
Civil War Generals
American Civil War Desertion and Deserters: Union and Confederate
Civil War Prisoner of War: Union and Confederate Prison History
Civil War Reconstruction Era and Aftermath
American Civil War Genealogy and Research
Civil War
American Civil War Pictures - Photographs
African Americans and American Civil War History
American Civil War Store
American Civil War Polls
North Carolina Civil War History
North Carolina American Civil War Statistics, Battles, History
North Carolina Civil War History and Battles
North Carolina Civil War Regiments and Battles
North Carolina Coast: American Civil War
Western North Carolina and the American Civil War
Western North Carolina: Civil War Troops, Regiments, Units
North Carolina: American Civil War Photos
Cherokee Chief William Holland Thomas
Cherokee Indian Heritage, History, Culture, Customs, Ceremonies, and Religion
Cherokee Indians: American Civil War
History of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian Nation
Cherokee War Rituals, Culture, Festivals, Government, and Beliefs
Researching your Cherokee Heritage
Civil War Diary, Memoirs, Letters, and Newspapers

The Atlanta Campaign: July 20, 1864, through September 2, 1864

JULY 20TH, 1864 - SEPT. 2ND, 1864.

Atlanta, Ga., Siege of, July 20 to Sept. 2, 1864. Army
of the Cumberland, Army of the Tennessee, and Army of the
Ohio. The objectives points for the year 1864 were Richmond
and Atlanta-the head and heart of the Confederacy. Early in
March Gen. U. S. Grant was made lieutenant-general and
transferred to the immediate command of the Army of the
Potomac, Maj.-Gen. W. T. Sherman being at the same time placed
in command of the forces in the West. Sherman's new command
consisted of four departments: the Army of the Cumberland, at
Chattanooga, commanded by Maj.-Gen. George H. Thomas ; the
Army of the Tennessee, at Huntsville, Ala., commanded by Maj.-
Gen. James B. McPherson; the Army of the Ohio, in East
Tennessee, commanded by Maj.-Gen. John M. Schofield, and the
Army of Arkansas, under the command of Maj.-Gen. Frederick
Steele. The last named was subsequently transferred to
Canby's trans-Mississippi division, and took no part in the
Atlanta campaign. The Army of the Cumberland was composed of
the 4th, 14th and 20th army corps, respectively commanded by
Maj.-Gens. O. O. Howard John M. Palmer and Joseph Hooker; the
cavalry corps of Brig.-Gen. Washington L. Elliott, and some
unattached troops. The 4th corps was made up of three
divisions, commanded by Maj.-Gen. David S Stanley, Brig.-Gen.
John Newton and Brig-Gen Thomas J. Wood and later in the
campaign an artillery brigade was organized and placed under
the command of Maj. Thomas W. Osborn. In the 14th corps were
three divisions, the 1st commanded by Brig. Gen. R. W.
Johnson, the 2nd by Brig.-Gen. Jefferson C. Davis, and the 3rd
by Brig.-Gen. Absalom Baird. In this corps was also an
artillery brigade, commanded by Maj. Charles Houghtaling. The
20th corps comprised three divisions, the 1st commanded by
Brig.-Gen. Alpheus S. Williams, the 2nd by Brig.-Gen. John W.
Geary, and the 3rd by Maj.-Gen. Daniel Butterfield. Maj. John
Reynolds commanded the artillery brigade of the 20th corps
after it was organized in July. The cavalry corps included
the three divisions commanded by Brig.Gens. Edward McCook,
Kenner Garrard and Judson Kilpatrick. The Army of the
Tennessee embraced the 15th, 16th and 17th army corps,
commanded by Maj.-Gens. John A. Logan, Grenville M. Dodge and
Frank P. Blair. Logan's corps included the divisions of Brig.-
Gens. Peter J. Osterhaus, Morgan L. Smith and William Harrow.
In Dodge's corps were the divisions of Brig.-Gens. Thomas W.
Sweeny and James C. Veatch. The 17th corps was made up of the
two divisions commanded by Brig.-Gen. Mortimer D. Leggett and
Brig.-Gen. Walter Q. Gresham. The Army of the Ohio consisted
of the 23rd corps, which was composed of the three divisions
of infantry commanded by Brig.-Gens. Alvin P. Hovey, Henry M.
Judah and Jacob D. Cox and the cavalry division of Maj.-Gen.
George Stoneman. The effective strength of the army on May 1,
1864, was 98,797 men, with 254 pieces of artillery. At that
time the 17th corps was not with the main body. After it
joined on June 8 the effective strength was 112,819 men.

