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The Battle of Resaca was the first major struggle of the Atlanta Campaign. The battle occurred at Resaca, GA, on May 14th and 15th, 1864. The Confederate forces under General Joseph Johnson fell back from Dalton (Rocky Face Ridge ) on the night of May 13 and prepared position west and north of Resaca stretching from the Oostanaula River on their left to the Conasauga River on their right. The Western and Atlantic Railroad and the wagon road from Dalton passed through the Confederate lines and crossed the Oostanaula River inside their lines. On May 14th portions of the Union XX, XIV and XXIII corps attached. The only ground gained by this attack was on the Union Left by parts of Maj. Gen John A. Logan corp., under Maj. Gen. James B. McPherson, attacked Brigadier General James Cantey´s under manned brigade of Lieutenant General Leonidas Polk´s corp. along the Camp Creek valley and were able to drive the Confederates from the forward positions near the Oostanaula River. This brought the R.R. Bridge within range of Union Artillery. After successfully stopping the Union advance, Johnston ordered John B. Hood on the Confederate right to counterattack the Unions IV corps. The Union left was unsupported and the initial attack by Major Generals Carter Stevenson´s and Alexander P. Stewart´s divisions met with success. Heavy fire from Captain Peter Simonson´s six gun battery, on the Unions extreme left, firing canister shot and the timely arrival of Brigadier General Alpheus S. William´s division of the XX corps stopped the Confederate advance.
Battle of Resaca
Part of the Atlanta Campaign 
Source: American Civil War - Resaca, GA
click map to enlarge
|Joseph E. Johnston|
|Army of Tennessee|
Casualties and losses 
On May 4th, Joseph E. Johnston in command of the Army of Tennessee at Dalton, GA, telegraphs President Davis and Lieutenant General Leonidas Polk asking for a division and a brigade to be moved from Alabama to Rome, GA. Davis authorized Polk to go with a division and "any other available troops ". Polk headed for Georgia with two divisions and Major General William H. "Red " Jackson´s cavalry division. These were almost all of his troops.
Beginning on May 5, Major General George H. Thomas commanding the Army of the Cumberland and Major General John M. Schofield commanding the Army of the Ohio advanced toward Dalton while Major General James P. McPherson moved down from Chattanooga by way of Lee and Gordon´s Mill, Ship Gap and Villanow toward Snake Creek gap. McPherson's Army of the Tennessee consists of two veteran divisions, numbered about 25,000, the XVI Corps was under the command of Brig. Gen. Grenville M. Dodge and the XV Corps. under Maj. Gen. John A. Logan.  In his memory, Sherman places the number of men under McPherson command at 23,000; "He had twenty-three thousand of the best men in the army. " 
Brigadier General James Cantey brigade of infantry that had served garrison duty throughout the war in Mobile, AL, arrive in Resaca. 
Sherman, having received word that McPherson was within a day´s march of Rescca, orders Thomas to engage the Confederates on Rocky Face Ridge and for Schofield to feint an attempt to bypass the Rocky Face Line to the east. 
Confederate cavalry brigade under the command of Colonel Warren Grigsby are ordered to withdraw south from Dalton to reconnoiter the area west of Resaca. Brigadier General Cantey brigade begins preparing an advanced position west of Camp Creek on a "bald hill" with the main line east of the creek. 
At 1:00 a.m. on May 8th, Col. William Campbell Preston Breckinridge´s 9th Ky., Grigsby´s brigade, descended from Dug Gap " patrolled the roads north and west to ascertain if any Federals were there. By 1:30 P. M. Breckinridge found Dogwood Valley swarming with Federals, a brigade of which, in support of Kilpatrick´s cavalry, was enroute south of Villanow. Later, the 9th Ky., was confronted by General John W. Geary, with Buschbeck´s " Candy´s brigades of the 2d Div, 20th A. C., moving east from near Gordon´s Springs. The Confederate troops were forced to retreat to Dug Gap. 
At 3:00 p.m., Geary deployed his 2 brigades, Buschbeck´s brigade on the right, Candy´s on the left, to storm Dug Gap. The Pennsylvania Battery (3 inch Rodman guns) commanded by Capt. James D. McGill, was sited near Joel Babb´s house to support the assault. The Confederates were well entrenched behind a stone wall they had constructed to defend the gap. They had also placed large boulders to roll down the steep incline on the attackers. The attacking Federal Forces suffered more than three hundred casualties in this battle fought over extremely rugged terrain. The Congressional Medal of Honor was awarded to two members of the 154th New York regiment, 2d Div, 20th A. C.
