Dec. 22nd, General Sherman entered Savannah and established his headquarters at the Pulaski House. While working out the details here, an English merchant, Charles Green, offered the General his home as his Headquarters. General Sherman accepted and the Headquarters was moved to the Green House. It was here that Sherman penned his famous telegram to President Lincoln. It read as follows:
“I beg to present you as a Christmas gift the city of Savannah, with one hundred fifty heavy guns and plenty of ammunition, also about twenty-five thousand bales of cotton.”
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.
Having left the area of Red Oak and Fairburn, the Federal army advances on Jonesboro and the Western & Atlantic Railroad. Howard’s Corps is the first one to cross the Flint River. Howard’s troops come under fire as they approach the Flint River. The Confederates are trying to delay them and as the retreat across the river toward Jonesboro, they set fire to the bridge. The men of Logan’s XV Corps dash across the burning bridge, some providing cover fire and others putting out the flames and saving a usable portion of the bridge. They purse the Confederates to the edge of the city and then fall back to high ground between the river and Jonesboro. They dig in on the eastern side of the river in an area that is now Hynds Springs Road near the intersection of 138.
After learning of the flanking movement being conducted by Howard’s Army of the Tennessee, Hood ordered S.D. Lee’s Corps and A. P. Stewart’s Corps to move out the Lickskillet Road in an effort to check the Federal advance and try to roll up their right flank.
Howard began deploying his units on the 27th in an effort to reach the railroad at East Point. He started his line of battle somewhere along what is now Chappell Road south of North Ave. His line followed the high ground along Chappell Road to the south. On the morning of the 28th, Howard began deploying the remainder of his army along the ridge and continuing south down Chappell Road. The Federal line then began to curve to the right (southwest) near the intersection of Ezra Church Drive and Chappell. The line continued its curve through what is now Mozley Park. Ezra Church was located in the park on a grassy hill between MLK Blvd. and the ball fields of the park. Federal units used Church Pews and wood from the church to construct barricades to fire from. The line continued to curve southwest until it reached the point of Laural Ave. and Archer St. This was the salient in the Federal line. From this point it turned in a northwesterly direction. It would have crossed West Lake Ave, passing over part of Anderson and Verbena and ending on the hill where the current Sadie G. Mays Rehab Center (Nursing Home) is located. This would have been the extreme right of the Federal line that surrounded Atlanta as well as Howard’s right. This hill was called Battle Hill.
Lee’s Corps formed up for battle in the area along the front portion of the current Westview Cemetery. Brown’s Division formed up on the left with Brantley’s Brigade forming on the far left. Clayton’s Division formed on the right with Holtzclaw’s Brigade at the right. Stewart’s Corps formed to the rear of Lee along the Lickskillet Road (formerly Gordon Road and now called Ralph David Abernathy Blvd.). An artillery battery was located in what is now the Westview Cemetery on a hill behind the Alms House (poor house). The Alms House was located in the area just south of Westview’s original entry gate.
In the early afternoon the Confederate attack began. Their movement was screened by thick woods in the area and in some locations they were within 50 yards of the Federal line before they were seen. Brantley’s Brigade on the Confederate left attacked Lightburn’s Brigade on the Federal right in the area of Battle Hill. They were successful at first and were able to take the hill for a short time, but were forced to retreat when several regiments from the reserves of the XV and XVI Corps arrived. Sharp’s Brigade, who held the center of Brown’s Division, advanced on the Federal line through the area of what is now the West Lake Marta Station.
Clayton’s Division of Lee’s Corps was advancing on the Federal line just east of the salient and in the area of Ezra Church. Their repeated assaults were constantly repulsed by the Federals who had the high ground and in some locations had begun to dig in and build barricades. Around 2pm, part of Stewart’s Corps began to advance in support of Lee’s Corps. They concentrated their force in the same area of Clayton’s Brigade, but Stewart was also unsuccessful in his attack. Stewart was wounded in the fighting on a hill on the south side of MLK Blvd between Federal Drive and Gordon Terrace. Stewart was about to send additional units into the fight when he was wounded and carried from the field. Walthall, one of Stewart’s Divisional commanders assumed command and instead of sending in more soldiers, he began to withdraw from the area.
After being repulsed by the Federals multiple times and the coming nightfall, the Confederates pulled back to their jumping off point and began to dig in. Some of the works are still visible in a section of Westview Cemetery. This was the third defeat for Hood in his short time as the commander of the Confederate Army of Tennessee. While they did not defeat the Federals, they did prevent their move on East Point, at least for the time being and as fast as the Federals tried to go around the Confederate flank, the Confederates were just a little faster in building earthworks and extending their line.
As Hood prepares for his first tactical engagement since taking command of the Confederate Army of Tennessee, he is hoping that General Thomas’s Army of the Cumberland has been unable to prepare any earthworks since crossing Peachtree Creek. Hood is also having to keep an eye on McPherson and Schofield as they advance from Decatur toward Atlanta. The attack is planned for 1:00pm, but for various reasons it does not commence until 4:00pm.
