Showing posts with label March To The Sea. Show all posts
Showing posts with label March To The Sea. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Captain Charles Wright Wills: November 26, 1864 – 12 p.m.

Eight miles east of Oconee River, three miles south of M. & S. R. R.
November 26, 1864, 12 p.m. 

Howard wrote Osterhaus a letter congratulating him on the success in the Griswoldville fight, and had it published to us to-day.


GoRDON, GA., November 23d, 1864.


Mayor General Osterhaus, Com'dg 15th Corps:


I take sincere pleasure in congratulating the Brigade of General Walcutt, of General Wood's Division of the 15th Corps, on its complete sucess in the action of yesterday.


Officers from other commands who were looking on say that there never was a better brigade of soldiers.


I am exceedingly sorry that any of our brave men should fall, and for the suffering of the wounded, the thanks of the army are doubly due to them.


I tender my sympathy through you to the brave and excellent commander of the brigade, Brigadier General Walcutt.


It is hoped that his wound will not disable him.


Very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,


Major General.


P. S. The loss of the enemy is estimated from 1,500 to 2,000 killed, wounded, and prisoners. O. O. H., M. G.

We lay in camp until 4 p.m., when we started, and after three miles of miserable pine swamp we crossed the Oconee on pontoons. It was dark, but I noticed that the current was rapid and the water looked deep. 

I counted 80 steps on the bridge and ten boats under it. I am sure that I to-day saw palm-leaf fan material growing. It is a most singular looking plant. The country this side of the river to our camp is quite level and four-fifths cultivated. All the woods pine, and soil all sand. 

SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 326-7

Captain Charles Wright Wills: November 27, 1864

Riddlesville, November 27, 1864. 

Was foraging this morning and supplied the regiment with staples within a mile of camp. Took the road as train guard at 1 a. m. Have had a tedious march over sandy roads and through pine woods for 11 miles. It is too dark to see the town. Have heard no “music” to-day. We crossed the head waters of the Ohoopee river to-day. Saw a magnolia tree by the road. The first I have seen in Georgia. 

SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 327

Captain Charles Wright Wills: November 28, 1864

November 28, 1864. 

Made a dozen miles to-day through the thickest pine woods I ever saw. There is no white or yellow pine here; it is all pitch. I think the division has been lost nearly all day. We have followed old Indian trails four-fifths of the time. 

The foragers have found a large number of horses and mules in the swamps to-day. Plenty of forage. Sergeant Penney, of my company, died in the ambulance to-day. He was taken sick in the ranks at 8 p. m., 26th, of lung fever. He has never been right healthy, but when well was always an excellent soldier. Lieutenant Dorrance swallowed his false teeth a few nights ago, and complains that they don't agree with him. 

I hear that Wheeler jumped the 20th Corps yesterday and that they salivated him considerably. We caught a couple of his men to-day, on our road, stragglers. We pick up a good many stray Rebels along the road, but they are not half guarded and I think get away nearly as fast as captured. 

SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 327-8

Captain Charles Wright Wills: November 29, 1864

Ten miles south of Sevastopol, 
November 29, 1864. 

All day in an awful pine forest, hardly broken by fence or clearing. I never saw such a lonesome place. Not a bird, not a sign of animal life, but the shrill notes of the tree frog. Not a twig of undergrowth, and no vegetable life but just grass and pitch pine. The country is very level and a sand bed. The pine trees are so thick on the ground that in some places we passed to-day the sight was walled in by pine trunks within 600 yards for nearly the whole circle. Just at dusk we passed a small farm, where I saw growing, for the first time, the West India sugar cane. One of the boys killed the prettiest snake I ever saw. It was red, yellow and black. Our hospital steward put it in liquor. We made about 11 miles to-day. 

SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 328

Captain Charles Wright Wills: November 30, 1864

Eight miles east of Summerville, 
November 30, 1864. 

