"The Battle of Jonesboro"
Atlanta Historical Society Journal
Fall of 1984
Franklin M. Garrett Volume XXVIII, Number 3
Editor Emeritus Fall Edition
Bradley R. Rice
Harvey H. Jackson
Book Review Editor
Jane Powers Weldon
Director of Publications
"The Battle of Jonesboro"
J. Britt McCarley
The following is the account of the Battle of Jonesboro by J. Britt McCarley. It is an
excellent piece. Also, in the pages will be included research on the Battle of Jonesboro. Archaeological
work done in 1986-1987 will also be included. This
was a key to the end of the Atlanta Campaign of 1864.
J. Britt McCarley
As a siege of Atlanta dragged on into the third week of August 1864, Sherman decided to give his
cavalry one more chance to isolate Hood's army by cutting the M&W Railroad. On August 18, Gen.
Judson Kilpatrick set out with a force of Federal cavalry to a point south of Jonesboro, a small town on
the M&W Railroad sixteen miles south of Atlanta. There the Union horsemen attempted to wreck the
tracks but were forced to withdraw by Gen. William H. Jackson's Confederate cavalrymen and a group
of Southern infantry. The day after the attack, with the damage to the railroad repaired, supplies came
into Atlanta as usual.
This latest experience with cavalry convinced Sherman that only infantry could successfully demolish a
railroad. On August 25, therefore Sherman withdrew his armies from the siege lines about Atlanta. He
sent Gen. Henry W. Slocum's 20th Corps to protect the W&A Railroad bridge and other crossings
over the Chattahoochee River. Sherman ordered the balance of his armies, six corps and attached
formations, to begin marching to the vicinity of Sandtown near the Chattahoochee River and Red Oak
Station, a small village on the A&WP Railroad about eleven miles from the Center of Atlanta. This
railroad joined the M&W at East Point, from whence they ran as a single track into Atlanta. Before the
Union move got underway, Hood sent Gen. Joseph Wheeler's Confederate cavalry corps on a raid
behind Union lines to cut the W&A Railroad, which was Sherman's supply line north to Chattanooga,
Tennessee, and beyond. Wheeler's raid enjoyed only limited success against the W&A, and any
further expectations for it were dashed when Wheeler veered into east Tennessee and away from
Sherman's railroad supply lines running through the central portion of that state. With the departure of
the bulk of his cavalry, Hood was deprived of precise knowledge of Sherman's moves late in August,
but the Confederate commander was at least aware of the general direction of the Federal marches.
Sherman had assigned lines of march to each of his three army commanders. Through the first few days
of operations, Federal columns closed in on their principal
objective--Jonesboro. Schofield led his army to the village of Rough and Ready which was on the
M&W a few miles north of Jonesboro. Thomas's Army of the Cumberland passed through Red Oak
Station, tore up the tracks there, and then continued on to the M&W at a point midway between Rough
and Ready and Jonesboro. Howard's troops, the victors at the Battles of Atlanta and Ezra Church,
marched eastward through Fairburn in the direction of Jonesboro, where they were expected to wreck
the M&W and thereby sever Hood's remaining supply line once and for all.
Hood's response to the Federal moves was to send portions of his army to intercept the Union forces as
they neared the M&W. For the operation, Hardee was put in command of a force consisting of his
own corps, temporarily under Gen. Patrick R. Cleburne, and Gen. Stephen D. Lee's corps. Cleburne's
troops were sent to Rough and Ready, while Lee's men were directed to occupy East Point. A small
detachment of infantry and cavalry was sent to Jonesboro to warn of any Union threats in that area.
Thus, a line of Confederate formations stretching along the M&W from East Point to Jonesboro would
be in a position to defend that vital supply route.
General Howard's Union Army of the Tennessee advanced toward Jonesboro principally by way of
Fairburn Road, which crossed the Flint River about a mile and a half west of Jonesboro. This is roughly
the path of Georgia Highway 138 today. Here the Union cavalrymen drove their Confederate
counterparts away from the bridge. Howard's men then began to cross over to the high ground east of
the river. The rest of the Union armies converging on Jonesboro spent the day destroying railroad tracks
in the usual Federal way by heating the rails and bending them into loops that were known as Shermans
"The Battle of Jonesboro: The First Day"
By late afternoon of August 31, General Howard's three corps were deployed on both the east and
west banks of the Flint River. On the east side of the river, the position was composed of a ridge line
about three-quarters of a mile west of the M&W which ran north and south through Jonesboro.
