Griswold's Confederate Pistol
The original historic marker read:
Apx. 10 miles east of Macon, Old Griswoldville
The only significant battle opposing Sherman's "March to the Sea" occurred unintentionally at Griswoldville, when vastly outnumbered Georgia Militia, made up mostly of inexperienced old men and boys, made a futile attack on part of the Right Wing of Sherman's army. Some call this the Gettysburg of Georgia.
Griswoldville was named for the brilliant entrepreneur Samuel Griswold, who came to the town of Clinton from Connecticut in 1820. Griswold established the first iron foundry in Georgia and a factory for making cotton gins. After the Georgia Central railroad was built between Savannah and Macon in the 1840s, Griswold purchased 4,000 acres and moved his operation two miles south to Griswoldville, located 10 miles east of Macon, so that he could be on the railroad. Here he had an enormous factory that produced cotton gins, a saw mill, a grist mill, and factories that produced bricks, soap, furniture, and candles. He built a three-story, 24-room mansion for himself, a church, and 60 cottages for his slaves and workers. In 1862, Griswold converted his gin factory into a pistol factory, where he manufactured more than 3,500 Colt's Navy Repeaters or Brass-frame Confederate Colts, prized weapons in the Confederacy.
On Nov. 21, 1864, Union Gen. Judson Kilpatrick's cavalry, operating on the Federal right flank during the "March to the Sea," destroyed the town, burning everything except Griswold's home, the slave cottages, and a worker's residence. The Confederate commander in charge of defending Georgia, William J. Hardee, realized that Macon was not a target, and assumed that Augusta, with its arsenal, foundry, and other facilities, was Sherman's real objective. Hardee ordered the local militia in Macon to reinforce Augusta. On Nov. 22, 1864, these troops, made up of 4,350 inexperienced troops and artillery under the command of Gen. Pleasant J. Philips, marched eastward on the Georgia Central railroad and ran smack into smaller detachments of the advancing Federal Army, just past the smoldering ruins of Griswoldville. Philips found a battle-hardened Federal brigade, under Brig. Gen. Charles C. Walcutt, numbering 1,513. The Yankees were armed with Spencer repeating rifles and cannon, and located on the crest of Duncan Ridge with flanks on a swamp and railroad embankment. Without orders from superiors, Philips formed his lines for battle and attacked across an open field, trying to cross a swampy creek and charge up a hill. His men made seven assaults, coming within 50 yards of the Yankees before being repulsed by blistering fire. The Confederates reported losses of 422 wounded and 51 killed, and the Union reported 79 wounded — including Gen. Walcutt — and 13 killed. Union Col. Charles Wills later wrote of the battle, "Old gray haired men and weakly looking men and little boys, not over 15 years old, lay dead or writhing in pain," he wrote. "I pity those boys. I hope I never have to shoot at such men again. They knew nothing at all about fighting, and I think their officers knew as little, or else certainly knew nothing of our being there." In one spot, Federals found a 14-year-old boy, with a broken arm and leg. Next to him, "cold in death, lay his father, two brothers, and an uncle. It was a harvest of death," wrote a Union soldier. Today, the battlefield is in private ownership, but historical preservation groups have the goal of preserving it. One can go to the site of Griswoldville, located at a crossroads next to the train tracks, read state historical markers, and get a general sense of what occurred here.
A Field of Honor at Last for a Ragtag 1864 Militia Macon, Georgia...November 21, 1998...The soldiers were not really soldiers at all, but old men and young boys and others who were considered unfit for a real Confedeerate uniform, armed with squirrel rifles and shotguns and smooth-bore muskets that hurled a musket ball in the rough direction of the enemy. Their commanding General had no real experience in battle. The rag tag regiment was called the Georgia militia but the real Confederate regulars, half starved, their ranks shot to pieces by late 1864, referred to them as "Joe Brown's Pet's". Gov. Joe Brown, who had formed the militia, as a home guard, never let it fight outside the state of Georgia, Civil War Historians say, so the regulars questioned the members courage. History would probably have remembered them that way too, or not at all, if the hated Union General Sherman had not put a match to the town of Griswoldville, Georgia, 10 miles east of Macon on November 22, 1864. What happened next would go down as one of the most courageous actions of the War, but one of it's most tragic, one sided and - many historians believed - foolish. "It was never intended to be a battle," said William R. Scaife, the premier Civil War Historian of Georgia.
