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Chapter 7:

General Johnston, touching the operations of his Army near New Hope Church says : 1

We found, next morning, that the Federal line extended much further to our right than it had done the day before. Polk's Corps was transferred to the right of Hood's. * * * The Federal troops extended their entrenched lines so rapidly to their left, that it was found necessary in the morning of the 27th to transfer Cleburne's Division of Hardee's Corps to our right, where it was formed on the prolongation of Polk's line. Kelly's Cavalry, composed of Allen's and Hannon's Alabama brigades, together less than a thousand (1000) men; occupied the interval, of half-a-mile, between Cleburne's right and Little Pumpkinvine creek. * * * * Between 5 and 6 o'clock in the afternoon, Kelly's skirmishers were driven in by a body of Federal cavalry, whose advance was supported by the Fourth Corps. * * * * As soon as the noise of this contest revealed to Major General Cleburne the manoeuvre to turn his right, he brought the right brigade of his second line, Granberry's, to Kelly's support, by forming it on the right of his first line. * * * The Fourth Corps came on in deep order, and assailed the Texans with great vigor, receiving their close and accurate fire with the fortitude always exhibited by General Sherman's troops in the actions of this campaign. * * * The contest of the main body [118] of the Fourth Corps with Granberry's brigade was a very fierce one. * * * They (the enemy) left hundreds of corpses within twenty paces of the Confederate lines.

It is strange the author of this Narrative should offer the above, and, in fact, nearly all he has written on pages 328-29-30-31 as a contribution to the historian, when he commits the unpardonable error of placing Polk's Corps during the whole of this “affair near New Hope Church” in the identical position occupied by my corps.

I was not only on the right, where he places Polk, but sent to him for a good division, with the message that Howard's Corps was moving rapidly to turn my right flank, which was the right of the infantry of our Army; that I had extended my lines as far as possible. He sent Cleburne's Division to report to me. General Cleburne was given by me most explicit instructions in regard to the formation of his forces on the right of my corps. He was directed to place his troops in a column of brigades, in the rear of my immediate right, which was the right of Hindman's Division, with Granberry's brigade in rear of the column, so as to bring it on our extreme right when deployed into line; he was also instructed to allow the Federal cavalry to reconnoitre and find our right. Similar orders were given to our own cavalry. As Howard's Corps advanced, Cleburne was directed to deploy quickly into line; the Federals thus came in contact with a solid line of infantry, in lieu of finding the open space on our flank, which existed at the time of the reconnaissance of the Federal cavalry.

I shall ever remember the enthusiasm and transport of the gallant Cleburne at the time of this though small engagement, yet most brilliant affair of the whole campaign.

The proof of the correctness of my statement respecting the above operations will be found in the following extract from a short report, written at my dictation by a young officer of my staff, and which, as it conflicts with General Johnston's [119] own Narrative, is unaccountably inserted by him on pages 585 and 586:

On the morning of the 26th, the enemy found to be extending their left. Hindman's Division was withdrawn from my left, and placed in position on my right, the enemy continuing to extend his left. Major General Cleburne, with his division, was ordered to report to me, and was massed on Hindman's right. On the morning of the 27th, the enemy known to be extending rapidly to the left, attempting to turn my right as they extended. Cleburne was deployed to meet them, and, at half-past 5. p. m., a very stubborn attack was made on his division, extending to the right, where Major General Wheeler, with his cavalry, dismounted, was engaging them. The assault was continued with great determination upon both Cleburne and Wheeler until after'night, but every attempt to break their lines was gallantly repulsed. About Io o'clock at night, Brigadier General Granberry, with his brigade of Texans made a dashing charge on the enemy, driving them from the field, their killed and wounded being left in our hands. During this engagement, two or three hundred prisoners were captured, all belonging to Howard's Corps.

At the end of this hastily written field report I add, “I enclose Major General Cleburne's report, and will forward others as soon as received.” Every soldier of and above the rank of captain knows that no officer sends forward his reports of battle, save through his commanding officer at the time of the engagement. Therefore General Cleburne brought his report of this “affair” to me, who commanded him at the time, in lieu of forwarding it through Lieutenant General Hardee to whose corps he was attached.

Again, in reference to operations near New Hope Church, the author of this remarkable Narrative writes as follows, page 333:

When the three Lieutenant Generals were together in my quarters that day (the 28th), as usual, Lieutenant General Hood suggested that we should make an attack upon the Federal Army, to commence on its left flank. The suggestion was accepted, and the three officers were desired to be ready for battle next morning. Lieutenant General Hood was instructed to draw his corps out of the line to the rear, and to march during the night around our right, and form it facing the enemy's left [120] flank, somewhat obliquely to his line, and to assail that flank at dawn next day. Polk and Hardee were instructed to join in the battle successively, obliquely to the present formation, when the progress made on the right of each should enable him to do so.

