Sherman’s Army and the March from Atlanta to the Sea

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This was a presentation by Ranger Bert Barnett as part of Gettysburg National Military Park’s 2014 Winter Lecture Series.  Bert packed a lot of information into the presentation.  As a result, he went overtime  This is another case where some judicious cutting of extraneous material would have kept the presentation within the alloted time [He doesn’t get to the March to the Sea actually beginning until 48 minutes into the presentation, which is only supposed to be an hour long].  As it was, the actual march was shortchanged, in my opinion, during the presentation.  Again, though, if there was a sin, it was a sin based on the best intention possible, of giving the audience as full and complete a picture as he could.


William Tecumseh Sherman was born on February 8, 1820 in Lancaster, Ohio, one of eleven children.  His father died when William was nine years old, and as a result he was transferred to live with the family of Thomas Ewing, a prominent attorney who will be the first Secretary of the Interior.  He entered the United States Military Academy at the age of 16 and graduated #6 in his class.  In his Memoirs, he wrote, “At the Academy I was not considered a good soldier, for at no time was I selected for any office, but remained a private throughout the whole four years. Then, as now, neatness in dress and form, with a strict conformity to the rules, were the qualifications required for office, and I suppose I was found not to excel in any of these. In studies I always held a respectable reputation with the professors, and generally ranked among the best, especially in drawing, chemistry, mathematics, and natural philosophy. My average demerits, per annum, were about one hundred and fifty, which. reduced my final class standing from number four to six.”

He graduates in 1840 and goes to Florida to participate in the Seminole War, not to Mexico with many of his compatriots.  He will spend time in Augusta and Charleston, South Carolina.  In 1848 he will move from that area to the occupied territory of San Francisco.  After seeing the world there, he married his stepsister Ellen in 1850.  He will leave the Army in 1853 to run a St. Louis-based bank branch there, and then move to New York.  He will eventually return to St. Louis, and then in 1859 he moves south again to become the first superintendent of what will eventually become the Louisiana State University.  He will live there quite comfortably until he is ordered to accept the weapons that are being turned loose on US arsenals upon the secession of Louisiana.  This grinds against his personal code of beliefs, and he will decide to give that up and leave the state.


We have a choice of images of Sherman, where he’s either “That Damn-Yankee Flame-Thrower or a National Hero.  When this stamp is released, the postal service makes money off it because patriotic Northerners will buy it and any southerner with 8 cents in his pocket can finally lick Sherman and send him anywhere they please.  This is the image of Sherman that goes down to posterity.

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In some ways he might well be this man.  When he is still amongst the staff of the Louisiana State Seminary of Learning and Military Academy [what will become Louisiana State University] he is engaged in a series of correspondences with a Virginia-oriented professor named David Boyd [Bert isn’t correct here.  It wasn’t correspondence.  This was a face-to-face meeting between the men].  On the 24th of December 1860 he’s trying to point out the reasons why he believes what he believes.  In this photograph we see the parlor scene where Rhett Butler is talking to the men having the secession debate.  These words from Sherman could have been uttered by Butler in that scene:  “You, you the people of the South, believe there can be such a thing as peaceable secession.  You don’t know what you are doing.  I know there can be no such thing. … If you will have it, the North must fight you for its own preservation.  Yes, South Carolina has by this act precipitated war. … This country will be drenched in blood.  God only knows how it will end.  Perhaps the liberties of the whole country, of every section and every man will be destroyed, and yet you know that within the Union no man’s liberty or property in all the South is endangered. … Oh, it is all folly, madness, a crime against civilization. … You people speak so lightly of war.  You don’t know what you’re talking about.  War is a terrible thing.  I know you are a brave, fighting people, but for every day of actual fighting, there are months of marching, exposure and suffering.  More men die in war from sickness than are killed in battle.  At best war is a frightful loss of life and property, and worse still is the demoralization of the people. …

“You mistake, too, the people of the North.  They are a peaceable people, but an earnest people and will fight too, and they are not going to let this country be destroyed without a mighty effort to save it.

“Besides, where are your men and appliances of war to contend against them?  The Northern people not only greatly outnumber the whites at the South, but they are a mechanical people with manufactures of every kind, while you are only agriculturists–a sparse population covering a large extent of territory, and in all history no nation of mere agriculturists ever made successful war against a nation of mechanics. …

“The North can make a steam-engine, locomotive or railway car; hardly a yard of cloth or shoes can you make.   You are rushing into war with one of the most powerful, ingeniously mechanical and determined people on earth–right at your doors.  You are bound to fail.  Only in your spirit and determination are you prepared for war.  In all else you are totally unprepared, with a bad cause to start with.

“At first you will make headway, but as your limited resources begin to fail, and shut out from the markets of Europe by blockade as you will be, your cause will begin to wane. … if your people would but stop and think, they must see that in the end you will surely fail.” [See Lloyd Lewis, Sherman:  Fighting Prophet, p. 138]

Sherman is a reluctant revolutionary.  On April 17, 1863 he writes to Ellen [Bert’s slide slightly misquotes the letter], “I would prefer to have this a white man’s war, & provide for the negro after the Storm had passed, but we are in a Revolution and I must not pretend to judge.  With my opinions of negros, and my experience, yea prejudice I cannot trust them yet.  Time may change this, but I cannot bring myself to trust negros with arms in positions of danger and trust.” [WTS to Ellen Sherman, 17 April 1863, in Brooks D. Simpson and Jean V. Berlin, eds., Sherman’s Civil War:  Selected Correspondence of William T. Sherman, 1860-1865, p. 454]

He will continue that, stating, ” I have had the question put to me often; ‘Is not a negro as good as a white man to stop a bullet?’ Yes, and a sand-bag is better; but can a negro do our skirmishing and picket duty? Can they improvise roads, bridges, sorties, flank movements, &c., like the white man? I say no. Soldiers must and do many things without orders from their own sense, as in sentinels. Negroes are not equal to this. I have gone steadily, firmly and confidently along, and I could not have done it with black troops, but with my old troops I have never felt a waver of doubt, and that very confidence begets success. [WTS to Henry Halleck, 4 Sep 1864, OR Series I, Vol 38, Part 5, p. 793]  Bert conflates this letter with an earlier letter Sherman wrote to a southern friend of his, Daniel Martin.  Bert says that Sherman said, “I care not a straw for them.”  In the letter to Martin, Sherman actually wrote, “I care not a straw for [n-word]s.  The moment the master rebels, the negro is free, of course, for he is a slave only by law, and the law broken, he is free.”  [WTS to Daniel Martin, 10 August 1864, in Simpson and Berlin, Sherman’s Civil War, p. 688]


Sherman arrived victorious in Atlanta after having defeated General Hood.  He is in possession of what is left of Atlanta after the combats there.  Hood doesn’t just go away in to the mist at this point.  Sherman has to figure out what to do with the town itself.


The confederates will try to needle Sherman as best they can with a variety of problems now that they have withdrawn.


Hood begins a series of letters back and forth with Sherman about what to do with all of the civilians that are in the town.  This will begin to be a problem for the two of them and something of a sticky negotiating point.

Sherman sends this letter to Hood, for example: [begin quote]

HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, Atlanta, Ga., September 7, 1864.

General HOOD,

Commanding Confederate Army:

GENERAL: I have deemed it to the interest of the United States that the citizens now residing in Atlanta should remove, those who prefer it to go South and the rest North. For the latter I can provide food and transportation to points of their election in Tennessee, Kentucky, or farther north. For the former I can provide transportation by cars as far as Rough and Ready, and also wagons; but that their removal may be made with as little discomfort as possible it will be necessary for you to help the families from Rough and Ready to the cars at Lovejoy’s. If you consent I will undertake to remove all families in Atlanta who prefer to go South to Rough and Ready, with all their movable effects, viz, clothing, trunks, reasonable furniture, bedding, &c., with their servants, white and black, with the proviso that no force shall be used toward the blacks one way or the other. If they want to go with their masters or mistresses they may do so, otherwise they will be sent away, unless they be men, when they may be employed by our quartermaster. Atlanta is no place for families or non-combatants and I have no desire to send them North if you will assist in conveying them South. If this proposition meets your views I will consent to a truce in the neighborhood of Rough and Ready, stipulating that any wagons, horses, or animals, or persons sent there for the purpose herein stated shall in no manner be harmed or molested, you in your turn agreeing that any cars, wagons, carriages, persons, or animals sent to the same point shall not be interfered with. Each of us might send a guard of, say, 100 men to maintain order, and limit the truce to, say, two days after a certain time appointed. I have authorized the mayor to choose two citizens to convey to you this letter and such documents as the mayor may forward in explanation, and shall await your reply.

