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Opposing Sherman's advance to Atlanta.

by Joseph E. Johnston, General, C. S. A.

Buzzard-Roost Gap. From a War-time sketch.

President Davis transferred me from the Department of Mississippi to the command of the Army of Tennessee by a telegram received December 18th, 1863, in the camp of Ross's brigade of cavalry near Bolton. I assumed that command at Dalton on the 27th, and received there, on the 1st of January, a letter from the President dated December 23d, purporting to be “instructions.”

In it he, in Richmond, informed me of the encouraging condition of the army, which “induced him to hope that I would soon be able to commence active operations against the enemy,”--the men being “tolerably” well clothed, with a large reserve of small-arms, the morning reports exhibiting an effective total that exceeded in number “that actually engaged on the Confederate side in any battle of the war.” Yet this army itself had lost in the recent campaign at least 25,000 men in action, while 17,000 had been transferred from it in Longstreet's corps, and the two brigades (Quarles's and Baldwin's) that had been sent to Mississippi; so that it was then weaker by 40,000 men than it had been when “engaged on the Confederate side” in the battle of Chickamauga, in the September preceding.

In the inspections, which were made as soon as practicable, the appearance of the army was very far from being “matter of much congratulation.” Instead of a reserve of muskets there was a deficiency of six thousand and as great a one of blankets, while the number of bare feet was painful to see. The artillery horses were too feeble to draw the guns in fields, or on a march, and the mules were in similar condition; while the supplies of forage were then very irregular, and did not include hay. In consequence of this, it was necessary to send all of these animals not needed for camp service to the valley of the Etowah, where long forage could be found, to restore their health and strength.

The last return of the army was of December 20th, and exhibited an effective total of less than 36,000, of whom 6000 were without arms and as many without shoes. The President impressed upon me the importance of recovering Tennessee with an army in such numbers and condition. On pages 548-9, Vol. II. of his work, “The rise and fall of the Confederate Government,” he dwells upon his successful efforts to increase its numbers and means adequately. After the strange assertions and suggestions of December 23d, he did not resume the subject of military operations until, in a letter of February 27th to him through his staff-officer General Bragg, I pointed out the [261] necessity of great preparations to take the offensive, such as large additions to the number of troops, an ample supply of field transportation, subsistence stores, and forage, a bridge equipage, and fresh artillery horses. This letter was acknowledged on the 4th of March, but not really replied to until the 12th, when General Bragg [see note, Vol. III., p. 711] wrote a plan of campaign which was delivered to me on the 18th by his secretary, Colonel Sale. It prescribed my invasion of Tennessee with an army of 75,000 men, including Longstreet's corps, then near Morristown, Tennessee. When necessary supplies and transportation were collected at Dalton, the additional troops, except Longstreet's, would be sent there; and this army and Longstreet's corps would march to meet at Kingston, on the Tennessee River, and thence into the valley of Duck River.

Being invited to give my views, I suggested that the enemy could defeat the plan, either by attacking one of our two bodies of troops on the march, with their united forces, or by advancing against Dalton before our forces there should be equipped for the field; for it was certain that they would be able to take the field before we could be ready. I proposed, therefore, that the additional troops should be sent to Dalton in time to give us the means to beat the Federal army there, and then pursue it into Tennessee, which would be a more favorable mode of invasion than the other.

General Bragg replied that my answer did not indicate acceptance of the plan proposed, and that troops could be drawn from other points only to advance. As the idea of advancing had been accepted by me, it was evidently his strategy that was the ultimatum.

I telegraphed again (and also sent a confidential officer to say) that I was anxious to take the offensive with adequate means, and to represent to the President the actual disparity of forces, but without result. The above is the substance of all said, written, or done on the subject of Mr. Davis's pages 548-9, before the armies were actually in contact, with odds of ten to four against us.

The instruction, discipline, and spirit of the army were much improved between the 1st of January and the end of April, and its numbers were increased. The efforts for the latter object brought back to the ranks about five thousand of the men who had left them in the rout of Missionary Ridge. On the morning report of April 30th the totals were: 37,652 infantry, 2812 artillery with 112 guns, and 2392 cavalry. This is the report as corrected by Major Kinloch Falconer, assistant adjutant-general, from official records in his office.1 Sherman had assembled at that time an army of 98,797 men and 254 guns; but before the armies actually met, three divisions of cavalry under Generals Stoneman, Garrard, and McCook added 10,000 or 12,000 men to the number. The object prescribed to him by General Grant was “to move against Johnston's army, to break it up, and to get into the interior of the enemy's country as far as he could, inflicting all the damage possible on their war resources.”

The occupation of Dalton by General Bragg had been accidental. He had encamped there for a night in his retreat from Missionary Ridge, and had [262] remained because it was ascertained next morning that the pursuit had ceased. Dalton is in a valley so broad as to give ample room for the deployment of the largest American army. Rocky-face, which bounds it on the the west, terminates as an obstacle three miles north of the railroad gap, and the distance from Chattanooga to Dalton around the north end exceeds that through the railroad gap less than a mile; and a general with a large army, coming from Chattanooga to attack an inferior one near Dalton, would follow that route and find in the broad valley a very favorable field.

