Part 28 out of 44
On the 17th I received by telegraph from President Lincoln this
WASHINGTON, D.C., September 17, 1864
I feel great interest in the subjects of your dispatch, mentioning
corn and sorghum, and the contemplated visit to you.
A. LINCOLN, President of the United States.
I replied at once:
HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI
IN THE FIELD, ATLANTA, GEORGIA, September 17, 1864.
President LINCOLN, Washington., D. C.:
I will keep the department fully advised of all developments
connected with the subject in which you feel interested.
Mr. Wright, former member of Congress from Rome, Georgia, and Mr.
King, of Marietta, are now going between Governor Brown and myself.
I have said to them that some of the people of Georgia are engaged
in rebellion, began in error and perpetuated in pride, but that
Georgia can now save herself from the devastations of war preparing
for her, only by withdrawing her quota out of the Confederate Army,
and aiding me to expel 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 if we could, without
surrendering principle or a foot of ground, arouse the latent
enmity of Georgia against Davis.
The people do not hesitate to say that Mr. Stephens was and is a
Union man at heart; and they say that Davis will not trust him or
let him have a share in his Government.
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General.
I have not the least doubt that Governor Brown, at that time,
seriously entertained the proposition; but he hardly felt ready to
act, and simply gave a furlough to the militia, and called a
special session of the Legislature, to meet at Milledgeville, to
take into consideration the critical condition of affairs in the
On the 20th of September Colonel Horace Porter arrived from General
Grant, at City Point, bringing me the letter of September 12th,
asking my general views as to what should next be done. He staid
several days at Atlanta, and on his return carried back to
Washington my full reports of the past campaign, and my letter of
September 20th to General Grant in answer to his of the 12th.
About this time we detected signs of activity on the part of the
enemy. On the 21st Hood shifted his army across from the Mason
road, at Lovejoy's, to the West Point road, at Palmetto Station,
and his cavalry appeared on the west side of the Chattahoochee,
toward Powder Springs; thus, as it were, stepping aside, and
opening wide the door for us to enter Central Georgia. I inferred,
however, that his real purpose was to assume the offensive against
our railroads, and on the 24th a heavy force of cavalry from
Mississippi, under General Forrest, made its appearance at Athena,
Alabama, and captured its garrison.
General Newton's division (of the Fourth Corps), and Corse's (of
the Seventeenth), were sent back by rail, the former to
Chattanooga, and the latter to Rome. On the 25th I telegraphed to
Hood seems to be moving, as it were, to the Alabama line, leaving
open the road to Mason, as also to Augusta; but his cavalry is busy
on all our roads. A force, number estimated as high as eight
thousand, are reported to have captured Athena, Alabama; and a
regiment of three hundred and fifty men sent to its relief. I have
sent Newton's division up to Chattanooga in cars, and will send
another division to Rome. If I were sure that Savannah would soon
be in our possession, I should be tempted to march for
Milledgeville and Augusta; but I must first secure what I have.
Jeff. Davis is at Macon.
On the next day I telegraphed further that Jeff. Davis was with
Hood at Palmetto Station. One of our spies was there at the time,
who came in the next night, and reported to me the substance of his
speech to the soldiers. It was a repetition of those he had made
at Colombia, South Carolina, and Mason, Georgia, on his way out,
which I had seen in the newspapers. Davis seemed to be perfectly
upset by the fall of Atlanta, and to have lost all sense and
reason. He denounced General Jos. Johnston and Governor Brown as
little better than traitors; attributed to them personally the many
misfortunes which had befallen their cause, and informed the
soldiers that now the tables were to be turned; that General
Forrest was already on our roads in Middle Tennessee; and that
Hood's army would soon be there. He asserted that the Yankee army
would have to retreat or starve, and that the retreat would prove
more disastrous than was that of Napoleon from Moscow. He promised
his Tennessee and Kentucky soldiers that their feet should soon
tread their "native soil," etc., etc. He made no concealment of
these vainglorious boasts, and thus gave us the full key to his
future designs. To be forewarned was to be forearmed, and I think
we took full advantage of the occasion.
On the 26th I received this dispatch.
CITY POINT, VIRGINIA,September 26,1864-10 a.m.
Major-General SHERMAN, Atlanta
It will be better to drive Forrest out of Middle Tennessee as a
first step, and do any thing else you may feel your force
sufficient for. When a movement is made on any part of the
sea-coast, I will advise you. If Hood goes to the Alabama line,
will it not be impossible for him to subsist his army?
U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.
HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI
IN THE FIELD, ATLANTA, GEORGIA, September 26, 1864.
GENERAL: I have your dispatch of to-day. I have already sent one
division (Newton's) to Chattanooga, and another (Corse's) to Rome.
Our armies are much reduced, and if I send back any more, I will
not be able to threaten Georgia much. There are men enough to the
rear to whip Forrest, but they are necessarily scattered to defend
Can you expedite the sending to Nashville of the recruits that are
in Indiana and Ohio? They could occupy the forts.
Hood is now on the West Point road, twenty-four miles south of
this, and draws his supplies by that road. Jefferson Davis is
there to-day, and superhuman efforts will be made to break my road.
Forrest is now lieutenant-general, and commands all the enemy's
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General.
General Grant first thought I was in error in supposing that Jeff.
Davis was at Macon and Palmetto, but on the 27th I received a
printed copy of his speech made at Macon on the 22d, which was so
significant that I ordered it to be telegraphed entire as far as
Louisville, to be sent thence by mail to Washington, and on the
same day received this dispatch:
WASHINGTON, D. C., September 27, 1864-9 a.m.
Major-General SHERMAN, Atlanta:
You say Jeff Davis is on a visit to General Hood. I judge that
Brown and Stephens are the objects of his visit.
A. LINCOLN, President of the United States.
To which I replied:
HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI
IN THE FIELD, ATLANTA, GEORGIA, September 28, 1864.
President LINCOLN, Washington, D. C.:
I have positive knowledge that Mr. Davis made a speech at Macon, on
the 22d, which I mailed to General Halleck yesterday. It was
bitter against General Jos. Johnston and Governor Brown. The
militia are on furlough. Brown is at Milledgeville, trying to get
a Legislature to meet next month, but he is afraid to act unless in
concert with other Governors, Judge Wright, of Rome, has been here,
and Messrs. Hill and Nelson, former members of Congress, are here
now, and will go to meet Wright at Rome, and then go back to
Madison and Milledgeville.
Great efforts are being made to reenforce Hood's army, and to break
up my railroads, and I should have at once a good reserve force at
Nashville. It would have a bad effect, if I were forced to send
back any considerable part of my army to guard roads, so as to
weaken me to an extent that I could not act offensively if the
occasion calls for it.
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General.
All this time Hood and I were carrying on the foregoing
correspondence relating to the exchange of prisoners, the removal
of the people from Atlanta, and the relief of our prisoners of war
at Andersonville. Notwithstanding the severity of their
imprisonment, some of these men escaped from Andersonville, and got
to me at Atlanta. They described their sad condition: more than
twenty-five thousand prisoners confined in a stockade designed for
only ten thousand; debarred the privilege of gathering wood out of
which to make huts; deprived of sufficient healthy food, and the
little stream that ran through their prison pen poisoned and
polluted by the offal from their cooking and butchering houses
above. On the 22d of September I wrote to General Hood, describing
the condition of our men at Andersonville, purposely refraining
from casting odium on him or his associates for the treatment of
these men, but asking his consent for me to procure from our
generous friends at the North the articles of clothing and comfort
which they wanted, viz., under-clothing, soap, combs, scissors,
etc.--all needed to keep them in health--and to send these stores
with a train, and an officer to issue them. General Hood, on the
24th, promptly consented, and I telegraphed to my friend Mr. James
E. Yeatman, Vice-President of the Sanitary Commission at St. Louis,
to send us all the under-clothing and soap he could spare,
specifying twelve hundred fine-tooth combs, and four hundred pairs
of shears to cut hair. These articles indicate the plague that
most afflicted our prisoners at Andersonville.
Mr. Yeatman promptly responded to my request, expressed the
articles, but they did not reach Andersonville in time, for the
prisoners were soon after removed; these supplies did, however,
finally overtake them at Jacksonville, Florida, just before the war
On the 28th I received from General Grant two dispatches
CITY POINT, VIRGINIA; September 27, 1864-8.30 a.m.
It is evident, from the tone of the Richmond press and from other
sources of information, that the enemy intend making a desperate
effort to drive you from where you are. I have directed all new
troops from the West, and from the East too, if necessary, in case
none are ready in the West, to be sent to you. If General
Burbridge is not too far on his way to Abingdon, I think he had
better be recalled and his surplus troops sent into Tennessee.
U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.
CITY POINT, VIRGINIA; September 27, 1864-10.30 a.m.
I have directed all recruits and new troops from all the Western
States to be sent to Nashville, to receive their further orders
from you. I was mistaken about Jeff. Davis being in Richmond on
Thursday last. He was then on his way to Macon.
U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.
Forrest having already made his appearance in Middle Tennessee, and
Hood evidently edging off in that direction, satisfied me that the
general movement against our roads had begun. I therefore
determined to send General Thomas back to Chattanooga, with another
division (Morgan's, of the Fourteenth Corps), to meet the danger in
Tennessee. General Thomas went up on the 29th, and Morgan's
division followed the same day, also by rail. And I telegraphed to
I take it for granted that Forrest will cut our road, but think we
can prevent him from making a serious lodgment. His cavalry will
travel a hundred miles where ours will ten. I have sent two
divisions up to Chattanooga and one to Rome, and General Thomas
started to-day to drive Forrest out of Tennessee. Our roads should
be watched from the rear, and I am glad that General Grant has
ordered reserves to Nashville. I prefer for the future to make the
movement on Milledgeville, Millen, and Savannah. Hood now rests
twenty-four miles south, on the Chattahoochee, with his right on
the West Point road. He is removing the iron of the Macon road. I
can whip his infantry, but his cavalry is to be feared.
