Part XXIX

Sherman In Georgia, 1864.

       During the time in which Grant was contending with Lee for the possession of Richmond, Sherman and Johnston were engaged in the campaign through Georgia Sherman reached Atlanta soon after Grant had settled his army in the trenches at Petersburg and around Richmond, so that these cities were placed under siege about the same time, but this advantage had not been easily gained. His army, of sufficient strength to cover Johnston's front with one-half its own, thus leaving another army free to operate on the flank, encountered skillful and vigorous opposition on many battlefields. Adopting tactics for which his superior force was well adapted, Sherman forced Johnston back by flank movements, but not without severe engagements at Resaca, May 14th; New Hope church and Dallas, May 25th-27th; Kennesaw mountain, June 27th; besides many small engagements in which the Federal army suffered great losses. Gathering his "three armies" around Atlanta in July, Sherman began to consider his next movements, and it has been said that the removal of Johnston at this stage of the campaign gave him great satisfaction. Johnston, who had fought him with skill from Dalton to the Chattahoochee river, but had contended with him by retreats, was succeeded by Hood, whose fame for impetuous leadership caused Sherman to consider that the Confederate plans would be changed.
       Pausing to take observation from the position now reached, by the Confederate trend, it does not at once clearly appear that the situation had very much changed. Fighting had been occurring in every Southern State since the middle of May, until the reported number of engagements was 180, besides those fought between the great armies of the two nations, and this is far below the actual number of skirmishes between small bodies in every State. The successes of Grant and Sherman had consisted in merely a gain of ground at a great loss of men. Grant was scarcely better stationed at the end of his campaign, and with the loss of thousands of men, than McClellan was when Lee caused his retreat from Richmond. The chief gain was in the reduction of Confederate numbers, which could not be replaced. Sherman had reached the piedmont of Georgia, where the table-lands stretched before him with rivers running to the sea, but his situation was perilous. Mobile, Savannah and Charleston were still Confederate strongholds, forbidding advance from the South into the Confederate interior. The Trans-Mississippi States, although cut off from the Confederacy in the East, were yet unsubdued and capable of taking care of themselves. The little navy yet left was doing good service, and the privateers were doing full damage wherever they were afloat. The general survey thus made, produced some muttering in the North and inspired some hopes in the South, but the insight of the situation showed a region beginning to suffer heavily from an exhaustion which could not be stayed. The producing area of the Confederacy had been lessened, producers had become much fewer, products had been destroyed, communication by rivers and railroads had been cut off, transportation had been alarmingly reduced, and there was no reliable money. The army official reports showed a considerable strength still left in the numbers of fighting men; but they were necessarily scattered over a vast territory, defending hundreds of important minor positions with inadequate munitions, while the combined armies of Lee and Johnston had not half the strength of either army under Grant or Sherman. In these balances the Confederacy was weighed in July, 1864. There was yet a possibility of acquiring independence, and because of that possibility the administration at Richmond, the armies in the field, and the people in their homes resolved in the summer of 1864 on the continuance of the contest.
       Hood, succeeding Johnston, struck one of Sherman's corps north of Atlanta on the 20th, and the entire army on the 22d, and still again on the 28th of July. Afterward Sherman's movements necessitated the battles of Jonesboro and Lovejoy's Station, in which the Federals gained advantages that caused the evacuation of Atlanta and opened it for occupation by the Federal army. General Hood, advising with the Richmond administration, planned a bold movement northward to destroy Sherman's communications and to draw him out of Georgia into the former battle grounds of Tennessee. The movement temporarily drew a considerable part of the Federal army into northwest Georgia, and was attended with several small Confederate victories; but in September, Sherman, returning to Atlanta, wantonly burned the city as thoroughly as he could, and leaving it smoking behind him, marched southward, with little opposition, using the destructive agencies of fire and pillage along his broad route to Savannah.

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