either flank of the Federal
army as it approached.
thought that success in any of these proposed attacks would be very decisive against Sherman
, while failure would leave the Atlanta lines
intact, which the army could hold forever.
One of the weak points in this calculation is pointed out by General Smith
, who shows that the Georgia
reserves, old men and boys, were never collected in such numbers as to swell his command to 5,000 men. It is not certain, therefore, that Johnston
, if left in command, could have followed his plans to the letter.
The Federal army moved forward in a southeasterly direction, bringing McPherson
on the 18th to the Georgia railroad, several miles east of Decatur
, where Garrard
's cavalry and M. L. Smith
's division broke up four miles of the road.
reached the town of Decatur
On the next day, McPherson
moved west into Decatur
, and Schofield
marched thence toward Atlanta
from the east.
These movements were singularly disjointed and careless, for which the Federal
chief engineer gives the insufficient excuse: ‘We knew but little of the country, and the inhabitants, always few in number and indisposed to give us information, had all gone further south.
Not an able-bodied man was to be found between Marietta
and the enemy's line.’
On the 19th, Thomas
' army still being north of Atlanta
, the head of Howard
's corps reached the Buckhead bridge
on Peachtree creek
, protected on the south side by an infantry work.
During the afternoon Wood
's division crossed below there and Stanley
's division above, after stubborn fighting, and were moved eastward to connect with Schofield
, leaving Newton
's division at the crossing place.
Parts of Hooker
's and Palmer
's corps also crossed, Palmer
meeting with considerable resistance.
In these encounters Reynolds
' Confederate brigade captured 150 prisoners and two flags.
On the 20th, Thomas
was comparatively isolated, with