General Hardee has had his forces quietly construct a pontoon bridge across the Savannah River. They constructed it out any boat or pretty much any floating object they could use. On top of the boats, boards were placed to make a road. They then placed straw and hay on top of the bridge to dampen the noise of travelers. On the night of Dec. 20th, Confederate forces withdrew from Savannah and crossed the pontoon bridge into South Carolina.
Dec. 17th, General Hardee, commander of the Confederate forces in Savannah, sends a request to Confederate President Jeff Davis for reinforcements from Lee’s Army in Virgina, but receives word that Lee can not spare any troops. General Sherman, knowing he has the upper hand, sends a request for Hardee’s surrender, but it is rejected by Hardee and the siege continues.
General Kilpatrick takes his cavalry column and leaves the Right Wing and feints toward Augusta with elements of the Left Wing. General Hardee arrives at Ball’s Ferry to assess the situation. He decides that their lines must be abandoned and they withdraw during the night.
They Left Wing begins to leave Milledgeville and moves through Hebron.
Parts of the Right Wing of Sherman’s army pass through Gordon and move on east to Irwinton. Their column stretches out for miles as they choke the roads. The Left Wing continues to move closer to Milledgeville. Sherman remarks in his memoirs that they only made 8 miles on this hard, cold, windy day. That night an uncommon early season snow storm blanketed the army with snow. The southern civilians accuse the yankees of bringing the cold weather with them.
General Hardee, in command of the Confederate forces in Georgia, is in Macon where he has been preparing to defend the city. His scouts have reported that the Federal columns have turned away from Macon and have started on a move eastward. Hardee now realizes that the Federal objective is most likely Augusta or Savannah. General Hardee begins to shift his troops as well as Wheeler’s cavalry to the east in an effort to slow down the Federal Advance.
General Sherman, having followed Hardee from Jonesboro on the previous day, has formed his troops in a line of battle across from what is left of Hardee’s Corps. Skirmishing continues throughout the day, buy Sherman does not order an assault. Just before breakfast, Sherman receives a dispatch from a courier sent by Slocum in Atlanta advising him that they have entered and secured the City of Atlanta and that the remainder of Hood’s forces have evacuated toward Love Joy’s Station via the McDonough Rd. Sherman, fearing that all of Hood’s forces have reunited, holds off on attacking the Confederates and with his objective “fairly won”, he decides to hold his position a day or two longer and destroy more railroad track, before returning to Atlanta. Slocum’s entire XX Corps has entered the city and is attempting to restore some semblance of order.
With S.D. Lee’s Corps having been sent back to Atlanta, Hardee was left to defend Jonesboro and the railroad with only his single Corps. to defend against the entire Federal Army of the Tennessee. Grossly outnumbered, Hardee deployed is Corps across the line that he had previously occupied with two Corps. Carter’s Division formed the Confederate left, Brown’s Division was placed in the center and Cleburne’s Division placed on the right and formed a salient angle with a refuse at the Warren house to the railroad. The brigade at the very extreme end of the right flank was commanded by States R. Gist. He ordered his men to go out ahead of the line and cut, bend over, and entangle as many trees as possible to try and even the odds with as much “abatis” as possible. This would later prove to be a very wise decision that prevented the Federal IV Corps under Stanley’s command from being able to reach the Confederate flank and turn it.
The attack by the Federals began at 4:00pm. Logan’s XV Corps attacked the Confederates from the west and Davis’s XIV Corps attacked the Salient in the Confederate line from the north west. Stanley’s IV Corps attempted to attack from the north by moving south along the railroad, but was unable to penetrate the abatis of Gist Brigade. Davis’s XIV Corps assaulted and overran the Salient in the Confederate line. This portion of the line was held by Govan’s Arkansas Brigade and Lewis’ Kentucky Orphan Brigade. They were overrun so rapidly that General Govan himself was captured along with 600 men and 8 cannons. Cleburne ordered Magevney’s Brigade to fill the gap and reform the line. They were able to do so and held off the remainder of the Federal assault.
