Here is a look back at what was happening this week in the Civil War.
We won’t be hearing from CS General Nathan Bedford Forrest this week, though he isn’t dead from lockjaw, as Union generals have heard and are hoping. He did suffer a foot wound in the aftermath of the Battle of Harrisburg/Tupelo last week and also had a bad case of boils, so he is spending time resting, as are those of his men who aren’t heading for Mobile or preparing to enter Northern Alabama to meet another Federal advance (Rousseau’s raid, perhaps). Forrest also is doing some supervising, first in Tupelo and then Okolona this week, though General Chalmers is in direct control of the command.
General Grant is still concerned about Jubal Early’s threat to Washington and the Shenandoah Valley. Near Atlanta, US General Sherman is preparing to make move forward after the battle of Peachtree Creek on the 20th.
Military events/Battles: Georgia operations, Atlanta campaign: Per General Sherman (15):
During the night [of July 20-21], I had full reports from all parts of our line, most of which was partially intrenched as against a sally, and finding that McPherson [no relation to the author of source 2] was stretching out too much on his left flank, I wrote him a note early in the morning not to extend so much by his left; for we had not troops enough to completely invest the place, and I intended to destroy utterly all parts of the Augusta Railroad to the east of Atlanta, then to withdraw from the left flank and add to the right. In that letter I ordered McPherson not to extend any farther to the left, but to employ General Dodge’s corps (Sixteenth), then forced out of position, to destroy every rail and tie of the railroad, from Decatur up to his skirmish-line, and I wanted him (McPherson) to be ready, as soon as General Garrard returned from Covington (whither I had sent him), to move to the extreme right of Thomas, so as to reach if possible the railroad below Atlanta, viz., the Macon road. In the morning we found the strong line of parapet, “Peach-Tree line,” to the front of Schofield and Thomas, abandoned, and our lines were advanced rapidly close up to Atlanta. For some moments I supposed the enemy intended to evacuate, and in person was on horseback at the head of Schofield’s troops, who had advanced in front of the Howard House to some open ground, from which we could plainly see the whole rebel line of parapets, and I saw their men dragging up from the intervening valley, by the distillery, trees and saplings for abatis. Our skirmishers found the enemy down in this valley, and we could see the rebel main line strongly manned, with guns in position at intervals. Schofield was dressing forward his lines, and I could hear Thomas farther to the right engaged, when General McPherson and his staff rode up. We went back to the Howard House, a double frame-building with a porch, and sat on the steps, discussing the chances of battle, and of Hood’s general character. McPherson had also been of the same class at West Point with Hood, Schofield, and Sheridan. We agreed that we ought to be unusually cautious and prepared at all times for sallies and for hard fighting, because Hood, though not deemed much of a scholar, or of great mental capacity, was undoubtedly a brave, determined, and rash man; and the change of commanders at that particular crisis argued the displeasure of the Confederate Government with the cautious but prudent conduct of General Jos. Johnston.
McPherson was in excellent spirits, well pleased at the progress of events so far, and had come over purposely to see me about the order I had given him to use Dodge’s corps to break up the railroad, saying that the night before he had gained a position on Leggett’s Hill from which he could look over the rebel parapet, and see the high smoke-stack of a large foundery in Atlanta; that before receiving my order he had diverted Dodge’s two divisions (then in motion) from the main road, along a diagonal one that led to his extreme left flank, then held by Giles A. Smith’s division (Seventeenth Corps), for the purpose of strengthening that flank; and that he had sent some intrenching-tools there, to erect some batteries from which he intended to knock down that foundery, and otherwise to damage the buildings inside of Atlanta. He said he could put all his pioneers to work, and do with them in the time indicated all I had proposed to do with General Dodge’s two divisions. Of course I assented at once, and we walked down the road a short distance, sat down by the foot of a tree where I had my map, and on it pointed out to him Thomas’s position and his own. I then explained minutely that, after we had sufficiently broken up the Augusta road, I wanted to shift his whole army around by the rear to Thomas’s extreme right, and hoped thus to reach the other railroad at East Point. While we sat there we could hear lively skirmishing going on near us (down about the distillery), and occasionally round-shot from twelve or twenty-four pound guns came through the trees in reply to those of Schofield, and we could hear similar sounds all along down the lines of Thomas to our right, and his own to the left; but presently the firing appeared a little more brisk (especially over about Giles G. Smith’s division), and then we heard an occasional gun back toward Decatur. I asked him what it meant. We took my pocket-compass (which I always carried), and by noting the direction of the sound, we became satisfied that the firing was too far to our left rear to be explained by known facts, and he hastily called for his horse, his staff, and his orderlies.
