On this day in 1864, eight days of cavalry clashes in Georgia come to an end when Union General Judson Kilpatrick and Confederate General Joseph Wheeler skirmish for a final time at Waynesboro. Although the Rebels inflicted more than three times as many casualties as the Yankees, the campaign was considered a success by the Union because it screened Wheeler from the main Union force as it marched to Savannah, Georgia, on General William T. Sherman’s famous March to the Sea.
Sherman marched his army across Georgia in November and December of 1864, destroying nearly everything intheir path. Sherman sent Kilpatrick to Waynesboro in the hope that the Union cavalry could threaten nearby Augusta, Georgia, and divert Confederate attention from Sherman’s true goal, Savannah. Beginning on November 27, Wheeler pursued Kilpatrick between Waynesboro and Millen, the site of a Confederate prison that Kilpatrick hoped to liberate. During the campaign, Wheeler pecked at Kilpatrick’s force and nearly captured the Union commander in an early morning raid.
The last of the fighting came in Waynesboro. With Sherman’s army safely past, Kilpatrick evacuated the area. Wheeler killed or wounded some 830 Yankee troopers and lost only 240 of his own. Kilpatrick found the prison near Millen evacuated, but the campaign had achieved the true Union objective: Sherman marched unmolested to the sea.