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1864 December 10: Progress on Sherman’s Grand March

December 12, 2014

This report on Union General William T. Sherman’s March to the Sea and reports from Confederate newspapers come from the December 10, 1864, issue of The Prescott Journal.

Sherman’s Grand Expedition.

Official Order Relating to the March.

Important and Interesting Details.


Special Field Order—No. 120.

IN THE FIELD, KINGSTON, GA., Nov. 9, 1864. }

I.  For the purpose of military operations this army is divided into two wings, viz :  The right wing, Major General O. O. Howard commanding the Fifteenth and Seventeenth corps ;  the left wing, Major General H. W. Slocum commanding the Fourteen and Twentieth corps.

II.  The habitual order of march will be, whenever practicable, by four roads, as nearly parallel as possible, and converging at points hereafter to be indicated in orders.  The cavalry, Brigadier General [Judson] Kilpatrick commanding, will receive special orders from the Commander-in-Chief.

III.  There will be no general trains of supplies, but each corps will have its ammunition and provision train, distributed habitually as follows :  Behind each regiment should follow one wagon and one ambulance ;  behind each brigade should follow a due proportion of ammunition wagons, provision wagons and ambulances.  In case of danger, each army corps should change this order of march by having his advance and rear brigade unencumbered by wheels.  The separate columns will start habitually at seven A. M., and make about fifteen miles per day, unless otherwise fixed in orders.

IV.  The army will forage liberally on the country during the march.  To this end, each brigade commander will organize a good and sufficient foraging party, under the command of one or more discreet officers, who will gather near the route travelled corn or forage of any kind, meat of any kind, vegetables, corn meal, or whatever is needed by the command ;  aiming at all times to keep in the wagon trains at least ten days provisions for the command and three days forage.  Soldiers must not enter the dwellings of the inhabitants or commit any trespass ;  during the halt or a camp they may be permitted to gather turnips, potatoes and other vegetables, and drive in stock in front of their camps.  To regular foraging parties must be entrusted the gathering of provisions and forage at any distance from the road travelled.

V.  To army corps commanders is entrusted the power to destroy mills, houses, cotton gins, &c., and for them this general principle is laid down :—In districts and neighborhoods where the army is unmolested, no destruction of such property should be permitted ;  but should guerrillas or bushwhackers molest our march, or should the inhabitants burn bridges, obstruct roads or otherwise manifest local hostility, then army corps commanders should order and enforce a devastation more or less relentless, according to the measure of such hostility.

VI.  As for horses, mules, wagons, &c., belonging to the inhabitants, the cavalry and artillery may appropriate freely without limit ;  discriminating, however, between the rich, who are usually hostile, and the poor or industrious, usually neutral or friendly.  Foraging parties may also take mules or horses to replace the jaded animals of their trains, or to serve as pack mules for the regiments or brigades.  In all foraging, of whatever kind, the parties engaged will refrain from abusive of threatening language, and may, when the officer in command thinks proper, give written certificates of the facts, but no receipts ;  and they will endeavor to leave with each family a reasonable portion for their maintenance.

VII.  Negroes who are able bodied and can be of service to the several columns, may be taken along ;  but each army commander will bear in mind that the question of supplies is a very important one, and that his first duty is to see to those who bear arm.

VIII.  The organization at once of a good pioneer battalion for each corps, composed, if possible, of negroes, should be attended to.  This battalion should follow the advance guard, should repair roads and double them if possible, so that the columns will not be delayed after reaching bad places.  Also, army commanders should study the habit of giving the artillery and wagons the road, and marching their troops on one side ;  and also instruct their troops to assist wagons at steep hills or bad crossings of streams.

IX.  Captain O. M. Poe, Chief Engineer, will assign to each wing of the army a pontoon train, fully equipped and organized, and the commanders thereof will see to its being properly protected at all times.

.       .By order of
.            .Major General W. T. SHERMAN.
H. M. DAYTON, Aid de Camp.


