Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman


Text to Speech

telegraph-wires laid to it. The points of attack were chosen, and

the troops were all prepared with as little demonstration as

possible. About 9 A.M. Of the day appointed, the troops moved to

the assault, and all along our lines for ten miles a furious fire

of artillery and musketry was kept up. At all points the enemy met

us with determined courage and in great force. McPherson's

attacking column fought up the face of the lesser Kenesaw, but

could not reach the summit. About a mile to the right (just below

the Dallas road) Thomas's assaulting column reached the parapet,

where Brigadier-General Barker was shot down mortally wounded, and

Brigadier-General Daniel McCook (my old law-partner) was

desperately wounded, from the effects of which he afterward died.

By 11.30 the assault was in fact over, and had failed. We had not

broken the rebel line at either point, but our assaulting columns

held their ground within a few yards of the rebel trenches, and

there covered themselves with parapet. McPherson lost about five

hundred men and several valuable officers, and Thomas lost nearly

two thousand men. This was the hardest fight of the campaign up to

that date, and it is well described by Johnston in his "Narrative"

(pages 342, 343), where he admits his loss in killed and wounded

as

Total ............. 808

This, no doubt, is a true and fair statement; but, as usual,

Johnston overestimates our loss, putting it at six thousand,

whereas our entire loss was about twenty-five hundred, killed and

wounded.

While the battle was in progress at the centre, Schofield crossed

Olley's Creek on the right, and gained a position threatening

Johnston's line of retreat; and, to increase the effect, I ordered

Stoneman's cavalry to proceed rapidly still farther to the right,

to Sweetwater. Satisfied of the bloody cost of attacking

intrenched lines, I at once thought of moving the whole army to the

railroad at a point (Fulton) about ten miles below Marietta, or to

the Chattahoochee River itself, a movement similar to the one

afterward so successfully practised at Atlanta. All the orders

were issued to bring forward supplies enough to fill our wagons,

intending to strip the railroad back to Allatoona, and leave that

place as our depot, to be covered as well as possible by Garrard's

cavalry. General Thomas, as usual, shook his head, deeming it

risky to leave the railroad; but something had to be done, and I

had resolved on this move, as reported in my dispatch to General

Halleck on July 1st:

General Schofield is now south of Olley's Creek, and on the head of

Nickajack. I have been hurrying down provisions and forage, and

tomorrow night propose to move McPherson from the left to the

extreme right, back of General Thomas. This will bring my right

within three miles of the Chattahoochee River, and about five miles

from the railroad. By this movement I think I can force Johnston

to move his whole army down from Kenesaw to defend his railroad and

the Chattahoochee, when I will (by the left flank) reach the

railroad below Marietta; but in this I must cut loose from the

railroad with ten days' supplies in wagons. Johnston may come out

of his intrenchments to attack Thomas, which is exactly what I

want, for General Thomas is well intrenched on a line parallel with

the enemy south of Kenesaw. I think that Allatoona and the line of

the Etowah are strong enough for me to venture on this move. The

movement is substantially down the Sandtown road straight for

Atlanta.

McPherson drew out of his lines during the night of July 2d,

leaving Garrard's cavalry, dismounted, occupying his trenches, and

moved to the rear of the Army of the Cumberland, stretching down

the Nickajack; but Johnston detected the movement, and promptly

abandoned Marietta and Kenesaw. I expected as much, for, by the

earliest dawn of the 3d of July, I was up at a large spy-glass

mounted on a tripod, which Colonel Poe, United States Engineers,

had at his bivouac close by our camp. I directed the glass on

Kenesaw, and saw some of our pickets crawling up the hill

cautiously; soon they stood upon the very top, and I could plainly

see their movements as they ran along the crest just abandoned by

the enemy. In a minute I roused my staff, and started them off

with orders in every direction for a pursuit by every possible

road, hoping to catch Johnston in the confusion of retreat,

especially at the crossing of the Chattahoochee River.

