Books On the Atlanta Campaign & Sherman’s March
I started writing some reviews long before the decision was made to create the American Civil War Gaming & Reading Blog. Because of this, I have a backlog of book reviews that I’d like to share from time to time, mainly at times when I’m too busy to write on a daily basis, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. Below you will find easily the longest review and summary I’ve ever written. Honestly, this one is too long. The bottom line is that I went into too much detail in the summary. However, it is still useful for the introduction and the summary at the end. And for those of you who are interested in the Atlanta Campaign, the summary is a nice retelling of the events in Evans’s book. This Thanksgiving week (from today until next Sunday) I will be posting only sporadically, but I do hope to post entries on at least chapters 4 & 5 of Confederate Tide Rising. Have an excellent Thanksgiving everyone.
The following is a review and summary of David Evans’ book Sherman’s Horsemen: Union Cavalry Operations in the Atlanta Campaign (ISBN: 0253329639, Indiana University Press, 1996). It does not cover the entire campaign, but picks up with the numerous raids starting on July 3, 1864 and going to the end of Kilpatrick’s Raid on August 22, 1864. This book came recommended by several people in the “civilwarwest” Yahoo Message Board, so after over 5 years on my shelf, I have finally decided to give this one a try. Credit goes to those guys for getting me to open it and start reading. I’ve never been a huge fan of Cavalry operations in any theater, but the topic is becoming more interesting to me and I’ve bought several other books as well. I am, however, a big fan of the Atlanta Campaign, so this book should fill in quite nicely a missing piece of the overall puzzle for me. Sherman’s Horsemen is on the larger side at 645 pages, with 479 pages of text. The prodigious amount of notes fills pages 481-592, or over 100 pages! I always like seeing this amount of detail in the notes. It usually indicates the author did his work and knows what he is talking about. Pages 593-623 contain the large bibliography, which is another good sign. The index follows and brings up the rear from pages 625-645. There are 24 maps, and the mix is nice with overview maps of raids, followed by tactical level battle maps depicting regiments and sometimes less. And lastly, Evans includes an Order of Battle, which I always consider a must in books of this type. Evans contends that in no other major campaign were horsemen as important as Sherman’s were at Atlanta. He focuses on the six raids Sherman’s Cavalry made around Atlanta and he states, “These raids, Sherman’s motives for launching them, and their impact on the course of the campaign are among the least known and less understood aspects of one of the most interesting and most important chapters of our Civil War”. Evans sets out to educate readers and rectify that situation. Again, all signs point to this being an excellent book. I highly recommend having a map of the Atlanta area handy when reading this summary, as it will not make too much sense without one.
In the introduction, Evans picks up the Atlanta Campaign just after the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, as he describes Sherman screaming at Gen. Kenner Garrard to get his Cavalry Division of the Army of the Cumberland moving after the Rebels. At that point, Evans gives a short biography of Sherman’s life, and details the events in the War that led Sherman to command three Armies in the Campaign for Atlanta. Sherman was a bright young boy and finished sixth in his class at West Point in 1840. He tried to fight in the Mexican War, but by the time the ship he was on reached California the war was over. His wife and father-in-law urged him to leave the Army and become a banker in San Francisco, which he did. After numerous civilian failures, he finally became Superintendent of the college that eventually became LSU. Unfortunately for Sherman, as soon as he found success the Civil War broke out and he headed for the North. Sherman’s less than stellar early war performance is chronicled by Evans, but Grant had faith in Sherman, and he steadily worked his way up the chain of command. By the time of the Atlanta Campaign, Sherman knew what Grant wanted him to do and was determined to do it. Evans recounts briefly the course of the Campaign from Dalton in early May all the way to Kennesaw Mountain in late June, and on to the Chattahoochee by the 4th of July 1864.
In his first chapter, “Crossing the Chattahoochee”, Evans recounts the events of July 1-10, 1864 southeast of Marietta near the Chattahoochee River. First he points out the railroads that ran into and out of Atlanta, and mentions that the railroad line from Montgomery, Alabama to Atlanta was especially vulnerable to Sherman’s Cavalry. Then he talks about the Western & Atlantic Railroad (which ran from Chattanooga to Atlanta) and how this single-track railroad was Sherman’s supply line. Sherman rightly feared for its safety and posted Judson Kilpatrick’s entire Cavalry Division along the line to protect it. And lastly he gives a little background on the Cavalry in Sherman’s Army. Over 11,000 men in four divisions were present, with three divisions in the Army of the Cumberland’s Cavalry Corps, and the remaining division under Stoneman rather grandly labeled the “Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Ohio”. Sherman’s Army had approached the River and was looking for a way to cross. Kenner Garrard’s large 4200-man 2nd Division of the Army of the Cumberland’s Cavalry Corps was ordered east of Marietta to the little manufacturing town of Roswell in order to guard against any possible raids by Confederate Cavalry on the Western & Atlantic. While there, it burned some local mills masquerading as French-owned mills. Garrard fell for the ruse until he inspected one of the mills and saw “CSA” stamped on everything. After that, they were immediately burned, and the women and men who operated them were put into wagons and hauled off to Marietta to be sent north for their trickery. After this, Sherman set about getting footholds on the southern side of the Chattahoochee River. Garrard’s Division crossed a ford south of Roswell under fire and managed to gain a foothold on the south bank. Schofield’s infantry also effected a crossing further south. McCook’s small 1st Division was to the right of Garrard, and closer to the infantry. As of July 10, the Union Armies under Sherman had gained footholds across the Chattahoochee, and were ready to move towards Atlanta.
As Sherman crossed the Chattahoochee, Gen. Lovell H. Rousseau, in charge of protecting Sherman’s communications and headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee, proposed a plan to strike at Selma and Montgomery, Alabama. He wanted to keep Forrest’s Confederates busy so that they would not in turn raid the railroad keeping Sherman supplied. Evans states that when the Atlanta Campaign first began Sherman had decided to raid Montgomery as soon as he had crossed the Chattahoochee River. However, this took him much longer than he had expected and it had moved back in importance in his mind. Rousseau wrote Sherman and Thomas about his plan just as Sherman was attacking Kennesaw Mountain. As soon as things quieted down and the Northern Armies had forced Johnston’s men across the Chattahoochee, Sherman approved Rousseau’s plan. Rousseau spent the early part of July getting his selected five regiments to Decatur as a stepping-off point for the raid. He had these five handpicked regiments (although the 9th Ohio came along more because of their large size than for their ability as a fighting unit), and ordered other greener regiments to supply the picked men with some weapons and a lot of horses. A.J. Smith’s 12,000 men of the Army of the Tennessee were to mount an expedition to keep Forrest’s men occupied, and while this was going on, Rousseau would strike quickly and secretly at Montgomery and Columbus, GA, and then try to head northeast along the Chattahoochee to join Sherman. On July 10, 1864, Rousseau’s 3000 plus men set out from Decatur to try to destroy as much track as possible between Montgomery and Columbus.
Sherman, ever the pessimist when it came to cavalry, did not have much faith that Rousseau’s raid would do any damage. As a result, near the same time he ordered Rousseau to go ahead, Sherman told Stoneman to take his Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Ohio (in reality 3 brigades of 2600 men under Biddle, Adams, and Capron) southwest along the north side of the Chattahoochee, with the goal of burning some of the Atlanta and West Point Railroad in the vicinity. Stoneman set out from his camps near Sweetwater Creek and headed southwest on July 11, 1864. He tried to see if the Confederates were guarding the crossing at Campbellton in force, and when he saw they were, he headed west away from the River and out of sight of the Confederates, and then headed southeast again to Moore’s Bridge, over 20 miles southwest of Campbellton along the Chattahoochee. Using captured Confederate uniforms, 9 men from Adams’s Brigade captured the bridge intact, and set up a bridgehead. However, Armstrong’s Confederate Cavalry Brigade came into the area and skirmished with Stoneman. He became afraid of being cut off, and instead of pushing on and trying to destroy some track, Stoneman fired Moore’s Bridge and retreated back the way he had come. Sherman needed the Army of the Tennessee’s infantry to reinforce his bridgeheads over the Chattahoochee at Roswell and Sope Creek, so Stoneman’s men were needed back along the right flank to take up the former positions of the infantry. The Cavalry of the Army of the Ohio were back where they had started by July 18. Stoneman made excuses as to why he was unable to do more, but Evans believes he was too timid on this raid. And he points out that the men in the ranks began to whisper that Stoneman had lost his nerve.