There was great difficulty in obtaining correct information about
Hood's movements from Palmetto Station. I could not get spies to
penetrate his camps, but on the 1st of October I was satisfied that
the bulk of his infantry was at and across the Chattahoochee River,
near Campbellton, and that his cavalry was on the west side, at
Powder Springs. On that day I telegraphed to General Grant:
Hood is evidently across the Chattahoochee, below Sweetwater. If
he tries to get on our road, this side of the Etowah, I shall
attack him; but if he goes to the Selma & Talladega road, why will
it not do to leave Tennessee to the forces which Thomas has, and
the reserves soon to come to Nashville, and for me to destroy
Atlanta and march across Georgia to Savannah or Charleston,
breaking roads and doing irreparable damage? We cannot remain on
The Selma & Talladega road herein referred to was an unfinished
railroad from Selma, Alabama, through Talladega, to Blue Mountain,
a terminus sixty-five miles southwest of Rome and about fifteen
miles southeast of Gadsden, where the rebel army could be supplied
from the direction of Montgomery and Mobile, and from which point
Hood could easily threaten Middle Tennessee. My first impression
was, that Hood would make for that point; but by the 3d of October
the indications were that he would strike our railroad nearer us,
viz., about Kingston or Marietta.
Orders were at once made for the Twentieth Corps (Slocum's) to hold
Atlanta and the bridges of the Chattahoochee, and the other corps
were put in motion for Marietta.
The army had undergone many changes since the capture of Atlanta.
General Schofield had gone to the rear, leaving General J. D. Cog
in command of the Army of the Ohio (Twenty-third Corps). General
Thomas, also, had been dispatched to Chattanooga, with Newton's
division of the Fourth Corps and Morgan's of the Fourteenth Corps,
leaving General D. S. Stanley, the senior major-general of the two
corps of his Army of the Cumberland, remaining and available for
this movement, viz., the Fourth and Fourteenth, commanded by
himself and Major-General Jeff. C. Davis; and after General Dodge
was wounded, his corps (the Sixteenth) had been broken up, and its
two divisions were added to the Fifteenth and Seventeenth Corps,
constituting the Army of the Tennessee, commanded by Major-General
O. O. Howard. Generals Logan and Blair had gone home to assist in
the political canvass, leaving their corps, viz., the Fifteenth and
Seventeenth, under the command of Major-Generals Osterhaus and T.
E. G. Ransom.
These five corps were very much reduced in strength, by detachments
and by discharges, so that for the purpose of fighting Hood I had
only about sixty thousand infantry and artillery, with two small
divisions of cavalry (Kilpatrick's and Garrard's). General Elliott
was the chief of cavalry to the Army of the Cumberland, and was the
senior officer of that arm of service present for duty with me.
We had strong railroad guards at Marietta and Kenesaw, Allatoona,
Etowah Bridge, Kingston, Rome, Resaca, Dalton, Ringgold, and
Chattanooga. All the important bridges were likewise protected by
good block-houses, admirably constructed, and capable of a strong
defense against cavalry or infantry; and at nearly all the regular
railroad-stations we had smaller detachments intrenched. I had
little fear of the enemy's cavalry damaging our roads seriously,
for they rarely made a break which could not be repaired in a few
days; but it was absolutely necessary to keep General Hood's
infantry off our main route of communication and supply. Forrest
had with him in Middle Tennessee about eight thousand cavalry, and
Hood's army was estimated at from thirty-five to forty thousand
men, infantry and artillery, including Wheeler's cavalry, then
about three thousand strong.
We crossed the Chattahoochee River during the 3d and 4th of
October, rendezvoused at the old battle-field of Smyrna Camp, and
the next day reached Marietta and Kenesaw. The telegraph-wires had
been cut above Marietta, and learning that heavy masses of
infantry, artillery, and cavalry, had been seen from Kenesaw
(marching north), I inferred that Allatoona was their objective
point; and on the 4th of October I signaled from Mining's Station
to Kenesaw, and from Kenesaw to Allatoona, over the heads of the
enemy, a message for General Corse, at Rome, to hurry back to the
assistance of the garrison at Allatoona. Allatoona was held by, a
small brigade, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Tourtellotte, my
present aide-de-camp. He had two small redoubts on either side of
the railroad, overlooking the village of Allatoona, and the
warehouses, in which were stored over a million rations of bread.
Reaching Kenesaw Mountain about 8 a.m. of October 5th (a beautiful
day), I had a superb view of the vast panorama to the north and
west. To the southwest, about Dallas, could be seen the smoke of
camp-fires, indicating the presence of a large force of the enemy,
and the whole line of railroad from Big Shanty up to Allatoona
(full fifteen miles) was marked by the fires of the burning
railroad. We could plainly see the smoke of battle about,
Allatoona, and hear the faint reverberation of the cannon.
From Kenesaw I ordered the Twenty-third Corps (General Cox) to
march due west on the Burnt Hickory road, and to burn houses or
piles of brush as it progressed, to indicate the head of column,
hoping to interpose this corps between Hood's main army at Dallas
and the detachment then assailing Allatoona. The rest of the army
was directed straight for Allatoona, northwest, distant eighteen
miles. The signal-officer on Kenesaw reported that since daylight
he had failed to obtain any answer to his call for Allatoona; but,
while I was with him, he caught a faint glimpse of the tell-tale
flag through an embrasure, and after much time he made out these
letters-" C.," "R.," "S.," "E.," "H.," "E.," "R.," and translated
the message--"Corse is here." It was a source of great relief, for
it gave me the first assurance that General Corse had received his
orders, and that the place was adequately garrisoned.
I watched with painful suspense the indications of the battle
raging there, and was dreadfully impatient at the slow progress of
the relieving column, whose advance was marked by the smokes which
were made according to orders, but about 2 p.m. I noticed with
satisfaction that the smoke of battle about Allatoona grew less and
less, and ceased altogether about 4 p.m. For a time I attributed
this result to the effect of General Cog's march, but later in the
afternoon the signal-flag announced the welcome tidings that the
attack had been fairly repulsed, but that General Corse was
wounded. The next day my aide, Colonel Dayton, received this
ALLATOONA, GEORGIA, October 6, 1884-2 P.M.
Captain L. M. DAYTON, Aide-de-Camp:
I am short a cheek-bone and an ear, but am able to whip all h--l
yet! My losses are very heavy. A force moving from Stilesboro' to
Kingston gives me some anxiety. Tell me where Sherman is.
JOHN M. CORSE, Brigadier-General.
Inasmuch as the, enemy had retreated southwest, and would probably
next appear at Rome, I answered General Corse with orders to get
back to Rome with his troops as quickly as possible.
General Corse's report of this fight at Allatoona is very full and
graphic. It is dated Rome, October 27, 1864; recites the fact that
he received his orders by signal to go to the assistance of
Allatoona on the 4th, when he telegraphed to Kingston for cars, and
a train of thirty empty cars was started for him, but about ten of
them got off the track and caused delay. By 7 p.m. he had at Rome
a train of twenty cars, which he loaded up with Colonel Rowett's
brigade, and part of the Twelfth Illinois Infantry; started at 8
p.m., reached Allatoona (distant thirty-five miles) at 1 a.m. of
the 5th, and sent the train back for more men; but the road was in
bad order, and no more men came in time. He found Colonel
Tourtellotte's garrison composed of eight hundred and ninety men;
his reenforcement was one thousand and fifty-four: total for the
defense, nineteen hundred and forty-four. The outposts were
already engaged, and as soon as daylight came he drew back the men
from the village to the ridge on which the redoubts were built.
The enemy was composed of French's division of three brigades,
variously reported from four to five thousand strong. This force
gradually surrounded the place by 8 a.m., when General French sent
in by flag of truce this note:
AROUND ALLATOONA, October 5, 1884.
Commanding Officer, United States Forces, Allatoona:
I have placed the forces under my command in such positions that
you are surrounded, and to avoid a needless effusion of blood I
call on you to surrender your forces at once, and unconditionally.
Five minutes will be allowed you to decide. Should you accede to
this, you will be treated in the most honorable manner as prisoners
I have the honor to be, very respectfully yours,
S. G. FRENCH,
Major-General commanding forces Confederate States.
General Corse answered immediately:
HEADQUARTERS FOURTH DIVISION, FIFTEENTH CORPS
ALLATOONA, GEORGIA, October 5, 1864.
Major-General S. G. FRENCH, Confederate States, etc:
Your communication demanding surrender of my command I acknowledge
receipt of, and respectfully reply that we are prepared for the
"needless effusion of blood" whenever it is agreeable to you.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JOHN M. CORSE,
Brigadier-General commanding forces United States.
Of course the attack began at once, coming from front, flank, and
rear. There were two small redoubts, with slight parapets and
ditches, one on each side of the deep railroad-cut. These redoubts
had been located by Colonel Poe, United States Engineers, at the
time of our advance on Kenesaw, the previous June. Each redoubt
overlooked the storehouses close by the railroad, and each could
aid the other defensively by catching in flank the attacking force
of the other. Our troops at first endeavored to hold some ground
outside the redoubts, but were soon driven inside, when the enemy
made repeated assaults, but were always driven back. About 11 a.m.,
Colonel Redfield, of the Thirty-ninth Iowa, was killed, and Colonel
Rowett was wounded, but never ceased to fight and encourage his
men. Colonel Tourtellotte was shot through the hips, but continued
to command. General Corse was, at 1 p.m., shot across the face,
the ball cutting his ear, which stunned him, but he continued to
encourage his men and to give orders. The enemy (about 1.30 p.m.)
made a last and desperate effort to carry one of the redoubts, but
was badly cut to pieces by the artillery and infantry fire from the
other, when he began to draw off, leaving his dead and wounded on
Before finally withdrawing, General French converged a heavy fire
of his cannon on the block-house at Allatoona Creek, about two
miles from the depot, set it on fire, and captured its garrison,
consisting of four officers and eighty-five men. By 4 p.m. he was
in full retreat south, on the Dallas road, and got by before the
head of General Cox's column had reached it; still several
ambulances and stragglers were picked up by this command on that
road. General Corse reported two hundred and thirty-one rebel
dead, four hundred and eleven prisoners, three regimental colors,
and eight hundred muskets captured.
Among the prisoners was a Brigadier-General Young, who thought that
French's aggregate loss would reach two thousand. Colonel
Tourtellotte says that, for days after General Corse had returned
to Rome, his men found and buried at least a hundred more dead
rebels, who had doubtless been wounded, and died in the woods near
Allatoona. I know that when I reached Allatoona, on the 9th, I saw
a good many dead men, which had been collected for burial.
Corse's entire loss, officially reported, was:
Killed. Wounded. Missing. Total.
