The Decisive Battle of the Civil War: Another Nomination – Part 4

By David A. Carrino
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2010, All Rights Reserved

Part 4 of a 4-part article


Noted Civil War author Shelby Foote used a picturesque phrase to describe William T. Sherman’s repeated maneuvering around Joseph E. Johnston during Sherman’s drive through Georgia toward Atlanta. Foote called this a “red clay minuet.” It was at the first battle of Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign, the Battle of Rocky Face Ridge, that the Union general devised the dance steps that he employed for his minuet with Johnston. At the Battle of Rocky Face Ridge, Sherman used a coordinated series of maneuvers to compel Johnston into abandoning his strong position and give ground toward Sherman’s ultimate objective: the city of Atlanta. Except for the disaster at Kennesaw Mountain, Sherman sent his forces on similar coordinated maneuvers throughout his thrust toward Atlanta and thereby forced Johnston to fall back all the way to the objective that Sherman was seeking to reach.

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The Decisive Battle of the Civil War: Another Nomination – Part 3

By David A. Carrino
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2010, All Rights Reserved

Part 3 of a 4-part article


William T. Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign was instrumental in ensuring the completion of the Union victory in the Civil War, because its culmination, the capture of the city of Atlanta, enhanced support of the war effort in the North by giving Northerners hope that the war could soon end in defeat of the Confederacy. This likely contributed greatly to Abraham Lincoln’s re-election, which meant that the war would be continued and the Confederacy defeated. Much of Sherman’s progress toward his objective of Atlanta was achieved by maneuvering his adversary, Joseph E. Johnston, out of one strong position after another followed by Johnston falling back closer and closer to Atlanta. Sherman’s tactic of maneuver around Johnston’s strong positions, rather than direct assault on those positions, was devised and first employed at the Battle of Rocky Face Ridge, the opening battle of the Atlanta Campaign. Because of this, and because the Atlanta Campaign, as stated above, was the most significant military action in ensuring the completion of the Union victory, the Battle of Rocky Face Ridge, which is not a well-known battle, is proposed in this four-part article as the decisive battle of the Civil War. As discussed in Part 1, the intent in nominating this battle as the most decisive is to provide an unconventional and hopefully thought-provoking point of view and to show how a seemingly insignificant battle can have important ramifications. Part 1 of this four-part article describes the Battle of Rocky Face Ridge, while Part 2 focuses on how Sherman used the tactics that he employed at Rocky Face Ridge in the early phases of the Atlanta Campaign. Part 3 continues this story and includes the one battle in the campaign in which Sherman deviated from this pattern, with disastrous consequences.

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The Decisive Battle of the Civil War: Another Nomination – Part 2

By David A. Carrino
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2010, All Rights Reserved

Part 2 of a 4-part article


One very effective way to instigate a lively discussion among a group of Civil War enthusiasts is to propose a specific battle as the decisive battle of the Civil War. It is likely that the people in the group will follow up by making their own proposals for the decisive battle, which will probably result in a number of different battles being suggested for this distinction, among them Gettysburg, Vicksburg, Antietam, and Chancellorsville (because of the mortal wounding of Stonewall Jackson), if not others. This four-part article proposes a different (and obscure) battle as the decisive battle of the Civil War: the Battle of Rocky Face Ridge, which was the opening battle of William T. Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign. This battle is nominated as the decisive battle of the war because it set the pattern for the entire Atlanta Campaign, and the Atlanta Campaign, as argued in this four-part article, was the most significant military action in ensuring the completion of the Union victory. Part 1 of this article focuses on the beginning of the Atlanta Campaign at Rocky Face Ridge and how one of Sherman’s subordinates missed an opportunity to possibly eliminate Joseph E. Johnston’s Confederate Army of Tennessee and thereby remove the only significant military force between Sherman and Atlanta. Part 2 continues the story of how the Battle of Rocky Face Ridge set the military pattern that Sherman used throughout his Atlanta Campaign.

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The Decisive Battle of the Civil War: Another Nomination – Part 1

By David A. Carrino
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2010, All Rights Reserved

Part 1 of a 4-part article


William T. Sherman

One of the much debated topics about the Civil War is which battle was the decisive battle. Much effort and time have been expended in support of one or another Civil War battle for this distinction. A great deal of energy and thought have also been devoted to the point of view that no Civil War battle merits this title. Herein is offered another nomination for this designation as well as the case for this contention. Note that the choice of the word “contention” is intentional, because the battle which is proposed as the most decisive is not one which is likely to be selected and which is instead likely to provoke disagreement. Rather than championing this battle as the most decisive, the intent is to provide a different and hopefully thought-provoking point of view about a little-known Civil War battle, the ramifications of which are greater than the apparent insignificance of the battle. The battle in question is Rocky Face Ridge, the opening battle of William Tecumseh Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign. This battle is nominated as the decisive battle of the war because it set the pattern for the entire Atlanta Campaign, and the Atlanta Campaign, as argued below, was the most significant military action in ensuring the completion of the Union victory.

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