How could the CSA have won the Atlanta Campaign?

Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

Luke Freet

Corporal
Joined
Nov 8, 2018
Messages
427
yeah, that's always a great idea :banghead:
Keep in mind, the northern press was raving mad about the "siege" going on at Petersburg. If Hardee could have held his fortifications against Sherman and lock him in a stalemate, I imagine the Peace Platform would have won, if only by a slim margin.
 

Tin cup

Captain
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
5,947
Location
Texas
With Braxton Bragg in a position of influence, they could never have one.
In Chastel's book, when Bragg was sent down to figure out who to replace Johnston, he chose Hood, more so because he despised Hardee for slights against him back when Bragg was in command. Hardee by and far had the better track record, even in that campaign, and had nearly 2 years of seniority over Hood. I doubt he would have single handedly wipe out Sherman's Mega-army and invade Tennessee, but I do not doubt he would hold Atlanta to the last drop if ordered.
Hardee just never turned out to be be all THAT "reliable" in the end.

Kevin Dally
 

JeffBrooks

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 20, 2009
Messages
2,149
Location
Manor, TX
I'm surprised that there hasn't been more discussion about Cassville in this thread. In my opinion, it was one of the great tactical "missed opportunities" of the war. Johnston succeeded in concentrating two-thirds of his army against one-third of Shermans, having achieved both a numerical advantage and a perfect position from which to launch a crushing flank attack.

If Johnston had achieved a victory at Cassville, we can assume that Sherman would have been heavily damaged and probably fallen back a bit to regroup. In either case, the advance would have been considerably delayed. Johnston would have gained renewed confidence in his own abilities and those of his men, while Union morale would have suffered.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

Greywolf

Sergeant
Joined
Jun 17, 2017
Messages
802
If I remember correctly didn't Hood get a report of the enemy in his rear and flank. I believe it was cavalry not infantry, and may have been mistakenly identified. Hood reported this back to Johnston and then it was called off. If so, another AoT what if.

Also ar Cassville from memory, Johnston picked out the position and thought it was a good one but Polk and Hood convinced him the position was not tenable, hence the withdrawal.

Not sure at all you can pin all the missed opportunities on Johnston. As in many of the western battles the commanders subordinates left much to be desired.
 

Luke Freet

Corporal
Joined
Nov 8, 2018
Messages
427
If I remember correctly didn't Hood get a report of the enemy in his rear and flank. I believe it was cavalry not infantry, and may have been mistakenly identified. Hood reported this back to Johnston and then it was called off. If so, another AoT what if.

Also are Cassville from memory, Johnston picked out the position and thought it was a good one but Polk and Hood convinced him the position was not tenable, hence the withdrawal.

Not sure at all you can pin all the missed opportunities on Johnston. As in many of the western battles the commanders subordinates left much to be desired.
Just to clarify:
Johnston chose Cassville because of the road network, and his hope was that Hood would crush the isolated Union column (I believe it was composed of Howard's IV Corps and Schofield's XXIII Corps) in a surprise assault. Sadly, Hood was uncharacteristically overcautious and called off the entire assault, rather than detach a brigade to scout the reported movement by the Union Cavalry.
The field was not picked out for it's defensive features. That only became and issue after Hood failed to keep up the offensive nature of the plan and turned it into another defense. That is why they confederates were on such bad ground day 2: It wasn't meant to be a defensive operation there.
 

OldReliable1862

Sergeant
Forum Host
Joined
Jul 2, 2017
Messages
739
Location
Georgia
I mean, if he held Sherman at Rocky Face Ridge, he wins by default, because Sherman does nothing while Grant suffers in Virginia, losing the election for Lincoln.
If Sherman took a route through Alabama or tried to pull a Hannibal through the Carolinas, where supplies are limited, he would suffer severely, even before he meets JEJ again.
If Sherman decides to attack RFR head on, he will make Kennesaw look like a skirmish in terms of casualties.
If JEJ can keep Sherman in front of RFR (not impossible, but probably not likely either), strike him a blow, and force him back to Chattanooga, he might be willing to send Cleburne's division to Early as you suggest.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

Nytram01

First Sergeant
Joined
Sep 13, 2007
Messages
1,072
Location
Portsmouth, Hampshire, England
...Also ar Cassville from memory, Johnston picked out the position and thought it was a good one but Polk and Hood convinced him the position was not tenable, hence the withdrawal...
...The field was not picked out for it's defensive features. That only became and issue after Hood failed to keep up the offensive nature of the plan and turned it into another defense. That is why they confederates were on such bad ground day 2: It wasn't meant to be a defensive operation there.
On this matter, after Hood failed to press the attack and the chance to strike the Army of the Ohio isolated was lost, Johnston withdrew the Army of Tennessee South East of Cassville to a ridge which his engineers had identified as a strong defensive position. Johnston later referred to this position as "the best I saw occupied during the war", and a staff officer in Stewart's division agreed, calling it "the strongest position I ever saw..." though these were, pehaps views distorted by hindsights post-war.