Opposed to this force was the Confederate army under the
command of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston. It was made up of
Hardee's corps, consisting of Cheatham's, Cleburne's and
Walker's divisions and the artillery under Col. Melancthon
Smith; Hood's (or Lee's) corps, consisting of the divisions of
Hindman, Stevenson and Stewart and the artillery under Col. R.
F. Beckham; Wheeler's cavalry corps, embracing Martin's,
Kelly's and Hume's divisions and Roddey, command, with the
artillery under Col. F. H. Robertson; Polk's corps, which
included Loring's, French's and Cantey's (or Walthall's)
divisions, the cavalry division of Brig.-Gen. W. H. Jackson,
and the 1st division of the Georgia state militia. In his
article in ''Battles and Leaders,'' Johnston states his
effective forces as being 42,856 men, with 112 guns, but Maj.
E. C. Dawes, of the 53rd Ohio, who made an extended
investigation into the subject, estimates the Confederate
strength at Resaca as being at least 67,000 men with 168
cannon, and figures that Johnston had under his command
something over 84,000 men later in the campaign.

With a view of preventing Johnston from sending
reinforcements to Longstreet in East Tennessee, and also to
assist Sherman's expedition to Meridian, Miss., Thomas made a
demonstration against Dalton, Ga., in the latter part of
February, but the campaign against Atlanta really began with
the occupation of Tunnel Hill by the Union forces on the 7th
of May. Then followed engagements at Rocky Face Ridge, Mill
Creek Gap, Dug Gap, Dalton, Resaca, Lay's Ferry, Adairsville,
Cassville, New Hope Church, Pickett's Mills, Big Shanty, Brush
Mountain, Kolb's Farm, Kennesaw Mountain, Ruff's Station,
Smyrna and the Chattahoochee river, with almost constant
skirmishing as Johnston retired toward Atlanta. On July 17th
Sherman's entire army crossed the Chattahoochee, his advance
being within 8 miles of the city. Up to this time Johnston
had acted on the defensive and so well had he conducted his
campaign that it had taken Sherman nearly two and a half
months to advance a distance of 100 miles. During the winter
of 1863-64 Gen. Gilmer, Confederate chief engineer, had
strengthened Atlanta as a base for Johnston's army by
intrenching the city. About the middle of June Capt. Grant of
the engineers was instructed to strengthen these
fortifications, especially on the northern side, toward
Peachtree creek. Johnston had been promised by Gen. Maury at
Mobile a number of rifled guns for this portion of the works,
and Gov. Brown had promised 10,000 state troops to aid in the
defense of the city. Johnston's plan was to engage the Union
army while it was, divided in crossing Peachtree creek. If he
failed there he would fall back to the line of works
constructed by Grant, where he could hold on until the arrival
of the state troops, when he could sally out and attack either
flank of the Federal forces as opportunity offered. But he
was not permitted to carry out his plans. His defensive
campaign had not found favor with the Confederate authorities,
and on the very day the Union forces crossed the Chattahoochee
he received the following telegram from Adjt.-Gen. Cooper at
Richmond: ''I am directed by the Secretary of War to inform you
that, as you have failed to arrest the advance of the enemy to
the vicinity of Atlanta, and express no confidence that you
can defeat or repel him, you are hereby relieved from the
command of the Army and Department of Tennessee, which you
will immediately turn over to General Hood.''

