Jonesboro witnessed the last battles of the Atlanta Campaign, desperate affairs that sealed the fate of Atlanta on Aug. 31-Sept. 1, 1864. Sherman had laid siege to Atlanta and sent cavalry raiders in an unsuccessful campaign to tear up the railroads feeding Atlanta. Gen. Judson Kilpatrick destroyed track, stores and depots in Jonesboro on Aug. 19, 1864, and returned to Atlanta reporting success. But within 24 hours of his raid, the rails had been fixed by the Confederates. So after a month-long stalemate outside the fortifications of the city, Sherman decided on Aug. 25 to silence his artillery which had been pounding Atlanta for six weeks and to evacuate his trenches, and send almost his entire army in a sweep west and south to do what smaller forces could not: destroy at three different places the remaining railroad serving the city. (Some in Atlanta, believing a frustrated Sherman had been defeated and was heading north, planned victory parties.) Confederate Gen. John Bell Hood in Atlanta, who had sent his cavalry north and lacked good reconnaissance information, learned Union troops were marching south to the railroads, and thinking it was a small raiding party, sent Gen. William Hardee and Gen. Stephen Lee's corps to protect the railroads. The Confederate soldiers found themselves against a much larger force, and in an uncoordinated attack on entrenched Federal troops in Jonesboro on Aug. 31, suffered a defeat. Meanwhile, Gen. John Schofield's men north of Jonesboro had cut the railroad, and Hood ordered Lee's men north from Jonesboro to Atlanta. In Jonesboro on Sept. 1, Hardee's depleted men, now being attacked by Union forces, fought valiantly under Gen. Patrick Cleburne until the Federals withdrew. Hardee withdrew his Confederates south to Lovejoy, where Hood and his remaining forces met him, having abandoned Atlanta. Sherman had won Atlanta, but he missed his chance to destroy the Confederate Army of Tennessee. Hood would move north to fight again, and Sherman would march to Savannah in November. The battlefield is more or less obliterated from the time of the battles, but nine historical markers in the area of Jonesboro's Historic District help tell the story. Don't miss the Patrick Cleburne Cemetery. Some interesting antebellum homes can be found in Jonesboro, some which claim to be the inspiration for Margaret Mitchell's Tara in Gone With The Wind, and a driving tour map with 32 attractions is available at the Clayton County Visitors Center at 8712 Tara Boulevard. Mitchell's great grandfather, Philip Fitzgerald, was a well-to-do planter in Clayton County, and the stories he told to Mitchell about the War, many believe, became Gone With The Wind. On the second weekend in October, Jonesboro hosts its annual Fall Festival and Battle of Jonesboro Reenactment.
The privately owned Warren House (102 W. Mimosa), built in 1860, was the most prominent landmark on the Jonesboro battlefield, and it was used as a headquarters and hospital by Confederate forces and then by Union forces. Signatures of convalescing Union soldiers still appear on the walls in an upstairs room. The Crawford-Talmadge Plantation (Talmadge Road in Lovejoy) is where Hood's defeated army gathered after the fall of Atlanta. It is thought to be the inspiration for Twelve Oaks in Gone With The Wind. It is open to tour for groups of 30 or more. The privately owned Johnson-Blalock House, (155 N. Main Street) built in 1859 by Col. J.F. Johnson, a signer of the Secession Ordinance, was used as a hospital and commissary. Stately Oaks Mansion (100 Carriage Lane 770-473-0197) is an 1839 plantation home open for tours. It was located four miles north of Jonesboro, where Union soldiers camped on its grounds, until it was moved to its present location. The Patrick R. Cleburne Cemetery, (Johnson & McDonough streets) established in 1872, holds the remains of 600 to 1,000 unidentified Confederate soldiers who died during the Battle of Jonesboro. The unmarked headstones are laid out in the shape of the Confederate battle flag, with a memorial in the center, and 12 cannon balls embedded in the entrance archway. The cemetery is found in historic downtown Jonesboro near the railroad tracks.
On Sept. 19, 1864 in Palmetto, Gen. John Bell Hood gathered his 40,000 troops after the fall of Atlanta. He planned his northward move to attack Sherman's supply lines and started his disastrous Tennessee Campaign. On Sept 25-26, Jefferson Davis visited Hood, reviewed the troops, gave a speech, and left for Richmond. Gen. Joseph Hardee was relieved of his command here. A monument, historical marker, and two cannons are found near the railroad tracks in downtown Palmetto. Near Palmetto in Sharpsburg is the privately owned Windemere Plantation.
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