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Week 3

May 5 - May 11

It is early May 1864. Johnston’s Confederate army lies in wait along Rocky Face Ridge defending their supply line. Sherman sends 24,000 troops under General McPherson from the south. Johnston is caught unawares. Instead of attacking, McPherson orders his weary men to entrench for the night. Confederate reinforcements arrive…the jig is up; opportunity gone. Sherman is sixty-five miles from Atlanta.

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Episode Transcript

I'm Masud Olufani for the Atlanta History Center.

It is early may 1864. General Joseph E. Johnston’s Confederate army is dug in along rocky face ridge, eighty miles north of Atlanta. Behind them is the western and Atlantic railroad, their supply line to Atlanta.

Johnston expects Sherman to attack from the north and west.

But on may ninth, Sherman sends 24,000 men under General James B. McPherson south of rocky face ridge through snake creek gap...

From here, McPherson can cut the railroad, trapping and possibly destroying the entire confederate army.

The gap is undefended. Johnston is taken by surprise. Sherman exclaims, “I’ve got Joe Johnston dead!”

But after a long day’s march, McPherson finds confederate troops defending the railroad at the town of Resaca. Instead of attacking, McPherson orders his tired men to entrench for the night.

In fact, there are only about four thousand confederates at Resaca. By the time McPherson realizes his mistake, confederate reinforcements arrive.

Sherman later says, “Mac, you missed the opportunity of a lifetime.”

McPherson has not trapped the confederate army but he has still outflanked it. Johnston is forced to withdraw south to Resaca…. And Sherman is now sixty-five miles from Atlanta.

I’m Masud Olufani and this is week three.