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Battle of Sandersville, GA November 25-26, 1864, US Civil War

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  • Thomas E. Brown (1820 - 1888)
    Washington County Cavalry, Company B, Capt. Thomas E. Brown, 54 men. (Part of 7th Battalion Georgia Cavalry, State Guards. This battalion was organized in August 1863 to serve for six months as local d...
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    Georgia Light Artillery, Capt. H.N. Hollifield, 115 men.
  • Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman (USA) (1820 - 1891)
    [ ] William Tecumseh Sherman achieved the rank of Major General during the Civil War. Afterwards the rank of Commander, Military Division of the Mississippi, 1864–1866; Commander, Military Division of ...
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    Park Howell (December 10, 1839 – August 6, 1905) was an American politician and early telegraph operator, as well as an officer in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War.A native of Warsaw,...
  • Col. (CSA), Beverly Daniel Evans, Sr. (1826 - 1897)
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The Battle of Sandersville was a minor battle of the American Civil War November 25-26, 1864. It consisted of two skirmishes.

On the eve of the Civil War, Sandersville was a dusty village nestled in east-central Georgia. With a population of about five hundred people, the hamlet was a typical small Georgian settlement with roots in the colonial period.

When Sherman arrived in the village on November 25, he found only a handful of wooden shops, a few homes, three brick buildings, and a courthouse square. A Confederate cavalry unit under Joe Wheeler launched a brief defensive action, and Union prisoners taken from rebel stockades were massacred. Federal troops led by Sherman, however, brought superior force to bear on the town, compelling the defenders to quit Sandersville altogether on November 26. The triumphant Union general, who had frequently visited brutality and suffering upon civilians--ranging from freed blacks to ardent Confederate sympathizers--his army had encountered during the campaign, allowed his men to raze the courthouse ("a handsome Greek Revival building of stuccoed brick"), the local jail, and the railroad depot in the adjacent town of Tennille. Like so many other parts of Georgia, Sandersville was simply another refrain in Sherman's anthem to total war.

Sources: An Original Man: The Life and Times of Elijah Muhammad By Claude Andrew Clegg, III

In 1864, during the Civil War, General William T. Sherman skirmished and then paused in Sandersville during his March to the Sea. As they left, Sherman's troops burned the county courthouse and jail, but left the rest of the town intact.[5] A new Washington County Courthouse was built in 1869.


1855 and 1864. The town and courthouse at Sandersville burned 24 March 1855. The courthouse records were moved ahead of the fire, but that building was also destroyed. County courthouse records were a total loss.[3]

During the American Civil War on 27 November 1864 General Sherman ordered his Union troops to raze the courthouse because Confederates had used its portico to fire on the federals. Superior Court records were destroyed in that fire.[3]

However, the probate records were saved from the Civil War fire.

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Order of Battle

Union Forces

Confederate Forces

4th Tennessee Cavalry [Maybe 6th (Wheeler's) Cavalry (which consisted of 1st Cavalry and 2nd Cavalry)] (see ).


  • November 25 - Skirmish near Sandersville:

Illinois 101st Volunteer Infantry.

Indiana 37th Infantry.

  • November 26 - Skirmish, Sandersville:

Illinois 9th (Mounted) and
Illinois 16th Volunteer Infantry.

13th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry.

New York 17th Volunteer Infantry, Irish Rifles (Detachment).

Ohio 108th Infantry, Ohio 113th Infantry and Ohio 121st Infantry.

Union losses:

100 killed, wounded and missing.

Confederate losses:

xxx killed, wounded and missing.

Story continues

Rev. James Dannelly Anthony was one of the great Methodist ministers of Nineteenth Century Georgia. He was dubbed “The Bishop of the Wiregrass” for his conversion of thirty thousand South Georgians to the Methodist faith. His father, Rev. Whitfield Anthony, was a leader of the Methodist Church in South Carolina.

His son, Bascom Anthony, was a minister in the Methodist Church for more than fifty years and a former District Superintendent of the Dublin District from 1912 to 1915.

Rev. J.D. Anthony served as Presiding Elder of the Dublin District from 1879 to 1880. He also served in that capacity in the Eastman District from 1881 to 1882 and 1891 to 1894. Rev. Anthony died on January 26, 1899. The South Carolina-born minister was first licensed to preach on October 24, 1846, twelve days after his twenty-first birthday. He spent seventeen years in North Georgia. While in North Georgia, he preached the gospel, farmed his land, and taught school. During the darkest days of the Civil War in 1863, Rev. Anthony and his family were transferred to Sandersville, Georgia. After the war, Rev. Anthony would serve as editor of Sandersville newspaper, “The Central Georgian.”

