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Battle of Gilgal Church
About North Georgia

Introduction

Early in June, 1864, Joseph E. Johnston's Confederates held a line from Lost Mountain in western Cobb County to Brushy Mountain north of Kennesaw Mountain. This line crossed just north of the intersection of Burnt Hickory Road and Sandtown Road, in an area known as Due West, then across Pine Knob before it climbed Pine Mountain where the line formed a salient and headed in a more easterly direction towards Brushy Mountain. William Hardee's Corps, centered at Mud Creek, held the western end of the line.

Hardee realized that Pine Mountain was the weak spot in the line and ordered William Bates to hold the position as long as possible. Hardee withdrew from Lost Mountain and ordered his good friend Patrick Cleburne to hold the new western flank at Sandtown Road in an area known as Due West.

William Tecumseh Sherman assigned Joseph 'Fighting Joe' Hooker's XX Corps and O. O. Howard's XI Corps (both Army of the Cumberland to find and exploit a weak spot in the area of Pine Mountain. When Leonidas Polk died on Pine Mountain on June_14, 1864, Sherman was advancing his infantry to the Confederate skirmish lines.

Area History

One of the first roads in Cobb County, Sandtown Road ran from Montgomery's Ferry on the Chattahoochee River to Allatoona Pass, where it met one of the Alabama Roads. The road, an upgraded Cherokee trading path, was a popular route with early settlers because it was not a toll road.

David Dickson, who moved to Cobb County in 1841, built the home north of Due West Road in 1855. During the Battle of Gilgal Church the Dickson House fell under "friendly fire" when Union artillery spotted six men standing on the porch. A single shot killed five men and injured the sixth, all Union infantry. This is frequently misspelled as the Dixon House in orders of the day.

A second home, the Darby House is frequently used for describing the position of troops in the area. The home is described as being "due west of Marietta on Sandtown Road" and north of the Marietta Road (Dallas Highway). This is possibly the source of the name of the area, Due West. Locals referred to this as the Darby Plantation, which stretched between Old Marietta Road and Burnt Hickory Road. Following the Battle of Gilgal Church, Joseph Hooker used the Dickson home as his headquarters on June_17, 1864.

The house remained on the site of the battle until 2005, when local historian Dr. Phillip Secrist pointed out the significance of the home when it was slated for removal. Cobb County moved the home to another location. A 20-acre battlefield park was also established to protect the site of the battle.

Battle of Gilgal Church

Confederates withdrew from Pine Mountain on the evening of June_14, 1864 following the death of Polk, leading Sherman to believe that the Confederate line west of Pine Mountain was vulnerable.

Sherman ordered a general advance for the morning of June 15, 1864. For some reason Hooker did not begin to press the Confederate line west of Pine Mountain until afternoon. Major General Daniel Butterfield, best known today as the composer of "Taps," advanced in battleline formation on a "reconnaissance in force." He was actually part of a much longer line involving three of the XX Corps divisions starting with Williams on the extreme left, John Geary in the vicinity of Pine Knob and Butterfield on the right flank at Gilgal Church. Geary's men formed the Union left flank in the fighting at Gilgal Church.

John Schofield advanced the Army of the Ohio past Lost Mountain, which was being lightly guarded by cavalry after Hardee's withdrawal and on June 16 Milo Haskall, in command of the 2nd Division of XXIII Corps, took high ground east of Cleburne's position near Gilgal Church. From the high ground Haskall realized that he could enfilade Cleburne's position.

Butterfield would suffer the same fate at the hands of Cleburne as two of his superiors had earlier in The Civil War. "Cump" Sherman ran into the British-trained Pat Cleburne's division during the Battle of Missionary Ridge where Cleburne stubbornly held high ground on Braxton Bragg's right in spite of being outnumbered 10 to 1.

Joe Hooker ran headlong into the Irish-born Cleburne at Battle of Ringgold Gap and was repulsed in spite of holding a 4-to-1 numerical superiority. Butterfield had been involved in the fighting at Ringgold Gap and tried the same tactics that Hooker did to start the engagement, a brutal head-on attack on a fortified position.

Opposing Butterfield's division were three Confederate brigades under the commands of Hiram Granbury, Daniel Goven, and Lucius Polk, a cousin of the recently departed Leonidas Polk. The Confederates were in a fortified position near the military crest of a low ridge running west of both Pine Mountain and Pine Knob. Butterfield ordered Brigadier General William Ward to advance south along the Sandtown Road. At 1,000 yards Ward spotted the Rebel line overlooking both Sandtown Road and a small river valley in front of Ward's position.

The Union commander formed a battleline, then advanced towards Cleburne's men, easily driving back the Rebel skirmishers. About this time Cleburne ordered his men to reinforce the main line with the wood from Gilgal Church, Brigadier General Ward was 500 yards from the Rebel line and the Union Army watched the church being dismantled by Confederates under artillery and light arms fire.

By the time the church was completely dismantled Haskell's artillery began the enfilading fire from the nearby knoll. While the Confederate infantry stopped Butterfield's attack before reaching the Rebel line, they were less successful with Geary's brigade on their right. Geary's men came close to the Rebel works but were repulsed before reaching them. The 70th Indiana Regiment, formed by future President of the United States Benjamin Harrison fought hard, sustaining 49 casualties.

During the attack, Cleburne spun two artillery batteries to the left to return Haskell's fire. Before Butterfield and Geary withdrew after about 45 minutes of engagement, Haskell ceased fire and pulled his artillery from the knoll but continued to advance with 8 regiments from the Army of the Ohio. Ward's division entrenched north of Cleburne's line, but with Haskall approaching on his left, Cleburne's position was untenable. That evening, Hardee ordered him to withdraw and form the southern flank on a ridge just east of Mud Creek.

Losses

There are many figures for the losses during the Battle of Gilgal Church, mostly stemming from the fact that Geary's Division was involved in two battles that day, Pine Knob and Gilgal Church. Geary's reported casualties totaled some 500 men. Butterfield lost another 150 for just Gilgal Church and Cleburne suffered some 250 casualties.

After the Battle

Before March, 1864, Daniel Butterfield proposed to Joe Hooker that Butterfield be allowed to march his division across the state of Georgia to the Atlantic Ocean. He felt such an action would end the Civil War more quickly. Hooker and his commander, George Thomas visited Butterfield prior to the Battle of Gilgal Church to discuss his plan. Hooker endorsed the plan and Thomas forwarded the plan to Sherman. On July 2, 1864, in a letter to Butterfield, Sherman stated he had not seen Butterfield's plan to march to the sea. By that time Butterfield was gone, having resigned his command for medical reasons.

Lucius Polk would be seriously injured during fighting on June 17. He would never be fit for battle again. Hiram Granbury and Patrick Cleburne would die during the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee.

Other Names for Gilgal Church

Gilgoth Church
Golgotha Church
Hardshell Church


Battle of Gilgal Church





The Civil War in Georgia
Beginning with the Great Locomotive Chase and the battle of Chickamauga, to the Atlanta Campaign and the March to the Sea

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Allatoona Pass
Army of the Cumberland
Army of the Ohio
Battle of Ringgold Gap
Braxton Bragg
Chattahoochee River
Cherokee
Joseph 'Fighting Joe' Hooker
Joseph E. Johnston
Kennesaw Mountain
Leonidas Polk
The Civil War
William Hardee
William Tecumseh Sherman

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