Battle of Atlanta
Overview
 


The Battle of Atlanta was a battle of the Atlanta Campaign
Atlanta Campaign
The Atlanta Campaign was a series of battles fought in the Western Theater of the American Civil War throughout northwest Georgia and the area around Atlanta during the summer of 1864. Union Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman invaded Georgia from the vicinity of Chattanooga, Tennessee, beginning in May...

 fought during the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

 on July 22, 1864, just southeast of Atlanta, Georgia
Atlanta, Georgia
Atlanta is the capital and most populous city in the U.S. state of Georgia. According to the 2010 census, Atlanta's population is 420,003. Atlanta is the cultural and economic center of the Atlanta metropolitan area, which is home to 5,268,860 people and is the ninth largest metropolitan area in...

. Continuing their summer campaign to seize the important rail and supply center of Atlanta, Union
Union Army
The Union Army was the land force that fought for the Union during the American Civil War. It was also known as the Federal Army, the U.S. Army, the Northern Army and the National Army...

 forces commanded by William T. Sherman
William Tecumseh Sherman
William Tecumseh Sherman was an American soldier, businessman, educator and author. He served as a General in the Union Army during the American Civil War , for which he received recognition for his outstanding command of military strategy as well as criticism for the harshness of the "scorched...

 overwhelmed and defeated Confederate
Confederate States Army
The Confederate States Army was the army of the Confederate States of America while the Confederacy existed during the American Civil War. On February 8, 1861, delegates from the seven Deep South states which had already declared their secession from the United States of America adopted the...

 forces defending the city under John B. Hood
John Bell Hood
John Bell Hood was a Confederate general during the American Civil War. Hood had a reputation for bravery and aggressiveness that sometimes bordered on recklessness...

. Union Maj. Gen. James B. McPherson
James B. McPherson
James Birdseye McPherson was a career United States Army officer who served as a General in the Union Army during the American Civil War...

 was killed during the battle. Despite the implication of finality in its name, the battle occurred midway through the campaign and the city would not fall until September 2, 1864, after a Union siege and various attempts to seize railroads and supply lines leading to Atlanta.
Encyclopedia


The Battle of Atlanta was a battle of the Atlanta Campaign
Atlanta Campaign
The Atlanta Campaign was a series of battles fought in the Western Theater of the American Civil War throughout northwest Georgia and the area around Atlanta during the summer of 1864. Union Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman invaded Georgia from the vicinity of Chattanooga, Tennessee, beginning in May...

 fought during the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

 on July 22, 1864, just southeast of Atlanta, Georgia
Atlanta, Georgia
Atlanta is the capital and most populous city in the U.S. state of Georgia. According to the 2010 census, Atlanta's population is 420,003. Atlanta is the cultural and economic center of the Atlanta metropolitan area, which is home to 5,268,860 people and is the ninth largest metropolitan area in...

. Continuing their summer campaign to seize the important rail and supply center of Atlanta, Union
Union Army
The Union Army was the land force that fought for the Union during the American Civil War. It was also known as the Federal Army, the U.S. Army, the Northern Army and the National Army...

 forces commanded by William T. Sherman
William Tecumseh Sherman
William Tecumseh Sherman was an American soldier, businessman, educator and author. He served as a General in the Union Army during the American Civil War , for which he received recognition for his outstanding command of military strategy as well as criticism for the harshness of the "scorched...

 overwhelmed and defeated Confederate
Confederate States Army
The Confederate States Army was the army of the Confederate States of America while the Confederacy existed during the American Civil War. On February 8, 1861, delegates from the seven Deep South states which had already declared their secession from the United States of America adopted the...

 forces defending the city under John B. Hood
John Bell Hood
John Bell Hood was a Confederate general during the American Civil War. Hood had a reputation for bravery and aggressiveness that sometimes bordered on recklessness...

. Union Maj. Gen. James B. McPherson
James B. McPherson
James Birdseye McPherson was a career United States Army officer who served as a General in the Union Army during the American Civil War...

 was killed during the battle. Despite the implication of finality in its name, the battle occurred midway through the campaign and the city would not fall until September 2, 1864, after a Union siege and various attempts to seize railroads and supply lines leading to Atlanta. After taking the city, Sherman's troops headed south-southeastward toward Milledgeville, the State capital, and on to Savannah with the March to the Sea
Sherman's March to the Sea
Sherman's March to the Sea is the name commonly given to the Savannah Campaign conducted around Georgia from November 15, 1864 to December 21, 1864 by Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman of the Union Army in the American Civil War...

.