Mr. Davis descants on the advantages I had in mountains, ravines, and streams, and General Sherman claims that those features of the country were equal to the numerical difference between our forces. I would gladly have given all the mountains, ravines, rivers, and woods of Georgia for such a supply of artillery ammunition, proportionally, as he had. Thinking as he did, it is strange that he did not give himself a decided superiority of actual strength, by drawing troops from his three departments of the Cumberland, the Tennessee, and the Ohio, where, according to Secretary Stanton's report of 1865, he had 139,000 men, fit for duty. The country in which the two armies operated is not rugged; there is nothing in its character that gave advantage to the Confederates. Between Dalton and Atlanta the only mountain in sight of the railroad is Rocky-face, which aided the Federals. The small military value of mountains is indicated by the fact that in the Federal attack on June 27th our troops on Kenesaw suffered more than those on the plain.

During the previous winter Major-General Gilmer, chief engineer, had wisely made an admirable base for our army by intrenching Atlanta.

As a road leads from Chattanooga through Snake Creek Gap to the railroad bridge at Resaca, a light intrenchment to cover 3000 or 4000 men was made there; and to make quick communication between that point and Dalton, two rough country roads were so improved as to serve that purpose.2

On the 1st of May I reported to the Administration that the enemy was about to advance, suggesting the transfer of at least a part of General Polk's troops to my command. Then the cavalry with convalescent horses was ordered to the front,--Martin's division to observe the Oostenaula from Resaca to Rome, and Kelly's little brigade to join the cavalry on the Cleveland road.

On the 4th the Federal army, including the troops from Knoxville, was at Ringgold. Next day it skirmished until dark with our advanced guard of cavalry. This was repeated on the 6th. On the 7th it moved forward, driving our cavalry from Tunnel Hill, and taking a position in the afternoon in front of the railroad gap, and parallel to Rocky-face — the right a mile south of the gap, and the left near the Cleveland road.

Until that day I had regarded a battle in the broad valley in which Dalton stands as inevitable. The greatly superior strength of the Federal army made the chances of battle altogether in its favor. It had also places of refuge in case of defeat, in the intrenched pass of Ringgold and in the fortress of Chattanooga; while we, if beaten, had none nearer than Atlanta, [263] 100 miles off, with three rivers intervening. General Sherman's course indicating no intention of giving battle east of Rocky-face, we prepared to fight on either side of the ridge. For that object A. P. Stewart's division was placed in the gap, Cheatham's on the crest of the hill, extending a mile north of Stewart's, and Bate's also on the crest of the hill, and extending a mile south of the gap. Stevenson's was formed across the valley east of the ridge, his left meeting Cheatham's right; Hindman in line with Stevenson and on his right; Cleburne behind Mill Creek and in front of Dalton. Walker's division was in reserve.

Cantey with his division arrived at Resaca that evening (7th) and was charged with the defense of the place. During the day our cavalry was driven from the ground west of Rocky-face through the gap. Grigsby's brigade was placed near Dug Gap,--the remainder in front of our right. About 4 o'clock P. M. of the 8th, Geary's division of Hooker's corps attacked two regiments of Reynolds's Arkansas brigade who were guarding Dug Gap, and who were soon joined by Grigsby's brigade on foot. The increased sound of musketry indicated so sharp a conflict that Lieutenant-General Hardee was requested to send Granbury's Texan brigade to the help of our people, and to take command there himself. These accessions soon decided the contest, and the enemy was driven down the hill. A. sharp engagement was occurring at the same time on the crest of the mountain, where our right and center joined, between Pettus's brigade holding that point and troops of the Fourth Corps attacking it. The assailants were repulsed, however. The vigor of this attack suggested the addition of Brown's brigade to Pettus's.

On the 9th a much larger force assailed the troops at the angle, and with great determination, but the Federal troops were defeated with a loss proportionate to their courage. Assaults as vigorous and resolute were made at the same time on Stewart and on Bate, and were handsomely repulsed. The Confederates, who fought under cover, had but trifling losses in these combats, but the Federal troops, fully exposed, must have lost heavily — the more because American soldiers are not to be driven back without severe losses. General Wheeler had a very handsome affair of cavalry near Varnell's Station, the same day, in which he captured 100 prisoners, including a colonel, three captains, five lieutenants, and a standard. General Sherman regarded these actions as amounting to a battle.

Information had been received of the arrival of the Army of the Tennessee in Snake Creek Gap, on the 8th. At night on the 9th General Cantey reported that he had been engaged with those troops until dark. Lieutenant-General Hood was dispatched to Resaca with three divisions immediately. The next morning he reported the enemy retiring, and was recalled, with orders to leave two divisions midway between the two places. Spirited fighting was renewed in and near the gap as well as on the northern front. The most vigorous of them was made late in the day, on Bate's division, and repulsed. At night information was received from our scouts near the south end of Rocky-face, that the Army of the Tennessee was intrenching in Snake Creek Gap, and next morning reports were received which indicated a general [264]

The battle of Resaca, Georgia, May 14, 1864. from “the Mountain campaigns in Georgia,” etc. Published by the Western & Atlantic R. R. Co.

[265] movement of the Federal army to its right, and one report that General McPherson's troops were moving from Snake Creek Gap toward Resaca. General Polk, who had just reached that place with Loring's division, was charged with its defense.

