An Overview of The Battle of Griswoldville, Georgia, November 22, 1864
Wayne Dobson is a former member of the Lt. James T. Woodward Camp 1399 Sons of Confederate Veterans (now a member of the Camp of the Unknown Soldier #2218 Jones County) who lives in Macon. He is adjutant and editor of the newsletter for the 16th Georgia Company 'G' Jackson Rifles Reenactment group. He is a musician often performing at historical events and he has been published in The Daily Sun, Macon Telegraph, Confederate Veteran, Middle Georgia Magazine and other publications.
Battle of Griswoldville Overview
by John Wayne Dobson, 5/1/2010
Editor's Note: Old Clinton War Days is held a mile south of Gray on U.S. 129 (Gray Highway) the first weekend of May each year. The Battle of Sunshine Church is re-enacted on Saturdays and the Battle of Griswoldville is re-enacted on Sundays. Old Clinton War Days flyer in PDF format
Two days of savage fighting had closed at Jonesboro on September 1, 1864 and when it did the Confederate forces, almost to a man left the field that day knowing in their hearts it was all over. Larger battles had been waged but few had a more decisive outcome. This Confederate defeat opened the door to the fall of Atlanta and helped seal the re-election bid of Abraham Lincoln. It also opened the way for Sherman's March to the Sea.
The resistance to Sherman's southeastern onslaught was determined but rarely organized. Ambushes and raids preyed on his columns as they moved further from their new base of supplies in Atlanta and the Confederate force braced to defend the few resources that Georgia retained. Atlanta was not the big prize, however, as Sherman had already tried to take the rich source of supply in the Macon vicinity before ever trying Atlanta at all. Even before coming to Georgia he had consistently captured Southern supplies traceable to the mid state until he determined he must put this area out of commission once and for all. No doubt, cutting off the Confederate powder supply in Augusta would greatly silence vital operations, but he would only make a grand feint in that direction while maintaining his persistence toward Macon and the manufacturing facilities in this heretofore sheltered area.
By November 19 his 17th Corps was in Hillsboro and the 15th Corps in Clinton. Confederate General Hardee reached Macon that morning and his cavalry counterpart, Wheeler, was ordered to Clinton. Cavalry skirmishing between Wheeler and Union horsemen, under Kilpatrick became fierce and regular but by the night of the 20th Sherman had finally succeeded in crossing the Ocmulgee. The Georgia Militia was alerted to change its concentration from the western fortification in Macon to the east side. Skirmishing continued in the area as Hardee ordered the 1st Brigade of his Militia to move toward Sherman's expected attack on Augusta.
The Union Cavalry was guarding all roads approaching Macon where the Confederate general population threatened to surmount the forces stationed there. General Wright was in immediate command there but he was soon joined by Taylor, and Georgia Governor Brown.
A bitter, cold dawn came to Macon on November 22, 1864 as General Wright ordered about 1,900 militia to march out of Macon under the command of General Pleasant J. Philips.
By 8A.M. they were under way and after some delay in getting the command across the Ocmulgee bridges, moving along in good order with a line of march following the Central of Georgia Railroad tracks. There remains some debate as to whether or not the determined destination and plan was to march to a point and board train cars bound for Augusta or if a recon of reported Yankee activity near Griswoldville (8 miles east of Macon) was the real objective.
At any rate the column reached the outskirts of Griswoldville around noon and found the Athens and Augusta Battalions already facing the town and formed in a line of battle. Seeing smoke ascending from the town a line of skirmishers was deployed. The town had been a point of contention the day before by opposing cavalry units before a Union Infantry Brigade under Walcutt pushed Joe Wheeler from the area and sent them well on their way toward Augusta. They, however, still thinking Wheeler to be making ready for another attack moved about 1.5 miles outside of town to a place called Duncan's Ridge and constructed hasty fortifications for the expected return of Southern cavalry.
The expected cavalry of Confederate General Joe Wheeler did not return to attack the Federals, but, instead, around 1 P.M. Southern Infantry , under the overall command of General P. J. Phillips, rendezvoused just past the town of Griswoldville and deployed in line of battle. This combined force included battalions of home guards from Athens and Augusta as well as various collections of Georgia home guards, augmented by a veteran battery of Napoleons (4 cannons).
In seven ill-fated charges Confederate forces hammered away at the Federal line on the high ground and would have probably broken the line had it not have been for the fact that this relatively inexperienced, though gallant, Southern force faced veteran Union soldiers armed with the new Spencer repeating rifle.
By nightfall the Confederate command was in shambles, suffering some 700 casualties. Leaving many wounded behind, they fell back to the nearest stretch of railroad not destroyed by Union troops and arrived in Macon about 4AM the next morning.
Ill-advised as this battle might have been, it was the only major opposition to Sherman's March to the Sea.
Wayne Dobson is a member of the Camp of the Unknown Soldier 2218 Sons of Confederate Veterans who lives in Macon. He is adjutant and editor of the newsletter for the 16th Georgia Company 'G' Jackson Rifles Reenactment group. He is a musician often performing at historical events and he has been published in the Daily Sun, Macon Telegraph, Confederate Veteran, Middle Georgia Magazine and other publications.