I have the honor to be, your obedient servant,

W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General, Commanding. [end quote] [OR Series I, Vol 38, Part 5, p. 822]


Hood responds on Sept. 9: [begin quote]


Major General W. T. SHERMAN,

Commanding U. S. Forces in Georgia:

GENERAL: Your letter of yesterday’s date [7th] borne by James M. Ball and James R. Crew, citizens of Atlanta, is received. You say therein ” I deem it to the interest of the United States that the citizens now residing in Atlanta should remove,” &c. I do not consider that I have any alternative in this matter. I therefore accept your proposition to declare a truce of two days, or such time as may be necessary to accomplish the purpose mentioned, and shall render all assistance in my power to expedite the transportation of citizens in this direction. I suggest that a staff officer be appointed by you to superintend the removal from the city to Rough and Ready, while I appoint a like officer to control their removal farther south; that a guard of 100 men be sent by either party, as you propose, to maintain order at that place, and that the removal begin on Monday next. And now, sir, permit me to say that the unprecedented measure you propose transcends, in studied and ingenious cruelty, all acts ever before brought to my attention in the dark history of war. In the name of God a humanity I protest, believing that you will find that you are expelling from their homes and firesides the wives and children of a brave people.

I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

J. B. HOOD, General. [end quote] [OR Series I, Vol 39, Part 2, p. 415]

Here, Bert skips some correspondence.  This is not a criticism because he needed to save time.  I will include it here in order to have a more complete record:

[begin quote] HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, Atlanta, Ga., September 10, 1864.

General J. B. HOOD, C. S. Army, Commanding Army of Tennessee:

GENERAL: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of this date [9th], at the hands of Messrs. Ball and Crew, consenting to the arrangements I had proposed to facilitate the removal south of the people of Atlanta who prefer to go in t inclose you a copy of my orders, which will, I am satisfied accomplish my purpose perfectly. * You style the measure proposed “unprecedented,” and appeal to the dark history of war for a parallel as an act of “studied and ingenious cruelty. ” It is not unprecedented, for General Johnston himself, very wisely and properly, removed the families all the way from Dalton down, and I see no reason why Atlanta should be excepted. Nor is it necessary to appeal to the dark history of war when recent and modern examples are so handy. You, yourself, burned dwelling-houses along your parapet, and I have seen to-day FIFTY houses that you have rendered uninhabitable because they stood in the way of your forts and men. You defended Atlanta on a line so close to town that every cannon shot and many musket shots from our line of investment that overshot their mark went into the habitations of women and children. General Hardee did the same at Jonesborough, and General Johnston did the same last summer at Jackson, Miss. I have not caused you of heartless cruelty, but merely instance these cases of very recent occurrence, and could go on and enumerate hundreds of others and challenge any fair man to judge which of us has the heart of pity for the families of a “brave people. ” I say that it is kindness to these families of Atlanta to remove them now at once from scenes that women and children should not be exposed to, and the “brave people” should scorn to commit their wives and children to the rude barbarians who thus, as you say, violate the laws of war, as illustrated in the Page s of its dark history.

In the name of common sense I ask you not to appeal to a just God in such a sacrilegious manner; you who, in the midst of peace and prosperity, have plunged a nation into war, dark and cruel war; who dared and badgered us to battle insulted our flag, seized our arsenals and forts that were left in the honorable custody of peaceful ordnance sergeants; seized and made “prisoners of war” the very garrisons sent to protect your people against negroes and Indians long before any overt act was committed by the, to you, hated Lincoln Government; tried to force Kentucky and Missouri into rebellion, spite to plunder; falsified the vote of Louisiana, turned loose your privateers to plunder unarmed ships; expelled Union families by the thousands; burned their houses and declared by an act of your Congress the confiscation of all debts due Northern men for goods had and received. Talk thus to the marines, but not to me, who have seen these things, and who will this day make as much sacrifice for the peace and honor of the South as the best born Southerner among you. If we must be enemies, let us be men and fight it out, as we propose to do, and not deal in such hypocritical appeals to God and humanity. God will judge us in due time, and He will pronounce whether it be more to fight with a town full of women, time to places of safety among their own friends and people.


Major-General, Commanding.[end quote] [Ibid., p. 416]

There is also the correspondence from Atlanta’s civic leaders to Sherman: [begin quote]

ATLANTA, GA., September 11 1864.

Major General W. T. SHERMAN:

SIR: We, the undersigned, mayor and two of the council for the city of Atlanta, for the time being the only legal organ of the people of the said city to express their wants and wishes, ask leave most earnestly, but respectfully, to petition you to reconsider the order requiring them to leave Atlanta. At first view it struck us that the measure would involve extraordinary hardship and loss, but since we have seen the practical execution of it so far as it has progressed, and the individual condition of the people, and heard their statements as to the inconveniences, loss, and suffering attending it, we are satisfied that the amount of it will in the aggregate consequence appalling and heart-rending. Many poor women are in advanced state of pregnancy; others now having young children, and whose husbands, for the greater part, are either in the army, prisoners, or dead. Some say, ” I have such an one sick at my house; who will wait on them when I am gone?” Others say, “what are we to do? We have no house to go to, and no means to buy, or rent any; no parents, relatives, or friends to go to. ” Another says, “I will try and take this or that article of property, but such things I must leave behind, though I need them much. ” We reply to them, “General Sherman will carry your property to Rough and Ready, and General Hood will take it thence on,” and they will reply to that, “but I want to leave the railroad at such a place and cannot get conveyance from there on. ”

We only refer to a few facts to try to illustrate in part how this measure will operate in practice. As you advanced the people north of this fell back, and before your arrival here a large portion of the people had retired south, so that the country south of this is already crowded and without house enough to accommodate the people, and we are informed that many are now staying in churches and other outbuildings. This being so, how is it possible for the people still here (mostly women and children) to find any shelter? And how can they live through the winter in the woods? No shelter or subsistence, in the midst of strangers who know them not, and without the power to assist them much, if they were willing to do so. This is but a feeble picture of the consequences of this measure. You know the woe, the horrors and the suffering cannot be described by words; imagination can only conceive of it, and we ask you to take these things into consideration. We know your mind and time are constantly occupied with the duties of your command, which almost deters us from asking your attention to this matter, but thought it might be that you had not considered this subject in all of its awful consequences, and that on more reflection s people an exception to all mankind, for we know of no such instance ever having occurred; surely none such in the United States, and what has this helpless people done, that they should be driven from their homes to wander strangers and outcasts and exiles, and to subsist on charity? We do not know as yet the number of people still here; of those who are here, are satisfied a respectable number, if allowed to remain at home, could subsist for several months without assistance, and a respectable number of the number for a such longer time, and who might not need assistance at any time. In conclusion, we most earnestly and solemnly petition you to reconsider this order, or modify it, and suffer this unfortunate people to remain at home are enjoy what little means they have.

Respectfully, submitted.





Councilmen. [end quote] [Ibid., pp. 417418]

And Sherman’s response to that: [begin quote]

HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, Atlanta, Ga., September 12, 1864.


