Battle of Adairsville

May 17, 1864 — Barstow County, Georgia, near Adairsville

The Battle of Adairsville was an engagement between Union forces commanded by Major General William T. Sherman and Confederate forces commanded by General Joseph E. Johnston on May 17, 1864, during the Atlanta Campaign of the American Civil War. This entry provides a detailed look at the battle and its impact on the Atlanta Campaign.

William Tecumseh Sherman, Seated, Portrait, Brady

William Sherman commanded Union forces in the Battle of Adairsville.

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Battle of Adairsville Summary

The Battle of Adairsville — also known as the Battle of Cassville — was a military engagement between the United States of America and the Confederate States of America that took place on May 17, 1864, in Bartow County, Georgia, near the town of Adairsville. The United States won the battle, which was part of William T. Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign.

Events That Caused the Adairsville Battle

Siege of Chattanooga

In late November 1863, Union forces commanded by Major General Ulysses S. Grant successfully lifted Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston’s siege of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Union victories at Lookout Mountain (November 24) and Missionary Ridge (November 25) forced Johnston to withdraw thirty miles south to near Dalton, Georgia.

Grant’s Umbrella Strategy

After the federal breakout from Chattanooga, President Lincoln promoted Grant to the special rank of lieutenant general and placed him in command of all Union armies. Grant moved his headquarters to Washington, DC, leaving his trusted subordinate, Major General William T. Sherman, in command of federal operations in the Western Theater.

Ulysses S Grant, at Cold Harbor, Portrait

President Abraham Lincoln put Ulysses S. Grant in charge of the Union armies. Image Source: Library of Congress.

Grant’s primary military strategy was a coordinated effort to attack and defeat the two major Confederate armies in the field, Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia in the East, and Joseph E. Johnston and the Army of Tennessee in the West. On May 5, 1864, Grant launched his Overland Campaign against Lee in Virginia. Two days later, Sherman led three armies, the Army of the Tennessee, commanded by Major General James B. McPherson; the Army of the Ohio, commanded by Major General John M. Schofield; and the Army of the Cumberland, commanded by Major General George H. Thomas, out of Tennessee in pursuit of Johnston’s army in northern Georgia.

Sherman Advances in Georgia

Between May 7, and May 15, 1864, Sherman’s forces engaged the Army of Tennessee in the Battle of Rocky Face Ridge near Dalton, Georgia, and then at the Battle of Resaca, near Resaca, Georgia. Although the fighting was inconclusive, Sherman outflanked the Confederate defenders in each case, forcing Johnston to pull back to the south toward Atlanta.

Fighting at Adairsville

Finding the terrain unsuitable for establishing a strong defensive line near Calhoun, Georgia, Johnston continued south to Adairsville. As Sherman continued his pursuit of Johnston, the armies engaged again near Adairsville, Georgia on May 17. The battle comprised a series of skirmishes throughout the day, which amounted to little more than a delaying action to allow Johnston to move farther south toward Cassville.

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Outcome of The Battle of Adairsville

The Battle of Adairsville was perhaps more significant for what did not happen than for what did. When Johnston withdrew from Adairsville, he sent one corps of his army to nearby Kinston to create a diversion, while the bulk of his army moved south toward Cassville. Johnston hoped that Sherman would believe that he was preparing for battle at Kinston and mass most Union soldiers there while sending a smaller contingent to follow the Rebels headed for Cassville.

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Aftermath

Confederate forces commanded by Leonidas Polk and John Bell Hood would then ambush and destroy the Federals moving toward Cassville. Sherman took the bait and sent the Army of the Ohio, along with one corps of the Army of the Cumberland, in pursuit of the retreating Rebels. As Hood was moving his men into position, he discovered some Union soldiers near his rear.

Effect of the Battle on the Atlanta Campaign

Fearing being caught between two columns of Federal soldiers, Hood fell back and rejoined Polk, failing to spring the trap. Thus, Sherman eluded the possibility of a costly defeat.

Facts About the Battle of Adairsville

This section provides an overview of the important facts about the Battle of Adairsville, including key dates, commanders, casualties, and the military units that were involved.

Date

  • The battle occurred on May 17, 1864

Location

  • Bartow County, Georgia, near the town of Adairsville

Campaign

Principal Union Commanders

Principal Confederate Commanders

Union Forces Engaged

  • Army of the Tennessee
  • Army of the Ohio
  • Army of the Cumberland

Confederate Forces Engaged

  • Army of Tennessee

Number of Union Soldiers Engaged

  • Roughly 4,000

Number of Confederate Soldiers Engaged

  • Roughly 4,500

Union Casualties

  • Estimated 200 (killed, wounded, captured/missing)

Confederate Casualties

  • Unknown

Result

  • Union forces won the field of battle.
  • Successful Confederate delaying action.

Significance

  • The Battle of Adairsville was perhaps more significant for what did not happen than what did. Union forces were spared the possibility of a costly defeat when Confederate leaders failed to spring a well-laid trap after Sherman had divided his armies.

Adairsville and the Atlanta Campaign — APUSH Resources

The Battle of Adairsville was part of William T. Sherman’s campaign to crush the Army of the Tennessee (CSA), capture the city of Atlanta, and cut Confederate supply lines. The following primary and secondary sources are for students studying for the AP US History Exam.

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Atlanta Campaign Video

This video from the American Battlefield Trust discusses the significance of the Atlanta Campaign in the Civil War.

Timeline of the Battle of Adairsville

These are the main battles and events of the Civil War and the Atlanta Campaign that led to and followed the Battle of Adairsville, in chronological order.

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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Battle of Adairsville
  • Coverage May 17, 1864
  • Author
  • Keywords Battle of Adairsville, American Civil War, William T. Sherman, Joseph E. Johnston, Atlanta Campaign, Adairsville, Georgia
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date October 5, 2022
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update September 22, 2022

Battle of Adairsville is Part of the Following on AHC

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