Battle of Jonesborough - the Second Day
—Atlanta Campaign Heritage Trail —
Located near the center of fighting on the second day of the Battle Jonesborough (Jonesboro), the final major battle of the Atlanta Campaign, this cemetery contains the graves of up to 1,000 Confederate soldiers killed while fighting here on August 31 and September 1, 1864. The cemetery is named in honor of Confederate Major General Patrick R. Cleburne, who is not buried here but was admired as a commander in this battle.
During the evening of Wednesday, August 31st, after the first day of fighting at Jonesborough over control of the Macon & Western Railroad, commanding Confederate General John B. Hood, from his headquarters in Atlanta, learned that Federals had broken the railroad at several places north of Jonesborough. Anticipating a direct attack on Atlanta by Union Major General William T. Sherman's forces, General Hood ordered the corps of Confederate Lieutenant General Stephen D. Lee to return to Atlanta from Jonesborough, leaving Lieutenant General William J. Hardee's corps to contend with Federal forces here. Thus early on Thursday, September 1st, Hood found his army
dangerously divided, with one corps in Atlanta, General Hardee's at Jonesborough and General Lee's in between.
Rather than attack Atlanta on September 1st, General Sherman ordered three additional Federal corps to join the three corps of Union
Major General Oliver O. Howard's "Army of the Tennessee" already at Jonesborough. Sherman hoped this overwhelming force would trap and destroy Hardee's lone Confederate corps.
Hardee stretched his 13,000 troops in a single line, men often spaced six feet apart, to fill a wide front held the previous day by both his and Lee's corps. Sherman's plan called for Union Brigadier General Jefferson C. Davis's 14th Corps to attack Hardee from the northwest, while Major General David S. Stanley's 4th Corps was to strike from northeast in Hardee's rear. General Howard's army would feign an advance on the right.
Near 4:00 PM, General Davis's 14th Corps attacked the angle in Hardee's line defended by Brigadier General C. Govan's brigade, just north of the Warren House (which served as a field hospital). The initial Federal assault was repulsed, but a rare bayonet charge overwhelmed Govan's brigade capturing General Govan's brigade, 600 of his men and eight cannon. Confederate Private Stan C. Harvey later recalled, "They ran over us like a drove of Texas beeves by sheer force of numbers."
The remnants of Govan's and other brigades in General Cleburne's division were forced back while Hardee rushed reinforcements from his left. General Stanley's 4th Corps was slow to follow-up Davis's attack, and nightfall soon ended the fighting. Hardee's weary corps successfully
retreated south to Lovejoy's Station before the Federal 17th Corps could block them. Hardee sent word to Hood that Jonesborough and the last railroad still able to re-supply Confederates in Atlanta had fallen, sealing Atlanta's fate. Hood ordered Atlanta's evacuation for that night. The Federal victory at Jonesborough also assured U.S. President Abraham Lincoln's reelection and was a prelude to Sherman's "March to the Sea."
Bottom left: Federal artillery during the Battle of Jonesborough, September 1, 1864
(drawing by Union 1st Lieutenant Henry O. Dwight, 20th Ohio Infantry Regiment, 17th Corps)
Top right: Battle of Jonesborough (Jonesboro), the 2nd Day, September 1, 1864
Top left: Confederate Major General Patrick R. Cleburne
Top Middle: Union Brigadier General Jefferson C. Davis
Bottom middle: Confederate Brigadier General Daniel C. Govan