Hood has deployed Stewart’s Corps (formerly commanded by the late Lt. Gen. L. Polk) to his left. Stewart’s Corps consist of French’s Division on the far left connecting to the Western and Atlantic Railroad near Casey’s Hill in the current Crestlawn Cemetery and extending east and connecting to Walthall’s Division, which sits astride Howell Mill Road. Walthall’s right extends toward the east and connects with Loring’s Division between Howell Mill and Northside Drive. Hood had deployed Hardee’s Corps to the center. Hardee had placed Maney’s Division to the left of his line followed by Walker’s Division in the center and Bate’s Division to the right. Hardee held Cleburne’s Division in reserve. Hood, fearing an attack by McPherson on the east side of Atlanta, placed Cheatham on the far right of the Confederate line. Cheatham is commanding Hood’s former Corps. Hood’s plan is to attack “en echelon”. Starting with Bate’s Division on the right attacking first and then each subsequent Division attacking one after the other. This was done in an effort to turn the enemy flank and push them back to Peachtree Creek and the Chattahoochee River.
Thomas had most of his army across the creek by noon. Palmer’s XIV Corps had been placed on the right and had been able to entrench as they had been across the creek earlier. Hooker’s XX Corps was forming up in the center and Howard’s IV Corps was forming on the left. Newton’s Division of Howard’s Corps held the far left.
Late in the morning Hood received word from Wheeler, who commanded the cavalry attempting to hold the east side of Atlanta, that he was out numbered by McPherson and Schofiled who were moving toward the Atlanta from Decatur. Hood decided to shift his entire army to the east by a mile in order to support Wheeler should he need it. The orders were given and the movements were made, but through miscommunication and human error the shift to the right (east) was nearly two miles. This cost the Confederates time and delayed their attack until 4pm.
When the attack finally began, Bate’s Division was the first to move forward and should have been the first to make contact, but the terrain in their front had not been reconnoitered prior to the assault. Because of this they did not know where they were going and did not know where the enemy was. They ran into a heavy thicket and swampy area that greatly hindered their progress as they were attempting to find Newton’s Division.
By 4:30pm the “en echelon” advance had made its way down the line to Loring’s Division. In the area between present day Northside Drive and Walthall Street, Scott’s Brigade of Loring’s Division made one of the most successful assaults of the day. They captured the colors of the 33rd New Jersey as well as part of the regiment. They continued pressing their assault and nearly turn Geary’s flank, but the lack of support on either of Scott’s flanks, forced him to fall back.
The day was filled with heavy, fierce fighting on both sides. By late afternoon, Loring believed he could exploit a gap in the Federal lines between Newton and Geary. He asked Hardee for reinforcements and as Hardee was about to send Cleburne’s Division to assist Loring, he received an order from Hood to send a Division to the east of the city to support Wheeler. Hardee sent Cleburne’s Division to Wheeler, thus preventing another push forward to the Federal lines. The day ended with many dead, dying and wounded still on the battlefield. The high priced neighborhoods of the area now stand in stark contrast to the harsh reality of the battle that took place there 152 years ago today.
Over the last several days and continuing into the next several days, General Sherman is resting his troops and changing their positions in preparation for an assault on Atlanta. He is trying to deceive General Johnston into believing the attack will come from the west. To do this, he has sent Stoneman’s Cavalry on a raid towards Newnan to destroy the Railroad that connects Atlanta with Alabama. Stoneman’s Cavalry cross the Chattahoochee near Campbelton and skirmish with Confederates along the way. They are unsuccessful and fall back to Villa Rica before returning to the Federal lines along the Chattahoochee. During this time, Sherman is shifting several Corps from his right flank to the left flank at the river crossing in Roswell. The Federal soldiers crossing at Roswell will be shifted to the east of Atlanta. While both armies rest from the rigors of the campaign, there is a great deal of fraternization between the soldiers stationed along the Chattahoochee. There are many documented accounts of trading, usually the Confederates trading tobacco for coffee, as well as other goods and small items. There are accounts of Regimental bands on both sides having competitions and serenading the troops on the opposite side of the river. For some soldiers, this is the first time the have been able to have a bath in weeks. Even General Sherman himself, takes a bath in the river.
For General Johnston, this is a time of uncertainty, President Davis has sent Braxton Bragg, former Commander of The Army of Tennessee, to ascertain the tactical situation in Atlanta and to find out what Johnston plans to do. Davis is considering replacing Johnston and is relying on advice from Bragg as to who the replacement of Johnston should be. This decision would have great bearing on the outcome of the campaign. They met at Johnston’s Headquarters which was established at the Dexter Niles house along the Atlanta road between the Chattahoochee river and the city.