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on his left; for as his corps were advancing on parallel
roads toward Atlanta, the character of the country was
such that he could only move his troops to the left by con'


siderable circnits to his rear. He conclnded, therefore,
to let Palmer and Hooker go forward by the roads they
■were on, to keep Newton's division of the Fourth Corps on
the direct Bnckhead and Atlanta road, and let Howard take
Wood's diyision of his corps by a detour to the east, unite
it with Stanley's, and with both divisions press forward till
he should find himself within supporting distance of Scho-
field. Could Thomas have known the position of Hood's
lines and that he was shifting his divisions eastward, he
would no doubt have found a way of doing the same ; for,
as it turned out. Hood's attack fell upon Newton's division
and Hooker's corps, leaving Palmer's coips almost whoUy
unemployed, while a gap of nearly two miles separated
Newton from the rest of the Fourth Corps under Howard.
But Thomas had no means of seeing through the impenetra-
ble veil of the forest-covered hills in his front, and the acci-
dental separation of his corps was in great part due to the
misleading maps which deceived both him and Sherman as
to the distance between the wings of the army.

On the morning of the 20th Palmer put Johnson's divi-
sion over the creek at Howell's Mill, and it took position
on the left of Baird, who had crossed during the night.
Davis's division still retained its place as the extreme right
of the army.

Hooker directed Williams's division to cross in rear of
Geary, and move to his right. After getting over Geary's
bridge, Williams took a country road leading to Embi-y's,
where the direct road from Howell's Mill comes in, and thus
extended Geary's line parallel to the general course of the
creek. In similar manner Hooker directed Ward's division
(formerly Butterfield's) to form on Geary's left. As the short-
est way of doing this from his position on the north side of
the creek. Ward marched to the bridge in rear of Newton's


division of the Fourth Corps, and after crossing took posi-
tion behind some hills overlooking Shoal Creek, ■which lay
in a pretty deep valley between him and Geary. In this
valley there was open country along the stream, especially
about Collier's Mill, which was a little in rear of his right

Newton had moved his division forward after relieving
Wood, and was about half a mile south of Peachtree Creek,
with his left flank toward Clear Creek, and his whole line
covering the cross road that leads to Collier's Mill. All of
the divisions were deployed with two brigades in front and
one as a reserve. Newton had a battery on the road in his
centre, and another in reserve, and had covered his front
hastily with a barricade of rails and timber. Ward had not
been able to move his cannon across the ravines, and a bat-
tery of his division was left near the bridge and was used by
General Thomas with excellent effect later in the day.
Geary and Williams had their field batteries with them, and
so had the divisions of Palmer's corps.

About three o'clock Hood's lines appeared, and a violent
combat began at Newton's left, which by the Schelon move-
ment ordered by Hood, would be first reached in the attack.
The enemy passed Newton's flank near Clear Creek,' but was
there attacked by his reserve brigade (Bradley's) and a bat-
tery of artillery, and driven back. The assault now reached
Newton's front, and Blake's brigade on the left of the road
with the battery easily held their ground. On the right of
the road was Kimball's brigade, and the enemy's force far
outflanking it, it was forced to change front to the rear,
holding on by the left and refusing the right. Ward's divi-

1 It is OBllod Pea Vine in Howard's report ; but this is an error. See U. S. En-
gineers' maps. Pea Vine Creek is a branch of the soath fork of Peachtree, sev-
eral miles higher up the stream.


sion was lying in a, hollow below and farther to the right
rear, and to them it looked as if Newton was beaten. His
brigade commanders seized the initiative without waiting
for orders, and leading their brigades gallantly to the hill-
top before them, they struck the flank of the enemy which
was assailing Kimball. Coburn's and Wood's brigades came
up on the left, with Harrison's on the right, and their sudden
appearance at the crest of the hill threw the enemy before
them into confusion.

