"The Forgotten Raid"
General James Harrison Wilson's Union
General James H. Wilson, USA began a large sweeping cavalry raid across Alabama and into
Georgia. He brought a force of 13,480 men on this raid to destroy the manufacturing capability of the
deep South. During middle March-early April 1865 his force spread across Central Alabama to
destroy mills for cotton, and factories in Selma, Montgomery, and Montevallo. He attacked the coal
mines and foundry's just south of Birmingham. General Nathan Bedford Forrest's Confederate cavalry
troops were no match and had to pull away from Gen. Wilson's onslaught at Selma. There were heavy
casualties during this engagement.
As General Wilson moved into Columbus, Georgia, he destroyed the mills and overwhelmed the
Confederates on April 16, 1865. Even though General Robert E. Lee had already surrendered the
Army of Virginia and President Abraham Lincoln had been assassinated this force continued onward.
General Wilson received orders to spread out across the area because the Confederates President
Jefferson Davis had escaped Richmond, VA and was known to be headed south through Georgia to
Florida to get on a ship bound for Texas.
General Wilson's many brigades were dispatched across West Central and Central Georgia. They
were to move on Atlanta, La Grange, Griffin, Forsyth, and Macon.
As his men entered these towns they destroyed rail lines, and mills of manufacturing.
Col. Minty's brigade of men were to move through Thomaston and on to Macon.
At Thomaston, Col. Minty's men caused severe damage to the mills in the town.
The Union forces destroyed the railroad and burned warehouses in Griffin. General Stoneman's
Brigade entered Henry County in search of President Davis.
In McDonough, the Union forces under Stoneman were going door to door. The troopers went to the
Nolan House at about 2:00AM and Mrs. Nolan would not allow the Yankee troops into her home,
and the soldiers that surrounded the home left without incident. The Nolan House was located across
the street from the Methodist Church on todays Griffin Street.
The Raid of this very large Union Cavalry force under General Wilson caused severe damage to the
infrastructure of Central Georgia . By attacking the manufacturing establishments, and disrupting the rail
lines this would cripple the area for some time.
During the Wilson Raid, he captured over 6,000 Confederate troops, killed and wounded another
On May 10, 1865, a Brigade of General Wilson's men captured the former President of the
Confederacy Jefferson Davis at Irwinville, Georgia. This town is southwest of Fitzgerald. Other
brigades of Gen. Wilson's force had captured former Vice-President
Alexander H. Stevens, Georgia Governor Joseph E. Brown, Georgia Senator
Benjamin Hill, and the Commandant of the Andersonville Prisoner of War Camp
Henry Wirz. General Wilson's forces were fully disbanded by July 1865.
It has been debated for years as to whether this Raid was necessary since the war for all purposes was
over. It is believed that this raid was in many respects harsher than Sherman's March to the Sea six
months earlier. In respect to the military objectives the raid was a success. In human and property cost
it was a disaster for the people of Alabama and Georgia. The Raid was in a lot of respects a form of
punishment to the deep South. In today's world some of the tactics used at this time would be
considered a war crime. This is a summary of the "Forgotten Raid" of General Wilson of 1865.
Many believed that the Union Army had left Georgia after the March to the Sea but they returned for
this Raid and had men stationed throughout the area during the Reconstrution until 1877.
1. O.R. Washington DC. Wilson's Raid.
2. History of Henry County, 1921, Miss Elizabeth Nolan.
3. Mother of Counties, 1971, Mrs. Rainer.
4. Battles and Leaders of the Civil War. Compilation.