Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman

Text to Speech

therefore resolved at once to proceed to the execution of my

original plan. Meantime, the damage done to our own railroad and

telegraph by Wheeler, about Resaca and Dalton, had been repaired,

and Wheeler himself was too far away to be of any service to his

own army, and where he could not do us much harm, viz., up about

the Hiawaesee. On the 24th I rode down to the Chattahoochee

bridge, to see in person that it could be properly defended by the

single corps proposed to be left there for that purpose, and found

that the rebel works, which had been built by Johnston to resist

us, could be easily utilized against themselves; and on returning

to my camp, at that same evening, I telegraphed to General

Halleck as follows:

Heavy fires in Atlanta all day, caused by our artillery. I will be

all ready, and will commence the movement around Atlanta by the

south, tomorrow night, and for some time you will hear little of

us. I will keep open a courier line back to the Chattahoochee

bridge, by way of Sandtown. The Twentieth Corps will hold the

railroad-bridge, and I will move with the balance of the army,

provisioned for twenty days.

Meantime General Dodge (commanding the Sixteenth Corps) had been

wounded in the forehead, had gone to the rear, and his two

divisions were distributed to the Fifteenth and Seventeenth Corps.

The real movement commenced on the 25th, at night. The Twentieth

Corps drew back and took post at the railroad-bridge, and the

Fourth Corps (Stanley) moved to his right rear, closing up with the

Fourteenth Corps (Jeff. C. Davis) near Utoy Creek; at the same time

Garrard's cavalry, leaving their horses out of sight, occupied the

vacant trenches, so that the enemy did not detect the change at

all. The next night (26th) the Fifteenth and Seventeenth Corps,

composing the Army of the Tennessee (Howard), drew out of their

trenches, made a wide circuit, and came up on the extreme right of

the Fourth and Fourteenth Corps of the Army of the Cumberland

(Thomas) along Utoy Creek, facing south. The enemy seemed to

suspect something that night, using his artillery pretty freely;

but I think he supposed we were going to retreat altogether. An

artillery-shot, fired at random, killed one man and wounded

another, and the next morning some of his infantry came out of

Atlanta and found our camps abandoned. It was afterward related

that there was great rejoicing in Atlanta "that the Yankees were

gone;" the fact was telegraphed all over the South, and several

trains of cars (with ladies) came up from Macon to assist in the

celebration of their grand victory.

On the 28th (making a general left-wheel, pivoting on Schofield)

both Thomas and Howard reached the West Point Railroad, extending

from East Point to Red-Oak Station and Fairburn, where we spent the

next day (29th) in breaking it up thoroughly. The track was heaved

up in sections the length of a regiment, then separated rail by

rail; bonfires were made of the ties and of fence-rails on which

the rails were heated, carried to trees or telegraph-poles, wrapped

around and left to cool. Such rails could not be used again; and,

to be still more certain, we filled up many deep cuts with trees,

brush, and earth, and commingled with them loaded shells, so

arranged that they would explode on an attempt to haul out the

bushes. The explosion of one such shell would have demoralized a

gang of negroes, and thus would have prevented even the attempt to

clear the road.

Meantime Schofield, with the Twenty-third Corps, presented a bold

front toward East Point, daring and inviting the enemy to sally out

to attack him in position. His first movement was on the 30th, to

Mount Gilead Church, then to Morrow's Mills, facing Rough and

Ready. Thomas was on his right, within easy support, moving by

cross-roads from Red Oak to the Fayetteville road, extending from

Couch's to Renfrew's; and Howard was aiming for Jonesboro.

I was with General Thomas that day, which was hot but otherwise

very pleasant. We stopped for a short noon-rest near a little

church (marked on our maps as Shoal-Creek Church), which stood back

about a hundred yards from the road, in a grove of native oaks.

