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This Day in Georgia History

July 18, 1864

Change of Command, Sherman’s Neckties

Relieved of command of the Confederate Army of Tennessee, General Joseph E. Johnston spent most of the day updating the new commanding general - John Bell Hood - on the location of units defending Atlanta. Johnston then caught an evening train to Macon, leaving Hood alone to plan a new strategy to stop Union Gen. William T. Sherman’s advancing Union Army in the Atlanta Campaign. The replacement of Johnston with Hood was met with disbelief in Confederate ranks, but Union soldiers were excited because they know Hood would follow a much more aggressive game plan than Johnston, whose repeated retreats had led Jefferson Davis to conclude the Johnston had no strategy to stop Sherman. Officers and enlisted men on both sides now knew that fierce fighting with substantial loss of life now was only days away. Gen. Sherman issued orders to his generals for the next day’s plan of action. Beginning at 5 a.m., Thomas would advance on Peachtree Creek, Schofield on Decatur, and McPherson would follow Schofield tearing up railroad and downing telegraph lines. Sherman’s order also included the recipe for what would be known as “Sherman’s Neckties”: McPherson was directed to “keep every man of his command at work in destroying the railroad by tearing up track, burning the ties and iron, and twisting the bars when hot. Officers should be instructed that bars simply bent may be used again, but if when red hot they are twisted out of line they cannot be used again. Pile the ties into shape for a bonfire, put the rails across and when red hot in the middle, let a man at each end twist the bar so that its surface becomes spiral.” By 7 p.m., five miles of Georgia Railroad track had been destroyed, and McPherson’s troops were within four miles of Stone Mountain.

Image of Change of Command, Sherman’s Neckties View large image
Source: George Barnard, Photographic Views of Sherman's Campaign