Prisoner of War

"I should, I believe, have died in a very short time and as it is I am almost broken down."

Myles Keogh to his sister Ellen, 2 October, 1864

As the Confederates swarmed around the remnants of General Stoneman's command, the exhausted Union soldiers lay down their weapons and were, by and large, treated well by their captors. The Yankee officers were separated from their men and marched to the White family mansion where the victorious General Iverson (left) and his staff were waiting for them. Iverson greeted Stoneman cordially and then shook hands with all the captive officers. Furthermore, he offered the new prisoners a 'parole d'honneur' provided they remained within the grounds of White's plantation. Stoneman accepted the offer and bedded down near a clump of trees at the front of the large house. His loyal aide, Myles Keogh, accompanied him along with some of the other officers and the men grabbed a much needed night's rest.

The following day, the prisoners and their captors marched towards Macon, passing en route through Iverson's hometown of Clinton where he was feted like a conquering hero. As the column approached the outskirts of Macon, it was late afternoon on 1 August and a large crowd emerged onto the streets to express their anger and distaste at the sight of Stoneman's men. Men, women and children jeered and insulted the sullen Yankee general as he rode at the front of his officers. This reaction was understandable from a populace that only days before had lived in fear of the raiding Yankee cavalry.

From Macon that day, Major-General Howell Cobb was quick to report to General Hood on Iverson's victory, writing:
"MACON, GA., August 1, 1864.
General Stoneman, with a cavalry force estimated at 2,800, with artillery, was met two miles from this city by our forces, composed of Georgia reserves, citizens, local companies and the militia, which Governor Brown is organizing here. The enemy's assault was repulsed and his force held in check along our entire line all day. Retiring toward Clinton, he was attacked next morning by General Iverson, who, having routed the main body, captured General Stoneman and 500 prisoners. His men are still capturing stragglers."
J.B. Hood was brief in passing on this message to headquarters but had an admirable comment for the men that remained with the defeated Union general:
"Stoneman's raiders have come to grief. Stoneman and 500 of his braves surrendered to General Iverson yesterday near Clinton; balance of his command routed and being captured hourly."

The procession ended at Camp Oglethorpe (illustrated above) where Stoneman, Keogh and the officers dismounted before proceeding to the Provost Marshall's office. A long queue was formed and the men were taken into the log cabin one by one to hand over their personal belongings prior to incarceration. Stoneman was first in and emerged with tears in his eyes. As he waited in line, Colonel James Biddle learned of the exact nature of the process occurring in the small building ahead. He had a pair of saddlebags slung over his shoulders full of captured Confederate dollars (almost $1000 in notes that his adjutant had days earlier captured from a tax collector) and realised that such funds might prove useful in a Rebel prison.
Some of Stoneman's staff officers, perhaps including Major Myles Keogh (right), were seated yards away and had already been through the search process. Biddle called to one of them and flung the saddlebags in his direction with instructions to keep the object safe and out of sight. Biddle was then searched but was able to reclaim the dollar-laden saddlebags soon after he left the Provost Marshall's office. How crucial this money was to be for Stoneman and Keogh in the months ahead.

In the main prison, the officers were assigned their bunks;
Keogh being among the handful of officers residing with Stoneman. The building had two or three tiers under a roof supported by posts but with no side walls. A number of fences of varying heights surrounded the grounds of the prison, with an area beyond one of the outer lower fences called "The Dead-Line." To step beyond this boundary would mean being shot by the Confederate sentries.

Stoneman and his officers kept their makeshift mess well supplied thanks to their contraband rebel dollars and managed to eat well. Keogh later wrote that: "It cost us about 8 dollars each a day to keep from starving." The camp's commanding officer suspected that his Union captors had access to funds but, despite regular searches, was unable to uncover the money that Biddle had smuggled into the prison. Luckily for Stoneman, Keogh and the other captives, a cooperative post-trader tipped off his Union patrons when the searches were to occur.
With this prior knowledge, Keogh and his colleagues rolled the money into small bundles and shoved them into the rafters and shingles in their bunk house.
After two weeks, Stoneman and his officers were moved to the prison at Charleston, South Carolina and were put in a building known as "The Castle", close to the waterfront. One captor described the prison as a nice looking building "but a hell hole inside." They were housed on the lower floor of the tower, ironically, under constant fire from their own guns from nearby fortifications and the Union navy. The shells pounded the upper part of the town and flew, en route, right over the prisoner's heads. The Confederate dollars continued to buy much needed rations for Stoneman's men and, apart from the general, Keogh and the staff took turns in cooking and caring for the room.

Two illustrations of the Charleston prison where Myles Keogh spent six weeks as a POW in 1864. The top drawing is from Harper's Weekly, 18 February 1865, while the second was sketched by another POW, 1st Lieutenant Ole Rasmussen Dahl, 15th Wisconsin Infantry.

The officers' incarceration, while gruelling, was far preferable to the fate that awaited the rank and file of Stoneman's command who were marched to the notorious stockade called Andersonville. On 14 August, General Stoneman along with Colonel J. B. Dorr, Eighth Iowa Cavalry and Colonel T. J. Harrison, Eighth Indiana Cavalry wrote a letter to President Lincoln pleading for the plight of the POWs at Andersonville to be urgently addressed. The letter was smuggled out by a paroled officer and tells of the horrendous conditions which the estimated 35,000 Union prisoners endured. This approximate number was provided to the signatories by Colonel Hill, Provost General, C.S. Army, at Atlanta. The Union officers wrote:
"Upon entering the prison, every man is deliberately stripped of money and other property, and as no clothing or blankets are supplied to their prisoners by the C. S. A. authorities, the condition of the apparel of soldiers just from an active campaign can be easily imagined. Thousand are without pants or coats, and hundreds without even a pair of drawers to cover their nakedness. To these men, as indeed to all prisoners, there is issued three-fourths of a pound of bread or meal, and one eighth of a pound of meat per day; this is the entire ration, and upon it the prisoner must live or die...But to starvation and exposure, to sun and storm, and the sickness which prevails to almost alarming and terrible extent, on an average 100 die daily."
This was Keogh's second time as a prisoner of war having previously spent a number of weeks imprisoned in Genoa after the 1860 Papal War. Interestingly, it was another Papal War POW, Captain Joseph O'Keeffe (left), who now attempted to secure the release of his friend. On August 30 1864, O'Keeffe wrote to his uncle, the Reverend Dr. William Delaney, Bishop of Cork, pleading for him to intervene with the Bishop of Charleston on Myles' behalf. However, it was a more significant figure that secured General Stoneman's and Major Keogh's release when General William Tecumseh Sherman arranged for a parole exchange. Stoneman was to be returned in exchange for the Confederate brigadier general, Daniel C. Govan, who was captured at the Battle of Jonesborough three weeks previous. On 27 September, Stoneman and Keogh were freed from Charleston and returned to the Union lines at a location called Rough and Ready, Georgia. By October 2nd, both men were dining with Sherman at his headquarters in the newly captured Atlanta.

