The Battle of Resaca was part of the Atlanta Campaign of the American Civil War. The battle was waged in both Gordon and Whitfield counties, Georgia, from May 13–15, 1864. It ended inconclusively with the Confederate Army retreating. The engagement was fought between the Military Division of the Mississippi (led by Major General William T. Sherman) on the side of the Union and the Army of Tennessee (General Joseph E. Johnston) for the Confederates.
In early May 1864, the Confederate government granted Johnston's request for reinforcements to his camps around Dalton, Georgia. As the brigade of Brigadier General James Cantey started to move through the city on May 7, 1864, cavalry scouts alerted Johnston that a large number of Union troops were moving towards Rome, Georgia, on roads that led through Resaca. During the remainder of May 7 and the day of May 8 Cantey's brigade had time to entrench and set up defenses.
On May 9, the Army of the Tennessee under the command of James B. McPherson moved out of Snake Creek Gap and immediately ran into a Confederate cavalry brigade ordered to scout the area the day before under the command of Colonel Warren Grigsby. After a fierce battle, Brigadier General Thomas W. Sweeny formed a defensive line and drove the Confederates back to Resaca, several miles to the east. Sherman's plan, as written in his memoirs, was to hold the railroad and telegraph lines south of Dalton, so as Johnston would either evacuate his position at Dalton or detach a section of his army to fight Sherman on a ground that had more of an advantage to Sherman. He devoted the Army of the Tennessee for this, while the Army of the Cumberland and the Army of the Ohio, commanded by George H. Thomas and John M. Schofield, respectively, would feign attacks in the Confederates's front. As McPherson's two Corps left the woods, they skirmished with Confederate cavalry for a while until the cavalry was able to withdraw to a line of fortifications on the outer edge of the city, where they were reinforced by the 37th Mississippi, a regiment in James Cantey's brigade.
In the evening, Sherman sent his only cavalry, the 9th Illinois Mounted Infantry, northeast to scout out the best route to the Western & Atlantic Railroad. Meanwhile, skirmishers in Major General Grenville Dodge's XVI Corps moved to attack a line of fortifications along Camp Creek, held by Confederate cavalry, the remainders of Cantey's brigade, two twelve pound Napoleonic era batteries and a fresh brigade under Confederate brigadier general Daniel H. Reynolds, which was the lead of the column of 20,000 men sent out from Atlanta by John Bell Hood.
Johnston had withdrawn his forces from Rocky Face Ridge to the hills around Resaca. On May 13, the Union troops tested the Confederate lines to pinpoint their whereabouts. The next day full scale fighting occurred, and the Union troops were generally repulsed except on the Confederate right flank where Sherman did not fully exploit his advantage. On May 15, the battle continued with no advantage to either side until Sherman sent a force across the Oostanaula River, at Lay's Ferry, using newly delivered Cumberland pontoon bridges and advanced towards Johnston's railroad supply line. Unable to halt this Union turning movement, Johnston was forced to retire, leading to the Battle of Adairsville on May 17.
Unable to halt the Union turning movement caused by Sherman's crossing of the Oostanaula, Johnston was forced to retire, burning the railroad span and a nearby wagon bridge in the early morning of May 16. After the Union repaired the bridges and transported more men over, they continued in the pursuit of the Confederates, leading to the Battle of Adairsville on May 17. There were 6,100 combined casualties: 3,500 for the Union and 2,600 for the Confederacy.
Resaca Battlefield State Historic Site
Today, the battlefield is preserved as the Resaca Battlefield State Historic Site. The visitor center is scheduled to open in 2010.
In popular culture
Ambrose Bierce's short story "Killed at Resaca" focuses on a cohort of men who fight and die bravely at Resaca, and the needless bloodshed of war in general.
- "Ground Is Broken For Site Facilities At Georgia's Resaca Battlefield Park". Civil War News. December 2008. http://www.civilwarnews.com/archive/articles/08/dec/resaca_120807.htm. Retrieved 2009-01-14.
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