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Sherman's final campaigns

W. T. Sherman on Horseback.


Waiting for the march to the sea: Camp of the first Michigan engineers at Atlanta, autumn, 1864. After the capture of Atlanta, says Sherman, “all the army, officers and men, seemed to relax more or less and sink into a condition of idleness.” All but the engineers! For it was their task to construct the new lines of fortifications surveyed by General Poe so that the city could be held by a small force while troops were detached in pursuit of Hood. The railroad lines and bridges along the route by which the army had come had to be repaired so that the sick and wounded and prisoners could be sent back to Chattanooga and the army left free of encumbrances before undertaking the march to the sea. In the picture, their work practically done, the men of the First Michigan Engineers are idling about the old salient of the Confederate lines southeast of Atlanta near which their Camp was pitched. The organization was the best known and one of the most efficient of the Michigan regiments. It was composed almost entirely of mechanics and trained engineers and mustered eighteen hundred strong. The work of these men dotted the whole theater of war in the West. The bridges and trestles of their making, if combined, would have to be measured by the mile, and many of them were among the most wonderful feats of military engineering. The First Michigan Engineers could fight, too, for a detachment of them under Colonel Innes at Stone's River successfully defended the army trains from an attack by Wheeler's cavalry. The march to the sea could not have been made without these men.

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The last train waiting: three photographs, taken a few minutes apart, tells the story of Sherman's order evicting the inhabitants of Atlanta, September, 1864.

This series of three photographs, taken a few minutes apart, tells the story of Sherman's order evicting the inhabitants of Atlanta, September, 1864. A train of cars stands empty beside the railroad station. But in the second picture piles of household effects appear on some of the cars. This disordered embarkation takes little time; the wagon train advancing in the first picture has not yet passed the camera. By the time the shutter clicked for the third photograph, every car was heaped with household effects — bedding and pitiful packages of a dozen kinds. Unfortunate owners dangle their feet from the cars; others, white-bonnetted women in the group, cluster around their chairs and other belongings not yet shipped. The last train of refugees was ready to leave Atlanta. Sherman outlined very clearly his reasons for ordering the evacuation of the city by its inhabitants. He wrote on September 17, 1864: “I take the ground that Atlanta is a conquered place, and I propose to use it purely for our own military purposes, which are inconsistent with its habitation by the families of a brave people. I am shipping them all, and by next Wednesday the town will be a real military town, with no women boring me every order I give.”

Sherman's order evicting the inhabitants of Atlanta, September, 1864, picture 1: train of cars stands empty beside the railroad station.

Sherman's order evicting the inhabitants of Atlanta, September, 1864, picture 2: household effects appear on some of the same cars as in picture 1.

Sherman's order evicting the inhabitants of Atlanta, September, 1864, picture 3: the cars piled high with household goods — the last train of inhabitants ready to leave Atlanta.


The end of the railroad depot The crumpled wreck is hardly recognizable as the same spacious train-shed that sheltered such human activities as those pictured opposite, yet this is the Atlanta depot. But such destruction was far from the wanton outrage that it naturally seemed to those whose careers it rudely upset. As early as September, Sherman, with Atlanta on his hands, had deemed it essential for the prosecutions of his movements and the end of the war that the city should be turned into a military post. So he determined “to remove the entire civil population, and to deny to all civilians from the rear the expected profits of civil trade. This was to avoid the necessity of a heavy garrison to hold the position, and prevent the crippling of the armies in the fields as heretofore by ‘detachments’ to guard and protect the interests of a hostile population.” The railroad station, as the heart of the modern artery of business, was second in importance only to the buildings and institutions of the Confederate government itself, as a subject for elimination.

I only regarded the march from Atlanta to Savannah as a “shift of base,” as the transfer of a strong army, which had no opponent, and had finished its then work, from the interior to a point on the sea coast, from which it could achieve other important results. I considered this march as a means to an end, and not as an essential act of war. Still, then as now, the march to the sea was generally regarded as something extraordinary, something anomalous, something out of the usual order of events; whereas, in fact, I simply moved from Atlanta to Savannah, as one step in the direction of Richmond, a movement that had to be met and defeated, or the war was necessarily at an end. --General W. T. Sherman, in his Memoirs.

The march to the sea, in which General William T. Sherman won undying fame in the Civil War, is one of the greatest pageants in the world's warfare — as fearful in its destruction as it is historic in its import. But this was not Sherman's chief achievement; it was an easy task compared with the great campaign between Chattanooga and Atlanta through which he had just passed. “As a military accomplishment it was little more than a grand picnic,” declared one of his division commanders, in speaking of the march through Georgia and the Carolinas.

Almost immediately after the capture of Atlanta, Sherman, deciding to remain there for some time and to make it a Federal military center, ordered all the inhabitants to be removed. General Hood pronounced the act one of ingenious cruelty, transcending any that had ever before come to his notice in the dark history of the war. Sherman insisted that his act was one of kindness, and that Johnston and Hood themselves had done the same — removed families from their homes — in other places. The decision was fully carried out. [215]

The Atlanta bank before the march to the sea As this photograph was taken, the wagons stood in the street of Atlanta ready to accompany the Federals in their impending march to the sea. The most interesting thing is the bank building on the corner, completely destroyed, although around it stand the stores of merchants entirely untouched. Evidently there had been here faithful execution of Sherman's orders to his engineers — to destroy all buildings and property of a public nature, such as factories, foundries, railroad stations, and the like; but to protect as far as possible strictly private dwellings and enterprises. Those of a later generation who witnessed the growth of Atlanta within less than half a century after this photograph was taken, and saw tall office-buildings and streets humming with industry around the location in this photograph, will find in it an added fascination.


