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Battle of Resaca, GA
in the American Civil War

Union Battle Summary

Resaca, Ga. May 8-15, 1864. Armies of the Cumberland, Tennessee and Ohio. Resaca is located at the point where the Western & Atlantic railroad crosses the Oostanaula river and is about 15 miles south of Dalton. It is on the west side of a peninsula formed by a bend in the Oostanaula and the Connesauga river, and across this peninsula the Confederates had constructed a line of rifle-pits with strong earthworks near the town. The movement against this place was commenced on the 8th by McPherson's demonstration via Snake Creek gap. (See Rocky Face Ridge.) On the 11th and 12th Sherman moved the main body of his army west of Rocky Face ridge through Snake Creek gap and on Friday, the 13th, a general advance was ordered. McPherson occupied the right, his line extending from Oostanaula to the Sugar Valley road; Hooker's corps moved forward on that road preceded by Kilpatrick's cavalry; Palmer's corps took a position on Hooker's left with orders to proceed in a course parallel to the road as far as the railroad, and Schofield, with the Army of the Ohio, formed the left. Howard's corps and McCook's cavalry had been left to keep up the demonstration against Dalton and Rocky Face ridge. At Smith's cross-roads, about 2 miles from Resaca, Kilpatrick encountered a considerable force of the enemy's cavalry and a sharp skirmish ensued, in while Kilpatrick was severely wounded, the command of the division devolving on Col. E.H. Murray. On reaching the neighborhood of the railroad Palmer's skirmishers encountered those of the enemy and kept up a sharp skirmish until dark.

Johnston learned on the 12th of Sherman's movement and that night withdrew all his troops from the vicinity of Dalton toward Resaca. Although Sherman had a whole day's start Johnston's shorter line of march enabled him to reach Resaca with his entire force before the Federal lines could be drawn around the town. As the Confederates retreated from Dalton they were pursued along the railroad by Howard, who succeeded in capturing a number of prisoners. During the night of the 12th the enemy strengthened his works and the morning of the 14th found him in position with Hardee on the right, Hood in the center and Polk on the left. About noon Schofield and Palmer advanced against the hills bordering on the railroad, but met with a stubborn resistance. Cox's division on the left carried and held the intrenchments in its front. Judah's division was compelled to advance over uneven ground and being subjected to an enfilading fire from the right was compelled to fall back with considerable loss. Palmer endeavored to drive the enemy from an elevated position in his front. In order to do this he had to descend a hill within point-blank range of several Confederate batteries, ford Camp creek, the banks of which were thickly bordered with bushes and vines, and then ascend the uneven surface of the opposite hill in the face of a murderous fire of both artillery and infantry. The troops charged down the hill and crossed the creek, where they became entangled in the dense mass of shrubbery, lost their formation and were in the end repulsed with heavy loss. The enemy now attempted to turn Schofield's left, but Thomas sent Newton's division, which had just arrived from Dalton, to Cox's support. The other divisions of Howard's corps took position on the left of Schofield as fast as they came upon the field and the Confederates in front of this portion of the line were finally forced to retire within their works.

That night the Union lines were so readjusted that at daylight on the 15th Palmer's corps joined McPherson's left, then came Schofield, Howard and Hooker in the order named, with McCook's cavalry on the extreme left. Sweeny's division of the 16th corps was ordered to cross the Oostanaula at Lay's ferry on a pontoon bridge and threaten Calhoun. Garrard was instructed to move with his cavalry division from Villanow toward Rome, cross the Oostanaula at some convenient point and break the railroad between Calhoun and Kingston. About 11 a.m. on the 15th Hooker attacked and carried some hills occupied by the enemy on the eastern road from Resaca to Tilton, drove the Confederates back about a mile and a half, captured a 4-gun battery and about 200 prisoners. McPherson crossed Camp creek near its mouth and secured a position where his artillery commanded the railroad bridge. About 3 p.m. Hood made a determined effort to recover the guns taken by Hooker, but was repulsed. Hood was again ordered to advance, but the order was countermanded when Johnston learned that the Federals had crossed the Oostanaula in his rear, and that night the whole Confederate army retreated toward Calhoun.

Source: The Union Army, Volume 6, Cyclopedia of Battles, 1908


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