Battle of Utoy Creek (August 5-7, 1864)

Updated: May 17, 2011

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.

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, and 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 needed to sever the Atlanta and West Railroad, which entered the city from the southwest. His first attempt to do so failed at the Battle of Ezra Church on July 28, 1864. In early August, Sherman began transferring Schofield's Army of the Ohio from his left flank to his right flank, southwest of Atlanta. On August 4, the Army of the Ohio, supported by one corps from the Army of the Cumberland, crossed Utoy Creek to move toward the railroad. The next day, the Federals advanced with some success before Schofield stopped to regroup his army. The delay enabled the Rebels to reinforce their defenses. At 10:00 a.m., on August 6, Schofield ordered an all-out attack against the highly outnumbered Confederates, which failed. Following another assault, which the Rebels also repulsed, Schofield called it a day. On August 7, the Union troops entrenched in front of the Confederate defenses, where they remained until late August.

Ohio units that participated in the Battle of Utoy Creek included:

Infantry units:

5th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

7th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

29th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

45th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

50th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

55th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

61st Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

66th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

73rd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

79th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

82nd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

99th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

100th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

103rd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

104th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

111th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

118th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

Artillery units:

Battery C, 1st Ohio Light Artillery Regiment

Battery D, 1st Ohio Light Artillery Regiment

19th Ohio Light Artillery Battery

The Battle of Utoy Creek was not a major engagement in terms of casualties. Estimates of Union losses vary from about 300 to about 2,000 men killed, wounded, captured, and missing. Estimates of Confederate losses range from about 20 to about 250 men killed, wounded, captured, and missing. Still, the battle was important because the Confederates prevented the Federals from severing a critical supply line into Atlanta and because the Rebel victory convinced Union commander William T. Sherman to abandon frontal attacks on Atlanta’s Confederate defenders.

Cite this Entry

MLA Style

"Battle of Utoy Creek," Ohio Civil War Central, 2017, Ohio Civil War Central. 21 Nov 2017 <http://www.ohiocivilwarcentral.com/entry.php?rec=467>

APA Style

"Battle of Utoy Creek." (2017) In Ohio Civil War Central, Retrieved November 21, 2017, from Ohio Civil War Central: http://www.ohiocivilwarcentral.com/entry.php?rec=467

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