That very evening, Keogh wrote to his sister Ellen in Carlow outlining his relief at being free:

"I thank God, my dear Ellen, I was thought enough of by Genl Sherman to be specially exchanged. I should, I believe, have died in a very short time and as it is I am almost broken down.Until today I have been quite weak but thank God I feel much better tonight. I ate a hearty dinner to the great enjoyment of a number of very kind friends at Genl Sherman's Head Qrs where Genl Stoneman & myself are stopping."
[From the collection of the Cayuga Museum of History and Art, Auburn]

Keogh's gallantry and loyalty at Sunshine Church was evidently remembered on his return to Union lines as he also wrote in that letter - "My prospects of promotion to a high position are greater than my most sanguine expectations."

It would take Keogh some weeks to recuperate but General Stoneman was eager to redeem his tarnished reputation after the disastrous raid on Macon. Major Keogh was to remain at his side as the war moved inexorably towards its final months...

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Myles Keogh's First 'Last Stand'. Part 2 - Battle of Sunshine Church

"I feel better satisfied with myself to be a prisoner of war, much as I hate it, than to be amongst those who owe their escape to consideratio
ns of self-preservation."
Major General George Stoneman, , U. S. Army, Prisoner of War (Macon, GA., August 6, 1864)

Just under a mile from the Sunshine Church, Brigadier General W.W. Allen's (left) Alabama brigade readied themselves behind makeshift wooden barricades, effectively blocking the Hillsboro Road. Hours earlier, these same Confederate soldiers had harried and stalled Stoneman's advance, giving up ground grudgingly during a dogged night-time fight. Now they waited again, but this time with the support of Iverson's Georgia and Kentucky cavalrymen only another half mile behind them, similarly entrenched on high ground straddling the vital road. Despite the presence of two opposing cavalry forces, there was to be no repeat of the cavalry charges seen at Brandy Station. The undulating terrain and overgrown vegetation made mounted combat impossible so, amid the dim morning light, the fighting was going to be close quartered and bloody.

At sunrise on 31 July, the exhausted but redoubtable men of the 8th Michigan were again at the vanguard of the Union advance. Dismounted, they advanced steadily, driving the Confederates from their positions. Once the Alabamans fell back, the next line of Rebels announced their presence with a barrage of artillery rounds from Captain Benjamin White's twin six-pounders. This checked the Union progress.

'Bronze Guns and Young Men' by Don Troiani

The sound of enemy cannons also brought General Stoneman, and his aide, Myles Keogh, to the front. Once the way ahead was surveyed, it was clear to Stoneman that the enemy had formed in an inverted "V" to his front, blocking his intended route and threatening his flanks. Stoneman immediately ordered the bulk of his command to dismount and advance. Captain Hardy’s two 3-inch guns were also put to work with one unlimbered close to the churchyard and the other held in reserve. Stoneman's plan was straightforward but likely demoralizing for his exhausted men - his dismounted troopers were to drive straight ahead against the entrenched Confederates and cut their way through to safety. One Michigan officer later recorded:
"Gen. Stoneman seemed infatuated with the idea that he could cut his way through and return by the same route...Almost every officer in his command felt certain that remaining in that position and attempting to fight our way through would prove a failure."
Neither was Confederate commander prepared to wait passively. General Iverson had ordered the 4th Georgia Cavalry on a flanking manoeuvre to put pressure on the Union army's rear flank. For the next few hours, as both sides readied themselves for the coming battle, Union and Confederate batteries duelled with each other.

Between Stoneman's position and the Rebel lines was a landscape filled with a multitude of gullies and ravines, all choked with undergrowth. With his officers questioning the proposed strategy and his men hesitant through fear and exhaustion, the Union general was in no mood for insubordination and personally went to the forward skirmish line to encourage his troops. His behaviour did little to settle the anxious soldiers - "General Stoneman appeared almost mad..." wrote a Union Lieutenant.

The Yankee attack began late morning with the 1st and 11th Kentucky Cavalry, soldiers that were due to be mustered out within two weeks, advancing alongside the 8th Michigan. Stoneman’s men pressed forward in good order, clearing fences and scrambling across ditches, until the first wave of Rebel musketry, Colonel Crew's 1st and 3rd Georgia, suddenly rose up from behind log barricades and unleashed a deadly fusillade. The shock and effectiveness of this withering rebel volley stunned the Kentuckians and they baulked in the face of opposition. Their commanding officer, Silas Adams (right), rushed forward, bare-headed and waving his sword, pleading for his men to reform and press on but it was to no avail. It was a pivotal moment in the fight - "This staggered the whole line..." recalled Captain Wells of the 8th Michigan.

The rebels seized the moment and counter-attacked, scattering the Yankees. Some troopers took cover in a nearby log house while many others ran wildly into a long gully, entrapping themselves between its steep muddy walls. The onlooking Stoneman must have been horrified at the sudden collapse of his plans. Worse was looming for the bedraggled Federals as the unfolding chaos had also exposed Captain Hardy's two vital artillery pieces to capture.

Taken circa 1864, this ambrotype shows Keogh mounted on 'Tom', his horse since June 1862.

Seeing Hardy’s gunners frantically trying to limber the cannons to carriages in a desperate effort to escape, Myles Keogh mounted his gray horse, 'Tom', and rallied some nearby staff officers and troopers to also mount up and follow him. The small band of riders, with Keogh in their lead, galloped into the fray. They immediately came under intense fire from quickly formed Confederate skirmish lines and were decimated by shot and shell. Some turned and fled back to safety, many others were shot from their saddles. Keogh and a few remaining officers continued their charge, checking the Confederate advance long enough to allow Captain Hardy to haul his guns back to General Stoneman's position near the church. Major Keogh was one of the few to return safely to Union lines but his beloved mount, ‘Tom’, which had carried him though countless battles since Port Republic two years earlier, had been killed.

'Confederate Sharpshooters' by Don Troiani

Despite a brave fight by the Indiana 'Hoosier' regiments, who strengthened the line after the Stoneman's Kentucky regiments had retreated, the battle was going badly. About two o’clock, it became evident that it would be impossible to get the command through the Rebel lines. Stoneman had now lost many valuable officers and men; his troopers were nearly out of ammunition and "fatigued almost beyond endurance". Like Keogh, Stoneman also had his horse, 'Beauregard', shot from under him when a canon shell exploded beside them.

General Stoneman sketched aboard his horse, 'Beauregard', which was killed during the battle

The original proposition to move to the right and by-pass the enemy was again made to Stoneman by his officers. This time, the General gave his approval and a plan to break out to the right was formulated. All the while, shells were falling with increasing accuracy close to Stoneman's position and his troops were being fought to a standstill in all parts of the battlefield. Conscious that he could be surrounded at any time by reinforcements from Macon, General Stoneman agreed that any part of his command that could escape should do as soon they were ready. He resolved to remain and fight, occupying the Confederates long enough to give any fleeing detachment ample hours to make good their escape.

