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Early July 17, 1864, a division of the Union´s 4th Corps was sent from Powers´ Ferry to drive the Confederate pickets from the hills overlooking the Chattahoochee River and to protect the laying of two pontoon bridges at Pace´s Ferry. After spirited skirmishing, the outnumbered Confederates withdrew. About noon, the bridges were ready and the Union 14th and 20th Corps crossed and moved by this point toward Peachtree Creek, the 14th Corps via Howell Mill (old Atlanta ~ Pace´s Ferry Road), the 20th Corps via Mt. Paran Road and a military road which is now Northside Drive.
By July 17, 1864, the 4th and 23rd Corps had crossed the Chattahoochee at near Power´s Ferry and Garrard Calvary had cross the river at the Shallow Ford at Roswell. On July 17, Wood´s 3rd div., 4th AC moved 3 mi. S. to Pace´s Ferry to cover the crossing of the 14th A.C. from Cobb County side. With 3 secure crossing, Gen. Sherman halted his 3 armies to give them some rest. During this time, Sherman´s men built up supplies at Allatoona, Marietta, and Vining´s Station, strengthening the railroad guards and garrisons, and improved the pier bridges and roads leading across the Chattahoochee river. McPherson´s Army of the Tennessee was moved from the Union right near Nickajack to the Union Left at Roswell and crossed the river at the Shallow Ford.
On July 10, Sherman sent a telegram to Gen. Rousseau, commanding the District of Tennessee, stationed at Decatur, Ala with a force of 2,000 cavalry to move south and to cut the rail line linking Atlanta with Montgomery, AL. On July 16th, Gen. Rousseau´s men cut the rail line at about twenty-five miles west of Opelika, as well as three miles of the branch toward Columbus, and two miles towards West Point. This force the joined Sherman in Marietta on July 22.
On July 17, 1864, Gen. Thomas crossed at Powers´ and Pace´s Ferry bridges, and to marched towards Buck Head. Gen. Schofield having already across at the mouth of Soap Creek, marched towards Cross Keys; and Gen. McPherson was ordered to move against the Augusta road at some point east of Decatur near Stone Mountain. Gen. Garrard´s cavalry acted with Gen. McPherson, and Gen. Stoneman and McCook watched the river and roads below the railroads.
Having already cut the rail lines from the north and the west, now Sherman moved to cut the rail line to the east. This was the shortest route for re-enforcement from Virginia to reach Atlanta.
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In his official report, dated September 15, 1864, General Sherman´s describes the events north of Atlanta from July 9th until July 20th, 1864:
At the same time General Garrard moved rapidly on Roswell, and destroyed the factories which had supplied the rebel armies with cloth for years. Over one of these, the woolen factory, the nominal owner displayed the French flag, which was not respected, of course. A neutral surely is no better than one of our own citizens, and we do not permit our own citizens to fabricate cloth for hostile uses.
General Garrard was then ordered to secure the shallow ford at Roswell and hold it until he could be relieved by infantry, and as I contemplated transferring the Army of the Tennessee from the extreme right to the left. I ordered General Thomas to send a division of his infantry that was nearest up to Roswell to hold the ford until General McPherson could send up a corps from the neighborhood of Nickajack. General Newton's division was sent and held the ford until the arrival of General Dodge's corps, which was soon followed by General McPherson's whole army. About the same time General Howard had also built a bridge at Powers' Ferry, two miles below. General Schofield had crossed over and taken position on his right. Thus during the 9th we had secured three good and safe points of passage over the Chattahoochee above the enemy, with good roads leading to Atlanta, and Johnston abandoned his téte-de-pont, burned his bridge, and left us undisputed masters north and west of the Chattahoochee at daylight of the 10th of July. This was one, if not the chief, object of the campaign, viz, the advancement of our lines from the Tennessee to the Chattahoochee; but Atlanta lay before us, only eight miles distant, and was too important a place in the hands of the enemy to be left undisturbed, with its magazines, stores, arsenals, workshops, foundries, &c., and more especially its railroads, which converged there from the four great cardinal points, but the men had worked hard and needed rest and we accordingly took a short spell. But in anticipation of this contingency I had collected a well appointed force of cavalry, about 2,000 strong, at Decatur, Ala.. with orders on receiving notice by telegraph to push rapidly south, cross the Coosa at the railroad bridge, or the Ten Islands, and thence by the most direct route to Opelika.
