The 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,
and 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At last the shadows of night approached and after establishing our pickets, the main body of the National troops, were withdrawn to the position held in the morning prior to the attack.
The 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.