Chapter 18: capture of Atlanta.
August and September, 1864.
The month of August opened hot and sultry, but our position before Atlanta
was healthy, with ample supply of wood, water, and provisions.
The troops had become habituated to the slow and steady progress of the siege; the skirmish-lines were held close up to the enemy, were covered by rifle-trenches or logs, and kept up a continuous clatter of musketry.
The main lines were held farther back, adapted to the shape of the ground, with muskets loaded and stacked for instant use. The field-batteries were in select positions, covered by handsome parapets, and occasional shots from them gave life and animation to the scene.
The men loitered about the trenches carelessly, or busied themselves in constructing ingenious huts out of the abundant timber, and seemed as snug, comfortable, and happy, as though they were at home.
was still on the extreme left, Thomas
in the centre, and Howard
on the right.
Two divisions of the Fourteenth Corps (Baird
's and Jeff. C. Davis
's) were detached to the right rear, and held in reserve.
I thus awaited the effect of the cavalry movement against the railroad about Jonesboroa
, and had heard from General Garrard
had gone on to Macon
; during that day (August 1st) Colonel Brownlow
, of a Tennessee cavalry regiment, came in to Marietta
from General McCook
, and reported that McCook
's whole division had been overwhelmed, defeated, and captured at Newnan
Of course, I was disturbed by this wild report, though I discredited it, but made all possible
preparations to strengthen our guards along the railroad to the rear, on the theory that the force of cavalry which had defeated McCook
would at once be on the railroad about Marietta
At the same time Garrard
was ordered to occupy the trenches on our left, while Schofield
's whole army moved to the extreme right, and extended the line toward East Point
was also ordered still further to thin out his lines, so as to set free the other division (Johnson
's) of the Fourteenth Corps (Palmer
's), which was moved to the extreme right rear, and held in reserve ready to make a bold push from that flank to secure a footing on the Macon Railroad at or below East Point
These changes were effected during the 2d and 3d days of August, when General McCook
came in and reported the actual results of his cavalry expedition.
He had crossed the Chattahoochee River
, by his pontoon-bridge; had then marched rapidly across to the Macon Railroad at Lovejoy's Station, where he had reason to expect General Stoneman
; but, not hearing of him, he set to work, tore up two miles of track, burned two trains of cars, and cut away five miles of telegraphwire.
He also found the wagon-train belonging to the rebel army in Atlanta
, burned five hundred wagons, killed eight hundred mules, and captured seventy-two officers and three hundred and fifty men. Finding his progress eastward, toward McDonough
, barred by a superior force, he turned back to Newnan
, where he found himself completely surrounded by infantry and cavalry.
He had to drop his prisoners and fight his way out, losing about six hundred men in killed and captured, and then returned with the remainder to his position at Turner's Ferry.
This was bad enough, but not so bad as had been reported by Colonel Brownlow
Meantime, rumors came that General Stoneman
was down about Macon
, on the east bank of the Ocmulgee
On the 4th of August Colonel Adams
got to Marietta
with his small brigade of nine hundred men belonging to Stoneman
's cavalry, reporting, as usual, all the rest lost, and this was partially confirmed by a report which came to me all the way round by General Grant
's headquarters before Richmond
A few days afterward Colonel Capron
also got in, with another
small brigade perfectly demoralized, and confirmed the report that General Stoneman
had covered the escape of these two small brigades, himself standing with a reserve of seven hundred men, with which he surrendered to a Colonel Iverson
Thus another of my cavalry divisions was badly damaged, and out of the fragments we hastily reorganized three small divisions under Brigadier-Generals Garrard
, and Kilpatrick
had not obeyed his orders to attack the railroad first
before going to Macon
, but had crossed the Ocmulgee River
high up near Covington
, and had gone down that river on the east bank.
He reached Clinton
, and sent out detachments which struck the railroad leading from Macon
at Griswold Station, where they found and destroyed seventeen locomotives and over a hundred cars; then went on and burned the bridge across the Oconee
, and reunited the division before Macon
shelled the town across the river, but could not cross over by the bridge, and returned to Clinton
, where he found his retreat obstructed, as he supposed, by a superior force.
There he became bewildered, and sacrificed himself for the safety of his command.
He occupied the attention of his enemy by a small force of seven hundred men, giving Colonels Adams
leave, with their brigades, to cut their way back to me at Atlanta
The former reached us entire, but the latter was struck and scattered at some place farther north, and came in by detachments.
surrendered, and remained a prisoner until he was exchanged some time after, late in September, at Rough and Ready.
I now became satisfied that cavalry could not, or would not, make a sufficient lodgment on the railroad below Atlanta
, and that nothing would suffice but for us to reach it with the main army.
Therefore the most urgent efforts to that end were made, and to Schofield
, on the right, was committed the charge of this special object.
He had his own corps (the Twenty-third), composed of eleven thousand and seventy-five infantry and eight hundred and eighty-five artillery, with McCook
's broken division of cavalry, seventeen hundred and fifty-four men and
For this purpose I also placed the Fourteenth Corps (Palmer
) under his orders.
This corps numbered at the time seventeen thousand two hundred and eighty-eight infantry and eight hundred and twenty-six artillery; but General Palmer
claimed to rank General Schofield
in the date of his commission as major-general, and denied the latter's right to exercise command over him. General Palmer
was a man of ability, but was not enterprising.
His three divisions were compact and strong, well commanded, admirable on the defensive, but slow to move or to act on the offensive.
His corps (the Fourteenth) had sustained, up to that time, fewer hard knocks than any other corps in the whole army, and I was anxious to give it a chance.
I always expected to have a desperate fight to get possession of the Macon
road, which was then the vital objective of the campaign.
Its possession by us would, in my judgment, result in the capture of Atlanta
, and give us the fruits of victory, although the.destruction of Hood
's army was the real object to be desired.
was known as the “Gate-City of the South
,” was full of founderies, arsenals, and machine-shops, and I knew that its capture would be the death-knell of the Southern Confederacy.
On the 4th of August I ordered