The Atlanta campaign was one of the most important of the American Civil War. The Confederates had won a rare victory in the west at Chickamauga in September 1863, but U.S. Grant had lifted their siege of Chattanooga before being appointed as commander of all Union armies and heading east. Sherman ended up inheriting the army at Chattanooga, while on the Confederate side Joseph J. Johnston ended up in command. At the end of April 1864 Sherman's troops began to probe the Confederate positions, at the start of a campaign that would last for just over four months, before Union troops finally entered Atlanta on 2 September. This was the first part of Sherman's 'march to the sea', his devastating march across the heart of the Confederacy, and a key element in Lincoln's re-election campaign, providing a significant military victory at a time when Grant was bogged down in Virginia.
The text is supported by some well chosen maps. The first one covers both the initial steps in the campaign, and the entire area between Chattanooga and Atlanta. This is followed by a series of maps that cover the main stages of the campaign. This help give a clearer picture of the fluid nature of Sherman's movements during this campaign (these also contrast starkly with his one frontal assault, which proved to be a costly failure.
One minor flaw is that the relatively short length of the book gives a speedy feel to the campaign - once Sherman begins to move each series of battles inevitably pass at quite a pace, so we don't get the same impressive of a slow difficult campaign as emerges from longer books. Other than that the text is excellent, covering both sides equally, and with sections on the arguments within the Confederate high command. The individual battles are handled well (if briefly), and placed within the context of the main stages of the campaign.
There is a brief section on the immediate aftermath of the fall of Atlanta - Sherman's decision to expel the population (and the arrangements made with the Confederates to receive the inhabitants), Hood's attempt to raid Sherman's supply lines and Sherman's decision to march to the sea.
The Battlefield Today
Author: James Donnell