Visiting the Battle of AtlantaEditors note: Urban Atlanta is comprised of vastly different areas from low income to high income, just as in any large American city. This tour is designed to highlight the events of July 22, 1864. During the tour it is possible to see some of these differences.
Today homes and offices cover the land that saw the bloodiest fighting in the Atlanta Campaign. From the Carter Center south to intersection of Glenwood and Moreland Avenue, then curving to the east and north, the line of battle extended for more than 4 miles in an area of town known as East Atlanta. Frank Cheatham [CS] and William “Old Reliable” Hardee [CS] attacked Granville Dodge’s [US] XVI Corps and “Blackjack” Logan’s [US] XV Corps on July 22, 1864. For a complete recap of the fighting, please see About North Georgia’s Battle of Atlanta
|The grave of James MacPherson, now in urban Atlanta|
Studying the battlefields in Atlanta is impossible, since they were destroyed by the growing city. However, it is possible to visit them, and this can be interesting for any Civil War buff. A reminder. Modern construction techiniques allow builders to significantly change the shape of the earth, so ridges are not as high and valleys are not as low.Two notable deaths occurred during the fighting. The loss of General James McPherson was a stinging blow to the Union Army and a deep personal loss for his commanding officer, William Tecumseh Sherman.
Confederate General W. H. T. Walker was a somewhat less significant loss for the Confederate Army, but a blow nonetheless. Above is the barrel-up cannon that adorns the site of McPherson’s loss, and below is a similar cannon that decorates the site of Walker’s death.
To tour the battlefield today, get on I-20 east from the Downtown Connector. Take the Moreland Av. exit (60-b, 4 miles) north. The ramp loops back and crosses back over Interstate 20. As you travel north along Moreland Avenue you are traveling along a ridge that also extends slightly above the road on your right. This was Bald Hill in pre-Civil War Atlanta, which the Union soldiers who took it over on July 21, 1864 promptly renamed to Leggett’s Hill, for a Union commander. Continue north on Moreland.
If it were July 22, 1864, Union forces would be preparing defenses where the road is while Confederate forces would be preparing to attack on your left. Leggett’s Hill would be the site of a major attack in an attempt to retake the hill. From here Sherman had been effectively bombarding Atlanta for 24 hours. At .25 miles turn left on Memorial Drive. Travel 1.3 miles and turn right. Travel one block to the entrance of Oakland Cemetery. Turn right and head for the cemetery office (its visible from the entrance). Make a left on the first road past the office and continue to a historical marker. General John Bell Hood (bio) watched the battle from this vantage point.
This Atlanta City Cemetery was founded in 1850 and has a number of notable people buried here including Author Margaret Mitchell, Governor Joseph Brown and golfer Bobby Jones. In 1864 the Windsor Smith house stood here and it was Hood’s headquarters. He watched the battle from the second story. Take a few minutes to see some of the highlights of the cemetery as well. The office has a brochure for sale that helps to locate graves of the famous and near famous people buried here.
Return to the intersection of Memorial Drive and Boulevard. (Turn left out of Oakland Cemetery, travel 1 block to Memorial Drive, turn left and proceed .3 miles to Boulevard. Turn left on Boulevard.) Continue for .6 of a mile. Just past the end of Oakland Cemetery (on your left) are the tracks of the Georgia Railroad. After you pass under the track, turn right on Edgewood Avenue and continue for .6 miles Dekalb Ave. Turn left. Continue on for .1 miles and turn left on Degress St.
|Site of Troup-Hurt House|
It was from this rise that William Tecumseh Sherman’s men first fired artillery into the city of Atlanta. During the battle of Atlanta this position would be key in the Union defense. As you travel down Degress St. there is an old stone church on the right. This is the site of the Troup-Hurt house depicted in the Atlanta Cyclorama. At 4:30pm, after having fallen into Rebel hands, General John “Blackjack” Logan would lead a counter-attack to retake the hill. Intense fighting both before and during this attack occurred at the Troup-Hurt House. It is from this vantage point that German artisans created the Battle of Atlanta, which is displayed at the Cyclorama in Grant Park. Return to Boulevard (right on Dekalb Ave., right on Edgewood Av., right on Boulevard.)Continue north on Boulevard for .6 miles. Atlanta is a town rich in African-American history, and you are passing through some of the most renown areas. Sweet Auburn and the Martin Luther King National Historic Site have both local and national meaning in the drive to extend civil rights for all Americans. As you approach the Freedon Parkway Atlanta looms picture perfect below and to your left. It is a good place to take a picture, if you are so inclined. A small park lends atmosphere to any photograph taken from this point.
