A Witness to the Battles for Waynesborough
—March to the Sea Heritage Trail —
Built about 1858 in the Georgian Cottage style as a home for D Roberts, the house was designed by noted architect John Trowbridge. Subsequent occupants have included a doctor's office, millinery shop and county museum. In late 1864 the house witnessed fighting that took place through the streets of Waynesborough.
On Saturday afternoon, November 26, 1864, a few hundred Federal cavalrymen led by Captain Edward M. Hayes rode through Waynesborough heading toward the railroad bridge across Brier Creek. Hayes troopers partially burned the bridge before quickly riding west to rejoin the main body of some 4,000 Federal cavalrymen commanded by Brigadier General H. Judson Kilpatrick. Kilpatrick's orders were to destroy a portion of the railroad between Millen and Augusta, deceive Confederates into believing an attack upon Augusta was imminent, and if possible liberate Federal prisoners of war at Camp Lawton near Millen. When Wheeler's cavalry committed to defending Augusta the bulk of Union Major General William T. Shermans army faced little opposition in completing its march to the sea.
General Kilpatrick's cavalry division departed Milledgeville on November 24th on its deceptive raid. Passing through Ogeechee Shoals and Gibson, by late on the 26th General Wheeler with about 2,000 Confederate troopers was in pursuit. Near
continuous skirmishing on the 27th between Sylvan Grove and lvanhoe Plantation west of Waynesborough pushed Kilpatrick's troopers through town. They burned railroad equipment and warehouses which in turn set several houses ablaze. After
Kilpatrick's two detachments rejoined his command and reported their lack of success at the Brier Creek railroad bridge and Camp Lawton respectively, he decided to return to General Sherman's main army. They camped for the night three miles south of town. Wheeler reported success in "extinguishing the fine [in town] in all but one dwelling"
while skirmishing all night with the Federals.
Before dawn on the 28th General Wheeler's cavalrymen resumed their attacks. They almost captured General Kilpatrick although they did "capture" his hat. A riding gunfight continued south to Big Buck Head Creek Wheeler's and beyond before the Federal cavalry reached the safety of their army's infantry. Four days later Kilpatrick's troopers returned to the Waynesborough area, reinforced by a division of infantry.
From Louisville on Thursday, December 1st, General Kilpatrick's cavalry moved northeast toward Waynesborough accompanied by the infantry division of Brigadier General Absalom Baird. On the 2nd they skirmished with General Wheeler's outnumbered troopers along Rocky Creek and on the 3rd at Thomas Station. On Sunday the 4th Kilpatrick's
cavalrymen attacked Wheelers multiple barricades, flanking the first and piercing the second, driving the Confederates north through Waynesborough and across Brier Creek. An Ohioan described the Federal advance as "Away we went on the gallop...carbines firing, sabers flashing."
A Confederate counter-charge on the streets of downtown Waynesborough enabled most to escape. Part of Kilpatrick's command pursued to Brier Creek, destroying the railroad and wagon bridges. Thereafter the combined Federal cavalry and infantry force marched southeast toward Jacksonborough. Only then were Confederate authorities convinced that Sherman's objective was Savannah.
Left: "Kilpatrick's Last Charge at Waynesborough, Georgia, Decemeber 4, 1864"
(by Theodore R. Davis, Harper's Weekly)
Middle map: Second Battle of Waynesborough, Georgia Sunday, December 4, 1864
Right map: Significant cavalry engagements, November 26 to December 4, 1864
(Lloyd's Topographical Map of Georgia, 1864)