Brown's Mill Battlefield
Before dawn on July 27, 1864, Yankee buglers sounded "Boots and Saddles." At Mayson's Church just west of Atlanta, McCook's 1,600 cavalrymen mounted their horses and crossed a pontoon bridge spanning the Chattahoochee River at Turner's Ferry.
East of Atlanta, Stoneman's 2,200 men broke camp along the South Fork of Peachtree Creek and rode into Decatur, where they joined Garrard's 4,000 troopers before heading east on the Covington Road.
After crossing the Chattahoochee on July 27, McCook waited while engineers dismantled the pontoon bridge and loaded it into wagons. Colonel Tom Harrison arrived with another 1,400 troopers, swelling the column's strength to 3,000 men. McCook planned to haul the pontoons downstream and cross the river that evening near Campbellton. However, weary mules delayed his progress and Confederate pickets watching from the opposite riverbank, kept him moving to Smith's Ferry six miles beyond. On the afternoon of July 28, as soon as the last pontoon was in place, he hurried his men across the river.
A day behind schedule, McCook sent Major Nathan Paine and the 1st Wisconsin Cavalry toward Campbellton to distract any pursuing Confederates. McCook and his raiders charged into Palmetto about 6:00 p.m., burned the depot, and tore up several hundred yards of the Atlanta & West Point Railroad.
Continuing southeast, they rode all night. Shortly before dawn, they surprised and captured 1,100 Confederate supply wagons parked on either side of Fayetteville. After capturing the teamsters, burning the wagons, and sabering hundreds of mules, the column headed east, reaching the Macon & Western Railroad at Lovejoy's Station early on July 29.
Seeing no sign of Stoneman, McCook sent scouts north and east while the rest of his men began pulling down telegraph wires and tearing up track. His scouts soon returned and reported cavalry coming fast, but not Stoneman's. Instead, they saw Confederate cavalry and Major General Joe Wheeler riding hard toward them.
To General John Bell Hood, McCook's activity seemed a diversionary tactic related to movement of the Union infantry toward his left. Reports of Stoneman's activity had Wheeler convinced the Yankees intended to cut the Macon railroad. Wheeler requested permission to pursue. Hood agreed but wanted Wheeler to remain near, sending only the troops he could spare "to bring the raid... to bay." Wheeler sent three brigades led by Brigadier General Alfred Iverson, Jr. Late on July 27, Wheeler was released to join the pursuit. Overtaking Iverson, he learned Garrard had halted at Flat Shoals on South River while Stoneman's command continued toward Covington.
Keeping only one regiment, Wheeler ordered Iverson to "follow Stoneman rapidly and attack him wherever found." Early on July 29, Wheeler received Hood's warning that Union raiders were approaching from the west, so he and his men rode toward Jonesboro.