Fields of Glory, A History and Tour Guide of the War in the West, The Atlanta Campaign, 1864
by Jim Miles. Cumberland House Publishing Nashville Tenn. 2002
This has been my most used and trusted book for finding locations related to the Atlanta Campaign. I love the way the chapters are set up. One Chapter gives you a fairly good history of a section of the campaign and then the next chapter is a guided tour of that section. The directions are good and detailed and I have not found any mistakes in the directions other than the mileage being off by a few 10th here and there, but not enough to matter. I like the appendix as well. They offer a few other tours and anecdotes of interest.
I must give Jim Miles a great deal of thanks, because I am not sure I could have found all the locations that I needed to with out his book. If you are looking at a driving tour in Georgia and want to visit some Civil War sites, then this is about the best book to use. I highly recommend this book.
May 23, 1864: General Sherman had devised a plan to move away from his railroad supply lines and angle southwest in an effort to out flank General Johnston’s Confederate Army, who are held up in the fortified positions of Allatoona Pass. Since they were leaving their main supply line, Sherman striped down his army to the just the essential equipment and rations to last a few days. Extra supplies would have to be brought by wagon train from the railroad and would take a great deal of time. On the 23rd of May the Federal troops begin crossing the Etowah River in multiple locations. They used existing bridges that were not burned by retreating Confederates, shallow fords, and the pontoon bridges that their engineers constructed. After crossing the river, the Union troops began concentrating in the area of Euharlee and Stilesboro. From here they moved away as three separate columns. McPherson was ordered to be the right wing of the advance and was sent to take Dallas. He went in a sweeping arch movement far out to the west through Taylorsville, Aragon, and Van Wert (now Rockmart). Sherman’s left wing was made up General Thomas’s and General Schofield’s Armies. From Stilesboro they moved south from that point, but stayed fairly close to each other, in case one of them needed support upon making contact with the Confederates. They stopped in the area of Burnt Hickory for a day to allow McPherson to complete his movement toward Dallas.
Meanwhile, General Wheeler’s Confederate Cavalry were observing what movements the Union Army was making and sent word back to General Johnston. He immediately issued orders to begin moving elements of his army into blocking positions to prevent or delay the Federal Advance. General Hardee was sent to Dallas to stop McPherson and become the left of the Confederate line. Hood stayed at Allatoona Pass for another day and then moved to New Hope to block the advancing Federals. Polk was sent to Lost Mountain where he could move easily in any direction to offer support if it were needed.
May 19th, 1864. General Johnston knew that Sherman had taken the bait and that General Schofield’s Corps was moving toward Cassville. Johnston deployed Polk’s Corps across the road that Schofield was traveling and deployed Hood along what would be Schofield’s left flank. At some point in the morning, Union Cavalry, that was attempting to damage the railroad, came across the end of Hood’s Line and attacked. The numbers of soldiers involved were small, but it was enough of a surprise for Hood that he reformed his lines to meet what he thought was a threat and all but abandoned the attack on Schofield. Johnston eventually ordered Polk and Hood to fall back and reform on a ridge about a mile away. The Union Army formed a line in the area that the Confederates had just moved from. They now stood facing each other with the village of Cassville between them approximately at the center of the lines. During the evening, Hood and Polk called for a meeting with Johnston to discuss what they thought would be their inability to hold their lines, due to the position of the Federal Artillery. It would induce and enfilading fire on their lines and there was not a sufficient amount of cover. Johnston relented to their argument, even though he did not agree. He order a retreat and the next day they were across the Etowah River.
May 11th, 1864, General Johnston receives word in the early morning that the Union Army is massing for an attack on Resaca via Snake Creek Gap. He telegraphs General Polk, who is Rome on his way form Louisiana to Dalton, and directs him to Resaca to assume command and reenforce the troops already there. He then sends General Hood from Dalton to Resaca and has General Cleburne prepare to move from Dug Gap to Resaca. He then directs General Cheatham to prepare to withdraw from Rocky Face Ridge and replace Clerburne at Dug Gap. Upon arrival at Resaca, General Hood finds that there is no attack imminent and there are no Federal troops within four miles of Resaca. He Telegraphs General Johnston and informs him of such. All the previous troop movements toward Resaca are put on hold.
Union observers, on the Northern part of Rocky Face Ridge, have seen part of Cheatham’s Corp start to move away from the lines at Buzzards Roost. Sherman is notified and he immediately orders the line at Buzzards Roost probed. There are enough Southern Soldiers still in the lines to repulse the attempted Reconnaissance by Force. The Union troops go to ground and must wait until nightfall to pull back. Sherman informs McPherson that he will be at Snake Creek Gap in the morning and that he is planning to have the majority of the Army follow his route to and through Snake Creek Gap. Sherman orders McPherson to strengthen his defenses in the gap. Sherman also orders Schofield’s troops to begin pulling back from Crow Creek Valley.
General Polk arrives in Resaca and with General Hood, they observe the deployment of troops and assess the situation. In the evening they go to Dalton by train to meet with General Johnston and make plans for the retreat from Dalton and the defense of Resaca. General Polk overnights with General Hood at Hood’s headquarters. General Polk, who is also the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana, baptizes General Hood.
On May 9th, 1864
General McPherson and The Army of the Tennessee, reached Snake Creek Gap on May 9th, thus setting up a flanking movement in an attempt to attack the Confederate rear and stop their retreat from Dalton. General Sherman had hoped that General Johnston would turn the Confederate Army away from Dalton to attack McPherson and if General Geary had successfully taken Dug Gap he would have been in a position to hit General Johnston’s flank and the remainder of the Union Army could attack the Confederate rear. What Sherman wanted and what he got, are two different things. Upon reaching Snake Creek Gap, McPherson was ordered to attack the Confederates holding the town of Resaca.
McPherson sent his skirmishers through the gap and saw a considerable and extensive line of earth works between the gap and Resaca. He also saw Southern troops and over estimated their numbers. He pulled back and did not push the attack. General Sherman was furious at the lost opportunity to decimate the Confederate Army and possibly end the campaign there and push on to Atlanta with out much of a fight. Had McPherson attacked, he would only have found a fairly small number of Confederate troops protecting Resaca, some of which were cadets from the Georgia Military Academy in Marietta. His hesitation allowed enough time for the Confederate Army to send reinforcements to Resaca.
Also on May 9th, General Sherman ordered General Schofield’s, Army of the Ohio, to attack the Confederate line in Crow Creek Valley, just north of Dalton. The Southern soldiers put up a tough fight and repulsed multiple attempts by the Union Army to take their position. Rowan’s Ga. Battery was positioned on Potato Hill and the remnants of the Battery and Infantry works are still visible today. It has been turned into a small park with a trail up the hill to the works. Here is a link for an article about the new parks. Dalton Daily Citizen