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Chapter 15:

After the fall of Atlanta, this most serious question presented itself for solution: in what manner, and accompanied with the least detriment, to effect the riddance of a victorious foe, who had gained possession of the mountains in our front, and planted his standard in the heart of the Confederacy. In order to compass this end, either the Federals should be forced back by manoeuvres into the mountains, there defeated in battle, and finally driven northward; or an attempt be made to defeat them upon their march forward, after Sherman had been allowed full time to rest his troops, make preparations, and receive reinforcements, for, in the meantime, it would have been rashness and folly, in view of our inferior numbers, to have attacked the enemy whilst under the protection of the breastworks of Atlanta. This grave and momentous question presented the same difficulties which had risen before General Lee, when Grant crossed the Rappahannock, and the battles of the Wilderness, Spottsylvania Court House, and, finally, the surrender at Appomattox followed. Our great chieftain well [244] knew that he would be forced to abandon Richmond or surrender his Army, unless he beat his enemy in battle, and drove him back, as he had done in previous instances. So paramount did he consider this necessity that he cut roads through the Wilderness, in order to get at the Federals while his own Army was in best condition for battle. He possessed, for the execution of his purpose, a body of troops which had been trained and handled in such a manner as to render it impossible to find its superior in the history of nations. Moreover, he was not confronted by a victorious Army, but by one he had driven back more than once from the same line then occupied by Grant.

The difficulties which surrounded me even at the outset, when I assumed command of the Army of Tennessee, and after the fall of Atlanta, when a recurrence of retreat was brought about with its train of former evils, were more perplexing than those which beset General Lee at the juncture above referred to. The problem was the more difficult to solve, by reason of the impaired condition of the Army.

The same question had arisen for consideration when Sherman moved from Chattanooga, and formed line of battle in front of Rocky-faced Ridge. My predecessor did not perceive the necessity of defeating the enemy at that period — a necessity as urgent as that which impelled General Lee to use extraordinary means to reach his enemy in the Wilderness.

Unless the Army could be heavily reinforced, there was, in the present emergency, but one plan to be adopted: by manoeuvres to draw Sherman back into the mountains, then beat him in battle, and at least regain our lost territory. Therefore, after anxious reflection, and consultation with the corps commanders, I determined to communicate with the President, and ascertain whether or not reinforcements could be obtained from any quarter. In accordance with this decision, I telegraphed to General Bragg as follows: [245]

[no. 1.]

Lovejoy Station, September 3d, 1.45 p. m.
For the offensive my troops, at present, are not more than equal to their own numbers. To prevent this country from being overrun, reinforcements are absolutely necessary.

J. B. Hood, General.

At 6.10 p. m., the same day:

[no. 2.]

My telegram in cipher this morning is based upon the supposition that the enemy will not content himself with Atlanta, but will continue offensive movements. All the Lieutenant Generals agree with me.

J. B. Hood, General.

In consideration of the high regard President Davis entertained for General Hardee, I suggested to the latter to telegraph to the President in relation to our condition. I find in my dispatch book a copy of his telegram:

[no. 3.]

September 4th, 11.30 a. m.
Unless this Army is speedily and heavily reinforced, Georgia and Alabama will be overrun. I see no other means to arrest this calamity. Never, in my opinion, were our liberties in such danger. What can you do for us?


W. J. Hardee, Lieutenant General.

The following reply from His Excellency conveyed no hope of assistance:

Richmond, September 5th, 1864.
General J. B. Hood:--Your dispatches of yesterday received. The necessity for reinforcements was realized, and every effort made to bring forward reserves, militia, and detailed men for the purpose. Polk, Maury, S. D. Lee, and Jones have been drawn on to fullest extent. E. K. Smith has been called on. No other resource remains. It is now requisite that absentees be brought back, the addition required from the surrounding country be promptly made available, and that the means in hand be used with energy proportionate to the country's need.

I hereupon decided to operate at the earliest moment possible in the rear of Sherman, as I became more and more convinced of our inability to successfully resist an advance of the [246] Federal Army. I had thought immediately after my arrival at Lovejoy Station that our troops were not disheartened, and telegraphed to Richmond to that effect; but I discovered my error before long, and concluded to resume active operations, move upon Sherman's communications, and avert, if possible, impending disaster from the Confederacy.

Before entering into the details of the plan of the contemplated campaign, I will, in brief, consider the indubitable results had I remained in front of Sherman, till he made ready and moved forward. In lieu of dividing his forces, as he did when I eventually marched to his rear, he would either have increased the strength of his Army to the fullest extent possible, previous to his forward movement, in order not only to brush away more easily the cobweb of an Army in his front, but also to overawe and discourage our people by the presence of an Army strong and powerful; or he would have ordered Thomas into Tennessee, with instructions to muster all available forces and march into Alabama with a second Army, whilst he moved through Georgia. In the event of the adoption of the first plan, he could, after assembling all the troops at his disposal between Nashville and Atlanta, have advanced with an Army of not less than one hundred and twenty-five thousand (125,000). According to his own statement, Thomas had under his command, at the time I accepted battle at Nashville, over seventy thousand (70,000) effectives, irrespective of troops at other points in Tennessee and Kentucky.

Had he chosen the second plan, he would soon have moved with a concentrated Army of not less than seventy-five thousand (75,000), whilst Thomas overran Alabama with at least fifty thousand (50,000) men. This is in no degree an exaggerated estimate, since forces could have been withdrawn from Tennessee and Kentucky, where no necessity for troops would have existed during these operations. The enthusiasm throughout the North, succeeding the capture of Atlanta, would also have swollen the Federal ranks by the return of absentees in large numbers. This plan would have brought [247] into the field two powerful Armies to move simultaneously through Georgia and Alabama.