But the progressive attack had now reached beyond Shoal
Creek, and Geary's division was engaged. His left front was
covered by a ravine leading down to Shoal Creek and his
right was on high ground and thrown somewhat forward. In
front of his left was open ground, and here his artillery was
placed with Candy's brigade. Jones's brigade was on Candy's
right, with a heavily wooded country before it, and Ireland's
brigade was in rear of Jones. The shape of the ground
brought the collision first on Geary's right. He, too, had a
slight barricade and his centre and left held firm, but he was
obliged to change front of part of his right, and to deploy
Ireland's brigade so as to put it between Jones and Candy,
letting Jones continue curving rearward till he connected
with Williams. When the enemy advanced into the angle
between Ward's division and Geary's left, they were met with
canister from Geary's batteries and with the infantry fire in
front and flank. They lost their organization, and were
fearfully slaughtered. Few battlefields of the war have
been strewn so thickly with dead and wounded as they lay
that evening around Collier's Mill.

Williams was advancing his division when the heavy mus-
ketry firing on the left warned him to deploy. He was on
the right rear of Geary, and his left front was covered by a
ravine which ran into Shoal Creek in rear of Geary's line.


His right rested on a ravine also, whicli separated him from
the Fourteenth Corps, and his centre was on the higher
ground between. The direction of all these ridges and ra-
vines from Newton to WiUiams was such as to throw for-
ward the right of each command as it rested on them, and
the division commanders, except Newton, all found their
right flank receiving the brunt of the first attack. Williams
deployed Robinson's brigade on his left, Knipe's on the right
of it, and held Kuger's in reserve, distributing his batteries
with special reference to sweeping the ravines on either
flank and the wooded ridge in front of Knipe. The enemy
pressing in between Geary's refused right flank and Robin-
son's brigade, suffered almost as severely as in the similar
situation between Geary and "Ward, though the woods and
thickets here gave them some shelter. On Williams's right
they tried to pass between him and Johnson's division of the
Fourteenth Corps, but WiUiams, by deploying part of Rug-
er's brigade, defeated this. In front they were easily re-
pulsed, though loth to withdraw.

The whole of the Confederate line of battle was now de-
veloped, and did not reach Palmer's corps. His left brigade
(Colonel Anson McCook's) assisted in repulsing the attack
upon Williams's right, but does not seem to have been itself
assailed. A warm artillery fire was kept up from works in
front of Palmer and was responded to by his batteries, but
no advance was there made from either side.

Not content with this first repulse, Hood's division com-
manders rallied their men again and again to the attack.
On Newton's left there was nothing to oppose them, and
they tried again to turn his flank. General Thomas was
there in person, and ordering up Ward's batteries, which, as
we have seen, were left behind their division, he put them
in a position to sweep the valley of Clear Creek, and drive


back the column that threatened to get in Newton's rear.
Along the whole line the attack had been repnlsed, and its
only chance of success had been in the first surprise ; yet
with sullen determination and unwillingness to accept de-
feat, the efforts to reform and advance again were continued
till sunset, when the enemy retired to his works.

The question of relative losses in this engagement is sur-
rounded by the difficulties which have been discussed in
other places. Those of the Army of the Cumberland, ex-
cept in Palmer's corps, are fully and officially reported, and
were 1,707 Idlled, wounded, and missing. Of these, New-
ton's division lost only 100, having succeeded apparently
in making better cover than the other divisions before the
attack was received ; Ward lost 550, Geary 476, and Williams
580. Of these about one-fifth were killed. Geary alone re-
ports any considerable number of missing, there being 165
in his division, and this no doubt indicates that there was,
in the early part of the battle, some confusion on his right,
which was " in the air " till he changed front and connected
with WiUiams.

As to the Confederate losses. Hood, though writing after
the publication of Sherman's " Memoirs,'' and quoting from
its account of this engagement, does not criticise its statement
of Hooker's estimate of 4,400 killed and wounded in front of
the Twentieth Corps. This is strong negative testimony,
and the other evidence more than sustains it. Geary's fatigue
parties buried 409 Confederates, and he reports these as
being in his front. It is probable, however, that they were
in both his front and Ward's, as the latter makes no report
on this point, and Collier's Mill, where the great loss was,
stood in a reSntrant angle between the divisions. Besides
these there were the losses in front and on the left of New-
ton, where it is admitted that the artDlery posted by Gen-


