Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Sherman Occupies Atlanta
Confederate General John B. Hood withdrew from Atlanta on September 1, 1864, leaving the beleaguered city to the Union forces under Major General William T. Sherman.
Hood regrouped his Army of Tennessee, now 35,000 strong, south of Atlanta. He skirted the city moving into position to the north with the intent of disrupting Sherman's lines of communications, particularly along the railroads out of Atlanta.
Sherman decided it was time to pursue Hood to stop the harassment. Leaving only a token force in Atlanta and dispatching Major General George H. Thomas with a division to defend the strategically important Tennessee city of Nashville.
Sherman and Hood clashed on October 15th at Snake Creek Gap but Hood withdrew farther west to Gadsden, Alabama. Sherman surmised that Hood was trying to pull him further and further away from Atlanta, so he broke off the pursuit and returned to Atlanta to plan his campaign - the "March to the Sea" through Georgia. Sherman left Thomas to hold Hood to his rear.
When General John B. Hood became aware that Sherman had split his forces and returned to Atlanta, he revised his plans. As ambitious as it was, he intended to march on Nashville. Unfortunately for Hood, he delayed the crossing of the Tennessee River until November 21st. By that time, Sherman had decided that Thomas needed to be reinforced and he dispatched Major General David S. Stanley's IV Corps from the Army of the Cumberland, Major General John M. Schoefield's XXIII Corps from the Army of Ohio and three divisions of XVI Corps of the Army of Tennessee, a total of 60,000 men.
Gen Schoefield feared that he would be isolated from Nashville if Hood moved to cut him off, so he evaded Hood and reached the comparative safety of Franklin;s fortifications. by dawn on November 30th.
Hood with s force of 40,000 reached Franklin by mid-day of the 30th. The Union force numbered only 26,000 but they had established a strong defensive position behind fortifications. Hood positioned his force of 18 brigades of infantry in a line of battle across two miles of open field, for a frontal assault of the Union fortifications. It was a tragic repetition of the fatal charge at Gettysburg but on an even larger scale.
"For the moment," a Federal officer wrote, " We were spellbound with admiration, although...we knew that in a few brief moments, as soon as they came within firing range, all that orderly grandeur would be changed to bleeding, writhing confusion..."
Five Confederate generals were killed. Six others wounded, one mortally, and another captured. Altogether the Confederates suffered 7,000 casualties among their ranks. The Union army only 2,300 casualties. While the wounded and dying Rebels lay on the battle field, moaning in agony, the Union force slipped out under the cover of night and withdrew to Nashville.
General Hood stubbornly continued toward Nashville in pursuit and put up breastworks fronting the entrenched Federal lines. Snow, freezing rain and sleet paralyzed everything for awhile. But when the weather cleared and the thaw came, the Federal force emerged and in 2 days of fighting, sent Hood reeling. The Army of Tennessee had become a disheartened and disorganized rabble of half armed and barefoot men. The survivors made their way south to Mississippi.
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