The Following is from The Campaign For Atlanta by William R.Scaife and is reprinted with permission. If you would like to purchase a copy of The Campaign For Atlanta or any of William Scaife's other books you can email him at Scaife@mindspring.com or by postal mail at Civil War Publications - 621 Old Alatoona Road - Cartersville, GA 30121 . Tell him you heard about his book on the city of Jonesboro's website.



General ShermanFrustrated at his inability to pound and starve Atlanta into submission, General Sherman on August 25 sent the XX Corps, now commanded by Major General Henry D. Slocum, back to the Chattahoochee River at Bolton to protect the railroad and Turner’s and Pace’s Ferry crossings. Major General Joseph Hooker had been incensed by Sherman’s appointment of Oliver O. Howard, whom Hooker outranked, to succeed the slain General McPherson as commander of the Army of the Tennessee. Hooker, with indignation asked to be relieved of command of the XX Corps, a request which Sherman gladly agreed to, naming Slocum to succeed him.

Sherman then sent his remaining armies in a wide sweep west and south to cut the railroads to Macon and West Point far below Atlanta. He knew that these areas south of the city were not heavily fortified and that in order to effectively counter these moves, General Hood would have to pull a substantial portion of his depleted forces out of Atlanta’s impregnable fortifications.

On August 25, Sherman’s artillery fell suddenly silent. Federal Major General Oliver O. Howard’s Army of the Tennessee was on the move southward and on August 30 cut the Atlanta & West Point Railroad below East Point at Red Oak and Fairburn. Howard then moved from Fairburn and Shadnor Church (Union City) to Renfroe’s Plantation west of Jonesboro, but finding no water there, moved eastward toward the Flint River.

Although at first thinking that Sherman was abandoning Atlanta, General Hood finally realized what Sherman was up to, and sent Lieutenant General William J. Hardee with his own corps under the command of Major General Patrick R. Cleburne and Major General Stephen D. Lee’s Corps toward Jonesboro on the night of August 30. The Confederate troops began the movement to Jonesboro long after dark. Hardee’s Corps, followed by Anderson’s Division of Lee’s Corps, marched through East Point and Rough and Ready (now Mountain View) and at 3:00 a.m., Brown’s Division of Hardee’s Corps, at the head of the column, encountered Federal picketts at the bridge near John Chamber’s Mill. Rather than risk a night battle, the column detoured eastward on a field road and entered Jonesboro on the Morrow Station Road (now Georgia Highway 54), which paralleled the railroad. This detour caused considerable delay and it was well into the afternoon of August 31 before Hardee’s Corps and Anderson’s Division were in line at Jonesboro. General Stephen D. Lee’s other two divisions, Stevenson’s and Clayton’s, went by Mt.Zion Church and Rough and Ready, where they followed the railroad via Morrow Station, arriving at Jonesboro in the immediate rear of Hardee’s Corps later in the afternoon. By this time, Major General Oliver O.Howard had deployed his Federal forces with Logan’s XV Corps entrenched on the high ground just east of the Flint River and Ransom’s XVI Corps refused back across the river to the southwest. During the night of August 30, the sounds of trains arriving in Jonesboro had already warned Howard of the impending battle and he had been prepared since dawn for the assault.          

At 3:00 p.m. on August 31, 1864, Hardee advanced to attack Howard’s Federal line with Lieutenant General Stephen D. Lee’s Corps on the right and Hardee’s own corps, under Major General Patrick R. Cleburne, on the left. Cleburne was to wheel to the right and north and attack the refused right flank of Brigadier General Thomas E. Ransom’s XVI Corps posted behind a wide, swampy ravine, and when Cleburne’s attack was well under way, Stephen D. Lee’s Corps on the right was to make a direct frontal assault against Logan’s XV Corps, which was entrenched east of the river.

General CleburneCleburne’s left division, under Brigadier General Mark P. Lowrey, advanced with Granbury’s Brigade on the left, Lowrey’s Brigade under Colonel John Weir in the center, Mercer’s Brigade under Colonel Charles H. Olmstead on the right, and Govan’s Brigade in reserve. See BATTLE OF JONESBORO, August 31, 1864, PLATE XXI. Granbury encountered units of Kilpatrick’s dismounted Federal cavalry and drove them back to the river, then across it and pursued them to the other (west) side. Granbury was followed by Lowrey’s and Mercer’s brigades in a dramatic advance, but in so doing, the alignment of Lowrey’s Division was deflected to the west, creating a gap between that division and Bate’s Division on his right. General Lowrey described the dramatic advance as “impetuous and against orders,” but Colonel Ellison Capers, commanding the 24th South Carolina Regiment of Gist’s Brigade, described it as “brilliant.”

