"...ﬁre one volley and fall back."
—March to the Sea Heritage Trail —
Big Buckhead Baptist Church was initially established in 1774 but was disrupted by the Revolutionary War. It was reconstituted in 1787. Delegates to the annual convention of Georgia Baptists meeting here in 1831, "Resolved, that as soon as the funds will justify it, this convention will establish, in some central part of the State a classic, and theological school."
This school is today known as Mercer University. The church's current structure dates from 1855. Its cemetery also predates the Civil War.
Over two days in late November 1864, Union Brigadier General H. Judson Kilpatrick's cavalry division, about 4,000 strong, attempted to return to the safety of Major General William T. Sherman's "Left Wing" encamped around Louisville. They came under almost constant attack from Confederate Major General Joseph Wheeler's approximately 2,000 cavalrymen from Waynesborough to beyond Buck Head Creek. One Federal officer instructed each man to "...hold his fire until the enemy got well within reach, then.. fine one volley and fall back."
On Monday, November 28th, a galloping two-hour gunfight between the two cavalry forces occurred around Big Buckhead Church and beyond the bridge over Buck Head Creek. General Wheeler hoped to trap the Federals by burning the creek's bridge, but the first of General Kilpatrick's troopers
crossed it before any Confederates arrived. Each side continuously fired upon their enemy as both raced past the church.
The Federal 2nd and 3rd Kentucky Cavalry Regiments acted as rear guard on the church side of the creek as the remainder of General Kilpatrick's division crossed. The Kentuckians were soon joined by the 9th Pennsylvania and 5th Kentucky Cavalry Regiments plus part of the 10th Wisconsin Battery who re-crossed the creek to assist. A Confederate dismounted frontal assault was repelled while mounted cavalrymen crossed above and below the bridge. Eventually the Federals retreated across the bridge where the 5th Ohio Cavalry Regiment and the remainder of the 10th Wisconsin Battery formed a last line to delay the Confederates long enough for members of the 5th Ohio to set fire to the bridge. Kilpatrick's entire division then rode rapidly to the west toward Louisville.
Church pews were removed by Confederates to repair the bridge. This work required one hour while other men forded the creek upstream at the "Dipping Ford" (where the church baptized new members) in order to resume their pursuit. The final Confederate attacks of the day occurred at Reynolds Plantation three miles west. Repeated advances were repulsed, enabling Kilpatrick's cavalry to reach Louisville the next day. Casualties approaching one hundred on each side were disputed but
Confederate Brigadier General Felix H. Robertson, severely wounded at Buck Head Creek.
On. Friday, December 2nd, the 20th Corps of Union Brigadier General Alpheus S. Williams camped around Big Buckhead Church while the 14th Corps of Brigadier General Jefferson C. Davis camped across the creek. Both men supposedly met inside the church the following morning with Left Wing commander Major General Henry W. Slocum to review plans for the continuation of their march.
Bottom left: Battle of Buck Head Creek, Monday, November 28,1864
Middle top: Interior of Big Buckhead Baptist Church
Middle bottom: Remains of bridge over Buck Head Creek
Top right: Confederate Brigadier General Felix H. Robertson 1839 - 1928
General Wheeler's Chief of Staff
Only native-born Texan to become a general, Last survivor of the Confederacy's generals
Bottom right map: Significant cavalry engagements, November 26 to December 4, 1864
Lloyd's Topographical Map of Georgia, 1864)
Background watermark: Big Buckhead Baptist Church