E. E. RAWSON, and


Representing City Council of Atlanta:

GENTLEMEN: I have your letter of the 11th, in the nature of a petition to revoke my orders, and give all the inhabitants from Atlanta. I have read it carefully, and give full credit to your statements of the distress that will be occasioned by it, and yet shall not revoke my orders, simply because my orders are not designed to meet the humanities of the case, but to prepare for the future struggles in which millions of good people outside of Atlanta have a deep interest. We must have peace, not only at Atlanta but in all America. To secure this we must stop the war desolates our once happy and favored country. To stop war we must defeat the rebel armies that are arrayed against the laws and Constitution, which all must respect and obey. To defeat these armies we must prepare the way to reach them in their recesses provided with the arms and instruments which enable us to accomplish our purpose. Now, I know the vindictive nature of our enemy, and that we may have years of military operations from this quarter, and therefore deem it wise and prudent to prepare in time. The use of Atlanta for warlike purposes is inconsistent with its character as a home for families. There will be no manufactures, commerce, or agriculture here for the maintenance of families, and sooner or later want will compel the inhabitants to go. Why not go now, when all the arrangements are completed for the transfer, instead of waiting till the plunging of contending armies wines of the past month? Of course, I do not apprehend any such thing at this moment, but you not suppose, this army will be here until the war is over. I cannot discus this subject with you fairly, because I cannot impart to you what I propose to do, but I assert that my military plans make it necessity for the inhabitants to go away, and I can only renew my offer of services to make their exodus in any direction as easy and comfortable as possible. You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty refine it, and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out. I know I had no hand in making this war, and I know I will make more sacrifices to-day than any of you to secure peace. But you cannot have peace and a DIVISION of our country. If the United States submits to a DIVISION now it will not stop, but will go on until we reap the fate of Mexico, which is eternal war. The United States does and must assert its authority wherever it once had power. If it relaxes one bit to presume it is gone, and I know that is the national feeling. This feeling assumes various shapes, but always comes back to that of Union. Once admit the Union, once more acknowledge the authority of the Nation Government, and instead of devoting your houses and streets and roads to the dread uses of war I and this army become at once your protectors and supporters, shielding you from danger, let it come from what quarter it may. I know that few individuals cannot resist a torrent of error and passion such as swept the South into rebellion, but you can part so that we may know those who desire a government and those who insist on war and its desolation. You might as well of war. They are inevitable, and the only way the people of Atlanta can hope once more to live in peace and quiet at home is to stop the war, which can alone be done by admitting that it began in error and is perpetuated in pride.

We don’t want your negroes or your horses or your houses or your lands or anything you have, but we do want, and will have a just obedience to the laws of the United States. That we will have, and if it involves the destruction of your improvements we cannot help it. You have heretofore read public sentiment in your newspapers that live by falsehood and excitement, and the quicker you seek for truth in other quarters the better for you. I repeat then that by the original compact of government the United States had certain rights in Georgia, which have never been relinquished and never will be; that the South began war by seizing forts, arsenals, mints, custom-houses, &c., long before Mr. Lincoln was installed and before the South had one jot or tittle of provocation. I myself have seen in Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, and MISSISSIPPI hundred and thousands of women and children fleeing from your armies and desperadoes, hungry and with bleeding feet. In Memphis, Vicksburg, and MISSISSIPPI we fed thousands upon thousands of the families of rebel soldiers left on our hands and whom we could not see starve. Now that war comes home to you, you feel very different. You deprecate its horrors, but did not feel them when you sent car-loads of soldiers and ammunition and molded shells and shot to carry war into Kentucky and Tennessee, and desolate the homes of hundreds and thousands of good people who only asked to live in peace at their old homes and under the Government of their inheritance. But these comparisons are idle. I want peace, and believe it can now only be reached through union and war, and I will ever conduct war with a view to perfect an early success. But, my dear sirs, when that peace does come, you may call on me for anything. Then will I share with you the last cracker, and watch with you to shield your homes and families against from every quarter. Now you must go, and take with you the old and feeble, feed and nurse them and build for them in more quiet places proper habitations to shields them against the weather until the had passions of men cool down and allow the Union and peace once more to settle over your old homes at Atlanta.

Yours, in haste,

W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General, Commanding. [end quote] [Ibid., pp. 418419]

Hood then writes Sherman again: [begin quote]


Major General W. T. SHERMAN,

Commanding Military DIVISION of the Mississippi:

GENERAL: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 9th [10th] instant, with its inclosure, in reference to the women, children, and others whom you have thought proper to expel from their homes in the city of Atlanta. Had you seen proper to let the matter rest there, I would gladly have allowed your letter to close this correspondence, and without your expressing it in words would have been willing to believe that whilst “the interests of the United States,” in your opinion compelled you to an act of barbarous cruelty, you regretted the necessity, and we would have dropped the subject. But you have chosen to indulge in statements which I feel compelled to notice, at least so far as to signify my dissent and not allow silence in regard to them to be constructed as acquiescence. I see nothing in your communication which induces me to modify the language of condemnation with which I characterized your order. It but strengthens me in the opinion that it stands “pre-eminent in the dark history of war, for studied and ingenious cruelty. ” Your original order was stripped of all pretenses; you announced the edict for the sole reason that it was “to the interest of the United States. ” This alone you offered to us and the civilized world as an all-sufficient reason for disregarding the laws of God and man. You say that “General Johnston himself, very wisely and properly, removed the families all the way from Dalton down. ” It is due to that gallant soldier and gentleman to say that no act of his distinguished career gives the least color to your unfounded aspersions upon his conduct. He depopulated no villages nor towns nor cities, either friendly or hostile. He offered and extended friendly aid to his unfortunate fellow-citizens who desired to flee from your fraternal embraces. You are equally unfortunate in your attempt to find a justification for this act of cruelty in the defense of Jonesborough, by General Hardee, or of Atlanta by myself. General Hardee defended his position in front of Jonesborough at the expense of injury to the houses, an ordinary, proper, and justifiable act of war. I defended Atlanta at the same risk and cost. If there was any fault in either case, it was your own, in not giving notice, especially in the case of Atlanta, of your purpose to shell the town, which is usual in war among civilized nations. No inhabitant was expelled from his home and fireside by the orders of General Hardee or myself, and therefore your recent order can find no support from the conduct of either of us. I feel no other emotion than pain in reading that portion of your letter which attempts to justify your shelling Atlanta without notice under pretense that I defended Atlanta upon a line so close to town that every cannon shot, and many musket balls from your line of investment, that over-shot their mark went into the habitations of women and children. I made no complaint of your firing into Atlanta in any way you thought proper. I make none now, but there are a hundred thousand witnesses that you fired into the habitations of women and children for weeks, firing far above and miles beyond my line of defense. I have too good an opinion, founded both upon observation and experience, of the skill of your artillerists to credit the insinuation that they for several weeks unintentionally fired too high for my modest field-works, and slaughtered women and children by accident and want of skill.

The residue of your letter is rather discussion. It opens a wide field for the discussion of questions which I do not feel are committed to me.

I am only a general of one of the armies, of the Confederate States, charged with military operations in the field, under the direction of my superior officers, and I am not called upon to discus with you the causes of the present war, or the political questions which led to or resulted from it. These grave and important questions have been committed to far abler hands than nine, and I shall only refer to them so far as to repel any unjust conclusion which might be drawn from my silence. You charge my country with “daring and badgering you to battle. ” The truth is, we sent commissioners to you respectfully offering a peaceful separation before the first gun was fired on either side. You say we insulted your flag. The truth is we fired upon it and those who fought under it when you came to our doors upon the mission of subjugation. You say we seized your forts and arsenals and made prisoners of the garrisons sent to protect us against negroes and Indians. The truth is, we, by force of arms, drove out insolent intruders, and took possession of our own forts and arsenals to resist your claims to dominion over masters, slaves, and Indians, all of whom are to this day, with a unanimity unexampled in the history of the world, warring against your attempts to become their masters. You say that we tried to force Missouri and Kentucky into rebellion in spite of themselves. The truth is my Government, from the beginning of this struggle to this hour, has again and again offered before the whole world to leave it to the unbiased will of these States and all others to determine for themselves whether they will cast their destiny with your Government or ours, and your Government has resisted this fundamental principle of tree institutions with the bayonet, and labors daily by force and fraud to fasten its hateful tyranny upon the unfortunate freemen of these States. You say we falsified the vote of Louisiana. The truth is, Louisiana not only separated herself from your Government by nearly a unanimous vote of her people, but has vindicated the act upon every battle-field from Gettysburg to the Sabine, and has exhibited an heroic devotion to her decision which challenges the admiration and respect of every man capable of feeling sympathy for the oppressed of admiration for heroic valor. You say that we turned loose pirates to plunder your unarmed ships. The truth is, when you robbed us of our part of the navy, we built and bought a few vessels, hoisted the flag of our country, and swept the seas, in defiance of your navy, around the whole circumference of the globe. You say we have expelled Union families by thousands. The truth is not a single family has been expelled from the Confederate States, that I am aware of, but, on the contrary, the moderation of our Government toward traitors has been a fruitful theme of denunciation by its enemies and many well-meaning friends of our cause. You say my Government, by acts of Congress, has “confiscated all debts due Northern men for goods sold and delivered. ” The truth is our Congress gave due and ample time to your merchants and traders to depart from our shores with their ship, goods, and effects, and only sequestrated the property of our enemies in retaliation for their acts, declaring us traitors and confiscating our property wherever their power extended, either in their country or our own. Such are your accusations, and such or the facts known of all men to be true.

