The Campaign For Atlanta - Sherman's Invasion of Atlanta

Credits

FOREWORD BY AUTHOR : Like a great work of art, the Civil War endlessly expresses in many dimensions the thinking and emotions of the human spirit if put under certain conditions.

The absolute of slavery is obviously against the human spirit and potential and should exist in no form. What fascinates moderns about this war is the cohesive identity of the Southern peoples to so wholeheartedly (it seems to us today who remember the Viet Nam era) fight such a gruesome war for a way of life that the majority of the Southern defenders didn't even lead. Obviously at this time all out war was the only way known to solve such irreconcilable regional differences and the information sources weren't as rich, and the people were not as well educated as the mass of people today. It would seem the deep beauty of the human spirit in the form of honor (and the resultant social pressure of all one's companions going off to this noble war), was the cohesive force that motivated the masses to go forth into battle. This, and the fact that the soldiers from opposing sides were 'brothers' and many of the generals graduated from the same school of West Point, adds further poignantcy to this war.

Although the South had superior military leadership powered by ideals and honor, the North's industrial base with an endless ability to produce supplies and fresh soldiers eventually won out. Its absolutely amazing that the South fought as long and hard as they did. The lesson to be learned is that economics and individual honor are very powerful elements within the human spirit.

Southern culture had developed in a way totally different from the paths taken by the North - except perhaps in Atlanta. Atlantans have always had an eye on what works the best economically. After the war Atlantan business leaders welcomed Northerners into Atlanta as potential investors, hiding their scorn.But even with economic good sense on their side, the honor felt within families to defend a strong regional identity plunged Atlantans into this war. The regional identities of the North and South had become as strong as it is between the cultures of Austria and Germany.


The strategic campaign the Union waged against Atlanta was about cutting off the network of railroads converging at Atlanta and vastly crippling the Southern ability and will to wage war

 

Sherman began his invasion of Georgia in Dalton and continually pushed the confederate forces commanded by Gen. 'Joe' Johnston down the Western and Atlantic Railroad towards Atlanta. (This route is roughly the same as present day I-75.) Gen. Joseph E. Johnston had been reluctantly named by Confederate President Jefferson Davis to replace Davis's friend Braxton Bragg as commander of the confederate Army of Tennessee. At the time Johnston took over the Army of Tennessee it lay in demoralized condition in Dalton, Georgia.

 

 

This next few paragraphs are taken from : Eastern Acorn Press, The Campaign for Atlanta (Consolidated/Drake Press, 1986), p.2-5. - This book was issued by the Eastern Acorn Press - the publishing imprint of the Eastern National Park and Monument Association with permisssion of the original publisher, Historical Times , Inc. (Box 8200, Harrisburg PA 17105) All articles originally appeared in the Civil War Times Illustrated. 1989 (sic) Edition.

 

Gen. 'Joe' Johnston faced grim prospects, but whatever his misgivings they were never reflected in the cheerful energy with which he set about his task. He was a modest, kindly man, but a strict disciplinarian and a clear-headed realist. He visited every camp and outpost. He spoke cordially to the officers and men alike and listened attentively to their views. But he asked searching questions and his keen eyes missed nothing.

Under Bragg furloughs had been rare. Johnston furloughed the entire army, a third at a time. He announced amnesty for those absent without leave. The response was immediate. Morale rose and, as the news spread, deserters flocked to the colors.

Johnston worked tirelessly to clothe ragged men, to find shoes for bare feet, and to increase scanty rations. Rewards and punishments, promptly and impartially administered, restored discipline and high standards. Slowly, pride and confidence returned and with them the armies spirit. In a few weeks the Army of Tennessee was a fighting force again and, for the first time in its history, it was devoted to its commander.

Johnston knew he was supposed to hold Dalton, and that any hint of a retreat would incur disfavor. Yet a realistic analysis of his limited capabilities, and the advantages which the capabilities of the region afforded an enemy approach, revealed little hope of remaining there without grave risk.

Dalton was merely the point at which the rout from Missionary Ridge had ended. Although Rocky Face Ridge gave it an appearance of strength, Johnston soon found that the position "had little to recommend it as a defensive one. It neither fully covered its own communications nor threatened those of the enemy."

Click Here-Sherman's advance from Dalton, Georgia to the Chattahoochee River

On July 17, 1864, as Sherman advanced precariously close to the Chattahoochee river, Confederate President Davis replaced the sensible and popular General Johnston with his personal friend, General John Hood. General Hood, in a hunger to please Davis, fought a series of aggressive battles. Whereas Johnston had plans to entrench behind the strong fortifications built around Atlanta with an intact army, Hood destroyed the army with advances to the much stronger Federal forces.

