Hermann Gollancz.

The army in the civil war.. online

. (page 5 of 21)
Online LibraryHermann GollanczThe army in the civil war.. → online text (page 5 of 21)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

ford of the Oostanaula, and bring into the central column
Garrard's artillery and trains, whilst the cavalry, unencum-
bered, should operate rapidly against the flank of Johnston.
Garrard, finding no bridges or satisfactory crossing, and
believing that to continue on to Eome would separate him
too far from the head of column, returned by the route
he had travelled and crossed at Lay's Perry. Davis deter-
mined to continue on to Eome, and on the 18th took that
place after a sharp engagement, losing in killed and
wounded about one hundred and fifty men. The town was
a considerable dep6t for army supplies, and contained im-
portant factories and the repair shops for ordnance. The
capture in supplies and material of war was not very great,
but the occupation of the town was opportune, and by giv-
ing a broad front to Sherman's movement, handsomely
covered his principal columns and imposed upon the enemy.
As Major-General F. P. Blair was at this time at Decatur,
Ala., moving to the front with two divisions of veteran vol-
unteers of the Army of the Tennessee, he was ordered to
march by way of Borne, and General Davis was directed to
hold the place till Blair should relieve him.


Sherman seciired in the vicinity of Kingston two good
bridges over the Etowah, and being thus sure of his ability
to deploy on the south of that river, he gave his army a few
days of rest, during which the raiboad was repaired and
pressed to its ntmost capacity to accumulate supplies for
another advance.

The losses in the engagements abont Dalton, and in the
battle of Kesaca cannot be accurately given, as the system
of reports covered the casualties of a month, in most cases,
instead of stating them after each engagement. The bri-
gade and division reports enable us to approximate it only.
There were not more than six or eight hundred Itilled and
wounded ia front of Dalton. At Besaca the Army of the
Cumberland lost about a thousand, the two divisions of the
Army of the Ohio which were engaged lost nearly a thou-
sand, the casualties in the Army of the Tennessee cannot
be accurately given, but they were fewer than in either of
the other armies. A comparative view of the losses on both
sides can be better made at a later point in the campaign,
for the reason already stated.



When the movement of May 7th began, preparation was
made for four days of extreme exertion, and under the im-
perative orders of General Sherman all baggage had been
left behind. When the four days' cooked rations were ex-
hausted, the advance through Snake Creek Gap was just
beginning, and an issue of the most necessary supplies was
all that -was possible. Till the army reached the Etowah
Eiver the same condition of things existed. A tent-fly — a
single sheet of light canvas — was the only shelter for divi-
sion and brigade headquarters ; mess-kits there were none,
and the superior officers were even worse off relatively than
the company officers and the privates. The company pack-
mule carried the simple cooking utensils and compact kit
which experience had shown to be best for the bivouac;
and the mule, driven by a negro servant, could keep up with
the company, on or off the roads, and would not be far at
the rear even when the command was under fire. The pri-
vate soldier carried his shelter-tent or rubber blanket, and
he and the comrade who was his " partner " made of the two
a comfortable protection from the weather. His haversack
contained his rations, his canteen and a small tin coffee-pot
or pail clattered at his belt, and, in halt an hour of halt, the
veteran knew how to prepare a wholesome and abundant
meal. The ration of meat, bread, coffee, and sugar was a


large one, and of excellent quality, and by foraging or traflSo
extras conld be added to it on the way.

The general officers could not manage in quite the same
simple style. From the adjutant-general, the surgeon, the
quartermaster, the commissary, the ordnance and mustering
officers regular statistical reports were required by army regu-
lations, and enforced by stopping the pay of delinquent com-
mands. At each headquarters, therefore, a good deal of busi-
ness had to be transacted, and much clerical work had to be
done in the intervals of fighting. The order to leave aU bag-
gage behind for four days implied only a short interruption
of the usual routine, but when it was, by the circumstances,
extended to nearly a month, it involved no small trouble
and privation. But the weather at this time was good, each
day was full of excitement, the enemy was retreating, and it
would be hard to find anywhere a merrier company than as-
sembled each evening around the headquarters camp-fires.
Necessity was the mother of invention, and at CartersviUe
the mess at a division headquarters boasted that, beginning
with nothing, they had accumulated a kit consisting of a tin
plate, four tin cups without handles, thi'ee round oyster
cans doing duty as cups, two sardine boxes for extra- plates,
and a cofiee-pot! Pocket-knives were the only cutlery
needed, and for dishes nothing could be better than one of
the solid crackers familiarly known as "hard tack.'' This
outfit they declared was luxurious compared with that of
the GSeneral-in-Chief.

