Allatoona Pass A Needless Effusion of Blood Paperback – 1995 by William R. Scaife (AUTOGRAPHED)


AUTOGRAPHED: Published by the Etowah Valley Historical Society, author William R. Scaife’s, “Allatoona Pass: A Needless Effusion of Blood” is an entertaining and concise examination of a desperate fight. The title choice is certainly appropriate for the poorly considered movement ordered by Hood, and was inspired by French’s surrender ultimatum at Allatoona. Scaife’s strategic summary is sensible and provides an excellent backdrop for the action.

The battle of Allatoona Pass produced high casualties for both sides and accomplished nothing. After the fall of Atlanta, Hood started a new campaign to attack Sherman’s supply line and depots in Tennessee. As the army began its march, French’s division was assigned an impossible task all too characteristic of Hood. In a span of 30 hours they were supposed to march 40 miles total, subdue the Allatoona garrison, burn the Etowah railway bridge, and fill Allatoona’s deep railroad cut with debris (despite lacking tools!) At the end they were to rejoin the body of the army, the whole while not knowing if Sherman would move in force to crush their detachment.

Three thousand men of French’s division assaulted two thousand defenders at Allatoona Pass. The primary defensive weakness was that the forts were both tiny and relied on supporting works, making them vulnerable to sequential attack. During the battle the outer works to the west were taken, as was a blockhouse a mile and a half away. The Star Fort’s defenders were trapped and pinned down, but did not surrender. Their fire had been nearly entirely suppressed by the converging fire of the far larger force now besieging them. French could have made a final push to subdue this fort, but the fort on the other side of the cut would still have remained. He also received erroneous cavalry reports of an advance by Sherman. This combined with the realization that the overall objective of filling the cut could not be achieved in the time available led him to halt the attack and to withdraw.

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