Friday, July 31, 2020

Georgia National Guard Activated for Drought Relief

by Maj. William Carraway
Historian, Georgia Army National Guard

In 1986, the southeastern United States was gripped by drought and extreme temperatures that withered crops and threatened livestock. By July, Governor Joe Frank Harris had declared a state of emergency[1]. Facing nearly $150 million in agricultural losses[2] with no relief in sight, the governor turned to the Georgia National Guard.

From July 30 to August 1 nearly 150 Georgia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen delivered more than 1,100 tons of hay to distribution points across the state to feed starving livestock.[3] The Guardsmen fanned out in 32 trucks to points selected by the Department of Agriculture. In north Georgia, the Atlanta-based 277th Maintenance Company delivered hay to Calhoun and Gainesville. Soldiers of the Macon-based 48th Infantry Brigade assisted in the delivery of hay to Macon and Eatonton in middle Georgia while South Georgia received assistance in Swainsboro and Cordele. Airmen of the 202nd Electronic Installation Squadron from Macon, the 224th Joint Communications Support Squadron of St. Simons Island, 116th Tactical Fighter Wing from Marietta, and the 165th Tactical Airlift Group of Savannah provided personnel and vehicles in support of the state-wide effort.
Hay from Illinois and Kentucky is transferred from rail cars to Georgia National Guard vehicles for distribution to Georgia farmers. Georgia Guard Archives.

The hay was transported by rail from Illinois and Kentucky. Over the course of three days, the hay was transferred from nearly 100 railcars to trucks for delivery to points across the state.[4] The Georgia Department of Transportation supplied equipment for the loading and unloading of the hay and the Department of Public Safety provided a Georgia State Patrol escort for each convoy. The Georgia Emergency Management Agency established its mobile command post as an operations center and Bell South Mobility donated cellular phones to facilitate communication between GEMA, the State Farmer’s Market, and other areas of operation.

In addition to the hay brough in by rail, nearly 60 tons tons of hay donated by Wisconsin and Illinois farmers were flown to Dobbins Air Force Base in Marietta on Air Force Reserve C-130s July 31, 1986.[5] Seven Georgia National Guard trucks, escorted by Georgia State Patrol conveyed the hay to the Farmer’s Market in Forest Park for distribution.

To support the Georgia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen as they labored in the July heat, volunteers from the Salvation Army and Red Cross provided a ready supply of cold drinks and sandwiches. By the end of the operation, nearly 50,000 bales of hay had been delivered to Georgia’s farmers.[6]

Major General Joseph W. Griffin, Georgia’s Adjutant General, praised the Guardsmen and agency partners at the conclusion of the joint effort.

"A task force of selected equipment and compatible personnel representing every Guard element worked together steadily for three days of state active duty-and got the job done," said Griffin "It was truly a team effort by everyone involved… all of us worked for the common goal of bringing some relief to Georgia farmers."[7]

[1] Georgia Department of Defense Annual Report 1986. Marietta, GA: 1987, 20.
[2] “Drought also takes toll on human spirit.” The Los Angeles Times, July 23, 1986. Reviewed July 28, 2020 at
[3] “Guard 'hayday' gives Ga. farmers a lift.” The Georgia Guardsman Magazine, August September 1986, 1.
[4] “95-car train hauls tons of hay to state,” The Atlanta Constitution, July 30, 1986, 9.
[5] “Area farmers hope for more donations.” Atlanta Constitution, July 31, 1986, 97.
[6] Guard 'hayday' gives Ga. farmers a lift.” The Georgia Guardsman Magazine, August September 1986, 1.
[7] Ibid.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

The Struggles for Atlanta: Forgotten Losses of a Savage Campaign

By Maj. William Carraway
Historian, Georgia Army National Guard

Imagine the contemporary monuments our nation might erect to commemorate the loss of 18,000 Soldiers. Such grievous losses defy our ability to fathom in modern combat, and yet, in 1864, two mighty armies were bled of 18,000 Soldiers while contending for the prize of Atlanta. Aside from the occasional sign or plaque, the Battle of Atlanta is commemorated more in asphalt and development than in obelisks and contemplation. In the shadow of skyscrapers three major battles were fought for control of a city, for control of the White House and for the future of the United States of America.
Federal troops open fire during a 2014 reenactment of the Atlanta Campaign. Photo by Capt. William Carraway