General Wheeler was directed to move next morning with all the available cavalry around the north end of Rocky-face, to learn if a general movement of the enemy was in progress. He was to be supported by Hindman's division. In this reconnoissance General Stoneman's division of cavalry was encountered and driven back. The information gained confirmed the reports of the day before.

About 10 o'clock A. M. of the 13th the Confederate army moved from Dalton and reached Resaca just as the Federal troops approaching from Snake Creek Gap were encountering Loring's division a mile from the station. Their approach was delayed long enough by Loring's opposition to give me time to select the ground to be occupied by our troops. And while they were taking this ground the Federal army was forming in front of them. The left of Polk's corps occupied the west face of the intrenchment of Resaca. Hardee's corps, also facing to the west, formed the center. Hood's, its left division facing to the west and the two others to the north-west, was on the right, and, crossing the railroad, reached the Connasauga. The enemy skirmished briskly with the left half of our line all the afternoon.

On the 14th spirited fighting was maintained by the enemy on the whole front, a very vigorous attack being made on Hindman's division of Hood's corps, which was handsomely repulsed. In the meantime General Wheeler was directed to ascertain the position and formation of the Federal left. His report indicating that these were not unfavorable to an attack, Lieutenant-General Hood was directed to make one with Stewart's and Stevenson's divisions, strengthened by four brigades from the center and left. He was instructed to make a half change of front to the left to drive the enemy from the railroad, the object of the operation being to prevent them from using it. The attack was extremely well conducted and executed, and before dark (it was begun at 6 P. M.) the enemy was driven from his ground. This encouraged me to hope for a more important success; so General Hood was directed to renew the fight next morning. His troops were greatly elated by this announcement, made to them that evening.

On riding from the right to the left after nightfall, I was informed that the extreme left of our line of skirmishers, forty or fifty men, had been driven from their ground,--an elevation near the river,--and received. a report from Major-General Martin that Federal troops were crossing the Oostenaula near Lay's Ferry on a pontoon-bridge--two divisions having already crossed. In consequence of this, Walker's division was sent to Lay's Ferry immediately, and the order to General Hood was revoked; also, Lieutenant-Colonel S. W. Presstman, chief engineer, was directed to lay a pontoon-bridge a mile above the railroad, and to have the necessary roadway made.

Sharp fighting commenced early on the 15th, and continued until night, with so much vigor that many of the assailants pressed up to our intrenchments. [266] All these attacks were repelled, however. In General Shernan's language, the sounds of musketry and cannon rose all day to the dignity of a battle.

Soon after noon intelligence was received from Major-General Walker, that the report that the enemy had crossed the Oostenaula was untrue. Lieutenant-General Hood was therefore again ordered to assail the enemy with the troops he had commanded the day before. When he was about to move forward, positive intelligence was received from General Walker that the Federal right was actually crossing the Oostenaula. This made it necessary to abandon the thought of fighting north of the river, and the orders to Lieutenant-General Hood were countermanded, but the order from corps headquarters was not sent to Stewart promptly, and consequently he made the attack unsustained, and suffered before being recalled.

The occupation of Resaca being exceedingly hazardous, I determined to abandon the place. So the army was ordered to cross the Oostenaula about midnight,--Hardee's and Polk's corps by the railroad and trestle bridges, and Hood's by that above, on the pontoons.

General Sherman claims to have surprised us by McPherson's appearance in Snake Creek Gap on the 9th, forgetting that we discovered his march on the 8th. He blames McPherson for not seizing the place. That officer tried the works and found them too strong to be seized. General Sherman says that if McPherson had placed his whole force astride the railroad, he could have there easily withstood the attack of all Johnston's army. Had he done so, all Johnston's army would have been upon him at the dawn of the next day, the cannon giving General Sherman intelligence of the movement of that army. About twice his force in front and three thousand men in his immediate rear would have overwhelmed him, making a most auspicious beginning of the campaign for the Confederates.

General Sherman has a very exaggerated idea of our field-works. They were slighter than his own, because we had most inadequate supplies of intrenching tools. Two events at Resaca were greatly magnified to him. He says that toward evening on the 15th [14th] McPherson “moved his whole line of battle forward till he had gained a ridge overlooking the town ” [there was no town.--J. E. J.], and that several attempts to drive him away were repulsed with bloody loss. The fact is, near night of the 14th, forty or fifty skirmishers in front of our extreme left were driven from the slight elevation they occupied,3 but no attempt was made to retake it. Sherman also says that “Hooker's corps had also some handsome fighting on the left, . . . capturing a 4-gun intrenched battery.” . . . From our view in the morning [267] of the 15th, Major-General Stevenson advanced four guns some eighty yards and began to intrench them. General Hood had their fire opened at once. A ravine leading from the Federal line within easy musket-range enabled the Federal troops to drive away the gunners; but their attempt to take off the guns was frustrated by the Confederate musketry. So the pieces remained in place, and fell into the possession of Hooker's corps on the 16th, after we abandoned the position.

