Wednesday, November 23, 1864

Milledgeville, Georgia

General Spelling came back this morning from his visit to his uncle, having exchanged his tired horse for a fresher one out of his uncle’s stables, explaining that surely some of the “bummers” would have got the horse had he not. His Uncle was not cordial, by any means, to find his nephew in the ranks of the host that was desolating the land.

We rode into Milledgeville, the capital of the Georgia, whither the Twentieth Corps had preceded us; and during that day the left wing was all united, in and around Milledgeville. From the inhabitants we learned that some of Kilpatrick’s cavalry had preceded us by a couple of days, and that all of the right wing was at and near Gordon, twelve miles off, viz., the place where the branch railroad came to Milledgeville from the Mason & Savannah road. The first stage of the journey is, therefore, complete, and absolutely successful.

General Howard soon reported by letter the operations of his right wing, which, on leaving Atlanta, had substantially followed the two roads toward Mason, by Jonesboro and McDonough, and reached the Ocmulgee at Planters’ Factory, which they crossed, by the aid of the pontoon-train, during the 18th and 19th of November. Thence, with the Seventeenth Corps (General Blair’s) he (General Howard) had marched via Monticello toward Gordon, having dispatched Kilpatrick’s cavalry, supported by the Fifteenth Corps (Osterhaus’s), to feign on Macon. Kilpatrick met the enemy’s cavalry about four miles out of Macon, and drove them rapidly back into the bridge-defenses held by infantry. Kilpatrick charged these, got inside the parapet, but could not hold it, and retired to his infantry supports, near Griswold Station.

The Fifteenth Corps tore up the railroad-track eastward from Griswold, leaving Charles R. Wood’s division behind as a rear-guard-one brigade of which was intrenched across the road, with some of Kilpatrick’s cavalry on the flanks. On the 22d of November General G. W. Smith, with a division of troops, came out of Macon, attacked this brigade (Walcutt’s) in position, and was handsomely repulsed and driven back into Macon. Walcutt’s brigade was in part armed with Spencer repeating-rifles, and its fire was so rapid that the charging Confederates could not withstand the fire. General Walcutt was wounded in the leg, and has to ride in a carriage.

I am in Milledgeville with the left wing, and in full communication with the right wing at Gordon. The people of Milledgeville remain at home, except the Governor (Brown), the State officers, and Legislature, who have ignominiously fled, in the utmost disorder and confusion; standing not on the order of their going, but going at once: some by rail, some by carriages, and many on foot. Some of the citizens who remained behind described this flight of the “brave and patriotic” Governor Brown. He had occupied a public building known as the “Governor’s Mansion,” and had hastily stripped it of carpets, curtains, and furniture of all sorts, which were removed to a train of freight-cars, which carried away these things. Even the cabbages and vegetables from his kitchen and cellar were taken leaving behind muskets, ammunition, and the public archives. On arrival at Milledgeville I occupied the same public mansion, and was soon overwhelmed with appeals for protection. General Slocum had previously arrived with the Twentieth Corps, had taken up his quarters at the Milledgeville Hotel, established a good provost-guard, and excellent order is maintained.

The most frantic appeals had been made by the Governor and Legislature for help from every quarter, and the people of the State had been called out en masse to resist and destroy the invaders of their homes and firesides. Even the prisoners and convicts of the penitentiary were released on condition of serving as soldiers, and the cadets were taken from their military college for the same purpose. These constituted a small battalion, under General Harry Wayne, a former officer of the United States Army, and son of the then Justice Wayne of the Supreme Court. But these hastily retreated east across the Oconee River, leaving us a good bridge, which we promptly secured.

At Milledgeville we found newspapers from all the South, and learned the consternation which had filled the Southern mind at our temerity; many charging that we were actually fleeing for our lives and seeking safety at the hands of our fleet on the sea-coast. All demanded that we should be assailed, “front, flank, and rear;” that provisions should be destroyed in advance, so that we would starve; that bridges should be burned, roads obstructed, and no mercy shown us. Judging from the tone of the Southern press of that day, the outside world must have supposed us ruined and lost.

Corinth, Mississippi, November 18, 1864.
To the People of Georgia:
Arise for the defense of your native soil! Rally around your patriotic Governor and gallant soldiers! Obstruct and destroy all the roads in Sherman’s front, flank, and rear, and his army will soon starve in your
midst. Be confident. Be resolute. Trust in an overruling Providence, and success will soon crown your efforts. I hasten to join you in the defense of your homes and firesides.

RICHMOND, November 18, 1864.
To the People of Georgia:
You have now the best opportunity ever yet presented to destroy the enemy. Put every thing at the disposal of our generals; remove all provisions from the path of the, invader, and put all obstructions in his path.

