Battle of Adairsville (May 17, 1864)

Updated: December 26, 2010

The Battle of Adairsville was an encounter between Union forces commanded by Major General William T. Sherman and Confederate forces commanded by General Joseph E. Johnston during the Atlanta Campaign of the American Civil War. The engagement took place in Bartow County, Georgia, near the town of Adairsville, on May 17, 1864. The battle was perhaps more significant for what did not happen than what did. Union forces were spared the possibility of a costly defeat when Confederate leaders failed to spring a well-laid trap after Sherman had divided his armies.

In late November 1863, Union forces commanded by Major General Ulysses S. Grant successfully lifted Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston's siege of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Union victories at Lookout Mountain (November 24) and Missionary Ridge (November 25) forced Johnston to withdraw thirty miles south to near Dalton, Georgia. 

After the Federal breakout from Chattanooga, Grant was promoted to the special rank of Lieutenant General and placed in command of all Union armies. Grant moved his headquarters to Washington, DC, leaving his trusted subordinate, Major General William T. Sherman, in command of Federal operations in the Western Theater. Grant's primary military strategy was a coordinated effort to attack and defeat the two main Confederate armies in the field, Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia in the East, and Joseph E. Johnston's Army of Tennessee in the West. On May 5, 1864, Grant launched his Overland Campaign against Lee in Virginia. Two days later, Sherman led three armies, the Army of the Tennessee, commanded by Major General James B. McPherson; the Army of the Ohio, commanded by Major General John M. Schofield; and the Army of the Cumberland, commanded by Major General George H. Thomas, out of Tennessee in pursuit of Johnston's army in northern Georgia.

Between May 7, and May 15, 1864, Sherman's forces engaged the Army of Tennessee in the Battle of Rocky Face Ridge near Dalton, Georgia and then at the Battle of Resaca, near Resaca, Georgia. Although the fighting was inconclusive, Sherman outflanked the Confederate defenders in each case, forcing Johnston to pull back to the south toward Atlanta.

Finding the terrain unsuitable for establishing a strong defensive line near Calhoun, Georgia, Johnston continued south to Adairsville. As Sherman continued his pursuit of Johnston, the armies engaged again near Adairsville, Georgia on May 17. The battle consisted of a series of skirmishes throughout the day, which amounted to little more than a delaying action to allow Johnston to move farther south toward Cassville.

Ohio units that participated in the Battle of Adairsville included:

Infantry units:

  • 1st Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 2nd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 5th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 6th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 7th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 13th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 15th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 19th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 20th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 21st Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 27th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 29th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 30th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 33rd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 32nd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 37th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 39th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 40th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 41st Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 43rd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 45th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 47th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 49th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 50th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 51st Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 52nd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 53rd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 54th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 55th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 57th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 59th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 61st Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 63rd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 64th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 66th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 68th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 70th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 71st Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 73rd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 74th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 76th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 78th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 79th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 81st Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 82nd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 90th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 93rd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 94th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 97th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 98th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 99th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 100th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 101st Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 103rd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 104th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 108th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 111th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 113th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 118th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 121st Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 124th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 125th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

Artillery units:

  • Battery A, 1st Ohio Light Artillery Regiment
  • Battery D, 1st Ohio Light Artillery Regiment
  • Battery I, 1st Ohio Light Artillery Regiment
  • 3rd Ohio Artillery Battery
  • 4th Ohio Light Artillery Battery
  • 6th Ohio Light Artillery Battery
  • 10th Ohio Light Artillery Battery
  • 14th Ohio Light Artillery Battery
  • 15th Ohio Light Artillery Battery
  • 19th Ohio Light Artillery Battery

Cavalry units:

  • 1st Regiment Ohio Volunteer Cavalry
  • 3rd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Cavalry
  • 4th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Cavalry
  • 10th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Cavalry

The Battle of Adairsville was perhaps more significant for what did not happen than what did. When Johnston withdrew from Adairsville, he sent one corps of his army to nearby Kinston to create a diversion, while the bulk of his army moved south toward Cassville. Johnston hoped that Sherman would believe that he was preparing to do battle at Kinston and mass the majority of Union soldiers there, while sending a smaller contingent to follow the Rebels headed for Cassville. Confederate forces commanded by Leonidas Polk and John Bell Hood would then ambush and destroy the Federals moving toward Cassville. Sherman took the bait and sent the Army of the Ohio, along with one corps of the Army of the Cumberland, in pursuit of the retreating Rebels. As Hood was moving his men into position, he discovered some Union soldiers near his rear. Fearing being caught between two columns of Federal soldiers, Hood fell back and rejoined Polk, failing to spring the trap. Thus, Sherman was spared the possibility of a costly defeat.

Cite this Entry

MLA Style

"Battle of Adairsville," Ohio Civil War Central, 2017, Ohio Civil War Central. 25 Jul 2017 <http://www.ohiocivilwarcentral.com/entry.php?rec=141>

APA Style

"Battle of Adairsville." (2017) In Ohio Civil War Central, Retrieved July 25, 2017, from Ohio Civil War Central: http://www.ohiocivilwarcentral.com/entry.php?rec=141

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