Sherman's men in the Atlanta trenches|
The man who defined war
William Tecumseh Sherman and his staff.
Leaning carelessly on the breach of the gun stands General William Tecumseh Sherman at the close of one of the war's most brilliant and successful campaigns which his military genius had made possible.
The old slouch hat does not indicate that the general is holding a triumphant review of his army, but the uniform is as near full dress as Sherman ever came.
“He hated fine clothes,” says General Rodenbough, “and endured hardships with as much fortitude as any of his men.”
A regiment that charged up Kenesaw — the one hundred and twenty-fifth Ohio
These are some of the men who charged upon the slopes of Kenesaw Mountain, Sherman's stumbling-block in his Atlanta campaign.
They belonged to Company M of the One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Ohio, in the brigade led by the daring General Harker, Newton's division, Second Corps.
Johnston had drawn up his forces on the Kenesaw Mountains along a line stronger, both naturally and by fortification, than the Union position at Gettysburg.
But for the same reason that Lee attacked Little Round Top, Sherman, on June 27, 1864, ordered an assault on the southern slope of Little Kenesaw.
The Federal forces did not pause, in spite of a terrific fire from the breastworks, till they gained the edge of the felled trees.
There formations were lost; men struggled over trunks and through interlaced boughs.
Before the concentrated fire of artillery and musketry they could only seek shelter behind logs and boulders.
General Harker, already famous for his gallantry, cheered on his men, but as he was rushing forward he fell mortally wounded. |
Kenesaw mountain in 1864
Sherman's Stumbling Block.
Thus the rugged height of Kenesaw Mountain rose in the distance to the sight of Sherman's advancing army in the middle of June, 1864.
The men knew the ground, for most of them had marched over it the year before in the Chickamauga campaign.
Now to its difficulties were added the strong entrenchments of Johnston's army and the batteries posted on the heights, which must be surmounted before Atlanta, the coveted goal, could be reached.
But the Federals also knew that under “Old Tecumseh's” watchful eye they had flanked Johnston's army out of one strong position after another, and in little over a month had advanced nearly a hundred miles through “as difficult country as was ever fought over by civilized armies.”
But there was no flinching when the assaulting columns fought their way to the summit on June 27th. |
Johnston was an officer who, by the common consent of the military men of both sides, was reckoned second only to Lee, if second, in the qualities which fit an officer for the responsibility of great commands. . . . He practised a lynx-eyed watchfulness of his adversary, tempting him constantly to assault his entrenchments, holding his fortified positions to the last moment, but choosing that last moment so well as to save nearly every gun and wagon in the final withdrawal, and always presenting a front covered by such defenses that one man in the line was, by all sound military rules, equal to three or four in the attack.
In this way he constantly neutralized the superiority of force his opponent wielded, and made his campaign from Dalton to the Chattahoochee a model of defensive warfare.
It is Sherman's glory that, with a totally different temperament, he accepted his adversary's game, and played it with a skill that was finally successful, as we shall see. --Major-General Jacob D. Cox, U. S.V., in >Atlanta.
The two leading Federal generals of the war, Grant
, met at Nashville, Tennessee
, on March 17, 1864, and arranged for a great concerted double movement against the two main Southern armies, the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of Tennessee.
, who had been made commander of all the Federal
armies, was to take personal charge of the Army of the Potomac and move against Lee
, while to Sherman
, whom, at Grant
's request, President Lincoln
had placed at the head of the Military Division of the Mississippi, he turned over the Western army, which was to proceed against Johnston
It was decided, moreover, that the two movements were to be simultaneous and that they were to begin early in May.
concentrated his forces around Chattanooga
on the A Tennessee River
, where the Army of the Cumberland had
In the forefront--General Richard W. Johnson at Graysville
On the balcony of this little cottage at Graysville, Georgia, stands General Richard W. Johnson, ready to advance with his cavalry division in the vanguard of the direct movement upon the Confederates strongly posted at Dalton.
Sherman's cavalry forces under Stoneman and Garrard were not yet fully equipped and joined the army after the campaign had opened.
General Richard W. Johnson's division of Thomas' command, with General Palmer's division, was given the honor of heading the line of march when the Federals got in motion on May 5th.
The same troops (Palmer's division) had made the same march in February, sent by Grant to engage Johnston at Dalton during Sherman's Meridian campaign.
Johnson was a West Pointer; he had gained his cavalry training in the Mexican War, and had fought the Indians on the Texas border.
He distinguished himself at Corinth, and rapidly rose to the command of a division in Buell's army.
