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Jonesboro, GA. August. 31 - September 01, 1864

Jonesboro, Ga., Aug. 31-Sept. 1, 1864. Armies of the Tennessee, Cumberland and Ohio. The movement of Sherman's armies to the south of Atlanta began on Aug. 25. On the morning of the 31st the Army of the Tennessee, commanded by Maj.-Gen. O. O. Howard, was in position near Jonesboro; the 4th and 14th corps of the Army of the Cumberland, commanded by Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas, and the Army of the Ohio, under Maj.-Gen. John M. Schofield were along the line of the Macon & Western railroad between Jonesboro and Rough and Ready Station. Hood had learned the position of the Federal forces on the 30th, and that night he sent Hardee's and S. D. Lee's corps to Jonesboro, with orders to attack Sherman's flank the next morning. Hardee was in command of the expedition, his corps being temporarily commanded by Gen. Cleburne. Owing to the fact that Howard occupied the road on which Hardee wanted to move, it was 2 p.m. before the Confederates were in a position to attack. Shortly after that hour a heavy artillery fire was opened along the entire line and a little later Cleburne advanced to the assault. Hardee had formed his line with Cleburne on the left and Lee on the right. The former was to turn the Union right and Lee was to attack vigorously as soon as he heard the sound of Cleburne's guns. Lee mistook the firing of the skirmishers on his left for the main attack and advanced his line before Cleburne became fairly engaged. Hazen's division, which formed the left of Logan's line, received the brunt of the attack, the enemy trying to turn the left flank and get between the Union line and the Flint river. Bryant's brigade of Blair's corps was first sent to Hazen's assistance and later all of Woods' division was moved to that part of the line with instructions to charge the Confederates, if they attempted to turn the flank. At the same time Howard called on Thomas for reinforcements and Carlin's division of the 14th corps was hurried to the scene of action, but before its arrival the enemy had been repulsed. While the main engagement was in progress Kilpatrick, with his cavalry division, was at Anthony's bridge, a mile and a half below Howard. Seeing that Howard's right was in danger of being turned, Kilpatrick dismounted five regiments, posted them behind barricades on the flank of Cleburne's column, placed his batteries in good positions and directed them to open fire, while the rest of his command was ordered to attack.

This diversion forced Cleburne to forego his attempt to turn Howard's flank and turn his attention to Kilpatrick. Twice he attacked the latter, but each time he was repulsed. A third effort was more successful and Kilpatrick was forced to retire across the river. This was done in good order, but with the loss of 2 of his cannon. Some of the enemy followed over the bridge, but they were met by the 92nd Ill. mounted infantry, now dismounted, and held in check. To protect his trains and assist Kilpatrick Howard ordered Blair to send Giles A. Smith's division to the bridge. The arrival of this division turned the tide of battle, the enemy was repulsed with heavy loss and the 2 guns were recaptured. The fight lasted about an hour and resulted in complete defeat for the Confederates at every point. The defeats at Peachtree creek, Bald Hill, Ezra church and Utoy creek seemed to have dampened the ardor of the Confederate soldiers, as Lee says in his report. "The attack was not made by the troops with that spirit and inflexible determination that would insure success. Several brigades behaved with great gallantry, and in each brigade many instances of gallant conduct were exhibited by regiments and individuals; but generally the troops halted in the charge when they were much exposed, and within easy range of the enemy's musketry, and when they could do but little damage to the enemy behind his works, instead of moving directly and promptly against the temporary and informidable works in their front. The attack was a feeble one and a failure, with a loss to my corps of about 1,300 men in killed and wounded."As soon as Sherman was informed of the result of the action he knew that he was in possession of Hood's line of communications, and issued orders for a complete destruction of the railroad, in the expectation of forcing Hood to evacuate Atlanta and concentrate his forces somewhere near Jonesboro. Lee's corps was recalled during the night, leaving Hardee alone at Jonesboro, and upon learning this Sherman ordered Thomas and Schofield to unite with Howard to surround and capture Hardee before Hood could reinforce him. Stanley's corps, which was engaged in destroying the railroad near Rough and Ready, was hurried forward to Jonesboro; Davis was sent to Howard's left; two divisions of Blair's corps, with Kilpatrick's cavalry, were ordered to gain a position on the railroad south of town, and Schofield was to continue the work of destroying the track, but at the same time follow up Stanley to support him in an emergency. Hardee had formed his line to meet an attack from Howard on the west, with Cleburne's division on the right, sharply refused, Govan holding the angle, Granbury on the left of Govan, and Lewis to the right and rear. Davis reached the position assigned him about noon on Sept. 1, and pushed forward Edie's brigade of Carlin's division to reconnoiter the ground to the railroad. Edie soon became engaged in a sharp skirmish, but succeeded in gaining a ridge that commanded the angle in Hardee's line. Prescott's battery was placed on this ridge, in a position where it could enfilade a portion of the enemy's line, and in a short time disabled a number of Hardee's guns. Davis now ordered an assault. Edie struck the salient and carried it, but owing to the uneven surface of the ground his supports did not come up m time and he was repulsed with considerable loss. About 5 p.m. a second advance was made, when Este's brigade of Baird's division carried the salient. This time the supports were at hand. Morgan's division swept in from the right and Carlin's from the left, completely surrounding the Confederates and capturing Gen. Govan, with nearly all his command. Lewis and Granbury were forced to fall back and form a new line, though the Confederate left and center held on to their trenches. Stanley, who had reached the field about the time Davis made his second assault, now deployed on the left of Davis, but before any decisive movement could be made darkness put an end to the conflict. During the night Hardee abandoned his position and joined the main body of Hoods army at Lovejoy Station. The Union loss at Jonesboro was about l,150 men. The enemy acknowledged a loss of 5,000.

