On Friday morning, May 27, 1864, war
came to Malachi Pickett's farm and mill. Almost 25,000 men fought
the terrain, the heat, the fear and each other in an area that
became known as "the hell hole" to surviving veterans.
The fighting was so severe that the percentage of those killed
to those wounded was the highest in the Atlanta campaign.
After General William T. Sherman's advance on Atlanta was stalled
at a costly battle at New Hope Church on May 25 he was determined
to move east in an effort to outflank his opponent, General Joseph
E. Johnston, and to open the Acworth road and other routes for
military operations. On May 27, Sherman ordered General George
H. Thomas, commanding the Army of the Cumberland, to proceed with
the attack. Thomas selected General Oliver O. Howard's 4th Army
Corps with about 14,000 Union soldiers to attack the Confederate
right flank. After a five-hour march through dense woods, Howard's
force reached the Pickett's Mill settlement where they prepared
to attack. Waiting on the Federal assault were 10,000 troops of
Confederate General Patrick R. Cleburne's Division, Hardee's Corps,
Army of Tennessee, considered by many to be one of the best fighting
forces on either side.
The Federal force started moving west early in the morning, but
a decision was made to delay an attack because reconnaissance
indicated a strongly entrenched Confederate line. In the early
afternoon, Union General Howard Thomas J. Wood inspected the Confederate
line and, thinking they had reached its eastern end, believed
they could take the enemy in a flanking action. They were mistaken.
At the point of inspection, the Southerners' line ceased its eastern
course and bent back to the south.
Cleburne presumed correctly that the Federal left flank of the
attack would be along a branch of Pumpkinvine Creek (now called
Pickett's Mill Creek), so he positioned his limited forces in
two lines-the first in the still unfinished earthworks along the
edge of a large, deep ravine immediately to his front and the
second line behind, in reserve. A few hundred yards to the west
the 12 guns of a Confederate artillery battalion had been emplaced,
but they were sited to fire only frontally, or north. Cleburne
ordered two 12-pounder howitzers placed in a makeshift position
in a rifle trench to enfilade, or fire down, the ravine in front
of his entrenched line. Howard's plan was to form his three infantry
brigades in column, one behind the other, but one unit failed
to show up and the others found maneuvering the deep tangled ravine
About 4:30 p.m., the Federal attack
began with a furious fight that lasted two hours. Howard's troops,
thrown off guard by dismounted Confederate cavalry, were decisively
repulsed as they came under fire of artillery pieces and Cleburne's
reserve line. Union Brigadier General William B. Hazen's brigade,
trapped in the ravine under a terrific fire of musketry, shell
and canister from the two howitzers, was also decimated and withdrew
after suffering about 500 casualties.
Without realizing the withdrawal was taking place, the Confederates
repositioned some of their troops for another assault about 7
p.m. This time, colonel William H. Gibson's Federal brigade ran
into the same terrific fire from Cleburne's troops and pulled
back after sustaining more than 600 casualties. At 10 p.m., after
a third assault by a Federal brigade, it was obvious the attack
had failed and Howard's troops fell back to a high hill where
they had started and spent the night entrenching. When dawn came,
the Confederates still held their line while the Federals had
lost 1,600 men. The Southerners' loss was 500.
Although the Battle of Pickett's Mill was a clear-cut Confederate
victory, it was a minor engagement in Sherman's Atlanta campaign.
While the fighting checked the Federals' advance and prevented
the turning of the Confederates' right, it only delayed Sherman's
progress and did not cause him enough casualties to alter the
campaign's outcome. Possibly the real significance of the fighting
at Pickett's Mill and along the Dallas Line was the shift of tactics
to trench warfare. After Pickett's Mill, Sherman went on to Acworth
and regained the railroad for his next move on Marietta.
Later, writer and former Federal officer Ambrose Bierce described
the battle as one of those events "which by their very nature,
and despite any intrinsic interest they they may possess, are
foredoomed to oblivion." After the war, Paulding County saw
little change or growth with virtually no industrialization. Even
Reconstruction passed the area by with little effect. The county's
isolation was finally overcome when the railroad was constructed
More Pictures from Battle of Pickett's Mill page.
Generals in Command at Pickett's
Major General Patrick Ronayne Cleburne commanded a division in
General W. J. Hardee's corps. Born near Cork, Ireland, in 1828,
he emigrated to the United States in 1849. Cleburne practiced
law in Helena Arkansas, and in 1860 enrolled as a private in the
Yell Rifles militia company. In May 1861 he was elected colonel
of the 15th Arkansas, a regiment he helped form. In 1862 he received
a commission as brigadier general in the Confederate Army. He
was one of two foreign born officers to attain the rank of major
general in the Confederate armed forces. He was recognized as
a skilled combat officer and distinguished himself in many battles.
After Cleburne's troops absorbed the Union assault at Pickett's
Mill, he was moved to the Confederate left and was involved in
the skirmishing along the Dallas Line. During the Tennessee Campaign
he succeeded to the command of Hardee's Corps. Cleburne was killed
in battle at Franklin, Tennessee, November 30, 1864.
Major General Oliver Otis Howard commanded the IV Corps, Army
of the Cumberland during the fighting at Pickett's Mill. Born
in 1830 at Leeds, Maine, Howard graduated from the U.S. Military
Academy at West Point, New York, in 1864. He lost his right arm
at the Battle of Seven Pines, Virginia. Howard directed the flanking
maneuver of May 27, 1864, that resulted in the Battle of Pickett's
Mill in which he was wounded again. He became commander of the
Army of the Tennessee in July 1864. Howard was appointed as the
first commissioner of the Freedman's Bureau in 1865, and, while
still in the army, he served in the west and as a superintendent
of the Military Academy. He died in 1909.
History Before the Battle
Thirty years before Malachi Pickett's ease Paulding County property
became a bloody Civil War battleground, the site was occupied
by the Cherokee Indians. When gold was discovered in North Georgia
in the early 1800s, the state of Georgia, under pressure from
white settlers and politicians, divided the Indian territory into
40- and 60-acre lots and distributed it in the 1832 Gold Lottery.
The Federal government removed the Cherokees to lands in the west
in 1838 and 1839k leaving the isolated, thinly populated territory
to white settlers who tried to farm the sandy, graveled soil.
In 1851, Paulding County was ceded a portion of Cobb County east
of Pumpkinvine Creek including the future county seat of Dallas,
a settlement near New Hope Church, and a grist mill owned by the
Pickett family. The mill was used for grinding corn and wheat
into meal and flour for local residents, and its foundation can
still be seen. The thicket-covered hills and ravines of the area
seemed an improbable location for two great armies to struggle
for control of Georgia.
For More Information
Dean, Jeff "The Battle of Pickett's Mill" Blue and
Gray magazine, Vol. VI, April 1989.
Bierce, Ambrose "The Crime at Pickett's Mill" The
Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce or Ambrose Bierce's Civil War.
Scaife, William R., The Campaign for Atlanta (2nd edition).
Hood, John Bell Advance and Retreat.
Brown, Norman D., ed. One of Cleburne's Command.
Collins, R. M. Chapters from the Unwritten History of the
War Between the States.
Buck, Irving A. Cleburne and His Command.
Time-Life Books Battles for Atlanta, Sherman Moves East.
Castel, Albert Decision in the West pp. 208-241.