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 Murray County Museum  
CIVIL WAR
FOR MURRAY AND SURROUNDING COUNTIES

TOM POLK EDMONDSON

For many years the only knowledge of this battle was a poem entitled "North Georgia Scouts" written by James Maurice Thompson. Finally a Murray County historian, Conway Gregory, Jr., did extensive research on this topic and here we turn to his fascinating account of the life and death of Tom Polk Edmondson and his North Georgia Scouts.

The entire Edmondson family strongly supported the tradition of slavery. Tom Polk was among the first Murray Countians to join the cause of the Confederacy, enlisting at the age of 17. He first joined the "Murray Rifles" but was soon given a position as staff clerk and later as a recruiter. Eager to see action and bored with his current assignment, Tom Polk paid someone to substitute for him. He then reenlisted as a second lieutenant in another regiment. Tom Polk immediately found himself in the thick of many battles having become a part of the Army of Tennessee. In 1864 he obtained the rank of major.

During General Sherman's Atlanta campaign, Major Edmondson was in command of a small cavalry unit of about 75 men near Spring Place. From this base of operations, the North Georgia Scouts carried out raids against the Union Army and harassed citizens who were sympathetic to the Union cause. His tactics allegedly included killing men and women. From the Southern perspective, his guerrilla-type operations proved to be highly successful.

These hit-and-run maneuvers finally drew the Federal Cavalry into the area to stalk Edmondson and his Scouts. On October 20, 1864 Major U.K. Fox wrote to Major General Steadman, commander of the Army of the Cumberland around Dalton, requesting that a cavalry unit of 25 men who were familiar with the area around Spring Place be placed in his charge to pursue Edmondson. During the fall of 1864 and winter of 1865 Major Fox tried in vain to track down the North Georgia Scouts.

Not until April 3, 1865, during a Dalton-to-Spring Place expedition of the 147th Illinois Infantry and Sixth Tennessee Cavalry under the command of lieutenant Colonel Werner W. Bjerg, did Edmondson and his little band of Confederates meet their doom. Bjerg's forces left Dalton around 9:00 Saturday morning April 1, enroute to Spring Place. He had a force of 300 men at his disposal, infantry under the charge of Major Bush and an 80-man cavalry under Major Bean. After crossing the river at Glace Ferry, the expeditionary force camped in Spring Place Saturday night following an exchange of gunfire with pickets. Six known Rebel sympathizers were taken prisoner including A. and Z, Wilkins, Jared Fox, J. C. Henry, Charles Staples, F. C, Farmer, and Judge Ellro(d). On Sunday morning the Infantry and Cavalry began their advance south to Holly Creek. About two miles south of Spring Place, Bjerg's advance guard was attacked by a small force of Confederates under the command of a Captain Williams who was badly wounded in this skirmish. Oliver Brown, a Confederate private, was taken prisoner near Holly Creek. The Federal force moved down the Calhoun Road to Tucker's where a horse, a saddle, and a shotgun were confiscated. After passing Lee Alien 's house the company left the Calhoun Road to travel a country road to Hogan's house on the Coosawattee, On the way, B. Gassaway was taken prisoner. Since it was quite late in the afternoon when the Federals reached the river, Bjerg decided to camp at Hogan's house and wait until morning before attempting to cross the river.

On Monday morning, April 3, 1865, the expedition advanced to McLoath Ford on the Coosawattee. There were two ferries near Mr. Hogan's, one above the house and the other below it. Bjerg planned to utilize the ferries in addition to the ford. With a force of between 150 and 200 men, Major Edmondson had set up headquarters and a line of defense on the other side of the river to thwart the Federal's crossing. His North Georgia Scouts had been reinforced with several squads under the charges of Captain Rodgers, Captain Willraur, Captain Tate, and Lieutenant Ring.

Edmondson had his force waiting in ambush to attack when the attempted crossing began. Bjerg quickly ordered his force divided into two detachments. He sent Majors Bush and Bean up the Coosawattee with orders to cross and outflank the enemy. The Majors went about two miles up the river where they seized Samuel Montgomery's boat and successfully crossed the river. Bjerg took his other detachment 1 1/2 miles south where he forced a Confederate sympathizer (known only a citizen Fuqua) to give him his boat which was anchored in the Sallicoa (Salliquoy) Creek. Under fire from hidden Rebels, Bjerg's detachment crossed the Coosawattee in the boat. Once across, the Federals captured and set fire to a small log house which the Confederates were using as a defense barrier. The force then began their advance north along the river.

At the Rullarno Ferry, Bjerg divided his detachment. Half of the men were left to guard the ferry and the teams of wagons which were under constant fire from the Rebels. The remainder of his group continued their advance north toward Shepard's to link with Majors Bush and Bean. After rendezvousing with Bush and Bean, Bjerg moved swiftly back down the river to John Ballew's house which had been Edmondson's headquarters earlier in the day. When they arrived Edmondson and his force had already deserted the home. Bjerg ordered the torch set to Ballew's distillery and began his pursuit of Edmondson.

