A Hard Charge at 112 Degrees: Lovejoy Station
It was a hot Saturday night in Georgia...112 degrees in the shade, and General Kilpatrick's raid on Confederate communications south of Atlanta was on the cusp of turning into a first rate debacle. Surrounded on all sides by veteran Rebel infantry and troopers, Kilpatrick was out of options to maneuver, so he opted for blunt force. He would form his expedition into a solid column, and blast his way through the Confederates. In the vanguard, Kilpatrick chose the hard riding cavalry brigade of three Ohio regiments (1st, 3rd, and 4th) led by one of his most experienced commanders, Colonel Eli Long.
|The cavalry charge at Lovejoy Station ranks as one of the most dramatic cavalry actions of the Civil War, and Ohioans led the breakout.|
Among those riding in the column was Norwalk resident Private George B. Squires of Company B, 3rd Ohio Volunteer Cavalry. In this extraordinary account originally published in the September 13, 1864 issue of the Norwalk Reflector, Squires recounts Kilpatrick's raid and the dramatic charge at Lovejoy Station that allowed Kilpatrick to break the Confederate trap that had ensnared him, and return safely to Union lines. (As a side note, my great great great grandfather Private James Morrow of Co. H, 1st Ohio Cavalry was in this charge in the capacity of an ambulance driver.)
Buck Head, Georgia
August 24, 1864
I received your kind letter last night and now hasten to relieve the anxiety which you must feel for me while looking the papers through, fearful that you may see the name of some of your friends or relatives among the list of killed or wounded. Through the infinite mercy of God I have been spared while seven of my company are either writhing in agony or lie unburied on the battlefield. The 3rd Ohio Cavalry has been called to pass through the most terrible ordeal that they have ever experienced. You will very likely see in the papers an account of General Kilpatrick’s great cavalry raid on the Atlanta and Macon Railroad and of his great cavalry charge- the greatest cavalry charge ever made in America.
|Major General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick- a bold, aggressive,|
and some might say foolish cavalry commander. His nickname
"Kill-Cavalry" was a reflection of his penchant for cavalry charges
that were expensive in men and horseflesh.
On the 17th of August we received orders to march; we left our camp at 10 P.M. and marched from our position on the left of our army across to the right along our immediate rear. The object of our moving in the night was to keep the Rebels from seeing the movement. We halted at 7 o’clock on the morning of the 18th near a little town called Sandtown, where Kilpatrick’s headquarters were and went into camp and stayed all day. At 6 o’clock in the evening, we again saddled our horses and led out after we had formed our lines. Colonel Charles B. Seidel read a circular from General Kilpatrick to us. It said, “Soldiers of the Second Brigade, you have been armed and equipped at great expense to the government and now you have been selected from among the cavalry of the Army of the Cumberland to undertake what two great cavalry expeditions have already to do and failed, viz. cut the communication in the rear of Atlanta. I am not going to lead you on a raid but on a direct attack on the enemy’s communications.” We at once saw the spirit of our leader and every man knew that we would have some terrible fighting to do.
Our force amounted to 10,000 men and ten pieces of artillery. There was Kilpatrick’s own division (the Third), and the Second and First Brigades of the Second Division and the Third Brigade of the First Division. We left Sandtown at about half past 8 P.M. on the 18th, marching southeast. Marched all night, struck the Atlanta and West Point Railroad at daylight, and tore up about three miles of track without any opposition. We were then 13 miles from the Macon Railroad and 23 miles from Atlanta. We started on again at 8 o’clock directly for the Macon road. We had advanced about a mile from the West Point when there began a terrible firing on the rear. An orderly dashed up to General Kilpatrick saying that the Rebels had moved down a heavy force and cut off one of our brigades. Then was the time to see Kilpatrick, the great cavalry chieftain, his eyes flashing fire as he sped by on his noble horse, heading a charge to clear the track for the unfortunate brigade. The charge was successful, the beleaguered relieved, and the column moved on with our brigade and regiment in advance.
|The 3rd Ohio formed a part of Brigadier General|
Kenner Garrard's cavalry division.
Skirmishing soon began. The 3rd Ohio Cavalry dismounted and went up on a charge and drove the Rebels from four good positions and at last arrived at a small river known as Flint River. We came up on the west bank of the river and the Rebs had formed their lines on the east bank with artillery which opened on us at short range as soon as we came into sight; but unfortunately for us, there was a ravine into which we all tumbled and lay sweltering in the scorching rays of the sun for half an hour with the Rebel shells and bullets whistling and shrieking over our heads till our artillery came up and got into position and soon dried up the Rebel fire. Then the 3rd Ohio charged for the bridge over the river, but alas the Rebels had torn it up. We formed our line along the bank and kept up a terrible fire till we could get some planks across the stream to form a foot bridge and then we commenced to rush across. General Kilpatrick came up at this moment and tried to get some of the boys to stop and fix up the big bridge but could not do it; they were all intent on getting over the river to fight the Rebs. Then Kilpatrick made this remark, “Damn you, go on! The 3rd Ohio had rather fight than build bridges anyway.” We all got on the east side of the river and run the Rebels about three-quarters of a mile from it and then halted and formed a line of battle to wait for the column. We were completely tired out. We had marched five miles on foot and charged three times with the heat 112 degrees in the shade. One of our boys was sun struck in the charge for the bridge. I had a ball strike my thumb a glancing blow, which merely cut the skin a little but did not delay me an instant.
