Brown's Mill Battlefield
Ashby's ambush and Wheeler's headlong assault cut McCook's column to pieces. Most of the raiders dismounted south of the present-day Millard Farmer Road, rallying around a section of the 18th Indiana Battery, which unlimbered next to a log cabin on the crest of a commanding ridge. As these 2 guns hurled shells and canister at the oncoming Rebel ranks, McCook turned around and around, imploring "What shall we do? What shall we do?"
As the confused fighting seesawed through the gullied fields and dense thickets, McCook suffered heavy casualties while Wheeler received a steady stream of reinforcements.
Brigadier General Robert H. Anderson arrived with 400 Confederate cavalrymen who had ridden all the way from Flat Shoals. Philip Roddey brought his dismounted cavalrymen and several hundred convalescent soldiers from Newnan's four military hospitals. By 5:00 p.m., Wheeler's horseshoe-shaped line had the raiders hemmed in on three sides. Convinced he was "completely surrounded" by "an overwhelming force," McCook summoned his senior officers and announced his intention to surrender.
"Gentlemen," replied Jim Brownlow, the 21-year-old colonel of the 1st Tennessee Cavalry, "you can all surrender and be damned. I'm going out with my regiment." When other officers echoed these sentiments, McCook agreed to let them try to break through the Confederate lines. After disabling their artillery, abandoning ambulances and dozens of dead and wounded, the raiders mounted their horses. As they spurred across Sandy Creek, McCook halted his rearmost regiment, the 8th Iowa Cavalry, and ordered them to cover the retreat.
Wheeler surrounded and captured the 8th Iowa. That night after sending several detachments to pursue McCook, he returned to Newnan and made his headquarters at Buena Vista, a white-columned house on LaGrange Street. Taking a seat at a parlor desk, he spread out his maps and then fell asleep.
While Wheeler slept, three columns of desperate demoralized Yankees raced for the river. At about 9:00 p.m., remnants of Torrey's brigade reached the Chattahoochee at Williamson's Ferry 15 miles above Franklin. Commandeering 3 old canoes they crossed without opposition, swimming their horses alongside.
At about 11:00 p.m., McCook and the largest group, about 1,200 strong, reached Philpott's Ferry 9 miles below Franklin. After refloating the sunken ferryboat, they were frantically shuttling men and horses across the river when the 5th Georgia Cavalry attacked at dawn, capturing all those still stranded on the east bank.
McCook led the survivors on a roundabout retreat through eastern Alabama and western Georgia. They reached Marietta on August 3 after an 8 day odyssey that had cost Sherman's cavalry more casualties than any other battle of the Atlanta campaign.