From: Memorial of the Patriotism of Schuylkill County in the American Slaveholders Rebellion, Compiled by Francis B. Wallace, 1865. Page 363.
A Daring Attack
When General Sherman’s Army arrived in front of Atlanta, and laid siege to the place, a plan was formed to attack the enemy’s communications, to cut off his supplies. For the daring and hazardous work the best cavalry in the army was selected, the Seventh being among them. The object was accomplished after severe fighting and loss. The annexed graphic description of the operations were furnished to us by an esteemed friend who participated in the movement as a soldier of the Seventh:
Camp 7th PA. Vet. Cavalry
In Front of Atlanta, GA, August 23rd, 1864
Since the date of my last communication, up to the 17th of this month, nothing worthy of note happened to the old 7th. We were out on two or three raids, destroyed several miles of railroad for the “Johnnies” at and near Covington on the line of road between Atlanta and Augusta, captured about two hundred horses and mules, and about half that number of “Free Americans of African Descent,” served two weeks in the breastworks dismounted, and were beginning to think we were destined to remain there until Atlanta had fallen, when we were ordered back to our horses on the 15th inst.
Rumor said we were to make another raid, and we were looking anxiously for some definite information, when about sundown of the 17th we were ordered to be ready to move at nine o’clock that evening with five days’ rations from the morning of the 19th. About midnight we moved out and at seven o’clock on the morning of the 18th were at Sandtown, a small village on the Chattahootchie River some sixteen miles below the Rail Road bridge. Up to this time we were in the dark as to what we were to do, or where we were going to do it.
We now found we were to form part of the force which, under the command of Brig. Gen. Kilpatrick, were to make an attack on the enemy’s communications, and endeavor to cut the Macon Rail Road. I cannot better convey to you the object of the expedition than by giving you the circular issued by the commanding officer. It is as follows:
Head-Quarters Cavalry Expedition, D.C.
Sandtown, GA, August 18, 1864
Soldiers! You have been selected from the Cavalry Divisions of the Army of the Cumberland. You have been well organized, equipped and rendered formidable at a great expense to accomplish an object vital to the success of our cause. I am about to lead you, not on a raid, but in a deliberate and well combined attack upon the enemy’s communications, in order that he may be unable to supply his army in Atlanta. Two expeditions have already failed. We are the last cavalry troops of the army. Let each soldier remember this and resolve to accomplish the great object for which so much is risked or die trying.
(Signed) J. Kilpatrick Brig. Gen. Commanding
At Sandtown on the 18th the column moved. It consisted of the 3rd Division, composed of Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois Cavalry, one Brigade of the 1st Division, and two Brigades of ours, the 2nd Division, composed of Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania cavalry.
The advance struck the enemy’s pickets five miles from Sandtown. They offered but feeble resistance however, and we met with no serious opposition until daylight the 19th, when we struck the Montgomery Rail Road at Red Oaks. Here the Rebs were strongly posted parallel to the road, and had their artillery so posted that they could as they supposed hold us in check, but orders were given to keep well closed up and keep pressing forward.
They threw their shells with a rapidity and accuracy that told upon our ranks, but at length seeing that we were getting to their rear, they concluded it was time for them to be leaving, so they left on a double quick towards Jonesboro. We following closely in their rear, drove them all day, and at dusk struck the Macon Rail Road at Jonesboro. At this point we destroyed over three miles of track, burned the depot and several their buildings, used by the Confederate Government as store houses, and an iron water tank. The latter for a time defied our efforts to render it useless, but at last we brought a piece of artillery to bear upon it, and I rather think it will take more than Southern ingenuity to stop all the holes we knocked through it.
As soon as the work of destruction was accomplished, the expedition was on the move and taking the Covington road daylight of the 20th, found us ten or twelve miles from Jonesboro. Here we halted at a church for an hour. The enemy who were following us were held in check by our rear guard. We then took a road to the left and struck the main road from McDonough to Fayetteville, and pushed rapidly forward till about noon, when we struck the enemy in force at our front.
At this point the 4th Michigan Cavalry struck off to the right to Lovejoy Station to destroy the Rail Road at that point. They succeeded in their object, without meeting with any opposition. Our regiment was thrown into the woods at the right of the road, and then dismounted and commenced feeling the enemy. They soon found them, and being too strong for our number, the 4th U. S. was sent to our assistance and shortly afterwards the 2nd Brigade of our Division.
We then charged the rebs and drove them some distance, when they rallied and in turn drove us. Meanwhile the force in our rear was pushing us hard; they threw shells from front and rear into our columns. After fighting on foot for some time in which neither party appeared to gain much, we were ordered to mount, which we did. We were formed into columns of regiments, and ordered to charge.
Our Regiment was on the right, the 4th Michigan in the centre, and the 4th U. S. was on the left of the road. Another Brigade was formed in like manner. When every thing was ready the word was given; and in they went. Words can scarcely portray the terrible sublimity of that charge. The air was filled with burning shells and musket balls. The ground fairly trembled under the tread of a thousand horses. As they get nearer the foe the grape and canister come tearing through the ranks, yet nothing can stop our rushing columns. Nearer they come to the yet unbroken line. Now they close upon them with a yell which drowns the roar of artillery and the crack of the musket. Now the rebel line is broken and is fleeing in wild disorder. Many are cut down with the sabre and many more trodden under foot by the horses.
The field is won, the victory is ours, and wild and exultant is the cheer that makes the very welkin ring. Their battery is silenced. One of the pieces we brought with us, and the others were spiked and rendered perfectly useless.
We had some more hard fighting, but as usual were victorious. The same afternoon the whole command forded Cotton River, which was so swollen that the horses had to swim. The next day, the 21st, we crossed Yellow River and destroyed four bridges after we had crossed, and yesterday, the 22nd, the command came in by way of Decatur, having had a circle around Atlanta.
We accomplished our object, but when we look around for familiar faces, and look in vain for many who but a weeks ago were full of life and hope, we realize the cost of our expedition.
Capt. Heber Thompson is missing. The last seen of him he was rallying the men to take the artillery. His horse was shot and he was dismounted. Capt. Percy H. White is missing. We know that he was wounded, but trust it was not a fatal wound.
The casualties of men from Schuylkill County, are as follows:
COMPANY A: Killed – David L. Davis Wounded – Alonso E. Kline Wounded and Missing – Sgt. David P. Reese, Francis Weigley, William Robinson, Peter Mulcachey.
COMPANY F: Wounded and Missing – Corp. George M. Boyer
COMPANY I: Wounded – Orvin P. Keehoe. Wounded and Missing – Levi Seibert.
COMPANY L: Wounded – Corp. Charles M. Kantner.