General William Tecumseh Sherman
On this day Sherman began his march through the Carolinas, with his ultimate destination Lee’s army, trapping it between his army and Grant’s army. Most Union troops had very little love for the Palmetto State, blaming it for starting the War, and Sherman’s boys were strictly on their worst behavior in South Carolina, as this diary entry by Lieutenant Colonel George Nichols, a Union staff officer, indicates:
January 30th-The actual invasion of South Carolina has begun. The 17th Corps and that portion of the 15th which came around by way of Thunderbolt Beaufort moved out this morning, on parallel roads, in the direction of McPhersonville. The 17th Corps took the road nearest the Salkahatchie River. We expect General Corse, with the 4th Division of the 15th Corps, to join us at a point higher up. The 14th and 20th Corps will take the road to Robertville, nearer the Savannah River. Since General Howard started with the 17th we have heard the sound of many guns in his direction. To-day is the first really fine weather we have had since starting, and the roads have improved. It was wise not to cut them up during the rains, for we can now move along comfortably. The well-known sight of columns of black smoke meets our gaze again; this time houses are burning, and South Carolina has commenced to pay an installment, long overdue, on her debt to justice and humanity. With the help of God, we will have principal and interest before we leave her borders. There is a terrible gladness in the realization of so many hopes and wishes. This cowardly traitor state, secure from harm, as she thought, in her central position, with hellish haste dragged her Southern sisters into the caldron of secession. Little did she dream that the hated flag would again wave over her soil; but this bright morning a thousand Union banners are floating in the breeze , and the ground trembles beneath the tramp of thousands of brave Northmen, who know their mission, and will perform it to the end.
In an attempt to deal with the tens of thousands of black refugees who were following his army, General Sherman issued Special Field Order No. 15. Issued to deal with an emergency situation and not as an attempt to chart Reconstruction Policy, the order looms large in the mythology of Reconstruction and is the origin of the belief that freed slaves were all promised 40 acres and a mule. The order was rescinded by President Johnson in the fall of 1865.
Sherman commented on the Order in his Memoirs:
During Mr. Stanton’s stay in Savannah we discussed this negro question very fully; he asked me to draft an order on the subject, in accordance with my own views, that would meet the pressing necessities of the case, and I did so. We went over this order, No. 15, of January 16, 1865, very carefully. The secretary made some verbal modifications, when it was approved by him in all its details, I published it, and it went into operation at once. It provided fully for the enlistment of colored troops, and gave the freedmen certain possessory rights to land, which afterward became matters of judicial inquiry and decision. Of course, the military authorities at that day, when war prevailed, had a perfect right to grant the possession of any vacant land to which they could extend military protection, but we did not undertake to give a fee-simple title; and all that was designed by these special field orders was to make temporary provisions for the freedmen and their families during the rest of the war, or until Congress should take action in the premises. All that I now propose to assert is, that Mr. Stanton, Secretary of War, saw these orders in the rough, and approved every paragraph thereof, before they were made public.
Here is the text of the Order:
IN THE FIELD, SAVANNAH, GA., January 16th, 1865.
SPECIAL FIELD ORDERS, No. 15.
I. The islands from Charleston, south, the abandoned rice fields along the rivers for thirty miles back from the sea, and the country bordering the St. Johns river, Florida, are reserved and set apart for the settlement of the negroes now made free by the acts of war and the proclamation of the President of the United States.
II. At Beaufort, Hilton Head, Savannah, Fernandina, St. Augustine and Jacksonville, the blacks may remain in their chosen or accustomed vocations–but on the islands, and in the settlements hereafter to be established, no white person whatever, unless military officers and soldiers detailed for duty, will be permitted to reside; and the sole and exclusive management of affairs will be left to the freed people themselves, subject only to the United States military authority and the acts of Congress. By the laws of war, and orders of the President of the United States, the negro is free and must be dealt with as such. He cannot be subjected to conscription or forced military service, save by the written orders of the highest military authority of the Department, under such regulations as the President or Congress may prescribe. Domestic servants, blacksmiths, carpenters and other mechanics, will be free to select their own work and residence, but the young and able-bodied negroes must be encouraged to enlist as soldiers in the service of the United States, to contribute their share towards maintaining their own freedom, and securing their rights as citizens of the United States.
