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.
After the fighting at Gilgal Church on the 15th and continued fighting on the 16th, the Union Army has figured out that lines in the area form a salient and begin to pour in enfilading fire on the Confederates. Other Union forces move against the thin line of southern soldiers west of Gilgal Church towards Lost Mountain. Schofield’s XXIII Corps is now in a position to turn Johnston’s left flank, Schofield may or may not realize that he is in such an advantageous position, but Johnston does and orders Hardee’s Corp to pull back at dark, to the far side of Mud Creek and establish a new line. During this retrograde movement, a Union artillery shell explodes near Brigadier General Lucius Polk. He is the nephew of Lt. Gen. Leonidas Polk and only two days after the death of his Uncle, Lucius Polk is wounded and loses his leg.
May 27th, 1864, After suffering heavy losses at New Hope Church and failing to break the Confederate line, General Sherman again tries to out flank General Johnston’s Confederate Army. Sherman orders General Howard to send Wood’s 3rd Division of the IV Corps, Johnson’s 1st Division of the XIV Corps, and McLean’s 3rd Brigade of Schofield’s XXIII Corps, on a flanking march in an easterly direction, to find the right end of the Confederate line. They hope to find the exposed right end of the line and attack. General Johnston figured out what the Federals were attempting, and began shifting troops from his left to the right. He moved Hindman’s Division from the far left of Hood’s position and placed them on the far right. This began the extension of the Confederate line to the right. Johnston then moved General Cleburne’s Division of Hardee’s Corps to the right of Hindman. This extended the Confederate line even further to the right. Cleburne began to dig in on a ridge line running east toward Pickett’s Mill. This was the end of the line with the exception of Kelly’s Cavalry being used as a screen put in place beyond the end of the line. Generals Howard and Wood began their march east to find the Confederate right as they were assigned. The terrain was difficult at best. It was described as jungle by some. It is hilly with deep ravines and lots of underbrush. After traveling some distance the made their first attempt to find the Confederate right, but as they approached the lines the realized they were approaching the rear of the Union lines. They needed to push further east before turning again. After moving about a mile east of this point they turned again and found what the thought was the Confederate right. They reached the area of Pickett’s Mill around mid afternoon. Howard began to form Wood’s and Johnson’s Divisions for attack. Meanwhile, Cleburne’s scouts reported the movement of the Federals toward the end of the Confederate line. He began deploying further to his right and also deployed several artillery batteries. He place Lucius Polk’s Brigade on his left, Govan’s Brigade in the center and Granbury’s Brigade on his right and the Cavalry screen beyond Granbury. Wood deployed with Hazen’s 2nd Brigade in the front with Gibson’s 1st Brigade following them and Knefler’s 3rd Brigade behind them. Johnson deployed with Scribner’s 3rd Brigade in front and aligned with Gibson’s Brigade. He then placed King’s 2nd Brigade following Scribner and Carlin’s 1st Brigade behind King. The formation they were using is called a “Column of Brigades” and each Brigade should follow the other closely as to over whelm the enemy with their numbers. The order to attack was given around 4:30pm. Hazen moved forward, but the dense undergrowth along, with the terrain, caused the lines to come apart and become spread out. Gibson’s Brigade did not immediately follow Hazen. Hazen’s men drove in the Confederate pickets and started moving up the steep sided ravine. They were attacking the left and center of Granbury’s Brigade. They thought they were attacking the end of the Confederate line, but Cleburne had been fast enough to extend it to his right. Hazen came under heavy fire and point blank artillery fire from Key’s Battery. Hazen began moving left toward an old cornfield. This movement had been anticipated by Cleburne, who had sent several regiments of Govan’s Brigade further to the right and just past Granbury, to block the Federals. After losing over 450 men, Hazen was withdrawn and only then was Gibson put in. He suffered a similar fate and suffered heavier losses, over 650. Kneffler’s Brigade was finally sent in, but with the purpose to only cover Gibson’s as he withdrew and recovered the wounded. Scribner was delayed in his attack by the cavalry pickets, who held high ground across the creek. He sent a couple of regiments to push them back and finally made it to the cornfield where he was hit by a counter attack from a reserve force that had been sent to reinforce Clerburne. Sribner held his own for a short time before falling back as well. The battle began to subside around 7:00pm, but skirmishing continued into the night. Cleburne directed Granbury to make a night time assault to probe the location of the Federals and clear his front. They captured over 200 Union troops and drove back many more to their original positions. Total Union casualties are reported as being 1732 while the Confederate casualties were reported at 448. It was a rather lopsided victory for the Confederates. This is my favorite battle of the campaign, I’m not sure why, but maybe because the battlefield is so well preserved and you can walk through it and really see where events took place. I recommend going to visit the battlefield if you get a chance. Here is a link to their website: Pickett’s Mill State Historic Site. They are having a special event this weekend with reenactments. It should be a really great event. Also, if your interested in learning of the details of the battle, check out this book: The Battle of Pickett’s Mill, Along the Dead Line, by Brad Butkovich.
May 16th, 1864. In the early morning hours of the 16th, the Confederate Army slipped away across the the Oostanaula River and the supply wagons were moving south. The day before, the Union Army had established a bridgehead at Lay’s Ferry. On the morning of the 16th, the Army of the Tennessee, began it’s advance from Lay’s Ferry. Sweeny’s 2nd Division of Dodge’s XVI Corps was the leading element of the advance, the remainder of McPherson’s Army of the Tennessee followed Dodge’s Corps. They were headed toward Rome Crossroads, where the Rome-Calhoun Road and the Sugar Valley-Adairsville Road met. To meet this threat to the Confederate flank, General Johnston sent General Hardee’s Corps. Hardee’s Corp formed up in the woods south of the road and used Oothkalooga Creek to anchor the right of their line which extended westward parallel to the Rome-Calhoun Road. General Clebrune’s Division held the left of the line and General Walkers Division held the right of the line. Bate’s Division was held in reserve. As the Federal troops approached the crossroads, Hardee’s line of battle sprinted out of the woods in a surprise attack, catching the Federal skirmishers off guard and pushing them across the road. Hardee used his artillery to target the Federal supply wagons that were following the advance. Hardee and his Southern Soldiers held fast to their position until the early hours of the morning of the 17th. This allowed enough time for the Confederate wagon trains to make it through Calhoun and move southward to Adairsville.