Many of the people of Atlanta chose to go southward, others to the north, the latter being transported free, by Sherman's order, as far as Chattanooga.

Shortly after the middle of September, Hood moved his army from Lovejoy's Station, just south of Atlanta, to the vicinity of Macon. Here Jefferson Davis visited the encampment, and on the 22d he made a speech to the homesick Army of Tennessee, which, reported in the Southern newspapers, disclosed to Sherman the new plans of the Confederate leaders. These involved nothing less than a fresh invasion of Tennessee, which, in the opinion of President Davis, would put Sherman in a predicament worse than that in which Napoleon found himself at Moscow. But, forewarned, the Federal leader prepared to thwart his antagonists. The line of the Western and Atlantic Railroad was more closely guarded. Divisions were sent to Rome and to Chattanooga. Thomas was ordered to Nashville, and Schofield to Knoxville. Recruits were hastened from the North to these points, in order that Sherman himself might not be weakened by the return of too many troops to these places.

Hood, in the hope of leading Sherman away from Atlanta, crossed the Chattahoochee on the 1st of October, destroyed the railroad above Marietta and sent General French against Allatoona. It was the brave defense of this place by General John M. Corse that brought forth Sherman's famous message, “Hold out; relief is coming,” sent by his signal officers from the heights of Kenesaw Mountain, and which thrilled the North and inspired its poets to eulogize Corse's bravery in verse. Corse had been ordered from Rome to Allatoona by signals from mountain to mountain, over the heads of the Confederate troops, who occupied the valley between. Reaching the mountain pass soon after midnight, on October 5th, Corse added his thousand men to the nine hundred already there, and soon after daylight the battle began. General French, in command of the Confederates, first [217]

“Tuning up” --a daily drill in the captured fort Here Sherman's men are seen at daily drill in Atlanta. This photograph has an interest beyond most war pictures, for it gives a clear idea of the soldierly bearing of the men that were to march to the sea. There was an easy carelessness in their appearance copied from their great commander, but they were never allowed to become slouchy. Sherman was the antithesis of a martinet, but he had, in the Atlanta campaign, molded his army into the “mobile machine” that he desired it to be, and he was anxious to keep the men up to this high pitch of efficiency for the performance of still greater deeds. No better disciplined army existed in the world at the time Sherman's “bummers” set out for the sea.

[218] summoned Corse to surrender, and, receiving a defiant answer, opened with his guns. Nearly all the day the fire was terrific from besieged and besiegers, and the losses on both sides were very heavy.

During the battle Sherman was on Kenesaw Mountain, eighteen miles away, from which he could see the cloud of smoke and hear the faint reverberation of the cannons' boom. When he learned by signal that Corse was there and in command, he said, “If Corse is there, he will hold out; I know the man.” And he did hold out, and saved the stores at Allatoona, at a loss of seven hundred of his men, he himself being among the wounded, while French lost more than a thousand.

General Hood continued to move northward to Resaca and Dalton, passing over the same ground on which the two great armies had fought during the spring and summer. He destroyed the railroads, burned the ties, and twisted the rails, leaving greater havoc, if possible, in a country that was already a wilderness of desolation. For some weeks Sherman followed Hood in the hope that a general engagement would result. But Hood had no intention to fight. He went on to the banks of the Tennessee opposite Florence, Alabama. His army was lightly equipped, and Sherman, with his heavily burdened troops, was unable to catch him. Sherman halted at Gaylesville and ordered Schofield, with the Twenty-third Corps, and Stanley, with the Fourth Corps, to Thomas at Nashville.

Sherman thereupon determined to return to Atlanta, leaving General Thomas to meet Hood's appearance in Tennessee. It was about this time that Sherman fully decided to march to the sea. Some time before this he had telegraphed to Grant: “Hood . . . can constantly break my roads. I would infinitely prefer to make a wreck of the road . . . send back all my wounded and worthless, and, with my effective army, move through Georgia, smashing things to the sea.” Grant thought it best for Sherman to destroy Hood's army [219]

Cutting loose from the base, November 12th “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,” writes Sherman. Meanwhile all detachments were marching rapidly to Atlanta with orders to break up the railroad en route and “generally to so damage the country as to make it untenable to the enemy.” This was a necessary war measure. Sherman, in a home letter written from Grand Gulf, Mississippi, May 6, 1863, stated clearly his views regarding the destruction of property. Speaking of the wanton havoc wrought on a fine plantation in the path of the army, he added: “It is done, of course, by the accursed stragglers who won't fight but hang behind and disgrace our cause and country. Dr. Bowie had fled, leaving everything on the approach of our troops. Of course, devastation marked the whole path of the army, and I know all the principal officers detest the infamous practice as much as I do. Of course, I expect and do take corn, bacon, ham, mules, and everything to support an army, and don't object much to the using of fences for firewood, but this universal burning and wanton destruction of private property is not justified in war.”

[220] first, but Sherman insisted that his plan would put him on the offensive rather than the defensive. He also believed that Hood would be forced to follow him. Grant was finally won to the view that if Hood moved on Tennessee, Thomas would be able to check him. He had, on the 11th of October, given permission for the march. Now, on the 2d of November, he telegraphed Sherman at Rome: “I do not really 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.” It was Sherman, and not Grant or Lincoln, that conceived the great march, and while the march itself was not seriously opposed or difficult to carry out, the conception and purpose were masterly.

Sherman moved his army by slow and easy stages back to Atlanta. He sent the vast army stores that had collected at Atlanta, which he could not take with him, as well as his sick and wounded, to Chattanooga, destroyed the railroad to that place, also the machine-shops at Rome and other places, and on November 12th, after receiving a final despatch from Thomas and answering simply, “Despatch received — all right,” the last telegraph line was severed, and Sherman had deliberately cut himself off from all communication with the Northern States. There is no incident like it in the annals of war. A strange event it was, as Sherman observes in his memoirs. “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.”

