The Battle of Smyrna - Panel 1 / PDF of Panel 1
During the Atlanta campaign, the Union Army had 105,000 soldiers and the Confederate Army had 65,000 soldiers.
At the outset of the Atlanta campaign, both sides foresaw advance and retreat would be along the Western and Atlantic Railroad that ran through Smyrna.
Throughout the campaign, Confederates systematically destroyed railroad tracks as they retreated, but Union troops replaced ties and rails almost as fast as they advance.
Focus on Smyrna
At the time, Smyrna was only a few buildings around Ruff’s Siding, a depot on the railroad.
The station was located near a Methodist meeting place named Smyrna Campground.
Union army Chief Engineer Orlando Poe described the Smyrna Line as being “well built, consisting of good infantry parapets, connecting salients, in which were placed a large number of pieces of field artillery in embrasure.”
The railroad was critical to both armies. It extended 473 miles from Sherman’s supply base at Nashville to Chattanooga and then directly to Atlanta.
At the time, much of Georgia was a wilderness connected only with poorly constructed dirt roads that turned into muddy quagmires with each rain making control of the railroad vitally important.
- June 27, 1864 (Kennesaw Mountain) – After costly Federal assaults at the Kennesaw Mountain Line, Sherman reverted to his effective flanking maneuvers.
- July 2, 1864 – General Johnston ordered that the Confederates abandon the Kennesaw Line and fall back to partially prepared earth works at Smyrna.
- July 4, 1864 (Smyrna) – Sherman’s forces closed on the entrenched Confederates.
Two localized Federal Infantry assaults, one against the Confederate center and the other in the vicinity of Ruff’s Mill failed to achieve significant results.
While the Federals did not break through, two divisions of the Seventeenth Corps. Advanced south from the Mable House to Widow Mitchell’s house, where they turned east and drove back an outnumbered Confederate force of two cavalry brigades under General “Red” Jackson and General G. W. Smith’s division of the Georgia Militia.
- July 4-5, 1864 (Chattahoochee Line) – Upon learning of these movements, Johnston ordered a retreat to the well-prepared Chattahoochee Line.