Dance of Death – Panel 2 / PDF of Panel 2
Sherman and Johnston faced each other in a battle of strategy, tactics, and numbers. Skirmishes, earthworks, and flanking maneuvers marched down the railroad line to Atlanta with the soldiers.
Gen. William T. Sherman – Sherman’s Union Army had a numerical advantage in the Atlanta Campaign, making it easier to outflank the Confederates.
Gen. Joseph E. Johnston – Johnston’s Confederates threw up well-defended trenches, forcing Sherman’s army to outflank the Confederate line to make headway.
Skirmishers usually dug widely spaced rifle pits to protect themselves – about three feet deep and in diameter, located 60 to 120 yards in front of the main line. Skirmishers monitored enemy movements and gave early warning of enemy attacks on the main infantry lines. Skirmishers caused attackers difficulty with reaching the main defensive works, especially when used with felled tree abates or other obstacles. In the Atlanta Campaign, soldiers saw constant daily skirmishing and sharpshooting.
Vicious Cycle – Sherman’s army was skilled at these tactics, though they would not have been possible without their numerical advantage.
The widespread use of rifled muskets caused a shift in tactics during the Civil War. Massed frontal attacks caused tremendous losses and increasingly gave way to the use of earthworks and Union flanking began a cycle of retreat for Confederates.
- Federals encounter a defensive Confederate line.
- Federal erect opposing earthworks
- Skirmishers deployed, and Sherman used superior numbers to enable a force to get around, or “outflank,” one end of the Confederate line.
- General Johnston forced to order a retreat before his entire line was enveloped
Back to 1: and it begins again
Usually on the defensive, Confederates were protected by entrenchments with parapets and head logs. Skid poles protected soldiers in the trench if fir knocked the head logs into the trench (see diagram on Panel 2). Once encountered, assaulting Federal troops had to throw up corresponding trenches. The opposing lines were usually at least a thousand yards or more from one another, due to the local terrain. Cheval de Frise and abates, branches from felled trees, protected the trenches from advancing troops. This made overtaking the trenches difficult.