For the next two days all was astir in Atlanta. The great depot, round-house, and machine-shops were destroyed. Walls were battered down; chimneys pulled over; machinery smashed to pieces, and boilers punched full of holes. Heaps of rubbish covered the spots where these fine buildings had stood, and on the night of November 15th the vast debris was set on fire. The torch was also applied to many places in the business part of the city, in defiance of the strict orders of [221]

The bustle of departure from Atlanta

Ruins in Atlanta Sherman's men worked like beavers during their last few days in Atlanta. There was no time to be lost; the army was gotten under way with that precision which marked all Sherman's movements. In the upper picture, finishing touches are being put to the railroad, and in the lower is seen the short work that was made of such public buildings as might be of the slightest use in case the Confederates should recapture the town. As far back as Chattanooga, while plans for the Atlanta campaign were being formed, Sherman had been revolving a subsequent march to the sea in case he was successful. He had not then made up his mind whether it should be in the direction of Mobile or Savannah, but his Meridian campaign, in Mississippi, had convinced him that the march was entirely feasible, and gradually he worked out in his mind its masterly details. At seven in the morning on November 16th, Sherman rode out along the Decatur road, passed his marching troops, and near the spot where his beloved McPherson had fallen, paused for a last look at the city. “Behind us,” he says, “lay Atlanta, smouldering and in ruins, the black smoke rising high in air and hanging like a pall over the ruined city.” All about could be seen the glistening gun-barrels and white-topped wagons, “and the men marching steadily and rapidly with a cheery look and swinging pace.” Some regimental band struck up “John Brown,” and the thousands of voices of the vast army joined with a mighty chorus in song. A feeling of exhilaration pervaded the troops. This marching into the unknown held for them the allurement of adventure, as none but Sherman knew their destination. But as he worked his way past them on the road, many a group called out, “Uncle Billy, I guess Grant is waiting for us at Richmond.” The devil-may-care spirit of the troops brought to Sherman's mind grave thoughts of his own responsibility. He knew that success would be regarded as a matter of course, but should he fail the march would be set down as “the wild adventure of a crazy fool.” He had no intention of marching directly to Richmond, but from the first his objective was the seacoast, at Savannah or Port Royal, or even Pensacola, Florida.


Captain Poe, who had the work of destruction in charge. The court-house and a large part of the dwellings escaped the flames.

Preparations for the great march were made with extreme care. Defective wagons and horses were discarded; the number of heavy guns to be carried along was sixty-five, the remainder having been sent to Chattanooga. The marching army numbered about sixty thousand, five thousand of whom belonged to the cavalry and eighteen hundred to the artillery. The army was divided into two immense wings, the Right, the Army of the Tennessee, commanded by General O. O. Howard, and consisting of the Fifteenth and Seventeenth corps, and the Left, the Army of Georgia, by General Henry W. Slocum, composed the Fourteenth and Twentieth corps. Sherman himself was in supreme command. There were twenty-five hundred wagons, each drawn by six mules; six hundred ambulances, with two horses each, while the heavy guns, caissons, and forges were each drawn by eight horses. A twenty days supply of bread, forty of coffee, sugar, and salt was carried with the army, and a large herd of cattle was driven on foot.

In Sherman's general instructions it was provided that the army should march by four roads as nearly parallel as possible, except the cavalry, which remained under the direct control of the general commanding. The army was directed “to forage liberally on the country,” but, except along the roadside, this was to be done by organized foraging parties appointed by the brigade commanders. Orders were issued forbidding soldiers to enter private dwellings or to commit any trespass. The corps commanders were given the option of destroying mills, cotton-gins, and the like, and where the army was molested in its march by the burning of bridges, obstructing the roads, and so forth, the devastation should be made “more or less relentless, according to the measure of such hostility.” The cavalry and artillery and the foraging [223]

Sherman at Atlanta.

In Hood's hasty evacuation of Atlanta many of his guns were left behind. These 12-pounder Napoleon bronze field-pieces have been gathered by the Federals from the abandoned fortifications, which had been equipped entirely with field artillery, such as these. It was an extremely useful capture for Sherman's army, whose supply of artillery had been somewhat limited during the siege, and still further reduced by the necessity to fortify Atlanta. On the march to the sea Sherman took with him only sixty-five field-pieces. The Negro refugees in the lower picture recall an embarrassment of the march to the sea. “Negroes of all sizes” flocked in the army's path and stayed there, a picturesque procession, holding tightly to the skirts of the army which they believed had comeforthe sole purpose of setting them free. The cavalcade of Negroes soon became so numerous that Sherman became anxious for his army's sustenance, and finding an old gray-haired black at Covington, Sherman explained to him carefully that if the Negroes continued to swarm after the army it would fail in its purpose and they would not get their freedom. Sherman believed that the old man spread this news to the slaves along the line of march, and in part saved the army from being overwhelmed by the contrabands.

The guns that Sherman took along

Negroes flocking in the army's path

[224] parties were permitted to take horses, mules, and wagons from the inhabitants without limit, except that they were to discriminate in favor of the poor. It was a remarkable military undertaking, in which it was intended to remove restrictions only to a sufficient extent to meet the requirements of the march. The cavalry was commanded by General Judson Kilpatrick, who, after receiving a severe wound at Resaca, in May, had gone to his home on the banks of the Hudson, in New York, to recuperate, and, against the advice of his physician, had joined the army again at Atlanta.

