Prelude to the Battle
Federal Breakout from 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 the Battle of Lookout Mountain (November 24) and the Battle of Missionary Ridge (November 25) forced Johnston to withdraw thirty miles south near Dalton, Georgia.
Grant Promoted to Lieutenant General
After the Federal breakout from Chattanooga, President Abraham 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, leaving his trusted subordinate, Major General William T. Sherman, in command of federal operations in the western theater.
Grant’s Umbrella Strategy
Grant’s primary military strategy was a coordinated effort to attack and defeat the two main 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.
Sherman Pursues Johnston into Georgia
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.
Throughout the summer of 1864, the Confederate and Union armies engaged in a series of battles between Dalton and Atlanta in northern Georgia. Most of the fighting occurred at places on or near the Western and Atlantic Railroad, which connected Chattanooga and Atlanta. Both sides depended on the railway for supplies throughout the campaign. In a pattern that he often repeated, Sherman used flanking movements that threatened the railway to Johnston’s rear, forcing the Confederate commander to retreat south to protect his supply lines.
Troops Collide at Dallas, Georgia
Following the Union defeat at the Battle of New Hope Church, the Confederate and Federal forces near Dallas, Georgia entrenched on May 26. On May 28, Rebel forces led by Lieutenant General William J. Hardee tested the Union lines, probing for weaknesses. The Federals repulsed Hardee’s advances, inflicting high casualties. Thereafter, the situation continued as a stalemate until Sherman’s cavalry took possession of Allatoona Pass on June 1.
Aftermath of the Battle
On June 5, Sherman abandoned his lines near Dallas, and marched his army back to the railroad at Allatoona Pass, forcing Johnston to follow. In the wake of his departure, the Confederacy suffered roughly 3,000 (killed, wounded, captured/missing) at the Battle of Dallas. The Union lost about 2,400 soldiers (killed, wounded, captured/missing).