The war had not gone well for Joe Johnston. Wounded at Seven Pines, he had already lost command of the premiere army of the Confederacy and during his tenure in Mississippi, the south had conceded Vicksburg. Now in Georgia, commanding the Army of Tennessee, things weren’t looking much better for him. Forced to abandon Resaca to the seemingly invincible forces under Sherman, he had fallen back to Kennesaw Mountain to regroup and fortify.
The object, of course, was Atlanta, one of the few real prizes remaining in the struggle. Johnston had inherited an army which had been badly mangled by the incompetent Bragg, an army which was now only a shell of its former self, yet each time the orders were given the men gave their all, which is all a commander could ask. Johnston was determined to preserve as much of the army as he could.
Joe Johnston was a realist and he understood the numbers he was facing and above all, he knew Bill Sherman to be a crafty and relentless opponent. He also knew the cards were stacked against him in other ways as well. Long an opponent of Jefferson Davis, Johnston knew the president was looking for the slimmest excuse to take away his command and the loss of Atlanta was just the sort of provocation to do it. Johnston knew full well what he was up against and realized it was only a matter of time before he would be faced with the choice of defending the city or preserving his army and he already knew what his decision would be.
Still, though, the old war horse had a few tricks up his sleeve. He knew what Sherman wanted the Confederates to do and he was just as determined not to play into Sherman’s hands. Sherman wanted to draw them out, force them to attack so that he could take full advantage of his numerical superiority and crush them completely. Knowing this, Johnston did the exact opposite. He stayed just ahead of the advancing army, set up defensive positions and slowed down Sherman’s advance at every turn. If the president didn’t like that he could damn well come down and lead the army himself.
Sherman would, undoubtedly, get to Atlanta eventually, but Johnston was going to make it as long and difficult as possible. In the meantime, the cavalry continued to strike at Sherman’s supply line hoping to crack his lifeline and halt his progress.