On November 15th, most of the great army was started on its march, Sherman himself riding out from the city next morning. As he rode near the spot where General McPherson had fallen, he paused and looked back at the receding city with its smoking ruins, its blackened walls, and its lonely, tenantless houses. The vision of the desperate battles, of the hope and fear of the past few months, rose before him, as he tells us, “like the memory of a dream.” The day was as perfect as Nature ever gives. The men were hilarious. They sang and shouted and waved their banners in the autumn breeze. Most of them supposed they were going directly toward Richmond, nearly a thousand miles away. As Sherman rode past them they would call out, “Uncle Billy, I guess Grant is waiting for us at Richmond.” Only the commanders of the wings and Kilpatrick were entrusted with the secret of Sherman's intentions. But even Sherman was not fully decided as to his objective--Savannah, Georgia, or Port Royal, South Carolina--until well on the march.

There was one certainty, however — he was fully decided to keep the Confederates in suspense as to his intentions. To do this the more effectually he divided his army at the start, Howard leading his wing to Gordon by way of McDonough as if to threaten Macon, while Slocum proceeded to Covington and Madison, with Milledgeville as his goal. Both were secretly instructed to halt, seven days after starting, at Gordon [225]

The defense of Savannah.

The task of General Hardee in defending Savannah was one of peculiar difficulty. He had only eighteen thousand men, and he was uncertain where Sherman would strike. Some supposed that Sherman would move at once upon Charleston, but Hardee argued that the Union army would have to establish a new base of supplies on the seacoast before attempting to cross the numerous deep rivers and swamps of South Carolina. Hardee's task therefore was to hold Savannah just as long as possible, and then to withdraw northward to unite with the troops which General Bragg was assembling, and with the detachments scattered at this time over the Carolinas. In protecting his position around Savannah, Fort McAllister was of prime importance, since it commanded the Great Ogeechee River in such a way as to prevent the approach of the Federal fleet, Sherman's dependence for supplies. It was accordingly manned by a force of two hundred under command of Major G. W. Anderson, provided with fifty days rations for use in case the work became isolated. This contingency did not arrive. About noon of December 13th, Major Anderson's men saw troops in blue moving about in the woods. The number increased. The artillery on the land side of the Fort was turned upon them as they advanced from one position to another, and sharpshooters picked off some of their officers. At half-past 4 o'clock, however, the long-expected charge was made from three different directions, so that the defenders, too few in number to hold the whole line, were soon overpowered. Hardee now had to consider more narrowly the best time for withdrawing from the lines at Savannah.

The defender of Savannah: General Hardee.

Fort McAllister--the last barrier to the sea


From Savannah's roof-tops--1865: over the impassable marshes. No detailed maps, no written description, could show better than these clear and beautiful photographs the almost impregnable position of the city. For miles the higher ground on which it was possible to build lay on the south bank of the river. From only one direction, the westward, could Savannah be approached without difficult feats of engineering, and here the city was guarded along the lines of the Georgia Central Railroad by strong entrenchments, held by General Hardee's men. Sherman perceived that a frontal attack would not only be costly but effort thrown away, and determined that after he had taken Fort McAllister he would make a combination with the naval forces and invest the city from all sides. The march to the sea would not be completed until such a combination had been effected. On the evening of the 12th Sherman held consultation with General Howard and with General Hazen of the Fifteenth Corps. The latter received orders from Sherman in person to march down the right bank of the Ogeechee and to assault and carry Fort McAllister by storm. He was well informed as to the latter's defenses and knew that its heavier batteries pointed seaward, but that it was weak if attacked from the rear. General Hardee's brave little force of 10,000 were soon to hear the disheartening news that they were outflanked, that McAllister had fallen, and that Sherman and Admiral Dahlgren, in command of the fleet in Ossabaw Sound, were in communication. This was on the 13th of December, 1864, but it was not until nine days later that Sherman was able to send his historic despatch to President Lincoln that began with: “I beg to present you, as a Christmas gift, the City of Savannah.”

[227] [228] and Milledgeville, the latter the capital of Georgia, about a hundred miles to the southeast. These two towns were about fifteen miles apart.

General Hood and General Beauregard, who had come from the East to assist him, were in Tennessee, and it was some days after Sherman had left Atlanta that they heard of his movements. They realized that to follow him would now be futile. He was nearly three hundred miles away, and not only were the railroads destroyed, but a large part of the intervening country was utterly laid waste and incapable of supporting an army. The Confederates thereupon turned their attention to Thomas, who was also in Tennessee, and was the barrier between Hood and the Northern States.

General Sherman accompanied first one corps of his army and then another. The first few days he spent with Davis' corps of Slocum's wing. When they reached Covington, the negroes met the troops in great numbers, shouting and thanking the Lord that “deliverance” had come at last. As Sherman rode along the streets they would gather around his horse and exhibit every evidence of adoration.

The foraging parties consisted of companies of fifty men. Their route for the day in which they obtained supplies was usually parallel to that of the army, five or six miles from it. They would start out before daylight in the morning, many of them on foot; but when they rejoined the column in the evening they were no longer afoot. They were astride mules, horses, in family carriages, farm wagons, and mule carts, which they packed with hams, bacon, vegetables, chickens, ducks, and every imaginable product of a Southern farm that could be useful to an army.

In the general orders, Sherman had forbidden the soldiers to enter private houses; but the order was not strictly adhered to, as many Southern people have since testified. Sherman declares in his memoirs that these acts of pillage and violence were exceptional and incidental. On one occasion Sherman [229]

Defense of Savannah.

Savannah was better protected by nature from attack by land or water than any other city near the Atlantic seaboard. Stretching to the north, east, and southward lay swamps and morasses through which ran the river-approach of twelve miles to the town. Innumerable small creeks separated the marshes into islands over which it was out of the question for an army to march without first building roads and bridging miles of waterways. The Federal fleet had for months been on the blockade off the mouth of the river, and Savannah had been closed to blockade runners since the fall of Fort Pulaski in April, 1862. But obstructions and powerful batteries held the river, and Fort McAllister, ten miles to the south, on the Ogeechee, still held the city safe in its guardianship.

