Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant

The organization for supplying the army was very complete. Each
brigade furnished a company to gather supplies of forage and
provisions for the command to which they belonged. Strict
injunctions were issued against pillaging, or otherwise
unnecessarily annoying the people; but everything in shape of
food for man and forage for beast was taken. The supplies were
turned over to the brigade commissary and quartermaster, and
were issued by them to their respective commands precisely the
same as if they had been purchased. The captures consisted
largely of cattle, sheep, poultry, some bacon, cornmeal, often
molasses, and occasionally coffee or other small rations.

The skill of these men, called by themselves and the army
“bummers,” in collecting their loads and getting back to their
respective commands, was marvellous. When they started out in
the morning, they were always on foot; but scarcely one of them
returned in the evening without being mounted on a horse or
mule. These would be turned in for the general use of the army,
and the next day these men would start out afoot and return
again in the evening mounted.

Many of the exploits of these men would fall under the head of
romance; indeed, I am afraid that in telling some of their
experiences, the romance got the better of the truth upon which
the story was founded, and that, in the way many of these
anecdotes are told, very little of the foundation is left. I
suspect that most of them consist chiefly of the fiction added
to make the stories better. In one instance it was reported
that a few men of Sherman’s army passed a house where they
discovered some chickens under the dwelling. They immediately
proceeded to capture them, to add to the army’s supplies. The
lady of the house, who happened to be at home, made piteous
appeals to have these spared, saying they were a few she had put
away to save by permission of other parties who had preceded and
who had taken all the others that she had. The soldiers seemed
moved at her appeal; but looking at the chickens again they were
tempted and one of them replied: “The rebellion must be
suppressed if it takes the last chicken in the Confederacy,” and
proceeded to appropriate the last one.

Another anecdote characteristic of these times has been told.
The South, prior to the rebellion, kept bloodhounds to pursue
runaway slaves who took refuge in the neighboring swamps, and
also to hunt convicts. Orders were issued to kill all these
animals as they were met with. On one occasion a soldier picked
up a poodle, the favorite pet of its mistress, and was carrying
it off to execution when the lady made a strong appeal to him to
spare it. The soldier replied, “Madam, our orders are to kill
every bloodhound.” “But this is not a bloodhound,” said the
lady. “Well, madam, we cannot tell what it will grow into if we
leave it behind,” said the soldier as he went off with it.

Notwithstanding these anecdotes, and the necessary hardship they
would seem to imply, I do not believe there was much
unwarrantable pillaging considering that we were in the enemy’s
territory and without any supplies except such as the country
afforded.

On the 23d Sherman, with the left wing, reached Milledgeville.
The right wing was not far off: but proceeded on its way
towards Savannah destroying the road as it went. The troops at
Milledgeville remained over a day to destroy factories,
buildings used for military purposes, etc., before resuming its
march.

The governor, who had been almost defying Mr. Davis before this,
now fled precipitately, as did the legislature of the State and
all the State officers. The governor, Sherman says, was careful
to carry away even his garden vegetables, while he left the
archives of the State to fall into our hands. The only military
force that was opposed to Sherman’s forward march was the Georgia
militia, a division under the command of General G. W. Smith, and
a battalion under Harry Wayne. Neither the quality of the forces
nor their numbers was sufficient to even retard the progress of
Sherman’s army.

The people at the South became so frantic at this time at the
successful invasion of Georgia that they took the cadets from
the military college and added them to the ranks of the
militia. They even liberated the State convicts under promise
from them that they would serve in the army. I have but little
doubt that the worst acts that were attributed to Sherman’s army
were committed by these convicts, and by other Southern people
who ought to have been under sentence such people as could be
found in every community, North and South who took advantage of
their country being invaded to commit crime. They were in but
little danger of detection, or of arrest even if detected.

