Civil War Battles
State War Records
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Gen. Joseph E. Johnston's line covered the roads leading from Dallas to Acworth, Marietta and Atlanta, his center being near New Hope Church, 4 miles northeast of Dallas. It occupied the wooded summits of a number of ridges, with open valleys in front, over which the Union forces would have to advance to attack.
The natural position was one capable of easy defense and every available minute was spent in strengthening it by formidable intrenchments. Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman began his advance on the morning of the 25th. On the right was Gen. McPherson's Army of the Tennessee near Van Wert, 16 miles northwest of Dallas, and moving against that place by the Rome road.
In the center was the Army of the Cumberland under Gen. Thomas, advancing on several roads from Burnt Hickory, some 5 or 6 miles northeast of Dallas. It consisted of the IV, XIV and XX Corps, respectively commanded by Gens. Howard, Palmer and Hooker.
Butterfield's division of Hooker's corps, preceded by McCook's cavalry, moved on the road leading to Golgotha; Geary's division advanced on the direct road to Dallas, and Williams' on the right. Palmer's and Howard's corps made a detour to the right to strike the Van Wert road 3 or 4 miles from Dallas, thus forming a junction with McPherson.
Gen. Schofield, with the Army of the Ohio, was ordered to remain near Burnt Hickory during the day, the only activity on that part of the line being reconnaissances by Stoneman's cavalry on the roads to the left and front. Geary's division reached Pumpkin Vine creek at Owen's mill to find the bridge on fire.
While the men were extinguishing the flames they were fired on from the hill in front. Part of Hooker's cavalry escort forded the creek, deployed and drove off an outpost of some 25 cavalrymen. The bridge was then soon repaired, the division crossed over and moved in the direction of New Hope Church. About a mile and a half from the bridge this regiment encountered the enemy in force. Candy's brigade, which was in advance, was deployed in line of battle, advanced at the double-quick and the enemy was forced back for some distance. The skirmish line was then strengthened and extended., and the rest of the division pressed forward in close support, again forcing the Confederates back for about half a mile and capturing a few prisoners.
From these it was learned that the force in front was Hood's entire corps, and that Hardee was not far off in the direction of Dallas. As the division was several miles from the nearest supporting troops Hooker ordered Geary to take position on a ridge and throw up barricades for defense.
Hooker had already sent orders to the other two divisions of the corps to move to Geary's support. They arrived about 4 p. m. and massed their troops, with Williams on the right and Butterfield on the left and rear of Geary. An attack was now ordered to be made in columns by brigades, Williams leading, Butterfield next, and Geary, who had already been engaged for over four hours was held as a reserve.
Hooker's columns thus arranged assaulted Hood's position repeatedly and endeavored to gain possession of the roads at New Hope Church. Confederate reinforcements were pouring in, however, and although Hood was forced back to the church his intrenchments there proved too strong to be carried.
In the midst of a terrific thunderstorm the fight raged until dark, when the dead and wounded were gathered up and Hooker's forces retired to the ridge in their rear. When Sherman heard the firing, soon after Geary crossed the creek at Owen's mill, he rode to the front and upon learning the situation ordered Howard to bring up his corps to the support of Hooker.
Newton's division arrived about 6 o'clock and took position on the left of Butterfield. By morning the whole corps, with the exception of Baird's division, which had been left at Burnt Hickory to guard the trains, was on the field and extended the line still farther to the left.
At 5 o'clock that afternoon Schofield received orders to proceed to the front. Leaving Hovey's division to guard the trains the other two divisions moved forward via Burnt Hickory and Owen's mill. While riding forward in the darkness to learn the position of troops already on the field and to receive further orders, Schofield was severely hurt by his horse falling into a ditch and the command of the corps was transferred to Brig. Gen. J. D. Cox.
The corps reached the field at daybreak and went into position on the extreme left, covering the Dallas and Allatoona road. In the meantime McPherson had pushed forward with commendable
vigor direct on Dallas and the morning of the 26th found him confronting Hardee. Logan's XV Corps formed the right, extending across the Atlanta road, Dodge, with the XVI Corps, was on Logan's left; and on the left of Dodge was Davis' division of Palmer's corps, which was on the way from Rome to join its command.