The Confederate army was compelled to abandon its position in front of Dalton by General Sherman's flank movement through Snake Creek Gap, and was forced from the second position by the movement toward Calhoun. Each of these movements would have made the destruction of the Confederate army inevitable in case of defeat. In the first ease the flank march was protected completely by Rocky-face Ridge; in the second, as completely by the Oostenaula. A numerical superiority of more than two to one made those manoeuvres free from risk. General Sherman thinks that the impracticable nature of the country, which made the passage of the troops across the valley almost impossible, saved the Confederate army. The Confederate army remained in its position near Dalton until May 13th, because I knew the time that would be required for the march of 100,000 men through the long defile between their right flank near Mill Creek Gap and the outlet of Snake Creek Gap; and the shortness of the time in which 43,000 men could march by two good roads direct from Dalton to Resaca; and. the further fact that our post at Resaca could hold out a longer time than our march to that point would require.

Mr. Davis and General Sherman exhibit a strange ignorance of the country between. Dalton and Atlanta. Mr. Davis describes mountain ridges offering positions neither to be taken nor turned, and a natural fortress eighteen miles in extent, forgetting, apparently, that a fortress is strong only when it has a garrison strong enough for its extent; and both forget that, except Rocky-face, no mountain is visible from the road between Dalton and Atlanta. That country is intersected by numerous practicable roads, and is not more rugged than that near Baltimore and Washington, or Atlanta and Macon. When the armies confronted each other the advantages of ground were equal and unimportant, both parties depending for protection on earth-works, not on ridges and ravines.

In leaving Resaca I hoped to find a favorable position near Calhoun, but there was none; and the army, after resting 18 or 20 hours near that place, early in the morning of the 17th moved on seven or eight miles to Adairsville, where we were joined by the cavalry of General Polk's command, a division of 3700 men under General W. H. Jackson. Our map represented the valley in which the railroad lies as narrow enough for our army formed across it to occupy the heights on each side with its flanks, and therefore I intended to await the enemy's attack there; but the breadth of the valley far exceeded the front of our army in order of battle. So another plan was devised. Two roads lead southward from Adairsville,--one directly through Cassville; the other follows the railroad through Kingston, turns to the left there, and rejoins [268] the other at Cassville. The interval between them is widest opposite Kingston, where it is about seven miles by the farm roads. In the expectation that a part of the Federal army would follow each road, it was arranged that Polk's corps should engage the column on the direct road when it should arrive opposite Kingston,--Hood's, in position for the purpose, falling upon its left flank during the deployment. Next morning, when our cavalry on that road reported the right Federal column near Kingston, General Hood was instructed to move to and follow northwardly a country road a mile east of that from Adairsville, to be in position to fall upon the flank of the Federal column when it should be engaged with Polk. An order announcing that we were about to give battle was read to each regiment, and heard with exultation. After going some three miles, General Hood marched back about two, and formed his corps facing to our right and rear. Being asked for an explanation, he replied that an aide-de-camp had told him that the Federal army was approaching on that road. Our whole army knew that to be impossible. It had been viewing the enemy inthe opposite direction every day for two weeks. General Hood did not report his extraordinary disobedience — as he must have done had he believed the story upon which he professed to have acted. The time lost frustrated the design, for success depended on timing the attack properly.

Mr. Davis conceals the facts to impute this failure to me, thus: “The battle, for causes which were the subject of dispute, did not take place.... Instead of his attacking the divided columns of the enemy, the united Federal columns were preparing to attack him.” There was no dispute as to facts.

An attack, except under very unfavorable circumstances, being impossible, the troops were formed in an excellent position along the ridge immediately south of Cassville, an elevated and open valley in front, and a deep one in rear of it. Its length was equal to the front of Hood's and Polk's and half of Hardee's corps. They were placed in that order from right to left.

As I rode along the line while the troops were forming, General Shoup, chief of artillery, pointed out to me a space of 150 or 200 yards, which he thought might be enfiladed by artillery on a hill a half mile beyond Hood's right and in front of the prolongation of our line, if the enemy should clear away the thick wood that covered it and establish batteries. He was desired to point out to the officer who might command there some narrow ravines very near, in which his men could be sheltered from such artillery fire, and to remind him that while artillery was playing upon his position no attack would be made upon it by infantry. The enemy got into position soon after our troops were formed and skirmished until dark, using their field-pieces freely. During the evening Lieutenant-Generals Polk and Hood, the latter being spokesman, asserted that a part of the line of each would be so enfiladed next morning by the Federal batteries established on the hill above mentioned, that they would be unable to hold their ground an hour; and therefore urged me to abandon the position at once. They expressed the conviction that early the next morning batteries would open upon them from a hill then thickly covered with wood and out of range of brass fieldpieces. [269] The matter was discussed perhaps an hour, in which time I became apprehensive that as the commanders of two-thirds of the army thought the position untenable, the opinion would be adopted by their troops, which would make it so. Therefore I yielded. Lieutenant-General Hardee, whose ground was the least strong, was full of confidence. Mr. Davis says ( “Rise and fall,” Vol. II., p. 533) that General Hood asserts, in his report and in a book, that the two corps were on ground commanded and enfiladed by the enemy's batteries. On the contrary, they were on a hill, and the enemy were in a valley where their batteries were completely commanded by ours.

The army abandoned the ground before daybreak and crossed the Etowah after noon, and encamped near the railroad. Wheeler's cavalry was placed in observation above, and Jackson's below our main body.

