“Sherman – The Devastation of Georgia”

new york herald

December 5, 1864

Collection: The Civil War
Publication: The New York Herald
Date: December 5, 1864
(From the Augusta Sentinel, Nov. 23.)
The enemydestruction of Milledgeville is said to embrace
the State House, Executive mansion, penitentiary and depot, and
other buildings. The report that the asylum was destroyed is
contradicted. The rumor in town that Sherman captured a lot of
ammunition at Milledegville is incorrect. All the ordnance
stores were removed. Three car loads ofthe powder passed
through this city and are now at a place of safety. DESOLATION
(From the Richmond Sentinel, Dec. 2.)
We take the following from a lively letter to the Augusta
Chronicle and Sentinel, describing the writerexperience and
observations in his trip home after the hurried closing ofthe
Georgia Legislature. The scene is laid in the country between
the Oconee and Ocmulgee rivers: -
MADISON, Nov. 24, 1864.
In company with a few residents of this section I took the
train from Gordon to Eatonton. In avoiding Scylla we soon
found ourselves running upon Charybdis; for when within a mile
of Eatonton a courier came galloping out to stop the train,
and announced that the enemy were within a few miles of town,
and were expected every moment. A number of us took to the
woods, supposing that the train would go no further; but after
a little delay, to our surprise it started on for town. We
determined to move across the fields and woods several miles to
the Madison road; and having in the party a native ofthe
country, who every corn patch,”he took the lead. After
several hours of very heavy marching we sat down to rest and
deliberate on the situation. A waggish member ofthe party
declared that he perfectly secure if the Yankees did get
him, as he had a copy ofthe peace resolutions in his picket.”
Another, a country squire consoled himself with belonging to
the judiciary, and thought neither the Governor nor the Yankees
would hurt him. The member ofthe Legislature felt sure that
body had done nothing especially offensive to any Yankee who
was reasonable.
While each was thus deliberating jocosely of his probable
fate should we fall into their vile hands, we moved on, and
after tugging valise, trunks and bundles for several miles
more, we found ourselves on the railroad a mile below where we
left it. So much for a pilot who knew the country.
Disgusted with the success of this our first flank
movement, we moved on to Eatonton to prepare for another,
which, as the sequel will show, was a brilliant success.
We found Eatonton agitated. The streets were thronged with
horsemen, some moving out to look for the enemy and some
prudently moving the other way. The windows and piazzas were
lined with ladies and children, many ofthe former and all the
latter very pretty, and all dreading the advent ofthe vile
vandals whose despicable character is best illustrated in the
fact that they are a terror to the helpless. A village waiting
for the Yankees is a picture worthy a Hogarth. Leaving our
baggage, we took a hasty dinner, determined to keep the road to
Madison until our pickets should notify us ofthe approach of
the Yankees. About three oa scout came dashing down the
road at a Gilpin speed, crying, “To the woods! to the woods!”
and we wooded.
After waiting several hours in the rain, under a rail pen,
improvised for the occasion, we determined to go out on the
road and see what was going on. We had not travelled a hundred
yards before a party of cerulean clad equestrians came dashing
up, and in a very polite manner briefly requested us to halt.
The request was accompanied with most significant cocking of
carbines and pistols, which, brought to a horizontal attitude
in onefront, are very persuasive, especially to an unarmed
civilian, and we halted. After a brief and hurried talk, in
which we were questioned very closely about the country troops
in the vicinity &c., they drove on; we gathered from their
actions that they were the advance guard ofthe force from
Madison, and were expecting to meet another force from
Monticello at the fork near by. Apprehending that our
overcoats and small residue of cash, and other personal
effects, would not be safe in the motley crew comprising the
Yankee army, we resolved to keep the woods until they should
pass. We therefore returned to our pen and staid till morning.
We then proceeded through the woods, within hearing distance of
the road. Late on Sunday their main column commenced passing,
and we found it very difficult to avoid them. They swarmed
through the fields, shooting cattle and plundering
indiscriminately until late in the night. We were more in
dread of being shot as bushwhackers than we had of being
plundered, and probably should have kept the road; but we now
had no choice but to avoid them if possible. Their wagons were
rumbling along the Monticello road on our left and on the
Madison road on the right, while they swarmed in the country
between. We could hear them talk and her their caps explode as
they passed within a few feet of us. The night was intensely
cold, wet and dark, save when the distant gleam of a burning
