Beginning of the 1864 Tennessee Campaign
Updated: Oct 15, 2021
by Gordon Thorsby
It was around this time of the year, on September 29-30, that Hood moved the Army of Tennessee north to cut Sherman’s supply lines. The first action occurred on October 5 approximately thirty miles to the northwest of Atlanta at Allatoona Gap. Confederate Division commander General Samuel French with 3,300 men attacked a fortification point on the railroad commanded by Union Gen. John Corse with around 2000 men.
Confederate artillery blazed away at the fort and after two hours demanded a surrender.
According to most sources, French’s note of demand read:
I have placed the forces under my command in such positions that you are surrounded, and to avoid a needless effusion of blood I call on you to surrender your forces at once, and unconditionally. Five minutes will be allowed you to decide. Should you accede to this, you will be treated in the most honorable manner as prisoners of war.
Corse’s answer was:
Your communication demanding surrender of my command I acknowledge receipt of, and respectfully reply that we are prepared for the "needless effusion of blood" whenever it is agreeable to you.
French responded to the refusal with an attack against several sides of the star fort fortifications where the fighting was intense and bloody. Then came word to French that Federal reinforcements were on the way. He acknowledged that the cost of capture was growing, French withdrew and Corse’s defenders remained.
Small forces of bluecoated defenders used to easily surrender where they were paroled or exchanged was standard. Now, it was Andersonville and Salisbury Prisons and the will to fight on was the new standard for Union troops in the Western Theater.
Allatoona is considered the first battle in the Tennessee Campaign that ended at Nashville. The outcome of Allatoona Gap, a bloody result with 30% casualties on both sides, it was not a good omen of things to come.
Source: "For Cause and Country", Jacobsen Eric, and Rupp, Richard, O’Moore Publishing, 2008.
Thure de Thulstrup, artist