- An intrigue in Richmond against Gen. Johnston. -- evidence of it. -- Gen. Bragg's visit to Atlanta. -- removal of Gen. Johnston from command. -- the battles of Atlanta. -- engagements of the 20th, 22d, and 28th July. -- Sherman's designs on the Macon road. -- unsuccessful raids of Stoneman and McCook. -- Hood's great mistake. -- he sends off his cavalry towards Chattanooga. -- Sherman moves on the Macon road. -- defeat of Hardee at Jonesboroa. -- Hood evacuates Atlanta, and retreats to Lovejoy's Station. -- Sherman's occupation of Atlanta. -- his order for its depopulation. -- atrocious character of this measure. -- the fall of Atlanta a serious disaster for the Confederates. -- visit of President Davis to the military lines in Georgia. -- his speech at Macon. -- he betrays to the enemy the new military design. -- Hood's new movement to Tennessee. -- Sherman follows to Gaylesville. -- he turns back and determines to traverse the State of Georgia to the sea. -- his correspondence with Grant. -- how the enterprise was a plain one. -- no peril or genius in it. -- Errors of the Hood -- Davis strategy. -- Hood's Tennessee campaign. -- he loses the great opportunity of the campaign at Spring Hill. -- Schofield effects a retreat to Franklin. -- battle of Franklin. -- heroic conduct of the Confederate troops. -- remarkable loss among their general officers. -- battle of Nashville. -- Gen. Grant's fears that Hood would invade Kentucky. -- probable effect of such a movement. -- the enemy's plan of battle. -- the second day's fight. -- Hood's assurance of victory. -- a Confederate brigade gives way before a skirmish line of the enemy. -- a disgraceful panic and rout. -- Hood escapes across the Tennessee River. -- his losses. -- the whole scheme of Confederate defence terminated West of the Alleghanies
Gen. Lee had moved from the Rapidan to Richmond, with an increase of reputation at each stage of the retreat. It is curious that when Gen. Johnston moved from the Northern frontier of Georgia to Atlanta, even with greater success, he should not have experienced similar tokens of approbation. The fact was that he was the subject of a deep intrigue in Richmond, to displace him from the command of an army, whose affections and confidence he had never ceased to enjoy; and even while he was moving in the march from Dalton, his removal from command was secretly entertained in Richmond. There is a certain delicate evidence of this, which the historian should not spare. While the march referred to was in  progress, a letter written by Gen. J. B. Hood to one who was supposed to have more than an ordinary concern, an affectionate interest in his career, declared then his confident anticipation of being soon elevated from the position of corps commander to the head of the Army of Tennessee. There was other evidence of the intrigue in Richmond. Gen. Bragg, the “military adviser” of President Davis, visited Johnston in his lines around Atlanta; never apprised him that his visit was of an official nature; put together everything he could to make a case against Johnston, and returned to Richmond with the alarming report that he was about to give up Atlanta to the enemy 1 Of this nonsense Gen. Johnston has written: “The proofs that I intended to hold Atlanta are, the fact that under my orders the work of strengthening its defences was going on vigorously, the communication on the subject made by me to Gen. Hood, and the fact that my family was in the town. That the public workshops were removed, and no large supplies deposited in the town, as alleged by Gen. Bragg, were measures of common prudence, and no more indicated the intention to abandon the place than the sending the wagons of an army to the rear, on a day of battle, proves a foregone determination to abandon the field.” But the Presidential fiat was to go forth in the face of all facts. On the night of the 17th July it was known in the Army of Tennessee, that a despatch had been received from Richmond, removing Johnston from command, and appointing in his place Gen. J. B. Hood. The news struck a chill in the army, such as no act or menace of the enemy had ever done. To Sherman it was the occasion of new spirit. When he heard that Hood was to be his future antagonist, he jumped to his feet, made a significant motion around his forefinger, and exclaimed: “I know that fellow.” Gen. J. B. Hood had been appointed by President Davis as “a fighting General,” and was prompt to vindicate the cheap reputation that had procured for him such a command. With some reinforcements from the Southwest and levies of Georgia militia, Gen. Hood had now under his command an effective force of forty-one thousand infantry and artillery, and ten thousand cavalry. With reference to other Confederate forces in the field, his army was a large one, although it gave him but little margin for fanciful attacks and useless sacrifice of life.