The fall of Atlanta was especially noteworthy for its political ramifications. In the 1864 election
United States presidential election, 1864
In the United States Presidential election of 1864, Abraham Lincoln was re-elected as president. The election was held during the Civil War. Lincoln ran under the National Union ticket against Democratic candidate George B. McClellan, his former top general. McClellan ran as the "peace candidate",...

, former Union General George B. McClellan
George B. McClellan
George Brinton McClellan was a major general during the American Civil War. He organized the famous Army of the Potomac and served briefly as the general-in-chief of the Union Army. Early in the war, McClellan played an important role in raising a well-trained and organized army for the Union...

, a Democrat, ran against President Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

 on a peace platform calling for truce with the Confederacy. The capture of Atlanta and Hood's burning of military facilities as he evacuated were extensively covered by Northern newspapers, significantly boosting Northern morale, and Lincoln was reelected by a large margin.

Background

In the Atlanta Campaign, Maj. Gen.
Major general (United States)
In the United States Army, United States Marine Corps, and United States Air Force, major general is a two-star general-officer rank, with the pay grade of O-8. Major general ranks above brigadier general and below lieutenant general...

 William Tecumseh Sherman
William Tecumseh Sherman
William Tecumseh Sherman was an American soldier, businessman, educator and author. He served as a General in the Union Army during the American Civil War , for which he received recognition for his outstanding command of military strategy as well as criticism for the harshness of the "scorched...

 commanded the Union forces of the Western Theater
Western Theater of the American Civil War
This article presents an overview of major military and naval operations in the Western Theater of the American Civil War.-Theater of operations:...

. The main Union force in this battle was the Army of the Tennessee
Army of the Tennessee
The Army of the Tennessee was a Union army in the Western Theater of the American Civil War, named for the Tennessee River. It should not be confused with the similarly named Army of Tennessee, a Confederate army named after the State of Tennessee....

, under Maj. Gen. James B. McPherson
James B. McPherson
James Birdseye McPherson was a career United States Army officer who served as a General in the Union Army during the American Civil War...

. He was one of Sherman's and Grant's
Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant was the 18th President of the United States as well as military commander during the Civil War and post-war Reconstruction periods. Under Grant's command, the Union Army defeated the Confederate military and ended the Confederate States of America...

 favorite commanders, as he was very quick and aggressive. Within Sherman's army, the XV Corps was commanded by Maj. Gen. John A. Logan
John A. Logan
John Alexander Logan was an American soldier and political leader. He served in the Mexican-American War and was a general in the Union Army in the American Civil War. He served the state of Illinois as a state senator, congressman and senator and was an unsuccessful candidate for Vice President...

, the XVI Corps was commanded by Maj. Gen. Grenville M. Dodge
Grenville M. Dodge
Grenville Mellen Dodge was a Union army officer on the frontier and during the Civil War, a U.S. Congressman, businessman, and railroad executive who helped construct the Transcontinental Railroad....

, and Maj. Gen. Frank P. Blair Jr.
Francis Preston Blair, Jr.
Francis Preston Blair, Jr. was an American politician and Union Army general during the American Civil War. He represented Missouri in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, and he was the Democratic Party's nominee for Vice President in 1868.-Early life and career:Blair was born in...

 commanded the XVII Corps.

During the months leading up to the battle, Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston
Joseph E. Johnston
Joseph Eggleston Johnston was a career U.S. Army officer, serving with distinction in the Mexican-American War and Seminole Wars, and was also one of the most senior general officers in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War...

 had repeatedly retreated from Sherman's superior force. All along the railroad line from Chattanooga, Tennessee
Chattanooga, Tennessee
Chattanooga is the fourth-largest city in the US state of Tennessee , with a population of 169,887. It is the seat of Hamilton County...

, to Marietta, Georgia
Marietta, Georgia
Marietta is a city located in central Cobb County, Georgia, United States, and is its county seat.As of the 2010 census, the city had a total population of 56,579, making it one of metro Atlanta's largest suburbs...

, a pattern was played and replayed: Johnston would take up a defensive position, Sherman would march to outflank the Confederate defenses, and Johnston would retreat again. After Johnston's withdrawal following the Battle of Resaca
Battle of Resaca
The Battle of Resaca was part of the Atlanta Campaign of the American Civil War. The battle was waged in both Gordon and Whitfield counties, Georgia, from May 13 - 15, 1864. It ended inconclusively with the Confederate Army retreating. The engagement was fought between the Military Division of the...

, the two armies clashed again at the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain
Battle of Kennesaw Mountain
The Battle of Kennesaw Mountain was fought on June 27, 1864, during the Atlanta Campaign of the American Civil War. It was the most significant frontal assault launched by Union Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman against the Confederate Army of Tennessee under Gen. Joseph E...

