September 2, 1864: Atlanta falls

Gen. Henry W. Slocum
General Henry W. Slocum

During the night of the 1st, Hood blew up the ammo dumps in Atlanta and evacuated his forces from the city. Sherman, south of the city with most of his armies attacking Hood’s supply line at Jonesboro, could hear the explosions but initially thought he was hearing a battle. He had left Gen. Slocum in charge of the Twentieth Corps to watch Hood’s Atlanta defenses. When Hood left, Slocum walked in and accepted the surrender of the city. Even by nightfall on the 2nd, Sherman was still unsure whether the rumors of Atlanta’s fall were true.


HEADQUARTERS TWENTIETH CORPS,
Chattahoochee Bridge, Ga., September 2, 1864-2.30 a.m.
Brigadier General A. S. WILLIAMS,
Commanding First Division;

GENERAL: The major-general commanding desires that you send out as soon as possible this morning a reconnoitering party toward Atlanta, to ascertain where and what the firing is. Parties have been ordered out from Second and Third Divisions, but they will not get started as soon as you. The general desires to get as early information as possible, and has ordered twenty men of his escort to report to you for messengers.

I am, general, very respectfully your obedient servant,
H. W. PERKINS,
Lieutenant-Colonel and Assistant Adjutant-General.

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HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI,
In the Field, September 2, 1864-4 a.m.
General SCHOFIELD:

I have your dispatch of 7.15 last evening, since which time you have a letter from me. I heard explosions and firing about Atlanta at 2 o’clock and at this moment I hear more seemingly nearer us, but due north; it must be Garrard, but what force he engages I don’t know. Please ascertain whether Stewart’s corps came into Jonesborough from the direction of Flat Rock, and let me know. If the firing at the north be not explained, prepare to meet any interruption of our operations from that quarter, and act without further orders if the occasion calls for it, otherwise I want you to attack Jonesborough from the east. Try and communicate with Garrard, and ascertain what the force to our rear is, and move to meet it. Our trains are at the Renfroe Place, out about four miles northwest of Jonesborough. I am near General Howard, at the Flint River, two miles northwest of Jonesborough. A road leads from here due east a little north, which I think passes by where you are.

Yours,
W. T. SHERMAN,
Major-General, Commanding.

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HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI,
In the Field, September 2, 1864-4 a.m.
Major-General THOMAS:

At 2 a.m. I heard heavy firing and saw a large fire in the direction of Atlanta. I have just heard more firing seemingly nearer. Garrard is to our rear, with orders to cover us from all approach from that quarter. I have not yet clearly ascertained if Stewart is with the army in Jonesborough but think he may have swung around Stanley and come in front the east. If so, any force approaching our rear would not be very formidable, though we must be prepared. I think you had better move your headquarters and trains in near your rear, where the trains will be less exposed, and if Schofield’s trains be near Renfroe’s, as I suppose them to be, you had better order them down to Flint River nearer Howard’s left on Davis’ right. Schofield is across the railroad, massed on Stanley’s left but I have ordered him if any danger approach our rear he must go and meet it. In the mean time you had better send a strong picket up the road to Couch’s to guard that point till your trains are close into your troops. I think Garrard can cover the roads, yet he may not know them.

W. T. SHERMAN,
Major-General.

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HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE OHIO,
September 2, 1864-8 a.m.
Major-General SHERMAN,
Commanding Military Division of the Mississippi:

GENERAL: I have your dispatches of 8 last evening and 4 this morning. I have heard from Garrard this morning. The noise last night sounded to him as to us, to be at Atlanta. The last, about 4 o’clock, probably at East Point. We watched it closely. Very large fires were visible in the direction of Atlanta. Brilliant flashes followed at regular intervals by loud explosions, far too loud for any artillery, and then by very rapid explosions of shell. The interval between the flash and explosion gave the distance to Atlanta. All the circumstances indicate the burning of magazines at Atlanta. At the time of the later and near explosions the fires and flashes were not visible. I have no doubt these last were at East Point. I cannot explain the phenomena of last night in any other way. No battle I have ever witnessed would begin to account for it. Citizens here report that a large column of rebel troops passed down the Flat Rock road, just in front of Stanley, yesterday morning. What troops they were I have not yet learned, but am searching for information. Garrard’s cavalry went yesterday to about two miles this side of East Point, met some cavalry, and returned. Prisoners and citizens there all said that Stewart’s corps and the militia were still about Atlanta. I have sent an infantry reconnaissance up the Flat Rock road to see what can be learned in that direction. Garrard will be here soon, when I will get him started off toward the east. As soon as I can learn there is no force in our rear I will move in and attack the enemy’s right.