The battles of Atlanta.As Sherman approached Atlanta, two of his corps had swung around upon the Augusta road, destroying this line of communication, while Thomas took his command across Peach Tree Creek, directly in front of the Confederate entrenchments. While the enemy's right on the creek  was in marching column, Hood, in the afternoon of the 20th July, directed an attack upon it, designing to take advantage of a gap between two of its divisions. The attack was led by Walker's and Bates' divisions of Hardee's corps; and the massed troops, in admirable order, burst through the gap in the enemy's lines, and for a time appeared about to destroy his forces on the right. But a double fire was brought to bear upon their lines along the deep hollow they had penetrated; and the attack was drawn off in good order, but after a half hour of deadly work, in which the killed and wounded were counted by thousands. The loss of the enemy was about two thousand; that of the Confederates probably twice as large, as they were the assaulting party, and terribly exposed on the line of attack. Next day, McPherson moved forward, and established a line east and south of Atlanta, and within three miles of the town. His command stretched beyond the Atlanta and Augusta Railroad, which he had torn up. Hood now hastily swung around Hardee's corps, followed by the others, and brought the bulk of his army against McPherson. Hardee moved against the enemy's extreme left, drove him from his works, and captured sixteen pieces of artillery. Gen. McPherson was shot dead as he rode along the line. Meanwhile, Cheatham attacked the enemy's centre with a portion of his command, and took six pieces of artillery. Affairs looked gloomy for the enemy; he had been repulsed at several points, he had lost much artillery, and the stream of bleeding men going to the rear told how severely he suffered in the conflict. But about this time the enemy succeeded in concentrating his artillery, and Gen. Sherman sent word to Logan, who had succeeded McPherson, to mass his troops in the centre and charge. Exhausted, wasted, and bleeding, the Confederate columns gave way, abandoning most of the artillery they had captured in the early part of the day. The attack of the 22d was like that of the 20th-one of the most reckless, massive, and headlong charges of the war, where immense prices were paid for momentary successes, and the terrible recoil of numbers gave a lesson to the temerity of the Confederate commander. Hood's attempt on the Federal left being frustrated, he fell back to his inner line of works. The intentions of Sherman appear now to have been to swing his army to Hood's extreme right, threatening the Macon road, and having in co-operation a great cavalry raid upon his rear. Stoneman was sent with five thousand cavalry, and McCook with four thousand men, to meet on the Macon road near Lovejoy's Station, where they were to destroy the rail, and also to attack and drive Wheeler's command. Stoneman requested permission to be allowed to proceed to Macon to release the Federal prisoners confined there. Sherman left this at his own discretion, in case he felt he was able to do so after the defeat of Wheeler's cavalry. But Stoneman did not fulfill the conditions He got down in front of  Macon, without going to Lovejoy's, and, in attempting to retreat, was hemmed in by Iverson, and was himself captured, together with one thousand of his men and two guns. McCook returned after losing five hundred men as prisoners. The cavalry raid was a decided failure, or as Sherman mildly expressed it, “not deemed a success.” On the 28th July Hood made a partial attack along the Lickskillet-road, which he had occcupied with Stewart's and Lee's corps. The conflict was desultory and without result on either side. After five hours of action, Hood retired with a loss of about fifteen hundred killed and wounded. We have already noticed that Sherman did not have force enough to invest Atlanta completely. This was the great point in Johnston's calculations, when they were upset at Richmond; for Sherman, reduced to strategy, would have found his master in the cool and dexterous Johnston, whereas in Hood he had plainly his inferiour to deal with — a commander who had indeed abundant courage, but a scant brain with which to balance it. Sherman's army was not large enough to encircle Atlanta completely, without making his lines too thin and assailable. He never contemplated an assault upon its strong works. It was his great object to get possession of the Macon road, and thus sever Atlanta entirely from its supplies. It was not sufficient to cut the road by raids; it must be kept broken, and to accomplish this it was clearly necessary to plant a sufficient force south of Atlanta. While Sherman meditated such a movement, Hood made the very mistake that would secure and facilitate it, and thrust into the hands of his