|Photo by Mark Dolan, June 2010|
|Brig. Gen. Mark P. Lowrey|
|Source: House Divided|
Both artillery and small-arms opened vigorously on my lines, but after a short contest the enemy fled in confusion, and were pursued by my command with great impetuosity. A portion of this force made a slight stand at a second line of works, to hold us in check while the remainder crossed Flint River; but the stand was only slight, and all soon fled in great confusion, leaving in front of Lowrey's brigade 2 pieces of artillery in a deep slough near the creek. Contrary to instructions, Granbury's brigade crossed the river for the purpose of driving a battery from the next hill, which was doing some execution in our lines. Too full of impetuosity, Lowrey's and Mercer's followed the example, and the enemy was driven from another line of works beyond the river. I immediately ordered the brigade commanders to bring their commands back and form their lines on this side of the river. Observing that we were far in advance of the troops on our right, and that the connection on the right was entirely broken, I immediately ordered Brigadier-General Govan to change the direction of his line and unite with the forces on our right, and press the enemy's flank, if a flank could be found, assuring him that I would join him with the other three brigades as soon as possible. Pending the movements and the reformation of the other brigades, I galloped to the right to make observations. I found that the enemy was in good works the right of the flank of which rested on the river, and that Cheatham's division, under command of Brigadier-General Maney, had come in and occupied the ground between my command and the enemy's infantry works. But supposing a charge would be ordered, I was making all haste to get in position to join in the assault, when I received an order from Major-General Cleburne to return to the position from which I started.
I did not swing as much to the right as I intended to do, for the reason that the enemy was farther to my left than was expected, and to have done so would have left the enemy in works on this side of the river on my left flank and in my rear. My left brigade encountered the strongest force of the enemy and sustained the greatest loss.
Lowrey now had only a thin line to replace Lee's entire corps. His men were left to form scant defenses with what little material was nearby. Their line was so close to the enemy that several from Mercer's brigade were attacked and captured.
Gens. Hardee and Cleburne had decided to use Hardee's outnumbered corps to make a brave stand to hold back the Federal troops, most of the Union army, while providing the time needed for a safe retreat of the Confederate army from Atlanta to Lovejoy Station. But Sherman had a plan to envelope Jonesboro and destroy Hardee's Corps.
On making a hasty examination of the ground I found it absolutely necessary to change a portion of Govan's line in order to get good ground and the proper direction for the two brigades. Having the line hastily marked out by a small detail from Govan's brigade, I ordered Brigadier-General Govan to place his right regiment on the rear line, prepare new works, and destroy the old work in his front. I urged him to have this work done at once, assuring him that there was no time to lose....
I placed Lewis' brigade in position, with his left connecting with Govan's right, and his right resting on the railroad, and continued the line with Gist's brigade on the east side of the railroad, turning his right back almost parallel with the railroad. These brigades were formed in thick woods, and going vigorously to work soon had temporary works, and the bushes thinned out in their front, forming an inferior abatis. I in person superintended the deployment of a line of skirmishers in front of Gist's brigade, and the pioneers of Cleburne's division soon cut down bushes in their front, forming a good abatis. I also ordered that the skirmishers should be extended 200 or 300 yards to the right of the brigade, and that one man of every four should be advanced 400 or 500 yards, to deceive the enemy and check his advance. This done, I was informed by Lieutenant-General Hardee that another brigade had been ordered to report to me, to continue the extension of the line to the right; but by my request he sent an engineer to select the line, and placed Brigadier-General Lewis in command of his own brigade, Gist's, and the one en route for the right of the line.
Before I had time to give my further attention to the point where the works were to be changed on Govan's line, the enemy was advancing on my whole front. He made a vigorous assault on Govan's line at the angle formed by the change above alluded to, but the assault was repulsed. He then advanced in three separate columns, all converging upon this point, and in the second assault he carried that part of the work. This necessitated the giving up of the whole of the ground occupied by Govan's and Lewis' brigades.
Brigadier-General Govan, about 600 of his officers and men, and 8 pieces of artillery here fell into the enemy's hands. Brigadier-General Granbury then threw his line back and began to form a line perpendicular to his original one, but, by my order, he immediately reoccupied his works and held them until after the close of the engagement. Colonel P. V. Green reformed a portion of Govan's brigade, charged, and retook a portion of the works, but could not hold them. Major-General Cleburne threw Vaughan's brigade into the lurch, which, with the assistance of the remaining portions of Govan's and Lewis' brigades, completely checked the advance of the enemy. Heavy demonstrations were made upon my whole front, but no determined assault, except upon Govan's brigade.
The situation for Lowrey's single line was serious. He wrote, "Our whole force being in one rank, and the enemy having this advantage, to hold the work was impossible." Nevertheless, his brave men continued to pour a heavy fire into the massed Yankee columns, "inflicting heavy loss, as the extensive grave-yards of the enemy now show. He could not advance over the temporary works which he had taken, and in his heavy and confused masses could not seriously injure us."
Photo by Mark Dolan, June 2010Entrance to the Jonesboro Confederate Cemetery
After 11 PM, the the battle weary Confederates made a cautious withdrawal southward, to Lovejoy Station, leaving the Federal army in possession of the railroad to Atlanta. Now that the railroad was cut, Hood had no choice but to evacuate Atlanta. Overnight, September 1-2, he destroyed his large supplies of ordnance and ammunition in his withdrawal. The dramatic explosion of more than 80 freight cars announced to all that the desperate defense had ended.
And so Atlanta was lost.2
I placed the brigade in position on 31st of August west of the Jonesborough and Fayetteville road, Mercer’s brigade being on my right and Granbury’s on the left, the line of battle moving northeast and southwest, and being about half a mile west of the railroad. At 3 p. m. the line was advanced, and a distance of 400 yards brought me into an open field, where I received the first fire of the enemy, who were posted behind breast-works made of rails about 300 yards in front of my command, supported by two pieces of artillery. I immediately ordered a charge, and the brigade rushed forward and drove the enemy from his position in great confusion. He retreated across Flint River, and the men were so eager in the pursuit that they could not be halted till they had gained a second line of works, about 300 yards west of the river, in which the enemy made no stand, being so hotly perused. I immediately withdrew the brigade to the east side and formed it near the margin of the timber skirting the river bank. The brigade captured 4 pieces of artillery, which were not brought off the field. In compliance with orders I then withdrew to our former position on the Jonesborough and Fayetteville road.
My loss in this affair was 8 killed and 66 wounded.I will state that the conduct of men and officers was commendable and praiseworthy.At 3 o’clock on the morning of 1st of September I received orders to follow Mercer to the right. About daylight I got the brigade into position behind some unfinished earth-works three-quarters of a mile north of Jonesborough, Granbury on my right and Mercer on my left. The enemy was strongly posted in my front, and my men were subjected all day to a severe ordeal of sharpshooting and shelling by his batteries. Notwithstanding this, by midday I succeeded in erecting very substantial earth-works with a strong bates in front. At 3 p. m. the enemy made a demonstration along my entire front, but did not drive in my pickets. Later in the evening, having a battery in position to my right rear, my men were very much harassed by his fire, the balls coming from the right obliquely into the rear of my works.
My loss during the day was 4 killed and 27 wounded.