Waterfront at Savannah, 1865

Fort McAllister, that held the fleet at bay

[230] saw a man with a ham on his musket, a jug of molasses under his arm, and a big piece of honey in his hand. As the man saw that he was observed by the commander, he quoted audibly to a comrade, from the general order, “forage liberally on the country.” But the general reproved him and explained that foraging must be carried on only by regularly designated parties.

It is a part of military history that Sherman's sole purpose was to weaken the Confederacy by recognized means of honorable warfare; but it cannot be denied that there were a great many instances, unknown to him, undoubtedly, of cowardly hold-ups of the helpless inhabitants, or ransacking of private boxes and drawers in search of jewelry and other family treasure. This is one of the misfortunes of war--one of war's injustices. Such practices always exist even under the most rigid discipline in great armies, and the jubilation of this march was such that human nature asserted itself in the license of warfare more than on most other occasions. General Washington met with similar situations in the American Revolution. The practice is never confined to either army in warfare.

Opposed to Sherman were Wheeler's cavalry, and a large portion of the Georgia State troops which were turned over by General G. W. Smith to General Howell Cobb. Kilpatrick and his horsemen, proceeding toward Macon, were confronted by Wheeler and Cobb, but the Federal troopers drove them back into the town. However, they issued forth again, and on November 21st there was a sharp engagement with Kilpatrick at Griswoldville. The following day the Confederates were definitely checked and retreated.

The night of November 22d, Sherman spent in the home of General Cobb, who had been a member of the United States Congress and of Buchanan's Cabinet. Thousands of soldiers encamped that night on Cobb's plantation, using his fences for camp-fire fuel. By Sherman's order, everything on the [231]

Defense of Savannah.

Across these ditches at Fort McAllister, through entangling abatis, over palisading, the Federals had to fight every inch of their way against the Confederate garrison up to the very doors of their bomb-proofs, before the defenders yielded on December 13th. Sherman had at once perceived that the position could be carried only by a land assault. The Fort was strongly protected by ditches, palisades, and plentiful abatis; marshes and streams covered its flanks, but Sherman's troops knew that shoes and clothing and abundant rations were waiting for them just beyond it, and had any of them been asked if they could take the Fort their reply would have been in the words of the poem: “Ain't we simply got to take it?” Sherman selected for the honor of the assault General Hazen's second division of the Fifteenth Corps, the same which he himself had commanded at Shiloh and Vicksburg. Gaily the troops crossed the bridge on the morning of the 13th. Sherman was watching anxiously through his glass late in the afternoon when a Federal steamer came up the river and signaled the query: “Is Fort McAllister taken?” To which Sherman sent reply: “Not yet, but it will be in a minute.” At that instant Sherman saw Hazen's troops emerge from the woods before the fort, “the lines dressed as on parade, with colors flying.” Immediately dense clouds of smoke belching from the Fort enveloped the Federals. There was a pause; the smoke cleared away, and, says Sherman, “the parapets were blue with our men.” Fort McAllister was taken.

The fifteen minutes fight

Trenches at Fort McAllister.

[232] plantation movable or destructible was carried away next day, or destroyed. Such is the price of war.

By the next night both corps of the Left Wing were at Milledgeville, and on the 24th started for Sandersville. Howard's wing was at Gordon, and it left there on the day that Slocum moved from Milledgeville for Irwin's Crossroads. A hundred miles below Milledgeville was a place called Millen, and here were many Federal prisoners which Sherman greatly desired to release. With this in view he sent Kilpatrick toward Augusta to give the impression that the army was marching thither, lest the Confederates should remove the prisoners from Millen. Kilpatrick had reached Waynesboro when he learned that the prisoners had been taken away. Here he again encountered the Confederate cavalry under General Wheeler. A sharp fight ensued and Kilpatrick drove Wheeler through the town toward Augusta. As there was no further need of making a feint on Augusta, Kilpatrick turned back toward the Left Wing. Wheeler quickly followed and at Thomas' Station nearly surrounded him, but Kilpatrick cut his way out. Wheeler still pressed on and Kilpatrick chose a good position at Buck Head Creek, dismounted, and threw up breastworks. Wheeler attacked desperately, but was repulsed, and Kilpatrick, after being reenforced by a brigade from Davis' corps, joined the Left Wing at Louisville.

On the whole, the great march was but little disturbed by the Confederates. The Georgia militia, probably ten thousand in all, did what they could to defend their homes and their firesides; but their endeavors were futile against the vast hosts that were sweeping through the country. In the skirmishes that took place between Atlanta and the sea the militia was soon brushed aside. Even their destroying of bridges and supplies in front of the invading army checked its progress but for a moment, as it was prepared for every such emergency. Wheeler, with his cavalry, caused more trouble, and engaged Kilpatrick's attention a large part of the time. But even he [233]

A big gun at Fort McAllister Fort McAllister is at last in complete possession of the Federals, and a group of the men who had charged over these ramparts has arranged itself before the camera as if in the very act of firing the great gun that points seaward across the marshes, toward Ossabaw Sound. There is one very peculiar thing proved by this photograph — the gun itself is almost in a fixed position as regards range and sweep of fire. Instead of the elevating screw to raise or depress the muzzle, there has been substituted a block of wood wedged with a heavy spike, and the narrow pit in which the gun carriage is sunk admits of it being turned but a foot or so to right or left. It evidently controlled one critical point in the river, but could not have been used in lending any aid to the repelling of General Hazen's attack. The officer pointing with outstretched arm is indicating the very spot at which a shell fired from his gun would fall. The men in the trench are artillerymen of General Hazen's division of the Fifteenth Corps; their appearance in their fine uniforms, polished breastplates and buttons, proves that Sherman's men could not have presented the ragged appearance that they are often pictured as doing in the war-time sketches. That Army and Navy have come together is proved also by the figure of a marine from the fleet, who is standing at “Attention” just above the breach of the gun. Next, leaning on his saber, is a cavalryman, in short jacket and chin-strap.