In the next chapter, “To The Gates of Atlanta”, Evans moves back to the eastern flank of Sherman’s Armies and Garrard’s Division on July 10. Rumors abounded that the Confederates were going to use McAfee’s Bridge southeast of Roswell to raid Sherman’s supply line. Garrard’s Brigades were ordered north and east of Roswell over the next few days to picket against just such an attack. While they were doing this, they took the opportunity to forage liberally. After Stoneman’s men had returned from their raid, Sherman crossed the Chattahoochee in force on July 17. Garrard was ordered to leave one regiment to help guard the supply train near Marietta, and also detailed a detachment to guard McAfee’s Bridge. The remainder of Garrard’s men pushed south on the 17th and moved towards Cross Keys and Nancy’s Creek. They encountered light resistance but kept McPherson’s left flank covered. On the 18th, as most of the infantry moved further south to Peachtree Creek, Garrard and some of the Army of the Tennessee moved east to Stone Mountain and Decatur. The resistance was a little fiercer this time around, and the Yankees soon learned that Dibrell’s Brigade was contesting their advance. The Lightning Brigade pushed the Confederates towards Stone Mountain, and the rest of Garrard’s men tore up track behind the advance. Eventually, the men neared Stone Mountain. Lightburn’s infantry brigade also showed up and began tearing up track westward to Decatur. As night came on, rumors of reinforcements caused Garrard to retire back toward Cross Keys. On the 19th, Garrard’s men repeated their earlier foray and again tore up even more track. Also on the 19th, the Union commanders learned that Joe Johnston had been replaced by John Bell Hood as commander of the Army of Tennessee. Sherman was elated, and thought that the Confederates might finally come out and fight on open ground. On the 20th, as the XXIII Corps approached Decatur, McPherson’s men tore up track east of that town, and Garrard guarded the far left flank of the Army, Hood proved Schofield’s prediction that he would attack within 24 hours. Hood caught the Army of the Cumberland in a potentially dangerous situation astride Peachtree Creek, but Thomas had just enough time to get his men into a semblance of a line south of the Creek, and Hood’s men were driven back with heavy losses.
In “A Costly Mistake”, Evans recounts the events on Sherman’s left flank on July 21-22, 1864. Sherman was extremely worried that the Confederates might send one Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia by railroad to reinforce Hood’s Army. Sherman was determined to make this as difficult as possible, and he ordered Garrard on July 20 to take his entire Division and move 30 miles east of Decatur, tearing up as much track as possible and burning key bridges, including one over the Yellow River. Sherman impressed upon Garrard the extreme importance of this measure, and Evans notes that Sherman even mentioned to Garrard that he could lose up to a quarter of his men if necessary to get the job done. Unfortunately, as Garrard was on this mission, Wheeler’s Cavalry struck what was left of Garrard’s men and Sprague’s XVI Corps infantry brigade at Decatur with the intent of capturing the supply trains of quite a few Union Army Corps. They nearly succeeded, but for the extreme bravery of a few Union batteries and some of Sprague’s supporting infantry. And as Evans points out, this was not the worst part. Much worse was what happened farther west on the eastern outskirts of Atlanta. Hood attacked the Army of the Tennessee with two Corps of his Army and if not for some bad luck and a late start, might have destroyed it. The Confederates lost 5000 plus men, and the Union lost 3500 or so, but the biggest blow was the death of the Army of the Tennessee’s commander, James B. McPherson. Evans points out that Sherman had made a major mistake by leaving Stoneman and McCook sitting idly on the north bank of the Chattahoochee while sending Garrard off on his mission of destruction. The end result was that no one was there to give the Army of the Tennessee advance warning of Hood’s flank attack. Luckily, someone had seen the Union vulnerability to just such an attack and had sent Dodge’s Corps to form at right angles to the rest of the Army of the Tennessee. If this preventative measure had not been taken, who knows how successful Hood might have been on July 22.
The first part of Rousseau’s raid is covered in Evans’ next chapter. He details the events that occurred between Decatur to Eastaboga from July 10-14, 1864. In an earlier chapter, Evans told how Rousseau had assembled 2700 troopers in two brigades around Decatur, Alabama. He got these men moving south on the afternoon of July 10. The first day’s march contained no urgency and the men camped near Cotaco Creek. On July 11, Rousseau’s men ran into an ambush just outside of camp, but the rest of the day was filled with hard marching. By the end of the day, the men had gone thirty miles, twice as far as the previous day, and camped in a small town called Summit for the night. July 12 was filled with more hard marching up and down mountains along with some confiscation of property. By nightfall Rousseau had made it to within five miles of Ashville, and they again bedded down. Some men of the 8th Indiana were detailed to round up some beef cattle, as rations were beginning to run low. Unfortunately, they failed at this task as the cattle decided in ones and twos to break away and escape. The detail ended up with no cattle at all to show for their hard work. As July 13 dawned, the Union Cavalrymen were about to get a welcome surprise. Rousseau had sent a detail of Tennesseans into Ashville the night of July 12 to ascertain what kind of opposition would greet the main column in the morning. These men scattered what few Southern troopers were present, and secured the numerous supplies in the town. Rousseau’s men, not knowing this and fatigued from the previous three days of marching mostly over mountains, took it easy as they covered the five miles to Ashville. There they all took what they needed and took a much-deserved rest on the afternoon of July 13. Evans recounts a humorous story about the men finding the printing press of an Ashville newspaper, and printing up stories with a pro-Union bent. The break in Ashville was used to adjust the regiments in Rousseau’s two brigades. The unruly 9th Ohio was taken over by its old commander, Col. Hamilton, who had been leading the 2nd Brigade. It also swapped spots with the 5th Iowa, with the 9th moving to the 1st Brigade and the 5tgh moving to the Second. The 5th Iowa’s commander, Lt. Col. Patrick, took over command of the 2nd Brigade. After resting, Rousseau pushed his men forward, knowing he needed to get to the Coosa River as soon as possible. The Coosa was a major obstacle in his path towards the Montgomery & West Point R.R., and he was determined to secure a crossing. A detail from the 8th Indiana retrieved a ferryboat at Greensport, and part of that regiment was ferried over to protect the eastern side of the crossing. Everyone then slept for the night. As July 14th dawned, Brig. General James Clanton split his 200 Alabama Cavalrymen, with 100 of the 6th Alabama going to attack Rousseau’s column at Greensport, and 100 more of the 8th Alabama heading south to watch the potential crossing at Ten Islands. As Clanton attacked Greensport, most of the 8th Indiana with their Spencer repeaters made short work of the fight. As that fight was starting, Rousseau took the rest of the 8th Indiana and his other four regiments south to Ten Islands. As they tried to cross, the Alabamians pinned them down on the islands in the middle of the Coosa. Lt. Col. Jones of the 8th Indiana, worried about what had happened to his men at Greensport, asked permission to attack frontally to drive the Confederates away. Rousseau, not wanting to lose a good man, allowed him to head back north to Greensport and cross there. Luckily, Jones found a ford not far north of Ten Islands, and he found the rest of the 8th Indiana (after their successful defense earlier) had moved south down the eastern bank of the Coosa and had attacked the 8th Alabama on the flank. This drove them away, and Rousseau’s Command was reunited on the east bank of the Coosa at Ten Islands. Rousseau pushed his men even farther that night and ended up at Eastaboga, over 15 miles south of Ten Islands. Rousseau’s men camped here on the night of the 14th, having made good time in the five days they had been marching from Decatur.
Rousseau’s march on July 15-17 from Eastaboga to Loachapoka, which sits astride the Montgomery & West Point R.R., is covered in the next chapter. Rousseau’s men didn’t really see any fighting on these three days. On the first day, the Union raiders marched south to Talladega, where Rousseau seriously considered heading 20 miles west to destroy a railroad bridge at Wilsonville. This would convince the Confederates that he was aiming for Selma, while he then backtracked and headed southeast to Montgomery and his ultimate goal of reaching the Montgomery and West Point Railroad. July 15 was a day of hard marching, and the Federal Cavalrymen trudged 39 miles south and southeast from Eastaboga to Weoguska Creek. Rousseau’s men were really showing signs of fatigue on July 16, because Rousseau didn’t allow them hardly any sleep. Because of this, after seizing a lot of food and material at Soccopatoy, Rousseau gave the men 3 to 4 hours for a nap. After this, knowing he was nearing the last major River in his way, the Tallapoosa, Rousseau ordered his men to make good time and they crossed a ford over the River with some difficulty the night of July 16-17, 1864. The day of July 17 was spent marching mainly south, but Rousseau wanted to fool the Rebels into thinking he was heading southwest towards Montgomery. Therefore he headed southwest several times. In reality, he was heading southeast to Loachapoka, because he had heard rumors of Clanton’s Alabama Cavalry riding out of Montgomery to meet him. At 6 P.M. on July 17, Rousseau’s men finally reached their destination. Evans points out that these men had forded two major Rivers, fought a battle versus Clanton’s men along the Coosa, and had traveled a total of 240 miles. He also states that they needed no orders to tell them what was to come next. They had reached one of Johnston’s lifelines, and they were going to ruin as much of it as possible in the next day or two.
