ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Battle of Griswoldville, Georgia
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Battle of Griswoldville, Georgia
|Battle of Griswoldville, Georgia
The only major infantry battle of Sherman's March to
the Sea, the Battle of Griswoldville is remembered
for its incredible heroism and tragedy.
Battle of Griswoldville
More than 500 Southern men
and boys were killed and
wounded at Griswoldville in
an attack on Sherman's army.
Union Lines at Griswoldville
The Federal breastworks ran
from west to east before the
tree line. Confederate troops
reached about the position of
Confederate troops attacked
up this ridge in three lines at
the Battle of Griswoldville, but
failed to dislodge the Union
force at the top.
Battle of Griswoldville - Griswoldville, Georgia
Griswoldville Battlefield S.H.S.
Ravine of Death
Many of the Confederate
wounded crawled back into
this ravine where they were
found in piles with the dead
after the battle.
The greatest moments of both heroism and
tragedy during General William Tecumseh
Sherman's March to the Sea took place at the
little known Battle of Griswoldville, Georgia,
on November 22, 1864.
The scene of the deadliest fighting is now
preserved at Griswoldville Battlefield State
Historic Site. Located in the small community
of Griswoldville about 12 miles north of
Macon, the park offers historical markers,
interpretive signs and 17 acres of key land at
the heart of the battlefield.
The only major infantry engagement of the
March to the Sea, the Battle of Griswoldville
developed as Sherman began to move his
columns southeast through Central Georgia.
His right wing, composed of the XV and XVII
(15th and 17th) Corps marched southeast
from Gray for Irwinton and Gordon.
To guard this movement, Brigadier General
Charles C. Walcutt's Second Brigade of
Woods' Division of the XV Corps was ordered
to swing south towards Macon with two guns
from Arndt's Michigan Battery. It was not
thought that Walcutt would oppose anything
more than units from Confederate General
Joseph "Fighting Joe" Wheeler's cavalry.
Union General Judson Kilpatrick had made a
light assault on Macon on November 21,
1864, but had withdrawn after sharp fighting
at the Battle of Walnut Creek. More
skirmishing took place at Griswoldville and
continued into the morning of the 22nd.
General Wheeler correctly assumed that the
Federals were moving east and pulled out of
his positions near Griswoldville for a sweep
around to oppose the head of the Union
Also believing that the danger was shifting to
the east, Confederate General William J.
Hardee ordered a large force of Georgia
militia, state line troops and two battalions of
emergency soldiers from the factories at
Athens and Augusta to march up the Gordon
Road from Macon. They were to parallel the
railroad until they met expected trains that
could carry them to Augusta, which Hardee
now believed to be the target of Sherman's
Led by Brigadier General Pleasant J. Philips,
these soldiers began arriving at Griswoldville
just as the last of Wheeler's troopers were
withdrawing. Warned that a Union force of
around 1,000 men was just ahead, Philips
formed a line of battle and moved into the
No Union force was found and the general
decided to continue moving up the road,
assuming that the Federals had also
withdrawn. His route put him on a collision
course with Walcutt's brigade, which had
arrived and taken up a position on the ridge
at today's Griswold Battlefield State Historic
Site. Neither side knew the other was there.
As Philips and his men marched forward,
they began to encounter Union skirmishers
who fired and fell back slowly to their main
line on the ridge. Now alerted that enemy
infantry was approaching, the Federals
began desperately piling fence rails, logs
and anything else that might stop a bullet
along the length of their line atop the ridge.
Surveying the situation and deciding that he
outnumbered the Federals on the ridge,
General Philips decided to attack. The
Georgia troops formed for battle and their
four cannon opened fire on the Union lines
from the top of a hill near the railroad tracks.
The Confederates who fought at the Battle of
Griswoldville were, with the exception of their
artillerymen and a few others, not seasoned
regular soldiers. They were men ranging in
age from their early teens to their 60s who
had turned out to defend their homes and
neighbors against Sherman's invasion. At
Griswoldville they became heroes.
As the Union soldiers watched from atop the
ridge, the Confederates emerged from the
trees in three sweeping lines and began to
advance across a fallow field. It was an open
field attack not unlike Pickett's Charge at
When the Confederates came within killing
range, the Federals opened fire with deadly
effect. The courageous Georgians went
down in waves, but continued to fight with a
desperation that surprised both Union troops
then and modern historians today. When
asked why, one mortally wounded Southern
soldier told his Federal captors that the men
beside him were his neighbors and they
were fighting for each other.
Before night fell and the firing ended, the
Confederates made seven distinct attacks
across the open ground, but were driven
back each time. In the process they suffered
horrendous casualties. More than 500 men
and boys fell dead or wounded on the field at
Griswoldville. Trying to help the living after the
battle, Union soldiers found one 14-year-old
boy still alive under a pile of bodies. He had
been wounded in the arm and leg and near
him lay his father, two brothers and an uncle,
Among the dead and wounded were found
several black men who had fought in the
battle along side the white Southern soldiers.
Little is known about them.
Union losses in the battle totaled 13 killed
and 86 wounded. Confederate losses are
estimated at 50 killed and 500 wounded. It is
said that the water in the branch that runs
through the ravine on the battlefield was
turned red with blood.
Griswoldville Battlefield State Historic Site is
located 12 miles northeast of Macon,
Georgia. Directions to the park are not well
marked by highway signs, but from Macon go
east on U.S. Highway 80 for about two miles
and turn left onto State Highway 57. Follow
Highway 57 for 4.5 miles and turn left on
Ridge Road. The intersection will be just
after cross the line into Twiggs County.
Follow Ridge Road for just under two miles
to Griswoldville and turn right on Old
Griswoldville Road. Follow this road for just
over a mile and a half to Baker Road and turn
left. The battlefield will be just over a half mile
ahead on your left.
The park includes a small parking lot,
interpretive signs, historical markers and the
open field where much of the fighting took
place. There are no other facilities. It is open
during daylight hours and there is no cost to
visit. Please click here to visit the official park
website for more information.
To visit the site of Griswoldville itself, where
much of the preliminary action of the battle
took place, retrace your steps from the park
back to Ridge Road and turn right. A number
of historical markers can be found just
across the railroad tracks on your right.
Water Turned to Blood
So many Confederates fell at
Griswoldville that some said
the water of the branch that
flowed past the battlefield ran
red with blood.
The main area of fighting at
the Battle of Griswoldville is
now Griswoldville Battlefield
State Historic Site. The park
features historical markers,
interpretive signs and key
|Copyright 2012 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.