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.