The Evacuation of Atlanta's Civilians

tmh10

Major
Joined
Mar 2, 2012
Location
Pipestem,WV
After a long hot summer of fighting, the Army of Tennessee, first under Joseph E. Johnston, then under John B. Hood, was forced to abandon the city of Atlanta on September 1, 1864. As Hood's Confederate army left, William T. Sherman's Union army moved into the city. One of the first things Sherman wanted to do when he took over the city was to evacuate the civilians. To this end, there was a series of not so cordial correspondence between Sherman and Hood, and one between Sherman and the mayor of Atlanta. The following is the letter sent to Halleck from Sherman explaining his actions. The links provide the correspondence that is referenced in the letter to Halleck. These are as documented in the official records.
HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI,
Atlanta, Ga., September 20, 1864.
Maj. Gen. H. W. HALLECK, Chief of Staff, Washington, D.C.:
GENERAL: I have the honor herewith to submit copies of a correspondence between General Hood, of the Confederate army, the mayor of Atlanta, and myself touching the removal of the inhabitants of Atlanta. In explanation of the tone which marks some of these letters I will only call your attention to the fact that after I had announced my determination General Hood took upon himself to question my motive. I could not tamely submit to such impertinence, and I have seen that in violation of all official usage he has published in the Macon newspapers such parts of the correspondence as suited his purpose. This could have had no other object than to create a feeling on the part of the people, but if he expects to resort to such artifices I think I can meet him there too. It is sufficient for my Government to know that the removal of the inhabitants has been made with liberality and fairness; that it has been attended by no force, and that no women or children have suffered, unless for want of provisions by their natural protectors and friends. My real reasons for this step were, we want all the houses of Atlanta for military storage and occupation. We want to contract the lines of defenses so as to diminish the garrison to the limit necessary to defend its narrow and vital parts instead of embracing, as the lines now do, the vast suburbs. This contraction of the lines, with the necessary citadels and redoubts, will make it necessary to destroy the very houses used by families as residences. Atlanta is a fortified town, was stubbornly defended and fairly captured. As captors we have a right to it. The residence here of a poor population would compel us sooner or later to feed them or see them starve under our eyes. The residence here of the families of our enemies would be a temptation and a means to keep up a correspondence dangerous and hurtful to our cause, and a civil population calls for provost guards, and absorbs the attention of officers in listening to everlasting complaints and special grievances that are not military. These are my reasons, and if satisfactory to the Government of the United States it makes no difference whether it pleases General Hood and his people or not.
I am, with respect, your obedient servant,
W. T. SHERMAN,
Major-General, Commanding.
Click on the link to read the letters refered to.
 

Barrycdog

Major
Joined
Jan 6, 2013
Location
Buford, Georgia
"removal of the inhabitants has been made with liberality and fairness; that it has been attended by no force, and that no women or children have suffered, unless for want of provisions by their natural protectors and friends."






"General Sherman also issued the following military order at Big Shanty, Georgia (presently Kennesaw) on June 23, 1864: "If torpedoes (mines) are found in the possession of an enemy to our rear, you may cause them to be put on the ground and tested by a wagon load of prisoners, or if need be a citizen implicated in their use. In like manner, if a torpedo is suspected on any part of the road, order the point to be tested by a carload of prisoners, or by citizens implicated, drawn by a long rope."
General Sherman also wrote to U.S. Brigadier General John Eugene Smith at Allatoona, Georgia, on July 14, 1864: "If you entertain a bare suspicion against any family, send it to the North. Any loafer or suspicious person seen at any time should be imprisoned and sent off. If guerrillas trouble the road or wires they should be shot without mercy." General Sherman also wrote to U.S. Brigadier General Louis Douglass Watkins at Calhoun, Georgia, on Oct. 29, 1864: "Can you not send over to Fairmount and Adairsville, burn 10 or 12 houses of known secessionists, kill a few at random and let them know it will be repeated every time a train is fired upon from Resaca to Kingston." Expired Image RemovedBrigadier General Edward M. McCook, First Cavalry Division of Cavalry Corps, atCalhoun, Georgia, on October 30, 1864, reported to Sherman, "My men killed some of those fellows two or three days since, and I had their houses burned....I will carry out your instructions thoroughly and leave the country east of the road uninhabitable." Sherman, on November 11, 1864, telegraphed Halleck, "Last night we burned allfoundries, mills, and shops of every kind in Rome, and tomorrow I leave Kingston with the rear guard for Atlanta, which I propose to dispose of in a similar manner, and to start on the 16th on the projected grand raid.....Tomorrow our wires will be broken, and this is probably my last dispatch." In Kingston, Georgia, Sherman wrote to U.S. Major General Philip H. Sheridan, "I am satisfied...that the problem of this war consists in the awful fact that the present class of men who rule the South must be killed outright rather than in the conquest of territory, so that hard, bull-dog fighting, and a great deal of it, yet remains to be done....Therefore, I shall expect you on any and all occasions to make bloody results." Captain Orlando M. Poe, chief engineer, Military Division of the Mississippi, reported: "The court-house in Sandersonville (Georgia), a very substantial brick building, was burned by order of General Sherman, because the enemy had made use of its portico from which to fire upon our troops." Expired Image RemovedSherman, in Milledgeville, Georgia, issued Special Order no. 127, "In caseof...destruction (of bridges) by the enemy,...the commanding officer...on the spot will deal harshly with the inhabitants nearby....Should the enemy burn forage and corn on our route, houses, barns, and cotton-gins must also be burned to keep them company." General Howard reported to Sherman, "We have found the country full of provisions and forage....Quite a number of private dwellings...have been destroyed by fire...; also, many instances of the most inexcusable and wanton acts, such as the breaking open of trunks, taking of silver pate, etc."Sherman reported to Grant, "The whole United States...would rejoice to have this army turned loose on South Carolina to devastate that State, in the manner we have done inGeorgia."
 