No movement of the enemy was discovered until the 22d, when General Jackson reported their army moving toward Stilesboro‘, as if to cross the Etowah near that place; they crossed on the 23d. On the 24th Hardee's and Polk's corps encamped on the road from Stilesboro' to Atlanta, south-east of Dallas, and Hood's four miles from New Hope Church, on the road from Allatoona. On the 25th the Federal army was a little east of Dallas, and Hood's corps was placed with its center at New Hope Church, Polk's on his left, and Hardee's prolonging the line to the Atlanta road, which was held by its left. A little before 6 o'clock in the afternoon Stewart's division in front of New Hope Church was fiercely attacked by Hooker's corps, and the action continued two hours without lull or pause, when the assailants fell back. The canister shot of the sixteen Confederate field-pieces and the musketry of five thousand infantry at short range must have inflicted heavy loss upon General Hooker's corps, as is proved by the name “Hell hole,” which, General Sherman says, was given the place by the Federal soldiers. Next day the Federal troops worked so vigorously, extending their intrenchments toward the railroad, that they skirmished very little. The Confederates labored strenuously to keep abreast of their work, but in vain, owing to greatly inferior numbers and an insignificant supply of intrenching tools. On the 27th, however, the fighting rose above the grade of skirmishing, especially in the afternoon, when at half-past 5 o'clock the Fourth Corps (Howard) and a division of the Fourteenth (Palmer) attempted to turn our right, but the movement, after being impeded by the cavalry, was met by two regiments of our right division (Cleburne's), and the two brigades of his second line brought up on the right of the first. The Federal formation was so deep that its front did not equal that of our two brigades; consequently those troops were greatly exposed to our musketry — all but the leading troops being on a hillside facing us. They advanced until their first line was within 25 or 30 paces of ours, and fell back only after at least 700 men had fallen dead in their places. When the leading Federal troops paused in their advance, a color-bearer came on and planted his colors eight or ten feet in front of his regiment, but was killed in the act. A soldier who sprang forward to hold up or bear off the colors was shot dead as he seized the staff. Two others who followed successively fell like him, but the fourth bore back the noble emblem. Some time after night-fall [270] the Confederates captured above two hundred prisoners in the hollow before them.

General Sherman does not refer to this combat in his “Memoirs,” although he dwells with some exultation upon a very small affair of the next day at Dallas, in which the Confederates lost about three hundred killed and wounded, and in which he must have lost more than ten times as many.

In the afternoon of the 28th Lieutenant-General Hood was instructed to draw his corps to the rear of our line in the early part of the night, march around our right flank, and form it facing the left flank of the Federal line and obliquely to it, and attack at dawn — Hardee and Polk to join in the battle successively as the success on the right of each might enable him to do so. We waited next morning for the signal — the sound of Hood's musketry — from the appointed time until 10 o'clock, when a message from that officer was brought by an aide-de-camp to the effect that he had found R. W. Johnson's division intrenching on the left of the Federal line and almost at right angles to it, and asked for instructions. The message proved that there could be no surprise, which was necessary to success, and that the enemy's intrenchments would be completed before we could attack. The corps was therefore recalled. It was ascertained afterward that after marching eight or ten hours Hood's corps was then at least six miles from the Federal left, which was little more than a musket-shot from his starting-point.

The extension of the Federal intrenchments toward the railroad was continued industriously to cut us off from it or to cover their own approach to it. We tried to keep pace with them, but the labor did not prevent the desultory fighting, which was kept up while daylight lasted. In this the great inequality of force compelled us to employ dismounted cavalry. On the 4th or 5th of June the Federal army reached the railroad between Ackworth and Allatoona. The Confederate forces then moved to a position carefully marked out by Colonel Presstman, its left on Lost Mountain, and its right, of cavalry, beyond the railroad and somewhat covered by Noonday Creek, a line much too long for our strength.

On the 8th the Federal army seemed to be near Ackworth, and our position was contracted to cover the roads leading thence to Atlanta. This brought the left of Hardee's corps to Gilgal Church, Polk's right near the Marietta and Ackworth road and Hood's corps massed beyond that road. Pine Mountain, a detached hill, was held by a division. On the 11th of June the left of the Federal army was on the high ground beyond Noonday Creek, its center a third of a mile in front of Pine Mountain and its right beyond the Burnt Hickory and Marietta road.

In the morning of the 14th General Hardee and I rode to the summit of Pine Mountain to decide if the outpost there should be maintained. General Polk accompanied us. After we had concluded our examination and the abandonment of the hill that night had been decided upon, a few shots were fired at us from a battery of Parrott guns a quarter of a mile in our front; the third of these passed through General Polk's chest, from left to right, killing him instantly. This event produced deep sorrow in the army, in [271] every battle of which he had been distinguished. Major-General W. W. Loring succeeded to the command of the corps.

