Union Forces Commanded by:
Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman
Confederate Forces Commanded by:
Gen. Joseph E. Johnston
**Missing and Captured
Conclusion: Inconclusive Victory
Gen. Joseph E. Johnston had withdrawn from Rocky Face Ridge to the hills around Resaca. May 13, Johnston positioned his forces along a ridge that lay between the Oostanaula River and the Conasauga River just north of the small town of Resaca, Georgia. This defensive line protected his supply line to Atlanta, the Western & Atlantic Railroad. the Union troops tested the Confederate lines to pinpoint their whereabouts. Maj. Gen. John Logan's XV Corps arrived west of Resaca to discover that Johnston had reinforced his army with Gen. Leonidas Polk's Army of Mississippi, which became the III Corps of the Army of Tennessee.
On the 14th, full scale fighting occurred, and the Union troops were generally repulsed except on the Confederate right flank where Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman did not fully exploit his advantage. Sherman ordered an attack at Johnston's center with a division of Gen. John Palmer's XIV Corps. They pushed across Camp Creek valley towards a crest held by Gen. William J. Hardee's Corps. There they met devastating infantry and artillery fire. Gen. Henry Judah launched an independent attack with his 2nd Division of Schofield's Army of the Ohio accompanied by Baird's 3rd Division. The attack was uncoordinated due to an overlapping of brigades. They met head long into Joseph Lewis' Kentucky Orphan Brigade and Edward Walthall's Mississippi Brigade. The attack was repulsed by infantry fire and heavy artillery from Maj. Thomas Hotchkiss's battalion.
On the Union left, Johnston ordered Gen. Hood to attack the exposed flank of Gen. Howard's IV Corps. Gens. Stevenson and Alex Stewart were ordered to "wheel" against them. Stevenson's division hit directly upon the exposed flank of Stanley's division. Stewart's division ran into and was stalled by the effective fire of Peter Simonson's 5th Indiana Battery. The attack was still moving somewhat successfully until the timely arrival of Col. James Robinson's 3rd Brigade of Alpheus Williams' 1st Division of Hooker's XX corps which helped restore the Union line.
The only Union success of the day was when several brigades of Logan's XV Corps managed to push back Polk's troops on the Confederate left. There the Federals dug in on the recently acquired high ground as Polk's troops withdrew to a new position closer to town.
Sherman ordered Sweeny's Division of the XVI Corps to move several miles south to Lay's Ferry. Late on the afternoon of the 14th, Sweeny pushed back a small compliment of Confederate calvary and crossed 2 regiments, in pontoon boats, to the Oostanaula's southern shore. Gen. William Walker's Division was sent to intercept. Upon learning of Walker's Division being en route, Sweeny pulled back across the river. When Walker arrived and found no Federals, he drew back to the east and left the ferry unguarded. Sherman ordered Sweeny back across the river on the 15th and Sweeny crossed with his whole division.
Sherman then shifted Hooker's XX Corps and at 11:30 A.M. on the 15th, the attack on the Confederate right was renewed. Hooker's 3 divisions, with Gen. William Ward's brigade, over ran Capt. Maxillian Van den Corput's Cherokee Georgia Battery, but the attack stalled in front of Brown's, Cumming's and Reynold's brigades' deadly musketry.
Johnston, more than satisfied with Hood's previous attack on the Union left the day before, had again ordered Hood to attack. Stevenson was already engaged with Hooker's XX Corps and could not attack. Stewart moved out in the same half wheel manner. Johnston attempted to call off the attack when he learned of Sweeny's crossing again at Lay's Ferry, but Stewart was already heavily engaged. Over a thousand men were lost before Stewart could return to his works.
Despite carrying both days, Sweeny had gained a foothold and threatened the Army of Tennessee's supply line. Johnston informed his senior officers that the Army of Tennessee had no choice but to fall back from Resaca or be cut off from Atlanta. Under the cover of darkness, the Army of Tennessee fell back and crossed the Oostanaula River toward Calhoun and Adairsville.
In the early hours of the 16th, the Confederates set fire to the railroad span crossing the Oostanaula and a nearby wagon bridge to prevent it from falling into Federal hands.
By early afternoon of the 16th, the Federals had repaired the damaged bridges and Howard's IV corps was in pursuit of the Confederates. Unable to halt this Union movement, Johnston was forced to retire.
Thus ended the first major battle of the Atlanta Campaign.