Passed through the above named town this morning. All pine woods again to-day. Stopped at the first house I came to this morning and asked the resident, an ashcolored negress, something about the country. She said she'd had the chills and fever so long she didn't know anything, but “over dar was a house whar de folks had some sense.” Captain Smith and I walked over to the house she pointed to and found a fine old German, very anxious to know if we intended to burn his house. After he cooled down a little he grew much Union. He said he had been ordered to join the army one, two, three, twenty times, but had told them he would rather be shot than take up arms against the United States. The 12th Indiana band struck up as we passed his house, and the music touched the old fellow's heart. The tears rolled down his face and he blubbered out, “That is the first music I have heard for four years; it makes me think of home. D--n this Georgia pine wood.” He said that sugar is the staple here in peace times. The foragers brought in loads of it this evening. 

SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 329

Monday, September 21, 2020

Captain Charles Wright Wills: November 21, 1864

Near Macon, Ga., November 21, 1864.

This makes seven days from Atlanta, 114 miles by the roads we have marched. I think that time for an army like ours, over bad roads, too, for at least four days, is unprecedented.

Our cavalry had a little skirmish at Macon last evening and were driven back. I heard some cannonading, but don't think it amounted to much. There was a little skirmish about the rear of our division at 4 this p. m., but beside racing and maybe capturing some half-dozen of our foragers, it amounted to nothing. Our left occupied Milledgeville. Governor Brown is here at Macon, also Beauregard, and they have scraped together some ten or a dozen things to defend the town with. I don't think from looks at present, that “Pap” is going to try the town, but can't tell. We have thrown up a little rail barricade this evening, which looks as if we were intending to destroy the Macon and Savannah railroad, on which rests the right of our brigade. We are afraid at this writing that Sheaff Herr was captured to-day. He was foraging where that little skirmish took place this p. m., and Rebels were seen after, and within 75 yards of him. It has rained steadily all day and for the last 60 hours, but has turned cold and is now clear.

SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 322

Captain Charles Wright Wills: November 22, 1864

Near Griswoldville, November 22, 1864.

Has been a gay day for our brigade. The other two brigades of our division went to work on the railroad this morning, and we on a reconnoisance toward Macon. Found Rebel cavalry at once. My Companies A and B, were thrown out as skirmishers. Forty of us drove at least 400 Rebel cavalry at least four miles, and kept them a mile ahead of the brigade. I think we killed and wounded at least 20 of them. We finally charged them out of a rail barricade and thoroughly stampeded them. It was the richest thing I ever saw. We got highly complimented on the way we drove them. Griswoldville was the point we started for, and having reached it we lay there an hour or so, and were then ordered back to the brigade. We found it in line along an open field, building a rail barricade along the front. We had a nice open field without even a fence on it, full 600 yards wide in our front. We were getting dinner, not dreaming of a fight, when lively musketry opened on the picket line, and in a minute more our pickets came in flying. A fine line of Johnnies pushed out of the woods after them, and then started for us. We commenced throwing up logs in our front and did not fire a shot until they were within 250 yards of us, by which time our works would protect us from musketry. We all felt that we had a sure thing, and had there been but one line of Rebels, we would have let them come up close to us. But, by the time the first line had got within 250 yards of us, three other lines had emerged from the woods, and they had run two batteries out on the field further to our right which opened on us. Our artillery returned the fire, but was silenced almost immediately. We then let loose on them with our muskets, and if we did not interest them, it is queer. One after another their lines crumbled to pieces, and they took the run to save themselves. There was a ravine 50 yards in front of us, and as the Rebels did not dare to run back over that field, they broke for the ravine. It was awful the way we slaughtered those men. Once in the ravine most of them escaped by following it up, the willows and canes screening them. We let a skirmish line into the ravine, which gobbled some 50 prisoners, a number of Africans among them. It was a most complete repulse, and when the numbers alone are considered, a glorious thing for us. Only our little brigade of say 1,100 muskets were engaged on our side and no support was nearer than four miles (and then but one brigade), while the Rebels had four brigades and two regiments, about 6,000 men. But the four brigades were “Militia.” We estimate their loss at 1,000, and I do not think it an overestimate. Ours is 14 killed and 42 wounded in the whole brigade; four killed and seven wounded in the regiment; two in my company; 25 out of 30 Rebel bullets went 20 feet over our heads. Not one of ours went higher than their heads. Gen. C. C. Wolcutt [sic] was wounded much as Colonel Wright was, but more severely. No officers in our regiment were wounded. Two Rebel generals were either killed or wounded—General George, who formerly commanded in north Mississippi, and General Hall or Call. I was never so affected at the sight of wounded and dead before.

