, and thence to succeeding positions until Atlanta
Direct assaults on entrenchments nearly always failed with heavy loss.
By this time it was thoroughly understood that the function of breastworks, whether of earth, logs, rails, or other material, was to give the advantage to the defense, and consequently everyone recognized that good troops behind such protection could hold off three or four times their number of equally good troops making the assault.
This was the proportion depended on, and the calculations of the commanding generals
were made accordingly.
It was usually considered that troops in the works were inferior to the assailants if they did not succeed in withstanding the attack of several times their own strength.
Naturally, also, the character of the works changed somewhat with increasing experience.
With rifles, an entrenched line was almost certain to be able to dispose effectually of an approaching force which had eight hundred yards over which to advance in the open, or over ground partially open.
In woods, an abatis, or entanglement, was an effectual aid in stopping the advance before it reached the works, since it delayed the line, and enabled the defenders to get a close-range fire on the assailants.
Beginning with the battle at New Hope Church
, on the 25th of May, 1864, almost every advanced line, of either side, entrenched itself as soon as the position was taken up. Whenever an organization was moved, its commander sent out a skirmish line ahead of the new position, for the protection of the men engaged in entrenching; caused an inspection of the ground to be made by competent officers to determine the location of the trenches, and then ordered his men to work.
The workers stacked their arms, took tools from the wagons or availed themselves of those carried by the troops, and each small organization — company or battalion — entrenched its own part of the line.
In timber, huge logs were placed in position and