[234] did not seriously retard the irresistible progress of the legions of the North.

The great army kept on its way by various routes, covering about fifteen miles a day, and leaving a swath of destruction, from forty to sixty miles wide, in its wake. Among the details attendant upon the march to the sea was that of scientifically destroying the railroads that traversed the region. Battalions of engineers had received special instruction in the art, together with the necessary implements to facilitate rapid work. But the infantry soon entered this service, too, and it was a common sight to see a thousand soldiers in blue standing beside a stretch of railway, and, when commanded, bend as one man and grasp the rail, and at a second command to raise in unison, which brought a thousand railroad ties up on end. Then the men fell upon them, ripping rail and tie apart, the rails to be heated to a white heat and bent in fantastic shapes about some convenient tree or other upright column, the ties being used as the fuel with which to make the fires. All public buildings that might have a military use were burned, together with a great number of private dwellings and barns, some by accident, others wantonly. This fertile and prosperous region, after the army had passed, was a scene of ruin and desolation.

As the army progressed, throngs of escaped slaves followed in its trail, “from the baby in arms to the old negro hobbling painfully along,” says General Howard, “negroes of all sizes, in all sorts of patched costumes, with carts and broken-down horses and mules to match.” Many of the old negroes found it impossible to keep pace with the army for many days, and having abandoned their homes and masters who could have cared for them, they were left to die of hunger and exposure in that naked land.

After the Ogeechee River was crossed, the character of the country was greatly changed from that of central Georgia. No longer were there fertile farms, laden with their Southern [235]

The spoils of victory: the troops that marched to the sea become day-laborers Here are the men that marched to the sea doing their turn as day-laborers, gleefully trundling their wheelbarrows, gathering up everything of value in Fort McAllister to swell the size of Sherman's “Christmas present.” Brigadier-General W. B. Hazen, after his men had successfully stormed the stubbornly defended fort, reported the capture of twenty-four pieces of ordnance, with their equipment, forty tons of ammunition, a month's supply of food for the garrison, and the small arms of the command. In the upper picture the army engineers are busily at work removing a great 48-pounder 8-inch Columbiad that had so long repelled the Federal fleet. There is always work enough and to spare for the engineers both before and after the capture of a fortified position. In the wheel-barrows is a harvest of shells and torpedoes. These deadly instruments of destruction had been relied upon by the Confederates to protect the land approach to Fort McAllister, which was much less strongly defensible on that side than at the waterfront. While Sherman's army was approaching Savannah one of his officers had his leg blown off by a torpedo buried in the road and stepped on by his horse. After that Sherman set a line of Confederate pr soners across the road to march ahead of the army, and no more torpedoes were found. After the capture of Fort McAllister the troops set to work gingerly scraping about wherever the ground seemed to have been disturbed, trying to find and remove the dangerous hidden menaces to life. At last the ground was rendered safe and the troops settled down to the occupation of Fort McAllister where the bravely fighting little Confederate garrison had held the key to Savannah. The city was the first to fall of the Confederacy's Atlantic seaports, now almost locked from the outside world by the blockade. By the capture of Fort McAllister, which crowned the march to the sea, Sherman had numbered the days of the war. The fall of the remaining ports was to follow in quick succession, and by Washington's Birthday, 1865, the entire coast-line was to be in possession of the Federals.

Sherman's troops dismantling Fort McAllister

[236] harvests of corn and vegetables, but rather rice plantations and great pine forests, the solemn stillness of which was broken by the tread of thousands of troops, the rumbling of wagon-trains, and by the shouts and music of the marching men and of the motley crowd of negroes that followed.

Day by day Sherman issued orders for the progress of the wings, but on December 2d they contained the decisive words, “Savannah.” What a tempting prize was this fine Southern city, and how the Northern commander would add to his laurels could he effect its capture! The memories clinging about the historic old town, with its beautiful parks and its magnolia-lined streets, are part of the inheritance of not only the South, but of all America. Here Oglethorpe had bartered with the wild men of the forest, and here, in the days of the Revolution, Count Pulaski and Sergeant Jasper had given up their lives in the cause of liberty.

Sherman had partially invested the city before the middle of December; but it was well fortified and he refrained from assault. General Hardee, sent by Hood from Tennessee, had command of the defenses, with about fifteen thousand men. And there was Fort McAllister on the Ogeechee, protecting the city on the south. But this obstruction to the Federals was soon removed. General Hazen's division of the Fifteenth Corps was sent to capture the fort. At five o'clock in the afternoon of the 13th Hazen's men rushed through a shower of grape, over abatis and hidden torpedoes, scaled the parapet and captured the garrison. That night Sherman boarded the Dandelion, a Union vessel, in the river, and sent a message to the outside world, the first since he had left Atlanta.

Henceforth there was communication between the army and the Federal squadron, under the command of Admiral Dahlgren. Among the vessels that came up the river there was one that was received with great enthusiasm by the soldiers. It brought mail, tons of it, for Sherman's army, the accumulation of two months. One can imagine the eagerness [237]

Capture of Savannnah.

