The Battle for Macon
—Georgia Civil War Heritage Trails —
During the early 1800s, Georgia grew through a series of treaties with the Creek Indians. After the Louisiana Purchase, President Thomas Jefferson authorized Benjamin Hawkins, Agent for Indian Affairs, to negotiate the 1805 treaty to expand Georgia from the Oconee River to the Ocmulgee River. Permission was also obtained to build a "Federal Road"
through Creek territory to New Orleans Fort Benjamin Hawkins was built in 1806 for protection, trade, and as a gateway west. Thus the town of Macon was created in 1823, across the Ocmulgee River.
By 1864, little of the fort remained. Macon was a city of 10,000, a Confederate manufacturing and rail center, and home to a Federal officer's prison, Camp Oglethorpe. As Federal armies threatened Atlanta, Macon became a tempting prize for Union Major General George M. Stoneman's three cavalry brigades, Stoneman hoped to free the Federal prisoners held at Camp Oglethorpe and further south at Andersonville.
Stoneman's 2,100 troopers approached Macon on July 30, 1864. They encountered a mixture of Georgia militia, home guard units and convalescing Confederate veterans commanded by Major General Howell Cobb. A local Macon citizen, J. William Blackshear, later wrote to his wife, "We could hear the cannonading distinctly, I.. shouldered my musket and fell in with a company
of veteran troops...Marching over to East Macon a Battalion of 4 companies was formed and marched to Fort Hawkins thence to the hill on the left where we lay the balance of the day waiting for the Yankees...Our cannon were playing on the enemy from old Fort hill."
Cobb placed his chief artillery battery on at Fort Hawkins, commanded by Major Edward Taliaferro. One 12-pounder Napoleon was positioned in front of the fort. Using a spotter in the fort's tower, Lieutenant Charles A. McClung's crew placed a well-aimed fire against the Federals at nearby Dunlap Farm. One shell crashed into the Dunlap's farmhouse, causing the family to flea. Taliaferro's battery aided in blunting the attack of Union Colonel Silas Biddle's Indiana brigade.
Lieutenant Colonel Robert W. Smith, Stoneman's chief of staff, reported afterwards, "Colonel Adams...when about one mile above Macon met the enemy in force, and gave him battle, driving him back until he fell in cover of his own on the hill near the river and about a half mile above Fort Hawkins....[Colonel Horace) Capron's and Biddle's brigades were engaging the enemy in front, and to the left of Macon, but with little success, the enemy being protected...by the battery in Fort Hawkins, Oho battery could get no position from which it could operate effectively against that of the enemy in Fort Hawkins. We threw a few shells
into the city. At 3 pm, General Stoneman, finding it impossible to reach the railroad bridge with the force he had, ordered a withdrawal...
The following day, July 31, Stoneman and hundreds of his cavalrymen were captured at Sunshine Church, north of Macon. They were subsequently imprisoned in Camp Oglethorpe, the same facility whose prisoners they had hoped to liberate.
Bottom left: Fort Hawkins, circa early 1800s
Middle newspaper notice: Georgia Governor Brown's Appeal
Bottom right: Fort Hawkins, circa 1870s
Top right map: The Battle for Macon, 1864