We waited next morning for the signal agreed upon — the musketry of Hood's Corps — from the appointed time until about Io a. m., when a message from the Lieutenant General was delivered to me by one of his aides-de-camp, to the effect that he had found Johnston's Division, on the Federal left, thrown back almost at right angles to the general line, and entrenching; that, under such circumstances, he had thought it inexpedient to attack, and asked for instructions. I supposed, from the terms of this message, that Hood's Corps was in the presence of the enemy, and that, his movement and position being known to them, they would be prepared to repel his assault as soon as he could make it, after his aide-de-camp's return. If the attack had been expedient when Lieutenant General Hood's message was dispatched, the resulting delay, by enabling the enemy to reinforce the threatened point and complete the entrenchments began, made it no longer so. He was therefore recalled.

Before I withdrew from the right of the Army which rested on Little Pumpkin-vine creek, with Cleburne's Division still on my extreme right and under my orders--i. e., before I withdrew on the night of the 28th of May from the position General Johnston erroneously assigns General Polk during the 26th, 27th and 28th, I received information from General Wheeler's cavalry stationed on Cleburne's right, just across Little Pumpkin-vine creek, that the enemy had its left flank beyond this stream, in a position which was exposed by reason of the difficulty of passage back to the main body of their Army; and that if I could withdraw that night, the 28th, and get in position by early morning, I might attack this corps or division thus exposed, and destroy it before it could recross Little Pumpkin-vine creek or receive reinforcements. This information reached me on the morning of the 28th, after Cleburne's repulse of the enemy on the afternoon and night of the 27th, as before mentioned.

Encouraged by this favorable opportunity of dealing the enemy a hard blow, I instantly repaired to General Johnston's [121] headquarters and asked his permission to withdraw my corps at dark from our extreme right, and attack this exposed flank next morning. He answered that it might result in a general engagement; to which I replied that, if I were able to destroy one portion of the enemy before it could be reinforced, it would give us greatly the advantage if a general battle ensued; that Hardee and Polk could be in readiness to come to my assistance, if necessary.

Having obtained his consent, couriers were dispatched for the two remaining corps commanders, Hardee and Polk, who shortly joined us. They were instructed to hold their corps in readiness for action the next day, as I was going to march that night, upon the above report from Wheeler's cavalry, and attack the left flank of the enemy,--provided I found it as reported; in other words, the whole of the proposed movement was to depend upon the enemy's left flank remaining as represented.

Polk was then, for the first time, ordered to my position — the right of the Army — and, accordingly, I withdrew after night and took up my line of march with guides from Wheeler's cavalry. Just about dawn, as we were approaching the place where the enemy was reported to be in an exposed position, I received from the same cavalry a message to the effect that I need proceed no further, as the Federals had during the night, drawn back their left flank, recrossed Little Pumpkin-vine creek, and were entrenched. From a feeling of insecurity, they had recrossed to the side of the creek I had left the evening previous, thereby placing between the opposing forces a swamp and difficult stream to cross, in addition to entrenchments on the opposite bank. An attack upon the enemy after he had recrossed to the side of the creek I had left the night before, would have been extreme rashness, especially, since* I had had an opportunity during one or two days previous to my move from the position I occupied at the time Cleburne was on my right, to make a similar assault without having to encounter the obstacles of a swamp and a [122] creek. Our cavalry had evidently seen the folly of attacking the Federals across this creek, and, therefore, advised me to proceed no further. I reported these facts to General Johnston, and was ordered to return.

The following extract from a letter dated May 22d, I874, received from General Wheeler, General Johnston's Chief of Cavalry, will show that the enemy was heavily entrenching the night of my march around our right flank:

* * * * I recall the movement to attack the enemy's left flank with your corps and my cavalry, which, I think, was on the night of the 28th. I remember you sending for me on the morning of the 29th, and telling me why you did not attack, which was owing to a change in position of the enemy and their invariable custom of entrenchment. I remember that the enemy were cutting down trees during the night, which was one of their favorite plans of strengthening and even building works, especially in so densely wooded a country. I cannot recall what officer was in charge of the scouts or in command of the brigade immediately in front of the enemy's left flank.

I have a strong impression that the officer to whom General Wheeler refers was the gallant General Kelly, who was afterwards killed in battle.

It might be supposed, upon reading General Johnston's recital of this his second attempt to fight, that I was ordered to assault the enemy under any circumstances, and that I was again the cause of battle not having been delivered. Never within my history have I been ordered to fight and have failed to obey instructions. I have never experienced pleasure in being shot at, but I have always endeavored to do my whole duty; and, although I have been charged with recklessness in regard to the lives of my men, I had sufficient caution to know that some positions should not be attacked, such as the one occupied by the enemy after recrossing Little Pumpkinvine creek. However, had General Johnston given me orders to attack at all hazard, I would have done so. It is true I went into battle under protest at Gettysburg, because I desired [123] to turn Round Top Mountain; but, notwithstanding, I was true in every sense of the word to the orders of my commander till, wounded, I was borne from the field.