Rousseau spent about 26 hours all told in wrecking the railroad near Loachapoka. About 6 miles west was the town of Notasulga and another 6 or so miles southwest of that was the town of Chehaw. Meanwhile, the town of Auburn lay east of Loachapoka. The Union raiders’ plan was to burn as much track as possible between Chehaw and Auburn, and also possibly destroy a trestle near Chehaw. However, the Confederates had been busy preparing to receive the raiders after news of the raid broke. Pillow was sending two brigades of cavalry from Tuscaloosa, and conscripts from the local populace were raised in Montgomery, the state capitol. These conscripts, along with some Alabama reserves, a couple of hundred men, moved east up the railroad on a train and debarked near Chehaw when told Yankees were near. Rousseau had divided his men into 5 groups and spread them out along the railroad to work on its destruction. The westernmost group ran into the conscripts as they got off of the train near Chehaw. In the ensuing “battle”, the Federals drove the Confederates back, but Rousseau feared that Southern reinforcements would arrive. Meanwhile, the easternmost detachment headed towards Auburn, tearing up track as it went. However, Clanton’s Alabamians, who had fought Rousseau’s men earlier in the raid, made another appearance, moved astride the railroad, and tried to block the Yankees’ progress east. Clanton was unsuccessful, and as part of the Northern troopers stood watch, others ripped up the tracks. By late on the night of July 18, and early into the morning, the Yankees had ripped up 19 miles of track and telegraph wire, and the Yankees all converged to camp out a mile or so east of Auburn along the railroad. A captured engineer from a locomotive making a reconnaissance said he was from Massachusetts, and offered to come along as a guide for the return trip. As the men settled in for the night on July 18, Rousseau prepared for the return trip.
The Confederates, by now fully aware that the Union raiders were ripping up the vital Montgomery & West Point RR, were converging on Loachapoka and Opelika from almost every direction. Armstrong’s Mississippi Cavalry Brigade, which had earlier stopped Stoneman’s raid down the Chattahoochee, rode hard for West Point, on the Georgia and Alabama State line, and about 30 miles northeast of Loachapoka. Volunteer battalions were organized in West Point, and also farther south at Columbus, Georgia, a major manufacturing center. The troops which had fought Rousseau’s men at Chehaw also continued to advance east along the now torn up railroad. Pillow’s dismounted Cavalrymen from western Alabama arrived in Montgomery to try to reinforce the men who had fought at Chehaw. And lastly, Armstrong’s Alabama Brigade of Cavalry was shadowing Rousseau just to the north of his raiders. Unaware of just how much consternation his raid had caused and the Confederate responses to it, Rousseau continued to tear up the railroad as he worked his way eastward towards the junction town of Opelika. Finally, at 1 P.M. on July 19, Rousseau decided it was time to head for home. He set a punishing pace and rode northeast to the town of Bethlehem, stopping at 2 A.M. on July 20. His men were off again at 4 A.M., and stopped again at Rock Mills at noon, both to give his men a rest and to secure some more supplies. The Yankees only stayed for about an hour, and trudged again all day until finally stopping for the night at 9 P.M. a few miles south of Laurel Hill. Rousseau again started early, at 5 A.M. on July 21. He crossed the state line that afternoon and reached Carrolton around 2 P.M. Stoneman’s Division had been here only a few days before on their aborted raid. Rousseau still kept up a torrid pace until he met some Yankee picket’s of Stoneman’s Division, and he stopped 3 or 4 miles north of Villa Rica on the night of July 21. The Yankee Raiders, finally safely inside Union lines, got a (for them) relatively late start at 6 A.M. on July 22, and headed to Marietta. The final numbers of the raid were impressive. Evans writes:
In twelve days they had marched through the heart of Dixie, averaging 34 miles a day. They had destroyed $20,000,000 to $25,000,000 worth of Rebel property, including 26 miles of railroad and telegraph lines, eight or nine boxcars, a locomotive and tender, thirteen depots and warehouses, two gun factories, an iron works, a conscript camp, over 1000 bales of cotton, several tons of tobacco, at least four wagons, and huge quantities of quartermaster, commissary, and ordnance supplies. In addition, they had brought in about 300 Negroes and roughly 300 horses and 400 mules, although estimates of captured stock ranged anywhere from 500 to 1,100.
In addition, Rousseau had lost very few men while fighting two battles at Ten Islands and Chehaw along with numerous skirmishes. Evans concludes that Rousseau’s raid had been the most successful since Benjamin Grierson’s romp through Mississippi the year before. After the raid, Rousseau went back to Nashville to manage his department. His men, however, were needed. They took Stoneman’s place guarding the right flank of the Union Armies, freeing up Stoneman’s men to fight elsewhere.
After Rousseau’s raid, Sherman immediately sent out Kenner Garrard on a raid of his own west of Atlanta. This is detailed fittingly enough in a chapter entitled “Garrard’s Raid”. The troops Garrard had left behind in Decatur when setting out had been the ones attacked a few chapters back. The raid started on the evening of July 22nd, and involved the Brigades of Long, Miller, and Minty. They made it from Decatur to just past the Yellow River at Rockbridge by midnight, and bivouacked near “The Promised Land”, the 956-acre plantation of Thomas McGuire. At 5 A.M. on the 23rd, Garrard moved out. He sent some troops south and then east to burn a bridge over the Yellow River west of Oxford, while he himself first headed east and then southeast into Oxford. After taking supplies in Oxford, Garrard wasted little time in moving slightly southeast to Covington. There a farmer started killing Union scouts, but soon their comrades ruthlessly shot the man down and then executed him with a bullet to his brain at short range. The troopers, wanting revenge, also mistakenly killed George Daniel as a spy. He was really a Confederate soldier but a neighbor identified him as a civilian, sealing his fate. The Yankees spent the rest of the day burning RR track from 2 miles west of Covington all the way to the Alcovy River 3 miles east of the town. Garrard headed for home on the evening of the 22nd, marched through Oxford, and reined in at 10 P.M. near Sardis Church, 6.5 miles north of Oxford. He wasted little time at was on his way again at 6 A.M. of the 23rd. The troopers then marched 9.5 miles north to Loganville and halted there at noon. After one hour, Minty’s brigade headed north towards Lawrenceville, and bedded down 3 miles west of that town on the Yellow River. Miller and Long instead turned southwest and ended up three miles west of Rockbridge at 6 P.M. after coming near that place on the return march. Garrard’s Division again started up at 6 A.M. of the 24th, and was in Decatur again by noon of that day. Wheeler’s Confederates learned of the raid on the 22nd but never did interfere. In fact, Garrard managed to march 90 miles in 3 days, destroying three wagon bridges and one trestle over the Yellow River, 1 trestle and 1 wagon bridge over the Alcovy River, several engines and railroad cars, six miles of track near Covington, and over 2000 bales of cotton at the cost of only 2 men killed. It was a definite success, and Sherman was pleased with the work Garrard had out in. Garrard’s reserve supply train at Decatur had been smashed, but the massive haul of supplies brought in by the raiders more than made up for this loss.
