Let’s imagine dusty roads, couriers running back and forth, of cursing and sweating men pulling artillary from one position to another. Let’s imagine men digging in for safety’s sake. Then let’s imagine the picture of helpless old men and women and children, being forced from their homes to get out of the way of the Damnyanks pass in review. John McKelvey, Kingston’s Number One Grand Old Man, then a mere lad, and his sister Mrs. Kate McKelvey Quillian, were in that house. Mr. McKelvey saw Johnston and Polk. The family was told to move, moving to McDonough, where they again saw the Yankees on the infamous “march to the sea.”
FEDERALS MOVE IN
Now let’s go into the cabin. Stern old Polk at a table, map stretched out over the table, and in the light of the candles one could see noble Joe Johnston, and badly disabled Hood. Outside, horses were tied to posts and trees, while sleepy couriers awaited their turn to carry some message to distant lines. Up in Cassville the Federals had moved into town. Hardee, another corps commander, was not present.
“Old Joe” had assured his troops he would turn and whip the Federals. All of his men were anxious to fight, however on the morning of the 19th Hood had failed in his task. This brought on the conference at the McKelvey home. There was some argument about what to do on the 20th. Hood and Polk said they could not hold their lines. “Old Joe” said they could. Hardee, coming in as the meeting was finished said the lines could be held. Hood again repeated that his and Polk’s lines could not be held. Then came the fatal decision to fall back south of the Etowah, and Johnston lost his golden opportunity for victory.
Here are some of the results of the tragic ending of the conference, or we might call it the “council of war.” It was the direct cause of Johnston being relieved of his command in front of Atlanta, resulted in Hood being given that command and against Hood’s wishes; it ended in the loss of Atlanta, had a great bearing on the end of the war, and on the forces fighting in Virginia; it caused the great tragedy of Hood’s bloody Tennessee Campaign; the loss of many gallant officers at Franklin; the drawing of Sherman’s troops back into Bartow county; the burning of Cassville, and finally the hellish “March to the Sea” by Sherman.
It caused Hood to be relieved of his command; of charges being brought against him; the breaking up of the Confederate Army Tennessee; the call by Lee to Johnston to “stop” Sherman’s march north; the burning and sacking of Columbia; the torch being applied to hundreds of homes, and finally the battle of Bentonville, N. C., where in March of 1865—with all chances of victory gone, Johnston again met Sherman in battle, and nearly won a grand victory. And, finally at Durham Station, N. C., caused noble and grand “Old Joe” Johnston to surrender to Sherman, Hood’s march out of Georgia—thence to Tennessee, and the terrible battle at Franklin, with the loss of 6,000 men of the Confederacy. All of this should prove the “folly” of the tragic night at the McKelvey house. That terrible night of May 19, 1864.
I again repeat that the William N. McKelvey Home is the Number One Historic Spot of the entire Atlanta Campaign. I believe it so much that I am sending along with this article a small check to be the FIRST donation toward marking the historic spot. How about you?