142 353 212 707
I esteemed this defense of Allatoona so handsome and important,
that I made it the subject of a general order, viz., No. 86, of
October 7, 1864:
The general commanding avails himself of the opportunity, in the
handsome defense made of Allatoona, to illustrate the most
important principle in war, that fortified posts should be defended
to the last, regardless of the relative numbers of the party
attacking and attacked . . . . The thanks of this army are due
and are hereby accorded to General Corse, Colonel Tourtellotte,
Colonel Rowett, officers, and men, for their determined and gallant
defense of Allatoona, and it is made an example to illustrate the
importance of preparing in time, and meeting the danger, when
present, boldly, manfully, and well.
Commanders and garrisons of the posts along our railroad are hereby
instructed that they must hold their posts to the last minute, sure
that the time gained is valuable and necessary to their comrades at
By order of Major-General W. T. Sherman,
L. M. DAYTON, Aide-A-Camp.
The rebels had struck our railroad a heavy blow, burning every tie,
bending the rails for eight miles, from Big Shanty to above
Acworth, so that the estimate for repairs called for thirty-five
thousand new ties, and six miles of iron. Ten thousand men were
distributed along the break to replace the ties, and to prepare the
road-bed, while the regular repair-party, under Colonel W. W.
Wright, came down from Chattanooga with iron, spikes, etc., and in
about seven days the road was all right again. It was by such acts
of extraordinary energy that we discouraged our adversaries, for
the rebel soldiers felt that it was a waste of labor for them to
march hurriedly, on wide circuits, day and night, to burn a bridge
and tear up a mile or so of track, when they knew that we could lay
it back so quickly. They supposed that we had men and money
without limit, and that we always kept on hand, distributed along
the road, duplicates of every bridge and culvert of any importance.
A good story is told of one who was on Kenesaw Mountain during our
advance in the previous June or July. A group of rebels lay in the
shade of a tree, one hot day, overlooking our camps about Big
Shanty. One soldier remarked to his fellows:
"Well, the Yanks will have to git up and git now, for I heard
General Johnston himself say that General Wheeler had blown up the
tunnel near Dalton, and that the Yanks would have to retreat,
because they could get no more rations."
"Oh, hell!" said a listener, "don't you know that old Sherman
carries a duplicate tunnel along?"
After the war was over, General Johnston inquired of me who was our
chief railroad-engineer. When I told him that it was Colonel W. W.
Wright, a civilian, he was much surprised, said that our feats of
bridge-building and repairs of roads had excited his admiration;
and he instanced the occasion at Kenesaw in June, when an officer
from Wheeler's cavalry had reported to him in person that he had
come from General Wheeler, who had made a bad break in our road
about Triton Station, which he said would take at least a fortnight
to repair; and, while they were talking, a train was seen coming
down the road which had passed that very break, and had reached me
at Big Shanty as soon as the fleet horseman had reached him
(General Johnston) at Marietta
I doubt whether the history of war can furnish more examples of
skill and bravery than attended the defense of the railroad from
Nashville to Atlanta during the year 1864.
In person I reached Allatoona on the 9th of October, still in doubt
as to Hood's immediate intentions. Our cavalry could do little
against his infantry in the rough and wooded country about Dallas,
which masked the enemy's movements; but General Corse, at Rome,
with Spencer's First Alabama Cavalry and a mounted regiment of
Illinois Infantry, could feel the country south of Rome about
Cedartown and Villa Rica; and reported the enemy to be in force at
both places. On the 9th I telegraphed to General Thomas, at
Nashville, as follows:
I came up here to relieve our road. The Twentieth Corps remains at
Atlanta. Hood reached the road and broke it up between Big Shanty
and Acworth. He attacked Allatoona, but was repulsed. We have
plenty of bread and meat, but forage is scarce. I want to destroy
all the road below Chattanooga, including Atlanta, and to make for
the sea-coast. We cannot defend this long line of road.
And on the same day I telegraphed to General Grant, at City Point:
It will be a physical impossibility to protect the roads, now that
Hood, Forrest, Wheeler, and the whole batch of devils, are turned
loose without home or habitation. I think Hood's movements
indicate a diversion to the end of the Selma & Talladega road, at
Blue Mountain, about sixty miles southwest of Rome, from which he
will threaten Kingston, Bridgeport, and Decatur, Alabama. I
propose that we break up the railroad from Ohattanooga forward, and
that we strike out with our wagons for Milledgeville, Millen, and
Savannah. Until we can repopulate Georgia, it is useless for us to
occupy it; but the utter destruction of its roads, houses, and
people, will cripple their military resources. By attempting to
hold the roads, we will lose a thousand men each month, and will
gain no result. I can make this march, and make Georgia howl! We
have on hand over eight thousand head of cattle and three million
rations of bread, but no corn. We can find plenty of forage in the
interior of the State.
Meantime the rebel General Forrest had made a bold circuit in
Middle Tennessee, avoiding all fortified points, and breaking up
the railroad at several places; but, as usual, he did his work so
hastily and carelessly that our engineers soon repaired the
damage--then, retreating before General Rousseau, he left the State
of Tennessee, crossing the river near Florence, Alabama, and got
On the 10th of October the enemy appeared south of the Etowah River
at Rome, when I ordered all the armies to march to Kingston, rode
myself to Cartersville with the Twenty-third Corps (General Cox),
and telegraphed from there to General Thomas at Nashville:
It looks to me as though Hood was bound for Tuscumbia. He is now
crossing the Coosa River below Rome, looking west. Let me know if
you can hold him with your forces now in Tennessee and the expected
reenforeements, as, in that event, you know what I propose to do.
I will be at Kingston to-morrow. I think Rome is strong enough to
resist any attack, and the rivers are all high. If he turns up by
Summerville, I will get in behind him.
And on the same day to General Grant, at City Point:
Hood is now crossing the Coosa, twelve miles below Rome, bound
west. If he passes over to the Mobile & Ohio Railroad, had I not
better execute the plan of my letter sent you by Colonel Porter,
and leave General Thomas, with the troops now in Tennessee, to
defend the State? He will have an ample force when the
reenforcements ordered reach Nashville.
I found General John E. Smith at Cartersville, and on the 11th
rode on to Kingston, where I had telegraphic communications in all
From General Corse, at Rome, I learned that Hood's army had
disappeared, but in what direction he was still in doubt; and I was
so strongly convinced of the wisdom of my proposition to change the
whole tactics of the campaign, to leave Hood to General Thomas, and
to march across Georgia for Savannah or Charleston, that I again
telegraphed to General Grant:
We cannot now remain on the defensive. With twenty-five thousand
infantry and the bold cavalry he has, Hood can constantly break my
road. I would infinitely prefer to make a wreck of the road and of
the country from Chattanooga to Atlanta, including the latter city;
send back all my wounded and unserviceable men, and with my
effective army move through Georgia, smashing things to the sea.
Hood may turn into Tennessee and Kentucky, but I believe he will be
forced to follow me. Instead of being on the defensive, I will be
on the offensive. Instead of my guessing at what he means to do,
he will have to guess at my plans. The difference in war would be
fully twenty-five per pent. I can make Savannah, Charleston, or
the month of the Chattahoochee (Appalachicola). Answer quick, as I
know we will not have the telegraph long.
I received no answer to this at the time, and the next day went on
to Rome, where the news came that Hood had made his appearance at
Resaca, and had demanded the surrender of the place, which was
commanded by Colonel Weaver, reenforced by Brevet Brigadier-General
Raum. General Hood had evidently marched with rapidity up the
Chattooga Valley, by Summerville, Lafayette, Ship's Gap, and
Snake-Creek Gap, and had with him his whole army, except a small
force left behind to watch Rome. I ordered Resaca to be further
reenforced by rail from Kingston, and ordered General Cox to make a
bold reconnoissance down the Coosa Valley, which captured and
brought into Rome some cavalrymen and a couple of field-guns, with
their horses and men. At first I thought of interposing my whole
army in the Chattooga Valley, so as to prevent Hood's escape south;
but I saw at a glance that he did not mean to fight, and in that
event, after damaging the road all he could, he would be likely to
retreat eastward by Spring Place, which I did not want him to do;
and, hearing from General Raum that he still held Resaca safe, and
that General Edward McCook had also got there with some cavalry
reenforcements, I turned all the heads of columns for Resaca, viz.,
General Cox's, from Rome; General Stanley's, from McGuire's; and
General Howard's, from Kingston. We all reached Resaca during that
night, and the next morning (13th) learned that Hood's whole army
had passed up the valley toward Dalton, burning the railroad and
doing all the damage possible.
On the 12th he had demanded the surrender of Resaca in the
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF TENNESSEE
IN THE FIELD, October 12,1861.
To the officer commanding the United Stales Forces at Resaca,
SIR: I demand the immediate and unconditional surrender of the post
and garrison under your command, and, should this be acceded to,
all white officers and soldiers will be parolled in a few days. If
the place is carried by assault, no prisoners will be taken. Most
respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. B. HOOD, General.
To this Colonel Weaver, then in command, replied:
HEADQUARTERS SECOND BRIGADE, THIRD DIVISION, FIFTEENTH CORPS
RESACA, GEORGIA, October 12, 1884.
To General J. B. HOOD
Your communication of this date just received. In reply, I have to
state that I am somewhat surprised at the concluding paragraph, to
the effect that, if the place is carried by assault, no prisoners
will be taken. In my opinion I can hold this post. If you want it,
come and take it.
I am, general, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,
CLARK R. WEAVER, Commanding Officer.
This brigade was very small, and as Hood's investment extended
only from the Oostenaula, below the town, to the Connesauga above,
he left open the approach from the south, which enabled General
Raum and the cavalry of Generals McCook and Watkins to reenforce
from Kingston. In fact, Hood, admonished by his losses at
Allatoona, did not attempt an assault at all, but limited his
attack to the above threat, and to some skirmishing, giving his
attention chiefly to the destruction of the railroad, which he
accomplished all the way up to Tunnel Hill, nearly twenty miles,
capturing en route the regiment of black troops at Dalton
(Johnson's Forty-fourth United States colored). On the 14th, I
turned General Howard through Snake-Creek Gap, and sent General
Stanley around by Tilton, with orders to cross the mountain to the
west, so as to capture, if possible, the force left by the enemy in
Snake-Creek Gap. We found this gap very badly obstructed by fallen
timber, but got through that night, and the next day the main army
was at Villanow. On the morning of the 16th, the leading division
of General Howard's column, commanded by General Charles R. Woods,
carried Ship's Gap, taking prisoners part of the Twenty-fourth
South Carolina Regiment, which had been left there to hold us in
The best information there obtained located Hood's army at
Lafayette, near which place I hoped to catch him and force him to
battle; but, by the time we had got enough troops across the
mountain at Ship's Gap, Hood had escaped down the valley of the
Chattooga, and all we could do was to follow him as closely as
possible. From Ship's Gap I dispatched couriers to Chattanooga,
and received word back that General Schofield was there,
endeavoring to cooperate with me, but Hood had broken up the
telegraph, and thus had prevented quick communication. General
Schofield did not reach me till the army had got down to
Gaylesville, about the 21st of October.
