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Week 6

May 26-June 1

In the last week of May, 1864, Johnston’s Confederate army forms a defensive line that extends through Dallas from New Hope Church to Pickett’s Mill. Soldiers build dense fortifications of dirt and logs to protect their heads. Assaulting these is suicide; yet the Union advances, meeting heavy casualties. The fight at New Hope is named “The Hell Hole.” Attrition stalls Sherman’s advance on Atlanta.

 

Episode Transcript

I’m Masud Olufani for the Atlanta History Center. It is the last week of may, 1864.

South of the Etowah River, Confederate General Johnston forms a defensive line, thirty miles northwest of Atlanta.

It stretches ten miles from Dallas through a crossroad at new hope church to Pickett’s Mill.

Soldiers on both sides dig trenches deep into the red Georgia clay. In front, they pile timber and dirt up to twelve feet thick.

They put heavy logs on top of the line to protect their heads when they stand to shoot.

Sherman knows assaulting these fortifications is suicidal. Yet both armies launch attacks – probing weakness in the enemy line.

All are repulsed with heavy casualties. The fierce fight around New Hope Church is known as “the hell hole.”

Union Lieutenant Ambrose Bierce judges the battle at Pickett’s Mill “a criminal blunder.”

The campaign for Atlanta is now a battle of attrition … what Sherman dubs “one universal skirmish.”

Snipers prowl the lines. Soldiers are on constant alert. Afternoon thunderstorms fill the trenches with muddy water.

The stink of unburied bodies is overpowering under the hot summer sun. Heat and exhaustion are deadly as bullets. And the union advance on Atlanta slows to a crawl.

I’m Masud Olufani and this is week six.

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