adversary the opportunity he had waited for. He sent off his entire cavalry towards Chattanooga to raid on the enemy's line of communication — a most absurd excursion, since Sherman had enough provisions accumulated this side of that place to last him until he could restore his communications, and had also formed a second base at Allatoona. Instantly, the Federal cavalry was on the Macon road. With his flanks easily protected, Sherman followed quickly with his main army. On the 31st August, Howard, on the right, had reached Jonesboroa, on the Macon road, twenty miles southeast of Atlanta; Thomas, in the centre, was at Couch's; and Schofield, on the left, was near Rough-and-Ready, still closer to Atlanta. Hood had no alternative now but to make a battle on or near the line of the Macon road, and there settle the fate of Atlanta. He might have moved out of the city on the north, and have overwhelmed what of Sherman's army — the Twentieth corps--was left there; but he would then have been in a country destitute of supplies. He determined to make the battle near Jonesboroa, and the corps of Lee and Hardee were moved out to attempt to dislodge the enemy from the entrenched position he held  across Flint River The attack failed with the loss of more than two thou sand men. On the evening of the 1st September, the enemy's columns converged upon Jonesboroa, and Hardee's corps, finding itself about to be flanked and overwhelmed, withdrew during the night, after having been cut up by two severe engagements, and with the loss of eight guns. That night, finding his line of supply cut off, and the sum of his disasters complete, Hood determined to abandon Altanta. He blew up his magazines, destroyed all his supplies that he could not remove, consisting of seven locomotives and eighty-one cars loaded with ammunition, and left the place by the turnpike roads. He moved swiftly across the country towards Macon. The next morning Sherman moved south to catch the retreating army, but at Lovejoy's, two miles beyond Jonesboroa, he found Hood strongly entrenched, and, abandoning the pursuit, returned to Atlanta. Sherman announced: “Atlanta is ours, and fairly won.” His army entered the city on the morning of the 2d September, and the successful commander rode through the streets to his headquarters without parade or ostentation. Hie declared that his army, wearied by an arduous campaign, needed rest, and that he proposed to give it an interval of repose within the defences of Atlanta. But the period of military inaction was to be employed in launching measures of the most extraordinary cruelty against the non-combatant people of Atlanta. Gen. Sherman was the author of the sentiment, “War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it,” which was caught up in the Northern newspapers as a bit of very sententious and elegant philosophy, when, in fact, denying, as it did, that war had any law of order or amelioration, it was a mere plagiarism from the bloody and detestable code of the savage. This extraordinary doctrine Sherman at once proceeded to put in practice by depopulating Atlanta, and driving from their homes thousands of helpless women and children. It was the most cruel and savage act of the war. Butler, the tyrant of New Orleans, had only banished registered enemies. Sherman issued a sweeping edict, covering all the inhabitants of a city, and driving them from their homes to wander as strangers, outcasts and exiles, and to subsist on charity. Gen. Hood, while he received the exiles within his lines, took occasion to protest, writing to Gen. Sherman himself of the measure his sinister mind had devised: “It transcends in studied and ingenious cruelty all acts ever before brought to my attention in the dark history of war.” But all protests were unavailing. In vain the Mayor of Atlanta had pointed out to Gen. Sherman that the country south of the city was crowded already with refugees, and without houses to accommodate the people, and that many had no other shelter but what they might find in churches, and out-buildings; that among the exiles were many poor women in an advanced state of pregnancy; that the consequences would be woe, horrour, and suffering,  which could not be described by words. Sherman was inexorable. He affected the belief that Atlanta might again be rendered formidable in the hands of the Confederates, and resolved, in his own words, “to wipe it out.” The old and decrepit were hunted from their homes; they were packed into railroad cars; tottering old age and helpless youth were crowded together; wagons were filled with wrecks of household goods; and the trains having deposited their medley freight at Rough-and-Ready, the exiles were then left to shift for themselves. The fall of Atlanta was a terrible blow to the Southern Confederacy; a reanimation of the North; the death of “the peace party” there; the date of a new hope of the enemy and