McPherson was then in his prime (about thirty-four years old), over six feet high, and a very handsome man in every way, was universally liked, and had many noble qualities. He had on his boots outside his pantaloons, gauntlets on his hands, had on his major-general’s uniform, and wore a sword-belt, but no sword. He hastily gathered his papers (save one, which I now possess) into a pocket-book, put it in his breast-pocket, and jumped on his horse, saying he would hurry down his line and send me back word what these sounds meant. His adjutant-general, Clark, Inspector-General Strong, and his aides, Captains Steele and Gile, were with him. Although the sound of musketry on our left grew in volume, I was not so much disturbed by it as by the sound of artillery back toward Decatur. I ordered Schofield at once to send a brigade back to Decatur (some five miles) and was walking up and down the porch of the Howard House, listening, when one of McPherson’s staff, with his horse covered with sweat, dashed up to the porch, and reported that General McPherson was either “killed or a prisoner.” He explained that when they had left me a few minutes before, they had ridden rapidly across to the railroad, the sounds of battle increasing as they neared the position occupied by General Giles A. Smith’s division, and that McPherson had sent first one, then another of his staff to bring some of the reserve brigades of the Fifteenth Corps over to the exposed left flank; that he had reached the head of Dodge’s corps (marching by the flank on the diagonal road as described), and had ordered it to hurry forward to the same point; that then, almost if not entirely alone, he had followed this road leading across the wooded valley behind the Seventeenth Corps, and had disappeared in these woods, doubtless with a sense of absolute security. The sound of musketry was there heard, and McPherson’s horse came back, bleeding, wounded, and riderless. I ordered the staff-officer who brought this message to return at once, to find General Logan (the senior officer present with the Army of the Tennessee), to report the same facts to him, and to instruct him to drive back this supposed small force, which had evidently got around the Seventeenth Corps through the blind woods in rear of our left flank. I soon dispatched one of my own staff (McCoy, I think) to General Logan with similar orders, telling him to refuse his left flank, and to fight the battle (holding fast to Leggett’s Hill) with the Army of the Tennessee; that I would personally look to Decatur and to the safety of his rear, and would reenforce him if he needed it. I dispatched orders to General Thomas on our right, telling him of this strong sally, and my inference that the lines in his front had evidently been weakened by reason thereof, and that he ought to take advantage of the opportunity to make a lodgment in Atlanta, if possible.
Meantime the sounds of the battle rose on our extreme left more and more furious, extending to the place where I stood, at the Howard House. Within an hour an ambulance came in (attended by Colonels Clark and Strong, and Captains Steele and Gile), bearing McPherson’s body. I had it carried inside of the Howard House, and laid on a door wrenched from its hinges. Dr. Hewitt, of the army, was there, and I asked him to examine the wound. He opened the coat and shirt, saw where the ball had entered and where it came out, or rather lodged under the skin, and he reported that McPherson must have died in a few seconds after being hit; that the ball had ranged upward across his body, and passed near the heart. He was dressed just as he left me, with gauntlets and boots on, but his pocket-book was gone. On further inquiry I learned that his body must have been in possession of the enemy some minutes, during which time it was rifled of the pocket-book, and I was much concerned lest the letter I had written him that morning should have fallen into the hands of some one who could read and understand its meaning. Fortunately the spot in the woods where McPherson was shot was regained by our troops in a few minutes, and the pocket-book found in the haversack of a prisoner of war captured at the time, and it and its contents were secured by one of McPherson’s staff.