The news of the change soon reached the Federal lines,
where it was received with general satisfaction. Knowing the
feeling of the Confederate government toward Johnston's
course, the new commander determined upon an aggressive
policy. His opportunity soon came. Schofield had crossed the
Chattahoochee at Phillips, ferry, near the mouth of Soap
creek, and moved against the Georgia railroad in the vicinity
of Decatur. McPherson had effected a crossing at Roswell and
moved to Schofield's left, striking the railroad between
Decatur and Stone Mountain where Garrard's cavalry and M. L.
Smith's division destroyed several miles of track. He then
effected a junction with Schofield and moved toward the city.
On the 19th Sherman ordered Thomas to hold his right near
Howell's mill on Peachtree creek and swing his left across the
stream to connect with Schofield. Davis, division made an
attempt to cross at the mill, but finding the enemy too strong
on the opposite bank moved farther down the stream, where he
crossed without serious resistance, though Dilworth's brigade
had a sharp skirmish with and repulsed a Confederate
detachment. Geary succeeded in crossing about half a mile
above the mill. Wood moved forward on the Buckhead road, but
found the bridge destroyed and a force strongly intrenched on
the high bank opposite. By resorting to a flank movement he
succeeded, after a stubborn fight, in gaining a footing on the
south side of the creek below the road. At dark that evening
Thomas had the heads of three columns on the south side of the
Peachtree and the remainder of his army in position to follow
early on the 20th. There was still a considerable gap between
Thomas and Schofield, and to remedy this Sherman ordered
Howard to extend his line to the left to connect with
Schofield. Stanley's division crossed the north fork of the
Peachtree above the Buckhead road and went into camp for the
night between the forks of the creek, ready to move toward
Schofield's line early on the following morning. Baird's
division of Palmer's corps crossed during the night and took
position on the left of Davis, who occupied the extreme right
of the line, and early the next morning Johnson crossed and
moved into position on the left of Baird. Hooker sent over
Williams, division to form on Geary's right, and Ward's
(formerly Butterfield's) was ordered to Geary's left. Wood's
division made a detour to join Stanley and Newton moved up on
the Buckhead road into the position vacated by Wood. The
general course of Peachtree creek is westwardly. Howell's
mill stood at the point where the Marietta road crossed the
creek and from there to Buckhead bridge the distance was about
a mile and a half up the stream. About half-way between the
two roads a small stream called Shoal creek flowed into the
Peachtree from the south, and a short distance east of the
Buckhead road was another stream known as Clear creek. On the
bank of Shoal creek, about a quarter of a mile from the mouth,
stood Collier's mill. Newton after relieving Wood, moved
forward to a position about half a mile south of the
Peachtree, his left thrown out toward Clear creek, with his
line commanding the cross road running to Collier's mill, and
threw up a barricade of rails and logs. In a hollow to his
right and rear lay Ward's division, while still farther to the
right beyond Shoal creek was Geary.