Source: The Union Army, vol. 6

Thomas immediately recognizes the opportunity to destroy Hood’s Army and recommends to Sherman that he (Thomas) interpose his Army of the Cumberland between Stewart’s Corps, left with Hood in Atlanta and Hardee’s and Lee’s Corps, 30 miles south of Atlanta in Jonesborough.


Major-General SHERMAN, Commanding Military Division of the Mississippi:

GENERAL: What do you think of this: Let Stanley and Schofield, covered by Garrard, destroy the railroad to-morrow to their rear until they come down to Baird; then for me to draw off the Army of the Cumberland and throw it on the railroad east of Fayetteville, say at Lovejoy's, or some point below, Howard confronting and holding the enemy at Jonesborough. Prisoners taken by Stanley report five trains in Atlanta which cannot get out; they also confirm the report that the militia and probably one corps have been left in Atlanta.. I understand that General Howard repulsed the enemy, inflicting a heavy loss upon him; if so, I think the move on Fayetteville would be eminently beneficial. I am happy to report that General Baird is also on the railroad; he reached it at 5 p.m., and set 400 men at work immediately to destroy the road. I think Hood has gone up or ordered to Macon.



Major-General, U. S. Volunteers, Commanding.

P. S.--All the prisoners captured by Baird say there are but two corps in Jonesborough. Baird has taken between 40 and 50 prisoners.


Major-General, U. S. Volunteers.


MAY 1-SEPTEMBER 8, 1864.--The Atlanta (Georgia) Campaign.No. 1.--Reports of Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman, U.S. Army, commanding Military Division of the Mississippi.

