|First off, Atlanta was lost after General Joe Johnson's defeat
at the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain in June 1864. Jefferson Davis scape-goated Johnson for
this defeat and replaced him with Gen. John B. Hood (the one armed Texan) but it was
doubtful anything was going to save Atlanta at this point. Kennesaw Mountain was the only
decent defensive ground between Chattanooga and Atlanta; if the Confederate Army could not
defeat Sherman there; there was no where else. When he took command of the Army, General
Hood had two choices: (1) Evacuate Atlanta and save his army or (2) Prepare to withstand
Sherman's siege and save the city while losing his Army.
Sherman divided his army into three columns and initiated his attack from the Northeast. The first Battle was at Peachtree Creek in vicinity of where Northside Drive is now. Sherman was concerned of reinforcements coming from Lee in Virginia and was attempting to control the railroad to Atlanta from Decauter hence the second part of the Battle east of Atlanta.
This second part of the Battle (20 July 1864) is what is typically called the Battle of Atlanta took place in the general vicinity of Grant Park where the cyclorama is now. Hood lost both of these fights but kept Sherman out of Atlanta.
Finally, Sherman launched his third column against Atlanta from the west (they were withdrawn from the east side of Atlanta and repositioned on the right flank of the Union Army.....a pretty fancy maneuver by Civil War standards akin to what Stonewall Jackson did at Chancellorsville.) The goal of this attack was to cut the last railroad line supply Atlanta from the SW at in the vicinity of Ezra Church. This is not all that far from Georgia Tech. (Recall that GT when built was on the Northernmost edge of Atlanta and that was 20 years after the battle in 1885) Detecting the Union movement, Hood actually initiated the attack on 28 July 1864 and was repelled with heavy losses but maintained the railroad link. Typical Hood style attack that would result in the disaster at Franklin the following winter.
On the final day of the Battle of Atlanta, there was a skirmish at Campbellton on 28 July between part of Hood's Army and Union Calvary. This was no doubt a part of the third part of the battle (at Ezra Church). In any account, this part of Georgia was away from the heaviest fighting. In their defense, by then Alfreta's grandfather, Samuel Henderson was dead at Fredericksburg and her Uncle James was in the Army of Northern VA probably in the siege at Petersburg at that time, 35th GA Volunteer Infantry, Company C.
There is an 1864 list of the men in Campbell County available for Militia service that I have not seen but was searched on my behalf by another researcher. There is no Hugh or William Bryant on the list suggesting that he was probably already in the Army by then. (In my mind, I had always assumed that Hugh Bryant was conscripted into the CSA as a part of the Atlanta campaign) As such, he may very well not have been in vicinity of Atlanta either (have not identified his unit....there were several Hugh Bryant's from GA in the CSA and a really big group of GA William Bryant's). Even if he were, he would not have been able to evacuate his family himself presuming that he wanted to.
There were certainly other skirmishes before Sherman signaled "Atlanta is ours and fairly won" on 2 September 1864, more than a month after the Battle at Ezra Church.
FORCED EVACUATION OF ATLANTA CIVILIANS BY GENERAL SHERMAN
According to Jess, with Samuel Henderson dead, son James away serving in AP Hills Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia and the war now raging in North Georgia, the family thought it best to leave. An uncle (most likely a Henderson relative) drove a wagon down from Middle Tennessee to evacuate the family including Alfreta and her mother. Uncle Henderson was given a pass that allowed him through the Union lines but when the time came to leave, the Confederate Army would not let him return. With the assistance of some local friends, he did manage to go around the Rebel Army and return to Tennessee, most probably in the vicinity of Joelton, TN.
While the Confederate Army was preparing defensive positions before the Battle of Atlanta, they had burned the Henderson Farm so that they would have unrestricted lines of fire on the expected approach of the Union Army. No doubt this incident contributed to the decision to leave.
It is also possible that the Hendersons were evicted along with rest of the civilian population of the region at the order of Union General William T. Sherman in September 1864. The text of an appeal from the Mayor of Atlanta to General Sherman and his response are very interesting reading.
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