Federal Situation
Major General William Sherman had, through a series of flanking maneuvers, brought his three armies to the threshold of Atlanta. Despite his defeat at Kennesaw Mountain, Sherman had managed to again slip around the defenses of Confederate General Joseph Johnston. Now his 70,000 men drew nearer to the vital rail hub of Atlanta. It was July 10. The air was hot and thick with humidity. Already Sherman’s forces were crossing the Chattahoochee River after Federal cavalry secured ford sites.
Atlanta and Vicinity. McCarley, J. Britt, The Atlanta and Savannah Campaigns, 1864 Map 4. Washington DC: United States Army Center of Military History, 2014.
Sherman’s three armies were moving against Atlanta from the north and east. The stakes were high. In Virginia, Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s Overland Campaign had inflicted 100,000 casualties without delivering a decisive victory to the North. As Sherman was crossing the Chattahoochee, Grant and Lee were settling in for a war of attrition in the trenches surrounding Petersburg. 1864 was an election year, and for an electorate increasingly weary of war, the Democrat presidential candidate, George McClellan was gaining support. The former commander of the Army of the Potomac, “Little Mac” proposed suing for peace – a strategy Southern leaders desperately desired. Unless the Federal armies could produce a clear victory, the Lincoln administration would face a challenging reelection bid. With Grant bogged down in Virginia, Washington’s eyes turned to Sherman’s armies in hopes of a great victory that would convince voters that the war was indeed winnable.
Georgia Soldiers of Maj. Gen. William Walker's Division prepare to advance during a 2014 reenactment of the Atlanta Campaign. Photo by Capt. William Carraway

Confederate Situation
On July 13, 1864, Gen. Braxton Bragg, former commander of the Army of Tennessee arrived at Gen. Johnston’s Atlanta headquarters, on behalf of the Confederate government, to determine Johnston’s plans for defense of the city. In the two days that followed, Bragg determined to advise Confederate President Jefferson Davis to remove Johnston as commander of the Army of Tennessee. This was a risky decision, as Johnston was enormously popular with his men, but Johnston’s tactic of trading battle space for time had not endeared him to the Confederate leadership. While preserving his force of 40,000, Johnston seemed intent to fight a defensive (or timid) campaign.

Battle of Peachtree Creek. McCarley Map 5
On July 17, Davis relieved Johnston and replaced him with the fiery Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood. Hood had built a reputation as an aggressive commander. His actions at the head of his Texas Brigade in 1862 earned him promotion to major general, and divisional command. At Gettysburg, his division, including two Georgia brigades, attacked the Little Round Top in some of the fiercest fighting of the battle’s second day. Hood was wounded in the left arm by a shell which rendered his arm useless. He returned to command in time to serve as a corps commander at Chickamauga where he was severely wounded and lost his right leg inches below the hip. Now, at the head of the Army of Tennessee, Hood determined to utilize the same methods of direct attack which had served him in Virginia.

The Battle of Peachtree Creek: July 20, 1864
Hood saw an opportunity to strike Sherman almost immediately after taking command. Two Federal armies were maneuvering east towards Decatur while Maj. Gen. George Thomas’ Army of the Cumberland was crossing Peachtree Creek north of Atlanta. With a gap thus formed, Hood ordered an attack on Thomas’s isolated force. 

The Confederate Army attacked north in a line roughly spanning the distance between present day I-75 and I-85. To the right, Georgians in the divisions of William Walker and William Bate struggled through thick terrain. Bate’s Division became entirely lost and was not engaged, but Walker’s Georgians attacked Federal positions near the present location of Piedmont Hospital. Brigadier General Clement Stevens, one of Walker’s brigade commanders, was killed in the attack that cost the Confederates 2,500 men and failed to dislodge the Federals from their positions.
Battle of Atlanta. McCarley, Map 6.