Your order into exile the whole population of a city, drive men, women, and children from their homes at the point of the bayonet, under the plea that it is to the interest of your Government, and on the claim that it is an act of ” kindness to these families of Atlanta. ” Butler only banished from New Orleans the registered enemies of his Government, and acknowledged that he did it as a punishment. You issue a sweeping edict covering all the inhabitants of a city and add insult to the injury heaped upon the defenseless by assuming that you have done then a kindness. This you follow by the assertion that you will “make as much sacrifice for the peace and honor of the South as the best born Southerner. ” And because I characterized what you call a kindness as being real cruelty you presume to sit in judgment between me and my God and you decide that my earnest prayer to the Almighty Father to save our women and children from what you call kindness is a “sacrilegious, hypocritical appeal. ” You came into our country with your army avowedly for the purpose of subjugating free white men, women, and children, and not only intend to rule over them, but you make negroes your allies and desire to place over us an inferior race, which we have raised from barbarism to its present position, which is the highest ever attained by that race in any country in all time. I must, therefore, decline to accept your statements in reference to your kindness toward the people of Atlanta, and your willingness to sacrifice everything for the pace and honor of the South, and refuse to be governed by your decision in regard to matters between myself, my country, and my God. You say ” let us fight it out like men. ” To this my reply is, for myself and, I believe, for all the true men, ay, and women and children, in my country, we will fight you to the death. Better die a thousand deaths submit to live under you or your Government and your negro allies.

Having answered the points forced upon me by your letter of the 9th [10th] of September, I close this correspondence with you, and notwithstanding your comments upon my appeal to God in the cause of humanity, I again humbly and reverently invoke His Almighty aid in defense of justice and right.

Respectfully, your obedient servant,

J. B. HOOD, General. [end quote] [Ibid., pp. 419422]

And now we pick back up with Bert’s presentation.  Sherman responds on the 14th of September: [begin quote]

HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, Atlanta, Ga., September 14, 1864.

General J. B. HOOD, C. S. Army,

Commanding Army of Tennessee:

GENERAL: Yours of September 12 is received and has been carefully perused. I agree with you that this discussion by two soldiers is out of place and profitless, but you must admit that you began the controversy by characterizing an official act of mine in unfair and improper terms. I reiterate my former answer, and to the only new matter contained in your rejoinder I add, we have no ” negro allies” in this army; not a single negro soldier left Chattanooga with this army or is with it now. There are a few guarding Chattanooga, which General Steedman sent to drive Wheeler our of Dalton. I was not bound by the laws of war to give notice of the shelling of Atlanta, a “fortified town” with magazines, arsenals, foundries, and public stores. You were bound to take notice. See the books. This is the conclusion of our correspondence, which I did not begin, and terminate with satisfaction.

I am, with respect, your ob

W. T. SHERMAN, -General, Commanding. [end quote] [Ibid., p. 422]


Sherman will be checking in with his boss from time to time about the appropriateness of all these different steps.  That is, of course, General Halleck.  Sherman points out the legitimacy of his steps as he is going: [begin quote]


Major General H. W. HALLECK, Chief of Staff, Washington, D. C.:

GENERAL: I have the honor herewith to submit copies of a correspondence between General Hood, of the Confederate army, the mayor of Atlanta, and myself touching the removal of the inhabitants of Atlanta.

In explanation of the tone which marks some of these letters I will only call your attention to the fact that after I had announced my determination General Hood took upon himself to question my motive. I could not tamely submit to such impertinence, and I have seen than in violation of all official usage he has published in the Macon newspapers such parts of the correspondence as suited his purpose. This could have had no other object than to create a feeling on the part of the people, but if he expects to resort to such artifices I think I can meet him there too. It is sufficient for my Government to know that the removal of the inhabitants has been made with liberality and fairness; that it has been attended by no force, and that no women or children have suffered, unless for want of provisions by their natural protectors and friends. My real reasons for this step were we want all the houses of Atlanta for military storage and occupation. We want to contract the lines of defenses so as to diminish the garrison to the limit necessary to defend its narrow and vital parts instead of embracing, as the lines now do, the vast suburbs. This contraction of the lines, with the necessary citadels and redoubts, will make it necessary to destroy the very houses used by families as residences. Atlanta is a fortified town, was stubbornly defended and fairly captured. As captors we have a right to it. The residence here of a poor population would compel us sooner or later to feed them or see then starve under our eyes. The residence here of the families of our enemies would be a temptation and a means to keep up a correspondence dangerous and a civil population calls for provost guards, and absorbs the attention of officers in listening to everlasting complaints and special grievances that are not military. These are my reasons, and if satisfactory to the Government of the United States it makes no difference whether it pleases General Hood and his people or not.

I am, with respect, your obedient servant,

W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General, Commanding. [end quote] [Ibid., p. 414]

Sherman will later write [in his Memoirs], “I had seen Memphis, Vicksburg, Natchez, and New Orleans, all captured from the enemy, and each at once was garrisoned by a full division of troops, if not more; so that success was actually crippling our armies in the field by detachments to guard and protect the interests of a hostile population.”


Halleck responds on the 28th, giving Sherman full support for his actions: [begin quote]WASHINGTON, September 28, 1864.

Major-General SHERMAN, Atlanta, Ga.:

GENERAL: Your communications of the 20th in regard to the removal of families from Atlanta and the exchange of prisoners, and also the official report of your campaign, are just received. I have not had time as yet to examine your report. The course which you have pursued in removing rebel families from Atlanta and in the exchange of prisoners is fully approved by the War Department. Not only are you justified by the laws and usages of war in removing these people, but I think it was your duty to your own army to do so. Moreover, I am fully of opinion that the nature of your position, the character of the war, the conduct of the enemy, and especially of non-combatants and women of the territory which we have heretofore conquered and occupied, will justify you in gathering up all the forage and provisions which your army may require both for a siege of Atlanta and for your supply in your march farther into the enemy’s country. Let the disloyal families of the country thus stripped go to their husbands, fathers, and natural protectors in the rebel ranks. We have tried three years of conciliation and kindness without any reciprocation. On the contrary, those thus treated have acted as spies and guerrillas in our rear and within our lines. The safety of our armies and a proper regard for the lives of our soldiers require that we apply to our inexorable foes the severe rules of war. We certainly are not required to treat the so-called non-combatants and rebels better than they themselves treat each other. Even here in Virginia, within FIFTY miles of Washington, they strip their own families of provisions, leaving them as our army advances to be fed by us or to starve within our lines. We have fed this class of people long enough. Let them go with their husbands and fathers in the rebel ranks, and if they won’t go we must send them to their friends and natural protectors. I would destroy every mill and factory within my reach which I did not want for my own use. This the rebels have done, not only in Maryland and Pennsylvania, but also in Virginia and other rebel States, when compelled to fall back before our miles. In many sections of the country they have not left a mill to grind grain for their own suffering families, lest we might use them to supply our armies. We must do the same. I have endeavored to impress these views upon our commanders for the last two years. You are almost the only one who has properly applied them. I do not approve of General Hunter’s course in burning private houses, or uselessly destroying private property–that is barbarous; but I approve of taking or destroying whatever may serve as supplies to us or to the enemy’s armies.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

H. W. HALLECK, Major-General and Chief of Staff.[end quote] [OR Series I, Vol 39, Part 2, p. 503]

Sherman and Halleck are of a like mind on this.  On September 4 he wrote to Halleck: [begin quote]

NEAR LOVEJOY’S GA., September 4, 1864-9 a.m.