It was November 25th, 1864. The left wing of General W.T. Sherman’s Union army was approaching Sandersville with its two corps and sixty thousand men. The other wing was only a few miles away below Tennille. Reports of explosions at Milledgeville, twenty-seven miles away, could be heard. Judge Hook presided over a meeting of all the town’s white males. With no defense against the oncoming hoard, the men decided it would be in the best interest of the town to surrender Sandersville to Sherman and beg for his mercy. One by one, those appointed to be chairman of the committee to meet the Union Army, came up with an excuse to leave. Rev. Anthony’s name was called. He announced that he would remain in town, mainly on account of his invalid wife and his small children. Anthony stated his acceptance of the mission was not out of bravery or foolishness, but because his wife was unable to feed herself or turn over in bed without his help. Anthony became a committee of one. A few hours later, a portion of Gen. Joseph Wheeler’s Confederate cavalry rode into town. That afternoon, Wheeler’s horsemen skirmished with Union cavalry three miles west of town. Thirteen Federal prisoners were brought into town. During the night all but one of the prisoners were sent away.

The sole Union prisoner was a cavalry lieutenant [Maybe of the Illinois 9th (Mounted)] who had his forearm broken by a mini ball. Captain Harlow told Rev. Anthony that the wounded prisoner would be shot on the outskirts of town. Anthony plead for the life of the man. A Confederate surgeon released the Union officer, who sprang to his feet and ran to Rev. Anthony. Anthony took the man to the church parsonage. The town doctor came by to comfort the lieutenant. At that moment, Wheeler’s cavalry formed a line with two thousand soldiers near the parsonage. After one volley, they galloped away.

Union forces fired back after a few minutes. The parsonage was struck several times, but the inhabitants were unharmed. In another few minutes, Union soldiers were swarming around the town and parsonage area. As soon as they entered the home, the wounded lieutenant ordered them not to harm anyone or anything in the house.

The man’s colonel obliged and placed an armed guard around the home. Word spread throughout the Union ranks of the rebel preacher’s deeds of kindness.

Union officers came in one by one to check on the wounded Illinois man. One was an officer by the name of Thomas Morris. Anthony told him he knew a Thomas Morris who was a former Methodist bishop. Morris was astonished. He knew of the other Morris, who was a cousin of his. Anthony said “ It always pays to do right. I was actuated by Christian principles. The good Lord blessed that act to the good of my myself, my family, and my town.”

Late that afternoon, a division commander told Rev. Anthony of the plans to burn the town at sunrise. The general suggested that Anthony go directly to Gen. Sherman’s headquarters to beg him to save the town. “Your house won’t be burned, because you saved Lt. Deason,” the general assured Anthony. Sherman had been wrongly informed that the musketry fire came from local citizens. The wounded man was carried away, telling Anthony of his eternal gratitude and promising to see him again. Anthony never heard from Lt. Deason. He presumed that he died of his wounds.

The general sent an escort to take Rev. Anthony to Sherman’s headquarters. Anthony met Sherman and Generals Logan and Davis two hundred yards from Sherman’s tent. Anthony was introduced as “the Rebel parson who saved one of our men from being shot.” The Reverend handed the bearded Sherman his credentials as a minister of the gospel. Sherman couldn’t decipher them, but took the authorization papers from the town government. “Why didn’t you show me this before we entered the town? I would have marched my men through the town and nothing would have been injured,” Sherman replied. Anthony, a little befuddled at Sherman’s question, told the General that it was impossible for him to ride out and meet the charging cavalry. Anthony asked Sherman if he planned to burn the town.

Sherman responded affirmatively. Anthony asked if all of the towns in the path of the Union army were burned. Sherman said, “no.” “Then why treat us more differently than others,” Rev. Anthony said. Sherman said that he had been informed that rebel citizens fired upon his men, a fact that was immediately denied by Anthony who stated, “There are only, besides me, four adult white males in town, three of which are old men.” Sherman intently stared the Reverend in the face.