Regardless, Johnston was resolved to stand and fight on that position, however Hood and Polk were not happy with it and felt they would be exposing their men to the artillery of the Federal for which they had no answer. They combined forces in the night to convinced Johnston that the position could not be held, and held their ground despite Johnston's objections to their views and attempts to convince them otherwise during a two hour long debate.

According to Samuel French, who was present, Johnston was determined to fight at this position but was worn down by Hood's obstinate insistance that the position could not held and Polk's support of Hood, and Johnston felt he could not defend the positon with two of his Corps Commander so vehemently opposed to doing so for fear that their lack of confidence would communicate down to their troops and become a self-fulfilling prophecy of doom.

Hardee felt the position strong enough to hold and protested the decision to withdraw but it was, at that point, no use and the decision to evacuate the line was upheld, thus ensuring Cassville both cemented Johnston's reputation for being....an unfortunate general and ensuring it's place as probably his biggest lost opportunity as an Army Commander.

As an asside, Napoleon was credited as having once said "I rather have lucky generals than good ones", and whether you think Joe Johnston a good general or not there can be no doubt that he was an unlucky one.
 

trice

Lt. Colonel
Joined
May 2, 2006
Messages
11,752
Start by a serious application of Forrest's and Wheeler's cavalry to cut off Sherman's supply lines and to harass Sherman's flanks and rear.
While I agree with the concept, reality intruded on the Confederates here. That "serious application of Forrest's and Wheeler's cavalry" is pretty difficult to pull off without major changes in Confederate command and strategy.

As far as Sherman's supply lines go, Sherman had:
  1. three lines from the North to Nashville (the RR from Louisville, the Tennessee & Cumberland Rivers route, and the Tennessee River route to the depot at Johnsonville and the RR to Nashville)
  2. two lines from Nashville to Chattanooga (one RR through Frankin and one RR through Murfreesboro)
  3. one line forward from Chattanooga to Atlanta.
  4. Sherman had invested great effort in preparing and guarding these routes (laying an additional 60 miles of track to Johnsonville, forward depots to ease supply during breaks, blockhouses and bridge guards along the route, reaction forces to pursue raiders, etc.)
As far as Forrest goes:
  1. Forrest was based in Mississippi, far away from these lines
  2. Sherman sent waves of troops to keep Forrest down in Mississippi, far away from his supply line, over a period of months (April-July)
  3. While Forrest was generally successful during that period (Paducah raid/Ft. Pillow, Brice's Crossroads, Tupelo, 2nd Memphis), but Sherman was more than satisfied to keep Forrest busy off in Mississippi until Atlanta fell.
  4. If Forrest does come east to Middle Tennessee in those days, 10-20,000 Union troops would have been available to move with him. A. J. Smith's Corps was supposed to be in Middle Tennessee for the start of the Atlanta Campaign in May, but was diverted to deal with Forrest after Sturgis failed at Brice's Crossroads. That is probably 12-15,000 veteran troops added to Sherman's force in Middle Tennessee if A. J. Smith is where he is supposed to be.
As far as Wheeler goes:
  1. Wheeler was a brave soldier but a poor independent commander. Any force he commands tends to dwindle and be ineffective if it is more than a day's ride from a higher HQ. He is a very bad choice for command of a deep-penetration raid of this type.
  2. When Wheeler is sent on this mission, his force gets split up (one part retreats into North Carolina, the other ends up in Alabama) and broken down. They manage to break Sherman's RR on the Murfreesboro side for a few hours during a month-long raid and cross the Tennessee River to safety in horrible condition.
  3. By comparison, Forrest's raid on Johnsonville totally destroys the depot and docks there while capturing/destroying some Union gunboats and riverboats. He follows that by a raid on the RR through Franklin that inflicts so much damage that Sherman's engineer estimates it will take six weeks to fully repair. The take-away: Forrest destroys supply lines, most cavalry raids don't, because Forrest gets his men down off their horses to do the hard work of destruction while fighting the reaction forces to give them time to do it. (He also tends to take blockhouses by putting rounds from 3" rifles through them, encouraging the Yankees to surrender.
As far as Johnston goes:
  1. Joe Johnston was a brave man and a very capable soldier, unflappable in a crisis -- but he was not a man with a record of actually acting decisively to take and hold the initiative.
  2. He was not a detailed planner. Time after time, his operation plan was to see what the Yankees did and react to it. At the start of the Atlanta Campaign, he knows very little about what is going on over near Snake Creek Gap and has no detailed plan for defending beyond hoping that Sherman will hit Rocky Face head-on (which, admittedly, would have been great if Sherman did it).
  3. Johnston wanted Sherman's supply line hit -- but he didn't want to use his cavalry to do it. Here, as in so many times and places, he wanted other commanders to send their troops to do the work.
  4. Johnston relied on Wheeler to inform him about anything out to the West. Johnston didn't get served well by Wheeler and Johnston didn't exert his presence to make Wheeler do what he should have done: thus Snake Creek Gap.
I certainly agree that pressure on Sherman's LOC is a good idea, although not so easy to do. It probably requires a good deal of cavalry (Forrest and a few thousand of Wheeler's under a good independent commander, maybe Red Jackson) and it probably requires a small all-arms force (7-10,000 infantry with some guns to back up the cavalry). That needs a good, aggressive independent commander: Forrest would be great, not sure if he was recognized enough to get it; Dick Taylor was still west of the Mississippi.
 

