Battle of Resaca, 13-15 May 1864

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The first serious fighting during General Sherman’s advance towards Atlanta in 1864 (American Civil War). Sherman had left Chattanooga with three armies numbering around 100,000 men. His Confederate opponent, General Joseph Johnston, had been reinforced up to 65,000 men. He had the Confederacy’s second strongest army, and was determined not to waste it.

The campaign between Chattanooga and Atlanta was marked by both men's unwillingness to risk unnecessary fighting. Johnston was willing to trade space for time, waiting for the right moment to strike, while Sherman simply did not like battle, and would rather win the campaign through clever manoeuvring.

Johnston had been forced out of his first position on Rocky Face Ridge when Sherman sent one of his armies, under General McPherson, on a wide flanking attack on Johnston's left. On 9 May McPherson marched through Snake Creek Gap and had a chance to cut Johnston off by capturing Resaca. However, he was put off by fairly weak Confederate defences, and Johnston was able to pull his entire army back to the Resaca position.

Three days of fighting followed. On 13 May Sherman launched a series of probing attacks, in order to discover the extent and nature of the Confederate position, which was itself being developed on that day. On the following two days the fighting was constant. Sherman launched attacks along the entire Confederate front, while Johnston launched one counter-attack of his own on the Federal left.

Sherman then repeated the manoeuvre that had forced Johnston back from Rocky Face Ridge. Part of McPherson’s army was sent south, crossing the Oostenaula River, and threatening Johnston’s lines of communication. Once again Johnston was forced to pull back, this time to Cassville, twenty five miles further south. Loses were about equal, at around 2,800 on each side, relatively light for three days of fighting. Johnston had survived to continue his delaying action.

 Memoirs, William T. Sherman. One of the classic military auto-biographies, this is a very readable account of Sherman's involvement in the American Civil War, supported by a large number of documents. A valuable, generally impartial work that is of great value to anyone interested in Sherman's role in the war. cover cover

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (27 August 2000), Battle of Resaca, 13-15 May 1864 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_resaca.html

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