Negroes so enlisted will be organized into companies, battalions and regiments, under the orders of the United States military authorities, and will be paid, fed and clothed according to law. The bounties paid on enlistment may, with the consent of the recruit, go to assist his family and settlement in procuring agricultural implements, seed, tools, boots, clothing, and other articles necessary for their livelihood. Continue reading
Sherman and his men completed their March to the Sea with the siege of Savannah, Georgia. The end of the siege was anti-climactic with Lieutenant General W. J. Hardee evacuating his garrison from the city of Savannah. Sherman sent this message to Lincoln announcing the fall of Savannah.
SAVANNAH, GA., December 22, 1864
(Via Fort Monroe 6.45 p.m. 25th)
His Excellency President LINCOLN:
I beg to present you, as a Christmas gift, the city of Savannah, with 150 heavy guns and plenty of ammunition, and also about 25,000 bales of cotton.
The message reached the White House on Christmas Day. It was published in the papers and roused huge joy throughout the North as another sign that the end of the War was in sight. Lincoln spoke for the North when he telegrammed back to Sherman:
MY DEAR GENERAL SHERMAN:
Many, many thanks for your Christmas gift, the capture of Savannah. When you were about leaving Atlanta for the Atlantic coast, I was anxious, if not fearful; but feeling that you were the better judge, and remembering that ‘nothing risked, nothing gained,’ I did not interfere. Now, the undertaking being a success, the honor is yours; for I believe none of us went further than to acquiesce. And taking the work of General Thomas into the county, as it should be taken, it is indeed a great success. Not only does it afford the obvious and immediate military advantages, but, in showing to the world that your army could be divided, putting the stronger part to an important new service, and yet leaving enough to vanquish the old opposing force of the whole — Hood’s army — it brings those who sat in darkness to see a great light. But what next? I suppose it will be safer if I leave General Grant and yourself to decide. Please make my grateful acknowledgments to your whole army, officers and men. Continue reading
The last of the Union troops pulled out of Atlanta today one hundred and fifty years ago as the most successful military operation of the Civil War got underway. Sherman was out to establish that a Union army could promenade through the hitherto untouched heart of the Confederacy and that there was absolutely nothing the Confederates could do about it. The destruction wreaked by his army was important from a military standpoint, but the dagger against the morale of the Confederacy was the fact that he proceeded at a deliberate pace for 300 miles, with his army spread out over sixty miles, burning as they went, and the Confederate army might as well have not existed for all the impact it had on this huge Yankee military stroll. Here is Sherman’s account in his memoirs of the beginning of the March: Continue reading
An interesting look at a painting of General Sherman in 1866. Paintings do not bulk very large in our historical memory of the Civil War. The cutting edge technology of photography had by the Civil War usurped the role of painting in preserving the images of the famous for posterity. Sherman looks distinctly more haggard and old in his Civil War photographs than in this 1866 portrait. Of course, it is post war, so some of the difference is no doubt due to the easing of the burden of command and the trauma of war that Sherman had to the full during the conflict. However, paintings do seem to often smooth the rough edges of the subjects of portraits with a calm that may not have been typical of the person being painted. Photographs, even the primitive photography of the Civil War era, captured the more immediate emotions of the subjects than a portrait painted over several sittings. Additionally, photographs made no pretensions to be art, but simply a utilitarian means of preserving likenesses, while portrait paintings usually strove to be both.
The portrait was painted by George Peter Alexander Healy, perhaps the most renowned American portrait painter of his day. Sherman, at least as represented in popular memory as a no nonsense soldier, one would expect to have a fairly prosaic mind and not to be interested in art. Such was not at all the case. Sherman suggested to the painter a portrait known as The Peacekeepers which recalled a meeting of Lincoln, Grant and Sherman near the end of the War: Continue reading
After a frustrating month during which Sherman’s planned March to the Sea had been delayed due to jitters of Grant and Sherman regarding Hood’s foray into Tennessee, Sherman readied his troops for their epic march by issuing Special Field Orders 120. This made clear that the army was to live off the land and that supply lines were to be of no consequence during the march:
Headquarters Military Division of the Mississippi, In the Field, Kingston, Georgia, November 9, 1864
I. For the purpose of military operations, this army is divided into two wings viz.: The right wing, Major-General O. O. Howard commanding, composed of the Fifteenth and Seventeenth Corps; the left wing, Major-General H. W. Slocum commanding, composed of the Fourteenth and Twentieth Corps.
