The Battle of Atlanta: History and Remembrance
The Battle of Atlanta figures prominently in the Union's conquest of the Confederacy in the final year of the Civil War and in Abraham Lincoln's re-election to the US presidency. "The Battle of Atlanta: History and Remembrance" chronicles this engagement while considering the war's larger meaning and legacy. This extensive essay combines a narrative of battlefield events, photographs, postcard views, images from the Atlanta cyclorama, original maps, and other visual and textual artifacts with a web-based mobile application (battleatl.org) that enables virtual touring of battlefield sites.
Well-preserved Civil War battle sites are among the most popular historical destinations in the United States, but they comprise a small fraction of the battlefields that can be explored. In the aftermath of the war, the Atlanta battlefield also served as a major site for commemorating the four-year conflict and expressing particular versions of the war's history. Urban development has largely altered the landscape on which the Battle of Atlanta was fought, yet, 150 years after the fierce fighting east of the city on July 22, 1864, many remnants of the battlefield remain visible and provide a rewarding encounter with the past.
|Confederate and Union troops in close combat, Battle of Atlanta Cyclorama, Atlanta, Georgia, 1886. Painting by Atlanta Panorama Company.|
The fall of Atlanta was a major turning point in the Civil War, and this essay begins with a summary of the city's importance to both sides, their struggle for its control during the spring and summer of 1864, and the Federal military campaign across Georgia that began shortly thereafter. The essay then covers, tour stop by tour stop, the major battlefield sites and events of July 22, 1864. For the most part, the tour stops are sequenced in chronological order of the battlefield events, beginning with the prelude to the battle, followed by stops where the first fighting occurred, proceeding to the site where the clash was most intense, and concluding with the locations of the final and most famous combat action of the day. The mobile application includes condensed descriptions of each tour stop and provides recommendations for the tour route and parking. It is designed for use en route (passengers only) and at each destination (drivers and passengers). The essay includes more detailed explanations of military maneuvers and battlefield events, lengthier profiles of the opposing army commanders, and a more extensive account of the battle's aftermath. It explores in greater depth the commemorative monuments, veterans' reunions, and various other ways that a single, bloody contest continued to be remembered long after the fighting stopped."The Battle of Atlanta: History and Remembrance" delves into the recorded past of a particularly fierce engagement between the United States and the Confederate States on July 22, 1864. The fighting that day was one of the biggest battles of the final ten months of the Civil War, and the Yankee victory east of the city was followed by daily bombardment of Atlanta and the Union's capture of the "Gate City of the South" on September 2, 1864. The famous Atlanta cyclorama painting depicts a Federal counter offensive launched at approximately 4:30 p.m. on the day of the battle against Confederate infantry that forced a long line of Yankees to retreat earlier in the afternoon. "The Battle of Atlanta: History and Remembrance" combines a narrative of battlefield events, photographs, postcard views, images from the cyclorama, maps, and other visual and textual artifacts with a web-based mobile application designed to inform trips to battlefield sites by car or bus. The mobile guide combined with this essay can be used to learn about the Battle of Atlanta without a visit to what remains of the battlefield and without additional background reading. "The Battle of Atlanta: History and Remembrance" presupposes no specialized knowledge of Atlanta or the Civil War, and it is intended for a variety of users and audiences.
|News of Sherman's capture of Atlanta on September 2, 1864 electrified the North, New York Times, September 3, 1864.|
Northern Civil War commanders made the capture of Confederate cities—specifically Atlanta and Richmond—and the crippling or destroying of the armies defending them, the major objectives in the Georgia and Virginia military campaigns that they launched in early May 1864. The Yankee military leaders had agreed on a coordinated, two-theater strategy for exhausting their foes by maneuver and attrition, and they achieved their goal—Confederate defeat—within twelve months.1 Atlanta became a target because of its unique political, economic, and psychological importance to the Confederacy. It was a principal railroad hub, a vital source of material support for the war effort, and a bastion of hope for the South as its military fortunes waned. The demolition and burning of the city in November 1864 and the battles and bombardment that preceded its ruin are indelible in Civil War history and lore. The events in and around Atlanta are part of a violent past that over time, and in a variety of ways, have triggered a cultural struggle over the war's meaning. Public and private forms of expression, each with their own history, offer different versions of remembrance that—because memory often exerts a greater impact—deserve as much attention as battle facts. Gone with the Wind, for instance, as a bestselling novel and blockbuster movie has shaped popular perception of the Civil War more than the combined works of all professional historians. The evocative power of Atlanta and the Civil War endures, evident in iconic images and texts, commemorative rituals, monuments, and other forms of remembrance.
The Battle of Atlanta pitted Confederate and Yankee forces against one another in a large combat zone that extended over areas now known as East Atlanta, Kirkwood, Edgewood, Reynoldstown, Little Five Points, Inman Park, and Poncey-Highland. Busy highways, streets, and urban neighborhoods have long since transformed the battlefield terrain, but today's visitors can tour many topographic features, historic monuments and landmarks, as well as remnants of a Civil War fort and rifle pit. A visit to the Battle of Atlanta Cyclorama painting on display in Grant Park is an excellent accompaniment to the tour. The enormous artwork in the round, completed in 1885–86 using firsthand accounts of the fighting, illustrates the lay of land on July 22, 1864, and depicts the clash between Federal and Confederate troops in a particularly dramatic turning point, at about 4:30 in the afternoon. While some visitors prefer touring the Atlanta cyclorama before going to the battlefield sites, reversing that sequence and beginning with Civil War landmarks provides guidance to the sweeping troop movements, lines of attack, and contested terrain portrayed in the sprawling panorama.
The absence of a historically preserved battlefield means that visitors seeking firsthand knowledge about the places and events that figured prominently in the Battle of Atlanta must go beyond the almost effortless engagement with history available at well-preserved Civil War sites, such as Kennesaw Mountain, Gettysburg, and Vicksburg. Visits to the Atlanta battlefield, even via virtual tour, require greater self-reliance and a more active process of combining historical accounts, maps, and images with present-day visual evidence to ferret out what happened, where, and why. The rewards are great. By juxtaposing information from then and now, visitors traveling through contemporary Atlanta gain a new and powerful perspective on the city, its neighborhoods, and their place in history. Exploring seemingly ordinary sites is a way to gain a new awareness of history, even if the sites are often encountered during our everyday routines. Landscape historian John R. Stilgoe encourages us to scrutinize those places, put them in spatial context, and arrange them in time. "Enjoy the best kept secret around," Stilgoe writes, "the ordinary everyday landscape that rewards any explorer, that touches any explorer with magic."2
Physical traces of the Battle of Atlanta evoke insights and exchanges that touch on broader questions about the Civil War, its causes and consequences, and the historical memory of major battles and the armies that fought them:
- The fact that African American slaves were bought and sold in Atlanta and were used to build earthen fortifications that encircled the city in an effort to fend off an invading Union force invites questions about slavery's role in causing, perpetuating, and ending the war.
- The implications of the fight for Atlanta occurring amid a US presidential election campaign highlights the connection between war and politics and the ways in which the outcome of a single, hard-fought battle can exert effects well beyond the immediate military contest to sectional and national history.
- The arduous, fifteen-mile night march by a Confederate army corps just prior to the Battle of Atlanta focuses attention on the motivation and morale of the rebel soldiers and, more broadly, the factors that propelled warriors on both sides to repeatedly head into combat despite the extraordinary dangers and hardships they faced.
- The Yankee armies' eventual capture of Atlanta, expulsion of its civilian population, and burning of the city prompts consideration of whether the Civil War ushered in the total wars of the twentieth century or was fought within the prevailing nineteenth-century constraints on military action against noncombatants.
Placing the battle in the context of a larger landscape and longer timeline makes the fighting between the Yankee and Confederate armies on July 22, 1864, more meaningful than focusing exclusively on the details of the single military contest. A three-hour Battle of Atlanta tour is an opportunity to gain new knowledge about tactics, topography, and combat action and to contemplate the broader context and significance of a specific clash. "The Battle of Atlanta: History and Remembrance" is a guide for both explorations; it is designed for use before, during, or after a battlefield tour.
Brown, Barry L., and Elwell, Gordon R. Crossroads of Conflict: A Guide to Civil War Sites in Georgia. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2010.
Inscoe, John C., ed. The Civil War in Georgia. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2011.
Janney, Caroline E. Remembering the Civil War: Reunion and the Limits of Reconciliation. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2013.
McCarley, J. Britt. The Atlanta Campaign: A Civil War Driving Tour of Atlanta-Area Battlefields. Marietta, GA: Cherokee Publishing, 1984.
Miles, Jim. Fields of Glory: A History and Tour Guide of the War in the West, the Atlanta Campaign, 1864. Nashville, TN: Cumberland House Publishing, 2002.
The Atlanta Campaign and the March to the Sea
The Battle of Atlanta was the bloodiest and single most important clash in the Atlanta Campaign of the Civil War. It was the campaign's climactic fight but not its conclusion.3 The four-month campaign was a series of maneuvers, battles, engagements, and skirmishes between advancing Federal and retreating Confederate forces that culminated in the Federal capture of Atlanta on September 2, 1864. The fall of the "Gate City of the South" was a turning point in the Civil War, virtually assuring Abraham Lincoln's bid for a second term as president at a time when his political prospects were dimming and the outcome of his 1864 election campaign against Democratic opponent George B. McClellan was uncertain. Other Union successes influenced the northern electorate, specifically Admiral David Farragut's closure of the Confederate port of Mobile, Alabama, in early August and General Philip Sheridan's victories in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia in September and October. However, the Yankee capture of Atlanta electrified the North, and, more than any other event on or off the battlefield, it turned around Lincoln's political fortunes.4
McClellan, who had served as general-in-chief of the armies of the United States from November 1861 to November 1862, was gaining popularity among northern voters as a peacemaker who could restrain warring sectional leaders, Lincoln and Confederate President Jefferson Davis, from irretrievably tearing apart the Union. The main plank of the Democratic platform called for an immediate cessation of hostilities, and McClellan personally singled out reunion, but not emancipation, as his one condition for peace. War weariness and McClellan's increasing popularity in the North gave hope to Confederate military and political leaders in the summer of 1864. Even though the Confederates had lost ground in their war effort, a favorable outcome in the northern presidential election could reverse their fortunes and lead to a peace settlement on favorable terms. Conversely, loss of either Richmond or Atlanta to the invading Yankee armies would spell disaster for the Confederates because either outcome would likely propel Lincoln to electoral victory, which in turn meant that the Union would continue to prosecute the war and emancipation would remain a principal war aim.
|Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston, commander of the Army of Tennessee during the first months of the Atlanta Campaign. Albumen print.|
Much depended on how Confederate armies fared in Virginia and Georgia. Because the Confederate and Union forces in Virginia were bogged down in trench warfare near Petersburg beginning in mid-June, the stakes mounted in the more mobile Atlanta Campaign. In northwest Georgia, the three Federal armies under the overall command of Major General William T. Sherman fought and maneuvered their way southward toward Atlanta. Sherman was optimistic from the outset, writing to his wife Ellen on May 22, 1864: "I think I have the best army in the country, and if I cant [sic] take Atlanta and Stir up Georgia considerably I am mistaken."5 Despite several battlefield setbacks, most severely at Kennesaw Mountain on June 27, the Union armies gained ground and forced the outnumbered Confederate Army of Tennessee, led by General Joseph E. Johnston, to fall back repeatedly to new defensive positions. When the Yankees circumvented Johnston's fortified position along the Chattahoochee River and began crossing the river on July 8, 1864, the Confederates retreated to an outer line of trenches defending Atlanta. By July 17, 1864, all three Union armies had reached the south bank of the Chattahoochee River, a half-day's march from the city. That same day, Confederate President Davis relieved Johnston of his army command and replaced him with General John Bell Hood. Davis was dissatisfied with Johnston's failure to halt Sherman's advance toward Atlanta. Hood offered the promise of more aggressive action against the Yankees, and as expected he soon went on the attack.
In each of the final four battles of the Atlanta Campaign, with Hood in command, the Confederate forces assaulted advancing or maneuvering Federal troops: at Peachtree Creek on July 20, east of Atlanta on July 22, at Ezra Church west of the city on July 28, and finally to the south at Jonesboro on August 31. In each instance, the Confederates were defeated with heavy losses. While the fighting raged at Jonesboro on August 31, a contingent of Federal infantry reached the Macon and Western Railroad several miles to the north and seized control of this last Confederate supply line into Atlanta. The next day, Union troops routed the remaining Confederate forces at Jonesboro, and that night Hood began a general withdrawal from Atlanta. Sherman allowed Hood's army to escape without pursuit, but Hood's aggressive fight for Atlanta had left him with fewer than forty thousand troops.
On September 2, long lines of Federal soldiers began marching into the city that they would occupy for nearly eleven weeks. Newspapers throughout the North reported their triumph on September 3, and President Lincoln offered national thanks to Major General Sherman and the officers and soldiers under his command. Harper's Weekly declared, "There is not man who did not feel that McClellan's chances were diminished by the glad tidings from Atlanta."6 Entering Atlanta, Sherman shifted his attention away from Hood's army to the work of transforming the city into a military base that could be held by a small garrison rather than a large force. On September 7, Sherman issued orders evicting the city's remaining residents, an action that he said was "not designed to meet the humanities of the case, but to prepare for the future struggles."7 When Hood's battered army regrouped and threatened the Union's railroad supply line between Chattanooga and Atlanta in early October, Sherman headed to north Georgia in pursuit. After several weeks of maneuvering and inconclusive fighting, both sides withdrew and moved in opposite directions. The Confederate army marched to north Alabama, and the Union troops returned to Atlanta. Sherman recognized that he could not continue to occupy an inland city deep in enemy territory without again risking the loss of his vital supply line. Instead he won approval from his superiors for a new campaign. He would abandon Atlanta and lead an army of sixty-five thousand in a march across the Georgia heartland toward the sea. Sherman would shift his base of operations to a coastal location that could be supplied by the navy and en route his soldiers would lay waste to anything in their path that could support the Confederate war effort.
|The true issue, George P. McClellan, former Union major general and Democratic Party candidate for president in 1864, separates leaders of the Union and Confederacy. Lithograph print by Currier & Ives, ca. 1864.|
On November 11, in preparation for the new campaign, Yankee engineers in Atlanta began demolishing the railroad depot and numerous other structures in the city that could have military value to the Confederates. On the final nights of the Federal occupation, November 15–16, Union soldiers set fire to unoccupied buildings, and the uncontrolled flames spread, threatening the entire city. By morning, much of the downtown was in ashes, and the city was still smoldering when the last of the Union troops departed on their March to the Sea. Sherman's soldiers trekked southeastward through virtually undefended, rich plantation country, fanning out across a sixty-mile-wide swath of territory from Atlanta to Savannah. Along the way, they foraged liberally, confiscated farm animals and crops, and wrecked railroads, farm buildings, cotton gins, and grist mills. When the campaign ended with the fall of Savannah on December 21, all that remained of the eastern Confederacy was Virginia, the Carolinas, and northeast Georgia.
Glatthaar, Joseph T. The March to the Sea and Beyond. Baton Rouge: Lousiana State University Press, 1985.
Long, David E. The Jewel of Liberty: Abraham Lincoln's Re-Election and the End of Slavery. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1994.
Marszalek, John F. Sherman's March to the Sea. Abilene, TX: McWhiney Foundation Press, 2005.
Nelson, Larry E. Bullets, Ballots, and Rhetoric: Confederate Policy for the United States Presidential Contest. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1980.
Atlanta in 1864
When the Union occupation of Atlanta began in early September 1864, fewer than three thousand civilian inhabitants lived in the city, a sharp drop from the war-time high of nearly twenty-two thousand and less than half of the population in 1860.8 The Civil War provided Atlanta with a windfall opportunity to enlarge its role as a railroad hub and manufacturing center. Located at the terminating point of four major railroads and far from the conflict's opening fronts, the city flourished during the first years of the war as the Confederate demand surged for rails, cannons, cartridges, shells, and clothing. As the war progressed, the city increasingly served as a hospital and convalescent center and attracted thousands of new residents to work in skilled trades, transportation and communications, wholesale and retail businesses, and the service sector. During the antebellum years, Atlanta had emerged as the center of a regional railroad network that by 1864 linked all that remained of the Confederacy east of the Mississippi. Atlanta was the distribution center for troops, munitions, food, and supplies of all kinds for the army. The city's vital importance to the Confederate war effort made it a primary target for the Federal forces invading Georgia in May 1864. As the war grew nearer during the spring and summer, Atlantans left on every available outbound train, and morale and productivity plummeted among the residents who remained. Well before the city fell on September 2 it had ceased to be of practical service to the Confederacy, but it remained a prize they could ill afford to lose because of its important bearing on the northern presidential contest and the morale of southern whites.
