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The Atlanta Campaign Part 3: Crossing the Chattahoochee Followed By Nine Bloody Days of Battle, July 9-28, 1864

A BGES Civil War Field University Program

March 21-25, 2018

With Gary Ecelberger and Robert Jenkins Sr. from Marietta, Georgia

It had taken two months; but, Sherman had maneuvered and battled his way to the banks of the Chattahoochee River. In the process he destroyed what remained of President Jefferson Davis’ confidence in Joseph E. Johnston. The quiet but prickly general had steadily retreated in the wake of expansive turning movements that drew the Union army ever closer to the key transportation hub of Atlanta. With Robert E. Lee having been bloodily beaten back into entrenchments around Petersburg, Davis sent his military advisor, General Braxton Bragg to Atlanta to ask Johnston’s plans for saving Atlanta. At the same time he asked Robert E. Lee what he thought of the Corps Commanders now operating under Hood. Leonidas Polk had been killed at Pine Mountain and William Hardee had previously declined promotion to full general and command of the army. This left the young but pugnacious Lieutenant General John Bell Hood. Bell as he was known to his friends was relatively new to the theater and had only been promoted to his current rank six months prior. He was but 34 years old and was about to become the youngest four star general in US military history. This is the story of the defense of Atlanta.

As this series enters its 3rd session, for only the second time in BGES history, each day of our four days in the field is enhanced by an entire book dedicated to the topic of that particular day, and those books are written by the tour guides who will lead us through each of those days (Gordon Rhea was the first guide).

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

6:00 PM Check in at headquarters hotel for meet, greet and to pick up your reading books. Our program begins Wednesday evening with an overview of the Northern Georgia Campaign that had been detailed in parts 1 & 2 of our annual series. This will serve as a refresher for those who had been with us on this campaign the past two years, and will be particularly helpful to those who missed one of the two previous tours or are joining the series “mid stream” for their first experience in the Campaign for Atlanta. In addition to the recap, our facilitators will bridge the gap where we left off in 2017 from the conclusion of the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain to the Chattahoochee River defenses and approaches. Dinner is on your own.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Starting at 8:30 AM, we hit the ground running on Thursday morning, braving through metro Atlanta traffic to reach key positions along each side of the Chattahoochee River. We will visit the unique defensive mini forts called “Shoupades” and appreciate the pluses and minuses regarding their number and position. We will explore Sherman’s maneuvers to get his army group across the great moat surrounding the Gate City. We will end the day at the site where General Joseph Eggleston Johnston is relieved of command by order of President Jefferson Davis with a discussion and likely debate about the justification surrounding his dismissal, where Johnston succeeded and failed, and the controversy surrounding his replacement – General John Bell Hood. Lunch is included but dinner is on your own.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Friday morning starting at 8:30 AM, we cross the Chattahoochee again from Marietta and dedicate the entire morning and early afternoon to Hood’s First Sortie: The Battle of Peach Tree Creek, fought on July 20, 1864 between two of General Hood’s corps against Major General George Thomas’s Army of the Cumberland. Nearly every imaginable facet of this battle will be covered with on-site visits to grounds that vary from fully retained by Atlanta’s wonderful park system as well as those lost to development of the city’s upper class neighborhoods. Bob Jenkins’ modern, sound scholarship has shown this was a closer contest, in regards to casualties, than ever perceived before. Bob will offer you a non conventional alternative interpretation with a few new twists that will test your thinking–maybe even changing it–maybe not.

As a special treat, we will end our tour day taking advantage of our proximity to head over the Atlanta History Center for a special viewing of the Atlanta Cyclorama in its brand new home. Lunch provided. Dinner on your own.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Saturday morning our traffic lightens which allows us to penetrate deeper into the city of Atlanta. We will try to leave at 8:15 AM and will head to the city’s eastern environs to pick up the underappreciated fighting of July 21 that inflicted 1,000 casualties upon its participants. Then we will follow Lt. General William J. Hardee’s overnight flank march to gain the unsuspecting left flank of Major General James B. McPherson’s Army of the Tennessee. Then we will cover the action of the great Battle of Atlanta, fought on July 22 , covering what is both inside and outside the view shed of the Cyclorama, including the exact spot where General McPherson fell. General Hood changes his headquarters five times this day; we will end the day at his headquarters site in Oakland Cemetery to assess the outcome of this contest and its impact on the rest of the campaign. Lunch is included as well as a farewell dinner.