Very respectfully,
J. M. SCHOFIELD,
Major-General.

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SEPTEMBER 2, 1864-10.25 a.m.
General SHERMAN:

A negro who has just come in from Atlanta says our troops attacked the place about dark last night. The enemy immediately retreated on the McDonough road in great confusion and disorder, all the citizens joining in the flight. Houses were burned, magazines blown up, and a wagon train of ammunition burned. I have my head of column on the McDonough road (one division) the other is moving more to the left, but has a road by which it can join the first if necessary. I have sent to find a road leading substantially parallel to the railroad,if you desire me to pursue toward Griffin.

I hope to hear from you soon, as Colonel Warner must have reached you before now.

Very respectfully,
J. M. SCHOFIELD,
Major-General.

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HDQRS. THIRD DIVISION, TWENTIETH ARMY CORPS,

September 2, 1864. (Received 1 p.m.)
Lieutenant Colonel H. W. PERKINS,
Assistant Adjutant-General:

COLONEL: The city authorities have surrendered to my reconnoitering party, and my troops now occupy the same (Atlanta).
I am, colonel, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

W. T. WARD,
Brigadier-General.

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SEPTEMBER 2, 1864.
Lieutenant Colonel H. W. PERKINS,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Twentieth Army Corps:

As my troops took Atlanta, courtesy, if not justice to me, demands that I may be permitted to occupy the same. If not inconsistent with the public interest, I desire to be permitted to move my division to Atlanta and to leave the dismounted cavalry to guard this ford. If I am not permitted to move to said place, I sincerely hope and earnestly request some of my command may be sent there to take charge of said town.

Yours, with sincere esteem,
W. T. WARD,
Brigadier-General.

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HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI,
In the Field, near Lovejoy’s, Ga., September 2, 1864-8 p.m.
Major-General THOMAS:

Until we hear from Atlanta the exact truth, I do not care about your pushing your men against breast-works. Destroy the railroad well up to your lines; keep skirmishers well up, and hold your troops in hand for anything that may turn up. As soon as I know positively that our troops are in Atlanta I will determine what to do. I have ordered General Schofield to feel for the McDonough road, to prevent re-enforcements coming to the enemy from that direction.

Yours, &c.,
W. T. SHERMAN.
Major-General, Commanding.

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HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE CUMBERLAND,
Two miles south of Jonesborough, Ga., September 2, 1864.
Major-General SLOCUM,
Commanding Twentieth Army Corps:

GENERAL: Major-General Sherman requests me to state that he is very anxious to know the particulars of the capture of Atlanta. As we have rumors to the effect that you now occupy that city, he wishes you to send your dispatch to him in cipher. He also requests that you telegraph to Major-General Halleck at the War Department, Washington, that he, General Sherman is strongly posted on the Macon railroad.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
M. J. KELLY,
First Lieutenant Fourth Cavalry, U. S. Army, and Chief of Couriers.

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HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI,
In the Field, September 2, 1864-8 p.m.
General HOWARD:

You know that General Garrard reports General Slocum in possession of Atlanta. I have sent couriers to learn the exact truth. If it be so, we don’t care about pushing the enemy any farther at this time. Had we prevented his making intrenchments it would have been well, but as he has a strong line, I do not wish to waste lives by an assault. You may therefore order the skirmishers close up, but hold your lines so as not to suffer much. If the enemy be gone in the morning occupy his lines to your front and await orders.

Yours,
W. T. SHERMAN,
Major-General.

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ATLANTA, GA., September 2, 1864.
(Received 10.05 p.m.)
Honorable E. M. STANTON.
Secretary of War:

General Sherman has taken Atlanta. The Twentieth Corps occupies the city. The main army is on the Macon road, near East Point. A battle was fought near that point, in which General Sherman was successful. Particulars not known.

H. W. SLOCUM,
Major-General.

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