OldReliable1862

Sergeant
Forum Host
Joined
Jul 2, 2017
Messages
739
Location
Georgia
Here's an idea I've had for a while: let's say Hood dies of his Chickamauga wounds - the surgeon himslef sent Hood's leg along with the ambulance, assuming they were to be buried together. Leg amputations were quite risky, and it speaks to the skill of the surgeon and Hood's consitution that he managed to live.

Regarding who Johnston will choose for the vacant corps command, the obvious choice (to us, anyway) is Cleburne. He and his division stalled Sherman's attack on Missionary Ridge, and arguably helped save the Army of Tennessee. However, the matter of his proposal complicates matter. Cleburne would have had to keep the proposal private, which may be the case as things have started diverging from September of 63.

This won't change Snake Creek Gap, but it could make for a very different Cassville. It's difficult to see Cleburne flinching at the sight of a Union cavalry force. I will admit however, that it is difficult to harmonize Cleburne the aggressive division commander with Cleburne the middling acting corps commander.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

Luke Freet

Corporal
Joined
Nov 8, 2018
Messages
427
Here's an idea I've had for a while: let's say Hood dies of his Chickamauga wounds - the surgeon himslef sent Hood's leg along with the ambulance, assuming they were to be buried together. Leg amputations were quite risky, and it speaks to the skill of the surgeon and Hood's consitution that he managed to live.

Regarding who Johnston will choose for the vacant corps command, the obvious choice (to us, anyway) is Cleburne. He and his division stalled Sherman's attack on Missionary Ridge, and arguably helped save the Army of Tennessee. However, the matter of his proposal complicates matter. Cleburne would have had to keep the proposal private, which may be the case as things have started diverging from September of 63.

This won't change Snake Creek Gap, but it could make for a very different Cassville. It's difficult to see Cleburne flinching at the sight of a Union cavalry force. I will admit however, that it is difficult to harmonize Cleburne the aggressive division commander with Cleburne the middling acting corps commander.
Honestly, despite his skill, I think its more likely Cheatham would get the vacant post. He is Cleburne's senior as a Major General even before Cleburne was made Brigadier (March 10th 1862 for Cheatham; Cleburne December 13th). While his record is middling, his seniority and his tenure as a division commander is much greater than Cleburne's.
Admittantly, there is the case of A. P. Stewart, who was promoted to command Polk's Corps, more for merit than seniority (for his actions at Chickamauga and New Hope Church in particular). Stewart was also Cleburne's junior. Using Stewart as a comparative figure, the case for Cleburne's promotion is strong.
However, still issues abound:
1.) As you mentioned, Cleburne's slave-soldier proposal muddied his reputation
2.) He was not West Point trained. West Pointers were favored for promotion to Lt. General. Forrest was still a Major General at this time. I think Richard Taylor was also still a Major General at the time of Red River. Stewart, on the other hand, was a West Point alumni.
3.) His foreign origin. The only Lt. General up to that point from outside the CSA was John Pemberton. This had more to do with the fact he had connections with Davis and other generals, as well as his West Point and Army credentials. And he was from Pennsylvania. As much as I see Cleburne as the best choice, as with promoting, say, John Gordon, it's just not the most practical or logical for the people of the time to do.
 

