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This Day in Georgia Civil War History

July 14, 1864

Sherman Issued Order Detailing his Strategy for Taking Atlanta

Union General William T. Sherman issued Special Field Order No. 35 to his officers - outlining his strategy to capture Atlanta in some detail. It was clear he did not expect a Confederate attack on his forces.

HDQRS. MIL. DIV. OF THE MISS., In the Field, near Chattahoochee River, July 14, 1864 Preliminary steps having already begun, the following general plan will be observed and adhered to: 1. Major-General Thomas will prepare to cross his army at Powers’ and Pace’s Ferries, and take position out from the Chattahoochee River, until he controls the country from [Long] Island Creek to Kyle’s Bridge, over Nancy’s Creek, but will not move the whole of General Palmer’s and General Hooker’s corps across until he hears that General Stoneman is back from his present expedition. He will endeavor to provide General Stoneman enough pontoon boats, balks, and chesses to make one bridge. He will dispose General McCook’s cavalry and detachments of his own infantry to watch the Chattahoochee about the old railroad crossing. 2. As soon as General Stoneman returns he will dispose his cavalry to watch the Chattahoochee at Turner’s Ferry and about the mouth of Nickajack, connecting by patrols with General McCook, and will, if possible, procure enough pontoons to make a bridge ready on the first chance to cross the river about Howell’s or Sandtown, and break the Atlanta and West Point railroad and telegraph. 3. Major-General Schofield after having well secured his crossing-place at Phillips’ [Soap Creek], will move out toward Cross Keys until he controls the ridge between Island and Nancy’s Creeks and the road represented as leading from Roswell to Buck Head. 4. Major-General Blair will immediately, on the return of Major-General Stoneman, move rapidly to Roswell and join his army. Major-General McPherson will then move his command out, either by the Cross Keys road on the old Hightower trail, until he is abreast of Major-General Schofield, and General Garrard, with his cavalry, will scout from McAfee’s Bridge toward Pinckneyville, and if no enemy is there in force will picket McAfee’s Bridge and take post on General McPherson’s left, about Buchanan’s. 5. The whole army will thus form a concave line behind Nancy’s Creek, extending from Kyle’s Bridge to Buchanan’s, but no attempt will be made to form a line of battle. Each army will form a unit and connect with its neighbor by a line of pickets. Should the enemy assume the offensive at any point, which is not expected until we reach below Peach Tree Creek, the neighboring army will at once assist the one attacked. All preliminary steps may at once be made, but no corps need move to any great distance from the river until advised that General Stoneman is back. 6. Major-General Thomas will study well the country toward Decatur via Buck Head, Major-General Schofield to a point of the railroad four miles northeast of Decatur, and Major-General McPherson and General Garrard that toward Stone Mountain. Each army should leave behind the Chattahoochee River, at its bridge or at Marietta, all wagons or incumbrances not absolutely needed for battle. A week’s work after crossing the Chattahoochee should determine the first object aimed at, viz the possession of the Atlanta and Augusta [rail] road east of Decatur, or of Atlanta itself. By order of Maj. Gen. W. T. Sherman: L. M. Dayton, Aide-de-Camp. Source: U.S. War Department, The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1880-1901), Vol. 38, Part 5, pp. 142-143.