A Visit to Allatoona Pass Battlefield, October 2018

James N.

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The Battle of Allatoona Pass, fought October 5, 1864 in a Louis Prang Chromolithograph based on a postwar painting by Swedish artist Thure de Thulstrup.

There have been several previous threads on the Battle of Allatoona so I will confine this to the brief description from the brochure on the battlefield published by the Cartersville-Bartow County, GA Convention & Visitors Bureau, quotes from which will appear in italics.

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Atlanta had fallen. The Confederacy was desperate to stop Sherman and lure Union forces away from Atlanta. CSA General John B. Hood drove north attacking the railroad, Sherman's line of supplies and communication. The first stage of Hood's plan was an attack on one of the most strategic locations along the Western & Atlantic Railroad, a man-made cut through the Allatoona Pass. Above, map of the area of the pass and its approaches.

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The Pass was approximately 360 feet long and 175 feet deep. Built in the 1840's, it was the deepest rail cut along the W&A between Atlanta and Chattanooga. Above, the pass in a postwar photo by George Barnard; below, the pass as it appears today. Note in Barnard's photograph the Star Fort crowning the hill on the left and the Eastern Redoubt across the Pass to the right.

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Today, the rails have been removed but a trail through the pass remains where they had been.

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The Eastern Redoubt
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Union General William T. Sherman greatly admired the strategic value of the Pass, which had been fortified with a system of earthen forts and trenches... The Confederate assault on the forts at Allatoona would be the first major battle in what proved to be Hood's disastrous Nashville Campaign. Below, trails lead from the low-lying Pass to the forts crowning both sides of the gap, here the Eastern Redoubt.

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Above and below, the Eastern Redoubt was weaker than the Star Fort on the west but received relatively little attention from Confederates when the attack came. At the time of the battle the hillsides had been clear-cut as a source of building materials and fuel for the garrison and to provide a clear field of fire for the defense.

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These Federal Trenches connected the Eastern Redoubt with an observation point and signal station called the Crow's Nest and the deep ravine of Allatoona Pass.

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The map above shows the dispositions of Confederate forces (red) in attack and Union ones (blue) in defense.

Allatoona Pass
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Above, looking north toward the direction from which the Confederate attack came; below a stair leads to another trail going to the Star Fort guarding the western side of the Pass.

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The Battle of Allatoona Pass, fought on October 5, 1864, is rich both in myth and legend and is one of the most dramatic and tragic episodes of the Civil War. It was the inspiration for the familiar hymn by Evangelist Peter Bliss, "Hold the Fort," and is remembered for the summons to surrender message by Confederate General Samuel G. French, "in order to avoid a useless effusion of blood." Twice the previous day Tourtellotte [commander at the Pass before Corse arrived with reinforcements] had received telegraph messages from Sherman at Kennesaw to "... Hold out," and "... We are coming."

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Above, left to right, Union Brig. Gen. John M. Corse, defender of the Pass and its fortifications who was wounded in the face during the battle; Confederate commander Maj. Gen. Samuel Gibbs French; and Colonel Francis M. Cockrell commanding the Missouri Brigade of French's Division.

Rowlett's Redoubt and Star Fort
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Above, Confederates storm Rowlett's Redoubt at Allatoona in a painting by Don Troiani.

Brigadier General John Corse was instructed to move his division from Rome to back up the garrison of 976 men under the command of Lt. Colonel John E. Tourtellotte at Allatoona. Corse and his troops reached Allatoona at 1:00 a.m. on October 5th. He assumed command of better than 2,000 men but expected more. At 3:00 in the morning, October 5th, CSA General Samuel French arrived at Allatoona with his division of 3,276 men. his orders were to take the forts and fill the pass with debris, burn the Etowah River bridge 5 miles away, then rejoin Hood the next day...

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Within a few hours the "needless effusion of blood" began. The Confederate offensive came from the north and west, forcing a main contingent of Union troops inside the Star Fort, but at a terrible price. French's forces made four assaults on the western fort, coming within 100 yards of taking it each time. The marker above describes the action inside the outlying Rowlett's Redoubt depicted in Troiani's painting; this was the only success achieved against the Federal works that day.

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Within the Star Fort things were for a time looking desperate, but the defenders, some of whom were armed with deadly Henry repeating rifles, kept the attacking Confederates at bay despite the wounding of Corse. French received a message around non leading him to believe Sherman was sending reinforcements to Allatoona. With no hope of reinforcements for his own weary troops, French gave his orders to withdraw. French's retreat brought the battle to a close; from this failure to disrupt Sherman's line of communications and supply came Hood's fateful decision to abandon the effort and move his army first west into Alabama and then north into Tennessee toward the debacles awaiting him at Franklin and Nashville.

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After the Battle
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Above, another George Barnard photograph, looking south towards the direction help from Sherman would eventually come; the white Clayton House at right center still stands and is a private home, below. The area to the left of the W&ARR embankment is now completely covered by the waters of Allatoona Lake which "drowned" the site of the small town.

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The Battle of Allatoona Pass was one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. Of the 5,301 men engaged in the battle (2,025 Union & 3,276 Confederates), 1,603 were reported killed, wounded, or missing. This 30% casualty rate was one of the highest in the war for the time engaged.

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Above and below, this gravestone bears the inscription, "In this area are buried twenty-one unknown Confederate soldiers killed in battle Oct. 5, 1864." Most are thought to be buried behind the house which served as a field hospital during the battle and still bears blood stains and bullet holes.

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Below, another unknown soldier, originally buried within the pass but moved to the new site nearby when Allatoona Dam was constructed. "He died for the cause he thought was right." Best guess from the location in which he was found is that this is the body of one of the attacking Mississippians from Sears' Brigade.

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James N.

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#6
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Today a memorial site on the battlefield is dedicated to the Union and Confederate forces that fought at Allatoona. It occurred to me I'd neglected to post these photos of the area at the beginning of the walking tour trail where the State memorials are all placed; these are the only monuments on the battlefield other than the informational markers. State monuments include from left to right: Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Texas, Missouri, Alabama, North Carolina, Mississippi, and Louisiana; below, a closer look at the Texas Monument.

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