Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman

Text to Speech

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

such hostility.

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

all times.

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

reached Savannah.

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,

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