Hood was aware of the gap in the Federal line and planned
an assault on Thomas before Schofield and McPherson could come
to his support. The attack was ordered for 1 p. m. on the
20th, with Stewart's corps on the left, Hardee's in the center
and Cheatham's on the right. Wheeler's cavalry was sent to
hold Schofield and McPherson in check, Cheatham was instructed
to hold his left on the creek in order to keep between Thomas
and Schofield, and the other two corps were to be hurled
against Thomas. The advance was to be made by divisions in
echelon, beginning on Hardee's right, and when the Union lines
were forced back to the creek the Confederates were to turn to
the left and press down the creek toward the west, sweeping
everything before them. At the last minute it became
necessary to change the plan of battle to meet certain
contingencies. Schofield and McPherson had moved faster than
flood had expected, notwithstanding Wheeler's efforts to hold
them back. On the night of the 19th Schofield crossed the
south fork of the Peachtree and took up a position along
Peavine creek, almost parallel to Cheatham's line of
intrenchments. To prevent Schofield from forming a junction
with Thomas, Cheatham was directed to withdraw a division from
his left to meet Schofield, and Hardee and Stewart were
ordered to move to the right to close the space thus vacated.
This movement caused a delay, so that it was about 4 o'clock
before the attack was begun. The movement of the Confederates
to the right brought Hardee in front of Newton who bore the
brunt of the first assault. Without skirmishers Hardee
advanced with Bate on the right, Walker in the center, Maney
on the left and Cleburne in reserve. His first division
passed Newton's left flank near Clear creek and for a little
while it looked as though Newton would be swept from his
position. But Bradley's brigade, which was in reserve,
quickly formed and with the assistance of a well manned
battery repulsed the attack. Kimball's brigade, on the right
of the road, was forced to change front to meet a force that
was outflanking it. The movement was successfully executed
and just at this juncture the brigades of Wood, Harrison and
Coburn, of Ward's division, came up on Kimball's right. The
sudden appearance of these fresh troops threw the enemy into
confusion and he beat a precipitate retreat. In the meantime
the attack had been extended beyond Shoal creek toward the
Union right. Near Collier's mill was an angle between Ward
and Geary. When the enemy had advanced into this angle
Geary's batteries opened with canister at short range and at
the same time a fierce infantry fire was maintained both in
front and on the flank. The slaughter here was terrific.
After the fight Geary's fatigue parties buried over 400 of the
Confederate dead. Stewart sent in the divisions of Loring and
Walthall, holding French within easy supporting distance.
This part of the Confederate line was subjected to a heavy
enfilading fire and forced to retire with heavy losses.
Loring lost 1,062 men in a few minutes. Again and again the
Confederates rallied and advanced to the assault. But Thomas-
''The Rock of Chickamauga''-was there in person, directing the
movements of his men, all of whom had the utmost confidence in
their general and presented a front that was invincible.
Ward's batteries were placed in a position to sweep the Clear
creek valley, driving back Bate's column that was trying to
gain Newton's rear. The enemy's losses in the subsequent at
tacks were not so great as in the first charge but their
repulse was none the less decisive. The efforts to reform the
lines for another assault were continued until sunset, when
the attempt was abandoned and the enemy retired within his
works. The Federal loss at the battle of Peachtree creek in
killed, wounded and missing was 1,707. No official report of
the Confederate casualties was made. General Hooker's
estimate of their losses in front of the 20th corps was 4,400
in killed and wounded, and the total loss in killed, wounded
and missing was not far from 6,000. While the battle of
Peachtree creek was in progress Gresham's division forced
Wheeler's cavalry back across the Augusta road toward Bald
Hill. In this movement Gresham was severely wounded and
Brig.-Gen. Giles A. Smith was assigned to the command of the

The 21st was spent by Thomas and Schofield in the
readjustment of their lines. Skirmish lines were advanced and
intrenched within a short distance of the enemy's works, and
the space between Howard and Logan was filled by Schofield's
troops. On the Union left McPherson was more aggressive.
Seeing that Bald Hill was the key point to the situation on
that part of the line he determined to possess it. The hill
was held by Cleburne's division, which had occupied and
intrenched it the night before. McPherson sent Force's
brigade of Leggett's division, supported by Giles A. Smith,
against Cleburne. Force advanced under cover of the hill
itself until within a short distance of the enemy's lines and
then made a dashing charge across the intervening open space
against the slight intrenchment before him. Cleburne's men
were veterans and met the charge with that bravery which had
distinguished them on other fields, but after a sharp combat
they were forced to yield. The hill, afterward known as
Leggett's hill, was promptly manned by artillery, well
supported by infantry, and a few shells were thrown into the

Having failed in his attempt against Thomas, Hood now
turned his attention to McPherson. In his report he says:
''The position and demonstration of McPherson's army on the
right threatening my communications made it necessary to
abandon Atlanta or check his movements. Unwilling to abandon,
the following instructions were given on the morning of the
21st: The chief engineer was instructed to select a line of
defense immediately about Atlanta, the works already
constructed for the defense of the place being wholly useless
from their position; Stewart's and Cheatham's corps to take
position and construct works to defend the city, the former on
the left, the latter on the right. The artillery, under the
command of Brig.-Gen. Shoup, was massed on the extreme right.
Hardee was ordered to move with his corps during the night of
the 21st south on the McDonough road, crossing Intrenchment
creek at Cobb's mills, and to completely turn the left of
McPherson's army. This he was to do, even should it be
necessary to go to or beyond Decatur. Wheeler, with his
cavalry, was ordered to move on Hardee's right, both to attack
at daylight, or as soon thereafter as possible. As soon as
Hardee succeeded in forcing back the enemy's left, Cheatham
was to take up the movement from his right and continue to
force the whole from right to left down Peachtree creek,
Stewart in like manner to engage the enemy as soon as the
movement became general.''

