After playing cat and mouse with General Hood in North Georgia during October, General Sherman stopped the chase and established his headquarters in Kingston Ga. From here, he was in a position to lash out at Hood if he reentered North Georgia, and he could also direct and finalize the logistical components of his March to the Sea.
Sherman had ordered the removal of all civilians in Atlanta and had also directed that all military personnel not going on the March to the Sea, should return to Chattanooga and other parts north. Civilians not wanting to travel north, were transported to Rough and Ready where they were transferred through to the Confederate lines. Sherman also ordered all the excess equipment and unnecessary war material to be sent back to the Federal lines in the north and that anything that could be of any possible military value to the Confederates was to be rendered useless and destroyed. Once the last train had left Atlanta, the railroad was to be destroyed as well as the telegraph lines. This would completely cut off General Sherman from any support until he reached the coast and could be resupplied by the Federal Navy.
Late on the evening of the 4th, along the way from Acworth to Allatoona, French’s Division crossed Allatoona Creek. The railroad crossed the same creek and near the bridge was a Blockhouse occupied by a small garrison of Federals. French assigned the 4th Mississippi of Sear’s Brigade, along with one artillery piece, to stay behind and capture the blockhouse.
French’s Division continued on with the assistance of a local guide and around 3:00am on the 5th they reached point about 1200 yards from the pass called Moore’s Hill (Allatoona Landing Marina and Campground). On this hill he place 11 cannons and ordered two infantry regiments to stay and support them. Not wanting to attack directly across open ground through the village and along the railroad tracks, French made a flanking movement to the west allowing him to be in a better position for the attack. The terrain was very difficult to traverse, with dense woods and steep sided ravines. At one point French stopped to rest his men who had been in constant motion for two days. French’s Division did not gain their position on the ridge west of the Federals until after day break. Throughout the night the Confederates could hear train cars arriving in the pass. General Corse had arrived with reinforcements.
After the Confederates abandoned Allatoona Pass in the spring, Sherman had made it his “second Chattanooga”, meaning that it was his second most important supply depot. A warehouse was built to store supplies for the Federal Army and to protect it, Sherman ordered his Chief Engineer, Orlando Poe, to construct fortifications at the pass. Poe constructed several earth forts. The Eastern Redoubt was on a knoll on the eastern side of the pass and to the east of the Tennessee Road. There were several cannons in the redoubt along with infantry. There was a line of infantry trenches that faced north and moved west from the redoubt to the Tennessee Road. They crossed the road on high ground and went all the way to the edge of the pass. West of the pass and situated on the high ground, was the Star Fort. It also contained artillery and infantry. The fort gets its name from its shape. There are infantry trenches around the fort and moving west from the pass on the north side of the fort. The hillside is also covered with rifle pits. West of the Star Fort, spanning the Cartersville Road, was Rowett’s Redoubt. There were several cannons as well as infantry positioned here. Rowett’s Redoubt was facing west and would take the initial brunt of the attack.
After being reinforced, the Federals were able to man their position with just under 2000 soldiers. The Confederates had arrived with around 3200 soldiers, but had been on the move for two days. The Federals may have been outnumbered, but they held a strong position on the high ground and a large number of the infantry were armed with the new Henry Repeating Rifle, giving them the advantage in firepower.
French sent Sear’s Brigade to the North, where they were to attack the pass from the north west. Cockrell’s Brigade was west of Rowett’s Redoubt, they were spread across the ridge from north to south. Ector’s Brigade was supporting Cockrell’s on the left, stretching north. Ector’s Brigade was being commanded by General William Young.
After the deployment of his troops, French, sent a message to the General Corse stating that he was out numbered and asking the Federals to surrender. Corse declined to surrender. Upon the refusal to surrender, the order to attack was given. Cockrell’s Brigade advanced from the west and quickly took the first line of Federal works. They were stalled at the second line until Ector’s Brigade moved up in support and they were able to carry the second line. They fought their way to the third line of works and engaged the Federals in hand to hand combat with muskets as clubs, bayonets striking and stabbing and even rocks were used. Amidst the heavy fire coming from the Star Fort, the Confederates were able to make it within several yards of the prize.
