Chapter 40: return to Atlanta; the March to the sea; Battle of Griswoldville, ga.The Army of the Tennessee changed its camp from Gaylesville, Ala., to Cave Spring and Cedartown, Ga., making short marches. Every hostile soldier was so far away that our occupation of the country was peaceful. The inhabitants soon became acquainted with us, and our camps afforded good centers for trade. On account of insufficiency of time to graze we lost many of the poorer mules and some artillery horses; and, in fact, those losses distressed us till after passing Ship's Gap, north of the Etowah, when the forage wagons became empty and grass neither abundant nor nutritious. The weaker mules were detached and sent away in herds to Chattanooga. The best being retained were held in service. During our rqst at Gaylesville, Ala., pursuant to new directions from General Sherman, a redistribution of artillery was made, leaving but one battery to a division; then, by judicious exchanges, the good horses were attached to the retained batteries, and the remainder were hurried off toward our depot at Rome and Chattanooga. Cedartown, Ga., and all its bright neighborhood, rejoiced in a plentiful supply of grain. So our animals day by  day were gaining flesh and their strength, and, indeed, my army was surprisingly well supplied with provisions from the country during our return march, which was made by short stages for the very purpose of rest and refreshment after the 300 miles of severe additional campaigning. November 3d I encamped near Dallas. The 4th we were grouped near Lost Mountain, where it was easier to lose your way from the thick woods and crooked roads than to lose sight of the mountain. In fact, the mountain, unaccountably named “Lost,” enabled a wanderer to refind his pathway. The 5th brought the Army of the Tennessee back to Smyrna Camp Ground. There we remained until November 13th. General Sherman himself, as early as November 2d, had changed his headquarter belongings again to the little hamlet of Kingstown, Ga. From this point that same day was the significant dispatch to Grant: “If I turn back, the whole effect of my campaign will be lost.... I am clearly of the opinion that the best results will follow my contemplated movement through Georgia.” Grant's reply is: “Your dispatch of 9 A. M. yesterday just received. ... I do not see that you can withdraw from where you are to follow Hood without giving up all we have gained in the territory; I say, then, go on as you propose.” Our sick in increasing numbers before the campaign, but proportionately diminishing during Hood's raid, were brought together at Rome and Atlanta. While we rested, they were carefully removed to Chattanooga and Nashville; also surplus stores of every  kind that had accumulated at Atlanta were sent back as fast as possible. General Corse acted in Rome in this respect as did our Chief Quartermaster at Atlanta. Then, on November 10th, after he had demolished the storehouses, he evacuated Rome and commenced his march toward Atlanta. During November 12th the troops with me destroyed all the railroad from Big Shanty forward to the Chattahoochee River, burning the ties in heaps and twisting the rails. The stretch of railroad completely disabled was about twenty-two miles in extent. November 13, 1864, my army broke camp and proceeded from Smyrna Camp Ground to Atlanta. We chose a place for concentration at a railroad station south of the city, then called White Hall, situated about halfway to East Point. Corse arrived the evening of the 14th. John E. Smith's division, that had been guarding the railroad during the greater part of our Atlanta campaign, portions of which had been stationed at Resaca and Allatoona, concentrated at Cartersville, then marching on southward, also joined us the morning of the 14th. Thus again my own field command was gathered together. Of course, by breaking up our lines of communication the effective force was increased. Besides these additions, an encouraging number of sick recovered, and recruits brought from the North joined the different regiments, so that my effective troops were in the neighborhood of 33,000. My army did not witness the destruction of Atlanta. While Sherman, accompanied by Slocum, commanding the Army of Georgia, were taking their last glimpse of this great railroad center, now mostly in ashes, and pushing off toward Augusta, my command  was moving southward. We left White Hall November 15, 1864, and I made a feint toward Macon to deceive the enemy gathering in my front. Kilpatrick's cavalry, about 5,000 horsemen, had already reported to me, and were sent during the first of “The March to the sea” to clear my front and watch my right flank as we wandered southward. Till November 19th to all appearances we were sweeping on toward Macon; then first our infantry by a sudden turn to the left crossed to the east of Ocmulgee on pontoon bridges. The steep and muddy banks were bothersome. The cavalry followed close, and, as soon as over the river, again quickly turned down the first roads toward East Macon. The army, clambering up with difficulty the east bank of the river, made straight for a station on the Macon & Savannah Railroad called Gordon. Our trains, including Kilpatrick's, stretched out, would have been thirty-seven miles long. To get those wagons “parked” at Gordon without accident was our problem. Osterhaus, commanding our Fifteenth Corps (Logan being absent), was on the right. I was with him when he struck the Macon & Savannah Railroad early November 22d. Then, turning back a little from East Macon, I had him send General Charles R. Woods to watch out that way with his division and help Kilpatrick, for much Confederate force of infantry, cavalry, and artillery was reported as over the Ocmulgee in East Macon, which evidently proposed to attack something. They might, at least, catch our long, snaky trains and cut them asunder. General Woods