The last Confederate troops to leave Atlanta; 2 Sep 1864.

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31 Aug 1864:

On this date the Battle of Jonesboro, Georgia just south of Atlanta had begun and it would be the last battle waged and fought between Union Major General William Tecumseh Sherman and Lt. General John Bell Hood for the City of Atlanta.

Brig. General Samuel Wragg Ferguson`s Cavalry Brigade, to include the 2nd Alabama Cavalry Regiment were reported operating and skirmishing with the enemy between "Howells Mill" and Nancy Creek in the vicinity of Peachtree Creek along Buck Head Road. Which is where the 2nd Alabama Cavalry Regiment bivouacked for the night as they established their camp and set out their Pickets and placed Guards for the night close to "Howell`s Mill" adjacent to the creek until they were awoken in the early hours, about 3 AM long before sun rise and ordered to get to Atlanta post haste.

1 Sep 1864:

Early in the Morning around 3 am Brig. General Samuel Wragg Ferguson`s Cavalry Brigade was ordered to break camp at "Howells Mill" in the vicinity of Peachtree Creek along Buck Head Road by Lt. General John Bell Hood and to get to the City of Atlanta without hesitation. As they crossed over Peachtree Creek on Buck Head Road they destroyed the bridge burning it to the ground as they hastened to get to Atlanta as ordered. Once they had arrived to Atlanta they were ordered to dismount and occupy the trenches along side the Infantry and to await further orders. This as the Battle of Jonesboro was playing itself out. They were informed that if Atlanta should fall that they would cover the retreat of the Confederate Army of Tennessee as they were evacuating the city. They occupied the trenches of the main Confederate breast works located in the City closest to the center square (Statehouse).

At days end the Battle of Jonesboro, Georgia, which had been being waged all day, was a victory for the U.S. Forces under Major General William Tecumseh Sherman which ensured him that Atlanta would soon fall. After the Confederate loss was acknowledged around 5 pm the order from Lt. General John Bell Hood issued orders for all remaining Confederate Soldiers to evacuate Atlanta. The evacuation started just after dark along the McDonough and Jonesboro road withdrawing south to Lovejoy`s Station with the last of the Confederate Infantry and Artillery leaving before midnight. Hood had ordered all of the locomotives and cars at the Depot to be fired upon his giving the order, but was delaying giving that order having hopes that his quartermaster could load the ammunition, black powder and shells onto wagons to be taken with them as they retreated toward`s Lovejoy`s Station.

After darkness had fallen, while the Confederate Army under General Hood and Hardee were still retreating out of Atlanta and heading towards Lovejoy`s Station along McDonough road, heavy explosions were heard and seen in the direction of Atlanta and beyond. Brig. General Ferguson and his Cavalry Brigade left the trenches and mounted their chargers to blow up the Confederate Ordnance train`s left abandoned and unable to be moved at the Atlanta Depot which consisted of numerous cars loaded with black powder, shells, cannon shot, ammunition and other Military Ordnance. All in all 81 car loads of ammunition and black powder along with 5 locomotives were blown up and destroyed by General Ferguson`s Cavalry Brigade during this single action. Two more Locomotives were badly damaged but not wholly destroyed, one of those was the famed "General" (later restored), which was driven in the back of one of the ammunition cars to make it inoperable, it was therefore damaged but not completely destroyed. In addition to the cars and Locomotives which were destroyed in the blast, the Schofield and Markham`s Rolling Mill alongside the tracks was also completely destroyed by the explosion and fire, leaving nothing but the Chimney`s visible and still standing. It was reported that the continuous explosions were so loud and bright that they could be seen for as far as 20 miles away. All night long the explosions went off and the fire kept the night`s sky around Atlanta glowing bright. Not a person could sleep in the City with many homes being evacuated by their occupants who came out side to watch the spectacle and try and find out what was happening and who was responsible.

Sherman, 20 miles away at the time of the explosion, after seeing and hearing the explosion notified General Slocum and a force of Federals was at once ordered of each division to make a reconnaissance in the direction of Atlanta to try and determine what had just happened, and more importantly what it meant. After the explosion Brig. General Ferguson and his Cavalry Brigade dismounted once again and returned to the trenches of Atlanta to enjoy the great spectacle. They thought that their wait would be short, and for hours they waited on the Federal Army to come but no one came to the city until just about daybreak hours after the explosion was set off.