II. The habitual order of march will be, wherever practicable, by four roads, as nearly parallel as possible, and converging at points hereafter to be indicated in orders. The cavalry, Brigadier – General Kilpatrick commanding, will receive special orders from the commander-in-chief.
III. There will be no general train of supplies, but each corps will have its ammunition-train and provision-train, distributed habitually as follows: Behind each regiment should follow one wagon and one ambulance; behind each brigade should follow a due proportion of ammunition – wagons, provision-wagons, and ambulances. In case of danger, each corps commander should change this order of march, by having his advance and rear brigades unencumbered by wheels. The separate columns will start habitually at 7 a.m., and make about fifteen miles per day, unless otherwise fixed in orders.
IV. The army will forage liberally on the country during the march. To this end, each brigade commander will organize a good and sufficient foraging party, under the command of one or more discreet officers, who will gather, near the route traveled, corn or forage of any kind, meat of any kind, vegetables, corn-meal, or whatever is needed by the command, aiming at all times to keep in the wagons at least ten day’s provisions for the command and three days’ forage. Soldiers must not enter the dwellings of the inhabitants, or commit any trespass, but during a halt or a camp they may be permitted to gather turnips, potatoes, and other vegetables, and to drive in stock of their camp. To regular foraging parties must be instructed the gathering of provisions and forage at any distance from the road traveled.
V. To army corps commanders alone is intrusted the power to destroy mills, houses, cotton-gins, &c., and for them this general principle is laid down: In districts and neighborhoods where the army is unmolested no destruction of such property should be permitted; but should guerrillas or bushwhackers molest our march, or should the inhabitants burn bridges, obstruct roads, or otherwise manifest local hostility, then army commanders should order and enforce a devastation more or less relentless according to the measure of such hostility.
VI. As for horses, mules, wagons, &c., belonging to the inhabitants, the cavalry and artillery may appropriate freely and without limit, discriminating, however, between the rich, who are usually hostile, and the poor or industrious, usually neutral or friendly. Foraging parties may also take mules or horses to replace the jaded animals of their trains, or to serve as pack-mules for the regiments or bridges. In all foraging, of whatever kind, the parties engaged will refrain from abusive or threatening language, and may, where the officer in command thinks proper, give written certificates of the facts, but no receipts, and they will endeavor to leave with each family a reasonable portion for their maintenance.
VII. Negroes who are able-bodied and can be of service to the several columns may be taken along, but each army commander will bear in mind that the question of supplies is a very important one and that his first duty is to see to them who bear arms. Continue reading
On October 9, 1864 Sherman was still in pursuit of Hood but he recognized the futility of such operations to protect his railroad supply lines, as he made clear in a telegram to Grant on that date:
It will be a physical impossibility to protect the roads, now that Hood, Forrest, Wheeler, and the whole batch of devils, are turned loose without home or habitation. I think Hood’s movements indicate a diversion to the end of the Selma & Talladega road, at Blue Mountain, about sixty miles southwest of Rome, from which he will threaten Kingston, Bridgeport, and Decatur, Alabama. I propose that we break up the railroad from Ohattanooga forward, and that we strike out with our wagons for Milledgeville, Millen, and Savannah. Until we can repopulate Georgia, it is useless for us to occupy it; but the utter destruction of its roads, houses, and people, will cripple their military resources. By attempting to hold the roads, we will lose a thousand men each month, and will gain no result. I can make this march, and make Georgia howl! We have on hand over eight thousand head of cattle and three million rations of bread, but no corn. We can find plenty of forage in the interior of the State. Continue reading
Few battles have inspired a hymn, but the successful defense by a Union garrison of Allatoona Pass, fought 150 years ago, did. At a meeting held in Rockford, Illinois, on April 28 through April 29, 1870 Daniel Webster Whittle, formerly a Major in Sherman’s army and now an evangelist and hymn writer, regaled an audience with the tale of how the garrison at Allatoona withstood the Confederate attack, with Union signal flags from Sherman signaling the defenders: “Hold the Fort; I am coming!”. In the audience was hymn writer Philip Paul Bliss who was inspired to write the hymn Hold the Fort:
Ho, my comrades, see the signal,
Waving in the sky!