It was at Ship's Gap that a courier brought me the cipher message
from General Halleck which intimated that the authorities in
Washington were willing I should undertake the march across Georgia
to the sea. The translated dispatch named "Horse-i-bar Sound" as
the point where the fleet would await my arrival. After much time
I construed it to mean, "Ossabaw Sound," below Savannah, which was
On the 16th I telegraphed to General Thomas, at Nashville:
Send me Morgan's and Newton's old divisions. Reestablish the road,
and I will follow Hood wherever he may go. I think he will move to
Blue Mountain. We can maintain our men and animals on the country.
General Thomas's reply was:
NASHVILLE, October 17, 1864--10.30 a.m.
Your dispatch from Ship's Gap, 5 p.m. of the 16th, just received.
Schofield, whom I placed in command of the two divisions (Wagner's
and Morgan's), was to move up Lookout Valley this A.M., to
intercept Hood, should he be marching for Bridgeport. I will order
him to join you with the two divisions, and will reconstruct the
road as soon as possible. Will also reorganize the guards for
posts and block-houses .... Mower and Wilson have arrived, and are
on their way to join you. I hope you will adopt Grant's idea of
turning Wilson loose, rather than undertake the plan of a march
with the whole force through Georgia to the sea, inasmuch as
General Grant cannot cooperate with you as at first arranged.
GEORGE H. THOMAS, Major-General.
So it is clear that at that date neither General Grant nor General
Thomas heartily favored my proposed plan of campaign. On the same
day, I wrote to General Schofield at Chattanooga:
Hood is not at Dear Head Cove. We occupy Ship's Gap and Lafayette.
Hood is moving south via Summerville, Alpine, and Gadsden. If he
enters Tennessee, it will be to the west of Huntsville, but I think
he has given up all such idea. I want the road repaired to
Atlanta; the sick and wounded men sent north of the Tennessee; my
army recomposed; and I will then make the interior of Georgia feel
the weight of war. It is folly for us to be moving our armies on
the reports of scouts and citizens. We must maintain the
offensive. Your first move on Trenton and Valley Head was right
--the move to defend Caperton's Ferry is wrong. Notify General
Thomas of these my views. We must follow Hood till he is beyond
the reach of mischief, and then resume the offensive.
The correspondence between me and the authorities at Washington, as
well as with the several army commanders, given at length in the
report of the Committee on the Conduct of the War, is full on all
After striking our road at Dalton, Hood was compelled to go on to
Chattanooga and Bridgeport, or to pass around by Decatur and
abandon altogether his attempt to make us let go our hold of
Atlanta by attacking our communications. It was clear to me that
he had no intention to meet us in open battle, and the lightness
and celerity of his army convinced me that I could not possibly
catch him on a stern-chase. We therefore quietly followed him down
the Chattooga Valley to the neighborhood of Gadsden, but halted the
main armies near the Coosa River, at the mouth of the Chattooga,
drawing our supplies of corn and meat from the farms of that
comparatively rich valley and of the neighborhood.
General Slocum, in Atlanta, had likewise sent out, under strong
escort, large trains of wagons to the east, and brought back corn,
bacon, and all kinds of provisions, so that Hood's efforts to cut
off our supplies only reacted on his own people. So long as the
railroads were in good order, our supplies came full and regular
from the North; but when the enemy broke our railroads we were
perfectly justified in stripping the inhabitants of all they had.
I remember well the appeal of a very respectable farmer against our
men driving away his fine flock of sheep. I explained to him that
General Hood had broken our railroad; that we were a strong, hungry
crowd, and needed plenty of food; that Uncle Sam was deeply
interested in our continued health and would soon repair these
roads, but meantime we must eat; we preferred Illinois beef, but
mutton would have to answer. Poor fellow! I don't believe he was
convinced of the wisdom or wit of my explanation. Very soon after
reaching Lafayette we organized a line of supply from Chattanooga
to Ringgold by rail, and thence by wagons to our camps about
Gaylesville. Meantime, also, Hood had reached the neighborhood of
Gadsden, and drew his supplies from the railroad at Blue Mountain.
On the 19th of October I telegraphed to General Halleck, at
Hood has retreated rapidly by all the roads leading south. Our
advance columns are now at Alpine and Melville Post-Office. I
shall pursue him as far as Gaylesville. The enemy will not venture
toward Tennessee except around by Decatur. I propose to send the
Fourth Corps back to General Thomas, and leave him, with that
corps, the garrisons, and new troops, to defend the line of the
Tennessee River; and with the rest I will push into the heart of
Georgia and come out at Savannah, destroying all the railroads of
the State. The break in our railroad at Big Shanty is almost
repaired, and that about Dalton should be done in ten days. We
find abundance of forage in the country.
On the same day I telegraphed to General L. C. Easton,
chief-quartermaster, who had been absent on a visit to Missouri,
but had got back to Chattanooga:
Go in person to superintend the repairs of the railroad, and make
all orders in my name that will expedite its completion. I want it
finished, to bring back from Atlanta to Chattanooga the sick and
wounded men and surplus stores. On the 1st of November I want
nothing in front of Chattanooga except what we can use as food and
clothing and haul in our wagons. There is plenty of corn in the
country, and we only want forage for the posts. I allow ten days
for all this to be done, by which time I expect to be at or near
I telegraphed also to General Amos Beckwith, chief-commissary in
Atlanta, who was acting as chief-quartermaster during the absence
of General Easton:
Hood will escape me. I want to prepare for my big raid. On the
1st of November I want nothing in Atlanta but what is necessary for
war. Send all trash to the rear at once, and have on hand thirty
days' food and but little forage. I propose to abandon Atlanta,
and the railroad back to Chattanooga, to sally forth to ruin
Georgia and bring up on the seashore. Make all dispositions
accordingly. I will go down the Coosa until I am sure that Hood
has gone to Blue Mountain.
On the 21st of October I reached Gaylesville, had my bivouac in an
open field back of the village, and remained there till the 28th.
During that time General Schofield arrived, with the two divisions
of Generals Wagner (formerly Newton's) and Morgan, which were
returned to their respective corps (the Fourth and Fourteenth), and
General Schofield resumed his own command of the Army of the Ohio,
then on the Coosa River, near Cedar Bluff. General Joseph A. Mower
also arrived, and was assigned to command a division in the
Seventeenth Corps; and General J. H. Wilson came, having been sent
from Virginia by General Grant, for the purpose of commanding all
my cavalry. I first intended to organize this cavalry into a corps
of three small divisions, to be commanded by General Wilson; but
the horses were well run down, and, at Wilson's instance, I
concluded to retain only one division of four thousand five hundred
men, with selected horses, under General Kilpatrick, and to send
General Wilson back with all the rest to Nashville, to be
reorganized and to act under General Thomas in the defense of
Tennessee. Orders to this effect were made on the 24th of October.
General Grant, in designating General Wilson to command my cavalry,
predicted that he would, by his personal activity, increase the
effect of that arm "fifty per cent.," and he advised that he should
be sent south, to accomplish all that I had proposed to do with the
main army; but I had not so much faith in cavalry as he had, and
preferred to adhere to my original intention of going myself with a
About this time I learned that General Beauregard had reached
Hood's army at Gadsden; that, without assuming direct command of
that army, he had authority from the Confederate Government to
direct all its movements, and to call to his assistance the whole
strength of the South. His orders, on assuming command, were full
of alarm and desperation, dated:
HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE WEST
October 17, 1864
In assuming command, at this critical juncture, of the Military
Division of the West, I appeal to my countrymen, of all classes and
sections, for their generous support. In assigning me to this
responsible position, the President of the Confederate States has
extended to me the assurance of his earnest support. The
Executives of your States meet me with similar expressions of their
devotion to our cause. The noble army in the field, composed of
brave men and gallant officers, are strangers to me, but I know
they will do all that patriots can achieve.....
The army of Sherman still defiantly holds Atlanta. He can and must
be driven from it. It is only for the good people of Georgia and
surrounding states to speak the word, and the work is done, we have
abundant provisions. There are men enough in the country, liable
to and able for service, to accomplish the result.....
My countrymen, respond to this call as you have done in days that
are past, and, with the blessing of a kind and overruling
Providence, the enemy shall be driven from your soil. The security
of your wives and daughters from the insults and outrages of a
brutal foe shall be established soon, and be followed by a
permanent and honorable peace. The claims of home and country,
wife and children, uniting with the demands of honor and
patriotism, summon us to the field. We cannot, dare not, will not
fail to respond. Full of hope and confidence, I come to join you
in your struggles, sharing your privations, and, with your brave
and true men, to strike the blow that shall bring success to our,
arms, triumph to our cause, and peace to our country!......
G. T. BEAUREGARD, General.
Notwithstanding this somewhat boastful order or appeal, General
Beauregard did not actually accompany General Hood on his
disastrous march to Nashville, but took post at Corinth,
Mississippi, to control the movement of his supplies and to watch
At Gaylesville the pursuit of Hood by the army under my immediate
command may be said to have ceased. During this pursuit, the
Fifteenth Corps was commanded by its senior major-general present,
P. J. Osterhaus, in the absence of General John A. Logan; and the
Seventeenth Corps was commanded by Brigadier-General T. E. G.
Ransom, the senior officer present, in the absence of General Frank
General Ransom was a young, most gallant, and promising officer,
son of the Colonel Ransom who was killed at Chapultepec, in the
Mexican War. He had served with the Army of the Tennessee in 1862
and 1863, at Vicksburg, where he was severely wounded. He was not
well at the time we started from Atlanta, but he insisted on going
along with his command. His symptoms became more aggravated on the
march, and when we were encamped near Gaylesville, I visited him in
company with Surgeon John Moors, United States Army, who said that
the case was one of typhoid fever, which would likely prove fatal.
A few days after, viz., the 28th, he was being carried on a litter
toward Rome; and as I rode from Gaylesville to Rome, I passed him
by the way, stopped, and spoke with him, but did not then suppose
he was so near his end. The next day, however, his escort reached
Rome, bearing his dead body. The officer in charge reported that,
shortly after I had passed, his symptoms became so much worse that
they stopped at a farmhouse by the road-side, where he died that
evening. His body was at once sent to Chicago for burial, and a
monument has been ordered by the Society of the Army of the
Tennessee to be erected in his memory.
