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NPS History E-Library

Civil War Series

The Campaign for Atlanta



At the same time that Howard began his swing to the west of Atlanta, two of Sherman's cavalry divisions, McCook's and Stoneman's, headed south of the city. Their primary objective was to break the Macon railroad around Lovejoy's Station, following which Sherman had authorized Stoneman, should he believe it feasible, to go on to liberate the Union prisoners at Macon and Andersonville. On July 29 McCook reached the railroad at Lovejoy's and tore up two and a half miles of track but Stoneman did not join him there or even attempt to. Instead, as he probably intended from the first, he headed straight for Macon, after which he planned to go on to Andersonville in the hope of becoming the hero of the North by freeing the 30,000-plus Union captives incarcerated there.



As was invariably the case with him throughout the Civil War, Stoneman's aspirations far exceeded his accomplishments. At Macon on July 30 a makeshift force of home guards, militia, and convalescents repulsed his halfhearted attempt to take that town, and the next day pursuing Confederate cavalry forced him and seven hundred of his troopers to surrender near Sunshine Church. Joining them in captivity were hundreds of McCook's men, who had been overtaken and routed by Wheeler at Brown's Mill near Newnan on July 30 as they endeavored to make their way back to Union lines. Far from putting the Macon railroad out of action—the Confederates repaired the damage done to it at Lovejoy's—the McCook-Stoneman raid put out of action two of Sherman's four cavalry divisions.

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