Fresh from a Confederate prison, he joined the Army of the Cumberland in the summer of 1862 to win new laurels at Stone's River, Chickamauga, and Missionary Ridge.
His sabers were conspicuously active in the Atlanta campaign; and at the battle of New Hope Church on May 28th Johnson himself was wounded, but recovered in time to join Schofield after the fall of Atlanta and to assist him in driving Hood and Forrest out of Tennessee.
For his bravery at the battle of Nashville he was brevetted brigadier-general, U. S. A., December 16, 1864, and after the war he was retired with the brevet of major-general. |
spent the winter, and where a decisive battle had been fought some months before, in the autumn of 1863.
His army was composed of three parts, or, more properly, of three armies operating in concert.
These were the Army of the Tennessee, led by General James B. McPherson
; the Army of Ohio, under General John M. Schofield
, and the Army of the Cumberland, commanded by General George H. Thomas
The last named was much larger than the other two combined.
The triple army aggregated the grand total of ninety-nine thousand men, six thousand of whom were cavalrymen, while four thousand four hundred and sixty belonged to the artillery.
There were two hundred and fifty-four heavy guns.
Soon to be pitted against Sherman
's army was that of General Joseph E. Johnston
, which had spent the winter at Dalton
, in the State of Georgia
, some thirty miles southeast of Chattanooga
It was by chance that Dalton
became the winter quarters of the Confederate army.
In the preceding autumn, when General Bragg
had been defeated on Missionary Ridge
and driven from the vicinity of Chattanooga
, he retreated to Dalton
and stopped for a night's rest.
Discovering the next morning that he was not pursued, he there remained.
Some time later he was superseded by General Johnston
By telegraph, General Sherman
was apprised of the time when Grant
was to move upon Lee
on the banks of the Rapidan, in Virginia
, and he prepared to move his own army at the same time.
But he was two days behind Grant
, who began his Virginia
campaign on May 4th.
broke Camp on the 6th and led his legions across hill and valley, forest and stream, toward the Confederate stronghold.
Nature was all abloom with the opening of a Southern spring and the soldiers, who had long chafed under their enforced idleness, now rejoiced at the exhilarating journey before them, though their mission was to be one of strife and bloodshed.
's army numbered about fifty-three thousand,
and was divided into two corps, under the respective commands of Generals John B. Hood
and William J. Hardee
But General Polk
was on his way to join them, and in a few days Johnston
had in the neighborhood of seventy thousand men. His position at Dalton
was too strong to be carried by a front attack, and Sherman
was too wise to attempt it. Leaving Thomas
to make a feint at Johnston
's front, Sherman
on a flanking movement by the right to occupy Snake Creek Gap, a mountain pass near Resaca
, which is about eighteen miles below Dalton
, with the main part of the army, soon occupied Tunnel Hill
, which faces Rocky Face Ridge
, an eastern range of the Cumberland Mountains
, north of Dalton
, on which a large part of Johnston
's army was posted.
The Federal leader had little or no hope of dislodging his great antagonist from this impregnable position, fortified by rocks and cliffs which no army could scale while under fire.
But he ordered that demonstrations be made at several places, especially at a pass known as Rocky Face Gap.
This was done with great spirit and bravery, the men clambering over rocks and across ravines in the face of showers of bullets and even of masses of stone hurled down from the heights above them.
On the whole they won but little advantage.
During the 8th and 9th of May, these operations were continued, the Federals
making but little impression on the Confederate stronghold.
Meanwhile, on the Dalton
road there was a sharp cavalry fight, the Federal
commander, General E. M. McCook
, having encountered General Wheeler
's advance brigade under Colonel La Grange
was defeated and La Grange
was made prisoner.
's chief object in these demonstrations, it will be seen, was so to engage Johnston
as to prevent his intercepting McPherson
in the latter's movement upon Resaca
In this Sherman
was successful, and by the 11th he was giving his whole energy to moving the remainder of his forces by the
right flank, as McPherson
had done, to Resaca
, leaving a detachment of General O. O. Howard
's Fourth Corps to occupy Dalton
discovered this, he was quick to see that he must abandon his entrenchments and intercept Sherman
Moving by the only two good roads, Johnston
in the race to Resaca
The town had been fortified, owing to Johnston
's foresight, and McPherson
had failed to dislodge the garrison and capture it. The Confederate army was now settled behind its entrenchments, occupying a semicircle of low wooded hills, both flanks of the army resting on the banks of the Oostenaula River.
On the morning of May 14th, the Confederate
works were invested by the greater part of Sherman
's army and it was evident that a battle was imminent.