On the other hand, our Army of forty thousand four hundred and three (40,403) would have gradually decreased through desertions, with no prospect of obtaining another man east of the Mississippi river, and with the information in my possession from Richmond, that no troops were shortly expected from the Trans-Mississippi Department, although every effort had been made by the Government to get reinforcements from that quarter.

Thus the outcome of this stand-still policy, which would have enabled Sherman to advance with all due preparations and have forced us to retreat in his front day after day, would have been the final dispersion of the Army; a greater portion would have returned to their homes, leaving behind a noble band of patriots too proud to desert, yet too weak and disheartened to be of material service. I would have been able to offer just about sufficient resistance to harass and embitter the enemy; to instigate him to perpetrate greater outrages, and commit ten-fold the havoc he actually made in traversing Georgia; and, in lieu of contenting himself with simply cutting the communications of the Army of Northern Virginia with its largest fields for supplies, Sherman would have tarried long enough upon his march to effect irreparable damage.

I shall now recite the preliminaries to the campaign in rear of Sherman, and give an account of operations, results accomplished, together with those events which led me to conceive the idea of the campaign into Tennessee.

I foreshadowed my intention of moving upon Sherman's communications in the following telegram to the President, dated September 6th:

[no. 10.]

I shall make dispositions to prevent the enemy, as far as possible, from foraging south of Atlanta, and at the same time endeavor to prevent his massing supplies at that place. I deem it important that the prisoners at Andersonville should be so disposed of, as not to prevent [248] this Army from moving in any direction it may be thought best. According to all human calculations, we should have saved Atlanta had the officers and men of the Army done what was expected of them. It has been God's will for it to be otherwise. I am of good heart, and feel that we shall yet succeed. The Army is much in need of a little rest. After removing the prisoners from Andersonville, I think we should, as soon as practicable, place our Army upon the communications of the enemy, drawing our supplies from the West Point and Montgomery Railroad. Looking to this, I shall at once proceed to strongly fortify Macon. Please do not fail to give me advice at all times. It is my desire to do the best for you and my country. May God be with you and us.

J. B. Hood, General.

Having requested and obtained authority from the War Department to propose an exchange of prisoners, captured during the siege, I made on the 8th of September, by flag of truce, a proposition to the enemy to that effect. An exchange of two thousand (2000) was agreed upon. Some delay, however, resulted from a refusal upon the part of General Sherman to exchange Confederates for Federal prisoners whose term of service had ceased or was about to expire.

Upon the 9th was initiated the correspondence between General Sherman and myself, in regard to the treatment of the inhabitants of Atlanta, and which I embodied in the narrative of the siege of that city. On the 12th I sent every wagon, which could be spared in the Army, to Rough and Ready, and performed the sad duty of transferring within our lines the women and children, the sick and the infirm.

In the meantime, intelligence had been received from General Wheeler, announcing that he had destroyed several bridges and about fifty miles of railroad in Tennessee, and that he had thus far been successful in every engagement with the enemy.

During the progress of the exchange of prisoners, the transportation of the Army was carefully inspected and repaired; pontoon trains made ready for active operation, and every exertion made to inaugurate a forward movement at the earliest hour possible. At this period I deemed it to the interest of the Confederacy, because of General Hardee's failure [249] to obey instructions on the 20th, and 22d of July, and 31st of August, to request that this officer be relieved from duty with his Corps, and that another be assigned to its command. I dispatched to General Bragg as follows:

[no. 14.]

September 8th, 2.30 p. m.
I suggest that all the reserves of Georgia, under General Cobb, be ordered to this Army, since the prisoners have been removed; and that Lieutenant General Taylor be ordered to relieve General Hardee, bringing with him all the troops he can.

J. B. Hood, General.

The unfortunate events connected with General Hardee's service during the siege of Atlanta, rendered obligatory this unpleasant duty on my part. I have already stated the opinions, at the time, of Lieutenant Generals Lee and Stewart, and of Major General G. W. Smith, in regard to this painful subject. So decided were these officers in their convictions that I determined to inform the President of my own loss of confidence, and to invite him to visit the Army, and confer with the corps commanders in relation to the operations around Atlanta. Accordingly, I sent the following telegram to His Excellency:

[no. 24.]

September 13th.
In the battle of July 20th, we failed on account of General Hardee. Our success on the 22d July was not what it should have been, owing to this officer. Our failure on the 31st of August, I am convinced, was greatly owing to him. Please confer with Lieutenant Generals Stewart and S. D. Lee, as to operations around Atlanta. It is of the utmost importance that Hardee should be relieved at once. He commands the best troops of this Army. I must have another commander. Taylor or Cheatham will answer. Hardee handed in his resignation a few days since, but withdrew it. Can General Cobb give me all the reserve regiments he has?

Major General Gustavus W. Smith, in his official report of the operations of the Georgia State troops, dated 15th of [250] September, 1864, shortly after these occurrences, says in this regard:

Commanding a peculiar organization, the ranking officer of the forces of the State in which you were operating, I was invited to and participated in your councils. I had every opportunity of knowing what was going on. Your plans were fully explained to your Lieutenant Generals, your chief of artillery, chief engineer, and myself. Opinions and views were called for, and then specific orders were given. I have never known one of them to dissent to any plan of yours, a doubt expressed as to the meaning, or intent, of your orders, nor a suggestion made by them of a plan they supposed would be better than that you ordered. If they are not now unanimous, there is but one, if any, who dissents from the opinion expressed above, viz: Sherman would have been beaten, had your orders been obeyed on the 20th July, 22d July, and 31st August.