faced back, and took up a strong position near a church; then he sent forward one brigade under Brigadier General C. C. Walcutt, with total present for duty  11,513 men, partly armed with Spencer repeating rifles. Walcutt also had two cannon. Just then, at the start, the Confederates were noisily driving before them a part of Kilpatrick's cavalry. Woods thereupon sent Walcutt that way past the station of Griswoldville. Our cavalry and infantry kept skirmishing in a lively manner, till Osterhaus naturally thought that Walcutt had gone far enough. He instructed Woods to draw him back to Duncan's farm, nearer to his supporting division. Here they found abundant trees and some convenient swamps, impassable except at a few points. Walcutt noisily chose the edge of a wood with open ground in front of him, throwing up the usual cover of rails and logs, while some of Kilpatrick's men guarded the more distant swamps. One thousand five hundred and thirteen Yankee men behind that barrier with two cannon to cover the approaches by using iron hail were more than equal to 10,000 opponents, however determined they might be. General Gustavus W. Smith was an assistant professor in engineering at West Point the last year of my cadet term (1853-4), and taught our class, instructing me how to recognize and take “a military position.” He, though at the time quite a young officer, had been twice brevetted for gallantry and merit in the Mexican War. He was a self-respecting, dignified man of marked ability. He had left the army, and was trying his skill in civil pursuits, holding just before the war the office of Street Commissioner in New York City, when the secession outburst took him south. Now he was said to be commanding the Confederates in my front in the neighborhood of Macon, November 15, 1864. The size of his command was: 
|Effective muskets (sent from Jonesboro）||1,900|
|Reserves of all kinds||1,200|
|Two batteries (a battalion, probably 200）||200|
|Actual fighting men with rifles and muskets.||3,700|
That this engagement was of a more severe character and our loss a little greater than I had at first supposed; but fortunately the enemy attacked us at the very point where we were prepared; though with a force one-third less than that of the enemy. The Confederates were so completely defeated that they troubled us no more in that quarter. During the battle I took post with my staff where I could reenforce if necessary. I was glad to be able to demonstrate General Smith's instructions in regard to taking a new military position.1  After the battle I wrote the following to Major General Osterhaus, commanding the Fifteenth Corps.
We marched over rough places and jolted along corduroy roads, yet all our wounded from this battle were transported from Griswold Station to the sea without loss of life. The object I had in sending, through Osterhaus, Woods's division off to my right was to help Kilpatrick keep back any forces of the Confederate cavalry or infantry from getting at our long trains. These trains were struggling over muddy and difficult roads, so that it was hard to keep them reasonably closed up. We drew them out of the wagon road at Gordon, and had the teamsters, urged by their wagon masters, drive as rapidly as possible into park. Fortunately, we got all the wagons well massed near that small railroad station without loss of any. An incident took place before reaching Gordon, near the town of Clinton, which indicates how the troops came into collision. Wheeler found Osterhaus's  men moving through Clinton. He did not observe them, owing to a dense fog, until in close proximity. Six Confederates rushed into town, and succeeded in capturing an orderly who was in personal service at the time at Osterhaus's headquarters. This man was seized within twenty feet of the corps commander himself, yet the captors escaped in safety. Slocum, with the left wing, had meanwhile reached Milledgeville, where his men had instituted a mock legislature, completed the issue of a newspaper, and celebrated the occasion by rich festivals of their own contrivance. General Slocum communicated with me and with Kilpatrick by scouting parties moving across from Slocum's column to mine, the distance being in the neighborhood of ten or twelve miles. Thus far “The March to the sea,” more serious on my route by the loss of about a hundred men and the exciting event of a battle, was working greatly to Sherman's satisfaction. I sent a dispatch from my halting place at Gordon by Kilpatrick, who was now ordered to pass from my column over toward the left to work forward in conjunction with Slocum. This dispatch was addressed to Sherman. I told him that the Oconee was before me, and that I was examining the crossings. Fuller accounts of what we had done had already been forwarded by the hands of Captain William Duncan, who had the immediate command of his company, acting as scouts for me. Curiously enough, this Captain Duncan, who, from some reports sent me about that time by General Blair concerning him and his scouts, appeared to me to be rather reckless, at this time performed a feat quite in keeping with his subsequent remarkable career.  