There is but one stem of finished railroad connecting the channels of trade and travel between Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, which runs from Montgomery to Opelika, and my purpose was to break it up effectually and thereby cut off Johnston's army from that source of supply and re-enforcements. General Rousseau, commanding the District of Tennessee, asked permission to command the expedition and received it. As soon as Johnston was well across the Chattahoochee, and as I had begun to maneuver on Atlanta, I gave the requisite notice, and General Rousseau started punctually on the 10th of July. He fulfilled his order and instructions to the very letter, whipping the rebel General Clantonen route. He passed through Talladega and reached the railroad on the 16th, about twenty-five miles west of Opelika, and broke it well up to that place, also three miles of the branch toward Columbus, and two toward West Point. He then turned north and brought his command safely to Marietta, arriving on the 22d, having sustained a trifling loss, not to exceed 30 men.
The main armies remained quiet in their camps on the Chattahoochee until the 16th of July, but the time was employed in collecting stores at Allatoona, Marietta, and Vining's Station, strengthening the railroad guards and garrisons, and in improving the pier bridges and roads leading across the river. Generals Stoneman's and McCook's cavalry had scouted well down the river to draw attention in that direction, and all things being ready for a general advance, I ordered it to commence on the 17th, General Thomas to cross at Powers' and Pace's Ferry bridges, and to march by Buck Head. General Schofield was already across at the mouth of Soap Creek, and to march by Cross Keys; and General McPherson to direct his course from Roswell straight against the Augusta road at some point east of Decatur near Stone Mountain. General Garrard's cavalry acted with General McPherson, and Generals Stoneman and McCook watched the river and roads below the railroads.
On the 17th the whole army advanced from their camps and formed a general line along the old Peach Tree road. Continuing on a general right-wheel, General McPherson reached the Augusta railroad on the 18th, at a point seven miles east of Decatur, and with General Garrard's cavalry and General Morgan L. Smith's infantry division, of the Fifteenth Corps, broke up a section of about four miles, and General Schofield reached the town of Decatur.
On the 19th General McPherson turned along the railroad into Decatur and General Schofield followed a road toward Atlanta, leading off by Colonel Howard's house and the distillery, and General Thomas crossed Peach Tree Creek in force by numerous bridges in the face of the enemy's intrenched line; all found the enemy in more or less force and skirmished heavily.
On the 20th all the armies had closed in, converging toward Atlanta, but as a gap existed between Generals Schofield and Thomas, two divisions of General Howard's corps, of General Thomas' army, was moved to the left to connect with General Schofield, leaving General Newton's division of the same corps on the Buck Head road. During the afternoon of the 20th, about 4 p.m., the enemy sallied from his works in force and fell in line of battle against our right center, composed of General Newton's division, of General Howard's corps, on the main Buck Head road, of General Hooker's corps, next south, and General Johnson's division, of General Palmer's corps. The blow was sudden and somewhat unexpected, but General Newton had hastily covered his front by a line of rail piles, which enabled him to meet and repulse the attack on him. General Hooker's whole corps was uncovered and had to fight on comparatively open ground, and it too, after a very severe battle, drove the enemy back to his intrenchments, and the action in front of General Johnson was comparatively light, that division being well intrenched. The enemy left on the field over 500 dead, about 1,000 wounded, 7 stand of colors, and many prisoners. His loss could not have fallen short of 5,000, whereas ours was covered by 1,500 killed, wounded, and missing. The greater loss fell on General Hooker's corps from its exposed condition.†
General Joseph E. Johnston, commanding the Army of Tennessee [Confederate], was headquartered at the plantation home of Dexter Niles (1042 Marietta Street, NW). Maj. Charles W. Hubner was in charge of the telegraph office located at trackside north of the plantation house. On the night of July 17, a telegram arrived from Richmond, VA, notifying Gen. Johnston that he had been of relief from command of the army, and naming General John B. Hood as his successor. Maj. Hubner decoded the tape, crossed the road, entered the house and handed the dispatch to General Johnston who, with maps spread out, was instructing Col. Presstman about Atlanta defenses. 
|Special Order||Adjt. And Insp. General´s Office,|
|168||Richmond, July 18, 1864.|
V. General Joseph E. Johnston, C. S. Army, is hereby relieved from the command of the Army and Department of Tennessee, and will turn over the same to General John B. Hood. Provisional Army, C. S.
|By command of the Secretary of War:|
|SAML. W. MELTON,|
20th A.C., Pace's Fy. Rd.