General A. P. Stewart, in his official report of the operations around Atlanta, states in regard to the battle of the 20th July :1

I cannot but think had the plan of the battle, as I understood it, been carried out fully, we would have achieved a great success.

Lieutenant General Lee expressed to me the opinion that but for the delay before the attack on the 31st August, the result might have been different. This officer, Lieutenant General A. P. Stewart, and Major General G. W. Smith were, at the time, unanimous in the conviction that had General Hardee faithfully and earnestly carried out my instructions on the 20th, and 22d July, we would have been victorious in the two battles, i. e., had he attacked at 1 o'clock in lieu of 4 p. m., on the 20th; had he appealed to his troops in a manner to arouse their pride, patriotism and valor, instead of giving utterance to expressions of caution against breastworks; had he, on the 22d, marched entirely round and in rear of McPherson's left flank, as ordered, and attacked at daylight or early morning, we would have gained signal victories.

It may very properly be asked why, after failure on two consecutive occasions, was Hardee placed in command at [251] Jonesboroa; why I did not relieve him previously from duty with the Army, and thus avoid further cause of complaint

The battles of the 20th, and 22d of July, were fought in rapid succession, and immediately after my appointment to the command of the Army. I knew not then the original cause of trouble, nor was I enlightened upon this matter till General Cleburne visited my headquarters about two weeks after these engagements. The President had confidence in General Hardee, and believed he could be of great service on account of his thorough knowledge of the country, and his long connection with the Army of Tennessee. In this opinion I naturally acquiesced, since I could not imagine that a soldier, wittingly and willingly, would disregard orders in operations of so much importance. Moreover, the position of his line of battle, together with that of General Lee, rendered it necessary to send their two corps to Jonesboroa, and Hardee, the superior officer in rank, of course assumed command.

I was slow and reluctant to adopt the conclusion finally expressed in my dispatch to the President. I refused to attribute Hardee's non-fulfilment of orders to a fixed purpose on his part to thwart my operations as Commander-in-Chief, and imputed his misfortune mainly to the influence of the school in contact with which he had been thrown for a considerable period.

It is true I had been promoted and placed over him who was my senior in rank, and equally true that, under similar circumstances, not many men will co-operate as heartily as duty dictates, in the furtherance of the projects of their commanding officer. His brother corps commanders were of the opinion that in this grievance lay the source of trouble, and that he, if not consenting to a frustration of my plans, was at least willing I should not achieve signal success. If these impressions be correct, his want of confidence, or rather fear of rashness on my part, was not lessened; and feelings were doubtless engendered that created the lukewarmness which [252] characterized the conduct of his military operations at that juncture.

I have been forced to recur to these facts, in consequence of their intimate connection with the important events of that period, and do so with the more sincere regret that General Hardee is no longer able to speak in his own defence.

After the removal of the prisoners at Andersonville — hitherto the principal obstacle to a movement in rear of ShermanI deemed it advisable, and, therefore ordered that the railroad iron for some distance on the three roads leading into Atlanta, be removed and stored for future use. Major General M. L. Smith, chief engineer, was instructed to not only fortify Macon, but likewise Augusta and Columbus; the chief commissary was directed to remove the depot of supplies to the West Point Railroad, as I desired, preparatory to crossing the Chattahoochee, to place our left flank on that river, with headquarters at Palmetto.

I recalled General Wheeler from Tennessee to join immediately the left of the Army, whilst Colonel Prestman, of the engineer corps, made ready to move with the pontoon train and a sufficient number of boats to meet any emergency. These various preparations somewhat revived the spirit of the officers and men; I was hereby induced to believe that the Army, in its next effort at battle, would fight with more determination than had been exhibited since our retreat from Resaca, and so telegraphed General Bragg on the 15th of September.

Upon the morning of the 18th, the Army began to move in the direction of the West Point Railroad, which the advance reached on the 19th. Upon the 20th, line of battle was formed, with the right east of the railroad, and the left resting near the river, with Army headquarters at Palmetto.

I sent the following dispatch to General Bragg the succeeding day:

[no. 30.]

September 21st.
I shall — unless Sherman moves south — as soon as I can collect supplies, cross the Chattahoochee river, and form line of battle near Powder [253] Springs. This will prevent him from using the Dalton Railroad, and force him to drive me off or move south, when I shall follow upon his rear. I make this move as Sherman is weaker now than he will be in future, and I as strong as I can expect to be. Would it not be well to move a part of the important machinery at Macon to the east of the Oconee river, and do the same at Augusta to the east side of the Savannah river? If done, it will be important to make the transfer so as not to interfere with the supplies for the Armies.

J. B. Hood, General.

On this date expired the truce of ten days which had been agreed upon for the exchange of prisoners, and Major Clare, of my staff, returned with his escort from Rough and Ready. The same day I received information that the President, in response to my invitation, had decided to visit the Army forthwith.

On the 25th, at 3.30 p. m., President Davis, accompanied by two staff officers, arrived at Palmetto, with a view to ascertain in person the condition of the Army; to confer, as requested, with the corps commanders in regard to the operations around Atlanta, and to obtain the particulars of the proposed campaign in the rear of Sherman.

