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Chapter 11:

Did General Sherman originate the idea of the March to the Sea? This is a question which he makes very prominent in his Memoirs, and answers at length and most decidedly in the affirmative. But here, as in other instances which have been brought to the attention of the public, the distinguished author and historian ignores some important portions of the official records which others may find interesting.

The following is the version of the origin of this movement given in Volume II of the Memoirs:

‘I have often been asked by well-meaning friends, when the thought of that march first entered my mind. I knew that an army which had penetrated Georgia as far as Atlanta could not turn back. It must go ahead; but when, how, and where, depended on many considerations. As soon as Hood had shifted across from Lovejoy's to Palmetto I saw the move in my ‘mind's eye;’ and, after Jeff. Davis' speech at Palmetto, of September 26, I was more positive in my conviction, but was in doubt as to the time and manner. When General Hood first struck our railroad above Marietta we were not ready, and I was forced to watch his movements further till he had ‘caromed off’ to the west of Decatur. Then I was perfectly convinced, and had no longer a shadow of doubt. The only possible question was as to Thomas' strength and ability to meet Hood in the open field.’—Page 166.

Hood shifted to Palmetto September 21st; Davis' speech was on the 26th of September, and Hood moved to the west of Decatur October 26th; so that Sherman's account fixes the following points for himself:

The move was in his ‘mind's eye,’ September 21, 1864.

He was in doubt as to time and manner after September 26. [129]

He had no doubt about the move October 26.

The points of the narrative, in the chapter devoted to the question of planning the March to the Sea, are these:

Hood having moved upon Sherman's railroad communications, General Thomas returned to Chattanooga with a considerable force, and on the 29th of September Sherman telegraphed the condition of affairs to Halleck, saying, among other things, ‘I prefer for the future to make the movement on Milledgeville, Millen, and Savannah.’

On that day (October 1) he telegraphed Grant:.

* * * * ‘Why will it not do to leave Tennessee to the forces which Thomas has, and the reserves soon to come to Nashville, and for me to destroy Atlanta and march across Georgia to Savannah or Charleston, breaking railroads and doing irreparable damage? We can not remain on the defensive.’

On the 9th (October) he telegraphed General Thomas at Nashville:

‘I want to destroy all the road below Chattanooga, including Atlanta, and to make for the sea-coast. We can not defend this long line of road.’

On that same day he telegraphed to General Grant at City Point:

‘It will be a physical impossibility to protect the roads, now that Hood, Forrest, Wheeler, and the whole batch of devils are turned loose without home or habitation. * * * * I propose that we break up the rail-road from Chattanooga forward, and that we strike out with our wagons for Milledgeville, Millen, and Savannah. * * * * I can make this march, and make Georgia howl!’

October 10th he telegraphed Thomas as follows:

‘He (Hood) is now crossing the Coosa River below Rome, looking west. Let me know if you can hold him with your forces now in Tennessee and the expected reenforcements, as, in that event, you know what I propose to do.’

And on the same day to General Grant:

Hood is now crossing the Coosa twelve miles below Rome, bound west. [130] If he passes over to the Mobile & Ohio Railroad, had I better not execute the plan of my letter sent you by Colonel Porter, and leave General Thomas with the troops now in Tennessee to defend the State? He will have an ample force when the reenforcements ordered reach Nashville. * * * *

From General Corse, at Rome, I learned that Hood's army had disappeared, but in what direction he was still in doubt; and I was so strongly convinced of the wisdom of my proposition to change the whole tactics of the campaign, to leave Hood to General Thomas, and to march across Georgia to Savannah or Charleston, that I again telegraphed to General Grant:

We can not now remain on the defensive. With twenty-five thousand infantry, and the bold cavalry he has, Hood can constantly break my road. I would infinitely prefer to make a wreck of the road and of the country from Chattanooga to Atlanta, including the latter city, send back all my wounded and unserviceable men, and with my effective army move through Georgia, smashing things to the sea. * * * * I can make Savannah, Charleston, or the mouth of the Chattahoochie (Appalachicola). Answer quick, as I know we will not have the telegraph long.

I received no answer to this at the time. * * * *

It was at Ship's Gap that a courier brought me the cipher message from General Halleck which intimated that the authorities in Washington were willing I should undertake the march across Georgia to the sea. The translated dispatch named “Horse-i-bar sound” as the point where the fleet would await my arrival. After much time I construed it to mean “

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