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Atlanta Under Sherman
About North Georgia

Introduction

From September_2, 1864 until November_15, 1864 the city of Atlanta was under the control of Lt. General William Tecumseh Sherman, but it was neither his stronghold, which was some 12 miles away at Kennesaw Mountain, nor his supply depot Allatoona Pass.

Atlanta is Taken

William Tecumseh Sherman
Thursday morning, August_25, 1864, the residents of Atlanta awoke to something they had not heard in a while - silence. Artillery, which had been bombarding the city since July stopped. John Bell Hood advanced some of his remaining cavalry to find the Union positions abandoned. The Confederates in Atlanta thought that Sherman had been unable to supply the position and had been forced to withdraw.

Sherman, though, had begun a sweeping movement with 70,000 men to his right to attack the Macon and Western Railroad in Jonesborough and severing Hood's final supply line. The 20th Corps was ordered to stay in Marietta to "hold the railroad bridge" and prevent the unpredictable Hood from moving to the north when he discovered Sherman's plan. Sherman recalled what happened next:

It was afterward related that there was great rejoicing in Atlanta "that the Yankees were gone;" the fact was telegraphed all over the South, and several trains of cars (with ladies) came up from Macon to assist in the celebration of their grand victory.

With the defeat of Confederate forces under William Hardee at Jonesborough, Sherman accomplished his goal and on the evening of September_1, 1864, waited by a fire near the depot at Rough and Ready (now an unincorporated area in Clayton County near the Atlanta Airport to find out Hood's next move. Atlanta was close to anarchy as the Confederate forces regrouped to move south.

At 9 pm Sherman was told the Confederates began leaving Atlanta at 5 pm. Suddenly, a massive explosion from the direction of Atlanta had Sherman guessing that Hood had destroyed his munitions shortly after midnight. Hood left the city on the McDonough Road headed for Lovejoy Station, which he had ordered Hardee to protect.

Atlanta Surrenders

Mayor James Calhoun and a group of twenty civic leaders marched out the heavily damaged Marietta Street past the Ponder House. At the corner of Curran Road Calhoun's group met with the 70th Indiana Volunteer Regiment, Captain H. M. Scott in command. Scott summoned Colonel John Colburn, who advised Calhoun to write his surrender and address it to General William T. Ward, in command of the immediate area.

Calhoun's note began, "The fortune of war has placed Atlanta in your hands." At 11:00 am a courier took the note to Ward, who let Sherman know of his success at 1:00pm. "...my troops now occupy same (Atlanta)." Yankees began arriving at noon, hoisting the Stars and Stripes from city hall. The building also became headquarters of the Provost Guard. In the post office a news agent sutler set up a stand of northern papers by sundown.

Evacuation of non-combatants

Sherman, near the Confederate position at Lovejoy Station ordered Slocum to begin removing the citizens of Atlanta on September 3. "Advise people to quit now. There can be no trade or commerce until the war is over." He told Slocum to let the Union families go north and the secesh (secessionists) to move on. The date is frequently given as September 4, when Sherman issued Special Order 67, communicating his orders to Slocum to the entire army. On September 5, 1864, the Provost Guard ordered all families of Confederate soldiers to leave the city. Finally, on September 8 the bad news for all Atlantans came from the desk of James Calhoun - all citizens must leave Atlanta. The only exceptions were a few government workers.

Army of Occupation

Also on September 4 the red-haired Ohioan designated the cities each army would occupy. George Henry Thomas and his Army of the Cumberland drew Atlanta. General John Schofield and the Army of the Ohio took Decatur and the Army of the Tennessee would bivouac in East Point. Various cavalry units were assigned outlying posts like Roswell, Sweetwater and Sandtown. His men were in their designated positions on September 7.

When Sherman finally arrived in Atlanta he chose the home of John Neal, a planter and merchant, as his headquarters. Neal moved to Atlanta in 1858, and bought the property on the corner of Washington and Mitchell Streets. General Thomas chose the house of William Herring on Peachtree Street. During the 10 weeks the Union Army occupied Atlanta, Sherman barely spent 4 weeks in residence in his headquarters.

Citizens Leave Atlanta

Registration for the forced relocation began on September_11, 1864 and continued to September 20. A total of 446 families with 705 adults, 860 children and 79 "servants" made their way from Atlanta to Rough and Ready, the end of the tracks in Union hands. Confederate wagons then carried the evacuees to Lovejoy Station, where they could depart to Macon.

Scavengers

With the populace gone, Union scavengers roamed the land looking for food and anything of value. Homes close into Atlanta were the first visited, but the soldiers quickly organized longer raiding parties to outlying town like Lawrenceville in Gwinnett County.

Entertainment

Military bands supplied most of the entertainment for the troops for the 6 weeks they stayed in Atlanta. The 6th Massachusetts was reported to be top-notch at the entertainment of the troops.

Hood Moves North

General Hood moved from Lovejoy to Palmetto in preparation for the Nashville Campaign. Hood left Palmetto shortly after Jefferson Davis addressed his troops on September_29, 1864. His first objective was Allatoona Pass, in the Allatoona Mountains. After being badly defeated, Hood decided to destroy infrastructure rather than take on the Union Army.

Sherman was perfectly happy to let him do so. In mid October Sherman ordered the 60,000 man Army of the Cumberland north to Chattanooga so that he could drive the "chickens to the fox," but this plan failed when Hood moved into Alabama. Sherman pursued Hood, spending nearly two weeks in Gaylesville, Alabama, from October 19 until Novemeber 2, 1864 before moving east to Kingston, Georgia.

Union General Daniel Butterfield had proposed marching a division to the Atlantic Ocean before May 1864. Sherman acknowledged his plan in a personal letter to Butterfield in early July, 1864. While following Hood, Sherman conceived an idea - moving an army through the heart of Georgia known as the March to the Sea. He would take his men and march to Savannah, living off the land. For three weeks he worked on convincing Ulysses S. Grant and Abraham Lincoln that the plan was sound. Finally, on November_10, 1864 his commanders approved the plan.

Leaving Atlanta

Like spokes on a wheel Sherman rolled his men towards Atlanta, destroying all infrastructure that could be used for war. Sherman came from Cartersville where he made the last communication with the north in which he succinctly stated that the March had begun. Other commanders came from Rome, Cedartown, Dalton, and Decatur. When the armies met in Atlanta the March to the Sea was about 20% complete, although to this day most people say the March began in Atlanta.

On the evening of November 14, 1864, Sherman regrouped his army into a left wing and a right wing and left Atlanta. Sherman's Merchant of Terror, Judson Kilpatrick was given the choir of destroying any remaining buildings that might be use to further the war effort. Kilpatrick's Burning of Atlanta, however, was significantly less than Hood's Burning of Atlanta.

This article appeared on the front page of About North Georgia, Summer, 2011

County: Fulton County

The Civil War in Georgia
Beginning with the Great Locomotive Chase and the battle of Chickamauga, to the Atlanta Campaign and the March to the Sea

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About North Georgia, Summer, 2011
Allatoona Pass
Atlanta Airport
Clayton County
Gwinnett County
Jefferson Davis
John Bell Hood
Kennesaw Mountain
William Hardee
William Tecumseh Sherman

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