Good weather, however, could not be calculated upon to
last forever. The orders issued at the Etowah were to be
ready for twenty days' separation from the railway, and
everybody prepared for contingencies as fully as was con-
sistent with the utmost mobility, and in the best manner
that experience and ingenuity could devise.


The railway repairs of the army were under the manage-
ment of Colonel Wright, a civil engineer, with a corps of
two thousand men. The efficiency and skill of this branch
of the service was beyond praise. The ordinary wooden
bridges of the railway were reconstructed, where destroyed,
of a standard pattern of truss, of which the parts were inter-
changeable, and the prepared timbers were kept ui stock at
safe points in the rear. By this means a bridge could be
renewed as if by magic, and perhaps nothing produced
more moral effect upon the enemy than hearing the whistle
of the locomotives in rear of our lines within a few hours
after they had received reports that the railway had been
broken so thoroughly as to cause us great delays. But the
triumph of energy and mechanical skill came when, as at
the Chattahoochee, great trestle bridges, hundreds of feet
long, and near a hundred high, were flung across a chasm
with as little delay or trouble as an ordinary pioneer corps
would make in bridging a petty stream. The construction
corps and the railway transportation department, under
Colonel Anderson, worked in complete accord, and at no
time during the campaign was there the slightest anxiety
about supplies, whilst a reduction of the ration was very

For instantaneous communication between the Command-
ing General and his principal subordinates the military tele-
graph was organized. A light train of wagons carrying
wires and insulators moved with the headquarters; the
forest trees were used as poles ; an operator with his instru-
ment accompanied each army commander, who could thus
converse directly with the central station and with General
Sherman himself. This was supplemented by the ordinary-
flag signals used by the Signal Corps, whose officers pushed
to the very front, and, from any commanding hiU or tree-


top, waved their flags, conveying infonnation or orders by
means of a code of cipher signals, of which the key was
frequently changed to prevent its interpretation by the

Another part of the administration of the army deserves
mention also. The topography of the country was almost
Unknown. The maps in common use were erroneous and
misleading to a degree that was exasperating. They gave
the outlines of counties, the names of towns and villages,
and some remote approximation to the courses of the prin-
cipal streams. The smaller creeks and watercourses were
drawn at random, as if to fill up the sheet, and were uni-
formly wrong. A few principal country roads were laid
down, but so incorrectly that every attempt to calculate dis-
tances upon them or between them was sure to lead to

To meet these difficulties each division commander was
ordered to detail a competent officer as acting topographer,
reporting to the engineers at corps and army headquarters.
It was the duty of these officers to make an itinerary of
every march, to sketch all roads and streams, hills and val-
leys, woods and open land; to collect from citizens and
negroes all possible information as to distances, names of
.residents and the Uke ; to accompany reconnoitring parties
and extend their topographical knowledge with diligence
and enterprise. They were furnished with a few portable
instruments, always carried on their persons. The informa-
tion thus obtained was consolidated and connected ; im-
proved sketch maps of the vicinity of the army were thus
made, and by a simple photographic process they were mul-
tiplied and distributed to the proper officers of the com-
mand. New editions were issued from time to time, with
bulletins giving newly discovered information, and thus the


effort was made to supply the army with, the knowledge vital
to its success.

The changes in the relative strength of the opposing
armies had been in Johnston's favor during the preceding
part of the campaign. French's division of infantry and
Jackson's of cavalry had joined Polk's corps at Adairsville,
so that the three Confederate corps were now full, and the
local miUtia were being organized and used to cover the
lines of communication and perform duties which on the Na-
tional side required detachments from the army in the field.
Johnston's line was being shortened whilst Sherman's was
stretching out. The one was picking up his detachments,
the other was constantly making new ones. Prom the 15th
of May for a month the forces of the two armies were more
nearly equal than at any other time in the campaign, and no
opportunity so favorable could again occur for Johnston to
make an aggressive movement, as he had whilst crossing the
open country between the Oostanaula and the Etowah.
That he did not do so was accepted by the officers and men
of the National army as proof that he would not be likely to
attempt it in the more difficult country they were now enter-
ing, and their operations were carried on with a confidence
which was in itself a guaranty of success.

