While the 15th Corps was feeling its way south through the densely wooded
country behind Blair's right, increasing resistance by Confederate cavalry
skirmishers (dismounted), and occasional artillery fire, warned Howard of
impending battle. He had not expected that his shift to the right would
proceed undetected, and he was aware that it was vital to the security of
Atlanta that the railroads which supplied its defenders should be held.
Convinced that Hood would strike again, despite his costly failures at
Peachtree Creek and East Atlanta, he ordered Logan to extend to the right
and deploy his three divisions on what would shortly be the battle line.
Although stubbornly resisted, the deployment was completed without delay.
On the extreme right. Lightburn's brigade, of M. L. Smith's division, drove
enemy skirmishers from the ridge northwest of the (later) sanitarium and
established a strong right flank. On Lightburn's left, Martin's brigade
extended the line southeast to connect with Williams' brigade, of Harrow's
division, near Westlake Avenue. Williams' left connected with Oliver's
right on the school grounds. Oliver's left extended to the tip of the
salient. Walcutt's brigade, perpendicular to Oliver's line, occupied the
southeast face of the salient. On Walcutt's (Harrow's) left, Wangelin's,
Williamson's and Milo
Smith's brigades of Woods' division, extended the
line northeast to connect with the right of Blair's corps, north of the
railroad. Ezra Church, the little Methodist chapel from which the battle
took its name, stood behind Wangelin's line. Skirmishers were thrown out
and all along Logan's front officers and men worked desperately to cover
their lines with logs and rails. Some of Wangelin's men took the benches
from Ezra Church and filled them with knapsacks to serve as breastworks.
Although the line northwest of Mozley and Racine was on low ground, both
Oliver's and Walcutt's men at the salient, Williams on the school site,
and Lightburn's and Martin's on the sanitarium grounds were on commanding
ridges which they quickly made strong. They were none too soon. About
noon, the first Confederate attack struck the right of Logan's position.
Earlier, Sherman had arrived. From the ridge occupied by Lightburn's men,
enemy activities convinced him too, that Hood intended a third attack.
Satisfied with Howard's dispositions, he rode back to his headquarters to
arrange to send reinforcements forward should they become needed.