A division of Georgia militia under Major-General G. W. Smith, transferred to the Confederate service by Governor Brown, was charged with the defense of the bridges and ferries of the Chattahoochee, for the safety of Atlanta. On the 16th Hardee's corps was placed on the high ground east of Mud Creek,

Confederates dragging guns up Kenesaw Mountain. From the “Valentine,” published by the Western & Atlantic R. R. Co.

facing to the west. The right of the Federal army made a corresponding change of front by which it faced to the east. It was opposed in this manoeuvre by Jackson's cavalry as well as 2500 men can resist 30,000. The angle where Hardee's right joined Loring's left was soon found to be a very weak point, and on the 17th another position was chosen, including the crest of Kenesaw, which Colonel Presstman prepared for occupation by the 19th, when it was assumed by the army. In this position two divisions of Loring's corps occupied the crest of Kenesaw from end to end, the other division being on its right, and Hood's corps on the right of it, Hardee's extending from Loring's left across the Lost Mountain and Marietta road. The enemy approached as usual, under cover of successive lines of intrenchments. In these positions of the two armies there were sharp and incessant partial engagements until the 3d of July. On the 21st of June the extension of the Federal line to the south which had been protected by the swollen condition of Noses Creek, compelled the transfer of Hood's corps to our left, Wheelers troops occupying the ground it had left. On the 22d General Hood reported that Hindman's and Stevenson's divisions of his corps, having been attacked, had driven back the Federal troops and had taken a line of breastworks, from which they had been driven by the artillery of the enemy's main position. [272] Subsequent detailed accounts of this affair prove that after the capture of the advanced line of breastworks General Hood directed his two divisions against the enemy's main line. The slow operation of a change of front under the fire of the artillery of this main line subjected the Confederates to a loss of one thousand men — whereupon the attempt was abandoned, either by the general's orders or by the discretion of the troops.

General Sherman and General Thomas during the assault at Kenesaw Mountain, June 27, 1864. from a sketch made at the time. General Sherman is the slenderer figure, on the right. He and General Thomas were standing by the “signal tree” from which ran telegraphic wires to the front, by means of which reports were received and orders transmitted during the battle.

On the 24th Hardee's skirmishers were attacked in their rifle-pits by a Federal line of battle, and on the 25th a similar assault was made upon those of Stevenson's division. Both were repulsed, with heavy proportionate losses to the assailants.

In the morning of the 27th, after a cannonade by all its artillery, the Federal army assailed the Confederate position, especially the center and right — the Army of the Cumberland advancing against the first, and that of the Tennessee against the other. Although suffering losses out of all proportion to those they inflicted, the Federal troops pressed up to the Confederate intrenchments in many places, maintaining the unequal conflict for two hours and a half, with the persevering courage of American soldiers. At 11:30 A. M. the attack had failed. In General Sherman's words:

“About 9 o'clock A. t. of the day appointed [June the 27th], the troops moved to the assault, and all along our lines for ten miles a furious fire of artillery and musketry was kept up. At all points the enemy met us with determined courage and in great force. . .. By 11:30 the assault was over, and had failed. We had not broken the line at either point, but our assaulting columns held their ground within a few yards of the rebel trenches and there covered them-selves with parapet. McPherson lost about 500 men and several valuable officers, and Thomas lost nearly 2000 men.”4


Such statements of losses are incredible. The Northern troops fought very bravely, as usual. Many fell against our parapets, some were killed in our trenches. Most of this battle of two hours and a half was at very short range. It is not to be believed that Southern veterans struck but 3 per cent. of Thomas's troops in mass at short range, or 1 2/3 per cent. of McPherson's — and, if possible, still less so that Northern soldiers, inured to battle, should have been defeated by losses so trifling as never to have discouraged the meanest soldiers on record. I have seen American soldiers (Northern men) win a field. with losses ten times greater proportionally. But, argument apart, there is a witness against the estimates of Northern losses in this campaign, in the 10,126 graves in the Military Cemetery at Marietta, of soldiers killed south of the Etowah.5 Moreover, the Federal dead nearest to Hardee's line lay there two days, during which they were frequently counted — at least 1000; and as there were seven lines within some 300 yards, exposed two hours and a half to the musketry of two divisions and the canister-shot of 32 fieldpieces, there must have been many uncounted dead; the counted would alone indicate a loss of at least 6000.

As to the “assaulting columns holding their ground within a few yards of the rebel trenches and there covering themselves with parapet,” it was utterly impossible. There would have been much more exposure in that than in mounting and crossing the little rebel “parapet” ; but at one point, seventy-five yards in front of Cheatham's line, a party of Federal soldiers, finding themselves sheltered from his missiles by the form of the ground, made a “parapet” there which became connected with the main work.6

As the extension of the Federal intrenched line to their right had brought it nearer to Atlanta than was our left, and had made our position otherwise very dangerous, two new positions for the army were chosen, one nine or ten miles south of Marietta, and the other on the high ground near the Chattahoochee. Colonel Presstman was desired to prepare the first for occupation, and Brigadier-General Shoup, commander of the artillery, was instructed to strengthen the other with a line of redoubts devised by himself.

The troops took the first position in the morning of the 3d, and as General Sherman was strengthening his right greatly, they were transferred to the second in the morning of the 5th. The cavalry of our left had been supported in the previous few days by a division of State troops commanded by Major-General G. W. Smith.

