March to the Sea

Peace Society

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I have never been anywhere near the path of Sherman's army and I have a serious question: Roughly (in very general terms) how many of the antebellum homes survived the march of his army? I'm not fishing for a number. Just a general term like "most" or "many" or "dozens" or "only a few".

I ask this because I'm trying to get a comparative handle on Sherman's march versus Ewing's General Orders Number 11 out here in Missouri. Ewing's soldiers not only depopulated the better part of 4 counties, but they burned most of the homes, too. Only a comparative handful of antebellum homes survive in what was known as "The Burnt District".

I have a hunch Ewing's men were not as disciplined as Sherman's. I am pretty sure the discipline of some of Sherman's men was a little dicey, too, but I have been led to believe that they truly focused on destruction of the southern war machine--foraging from civilians, to be sure, but not burning them out. I'm asking because I just don't know if my understanding is correct and I would like to know for sure.
I believe very few homes were actually burnt. He did make an exception for the home of a confederate general they stayed in. When he found out who it was, he told the men have at it; wreak whatever destruction you want. But for most of the populace he was mindful that the end was near and he did not want to make reconciliation any more difficult.
 

Peace Society

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(also posted this under What Did Civilians do after Sherman's March thinking it was this thread)

Confederate General Howard Cobb - Sherman says " I sent word back to General Davis to explain whose plantation it was, and instructed him to spare nothing." Fence rails, corn, and provisions were all put to use.

Foragers went 5-6 miles each side of the line of march. They were specially chosen and dispatched before daylight, with a knowledge of the route and the to-be-camp area. They were instructed to visit every plantation and farm within that range. All the goods they picked up were for their regiments, not for personal use.

Lt. Snelling obtained permission to visit his uncle, 6 miles off, and came back with a fresh horse saying Some of the "bummers" would have got the horse had he not. This was 11-22-64. The next day they entered the state capital, Milledgeville.

Sherman notes in his memoirs: "I have since heard of jewelry taken from women, and the plunder of articles that never reached the commissary; but these acts were exceptional and incidental. I never heard of any cases of murder or rape."

Just finished reading his memoirs. Enjoyed traveling with him.

Along the same lines - from the Civil War Diaries and Letters of Bliss Morse, [compiled by (grandson) Loren J. Morse] traveling through Kentucky:
10-27-62 Our boys jayhawk a good deal of food on the way such as turkeys, chickens, apples, and so forth. Sometimes we got some honey and sweet potatoes.
11-7-62 [The towns] are well drained for goods and provisions as well as the country about here [winter camp at Munfordsville] for a dozen miles. Our quartermasters for the teams have to go that far and some times further for forage. Old Ky. will pay dear for her position in this war. The best parts of the start are well stripped of fodder. The fences are destroyed which will cost her many thousand dollars besides what the rebels have taken in cattle, hogs, horses, and other provisions. Our own boys are no strangers to taking a sheep, hog, or other eatable without paying for it. You [his mother in Ohio] may be thankful that you are not pestered with troops for they are worse than the famine to a farmer.
 

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5-25-64 Dalton Gap, GA - well before Atlanta. Bliss Morse (105 OVI) wrote in a letter home how he was upset by the pillaging and vandalism. The boys were taking everything and not leaving the civilians sustenance. They didn't need to do that, because they were supplied by lawful foragers. They were leaving damaged property behind, no matter whose it was. Homes were being burned (though if they were the homes of active rebels in the army he didn't mind). The army was their rightful foe. Most of the soldiers held the opinion "Shame - Shame."
 

Rhea Cole

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20disunion4-blog480-v2 copy.jpeg


Sherman planned his march across Georgia based on a groundbreaking map. Census data from individual counties was tabulated & printed on the counties. The entire map does not look like anything in this format. So, I have included the section above as it gives a clear indication of the vital information this revolutionary map gave Sherman. Unlike Lee in Pennsylvania, Bragg in Kentucky or Napoleon before them, Sherman knew exactly where to send his columns so they could do the maximum damage & feed his army at the same time. As a result, there was nothing random about the route Sherman's columns took. He knew where to go based on hard data.

20disunion3-blog480 copy.jpg


The comprehensive data provided by the 1860 census can be seen in the legend for Sherman's map. He knew exactly where the farms that fed Lee's army were & what they produced. It also allowed him to choose Savannah as his destination. The counties inland from the coast produced very little & he wanted to pass through them as quickly as possible.

Even as the March to the Sea had barely begun, newspaper accounts in the South depicted it as some kind of Mogul hoard destroying everything in its path. As the posting above indicates, it was no such thing. Sherman had a very specific goal in mind, deprive Lee's army of its major source of rations & manufactured goods. Gratuitous destruction of civilian property would have been very time consuming & time he did not have. Maximum damage was inflicted where it did the most good. It was brilliant.

The march through South Carolina was another matter entirely. Vengeance against the people who had started the war was, despite anything their officers could do to prevent it, very much the order of the day for the men of Sherman's army group. When they crossed the boarder into North Carolina, the pillaging stopped. The march across Virginia was uneventful. Such are the vagaries of history.
 

Peace Society

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just finished Terrible Innocence: General Sherman at War by Mark Coburn. Witty writer with interesting insights. He thinks things went pretty badly for the populace.
 

Carronade

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I recall reading somewhere that Sherman's army started off with twenty days' rations in supply wagons, which would cover about half the march, and foraged to make up the difference. I would interpret that to mean they consumed a mix of confiscated food/fodder and that which they had brought with them, depending how well each day's foraging went. Can anyone confirm, correct, or provide more detail?
 

Peace Society

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I think they brought coffee, sugar, hardtack, etc and augmented with everything they could pick up. They foraged partly to undermine the food sources for the South, so they ended up with a lot they didn't use.
 

Rhea Cole

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I think they brought coffee, sugar, hardtack, etc and augmented with everything they could pick up. They foraged partly to undermine the food sources for the South, so they ended up with a lot they didn't use.
bummer page 245 the story of the great march by george nichols.jpeg


I think that 'The Bummer' p 245, The Story of the Great March by George Nichols speaks to your question about the army living off the fat of the land. Because of the maps that I showed in early posts in this thread, Sherman knew exactly where the rich pickings were in Georgia. He also knew where they weren't. As the army entered the eastern edge of the state, the land became flatter & the people poorer. He knew that it would no longer be possible to live off the land. As a result, he carried rations from Atlanta to cover just such a contingency. Waiting offshore, at Savannah, was a fleet with holds crammed with shoes, uniforms, traps & everything his army would need to refit. As with everything involving the March to the Sea, the logistical staff work was meticulous.
 

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