Our column soon arrived with the First Brigade of our division in the advance. We were then only three-fourths of a mile from the Macon Railroad and we struck the railroad at sundown. Two brigades worked at the railroad till 8 o’clock in the evening; we tore up eight miles of the road, burned a bridge, depot, water tank, 700 bales of cotton, and nearly all the town of Jonesboro. At 4 A.M. we commenced pulling out. We marched four miles from Jonesboro due east, then turned and marched in a southwest course so as to strike the railroad again below Jonesboro, but we never got to it for the two crack divisions of the Rebel army (Cheatham’s and Cleburne’s) had been sent down in the night from Atlanta.
|1895 map by Edward Ruger showing the locality of Lovejoy Station, Georgia.|
Our brigade was again moved up and dismounted; we marched up and tried their lines, but they were entrenched and the fire became too heavy for us so we fell back a little. Just at this time heavy firing began in the rear, both artillery and musketry. They had surrounded us with 20,000 picked men. We were all formed, 10,000 mounted men and ten pieces of artillery in one field in regular order, regiment after regiment, with the 1st Ohio Cavalry in the advance and 3rd Ohio in their immediate rear. Word was given to charge (we charged mounted this time with our sabers) and charge we did directly for their artillery which was guarded by two brigades of infantry. Such a sight; it is worth a lifetime to see 10,000 men and horses go tearing down upon the heaving lines of the infantry amid the shriek and dull thud of bursting shells, the sharp ring of small arms, the whistle of small balls and the clashing of our sabers together with the wild yells of our charging column, and the shrieks and groans of the wounded. What more is needed to fill up this picture of war.
|Colonel Eli Long was promoted to brigadier general|
shortly after the Kilpatrick Raid.
We broke their lines, captured their artillery, and scattered their broken columns to the winds. We brought out about 150 prisoners and four pieces of artillery and moved out from our long to be remembered battlefield about four miles and halted to wait for our stragglers and men whose horses were killed on the charge to get up. The Second Brigade was put in the rear of our column with the 3rd Ohio for rear guards. In about three-fourths of an hour, the Rebels had rallied their scattered columns and advancing up commenced skirmishing with us. We again dismounted and formed our lines on both sides of the road along the edge of a piece of woods and behind a rail fence. The Rebs came running on, yelling like mad demons from Hades darkest corners. They had to cross a corn field in full view of us, but on they came, their lines well closed and deep. We poured volley after volley into them from our seven shooting guns, but it never wavered their lines in the least. We held our position behind the fence until they were within five rods of us then we fell back, but not until we had cleaned their ranks of officers and made many a Rebel bite the dust, bitterly cursing the Yankees.
The 3rd Ohio was here under the most terrible fire that they ever experienced. When we were falling back, the man on my right was instantly killed, the man on my left was shot through both arms, and First Lieutenant George Garfield was mortally wounded and fell from his horse directly in front of me. My company had two men killed, four men wounded, and one man missing. The total loss in the regiment is 42 men killed and wounded and four missing. Colonel Eli Long, in command of our brigade, was wounded twice.
Report of Colonel Charles B. Seidel, 3rd Ohio Cavalry
Near Cross Keys, Georgia,
September 11, 1864
On the 18th of August started, under command of General Kilpatrick, for the expedition to the rear of Atlanta. Left Sandtown at sundown, on the 18th, and marched all night, skirmishing most of the time. 19th, fought all day and got possession of the Macon railroad at Jonesborough, at 4 p. m.; burnt the public buildings and destroyed the railroad for a distance of two miles. Left Jonesborough at 3 a. m. of the 20th, and marched to Lovejoy’s Station, having a brisk skirmish in the rear on the route. At Lovejoy’s met the enemy in large force, cavalry, artillery, and infantry. After fighting an hour we formed in advance for brigade and charged in column of fours on the enemy in our rear, scattering them badly, and causing them to abandon one piece of artillery, which was brought off the field by our brigade (Second Cavalry); also captured a number of prisoners. The regiment was detailed for rear guard, the column marching toward McDonough, and was attacked by one division of rebel infantry. After fighting them an hour, losing 8 men killed, 30 wounded, and 4 missing, was relieved by a portion of the First Brigade, Second Cavalry Division. 21st, marched to Lithonia, being closely followed by the enemy until we crossed South River, where we burned the bridge, thus stopping their advance. 22d,
Wow, just previous to this action on Aug 14-15 1864 my Ancestor James A. Poe of the 1st Ohio Cavalry Co.'s M &E was wounded 3x's and captured at Buckhead/Atlanta, while on expedition of foraging, he had been transferred to Co.E as a wagon builder and blacksmith, info just recently found from the National Archives,C.M.S.R.ReplyDelete