Allatoona Pass is a man-made geological structure through the Allatoona Mountains in southeast Bartow County created by the state of Georgia while Building the Western and Atlantic Railroad. The pass was in used until the flooding began to create Lake Allatoona in 1949 when the Louisville and Nashville moved the track 0.2 miles south.
Part of a longer mountain gap, the dimensions of the man-made pass are 179 feet deep and 383 feet long. The main bedrock of Allatoona Pass is a high-manganese schist and hornblende, both of which are common south of the Cartersville fault.
One of the major geographic features of the Western and Atlantic Railroad was "Deep Cut," a pass cut through the Allatoona Mountains to ensure the railroad met the state rail-grade guidelines. Although plans for the gap date back to 1837 and minor work had been done before digging on the gap just south of the Etowah River began in 1842. When solid rock was hit after 60 feet of dirt was cleared, slaves were brought in from east Georgia to complete the 180 foot deep pass.
The pass was completed in 1845. While traveling from Marietta, Georgia to see the Tumlin Indian Mounds (now the Etowah Indian Mounds), Lt. William Tecumseh Sherman rode alone on horseback from east to west through the pass. In his memoirs he noted the remarkable defensive nature of the pass and avoided it 20 years later during the Atlanta Campaign.
In 1845 track through the pass was completed and scheduled service to Cartersville, the first town north of Allatoona Pass began in 1847. In 1853 the track through the pass was torn up and replaced with modern "T-bar" from England.
At the start of the March to the Sea General Sherman used Allatoona Pass as the dividing line between Atlanta and Chattanooga. Track in the pass and to the north of the pass was put on cars and moved to Dalton, where it would be stored. Track south of the pass was destroyed and some was turned into Sherman's Neckties
On April_12, 1862The General passed through Allatoona Pass during The Great Locomotive Chase carrying spies led by James Andrews on a mission to disrupt the railroad between Chattanooga and Atlanta. The locomotive The Etowah, carrying Conductor William Fuller and other members of The General's crew followed two hours later. Two weeks later the General traveled from Chattanooga to Atlanta with the spies who had stolen the Western and Atlantic locomotive.
When advancing on Atlanta in the spring of 1864, Sherman avoided Allatoona Pass by leaving the railroad at Kingston, Georgia, heading south into Paulding County and fighting at Dallas, New Hope Church, and Pickett's Mill. He captured the pass on June 1, 1864 as Rebels under Joseph E. Johnston withdrew.
The city of Allatoona became a supply center from June, 1864 until November, 1864. Its proximity to the railroad and nearby fields for herds of cattle made it ideal as a staging area for the supplies needed to feed Sherman's 100,000-man army.
October 5, 1864
Forces Engaged: 1,944 men [US]; approx. 2,000 men [CS]
Estimated casualties: 1,505 (Union: 706, Confederates 799)
Major General Samuel G. French [CS]
Brigadier General John M. Corse[US)
The battle that occurred at Allatoona Pass on October_5, 1864 was an introduction to the ill-fated plans of John Bell Hood, the aggressive general who assumed command of the Confederate Army of Tennessee prior the fall of Atlanta.
Allatoona Pass, shortly after the battle.
Stinging from the loss of Atlanta, Hood decided to attack William Tecumseh Sherman's supply line, (the Western and Atlantic Railroad). Afraid that the Confederate Army was moving toward Rome Sherman ordered Brig. General John Corse to defend the city. After Samuel French crossed the Chattahoochee River and tore up track from Big Shanty to Acworth Sherman realized the Rebels intended an attack at Allatoona. The stores at the pass are overflowing with rations for the Yankees at Kennesaw and Atlanta. Sherman left minimal support because he knew the pass could be easily held.
Using a complex signaling system, Sherman ordered Corse to move troops from Rome to Allatoona. By the time French's Confederates arrived Corse had reworked three lines of entrenchments including two sets of breastworks on the outer ridge of the mountain and the other a star fort at the top of the mountain above the pass.
After the Battle of Allatoona Pass.
Ironically, French foretold the outcome of the battle in his demand for surrender, referring to it as "...a needless effusion of blood...". In the initial attack, the Rebels overran the outer entrenchments that had been softened up by two hours of artillery bombardment. Corse withdrew to the star fort and the battle continued.
In spite of losing a third of his men and having been shot in the face, Corse held the fort. Repeated assaults by the Rebel forces proved fruitless. French, short on ammunition and fearing Union reinforcements, withdrew and continued northward. Sherman, who had his men signal "Hold on, we are coming," had done so as a ruse. No men left his stronghold at Kennesaw Mountain during the battle.
Allatoona Pass became a popular destination for all kinds of groups who would ride The General to the battlefield, have their picture taken, enjoy a picnic then return to Atlanta. In 1880 General Corse returned to the site of his greatest victory. In 1886 the track in Allatoona Pass was widened to the new standard for Pullman cars. In 1891 the railroad became part of the Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis, which was wholly owned by the Louisville and Nashville Railroad.
When the Dixie Highway (now U. S. 41) was completed south of Cartersville in 1922the battlefield was once again promoted to drivers, and although interest in the battle never waned, the number of visitors dwindled in part because the site was not developed and the story of the battle was not told on the site.
The battlefield was developed at the urging of William Scaife, who owned the home at the entrance to the pass. In 2008 management of the pass fell under the purview of Red Top Mountain State Park which today hosts several tours. For more information, please see the event listing.