September 1, 1864: Fall of Atlanta

“You can tell your grandchildren about how you watched the Old South fall one night.”

Rhett Butler to Scarlet O’Hara, Gone With The Wind

With the taking of the last rail line out of Atlanta due to the Union victory at the battle of Jonesborough, go here to read about it, Hood wasted no time in ordering the evacuation of his army from Atlanta.  Many Confederates at the time would have agreed with the fictional Rhett Butler that the fall of Altanta likely meant that the Confederacy was going to lose the War.  Their great hope had been that Lincoln would lose his bid for re-election, and with the capture of Atlanta that hope vanished overnight as it was now clear, North and South, that the Union was winning the War.

By 5:00 PM Hood ordered his troops from Atlanta.  Many of the Confederates sang the romantic ballad Lorena as they marched off, a touching factoid missed by the makers of the film Gone With the Wind in their Atlanta falls sequences. 

Shortly after midnight the citizens of Atlanta, if any could sleep on such a night, were awakened by a series of violent explosions.  Hood order the demolition of his ammunition train, eighty-one box cars and seven locomotives.  The buildings for a quarter mile around were perforated by debris from the explosions, the occupants fortunately having been evacuated by the Confederate Army before the demolition work began.

The mayor of Atlanta personally notified the Union troops the next day that the Confederates had abandoned the city, and Atlanta was occupied by the Union by noon on September 2.  The end of the War was not yet, but it was in sight.  However, as the movie Gone With the Wind indicated, there was still plenty of fight left in the South, even though the cause of the Confederate States was clearly going down in defeat:

Rhett: (smiling after a second) I’m going , my dear, to join the army.
Scarlett: (relieved) Oh, you’re joking! I could kill you for scaring me so.
Rhett: I’m very serious, Scarlett. I’m going to join up with our brave lads in grey.
Scarlett: (incredulous)But they are running away!
Rhett: Oh, no. They’ll turn and make a last stand—if I know anything about them. And when they do, I’ll be with them. I’m a little late but “better late than”—
Scarlett (interrupting, looking at him with horror) Rhett, you must be joking!
Rhett: Selfish to the end, aren’t you Thinking only of your own precious hide with never a thought for the noble cause.
Scarlett: Rhett! How could you do this to me And why should you go now that – after it’s all over—and I need you! Why! Why!
Rhett: Why, maybe it’s because I’ve always had a weakness for lost causes… once they’re really lost… or, maybe- maybe I’m ashamed of myself. Who knows.

More to explorer

One Comment

  1. Song from the ’70’s: The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” Although, it’s not a true analogy.

    Also, 1 September is the anniversary of Sedan.

    On 1 Sep 1914, 1st Batt., Irish Guards (1st Corps, 2nd Div., 4th (Guards) Brig.) was fighting a bitter rear-guard action with the 2nd Coldstream Guards to its left, under its commander, Colonel Morris (KIA that day). Their second position was a wooded hell a mile farther south. “. . . .bullet-torn woods, where, when a man dropped in the bracken and bramble, he disappeared.” Their fire discipline caused the Germans to believe the woods were filled with machine guns, “instead of trained men firing together sustainedly.” The “. . . German advance guard was, by comparison an army, all that could be done was to hold back as long as possible the attacks on flank and front . . . ” From Rudyard Kipling, The Irish Guards in the Great War, The First Battalion.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: