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.

 

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.