eral Thomas made great havoc, and where 200 of the enemy's
dead were buried. In front of Williams and between him
and the Fourteenth Corps there was also severe jlghting,
and Williams reports the burying of dead, though without
giving numbers. The losses in Williams's division were
heavier than Geaiy's in killed and wounded, and the reputa-
tion of that division gives assurance that it gave quite as
good an account of itself in the punishment of those who at-
tacked it. In the absence of specific reports on this point
from all the divisions, and even assuming that the burial
parties from Geary's division acted for most of the Twentieth
Corps, it would seem impossible to put the Confederate
dead below 800. Hood's medical director's report makes
the proportion of killed to wounded in the engagements
around Atlanta, about one to six. This would make his
casualties in all, including prisoners, about six thousand.

Hood and his subordinates agree in saying that this was
intended for a decisive engagement, and that the order
transmitted from the General-in-Chief down to regiments,
was that the troops should attack desperately whatever they
might find in their front, and strive to make there an end of
the campaign. But the advance of Sherman's left wing on
that day was more rapid than the Confederate general had
reckoned on, and the urgent reports from Wheeler's cavalry
and from Cheatham, that the National forces were outflank-
ing them, disjointed his plans. First Cheatham was ordered
to move a division's length to his right, as we have already
seen ; then the absolute necessity of covering the Decatur
road was such that Cheatham ordered his right under Gen-
eral Brown to extend to the railroad. Even then he was
obliged to put part of his troops in single line, and the
movement to the right, instead of covering a division length
of front, had been nearly two miles.


McPherson was advancing along the railroad, and Scho-
field upon a parallel road a mile and a half farther north.
Howard, with Stanley's and Wood's divisions was on Scho-
field's right, a mile distant. He had found the bridge over
the south fork of Peachtree burned ; but after some sharp
skirmishing Stanley succeeded in rebuilding it and getting
his column over and deployed. Wood followed and de-
ployed on Stanley's right. The road on which Howard was
marching converged on that used by Schofleld. It was the
road known as the Cross Keys road, approaching Atlanta
from the northeast, by way of the Howard House and Lewis
MiU. Schofleld's advance division (Cox's) developed a
strong line of intrenchments crossing the road, but running
nearly parallel to it toward the north. The leading brigade
was soon sharply engaged with intrenched skirmishers, and
the others formed forward on the left of it. HascaU's divi-
sion passed and formed in a similar way on the left of these,
Stanley's and Wood's divisions came into line on the right.
Dodge'c (Sixteenth) corps had been abreast with Schofleld
near Decatur, but the converging character of the roads had
brought Logan (Fifteenth Corps) on Schofleld's left, Blair
(Seventeenth Corps) was on McPherson's left flank, and
Dodge was thus put in reserve. Garrard's cavalry followed,
destroying the railroad.

At one o'clock, the hour set for the attack by Stewart
and Hardee on the Army of the Cumberland, Wheeler was
falling back so close to Atlanta that Hood ordered him tt-
hold on at all hazards, reminding him that General Smith
with all the reserve artillery was in the works behind him.
Gresham's division of Blair's corps (moving across the coun-
try over which Hardee, in a couple of days, was to march
upon the rear of the same division) pushed the Confederate
cavalry back upon a bald hill, which was to be the centre


and key of a desperate combat on tlie 22d. The energy
of Gresham's movement was splendid, but in leading the
advance of his column, he himself fell, terribly wounded.
Yet the odds was still overwhelming, and about six o'clock it
was so evident that Wheeler must be driven within the forti-
fications of the city and that Cheatham's line was stretched
as much as it would bear, that Hood ordered Hardee to
send a division at once to support the cavalry. Hardee
directed Cleburne to march in obedience to the order, and
this splendid division moved silently into the breastworks
on the commanding ground, including the bald hill south
of the railway, where the exhausted cavalry had made their
last stand as night came on.