Anthony stared back, trying to find a tender spot in the warrior’s heart. Anthony told of the hardships to the women and children that a fire would bring. Anthony tried to put Sherman in his place. Sherman chastised Anthony and other Southern ministers for not seeking an early end to the war. Anthony responded “that in the South, we ministers leave the politicians alone and preach the Gospel and the teachings of Jesus Christ.” Anthony begged again for the women and children, stating that the Federals had already taken all food in the town.

Anthony pleaded for Sherman to save the town for a fellow Mason. Members of the Masonic brotherhood rarely harmed the private property of other Masons unless in times of combat. The three Generals conferred in secret. Sherman said to Anthony, “Sir, upon your assurance that your citizens did not fire on my men, I will revoke the order to burn the town, but we will burn these two public buildings, viz., the courthouse and the jail.” Anthony, silently thanking God, told the feared and dreaded Union general, “Since you spare our dwellings, I ask no more.” Anthony left for home.

The next morning the elegant courthouse was torched and reduced to rubble by fire and artillery shells. It had served as a firing platform when the Federal forces first entered the town. Flames shot high the air. Buildings near the jail caught fire from the flying sparks. An Irish Federal soldier aided the townspeople in saving the buildings. Anthony’s relief soon turned into fear. Reports were coming in that former slaves and army stragglers would be following the Union army through town.

All of the buried guns were dug up. The town’s five remaining men and young boys formed a small army. They had twenty guns and patrolled the streets all night.

Foragers were sent out to recently vacated Federal camps to look for scraps of food. The looting and burning never came. Sandersville and its few remaining citizens were saved. According to Anthony, it was not by anything he did, but by the grace of God.”
Posted by Scott Thompson at 5:42 PM

The original road from Sandersville to Milledgeville ran through the cemetery by the side of the Church or its location until 1912. The old roadbed is marked and can still be seen. Major Henry Hitchcock, a member of General William Tecumseh Sherman's staff, in Marching with Sherman (Yale University Press, New Haven, 1927) states:

"Sandersville, Georgia In Camp, In open field Saturday, Nov 26, 1864 11th day out

Left camp by 6 1/2 AM--Wheeler's cavalry in our front, undertook to skirmish. Slocum's 1st Brigade advanced skirmishers and before long we heard their firing.

General and staff rode forward -- road narrow for some distance and through pine woods and across low ground through which ran through creek. Road full of troops, wagons, camp followers, had to go slow. Rode with General and Slocum in ploughed field on right. Road full of advancing troops, in column by the flank. Ahead a quarter mile off at first one brigade deployed and advancing rapidly in line of battle. Ahead of them our skirmishers pressing forward at double quick with loud cheers to and into and through the town, pursuing Wheeler's men, and constant firing by skirmishers. It was not a battle, only skirmish firing, but that pretty rapid and constant for twenty or thirty minutes. We followed them into town, rebs not attempting to make stand. After driving them out of town our men halted there and at same moment entered it by N. road. As we entered town passed Church with "Grecian Front" and from a distance. cross road, saw a dead rebel lying on the portico. Learned after entering town that rebs fired from street corners, from behind houses, and from second story parapet front of brick Court House, which made quite a good fortification. All our loss I could learn was one killed, eleven wounded."

The cavalry skirmishing referred to took place in the cemetery and in the short half-block between it and the Courthouse square. The Union soldier listed as killed was identified in the August 22, 1966, issue of The Central Georgian, the Sandersville paper:

"In an editorial the ladies told of a Yankee soldier buried "under the eaves of the house" (old Methodist Church). His name, left by his brother, was John P. Brunson, 4th Tenn. Cavalry. It was suggested having his grave overbuilt with either brick or stone. There was a letter from his widow of Pulaski, Tenn., written Aug. 9, 1866 ... I am thankful to the ladies for planting box around his grave, a soldier 400 miles from home. (Signed) Mary C. Brunson.'

This was later disputed by Brunson's family who was much incensed that a fine Confederate soldier had been called a Yankee.

This grave is believed to be one of the brick cradles.

Major Hitchcock also records that Sherman burned the Courthouse in Sandersville and a few other buildings but no dwellings. Destroyed were early records of Washington County (Courthouse fires occurred in 1854 and 1855 also.)

Sherman spent the night of Nov. 26, 1864 in this home, Brown House Museum 268 N Harris, Sandersville GA 31082, 478-552-1965.

