On Nov. 15, 1864, after destroying Atlanta and cutting his communications with the North, Maj. Gen. W. T. Sherman, USA, began his destructive campaign for Savannah — the March to the Sea. He divided his army [US] into two wings. The Right Wing marched south from Atlanta, to feint at Macon but to cross the Ocmulgee River above the city and concentrate at Gordon.
The Left Wing (14 and 20th Corps), Maj. Gen. H. W. Slocum, USA, marched to Decatur where the 20th Corps, Brig. Gen. A. S. Williams, USA, took the road to Social Circle to strike the Georgia Railroad here and destroy it through Madison.
Late on the 17th, the 20th Corps reached Centreville Box (Jersey), 6 miles NW, and camped between Cornish and Big Flat creeks, with its leading division (Geary's) on the west bank of the Ulcofauhachee (Alcovy) River, 3 miles from Social Circle.
On the 18th, elements of the 2nd and 3rd Divisions destroyed the Georgia Railroad from Social Circle to Madison (16 miles). At Rutledge (7 miles SE), the depot, water tank, warehouses and other RR facilities were burned, those at Social Circle having been destroyed in July by Garrard's cavalry [US]. That night the 20th Corps camped west of Madison on the Covington road.
Between Atlanta and Milledgeville, the movements of the Left Wing were almost unopposed, the few Confederate troops available being employed against the Right Win to protect Macon, a principal arsenal center, and the Central of Georgia Railway.