Beyond Logan's right the country was picketed by Garrard's division of cavalry, thus guarding against the flank being turned by the enemy. Sharp skirmishing was kept up along the whole line during the 26th, the hottest part of it being in the neighborhood of the church.
Each man on the skirmish line protected himself as he could by a shallow pit, a few fence rails or a friendly log, knowing that he could not be relieved until after dark, and the sharpshooters on both sides were constantly on the alert for opportunities to pick off some mounted officer who might happen to expose himself imprudently.
During the day McCook's cavalry, which was operating on the left, had a skirmish with part of Wheeler's, in which McCook captured about 50 prisoners. This skirmish, with the information gleaned from some of the prisoners, led Sherman to believe that Wheeler's was the only force holding the region east of Johnston's right.
The skirmishing along the lines had developed the fact that the Federals were superior in numbers and Sherman decided to withdraw part of his forces from the intrenchments for the purposes of turning the Confederate right. The Army of the Ohio was in possession of the road to Allatoona and by
extending his line along that route Sherman hoped to reestablish communications with the railroad, while at the same time he could gain a position from which he could operate on Johnston's flank.
Accordingly Thomas was ordered to withdraw Wood's division of Howard's corps, unite it with Johnson's division of Palmer's, which had been in reserve, and with these 2 divisions and a
brigade from the Army of the Ohio make the flank movement.
The movement was placed in charge of Howard, who made a reconnaissance at the place designated by Sherman and found the enemy was in a position to bring a cross-fire of both infantry and artillery upon the approaches to it. The troops were then moved farther to the left and massed in a field concealed from the Confederates by the intervening woods.
At 11:00 A.M. on the 27th, Wood moved about a mile farther to the left, when Howard thought the enemy's flank was reached, and the command wheeled to the right, McLean's brigade of the Army
of the Ohio being deployed on Wood's right.
McLean pushed forward his skirmishers and developed a considerable force of the Confederates entrenched in front. The skirmishers were withdrawn and again Howard moved a mile to the left. About 5:00 P.M. another effort was made to turn the flank.
The entire command moved forward, drove in the Confederate skirmishers and vigorously assaulted the main line. Col. Scribner, commanding Johnson's advance brigade, was fired into from across the creek near Pickett's mill, and halted long enough to throw a detachment across the stream to protect his flank.
This delay came at an inopportune moment, as it gave the enemy an opportunity to push forward his reserves on Wood's left, forcing it back and bringing his line into position where an enfilading fire could be brought to bear upon it. Wood withdrew under this fire and formed his troops on a ridge farther to the right, Johnson forming his to the left and rear.
In this affair, known as the battle of Pickett's mill, the Union loss in killed, wounded and missing was about 1,400. That of the enemy was not ascertained. Although the flank movement had failed, a position was secured near Pickett's mill that afterwards proved to be of great importance.
During the attempt to turn the enemy's flank the divisions of Newton and Stanley kept up a strong demonstration in their fronts by way of a diversion, and repulsed one assault on their lines with heavy loss to the Confederates. Skirmishing was kept up along the lines, but there was no more hard fighting until the afternoon of the 28th, when McPherson was ordered to close to the left on Thomas in front of New Hope Church, and allow Davis to join his command, Sherman's object being to
extend his line still more to the left.
Johnston suspected that Sherman was withdrawing his right from in front of Dallas and ordered Hardee to threaten McPherson's lines to see if they held. Hardee sent forward Bate's division, which made a sudden and daring attack in front of the town. McPherson's men had erected good breastworks and Bate met with a bloody and decisive repulse.
About the same time Armstrong's brigade of Confederate cavalry tried to pass through the space between Logan and McPherson, but was met with such a withering fire of artillery and musketry that he was forced to give up the attempt and retreat with heavy loss. The two armies now lay in front of each other without any important action on either side until June 1, when Sherman succeeded in moving his whole line to the left about 5 miles, occupying the roads to Allatoona and Acworth.