Here is what Brig. General Ferguson wrote in his daily journal and memoirs regarding the explosion:

"the fighting around Atlanta was continued and desperate. In the end the place was evacuated. I was sent into the trenches to prevent the movement being discovered any sooner than possible. I did not really expect to remain in them more than two or three hours, for hardly as night set in when the bursting of shells and explosion of ammunition of all kinds must have let the enemy know what was on foot, and what could a Cavalry Brigade with one fourth of the men holding horses, accomplish against Sherman`s Army."

What he was speaking to at the end of his entry: "and what could a Cavalry Brigade with one fourth of the men holding horses, accomplish against Sherman`s Army." Was a jab at Sherman, because when he took to the trenches it was Cavalry protocol after dismounting for one trooper to hold his own horse and the horses of three other troopers at the rear of the trench line, allowing the rest of the dismounted Cavalry to take to the trenches. There-by reducing the effect of the entire Brigade by 25%. So he was saying that with only one Cavalry Brigade left in Atlanta, reduced even further to 75% strength because of 25% acting as horse holders they could still be quite effective in creating so much damage. Ferguson later admitted several times that he and his Cavalry Brigade were the ones responsible for firing the Locomotives and cars full of ammunition and black powder the last night that they were in Atlanta as Hood and the Army of Tennessee were in general retreat towards Lovejoy`s Station.

2 Sep 1864:

By midnight the only Confederate Forces reported left in Atlanta was Brig. General Samuel Wragg Ferguson and his Cavalry Brigade, being comprised of the 2nd Alabama Cavalry Regiment, the 56th Alabama Partisan Rangers, the 12th Mississippi Cavalry Regiment (Col. Inge), Perrin`s Regiment of Mississippi Cavalry (11th Mississippi Cavalry), Miller`s Regiment of Mississippi Cavalry (9th Mississippi Cavalry) and Captain Thomas Flourney (Sanders' Tennessee Battalion) who was the Scout Company for Ferguson`s Cavalry Brigade. while the rest of the Confederate Army were withdrawing as they marched out of the City along the McDonough and Jonesboro Road making their way south of Atlanta toward Lovejoy`s Station some distance away.

Brig. General Samuel Wragg Ferguson went on to state in his daily Journal and memoirs that:

"the night was simply infernal, the explosions were incessant and appalling. Daylight came still no signs of the enemy. Finally after sunrise they appeared in three lines of battle. I called my men in from the trenches and advised the Mayor of the City to go out with a flag of truce and surrender the city, telling him he could assure the Federal General that there would not be any firing in the streets."

Here is the account of Captain H. M. Scott of the 70th Indiana Volunteers, 3rd U.S. Army Division, 20th Army Corps who was present and took part in the Surrender of Atlanta that night:

"After entering the Breast Works of the enemy a few Rebels were seen retiring towards the place and we immediately gave pursuit. A few moments later however Rebel Cavalry (General Ferguson`s Brigade) formed in line across each of the streets leading toward us and a considerable force moved to our left, drew up in line and fired upon us. As the rest of my Cavalry had not yet made its appearance, we drew out a distance".

He went on to write in his report:

"As we were approached by the Mayor with his formal surrender General Ferguson`s Cavalry were then just retiring from the City after the General had agreed to withdraw without offering us resistance in order to insure the safety of non-combatants".

That would be Colonel John Coburn the Commander of the 3rd Division, 20th U.S. Army Corps who upon reaching the City of Atlanta hours later at daybreak was met by Mayor James M. Calhoun of Atlanta who made a formal surrender of the town to him with these words:

"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".

According to some of the Federal accounts in their daily activity reports stated that Ferguson and his Cavalry Brigade left the trenches and took to their mounts as soon as the Federal Forces were making the approaches of the City, and that Ferguson`s Cavalry Brigade formed two different lines of battle at the City Square near the State House and that they fired on the Federals as they came into town as warning shots just before Mayor Calhoun was sent out to discuss the terms of surrender. Ferguson`s terms were simple, that he and his Cavalry Brigade would turn and leave the City giving it to Federal control without a fight if the Federal General guaranteed that it would not be burned and the citizens would not be harmed or harassed.

Several different accounts in the "OR" confirm this account. Either way Brig. General Samuel Wragg Ferguson and his Cavalry Brigade, being comprised of the 2nd Alabama Cavalry Regiment, the 56th Alabama Partisan Rangers, the 12th Mississippi Cavalry Regiment (Col. Inge), Perrin`s Regiment of Mississippi Cavalry (11th Mississippi Cavalry), Miller`s Regiment of Mississippi Cavalry (9th Mississippi Cavalry) and Captain Thomas Flourney (Sanders' Tennessee Battalion) who was the Scout Company for Ferguson`s Cavalry Brigade, were the very last Confederate Forces to leave the City of Atlanta after they supervised and over-saw the surrender between General Slocum, Colonel John Coburn and Mayor James M. Calhoun.