The Army of the Tennessee emerged from the Snake Creek Gap, on May 9th. The lead element was the 9th Illinois Mounted Infantry The 9th IL engaged the Confederate Cavalry commanded by Colonel Warren Grigsby. The terrain made it difficult for the Union forces to deploy and bring they full weight of the numbers to bear on the much smaller Confederate forces. Eventually Brigadier General Thomas W. Sweeny managed to form a line and began to drive the Confederate cavalry back toward Resaca. 
As the Union forces drove the confederate back, McPherson ordered Major General Grenville Dodge's XVI Corps forward to be followed by Major General John A. Logan's XV Corps. The Confederate cavalry continued to contest the Union advance. Eventually Grigsby's cavalry fell back to into the outer line of a series of fortifications constructed Cantey's Brigade. The 37th Mississippi Regiment held a position on what was described as "a bald hill" and had been hastily prepared. General Dodge sent in a brigade of infantry supported by artillery, and the 66th Illinois Regiment armed with Henry 15-shot repeating rifles. These forces quickly drove the confederates from the hill and all the way across Camp Creek about mid-afternoon. 
General McPherson believing the Confederates were stronger than they were and fearing an attack on his flank from the Confederate forces in Dalton McPherson hesitated. When Sherman retired for the night he believed the McPherson would advance to Resaca and trap the Confederate forces under Johnson in Dalton. When he awoke the next morning he was disappointed to learn that the McPherson had not had not pursued his advance. McPherson wrote in his official report of May 9 that: "The enemy have a strong position at Resaca naturally, and, as far as we could see, have it pretty well fortified. They displayed considerable force, and opened on us with artillery."[ (OR No. 437)]. 
That evening General Johnston sent Major General John Bell Hood to take personal command of the situation at Resaca. He also dispatched divisions of Major General William H.T. Walker and Major General Thomas C. Hindman and two brigades of Major General Patrick Cleburne's division along the railroad between Dalton and Resaca. 
With McPherson was still entrenching at Snake Creek Gap, Hood determined that there was no imminent threat to Resaca. General Johnston thus halted the movement of Walker and Hindman divisions near the rail station of Tilton about halfway between Dalton and Resac. He had the two brigades under Cleburne's return to Dalton. 
Later that day, Brigadier General Thomas M. Scott men arrived in Ressca. This was the vanguard of Polk´s two divisions. 
On May 11 General Sherman ordered the federal forces in Dalton to follow McPherson down the Snake River Valley. The XX corps under Hooker was followed by Palmers XIC Corps and then Schofileds XXIII. The Howard´s IV corps plus Stoneman´s " McCook´s calvary remained at Dalton to hold the attention of the Confederates under Johnson. 
General Leonidas Polk, Major General William W. Loring, commander of his lead division accompanied, and Brigadier General John Adams' brigade arrive in Resaca. [OR No. 597 P 687] They immediately begin to strengthen the fortifications just west of the town, including the clearing of a large area of trees around Camp Creek. 
When Johnson determined that the Union forces under Sherman had left their works in front of Dalton he immediately dispatched two divisions from Hoods Corp to reinforce Resaca and then followed up the remainder of the Confederates under his command. Upon reaching Resaca, the Confederates entrenched on several small rises with their left flank on the Oostanaula River and their right near the Conasauga River. Polks corp held the confederate left, with Hardee in the center in and Hood´s corp on the right. Wheelers Calvary guarded the right between Hood´s Corp and the Conasauga River. Walker's division was detached from Hood´s Corp and sent to Calhoun to protect the Confederate left flank from crossing by the federal's. 
Brigadier General Winfield Featherston's Brigade of Loring's Division arrive and the defensive preparations at Resaca solidified. McPherson's troops at the month of the Snake Creep gap are resupplied and he is reinforced with Brigadier General Judson Kilpatrick's cavalry division and portions of the Army of the Cumberland.
North of Dalton in Varnell, GA, Confederate Cavalry commanded by Gen. Joe Wheeler and his attacked the Union Forces commanded by General George Stoneman, stationed here and drove the Federals from this town, killing and wounding more than 150. As soon as the Confederate Cavalry withdrew, the Federals immediately returned. The home of M. P. Varnell, was used as Headquarters by several Federal commanders and as a temporary hospital by Federals and Confederates.
As the confederate forces withdraw from Dalton, the Union IX followed them south toward Resaca. Confederate Cavalry commanded by Gen. Joe Wheeler fought a delaying action throughout the day. At 3:00 pm they reached Tilton Georgia and were re-enforced by Brown´s brigade of infantry , and held Tilton, until 9:00 pm. 
Lewis' Kentucky Brigade, part of Bate's Division, marched all through the night until they reached their position at Resaca about dawn on the 13th. After a brief halt, they fell back farther, and began digging earthworks. The Kentucky Orphan brigade had no rest that day. Hardee's corps went into lone with Cheatam on the left, Cleburne in the center and Bate's on the right.