In “Converging Columns”, Evans writes of Sherman’s determination to cut the Macon & Western Railroad, Atlanta’s last link to the outside world. Around July 22, he brought up the remainder of his cavalry. Stoneman’s Division had been picketing the Chattahoochee River fords from Sweetwater Creek to Turner’s Ferry. McCook’s 1st Division was at Vining’s Station to patrol from Pace’s Ferry to Turner’s Ferry. McCook crossed the Chattahoochee at Pace’s Ferry to cover the right of the Army, and ended up at Mason’s Church on the far right on July 23. McCook had around 1500 men in the entire division at the time. Meanwhile Stoneman’s Division had traveled down the northern bank of the Chattahoochee even farther to the right to oversee a crossing at Sandtown, but skirmishing in front of McCook convinced Thomas that a crossing closer to McCook at Howell’s Ferry might be safer. Eventually, Stoneman’s troopers crossed at DeFoor’s Ferry, near Howell’s on July 23. Now that Sherman had all of his cavalry in hand, he wanted to send them on a massive strike at the Macon railroad while his infantry sidled around the western edge of Atlanta. On July 27th, Sherman planned to send McCook and Harrison (Rousseau’s men) west of Atlanta while Garrard and Stoneman moved east of Atlanta, and they would rendezvous south of Atlanta on The Macon & Western on July 28. He wanted them to destroy up to five miles of track and telegraph wire, and then either cut off Hood’s retreat or retreat themselves as circumstances warranted. However, the chain of command was muddles, and this portended bad times to come. In addition, Stoneman begged to be allowed to attempt a rescue of the Union prisoners at Andersonville after the cutting of the railroad, and Sherman agreed. As these preparations and the actual raids got underway, Sherman sent Howard’s Army of the Tennessee around his right in an attempt to get at the Macon & Western, but a fierce and bloody Rebel attack at Ezra Church stopped them cold. It was now up to the Cavalry to reach the railroad. On July 27, Stoneman’s 2150 men joined Garrard’s 4000 troopers as they converged near Decatur and marched southeast 8 miles to Latimer’s Crossroads. The two Divisions were there by 1 P.M. on the 27th. Wheeler’s Confederate Cavalry moved out to intercept them on late on the 27th. He had a slight numerical advantage, but the Northern troops carried repeaters, giving them the massive advantage in firepower. Wheeler’s men hit Garrard’s Division near South River on the night of the 27th. Garrard stayed to fight all day on the 28th to give Stoneman a head start to cutting the railroad. Wheeler sent three brigades after Stoneman, and fought Garrard at South River. Garrard’s men were in danger of being cut off, but they cut their way out of the trap. On the 29th, Garrard sent out scouting parties to try to find where Stoneman, and the Rebel Cavalry for that matter, had gone. He had no success and bedded down for the night. On the 30th, Garrard had had enough. He headed northeast away from Atlanta, and then after awhile, headed back northwest towards Decatur and the left flank of the Union infantry. They reached that spot on the 30th of July. Attention would now turn to the right pincer of the Union raid on the west side of Atlanta led by McCook.
In this chapter, entitled “McCook’s Raid: Turner’s Ferry to Flint River”, Evans writes of McCook’s raid up to and slightly past his reaching Lovejoy’s Station on the Macon & Western Railroad on the afternoon of July 29th, 1864. McCook had available for the raid the 1400+ men of his own Division (940 in Croxton’s 1st Brigade, 600 in Torrey’s 2nd Brigade, and the 100 odd men of the 18th Indiana Battery), as well as the 1400 men in Harrison’s 5 regiments, for a total of over 2800 men. They left Mason’s Church (just south of the Chattahoochee River) at 4 A.M. on July 27th, and headed north to Vining’s Station. The reason they did this was to use the Chattahoochee as a shield, head southwest, and then recross the big river at Campbellton Ferry. However, on the afternoon of the 27th, McCook found Rebel pickets blocking his way at the Ferry. He bedded down for the night, then moved southwest 6 miles to Smith’s Ferry, and crossed there on the afternoon of the 28th. He sent Major Paine’s Wisconsin Regiment northeast to Campbellton to deceive any pursuers, and headed southeast to the town of Palmetto. Paine’s men found disaster when they faced an entire Rebel Brigade on the 28th. Confederate General “Red” Jackson was alerted to the raid, and was determined to pursue. McCook kept moving and hit the mother lode 7 miles southeast of Palmetto. He found a 600-wagon Confederate commissary train and destroyed it, along with the mules pulling it. He pushed on to Fayetteville, only a few miles down the road, reaching there at daylight of the 29th. McCook kept pushing, and his men found 500 more wagons (this time of Loring’s Confederate infantry Corps) a few miles east of Fayetteville. McCook’s constant urging paid dividends when he crossed the Flint River and then reached the all-important Macon & Western Railroad at Lovejoy’s Station around 7 A.M. on the 29th. His first troops to reach that point cut the telegraph wires, destroyed the depot, water tower, and woodshed, $300,000 worth of cotton, $100,000-$120,000 worth of tobacco, bacon, lard, salt, and ordnance, and a mile of railroad track. Harrison’s regiments brought up the rear, and reached Lovejoy’s around 11 A.M. on the 29th. At this point, the Union troopers tore up several 1.5 mile sections of track, and then lay down to get some much-needed rest. McCook, having reached the Macon & Western a day late, looked for Stoneman to the east, but he was nowhere to be found. To make matters worse, word of Paine’s disaster reached him along with a warning that Wheeler’s Cavalry was north and east of him and heading south in a hurry. McCook stayed until 2 P.M. on the 29th, and then headed back west towards Fayetteville. His plan was not to recross the Flint at the same point east of Fayetteville, but instead to turn left (to the south) just before the river, and take the crossing at Glass Bridge a few miles further south on the river. Most of his men made the turning point with ease, but Croxton’s men tarried on the railroad waiting in vain for McCook to show. Croxton’s first regiment reached the turn in the road just as “Red” Jackson’s Confederates attacked them from the east. Jackson’s men had ridden through Palmetto and Fayetteville in not-so-hot pursuit, and they had Croxton almost cut off. However, Croxton’s Brigade, with the help of one of Torrey’s regiments, extricated themselves from a tough spot and all of the Federals were across the Flint River at Glass Bridge by 6 P.M. on the 29th of July. As the chapter ends, Glass Bridge had just been burned, and McCook had prepared to head west and cross the Chattahoochee further south at Moor’s Bridge. However, he was unaware that Stoneman had burned this bridge while picketing the Chattahoochee several weeks earlier.
“McCook’s Raid: Flint River to Newnan” is the title of Evans’ next chapter. In it, he recounts part of McCook’s retreat from the Flint River westward to the town of Newnan, only nine miles from the Chattahoochee River, and escape. At this point in the narrative, Evans gives a brief biography of “Fighting’ Joe” Wheeler, Hood’s Cavalry commander. Wheeler, although mostly successful, was looked down upon and called stupid by no less a man than Nathan Bedford Forrest. Wheeler had other detractors as well, but was at this point a Major General with massive responsibilities. Specifically, he was facing 10,000 Yankees, many with repeaters, in several columns with only the 3800 troopers under his command. His dilemma was trying to decide whether to use all of his men on one column, thus letting the other columns wreak havoc on the railroad, or to divide his men and risk letting them get defeated in detail. At 6 P.M. on the 29th of July, McCook headed west from Glass Bridge on the Flint River, taking a little-known back road west toward Newnan around 20 miles west. He wanted to avoid taking his earlier route through Fayetteville to throw off his pursuers led by “Red” Jackson and Wheeler. Part of the 5th Iowa blocked the road north to Fayetteville for three hours to discourage pursuit there. By midnight, McCook was within 25 miles of the Chattahoochee, but his mule train of captured goods and Confederate prisoners was slowing his column down considerably, not to mention the fact that his men hadn’t slept in over 60 hours. Whitewater Creek was the first major stream of two between Glass Bridge and Newnan, and John Croxton detailed a company of the 4th Kentucky Mounted Infantry to burn the bridge there and hold Wheeler’s pursuit until morning. While the company did manage to delay Wheeler for over an hour, pretty soon it was running away at a gallop with Wheeler in slower pursuit since he first had to repair the bridge. Three miles to the west, at Shakerag, the Upper and Lower Newnan roads came together. It was here that Lt. Col. Kelly and the rest of the 4th Kentucky Mounted Infantry were told to hold the Rebels until daylight. He succeeded in doing so, but at the cost of 150-200 of his command and himself captured. Jim Brownlow’s 1st Tennessee became the new rear guard at Line Creek, the second major obstacle between the Flint River and Newnan. At 8 A.M. on July 30th, McCook’s advance guard reached Newnan, only to find the 550 men of Roddey’s Confederate Cavalry Brigade waiting on a train at the town’s depot and getting ready to head north. These men had been detailed from Forrest to help Hood replace losses suffered in the big battles around Atlanta, and luck had placed them directly in the way of McCook’s raiders at a critical juncture. McCook decided not to attack them, and instead sent Major Owen Star’s 2nd Kentucky 2.5 miles south of Newnan to Wright’s Crossing. Owen burned the depot and some rails at that point, and sent messengers to McCook saying he could successfully bypass Newnan by heading on a road northwest from Wright’s Crossing. Croxton’s rear guard had managed to outdistance Wheeler around 9 A.M. on the 30th, but Wheeler caught them again by noon, just two miles east of Newnan. Croxton managed to head south just before Newnan, and Wheeler rode into the town in the early afternoon. He knew the Yankees had gone south, and were probably trying to detour around Newnan, so he told his weary men to mount up. He intended to attack the Northerners in their right flank as they marched northwestward, and he hoped to get some men in front of the Federal column to trap them and capture them all.
