William Tecumseh Sherman’s capture of Atlanta on September 2, 1864 delivered a massive blow to the rapidly diminishing hopes of the Confederacy. The city’s fall practically ensured Lincoln’s reelection, who maintained a vigorous war against the Confederacy. In the wake of the city’s fall, its defenders, the Confederate Army of Tennessee, withdrew to the railhead of the West Point railroad at Palmetto Station, Georgia, about 25 miles south west of Atlanta. There, its controversial commander, the one-legged Lieutenant General John Bell Hood, took stock of the situation. He rested, restructured, and repaired his army, which had been engaged almost constantly since the beginning of the campaign in May. Conditions were bleak, the army’s officer corps was decimated, and heavy losses in the ranks made many of his regiments mere shadows of their former selves. Morale was at an all-time low. With this poor outlook, he decided on a new plan of action, proposing to strike at Sherman’s supply lines in north Georgia. With this in mind he learned that President Jefferson Davis was on his way to inspect the army and confer with him and his corps commanders about future operations, as well as to inspire the army and the civilian population. Davis also came to investigate allegations about failures in Hood’s leadership, notably from one of his corps commanders, General William J. Hardee. Upon his arrival he met with Hardee, who leveled an ultimatum that either he or Hood had to go, so Davis transferred Hardee to departmental command, giving command of his corps to General Frank Cheatham. Davis also met with other officers and delivered several encouraging speeches while inspecting the army. Finally, Davis met with Hood to talk about the army’s future course of action.
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