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Atlanta after Sherman - 1864-65
Analysis
Under Construction




In December 1864 an article appeared in the Daily Intelligencer[1] describing the destruction their reporter witnessed in and around Atlanta. The article read in part:



“Today, as you approach Atlanta from either side, you no longer find it hidden from view by the dense forest of trees[a] which a few months ago obstructed the eye of the traveler. For miles around scarcely a tree is standing, and within a few miles of the city, fire and the ax have destroyed habitations and laid waste fields.


“As you reach the city limits, you see the awful effects of one vast conflagration. A city destroyed by fire! Two-thirds at least devoured by flames. Doomed to utter desolation, one-third of Atlanta still lives. This will be the nucleus, the cornerstone, the foundation upon which the city will again be restored.”


The destruction that the reporter witness was not the result of a single event, but of many events, the city, and its people, witness the destructive impact of war.


  1. The construction of the Confederate fortification around Atlanta.

    After the fall of Vicksburg on July 4, 1863, concern grew that Atlanta would be a logical target for future Union Army attacks. Jeremy F. Gilmer, Chief of the Confederate Engineer Bureau, contacted Captain Lemuel P. Grant, Chief Engineer of the Department of Georgia, and asked him to survey possible enemy crossings of the Chattahoochee River, a broad waterway that offered some protection from a Northern approach. Grant complied, and after a thorough investigation and survey, explained that the fortification of Atlanta would involve “an expenditure second only to the defense of Richmond”. Captain Grant planned a series of 17 redoubts forming a 10-mile (16 km) circle over a mile (1.6 km) out from the center of town. These would be interlinked with a series of earthworks and trenches, along with rows of abatis and other impediments to enemy troops. Construction on the extensive defensive works began in August 1863. They were bounded on the north by high ground (the present location of the Fox Theatre), the west by Ashby Street, the south by McDonough Drive and the east by what is today known as Grant Park. Many trees where cut down to clear the line of fire as well as for the construction of the forts and the abatis. After the fall of Atlanta, George N. Barnard photographed the Confederate fortifications leaving history a visual record of the fortifications and the surrounding country side. [2]


  2. Siege of Atlanta

    In addition to the three major battles fought around Atlanta, there were many smaller engagements and a nearly constant exchange of fire. Each encounter took its toll, not only on the soldiers, but civilians, on the farms, and the land itself. Battle is a deadly and destructive business.

    On July 20, 1864, the artillery battery of Capt. Francis De Gress[3] deliberately began firing into downtown Atlanta. The bombardment of Atlanta would continue until August 25, 1864. In addition to the cannons the Union forces had with them, four 4-1/2 inch siege cannons were brought by rail from Chattanooga. These four cannons began firing on the city on August 10.[4] While the Federal Forces never attempted to storm the defenses of Atlanta, there was continuous firing and movement of troops. During the night, federal skirmishers would move forward, dig a hole for protection and then skirmished with the defending troops throughout the day. Just the sheer mass of men, horses and equipment took a telling toll on the land and its people. Many private homes and several churches were hit by the shells fired into Atlanta. When shells began falling within the city limits, the citizens dug shelters in their yards. The shelling lasted for about 37 days and resulted in the death of about two dozen people. The exact number of deaths is unknown. The results of the construction of fortifications, the many battles and the shelling of the city, all contributed to the scene of destruction witnessed by many Atlantans on their return to the city in December of 1864.[5]



  3. Confederate evacuation and destruction of supplies

    The last supply line into Atlanta was cut at Jonesboro, GA, south of the city on September 1, 1864. With all of his supply lines cut, General Hood was forced to abandon Atlanta. On the night of September 1, his troops marched out of the city to Lovejoy, Georgia. General Hood ordered that the 81 rail cars filled with ammunition and other military supplies be destroyed. The resulting fire and explosions were heard for miles. The Atlanta Rolling Mill was also destroyed.[6]


  4. Occupying troops building shanties

    General Sherman issued Special Fielkd Order No. 67 on September 8, 1864. This order specified that the union troops could not occupy the homes in the city. The soldiers began constructing lodgings. The roofs were made from the canvas army tents. The walls and floors were built from wood obtained from fences, outbuildings and in some cases from homes. Ironically, the home, stable, well house, fence and post belonging to Polly and Henry Beedles were torn down. Polly was a free black, her husband, Henry Beedles, was a slave owned by the Georgia Railroad Bank. The two had nearly saved up enough to buy Henry´s freedom. [8] The federal troops also took livestock, corn, flour and other provisions.[7]

    General Sherman also ordered that the citizens of Atlanta leave the city. The people could either move north or south. General Sherman contacted General Hood, to arrange for transportation for those wishing to move south. General Hood tried in vain to get General Sherman to relent, but General Sherman insisted it was for the protection of the citizens.[7]

  5. Building inner defensive ring

    Sherman's Special Field Order No. 67, section 3, ordered the chief engineer, Capt. Orlando M. Poe to construct new defensive works around Atlanta. Captain Poe first evaluated the existing Confederate fortifications. Finding them too extensive for the number of troops planned to garrison Atlanta. Captain Poe then designed a new set of fortifications. The new line was less than three miles in length along a system of heights nearer the center of town. This new line passed through the northern part of town rendering the destruction of a great many buildings necessary. General Sherman approved of the plan but instructed Captain Poe not to begin construction.