The attack was begun about noon, chiefly by the Fourteenth Army Corps under Palmer
, of Thomas
' army, and Judah
's division of Schofield
's. General Hindman
's division of Hood
's corps bore the brunt of this attack and there was heavy loss on both sides.
Later in the day, a portion of Hood
's corps was massed in a heavy column and hurled against the Federal
left, driving it back.
But at this point the Twentieth Army Corps under Hooker
, of Thomas
' army, dashed against the advancing Confederates and pushed them back to their former lines.
The forenoon of the next day was spent in heavy skirmishing, which grew to the dignity of a battle.
During the day's operations a hard fight for a Confederate lunette on the top of a low hill occurred.
At length, General Butterfield
, in the face of a galling fire, succeeded in capturing the position.
But so deadly was the fire from Hardee
's corps that Butterfield
was unable to hold it or to remove the four guns the lunette contained.
With the coming of night, General Johnston
determined to withdraw his army from Resaca
The battle had cost each army nearly three thousand men. While it was in progress, McPherson
, sent by Sherman
, had deftly marched around
's left with the view of cutting off his retreat south by seizing the bridges across the Oostenaula
, and at the same time the Federal
cavalry was threatening the railroad to Atlanta
which ran beyond the river.
It was the knowledge of these facts that determined the Confederate
commander to abandon Resaca
Withdrawing during the night, he led his army southward to the banks of the Etowah River
followed but a few miles behind him. At the same time Sherman
sent a division of the Army of the Cumberland, under General Jeff. C. Davis
, to Rome
, at the junction of the Etowah
and the Oostenaula
, where there were important machine-shops and factories.
captured the town and several heavy guns, destroyed the factories, and left a garrison to hold it.
was eager for a battle in the open with Johnston
and on the 17th, near the town of Adairsville
, it seemed as if the latter would gratify him. Johnston
chose a good position, posted his cavalry, deployed his infantry, and awaited combat.
The Union army was at hand.
The skirmishing for some hours almost amounted to a battle.
But suddenly Johnston
decided to defer a conclusive contest to another time.
Again at Cassville
, a few days later, Johnston
drew up the Confederate
legions in battle array, evidently having decided on a general engagement at this point.
He issued a spirited address to the army: “By your courage and skill you l have repulsed every assault of the enemy. . . . You will now turn and march to meet his advancing columns. . . . I lead you to battle.”
But, when his right flank had been turned by a Federal attack, and when two of his corps commanders, Hood
, advised against a general battle, Johnston
again decided on postponement.
He retreated in the night across the Etowah
, destroyed the bridges, and took a strong position among the rugged hills about Allatoona Pass, extending south to Kenesaw Mountain
's decision to fight and then not to fight was a
cause for grumbling both on the part of his army and of the inhabitants of the region through which he was passing.
His men were eager to defend their country, and they could not understand this Fabian
They would have preferred defeat to these repeated retreats with no opportunity to show what they could do.
, however, was wiser than his critics.
The Union army was larger by far and better equipped than his own, and Sherman
was a master-strategist.
His hopes rested on two or three contingencies — that he might catch a portion of Sherman
's army separated from the rest; that Sherman
would be so weakened by the necessity of guarding the long line of railroad to his base of supplies at Chattanooga
, and even far-away Louisville
, as to make it possible to defeat him in open battle, or, finally, that Sherman
might fall into the trap of making a direct attack while Johnston
was in an impregnable position, and in such a situation he now was.
Not yet, however, was Sherman
inclined to fall into such a trap, and when Johnston
took his strong position at and beyond Allatoona Pass, the Northern
commander decided, after resting his army for a few days, to move toward Atlanta
by way of Dallas
, southwest of the pass.
Rations for a twenty days absence from direct railroad communication were issued to the Federal
In fact, Sherman
's railroad connection with the North
was the one delicate problem of the whole movement.
The Confederates had destroyed the iron way as they moved southward; but the Federal
engineers, following the army, repaired the line and rebuilt the bridges almost as fast as the army could march.
's movement toward Dallas
from the slopes of the Allatoona Hills
, the Federal
leader wrote on May 23d, “I am already within fifty miles of Atlanta
But he was not to enter that city for many weeks, not before he had measured swords again and again with his great antagonist.
On the 25th of May, the two great
armies were facing each other near New Hope Church, about four miles north of Dallas
Here, for three or four days, there was almost incessant fighting, though there was not what might be called a pitched battle.
Late in the afternoon of the first day, Hooker
made a vicious attack on Stewart
's division of Hood
For two hours the battle raged without a moment's cessation, Hooker
being pressed back with heavy loss.
During those two hours he had held his ground against sixteen field-pieces and five thousand infantry at close range.
