Logan’s Attack at Resaca

Resaca Hills 2020The battle of Resaca was, numbers wise, the largest battle fought in the state of Georgia, with 158,787 men engaged on both sides. Fought on this date in 1864, Resaca was also the first major battle of the Atlanta Campaign. After a failed attempt to gain Joe Johnston’s Army of Tennessee’s rear there, both sides squared off against one another on the morning of May 14, 1864.

General Sherman launched the first of several assaults against the Confederate defenses on the hills just to the west of town. The first assaults were made by John Logan’s XV Corps. Their attack would set the stage for the rest of the battle.

The corps advanced from its position on some high hills just to the north of the Oostanaula River. “We moved steadily down the slope towards the enemy on the double quick,” William Oake of the 26th Iowa recalled years later,

Resaca stream 2020and as we reached the base of the hill, along which ran quite a large creek, we did not wait for ceremony, but plunged into the mud and water, and were soon scrambling up the opposite bank to face the leaden storm. We were then on a comparatively level piece of ground, about 400 yards from the enemy, who were lying behind works, and plainly visible from our position. Now for the first time were returned their fire, moving steadily to the front, while many a poor fellow received his death wound…. We had now approached quite close to the enemy, and were ordered to lay down and protect ourselves, in the meantime to keep up an incessant fire on the enemy. While we were thus hotly engaged with the enemy in our front, the thunder of Hooker’s artillery on the left, told us plainly that the enemy were hotly pressed at that point…. At last the shadows of night approached and after establishing our pickets, the main body of the National troops, were withdrawn to the position held in the morning prior to the attack.

Resaca 2020The experience of Oake was shared by many others at Resaca as Federals launched assaults against the length of Johnston’s defenses. Joe Hooker had some better results on his line, but he was ultimately driven back by a Confederate counterattack. A stalemate ultimately ensued the following day, only broken because Sherman moved forces across the Oostanaula and threatened Johnston’s line of retreat.

Despite the numbers involved, the losses at Resaca would be relatedly low for both sides—only 5,547 combined—though the numbers lost would grow over the next few weeks as the drive for Atlanta continued.

28 Responses to Logan’s Attack at Resaca

  1. Does anybody here know why Logan should be condemned faster and bigger than any Confederate monument?

    All those who contextualize Rebel monuments down in Dixieland with slaves are ignoring the Saved Union’s Logan Problem.

    It’s ugly…

    1. Can only guess that it was the bad plan with blowing up the mine at Vicksburg? It went bad, but he was tired of attacking up the gut as Grant seemed to love to do.

      1. I’m not used to needing cryptanalysis for a blog site’s comments section, but here we are, I guess,

    2. have no ideal what your trying to say .the only thing i see ugly is your wording.

      1. What wording is preferable in making war history a pretty thing?

  2. Rev – not sure what you’re referring to regarding Logan. Pre-war he was anti-black, sponsoring a bill to exclude free blacks from Illinois, and fully supporting the Fugitive Slave Law and Popular Sovereignty. But the war turned him 180 degrees on the subject, to the point where for the remainder of his life he championed black rights, even when his own party no longer saw it as expedient to do so. So I’m unaware of what your objection to a Logan statue is. We have a fine one here in Chicago and there’s a beautiful one at Vicksburg, and I can’t imagine what is undesirable about them.

      1. Specifics, please. What is your basis for objection? An honest question, not trying to start a flame war.

  3. Just an editing note: Johnston commanded the Army of Tennessee. The Army of the Tennessee was commended by McPherson and was on the other side.

  4. I cringe every time I hear the phrase ‘Battle of Resaca’. There should have been no need for the Union forces to attack there. Had Sherman listened to General Thomas and let him take much of his 14th Corps through Snake Creek Gap which Thomas’ men had scouted and knew to be undefended, it would have been Johnston that had to attack against Thomas who would be dug in astride Johnston’s line of retreat. It would have been a terribly fierce fight as all of Thomas’ defensive battles were, and no matter who won, Johnston’s army would have been in no shape to carry on battle with Sherman in close pursuit.

    Instead Sherman wary of credit going to Thomas (Sherman still sensitive that he had jumped over the senior Thomas for no other reason that that Grant was his buddy and that Sherman had an influential Ohio Senator brother), let General McPherson and his smaller force try yet another ‘Sherman-like raid” and it, like all of Sherman’s raids, came to nothing.

    This lead to the Union attacking at Resaca, another indecisive battle, and allowed Johnston a rather leisurely retreat taking all his equipment to find a nice defensive position.

  5. Polk maneuvered Sherman into the battle.

    Forrest at Okolona, under Polk at Demopolis, had caused Sherman’s abandonment of burning Selma and Montgomery.

    Sherman’s so called Meridian Campaign was really his failed Campaign for Selma and Montgomery.

    Polk’s army joined Johnston at Resaca as a third corps on the left flank, and performed as saviour of the Army of Tennessee.

    It was bait for Sherman. Couldn’t resist an attempt on Polk for avenging the shame in Meridian.

    1. You have an overly generous view of Polk. Okolona/West Point were all about Forrest handling Smith, including planning snd tactics. Polk’s role was minimal. I’ll give him his status as department commander but let’s not go overboard. And if you read anything by Sherman about Meridian and what happened – Memoirs, correspondence, you name it – he was laser-fccused on Forrest (and, in the negative, on Smith). I don’t go in for psychoanalysis of folks who lived 150 years ago but your assessment of Sherman’s fixation on Polk looks contrived.

