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This Day in Georgia Civil War History

September 01, 1864

Battle of Jonesboro Ended; Evacuation of Atlanta Began

The Battle of Jonesboro continued all day and late into the night. Confederate forces fought bravely but were outnumbered three-to-one by Union forces. Native Georgian General William J. Hardee had his entire corps at risk of destruction, until darkness brought fighting to an end around 11 p.m. - when Hardee withdrew from the field. Total casualties for the two-day battle were just over 1100 for the Union, but 2000 for the Confederates - troops the already undermanned Southern army could ill afford to lose. In the darkness, what was left of Hardee’s corps marched through the night to Lovejoy’s Station six miles to the south of Jonesboro, where they wearily dug in to prepare for what would prove to be the final action in Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign. Meanwhile, in Atlanta new slowly spread of the events at Jonesboro. Confusion reigned during the day, with no one seeming to be in charge. Groups of slaves began arriving, taking residence in abandoned houses and cellars. By 5 p.m., a full scale evacuation of Atlanta was underway. Confederate supplies that could not be carried were distributed to city residents. Confederate General John Bell Hood had realized Atlanta could not be successfully defended and was also evacuating the city.

An Atlanta man recorded the chaotic scene in his diary.

“This was a day of terror and a sight of dread. About noon came the tidings of a severe fight on the Macon R.R. and that our forces were worsted and the city was to be evacuated at once. Then began a scramble among the inhabitants thereof to get away - others to procure supplies of food for their families. If there had been any doubt of the fact that Atlanta was about to be given up it would have been removed when we saw the depots of Government grain and food thrown open, and the contents distributed among the citizens free gratis, by the sackful and the cartload. The R.R. cars and engines were all run up to one place in order to be fired just as the army left. Five locomotives and 85 cars, Cousin Bill told me, were to be burned… . I went to the Macon depot with Mr. West and secured there sacks of meal. As we went down the Ammunition Train was fired, and for half an hour or more an incessant discharge was kept up that jarred the ground and broke the glass in the windows around. It was terrific to listen to and know the object… .” Source: Franklin M. Garrett, Atlanta and Environs: A Chronicle of Its People and Events (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1954), Vol. I, pp. 636-637.