The Boys of Cos. A and E, 14th Michigan at Jonesboro
by Gordon Thorsby
The Captured of Jonesboro
When the regiment arrived near Jonesboro in late August 1864, only nine men remained of the original 34 volunteers from the Chesaning area. Nate Burtch of Brant had been arrested in ‘62 because he was discovered as being sixteen and sent home. Three were killed in battle, three killed by accidental deaths, four died of disease, two discharged for wounds, seven discharged for disabilities, two deserted, and two transferred to the Veteran Resrve Corps. George Schancel was killed and Slyvester Crandall of St. Charles was wounded in the August charge of the rifle pits at the Chattahoochee River. The nine were:
Joe Mather, 45 of St. Charles
Ed Baldwin 20, Alan Shepherd, 23 and Herman Curliss, 30 of Chesaning
Lou Daniels 34 and Al Barlow 33 of Havana
John Crawford, 45 of Flushing
Hiram Tozer, 37, Regimental Blacksmith and George W. Smith 24, 2nd Lieutenant and both of Montrose.
Note: Jonesboro was the source of the fictionalized land of Tara in Margaret Mitchell’s novel “Gone with the Wind."
On August 29, the regiment was in position guarding while other regiments proceeded to tear up tracks of the Macon and Western Railroad. An Ohio soldier remarked, ”The railroad was utterly wrecked. Nothing was left except the roadbed, and even that looked exceedingly disconsolate.” The next day, the Fourteenth continued toward the town of Rough and Ready for more rail destruction and force the abandonment of Atlanta without fighting. On August 31, they came into view of Jonesboro in the distance with the Macon & Western tracks there as well. It was here that Confederate Lt. Gen. Hardee struck back crossing a long open field and was badly repulsed. Historian Albert Castel described the fighting at Jonesboro on 31 August as the most one-sided slaughter of the war involving army sized opponents. The next day was the Federals turn for slaughter.
Mizner continued, “Measures were immediately taken to place my command in position, moving to Flint River and crossing it. The enemy was soon discovered in a strong position on a ridge running nearly east and west, and two batteries commenced shelling my lines severely. After crossing Flint River, a bad swamp was encountered, across which bridges had to be constructed. Officers and men worked with a will, notwithstanding they were under a heavy fire. Crossing the swamp, brought us to about 200 yards in front of the enemy’s lines.”
After 4 p.m. the XIV Corps was ordered to attack the right flank of Hardee’s Corps. Hardee had 12,000 men to stave off approximately 55,000 men. The U.S. regulars advanced first and forced back Confederate skirmishers but could proceed no further. The divisions were called in and the 14th Michigan moved up.
The 14th Michigan was part of Colonel Charles M. Lum’s brigade. The brigade advanced up the gentle ridge and into a strip of woods, where they moved into line of battle as they moved. According to one account, "the regiment was on the right of the brigade when it began taking incoming fire from grape and solid shot." Confederate positions were in easy sight and rebels were in prepared works with woods in their front and the Fourteenth steadily outpaced the rest of the line. When they hit the first line, the defense crumbled and fell back to the second line. Mizner recounted, “‘Moving steadily forward with fixed bayonets at ‘right shoulder shift,’ first at quick time, then at double quick, my men without pause or hesitation leaped upon the rebel works, not having up to that moment fired a shot or raised a shout. Upon gaining the works which were filled with the enemy, our colors gallantly planted by Sergeant Steiner, they opened upon them a most deadly fire…it was impossible to stay the fire of my men, who swept through the entire line of works.” Another soldier added, “Rebels held their musket fire until close,” when “they opened on us and then did our Boys melted like snow under a summer sun.” They had held their fire until too close.
As much as Confederate Brig Gen. Daniel Govan (right) and his brigade tried, the men in blue were too determined. They surged up and into the hastily built breastworks as Confederates
attempted to reload. “Then a slaughter commenced the like of which I never witnessed before and pray I may never see again,” said William Miller, 75th Indiana. “The melee was point-blank and hand to hand, the officers firing pistols and the soldiers swinging muskets and in places almost fencing with their bayonets. Division General Absalom Baird put it this way, “On no occasion within my own knowledge has the use of the bayonet been so general or so well authenticated.”
Govan’s Arkansans of Cleburne’s Division had never lost a position before, but they did at Jonesboro. Mizner reported, “I know that my regiment was the first to enter the enemy's works, they captured four pieces of artillery, the colors of the 1st Arkansas, General Govan, and 300 men. My loss was 2 men killed, 3 officers and 25 men wounded." The next day, Sherman occupied Atlanta.
Seven from the area continued on in Sherman's March to the Sea.
Al Barlow (father owned a mill in Havana) took a severe arm wound and his arm was amputated that night. He adapted to his new situation and became an accountant.
Edwin Baldwin continued but was not quite the same. He was discharged immediately upon cessation of fighting in 1865. He was later placed in the Pontiac Hospital for the insane in the latter 1800’s from PTSD. His actual burial is in Pontiac, but he has a cenotaph is in the Catholic Cemetery in Chesaning.
War Like a Thunderbolt, by Bonds, Russell S., Westholme Publishing, 2010, PP274.
Historical Data Sources, Inc., P.O. Box 25, Duxbury MA 03331.
Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, The Atlanta Campaign, CHAP. L., Series I. Vol. 38. Part I, Reports. Serial No. 72., ppg. 675-72.