July 17

This Day in History

Civil War

Jul 17, 1864:

John Bell Hood takes command of the Army of Tennessee

On this day, Confederate President Jefferson Davis replaces General Joseph Johnston with John Bell Hood as commander of the Army of Tennessee. Davis, impatient with Johnston's defensive strategy in the Atlanta campaign, felt that Hood stood a better chance of saving Atlanta from the forces of Union General William T. Sherman.

For nearly three months, Johnston and Sherman had maneuvered around the rugged corridor from Chattanooga to Atlanta. Although there was constant skirmishing, there were few major battles; Sherman kept trying to outflank Johnston, but his advances were blocked. Though this kept losses to a minimum, there was also a limit to how long Johnston could maintain this strategy as each move brought the armies closer to Atlanta. By July 17, 1864, Johnston was backed into the outskirts of Atlanta. Johnston felt his strategy was the only way to preserve the Army of Tennessee, but Davis felt that he had given up too much territory.

In a telegram informing Johnston of his decision, Davis wrote, "You failed to arrest the advance of the enemy to the vicinity of Atlanta, far in the interior of Georgia, and express no confidence that you can defeat or repel him, you are hereby relieved from command of the Army and Department of Tennessee, which you will immediately turn over to General Hood."

Davis selected Hood for his reputation as a fighting general, in contrast to Johnston's cautious nature. Hood did what Davis wanted and quickly attacked Sherman at Peachtree Creek on July 20 but with disastrous results. Hood attacked two more times, losing both and destroying his army's offensive capabilities.

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