‘The Enemy Will Not Content Himself with Atlanta’ – Hood to Go on the Offensive?

September 3, 1864 (Saturday)

Hood's former headquarters in Atlanta.
Hood’s former headquarters in Atlanta.

Now that he was more or less safe at Lovejoy Station, General John Bell Hood paused to inform Richmond of the past several days:

“On the evening of the 30th the enemy made a lodgment across Flint River, near Jonesborough. We attacked them on the evening of the 31st with two corps, failing to dislodge them. This made it necessary to abandon Atlanta, which was done on the night of September 1. Our loss on the evening of the 31st was so small that it is evident that our effort was not a vigorous one. On the evening of September 1 General Hardee’s corps, in position at Jonesborough, was assaulted by a superior force of the enemy, and being outflanked was forced to withdraw during the night to this point, with the loss of 8 pieces of artillery.”

Hood gathered his corps commanders to see if they could figure out any way to gain reinforcements. They could not, though that hardly caused Hood to waver. He desperately wanted to go on the offensive. He realized, as he wrote to Richmond that “the enemy will not content himself with Atlanta, but will continue offensive movements.”

Atlanta had been abandoned, but Hood was far from whipped. He immediately began to consider means in which he could best Sherman. He realized that there was little point in holding out hope for reinforcements, and so he concluded that there was only one thing left to do: “by maneuvers to draw Sherman back into the mountains, then beat him in battle, and at least regain our lost territory.”

Hood fully believed that his troops were not demoralized, and would cling to this idea for days. But he was mistaken. Since taking command of the Army of Tennessee, they had retreated into Atlanta, built up defenses and finally abandoned it, being more out-maneuvered than out-fought. Though he could field roughly 39,000, his infantry had been reduced to 23,000 men fit for battle. This was, perhaps, 26,000 less men than he had at hand when he started. Fully 12,500 were killed or wounded and as many as 13,000 had been taken prisoner by Sherman’s forces.

In Atlanta, Hood left behind storehouses of supplies, including food and ammunition. The city itself was a hub of manufacturing, but that too was now lost. Even if Atlanta could somehow be retaken, the factories and foundries had been destroyed by Hood upon his egress – though they would most certainly have been destroyed by the Federals should they be compelled to retire themselves. More than anything, Atlanta, the Southern city, had fallen.

Atlanta
Atlanta

For the failure, Hood blamed William Hardee, commanding a corps of infantry at Jonesboro. Hardee had held as he could against six Federal corps, allowing time for Hood to abandon Atlanta. Hood, however, claimed that Hardee could have won the day and because it was not won, Atlanta was lost.

“The fate of Atlanta was sealed from the moment when General Hood allowed an enemy superior in numbers to pass unmolested around his flank and plant himself firmly upon his only line of railroad,” wrote Hardee in his official report. “If, after the enemy reached Jonesborough, General Hood had attacked him with his whole army instead of with a part of it, he could not reasonably have expected to drive from that position an army before which his own had been for four months retiring in the open field.”

For the next few days, both armies would stare at each other south of Atlanta.1



  1. Sources: Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 38, Part 3, p633-634, 703; Part 5, p1016; Advance and Retreat by John Bell Hood; Autumn of Glory by Thomas Lawrence Connelly. []
Creative Commons License
‘The Enemy Will Not Content Himself with Atlanta’ – Hood to Go on the Offensive? by CW DG is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International

About

View all posts by