Alonzo Crim High School: Site where Federal infantry and artillery batteries, positioned on high ground, fended off the opening Confederate attack in the Battle of Atlanta.
What to See: The high ground on which you are standing was occupied by Union infantry and artillery when the Battle of Atlanta began shortly after noon on July 22, 1864. The three brigades that comprised the Yankee line in this sector faced south and east. Their line extended for approximately three-fourths of a mile from present-day Clay Street (a country road in 1864), located to the northeast, toward the present-day McPherson Monument (McPherson and Monument Avenues, stop seven on this tour) to the southwest. Federal artillery batteries, also facing south and east, were placed on the hill where the high school now sits.
The opening of the Battle of Atlanta was an unexpected clash. The battle began when the two Confederate divisions under the command of Brigadier General Hugh Mercer (who replaced the fallen General Walker) and Major General William B. Bate emerged from the heavily wooded, underbrush-laden terrain east of Atlanta after their arduous night march. These two divisions, moving north and northwest respectively, charged against a recently formed Yankee line. They did not expect to encounter three brigades with cannons aimed at them from high ground.
Most of the Union troops engaged in the opening encounter in the battle were elements of the Federal 16th Corps commanded by Major General Grenville M. Dodge. These troops, three brigades, had been held in reserve and arrived in their positions late in the morning. Division commander Brigadier General Thomas W. Sweeny's two brigades arrived first and were aligned along Clay Road (present-day Clay Street) and an east–west road (present-day Memorial Drive).
The third Federal brigade, part of Brigadier General John W. Fuller's Division, moved southward, near Leggett's Hill, and deployed to Sweeny's right. Although the Yankees were concerned about their vulnerability, they did not know if or when their opponents would attack and reinforcements rapidly moved into action after the opening shots. Outnumbered, the Federals prevailed in this initial phase because of the advantageous position of their troops and artillery.
The Federal infantry, supported with artillery fire, beat back the charging Confederates, but a Rebel column came close to flanking the brigade under Fuller's command. At this critical moment, Fuller realigned his brigade, which formed a line on either side of its division commander and charged eastward toward the attacking Confederates.
Fuller's action is depicted in an 1886 illustration by James E. Taylor that shows the brigadier general planting the national colors and marking the new battle line. Fuller spearheaded a successful counterattack, which brought to an end the first phase of the battle. By repulsing Hardee's two right divisions, the Federal 16th Corps took the sting out of the Confederates' surprise attack.