Sunday March 25, 2018

8 AM: Our final tour day takes advantage of the expected lighter Sunday morning traffic to allow us to head into Atlanta’s western environs for a thorough interpretation of the Battle of Ezra Church, the fourth battle waged in nine calendar days and a contest where bullets fired by the defenders pierced the bodies of one out of every three attackers. The subject of two books published within the past three years, Ezra Church is much more understandably interpreted today than ever before, despite the loss of much of its natural features. Our tour will end at an earthwork on the southern edge of Westview Cemetery where we will summarize the day’s events, the four days we have just studied, and look head to part IV in 2019. Lunch is included.

Depart this evening after the tour or at your leisure. We will see you for the fourth and final installment of the campaign in 2019.


Gary Ecelbarger has developed a reputation for enthusiastic presentation and excellent history. Although he refers to himself as an “amateur historian,” Gary’s books are well researched, well written, and extremely well received. Constantly pushing the envelope by asking new questions and finding new answers, he has tackled a wide variety of America’s wars and is highly sought in the touring community. Gary’s fascination with the Atlanta Campaign and key figures such as John Logan has produced a cornucopia of new and exciting scholarship. He is well ensconced in this campaign with another two works planned as his next book publications. I could not bring you a better scholar or educator.

Robert Jenkins Sr. is a Dalton, Georgia lawyer whose passion for the Civil War has erupted with the knowledge he had ancestors who fought in the war. He is a passionate preservationist and a moving force in the region for the newly interpreted sites in northern Georgia. His research and two published books are part of a larger Atlanta Campaign series he hopes to do. Both books are excellent reads and highly informative. A veritable fountain of knowledge he is being increasing sought out for tours and educational programs.


This program will be based in Marietta, Georgia. The hotel will be posted on this site. The headquarters hotel room block will likely be in the $125 a night range plus tax and it will be close to Atlanta’s new Sun Trust Baseball Stadium near the Atlanta Galleria. We will notify you of the hotel selected and the date open for reservations.


The servicing airport is Atlanta [ATL]. Traffic is bad around Atlanta. I strongly recommend that you time your travel to arrive between 9:30 AM and 1:30 PM. Traffic becomes a problem around 3 PM and remains so until after 7 PM. Morning traffic doesn’t abate until about 9 AM. If you need a rental car, perhaps you can find a dirt cheap rental car on

Recommended Reading

Key Publications and Recommended Reading

You will be provided with a reading book and maps upon arrival. We recommend the following books to enhance your preparation for this tour. has a program to support non profits IF YOU SIGN UP to support Blue and Gray Education Society (EIN 54-1720582) at AmazonSmile. When you sign up there rather than the normal Amazon site one half of one percent of your purchase price is provided to BGES as a donation from Amazon. This will apply not only on this purchase but others you may make at other times.

  • Richard McMurry. Atlanta 1864. Available on Amazon Smile.
  • John Marszalek. Sherman, A Soldier’s Passion for Order. Available on Amazon Smile.
  • Robert Jenkins. The Battle of Peachtree Creek, Hood’s First Sortie. Available on Amazon Smile.
  • Robert Jenkins. To the Gates of Atlanta. Available on Amazon Smile.
  • Gary Ecelbarger. The Day Dixie Died, The Battle of Atlanta. Available on Amazon Smile.
  • Gary Ecelbarger. Slaughter at the Chapel, The Battle of Ezra Church. Available on Amazon Smile.

Registration includes four lunches, a reading book with maps, the academic program, all admissions, support of two professional historians, tour director and transportation appropriate to the registration which will be limited to three vans: 25 people. We will also provide snacks, bottled water and a limited selection of sodas.

Register for this program online using our secure Sutler’s Tent ecommerce site: Register for The Atlanta Campaign Part 3.

Register by mail, or fax

Download a printable itinerary and registration form.