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THE BATTLE OF ATLANTA AND McPHERSON'S SUCCESSOB James P. Jones When GeneralWilliam Tecumseh Sherman reviewed his grand army of the west in 1864, no unit made him prouder than the Army of the Tennessee. His "whip-lash" was two years old, having been formed in 1862 and initially commanded by General U. S. Grant. The Army had fought in Tennessee and Mississippi, and when Grant moved to western theater command, the Army went to Sherman. Then in the winter of 1863-64, when Grant was called to Virginia and Sherman succeeded him in the West, General James B. McPherson assumed command. The Army numbered 24,465 officers and men when Sherman invaded Georgia. Its three corps were led by Major Generals John A. Logan, Grenville M. Dodge, and Frank P. Blair, Jr. The Army's makeup was distinctly midwestern. Of the eighty-eight infantry regiments which participated in the Army's drive on Atlanta, only two were from the East. Most of the units were from Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, Missouri, Iowa, and Wisconsin. As the Atlanta campaign developed, McPherson's army came to play an increasingly important role in Sherman's plans. Rather than face the Confederates in open battle, Sherman began a series of flanking movements aimed at driving them back on Atlanta. The "whip-lash" divisions swung wide time and time again, forcing the Confederate commander, General Joseph E. Johnston, to withdraw southward. One frustrated Confederate soldier, taken prisoner by Logan's 103rd Illinois, gave vent to his exasperation at Union strategy. "Sherman wiU never go to heU," he drawled, "he'll flank the devil and make heaven in spite of aU the guards."1 By mid-July Johnston had been removed and the more beUigerent A native of JacL·onville, Florida, Dr. Jones is assistant professor of history at Florida State University. His articles have appeared in various historical journals. 1 H. H. Orendorff, Reminiscences of the Civil War from Diaries of Members of the 103rdIllinois Volunteer Infantry (Chicago, 1904), p. 74. 393 394JAMESP. JONES General John B. Hood named in his place. Hood determined at once to strike the invaders, and he attacked Sherman's center on July 20. The assault failed to dislodge the Federals. The Army of the Tennesse was not engaged on the twentieth, having been ordered eastward toward Decatur. Operating in the shadow of Stone Mountain, the three corps moved down the Georgia Raiboad toward Atlanta. On the twentieth, while Hood attacked, Logan's XV Corps pushed to within two and onehalf miles of the city, and in the afternoon Union artillery lobbed shells toward the distant spires. On the following day McPherson set his line: Blair on the left, Logan on the right, and Dodge in reserve. The soldiers, occupied in part by light skirmishing, spent most of their time strengthening their positions with earthworks reinforced with logs. While McPherson dug works on the night of the twenty-first, Hood was moving four divisions toward the Army of the Tennessee. The Confederate commander had decided Sherman's left flankmight be smashed by a quick strike near Decatur. The Western army was astir early on the twenty-second. At 8 a.m. McPherson made a shift that was to play a major role in saving the Army of the Tennessee from disaster. Dodge was instructed to move the XVI Corps from its reserve position to Blair's left, thus reinforcing and extending the Army's left flank. It was drizzlingwhen the Army arose, andbeforerations were handed out, skirmish fire began driving XV and XVII Corps skirmishers into their trenches. The skirmish fire soon flickered out and Logan advanced scouts who reported that rebel skirmishers had abandoned Unes opposite the XV Corps. Logan duly informed McPherson and was ordered to send General Morgan Smith's division forward to occupy the vacated trenches. Smith's advance completed, Logan received orders that Hood was possibly evacuating Atlanta and to lead the pursuit. Before the command to march could be given, it became evident to Logan that the enemy was stiU along his front in force. Rebel fire rose in a sudden torrent, and a shell burst within twenty feet of Logan and McPherson, who...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 393-405
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-02
Open Access
No
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