Major General H. W. HALLECK, Washington, D. C.;

The Twentieth Corps now occupies Atlanta and the Chattahoochee bridges. The main army is now here, grouped below Jonesborough. The enemy holds a line facing us, with front well covered by parapets, and flanks by Walnut Creek on the right and a confluent of Flint River on his left. His position is too strong to attack in front, and to turn it would carry me too far from our base at this time. Besides, there is no commensurate object, as there is no valuable point to his rear till we reach Macon, 103 miles from Atlanta. We are not prepared for that, and I will gradually fall back and occupy Atlanta, which was and is our grand objective point, already secured. For the future I propose that of the drafted men I receive my due share, say 50,000; that and equal or greater number go to General Canby, who should ow proceed with all energy to get Montgomery and the reach of the Alabama River above Selma; that when I know he can move on Columbus, Ga., I move on La Grange and West Point, keeping to the east of the Chattahoochee; that we form a junction repair roads to Montgomery and open up the Appalachicola and Chattahoochee Rivers to Columbus and move from it as a base straight on Macon. This campaign can be made in the river winter and we can safely rely on the corn of the Flint and Chattahoochee to supply forage. If the Tensas Channel of the Alabama can be used, General Gardner, with the rebel garrison, could continue to hold Mobile for our use when we want it. I propose to remove all he inhabitants of Atlanta, sending those committed to our cause to the rear, and the rebel families to the front. I will allow no trade, manufactories nor any citizens there at all, so that we will have the entire use of railroad back, as also such corn and forage as may be reached by our troops. If the people raise a howl against my barbarity and cruelty I will answer that war is war, and not popularity-seeking. If they want peace they and their relatives must stop war.

W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General.[end quote] [OR Series I, Vol 38, Part 5, p. 794]

Sherman would later write [in his Memoirs]: “I knew, of course, that such a measure would be strongly criticised, but made up my mind to do it with the absolute certainty of its justness, and that time would sanction its wisdom. I knew that the people of the South would read in this measure two important conclusions: one, that we were in earnest; and the other, if they were sincere in their common and popular clamor ‘to die in the last ditch,’ that the opportunity would soon come.”


Sherman gets his wish, the evacuation of the citizens of Atlanta, and he begins to build himself a military base, constricting the lines of defense.  The civilian officials establish “Camp Exile” for those who don’t want to go into “Yankee occupation” in Dawson, in Terrell County, 135 miles south of Atlanta and 80 miles north of the Florida line.


This article appeared regarding the quartermaster general to the state.  It was printed in the August and Milledgeville papers as a push for the promotion of Georgia’s Quartermaster General.


This shows where Terrell County is located in Georgia.  It is prone to Yellow Fever.  Eventually, 300 stragglers from Atlanta make it down there.


While Sherman is ensconced in Atlanta he will see the approach of dinner guests seeking favors.  On 10 September the Governor of the State, Joe Brown, decides to complicate matters for the confederacy.  He will decide to pull the Georgia militia out of the confederate forces.  It had served in the Army of Tennessee prior to the fall of Atlanta, and Brown disbands it.  It had composed one division in Gustavus W. Smith’s forces.

Brown sent the following letter to Hood: [begin quote]


General J. B. HOOD, commanding army of Tennessee.

GENERAL: As the militia of the State were called out for the defense of Atlanta during the campaign against it, which has terminated by the fall of the city into the hands of the enemy, and as many of these left their homes without preparation (expecting to be gone but a few weeks), who have remained in service over three months (most of the time in the trenches), justice requires that they be permitted, while the enemy are preparing for the winter campaign, to return to their homes, and look for a time after important interests, and prepare themselves for such service as may be required when another campaign commences against other important points in the State. I therefore hereby withdraw said organization from your command . . . .

JOSEPH C. BROWN[end quote] [letter printed in William T. Sherman’s Memoirs]

Alexander Stephens and two prominent Atlantans, Benjamin Harvey Hill, a friend of Senator Sherman [General Sherman’s brother], and a Mr. Nelson had come forward to press the idea of Georgia’s withdrawal of all its forces from all its fronts along the line of singular state action.  They will discuss this with General Sherman at dinner one evening.  If enacted any proposed marches would remain on the primary roads with compensation for any material used.  These are the terms Sherman will discuss with these folks.


Sherman is excited about this and sends a telegram to Lincoln about it.

[begin quote]HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, Atlanta, Ga., September 15, 1864.

(Received 12 m. 16th.)

Major-General HALLECK,

Chief of Staff:

My report is done, and will be forwarded as soon as I get a few more of the subordinate reports. I am awaiting a courier from General Grant. All well, and troops in fine, healthy camps, and supplies coming forward finely. Governor Brown had disbanded his militia, to gather the corn and sorghum of the State. I have reason to believe that he and Stephens want to visit me, and I have sent them a hearty invitation. I will exchange 2,000 prisoners with hood, but no move.


Major-General, Commanding.[end quote] [OR Series I, Vol 39, Part 2, p. 381]


Lincoln and Sherman have a discussion about it, but it won’t come to any fruition.  All that happens is the militia will be withdrawn from the confederate forces and the legislature is brought into session to debate all of this.

[begin quote]EXECUTIVE MANSION, Washington, D. C., September 17, 1864-10 a. m.

Major-General SHERMAN:

I feel great interest in the subjects of your dispatch mentioning corn and sorghum and contemplated visit to you.


ATLANTA, GA., September 17, 1864.

(Received 12. 20 a. m. 18th.)

A. LINCOLN, President of the United States:

I will keep the Department fully advised of all developments as connected with the subject in which you fell so interested. A Mr. Wright, former member of Congress, from Rome, Ga., and a Mr. King, of Marietta, are now going between Governor Brown and myself. I have said that some of the people of Georgia are now engaged in rebellion, begun in error and perpetuated in pride, but that Georgia can now save herself from the devastation of war preparing for her only by withdrawing her quota out of the Confederate army and aiding me to repel Hood from the borders of the State, in which event, instead of desolating the land as we progress, I will keep our men to the high roads and commons and pay for the corn and meat we need and take. I am fully conscious of the delicate nature of such assertions, but it would be a magnificent stroke of policy I could, without surrendering a foot of ground or of principle, arouse the latent enmity to Jeff. Davis of Georgia. The people do not hesitate to say that Mr. Stephens was, and is, a Union man at heart, and they fell that Jeff. Davis will not trust him, or let him have a share in his government.

W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General.[end quote] [OR Series I, Vol 39, Part 2, pp. 395396]


General Hood has taken the remnants of his army and begun to move it to the north by northwest, threatening the gains the Federals made in that direction.  There will be some pressure placed on the guardposts the Federals left along their previously acquired route toward Atlanta, requiring some response from the Federals.


Ultimately, Sherman will have to shift his base toward Kingston.


In early October there will be a threat toward Allatoona that will eventually cause some reconsideration on Sherman’s part about what needs to happen.  He knows he can’t just sit in Atlanta and maintain himself there.  He’ll have to dispatch an element of Federal forces to recapture Allatoona Pass.  Sherman sends this message to Thomas with his intentions: [begin quote] HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, Allatoona, October 9, 1864.

Major-General THOMAS, Nashville:

I came up here to relieve our road. Twentieth Corps at Atlanta. Hood reached our road and broke it up between Big Shanty and Acworth, and attacked Allatoona, but was repulsed. We have plenty of bread and meat, but forage scarcer. I want to destroy all the road below Chattanooga, including Atlanta, and make for the sea-coast. We cannot defend this long line of road. Replace all the guards on the road down as far as Chattanooga, and have a reserve force for the defense of Tennessee, and bring back your DIVISIONS of Newton and Morgan. We can have the road repaired in a week, and have plenty of grub in the mean time, but I expect Hood will make a break at Kingston, Rome, or some other point soon. Sorry that Forrest escaped. I doubt the necessity of repairing the road about Elk River and Athens, and suggest that you wait before giving orders for repairs.

W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General, Commanding.[end quote] [OR Series I, Vol 39, Part 3, pp. 169170]  He’s looking for approval for this from his boss, General Grant.


A little earlier, he had submitted some thoughts on this, and on the Twentieth of September he had sent a tremendous planning letter to Grant about this.

[begin quote]HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, Atlanta, Ga., September 20, 1864.

