July 27th, 1864:
After the death of General McPherson during the Battle of Atlanta, General Logan assumed command during the battle and retained it for several days while General Sherman decided who should replace McPherson. Sherman, being a graduate of Westpoint, had a certain disdain for political Generals like Logan, and did not trust them to follow orders properly and promptly as they were on the field of battle for political gain. With these thoughts in mind and after consulting with General Thomas of the Army of the Cumberland, Sherman chose General O.O. Howard to command the Army of the Tennessee as McPherson’s successor. General Hooker is so offended and outraged that he was not given command of the Army of the Tennessee, the he resigns his commission and leaves the Army. Howard assumed command on the 27th of July and his order of the day was to shift the Army of the Tennessee from the east side of Atlanta near Decatur, to the west side of Atlanta by moving to the north and around the top of the city. His ultimate objective is to move on Eastpoint and destroy the railroad.
Sherman has Cavalry units dismount and fill the lines of Howard’s army as they began to pull out. He also ordered infantry units along the line to skirmish heavily with the Confederates in the cities defensive lines in hopes of screening Howard’s move. Sherman was attempting to flank Hood out of the city and draw him into a fight or cut off Hood’s supply line from the railroad to Macon and the railroad to Westpoint.
Stoneman’s and McCook’s Cavalry were sent on a raid to destroy the railroads while the Army of the Tennessee was moving into place. Stoneman went south out of Decatur and McCook moved southwest from Turner’s Ferry. McCook and Stoneman were scheduled to meet at Love Joy’s Station on the 28th to destroy the railroad. McCook went southwest along the west bank of the Chattahoochee and crossing on pontoon bridges at Smiths Ferry, about 6 miles south of Campbellton. He moves on toward the east and in Palmetto he destroys several miles of track, burns the depot and then moves towards the east again in the direction of Fayetteville. Along the Fayetteville road the come across a Confederate wagon train. They take about 300 prisoners and burn nearly 500 wagons. They also kill almost 1000 mules with their sabers to keep the sound of gunfire from giving away their location.
By mid to late morning, Hood is aware of the Federals movements. He sends Wheelers Cavalry to intercept and destroy the Union Cavalry. Wheeler surrounds Garrard’s Cavalry at Flat Rock where they skirmish and Garrard falls back towards Lithonia. Hood then learns of McCook’s raid and Wheeler is sent to intercept him. Having detected the movements of Howard’s Army of the Tennesse, Hood sends General Stephen D. Lee’s Corps and A.P. Stewart’s Corps to extend the Confederate left flank out of Atlanta in an attempt to block the Federal move toward East Point. S.D. Lee is now the commander of Hood’s former Corps.