The Day Dixie Died

The Battle of Atlanta

Gary Ecelbarger

Thomas Dunne Books

One of the most dramatic and important battles ever to be waged on American soil, the Battle of Atlanta changed the course of the Civil War and helped decide a presidential election.

In the North, a growing peace movement and increasing criticism of President Abraham Lincoln’s conduct of the war threatened to halt U.S. war efforts to save the Union. On the morning of July 22, 1864, Confederate forces under the command of General John Bell Hood squared off against the Army of the Tennessee led by General James B. McPherson just southeast of Atlanta.

Having replaced General Joseph E. Johnston just four days earlier, Hood had been charged with the duty of reversing a Confederate retreat and meeting the Union army head on. The resulting Battle of Atlanta was a monstrous affair fought in the stifling Georgia summer heat. During it, a dreadful foreboding arose among the Northerners as the battle was undecided and dragged on for eight interminable hours. Hood’s men tore into U.S. forces with unrelenting assault after assault. Furthermore, for the first and only time during the war, a U.S. army commander was killed in battle, and in the wake of his death, the Union army staggered. Dramatically, General John “Black Jack” Logan stepped into McPherson’s command, rallied the troops, and grimly fought for the rest of the day. In the end, ten thousand men---one out of every six---became casualties on that fateful day, but the Union lines had held.

Having survived the incessant onslaught from the men in grey, Union forces then placed the city of Atlanta under siege, and the city’s inevitable fall would gain much-needed, positive publicity for Lincoln’s reelection campaign against the peace platform of former Union general George B. McClellan.

Renowned Civil War historian Gary Ecelbarger is in his element here, re-creating the personal and military dramas lived out by generals and foot soldiers alike, and shows how the battle was the game-changing event in the larger Atlanta Campaign and subsequent March to the Sea that brought an eventual end to the bloodiest war in American history. This is gripping military history at its best and a poignant narrative of the day Dixie truly died.


Read an Excerpt

A brass-laden brigade band blared forth a spirited rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” as the blue-clad soldiers of the Army of the Tennessee marched westward toward Atlanta, the objective point of an arduous and angst-filled campaign. The army had begun that trek in Chattanooga seventy-five days and 100 miles earlier. Since then they had crossed three rivers; fought three battles and skirmishes nearly every day between them; all the while enduring hardships from both anticipated and unexpected sources. Six days earlier, 15 men


Praise for The Day Dixie Died

Advance Praise for THE DAY DIXIE DIED

"[The] Battle of Atlanta emerges as one of the Civil War's more dramatic engagements in this vivid re-creation...Ecelbarger paints a fine panorama of a seldom-sung but rousing epic."

Publishers Weekly

“The author places the reader on the battlefield as an observer watching the struggle of both sides during that hot and sultry day in 1864…This is an excellent book to add to your Civil War battles and campaigns book shelf.”

The Lone Star Book Review, WOW! rated

“Noted Civil War historian Gary Ecelbarger has written the definitive study of the Battle of Atlanta, the climactic encounter in a campaign that cemented Abraham Lincoln’s prospects for reelection in 1864 and doomed the Confederacy to defeat. In this deeply researched work, Ecelbarger not only provides the clearest and most detailed account ever written of the battle itself, but he also explains clearly and convincingly what was at stake. His analyses of the strengths and foibles of the leading figures in the battle are exceptionally insightful, and his treatment of the suffering of the men in the ranks most poignant.”

—Peter Cozzens, author of Shenandoah 1862: Stonewall Jackson’s Valley Campaign


“Ecelbarger, a Civil War historian and Lincoln scholar, presents a side of Lincoln not frequently seen: a politician on the make, carefully tailoring his message to various audiences.”


“Artfully shows how, from a career in cinders, Lincoln rose in a mere two years to seize the presidential nomination in May 1860. . . . Ecelbarger’s scholarship is sound, his prose enthralling.”

—Publishers Weekly

“This is a rousing---yet authoritatively researched---account of one of the most dramatic, unlikely, and history-altering presidential conventions ever. . . . Gary Ecelbarger [emerges] as a major force in Lincoln scholarship.”

—Harold Holzer, author of Lincoln: President-Elect

“Ecelbarger offers a lively and challenging explanation of Lincoln’s rise to power.”

—Daniel W. Stowell, editor of The Papers of Abraham Lincoln

“With impressive research and engaging prose Ecelbarger shows a fact of Lincoln’s rise to the presidency that has never before been explored and in the process weaves a tale that is as interesting as it is inspiring.”

—Steven E. Woodworth, author of Nothing but Victory: The Army of the Tennessee, 1861--1865


“[Gary Ecelbarger’s] research is full and exhaustive, his judgments mature, and his narrative style engaging. The result is one of those biographies that cannot help but be good.”

—William C. Davis, editor of The History Book Club Review

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Gary Ecelbarger

  • GARY ECELBARGER is a Civil War historian and has conducted several tours of the Atlanta Campaign battlefields. He has written or co-written eight books, including The Great Comeback: How Abraham Lincoln Beat the Odds to Win the 1860 Republican Nomination, along with biographies of Civil War generals “Black Jack” Logan and Frederick W. Lander and military histories of the Shenendoah Valley campaign and the First Battle of Kernstown. He lives in northern Virginia with his wife and three children.
  • Gary Ecelbarger


Gary Ecelbarger

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    Available Formats and Book Details

    The Day Dixie Died

    The Battle of Atlanta

    Gary Ecelbarger



    Thomas Dunne Books