Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Battle of Atlanta

John Bell Hood was not discouraged by his defeat in front of Atlanta at the Battle of Peachtree Creek. He soon had a new plan to throw back Sherman's advance. He sent Hardee's corps around the Union left flank, while Cheatham's corps hit the Union front and Wheeler's cavalry probed their supply line. This plan was put into effect on July 22, 150 years ago today. Hardee's march took longer than he expected and by the time he arrived on McPherson's flank, the Federals had realized the blow was coming and realigned their forces to meet it. Nevertheless, Hardee ordered his men forward and the battle began.

Confederate works
As the Confederate lines rolled forward, they did not achieve the surprise and breakthrough they hoped for. The Union soldiers stood firm, and Hardee's first charge was repulsed. The Confederates continued to press forward, and a fierce battle developed. Hardee and Cheatham were attacking the Federal forces at right angles to each other. There was much fighting over a place called Bald Hill, and both sides struggled, at times hand to hand, until darkness put an end to the fighting.

Fortifications around Atlanta
Hardee was able to make little progress, but Cheatham's men did score a breakthrough two miles up the line. Sam Watkins of the 1st Tennessee was sent in to follow up on this success:
The Yankee lines seemed routed. We followed in hot pursuit; but from their main line of entrenchment--which was diagonal to those that we had just captured, and also on which they had built forts and erected batteries - was their artillery, raking us fore and aft. We passed over a hill and down into a valley being under the muzzles of this rampart of death. We had been charging and running, and had stopped to catch our breath right under their reserve and main line of battle. … Our regiment … re-formed and the order was given to charge, and take their guns even at the point of the bayonet. We rushed forward up the steep hill sides, the seething fires from ten thousand muskets and small arms, and forty pieces of cannon hurled right into our very faces, scorching and burning our clothes, and hands, and faces from their rapid discharges, and piling the ground with our dead and wounded almost in heaps. It seemed that the hot flames of hell were turned loose in all their fury, while the demons of damnation were laughing in the flames, like seething serpents hissing out their rage. 
Cheatham's men had broken Logan's XV Corps, and as the rebels rushed forward twenty cannon were assembled near Sherman's headquarters to stop them. The shells from these guns, supported by Logan's rallied men, were able to stop the Confederate advance.

The battle ended around sunset with the Confederates yet again having failed to break through the Federal lines. Hardee's delayed march, and the hard Federal fighting, had frustrated Hood's plans. The Union lost over 3,600 men, including James McPherson, who was killed by advancing Confederate skirmishers. Hood lost around 5,500 men.

Sherman at Atlanta


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