Whitehall Street, Atlanta's central business district, 1864. Wet plate negative by George Barnard. Courtesy of Library of Congress.
|Railroad depot, Atlanta, Georgia, 1864. Wet plate negative by George Barnard. Courtesy of Library of Congress.
Atlanta's slave population, enumerated at 2,523 by the city tax collector in November 1863, was relatively small compared to coastal cities, but enslaved labor contributed substantially to the city's economy and the Confederate war effort. Slaves in Atlanta carried out non-agricultural tasks, including iron forging, cabinet making, carpentry, brick masonry, blacksmithing, and—most frequently—unskilled labor such as domestic service. As the number of Confederate military hospitals increased, slaves replaced civilians and soldiers initially assigned to routine hospital labor. By the first half of 1864 most of the hospital attendants at several Atlanta hospitals were slaves. African American slaves also worked on Atlanta's inner ring of fortifications, the construction of which began after Federal forces advanced into central and eastern Tennessee in the summer of 1863 and Confederate armies were defeated at Gettysburg and Vicksburg in July 1863.9 The War Department assigned Captain Lemuel P. Grant of the Confederate Corps of Engineers the task of designing and building the defensive fortifications. Grant, by offering owners $25 a month, employed enough slaves to bring the work force to the level needed to tear down homes and barns, clear woods, move earth, and build the fortifications at a brisk pace. By April 1864 an elaborate earthwork cordon encircled Atlanta, consisting of elevated artillery positions ("forts") connected to each other and fronted by infantry trenches, rifle pits, and closely-packed, sharpened obstacles designed to deter enemy assaults.10
|Auction and negro sales, Whitehall Street, near present-day Peachtree Street, Atlanta, Georgia, ca. 1864. Wet plate negative by George Barnard. Courtesy of Library of Congress.|
Atlanta bordered a heavily forested, mineral-rich area to the north and the cotton belt to the south. Although some farmers cultivated land in Atlanta's immediate environs, the city stood a hundred miles north of the region in which large landholders (with three hundred or more acres) were relatively common. "Plantation" homes near Atlanta were much smaller and less impressive than Hollywood's Tara Hall of Gone with the Wind. The terrain surrounding Atlanta was predominantly rolling wooded hills, interspersed with clearings for small farms, homes, and mills, loosely connected by narrow wagon roads, trails, or streams. The invading and defending armies were vulnerable to this lay of the land, mainly wilderness and not well known by either side. Too sizeable to advance quickly on the available country roads or through densely wooded areas, both sides carried out large troop movements quickly and effectively on rails or alongside railroad lines. The predominant east-to-west flows of the Chattahoochee River and Peachtree Creek, the largest bodies of water north of Atlanta, offered natural—albeit unsuccessful—lines of defense for the Confederate forces in July 1864.
Mohr, Clarence L. "The Atlanta Campaign and the African American Experience in Civil War Georgia." In Inside the Confederate Nation: Essays in Honor of Emory M. Thomas, edited by Lesley J. Gordon and John C. Inscoe. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2005.
Russell, James M. Atlanta 1847–1890: City Building in the Old South and the New. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1988.
The Battle of Atlanta—Overview
The three Federal armies commanded by Sherman, the Army of the Cumberland, Army of the Tennessee, and Army of the Ohio, together numbered approximately one hundred thousand troops as they approached the city, but only about twenty-seven thousand of them fought in the Battle of Atlanta.11 Sherman held the remainder in reserve. Hood's Army of Tennessee was fifty thousand strong, a decided numerical disadvantage for the Confederacy, but Hood moved about thirty-five thousand troops into attack against the smaller number of Union soldiers on the battlefield.12 The Battle of Atlanta resulted from Hood's attempt to catch Sherman off guard as the Federal left wing, the Army of the Tennessee, marched from the vicinity of Decatur, six miles east of Atlanta, toward the fortified city. Hood gambled that he could overwhelm the advancing Federals with a long flank movement and surprise rear attack coupled with a frontal assault intended to further disrupt the invaders' line. Both Confederate attacks failed to dislodge the Union troops, who prevailed against wave after wave of assaults.
|General Joseph Wheeler, one of two former Confederate generals commissioned as major generals in the US Army prior to the 1898 war with Spain, 1906. Image by P. J. Plant.|
Concurrent with the main fighting in the Battle of Atlanta, on the afternoon of July 22, 1864, Confederate General Joseph Wheeler's cavalry achieved short-lived success against a lightly guarded Federal outpost in Decatur. There, approaching the town's public square, Wheeler's horsemen dismounted and attacked a Federal infantry brigade that was protecting a lengthy wagon train of supplies and ordnance. Although Wheeler's troopers forced the Yankees to retreat, the Federals escaped with almost their entire wagon train intact. Before Wheeler could overtake the fleeing Union troops, he was called back to reinforce the Confederate infantry who were meeting stiff resistance in the main battle about four miles west of Decatur. Wheeler's cavalry provided only slight assistance. Years later, Wheeler achieved distinction as one of two former Confederate generals who President William McKinley commissioned as major generals in the US army as the country prepared for the 1898 war with Spain.13 Fitzhugh Lee was the other appointee. Union veteran McKinley recognized that appointments of former Confederates to high rank in a new and popular armed struggle against a foreign foe would help reduce sectional bitterness, still lingering in the North and South over thirty years after the Civil War. Wheeler, just twenty-seven-years old when the Battle of Atlanta was fought, declared his readiness to return to field command: "Although I am sixty-one years old I feel as strong and capable as when I was forty, or even much younger, and I desire very much to have another opportunity to serve my country."14 The main combat in the Battle of Atlanta continued until darkness, and by then the Federals had won a major defensive victory. They held their ground and inflicted severe losses. Southern casualties numbered approximately 5,500.15 including the death of a division commander, Major General William H. T. Walker, and the loss of an unusually large number of field officers. Federal losses totaled 3,722 killed, captured, and wounded,16 and the dead included Major General James B. McPherson, commander of the Army of the Tennessee and the only Union army commander killed in action during the Civil War. Few Union officers had risen through the ranks more quickly than McPherson and were as popular with their fellow officers and troops. His death was deeply mourned not only by Grant and Sherman but also by the Confederate commander in the Battle of Atlanta, John Bell Hood, who had been McPherson's classmate and close friend at West Point. Hood lamented that "No soldier fell in the enemy's ranks, whose loss caused me equal regret."17
Following the battle, the Federal Army of the Tennessee worked overnight to strengthen its field position in anticipation of a renewed assault by Hood. However, when the fighting ended on July 22, the Confederates abandoned their efforts to crush the advancing Federal left wing. Their concerns turned to defending Atlanta's remaining railroad supply lines from the west and south. With their army severely depleted, the Confederates had limited means to contest the Federal maneuvers against those vital supply lines that began again four days after the Battle of Atlanta. The Federal victory on July 22, 1864, did not precipitate an immediate Confederate withdrawal from the city, but it went a long way toward forcing Atlanta's fall six weeks later.
Bonds, Russell S. War Like a Thunderbolt: The Battle and Burning of Atlanta. Yardley, PA: Westholme Publishing, 2009.
Davis, Stephen. Atlanta Will Fall: Sherman, Joe Johnston, and the Yankee Heavy Battalions. Wilmington, DE: SR Books, 2001.
Ecelbarger, Gary. The Day Dixie Died: The Battle of Atlanta. New York: Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press, 2010.
Kurtz, Wilbur G. "The Battles around Atlanta—Hood vs. Sherman." Civil War Times Illustrated. Vol. 2 (1964): 8–17.
Scaife, William R. The Campaign for Atlanta. Cartersville, GA: Civil War Publications, 1993.
Welcher, Frank A. Organization and Operations, the Western Theater. Vol. 2 of The Union Army 1861–1865. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993.
Battle of Atlanta Tour Stops
General Sherman's Headquarters during the Battle
|Union Major General William T. Sherman established his field headquarters just before the Battle of Atlanta on high ground east of the city, where the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library is now located.||
|Sherman surveying the battlefield, in front of the Augustus Hurt House, east of Atlanta, July 22, 1864, Battle of Atlanta Cyclorama, Atlanta, Georgia, 1886. Painting by Atlanta Panorama Company.|
|Sherman's field headquarters and Federal line prior to the battle, July 22, 1864. Battle of Atlanta map by Michael Page, 2014.|
On the morning of July 22, 1864, Federal General William T. Sherman, commander of the three Union armies closing on Atlanta, rode on horseback from his field headquarters, a pitched tent at what is now the intersection of Briarcliff and North Decatur Roads, near the present-day Emory University campus, to temporary headquarters, two and one-quarter miles to the southeast and in closer proximity to the city's center. Sherman established his new command post at Augustus Hurt's two-story, wood-frame home and hill top plantation, located on the present-day site of the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library. In 1864, Hurt's estate was on cleared land and commanded a sweeping view to the west and south. When Sherman arrived, he ventured beyond the unoccupied home and down a hillside for a closer look at Atlanta. From a vantage point near the western edge of the present-day presidential library campus, Sherman used field glasses to view the city that was a prime objective of his military campaign. He scanned the eastern section of Atlanta's inner fortifications located about one mile away, along present-day Boulevard and Glen Iris Drive, and observed Confederate batteries and soldiers. This provided direct confirmation that the Rebels remained in Atlanta in force, in contrast to Sherman's earlier supposition—already contradicted by Union reconnaissance—that the Confederate army had evacuated the city.
|Augustus Hurt House, Sherman's temporary headquarters, Atlanta, Georgia, ca. 1864, Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, vol. 4. Sketch by Theodore Davis.|
Sherman also had a clear view of the rolling terrain just three-quarters of a mile to the southeast, where the late afternoon fighting would reach its peak around the home of Troup Hurt (Augustus Hurt's older brother). Sherman was in position to see Confederate troops break through the Union line and capture a four gun Federal battery, which posed a dire threat to the Army of the Tennessee. The proximity of Sherman to this fighting enabled him to direct cannon fire that hindered the Confederate advance. A counterattack by Federal infantry ended the Confederate threat. After the battle, Union troops demolished Augustus Hurt's plantation home and used the wreckage for fire wood. The hill top location of the house, near the eastern edge of the present-day presidential library campus, was effaced during construction of the campus grounds and parkway during the 1980s.
Sherman's panoramic view of Atlanta is close to what a present-day visitor can see from the western edge of the Carter Presidential Library campus, just above Freedom Parkway and looking at the city's downtown skyline. Although the tree line south of the presidential library now obscures the sweeping view of the battlefield from Sherman's observation point, his advantageous position can be visualized from the cyclorama painting's depiction of the Union commander on horseback, surveying the combat scene from high ground, and by locating the Augustus Hurt and Troup Hurt houses on a battlefield map.
|Lieutenant Ulysses S. Grant, general-in-chief of the Union armies. Carte de visite, albumen print.|
Sherman emerged from the Civil War second only to Ulysses S. Grant in renown as a Union general, and the personal bond that the two generals established earlier in the war enabled them to collaborate effectively as each led campaigns that culminated in US victory. Sherman, after graduating sixth of forty-two in the West Point class of 1840, did not show promise of the strategic innovations, logistical genius, and military triumphs that were to follow. Unlike many of the conflict's other top generals, he did not serve in Mexico during the Mexican War, and his military record in the initial stages of the Civil War was lackluster. Because of his volatile temperament and erratic behavior, Sherman was relieved of his assignment as commander of Union forces in Kentucky in late 1861. Sherman's star started to rise in the winter and spring of 1862 when his military partnership with Grant began in earnest. He contributed to Federal victories in western Tennessee in February 1862, when Grant led combined land and naval assaults against the Confederate strongholds at Forts Henry and Donelson. That April, Grant gave Sherman credit for saving the day at Shiloh when, in one of the bloodiest battles of the war, Union forces came close to disaster but turned the tide on the second day of fighting. The following year, when under Grant's leadership the Federals prevailed at Vicksburg, Mississippi, Sherman's frank advice and skillful field command solidified their relationship. For the remainder of the war, each time Grant was promoted to a new rank and role, Grant moved Sherman into his previously held position: first as commander of the Army of the Tennessee, then as commander of the Military Division of the Mississippi, i.e., leader of all Union forces in the western theater.
|Robert E. Lee, commander of the army of North Virginia. Carte de visite, albumen print.|
Shortly after Lincoln named Grant general-in-chief of the Union armies in March 1864, Grant and Sherman conferred at length on plans for the spring campaigns. Beginning in early May 1864, Grant sought to pressure the Confederates on all fronts. In the east, Grant would attack Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, which was defending Richmond; Sherman would invade Georgia and target the Army of Tennessee, initially under the command of Joseph E. Johnston and then John Bell Hood, which was protecting Atlanta. Grant and Sherman agreed on a strategy of simultaneous conquest of the two main Confederate armies and the urban centers they guarded. Keeping the Rebel forces separated would enable the northerners to take advantage of their numerical superiority in each theater. Movements against cities became a major focus of Union commanders who sought total defeat and unconditional surrender of the Confederacy.18 By mid-July, Sherman's tenacious pursuit of Johnston had covered ninety miles and reached the northern and eastern outskirts of Atlanta. On July 20, Confederate forces, now under the command of Hood, were thwarted in their sweeping attack on the advancing Federal right wing three miles north of the city at the Battle of Peachtree Creek. Sherman, five or six miles southeast of the Peachtree Creek battlefield, was in position to hear the fighting but did not learn the outcome until about midnight, when a dispatch arrived from the victorious Union general, George H. Thomas, commander of the Army of the Cumberland.
|Union Major General William T. Sherman, officer of the Federal Army, advancing on Atlanta, ca. 1860. Wet plate negative. Courtesy of Brady National Photographic Art Gallery.|
Sherman, traveling with Major General John M. Schofield's Army of the Ohio on the Federal left wing, had moved his headquarters early on July 20 to what is now the northwest corner of North Decatur and Briarcliff Roads. As the battle raged at Peachtree Creek, Union troops pressed toward the city: General James B. McPherson's Army of the Tennessee marching westward from Decatur towards Atlanta along the tracks of the Georgia Railroad and Schofield's Army of the Ohio moving from the northeast, to McPherson's right, reconnoitering the Confederate defenses, cutting roads, and opening communications. The only major action on July 21 occurred when McPherson ordered General Frank P. Blair, leading the Seventeenth Corps of the Army of the Tennessee, to capture Bald Hill, an elevation commanding the eastern approach to the city that the Confederate defenders used to hold McPherson's advancing troops at bay. On the morning of July 21, General Mortimer Leggett's division of Blair's Corps, after a bitter struggle, captured the hill—later re-named Leggett's Hill—from a Confederate division under the command of General Patrick R. Cleburne of Hardee's Corps. Leggett's troops immediately entrenched themselves and placed cannons in position to fire shells into Atlanta. By nightfall, the Federal left wing had advanced to a lengthy front some two-and-a-half miles from the center of Atlanta on what had been the eastern portion of the Confederates' outer defense line. The Confederates abandoned that entire line overnight, withdrawing to the city's inner fortifications, and allowing Sherman to move to his new headquarters at the Augustus Hurt House the following morning, July 22, 1864.
|Augustus Hurt House, Sherman's headquarters on July 22, 1864, Battle of Atlanta Cyclorama, Atlanta, Georgia, 1886. Painting by Atlanta Panorama Company.|
When Sherman learned before dawn that Hood had abandoned the outer arc of Atlanta's defenses, the Yankee commander mistakenly concluded that the Confederates had evacuated the city. He immediately ordered a massive Union pursuit. However, by the time Sherman arrived at the Augustus Hurt House, Federal reconnaissance had discovered that Hood's infantry still occupied the inner fortifications surrounding Atlanta. Sherman countermanded his pursuit order, and he personally surveyed the fortified Confederate position after arriving at the hillside just west of the Augustus Hurt House. Sherman and his staff moved so far forward toward the city's fortifications that they drew Confederate artillery and rifle fire, forcing their retreat to the Hurt home. Sherman was joined there at about 11 a.m. by McPherson, who persuaded Sherman to reconsider another order, which would have sent the Federal Sixteenth Corps on a mission to tear up railroad track back to and beyond Decatur. Sherman was concerned that Confederate reinforcements would arrive by rail from Virginia and had already sent McPherson's cavalry to the rear to tear up track.19 McPherson was worried that sending the Sixteenth Corps infantry on a similar mission would leave the Union's Army of the Tennessee vulnerable to an attack against its thinly defended far left flank. Sherman agreed to postpone his order until 1 p.m. If the Confederates did not attack by then, the Sixteenth Corps infantry would proceed with its wrecking assignment. As events unfolded, Sherman's agreement to reinforce the Union's left flank proved to be a crucial move for the Yankees and a major misfortune for the Confederates as they launched their surprise attack at about noon.
Castel, Albert. Decision in the West: The Atlanta Campaign of 1864. Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1992.