The Federals advanced rapidly south along the river to Zachariah Wilson's house. Here Major Edmondson regrouped his forces and, after observing a scattered enemy force, decided upon an offensive assault on the Federal's rear guard. When the attack came, Bjerg moved to regroup his forces around the wagons and supplies at the Rullarno Ferry crossing.

All afternoon, Edmondson ordered offensive charges against Bjerg's force as they retired back across the river. Each time the Scouts were repulsed. In one of the last charges of the day, personally led by Edmondson, the Major received a fatal wound to the face and back in hand-to-hand combat.

At the end of the day, the Federals withdrew to Hogan's house and bivouacked for the night. They returned Edmondson's body to the Confederates, but kept his gun and saddle. The next morning they returned to Dalton via the Tilton Ford on the Conasauga River. Hogan. his son, and citizen Fuqua were taken prisoner.

The Federals suffered only three casualties and no deaths in the entire day of fighting. Besides Major Edmondson's death, the Confederates sustained a loss of 12 to 15 men including a lieutenant whose name is unknown. Captain Rodgers assumed temporary command of the North Georgia Scouts which remained active until shortly after General Johnston's surrender to General Sherman in Durham, North Carolina, on April 26, 1865. Captain Rodgers ordered Major Edmondson's body returned to his family. Today he rests in the Spring Place Cemetery in the family plot. The tombstone, small but not hard to find, reads: "Tom Polk Edmondson Born August 1844, Killed in Battle, April 3, 1865." Thompson's poem which records the battle is well written and is the only historical reminder of the most important military engagement on Murray soil.

North Georgia Scouts

I rode a horse, a dappled bay.
Coal black his mane and tail-
A horse that never needed spur.
Nor curb, nor martingale.

And by my side three others rode,
Sun-tanned, long-haired and grim,
Wild men led on by Edmondson,
Tom Polk, you 've heard of him.

Behind us galloped, four by four
A swarthy, mottled band
Of reckless fellows, chosen from
The bravest in the land.

Whether away on that fair day?
Oh, just a dash of fun.
To speed our horses and keep up
With Tom Polk Edmondson.

Behind our backs we left the hills;
We crossed the Salliquoy:My right-hand Comrade smiled and said:
"I fished here when a boy. "
Then from the rise at Hogan 's house,
I saw as in a dream
Red-fringed and silver-blue and deep.

The Coosawatte gleam.
A shot rang out! A bullet split
The air so close to me,
I felt the keen hot puff, and then
A roar of musketry.

A leader wind blew from the wood;
We met it at a run;
We sped so fast along the lane
The worn fence panels spun.

A horse went down, a dying face
Scowled darkly at the sky;
A bullet clipped my Comrade's hat.
And lopped the brim awry.

"Come boys; Come on "our leader cried.
Pell mell we struck the line.
My Comrade's pistol spat its balls.
And likewise so did mine.

A swirl of smoke with rifts of fire
Enveloped friend and foe;
Death, so embarrassed, hardly knew
Which way his strokes must go.

The fight closed in on every side.
And tore one spot of ground;
There was not room to swing an arm
Or turn your horse around.
vA moment thus and there we broke
The circle of our foes.

Old Hogan, in his doorway, heard
The crunching of our blows.

Then, while we used our pistol butts.

As swords on many a head;
And yet, and yet, down in that wood
We left our leader, dead
So, now you know just how it was
We had our little fun,
Speeding our horses to keep up
With Tom Polk Edmondson.

James Maurice Thompson, In History of Murray County, 1911

THE UNION ARMY'S VERSION OF THEIR ENCOUNTER WITH TOM POLK EDMONDSON'S MURRAY COUNTY SCOUTS


The preceding pages included the Confederate perspective of the encounter.

Here are two official reports from the Union Army.

The first was filed April 8, 1865, in Dalton, Georgia, by Lieutenant Colonel Werner W. Bjerg, the officer that commanded the opposing Union forces involved in the incident. The second report is part of the official history of the 147th Illinois Infantry Regiment, filed with the Adjutant General.

APRIL 1-4, 1865.- Expedition from Dalton to Spring Place and the Coosawattee River, Ga., with skirmishes.

1. Report of Lieutenant Colonel Werner W. Bjerg, One hundred and forty-seventh Illinois Infantry.

HDQRS. FIRST BRIGADE, SECOND SEPARATE DIVISION, ARMY OF THE CUMBERLAND, Dalton, Ga., April 8, 1865.