, but the Confederate senior leadership in Richmond
Richmond, Virginia
Richmond is the capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia, in the United States. It is an independent city and not part of any county. Richmond is the center of the Richmond Metropolitan Statistical Area and the Greater Richmond area...

 was unhappy with Johnston's perceived reluctance to fight the Union army, even though he had little chance of winning. Thus, on July 17, 1864, as he was preparing for the Battle of Peachtree Creek
Battle of Peachtree Creek
The Battle of Peachtree Creek was fought in Georgia on July 20, 1864, as part of the Atlanta Campaign in the American Civil War. It was the first major attack by Lt. Gen. John B. Hood since taking command of the Confederate Army of Tennessee. The attack was against Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman's...

, Johnston was relieved of his command and replaced by Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood
John Bell Hood
John Bell Hood was a Confederate general during the American Civil War. Hood had a reputation for bravery and aggressiveness that sometimes bordered on recklessness...

. The dismissal and replacement of Johnston was one of the most controversial decisions of the Civil War. Hood, who was fond of taking risks, lashed out at Sherman's army at Peachtree Creek, but the attack failed with almost five thousand Confederate casualties.

Hood needed to defend the city of Atlanta, which was an important rail hub and industrial center for the Confederacy, but his army was small in comparison to the armies that Sherman commanded. He decided to withdraw, enticing the Union troops to come forward. McPherson's army closed in from Decatur, Georgia
Decatur, Georgia
Decatur is a city in, and county seat of, DeKalb County, Georgia, United States. With a population of 19,335 in the 2010 census, the city is sometimes assumed to be larger since multiple zip codes in unincorporated DeKalb County bear the Decatur name...

, to the east side of Atlanta.

Battle

Meanwhile, Hood ordered Lt. Gen. William J. Hardee
William J. Hardee
William Joseph Hardee was a career U.S. Army officer, serving during the Second Seminole War and fighting in the Mexican-American War...

's corps on a march around the Union left flank, had Maj. Gen. Joseph Wheeler
Joseph Wheeler
Joseph Wheeler was an American military commander and politician. He has the rare distinction of serving as a general during war time for two opposing forces: first as a noted cavalry general in the Confederate States Army in the 1860s during the American Civil War, and later as a general in the...

's cavalry march near Sherman's supply line, and had Maj. Gen. Benjamin Cheatham
Benjamin F. Cheatham
Benjamin Franklin Cheatham , known also as Frank, was a Tennessee aristocrat, California gold miner, and a General in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War, serving in many battles of the Western Theater.-Early years:Cheatham was born in Nashville, Tennessee on a plantation...

's corps attack the Union front. However, it took longer than expected for Hardee to get his men in position, and during that time, McPherson had correctly deduced a possible threat to his left flank, and sent XVI Corps, his reserve, to help strengthen it. Hardee's force met this other force, and the battle began. Although the initial Confederate attack was repulsed, the Union left flank began to retreat. About this time, McPherson, who had ridden to the front to observe the battle, was shot and killed by Confederate infantry.

Near Decatur, Brig. Gen. John W. Sprague
John W. Sprague
John Wilson Sprague was an American soldier and railroad executive. He served as a general in the Union Army in the Western Theater of operations during the American Civil War. He received the Medal of Honor for gallantry at the Battle of Decatur during the Atlanta Campaign...

, in command of the 2nd Brigade, 4th Division of the XVI Corps, were attacked by Wheeler's calvalry. Wheeler had taken the Fayetteville Road while Hardee's column took the Flat Shoals Road toward McPherson's position. The Federals fled the town in a stampede but managed to save the ordnance and supply trains of the XV, XVI, XVII, and XX Corps. With the failure of Hardee's assault, Wheeler was in no position to hold Decatur and fell back into Atlanta that night. Sprague would later be awarded the Medal of Honor
Medal of Honor
The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration awarded by the United States government. It is bestowed by the President, in the name of Congress, upon members of the United States Armed Forces who distinguish themselves through "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his or her...

 for his actions.

The main lines of battle now formed an "L" shape, with Hardee's attack forming the lower part of the "L" and Cheatham's attack on the Union front as the vertical member of the "L". Hood intended to attack the Union troops from both east and west. The fighting centered around a hill east of the city known as Bald Hill. The Federals had arrived two days earlier and began to shell the city proper, killing several civilians. A savage struggle, sometimes hand-to-hand, developed around the hill, lasting until just after dark. The Federals held the hill while the Confederates retired to a point just south of there. Meanwhile, two miles to the north, Cheatham's troops had broken through the Union lines at the Georgia railroad. In response, twenty artillery pieces were positioned near Sherman's headquarters at Copen Hill
Copenhill
Copenhill, Copenhill Park, or Copen Hill was a neighborhood of Atlanta, Georgia which was located largely where the Carter Center now sits, and which now forms part of the Poncey-Highland neighborhood. It lay:...

 and shelled the Confederates, while Logan's XV Corps regrouped and repulsed the Southern troops.

