Yankees Sing 'Dixie' in Douglas
It was a night in 1864 when a group of Yankee cavalry sang the Southern anthem while Little Reb accompanied them on the piano.
Kennesaw Mountain, Pickett’s Mill, Ezra Church and Jonesboro are all significant locations regarding Civil War history in the Atlanta area. Douglas County has a few sites as well, even if they aren’t very high on the name-recognition scale and are not marked.
Most of the events were nothing more than troop movements from both sides, but Douglas County citizens were heavily affected by the war because both Confederate and Union soldiers lived off the land and took private property when necessary for their own use. It is also important to remember that Douglas County did not exist during the Civil War. The locations that are detailed here were all within Campbell County.
In December I wrote about the Dark Corner area of Douglas County here. The Confederate Army of the Tennessee camped there, and General Hood deemed the location his headquarters in the fall of 1864. Various orders archived today are addressed to Dark Corner and are dated Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, 1864. If troop numbers are accurate, close to 40,000 Confederates moved through Dark Corner, an area between Winston and Douglasville, on their way to Allatoona and on to Tennessee.
Other areas of the county touched by the Civil War include Flint Hill Methodist Church at 7156 Highway 5. This site advises that two unknown Confederate soldiers were buried there after dying in the arbor close to the church on Oct. 2 and 3, 1864.
At the intersection of Rockhouse Road and Riverside Parkway stood a two-story rock house constructed of flagstone and mortar. The property included a hill, which during the skirmishes of July 3 and 4, 1864, the state militia and the 3rd Texas Calvary held along a trench line against Union forces. Douglas Hill is above the intersection. At the time the house was owned by a lawyer named Edge. The Union troops eventually took the property, including his home, stock and crops.
Early in July 1864, General Sherman ordered Generals Stoneman and McCook to flank the Confederates to the right of Kennesaw Mountain and eventually move south and secure Sandtown Road down to the Chattahoochee River. The troops crossed Sweetwater Creek at Powder Springs and entered Salt Springs/Lithia Springs.
On July 3, 1864, the Union troops met considerable opposition from General Ross’ men in what avid historians remember as the Battle of Sweetwater Bridge, but once Stoneman linked with the 55th Illinois Infantry, General Ross and his Confederates were pushed back to the river. Accounts of the battle pinpoint the location as “Riverside Parkway at the bridge over Sweetwater Creek–adjacent to the site of Aderholds Ferry.”
General Stoneman’s men reached the New Manchester site on July 9. Most Douglas County residents know about the New Manchester Manufacturing Co. ruins at Sweetwater Creek State Park, but many don’t realize there was a town of approximately 500 people who supported the factory, a flour mill, a grist mill and a water-powered saw nearby. The town boasted a company store, inn and post office. There had even been talk of building a rail line into the town, but the Civil War delayed the effort.
The manufacturing company was five stories tall, making it one of the tallest buildings in the area, and it was powered by a 50,000-pound waterwheel. There was no actual fighting between troops when the mill was taken, but there was a skirmish nearby at Alexander’s Mill, also within the grounds of Sweetwater Creek State Park.
General Stoneman captured the mill and ordered it destroyed because it had been a vital supplier of cloth for tents and sheets to the Confederacy. Mystery surrounds the New Manchester site as many of the people working at the mill were rounded up by the Union soldiers and sent north, where they were forced to remain until the end of the war. Since the mill was never rebuilt, many of the workers never returned to the area. The book The Women Will Howl: The Union Army Capture of Roswell and New Manchester, Ga., and the Forced Relocation of Mill Workers by Deborah Petite is an excellent resource to learn more about the incident.
After camping along Sweetwater Creek, Stoneman and his men headed southwest. He and General McCook had received orders to disrupt the West Point Railroad south and west of Atlanta. McCook’s men camped along the road toward Campbellton, and there was a very short battle with a Confederate unit on the Bullard-Henley property. The home still stands today along Highway 92 before you reach the Chattahoochee River.
A Union soldier was killed, and the mistress of the house, Susan Miller Bullard, was told to provide him a proper burial or risk having her home burned. The solder rests today in the garden near the house.
Before heading on to Newnan, McCook decided the Bullard-Henley home would make a fine location for him to “make camp.” He enjoyed a fine dinner prepared by Mrs. Bullard while his men camped all around the house and adjacent grounds. After dinner Mrs. Bullard’s daughter, Tallulah Florence Bullard, provided the evening’s entertainment because she was a very accomplished piano player.
McCook’s men made various requests and soon found that “Little Reb,” as they called Tallulah, could play any song they requested. When they asked her to play Yankee Doodle, however, the little girl would launch into Dixie instead. They kept requesting Yankee Doodle, but she kept pounding out Dixie on the piano keys. After hearing Dixie over and over, General McCook finally walked into the parlor to see what was going on.
In a first-person account of the event heard from his grandmother, Henley Campbell wrote in Heritage of Douglas County: 1870-2002, published by the Douglas County Genealogy Society, that once "McCook surveyed the living room scene of conflicting wills, he correctly devised an accommodation for both sides. He is reported to have said, 'Men, if you expect Little Reb to play Yankee Doodle for you tonight, I suspect that you’ll have to sing Dixie first.' So it was on a night in 1864 in Douglas County when a group of Yankee cavalry sang Dixie while Little Reb accompanied them on the piano!”
Once McCook and his 3,500 cavalry troops reached the Chattahoochee, they crossed at Smith’s Ferry, six miles south of Campbellton on the other side of the river. To reach the location of Smith’s Ferry today, you would need to travel down State Route 166 where it intersects West Chapel Hill Road. A dirt road is nearby that ends at the river and the old ferry location.
Over the next several days there were several skirmishes on both sides of the river at Campbellton, leaving the town in shambles. Many sources discuss how the Campbellton Ferry (where Highway 92 crosses the river today) was set upon by people trying to flee the small town. I would imagine the Gorman/Austell Ferry up the river at today’s Highway 166 bridge was also busy with refugees. This photo from the Atlanta History Center site shows abandoned military equipment at Campbellton.
Other plantations and properties in the area were also commandeered by Union troops as they made their way across the river. The Glennwood plantation on the west banks of the Chattahoochee near Campbellton, owned by the Rev. Henry D. Wood, was also disturbed. Wood passed away in April 1861 and is buried in the cemetery at the Methodist Church in Campbellton. His widow and daughter, Rossleah, tried to keep things going and were on the property to greet the Union soldiers.
Bravely Rossleah rode out to greet Sherman’s men, telling the commanding officer, “My business is urgent.” She proceeded to advise the Union soldiers that her mother was an invalid, and she wanted an escort to get her and her mother to Atlanta safely.
The story goes that she did get her escort, and they even waited patiently for Rossleah to pack various belongings for the journey and to give instructions to her slaves. The two women rode off with their Union escort, leaving their property entrusted to the Union soldiers and slaves. They eventually made their way to relatives in Virginia, where Rossleah’s mother passed away.
Rossleah married Willis Allen Brockman in August 1866, and in 1870 she returned to Glennwood. Her husband took over the property and–well, that’s a story for another time.