Regiments. Service men in Washington County, Georgia Genealogy served in various regiments. Men often joined a company (within a regiment) that originated in their county. Listed below are companies that were specifically formed in and organized in Washington County, Georgia, and served in Virginia, the West, Georgia, and home defense.

Washington County, Georgia Civil War Units

  2. 28th Regiment, Georgia Infantry, Company A, Irwin Volunteers, Capt. Tull Graybill, 76 men.
  3. 28th Regiment, Georgia Infantry, Company B, Sandersville Volunteers, Capt. T.J. Warthen, 127 men.
  4. 28th Regiment, Georgia Infantry, Company H, Ohoopee Guards, Capt. Johnson, 89 men.
  5. 32nd Regiment, Georgia Infantry, Company E
  6. 49th Regiment, Georgia Infantry, Company C, Washington Guards, Capt. William Wooten Carter, 86 men. (First military company in the county, organized 1821).
  8. 59th Regiment, Georgia Infantry, Company B, Jackson Guards, Capt. Collins, 110 men.
  9. Martin's Battery, Capt. Evan P. Howell, 132 men.
  10. 12th Battalion, Georgia Infantry, Company B and F, Capt. George W. Peacock, 126 men.
  11. 12th Battalion, Georgia Light Artillery, Reorganized Companies B and E, Possibly Company D, Capt. H.N. Hollifield, 115 men.
  12. Washington County Cavalry, Company B, Capt. Thomas E. Brown (C.S.A. Marker 12/20/1820-12/6/1888, Row 7), 54 men. (Part of 7th Battalion Georgia Cavalry, State Guards. This battalion was organized in August 1863 to serve for six months as local defense within the limits of the State.)
  13. 8th Regiment, Georgia Volunteer Cavalry, Company F, Capt. S. B. Jones.
  14. 51st Regiment, Georgia Volunteer Infantry *
  15. Wayne Guards, Capt. Thomas F. Wells, 60 men.
  16. 2nd Regiment Georgia, Infantry, State Troops, Co. H., Capt. Beverly D. Evans (Colonel Beverly Daniel Evans, 1st GA Infantry, Co. E, 2/6/1826-3/21/1897, Row 5, Lot 20), 77 men.
  17. Rudisill Artillery, Capt. John Wiery Rudisill, 139 men.
  18. 57th Regiment, Georgia Infantry, Company G, Mount Vernon Rifles, Capt. J.P. Jordan, 83 men.
  19. 59th Regiment, Georgia Infantry, Company D, Bullard Guards
  20. 62nd Regiment, Georgia Infantry, Company F *

(* outside Washington County?)

This totals 1,502, but possibly some 150 names were repeated, as some companies were merged into others, or when time of service expired were transferred into other regiments. However, this proves that it is evident that no other section can show a better record. (Signed) M. Newman, Ordinary.

To these might be added Washington County boys, members of the Georgia Cadets, college boys who were in a military school at Marietta.

The Forty-ninth Infantry Regiment of Georgia Volunteers was organized under a call for volunteers, by Governor Joseph E. Brown, on March 4, 1862, and was composed of the following companies:

  1. Company A, Wilkinson County - Invincibles
  2. Company B, Telfair County - Telfair Volunteers
  3. Company C, Washington County - Washington Guards
  4. Company D, Taliaferro County - Taliaferro Volunteers
  5. Company E, Wilcox County - States Rights Guards
  6. Company F, Irwin County Volunteers - Irwin Volunteers
  7. Company G, Laurens County - Laurens Volunteers
  8. Company H, Washington County - Cold Steel Guards
  9. Company I, Hancock County - Pierce Guards
  10. Company K, Pulaski County - Pulaski Greys

1st Regiment, Georgia Infantry (Ramsey's)

Officers, Non-Commissioned Offices, and Staff

  1. Company A - (Newnan Guards) - Coweta County
  2. Company B - (Southern Guards) - Muscogee County
  3. Company C - (Southern Rights Guards) - Houston County
  4. Company D - (Oglethorpe Infantry) - Richmond County
  5. Company E - (Washington Rifles) - Washington County
  6. Company F - (Gate City Guards) - Fulton County
  7. Company G - (Bainbridge Independents) - Decatur County
  8. Company H - (Dahlonega Vols.) - Lumpkin County
  9. Company I - (Walker Light Infantry) - Richmond County
  10. Company K - (Quitman Guards) - Monroe County