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To Atlanta


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.”


Sherman fighting in the mountains.

In the first picture rises the precipitous height of Rocky Face as Sherman saw it on May 7, 1864. His troops under Thomas had moved forward along the line of the railroad, opening the great Atlanta campaign on schedule time. Looking down into the gorge called Buzzard's Roost, through which the railroad passes, Sherman could see swarms of Confederate troops, the road filled with obstructions, and hostile batteries crowning the cliffs on either side. He knew that his antagonist, Joe Johnston, here confronted him in force. But it was to be a campaign of brilliant flanking movements, and Sherman sat quietly down to wait till the trusty McPherson should execute the first one.

In the second picture, drawn up on dress parade, stands one of the finest fighting organizations in the Atlanta campaign. This regiment won its spurs in the first Union victory in the West at Mill Springs, Kentucky, January 19, 1862. There, according to the muster-out roll, “William Blake, musician, threw away his drum and took a gun.” The spirit of this drummer boy of Company F was the spirit of all the troops from Minnesota. A Georgian noticed an unusually fine body of men marching by, and when told that they were a Minnesota regiment, said, “I didn't know they had any troops up there.” But the world was to learn the superlative fighting qualities of the men from the Northwest. Sherman was glad to have all he could get of them in this great army of one hundred thousand veterans.

Buzzard's roost, Georgia, May 7, 1864

The second Minnesota infantry--engaged at rocky face ridge, May 8-11, 1864


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 and Sherman, 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. Grant, 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. Sherman concentrated his forces around Chattanooga on the A Tennessee River, where the Army of the Cumberland had [105]

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.

[106] 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. Sherman 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.

Johnston's army numbered about fifty-three thousand, [107]

Beginning the first flank movement

In the first picture, presented through the kindness of General G. P. Thruston, are the headquarters of General Thomas at Ringgold, Georgia, May 5, 1864. On that day, appointed by Grant for the beginning of the “simultaneous movements” he had planned to carry out in 1864, General Sherman rode out the eighteen miles from Chattanooga to Ringgold with his staff, about half a dozen wagons, and a single company of Ohio sharpshooters. A small company of irregular Alabama cavalry acted as couriers. Sherman's mess establishment was less bulky than that of any of his brigade commanders. “I wanted to set the example,” he says, “and gradually to convert all parts of that army into a mobile machine willing and able to start at a minute's notice and to subsist on the scantiest food.” On May 7th, General Thomas moved in force to Tunnel Hill to begin the turning of Johnston's flank.

The headquarters of General Thomas at Ringgold, Georgia, May 5, 1864.

Tunnel hill, Ga., beyond which Johnston occupied a strong position buzzard's roost gap

[108] 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 and Schofield to make a feint at Johnston's front, Sherman sent McPherson on a flanking movement by the right to occupy Snake Creek Gap, a mountain pass near Resaca, which is about eighteen miles below Dalton.

Sherman, 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. McCook's advance brigade under Colonel La Grange was defeated and La Grange was made prisoner.

Sherman'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 [109]


The chips are still bright and the earth fresh turned, in the foreground where are the Confederate earthworks such as General Joseph E. Johnston had caused to be thrown up by the Negro laborers all along his line of possible retreat. McPherson, sent by Sherman to strike the railroad in Johnston's rear, got his head of column through Snake Creek Gap on May 9th, and drove off a Confederate cavalry Brigade which retreated toward Dalton, bringing to Johnston the first news that a heavy force of Federals was already in his rear. McPherson, within a mile and a half of Resaca, could have walked into the town with his twenty-three thousand men, but concluded that the Confederate entrenchments were too strongly held to assault. When Sherman arrived he found that Johnston, having the shorter route, was there ahead of him with his entire army strongly posted. On May 15th, “without attempting to assault the fortified works,” says Sherman, “we pressed at all points, and the sound of cannon and musketry rose all day to the dignity of a battle.” Its havoc is seen in the shattered trees and torn ground in the lower picture.

Resaca — field of the first heavy fighting

The work of the firing at Resaca

[110] right flank, as McPherson had done, to Resaca, leaving a detachment of General O. O. Howard's Fourth Corps to occupy Dalton when evacuated. When Johnston discovered this, he was quick to see that he must abandon his entrenchments and intercept Sherman. Moving by the only two good roads, Johnston beat Sherman 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 [111]

Johnston manoevers.