On the ensuing morning, we rode forth together to the front, with the object of making an informal review of the troops. Some brigades received the President with enthusiasm; others were seemingly dissatisfied, and inclined to cry out, “give us General Johnston.” I regretted I should have been the cause of this uncourteous reception to His Excellency; at the same time, I could recall no offence save that of having insisted that they should fight for and hold Atlanta forty-six days, whereas they had previously retreated one hundred miles within sixtysix days.

During the evening the President was serenaded by the Twentieth Louisiana band,accompanied by quite a large number of soldiers. He made upon the occasion a short but spirited speech, which was received with long and continued cheers. General Howell Cobb, and Governor Harris, of Tennessee, also delivered brief and eloquent addresses. [254]

The President held a long conference the next day with Lieutenant Generals Lee and Stewart, in a house not far from my tent. He conferred also separately with General Hardee. I had, at a previous interview, fully expressed to him my views in relation to the condition of the Army, and maintained that our only hope to checkmate Sherman was to assume the offensive, cut the enemy's communications, select a position on or near the Alabama line in proximity to the Blue Mountain Railroad, and there give him battle. Should the enemy move south, I could as easily from that point as from Palmetto, follow upon his rear, if that policy should be deemed preferable. On the other hand, if my position on or near the Alabama line should force Sherman to move out of Atlantaas I believed it would do — and divide his Army by sending off a portion to Tennessee, which he would consider immediately threatened, I might be able to defeat the wing of the Federal Army, remaining in Georgia, drive it from the country, regain our lost territory, reinspirit the troops, and bring hope again to the hearts of our people. I stated also that I thought an offensive move would improve the morale of the Army to a degree which would render it equal to giving battle to the enemy; that at the moment it was totally unfit for pitched battle, and the above plan offered the sole chance to avert disaster.

Prior to his departure, I recalled to him the fact that I had accepted with reluctance the position to which I had been assigned; that I had never sought preferment from him either directly or indirectly, and assured him I cherished but one desire, which was to do my whole duty to my country. I told him I was aware of the outcry against me, through the press, since the removal of Johnston, and, if he adjudged a change of commanders expedient, not to hesitate to relieve me entirely from duty with the Army of Tennessee or to give me a corps or division, under a more competent leader than myself. [255]

After final counsel with the Lieutenant Generals, he left for Montgomery, at 6 p. m., on the 27th of September.

The main part of the above conversation was repeated after he had mounted his horse, and was in readiness to leave; he replied that he might find it necessary to assign another to the command of the Army, but I should continue to pursue my proposed plan, at least till a decision was reached in the matter.

On the 28th, an order from the President was received, and read to the troops, relieving Lieutenant General Hardee from duty with the Army of Tennessee, and assigning him to the command of the Department of South Carolina and Florida.

The same day, I issued instructions to commence the movement across the Chattahoochee at Pumpkin Town and Phillips's Ferry, and, on the following morning, I directed that our supplies from Newnan cross the river at Moore's Ferry. At noon, I rode over the pontoon bridge in advance of the infantry, and established my headquarters that night at Pray's Church, along with General Jackson, commanding the cavalry; and on the next day I received the subjoined communication from the President:


Opelika, Alabama, September 28th, 1864.
General John B. Hood, Headquarters Army of Tennessee.
General :--I have anxiously reflected upon the subject of our closing conversation and the proposition confidentially mentioned. It seems to me best that I should confer with General Beauregard, and, if quite acceptable to him, place him in command of the department embracing your Army and that of General R. Taylor, so as to secure the fullest co-operation of the troops, without relieving either of you of the responsibilities and powers of your special commands, except in so far as would be due to the superior rank and the above assignment of General Beauregard. He would necessarily, if present with either Army, command in person. Before final action, there will be time for you to communicate with me, and I shall be glad to have your views. In the meantime you will of course proceed as though no modification of existing organization was contemplated.

Very respectfully and truly yours,


The morning of the 1st of October, Brigadier General Jackson advanced with the cavalry, sending a detachment at the same time to operate against the railroad between the Chattahoochee and Marietta. That night the Army went into bivouac eight miles north of Pray's Church, after having effected an undisturbed and safe passage of the Chattahoochee. Information was here received that Kilpatrick's cavalry was north of the river, and that Girard's cavalry had moved in the direction of Rome.

The next morning, I telegraphed to General Bragg as follows:

(no. 33.]

October 2d.
To-night my right will be at Powder Springs, with my left on Lost Mountain. This will, I think, force Sherman to move on us or to move south. Should he move towards Augusta, all available troops should be sent there with an able officer of high rank to command. Could General Lee spare a division for that place in such an event?

J. B. Hood, General.

The night of the 2d, the Army rested near Flint Hill Church. On the morning of the 3d, Lieutenant General Stewart was instructed to move with his Corps, and take possession of Big Shanty; to send, if practicable, a detachment for the same purpose to Ackworth, and to destroy as great a portion of the railroad in the vicinity as possible; also to send a division to Allatoona to capture that place, if, in the judgment of the commanding officer, the achievement was feasible.2 The main body of the Army in the meantime moved forward, and bivouacked near Carley's house, within four miles of Lost Mountain.

On the 4th, General Stewart captured, after a slight resistance, about one hundred and seventy prisoners, at Big Shanty, and, at 9.30 a. m., the garrison at Ackworth, numbering two hundred and fifty men, surrendered to General Loring. The forces under these officers joined the main body near Lost [257] Mountain on the morning of the 5th, having, in addition, destroyed about ten or fifteen miles of the railroad.