The Union had suffered 3,641 casualties, including Maj. Gen. McPherson, to the Confederates' 8,499. This was a devastating loss for the already reduced Confederate Army, but they still held the city. One notable establishment destroyed by Union soldiers was the Potter (or Ponder) House, built in 1857 and owned by Ephraim G. Ponder, a holder of sixty-five slaves before the war. In the battle, it was used by Confederate sharpshooters until Union artillery inflicted heavy damage. It was never rebuilt. One of Ponder's slaves, Festus Flipper, was the father of Henry Ossian Flipper
Henry Ossian Flipper
Henry Ossian Flipper was an American soldier and though born into slavery in the American South, was the first African American to graduate from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1877 at the age of 21 and earn a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the US Army.Following Flipper's...

, who later became the first African American cadet
Cadet
A cadet is a trainee to become an officer in the military, often a person who is a junior trainee. The term comes from the term "cadet" for younger sons of a noble family.- Military context :...

 to graduate from the United States Military Academy
United States Military Academy
The United States Military Academy at West Point is a four-year coeducational federal service academy located at West Point, New York. The academy sits on scenic high ground overlooking the Hudson River, north of New York City...

 at West Point
West Point, New York
West Point is a federal military reservation established by President of the United States Thomas Jefferson in 1802. It is a census-designated place located in Town of Highlands in Orange County, New York, United States. The population was 7,138 at the 2000 census...

.

Siege and closure

Sherman settled into a siege of Atlanta, shelling the city and sending raids west and south of the city to cut off the supply lines from Macon, Georgia
Macon, Georgia
Macon is a city located in central Georgia, US. Founded at the fall line of the Ocmulgee River, it is part of the Macon metropolitan area, and the county seat of Bibb County. A small portion of the city extends into Jones County. Macon is the biggest city in central Georgia...

. Both of Sherman's calvary raids were defeated by superior southern horsemen. Following the failure to break the Confederates' hold on the city, Sherman began to employ a new strategy. He would swing his entire army in a broad flanking maneuver to the west. Finally, on August 31 at Jonesborough, Georgia
Battle of Jonesborough
-Further reading:...

, Sherman's army captured the railroad track from Macon, pushing the Confederates to Lovejoy's Station
Lovejoy, Georgia
Lovejoy is a city in Clayton County, Georgia, United States. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 2,495. During the American Civil War, it was named Lovejoy's Station, and was the site of the Battle of Lovejoy's Station during the Atlanta Campaign of 1864.During the 2000s,...

. With his supply lines fully severed, Hood pulled his troops out of Atlanta the next day, September 1, destroying supply depots as he left to prevent them from falling into Union hands. He also set fire to eighty-one loaded ammunition cars, which led to a conflagration watched by hundreds.

On September 2, Mayor James Calhoun
James Calhoun
James M. Calhoun was the 16th Mayor of Atlanta, Georgia during the Civil War.Calhoun was born in South Carolina and his parents died when he was 18....

, along with a committee of Union-leaning citizens including William Markham
William Markham (mayor)
William Markham was a prominent hotel owner in Atlanta. Following the illness of John Mims he filled in as mayor October 1853 and won a special election soon after...

, Jonathan Norcross
Jonathan Norcross
Jonathan Norcross , fourth Mayor of Atlanta, GA. Dubbed the "Father of Atlanta" and "hard fighter of everything." - Henry W. Grady - Personal life :...

, and Edward Rawson, met a captain on the staff of Maj. Gen. Henry W. Slocum
Henry Warner Slocum
Henry Warner Slocum , was a Union general during the American Civil War and later served in the United States House of Representatives from New York. During the war, he was one of the youngest major generals in the Army and fought numerous major battles in the Eastern Theater and in Georgia and the...

 and surrendered the city, asking for "protection to non-combatants and private property". Sherman, who was in Jonesborough at the time of surrender, sent a telegram to Washington on September 3 reading, "Atlanta is ours, and fairly won". He then established his headquarters there on September 7, where he stayed for over two months before Sherman ordered the evacuation of all citizens. On November 14, Sherman's army burned all but about 400 buildings, including homes and businesses; estimates of the number of buildings destroyed range from 3,200 to 5,000. The next day, the army departed east toward Savannah
Savannah, Georgia
Savannah is the largest city and the county seat of Chatham County, in the U.S. state of Georgia. Established in 1733, the city of Savannah was the colonial capital of the Province of Georgia and later the first state capital of Georgia. Today Savannah is an industrial center and an important...

 on what would become known as Sherman's March to the Sea
Sherman's March to the Sea
Sherman's March to the Sea is the name commonly given to the Savannah Campaign conducted around Georgia from November 15, 1864 to December 21, 1864 by Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman of the Union Army in the American Civil War...