of a new prospect of subjugation. “On that day,” said the Richmond Examiner, “McClellan's nomination fell still-born, and an heir was born to the Abolition dynasty. On that day, peace waved those ‘ white wings,’ and fled to the ends of the morning. On that day, calculations of the war's duration ceased to be the amusements even of the idle.” President Davis had declared, when he removed Johnston, that “Atlanta must be held at all hazards.” It was the most important manufacturing centre in the Confederacy; it was the key to the network of railroads extending to all portions of the Gulf States; it was “the Gate City” from the north and west to the southeast; it was an important depot of supplies, and commanded the richest granaries of the South. Such was the prize of the enemy. The catastrophe moved President Davis in Richmond, and mortified the vanity that had so recently proclaimed the security of Atlanta under the command of Hood. He determined to visit Hood's new lines, to plan with him a new campaign, to compensate for the loss of Atlanta, and to take every possible occasion to raise the hopes and confidence of the people. It is remarkable that the visits of the Confederate President to the armies were always the occasions of some far-fetched and empirical plan of operations, and were always accompanied with vapours and boasts that unduly exalted the public mind. Mr. Davis never spoke of military matters without a certain ludicrous boastfulness, which he maintained to the last event of the war. It was not swagger or affectation; it was the sincere vagary of a mind intoxicated with conceit when occupied with a subject where it imagined it found its forte, but where in fact it had least aptitude. Mr. Davis, as a military commander or adviser, was weak, fanciful, to excess, and much too vain to keep his own counsels. As he travelled towards Hood's lines, he made excited speeches in South Carolina and Georgia. At Macon he declared that Atlanta would be recovered; that Sherman would be brought to grief; and that this Federal commander “would meet the fate that befell Napoleon in the retreat from Moscow.” These swollen assertions, so out of character, were open advertisements to the enemy of a new plan of operations. It appears  that the unfortunate vanity of President Davis completely betrayed him. Referring to this period, Gen. Grant writes: “During this time Jefferson Davis made a speech in Macon, Georgia, which was reported in the papers of the South, and soon became known to the whole country, disclosing the plans of the enemy, thus enabling Gen. Sherman to fully meet them. He exhibited the weakness of supposing that an army that had been beaten and fearfully decimated in a vain attempt at the defensive could successfully undertake the offensive against the army that had so often defeated it.” The new offensive movement of Hood, advised by President Davis, was soon known to the country. Not satisfied with the revelation at Macon, President Davis addressed the army, and more plainly announced the direction of the new campaign. Turning to Cheatham's division of Tennesseeans, he said: “Be of good cheer, for within a short while your faces will be turned homeward, and your feet pressing Tennessee soil.” On the 24th September, Hood commenced the new movement to pass to Sherman's rear and to get on his line of communications as far as Tennessee. The first step was to transfer his army, by a flank movement, from Lovejoy's Station on the Macon Railroad, to near Newman on the West Point road. The significance of this might have escaped the enemy, but for the incautious language of President Davis at Macon, which at once gave rise to the supposition that this movement was preliminary to one more extensive. Sherman was instantly on the alert, sending his spare forces, wagons, and guns, to the rear, under Gen. Thomas, and, at the same time, sending Schofield, Newton, and Corse to take up different points in the rear of Atlanta. On the 27th, Hood moved towards the Chattahoochee. On the 1st October, the enemy made a reconnoissance towards Newman, and discovered that Hood had crossed the Chattahoochee River on the 29th and 30th of September. Sherman immediately followed. On the 5th October, when Hood's advance assaulted Allatoona, Sherman was on Kenesaw Mountain, signalling to the garrison at Allatoona, over the heads of the Confederates, to hold out until he relieved them. Hood moved westward, and, crossing the Etowah and Oostanaula Rivers by forced marches, attacked Dalton on the 12th, which was surrendered. Passing through the gap of Pigeon Mountain, he entered Lafayette on the 15th. From this place he suddenly moved south to Gadsden, Alabama, where he rejoined his trains, to make his fatal march towards Nashville. Sherman waited some time at Gaylesville, until he became fully assured of the direction taken by Hood; and then abruptly prepared to abandon