The Battle of Atlanta: July 22, 1864
Maj. Gen. James McPherson. LOC
Having failed in his attack against one half of Sherman’s forces, Hood next attempted to strike the second half composed of the armies of Maj. Gen. James McPherson and John Schofield. Having severed the railroad to Augusta, McPherson perceived his position to be isolated. His intuition was correct as Hood had massed two corps to strike his army. The corps of Maj. Gen. Benjamin Cheatham attacked from the west with his battle line positioned along modern-day Moreland Avenue. A second corps under Lt. Gen. William Hardee struck McPherson from the south moving parallel to modern-day Interstate 20. McPherson was riding to observe the actions when his party encountered the 5th Confederate, a veteran Irish regiment in Maj. Gen. Patrick Cleburne’s Division. Ordered to surrender, McPherson rendered a salute and spurred his horse to escape. He was shot from his horse mortally wounded. McPherson became one of the highest-ranking federal casualties of the war.

Maj. Gen. William Walker
Less than a mile from the spot where McPherson fell, Maj. Gen. William Walker was leading his veteran division of Georgians past the Terry Mill Pond near the present location of Interstate 20’s exit 61. As his men reformed on a ridge, Walker advanced and surveyed the federal line. Conspicuous by the glint of his sword and field glasses Walker was spotted by a Federal sharpshooter and shot through the head.
Fighting continued until nightfall with no net benefit to the Confederates who lost 5,500 men to the Federals 4,000.

Battle of Ezra Church: July 28, 1864
Battle of Ezra Church. McCarley, Map 7
On July 27, Sherman dispatched his Army of the Tennessee west of Atlanta. Their mission was to sever the Macon Railroad: the last remaining source of supply for Hood’s beleaguered army. Detecting Sherman’s intent, Hood dispatched a corps and two divisions to fix the Army of the Tennessee in place and then maneuver by flank to destroy it. Newly promoted corps commander Stephen Dill Lee established blocking positions as ordered, but instead of entrenching, Lee chose to attack. Unfortunately for Lee and his corps, the Federal commander, Maj. Gen. Oliver O. Howard (for whom Howard University is named) had anticipated the attack and had ordered his men to entrench and fortify defensive positions. Lee’s attack turned into a pitiful massacre. Three thousand Confederate Soldiers were killed or wounded while the Federals lost only 600.

Siege and Fall of Atlanta
Three times Hood had attacked and three times he had been thrown back with horrendous irreplaceable losses. Having bled his army of 25 percent of its strength without gaining a single advantage, Hood settled in for siege warfare. With Grant stalled in Virginia, Hood hoped he could hold Atlanta through the November election and possibly force a change of leadership in Washington.

Sherman, cognizant of the political urgency, resolved to make Atlanta untenable. In August he ordered the shelling of the city. Although civilians were killed by the bombardment, no military advantage was realized. More successful were Sherman’s efforts to sever rail lines supplying Atlanta. Having already cut rail lines to the north and east, Sherman set sights on the Macon Railroad south of Atlanta. By August 30, 1864, Sherman’s forces had slipped quietly away from the trenches opposing Atlanta and had marched on Jonesboro. Repulsing an attack by the Confederate corps of William Hardee, Sherman reached the Macon Railroad on August 31, 1864 – the same day the Democrat National Convention officially nominated George McClellan for President.

With his final supply line severed, Hood had little choice but to abandon Atlanta in hopes of preserving his army. On Sept. 2, 1864, Federal troops entered the city. The next day, Sherman telegraphed to Washington “Atlanta is ours and fairly won.”
According to the research of historian Michael Hitt, this image depicts Fort Hood looking southwest. Fort Hood was located on Marietta Street
approximately 1.5 miles northwest of the present location of Centennial Park. The troops in the fort are Federal. LOC

The effect was immediate. The fall of Atlanta demonstrated that the war could be won and was being effectively prosecuted. The South’s last-best hope for suing for peace under favorable terms evaporated with the fall of Atlanta, and the North was empowered with the will to see an end to the war; a war that was about to become all the more savage.