September 7, 1864: Beginning of Sherman-Hood Correspondence

After Sherman determined upon his March to the Sea, he contacted his opposite number, Confederate General John Bell Hood, regarding the evacuation of Atlanta of the civilian population of the town, prior to Sherman burning around one-third of the town.  The correspondence makes interesting reading and it is set forth below:

 

HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI,
Atlanta, Ga., September 20, 1864.

Maj. Gen. H. W. HALLECK, Chief of Staff, Washington, D.C.:

        GENERAL: I have the honor herewith to submit copies of a correspondence between General Hood, of the Confederate army, the mayor of Atlanta, and myself touching the removal of the inhabitants of Atlanta. In explanation of the tone which marks some of these letters I will only call your attention to the fact that after I had announced my determination General Hood took upon himself to question my motive. I could not tamely submit to such impertinence, and I have seen that in violation of all official usage he has published in the Macon newspapers such parts of the correspondence as suited his purpose. This could have had no other object than to create a feeling on the part of the people, but if he expects to resort to such artifices I think I can meet him there too. It is sufficient for my Government to know that the removal of the inhabitants has been made with liberality and fairness; that it has been attended by no force, and that no women or children have suffered, unless for want of provisions by their natural protectors and friends. My real reasons for this step were, we want all the houses of Atlanta for military storage and occupation. We want to contract the lines of defenses so as to diminish the garrison to the limit necessary to defend its narrow and vital parts instead of embracing, as the lines now do, the vast suburbs. This contraction of the lines, with the necessary citadels and redoubts, will make it necessary to destroy the very houses used by families as residences. Atlanta is a fortified town, was stubbornly defended and fairly captured. As captors we have a right to it. The residence here of a poor population would compel us sooner or later to feed them or see them starve under our eyes. The residence here of the families of our enemies would be a temptation and a means to keep up a correspondence dangerous and hurtful to our cause, and a civil population calls for provost guards, and absorbs the attention of officers in listening to everlasting complaints and special grievances that are not military. These are my reasons, and if satisfactory to the Government of the United States it makes no difference whether it pleases General Hood and his people or not.

I am, with respect, your obedient servant,
W. T. SHERMAN,
Major-General, Commanding. (more…)

Published in: on September 7, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on September 7, 1864: Beginning of Sherman-Hood Correspondence  
Tags: , , , ,

August 25, 1864: Sherman Makes His Move on Atlanta

 images

Frustrated by his failures to cut the railroad lines to Atlanta,  Sherman at the end of August 1864 decided to use most of  his force to accomplish that goal.  On August 25, Sherman marched six of his seven corps out of the siege lines of Atlanta and moved them south east to cut both the rail lines into Atlanta.  Hood sent out Hardee with two corps to attempt to stop the Union movement.

By the 28th the Union was in control of a section of  West Point & Atlanta Railroad  and Sherman’s men were busy destroying it.  On the 30th, the Union corps closed in on Jonesborough, held by Hardee.  Hardee launched an attack on the Union force on the morning of August 31, that was beaten back after hard fighting.  Fearing a direct attack on Atlanta, Hood withdrew Stephen Lee’s corps from Hardee that evening.  On September 1, 1864, Sherman attacked the heavily outnumbered Hardee at 4:00 PM.  After tenacious fighting by the Confederates, the Union troops took Jonesborough and the last rail line into Atlanta.  Atlanta was now untenable for the Confederates to hold.

Here are Sherman’s comments on the movement that led to the fall of Atlanta:

(more…)

July 20, 1864: Battle of Peachtree Creek

peachtreemap1BattleMap

Sherman was closing in on Atlanta.  General Joseph Johnston had delayed the advance of Sherman but he had not been able to stop him.  On July 8 Sherman crossed the Chattahoochie River, the last major physical obstacle between him and Atlanta.  Johnston withdrew across Peachtree Creek north of Atlanta, planning to attack Sherman’s army as it crossed the creek.  As he made his preparations, Johnston was suddenly removed from his command by Davis.  Davis and Johnston were old enemies, but Davis removing Johnston was more an act of desperation than anything else.  If Atlanta fell, the Confederate heartland was open for an invasion by Sherman, and Johnston’s strategy of maneuver and retreat convinced Davis that Johnston would not fight for Atlanta.  Rolling the dice, Davis promoted one of Johnston’s corps commanders to the temporary rank of full general and John Bell Hood found himself in command of the Army of Tennessee.

