George H. Thomas, Major General U.S.A. "The Rock of Chickamauga," - "The Sledge of Nashville."
Discussion: -- March to the Sea
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Sherman’s "March to the Sea" has drawn acclaim since its performance in 1864. Many compare the strategy as Napoleonic.  Others claim it to be strategy of the first 'modern' war.  Its audacity boggles the minds of some, but such minds may be 'boggled' by many things.  Some look at the outcome and wonder what the military results were?  Still others see it as the initial flock of "Snow Birds" (a semi-deprecatory term, used by southerners, defining the flight of aged northerners to sunnier climes), to the south.

William B. Hazen, in his "Narrative of Military Service" was overwhelmed by its overall concept. However, in the text he describes it: – "The march was little more than a band picnic. The country was full of what were luxuries to us, and no army was ever stronger, in a sanitary sense, or lived better than we did. There were no strifes in this army, and all worked in harmony for the common end".1

Then he provides a day by day recitation of the March with daily milage marched and any action (?) engaged in.2

"The following extracts from my journal and orders pertaining to the march will best illustrate its (the March) character: -

Nov. 13, 1864. Marched at Seven A. M., taking road to Chattahoochee River. Passed Baker's, and moved down to Turner's Ferry. Crossed at Nine A. M. Camped at White Hall, near the railroad, having marched fifteen miles.

November 14. In same place, preparing to march.

November 15. Marched at half-past Eight A. M. down the railroad, passing Rough-and-Ready at 1.20 P. M. Took McDonough road when within six miles of Jonesboro'. Camped at Five P. M. on Warel's farm, three miles from McDonough, having marched nineteen miles.

.November 16. Marched at Six A. M. in advance, reaching McDonough’s at One P. M. After a short halt, crossed Calton River and moved on to Lemon's farm, four miles south from McDonough's, where camped at Three P. M., having marched sixteen miles. Captured three Rebels to-day; also found abundance of water and forage.

November 17. Marched at half-past Three P. M. in rear of corps. Moved wagons in two lines, and troops on side of road abreast, past Locust road, and camped at midnight on side of road at Thoxton's farm, seven miles northwest of Indian Springs, having marched sixteen miles, finding water and forage plentiful.

November 18. Marched at eight A. M. Camped at twelve M. at Indian Springs, having marched seven miles.

November 19. Marched at half-past Three A. M. Reached Ruff's mills, on Ocmulgee River, at half-past six A. M. Crossed on pontoon bridge. Camped at One P. M. on Pye farm, on Hillsboro' road, having marched twelve miles.

November 20. Marched at 9.15 A. M., reaching Hillsboro' at Two P. M. Roads bad; weather rainy. Captured two prisoners. Camped at half-past Six P. M. n Dunderburg farm, having marched twelve miles.

November 21. Marched at Sx A. M, passing through Clinton at Twelve M. Roads terrible. The Thirty-seventh Ohio and Fifteenth Michigan sent out on Macon road to protect passing trains attacked by cavalry, losing three men wounded. First Brigade was left at Clinton to fortify the town and await the arrival of Fourth Division. Camped at Five P. M., having marched fourteen miles.

November 22. Marched at half-past Seven A. M., crossing the Macon and Savannah Railroad at 9.45 A. M. Camped at half-past Twelve P. M. on Dr. Gibson’s farm, having marched nine miles. Fortified this position.

Orders for March:-

MRS. SHEPPARD's, GEORGIA, Nov. 23, 1864. Captain Voges, Quartermaster:

. . . I find the wagon-master's wagon loaded with the following articles: two mess-chests, two boxes of clothing, one wall-tent, one cot, and four rolls of bedding. This is half as much transportation as is used by the ten officers at my headquarters. The mess-chest and cot (articles I do not carry) must be thrown out, the blankets put on that part of the train to which their owners are assigned, and the wagon used for legitimate purposes, -that is, to lighten some wagons that may stop and detain the army.

Of what service is this wagon-master, that he should presume to have a wagon, and keep two servants and a private horse.