      1. Then just how much generosity does Polk’s command style deserve for stopping Sherman at Meridian, saving Selma & Montgomery, and empowering Johnston with enough to take his stand at Resaca?

      2. If you want to give him a medal for allowing Forrest to handle things, feel free. Polk’s most important contribution to the Confederate cause may have been those occasions when he got out of the way.

      3. And of Heroic Service Medals, his Army of Mississippi, which gave to Johnston the indispensable third corps, was so strong as Stewart’s Corp during Sherman’s seige of Atlanta, that the Yankees never could take Atlanta under direct assault.

        Even with Bishop Polk up in Heavenly Majesty ever since June 14, 1864, and with General Polk’s alacrity from Alabama in May 1864 gave to Sherman another tactical failure. The seige was abandoned after six weeks.

        When Atlanta soon exonerates Leo Frank for what happened to his employee Mary Phagan, it should throw into the bargain a posthumous medal for Polk’s posthumous check upon Sherman.

        Fair dealing should become fair trade.

      4. Putting aside the hagiography, what on earth are you referring to? The siege was “abandoned” because Sherman was ready to do what he did – move around Hood to the right and hit the RR south of Atlanta. Game, set, and match in 48 hours. Frontal attacks against entrenchments were a bad option generally. And Sherman had seen that in May 1863 at Vicksburg (without Polk being near the place). Of course, the move to Jonesboro had nothing to do with Polk by that point. If Polk earned any medals it would be from the Union side for (inadvertently and foolishly) helping to keep Kentucky neutral in 1861.

      5. Polk wins his second medal for exposing the ruse of Kentucky neutrality.

        Kentucky never seceded from the United States to declare itself a sovereign Neutral State.

        Instead, it was giving resources to Grant.

        Polk’s grand seizure of the Columbus Bluffs delayed Grant’s taking Memphis until June 1862.

        Polk’s extending time put massive costs upon the Northern Gained Cause, giving us pause today when considering the benefits of Yankee-ism.

      6. Where are you getting this stuff? Polk’s move on Kentucky in 1861, in addition to foreclosing any possibility that it would stay out of the fight, ultimately forced Johnston to retreat down to Corinth. The rest is history. The US was busy controlling the Cumberland, the Tennessee, and Corinth in late Winter/Spring 1862. After it had finished doing that, Memphis went in short order. Nothing to do with Polk’s idiotic move in 1861.

      7. Polk and Pillow moving into Kentucky was a political and a strategic mistake. They should have left Kentucky in political limbo as long as possible to protect Tennessee for as long as possible. Maybe this would have just been a matter of months, but any bit of time would have helped. Resources were not only moving north, but to the south as well. A neutral Kentucky would have benefited the Confederacy more than the Union, I think.

        Polk also failed to take Paducah and/or build forts further up the Tennessee and Cumberland in Kentucky where there was only a 3 mile distance between the two rivers. He totally failed to comprehend how easy it was for a Union force to turn him out of Columbus.

        He had no authority to do what he did do, and what he did do wasn’t coordinate with anyone else in the theater of operations, let alone Richmond. His decision to move into Kentucky contributed greatly to putting the Confederates on a bed footing early on in the West.

        He probably turned out to be an okay Corps commander by the time he was killed in Georgia. He was a leader of men and popular with his soldiers, and like a lot of political generals in the war, capable in many regards, sometimes competent, but incompetent enough to not be fully trusted by others, which led to frequent breakdowns in the chain of command.

      8. Seems like a fair analysis, although I think Polk falls closer to the side of mediocre if not simply incompetent. The fact that his actual military career after West Point was non-existent didn’t help.

      9. Mediocre or worse is probably a fair assessment. He probably should have never been put in charge of any unit other than a brigade or a regiment, but he knew Jeff Davis and was a big, well-known personality among some in the South — definitely among Episcopalians. Again, kind of a political general. It’s kind of amazing he made it as far along in the war as he did.

  6. That’s been deconstructed. A myth, worse than the Lost Cause that says slaves weren’t expensive.

  7. It was shortly after the attack at Resaca that 23 graybacks surrendered to a Wisconsin unit. The latter asked them if they remembered Ft. Pillow and then shot all 23 in cold blood. One of Wisconsin boys wrote that “…Where there is no officer with us, we take no prisoners…We want revenge for our brother soldiers and we will have it”. Proof, if any were needed, that the Confederates did not have a monopoly on Black Flag warfare. This from a dyed-in-the-wool Unionist.

  8. Black Jack Logan is one of my favorite CW generals. He was a so-called “political general,.” Unlike most political Union generals, Logan turned out to be a gifted field commander, always leading from the front. It’s a wonder he was not killed in battle.

    Unfortunately for Logan (and the Union cause), he was repeatedly overlooked for promotion to corps commander because he was seen as a “political general” and wasn’t a West Point grad.

    1. Did he really make a down payment on thae Confederate real estate he sold for $2,000,000 in today’s money?

      Why was a “Union” general doing a land deal deep in enemy territory? Making his own money “more perfect”?

      Don’t you worry that he used the Frderal Army to steal private land and slaves for sale to carpetbaggers in 1864.

      Shame that his family let that letter make it into the library…

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