house lighted up the horizon. Their main columns were passing
from about two oon Sunday afternoon until about nine
oat night. The next day they were passing during the
morning, and we continued in the woods. This was on the third
day out, during which time it had rained continually, and we
had subsisted on parched corn. On Tuesday morning we
determined to take the road and push on. Going to McCredel
place, we found his fine house in ashes and his gin house
burned, and every horse and mule gone. In his lot were about
one hundred horses lying dead; they looked like good stock, and
were evidently killed to deprive planters of them. A number of
McCredelnegroes were gone. Proceeding on, we found every
plantation on the road similarly devastated, except that no
other dwelling houses were burned until we reached the fine
farm of Hon. Joshua Hill. (Probably the Hill who ran against
Brown for Governor ofGeorgia. – Ed. HERALD.) this is a
perfect wreck; a large gin house full of cotton, corn cribs,
dwelling, all a smoldering ruin. His loss was greater than
that of any planter in this section. Besides the cotton
several thousand bushels of corn, potatoes, several hundred of
wheat, and much other valuable property, with every horse and
mule, and many negroes are gone. No farm on the road to this
place and as far as we can hear towards Atlanta escaped their
brutal ravages. They ravaged the country below here to the
Oconee river. The roads were strewn with the debris of their
Dead horses, cows, sheep, hogs, chickens, corn, wheat,
cotton, books, paper, broken vessels, coffee mills, and
fragments of nearly every species of property that adorned the
beautiful farms of this country, strew the wayside – monuments
ofthe meanness and rapacity ofthe people who boast that they
are not robbers and do not interfere with private property.
In Madison they burned the depot and one or two old
warehouses, with the jail and market house. They gutted every
store, and plundered more or less on every lot. They fired the
drug store and several other houses, and their officers, with a
show of magnanimity aided to put out the flames. Many families
have not a pound of meat or peck of meal or flour. Many
negroes were enticed away from homes of comfort to share the
uncertain fortunes of a winter march to the coast, and then
forced to starve. Families of wealth have not a house servant
left, and those who were the most trusted were often the first
to leave. The Yankees entered the house of my next door
neighbor, an old man of over three score years, and tore his
wifeclothes and bedding, trampling her bonnet on the floor
and robbing the house and pantry of nearly everything of value.
There was no provocation for any of these acts of violence; for
everybody treated them civilly and offered them all they wanted
to eat. Their excuse is that they cannot control their men.
Many of them, including their officers, behave civilly, and my
humble domicile escaped any serious depredations.
Those citizens who remained at home and watched their
premises lost little save horses, food and stock. Those who
from any cause chanced to be away lost all. A lade on the
Eatonton road, whose father is in the army, feeling afraid to
stay at home, went to the house of a neighbor, and on returning
found every plate broken, every knife and fork and spoon gone,
an her own clothes stripped to shreds and scattered about the
No definite estimate can be formed ofthe plans or future
movements ofthe enemy or their numbers. Those who passed
through here were said to consist of Slocumcorps, under
command of General Williams, and were estimated at eight to
then thousand. They were chiefly infantry, with three
batteries of artillery. They had quite a large wagon train,
with pontoon bridges. They boasted that they were now whipping
us out effectually; that they would destroy Macon, Augusta and
Savannah, and then go into South Carolina an end the war at
Charleston. They evidently went through Milledgeville, and
their other column has doubtless by this time reached Macon.
From all that I can learn they left Atlanta with four corps, of
about thirty five thousand men, nearly one half of whom are raw
drafted men, who have no stomach for the war. They are being
captured in the vicinity continually. Several have come in
today, who had been lying in the woods until their rear guard
left, in order to desert. By the time they reach the barren
pine belt below Milledgeville they will find Georgia a
road to travel,”and if we can confront them with a small force
and harass their flanks vigorously they will meet few ships to
greet them when they reach the coast. It is a desperate game,
and in this fertile belt they can play it successfully; but the
swamps will be fatal to them. They have unquestionably caused
much suffering, and tonight families who had an abundance last
week have scarcely a daysubsistence. The greatest
inconvenience is felt. There is plenty in the country yet, but
there are no horses to haul it. Our citizens are in distress
also for wood, for the same reason.

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