Our Georgia History

Georgia and the Civil War

Georgia History 101

by Col. Samuel Taylor U.S.M.C. (Ret.)
exclusively for Our Georgia History
April 12, 1861 (Confederates fire on Fort Sumter) is generally considered the start of the American Civil War although there were previous conflicts. On January 3, 1861 Georgia Militia under orders from Governor Joseph E. "Joe" Brown boarded the steamship Ida and sailed down the Savannah River to Cockspur Island, where they landed and took Fort Pulaski from an ordinance sergeant and a civilian.

Pulaski became an early target for the Union naval forces operating off the coast of the Confederacy. They landed a force under the command of Quincy Adams Gillmore on Tybee Island in December, 1861. After surrounding the fort they commenced firing with rifled cannon at 8:15am, April 10, 1862. Thirty hours later the garrison surrendered. Fort McAllister, an earthen fort built to protect Savannah from an amphibious assault from the south, would be the repeated target of naval bombardment between 1862 and 1864.

The day after the fall of Fort Pulaski, April 12, 1862, Civil War spies (soldiers out of uniform behind enemy lines) under the command of civilian James Andrews stole a locomotive in Big Shanty (now Kennesaw), Georgia. The Great Locomotive Chase ended almost 90 miles later, two miles north of Ringgold. A minor part blew out on the grand old lady of the Western and Atlantic Railroad, The General.

The following year General William Rosecrans, while preparing for the Tullahoma Campaign (May-June, 1863), launched a raid under the command of Col. Abel Straight against the city of Rome (History of Rome) in northwest Georgia. Thanks to the alert response of Nathan B. Forrest and citizens of the Confederacy, the raid failed.

The northwest corner of Georgia came under Yankee control in September, 1863. For six weeks Rosecrans waited in Stevenson, Alabama to be resupplied. In September he split his men into three groups: Crittenden in the north, McCook in the center and Thomas to the south. McCook and Thomas had to travel through mountain passes to reach their objective:The Western and Atlantic Railroad.

Under an oak tree in LaFayette, Georgia, Braxton Bragg planned an attack against the widespread Union Army at Lee and Gordon Mill on Chickamauga Creek. Rosecrans, realizing he was overextended began a complex movement north. The Confederate attack at Chickamauga that began on September 19, 1863 was the bloodiest two days of American history. Bragg held the battlefield, so he technically won the battle of Chickamauga in spite of higher casualties than Rosecrans, but still he handed the Army of the Cumberland the worst defeat suffered by any Union Corps during the war.

Rosecrans was besieged in Chattanooga by Rebels atop Lookout Mountain, Missionary Ridge and along the Tennessee River. Shortly after the arrival of Ulysses S. Grant the Yankees began to raise the siege, take Lookout Mountain (Nov. 24, 1863) and defeat Bragg's army on Missionary Ridge (Nov. 26, 1863). In Ringgold Patrick Cleburne fought a decisive rear guard action although outnumbered four to 1, saving the Confederate Army.

In May, 1864 General William Tecumseh Sherman began The Atlanta Campaign, a brilliant series of battles and maneuvers that Civil War author Shelby Foote called "the Red Clay Minuet." Sherman, who is considered by many to be the "Father of Modern Warfare," defeated Joseph Eggleston Johnston and John Bell Hood in a series of battles between Ringgold and Jonesborough, including Atlanta. On September 2, 1864 the Atlanta Campaign ended when Sherman wired Washington "Atlanta is ours, and fairly won..."

John Bell Hood's defeated Confederate Army sat on the Macon Road until late September, 1864. He moved north to Allatoona Pass where he fought the first battle of the Nashville Campaign, the last great Confederate offensive of the Civil War. Over the next two weeks Hood appeared and disappeared in various places throughout Northwest Georgia. Sherman quickly tired of chasing Hood and turned his attention to Georgia's heartland.

Two days after Lincoln's reelection in 1864, Sherman began his "March to the Sea" by destroying the city of Rome (History of Rome, Georgia) and tearing up track between Dalton (History of Dalton, Georgia) and Allatoona Pass. A series of messages sent from the Cartersville Depot were the last communication the Union Army would have with the North for 6 weeks. On December 13, 1864, Sherman took Fort McAllister and met the fleet in Wassaw Sound. The March to the Sea was complete. He then turned north, taking Savannah, Charleston, marching to the Roanoke River in Virginia.

Surrounded, Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia. Joe Johnston surrendered on April 26, 1865 and slowly the Confederacy fell. Near Irwindale, Georgia, Federal troops captured Confederate President Jeff Davis on May 10, 1865. On May 12, 1865 General William Wofford surrendered his men in Kingston, Georgia. The Civil War was over.

Reconstitution in Georgia

Our Georgia History: History 101 index

Georgia's Indian Heritage
The Age of Exploration in Georgia
Colonial Georgia
The America Revolution in Georgia
Constitutional Georgia
Antebellum Georgia
Georgia and the Civil War
Reconstrution Georgia
Georgia's Gilded Age
A State Divided
Depression and War

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