The Eesaca bridge had been rebuilt in three days, and on
the 22d of May, rations for twenty days had been issued to
the divisions. Kingston was announced as the base of sup-
plies untU the railroad should be reached again at some
point south of the Alatoona Pass, and orders were issued for
a forward movement.

Johnston had crossed the Etowah at the railway bridge
and occupied the high rocky hills facing northward, whilst
he placed the greater part of his army a little in rear, ready
to meet his opponent as soon as Sherman's line of advance


BhoTild be developed. The new theatre of operations lay
between the Etowah and Chattahoochee rivers, and like the
last was a strip of country of which the features were deter-
mined by the general trend of the mountain ranges pointing
to the southwest. The Alatoona Hills, Kenesaw Mountain,
Pine and Lost Mountains lay near the line of the railroad
and necessarily formed the most important strategic points
for both armies. The town of Marietta, just south of Kene-
saw and about midway between the two rivers, became at
once Johnston's new base of supplies, as Kingston was
Sherman's. Dallas is a village lying nearly south of King-
ston and west of Marietta, about twenty-five miles from the
first and nearly twenty miles from the other. A hne run-
ning southwesterly from Marietta, a little south of Dallas,
marks sufficiently well the watershed of this region, sepa-
rating the streams flowing north into the Etowah from those
running south into the Chattahoochee. For several miles
west of the railroad the hills are high, the mountains, how-
ever, standing out commandingly above them, giving to
Johnston the most admirable points of observation, from
which the smoke of Sherman's camp fires revealed every
movement that was made. Farther west the hills dimiu-
ished, the line of the watershed was a rolling sandy region,
and the streams, cutting their way in pretty sharp ravines,
ran through forests and thickets of the loblolly pine, often
growing almost as closely as a cane-brake, and nearly im-
penetrable for man or horse. The creeks form frequent
ponds, called lagunes in the country, full of quicksands, in
which wagons or artillery were likely to be hopelessly mired.
The more important roads, besides the railway and the
wagon roads near it, are those that lead south from Kingston
through Stilesboro and Burnt Hickory to Dallas, east from
Dallas to Marietta, and east from Burnt Hickory to Act


■worth, a station on the railway between Marietta and Ala-

Sherman's centre being at Kingston, the topography of
the country determined for him his line of march, which
was to move southward to Dallas, and then east to Marietta,
or some other point on the railroad near there.

There was little danger that Johnston would meet him
near the Etowah in front of Kingston, for the Confederate
commander could not afford to divide his army, and had he
massed in front of Kingston, Sherman would have pushed
his left wing over the river at Alatoona, and seized at once
the line of the railroad. This was what would have pleased
Sherman most, and would have shortened the campaign.
Johnston wisely determined to make the Pumpkin Vine and
Alatoona Creeks the cover for his front, and to meet his op-
ponent with strong entrenched lines across the Dallas and
Marietta road, or that from Burnt Hickory to Ackworth, as
Sherman should choose either for his principal line of ad-

The fact that the Dallas and Marietta road followed very
nearly the line of the watershed made it naturally the easier
one, and Sherman resolved to try for it, and if he were too
stubbornly met there, to swing his left flank forward by the
Burnt Hickory and Ackworth road, forcing Johnston back
and establishing himself afresh upon the railway as soon as
possible. Accordingly, on May 22d, Sherman issued his
orders directing his centre, under Thomas, to move south-
ward on parallel roads through Euharlee and Stilesboro on
Dallas, excepting Davis's division of Palmer's corps, which,
being at Rome, was ordered to move direct to Dallas by
way of Van Wert. The Army of the Tennessee, keeping
to the right of Thomas, was to move from near Kingston
to Van Wert and thence to Dallas, ifilair's corps (the


Seventeenth), had not yet joined it, being on the march
toward Borne, which it was ordered to garrison with abont
two thousand men, and then march to Kingston. The garri-
soning of Kingston, meanwhile, and of Besaca (the latter
being the principal depot of supplies) was left to Thomas'
army of the Cumberland. Schofield's Twenty-third Corps was
to cross the Etowah at any point above Eoharlee, then take
roads on the east of those occupied by Thomas, to Burnt
Hickory and thence to the left of Dallas. His cavalry,
under Stoneman, was ordered to cross still further up the
Etowah, and cover the movement on that flank. Kilpat-
rick's division of cavalry was left on the north bank of the
Etowah to cover that Une. Grarrard covered the movement
of the columns on the right, and McCook the centre.

