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 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 Moves 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.
Fighting Along the Western and Atlantic Railroad
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.
Sherman Tries to Turn Hood’s Flank
By June 19, 1864, Johnston had withdrawn the Army of Tennessee to a defensive position astride Kennesaw Mountain near Marietta, Georgia. Initially, Sherman decided that Johnston’s new line was too strong to risk a frontal attack. Instead, he ordered Major General John Schofield, commanding the Army of the Ohio, and Major General Joseph Hooker, commanding one corps of the Army of the Cumberland, to extend the Union line west and attempt to turn Johnston’s left flank.
Hood Attacks Near Kolb’s Farm
Anticipating Sherman’s plan, Johnston countered by sending Lieutenant General John B. Hood and one corps of his army to reinforce his left flank. By June 22, Hood’s soldiers were in position, and one of his divisions encountered two federal regiments near Kolb’s Farm. Underestimating the number of Yankees in the area, Hood launched an attack.
Federals Repulse Rebels
Warned of Hood’s presence in the area, Hooker and Schofield prepared for the Confederate assault by entrenching their soldiers. Hampered by swampy terrain, Union artillery, and Hood’s poor reconnaissance, the Yankees repulsed the Rebels inflicting high casualties.
Aftermath of the Battle
Confederate casualties at the Battle of Kolb’s farm more than tripled federal losses. The Confederacy suffered about 1,000 casualties (killed, wounded, captured/missing) compared to roughly 300 losses for the Union (killed, wounded, captured/missing). Although the Union forces won the Battle of Kolb’s Farm, they failed to achieve their original objective of turning the Confederate flank.