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Civil War Trust

Pickett's Mill

May 27, 1864

On the morning of May 27, Union Fourth Corps commander Maj. Gen. Oliver O. Howard informed Brig. Gen. Thomas J. Wood that his division had been chosen for the "arduous and dangerous find the extreme right of the enemy's position, turn it, and attack him in flank." Supporting the assault would be Brig. Gen. Richard Johnson's division of the Fourteenth Corps. 

Marching east with his troops, Howard discovered that the Rebels' flank would be hard to turn, as they were extending their line and digging in. Joseph Johnston, aware of the Federals' intent, pulled Patrick Cleburne's division from William J. Hardee's sector and placed it on the extreme right of the Confederate line, near a farm and gristmill owned by the widow Martha "Fanny" Pickett, whose husband was killed at Chickamauga. A late morning reconnaissance reveled the Federal troops marching across his front. Cleburne knew to expect an attack. 

Pickett's Mill Ravine
Marred by ravines and covered with heavy woods, the terrain at Pickett's Mill played havoc with Federal formations. (Douglas Ullman, Jr. )

At 3:35pm, Howard jotted a note to Gen. William T. Sherman, stating he could not be sure that his troops had reached the enemy flank. An impatient Sherman ordered him to attack anyway. Wood told Howard, "We will put in Hazen and see what success he has." Wood thus has arranged his troops with Brig. Gen. William B. Hazen's brigade in front; its charge would be supported by Col. William H. Gibson's and Col. Frederick Knefler's brigades. 

Hazen's assault began around 5:00pm. For a time, the Federals threatened to overlap the Confederate right, but Cleburne shuttled troops to extend his line, held by Brig. Gen. John Kelly's cavalry. Brig. Gen. Hiram Granbury's troops did not have time to entrench when the Yankees charged. "Ah, damn you, we have caught you without your logs now," some Federals yelled. Yet, even without entrenchments, the Confederates bloodily repulsed Hazen's brigade before Gibson's and Knefler's joined the attack. Col. Benjamin Scribner's brigade of Johnson's division also advanced, driving Kelly's troopers back into the Southern infantry line, but was stopped there. By 7:00pm, Wood and Howard concluded that further assaults were pointless. 

Pickett's Mill & New Hope Church Map
Held up at New Hope Church, Federal forces hoped to turn the Confederate right at Pickett's Mill. Unfortunately, the Rebel earthworks proved too formidable, and Union forces suffered high casualties. (Library of Congress)

The Confederates had won a comparatively easy defensive victory at Pickett's Mill. To Ambrose Bierce, an officer on Hazen's staff, the Union attack on May 27 was a "crime"; it had gained nothing. Union casulaties were 230 killed, 1,016 wounded and 319 missing, for a total of 1,580 (Hazen lost almost a third of them). Cleburne counted 85 dead and 383 wounded; most of these were in Granbury's brigade, fighting without "logs." Probably 200 of Kelly's troopers also fell, making the total Southern loss 648 men. 

Pickett's Mill Field
This field was the scene of brutal carnage as the Federals emerged from the woods. (Douglas Ullman, Jr. )

Having beaten the enemy attack on the 27th, that night Johnston planned one of his own on the next day. The afternoon's fighting had established the left of Sherman's position. Johnston planned a flank march and attack in the same sector. As at Resaca and Cassville, he called on Gen. John Bell Hood to direct it. hood's troops started marching before dawn on May 28. At daylight, Hood discovered that the Federals had pulled back to a safer position during the night and were entrenched too formidably to be attacked. He sent word of this back to Johnston who, disappointed, ordered Hood back to his place in line. 

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