ole

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Retired Moderator
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
Near Kankakee
Sherman did have a habit of stomping on civilians who might be remotely connected with sniping or placing torpedoes in the road or on bridges.

One could view this as making war on civilians, but the practice did stop. Orders from Richmond notwithstanding. The civilians learned to remain in their homes and to not encourage bushwhacking.

What would you do, if you knew that a hostile act would result in the burning of neighbors' homes? What would you do if a neighbor took a shot at passing troops and your home was burned? This was a war, and it wasn't fought with squirt guns.
 

johan_steele

Regimental Armorer
Retired Moderator
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
South of the North 40
Sherman did have a habit of stomping on civilians who might be remotely connected with sniping or placing torpedoes in the road or on bridges.

One could view this as making war on civilians, but the practice did stop. Orders from Richmond notwithstanding. The civilians learned to remain in their homes and to not encourage bushwhacking.

What would you do, if you knew that a hostile act would result in the burning of neighbors' homes? What would you do if a neighbor took a shot at passing troops and your home was burned? This was a war, and it wasn't fought with squirt guns.
Stop making sense and being intelligently logical. It will make you no friends of those who hate Sherman for ripping the guts out of the CS and showing it as the hollow shell it was.
 

trice

Colonel
Joined
May 2, 2006
None of the things mentioned in posts #1 and #2 of this thread would be regarded as particularly unusual in military practice in the middle of the nineteenth century.

Example: during the Hungarian Revolution of 1848, the rebels managed to make a lot of uproar. Count Betthyany was originally in charge, but by early 1849 he'd been forced out as Kossuth and the real radicals took over, formed an army, and issued paper money to pay for it, driving the Austrians from Hungary. By April, the Austrians had put down the revolt elsewhere and return to Hungary in force -- with the Russians attacking from the East at Franz Josef's request. By August, the Hungarians had surrendered and Kossuth fled to the Ottoman Empire. Batthyany and some 100 others were shot; several society women were whipped in public. Hungarian public gatherings, theater performances, display of the national colors, wearing of national costumes and Kossuth-style beards were outlawed.

Example: The Sepoy Rebellion of 1857
  • The Britsh retook Delhi in September after a long siege and more than a week of brutal street fighting. The troops then looted the city, with executions as retaliation. Bahadur Shah, his two sons, and a grandson were shot by a British officer.
  • From a letter in the Bombay Telegraph after the capture of Delhi: "... All the city's people found within the walls of the city of Delhi when our troops entered were bayoneted on the spot, and the number was considerable, as you may suppose, when I tell you that in some houses forty and fifty people were hiding. These were not mutineers but residents of the city, who trusted to our well-known mild rule for pardon. I am glad to say they were disappointed."
  • Things got really bad after the massacre in Cawnpore. Like "Remember the Maine!" and "Remember the Alamo!", Cawnpore became a rallying cry for everything that followed. Reprislas were already in progress two weeks before the British retook Cawnpore ( a Lt. Col. Neill had ordered villages along the Grand Trunk Road burned and their inhabitants hanged. When they took Cawnpore, the British forced their sepoy prisoners to lick the blood of the murdered women and children from the walls before they "blew them from cannons".
  • From Edward Vibart, a young English officer who had lost his parents, younger brothers, and 2 sisters at Cawnpore: "The orders went out to shoot every soul.... It was literally murder... I have seen many bloody and awful sights lately but such a one as I witnessed yesterday I pray I never see again. The women were all spared but their screams on seeing their husbands and sons butchered, were most painful... Heaven knows I feel no pity, but when some old grey bearded man is brought and shot before your very eyes, hard must be that man's heart I think who can look on with indifference."
  • Then ... well, you get the idea.
We can look at other examples, like what happened in Poland and Lithuania in 1863-64 that led to Russian Count Mikhail Nikoleyovich Muravyov being called the "Hangman of Vilnius", and to about 9,000 people exiled to Siberia.. There are plenty of them. Reprisals for attacks on troops were not only common, they had long been established policy (you can find instructions for them in German field manuals well before WWI) -- along with eviction of locals, burning of houses, foraging, etc.
Tim
 
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