Sherman's March to the Sea
After Sherman's forces captured Atlanta on September 2, 1864, Sherman spent several weeks making preparations for a change of base to the coast. He rejected the Union plan to move through
After General John Bell Hood abandoned Atlanta, he moved the Confederate Army of Tennessee outside the city to recuperate from the previous campaign. In early October he began a raid toward Chattanooga, Tennessee, in an effort to draw Sherman back over ground the two sides had fought for since May. But instead of tempting Sherman to battle, Hood turned his army west and marched into Alabama, abandoning Georgia to Union forces. Apparently, Hood hoped that if he invaded Tennessee, Sherman would be forced to follow. Sherman, however, had anticipated this strategy and had sent Major General George H. Thomas to Nashville to deal with Hood. With Georgia cleared of the Confederate army, Sherman, facing only scattered cavalry, was free to move south.
Sherman divided his approximately 60,000 troops into two roughly equal wings. The right wing was under Oliver O. Howard. Peter J. Osterhaus commanded the Fifteenth Corps, and Francis P. Blair Jr. commanded the Seventeenth Corps. The left wing was commanded by Henry W. Slocum, with the Fourteenth Corps under Jefferson C. Davis and the Twentieth Corps under Alpheus S. Williams. Judson Kilpatrick led the cavalry. Sherman had about 2,500 supply wagons and 600 ambulances. Before the army left Atlanta, the general issued an order outlining the rules of the march, but soldiers often ignored the restrictions on foraging.
There were a number of skirmishes between Wheeler's cavalry and Union troopers, but only two battles of any significance. The first came east of Macon at the factory town of Griswoldville on November 22, when Georgia militia faced Union infantry with disastrous results. The Confederates suffered 650 men killed or wounded in a one-sided battle that left about
Sherman at Savannah
After Fort McAllister fell, Sherman made preparations for a siege of Savannah.
Consequences of the March
Sherman's march frightened and appalled Southerners. It hurt morale, for civilians had believed the Confederacy could protect the home front.
Confederate president Jefferson Davis had urged Georgians to undertake a scorched-earth policy of poisoning wells and burning fields, but civilians in the army's path had not done so. Sherman, however, burned or captured all the food stores that Georgians had saved for the winter months. As a result of the hardships on women and children, desertions increased in Robert E. Lee's army in Virginia. Sherman believed his campaign against civilians would shorten the war by breaking the Confederate will to fight, and he eventually received permission to carry this psychological warfare into South Carolina in early 1865. By marching through Georgia and South Carolina he became an archvillain in the South and a hero in the North.
Anne J. Bailey, The Chessboard of War: Sherman and Hood in the Autumn Campaigns of 1864 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2000).
Anne J. Bailey, War and Ruin: William T. Sherman and the Savannah Campaign (Wilmington, Del.: Scholarly Resources, 2003).
William Harris Bragg, Griswoldville (Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 2000).
Barry L. Brown and Gordon R. Elwell, Crossroads of Conflict: A Guide to Civil War Sites in Georgia (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2010).
James A. Connolly, Three Years in the Army of the Cumberland: The Letters and Diary of Major James A. Connolly, ed. Paul M. Angle (1928; reprint, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996).
Joseph T. Glatthaar, The March to the Sea and Beyond: Sherman's Troops in the Savannah and Carolinas Campaign (New York: New York University Press, 1985).
Jacqueline Jones, Saving Savannah: The City and the Civil War (New York: Knopf, 2008).
Lee B. Kennett, Marching through Georgia: The Story of Soldiers and Civilians during Sherman's Campaign (New York: HarperCollins, 1995).
Noah Andre Trudeau, Southern Storm: Sherman's March to the Sea (New York: Harper, 2008).
Anne J. Bailey, Georgia College and State University
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