The strong works in the pictures, commanding the railroad bridge over the Etowah River, were the fourth fortified position to be abandoned by Johnston within a month. Pursued by Thomas from Resaca, he had made a brief stand at Kingston and then fallen back steadily and in superb order into Cassville. There he issued an address to his army announcing his purpose to retreat no more but to accept battle. His troops were all drawn up in preparation for a struggle, but that night at supper with Generals Hood and Polk he was convinced by them that the ground occupied by their troops was untenable, being enfiladed by the Federal artillery. Johnston, therefore, gave up his purpose of battle, and on the night of May 20th put the Etowah River between himself and Sherman and retreated to Allatoona Pass, shown in the lower picture.

In taking this the camera was planted inside the breastworks seen on the eminence in the upper picture. Sherman's army now rested after its rapid advance and waited a few days for the railroad to be repaired in their rear so that supplies could be brought up. Meanwhile Johnston was being severely criticized at the South for his continual falling back without risking a battle. His friends stoutly maintained that it was all strategic, while some of the Southern newspapers quoted the Federal General Scott's remark, “Beware of Lee advancing, and watch Johnston at a stand; for the devil himself would be defeated in the attempt to whip him retreating.” But General Jeff C. Davis, sent by Sherman, took Rome on May 17th and destroyed valuable mills and foundries. Thus began the accomplishment of one of the main objects of Sherman's march.

Another retrograde movement over the Etowah bridge

Allatoona pass in the distance


Johnston'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. Sherman 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. Davis captured the town and several heavy guns, destroyed the factories, and left a garrison to hold it.

Sherman 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 and Polk, 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.

Johnston's decision to fight and then not to fight was a [113]

The battlefield of New hope Church, in Georgia.

These views of the battlefield of New Hope Church, in Georgia, show the evidences of the sharp struggle at this point that was brought on by Sherman's next attempt to flank Johnston out of his position at Allatoona Pass. The middle picture gives mute witness to the leaden storm that raged among the trees during that engagement. In the upper and lower pictures are seen the entrenchments which the Confederates had hastily thrown up and which resisted Hooker's assaults on May 25th. For two days each side strengthened its position; then on the 28th the Confederates made a brave attack upon General McPherson's forces as they were closing up to this new position. The Confederates were repulsed with a loss of two thousand.

Entrenchments held by the Confederates against hooker on May 25th

The cannonaded forest

Another position of the Confederates at new hope church

[114] 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 policy. They would have preferred defeat to these repeated retreats with no opportunity to show what they could do.

Johnston, 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, Nashville, 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 army. 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.

Sherman's movement toward Dallas drew Johnston from the slopes of the Allatoona Hills. From Kingston, 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 [115]

Lieut.-Gen. Leonidas Polk, C. S. A.

The blasted pine rears its gaunt height above the mountain slope, covered with trees slashed down to hold the Federals at bay; and here, on June 14, 1864, the Confederacy lost a commander, a bishop, and a hero. Lieut.-General Leonidas Polk, commanding one of Johnston's army corps, with Johnston himself and Hardee, another corps commander, was studying Sherman's position at a tense moment of the latter's advance around Pine Mountain. The three Confederates stood upon the rolling height, where the center of Johnston's army awaited the Federal attack. They could see the columns in blue pushing east of them; the smoke and rattle of musketry as the pickets were driven in; and the bustle with which the Federal advance guard felled trees and constructed trenches at their very feet. On the lonely height the three figures stood conspicuous. A Federal order was given the artillery to open upon any men in gray who looked like officers reconnoitering the new position. So, while Hardee was pointing to his comrade and his chief the danger of one of his divisions which the Federal advance was cutting off, the bishop-general was struck in the chest by a cannon shot. Thus the Confederacy lost a leader of unusual influence. Although a bishop of the Episcopal Church, Polk was educated at West Point. When he threw in his lot with the Confederacy, thousands of his fellow-Louisianians followed him. A few days before the battle of Pine Mountain, as he and General Hood were riding together, the bishop was told by his companion that he had never been received into the communion of a church and was begged that the rite might be performed. Immediately Polk arranged the ceremony. At Hood's headquarters, by the light of a tallow candle, with a tin basin on the mess table for a baptismal font, and with Hood's staff present as witnesses, all was ready. Hood, “with a face like that of an old crusader,” stood before the bishop. Crippled by wounds at Gaines' Mill, Gettysburg, and Chickamauga, he could not kneel, but bent forward on his crutches. The bishop, in full uniform of the Confederate army, administered the rite. A few days later, by a strange coincidence, he was approached by General Johnston on the same errand, and the man whom Hood was soon to succeed was baptized in the same simple manner. Polk, as Bishop, had administered his last baptism, and as soldier had fought his last battle; for Pine Mountain was near.