The name “Hell Hole” was applied to this spot by the Union
On the next day there was considerable skirmishing in different places along the line that divided the two armies.
But the chief labor of the day was throwing up entrenchments, preparatory to a general engagement.
The country, however, was ill fitted for such a contest.
The continuous succession of hills, covered with primeval forests, presented little opportunity for two great armies, stretched out almost from Dallas
, a distance of about ten miles, to come together simultaneously at all points.
A severe contest occurred on the 27th, near the center of the battle-lines, between General O. O. Howard
on the Federal
side and General Patrick Cleburne
on the part of the South
Dense and almost impenetrable was the undergrowth through which Howard
led his troops to make the attack.
The fight was at close range and was fierce and bloody, the Confederates
gaining the greater advantage.
The next day Johnston
made a terrific attack on the Union
right, under McPherson
, near Dallas
was well entrenched and the Confederates
were repulsed with a serious loss.
In the three or four days fighting the Federal
loss was probably twenty-four hundred men and the Confederate
In the early days of June, Sherman
took possession of the town of Allatoona
and made it a second base of supplies,
after repairing the railroad bridge across the Etowah River
swung his left around to Lost Mountain
and his right extended beyond the railroad — a line ten miles in length and much too long for its numbers.
's army, however, had been reenforced, and it now numbered about seventy-five thousand men. Sherman
, on June 1st, had nearly one hundred and thirteen thousand men and on the 8th he received the addition of a cavalry Brigade and two divisions of the Seventeenth Corps, under General Frank P. Blair
, which had marched from Alabama
So multifarious were the movements of the two great armies among the hills and forests of that part of Georgia
that it is impossible for us to follow them all. On the 14th of June, Generals Johnston
, and Polk
rode up the slope of Pine Mountain
As they were standing, making observations, a Federal battery in the distance opened on them and General Polk
was struck in the chest with a Parrot shell.
He was killed instantly.
was greatly beloved, and his death caused a shock to the whole Confederate army.
He was a graduate of West Point
; but after being graduated he took orders in the church and for twenty years before the war was Episcopal Bishop
At the outbreak of the war he entered the field and served with distinction to the moment of his death.
During the next two weeks there was almost incessant fighting, heavy skirmishing, sparring for position.
It was a wonderful game of military strategy, played among the hills and mountains and forests by two masters in the art of war. On June 23d, Sherman
wrote, “The whole country is one vast fort, and Johnston
must have full fifty miles of connected trenches. .. . Our lines are now in close contact, and the fighting incessant. . . . As fast as we gain one position, the enemy has another all ready.”
, conscious of superior strength, was now anxious for a real battle, a fight to the finish with his antagonist.
Thomas' headquarters near Marietta during the fighting of the fourth of July
This is a photograph of Independence Day, 1864.
As the sentries and staff officers stand outside the sheltered tents, General Thomas, commanding the Army of the Cumberland, is busy; for the fighting is fierce to-day.
Johnston has been outflanked from Kenesaw and has fallen back eastward until he is actually farther from Atlanta than Sherman's right flank.
Who will reach the Chattahoochee first?
There, if any-where, Johnston must make his stand; he must hold the fords and ferries, and the fortifications that, with the wisdom of a far-seeing commander, he has for a long time been preparing.
The rustic work in the photograph, which embowers the tents of the commanding general and his staff, is the sort of thing that Civil War soldiers had learned to throw up within an hour after pitching camp. |
was too wily to be thus caught.
He made no false move on the great chessboard of war. At length, the impatient Sherman
decided to make a general front attack, even though Johnston
, at that moment, was impregnably entrenched on the slopes of Kenesaw Mountain
This was precisely what the Confederate
commander was hoping for.
The desperate battle of Kenesaw Mountain
occurred on the 27th of June.
In the early morning hours, the boom of Federal cannon announced the opening of a bloody day's struggle.
It was soon answered by the Confederate batteries in the entrenchments along the mountain side, and the deafening roar of the giant conflict reverberated from the surrounding hills.
About nine o'clock the Union
infantry advance began.
On the left was McPherson
, who sent the Fifteenth Army Corps, led by General John A. Logan
, directly against the mountain.
The artillery from the Confederate
trenches in front of Logan cut
down his men by hundreds.
The Federals charged courageously and captured the lower works, but failed to take the higher ridges.
The chief assault of the day was by the Army of the Cumberland, under Thomas
Most conspicuous in the attack were the divisions of Newton
, advancing against General Loring
, successor of the lamented Polk
Far up on a ridge at one point, General Cleburne
held a line of breastworks, supported by the flanking fire of artillery.