Such were Hood's plans for his sortie of the 22nd, but
again the unforeseen interposed to prevent its success.
Blair's corps, its right at Bald Hill, had a line of
intrenchments along the McDonough road which made it necessary
for Hardee to take a different route from the one laid down by
Hood, so that he was not in position to begin his attack until
about noon. At daybreak that morning the Confederate works in
front of Thomas and Schofield were found abandoned. Of this
situation Sherman says in his report: ''I confess I thought the
enemy had resolved to give us Atlanta without further contest,
but General Johnston had been relieved of his command and
General Hood substituted. A new policy seemed resolved on, of
which the bold attack on our right was the index. Our
advancing ranks swept across the strong and well finished
parapets of the enemy and closed in upon Atlanta until we
occupied a line in the form of a general circle of about 2
miles radius, when we again found him occupying in force a
line of finished redoubts which had been prepared for more
than a year, covering all the roads leading into Atlanta, and
we found him also busy in connecting those redoubts with
curtains, strengthened by rifle-trench, abatis and chevaux-

In contracting the lines about the city Dodge's corps
(the 16th) was thrown somewhat to the rear by the 15th corps
connecting with Schofield's right near the Howard house where
Sherman had his headquarters. Dodge was therefore ordered to
move to McPherson's left flank to strengthen and extend the
line in that direction. About noon the two divisions of
Dodge's corps were marching by fours in a long column to the
new position. Their line of march was nearly parallel to
Hardee's line of battle, consisting of Bate's and Walker's
divisions, concealed in the timber on the left. The first
intimation Dodge had of the presence of an enemy came with a
few straggling shots from the Confederate skirmishers. All
Dodge had to do was to face his veterans to the left and they
were in good line of battle on ground well calculated for
defense. Thus the engagement was begun on different ground
and with a different body of troops from what Hood intended or
Hardee expected. When the corps halted and faced to the left
Fuller's (formerly Veatch's) division was on the right and
Sweeny's on the left. In front was an open field over which
the enemy must advance. Fuller received the brunt of the
first attack, but it was handsomely repulsed. Walker's and
the 14th Ohio batteries were wheeled into position and these,
with the unerring infantry fire, checked every attempt to
cross the field, each time driving back the enemy with heavy
losses. Some idea of the carnage at this part of the field
may be gained from the statement that 13 of Walker's men were
found dead in one corner of a rail fence behind which the line
was formed. In one of these charges Gen. Walker rode out of
the woods, swinging his hat to cheer forward his men, and a
moment later was shot from his horse, dying almost instantly.
While the line was in some confusion Fuller made a headlong
charge and captured a number of prisoners, including the
colonel and adjutant of the 66th Ga. McPherson was in
consultation with Blair and Logan near the railroad when the
sound of the firing was heard, and hurried to the scene of
action. Noticing that a considerable gap existed between
Dodge's right and Blair's left, he sent orders to Logan to
push forward a brigade to close up the line. A short time
served to satisfy McPherson that Dodge could hold his position
and he started back to Blair. Just at this juncture
Cleburne's skirmishers were advancing into the gap above
mentioned. They called to McPherson to surrender, but instead
of obeying the summons he lifted his hat, as if in salute, and
wheeled his horse to gallop away. His action drew forth a
volley and he fell mortally wounded. As soon as the news
reached Sherman he assigned Logan to the temporary command of
the Army of the Tennessee. The sound of the volley that
killed McPherson told Fuller that the enemy was advancing on
his right and he threw forward the 64th Ill., armed with the
Henry repeating rifles, to protect his flank. This regiment
met Cleburne's skirmishers with such a galling fire that they
fell back with a loss of several in killed and wounded and
some 40 prisoners. Upon one of the prisoners was found
McPherson's effects, including an important despatch to
Sherman, and the body of the dead general was soon afterward

