With the City of Atlanta a still smoldering ruin, General Sherman and his staff, along with the 14th Corps, moved east out of the city towards Decatur. The right wing’s rear guard moved out towards Jonesboro to catchup with the rest of their wing. General Sherman and his staff left their headquarters at the Lyon’s house around 7:00am. The Lyon’s house was located where the current Atlanta City Hall now sits. As they moved east the day was bright, clear and crisp. The roads to the east were crowded with the soldiers and wagons of the 14th Corps. Sherman and his staff made their way to Lithonia, near the Yellow River, where they camped for the night. Along the way, Sherman’s Soldiers, destroyed the railroad by burning the cross ties and bending the rails around trees and telegraph poles.
The right wing of the army continues to make their way south. They pass through Jonesboro where they had fought a serious engagement in September, and then passed through Love Joy’s Station and Stockbridge. They Stop near McDonough for the night.
The March to the Sea began this morning. The right wing and Kilpatirck’s cavalry move southeast along the railroad towards Jonesboro. Slocum’s 20th Corps, part of the left wing, moved east toward Decatur and Stone Mountain. Sherman, along with the remainder of the left wing and the rear guard of the right wing, stayed in Atlanta. Sherman supervised the last details of loading the wagon trains and the final destruction of Atlanta. In the late afternoon of the 15th the orders were given and the torch was put to Atlanta. An enormous fire soon erupted and began to consume the city. Artillery shells and other explosives had been placed in some structures and as the fire raged, they began to explode, sending debris and shell fragments through the air in all directions. Some soldiers remarked that they could not sleep because the light from the fire was too bright. Sherman remarked to a staffer that he thought the fire could possibly be seen as far away as Griffin, nearly 40 miles away.
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.
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 leaving from Fairburn on the 19th, Kilpatrick moved his column towards Jonesboro. He once again met resistance from Ross’s Texas Brigade, first to his rear and then after Ross moved south below Kilpatrick and made it across the Flint River before Kilpatrick, he was then in Kilpatrick’s front. Ross’s Brigade removed the planks on the bridge over the Flint River and formed a line of battle on the high ground on the east side of the river. Kilpatrick had his artillery open open up on the Confederates and then had his Cavalry dismount and cross the bridge on its stringers. They were able to force Ross’s Brigade, which was a smaller force, back towards and eventually through Jonesboro. Kilpatrick reached Jonesboro around 5:00pm on the 19th and began to destroy the tracks and was able to burn the Railroad Station and other structures. Heavy rain prevented the Federals from making fires to heat the railroad tracks for bending so they removed it from the railroad bed and tossed it to the side.
On the 20th, after learning that a Confederate force of unknown strength was approaching, Kilpatrick decided to abandon his efforts in Jonesboro and move towards Love Joy’s Station. As he approached Love Joy’s Station he did not know the strength of the Confederate forces there. They Rebels had hidden themselves in a railroad cut and waited. When the Federal Cavalry dismounted and approached the railroad, the Confederates waited until they were within about 50 yards before making themselves known and opening fire on the Federals. The Federals were quickly repulsed and soon they were attacked from the rear by Ross’s Texans. Kilpatrick had limited options. He quickly decided to fight his way out and formed his units into several tight and compact columns and made a counter attack on the Confederate forces to his rear. Minty’s Brigade lead Kilpatricks column and as they approached the Rebels across an open field, they drew their sabers and charged. They were able to cut their way through and Kilpatrick’s column was able to escape and make for the Federal lines east of Atlanta. They moved north east from Love Joy’s Station toward McDonough and from there they made for the South River, which they crossed and the went through Lithonia and form there to Decatur.
August 18th, 1864: Several days earlier, General Hood dispatched General Wheeler and his Confederate Cavalry to the north in an effort to disrupt Sherman’s supply lines coming from Chattanooga. Sherman, who has quickly become restless during the siege, has started planning a movement of his entire army to the the south of Atlanta to disrupt the Confederate supply line coming up from Macon. Sherman has sen Kilpatrick’s Cavalry to the south of Atlanta on a reconnaissance mission. On the morning of the 16th, Kilpatrick reaches Fairburn, where he destroys three miles of railroad track and the depot. He has been operating without any real opposition from Jackson’s Cavalry. Sherman begins to think that Kilpatrick, along with a couple Brigades of Garrad’s Cavalry, could swing far south of Atlanta and destroy the railroad without needing to move the entire army. Sherman ask Kilpatrick if he thinks it is possible, to which he replies that it would be possible to damage the tracks bad enough to be out of service and not put his command in any danger. Sherman has also learned the Wheelers Cavalry has made it to Tennessee and is therefore to far to offer any support to Hood or oppose Kilpatrick. Sherman decides to delay is movement of his army around Atlanta and instead he orders Kilpatrick to move on the railroad in Jonesboro with his three Brigades and two more attached to him from Garrard’s Cavalry. On the night of the 18th, Kilpatrick and five Brigades of Federal Cavalry, begin their move towards Jonesboro. They leave from Sandtown and head towards Fairburn. They are opposed by only one Confederate Brigade. Ross’s Texas Brigade spends the night of the 18th harassing and slowing down the Federal Cavalry. These actions slow down the Federal Cavalry considerably and delay the raids time table.