Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman

Text to Speech

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.

Major-General SHERMAN:

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.

Major-General SHERMAN:

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.

Major-General SHERMAN:

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.




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

A. Smith.

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

vigorous action.

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.]



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.]



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

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