Old grey-haired and weakly-looking men and little boys, not over 15 years old, lay dead or writhing in pain. I did pity those boys, they almost all who could talk, said the Rebel cavalry gathered them up and forced them in.

We took all inside our skirmish line that could bear moving, to our hospital, and covered the rest with the blankets of the dead. I hope we will never have to shoot at such men again. They knew nothing at all about fighting, and I think their officers knew as little, or else, certainly knew nothing about our being there. About dark we moved back to this place, two miles from the battle field. The Johnnies drew off before we did, I think.

SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 322-4

Captain Charles Wright Wills: November 23, 1864

Near Gordon, November 23, 1864.

Came here to-day, about eight miles, find the Army of the Tennessee all here. Have heard nothing of the Rebels to-day; saw ice one and one-half inches thick that formed last night. Wore my overcoat all day. The left wing is either at Milledgeville or gone on east. A branch road runs up to the Capitol from the Macon and Savannah railroad, leaving it at Gordon. It is now all destroyed. This road is very easily destroyed. The iron is laid on stringers, which are only fastened to the ties with wooden pins. We have yet done nothing at it, but boys who have, say they pry up one stringer with the iron on it, roll it over to the other half of the track, lay some rails on, and fire it. The iron being firmly fastened to the stringer, expanding under the heat destroys it completely. The country here is quite rolling, not quite as rich as the Indian Spring country, but there is yet plenty of forage. The woods are mostly pine, and we are all most anxious to get where we will have some other fuel. The smoke of pine wood is so disagreeable.

SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 324-5

Captain Charles Wright Wills: November 24, 1864

Irwinton, November 24, 1864.

Made 12 miles to-day over a rolling but well settled country. This is a nice little 700 county town. I hear that the troops that were at Macon are passing us on our right. Suppose they want to get in our front to annoy us again. They had better keep out of our way. Had another romantic meeting to-day with a Miss Howell. Spent the evening at her house. A charming girl, very accomplished. Admire her very much. Understand to-day that “Pap's” headquarters are at Howell Cobb's house in Milledgville. Some of the men saw a Macon paper of the 21st inst. It gave the proceedings of a citizen's meeting. In resolutions they declared that Sherman's army must be stopped in its mad career and pledged themselves to turn out en masse and harrass us all day and night. In fact, to give us no rest at all. The operations of the next day show how they commenced their good work. Have not heard anything of them since.

SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 325

Captain Charles Wright Wills: November 25, 1864

Near Ball's Ferry, Oconee River,
November 25, 1864.

Got off at daylight; made some eight miles, formed in a line in a field. “Halt!” “Cover!” “Front!” “Stack arms” Now men get rails and fix for the night. So we think we have plenty of time and make our motions accordingly. We had just got our things fairly unpacked when the “General” sounded. Fifteen minutes afterward the assembly, and we were again on the march. All right. This miserable pine smoke again to-night. Saw the 17th Corps to-day for the first time on the trip. They tried to cross the river at the railroad bridge, but the Johnnies would not let them, and they had to come down to our road. I think we are to-night half way on our journey. The boys had a great time last night in Irwinton. The citizens had buried a great many things to keep them from the “vandals” and the boys soon found it out. Hundreds of them were armed with sharpened sticks probing the earth, “prospecting.” They found a little of everything, and I guess they took it all to the owners, eatables and drinkables. We fell in at retreat, and had general order No 26 read to us for I guess the 20th time. It declares that “any soldier or army follower who shall be convicted of the crime of arson or robbery, or who shall be caught pillaging, shall be shot, and gives officers and non-commissioned ditto the right to shoot pillagers in the act.” There have been 20 to 30 booms of artillery at the ferry this evening. Think it was the 2d Division. They'll be smart Rebels who keep that division from laying their pontoons.

SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 325-6

Monday, August 24, 2020

Captain Charles Wright Wills: November 16, 1864 — 11 p. m

McDonough, November 16, 1864, 11 p. m.

