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Pickett's Mill History



The property is the site of the Battle of Pickett’s Mill. Ten thousand Confederate and fifteen thousand Union soldiers fought over this ground in General William T. Sherman’s attempt to by pass the Confederate position and move his army towards Atlanta. The four-hour battle resulted in 1,500 Union and 500 Confederate casualties. Most of the dead were buried on the site, though after the war they were re-interred in the Marietta National Cemetery.

At one time only a few local historians knew the exact location of Pickett’s Mill Battlefield. The site was studied and informally mapped by Wilbur Kurtz and Beverly Debose in the 1930s. Interest remained minimal until the 1960’s and the Centennial of the American Civil War. At that time the site, owned by Georgia Kraft Paper Company, was becoming increasingly popular among relic hunters. Finally in 1972 several amateur historians led by Dr. Phil Secrist purchased a core piece of the battlefield consisting of 400 acres. After convincing legislators of the value of the property the state purchased it in 1974. Fortunately the site had changed little since the civil war battle, 110 years earlier, and was in almost pristine condition. The state negotiated with several other smaller landowners and purchased the last piece of the park in 1982. The Family Group Shelter was built in 1989 and the visitor center was built in 1990. After installation and completion of exhibits the site was officially opened to the public in May 1992. There are several miles of trenches dug by these men still in existence on the park.

The site of the mill is still readily seen and period dirt roads crisscross the battlefield. Besides the site’s historical importance, the 765 acres of green space are a valuable asset in an area that has quickly become urbanized.


 


 

 

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 extremely difficult.

 

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 around 1880.

More Pictures from Battle of Pickett's Mill page.


Generals in Command at Pickett's Mill

Confederate
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.

 

Union
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.



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