The order withdrawing troops from Hardee had been sent
at a critical moment, and to understand its effect it is
necessary to go back to the battle on Peachtree Creek and
view the field from the Confederate side. The assault by
Stewart's corps seems to have been west of Shoal Creek, his
right entering the angle between Ward's and Geary's divi-
sions, and his left extending somewhat beyond Williams.
Hardee moved down the space between Shoal Creek and
Clear Creek, and perhaps to the east of the latter stream.
He had only Newton's division in his front, though New-
ton's right was supported by Ward. Hardee formed his
troops with Bate's division on his right. Walker's in the
centre, Maney's on the left, and Cleburne's in reserve.
It will be remembered that Newton's right brigade changed
front to the right rear as the enemy approached, and
Walker's division first struck the breastworks. It was re-
pulsed, but its persistent courage had been such that, when
' it retired it was so shattered that it was unfit to be again
put into action. Bate had found nothing in his front, but
was seeking in the thicket a way to Newton's left flank.


Cleburne's division had been substituted for Walker's
beaten men, and Hardee had given the orders for another
attack when the command from Hood was received calling
at once for a division to keep McPherson out of Atlanta,
and Cleburne was sent. Hardee did not think it prudent
to resume the aggressive with his diminished forces, and
before Bate could be brought into line to supply Cleburne's
place, night was upon him.

Hood did not make his oflSoial report tUl the next winter,
when his campaign had closed in ruin at Franklin and
Nashville ; then he sought to hold Hardee responsible for
this among other misfortunes around Atlanta. He was
neither quite just nor generous. His defeat would have
been only more costly if he had attacked at one o'clock,
moving from the positions Stewart and Hardee then oc-
cupied ; for they would have found the whole of Palmer's
(Fourteenth) corps confronting them, as well as the troops
which actually repulsed them. But the renewal of Har-
dee's effort toward evening was made impracticable by
Hood's own order. This he issued simply because Sher-
man's combinations brought McPherson upon Cheatham's
flank in abundant time to prevent the Confederate general
from gaining any advantage by reason of the gap in the
centre of the National line. If Hood had not moved his
troops to the right, or if he had not taken Cleburne from
Hardee to cover that flank, Cheatham would have been
turned, and McPherson would have followed Wheeler's
cavalry into the city.'

^ The article in the Soathern Historical Papers, before referred to (vol. Till., p.
S37), puts this beyond reasonable controversy.



The 21st of July was spent by the Armies of tlie Cum-
berland and Ohio in advancing and intrenching skirmish
lines as close as possible to the enemy's fortifications.
General Wood was able to swing forward his division north
of the great salient in his front, and formed a connection
with Newton, thus bringing the whole of Howard's corps
again into line together. McPherson made firm the con-
nection with Schofield's left by Logan's (Fifteenth) corps,
and directed Blair to carry the high, bald hill half a mile
south of the railroad, forming the southern extremity of the
line occupied by Cleburne's division the night before. The
assault was made by Force's brigade of Leggett's division,
supported on the right by Gresham's division, now com-
manded by General Giles A. Smith, General Gresham hav-
ing been wounded, as we have seen, in the advance of the
preceding day. Force advanced under cover of the hill
itself, which, being steepest near the base, protected the
attacking line from, the enemy's fire at first. Soon, how-
ever, he came into the open, and dashed forward at the
barricade before him. The intrenchment was a slight one,
but Cleburne's men fought with their usual bravery, and
were only driven out after a sharp combat, and with a loss
on our side of 250 killed and wounded. The hill was at
once intrenched, though subjected to an enfilading fire


from the enemy's batteries north of the position, where their
line was still intact. The intense heat was sach that three
staff officers in Force's brigade alone were prostrated by it,
and sunstroke added considerably to the list of casualties.
But the hill was strongly fortified by its captors, with trav-
erses to protect the guns, and its value was tested next day.
From its summit Atlanta lay in full view, with the large
rolling mUl Just inside the city defences, and within range
of Leggett's guns.

Both of Hood's flanks were now insecure, and he prepared
to retire from the Peachtree line during the night. Col-
onel Prestman, his chief engineer, had reported that the
works on the north side of the city were badly located, and
selected a more advanced line on higher ground. The new
line was staked off during the 21st, and intrenched during
the night by portions of Cheatham's and Stewart's corps and
the Georgia troops under Smith. It began at the former
line, where the Cross Keys road entered the city, thence ran
north about three-quarters of a mile, then west to the Chat-
tanooga Bailroad. A similar advanced line was run south-
ward in front of McPherson's left flank.