The Southern papers in commenting upon Sherman’s movements
pictured him as in the most deplorable condition: stating that
his men were starving, that they were demoralized and wandering
about almost without object, aiming only to reach the sea coast
and get under the protection of our navy. These papers got to
the North and had more or less effect upon the minds of the
people, causing much distress to all loyal persons particularly
to those who had husbands, sons or brothers with Sherman. Mr.
Lincoln seeing these accounts, had a letter written asking me if
I could give him anything that he could say to the loyal people
that would comfort them. I told him there was not the slightest
occasion for alarm; that with 60,000 such men as Sherman had with
him, such a commanding officer as he was could not be cut off in
the open country. He might possibly be prevented from reaching
the point he had started out to reach, but he would get through
somewhere and would finally get to his chosen destination: and
even if worst came to worst he could return North. I heard
afterwards of Mr. Lincoln’s saying, to those who would inquire
of him as to what he thought about the safety of Sherman’s army,
that Sherman was all right: “Grant says they are safe with such
a general, and that if they cannot get out where they want to,
they can crawl back by the hole they went in at.”

While at Milledgeville the soldiers met at the State House,
organized a legislature, and proceeded to business precisely as
if they were the legislative body belonging to the State of
Georgia. The debates were exciting, and were upon the subject of
the situation the South was in at that time, particularly the
State of Georgia. They went so far as to repeal, after a
spirited and acrimonious debate, the ordinance of secession.

The next day (24th) Sherman continued his march, going by the
way of Waynesboro and Louisville, Millen being the next
objective and where the two columns (the right and left wings)
were to meet. The left wing moved to the left of the direct
road, and the cavalry still farther off so as to make it look as
though Augusta was the point they were aiming for. They moved on
all the roads they could find leading in that direction. The
cavalry was sent to make a rapid march in hope of surprising
Millen before the Union prisoners could be carried away; but
they failed in this.

The distance from Milledgeville to Millen was about one hundred
miles. At this point Wheeler, who had been ordered from
Tennessee, arrived and swelled the numbers and efficiency of the
troops confronting Sherman. Hardee, a native of Georgia, also
came, but brought no troops with him. It was intended that he
should raise as large an army as possible with which to
intercept Sherman’s march. He did succeed in raising some
troops, and with these and those under the command of Wheeler
and Wayne, had an army sufficient to cause some annoyance but no
great detention. Our cavalry and Wheeler’s had a pretty severe
engagement, in which Wheeler was driven towards Augusta, thus
giving the idea that Sherman was probably making for that point.

Millen was reached on the 3d of December, and the march was
resumed the following day for Savannah, the final objective.
Bragg had now been sent to Augusta with some troops. Wade
Hampton was there also trying to raise cavalry sufficient to
destroy Sherman’s army. If he ever raised a force it was too
late to do the work expected of it. Hardee’s whole force
probably numbered less than ten thousand men.

From Millen to Savannah the country is sandy and poor, and
affords but very little forage other than rice straw, which was
then growing. This answered a very good purpose as forage, and
the rice grain was an addition to the soldier’s rations. No
further resistance worthy of note was met with, until within a
few miles of Savannah. This place was found to be intrenched
and garrisoned. Sherman proceeded at once on his arrival to
invest the place, and found that the enemy had placed torpedoes
in the ground, which were to explode when stepped on by man or
beast. One of these exploded under an officer’s horse, blowing
the animal to pieces and tearing one of the legs of the officer
so badly that it had to be amputated. Sherman at once ordered
his prisoners to the front, moving them in a compact body in
advance, to either explode the torpedoes or dig them up. No
further explosion took place.

On the 10th of December the siege of Savannah commenced. Sherman
then, before proceeding any further with operations for the
capture of the place, started with some troops to open
communication with our fleet, which he expected to find in the
lower harbor or as near by as the forts of the enemy would
permit. In marching to the coast he encountered Fort McAllister,
which it was necessary to reduce before the supplies he might
find on shipboard could be made available. Fort McAllister was
soon captured by an assault made by General Hazen’s division.
Communication was then established with the fleet. The capture
of Savannah then only occupied a few days, and involved no great
loss of life. The garrison, however, as we shall see, was
enabled to escape by crossing the river and moving eastward.

