Battle of Ezra Church

The Battle of Ezra Church, also known as the Battle of Ezra Chapel and the Battle of the Poor House was fought on July 28, 1864, in Fulton County, Georgia, during the American Civil War. Part of the Atlanta Campaign, the battle featured Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman's Union Army of the Tennessee against the Army of Tennessee, commanded by Lt. Gen. John B. Hood, which was defending the Confederate stronghold of Atlanta, Georgia.[3]


The Battle of Ezra Church was part of a series of battles in the Atlanta campaign, the main goal of which was to destroy the capabilities of the city of Atlanta, an important manufacturing, supply, and medical center for the south during the war. The Battle of Peachtree Creek had just taken place, forcing General Hood to withdraw in defeat to the final defenses behind Atlanta by July 21, 1864. Sherman believed that Hood was evacuating the city, and sent McPherson to the southeast towards Decatur. Hood sent Hardee's corps to meet McPherson and attack on July 22. General Oliver Howard took over the Army of Tennessee after McPherson was slain in battle. Shermans subsequent movement back west is when the battle of Ezra Church occurred on July 28. This was part of Sherman's larger effort to cut and destroy all the railroad lines.[3] By the 24 of July, the Macon & Western line was the only one leading into Atlanta left to destroy.[4]

The Battle of Ezra Church

Sherman's army stretched in an inverted U around the northern defenses of Atlanta. Sherman's movements were determined by the plan to cut off the railroad supply lines from Macon, Georgia, into Atlanta, thus forcing the defending army to withdraw without a direct assault.[4] To accomplish this goal, Sherman commanded his easternmost army, under Maj. Gen. Oliver O. Howard, north and west around the rest of the Union lines to the far western side of Atlanta where the railroad entered the city.

Hood, anticipating Sherman's maneuver, moved his troops out to oppose the Union army. Hood planned to intercept them and catch them completely by surprise. Although Hood's Confederate troops were outnumbered by the main Union army, he calculated that a surprise attack against an isolated portion of the enemy could succeed.

The armies met on the afternoon of July 28 at a chapel called Ezra Church. Unfortunately for Hood, there was no surprise for Howard, who had already reached the road at Ezra church and dug in by 11 a.m. that day.[4] Howard had predicted such a maneuver based on his knowledge of Hood from their time together at West Point before the war. His troops were already waiting in their trenches when Hood reached them. The Confederate army also had not done enough reconnaissance, underestimated the number of Union troops already present, and made an uncoordinated attack, falling back before the Union army's improvised breastwork of logs and rails.[4] The rebels were defeated, although they managed to stop Howard from reaching the railroad line. In all, about 3,642 men were casualties; 3,000 on the Confederate side and 642 on the Union side.[2] Among the wounded was general Alexander P. Stewart, who led a corps under Hood.

Another notable participant was Ernst R. Torgler, a 24-year-old sergeant in the 37th Ohio Infantry, who was later awarded the Medal of Honor for his action during the battle. Torgler saved the life of his commanding officer, Major Charles Hipp. His citation reads (in part): "At great hazard of his life he saved his commanding officer, then badly wounded, from capture".[5]

See also


  1. Values given for Union forces are: 13,266 engaged in Livermore (1900), p. 124; 60,000 in Bodart (1908), p. 538. For Confederate forces: 18,450 engaged in Livermore (1900), p. 124; 30,000 in Bodart (1908), p. 538.
  2. Bonds, Russell, War Like The Thunderbolt, (2009); pp 200-201
  3. Eggenberger, David (1985). An Encyclopedia of Battles Accounts of Over 1,560 Battles from 1479 B.C. to the Present. Pritzker Military History Museum: Dover Publications, Inc. p. 34. ISBN 0-486-24913-1.
  4. Davis, Stephen (2001). Atlanta Will Fall Sherman, Joe Johnston, and the Yankee Heavy Battalions. Scholarly Resources Inc. pp. 48–153. ISBN 0-8420-2787-4.
  5. Medal of Honor Citations, United States Army Center of Military History.

Further reading

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