Then as Ferguson`s Cavalry Brigade left the city along the McDonough road towards Lovejoy`s Station while performing a rear guard action regarding the retreat of Hood`s Army of Tennessee from Atlanta, Ferguson and his Cavalry Brigade went by Decatur and blew a second of Hood`s Confederate Ordnance trains. All of the trains which they blew, first at Atlanta and then at Decatur with-in a 12 hour time period, could not be moved because of the railroad tracks being torn up and ripped out for miles in every direction of Atlanta so as opposed to leaving all of the Ordnance to the Federal Army to later be used against the Confederate States Army Ferguson decided to blow the trains up instead. Some accounts found in the "OR" reveal that General Hood was not too pleased with this action as he wanted for the trains to be unloaded, the content to be placed in numerous wagons (hundreds if not thousands) and moved to another storage facility. Hood blamed his quartermaster for not getting the Ordnance moved. But under the circumstances this expectation was unrealistic as Ferguson and his Cavalry Brigade had neither the man power nor the time required to meet these expectations. So he did the only thing that he could, he blew the Ordnance Trains and destroyed as much as he could, leaving nothing to the enemy that could later be used against him.

Brig. General Samuel Wragg Ferguson speaks about the second ordnance being blown in his daily Journal and memoirs, he wrote:

"I hoped thus to save the place from being burned (Atlanta). It escaped then only to be deliberately fired by Sherman a few days later. When I reached Decatur I found a large train of ammunition abandoned there. I had no means of moving it so set it on fire and continued my march to the sounds of exploding ammunition. The road in rear of our Army now presented a very different sight from that to which I had been accustomed from Kingston to the Chattahoochee River (at the beginning of the Atlanta Campaign). In all that distance I had brought up the rear on one of the main roads over which the Army (Confederate) had retreated, yet never encountered a broken or abandoned wagon. Now the road was strewn with wrecks of all kinds."

Hoods Ordinance Train destruction Best best copy!!!.jpg
 
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Below are substantiating reports from the "OR" regarding the surrender and Ferguson`s Cavalry Brigade being the last Confederate presence at Atlanta on the morning of the surrender.

The Official Record on 2 Sep 1864 regarding Ferguson`s being last to leave Atlanta:

Reports of Maj. Gen. Henry W. Slocum, U. S. Army, commanding Twentieth Army Corps, of operations August 25-September 8. Atlanta, Ga., September 3, 1864.

We entered Atlanta yesterday at 11 a. m. The enemy had left, with the exception of some cavalry. They marched on the McDonough road. They destroyed 80 cars loaded with ammunition; also some engines, We captured 3 engines, a few cars, 11 pieces of artillery, 500 small-arms, and about 50 prisoners. We now hold the works of the enemy in strong force, and are safe at the bridge.

H. W. SLOCUM,
Major- General.


Headquarters Twentieth Corps, Atlanta, Ga., September 3, 1864.

General : I sent out a reconnoitering party early on the morning of the 2d (as I had done on each previous day). They arrived near Atlanta about 10 a. m., and were met by the mayor, and the city was surrendered to them. On entering, however, a portion of Ferguson's cavalry were found in the city and a few shots were exchanged with them. I at once moved forward all of my command that could safely be spared from the bridge-heads and occupied the city, and now feel that our position is safe, both at this point as well as at the bridges. We occupy the entire line of rebel works at this place. We have captured about 100 prisoners, 14pieces of artillery, and several thousand stand of small-arms. The rebels before leaving the city destroyed 7 locomotives, 81 cars loaded with ammunition, small-arms, and stores. The railroad is repaired and in working order to this place. I have ordered the ammunition and a large portion of the subsistence stores now at the bridge to be sent here. The enemy that occupied the city moved out apparently very much demoralized. They moved on the McDonough road with the intention of joining their main army. General Hood left here on the night previous to our entrance. On our arrival here I telegraphed to the War Department all the information in my possession. The telegraph line will be completed to this point this afternoon. It is reported that Wheeler has cut the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad at Tantalon, and also the Nashville and Huntsville Railroad.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
H. W. SLOCUM,
Major- General, Commanding.


