George H. Thomas, Major General U.S.A. "The Rock of Chickamauga," - "The Sledge of Nashville."
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The Atlanta Campaign

I. Planning the "Atlanta Campaign."

A. On the 11th of March, Grant assumes command of all U. S, forces. Sherman is named commander of the Military Division of the Mississippi on the 18th of March. This division consisted of the Armies of the Cumberland, the Ohio (23rd Corps) and the Tennessee as well as other minor commands in the Department.

B. Grant, impatient to implement his program of coordinating all Union forces, began his planning almost immediately. On April 4th, Grant wrote to Sherman telling him that his objectives were to "break up Joe Johnston’s Army and get into the interior of the enemies country and inflict damage on all the war resources." Within a month Sherman had convinced himself that the capture of Atlanta was his prime mission.  Grant also told Sherman that he wanted to be ready to start the campaign by the 25th of April.

C. Sherman’s original plans, set out in a letter to Grant on April 10th, in which he reiterates Grants orders to break up Joe Johnston’s Army etc. gave the key role to McPherson and the Army of the Tennessee. By sending him to Rome, Georgia, he hoped to sever Johnston’s line to his supply base at Atlanta. Sherman assumed that Johnston, with the threat of being cutoff would retreat across the Chattahoochee river with McPherson and Thomas chasing him. This is one of the first of many "assumptions" by Sherman that proved to be wrong. Two of the AOT’s Divisions had re-enlisted with the provision that they would be given a furlough and were unavailable at the start of the campaign. This, with the failure of A. J. Smith, working with Banks in Louisiana, to show up with two Divisions at the start of the campaign led Sherman to modify his campaign plans. In April, 1864, he approached Thomas for a new plan.

D. Thomas had one prepared. Earlier in the year (February), he had been ordered to send a force on a raid to Dalton where Johnston and the Army of Tennessee were entrenched after Bragg’s disaster at Missionary Ridge. This raid, ordered by Grant to distract the Confederates attention from Sherman’s Meridian raid allowed Thomas to survey the area around Dalton and Resaca. Most conveniently, it exposed a possible Confederate weakness west of Resaca, at a place called Snake Creek Gap. From this knowledge and that Johnston had not fortified or guarded the Gap, Thomas proposed his plan to attack Johnston using the Gap to Grant in February, but was ignored.

To be continued!

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