With much foresight, General Hardee had not waited for Sherman's approach, but before the Federal forces could prevent, had marched out with his force with the intention of joining Johnston. There were in the neighborhood of some twenty thousand inhabitants in the city of Savannah when Sherman took possession, and the man who had made a Christmas present of their city to Lincoln had no easy task before him to preserve order and to meet the many claims made upon his time by the responsibilities of city government. But Sherman regarded the war as practically over and concluded that he would make it optional with the citizens and their families to remain in the city under a combination of military and civil government, or rejoin their friends in Augusta or the still unsurrendered but beleaguered town of Charleston. After consulting with Dr. Arnold, the Mayor, the City Council was assembled and authorized to take charge generally of the interests of those who remained. About two hundred of the families of men still fighting in the Confederate army were sent by steamer under a flag of truce to Charleston, but the great majority preferred to remain in Savannah. During the night before the Federal occupation, fires had broken out and a scene of chaos had resulted. There is no doubt that Sherman had destroyed vast amounts of Confederate stores, that he had torn up railway tracks and burned stations, and that his army had subsisted on what supplies it could gather from the country through which it had passed, but in the bitter feelings of the times, rumors scattered by word of mouth and repeated by newspapers as deliberate accusations had gone to the extreme in stating the behavior of his army. Yet, nevertheless, many Confederate officers still in the field confided their families to Sherman's keeping and left them in their city homes. Cotton was contraband and although the Confederates sought to destroy it, as was just and proper, at Savannah thirty-one bales of cotton became a prize to the army. The newspapers were not suppressed entirely and two were allowed to be published, although under the closest censorship. But as we look at the ruins of fine houses and desolated homes we begin to appreciate more fully Sherman's own solemn declaration that “War is Hell.”

Destruction that followed war

Ruins at Savannah, 1865

[238] with which these war-stained veterans opened the longed — for letters and sought the answer to the ever-recurring question, “How are things at home?”

Sherman had set his heart on capturing Savannah; but, on December 15th, he received a letter from Grant which greatly disturbed him. Grant ordered him to leave his artillery and cavalry, with infantry enough to support them, and with the remainder of his army to come by sea to Virginia and join the forces before Richmond. Sherman prepared to obey, but hoped that he would be able to capture the city before the transports would be ready to carry him northward.

He first called on Hardee to surrender the city, with a threat of bombardment. Hardee refused. Sherman hesitated to open with his guns because of the bloodshed it would occasion, and on December 21st he was greatly relieved to discover that Hardee had decided not to defend the city, that he had escaped with his army the night before, by the one road that was still open to him, which led across the Savannah River into the Carolinas. The stream had been spanned by an improvised pontoon bridge, consisting of river-boats, with planks from city wharves for flooring and with old car-wheels for anchors. Sherman immediately took possession of the city, and on December 22d he sent to President Lincoln this message: “I beg to present to you, as a Christmas gift, the city of Savannah, with one hundred and fifty heavy guns and plenty of ammunition, and also about twenty-five thousand bales of cotton.” As a matter of fact, over two hundred and fifty guns were captured, and thirty-one thousand bales of cotton. General Hardee retreated to Charleston.

Events in the West now changed Grant's views as to Sherman's joining him immediately in Virginia. On the 16th of December, General Thomas accomplished the defeat and utter rout of Hood's army at Nashville. In addition, it was found that, owing to lack of transports, it would take at least two months to transfer Sherman's whole army by sea. Therefore, [239]


Wagon-trains leaving Savannah. Here the wagon-trains of the victorious army are ready just outside of Savannah for the march northward. The troops, in high glee and splendid condition, again abundantly supplied with food and clothes, are impatient to be off. But a difficult country confronts them — a land of swollen streams and nearly tropical swamps like that in the lower photograph, picturesque enough, but “bad going” for teams. Near this the Fifteenth Corps passed on its way to Columbia. It is typical of the spongy ground over which the army must pass, building causeways and corduroying roads. Sherman himself rated this homeward march as a greater achievement than his much-sung “Atlanta to the sea.”

Homeward bound

Wagon-trains leaving Savannah.


The captured capital of South Carolina This striking photograph of Columbia will stir the memory of many a veteran. One recalls marching through the two small gates in the fence with his comrades. He points out the broken wagon wheels and old iron pipe in the foreground, and explains that they are the remains of dummy cannon which the Confederates had constructed and mounted there as Sherman's army approached. There were some real cannon in the town, however, and in a window of one of the houses one of these had been mounted and opened on the Federals, who had to bring up one of their own small guns before they could dislodge the men bravely defending Columbia.


Destruction at Columbia.

On the 16th of February Sherman was opposite Columbia. A few shells had been thrown into the city, but it was never under bombardment. But on the morning of the 17th the mayor had come out to surrender the city, and before the troops had entered a high wind was carrying about flakes of cotton that had in some manner become ignited. With the aid of an old fire-engine the soldiers endeavored to put out the conflagration, but much property was destroyed. In the afternoon the wind moderated and the fire was controlled.


Ruins of the unfinished courthouse at Columbia

The Congaree river bridge

The empty prison

The Presbyterian lecture-room

Hunt's house

Freight depot, South Carolina railroad

The catholic convent: as Columbia looked after Sherman's army passed, in 1865


Home of state surgeon-general Gibbs

The Lutheran church

Evans and Coggswell's printing shop

Deserted main street

The Methodist episcopal church, Washington street

The South Carolina railroad offices: what war brought to the capital of South Carolina

[244] it was decided that Sherman should march through the Carolinas, destroying the railroads in both States as he went. A little more than a month Sherman remained in Savannah. Then he began another great march, compared with which, as Sherman himself declared, the march to the sea was as child's play. The size of his army on leaving Savannah was practically the same as when he left Atlanta--sixty thousand. It was divided into two wings, under the same commanders, Howard and Slocum, and was to be governed by the same rules. Kilpatrick still commanded the cavalry. The march from Savannah averaged ten miles a day, which, in view of the conditions, was a very high average. The weather in the early part of the journey was exceedingly wet and the roads were well-nigh impassable. Where they were not actually under water the mud rendered them impassable until corduroyed. Moreover, the troops had to wade streams, to drag themselves through swamps and quagmires, and to remove great trees that had been felled across their pathway.