While we were examining the body inside the house, the battle was progressing outside, and many shots struck the building, which I feared would take fire; so I ordered Captains Steele and Gile to carry the body to Marietta. They reached that place the same night, and, on application, I ordered his personal staff to go on and escort the body to his home, in Clyde, Ohio, where it was received with great honor, and it is now buried in a small cemetery, close by his mother’s house, which cemetery is composed in part of the family orchard, in which he used to play when a boy. The foundation is ready laid for the equestrian monument now in progress, under the auspices of the Society of the Army of the Tennessee.
The reports that came to me from all parts of the field revealed clearly what was the game of my antagonist, and the ground somewhat favored him. The railroad and wagon-road from Decatur to Atlanta lie along the summit, from which the waters flow, by short, steep valleys, into the “Peach-Tree” and Chattahoochee, to the west, and by other valleys, of gentler declivity, toward the east (Ocmulgee). The ridges and level ground were mostly cleared, and had been cultivated as corn or cotton fields; but where the valleys were broken, they were left in a state of nature—wooded, and full of undergrowth. McPherson’s line of battle was across this railroad, along a general ridge, with a gentle but cleared valley to his front, between him and the defenses of Atlanta; and another valley, behind him, was clear of timber in part, but to his left rear the country was heavily wooded.
Military events: Virginia operations, Early’s raid: General Grant decides to leave the 6th and 19th corps in the Shenandoah Valley for offensive operations. (6)
Battles: Garrard’s raid begins.
The battle of Atlanta. Despite the name, this was not the final battle of the campaign; General Sherman shifted around a lot of generals after this battle, defending his promotion of West Pointers by noting that he “wanted to succeed in taking Atlanta.” Perhaps it’s better to call it, as per source 2, Hood’s Second Sortie.
As Sherman recalls the battle (15):
Hood, during the night of July 21st, had withdrawn from his Peach-Tree line, had occupied the fortified line of Atlanta, facing north and east, with Stewart’s—formerly Polk’s—corps and part of Hardee’s, and with G. W. Smith’s division of militia. His own corps, and part of Hardee’s, had marched out to the road leading from McDonough to Decatur, and had turned so as to strike the left and, rear of McPherson’s line “in air.” At the same time he had sent Wheeler’s division of cavalry against the trains parked in Decatur. Unluckily for us, I had sent away the whole of Garrard’s division of cavalry during the night of the 20th, with orders to proceed to Covington, thirty miles east, to burn two important bridges across the Ulcofauhatchee and Yellow Rivers, to tear up the railroad, to damage it as much as possible from Stone Mountain eastward, and to be gone four days; so that McPherson had no cavalry in hand to guard that flank.
The enemy was therefore enabled, under cover or the forest, to approach quite near before he was discovered; indeed, his skirmish-line had worked through the timber and got into the field to the rear of Giles A. Smith’s division of the Seventeenth Corps unseen, had captured Murray’s battery of regular artillery, moving through these woods entirely unguarded, and had got possession of several of the hospital camps. The right of this rebel line struck Dodge’s troops in motion; but, fortunately, this corps (Sixteenth) had only to halt, face to the left, and was in line of battle; and this corps not only held in check the enemy, but drove him back through the woods. About the same time this same force had struck General Giles A. Smith’s left flank, doubled it back, captured four guns in position and the party engaged in building the very battery which was the special object of McPherson’s visit to me, and almost enveloped the entire left flank. The men, however, were skillful and brave, and fought for a time with their backs to Atlanta. They gradually fell back, compressing their own line, and gaining strength by making junction with Leggett’s division of the Seventeenth Corps, well and strongly posted on the hill. One or two brigades of the Fifteenth Corps, ordered by McPherson, came rapidly across the open field to the rear, from the direction of the railroad, filled up the gap from Blair’s new left to the head of Dodge’s column—now facing to the general left—thus forming a strong left flank, at right angles to the original line of battle. The enemy attacked, boldly and repeatedly, the whole of this