The infantry column had halted in the road, stacked their arms, and

the men were scattered about--some lying in the shade of the trees,

and others were bringing corn-stalks from a large corn-field across

the road to feed our horses, while still others had arms full of

the roasting-ears, then in their prime. Hundreds of fires were

soon started with the fence-rails, and the men were busy roasting

the ears. Thomas and I were walking up and down the road which led

to the church, discussing the chances of the movement, which he

thought were extra-hazardous, and our path carried us by a fire at

which a soldier was roasting his corn. The fire was built

artistically; the man was stripping the ears of their husks,

standing them in front of his fire, watching them carefully, and

turning each ear little by little, so as to roast it nicely. He

was down on his knees intent on his business, paying little heed to

the stately and serious deliberations of his leaders. Thomas's

mind was running on the fact that we had cut loose from our base of

supplies, and that seventy thousand men were then dependent for

their food on the chance supplies of the country (already

impoverished by the requisitions of the enemy), and on the contents

of our wagons. Between Thomas and his men there existed a most

kindly relation, and he frequently talked with them in the most

familiar way. Pausing awhile, and watching the operations of this

man roasting his corn, he said, "What are you doing?" The man

looked up smilingly "Why, general, I am laying in a supply of

provisions." "That is right, my man, but don't waste your

provisions." As we resumed our walk, the man remarked, in a sort

of musing way, but loud enough for me to hear: "There he goes,

there goes the old man, economizing as usual." "Economizing" with

corn, which cost only the labor of gathering and roasting!

As we walked, we could hear General Howard's guns at intervals,

away off to our right front, but an ominous silence continued

toward our left, where I was expecting at each moment to hear the

sound of battle. That night we reached Renfrew's, and had reports

from left to right (from General Schofield, about Morrow's Mills,

to General Howard, within a couple of miles of Jonesboro). The

next morning (August 31st) all moved straight for the railroad.

Schofield reached it near Rough and Ready, and Thomas at two points

between there and Jonesboro. Howard found an intrenched foe

(Hardee's corps) covering Jonesboro, and his men began at once to

dig their accustomed rifle-pits. Orders were sent to Generals

Thomas and Schofield to turn straight for Jonesboro, tearing up the

railroad-track as they advanced. About 3.00 p.m. the enemy

sallied from Jonesboro against the Fifteenth corps, but was easily

repulsed, and driven back within his lines. All hands were kept

busy tearing up the railroad, and it was not until toward evening

of the 1st day of September that the Fourteenth Corps (Davis)

closed down on the north front of Jonesboro, connecting on his

right with Howard, and his left reaching the railroad, along which

General Stanley was moving, followed by Schofield. General Davis

formed his divisions in line about 4 p.m., swept forward over some

old cotton-fields in full view, and went over the rebel parapet

handsomely, capturing the whole of Govan's brigade, with two

field-batteries of ten guns. Being on the spot, I checked Davis's

movement, and ordered General Howard to send the two divisions of

the Seventeenth Corps (Blair) round by his right rear, to get below

Jonesboro, and to reach the railroad, so as to cut off retreat in

that direction. I also dispatched orders after orders to hurry

forward Stanley, so as to lap around Jonesboro on the east, hoping

thus to capture the whole of Hardee's corps. I sent first Captain

Audenried (aide-de-camp), then Colonel Poe, of the Engineers, and

lastly General Thomas himself (and that is the only time during the

campaign I can recall seeing General Thomas urge his horse into a

gallop). Night was approaching, and the country on the farther

side of the railroad was densely wooded. General Stanley had come

up on the left of Davis, and was deploying, though there could not

have been on his front more than a skirmish-line. Had he moved

straight on by the flank, or by a slight circuit to his left, he

would have inclosed the whole ground occupied by Hardee's corps,

and that corps could not have escaped us; but night came on, and

Hardee did escape.

Meantime General Slocum had reached his corps (the Twentieth),

stationed at the Chattahoochee bridge, had relieved General A. S.