When Sherman had opened communication with the fleet he found
there a steamer, which I had forwarded to him, carrying the
accumulated mails for his army, also supplies which I supposed
he would be in need of. General J. G. Foster, who commanded all
the troops south of North Carolina on the Atlantic sea-board,
visited General Sherman before he had opened communication with
the fleet, with the view of ascertaining what assistance he
could be to him. Foster returned immediately to his own
headquarters at Hilton Head, for the purpose of sending Sherman
siege guns, and also if he should find he had them to spare,
supplies of clothing, hard bread, etc., thinking that these
articles might not be found outside. The mail on the steamer
which I sent down, had been collected by Colonel A. H. Markland
of the Post Office Department, who went in charge of it. On
this same vessel I sent an officer of my staff (Lieutenant Dunn)
with the following letter to General Sherman:

CITY POINT, VA., Dec. 3, 1864.

MAJOR-GENERAL W. T. SHERMAN,
Commanding Armies near Savannah, Ga.

The little information gleaned from the Southern press,
indicating no great obstacle to your progress, I have directed
your mails (which had been previously collected at Baltimore by
Colonel Markland, Special Agent of the Post Office Department)
to be sent as far as the blockading squadron off Savannah, to be
forwarded to you as soon as heard from on the coast.

Not liking to rejoice before the victory is assured, I abstain
from congratulating you and those under your command, until
bottom has been struck. I have never had a fear, however, for
the result.

Since you left Atlanta, no very great progress has been made
here. The enemy has been closely watched though, and prevented
from detaching against you. I think not one man has gone from
here, except some twelve or fifteen hundred dismounted
cavalry. Bragg has gone from Wilmington. I am trying to take
advantage of his absence to get possession of that place. Owing
to some preparations Admiral Porter and General Butler are making
to blow up Fort Fisher (which, while hoping for the best, I do
not believe a particle in), there is a delay in getting this
expedition off. I hope they will be ready to start by the 7th,
and that Bragg will not have started back by that time.

In this letter I do not intend to give you anything like
directions for future action, but will state a general idea I
have, and will get your views after you have established
yourself on the sea-coast. With your veteran army I hope to get
control of the only two through routes from east to west
possessed by the enemy before the fall of Atlanta. The
condition will be filled by holding Savannah and Augusta, or by
holding any other port to the east of Savannah and
Branchville. If Wilmington falls, a force from there can
co-operate with you.

Thomas has got back into the defences of Nashville, with Hood
close upon him. Decatur has been abandoned, and so have all the
roads except the main one leading to Chattanooga. Part of this
falling back was undoubtedly necessary and all of it may have
been. It did not look so, however, to me. In my opinion,
Thomas far outnumbers Hood in infantry. In cavalry, Hood has
the advantage in morale and numbers. I hope yet that Hood will
be badly crippled if not destroyed. The general news you will
learn from the papers better than I could give it.

After all becomes quiet, and roads become so bad up here that
there is likely to be a week or two when nothing can be done, I
will run down the coast to see you. If you desire it, I will
ask Mrs. Sherman to go with me.

Yours truly,
U. S. GRANT,
Lieutenant-General

I quote this letter because it gives the reader a full knowledge
of the events of that period.

Sherman now (the 15th) returned to Savannah to complete its
investment and insure the surrender of the garrison. The
country about Savannah is low and marshy, and the city was well
intrenched from the river above to the river below; and assaults
could not be made except along a comparatively narrow causeway.
For this reason assaults must have resulted in serious
destruction of life to the Union troops, with the chance of
failing altogether. Sherman therefore decided upon a complete
investment of the place. When he believed this investment
completed, he summoned the garrison to surrender. General
Hardee, who was in command, replied in substance that the
condition of affairs was not such as Sherman had described. He
said he was in full communication with his department and was
receiving supplies constantly.

Hardee, however, was cut off entirely from all communication
with the west side of the river, and by the river itself to the
north and south. On the South Carolina side the country was all
rice fields, through which it would have been impossible to bring
supplies so that Hardee had no possible communication with the
outside world except by a dilapidated plank road starting from
the west bank of the river. Sherman, receiving this reply,
proceeded in person to a point on the coast, where General
Foster had troops stationed under General Hatch, for the purpose
of making arrangements with the latter officer to go through by
one of the numerous channels running inland along that part of
the coast of South Carolina, to the plank road which General
Hardee still possessed, and thus to cut him off from the last
means he had of getting supplies, if not of communication.

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