Browsing "Lincoln’s Grand Army"

Appalling the Horde of Genghis Khan

Wartime Governor Zeb Vance of North Carolina compared the “gentler invasion of Cornwallis in 1781” with Sherman’s hordes in 1865, noting Cornwallis’s order from Beattie’s Ford, January 28, 1781: “It is needless to point out to the officers the necessity of preserving the strictest discipline, and of preventing the oppressed people from suffering violence at the hands of whom they are taught to look to for protection . . . ”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Appalling the Horde of Genghis Khan

“Vance considered it apparent to every intelligent observer as 1865 dawned that the Confederacy was doomed. Lee was holding Richmond with what he described as “a mere skirmish line.” In twenty miles of trenches, Grant faced him with 180,000 men. Savannah had fallen and while the south still held Wilmington and Charleston, their loss was inevitable.

Sherman with 75,000 troops was preparing for the “home-stretch toward Richmond,” driving the scattered Confederate detachments – not more than 22,000 – before him. Enemy cavalry overran the interior of the Confederacy. “Nowhere,” Vance continued, “was there a gleam of hope; nowhere had there come to us any inspiring success. Everything spoke of misfortune and failure.”

Vance was most critical of the conduct of Sherman’s army and the “stragglers and desperadoes following in its wake.” He was severe in his castigation of the Federal commander.

“When a general organizes a corps of thieves and plunderers as a part of his invading army, and licenses beforehand their outrages, he and all who countenance, aid or abet, invite the execration of mankind. This peculiar arm of the military service, it is charged and believed, was instituted by General Sherman in his invasion of the Southern States.

Certain it is that the operations of his “Bummer Corps” were as regular and un-rebuked, if not as much commended for their efficiency, as any other division of his army, and their atrocities were often justified or excused on the ground that “such is war.”

Vance in his denunciation of Sherman was not able to look ahead to wars in which supposedly enlightened nations would make civilians their main target, devastate entire cities to break down morale and the will to resist, and degenerate warfare to a barbarity that would have appalled the horde of Genghis Khan.”

[Vance continued:] “The whole policy and conduct of the British commander was such to indicate unmistakably that he did not consider the burning of private houses, the stealing of private property, and the outraging of helpless, private citizens as “War,” but as robbery and arson. I venture to say that up to the period when that great march [Sherman’s] taught us the contrary, no humane general or civilized people in Christendom believed that “such is war.”

(Zeb Vance, Champion of Personal Freedom, Glenn Tucker, Bobbs-Merrill, 1965, pp. 374-376)

The Old Hate

Sherman’s soldiers spared little from looting and destruction in North Carolina as they had done in Georgia and South Carolina. After the conflict, wartime Governor Zebulon Vance wrote: “When a general organizes a corps of thieves and plunderers as a part of his invading army, and licenses beforehand their outrages, he and all who countenance, aid or abet, invite the execration of mankind. This peculiar arm of the military service, it is charged and believed, was instituted by General Sherman in his invasion of the Southern States. Certain it is that the operations of his “Bummer Corps” were as regular and un-rebuked, if not as much commended for their efficiency, as any other division of his army, and their atrocities were often justified or excused on the ground that “such is war.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Old Hate

“Long before you ever came into North Carolina, your name was a terror to us; news of your march through Georgia and South Carolina had preceded you. “Massa Harold” (my great-grandfather) had expected you to have horns and hoofs; he must have been surprised when you appeared on a neighboring plantation as an ordinary man of forty-five with a head of unruly red hair and a shaggy beard.

But your soldiers were hungry, and they scouted the country-side for food. That is why they came to our house. (No, it was not one of those story-book mansions with white columns; it was only a two-room log cabin. There had been better days for the family, but that is another story.)

