May 14 and 15, 1864: Battle of Resaca

 

 

150 years ago today, the Battle of Resaca was entering its final hours. In the first full scale battle of the Atlanta Campaign, Sherman engaged Johnston’s Army of Tennessee outside the town of Resaca. With two waterways to his back, Johnston took a tremendous risk by fighting in this position.

Confederate Trenches at Resaca (Mountain Campaigns of Georgia)

Confederate Trenches at Resaca (Mountain Campaigns of Georgia)

 

Click here to see a Civil War Trust map covering the action on May 15.

 

Sherman attempted to both engage Johnston and outflank the Confederate line. While heavy fighting raged, Sherman slowly moved parts of the Army of the Tennessee to the south, using Brigadier General Thomas Sweeney’s brigade to cross over the Oostanaula River. Sweeney first crossed on the 14th, and, not encountering any significant opposition, crossed again on the 15th, jeopardizing Johnston’s left flank.

Battle of Resaca (Mountain Campaigns of Georgia)

Battle of Resaca (Mountain Campaigns of Georgia)

 

These actions forced Johnston to make the first step of what would become a recurring pattern over the next two months. On the evening of May 15th, 150 years ago today, Confederates fell back across the Oostanaula, burning bridges as they went to hopefully slow the Federal advance.

 

The two day fight at Resaca was one of the bloodiest of the Atlanta Campaign, having more total losses than the bitter fighting at Kennesaw Mountain on the morning of June 27, 1864. Over 5,000 total casualties fell in two days at Resaca, the only battle during the Atlanta Campaign where each of Sherman’s three armies–the Army of the Ohio, the Army of the Tennessee, and the Army of the Cumberland–was engaged in the same fight against the enemy. Resaca was a Union success, as Johnston was forced out of his positions and made to retreat, beginning a pattern that would ultimately lead to a desperate fight along the slopes of Kennesaw Mountain several weeks later.

 

Map of the Atlanta Campaign (Battles and Leaders)

Map of the Atlanta Campaign (Battles and Leaders)

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