Through the ridge system ran Fairburn Road, which extended east to Jonesboro and west across the
Flint to and beyond the Renfroe Plantation. Converging on the Renfroe place the day before,
Howard's men moved westward on Fairburn Road toward the Flint River in order to replenish their
canteens after a fatiguing march southward from the trenches of Atlanta. Logan's 15th Corps formed
the center of Howard's position and lay astride Fairburn Road. On the right of logan and extending
westward across the river was Gen. Thomas E.G. Ransom's 16th Corps. Running northwestward on
the west bank of the Flint River ws Gen. Francis P. Blair's 17th Corps. Before and during the first day's
fighting, one of Blair's divisions was moved to the east bank and deployed on Logan's left to provide
support for that flank of the 15th Corps. Early next morning,
the remaining division of the 17th Corps took a position on the left of the division that had already
arrived and thus extended Blair's line toward the Flint River. By the time of the Confederate attack
upon the Union forces in somewhat intermingled, but the geographic position of the army remained the
Beginning during the night of August 30-31, Hood sent Hardee's and Lee's corps to parry Sherman's
thrust toward Jonesboro. Once the movement was underway, Hood summoned these two generals to
Atlanta for a conference. The resulting plan called for Hardee, with the two corps under his command,
to attack Howard and drive the Army of the Tennessee back west across the Flint River. Lee's corps
would then be sent back toward Atlanta to attack the left of Sherman's forces that were operating
against the railroads. The result, Hood hoped, would be to drive all the Union forces threatening
Jonesboro back to the Chattahoochee River. All of Lee's and Cleburne's corps had not yet arrived at
Jonesboro by the morning of August 31, the time Hood had set for the attack. Not until approximately
1:30 PM were the last of the weary Confederates in place and ready for battle. Cleburne's three
divisions, commanded by Gens. Mark P. Lowrey, John C. Brown, and George E. Maney, were
deployed in the vicinity of the intersection of Fayetteville Road (GA Hwy 54) and Flint River Road,
facing northwestward in the direction of a deep gully that protected a portion of the Union line and that
would be an important factor in the first day's fighting at Jonesboro Lee's corps, composed of the
divisions of Gens. Patton Anderson, Henry D. Clayton, and Carter L. Stevenson, was positioned along
Fayetteville Road in the vicinity of its intersection with North Avenue (GA Hwy 138) facing west
toward the Federal position.
At 3:00 PM, hours late, Cleburne's corps at last advanced and his skirmishers, clashed with Federal
pickets. The noise from this fight deceived S.D. Lee into believing that the battle itself had begun, so he
prematurely advanced his corps and struck Howard's Army, principally the front of Logan's 15th
Corps. The Federals fired from behind hastily built field entrenchments and quickly repulsed Lee's
corps. to the south, Cleburne's divisions advanced into the gully protecting Howard's right and their
lines became broken. This Confederate attack also fell on a body of Federal cavalry under General
Kilpatrick, which was chased across the Flint River. Hardee sent word to Lee requesting that Lee
renew his assault. Lee replied that this was impossible because of the timidity of his troops during their
first attempt on the Union line. Hardee ordered all the Confederates to break off their attacks and
withdraw. Thus the first day's fighting at Jonesboro came to an end. The Confederate losses were
staggering when compared to those of the Federals. Out of 23,811 engaged, Hardee's forces suffered
1,725 casualties. By contrast, the Union losses were only 179 out of 14,170. Once again, poorly
coordinated Confederate attacks against entrenched Union positions resulted in an enormous disparity
of causalties and a Confederate defeat with dire consequences.
Even before he knew the results of the fighting at Jonesboro, Hood had apparently decided that Atlanta
would have to be given up. Ordered to East Point late in the evening of August 31, Lee's corps helped
cover the evacuation of the city. At Jonesboro, Hardee had to overextend his line in order to cover the
front of his and Lee's corps. Though he was ordered to prevent further destruction of the M&W and to
protect Macon from a possible Federal thrust in that direction, Hardee's position at Jonesboro actually
assisted in shielding the Confederate withdrawal from Atlanta. From the available evidence, it is
impossible to know just exactly what was going on in Hood's mind concerning Atlanta's abandonment
or perhaps its last-ditch defense. Hood's removal of his army's subsistence and a large portion of its
ordnance stores to Jonesboro for safety before the Battle of Jonesboro for the interpretation that he had
already determined to give over possession of the city to the Federals.
"The Battle of Jonesboro: The Second Day"
Sherman on August 31 ordered Thomas and Schofield to advance their armies to the M&W at a point
north of Jonesboro. From there, they would proceed south along the tracks and attempt to seize the
town. Gen. Jefferson C. Davis's 14th Corps arrived first, and around 5:00 PM on September 1, it
assaulted the northern portion of the Confederate line in the vicinity of the Warren House, north of he
Confederate Cemetery in Jonesboro. At the same time, Howard's troops engaged Hardee's front west
of town in order to prevent any reinforcements from being sent to counter the attack of the 14th Corps.