On that morning in March of 1865 when your “bummers” rode up to our gate, “Ole Mammy” (my great-grandmother, then a woman of forty-seven) was standing in the yard. Beside her stood a young woman of eighteen (Aunt Fed), a boy of nine (Uncle Richard), and a little girl of six (Aunt Queen), and a Negro slave (“Aunt Bessie”) . . . and Frank (my grandfather, then aged thirteen) were down in the swamp with an old horse and a cow. (Three older sons had been taken prisoners at the fall of Fort Fisher just the month before.)

Your men found the cow; she would not be quiet and so ended in your pot. (She was dry anyhow.) Frank came up to the house and found your men digging in a ditch for a keg of gold which “Aunt Bessie” had told them was buried there. (People still come and dig for that treasure, but ‘ther aint nare been one.”) Thanks for cleaning out the ditch.

And we got the feathers picked up and the bed ticks sewed back together. Thus far, we were about even; you got the cow, and we kept the horse; you cleaned out the ditch and made us clean up the house. But the thing that made us mad was that pot of chicken stew.

Frank remembered it well. It was the last chicken they had. “Old Mammy” had saved it for an emergency. When she heard that you were over on the Faison Plantation, she knew that the emergency had come. She had hoped her family would have it eaten before you came, but it was still in the pot when she heard that dreaded cry, “Yankees, Yankees; the Yankees are coming.”

And everyone had to hurry to his place. At first your soldiers were nice enough, but after all that digging they were short on manners. They ransacked the house, and not finding the gold, they spied the small pot on the hearth. Now, if your men had drawn up a chair and had said grace like Christians ought to do and had eaten the stew, it might have passed without being recorded. But no, your men were mad and poured out stew on the floor and then stepped on the pieces of chicken. This was too much for that hungry thirteen year old boy; he darted up from his stool with fire in his eyes. “God damn you dirty rascals.”

(A Southerner’s Apology to General Sherman, A Reticule by Dr. James H. Blackmore, Flashes of Duplin’s History and Government, Faison and Pearl McGowen, Edwards & Broughton, 1971, pp. 243-244)

Leaving Poor Women Their Tears and Their Memory

Gen. Samuel G. French was New Jersey-born and living in Mississippi when the war commenced; he assumed command of North Carolina’s Cape Fear District in March, 1862 and fortified the city against attack from the sea. His adjutant from then through the end of the war was Captain Charles D. Myers, a native of New York City and successful prewar merchant in Wilmington. French possessed a dim view of Sherman’s abilities as a military officer.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Leaving Poor Women Their Tears and Their Memory

“The much-vaunted “march to the sea” was a pleasure excursion, through a well-cultivated country . . . Sherman boastfully writes that he “destroyed two hundred sixty-five miles of railroad, carried off ten thousand mules, and countless slaves; that he did damage to the amount of $100,000,000. Of this, his army got $20,000,000, and the $80,000,000 was waste,” as they went “looting” through Georgia.

But not content with this, when “this cruel war was over,” he presented the delectable spectacle of “how we went thieving through Georgia” at the grand review of his army in Washington, by mounting his bummers on mules laden with chickens, ducks, geese, lambs, pigs and other farm productions, unblushingly displayed, to cover up the concealed money, jewelry and plate taken from the helpless women – to delight the President, to edify the loyal people, to gratify the hatred of the populace to the South, to popularize the thirst for plundering made by his troops, to be an object lesson to the present generation, to instill a broader view of moral right, to heighten modest sensibilities, to refine the delicate tastes of young ladies, to humiliate a conquered people; or wherefore was this unwise “Punch and Judy” show given?

During the revolutionary war, when the British fleet ascended the Potomac river, one ship sailed up to Mount Vernon – the residence of the arch rebel, Washington – and made a requisition for provisions which his agent filled. The English commander must have been a gentleman because he did not burn the dwelling, insult the family, nor commit robbery!!!

Gen. Bradley T. Johnston, in his life of General J.E. Johnston, quotes that, “Abubekr in the year 634 gave his chiefs of the army of Syria orders as follows: Remember that you are always in the presence of God, on the verge of death, and in the assurance of judgment and the hope of paradise. When you fight the battles of the Lord acquit yourselves like men, without turning your backs; but let not your victory be stained with the blood of women and children. Destroy no palm tree, nor burn any fields of corn . . . nor do any mischief to cattle, only such as you kill to eat . . .”