OldReliable1862

Sergeant
Forum Host
Joined
Jul 2, 2017
Messages
739
Location
Georgia
Honestly, despite his skill, I think its more likely Cheatham would get the vacant post. He is Cleburne's senior as a Major General even before Cleburne was made Brigadier (March 10th 1862 for Cheatham; Cleburne December 13th). While his record is middling, his seniority and his tenure as a division commander is much greater than Cleburne's.
Admittantly, there is the case of A. P. Stewart, who was promoted to command Polk's Corps, more for merit than seniority (for his actions at Chickamauga and New Hope Church in particular). Stewart was also Cleburne's junior. Using Stewart as a comparative figure, the case for Cleburne's promotion is strong.
However, still issues abound:
1.) As you mentioned, Cleburne's slave-soldier proposal muddied his reputation
2.) He was not West Point trained. West Pointers were favored for promotion to Lt. General. Forrest was still a Major General at this time. I think Richard Taylor was also still a Major General at the time of Red River. Stewart, on the other hand, was a West Point alumni.
3.) His foreign origin. The only Lt. General up to that point from outside the CSA was John Pemberton. This had more to do with the fact he had connections with Davis and other generals, as well as his West Point and Army credentials. And he was from Pennsylvania. As much as I see Cleburne as the best choice, as with promoting, say, John Gordon, it's just not the most practical or logical for the people of the time to do.
You make several very good points, Cheatham probably would be a more realistic choice. Cheatham tended to be an aggressive commander, so I'd expect him to attack at Cassville. Unfortunately, Maney was not his predecessor's equal as a division commander.
 

OldReliable1862

Sergeant
Forum Host
Joined
Jul 2, 2017
Messages
739
Location
Georgia
You make several very good points, Cheatham probably would be a more realistic choice. Cheatham tended to be an aggressive commander, so I'd expect him to attack at Cassville. Unfortunately, Maney was not his predecessor's equal as a division commander.
Should Sherman receive a setback at Cassville, I expect him to fall back behind the Oostanaula-Conasauga. Where Johnston could try to outflank him I'm not sure.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

OldReliable1862

Sergeant
Forum Host
Joined
Jul 2, 2017
Messages
739
Location
Georgia
If Johnston is stymied at Snake Creek Gap, could Sherman move his army into Alabama, take Rome, and try to cut the W&A RR that way?
 

gentlemanrob

Brigadier General
Moderator
Forum Host
Joined
Apr 11, 2016
Messages
1,037
Location
NE Georgia
I have always believed by putting Hood in command was a bad mistake. I think to beat someone like Sherman it would have took someone like Forrest to beat him. I think Forrest would have been a great commander for the Confederacy during the Atlanta Campaign. removing General Johnston wasn't the best idea either.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

JeffBrooks

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 20, 2009
Messages
2,149
Location
Manor, TX
I have always believed by putting Hood in command was a bad mistake. I think to beat someone like Sherman it would have took someone like Forrest to beat him. I think Forrest would have been a great commander for the Confederacy during the Atlanta Campaign. removing General Johnston wasn't the best idea either.
This was never going to happen, as there were probably a dozen different generals in the Army of Tennessee who outranked Forrest. Besides, while Forrest was an outstanding commander of an medium-sized independent cavalry force, he would have been terrible as the commander of a force the size of the Army of Tennessee.
 

Luke Freet

Corporal
Joined
Nov 8, 2018
Messages
427
I have always believed by putting Hood in command was a bad mistake. I think to beat someone like Sherman it would have took someone like Forrest to beat him. I think Forrest would have been a great commander for the Confederacy during the Atlanta Campaign. removing General Johnston wasn't the best idea either.
Considering Johnston's track record during the Vicksburg campaign and his seeming willingness to abandon Atlanta if it meant saving the army, his removal was inevitable. Davis despised Johnston; he only put him in command because there was no better option.
If he were to be replaced, I'd say the best choice would be Hardee. I doubt he'd do anything stupid like Hood, or would abandon Atlanta (I presume he'd be ordered by Davis once in army command to hold Atlanta at all costs).
The only issue is that he had the opportunity to take command after Bragg left, but he declined because he didn't see himself as a worthy army commander. Would he retain the sentiment in July?
2nd choice would be Dick Taylor. He has proven himself a worthy field commander in the Red River Campaign, and, being without a command due to friction with Kirby Smith, was available for an new command. The issue is, he was about as aggressive in the Red River Campaign as Hood had been, and made poorly planned assaults such as at Pleasant Hill. We'd probably see the same result as with Hood: several costly assaults made against well entrenched Union positions. That's the issue with these what if's: hard to tell when the scenario would be different or we'd get a repeat of our timeline, with different details.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

OldReliable1862

Sergeant
Forum Host
Joined
Jul 2, 2017
Messages
739
Location
Georgia
How would he have kept his force supplied?

And wouldn't do this uncover Chattanooga?
That I can't answer, I'm only throwing things out here. Of course, you can't expect Sherman to do nothing just because his initial movements didn't go well, but what he'd do I can't say.
 

uaskme

Sergeant Major
Joined
Nov 9, 2016
Messages
2,328
IMO once McPherson got through Snake Creek Gap (even though he botched the planned operation) Atlanta was doomed. No real good defensive positions between Resaca and Atlanta. While Sherman might fumble as at Kennesaw Mountain, Johnston had no real means of stopping him.
If Thomas had of been given command, it might of all been over at Resaca. He had far more experience in the Area than Sherman.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!
Top