The Capture of Atlanta – Panel 1 / PDF of Panel 1
May 1864 witnessed a massive Federal army poised to invade Georgia. This campaign was part of General Ulysses S. Grant’s “grand scheme” for victory. In the South, General William T. Sherman commanded the Federal army in Chattanooga. His goal was the capture of Atlanta and destruction of the city.
Battle Lines – In late 1863, both sides had reasons to be hopeful.
For the Union, defeats and setbacks were finally overcome with victories at Gettysburg, Vicksburg, and Chattanooga. Their combined Armies of the Cumberland, Ohio, and the Tennessee numbered over 105,000 soldiers ready for battle – almost twice that of the Confederates.
For the Confederates, the once demoralized Army of Tennessee reorganized during the 1863/64 winter at Dalton. Under the experienced leadership of General Joseph E. Johnston, he restored confidence and resupplied and reinforced the army, so that it now numbered more than 65,000.
By The Numbers
Casualties had already been enormous by 1864:
- Union – 250,000 Casualties
- Confederacy – 150,000 Casualties
Readying for the Atlanta Campaign in 1854:
- Union (Armies of Cumberland, Ohio & Tennessee) – 105,000 Soldiers
- Confederacy (Army of Tennessee) – 65,000 Soldiers
The Union would deny the Confederates a key manufacturing and transportation hub in the South.
The Confederate defense would allow the fight to continue and perhaps force a war-weary North to sue for peace.
General William T. Sherman called the Atlanta Campaign the “professional phase” of the Civil War. Three years of heavy fighting transformed green recruits and inexperienced officers into toughened veterans. They had seen their compatriots die due to combat, exposure, and disease.
General Johnston continually retreated toward Atlanta, routinely outflanked by Sherman’s armies. In July, Jefferson Davis, the Confederate president, was tired of retreat, replacing Johnston with John Bell Hood. Hood was a risk taker, challenging the Union with assaults with huge Confederate losses. Hood pulled his troops out of Atlanta and the city surrendered on September 2. The end of the war neared.