The Battle For Atlanta

 

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The Battle of Atlanta, Georgia

Battle of Atlanta. In the Civil War the main National and Confederate armies remained quiet in their camps after their arrival at the Chattahoochee until the middle of July, 1864. Sherman was 8 miles from the city. On the 17th he resumed offensive and active operations, by throwing Thomas's army across the Chattahoochee, close to Schofield's right, with directions to move forward. McPherson moved against the railway east of Decatur, and destroyed (July 18, 1864) 4 miles of the track. Schofield seized Decatur. At the same time Thomas crossed Peachtree Creek, on the 19th, in the face of the Confederate intrenchments, skirmishing heavily at every step. At this juncture, General Rousseau, who had swept through Alabama and northern Georgia, joined Sherman with 2,000 cavalry.

Battle of Atlanta Battle Map

Battle of Atlanta Battle Map

 On the 20th the National armies had all closed in, converging towards Atlanta, and at 4 P.m. the Confederates, under John Bell Hood, made a sortie, and struck Hooker's corps with great strength. The Confederates were repulsed and driven back to their intrenchments. The entire National loss in this conflict was 1,500 men: Sherman estimated that of the Confederates at not less than 5,000 men. Hood left on the field 500 dead, 1,000 severely wounded, and many prisoners. On the morning of the 21st the Confederates had abandoned their position on the south side of Peachtree Creek, and Sherman believed they were evacuating Atlanta. He pressed on towards the town in a narrow semicircle, when, at the average distance of 2 miles from it, the Nationals were confronted by an inner line of intrenchments much stronger than the one just abandoned. Behind these swarmed a Confederate host. On the 22nd, McPherson moved from Decatur to assail this strong line: Logan's corps formed his center, Dodge's his right, and Blair's his left. The latter had driven the Confederates from a commanding eminence the evening before, and the Nationals proceeded to plant a battery upon it.

Hood had left a sufficient number of troops in front of Sherman to hold them, and, by a night march to the flank and rear of the Nationals, struck them a severe and unexpected blow. It fell with heaviest force on the division of Gen. G. A. Smith, of Blair's corps. McPherson had ridden from Sherman to Dodge's moving column, and had entered a wood almost alone, for observation, in the rear of Smith's column. At that moment Hardee charged upon the Nationals, and his men were pouring into a gap between Blair and Dodge. McPherson had just given an order from his place in the wood for a brigade to fill that gap, when the bullet of a sharpshooter killed him. His body was recovered during the heat of the battle that ensued. Logan immediately took command of the Army of the Tennessee. At that moment the battle was general all along the line, and raged fiercely for several hours. At 4 P.M. there was a brief lull in the contest. Then a charge of the Confederates broke Logan's line, pushed back a brigade in much disorder, and took possession of two important batteries. Sherman ordered up reinforcements, and Logan soon recovered the ground lost. Very soon the Confederates gave way and fell back to their defenses.

The losses on both sides were heavy. That of the Nationals was 3,722, of whom about 1,000 were prisoners. Generals Thomas and Schofield having well closed up, Hood was firmly held behind his inner line of intrenchments. Sherman concluded to make a flank movement, and sent Stoneman with about 5,000 cavalry, and McCook with another mounted force, including Rousseau's cavalry, to destroy the railways in Hood's rear. McCook performed his part well, but Stoneman, departing from Sherman's instructions, did not accomplish much. Simultaneously with these raids, Slocum began (July 27, 1864) a flanking movement from Atlanta. Hood had penetrated Sherman's design, knew of changes in his army, and acted promptly. Under cover of an artillery fire, he moved out with the larger part of his army (July 28, 1864), with the expectation of finding Howard's forces in confusion. He was mistaken, and disastrous consequences followed. He threw heavy masses of his troops upon Logan's corps on Howard's right, and was met by a fire that made fearful havoc in their ranks. They recoiled, but returned to the attack again and again. The battle raged fearfully from noon until about 4 P.M., when the Confederates retired to their intrenchments, leaving several hundred of their dead on the field. Hood's entire loss in this struggle was about 5,000 men; that of the Nationals did not exceed 600. Logan captured 2,000 muskets, and took 233 prisoners. Sherman extended his right along an entrenched line to the junction of two railways at East Point, over which came the supplies for Atlanta and Hood's army: and the latter, extending a parallel line of works, stood on the defensive. Sherman's longrange guns kindled destructive fires in Atlanta. At length Hood, who had lost half his infantry in rash encounters, in sheer desperation sent out Wheeler with his cavalry to break up Sherman's communications and capture supplies. Kilpatrick made a successful countermovement.

On the 25th all of Sherman's munitions of war, supplies, and sick and wounded men were sent to his entrenched position on the Chattahoochee, the siege of Atlanta was raised, and the Nationals began a grand flanking movement, which events had delayed, and which finally caused Hood to abandon the coveted post, cross the Chattahoochee, and make a formidable raid upon Sherman's communications. The Nationals entered Atlanta as victors on Sept. 2, 1864, and the national flag was unfurled over the courthouse. Two days afterwards, Sherman issued an order for the inhabitants to leave the town within five days, that the place might be appropriated to military purposes. He deemed the measure humane, under the circumstances, for he expected the Confederates to attack him there. To a remonstrance by Hood, he replied. "God will judge me in good time, and He will pronounce whether it be more humane to fight with a town full of women and the families of a brave people at our backs, or to remove them in time to places of safety among their own friends." In a few days Atlanta was thoroughly evacuated by the civilians.

 

 

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