On the 26th of October I learned that Hood's whole army had made
its appearance about Decatur, Alabama, and at once caused a strong
reconnoissance to be made down the Coosa to near Gadsden, which
revealed the truth that the enemy was gone except a small force of
cavalry, commanded by General Wheeler, which had been left to watch
us. I then finally resolved on my future course, which was to
leave Hood to be encountered by General Thomas, while I should
carry into full effect the long-contemplated project of marching
for the sea-coast, and thence to operate toward Richmond. But it
was all-important to me and to our cause that General Thomas should
have an ample force, equal to any and every emergency.
He then had at Nashville about eight or ten thousand new troops,
and as many more civil employs of the Quartermaster's Department,
which were not suited for the field, but would be most useful in
manning the excellent forts that already covered Nashville. At
Chattanooga, he had General Steedman's division, about five
thousand men, besides garrisons for Chattanooga, Bridgeport, and
Stevenson; at Murfreesboro' he also had General Rousseau's
division, which was full five thousand strong, independent of the
necessary garrisons for the railroad. At Decatur and Huntsville,
Alabama, was the infantry division of General R. S. Granger,
estimated at four thousand; and near Florence, Alabama, watching
the crossings of the Tennessee, were General Edward Hatch's
division of cavalry, four thousand; General Croxton's brigade,
twenty-five hundred; and Colonel Capron's brigade, twelve hundred;
besides which, General J. H. Wilson had collected in Nashville
about ten thousand dismounted cavalry, for which he was rapidly
collecting the necessary horses for a remount. All these
aggregated about forty-five thousand men. General A. J. Smith at
that time was in Missouri, with the two divisions of the Sixteenth
Corps which had been diverted to that quarter to assist General
Rosecrans in driving the rebel General Price out of Missouri. This
object had been accomplished, and these troops, numbering from
eight to ten thousand, had been ordered to Nashville. To these I
proposed at first to add only the Fourth Corps (General Stanley),
fifteen thousand; and that corps was ordered from Gaylesville to
march to Chattanooga, and thence report for orders to General
Thomas; but subsequently, on the 30th of October, at Rome, Georgia,
learning from General Thomas that the new troops promised by
General Grant were coming forward very slowly, I concluded to
further reenforce him by General Schofield's corps (Twenty-third),
twelve thousand, which corps accordingly marched for Resaca, and
there took the cars for Chattanooga. I then knew that General
Thomas would have an ample force with which to encounter General
Hood anywhere in the open field, besides garrisons to secure the
railroad to his rear and as far forward as Chattanooga. And,
moreover, I was more than convinced that he would have ample time
for preparation; for, on that very day, General R. S. Granger had
telegraphed me from Decatur, Alabama:
I omitted to mention another reason why Hood will go to Tusomnbia
before crossing the Tennessee River. He was evidently out of
supplies. His men were all grumbling; the first thing the
prisoners asked for was something to eat. Hood could not get any
thing if he should cross this side of Rogersville.
I knew that the country about Decatur and Tuscumbia, Alabama, was
bare of provisions, and inferred that General Hood would have to
draw his supplies, not only of food, but of stores, clothing, and
ammunition, from Mobile, Montgomery, and Selma, Alabama, by the
railroad around by Meridian and Corinth, Mississippi, which we had
most effectually disabled the previous winter.
General Hood did not make a serious attack on Decatur, but hung
around it from October 26th to the 30th, when he drew off and
marched for a point on the south side of the Tennessee River,
opposite Florence, where he was compelled to remain nearly a month,
to collect the necessary supplies for his contemplated invasion of
Tennessee and Kentucky.
The Fourth Corps (Stanley) had already reached Chattanooga, and had
been transported by rail to Pulaski, Tennessee; and General Thomas
ordered General Schofield, with the Twenty-third Corps, to
Columbia, Tennessee, a place intermediate between Hood (then on the
Tennessee River, opposite Florence) and Forrest, opposite
On the 31st of October General Croxton, of the cavalry, reported
that the enemy had crossed the Tennessee River four miles above
Florence, and that he had endeavored to stop him, but without
success. Still, I was convinced that Hood's army was in no
condition to march for Nashville, and that a good deal of further
delay might reasonably be counted on. I also rested with much
confidence on the fact that the Tennessee River below Muscle Shoals
was strongly patrolled by gunboats, and that the reach of the river
above Muscle Shoals, from Decatur as high up as our railroad at
Bridgeport, was also guarded by gunboats, so that Hood, to cross
over, would be compelled to select a point inaccessible to these
gunboats. He actually did choose such a place, at the old
railroad-piers, four miles above Florence, Alabama, which is below
Muscle Shoals and above Colbert Shoals.
On the 31st of October Forrest made his appearance on the Tennessee
River opposite Johnsonville (whence a new railroad led to
Nashville), and with his cavalry and field pieces actually crippled
and captured two gunboats with five of our transports, a feat of
arms which, I confess, excited my admiration.
There is no doubt that the month of October closed to us looking
decidedly squally; but, somehow, I was sustained in the belief that
in a very few days the tide would turn.
On the 1st of November I telegraphed very fully to General Grant,
at City Point, who must have been disturbed by the wild rumors that
filled the country, and on the 2d of November received (at Rome)
CITY POINT, November 1, 1864--6 P.M.
Do you not think it advisable, now that Hood has gone so far north,
to entirely ruin him before starting on your proposed campaign?
With Hood's army destroyed, you can go where you please with
impunity. I believed and still believe, if you had started south
while Hood was in the neighborhood of you, he would have been
forced to go after you. Now that he is far away he might look upon
the chase as useless, and he will go in one direction while you are
pushing in the other. If you can see a chance of destroying Hood's
army, attend to that first, and make your other move secondary.
U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.
My answer is dated
ROME, GEORGIA, November 2, 1864.
Lieutenant-General U. S. GRANT, City Point, Virginia:
Your dispatch is received. If I could hope to overhaul Hood, I
would turn against him with my whole force; then he would retreat
to the south west, drawing me as a decoy away from Georgia, which
is his chief object. If he ventures north of the Tennessee River, I
may turn in that direction, and endeavor to get below him on his
line of retreat; but thus far he has not gone above the Tennessee
River. General 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, Alabama. No
single army can catch Hood, and I am convinced the best results
will follow from our defeating Jeff. Davis's cherished plea of
making me leave Georgia by manoeuvring. Thus far I have confined
my efforts to thwart this plan, and have reduced baggage so that I
can pick up and start in any direction; but I regard the 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 of Atlanta, my force will not be equal to his.
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General.
By this date, under the intelligent and energetic action of Colonel
W. W. Wright, and with the labor of fifteen hundred men, the
railroad break of fifteen miles about Dalton was repaired so far as
to admit of the passage of cars, and I transferred my headquarters
to Kingston as more central; and from that place, on the same day
(November 2d), again telegraphed to General Grant:
KINGSTON, GEORGIA, November 2, 1884.
Lieutenant-General U. S. GRANT, City Point, Virginia:
If I turn back, the whole effect of my campaign will be lost. By my
movements I have thrown Beauregard (Hood) well to the west, and
Thomas will have ample time and sufficient troops to hold him until
the reenforcements from Missouri reach him. We have now ample
supplies at Chattannooga and Atlanta, and can stand a month's
interruption to our communications. I do not believe the
Confederate army can reach our railroad-lines except by
cavalry-raids, and Wilson will have cavalry enough to checkmate
them. I am clearly of opinion that the best results will follow my
contemplated movement through Georgia.
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General.
That same day I received, in answer to the Rome dispatch, the
CITY POINT, VIRGINIA, November 2,1864--11.30 a.m.
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, ought to be looked upon now as the "object."
With the force, however, that you have left with General Thomas, he
must be able to take care of Hood and destroy him.
I do not 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 on as you propose.
U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General,
This was the first time that General Grant ordered the "march to
the sea," and, although many of his warm friends and admirers
insist that he was the author and projector of that march, and that
I simply executed his plans, General Grant has never, in my
opinion, thought so or said so. The truth is fully given in an
original letter of President Lincoln, which I received at Savannah,
Georgia, and have at this instant before me, every word of which is
in his own familiar handwriting. It is dated-
WASHINGTON, December 26, 1864.
When you were about leaving Atlanta for the Atlantic coast, I was
anxious, if not fearful; but, feeling that you were the better
judge, and remembering "nothing risked, nothing gained," I did not
interfere. Now, the undertaking being a success, the honor is all
yours; for I believe none of us went further than to acquiesce;
and, taking the work of General Thomas into account, as it should
be taken, it is indeed a great success. Not only does it afford
the obvious and immediate military advantages, but, in showing to
the world that your army could be divided, putting the stronger
part to an important new service, and yet leaving enough to
vanquish the old opposing force of the whole, Hood's army, it
brings those who sat in darkness to see a great light. But what
next? I suppose it will be safer if I leave General Grant and
yourself to decide.
Of course, this judgment; made after the event, was extremely
flattering and was all I ever expected, a recognition of the truth
and of its importance. I have often been asked, by well-meaning
friends, when the thought of that march first entered my mind. I
knew that an army which had penetrated Georgia as far as Atlanta
could not turn back. It must go ahead, but when, how, and where,
depended on many considerations. As soon as Hood had shifted
across from Lovejoy's to Palmetto, I saw the move in my "mind's
eye;" and, after Jeff. Davis's speech at Palmetto, of September
26th, I was more positive in my conviction, but was in doubt as to
the time and manner. When General Hood first struck our railroad
above Marietta, we were not ready, and I was forced to watch his
movements further, till he had "carromed" off to the west of
Decatur. Then I was perfectly convinced, and had no longer a
shadow of doubt. The only possible question was as to Thomas's
strength and ability to meet Hood in the open field. I did not
suppose that General Hood, though rash, would venture to attack
fortified places like Allatoona, Resaca, Decatur, and Nashville;
but he did so, and in so doing he played into our hands perfectly.
On the 2d of November I was at Kingston, Georgia, and my four
corps--the Fifteenth, Seventeenth, Fourteenth, and Twentieth--with
one division of cavalry, were strung from Rome to Atlanta. Our
railroads and telegraph had been repaired, and I deliberately
prepared for the march to Savannah, distant three hundred miles
from Atlanta. All the sick and wounded men had been sent back by
rail to Chattanooga; all our wagon-trains had been carefully
overhauled and loaded, so as to be ready to start on an hour's
notice, and there was no serious enemy in our front.
