"...too strong to be carried without great slaughter."
— Atlanta Campaign Heritage Trail / Historic Driving Route —
The opening actions of the Atlanta Campaign occurred around Dalton during early May 1864. Union Major General William T. Sherman's strategy, as two of his three armies approached from the north and northwest, involved a series of demonstrations by his main force against Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston's "Army of Tennessee" at Dalton. Simultaneously, over 23,000 troops of Union Major General James B. McPherson's "Army of Tennessee" made a flanking movement to the west through Snake Creek Gap in an attempt to break Johnston's railroad supply line fifteen miles south at Resaca and trap the Confederates in Dalton.
Federal movements against Johnston's heavily fortified defenses around Dalton began on May 8 with assaults against the western slope of Rocky Face Ridge around Mill Creek Gap and Dug Gap areas. In addition, Brigadier General John Newton's division of the th Corps attacked the northern edge of the ridge.
Union Major General John Scholfield's "Army of the Ohio," also known as the 23rd Corps, roughly 13,500 strong, received Sherman's orders to "feel the enemy's position"
north of Dalton in Crow Valley. Scholfield's three infantry divisions were aligned across the valley, which stretches about one mile between Rocky face and Hamilton Mountain. Two of these divisions, under Brigadier Generals Henry Judah and Jacob Cox, formed for the advance while Brigadier General Alvin Hovey's inexperienced division was in reserve. Brigadier General Edward McCook's cavalry division covered Schofield's left flank. Opposing Schofield's demonstration were two Confederate divisions, under Major Generals Carter Stevenson and Thomas Hindman, numbering 12,400 effectives in strongly entrenched positions.
Early on May 9, Judah's and Cox's divisions moved toward the Confederate lines. Supported by Newton's division atop Rocky Face Ridge, their advance pushed back the gray skirmishers and, in Schofield's words, "finally drove the enemy into their main works, pressed them closely, and occupied their attention until dark."
The Federals were impeded by several lines of barricades and artillery batteries, most notably from Potato Hill (aka Picket Top). Brigadier General Milo Hascall, commanding the 2nd brigade of Judah's division, reported the Confederate position was "too strong to be carried without great slaughter."
Also that morning, McCook's cavalry encountered Confederate cavalry and infantry at Poplar Springs and was severely repulsed, threatening to expose Schofield's left flank. Schofield sent one brigade of Hovey's infantry division plus additional cavalry to strengthen his left flank.
About 15,000 soldiers from both sides were engaged in Crow Valley. Schofield's infantry losses were approximately 60 total casualties (killed, wounded, missing). McCook reported his losses at about 140. Partial Confederate reports indicate total casualties of about 130 on Rocky Face Ridge and in Crow Valley.
Sporadic skirmishing continued in Crow Valley over the next three days until the Federal and Confederate armies marched south toward Resaca. Schofield shifted his army north of Rocky Face Ridge on May 10, before following McPherson's army south through Snake Creek Gap on May 12. Johnston abandoned Dalton during the night of May 12 and the Battle of Resaca erupted on the 14th.