Every citizen with his gun, and every negro with his spade and axe, can do the work of a soldier. You can destroy the enemy by retarding his march.
Georgians, be firm! Act promptly, and fear not!
B. H. Hill, Senator.
I most cordially approve the above.
James A. SEDDON, Secretary of War.

Richmond, November 19,1864.
To the People of Georgia:
We have had a special conference with President Davis and the Secretary of War, and are able to assure you that they have done and are still doing all that can be done to meet the emergency that presses upon you. Let every man fly to arms! Remove your negroes, horses, cattle, and provisions from Sherman’s army, and burn what you cannot carry. Burn all bridges, and block up the roads in his route. Assail the invader in front, flank, and rear, by night and by day. Let him have no rest.
Members of Congress.

Of course, we were rather amused than alarmed at these threats, and made light of the feeble opposition offered to our progress. Some of the officers (in the spirit of mischief) gathered together in the vacant hall of Representatives, elected a Speaker,and constituted themselves the Legislature of the State of Georgia! A proposition was made to repeal the ordinance of secession, which was well debated, and resulted in its repeal by a fair vote! I was not present at these frolics, but heard of them and enjoyed the joke.

Orders were made for the total destruction of the arsenal and its contents, and of such public buildings as could be easily converted to hostile uses. Little or no damage was done to private property. General Slocum, with my approval, spared several mills, and many thousands of bales of cotton, taking what he knew to be worthless bonds, that the cotton should not be used for the Confederacy. Meantime the right wing continued its movement along the railroad toward Savannah, tearing up the track and destroying its iron. At the Oconee they met a feeble resistance from Harry Wayne’s troops, but soon the pontoon-bridge was laid, and that wing crossed over. Kilpatrick’s cavalry was brought into Milledgeville, and crossed the Oconee by the bridge near the town; and on the 23d I made the general orders for the next stage of the march as far as Millen. These were, substantially, for the right wing to follow the Savannah Railroad, by roads on its south; the left wing is to move to Sandersville, by Davisboro’ and Louisville, while the cavalry is ordered by a circuit to the north, and to march rapidly for Millen, to rescue our prisoners of war confined there. The distance, about a hundred miles.

General Wheeler, with his division of rebel cavalry, succeeded in getting ahead of us between Milledgeville and Augusta, and General P. J. Hardee had been dispatched by General Beauregard from Hood’s army to oppose our progress directly in front. He had, however, brought with him no troops, but relied on his influence with the Georgians,of whose State he was a native, to arouse the people, and with them to annihilate Sherman’s army!

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Tuesday, November 22, 1864

Ten miles from Milledgeville, Georgia

About 4 p.m., General Davis had halted his head of column on a wooded ridge, overlooking an extensive slope of cultivated country, about ten miles short of Milledgeville, and was deploying his troops for camp when I got up. A high, raw wind was blowing, and I asked, “Why have you chosen so cold and bleak a position?” Davis explained that he had accomplished his full distance for the day, and there was an abundance of wood and water. His advance-guard was a mile or so ahead; so I rode on, asking him to let his rear division, as it came up, move some distance ahead into the depression or valley beyond. I rode on some distance to the border of a plantation, I turned out of the main road into a cluster of wild-plum bushes, that broke the force of the cold November wind, dismounted, and instructed the staff to pick out the place for our camp.

The afternoon was unusually raw and cold. My orderly brought his saddle-bags, which contained a change of under-clothing, my maps, a flask of whiskey, and bunch of cigars. Taking a drink and lighting a cigar, I walked to a row of negro-huts close by, entered one and found a soldier or two warming themselves by a wood-fire. I took their place by the fire, intending to wait there till our wagons had got up, and a camp made for the night. I was talking to the old negro woman, when a messenger came and suggested that, we go farther down the road, where I could find a better place. I started on foot, and found on the main road a good double-hewed log house. In one room, Colonel Poe, Dr. Moore, and others, had started a fire. I sent back orders to the “plum-bushes” to bring our horses and saddles up to this house, and an orderly to conduct our headquarter wagons to the same place.

In looking around the room, I saw a small box, like a candle-box, marked “Howell Cobb,” and, on inquiring of a negro, found that we were at the plantation of General Howell Cobb, of Georgia, a general in the Confederate army, and who had been Secretary of the United States Treasury in Mr. Buchanan’s time. Of course, we confiscated his property, and found it rich in corn, beans, peanuts, and sorghum-molasses. Extensive fields were all round the house; I sent word back to General Davis to explain whose plantation it was, and instructed him to spare nothing. That night huge bonfires consumed the fence-rails & kept our soldiers warm. The teamsters and men, as well as the slaves, carried off an immense quantity of corn and provisions of all sorts.