Davis' assault successfully breached the Southern position; a large portion of Gne. David S. Stanley's
4th Corps was summoned by Sherman to move forward and assist Davis in possibly capturing all of
Hardee's Confederate corps. Davis, however, ws delayed by rough terrain and did not arrive until
darkness had set in--too late to assist in the assault. Blair was told to move his men to the south and
block any retreat toward Lovejoy Station but this move was not completed. Sherman ordered Gen.
Henry W. Slocum to advance his corps toward Atlanta and test the strength of the Confederates
Statistics for the Southern casualties on the second day of fighting at Jonesboro are incomplete, but
Hardee lost well over 1,000 of a total of 12,661. Because of the frontal assault of the 14th Corps the
Federals suffered 1,169 casualties of 20,460 engaged. Over the course of the two day battle at
Jonesboro, Hood's forces incurred about twice as many casualties as Sherman's--roughly 2,700
Southerners to approximately 1,300 Northerners. Again the Confederates were paying a high price in
lives without achieving a good result.
On the evening of September 1, Hood's three corps were spread out from Atlanta to Jonesboro to
cover the city's evacuation. Throughout the night, a series of thunderous explosions heard even at
Jonesboro told Sherman that something was afoot in Atlanta. Either Hood, in preparation for leaving
Atlanta, was attempting to destroy anything that might be useful to the Federals, or the Confederates
had discovered and were attacking General Slocum's lone 20th Corps guarding the Chattahoochee
River crossings. In fact, the Confederates were systematically blowing up a large amount of railroad
rolling stock, including many boxcars of ammunition and great quantities of quartermaster and ordnance
stores. By dawn of September 2, the work of destruction was done, and Hood had withdrawn his
three corps down to Lovejoy Station, where they entrenched. After he determined the strength of this
position by probing it with lines of battle, Sherman decided not to storm it directly.
Sherman heard the explosions of the night before in Jonesboro and also Gen. Slocum heard them at his
position closer to Atlanta. By morning a letter was presented to General William T. Ward of the 20th
Corps that read: "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." Sherman informed President Lincoln on
September 3rd by saying "Atlanta is ours, and fairly won." Officially, on September 8, 1864 General
William T. Sherman ended the Atlanta Campaign. They occupied the city until mid-November 1864.
Before leaving Atlanta they destroyed anything might be useful to the Confederate government and set
out on the famous March to the Sea.
1. The O.R. Washington DC 1880-1901.
2. Shermans Campaign for Atlanta 1972.
3. Hardee and the Atlanta Campaign 1972.
4. AHB of 1934 by Franklin Garrett and Wilbur Kurtz.
5. Campaign Diaries 1938.
6. The Civil War Letters 1959.
7. Home Letters of Gen. Sherman 1909.
8. Harpers Weekly 1864.
9. Site work for AHS by MAM.
10. Georgia Dept. of Archives.
11. The Atlanta Historical Society.
12. History of the Army of the Cumberland 1875.
13. Army Life of an Illinois Soldier 1906.
14. A Checkered Life 1883.
15. Private Chapter of the War 1880.
16. Advance and Retreat, 1880.
17. Journal of a Confederate Soldier. 1956.
18. Under the Stars and Bars, 1900.
19. Life in Dixie During the War, 1894.
20. Gen. George H. Thomas, 1964.
"The Key Leaders of the Battle of Jonesboro"
In the following list of the names of he key leaders of the Battle of Jonesboro, will be found the names
of some very good and talented fighting men both Union and Confederate. Also, included are some
photo's of some of the leaders involved.
But as in every battle someone usually loses and in this case the Confederates under Gen. Hardee
were overwhelmed by the forces under Gen. Howard. This battle lasted two days with great loss of
life, injured men, and destruction of property. This would drive the remains of Hardee's men to
Lovejoy Station about five miles to the south.
This would bring about Gen. Hood's evacuation of Atlanta the following day.
"Examples of Two Key Homes used in the
Battle of Jonesboro 1864"
Here in the following examples you will see the importance of the Warren House
and the McCord House "Stately Oaks" during the Battle of Jonesboro. The Warren House was used
as a hospital and headquarters for General Thomas USA. Battle scars remain in and around the
home. The McCord House was used as an encampment. There was no battle damage because the
house was just far enough to the NNW to be out of the fighting. There were many other homes and
structures in Jonesboro used for
hospitals, headquarters, and places of retreat for both the US and CS armies involved.