As McPherson's, Army of the Tennessee, emerged from the Snake River Gap, they encountered a cavalry skirmish line which they drove back. As the Union forces approached the "bald hill" around noon, they encountered more rigorous resistance from the Confederate cavalry and Cantey's brigade supported by a detached section of two twelve pound Napoleonic cannons.
Kilpatrick's cavalry, deployed on McPherson right formed a line between the advancing infantry and the Oostanaula River. Kilpatrick's cavalry was able to clear the pickets situated to protect Cantey's left. This action allowed the Union force to place some artillery on a hill south and west of the "bald hill" and to offer counter-battery fire upon the detached artillery Cantey had been employing with great effect as McPherson readied his attack upon the hill. This forced the Confederate battery to withdraw. With his left now open and without the support of the battery, Cantey's brigade was able to offer only momentary resistance before retiring back to the Southern works at Resaca proper. "When McPherson topped the "bald hill" this time he saw a much different landscape than what was presented on May 9. Polk's troops had been busy further fortifying that portion of the battlefield and now the entrenchments looked imposing indeed."
General Sherman directs General Thomas to secure a crossing at Lay´s Ferry and to have the engineers construct a pontoon bridge at the point. On May 14th, General McPherson, orders Brigadier General Thomas W. Sweeny (2d) div. of the 16th A.C moves to secure the crossing while two battalions of an engineering regiment under the command of Colonel Buell bring the pontoon bridge down through Snake Creek Gap. 
The morning of May 14th found both side preparing for battle. The Kentucky Brigade shift to their left to occupy the angle where the confederate turned east towards the Connasauga River. They contained to strengthen the works there until about 10 am. The 5th, 6th and 9th regiments faced west while the 2nd and 4th faced to the north. Heavy skirmishing began at about 6:00 am but the first attack of the day did not begin until about 1:00 pm.
The Union attack was made by Schofield's Army of the Ohio which consisted of two divisions, one commanded by the capable Brigadier General Jacob D. Cox, the other divisions commanded by Brigadier General Henry M. Judah. Major General John M. Palmer was also ordered to support the right flank of the assault with his XIV Corps from Thomas' army. Cox´s division attacked at the angle where the Kentucky brigade of major general William B. Bate´s division held the line, Judah and Palmer attack on theft left of Cox faced by the remained of Bate´s Division and the Division of Patrick R. major general Cleburne. This assaults where throw back by the confederate defenders. Cox officially reported his losses in the attack as 562 killed, wounded, and captured. Judah's division lost over 700 men.
After successfully stopping the Union advances and determining that Shermas left was not support, Johnston ordered Hood's Corps into action in hopes of outflanking Shermans forces. At 5 p.m, the divisions of Major General Carter L. Stevenson on the left and Major General Alexander P. Stewart, on the right advanced.
Stevenson´s two brigades struck Stanley's right brigade first and broke it. In wild disorder, a race between men in blue and gray began. The flight took Stanley's regiments through a depression where pines served as cover and screen. ...the fleeing regiments passed to the left of Captain Peter Simonson's 5th Indiana Battery which was in position atop the hill. Firing "double-shot" canister rounds the federal battery held and a frantic effort was made here to rally the panic-stricken regiments to protect the Federal battery. Sherman also realized that if left flank was unguarded and had earlier ordered General Hooker's corps to re-enforce the left. Colonel Morgan of the Fourteenth U.S. Colored Troops, temporally attached to the fourth Army Coprs, acted as a guide. Just as Stewart's men reached the Union lines, Robinson's brigade, of Williams´0 division, of General Hooker's corps, arrived and they immediately charged and drove the confederates back.
Polk's Corps on the confederate left had been skirmishing with McPherson's troops all day. To prevent Polk from sending any troops northward to aid in Hood's attack or to exploit any thinning of the Southern line if. McPherson was ordered to launch a full-scale attack at 5:30 p.m. "...Charles R. Woods" 1st Brigade pushed across the creek, the 26th Iowa Regiment in advance and the 12th Missouri Regiment protecting the flank. Woods was supported on the right by Giles A. Smith's 1st Brigade of Morgan L. Smith´s 2nd Division - the with 57th Ohio, under the command of Colonel Americus V. Rice, leading the skirmishers. Encouraged by thousands of ´hurrahs´ from Logan's XV Corps on the hills to their rear, Woods' and Smith's men ascended the slope and established a lodgement before dark. Since Federal artillery could then command the railroad bridge across over the Oostanaula River, Johnston ordered a new pontoon bridge erected a mile upriver, hopefully out of range of the guns." [Scaife p. 30] Johnson ordered Polk to retake the hills. Three spirited Confederate assaults upon the positions, however, came to nothing. Polk's men retreated and strengthened their lines during the night. By daylight on May 15, Logan's troops had secured the position, while Polk reformed his Confederate line through the cemetery just west of the railroad, in the very outskirts of Resaca. With the Rail Bridge now in range of Federal Artillery, Johnson ordered a pontoon bridge to be built about a mile up river. 
