Historic Markers Across Georgia

Hightower Trail

Marker ID:  l5
Location: 2194 West Hightower Trail, Conyers, GA
County: Rockdale
Coordinates: N 33° 43.931    W 083° 58.412
  33.73218333    -83.97353333
Style: Interpretative Sign **
Waymark: None


Hightower Trail
Federal Troops March Past Philadelphia Church

—March to the Sea Heritage Trail —

Just imagine, on Tuesday, November 15, 1864, you look west and see the smoke and red sky from the burning of Atlanta. In fear and apprehension you wonder where Union Major General William T. Sherman's army is heading next. Two days later, on November 17th, approximately 14,000 soldiers in the Federal 20th Corps, plus several hundred wagons, more than a dozen artillery pieces and the animals needed to pull them march past Philadelphia Methodist Church on the Hightower Trail. The soldiers of the 20th Corps, composed primarily of men from northeastern states, are commanded by Brigadier General Alpheus S. Williams and accompanied by Major General Henry W. Slocum, commander of the "Left Wing" of Sherman's army.

Crossing the shallow fords of the Piedmont region between Augusta (Gerogia) and Alabama, the Hightower Trail began as a notable trading route dividing the Cherokee Nation and Creek Confederacy long before also being used by early European settlers. Its name is believed to come from the Native American word "italwa" (Etowah), for town, people or tribe. Philadelphia Church, established 1/4 mile to the west in 1837, stood at this site in 1864. The church was a reference point on Federal army maps used during their march to the sea.

One of the reasons the March to the Sea is unique in history is that General Sherman succeeded in moving an army of 62,000 men through 300 miles of enemy territory without the chance for military re-supply. At first their march led them through areas picked clean during the earlier battles around Atlanta. By the time Federal troops reached present-day Rockdale County they began to encounter "plenty of forage along road, corn, fodder, finest sweet potatoes, pigs, chickens" essential to feeding the large force as it moved across Georgia. Daily foraging details, 50 men strong, systematically stripped the farms of food, carriages, wagons and livestock, sometimes helping themselves to other valuables along the way. A local story tells of a little girl's pony being taken yet leaving the small saddle on a fence post.

Almost four miles east of Philadelphia Church the 20th Corps crossed Big and Little Haynes Creeks to reach Dial Mill. This mill, built before 1830, was owned by James M. Summers. During his absence while serving in the Confederate army the mill was under the care of Mrs. Winnie Puckett. A Federal officer ordered dry corn shucks placed in the mill doorway and set afire. He had not counted on the small woman's determination. Winnie pleaded with him to spare the mill for the women and children of the area. The officer relented and to seal the deal Winnie offered him a tobacco twist she had in her apron pocket. Trusted Federal soldiers were left to protect the mill from other passing soldiers.

At dusk on the 17th the 1st Division, rear guard of the 20th Corps, passed the Sheffield Community Post Office, left present-day Rockdale County and marched on toward Centreville (Jersey) and Social Circle.

Erected Georgia Civil War Heritage Trails, Inc.

A photo of this marker can be found on HMDB.org