    On September 18, 1864, the confederate forces, commanded by Gen. John B. Hood, began moving from their position near Lovejoy Station, GA and crossed to the west side of the Chattahoochee River on September 29. [OR 30/1, page 801]. General Sherman began moving four of his Army Corps to try and defeat the confederates in the field. The twentieth Corps was left in Atlanta to guard the city. With only one core remaining in Atlanta general Sherman instructed Capt. Poe to begin the construction of the new inner defense line. [OR 39/1 page 581]

    Capt. Poe and his Engineering detachment began constructing the new fortifications on October 3, 1864. During the first week, he was assisted by 2,000 soldiers of the XX Corps. On October 5, Capt. Poe reported to General Sherman that they had completed positions for thirty guns. Work continued until November 1 with a much smaller work force until preparations for the March to the Sea began. [OR 38/1 page 138]

  6. Destruction of military assets, unauthorized fires, no one there


 

Primary Sources
  1. General W. P. Howard´s report to Governor Brown
  2. Newspaper article: Daily Intelligencer, December 22, 1864
  3. Letter/diary of Zachariah Rice, maybe in Memphis Appeal
  4. Letter from James R Crew
  5. Newspaper article: Augusta Chronicle and Sentinel 12/14/1864
  6. Newspaper article: Augusta Chronicle and Sentinel 12/15/1864
  7. Newspaper article: Southern Watchman, December 6, 1864

Notes:


  1. Most of the trees that were cut down were cut to “clear the line of fire”. The Confederates cut many of the trees when they build their extensive defensive works around Atlanta from August to December, 1863.

References

  1. Garrett, Franklin M.; Atlanta and Environs: A Chronicle of Its People and Events (Athens, GA, University of Georgia Press, © 1954) Vol. 1 p 655-659
  2. Garrett, Franklin M.; Atlanta and Environs: A Chronicle of Its People and Events (Athens, GA, University of Georgia Press, © 1954) Vol. 1 p 567-569
       • Davis, Stephen; What the Yankees Did to Us (Macon, GA, Mercer University Press; © 2012) P 58-59
       • O.R. Series 1 - Volume 31 (Part III, Union and Confederate Correspondence, etc.) published 1890; pp 575-576
  3. O.R. Series 1, Volume 38, (Part III, Reports OR# 486) published 1891; page 265
  4. O.R. Series 1, Volume 38, (Part V, Union and Confederate Correspondence, etc.) published 1891; page 449
  5. Garrett, Franklin M.; Atlanta and Environs: A Chronicle of Its People and Events (Athens, GA, University of Georgia Press, © 1954) Vol. 1 p 625
       • Davis, Stephen; What the Yankees Did to Us (Macon, GA, Mercer University Press; © 2012) pages 97 - 243
       • O.R. Series 1, Volume 38, (Part IV, Union and Confederate Correspondence, etc.) published 1891; page 434
       • [On-line] Wikipedia - Atlanta in the American Civil War https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlanta_in_the_American_Civil_War
  6. Garrett, Franklin M.; Atlanta and Environs: A Chronicle of Its People and Events (Athens, GA, University of Georgia Press, © 1954) Vol. 1 pp 433-634
       • O.R. Series 1, Volume 38, (Part I, Reports, O.R. 1) published 1891; page 82
  7. Wikipedia - Sherman's Special Field Orders, No. 67 (series 1864)  [Online] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sherman%27s_Special_Field_Orders,_No._67_(series_1864)
       • O.R. Series 1 - Volume 38 (Part V Union and Confederate Correspondence, etc.) published 1891; page 837-838  [Online] http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=moawar&cc=moawar&idno=waro0076&node=waro0076%3A4&view=image&seq=839&size=100
       • Garrett, Franklin M.; Atlanta and Environs: A Chronicle of Its People and Events (Athens, GA, University of Georgia Press, © 1954) Vol. 1 pp 640-643
       • Davis, Stephen; What the Yankees Did to Us (Macon, GA, Mercer University Press; © 2012) pages 297-309
       • Dyer, Thomas G.; Secret Yankees: The Union Circle in Confederate Atlanta (Baltimore and London, The Johns Hopkins University Press; © 1999) pp 197-198
  8. Dyer, Thomas G.; Secret Yankees: The Union Circle in Confederate Atlanta (Baltimore and London, The Johns Hopkins University Press; © 1999) p 198 [Primary Source] Deposition of Polly Beedles, July 5, 1873, claim of Henry Beedles, Records of the Southern Commission; deposition of Henry Beedles, July 5, 1873.

Bibliography

    On-line:
  1. Newspaper - Southern Watchman, Dec. 21, 1864; Atlanta as Left by the Enemy - Gen. Howard´s Report, page 2 (microfilm copy)
  2. Barnwell, V. T.; Barnwell´s Atlanta City Directory, and Strangers´ Guide (Compiled 1867), Vol 1; Condensed History of Atlanta; pages 24-38 (microfilm copy)
  3. Reed, Wallace P; History of Atlanta, Georgia; Syracuse, N. Y., D. Mason & Co., Publishers, © 1889; History of Atlanta, Georgia (Google); pages 199-217 Chapter XII, War Period Continued
  4. Newspaper - The New York Times, Jan. 15, 1864; Atlanta as Left by Our Troops.; Report of Gen. Howard to Gov. Brown.
  5. Newspaper - Sothern Watchman, December 6, 1864, Volume XI, number 27, page 2, Atlanta

  6. Books:
  7. Cooper, Walter G.; Official History of Fulton County; (Spartanburg, SC: The Reprint Company © 1934, republished 1978) Pages 182-185
  8. Garrett, Franklin M.; Atlanta and Environs: A Chronicle of Its People and Events (Athens, GA, University of Georgia Press, © 1954) Vol. 1 p 649-663
  9. Davis, Stephen; What the Yankees Did to Us (Macon, GA, Mercer University Press; © 2012)
  10. Dyer, Thomas G.; Secret Yankees: The Union Circle in Confederate Atlanta (Baltimore and London, The Johns Hopkins University Press; © 1999)
  11. The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (Washington: Government Printing Office)