Clauss, Errol M. “The Atlanta Campaign 18 July–2 September 1864.” PhD diss., Emory University, 1965.
Ecelbarger, Gary. The Day Dixie Died: The Battle of Atlanta. New York: Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press, 2010.
Glatthaar, Joseph T. Partners in Command: The Relationship Between Leaders in the Civil War. New York: Free Press, 1994.
Kennett, Lee B. Sherman: A Soldier's Life. New York: HarperCollins, 2001.
Kurtz, Wilbur G. "Atlanta in the Summer of 1864." Inn Dixie (January 1936): 5, 6, 10,12, 17–21.
Marszalek, John F. Sherman: A Soldier's Passion for Order. New York: Free Press, 1993.
General Hood's Observation Post and Oakland Cemetery
|Confederate General John Bell Hood observed part of the Battle of Atlanta from a vantage point on high ground near the present-day Oakland Cemetery Visitors Center (Bell Tower).||
|Confederate Obelisk, dedicated to the memory of "Our Confederate Dead," Oakland Cemetery, Atlanta, Georgia. Postcard made in Germany, ca. 1910.|
Established in 1850, when its original six acres were purchased east of the city for use as a municipal burial ground, Oakland Cemetery was first known as Atlanta Cemetery. In 1856, several hundred yards north of the original cemetery, James E. Williams, who would serve as Atlanta's mayor after the Civil War (1866–1868), built a residence on high ground. On the afternoon of July 22, 1864, the second floor of the Williams House served as a vantage point from which General John Bell Hood, commander of the Confederate forces, and his staff observed troop movements and perhaps battlefield action. Hood witnessed two Confederate divisions, Brown's and Clayton's, move from within Atlanta's inner fortifications and march eastward astride the Georgia Railroad tracks (now the MARTA commuter rail line and CSX railroad tracks visible from the cemetery) to attack the Federal Fifteenth Corps, Army of the Tennessee, in the vicinity of what is now Dekalb and Degress Avenues, one and one-quarter miles from the Williams House. A Georgia Historical Commission marker located in the northern part of Oakland Cemetery, near the Bell Tower (visitors center), indicates the site of the Williams House. Hood, who was able to ride a horse despite his debilitating war wounds and leg amputation, also may have used the nearby home of Lucius J. Gartrell for an observation post during the battle.20 Gartrell's house was located on high ground north of the railroad tracks, opposite Oakland Cemetery.
|Confederate Memorial Day ceremonies, Oakland Cemetery, Atlanta, Georgia, April 26, ca. 1881, Leslie's Illustrated Weekly. Sketch by James Henry Moser.|
|Oakland Cemetery, Atlanta, Georgia. Battle of Atlanta map by Michael Page, 2014.|
John Bell Hood graduated forty-fourth in a class of fifty-two from West Point in 1853 and was the youngest of the eight full generals of the Confederacy. At the military academy he had been in the same class as James. B. McPherson, John M. Schofield, and Philip H. Sheridan of the Federal Army, the first two of whom fought against Hood in the Battle of Atlanta. Future Confederate generals also attended West Point at the same time as Hood. J. E. B. Stuart and William D. Pender, both of whom graduated in 1854, would emerge with Hood as outstanding young officers in Lee's Army of Northern Virginia during the pinnacle of its success in the summer of 1862. In combat that summer, under Lee's command at Gaines Mill, Second Manassas, and Antietam, Hood saw how bold assaults could turn the tide of battle. Hood performed impressively, if not decisively, in all three battles, reinforcing for him the importance of daring leadership and hard fighting—displayed at Atlanta two years later. Battlefield aggressiveness, not tactical brilliance, distinguished Hood as a brigade and division commander in the Army of Northern Virginia. When promoted to army commander, his skill at independent command was found wanting. Still, he emerged from some of the bloodiest, early battles in the Civil War physically unscathed and with a reputation for combat bravery. His luck ran out as the war went on. At Gettysburg in July 1863, Hood sustained a severe wound to his left arm, after which he recovered only limited use of that extremity. Two months later at Chickamauga, Georgia, a bullet shattered his right thigh bone, and Hood's right leg was amputated just below the hip. As a result of his wounds, Hood could not walk without crutches and required a body servant to get dressed, mount a horse, and complete many other activities of daily living.
|Lieutenant General John Bell Hood, commander of the Confederate Army of Tennessee. Photographic print.|
Hood's leadership at Chickamauga won him a promotion to lieutenant general on February 11, 1864, and later that month he joined the Army of Tennessee in Dalton, Georgia as a corps commander. He served in that role until July 17, 1864, when Confederate President Jefferson Davis lost patience with General Joseph E. Johnston's command of the Army of Tennessee and replaced Johnston with Hood. When asked by Davis, Lee had advised against this change in command. "Hood is a bold fighter," Lee said. "I am doubtful as to other qualities necessary."21 When news of the change in Confederate command reached Federal General William T. Sherman, he asked Schofield, Hood's classmate at West Point, about Hood. Schofield replied that Hood was "bold even to rashness" and "courageous in the extreme."22
Oakland Cemetery provides a tangible link to Atlanta and the Civil War, both as a site where Hood established an observation post during the Battle of Atlanta and as the most prominent public space in the city used by residents and visitors to commemorate the war dead and the Lost Cause of the Confederacy. Oakland extended beyond its original boundaries through a series of expansions, and by 1867 it reached its current size of eighty-eight acres. During the Civil War a section immediately east of the original six acres was set aside for war dead. Now known as the Confederate section, this plot of land is the burial site of nearly seven thousand soldiers, including three thousand unknowns. Many of the Confederate dead were reinterred in Oakland Cemetery after members of the Atlanta Ladies Memorial Association and their spouses raised funds in 1867 to remove bodies from the shallow graves on the battlefields near Atlanta. The last row of the Confederate section "C" contains the remains of Federal soldiers who were captured and died in Confederate hospitals. The Federal headstones have shields on them. The Confederate headstones have either "CSA" (Confederate States of America) or "Confederate" on them.
|Advertisement for the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, sculpted from Tate, Georgia, marble, National Geographic 53, no. 2 (February 1928): 4.|
The Ladies Memorial Association also erected two large monuments that mark the space set aside for the war dead: a sixty-five-foot-tall obelisk of Stone Mountain granite and a six-foot-high statue of a grieving lion carved from a fifteen-ton piece of Tate, Georgia, marble and modeled after the renowned Lion of Lucerne in Switzerland. The base of the Confederate Obelisk was set in place on October 15, 1870, the day of Robert E. Lee's funeral. The shaft memorializing "Our Confederate Dead" was unveiled on Confederate Memorial Day, April 26, 1874. The obelisk is the focal point for the entire Confederate section and for decades provided the backdrop for annual Confederate Memorial Day celebrations. At the time of the obelisk's dedication it was the tallest structure in Atlanta, equivalent in height to a three-story building. The Lion of Atlanta, like the much larger Swiss statue, symbolizes the agonizing death struggle of an armed force in defeat, overwhelmed by its opponent but honored for bravery. In Atlanta, the monument commemorates the unknown Confederate dead, whose remains are buried in the surrounding plot; in Lucerne, the carving that Mark Twain called "the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world"23 is dedicated to the approximately 600 Swiss Guards who died while unsuccessfully defending the French royal family in August 1792, during the French Revolution.24 In each instance, a dying lion, mortally wounded by a lance driven through its back, clutches an emblem of the lost cause for which it fought: a Confederate battle flag in Atlanta and the French fleur-de-lis in Lucerne. The Lucerne statue was sculpted in 1820–1821 with the support of Swiss aristocrats seeking the backing of Bourbon monarchs who had been restored to the French throne.25 Following the instructions of the Ladies Memorial Association, Thomas M. Brady of Canton, Georgia sculpted the Atlanta version, completing the statue in 1894.26 It was dedicated on April 26 of that year. Twenty five years later, sculptor Daniel Chester French used white marble quarried in Tate, Georgia, for his colossal Abraham Lincoln Memorial statue in Washington, DC. Thus, marble from the same small town in Pickens County went to sculpt a memorial to thousands of unknown Confederate dead as well as a monument to the war's best known casualty.
|Lion of Lucerne postcard, Lucerne, Switzerland, ca. 1910. Model for the Lion of Atlanta.
||Lion of Atlanta, commemorating the unknown Confederate dead buried in the surrounding plot in Oakland Cemetery, 2009. Photograph by Matt Miller.|
Commemorating the surrender of Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston to Federal General William T. Sherman in 1865, near Durham, North Carolina, April 26 is Confederate Memorial Day in Georgia and in many former states of the Confederacy. Johnston's surrender, following Lee's on April 9 to Grant at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, removed the last large Confederate Army from the field. Until 1984 Confederate Memorial Day was a statutory Georgia holiday, marked in Atlanta by a procession of as many as ten thousand people from downtown to Oakland Cemetery for ceremonies and speeches.
Bohannon, Keith S. "'A Bold Fighter' Promoted beyond His Abilities: General John Bell Hood." In Leaders of the Lost Cause: New Perspectives on the Confederate High Command, edited by Gary W. Gallagher and Joseph T. Glatthaar. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2004.
Davis, Ren, and Davis, Helen. Atlanta's Oakland Cemetery: An Illustrated History and Guide. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2012.
Davis, Stephen. "Confederate Memorial Day in Atlanta: Old times here are nearly forgotten." Atlanta Historical Journal. Vol. 27, no. 1 (1983): 71–86.
Harwell, Richard B. "Our Confederate Dead." Atlanta Historical Bulletin. Vol. 20, no. 2 (1976): 97–109.
Kaemmerlen, Cathy J. The Historic Oakland Cemetery of Atlanta: Speaking Stones. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2007.
McMurry, Richard M. John Bell Hood and the Southern War for Independence. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1982.
Taliaferro, Tevi. Historic Oakland Cemetery. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2001.
Fort Walker and Rifle Pit
|Confederate Colonel Lemuel P. Grant designed over ten and half miles of earthwork fortifications and connecting trenches that encircled Atlanta and included Fort Walker, the sole remnant of the city’s inner defensive works.||
|Fort Walker, Grant Park, Atlanta, Georgia, ca. 1910. Vintage postcard.|
|Fort Walker, located in present-day Grant Park, Atlanta, Georgia, with Union troops encamped north of the fort, October, 1864. Photograph by George H. Barnard. Courtesy of US Military Academy Special Collections.|
Fittingly, the Fort Walker site in Grant Park is the sole remnant of the earthen works constructed under Lemuel Grant's supervision. Other remnants of Atlanta's defensive works were evident into the twentieth century, only to be obliterated in the post–World War II era by urban growth.27 Fort Walker remains a notable Atlanta Civil War site, protected by its location in a municipal park but vulnerable to natural erosion and effacement by human visitors. It was first restored in the 1880s,28 after which it became a popular destination for visitors and a frequent subject of picture postcards. The fort was restored again in the 1930s, when the Works Progress Administration laid flagging stone—still present—to protect the broad area above the earthen wall, where the original Confederate gun battery had been placed.29 Until they were removed in the 1980s, several Civil War cannons were on display at the Fort Walker site. At the time of the Battle of Atlanta, the city was completely encircled by over ten miles of carefully planned and well-constructed fortifications that stood on average one-and-a-half miles from the city's center. These strong defensive works were completed for the most part by April 1864. Their construction was supervised by Lemuel P. Grant, after whom Atlanta's Grant Park is named. Subsequent extensions of the city's defensive perimeter in the spring and summer of 1864 increased its length. Among the add-ons was Fort Walker, a small bastion located in the southeast corner of Grant Park that was originally constructed as a separate four-gun parapet and subsequently incorporated into the main defensive line.30 The fort was named for Confederate Major General William H. T. Walker, who was killed in the Battle of Atlanta.
|Confederate fort near Atlanta, Georgia, part of the city's inner ring of fortification, 1864. Photographic print by George H. Barnard. Courtesy of Library of Congress.|
The actual look of Atlanta's earthwork fortifications in 1864 is preserved in the visual record created by George N. Barnard, a pioneering nineteenth-century photographer who documented Sherman's campaigns throughout the final year of the Civil War. Barnard also took photographs of the city itself, before, during, and after its wreckage and burning by the Yankees. His images of the city's forts after they fell to the Federals depict rugged earthen structures supported by timber frameworks, located on hilly prominences, and connected by lengthy entrenchments that could be occupied by infantry. The forts were fitted for artillery batteries, which were placed on level platforms behind gun embrasures. The grounds in front of each fort had been cleared of trees and brush for one thousand yards, leaving open lines of fire for the defenders' artillery and rifles. Some forts also were protected by abatis, felled trees with sharpened branches facing toward the enemy, and chevaux-de-frise, rows of criss-crossed, sharpened logs.
|Lemuel P. Grant, Confederate engineer responsible for the construction of Atlanta's inner fortifications, 1889, Wallace P. Reed, History of Atlanta, Georgia: With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of its Prominent Pioneers, vol. 2 (Syracuse, New York: D. Mason and Company, 1889), 168. Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University.|
Lemuel Grant, a native of Maine who at age twenty-two had moved to Atlanta before the name of the place had been changed from Terminus and Marthasville, was originally trained as a civil engineer and had no military training or experience prior to his commission in 1862 as a captain of engineers in the Confederate army. Lemuel Grant's lack of familiarity with military fortifications and the range of field artillery had consequences. The distance between the fortified line and the city's center was less than the maximum range of the Federal field artillery, and beginning July 20, 1864, the advancing Federal forces were able to cannonade Atlanta without breaching or even testing the city's fortifications. Union commander William T. Sherman decided against a direct infantry assault after reconnoitering the fortifications following the Battle of Atlanta.
|Confederate inner fortifications around Atlanta, 1864. Battle of Atlanta map by Michael Page, 2014.|
A visit to the hilltop Fort Walker site and observation of the surrounding topography show why it was a key point in Atlanta's defenses. The location provides a commanding view of the valley below and an advantageous position for a gun battery. At the base of the site is a rifle pit, visible as a shallow, semi-circular trench in front of the fort wall. In 1864, troops would have had sufficient space within the trench to stand without exposing more than their eyes and rifle barrels in a narrow opening covered by a protective timber head-log.
Rifled cannons and side arms in the Civil War were nineteenth-century technological innovations that had the potential to add substantial firing range and destructive power to both armies. Yet, gunfire between the opposing battle lines in the Civil War was typically mass volleying of rifled muskets shot at close range from linear ranks. The rifled musket's rate of fire was not fast enough in the Civil War to enable departures from standard battle lines, which resembled tightly packed Napoleonic formations. Artillery served mainly as weapons of support for infantry and cavalry, either in defending positions or bolstering attacks. Long range fire was the specialty of rifled cannons, enabling accurate cannonading at a mile and maximum ranges in excess of two miles. Casualties inflicted by artillery typically accounted for a small proportion of Confederate and Federal losses. The majority of battlefield injuries and fatalities resulted from rifle fire, and protracted shooting at close range, often under a hundred yards, characterized many Civil War battles. Firefights often dragged on until exhaustion set in or nightfall ended the combat for the day, as was the case in the Battle of Atlanta. Casualties mounted because the fighting lasted so long—approximately eight hours on the Atlanta battlefield—and less because of technological advances in weaponry.
|Remnant of Fort Walker and rifle pit, Grant Park, Atlanta, Georgia, May 10, 2014. Photograph by Daniel Pollock.|
Prior to the third year of the Civil War, battlefield tactics remained largely unchanged from earlier nineteenth-century conflicts. By 1864, two major military innovations had gained acceptance. First, the principal armies began to engage in continuous campaigning for months rather than sporadic, pitched battles that lasted hours or days. Second, soldiers on both sides had learned to dig systems of trenches and light field fortifications, which strengthened their positions and protected against enemy rifle fire. Throughout the Atlanta Campaign, Confederate military engineers oversaw construction of defensive works, such as the Kennesaw Mountain Line and Chattahoochee River Defense Line, that they prepared before the arrival of the retreating Army of Tennessee. Just prior to the battles for Atlanta, the Confederate Army in retreat toward the city constructed a nine-mile line of entrenchments outside and to the north and east of the much heavier, inner fortifications. The southerners abandoned their outer defensive line on the night of July 21 and withdrew to the city's stronger, inner line. From there they marched into positions to attack the Federals the next day. The inner fortifications were not breached during the Battle of Atlanta, but the heavy earthen works could not thwart the Federal bombardment of the city that intensified after the Yankee victory or block the subsequent military maneuvers that forced the Confederates to surrender their stronghold on September 2.
Barnard, George N. Photographic Views of Sherman's Campaign. New York: Dover Publications, 1977.
Davis, Keith F. George N. Barnard: Photographer of Sherman's Campaign. Kansas City, MO: Hallmark Cards, Inc., 1990.
Griffith, Paddy. Battle Tactics of the Civil War. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1989.