All were given the option of leaving, including those among Stoneman’s personal staff. However, Colonel Biddle and Colonel Butler, along with most of the Indiana brigade, chose to remain and make a stand with Stoneman as did some of his staff, including Major Myles Keogh, Major Brown (medical director), and Captain Perkins. In total, approximately two hundred men reformed to make a ‘last stand’ close to a bluff on the right of the Hillsboro Road, a slope that now bears Stoneman’s name. He was determined, if necessary, to sacrifice this force and himself in order to save the others. Initially requested by Stoneman to remain and fight, Colonel Silas Adams eventually got his commander's permission to lead the Kentucky regiments from the field to safety. In their defence, many of these men were ex-Confederates and capture would likely mean certain execution as deserters. Colonel Capron (left) and some of his command also managed to extricate themselves from the Rebel stranglehold.

If General Stoneman was initially, as recorded, “much broken down at the thought of surrender”, he soon re-gathered his composure as the remaining soldiers prepared to engage the approaching enemy. Stoneman personally helped haul the two cannons to the top of the slope and aided Captain Hardy in directing their fire. "Never did a man display more daring heroism the Gen. Stoneman", wrote a Kentuckian officer. "He grasped the muddy wheels of the guns, getting them into position, aimed them himself, showing he could execute as well as command."

An official report of the fight recorded how Stoneman “seemed to have but little regard for his own personal safety, if he could only save his command…he was not in the whole day scarcely from under the most severe fire for the enemy.” It is also likely that Major Myles Keogh would have commanded the line in a final stand reminiscent of the fight he would have 12 years later on the banks of the Little Big Horn River.

Union soldiers with a 3-inch gun similiar to the two with Stoneman's command

Ordered to dismount and hold the rebels, the men did so tenaciously, creating much confusion in the hostile ranks. The cannons were worked furiously, giving the Confederates an impression that the Union artillery was more substantial than just two 3-inch guns (pictured above). However, short of ammunition and lacking any further chance of escape, the general finally ordered the white flag to be shown. By undertaking this brief but gallant stand, Stoneman had ensured that all the detachments that did leave were given a five hour start. However, on a personal basis, the defeat was catastrophic for Stoneman as his cavalry command had been decimated, not to mention the additional capture of countless horses and firearms. One quirky fact that war often throws up; the 'white flag' used in the surrender was the tail off Stoneman's own shirt, torn by the general after no other white garment could be found.

Unable to find a white flag, General Stoneman tore off the tail of his shirt for the purpose of surrender

General George Stoneman was to have the unenviable honour of being the highest ranking Union POW of the American Civil War. His utter humiliation was completed when he was forced to surrender his sword not to General Iverson but a mere colonel, Colonel Crew, whose Georgian soldiers scattered the blue-coated Kentuckians earlier in the battle. Apparently, this final act of ignominy compelled the fatigued and ill Stoneman to sit and weep, his head buried in his hands.

Despite his courage under fire in saving the Union artillery and his unstinting loyalty to Stoneman, Myles Keogh was again to become a prisoner of war, having been briefly incarcerated in Italy four years earlier. Ironically, Keogh was now destined for the same prison that he and Stoneman's command had endeavoured to destroy…


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Myles Keogh's First 'Last Stand'. Part 1 - Stoneman's Raid on Macon.

Major Myles Keogh while on General Stoneman's staff, circa 1864. Seated, another staff officer, Robert Morrow.

For much of June and July, 1864, Stoneman's cavalry accompanied General Sherman on his inexorable march towards Atlanta, Georgia. Johnston's Confederate forces had fought tooth and nail for every inch, slowing the Union army's advance to a crawl at Resaca, Kennesaw Mountain and along the banks of the Chattahoochee River near Atlanta. However, by 5 July, Sherman could see the church spires rising from the city termed the Gate of the South.

The defenses around Atlanta consisted of a long line of earthen redoubts, complimented by Sherman as being "one of the strongest pieces of field fortification I ever saw". Deep in enemy territory and lacking the troops to mount a long siege of the city, General Sherman yearned for a quick and decisive victory. Atlanta's communications would be the key; more specifically the railroads that supplied the city with food and munitions. To the Confederate defenders, the four railroads that radiated out from the city were vital. Destroy them and Sherman knew Atlanta would eventually fall. In this task, he turned to his cavalry to tear up railroad tracks and otherwise wreak whatever havoc on the transportation system they could.

After a number of sniping engagements, General Stoneman (left), accompanied by his aide-de-camp Major Myles Keogh, finally crossed the Chattahoochee River at DeFoor's Ferry on 24 July. Their route led past Sherman's HQ on the Peachtree Road, where Stoneman and his staff stopped that afternoon. It was during this meeting that Sherman told Stoneman to concentrate all four cavalry divisions for a common purpose - destroy the key Macon & Western Railroad, hastening Atlanta's downfall.

Stoneman's cavalry force consisted of three brigades; one composed of the mounted portions of the Fifth and Sixth Indiana Cavalry, commanded by Colonel James Biddle, amounting to about 700 men; another, of the First and Eleventh Kentucky Cavalry, commanded by Colonel Silas Adams, numbering 550 men; the other brigade was composed of the Fourteenth Illinois Cavalry, the Eighth Michigan Cavalry, and a part of the First Ohio Squadron, numbering 800 men, commanded by Colonel Horace Capron; a detachment of the Twenty-fourth Indiana Battery, under command of Captain Hardy, with two 3-inch regulation guns and fifty-four men. In all about 2,104 officers and men, the general, and seven members of his staff including Myles Keogh.

After conversing with his officers and then Sherman, Stoneman was ordered to take on the additional mission of freeing Union POWs from, initially, Camp Oglethorpe in Macon before turning their attention to the destruction of Camp Sumter, more commonly known as the dreaded Andersonville Prison. Such an accomplishment would make heroes of the Union raiders and in particular, General Stoneman himself.
On 27 July, Stoneman's command left camp at 4 a. m., four miles north of Decatur, Georgia, entering Decatur at sunrise. Over the following three days, little of interested occurred although the Union cavalry took on the role of scavengers, foraging from the land and local populace as they progressed towards the railway tracks of the Macon line. Understandably, this made the blue coated invader reviled amongst the Georgian civilians. Little wonder Stoneman reported - "It is impossible to move without every step we take being known, women as well as men acting as scouts and messengers."
But it was not only the civilans that were bristling for a fight. Around this date, Confederate commander, Joseph Wheeler, ordered Brigader General Alfred Holt Iverson (right) and his 1400 strong column to move and protect the Macon line. However by 28 July, Rebel scouts had discovered the Yankees were marching towards Monticello and Iverson was now dispatched to follow Stoneman rapidly and "attack him wherever found."

On Saturday, 30 July, the Union cavalry began its destructive task. Colonel Capron's brigade reached within one mile east of Macon and tore up track belonging to the Central railroad. They burned two bridges and captured three trains of loaded cars, which they also destroyed. Finding nearby Griswoldville - a village on the outskirts of Macon - too well defended, the Yankees rolled burning passenger cars towards the enemy which burned themselves out without much damage to the local buildings. Their next ploy was far more destructive. Colonel Capron ordered a captured steam locomotive to be sent full-throttle into Griswoldville. The engine powered backwards into the village and struck a number of carriages belonging to a passenger train, wrecking everything in its path.

