Illinois Regiments in the Combat
at Buzzards Roost Gap
(near Dalton, Georgia)
(May 8-9, 1864)


During the early months of 1864, Major General William T Sherman, commanding the Military Division of the Mississippi, was preparing for the upcoming Atlanta Campaign. The months of January through April were spent reorganizing and reequipping the approximately 110,000 troops of his command. Nashville and Chattanooga were turned into huge Union supply depots for the upcoming campaign.

The start of the Atlanta Campaign was at the strong defensive position in the steep ridges near Dalton, Georgia. The Western and Atlantic Railroad passed through Rocky Face Ridge to Dalton by way of Buzzard's Roost Gap (also know as Mill Creek Gap). Confederates held the ridges and had several artillery positions covering the gap in the ridge. The Confederates had also flooded Mill Creek.

While Sherman's three Armies (Army of the Cumberland, Army of the Tennessee, Army of the Ohio) significantly outnumbered the Confederate Army of Tennessee (55,000), Sherman did not want to incurr the heavy losses that a frontal assault would bring. His plan was to hold the defenders in place with a strong demonstration at Rocky Face Ridge, while the Army of the Tennessee moved to the south behind the ridges and would pass through the undefended Snake Creek Gap in the rear of the Confederate army. If successful, the plan would cut off the Confederate army from its base in Atlanta and either force it to fight the superior numbers of the Union army or scatter into the hills.

Newton's Division (2nd Division, 4th Corps) of the Army of the Cumberland was given the job of attacking the ridge while Major General Thomas attacked with 3 divisions at the gap. Harker's Brigade actually succeeded in reaching the crest of the ridge, but found it so narrow in places that they could only advance along the crest single file. Battle reports stated that the ridge was so steep that soldiers would tie themselves to trees to prevent falling back down the steep incline. Thomas' divisions forced back the Confederate skirmishers but strong infantry and artillery positions prevented him from pushing through the gap. Reinforcements at the crest of the ridge prevented the Union troops from capitalizing on their brief success, but the fighting at Buzzard's Roost Gap had its desired effect. The main body of Confederate troops remained in the north defending the ridges.

Union General McPherson's Army of the Tennessee easily pushed through the undefended Snake Creek Gap and came very close to severing the vital confederate railroad link at Resaca. However, as night approached and threats of the approach of the main confederate army worried him, McPherson pulled back to his defensive position in the gap. Sherman then started pulling his troops from Rocky Face Ridge south to join McPherson. Finally seeing the threat to its existance, the Confederate Army pulled back from Rocky Face Ridge and regrouped in Resaca.

The Illinois regiments which took part in the Combat at Buzzards Roost Gap 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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