The Battle of Sunshine Church - Round Oak, Georgia
The Battle of Sunshine Church - Round Oak, Georgia
Battle of Sunshine Church
This is a view of the battlefield from the site of the
main Union line. Stoneman Hill, where the final
surrender took place, was off to the right.
Battle of Sunshine Church
The modern church, called
Sunshine Church II, stands
just north of the battlefield in
Round Oak, Georgia.
The Stoneman Raid
The historical marker on the
west side of Georgia Highway
11 stands in the middle of the
battlefield.
Iverson's Ridge
The Confederate troops were
positioned on the ridge in the
distance when the battle
began.
The Battle of Sunshine Church - Round Oak, Georgia
Key Battle of Stoneman's Raid
Sunshine Church Battlefield
This view from the marker
faces the ridge where the
main Union line formed. The
original Sunshine Church
was to the right of the curve in
the highway.
General George Stoneman's attempt to free
the Union prisoners of war at
Macon and
Andersonville came to an end on July 31,
1864, at the Battle of Sunshine Church.

One of the few significant Confederate
victories of the Atlanta Campaign, the Battle
of Sunshine Church was fought in an area of
hills and ravines just south of the community
of Round Oak and about ten miles north of
the town of Gray, Georgia. A smashing
Confederate victory, the battle resulted in the
capture of General Stoneman and 500 of his
raiders.

Stoneman had prevailed upon Union
General William Tecumseh Sherman to
allow him to attempt a raid down the railroad
connecting Atlanta with Macon. The plan was
to disrupt the rail network that brought vital
supplies to the Confederate army defending
Atlanta and to do as much damage as
possible to support "industries" along the
way.

If this part of the raid succeeded, Stoneman
was authorized to move on Macon and
Camp
Sumter or Andersonville, where thousands of
Union prisoners of war were held. Such a
move would shower the general in glory and
bring tens of thousands of soldiers into
Sherman's ranks.

Pushing south from Atlanta, tearing up the
railroad and inflicting damage to both military
and civilian targets all along his route,
Stoneman attacked Macon but was defeated
at the
Battle of Dunlap Hill. As he was trying
to find another way across the Ocmulgee
River, he learned that Confederate cavalry
was moving out of Macon to threaten his rear.

Quickly turning his force about, Stoneman
drove his men hard hoping to reach the
safety of Sherman's lines in Atlanta before
the swarming Confederates could swallow
him up. When he reached Sunshine Church,
a small rural sanctuary a couple of miles
south of the present church of that name, he
was stunned to find Confederate soldiers
dug in along a ridge and waiting for him.

The Union general had been outsmarted by
Confederate General Alfred Iverson, Jr., an
officer born and raised in the area and who
used his knowledge of local geography to get
ahead of the Federals and pick an ideal spot
to dig in.

With Iverson blocking his route of retreat,
Stoneman deployed his 2,100 men for battle
and attacked. The Battle of Sunshine Church
was underway.

The fighting was desperate and bloody.
Union troops made charges against fierce
Confederate resistance and the Southern
soldiers in turn counter-charged. The battle
raged over a large expanse of rough, wooded
country.
As the fighting continued, Confederate
reinforcements came up from Macon,
attacking the rear of the Union force. Now
believing himself surrounded and unable to
break through Iverson's lines before him,
Stoneman seized on a desperate plan.

With part of his command, he would stay
behind and wage a desperate battle while
two of his brigades attempted to cut their way
through and escape. It was at best a risky
plan, but Colonel Horace Capron and
Lieutenant Colonel Silas Adams cut their way
out and headed north. Most of Adams' men
eventually reached Sherman. Capron's
brigade, however, was cut to pieces at the
Battle of King's Tanyard near WInder.

Cornered on a hill that now bears his name,
Stoneman surrendered. His black guide was
hanged by Confederate soldiers and the
general himself nearly met the same fate.
Southerners were irate over the destruction
his men had done to homes and farms.

Sunshine Church Battlefield is not preserved
as a park, but much of the scene can be
viewed from along Georgia Highway 11 north
of Gray, Gerogia.

A state historical marker stands on the west
side of the highway ten miles north of Gray
and is located in the center of the battlefield
directly between the positions of the Union
and Confederate lines. The modern structure
of Sunshine Church is a short distance
further north on Highway 11.
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Copyright 2011and 2013 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.

Last Updated: July 30, 2013
Civil War Battles in Georgia