Capron's men then rejoined Stoneman on the Garrison Road where the two artillery pieces brought on the mission were shelling the outskirts of Macon. The Ocmulgee River lay between Macon and Stoneman's position and he was prevented from crossing the bridge by a Confederate battery near Fort Hawkins that effectively guarded all approaches. The railroad bridge was also defended by 12-pounders placed on flat cars, which were run out on the bridge, discharged, and then drawn back for reloading. The town's defenders had met like with like and returned fire in an artillery duel that lasted almost two hours.

Finding it too difficult to break down the Rebel defences, under the command of General Howell Cobb, Stoneman reluctantly decided to fall back. Much to his chagrin, Stoneman also discovered that Macon's prison, Camp Oglethorpe, had been emptied only days before; the prisoners rushed east by rail. Furthermore, Union scouts now reported a large cavalry force moving on the west side of river toward Macon and, despite suffering from exhaustion, Stoneman's command pressed on hard in an attempt to reach Hillsboro, at which point they would have choice of three roads at daylight. However, Iverson's Confederate cavalry were in no mood to let the Union raiders slip away and eventually caught up with Stoneman later that evening, three miles from Clinton, where the first skirmishes began.

About 10 p.m. on 30 July, Stoneman's advance guard clashed with Iverson's men, initially driving them back. As Rebel resistance stiffened, the 8th Michigan deployed with a series of charges through pitch black darkness driving the Confederate cavalry out of three successive barricades. Observing the fight, Myles Keogh was enthused enough to exclaim - "Tigers! These Michigan boys fought like tigers." However, as the night wore on, the Union cavalry's progress slowed to a crawl as the enemy were too strongly posted behind a multitude of makeshift barricades and, eventually, the fight petered out. Frustratingly for Stoneman, Hillsboro was only a mere two miles away but his troops were exhausted, having been in their saddles almost continuously for five days and nights. The raiders took cover in a nearby plantation and tried to grab what little rest they could.

The Sunshine Church, Jones County, Georgia - as it looks today and in 1880.

At dawn, Stoneman's command mounted up and moved on, passing a medium sized wooden chapel known locally as the 'Sunshine Church' or 'Hascall's School', a reference to the additional use the building was put to during weekdays. Shortly after, the Yankee advance guard came under fire from a Confederate battery positioned on the Hillsboro Road to their front. Behind the artillery, and spread out in long, obstructive line were the Alabama, Georgia and Kentucky cavalry brigades of Iverson's command. During the early morning lull in fighting, a reinvigorated Iverson had hastily moved to concentrate his Confederate force in front of Stoneman, covering the roads and placing himself between two rivers, only about twenty miles apart. It was a clever strategy - Stoneman's cavalry command was rapidly becoming caught in a Rebel noose.

Although inferior in numbers to their Union opponents, the Rebels knew the rugged, undulating landscape was unsuitable for cavalry manoeuvres and had dug in behind makeshift fortifications such as log barriers and fence rails. Stoneman could have turned back and sought an alternative route to Atlanta, as some of his subordinate officers suggested, but he judged that the best course of action, and the quickest route back to Sherman, was to go the offensive and break through the enemy's defences. This was also to be the most dangerous option...

It has been theorised that General Stoneman's medical ailment, chronic hemorrhoids, which were now infected and bleeding, influenced his decision to continue on the quickest route to Union lines - the now heavily defended Hillsboro Road. For any cavalryman, it was a most unfortunate affliction to have but Stoneman had suffered from it for years so it is hard to believe that it would now compel him to needlessly sacrifice his command for self-preservation. Indeed, as the battle progressed, it soon became evident that self-preservation was the last thing on Stoneman's mind. It is more likely that George Stoneman was frustrated that his cavalry had been thwarted at Macon days before and longed for a credible victory during his raid.

And so began the Battle of Sunshine Church or the Battle of Hillsboro as it is sometimes known. The fight was to be probably Myles Keogh's toughest encounter of the entire war; a battle where he was to display extraordinary bravery and unstinting loyalty...

A Near Miss on the Fourth of July

"...a tremendous fire of musketry and artillery broke out on the extreme right, and called the merry revelers at once to the more serious business of the day. All jumped to their horses 'with hot haste', and hurried to their appropriate posts."
From an account of the July 4th celebrations at General Blair's Headquarters, Georgia, 1864.

Despite inflicting a heavy defeat that Sherman's Union forces at Kennesaw Mountain on June 27, within days the Confederate armies under General Johnston began withdrawing towards their next line of defences along the Chattahoochee River. On July 2, Johnston withdrew from Kennesaw Mountain south towards Smyrna and to the Nickajack Creek area four miles to the west. The Federals followed, rearranging the positions of the various armies and the corps that made up their structures.

By July 3, Major General Frank P. Blair's 17th Corps, Army of the Tennessee, having marched from Kennesaw via Sandtown Road, reached Moss' house near the town of Smyrna after what he claimed was 'an unusually fatiguing march'. Blair (left) had moved his men in rear of Sherman's army toward the right where he had now assigned General Stoneman's cavalry, including Major Myles Keogh, to cover his right flank. Later that day, there were some brief skirmishes with Rebel soldiers when his advance was checked by a line of the enemy's dismounted cavalry in a strong defensive position. Blair reported that:
'General Stoneman's cavalry connected promptly with my right, and fought with great spirit...assisting materially in driving the enemy.'
The loss of daylight prevented further pursuit, and Blair withdrew the men from beyond a location christened the 'Widow Mitchell's' to an area where, as he wrote, 'the command could get a sufficient supply of water' - The Mable Plantation near Smyrna.

Mable House near Smyrna, as it looks today.

Located on the grounds of this 400 acre plantation was Mable House, later to be used as a Federal hospital. It is unclear if General Blair used the house for his headquarters as his reports from those days simply state, 'In the Field', but the next day was Independence Day, July 4, and the house would seem the ideal location to host the celebratory picnic he held for his officers and guests. Blair's adjutant general was Keogh's good friend, A. J. Alexander, who also happened to be the general's cousin. With Stoneman's cavalry now posted to the 17th Corps and Alexander's connections, it was no surprise that Major Keogh was among those invited to the festivities.

