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
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