July 22, 1864: Battle of Atlanta

James B. McPherson

Sherman’s troops report that Hood has abandoned Atlanta. Actually, he’s sent Hardee around Sherman’s left in a night march for a surprise attack on McPherson’s left. Although McPherson suspected something and strengthened his left, the fighting was still fierce and nearly a catastrophe for Sherman. While reconnoitering in front of his troops, McPherson happened to come in range of a rebel sniper, and was killed instantly by a shot through his lungs. “Black Jack” Logan took over command, and was able to repulse the rebel attack. The rebel losses exceeded those of the union, and Hood again took up defensive positions around Atlanta. Although Sherman’s report to Halleck of course does not reveal his personal feelings, he was deeply hurt by the loss of his close personal friend.

In the Field, July 22, 1864.
Major General J. HOOKER,
Commanding Twentieth Army Corps:

GENERAL: The enemy has evacuated his works around Atlanta. The major-general commanding directs that you push on in pursuit by a road, if one can be found, running between the columns of Generals Palmer and Howard. General Palmer has been ordered to move in a southwesterly direction by road running from about his right, and General Howard by road running near Atlanta, but north of it and in the same direction as General Palmer. All out troops and General Schofield’s move north by Atlanta.

Yours, very respectfully,
Assistant Adjutant-General.



In the Field, July 22, 1864-6 a. m.
Major General JOHN A. LOGAN,
Commanding Fifteenth Army Corps:

GENERAL: The enemy having evacuated their works in front of our lines, the supposition of Major-General Sherman is that they have given up Atlanta and are retreating in the direction of East Point. You will immediately put your command in pursuit, passing to the south and east of Atlanta, without entering the town. You will keep a route to the left of that taken by the enemy, and try to cut off a portion of them while they pressed in rear and on our right by Generals Schofield and Thomas. Major-General Sherman desires and expects a vigorous pursuit.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Four miles from Atlanta, July 22, 1864-9 p. m.
Superintendent U. S. Military Telegraph:

At daylight to-day it was found that the rebels had gone from entire front, and General Sherman announced the occupation of Atlanta by Schofield, and ordered pursuit by Thomas in the fortifications of Atlanta, and not Schofield. We hold road to within two miles and a half of center of place, and that is about the average distance of whole line, though Schofield and Dodge are nearer. Fighting has ben severe, and we have lost General McPherson, killed by shot through lungs while on a reconnaissance. It is thought that enemy will be gone in the morning, as they have attacked and been repulsed since dark. Hood fights his graybacks desperately.

Cipher Operator, U. S. Military Telegraph.


Before Atlanta, Ga., July 22, 1864.

In pursuance of instructions from Major General W. T. Sherman, commanding Military Division of the Mississippi, I hereby assume command of the Army of the Tennessee in the field. The department staff will remain unchanged, and reports and returns will be made as heretofore.



NEAR ATLANTA, GA., July 23, 1864-10.30 a. m.
(Received 6 p. m.)
Major General H. W. HALLECK,
Washington, D. C.:
Yesterday morning the enemy fell back to the entrenchments proper of the city of Atlanta, which are in a general circle of a radius of one mile and a half we closed in. While we were forming our lines and selecting positions for batteries, the enemy appeared suddenly out of the dense woods in heavy masses on our extreme left, and struck the Seventeenth Corps (General Blair’s) in flank, and was forcing it back, when the Sixteenth (General Dodge’s) came up and checked the movement, but the enemy’s cavalry got well to our rear and into Decatur, and for some hours our left was completely enveloped. The fighting that resulted was continuous until night, with heavy loss on both sides. The enemy took one of our batteries (Murray’s, of the Regular Army) that was marching in its placing in column on the road unconscious of danger. About 4 p. m. the enemy sallied against the division of General Morgan L. Smith, which occupied an abandoned line of rifle-trenches near the railroad, east of the city, and forced it back some 400 yards, leaving in his hands for the time two batteries, but the ground and batteries were immediately after recovered by the same troops, re-enforced.

I cannot well approximate our loss, which fell heaviest on the Fifteenth and Seventeenth Corps, but count it 3,000; but I know that, being on the defensive, we have inflicted equally heavy loss on the enemy. General McPherson, when arranging his troops, about 11 a. m., and passing from one column to another, unconsciously rode upon an ambuscade without apprehension and at some distance ahead of his staff and ordered and was shot dead. His body was sent in charge of his personal staff back to Marietta and Chattanooga. His loss at that moment was most serious, but General Logan at once arranged the troops, and had immediate direction of them during the rest of the day.

Our left, though refused somewhat, is still within easy cannon-range of Atlanta. The enemy seems to man his extensive parapets and, at the same time, has to spare heavy assaulting columns; but to-day we will intrench our front lines, which will give me troops to spare to meet these assault. I cannot of the loss of more than a few wagons, taken by the enemy’s cavalry his temporary pause in Decatur, whence all the trains had been securely removed to the rear of the main army, under of a brigade of infantry, commanded by Colonel Sprague. During the heavy attack on the left, the remainder of the line was not engaged.


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