Hardee's Night March: Traces most of the 15-mile overnight trek by 17,000–18,000 Confederate soldiers, led by Lieutenant General William J. Hardee, that culminated in the opening attack in the Battle of Atlanta.
What to See: The driving tour allows an appreciation of the long, circuitous route and remote territory traversed by 17,000–18,000 Confederate foot and horse soldiers, led by Hardee, as they attempted to overwhelm the Federal left wing advancing on Atlanta. As the Yankee armies moved closer to the city, their far left flank was unprotected because Union commander William T. Sherman had sent cavalry to the rear to tear up railroad tracks.
When Confederate commander John Bell Hood learned that the Yankee's left wing was vulnerable, he ordered Hardee's Corps, accompanied by Joseph Wheeler's cavalry, to move out of Atlanta at nightfall on July 21, swing around the Union left flank, which was entrenched in what is now East Atlanta, and pounce on the Federal's rear at daybreak, rolling up their line and destroying the supply wagons in Decatur.
Hardee's Corps was comprised of four infantry divisions, commanded by Major Generals William H. T. Walker, William B. Bate, and Patrick R. Cleburne and Brigadier General George Maney. They trekked five or six miles beyond the city limits on McDonough Road (present-day McDonough Boulevard, except for the final mile and a half, which is Moreland Avenue) and reached their southernmost point at or near the South River. There, they turned northeast on Fayetteville Road, then a winding dirt track that led to Decatur and now, in parts, named Key Road.
Hardee's troops reached Intrenchment Creek at dawn on July 22, several hours behind schedule. They stopped to recruit two guides: William Cobb, whose mill was at the creek, and a mill worker named Case Turner. Two historical markers, describing Cobb's mill and Cobb's house, are located just north of the creek and west of Key Road, near the current entrances to an Atlanta police academy and a water reclamation center. So far, the route of the march was through relatively clear terrain, but the road north from Intrenchment Creek meandered through more heavily wooded countryside that was unfamiliar to Hardee and his commanders.
Leaving Intrenchment Creek, the Confederate troops continued along Fayetteville Road (present-day Bouldercrest Road) until they divided into two at a fork (described on a historical marker located at the intersection of Bouldercrest and Fayetteville Roads). Cleburne's and Maney's divisions took the left fork and marched northwest.
When they reached Flat Shoals Road (which existed in 1864), they deployed on either side and moved toward the far left flank of the Union Army, aligned in an entrenched position in what is now East Atlanta. Walker and Bate's column took the right fork and moved northeast on Fayetteville Road (the route that the tour takes), toward their eventual encounter with Federal infantry positioned in what is now Atlanta's Kirkwood neighborhood.
Walker's and Bate's divisions remained on Fayetteville Road for almost a mile beyond the fork and then went into a wilderness area at Sugar Creek Valley. A roadside marker notes that the two divisions detoured into the valley and headed west to keep contact with Cleburne's and Maney's divisions. Walker and Bate's infantry moved slowly along the west bank of Sugar Creek and struggled through the marsh and thickets around Terry's Mill Pond. The mill pond, which no longer exists, was comprised of the impounded waters of Sugar Creek and resembled a lake.
Walker and Bate's detour around the western side of the mill pond took considerable time and further delayed the Confederate attack, already hours behind schedule. Terry Mill Road did not exist in 1864; the area traversed by the present-day road between Fayetteville Road and Glenwood Avenue is high ground that lies above where the mill pond's eastern shore was located. A historical marker, titled "Terry's Mill Pond," locates the north end of the pond along present-day Glenwood Avenue near its I-20 interchange. After marching all night and the following morning, Walker's and Bate's divisions arrived six hours behind schedule but ready to advance against the Union Army. Walker's division was in the Sugar Creek Valley, just north of the mill pond. Bate's division was to the right of Walker's and adjacent to present-day Memorial Drive.