Saturday, November 26, 1864

Sandersville, Georgia

I am traveling with the Twentieth Corp and we reached Sandersville about the same time as the Fourteenth Corp. I was traveling with the head of the column. A brigade of rebel cavalry was deployed before the town, and was driven in and through it by our skirmish-line. I saw the rebel cavalry apply fire to stacks of fodder standing in the fields at Sandersville, and gave orders to burn some unoccupied dwellings close by. On entering the town, I told certain citizens (who would be sure to spread the report) that, if the enemy attempted to carry out their threat to burn their food, corn, and fodder, in our route, I would most undoubtedly execute to the letter the general orders of devastation made at the outset of the campaign.

As our troops had been fired upon from some houses, I had ordered those houses burned. Some of my men brought to me a Reverend Morris who claimed to speak for the town leaders and had some papers to surrender the town. He pleaded that firing on my men came from Wheeler’s cavalry who we chased out of the town. I agreed to spare the houses, but ordered the jail and courthouse burned and destroyed because it had been used to fire on our troops.

At Sandersville I halted the left wing until I heard that the right wing was abreast of us on the railroad. During the evening a negro was brought to me, who had that day been to Tenille station about six miles south of the town. I inquired of him if there were any Yankees there, and he answered, “Yes.” He described in his own way what he had seen.

“First, there come along some cavalry-men, and they burned the depot; then come along some infantry-men, and they tore up the track, and burned it;” and just before he left they had “sot fire to the well.” I will see Howard tomorrow.

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Friday, November 25,1864

On the Road East of Milledgeville

Today, Kilpatrick led his cavalry out of Milledgeville in the direction of Waynesborough to harass Wheeler, cover our left flank and to threaten Augusta and force the enemy to keep the town garrisoned. He will attempt to release the prisoners who are being held at Millen.

I accompanied the Twentieth Corps from Milledgeville to Sandersville. On our approach, we found the bridges across Buffalo Creek burned, which delayed us three hours. The Fourteenth Corp is proceeding by a parallel road.

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Thursday, November 24, 1864

Milledgeville, Georgia

We left Milledgeville with railroads & depots destroyed to deny an army in our rear. We destroyed factories and some mills but left the state capital building standing. I accompanied the Twentieth Corps with General Slocum, which took the direct road to Sandersville.

General Wheeler, with his division of rebel cavalry, has succeeded in leaving Macon and getting ahead of us between Milledgeville and Augusta. I will shift Kilpatrick to our north to handle Wheeler and keep him away from our left flank.

I have learned that General P. J. Hardee has been dispatched by General Beauregard from Hood’s army to oppose our progress directly in front. He, however, brought with him no troops. He is to rely 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! I anticipate little opposition to my movement on Savannah.

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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.
G. T. BEAUREGARD.

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.
JULIAN HARTRIDGE MARK BLANDFORD, J. H. ECHOLS
GEO. N. LESTER JOHN T. SHUEMAKER JAS. M. SMITH,
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.

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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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