Thirty-three years old and a West Point graduate, Hood had earned a reputation as an aggressive and successful division commander in the Army of Northern Virginia.  At Gettysburg he was severely wounded and lost the use of his left arm.  At Chickamauga he led the assault that cracked the Union army, and was again wounded losing his right leg.  Equipped now with a wooden leg, Hood had lost none of his aggression and self-confidence.  Under him retreat was to be a thing of the past, as he swiftly readied his army to take aggressive action to save Atlanta.

On July 19, Hood learned that Sherman was dividing his army, following his usual course of having the Army of the Cumberland under Thomas cross Peachtree Creek for a direct advance on Atlanta, while the Army of the Tennessee under McPherson and the Army of the Ohio under Schofield maneuvered to the East, to outflank the Confederates and to cut rail lines and the Confederate supply lines.  For a commander as fond of attack as Hood this was a golden opportunity to launch an assault on Thomas. (more…)

September 1, 1864: Fall of Atlanta

“You can tell your grandchildren about how you watched the Old South fall one night.”

Rhett Butler to Scarlet O’Hara, Gone With The Wind

With the taking of the last rail line out of Atlanta due to the Union victory at the battle of Jonesborough, go here to read about it, Hood wasted no time in ordering the evacuation of his army from Atlanta.  Many Confederates at the time would have agreed with the fictional Rhett Butler that the fall of Altanta likely meant that the Confederacy was going to lose the War.  Their great hope had been that Lincoln would lose his bid for re-election, and with the capture of Atlanta that hope vanished overnight as it was now clear, North and South, that the Union was winning the War.

By 5:00 PM Hood ordered his troops from Atlanta.  Many of the Confederates sang the romantic ballad Lorena as they marched off, a touching factoid missed by the makers of the film Gone With the Wind in their Atlanta falls sequences.  (more…)

Published in: on September 1, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on September 1, 1864: Fall of Atlanta  
Tags: , ,

June 27, 1864: Battle of Kennesaw Mountain

Kennesaw_Mountain

I have heard men say that if they ever killed a Yankee during the war

they were not aware of it. I am satisfied that on this memorable day,
every man in our regiment killed from one score to four score, yea,
five score men. I mean from twenty to one hundred each. All that was
necessary was to load and shoot. In fact, I will ever think that the
reason they did not capture our works was the impossibility of their
living men passing over the bodies of their dead. The ground was piled
up with one solid mass of dead and wounded Yankees. I learned afterwards
from the burying squad that in some places they were piled up like cord
wood, twelve deep.
Private Sam Watkins, Company H, First Tennessee Infantry

 

Throughout his maneuvers to slow Sherman’s drive on Atlanta, General Joseph Johnston often occupied strong positions that he hoped Sherman would assault.  At Kennesaw Mountain on June 27, 1864 he got his wish.

Following the battle of Pickett’s Mill on May 27,1864, go here to read about it, the Union and Confederate armies would spend June with Sherman attempting to find some way to outflank or make his way through the defensive lines constructed by Johnston to defend Marietta, Georgia, and his rail supply line.

 

atlanta_campaign_17-27

Sherman having successfully turned his initial line, Johnston fell back on a previously prepared fortified line astride Kennesaw Mountain, an immensely strong position, on June 18-19.  Sherman’s attempt to turn the left of Johnston’s position came to a halt at the Battle of Kolb’s Farm on June 22.  Here Hood, in a foreshadowing of dark days to come for the Confederate Army of Tennessee, had his corps attack without adequate reconnaissance and incurred heavy losses of 1500 to 250 Union.  Nonetheless, Sherman’s flanking movement was stopped.

Growing impatient, on June 27 Sherman launched the last frontal assault of his career.  Assuming that Johnston had stretched his line too thin, Sherman attacked the Confederate center.  The attack began with a furious cannonade at 8:00 AM involving 200 cannon.  The Union attack went in and was bloodily repulsed with 3000 Union casualties to 1000 Confederates.  The fighting was over by 10:45 AM.  Sherman twice urged General Thomas to renew the assault.  Thomas flatly refused, saying “One or two more such assaults would use up this army.” 

The aftermath of the battle was anti-climactic.  The armies stood facing each other for five days, until July 2, 1864 when Sherman again attempted to outflank Johnston’s left, this time with success, Johnston retreating to prepared lines at Smyrna.  Here is Sherman’s account of the battle in his memoirs:

 

On the 23d of June I telegraphed to General Halleck this summary, which I cannot again better state:

We continue to press forward on the principle of an advance against fortified positions. The whole country is one vast fort, and Johnston must have at least fifty miles of connected trenches, with abatis and finished batteries. We gain ground daily, fighting all the time. On the 21st General Stanley gained a position near the south end of Kenesaw, from which the enemy attempted in vain to drive him; and the same day General T. J. Wood’s division took a hill, which the enemy assaulted three times at night without success, leaving more than a hundred dead on the ground. Yesterday the extreme right (Hooker and Schofield) advanced on the Powder Springs road to within three miles of Marietta. The enemy made a strong effort to drive them away, but failed signally, leaving more than two hundred dead on the field. Our lines are now in close contact, and the fighting is incessant, with a good deal of artillery-fire. As fast as we gain one position the enemy has another all ready, but I think he will soon have to let go Kenesaw, which is the key to the whole country. The weather is now better, and the roads are drying up fast. Our losses are light, and, not-withstanding the repeated breaks of the road to our rear, supplies are ample.

During the 24th and 25th of June General Schofield extended his right as far as prudent, so as to compel the enemy to thin out his lines correspondingly, with the intention to make two strong assaults at points where success would give us the greatest advantage. I had consulted Generals Thomas, McPherson, and Schofield, and we all agreed that we could not with prudence stretch out any more, and therefore there was no alternative but to attack “fortified lines,” a thing carefully avoided up to that time. I reasoned, if we could make a breach anywhere near the rebel centre, and thrust in a strong head of column, that with the one moiety of our army we could hold in check the corresponding wing of the enemy, and with the other sweep in flank and overwhelm the other half. The 27th of June was fixed as the day for the attempt, and in order to oversee the whole, and to be in close communication with all parts of the army, I had a place cleared on the top of a hill to the rear of Thomas’s centre, and had the telegraph-wires laid to it. The points of attack were chosen, and the troops were all prepared with as little demonstration as possible. About 9 A.M. Of the day appointed, the troops moved to the assault, and all along our lines for ten miles a furious fire of artillery and musketry was kept up. At all points the enemy met us with determined courage and in great force. McPherson’s attacking column fought up the face of the lesser Kenesaw, but could not reach the summit. About a mile to the right (just below the Dallas road) Thomas’s assaulting column reached the parapet, where Brigadier-General Barker was shot down mortally wounded, and Brigadier-General Daniel McCook (my old law-partner) was desperately wounded, from the effects of which he afterward died. By 11.30 the assault was in fact over, and had failed. We had not broken the rebel line at either point, but our assaulting columns held their ground within a few yards of the rebel trenches, and there covered themselves with parapet. McPherson lost about five hundred men and several valuable officers, and Thomas lost nearly two thousand men. This was the hardest fight of the campaign up to that date, and it is well described by Johnston in his “Narrative” (pages 342, 343), where he admits his loss in killed and wounded as

Total …………. 808

This, no doubt, is a true and fair statement; but, as usual, Johnston overestimates our loss, putting it at six thousand, whereas our entire loss was about twenty-five hundred, killed and wounded.

 

Published in: on June 27, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on June 27, 1864: Battle of Kennesaw Mountain  
Tags: , , , ,

July 22, 1864: Battle of Atlanta

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.

 

 

 

atlanta_battle

 

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…)

Published in: on July 22, 2018 at 9:35 am  Comments Off on July 22, 1864: Battle of Atlanta  
Tags: , , , ,

So Atlanta Is Ours, and Fairly Won

Fall of Atlanta

In the above dispatch on September 3, 1864 Sherman informed Chief of Staff Halleck of the news that Atlanta had fallen.  Hundreds of telegrams, and thousands of letters, of congratulation from the great and humble of the North  descended on Sherman’s headquarters.  In his memoirs Sherman noted the two he cherished above all:  (more…)

Published in: on September 2, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on So Atlanta Is Ours, and Fairly Won  
Tags: , ,

July 22, 1864: Battle of Atlanta

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.

 

 

 

atlanta_battle

 

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…)

May 27, 1864: Battle of Pickett’s Mill

atlanta_campaign_17-27

After the battle of Resaca, go here to read about it, Johnston retreated to the Allatoona Pass, fighting the battle of Adairsville on May 17 during his retreat.  Sherman viewed Johnston’s  Allatoona Pass position as too strong to assault.  He moved his armies to the West,hoping to Johnston’s left.  Johnston anticipated this move.   At New Hope Church on May 25, Johnston bloodily repulsed Hooker’s corps, inflicting 1665 casualties for 350 of his own.

