A summary of the first battle of Dalton.
The battle in Dalton, Georgia, in February 1864, is directly tied to Sherman's march on Meridan, Mississippi. Grant had promised Sherman to keep the Confederates in Dalton occupied while he marched east from Vicksburg to destroy the rail lines in and around Meridan. Sherman's idea was that the destruction of these rail lines would deny the Confederates mobility. Sherman did march, and did destroy the tracks, and a few trains and railcars. However, the Confederates were able to repair the lines within a couple of months.
Grant ordered Thomas to lead portions of the Army of the Cumberland toward Dalton on February 12. Thomas, waiting for reinforcements, and delayed by the rain, did not start until February 24, advancing portions of the IV and XIV Corps. Portions of the XIV Corps attacked down the east side of Rocky Face Ridge, but were unable to penetrate Confederate lines, and were eventually driven back. Parts of the IV Corps advanced down the west side of Rocky Face Ridge. Their attacks were delivered weakly, and they too were driven back.
Most Federals claimed that their advance was simply a reconnaissance to determine the strength of the Confederates. Reading through the letters and official reports of the Federal commanders leads one to believe that there was a little more to the Federal advance. Dalton itself was really the goal. However, the Federals never used enough of their troops, at least on the west side of Rocky Face Ridge, to truly test the Confederate lines. At the end of February 27, the Federals had retreated back to their position to the north of Tunnel Hill.
Grant (and Thomas) really failed Sherman. Their objective was to keep Confederate reinforcements being sent towards Mississippi. On February 17, Hardee started to move most of his command towards Alabama. Not that it did much good on that end. Sherman, after losing his cavalry, was soon on his way back to Vicksburg, claiming victory.