On 1 Sep 1864;

The Sixtieth New York Volunteers was ordered to move toward Howell's Mill and there join the main body. On reaching the creek at the mill it was learned that Ferguson's rebel cavalry brigade, which had been en camped there, had moved a few hours previously toward Atlanta. The bridge over Peach Tree Creek at this place had been destroyed. Little delay, however, was experienced, the infantry crossing on a large log, the cavalry fording. The column pushed on toward the city. Lieutenant-Colonel Walker, accompanied by the cavalry, preceded his infantry and entered the outskirts of the city, where he met Colonel Coburn, commanding the reconnaissance of the Third Division, who had also preceded his troops. Discovering that, with the exception of Ferguson's brigade, there were no troops in the city, it was agreed that their commands should enter at the same time, which was done, the enemy's cavalry retiring before them. Lieutenant-Colonel Walker's command was the first to reach the City Hall, upon which the colors of the Sixtieth New York and One hundred and eleventh Pennsylvania Volunteers were immediately hoisted.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JNO. W. GEARY,
Brigadier-General, Commanding Division.


Headquarters Twentieth Corps, Atlanta, Ga., September 19, 1864.

General : I have the honor of inclosing here with the reports of the division, brigade, and regimental commanders of this corps, of the operations of their respective commands during the recent campaign. The corps was under the command of Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker from the commencement of the campaign till July 27. A report of its operations during this period will probably be forwarded to you by General Hooker. I have sent to him duplicates of the enclosed papers. Brig Gen. A. S. Williams was in command of the corps from July 27 to August 27. I enclose his report for that period.

The corps marched from its position near Atlanta during the night of August 25 and took position on the Chattahoochee River, covering the railroad bridge and the fords at Pace's and Turner's Ferries, the First Division near the bridge, the Second at Pace's Ferry, and the Third at Turner's. From the 27th of August till September 1 the troops were engaged in constructing works, strengthening their positions, and reconnoitering parties were sent out daily to observe the movements of the enemy in Atlanta. On the night of September 1 heavy explosions were heard in the direction of Atlanta, and a force was at once ordered from each division to make a reconnaissance in this direction. The command from the Third Division, under Colonel Coburn, on approaching the city, was met by the mayor, who made a formal surrender of the town to him, and informed Colonel Coburn that the enemy had evacuated during the previous night; that the only troops then in the city consisted of a force of cavalry under General Ferguson. On entering the city a few shots were exchanged between our troops and this body of cavalry. About 100 prisoners were taken. I at once moved forward seven brigades of my command and occupied the works of the enemy. The enemy left in his works and in the city 20 pieces of artillery and several hundred small-arms. He destroyed 6 locomotives, 81 cars loaded with ammunition, small-arms, and stores.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant.
H. W. SLOCUM,
Major- General, Commanding.
 
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After the fall of Atlanta, the men whom comprised Ferguson`s Cavalry Brigade were demoralized and left the City in a column of fours at an easy gait very much with heavy hearts as they were handing over the highly prized "Gates of the South" to Sherman`s Army. Brig. General Samuel Wragg Ferguson blamed the fall of Atlanta on the recklessness and aggression of Lt. General John Bell Hood, as did his men.

Below is what Maj. General H. W. Slocum stated in his daily activity report on 3 Sep 1864 regarding the appearance and mood of Ferguson`s Cavalry Brigade as they left Atlanta just after the surrender:

"The enemy that occupied the city moved out apparently very much demoralized. They moved on the McDonough road with the intention of joining their main army. General Hood left here on the night previous to our entrance. On our arrival here I telegraphed to the War Department all the information in my possession."

According to Ferguson`s daily Journal and later his memoirs here is what he had to say on the day that his good friend, General Joseph E. Johnston was removed as Commander of the Army of Tennessee, being replaced by Lt. General John Bell Hood:

Regarding events which took place on 17 Jul 1864:

"By sunrise on the morning I was pretty warmly engaged (skirmishing with the enemy) so much so that when a courier handed me a dispatch I rode a couple of steps and got behind a small jug factory to read and answer it for the bullets were coming so fast and thick. It was the order relieving General Johnston and placing General Hood in command".

He went on to write:

"For the first time in the war my heart failed me and I doubted of our ultimate success. I had known Hood in the Corps of Cadets and I did not believe him capable of filling the position. I believed General Johnston one of the greatest of soldiers and think so today".

He later wrote in his memoirs:

"Sometime afterward I spent a day with him (Johnston) in Macon, Georgia. He explained to me his plans and his reasons for the moves he had made. With this explanation and my personal knowledge of the country and of the condition of our Army, I do not doubt that had Johnston not been removed from command, Sherman would have met a crushing defeat at Atlanta".

And this regarding the reckless leadership of Hood`s regarding the mauling of Confederate forces at Peachtree Creek on 20 Jul 1864:

"General Johnston`s plan of attacking Sherman as soon as troops of his Army crossed the Chattahoochee River were not carried out and a series of fierce and bloody battles, which resulted in no substantial gain to the Confederates, were fought. Not notably that of Peach Tree Creek".