.

Aftermath

The fall of Atlanta and the success of the overall Atlanta Campaign
Atlanta Campaign
The Atlanta Campaign was a series of battles fought in the Western Theater of the American Civil War throughout northwest Georgia and the area around Atlanta during the summer of 1864. Union Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman invaded Georgia from the vicinity of Chattanooga, Tennessee, beginning in May...

 were extensively covered by Northern newspapers, and were a boon to Northern morale and to President Lincoln's political standing. The 1864 election
United States presidential election, 1864
In the United States Presidential election of 1864, Abraham Lincoln was re-elected as president. The election was held during the Civil War. Lincoln ran under the National Union ticket against Democratic candidate George B. McClellan, his former top general. McClellan ran as the "peace candidate",...

 was between former Union General George B. McClellan
George B. McClellan
George Brinton McClellan was a major general during the American Civil War. He organized the famous Army of the Potomac and served briefly as the general-in-chief of the Union Army. Early in the war, McClellan played an important role in raising a well-trained and organized army for the Union...

, a Democrat, and Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

. McClellan ran a conflicted campaign - McClellan was a Unionist who advocated continuing the war until the defeat of the Confederacy, but the Democratic platform included calls for negotiations with the Confederacy on the subject of a potential truce. The capture of Atlanta and Hood's burning of military facilities as he evacuated showed that a successful conclusion of the war was in sight, weakening support for a truce. Lincoln was reelected by a comfortable margin, with 212 out of 233 electoral votes.

Maj. Gen. James B. McPherson
James B. McPherson
James Birdseye McPherson was a career United States Army officer who served as a General in the Union Army during the American Civil War...

, who was one of the highest-ranking Union officers killed in action during the Civil War, was mourned and honored by Sherman, who declared in his official report:

His public enemies, even the men who directed the fatal shot, ne'er spoke or wrote of him
without expressions of marked respect; those whom he commanded loved him even to idolatry; and I, his associate and commander, fail in words adequate to express my opinion of his great worth. I feel assured that every patriot in America, on hearing this sad news, will feel a sense of personal loss, and the country generally will realize that we have lost, not only an able military leader, but a man who, had he survived, was qualified to heal the national strife which has been raised by designing and ambitious men.


Despite the damage caused by the war, Atlanta recovered from its downfall relatively quickly; as one observer noted as early as November 1865, "A new city is springing up with marvelous rapidity".
In 1880, Atlanta ranked among the fifty largest cities in the United States. The battlefield is now urban residential and commercial land, with many markers memorializing notable events of the battle, including McPherson's place of death. The marker was erected in 1956 by the Georgia Historical Commission
Georgia Historical Commission
The Georgia Historical Commission was an organization created by the U.S. state of Georgia for purposes of historic preservation. The Georgia legislature created the commission in February 1951 to promote and increase knowledge and understanding of the history of Georgia...

. To commemorate the 140th anniversary of the battle in 2004, two new markers were erected in the Inman Park
Inman Park
Inman Park was planned in the late 1880s by Joel Hurt, a civil engineer and real-estate developer who intended to create a rural oasis connected to the city by the first of Atlanta's electric streetcar lines. The East Atlanta Land Company acquired and developed more than 130 acres east of the city...

 neighborhood. The Atlanta Cyclorama
Atlanta Cyclorama
The Atlanta Cyclorama and Civil War Museum is a civil war museum located in Atlanta, its most noted attraction being the Atlanta Cyclorama, a cylindrical panoramic painting of the American Civil War Battle of Atlanta...

 building, built in 1921 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places
National Register of Historic Places
The National Register of Historic Places is the United States government's official list of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects deemed worthy of preservation...

, is a museum located in Grant Park containing a panoramic painting
Panoramic painting
Panoramic paintings are massive artworks that reveal a wide, all-encompassing view of a particular subject, often a landscape, military battle, or historical event. They became especially popular in the 19th Century in Europe and the United States, inciting opposition from writers of Romantic poetry...

of the battle.
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