Against this a vain and costly assault was made.
When the word was given to charge, the Federals
sprang forward and, in the face of a deadly hail of musket-balls and shells, they dashed up the slope, firing as they went.
Stunned and bleeding, they were checked again and again by the withering fire from the mountain slope; but they re-formed and pressed on with dauntless valor.
Some of them reached the parapets and were instantly shot down, their bodies rolling into the Confederate
trenches among the men who had slain them, or back down the hill whence they had come.
, leading a charge against Cleburne
, was mortally wounded.
His men were swept back by a galling fire, though many fell with their brave leader.
This assault on Kenesaw Mountain
three thousand men and won him nothing.
's loss probably exceeded five hundred.
The battle continued but two and a half hours. It was one of the most recklessly daring assaults during the whole war period, but did not greatly affect the final result of the campaign.
Under a flag of truce, on the day after the battle, the men of the North
and of the South
met on the gory field to bury their dead and to minister to the wounded.
They met as friends for the moment, and not as foes.
It was said that there were instances of father and son, one in blue and the other in gray, and brothers on opposite sides, meeting one another on the bloody slopes of Kenesaw
had sent thousands of men to each side in the fratricidal struggle and not infrequently families had been divided.
Three weeks of almost incessant rain fell upon the struggling armies during this time, rendering their operations disagreeable and unsatisfactory.
The Camp equipage, the men's uniforms and accouterments were thoroughly saturated with rain and mud. Still the warriors of the North
and of the South
lived and fought on the slopes of the mountain range, intent on destroying each other.
was convinced by his drastic repulse at Kenesaw Mountain
that success lay not in attacking his great antagonist in a strong position, and he resumed his old tactics.
He would flank Johnston
as he had flanked him out of Dalton
and Allatoona Pass.
He thereupon turned upon Johnston
's line of communication with Atlanta
, whence the latter received his supplies.
The movement was successful, and in a few days Kenesaw Mountain
moved to the banks of the Chattahoochee
following in the hope of catching him while crossing the river.
But the wary Confederate had again, as at Resaca
, prepared entrenchments in advance, and these were on the north bank of the river.
He hastened to them, then turned on the approaching Federals and defiantly awaited attack.
and there was no battle.
The feints, the sparring, the flanking movements among the hills and forests continued day after day. The immediate aim in the early days of July was to cross the Chattahoochee
On the 8th, Sherman
across, ten miles or more above the Confederate
crossed the next day. Thomas
's position was by no means reassuring.
It is true he had, in the space of two months, pressed his antagonist back inch by inch for more than a hundred miles and was now almost within sight of the goal of the campaign — the city of Atlanta
But the single line of railroad that connected him with the North
and brought supplies from Louisville
, five hundred miles away, for a hundred thousand men and twenty-three thousand animals, might at any moment be destroyed by Confederate raiders.
The necessity of guarding the Western and Atlantic Railroad was an ever-present concern with Sherman
and his cavalry force were in northern Mississippi
waiting for him to get far enough on the way to Atlanta
for them to pounce upon the iron way and tear it to ruins.
To prevent this General Samuel D. Sturgis
, with eight thousand troops, was sent from Memphis
He met him on the 10th of June near Guntown, Mississippi
, but was sadly beaten and driven back to Memphis
, one hundred miles away.
The affair, nevertheless, delayed Forrest
in his operations against the railroad, and meanwhile General Smith
's troops returned to Memphis
from the Red River
expedition, somewhat late according to the schedule but eager to join Sherman
in the advance on Atlanta
, however, was directed to
Peach-tree creek, where Hood hit hard
Counting these closely clustered Federal graves gives one an idea of the overwhelming onset with Hood become the aggressor on July 20th.
Beyond the graves are some of the trenches from which the Federals were at first irresistibly driven.
In the background flows Peach-Tree Creek, the little stream that gives its name to the battlefield.
Hood, impatient to signalize his new responsibility by a stroke that would at once dispel the gloom at Richmond, had posted his troops behind strongly fortified works on a ridge commanding the valley of Peach-Tree Creek about five miles to the north of Atlanta.
Here he awaited the approach of Sherman.
As the Federals were disposing their lines and entrenching before this position, Hood's eager eyes detected a gap in their formation and at four o'clock in the afternoon hurled a heavy force against it. Thus he proved his reputation for courage, but the outcome showed the mistake.
For a brief interval Sherman's forces were in great peril.
But the Federals under Newton and Geary rallied and held their ground, till Ward's division in a brave counter-charge drove the Confederates back.
This first effort cost Hood dear.
