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Moments In Time: July 20, 1864, General Sherman Orders Raid on Covington

Moments In Time

June 20, 1864: General Sherman Orders Cavalry Raid on Covington


The year 1864 in Newton County was destined to be a terrible one.  Both nature and the Union Army brought hunger, fear, and destruction to the county.

A very cold, rainy winter extended into March and April.   Dolly Burge, of Burge Plantation, wrote in her diary that April of 1864, “I have no plants in the garden.  My potatoes have not sprouted, and everything looks like January instead of April.  We have no corn up though it has been planted a month.”

Nature couldn’t have intervened at a worse time.  Food was already in short supply throughout the South.  And, we had

Brig. Gen Kenner Garrard

suffered during the entire war from inability to transport goods to our soldiers.  But things were about to get worse.

Brig.  General Kenner Garrard commanded a cavalry division under Maj.  Gen. William T. Sherman on his march through Georgia to the sea.  Garrard’s troops were scatted about around Roswell in July, 1864 when he received orders from General Sherman to “proceed rapidly to Covington.”

Once in the Covington area, Garrard’s troops were to destroy road and railroad bridges, and the railroad itself, effectively isolating Atlanta from receiving supplies and reinforcements from the eastern Confederacy.

Sherman’s orders read, in part, that Garrard was to destroy the railroad from Lithonia to east of Covington, “especially the Yellow River bridge this side of Covington, as well as the road bridge over Yellow River, after you have passed.”  Continuing,Shermanordered Garrard to “send detachments to destroy the rail and road bridges east of Covington over the Ulcofauhachee,” which today we call the Alcovy.  “Try and capture and destroy some locomotives and cars and the depot and stores at Covington, but of private property, only take what is necessary for your own use, except horses and mules, of which you will take all that are fit for service, exercising, of course, some judgement as to the animals belonging to the poor and needy,”  Sherman ordered.

Sherman gave Garrard permission to ride roughshod over any Confederate forces he found in the area, when he ordered Garrard’s cavalry to destroy railroads and bridges around Covington on July 20, 1864.   Today – a Newton County Moment In Time.


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