During three yearsservice, under Generals Lee, Jackson, and Longstreet, I was never charged with being too late in any of the many battles in which I was engaged, before reporting for duty with the Army of the West.

When General Johnston said “as usual,” I suggested that we attack the left flank of the enemy. I presume he had in remembrance Lieutenant General Polk's and my urgent recommendation that he turn upon and attack Sherman at Adairsville, just before he placed his Army upon the untenable ridge in rear of Cassville, with women and children of the town between the two armies, and of which recommendation he is so careful to make no mention.

When I retrace these facts and circumstances, I cannot think General Johnston in earnest when he states that he intended, or desired to fight at the different points mentioned; moreover, it must seem strange to my comrades of the Virginia Army that I, who had always been ready and willing to do my duty, should have undergone so complete — a change under General Johnston, during the last year of the war. In truth, I had nowise altered in my nature; and I will add that no General ever received more thorough co-operation of his corps commanders than did General Johnston during his campaign from Dalton to Atlanta. He was on cordial terms with each of us, and it should be borne in mind that tile animus displayed towards General Polk and myself, never became apparent till after I was assigned to the command of the Army of Tennessee, and the noble Polk had been laid in his grave nigh two months. General Johnston was then residing in Macon, Georgia, where he wrote his official report, in which were brought forward, for the first time, these unjust and false accusations.

If I was so little to be relied upon, and had given cause for complaint successively at Resaca and Cassville, why did he [124] entrust to me the important operations at New Hope Church, from which it was supposed a general engagement might ensue. The truth is, he possessed no real cause of complaint, and, I reiterate, he had the full co-operation of his Lieutenants. No matter what were the views held by them touching his mode of handling an army, they were all sufficiently good soldiers to forego, in the presence of even one of their own staff officers, any remark which might tend to destroy confidence in their leader.

I will cite a historical fact illustrative of this spirit of discretion and forbearance, which will be peculiarly interesting as it has never, to my knowledge, been made public.

Just before leaving New Hope Church, his three corps commanders were assembled alone, at night, in his quarters — then a little cabin near the church — when General Johnston suggested Macon as being the place to fall back upon. If I remember rightly, this suggestion was received in silence, for I cannot recall the reply of one of us at the moment. I well remember, however, after we had left the presence of General Johnston, and were riding through the darkness of the night to our respective headquarters, that the unanimous sentiment expressed on this occasion was to this effect: “In the name of Heaven, what is to become of us? Here we are with the depots for recruits drained, from Mobile to Richmond, all the troops having been sent either to us or to General Lee, in Virginia; our Army fifty or sixty miles from Dalton, no general battle fought, and our Commander talking of Macon, one hundred miles beyond Atlanta, as being the place to fall back upon!”

This gloomy outlook brought about the comparison touching our losses up to that period, and to which I have previously referred. We finally separated; each rode off to his own tent; and, howsoever, dispirited, I am confident not one of us so far lost sight of that co-operation so essential in time of war, as to speak one word which would convey a suspicion of General Johnston's contemplated retreat to Macon. [125]

Shortly after this occurrence, the Army occupied the line at Kennesaw Mountain, the last stronghold of the many sharp ridges passed over during our retreat. It was to the left of this point, on Pine Mountain, that we lost the brave and magnanimous Polk, and with him much of the history of this remarkable campaign.

The Confederate Army had remained on the defensive about thirty days at Kennesaw Mountain, when Sherman resorted to a ruse he had learned from experience would prove effective: he sent a few troops to make a rumbling sound in our rear, and we folded up our tents, as usual, under strict orders to make no noise, and, under cover of darkness, marched to and across the Chattahoochee, upon the flat plains of Georgia.

After our passage of this river on the night of the 9th of July, Sherman moved rapidly to the eastward and across the Chattahoochee, some distance above Peach Tree creek. He formed a line parallel to this creek, with his right on the river, and approached Atlanta from the north, whilst Schofield and McPherson, on the left, marched rapidly in the direction of Decatur to destroy the railroad to Augusta.