I had received information — and General Shoupe records the same in his diary — that the enemy had in store, at Allatoona, large supplies which were guarded by two or three regiments. As one of the main objects of the campaign was to deprive the enemy of provisions, Major General French was ordered to move with his Division, capture the garrison, if practicable, and gain possession of the supplies. Accordingly, on the 5th, at 10 a. m., after a refusal to surrender, he attacked the Federal forces at Allatoona, and succeeded in capturing a portion of the works; at that juncture, he received intelligence that large reinforcements were advancing in support of the enemy, and, fearing he would be cut off from the main body of the Army, he retired and abandoned the attempt. Major L. Perot, adjutant of Ector's brigade, has informed me by letter that our troops were in possession of these stores during several hours, and could easily have destroyed them. If this assertion be correct, I presume Major General French forbade their destruction, in the conviction of his ability to successfully remove them for the use of the Confederate Army.

Our soldiers fought with great courage; during the engagement Brigadier General Young, a brave and efficient officer, was wounded, and captured by the enemy.

General Corse won my admiration by his gallant resistance, and not without reason the Federal commander complimented this officer, through a general order, for his handsome conduct in the defence of Allatoona.

Our presence upon his communications compelled Sherman to leave Atlanta in haste, and cross the Chattahoochee on the 3d and 4th of October with, according to our estimate at that time, about sixty-five thousand (65,000) infantry and artillery, and two divisions of cavalry. He left one corps to guard the city and the railroad bridge across the river, and telegraphed to Grant he would attack me if I struck his road south of the Etowah. [258]

I received at this juncture a copy of the following order from President Davis:

General:--I desire that, with as little delay as practicable, you will assume command of the military departments now commanded respectively by General Hood, and Lieutenant General Taylor.

You will establish the headquarters of the department under your command at such point within its territorial limits as you may consider most advantageous to the public service.

Your personal presence is expected wherever in your judgment the interests of your command render it expedient, and whenever present with an Army in the field, you will exercise immediate command of the troops.

The adjutant and inspector general will be directed to communicate to you without delay the orders defining the geographical limits of your department, and such letters of general instruction as may have been sent to your predecessors, and as it may be important for you to possess.

Very respectfully and truly yours,

This order was most satisfactory, inasmuch as it afforded me at least an opportunity to confer with an officer of distinction, in regard to future operations.

The attack upon his communications, in the vicinity of the Etowah river and near the Alabama line, had forced Sherman to hasten from Atlanta. In truth, the effect of our operations so far surpassed my expectations that I was induced to somewhat change my original plan to draw Sherman to the Alabama line and then give battle. I accordingly decided to move further north and again strike his railroad between Resaca and Tunnel Hill, thoroughly destroy it, and then move in the direction of the Tennessee, via Lafayette and Gadsden, with no intent, however, to cross the river. This move, I considered, would so seriously threaten the road at Stevenson, and the bridge across the Tennessee river, at Bridgeport, that Sherman would be compelled still further to detach and divide his forces, whilst at the same time he continued his march [259] northward. I intended then to entice him as near the Tennessee line as possible, before offering battle. To accomplish this end, I thought it might be expedient to march to a point in the vicinity of the Tennessee, and even to order the cavalry to advance as far as the river, before I turned upon the enemy.

It was my fixed purpose to attack Sherman as soon as I succeeded in these manoeuvres. The plan of the original campaign was, therefore, only more fully developed by this strategy, which, in truth, I adopted as an afterthought.

On the 6th, the Army reached Dallas; our right rested at New Hope Church, where intelligence was received that the enemy was advancing from Lost Mountain. From Dallas we marched to Coosaville, ten miles southwest of Rome, via Van Wert, Cedartown, and Cave Spring. At the latter place Major General Wheeler, with a portion of his command, joined me from Tennessee. We arrived at Coosaville on the 10th, and the day previous, when near Van Wert, I sent the following dispatch to General Bragg:

[no. 34.]

When Sherman found this Army on his communications, he left Atlanta hurriedly with his main body, and formed line of battle near Kennesaw Mountain. I at once moved to this point, and, marching to-morrow, shall cross the Coosa river about ten miles below Rome; and moving up the west bank of the Oostenaula, hope to destroy his communications from Kingston to Tunnel Hill, forcing him to fall back or move south. If the latter, I shall move on his rear. If the former, I shall move to the Tennessee river, via Lafayette and Gadsden. I leave near Jacksonville all surplus baggage, artillery, and wagons, and move prepared for battle. If I move to the Tennessee, my trains will meet me at Gadsden. Please have the Memphis and Charleston Railroad repaired at once to Decatur, if possible.

J. B. Hood, General.

This last precautionary measure I deemed advisable, as I sought to forestall every possible contingency. If our arms [260] met with only partial success in battle — that is, if Sherman was not routed, but merely badly worsted — I had determined to send the wounded to the rear by the Blue Mountain Railroad; by rapid marches to cross the Tennessee river at Gunter's Landing, and again destroy the enemy's communications at Stevenson, and Bridgeport. I felt confident that Sherman, after being disabled in battle, would follow in my rear, and I hoped that the near approach of cold weather would favor my attempt to at least recover our lost territory, and allow our Army to winter again in the vicinity of Dalton. In anticipation of this probable event, I requested the authorities to have the Memphis and Charleston Railroad repaired to or near Decatur, Alabama, in order to establish another line for supplies and retreat, in case of either success or disaster in Tennessee.

In a dispatch to General Taylor I requested that Forrest be ordered to operate at once in Tennessee:

[no. 499.]

