No Doubt He is Outnumbered – Richmond Losing Patience with Johnston (Again)

June 29, 1864 (Wednesday)

Joe Johnston’s success at Kennesaw Mountain might have been more accurately described as “not a defeat.” While Sherman’s Federals were beaten back with much slaughter, the situation before him was no different than it had been before. He had too few soldiers to man the extended entrenchments, and by all accounts forwarded to him, the Yankees were slowly flowing south, around his left flank. The enemy was now closer to the Chattahoochee River than his own troops. This didn’t exactly mean that the Federals were closer to Atlanta than the army that was protecting it, but if left unchecked that could very well have been the case.

Johnston in profile.
Johnston in profile.

Johnston wasn’t helping his case in the least. To some, he boasted that Sherman was losing so many troops that once crossing the Chattahooche, the Federal numbers would have so dwindled that they could not attack Atlanta. In his estimation, Sherman’s forces numbered 75,000 men, having ushered 25,000 of their own to hospitals or death’s door. Johnston, at this time, had about 50,000.

To others, like President Jefferson Davis, Johnston maintained that he could not attack because Sherman’s army outnumbered his own, two to one. Even Davis could do the math that would let him know that something wasn’t right. It seemed to Richmond that Johnston was inflating Sherman’s losses to make his own defensive positions appear formidable. But he was also exaggerating Sherman’s total numbers to show Richmond the futility of going on the offensive.

On this day, Richmond’s frustration was penned by Braxton Bragg, Jefferson Davis’ military advisor.

“Every available man, subject to my control, has been sent to General Johnston, and he had retained several commands deemed absolutely necessary elsewhere, after receiving orders to move them. No doubt he is outnumbered by the enemy, as we are everywhere, but the disparity is much less than it has ever been between those two armies.”

Johnston had called for reinforcements, but there was nothing that could be done. There were simply no more men. He had also begged for either John Hunt Morgan or Nathan Bedford Forrest to be ordered to play upon Sherman’s lines of supply. This, Bragg could do nothing about. Morgan was on a raid and out of communication, while Forrest was needed in Tennessee and northern Mississippi, and was actually himself in need of troops, which Johnston had and would not return.

As it stood, Johnston was on his own and Richmond was incredibly tired of dealing with him.1

  1. Sources: Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 38, Part 3, p805; Autumn of Glory by Thomas Lawrence Connelly; Decision in the West by Albert Castel; Joseph E. Johnston by Craig L. Symonds. []
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