Sunday, July 20, 2014

Civil War - 150 Years ago this week - July 20-26,1864

July 20,1864-As Jubel Early continues to withdraw into the Shenandoah Valley, Union General William W. Averell's cavalry surprises General Stephen D. Ramsuer's division at Stephenson's Depot, West Virginia. Confederate losses include 73 killed, 130 wounded, 267 captured, and four cannon. General Early reaches Strasburg.

July 20,1864-At Atlanta, General George H. Thomas crosses Peachtree Creek north of the city just as newly appointed Confederate General John B. Hood, an aggressive fighter, attacks with 19,000 Confederate troops. This becomes a day long battle with heavy losses on both sides but is futile for General Hood's as General McPherson continues to extend the ring of Union forces around Atlanta. General Hood plans to attack the next time circumstances favor the offense.

July 21,1864-General James A. McPherson's Union troops attack Confederate defenders near Bald Hill outside Atlanta. Intense artillery fire covers the advance of both sides up the hill but Union troops claim the hilltop. Both sides lose 350 fighters in a technical draw but the Union now has the high point to launch artillery into the center of Atlanta.

July 21,1864-General Hood orders General William Hardee to move out of the Atlanta fortification, march 25 miles to Decatur, Georgia under the cover of night, and get behind and on the flank of the Army of the Tennessee. General McPherson lacks cavalry to detect such a move.

July 22,1864-President Jefferson Davis tries to send General Edmond Kirby-Smith to aid General Hood. The Union controls the Mississippi River so this order does not result in any troop movement.

July 22,1864-The Battle of Atlanta is started by General Hood when General Hardee is ordered to strike General McPherson's Army of the Tennessee east of the city. Hardee fails to move far enough past McPherson's force to flank them and attacks head on. Confederate Generals William H.T. Walker and William Bate charge but are repelled by Union forces under General Grenville M. Dodge's XVI Corps.  General McPherson is reconnoitering ahead of his position when he encounters a Confederate picket and is shot dead. He becomes the highest ranking Union officer killed in the Civil War.

July 22,1864-In continued fighting in Atlanta, General Hood commits Generals Benjamin Cheatham's corps and Gustavus Smith's Georgia militia against General James A. Logan's (McPherson's temporary successor) XV corps. Repulsed across the line, General Hood concedes defeat and withdraws. Losses are 8,000 Confederates and 3,722 Union soldiers. Most devastating is the Union's loss of Ohio General James A. McPherson, popular and capable friend of General William T. Sherman.

July 23,1864-The Louisiana State Convention adopts a new constitution outlawing slavery.

July 23,1864-At Winchester, Virginia, Union General Alfred N. Duffie's cavalry clash with Confederate troopers. Reports of a Confederate resurgence in the valley, including General Early's 14,000 men near Kernstown, Virginia, worries Union commanders.

July 24,1864-General Jubal Early sends his troops against General George Crook's 8,500 Union soldiers at Kernstown. Initial results have Crook's troops withstanding several charges. When flanked by General John Breckenridge's Confederates, Crook's unit escapes toward Bunker Hill, West Virginia. Early's easy victory convinces him to attempt another raid into Pennsylvania while Washington politicians are convinced new, more vigorous leadership is needed in the Shenandoah Valley.

July 25,1864-General Early pursues General Crook's men into West Virginia. Heavy rain impedes both units.

July 25,1864-General George Stoneman's cavalry division prepares for an extended raid to cut the Macon and Western Railroad into Atlanta,Georgia. General Sherman shifts the approach to Atlanta to the north and west of the city when he orders General Logan to march his Army of the Tennessee from the right flank to the left. General O.O. Howard's objective is East Point, Georgia, where the Macon and Western railroad intersects with the Atlanta and West Point rail line, General Hood's last line of supply.

July 26,1864-General U.S.Grant plans a diversion with Generals Winfield Hancock and Philip Sheridan demonstrating north of the James River to cause General Lee to send troops northward. Grant's hope is to weaken the defense of the city prior to the upcoming (July 30th) assault on Petersburg. This would also move Sheridan's cavalry closer to Richmond or the Virginia Central Railroad.

July 26,1864-General Oliver O. Howard is formally given command of the Army of the Tennessee, replacing James McPherson.