Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman

Text to Speech

enemy that Mr. Davis, the head of the rebellious faction in the

South, visited his army near Palmetto, and commanded it to regain

the place and also to ruin and destroy us, by a series of measures

which he thought would be effectual. That army, by a rapid march,

gained our railroad near Big Shanty, and afterward about Dalton.

We pursued it, but it moved so rapidly that we could not overtake

it, and General Hood led his army successfully far over toward

Mississippi, in hope to decoy us out of Georgia. But we were not

thus to be led away by him, and preferred to lead and control

events ourselves. Generals Thomas and Schofield, commanding the

departments to our rear, returned to their posts and prepared to

decoy General Hood into their meshes, while we came on to complete

the original journey. We quietly and deliberately destroyed

Atlanta, and all the railroads which the enemy had used to carry on

war against us, occupied his State capital, and then captured his

commercial capital, which had been so strongly fortified from the

sea as to defy approach from that quarter. Almost at the moment of

our victorious entry into Savannah came the welcome and expected

news that our comrades in Tennessee had also fulfilled nobly and

well their part, had decoyed General Hood to Nashville and then

turned on him, defeating his army thoroughly, capturing all his

artillery, great numbers of prisoners, and were still pursuing the

fragments down in Alabama. So complete success in military

operations, extending over half a continent, is an achievement that

entitles it to a place in the military history of the world. The

armies serving in Georgia and Tennessee, as well as the local

garrisons of Decatur, Bridgeport, Chattanooga, and Murfreesboro',

are alike entitled to the common honors, and each regiment may

inscribe on its colors, at pleasure, the word "Savannah" or

"Nashville." The general commanding embraces, in the same general

success, the operations of the cavalry under Generals Stoneman,

Burbridge, and Gillem, that penetrated into Southwest Virginia, and

paralyzed the efforts of the enemy to disturb the peace and safety

of East Tennessee. Instead of being put on the defensive, we have

at all points assumed the bold offensive, and have completely

thwarted the designs of the enemies of our country.

By order of Major-General W. T. Sherman,

L. M. DAYTON, Aide-de-Camp.

Here terminated the "March to the Sea," and I only add a few

letters, selected out of many, to illustrate the general feeling of

rejoicing throughout the country at the time. I only regarded the

march from Atlanta to Savannah as a "shift of base," as the

transfer of a strong army, which had no opponent, and had finished

its then work, from the interior to a point on the sea-coast, from

which it could achieve other important results. I considered this

march as a means to an end, and not as an essential act of war.

Still, then, as now, the march to the sea was generally regarded as

something extraordinary, something anomalous, something out of the

usual order of events; whereas, in fact, I simply moved from

Atlanta to Savannah, as one step in the direction of Richmond, a

movement that had to be met and defeated, or the war was

necessarily at an end.

Were I to express my measure of the relative importance of the

march to the sea, and of that from Savannah northward, I would

place the former at one, and the latter at ten, or the maximum.

I now close this long chapter by giving a tabular statement of the

losses during the march, and the number of prisoners captured. The

property captured consisted of horses and mules by the thousand,

and of quantities of subsistence stores that aggregate very large,

but may be measured with sufficient accuracy by assuming that

sixty-five thousand men obtained abundant food for about forty

days, and thirty-five thousand animals were fed for a like period,

so as to reach Savannah in splendid flesh and condition. I also

add a few of the more important letters that passed between

Generals Grant, Halleck, and myself, which illustrate our opinions

at that stage of the war:



Killed Wounded Missing Captured

Officers/Men Officers/Men Officers/Men Officers/Men

10 93 24 404 1 277 77 1,261


WASHINGTON, December 16, 1864

Major-General SHERMAN (via Hilton Head).

GENERAL: Lieutenant-General Grant informs me that, in his last

dispatch sent to you, he suggested the transfer of your infantry to

Richmond. He now wishes me to say that you will retain your entire

force, at least for the present, and, with such assistance as may

be given you by General Foster and Admiral Dahlgren, operate from

such base as you may establish on the coast. General Foster will

obey such instructions as may be given by you.