|Entrance to the Carter Center|
Turn right on Freedom Parkway and travel for 1.3+ miles to the Carter Library. Watch for parking signs to the left. If you miss the signs (we always seem to), don’t worry. There is ample opportunity to circle and park on the other side. The library is built on the same ground where Sherman watched the Battle of Atlanta. Here, Augustus Hurt’s home sat on land where the library now stands. The library is home to memoriabilia regarding Mr. Carter’s presidency and includes displays on his youth, highlights of governorship of Georgia and as President of the United States. Our favorite: the replica of the Oval Office.Return to Freedom Parkway and continue east. In .2 miles turn left on Highland Avenue. At Ponce de Leone Avenue (.3 miles) turn right. Continue on Ponce for 1.7 miles to East Lake Road. This beautiful, park-like setting is a short, pleasant break from the normal urban environment through which you have been traveling. The Fernbank Museum is an excellent stop for those interested in natural history. They have recently added an IMAX theatre. To visit, follow the signs at Clifton Avenue.
Turn right on East Lake Road. At 1.2 miles the road becomes 2nd Avenue and East Lake continues to the left. Continue south on 2nd Avenue for 1.4 miles to Glenwood Avenue. When you see East Lake Golf Course
|Cannon honoring Confederate General W. H. T. Walker|
on the left you are approaching your turn. Turn right and travel 1 mile. Slow as you approach I-20. There is a gas station on your right (you may park here if you wish). Just past the gas station is a road with a small triangle intersection. The cannon marks the spot where W. H. T. Walker was shot as he scouted the area he was assigned to attack, just before the start of the Battle of Atlanta. North and northwest of this spot Hardee’s right flank (Bate and Walker) struck the Yankees of the XVI Corps (Dodge).Travel .8 miles to Monument Ave. Turn right (as landmarks, the street before is East, the street after is Patterson. If you pass Monument Ave., turn right at the next block and return to Monument on Metropolitan Av.) As you travel down Monument Ave. the spot where McPherson fell is directly in front of you. The tablet under the cannon has his name and a nearby historic marker tells the story of his death.
Return down Monument Ave. to Glenwood. Turn right. Travel .45 miles on Glenwood to Moreland. The original Union line formed on the north side of Glenwood Avenue here, then followed Flat Shoals Rd. When men under the command of Patrick Cleburne outflanked this line they were forced to withdraw to a line near McPherson Avenue. It was during this that General McPherson accidently rode into the Confederate lines and was shot by an enlisted man.
There is a small jog in Glenwood Avenue at Moreland Avenue. Turn right, then make an immediate left and continue on Glenwood for 1.2 miles. Turn left on Boulevard, continue south for .9 miles and turn left on Atlanta Road. Continue for .3 miles. Turn right on Cherokee Avenue. The cannon on your right mark the entrance to Grant Park. Donated by Lemual Grant to the city of Atlanta, this is home to two of Atlanta’s most enduring attractions, Zoo Atlanta and The Cyclorama.
Housed inside the Cyclorama is a museum that includes The Texas, a locomotive involved in the The Great Locomotive Chase. Also here is one of the few remaining cycloramas in the world, The Battle of Atlanta. This 20,000 square foot work of art vividly recreates the battle and much of the terrortory you have visited today. A fee is charged. When we last visited, December 31, 2000, the fee was $5.00.
This concludes Reliving the Battle of Atlanta. For more information on Atlanta of the Civil War in Georgia please visit these fine sites
- Battle of Atlanta – Tells the story of the battle.
- Historic High Country Travel Association‘s Blue and Gray Trail offers a free brochure of Civil War sites in North Georgia. It also has extensive original material about the battles and places which were affected by the War.
- The Battle of Atlanta retells the story of the battle and is highly recommended for those interested in taking the tour.
- The Cyclorama tells the story of the 20,000 square foot painting and the building that houses it.
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