Atlanta Campaign of 1864 - Georgia
|The Atlanta Campaign
A Confederate cannon still aims out from the top of
Kennesaw Mountain, where heavy fighting took
place as the Atlanta Campaign neared its objective.
The Atlanta Campaign
The urban sprawl of modern
Atlanta conceals the fact that
major Civil War battles were
fought for control of the city.
Photo by Katina Dunn
Sherman began his move on
Atlanta by seizing the Western
& Atlantic Railroad tunnel
through Chetoogeta Mountain.
The Atlanta Campaign of 1864
Sherman in North Georgia
|Copyright 2014 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.
Last Updated: May 2, 2014
Sites of the Atlanta Campaign
Snake Creek Gap
Much of the Atlanta Campaign
was fought over rough and
mountainous terrain. One of
Sherman's major flanking
movements passed through
Snake Creek Gap.
The Atlanta Campaign of 1864 was one of
the most important military movements of the
War Between the States (or Civil War).
By taking Atlanta, Union General William
Tecumseh Sherman shattered Southern
lines of communication and transportation.
The fall of the city opened the door for the
devastating March to the Sea.
The campaign took place during the spring
and summer of 1864. With the combined
strengths of the Army of the Cumberland, the
Army of the Tennessee and the Army of the
Ohio, Sherman had a total force of some
110,000 men and 250 cannon. On April 10,
1864, he outlined to Union commander in
chief General Ulysses S. Grant a plan to take
Atlanta. Grand concurred and Sherman
marched on May 5.
Opposing the Union juggernaut was the
Confederacy's smaller but battle-hardened
Army of Tennessee under General Joseph E.
Johnston. His total force numbered 54,500
men and 154 cannon.
Even though his own army outnumbered
Johnston's by more than 2 to 1, Sherman
held the Confederate commander in high
regard and he knew the deadly capabilities of
the Southern army. Instead of attacking head
on, he launched a campaign of maneuver.
The Atlanta Campaign began with the
Confederate army dug in at Rocky Face
Ridge north of Dalton. Using his Armies of
the Cumberland and the Ohio to hold
Johnston in place, Sherman sent his Army of
the Tennessee in a flanking movement to the
south under Maj. Gen. James McPherson.
The tactic worked. McPherson marched
through Snake Creek Gap and threatened to
break the Western & Atlantic Railroad and cut
Johnston's supply line. The Confederate
general, however, pulled off a maneuver of
his own and pulled his army back to Resaca
during the night of May 12-13, 1864.
The Union forces came up and engaged the
Confederates at the Battle of Resaca while
McPherson once again carried out a flanking
maneuver. The Army of the Tennessee
crossed the Oostanaula River to threaten
Johnston's rear and the Confederates had
no choice but to fall back down the railroad.
Sherman almost made a critical mistake at
this point of the campaign. As he followed
Johnston south to Cassville, he allowed his
three armies to become too separated. The
Confederate general turned to attack on May
19, but changed his mind when a large force
of Union cavalry threatened his movement.
Johnston now retreated across the Etowah
River to Allatoona, but Sherman also crossed
that stream on May 23. Recognizing that
Allatoona was a strong position, Sherman
opted not to attack but instead bypassed the
Confederate army and moved on Dallas,
Johnston now maneuvered west to block the
Union advance. Heavy fighting took place at
the Battle of New Hope Church on May 25
and the Battle of Pickett's Mill on May 27. The
two armies lost more than 4,600 men.
By early June, Johnson had fallen back to the
commanding ridges of Kennesaw Mountain.
Heavy rains bogged down Sherman's larger
force and more than 150,000 men faced
each other in muddy trenches almost within
earshot of Atlanta.
The delays led Sherman to make one of his
few major mistakes of the campaign. On
June 27, 1864, he sent his men forward in a
direct attack on Johnston's army at the Battle
of Kennesaw Mountain.
The Confederates were ready for them. They
hurled back the attacking Federals at points
all along their strongly fortified lines. The
main assault cost Sherman 2,000 men while
only 400 Confederates were lost. Cannon
and musket fire following the main assault
raised casualties for the day to 3,000 for the
Union and 1,000 for the Confederacy.
The disaster at Kennesaw Mountain caused
Sherman to return to his campaign of
maneuver. On July 2-3 he was able to flank
Johnston out of his Kennesaw Mountain line
to a new position south of Marietta. Two days
later the Confederates retreated to the north
bank of the Chattahoochee River, which was
the last natural barrier between Sherman
As panic grew across the Confederacy,
Sherman once again bypassed Johnston's
line and crossed the Chattahoochee at
Roswell on July 8, 1864. The Confederates
withdrew the next day into the fortifications of
Guns on Cheatham Hill
Confederate cannon blasted
Union troops during the Battle
of Kennesaw Mountain. The
original earthworks are well
Battle of Resaca
Two days of fighting on the
Resaca Battlefield ended
when the Confederate army
slipped away to fight again.
The campaign of maneuver waged by the two
generals had taken two months, but the
Federals now were within sight of their goal.
To his credit, Johnston had kept his army
intact while fighting against a force more than
twice its size.
President Jefferson Davis in Richmond was
not impressed. Fearing that Johnston would
evacuate Atlanta without a fight, he removed
him from command in favor of the General
John Bell Hood. Davis got the fight he wanted
on July 20, 1864.
Led by General McPherson, the Union Army
of the Cumberland began to cross Peachtree
Creek. The crossing opened the Federals to
attack with part of their force on one side of
the creek and part on the other. Seeing his
opportunity, Hood struck.
The Battle of Peachtree Creek was a great
opportunity for the Confederates, but their
chain of command broke down. Union
reinforcements were rushed forward and the
Southern attack was repulsed. Hood lost
2,500 men to the 1,700 casualties suffered
by the Federals.
Hood tried again at the Battle of Atlanta on
July 22. The Confederates captured 12
cannon and a section of Union trenches, but
the attack failed. Sherman lost 3,500 men
and General McPherson was killed, but Hood
suffered a devastating 5,500 casualties.
The final Confederate attempt to break the
siege and save Atlanta came at the Battle of
Ezra Church on July 28, 1864. A sudden
Federal advance took the Confederates by
surprise and forced them to attack one day
sooner than planned. They lost 4,500 men
compared to only around 800 for the Union
Hood had started the three battles for Atlanta
with around 55,000 men. He lost 12,500 of
them in eight days. Sherman's much larger
army of 80,000 men suffered half as many
casualties during the same period of time.
Sherman now began to bombard the city of
Atlanta itself, even though it was still home to
around 3,000 civilians. The shelling reached
its deadly peak on August 9 when Union
cannon fired more than 5,000 rounds into
Despite such brutal tactics, Atlanta held out.
The bombardment lasted for five weeks and
at least 20 civilians were killed while scores
of others were wounded and maimed.
Sherman finally achieved his goal by moving
six of his seven corps to Jonesboro 15 miles
southeast of Atlanta. Hood tried to stop this
movement, but his outnumbered men were
repulsed on August 31. With no remaining
hope for success, the Confederate Army of
Tennessee evacuated Atlanta on September
Sherman's troops marched in the next day as
the Atlanta Campaign came to end. The four
months of fighting had cost the Union armies
37,500 men. The Confederates lost 32,000.
The capture of Atlanta broke major supply
and communications lines for the South. For
the Union, it opened the door for Sherman's
March to the Sea and assured the reelection
of Abraham Lincoln as President of the