Reinforcements now appearing,
Victory is nigh.
“Hold the fort, for I am coming,”
Jesus signals still;
Wave the answer back to heaven,
By thy grace we will.”
See the mighty host advancing,
Satan leading on,
Mighty men around us falling,
Courage almost gone!
“Hold the fort, for I am coming,”
Jesus signals still;
Wave the answer back to heaven,
By thy grace we will.”
See the glorious banner waving,
Hear the trumpet blow!
In our Leader’s name we’ll triumph,
Over every foe.
“Hold the fort, for I am coming,”
Jesus signals still;
Wave the answer back to heaven,
By thy grace we will.”
Fierce and long the battle rages,
But our help is near,
Onward comes our great Commander,
Cheer, my comrades, cheer.
Jesus signals still;
Wave the answer back to heaven,
By thy grace we will.”
Although Major Whittle had almost all the facts right, Sherman, as Sherman noted in a letter in 1875, did not use the exact words hold the fort, although as he later wrote that was clearly the intent of his messages to the garrison. What was actually singaled to the defenders was: Sherman is moving in force; Hold Out! General Sherman says Hold Fast. We are coming.
The hymn proved very popular and Whittle and Bliss toured the country, speaking to audiences and leading the singing of the hymn, including a memorable tour of the Allatoona battlefield in 1876, where they gave an emotional rendition of the hymn. Here is the account of the battle by Sherman in his memoirs: Continue reading
Hood’s movement north seemed to be working. On October 3, 1864 Sherman began his pursuit to protect his supply lines. Below is his account of this in his memoirs, in which he mentions a telegram to Grant in which he describes what he would ultimately do: leave Thomas to deal with Hood while he marchs with the forces under his command to the sea. However, Sherman would lose a month before Grant agreed to this plan.
Forrest having already made his appearance in Middle Tennessee, and Hood evidently edging off in that direction, satisfied me that the general movement against our roads had begun. I therefore determined to send General Thomas back to Chattanooga, with another division (Morgan’s, of the Fourteenth Corps), to meet the danger in Tennessee. General Thomas went up on the 29th, and Morgan’s division followed the same day, also by rail. And I telegraphed to General Halleck
I take it for granted that Forrest will cut our road, but think we can prevent him from making a serious lodgment. His cavalry will travel a hundred miles where ours will ten. I have sent two divisions up to Chattanooga and one to Rome, and General Thomas started to-day to drive Forrest out of Tennessee. Our roads should be watched from the rear, and I am glad that General Grant has ordered reserves to Nashville. I prefer for the future to make the movement on Milledgeville, Millen, and Savannah. Hood now rests twenty-four miles south, on the Chattahoochee, with his right on the West Point road. He is removing the iron of the Macon road. I can whip his infantry, but his cavalry is to be feared.
There was great difficulty in obtaining correct information about Hood’s movements from Palmetto Station. I could not get spies to penetrate his camps, but on the 1st of October I was satisfied that the bulk of his infantry was at and across the Chattahoochee River, near Campbellton, and that his cavalry was on the west side, at Powder Springs. On that day I telegraphed to General Grant:
Hood is evidently across the Chattahoochee, below Sweetwater. If he tries to get on our road, this side of the Etowah, I shall attack him; but if he goes to the Selma & Talladega road, why will it not do to leave Tennessee to the forces which Thomas has, and the reserves soon to come to Nashville, and for me to destroy Atlanta and march across Georgia to Savannah or Charleston, breaking roads and doing irreparable damage? We cannot remain on the defensive. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
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: Continue reading
Destiny attended Emmeran Bliemel at his birth on the feast day of Saint Michael the Archangel, patron saint of soldiers, in 1831 in Bavaria. From his early boyhood his burning desire was to be a missionary to German Catholics in far off America. Joining a Benedictine Abbey in Latrobe, Pennsylvania in 1851, he was ordained a priest in 1856. Continue reading
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: Continue reading
Following the Battle of Atlanta, the Union effort to put Atlanta under siege began. Of course, so long as the Confederates controlled the rail lines out of Atlanta leading to the Atlantic & West railroad and the Macon & Western railroad, the city was not really under siege. Sherman now manuevered to take these rail lines. At the battle of Ezra Church on July 27, 1864, a movement by Howard’s Union Army of the Tennessee against the Confederate rail lines was stopped by two corps of the Confederate Army of Tennessee under Stewart and S.D. Lee. Howard, who had the presence of mind to entrench one of his divisions prior to the Confederate attack, inflicted some 3,000 casualties on the Confederates in exchange for 642 of his own. However, his movement against the Confederate rail lines was thwarted. A simultaneous Union cavalry raid on the rail lines came to grief with both Union divisions being smashed by the Confederate cavalry under Major General Joseph Wheeler.
