Fighting for Atlanta

Tactics, Terrain, and Trenches in the Civil War

By Earl J. Hess

408 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 19 halftones, 19 maps, 3 tables, appends., notes, bibl., index

  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-4343-4
    Published: October 2018
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-4342-7
    Published: October 2018
  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-6148-3
    Published: August 2020
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-5636-4
    Published: October 2018

Civil War America

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Awards & distinctions

2019 GHRAC Award for Excellence, Georgia Historical Records Advisory Council

As William T. Sherman's Union troops began their campaign for Atlanta in the spring of 1864, they encountered Confederate forces employing field fortifications located to take advantage of rugged terrain. While the Confederates consistently acted on the defensive, digging eighteen lines of earthworks from May to September, the Federals used fieldworks both defensively and offensively. With 160,000 troops engaged on both sides and hundreds of miles of trenches dug, fortifications became a defining factor in the Atlanta campaign battles. These engagements took place on topography ranging from Appalachian foothills to the clay fields of Georgia's piedmont.

Leading military historian Earl J. Hess examines how commanders adapted their operations to the physical environment, how the environment in turn affected their movements, and how Civil War armies altered the terrain through the science of field fortification. He also illuminates the impact of fighting and living in ditches for four months on the everyday lives of both Union and Confederate soldiers. The Atlanta campaign represents one of the best examples of a prolonged Union invasion deep into southern territory, and, as Hess reveals, it marked another important transition in the conduct of war from open field battles to fighting from improvised field fortifications.

About the Author

Earl J. Hess is Stewart W. McClelland Chair in History at Lincoln Memorial University. His most recent book is The Battle of Peach Tree Creek.
For more information about Earl J. Hess, visit the Author Page.


“Another indispensable contribution to the study of Civil War field fortifications.”--Civil War Books and Authors

“Earl J. Hess, a veteran historian, brings years of experience and an intimate familiarity with the region’s geography to his analysis of Sherman’s decisive four-month campaign.”--Civil War Times

“This fresh approach adds to the understanding of this important campaign and opens new avenues for research on the Civil War and the evolution of 19th-century warfare.”--Choice

“Civil War enthusiasts interested in a fresh retelling and appraisal of the Atlanta campaign can do no better than this.”--Journal of America’s Military Past

“Hess has written another gem. It will be essential reading for any Civil War enthusiast or scholar who wants to study what was arguably the most important and complex campaign of the entire war, the campaign that ensured Lincoln’s reelection and arguably saved the Union.”--H-Net Reviews

Fighting for Atlanta is an unqualified success. . . . Hess deftly weaves narrative and analysis to provide a compelling addition to the Atlanta Campaign’s now burgeoning historiography. Anyone wanting to strengthen their understanding of how Civil War armies operated should consult Fighting for Atlanta—as should those who want a fuller comprehension of how the Union triumphed in north Georgia.”--Civil War Book Review