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This Day in Georgia History

November 22, 1864

Battle of Griswoldville, Troops Entered Milledgeville

This was an eventful day in Georgia arising from Sherman’s March to the Sea. Ten miles northeast of Macon, the Battle of Griswoldville - the first and only major battle during the March to the Sea - was fought. Part of Sherman’s plan had been to confuse Confederate forces on his strategy by making it appear that Macon and Augusta were among the targets of his march. Toward this end, as the 15th Corps continued its march toward Gordon, Gen. Charles Walcutt took a brigade of seasoned infantry and cavalry to feign an attack on Macon. After burning much of Griswoldville, Union forces fortified themselves nearby on Duncan’s farm and waited for an expected Confederate attack. As it turned out, the 1st division of the Georgia Militia (a force of about 3,000 irregulars - mainly young boys and old men - under Brig. Gen. Pleasant J. Phillips) had been ordered to Augusta, which Confederates believed was Sherman’s real target. Apparently by accident, Phillips’ Georgia Militia encountered the waiting Union troops. Though instructed to avoid a direct battle, Phillips decided otherwise. Though the Union force was outnumbered, the battle was no even match. They were veterans, entrenched, and had repeating rifles. Through three infantry advances, the inexperienced Confederate militia wilted in the face of heavy Union fire. Finally, Phillips ordered a retreat to Macon. Afterwards, a Union officer present described the scene, “Old, gray-haired men and weakly looking men and little boys not over 15 years old lay dead or writhing in pain. I did pity those boys.” Though there are no official records of Confederate loses, the Macon newspaper reported Confederate loses at 1,500 casualties. One Union officer reported that up to one-half of the entire Confederate militia force was killed, wounded, or captured. The National Park Service, however, estimates 625 Confederate casualties versus 62 for the Union forces. Recent studies of the battle indicate that the Confederates had 50 killed and 472 wounded, while Union losses were 13 dead and 79 wounded.

Sherman and the 14th Corps spent the evening at Howell Cobb’s plantation about ten miles northeast of Milledgeville. Realizing whose property it was, Sherman gave the order to “spare nothing,” as he later wrote: “Of course, we confiscated his property … . I sent word back to General Davis to explain whose plantation it was and instructed him to spare nothing. That night huge bonfires consumed the fence-rails, kept our soldiers warm, and the teamsters and men, as well as the slaves, carried off an immense quantity of corn and provisions of all sorts.”

The 20th Corps entered Milledgeville, Georgia’s state capital.