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The struggle for Atlanta.

by Oliver O. Howard, Major-General, U. S. A.
The forces under General Grant after his appointment as general-in-chief were, the Army of the Potomac, under Meade; that of the Ohio, near Knoxville, under Schofield;1 that of the Cumberland, under Thomas,2 near Chattanooga; that of the Tennessee, under McPherson, scattered front Huntsville, Alabama, to the Mississippi; that of the Gulf, under Banks, in Louisiana; besides subordinate detachments, under Steele and others, in Arkansas and farther west.

Grant took the whole field into his thought. He made three parts to the long, irregular line of armies, which extended from Virginia to Texas. He gave to Banks the main work in the south-west; to Sherman the middle part, covering the hosts of McPherson, Thomas, Schofield, and Steele; and reserved to himself the remainder. The numbers were known, at least on paper; the plan, promptly adopted, was simple and comprehensive: To break and keep broken the connecting links of the enemy's opposing armies, beat them one by one, and unite for a final consummation. Sherman's part was plain. Grant's plan, flexible enough to embrace his own, afforded Sherman “infinite satisfaction.” It looked like “enlightened war.” He rejoiced at “this verging to a common center.” “Like yourself,” he writes to Grant, “you take the biggest load, and from me you shall have thorough and hearty cooperation.”

Sherman made his calculations so as to protect most faithfully our line of supply which ran through Louisville, Nashville, and Chattanooga, guarding it against enemies within and without his boundaries, and against accidents. He segregated the men of all arms for this protection. Block-houses and intrenchments were put at bridges and tunnels along the railway. Locomotives [294] and freight cars were gathered in, and a most energetic force of skilled railroad men was put at work or held in reserve under capable chiefs.

Besides an equal number of guards of his large depots and long line of supply, Sherman had an effective field force of 100,000,—50,000 with Thomas, 35,000 with McPherson, 15,000 with Schofield.

Sherman was gratified at the number of his force; for two years before, he had been held up as worthy of special distrust because he had declared to Secretary Cameron that before they were done with offensive operations on the line from the Big Sandy to Paducah, 200,000 men would be required.

A few changes of organization were made. Slocum's corps, the Twelfth, and mine, the Eleventh, were consolidated, making a new Twentieth, and Hooker was assigned to its command. I went at once to Loudon, east Tennessee, to take the Fourth Corps and relieve General Gordon Granger, to enable him to have a leave of absence. Slocum was sent to Vicksburg, Mississippi, to watch the great river from that quarter; while Hooker, Palmer, and myself, under Thomas, were to control the infantry and artillery of the Army of the Cumberland. In a few days I moved Wagner's (afterward Newton's) division and T. J. Wood's of my new corps to Cleveland, east Tennessee. Rations, clothing, transportation, and ammunition came pouring in with sufficient abundance, so that when orders arrived for the next movement, on the 3d of May, 1864, my division commanders, Stanley, Newton, and Wood, reported everything ready. This very day Schofield's column, coming from Knoxville, made its appearance at Cleveland. There was now the thrill of preparation, a new life everywhere. Soldiers and civilians alike caught the inspiration.

Ringgold and Catoosa Springs, Georgia, were the points of concentration for Thomas's three corps. We of his army were all in that neighborhood by the 4th of May. It took till the 7th for McPherson to get into Villanow, a few miles to the south of us. Schofield meanwhile worked steadily southward from Cleveland, east Tennessee, through Red Clay, toward. Dalton, Georgia. The three railway lines uniting Chattanooga, Cleveland, and Dalton form an almost equilateral triangle. Dalton, its south-east vertex, was the center of the Confederate army, under Joseph E. Johnston. Pushing out from Dalton toward us at Catoosa Springs, Johnston occupied the famous pass through Taylor's Ridge, Buzzard-Roost Gap, and part of the ridge itself; and held, for his extreme outpost in our direction, Tunnel Hill, near which our skirmish-line and his first exchanged shots. His northern lines ran along the eastern side of the triangle, between Dalton and Red Clay.

Johnston, according to his official return for April, had a force of 52,992. At Resaca, a few days later, after the corps of Polk had joined him, it numbered 71,235.3 Our three field armies aggregated then, in officers and men, 98,797, with 254 pieces of artillery. The Confederate commander had about the same number of cannon. McPherson had thus far brought to Sherman but 24,465 men. [295]

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