Should you have captured Savannah, it is thought that by

transferring the water-batteries to the land side that place may be

made a good depot and base of operations on Augusta, Branchville,

or Charleston. If Savannah should not be captured, or if captured

and not deemed suitable for this purpose, perhaps Beaufort would

serve as a depot. As the rebels have probably removed their most

valuable property from Augusta, perhaps Branchville would be the

most important point at which to strike in order to sever all

connection between Virginia and the Southwestern Railroad.

General Grant's wishes, however, are, that this whole matter of

your future actions should be entirely left to your discretion.

We can send you from here a number of complete batteries of field-

artillery, with or without horses, as you may desire; also, as soon

as General Thomas can spare them, all the fragments, convalescents,

and furloughed men of your army. It is reported that Thomas

defeated Hood yesterday, near Nashville, but we have no particulars

nor official reports, telegraphic communication being interrupted

by a heavy storm.

Our last advises from you was General Howard's note, announcing his

approach to Savannah. Yours truly,

H. W. HALLECK, Major-General, Chief-of-Staff.


WASHINGTON, December 18, 1864.

Major-General W. T. SHERMAN, Savannah (via Hilton Head).

My DEAR GENERAL: Yours of the 13th, by Major Anderson, is just

received. I congratulate you on your splendid success, and shall

very soon expect to hear of the crowning work of your campaign--the

capture of Savannah. Your march will stand out prominently as the

great one of this great war. When Savannah falls, then for another

wide swath through the centre of the Confederacy. But I will not

anticipate. General Grant is expected here this morning, and will

probably write you his own views.

I do not learn from your letter, or from Major Anderson, that you

are in want of any thing which we have not provided at Hilton Head.

Thinking it probable that you might want more field-artillery, I

had prepared several batteries, but the great difficulty of

foraging horses on the sea-coast will prevent our sending any

unless you actually need them. The hay-crop this year is short,

and the Quartermaster's Department has great difficulty in

procuring a supply for our animals.

General Thomas has defeated Hood, near Nashville, and it is hoped

that he will completely, crush his army. Breckenridge, at last

accounts, was trying to form a junction near Murfreesboro', but, as

Thomas is between them, Breckenridge must either retreat or be


General Rosecrans made very bad work of it in Missouri, allowing

Price with a small force to overrun the State and destroy millions

of property.

Orders have been issued for all officers and detachments having

three months or more to serve, to rejoin your army via Savannah.

Those having less than three months to serve, will be retained by

General Thomas.

Should you capture Charleston, I hope that by some accident the

place may be destroyed, and, if a little salt should be sown upon

its site, it may prevent the growth of future crops of

nullification and secession.

Yours truly,

H. W. HALLECK, Major-General, Chief-of-Staff.


WASHINGTON, December 18, 1864.

To Major-General W. T. SHERMAN, commanding Military Division of the


My DEAR GENERAL: I have just received and read, I need not tell you

with how mush gratification, your letter to General Halleck. I

congratulate you and the brave officers and men under your command

on the successful termination of your most brilliant campaign. I

never had a doubt of the result. When apprehensions for your

safety were expressed by the President, I assured him with the army

you had, and you in command of it, there was no danger but you

would strike bottom on salt-water some place; that I would not feel

the same security--in fact, would not have intrusted the expedition

to any other living commander.

It has been very hard work to get Thomas to attack Hood. I gave

him the most peremptory order, and had started to go there myself,

before he got off. He has done magnificently, however, since he

started. Up to last night, five thousand prisoners and forty-nine

pieces of captured artillery, besides many wagons and innumerable

small-arms, had been received in Nashville. This is exclusive of

the enemy's loss at Franklin, which amounted to thirteen general

officers killed, wounded, and captured. The enemy probably lost

five thousand men at Franklin, and ten thousand in the last three

days' operations. Breckenridge is said to be making for


I think he is in a most excellent place. Stoneman has nearly wiped

out John Morgan's old command, and five days ago entered Bristol.

I did think the best thing to do was to bring the greater part of

your army here, and wipe out Lee. The turn affairs now seem to be

taking has shaken me in that opinion. I doubt whether you may not

accomplish more toward that result where you are than if brought

here, especially as I am informed, since my arrival in the city,

that it would take about two months to get you here with all the

other calls there are for ocean transportation.