During the Battle of Peachtree Creek Ferguson`s Cavalry Brigade was dismounted and fighting in the trenches in-between Maj. General Joseph Wheelers dismounted Cavalry Corps on his right and General Patrick Cleburne`s Infantry on his left and stated that many men were mauled that day. At one point the Federals broke through their lines and filled that section of the trenches and had to be repelled with numerous hand to hand engagements to place the Federal`s on their heels and drive them from the trenches to reclaim the line.

The same sadness was experienced after the Battle of Ezra Church just 8 days later on 28 Jul 1864, again Ferguson blamed Hood`s haste and recklessness for the days mauling of Confederate forces. Ferguson spoke with a very heavy hearted Maj. General Stephen D. Lee whose men were slaughtered during the days fighting and this is what he later wrote in his memoirs:

"I recall going to the tent of Major General Steven D. Lee that night (July 28, 1864) and the agony that he endured on account of the slaughter of his men that day".

Would Atlanta have been saved if the very patient and calculative Johnston would have been able to continue commanding the Army of Tennessee and had not been replaced with the more reckless and aggressive John Bell Hood? It is hard to say... I would point out Johnston`s responsibility and hesitation in coming to the Aid of John C. Pemberton during the assaults and 47-day siege of Vicksburg with a relief Army of 30,000 soldiers that waited in Jackson for weeks and only showed at the time that Pemberton was surrendering Vicksburg and it`s 31,000 man Garrison there to General Grant. Pemberton waited on help from Johnston that never came... Perhaps at times Johnston was too patient and that is why Hood took his job.
 
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Very interesting narrative. Eighty-one train cars of ammunition...the star-crossed Army of Tennessee could have probably used some of that when Hood went on his quest into Tennessee...
Apparently it caused quite a bit of confusion for the citizens of Atlanta and its environs as they first thought that it was some type of celebration, with fireworks going off, but once they took to the streets to witness the spectacle they quickly realized that this was no celebration. Then they began to think that Sherman was behind it some way and that perhaps this would be the end of Atlanta as his patience with them had run its course.

On Sunday, 4 Sep 1864 the weekly local Newspapers in Atlanta ran with a day to day account of the Fall of Atlanta, what was written about the explosion was as follows:

"The skies were lit with fire yesterday and today (Thursday and Friday, 1 and 2 Sep 1864); the famed locomotive "The General" was damaged. Blown up was 81 freight carloads of ammunition and seven locomotives, as well as rolling mills. The city was stunned by the thundering explosions."

Continuing the article goes on to state regarding the surrender itself:

"In the midst of the days confusion - with parts of the city being looted by stragglers, deserters and Negroes - Mayor J. M. Calhoun hastily called a conference of members of the City Council and prominent citizens. They met on horseback at Peachtree and Marietta Streets, where Calhoun told them they must approach Sherman`s forces, surrender the city and ask for military protection. Among the group were Messrs. J. E. Williams, E. E. Rawson, T. G. Crusselle, William Markham, Thomas Kile and Julius Hayden.

They rode out Marietta Street, unarmed, and picked their way through the rubble and debris, the abandoned guns and trenches , through the ominous quiet. Suddenly, they came face to face with a detachment in Blue. A Federal Colonel, John Coburn, of the 33rd Indiana, came toward Calhoun and the party`s white flag of truce.

Calhoun surrendered the city to Coburn, asked protection of citizens and property, reported the last Confederate Cavalry (Ferguson`s Brigade) were about to leave and was told that if there were fighting, neither persons nor property would be safe."

Photo below: Atlanta Evacuation on 1 Sep 1864.

Atlanta Evacuation on September 1, 1864..jpg


Photo below: Atlanta Evacuation March road leading to Love Joy`s Station along which Hood`s Army of Tennessee Re-treated on 1-2 Sep 1864.

Atlanta Road leading to Love Joy`s Station along which the Confederate Army Retreated (1 Sep 1...jpg


Photo below: Atlanta on Sep. 2, 1864, City Scene.

Atlanta (Sep. 2, 1864) City Scene.jpg


Photo below: Atlanta sometime after the Surrender on 2 Sep 1864 but before the City was burned on 15 Nov 1864, City Scene.

Atlanta after 1864 .jpg


Photo below: Atlanta soon after the Surrender on 2 Sep 1864 but before the City was burned on 15 Nov 1864 showing Federal Camps near the State House. These were called "little board shacks" and were more comfortable than living in tents, being very quick to build.

Atlanta City Hall (surrender) 1.jpg
 


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