These movements were progressing during the 31st, when the enemy came out of his works at Jonesborough and attacked General Howard in position, as described. General Howard was admirably situated to receive him and repulsed the attack thoroughly. The enemy attacked with Lee's and Hardee's corps, and after a contest of over two hours withdrew, leaving over 400 dead on the ground, and his wounded, of which about 300 were left in Jonesborough, could not have been much less than 2,500. Hearing the sounds of battle at Jonesborough about noon, orders were renewed to push the other movements on the left and center, and about 4 p.m. the reports arrived simultaneously that General Howard had thoroughly repulsed the enemy at Jonesborough; that General Schofield had reached the railroad a mile below Rough and Ready and was working up the road, breaking it as he went; that General Stanley, of General Thomas' army, had also got the road below General Schofield and was destroying it, working south, and that General Baird, of General Davis' corps, had struck it still lower down within four miles of Jonesborough. Orders were at once given for all the army to turn on Jonesborough, General Howard to keep the enemy busy while General Thomas should move down from the north, with General Schofield on his left. I also ordered the troops as they moved down to continue the thorough destruction of the railroad, because we had it then, and I did not know but that events might divert our attention. General Garrard's cavalry was directed to watch the roads to our rear and north. General Kilpatrick was sent south, down the west bank of the Flint, with instructions to attack or threaten the railroad below Jonesborough. I expected the whole army would close down on Jonesborough by noon of the 1st of September. General Davis' corps having the shorter distance to travel was on time and deployed facing south, his right in connection with General Howard and his left on the railroad. General Stanley and General Schofield were coming down along the Rough and Ready road and along the railroad, breaking it as they came. When General Davis joined to General Howard, General Blair' corps, on General Howard's left, was thrown in reserve, and was immediately sent well to the right below Jonesborough to act against that flank, along with General Kilpatrick's cavalry. About 4 p.m. General Davis was all ready and assaulted the enemy's lines across open fields, carrying them very handsomely and taking as prisoners the greater part of Govan's brigade, including its commander, with two 4-gun batteries.

Repeated orders were sent to Generals Stanley and Schofield to hurry up, but the difficult nature of the country and the absence of roads are the reasons assigned why these troops did not get well into position for attack before night rendered further operations impossible. Of course the next morning the enemy was gone and had retreated south.

Toward evening the Fourth Corps, on the left of the Fourteenth, struck the railroad just below Rough and Ready, halfway between Atlanta and Jonesboro. The Twenty-third Corps was on its left and rear, and the Fourteenth Corps connected it with the Army of the Tennessee. Thus, on the morning of the 1st of September, Hardee, with a single corps, was at Jonesboro, confronted by Sherman's entire army, except the Twentieth Corps. Hood, with the other two corps, was in Atlanta, entirely unable to move to Hardee's aid. Never was fairer opportunity presented to destroy or capture an enemy. At nightfall of the 31st General Thomas had asked permission to draw off the Army of the Cumberland, the Fourth and Fourteenth Corps, and to throw it upon the railroad at Lovejoy's Station, seven miles south, while Howard and the Twenty-third Corps held Hardee at Jonesboro. Such a move would completely envelop Hardee, and effectually cut off Hood's only available line of retreat to Macon. But Sherman declined the request, on the ground that he had already ordered Schofield to move down the railroad in connection with the Fourth and Fourteenth Corps, and he wanted to adhere to his plan until he should develop the first steps in the enemy's game, " after he knows we are between him and Atlanta." His purpose, judging from his reply to Thomas, implied he did not want to cut off Hood's retreat by placing a force south of it, at Lovejoy’s

Jonesborough - August 31-September 1, 1864. Atlanta Campaign (1864). Sherman had successfully cut Hood’s supply lines in the past by sending out detachments, but the Confederates quickly repaired the damage. In late August, Sherman determined that if he could cut Hood’s supply lines-the Macon & Western and the Atlanta & West Point Railroads-the Confederates would have to evacuate Atlanta. Sherman, therefore, decided to move six of his seven infantry corps against the supply lines. The army began pulling out of its positions on August 25 to hit the Macon & Western Railroad between Rough and Ready and Jonesborough. To counter the move, Hood sent Lt. General William J. Hardee with two corps to halt and possibly rout the Union troops, not realizing Sherman’s army was there in force. On August 31, Hardee attacked two Union corps west of Jonesborough but was easily repulsed. Fearing an attack on Atlanta, Hood withdrew one corps from Hardee’s force that night. The next day, a Union corps broke through Hardee’s line capturing several hundred prisoners. The rest retreated to Lovejoy’s Station. On the night of September 1, Hood evacuated Atlanta. Sherman did cut Hood’s supply line but failed to destroy Hardee’s command. At this point Sherman could have destroyed Hardee’s Corps and by placing a force between Lee and Hardee’s troops destroyed them and also between Hood and Stewart’s forces in Atlanta. But, he did not, by this action he probably extended the war almost 9 months.