In “McCook’s Raid: Battle At Brown’s Mill” Evans recounts how Wheeler successfully attacked and held up the Yankee column a few miles southwest of Newnan. The Yankee horsemen were traveling west on the Ricketyback Road, heading for the Corinth Road, when the Rebels hit. Torrey’s 2nd Brigade was stampeded, Torrey was wounded, and a good chunk of the survivors immediately headed west under Major Purdy of the 4th Indiana. Harrison and Croxton then formed their men in line facing north to counter the threat. Early in the fighting, Wheeler’s men drove back Harrison’s regiments, capturing Harrison and the wounded Torrey along with 250 of Harrison’s men. Before 3 P.M., the Rebels had blocked Ricketyback Road to the west, and the 8th Iowa was ordered to charge and reopen the road. In furious fighting, the road was taken and retaken, and the Yankees eventually had to fall back to the south when Wheeler’s reinforcements under Robert Anderson, Roddey, and stragglers brought his strength to 1800 men, or roughly equal to the Federals under McCook. By 5 P.M. of the 30th, McCook wanted to give up. But Jim Brownlow of the 1st Tennessee talked him out of it, and the Federals formed into two columns, one under Croxton and one under Fielder Jones, now in charge of what was left of Harrison’s five regiments. Before retreating, the guns of the 18th Indiana were disabled and left behind. The men headed south and broke through, but the 8th Iowa, acting as the rear guard, was mostly surrounded and forced to surrender. The Yankees headed for the Chattahoochee in three groups that night. The first, under Purdy, headed northwest and crossed the big river at Williams’ Ferry, north of Franklin. Jim Brownlow led a few hundred men west and crossed further south than Purdy, though still north of Franklin. A good number of Brownlow’s men were captured, and he barely escaped himself. The largest force, the 1200 men under McCook, headed southwest down the Corinth road, reached Corinth, and headed northwest to the Chattahoochee. They crossed at Philpot’s Ferry, although they lost 200-400 horses and mules plus the 80 or so men of their rear guard. McCook was scared, and wanted to leave everyone on foot behind while the men without mounts fended for themselves. Meanwhile, Wheeler was furious at the men in charge of the pursuit because they had let their men sleep until daylight. They didn’t reach Philpot’s Ferry until 8 A.M. on July 31st, and as a consequence did far less damage than they could have.
The last chapter detailing McCook’s Raid was entitled “McCook’s Raid: The Chattahoochee to Marietta”. In it, Evans first details the fallout from the Battle at Brown’s Mill. The Union troopers lost around 100 men, while the Confederates lost around half that number. However, the number of Northern prisoners was large, around 587 on and near the battlefield, and just under 1300 in all by the time other stragglers from the raid were rounded up. Newnan was used as a hospital for the wounded of both sides, and saw the carnage of war firsthand. The Rebels had captured two cannon, eleven ambulances, several hundred horses and mules, and enough equipment to allow the Texas Brigade to replenish worn or missing supplies. In addition, the regimental colors of the 2nd Indiana, the 4th Tennessee, and the 8th Iowa had all been taken. Major Purdy’s group from Torrey’s Brigade was the first to reach Marietta, doing so around noon on August 1, 1864 with 283 men. Jim Brownlow came shortly afterward with only 19 men bearing the terrible (although incorrect) news that McCook and the rest of his men had been captured. Sherman was shocked and wondered how McCook and 300 handpicked men could almost all have been captured. He sent some of Garrard’s men to Decatur to act as a decoy to help all of his raiders, and also to see if they could find any information on McCook and Stoneman. McCook left his dismounted men behind to make their way back to Atlanta as best they could, and he reached Wedowee, Alabama on the night of July 31st. The town was a Union hotbed, but the men still took everything they could get their hands on. McCook learned that Rebel Cavalry was located about 20 miles west, quickly headed north, and reached the Big Tallapoosa River on the night of August 1st. After some hard marching, the remnants of McCook’s raiders reached Marietta at 5:30 P.M. on August 2nd. Evans writes that now that McCook and Garrard were back, everyone wondered where Stoneman was.
The beginnings of George Stoneman’s raid east of Atlanta towards Macon are detailed in “Stoneman’s Raid: Latimer’s Crossroads to Clinton and the Oconee River”. Stoneman left Latimer’s Crossroads on July 27th, 1864, on the same day Garrard’s men left that same location. Stoneman crossed the Yellow River and halted 2 miles west of Covington, Georgia that night. On the morning of the 28th, Stoneman’s troops looted Covington and were on their way south to Monticello by 8 A.M. Adams’ Kentucky Brigade took a westerly route to Monticello to scout for Southern pursuers, while Stoneman, the two remaining brigades, and the artillery took the direct road south. Stoneman reached Monticello and stopped for the night of the 28th, but Silas Adams did not reach that place until 4 A.M. of the 29th, and he had bad news. Stoneman had wanted to cross the Ocmulgee River somewhere between Monticello and Macon to be able to ride west and rendezvous with McCook at Lovejoy’s Station as agreed upon, but there were no bridges over the Ocmulgee between the two towns, and the ferries which existed would have taken too long. Reluctantly, Stoneman headed south at daylight of the 29th towards Clinton on his way to Macon. He figured he could at least burn the railroads near Macon and Milledgeville, and also release the 1500 Union officers being held prisoner at Camp Oglethorpe in Macon. He again sent Adams west to scout and keep an eye on his right flank, while he took the rest of the Division due south to Clinton. Just before he reached Clinton, he detached Major Francis Davidson and 5 companies of the 14th Illinois with orders to head 18 miles southeast to Gordon, where a branch line and the Central Railroad intersected. Davidson was to destroy as much track and public property as possible. Once at Clinton, Stoneman got more bad news. The bridge over the Ocmulgee at Macon had been washed away in June. At this point, Stoneman had his men dismount in Clinton, and they plundered to a whole new level, with many men getting drunk. At this point, Evans turns to Confederate preparations and countermeasures in Macon. Gen. Howell Cobb commanded the 5th Georgia Reserves, and he was in de facto the leader of the defenses at Macon. His first order was to ship 1200 of the 1500 Union officers in Macon east to Charleston, South Carolina. They all left Macon on July 28th. He then gathered together some of the Georgia Militia which had been detailed to be sent north to Atlanta, and also made some battalions out of the townspeople of Macon. At 5 P.M. on July 29th, he sent a cavalry company to scout north to Clinton. And at 8 P.M., he led Mallet’s Macon Battalion (350 strong), 1500 Georgia Militia, and the remainder of his 5th Georgia Reserves north towards Clinton. Gen. Wayne’s Georgia Militia was sent east on the railroad to Milledgeville by way of Gordon, and he reached Gordon at 9 P.M. of the 29th. Francis Davidson and his 14th Illinois were just north of town, and they saw the Confederates pull in. They waited until all trains were past, and then they charged into town, burning track and the turntable, and destroying as much rolling stock, engines, and private property as possible. That night of the 29th, Davidson moved east to McIntyre and Toomsboro, burning track along the way when possible. When he got east of Toomsboro, he burned the railroad bridge over the Oconee River which led ultimately to Savannah. Evans records that this was an important event, for it had truly isolated Atlanta from the outside world. No direct rail route connected it with any of the other cities of the South from this point forward.
Gen. Stoneman’s advance from Clinton and fight in front of Macon are recounted in “Stoneman’s Raid: Clinton to Walnut Creek”. Francis Davidson’s men moved north of the railroad bridge over the Oconee and crossed it heading east 22 miles to the north at Tucker’s Ferry at 2 A.M. on July 31. This would have unexpected consequences later. Milledgeville had received a telegram from Macon warning of the raider’s approach on the afternoon of July 29. At the time, the Capital had only 120 men in three militia companies to defend it. Luckily, Gen. Wayne’s train from Macon arrived in Milledgeville at 1 A.M. on July30. Meanwhile, Gen. Cobb in Macon had sent scouts north on the night of the 29th to look for the Yankees rumored to be near Clinton. Gen. Stoneman had left Clinton late on the afternoon of the 29th, sending scouts ahead down the Lite N’ Tie Road. Capron’s and Biddle’s Brigades followed close behind. Silas Adams Kentucky Brigade, bringing up the rear along with the Pack Train, was sent on the more direct road to Macon to the right of the Lite N’ Tie Road. At 10 P.M. on the 29th, Adams ran into Cobb’s Confederate scouts and a sharp running skirmish ensued. Stoneman sent some men over to the right to see what had happened and they accidentally fired on Adams’ men briefly before order was restored. Adams got to within 5 miles of Macon by dawn on the 30th, and then was ordered to probe for fords northeast of Macon. By daylight, the left wing of Stoneman’s men had gotten to within nine miles of Macon. Stoneman sent Capron’s Brigade southeast to the railroad near Gordon and Griswoldville to destroy track. After this was accomplished, Capron joined Biddle, who had gotten within 1.5 miles east of Macon, behind Walnut Creek by 6 A.M. of the 30th. Here Stoneman had a conversation with a Mrs. Dunlap, who told him the prisoners at Camp Oglethorpe had all been moved. This was untrue, as 300 men still remained, but Stoneman chose to believe the woman. Gen. Joseph Johnston, recently removed form command of the Army of the Tennessee, was in Macon on July 30th and acted as an advisor to Gen. Cobb. Cobb had decided to cross the Ocmulgee River and fight the raiders with his back to it. Evans believes he might have done this to prevent his raw militia from running. Col. Lee’s men held the right along the Garrison Road, and Col. Cumming’s men blocked the Clinton Road on the left. Skirmishing started at 7 A.M., and continued throughout the day. A Federal attempt to turn the Rebel right was foiled by the Macon City Battalion at 9 A.M. Fighting ended at 3 P.M. with very light casualties, as Stoneman had decided he had done enough and would head southwest 60 miles to Andersonville. He soon learned that Confederate cavalry blocked his path, so he then decided to head back to Atlanta via Milledgeville to foil pursuit. However, Davidson’s raid to the Oconee had drawn Rebel pursuers toward Milledgeville, and Stoneman decide to retrace his steps due north all the way to Hillsboro. As he set his men in motion north at 5 P.M. on July 30th, Stoneman’s men were worried about the prospect of facing Wheeler’s Cavalry, who had surely been notified of the raid and must be in hot pursuit by now.
