The Etowah River

The Atlanta Campaign - May 20, 1864
Stephen Davis

Gen. Joseph E. Johnston's line southeast of Cassville contained a flaw: a section of it, held by Lt. Gen. Leonidas Polk's corps, was exposed to enemy artillery enfilade fire. That night Polk and Lt. Gen. John B. Hood explained it to Johnston, saying that if the enemy attacked in the morning, they could not hold their position more than an hour. Johnston reluctantly agreed to order another nighttime retreat, this one across the Etowah River to high ground around Allatoona Pass, four miles south of the river.

Etowah River
Federal earthworks overlook the Etowah River near the Western & Atlantic Railroad Bridge. (Library of Congress)

Sherman was content to let his forces rest for a few days, May 20-23, while he planned his next advance. He knew the defensive strength of Allatoona, and was not going to test it with infantry assault. Instead he planned to cross the Etowah downstream, and march his columns south toward Dallas, a crossroads village southwest of Johnston’s position, flanking it and threatening his rear.

Earthworks at the Etowah River today
Remnants of the Federal works over the Etowah River can still be found today. (Douglas Ullman, Jr.)


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