It is agreed that Gen. Johnson would have mounted a better defense of Atlanta if he had kept the command. Gen. Johnston had a defense plan based on realistic and less aggressive tactics in respect to Sherman's huge, powerful and well supplied army. Sherman had a more cunning opponent in the departed Gen. Johnston.

PHOTO OF GEN. JOHN HOOD : 3 years of War had left John Bell Hood a virtual invalid. Missing a leg, and with a shattered arm, he lead his army strapped to the saddle. In addition, Hoods mind was often befuddled by the laudanum that he took to numb his almost constant pain.

Sara Huffs civilian view of the Transfer from "My 80 Years in Atlanta" ( Book Chapter 4 --or--- .pdf format page 8)

 

Sherman forded the banks of the Chattahoochee and began circling around Atlanta seeking to cut off all the railroads. Four battles around Atlanta were fought and lost by the Confederacy.

The Battle of Peachtree Creek took place on July 20, 1864. This battle was fought soon after Sherman forded the river - 4,796 Confederates and 1,779 Federal soldiers were lost or wounded.

-Sara Huffs civilian view of the Battle of Peachtree Creek from "My 80 Years in Atlanta" page 20-22.

The next was the Battle of Atlanta on July 22. This battle was fought over the Georgia Railroad coming into Atlanta from the east and is dramatically documented on the 400 foot canvas of the Atlanta Cyclorama at Grant Park, Atlanta. In this battle 8,000 Southerners fell to gunfire and Sherman lost 3,722 men.

-Sara Huffs view of the Battle of Atlanta from "My 80 Years in Atlanta" pages 22-24

Sherman had found that the fortifications of Atlanta were too strong to assault and too extensive to encircle. Instead of attempting either, he occupied a line facing the city, with his left near the Georgia Railroad and his right probing toward East Point and Hood's vital railroads. His probing forced Hood to extend his own lines to cover East Point.

Stung by his failures, the replacement Confederate General Hood determined again to halt Sherman. Sherman was busy circling around to the south to capture the only remaining railroads coming into Atlanta through Eastpoint - the Macon and Western and the Atlanta and Western. The resulting Battle of Ezra Church, July 28, was a third disaster. Hood lost 5,000 men and Sherman 600 men during this desperate and bloody encounter.

Although the battle was won, Sherman had still not captured the city and its railway lines of supply.

Sherman's next tactic was to bombard the city with artillery and ordered heavy cannons to be sent from Chattanooga. From August 9 to August 26 he shelled Atlanta incessantly. Until August 9, the shelling had been moderate. As his impatience mounted, he had siege guns sent forward. These, together with 50 batteries of field pieces, all emplaced on commanding ground, fired by day and by night. But 30 days of persistent hammering produced no visible results. Hood continued to receive supplies, and spies reported no shortages of food or munitions. The citizens went about their affairs with seeming indifference to the bursting shells. Although most of the families had "refugeed," those remaining lived in cellars, and in caves and "bomb proofs" constructed in their yards and gardens. It appeared that Atlanta would, as Johnston had confidently intended, be held "forever."

Then, mysteriously, on the morning of Aug. 26, Atlantans awoke to quiet skies, the Yankees apparently gone. Sherman was quietly working his way around to the far south, and defeated Hardee at Jonesboro in the process on Sept. 1.

-Sara Huffs view of the Siege of Atlanta from "My 80 Years in Atlanta" pages 24-25.

- Details of Battle of Jonesboro

With the news that Jonesboro and the railway was lost, Gen. Hood had no choice but to evacuate Atlanta. By 5 o'clock, his troops began to march south toward McDonough to reunite with Hardee. By midnight only a few cavalry remained in the city. They had a special mission to perform.

Shortly after midnight, heavy explosions from the vicinity of Oakland Cemetery and the rolling mill startled the remaining citizens. Eighty-one cars loaded with ammunition had been set on fire by the cavalry to keep them from being captured.

To Hood, riding despondently down the McDonough Road, the sounds of the explosions were a requiem for his dead hopes. But to Sherman, waiting at Jonesboro among the living and the dead, they were a paean of triumph. They told him as clearly as the notes of a bugle in the night that "Atlanta is ours, and fairly won.

 

-Surrender

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