November 17th, 1864:
The Right Wing of Sherman’s forces continue their march south and pass through Jackson, Flovilla, Worthville, and Indian Springs. General Howard’s forces camped for the night near Jackson and prepared to cross the Ocmulgee River on the following day at Planter’s Ferry in the area known as Seven Islands.
The Left Wing, accompanied by General Sherman, moves through Conyers, Covington, and Social Circle while also crossing the Alcovy River. While in Covington, the Federal Troops march through the town with their flags waving and their bands playing. They are greeted with much trepidation from the southerns, but the slaves were joyous in their arrival and began to sing, dance and pray. They crowed around General Sherman on his horse in great celebration. Sherman camped for the night by the Ulcofauhachee River about four miles east of Covington. Here, Sherman met an elderly slave and engaged him in conversation. He asked the old man to spread the word to others to not follow the army as it would hamper their movements and burden them with more mouths to feed and people to care for. He also said that the army would hire young and strong men to work for the army along the way as pioneers and some as teamsters and cooks. Sherman told the old man he would not be successful in his mission if he was encumbered by masses of freed slaves as he attempted to move through the country and fight the Confederates. The old man agreed and began to spread the word. During the March to the Sea, many freed slaves did follow the army, but not nearly as many as could have.
On this day, Confederate President Jefferson Davis, appointed General William Hardee to command all the Confederate forces in Georgia. Confederate Cavalry General Joseph Wheeler had made his Headquarters in Griffin and on the 17th, he ordered his men to place pickets on all the roads to Macon, Columbus and Augusta. Wheeler and his men were to harass and slowdown Sherman’s Army as much as possible.
On the morning of the 17th, the Federal Cavalry under the command of General Kilpatrick, moved from Hampton towards Griffin and Forsyth. The threat was really a feint to distract Wheeler, but was enough of a threat to cause Wheeler to burn the bridge over the Towaliga River and start a small firefight.