Buzzard's Roost - May 7 to 12, 1864
— Atlanta Campaign Heritage Trail —
After their defeat at Missionary Ridge near
Chattanooga in November 1863, the Confederate
"Army of Tennessee" spent the winter of
1863-64 around Dalton, fortifying its defense.
As the weather warmed and dirt roads dried,
heavy fighting resumed. On Saturday, May 7,
1864, the Federal 14th Corps, led by Major
General John M. Palmer, marched from their
camps near Ringgold about ten miles north.
They pushed through Confederates at Tunnel
Hill before approaching Mill Creek Gap (a.k.a.
Buzzard's Roost) near Dalton. Viewing the
heights of Rocky Face Ridge one soldier noted
that "buzzards are roosting (up there)" waiting
for us to die.
The gap was dammed and flooded by
Confederate engineers, and soldiers were
well-entrenched along Rocky Face Ridge. Two
Confederate divisions, led by Major Generals
Alexander P. Stewart and William B. Bate, lined
the ridge and gap. Commanding Union Major
General William T. Sherman decided to probe
Confederate positions while sending Major
General James B. McPherson's 24,000-man
"Army of the Tennessee" around the
Confederate southwest flank through Snake
Creek Gap. Sherman's hope was to cut the
Confederates railroad supply line at Resaca,
fifteen miles to the south, and trap the
Confederate army in Dalton. He ordered the
of the Cumberland"
under Major General George H. Thomas to test
Confederate defenses at Mill Creek Gap and
occupy their attention while McPherson's army
On May 8th, Union Brigadier General James D.
Morgan's brigade advanced into Mill Creek Gap but
was halted by strong fire
from Confederate Brigadier
General Randall L. Gibson's
brigade. Other Federal
attacks against Rocky Face
Ridge, and an attempt to
dismantle the dam flooding
the gap, also failed. "The
enemy was concealed from
our view and we did not
have the poor satisfaction of shooting at them,"
recalled Sergeant George H. Puntenney of the 37th
Indiana Volunteer Infantry Regiment.
By May 10th, drenching "rain was falling
steadily and the pungent
smell of battle smoke filled
the valleys," recalled Sergeant
Henry J. Aten of the 85th
Illinois Volunteer Infantry
Regiment. The next day
General Sherman began
withdrawing much of his
force to follow General
McPherson's army through
Snake Creek Gap. Believing the Confederates were
beginning to evacuate Dalton, on the 11th Sherman
also renewed attacks at Mill Creek Gap. The result
was disastrous as Confederates had not evacuated.
Over five days the Confederates lost about 65 men
and the Federals nearly 300.
On Thursday, May 12th, after discovering most
of General Sherman's armies marching through
Creek Gap, commanding Confederate
General Joseph E. Johnston ordered his army's
evacuation of Dalton. By the following dawn the
opposing armies were positioned at Resaca. Sherman
had maneuvered Johnston out of Dalton, although
Johnston had eluded the potential Federal trap.
This "Pocket Park" is one of five along or very
near the historic driving route of the Atlanta
Campaign Heritage Trail". The other four are in
Ringgold, Resaca, Cassville and New Hope (near
Dallas). They were built as public works projects during
the "New Deal" Depression years of the 1930s.