Atlanta, Battle of

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Atlanta, Battle of (1864).Throughout May, June, and early July 1864, the Union army of Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman advanced through northern Georgia toward Atlanta while the Confederate army of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, to the increasing alarm of the Richmond authorities, retreated in front of it. Finally, on 17 July, President Jefferson Davis acted, replacing Johnston with the aggressive Gen. John Bell Hood.

By this time the Confederate army was backed into the very outskirts of Atlanta, and Hood had no choice but to fight or abandon the city. On 20 July, he attacked Federal troops under Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas near Peachtree Creek (the Battle of Peachtree Creek). Hood's plan went awry and the result was a bloody repulse.

Two days later, Hood struck again, in what is called the Battle of Atlanta. His target this time was a Federal force under Maj. Gen. James B. McPherson. Hood's plan was a good one, a flanking maneuver of his own, and this time it was tolerably well executed. Lt. Gen. William J. Hardee led his Confederate force on a long, tiring night march to gain the Federal rear. While he attacked from that direction, Confederates under Maj. Gen. Benjamin F. Cheatham were to attack the Union front. Hood, who was hampered by a crippled arm and a missing leg, was not personally present on the battlefield, and afterward he complained that Hardee had not positioned his troops as directed. Hardee, who resented being passed over in favor of Hood, was sometimes uncooperative. Still, Confederates struck hard at McPherson's Federals in a fierce day‐long battle. The result went against the Southerners. Two Union divisions of Maj. Gen. Grenville Dodge's corps had, the night before, taken up a position that allowed them to blunt Hardee's attack. That, along with exceptionally hard fighting on the part of McPherson's men, produced Hood's defeat, but not before McPherson himself had been killed and John A. Logan had taken his place. On the Confederate side, Maj. Gen. William H. T. Walker was killed. Just over 30,000 Federals were engaged against nearly 40,000 Confederates. Federal casualties were 3,722; Confederate losses are harder to pinpoint, but the best estimate is 7,000.

Six days later, Sherman tried yet another turning maneuver, and Hood responded again, attacking the Federals at the Battle of Ezra Church and again suffering a bloody repulse. After that, operations settled down to a quasi‐siege of Atlanta. Hood's three sorties had cost him heavily in casualties and failed to gain battlefield success. Nevertheless, they had prevented Sherman from taking the city that month and forced the Union commander to show more caution in his future operations. Though Atlanta fell to Sherman on 2 September 1864, it is likely that Hood's installation as commander had delayed that event six weeks beyond the time it would have happened had Johnston remained in command.
[See also Civil War: Military and Diplomatic Course.]


Richard M. McMurry , John Bell Hood and the War for Southern Independence, 1982.
Albert Castel , Decision in the West: The Atlanta Campaign of 1864, 1992.

Steven E. Woodworth