Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman

Text to Speech

carriages, and many on foot. Some of the citizens who remained

behind described this flight of the "brave and patriotic" Governor

Brown. He had occupied a public building known as the "Governor's

Mansion," and had hastily stripped it of carpets, curtains, and

furniture of all sorts, which were removed to a train of freight-

cars, which carried away these things--even the cabbages and

vegetables from his kitchen and cellar--leaving behind muskets,

ammunition, and the public archives. On arrival at Milledgeville I

occupied the same public mansion, and was soon overwhelmed with

appeals for protection. General Slocum had previously arrived with

the Twentieth Corps, had taken up his quarters at the Milledgeville

Hotel, established a good provost-guard, and excellent order was

maintained. The most frantic appeals had been made by the Governor

and Legislature for help from every quarter, and the people of the

State had been called out en masse to resist and destroy the

invaders of their homes and firesides. Even the prisoners and

convicts of the penitentiary were released on condition of serving

as soldiers, and the cadets were taken from their military college

for the same purpose. These constituted a small battalion, under

General Harry Wayne, a former officer of the United States Army,

and son of the then Justice Wayne of the Supreme Court. But these

hastily retreated east across the Oconee River, leaving us a good

bridge, which we promptly secured.

At Milledgeville we found newspapers from all the South, and

learned the consternation which had filled the Southern mind at our

temerity; many charging that we were actually fleeing for our lives

and seeking safety at the hands of our fleet on the sea-coast. All

demanded that we should be assailed, "front, flank, and rear;" that

provisions should be destroyed in advance, so that we would starve;

that bridges should be burned, roads obstructed, and no mercy shown

us. Judging from the tone of the Southern press of that day, the

outside world must have supposed us ruined and lost. I give a few

of these appeals as samples, which to-day must sound strange to the

parties who made them:

Corinth, Mississippi, November 18, 1884.

To the People of Georgia:

Arise for the defense of your native soil! Rally around your

patriotic Governor and gallant soldiers! Obstruct and destroy all

the roads in Sherman's front, flank, and rear, and his army will

soon starve in your midst. Be confident. Be resolute. Trust in an

overruling Providence, and success will soon crown your efforts. I

hasten to join you in the defense of your homes and firesides.


RICHMOND, November 18, 1884.

To the People of Georgia:

You have now the best opportunity ever yet presented to destroy the

enemy. Put every thing at the disposal of our generals; remove all

provisions from the path of the, invader, and put all obstructions

in his path.

Every citizen with his gun, and every negro with his spade and axe,

can do the work of a soldier. You can destroy the enemy by

retarding his march.

Georgians, be firm! Act promptly, and fear not!

B. H. Hill, Senator.

I most cordially approve the above.

James A. SEDDON, Secretary of War.

Richmond, November 19,1864.

To the People of Georgia:

We have had a special conference with President Davis and the

Secretary of War, and are able to assure you that they have done

and are still doing all that can be done to meet the emergency that

presses upon you. Let every man fly to arms! Remove your negroes,

horses, cattle, and provisions from Sherman's army, and burn what

you cannot carry. Burn all bridges, and block up the roads in his

route. Assail the invader in front, flank, and rear, by night and

by day. Let him have no rest.







Members of Congress.

Of course, we were rather amused than alarmed at these threats, and

made light of the feeble opposition offered to our progress. Some

of the officers (in the spirit of mischief) gathered together in

the vacant hall of Representatives, elected a Speaker, and

constituted themselves the Legislature of the State of Georgia! A

proposition was made to repeal the ordinance of secession, which

was well debated, and resulted in its repeal by a fair vote! I was

not present at these frolics, but heard of them at the time, and

enjoyed the joke.

Meantime orders were made for the total destruction of the arsenal

and its contents, and of such public buildings as could be easily

converted to hostile uses. But little or no damage was done to

private property, and General Slocum, with my approval, spared

several mills, and many thousands of bales of cotton, taking what

he knew to be worthless bonds, that the cotton should not be used

for the Confederacy. Meantime the right wing continued its

movement along the railroad toward Savannah, tearing up the track

and destroying its iron. At the Oconee was met a feeble resistance

from Harry Wayne's troops, but soon the pontoon-bridge was laid,

and that wing crossed over. Gilpatrick's cavalry was brought into

Milledgeville, and crossed the Oconee by the bridge near the town;

and on the 23d I made the general orders for the next stage of the

march as far as Millen. These were, substantially, for the right

wing to follow the Savannah Railroad, by roads on its south; the

left wing was to move to Sandersville, by Davisboro' and

Louisville, while the cavalry was ordered by a circuit to the

north, and to march rapidly for Millen, to rescue our prisoners of

war confined there. The distance was about a hundred miles.

