Battle of Brown’s Mill
A major blow to Sherman’s plans in the Atlanta Campaign
The Brown's Mill Battlefield Historic Civil War Site in Newnan, Ga., opens to the public in July 2013, nearly 149 years after the day of the significant battle. The 104-acre site is dedicated to the Confederate and Union soldiers who fought and died there on July 30, 1864, and to the Confederate and Union medical staffs who tended to the wounded after the battle. As a result of the battle, Major General William T. Sherman was forced to adopt new tactics for the Atlanta Campaign.
The action began on July 27, 1864, when Federal Brigadier General Edward M. McCook departed his lines to carry out a raid in tandem with Major General George Stoneman. Their mission was to wreck the remaining Confederate railroads supplying Atlanta while keeping the enemy off balance and creating havoc behind Confederate lines. If the raid was successful, Stoneman then planned to continue on to Andersonville to liberate the 30,000 Union prisoners held there.
McCook and his 2,400 troops crossed the Chattahoochee River at Smith's Ferry and cut the Atlanta and West Point Railroad at Palmetto, capturing and burning 1,000 wagons from a Confederate supply train at Fayetteville. They next traveled to the preset rendezvous point at Lovejoy on July 29, but Stoneman failed to appear, forcing McCook to retrace his steps toward the Chattahoochee River. By that time, McCook had Confederate cavalry pursuing him. Again at Lovejoy, McCook fought a sharp skirmish with the mounted forces of brigadier generals W.H. Jackson and Lawrence Ross that forced a retreat westward with Major General Joseph Wheeler and several hundred cavalry on his heels.
With the Confederates sniping at his rear guard, McCook's advance guard approached Newnan from the east, on what is now Broad Street, early on July 30, 1864, with his troops and horses in a state of exhaustion. They encountered a trainload of Confederate soldiers blocking the road on the outskirts of town. The troops, elements of Brigadier General P.D. Roddey's dismounted Alabama cavalry who had been traveling by train, were forced to stop in Newnan because the tracks were damaged to the north in Palmetto. The Alabamians were as surprised to see the Federal cavalry as the Federals were to see them. Fighting soon erupted, causing McCook to begin a desperate search for a way out of the situation in a route that would bypass Newnan to the south and avoid the clash.
While that was occurring, Wheeler's force rode into Newnan and swiftly divided with the intention of striking the Federal marauders simultaneously in their front and rear. Wheeler’s men came into contact with McCook’s about three miles southwest of Newnan at the intersection of today’s Millard Farmer and Corinth roads. The Federal cavalry was driven off the roadbed and into the woods south of Millard Farmer Road. As the fighting seesawed through the heavy woods thick with underbrush, McCook’s men were forced to dismount and fight on foot. McCook, believing they were surrounded, proclaimed, "Every man for himself." As the Federals suffered heavy casualties, the Confederates received approximately 1,400 reinforcements who repeatedly charged McCook's line, driving it back. By late afternoon, after having lost two of its brigade commanders, McCook's force split up and cut their way out, only to be captured piecemeal over the next few days while attempting to reach safety behind Union lines.
The Battle of Brown's Mill was a major blow to Sherman's plans to use cavalry as a means of gaining major objectives in the Atlanta Campaign. McCook lost about 100 killed and wounded and another 1,300 captured and sent to Confederate prisons, while the supplies continued to reach the Confederates in Atlanta by train. Wheeler suffered about half the casualties of McCook.
The historic battle site, featuring walking trails and interpretive signs, is the only Civil War park south of Atlanta and one of only two Civil War parks in the nation featuring a cavalry battle. It is located a few miles southwest of downtown Newnan on Millard Farmer Road near Old Corinth Road. Nearby attractions include the Atlanta and West Point Depot, where fighting broke out between the Alabama and Federal cavalries; Oak Hill Cemetery in downtown Newnan, where nearly 270 Confederate soldiers are buried; and Male Academy Museum, which has an authentic Confederate battle flag on display along with a large collection of weapons and other artifacts.