I must close this chapter here, so as to give the actual losses

during June, which are compiled from the official returns by

months. These losses, from June 1st to July 3d, were all

substantially sustained about Kenesaw and Marietta, and it was

really a continuous battle, lasting from the 10th day of June till

the 3d of July, when the rebel army fell back from Marietta toward

the Chattahoochee River. Our losses were:

Killed and Missing Wounded Total

Loss in June Aggregate 1,790 5,740 7,530

Johnston makes his statement of losses from the report of his

surgeon Foard, for pretty much the same period, viz., from June 4th

to July 4th (page 576):

Killed Wounded Total

Total............ 468 3,480 3,948

In the tabular statement the "missing" embraces the prisoners; and,

giving two thousand as a fair proportion of prisoners captured by

us for the month of June (twelve thousand nine hundred and eighty-

three in all the campaign), makes an aggregate loss in the rebel

army of fifty-nine hundred and forty-eight, to ours of seventy-five

hundred and thirty--a less proportion than in the relative strength

of our two armies, viz., as six to ten, thus maintaining our

relative superiority, which the desperate game of war justified.

CHAPTER XVIII.

ATLANTA CAMPAIGN--BATTLES ABOUT ATLANTA

JULY, 1864.

As before explained, on the 3d of July, by moving McPherson's

entire army from the extreme left, at the base of Kenesaw to the

right, below Olley's Creek, and stretching it down the Nickajack

toward Turner's Ferry of the Chattahoochee, we forced Johnston to

choose between a direct assault on Thomas's intrenched position, or

to permit us to make a lodgment on his railroad below Marietta, or

even to cross the Chattahoochee. Of course, he chose to let go

Kenesaw and Marietta, and fall back on an intrenched camp prepared

by his orders in advance on the north and west bank of the

Chattahoochee, covering the railroad-crossing and his several

pontoon-bridges. I confess I had not learned beforehand of the

existence of this strong place, in the nature of a tete-du-pont,

and had counted on striking him an effectual blow in the expected

confusion of his crossing the Chattahoochee, a broad and deep river

then to his rear. Ordering every part of the army to pursue

vigorously on the morning of the 3d of July, I rode into Marietta,

just quitted by the rebel rear-guard, and was terribly angry at the

cautious pursuit by Garrard's cavalry, and even by the head of our

infantry columns. But Johnston had in advance cleared and

multiplied his roads, whereas ours had to cross at right angles

from the direction of Powder Springs toward Marrietta, producing

delay and confusion. By night Thomas's head of column ran up

against a strong rear-guard intrenched at Smyrna camp-ground, six

miles below Marietta, and there on the next day we celebrated our

Fourth of July, by a noisy but not a desperate battle, designed

chiefly to hold the enemy there till Generals McPherson and

Schofield could get well into position below him, near the

Chattahoochee crossings.

It was here that General Noyes, late Governor of Ohio, lost his

leg. I came very near being shot myself while reconnoitring in the

second story of a house on our picket-line, which was struck

several times by cannon-shot, and perfectly riddled with

musket-balls.

During the night Johnston drew back all his army and trains inside

the tete-du-pont at the Chattahoochee, which proved one of the

strongest pieces of field-fortification I ever saw. We closed up

against it, and were promptly met by a heavy and severe fire.

Thomas was on the main road in immediate pursuit; next on his right

was Schofield; and McPherson on the extreme right, reaching the

Chattahoochee River below Turner's Ferry. Stoneman's cavalry was

still farther to the right, along down the Chattahoochee River as

far as opposite Sandtown; and on that day I ordered Garrard's

division of cavalry up the river eighteen miles, to secure

possession of the factories at Roswell, as well as to hold an

important bridge and ford at that place.

About three miles out from the Chattahoochee the main road forked,

the right branch following substantially the railroad, and the left

one leading straight for Atlanta, via Paice's Ferry and Buckhead.

We found the latter unoccupied and unguarded, and the Fourth Corps

(Howard's) reached the river at Paice's Ferry. The right-hand road

was perfectly covered by the tete-du-pont before described, where

the resistance was very severe, and for some time deceived me, for

I was pushing Thomas with orders to fiercely assault his enemy,

supposing that he was merely opposing us to gain time to get his

trains and troops across the Chattahoochee; but, on personally

reconnoitring, I saw the abatis and the strong redoubts, which

satisfied me of the preparations that had been made by Johnston in

anticipation of this very event. While I was with General Jeff. C.

Davis, a poor negro came out of the abatis, blanched with fright,

said he had been hidden under a log all day, with a perfect storm

of shot, shells, and musket-balls, passing over him, till a short

lull had enabled him to creep out and make himself known to our

skirmishers, who in turn had sent him back to where we were. This

negro explained that he with about a thousand slaves had been at

work a month or more on these very lines, which, as he explained,

extended from the river about a mile above the railroad-bridge to

Turner's Ferry below,--being in extent from five to six miles.