ATLANTA, GA., Nov. 7, 1864. }

 When the troops leave camp on the march about to commence they will carry in haversack two days’ rations salt meat, two days’ hard bread, ten days’ coffee and salt and five days’ sugar.  Each infantry soldier will carry sixty rounds of ammunition on his person.—Every effort should be made by officers and men to save rations and ammunition ;  not a round should be lost or unnecessarily expended.  It is expected the command will be supplied with subsistence and forage mainly from the country.  All foraging will be done by parties detailed for the purpose by brigade commanders, under such rules as may be prescribed by brigade and division commanders.  Pillaging, marauding, and every act of cruelty or abuse of citizens will be severely punished.  Each brigade commander will have a strong rear guard on every march, and will order the arrest of all stragglers.  The danger of straggling on this march should be impressed upon the mind of every officer and man of the command.  Not only the reputation for the corps, but the personal safety of every man will be dependent, in a great measure, upon the rigid enforcement of discipline and the care taken of the ration and ammunition.

By the command of          Maj. Gen. SLOCUM.
H. W. PERKINS, Asst. Adjt. Gen.


According to late rebel papers Sherman’s demonstration toward Macon was a feint.  No attack had been made on that place up to Wednesday last, but when a short distance from it he turned north-eastward towards Milledgeville, the capital of the State, which town, it is reported, his cavalry captured Sunday night, subsequently burning the capitol building and the penitentiary.  It is also said a strong force of his army made a demonstration on Augusta, within twenty miles of which place his right was repulsed.  The movement on Augusta is also considered a feint to distract attention from Sherman’s first real objective point, which is surmised to be Savannah.  It is prophesied that he will move as directly as possible on the latter city from Milledgeville, and the belief is expressed that the large Union fleet which has been collected in James river is destined for Savannah, and will meet Sherman there.  The Augusta Chronicle of the 19th inst. stated that a large fleet of union transports had already arrive off the Georgia coast.

The report of the burning of Milledgville is said, by Richmond editors, to lack confirmation, though, it is believed, that a portion of Sherman’s force has been there.  A dispatch to the Savannah News, of the 19st inst., reiterates that it was captured on Monday last, and the State House, Governor’s Mansion, and Penitentiary there were burned.  The town of Gordon was also captured by the Yankees.

The Augusta Constitutionalist of Monday evening says that “passengers by the Georgia train last evening reported that the Oconee bridge, five miles above Gordon, was burned at noon yesterday by a small party of the enemy’s cavalry who retired, after they burned down the bridge, to their camp on the north side of the river.  The force of the enemy on the line of this road is estimated at 15,000, advancing slowly and cautiously.”

The Richmond papers think the slow progress of Sherman, who they claim had gone but 75 miles in 15 days, gives much ground for hope.

The Richmond Dispatch of the 23d says :—”One body of Sherman’s army has advanced to within a short distance of Augusta, and the other struck the Georgia Central railroad, leading from Macon to Savanna at two points, within a few miles of Macon, and at Gordon, the junction of the Georgia railroad, and Gordon and Milledgeville branch railroad.  Sherman is everywhere laying waste [to] the country with fire and sword, showing clearly that it is his determination to take no step backward.”

The Enquirer of the 23d says of Sherman :  “This only he has gained—and it is no small gain when viewed in connection with his plans for the winter,—that Hood [John Bell Hood] is far off to the west, only feebly threatening his rear flank, and with a hostile army under Thomas between him and Atlanta.  It may that this was the position which Sherman had in view when he boasted that he would soon have Hood where he wanted him.  It is certain that his pursuit has been but a series of feints, and that the door to west Tennessee was purposely left open to allow the eager looks of our gallant men in that direction.—Sherman will try to possess himself first of Macon.  He could thus obtain command of the road which leads from Macon eastward to Augusta and the seat of Government, westward to Mississippi, thus effectually destroying our communications with trans-Mississippi.  He would, moreover, cut off Hood and his army from their base of operations, supplies, and means of conferring with the seat of government.  In these respects the move is formidable, and it is of no use to shut our eyes willfully to the danger.  Far better to look it in the face and prepare for resistance with vigor.”

The Dispatch says :  “Georgia will have to taste the bitter cup that so long has been at our lips, but her revenge is at hand, and an opportunity to show her loyalty, gallantry, and all the highest virtues is at hand, for Sherman will place himself in the most perilous situation that can be conceived.  He has cut himself off from his communication.  A very few weeks of warfare must exhaust his resources.”

