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Aug. 14: The Doors of Death open again

A new Confederate general and an aggressive defense didn't stop Sherman from reaching Atlanta.
A new Confederate general and an aggressive defense didn't stop Sherman from reaching Atlanta.
Image by Zik Armstrong

Here’s what happened.

Fighting returned to Dalton, Georgia on August 14, 1864, as opposing forces in the USA’s Civil War struggled for control of Atlanta. The First Battle of Dalton had ended in February 1862 with a Union retreat. In April 1862 Dalton became part of the route for The Great Locomotive Chase.

Here’s why it matters.

The Atlanta Campaign began on May 7, 1864 near Dalton at Rocky Face Ridge, a place Union General William Tecumseh Sherman recalled as the “Doors of Death.” Confederate General Joseph Eggleston Johnston won most of the battles, including a fiery defense of Kennesaw Mountain. But Sherman’s continual flanking maneuvers forced Johnston to retreat south anyway. By July 20, Sherman was in Vinings. CSA President Jefferson Davis appointed General John Bell Hood to replace Johnston.

Hood’s aggressive defense strategy included attempts to cut off Sherman’s supply lines. On August 14 a cavalry led by Major General Joseph Wheeler reached Dalton with orders to recapture the railroad depot. He had enough men to take it, but not to hold it.

Wheeler withdrew from Dalton the next day. By the end of August, Sherman had reached Atlanta.

Here’s an interesting fact!

Joseph Wheeler was one of a few Confederate generals who eventually returned to service in the U.S. Army. He commanded the cavalry during the Spanish-American War. One of his junior officers was a man from New York whose mother had been a member of a powerful Georgia political family. That officer was Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt.