In the spring of 1864, General Ulysses S. Grant ordered five offensive movements, the largest of which was against the Confederate capital at Richmond and the major rail hub and supply depot of Atlanta. Grant assigned the vital task of capturing Atlanta to General William T. Sherman. To capture Atlanta, however, Sherman’s army of more than 100,000 men would first have to defeat or get through General Joseph E. Johnston’s army of 60,000. Sherman set out on May 7 to face off against General Johnston.
The campaign’s opening encounter occurred on May 8 at Rocky Face Ridge with the two armies hardly disengaged for the next three months. Thrusting and parrying, they met at Resaca, New Hope Church, Pickett’s Mill, Dallas, Kolb’s Farm, and Kennesaw Mountain. Eventually, Johnston was driven into the defenses of Atlanta.
Frustrated with Johnston, President Jefferson Davis replaced him with General John Bell Hood. Less than one week later Hood launched two attacks on Sherman at Peach Tree Creek on July 20 and Bald Hill (known as the Battle of Atlanta) on July 22. Both were repulsed with heavy losses. Hood suffered another considerable loss at Ezra Church one week later.
The two armies settled into a state of siege until Sherman moved south of Atlanta to cut the remaining rail lines supplying the city. Hood dispatched troops to counter the move but they were defeated during the Battle of Jonesboro, forcing Hood to abandon the city to the Federals on September 2. Sherman’s success opened the door for his most famous operation—the March to the Sea and the capture of Savannah, Georgia.