(Another longer text version so more detail can be provided.)

Much like the victory at Vicksburg, the real battle for Atlanta was in the weeks leading up to the final assault. 

Grant had moved on to Washington where Lincoln had promoted him to the supreme command of all Union forces. General Sherman became the man in charge of all troops in the Western theater. Sherman immediately fell into this cautious dance with the even more cautious Confederate General Joe Johnston. Johnston would claim the superior position on a ridge top and dig in. Sherman would send me and my boys of the 15th Corps to race around to the left and outflank them, pushing them off the hill. Johnston would fall back, claim a hilltop, dig in, and we would race around to the right, out flank ‘em and push ‘em off the hill. Slowly, too slowly, but surely, we were pushing him back towards Atalanta.

We beat him to Resaca, Georgia where we claimed the ridge above the town. We were surprised to see a few thousand Confederates already in town defending the rail lines. I knew we could take them with three major divisions, but my commanding officer McPherson refused to act. I argued that my boys of the 15th Corps alone could claim this town and cut Johnston off from his retreat, ending this little dance once and for all. But McPherson refused to act. We stood on the mountain and watched as tens of thousands of Confederate troops filed into town. We quickly realized that our perch above the town was where their artillery took their target practice. Their cannons soon reached us with surprising accuracy. Some of the men scurried away from our mountain view, but a few of my officers and I stayed enjoying the fireworks.

And so we continued to push Johnston back towards Atlanta. At Kennesaw Mountain he claimed three peaks along the ridge and it appeared that this would be his last stand. It was one of the most wicked encounters for the Union Army. Once again the Confederates were entrenched on this steep hillside with the superior position to rain down gunfire and cannonballs upon my troops. We pushed up the mountain straight into their hail of lead and were pushed back. Because they were spread across three conjoined mountains we could not effectively out flank them. Sherman ordered a coordinated attack with two units to feint a flanking maneuver on both sides to distract the enemy while two other units tried to break through their lines between the mountains. It fell to my 15th Corps to divide the Confederate lines. Several times we rushed a flaming sheet of gun fire, but the sheer cliff wall made our progress impossible. It was so absurd that the Confederates went so far as to tumble down boulders upon us. We pushed them out of one entrenchment but eventually we had to fall back. It seems Sherman was reluctant to use his entire fighting force. It was our worst defeat in the field as we lost 3000 good men with nothing to show for it.

We abandoned our efforts to take Kennesaw Mountain and swung wide of the ridge to an open plain northwest of Atlanta. The Confederates also changed tactics with a new commander, General Hood. Unlike the cautious Johnston, Hood came out looking for a fight and we gave it to him. 

Hood sent two divisions to smash through the Union lines in a coordinated attack hurling the full brunt of 65,000 men into the field. One division came straight for my boys in the 15th Corps on our right flank. The other division came pouring across the field aiming for Francis M. Blair’s 17th Corps. His line was collapsing and the Confederates were threatening to puncture a hole in the Union defenses, a hole large enough to cause a complete collapse. My boys were having trouble holding the line when I received a messenger from Sherman that McPherson was dead… Our commander was dead! At the very moment when we needed leadership, at the moment we were about to come unhinged we were rudderless, leaderless… but I was second in command in the field that day… with McPherson dead… Sherman placed me in command of the almost 35,000 man Army of the Tennessee. The command of all Union forces in the field that day fell onto my shoulders. I jumped on my black stallion Slasher and rode straight into the thick of it. As I saw Union boys begin to retreat I slapped them with the broad side of my sword and implored them to rally for honor and McPherson. I rode to the head of the 17th Corps as they were falling back, shouting above the roar of battle, McPherson and Revenge!

We quickly sealed up the hole, reclaimed ground and pushed the rebels back off the line. As I raced into the smoke and din of battle, my horse clearing fences and fallen trees with the ease of a brisk breeze it must have been quite the sight! 

I heard the roar of cannon and breathed the stifling smoke of a thousand muskets and it became apparent that Hood had redoubled his efforts against the 15th Corps, I turned Slasher around and rode to the full length of the battlefield back to my troops. My boys began to cheer, to shout, as I picked up the flag of the Indiana infantry and rode to the front lines they began to sing,

Rally round the flag boys, rally once again shouting the battle cry of freedom

Rally from the hillside rally from the plains shouting the battle cry of freedom

The union forever, hurrah, boys, hurrah down with the traitors and up with the stars

we’ll rally ‘round the flag boys, rally once again shouting the battle cry of freedom!

We reclaimed most of the 11 cannons the rebels had taken, turned the cannon around and fired grape shoot into their lines. We repulsed their most violent attacks! They had given us there worst and we had stood our ground. The field was ours. When it appeared that all might be lost, my boys rallied. When the smoke cleared by the end of the day Johnston and Hood were defeated! It would just be a matter of time before Atlanta fell! Did you know that I was the only volunteer general to lead an army in the field?

But the very next day… Sherman… demoted me. The leadership I had claimed on the battlefield. The position I had earned in victory… he … he took it away… and gave it to one of his West Point friends. How would you feel? How should I feel? I have ALWAYS been loyal to the Union, risked my life continually, but he… he demotes me. Sherman always had a preference for his West Point friends. I was a volunteer in this Army, not a professionally trained soldier, like most of the men who I fought with, I volunteered. Our training was in the field. We had proved our valor in battle after battle, victory after victory we had claimed, but all glory to the West Point men who sit in their tents and draw up plans… it was the one time my commitment wavered. I missed my wife, my daughter, I longed to go home, to rest, to return to civilian life. Surely I could go home and no one would doubt my loyalty… but I could not, I was returned to my command of the 15th Corps and we returned to the battlefield.

Sherman ordered that we surround Atlanta, tear up the railroads. Atlanta was and still is one of the major transportation hubs of the south. We ripped up the rails, heated and bent the iron tracks making what became known as Sherman’s bow-ties. 

As we began to seal the rebels in and eliminate their last chance for an easy escape, General Hardee made one more effort to smash through the Union lines at Ezra Church. Without the support of another division, the boys of my 15th Corps repulsed his attack, outflanked and outfoxed him. We suffered 200 casualties that day but the Confederates lost more than 2000 men. If we would have had more support we might have captured Brown’s entire Confederate Division and Clayton’s Brigade, but they were able to steal away. One month later, Hood was forced to evacuate Atlanta….

Now some folks blame Sherman for the burning of Atlanta, but in his defense, I will tell you that the fleeing Confederate armies set the fires to burn supplies so they would not fall into our hands, they burned the warehouses of cotton so profiteers could not sell it. They started the fires, and well, we were not in a hurry to put them out. We had little choice but to watch as that fine Southern Belle of a city was turned to a smoldering ruin….

I was given a furlough to go home to see my family. I also went on a little lecture tour to rally support for the Union, which in turn helped Lincoln win re-election. I was called to Washington to meet with Grant and Lincoln. They sent me towards Nashville with the orders to take over Thompson’s Army if he had not acted by the time I arrived, but while in route Thompson finally made his move and captured Nashville. One by one the capitols of southern states began to fall. 


16. Raleigh, NC