Covington, west of Madison on the Georgia Railroad, was a town similar to its neighbor. Its prosperity was based on cotton, and the beautiful antebellum homes found here reflected the wealth and taste of the planter aristocracy from that period. Mills powered by the Alcovy River near Covington made it an industrial target of Sherman's army as well, and Union Brig. Gen. Kenner Garrard's cavalry forces raided the area from July 22-24, 1864, while the Battle of Atlanta raged west of him down the railroad line. The raid was successful, as Garrard burned the railroad depot, hospital center of 30 unoccupied buildings, cotton, commissary supplies, trains, bridges, and six miles of track. Doing so prevented Confederate Gen. John Bell Hood's army in Atlanta from receiving reinforcements from the Eastern Theater, as they had during Chickamauga. Garrard returned to Atlanta with 200 prisoners, leaving Covington to pick up the pieces.
On the 27th, Stoneman camped near Covington on his way toward Macon, where he would be turned back, defeated, and captured by Gen. Alfred Iverson, Jr.'s cavalry near Sunshine Church at Round Oak.
On Nov. 18 of the same year, Gen. W.T. Sherman, traveling with the XIV Corps, moved through Covington on his "March to the Sea." His troops looted the town and residences but did not burn it. Wrote Sherman about Covington, "the soldiers closed up their ranks, the color-bearers unfurling their flags, and the bands striking up patriotic airs. The white people came out of their houses to behold the sight, in spite of their deep hatred of the invaders, and the negroes were simply frantic with joy." It took from 9 a.m. to late in the evening for the entire column to march through the town, pausing between Covington and east of the town to camp for the night.
A driving tour is available at the Newton County Chamber of Commerce designed to lead you to many of the fine homes in Covington. Don't miss Swanscombe, built in 1828 and the former home of C.S. Gen. Robert J. Henderson; the First United Methodist Church, 1854, and the "Old Church," 1841, which were used as Civil War hospitals. In excellent shape is the granite Newton County Confederate Memorial near the county courthouse, one of the first to honor Southern women and include an anchor honoring Confederate seamen.
Oxford College, established in 1836, is the birthplace of Emory University, which later moved to Atlanta. Oxford closed during the war, and the literary society buildings (Few and Phi Gamma) were used as Confederate hospitals. Down a wooded path behind the college gym is a secluded, quiet cemetery containing 25 Confederate graves and a Confederate memorial. The Oxford community has thirty structures built in the 1800s, including the home where Confederate spy Zora Fair hid, at 1005 Asbury St. She disguised herself as a black while spying on the Union army in Atlanta.
Covington was another important hospital town of the Confederacy, treating more than 20,000 soldiers from 1862-64 at the Hill, Hood, Lumpkin, and other hospitals, under the immediate supervision of Samuel H. Stout, Medical Director Confederate Army of Tennessee. Not everyone survived at these hospitals, and 67 known and unknown Confederates who died of wounds or disease are buried in the Covington City Cemetery, honored by a stone platform, historical marker, and three flags. Confederate generals James P. Simms and Robert J. Henderson are buried close to each other in this cemetery. Simms fought in Virginia, and Henderson led his men in the Army of Tennessee and was wounded at Resaca. Henderson survived and fought on, eventually surrendering at Greensboro, N.C. April 26, 1865.
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