In due season the headquarter wagons came up, and we got supper. After supper I sat on a chair astride, with my back to a good fire, musing, and became conscious that an old negro, with a tallow-candle in his hand, was scanning my face closely. I inquired, “What do you want, old man!” He answered, “Dey say you is Massa Sherman.” I answered that such was the case, and inquired what he wanted. He only wanted to look at me, and kept muttering, “Dis nigger can’t sleep dis night.” I asked him why he trembled so, and he said that he wanted to be sure that we were in fact “Yankees,” for on a former occasion some rebel cavalry had put on light-blue overcoats, impersonating Yankee troops, and many of the negroes were deceived thereby, himself among the number had shown them sympathy, and had in consequence been unmercifully beaten therefor. This time he wanted to be certain before committing himself; so I told him to go out on the porch, from which he could see the whole horizon lit up with camp-fires, and he could then judge whether he had ever seen any thing like it before. The old man became convinced that the “Yankees” had come at last, about whom he had been dreaming all his life. Some of the staff officers gave him a strong drink of whiskey, which set his tongue going.

Lieutenant Spelling, who commanded my escort, was a Georgian, and recognized in this old negro a favorite slave of his uncle, who resided about six miles off. The old slave did not at first recognize his young master in our uniform. One of my staff-officers asked him what had become of his young master, George. He did not know, only that he had gone off to the war, and he supposed him killed, as a matter of course. His attention was then drawn to Spelling’s face, when he fell on his knees and thanked God that he had found his young master alive and along with the Yankees. Spelling inquired all about his uncle and the family, asked my permission to go and pay his uncle a visit, which I granted, of course.

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Monday, November 21, 1864

Today we camped near the house of a man named Mann. We are about 2 days march from Milledgeville. Still no opposition. Kilpatrick successfully carried out his feint on Macon, driving the enemy into his defenses and freezing their troops as Howard passed. The only opposition has been from Wheeler’s cavalry. This column is still a threat to either Augusta or Savannah. I prefer Savannah and to leave Augusta so the enemy will be forced to garrison it when I head north. In order to stop our progress, Lee would have to detach some of his troops from Virginia. There is plenty of food, the troops are well fed and in good spirits.

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Sunday, November 20, 1864

Near Eatonton Factory, Between Atlanta and Milledgeville

I am still with the Fourteenth Corps, waiting to hear of the Twentieth Corps. We have destroyed the railroad from Social Circle to Madison & burned the large and important railroad bridge across the Oconee, east of Madison. So far there has been no organized opposition to our progress. General Howard’s movement is threatening Macon and Kilpatrick’s cavalry is to make a feint toward Macon to confuse the enemy. So far my movements have caught the enemy off guard.

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Saturday, November 19, 1864

Near Madison Georgia

This corps turned south by Eatonton, for Milledgeville, the common objective. Each corps follows some main road, and the foragers, being kept out on the exposed flank, serve all the military uses of flankers. The main columns gather much forage and food, chiefly meat, corn, and sweet-potatoes, and it is the duty of each division and brigade quartermaster to fill his wagons as fast as the contents are issued to the troops. The wagon-trains have the right to the road always, but each wagon is required to keep closed up, so as to leave no gaps in the column. If for any purpose any wagon or group of wagons drops out of place, they have to wait for the rear. This rule is effective, for each brigade commander wants his train up at camp as soon after reaching it with his men as possible.

I see much skill and industry by the quarter-masters on the march, in trying to load their wagons with corn and fodder by the way without losing their place in column. While marching, they shift the loads of wagons, so as to have six or ten of them empty. Then, riding well ahead, they secure possession of stacks of fodder near the road, or cribs of corn, leave some men in charge, then open fences and a road back for a couple of miles, return to their trains, divert the empty wagons out of column, and conduct them rapidly to their forage, load up and regain their place in column without losing distance. I have seen ten or a dozen wagons thus loaded with corn from two or three full cribs, almost without halting. These cribs are built of logs, and roofed. The train-guard, by a lever, had raised the whole side of the crib a foot or two; the wagons drove close alongside, and the men in the cribs, lying on their backs, kicked out a wagon-load of corn in the time I have taken to describe it.

In a well-ordered and well-disciplined army, these things might be deemed irregular, but I am convinced that the ingenuity of these younger officers accomplishes many things far better than I could have ordered. Habitually we start from camp at the earliest break of dawn, and usually reach camp soon after noon. The marches vary from ten to fifteen miles a day, though sometimes on extreme flanks it is necessary to make as much as twenty. The rate of travel is regulated by the wagons; and, considering the nature of the roads, fifteen miles per day is deemed the limit.