Hess, Earl J. "Tactics, Trenches, and Men in the Civil War." In On the Road to Total War: The American Civil War and the German Wars of Unification, 1861–1871, edited by Stig Förster and Jörg Nagler. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997.
Hattaway, Herman. Reflections of a Civil War Historian: Essays on Leadership, Society, and the Art of War. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2004.
Julien, Allen P. "Atlanta's Defenses." Civil War Times Illustrated. Vol. 2 (1964): 23–24.
Hardee's Night March
|Lieutenant General William J. Hardee led a fifteen-mile overnight trek of between seventeen and eighteen thousand Confederate soldiers that culminated in their opening attack in the Battle of Atlanta.||
|Lieutenant General William J. Hardee, corp commander, Army of Tennessee. Carte de visite, albumen print.|
During the July 21 fighting at Bald Hill, Hood learned from his cavalry scouts that McPherson's advancing Army of the Tennessee, despite its increasingly strong position, was vulnerable to an attack on its left flank or rear. As the Federal army moved closer to Atlanta, Sherman sent the cavalry division that had been guarding McPherson's left flank eastward toward Covington and the Alcovy River to burn bridges and destroy Georgia Railroad tracks heading to Augusta. Sherman wanted to disrupt enough track to prevent the southerners from using the railroad to move troops and supplies from Virginia. As a result, with the Union cavalry miles away, the left end of McPherson's line presented a weak spot protected by only two brigades. If the Confederates marched south of the city then swung east and north around McPherson's exposed flank they could rout the Yankees in a surprise attack and capture or destroy the large number of Federal supply wagons parked in the Decatur town square.
|Hardee's Night March. Battle of Atlanta map by Michael Page, 2014.|
To achieve these goals, and to prevent McPherson from moving south and cutting the railroad between Atlanta and Macon, Hood devised an ambitious plan of attack on July 21 that was reminiscent of a bold flanking maneuver that Stonewall Jackson successfully executed in May 1863 against the right wing of the Federal Army of the Potomac at Chancellorsville, Virginia. Hood decided to divide his forces, keeping two corps, commanded by Alexander Stewart and Benjamin Cheatham, behind the city's inner fortifications while sending William Hardee's Corps, accompanied by Joseph Wheeler's cavalry, on a wide circling maneuver south and east of the city. Hardee and Wheeler would move out of Atlanta at nightfall, swing around McPherson's left flank, and then pounce on the Yankee's rear at daybreak, rolling up their line and destroying the supply wagons gathered in Decatur. In conjunction with this attack, Cheatham's Corps would move from behind the fortifications on Atlanta east's side in a direct frontal assault against the center of the Federal line held by McPherson and Schofield's troops. Meanwhile, Stewart's Corps would hold Thomas's Army of the Cumberland in check north of the city, preventing Federal reinforcements of McPherson and Schofield's armies and then engaging Thomas once the battle became general.
Hardee's division commanders, Confederate division commanders whose units completed Hardee's Night March, clockwise from upper left, William H. T. Walker, William B. Bate, Patrick R. Cleburne, and George E. Maney. Compilation by Christopher Sawula, 2014.
Hardee's Corps, with the exception of Cleburne's division, began its circuitous fifteen-mile march after dark on July 21. Walker's, Bate's, and Maney's divisions marched out the McDonough Road (Capitol Avenue and Hank Aaron Drive of today) to a point near the present-day state capitol, where they were joined by Cleburne's division. Cleburne's division, withdrawn into Atlanta after fighting all day at Bald Hill, joined the other three infantry divisions and Wheeler's cavalry around midnight. Once assembled, the entire column amounted to between seventeen and eighteen thousand foot and horse soldiers. Moving beyond the city limits, the trek continued in a southeasterly direction for five or six miles on the McDonough Road (along present-day McDonough Boulevard, except for the final mile and a half, which is now Moreland Avenue). After reaching its southernmost point, at or near the South River, Hardee's Corps and Wheeler's cavalry turned northeast on Fayetteville Road, then a winding, red dirt track that led to Decatur.
Hardee's Corps marched a mile and a quarter on the Fayetteville Road to Cobb's Mill on Intrenchment Creek, three miles below the southern end of McPherson's line. Hardee's troops reached Cobb's Mill at dawn, several hours behind schedule, and Hardee and his division commanders met William Cobb at his house north of the Creek. They recruited mill owner Cobb and a mill worker named Case Turner to serve as guides. To this point the route had been relatively clear, but Cobb and Turner said the way ahead included a tangled wilderness of forest and undergrowth and Terry's Mill Pond, a wide span of water resulting from the impoundment of Sugar Creek, northwest of where the Fayetteville Road crossed the creek. The wilderness march ahead would be particularly slow going for the Confederate foot soldiers, all of whom had marched all night and many of whom had fought at Peachtree Creek on July 20. The Confederate column continued its advance northward on the Fayetteville Road for a mile and a half beyond Cobb's Mill to a road fork where Hardee's Corps split into two columns. Cleburne's and Maney's divisions took the left fork and marched northwest. When they reached Flat Shoals Road (which existed in 1864), they deployed on either side of the road and moved toward the left flank of McPherson's army, which was aligned in an entrenched position in what is now East Atlanta. Walker's and Bate's column took the right fork and moved northeast on the Fayetteville Road, toward their eventual encounter with Union infantry positioned in what is now Atlanta's Kirkwood neighborhood. However, instead of keeping on the road, Walker turned northwest as it crossed Sugar Creek, followed by Bate's column, likely in an effort to keep contact with Cleburne's and Maney's divisions. Wheeler's cavalry continued on the Fayetteville Road towards Decatur and the Federal wagon park.
|William Cobb's house, where Confederate corp commander William J. Hardee and staff stopped on their night march, July 21–22, 1864. Photo of unknown origin, May 1, 1905.|
Walker's and Bate's divisions made slow progress along Sugar Creek's densely overgrown banks. The country road had been wide and clear, but maintaining alignment in the heavily wooded terrain bordering the stream contributed to mounting delays. The plodding march through wilderness slowed further when the Confederates encountered Terry's Mill Pond. The mill pond, which no longer exists, was at least a half-mile long, almost equally as wide, and reached depths of ten feet. Veering left around the western side of the mill pond took considerable time and further delayed the Confederate attack, already hours behind schedule. A Georgia historical marker titled "Terry's Mill Pond," locates the north end of the pond on Glenwood Avenue near its I-20 interchange.
|Historical markers at Intrenchment Creek, April 28, 2014. Photograph by Daniel Pollock.|
After marching all night and through the morning, Hardee's Corps arrived late but ready to advance against McPherson's Army of the Tennessee shortly before noon on July 22. Since Hardee did not know where McPherson's left flank terminated, he had sought to align his four divisions abreast, facing northward. Just prior to battle, Hardee's four divisions formed a crescent from left to right: Maney on the extreme left, west of Flat Shoals Road; Cleburne deployed to Maney's right, on and east of Flat Shoals Road; Walker in the Sugar Creek Valley, just north of Terry's Mill Pond and south of present-day Memorial Drive; and Bate on the far right, adjacent to present-day Memorial Drive. However, by the time Hardee's Corps was ready to strike McPherson's Army, the Federal left wing had changed its configuration so that the Confederates would assault a well-protected flank rather than the Yankees's rear. At Chancellorsville, Stonewall Jackson had placed his troops behind the Eleventh Federal Army Corps as he had planned to do, but east of Atlanta, Hardee's Corps completed its long march six hours behind schedule and was not in position to mount the devastating attack on the Union rear that Hood had envisioned.
Connelly, Thomas L. Autumn of Glory: The Army of Tennessee, 1862–1865. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1971.
Hinde, Paul. "The Great Night March of Hardee's Corps." Inn Dixie (May 1937): 5, 6, 17, 19, 20.
Hughes, Nathaniel C. General William J. Hardee: Old Reliable. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1965.
Kurtz, Wilbur G. "The Death of Major General W.H.T. Walker, July 22, 1864." Civil War History. Vol. 6, no. 2 (1960): 174–179.
Death of General Walker
|A Federal soldier mortally wounded Confederate division commander Major General William H. T. Walker while he was scouting the Union infantry’s position just before the Battle of Atlanta.||
|Walker Monument, original placement in 1902, Confederate Veteran, July 1902.|
After a lengthy, circuitous march, the Confederate corps under Lieutenant General William J. Hardee's command expected to catch the Yankee flank unprotected, as Stonewall Jackson did at Chancellorsville, but instead during the morning of July 22, Federal Major General James B. McPherson had moved his reserve forces into position to protect his army's left flank. The Yankee position resembled a capital "L," with the lower, horizontal portion well placed to intercept the impending Rebel attack, which otherwise would have struck a weak spot at the end of the Federal left wing. As Hardee's Corps prepared to break from its cover and begin its delayed assault, Federal skirmishers were positioned in the field ahead. Confederate Major General William H. T. Walker, while readying his division for attack, rode forward on horseback to reconnoiter the area and likely was killed at that moment, near Sugar Creek, by a Federal Sixteenth Corps infantryman. Case Turner, the civilian guide who accompanied Walker on the final stretch of the night march, and several Confederate veterans of the Battle of Atlanta provided differing accounts of when and where the general was mortally wounded. However, Walker clearly was one of the first casualties of the battle, and with or without him leading the way, his troops were among the first to make contact with Yankees. An upright cannon monument to mark the approximate location of Walker's death was placed on Glenwood Avenue, a short distance west of present-day I-20, and dedicated on July 22, 1902. In 1936, the monument was moved to its present location, a short distance east of I-20 at the intersection of Glenwood and Wilkinson Drive, after research by Colonel Howard Landers of the Army War College indicated that Walker was killed near the newer site.
Walker, an Augusta, Georgia, plantation owner and a distinguished veteran of the regular US Army, was physically brave and aggressive and temperamentally argumentative and volatile. His multiple wounds in the Seminole and Mexican wars earned him the nickname "Old Shot Pouch" and compromised his health to such an extent that he could sleep only while sitting up. An ardent defender of slavery and a staunch secessionist, Walker submitted his resignation from the regular US army on December 15, 1860, even before South Carolina left the Union. He was the first officer to give up his commission. Walker spurned the Montgomery government's initial offer to make him a Confederate colonel, holding out for a higher rank. He eventually was appointed a brigadier general, then major general in the Vicksburg Campaign.
Walker bitterly opposed Confederate Major General Patrick Cleburne's proposal in January 1864 that the South arm slaves, train them as soldiers, and free those who fought for the Confederacy. At a meeting of Army of Tennessee corps and division commanders convened by Hardee on January 2, 1864—for the sole purpose of hearing Cleburne's arguments for arming and emancipating slaves—Walker exploded in anger and denounced Cleburne as an abolitionist and a traitor. Later that month, Walker assured that an intermediary hand-delivered a copy of Cleburne's memorandum to Jefferson Davis, a calculated maneuver in which Walker bypassed his corps and army commanders and violated military protocol. The Confederate president's response was what Walker sought. Davis ordered General Joseph E. Johnston, then commander of the Army of Tennessee, to suppress the proposal and forbid any further discussion of arming and emancipating slaves. Cleburne's death at the Battle of Franklin on November 30, 1864, helped enforce the official gag order. No copy of Cleburne's proposal surfaced again until 1884.31
|Wilbur Kurtz at Terry's Mill Pond historical marker, Glenwood Drive and Wilkinson Drive, Atlanta, Georgia, Atlanta Journal and Constitution Magazine, March 1957.|
Walker's heated response to the Confederate emancipation proposal helped solidify his reputation as a firebrand. In life and death, he epitomized the antebellum ideology expressed most fervently by the slaveholding elite and its political leaders about the justness of a society in which masters and slaves purportedly both benefited from the bonds of mutual obligation. The upright cannon dedicated to Walker's memory on July 22, 1902, in East Atlanta became one of many landmarks constructed in the South at the turn of the century that commemorated the heroes and cause of the Confederacy. Because these public monuments typically valorized individual heroism above the causes for which the war was fought, they also served a larger purpose of white, sectional reconciliation. Southern war remembrance at the turn of the century emphasized a resurgent American nationalism that marginalized the problems of slavery, race, and emancipation. As historian David Blight notes:
"In the half century after the war, as the sections reconciled, by and large, the races divided. Race was so deeply at the root of the war's causes and consequences, and so powerful a source of division in American social psychology that it served as the antithesis of a culture of reconciliation. The memory of slavery, emancipation, and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments never fit well into a developing narrative in which the Old and New South were romanticized and welcomed back to a new nationalism, and in which devotion alone made everyone right, and no one truly wrong in the remembered Civil War."32
|Major General Oliver Otis Howard, former commander of the Union Army of the Tennessee. Photographic print, ca. 1908.|
The dedication of the Walker monument on the thirty-eighth anniversary of the Battle of Atlanta was a gala celebration that the Atlanta Constitution featured the following day. Among the two thousand attendees were Union veterans, including retired Federal General Oliver Otis Howard, who had a minimal role in the battle but succeeded McPherson as commander of the Army of the Tennessee on July 27, 1864. Howard told the Atlanta Constitution that he had known Walker at West Point and that "Nothing gives me more pleasure than to take part in an affair of this kind."33 Howard's post-war career included a stint as Commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau, established by Congress in May 1865 to help former slaves make the transition to freedom. Howard also had a pivotal role in launching the university named in his honor in Washington, DC, and served as its president from 1869 to 1873. At the Walker monument's dedication, the event's main speaker was Julius L. Brown, the leading fund raiser for the monument, who lauded Howard's attendance in the rhetoric of North-South reconciliation: "What stronger evidence could be given that all sectional strife is ended, and that we are now united as one people, no matter what the demagogues may say?"34
Anonymous. "Monument to General Walker Is Unveiled Before Thousands." Atlanta Constitution, July 23, 1902.
Bishir, Catherine W. "Landmarks of Power: Building a Southern Past, 1885–1915." In Where These Memories Grow: History, Memory, and Southern Identity, edited by W. Fitzhugh Brundage. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000.
Brown, Russell K. To the Manner Born: The Life of General William H. T. Walker. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1994.
Faust, Drew Gilpin. The Creation of Confederate Nationalism: Ideology and Identity in the Civil War South. Baton Rouge: Louisiana University Press, 1988.
Garrett, Franklin M. Atlanta and Environs: A Chronicle of Its People and Events. Vol. 1. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1954.
Kurtz, Wilbur G. "The Death of Major General William H. T. Walker, July 22, 1864." Civil War History. Vol. 6, no. 2 (1960): 174–179.
Levine, Bruce. Confederate Emancipation: Southern Plans to Free and Arm Slaves During the War. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.
McFeeley, William S. Yankee Stepfather: General O. O. Howard and the Freedmen. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1968.
Where the Battle Began
|Federal infantry and artillery batteries positioned on high ground in the vicinity of the present-day Alonzo Crim High School fended off the opening Confederate attack in the Battle of Atlanta.||
|Noon, July 22, 1864. Battle of Atlanta map by Michael Page, 2014.|
Shortly after noon on July 22, 1864, two Confederate divisions under the command of Brigadier General Hugh Mercer (who replaced the fallen William H. T. Walker) and Major General William B. Bate emerged from the heavily wooded, underbrush laden terrain east of Atlanta after an arduous fifteen-mile march and, moving north and northwest respectively, launched the first attack in the Battle of Atlanta. These two divisions, half of the Confederate infantry led by Lieutenant General William J. Hardee on the long march that had begun at nightfall on July 21, expected to move forward unopposed against the rear of Federal Major General James. B. McPherson's Army of the Tennessee. Instead, Mercer's and Bate's divisions encountered Union infantry and artillery occupying an advantageous position along high ground in the vicinity of present-day Alonzo Crim High School, at the intersection of Clifton Street and Memorial Drive. Most of the Union troops, elements of the Federal Sixteenth Corps commanded by Major General Grenville M. Dodge, had arrived in their positions late in the morning, and Yankee reinforcements rapidly moved into action when the opening shots were fired. As a result, the Federals had the upper hand in the first clash of the Battle of Atlanta, and they used their advantage to repel the Confederate's surprise attack.
|Post-war illustration of Union Brigadier General John Fuller planting the US flag on the Atlanta Battlefield, July 22, 1864. Print by James E. Taylor. Courtesy of the New York Public Library.|
When the fighting started, the three Union corps that comprised McPherson's Army of the Tennessee were deployed along a several mile front that resembled a capital "L", with the longer vertical portion extending north–south alongside or near the present-day Moreland Avenue (which did not exist in 1864), and the shorter horizontal segment extending east–west, parallel to the present-day Glenwood Avenue and Memorial Drive. The Fifteenth Corps, commanded by Major General John A. Logan, was located near the top of the long part of the "L," facing Atlanta to the west and spread across the Georgia Railroad (the tracks of which ran along the railroad bed now used by Metropolitan Area Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) and CSX Transportation).