General Wheeler, with his division of rebel cavalry, had succeeded

in getting ahead of us between Milledgeville and Augusta, and

General P. J. Hardee had been dispatched by General Beauregard from

Hood's army to oppose our progress directly in front. He had,

however, brought with him no troops, but relied on his influence

with the Georgians (of whose State he was a native) to arouse the

people, and with them to annihilate Sherman's army!

On the 24th we renewed the march, and I accompanied the Twentieth

Corps, which took the direct road to Sandersville, which we reached

simultaneously with the Fourteenth Corps, on the 26th. A brigade

of rebel cavalry was deployed before the town, and was driven in

and through it by our skirmishline. I myself saw the rebel cavalry

apply fire to stacks of fodder standing in the fields at

Sandersville, and gave orders to burn some unoccupied dwellings

close by. On entering the town, I told certain citizens (who would

be sure to spread the report) that, if the enemy attempted to carry

out their threat to burn their food, corn, and fodder, in our

route, I would most undoubtedly execute to the letter the general

orders of devastation made at the outset of the campaign. With

this exception, and one or two minor cases near Savannah, the

people did not destroy food, for they saw clearly that it would be

ruin to themselves.

At Sandersville I halted the left wing until I heard that the right

wing was abreast of us on the railroad. During the evening a negro

was brought to me, who had that day been to the station (Tenille),

about six miles south of the town. I inquired of him if there were

any Yankees there, and he answered, "Yes." He described in his own

way what he had seen.

"First, there come along some cavalry-men, and they burned the

depot; then come along some infantry-men, and they tore up the

track, and burned it;" and just before he left they had "sot fire

to the well."

The next morning, viz., the 27th, I rode down to the station, and

found General Corse's division (of the Fifteenth Corps) engaged in

destroying the railroad, and saw the well which my negro informant

had seen "burnt." It was a square pit about twenty-five feet deep,

boarded up, with wooden steps leading to the bottom, wherein was a

fine copper pump, to lift the water to a tank above. The soldiers

had broken up the pump, heaved in the steps and lining, and set

fire to the mass of lumber in the bottom of the well, which

corroborated the negro's description.

From this point Blair's corps, the Seventeenth, took up the work of

destroying the railroad, the Fifteenth Corps following another road

leading eastward, farther to the south of the railroad. While the

left wing was marching toward Louisville, north of the railroad,

General Kilpatrick had, with his cavalry division, moved rapidly

toward Waynesboro', on the branch railroad leading from Millen to

Augusta. He found Wheeler's division of rebel cavalry there, and

had considerable skirmishing with it; but, learning that our

prisoners had been removed two days before from Millen, he returned

to Louisville on the 29th, where he found the left wing. Here he

remained a couple of days to rest his horses, and, receiving orders

from me to engage Wheeler and give him all the fighting he wanted,

he procured from General Slocum the assistance of the infantry

division of General Baird, and moved back for Waynesboro' on the 2d

of December, the remainder of the left wing continuing its march on

toward Millers. Near Waynesboro' Wheeler was again encountered,

and driven through the town and beyond Brier Creek, toward Augusta,

thus keeping up the delusion that the main army was moving toward

Augusta. General Kilpatrick's fighting and movements about

Waynesboro' and Brier Creek were spirited, and produced a good

effect by relieving the infantry column and the wagon-trains of all

molestation during their march on Millen. Having thus covered that

flank, he turned south and followed the movement of the Fourteenth

Corps to Buckhead Church, north of Millen and near it.

On the 3d of December I entered Millen with the Seventeenth Corps

(General Frank P. Blair), and there paused one day, to communicate

with all parts of the army. General Howard was south of the

Ogeechee River, with the Fifteenth Corps, opposite Scarboro'.