1.  Lee received orders at Jonesboro at I A. M. September 1, to return to Atlanta. He was halted about six miles from Atlanta, and later that morning was ordered to move via McDonongh to Lovejoy's Station. T4 W. B. 633, 701, 965; 76 W. R. 1007, 1009, 1013.

2.  He added ; " You may give all the necessary orders that will bring" your command together to attack and pursue that part of the Confederate army now at Jonesborough by whatever road it takes, and I will give directions to the other armies to operate on its flanks. As soon as it is demonstrated on what road it retreats, we can arrange to head it off. My own impression is that Hardee will try to join Hood in Atlanta." 76 W. R. 719. See Sherman's previous despatch, p. 718. -ED.

On the 1st of September the work of destroying the railroad was resumed. That idea seemed uppermost in Sherman's mind. He wrote, the evening before, to General Thomas, "I don't believe anybody recognizes how important it is now to destroy the railroad." Stanley began the work with the Fourth Corps, at Rough and Ready, at 3 o'clock in the morning, moving south as he destroyed. At noon he had reached Morrow's, within four miles of Jonesboro. Here he was ordered to form on the left of the Fourteenth Corps, and move straight down upon that place. The Fourteenth Corps, less Carlin's division, after having destroyed the railroad till it came to the enemy's works, assaulted with Baird's and Morgan's divisions, carrying them in the most gallant manner, capturing nearly all Govan's brigade, including that general, and eight guns, also many colors. The Fourth and Twenty-third Corps, as ordered, moved down on the left of the Fourteenth to envelop Hardee's right; but owing to the lateness of the hour when they received the order, the delay of deployment, and the extremely difficult ground over which they had to move, it was dark before the enemy's flank was reached. So the late-formed plan for Hardee's capture entirely failed. While this movement to turn the enemy's right was going on, Howard remained substantially in his position of the day before, in line parallel to and west of the railroad, near Jonesboro. No movement of any kind was made on that flank to gain the railroad at Lovejoy's, or any other point south of Hardee. Sherman was very angry with Stanley because he did not sooner reach the enemy's lines on the left, but the delay was wholly due to his own reiterated persistence in destroying the railroad.

1.  Blair, with Seventeenth Corps and Kilpatrick's cavalry, was ordered to the right -with a view to getting on the railroad south of Jonesboro. 76 W. R. 750.751. -ED.

Even after the capture of Jonesboro by the most gallant conduct of the Fourteenth Corps, he adhered to the scheme he had thus far insisted on, ie., to follow up the enemy instead of cutting him off. He wrote to Thomas: "I wish your army to press directly after the enemy southward with all the speed and vigor possible till we reach Griffin," I about fifty miles south of Atlanta; and to Howard he wrote at 8 o'clock, the same night, September 1, "If the enemy [ie, Hardee] retreats, I think you could make progress by marching rapidly to Fayetteville, and then toward Griffin, falling on the flanks of the enemy."  He also directed Schofield to move on Thomas' left as far as Griffin. And at that very hour Hood, with two corps, was in Atlanta, and Hardee, with a single corps, was trying to extricate the remnant of his force from the disaster at Jonesboro. Sherman's plan left open the path from Atlanta south, and resulted in his having to follow the enemy, instead of cutting him off.  It was as if Grant, in the race after Lee, following the retreat from Richmond and Petersburg, had turned his whole force upon Lee's rear, instead of pushing on Sheridan to cut off the Confederate retreat. Only Sherman's opportunity to capture Hood was far greater than Grant's, seven months later, to capture Lee. Jonesboro was the Five Forks of the Western campaign. Kilpatrick's cavalry and Howard's infantry had the same chances - better chances - to confront Hood, than Sheridan and the Fifth and other corps had to confront Lee. The same results would also have been reached had Sherman allowed Thomas to move as he desired on the night of August 31.3

1. 76 W. R. 746.