GENERAL: I have the honor to submit the following report, viz:

I left Dalton on Saturday morning about 9 o'clock, the 1st day of April, in command of an expedition consisting of 300 men, infantry (One hundred and forty-seventh Illinois, in charge of Major Bush), and eighty men, cavalry (Sixth Tennessee, in charge of Major Bean), several teams, &c., and took the wagon road leading to a small town in Murray County called Spring Place; arrived at Glace Ferry on the river about 12 m. I crossed the river in a small ferry-boat, swimming the horses, and then struck for Spring Place, distant about seven miles from the ferry. Arrived there about 10 p. m. I sent a reconnoitering party of cavalry into the town, and they were fired on by picket of the guerrillas. We camped at Spring Place for the night, and next morning (Sunday) left about 8 o'clock for a place called Holly Creek, after having taken the following prisoners: A. and Z. Wilkins, Jared Fox, J. C. Henry, Charles Staples, F. C. Farmer, and Judge Ellro. About two miles from Spring Place the advance guard was attacked by Captain Williams and his gang. Captain W. was disabled. We arrived at the creek about noon same day and took dinner. Confederate soldier, Oliver Brown, was taken prisoner. We then came to Tuckner's house, where I took a horse, saddle, and one shotgun, then passed Lee Allen's house, left the Calhoun road, and took the country road to Mr. Hogan's house back on the Coosawattee River. Confederate soldier, B. Gassway, was taken prisoners before arriving at Hogan's house. We camped at this house for the might and picketed the McLoath Ford; the guerrillas were on the other side of the river and disputed our crossing. I here ascertained that there were two ferries, one above and one below the house. I then divided the expedition into two detachments, sent Majors Bush and Bean up the river about two miles, and they effected a crossing of the river in a boat in possession of one Sam. Montgomery, and while crossing they were fired upon by the guerrillas. I took the other detachment one mile and a half below and found no boat. I did, however, force citizen Fugua to tell me where it was and sent two men across for it in a small creek. I then effected a landing on the opposite side, the guerrillas constantly firing upon us from ambush. Having got the detachment across, I set fire to a small house built like a fort of logs, from which the guerrillas fired upon us by squads. I then left half of my detachment to hold the ferry and guard the teams and took the balance up the river to Shepherd's, where I met Major B., then took the whole detachment down the river, passed John Ballow's house, this being the headquarters of the gang. Found here some cartridges and other articles of no moment, and also destroyed the distillery; we then moved on and at Zachariah Wilson's our rear guard was attacked by the guerrillas. I then started for the ford where I had left a detachment; after arriving, and while crossing the river, we were attacked all afternoon by the whole gang of guerrillas, composed of forces under Major Edmonson, Captain Ridgers, Captain Willraur, Captain Tate, Captain ---, Lieutenant Ring, &c. They made several charges upon us, but were driven back each time. In one of the charges Major E., who was in command of the gang, was killed having received two wounds, one through the face and one through the back. I captured his saddle and gun. One lieutenant (name unknown) was killed, and several men killed and wounded. Having crossed the river, we marched up the river about four miles, repassing Mr. Hogan's house; bivouacked for the night about two miles from his place. Took Mr. Hogan and son, and Mr. Fugua, prisoners. Next morning about 6 o'clock I left for Tilton Ford on the Connesauga River, and while fording the river our rear guard was fired upon by a few guerrillas on the opposite side, but no damage done. We then left the ford about 4 p. m., and arrived in Dalton about 7 o'clock in the evening. Casualties on our side were three men wounded.

1. I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

WERNER W. BJERD,

Lieutenant Colonel 147th Illinois Vol. Infantry and Asst. Insp. General

The Adjutant General's Report 147th Illinois Infantry Regiment History.)


(Note 1: "On the morning of the 22d," should read: "On the morning of the 2d,"

Note 2: "Major Edmensten" refers to "Major Edmondson.")

On April 1st, the Regiment (except Companies A, D and K,) and two companies of Cavalry, went on a scouting expedition under command of Lieutenant Colonel Bjerg. As we entered Spring Place in the evening a few harmless shots were fired by guerrillas. On the morning of the 22d, the pickets were attacked, doing no damage, except wounding a horse of one of the cavalry, which had to be killed. Moved in a southerly direction, and after a two mile march were again attacked by the enemy, had one company deployed as skirmishers and had pretty sharp firing for a little while resulting in the retreat of our foes; marched about 16 miles and camped on the Cossawattee River. During the night shots were exchanged by our pickets with those of the enemy on the opposite side of the river. On the 3d, Major Bush, with three companies of the Regiment and one of Cavalry, moved up the river to find a crossing place and Colonel Bjerg with balance of command moved south for the same purpose. Colonel Bjerg's command found a crossing place at Pullen's Ferry, and boat hid on opposite side; two men swam across and secured it, were fired on but crossed and found a quantity of forage and provisions, indicating the place as headquarters for guerrillas. Leaving Captain Clendenin with companies B and H, and twenty Cavalry to hold place and guard the ferry, Colonel Bjerg with balance of command proceeded to find Major Bush; on return with him was attacked by guerrillas. Captain Clendenin's command was attacked twice, but repulsed. When our forces were united the enemy made a vigorous attack, but were repulsed, their commander, Major Edmesten, and several other officers and men being killed. Our loss was two wounded. We then crossed the river and after a five mile march camped for the night. On our march to camp on the 4th, were saluted with a few harmless shots from the guerrillas.

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