Saturday, December 14, 2013

December 14, 1863 (Monday): Defending Atlanta

Atlanta, Georgia 1864

ATLANTA, GA., December 14, 1863.
Assistant Adjutant-General, Army of Tennessee:
    COLONEL: I have the honor to stat I replied by telegraph a few moments since to your dispatch of the 13th, concerning the defense of Atlanta, that I had about 1,800 men, all told, effective strength, including the five artillery companies just sent down. I need to mention to you the peculiar topography of this place, rendering it easy of approach in every possible direction; this fact renders it necessarily a difficult point to defend against large bodies of men, or even against a moderate force, so long as we are so deficient in cavalry to do picket and keep us advised properly, or to meet them in front and so delay their advance as to enable us to know when to meet them. This is more especially the case with us here, as our main strength is the local force engaged in our various shops as mechanics. I am using every exertion to prepare the place for defense. Have completed a good line entirely around the city connecting all the batteries by heavy rifle-pits. The five companies sent me occupy now ten of my principal batteries, each company being strong enough to man two batteries of four guns each. At Roswell, Ga., on the north I have 150 men, armed with two pieces of artillery, and 40 mounted men, to guard that ford. The companies are composed of the employes of the factories there, and under the command of Captain J. R. King, a very fine officer. He has instructions to come to our aid under circumstances as fully explained in his orders. He will advise me from that direction by courier with written dispatches. The commandant of the posts at Marietta has promised to advise me fully from his direction. By request, General Iverson has kindly promised to advise me from his section by mail and telegraph. I have instructed Captain Steadman, commanding a company of my command at Lawrenceville, to keep me posted from that direction. I have sent a detachment of one of my cavalry companies here on the Peach Tree Road, running between Roswell and Lawrenceville to Gainesville, to picket that road, thus as far as possible covering the front (toward enemy) with the best system of pickets I can avail myself of. I am having guns mounted at the batteries as fast as possible. As before remarked, the local troops are chiefly mechanics, and I cannot call them out and put them in camp without great injury to the service, unless it be in an emergency. If duly advised, they can be easily commanded. They are all armed, and I have had ammunition,&c., all distributed to be ready at a moment's warning. I trust that I may be advised of the approach of any raiding parties so as to be ready, and hope that more men can be sent me if danger is threatened. If you say so, I can command 100 men from Macon, a splendid company, but unless the danger is apparent, would not like to call for them. Will you please reply by telegraph if necessary.
    I am, colonel, respectfully, your obedient servant,

    M. H. WRIGHT,
    Colonel, Commanding.

   P. S.-If cavalry cannot be sent, please send infantry.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 31, Part 3, Pages 821-822.

That the defenses of Atlanta were commanded by a colonel is a good indication of how secure, up to this time, the Confederates believed the critical supply and manufacturing center to be.  But Bragg and Longstreet's disasters in eastern Tennessee had suddenly forced the Confederates to begin thinking of how the city would be defended  The scant force available would certainly be of little use in other than a delaying action.  The real defense of the city lay with the Army of the Tennessee which was interposed between the invading Union Army and Atlanta.  The problems pointed out in Wright's letter would eventually be faced by that Army late in 1864 as it fell back to the city.

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