Our Georgia History

On to Atlanta

As the winter of 1863-64 came to a close the Confederacy was facing a grueling challenge on all fronts. In the west, Jefferson Davis envisioned an offensive to dislodge Sherman from Chattanooga, but Joe Johnston [CS] had a more realistic assessment of the situation and planned a defensive campaign, waiting for a mistake on the part of his advisary, William Tecumseh Sherman [US, Military Division of the Mississippi]. Now under the command of his old friend, Ulysess S. Grant [US], Sherman supported Grant's plan to coordinate the efforts of the individual commanders and bring a rapid end to the war.

Johnston, who assumed command of the Army of Tennessee in December, 1863, faced a myriad of problems, mostly logistical. Feeding and clothing his men in the war-torn nation was a primary concern. Weapons and ammunition, transportation and a high level of desertion were problems he struggled with during the first months of his command.

Headquartered in Dalton, Georgia the Army of Tennessee had begun to build defensive works soon after the retreat from the disaster of Missionary Ridge. After quickly fortifying Dug Gap and Buzzard's Roost (Mill Creek Gap), the veteran fighters extended their lines along the high ridges. They dammed Mill Creek, creating a large lake as an obstacle to troops; they stored large rocks in Dug Gap, ready to roll on advancing Yankees.

In late April rear echelon movement began on the western front to achieve Grant's long-term objective. James B. McPherson [US, Army of the Tennessee] had men moving towards Lee and Gordon's Mill. James M. Schofield [US, Army of the Ohio] began moving south from Knoxville. Only George Thomas [US, Army of the Cumberland] remained in position until the general movement order arrived on May 4. Now 100,000 men were converging on Joe Johnston's line at Dalton.

There was a brief skirmish at Tunnel Hill. During this encounter the Rebel forces were so quickly routed that they did not have time to destroy the railroad tunnel that gave the town its name, Thomas slowly advanced to Mill Creek Gap and Dug Gap. Schofield and the Army of Ohio disembarked the train at Red Clay and began to move south towards Crow Valley with cavalry sweeping his front. Joe Wheeler detached a company and used them to attract a unit of Union cavalry from Schofield's front line. Once separated, Wheelr moved in for the kill, wiping out almost 150 Yankees in a few short minutes.


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