J.D.R. Hawkins

One bullet can make a man a hero… or a casualty.

Archive for the tag “Savannah”

General Sherman’s March to the Sea

Sherman's march

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the end for the Confederacy in the Eastern Theater. On November 15, 1864, Major General William Tecumseh Sherman led his Union troops on a rampage, sweeping through Georgia while reeking havoc, destruction, and terror on the citizens of the state. It was Sherman’s idea that war should be inflicted on the weak and innocent: no one was immune. “Total war” began two months earlier, when General Philip Sheridan’s Union army stripped the Shenandoah Valley of its resources.

After capturing Atlanta, Sherman’s Federal forces set off for Savannah on November 16. Intending to destroy all Confederate supply surpluses, Sherman also granted liberties to his soldiers that today would seem obscenely, politically incorrect. Some of his orders were as follows:

“… should guerrillas or bushwhackers molest our march, or should the inhabitants burn bridges, obstruct roads, or otherwise manifest local hostility, then army commanders should order and enforce a devastation more or less relentless according to the measure of such hostility …

“… 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 … who will gather, near the route traveled, corn or forage of any kind, meat of any kind, vegetables, corn-meal, or whatever is needed by the command …

“As for horses, mules, wagons, &c., belonging to the inhabitants, the cavalry and artillery may appropriate freely and without limit … 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.”

– William T. Sherman , Military Division of the Mississippi Special Field Order 120, November 9, 1864

Sherman’s orders were not strictly enforced, so many “bummers” took advantage of defenseless civilians. Margaret Mitchell’s classic  “Gone With the Wind” portrays Southern characters engulfed in the trials of the tumultuous “march,” particularly those of Scarlet O’Hara.

Sherman’s Path of Destruction

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On this date in 1865, Union forces under General William Tecumseh Sherman continued their march of devastation, reaching Columbia, South Carolina. Because it was the first state to secede from the Union, soldiers felt a deep-seated vengeance, so they burned the city to the ground. The previous winter, they had gone through Alabama and on to Georgia, burning Atlanta and capturing Savannah before Christmas. The rampaging soldiers’ path spanned 60 miles wide. They burned, pillaged, and destroyed everything in their path. Their behavior was explained away by Sherman as waging “total war” against the enemy.

Sherman was a serious racist, and although the Union supported emancipation, most soldiers didn’t. This was proven during the march, when Sherman ordered his men to destroy a bridge, leaving behind freed slaves who had followed them. The freedmen were so distraught over being left behind that many jumped into the river, and because they couldn’t swim, hundreds drowned.

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Sherman’s soldiers would continue north, tying up with General Ulysses S. Grant’s men as they laid siege on Petersburg. By early April, they would take the Confederate capital of Richmond as well, and force General Robert E. Lee to surrender his Army of Northern Virginia.

Savannah as a Christmas Gift

On December 21, 1864, after pushing his troops over 300 miles across Georgia in his “March to the Sea,” General William Tecumseh Sherman arrived in Savannah, capturing the city that was inhabited by only a few women, children, and slaves. Happy with his accomplishment, Sherman telegraphed President Lincoln. “I beg to present you as a Christmas gift the city of Savannah with 150 heavy guns & plenty of ammunition & also about 25.000 bales of cotton.”

I can’t imagine what the women of Savannah felt upon this invasion other than absolute loathing, which is understandable. By now, most of the South was aware that the war was winding down, and that they were losing. What complete loss they must have experienced at a time that was traditionally held as a joyous occasion.

With this in mind, let us rejoice in our freedom, and celebrate the fact that we live in such a prosperous country. Even though commercialism is everywhere, we should try to look past it and celebrate in honor of those who fought, suffered, and died before us for what they believed in. Without their sacrifice, we wouldn’t be where we are today.

 

Merry Christmas, Mr. President

On this date in 1864, the grand old city of Savannah, Georgia, fell to Union forces during the American Civil War. It was the beginning of the end, as Union Major General William T. Sherman’s remaining 62,000 men finalized their March to the Sea by capturing Savannah. The march, which began on November 15, swept through Georgia, wreaking havoc and destruction in its path. The Union Army captured Atlanta without much trouble, and continued on until they reached Savannah. The intention was to sweep upward toward Virginia, and with the help of Union Lt. General Ulysses S. Grant’s army, strangle Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s forces. In the end, the ploy worked.

Confederate Generals Joseph Wheeler and William J. Hardy’s men opposed, but in the end, they fled across the Savannah River, leaving the citizens to fend for themselves. Because Sherman thought the city was so lovely, he decided (thankfully) not to raze it.

One Confederate officer estimated that 10,000 slaves followed the Union Army on their way to freedom, but instead, met their demise through “hunger, disease, and exposure.” Sherman himself estimated that his army had inflicted $100 million in damage, which is over 1.5 billion in today’s dollars. The Federal Army destroyed railroads, bridges, telegraph lines, and seized over 22,000 head of livestock. It also took 20 million pounds of corn and fodder, and destroyed an unaccountable number of cotton mills and gins.

Sherman’s Path of Destruction

On this date in 1865, Union forces under General William Tecumseh Sherman continued their march of devastation, reaching Columbia, South Carolina. Because it was the first state to secede from the Union, soldiers felt a deep-seated vengeance, so they burned the city to the ground. The previous winter, they had gone through Alabama and on to Georgia, burning Atlanta and capturing Savannah before Christmas. The rampaging soldiers’ path spanned 60 miles wide. They burned, pillaged, and destroyed everything in their path. Their behavior was explained away by Sherman as waging “total war” against the enemy.

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Sherman was a serious racist, and although the Union supported emancipation, most soldiers didn’t. This was proven during the march, when Sherman ordered his men to destroy a bridge, leaving behind freed slaves who had followed them. The freedmen were so distraught over being left behind that many jumped into the river, and because they couldn’t swim, hundreds drowned.

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Sherman’s soldiers would continue north, tying up with General Ulysses S. Grant’s men as they laid siege on Petersburg. By early April, they would take the Confederate capital of Richmond as well, and force General Robert E. Lee to surrender his Army of Northern Virginia.

Savannah As a Christmas Gift

On December 21, 1864, after pushing his troops over 300 miles across Georgia in his “March to the Sea,” General William Tecumseh Sherman arrived in Savannah, capturing the city that was inhabited by only a few women, children, and slaves. Happy with his accomplishment, Sherman telegraphed President Lincoln. “I beg to present you as a Christmas gift the city of Savannah with 150 heavy guns & plenty of ammunition & also about 25.000 bales of cotton.”

I can’t imagine what the women of Savannah felt upon this invasion other than absolute loathing, which is understandable. By now, most of the South was aware that the war was winding down, and that they were losing. What complete loss they must have experienced at a time that was traditionally held as a joyous occasion.

With this in mind, let us rejoice in our freedom, and celebrate the fact that we live in such a prosperous country. Even though commercialism is everywhere, we should try to look past it and celebrate in honor of those who fought, suffered, and died before us for what they believed in. Without their sacrifice, we wouldn’t be where we are today.

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