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.
After the Battle of Jonesboro, Sherman’s Army followed the Confederates to Love Joy’s Station, where Hood rejoined Hardee with Stewart’s and Lee’s Corps. Sherman skirmished a day or so and then after learning that the XX Corps had entered Atlanta, he withdrew from Love Joy’s Station and marched back to Atlanta to claim his prize and losing what many consider to have been a prime opportunity to crush Hood and the Army of Tennessee once and for all. Having taken Atlanta, Sherman decided he had reached his objective and did not think it was worth the bloodshed to continue pressing his advantage.
Upon entering Atlanta, Sherman established his headquarters and began to restore order to the town. He decided that it was a military outpost and ordered all civilians to evacuate. A truce was negotiated with Hood, who was not happy about civilians being forced from their homes, and the civilians were given a choice of taking a train north or one to the south. The ones that choose a train south, were sent to Rough and Ready, where they had to disembark and travel to Love Joy’s Station by wagon. About half the cities population went north and the other half went south. There were some civilians that were allowed to stay as they were given jobs by the Federals.
Poe, Sherman’s Chief Engineer, immediately started to rebuild and strengthen the defensive line around the city. He built artillery forts connected with infantry trenches. With much of the city in ruin, the soldiers started to use building materials from destroyed structures to begin building small shacks as living quarters. Sherman also began to rest and resupply his armies in preparation for his next sortie into the heart of the Confederacy.
Many of the period images that exist of Atlanta come from this time of the campaign. George Barnard entered the city to document the Federal occupation. There are many iconic images of the Federals and their forts in Atlanta.
Note: All the images below are attributed to George Barnard. These images are all open source and were downloaded via wikicommons. They are all in the National Archives or the Library of Congress.
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.
August 28th, 1864: Around midday on the 28th, the Federal XV and XVII Corps reach the Westpoint railroad in Fairburn and the later in the afternoon the Federal IV and XIV Corps reach the Westpoint railroad in Red Oak. Sherman orders his troops to destroy as much of the railroad as possible so as to make it unusable and to burn the cross ties and bend the tracks so that no piece can be reused. They are to begin immediately and continue to work all through the next day. Hood is starting to realize the threat is on the Western and Atlantic railroad near Jonesboro. Hood has sent Reynold’s Brigade to Jonesboro by train and they will be followed by Lewis’s Kentuckians. Brown moves to Rough and Ready with part of Bate’s Division to protect it from possible raids coming from Red Oak or Fairburn.