Sear’s Brigade attacked from the north and moved south astride the railroad and up the steep hill towards the Star Fort on the western side and the toward the trench lines on the eastern side. For a short time, Sear’s Brigade, was slowed down by enfilading fire from the Eastern Redoubt, but were able to rally and press forward.
Ammunition was starting to run low for both sides. During the hot conflict at the Star Fort, they started to run out of ammunition for the artillery. Volunteers, ran under intense fire, across a small foot bridge that crossed the pass some 90′ in the air and ran to the Eastern Redoubt to retrieve ammunition and carry it by hand back to the Star Fort. Several were shot off of the bridge. The Federals were on the verge of collapsing under the pressure of French’s assault.
Around noon, French received word that Federal Cavalry was approaching and were currently in Big Shanty some eight miles away. With his supply wagons nearly a mile from the front, French felt he could not resupply his assault force in time to capture the forts and then be able to withstand an attack from Cavalry. French called off his assault and began to withdraw from the field. The fight was over and the Federals were relieved as they were on the verge of breaking and being overrun. French’s forces withdrew and marched back towards New Hope Church to link up with the remainder of the Confederate Army.
They Battle of Allatoona Pass is often over looked and glossed over, but it was one of the most fierce engagements of the war with casualty rate of 33% in only a few short hours. The casualty rate at Gettysburg was 32.5% over a three day period. Chickamauga had a casualty rate of 27.5% over two days. The Clayton House, which still stands today, is visible in the period image by George Barnard. It sits just south of the Star Fort and across from the rail road. It was used as a headquarters for the garrison and during the battle the house was used for a hospital. I was able to tour the home and witness the scars of battle that still exist. There are multiple bullet holes in the walls and in the room used for amputations, there is a fairly large blood stain still on the floor where it soaked in to the wood.
If you would like a more detailed description of the battle along with information and stories from personal accounts, I highly suggest reading The Battle of Allatoon Pass by Brad Butkovich. It is a very well written book on the battle.
On the 3rd, Stewart’s Corps marched on and took Big Shanty and the garrison there, they began destroying the railroad. Loring’s Division was sent to Acworth and Walthall’s Division went to Moon Station about two miles north of Big Shanty. Upon arriving at Acworth, Loring’s Division camped just outside of town.
On the morning of the 4th, the acting commander of the Federals in Acworth, attacked Loring. The Federals had been up all night and were preparing for the Rebels to attack at first light, when they did not attack, the Federals did. The attack was a surprise to many of the men, but once the Confederates reorganized after the initial assault, they were able to surround the town and force the Federals to surrender. The Federal prisoners were rounded up and sent on their way, meanwhile the Confederates began to destroy the railroad. In all they were able to destroy about eight miles of track running north from Big Shanty.
Around noon on the 3rd Stewart received an order from Hood, directing him to send two of his Divisions back toward the main Confederate Army and send French’s further north to Allatoona Pass to destroy the tacks and fill in the railroad cut. After that they were to march to New Hope Church and link up with the other Divisions of the Corps. If French was able to determine if the garrison at the bridge over the Etowah was small, he was to attack and destroy the bridge if possible.
Having marched all the previous day and having spent all night and the morning destroying the railroad, French’s Division began marching north toward Allatoona. They were the furthest Division of their Corps, but were ordered their straight away. They had 8 miles to march, Loring’s Division, also the largest of the Corps, was only 4 miles away, but had been ordered to return back to the Confederate Army.
Sherman’s forces were also on the move. They were making their way toward Marietta and had already crossed the Chattahoochee by the the end of the day. Sherman also sent word to General Corse, who was in garrison at Rome, to move his division to Cartersville and to be ready to offer support when needed. Late in the afternoon, Sherman changed his orders to Corse and ordered him to Allatoona.
French’s Divison was on the move to Allatoona by foot and Corse was moving a greater distance, but had the advantage of using the railroad. It was essentially a race, yet the racers did not know they were racing.
Sherman began to receive reports that General Hood had crossed the Chattahoochee River and were moving toward Marietta. Sherman, unsure of where Hood was moving, began sending messages to all points along his supply line and also sent additional troops to Chattanooga. He thought Hood would do one of two things; attack the supply line between Atlanta and Chattanooga or move toward northern Alabama to meet up with General Forrest to attack the supply depots in Tennessee. Sherman also mobilized his troops in Atlanta in an attempt to chase down and engage Hood. He left the XX Corps to garrison Atlanta and move the remaining troops northwest toward Marietta.
