Battle of Jonesboro "The Last Defense of Atlanta" August 31 - September 1, 1864
The Union army had tried for a month to break through the Confederate defenses and capture Atlanta, GA. In desperation, on July 21, 1864, Union Gen. William T. Sherman had resorted to bombarding the city and its population, dropping as many as 5,000 shells a day into the heart of Atlanta. Two weeks later, on the morning of August 26, the bombing stopped. The Confederate defenders found the Union trenches to be deserted, and the city started making plans for a victory celebration.
The Rebels' stubborn defense of the city had frustrated Sherman, and he was excited to think that the bloody weeks of fighting would at last be rewarded. He had secretly removed almost his entire army- six corps containing 60,000 men- from the trenches and set them on a long march around the west of the city. His goal was to seize and destroy a section of the Macon and Western Railroad, severing Atlanta's last lifeline and forcing its surrender.
Having received reports of federal troops west of Atlanta, Confederate commander Gen. John Bell Hood grew concerned for the safety of the railroads. On August 28 Hood sent two brigades to Jonesboro to protect the Macon and Western. When Hood learned two days later that a blue horde was approaching Jonesboro, he sent two whole Confederate corps on an all-night march to confront them. The next afternoon 24,000 exhausted Confederate soldiers fell into battle lines to attack Gen. Oliver O. Howard's 17,000 Union soldiers, who were densely packed behind breastworks that bristled with cannon. The disjointed attacks across open fields commenced at 2:20pm and continued for several hours, with the Rebels being repulsed all along the line. The fighting was over for the day when the Confederates, with losses totaling 1,725 against 170 federal losses, broke off the attack and pulled back to their line.
Fascinating Fact: After the battle, scores of Rebel wounded lay helpless between the lines as skirmish fire passed overhead. Several Confederates rushed out into the field to pull comrades to safety. When the federal skirmishers realized the situation, they held their fire and applauded the missions of mercy.
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