Cheatham’s reserve division under Major General George Maney, along with Govan’s reserve brigade of Lowrey’s Division, moved to the right in an attempt to close the gap created by Lowrey’s deflection, but by that time, Bate’s Division had been repulsed by Corse’s entrenched Federal division to his front, and this alignment was impossible to accomplish. Hearing Granbury firing at Kilpatrick’s dismounted cavalry on the left and thinking that Cleburne’s attack was well under way, Stephen D. Lee ordered his corps to a frontal assault on Logan’s XV Corps, with Stevenson’s Division on the left and Hindman’s Division, under Patton Anderson, on the right. They overran the Federal skirmish line in the rifle pits but were unable to penetrate the main line. Lee’s second line, consisting of Clayton’s Division, along with the brigades of Manigault (of Hindman) and Cumming (of Stevenson) then moved to the attack, but likewise were repulsed in front of the Federal entrenchments.

The Confederate army by this time was severely depleted and near exhaustion. The number of acting or replacement unit commanders at Jonesboro gives some indication of its attenuated condition. They went into battle with Patrick Cleburne commanding Hardee’s Corps, Mark Lowrey commanding Cleburne’s old Division, John C. Brown commanding Bate’s, George Maney commanding Cheatham’s and Patton Anderson commanding Hindman’s Divisions. Lowrey’ s Brigade was commanded by Colonel John Weir, Mercer’s by Colonel Charles H. Olmstead, Gist’s by Colonel James McCullough, Maney’s by Colonel George Porter, Ho].tzclaw’s by Colonel Bushrod Jones, Stovall’s by Colonel Abda Johnson, and Baker’s by Colonel John Higley.

Hardee retired both Cleburne’s and Lee’s corps before sundown, leaving the final verdict on the Battle of Jonesboro to be determined the next day.

About the same time that the battle was raging at Jonesboro, Schofield’s Army of the Ohio and Stanley’s IV Corps reached the Macon & Western Railroad just below Rough & Ready (Mountain View) and routed a force of dismounted Confederate cavalry entrenched there to protect the railroad. While the fighting raged, a train from Atlanta approached Rough & Ready and the engineer quickly reversed the engine and steamed back to Atlanta, reporting that Federal troops were advancing on Atlanta along the railroad from the south.

Without verifying the status of Hardee’s troops at Jonesboro, General Hood ordered Hardee to return Stephen D. Lee’s Corps to Atlanta and by 2:00 p.m., Lee had begun his night march back to the city.

The next morning, September 1, General Hardee extended his single corps to include the position occupied by Lee’s Corps the day before. His single depleted and tired corps now faced three Federal corps, with three more within easy march of the battlefield. Hardee stretched his thin line with his extreme right held by Cleburne’s Division refused sharply back at the Warren House and extending across the railroad, bending slightly to the southeast.

Cleburne deployed with Granbury’s Brigade at the Warren House, Lowrey’s and Mercer’ s Brigades running southward along the railroad tracks, and Govan’s Brigade north of Granbury at the salient angle, where the line turned back toward the railroad to the east. See BATTLE OF JONESBORO, Sept 1, 1864, PLATE XXII.         

Bate’s Division under John C. Brown formed the Confederate center and Cheatham’s Division under John C. Carter formed the left, both extending the line southward parallel to the railroad to a point just above the tiny hamlet of Jonesboro. Lewis’ (Orphan) Brigade of Bate’s Division was moved to the extreme right, connecting Govan’s Brigade with the railroad.

At about 1:00 p.m., General Hardee ordered Gist’s Brigade of Cheatham’s Division from its position in reserve on the extreme left, to the extreme right flank, personally directing the deployment of the men. He placed them in a single line and charged Colonel Ellison Capers, who commanded the 24th South Carolina Regiment at the railroad cut, with the defense of that critical position. The area to the front of Gist’s Brigade was covered by a dense growth Union General John A. Loganof small trees and the men were sent into the area, where they climbed the smaller trees, bent them down, cut across the trunks with their pocket knives, and made a first rate abatis of interlaced trees, covering their entire front.

The Federal plan of attack called for Logan’s XV Corps to advance with its three divisions from the west against Carter’s and Brown’s Confederate divisions, while Davis’s XIV Corps of three divisions advanced from the northwest against Cleburne’s single refused division. Then, learning that Hardee had only a single corps on the field, Sherman ordered Stanley’s IV Corps down the railroad from the northeast in an attempt to surround Hardee, in an outrageously one-sided mismatch.

General GovanThe Federal attack got under way at about 4:00 p.m. with the brunt being delivered by Morgan’s 2nd Division of Jefferson C. Davis’ XIV Corps against the salient angle in the Confederate line held by Govan’s and Lewis Brigades. In the onslaught that followed, Confederate Brigadier Daniel C. Govan, at the apex of the angle, was captured along with some 600 officers and men and 8 pieces of artillery. After Govan was captured, Vaughn’s Brigade of Cheatham’s Division was thrown into the lurch and, along with the remnants of Govan’s and Lewis’ Brigades, held off the Federal attack until dark.