Therefore, on the 5th of July we had driven our enemy to cover in

the valley of the Chattahoochee, and we held possession of the

river above for eighteen miles, as far as Roswell, and below ten

miles to the mouth of the Sweetwater. Moreover, we held the high

ground and could overlook his movements, instead of his looking

down on us, as was the case at Kenesaw.

From a hill just back of Mining's Station I could see the houses in

Atlanta, nine miles distant, and the whole intervening valley of

the Chattahoochee; could observe the preparations for our reception

on the other side, the camps of men and large trains of covered

wagons; and supposed, as a matter of course, that Johnston had

passed the river with the bulk of his army, and that he had only

left on our side a corps to cover his bridges; but in fact he had

only sent across his cavalry and trains. Between Howard's corps at

Paice's Ferry and the rest of Thomas's army pressing up against

this tete-du-pont, was a space concealed by dense woods, in

crossing which I came near riding into a detachment of the enemy's

cavalry; and later in the same day Colonel Frank Sherman, of

Chicago, then on General Howard's staff, did actually ride straight

into the enemy's camp, supposing that our lines were continuous.

He was carried to Atlanta, and for some time the enemy supposed

they were in possession of the commander-in-chief of the opposing

army.

I knew that Johnston would not remain long on the west bank of the

Chattahoochee, for I could easily practise on that ground to better

advantage our former tactics of intrenching a moiety in his front,

and with the rest of our army cross the river and threaten either

his rear or the city of Atlanta itself, which city was of vital

importance to the existence not only of his own army, but of the

Confederacy itself. In my dispatch of July 6th to General Halleck,

at Washington, I state that:

Johnston (in his retreat from Kenesaw) has left two breaks in the

railroad--one above Marietta and one near Mining's Station. The

former is already repaired, and Johnston's army has heard the sound

of our locomotives. The telegraph is finished to Mining's Station,

and the field-wire has just reached my bivouac, and will be ready

to convey this message as soon as it is written and translated into

cipher.

I propose to study the crossings of the Chattahoochee, and, when

all is ready, to move quickly. As a beginning, I will keep the

troops and wagons well back from the river, and only display to the

enemy our picket-line, with a few field-batteries along at random.

I have already shifted Schofield to a point in our left rear,

whence he can in a single move reach the Chattahoochee at a point

above the railroad-bridge, where there is a ford. At present the

waters are turbid and swollen from recent rains; but if the present

hot weather lasts, the water will run down very fast. We have

pontoons enough for four bridges, but, as our crossing will be

resisted, we must manoeuvre some. All the regular crossing-places

are covered by forts, apparently of long construction; but we shall

cross in due time, and, instead of attacking Atlanta direct, or any

of its forts, I propose to make a circuit, destroying all its

railroads. This is a delicate movement, and must be done with

caution. Our army is in good condition and full of confidence; but

the weather is intensely hot, and a good many men have fallen with

sunstroke. The country is high and healthy, and the sanitary

condition of the army is good.

At this time Stoneman was very active on our extreme right,

pretending to be searching the river below Turner's Ferry for a

crossing, and was watched closely by the enemy's cavalry on the

other side, McPherson, on the right, was equally demonstrative at

and near Turner's Ferry. Thomas faced substantially the intrenched

tete-du-pont, and had his left on the Chattahoochee River, at

Paice's Ferry. Garrard's cavalry was up at Roswell, and McCook's

small division of cavalry was intermediate, above Soap's Creek.

Meantime, also, the railroad-construction party was hard at work,

repairing the railroad up to our camp at Vining's Station.

Of course, I expected every possible resistance in crossing the

Chattahoochee River, and had made up my mind to feign on the right,

but actually to cross over by the left. We had already secured a

crossing place at Roswell, but one nearer was advisable; General

Schofield had examined the river well, found a place just below the

mouth of Soap's Creek which he deemed advantageous, and was

instructed to effect an early crossing there, and to intrench a

good position on the other side, viz., the east bank. But,

preliminary thereto, I had ordered General Rousseau, at Nashville,

to collect, out of the scattered detachments of cavalry in

Tennessee, a force of a couple of thousand men, to rendezvous at

Decatur, Alabama, thence to make a rapid march for Opelika, to

break up the railroad links between Georgia and Alabama, and then

to make junction with me about Atlanta; or, if forced, to go on to

Pensacola, or even to swing across to some of our posts in

Mississippi. General Rousseau asked leave to command this

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