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Chapter 30:

  • Sherman moves from Atlanta
  • -- object of Sherman's march -- character of march -- foraging -- alarm of enemy -- rebel movements in Sherman's front -- arrival at Milledgeville -- Second stage of march -- movements of cavalry -- increased consternation of rebels -- futile efforts to obstruct Sherman -- arrival at Millen -- policy of Sherman -- turns his columns towards Savannah -- character of country on Savannah river -- arrival in front of Savannah -- situation of city -- capture of Fort McAllister -- Sherman communicates with the fleet -- supplies awaiting him at Port Royal -- results of march -- delight of country -- dispatches from Grant -- Sherman ordered to embark his army for Richmond -- preparations to obey -- orders revoked -- investment of Savannah -- evacuation -- escape of garrison -- occupation of city -- expedition against Fort Fisher starts -- Butler's powder—boat -- lack of co—operation between Butler and Porter -- explosion of powder—boat -- situation of Fort Fisher -- strength of defences -- garrison -- naval bombardment, December 24th -- arrival of Butler -- landing of troops -- reconnoissance -- Butler determines against assault -- withdrawal of troops -- protest of Porter -- Butler sails for Fort Monroe -- Grant's dispatch to President -- Butler's disobedience of orders -- unnecessary failure -- Porter's dispatches -- chagrin of Grant -- Second expedition determined on -- secrecy -- Butler relieved from command -- Second expedition starts -- Terry's instructions -- arrival off Fort Fisher -- landing of troops -- movements of Hoke -- bombardment of January 13th national line across peninsula -- supineness of Hoke -- reconnoissance -- arrangements for combined assault -- bombardment of January 13th -- Curtis's advance -- Ames's assault— -- national troops reach the parapet-formidable character of work -- fighting on the parapet -- capture of Fort Fisher -- losses -- arrival of Stanton -- seizure of blockade runners-conduct of troops -- gallantry of defence -- harmony of Porter and Terry -- General observations -- results.

On the 12th of November, Sherman's army stood detached, and cut off from all communication with the rear. It was composed of four corps: the Fifteenth and Seventeenth constituted the right wing [283] under Howard, and the Fourteenth and Twentieth the left wing under Slocum. The aggregate strength was sixty thousand infantry, besides five thousand five hundred cavalry, commanded by Kilpatrick. The artillery had been reduced to sixty guns. Each soldier carried forty rounds of ammunition on his person, and in the wagons were cartridges enough to make up two hundred rounds per man. One million two hundred thousand rations were in the trains, sufficient for twenty days; and there was a good supply of beef-cattle to be driven on the hoof; but forage was taken for only five days. Twenty-five hundred wagons and six hundred ambulances accompanied the command.

All the foundries, machine-shops, and warehouses in Atlanta were now destroyed, and on the morning of November 15th, the march began. Sherman's first object was to place his army in the heart of Georgia, interposing between Macon and Augusta, so as to oblige the rebels to divide their forces and defend not only those two points, but Millen, Charleston, and Savannah. The right wing and the cavalry accordingly moved southeast, towards Jonesboroa, while Slocum led off to the east, by way of Decatur and Madison. These were divergent lines, designed not only to threaten Macon and Augusta, but to prevent a concentration upon Milledgeville, which lies between, and was the point that Sherman desired first to strike. Milledgeville is the capital of the state, and distant from Atlanta about a hundred miles. The time allowed for each column to reach it was seven days.

The army habitually moved by four roads as nearly parallel as possible, converging at points [284] that were indicated from time to time in orders. The marches were from ten to fifteen miles a day, though sometimes on the extreme flanks it was necessary to travel as many as twenty miles; but the rate was regulated by the wagons. The troops started at the earliest break of dawn, and went into camp soon after midday. No tents were taken, but a nightly bivouac was made of the abundant pine-boughs, which served for shelter as well as beds; and, after dark, the whole horizon was lurid with the bonfires of railroad-ties, while all night groups of men were busy carrying the heated iron to the nearest trees, and bending it around the trunks; for the destruction of the railroads was one of the most important duties of the army.

The troops were ordered to forage liberally upon the country. The region was rich, and had never before been visited by a hostile force. The recent crop had been excellent, and was just gathered and laid by for winter. Meal, bacon, poultry, and sweet potatoes were abundant, as well as cows, oxen, horses, and mules. The skill and success displayed in collecting forage was one of the notable features of the march. Each brigade commander detailed a company, usually of about fifty men, under officers selected for their boldness and enterprise. These parties were dispatched before daylight, with a knowledge of the intended day's march as well as of the site of camp; they proceeded on foot five or six miles from the route travelled by their brigade, and then visited every farm and plantation within range. They usually procured a wagon or a family carriage, loaded it with bacon, corn-meal, turkeys, chickens, ducks, and anything else that could be [285] used for food or forage, and would then regain the main road, generally in advance of their train. When this came up, they delivered the supplies thus gathered by the way. These foraging parties, waiting at the roadside for their wagons, often presented an amusing spectacle: mules, horses, cattle even, were packed with old saddles and loaded with hams, live fowl, or bags of grain and flour; while the men themselves were mounted on all sorts of beasts, and surrounded by swarms of negroes. The cattle and horses, of course, were taken from them, but the next day they started out on foot again, to repeat the experience of the day before.

The main columns also gathered much forage and food, and it was the duty of each division and brigade quartermaster to refill his wagons as fast as the contents were issued to the troops. The wagon trains always had the right to the road, but each wagon was required to keep closed up, so as to leave no gaps in the column; and if, for any purpose, a single wagon or a group dropped out of place, it had to wait for the rear. This was always dreaded, for every brigade commander wanted his train up as soon as possible after the men reached camp.1 [286]

No requisitions were made as in European armies, for the country was sparsely settled, and the civil authorities were unable to respond. The system adopted was simply indispensable to success; but the troops were supplied with all the essentials of life and health, and the animals of the command were kept well fed. Doubtless, acts of pillage, robbery, and violence occurred, as in every war, but such acts were exceptional and incidental. Sherman's ‘bummers,’ as they were called, committed neither murder nor rape; and no houses were burned except by order of a corps commander, and then only when the troops had been molested, the roads destroyed, or bridges burned by the inhabitants.

The day the national army moved, the alarm and confusion of the enemy began. On the 16th of November, Cobb, who was in command in Georgia, sent word to Richmond that Sherman had burned Atlanta, and was marching in the direction of Macon. ‘We have no force,’ he said, ‘to hinder him, and must fall back to Macon, where reinforcements should be sent at once.’

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