As General Sherman says, “i.t was really a continuous battle lasting [274] from June 10th to July 3d.” The army occupied positions about Marietta twenty-six days, in which the want of artillery ammunition was especially felt; in all those days we were exposed to an almost incessant fire of artillery as well as musketry — the former being the more harassing, because it could not be returned; for our supply of artillery ammunition was so small that we were compelled to reserve it for battles and serious assaults.

In the new position each corps had two pontoon-bridges laid. Above the railroad bridge the Chattahoochee had numerous good fords. General Sherman, therefore, directed his troops to that part of the river, ten or fifteen miles above our camp. On the 8th of July two of his corps had crossed the Chattahoochee and intrenched themselves. Therefore the Confederate army also crossed the river on the 9th.

About the middle of June Captain Grant of the engineers was instructed to strengthen the fortifications of Atlanta materially, on the side toward Peach Tree Creek, by the addition of redoubts and by converting barbette into embrasure batteries. I also obtained a promise of seven sea-coast rifles from General D. H. Maury [at Mobile], to be mounted on that front. Colonel Presstman was instructed to join Captain Grant with his subordinates, in this work of strengthening the defenses of Atlanta, especially between the Augusta and Marietta roads, as the enemy was approaching that side. For the same reason a position on the high ground looking down into the valley of Peach Tree Creek was selected for the army, from which it might engage the enemy if he should expose himself in the passage of the stream. The position of each division was marked and pointed out to its staff-officers.

On the 17th we learned that the whole Federal army had crossed the Chattahoochee; and late in the evening, while Colonel Presstman was receiving from me instructions for the next day, I received the following telegram of that date:

Lieutenant-General J. B. Hood has been commissioned to the temporary rank of general under the late law of Congress. 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.

S. Cooper, Adjutant and Inspector-General.

Orders transferring the command of the army7 to General Hood were written and published immediately, and next morning I replied to the telegram of the Secretary of War:

Your dispatch of yesterday received and obeyed — command of the Army and Department of Tennessee has been transferred to General Hood. As to the alleged cause of my removal, I assert that Sherman's army is much stronger, compared with that of Tennessee, than Grant's compared with that of Northern Virginia. Yet the enemy has been compelled to advance much [275]

General John B. Hood, C. S. A. From a photograph.

more slowly to the vicinity of Atlanta than to that of Richmond and Petersburg, and penetrated much deeper into Virginia than into Georgia. Confident language by a military commander is not usually regarded as evidence of competence.

General. Hood came to my quarters early in the morning of the 18th, and remained there until nightfall. Intelligence was soon received that the Federal army was marching toward Atlanta, and at his urgent request I gave all necessary orders during the day. The most important one placed the troops in the position already chosen, which covered the roads by which the enemy was approaching. After transferring the command to General Hood, I described to him the course of action I had arranged in my mind. If the enemy should give us a good opportunity in the passage of Peach Tree Creek, I expected to attack him. If successful, we should obtain important results, for the enemy's retreat would be on two sides of a triangle and our march on one. If we should not succeed, our intrenchments would give us a [276] safe refuge, where we could hold back the enemy until the promised State troops should join us; then, placing them on the nearest defenses of the place (where there were, or ought to be, seven sea-coast rifles, sent us from Mobile by General Maury), I would attack the Federals in flank with the three Confederate corps. If we were successful, they would be driven against the Chattahoochee below the railroad, where there are no fords, or away from their supplies, as we might fall on their left or right flank. If unsuccessful, we could take refuge in Atlanta, which we could hold indefinitely; for it was too strong to be taken by assault, and too extensive to be invested. This would win the campaign, the object of which the country supposed Atlanta to be.

At Dalton, the great numerical superiority of the enemy made the chances of battle much against us, and even if beaten they had a safe refuge behind the fortified pass of Ringgold and in the fortress of Chattanooga. Our refuge, in case of defeat, was in Atlanta, 100 miles off, with three rivers intervening. Therefore victory for us could not have been decisive, while defeat would have been utterly disastrous. Between Dalton and the Chattahoochee we could have given battle only by attacking the enemy intrenched, or so near intrenchments that the only result of success to us would have been his falling back into them, while defeat would have been our ruin.

In the course pursued our troops, always fighting under cover, had very trifling losses compared with those they inflicted, so that the enemy's numerical superiority was reduced daily and rapidly; and we could reasonably have expected to cope with them on equal ground by the time the Chattahoochee was passed. Defeat on the south side of that river would have been their destruction. We, if beaten, had a place of refuge in Atlanta — too strong to be assaulted, and too extensive to be invested. I had also hopes that by the breaking of the railroad in its rear the Federal army might be compelled to attack us in a position of our own choosing, or forced into a retreat easily converted into a rout. After we crossed the Etowah, five detachments of cavalry were successively sent with instructions to destroy as much as they could of the railroad between Chattanooga and the Etowah. All failed, because they were too weak. Captain James B. Harvey, an officer of great courage and sagacity, was detached on this service on the 11th of June and remained near the railroad several weeks, frequently interrupting, but not strong enough to prevent, its use. Early in the campaign the impressions of the strength of the cavalry in Mississippi and east Louisiana given me by Lieutenant-General Polk, just from the command of that department, gave me reason to hope that an adequate force commanded by the most competent officer in America for such service (General N. B. Forrest) could be sent from it for the purpose of breaking the railroad in Sherman's rear. I therefore made the suggestion direct to the President, June 13th and July 16th, and through General Bragg on the 3d, 12th, 16th, and 26th of June. I did so in the confidence that this cavalry would serve the Confederacy far better by insuring the defeat of a great invasion than by repelling a mere raid.

