Black and photo of William T. Sherman on horseback.

Major General William T. Sherman led three Union armies out of Tennessee in pursuit of Joseph E. Johnston’s Confederate army.

Atlanta Campaign External Links

May 7–September 2, 1864

External Links for Atlanta Campaign

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Atlanta Campaign

By early 1864 most Confederate Southerners had probably given up hopes of winning the Civil War (1861-65) by conquering Union armies. The Confederacy had a real chance, though, of winning the war simply by not being beaten. In spring 1864 this strategy required two things: first, Confederate general Robert E. Lee's army in Virginia had to defend its capital, Richmond, and keep Union general Ulysses S. Grant's forces at bay; and second, the South's other major army, led by Joseph E. Johnston in north Georgia, had to keep William T. Sherman's Union forces from driving south and capturing Atlanta, the Confederacy's second-most important city.

Atlanta Campaign

In the Western Theater during 1864, the principal operation was the Atlanta Campaign followed by Sherman's ";March to the Sea"; Savannah Campaign. By the first week in May, Union forces from the lower Tennessee to the Virginia coast were in motion. They were participants in a coordinated offensive devised by Gen.-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant. One of the most strategically significant of these operations involved a movement south from Chattanooga by the armies of the Military Division of the Mississippi, under Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman. These 98,000 men and 254 cannon (divided among Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas' Army of the Cumberland, Maj. Gen. James B. McPherson's Army of the Tennessee, and Army of the Ohio under Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield, and 4 cavalry divisions) constituted, Sherman felt, ";one of the best armies in the world.";

March on Atlanta

An animated account of the Atlanta Campaign. Requires Adobe Flash Player.

Atlanta Campaign

A timeline of the Atlanta Campaign.

The Campaign for Atlanta

Maj. Gen. U.S. Grant's victory at Chattanooga was critically important to the Union cause and devastating to the Confederacy. The way to Atlanta was now open. Had that city not fallen when it did, it is very possible that Lincoln would not have been reelected and there would have been a negotiated settlement.

The Atlanta Campaign

After the Chattanooga Campaign Bragg retreated 25 miles south to Dalton, Ga., and entrenched. Grant had not pursued, since he was concerned with going to Burnside's relief at Knoxville. As a result of public clamor Bragg asked to be relieved and was succeeded in Dec. by Joseph E.Johnston. The Confederate authorities planned a new offensive into Tenn. and, during the winter of 1863-64, reinforced Johnston to a strength of about 62,000, including 2,000 cavalry under Joseph Wheeler. His corps commanders were Hardee, Hood, and (soon after the campaign started) Polk.

The Defense of Atlanta, by General John B. Hood, CSA

About 11 o'clock on the night of the 17th of July, 1864, I received a telegram from the War Office directing me to assume command of the Army of Tennessee. It is difficult to imagine a commander placed at the head of an army under more embarrassing circumstances than those against which I was left to contend. I was comparatively a stranger to the Army of Tennessee. The troops of the Army of Tennessee had for such length of time been subjected to the ruinous policy pursued from Dalton to Atlanta that they were unfitted for united action in pitched battle. They had, in other words, been so long habituated to security behind breastworks that they had become wedded to the "timid defensive" policy, and naturally regarded with distrust a commander likely to initiate offensive operations.

Chronology of The Atlanta Campaign

A daily chronology of the Atlanta Campaign

The Atlanta Campaign

The Atlanta Campaign, Inc. is a non-profit, living history organization based in Georgia. Their goal is to perpetuate public awareness of, and stimulate interest in, the historical significance of the American Civil War.

The Atlanta Campaign: A Virtual Tour

In the summer of 1864 things did not look good for Abraham Lincoln. On August 28th, he wrote, "This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this administration will not be reelected." Lt. General U. S. Grant was stalled in front of Petersburg, after several months of horrific fighting with Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. And Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston had managed to delay Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman's aspirations for the conquest of Atlanta by the western Federal armies.

Atlanta Campaign

In the spring of 1864, while Grant was in The Wilderness, William T. Sherman and 90,000 Union soldiers moved southward from Chattanooga toward Atlanta. A smaller Confederate force, about 60,000 men, was under the command of Joseph E. Johnston. Their role was to slow the Union advance and to try to disrupt the lines of supply as Sherman went farther into Southern territory.

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.

Atlanta Campaign

An accounting of the Atlanta Campaign from the memoirs of William T. Sherman.

Supplying Hell: The Campaign for Atlanta

"War is Hell" - the famous quote attributed to Major General William T. Sherman - was an understatement for the time and a reality for the soldiers of the Civil War. Unfortunately, historians and others have primarily highlighted the tactics of war without considering the logistics. In other words, people have ignored how an army got to the field and survived. This article will examine the supply system of General Sherman's army in his campaign for Atlanta, GA.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Atlanta Campaign External Links
  • Coverage May 7–September 2, 1864
  • Author
  • Keywords atlanta campaign
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date January 18, 2021
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update October 16, 2020