Taking place on July 28, 1864, in Fulton County, near Atlanta, Georgia, the Battle of Ezra Church was a military engagement between Union forces commanded by Major General Oliver O. Howard and Confederate forces commanded by General John B. Hood during the Atlanta Campaign.
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.
Throughout the summer of 1864, the Confederate and Union armies engaged in a series of battles between Dalton and Atlanta in northern Georgia. Most of the fighting occurred at places on or near the Western and Atlantic Railroad, which connected Chattanooga and Atlanta. Both sides depended on the railway for supplies throughout the campaign. In a pattern that was often repeated, Sherman employed flanking movements that threatened the railway to Johnston's rear, forcing the Confederate commander to retreat south in order to protect his supply lines.
By mid-July, Sherman had driven Johnston's army to the outskirts of Atlanta. Southerners, in general, and Jefferson Davis, in particular, had grown weary of Johnston's strategy of retreat. On July 17, 1864, the Confederate president relieved Johnston of his command, replacing him with General John Bell Hood. Known as an aggressive fighter, Hood was a veteran officer with a reputation for personal bravery who had been severely wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1863) and the Battle of Chickamauga (September 19-20, 1863). General Hood wasted little time in responding to Southerners' calls for action.
Hood launched costly attacks against Sherman's armies on July 20 (Battle of Peachtree Creek) and July 22 (Battle of Atlanta) that produced high Confederate casualties (over 13,000 men killed, wounded, captured, or missing). Despite his high losses, Hood prevented Sherman from penetrating Atlanta from the north and from the east. Foiled in his efforts to capture the city by force, Sherman decided to besiege Atlanta in late July.
To prevent supplies from entering Atlanta, Sherman transferred the Army of the Tennessee (under the command of Major General Oliver O. Howard, following McPherson's death at the Battle of Atlanta) to the west side of the city between July 25-27. Howard's objective was to cut the Atlanta and West Point Railroad, which brought supplies from East Point, Georgia into Atlanta. Anticipating Howard's intentions, Hood sent two corps to intercept the Federals. On the afternoon of July 28, the Confederate soldiers attacked Howard's army at Ezra Church. Expecting just such a move from Hood, Howard had entrenched one of his corps in the Rebel path and was able to repulse the attack.
Ohio units that participated in the Battle of Ezra Church included:
20th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
27th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
30th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
32nd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
37th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
39th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
43rd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
47th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
53rd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
54th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
57th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
63rd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
68th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
71st Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
76th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
78th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
81st Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
3rd Ohio Artillery Battery0
4th Ohio Light Artillery Battery
10th Ohio Light Artillery Battery
14th Ohio Light Artillery Battery
Once again, Hood's aggressiveness proved costly in terms of casualties. The Confederates lost about 3,000 soldiers killed, wounded, capture, or missing, compared to less than 600 men for the Federals. Given the stakes, however, the cost may have been justified. Although the Battle of Ezra Church exacted a high price on the Rebels, Hood did prevent Howard from achieving his objective of severing a critical supply line for Atlanta.
Cite this Entry
"Battle of Ezra Church," Ohio Civil War Central, 2017, Ohio Civil War Central. 25 Jul 2017 <http://www.ohiocivilwarcentral.com/entry.php?rec=449>
"Battle of Ezra Church." (2017) In Ohio Civil War Central, Retrieved July 25, 2017, from Ohio Civil War Central: http://www.ohiocivilwarcentral.com/entry.php?rec=449