Do you carry this horse on your papers? If not, take him up and issue him. In case the wagon-master has a bona fide claim to him, then pay him. The sooner we dispose of all such abuses the sooner shall we have subordination in the various departments, - an element which does not now exist in its proper sense in some of them.

Be pleased to send, for Captain Earnest, the large chestnut horse I have frequently seen ridden by your orderly. I can find no other horse strong enough for him. I shall soon be able to refit your train with mules. . . .

MRS. SHEPPARD'S, GEORGIA, Nov. 23, 1864. The following are prescribed as duties of aides-de-camp, and will be performed by each on alternate days.

At tattoo they will report to the general commanding for instructions with reference to the march of the next day, and promulgate the orders then given, to brigade and battery commanders that night. They will see that reveille is held at these and at brigade headquarters at the prescribed hour, and will themselves rise and see by personal inspection that the same is observed in the entire command. After making the inspection they will again report for further instructions. They will cause the trains to be made ready and pulled out on or near the road at least ten minutes previous to the prescribed hour of starting, and the head of the leading brigade for the day must be there by the time of starting.

They will, after the "forward" is sounded, see all the troops and trains under motion, and superintend the same, seeing that each command falls in at its proper place. They will then ride along to the front, reporting to the general or his adjutant. They will afterward, each three hours during the day, halt, permitting the entire column to pass them, and coming forward, report its condition. When nearing camp they will ride to the front, learn the position to be occupied by the troops, and be ready to post them on their arrival

Much address is required, in posting troops, to take proper advantage of the accidents of the ground for defensive purposes. Too much attention cannot be given to this subject. . . .

March Cont.

November 23. Marched at eight o'clock A. M. on the Irwinton road. Camped at Sheppard's farm, seven miles west of Irwin ton, at one o'clock P. M., having marched nine miles. Fortified this position.

November 24. Marched at 11.15 A. M., following First Division. Reached Irwinton at four P. M. Camped outside the town, having marched eight miles. Roads bad. Country poor. Forage scarce. First Brigade reported to-night, having brought up pontoon train via Gordon.

November 25. Marched at Seven A. M., and reached Poplar Spring Church at Ten A. M., eight miles. Struck Leggett's Division, Seventeenth Army Corps, coming in from the left. Marched on to Oconee River, sixteen miles, finding enemy on opposite side at Ball's Ferry. Deployed Fifty-seventh Ohio and One Hundred and Sixteenth Illinois as skirmishers, who opened fire across the river. Two cannons opened at dusk on the enemy, who left at night.

November 26. Corps crossed Oconee River to-day on pontoons. This division commenced crossing at Eight P. M., and finished at 10.15 P. M. Went into camp three miles from river, having marched five miles.

November 27. Marched at Seven A. M. Reached Irwin's Cross-roads at half-past Eight A. M., where took Settlement road to right; turned to left within half a mile, marching one mile and camping, having marched seven miles.

November 28. Marched at nine A. M. on Tarboro' road eastward two miles, crossed Clark's Creek, and during the day branches of Ohoopee River. Camped at Five P. M. at Hesse's farm, having marched fourteen miles.

November 29. Marched at half-past Seven A. M. through pine forests, on old Savannah road. Camped at Six P. M., having marched sixteen miles.

November 30. Marched at Five A. M. on the left of road, passing Third Division. Camped at four P. M. in Summertown, having marched twelve miles. Casualties during the month: captured, -commissioned officers 1, enlisted men, 7; wounded, - enlisted men 3 : aggregate, 11. Number of enemy captured during the month, 5. The number of miles marched, 275.

December 1. Marched from Summertown at Seven A. M. on old Savannah road. Camped at five P. M. on Johnson's farm, having marched fourteen miles.

December 2. Marched at Seven A. M. Camped at half-past Four P. M. on Scull's Creek, having marched ten miles through pine forest, and built three quarters of a mile of corduroy.

LOT'S CREEK, GEORGIA, Dec. 3, 1864.

Orders:-

Until further orders each brigade commander will detail a sufficient number of handy men, who will march at the head of the column to man the tools in the tool-wagons. They will assign to their command a good practical officer, a civil engineer preferred, who will march with them and superintend such work as may be assigned him. One wagon in addition to the tool-wagon will be used to carry the knapsacks of the detail, which will carry the tools they use.

