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From Atlanta To The Sea
A newly discovered Union diary shows that Sherman’s march was about as Ruthless as Southerners have always said it was
December 1978 | Volume 30, Issue 1
Nov. 16th. Left Atlanta at 1 P.M. It seemed as if we were about to commence a new life. What doubts, what hopes and fears filled our minds as we took up our line of march, to see those mighty trains as they moved along conveying all that our vast army depended upon for subsistence. In case our undertaking succeeded our supplies were ample, if we failed they were not, the future alone must decide that. With our only line of R.R. irreparably destroyed in our rear and our enemies’ country in our front. We started with but 7 days rations of provisions in our train and 3 days issued before starting. We marched in an easterly direction, passing through Decatur and encamping 6 miles beyond for the night. Decatur is a small town and old at that, a part of it was burned in order to keep the boys in practice. Here we received a general order from Gen. Sherman giving the men privilege to forage anything and everything that they could find to eat. All horses, mules, cattle were to be taken indiscriminately for the use of the army. All cotton, cotton gins, etc. to be burned and all stores of subsistence that we did not use or carry to be destroyed, and gave us to understand that no more rations would be issued. Foraging parties from every Regt, were formed and set to work.
Nov. 17th. Marched at 7 A.M. Took dinner near Livonia [Lithonia] a small town on the Augusta & Atlanta R.R. Here we tore up a few miles of the same and also burned a part of the town in retaliation for the inhabitants bushwacking our men. Passed on to Conyers Station, camped for the night. Distance marched 20 miles.
Nov. 18th. Marched at 6 A.M. Proceeded to Covington 18 miles, arriving at 2 P.M. and commenced tearing up R.R. While the Regt, was doing that I went out among some of the erring brethren of Georgia for the purpose of replenishing Head Quarter mess, which by the way was getting slightly depreciated. I had good success, procuring several chickens, honey, sweet potatoes, flour and meal. … We had a splendid supper and all decided that I should again try my hand on the morrow.
Nov. 19th. Marched at 6 A.M. Our Regt. in advance of the Corps. Went out with foraging party. Left the main road. We had proceeded about 1 mile when two men of the party were accidentally shot, or rather carelessly by their comrades while shooting chickens. Sent back to road and procured surgeon and ambulance. Passed on two miles farther and came to a splendid plantation where the boys got all the forage they wished, consisting of meal, flour, potatoes, pork, chickens, turkeys, honey … we also took from this place several head of horses and mules which served to convey our forage to camp. We also obtained a large quantity of molasses, which is one of their chief products, often finding several barrels at a single plantation. Gen. [Joseph E.] Brown, after the fall of Atlanta, ordered the State Militia to be relieved in order that they could come home and secure their crops and more especially the molasses crop. Well they secured it and we have eaten a good portion of it for them. Sweet potatoes are in great abundance and on this campaign we have found them already dug which is very convenient, it saves time in procuring them.
Sunday 20th. Marched at 6. Raining hard nearly all day. Nothing of importance transpiring during the day except cleaning out the plantations along the line of our march. At night we encamped at Sandtown, a small place, the chief attraction being a large cotton factory which employed about 60 girls manufacturing clothes for Rebel Army. We burnt the factory, notwithstanding the girls could not see the use of doing it. They of course were deprived of employment but we could not avoid it. Still raining. Marched 18 miles.
Nov. 21st. Marched at 6 A.M. Still raining. Marched 12 miles and encamped for the night. After we were fairly settled I started foraging, went to the first house, found it pretty well cleaned out. The niggers told me that one mile farther on I would come to the main plantation where I would find a plenty of everything. I should have stated before that the slaves will tell where everything is. The residents have hid everything from the houses in the woods and swamps, but the boys find it all for the slaves expose it and then it is forever gone, while if they would allow it to remain in their houses, 9 cases out of 10 it would not be disturbed. But to return to my subject. I went to the main plantation notwithstanding it was slightly dangerous, for the Rebel Cavalry were hovering around. Here I found all I wanted and more too. In conversation with the lady of the house, she said that I was the first Yankee that ever put a foot in her house. I very politely calmed her feelings by informing her that by the next night she would undoubtedly have the honor of forming the acquaintance of several of the vandals.… I returned safely back to camp late in the evening. After partaking of a bowl of milk and cornbread retired for the night.
Nov. 22nd. We lay still upon that day, the 1st Div. passing us as we march each division in front 3 days and then change. I went out in the afternoon five miles but found nothing, the country was completely stripped. Upon this day it turned off cold, the first cold day of the season. At night it froze water ¼ of an inch. While out that afternoon I saw a member of the 14th Ohio Volunteers shot dead by one of his companions while in the act of catching a chicken. I returned to camp gaining nothing by the trip I made.