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.
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 the Confederate army gone and ensuing occupation of the Federal Army, Mayor Calhoun and a group of prominent citizens rode out of the city under a white flag of truce. Prior to leaving they debated as to whether or not they should arm themselves, the decide wisely to go unarmed. They ride out the Mason-Turner Ferry Road, now called Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway, where they pass through the defensive perimeter and go by the Ponder house. They encounter a mounted patrol of Federals whom they engage in conversation. Calhoun informs the Colonel that he would like to surrender the city to General Sherman, the Colonel states that Sherman is at Jonesboro and has Calhoun write a note to his commanding officer General Ward, surrendering the city. Calhoun wrote the note and the Colonel and two other officers sign it affirming its validity. The note reads as follows:
Brigadier General Ward,
Comdg. Third Division, Twentieth Corps
Sir: The fortune of war has placed Atlanta in your hands. As mayor of the city I ask protection to non-combatants and private property.
James M. Calhoun,
Mayor of Atlanta
By noon Federal units have reached City Hall and hoisted their colors over the city. Around 2:00pm, General Slocum enters the city and establishes his headquarters at the Trout House. He sends a telegram to the Secretary of War in Washington. The first line is “General Sherman has taken Atlanta”.
Demoralized, Hood’s troops continue their march to Love Joy’s Station to link up with Hardee. The loss of Atlanta is a crushing blow to the Confederacy. For Lincoln, it is a great political achievement that helps secure his spot for another term as President.
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.
The Federal Army, having reached the West Point railroad at Red Oak and Fairburn on the previous day, spend the 29th destroying 12.5 miles of track stretching as far south as Palmetto. They burned the ties and lay the track across them to heat them and then bend them around trees. They fill the railroad cuts with trees, rocks, dirt, and in some cases they rig up artillery shells in the debris to explode if material is moved. There is also a great deal of looting and pillaging of the local populace. Livestock and food stuffs are taken along with anything the looters deem useful. Some things are destroyed just for fun. On the night of the 29th, Sherman issues marching orders for the next day. In the morning they will begin moving toward Jonesboro.