flank, but met an equally fierce resistance; and on that ground a bloody battle raged from little after noon till into the night. A part of Hood’s plan of action was to sally from Atlanta at the same moment; but this sally was not, for some reason, simultaneous, for the first attack on our extreme left flank had been checked and repulsed before the sally came from the direction of Atlanta. Meantime, Colonel Sprague, in Decatur, had got his teams harnessed up, and safely conducted his train to the rear of Schofield’s position, holding in check Wheeler’s cavalry till he had got off all his trains, with the exception of three or four wagons. I remained near the Howard House, receiving reports and sending orders, urging Generals Thomas and Schofield to take advantage of the absence from their front of so considerable a body as was evidently engaged on our left, and, if possible, to make a lodgment in Atlanta itself; but they reported that the lines to their front, at all accessible points, were strong, by nature and by art, and were fully manned. About 4 p.m. the expected, sally came from Atlanta, directed mainly against Leggett’s Hill and along the Decatur road. At Leggett’s Hill they were met and bloodily repulsed. Along the railroad they were more successful. Sweeping over a small force with two guns, they reached our main line, broke through it, and got possession of De Gress’s battery of four twenty-pound Parrotts, killing every horse, and turning the guns against us. General Charles R. Wood’s division of the Fifteenth Corps was on the extreme right of the Army of the Tennessee, between the railroad and the Howard House, where he connected with Schofield’s troops. He reported to me in person that the line on his left had been swept back, and that his connection with General Logan, on Leggett’s Hill, was broken. I ordered him to wheel his brigades to the left, to advance in echelon, and to catch the enemy in flank. General Schofield brought forward all his available batteries, to the number of twenty guns, to a position to the left front of the Howard House, whence we could overlook the field of action, and directed a heavy fire over the heads of General Wood’s men against the enemy; and we saw Wood’s troops advance and encounter the enemy, who had secured possession of the old line of parapet which had been held by our men. His right crossed this parapet, which he swept back, taking it in flank; and, at the same time, the division which had been driven back along the railroad was rallied by General Logan in person, and fought for their former ground. These combined forces drove the enemy into Atlanta, recovering the twenty pound Parrott guns but one of them was found “bursted” while in the possession of the enemy. The two six-pounders farther in advance were, however, lost, and had been hauled back by the enemy into Atlanta. Poor Captain de Gress came to me in tears, lamenting the loss of his favorite guns; when they were regained he had only a few men left, and not a single horse. He asked an order for a reequipment, but I told him he must beg and borrow of others till he could restore his battery, now reduced to three guns. How he did so I do not know, but in a short time he did get horses, men, and finally another gun, of the same special pattern, and served them with splendid effect till the very close of the war. This battery had also been with me from Shiloh till that time.
The battle of July 22d is usually called the battle of Atlanta. It extended from the Howard House to General Giles A. Smith’s position, about a mile beyond the Augusta Railroad, and then back toward Decatur, the whole extent of ground being fully seven miles. In part the ground was clear and in part densely wooded. I rode over the whole of it the next day, and it bore the marks of a bloody conflict. The enemy had retired during the night inside of Atlanta, and we remained masters of the situation outside. I purposely allowed the Army of the Tennessee to fight this battle almost unaided, save by demonstrations on the part of General Schofield and Thomas against the fortified lines to their immediate fronts, and by detaching, as described, one of Schofield’s brigades to Decatur, because I knew that the attacking force could only be a part of Hood’s army, and that, if any assistance were rendered by either of the other armies, the Army of the Tennessee would be jealous. Nobly did they do their work that day, and terrible was the slaughter done to our enemy, though at sad cost to ourselves, as shown by the following reports:
HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI
IN THE FIELD NEAR ATLANTA, July 23,1864.
General HALLECK, Washington, D. C.
