Five DeKalb County courthouses have been
erected here in the center of Decatur since 1823.
The third courthouse structure, between 1847
and 1898, was where DeKalb County's two
anti-secession delegates were selected to attend
Georgia's secession convention in January 1861.
That same courthouse was also in the center of
numerous military actions during 1864.
On Tuesday, July 19, 1864, the 15th, 16th
and 17th Corps of Union Major General James
B. McPherson's "Army of the Tennessee," part of
Union Major General William T. Sherman's
command, camped overnight in Decatur. They
moved southwest across the county toward their
clash with Confederates at the "Battle of
Atlanta" on July 22nd. Union Brigadier General
Kenner Garrard assembled his cavalry division
in Decatur on July 20th leaving on the 21st in
order to destroy the railroad eastward toward
Covington. His cavalrymen returned here on
When Confederate General John B. Hood
planned the Battle of Atlanta, his cavalry, under
Major General Joseph Wheeler, was directed to
attack the wagon trains of General McPherson's
army. These wagons carrying vital supplies were
still located in Decatur. They were guarded by
Union Colonel John W. Sprague's brigade.
On July 22nd, General Wheeler's dismounted
Cavalrymen deployed south
of the railroad (about
four blocks to the south) and drove Colonel
Sprague's command north to the courthouse.
Outnumbered and attacked on three sides,
Sprague was forced to
withdraw about one mile
north (to present-day
North Decatur Road).
Sprague later wrote, "I had
no doubt of my ability to
hold the courthouse square
and the town, but this
would not prevent the
enemy from attacking the
trains of our army coming
up from Roswell, so I
withdrew from the town on
[Clairmont] Road." The
Federals made a stand at
their new location and
Wheeler withdrew after
receiving orders to rejoin
the main Confederate a my
at Atlanta. As a result of
this action Sprague was
promoted to brigadier
general and in 1894 was awarded
the Medal of
One brave lady, Mary
Gay, refused to leave her
home in Decatur which
was originally located on
Marshall Street within
view of the courthouse.
She told her amazing story
in her book, Life in Dixie
During the War. Gay hid clothing in her home
before delivering them to needy Confederate
soldiers. She later supported both herself and
others by collecting bullets and artillery shells
to trade for food.
Following these military actions the citizens
of Decatur endured another four months of
enemy activities. They included the assembly of
Union Major General George Stoneman's
division for its raid toward Macon
starting on July 27th, occupation by the 23rd
Corps in September 1864 following the
surrender of Atlanta and the marching of
General Sherman's "Left Wing" through town
on November 15th and 16th after departing
Atlanta on their "March to the Sea."
The current structure served as DeKalb
County's courthouse from 1918 to 1967.