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Moments In Time: July 24, 1864 – Ole Man Jones Defends Covington

Moments In Time

July 24, 1864: Ole Man Presley Jones defends Covington

On July 20, 1864, Gen. William T. Sherman, on his march to seize Atlanta and continue to the sea, ordered Gen. Kenner Garrard to destroy railroads, bridges, and strategic supplies in and around Covington.

Garrard’s cavalry rode into Covington two days later, and began carrying out Sherman’s orders.  They met very little resistance since most of Covington’s able-bodied men were, themselves, away fighting.  The town was now filled primarily with women and wounded and sick Confederate soldiers from battlegrounds throughout the South.

Peggy Lamberson wrote in her book Main Street Covington,” “As the raiders enteredCovington, they encountered a bizarre and futile defense in the form of one Presley Jones, an elderly, quiet man…”  Jones was a farmer and lived on what is now Washington Street, up the little hill past Dried Indian Creek.  He had seven younguns, and had sworn to kill the first Yankee that approached his home.

When Jones heard that Union soldiers were in town, he loaded his squirrel rifle, headed downtown to the square, and took a stand in front of the courthouse.  He had only been there a short time when a Union soldier came by with a group of captured convalescents from a local hospital.  Pressley Jones shot the Yank dead.

Jones reloaded, moved to another street, and before long brought down his second target who was also escorting a squad of prisoners.

Reloading for a third time, Jones found another platoon of Union cavalry.  He fired into the crowd, wounding two, but was not so lucky this time.  The Union troops captured Jones and summarily executed him on the spot.

In the report on his Covington campaign to General Sherman, Garrard would mention that he lost only two men, but he would not describe the circumstances.

In three days, General Kenner Garrard had marched his cavalry division over 90 miles, destroyed three road bridges and railroad bridges over the Yellow and Alcovy rivers; captured three trains, destroyed over six miles of track, burned the Social Circle and Covington depots, and in Covington, burned 2000 bales of cotton, large quantities of army supplies, and the new hospital facilities built to handle 10,000 soldiers.

Garrard’s raid had effectively cut off all communication between Atlanta and Augusta, and destroyed any hope that the Confederate Army defending Atlanta might receive supplies or reinforcements from the eastern Confederacy.

Garrard began the account of his raid to General Sherman by saying, “General, I have the honor to report that your instructions have been carried out.”  That was on July 24, 1864.  Today – a Newton County Moment In Time.

 

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