the pursuit, return to Atlanta, and mobilize his army for a march across the broad State of Georgia to the sea. His calculation was a plain and precise one. Gen. Thomas, at Nashville, could collect troops from the  whole Department of the Mississippi; Rosecrans was able to send him reinforcements from Missouri; Sherman detached two corps--the Fourth and Twenty-third--to move, by the way of Chattanooga, to the relief of Thomas; and there was little doubt that with this force Thomas could ho d the line of the Tennessee, or if Hood forced it, would be able to concentrate and give a good battle. Sherman was left in command of four army corps, and two divisions of superb cavalry — a force of about sixty-thousand men. When Hood wandered off in the direction of Florence, Sherman was left free to complete his arrangements, and there was nothing to interfere with his grand projected march to the sea. In October, Gen. Grant, who was watching closely the development of the wretched Davis-Hood device to find some compensation for the loss of Atlanta, telegraphed Sherman: “If you were to cut loose, I do not believe you would meet Hood's army, but would be bushwhacked by all the old men, little boys, and such railroad guards as are still left at home.” With nothing, of course, to fear from such an opposition, Sherman telegraphed his determination “to make a wreck of the road, and of the country from Chattanooga to Atlanta, including the latter city; send back all his wounded and worthless, and with his effective army, move through Georgia, smashing things, to the sea.” The march would, indeed, have been a perilous enterprise, if there had been any considerable force in Sherman's front, or on his flanks. As it was, nothing opposed his march to the sea, and he had simply to pass through the gate-ways which the stupidity of the Davis-Hood campaign had left open. It is amusing to the student of history to have such a plain march entitled a grand exploit, when it was only a question of so many miles motion a day. Sherman knew very well that there was nothing to oppose him; he knew that the Confederacy had been compelled to throw all its fighting power on its frontiers, for Grant had told him “it was but an egg-shell;” he knew that the conscription had exhausted the interiour; he knew that the country he would traverse was peopled with non-combatants, women, and children; he knew that this country abounded with supplies, which the difficulties of transportation had withheld from Richmond. He simply proposed to take plain advantage of these circumstances, and march to the sea-board. There was no genius in this; no daring; it was merely looking the situation in the face. It is said that had Sherman failed he would have been put down as one of the greatest charlatans of the age. But there was no chance of failure when there was nothing to dispute the march. If, indeed, he had attempted the movement with a Confederate army in his front or on his flank, it is highly probable that the adventure would have taken rank with his movement in 1862 on Vicksburg, the greatest fiasco of the war, and his experiment with “the strategic triangle” in 1863, a piece of charlatanism and of dis. ordered execution that should have decided his reputation.  It had been the original design of the enemy to hold Atlanta, and by getting through to the west, with a garrison left on the southern railroads leading east and west through Georgia, to effectually sever the east from the west. In other words it was proposed in the great campaign of 1864 to repeat the experiment of bisection of the Confederacy, first accomplished when the enemy gained possession of the Mississippi River. It was calculated of course to fight from Atlanta to the sea, and that the second stroke of bisection would be accomplished by cutting through a hostile array. In originating with Hood the movement north of Atlanta, President Davis simply saved the enemy all the trouble he had contemplated, cleared the way of opposition and opened a plain and unencumbered way to his original design, with an invitation to execute it without fear and at leisure. We must leave here the story of Sherman's march to follow the erratic campaign of Hood. When the latter was ready to leave Florence, Sherman was far on his way on his march towards Savannah; and the country beheld with amazement the singular spectacle of two antagonistic armies, both at once acting on the offensive, day after day marching away from each other, and moving diametrically apart. To appreciate what insanity must have inspired such a campaign on the Confederate side, we may remark the utter want of compensation in the two movements. Even throwing out of consideration the great fact that Hood's movement to the north uncovered Georgia and left her undefended to the sea, while itself encountered a second army of the enemy, yet even if Hood was successful, an invasion of Northern territory would be no possible equivalent for that of the South, where the ravage and loss of material resources might be vital; and even in the least circumstance, the season of the year, the Confederate troops, badly clothed and shod, were put at the disadvantage of marching northward, while the enemy sought the genial clime of a Southern latitude.
