As I write this, I realize 150 years ago this past week Douglas County (then a part of Campbell County) began to see action between Confederate and Union forces for the first time.
In late June, General Sherman sent some of his forces toward the southwest in order to mislead the Confederates regarding where the main army would cross the Chattahoochee River.
The people on the home front in Campbell County had been hearing the rumblings of war for several weeks as the Union forces began sweeping south through Georgia at such places as Kennesaw Mountain, Pickett’s Mill and New Hope Church. They began to make preparations as best they could. Valuables were hidden in hastily dug holes or under brush.
What began that first week of July 1864 was a dangerous game of hide and seek involving troop numbers and misinformation being used whenever possible to confound the enemy by both sides.
On July 1, 1864, Major General George Stoneman entered Campbell County as he crossed Sweetwater Creek just below the mouth of Powder Springs Creek, and for the first time during the war, Campbell County citizens were about to come face to face with Union soldiers.
Stoneman’s men set up camp near the five pronged intersection at Salt Springs (Lithia Springs) known as Cox’s Crossroads, while other soldiers moved on to the home of John Bowden, which still stands today on Bankhead Highway.
By July 2, Stoneman had control of Sweet Water Town (Austell) and sent scouts down the Campbell-Powder Springs Road to look for a good place to cross the Chattahoochee River. Another group under the command of Colonel Silas Adams was sent down the west bank of Sweetwater Creek to secure the bridge at Ferguson’s Mill and reach the New Manchester Mill.
Adam’s men rounded up the workers outside the building and then damaged the machinery, so it was of no use to anyone. The mill workers, many of them women with children of various ages, would remain in limbo detained by Union forces for the next week, not knowing their fate.
On July 3, Stoneman and General Edward M. McCook along with the 55th Illinois infantry began to advance down Sweetwater Creek. There were various skirmishes all over the area, including opposition mounted by Confederate Brigadier General Ross at Sweetwater Bridge.
Later that day and into the evening, Adams and the 18th Indiana Battery were laying siege to a Confederate trench near Douglas Hill Road, bombing it with Parrott shells where Confederates from the 3rd Texas Cavalry were attempting to hold the line. They ended up losing one man killed by a long range ball. This engagement was the first time the 3rd Texas had been under fire.
On July 4, Union soldiers reached the area near the Bullard-Sprayberry-Henley home, which still stands on Highway 92 near the Douglas County aquatic center. After a small skirmish with Confederate soldiers, William Huff of Company J of the 1st Kentucky (Federal) was killed and later buried in the Bullard family plot at the insistence of General McCook.
Members of the 3rd Texas continued to be under fire along Baker’s Ferry Road. As they fell back, they were shelled the entire way. By noon, the 3rd Texas had crossed to the other side of the Chattahoochee River out of range.
By the end of the day, General Stoneman could report he controlled the Chattahoochee River from the mouth of Sweetwater Creek to Sandtown Crossing. He continued to send scouts down towards Campbellton to access danger.
The main goal for the Union at this point was to cross the Chattahoochee River, but that bit of history, along with an examination of how Campbell County citizens fared under Union control, will have to wait until next week.
Lisa Cooper writes the stories from Douglas County history for the Sentinel. Her new book on Douglasville history will be released July 14. It is available for pre-order on Amazon.com and will be sold at several local businesses. For information email Cooper at firstname.lastname@example.org.