In his telegram of the 17th Mr. Davis gave his reasons for removing me, but in Vol. II., pp. 556 to 561, of the “Rise and fall” he gives many others, [277] most of which, depend on misrepresentations of the strength of the positions I occupied. They were not stronger than General Lee's; indeed, my course was as like his as the dissimilarity of the two Federal commanders permitted. As his had increased his great fame, it is not probable that the people, who admired his course, condemned another similar one. As to Georgia, the State most interested, its two most influential citizens, Governor Joseph E. Brown and General Howell Cobb, remonstrated against my removal.

The assertions in Mr. B. H. Hill's letter [of October 12th, 1.878] quoted by Mr. Davis [ “I. And F.,” Vol. II., p. 557] do not agree with those in his oration delivered in Atlanta in 1875. Mr. Hill said in the oration: “I know that he (Mr. Davis) consulted General Lee fully, earnestly, and anxiously before this perhaps unfortunate removal.” That assertion is contradicted by one whose testimony is above question — for in Southern estimation he has no superior as gentleman, soldier, and civilian--General Hampton. General Lee had a conversation with him on the subject, of which he wrote to me:

On that occasion he expressed great regret that you had been removed, and said that he had done all in his power to prevent it. The Secretary of War had recently been at his Headquarters near Petersburg to consult as to this matter, and General Lee assured me that he had urged Mr. Seddon not to remove you from command, and had said to him that if you could not command the army we had no one who could. He was earnest in expressing not only his regret at your removal, but his entire confidence in yourself.

Everything seen about Atlanta proved that it was to be defended. We had been strengthening it a month, and had made it, under the circumstances, impregnable. We had defended Marietta, which had not a tenth of its strength, twenty-six days. General Sherman appreciated its strength, for he made no attack, although he was before it about six weeks.

I was a party to no such conversations as those given by Mr. Hill. No soldier above idiocy could express the opinions he ascribes to me.

Mr. Davis condemned me for not fighting. General Sherman's testimony and that of the Military Cemetery at Marietta refute the charge. I assert that had one of the other lieutenant-generals of the army (Hardee or Stewart) succeeded me, Atlanta would have been held by the Army of Tennessee.

1 See another estimate, p. 281.--editors.

2 For maps of the campaign see p. 251 and the paper by General Howard, to follow.--editors.

3 In his published “Narrative” General Johnston says:

On riding from the right to the left, after nightfall, I learned that Lieutenant-General Polk's advanced troops had been driven from a hill in front of his left, which commanded our bridges at short range.

And General J. D. Cox, in his volume “Atlanta” (Charles Scribner's Sons), says:

“Between 5 and 6 o'clock Logan [of McPherson] ordered forward the brigades of Generals Giles A. Smith and C. R. Woods, supported by Veatch's division from Dodge's corps. The height held by Polk was carried, and the position intrenched under a galling artillery and musketry fire from the enemy's principal lines. During the evening Polk made a vigorous effort to retake the position, but was repulsed, McPherson sending forward Lightburn's brigade to the support of the troops already engaged. The hill thus carried commanded the railroad and wagon bridges crossing the Oostenaula.” [See also p. 282.] editors.

4 In his “Memoirs” Sherman says, in continuation of the quotation made by Johnston:

“This was the hardest fight of the campaign up to that date, and it is well described by Johnston in his Narrative [pp. 342, 343], where he admits his loss in killed and wounded as: Hood's corps (not reported); Hardee's corps, 286; Loring's (Polk's), 522,--total, 808. This, no doubt, is a true and fair statement; but, as usual, Johnston over-estimates our loss, putting it at 6000, whereas our entire loss was about 2500 killed and wounded.” editors.

5 Many of the burials at Marietta were of soldiers who died of disease before and after the battle of Kenesaw Mountain, and the following extract from the report, in 1874, of Colonel Oscar A. Mack, Inspector of National Cemeteries, shows that Marietta Cemetery includes dead from widely separated fields, and of other dates:

The interments [Marietta Cemetery] are as follows: White Union soldiers and sailors (known, 6906; unknown, 2974),--total, 9880; colored Union soldiers (known, 158; unknown, 67),--total, 225; citizens, etc., 21;--total interments, 10,126.

The bodies were removed from the National Cemetery at Montgomery, Ala. (which was discontinued), and from Rome, Dalton, Atlanta, and from many other places in Georgia. Several burials have been made, since my last inspection, from the garrison at Atlanta.


6 Surgeon Joseph A. Stillwell, 22d Indiana Volunteers, writes to the editors that the point referred to was in front of General Daniel McCook's brigade, and was seventy-five feet from the enemy, and commanded by half a mile of the Confederate works.

7 I have two reports of the strength of the army besides that of April 30th, already given: 1. Of July 1st, 39,746 infantry, 3855 artillery, and 10,484 cavalry,--total, 54,085. 2. Of July 10th, 36,901 infantry, 3755 artillery, and 10,270 cavalry,--total, 50,926.--J. E. J.

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