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Across the Dallas Road

Kingston (History of Kingston, Georgia) lies at the southern end of the Oothcaloga Valley in Bartow County(History of Bartow County, Georgia) , Georgia. To the east along the Western and Atlantic Railroad rose Allatoona Pass, a 95-foot gateway to Atlanta (History of Atlanta) strongly defended by Confederate troops. William Tecumseh Sherman had seen the pass in 1844 and remembered it 20 years later. Rather than chance a hugh loss of life, the Ohio-born general decided to face the rugged terrain south of Kingston instead of the high, easily defended hills that formed the pass.

It had been an impressive two weeks for Sherman. Starting in Chattanooga he covered half the distance to Atlanta, forcing the Confederate forces to retreat from strongholds in Dalton and Resaca, and regularly defeating smaller groups of Rebels in various skirmishes.

Joseph Eggleston Johnston had been on the receiving end of the brutal Federal onslaught. His plan, to preserve his troop strength regardless of the loss of land, was good except for one issue -- the advancing Yankees were cutting deep into the heart of the Confederacy. A second division of the waning nation (Grant had divided it once by taking Vicksburg) would mean even more limited supplies for the shrinking Army of Northern Virginia and Johnston's own Army of Tennessee.

After resting and regrouping, Sherman's men were ready to continue their march south, but the flat, relatively easy terrain of Georgia's Great Valley north of Kingston was now a hilly, brush-covered hell. Progress slowed to a crawl as supply wagons, horses and men became mired in muddy red clay roads. At the head of the Federal column was "Fighting Joe" Hooker's XX Corps. He arrived at a crossroads northwest of Marietta (Marietta history) known as New Hope for the nearby church of the same name and stumbled upon John Bell Hood's Rebels, whose entrenched position posed the toughest challenge for Sherman to date.

Sherman and Johnston began to spread their lines east. Generals George Thomas and Oliver Otis Howard felt they had found the end of the Rebel line and prepared to attack near the home and mill of Benjamin Pickett. A stumbling offensive effort by the Army of the Cumberland ran headlong into the best division the Confederates had to offer, that of Patrick Cleburne. They were bloodily repulsed.

For ten days Sherman had been moving supplies from the railhead in Kingston, Georgia to battlelines twenty miles south and transporting his wounded twenty miles back to the railhead. Now the Confederates weren't his only problem; the rugged country was preventing him from feeding and taking care of his men. There were two choices -- return to the railhead at Kingston or try gaining a position on the railroad south of Allatoona Pass. Sherman began to spread his line east, taking advantage of his superior numbers.

Johnston saw an opportunity. Sherman's line had extended so far east that the west end might be weakened. It was not. In one of his few offensive moves during the Atlanta Campaign, Johnston attacked the entrenched Union Army at a crossroads known as Dallas, Georgia on May 28. Now it was Johnston's turn to pay the price of attacking an enemy prepared for battle.

This would be the final battle in the fighting west of Marietta. Yankee cavalry took Allatoona Pass on June 1, 1864, and Sherman was now eyeing his next target of the Atlanta Campaign, Kennesaw Mountain.

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