This will not change the organization of the brigade pioneer parties.

The brigade leading the column will always take with it its unarmed pioneers, to clear the way for the infantry column and make crossings.

Lar's CREEK, GEORGIA, Dec. 3, 1864. III. Each brigade commander may organize a mounted foraging party of sixty men and two officers.

IV. Each regiment may have thirteen pack animals, and if necessary one additional to carry medical stores. All persons in charge of these animals will be furnished a ticket signed by the brigade inspector.

V. Each brigade commander may mount one orderly, his sergeant-major, quartermaster, and commissary sergeant.

No other animals than above indicated, except those forming apart of the command, will be retained. All in addition will be turned over each evening at these headquarters. All horses used for packing or by foragers, suitable for artillery, will be turned over to De Gress's battery, and all mules used for like purposes, suitable for the harness, to the division quartermaster.

The foraging parties will be sent to these headquarters for inspection this evening, and receive tickets from the provostmarshal. Any person hereafter foraging without these tickets will be punished.

The attention of the entire command is called to the fact that all property taken in an enemy's country belongs to the Government; and any appropriation of it except by prescribed methods, or by trading and receiving pecuniary consideration for it, is an act of felony, and will be punished as such. Quartermasters will this evening brand all public animals not now branded.

December 3. Marched at Eight A. M. Had a long bridge to build over Lot's Creek. Camped at Eleven A. M. on south side, having marched two miles. Enemy captured foraging party of one commissioned officer and eleven men, Fifty-seventh Ohio.

December 4. Marched at half-past Seven A. M. At Three P. M. the mounted foragers were attacked at Statesboro' by several hundred Rebel cavalry, and driven back to the main column, where a volley from the Seventieth Ohio scattered them. The enemy's loss was six killed, one wounded, and two captured. Our loss was eight wounded and twenty-seven captured.

December 5. Marched at Ten A. M. in rear of Third Division. Crossed Black Creek at Brannon's Hill. Camped at half-past Six P. M. on J. Proctor's farm, having marched sixteen miles.

December 6. Marched at half-past eight A. M., passing Briar Patch to Brannon's farm, where we camped at Ten A. M. on the left of the Third Division, having marched a mile and a half. Third Brigade marched at Five o'clock this morning to Jenk's Bridge, near Station 2.

December 7. Division marched at Seven A. M., in advance of Third Division. Third Brigade marched from Jenk's Bridge to Black Creek. Crossed, and moved to Cannouchee River, where,

after a skirmish with the enemy, we camped at Eden Court House. Division camped at Three P. M. on Butler's farm, on Black Creek, having marched fifteen miles. Sent two regiments, Second Brigade, across creek to fortify.

IN THE FIELD, GEORGIA, Dec. 8vn , 1864. Orders:-

I. The board of officers convened in General Orders No. 56, to appraise public animals, is hereby dissolved.

II. A board of officers, to consist of First Lieutenant Thaddeus Capron, Acting-Assistant Quartermaster First Brigade; First Lieutenant John Doyle, Acting-Assistant Quartermaster Second Brigade; and First Lieutenant John Stite, Adjutant One Hundred and Eleventh Illinois Volunteer Infantry, is hereby convened to meet at these headquarters December 11, 1864, at Ten o'clock A. M.

III. All officers required to be mounted, riding public animals, and not entitled to the same, will, if they desire to retain them, present them to this board for appraisement. . . .

December 8. Marched at half-past Eight A. M., crossing Black Creek, and reached Bryan Court House at half-past Twelve A. M. Camped near Bryan Court House at Three P. M., having marched twelve miles. Third Brigade rejoined the division to-day, and had some skirmishing with the enemy, who defended the crossing at Ball's Bridge over the Cannouchee with two pieces of artillery. Enemy retired after midnight.