On May 15, Sherman again launched an attack on Hood´s corp. north of Resaca. The attack was made by three brigades of Oliver O. Howard IV Corps. They attacked Hindman's division whose left flank had been tested in a portion of the previous day's attack. According to historian Albert Castel: "Three of Howard's brigades 'leap' their works and advance toward Hindman's Division which holds a hill just beyond the road at a point where it curves slightly to the northeast. Immediately, to quote Brigadier General William B. Hazen, the commander of one of the brigades, 'a concentrated fire of great violence' hits them. One-hundred and twenty of Hazen's men go down in thirty seconds, and he orders the rest to return to their fortifications." 
Howard's initial attack failed in spite of a massive barrage throughout the morning by Federal artillery to "soften up" the Confederate position. The fire must have been extremely galling because it led the Confederates to make a momentous decision. Hood, in an attempt to offer some relief to Hindman's men with counter battery fire, ordered Captain Max Van Den Corput's Cherokee Artillery battery be placed in advance of the Southern lines. Lieutenant Colonel James M. Jonson commanding the 29th and 30th Mississippi Infantry describes the action in front of Resaca that Sunday morning:
Sunday morning, the 15th, the enemy renewed their fire about daylight, and continued it without intermission until after 8 o'clock at night, the battery had been erected on the field in front of us during the night, and toward noon a heavy fire from it opened on us, in addition to the enfilding shots from the left.
Among the casualties of the day I regret to say thate Capt. H. J. Boland, Company I, was mortally wounded and died next day. He had done his duty during the action and gave his life to this country. Four men were wounded at the breast-works, and an ambulance driver was killed in the rear, all belonging to the 34th Mississippi Regiment.
They attacked Hindman's division whose left flank had been tested in a portion of the previous day's attack. According to historian Albert Castel: "Three of Howard's brigades 'leap' their works and advance toward Hindman's Division which holds a hill just beyond the road at a point where it curves slightly to the northeast. Immediately, to quote Brigadier General William B. Hazen, the commander of one of the brigades, 'a concentrated fire of great violence' hits them. One-hundred and twenty of Hazen's men go down in thirty seconds, and he orders the rest to return to their fortifications."
Howard's initial attack failed in spite of a massive barrage throughout the morning by Federal artillery to "soften up" the Confederate position. The fire must have been extremely galling because it led the Confederates to make a momentous decision. Hood, in an attempt to offer some relief to Hindman's men with counter battery fire, ordered Captain Max Van Den Corput's Cherokee Artillery battery be placed in advance of the Southern lines. 
Corput´s battery had just gotten into position in front of Brown´s brigade, when three divisions of Hooker´s XX Corps launched its attack and forced the confederates to abandon the two cannons. The cannons where now caught in between the two opposing forces, neighter side able to remove the cannons. Stevenson summarized the results as follows: "The assaults of the enemy were in heavy force and made with the utmost impetuosity, but were met with a cool, steady fire, which each time mowed down their ranks and drove them back, leaving the ground thickly covered in places with their dead." 
Having once again blunted Sherman´s advance, Johnson order Hood to attack. Hood ordered Stevenson and Stewart´s divisions to attack. Having seen heavy action all day, and still being low on ammunition, Stevenson divisions still attempted to attacked. Stewart´s plan was to advance with Clayton on the left and Stovall on the right, in a "half wheel to the left to place them in the proper direction". The advance became at 4:00, the men advancing with great sprint and determination and soon engaged the enemy. At this moment, Lieutenant-Colonel Cunningham reached General Stewart´s with orders not to attack, but it was to late. Stewart's losses were close to 1,000 killed, wounded, and captured with an additional 100 casualties in Stevenson's supporting division. It was a heavy price to pay for what was, ultimately, an aborted effort. The Union troops sustained over 400 casualties in repulsing the assault. 
Johnston had received word from General Walker that Union forces where across the Oostanaula River at Lay´s Ferry. Johnson´s supply lines being threatened, he had no choice but to retreat. That night the confederates retreated from Resaca. The wagons and artillery used the pontoon bridge while the troops march over the railroad trestle. Leaving only a small number of men to tined fires and give the appearance of the whole army was still at Resaca, Johnson troops retired from the field. Fist Hoods, Corp, then Hardee´s and than Polks Corps. Once the Army had crossed the river, the last skirmishes that had been tending the fires left. The pontoon bridge was taken up and about 3:30 a.m. on May 16, the Railway Bridge was set on fire. 
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Atlanta Campaign Resaca May 13-15, 1864