Gen. Hood commenced to move his army from Northern Alabama to Tennessee. He pushed forward as if to cut off Schofield's retreat from Pulaski; this Federal commander having taken position there, with the greater part of two army corps, and an aggregation of fort-garrisons from the surrounding country, while Thomas remained at Nashville. Schofield fearing that his position was about to be flanked, abandoned Pulaski, and attempted by a forced march to reach Columbia. The want of a good map of the country, and the deep mud through which the army marched, prevented Hood overtaking the enemy before lie reached Columbia; but on the evening of the 27th of November the  Confederate army was placed in position in front of his works at that place. During the night, however, the enemy evacuated the town, taking position on the opposite side of the river, about a mile and a half from the town, which was considered quite strong in front. Late in the evening of the 28th November, Gen. Forrest, with most of his command, crossed Duck River, a few miles above Columbia, and Hood followed early on the morning of the 20th, with Stewart's and Cheatham's corps, and Johnson's division of Lee's corps, leaving the other divisions of Lee's corps in the enemy's front at Columbia. The troops moved in light marching order, the object being to turn the enemy's flank by marching rapidly on roads parallel to the Columbia and Franklin pike, at or near Spring Hill, and to cut off that portion of the enemy at or near Columbia. The enemy, discovering the intentions of the Confederates, began to retreat on the pike towards Spring Hill. About 4 r. M., Hood's infantry forces, Cheatham in the advance, commenced to come in contact with the enemy, about two miles from Spring Hill, through which place the Columbia and Franklin pike runs. The enemy was at this time moving rapidly along the pike, with some of his troops on the flank of his column to protect it. Cheatham was ordered to attack the enemy at once, vigorously, and get possession of this pike. He made only a feeble and partial attack, failing to reach the point indicated. The great object of Gen. Hood was to possess himself of the road to Franklin, and thus cut off the enemy's retreat. Though owing to delays the signal opportunity to do this had passed at daylight, there was yet a chance of dealing the enemy a heavy blow. Stewart's corps and Johnson's division were arriving upon the field to support the attack. Stewart was ordered to move his corps beyond Cheatham's, and place it across the road beyond Spring Hill. He did not succeed in getting the position he desired, owing to some misunderstanding of orders, and, night falling, he went into bivouac. About midnight, ascertaining that the enemy was moving in great confusion-artillery wagons and troops intermixed-Gen. Hood sent instructions to Cheatham to advance a heavy line of skirmishers against him, and still further impede and confuse his march. This was not accomplished. The enemy continued to move along the road in hurry and confusion, within hearing, nearly all the night. Thus was lost a great opportunity of striking the enemy, and his line of retreat secured in the face of the Confederates without a battle. Much of the disaster that was now to ensue in his campaign Gen. Hood attributed to the fact that “some of his Generals had failed him at Spring Hill.” There was nothing left now but to pursue the enemy. At daylight Hood's army followed as fast as possible towards Franklin, Stewart in the advance, Cheatham following, and Lee with the trains, moving from Columbia on the same road. The Confederates pursued the  enemy rapidly, and compelled him to burn a number of his wagons. He made a feint as if to give battle on the hills about four miles south of Franklin, but as soon as Hood's forces began to deploy for the attack, and to flank him on his left, he retired slowly to Franklin. Gen. Hood had learned from despatches captured at Spring Hill, from Thomas to Schofield, that the latter was instructed to hold that place till the position at Franklin could be made secure, indicating the intention of Thomas to hold Franklin and his strong works at Murfreesboroa. Thus Hood knew that it was all-important to attack Schofield before he could make himself strong, and that if he should escape at Franklin, he would gain his works about Nashville. The nature of the position was such as to render it inexpedient to attempt any further flank movement, and he therefore determined to attack the enemy in front, and without delay.