The Civil War

It is believed that Washington County furnished more soldiers to the Confederacy than any other county in Georgia. Fifteen military companies were organized here.

On November 16, 1864, General William T. Sherman left Atlanta, Georgia on his famous "March to the Sea". His army was grouped into two wings, Left and Right. One wing approached Washington County from Milledgeville, the other from Irwinton. Over 62,000 Union Soldiers converged in Washington County. Sherman and his army met their first resistance just inside the county at Buffalo Creek, near present-day Deepstep, Georgia an act that enraged the general. The army also found resistance when the Confederate troops defended the crossing at the Oconee River (Balls Ferry and the Oconee River Railroad Bridge.) Sherman's army destroyed the railroad track and any building connected to the Central of Georgia Railroad.

The army arrived in Sandersville on the morning of November 26, 1864. The night before, C.S. General Joe Wheeler's cavalry had galloped into Sandersville. The next morning, Wheeler's cavalry briefly skirmished with the Union troops as they approached town before saddling up and heading out in the opposite direction. The Union army camped overnight in Sandersville on November 26, 1864. Sherman used the Brown House as his Union headquarters. He slept in the house, ate a meal with the family, and left town. As he left, Sherman's army burned the courthouse and any other building which was felt to be any support to the South's war efforts. The Courthouse in Sandersville was one of the few Courthouses burned during the March to the Sea campaign.

Six months later in May of 1865, Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his escort party crossed through Washington County. He was attempting to escape to reach Texas and safety in an effort to continue the Confederate cause. His wife and her party left a few days prior to President Davis. It is believed that the last official act of the Confederacy was carried out in Washington County. Washington County is the only place where both the "March to the Sea" and the "Escape of Jefferson Davis" cross.

After the Civil War the county's outlook was bleak, but, according to From Cotton to Kaolin "there was a sustaining faith that prosperity would return. With the combined leadership of the county's representatives and her citizens, the period of reconstruction began. The roads were impassable; widows, orphans, and the disabled needed immediate assistance. The need for public education and the rebuilding of the courthouse were assessed as immediate needs. However, with southern determination and willpower, the leaders of the county led the citizens in the rebuilding of their town, homes, and lives".