On this day in 1864, at the Battle of Ezra Church, Georgia, Confederates under General John Bell Hood make a third attempt to break General William T. Sherman’s hold on Atlanta. Like the first two, this attack failed, destroying the Confederate Army of Tennessee’s offensive capabilities.
Hood had replaced Joseph Johnston as commander of the Army of Tennessee on July 18, 1864, because Johnston had failed to keep Sherman away from Atlanta. Upon assuming command of the army, Hood quickly scrapped Johnston’s defensive strategy and attacked Sherman, first on July 20 at the Battle of Peachtree Creek, and then on July 22 at the Battle of Atlanta. Both attacks failed, but that did not deter Hood from making another attempt to break the Union hold on the important Southern city.
When Sherman sent General Oliver O. Howard southeast of Atlanta to cut the Macon and Western Railroad, one of the remaining supply lines, Hood sent Stephen D. Lee’s corps to block the move. Lee attacked at Ezra Church, but the battle did not go as planned for the Confederates. Instead of striking the Union flank, Lee’s corps hit the Union center, where the Yankee troops were positioned behind barricades made from logs and pews taken from the church. Throughout the afternoon, Lee made several attacks on the Union lines. Each was turned back, and Lee was not able to get around the Union flank.
The battle was costly for an army that was already outnumbered. Lee lost 3,000 men to the Union’s 630. More important, Hood lost his offensive capability. For the next month, he could do no more than sit in trenches around Atlanta and wait for Sherman to deal him the knockout blow.