In the biography of A.J. Alexander - 'The life and services of Brevet Brigadier-General Andrew Jonathan Alexander' by James Harrison Wilson - the author recounts how the day's celebrations were suddenly interrupted and any feelings of complacency were dismissed as elements of Johnston's Confederate army began a counter attack:
"On the 4th of July, many officers of the various Corps, visited Blair's headquarters to enjoy their hospitality, and among others, Colonel Keogh, that gallant young Irishman, who had served with Alexander on Stoneman's staff ... On the day in question, while the enjoyment was at the highest and the woods were resounding with patriotic songs, a tremendous fire of musketry and artillery broke out on the extreme right, and called the merry revelers at once to the more serious business of the day. All jumped to their horses 'with hot haste', and hurried to their appropriate posts.
The enemy had sallied out from his lines, and was making a fierce attack. Matters looked serious for a while, but that was an army of veterans, every one of whom knew what to do in such an emergency. A sharp and bloody combat took place, and the Confederates were repulsed with heavy loss on both sides. As usual, Alexander was on the line, cool, steady and determined, duplicating the General, and directing and encouraging the men. The honors of the day were with the Union Army, but the battle had had a serious effect, and the celebration of the 'Glorious Fourth' was not renewed."
This encounter, close to Ruff's Mill was with Georgia Militia, under Major General Gustavus Smith supported by General Ross' cavalry. Blair later recorded that his soldier's response pushed the enemy skirmishers back over a mile and towards their prepared defences - 'a heavy line of rifle-pits, on a commanding position from which they opened with artillery'. Again Stoneman's cavalry were at the heart of the action:
'During the operations of the day my right was covered by the cavalry, under Major-General Stoneman, who promptly and ably co-operated with me, his skirmishers connecting with mine and assisting materially in driving the enemy.'
'The skirmishers of Colonel Hall's brigade, in connection with General Stoneman's cavalry, made a determined and gallant attack on the enemy's line, approaching within 500 yards of the works, drawing the fire of the whole of the enemy's force from behind the works, and also that of two pieces of artillery.'
'The cavalry on my right have been very active, entirely covering that flank and keeping fully up with my advance.'

The casualties on the Union side during the day did not exceed 40 men but almost included Myles Keogh who, in the of act relaying an order, rode straight into a Confederate skirmish line. Recounting his near miss that day in a later letter to his sister, Ellen, he credited his horse, 'Tom', with saving his life:
' old charger that had carried me through so many dangers since the battle of Port Republic, when Keily was wounded. I wish you could have seen the poor fellow, how he could leap, and on the 4th of July he saved my life. Whilst riding on a bye road carrying an order I suddenly rode into a heavy outlying picket of the enemy. "Tom" saw them as they rose up to deliver their fire and jumped sideways over a rail fence into the wood skirting the road. He carried me safely out of range.

[From the collection of the Cayuga Museum of History and Art, Auburn]

Myles Keogh, circa 1864.
There is only one known Civil War photograph of Keogh mounted on a horse (above). It appears to be a section of an ambrotype (a thin negative image on glass made to appear as a positive by showing it against a black background) and the portrait was purported to be taken in 1864 during Keogh's time with General Stoneman. If this is so, the gray horse that Keogh is mounted upon must be 'Tom', Keogh's 'old charger' that he said he had since joining the Union army. As circumstance would have it, 'Tom' was not to be the most famous of Myles Keogh's horses; that claim would be earned by a 'last survivor'.
During the night of the 4th, the Confederate army withdrew all its men and artillery from in front of Blair's forces, except for a heavy line of skirmishers. The following day, July 5, 1864, Sherman's forces advanced again, driving the Confederates across Nickajack Creek, and into their main line of defences. However, Johnston's ability to place his men in the best possible defensive location again stunted Sherman's progress and the Union army halted for several days just in front of the Chattahoochee River.
By this time, Federal forces were within 15 miles of Atlanta, threatening the city from the west and north. An increasingly worried President Jefferson Davis and the Confederate government dispatched General Braxton Bragg to ascertain the situation with respect to Atlanta. His view was that, despite keeping his together as an effective fighting unit, Johnston had surrendered over one hundred miles of mountainous, and thus more easily defensible, territory in just two months. On July 17, 1864, President Davis removed Johnston from command and replaced him with the more aggressive Lieutenant General John Bell Hood. The change in leadership and tactics mattered for little as Atlanta fell into Sherman's hands at the beginning of September, 1864.
By that time, Major Keogh was experiencing life as a prisoner after participating in his bloodiest fight of the war - The Battle of Sunshine Church...

Lest We Forget

JUNE 25-26, 1876

 7th U.S. Cavalry Killed in Action  

Commissioned Officers
Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer, Commanding Regiment
Captain Myles Walter Keogh, Commanding Company I
1st Lieutenant William Winer Cooke, Regimental Adjutant
Captain George W. Yates, Commanding Company F
Captain Thomas Ward Custer, Commanding Company C
1st Lieutenant Donald McIntosh, Commanding Company G
1st Lieutenant James Calhoun, Commanding Company L
1st Lieutenant Algernon E. Smith, Commanding Company E
1st Lieutenant James E. Porter, Second-in-command, Company I
2nd Lieutenant Benjamin Hubert Hodgson, Adjutant to Major Marcus A. Reno
2nd Lieutenant Henry Moore Harrington, Second-in-command, Company C
2nd Lieutenant James Garland Sturgis, Second-in-command, Company E
2nd Lieutenant William Van W. Reily, Second-in-command, Company F
2nd Lieutenant John J. Crittenden, (20th U.S. Inf.), Second-in-command, Company L
Assistant Surgeon George E. Lord
Acting Assistant Surgeon James M. DeWolf

Non-Commissioned Staff
 Sergeant Major William H. Sharrow
Chief Trumpeter Henry Voss

Company A
 Corporal James Dalious
Private John E. Armstrong
Private James Drinan
Private James McDonald
Private William Moodie
Private Richard Rollins
Private John Sullivan
Private Thomas P. Sweetser

Company B
Private Richard Dorn
Private George B. Mask

Company C
1st Sergeant Edwin Bobo
Sergeant Jeremiah Finley
Sergeant George August Finckle
Corporal Henry E. French
Corporal John Foley
Corporal Daniel Ryan
Trumpeter Thomas J. Bucknell
Trumpeter William Kramer
Saddler George Howell
Blacksmith John King
Private Fred E. Allan
Private John Brightfield
Private Christopher Criddle
Private George Eiseman
Private Gustave Engle
Private James Farrand
Private Patrick Griffin
Private James Hathersall
Private John Lewis
Private Frederick Meier
Private August Meyer
Private Edgar Phillips
Private John Rauter
Private Edward Rix
Private James H. Russell
Private Ludwick St. John
Private Samuel S. Shade
Private Jeremiah Shea
Private Nathan Short
Private Alpheus Stuart
Private Ygnatz Stungewitz
Private John Thadus
Private Garrett Van Allen
Private Oscar L. Warner
Private Willis B. Wright
Private Henry Wyman

Company D
Farrier Vincent Charley
Private Patrick M. Golden
Private Edward Housen

Company E
1st Sergeant Frederick Hohmeyer
Sergeant John S. Ogden
Sergeant William B. James
Corporal Thomas Eagan
Corporal Henry S. Mason
Corporal George C. Brown
Corporal Albert H. Meyer
Trumpeter Thomas McElroy
Trumpeter George A. Moonie
Private William H. Baker
Private Robert Barth
Private Owen Boyle
Private James Brogan
Private Edward Conner
Private John Darris
Private William Davis
Private Richard Farrell
Private John S. S. Forbes
Private John Heim
Private John Henderson
Private Sykes Henderson
Private William Hiuber
Private Andrew Knecht
Private Herod T. Liddiard
Private Patrick O'Connor
Private William H. Rees
Private Edward Rood
Private Henry Schele
Private William Smallwood
Private Albert A. Smith
Private James Smith, 1st
Private James Smith, 2nd
Private Benjamin Stafford
Private Alexander Stella
Private William A. Torrey
Private Cornelius Van Sant
Private George Walker