General Hood remained still at Florence, Alabama, occupying both
banks of the Tennessee River, busy in collecting shoes and clothing
for his men, and the necessary ammunition and stores with which to
invade Tennessee, most of which had to come from Mobile, Selma, and
Montgomery, Alabama, over railroads that were still broken.
Beauregard was at Corinth, hastening forward these necessary
General Thomas was at Nashville, with Wilson's dismounted cavalry
and a mass of new troops and quartermaster's employs amply
sufficient to defend the place. The Fourth and Twenty-third Corps,
under Generals Stanley and Schofield were posted at Pulaski,
Tennessee, and the cavalry of Hatch, Croxton, and Capron, were
about Florence, watching Hood. Smith's (A. J.) two divisions of
the Sixteenth Corps were still in Missouri, but were reported as
ready to embark at Lexington for the Cumberland River and
Nashville. Of course, General Thomas saw that on him would likely
fall the real blow, and was naturally anxious. He still kept
Granger's division at Decatur, Rousseau's at Murfreesboro', and
Steedman's at Chattanooga, with strong railroad guards at all the
essential points intermediate, confident that by means of this very
railroad he could make his concentration sooner than Hood could
possibly march up from Florence.
Meantime, General F. P. Blair had rejoined his corps (Seventeenth),
and we were receiving at Kingston recruits and returned furlough-
men, distributing them to their proper companies. Paymasters had
come down to pay off our men before their departure to a new sphere
of action, and commissioners were also on hand from the several
States to take the vote of our men in the presidential election
then agitating the country.
On the 6th of November, at Kingston, I wrote and telegraphed to
General Grant, reviewing the whole situation, gave him my full plan
of action, stated that I was ready to march as soon as the election
was over, and appointed November 10th as the day for starting. On
the 8th I received this dispatch:
CITY POINT, VIRGINIA, November 7, 1864-10.30 P.M.
Your dispatch of this evening received. I see no present reason
for changing your plan. Should any arise, you will see it, or if I
do I will inform you. I think everything here is favorable now.
Great good fortune attend you! I believe you will be eminently
successful, and, at worst, can only make a march less fruitful of
results than hoped for.
U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.
Meantime trains of cars were whirling by, carrying to the rear an
immense amount of stores which had accumulated at Atlanta, and at
the other stations along the railroad; and General Steedman had
come down to Kingston, to take charge of the final evacuation and
withdrawal of the several garrisons below Chattanooga.
On the 10th of November the movement may be said to have fairly
begun. All the troops designed for the campaign were ordered to
march for Atlanta, and General Corse, before evacuating his post at
Rome, was ordered to burn all the mills, factories, etc., etc.,
that could be useful to the enemy, should he undertake to pursue
us, or resume military possession of the country. This was done on
the night of the 10th, and next day Corse reached Kingston. On the
11th General Thomas and I interchanged full dispatches. He had
heard of the arrival of General A. J. Smith's two divisions at
Paducah, which would surely reach Nashville much sooner than
General Hood could possibly do from Florence, so that he was
perfectly satisfied with his share of the army.
On the 12th, with a full staff, I started from Kingston for
Atlanta; and about noon of that day we reached Cartersville, and
sat on the edge of a porch to rest, when the telegraph operator,
Mr. Van Valkenburg, or Eddy, got the wire down from the poles to
his lap, in which he held a small pocket instrument. Calling
"Chattanooga," he received this message from General Thomas, dated-
NASHVILLE, November 12, 1884--8.80 A.M.
Your dispatch of twelve o'clock last night is received. I have no
fears that Beauregard can do us any harm now, and, if he attempts
to follow you, I will follow him as far as possible. If he does
not follow you, I will then thoroughly organize my troops, and
believe I shall have men enough to ruin him unless he gets out of
the way very rapidly.
The country of Middle Alabama, I learn, is teeming with supplies
this year, which will be greatly to our advantage. I have no
additional news to report from the direction of Florence.
I am now convinced that the greater part of Beauregard's army is
near Florence and Tuscumbia, and that you will have at least a
clear road before you for several days, and that your success will
fully equal your expectations.
George H. THOMAS, Major-General.
I answered simply: "Dispatch received--all right." About that
instant of time, some of our men burnt a bridge, which severed the
telegraph-wire, and all communication with the rear ceased
As we rode on toward Atlanta that night, I remember the railroad-
trains going to the rear with a furious speed; the engineers and
the few men about the trains waving us an affectionate adieu. It
surely was a strange event--two hostile armies marching in opposite
directions, each in the full belief that it was achieving a final
and conclusive result in a great war; and I was strongly inspired
with the feeling that the movement on our part was a direct attack
upon the rebel army and the rebel capital at Richmond, though a
full thousand miles of hostile country intervened, and that, for
better or worse, it would end the war.
THE MARCH TO THE SEA FROM ATLANTA TO SAVANNAH.
NOVEMBER AND DECEMBER, 1864.
On the 12th of November the railroad and telegraph communications
with the rear were broken, and the army stood detached from all
friends, dependent on its own resources and supplies. No time was
to be lost; all the detachments were ordered to march rapidly for
Atlanta, breaking up the railroad en route, and generally to so
damage the country as to make it untenable to the enemy. By the
14th all the troops had arrived at or near Atlanta, and were,
according to orders, grouped into two wings, the right and left,
commanded respectively by Major-Generals O. O. Howard and H. W.
Slocum, both comparatively young men, but educated and experienced
officers, fully competent to their command.
The right wing was composed of the Fifteenth Corps, Major-General
P. J. Osterhaus commanding, and the Seventeenth Corps, Major-
General Frank P. Blair commanding.
The left wing was composed of the Fourteenth Corps, Major-General
Jefferson C. Davis commanding, and the Twentieth Corps, Brigadier-
General A. S. Williams commanding.
The Fifteenth Corps had four divisions, commanded by Brigadier-
Generals Charles R. Woods, W. B. Hazen, John E. Smith, and John M.
The Seventeenth Corps had three divisions, commanded by Major-
General J. A. Mower, and Brigadier-Generals M. D. Leggett ad Giles
The Fourteenth Corps had three divisions, commanded by Brigadier-
Generals W. P. Carlin, James D. Morgan, and A. Baird.
The Twentieth Corps had also three divisions, commanded by
Brigadier-Generals N. J. Jackson, John W. Geary, and W. T. Ward.
The cavalry division was held separate, subject to my own orders.
It was commanded by Brigadier-General Judson Kilpatrick, and was
composed of two brigades, commanded by Colonels Eli H. Murray, of
Kentucky, and Smith D. Atkins, of Illinois.
The strength of the army, as officially reported, is given in the
following tables, and shows an aggregate of fifty-five thousand
three hundred and twenty-nine infantry, five thousand and
sixty-three cavalry, and eighteen hundred and twelve artillery in
all, sixty-two thousand two hundred and four officers and men.
The most extraordinary efforts had been made to purge this army of
non-combatants and of sick men, for we knew well that there was to
be no place of safety save with the army itself; our wagons were
loaded with ammunition, provisions, and forage, and we could ill
afford to haul even sick men in the ambulances, so that all on this
exhibit may be assumed to have been able-bodied, experienced
soldiers, well armed, well equipped and provided, as far as human
foresight could, with all the essentials of life, strength, and
The two general orders made for this march appear to me, even at
this late day, so clear, emphatic, and well-digested, that no
account of that historic event is perfect without them, and I give
them entire, even at the seeming appearance of repetition; and,
though they called for great sacrifice and labor on the part of the
officers and men, I insist that these orders were obeyed as well as
any similar orders ever were, by an army operating wholly in an
enemy's country, and dispersed, as we necessarily were, during the
subsequent period of nearly six months.
[Special Field Orders, No. 119.]
HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI
IN THE FIELD, KINGSTON, GEORGIA, November 8, 1864
The general commanding deems it proper at this time to inform the
officers and men of the Fourteenth, Fifteenth, Seventeenth, and
Twentieth Corps, that he has organized them into an army for a
special purpose, well known to the War Department and to General
Grant. It is sufficient for you to know that it involves a
departure from our present base, and a long and difficult march to
a new one. All the chances of war have been considered and
provided for, as far as human sagacity can. All he asks of you is
to maintain that discipline, patience, and courage, which have
characterized you in the past; and he hopes, through you, to strike
a blow at our enemy that will have a material effect in producing
what we all so much desire, his complete overthrow. Of all things,
the most important is, that the men, during marches and in camp,
keep their places and do not scatter about as stragglers or
foragers, to be picked up by a hostile people in detail. It is
also of the utmost importance that our wagons should not be loaded
with any thing but provisions and ammunition. All surplus
servants, noncombatants, and refugees, should now go to the rear,
and none should be encouraged to encumber us on the march. At some
future time we will be able to provide for the poor whites and
blacks who seek to escape the bondage under which they are now
suffering. With these few simple cautions, he hopes to lead you to
achievements equal in importance to those of the past.
By order of Major-General W. T. Sherman,
L. M. DAYTON, Aide-de-Camp.
[Special Field Orders, No. 120.]
HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI
IN THE FIELD, KINGSTON, GEORGIA, November 9, 1864
1. For the purpose of military operations, this army is divided
into two wings viz.:
The right wing, Major-General O. O. Howard commanding, composed of
the Fifteenth and Seventeenth Corps; the left wing, Major-General
H. W. Slocum commanding, composed of the Fourteenth and Twentieth
2. The habitual order of march will be, wherever practicable, by
four roads, as nearly 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.
3. 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 corps commander should change this order of
march, by having his advance and rear brigades 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.
4. 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 days' provisions for his command, and three
days' forage. Soldiers must not enter the dwellings of the
inhabitants, or commit any trespass; but, during a halt or camp,
they may be permitted to gather turnips, potatoes, and other
vegetables, and to drive in stock in sight of their camp. To
regular foraging-parties must be intrusted the gathering of
provisions and forage, at any distance from the road traveled.
6. To corps commanders alone is intrusted the power to destroy
mills, houses, cotton-gins, etc.; and for them this general
principle is laid down:
In districts and neighborhoods where the army is unmolested, no
destruction of each 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
6. As for horses, mules, wagons, etc., 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 and 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 brigades. 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,
7. Negroes who are able-bodied 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 those who bear arms.
8. 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, repair roads and
double them if possible, so that the columns will not be delayed
after reaching bad places. Also, army commanders should practise
the habit of giving the artillery and wagons the road, marching
their troops on one side, and instruct their troops to assist
wagons at steep hills or bad crossings of streams.
