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Civil War Series

The Campaign for Atlanta

   

BATTLE OF EZRA CHURCH

For the next four days both armies eyed each other like weary and wary wrestlers. During them Sherman placed Howard in command of the Army of the Tennessee, an act that so disgusted Hooker, who believed he was entitled to the post and who with good cause blamed Howard for his defeat at Chancellorsville, that he resigned as head of the XX Corps, which as a result came under the temporary command of Williams. Likewise, several command changes took place on the Confederate side, with the most important being the replacement of Cheatham as head of Hood's former corps by Lieutenant General Stephen D. Lee, a thirty-year-old West Pointer who had been placed in charge of Mississippi and Alabama when Polk went to Georgia.

BATTLE SCENE FROM EZRA CHURCH. (BL)

Early on the morning of July 27 Howard and the Army of the Tennessee began the movement that Sherman had planned to make before the July 22 battle—a swing around to the west side of Atlanta for the purpose of cutting the Macon railroad, Hood's sole remaining supply line. Although Sherman attempted to conceal the maneuver, Hood quickly discerned both it and its purpose. His reaction was to send, on the morning of July 28, Lee with two divisions of his corps (Brown's and Major General Henry D. Clayton's) out on the Lick Skillet road west of Atlanta with instructions to block Howard's southward advance while Stewart's Corps circled around by way of that road to attack Howard from the rear the following morning. In brief, Hood again sought to ambush and crush a major portion of Sherman's army, with the Army of the Tennessee once more his target.

UNION SOLDIERS FROM LOGAN'S CORPS FIRE ON THE ADVANCING CONFEDERATES AT EZRA CHURCH. (FROM SOLDIER IN THE CIVIL WAR)

Again he failed. Instead of taking up a defensive position covering the Lick Skillet road, the impulsive and overaggressive Lee thought he saw an opportunity to hit Howard before his troops could entrench and so attacked near a small Methodist chapel called Ezra Church. Unfortunately for Lee—or rather for his soldiers—Howard, who equaled McPherson in prudence, had anticipated the Rebel onslaught despite assurances from Sherman that there was no danger of such and therefore had ordered his lead corps, the XV, to halt and fortify, which it did. What ensued was more a massacre than a battle. Logan's veterans mowed down the oncoming Confederates by the hundreds, stopping their assault cold. Not content with slaughtering his own troops, Lee thereupon asked Stewart, who had arrived on the scene with his corps, to throw Walthall's Division into the fray. Stewart did so and Walthall's men suffered the same fate as those of Lee's Corps. When the firing ceased, nearly 3,000 Confederates had been killed or wounded as opposed to one-fifth that number of Federals.

"How many men have you left?" a Union soldier called over to the "Rebs."

"Oh, enough for another killing or two," came the reply.

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