December 9. Repaired bridge, and the Second and Third brigades having crossed on pontoons, marched at nine A. M. to the Gulf Railroad. Corse's division reached the railroad at two P. M., and tore up seven miles of track and burned the bridge over the Ogeechee, and several large trestle-works, capturing eleven of the enemy. First Brigade of this division camped at four P: M. near Ball's Bridge, having marched four miles.

December 10. Marched at half-past Seven A. M., recrossing the Cannouchee and crossing the Ogeechee at Dillon's Ferry at Nine A. M. Camped at Six P. M. on Lloyd's plantation, nine miles from Savannah, and in support of Fourth Division, having marched fifteen miles.

December 11. Remained in the position occupied on the 10th.

December 12. Marched at Four P. M., having received orders to cross the Ogeechee and take Fort McAllister. Camped at Six P. M. near King's Bridge, having marched five miles. Were joined by section of De Gress's Battery and First Missouri Light Artillery (six guns).

December 13. Crossed the river on King's Bridge at Seven A. M., reaching the vicinity of Fort McAllister at Twelve M., having marched thirteen miles. Three regiments of the Second Brigade (Forty-seventh Ohio, Fifty-fourth Ohio, and One Hundred and Eleventh Illinois), Colonel W. S. Jones commanding, were sent cautiously forward and took up position on left of road, the left resting on the river. Three of the First Brigade (Thirtieth Ohio, Sixth Missouri, and One Hundred and Sixteenth Illinois), Colonel Theodore Jones commanding, were sent across the swamp to the extreme right. Three of the Third Brigade (Seventieth Ohio, Forty-eighth Illinois, and Ninetieth Illinois), Colonel J. M. Oliver commanding, occupied the centre. The fort was invested at half-past three P. m., our line being within six hundred yards of the fort. Up to this time but few casualties had occurred; but the command had sustained a serious loss in the death of Captain John H. Groce, Acting Assistant Adjutant-General Second Brigade, and also by Colonel W. S. Jones being wounded, which placed the Second Brigade in command of Colonel J. S. Martin, One Hundred and Eleventh Illinois.

The signal to assault was given at half-past four P. M., and all moved gallantly forward; and but a few moments elapsed until the colors of the Thirtieth, Forty-seventh, and Seventieth Ohio were planted on the enemy's works, followed in a moment by the colors of the entire command. The enemy made a stubborn resistance; but they could not withstand the impetuosity of the assault, although in addition to the fire of sharpshooters and artillery the troops encountered, outside the abatis, an entire line of torpedoes, which exploded with terrific effect. Our loss was as follows : killed, -commissioned officers 4, enlisted men 20, total 24; wounded, -commissioned officers 7, enlisted men 103, total 110: aggregate, 134. The enemy's loss was as follows: killed, - commissioned officers 1, enlisted men 13, total 14; wounded, - enlisted men 21 ; captured, - commissioned officers 17, enlisted men 178, total 195 : aggregate, 230.

We captured eleven siege-guns, one 10-inch mortar, and twelve field-pieces, -in all, twenty-four ; also sixty tons of ammunition and a large amount of commissary stores and liquors. The following is a list of artillery captured : three 10-inch columbiads, one 8-inch columbiad, one 42-pounder smooth-bore, two 32pounder smooth-bore, one 24-pounder howitzer, two 12-pounder napoleons, three 32-pounder rifled sea-coast guns, two 12-pounder field howitzers, two 12-pounder mounted howitzers, six 6-pounder guns (bronze), one 10-inch mortar, and one hundred stand of small arms.

In this action all officers and men behaved with the utmost bravery, and are alike deserving of commendation. The loss of Captain Groce is irreparable. He was one of the bravest, most accomplished, and most competent officers in the command, and was fast rising to distinguished honors, merited by a devoted attachment to the cause and a prompt and efficient discharge of duty, in various positions, ever since the commencement of the war. He was killed by a sharpshooter while advancing the skirmish line preparatory to the assault.

Orders:-

FORT McALLISTER, GEORGIA, Dec. 14, 1864. In consideration of the conspicuous part taken by the Seventieth Ohio in the assault of Fort McAllister yesterday, that regiment is detailed to garrison that place temporarily, and will make its camp near the fort with such force on duty in it as the colonel may deem requisite.