Lieutenant General U. S. GRANT, Commanding Armies of the United States, City Point, Va.:

GENERAL: I have the honor to acknowledge at the hands of Lieutenant-Colonel Porter, of your letter of September 12, and accept with thanks the honorable and kindly mention of the services of this army in the great cause in which we are well engaged. I send by Colonel Porter all official reports which are completed, and will, in a few days, submit a list of names I deem worthy of promotion. I think we owe it to the President to save him the invidious task of election among a vast number of worthy aspirants, and have ordered my army commanders to prepare their lists with great care and to express their preferences based upon claims of actual capacity and services rendered. These I will consolidate and submit in such a form that if mistakes are committed they will at least be sanctioned by the best contemporaneous evidence of merit, for I know that vacancies do not exist equal in number to that of the officers that really deserve promotion.

As to the future, I am pleased to know your army is being steadily re-enforced by a good class of men, and I hope it will go on until you have a force that is numerically double that of your antagonist, so that with one part on you can watch him and with the other you can push out boldly from your left flank, occupy the South Shore [Side] Railroad, compel him to attack you in position, or accept on your own terms. We ought to ask our country for the largest possible armies that can be raised, as so important a thing as the “self-existence of a great nation” should not be left to the fickle chances of war. Now what Mobile is shut out to the commerce of our enemy it calls for no further effort on our part, unless the capture of the city can be followed up by the occupation of the whole Alabama River and the railroad across to Columbus, Ga., when that place would at once become a magnificent auxiliary to my farther progress into Georgia, but until General Canby is much re-enforced, and until he can more thoroughly subdue the scattered armies WEST of the Mississippi, I suppose that much cannot be attempted as against the Alabama River and Columbus, Ga.

The utter destruction of Wilmington, N. C., is of importance only in connection with the necessity of cutting off all foreign trade to our enemy, and if Farragut can get across the bar, and the move can be made quick, I suppose it will succeed. From my knowledge of the mouth of Cape Fear, I anticipate more difficulty in getting the heavy, ships across the bar than in reaching the town of Wilmington, but of course the soundings of the channel are well known at Washington as well as the draft of his iron-clads, so that it must be demonstrated as feasible or else it would not be attempted. If successful, I suppose that Fort Caswell will be occupied and the fleet at once sent to the Savannah River. Then the reduction of the city is the only question. If once in our possession, and the river open to us, I would not hesitate to cross the State of Georgia with 60,000 men, hauling some stores and depending on the country for the balance. Where a million of people live my army won’t starve; but, as you know, in a country like Georgia, with few roads and innumerable, an inferior force could so delay an army and harass it that it would not be a formidable object, but if the enemy knew that we had our boats on the Savannah I could rapidly move to Milledgeville, where there is abundance of corn and meat, and would so threaten Macon and Augusta that he would give up Macon for Augusta; then I would to interpose between Augusta and Savannah, and force him to give me August, with the only powder mills and factories remaining in the South, or let us have the Savannah River. Either horn of the dilemma would be worth a battle. I would prefer his holding Augusta as the probabilities are; for then, with the Savannah River in our possession, the taking of Augusta would be a mere matter of time. This campaign could be made in winter. But the more I study the game the more am I convinced that it would be wrong for me to penetrate much farther into Georgia without an objective beyond. It would not be productive of much good. I can start east and make a circuit south and back, doing was damage, to the State, but resulting in no permanent good; but by mere threatening to do so I hold a rod over the Georgians who are not over loyal to the South. I will therefore a give my opinion that you army and Canby’s should be re-enforced to the maximum; that after you get Wilmington, you strike for Savannah and the river; that General Canby be instructed to hold the MISSISSIPPI River and send a force to get Columbus, Ga., either by the way of the Alabama or the Appalachicola, and that I keep Hood employed, and put my army in fine order for a march on Augusta, Columbia, and Charleston, to be ready as soon as Wilmington is sealed as to commerce, and the city of Savannah is in our possession. I think it will be found that the movements of Price and Shelby WEST of the MISSISSIPPI are mere diversions. They cannot hope to enter Missouri save as raiders, and the truth is Rosecrans should be ashamed to take my troops for much a purpose. If you will secure Wilmington and the city of Savannah from your center, and let Canby have the MISSISSIPPI River, and WEST of it, I will send a force to the Alabama and Appalachicola, provided you give me 100,000 of the drafted men to fill up my old regiments, and if you will fix a day to be in Savannah, I will insure our possession of Macon and a point on the river below Augusta.

The possession of the Savannah River is more than fatal to the possibility of a Southern independence; they may stand the fall of Richmond, but not of all Georgia. I will have a long talk with Colonel Porter and tell him everything that may occur to me of interest to you. In the mean time know I admire your dogged perseverance and pluck more than ever. If you can whip Lee and I can march to the Atlantic I think Uncle Abe will give us a twenty days’ leave of absence to see the young folks.

Ever, yours,

W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General.[end quote][OR Series I, Vol 39, Part 2, pages 411, 412, and 413]

Sherman is thinking about many different places where he can use combined operations to achieve objectives rather than going from dot to dot.  He has Colonel Horace Porter of Grant’s staff in his cantonments at this time, and he’ll make the case to Porter about the potential of doing this.  He’ll ultimately be successful.


In Georgia there are a couple of serious, worthwhile military targets.  Macon, about 70 miles south of Atlanta, is a serious ordnance target.  It has war industries such as stocks for muskets manufactured at the Richmond and Fayetteville armories, McElroy and other cavalry sabres, small arms ammunition, 750 revolvers thus far, 68 artillery pieces and support vehicles, and accoutrements such as knapsacks, haversacks, canteens, and the like.


Augusta is another target, closer to the South Carolina border.  Augusta is real red meat at this point because in the last two years it has produced 110 field guns, mostly Napoleons, 174 gun carriages, 115 caissons, 343 limbers, 21 battery wagons, 10,500 powder boxes, almost 86,000 rounds of artillery ammunition, 200,113 time fuses, 476,207 pounds of artillery projectiles, 1 million percussion caps, and 10,760,000 cartridges for small arms.  Augusta had been a US arsenal prior to secession.  By this point they make the best gunpowder in the world.  At the end of the war, DuPont wants to either buy it or destroy it because it outclasses what comes out of Yankeedom at this point.

Rapid maneuver is the key to all this.  He’s already used rapid maneuver once before, and it worked very well.  This was in the Meridian Campaign of February, 1864 all the way across the state of Mississippi from the outskirts of Vicksburg to the eastern side, going to Meridian and coming back to Vicksburg.


On the 2nd of November the potential is realized and Sherman finally gets the Federal “Grant.”

From Rome, Georgia on November 1, Sherman telegraphs Grant: “Unless I let go of Atlanta my force will not be equal to Hood’s.”  Bert is a little off here.  It’s actually November 2, and the actual wording is here:  [begin quote]HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, Rome, Ga., November 2, 1864.

Lieutenant General U. S. GRANT, City Point, Va.:

Your dispatch is received.  If I could hope to overhaul Hood I would turn against him with my whole force. Then he retreats to the southwest, drawing me as a decoy from Georgia, which is his chief object. If he ventures north of the Tennessee I may turn in that direction and endeavor to get between him and his line of retreat, but thus far he has not gone above the Tennessee. Thomas will have a force strong enough to prevent his reaching any country in which we have an interest, and he has orders if Hood turns to follow me to push for Selma. No single army can catch him, and I am convinced the best results will result from defeating Jeff. Davis’ cherished plan of making me leave Georgia by maneuvering. Thus far I have confined my efforts to thwart his plans, and reduced my baggage so that I can pick up and start in any direction, but I would regard a pursuit of Hood as useless; still if he attempts to invade Middle Tennessee I will hold Decatur and be prepared to move in that direction, but unless I let go Atlanta my force will not be equal to his.

W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General, Commanding.[end quote]  [OR Series I, Vol. 39, Part 3, pp. 594595]

Grant sends permission for Sherman to proceed: [begin quote]CITY POINT, VA., November 2, 1864-11. 30 a. m.

Major-General SHERMAN, Rome, Ga.:

Your dispatch of 9 a. m. yesterday is just received. I dispatched you the same date, advising that Hood’s army, now that it had worked so far north, be looked upon more as the objective. With the force, however, you have left with Thomas, he must be able to take care of Hood and destroy him. I do not really see that you can withdraw from where you are to follow Hood, without giving up all we have gained in territory. I say, then, go as you propose.