It is not I who charge Sherman with destroying cornfields, cutting down fruit trees, or “driving off one cow and one pig;” he himself boasts as having done it. If he did take “one cow and one pig,” he kindly left the poor women their tears and their memory.”

(Two Wars, The Autobiography & Diary of Gen. Samuel G. French, CSA, Confederate Veteran, 1901, pp. 264-266)

Sherman’s Progressive Soldiers at Smithfield

It is said the path Sherman’s “bummers” cut through North Carolina left a trail devoid of roosters, which no longer crowed in the morning because they didn’t exist. One Northern general wrote that his foragers were in truth “highwaymen, with all of their cruelty and ferocity and none of their courage; their victims are usually old men, women and children, and Negroes whom they rob and maltreat without mercy, firing dwellings and outbuildings filled with grain . . . These men are a disgrace to the name of soldier and country.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Sherman’s Progressive Soldiers at Smithfield

[Northern Chaplain John J. Hight’s Diary] Wednesday, April 12 [1865]:

“This has been a morning of most wonderful excitement and enthusiasm. A dispatch has been read to each Regiment, from General Sherman, announcing the capture of [Gen. Robert E.] Lee’s entire army by General Grant. Such a serenade of bands Smithfield [North Carolina] has never had before, and will never have again. The troops move rapidly across the Neuse [River] . . . the design is to push on towards Raleigh and bring [Gen. Joseph E.] Johnston to an engagement, if possible.

We yesterday passed a house where there had been skirmishing. The woman declared that the shooting almost scared her to death. “Was it infantry or cavalry?” inquired someone.

I took a walk about the town. The Masonic and Odd Fellows’ Halls have been rifled. In the latter there is a skeleton, in a coffin. Saw an old dismounted gun lying near the riverbank. It must date back to as early as the Revolution.

At the court house I noticed the shelves, in the offices, are emptied of their contents on the floor. The archives of [Johnston] county lie in confusion amongst the dirt. Many of the documents date back to old colonial times, when legal proceedings were done in the King’s name.

The churches are [broken] open, and the books scattered about the pews. At the graveyard I noticed the graves of a number of rebels, bearing ominous dates – about the time of the Bentonville fight. In the same yard there is blood, seemingly where one of our soldiers was killed yesterday.

[Sherman’s] aide-de-camp, Major Henry Hitchcock provides more details: “At Smithfield, on the morning of the 12th [of April] . . . Even in Smithfield the public stocks “went up” – visibly; for some of “the boys” set fire to them.” I refer to the wooden stocks, near the jail, a comfortable institution for the improvement of criminals which the “conservative Old North State has retained from colonial times.

Another Sherman aide-de-camp, Major Nichols, adds . . . “The court house and jail stand in the public square, and that relic of the past, the public stocks, stood by the side of the jail until our progressive soldiers cut down the machine and burned it.”

(Smithfield, As Seen by Sherman’s Soldiers, Don Wharton, 1977, Smithfield Herald Publishing Company, excerpts, pp. 8-11)

Sep 25, 2016 - America Transformed, Lincoln's Grand Army, Lincoln's Patriots, Myth of Saving the Union, New England History, No Compromise    Comments Off on Hammering Lee on the Anvil of Richmond

Hammering Lee on the Anvil of Richmond

Lee and Grant were career polar opposites: Lee graduated from West Point with high honors in 1829 and in his long, distinguished record personified the ideals of the Corps of Cadets and the army; Grant excelled only in horsemanship and washed out of the army amid charges of alcoholism. Lee became known as the greatest general of the American military; Grant won his war of attrition with an endless supply of raw cannon fodder provided by Lincoln.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Hammering Lee on the Anvil of Richmond

“Impelled by the relentless policy of total subjugation of the secessionist States, [Grant’s] movements took the form of four major attacks that gradually gathered headway along the front of Federal deployment from the Mississippi River to Chesapeake Bay. Poorly coordinated in their incipiency and pressed without guidance of objectives stating in military terms the long range plans of political policy . . . while slowly strangling the economic life of the South in the tightening grip of the blockade . . .