The city of Savannah was left under the control of General J. G. Foster, and the Left Wing of Sherman's army under Slocum moved up the Savannah River, accompanied by Kilpatrick, and crossed it at Sister's Ferry. The river was overflowing its banks and the crossing, by means of a pontoon bridge, was effected with the greatest difficulty. The Right Wing, under Howard, embarked for Beaufort, South Carolina, and moved thence to Pocotaligo, near the Broad River, whither Sherman had preceded it, and the great march northward was fairly begun by February 1, 1865.

Sherman had given out the word that he expected to go to Charleston or Augusta, his purpose being to deceive the Confederates, since he had made up his mind to march straight to Columbia, the capital of South Carolina.

The two wings of the army were soon united and they continued their great march from one end of the State of South Carolina to the other. The men felt less restraint in devastating [245]

The men who lived off the country — headquarters guard on the march through North Carolina These men have not been picked out by the photographer on account of their healthy and well-fed appearance; they are just average samples of what the units of Sherman's army looked like as they pressed on toward Fayetteville and the last battle in the Carolinas, Bentonville, where General Johnston made a brave stand before falling back upon Raleigh. The men of the march to the sea were champions in covering ground. The condition of the roads did not seem to stop them, nor the fact that they had to fight as they pressed on. During the forced march to Bentonville the right wing, under General Howard, marched twenty miles, almost without a halt, skirmishing most of the way.

[246] the country and despoiling the people than they had felt in Georgia. The reason for this, given by Sherman and others, was that there was a feeling of bitterness against South Carolina as against no other State. It was this State that had led the procession of seceding States and that had fired on Fort Sumter and brought on the great war. No doubt this feeling, which pervaded the army, will account in part for the reckless dealing with the inhabitants by the Federal soldiery. The superior officers, however, made a sincere effort to restrain lawlessness.

On February 17th, Sherman entered Columbia, the mayor having come out and surrendered the city. The Fifteenth Corps marched through the city and out on the Camden road, the remainder of the army not having come within two miles of the city. On that night Columbia was in flames. The conflagration spread and ere the coming of the morning the best part of the city had been laid in ashes.

Before Sherman left Columbia he destroyed the machine-shops and everything else which might aid the Confederacy. He left with the mayor one hundred stand of arms with which to keep order, and five hundred head of cattle for the destitute.

As Columbia was approached by the Federals, the occupation of Charleston by the Confederates became more and more untenable. In vain had the governor of South Carolina pleaded with President Davis to reenforce General Hardee, who occupied the city. Hardee thereupon evacuated the historic old city — much of which was burned, whether by design or accident is not known — and its defenses, including Fort Sumter, the bombardment of which, nearly four years before, had precipitated the mighty conflict, were occupied by Colonel Bennett, who came over from Morris Island.

On March 11th, Sherman reached Fayetteville, North Carolina, where he destroyed a fine arsenal. Hitherto, Sherman's march, except for the annoyance of Wheeler's cavalry, had been but slightly impeded by the Confederates. But [247]

Surrender of Johnston.

The Eighth Minnesota Regiment, which had joined Sherman on his second march, was with him when Johnston's surrender wrote “Finis” to the last chapter of the war, April 27, 1865. In Bennett's little farmhouse, near Durham's Station, N. C., were begun the negotiations between Johnston and Sherman which finally led to that event. The two generals met there on April 17th; it was a highly dramatic moment, for Sherman had in his pocket the cipher message just received telling of the assassination of Lincoln.

Color-guard of the eighth Minnesota--with Sherman when Johnston surrendered

The end of the march — Bennett's farmhouse

[248] henceforth this was changed. General Joseph E. Johnston, his old foe of Resaca and Kenesaw Mountain, had been recalled and was now in command of the troops in the Carolinas. No longer would the streams and the swamps furnish the only resistance to the progress of the Union army.

The first engagement came at Averysboro on March 16th. General Hardee, having taken a strong position, made a determined stand; but a division of Slocum's wing, aided by Kilpatrick, soon put him to flight, with the loss of several guns and over two hundred prisoners.

The battle of Bentonville, which took place three days after that of Averysboro, was more serious. Johnston had placed his whole army, probably thirty-five thousand men, in the form of a V, the sides embracing the village of Bentonville. Slocum engaged the Confederates while Howard was hurried to the scene. On two days, the 19th and 20th of March, Sherman's army fought its last battle in the Civil War. But Johnston, after making several attacks, resulting in considerable losses on both sides, withdrew his army during the night, and the Union army moved to Goldsboro. The losses at Bentonville were: Federal, 1,604; Confederate, 2,348.

At Goldsboro the Union army was reenforced by its junction with Schofield, who had come out of the West with over twenty-two thousand men from the army of Thomas in Tennessee. But there was little need of reenforcement. Sherman's third great march was practically over. As to the relative importance of the second and third, Sherman declares in his memoirs, he would place that from Atlanta to the sea at one, and that from Savannah through the Carolinas at ten.

Leaving his army in charge of Schofield, Sherman went to City Point, in Virginia, where he had a conference with General Grant and President Lincoln, and plans for the final campaign were definitely arranged. He returned to Goldsboro late in March, and, pursuing Johnston, received, finally, on April 26th the surrender of his army.

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