General Johnston thus relates the sequel: 2

On the 17th, Major General Wheeler reported that the whole Federal Army had crossed the Chattahoochee. * * * The following telegram was received from General Cooper, dated July 17th: “ Lieutenant General J. B. Hood has been commissioned to the temporary rank of General, under the late law of Congress. I am directed by the Secretary of War to inform you that, as you have failed to arrest the advance of the enemy to the vicinity of Atlanta, far in the interior of Georgia, and express no confidence that you can defeat or repel him, you are hereby relieved. from the command of the Army and Department of Tennessee, which you will immediately turn over to General Hood.” * * * General Hood came to my quarters early in the morning of the i8th, and remained there during the day. Intelligence soon came from Major General Wheeler, that the Federal Army was marching toward Atlanta, and, at General Hood's earnest request, I continued to give orders through Brigadier General Mackall, Chief of Staff, until sunset.


About 11 o'clock, on the night of the 17th, I received a telegram from the War Office, directing me to assume command of the Army. This totally unexpected order so astounded me, and overwhelmed me with sense of the responsibility thereto attached, that I remained in deep thought throughout the night. Before daybreak I started for General Johnston's headquarters, a short distance from which I met Lieutenant General A. P. Stewart, one of my division commanders, who had been recommended by me, and recently promoted to the rank of corps commander to replace General Polk.

We rode on together to General Johnston's quarters, which we reached shortly after dawn. I at once sought the Commanding General, and inquired into the cause of this order. He replied he did not know; the President had seen fit to relieve him. I then insisted he should pocket that dispatch, leave me in command of my corps, and fight the battle for Atlanta; at the same time I directed his attention to the approach of General Sherman, and alleged that the enemy, unless checked, would in a few days capture the city.

To this appeal, he replied that the President had seen fit to relieve him, and it would have so to be, unless the order was countermanded. Lieutenant Generals Hardee and Stewart then joined me in a telegram to the President, requesting that the order for his removal be postponed, at least till the fate of Atlanta was decided.

The, following extract from a letter of Lieutenant General A. P. Stewart will show that I was desirous General Johnston should remain in command:

St. Louis, August 7th, 1872.
General J. B. Hood.
my Dear General:--Your letter of the 25th ultimo was received some days since, and I avail myself of the first opportunity to answer it.

You ask me to send you a statement setting forth the facts as you (I) understand them, of the circumstances attending the removal of General J. E. Johnston from the command of our Army in Georgia, in [127] 1864, and my appointment to succeed him. It gives me pleasure to comply with your request. * * * Monday morning,(July i8th,)you will remember we met about sunrise in the road near Johnston's headquarters; and I then informed you of the object of seeking an interview, and that was that we should all three unite in an effort to prevail on General Johnston to withhold the order, and retain command of the Army until the impending battle should have been fought. I can bear witness to the readiness with which you concurred. We went together to Johnston's quarters, and you and he had a long conversation with each other, which I did not hear. At the close of it, however, you and General Hardee and I went into the Adjutant General's office, and together prepared a telegram to the President, stating that, in our judgment, it was dangerous to change commanders at that juncture, and requesting him to recall the order removing Johnston, at least until the fate of Atlanta should be decided. That was the substance; I cannot remember the language. An answer was received that afternoon from the President, declining to comply with our request or suggestion, on the ground that the order having been issued, it would do more harm than good to recall or suspend it. * * *

Very sincerely yours,

Alex. P. Stewart, Late Lieutenant General C. S. Army.

The President's answer to our telegram was as follows:

Richmond, July 18th, I864.
to Generals Hood, Hardee and Stewart.
Your telegram of this date received. A change of commanders, under existing circumstances, was regarded as so objectionable that I only accepted it as the alternative of continuing a policy which has proven disastrous. Reluctance to make the change induced me to send a telegram of inquiry to the Commanding General on the i6th inst. His reply but confirmed previous apprehensions. There can be but one question which you and I can entertain, that is, what will best promote the public good; and to each of you I confidently look for the sacrifice of every personal consideration in conflict with that object. The order has been executed, and I cannot suspend it without making the case worse than it was before the order was issued.

After the receipt of the above telegram, I returned to General Johnston's room, alone, and urged him, for the good of the country, to pocket the correspondence, remain in [128] command, and fight for Atlanta, as Sherman was at the very gates of the city. To this my second appeal he made about the same reply as in the first instance. I then referred to the great embarrassment of the position in which I had been placed; asserting, moreover, I did not even know the position of the two remaining corps of the Army. With all the earnestness of which man is capable, I besought him, if he would, under no circumstances retain command and fight the battle for Atlanta, to at least remain with me and give me the benefit of his counsel whilst I determined the issue. My earnest manner must have impressed him, since, with tears of emotion gathering in his eyes, he finally made me the promise that, after riding into Atlanta, he would return that same evening. Although our relations were, as they had been throughout the campaign, friendly and cordial, he not only failed to comply with his promise, but, without a word of explanation or apology, left that evening for Macon, Georgia.

1 Johnston's Narrative, pages 328, 329, 330.

2 Johnston's Narrative, pages 348, 349, 350.

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