On the evening of the 22d the cavalry of the Army of the
Ohio marched to Milam's Bridge on the Etowah, where the
roads from Cassville and Cartersville to Stilesboro cross
the river. The enemy's cavalry retreated, burning the
bridge ; but Stoneman was able to cross by a ford above
the mouth of Baccoon Creek, and cover the laying of two
pontoon bridges on the following morning.

Early on the 23d McPheison crossed on the bridge
which had been secured at the mouth of Conasene Creek.
Thomas crossed Howard's and Palmer's corps at the bridges
on the direct road from Kingston to Euharlee ; but Hooker,
instead of waiting his turn at these, in accordance with
orders, moved further to the left and crossed at Milam's
Bridge on the pontoons laid down for Schofield. When
the latter, therefore, marching from Cartersville, reached
the river, he found both pontoons already occupied, and the
whole afternoon was lost waiting for Hooker to cross and
get out of the way. This was a repetition of what had oc-
curred at the Oostanania, and was characteristic of Hooker,


who was apt to be reckless of what interference he made
with any plan, so that he got a road or a position which
better suited him. By this means he anticipated the rest
of the army of the Cumberland in crossing the Euharlee
Creek toward Stilesboro, and camped in the advance, fol-
lowed by Howard and Palmer.

McCook's cavalry advanced to Stilesboro, which he found
occupied by the horsemen of the enemy, supported by in-
fantry, and was iinable to make further progress before

Next morning Thomas ordered one division of Hooker's
coi"ps (Geary's) to cross Eaccoon Creek on the Alatoona road,
and cover the way leading up the creek till relieved by
Schofleld. The other divisions of the Twentieth Corps
marched through Stilesboro to Burnt Hickory, preceded by
McCook's division of horse, which skirmished with the ene-
my's cavalry under Jackson as they advanced.

Schofleld crossed at Milam's Bridge at daybreak, fol-
lowed the Alatoona road till he relieved Geary, who rejoined
his own corps. He then marched up Bichland Creek to
Sligh's Mills, at the forks of the roads leading to Ackworth
and to Burnt Hickory. Stoneman's cavalry covered the ad-
vance and the flank toward Alatoona, skirmishing as he

Johnston was still, on the evening of the 23d, a little un-
certain whether Sherman had crossed the Etowah with his
whole force, and therefore hesitated about his own move-
ments, fearing to leave his right flank weak tiU he knew
there was no danger from that quarter. He therefore or-
dered Wheeler, who had forded the Etowah the day before,
to push in on Cassville with his division of cavalry and to
discover and report what was there. This was done on the
24th. Wheeler found that the whole army had moved toward


Kingston, but part of the supply train was still at Cassville
■with a small train, guard. By crossing several miles to the
right he had eluded Kilpatrick and made an easy swoop
upon the wagons and quartermaster's men who were thus
delaying in. the rear. He claimed to have captured seventy
wagons with their teams, and a hundred and eighty-two
prisoners, besides burning some other wagons. He certainly
did some mischief through the negligence and tardiness of
those who were in charge of the trains, and who had been
ordered to Kingston as soon as the infantry had moved. By
this time Johnston was getting reports from Jackson's cav-
alry toward Stilesboro, and hardly needed the news from
"Wheeler. He now knew that Sherman was over the Etowah
and evidently pushing toward Dallas. On the afternoon of
the 23d he ordered Hardee's corps to march by New Hope
Church to the Stilesboro and Dallas road, Polk's corps to
move in the same direction but a little further south, and
Hood's corps was directed to follow Hardee the next day.
On the 25th the whole command was in line. Hardee's left
division (Bate) was placed across the Stilesboro, Dallas, and
Atlanta road, south of Dallas, where it crosses over the
ridge which there forms the watershed already referred to.
Hood was put upon the right, his centre at New Hope
Church, and his line in front of and covering the road
leading from Dallas to Ackworth. Polk's corps constituted
Johnston's centre, but closed up upon Hood, leaving a
somewhat thinner line between himself and Hardee. In
front of New Hope Church was a valley wooded along the
road, but with open fields a little further to the north, and
the stream, which is a branch of Pumpkin Vine Creek, flows
northeastwardly at that place, parallel to Hood's front.
The banks sloped easily on either side, and were some fifty
feet in height. The whole of Johnston's line was admirably