Pine mountain, where Polk, the fighting bishop of the Confederacy, was killed

Lieut.-Gen. Leonidas Polk, C. S. A.

[116] 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's corps. 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 soldiers.

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 to Marietta, 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. But McPherson 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 somewhat greater.

In the early days of June, Sherman took possession of the town of Allatoona and made it a second base of supplies, [117]

Kenesaw mountain.

During the dark days before Kenesaw it rained continually, and Sherman speaks of the peculiarly depressing effect that the weather had upon his troops in the wooded country. Nevertheless he must either assault Johnston's strong position on the mountain or begin again his flanking tactics. He decided upon the former, and on June 27th, after three days preparation, the assault was made. At nine in the morning along the Federal lines the furious fire of musketry and artillery was begun, but at all points the Confederates met it with determined courage and in great force. McPherson's attacking column, under General Blair, fought its way up the face of little Kenesaw but could not reach the summit. Then the courageous troops of Thomas charged up the face of the mountain and planted their colors on the very parapet of the Confederate works. Here General Harker, commanding the brigade in which fought the 125th Ohio, fell mortally wounded, as did Brigadier-General Daniel McCook, and also General Wagner.

In the hardest fight of the campaign — the one-hundred-and-twenty-fifth Ohio

Federal entrenchments at the foot of Kenesaw mountain

[118] after repairing the railroad bridge across the Etowah River. Johnston 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. Johnston'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, Hardee, and Polk rode up the slope of Pine Mountain to reconnoiter. 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.

General Polk 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 of Louisiana. 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.”

Sherman, conscious of superior strength, was now anxious for a real battle, a fight to the finish with his antagonist. [119]

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.


But Johnston 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 and Davis, 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. General [121]

The Chattahoochee bridge

“One of the strongest pieces of field fortification I ever saw” --this was Sherman's characterization of the entrenchments that guarded the railroad bridge over the Chattahoochee on July 5th. A glimpse of the bridge and the freshly-turned earth in 1864 is given by the upper picture. At this river Johnston made his final effort to hold back Sherman from a direct attack upon Atlanta. If Sherman could get successfully across that river, the Confederates would be compelled to fall back behind the defenses of the city, which was the objective of the campaign. Sherman perceived at once the futility of trying to carry by assault this strongly garrisoned position. Instead, he made a feint at crossing the river lower down, and simultaneously went to work in earnest eight miles north of the bridge. The lower picture shows the canvas pontoon boats as perfected by Union engineers in 1864. A number of these were stealthily set up and launched by Sherman's Twenty-third Corps near the mouth of Soap Creek, behind a ridge. Byrd's brigade took the defenders of the southern bank completely by surprise. It was short work for the Federals to throw pontoon bridges across and to occupy the coveted spot in force.

The Chattahoochee bridge

Infantry and artillery crossing on boats made of pontoons


Harker, 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 cost Sherman three thousand men and won him nothing. Johnston'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. Tennessee and Kentucky 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.

Sherman 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 from Kenesaw 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 was deserted.

Johnston moved to the banks of the Chattahoochee, [123]

Joseph Johnston and John B. Hood.

Johnston's parrying of Sherman's mighty strokes was “a model of defensive warfare,” declares one of Sherman's own division commanders, Jacob D. Cox. There was not a man in the Federal army from Sherman down that did not rejoice to hear that Johnston had been superseded by Hood on July 17th. Johnston, whose mother was a niece of Patrick Henry, was fifty-seven years old, cold in manner, measured and accurate in speech. His dark firm face, surmounted by a splendidly intellectual forehead, betokened the experienced and cautious soldier. His dismissal was one of the political mistakes which too often hampered capable leaders on both sides. His Fabian policy in Georgia was precisely the same as that which was winning fame against heavy odds for Lee in Virginia.

The countenance of Hood, on the other hand, indicates an eager, restless energy, an impetuosity that lacked the poise of Sherman, whose every gesture showed the alertness of mind and soundness of judgment that in him were so exactly balanced. Both Schofield and McPherson were classmates of Hood at West Point, and characterized him to Sherman as “bold even to rashness and courageous in the extreme.” He struck the first offensive blow at Sherman advancing on Atlanta, and wisely adhered to the plan of the battle as it had been worked out by Johnston just before his removal. But the policy of attacking was certain to be finally disastrous to the Confederates.

