Sherman’s objective for May 15 is stated in his 5 am orders for the day. His left was not anchored and the Confederates held a line that rested on the railroad, with just their cavalry and union cavalry between the railroad and the river, watching each other. Sherman’s order, with the main effort on his right being to get Dodge’s forces across the river to press from the south, is to further confine Johnston with his back to the rivers. Hooker was to press down the road from the north and “will not assault fortified positions unless assured of success.” Between left and right, the Union was to make a strong demonstration and to use artillery to keep Johnston from moving forces to support either end. Was that all, to strengthen his hold?
Sherman’s note to Thomas does not say Hooker had convinced him that Hooker should make a direct assault on the hill. He was only to attack*, with Howard, “directly south down upon Resaca.”
Thomas’s 11 am note informs Sherman of a commanding position which Hooker “is now forming Butterfield’s division to assault.”
What else had Sherman intended, had he simply strengthened his hold? His earlier plan still remains: to force Johnston to the hills and disperse his army. By getting Sweeney and Dodge across at Lay’s Ferry, he could have taken the railroad, Johnston’s lifeline, and Sherman’s direct route to Atlanta.
Could he also have kept Johnston bottled up?
Given the result, should Thomas be blamed–for allowing Hooker to assault?
* To attack is to try to hold in place or drive back or disperse. To assault is to fix bayonets and overcome. If you see bayonets, expect an assault. Sherman avoided assaults. Here is one quote from the book: Fleharty, 102nd Ward 1B 3D 20C: There was evidently some warm work to be done. At first the real design of the movement was known only to a few, but when the column was formed, the men were ordered to fix bayonets, and as the ominous click ran along the line the nature of the task before us became apparent. Thought was busy then, and all faces seemed a shade paler.