The Fall of Atlanta - 9/1/1864

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On September 1st of 1864, the city of Atlanta fell to Union forces near the end of the American Civil War.

Union Army General William Tecumseh Sherman had attacked Atlanta, Georgia. He shelled civilians, cut off supply lines, and blocked railway travel to and from this important Confederate supply and transportation hub. The Confeds retreated, but not before destroying the cities munition supply. On November 15th, Sherman's troops burned much of the city of Atlanta to the ground, then continued marching south toward Savannah. Sherman's siege of Atlanta was one of the most decisive victories of the Civil War. 

The Civil War, which took place on American soil, which is why they call it “civil,” was a war between the northern states and the southern states. One of the issues they differed on was the ownership of slaves. The southern states wanted free slave labor on their vast plantations.

William Tecumseh Sherman was born in Ohio in 1820, descended from one of our founding fathers, Roger Sherman. He and several of his siblings became quite successful, despite the fact that William's father died when he was nine years old, leaving a widow to raise eleven children with no inheritance. Still, his older brother became a federal judge. His younger brother became a U.S. Senator. Another younger brother was a successful banker. William himself attended West Point and served in the army. Then he also became a banker, and then worked as the president of a military school in Louisiana.

Sherman joined the Union Army in 1861, when 11 southern slave states seceded from the union. He eventually commanded large numbers of United States forces under General Ulysses S. Grant. Sherman fought in the battles of Shiloh, Vicksburg, and Chattanooga. In 1864, he was ordered by Grant to take over the city of Atlanta. At the time, Atlanta was a key military supply hub for the confederates.

Starting in May of 1864, Sherman and his troops fought confederate soldiers in areas surrounding the city of Atlanta. These battles included the battle of Kennesaw Mountain, which the confederates won.

Finally, on September 1st of 1864, Sherman captured Atlanta, and held it until November 15th against confederate troops. Before leaving the city, Sherman ordered all military resources, such as munitions factories, clothing mills, and railway yards, to be burned. The fire got out of control and the whole city of Atlanta burned down. Sherman was harshly criticized for his slash and burn military tactics. 

Then Sherman and his sixty thousand troops headed to Savannah, destroying everything within their reach that could possibly help the confederates. When the troops reached Savannah, they took it over, and completed their “march to the sea” at the end of 1864.

The Civil War ended in April of 1865, when confederate commander Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox courthouse in Virginia. General Ulysses S. Grant went on to become the 18th President of the United States in 1869. He succeeded Abraham Lincoln to the presidential throne, while William Tecumseh Sherman succeeded Grant as the commanding General of the United States Army. 

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Nancy Reyes

Senior Writer

One of our top senior writers, Nancy came to us wanting to break away from the politics that comes with major news corporations. She leads our team of historical writers in creating the best engaging content out there that keeps our readers coming back for more. She is an enthusiast of all things medieval and has been a member of her renaissance fair group for 15 years. She received her degree in International Relations from the University of Southern California and hopes to one day travel the world.