Almost immediately after the fall of McPherson the
divisions of Cleburne and Maney emerged from the timber on the
right of Dodge and under the protection of a heavy artillery
fire from the ridge in their rear advanced in three columns
against the left and rear of the 17th corps. They struck
Blair's left flank, fronting west, then swung through the gap
and seized the works constructed by Leggett and Smith in their
advance on Bald Hill the day before. In this movement the
16th Iowa, 245 men, on Blair's extreme left was cut off and
captured. On moved the Confederate advance until it reached
the foot of the hill and even began the ascent to attack
Leggett's works on the summit. Here the tide of battle was
turned. Smith's division leaped over their works and began to
pour in a deadly fire from the other side. Wangelin's
brigade, which Logan had sent in response to McPherson's last
order to occupy the gap, arrived and opened fire on the
enemy's flank. This gave Blair an opportunity to change front
and form a new line, by which arrangement the Confederates
were forced back. Hood watched the movement from a salient in
the city's fortifications, and about 3 p. m., when he saw
Hardee's attack had driven Blair's left back far enough to
attack the hill from the south, ordered Cheatham's corps and
the state troops under G. W. Smith to move against the Union
position from the Atlanta side. Here Col. Jones, of the 53rd
Ohio, with two regiments of M. L. Smith's division and two
guns of Battery A, 1st Ill. artillery, occupied a position on
a hill about half a mile in advance of the main line. Near
his position the railroad ran through a deep cut and close by
stood a large house of which the enemy could take advantage to
cover his advance along the railroad. Jones wanted to burn
the house but failed to get permission to do so. Cheatham
sent forward Manigault's brigade to occupy it, while the main
body of the corps poured through the cut and struck Jones on
the flank, throwing his line into disorder. The two guns were
spiked, however, before they fell into the hands of the enemy.

About 800 yards in advance of the 15th corps was Battery
H (De Gress'), 1st Ill. light artillery, composed of 20-
pounder Parrott guns and occupying the works evacuated by the
enemy on the night of the 21st. The battery, practically
unsupported, was charged about 4 o'clock. The attack in front
was repulsed, but the enemy gained the rear, and De Gress,
seeing that capture was imminent, spiked the guns and withdrew
his men. The guns were soon afterward recaptured, unspiked
and fired a few rounds after the retreating enemy. This part
of the engagement was witnessed by Sherman from his position
near the Howard house and he ordered Schofield to mass his
artillery there and open a cross fire on Cheatham as he
advanced toward the hill. At the same time the 1st division
of the 15th corps, commanded by Brig.-Gen. C. R. Woods, and
Mersey's brigade of Sweeny's division moved forward and
attacked Cheatham on flank and rear, checking his advance.
The whole 15th corps now rallied and by a counter charge drove
Cheatham in confusion from the field recapturing De Gress,
guns. This virtually ended the battle. Though several
subsequent attacks were made they only served to increase the
Confederate losses without giving them any advantage. Hardee
and Cheatham were operating on lines nearly at a right angle
and several miles apart. Had they attacked with vigor at the
same moment the result might have been different. Fortunately
for Blair who occupied the hill for which the enemy was
contending, the assaults were so disconnected that he always
had time to change front to meet each one when it came.

One thing that made it comparatively easy for Hardee to
gain Blair's flank and rear was the fact that Sherman had sent
Garrard's cavalry on the 21st to Covington to destroy the
Georgia railroad. Had the cavalry been with the left wing it
is quite probable that some scouting party would have
discovered the movement in time to check it, or at least to
have given a different turn to the battle.

At Decatur was Sprague's brigade of Fuller's division
guarding a train. About the time that Hardee began his attack
two divisions of Wheeler's cavalry made a descent upon Sprague
in an endeavor to capture the train. Sprague disposed his
force in such a way as to cover the withdrawal of the train
and put up a gallant resistance to a vastly superior force.
Reilly's brigade of Sweeny's division came to his assistance
and Wheeler was repulsed with a loss estimated at from 500 to
Sprague lost 242 men, most of whom were evidently captured, as
Wheeler reported about 225 prisoners.