General Slocum was at Buckhead Church, four miles north of Millen,

with the Twentieth Corps. The Fourteenth (General Davis) was at

Lumpkin's Station, on the Augusta road, about ten miles north of

Millen, and the cavalry division was within easy support of this

wing. Thus the whole army was in good position and in good

condition. We had largely subsisted on the country; our wagons

were full of forage and provisions; but, as we approached the

sea-coast, the country became more sandy and barren, and food

became more scarce; still, with little or no loss, we had traveled

two-thirds of our distance, and I concluded to push on for

Savannah. At Millen I learned that General Bragg was in Augusta,

and that General Wade Hampton had been ordered there from Richmond,

to organize a large cavalry force with which to resist our


General Hardee was ahead, between us and Savannah, with McLaw's

division, and other irregular troops, that could not, I felt

assured, exceed ten thousand men. I caused the fine depot at

Millen to be destroyed, and other damage done, and then resumed the

march directly on Savannah, by the four main roads. The Seventeenth

Corps (General Blair) followed substantially the railroad,

and, along with it, on the 5th of December, I reached Ogeechee

Church, about fifty miles from Savannah, and found there fresh

earthworks, which had been thrown up by McLaw's division; but he

must have seen that both his flanks were being turned, and

prudently retreated to Savannah without a fight. All the columns

then pursued leisurely their march toward Savannah, corn and forage

becoming more and more scarce, but rice-fields beginning to occur

along the Savannah and Ogeechee Rivers, which proved a good

substitute, both as food and forage. The weather was fine, the

roads good, and every thing seemed to favor us. Never do I recall

a more agreeable sensation than the sight of our camps by night,

lit up by the fires of fragrant pine-knots. The trains were all in

good order, and the men seemed to march their fifteen miles a day

as though it were nothing. No enemy opposed us, and we could only

occasionally hear the faint reverberation of a gun to our left

rear, where we knew that General Kilpatrick was skirmishing with

Wheeler's cavalry, which persistently followed him. But the

infantry columns had met with no opposition whatsoever. McLaw's

division was falling back before us, and we occasionally picked up

a few of his men as prisoners, who insisted that we would meet with

strong opposition at Savannah.

On the 8th, as I rode along, I found the column turned out of the

main road, marching through the fields. Close by, in the corner of

a fence, was a group of men standing around a handsome young

officer, whose foot had been blown to pieces by a torpedo planted

in the road. He was waiting for a surgeon to amputate his leg, and

told me that he was riding along with the rest of his brigade-staff

of the Seventeenth Corps, when a torpedo trodden on by his horse

had exploded, killing the horse and literally blowing off all the

flesh from one of his legs. I saw the terrible wound, and made

full inquiry into the facts. There had been no resistance at that

point, nothing to give warning of danger, and the rebels had

planted eight-inch shells in the road, with friction-matches to

explode them by being trodden on. This was not war, but murder,

and it made me very angry. I immediately ordered a lot of rebel

prisoners to be brought from the provost-guard, armed with picks

and spades, and made them march in close order along the road, so

as to explode their own torpedoes, or to discover and dig them up.

They begged hard, but I reiterated the order, and could hardly help

laughing at their stepping so gingerly along the road, where it was

supposed sunken torpedoes might explode at each step, but they

found no other torpedoes till near Fort McAllister. That night we

reached Pooler's Station, eight miles from Savannah, and during the

next two days, December 9th and 10th, the several corps reached the

defenses of Savannah--the Fourteenth Corps on the left, touching

the river; the Twentieth Corps next; then the Seventeenth; and the

Fifteenth on the extreme right; thus completely investing the city.

Wishing to reconnoitre the place in person, I rode forward by the

Louisville road, into a dense wood of oak, pine, and cypress, left

the horses, and walked down to the railroad-track, at a place where

there was a side-track, and a cut about four feet deep. From that

point the railroad was straight, leading into Savannah, and about

eight hundred yards off were a rebel parapet and battery. I could

see the cannoneers preparing to fire, and cautioned the officers

near me to scatter, as we would likely attract a shot. Very soon I

saw the white puff of smoke, and, watching close, caught sight of

the ball as it rose in its flight, and, finding it coming pretty

straight, I stepped a short distance to one side, but noticed a

negro very near me in the act of crossing the track at right

angles. Some one called to him to look out; but, before the poor

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