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Battle of Allatoona Pass
Cartersville, Georgia
About North Georgia

Background

During the Civil War the village of Allatoona on the east end of Allatoona Pass (or Deep Cut as it was called locally) was a major warehousing operation for William Tecumseh Sherman's armies at Kennesaw Mountain and Atlanta. It offered an easily defended point on the Western and Atlantic Railroad and a nearby station and siding for unloading cars. Herds of cattle grazed the fields of Bartow County and warehouses bulged with munitions and supplies. Today the warehouses are gone although the pass and the small gathering of homes known as Allatoona still exist. Approaches to the star fort, center of the majority of the fighting, have been greatly improved and interpretation has been added to help casual visitors unfamiliar with the battle. The battlefield was incorporated into Red Top Mountain State Park in 2006.

After destroying Atlanta, John Bell Hood moved south to Lovejoy (Station). President Jefferson Davis joined Hood's army in Palmetto, where he spoke with Hood's corps commanders. William Hardee felt the army was demoralized and Alexander P. Stewart and Stephen D. Lee agreed. Davis decided to put Hardee in command of the coastal defenses and leave Hood in command of the army.

After Davis left Palmetto on September_29, 1864, Hood marched north with the Army of Georgia, crossing the Chattahoochee River near Campbellton. Continuing north through western Cobb County, Hood dispatched Alexander Stewart's corps to take blockhouses and facilities along the Western and Atlantic Railroad on_October_3, 1864. A brigade under W. W. Loring's division captured Big Shanty and a brigade under Edwin Walthall's took Moon's Station. French then received his instructions: "...fill up the deep cut at Allatoona with logs, brush, rails, dirt, etc..." and destroy the bridge at the Etowah.

On the evening of October 3rd, Samuel French waited for supplies. He took the time to inquire if anyone knew the fort and found two ladies who had visited it that day. They accurately reported the size of the garrison at Allatoona (1000 men) and told French of two outlying redoubts (there were three) and a nearby blockhouse that housed an additional 100 men.

William Tecumseh Sherman knew about Hood's crossing of the Chattahoochee River at Philip's Ferry shortly after it began and could see the army moving north through western Cobb County from his Kennesaw Mountain vantage point, but Sheerman did not know Hood's objective. The Union commander from Ohio assigned Brigadier General John Corse to the defense of the city of Rome Georgia in late September. By October 3, 1864, Sherman had virtually his entire command moving, with the exception of the XX Corps, which was holding Atlanta.

David Stanley, temporarily in command of the Army of the Cumberland crossed the Chattahoochee River at Bolton and continued to march toward Kennesaw Mountain followed quickly by O. O. Howard and the Army of the Tennessee. From Decatur, Jacob Cox marched the Army of the Ohio to Paces Mill Crossing. While Sherman had an overwhelming advantage in men, Hood held the advantage of surprise and it would be impossible for Sherman to concentrate his men quickly when they were spread across a 20-mile front defending the Western and Atlantic from attack.

About 3:00pm on October 3rd, the Kennesaw Mountain lookout spotted Stewart's men leaving the forest and striking Big Shanty and Moon's Landing. It was almost certain to General Sherman that the Rebels would not turn south and strike but continue their move north. Immediately, Sherman thought of the outpost at Allatoona with its massive stores, an obvious target for the supply-short Confederates.

Sherman had a very high regard for John Corse, in command of the Rome defenses. Corse fought with Sherman at Vicksburg and was wounded at the Battle of Missionary Ridge. After recovery Corse held a staff position with Sherman until July, 1864 when the red-haired Ohioan asked Corse to take a divisional command. On October_4, 1864 Sherman ordered Corse to advance to the fort above Allatoona Pass and take command. Lieutenant Colonel John Tourtelotte's 1,000 man command consisted of 3 regiments, an artillery battery and a small group of cavalry. Corse rounded up 3 more regiments and two companies giving the federals a fighting force of slightly more than 2,000 men when he arrived on the 4th. Corse assigned Tourtelotte to command a star fort on the other side of the pass.

Battle of Allatoona Pass

As French left Acworth about 11:00pm on October 4th, he detached cavalry to destroy the railroad bridge over the Etowah to prevent reinforcements from Rome or Dalton. He also detached a regiment to surround and take Allatoona blockhouse, near Allatoona Pass. Meanshile, French's division advanced to Allatoona Pass. The pass splits a low ridge that rises 180 feet above the level plain of the cut and at a right angle. From the top of the ridge the falls steadily to Lake Allatoona (which did not exist at the time of the battle).

French's battle plan called for Claudius Sears' Mississippi Brigade to attack the star fort from the northwest, climbing the low ridge as he advanced. When he heard the sound of battle Francis Cockrell would advance his Missouri Brigade with William Young's Texas Brigade (frequently referred to as Ector's Brigade in the OR) in close support. As the Confederates got into position, French issued a surrender demand to the men in the fort.

Around Allatoona, October 5, 1864.
Commanding Officers, United States Forces, Allatoona:

I have placed the forces under my command in such positions that you are surrounded; and, to avoid a needless effusion of blood, I call on you to surrender your forces at once, and unconditionally. Five minutes will be allowed you to decide. Should you accede to this, you will be treated in the most honorable manner as prisoners of war.
I have the honor to be very respectfully yours,
S. G. FRENCH,
Major General, Commanding Confederate Forces.
Samuel French issued the demand, sending his aide, Major Sanders, to the Union lines. Federal forces fired on Sanders although he was carrying a flag of truce. When he reached the outpost he gave the men 15 minutes for a reply. According to French's report filed the day after the battle no response was received and Sanders left. According to the Official Records the following was Corse's response:
Headquarters Fourth Division, Fifteenth Army Corps,
Allatoona, Ga., 8:30 a.m., October 5, 1864.
Maj. Gen. S. G. French, Confederate States, etc.:
Your communication, demanding surrender of my command, I acknowledge receipt of; and respectfully reply, that we are prepared for the "needless effusion of blood" whenever it is agreeable to you. I am, very respectfully,
your obedient servant,
JOHN M. CORSE,
Brigadier General, Commanding United States Forces.