Hood was moving toward the northwest as well. He was not moving on Marietta directly and was making a wide move around it and the formidable Kennesaw Mountain. As the Confederate Army was marching, General Stewart’s Corps was the farthest to the right (east) of the column. They marched throughout the day and Stewart’s Corps made camp a few miles south of Lost Mountain. Hood and the remainder of his army camped in area southeast of Dallas near Flint Hill Church.
On the evening of the October 2nd, Hood sent orders to Stewart. His orders were to move his entire Corps, in the morning, to Big Shanty (now called Kennesaw). Stewart was assigned to capture and destroy as much of the railroad as possible and if he was able to take Big Shanty, he was to send a Division to Acworth to do the same thing there. Hood suggested that he should be back in two days to link up with the remainder of the army. These actions, were to set into motion, all the pieces for the Battle of Allatoona Pass.
Sherman has fortified Atlanta extensively and has started to build up supplies and rest his troops. The Confederates are not sitting idle, and Hood has ordered all the Federal prisoners kept at Andersonville to be moved to different prisons out of the reach of Sherman’s forces. Hood then shifts his Army from Love Joy’s Station to Palmetto, which lies along the railroad to West Point and further into Alabama. Hood is resting his troops, building up supplies and making plans for a move to the north to attack Sherman’s supply line.
Confederate President Davis arrives in Palmetto on September 25th. The next morning he begins a review of the troops and is greeted with silence, not cheers for their President. A few soldiers yell out to the President asking for General Johnston to be place back in command, but these remarks fall upon deaf ears. Bringing Johnston back would be like admitting that he made a mistake in removing him.
On the 27th, Davis meets will Hood and all his Corps Commanders and some of the Divisional Commanders. A great deal is discussed including a plan to strike Sherman’s supply and communications lines north of Atlanta, there by cutting him off and forcing him to retreat back to Tennessee, all the while being engaged by Hood. Hood then thinks he can move on the Federals in Tennessee and turn the tide of the war in the western theater and possibly as a whole. Hood also complains to Davis about General Hardee and blames the loss at Jonesboro on him. He ask Davis to remove him. Davis agrees and Hardee readily accepts the offer to command the coastal defenses of Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida. Hardee is relieved to be out from under Hood’s command. On the 28th, Hood receives word from Davis that he may move forward with his plans to on North.
On September 29th and 30th, the Confederate Army of Tennessee begins their next march and crosses the Chattahoochee River near Palmetto and Campbellton with about 40,000 troops. By late in the evening of October 1st, Hoods army has moved about 8 miles from the river crossing in the direction of Marietta. Sherman, who had anticipated this move to the north by Hood a week earlier, had already sent troops to Rome and Chattanooga to help protect those areas from the threat of Hood and from the threat of General Nathan Bedford Forrest, who cavalry that has started operating in the northern part of Alabama and into Tennessee.
The Federal Army, having reached the West Point railroad at Red Oak and Fairburn on the previous day, spend the 29th destroying 12.5 miles of track stretching as far south as Palmetto. They burned the ties and lay the track across them to heat them and then bend them around trees. They fill the railroad cuts with trees, rocks, dirt, and in some cases they rig up artillery shells in the debris to explode if material is moved. There is also a great deal of looting and pillaging of the local populace. Livestock and food stuffs are taken along with anything the looters deem useful. Some things are destroyed just for fun. On the night of the 29th, Sherman issues marching orders for the next day. In the morning they will begin moving toward Jonesboro.
Sherman has sent Kilpatrick’s Cavalry to the south of Atlanta on a reconnaissance mission. On the morning of the 16th, Kilpatrick reaches Fairburn, where he destroys three miles of railroad track and the depot. He has been operating without any real opposition from Jackson’s Cavalry. Sherman begins to think that Kilpatrick, along with a couple Brigades of Garrad’s Cavalry, could swing far south of Atlanta and destroy the railroad without needing to move the entire army. Sherman ask Kilpatrick if he thinks it is possible, to which he replies that it would be possible to damage the tracks bad enough to be out of service and not put his command in any danger.