Yesterday morning the enemy fell back to the intrenchments proper of the city of Atlanta, which are in a general circle, with a radius of one and a half miles, and we closed in. While we were forming our lines, and selecting positions for our batteries, the enemy appeared suddenly out of the dense woods in heavy masses on our extreme left, and struck the Seventeenth Corps (General Blair) in flank, and was forcing it back, when the Sixteenth Corps (General Dodge) came up and checked the movement, but the enemy’s cavalry got well to our rear, and into Decatur, and for some hours our left flank was completely enveloped. The fight that resulted was continuous until night, with heavy loss on both sides. The enemy took one of our batteries (Murray’s, of the Regular Army) that was marching in its place in column in the road, unconscious of danger. About 4 p.m. the enemy sallied against the division of General Morgan L. Smith, of the Fifteenth Corps, which occupied an abandoned line of rifle-trench near the railroad east of the city, and forced it back some four hundred yards, leaving in his hands for the time two batteries, but the ground and batteries were immediately after recovered by the same troops reenforced. I cannot well approximate our loss, which fell heavily on the Fifteenth and Seventeenth Corps, but count it as three thousand; I know that, being on the defensive, we have inflicted equally heavy loss on the enemy.
General McPherson, when arranging his troops about 11.00 A.M., and passing from one column to another, incautiously rode upon an ambuscade without apprehension, at some distance ahead of his staff and orderlies, and was shot dead.
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General commanding.
Military events: Georgia operations, Atlanta campaign. Rousseau’s raid (PDF) into Alabama ends.
Military events: Virginia operations, Early’s Raid. US President Lincoln to General Hunter (4)
“Cypher” United States Military Telegraph,
Major Gen. Hunter War Department.
Harpers Ferry, Va. July 23. 1864 [8 A.M.]
Are you able to take care of the enemy when he turns back upon you, as he probably will  on finding that Wright has left?
When Early does indeed turn back on him, Hunter sends General George Crook to meet him. (7)
Battles: Virginia operations, Early’s Raid: Second battle of Kernstown.
Military events: Virginia operations, siege of Petersburg: General Meade tells Grant he isn’t confident that an assault on General Burnside’s front after the Federal detonate their mine will succeed. (6) However, per source 19, Meade is concerned about the reliability of General Ferrero’s black troops of the Fourth Division, Ninth Army Corps (including possibly some of the men striking the pose below, standing behind their white officers):
Military events: Virginia operations, Early’s raid: Lincoln confers with General Meigs relative to destroying fords across Potomac from Washington to Harper’s Ferry by means of dams. (4)
Siege of Petersburg: General Grant plans a two-pronged offensive at Petersburg operating north of the James River to draw Confederates away from the mine area, south of the city. (6)
Georgia operations, Atlanta campaign: General Sherman says (15):
On the 25th of July the army, therefore, stood thus: the Army of the Tennessee (General O. O. Howard commanding) was on the left, pretty much on the same ground it had occupied during the battle of the 22d, all ready to move rapidly by the rear to the extreme right beyond Proctor’s Creek; the Army of the Ohio (General Schofield) was next in order, with its left flank reaching the Augusta Railroad; next in order, conforming closely with the rebel intrenchments of Atlanta, was General Thomas’s Army of the Cumberland, in the order of—the Fourth Corps (Stanley’s), the Twentieth Corps (Williams’s), and the Fourteenth Corps (Palmer’s). Palmer’s right division (Jefferson C. Davis’s) was strongly refused along Proctor’s Creek. This line was about five miles long, and was intrenched as against a sally about as strong as was our enemy. The cavalry was assembled in two strong divisions; that of McCook (including the brigade of Harrison which had been brought in from Opelika by General Rousseau) numbered about thirty-five hundred effective cavalry, and was posted to our right rear, at Turner’s Ferry, where we had a good pontoon-bridge; and to our left rear, at and about Decatur, were the two cavalry divisions of Stoneman, twenty-five hundred, and Garrard, four thousand, united for the time and occasion under the command of Major-General George Stoneman, a cavalry-officer of high repute. My plan of action was to move the Army of the Tennessee to the right rapidly and boldly against the railroad below Atlanta, and at the same time to send all the cavalry around by the right and left to make a lodgment on the Macon road about Jonesboro.
All the orders were given, and the morning of the 27th was fixed for commencing the movement.
