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Battle of Adairsville

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Battle of Adairsville

Battle of Adairsville
Part of the American Civil War

Three marker signs in Adairsville Cemetery, site of part of the battlefield, describe the battle.
Date May 17, 1864 (1864-05-17)
Location Bartow County, Georgia
Result Union victory
Belligerents
United States Confederate States
Commanders and leaders
William T. Sherman Joseph E. Johnston
Units involved
Military Division of the Mississippi Army of Tennessee
Strength
4,174 4,477
Casualties and losses
200 Unknown

The Battle of Adairsville was a battle of the Cassville.

Contents

  • Prelude 1
  • The battle 2
  • Aftermath 3
  • References 4

Prelude

Following the Atlanta.

The battle

Once across the Oostanaula River, Johnston sought to make a stand and draw the Federals into a costly assault. He expected to find favorable terrain near Calhoun, but in this he was disappointed and during the night of May 16–17 he led the Confederates southward toward Adairsville. Sherman followed, dividing his forces into three columns, and advancing on a broad front. There were skirmishes all along the route, but the main bodies were not engaged.

Two miles north of Adairsville Cassville. It seemed likely that Sherman would divide his armies so as to use both roads. This would give Johnston the opportunity to attack one column before the other could come to its aid.

When the Southerners abandoned Adairsville during the night of May 17–18, Johnston sent William J. Hardee's Corps to Kingston, while he fell back toward Cassville with the rest of his army. He hoped that Sherman would believe most of the Southerners to be in Kingston and concentrate the bulk of his forces there. Hardee would then hold off the Northerners at Kingston while Johnston, with Leonidas Polk and John Bell Hood, destroyed the smaller Federal column at Cassville.

Sherman reacted as Johnston hoped, ordering John Schofield and one corps of Thomas' army along the road to Cassville. On the morning of May 19, Johnston ordered Hood to march along a country road a mile or so east of the Adairsville-Cassville Road and form his corps for battle facing west. While Polk attacked the head of the Federal column, Hood was to assail its left flank. As Hood was moving into position, he ran into Daniel Butterfield's Federal brigade to the east. This was a source of great danger, for had Hood formed facing west, these Federals would have been in position to attack the exposed flank and rear of his corps. After a brief skirmish with the Northerners, Hood fell back to rejoin Polk. Johnston, believing that the opportunity for a successful battle had passed, ordered Hood and Polk to move to a new line east and south of Cassville, where they were joined by Hardee who had been pushed out of Kingston. Johnston formed his army on a ridge and hoped that Sherman would attack him there on May 20. As usual, the Southern commander was confident of repulsing the enemy.

During the night, the Confederates withdrew across the Resaca, Calhoun, and Adairsville. Now they were retreating again under cover of darkness. That morning as they prepared for battle, their spirits had been high. Now their disappointment was bitter. Although morale would revive in the next few days, many Southern soldiers would never again place as much confidence in Johnston's abilities as they once had.

Aftermath

That night the Confederate leaders held a council of war. Exactly what happened at the council is a matter of dispute. According to Johnston, Polk and Hood reported that their lines could not be held and urged that the army retreat. Believing that the fears of the corps commanders would be communicated to their men and thus weaken the army's confidence, Johnston yielded to these demands, even though he thought the position to be defensible. According to Hood, whose recollection of the council differs markedly from Johnston's, he and Polk told Johnston that the line could not be held against an attack but that it was a good position from which to move against the enemy. Johnston, however, was unwilling to risk an offensive battle and decided to fall back across the Etowah. No definite resolution of this dispute is possible, but most of the available evidence supports Hood's version of the conference. Certainly Johnston was not required to allow the advice of subordinates to overrule his own judgment. The responsibility for abandoning the Cassville position rests on the Southern commander.

References

  1. ^ Civil War Reference
  • National Park Service battle description
  • Battles in Bartow County
  • State of Georgia - Civil War Battlefield Profiles

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