Company F
1st Sergeant Michael Kenney
Sergeant Frederick Nursey
Sergeant John Vickory
Sergeant John R. Wilkinson
Corporal Charles Coleman
Corporal William Teeman
Corporal John Briody
Trumpeter Thomas N. Way
Farrier Benjamin Brandon
Blacksmith James R. Manning
Private Thomas Atcheson
Private William Brady
Private Benjamin F. Brown
Private William Brown
Private Patrick Bruce
Private Lucien Burnham
Private James Carney
Private Armantheus D. Cather
Private Anton Dohman
Private Timothy Donnelly
Private John Gardiner
Private George W. Hammon
Private John P. Kelly
Private Gustave Klein
Private Herman Knauth
Private William H. Lerock
Private Werner L. Liemann
Private William A. Lossee
Private Christian Madsen
Private Francis E. Milton
Private Joseph Monroe
Private Sebastian Omling
Private Patrick Rudden
Private Richard Saunders
Private Francis W. Sicfous
Private George A. Warren

Company G
Sergeant Edward Botzer
Sergeant Martin Considine
Corporal James Martin
Corporal Otto Hagemann
Trumpeter Henry Dose
Farrier Benjamin Wells
Saddler Crawford Selby
Private John J. McGinniss
Private Andrew J. Moore
Private John Rapp
Private Benjamin F. Rogers
Private Henry Seafferman
Private Edward Stanley

Company H
Corporal George Lell
Private Juilien D. Jones
Private Thomas E. Meador

Company I
1st Sergeant Frank E. Varden
Sergeant James Bustard
Corporal John Wild
Corporal George C. Morris
Corporal Samuel F. Staples
Trumpeter John McGucker
Trumpeter John W. Patton
Saddler Henry A. Bailey
Private John Barry
Private Joseph F. Broadhurst
Private Thomas Connors
Private David Cooney
Private Thomas P. Downing
Private Edward Driscoll
Private David C. Gillette
Private George H. Gross
Private Adam Hetesimer
Private Edward P. Holcomb
Private Marion E. Horn
Private Patrick Kelly
Private Henry Lehman
Private Edward W. Lloyd
Private Archibald McIlhargey
Private John Mitchell
Private Jacob Noshang
Private John O'Bryan
Private John Parker
Private Felix James Pitter
Private George Post
Private James Quinn
Private William Reed
Private John W. Rossbury
Private Darwin L. Symms
Private James E. Troy
Private Charles Von Bramer
Private William B. Whaley

Company K
1st Sergeant Dewitt Winney
Sergeant Robert M. Hughes
Corporal John J. Callahan
Trumpeter Julius Helmer
Private Elihu F. Clear

1st Sgt. Butler's Battlefield Marker

Company L
1st Sergeant James Butler
Sergeant William Cashan
Sergeant Amos B. Warren
Corporal William H. Harrison
Corporal John Seiler
Corporal William H. Gilbert
Trumpeter Frederick Walsh
Blacksmith Charles Siemon
Saddler Charles Perkins
Private George E. Adams
Private William Andrews
Private Anthony Assadaly
Private Elmer Babcock
Private Ami Cheever
Private William B. Crisfield
Private John L. Crowley
Private William Dye
Private James J. Galvan
Private Charles Graham
Private Henry Hamilton
Private Weston Harrington
Private Louis Haugge
Private Francis T. Hughes
Private Thomas G. Kavanagh
Private Louis Lobering
Private Charles McCarthy
Private Peter McGue
Private Bartholomew Mahoney
Private Thomas E. Maxwell
Private John Miller
Private David J. O'Connell
Private Oscar F. Pardee
Private Christian Reibold
Private Henry Roberts
Private Walter B. Rogers
Private Charles Schmidt
Private Charles Scott
Private Bent Siemonson
Private Andrew Snow
Private Byron Tarbox
Private Edmond D. Tessier
Private Thomas S. Tweed
Private Johann Michael Vetter

Company M
Sergeant Miles F. O'Hara
Corporal Henry M. Cody
Corporal Frederick Stressinger
Private Frank Braun
Private Henry Gordon
Private Jacob Gebhart
Private Henry Klotzbucher
Private George Lorentz
Private William D. Meyer
Private George E. Smith
Private David Summers
Private Henry Turley
Private Henry C. Voight

Boston Custer, brother of George and Thomas
Henry Armstrong Reed, nephew of George
Mark Kellogg, Newspaper Reporter for the Bismarck Tribune
Frank C. Mann, Chief Packer
Charley Reynolds, Chief Scout
Isaiah Dorman, Negro-Indian Interpreter
Mitch Bouyer, half-breed
Bloody Knife
Bob-Tailed Bull
Little Brave
Battlefield Monument

The Fight for Atlanta - Kennesaw Mountain

"Our little success on the right is all that has been gained anywhere. This may be very important to us as the first step toward the next important movement."

Major-General Schofield, Commander, Army of the Ohio to Gen. Stoneman, June 27, 1864

Thunder on Little Kennesaw by Don Troiani

Throughout the Atlanta campaign, General Joseph E. Johnston, commanding the Confederate rearguard, withdrew to positions that had been previously reconnoitred by his engineers. The Rebel defensive strategy was to fight a delaying action, using successive entrenched locations to thwart Sherman's march on Atlanta. The Confederates most resounding success in the Atlanta Campaign came near the end of June at Kennesaw Mountain, Georgia.

Soon after the Battle of Dallas and Stoneman's fight at Allatoona Pass, Johnston had pulled back again to form a 10-mile long defensive front that encompassed three mountains; Brush Mountain, Lost Mountain and Pine Mountain, located between them. Almost two miles further behind was the Confederate strong point - Kennesaw Mountain. Towering over the landscape at 1000 feet in height, Kennesaw Mountain's base was passed by the Western & Atlantic railroad and the Rebel's vast defensive line now blocked Sherman's route to the Chattahoochee River and Atlanta. General Sherman informed his superiors in Washington of the ongoing, incessant fighting:

"The whole countryside is one vast fort, and Johnston must have at least fifty miles of connected trenches with abatis and finished batteries...As fast as we gain one position the enemy has another all ready. the key to the whole country."

Between June 10 and June 18, the Union army drove Johnston's men off the three smaller mountains and the Confederates withdrew to their consolidated position in front of the town of Marietta at the base of Kennesaw Mountain. Believing he now held the advantage of momentum but that Johnston's incessant delaying tactics had affected his men's fighting spirit, Sherman changed from his month long strategy of turning the Confederate army and ordered a frontal attack on the entrenched positions, located mainly at the lowlands south of the mountain. Keogh’s overall commander, General Schofield, Army of the Ohio, later wrote in his memoirs that he and all of the other top commanders, including ‘The Rock of Chickamauga’, Major-General George Thomas, protested against Sherman's plan. Sherman's response to their concerns was to explain that the near-suicidal attack against sophisticated breastworks and trenches was only intended ' make a strong demonstration.'