General Joseph Eggleston Johnston, C. S. A.: born 1809; West Point 1829; died 1891

Field artillery.

Lieutenant-General John B. Hood, C. S. A.: born 1831; West Point 1853; died 1879


Sherman 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. But Sherman remembered Kenesaw 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 sent Schofield and McPherson across, ten miles or more above the Confederate position. Johnston crossed the next day. Thomas followed later.

Sherman'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. Forrest 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 against Forrest. 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. Smith, however, was directed to [125]

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.

[128] 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. Smith 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. But Sherman 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.

Sherman 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. Grant had made little progress in Virginia and his terrible repulse at Cold Harbor, in June, had cast a gloom over every Northern State. Farragut 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 [129]

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.

[130] service to the Union cause. He dismissed General Johnston and put another in his place, one who was less strategic and more impulsive.

Jefferson Davis 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, Schofield, and Sheridan, Hood 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's army. And so it proved.

Johnston 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.

While Hood 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. Sherman'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 [131]

Battle of Atlanta.

Near the tree seen in the upper picture the brave and wise McPherson, one of Sherman's best generals, was killed, July 22d. On the morning of that day, McPherson, in excellent spirits, rode up with his staff to Sherman's headquarters at the Howard House. The night before his troops had gained a position on Leggett's Hill, from which they could look over the Confederate parapets into Atlanta. McPherson explained to Sherman that he was planting batteries to knock down a large foundry which the position commanded. Sitting down on the steps of the porch, the two generals discussed the chances of battle and agreed that they ought to be unusually cautious. McPherson said that his old classmate Hood, though not deemed much of a scholar at West Point, was none the less brave and determined. Walking down the road the two comrades in arms sat down at the foot of a tree and examined the Federal positions on a map. Suddenly the sound of battle broke upon their ears and rose to the volume of a general engagement. McPherson, anxious about his newly gained position, called for his horse and rode off. Reaching the battlefield he sent one orderly after another to bring up troops, and then riding alone through the woods to gain another part of the field, ran directly into a Confederate skirmish line. Upon his refusal to surrender a volley brought him lifeless to the ground. The battle of Atlanta, on July 22d, was Hood's second attempt to repel Sherman's army that was rapidly throwing its cordon around the city to the north and threatening to cut his rail communication with Augusta to the eastward. To prevent this, it was imperative that the hill gained by McPherson should be retaken, and Hood thought he saw his opportunity in the thinly extended Federal line near this position. His abandoned entrenchments near Peach-Tree Creek were but a ruse to lure Sherman on into advancing incautiously. Sherman and McPherson had so decided when Hood began to strike. McPherson's prompt dispositions saved the day at the cost of his life. A skilful soldier, tall and handsome, universally liked and respected by his comrades, he was cut off in his prime at the age of thirty-six.

The scene of McPherson's death

Debris from the battle of Atlanta

[132] 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. Hood 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 and Schofield in front and thus prevent them from sending aid to McPherson.

Hardee was delayed in his fifteen-mile night march, and it was noon before he attacked. At about that hour Generals Sherman and McPherson 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. McPherson quickly leaped upon his horse and galloped away toward the sound of the guns. Meeting Logan and Blair near the railroad, he conferred with them for a moment, when they separated, and each hastened to his place in the battle-line. McPherson 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. [133]

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 B McPherson, was a great blow to the Union army. But thirty-six years of age, one of the most promising men in the country, and already the commander of a military department. McPherson was the only man in all the Western armies whom Grant, on going to the East, placed in the same military class with Sherman.

Logan succeeded the fallen commander, and the battle raged on. The Confederates were gaining headway. They captured several guns. Cheatham 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. General Sherman 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 was over. Hood's losses exceeded eight thousand of his brave men, whom he could ill spare. Sherman lost about thirty-seven hundred.

The Confederate army recuperated within the defenses of Atlanta — behind an almost impregnable barricade. Sherman 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 [135]

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.

[138] 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, Sherman destroyed the Macon and Western Railroad, the only remaining line of supplies to the Confederate army.

Hood 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. Hardee'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. Hood 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. So Hood placed himself between Andersonville and Sherman.

In the early days of September the Federal hosts occupied the city toward which they had toiled all the summer long. At East Point, Atlanta, 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' hands.

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.

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