At the Battle of Jonsborough, Union General William T. Sherman hoped to destroy the Army of Tennessee and seize Atlanta, Georgia. By late August 1864,the situation of the Confederate Army of Tennessee in Atlanta had become extremely grim. Its new commander, General John Bell Hood, had counterattacked the superior forces of red-bearded Maj. Gen. William T. “Cump” Sherman’s forces in their positions north, east, and west of Atlanta with no success. Each loss added to the list of Confederate casualties that numbered in the thousands. Sherman had devised an effective plan of cutting the railroads into Atlanta, and the last order of business was to sever the Macon & Western Railroad.
While Hood pondered his remaining options, “Cump” ordered the vanguard of his army to pack 15 days of rations and begin marching south around the western rim of Atlanta to Jonesborough, Georgia, which was situated on the railroad that entered the city from the south. Sherman entrusted one-armed Maj. Gen. Oliver O. Howard with overseeing the movement. By the evening of August 27, all of Sherman’s army, except the XX Corps, was between Sandtown and Atlanta. Hood learned about the Union movements from his cavalry; however, he was in the dark as to exactly where Sherman planned to strike.