A key part of Sherman's attack was for General Schofield's Army of the Ohio to extend the right flank of the Federal position and thin Johnston's central line of defence. This placed Stoneman's cavalry and Myles Keogh at the extreme right of Sherman's army. Schofield was ordered to exploit an advantage he had gained during fighting on June 20 near Olley's Creek. Sherman's role for Schofield appears to have been the creation of a ruse, tricking the Confederates into thinking the Union Army was trying a flanking manoeuvre far to the south of its defences. On June 26, Sherman sent an order to Schofield, requesting that one of his units:
"...throw up a hasty parapet for his guns and fire away and make all dispositions as though he intended to force a passage. Same with General Cox up where he is. It should be done to-day to induce the enemy to strengthen that flank to-night."
At noon on June 27, and under the direct command of General Jacob Cox, Schofield's wing advanced to the crest of a ridge, a mile or so beyond Olley's Creek, and within a mile of the main road running to Nickajack Creek. The ridge was extremely rough and densely wooded. Defending this southerly ridge was a division of cavalry from the Army of Mississippi and commanded by William Hicks "Red" Jackson. It was here that Myles Keogh participated in the clash at Kennesaw Mountain as Stoneman's cavalry drove their counterparts from the forested area.

However, by this stage, Thomas' and McPherson's frontal attacks were being undertaken and tethering towards defeat. On the Union left wing, McPherson’s advance towards the northern end of the mountain resulted in 210 casualties while another attack at Pigeon Hill which cost him 317 casualties out of the five thousand men engaged. George Thomas attacked the centre of the Confederate line with about eight thousand men. The points on which his attack focused were defended with divisions commanded by Benjamin Cheatham and Patrick Cleburne, Johnston's most redoubtable generals. Unsurprisingly, given the task presented to the Union troops, the result was a total failure with Thomas suffering just over fifteen hundred casualties.
When Sherman ordered George Thomas to once again advance on the Confederate lines, he received a curt and telling response:
"The Army of the Cumberland has already made two desperate, bloody and unsuccessful assaults on this mountain. If a third is ordered, it will, in my opinion, result in demoralizing this army and will, if made, be against my best judgement, and most earnest protest."
The Future of War - Trenches at Kennesaw Mountain
Sherman now realised how effective a well constructed entrenchment could be and was given a foretaste of the future of conventional warfare. Another assault was not made and Sherman conceded that: 'The facility with which defensive works of timber and earth are constructed gives the party on the defensive great advantage.' Nevertheless, he remained unrepentant for placing such an onerous task on his men and the seemingly needless deaths of almost 600 Union soldiers:
"Failure as it was, and for which I assume the entire responsibility, I yet claim it produced good fruits, as it demonstrated to General Johnston that I would assault, and that boldly"
Although coming against a smaller force, Stoneman's cavalry achieved some semblance of victory in their encounter with Jackson's troops on the ridge. Schofield was quick to ensure his success was noted when he wrote to General Stoneman on the evening of the 27th:
"Thomas and McPherson have failed in their attack and have suffered heavy losses. Our little success on the right is all that has been gained anywhere. This may be very important to us as the first step toward the next important movement."
Indeed, if Schofield had vigorously pressed home his advantage on the Union's right flank, the day's losses may have been avoided; a fact recognised all too late when he reported to Sherman that the ground he won 'seems to me more important than I at first supposed.'

Whether it was this hesitancy or a new strategy from Sherman, on July 1, McPherson was ordered to move in towards and then around Schofield in another flanking manoeuvre. That very evening, after the first hint of this movement, Johnston began his withdrawal from Marietta to positions at Smyrna, and then towards the Chattahoochee River -- just 10 miles away -- the last natural barrier protecting Atlanta. This soon allowed the Union army to march unopposed past Kennesaw Mountain into Marietta and by the night of July 4, the Confederates had had completely abandoned their lines.

If complacency and thoughts of celebrating Independence Day in comfort had entered into the minds of Keogh and his fellow cavalry officers, they were to receive a prompt reminder that the enemy was never too far away...

The Fight for Atlanta - Allatoona Pass & Dallas, Georgia

"...move against Johnston's army, to break it up, and get into the interior of the enemy's country as far as you can, inflicting all the damage you can against their war resources."
Ulysses S. Grant to William Tecumseh Sherman, 1864

The Atlanta Campaign - May to September 1864

In the spring of 1864, William Tecumseh Sherman was placed in charge of the Military Division of the Mississippi comprised of George H. Thomas' Army of the Cumberland, James B. McPherson's Army of the Tennessee, and John Schofield's Army of the Ohio, a total of about 100,000 men. Sherman's superior numbers, well fed and equipped, faced a Confederate force of 65,000 men whose biggest problems were getting blankets, shoes and small arms. In December, 1863, Joseph E. Johnston assumed command of the Army of Tennessee when Braxton Bragg resigned following the defeat of his forces at Chattanooga. The stage was set for what is known as the Atlanta Campaign. 

Stoneman and Keogh had travelled to Lexington, Kentucky, where horses were being sourced and new cavalry units were being mobilised and drilled in preparation for service attached to the Army of the Ohio. Most of his newly formed units consisted of troopers who were seasoned veterans from Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky; a rugged and boisterous lot who were not always willing to accept authority. This attitude would later be the source of much frustration for Stoneman as he marched south. Some of the Kentuckians would become absent without leave as they passed close to their homesteads. Stoneman’s stern rebuke of those units and their officers only created further resentment, leading to delays in cavalry preparations and an off the cuff jibe from Sherman that Stoneman was “lazy.” 

Nonetheless, on April 29, Stoneman left Kentucky en route to Knoxville and Chattanooga and by early May, Major General Sherman's (left) massive offensive had begun with Major Myles Keogh's and Stoneman's three brigade strong cavalry - 2810 troopers in total - crossing the Tennessee River screening the left flank of General Schofield's Army of the Ohio. For most of the coming weeks, these Federal troopers would engage in sniping with the Rebel cavalry under the command of 'Little Joe' (he was reputed to wear size 5 boots) or 'Fighting Joe' Wheeler. Characterised by Confederate President Davis as "one of the ablest, bravest and most skilful of cavalry commanders," General Joseph Wheeler was a formidable opponent and would become Stoneman's nemesis over the months to come. 

For much of May, while Sherman moved down the Western and Atlantic Railroad towards Atlanta, Keogh and his colleagues were held in reserve or on constant reconnaissance, screening the left flank. Throughout the Union advance, the Confederate army withdrew to positions that had previously been reconnoitered by its engineers and stubbornly disputed every acre of ground but did clash at Resaca, Georgia on May 13. Stoneman's division came to Resaca by way of Rocky Face and Dalton, pushing the Rebel rearguard slowly before them. However, in his later reports, Sherman seems to indicate that Stoneman's men were not directly involved in the Battle of Resaca:
“But during the 10th, the enemy showed no signs of evacuating Dalton, and I was waiting for the arrival of Garrard's and Stoneman's cavalry, known to be near at hand, so as to secure the full advantages of victory, of which I felt certain...on the 11th, perceiving signs of evacuation of Dalton, I gave all the orders for the general movement, leaving the Fourth Corps (Howard) and Stoneman's cavalry in observation in front of Buzzard-Roost Gap, and directing all the rest of the army to march through Snake-Creek Gap, straight on Resaca”.
According to Myles Keogh's U.S. Army service record, the sequence of engagements which he participated in during this period are listed as follows - "Allatoona; Dallas [Georgia]; Kennesaw Mountain; Chattahoochee [River]" - and it is likely that Allatoona Pass was the location of an act of gallantry which was to earn Keogh his second brevet award.