Van Wert, October 7th.
Lieutenant General Taylor, Commanding Department, Gainesville Junction.
Your dispatch of the 6th received. This Army being in motion, it is of vital importance that Forrest should move without delay, and operate on the enemy's railroad. If he cannot break the Chattanooga and Nashville Railroad he can occupy their forces there, and prevent damage being repaired on the other road. He should lose no time in moving. I am very thankful for the assistance already afforded this Army.

J. B. Hood, General.

The improvement in the morale of the troops was already apparent, and desertions, so frequent at Palmetto, had altogether ceased. I, therefore, indulged a not unreasonable hope very soon to deal the enemy a hard and staggering blow. In order to convey his appreciation of the importance attached to our movement upon his line of communication, I will quote General Sherman's own words:3

In person I reached Allatoona on the 9th of October, still in doubt as to Hood's immediate intentions.


In a dispatch of the same date to Thomas, at Nashville:

I came up here to relieve our road. The Twentieth Corps remains at Atlanta. Hood reached the road, and broke it up between Big Shanty and Ackworth. He attacked Allatoona, but was repulsed. We have plenty of bread and meat, but forage is scarce. I want to destroy all the road below Chattanooga, including Atlanta, and to make for the sea coast. We cannot defend this long line of road.

On the same day he sent the following dispatch to Grant, at City Point:

It will be a physical impossibility to protect the roads now that Hood, Forrest, Wheeler, and the whole batch of devils are turned loose without home or habitation. I think Hood's movements indicate a diversion to the end of the Selma and Talladega road, at Blue Mountain, about sixty miles southwest of Rome, from which he will threaten Kingston, Bridgeport, Decatur, Alabama. * * * *

On the 10th of October, Brigadier General Jackson, commanding the cavalry, was instructed by Colonel Mason, as follows:

[no 438.]

Cave Spring, October 10th, 8 a. m.
General Hood desires me to inform you that the pontoon at Quinn's Ferry, on the Coosa river, will be taken up this evening, and you must put on a line of couriers to that place to connect with a line to the other side. They will meet at the ferry, and you must continue to keep some there, or near there, to take dispatches over the line. Day after to-morrow (12th), unless you are otherwise engaged, General Hood desires you will move on Rome, and make a considerable demonstration from your side of the river; but be careful not to fire into the town. Communicate fully and frequently about all movements of the enemy.

On the 11th, the Army crossed the Coosa river, marched in the direction of Resaca and Dalton, and bivouacked that night fourteen miles above Coosaville, and ten miles northwest of Rome. That same day Major General Arnold Elzey, chief of artillery, was directed to move to Jacksonville with the reserve artillery and all surplus wagons, and General Jackson was instructed to retard the enemy as much as possible, in the event of his advance from Rome.

Having thus relieved the Army of all incumbrance, and [262] made ready for battle, we marched rapidly to Resaca, and thence to Dalton, via Sugar Valley Post Office. Lieutenant General Lee moved upon Resaca, with instructions to display his forces and demand the surrender of the garrison, but not to attack, unless, in his judgment, the capture could be effected with small loss of life. He decided not to assault the Federal works, and commenced at once the destruction of the railroad.

On the 13th, I demanded the surrender of Dalton, which, in the first instance, was refused, but was finally acceded to at 4 p. m. The garrison consisted of about one thousand (1000) men. As the road between Resaca and Tunnel Hill had been effectually destroyed, the Army was put in motion the next morning in the direction of Gadsden, and camped that night near Villanon.

Whilst in front of Dalton, quite a spirited affair occurred at Mill Creek Gap, where a detachment of our troops attacked and gained possession of a block house. Major Kinloch Falconer, of my staff, was during this assault seriously wounded.

On the morning of the 15th, I sent from Van Wert the following dispatch to the Honorable J. A. Seddon, Secretary of War, Generals Bragg and Beauregard:

[no. 500.]

Van Wert, October 15th.
This Army struck the communications of the enemy about a mile above Resaca (the 12th), completely destroying the railroad, including block houses from that point to within a short distance of Tunnel Hill; and about four miles of the Cleveland Railroad, capturing Dalton and all intermediate garrisons, with their stores, arms and equipmentstaking about one thousand (1000) prisoners. The main body of Sherman's Army seem to be moving towards Dalton.

J. B. Hood, General.

From Villanon, the Army passed through the gaps in the mountains, and halted during the 15th and 16th at Cross Roads, in a beautiful valley about nine miles south of Lafayette. At this time I received intelligence that Sherman had, on the 13th, reached Snake Creek Gap, where the right of his line had rested in the early Spring of this year; also that he [263] was marching in our pursuit, whilst General Wheeler was endeavoring to retard his advance as much as possible. I here determined to advance no further towards the Tennessee river, but to select a position and deliver battle, since Sherman had, at an earlier date than anticipated, moved as far north as I had hoped to allure him; moreover I was again in the vicinity of the Alabama line, with the Blue Mountain Railroad in my rear, and I thought I had discovered that improvement in the morale of the troops, which would justify me in delivering battle. In accordance with information received from our cavalry, Sherman had, however, made no further division of his forces after leaving Atlanta. I estimated, therefore, his strength to be about sixty-five thousand (65,000) effectives.

Upon the eve of action, I considered it important to ascertain by personal inquiry and through the aid of officers of my staff, not alone from corps commanders, but from officers of less rank, whether or not my impressions after the capture of Dalton were correct, and I could rely upon the troops entering into battle at least hopeful of victory. I took measures to obtain likewise the views of Lieutenant General Lee who, at this juncture, was with his Corps in rear, at or near Ship's Gap. He agreed with all the officers consulted; the opinion was unanimous that although the Army had much improved in spirit, it was not in condition to risk battle against the numbers reported by General Wheeler.

