Monday, October 25, 2010

Battle of Sunshine Church - Round Oak, Georgia

By the time his 2,000+ man force approached the little country chapel called Sunshine Church on July 31, 1864, Union General George H. Stoneman knew he was in trouble. The disaster stalking him hit hard there in an event remembered today as the Battle of Sunshine Church.

Stoneman had ridden south from Decatur four days earlier, planning to break the railroad between Atlanta and Macon before charging into the latter city and releasing the Union prisoners held there at Camp Oglethorpe. This achieved, he planned to ride on to Andersonville and free the tens of thousands of Federal p.o.w.'s at Camp Sumter, before returning to the Union lines at either Atlanta or Pensacola a hero.

Things, however, did not go as planned. Stoneman was defeated by swarming Confederate troops on the outskirts of Macon at the Battle of Dunlap Hill. Beginning a rapid retreat back up the railroad for the safety of Sherman's lines around Atlanta, he received multiple reports that Confederate cavalry was on his heels.

When he reached Sunshine Church, which was then located just south of today's community of Round Oak, Stoneman learned that Confederate troops were also blocking his way. He had no way of knowing it, but he was opposed by Confederate General Arthur Iverson, who had grown up in the vicinity and knew the backroads and trails north of Macon far better than the Federal soldiers. He got in front of Stoneman and entrenched his men along a ridge just north of the 1864 site of Sunshine Church (the church was relocated a couple of miles north to Round Oak after the war).

While Iverson blocked the way, other Confederates from Macon swarmed up behind Stoneman, effectively trapping the raiders.

The Battle of Sunshine Church lasted into the night of the 31st until the morning of August 1, 1864. It ended on a rise known still today as Stoneman's Hill, where General Stoneman and hundreds of his men raised the white flag in one of the few signal defeats of Union troops during Sherman's Atlanta Campaign.

To learn more about this fascinating battle, please visit

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