July 22, 1864 … Battle of Atlanta
Attack: Union General William Tecumseh Sherman is now commander of the Union Armies in the Western Theater, as Grant has been named Commander of all Federal Armies and moved his command north to Virginia.
Up north is the Civil War Eastern Theater where Union General George Meade commands the Army of the Potomac battling Lee.
General Grant will advise Meade to “go where Lee goes”. Grant will decide to stay with Meade up north and continue to fight and wear down Lee in Virginia.
His trust in Sherman down south is complete. Grant advises Lincoln that Sherman has the skill and tenacity to defeat the Confederate army down in the Western Theater of Georgia and Tennessee.
Lincoln is confident of Grants advice that “Uncle Billy” Sherman can defeat the Rebel army in the Battle of Atlanta. Lincoln is also pleased that Grant has stayed north to directly oversee the campaign against Lee in Virginia with Union General Meade.
Sherman has engaged CSA General Joseph E. Johnston in continuing his fight in the Atlanta Campaign at places such as Battle of Resaca and the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain. These were flanking maneuvers by Sherman whereas Johnston would withdraw before envelopment.
The CSA command feels Johnston is holding back the fight and replaces him with CSA Lt. General John Bell Hood on July 17th, 1864.
Hood will fake a withdrawal and than attack Sherman southeast of the city, as Sherman continues to gain control of the railroad hubs in and near Atlanta in the area of Decatur, Georgia. Union counter attacks generally regain control after several attempts by Hood to break the Union line.
Union Major General James B. McPherson under Sherman has been attacked by Hood’s Confederate Army defending Atlanta. McPherson personally rides out to check his battle lines that Hood has been trying to flank side and rear.
While riding he is jumped by Rebel skirmishers who order him to halt! McPherson seems to be reaching to his hat when he suddenly turns his horse attempting to gallop away. The Rebels open fire and McPherson is mortally wounded.
McPherson will have the distinction of being the only Union Army Commander ( “Army of the Tennessee”) and the second highest in rank to be killed ( after John Sedgwick at Spotsvania, Va. ) in the field.
Defense: CSA Lt. General John Bell Hood has been given command of the Confederate forces defending Atlanta replacing Joseph E. Johnston. Hood is known for his tenacity and will design an attack to feign retreat by moving his lines, while sweeping CSA troops under Hardee around the east and rear of the Union flanks.
The bold attack will stall when the flanking CSA units run into Union support units before they anticipated, while the main CSA forces attack the Union front. Confederate forces begin to roll up the Union left flank but are repulsed when Sherman orders 3 batteries ( 20 cannon) massed near his headquarters by “Copen Hill ” to order a concentrated artillery fire on the attacking rebels.
The CSA attack is stalled and Hood is finally pushed back by the Union XV Corp under Union Major General John A. Logan in a desperate counter attack. The Union lines are restored and Sherman continues his siege of the city.
The Rebels can still hold the city as they have supplies via their last railroad via Macon, Georgia. On August 31,1864 that last supply line is cut when the courage and will of the Rebel cavalry is finally overwhelmed at Jonesborough, Georgia and Hood’s army is forced back to Lovejoy’s Station.
Hood will burn over 80 railroad cars of supplies and ammunition as he abandons Atlanta, Georgia on September 1. The fire and explosions will be remembered as a sad and ghastly end for the Confederacy in Georgia, as they retreat from the firestorm that was the Battle of Atlanta.
Atlanta, Georgia is surrendered on September 2, 1864 to Union forces by the Mayor and town committee.
Sherman will wire Washington of the hard won Union victory on September 3rd, stating “Atlanta is ours, and fairly won”.
This victory well covered by Union press will have a tremendous morale boost to Northern war sentiment. The war weary north will see Lincoln and his Union Army in a new light, pushing him to a landslide victory in the Presidential re-election over former Union General George McClellen and his “Peace Party”.
Battle outcome: Union victory.
Soldiers: Union-40,500 / CSA – 35,000 approx.
Casualties: Union-3,641 / CSA – 8,499
The Day Dixie Died: The Battle of Atlanta by Gary Ecelbarger