Williams in command, and orders had been sent back to him to feel

forward occasionally toward Atlanta, to observe the effect when we

had reached the railroad. That night I was so restless and

impatient that I could not sleep, and about midnight there arose

toward Atlanta sounds of shells exploding, and other sound like

that of musketry. I walked to the house of a farmer close by my

bivouac, called him out to listen to the reverberations which came

from the direction of Atlanta (twenty miles to the north of us),

and inquired of him if he had resided there long. He said he had,

and that these sounds were just like those of a battle. An

interval of quiet then ensued, when again, about 4 a.m., arose

other similar explosions, but I still remained in doubt whether the

enemy was engaged in blowing up his own magazines, or whether

General Slocum had not felt forward, and become engaged in a real


The next morning General Hardee was gone, and we all pushed forward

along the railroad south, in close pursuit, till we ran up against

his lines at a point just above Lovejoy's Station. While bringing

forward troops and feeling the new position of our adversary,

rumors came from the rear that the enemy had evacuated Atlanta, and

that General Slocum was in the city. Later in the day I received a

note in Slocum's own handwriting, stating that he had heard during

the night the very sounds that I have referred to; that he had

moved rapidly up from the bridge about daylight, and had entered

Atlanta unopposed. His letter was dated inside the city, so there

was no doubt of the fact. General Thomas's bivouac was but a short

distance from mine, and, before giving notice to the army in

general orders, I sent one of my staff-officers to show him the

note. In a few minutes the officer returned, soon followed by

Thomas himself, who again examined the note, so as to be perfectly

certain that it was genuine. The news seemed to him too good to be

true. He snapped his fingers, whistled, and almost danced, and, as

the news spread to the army, the shouts that arose from our men,

the wild hallooing and glorious laughter, were to us a full

recompense for the labor and toils and hardships through which we

had passed in the previous three months.

A courier-line was at once organized, messages were sent back and

forth from our camp at Lovejoy's to Atlanta, and to our telegraph-

station at the Chattahoochee bridge. Of course, the glad tidings

flew on the wings of electricity to all parts of the North, where

the people had patiently awaited news of their husbands, sons, and

brothers, away down in "Dixie Land;" and congratulations came

pouring back full of good-will and patriotism. This victory was

most opportune; Mr. Lincoln himself told me afterward that even he

had previously felt in doubt, for the summer was fast passing away;

that General Grant seemed to be checkmated about Richmond and

Petersburg, and my army seemed to have run up against an impassable

barrier, when, suddenly and unexpectedly, came the news that

"Atlanta was ours, and fairly won." On this text many a fine

speech was made, but none more eloquent than that by Edward

Everett, in Boston. A presidential election then agitated the

North. Mr. Lincoln represented the national cause, and General

McClellan had accepted the nomination of the Democratic party,

whose platform was that the war was a failure, and that it was

better to allow the South to go free to establish a separate

government, whose corner-stone should be slavery. Success to our

arms at that instant was therefore a political necessity; and it

was all-important that something startling in our interest should

occur before the election in November. The brilliant success at

Atlanta filled that requirement, and made the election of Mr.

Lincoln certain. Among the many letters of congratulation

received, those of Mr. Lincoln and General Grant seem most



WASHINGTON, D.C. September 3, 1864.

The national thanks are rendered by the President to Major-General

W. T. Sherman and the gallant officers and soldiers of his command

before Atlanta, for the distinguished ability and perseverance

displayed in the campaign in Georgia, which, under Divine favor,

has resulted in the capture of Atlanta. The marches, battles,

sieges, and other military operations, that have signalized the

campaign, must render it famous in the annals of war, and have

entitled those who have participated therein to the applause and

thanks of the nation.


President of the United States

CITY POINT VIRGINIA, September 4, 1864-9 P.M.

Major-General SHERMAN:

I have just received your dispatch announcing the capture of

Atlanta. In honor of your great victory, I have ordered a salute

to be fired with shotted guns from every battery bearing upon the

enemy. The salute will be fired within an hour, amid great


U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.

These dispatches were communicated to the army in general orders,

and we all felt duly encouraged and elated by the praise of those

competent to bestow it.

The army still remained where the news of success had first found

us, viz., Lovejoy's; but, after due refection, I resolved not to

attempt at that time a further pursuit of Hood's army, but slowly

and deliberately to move back, occupy Atlanta, enjoy a short period

of rest, and to think well over the next step required in the

progress of events. Orders for this movement were made on the 5th

September, and three days were given for each army to reach the

place assigned it, viz.: the Army of the Cumberland in and about

Atlanta; the Army of the Tennessee at East Point; and the Army of

the Ohio at Decatur.

Personally I rode back to Jonesboro on the 6th, and there inspected

the rebel hospital, full of wounded officers and men left by Hardee

in his retreat. The next night we stopped at Rough and Ready, and

on the 8th of September we rode into Atlanta, then occupied by the

Twentieth Corps (General Slocum). In the Court-House Square was

encamped a brigade, embracing the Massachusetts Second and Thirty-

third Regiments, which had two of the finest bands of the army, and

their music was to us all a source of infinite pleasure during our

sojourn in that city. I took up my headquarters in the house of

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