Logan's line connected on its right with the left of Major General John M. Schofield's Army of the Ohio's Twenty-Third Corps, which was located in the vicinity of Sherman's temporary headquarters at the Augustus Hurt House (near the present-day Jimmy Carter Presidential Library). The Twenty-Third Corps infantry was only lightly engaged in the Battle of Atlanta, but its artillery had a role in the late afternoon fighting near the Troup Hurt House. Logan's left connected with the Seventeenth Corps under Major General Frank P. Blair. Brigadier General Mortimer D. Leggett's division of the Seventeenth Corps was positioned at Bald Hill, the high point of a lengthy ridge that ran in a north–south direction along the course of present-day Moreland Avenue. Bald Hill, which Union troops renamed Leggett's Hill after the battle, was located at the intersection of what is now Moreland Avenue and I-20. Highway construction during the early 1960s leveled the hill. To Leggett's left was Brigadier General Giles Smith's division of the Seventeenth Corps, which held a line that extended southeast from the hill along Flat Shoals Road (present-day Flat Shoals Avenue) to Glenwood Avenue. Together, the Federal Twenty-Third, Fifteenth, and Seventeenth Corps formed an approximately two-mile entrenched line (the vertical portion of the "L") that extended from the grounds of the present-day Carter Presidential Library southward to what is now the intersection of Flat Shoals Road and Glenwood Avenue in East Atlanta.
The shorter, horizontal segment of the Federal army's "L"-shaped line was filled by three brigades of Major General Grenville M. Dodge's Sixteenth Corps, two from the division commanded by Brigadier General Thomas W. Sweeny and one from the division of Brigadier General John W. Fuller. Sweeny's and Fuller's divisions had been in reserve before moving into their battlefield positions on the morning of July 22. Sweeny's brigades moved first, marching south from the present-day Candler Park to a position at the far end of the lower part of the "L," near today's Alonzo Crim High School, at Clifton Street and Memorial Drive. The head of Sweeny's column, a brigade commanded by Colonel August Mersy, was aligned along an east–west road (present-day Memorial Drive) perpendicular to the rest of Sweeny's line, a brigade commanded by Brigadier General Elliott W. Rice, which was behind Mersy's troops and positioned along Clay Road (present-day Clay Street). After Sweeny's column arrived, Morrill's brigade of Brigadier General John W. Fuller's division moved southward from where it had been in reserve, behind the Seventeenth Corps line at Leggett's Hill. Fuller's troops were deployed to Sweeny's right and occupied a position extending from present-day Memorial Drive southeastward toward the present site of the McPherson Monument. Together, Sweeny and Fuller's troops formed a line approximately three-fourths of a mile long, Artillery batteries from both divisions were placed on the hill where the high school is now located. These batteries faced south and east, the directions from which the Mercer's and Bate's Confederate divisions soon would sweep forward. The attacking Confederates did not expect to encounter three brigades with cannons aimed at them from high ground. Still, they charged again and again.
The advantageous elevation held by the Union troops can be appreciated today from the eastern edge of grounds of the Alonzo Crim High School. Looking eastward along Memorial Drive and across the adjacent terrain provides a view of the lay of the land from the Yankees' vantage point. Their commanding defensive position enabled them to strike a decisive blow against the Confederate column that attacked from the east. However, in a nearby sector of the battlefield the Federal defense was vulnerable. Between the two segments of the "L" formed by the Union Army was a half-mile gap that would cause serious problems for the Yankees.
|Union Brigadier General Thomas W. Sweeny, ca. 1865. Wet plate negative.||Union Brigadier General John W. Fuller, ca. 1865.|
The fighting between Fuller's and Sweeny's units of Dodge's Sixteenth Corps and Bate's and Mercer's divisions of Hardee's Corps was among the few engagements late in the Civil War in which the opposing forces met in the open field, with no earthen works to protect either side. The Federal infantry, supported with artillery fire, beat back the Confederates, but a Rebel column maneuvered into the half-mile gap in the Yankee's line and made threatening progress against Morrill's right flank. Georgia and South Carolina infantry, under the command of Brigadier General States Rights Gist of Mercer's division, caught Morrill's right exposed and opened intense fire. At this critical moment in the battle, Fuller realigned Morrill's brigade, which formed a line on either side of its division commander and charged eastward toward Gist's Brigade. Fuller's action is depicted by in a post-war illustration by James E. Taylor that shows the brigadier general planting the national colors and marking the new battle line for his brigade. Gist attempted to rally his troops, but they were driven back and forced to withdraw. Gist was injured and four months later was one of six Confederate generals killed at the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee. He is remembered for his battlefield bravery and his unusual first and middle names, inspired by the clash between South Carolina and the Federal government known as the Nullification Crisis of 1828 to 1833.
The successful Federal counterattack against Gist's Brigade, spearheaded by Fuller, brought to an end the first phase of the Battle of Atlanta. The Federal Sixteenth Corps had been well positioned to ward off the threat posed by Hardee's Corps to the rear of the Union Army. By repulsing Hardee's two right divisions, the Federal Sixteenth Corps took the sting out of the Confederates' surprise attack. The subsequent assault by Hardee's two left divisions, under Cleburne and Maney, would be a charge against the entrenched Federal flank, far from the Union rear. Still, the initial Confederate exploitation of a gap in the Yankee line, presaged greater gains, albeit temporary, from the ensuing attacks against the Federal Seventeenth and Fifteenth Corps.
Castel, Albert. Decision in the West: The Atlanta Campaign of 1864. Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1992.
Clauss, Errol M. "The Atlanta Campaign 18 July–2 September 1864." PhD diss., Emory University, 1965.
Ecelbarger, Gary. The Day Dixie Died: The Battle of Atlanta. New York: Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press, 2010.
Woodworth, Steven E. Nothing but Victory: The Army of the Tennessee, 1861–1865. New York: Alfred P. Knopf, 2005.
Death of General McPherson
|A Confederate infantryman killed Major General James B. McPherson, when the commander of the Federal Army of the Tennessee inadvertently rode behind enemy lines early in the Battle of Atlanta.||
|Union Major General James B. McPherson. Carte de visite, albumen print.|
Federal Major General James B. McPherson, in command of the Army of the Tennessee, feared an impending attack by the Confederate Army of Tennessee on the morning of July 22, 1864. He met briefly with General William T. Sherman, overall commander of the Union armies advancing on Atlanta, at the Augustus Hurt House, Sherman's temporary headquarters. McPherson quickly convinced Sherman to reinforce the Federal left wing rather than send troops to the rear to tear up railroad tracks. When the conversation concluded, McPherson and his staff left on horseback to inspect the line of the Army of the Tennessee. Years later, Sherman recalled this final meeting: "McPherson was then in his prime (about thirty-four years old), over six feet high, and a very handsome man in every way, was universally liked, and had many noble qualities. He had on his boots outside his pantaloons, gauntlets on his hands, had on his major-general's uniform, and wore a sword belt, but no sword."35 After completing his inspection, McPherson stopped to confer with two of his corps commanders, Major General John A. Logan and Major General Frank P. Blair, near the Georgia Railroad (now the MARTA commuter line and CSX railroad tracks), at the present-day intersection of Dekalb and Whitefoord Avenues. A historic marker at that location, titled "Noon Under the Trees," describes the lunchtime meeting and its sudden conclusion: "This pleasant respite of discussion & cigars was broken by volley firing to the S.E. The Battle of Atlanta had begun." McPherson quickly mounted his horse and galloped south to the sound of the mounting gunfire, Within minutes he arrived at a hill near the intersection of present-day Memorial Drive and East Side Avenue, where he watched infantry and artillery units of Dodge's Sixteenth Corps fend off the initial Confederate assaults on their positions. The knoll from which McPherson viewed the opening phase of the battle remains visible as high ground on Memorial Drive, where a Georgia Historical Marker near East Side Avenue describes "McPherson's Last Ride." When he was satisfied that Dodge's troops were holding their ground, McPherson turned his attention to the one-half mile gap in the Federal line that separated the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Corps. By now, the two Confederate divisions on Hardee's left, commanded by Major General Patrick R. Cleburne and Brigadier General George Maney, were poised for attack. Cleburne's division struck first, hitting the seam between the two Union corps, and was later joined by Maney's division, to Cleburne's left, which began applying pressure to front of the Seventeenth Corps.
|Death of General McPherson. Illustration by James E. Taylor, 1888. Courtesy of Notre Dame Archives.|
McPherson rode toward this engagement, across the gap in the Federal line, and along a narrow forest road that ran in an east–west direction parallel to present-day McPherson Avenue. The road had been overtaken by Cleburne's advancing infantry, a contingent of which encountered McPherson on horseback, accompanied by a lone aide. Confederate skirmishers called upon McPherson to surrender, but his only response was to tip his hat, turn his horse, and try to escape. He was shot from his saddle by a single bullet and soon died where he had fallen to the ground. When Federal troops temporarily reoccupied the wooded area where McPherson had been killed, they retrieved his body, which was then transported by wagon to Sherman's temporary headquarters at the Augustus Hurt House. An upright cannon monument, erected in 1877 and located at the intersection of Monument and McPherson Avenues in East Atlanta, marks the spot where McPherson was killed.
McPherson was the highest ranking Union general killed in combat during the Civil War. His death, at age thirty-five, was deeply mourned by Sherman and Grant, both of whom considered McPherson to be a protégé whose accomplishments would surpass their own. The day after the Battle of Atlanta, Sherman wrote in a letter to the adjutant general of the US Army that "we have lost not only an able military Leader, but a man who had he survived was qualified to heal the National Strife."36 McPherson graduated first in his West Point class of 1853, obtained his top choice of post-graduate duty in the Corps of Engineers, and was assigned during the pre-war years to projects in the New York and San Francisco harbors. In San Francisco, he met and became engaged to Emily Hoffman, a member of a socially prominent and staunchly pro-Confederate Baltimore family. The start of the war sealed the Hoffman family's opposition to her engagement, but she and McPherson remained committed to their marriage plans. Once the war began, those plans were put on hold, and McPherson was assigned to service under Grant. McPherson's battlefield achievements in Tennessee in 1862 and at Vicksburg, Mississippi, the following year, coupled with Grant's complete confidence in him, account for his meteoric rise through the ranks. At Grant's behest, McPherson was promoted to brigadier general and then major general. In March 1864, when Grant was promoted to general-in-chief of the Union armies, Sherman took Grant's place as overall commander in the Western theater, and McPherson assumed command of Sherman's old Army of the Tennessee. Before learning of his new role, McPherson planned a twenty-day furlough and embarked on a trip to Baltimore to marry Emily Hoffman. En route, he learned of his promotion and was ordered to travel immediately to Huntsville, Alabama, to help plan the Atlanta campaign. He reluctantly abided by his orders and returned from his furlough. He and Emily Hoffman never saw each other again. McPherson led the Army of the Tennessee throughout the Atlanta campaign, until he was killed on July 22, 1864. On August 5, General Sherman wrote to Emily Hoffman: "Why should deaths darts reach the young and brilliant instead of older men who could better have been spared. Nothing that I could record will Elevate him more in your minds Memory, but I could tell you many things that would form a bright halo about his image."37
|Blue-Gray reunion at the McPherson Monument, Albert Shaw, center-forward, with umbrella, July 1900. Illustration.|
In 1877, a group of US Army officers stationed in Atlanta at the tail-end of the military occupation of the South committed themselves to erecting a monument to memorialize McPherson at the exact location in East Atlanta where he had been fatally shot. The officers used their personal funds to purchase the land where the monument still stands. The US War Department provided a large iron cannon, which was mounted in an upright position on a block of Stone Mountain granite bearing the simple inscription "McPherson." Custody of the monument, once erected, was transferred to the Society of the Army of the Tennessee, one of many veterans' groups, North and South, which sought to uphold the memory, reputation, and accomplishments of their specific groups in the post-war years. The Society of the Army of the Tennessee already had honored McPherson with a much grander monument in Washington, DC, an equestrian statue of their former commander, located less than three blocks from the White House in what is now known as McPherson Square. President Grant, members of his cabinet, and General Sherman, who had been promoted to general-in-chief of the US Army, attended the dedication ceremonies on October 19, 1876. The main speaker was John A. Logan, who succeeded McPherson as Commander of the Army of the Tennessee in the Battle of Atlanta and, after the war, served as a national leader of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), the largest of all the Union veterans groups. Logan delivered a two-hour oration in which he traced McPherson's life and hailed him as a martyr and irreplaceable comrade.
|Scene of General McPherson's death, Atlanta, Georgia, ca. 1864. Detail of wet collodion by George Barnard.|
The McPherson monument in East Atlanta, the nearby Walker monument, and thousands of other outdoor memorials erected throughout the North and South in the postwar era served as focal points for public remembrance of particular heroes and events. Monuments figured prominently in rituals of remembrance, such as dedication ceremonies, Memorial Day celebrations, and veterans' reunions. Speakers at these events often offered testimonials to the valor and virtue of the commemorated individuals, their military units, or even the entire cohort that fought the Civil War. Their remarks typically ignored or glossed over the sectional differences over slavery that plunged the nation into Civil War and instead emphasized post-war reconciliation between the North and South. For example, when Confederate and Union veterans met in Atlanta for a national Blue-Gray reunion in July 1900, a highlight of the three-day event was a well-orchestrated gathering of veterans at the McPherson monument that included former generals and other high ranking officers from both sides. The Atlanta Constitution, paraphrasing the remarks of Albert Shaw, commander-in-chief of the largest Union veterans' group, the Grand Army of the Republic, editorialized that "there were neither rebels nor traitors in a cause where all answered the call of constituted authority." The Constitution encouraged its readers to leave the "argument as to causes to the historians" and added that "Atlanta, wrecked and burned by war, has arisen as an evangel of reconciliation, equal to the present and the future without surrendering a single iota of the past."38
Brown, Thomas J. The Public Art of Civil War Commemoration: A Brief History with Documents. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2004.
Castel, Albert. Decision in the West: The Atlanta Campaign of 1864. Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1992.
Hassler, William W. "James Birdseye McPherson—A Profile." Civil War Times Illustrated. Vol. 6, no. 7 (1967): 36–44.
Herbert, Sidney. "The Monument to McPherson." Army and Navy Journal. Vol. 15, no. 6 (1877): 139.
Jacob, Kathryn A. Testament to Union: Civil War Monuments in Washington, D.C. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998.
Kurtz, Wilbur G. "Civil War Days in Georgia: No. 7—McPherson's Last Ride: The Route Taken by the Commander of the Army of the Tennessee, When He Kept His Rendezvous with Death; July 22, 1864." Atlanta Constitution Sunday Magazine, June 29, 1930.
Smith, Tamara A. "Grant and James B. McPherson," In Grant's Lieutenants: From Cairo to Vicksburg, edited by Steven E. Woodworth. Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 2001.
Whaley, Elizabeth J. Forgotten Hero: General James B. McPherson. New York: Exposition Press, 1955.