After darkness fell, Hardee ordered a retreat of all his forces. They fell back six miles south to Love Joy’s Station where they entrenched. He sent a dispatch to Hood detailing that Jonesboro had fallen and that the railroad was in Sherman’s hands.
Having lost his supply lines, Hood has no choice but to evacuate Atlanta and attempt to reunite the remainder of his army at Love Joy’s Station. He orders A.P. Stewart’s Corps and the Georgia Militia in the defenses of Atlanta to evacuate the city. S.D. Lee’s Corps, which has marched all night toward Atlanta, after having fought a battle the previous day, is turned around only a mile or so from the city and has to march southward toward Love Joy’s Station. With the railroad destroyed, Hood orders the Cavalry to act as a rearguard and when the Army is out of the city, they are to set fire to and blow up the munitions train at the rolling mill. The rolling mill was at the present day location of Decatur and Boulevard. The explosions last for hours and can be heard all they way to Jonesboro.
After learning of the impending attack on Jonesboro and the railroad by the Federals, Hood dispatched Hardee’s Corps and S.D. Lee’s Corps to Jonesboro to protect the railroad.
By mid afternoon, both Hardee’s Corps and S.D. Lee’s Corps were in place at Jonesboro. Hardee deployed with his corps to the left and as he was in overall command of the operations, Cleburne was commanding the corps. Cleburne deployed with Lowery’s Division to the left and Brown’s Division to the Right. He held Maney’s Division in reserve. S.D. Lee’s Corps was deployed to the right of the Confederate line. Stevenson’s Division was on his left adjacent to Hardee’s right and Clayton was on the far right of the Confederate line. Stovall’s and Higley’s Brigades were held in reserve and were later moved forward to the left of S.D. Lee’s lines.
Hardee’s plan was to have Cleburne advance and wheel to their right(north) and attack the Federal right flank. Once they were engaged and the Federals shifted troops to protect the flank, their center would be weakened and then S.D. Lee’s Corp’s would initiate a full frontal assault on the Federal Lines.
Howard deployed his Federals on high ground between the Flint River and Jonesboro. He placed Logan’s XV Corps on the Federal left where they were facing the railroad and the town of Jonesboro. Ransom’s XVI Corps was deployed to the Federal right in a “refuse” in the line connected with Logan’s right and turned back west toward the Flint River and across it. Blair’s XVII Corps was held in reserve.
At 3:00pm Hardee ordered the attack to begin. As the advance began, Lowery’s Division made contact with Kilpatricks Federal Cavalry and was able to push them back rapidly across the Flint River. Lowery’s Division was moving so fast that they were not able to maintain contact with Brown’s Division. Brown’s Division struggled to advance through swampy terrain and a deep ravine. As they were unsupported on their left, Brown’s Division suffered heavy losses from the entrenched Federals on the high ground above the ravine.
S.D. Lee, who had only been in command of a Corps for about a month, ordered an all out assault at the first sounds of rifle fire from Cleburne. His inexperience caused him to attack too quickly and before the Federals could shift troops to the flank that was under attack. So, when Lee’s Corp attacked, they engaged the fully fortified and full strength lines of Logan’s Corps. Lee’s Corps over ran the Federal skirmishers, but were repeatedly repulsed by the Federal main line. Lee suffered heavy losses.
While the Battle of Jonesboro ensued. Schofield’s XXIII Corps and Stanley’s IV Corps reached the Western and Atlantic railroad south of Rough and Ready. After a short skirmish with some Confederate Cavalry, they began destroying the railroad.
Hood, still not convinced that this was the main attack and thinking it was only a diversion, was anticipating an attack on Atlanta. Without knowing the status of the battle in Jonesboro. Hood orders S.D. Lee’s Corps back to Atlanta thinking he is going to be attacked. Around midnight, Lee’s Corps, beaten, crippled, and worn out begins the long march back to Atlanta.
