A Costly Failure
— Atlanta Campaign Heritage Trail —
On Wednesday, May
25, 1864, a fierce battle
was fought between
Union Major General
Joseph Hooker's 20th
Corps and Confederate
Major General Alexander
P. Stewart's division. It
occurred around a church
located at this crossroads,
known as New Hope.
Three days earlier, with only 20 days of
supplies in his wagons, Union Major General
William T. Sherman began moving his armies
toward Dallas and
away from their Western
and Atlantic Railroad
intent was to march
around the "left flank"
of Confederate General
Joseph E. Johnston's
"Army of Tennessee"
and their formidable
defenses around Allatoona
Pass. In doing such
Sherman hoped to
capture Atlanta from the west rather than the
north and sooner than anticipated.
Federal troops headed toward Dallas by
different routes. Union Major General George
H. Thomas's "Army of the Cumberland"
marched south about 15 miles from Stilesboro.
General Hooker's corps was the first to
approach the New Hope crossroads.
Countering these moves, General Johnston
quickly shifted his Confederate army southwest
from Allatoona Pass to the Dallas area.
Lieutenant General John B. Hood's corps was
placed in a defensive line around and near New
At 6:00 am on May 25th, General Hooker's
corps began crossing
a creek near a burning
bridge at Owen's Mill. Immediately they
encountered enemy resistance. Confederate
observers atop nearby Elsberry Mountain
reported clouds of dust approaching from the
north and General Hood's pickets captured
several Federal soldiers. Yet General Sherman
refused to believe a large Confederate force
could have moved so quickly to block his path
and ordered Hooker's corps forward. At
approximately 4:00 pm Hooker deployed his
three divisions for battle, a total of
approximately 16,000 men. To oppose Hooker's
20th Corps was General Stewart's Confederate
division, positioned in the center of Hood's corps.
Stewart deployed three
brigades covering this
crossroads, with Brigadier
Generals Marcellus A.
Stovalls Georgians on
the left, Henry D.
in the center and Alpheus
Baker's Alabamians on
the right. Two additional
brigades were held in reserve and three artillery
batteries were massed along the line. Stewart
had about 4,000 total muskets and 16 cannon.
The Federals advanced against the
Confederate line one brigade at a time. Thus
each brigade bore the
brunt of massed enemy
fire along a narrow front.
Union Brigadier General
Alpheus S. Williams's
division lost over 800
men in only a few
minutes. The 20th Corps
other two divisions also
suffered heavily. Near
the height of the battle
sent word to General Stewart asking if he needed
reinforcements. Stewart replied, "My own troops
will hold the position."
The fiercest fighting during the Battle of New
Hope Church occurred near the church's
cemetery. This was the first of three major battles
to occur in close proximity to one another over a
four-day period, including at Pickett's Mill on
May 27th and at Dallas on May 28th.