The renouncement of the object for which I had so earnestly striven, brought with it genuine disappointment; I had expected that a forward movement of one hundred miles would re-inspirit the officers and men in a degree to impart to them confidence, enthusiasm, and hope of victory, if not strong faith in its achievement.

I remained two days at Cross Roads in serious thought and perplexity. I could not offer battle while the officers were unanimous in their opposition. Neither could I take an entrenched position with likelihood of advantageous results, since Sherman could do the same, repair the railroad, amass a [264] large Army, place Thomas in my front in command of the forces he afterwards assembled at Nashville, and then, himself, move southward; or, as previously suggested, he could send Thomas into Alabama, whilst he marched through Georgia, and left me to follow in his rear. This last movement upon our part, would be construed by the troops into a retreat, and could but result in disaster.

In this dilemma, I conceived the plan of marching into Tennessee with a hope to establish our line eventually in Kentucky, and determined to make the campaign which followed, unless withheld by General Beauregard or the authorities at Richmond. General Beauregard at this time was journeying in my direction. I proposed, therefore, when he joined me, to lay fully before him my plan of operations.

Before entering into an account thereof, I will for a moment advert to the evidences of the solicitude occasioned the enemy by our movement to the Alabama line.

On the 10th of October, General Sherman telegraphed to Generals Thomas and Cox, as follows:4

I will be at Kingston to-morrow. I think Rome is strong enough to resist any attack, and the rivers are all high. If he (Hood) turns up by Summerville, I will get behind him.

On the 16th, when in pursuit of our Army from Resaca in the direction of Ship's Gap and Lafayette, he again telegraphs to Thomas, at Nashville:5

Send me Morgan's and Newton's old Divisions. Re-establish the road, and I will follow Hood wherever he maygo. I think he will move to Blue Mountain. We can maintain our men and animals on the country.

On the 17th, he writes Schofield, at Chattanooga: 6

* * * We must follow Hoodtill he is beyond the reach of mischief, and then resume the offensive.


Ten days after this declaration, he was still undecided as to the plan he should adopt. In truth, it seemed difficult to divine when our little Army would be far enough away to be “beyond the reach of mischief.” On the 26th, he telegraphed to General Thomas: 7 “A reconnoissance, pushed down to Gadsden to-day, reveals the fact that the rebel Army is not there, and the chances are it has moved west. If it turns up at Guntersville, I will be after it.” He writes in his Memoirs :t “There is no doubt that the month of October closed to us looking decidedly squally, but, somehow, I was sustained in the belief that in a very few days the tide would turn.” Upon the same page I find the following telegram from General Grant:

City Point, November 1st, 1864, 6 p. m.
Major General Sherman.
Do you not think it advisable, now Hood has gone so far north, to entirely ruin him before starting on your proposed campaign? With Hood's Army destroyed, you can go where you please with impunity. I believed and still believe, if you had started south while Hood was in the neighborhood of you, he would have been forced to go after you. Now that he is far away, he might look upon the chase as useless, and he will go on in one direction while you are pushing in another. If you can see a chance of destroying Hood's Army, attend to that first, and make your other move secondary.

General Sherman replied, as follows: 8

Your dispatch is received. If I could hope to overhaul Hood, I would turn against him with my whole force; then he would retreat to the southwest, drawing me as a decoy away from Georgia, which is his chief object. If he ventures north of the Tennessee river, I may venture in that direction, and endeavor to get below him on his line of retreat; but thus far he has not gone above the Tennessee river. General Thomas will have a force strong enough to prevent his reaching any country in which we have an interest; and he has orders, if Hood turns [266] to follow me, to push for Selma, Alabama. No single Army can catch Hood, and I am convinced the best resultswill follow from our defeating Jeff. Davis's cherished plan of making me leave Georgia by manoeuvring. Thus far I have confined my efforts to thwart this plan, and have reduced baggage so that I can pick up and start in any direction; but I regard the pursuit of Hood as useless. Still, if he attempts to invade Middle Tennessee, I will hold Decatur, and be prepared to move in that direction; but, unless I let go Atlanta, my force will not be equal to his.

W. T. Sherman, Major General.

Before my attention was arrested by the above dispatches, I had written those lines which record my surmises in regard to Sherman's and Thomas's movements, during our campaign to the Alabama line. I did not, however, believe that Sherman would follow me to Guntersville, unless I had been able to worst him in battle. No better proof can be adduced of the wisdom of this campaign than the foregoing dispatches, together with our success in drawing Sherman back, within ten days, to Snake Creek Gap, the identical position he occupied in May, 1864. Had the Army been in the fighting condition in which it was at Dalton, or at Franklin, I feel confident of our ability to have at least so crippled the enemy in pitched battle as to have retained possession of the mountains of Georgia. When I consider also the effect of this movement upon the Federal commanders, I cannot but become impressed with the facility with which the Confederate Army would have taken possession of the country as far north as the Ohio, if it had marched in the early Spring of ‘64, to the rear of the Federals (who were at Chattanooga assembling their forces); and when, in addition to the troops at Dalton, Polk's Army, Longstreet's Ccrps, and ten thousand men from Beauregard, were proffered for the purpose.