The pontoon-trains are in like manner distributed in about equal proportions to the four corps, giving each a section of about nine hundred feet. The pontoons are of the skeleton pattern, with cotton-canvas covers, each boat, with its proportion of balks and cheeses, constituting a load for one wagon. By uniting two such sections together, we can make a bridge of eighteen hundred feet, enough for any river we have to traverse.

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Friday, November 18, 1864

Covington, Georgia

I left Covington with General Davis and the Fourteenth Corps. We turned to the right for Milledgeville, via Shady Dale. General Slocum is ahead at Madison, with the Twentieth Corps, tearing up the railroad as far as that place, and sending Geary’s division on to the Oconee, to burn the bridges across that stream.

We find abundance of corn, molasses, meal, bacon, and sweet-potatoes. We take a good many cows and oxen, and a large number of mules. The country is quite rich, never before having been visited by a hostile army. The recent crop is excellent, just gathered and laid by for the winter. As a rule, we destroy none, but keep our wagons full, and feed our teams bountifully.

The skill and success of the men in collecting forage is exemplary. Each brigade commander has authority to detail a company of foragers, usually about fifty men, with one or two commissioned officers selected for their boldness and enterprise. This party is dispatched before daylight with a knowledge of the intended day’s march and camp. They proceed on foot five or six miles from the route traveled by their brigade, and then visit every plantation and farm within range. They usually procure a wagon or family carriage, load it with bacon, corn-meal, turkeys, chickens, ducks, and every thing that could be used as food or forage, and then regain the main road, usually in advance of their train. When the trains come up, they deliver to the brigade commissary the supplies thus gathered by the way.

I pass these foraging-parties at the roadside, waiting for their wagons to come up, and am amused at their strange collections: mules, horses, even cattle, packed with old saddles and loaded with hams, bacon, bags of cornmeal, and poultry of every character and description. This foraging is attended with great danger and hard work, but there seems to be a charm about it that attracts the soldiers who consider it a privilege to be detailed on such a party.

They return mounted on all sorts of beasts, which are at once taken from them and appropriated to the general use. The next day they start out again on foot, only to repeat the experience of the day before. The country is sparsely settled, with no magistrates or civil authorities who can respond to requisitions, as is done in all the wars of Europe; so that this system of foraging is simply indispensable to our success. Our men are well supplied with all the essentials of life and health, while the wagons retain enough in case of unexpected delay, and our animals are well fed.

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Thursday, November 17, 1864

Covington, Georgia

Today we passed through the handsome town of Covington, the soldiers closing up their ranks, the color-bearers unfurling their flags, and the bands striking up patriotic airs. The white people came out of their houses to behold the sight, spite of their deep hatred of the invaders, and the negroes were simply frantic with joy. Whenever they heard my name, they clustered about my horse, shouted and prayed in their peculiar style, which had a natural eloquence that would have moved a stone.

I was riding around by a by-street in Covington, to avoid the crowd following the marching column, when someone brought me an invitation to dine with a sister of Sam. Anderson, who was a cadet at West Point with me; but the messenger reached me after we had passed the main part of the town. I asked to be excused, and rode on to a place designated for camp, at the crossing of the Ulcofauhachee River, about four miles to the east of the town. Here we made our bivouac, and I walked up to a plantation-house close by, where were assembled many negroes, among them an old, gray-haired man, of as fine a head as I ever saw. I asked him if he understood about the war and its progress. He said he did; that he had been looking for the “angel of the Lord” ever since he was knee-high, and, though we professed to be fighting for the Union, he supposed that slavery was the cause, and that our success was to be his freedom. I asked him if all the negro slaves comprehended this fact, and he said they surely did. I then explained to him that we wanted the slaves to remain where they were, and not to load us down with useless mouths, which would eat up the food needed for our fighting men; that our success was their assured freedom; that we could receive a few of their young, hearty men as pioneers; but that, if they followed us in swarms of old and young, feeble and helpless, it would simply load us down and cripple us in our great task.

At this very plantation a soldier passed me with a ham on his musket, a jug of sorghum-molasses under his arm, and a big piece of honey in his hand, from which he was eating, and, catching my eye, he remarked sotto voce and carelessly to a comrade, “Forage liberally on the country,” quoting from my general orders. I reproved the man, explained that foraging must be limited to the regular parties properly detailed, and that all provisions thus obtained must be delivered to the regular commissaries, to be fairly distributed to the men who kept their ranks.

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