Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

“ཨ་ movementP

was

316

TEB IWO GREAT CAMPAIGNS.
the two mighty armies arose from their long' apparent torpor,
and the kněll of the Confederacy from that hoúr "began to

,
practically paraller; yet their starting points were a thou-**
sand miles apart, with the lofty Alleghanies between:** In
some respects they were 'widely different." Grant had but
little over half as far to go as Sherman, with no flank to guard
but his right, and that easily made secure by an army
of occupation in the defiles of the Shenandoah Valley.
Neither was he confined to a single base like Sherman, but
could change it at his pleasure, as he afterward“ did. The
latter could reach' his objective point only by a single line
of railway, stretching for nearly two hundred miles through
a comparative wilderness, with Forrest's daring cavalry
threatening both flanks and his long line of communications;
which, if once permanently cùt, would secure the destruction
of his army. They were different in another respect; Grant-
could at any time fling his army, by water, in front of Rich-
wrond, when the difficulties of his task would be only just
commenced, while Sherman, if he 'should onde get iti front of
Atlanta, would have achieved the most difficult part of his
campaign.

The eyes of the whole country were fixed on the two armies, but Grant held more fully the attention of the East, and Sherman that of the West. The South saw the coming storia and braced itself to meet it. .

Sherman, 'at the outset, had asked for one hundred thousand men, and two hundred and fifty pieces of artillery: The disgraceful failure of the Red River expedition, interfered somewhat with this arrangement, but the War Department, by

um all but twelve hundred of the required number of men. His force was divided as follows:--the Army of the Cumberland, Major-Generál Thomas, sixty thousand, seven hundred and seventy-threë men, and one

SHERMAN'S TASK.

317

hundred and thirty guns; Army of the Tennessee, McPherson, twenty-four thousand, four hundred and sixty-five men, and ninety-six guns; Army of the Ohio, Schofield, thirteen thousand five hundred and fifty-nine men, and twenty-eight guns. Kilpatrick commanded the cavalry of the Army of the Cung berland. The Confederate Army opposed to him was sixty thousand strong, including ten thousand cavalry; the latter superior to that of Sherman. Hardee, Hood and Polk commanded the three Corps, composing this army.

Sherman had a most difficult task before him. If he succeeded, he would solve a new problem in war–or rather introduce a new principle into military science, viz. :—that an army of a hundred thousand men could be marched three hundred miles from its actual base, (which was Nashville,) and yet this long line of communication be kept open. Such a thing had been considered an impossibility; and when the news of his advance reached Europe, there was no discussion among military men respecting his probable success; it was settled that he was going to certain defeat. The South also had no doubt on the subject.

The public will never appreciate the skill which Sherman showed in arranging his forces, securing his transportation, and guarding his communications—a skill that astonished and baffled his foes, and yet retained his army almost intact. By all ordinary rules, in order to guard his transportation and secure his communications as he advanced, he would have had to deplete his army and string it along his rear, till but a handful would be left by the time he reached Atlanta, if he got there at all. One of his devices to protect his line was an admirable and successful one. By a glance at the map, , will be seen that the railroad in its course to Atlanta frequently crosses streams. The bridges over these had to be protected at all hazards. The destruction of the railroad between them was comparatively of small account as it could

318

FIRST MOVEMENT,

be repaired in a few hours. To protect the bridges, and at the same time, not materially lessen his force, he had small bomb-proof block houses, or fortifications, built near them, as he advanced, large enough to hold a few hundred men, and provisioned for a long time. These the enemy could not beat down with their cannon, nor carry by assault, nor could they starve out the garrisons. In the meantime, a few pieces of artillery completely commanded the approaches to the bridges, so that no force could advance to destroy them. He also accumulated at different points, as he advanced, vast stores of imperishable provisions, so that in case of accident, he could subsist his army until communications could be restored. Although it was necessary to the success of his campaign that the railroads should be kept exclusively for military purposes, the fact that they were, caused incalculable suffering to the people of East Tennessee.

