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Battle of Atlanta

July 22, 1864

The Battle of Atlanta was a military engagement between Union forces commanded by Major William T. Sherman and Confederate forces commanded by General John B. Hood during the Atlanta Campaign of the American Civil War. The encounter took place in Fulton County, near Atlanta, Georgia, on July 22, 1864. Union forces were victorious, inflicting heavy casualties on the Rebels.

In late November 1863, Union forces commanded by Major General Ulysses S. Grant successfully lifted Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston's siege of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Union victories at Lookout Mountain (November 24) and Missionary Ridge (November 25) forced Johnston to withdraw thirty miles south to near Dalton, Georgia.

After the Federal breakout from Chattanooga, Grant was promoted to the special rank of Lieutenant General and placed in command of all Union armies. Grant moved his headquarters to Washington, leaving his trusted subordinate, Major General William T. Sherman, in command of Federal operations in the western theater. Grant's primary military strategy was a coordinated effort to attack and defeat the two main Confederate armies in the field, Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia in the east, and Joseph E. Johnston's Army of Tennessee in the west. On May 5, 1864, Grant launched his Overland Campaign against Lee in Virginia. Two days later, Sherman led three armies, the Army of the Tennessee, commanded by Major General James B. McPherson; the Army of the Ohio, commanded by Major General John M. Schofield; and the Army of the Cumberland, commanded by Major General George H. Thomas, out of Tennessee in pursuit of Johnston's army in northern Georgia.

Throughout the summer of 1864, the Confederate and Union armies engaged in a series of battles between Dalton and Atlanta in northern Georgia. Most of the fighting occurred at places on or near the Western and Atlantic Railroad, which connected Chattanooga and Atlanta. Both sides depended on the railway for supplies throughout the campaign. In a pattern that was often repeated, Sherman employed flanking movements that threatened the railway to Johnston's rear, forcing the Confederate commander to retreat south in order to protect his supply lines.

By mid-July, Sherman had driven Johnston's army to the outskirts of Atlanta. Southerners, in general, and Jefferson Davis, in particular, had grown weary of Johnston's strategy of retreat. On July 17, 1864, the Confederate President relieved Johnston of his command, replacing him with General John Bell Hood. Known as an aggressive fighter, Hood was a veteran officer with a reputation for personal bravery. He had been severely wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1863) and at the Battle of Chickamauga (September 19-20, 1863). General Hood wasted little time in responding to Southerners' calls for action.

On July 20, Hood launched a costly attack against the Army of the Cumberland. The assault cost Hood nearly 5,000 soldiers and failed to drive the Federals back north of Peachtree Creek. Undeterred, Hood turned his attention to McPherson's Army of the Tennessee, east of Atlanta. On July 22, Hood ordered William J. Hardee's corps to march out and assault McPherson's left flank, which Hood believed was vulnerable.

Unfortunately for Hood, McPherson recognized the weakness on his left flank and reinforced it before Hardee arrived to launch his assault. The battle began when Hardee's soldiers encountered McPherson's reinforcements. The Federals repulsed the initial attack, but gradually began to give ground. When McPherson rode to the front to observe the battle, he was shot and killed. Despite the loss of their leader, the Yankees regrouped and eventually held their line.

At about 4 p.m., Hood launched a secondary assault against the Union center. Once again, the initial push was successful and the Rebels forced the Federals back. In response, Sherman personally directed artillery fire on the Confederates, halting their surge and inflicting heavy casualties. The Federals then launched a counterattack and restored their lines. With the Union lines stabilized on both fronts and losses mounting to unacceptable levels, Hood called off the attacks.

Ohio units that participated in the Battle of Atlanta included:

Infantry units:

  • 9th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 20th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 27th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 30th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 37th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 39th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 43rd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 46th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 47th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 53rd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 54th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 63rd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 68th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 70th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 76th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 78th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 81st Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

Artillery units:

  • 3rd Ohio Light Artillery Battery
  • 4th Ohio Light Artillery Battery
  • 15th Ohio Light Artillery Battery

The Battle of Atlanta was another costly defeat for the Confederacy. Hood's army lost 8,500 killed, wounded, captured or missing badly needed soldiers. Union losses totaled about 3,600, including McPherson. The Confederates still held Atlanta, but their situation was untenable. Sherman settled into a siege, shelling the city and cutting off supplies, until Hood was forced to evacuate Atlanta six weeks later.

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