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 Lookout Mountain (November 24) and Missionary Ridge (November 25) forced Johnston to withdraw thirty miles south to near Dalton, Georgia.
Grant in Charge
After the Federal breakout from Chattanooga, President Lincoln promoted Grant to the special rank of Lieutenant General and placed 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.
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’s Army of Northern Virginia in the east, and Joseph E. Johnston’s Army of Tennessee in the west. On May 5, 1864, Grant launched his Overland Campaign against Lee in Virginia.
Sherman Pursues Johnston
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 Sherman often repeated, he flanked the Rebel army and threatened the railway to Johnston’s rear, forcing the Confederate commander to retreat south to protect his supply lines.
June 14-15: Clash at Pine Mountain
By June 9, 1864, Johnston had withdrawn the Army of Tennessee to an entrenched position in the Marietta area, in Cobb County, Georgia. Over the next three weeks, Sherman continued to press Johnston, engaging his army at various locations near Marietta, including at the Battle of Pine Mountain (also known as the Battle of Pine Knob and the Battle of Pine Hill) on June 14 and 15.
June 14: Union Artillerists Kill Lieutenant General Leonidas Polk
The Confederates encamped on Pine Mountain, a small hill standing just 300 feet above the surrounding countryside. On June 14, Union artillery batteries shelled the Confederate position on Pine Mountain, inflicting few casualties, with the notable exception of Lieutenant General Leonidas Polk, who was killed by a Northern cannonball.
June 15: Rebels Withstand Union Assault
On June 15, Northern forces stormed the Confederate position. Three Union divisions from the 20th Corps, commanded by Major General Joseph Hooker, attacked the Southern defenders, commanded by General Patrick Cleburne. Numbering roughly 15,000 men, the Federals attacked at 5:00 PM. The Rebels held their position, forcing the Union soldiers to entrench on the hillside.
The Union lost over 750 soldiers (killed, wounded, captured/missing) during the Battle of Pine Mountain. Confederate casualties were unreported.
Despite the Confederate victory, Sherman eventually forced Johnston to withdraw from the Marietta area by July 3, 1864, following several other minor engagements.