The Federal striking force aggregated in round numbers 300,000 effectives. The Confederates mustered some 145,000 troops for defense of threatened areas. The aggregate strength of the United States armies as estimated on the basis of returns during April 1864 . . . was 745,000. A similar computation gives a Confederate total of 303,367.

[Meade’s army] (a total of 120,000) were to advance under personal direction of the supreme commander [Grant] . . . and destroy Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia (63,000) . . . [and] the Army of the James [33,000 under Butler] occupying the Confederate capital, if possible, or containing enemy troops that might otherwise move toward Lee.

Commanding a field force of 23,000 in the Shenandoah Valley, Major-General Franz Sigel was to act as a sort of flank guard on the right of the [Meade’s army] by advancing toward the Confederate rail center at Lynchburg. [The center] column under Sherman (100,000) would push from Chattanooga down the mountain corridor, destroying Joseph E. Johnston’s army (64,000) and breaking up the enemy’s war resources in Georgia.

On the right, [Gen. Nathaniel P.] Banks would disengage his column operating on the Red River, for assembly at New Orleans [and] deliver the rear attack through Mobile so insistently urged by Grant during the past year.

Grant was deprived of the dislocating effects of a rear attack through Mobile by Banks’ mismanagement of the Red River campaign, and was denied the assistance that should have been given by the supporting movements of Butler and Sigel, both of whom bungled their assignments within two weeks after his own crossing of the Rapidan [River].

Grant then had no other alternative but to hammer Lee on the anvil of Richmond while Sherman’s devouring host swept through the heartland of the South.”

(The Wilderness Campaign, The Meeting of Grant and Lee, Edward Steere, Stackpole Books, excerpts, pp. 14-18)

Highwaymen in North Carolina

Though it is claimed that Sherman did not sack and burn North Carolina as he did South Carolina, there is scant evidence that the former did not suffer as did the latter. In the bummer’s path were helpless women, children and old men – whose scarce food supplies, valuables and farm animals were made off with by soldiers in blue.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Highwaymen in North Carolina

“[T]he “corn-crib” and “fodder-stack” commandoes could look back upon a plentiful harvest between Fayetteville and Goldsboro. Meat and meal had been found in abundance. So skillfully had [Sherman’s] “bummers” covered this region that the rooster no longer crowed in the morning because he no longer existed. Had the rooster escaped with his life, there would have been no fence rail for him to stand on.

[General J.D. Morgan said] “I have some men in my command . . . who have mistaken the name and meaning of the term foragers, and have become under that name highwaymen, with all of their cruelty and ferocity and none of their courage; their victims are usually old men, women and children, and Negroes whom the rob and maltreat without mercy, firing dwelling and outhouses even when filled with grain . . . These men are a disgrace to the name of soldier and the country . . . ”

Elizabeth Collier, an eighteen year-old girl of Everittsville, [North Carolina] entered in her diary:

“On Monday morning, the 20th [March], the first foraging party made their appearance at Everittsville. They asked for flour and seeing we were disposed not to give it, made a rush in the house and took it himself—the cowardly creature even pointed his gun at us – helpless women. Looking out, we soon saw that poor little Everittsville was filled with Yankees and they were plundering the houses . . . everything outside was destroyed – all provisions taken – fences knocked down – horse, cows, carriages, and buggies stolen, and everything else the witches could lay their hands on – even to the servants clothes.”