9. 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 their being properly protected at
By order of Major-General W. T. Sherman,
L. M. DAYTON, Aide-de-Camp.
The greatest possible attention had been given to the artillery and
wagon trains. The number of guns had been reduced to sixty-five,
or about one gun to each thousand men, and these were generally in
batteries of four guns each.
Each gun, caisson, and forges was drawn by four teams of horses.
We had in all about twenty-five hundred wagons, with teams of six
mules to each, and six hundred ambulances, with two horses to each.
The loads were made comparatively light, about twenty-five hundred
pounds net; each wagon carrying in addition the forage needed by
its own team: Each soldier carried on his person forty rounds of
ammunition, and in the wagons were enough cartridges to make up
about two hundred rounds per man, and in like manner two hundred
rounds of assorted ammunition were carried for each gun.
The wagon-trains were divided equally between the four corps, so
that each had about eight hundred wagons, and these usually on the
march occupied five miles or more of road. Each corps commander
managed his own train; and habitually the artillery and wagons had
the road, while the men, with the exception of the advance and rear
guards, pursued paths improvised by the aide of the wagons, unless
they were forced to use a bridge or causeway in common.
I reached Atlanta during the afternoon of the 14th, and found that
all preparations had been made-Colonel Beckwith, chief commissary,
reporting one million two hundred thousand rations in possession of
the troops, which was about twenty days' supply, and he had on hand
a good supply of beef-cattle to be driven along on the hoof. Of
forage, the supply was limited, being of oats and corn enough for
five days, but I knew that within that time we would reach a
country well stocked with corn, which had been gathered and stored
in cribs, seemingly for our use, by Governor Brown's militia.
Colonel Poe, United States Engineers, of my staff, had been busy in
his special task of destruction. He had a large force at work, had
leveled the great depot, round house, and the machine-shops of the
Georgia Railroad, and had applied fire to the wreck. One of these
machine-shops had been used by the rebels as an arsenal, and in it
were stored piles of shot and shell, some of which proved to be
loaded, and that night was made hideous by the bursting of shells,
whose fragments came uncomfortably, near Judge Lyon's house, in
which I was quartered. The fire also reached the block of stores
near the depot, and the heart of the city was in flames all night,
but the fire did not reach the parts of Atlanta where the court-
house was, or the great mass of dwelling houses.
The march from Atlanta began on the morning of November 15th, the
right wing and cavalry following the railroad southeast toward
Jonesboro', and General Slocum with the Twentieth Corps leading off
to the east by Decatur and Stone Mountain, toward Madison. These
were divergent lines, designed to threaten both Mason and Augusta
at the same time, so as to prevent a concentration at our intended
destination, or "objective," Milledgeville, the capital of Georgia,
distant southeast about one hundred miles. The time allowed each
column for reaching Milledgeville was seven days. I remained in
Atlanta during the 15th with the Fourteenth Corps, and the rear-
guard of the right wing, to complete the loading of the trains, and
the destruction of the buildings of Atlanta which could be
converted to hostile uses, and on the morning of the 16th started
with my personal staff, a company of Alabama cavalry, commanded by
Lieutenant Snelling, and an infantry company, commanded by
Lieutenant McCrory, which guarded our small train of wagons.
My staff was then composed of Major L. M. Dayton, aide-de-camp and
acting adjutant-general, Major J. C. McCoy, and Major J. C.
Audenried, aides. Major Ward Nichols had joined some weeks before
at Gaylesville, Alabama, and was attached as an acting
aide-de-camp. Also Major Henry Hitchcock had joined at the same
time as judge-advocate. Colonel Charles Ewing was
inspector-general, and Surgeon John Moore medical director. These
constituted our mess. We had no tents, only the flies, with which
we nightly made bivouacs with the assistance of the abundant
pine-boughs, which made excellent shelter, as well as beds.
Colonel L. C. Easton was chief-quartermaster; Colonel Amos
Beckwith, chief-commissary; Colonel O. M. Poe, chief-engineer; and
Colonel T. G. Baylor, chief of ordnance. These invariably rode
with us during the day, but they had a separate camp and mess at
General William F. Barry had been chief of artillery in the
previous campaign, but at Kingston his face was so swollen with
erysipelas that he was reluctantly compelled to leave us for the
rear; and he could not, on recovering, rejoin us till we had
About 7 a.m. of November 16th we rode out of Atlanta by the Decatur
road, filled by the marching troops and wagons of the Fourteenth
Corps; and reaching the hill, just outside of the old rebel works,
we naturally paused to look back upon the scenes of our past
battles. We stood upon the very ground whereon was fought the
bloody battle of July 22d, and could see the copse of wood where
McPherson fell. Behind us lay Atlanta, smouldering and in ruins,
the black smoke rising high in air, and hanging like a pall over
the ruined city. Away off in the distance, on the McDonough road,
was the rear of Howard's column, the gun-barrels glistening in the
sun, the white-topped wagons stretching away to the south; and
right before us the Fourteenth Corps, marching steadily and
rapidly, with a cheery look and swinging pace, that made light of
the thousand miles that lay between us and Richmond. Some band, by
accident, struck up the anthem of "John Brown's soul goes marching
on;" the men caught up the strain, and never before or since have I
heard the chorus of "Glory, glory, hallelujah!" done with more
spirit, or in better harmony of time and place.
Then we turned our horses' heads to the east; Atlanta was soon lost
behind the screen of trees, and became a thing of the past. Around
it clings many a thought of desperate battle, of hope and fear,
that now seem like the memory of a dream; and I have never seen the
place since. The day was extremely beautiful, clear sunlight, with
bracing air, and an unusual feeling of exhilaration seemed to
pervade all minds--a feeling of something to come, vague and
undefined, still full of venture and intense interest. Even the
common soldiers caught the inspiration, and many a group called out
to me as I worked my way past them, "Uncle Billy, I guess Grant is
waiting for us at Richmond!" Indeed, the general sentiment was
that we were marching for Richmond, and that there we should end
the war, but how and when they seemed to care not; nor did they
measure the distance, or count the cost in life, or bother their
brains about the great rivers to be crossed, and the food required
for man and beast, that had to be gathered by the way. There was a
"devil-may-care" feeling pervading officers and men, that made me
feel the full load of responsibility, for success would be accepted
as a matter of course, whereas, should we fail, this "march" would
be adjudged the wild adventure of a crazy fool. I had no purpose
to march direct for Richmond by way of Augusta and Charlotte, but
always designed to reach the sea-coast first at Savannah or Port
Royal, South Carolina, and even kept in mind the alternative of
The first night out we camped by the road-side near Lithonia.
Stone Mountain, a mass of granite, was in plain view, cut out in
clear outline against the blue sky; the whole horizon was lurid
with the bonfires of rail-ties, and groups of men all night were
carrying the heated rails to the nearest trees, and bending them
around the trunks. Colonel Poe had provided tools for ripping up
the rails and twisting them when hot; but the best and easiest way
is the one I have described, of heating the middle of the
iron-rails on bonfires made of the cross-ties, and then winding
them around a telegraph-pole or the trunk of some convenient
sapling. I attached much importance to this destruction of the
railroad, gave it my own personal attention, and made reiterated
orders to others on the subject.
The next day we passed through the handsome town of Covington, the
soldiers closing up their ranks, the color-bearers unfurling their
flags, and the bands striking up patriotic airs. The white people
came out of their houses to behold the sight, spite of their deep
hatred of the invaders, and the negroes were simply frantic with
joy. Whenever they heard my name, they clustered about my horse,
shouted and prayed in their peculiar style, which had a natural
eloquence that would have moved a stone. I have witnessed
hundreds, if not thousands, of such scenes; and can now see a poor
girl, in the very ecstasy of the Methodist "shout," hugging the
banner of one of the regiments, and jumping up to the "feet of
I remember, when riding around by a by-street in Covington, to
avoid the crowd that followed the marching column, that some one
brought me an invitation to dine with a sister of Sam. Anderson,
who was a cadet at West Point with me; but the messenger reached me
after we had passed the main part of the town. I asked to be
excused, and rode on to a place designated for camp, at the
crossing of the Ulcofauhachee River, about four miles to the east
of the town. Here we made our bivouac, and I walked up to a
plantation-house close by, where were assembled many negroes, among
them an old, gray-haired man, of as fine a head as I ever saw. I
asked him if he understood about the war and its progress. He said
he did; that he had been looking for the "angel of the Lord" ever
since he was knee-high, and, though we professed to be fighting for
the Union, he supposed that slavery was the cause, and that our
success was to be his freedom. I asked him if all the negro slaves
comprehended this fact, and he said they surely did. I then
explained to him that we wanted the slaves to remain where they
were, and not to load us down with useless mouths, which would eat
up the food needed for our fighting men; that our success was their
assured freedom; that we could receive a few of their young, hearty
men as pioneers; but that, if they followed us in swarms of old and
young, feeble and helpless, it would simply load us down and
cripple us in our great task. I think Major Henry Hitchcock was
with me on that occasion, and made a note of the conversation, and
I believe that old man spread this message to the slaves, which was
carried from mouth to mouth, to the very end of our journey, and
that it in part saved us from the great danger we incurred of
swelling our numbers so that famine would have attended our
progress. It was at this very plantation that a soldier passed me
with a ham on his musket, a jug of sorghum-molasses under his arm,
and a big piece of honey in his hand, from which he was eating,
and, catching my eye, he remarked sotto voce and carelessly to a
comrade, "Forage liberally on the country," quoting from my general
orders. On this occasion, as on many others that fell under my
personal observation, I reproved the man, explained that foraging
must be limited to the regular parties properly detailed, and that
all provisions thus obtained must be delivered to the regular
commissaries, to be fairly distributed to the men who kept their
From Covington the Fourteenth Corps (Davis's), with which I was
traveling, turned to the right for Milledgeville, via Shady Dale.
General Slocum was ahead at Madison, with the Twentieth Corps,
having torn up the railroad as far as that place, and thence had
sent Geary's division on to the Oconee, to burn the bridges across
that stream, when this corps turned south by Eatonton, for
Milledgeville, the common "objective" for the first stage of the
"march." We found abundance of corn, molasses, meal, bacon, and
sweet-potatoes. We also took a good many cows and oxen, and a
large number of mules. In all these the country was quite rich,
never before having been visited by a hostile army; the recent crop
had been excellent, had been just gathered and laid by for the
winter. As a rule, we destroyed none, but kept our wagons full,
and fed our teams bountifully.
