SMYRNA, Ga. — Following their retreat from Kennesaw Mountain, Confederate troops took up positions at what was then known as Smyrna Campground.
The area, located roughly where present day Smyrna Market Village is, was home to a non-denominational religious encampment. Gen. William T. Sherman’s forces, which had taken control of Marietta by July 3, pushed forward, hoping to disrupt Johnston’s troops before they crossed the Chattahoochee River.
“It was 3 PM when we passed the Dow Station. Not far below from Marietta some six miles near the Smyrna camp ground we came upon the Confederate works first their little detached pits sometimes a hole dug deep enough for protection and only large enough for a single man and sometimes large enough for five or six,” Maj. Gen. Oliver O. Howard wrote in his autobiography.
“Here the skirmishing became more and more obstinate I called a halt and carefully reconnoitered Confederate main works stronger than usual in a very advantageous position were discovered,” he added.
Confederate troops formed a line running from Rottenwood Creek on the right to Nickajack Creek on the left, running south of what is today Windy Hill Road and along Concord Road. The center of the line is located in the vicinity of the city’s train depot replica.
“Press with vehemence at any cost of life and material,” Sherman said in a dispatch to Gen. George H. Thomas. “We now have the best chance ever offered of a large army fighting at disadvantage with a river at its rear.”
On July 4, the one year anniversary of the surrender of Vicksburg and Gen. Robert E. Lee’s retreat from Gettysburg, William Grose’s brigade attached the center of the Confederate line. The fighting is today known as the Battle of Smyrna. Later that day, Brig. Gen. John W. Fuller’s brigade moved from Nickajack Creek along Concord Road, investigating the Confederate works.
Following “a bitter struggle,” Fuller “seized the first line of works on Hood’s (right) near the present Gann Cemetery,” according to a historical marker located on Concord Road just east of Nickajack Creek. In reality, the skirmish — today known as the Battle of Ruff’s Mill — did little except to prove the force of Confederate troops in the area.