In July of 1864, well in advance of his famous march to the sea, Sherman had directed Brig. General Kenner Garrard to ride east from Atlanta and head to Covington with his cavalry division to start tearing up railroad tracks; destroying bridges, rail cars, depots, and locomotives; and burning stores and commercial properties. He actually wrote the following in a letter to Garrard: “…but of private property only take what is necessary for your own use, except horses and mules, of which you will take all that are fit for service, exercising of course, some judgment as to the animals belonging to the poor and needy.”
On July 21 Garrard left Atlanta and proceeded to Lithonia, GA where he started destroying the railroads and moving east at a pretty good clip. On July 22 Garrard and his raiders entered Covington. After having no resistance throughout their journey, I’m sure the Yankees were caught off guard when they came across an old man by the name of Presley Jones. Jones lived on what is now known as Washington St . and apparently had a “hatred of everything blue” and had vowed to kill the first Union troops to come into Covington . When word started to get out that Federal troops were advancing on Covington, Mr. Jones grabbed his rifle and hunkered down in front of the Covington courthouse. When he spotted his first Yankee he fired and killed the man. He then moved to another location and brought down another Union soldier a short time later. He was able to wound two more before he was captured and shot. The Yankees then proceeded to “beat out his brains with the butts of their rifles. He doubtless anticipated such a fate and went coolly to certain death with no hope of fame and with only the satisfaction of getting two for one (Sgt. Walter Clark, C.S.A.).”
Unfortunately, the “two for one” deal would not stand. According to multiple sources, it was widely believed that the Yankees were so infuriated with what had happened that they decided to find another victim to placate their revenge. It just so happened that a Confederate quartermaster by the name of George Daniel was on furlough and back home in Covington during this time. The Union troops tracked Daniel down and court-martialed and executed him. According to reports, the Yankees tried to blindfold him but he refused, saying “no, a Confederate soldier can face death without being blindfolded.” He was shot and killed and the count was evened—two dead Yankees; two dead Covingtonians.
Well, we all know the rest of the story. A few months later and Sherman would come through on his way to Savannah and the War Between the States would draw to a close just a few months after that. The shootings carried out by Mr. Jones and the subsequent retaliation by the Yankees would be the only warfare that Covington would see within her city limits during the Civil War.
Hope you enjoyed that. Future columns will cover more specific, historical events in Covington, Madison, and the surrounding areas. In the non-historical vein, I'll be rolling out a column about another musical talent from our area. And finally, after a lengthy delay, my installment series on the Moore's Ford Bridge killings will be up and running on my blog by the time you read this column. There will be a link at the top of the main page. Until next time...