March to the Sea

March to the Sea


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March to the Sea


Spring of 1865, Grant ordered General Sherman to attack Confederate General Joseph E. Johnson. He continued by telling him to get as far as he could into the South, and destroy all of their resources. It was Sherman's intention to capture the Atlanta regions medical centers, factories, and key transportation avenues. At the time Confederate General Johnson commanded just 60,000 men. The Union Army that was commanded by Grant was almost twice as big with over 100,000 men. Before long, President Jefferson Davis got fed up with Johnson and his lack of progress. Jefferson replaced him with General John Bell Hood who immediately tried to attack Sherman. However, Sherman and his men were waiting for him.

A short time later, on August 4, Sherman began advancing on Atlanta. Before long, he had the city surrounded. Sherman quickly cut off all supply lines. Next, he bombarded the city with artillery fire that did not stop for 3 weeks. Finally, on September 2, 1865 , the Confederate Army gave up and he and his men entered Atlanta. The losses were very high, the Union Army lost 21,000 and the Confederates lost 27,000. General Sherman took the next 8 weeks to secure the city and rest his army.

On November 15, Sherman led 60,000 men on a journey through the interior of Georgia to the port of Savannah on the Atlantic Ocean. On the way Sherman conducted a “scorched earth policy” or as it became known “total war.” He gave orders to his men to destroy anything that might be of value to the Confederacy. He told his men to forage liberally on the march. Sherman also ordered that the slaves they encountered be freed. Along the way to Savannah, Sherman's forces cut a path of destruction, terror, and mayhem that was 60 miles wide and 225 miles long. It was his intention to destroy the morale of the south. Along the way he burned farms, factories, cotton gins, wheat and flour mills, and towns. Unfortunately, many of the Union leaders lost control of their men, and before long looting became common. At the same time a group of deserters called “bummers” followed the wake of destruction stealing everything that they could. The pillaging and looting was so bad that some Union leaders threatened to shoot their own men if it did not stop.

As he headed to the sea, Sherman and his forces faced little opposition because there were only 13,000 Confederate soldiers assigned to this region. When he arrived in Savannah he found it protected by Confederate General William J. Hardee and 10,000 men. The first thing Sherman did was shoot a few artillery barrages into the town. Then he warned them that he would resort to the harshest measures. Hardee and his men immediately abandoned the town. In Savannah, Sherman seized 50 guns, large amount of ammunition, and 25,000 bales of cotton. Sherman achieved what he wanted to achieve. He destroyed the heart of the South. The people no longer had the ability to supply their army with food. They had lost everything and they were now fed up with war and wanted it to end. Sherman estimated that his men destroyed $80 million dollars worth of property. This was a huge sum in today’s money. He was often quoted as say “war is hell.” Today, many people have problems tracing their family history because Sherman burned the courthouse down with all of the records. He burned marriage certificates, birth certificates, marriage licenses, and cemetery records.


Tearing up the railroad tracks