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Fighting for Atlanta: Tactics, Terrain, and Trenches in the Civil War

by Earl J. Hess

Series: Civil War America (2018)

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1421,168,458 (4)4
As William T. Sherman's Union troops began their campaign for Atlanta in the spring of 1864, they encountered Confederate forces employing field fortifications located to take advantage of rugged terrain. While the Confederates consistently acted on the defensive, digging eighteen lines of earthworks from May to September, the Federals used fieldworks both defensively and offensively. With 160,000 troops engaged on both sides and hundreds of miles of trenches dug, fortifications became a defining factor in the Atlanta campaign battles. These engagements took place on topography ranging from Appalachian foothills to the clay fields of Georgia's piedmont. Leading military historian Earl J. Hess examines how commanders adapted their operations to the physical environment, how the environment in turn affected their movements, and how Civil War armies altered the terrain through the science of field fortification. He also illuminates the impact of fighting and living in ditches for four months on the everyday lives of both Union and Confederate soldiers. The Atlanta campaign represents one of the best examples of a prolonged Union invasion deep into southern territory, and, as Hess reveals, it marked another important transition in the conduct of war from open field battles to fighting from improvised field fortifications.… (more)
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On the whole, I have to admit that the author's books on the impact of field fortifications in the American Civil War can feel like too much of a good thing, but once you're done with one, you have to be impressed with the doggedness that Hess brought to the effort. I will add that this book has the virtue that it functions well as a survey of the whole Atlanta campaign as a military operation, and as a tribute to the military art of William T. Sherman. ( )
  Shrike58 | Jun 13, 2021 |
Fighting for Atlanta is a fine narrative of the use of entrenchments during the Atlanta campaign. Major takeaways from the book: First, the use of entrenchments became ever more sophisticated as the campaign proceeded. Second, the Confederates used its entrenchments defensively, while the Union used the both defensively and offensively. On the offense, entrenchments could be held with a modest force, while the bulk of the troops could be used to try to flank the Confederates.

A major flaw in the book is the maps. While numerous, they are very crude, and some don’t even have a scale, making it quite difficult for the reader to follow the action. This is particularly so for the fighting around the city of Atlanta itself. The maps were presumably drawn by the author; a professional mapmaker would have helped immeasurably. ( )
  charbonn | Feb 12, 2019 |
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As William T. Sherman's Union troops began their campaign for Atlanta in the spring of 1864, they encountered Confederate forces employing field fortifications located to take advantage of rugged terrain. While the Confederates consistently acted on the defensive, digging eighteen lines of earthworks from May to September, the Federals used fieldworks both defensively and offensively. With 160,000 troops engaged on both sides and hundreds of miles of trenches dug, fortifications became a defining factor in the Atlanta campaign battles. These engagements took place on topography ranging from Appalachian foothills to the clay fields of Georgia's piedmont. Leading military historian Earl J. Hess examines how commanders adapted their operations to the physical environment, how the environment in turn affected their movements, and how Civil War armies altered the terrain through the science of field fortification. He also illuminates the impact of fighting and living in ditches for four months on the everyday lives of both Union and Confederate soldiers. The Atlanta campaign represents one of the best examples of a prolonged Union invasion deep into southern territory, and, as Hess reveals, it marked another important transition in the conduct of war from open field battles to fighting from improvised field fortifications.

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