(The Civil War in North Carolina, John G. Barrett, UNC Press, 1963, pp. 346-347)

Experimenting on the Reunion of the United States

The following passage from a mid-1862 Harper’s Weekly reveals the impetus behind the war, and the intense industrialism and consumerism that drove the Northern war effort. And if the South could not be brought into the orbit of this new order, they would have to be exiled or exterminated once their land was confiscated.  Lincoln’s Secretary of State, William Seward, stated in England in 1863 that the Southern people were free to leave and form their own government, and their land left behind would belong to the Northern government.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Experimenting on the Reunion of the United States

“Under the vigorous administration of Major-General [Benjamin] Butler, New Orleans is steadily returning into shape. General Butler has been more energetic and less conciliatory than General Dix or Governor Johnson: his iron hand has not been covered with a silken glove. We venture the prediction that his success will be all the more thorough and speedy. The good people of Louisiana are already complaining that they have been victimized by the rebels.

And no wonder. What could be more outrageous than the destruction of cotton and sugar, while hundreds of thousands of human beings are starving to death for want of the food which could only be purchased with this cotton and sugar?

To bring the people of Louisiana entirely to their senses, nothing more is needed than a plain statement of this, and we are glad to see that General Butler has stated it.  When one reads of the heart-rending sufferings of the people of the Gulf States of whole families starving, and every rich man reduced to poverty – one is tempted to regret that the civilization of the age forbids the infliction of the tortures of the Inquisition upon the miscreant authors of these atrocities.

Strict Justice would require that Davis, Beauregard, and Lovell should expiate their crimes on the rack, or at the stake. Mean while, the revival of trade, and the exemplary punishment of traitors by General Butler, is gradually developing a Union sentiment in New Orleans as the like policy did at Baltimore. The argumentum ad ventrem is doing the work. Baltimore, Nashville, and New Orleans, are the points where the forces of the United States are experimenting on the reunion of the United States.

If we restore the Union feeling there, we can do it throughout the South. If we cannot succeed there, the bulk of the white people of the South will have to be exiled, or got rid of in some way, in order to reconstruct the Union and secure the safety of the North. In order to create a Union sentiment at the South, we must satisfy the people of that section that we are stronger than they, and that we are thoroughly earnest in our purpose of preserving the soil of the United States undivided.

We must then show them that if they persevere in rebellion they cannot escape hunger and misery, that they will be outcasts without property or rights of any kind; that it is a mere question of time how soon they will be hunted down; that it is simply due to our forbearance that the negroes have not been armed for insurrection; whereas, on the other hand, if they return to their loyalty, they will be received into the Union with the same rights as the people of the North, and will be assisted by a generous government to emancipate their slaves and start afresh in a new and wholesome career of industry. When this is done, the work of reconstruction will be more than half achieved.”

(The Work of Reconstruction, Harper’s Weekly June 14th 1862, excerpts, many thanks to Electra Briggs)

 

 

Drafting Able-Bodies Slaves

Northern incursions into coastal areas would either carry away slaves to cripple Southern agricultural production, or impress male slaves into Northern military service. Massachusetts led the North in counting slave recruits against their troop quotas, thus leaving many white citizens free to remain home during the war.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Drafting Able-Bodies Slaves

“When [General] David Hunter returned to [South Carolina’s Sea] islands on January 20, 1863 . . . he brought with him James Montgomery, the man who would become the colonel of the Second [Union] South Carolina Regiment. Montgomery had gone to Kansas with John Brown and afterward became one of the most prominent leaders among the Jayhawkers. Like Brown, he sought to use the slaves to free slaves; and again, like Brown, his preferred tactic was the Kansas-style raid — swift, terrifying, and devastating, taking all that could be carried, and burning all that was left behind. Perfected in practice, the raid became the professional trademark of “Mon’gomery’s boys” and, to some extent that of the Negro soldier in South Carolina.

On March 10, he landed in Jacksonville [Florida] along with [Col. Thomas W.] Higginson’s command and led a foray seventy-five miles inland, returning laden with booty and a large number of potential soldiers — lately slaves. In May and June, raids up the Ashepoo and Combahee rivers in South Carolina and an attack on the village of Darien, Georgia supplied more recruits. Meanwhile, Hunter issued an order drafting all able-bodied Negro men remaining on the plantations. Others were seized in the night by squads of Negro soldiers. On one plantation on St. Helena, Betsey’s husband was thus taken, leaving her with ten children and a “heart most broke.”