U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General. [end quote] [OR Series I, Vol 39, Part 3, p. 594]


He begins to lay out the troops that are going to be deployed for this.  This is the way he sees it.  He will break his forces into two wings, a left and a right wing.  You always hear about the Western troops and what they did, but look at who is commanding.  The wing commanders are Slocum and Howard, both from the East.  This was the way Sherman thought of officers.  He needed commanders who were purely and technically soldiers, men who would obey orders and execute them promptly and on time.  He didn’t want any firecrackers, no impulsive types.  He wanted guys who, when told to go sit there, would sit there.  Competence over spontaneity, except for the cavalry.  Sooey Smith, who had been his cavalry support in the Meridian Campaign hadn’t gotten to Sherman when he was supposed to do so.  This colored Sherman’s thinking somewhat.  The confederates facing Sherman were a polyglot of forces.


As Sherman went into strange and spare terrain, he would need someone to help him deal first with going after railroads, and second to deal with all the different types of terrain, so he would need a special sort of technician.  Orlando Poe did great service.  He’s another who had built lighthouses before the war.


The force steps off from Atlanta approximately on the 15th of November, though some actually moves out a couple of days earlier.  The description is best given by Henry Hitchcock.


Fire will definitely be Sherman’s ally and will help him destroy the railroads, keep certain things in check, and make many elements of southern transport unusable and the travel itself memorable.


This is Francis Lieber.  He has a very important role regarding what is to happen.


Lieber puts together the Lieber Code, General Orders 100. General Orders 100 will codify to a great degree what is right and what is wrong, what is acceptable and what is not acceptable.  To a certain extent, we’ve already dealt with a little of this when Sherman dealt with Hood in expunging civilians out of Atlanta.  For example, Article 17:  “War is not carried on by arms alone. It is lawful to starve the hostile belligerent, armed or unarmed, so that it leads to the speedier subjection of the enemy.”  Article 18:  “When a commander of a besieged place expels the noncombatants, in order to lessen the number of those who consume his stock of provisions, it is lawful, though an extreme measure, to drive them back, so as to hasten on the surrender.”  Swap “captured” for “besieged” and Sherman is playing by the rules.  Article 19:  “Commanders, whenever admissible, inform the enemy of their intention to bombard a place, so that the noncombatants, and especially the women and children, may be removed before the bombardment commences. But it is no infraction of the common law of war to omit thus to inform the enemy. Surprise may be a necessity.”  Article 21:  “The citizen or native of a hostile country is thus an enemy, as one of the constituents of the hostile state or nation, and as such is subjected to the hardships of the war.”


Sherman recognizes the need to order things.  He has a “Passion for Order.”  He’ll put together a set of specific orders, Special Orders Number 120, issued on the 9th of November 1864 a few days before the advance begins:

[begin quote]SPECIAL FIELD ORDERS, HDQRS. MIL. DIV. OF THE MISS., In the Field, Kingston, Ga., Numbers 120. November 9, 1864.

I. For the purpose of military operations this army is divided into two wings, viz, the Right Wing, Major General O. O. Howard commanding, the Fifteenth and Seventeenth Corps; the Left Wing, Major General H. W. Slocum commanding, the Fourteenth and Twentieth Corps.

II. The habitual order of march will be, wherever practicable, by flour roads, as near parallel as possible and converging at points hereafter to be indicated in orders. The cavalry, Brigadier-General Kilpatrick commanding, will receive special orders from the commander-in-chief.

III. There will be no general train of supplies, but each corps will have its ammunition train and provision train distributed habitually as follows: Behind each regiment should follow one wagon and one ambulance; behind each brigade should follow a due proportion of ammunition wagons, provision wagons, and ambulances. In case of danger each army corps commander should change this order of march by having his advance and rear brigade unencumbered by wheels. The separate columns will start habitually at 7 a. m., and make about fifteen miles per day, unless otherwise fixed in orders.

IV. The army will forage liberally on the country during the march. To this end, each brigade commander will organize a good and sufficient foraging party, under the command of one or more discreet officers, who will gather, near the route traveled, corn or forage of any kind, meat of any kind, vegetables, corn-meal, or whatever is needed by the command, aiming at all times to keep in the wagons at least ten day’s provisions for the command and three days’ forage. Soldiers must not enter the dwellings of the inhabitants, or commit any trespass, but during a halt or a camp they may be permitted to gather turnips, potatoes, and other vegetables, and to drive in stock of their camp. To regular foraging parties must be instructed the gathering of provisions and forage at any distance from the road traveled.

V. To army corps commanders alone is intrusted the power to destroy mills, houses, cotton-gins, &c., and for them this general principle is laid down: In districts and neighborhoods where the army is unmolested no destruction of such property should be permitted; but should guerrillas or bushwhackers molest our march, or should the inhabitants burn bridges, obstruct roads, or otherwise manifest local hostility, then army commanders should order and enforce a devastation more or less relentless according to the measure of such hostility.

VI. As for horses, mules, wagons, &c., belonging to the inhabitants, the cavalry and artillery may appropriate freely and without limit, discriminating, however, between the rich, who are usually hostile, and the poor or industrious, usually neutral or friendly. Foraging parties may also take mules or horses to replace the jaded animals of their trains, or to serve as pack-mules for the regiments or bridges. In all foraging, of whatever kind, the parties engaged will refrain from abusive or threatening language, and may, where the officer in command thinks proper, give written certificates of the facts, but no receipts, and they will endeavor to leave with each family a reasonable portion for their maintenance.

VII. Negroes who are able-bodies and can be of service to the several columns may be taken along, but each army commander will bear in mind that the question of supplies is a very important one and that his first duty is to see to them who bear arms.

VIII. The organization at once of a good pioneer battalion for each army corps, composed if possible of negroes, should be attended to. This battalion should follow the advance guard, should repair roads, and double them if possible, so that columns will not be delayed after reaching bad places. Also, army commanders should study the habit of giving the artillery and wagons the road, and marching their troops on one side, and also instruct their troops to assist wagons at steep hills or bad crossings of streams.

IX. Captain O. M. Poe, chief engineer, will assign to each wing of the army a pontoon train, fully equipped and organized, and the commanders thereof will see to its being properly protected at all times.

By order of Major General W. T. Sherman:

L. M. DAYTON, Aide-de-Camp.[end quote] [OR Series I, Vol 39, Part 3, pp. 713714]

Depending on your perspective, “forage” or “raid” all depends.  Sherman at one point said, “Now it is clearly our war right to subsist our army on the enemy. Napoleon always did it, but could avail himself of the civil powers he found in existence to collect forage and provisions by regular impressments. We cannot do that here, and I contend if the enemy fails to defend his country we may rightfully appropriate what we want.” [OR Series I, Vol 47, Part 2, p. 537]


At the beginning of the advance there will be all four corps split into two wings.  The left (north) wing will move toward Madison and the right (south) wing, Howard’s wing, the XV, and XVII Corps, Peter Osterhaus in command of the XV and Frank P. Blair, Jr. in command of the XVII.   Jefferson C. Davis is in command of the XIV Corps and Alpheus Williams is in command of the XX Corps, both on the left wing under Slocum.  They will begin to move out to their respective destinations, ideally headed toward Milledgeville, which at that time was the capital of Georgia.


As soon as the march begins and disappear into the countryside slaves on the farms along the route of march hear about it, and one of the things Sherman didn’t anticipate was the migration of the newly freedmen toward the armies.  This will become a large logistical problem for Sherman.


Living off the land will begin to make itself felt.


Seen from the other side, this sort of thing was very much a travesty.  Dolly Sumner Lutt was actually from Maine.  She had come south after marrying Thomas Burge, who had died in 1858, and she had become a plantation mistress.


One of these things about this scavenging was it was supposed to be done in groups and during the high point of the daylight for the group’s own protection, because if not done properly, they could be caught by the home guard forces.


There had been part of Sherman’s Special Orders 120 regarding picking up folks along the way who were of a help to the column, and also those who were a detriment to the column [see sections VII and VIII above].  Able-bodied help from African-Americans was welcome and could be of service.  Promptness in march was one of the things Sherman was very particular about.  It was never his intention to give battle where siege might result.  He wanted to move quickly.  Speed trumped battle at this point, so he couldn’t get bogged down in the middle of Georgia.  That was one thing that began to bother some of the commanders if they were running late.  One of those commanders was the commander of the XIV Corps, Jefferson C. Davis.  He was most notoriously known for shooting General “Bull” Nelson in Kentucky in 1862.

