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Chapter 20: the March to the sea — from Atlanta to Savannah. November and December, 1864.

On the 12th of November the railroad and telegraph communications with the rear were broken, and the army stood detached from all friends, dependent on its own resources and supplies. No time was to be lost; all the detachments were ordered to march rapidly for Atlanta, breaking up the railroad en route, and generally to so damage the country as to make it untenable to the enemy. By the 14th all the troops had arrived at or near Atlanta, and were, according to orders, grouped into two wings, the right and left, commanded respectively by Major-Generals O. O. Howard and H. W. Slocum, both comparatively young men, but educated and experienced officers, fully competent to their command.

The right wing was composed of the Fifteenth Corps, Major-General P. J. Osterhaus commanding, and the Seventeenth Corps, Major-General Frank P. Blair commanding.

The left wing was composed of the Fourteenth Corps, Major-General Jefferson C. Davis commanding, and the Twentieth Corps, Brigadier-General A. S. Williams commanding.

The Fifteenth Corps had four divisions, commanded by Brigadier-Generals Charles R. Woods, W. B. Hazen, John E. Smith, and John M. Corse.

The Seventeenth Corps had three divisions, commanded by [172] Major-General J. A. Mower, and Brigadier-Generals M. D. Leggett and Giles A. Smith.

The Fourteenth Corps had three divisions, commanded by Brigadier-Generals W. P. Carlin, James D. Morgan, and A. Baird.

The Twentieth Corps had also three divisions, commanded by Brigadier-Generals N. J. Jackson, John W. Geary, and W. T. Ward.

The cavalry division was held separate, subject to my own orders. It was commanded by Brigadier-General Judson Kilpatrick, and was composed of two brigades, commanded by Colonels Eli H. Murray, of Kentucky, and Smith D. Atkins, of Illinois.

The strength of the army, as officially reported, is given in the following tables, and shows an aggregate of fifty-five thousand three hundred and twenty-nine infantry, five thousand and sixty-three cavalry, and eighteen hundred and twelve artillery — in all, sixty-two thousand two hundred and four officers and men. (See table for December 1st.)

Recaptitulation — Atlana to Savannah

arm.November 10.December 1.December 20.

The most extraordinary efforts had been made to purge this army of non-combatants and of sick men, for we knew well that there was to be no place of safety save with the army itself; our wagons were loaded with ammunition, provisions, and forage, and we could ill afford to haul even sick men in the ambulances, so that all on this exhibit may be assumed to have been able-bodied, experienced soldiers, well armed, well equipped and provided, as far as human foresight could, with all the essentials of life, strength, and vigorous action. [173]

Effective Strength of the Army commanded by General W. T. Sherman during the March from Atlanta to Savannah, Georgia, 1864.

commands.November 10.December 1.December 20.
Commissioned Officers.Enlisted Men.Commissioned Officers.Enlisted Men.Commissioned Officers.Enlisted Men.Commissioned Officers.Enlisted Men.Commissioned Officers.Enlisted Men.Commissioned Officers.Enlisted Men.Commissioned Officers.Enlisted Men.Commissioned Officers.Enlisted Men.Commissioned Officers.Enlisted Men.
Fifteenth Army Corps72414,568  1137675015,144  1736275314,441  12367
Seventeenth Army Corps42010,667243526641811,3142301031843611,2932307278
Total--Right Wing1,14425,235243166421,16826,458230276801,18925,73423019645
Fourteenth Army Corps55612,397  1138862313,339  1144362113,170  11434
Twentieth Army Corps60212,862  2560763813,103  2252963112,910  24526
Total--Left Wing1,15825,259  369951,26126,442  339721,25226,080  35960
Kilpatrick's Cavalry  2444,672495  2514,780496  2014,351496
Grand Aggregate2,30250,4942464,715561,7322,42952,9002534,810641,7482,44151,8142034,381581,701


The two general orders made for this march appear to me, even at this late day, so clear, emphatic, and well-digested, that no account of that historic event is perfect without them, and I give them entire, even at the seeming appearance of repetition; and, though they called for great sacrifice and labor on the part of the officers and men, I insist that these orders were obeyed as well as any similar orders ever were, by an army operating wholly in an enemy's country, and dispersed, as we necessarily were, during the subsequent period of nearly six months.

[special field orders, no. 119.]

headquarters military division of the Mississippi, in the field, Kingston, Georgia, November 8, 1864.
The general commanding deems it proper at this time to inform the officers and men of the Fourteenth, Fifteenth, Seventeenth, and Twentieth Corps, that he has organized them into an army for a special purpose, well known to the War Department and to General Grant. It is sufficient for you to know that it involves a departure from our present base, and a long and difficult march to a new one. All the chances of war have been considered and provided for, as far as human sagacity can. All he asks of you is to maintain that discipline, patience, and courage, which have characterized you in the past; and he hopes, through you, to strike a blow at our enemy that will have a material effect in producing what we all so much desire, his complete overthrow. Of all things, the most important is, that the men, during marches and in camp, keep their places and do not scatter about as stragglers or foragers, to be picked up by a hostile people in detail. It is also of the utmost importance that our wagons should not be loaded with any thing but provisions and ammunition. All surplus servants, noncombatants, and refugees, should now go to the rear, and none should be encouraged to encumber us on the march. At some future time we will be able to provide for the poor whites and blacks who seek to escape the bondage under which they are now suffering. With these few simple cautions, he hopes to lead you to achievements equal in importance to those of the past.

By order of Major-General W. T. Sherman,

L. M. Dayton, Aide-de-Camp.

[special field orders, no. 120.]

headquarters military division of the Mississippi, in the field, Kingston, Georgia, November 9, 1864.
1. For the purpose of military operations, this army is divided into two wings viz.: [175]

The right wing, Major-General O. O. Howard commanding, composed of the Fifteenth and Seventeenth Corps; the left wing, Major-General H. W. Slocum commanding, composed of the Fourteenth and Twentieth Corps.

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,

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