He abandoned his entrenchments that night, leaving on the field five hundred dead, one thousand wounded, and many prisoners.
Sherman estimated the total Confederate loss at no less than five thousand.
That of the Federals was fifteen hundred.|
Palisades and Chevaux-de-frise guarding Atlanta
At last Sherman is before Atlanta.
The photograph shows one of the keypoints in the Confederate defense, the Fort at the head of Marietta Street, toward which the Federal lines were advancing from the northwest.
The old Potter house in the background, once a quiet, handsome country seat, is now surrounded by bristling fortifications, palisades, and double lines of chevaux-de-frise. Atlanta was engaged in the final grapple with the force that was to overcome her. Sherman has fought his way past Kenesaw and across the Chattahoochee, through a country which he describes as “one vast fort,” saying that “Johnston must have at least fifty miles of connected trenches with abatis and finished batteries.”
Anticipating that Sherman might drive him back upon Atlanta, Johnston had constructed, during the winter, heavily fortified positions all the way from Dalton.
During his two months in retreat the fortifications at Atlanta had been strengthened to the utmost.
What he might have done behind them was never to be known.|
After the sharpshooting in Potter's house
One gets a closer look at Potter's house in the background opposite.
It was occupied by sharpshooters in the skirmishing and engagements by which the investing lines were advanced.
So the Federals made it a special target for their artillery.
After Atlanta fell, nearly a ton of shot and shell was found in the house.
The Fort on Marietta Street, to the northwest of the city, was the first of the inner defenses to be encountered as Sherman advanced quickly on July 21st, after finding that Hood had abandoned his outer line at Peach-Tree Creek.
The vicinity of the Potter house was the scene of many vigorous assaults and much brave resistance throughout the siege.
Many another dwelling in Atlanta suffered as badly as this one in the clash of arms.
During Sherman's final bombardment the city was almost laid in ruins.
Even this was not the end, for after the occupation Captain Poe and his engineers found it necessary, in laying out the new fortifications, to destroy many more buildings throughout the devastated town.|
take the offensive against Forrest
, and with fourteen thousand troops, and in a three days fight, demoralized him badly at Tupelo, Mississippi
, July 14th-17th.
returned to Memphis
and made another start for Sherman
, when he was suddenly turned back and sent to Missouri
, where the Confederate General Price
was extremely active, to help Rosecrans
To avoid final defeat and to win the ground he had gained had taxed Sherman
's powers to the last degree and was made possible only through his superior numbers.
Even this degree of success could not be expected to continue if the railroad to the North
should be destroyed.
must do more than he had done; he must capture Atlanta
, this Richmond
of the far South
, with its cannon foundries and its great machine-shops, its military factories, and extensive army supplies.
He must divide the Confederacy
north and south as Grant
's capture of Vicksburg
had split it east and west.
must have Atlanta
, for political reasons as well as for military purposes.
The country was in the midst of a presidential campaign.
The opposition to Lincoln
's reelection was strong, and for many weeks it was believed on all sides that his defeat was inevitable.
At least, the success of the Union
arms in the field was deemed essential to Lincoln
's success at the polls.
had made little progress in Virginia
and his terrible repulse at Cold Harbor, in June, had cast a gloom over every Northern State.
was operating in Mobile Bay
; but his success was still in the future.
The eyes of the supporters of the great war-president turned longingly, expectantly, toward General Sherman
and his hundred thousand men before Atlanta
“Do something — something spectacular — save the party and save the country thereby from permanent disruption!”
This was the cry of the millions, and Sherman
understood it. But withal, the capture of the Georgia city
may have been doubtful but for the fact that at the critical moment the Confederate President
made a decision that resulted, unconsciously, in a decided
The army's finger-tips-pickets before Atlanta
A Federal picket post on the lines before Atlanta.
This picture was taken shortly before the battle of July 22d.
The soldiers are idling about unconcerned at exposing themselves; this is on the “reserve post.”
Somewhat in advance of this lay the outer line of pickets, and it would be time enough to seek cover if they were driven in. Thus armies feel for each other, stretching out first their sensitive fingers — the pickets.
If these recoil, the skirmishers are sent forward while the strong arm, the line of battle, gathers itself to meet the foe. As this was an inner line, it was more strongly fortified than was customary with the pickets.
But the men of both sides had become very expert in improvising field-works at this stage of the war. Hard campaigning had taught the veterans the importance to themselves of providing such protection, and no orders had to be given for their construction.
As soon as a regiment gained a position desirable to hold, the soldiers would throw up a strong parapet of dirt and logs in a single night.
In order to spare the men as much as possible, Sherman ordered his division commanders to organize pioneer detachments out of the Negroes that escaped to the Federals.
