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Recalling when Union troops arrived in Roswell

Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman ordered the 2nd U.S. Cavalry Division, led by General Kenner Garrard, to Roswell on July 4, 1864. Sherman’s instructions included, “Arrest every citizen in the country whom you find likely to prove a spy and keep moving so that your force cannot be computed.” (Charged With Treason, by Michael Hitt and “Military Entrenchments of North Fulton County, Georgia,” a map by Michael Hitt and Chuck Brown)

On July 5, Garrard’s division moved from Smyrna north toward Marietta, turning east toward Roswell by way of the road which is today Ga. 120. That same day, the Confederate Battalion left Roswell, crossing the covered bridge at the Chattahoochee River. Cap. James King had given instructions to the superintendent of the woolen mill, “to run the machinery until driven out by the soldiers.”

After crossing the bridge, Capt. King ordered it burned. Garrard’s advance guard, the 7th Pennsylvania Cavalry rode along the River Road (today’s Azalea Road) and came upon the burning bridge. They were too late to save the structure, but they found the Ivy Woolen Mill. There were two cotton mills and one woolen mill in Roswell. Mill operators claimed to be subjects of Britain and France.

Prior to the arrival of Union soldiers in Roswell, Theophile Roche, a weaver from Paris, had an idea to fly the flag of France at the Ivy Woolen Mill. This effort to trick the Union Army into believing the mills had foreign owners did not work. Woven into the cloth were the letters CSA. Garrard ordered the mills destroyed and wrote to Sherman to inform him of his actions.

About 400 mostly female mill workers were taken prisoner and deported to the North

Sherman wrote back, approving his actions and gave further instructions.

“To make the matter complete you will arrest the owners and employees and send them, under guard, charged with treason to Marietta…let them take along their children and clothing, providing they have the means of hauling,” he wrote. “I repeat my orders that you arrest all people, male and female, connected with those factories, no matter what the clamor, and let them foot it, under guard, to Marietta, whence I will send them by cars to the North.”

Laurel Woolen Mill (formerly the Ivy Mill) workers posed for this 1890s picture in front of the factory near Vickery Creek

Following orders, Garrard gathered the mill workers, mostly women and children, and had them sent to Marietta by wagon. In Marietta, they stayed temporarily at the abandoned Georgia Military Institute. From there, they were given rations and sent in railroad boxcars through Tennessee to Kentucky. Some of the women and children stayed in Louisville while others continued into Ohio. (New Georgia Encyclopedia, “Deportation of Roswell women”)

There are different stories about the fate of the mill workers. Some eventually found jobs in mills in the North, and a few made their way back to Georgia.

Colonel Miller of the Union army went to the Chattahoochee River Shallow Ford on July 8 to examine where his troops would be crossing. This part of the river was located near where the park and playground are today on Azalea Drive. The Shallow Ford was used by the Cherokee Nation as part of the Hightower Trail.

On the south bank of the Chattahoochee, the 53rd Alabama Cavalry stood guard. The Confederates had recently built rifle pits at the site.

Around 3 a.m. July 9, 1864, the first and third brigades of the Fourth Ohio Volunteer Cavalry were awakened and instructed to travel on foot down to the banks of the Chattahoochee River. They would be wading across the river.

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