December 20, 2021
Commander: Brig. Gen John M. Corse
Casualties: 706 (35%)
Commander: Gen Samuel French
Casualties: 897 (28%)
The Battle of Allatoona Pass was fought on October 5, 1864. While the battle was small by Civil War standards, the casualty rate was much higher. Its location tells you why.
The Western & Atlantic Railroad ran from Chattanooga, Tennessee to Atlanta, Georgia. As the Union army fought its way from Chattanooga to Atlanta in 1864, this railroad was its lifeline. Protecting the railroad was critical to the Union army’s success. One chokepoint was at Allatoona Pass where the railroad traveled through a very steep, narrow gorge.
Union troops were determined to defend their tenuous supply line. The Confederates were equally determined to sever it.
Little of what was here in 1864 remains. Parts of the battlefield are now under Allatoona Lake. One residential building that appears in Civil War era maps and photos, the John Clayton house (see map above), is still here (see photo below) and still occupied as a private residence.
While there are no monuments on the battlefield itself, there are memorials for each state, Union and Confederate, whose soldiers fought here.
The railroad that ran through the pass, the wagon road and, military service road are no longer in use. But you can walk along what was once the railroad, wagon road, and military service road. While there are quite a few excellent signs explaining the battle and the sights, trail signage is lacking. Some of the trails are also quite steep.
Union troops constructed large earthen forts on either side of the railroad cut and connected them by trenches and redoubts. You can still see remnants of the fortifications today. At the time of the battle, most of the trees had been cut down to use in the fortifications and to provide clear fields of fire. The trees have grown back so it’s hard to picture the battlefield the way the combatants saw it.
The battle started at 7:00am when Confederate artillery began bombarding Union fortifications. Two hours later, Gen. French demanded the Union surrender to “avoid the needless effusion of blood.” Gen. Corse replied that “we are prepared for the ‘needless effusion of blood’ whenever it is agreeable to you.”
On the western side of the railroad cut, French’s troops attacked from the north and west, forcing Union troops to seek refuge in the star fort. At one point more than 700 troops were huddled in the fort. For three hours Confederate troops poured a deadly fire into the fort, killing and wounding many soldiers. But the Confederates were unable to capture the fort.
Throughout the battle, neither side could gain an advantage. They fought until they were exhausted and almost out of ammunition and supplies. Late in the afternoon, reports of an approaching Union relief force caused the Confederates to withdraw.