It was before Sherman and Slocum had reached Milledgeville. In a letter I remarked: “To-morrow I will have everything substantially at Gordon. Our marches at first (from Atlanta), until we reached Ocmulgee, were very pleasant, having good roads and good weather. Since then our roads have been very heavy, and the rain continuous. We have found the country full of provisions, and thus far have drawn very little upon our rations. We have destroyed (as instructed) a large amount of cotton, the Planters' Factory, a pistol factory, and a mill at Griswold; the latter three by Kilpatrick.” Now, referring to Captain Duncan's enterprise ten miles ahead of us and toward our left front, I said: “The Mayor of Milledgeville surrendered the town, the capital of Georgia, formally to Captain Duncan and a few scouts.” Then, speaking of some cavalry that went from Blair's headquarters or mine to support the scouts, I wrote: “After Duncan's capture a company of the First Alabama Cavalry entered the town with Captain Duncan and destroyed the depot and some seventy-five or one hundred boxes of ammunition and the telegraph office. Duncan had returned to me, meeting me at Gordon; and so I sent him back again November 22d with a fuller report of our late battle to be delivered to General Sherman.” After receiving full news and causing Kilpatrick with his cavalry to cross over to the left, Sherman from Milledgeville issued instructions for further movements November 23d. It was in this communication that he ordered Kilpatrick to use all possible effort to rescue our prisoners of war confined near Millen. In the accomplishment of this the cavalry failed.  Referring to the railroad I was substantially following, Sherman suggested that great attention should be paid to the destruction of this road. Besides burning bridges and trestles, the iron should be carefully twisted and warped, so that it would not be possible ever to use it again. To this end, our rate of travel should be reduced to ten miles a day. One or two harsh measures may be inserted to modify somewhat the feeling that has existed, that our foraging soldiers too often exceeded their instructions. They were directed by Sherman “to capture wagons; to bring their plunder to camp, after which the wagons should be burned.” Also: “Wherever such obstruction occurs (referring to citizens destroying bridges, culverts, etc.), the commanding officer of the troops present on the spot will deal harshly with the inhabitants near by, to show them that it is for their interest not to impede our movements.” Again, we noticed how the burning of cotton, already imperatively directed, was again emphasized by our general: “Should the enemy burn forage and corn on our route, houses, barns, and cotton gins must also be burned to keep them company.” These implicit instructions, together with the wellknown expression of our general, “to forage liberally on the country,” caused irregularities almost beyond the power of control, so that very soon, so far as my wing was concerned, I was obliged to stop the burning of mills, except by my own direct orders. And I issued these restrictive words:
I believe that I inserted the word “Sherman” before “near by” but the above is the form in which the dispatch has always appeared. I selected Captain William Duncan, who had escaped from capture and had returned to my escort, and told him to take with him Sergeant Myron J. Amick and Private George W. Quimby and proceed down the Ogeechee, passing Confederate stations, the King's Bridge, Fort McAllister, and all obstructions, and go out to sea and communicate with the fleet. It seemed next to impossible that the feat could be accomplished, but Captain Duncan's already distinguished career as a scout and his confidence that he could accomplish the enterprise led me to try him. He secured a long dugout, rather narrow and somewhat weather-beaten; then, putting in rations, he took my dispatch and another from my signal officer and set out. He went along very well by night, having passed the bridge  and carefully worked through the torpedo obstructions. When the day dawned the morning of the 10th, he found some negroes, who befriended him and his men. The party kept pretty well under cover until evening. During the night they appear to have made considerable progress, but did not succeed in getting past Fort McAllister. They went ashore to get a negro guide and some provisions; they tied up their boats and then made their way through some bushes and thin groves till they came near a roadway. Here they heard the voices of some Confederates passing along the road. By lying down and keeping very quiet, they were not discovered. Soon after this they came to quite a sizable negro house, went in, and were well treated and refreshed with provisions. While they were eating they were startled by hearing a party of Confederate cavalry riding toward the house. Of course they expected to be instantly captured, but the negroes coming quickly to their rescue concealed them under the floor. The coolness and smartness of the negroes surprised even Captain Duncan, though he had believed in and trusted them. The cavalry stopped but remained only a short time, and the negroes guided our men back to their boats. In such operations as these, with hairbreadth escapes, they hid through the 11th in the daytime. When night came, to avoid one danger, they crossed the wide river; but hearing some voices, they feared a recapture from the bank, so they quietly pushed away, avoided a boat filled with oarsmen who were passing over the Ogeechee from a Confederate gunboat at anchor below Fort McAllister. They ran so  near this gunboat that they were in terror for fear some noise that they had to make in paddling, or some flashlight from the vessel, would discover them; but, surprising to say, they passed all obstacles, and soon after daylight on the morning of the 12th they drifted out into the broad bay. There the Dandelion, a dispatch boat of our navy, discovered the dugout with its three weary scouts. They were taken on board and carried to Port Royal Harbor to the flagship Philadelphia, arriving about eight o'clock the same morning, and saw my brief dispatch put into the hands of Rear Admiral Dahlgren, to whom it was addressed. Admiral Dahlgren reported on this expedition: “It may be perhaps exceeding my province, but I cannot refrain from expressing the hope that the department will commend Captain Duncan and his companions to the Honorable Secretary of War for some mark of approbation for the success of establishing communication between General Sherman and the fleet. It was an enterprise that required both skill and courage.”