On July 20, 1864, Union forces under Maj. Gen. W.T. Sherman USA, were closing in on Atlanta. Hq. 2nd Cavalry Division [US], Brig. Gen Kenner Garrard, was in Decatur, 6 miles E of Atlanta. Garrard's three brigades were guarding bridges over the Chattahoochee River picketing the left flank. That night, Garrard was ordered to assemble his command and move to Covington, to burn the bridges over the Yellow and Ulafauhachee (Alcovy) rivers and to destroy the railroad between Lithonia and the Alcovy.
He marched late on the 21st. By noon on the 24th, he had returned to Decatur, bringing with him "200 prisoners and a fine lot of fresh horses and negroes." In three days, he had marched over 90 miles and destroyed three wagon bridges and the railroad bridge over the Yellow River, and more than six miles of track. At Covington, he burned the depot, a newly-built army hospital center, 2,000 bales of cotton, and large quantities of quartermaster and commissary supplies. At Conyers, at Covington and near the Alcovy, trains were captured and burned. A detached brigade burned the depot at Social Circle and destroyed other facilities enroute.
Garrard's raid cut off all communication between Atlanta and Augusta and destroyed any hope that the Army of Tennessee [CS] — the hard-pressed defenders of Atlanta — might receive supplies or reinforcements from the Eastern Confederacy.