World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Atlanta in the American Civil War

Article Id: WHEBN0007097646
Reproduction Date:

Title: Atlanta in the American Civil War  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: African Americans in Atlanta, 1996 Summer Olympics, Atlanta Union Station (1871), Atlanta Ripper, Enrico Leide
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Atlanta in the American Civil War

View in Atlanta, Georgia, 1864.

The city of [1]

Early war years

The Atlanta Rolling Mill produced armor plating for ironclads

The city that would become Atlanta began as the endpoint of a railroad (aptly named Terminus) in 1837. While it grew quickly after two railroad lines were completed in 1845, in the years before the Civil War, Atlanta was a relatively small city ranking 99th in the United States in size with a population of 9,554 according to the 1860 United States (U.S.) Census. However, it was the 12th-largest city in what became the Confederate States of America.

The city was a vital transportation and logistics center, with several major railroads in the area, including the Western & Atlantic Railroad, which connected the city with Chattanooga, Tennessee, 138 miles to the north. A series of roads radiated out from the city in all directions, connecting Atlanta with neighboring towns and states.

Thought to be relatively safe from Union forces early in the war, Atlanta rapidly became a concentration point for the Confederate quartermasters and logistics experts; warehouses were filled with food, forage, supplies, ammunition, clothing and other materiel critical to the Confederate armies operating in the Western Theater.

The Atlanta Rolling Mill, established before the war, was significantly expanded and provided a major source for armor plating for Confederate Navy ironclads, including the CSS Virginia. It also refurbished railroad tracks. A large number of machine shops, foundries and other industrial concerns were soon established in Atlanta. The population swelled to nearly 22,000 as workers arrived for these new factories and warehouses.

A number of newspapers flourished in Atlanta during the Civil War. Among the more prominent ones were the Macon during the Union occupation in 1864. It was the only Atlanta paper to survive the war and resume publication after the hostilities.

Atlanta as a target

Confederate sappers constructed a number of Atlanta. The artillery in this fortification overlooks Peachtree Street.
Palisades and chevaux de frise in front of the Ponder House, Atlanta, Georgia, 1864.

Concerned after the Vicksburg Campaign that Atlanta would be a logical target for future Union Army attacks, the Confederate Chief of the Engineer Bureau Jeremy F. Gilmer contacted Atlanta businessman and entrepreneur Lemuel P. Grant and asked him to survey possible enemy crossings of the Chattahoochee River, a broad waterway that offered some protection from a Northern approach. Grant complied, and after a thorough investigation and survey, explained that the fortification of Atlanta would be as difficult as that of Richmond, Virginia, due to the many possible enemy approach routes. Gilmer gave Grant the approval to develop a plan to ring Atlanta with forts and earthworks along the key approaches to the city.

Grant planned a series of 17 redoubts forming a 10-mile (16 km) circle over a mile (1.6 km) out from the center of town. These would be interlinked with a series of earthworks and trenches, along with rows of abatis and other impediments to enemy troops. Construction on the extensive defensive works began in August 1863. They were bounded on the north on high ground (the present location of the Fox Theatre), the west by Ashby Street, the south by McDonough Drive and the east by what is today known as Grant Park. Gilmer inspected the completed work in December 1863 and gave his approval. Because of how the subsequent campaign unfolded, most of these fortifications were never really put to the test.

The fall of Atlanta

Civilians of Atlanta scramble to board the last train to leave under the mandatory evacuation order. Many wagons and belongings had to be abandoned.
The Ponder House in Atlanta housed Confederate sharpshooters until Union artillery made a special target of it.

In 1864 the city, as feared by Gilmer, did indeed become the target of a major Union invasion. The area now covered by metropolitan Atlanta was the scene of several fiercely contested battles, including the Battle of Peachtree Creek, the Battle of Atlanta and the Battle of Ezra Church. On September 1, 1864, Confederate General John Bell Hood evacuated Atlanta, after a five-week siege mounted by Union General William Sherman, and ordered all public buildings and possible Confederate assets destroyed.

General Sherman's mandatory evacuation order led to this photograph of the last train leaving Atlanta. With overloaded cars, it will not have enough room for civilians to bring all of their belongings which can be seen littered beside the tracks beside the wagons they left behind and the 2 chests .

On September 2, Mayor James Calhoun surrendered the city.[2] Sherman sent a telegram to Washington reading, "Atlanta is ours, and fairly won" and he established his headquarters there on September 7, where he stayed for two months. That same day, Sherman ordered the civilian population to evacuate.[3]

Sherman's army destroying rail infrastructure in Atlanta, 1864

After a plea by Father Thomas O'Reilly of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, Sherman did not burn the city's churches or hospitals. However, the remaining war resources were then destroyed in the aftermath and in Sherman's March to the Sea. These included Edward A. Vincent's railroad depot, built in 1853. As General Sherman departed Atlanta at 7:00 a.m. on November 15 with the bulk of his army, he noted his handiwork:


Ruins of Atlanta Union Depot, 1864
Roundhouse following extensive damage, 1866.

The fall of Atlanta was especially noteworthy for its political ramifications. The capture and fall of Atlanta were extensively covered by Northern newspapers, and significantly boosted Northern morale. Lincoln was re-elected easily.

Federal soldiers continued to occupy Atlanta for the rest of the war, with the Confederacy's dwindling resources and military strength, the Confederate army was never in a position to retake the city. Periodic cavalry raids continued on Union supply lines in the general vicinity for some time.

Following the war Federal troops remained in Atlanta to help enforce the provisions of Reconstruction.


  1. ^ Pollock, Daniel A. (May 30, 2014). "The Battle of Atlanta: History and Remembrance". Southern Spaces. Retrieved July 28, 2014. 
  2. ^ Upper Marietta Street Artery website
  3. ^ Correspondence Pertaining to Sherman's Evacuation of Atlanta reproduced at

Further reading

External links

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.