Union Forces Under General Sherman Capture Atlanta
On the night of September 1, Hood evacuated Atlanta, burning military supplies and installations, causing a great conflagration in the city (the dramatic fire scenes depicted in the 1939 film Gone with the Wind). Union troops occupied Atlanta on September 2. Sherman cut Hood's supply line but failed to destroy Hardee's command.
Sherman was victorious, and Hood established a reputation as the most recklessly aggressive general in the Confederate Army. Casualties for the campaign were roughly equal in absolute numbers: 31,687 Union (4,423 killed, 22,822 wounded, 4,442 missing/captured) and 34,979 Confederate (3,044 killed, 18,952 wounded, 12,983 missing/captured). But this represented a much higher Confederate proportional loss. Hood's army left the area with approximately 30,000 men, whereas Sherman retained 81,000. Sherman's victory was qualified because it did not fulfill the original mission of the campaign—destroy the Army of Tennessee—and Sherman has been criticized for allowing his opponent to escape. However, the capture of Atlanta made an enormous contribution to Northern morale and was an important factor in the re-election of President Abraham Lincoln.
The Atlanta Campaign was followed by Federal initiatives in two directions: almost immediately, to the northwest, the pursuit of Hood in the Franklin-Nashville Campaign; and after the U.S. presidential election of 1864, to the east in Sherman's March to the Sea.
After a series of seesaw battles, Sherman forced Confederate evacuation of Atlanta (August 31–September 1). This Union victory presented President Abraham Lincoln with the key to reelection in the fall of 1864. It also greatly complicated the Confederate position near the Southern capital of Richmond, Virginia, as troops there now had to contend with Union forces to the north and south.
William T. Sherman