I go to sleep by hearing shell and bullets and wake in the morning the same, and it is keeping up all day. I am getting so used to the noise I think no more of it than I would of the flies buzzing.
Alonzo Miller, Union soldier
Victorious Union soldiers occupy the former Confederate earthworks in northwest Atlanta.

Part 3: The Battles For Atlanta

Chapter 1
The Battle of Peachtree Creek

The graves of Union soldiers are visible on the battlefield of Peachtree Creek.

July 20: The first of the battles for Atlanta occurred when Hood ordered an assault on Union forces soon after they crossed Peachtree Creek, about five miles north of the 1864 city limits.

Leaving their entrenched positions -- including those that guarded the main northside artery, today's Peachtree Street -- the Confederates struck along a line that runs from present-day Howell Mill Road to Piedmont Hospital.

Confusion and delays, common in most major battles of the war, plagued the Southern attack. Despite some Confederate successes where Bobby Jones Golf Course is located today, by nightfall the Union lines had held. Thousands lay dead or wounded on the grounds that now are bisected by Collier Road.

Chapter 2
The Battle of Atlanta

A sign marks the spot where Major Gen. James McPherson was killed by Confederate rifle fire.

July 22: Not dwelling long on his repulse at Peachtree Creek, Hood the next night marched 30,000 men out of the city via McDonough Road (present-day Capitol Avenue), and then looped northeast. The goal was to surprise Union forces closing in from DeKalb County, where the Northerners had spent several days destroying the east-bound Georgia Railroad.

The plan nearly worked. The Union line initially reeled, especially after Gen. James McPherson was shot dead (as the highest-ranking U.S. officer killed in the war, he would be posthumously honored with the naming of Fort McPherson). The Confederate attack eventually failed, however, as Sherman's artillery advantage helped turn back the onslaught.

This is sometimes referred to as the Battle of Bald Hill, for much of the fighting took place on a prominent hill that was called that at the time. Today, the since-leveled ground is Moreland Avenue at I-20. The battle stretched across modern-day East Atlanta, from Flat Shoals Road to the Carter Center.


Major work projects still find ordnance from the bombardment of Atlanta. This cannonball was unearthed during construction of the College Football Hall of Fame at Centennial Olympic Park in 2013.

Chapter 3
The Battle of Ezra Church

July 28: Having cut the railroad to the east, Sherman next moved to sever the lines running west and south of Atlanta. In response, Hood again went on the offensive, ordering an attack on a Federal line surrounding Ezra Church -- near where Martin Luther King Drive intersects I-20 today.

Unlike the previous two battles, this was a one-sided fight. Firing from behind strong defensive positions, Union forces easily stopped the assaults. Though Hood temporarily halted Sherman's drive for another railroad, a third defeat in nine days left Atlanta's defenders severely weakened.

Chapter 4
The Battle of Utoy Creek

Aug. 5-7: With the Confederates too depleted to attack again, Sherman weighed his options. He knew Atlanta's fortifications were far too strong to attack head on. The flanking tactics that served him well earlier in the campaign, however, were more difficult to accomplish the closer he got to his objective. Thus, he decided to strike again for the Atlanta & West Point rail, near East Point.

Once again, the attacking side suffered from miscommunication and confusion. Even with a nearly 3-to-1 numerical superiority, Union forces made no progress against well-entrechened Confederate positions near present-day Cascade Road in SW Atlanta.

After three days, a frustrated Sherman called it off. For the next few weeks, a siege ensued: Sherman using his artillery to try and blast Atlanta into submission, while Hood's men hunkered down in their 12 miles of earthworks.

Chapter 5
The Battle of Jonesboro

Aug. 30-Sept. 1: From a political standpoint, a stalemate benefited the Confederacy. Lincoln himself was convinced he would lose the upcoming election without a major breakthrough in the war.

To break the deadlock, Sherman again decided to lunge for Atlanta's final open rail lines: the Atlanta & West Point and the Macon & Western. This time, however, he would do it further away, where Hood wouldn't expect it. In a massive flanking maneuver that initially went undetected by the Southerners, 60,000 Union troops wheeled west and then 15 miles south of the city. They first cut the A&WP, and next aimed for where the M&W ran through the small town of Jonesborough -- its name later shortened to Jonesboro.

The tactic worked. By the time Hood rushed troops to the threatened area, the Southerners were at a disadvantage. Two days of fighting left the Union in control of the last rail supply line into Atlanta.

How fearful are the sounds of battle! We have heard them today; we could see clouds of smoke ascending – where we know men were falling, dying.
Cyrena Stone, Atlantan and Union loyalist
July 22, 1864