I want to get your views about what ought to be done, and what can

be done. If you capture the garrison of Savannah, it certainly

will compel Lee to detach from Richmond, or give us nearly the

whole South. My own opinion is that Lee is averse to going out of

Virginia, and if the cause of the South is lost he wants Richmond

to be the last place surrendered. If he has such views, it may be

well to indulge him until we get every thing else in our hands.

Congratulating you and the army again upon the splendid results of

your campaign, the like of which is not read of in past history, I

subscribe myself, more than ever, if possible, your friend,

U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.


CITY POINT, VIRGINIA, December 26, 1864.

Major-General W. T. SHERMAN, Savannah, Georgia.

GENERAL: Your very interesting letter of the 22d inst., brought by

Major Grey of General Foster's staff; is fast at hand. As the

major starts back at once, I can do no more at present than simply

acknowledge its receipt. The capture of Savannah, with all its

immense stores, must tell upon the people of the South. All well


Yours truly,

U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.


SAVANNAH, GEORGIA, December 24, 1864.

Lieutenant-General U. S. GRANT, City Point, Virginia.

GENERAL: Your letter of December 18th is just received. I feel

very much gratified at receiving the handsome commendation you pay

my army. I will, in general orders, convey to the officers and men

the substance of your note.

I am also pleased that you have modified your former orders, for I

feared that the transportation by sea would very much disturb the

unity and morale of my army, now so perfect.

The occupation of Savannah, which I have heretofore reported,

completes the first part of our game, and fulfills a great part of

your instructions; and we are now engaged in dismantling the rebel

forts which bear upon the sea-channels, and transferring the heavy

ordnance and ammunition to Fort Pulaski and Hilton Head, where they

can be more easily guarded than if left in the city.

The rebel inner lines are well adapted to our purpose, and with

slight modifications can be held by a comparatively small force;

and in about ten days I expect to be ready to sally forth again. I

feel no doubt whatever as to our future plans. I have thought them

over so long and well that they appear as clear as daylight. I

left Augusta untouched on purpose, because the enemy will be in

doubt as to my objective point, after we cross the Savannah River,

whether it be Augusta or Charleston, and will naturally divide his

forces. I will then move either on Branchville or Colombia, by any

curved line that gives us the best supplies, breaking up in our

course as much railroad as possible; then, ignoring Charleston and

Augusta both, I would occupy Columbia and Camden, pausing there

long enough to observe the effect. I would then strike for the

Charleston & Wilmington Railroad, somewhere between the Santee and

Cape Fear Rivers, and, if possible, communicate with the fleet

under Admiral Dahlgren (whom I find a most agreeable gentleman,

accommodating himself to our wishes and plans). Then I would favor

an attack on Wilmington, in the belief that Porter and Butler will

fail in their present undertaking. Charleston is now a mere

desolated wreck, and is hardly worth the time it would take to

starve it out. Still, I am aware that, historically and

politically, much importance is attached to the place, and it may

be that, apart from its military importance, both you and the

Administration may prefer I should give it more attention; and it

would be well for you to give me some general idea on that subject,

for otherwise I would treat it as I have expressed, as a point of

little importance, after all its railroads leading into the

interior have been destroyed or occupied by us. But, on the

hypothesis of ignoring Charleston and taking Wilmington, I would

then favor a movement direct on Raleigh. The game is then up with

Lee, unless he comes out of Richmond, avoids you and fights me; in

which case I should reckon on your being on his heels. Now that

Hood is used up by Thomas, I feel disposed to bring the matter to

an issue as quick as possible. I feel confident that I can break

up the whole railroad system of South Carolina and North Carolina,

and be on the Roanoke, either at Raleigh or Weldon, by the time

spring fairly opens; and, if you feel confident that you can whip

Lee outside of his intrenchments, I feel equally confident that I

can handle him in the open country.

One reason why I would ignore Charleston is this: that I believe

Hardee will reduce the garrison to a small force, with plenty of

provisions; I know that the neck back of Charleston can be made

impregnable to assault, and we will hardly have time for siege


I will have to leave in Savannah a garrison, and, if Thomas can

spare them, I would like to have all detachments, convalescents,

etc., belonging to these four corps, sent forward at once. I do

«- Previous | 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133 134 135 136 | View All | Next -»