Woodworth, Steven E. Nothing but Victory: The Army of the Tennessee, 1861–1865. New York: Alfred P. Knopf, 2005.
|Entrenched Union infantry on Leggett's Hill held off intense attacks by Confederate troops, that attempted to capture the high ground at this location, the most important strategic position in the Battle of Atlanta.||
|Union Brigadier General Mortimer D. Leggett. Carte de visite, albumen print.||Union Brigadier General Manning F. Force. Carte de visite, albumen print.|
Bald Hill—named Leggett's Hill by the Yankees after the struggle for its control on July 22, 1864—was the scene of ferocious fighting in the Battle of Atlanta. Opposing troops fired on each other at murderously close range and at times engaged in hand-to-hand combat, aided by bayonets and clubbed rifles. Some Federal units entrenched on the hill fended off Confederate attacks from the flank, rear, and front, jumping from one side of their earthworks to the other to repel charges from different directions. The southerners suffered severe casualties in their nearly continuous wave of attacks on July 22, but they came close to dislodging the Yankees from the strategic high ground before being checked. Brigadier General Mortimer D. Leggett, whose division of the Union's Seventeenth Corps captured the round-topped eminence on July 21 and successfully defended it the next day, praised the performance of Brigadier General Manning F. Force and his brigade. Leggett noted in a speech to a veteran's group after the war that the hill ought to have been named "Force's Hill," to fairly credit the Federal officer and his troops for their unsurpassed steadiness and gallantry in combat. Wounded in the face during the fighting for the hill on July 22, Force was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor on March 31, 1892. The Battle of Atlanta Cyclorama shows Force in a horse-drawn ambulance being carried to Sherman's temporary headquarters at the Augustus Hurt House.
|Blue-Gray reunion, Leggett's Hill, 1906, Confederate Veteran.|
Leggett's Hill was the highest elevation on the north–south ridge line along which present-day Moreland Avenue is located and also the high point between Atlanta and Decatur. As depicted in the cyclorama and described by Wilbur Kurtz, the hill's crest was an open field that stretched from north to south for over a quarter of a mile. The hill's north, south, and east sides rose gently and were largely cleared; the western face was relatively steep and wooded. By securing the summit on July 21, the northerners won a commanding view of the entire battlefield and were in position to train cannon fire on Confederate troops when they mounted counterattacks the next day. The hill also was in artillery range of Atlanta, approximately two miles away, and the Yankees fired cannon shot into the city shortly after seizing the high ground on July 21. When the Confederates' counterattacks failed on July 22, they ceded control of the single most important strategic position east of the city. Leggett's Hill remained a battlefield landmark until the early 1960s, when it was leveled during construction of I-20. A Georgia Historical Commission marker is located at the former hill site, on the west side of Moreland Avenue as it passes over the interstate highway.
|Leggett's Hill, high ground east of Atlanta where Confederate infantry repeatedly attacked entrenched Federal troops, Battle of Atlanta Cyclorama, Atlanta, Georgia, 1886. Painting by Atlanta Panorama Company.|
Major General Patrick R. Cleburne's division of Hardee's Corps took advantage of a gap in the Federal line and launched the fierce Confederate struggle to retake Leggett's Hill on July 22. At the conclusion of Hardee's fifteen-mile night march, the two divisions on the left of Hardee's Corps, commanded by Cleburne and Brigadier General George Maney, had arrived just south of the hill shortly before noon. Cleburne's division was deployed on and east of Old Flat Shoals Road (now known as Flat Shoals Avenue) and Maney's division was positioned to Cleburne's left, west of the road. Cleburne and Maney's divisions faced the section of the entrenched Federal line held by Brigadier General Giles A. Smith's division that bent southeastward from Leggett's Hill along Old Flat Shoals Road, ending at present-day Glenwood Avenue. This section comprised the right angle in the "L" shaped Federal line that extended north along present-day Moreland Avenue (the vertical segment of the "L") and east along present-day Glenwood Avenue and Memorial Drive (the horizontal segment of the "L"). A half-mile gap between Smith's division of the Federal Seventeenth Corps and the Sixteenth Corps in Sugar Creek Valley to the east—a break in the line between the right angle and the horizontal part of the "L"—provided an opening that Cleburne's division could exploit. Cleburne's troops poured through the gap beginning about one in the afternoon, and, in the process, his skirmishers encountered and killed Federal Major General James B. McPherson. Cleburne's division, later joined by Maney's, pressed forward in a series of costly, brigade-level attacks on entrenched northern positions. During two hours of intense fighting, the southerners captured a short portion of the Union line and established themselves in the gap between the Federal Sixteenth and Seventeenth Corps. However, the Confederates failed to dislodge the vulnerable portion of the Seventeenth Corps line defending Leggett's Hill.
|Southeast side of Leggett's Hill, June 24, 1929, Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Photograph by Walter Sparks.|
Only late in the afternoon when the southerners launched a more coordinated attack from multiple directions did they drive Giles A. Smith's division from its entrenchments along Flat Shoals Road to a new position that compressed the Federal forces on Leggett's Hill and threatened a more serious rupture in the Union line. From his observation post near Oakland Cemetery, sometime between 3 and 4 p.m., Confederate Army commander General John B. Hood committed Major General Benjamin Franklin Cheatham's Corps to the offensive, sending Cheatham's three divisions from behind Atlanta's fortifications to the battlefield east of the city. These attacks took aim at the long north–south section line of the Federal Army of the Tennessee, along present-day Moreland Avenue. Major General Carter L. Stevenson's Confederate division, on Cheatham's far right, advanced against Leggett's Federal division defending the hill. Stevenson's troops are depicted in the cyclorama charging eastward across the barren hill top toward Leggett's troops entrenched at the edge of woods on the hill's western slope. Shortly after 6 p.m. the Rebel assaults came together in a simultaneous attack in which Cleburne and Stevenson's division forced all of Smith's division and part of Leggett's to fall back until the two units were completely intermingled. Despite the confusion, the veteran US troops rallied and, aided by artillery, they repelled the southerners, forcing their final retreat from Leggett's Hill. In a post-war speech to a veteran's group, Leggett summed this up phase of the Battle: "The struggle to recover the hill from us was fierce and desperate beyond description. The carnage at this point was terrible and sickening. The ground from close to our works to one hundred yards or more away was literally covered with dead."39
Purdue, Howell, and Elizabeth Purdue. Pat Cleburne: Confederate General. Hillsboro, TX: Hill Jr. College Press, 1973.
Woodworth, Steven E. Nothing but Victory: The Army of the Tennessee, 1861–1865. New York: Alfred P. Knopf, 2005.
|Two Confederate divisions moved eastward through this sector and aligned themselves for a frontal assault against nearby Federal infantry, an attack that opened the climactic phase of the Battle of Atlanta.||
|Confederate Major General Benjamin F. Cheatham, ca. 1865. Wet collodion.|
The Confederate effort to repel the advancing Federal Army of the Tennessee became a two-pronged attack during the afternoon of July 22, 1864, when the army commander General John Bell Hood ordered Major General Benjamin Franklin Cheatham's Corps forward into battle, joining Major General William J. Hardee's Corps, which had been engaged since shortly after noon. For the first three hours of the Battle of Atlanta, the Confederates mounted attacks against the far left of the Union line, which was positioned south of the Georgia Railroad, in the vicinity of Leggett's Hill and entrenched along its crest. For some of that time, Hood was in position near Oakland Cemetery, looking and listening for signs that Hardee's Corps was making progress against the Federals. Hoping to help Hardee's troops take Leggett's Hill, Hood—between 3 and 4 p.m.—instructed Cheatham's Corps to attack the Federal Seventeenth Corps, which remained in control of the treeless high ground, and move simultaneously against the Federal Fifteenth Corps, which straddled the Georgia Railroad in an extended, north–south line near present-day Moreland Avenue. Prior to attack, Cheatham's Corps occupied the eastern section of Atlanta's inner fortifications, which was located in the vicinity of present-day Boulevard, between Grant Park and Ponce de Leon Avenue. Cheatham mobilized his three divisions from behind the fortifications, deploying his troops in a battle line that extended for more than a mile.
|Historical marker of Confederate line prior to Battle of Atlanta attack, Inman Park, Atlanta, Georgia, May 10, 2014. Photograph by Daniel Pollock.|
The division on Cheatham's right, commanded by Major General Carter L. Stevenson, attacked first, moving from behind the fortifications located between present-day Grant Park and Oakland Cemetery and charging eastward against the Federal Seventeenth Corps defending Leggett's Hill. Cheatham's other two divisions, led by Brigadier General John C. Brown's in the middle and Major General Henry D. Clayton's on the left, followed Stevenson's division into combat. Brown's and Clayton's troops marched eastward, aligned themselves in battle formation in present-day Inman Park, and from there attacked Union forces entrenched on either side of the Georgia Railroad. A historical marker placed in a small triangular park at Delta Place and Edgewood Avenue describes the frontal assault that Brown and Clayton's divisions launched against the Federal Fifteenth Corps, which was commanded by Brigadier General Morgan L. Smith. This division had been led by Major General John A. Logan until early in the afternoon of July 22, when Logan replaced McPherson as commander of the Federal Army of the Tennessee.
|Cover page, William Hardee's infantry tactics textbook, 1861. Confederate Imprints, 1861–1865, Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University.|
The tactic of attacking or defending in long lines of battle was inherited by Civil War field commanders on both sides from the Napoleonic era, reinforced by US army officer training in the same military schools and further instilled by shared combat successes with traditional linear formations in the Mexican War. When the Civil War began, the standard tactical manual used by the North and South was Hardee's Rifle and Light Infantry Tactics, written by former US Army officer and then Confederate corps commander William J. Hardee. Hardee emphasized the importance of placing the majority of combat forces in closely packed lines. The typical battle line for offensive and defensive purposes aligned troops shoulder to shoulder two or three ranks deep. These formations were difficult to maneuver in the field, and their effectiveness depended on prior drilling and battlefield discipline. However, once deployed, linear formations offered the advantage of a high density of firepower delivered with successive volleys as each rank of infantry alternately fired and reloaded or as one rank relieved another if necessary.
|4 p.m., July 22, 1864. Battle of Atlanta map by Michael Page, 2014.|
In a classic frontal attack, wave after wave of infantry would strike against a short sector of the enemy's line. A succession of attacks was intended to weaken and eventually break the opposition's line at a vulnerable spot, which immediately endangered the remaining segments. On defense, the battle line enabled concentrated volleys of fire against attackers, and, by 1864, both Union and Confederate infantry learned to strengthen their lines of defense with extensive use of protective earthworks. Even if attackers got inside an enemy's position, exploiting that advantage was difficult because of heavy losses during the attack, lack of reinforcements, or a counterattack by the defenders. The result was frequent failure of frontal assaults, particularly in the latter stages of the Civil War. Among these failures were the unsuccessful attacks launched by Cheatham's Corps against the Federal Army of the Tennessee in the climactic phase of the Battle of Atlanta. Still, the Confederate divisions led by Brown and Clayton achieved a notable breakthrough in the Union line before a ferocious counterattack led Major General John A. Logan turned them back.
Griffith, Paddy. Battle Tactics of the Civil War. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1989.
Haughton, Andrew. Training, Tactics, and Leadership in the Confederate Army of Tennessee. London and New York: Routledge, 2000.
Hess, Earl J. "Tactics, Trenches, and Men in the Civil War." In On the Road to Total War: The American Civil War and the German Wars of Unification, 1861–1871, edited by Stig Förster and Jörg Nagler. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997.
McDonald, Sharon S., and Beckman, W. Robert. "Tactics." In Vol. 4 of Encyclopedia of the American Civil War: A Political, Social, and Military History, edited by David S. Heidler and Jeanne T. Heidler. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2000.
Weigley, Russell F. The American Way of War: A History of United States Military Strategy and Policy. New York: McMillan, 1973.
|Rolling terrain in present-day Springvale Park is a remnant of the Civil War-era countryside outside Atlanta and the spot from which Confederate troops launched an attack against the nearby, entrenched Federal line on July 22, 1864.||
|A cut in the Georgia Railroad, where Arthur Manigault's brigade spearheaded the Confederate's attack against an entrenched Union line, Battle of Atlanta Cyclorama, 1886. Painting by the Atlanta Panorama Company.|
As the fighting for Leggett's Hill grew fiercer during the afternoon of July 22, 1864, the left of Confederate Corps Commander Benjamin Franklin Cheatham's line—Brown and Clayton's divisions—advanced eastward from behind the city's inner fortifications and moved into position for an assault against the Federal Fifteenth Corps, which was astride the Georgia Railroad in an entrenched north–south line west of present-day Moreland Avenue. The movement of a second corps onto the battlefield was part of Confederate Army Commander John Bell Hood's original plan of attack. However, that plan began to fail when Hardee's Corps arrived on the battlefield hours behind schedule and encountered an unexpectedly well defended Federal left flank. Further, when Hardee's Corps was intensely engaged with the Federal left wing during the first three hours of battle, Hood kept Cheatham's Corps out of action instead of supporting Hardee's attack. Still, even though the second prong of the Confederate attack was delayed, it achieved partial success when Brown's division found a weak spot in the Union line, broke through, and threatened to overwhelm the Federal Fifteenth Corps. Brigadier General Arthur M. Manigault's Brigade of Brown's division spearheaded this Confederate attack. They poured through the railroad cut located in the vicinity of the Inman Park MARTA Station, then broke the Union line at the Troup Hurt House and seized the four guns of Captain Francis De Gress's Battery H of the First Illinois Light Artillery. More Confederate units followed Manigault's Brigade in an attack that dislodged the center of the Yankee Fifteenth Corps across a half-mile front on either side of the Georgia Railroad.
A Georgia Historical Commission marker and a commemorative monument erected by the Sons of Confederate Veterans are located at the site where Manigault's attack advanced, a ravine in what is now Atlanta's Springvale Park, approximately four hundred yards from the Federal line, which was positioned along present-day Degress Avenue. A remnant of the ravine is still visible and provides a rare, surviving indication of what the battlefield terrain was like: a rolling, thickly wooded countryside riven with deep hollows, barren knolls, and widely separated tracts of cleared land on which were built houses, farms, mills, roads, and the single-track Georgia Railroad.
|Springvale Park historic markers and surrounding park, Southern Confederate Veterans Monument and Georgia Historical Commission marker describing Manigault's brigade and its role in the Battle of Atlanta, Springvale Park, Atlanta, Georgia, 2009. Photograph by Matt Miller.|
A narrow window of opportunity to preserve more of Atlanta's battlefields was missed when they were omitted from the initial set of national military parks that the US government established in the 1890s: Chickamauga-Chattanooga, Antietam, Shiloh, Gettysburg, and Vicksburg. The 1890s were a critical time for preserving Civil War battlefields because many of them remained largely untouched and many veterans with personal knowledge of the battles could recall troop movements, positions, and combat encounters. Further, the post-war reconciliation between white Americans, North and South, was surging, and veterans from both sides joined unified efforts aimed at securing federal support for battlefield preservation. Their yearning to reconnect with the past, memorialize fallen comrades, and leave a tangible legacy of Civil War battles to future generations translated into money to preserve battlefields. However, the veteran generation soon ran into Congressional opposition to further funding for battleground conservation. In 1899, influential veterans and Congressional proponents voiced strong support for adding Atlanta to the list of national military parks, but their campaign fell short. Local journalist Wallace P. Reed bemoaned their failure in his Atlanta Constitution column published in 1900: "We have been criminally careless of our history. For generations to come artists and tourists from every part of the world will come here and they will ask a thousand questions about these famous places. Who will answer them? We have about 125,000 people here and only a few hundred are able now to point out the location of the old battlefields."40
The next national wave of Civil War battlefield preservation peaked in the 1920s and 1930s, but by then it was too late to properly save Atlanta's battlefields. Atlanta historian and artist Wilbur G. Kurtz noted in 1931 that "Nothing obliterates the aspect of a battlefield so much as the modern steam-shovel and the encroachments of urban building enterprise."41 A local campaign in 1937 seeking federal funds to preserve what remained of the city's battlegrounds was unsuccessful, despite renewed enthusiasm for Civil War preservation spurred by the popularity of Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind. In 1951, the legislature established the Georgia Historical Commission and charged it with preserving, restoring, and marking historic sites. The following year, the commission hired Kurtz to research, write, and place historic markers that pinpoint and explain the notable events of the Atlanta Campaign. Kurtz's historic markers were all erected prior to the Civil War centennial, 1961–1965. The inscriptions he wrote for each plaque continue to serve as the primary roadside guide to Atlanta's battlefields. They provide a means of connecting the historical narrative of the Battle of Atlanta to the ground on which the battle was fought, even though most of the terrain has been irrevocably altered.
Ecelbarger G. The Day Dixie Died: The Battle of Atlanta. New York: Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press, 2010.
Kurtz, Wilbur G. "Civil War Days in Georgia: The Broken Line and the De Gress Battery." Atlanta Constitution Sunday Magazine, February 8, 1931.
Losson, Christopher. Tennessee's Forgotten Warriors: Frank Cheatham and His Confederate Division. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1989.
McMurry, Richard M. John Bell Hood and the War for Southern Independence. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1982.
Ohl, Joseph. "Strong Support Promised the National Park Bill by Men of the Very Strongest Influence." Atlanta Constitution, December 17, 1899.
Reed, Wallace P. "Our Many Friends; Both Blue and Gray." Atlanta Constitution, July 17, 1900.
Smith, Timothy B. The Golden Age of Battlefield Preservation: The Decade of the 1890s and the Establishment of America's First Five Military Parks. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2008.
Williams, Gladstone. "3 U.S. War Parks Sought for City." Atlanta Constitution, October 29, 1937.
