Sherman Wins Atlanta
Hood, now in command of the Army of Tennessee and tasked with saving Atlanta, led his men out of their trenches and attacked Sherman's army on July 20 along Peachtree Creek, just ten miles outside of Atlanta. Hood's men were simply outnumbered. The Confederates suffered 4,800 casualties, and Hood was forced to retreat to Atlanta.
Sherman sent McPherson to attack Hood in retreat. On July 22, William Hardee's infantry division attacked Sherman's forces in what became known as the Battle of Atlanta. The Confederate forces, outmanned and outgunned, lost more than 8,500 men. Union losses were lighter, but McPherson was among the dead.
Major General William Tecumseh Sherman Photo courtesy of the National Archives (111-B-1769)
Sherman replaced McPherson with Major General Oliver Howard and sent him around the western side of Atlanta with orders to sever Hood's communication lines. Hood successfully protected the railroad at Ezra Church on July 28, but he lost another 2,500 men in the process. At this point, the Confederate army numbered fewer than 45,000 men. Facing overwhelming numbers, they fell back behind Atlanta's defensive lines and waited for Sherman to attack.
Rather than risking a frontal assault, which would have resulted in huge casualties, Sherman laid siege to Atlanta, bombarding the city with heavy artillery for more than a month and doing all he could to destroy its supply lines. But the South refused to give in that easily; Confederate cavalry commander Joseph Wheeler skillfully kept many supply lines in operation until the end of August.
“War is cruelty and you cannot refine it…. But when peace does come, you may call on me for anything. Then will I share with you the last cracker.” — William Tecumseh Sherman, to the mayor of Atlanta after ordering the civilian population evacuated from the city
The standoff came to a head on August 28, when Sherman attacked the Montgomery & Atlanta Railroad south of the city. Hood, realizing the importance of keeping the line open, attacked the Union flank at Jonesborough but ultimately lost a valiant battle. With no remaining line of supply, Confederate forces evacuated Atlanta on September 2, and Sherman's troops marched in the following day.
The once proud city of Atlanta had been all but destroyed during the siege and final evacuation. What wasn't demolished by Union artillery was burned to the ground by fleeing Confederate troops, who also ransacked stores for all the supplies they could carry.