After the battle of Peachtree Creek Hood ordered his army to withdraw to Atlanta, hoping that an opportunity would present itself to destroy a portion of the Union army as Sherman advanced on Atlanta.
While Stewart’s corps held the fortifications north of Atlanta, Hood planned to attack McPhersons Army of the Tennessee which was approaching from the east. Cheatham’ corps would attack from the eastern fortifications of Atlanta, while Hardee’s corps would attack from the south, with Wheeler’s cavalry launching assaults on the supply lines of the Army of the Tennessee.
Hardee’s corps took much longer to get into position for the attack than Hood anticipated, and McPherson reinforced his left to meet this anticipated attack. The attack of Hardee when it went in caused the Union line to waver and begin to retreat before it was repulsed. It was during this attack that McPherson was slain. Major General John “Blackjack” Logan, the most able of the Union political generals, took temporary command of the Union army and successfully led it during the remainder of the battle.
Cheatham’s corps attacked from the Atlanta entrenchments. Here most of the fighting centered on Baldy Hill, with that conflict going on to nightfall. Two miles to the north Cheatham’s corps made a breakthrough of the Union lines, that was only repulsed after much hard fighting, spearheaded by Logan’s corps supported by a heavy Union artillery bombardment.
At the end of the day, Union casualties were 3,000 to Confederate casualties of 5,000. Hood was unable to repulse the Union forces and the battle of Atlanta now became the siege of Atlanta.
The essential tragedy of the Civil War is that it was “a war without an enemy” in which Americans were fighting each other. This sad fact is epitomized by this tribute penned by Hood in regard to his classmate and roommate James Birdseye McPherson:
I will record the death of my classmate and boyhood friend, General James B. McPherson, the announcement of which caused me sincere sorrow. Since we had graduated in 1853, and had each been ordered off on duty in different directions, it has not been our fortune to meet. Neither the years nor the difference of sentiment that had led us to range ourselves on opposite sides in the war had lessened my friendship; indeed the attachment formed in early youth was strengthened by my admiration and gratitude for his conduct toward our people in the vicinity of Vicksburg. His considerate and kind treatment of them stood in bright contrast to the course pursued by many Federal officers.
Here is Sherman’s report of the battle: (more…)