May 7, 1864: Fighting at Tunnel Hill

150 years ago today, Federal forces from the Army of the Cumberland encountered Confederates dug in on Rocky Face Ridge in Northwestern Georgia. The Federal attack was primarily meant to disguise Sherman’s true intentions for the opening phase of the campaign; while Johnston was engaged near Dalton, McPherson’s Army of the Tennessee would slip south to Snake Creek Gap, several miles to the south. Sherman hoped that this would afford McPherson the opportunity to act independent of the rest of the force and slide through the gap in the mountains to cut Johnston’s supply lines and envelop the Confederate army.



Georgia State Historic marker for Tunnel Hill

Georgia State Historic marker for Tunnel Hill

On the 7th, the first Federal shots of the campaign belonged to men of the 52nd Ohio. The Ohioans, a part of Colonel Dan McCook’s brigade of the 14th Corps, Army of the Cumberland, were advancing on Tunnel Hill along the Western and Atlantic Railroad. The 52nd brushed against Confederate cavalry and artillery, engaging in a short but fierce fight against the main Confederate line after pushing through the preliminary elements. With support from men of the 4th Corps, this initial advance was able to force

Major J.T. Holmes of the 52nd O.V.I.

Major J.T. Holmes of the 52nd O.V.I.

Confederates to fall back a short distance to new positions. The Battle of Rocky Face Ridge, and the fighting of the Atlanta Campaign, began 150 years ago today.


Just a few weeks later, these same Ohioans who had tested Johnston’s initial line at Tunnel Hill would find themselves in the midst of the horrific fighting at the Dead Angle at Kennesaw Mountain. They would have a much different fate on that hot June morning. But, 150 years ago today, the Dead Angle and Kennesaw Mountain were still in the distant, unforeseeable future, as the Atlanta Campaign was just getting underway.


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