Attacking Johnston’s right at Pickett’s Mill with O.O. Howard’s corps, Sherman suffered another bloody repulse, losing about the same proportion of Union casualties (1600) to Confederate (500) as at New Hope Church.

A Confederate probe at Dallas was repulsed on May 28.

Tactically Johnson won these engagements and stopped Sherman’s advance for a brief period.  Strategically, Sherman won by drawing Johnston’s army away from Allatoona, which Sherman’s cavalry captured on June 1.  Sherman moved towards Allatoona on June 5, now being able to supply his army up to that railhead.  Johnston followed, as he had to if he was to stop Sherman from advancing down the rail line.  Here is an excerpt, from an article that Johnston wrote for the August 1887 edition of  Century Magazine on his portion of the Atlanta Campaign, which deals with these battles :

 

 

A little before 6 o’clock in the afternoon Stewart’s division in front of New Hope Church was fiercely attacked by Hooker’s corps, and the action continued two hours without lull or pause, when the assailants fell back. The canister shot of the sixteen Confederate field-pieces and the musketry of five thousand infantry at short range must have inflicted heavy loss upon General Hooker’s corps, as is proved by the name “Hell Hole,” which, General Sherman says, was given the place by the Federal soldiers. Next day the Federal troops worked so vigorously, extending their intrenchments toward the railroad, that they skirmished very little. The Confederates labored strenuously to keep abreast of their work, but in vain, owing to greatly interior numbers and an insignificant supply of intrenching tools. On the 27th, however, the fighting rose above the grade of skirmishing, especially in the afternoon, when at half-past 5 o’clock the Fourth Corps (Howard) and a division of the Fourteenth (Palmer) attempted to turn our right, but the movement, after being impeded by the cavalry, was met by two regiments of our right division (Cleburne’s), and the two brigades of his second line br ought up on the right of the first. The Federal formation was so deep that its front did not equal that of our two brigades ; consequently those troops were greatly exposed to our musketry-all but the leading troops being on a hillside facing us. They advanced until their first line was within 25 or 30 paces of ours, and fell back only after at least 700 men had fallen dead in their places. When the leading Federal troops paused in their advance, a color-bearer came on and planted his colors eight or ten feet in front of his regiment, but was killed in the act. A soldier who sprang forward to hold up or bear off the colors was shot dead as he seized the staff. Two others who followed successively fourth bor e back the noble emblem. Some time after nightfall the Confederates captured above two hundred prisoners in the hollow before them. General Sherman does not refer to this combat in his “Memoirs,” although he dwells with some exultation upon a very small affair of the next day at Dallas, in which the Confederates lost about three hundred killed and wounded, and in which he must have lost more than ten times as many.

In the afternoon of the 28th Lieutenant-General Hood was instructed to draw his corps to the rear of our line in the early part of the night, march around our right flank, and form it facing the left flank of the Federal line and obliquely to it, and attack at dawn – Hardee and Polk to join in the battle successively as the success on the right of each might enable him to do so. We waited next morning for the signal – the sound of Hood’s musketry – from the appointed time until 10 o’clock, when a message from that officer was brought by an aide-de-camp to the effect that he had found R. W. Johnson’s division intrenching on the left of the Federal line and almost at right angles to it, and asked for instructions. The message proved that there could be no surprise, which was necessary to success, and that the enemy’s intrenchments would be completed before we could attack. The corps was therefore recalled. It was ascertained afterward that after marching eight or ten hours Hood’s corps was then at least six miles from the Federal left, which was little more than a musket-shot from his starting-point.

 

Published in: on May 27, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on May 27, 1864: Battle of Pickett’s Mill  
Tags: , , ,

May 13, 1864: Battle of Resaca Begins

Atlanta_campaign_svg

While Grant and Lee were engaging in non-stop combat in Virginia, a different type of campaign by different types of generals was getting underway.  Sherman, leading an army group consisting of the 98,000 men of the Army of the Tennessee, the Army of the Cumberland and the tiny Army of the Ohio, confronted the 60,000 Confederates of the Army of Tennessee under General Joseph Johnston.  Both Sherman and Johnston were more strategists than tacticians, military chess players rather than great captains of the battlefield.  Johnston especially had good reason to fear the result of a battle going against him. His army, and his army alone, stood between the vital interior of the Confederacy, thus almost entirely untouched by the War, and Union conquest.  Sherman understood that there were many excellent defensive positions between him and Atlanta, and if he was going to get there he had to depend more on maneuver than direct attacks. (more…)