But that is no reason, historians and history buffs here agree, that the fields and trees should be paved over and forgotten. The State of Georgia through it's Civil War Commission dedicated 17 Acres of Battlefield - virtually unchanged since that violent day - to the Ge. State Parks, which will maintain the land as a state historic site.
Griswoldville Article by Rick Bragg of the New York Times
Griswoldville, Georgia was the site of the only major battle fought between Union and Confederate forces during Union Major General William T. Sherman's March to the Sea.
On November 15, 1864, Sherman turned his back on a burning Atlanta and set out with an army of some 60,000 soldiers on his famous "March to the Sea," a campaign which has been both condemned and lauded by historians over the years. Some five weeks later, on December 22, 1864, Sherman offered the city of Savannah to President Abraham Lincoln as a Christmas present.
In that month, Sherman's army faced little opposition. Lieutenant General John B. Hood, commander of the Confederate Army of Tennessee, had already turned north on his ill-fated invasion of Middle Tennessee, and left behind scant cavalry forces under Major General Joseph Wheeler and a few poorly trained and equipped Georgia Militia and local defense units. Wheeler did well each time he faced his Union counterpart, Judson Kilpatrick, but was always forced to withdraw when Federal infantry appeared.
Worried that Sherman's objective was Augusta, Georgia, with its arsenal, foundry and workshops, Confederate commander Lieutenant General William J. Hardee ordered his available troops to proceed in that direction. Meanwhile, Sherman's right wing, under Major-General Oliver O. Howard, continued southeast, just a few miles northeast of Macon, marching on a collision course with the Georgia State troops now moving towards Augusta.
On November 22, 1864, Brigadier-General Pleasant J. Philips left Macon with the main body of state troops and by noon had arrived near Griswoldville. There he found the Athens and Augusta Local Defense Battalions under Major W.C. Cook, drawn up in line of battle. Philips deployed his forces, and advanced through Griswoldville, continuing east until he neared a Federal brigade under Brigadier-General Charles C. Walcutt. For some reason at this point, Philips prepared to assault the Union position.
Walcutt's line extended for a distance of about a mile along a ridge just east of, and overlooking today's Battle Line Branch of Big Sandy Creek. The Duncan farmhouse was located near the center of this line. Although Philips intended to strike both flanks of Walcutt's position, his scheme failed and the attack became nothing more than a frontal assault. Sometime between 2:30 and 3:00 P.M. Confederate forces, mostly old men and young boys, stepped out. Walcutt's men were some of Sherman's most capable veterans, some armed with Spencer repeating rifles.
The battle proved completely one-sided. Major Asias Willison, commanding the 103rd Illinois Infantry Regiment, wrote: "As soon as they [Georgia State troops] came within range of our muskets, a most terrific fire was poured into their ranks, doing fearful execution...still they moved forward, and came within 45 yards of our works. Here they attempted to reform their line, but so destructive was the fire that they were compelled to retire."
Philips, his command easily repulsed, withdrew from the field after dark and fell back to Macon. Confederate casualties were 51 killed and 422 wounded out of some 4,400, while the Federals counted 13 killed, 79 wounded and 2 missing out of perhaps 1,500 involved.
Colonel Charles C. Jones probably summarized it up best. The Battle of Griswoldville, "while it reflects great credit upon the gallantry of the Confederate and State forces engaged, was unnecessary, unexpected and utterly unproductive of any good." It will "be remembered as an unfortunate accident whose occurrence might have been avoided by the exercise of proper caution and circumspection." The engagement in no way held up Sherman's advance: it merely added to the respective casualty lists.
Source: The Civil War Preservation Trust
More on the battle and Griswoldville
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