Troup Hurt House and De Gress Battery
|The Confederate capture of the Troup Hurt House and the De Gress Battery, followed by a successful Yankee counterattack, were the climactic events in the Battle of Atlanta.||
|The Troup Hurt House and the four-gun De Gress Battery (right of the house), which were temporarily captured by Confederate infantry on the afternoon of July 22, 1864, Battle of Atlanta Cyclorama, 1886. Painting by the Atlanta Panorama Company.|
The most famous moments in the Battle of Atlanta occurred during a fierce mid-afternoon Confederate assault on the entrenched Federal Fifteenth Corps, followed shortly thereafter by a Union counterattack in the vicinity of the Troup Hurt House, in what is now the city's Inman Park neighborhood. The Battle of Atlanta Cyclorama captures the decisive moment, at approximately 4:30 p.m., when Federal Major General John A. Logan rallied his troops to restore the broken Union line and repel the Confederate infantry of Brigadier General Arthur M. Manigault's brigade of Brown's division, who were firing from behind an improvised barricade of cotton bales in front of the Troup Hurt House. A historical marker on Degress Avenue in Inman Park is located at the site of Troup Hurt's two-story brick home, no longer standing, which was on high ground north of the single track Georgia Railroad (now the right of way for the MARTA commuter line and CSX railroad) and three-quarters of a mile south of the house of Augustus Hurt, younger brother of Troup Hurt. The Augustus Hurt House served as Federal Major General William T. Sherman's temporary headquarters during the battle. The cyclorama painting depicts Sherman in front of the house, mounted on his horse, surveying the battlefield action.
|Enlarged detail of the Troup Hurt House and the four-gun De Gress Battery (right of the house), which were temporarily captured by Confederate infantry on the afternoon of July 22, 1864, Battle of Atlanta Cyclorama, 1886. Painting by the Atlanta Panorama Company.|
Manigault's brigade, advancing eastward, spearheaded the mid-afternoon Confederate assault by penetrating the Federal Fifteenth Corps line at its weakest point, which was a thinly defended railroad cut and a nearby wagon road. Years earlier, when railroad construction engineers laid down track for the Georgia Railroad, they burrowed through a hillside to maintain a shallow gradient in the vicinity of the present-day Inman Park MARTA station. The railroad cut they created is no longer visible, but the Battle of Atlanta Cyclorama provides a vivid image of the deep earthen channel, the rolling terrain on either side of it, and Atlanta to the west. On July 22, 1864, Manigault's brigade, after moving from Atlanta's inner fortifications and meeting stiff resistance, broke the Union line near the railroad cut, where the Federal Fifteenth Corps's second division, temporarily commanded by Brigadier General Joseph A. J. Lightburn, was particularly vulnerable to attack.
|Capture of De Gress Battery by Confederate infantry, Joseph M. Brown, The Mountain Campaigns of Georgia: Or, War Scenes on the W. and A. (Buffalo, New York: Art-Printing Works of Matthews, Northrup, and Company, 1890), 69.|
Manigault's South Carolinians and Alabamians, followed by Colonel Jacob H. Sharp's brigade of Brown's Confederate division, poured through the cut and forced the Union defenders to retreat. Manigault's troops fanned out to the north and captured the Troup Hurt House and Captain Francis De Gress's twenty-pound Parrott battery of four guns. A historic marker at the north end of Degress Avenue, before it turns sharply east, indicates the location of the De Gress battery, which the Yankees had placed on high ground facing Atlanta. Sharp's contingent, in close support of Manigault's Brigade, fanned out to the south, striking a Federal brigade positioned just south of the Georgia Railroad. Other elements of Brown's and Clayton's Confederate divisions joined the attack north and south of the railroad. Together, the combined action of these two divisions opened a half-mile gap in the Union line that if further exploited could have turned the tide of the battle against the Federal Army of the Tennessee. However, the Confederate successes were short-lived, and they were soon driven back by a ferocious Yankee counterattack.
General Sherman, observing the battlefield action from his position just over one-half mile north of the Troup Hurt House, personally directed cannon fire against the Rebel front and behind it, thwarting further gains and preventing reinforcements. Union Major General John A. Logan, who earlier that afternoon had replaced the fallen Major General James B. McPherson as commander of the Army of the Tennessee, was alerted to the dire threat posed by the breakthrough. Logan gathered reinforcements and galloped on his black stallion Slasher toward the collapsed front of the Federal Fifteenth Army Crops. When Logan arrived on the scene, three Federal division commanders were already preparing a counterattack. "Black Jack" Logan, whose dark complexion and jet-black hair and moustache made him a striking physical presence on the battlefield, was renowned for his combat leadership. He led the advancing Union infantry, supported by artillery fire, in a counterstrike that hurled back the Confederates, recaptured the De Gress Battery, and restored the Fifteenth Corps line across the half-mile front that had been lost less than a half hour earlier. The Federal troops did not pursue their retreating foes, and fighting in the vicinity of the Troup Hurt House came to a close. Combat continued until dark at Leggett's Hill.
|A twenty-pound Parrott Gun and its crew at Fort Richardson, Arlington Heights, Virginia, 1861–1865. The De Gress Battery was comprised of four rifled cannons of this type. Albumen print, ca. 1865.|
Logan's combat performance in the Battle of Atlanta added to his reputation, and he emerged from the Civil War a military hero. Historian Albert Castel credits Logan more than any other individual for the Union victory on July 22, 1864, citing "his skillful handling of his troops, his coolness and determination, and above all his inspiring presence."42 Logan was among the most accomplished of the "political" generals, a group of officers who had pre-war careers that were dominated by political service, had little or no military training or experience prior to appointment to general rank, and typically had limited if any success in combat. Logan was an exception and was praised by Sherman for having "nobly sustained his reputation and that of his veteran army" after succeeding McPherson as commander of the Army of the Tennessee in the Battle of Atlanta.43 Still, Logan's lack of West Point credentials deterred Sherman from promoting him to permanent command of the Army of the Tennessee, a snub that infuriated Logan. Instead, Sherman appointed West Point graduate Oliver Otis Howard five days after the Battle of Atlanta.
Before the war, Logan had served as a highly partisan Democratic member of Congress from southern Illinois, and in 1866 he returned to politics as a Radical Republican, serving either in the House or Senate almost without interruption until his death in 1886. In 1884, he was the unsuccessful nominee for vice president on the Republican ticket headed by James G. Blaine. He also co-founded the largest Union veterans group, the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), and served three times as the GAR's commander-in-chief. On May 5, 1868, shortly after his first term began, Logan issued a general order to all GAR posts that established Decoration Day as the northern counterpart to the previously established Confederate Memorial Days. He designated May 30 for all Union veterans to decorate the graves of comrades "who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion."44 On May 30, 1868, commemorative ceremonies were attended by thousands of people in twenty-seven states.
|Troup Hurt House site and location of present-day converted church, Degress Avenue, Atlanta, Georgia, May 10, 2014. Photograph by Daniel Pollock.|
During the 1870s, northerners and southerners began to participate together in Memorial Day celebrations, which increasingly served the purpose of sectional reconciliation. The national ritual was known as Decoration Day, and the versions in the South—which were observed on different days in different states—were called Confederate Memorial Day. In the 1880s, the GAR actively campaigned to change the name of Decoration Day to Memorial Day, and gradually every northern state made Memorial Day a public holiday. The Memorial Day service in Chicago on May 30, 1895, was a high point in the national celebrations. On that day, a monument to Confederate dead was dedicated in the city's Oak Woods Cemetery, the burial site of over six thousand Confederate soldiers who had died as prisoners-of-war at nearby Camp Douglas. Some fifty thousand Chicagoans lined the parade route to the cemetery to catch a glimpse of such notables as Confederate general James Longstreet and Union general John Schofield. In the twentieth century, Memorial Day became an occasion to honor all Americans who died in service. In 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May.
|Memorial Day, photomechanical print by Samuel D. Ehrhart. Published by Keppler & Schwarzmann, Puck Building, May 28, 1913. Courtesy of Library of Congress.|
Popular images produced early in the twentieth century valorized fallen Civil War soldiers who fought on opposing sides and depicted Memorial Day as an occasion for surviving "Blue and Gray" veterans to enjoy leisure time together. Memorial Day observances, along with visits to battlefields, public monuments, and military cemeteries and participation in veterans' reunions, involved millions of Americans in Civil War remembrance. A main event in Memorial Day celebrations throughout the nation was the local parade in which Civil War veterans, some riding in carriages or automobiles and others still spry enough to walk, served as living links to the past. They brought memories of the war to life. However, these historical memories focused mainly on individual service and sacrifice, and they tended to obscure more divisive elements of the Civil War experience, most notably the causes of the nation's deadliest conflict and the war's wrenching aftermath. Historian David Blight writes that late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century sectional reunion was a victory for a reconciliationist vision of Civil War memory that could not have been achieved without overwhelming a competing emancipationist vision and resubjugating many of the people whom the war had freed from slavery. Blight adds:
"For Americans broadly, the Civil War has been a defining event upon which we have often imposed unity and continuity; as a culture we have often preferred its music and pathos to its enduring challenges, the theme of reconciled conflict to resurgent, unresolved legacies. The greatest enthusiasts for Civil War history and memory often displace complicated consequences by endlessly focusing on the contest itself."45
Anonymous. "The Meaning of Memorial Day." Saturday Evening Post, June 2, 1962.
Jones, James P. John A. Logan and Southern Illinois in the Civil War Era. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1995.
Kurtz, Wilbur G. "Civil War Days in Georgia: At the Troup Hurt House: A Famous Battlefield Domicile; Its Environs, and Events Associated with It During the Forenoon of July 22, 1864." Atlanta Constitution Sunday Magazine, January 25, 1931.
Kurtz, Wilbur G. "Civil War Days in Georgia: The Broken Line and the De Gress Battery." Atlanta Constitution Sunday Magazine, February 8, 1931.
Litwicki, Ellen M. America's Public Holidays. Washington, DC, and London: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2000.
McConnell, Stuart. Glorious Contentment: The Grand Army of the Republic. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1992.
Grant Park and Cyclorama
|The Battle of Atlanta Cyclorama, an enormous, nineteenth-century panorama painting, depicts combat action and battlefield landmarks in a vivid, true-to-life style.||
|Cyclorama brochures, 1887 to present. Compiled by Christopher Sawula, 2013.|
Nineteenth-century cycloramas, enormous circular paintings exhibited in specially designed round or polygonal buildings, achieved great popularity by immersing their audiences in a visual experience designed to make viewers feel transported to another place and time. Like movies and computer-simulated environments later, cycloramas intentionally blurred the lines between image and reality by surrounding the spectators with a sweeping panoramic vista that filled their vision and excluded any sense of their real whereabouts. The panorama itself was painted in a meticulously true-to-life style that captured a spectacular event or scene, such as a famous battlefield incident, stunning natural landscape, or sweeping view of a great city. To heighten the impact of the indoor spectacle and distance visitors from the outside world, the only way to reach the painting was through a dimly lit corridor and up a staircase leading to a centrally located viewing platform. As spectators arrived in the viewing area, they were immediately surrounded by an enormous canvas, typically fifty feet high and four hundred feet in circumference. Viewers' movements were restricted to the elevated viewing platform placed at a distance from the painting. This focused their attention on the pictured story or scene, rather than painterly details, and created the impression that they were surveying a vast spectacle from an aerial vantage point. A canopy concealed the overhead lighting and the upper edge of the canvas, while a railing or three-dimensional landscape in the foreground hid the lower edge of the painting. In the words of panorama historian Bernard Comment, "Everything was arranged so that nothing extraneous could encroach on the display and disturb the spectator's field of vision."46 In attempts to heighten the visual experience, cycloramas often added musical accompaniment, sound effects, and authoritative narration to the pictorial spectacle.
|Original cyclorama building, Grant Park, Atlanta, Georgia, erected 1898. Color postcard, ca. 1910.|
The Battle of Atlanta Cyclorama in Grant Park enables contemporary audiences to simulate this nineteenth-century viewing experience. As viewers ascend to the central viewing platform they catch their first glimpse of the giant painting, one of two Civil War battle cycloramas still on display in the United States. The other is the Battle of Gettysburg at the Gettysburg National Military Park. After the spectators take their seats at the Atlanta cyclorama, the viewing platform begins a slow, circular rotation in front of the canvas and a recorded narration of the combat action, accompanied by background music, gunshots, and other sound effects, starts to play. In an experience that closely parallels a nineteenth-century visit to the cyclorama (displayed or housed in Atlanta since 1892), viewers are suddenly immersed in a climactic battlefield scene. Their vantage point is high above the fighting, as if viewing the action from a platform forty feet off the ground at the present-day intersection of Moreland and Dekalb Avenues. They witness the decisive moment, the Union counterattack led by Major General John A. Logan, launched at approximately 4:30 p.m. on July 22, 1864, and aimed at restoring the Federal line broken by a Confederate assault spearheaded by Brigadier General Arthur M. Manigault's Brigade. The cyclorama presents a panoramic view of the fighting as a complete circle, starting and ending with the intense confrontation at the Troup Hurt House and the nearby De Gress Battery. As segments of the painting are progressively illuminated, the audience sees Federal infantry moving forward to restore their broken line near the Troup Hurt House; Sherman surveying the battlefield from his headquarters at the Augustus Hurt House; Logan galloping to the front to lead the Union counterattack; a distant cloud of gun smoke arising from the fighting in Decatur; Federal infantry moving forward to restore their broken line near the Troup Hurt House; and Confederate Major General Carter L. Stevenson's division charging across the open ground atop Leggett's Hill. The narrator intones dramatically: "Only the old muzzle-loading guns, bayonets, and artillery made up the arsenal of weapons during the War Between the States, yet with few such weapons the casualties of these four years was staggering, as they were here at Leggett's Hill, where assault after assault [sic] being repelled and the slopes becoming mounds of the slain."
|Union Major General John A. Logan, riding Slasher. Minneapolis Cyclorama promotional flyer, ca. 1886.|
The artists who painted the Atlanta cyclorama in a Milwaukee studio in 1885–1886 were recruited from Germany and Austria by the studio's owner, William Wehner, a German-born, Chicago entrepreneur who sought to capitalize on the American public's renewed interest in the Civil War in the 1880s coupled with the popularity of battlefield panoramas. Several of the artists recruited by Wehner had worked in Munich on a panorama of the Battle of Sedan, a German victory that was decisive in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870–71. He induced the artists to move to Milwaukee, where, he said, "You German artists will find congenial friends" among the many German-speaking residents.47 Wehner also recognized that US audiences would insist on historical accuracy in paintings of Civil War battles, and to that end he hired Theodore R. Davis of Asbury Park, New Jersey, as technical advisor to the painters. Davis was on familiar ground in depicting the Battle of Atlanta. As a staff illustrator for Harper's Weekly during the war, Davis created an extensive visual record of combat action, battlefield topography, and local landmarks. Former Union Major General John A. Logan wrote of the artist's wartime experience, "Unquestionably Mr. Davis saw more of the war than any other single person."48 Davis accompanied Sherman on the Atlanta Campaign, and he witnessed much of the Battle of Atlanta from Sherman's headquarters at the Augustus Hurt House. In the summer of 1885, Davis and the panorama artists visited Atlanta, where they sketched aerial views of the battlefield terrain from a forty-foot tower that they erected near the present-day intersection of Moreland and Dekalb Avenues. Union and Confederate veterans and local Atlanta residents also provided information about the battle site and events. Wehner reported that "The Federal and Confederate officers who have contributed their aid, embrace nearly every principal commander now living who took part in the scene."49
Wehner's artists returned from their Atlanta site visit to Milwaukee to complete the painting, which was first publicly exhibited in Minneapolis in June 1886, remained on display there until March 1888, and was shown in Indianapolis and Chattanooga before its Atlanta opening in February 1892.50 In Atlanta, the painting was displayed in a specially constructed cyclorama rotunda near the city's downtown, on Edgewood Avenue, between Courtland Street and Piedmont Avenue. A second Battle of Atlanta panorama painting, also completed in Wehner's Milwaukee studio, made its debut in Detroit in February 1887.51 Wehner instructed his corps of painters to produce both battle panoramas at the same time after he recognized that the artists could not all work on the same canvas simultaneously.52 What became of the version shown in Detroit and whether it survives are not known.
A story persists that the Battle of Atlanta panorama was commissioned by John A. Logan to boost his candidacy for the vice-presidency on the Republican ticket headed by James G. Blaine in 1884. This account seems dubious because work on the painting began in 1885, after the presidential election. A more likely explanation of the painting's origins is that William Wehner sought to profit from the revival of interest in the Civil War during the Gilded Age, which coincided in the United States with a vogue for cyclorama experiences. Cycloramas were produced to earn money, and they were bought and sold frequently as investors sought to cash in. The Battle of Atlanta painting changed ownership several times before George V. Gress, a civic-minded Atlanta merchant, purchased it in 1893. Gress moved the panorama to Grant Park in 1894 and donated it to the city in 1898. Gress already had made a major donation to the city in 1889, when he purchased a menagerie from a bankrupt circus and gave the animals to the city, along with housing and cages, to establish a zoo in Grant Park.