He will take immediate steps to put the fort in order, cleaning it, and adopting a proper system of police.

December 14. Went into camp on Middleton's plantation, near the fort. Established hospitals and made disposition of the captured property.

December 15. The Seventieth Ohio, Lieutenant-Colonel Phillips commanding, put in charge of the fort. Made landing for boats near the fort.

FORT McALLISTER, GEORGIA, Dec. 16, 1864. In compliance with special orders No. 199, from headquarters Fifteenth Army Corps, each brigade of this division, leaving one regiment in camp, will prepare to march without wagons to destroy the Gulf Railroad, as follows : the Second Brigade from Walthourville east to a point two miles east of McIntosh; the Third Brigade from a point two miles east of McIntosh to the crossing of the railroad with the Midway or St. Cathe rine's River; the First Brigade from the St. Catherine's to the Ogeechee.

It will be seen, from the order referred to from corps headquarters, that the work should be done in the most thorough manner, - every tie burned and every rail twisted.

December 16. Engaged in cleaning up the fort and clearing away the debris surrounding it.

Orders:-

FORT McALLISTER, GEORGIA, Dec. 20, 1864.

I have the honor to earnestly recommend and urge the appointment of Colonel Theodore Jones, Thirtieth Ohio Volunteer Infantry, as brigadier-general of volunteers. This appointment is asked for the benefit of the service, and in consideration of the services rendered by Colonel Jones in the assault and capture of Fort McAllister, and at the battle of Jonesboro', Aug. 31, 1864.

To Brig.-Gen. L. THOMAS, Adj.-Gen. II. S. Army.

FORT McALLISTER, GEORGIA, Dec. 23, 1864. The general commanding the division is pleased to announce that official despatches have been received from Major-General Thomas, saying that he had attacked Hood in front of Nashville; had driven his left and left centre eight miles, capturing sixteen guns, a large number of prisoners, flags, earthworks, and trains; that night closed the battle, but he would fight or follow the next day, and expected to destroy the entire army.

Our own troops have done all they were asked to do, and all that could be expected. The fall of Savannah, so soon following the splendid assault and capture of Fort McAllister, is deemed by the general commanding a fitting occasion to congratulate the division upon its uniform good and brave conduct since he has had the honor of commanding it, and upon the brilliant close of the late campaign, of which it can justly claim so important a part.

December 24. The sick and wounded of the command, and those of the enemy in our hands, were sent away on hospital boat to-day.

December 25 and 26. In same position, awaiting orders, and sending into the city large numbers of contrabands.

Dec. 26, 1864. No negroes, except division pioneers, authorized company cooks, and servants for officers entitled to them, will be permitted to remain with the division. All such will be furnished tickets by the division or brigade provost-marshals before the troops move from their present scamp. All at that time without such tickets will be turned over for shipment.

Dec. 26, 1864.

. . . Brigade adjutants will furnish tickets for the negroes of their respective brigades. They will be cautious, and not ticket more servants than officers are allowed by orders and army regulations.

December 27. Received orders to commence dismantling the fort preparatory to the abandonment of this side of the river.

December 28. Captain Pratt, depot ordnance-officer at Hilton Head, arrived with apparatus, and took charge of dismantling the fort and loading guns and ammunition on steamers for shipment.

Dec. 31, 1864. The troops being about to temporarily vacate the country west of the Ogeechee River, and the people south of the Gulf Railroad on what is known as Brian's Neck being destitute of provisions, Mr. Maxwell, Dr. Johnson, and Mr. Cranston, residents, are hereby appointed a committee to ascertain the number and wants of the people on said neck, both black and white; also to take possession of the rice now in the Middleton mills, guard the same, and supply from it the needs of said people. No more than two weeks' supply will be furnished any family at one time.

Jan. 1, 1865. Marched from Fort McAllister at Seven A. M. for Savannah, crossing King's Bridge at Nine A. M. and Little Ogeechee at Three P. M., reaching Wood Lawn, four miles from Savannah, where we came up with the Second Brigade and camped for the night, having marched twenty-two miles.

January 2. Marched to the city, four miles, camping just outside.