The skill and success of the men in collecting forage was one of
the features of this march. Each brigade commander had authority
to detail a company of foragers, usually about fifty men, with one
or two commissioned officers selected for their boldness and
enterprise. This party would be dispatched before daylight with a
knowledge of the intended day's march and camp; would proceed on
foot five or six miles from the route traveled by their brigade,
and then visit every plantation and farm within range. They would
usually procure a wagon or family carriage, load it with bacon,
corn-meal, turkeys, chickens, ducks, and every thing that could be
used as food or forage, and would then regain the main road,
usually in advance of their train. When this came up, they would
deliver to the brigade commissary the supplies thus gathered by the
way. Often would I pass these foraging-parties at the roadside,
waiting for their wagons to come up, and was amused at their
strange collections--mules, horses, even cattle, packed with old
saddles and loaded with hams, bacon, bags of cornmeal, and poultry
of every character and description. Although this foraging was
attended with great danger and hard work, there seemed to be a
charm about it that attracted the soldiers, and it was a privilege
to be detailed on such a party. Daily they returned mounted on all
sorts of beasts, which were at once taken from them and
appropriated to the general use; but the next day they would start
out again on foot, only to repeat the experience of the day before.
No doubt, many acts of pillage, robbery, and violence, were
committed by these parties of foragers, usually called "bummers;"
for I have since heard of jewelry taken from women, and the plunder
of articles that never reached the commissary; but these acts were
exceptional and incidental. I never heard of any cases of murder
or rape; and no army could have carried along sufficient food and
forage for a march of three hundred miles; so that foraging in some
shape was necessary. The country was sparsely settled, with no
magistrates or civil authorities who could respond to requisitions,
as is done in all the wars of Europe; so that this system of
foraging was simply indispensable to our success. By it our men
were well supplied with all the essentials of life and health,
while the wagons retained enough in case of unexpected delay, and
our animals were well fed. Indeed, when we reached Savannah, the
trains were pronounced by experts to be the finest in flesh and
appearance ever seen with any army.
Habitually each corps followed some main road, and the foragers,-
being kept out on the exposed flank, served all the military uses
of flankers. The main columns gathered, by the roads traveled,
much forage and food, chiefly meat, corn, and sweet-potatoes, and
it was the duty of each division and brigade quartermaster to fill
his wagons as fast as the contents were issued to the troops. The
wagon-trains had the right to the road always, but each wagon was
required to keep closed up, so as to leave no gaps in the column.
If for any purpose any wagon or group of wagons dropped out of
place, they had to wait for the rear. And this was always dreaded,
for each brigade commander wanted his train up at camp as soon
after reaching it with his men as possible.
I have seen much skill and industry displayed by these quarter-
masters on the march, in trying to load their wagons with corn and
fodder by the way without losing their place in column. They
would, while marching, shift the loads of wagons, so as to have six
or ten of them empty. Then, riding well ahead, they would secure
possession of certain stacks of fodder near the road, or cribs of
corn, leave some men in charge, then open fences and a road back
for a couple of miles, return to their trains, divert the empty
wagons out of column, and conduct them rapidly to their forage,
load up and regain their place in column without losing distance.
On one occasion I remember to have seen ten or a dozen wagons thus
loaded with corn from two or three full cribs, almost without
halting. These cribs were built of logs, and roofed. The
train-guard, by a lever, had raised the whole side of the crib a
foot or two; the wagons drove close alongside, and the men in the
cribs, lying on their backs, kicked out a wagon-load of corn in the
time I have taken to describe it.
In a well-ordered and well-disciplined army, these things might be
deemed irregular, but I am convinced that the ingenuity of these
younger officers accomplished many things far better than I could
have ordered, and the marches were thus made, and the distances
were accomplished, in the most admirable way. Habitually we
started from camp at the earliest break of dawn, and usually
reached camp soon after noon. The marches varied from ten to
fifteen miles a day, though sometimes on extreme flanks it was
necessary to make as much as twenty, but the rate of travel was
regulated by the wagons; and, considering the nature of the roads,
fifteen miles per day was deemed the limit.
The pontoon-trains were in like manner distributed in about equal
proportions to the four corps, giving each a section of about nine
hundred feet. The pontoons were of the skeleton pattern, with
cotton-canvas covers, each boat, with its proportion of balks and
cheeses, constituting a load for one wagon. By uniting two such
sections together, we could make a bridge of eighteen hundred feet,
enough for any river we had to traverse; but habitually the leading
brigade would, out of the abundant timber, improvise a bridge
before the pontoon-train could come up, unless in the cases of
rivers of considerable magnitude, such as the Ocmulgee, Oconee,
Ogeechee, Savannah, etc.
On the 20th of November I was still with the Fourteenth Corps, near
Eatonton Factory, waiting to hear of the Twentieth Corps; and on
the 21st we camped near the house of a man named Mann; the next
day, about 4 p.m., General Davis had halted his head of column on a
wooded ridge, overlooking an extensive slope of cultivated country,
about ten miles short of Milledgeville, and was deploying his
troops for camp when I got up. There was a high, raw wind blowing,
and I asked him why he had chosen so cold and bleak a position. He
explained that he had accomplished his full distance for the day,
and had there an abundance of wood and water. He explained further
that his advance-guard was a mile or so ahead; so I rode on, asking
him to let his rear division, as it came up, move some distance
ahead into the depression or valley beyond. Riding on some
distance to the border of a plantation, I turned out of the main
road into a cluster of wild-plum bushes, that broke the force of
the cold November wind, dismounted, and instructed the staff to
pick out the place for our camp.
The afternoon was unusually raw and cold. My orderly was at hand
with his invariable saddle-bags, which contained a change of
under-clothing, my maps, a flask of whiskey, and bunch of cigars.
Taking a drink and lighting a cigar, I walked to a row of
negro-huts close by, entered one and found a soldier or two warming
themselves by a wood-fire. I took their place by the fire,
intending to wait there till our wagons had got up, and a camp made
for the night. I was talking to the old negro woman, when some one
came and explained to me that, if I would come farther down the
road, I could find a better place. So I started on foot, and found
on the main road a good double-hewed-log house, in one room of
which Colonel Poe, Dr. Moore, and others, had started a fire. I
sent back orders to the "plum-bushes" to bring our horses and
saddles up to this house, and an orderly to conduct our headquarter
wagons to the same place. In looking around the room, I saw a
small box, like a candle-box, marked "Howell Cobb," and, on
inquiring of a negro, found that we were at the plantation of
General Howell Cobb, of Georgia, one of the leading rebels of the
South, then a general in the Southern army, and who had been
Secretary of the United States Treasury in Mr. Buchanan's time. Of
course, we confiscated his property, and found it rich in corn,
beans, pea-nuts, and sorghum-molasses. Extensive fields were all
round the house; I sent word back to General David to explain whose
plantation it was, and instructed him to spare nothing. That night
huge bonfires consumed the fence-rails, kept our soldiers warm, and
the teamsters and men, as well as the slaves, carried off an
immense quantity of corn and provisions of all sorts.
In due season the headquarter wagons came up, and we got supper.
After supper I sat on a chair astride, with my back to a good fire,
musing, and became conscious that an old negro, with a tallow-
candle in his hand, was scanning my face closely. I inquired,
"What do you want, old man!" He answered, "Dey say you is Massa
Sherman." I answered that such was the case, and inquired what he
wanted. He only wanted to look at me, and kept muttering, "Dis
nigger can't sleep dis night." I asked him why he trembled so, and
he said that he wanted to be sure that we were in fact "Yankees,"
for on a former occasion some rebel cavalry had put on light-blue
overcoats, personating Yankee troops, and many of the negroes were
deceived thereby, himself among the number had shown them sympathy,
and had in consequence been unmercifully beaten therefor. This
time he wanted to be certain before committing himself; so I told
him to go out on the porch, from which he could see the whole
horizon lit up with camp-fires, and he could then judge whether he
had ever seen any thing like it before. The old man became
convinced that the "Yankees" had come at last, about whom he had
been dreaming all his life; and some of the staff officers gave him
a strong drink of whiskey, which set his tongue going. Lieutenant
Spelling, who commanded my escort, was a Georgian, and recognized
in this old negro a favorite slave of his uncle, who resided about
six miles off; but the old slave did not at first recognize his
young master in our uniform. One of my staff-officers asked him
what had become of his young master, George. He did not know, only
that he had gone off to the war, and he supposed him killed, as a
matter of course. His attention was then drawn to Spelling's face,
when he fell on his knees and thanked God that he had found his
young master alive and along with the Yankees. Spelling inquired
all about his uncle and the family, asked my permission to go and
pay his uncle a visit, which I granted, of course, and the next
morning he described to me his visit. The uncle was not cordial,
by any means, to find his nephew in the ranks of the host that was
desolating the land, and Spelling came back, having exchanged his
tired horse for a fresher one out of his uncle's stables,
explaining that surely some of the "bummers" would have got the
horse had he not.
The next morning, November 23d, we rode into Milledgeville, the
capital of the State, whither the Twentieth Corps had preceded us;
and during that day the left wing was all united, in and around
Milledgeville. From the inhabitants we learned that some of
Kilpatrick's cavalry had preceded us by a couple of days, and that
all of the right wing was at and near Gordon, twelve miles off,
viz., the place where the branch railroad came to Milledgeville
from the Mason & Savannah road. The first stage of the journey
was, therefore, complete, and absolutely successful.
General Howard soon reported by letter the operations of his right
wing, which, on leaving Atlanta, had substantially followed the two
roads toward Mason, by Jonesboro' and McDonough, and reached the
Ocmulgee at Planters' Factory, which they crossed, by the aid of
the pontoon-train, during the 18th and 19th of November. Thence,
with the Seventeenth Corps (General Blair's) he (General Howard)
had marched via Monticello toward Gordon, having dispatched
Kilpatrick's cavalry, supported by the Fifteenth Corps
(Osterhaus's), to feign on Mason. Kilpatrick met the enemy's
cavalry about four miles out of Mason, and drove them rapidly back
into the bridge-defenses held by infantry. Kilpatrick charged
these, got inside the parapet, but could not hold it, and retired
to his infantry supports, near Griswold Station. The Fifteenth
Corps tore up the railroad-track eastward from Griswold, leaving