When Sanders returned without the surrender, French waited for Claudius Sears to begin his advance. A cavalry officer sent a message that Union troops were encamped less than 15 miles from the fort. French decided to send Cockrell's Missourians following the ridge towards the star fort about 9:00am. First, the Missourians broke through the picket line, then the outer works to the first outer fort, manned by the 93rd Illinois. Protected by a series of entanglements known as abatis, the men called this Rowlett's Redoubt, named for Richard Rowlett, overall commander of the Rome soldiers and in command of the 39th Iowa Regiment at the Allatoona Pass redoubt.

The abatis did its job, slowing Cockrell's advance. As the advance slowed the fighting became hand-to-hand and an epic struggle ensued just west of the redoubt. The sounds of the struggle were occasionally pierced by a sound many of the Confederates had never heard before - one of the Illinois companies in the redoubt had been issued the new Henry Repeating Rifles and used them with great effect against the Rebels. Cockrell's men, however, managed to clear a couple of paths through the entanglements while Young's Brigade arrived at the scene of the heaviest fighting.

As the Texans joined the Missourians they reached the outer wall of the fort. A sergeant reached across the wall and grabbed the colors of the 39th Iowa, a scene recreated by artist Albert Waud. William Young received a minie-ball (MiniƩ-ball) to his foot and his horse was shot out from under him, but he continued to advance with his men. Richard Rowlett was also wounded during the struggle for the fort, which lasted about 20 minutes. Once the wall was breached a general retreat call was issued and the 200 remaining Union soldiers withdrew to the main fort as the Confederates regrouped. The Yankees had enough time to take a cannon with them.

With the retreat the Rebels began an immediate advance, chasing the Yankees towards the star fort. Cotton bales, used to block the sally port (entrance) were hastily removed and the men in the fort welcomed their comrades. As the last Yankee cleared the path to the Rebels at about 10:30am a cannon inside the fort, loaded with canister, opened fire. The shot devastated the Confederate advance. In 1897 the man who fired the cannon was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions that day.

The Confederate officers decided to regroup and consolidate their gains. During the fighting at Rowlett's Redoubt Claudius Sears Mississippians showed up, taking rifle pits that were halfway up the ridge and continuing to advance on both sides of the ridge. Inside the fort, John Corse was not taking it easy. Corse came up with a plan to strengthen his forces and dispatched his aide with orders to John Tourtelotte to forward some of his men across a narrow bridge at the top of Allatoona Pass while Tourtelotte drew additional support from the men guarding the warehouses in Allatoona. He also ordered additional munitions for his men.

Corse had the men in the fort two or three deep around the outer wall. The idea was that the man closest to the wall would fire the weapon, the one farthest from the wall would reload and the man in the middle would pass the weapons between the other two. At 11:00am the Confederate attack commenced from the west side of the fort, and each of the four attacks was repulsed. The Rebel charges came so close to the wall that two Confederate prisoners were captured.

After the last attack Rebel sharpshooters tried to pick off as many men inside the fort as possible. It seemed there was a flaw in the design of the fort. While the parapet had been built tall enough to protect a man standing near it, the center of the fort was slightly elevated, so men standing near the center of the fort were exposing their heads. Sharpshooters began picking off these men. To get a better look at the Rebel position, Corse approached the parapet and caught a minie-ball in the cheek. As the ball left his face it tore off part of his ear. The shock sent him into a stupor and command briefly devolved to Richard Rowlett.

With Corse recovered enough to resume command a cannon was hauled across the fort, loaded with canister and fired at the sharpshooters position. The canister ended the rain of minie-balls falling upon the fort. French, meanwhile, was getting bad news. Yankee infantry and cavalry were in Big Shanty and moving towards Allatoona. Furthermore, Francis Cockrell observed the communication between Sherman at Kennesaw Mountain and the fort at Allatoona and although it was coded he seemed to think that nature of the communication meant bad news for the Rebels.

French knew the fort was nearly out of ammunition and close to capitulating and that although he had lost a significant amount of his men the Yankees had lost more. Still, he was in an unsupported position with a single line-of-retreat back to Confederate headquarters at Lost Mountain, short on supplies and nearly out of ammunition so he chose to withdraw.

Aftermath

Sherman decided early in the battle to send no reinforcements to support Corse. He felt Hood was unpredictable and that French's attack, along with Stewart's attacks earlier, might be a ruse to draw the Union Army out of its strongholds at Kennesaw Mountain and Atlanta. When French decided to withdraw from Allatoona no federal forces were approaching.

According to French, he had no knowledge of the warehouses below the fort in Allatoona. It would have been easy to take the lightly defended warehouses, although it would have been difficult to transport much of the material to Hood's army. It was only as French questioned prisoners that he found out about the supplies, but by that time both Young and Cockrell, the closest brigades to the supplies, had been withdrawn. An officer inside the fort reported an attempt was made to burn the warehouses, but this was halted by fire from the fort.

Massive Confederate casualties made it impossible to bring the badly wounded back to the main body of the army. French opted to leave surgeons to treat the men while they waited for the Yankees. French personally went around and told the wounded of his decision.

County: Bartow County

Battle of Allatoona Pass





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