The following extract is taken from my official report of the Georgia campaign : -

SAVANNAH, GEORGIA,

Jan. 9, 1865.

. . . On the 15th of November, every preparation being complete, the division, with the army, broke camp at Atlanta, and set out on its march through Georgia. It then numbered an effective strength of four thousand four hundred and twenty-six officers and men, and was composed of seventeen regimental organizations, its three brigade commanders being Colonels John M. Oliver, Fifteenth Michigan; Wells S. Jones, Fifty-third Ohio; and Theodore Jones, Thirtieth Ohio.

The troops moved rapidly, passing through McDonough the 17th, Indian Springs the 18th ; crossing the Ocmulgee the 19th, at Reach's Mills; reaching Hillsboro' the 20th and Clinton the 21st, where Colonel Theodore Jones's brigade was left to cover the Macon roads till the next division arrived. Some skirmisbing took place here, with a few casualties.

On the 22d the Macon and Augusta Railroad was crossed and the march continued, passing Irwinton the 24th, and the Oconee River, at Ball's Ferry, the 25th. The enemy was found on the opposite bank, and two regiments were deployed to develop them. On the morning of the 26th they had left, and preparations were at once made to cross, which was commenced by eleven A. M. The march was resumed without loss of time, passing Irwinton's Cross-roads the 27th. We moved toward Summertown through continuous pine forests, crossing several low, marshy branches of the Ohoopee, and reached Summertown the 30th.

On the 1st of December the march was resumed in the direction of Statesboro', along the right bank of the Ogeechee River. The remainder of the march was impeded by low, broad marshes, which it was invariably found necessary to corduroy.

From Summertown to the Cannouchee, which was reached the 7th, the Third Division (General John E. Smith), with my own, formed a separate column under my command, and was somewhat exposed to annoyance from the enemy-who had been stationed at Macon under Hardee - endeavoring to reach Savannah from the west before us. On the 3d the Fifty-third Ohio lost by capture a foraging party of one officer and eleven men.

On the 4th, near Statesboro', the foragers met a brigade of the enemy's cavalry endeavoring to join Wheeler, and were attacked by them, and driven to the main column, losing by capture twenty-seven, and by wounds eight. The enemy lost two killed and two captured.

The enemy defended the crossing of the Cannouchee with infantry and two pieces of artillery, having burned the bridge. During the night of the 8th he retired; and the bridge being repaired, at eleven A. M. on the 9th two brigades were crossed, - one pushed to King's Bridge, the other brigade to a point on the Gulf Railroad, about six miles from King's Bridge.

On the 10th the division recrossed the Cannouchee, moving to and crossing the Ogeechee at Dillon's Ferry, and proceeding to near the Anderson plantation, nine miles from Savannah. On the 12th the division moved back to King's Bridge, it having received orders to cross the Ogeecbee there and move down its right bank to Fort McAllister and capture it.

The march to the sea was strategically a splendid movement, its true objective being Lee's army, with Savannah as a refitting station. Tactically it was little more than a plain march of several parallel columns of troops practically unopposed. It was novel in kind, and without much risk. Hood was too far away to interpose; and if Lee had left Richmond to meet us, the great purpose of the campaign would have been effected. The enemy hovered about us with some five thousand cavalry, picking up stragglers and making a show of resistance at the crossings of rivers. Hardee was in Macon with eight thousand men, and felt our right flank; then brushed past to reach Savannah before us, which his lighter troops and smaller numbers enabled him to do. As my command composed the right flank of the army, his troops frequently came in collision with my foragers; but only once - at Statesboro' - did he touch the main column.

Why an army corps was not thrown to the east of the Savannah River, which seemed practicable, and Hardee captured with the city, I never knew. The country we passed through was in general a poor pine barren, - so poor that one family was found who did not know there was a war. Yet its products of food and forage were left undisturbed for our use; and it was ample, and in many camps there was at least a full day's rations for all hands left behind."

 

1.  Hazen, William B., "A Narrative of Military Service",  Boston, Ticknor and Company  1885  p. 313

2.  Ibid, pp. 313 - 329

 

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