These could work at night.|
service to the Union
He dismissed General Johnston
and put another in his place, one who was less strategic and more impulsive.
did not agree with General Johnston
's military judgment, and he seized on the fact that Johnston
had so steadily retreated before the Northern
army as an excuse for his removal.
On the 18th of July, Davis
turned the Confederate Army of Tennessee
over to General John B. Hood
A graduate of West Point
of the class of 1853, a classmate of McPherson
, and Sheridan
had faithfully served the cause of the South
since the opening of the war. He was known as a fighter, and it was believed that he would change the policy of Johnston
to one of open battle with Sherman
And so it proved.
had lost, since the opening of the campaign at Dalton
, about fifteen thousand men, and the army that he now delivered to Hood
consisted of about sixty thousand in all.
was no match for Sherman
as a strategist, he was not a weakling.
His policy of aggression, however, was not suited to the circumstances — to the nature of the country — in view of the fact that Sherman
's army was far stronger than his own.
Two days after Hood
took command of the Confederate army he offered battle.
's forces had crossed Peach Tree Creek
, a small stream flowing into the Chattahoochee
, but a few miles from Atlanta
, and were approaching the city.
They had thrown up slight breastworks, as was their custom, but were not expecting an attack.
Suddenly, however, about four o'clock in the afternoon of July 20th, an imposing column of Confederates burst from the woods near the position of the Union
right center, under Thomas
The Federals were soon at their guns.
The battle was short, fierce, and bloody.
The Confederates made a gallant assault, but were pressed back to their entrenchments, leaving the ground covered with dead and wounded.
The Federal loss in the battle
of Peach Tree Creek
was placed at over seventeen hundred, the Confederate
loss being much greater.
This battle had been planned by Johnston
before his removal, but he had been waiting for the strategic moment to fight it.
Two days later, July 22d, occurred the greatest engagement of the entire campaign — the battle of Atlanta
The Federal army was closing in on the entrenchments of Atlanta
, and was now within two or three miles of the city.
On the night of the 21st, General Blair
, of McPherson
's army, had gained possession of a high hill on the left, which commanded a view of the heart of the city.
thereupon planned to recapture this hill, and make a general attack on the morning of the 22d.
He sent General Hardee
on a long night march around the extreme flank of McPherson
's army, the attack to be made at daybreak.
Meantime, General Cheatham
, who had succeeded to the command of Hood
's former corps, and General A. P. Stewart
, who now had Polk
's corps, were to engage Thomas
in front and thus prevent them from sending aid to McPherson
was delayed in his fifteen-mile night march, and it was noon before he attacked.
At about that hour Generals Sherman
sat talking near the Howard house
, which was the Federal
headquarters, when the sudden boom of artillery from beyond the hill that Blair
had captured announced the opening of the coming battle.
quickly leaped upon his horse and galloped away toward the sound of the guns.
near the railroad, he conferred with them for a moment, when they separated, and each hastened to his place in the battle-line.
sent aides and orderlies in various directions with despatches, until but two were still with him. He then rode into a forest and was suddenly confronted by a portion of the Confederate army under General Cheatham
. “Surrender,” was the call that rang out. But he wheeled his horse as if to flee, when he was instantly shot dead, and the horse galloped back riderless.
The final blow to the Confederacy's Southern stronghold
It was Sherman's experienced railroad wreckers that finally drove Hood out of Atlanta.
In the picture the rails heating red-hot amid the flaming bonfires of the ties, and the piles of twisted debris show vividly what Sherman meant when he said their “work was done with a will.”
Sherman saw that in order to take Atlanta without terrific loss he must cut off all its rail communications.
This he did by “taking the field with our main force and using it against the communications of Atlanta instead of against its intrenchments.”
On the night of August 25th he moved with practically his entire army and wagon-trains loaded with fifteen days rations.
By the morning of the 27th the whole front of the city was deserted.
The Confederates concluded that Sherman was in retreat.
Next day they found out their mistake, for the Federal army lay across the West Point Railroad while the soldiers began wrecking it. Next day they were in motion toward the railroad to Macon, and General Hood began to understand that a colossal raid was in progress.
After the occupation, when this picture was taken, Sherman's men completed the work of destruction.|
The death of the brilliant, dashing young leader, James
, was a great blow to the Union
But thirty-six years of age, one of the most promising men in the country, and already the commander of a military department.
was the only man in all the Western
armies whom Grant
, on going to the East
, placed in the same military class with Sherman
succeeded the fallen commander, and the battle raged on. The Confederates were gaining headway.
