Artwork by Rick Reeves depicting the consolidated 1st & 15th Arkansas Infantry during the Atlanta Campaign.
The battle of Jonesborough, GA, took place on August 31 - September 1, 1864 — the last battle of the Atlanta Campaign. In a major operation to sever the Confederate supply lines to Atlanta and hopefully force Hood's army out of the city, Sherman sent six of his seven corps to cut the Macon & Western and Atlanta & West Point railroads to the south and southwest. Hood, eventually learning of the maneuver, dispatched William J. Hardee with two corps to halt the Federal advance.
The forces met just north of the small town of Jonesborough (now spelled Jonesboro), 15 miles south of Atlanta. After Confederate attacks on the first day failed to rout the two initial Federal corps to arrive on the field, Hardee then entrenched his troops and awaited the Union offensive the following day. Hood, believing Atlanta itself was under threat, had recalled S.D. Lee's corps back to the city; that left Hardee with only his own corps to hold the position, unbeknownst that he was actually facing the bulk of Sherman's army.
Map of the second day of the battle from William R. Scaife's The Campaign for Atlanta.
Though depicted on the above map, the IV Corps was tearing up the Macon & Western R.R. most of the day and didn't arrive on the field until later.
While the XV Corps made a demonstration to the Confederate front, the XIV Corps attacked Hardee's right flank, concentrating on the bend in the Confederate line held by Daniel C. Govan's Arkansas Brigade of Patrick Cleburne's Division and Joseph H. Lewis's Kentucky Orphan Brigade to their right.
The initial assaults were repulsed, although a second massed charge managed to break through the position. Govan's and Lewis's men fought stubbornly at close range, often hand-to-hand, but some troops were soon overwhelmed and surrendered; the Federals then rolled up the line, capturing Govan's Brigade en masse.
Cleburne and Hardee quickly shifted brigades from other sections of the line to check the Federal breakthrough and hold the right flank together. Fortunately for them it was late in the day before the IV Corps got into position and no other coordinated assaults were made, allowing Hardee to withdraw his corps south to Lovejoy's Station. However, the supply lines to Atlanta were severed and Hardee was cut off from the city, so Hood was forced to evacuate the army from Atlanta that same night.
Period illustration of the prisoners captured at Jonesborough being marched from there to Atlanta. Harper's Weekly Magazine.
Govan and about 600 of his Arkansans were taken prisoner, as well as part of Lewis's Kentuckians. Five battle flags were captured from the infantrymen, all but one of them from Govan's Brigade. Also among the captured were the guns and many of the men belonging to Key's Arkansas Battery and Swett's Mississippi Battery bolstering the position, including both their colors.
A prisoner exchange was almost immediately agreed upon by Hood and Sherman, and only a few weeks later on September 18 the Confederate troops were exchanged for Northern prisoners at Andersonville, eventually rejoining their commands. Govan's Arkansans (or "Joshes" as they were known by the Texans in the AoT) were so ashamed of their capture that, upon returning to camp, they put out a petition to Granbury's Texas Brigade ("Chubs") asking if they had lost confidence in them, and if so, were prepared to request a transfer. But the Texans forgave them for their misfortune, visiting their camp en masse to give the Joshes a hearty welcome back.
Hardee flag of the consolidated 1st & 15th Arkansas Infantry, Govan's Brigade. Captured by the 14th Michigan.
The flags captured at Jonesborough, on the other hand, were forwarded to the U.S. War Department and held in the basement there with other captured Confederate colors, until later returned to their native states in 1905.
Consolidated 6th & 7th Arkansas Infantry, Govan's Brigade. Captured by Pvt. Henry B. Mattingly, Co. E, 10th Kentucky.
All of the Hardee pattern flags captured were issued out to Cleburne's Division in spring of 1864. While his division was allowed to retain their famous banner when the rest of the army switched to the standardized Confederate Battle Flag after Joe Johnston assumed command, Cleburne's entire division was, however, issued new Hardee flags to replace their old tattered ones. These new flags were then carried into the Atlanta Campaign.
Consolidated 8th & 19th Arkansas Infantry, Govan's Brigade. Captured by 2nd Lt. Jerry Kuder, Co. A, 74th Indiana.
Most of these were decorated with the crossed cannons honor, which was awarded for capturing enemy artillery pieces in battle. That honor was unique only to the Army of Tennessee. The cannons were supposed to be inverted (muzzles facing downward) so as not to be mistaken for an artillery unit, but they are all right-side up on these Hardee flags.
3rd Confederate Infantry (aka Marmaduke's 18th Arkansas Infantry), Govan's Brigade. Captured by the 113th Ohio. The 3rd Confederate was so-named because it consisted of men from Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee.
Capt. Thomas J. Key's Arkansas Battery (aka the Helena Artillery). Captured by Pvt. Gilbert S. Fleming, Co. B, 52nd Ohio. This battery served in Cleburne's Division or alongside it as part of Hardee's Corps throughout most of the war.
All of the above flags are now in the collection of the Old State House Museum, Little Rock, Ark. Also to note: the other numbers on the flags, like the 231 above, are the U.S. War Department capture numbers.
Capt. Charles Swett's Mississippi Battery (aka the Warren Light Artillery). Captured by the 16th Illinois.
Swett's battery also served with Cleburne's Division through most of the war. This flag is now on display at the Old Courthouse Museum in Vicksburg.
6th Kentucky Infantry, Kentucky Orphan Brigade. Captured by the 10th Michigan.
The Orphan Brigade was in William Bate's Division, so they were issued the standardized Confederate Battle Flag in early 1864 like the rest of the AoT. This flag was manufactured in Augusta, GA, either by the Augusta Clothing Depot or civilian contractor J.B. Platt & Co. Today it is in the collection of the Kentucky Historical Society.
"The Orphans" by Rick Reeves.