Illinois Regiments in the Atlanta Campaign
(May 6 - September 2, 1864)


The Atlanta Campaign was a war of maneuver and delaying actions played out in the mountains of Northern Georgia between Chattanooga and Atlanta.

In the spring of 1864, the new Commanding General (U.S. Grant) for all Union armies wanted simultaneous thrusts by all Union forces to prevent the Confederacy from moving troops from areas of low activity to where they were needed more (Link to Map). The armies in the Atlanta Campaign were under the command of Major General William Tecumseh Sherman, commanding the newly created Military Division of the Mississippi. Sherman had over 110,000 troops in three separate armies (Thomas' Army of the Cumberland, McPherson's Army of the Tennessee, and Schofield's Army of the Ohio. Opposing Sherman was Gen. Joe Johnston's 42,000-man Army of Tennessee and a corps of infantry under Polk in Alabama.

Due to the difficulty of raising supplies in the region between Chattanooga and Atlanta, both armies were dependant upon the Western and Atlantic Railroad for food and ammunition. As a result, Sherman's main goal was to get between Johnston's army and his supply base in Atlanta. Johnston's main goal was to prevent this and to delay and harass the Union army until their supply lines were long and vulnerable. Johnston was also looking for opportunities when his entire army could engage and destroy an exposed portion of the Union army.

The method used by Sherman for the entire campaign was for a portion of the Union army to demonstrate against Confederate defenses to hold them in place, while the remainder of the Union troops moved behind the ridges of North Georgia to get around the Confederates and cut them off. The Confederate army would stay in their strong defensive lines until threatened with being cut off and then quietly withdraw under cover of darkness to their next defensive line closer to Atlanta (Link to Regional Map).

This type of maneuver was repeated at Rocky Face Ridge(Buzzard's Roost Gap), Resaca, Allatoona Pass, and north of Marietta. Efforts to get around the left of the Confederate lines in the general vicinity of Marietta were repulsed at Dallas and New Hope Church. Continued conflicts and maneuvers continued until the Confederates arrived at the strong lines around Kenesaw Mountain.

Confederate troop movements at Kenesaw Mountain convinced Sherman that the defensive lines were weak and could be broken with a frontal assault. The general assault at Kenesaw Mountain failed, but Union troops at the far right (south) of the line of battle captured a key road junction, forcing the evacuation of the Confederate defenses.

Sherman's armies followed and soon crossed the Chattahoochie River north of Atlanta. Johnston had hoped to engage the Union armies at this point, but he was replaced by John Bell Hood as Army Commander. Hood was more aggressive (and reckless) than Johnston, and did not let any opportunity pass to attack the Union armies. A series of battles (Peachtree Creek, Atlanta, Ezra Church, and Jonesboro) were fought around Atlanta as Union Troops attempted to cut off the supply routes into the city (Link to Maps).

When the Union army cut off the last rail connection to the south, Hood pulled his much diminished army out of Atlanta and allowed it to fall into the hands of the Union on September 1, 1864. Hood's later attacks on Sherman's supply lines were unsuccessful at forcing Sherman to leave Atlanta. Sherman built up his supplies and then destroyed everything of military value in Atlanta before leaving on his "March to the Sea" towards Savannah, Georgia.

A number of Illinois regiments joined the campaign after it had started, returning from veteran furlough. In addition, several regiments left the campaign when their term of service expired (Recruits and re-enlisting veterans were transferred to other regiments).

The Illinois regiments which took part in the Atlanta campaign are listed below. The links will take you to the regimental pages.

Source: Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, Dyer's Compendium

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