Cryptures Blog March 2017

Cryptures by Thom McCague

March, 2017

The temperatures in July, 1864 were in the high seventies to mid-eighties and it was humid when Union Brigadier General Edward M. McCook and about 2,400 cavalrymen crossed the Chattahoochee River heading to Lovejoy to destroy and disrupt the Macon and Western Railroad lines.

They first came to Palmetto where they burned the town and destroyed some of the Atlanta and West Point rail lines. Moving on they followed what is today Palmetto-Tyrone Rd. and were headed to Fayetteville. They swept into Fayetteville with no one knowing. They burned 1,100 Confederate supply wagons, they took their sabers to the mules and captured about 400 men. They even surprised Confederate officers who were sleeping in their homes. Fayetteville was in flames.

They rapidly swooped into Lovejoy on 29 July, 1864 to meet with Major General George Stoneman to disrupt the Macon and Western railroad lines. Stoneman was nowhere in sight. McCook sent out scouts to see if they could find him. It was to no avail. The dream of marching on south to free the Union boys from Andersonville was not going to materialize.

After consulting with his officers McCook decided to try and make it back to the Chattahoochee River, so they headed back to Palmetto only to find out that Confederate Major General Joseph Wheeler was now in hot pursuit. McCook picked up an old Black man as a guide hoping that they could out run Wheeler. Now forced to run down the Fayetteville Rd. they encountered skirmishes at Whitewater Creek and at Shakerag.

Shakerag was on the west side of Ebenezer Rd. at Davis Rd. (the same Davis family that owns Smith and Davis Clothing). This skirmish is considered a pivotal conflict and the most important in the Fayetteville area. It was at the home of Asa Mitchell that McCook halted. This was not for a rest but to barricade the road behind them. Lieutenant Colonel Robert Kelly was in command of the rear guard. During this rear guard action, Kelly and his men repulsed the rebels five times and the casualties were high on both sides. Finally, old Joe Wheeler ordered a headlong charge into the ranks of the Union troops. This broke the rear guard. Kelly and 200 of his men were captured while the rest of the force were routed.

Both Confederate Wheeler and Union McCook left their wounded with local families while the rest of the troops moved on down Lower Fayetteville Rd. McCook was held up at Line Creek since the Wynn(e) family (members of Cokes Chapel) burned the bridge. This gave Wheeler time to catch up and skirmish again. They were doing their best to keep the Union troops from entering Coweta County. McCook and his men had been in the saddle for three days and nights. They were sleepless and exhausted. Again the wounded were taken to local plantation owners. Reverend George Edward Smith is documented as taking them in. His plantation is still standing on Bob Smith Rd. not too far from Cokes Chapel. Others like Bird Parks and J E P Hunnicutt probably took in the wounded in also. All of them were members of Cokes Chapel. Those who weren’t lucky enough to survive their wounds were buried hastily in Cokes Chapel cemetery. There are at least 177 unknown graves in the cemetery at Cokes Chapel. Many are just marked with a large stone. Some have disappeared completely.

General McCook marched on bypassing Newnan. He was marching on to defeat at Brown’s Mill which was at the intersection of Ricketyback Rd. and Corinth Rd. But McCook escaped total defeat as he led 1,200 of his men back across the Chattahoochee river about 8 ½ miles below Franklin. They were still shuttling men and horses across the river when Wheeler’s 5th Georgia Cavalry appeared on the hills above the river at dawn. Shots rang out and the Union troopers, still on the wrong side of the river, stampeded to the water’s edge. Within minutes the stranded raiders were captured along with several hundred horses and mules. Those on the other side took a circuitous path through Alabama to meet up with other Union forces in Marietta, Georgia.

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