2. 76 W. R. 751. Preceding this he wrote in this despatch, " Thomas will push him in the direction of the railroad south, Schofield will operate on the east, and you on the west of the railroad, and Blair can do good service hy feeling out and reaching the railroad if possible." - ED.

3. In neither case would Sherman's forces have interposed between the eastern and western Confederate armies, as Grant's army did in the Appomattox Campaign.

Hardee was enabled, during the night of September 1, to withdraw what was left of his corps, encumbered as it was with an immense wagon-train, without serious interference, to Lovejoy's Station, which he reached in the early morning of the 2d. Late in the afternoon of September I, Hood began to evacuate Atlanta. Stewards corps led, taking the road through McDonough, which leads east of Lovejoy's Station. By midnight the rear guard was on its way out of the long beleaguered town. About 2 o'clock a train of ordnance stores - eighty-one cars, with five locomotives - was burned, exploding with a tremendous noise which wakened all Sherman's army, twenty miles away. After an all-night march the advance of Hood's wagon-train reached McDonough at 2 P.M. of the 2d. General Stewart was here ordered into Lovejoy's to reenforce Hardee. Lee remained with the wagons, and on the 3d moved also to Lovejoy's, where, on the morning of the 4th, the entire rebel army was once more concentrated. "Finding the works at Jonesboro deserted on the morning of the 2d, Sherman pushed on south, and about 2 o'clock in the afternoon overtook the enemy in a very strong position behind good earthworks, a little north of Lovejoy's. He at once began preparations for attack, and about 5 o'clock an assault was made by the Fourth Corps, but without gaining any success. It was long after dark before the rest of the forces were in position to support the attacking column. The flanks of the enemy were well protected by swamps and thick shrubbery, through which it was almost impossible to make way. The next day Sherman received news from General Slocum that the Twentieth Corps had entered Atlanta. He at once telegraphed to General Halleck the joyful intelligence, in which he used the famous sentence: "So Atlanta is ours - and fairly won." He says also, what renders plain how he regarded his move, "I campaign, for Hood could have retreated eastward. His only material object in marching to the south - was to defend Andersonville with its 34,000 prisoners.  I shall not push much farther on this raid." 1This trivial designation of a great movement, involving such immense possibilities, reveals either his curious insensibility to its greatness, or his desire to belittle it because of its meagre results a The army halted for some time about Lovejoy's, apparently to impress on the rebel mind the fact that Sherman was not afraid, and was not going to retire till he was ready. On the night of the 5th the several corps were drawn out of their positions, and leisurely made their way north toward Atlanta. On the 8th the whole army was grouped about the city. The Twentieth Corps continued to garrison it, with Colonel Cogswell as Provost Marshal, and the Second Massachusetts as Provost Guard. The whole population was soon expelled, going north or south, as they chose, and by the 22d it was merely a garrison town. The railroad to Chattanooga was ready for operations on the 10th, and we were once more as completely a part of the body politic as are the people of Atlanta to-day. Hood's announcement of the results of the disastrous career of conquest, to which he had been assigned six weeks before, was made at Lovejoy's Station on the 3d of September, when he telegraphed to General Bragg at Richmond: " On the evening of the 30th [of August], the enemy made a lodgment across Flint River, near Jonesboro. We attacked them on the evening of the 31st with two corps, failing to dislodge them. This made it necessary to abandon Atlanta, which was done on the night of September 13. In forwarding this report, he also applied for reenforcements, " based upon the supposition that the enemy will not content himself with Atlanta, but will continue offensive movements." 4 In this supposition Hood and the country were in error. On the 4th of September Sherman

1. 76 W. R. 777.

2. In his letter of September 4 to Halleck he wrote, " I ought to have reached larger fruits of victory. A part of my army is too slow, but I feel my part was skillful and well executed, though I ought to have taken 10,000 of Hardee's men and all his artillery," etc. 76 W. B. 792. - ED.

3. 76 W. R. 1016.

4. 76 W. R. 1017.