Stoneman’s raid comes to an ignominious end in “Stoneman’s Raid: Cross Keys to Sunshine Church”. By 9 P.M. on July 30, Stoneman’s advance guard from Horace Capron’s Brigade was three miles north of Clinton. At that point, the advance guard collided with Brigadier General Alfred Holt Iverson’s 1400 men consisting of three brigades and 4 guns from two batteries. Iverson had been farther west almost due south of Atlanta when Gen. Wheeler had caught wind of the raid and ordered Iverson east to attempt to intercept it. As Iverson was heading east to Milledgeville, his men ran into Capron’s advance guard south of Hillsboro. Iverson was a known blunderer and a fool, according to Evans, but he relates that “fate was going to give him a second chance”, and near his birthplace of Clinton coincidentally. Capron’s men pushed the Rebel scouts northward early that night, but they were stopped by heavier firing around midnight. Adams and Biddle followed farther behind, moving through Clinton shortly after dark and at 11 P.M. respectively. At 3:30 A.M. on the 31st, Capron was ordered to advance again, and by the time dawn broke, the Federals had pushed their Confederate counterparts just north of Sunshine Church, where Wirt Allen’s Confederate Brigade had blocked the road in force. As both sides moved their respective forces up and deployed, an artillery duel broke out that lasted until 8 A.M. Stoneman stubbornly attempted to push Allen out of the way and keep moving, but his officers and men worried that this would lead to their destruction. Iverson tried to flank Stoneman, but Capron sent out a few companies to deal with the threat. Stoneman’s original left wing consisting mainly of Adams’ Kentuckians had “skedaddled” under Southern pressure, so Stoneman brought up reinforcements. At this point, the Northern officers, led by Col. Butler of the hard-fighting 5th Indiana, begged Stoneman to break off the engagement and head east towards Milledgeville to escape, but Stoneman insisted they would fight it out there. At this point a lull settled over the battlefield for the remainder of the morning. Finally, at 12:30 P.M., Stoneman had Adams and Capron strengthen their lines and prepare to advance. Iverson, meanwhile, had decided to bunch his men for a knockout blow to the Federal right center. At 1 P.M., Iverson attacked, and his men did indeed punch through the center and then wheeled left and right too flank the rest of the Yankee line. As his brigade dissolved, Capron fled eastward with about 100 men, the remnants of the 14th Illinois. Adams’ Brigade fled southward, a wrecked mob. Stoneman watched as his Division was mauled. Evans states that “a third of his command had run away. Another third cowered uselessly in the rear”. It was up to Tom Butler and his 5th Indiana to save the day. But unfortunately for the Union troopers, even the 5th Indiana wasn’t up to the task this day. Stoneman, his Division smashed and ammunition running out, decided to surrender. Silas Adams and his Kentuckians counted many Confederate deserters in its ranks, and they refused to surrender. Adams led his men eastward and escaped. Three hundred men of the 6th Indiana also managed to get away before the surrender proceedings. In the end, Stoneman and 440 of his men laid down their arms and were captured near Sunshine Church.
The flight of Adams, Capron, and others is recounted in “Stoneman’s Raid: Sunshine Church to Marietta”. As the surrender proceedings progressed, the Union officers were separated from the men and ate diner with General Iverson and his staff. Silas Adams and his Kentuckians followed the Milledgeville Road to Blountsville, and then turned north to Eatonton, reaching that place shortly after midnight on August 1. An hour later, the 8th Michigan and the 6th Indiana rode through town. Just before dawn on August 1, Adams halted five miles north of Eatonton. By 9 A.M., Adams was 22 miles north of Eatonton in Madison. The 8th Michigan was close on their heels to Madison, but the 6th Indiana didn’t get there until 2 P.M. Adams went 50 miles in 21 hours when he reached the crossroads hamlet of Fair Play. Early in the afternoon, the 8th Michigan caught up to them there. The 6th Indiana and 300-odd men from Capron’s Brigade also rendezvoused there. Capron’s Brigade had been the first to flee from the battle at Sunshine Church, and by the time he stopped and gathered stragglers, he had 300 men with him. They fled north but stayed west of Eatonton because of some (false) rumors about Confederate militia being there. At 9 A.M. on August 1 they met up with Davidson’s raiders from the 14th Illinois. After Capron and Davidson met they headed northeast and linked up with Adams. Capron, who was the ranking officer, took command, though not without some grumbling by Adams. Capron chose to head northeast towards Athens. The Yankees reached High Shoals, twelve miles northeast of Fair Play, at midnight on August 2. Union scouts dressed as Confederates caught some Rebel pickets by surprise in front of the town of Watkinsville, the Yankees ransacked the town in front of the shocked townspeople, and then they continued their journey towards Athens. They stopped just north of Watkinsville for some rest, and then pushed on. They decided to head straight into Athens, but the town had heard of their approach as early as 10 A.M. that day. The Athens militia, several hundred strong, took up positions in trenches south of town. Adams found the way blocked, and then got lost and lost contact with Capron. Capron halted at 9 P.M. at Jug’s Tavern, let his men rest an hour, and then moved again. At 1 A.M. on August 3, Capron stopped at King’s Tanyard on Rocky Creek. He insisted later that he had given orders NOT to take off saddles, but the men did this and also took off their boots as they went to sleep. A picked group of 85 men led by Col. W. C. P. Breckenridge caught up with and surprised the Yankees here. As Capron’s men fled and also got into a running fight with Breckenridge, Adams’ Brigade appeared and beat back the Southerners. Adams and what was left of Capron’s Brigade now headed for the Chattahoochee River. They reached that natural barrier of safety an hour before sundown on August 3, and everyone was across by 9 P.M. that same night. The column reached Marietta at 11 A.M. on August 4, and Sherman was informed of the partial disaster that had befallen Stoneman. He wired back, “Tell Colonel Adams to make a minute report of the facts and let me draw conclusions”.
Individuals and groups of desperate Yankees try to make their way back to Atlanta in the next chapter, entitled “Back from Oblivion”. On August 1, the captured Union officers at Sunshine Church started for Macon with their Confederate counterparts, and reached that place late that afternoon. There, the Union officers were all searched and had their valuables taken, but James Biddle was able to hide $1,000 in Confederate money which would serve Stoneman and his staff well in their upcoming captivity. The enlisted men were also marched to Macon, but they stopped 8 miles short to the east on the night of August 1. The next morning was rainy, and the guards demanded most of the Yankee troopers’ clothes and rain gear. They reached Macon at 10 A.M. on August 2, where 442 of them were immediately shipped off to Andersonville. Some of the men of McCook’s Division reached that place on August 3. Some of Iverson’s men in various places such as Macon and Athens were given celebrations in their honor. Iverson’s command was given over $2,000 in appreciation for what they had done at Sunshine Church. Soon, however, the local populace grew disillusioned when Confederate cavalrymen refused to give back horses and mules captured from Yankee riders, who only days before had taken the mounts from the civilians. Over two hundred Yankees were held captive in Athens for awhile, and over 430 men were rounded up in the area and sent to Macon and Andersonville. Evans recounts the journeys back to the Union lines of many groups of Union soldiers, featuring the journeys of Horace Capron and his son Osmond, and John Croxton and his aide Johnny. McCook and Stoneman’s raids had been a disaster. McCook had lost 1230 of the 3000 men he had started with, and Stoneman had lost 1329 of 2144. Far from reaching Andersonville and Macon to rescue prisoners, the raids only added more Yankee troopers to the already overcrowded Rebel prison pens. Sherman took the news of the twin disasters surprisingly well, and even accepted McCook’s explanation for his failures. Evans concludes the chapter by stating that Sherman’s wrath was saved for one man: Kenner Garrard.