Continuing his effort to extend his right to cut the Confederate rail lines, in early August Sherman moved the small Army of the Ohio, which consisted of the XXIII corps, under Major General James Schofield from his left, and through August 5-7, a division of Schofield’s army attempted to break through the Confederate lines south of Utoy creek without success. Total Union casualties were 850 to 35 Confederate, showing yet again the folly of attempting to attack prepared defenses at this stage of the War. Sherman was stymied again.
Here is Sherman’s report on these engagements:
The Civil War was filled with endless personal tragedies and one of them played out in the aftermath of the death of General James Birdseye McPherson at the Battle of Atlanta. McPherson was engaged to marry Emily Hoffman of Baltimore. Having gotten leave for the first time in three years, he had been on his way to Baltimore to marry her, when Sherman had called him back to take command of the Army of the Tennessee in the drive on Atlanta. Sherman wrote to Miss Hoffman to explain the necessity of this:
Military Division of the Mississippi
June 9, 1864
My Dear Young Lady,
I hardly feel that I should apologize for intrusion, for I can claim an old acquaintance with your Brother and Sister in California, and feel almost that I know you through them, and others of your honored family. It has come to my knowledge that you are affianced to another close friend and associate of mine Maj General McPherson, and I fear that weighing mighty matters of State but lightly in the Realm of Love, you feel that he gives too much of his time to his Country and too little to you.
His rise in his profession has been rapid, steady and well earned. Not a link unbroken. Not a thing omitted. Each step in his progress however has imposed on him fresh duties that as a man and a soldier, and still more as a Patriot, he could not avoid.
I did hope as he returned from Meridian, when his Corps the 17th was entitled to go home on furlough, that he too could steal a month to obey the promptings of his heart, to hasten to Baltimore and I so instructed, but by the changes incident to General Grant’s elevation, McPherson succeeded to the Command of a separate Army and Department, and could not leave.
There is no rest for us in this war till you and all can look about you and feel there is Reason and Safety in the Land. God purifies the atmosphere with tempests and storms which fall alike upon the just and unjust, and in like manner he appeases the jarring elements of political discord by wars and famine. Heretofore as a nation we have escaped his wrath, but now with the vehemence of anhundred years accumulation we are in the storm, and would you have us shrink?
But I will not discuss so plain a point with one who bears the honored name of Hoffman, rather tell you of him whose every action I know fills your waking and sleeping thoughts, him so young but so prominent, whose cause is among the gallant and brave, who fight not for oppression and wrong but that the Government bequeathed to us by your ancestors shall not perish in ignominy and insult: but which shall survive in honor and glory, with a power to protect the weak and shelter the helpless from the terrible disasters of a fratricidal war.
I know McPherson well, as a young man, handsome and noble soldier, activated by motives as pure as those of Washington, and I know that in making my testimony to his high and noble character, I will not offend the Girl he loves.
Be patient and I know that when the happy day comes for him to stand by your side as one Being identical in heart and human existence you will regard him with a high respect and honor that will convert simple love into something sublime and beautiful.
Yours with respect
W. T. Sherman
Her father was a rich Baltimore merchant, strongly pro-Confederate in his sympathies, as was his mother who organized sewing bees to produce garments for Confederate soldiers. A son was fighting in the Army of Northern Virginia. The Hoffman family strongly disapproved of Emily’s engagement with a Union general.
Emily learned of the death of McPherson on July 23. Stricken with unbearable grief she immediately went to her room and spent the next year there in seclusion. Sherman wrote to her a second time. Continue reading
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: Continue reading
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. Continue reading