The Richmond Examiner thinks that the ruthless conduct of the great national army will tend to cement Georgians in support of the rebel government, and cause the lukewarm and halting to immediately take up arms and become its most uncompromising defenders, and that the State, after passing through this ordeal of fire, will come forth purified and purged of its love for the old Union.  The Richmond Whig, though, is not so hopeful as its cotemporary [sic], and says :  “We cannot say that we feel an absolute conviction, although, indeed, our hopes are strong, that Sherman will fail in achieving his final object.”  It says that “Sherman is a man of undoubted ability and astuteness, and he would never have commenced his march from Atlanta had he not believed he could finally reach the coast in safety.”

The panic created, both in Georgia and South Carolina, by the march of the irresistible conqueror is something which has had no parallel during the war.  A levy en masse of Georgia and South Carolina militia has been ordered, and desperate efforts were being made to concentrate at Augusta an army sufficient to present some opposition to Sherman’s advancing columns.

The Augusta Constitutionalist of the 22d says :  “a raiding party of the enemy tapped the rad 10 miles east of Macon and destroyed a lumber train.  Freight trains were turned back in haste.  Heavy cannonading and musketry fire were heard east of Gordon.  It was supposed Gen. Wayne¹ at Gordon had been attacked.  Milledgeville had been entirely evacuated by our forces before the enemy entered.  Everything of value was brought away.”

The Augusta Dispatch of the 21st says :  “The movement of Sherman on Milledgeville was a feint for the purpose of concentrating our forces there, and the raid on the Central was for the purpose of keeping them there, whilst the whole force of the enemy moves upon and captures Augusta or Savannah.”

The Augusta Constitutionalist gives the progress of a column under Slocum.  About 10,000 cavalry visited Madison, on the Georgia state road, and burned it on the 20th.  An engine was sent up the road, and found the enemy at Buck’s Head, 11 miles nearer Augusta.  On the 19th some of these men were within 15 miles of Augusta, probably a raiding party.

The Augusta Chronicle of the 20th says, “a large cavalry force left Greenville, S. C., bound across the country in the direction of Atlanta, with a view of cutting off a Yankee column moving down the Georgia road in this direction.  It is said Breckinridge [John C. Breckinridge] was to leave upper East Tennessee with his troops the 12th, for the Georgia line.  With Hood in his rear, Breckinridge on his flanks, and 30,000 veteran troops on his front, Sherman cannot escape.”

The Augusta Constitutionalist says :  “As we write, the glad and familiar shout of veteran troops, just arriving from the South Carolina depot, comes up from the streets.  If Sherman’s men retreat this way they will hear the whistle of bullets from the trusty guns which have often been pointed at fanatics on the banks of the Potomac and James.  Before our readers see this, other glad shouts will be heard in our streets.”

A Georgia paper abuses, in strong language, Jeff. Davis [Jefferson Davis] and the Richmond authorities for not sending troops into the State to impede Sherman’s movements, crying in despair, “Is Georgia to be left to take care of herself ?”

The rebel papers show the division of sentiment, distraction and the panic which Sherman’s operations have created in the South, and authorize us in anticipating the most decisive and glorious results from them.

1.  Henry Constantine Wayne (1815-1883) graduated from West Point in 1838 and joined the artillery. Later that same year he participated in the Aroostook War over the boundary of Maine. In 1841, he became the assistant instructor of artillery and cavalry at West Point where he remained for two years. In the Mexican War he was brevetted for his bravery at the battles of Contreras and Churubusco. After the Mexican War, Wayne relayed an idea to then-Senator Jefferson Davis about using camels for transportation in the West. When Davis became Secretary of War in 1853, he decided to experiment with the camels and Wayne was chosen to lead an expedition to the Middle East to purchase camels and experiment with the animals in the deserts of the western United States. When the Civil War started, the project ended.  When Lincoln won the presidential election, Wayne resigned his commission and joined the Confederate Army. He was appointed the adjutant and inspector-general of Georgia and was responsible for putting the army of Georgia into order. In December 1861, Wayne was commissioned a brigadier general. After being ordered to Manassas, Virginia, Wayne resigned his commission as a brigadier general and instead stuck to his duties as adjutant and inspector-general until the end of the War. He did briefly see action during the Savannah Campaign (Sherman’s March to the Sea), commanding Confederate troops at the Battle of Ball’s Ferry (November 23–26, 1864). In this action, he was unsuccessful in stopping Union forces from crossing the Oconee River in Wilkinson County, Georgia.

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