On the 20th of November 1864 in Eatonton, Davis issued the “Useless Negro” order which was designed to keep these refugees who were attaching themselves to the Union columns from bogging down the mobility of the armies and eating rations designed to support the fighting men.

[begin quote]GENERAL ORDERS, HDQRS. FOURTEENTH ARMY CORPS, Numbers 22. Eatonton Factory, GA., November 20, 1864.

I. The discharge of fire-arms by foragers and others has become an evil which must be stopped. Many men have already been wounded and a waste of ammunition incurred which we cannot now afford. Hereafter no firing will be permitted under any circumstances. Animals and fowls must be caught, not shot.

II. Useless negroes are being accumulated to an extent which would be suicide to a column which must be constantly stripped for battle and prepared for the utmost celerity of movement. We cannot expect that the present unobstructed march will continue much longer. Our wagons are too much overladen to allow of their being filled with negro women and children or their baggage, and every additional mouth consumes food, which it requires risk to obtain. No negroes, therefore, or their baggage, will be allowed in wagons and none but the servants of mounted officers on horses or mules.

III. One pack-animal may be allowed to each company and so many to brigade and division headquarters as division commanders may think proper. All animals taken from the country are the property of the Government, and must be turned over to the quartermasters. All surplus draft animals must be used to strengthen the wagon trains. Indiscriminate mounting of unauthorized men cannot be allowed. Every commanding officer is responsible that no authorized man under him is mounted.

IV. Attention is again called to the circular from these headquarters dated November 14. Division commanders will see that it, or orders based upon it, are at once read to every company and detachment and to all teamsters and detailed men. Orders are useless unless promulgated and enforced.

By order of Bvt. Major General J. C. Davis:

A. C. McCLURG, Lieutenant-Colonel and Chief of Staff.[end quote] [OR Series I, Vol 44, p. 502]

This would have serious consequences for Sherman later on.  The freed people believed the army is here to liberate them, and they’re going to get a couple of harsh shocks later on in the march.


Logistics is all what this is going to be about.


After passing a river, the pontoons had to be taken up again, and the troops had to wait while that happened so the pontoons could be taken up and moved ahead of the troops to the next river.  While this happened, rebel cavalry often threatened the pontoons, so troops were at risk while keeping the rebel cavalry at bay while the pontoons were being taken up.  The pontoon bridges were not the type of thing that could accommodate extra people coming across expeditiously.  It was very much a hurry up and wait sort of thing that put the columns at risk.


Davis, with his column lagging, was very much concerned about the pontoons.  He ordered that guards be placed at stream crossings so as soon as the soldiers had crossed the pontoons would be taken up expeditiously and no one else be allowed to cross.  This happened a number of times with the confederates fairly closing in behind the column, such as at Buckhead Creek, Ebenezer Creek, and Lochner Creek, which affected families with hopes of freedom and the confederates right on their tail.  This sort of thing made its impression on the men of a more abolitionist leaning inside the Federal army, so this is something that was reported to higher-ups once they got to Savannah.


A little earlier in the march they had come through the capital of Milledgeville.


While the infantry is going through the area of Milledgeville, the cavalry is going a little further to the south.  The XV and XVII Corps are going through Clinton.  They avoided Macon, and the first real big fight of the campaign takes place at Griswoldville on November 22, 1864.

General Osterhaus of the XIV Corps was told by General Howard to send his first division to block the roads coming northeast out of Macon and he sent one of his own brigades towards Macon to further occupy the confederates.  He chose Brig. Gen. Charles C. Wolcott’s brigade of 1500 men with one section of 12-pounders, the 1st Michigan Light Artillery, Battery B, Capt. Albert Ark commanding.  That wound up being a debacle for the confederate guard forces on that day.  Ultimately, at the end of that fight, between 2:30 and 6:00 the US casualties are 13 killed, 86 wounded, and the confederates have 50 killed and about 500 wounded, mostly old men, a local defense guard and two companies of “soldiers” from a Macon factory.


A number of Federal soldiers were armed with Spencer 7-shot repeaters at this time.


After the Federals went through Milledgeville they continued moving along.  Orders began to reveal themselves.  Sherman had not let anyone know they weren’t going to actually target Augusta.  He didn’t want to get involved in a siege.  He would turn and head toward Savannah.  Sherman is concerned about the Ogechee Creek and River, which has confederate defenses along that line.


The roving element of confederate defense is confederate horsemen, and in this location that means General Wheeler.  He had been Sherman’s nemesis for a time, more effective before Atlanta.  But now with the intervention of a number of politicians and commanders and the residual loss of horses along the way he was somewhat weaker but still a threat.  His men were a threat to both sides depending on how hungry they were.  His men had gained the name of “Wheeler’s Robbers.”


Wheeler does creditable service, but he doesn’t prevent the Federals from adjusting their route.  Kilpatrick gets what he wants in a battle on Dec. 4.  He’s exultant because he’s had a chance to meet and defeat Wheeler soundly on the flank of the forces.


As the men move to the south they’ll begin to head toward Millen.  Just above Millen is a POW camp called Camp Lawton, which had approximately 10,000 Federals housed.  They had been recently migrated out of there as it became apparent the Federals were closing on that position.  As the men passed through, they had a chance to look at a nasty circumstance.  One Federal who wrote on it was Rice Bull.  Another was John Potter of the 101st Illinois who noted, “The prisoners were compelled to erect sheds for their own shelter.  Later arrivals could do no better than scoop holes in the sand.  Many of them died and were left actually in the graves of their own digging.”


They are now closing in on Savannah from the North and from the East.  Fort Pulaski, which had been acquired by Union forces after the shelling of it by Quincy Gilmore in 1862 is to the north of the town.  Fort McAllister is to the south of town.  Fort Pulaski was built by the US government.  Fort McAllister is a smaller fort, named for the land it was built on, the owner being a farmer named McAllister.  Sherman’s forces come up and prepare to lay siege to Fort McAllister on Dec. 10, but Hardee is preparing to withdraw to the South Carolina side.  That’s done on Dec. 21 and the Federals move in.  The civil government announces the intention to turn over the city to the Federals.  Gen. John Geary is made the military governor of Savannah while they are there.


As soon as word and mail communicate, Sherman gets a series of bad information, one of which is that folks in Washington are coming down to breathe down his shoulders.  He gets bad news from home.  His son has died.  Sherman meets with Stanton on January 11, 1865.  Stanton wants to make sure the rumors he’s heard about Davis disrespecting the viewpoint of the army regarding the freedmen is not actually the viewpoint of the army, and he’ll gather a group of black leaders and have a meeting with Sherman in the mansion in which he’s staying.  They express their opinion to Stanton in front of Sherman that as far as they know they believe their cause is his cause.  To Sherman’s everlasting disgust, Stanton asks Sherman to leave the room so they can continue the discussion behind his back.  This is the beginning of the bad blood between the two men.


Sherman did what he set out to do.  He proceeded through the heart of Georgia, cracked the confederacy once again in half.  In the mind of the south, Sherman is branded from what he’s done.

The casualties from Nov. 15 through Dec. 10:  240 killed, 650 wounded, 280 missing for a total of about 1170 Union.  On the confederate side, approximately 2300 casualties total.


Sherman will “redeem himself” when he gets Stanton ticked off at him again for trying to present lenient terms to the confederates.

In an ironic twist, Atlanta’s National Hockey League team is called the Flames.  The highway system around Atlanta, which everyone else calls a beltway, is called “the Perimeter.”  Those psychological scars run deep.

Bert did a lot of research on this presentation, but he needs work on his presentation skills.  He had a lot of “Ahs” and “Uhs,” a lot of unnecessary pauses, and his phraseology wasn’t smooth at all.  He tended to go off on some tangents that weren’t really relevant to the topic, and as a result he was well over his time limit.  Nevertheless, he was obviously very diligent in his research, he put a lot of time and effort into his presentation, and he was very sincere in his quest to do a great job for us.  Overall I thought it was enjoyable and a good job.


One comment

  1. Thanks , a great post. Plan to got back and go over it several times. A lot of great info.

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