chosen foi" defence, occupying as it did a series of ridges
covered with, wood on their summits, but having open val-
leys in front, over which attacking forces must advance
without shelter. It covered the roads leading from Dallas
to Atlanta, to Marietta, and to Ackworth, as well as those
passing near New Hope Church in the same directions. He
says that only a part of Hood's front was protected by
breastworks, and these only of logs thrown hastily to-
gether; but the reports of his subordinates, on which his
statement is based, may properly be taken with many grains
of allowance. They had intrenched at Dalton and Ekt
Eesaca, at Adairsville and at Cassville, and certainly noth-
ing had occurred to increase their confidence as they had
retreated step by step south of the Etowah. When they
were forced to evacuate these lines a little later, they were
found to be of the most solid character. They had been
some hours in position, with full opportunity to intrench,
and it would be every way strange and contrary to their
already fixed habit if they had not done so. The circum-
stances, therefore, all sustain the reports of Hooker's divi-
sion commanders that they drove the Confederate advance
guard and skirmishers within intrenched lines. But we are
anticipating the current of events.



On the morning of Wednesday the 25th of May, Sher-
man's extreme right under McPherson was near Van Wert,
some sixteen miles north of west from Dallas, where it had
struck into the Borne and Dallas road, and met Davis's
division of Palmer's (Fourteenth) corps on its way to re-
join the Army of the Cumberland. McPherson kept on by
the direct road, but Davis, to get clear of his column, turned
east, taking a by-road over the hills which he found pass-
able, and which enabled him to rejoin his corps before even-
ing. At the centre, Thomas sent forward the Army of the
Cumberland on several roads from Burnt Hickory. The
corps of Palmer and Howard (Fourteenth and Fourth)
made a detour to the right by country roads, intending to
reach the.Van Wert and Dallas road three or four miles out-
from the latter place. Hooker's corps (Twentieth) took the
direct road to Dallas with his centre division (Geary's), But-
terfleld's and WUliams's divisions taking country roads on
the left and right respectively.

The infantry of the Army of the Ohio (Twenty-third
Corps) was ordered to rest near Burnt Hickory during the
day, whilst the cavalry under Stoneman scoured the roads
to left and front. Gfarrard's cavalry had pushed back the
outposts of Bate's division of Hardee's corps near to Dallas



the preceding evening, and camped at Pumpkin Vine Creek,
about three miles from the town. McOook's cavalry, in
front of Hooker's column, had captured an orderly with a
despatch from Johnston to General Jackson, who commanded
the mounted troops in his front. The message informed


Operations near New Hope Church.

Jackson that the Confederate army was moving toward Dal-
las. It was this information that led Sherman to hold back
his left a little, till the Army of the Tennessee could come
forward on his right, and by a partial wheel, his front would
be brought nearly parallel to Pumpkin Vine Creek, whilst


he still concentrated toward Dallas. When Geary's division
reached the Pumpkin Vine near Owen's Mills, the bridge
was fonnd burning, but the enemy's cavalry was driven off,
the fire put out, and the bridge repaired. The appearances
convinced Hooker that the stronger force of the enemy lay
in the direction of New Hope Church, and Geary was or-
dered to take the fork of the road leading there. Ascending
the hill on the east side of the stream with his front cov-
ered by the Seventh Ohio regiment deployed as skirmish-
ers. Hooker found the infantry advance of Hood's corps. It
consisted of the Thirty-second and Fifty-eighth Alabama

1 2 3 5 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21

Online LibraryHermann GollanczThe army in the civil war.. → online text (page 5 of 21)