Some of Sherman’s horsemen are forced into the lines northeast of Atlanta in “Troopers in the Trenches”. Kenner Garrard had done little to nothing at Flat Shoals while McCook and Stoneman went on their less than successful raids, and he lost barely any of his 3500 men. Sherman wanted to remove Garrard because of this, but Gen. Thomas intervened and Garrard kept his job. On August 1, 2000 of Garrard’s troopers relieved 11,000 men of Schofield’s XXIII Corps in the trenches to the northeast of Atlanta. For the first time in the campaign, troopers were acting as infantrymen, and they didn’t like it one bit. Schofield’s men and Palmer’s XIV Corps were moved to Sherman’s far right in an attempt to get around Hood’s left, but were stopped short at Utoy Creek. As Garrard’s troopers settled into the routine of trench warfare, Eli Long’s Brigade remained behind and out of the trenches at Buckhead, where they faced equally dangerous bands of roving Confederate bushwhackers and cavalry. Gen. Hugh Judson Kilpatrick returned to the campaign in late July, after partially recovering from an earlier wound. His arrival was fortuitous in that Sherman was looking for someone aggressive, and Kilpatrick’s troopers guarding Sherman’s supply line were much fresher than McCook’s and Stoneman’s ruined Divisions. So McCook replaced Kilpatrick guarding the railroad, and Kilpatrick brought his men to a point just north of the Chattahoochee by early August. While biding his time there, Kilpatrick reshuffled his command into brigades led by Colonels Klein, Jones, and Murray. On August 8 Kilpatrick was ordered to feint on Hood’s left near Sandtown in order to prevent Rebel cavalry from harassing Sherman’s right flank, and he moved out on August 9. Meanwhile, Kenner Garrard on Sherman’s left was to throw out a brigade to Decatur to further occupy the Confederates. Garrard’s older brother Israel was given command of a newly-formed Brigade created by bringing together individual regiments belonging to the Army of the Ohio. Kenner Garrard’s Division received orders removing them from the trenches on August 14 and 15. The reason was that Wheeler had taken a bunch of his Confederate Cavalry north to raid Sherman’s supply line, and Sherman saw an opportunity to strike while he was absent. He ordered Kilpatrick to scout around Hood’s left, and Garrard to go around his right. Garrard’s feebleness again shown through and this time Sherman convinced Thomas to remove Garrard and replace him with Eli Long. Then Sherman ordered Kilpatrick to scout in the direction of Fairburn on the Atlanta and West Point Railroad. Kilpatrick, eager to finally join the fray, moved out at 3 A.M. on August 15. He crossed the Chattahoochee by 10 A.M. near Sandtown, fortified a bridgehead, and met up with Israel Garrard’s Brigade near Owl Rock Church. Sul Ross’s Texas Cavalry fought with Garrard, who kept the Texans occupied long enough to let Kilpatrick destroy property and track near Fairburn that day. “Kill Cavalry” then retreated 4 miles back the way he had come. At 6 A.M. on August 16, Kilpatrick headed back towards Sandtown but kept a lookout for Red Jackson’s Cavalry Division. Not finding him, Kilpatrick returned to camp at Sandtown at 3 P.M. on August 16 and filed his report. As a result of this raid, Sherman decided to give Kilpatrick two of Kenner Garrard’s brigade in addition to his own Division, and then ordered him to head towards the Macon & Western Railroad near Rough and Ready. Sherman hoped to force Hood to abandon Atlanta by cutting his one last supply line. The last Union cavalry raid of the Atlanta Campaign was about to begin.
General Sherman is determined to cut Hood’s last supply line once and for all in “Kilpatrick’s Raid: Sandtown to Stevens’ Crossroads”. Sherman ordered Kilpatrick to march from Sandtown to the Macon & Western Railroad near Jonesboro with his own Division and two of Kenner Garrard’s Brigades led by Col. Bob Minty. Sherman wanted Kilpatrick to tear up as much track as possible while he kept Hood busy in front. “Cump” stressed to Kilpatrick that it was not a raid, but an expedition to utterly destroy Hood’s last link to the outside world. Accordingly, Sherman told Kilpatrick to stay away from Rebel infantry and artillery. Two of Garrard’s Brigades, totaling 2398 men and four guns, broke camp at 1 A.M. on August 18 and headed west to rendezvous with Kilpatrick at Sandtown. They halted at Utoy Creek at 6 A.M., and Minty rode ahead to get instructions from Kilpatrick. “Kill Cavalry” planned to reach the West Point Railroad by nightfall of the 18th, and the Macon & Western by the afternoon of the 19th. His Division would tear up track while Minty’s Division faced north in line, and they were to keep moving south and repeating the process for as long as they could. The two divisions left Sandtown at 6 P.M. sharp on the evening of August 18. Kilpatrick had 4500 men and 8 guns in two batteries. Half of the fourteen regiments carried repeaters, and Evans comments that “it was more men, more firepower, and more formidable than any mounted column Sherman had ever assembled”. Kilpatrick’s advance guard scattered some pickets of the 6th Texas Cavalry at Camp Creek that night, and he rolled into Stevens’ Crossroads, two and a half miles farther south, around 11 P.M. that night. Once at Stevens, he had his men rest. At this point Kilpatrick changed his plans slightly by sending Col. Klein and his Brigade south to Fairburn, and then on to the Macon & Western as a diversion. Klein reached Fairburn at 1:30 A.M. on August 19, and struck the Macon & Western at Bear Creek Station around 11 A.M. that same day. Here he tore up some track, wrecked a train in town, and then headed north towards Lovejoy Station. About 2 miles south of that place, he ran into a trainload of Rebel infantry. Hood had ordered Reynolds Brigade of Walthall’s Division south by rail on the morning of the 19th, and they had reached Jonesboro around 1 P.M. They continued on until they reached Jonesboro, and then ran into Klein. Klein skirmished with Reynolds for awhile, but Armstrong’s and Ferguson’s Confederate Cavalry brigades showed up and he beat a hasty retreat west towards Fairburn around 4:30 P.M. Here Klein fought through a roadblock, and reached Sandtown at 8 A.M. on August 20. Evans recounts that Klein’s role as a diversion had worked to perfection, allowing Kilpatrick to get to the Macon & Western unmolested.
Hood’s last remaining supply line, the Macon & Western Railroad, is breached in “Kilpatrick’s Raid: Stevens’ Crossroads to Lee’s Mill”. On the night of August 18, Sul Ross’ 400 Texas Cavalry were the Confederacy’s lone protection for the Macon & Western Railroad in the vicinity of Jonesboro. Facing them were the over 4,000 men of Kilpatrick’s column, minus Col. Klein’s small Brigade which had been detached earlier. Kilpatrick pushed against Ross and reached the Atlanta & West Point Railroad three miles north of Fairburn at 3 A.M. on August 19, where they tore up some track. While this was happening, Ross attacked Kilpatrick’s men near Shadnor Church along the railroad, splitting Kilpatrick’s column in two. The Yankees fought back and managed to rejoin their separated parts. Ross withdrew, but he shadowed the Yankees as best he could with roadblocks as they moved eastward on the way to Jonesboro. Kilpatrick stopped at noon on August 19 just east of Camp Creek and had gotten to within 1 and a half miles west of Jonesboro by 2 P.M. that day. The Rebels had damaged the bridge across the Flint River, and they had set up one last roadblock before Jonesboro. Kilpatrick’s artillery drove the Rebels into Jonesboro, and after he had repaired the bridge his men moved in and wrested control over the town from the Confederates’ hands shortly after 5 P.M. Being well-versed on what he had to do, “Kill Cavalry” immediately set Minty’s Division to tearing up track, and other troopers burned all of the public buildings in Jonesboro, accidentally setting fire to private houses in the process. The Union horsemen had burned around 2 miles of track by 10 P.M., when Kilpatrick ordered his own Division farther south to tear up more, with Minty covering his rear. Just south of Jonesboro, the Federals ran into Reynolds Confederate infantry, back from fighting Klein near Bear Creek Station earlier that day. Kilpatrick had his entire force in line facing Reynolds by 11 P.M. that night. A hard rain started, and heavy skirmishing accompanied the downpour. Finally at 2 A.M., Kilpatrick, unlike Stoneman at Sunshine Church, decided to break off the engagement, head east, and then hit the Railroad farther south out of reach of Rebel foot soldiers. Red Jackson had positioned Ross’ Texans west of Jonesboro, and Samuel Wragg Ferguson’s large brigade to the east, hoping to trap Kilpatrick. In a stunning display of ineptness, Ferguson allowed Kilpatrick’s entire force to slip right by as August 20 began. At Pittsburg, three and a half miles east of Jonesboro, the Yankees turned south and headed for Lee’s Mill, reaching that place near dawn. After a short rest, the raiders moved out again at 8 A.M. Eli Long’s Brigade was the rear guard, and skirmished heavily with Sul Ross’ ever-present Texans. From this skirmishing, Ross learned that Kilpatrick was definitely headed south to either Lovejoy’s Station or McDonough.
