With Kennesaw Mountain secure, Sherman began his move on Atlanta. Vining's Station fell on July 4, 1864. On July 7, in response to multiple requests from Joe Johnston for more men, President Jefferson Davis informed Johnston of his decision not to send any additional troops. Skirmishing continued across a wide front, mostly to the north and west of Atlanta over the next few days. Braxton Bragg arrived
to "investigate" Johnston's "failure to stop" General Sherman. Davis had
already asked Robert E. Lee who should be Johnston's replacement. On July
17, Davis relieved Johnston of command, giving it to John Bell Hood.
Hood's first action was an attack against the Army of the Cumberland at Peachtree Creek (July 20). Although successful at first, the battle turned into a bloodbath of Confederate soldiers with losses totaling 5,000 men. Union losses were well under 2,000. During the battle the first artillery shells fell directly on the city of Atlanta.
The Battle of Atlanta
Waged east of the city, the battle engulfed a house, vividly recreated at Grant Park's Cyclorama.
Two days later, on July 22, Hood once again attacked. The Battle of Atlanta was a devastating blow to the Confederate Army, with estimated casualties as high as to one-quarter of the 40,000 men engaged, although official numbers are lower (8,499). While Federal losses were significantly less (3,641), one of them was General James McPherson.
Ezra Church (July 28) would be the same story, with the aggressive Hood loosing more men than his opponents. For the next month Sherman and Hood would use cavalry to fight skirmishes around the city. One exception was heavy fighting in the vicinity of Utoy Creek on Aug. 5-7.
Sherman had been successful in cutting Rebel lines of supply for short periods of time, but Hood's men quickly repaired any damage done to the railroad tracks. Late in August, 1864, Sherman decided to completely sever the lines by massing his forces south of Atlanta.
Moving six of his seven divisions west of the city, Sherman was massed to the west and below Hood's extended line. On August 31, Hood dispatched William Hardee to hold the supply lines south of the city, unaware that most of the Union Army was now advancing on his rear. The last communication with Hardee took place just after 2 p.m. that day.
Unable to reestablish communication with Hardee and with a significant Union force at his rear, Hood had no options but to abandon the city. Since Sherman had cut off his line of transportation Hood had to blow up the munitions that could not be carried. Sherman felt the explosion in Jonesboro, 15 miles south of Atlanta. General Henry Slocum's XX Corps received the surrender from Atlanta mayor James Calhoun on September 2, 1864.
With the defeat of the Rebels in Atlanta, Sherman had
effectively broken the back of the Confederate war machine. The loss of Atlanta
had far more devastating effects on the South than anyone had expected. Democrats
that aligned with the peace movement withdrew their support after the fall
of Atlanta when George B. McClellan called for union as "the one condition of peace." Within
6 months the Confederacy would surrender and begin the painful process of "reconstruction" forced
upon them by their brethren in blue.