The first of Sherman’s troops reach Camp Creek on the morning of the 27th. The Federal IV Corps is moving toward Camp Creek from the area around Utoy Creek. Hood, is increasingly concerned about the possibility of Sherman attempting a flanking movement to attack the railroad at Rough and Read (now called Mountain View, which is directly east of the Atlanta airport between I-75 and I-285) or possibly at Jonesboro. Hood has received word from some Cavalry scouts that the Federals are massing at Camp Creek. Hood has dispatched French on a reconnaissance to the north and west of Atlanta and he has found the Federal XX corp entrenched in the are of the railroad bridge across the Chattahoochee River. Stewart’s and Lee’s Corps move into the empty Federal trenches and begin to reap the rewards of all the items an army leaves behind. They find everything from food to blankets. Hood sends Sthal’s Brigade to reinforce Hardee at East Point and instructs Jackson to have Armstrong’s Brigade of Cavalry ready to block and delay the Federals if they attempt to cross Camp Creek and move on Rough and Ready. From the south side of Camp Creek all the way to Joneboro, Confederate Cavalry skirmished with the Federals as they advanced. Their efforts did little to stop or slow the Federals.
This morning, Sherman has accepted the resignation of Palmer, who will be on a train back to Chattanooga by the afternoon, and the Federals had formed up their lines and everyone was in place to attempt an advance across Utoy Creek towards the railroad in East Point. With Palmer’s resignation, Robert W. Johnson, a division commander within the XIV Corps, was appointed Commander of the XIV Corps and placed under the command of Schofield. Displeased with the performance of the XIV Corps on the previous day, Schofield had moved his XXIII Corps to the right of the XIV Corps. The XXIII Corps is now the Federal right flank and the XIV Corps is the left flank with Logan’s XV Corps in support to their left. Palmer’s Corp was fanned out in an arch following the current Beecher Road south to Benjamin E. Mays and making a slight turn to the west, just north of Cascade Road. Palmer’s right ended near Willis Mill Road. Schofield’s left was adjacent to Palmer’s right with Cox’s Division along Cascade Road and stretching out west. Hascall’s Division of Schofield’s Corps turn south making a 90 degree turn to the east and was facing the end of the Confederate line at the Confederate left flank. Just west of Cascade Springs Nature Preserve.
The battle began when Cox’s Division moved south and Hascall’s Division moved east to press the Confederate flank. The 11th Kentucky Regiment (Federal) of Cox’s Division was at the front of the advancing line and made first contact with the 4th Kentucky (CS), who were posted as skirmishers in front the famed Kentucky Orphan Brigade. This action happened in the area of the waterfall in what is now Cascade Springs Nature Preserve. Cox’s attack was repulsed and he suffered a severe loss. He reformed for another attempt, but was repulsed a second time after which he withdrew from the assault. Hascall was hindered by the South Fork of Utoy Creek and made minimal gains in his assault. He did reach the rear of an artillery battery, which withdrew to the east to another position on high ground from which they still had a commanding view.
The XIV Corps, now commanded by Johnson, has sat idle most of the day and did not make an attempt to attack until late afternoon and he only attacked with one division. He gained no headway and retired before anything larger than a skirmish developed.
The Confederate left flank was manned by Bate’s Division along a ridge line just south of Sandtown Road (Cascade Road). S. D. Lee’s Division connected to Bate’s right at the Sandtown Road east of what is now Beecher road. Bate’s left flank was open and vulnerable to attack and on the night of the 6th, Hood ordered Bate’s Division to withdraw from the area back to the Confederate main defensive line.
The Federal assault cost them approximately 800 lives and numerous wounded, while the Confederates lost only 18 soldiers while defending their heavily entrenched and fortified lines.
After an arduous night march of 16 miles, Hardee’s Corps was getting into position on the Federal left flank. The attack that was supposed to begin at dawn, but was delayed due to the distance of the night march and then further delayed when Walker’s and Bate’s Divisions had to work around the swampy terrain at Terry’s Mill Pond. Just after 12:00pm, Hardee ordered Walker and Bate to attack the Federal left flank. Bate’s Division was on the Confederate right, east of Sugar Creek and Walker’s Division was on the west side of Sugar Creek. As Walker’s Division made their way past the mill pond, Walker moved to the front of his lines to see what lay ahead of his column. As he raised his field glasses, a round from a Federal sharpshooter killed him instantly. After the disarray and confusion that followed, Brig. Gen. H. W. Mercer assumed command of the Division and carried out the attack. Walker fell near the intersection of Glenwood Ave. and Wilkinson Dr. A monument dedicated to his memory stands there today.