They captured several guns.
was pressing on, pouring volley after volley into the ranks of the Army of the Tennessee, which seemed about to be cut in twain.
A gap was opening.
The Confederates were pouring through.
was present and saw the danger.
Calling for Schofield
to send several batteries, he placed them and poured a concentrated artillery fire through the gap and mowed down the advancing men in swaths.
At the same time, Logan
pressed forward and Schofield
's infantry was called up. The Confederates were hurled back with great loss.
The shadows of night fell — and the battle of Atlanta
's losses exceeded eight thousand of his brave men, whom he could ill spare.
lost about thirty-seven hundred.
The Confederate army recuperated within the defenses of Atlanta
— behind an almost impregnable barricade.
had no hope of carrying the city by assault, while to surround and invest it was impossible with his numbers.
He determined, therefore, to strike Hood
's lines of supplies.
On July 28th, Hood
again sent Hardee
out from his entrenchments to attack the Army of the Tennessee, now under the command of General Howard
A fierce battle at Ezra Church on the west side of the city ensued, and again the Confederates
were defeated with heavy loss.
A month passed and Sherman
had made little progress toward capturing Atlanta
Two cavalry raids which he organized resulted in defeat, but the two railroads from the
The ruin of Hood's retreat-demolished cars and rolling-mill
On the night of August 31st, in his headquarters near Jonesboro, Sherman could not sleep.
That day he had defeated the force sent against him at Jonesboro and cut them off from returning to Atlanta.
This was Hood's last effort to save his communications.
About midnight sounds of exploding shells and what seemed like volleys of musketry arose in the direction of Atlanta.
The day had been exciting in that city.
Supplies and ammunition that Hood could carry with him were being removed; large quantities of provisions were being distributed among the citizens, and as the troops marched out they were allowed to take what they could from the public stores.
All that remained was destroyed.
The noise that Sherman heard that night was the blowing up of the rolling-mill and of about a hundred cars and six engines loaded with Hood's abandoned ammunition.
The picture shows the Georgia Central Railroad east of the town.|
Sherman's men in the abandoned defenses
At last Sherman's soldiers are within the Confederate fortifications which held them at bay for a month and a half.
This is Confederate Fort D, to the southwest of the city, and was incorporated in the new line of defenses which Sherman had laid out preparatory to holding Atlanta as a military post.
In the left background rises the new Federal fort, No. 7.
The General himself felt no such security as these soldiers at ease seem to feel.
His line of communications was long, and the Confederates were threatening it aggressively.|
In possession of the goal
This Confederate Fort was to the west of Peach-Tree Street, and between it and the Chattanooga Railroad.
Here, four hundred miles from his base, Sherman, having accomplished in four months what he set out to do, rested his army.
Had Johnston's skill been opposed to him till the end, the feat would hardly have been so quickly performed.
Hood's impetuous bravery had made it difficult and costly enough, but Sherman's splendid army, in the hands of its aggressive leader, had faced the intrepid assaults and won.|
south into Atlanta
were considerably damaged.
But, late in August, the Northern
commander made a daring move that proved successful.
Leaving his base of supplies, as Grant
had done before Vicksburg
, and marching toward Jonesboro
destroyed the Macon and Western Railroad, the only remaining line of supplies to the Confederate army.
attempted to block the march on Jonesboro
, and Hardee
was sent with his and S. D. Lee
's Corps to attack the Federals
, while he himself sought an opportunity to move upon Sherman
's right flank.
's attack failed, and this necessitated the evacuation of Atlanta
After blowing up his magazines and destroying the supplies which his men could not carry with them, Hood
abandoned the city, and the next day, September 2d, General Slocum
, having succeeded Hooker
, led the Twentieth Corps of the Federal
army within its earthen walls.
had made his escape, saving his army from capture.
His chief desire would have been to march directly north on Marietta
and destroy the depots of Federal supplies, but a matter of more importance prevented.
Thirty-four thousand Union prisoners were confined at Andersonville
, and a small body of cavalry could have released them.
placed himself between Andersonville
In the early days of September the Federal
hosts occupied the city toward which they had toiled all the summer long.
At East Point
, and Decatur
, the three armies settled for a brief rest, while the cavalry, stretched for many miles along the Chattahoochee
, protected their flanks and rear.
Since May their ranks had been depleted by some twenty-eight thousand killed and wounded, while nearly four thousand had fallen prisoners, into the Confederates
It was a great price, but whatever else the capture of Atlanta
did, it ensured the reelection of Abraham Lincoln
to the presidency of the United States
The total Confederate losses were in the neighborhood of thirty-five thousand, of which thirteen thousand were prisoners.