On this day, Union and Confederate troops clash at Resaca, Georgia. This was one of the first engagements in a summer-long campaign by Union General William T. Sherman to capture the Confederate city of Atlanta. The spring of 1864 saw a determined effort by the Union to win the war through major offensives in both the eastern and western theaters. In the east, Union General Ulysses S. Grant took on Confederate General Robert E. Lee, while Sherman applied pressure on the Army of the Tennessee, under General Joseph Johnston, in the west.
The Atlanta campaign was dictated by the hilly terrain of northern Georgia. Sherman would try to outflank Johnston on one side, but Johnston would move to block him. Sherman tried the other side, and Johnston blocked again. Johnston was losing ground, but he was stalling Sherman’s advance, and fanning the discontent in the North as the election of 1864 loomed.
On May 9, part of Sherman’s army under James McPherson captured Snake Creek Gap. McPherson did not push further, however, because he ran into Confederates fortified at nearby Resaca.
The Union army would not assault Resaca until May 14, triggering two days of combat. On the first day, the Federal troops gained important ground but failed to break the Confederate lines. The second day also saw no result. But because the Confederates maintained their position and thwarted the Union offense, the Battle of Resaca was considered a tactical victory for the South.
In the days after the battle, Sherman sent McPherson’s men on another swing around Johnston’s left flank. When these troops crossed the Oostanaula River south of Johnston’s army, he had to withdraw further south. The armies inched closer to Atlanta.