Those who attempted to evade the draft were roughly treated. Josh, who had fled to the marshes, was tracked to his hiding place and when he again tried to elude his pursuers was shot down and captured. Negro civilians suffered under the draft and resented the manner of its enforcement . . . ”the draft is either taking or frightening off most of the men,” lamented one of the [Northern missionary] superintendents at the end of March, 1863.

During [the] early history [of Negro impressments] the new regiments were plagued by desertions which were freely excused on the ground of ignorance . . . Private William Span, having been recaptured on his eighth or ninth defection, was brought before the colonel in his tent. Montgomery asked Span if he wished to offer and excuse. Span said no. “Then,” declared the colonel, “you will be shot at half-past nine this morning.”

(After Slavery, The Negro in South Carolina During Reconstruction, Joel Williamson, UNC Press, 1965, pp. 17- 20)

 

Aug 28, 2016 - America Transformed, Bounties for Patriots, Conscription, Lincoln's Grand Army, Lincoln's Patriots, Northern Culture Laid Bare    Comments Off on Enlisting Burglars, House-Burners and Thieves

Enlisting Burglars, House-Burners and Thieves

By mid-1862, General Henry Halleck informed Lincoln that volunteering had all but ceased, and other means of filling the ranks had to be found. Lincoln then used the threat of conscription as a whip to stimulate enlistment, with Northern towns, cities, counties and State’s raising immense amounts to purchase substitutes for their drafted men. Also, State agents were sent to the occupied South to scour the area for potential recruits, especially slaves, who would count against a Northern State’s quota of troops.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Enlisting Burglars, House-Burners and Thieves

“Complaints having come across the ocean that Northern recruiting agents were in Europe plying their trade, the Senate of the United States passed a resolution on the 24th of June 1864, requesting President Lincoln to inform that body “if any authority has been given any one, either in this country or elsewhere, to obtain recruits in Ireland or Canada,” &.

On July 13, 1864, Gov. [John] Andrew, of Massachusetts, informed Secretary Stanton that citizens of Massachusetts were recruiting a large number of aliens. On July 14, 1864, the US Congress passed an act authorizing the Governor of each State in the Union to send recruiting agents into any Confederate States, except Arkansas, Tennessee and Louisiana; and declaring any volunteers these agents might enlist should be “credited to the State, and to the respective subdivisions thereof which might procure the enlistment.”

Thereupon agents were sent from all the New England States, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois . . . into all the accessible parts of the Confederacy. New Hampshire’s agents, for an example, to receive $20 for each one-year man enlisted, $25 for each two-years’ enlistment, and $40 for each three years’ man; and these recruits to receive, respectively, $100, $200, and $300, a proviso being added to her law that the Governor might, if he found it advisable, pay a bounty of $500 for each three-years’ man enlisted in “the insurgent States.”

But, the “commercial spirit” not having yet taken possession of the South, Secretary Stanton said this in a report to President Lincoln, March 1, 1865: “The results of the recruitments under the act of July 4, 1864, for recruiting in the rebel States, were reported as unfavorable.”

On August 28, 1864, Prov. Mar.-Gen. Fry telegraphed to his assistant in Boston: “Hon. J.D. Baldwin writes me from Worcester that towns in his district enlist their own citizens, provide bounties for them, and send them to camp or rendezvous to be mustered in and credited. That after reaching rendezvous they are beset by recruiting agents for other places, especially Boston. These agents, offering higher local bounties, succeed in getting the men credited to other towns, etc.”

