|William T. Sherman's Atlanta Campaign of 1864 kicks off with an attack on|
Joseph E. Johnston's Army of Tennessee at Rocky Face Ridge/Dalton, GA.
SSource: Civil War Maps by Hal Jesperson
Johnston formed his main infantry line across Mill Creek Gap, known locally as Buzzard Roost Pass, and from there north for about a mile on the crest of Rocky Face Ridge. His line then continued across Crow Valley. He placed Patrick R. Cleburne's Division north, in front of Dalton, behind Mill Creek Gap. Great Grandfather Nathan Oakes was serving in the 32nd Mississippi Regiment, which was commanded by Col. William H.H. Tison, in Mark P. Lowrey's Brigade of Cleburne's Division.
|Mill Creek Gap/Buzzard Roost Pass, Georgia, 1864|
From the Matthew Brady Collection
Elsewhere on the line, Union Gen. John Schofield was moving his army south from Red Clay, when he was attacked by Confederate Gen. Joseph Wheeler's cavalry. While Thomas was moving his attack further north to Buzzard Roost, Schofield skirmished with Wheeler's men. On the 9th, Wheeler attacked a portion of Shoffield's cavalry force at Prater's Mill and delivered Sherman his first defeat of the campaign.
|Fighting at Dug Gap, sketched by A.R. Waud|
Source: The Civil War Trust
Federal success was to come elsewhere on the battle line. Earlier, on the morning of the 8th, Gen. James B. McPherson's army had crossed Taylor's Ridge at Ship's and Gordon's Springs Gaps, then marched through Villanow and took the important Snake Creek Gap—a narrow 4-mile gorge through the ridge—with little opposition.2 On the 9th, his army passed through the gap to within a mile of Resaca, threatening the railroad there. If he could take control of the town and the railroad, Sherman would have the Confederates trapped between enemy forces in the north and south.
To counter McPherson's surprise move, in the early hours of the 10th, Cleburne with Lowrey's and Granbury's Regiments, along with and 2 other divisions, were ordered toward Resaca. But, while waiting near the town, Cleburne received orders to return to Dug Gap due to a change in the enemy's movements. Fearful of being cut off from the rest of the Federal army, the nervous McPherson turned back. While he had managed to secure Snake Creek Gap, which provided the opening through the ridge Sherman needed, his undue caution ultimately allowed Johnston to escape down the rail line, thus ensuring another confrontation on May 13-15.
Thus began Sherman's Atlanta Campaign of 1864.
2 Gen. Wheeler was assigned to defend Snake Creek Gap with his cavalry. However, on May 7, he removed his pickets for fighting to the north. Failing to maintain reconnaissance in this area of Taylor's Ridge left the Confederates unprepared for the Federal advance. Of course, Johnston should have understood the importance of defending the gap with a sufficient force to hold it.