Having thus anticipated almost every contingency that could arise, he, early in May, 'put his magnificent columiis in motion. Johnston lay in and about Dalton, which was so strongly fortified that an 'attack in front would have been madness, and Sherman here began thạt series of movements which won for him the sobriquet of the "great flanker.” Resaca lay eighteen miles south of Dalton, directly on the railroad, and he determined, if possible, to reach this by a circuitous route, and seize it, thus compelling Johnston to retreat or accept a battle, unprotected by his fortifications. McPherson's army was at once started westward on a circuit of some thirty or forty miles, through Snake Creek Gap to this point, while Thomas moved directly up in front of Dalton, as if about to force a passage there. But Dalton was covered by Rocky-Face Ridge, cleft in two by BuzzardRoost Gap, through which ran the railroad. This narrow defile was filled with abattis, artificially flooded by a neighboring creek, and swept from end to end by artillery

.'DALTON FLANKED.

319

posted on every commanding spur, and on a height at the farther extremity. Against this Thomas made first a feint, and then a vigorous attack, in which Veatch's division of Howard's Corps actually carried the rocky ridge, but could not, from the obstacles opposed to it, reach the gorge-while Geary's division of Hooker's Corps made a gallant, desperate push for the summit. Added to the natural obstacles and fire of the enemy, huge rocks were sent down, crashing through the trees and advancing lines with resistless fury. No decisive advantage was gained by our forces, but the enemy was kept so well occupied that McPherson was left to make his difficult march undisturbed, till he got within a mile of Resaca If, by a sudden bold push, he could have taken this place, Johnston's army would, doubtless, have been annihilated. But, on reconnoitering, he found it too strong to be carried by assault, for the wily Johnston had provided against this possible contingency, by hurrying off troops thither. McPherson therefore fell back on Snake Creek Gap, ready to strike the rebel flank when the army should retreat. Hook. er's Corps was immediately sent over to McPherson's aid, followed by all of Schofield's army, until Howard's Corps alone remained in front of Dalton. Johnston, seeing the trap that was set for him, immediately evacuated his stronghold and fell back rapidly to Resaca, when Howard entered Dalton and kept on directly in the enemy's track.

Thus was the first eighteen miles won. Sherman lost about a thousand men in these first movements.

BATTLE OF RESACA.

Reaching Resaca, Sherman found his adversary strongly posted, and he at once initiated another lank movement. The Oostenaula stream, which is here crossed by a railroad bridge, he pontooned, and then kurried off Sweeny's division,

320

BATTTLE OF RESACA.

with orders to move around, and threaten Calhoun, still far-, ther down on the railroad, while Garrard's division of cavalry was sent to destroy the railroad beyond. There was some heavy fighting here during the first day. Judah's division of Schofield's Corps charged bravely on the enemy, but was repulsed. Cox, getting out of ammunition, ordered a charge of the enemy's breastworks in his immediate front, and carried them with a cheer. Palmer's Corps also pressed the enemy vigorously, who, after vainly endeavoring to break our centre, massed his forces against our left, and came down in one of those impetuous overwhelming assaults, for which the rebels were distinguished. Stanley caught the blow on his flank, and, for awhile, bore up firmly against it. At last, however, he gave way, and the broken confused ranks began to retire in disorder, when there suddenly arose a cheer, heard above the roar of artillery. Robinson's brigade was coming to the rescue on a run. With one terrible blow, it stopped the shouting, exultant enemy, and sent him bleeding, discomfited back to his breastworks.' Darkness, at length, closed the combat, and night came down on the ralley and ridges, strewed with the dead and wounded. Though no material advantage was gained, the enemy had failed to break our extended, incomplete line at any point.

Quiet reigned over the two armies that night, except that the incessant blows of the axe, and the falling of trees showed that Johnston was busy in piling obstructions in his front. Sunday morning, the 15th, dawned mild and peaceful, but by the time the sun was an hour high, the scattering fire of the skirmishers told that the day was to be one of blood, not of rest. By noon Sherman had his army well up, extending for miles in a sort of semi-circle--McPherson on the right, Thomas in the centre, and Schofield on the left, with Howard extending beyond. The rebel army-Hood on the right, Hardee in the centre, and Polk on the left, was

« PreviousContinue »