The Federals that Walker and Bate were attacking were elements of the 2nd and 4th Divisions of Dodge’s XVI Corps. They were entrenched in the area of Memorial Drive and Clay Street. With part of the line extending into what is now Alonzo Crim High School. This was a tactically advantageous position on high ground overlooking Sugar Creek valley. They were also supported by several artillery batteries.
Cleburne’s and Maney’s Divisions had moved up Flat Shoals Road and were heading toward the left flank of the Federals that were entrenched along Flat Shoals in the area between Glenwood and the intersection of I-20 and Moreland (Bald Hill, aka Leggett’s Hill). They attacked the left flank of Blair’s XVII Corps that was held by Smith’s 4th Division. Cleburne’s attack was fast and furious. His troops drove the Federals back to the north to Bald Hill and in the process they captured eight cannons and the entire 16th Iowa Infantry Regiment.
During this time, General McPherson was riding toward Dodge’s Corps to asses the situation and was traveling on a ridge line (McPherson Ave.) trying to find a way to close the gap between Logan and Blair. The Confederates were flooding into the gap in McPherson’s lines, and as McPherson searched for a way to close the gap, he was shot and killed by the attacking Confederates. One of McPherson’s aides was with him, and when the shots rang out, his horse took off and slammed into a tree, thus breaking his watch at 2:02pm, the time of McPherson’s death.
Late in the afternoon, Hood, who was observing the battle from a house adjacent to what is now Oakland Cemetery, ordered his former Corps, now commanded by Cheatham, to attack the Federal front. Cheatham’s Corps left their works and moved east toward the Federal line. The right of Cheatham’s Corps was attacking Bald Hill from the west and Maney’s Division of Hardee’s Corps was attacking from the south west. Even with their combined effort, they were unable to push the Federals off of Bald Hill. On Cheatham’s left, Clayton and Brown’s divisions were more successful. Manigault’s Brigade of Brown’s Division, used the cover of a deep railroad cut in the area of the current Inman Park Marta Station and the CSX railroad. They came under artillery fire, but were able to out flank the battery and capture the guns. This action broke the Federal line and Manigault wheeled to the left and began to “roll up” the Federal line. He captured 8 cannons in the process, four of which were 20 pounder Parrott rifles. Stovall’s Brigade, which was aligned to the left of Manigault, was attacking the Degress Battery (located off of Battery Place) from the front when Manigault hit the flank. As the line broke, soldiers from both Brigades stormed the works and captured the battery. The 42nd Ga. Volunteers, who were part of Stovall’s Brigade, took part in this assault.
General Sherman, who was observing the battle from the Augustus Hurt house at the present day Carter Library, witnessed the Confederate assault that broke part of the lines of Logan’s XV Corps. He personally directed artillery fire from five concentrated batteries, toward the attacking Confederates. He had the artillery rounds falling to their front to prevent them from moving forward and attacking, as well as toward their rear to prevent reinforcements from supporting the assault. This artillery fire and a Federal counter attack of eight Brigades, pushed the Confederates back to their works and restored the Federal line.
Hood had also dispatched General Wheeler and his Cavalry to Decatur to attack McPherson’s wagon train. Wheeler found several regiments of Federal infantry posted south of Decatur. At 1:00pm, Wheeler dismounted two of his divisions and assaulted the Federals. He pushed them north across what is now Agnes Scott College and then across the railroad tracks to the Decatur Square. The wagon train was detoured from Decatur after Wheeler started his assault. Wheeler pushed the Federals through the square and through the old city cemetery. The Federals then formed a new line along what is now North Decatur Road. Before Wheeler could attack the new Federal line, he was recalled back to Atlanta to support the attack on Bald Hill.
The battle was over by the time darkness had fallen, the Confederates had returned to their works and had suffered nearly twice the number of casualties as the Federals. The Federals reformed their lines and will shortly begin the “Siege of Atlanta”.