After Gress deeded the cyclorama painting to the city, Atlanta's park commissioners committed funds to restore the panorama and repair the circular wooden building in Grant Park where it was exhibited. The refurbished attraction was re-opened just in time for a Confederate reunion in Atlanta on July 22–23, 1898, the thirty-fourth anniversary of the Battle of Atlanta. The cyclorama painting remained on display in the fragile wooden structure, near the Auburn Avenue entrance to Grant Park, until 1921, when the panorama was moved to a new marble building—its present home—close to the center of the park and adjacent to the Atlanta Zoo.
|The Texas Imperial, the Texas locomotive that overtook the Andrews Raiders in 1862, on display in Grant Park in the early twentieth century. Postcard, ca. 1910.|
Grant Park is named for Lemuel P. Grant, who oversaw construction of Atlanta's fortifications in 1863–1864 and served the city in many official roles after the war. Grant made a fortune in railroad construction and real estate development, and in 1882 he donated a hundred acres on the southeast edge of the city for the public park that eventually would bear his name. As Grant Park took shape, Civil War attractions were added to park amenities that included shaded walkways, flower gardens, a lake for boat rides, and the city's zoo. In addition to the cyclorama, Grant Park's war-related points of interest were the reconstructed Fort Walker, complete with mounted cannons placed above the remnants of Confederate earthworks; a nearby walkway named in honor of James B. McPherson, the federal general killed in the Battle of Atlanta; and the locomotive Texas, which overtook the train that the Andrews Raiders had commandeered on April 12, 1862, in their failed effort to disrupt the Confederate's railroad supply line between Atlanta and Chattanooga. Grant Park became a common destination for Civil War veterans who gathered there for reunions and civilian visitors who combined trips to the cyclorama with stops at the park's other war-related sites.
In 1907, a local hotelier offered a prize for the best description of "How to Spend Four Days Sight-Seeing in Atlanta." The Atlanta Constitution published two essays submitted in the contest, and each one included Grant Park in the recommended itinerary. One essayist elaborated on the park's appeal: "A beautiful afternoon may be spent at Grant park, enjoying the wonderful beauties of the place, viewing the cyclorama, where one learns more of battles in ten minutes than in ten months of reading. A walk through the park to Fort Walker will be an inspiration, both for the magnificent view seen from the eminence, and the inspection of the old fortifications that make this a historic spot."53 The Atlanta Constitution did not report whether this contest entry won the $5 prize.
Some scholarly critics, writing in recent years, contend that the apparent mastery of battlefield details in late nineteenth-century cycloramas and the mass appeal of the paintings have reinforced a nationalistically inspired view of Civil War history that is entertaining but narrowly configured.54 The panoramas depict fierce and close combat between Confederate and Union troops and convey the extraordinary courage of soldiers on both sides, emphasizing their common valor and sacrifice. However, critics argue, what these dramatic visual narratives largely omit are the deep divisions and bitterness that tore a nation apart and threw it into four years of bloody conflict. "America is defined in populist terms," notes one scholar in her analysis of the Battle of Atlanta Cyclorama. "The cultural identity articulated by the painting is that Americans of the North and South are white, male, working class, and united by a rebellious spirit."55 Literally embodying sectional reconciliation among whites is the severely wounded Confederate soldier depicted in the arms of a Federal infantryman, aiding his foe in the heat of battle. They are brothers who enlisted on opposite sides and had not seen each other for three years. Also notable but not easily seen are the single African American and single female figures in the painting. They are included in the whirl of rear-line action, well behind the lines of rifled infantryman, galloping officers, exploding shells, and waving battle flags.
Anonymous. Atlanta in 1890: "The Gate City." Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1986.
Cecchini, Bridget T. "The Battle of Atlanta Cyclorama (1885-1886) as Narrative Indicator of a National Perspective on the Civil War." Master's thesis, Rice University, 1998.
Kurtz, Wilbur G. The Atlanta Cyclorama: The Story of the Famed Battle of Atlanta. Atlanta: The City of Atlanta, 1954.
Merrill, Peter C. "What Happened to the Panorama Painters?" In German Academic Painters in Wisconsin. West Bend, WI: West Bend Gallery of Fine Arts, 1989.
|Confederate dead after the Battle of Atlanta, July 23, 1864. Sketch by Henry Dwight. Courtesy of Ohio Historical Society.|
Losing the Battle of Atlanta was a major blow to the Confederacy. The flank attack attempted by Hardee's Corps and frontal assault launched by Cheatham's Corps amounted to a major opportunity, perhaps the final one, for the Confederate Army of Tennessee to crush at least one of the advancing Federal armies and turn the tide of the Atlanta Campaign. Instead, after eight hours of fighting on July 22, 1864, John Bell Hood's army had lost more than 10 percent of its fighting force to death, injury, or capture, and the carnage on the Atlanta battlefield was shocking to see, even for battle-hardened veterans. A Union surgeon, A. W. Reese, who visited the scene the day after the battle, recalled in vivid clinical detail:
Immediately in front of our lines the ground was, literally, piled with dead bodies of rebel soldiers—they laid, actually, in win[d]rows and piles. Their bodies were mangled, torn, and battered by balls in every conceivable manner and shape. Many of them were shot through the head and laid in a ghastly puddle of their own brains which had oozed from their shattered skulls.56
|Bombproof shelter, interior of a bombproof garden in Atlanta, Georgia, ca. 1864. Print courtesy of the Atlanta History Center.|
Although Sherman's armies had inflicted heavy losses, the Confederates defending Atlanta still held a well-fortified city and kept open two vital railroad supply lines that approached from the southwest and south. Four days after the Battle of Atlanta, Sherman turned his attention to severing those railway lifelines. As his artillery bombarded the city, he moved the Army of the Tennessee from its position east of the city to a new position to the west, where it would be in striking distance of the railroads as they entered on the same right-of-way. In Atlanta, Hood watched the Federal movement, and, in an effort to thwart it, he sent four divisions from behind the fortifications to attack the Union troops. The resulting Battle of Ezra Church on July 28, was another stinging defeat for Hood's army, the third loss in eight days. By one estimate, the Army of Tennessee sustained more than twelve thousand casualties in its failed attempts to win a decisive victory against the invading Yankees.57 However, the Confederates maintained possession of the two railways and overwhelmed two Union cavalry divisions Sherman had sent on raids south of the city.
|Aftermath of September 2, 1864, Confederate destruction of ammunition-laden railcars, near present-day Fulton Cotton Mill lofts, Atlanta, Georgia. Gelatin silver print by George Barnard. Courtesy of Library of Congress.|
Sherman increased the volume and pace of the shelling of Atlanta that his gunners had started on July 20. On August 9, the bombardment intensified to its highest level, and the artillery pounding continued for two weeks as the remaining civilians in the city huddled in "bombproof" shelters. The cannon fire damaged or destroyed numerous buildings and occasionally injured or killed civilians, perhaps causing twenty deaths.58 Incessant shelling did not force Hood's army to evacuate, and it continued to receive supplies.
Sherman called an abrupt halt to the bombardment on August 25, and the following night he moved the bulk of his three armies from their trenches north and west of Atlanta on a sweeping march to the south and then east. On August 28, the Federal infantry reached the Atlanta & West Point Railroad, the western-most of the two open rail lines, and they destroyed miles of track. Union troops continued eastward toward their main objective, the Macon and Western Railroad, the more important of the two Confederate supply lines.
|"Old Tecumseh," Union Major General William T. Sherman at Confederate Fort, Atlanta, Georgia, October 1864. Stereograph by George Barnard. Courtesy of Library of Congress.|
As the Federals approached the last open rail line at Jonesboro, a railroad town eighteen miles south of Atlanta, Hood sent two of his army corps to meet them. In an effort to counter the Union threat, Hood's troops launched a poorly executed assault on August 31. At approximately the same time that the Confederates first attacked the Yankee infantry outside Jonesoboro, other Union forces reached the railway north of the town and severed it. The next day, September 1, the Yankees attacked and broke the Confederate line at Jonesboro, forcing the Rebels to retreat southward toward Lovejoy's Station. When a courier brought Hood news that Jonesboro had fallen and the railroad was cut, he issued orders for the evacuation of Atlanta. Beginning late in the afternoon of September 1, Hood and the remainder of his army still in the city began marching out, southeastward along McDonough Road. In the early hours of September 2, a rear guard of Confederate cavalry set fire to five locomotives and eighty-one boxcars (twenty-eight of which were filled with ammunition), that lay idle along the Georgia Railroad tracks in an evacuated area near Oakland Cemetery and the Atlanta Rolling Mill (present-day Fulton Cotton Mill lofts on Boulevard). The exploding boxcars left a path of devastation a half-mile wide, leveled the Rolling Mill, and ignited a blaze that burned until dawn.
|Ruins of Atlanta railroad depot, demolished before Sherman's departure, 1864. Wet collodion by George Barnard. Courtesy of Library of Congress.|
Early on September 2, shortly after the last Confederate cavalry unit vacated Atlanta, a civilian contingent led by Mayor James M. Calhoun surrendered the city to an advance party of Sherman's army. By noon, Union soldiers were marching into Atlanta, and the two-and-a-half month Federal occupation of the city began. Sherman, who was near Lovejoy's Station when Atlanta was captured, received dispatches on the morning of September 3 notifying him of Hood's evacuation and the city's surrender. Later that day Sherman telegraphed US Army Chief of Staff Henry W. Halleck: "So Atlanta is ours and fairly won."59 Four days later, on September 7, Sherman rode into the city.
The Atlanta Campaign was over, and Sherman soon would make plans for a fall push, his March to the Sea. To secure Atlanta as a base of Union military operations, Sherman decided that Atlanta's remaining residents would have to leave. He issued an expulsion order in the first week of September, which was met with popular outcry and vehement protests from Confederate General John Bell Hood. Atlantans had endured the battles around the city, the bombardment of their homes and businesses, and now faced forced evacuation. Sherman justified the expulsion order on military and public safety grounds.
|Trout House, Masonic Hall and Federal encampment on Decatur Street during Union occupation of Atlanta, Georgia, 1864. Wet collodion by George Barnard. Courtesy of Library of Congress.|
In early October, Hood led his army northward in an effort to cut Sherman's supply line, the railroad from Chattanooga, and force the Federals out of Atlanta. Sherman chased after Hood, and the opposing armies engaged in sporadic and inconclusive fighting for a month. Hood's elusive army eventually moved to northern Alabama, at which time Sherman gave up his pursuit and returned to Atlanta. Sherman made plans and secured approval from his superiors Grant and Halleck for a sweeping march across the central Georgia countryside in the direction of Savannah on the Atlantic coast. Sherman then ordered the destruction of all remaining structures in Atlanta's business and industrial areas that had military value. The wrecking of Atlanta began on November 11 and continued for four days and nights. Union engineers were instructed to preferentially knock down structures rather than burn them, but Yankee soldiers who were not part of the demolition squads began to set fire to private buildings, especially homes. On the final night of the Union occupation, November 15–16, troops set much of the downtown ablaze. When Sherman and his rear guard moved eastward the following morning, the last fires were smoldering and much of the city was in ruins. Pausing on the outskirts, Sherman later recalled: "We stood upon the very ground whereon was fought the bloody battle of July 22, and could see the copse of wood where McPherson fell."60
|The Federal Fourteenth and Twentieth Corps moving out of Atlanta, Georgia, November 15, 1864, Harper's Illustrated Weekly, January 1, 1865.|
Union photographer George N. Barnard photographed Atlanta before, during, and after the damage wrought by Sherman's armies. Arriving in mid-September, Barnard produced well-known views of Atlanta's battlefields, fortifications, and businesses. One of the first scenes he photographed was the site of McPherson's death, a spot marked by an inscribed wooden placard nailed to a thin tree. Barnard revisited the site in November 1864 or May 1865, when he took a second set of photographs. In late September 1864, Barnard also devoted attention to General Sherman, who posed for portraits with his staff at a former Confederate fort west of the city. Barnard was particularly busy in October and early November 1864 when he created many of his best known images of the Atlanta and the fortifications surrounding it. He photographed homes that served as headquarters for Union officers, storefront businesses including a slave market on Whitehall Street (now Peachtree Street),61 the centrally located rail car shed, both before and after it was demolished, and teams of Yankee soldiers tearing up and twisting railroad track. Barnard's images provide an enduring impression of Civil War Atlanta and a stark record of the wreckage.
Davis, Keith F. George N. Barnard: Photographer of Sherman's Campaign. Kansas City, MO: Hallmark Cards, Inc., 1990.
Davis, Stephen. What the Yankees Did to Us: Sherman's Bombardment and Wrecking of Atlanta. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2012.
Grimsley, Mark. The Hard Hand of War: Union Military Policy toward Southern Civilians 1861-1865. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.
Kennett, Lee. Marching through Georgia: The Story of Soldiers and Civilians during Sherman's Campaign. New York: HarperCollins, 1995.
McMurry, Richard M. Atlanta 1864: Last Chance for the Confederacy. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2000.
About the Author
Daniel A. Pollock, MD, is a medical epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, where he leads a unit responsible for national surveillance of healthcare-associated infections. Since arriving in Atlanta in 1984, he has pursued an independent scholarly interest in the city's Civil War history, and he has conducted over 150 tours of Battle of Atlanta sites.
"The Battle of Atlanta: History and Remembrance" is a collaborative project of the Emory Center for Digital Scholarship (ECDS) and Robert W. Woodruff Library.
Project co-directors: Daniel A. Pollock and Allen Tullos
Principal researcher and author: Daniel A. Pollock
Project coordinator and digital strategist: Brian Croxall
Principal web app software developer: Jay Varner
Photograph and historical collections researcher: Christopher Sawula
Project librarian: Erica Bruchko
Cartographer: Michael C. Page
Web app interface designer: Kevin Glover
Principal videographer and video editor: Steve Bransford
Assistant videographer and video editor: Dina Warnock
Assistant videographer: Raymond McCrea Jones
Southern Spaces managing editor: Jesse P. Karlsberg
Southern Spaces assistant managing editor: Sarah V. Melton
Southern Spaces staff: Meredith Doster (layout), Alan Pike (videography and development), Clinton Fluker (images), Christopher Lirette (text linking), Katie Rawson (early development), and Eric Solomon (text linking)
Copyediting and proofreading: Marlo Starr
Production assistance: Franky Abbott, Matt Miller
Initial software developer: Kyle W. Bock
ECDS co-director: Wayne Morse
Emory Library and Information Technology Services (LITS) Software Engineering Team
Software team manager: Mike Mitchell
Project manager: Tonia Edwards
LITS Library Tech Services: Jonathan Bodnar, Bethany Nash
LITS Scholarly Communications: Lisa Macklin, Melanie Kowalski
Atlanta Cyclorama and Civil War Museum: Monica Prothro, Yakingma Robinson
Content review: Steve Davis, Charlie Crawford, and Dave Buckhout
Thanks to: Carol Anderson, Julie Braun, Holly Crenshaw, Ginger Cain, Kathryn Dixson, and John Klingler
Proposal consultant: Deb Watts
The responsibility for the final essay text ultimately resides with the author.
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- 10. Ibid., 51.
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- 27. Ibid., 52.
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- 29. Marguerite Steedman, "Atlanta Fort Restored," Atlanta Constitution, May 2, 1937, 7.
- 30. Robert J. Fryman, "Fortifying the Landscape: An Archeological Study of Military Engineering and the Atlanta Campaign," in Archeological Perspectives on the American Civil War, eds. Clarence R. Geier and Stephen R. Potter (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2000), 53.
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- 34. Anonymous, "Honor to General W. H. T. Walker," Confederate Veteran 10, no. 9 (1902), 402–407.
- 35. Sherman, 550.
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- 37. Ibid., 682.
- 38. Anonymous, "Blue and Gray Beautifully Intertwined," Atlanta Constitution, July 20, 1900, 6.
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- 42. Albert Castel, "'Black Jack' Logan," Civil War Times Illustrated 15, no. 7 (1976), 44.
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- 44. George F. Dawson, Life and Services of Gen. John A. Logan as Soldier and Statesman (Chicago and New York: Belford, Clarke & Company, 1887), 123.
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- 48. Theodore R. Davis, "Grant Under Fire," The Cosmopolitan 14, no. 111 (January 1893), 333.
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- 50. Anonymous, "The City: The Panorama Was Viewed by Select Invited Audience," Minneapolis Tribune, June 29, 1886, 5; Anonymous, "The Battle of Atlanta Is Here," Atlanta Constitution, February 12, 1892, 7.
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- 55. Shelly Jarenski, "'Delighted and Instructed': African American Challenges to Panoramic Aesthetics in J. P. Ball, Kara Walker, and Frederick Douglas," American Quarterly 65, no. 1 (March 2013), 128.
- 56. A. W. Reese, Personal Recollections of the Late Civil War in the United States. With Scenes, Incidents, and Memoirs of Earlier Times,1870, 532 (Western Historical Manuscript Collection, Columbia, MO).
- 57. Thomas L. Connelly, Autumn of Glory: The Army of Tennessee, 1862–1865 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1971), 455.
- 58. Stephen Davis, "How Many Civilians Died in Sherman's Bombardment of Atlanta?" Atlanta History 45, no. 4 (2003), 19.
- 59. Simpson and Berlin, eds., 696.
- 60. Sherman, 655.
- 61. Michael Rose, Remembering Atlanta (Nashville: Turner Publishing Company, 2010), 17.