Thursday, June 21, 2007
Sherman's advance on Atlanta
When Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant was made commander-in-chief of all Union forces in the field in March 1864, he appointed Major General William T. Sherman to take over his forces in the west (today we refer to it as the deep s=South). The aim was to continue the successful drive against the Confederacy, following the capture of Chattanooge in November 1863. Sherman's key stratgic objective was the second most important city of the Confederacy, Atlanta, Georgia.
Sherman had a massive force of approximately 110,000 men under his command, comprising three armies: the Armu of the Cumberland (60,000), Army of Tennessee (30,000), and the Army of the Ohio (17,000). Although the Confederates numbered only 45,000, they were in a strong defensive position, occupying Rocky Face Ridge, near Dalton, commanding the surrounding mountainous terrain and deep river valleys that Sherman would have to traverse to reach Atlanta.
On My 4th, Sherman began to move his troops south from Chattanooga. His intentions were to hold the Rebels at Rocky Face Ridge using the Army of the Cumberland. Meanwhile he would move the Army of Tennessee around the Confederate flank to Resaca. This action would, if properly executed, cut off the Confederate supply lines and force them to retreat to Atlanta.
But the Union force upon arriving at Resaca, on the 9th of May, found a larger Confederate force than anticipated. General Johnston upon hearing that the Union forces had moved to his rear, immediately concentrated his entire force at Resaca. An additional Rebel force of 60,000 was also redeployed to Resaca.
Sherman attacked Resaca over the next three days although the battle was inconclusive. The Confederate force pulled back to Adairsville. An attempt by the Union troops to outflank the Confederate defenses caused the Confederates to pull back to Cassville.
Inconclusive battles ensued in the general area for a period of four days at New Hope Church, Pumpkin Vine Creek, Pine Knob, Lost Mountain and Kennesaw Mountain. In the various battles the Forty-sixth Pennsylvania Infantry, with men from the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania, lost fourteen killed and thirty wounded. Then came Peach Tree Creek where the Forty-sixth was exposed and suffered severely.
The One Hundred Forty-Seventh Pennsylvania, with troops from Allentown and the Lehigh Valley area, was also engaged in all of the afore mentioned battles and skimishes. But it was at Peach Tree Creek where it endured the heaviest fighting. The regiment withstood a constant battering. The Rebels were relentless in their attack upon the One Hundred forty-seventh Pennsylvania's position. One Union officer stated: "I have seen most of the battle-fields in the Southwest, but nowhere have I seen traces of more deadly work..."
The Union forces continued in their attempt to move around the Confederate left flank, but they were blocked at Kenensaw Mountain. The Union forces attempted a frontal assault but lost 2 to 3,000 men in the battle compared to the loss of only 500 Rebels. Sherman then ordered the Union troops to make a move around the right flank of the enemy forcing the Confederates to pull back into the Atlanta fortifications. On July 17, President Davis removed General Johnston from command in what he regarded as exceesive caution on General Joseph E. Johnston's part. Johnston was replaced with General John B. Hood.
The battle for Atlanta was fierce and prolonged, but Atlanta, in flames, fell to Sherman's forces on September 1, 1864.
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