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General Sherman's March through Georgia

The Illustrated London News, vol. 46, no. 1298, p. 66.

January 21, 1865

GENERAL SHERMAN'S MARCH THROUGH GEORGIA.

The map of General Sherman's route from Atlanta to Savannah, which is engraved on this page, requires but little explanation. It will be perceived that the central region of the State of Georgia, an upland country, open and well-watered, fertile of wheat, cotton, and Indian corn, is traversed by two railroads, from south-east to north-west, converging at Atlanta, but running for some distance parallel to each other, and forming the chief link of railway connection between Virginia and the States of Alabama and Mississippi, now the south-western limit of the Confederacy. One of these railroads is the Georgia Central, running from Savannah to Macon, 190 miles, thence to Atlanta, by the Macon and Western Railroad, 101 miles, making the total distance from Savannah to Atlanta by railroad 291 miles. The other is the Georgia Railroad, running from Augusta to Atlanta, at from forty to sixty miles north of the Georgia Central Railroad, and making the distance to Atlanta from Augusta 171 miles. The plan of General Sherman's march contemplated the covering of these two lines of railroad, their subsequent destruction, and a concentration of his forces at or beyond Milledgeville, with Kilpatrick's cavalry force well disposed in front, and vigilantly covering each flank. The movement and route of his infantry columns were so well masked that, from first to last, the enemy were in total ignorance of the position of his main body, and only discovered the track of his infantry columns after they had left their vigilant foes many miles in the rear. This strategic deception was aided by a feigned approach to Macon with the cavalry of his right wing, which completely occupied the attention of the Confederate General Cobb, whose militia, collected at that point, were the only forces from which General Sherman could expect any opposition. It was on the 12th of November that the right wing of the Federal army, under General Howard, moved out from Atlanta and began its march, proceeding southward on the way to Macon, and then turning eastward, while the cavalry harassed and provoked the Confederates within a few miles of that town. Meanwhile, on the 14th of November, the Federal left wing, under General Slocum, set forth from Atlanta, moving almost directly east, through Covington and Oxford to Madison, thence turning southward to the rendezvous at Milledgeville. On the same day General Sherman himself, with his own Staff, took the road to Macon, so as to come up with General Howard. The crossing of the River Ocmulgee was the first step which indicated that he would pass by Macon without attacking that town; and if the Confederates had been aware of this intention, they might have been prepared to interrupt his passage here; but on that very day, Nov. 20, the Federal cavalry were at Griswoldville, only eight miles from Macon, cutting up the railroad and telegraph, burning a foundry, and doing other mischief. Hence the Georgia militia, under Cobb and Phillips, were induced to stand on the defensive at Macon; and it was not until the 22nd, when Sherman was already at Milledgeville, that they made an assault upon his rear-guard, which was merely a skirmish without result, though it cost them 600 killed and wounded. The right and left wings of the Federal army, having destroyed the railroads and the public buildings of every town through which they passed, even to the Methodist college at Oxford, with its fine library and museum, came to a junction at Milledgeville, and remained three days in that city, where the State Legislature had been holding its session a few days before. On the 24th General Sherman left Milledgeville, dividing his army as before; and it marched, by the routes shown in our Map for each wing respectively, to Millen, a distance of seventy-five miles, in eight days, obtaining vast quantities of forage and much cattle, especially in the neighbourhood of Sparta, in Hancock County. The active movements of the cavalry, under Kilpatrick, contributed greatly to deceive the enemy as to the position of the Federal army. It was necessary to conceal the real direction of the march; for had Wheeler, who commanded the Confederates in this district, known in time that Augusta was certainly to be avoided, the entire force there could have been sent down to Millen, and, being thus thrown in Sherman's front, would have resisted or delayed his march upon Savannah, and supplied in the end a formidable addition to the garrison of that place. Kilpatrick, therefore, pressed Wheeler more vigorously than ever, and the latter fell back towards Augusta, which put him out of Sherman's way most effectually, again leaving him in the rear of the very army whose advance he was endeavouring to resist. The remainder of Sherman's march was from Millen to Savannah, a distance of seventy-nine miles. By the 10th of December he had arrived within five miles of that city, but, with sound military judgment, he made preparations at once, not for an assault upon Savannah, but for the capture of Fort M'Allister, thereby opening the Ogeechee River, communicating with the fleet, and making a water base on that river at any point he chose, directly in the rear of Savannah; and also cutting off all communication between Savannah and the southern part of the State, viĆ¢ the Savannah, Albany, and Gulf Railroad, which has heretofore been an important avenue of supplies to the rebels, from the vast numbers of beef-cattle from Florida transported over it. Accordingly, a division of troops from the 14th Corps, under General Hazen, was sent down on the 13th, and the fort was gallantly carried by assault, with its entire garrison and stores. This rendered the situation of the army perfectly secure. The lines were stretched across the peninsula in the rear of Savannah, the left resting firmly on the Savannah River, about three miles above the city, and the extreme right on the Ogeechee river, at Kingsbridge. Having cut off all the railroads leading to Savannah and obtained command of the Savannah and Ogeechee rivers, he had made it impossible for General Hardee to hold the city, which was consequently abandoned by the Confederate General and taken possession of by Sherman in time to present it to Mr. Lincoln "as a Christmas-box."

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