“[A] Colonel of one of the negro regiments at Natchez “stated that in consequence of the presence of recruiting agents from Northern States offering large bounties for recruits his men were deserting, procuring citizens’ clothing, and secreting themselves until an opportunity offered of escaping from the place for purpose of enlisting. The same state of things,” he continued, “exists in the other colored regiments . . . ”

On January 19, 1865, the Actg. Asst. Prov. Mar.-Gen., Concord, N.H., wrote to Prov. Mar. Gen. Fry, Washington, saying among other things: “I would respectfully call your attention to the fact that burglars, house-burners, and thieves, felons of all classes and kinds, are daily taken from jails and prisons with the consent of the judges, both high and low, and enlisted under false names and false pretenses in the service of the U.S.”

(The South’s Burden, the Curse of Sectionalism, Benjamin Franklin Grady, Nash Brothers, 1906, pp. 116-118)

Lt. Snelling Returns Home to Georgia

Webster’s Dictionary of 1828 defined a traitor as one who “betrays his allegiance to his country” and “who aids an enemy in conquering his country.” Lt. Snelling, described below, deserted his Georgia regiment and guided the enemy army through his home State.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Lt. Snelling Returns Home to Georgia

“Sunday, November 20, 1864 was a day of unprecedented excitement in the capital of Georgia. Members of the legislature had already departed in haste for their homes. The governor and Statehouse officers were in flight, and many citizens of the town were following the example set by them. In the afternoon distant cannon fire was heard in the direction of Macon, some thirty miles away.

Just before sunset a small group of blue-coated cavalrymen were seen lingering on the outskirts of the town . . . They cut telegraph wires, seized a few horses, and then made a hurried exit. They were the first of more than thirty thousand enemy soldiers who were to enter Milledgeville within the next four days.

With flags unfurled, the band at the head of the column playing the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and other martial airs . . . [the enemy army occupied the town and Sherman] learned that he was occupying a plantation belonging to General Howell Cobb and forthwith issued orders for its complete destruction.

On the same evening he ordered a special guard to protect the property of Andrew J. Banks whose farmhouse stood a short distance away. Banks, a North Carolinian by birth, was known to be of strong Unionist sentiment.

It is doubtful if Sherman’s intelligence channels had ever been more effective than on this particular occasion. His knowledge of the country which he had entered, and of the varying sentiments of the inhabitants, he owed largely to David R. Snelling, the twenty-six year-old cavalry lieutenant who commanded his escort. Snelling had been born a few miles from Cobb’s plantation and, until the war began, had always lived in the community to which he was now returning as a conquering enemy.

He had left the county early in 1862 as a member of Captain Richard Bonner’s company of the 57th Georgia Regiment. Never an enthusiastic rebel, he deserted at Bridgeport, Alabama, in July. Later he became a member of a Unionist regiment made up of defecting Southerners. He was now a first lieutenant in the 1st Alabama (Union) Cavalry and assigned to Sherman’s personal escort where his knowledge of the people and of the country through which they were marching made his services invaluable to the commanding general who kept him close by his side.

While [Sherman and Snelling] were seated around the [evening] fire, a Negro slave . . . recognized Snelling and greeted him as “Massa Dave.” According to [an observer], the slave fell on the floor, hugged the lieutenant around his knees, and expressed mixed feelings and astonishment and thankfulness at seeing his former master in the uniform of the invading army. The slave who greeted him had belonged [to David Lester, Snelling’s] uncle, in whose home the lieutenant had lived as an orphan since boyhood.

That evening Sherman granted . . . Snelling’s request to ride six miles ahead to visit his relatives at the Lester plantation. In his memoirs, the general noted that Snelling returned that night on a fresh horse from his uncle’s stable [and that the visit had been] social in nature. The David Lester plantation book, however, indicates that Snelling was accompanied on his visit by a squad of Federal cavalrymen and the group conducted a raid on the plantation, burned the ginhouse, and pillaged the premises.

Whether Snelling’s unusual conduct was an attempt to prove his loyalty to the Union army or the result of an old grudge he bore against his affluent uncle perhaps may never be determined.”

(Sherman at Milledgeville in 1864, James C. Bonner, Journal of Southern History, Volume XXII, Number 3, August, 1956, pp. 273, 275-277)