The Western and Atlantic Railroad went through the Allatoon
a Pass, a cut through the Allatoona Mountains about thirty-five miles north of Atlanta and provided the Union Army a vital supply and communications line with the north. The pass was approximately 360-feet long and 175-feet deep. It was the deepest rail cut along the Western and Atlantic line between Atlanta and Chattanooga and Sherman greatly admired its strategic value.

Western and Atlantic Railroad Station at Allatoona Pass circa 1864

In fact, Sherman had been familiar with the terrain around Allatoona since the mid-1840's. He had ridden through the area en route to a visit to some 'peculiar Indian mounds' known today as Cartersville - Georgia's Etowah Indian Mounds State Historic Site. Ironically, this prior leisurely visit gave him the knowledge to avoid Allatoona during the May push towards Atlanta, as he noted in a report to Washington dated June 8, 1864 (referring to events of late May, 1864):
“I knew the strength of Allatoona Pass, having ridden through it twenty years ago, and knew it would reduce our strength by forcing us to operate by the head of a single column. I determined not to attempt it but to pass the range by other more devious and difficult natural roads that would admit of more equal terms with the enemy should he attempt, to meet us.”

Soldiers at one of the Rebel built defences - Allatoona Pass

The rebels occupied two fortified areas ("...two small redoubts" according to Sherman) at the top of the ridge both east and west of the railroad. Fearful of the difficulty in surmounting Allatoona Pass’ natural defensive features, the Union Army withdrew from the Western and Atlantic Railroad route it was on - near Cartersville - disappointing Confederate Lt. General Joseph E. Johnston's strongly entrenched army just to the south at Allatoona. With Union Forces flanking Atlanta from the west, Johnson withdrew from Allatoona in pursuit.

Taking the initiative, Sherman then decided to send Stoneman’s cavalry to capture what he hoped was now an abandoned garrison. Sherman wrote to General John E. Smith:
"I regard Allatoona of the first importance in our future plans. It is a second Chattanooga; its front and rear are susceptible of easy defense and its flanks are strong."


On or about May 28, Stoneman’s Cavalry began their assault at Allatoona Pass (illustrated above). From notes kept by Merritt Lewis of Company E of the Fifty-First Illinois, it seems that the rebel force, although small, were making best use of the fine defensive structure established there:
“Saturday. Skirmishing going on. Rebels strongly entrenched at Allatoona Pass. Sunday. Skirmishing continued. Rebels charged our lines at night and were repulsed. Monday [May 30]. Our army still confronting the rebel army at Allatoona pass.”
Myles Keogh (right) would later receive the brevet rank of Lieutenant Colonel in recognition of gallantry performed around this time and, although recorded as occurring at “The Battle of Dallas”, the description of his act in Theodore Allen’s memoirs make it likely that it occurred while assaulting a structured Rebel defence. It appears that following a number of assaults, each with little success, General Stoneman turned to his aide-de-camp, Major Keogh, in an effort to break Confederate lines. Captain Allen recounts the event:
"A battalion of four companies [300 men] were placed at his disposal. In columns of companies he started at a brisk trot, and with cap in hand, turned to the battalion and cried out, 'Hip, hip, hurrah boys! Here we go,' and breaking into a gallop, the battalion, with Keogh well in the lead, charged on the enemy capturing all whose fleetness of horse did not permit them to escape.”
In recognition of the dismissive attitude he and some within the Ohio Cavalry had adopted weeks before regarding Keogh’s dress and appearance, Captain Allen further wrote:
“…Keogh ever after was a most welcome guest at every campfire, and every canteen in the regiment was freely proffered to him."

Another telling of this event was published in the "Forest and Stream" magazine, date and author unknown, and titled "Irish-American soldier of fortune". A copy of the article was sourced in the National Library of Ireland and appears to be based on the memoirs of an enlisted Union soldier. Interestingly, it differs little from Captain Theodore Allen's recollections:
"While they were forming again to make another charge, Keogh rode down to them and said to the captain who was in command that Gen. Stoneman had been kind enough to direct him to take command during the next charge. He was welcome to do it, and the officers were now anxious to see what he would do with it after he had got it. He formed his four troops in column of fours, each troop parallel with the next one; that made a solid column with a platoon front. The Confederates, who were hid by the timber, stopped firing after the last repulse. They might as well stop, they could not hit anyone from where they were on top of the hill and the timber prevented them from seeing much, anyhow. But as soon as Keogh had started his column up at a trot, he riding at its head, the firing began again. Keogh stood up in his stirrups, and facing his men, swung his cap above his head, and yelled 'Give them a cheer, boys, and go for them now.' The cheer was given, and they went for them, sending the Confederates clear across the hill and down the other side of it and here the rest of the regiment that had followed him to support him took up the chase and kept the enemy going. Whenever a charge was made after this, and Keogh was present, he took part in it, whether he had any command or not, and always came out without a scratch even."
By June 1, Sherman's two mounted divisions, one under Brigadier General Garrard, the other under George Stoneman, had seized Allatoona Pass from the small Confederate force that Joe Johnston had left there. This meant that Federal locomotives were now be able to steam south to provide the Union army with bullets, powder, and fresh food. As Sherman later recounted in his report:
"On the 1st of June our three armies were well in hand, in the broken and densely-wooded country fronting the enemy intrenched at New Hope Church, about five miles north of Dallas. General Stoneman's division of cavalry had occupied Allatoona, on the railroad, and General Garrard's division was at the western end of the pass, about Stilesboro."
Getting the troops on the move again proved difficult, since on that day it also began to rain. The rains kept up for over two weeks, turning the landscape into a red clay quagmire. At New Hope Church, northeast of Dallas, where a bloody and intense battle was taking place, the rough land was also a quagmire. Troops, horses, caissons became mired in a sea of mud. The federals irreverently christened New Hope Church – “The Hell Hole” - and the entrenched lines were so close that taunting calls travelled back and forth. Losses at The Battle of New Hope Church, one of the many engagements around Dallas, Georgia, were staggering. As a survivor later remembered:
“… hundreds beyond hundreds, in every conceivable position; some with contorted features, showing the agony of death, others as if sleeping…, some with soft, beardless faces, which ill comported with the savage warfare in which they had been engaged.”
Sherman's attempt to outflank the Confederates at Dallas, Georgia, had clearly failed. He had hoped to move decisively, but the fighting had instantly degraded into what he called "a big Indian war". Sherman wanted to get his offensive astride the Western and Atlantic Railroad again to simplify his supply problems. For this reason, Stoneman’s successful occupation of the railroad at Allatoona Pass became hugely significant in the ongoing Union march on Atlanta...