In “Kilpatrick’s Raid: Lee’s Mill to Buckhead”, Evans concludes the story of Kilpatrick’s Raid and what it accomplished. As August 20 wore on Kilpatrick’s men reached the intersection of the road from Lee’s Mill and the Fayetteville-McDonough Road around 11 A.M. As some of Red Jackson’s scouts traded shots with the Yanks, the sound of a locomotive was heard. The Federals, wanting to capture the train, pushed south to Lovejoy’s Station and began wrecking track. The Yankees chased some Rebel horsemen down the railroad, and ran headlong into Dan Reynolds’ Confederate infantry! By this point, Reynolds’ much-depleted Brigade could muster only 300 men, but Reynolds charged Minty’s Brigade and initially drove them back. Eli Long’s troopers and the Chicago Board of Trade Battery then came onto the battlefield, temporarily stabilizing the situation in a cornfield. After exhausting their ammunition and having a rifle disabled, the CBOT Battery retired north to some woods fronting the cornfield, and was joined by Minty and Long. The combined fire of the Union force drove Reynolds back across the cornfield. At this time Sul Ross’ Texans charged on the Yankee rear from the north, and Fielder Jones’ Brigade was sent to meet him. Facing fire from the front and rear, at this point Kilpatrick began hearing rumors of being surrounded by up to 20,000 Confederate infantry and cavalry, and he decided to force a breakout to the north and east. Minty formed his brigade in column of fours by regiment, and they smashed Sul Ross’ Texans, giving them many blows with their sabers in the process. As Long’s Brigade and then Kilpatrick’s Division followed, the Yankees managed to also capture a howitzer that had been giving them a hard time, and it was towed away by the CBOT Battery. After gathering his wildly separated men, Kilpatrick assigned Eli Long to provide a ear guard, and sent his column east toward McDonough. Frank Armstrong’s Cavalry, which had just arrived near the battlefield, pursued, and immediately ran into Long. By 6 P.M. on August 20, Long had delayed Armstrong enough to allow Kilpatrick a good head start to McDonough, which his advance guard had reached at 5 P.M. Some disabled Confederate veterans in McDonough heard the fight to the west at Lovejoy’s, and a group of them set out to burn the bridge 8 miles northeast of McDonough. However, Kilpatrick assigned a force made up of detachments from the 92nd Illinois and the 3rd Kentucky to save and secure the bridge, and they did just that. At this point it started raining heavily, Frank Armstrong called off his pursuit, and many of the Yankees fell asleep in the saddle. By 6 A.M. of the 21st, Kilpatrick had reached Cotton Indian Creek, about eleven miles northeast of McDonough. Due to the heavy rains, the creek was almost overflowing, and the current was swift. The Yankee troopers had a rough go of it, but they had all managed to cross the creek by noon, losing 50 horses and mules and one unfortunate private to drowning. Kilpatrick stopped to rest in Lithonia that night, and moved out again at 6 A.M. of the 22nd. His men reached Decatur by noon, and then the lines of the Union IV Corps by late afternoon. In an interview with Sherman that night, he hyperbolized his accomplishments, and Evans writes, one can imagine with a chuckle, “far off in the distance, trumpeting over the treetops and lingering on the night air, came the high shrill notes that made (Kilpatrick’s) words a lie. It was the defiant wail of a Rebel locomotive chugging into Atlanta from the south”.
In the conclusion, entitled appropriately enough “Epilogue”, Evans relates that more trains kept coming, and Sherman knew Kilpatrick had not done any real damage. Art this point, Sherman sent his infantry to do the job his cavalry seemingly couldn’t; to wreck Hood’s last remaining supply line. The tore up 12.5 miles of track on the Atlanta & West Point RR between Red oak and Fairburn, and then moved further east to the prized Macon & Western RR. At the Battle of Jonesboro on August 31 and September 1, Sherman’s men defeated Hardee’s Corps and were firmly astride Hood’s last remaining link to the outside world. Hood had no choice, and abandoned Atlanta on September 2. Evans writes that Sherman had expected to take Atlanta within a week after crossing the Chattahoochee, and that it had taken him six. He also relates that Sherman unfairly blamed his cavalry. Rousseau’s raiders had cut 26 miles of the Montgomery and West Point RR, and Kenner Garrard’s men had destroyed bridges over the Yellow and Alcovy Rivers. In less than two weeks and with less than a combined 100 casualties they had permanently cut two of Hood’s three railroads out of Atlanta. With these initial results, Evans concludes that Sherman believed he had every reason to be optimistic going forward. But he also describes two key advantages Rousseau and Garrard had that McCook, Stoneman, and Kilpatrick did not. One, the flimsy rail construction on the railroads leading east and southwest out of Atlanta allowed much more damage to be done much more quickly and easily. The hardier “T-rails” of the Macon & Western RR meant that any force trying to rip up track would need much more time to do a fraction of the damage. Two, Hood’s Cavalry under Joe Wheeler was freed up to counteract raids as soon as Hood went into his entrenchments around Atlanta. They no longer had to guard Hood’s vulnerable flanks, and they did much damage to the latter raids. As a result, McCook and Stoneman met with disaster, and Kilpatrick failed to do any real damage. Another point to consider was the ability of the Confederates to quickly repair any damage done to their railroad supply lines. Evans recounts that the Yankees did completely sever Atlanta’s supply lines on July 29-30 and August 19-20, but that the Rebels quickly were able to repair the damage. Evans concludes that since Sherman had never served with the cavalry, he tended to mistrust and misuse his Cavalry arm in the operations around Atlanta. He suggests that Sherman would have been better served by sending some blue-coated infantry along on the raids to fight off any would-be attackers, and let the cavalry rip up the rails over a period of days rather than hours. He mentions that “Confederate cavalry was too vigilant, telegraphic communications were too good, and nearby Southern cities and towns such as Montgomery, Columbus, Macon, Milledgeville, and Athens were too well defended for two or three thousand Yankee horsemen to roam at will for very long”. After Atlanta had fallen, Evans also believes Sherman mishandled his troopers. Hood’s Army was a wreck, and the 5,000 or so troopers left could have rounded up herds of prisoners and destroyed Hood’s Army. Instead, Sherman let Hood go, and his subsequent invasion into Tennessee caused serious worries in the Union high command until Thomas stopped him cold at Nashville. Sherman wanted Atlanta rather than Hood’s Army, in direct contradiction to Grant’s orders before the Campaign began. Evans ends the story by mentioning that Sherman’s Cavalry had been decimated by the twin disasters of Stoneman and McCook, and that they did not fully recover until the spring of 1865.
Although it took me awhile to read this book (the summary above being a major reason for that!), if I had been reading it without taking notes, I would’ve probably finished it in a week or so. The story, as the title makes obvious, is told from the Federal point of view, and Evans has a definite knack for storytelling, interspersing the “whens” and “wheres” with a lot of human interest stories. You will certainly know what it was like being in a town in the way of any of Sherman’s raiders around Atlanta when you finish, at the very least. The reader is also given a good idea of what it was like to go on a Cavalry raid deep in enemy territory, where straggling or getting wounded meant certain capture, and possibly even death. Sherman’s Cavalry commanders were a mixed lot, with many castoffs from the Army of the Potomac, George Stoneman included. But some men such as Lovell Rousseau, Bob Minty, and Tom Harrison, were more than capable of handling the tasks set out for them by Sherman. Evans does what he promises to do at the opening of the book, namely to provide insight into Sherman’s thinking and reasoning when sending his Cavalry out on these raids, and also to explain the significance each raid had on the successful conclusion (to the North at least!) of the Atlanta Campaign. As I stated in the introduction, the maps were good, but after reading the book I wish they had indicated the routes the raiders took, as it would have been just a little easier to follow the action. This book is aimed at the serious Civil War buff. A good working knowledge of Sherman’s Campaign for Atlanta, while not technically absolutely necessary, does help fill in the blanks for the informed reader. Many people recommended this book to me, and I wholeheartedly endorse their recommendations. Sherman’s Horsemen fills a void in Civil War literature, and will be the definitive study on the Union cavalry operations around Atlanta for a long time to come.
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