After halting two days at Cross Roads, I decided to make provision for twenty days supply of rations in the haversacks and wagons; to order a heavy reserve of artillery to accompany the Army, in order to overcome any serious opposition by the Federal gunboats; to cross the Tennessee at or near Guntersville, and again destroy Sherman's communications, at [267] Stevenson and Bridgeport; to move upon Thomas and Schofield, and attempt to rout and capture their Army before it could reach Nashville. I intended then to march upon that city where I would supply the Army and reinforce it, if possible, by accessions from Tennessee. I was imbued with the belief that I could accomplish this feat, afterward march northeast, pass the Cumberland river at some crossing where the gunboats, if too formidable at other points, were unable to interfere; then move into Kentucky, and take position with our left at or near Richmond, and our right extending toward Hazelgreen, with Pound and Stoney Gaps, in the Cumberland Mountains, at our rear.

In this position I could threaten Cincinnati, and recruit the Army from Kentucky and Tennessee; the former State was reported, at this juncture, to be more aroused and embittered against the Federals than at any period of the war. While Sherman was debating between the alternative of following our Army or marching through Georgia, I hoped, by rapid movements, to achieve these results.

If Sherman cut loose and moved south — as I then believed he would do after I left his front without previously worsting him in battle--I would occupy at Richmond, Kentucky, a position of superior advantage, as Sherman, upon his arrival at the sea coast, would be forced to go on board ship, and, after a long detour by water and land, repair to the defence of Kentucky and Ohio or march direct to the support of Grant. If he returned to confront my forces, or followed me directly from Georgia into Tennessee and Kentucky, I hoped then to be in condition to offer battle; and, if blessed with victory, to send reinforcements to General Lee, in Virginia, or to march through the gaps in the Cumberland Mountains, and attack Grant in rear. This latter course I would pursue in the event of defeat or of inability to offer battle to Sherman. If on the other hand he marched to join Grant, I could pass through the Cumberland gaps to Petersburg, and attack Grant in rear, at least two weeks before he, Sherman, could render him [268] assistance. This move, I believed, would defeat Grant, and allow General Lee, in command of our combined Armies, to march upon Washington or turn upon and annihilate Sherman.

Such is the plan which during the 15th and 16th, as we lay in bivouac near Lafayette, I maturely considered, and determined to endeavor to carry out. In accordance therewith, I decided to move to Gadsden, where, if I met General Beauregard, I intended to submit to him the foregoing plan of operations, expressing at the same time my conviction that therein lay the only hope to bring victory to the Confederate arms.

On the 17th, the Army resumed its line of march, and that night camped three miles from the forks of the Alpine, Galesville, and Summerville roads; thence proceeded towards Gadsden.

On the 19th, I sent the following dispatches:

[no. 35.]

October 19th.
General Bragg and Hon. J. A. Seddon.
Headquarters will be to-morrow at Gadsden, where I hope not to be delayed more than forty-eight hours, when I shall move for the Tennessee river.

[no. 36.]

I will move to-morrow for Guntersville on the Tennessee. Please place all the garrison you can at Corinth, and have the railroad iron from there to Memphis taken up as close as possible to Memphis. Have not yet seen General Beauregard. Give me all the assistance you can to get my supplies to Tuscumbia.

J. B. Hood, General.

I proposed to move directly on to Guntersville, as indicated to General Taylor, and to take into Tennessee about one-half of Wheeler's cavalry (leaving the remainder to look after Sherman) and to have a depot of supplies at Tuscumbia, in the event I met with defeat in Tennessee.

Shortly after my arrival at Gadsden, General Beauregard reached the same point; I at once unfolded to him my plan, [269] and requested that he confer apart with the corps commanders, Lieutenant Generals Lee and Stewart, and Major General Cheatham. If after calm deliberation, he deemed it expedient we should remain upon the Alabama line and attack Sherman, or take position, entrench, and finally follow on his rear when he moved south, I would of course acquiesce, albeit with reluctance. If, contrariwise, he should agree to my proposed plan to cross into Tennessee, I would move immediately to Guntersville, thence to Stevenson, Bridgeport, and Nashville.

This important question at issue was discussed during the greater part of one night, with maps before us. General Beauregard at length took the ground that if I engaged in the projected campaign, it would be necessary to leave in Georgia all the cavalry at present with the Army, in order to watch and harass Sherman in case he moved south, and to instruct Forrest to join me as soon as I crossed the Tennessee river. To this proposition I acceded. After he had held a separate conference with the corps commanders, we again debated several hours over the course of action to be pursued; and, during the interview, I discovered that he had gone to work in earnest to ascertain, in person, the true condition of the Army; that he had sought information not only from the corps commanders, but from a number of officers, and had reached the same conclusion I had formed at Lafayette: we were not competent to offer pitched battle to Sherman, nor could we follow him south without causing our retrograde movement to be construed by the troops into a recurrence of retreat, which would entail desertions, and render the Army of little or no use in its opposition to the enemy's march through Georgia. After two days deliberation, General Beauregard authorized me, on the evening of the 21st of October, to proceed to the execution of my plan of operations into Tennessee.

At this point, it may be considered, closed the campaign to the Alabama line.

1 Appendix, page 350.

2 See Official Report, Appendix, page 326.

3 Sherman's Memoirs, vol. II, page 152.

4 Sherman's Memoirs, vol. II, page 153.

5 Sherman's Memoirs, vol. II, page 156.

6 Sherman's Memoirs, vol. II, page 157.

7 Van Horne's History of the Army of the Cumberland, vol. II, page 181.

8 Sherman's Memoirs, vol. II, page 165.

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