The Road to Atlanta: The Fight for the Latimar House

Col. Frederick Bartleson
Col. Frederick Bartleson

On the afternoon of June 16, Union Cavalry and part of John Schofield’s XXIII Corps carried part of the Confederate line at and near Lost Mountain, making the rest of Johnston’s line west of Pine Mountain untenable. Johnston ordered Hardee to remove his Corps to a new line along the banks of the aptly named Mud Creek, while the rest of the Army of Tennessee continued to hold the line to Brushy Mountain. This readjustment of the line basically jack knifed the army. Realizing that he could not continue to hold this line much longer, Johnston sent engineers to oversee the construction of new lines along the impressive Kennesaw Mountain. Johnston was aided in his move by torrents of rain that continued to fall, flooding the low areas and spilling creeks out of banks. However, this did not deter Union Artillery that pounded the Confederate lines as the men stood in their mud- and rain-filled trenches.

The new Confederate position created an angle where Walker’s Division of Hardee’s Corps lined with Gen. Samuel French’s Division of Polk’s Corps, now being temporarily commanded by Maj. Gen. William “Blizzards” Loring. The angle became known as “Hardee’s Salient,” and it was not a very good position. “Took a new line that placed me in command of a salient with an angle of about eighty-five degrees,” French complained, “liable to be enfiladed and taken in reverse.”

French’s trouble began early the next day. “Early this morning both pickets and skirmishers on my left (Walker’s Division) gave way and let the Federals in behind Cockrell’s skirmishers,” he wrote, “and thus the enemy gained possession of the Latimar House in my front. Ector’s Brigade skirmishers also came in. The way being clear, the enemy soon advanced in line of battle, and with many guns enfiladed my line….”

The Union force that advanced against French was composed of the 26th Ohio, 57th Indiana, and 100th Illinois under the overall command of the 100th’s colonel, Frederick Bartleson. Bartleson was noted as the first man to enlist for the war in his hometown of Joilet, Illinois. Bartleson lost his arm at Shiloh as an officer in the 20th Illinois. Upon recovery, he was given command of the 100th Illinois. Captured at Chickamauga, he was paroled in time to rejoin his unit before the Atlanta Campaign began. Known for his aggressive nature, he now pressed this attack.

Bartleson’s men charged forward, overrunning rifle pits and taking one section of trenches

“The rebels opened a hot fire with artillery and musketry,” one soldier in the 57th Indiana noted, “but order was soon restored, and the three regiments commenced such a telling fire from our position that the rebel artillery was soon silenced, and even their infantry dare not raise their heads. This position was held, and firing kept up, in the midst of a dashing rain….”

One of the Confederate gunners, men of Guibor’s Missouri Battery, remembered:

A cold rain with a driving wind was falling all day–which drenched us to the skin, chilling us through and dampened our ammunition–although we used every means at our control to keep it dry. Some of us held a piece of canvass, while others prepared the fuse—notwithstanding–several of our shells fell in the yankee lines unbroken–caused by the fuse getting wet. About noon the Federals regardless of all our remonstrations-succeeded in planting a four gun battery of rifled pieces…as soon as they got in position–commenced hurling solid shot & shell at us-with great rapidity & precission–battering down our works–scattering the fence rails we had on the inside to hold the dirt, in every direction–knocking the poles out of the embrasures–& the works becoming so soft from the continued rain–shots frequently coming through.

Capt. Joseph Boyce
Capt. Joseph Boyce

Things were not any better in the supporting Confederate Infantry. Captain Joseph Boyce of the 1st Missiouri, noted, “Our ammunition was wet, the men were standing in the rifle-pits in water up to their waists, under a steady fire from men armed with Henry rifles and metallic cartridges which were waterproof…Our guns and ourselves were soaking and only occasionally were we able to fire a shot.”

The position was untenable, and Johnston realized it. That evening, French received orders to withdraw to a new line—a new line that would become known as “the Kennesaw Line.”

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