Hood determined to withdraw into these works all of his
army except Hardee's corps of four divisions, and to send
this by a long detour to make an attack upon the extreme
flank and rear of McPherson's Army of the Tennessee, ex-
pecting to f oUow up any success it might gain, by marching
out with Cheatham's corps upon Schofleld, and hoping thus
to roll up Sherman's army from the south. His original
orders contemplated a movement by the McDonough road,
some four or five miles southeast, and then toward Decatur ;
but Blair's corps with its right at Leggett's hill had both its
two divisions intrenched along the McDonough road, with
the left refused so as to face the south. This made a change


Operatioas around Atlanta.


of orders necessary, and Hardee, withdrawing in the night
from his line, two and a half miles north of Atlanta, marched
through the city by a road west of Entrenchment Creek
which he crossed at Cobb's Mills, then turned northeast
toward Decatur tiU. his head of column was within about two
and a half miles of that place. It was now a little after day-
break, and he waited for his troops to close up and form,
facing the northwest. Wheeler's cavalry passed the line and
prepared to operate still further to the east. The column
had met with the usual delays of night marches. Cleburne's
division had left the front of McPherson's works, which it
was now to assault in rear, and had fallen in behind Har-
dee's other divisions in Atlanta about one o'clock. The caval-
ry moving through the column in the darkness had made
further annoyance and delay; but, considering that the
head of column had marched some fifteen miles, they had
made good speed. Beginning on the left, the divisions were
in the following order, viz., Maney, Cleburne, Walker, and
Bate. After a short rest, the order to advance was given,
and the Confederate divisions entered the densely wooded
country that lay between them and the National lines, mov-
ing at right angles to the road they were leaving.

Meanwhile, with the breaking day, Sherman's camps were
astir, and it was soon found that the intrenchments in front
of Schofield and Thomas were abandoned. A general ad-
vance was ordered. Sohofield's head of column, which
Sherman accompanied, came in full view of the town at the
Howard House. The fortifications of Atlanta were on the
opposite hills, just across the deep valley in which was
Lewis's Mill, and the works were thick with men shovelling
and digging as if for life, their skirmishers holding the line
of Clear Creek which flows northward. Sherman rode for-
ward to reconnoitre, till his escort drew the fire of the bat-


teries. There was some ostentation in the way the men on
the fortifications worked, but no one suspected what ruse it
might cover. A few batteries were soon in position and as
they opened, the enemy vanished behind the works and the
siege began. Our skirmishers pushed back the lines before
them as far as possible, and trenches were begun on every
commanding knoll, soon making a connected line from
Thomas's right flank to the works held by McPherson since
the day before. The extreme right of the army now rested
near the railway, and the work of rebuilding the great
bridge over the Chattahoochee was already progressing.

McPherson had also been ordered to close in on Atlanta
when it was found that the enemy had withdrawn from the
front ; but Blair's corps was only separated from the city
forts by a single valley with its creek (a branch of Entrench-
ment Creek) flowing south. To make room for Logan he
transferred G. A. Smith's division to his extreme left, leaving
Leggett in position as before. Logan's corps was advanced
till General Charles B. Woods's division connected with
Schofield's corps. General Morgan L. Smith's division was in
the centre, and General Harrow's division on the left, con-
necting with Blair. Dodge's (Sixteenth) corps had been in
reserve since July 20th, but had moved forward on the pre-
ceding evening. Fuller's division bivouacked about a mile
east of Leggett's division of the Seventeenth Corps, on the
high ground between the branches of Sugar Creek, a tribu-
tary of South Eiver. Sweeny's division of this corps was
near the line of the Augusta Railway, due north from Fuller's,
and MoPherson's headquarters were with it. The supply
trains and field hospitals of the Army of the Tennessee were
in the interval between the Sixteenth Ooi'ps and the front
lines, except a part of the train which was at Decatur,
guarded by Sprague's brigade of Fuller's division.



About noon on the 22d, both divisions of Dodge's corps
were moving under orders toward Blair's left flank, when
they were attacked by "Walker's and Bate's divisions of Har-

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Online LibraryHermann GollanczThe army in the civil war.. → online text (page 12 of 21)