Stanley’s IV Corps attack was directed along the railroad from the northeast and was intended to be delivered in combination with Davis’ XIV Corps attack. With three divisions directed against the Confederate flank defended by Gist’s single brigade, Stanley’s attack might easily have crushed Hardee’s entire corps, but actually made little headway. General Stanley explained in his report,         

“It was past 5 o’clock when Kirby’s and Grose’s Brigades got up to the face of the enemy. This delay, which was fatal to our success, was in  part owing to the very dense nature of the undergrowth  and further to the slow progress the skirmishers made in pushing back those of  the enemy. General Grose and Colonel Kirby both reported they could not carry the position in their fronts owing to the perfect entanglement (Gist’s abatis) made by cutting down the thick undergrowth in front of the barricade the rebels had hastily thrown up. Newton’s Division had a much longer circuit to make, and, when moved forward, the right brigade (Wagner’s) found no enemy in front but received a fire from the rear of their right flank. The flank of the enemy had  been found and turned, but it was now pitch dark and nothing more could be done.

As darkness fell, General Hardee rode up to the railroad cut in person and congratulated Colonel Capers for his success in holding the position.

Thus, if one accepts the accuracy of General Stanley’s report, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that, only by virtue of the ingenuity of Gist’s “Pocket Knife Brigade’ was the day saved for Hardee’s Corps at Jonesboro.

During the night, Hardee retired his corps down the railroad to Lovejoy’s Station six miles south of Jonesboro, where he again formed an entrenched line of battle. Before leaving Jonesboro, he sent a message to General Hood in Atlanta informing him that Jonesboro had fallen and the railroad had been cut.

According to official reports from both armies, in the pitched battles at Jonesboro on August 31 and September 1, 1864, the Confederates lost 3,705 and the Federals 3,237 men.


The Jonesboro battlefield lies almost completely within the present town of Jonesboro, approximately eight miles south of Atlanta’s perimeter highway (Interstate Highway 285) and

may be reached from Atlanta by driving south on Interstate Highway 75 to the Georgia Highway 54 exit at Morrow, Georgia and proceeding south on Highway 54.

Approximately one mile south of I-75 and a few hundred yards beyond Battle Creek Road on Highway 54, you will see a Georgia Historical Commission marker on the right marking the location of the McPeak House, which lay at the northern extremity of the battlefield of the second day, September 1, 864, and served as the headquarters of Brigadier General Jefferson C. Davis, commander of the Federal XIV Corps during the battle.

Continue southward on Highway 54 for another 1.3 miles to Mimosa Drive, where the Warren House still stands to the north and west of the highway. This residence was a landmark  during the second day’s battle, September 1, 1864. Carter’s and Brown’s Divisions of Confederates extended southward from this point, parallel to and west of the railroad tracks, while Cleburne’s Division was refused back to the southeast across the railroad tracks, just to the north.

Govan’s Brigade of Cleburne’s Division was overrun in the vicinity and following the battle, the Warren House was used as a hospital by the 52 Illinois Regiment of Dilworth’s Brigade.

Continue southward 0.2 of a mile on Highway 54 to its intersection with Georgia Highway 138. The Patrick R. Cleburne Confederate Cemetery lies on your left, just across the railroad tracks to the east and is where most of the Confederates killed at the Battle of Jonesboro are buried.

Turn right and proceed westward 0.7 of a mile on Highway 138 to its intersection with Highway 54 south. The Georgia Historical Commission marker at this intersection indicates the point from which Confederate Major General Stephen D. Lee’s Corps mounted the attack to the west during the first day’s battle, August 31, 1864. Hardee’s Corps, commanded by Major General Patrick R. Cleburne, was deployed south of this point and advanced in a wheeling movement to the west and north during the same attack.

Continue again westward a distance of 0.8 of a mile on Highway 138 across U.S. Highway 41 to Hynds Springs Road, turn left and continue southward along Hynds Springs Road 0.2 of a mile to Dixon Road. Your route is following the approximate line occupied by Harrow’s Division of Logan’s XV Corps during the battle of August 31. Confederate Major General Stephen D. Lee’s attack was directed against this line from the east.

Turn right on Dixon Road, then left on Holly Drive and proceed 0.3 of a mile to Magnolia Drive. Turn right on Magnolia and continue half a mile to Dixon Road. Magnolia Drive runs approximately along the refused line occupied by Corse’s Division of Ransom’s XVI Corps during the battle of August 31, as they resisted the attack of Hardee’s Corps (under Cleburne) from the southeast.

Retrace your route to Highway 138, then turn right and proceed 0.3 of a mile to U.S. Highway 41, turn right and continue about a mile southward. On your right you will see the creek and ravine over which Cleburne’s attack of August 31 passed to reach Corse’s refused line.

Copyright ©2003 William R.Scaife . May not be used or reprinted without express written permission