Gen. J. D. Cox reports the Union losses in the battle of
the 22nd at 3,521 in killed, wounded and missing. Full
returns of the Confederate casualties are not available, but
Logan estimated them at 10,000. His command captured 5,000
stand of small arms, 18 stand of colors and 1,107 prisoners.
The total number of prisoners taken by the Union army was
about 2,000. Walker's division lost so heavily that the
remnants of its brigades were assigned to other commands.

Hood made another sortie on July 28, at Ezra Church
(q. v.). After that Sherman settled down to a siege, with
occasional cavalry raids against the railroad communications
south of the city. (See McCook's, Stoneman's and Kilpatrick's
Raids.) These expeditions having failed to destroy the
railroads, Sherman decided to intrench the 20th corps, now
commanded by Maj.-Gen. H. W. Slocum, at the railroad bridge
over the Chattahoochee and at Pace's and Turner's ferries, and
move the rest of his army to the south of Atlanta. This
movement began on Aug. 25. The 4th corps was relieved by
Garrard's cavalry, dismounted, and covered the withdrawal of
the 20th corps to the river. The next day the 4th and 14th
corps were massed on Utoy creek, and by the evening of the
27th the entire army except Slocum's corps was between Atlanta
and Sandtown. Hood had unconsciously played into Sherman's
hands by sending Wheeler with about 10,000 cavalry to cut the
Western & Atlantic railroad in the rear of the Union army,
thus weakening the Confederate forces in the field where
Sherman was now operating. On the night of the 28th Thomas
was at Red Oak a station on the West Point railroad Howard,
with the Army of the Tennessee, was at Fairburn, and Schofield
was near Mt. Gilead church, about 4 miles east of Thomas.
Hood sent out Hardee's and S. D. Lee's corps on the 30th to
check Sherman's movements and save the railroads if possible.
During the next few days skirmishes occurred at Red Oak, Rough
and Ready Morrow's mill, Mud creek and some other places; the
battle of Jonesboro was fought on Aug. 31, and Sept. 1, and
the fighting continued around Lovejoy's Station until Sept. 5.
In the end the enemy was beaten at every point, for on the
night of the 31st the Federals were in full possession of the
railroads. Upon learning this Hood realized that further
resistance was useless, and at 5 p. m. on Sept. 1, the
evacuation of the city was begun. During the night heavy
explosions were heard by Sherman's army, 20 miles south,
caused by blowing up their stores and magazines, and the next
morning it was discovered that the Confederate force at
Jonesboro had been withdrawn during the night.

In the meantime Slocum's command had been engaged in
constructing works at the railroad bridge and ferries, the 1st
division being at the bridge, the 2nd at Pace's ferry and the
3rd at Turner's. On Aug. 27, French's division, with 4 pieces
of artillery, came out and made a spirited attack on Slocum's
position, but it was handsomely repulsed with considerable
loss to the enemy and very slight loss to the Union forces.
The explosions on the night of Sept. 1, were heard in Slocum's
camp, and early the next morning he sent out adetachment of
the 2nd brigade, Ward's division, under Col. John Coburn, to
make a reconnaissance in the direction of the city and learn
the cause of the explosions. Coburn reached the old line of
the Confederate works and found it abandoned. In the suburbs
of the city he was met by Mayor Calhoun, with a committee of
citizens bearing a flag of truce. The mayor formally
surrendered the city and about 10 a. m. Ward's division
marched in and took possession, the remainder of Slocum's
corps following later. The Army of the Cumberland reached the
city on the 8th and took position in the works around it to
guard against any attempt to retake it. Sherman ordered all
families of Confederate soldiers to move southward within five
days, and all citizens of the north, not connected with the
army, to move northward, as the city was required purely for
military purposes. When the march to the sea was commenced
the torch was applied to all buildings except churches and
dwellings, but as the work was somewhat indiscriminately done
many buildings of the exempted classes were consumed.

Source: The Union Army, vol. 5

Return to American Civil War Homepage

Best viewed with Internet Explorer or Google Chrome

Google Safe.jpg