Military events: Virginia operations, Early’s raid: US General Crook, in retreat, crosses the Potomac near Williamsport. (11)
Virginia operations, Siege of Petersburg: During the night of July 26-27, the US Second Corps and two divisions of Sheridan’s cavalry under command of General Winfield Scott Hancock cross to the north side of James River to threaten Richmond. (11) CS General Lee has heard about the movement and ordered Richmond’s lines reinforced to 16,500 men. CS Generals Joseph Kershaw and Cadmus Wilcox take positions on New Market Heights. (23)
Georgia operations, Atlanta campaign: Stoneman’s Raid begins. General Sherman again (15):
On the 26th I received from General Stoneman a note asking permission (after having accomplished his orders to break up the railroad at Jonesboro) to go on to Macon to rescue our prisoners of war known to be held there, and then to push on to Andersonville, where was the great depot of Union prisoners, in which were penned at one time as many as twenty-three thousand of our men, badly fed and harshly treated. I wrote him an answer consenting substantially to his proposition, only modifying it by requiring him to send back General Garrard’s division to its position on our left flank after he had broken up the railroad at Jonesboro.
Battles: Virginia operations, Siege of Petersburg: First battle of Deep Bottom begins. General Grant is present. (6)
Military events: Virginia operations, Early’s raid:
“Cypher” United States Military Telegraph,
Major Gen. Hunter War Department. Washington,
Harper’s Ferry, Va July 27. 1864 [8:30 A. M.]
Please send any recent news you have—particularly as to movements of the enemy. A. LINCOLN
Hunter to Lincoln, 10 a.m.:
Earlys force is still . . . near Winchester. We can hear nothing of the enemy east of the Blue ridge. If you have any information of the enemy in that direction please inform me
I have sent out in several directions for information and will keep you posted. . . . In the present state of affairs I think it much more important to make Washn & Balto perfectly secure than to atte[m]pt to interrupt the rebels in gathering their crops in the valley. Is this the view of the Government.
Georgia operations, Atlanta campaign: Stoneman’s Raid: Latimer’s Crossroad to Clinton and the Oconee River. (29)
Georgia operations, Atlanta campaign: Per General Sherman (15):
Promptly, and on time, all got off, and General Dodge’s corps (the Sixteenth, of the Army of the Tennessee) reached its position across Proctor’s Creek the same evening.
Reenactment of Stoneman’s Raid (? battle) at Harman Field, North Carolina in March 2013. It’s at a distance but the sound is terrific. Imagine what it would have sounded like with full military forces present!
(2) Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson (2003 – see side bar for link).
(3) The Campaigns of Lieut.-Gen. N.B. Forrest, and of Forrest’s Cavalry by Thomas Jordan, J. P. Pryor (1868).
(4) The Lincoln Log timeline.
(6) Grant Chronology, Mississippi State University.
(8) Life of Lieutenant-General Nathan Bedford Forrest, by John A. Wyeth (1908/2011).
(10) The Siege of Charleston, “The State.” (South Carolina)
(12) The Longest Night: A Military History of the Civil War.” (2002) David J. Eicher.
(14) The Pictorial Book of Anecdotes and Incidents of the War of the Rebellion…, Richard Miller Devens (1866).
(16) The Louisiana Native Guards: The Black Military Experience During the Civil War. James G. Hollandsworth, Jr., 1995.
(17) A. Lincoln, A Biography, Ronald C. White, Jr. (2009)
(18) Confederate Strategy, Fort Tyler Association.
(19) The Sword of Lincoln, the Army of the Potomac. Jeffrey Wert (2005)
(20) Black Artillerymen from the Civil War through World War I (PDF), Roger D. Cunningham.
(21) The Atlanta Campaign. New Georgia Encyclopedia.
(22) Early’s Raid on Washington/Operations Against the B&O Railroad, Wikipedia.
(23) Siege of Petersburg, Wikipedia.
(25) James F. Epperson’s Siege of Petersburg site.
(26) Lee’s Bold Plan for Point Lookout, Jack E. Schairer (2008)
(27) Chattahoochee Creek Battle to Jonesboro. Tenth Kentucky Volunteer
Categories: American Civil War