Made 14 miles to-day through a really fine country. Only saw one house though, that looked like living. Forage is no name for the good things our foragers find here. I notify you that I had eggs for supper. There was some lively cannonading toward Lovejoy this morning, but it has been quiet ever since. Think the “Militia” has discovered that this party “sizes their pile,” and have “fled to the mountain.” Our whole corps are on the road to-day. The advance got into camp five miles ahead, at noon. We got here one hour ago, and our division camps six miles back. The roads are excellent and we travel right along. We all voted this morning that opossum meat was good enough for white folks. I liked it very much.

SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 320

Captain Charles Wright Wills: November 17, 1864 — 12 a.m.

Near Jackson, Ga., November 17, 1864, 12 a.m.

Have just had our coffee. Marched some 17 miles to-day. Begin to see where the “rich planters” come in. This is probably the most gigantic pleasure excursion ever planned. It already beats everything I ever saw soldiering, and promises to prove much richer yet. I wish Sherman would burn the commissary trains, we have no use for what they carry, and the train only bothers us. . It is most ludicrous to see the actions of the negro women as we pass. They seem to be half crazy with joy, and when a band strikes up they go stark mad. Our men are clear discouraged with foraging, they can't carry half the hogs and potatoes they find right along the road. The men detailed for that purpose are finding lots of horses and mules. The 6th Iowa are plumb crazy on the horse question.

SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 320

Captain Charles Wright Wills: November 18, 1864

November 18, 1864.

We got here at noon but will wait until to-morrow, I understand, for the 3d and 4th Divisions to lay a pontoon bridge across the Ocmulgee river. This has been a summer resort of some note. From 800 to 1,000 people congregate here. The spring is a little stream of water not larger than your finger, which runs from the rock at the rate of a gallon a minute. It is sulphur water with some other ingredient that gives it a very disagreeable ordor. This is quite a romantic place. Foraged some peach brandy, which was destroyed.

SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 321

Captain Charles Wright Wills: November 19, 1864

Near Hillsboro, November 19, 1864.

Have been foraging to-day. Crossed the Ocmulgee at Ocmulgee Mills, on pontoons. This river is much like the Chattahoochie, but not so broad. I am lost from the division tonight and camped near the 2d Division. By the kindness of Mrs. Elizabeth Celia Pye, I occupy a feather bed to-night. It is the first house I have been in for the last three months. She understood from the Rebels that we burned all houses and she took all her things out and hid them in the woods. The foragers found them and brought them in to her. Had an excellent supper with the boys. This is a level, fine country, and has been well cultivated.

SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 321

Captain Charles Wright Wills: November 20, 1864

Near Clinton, November 20, 1864.

Struck out foraging before daylight this morning. Almost any house on the road to-day would furnish pork and potatoes enough for a brigade. I got to the regiment about 8 p. m. last night. They say our brigade marched until 3 a. m., and the reveille sounded before the men got through supper. We passed over the scene of Stoneman's fighting and surrender last August. Some of our men found two of our dead soldiers unburied, which don't speak well for the Rebels, and is charged against them. I think there is less pillaging this trip than I ever saw before.

SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 321

Monday, August 17, 2020

Captain Charles Wright Wills: November 14, 1864

November 14, 1864.

Troops are coming in to-day on all the roads. ’Tis said that we will be ready to move to-morrow. So be it. The cracker line is cut now and we don't want to lie still eating up our precious rations. I was again over the old position we occupied before Atlanta. I would like to be your guide over that ground some day. Tremendous fires in Atlanta to-day.

SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 319

Captain Charles Wright Wills: November 15, 1864

Near Jonesboro, November 15, 1864.

The grand expeditionary force has commenced moving. Our regiment has the honor of leading our corps in the first day's march. Made about 18 miles to-day, the first ten of which the two or three companies of cavalry who led us had quite lively skirmishing.

At one point the Rebels took advantage of an old line of works and made quite a stubborn resistance, but our regiment, though we were deployed and advanced as skirmishers, did not get a shot the whole day. Just as we turned off the road to bivouac the Rebels opened a piece of artillery on us, but fired only a few shots and hurt no one. Item: Saw a lovely girl today. Item: Had on the Union to-day. Item: Had my first drink of milk since the 26th of December, '63. Item: Have an oppossum which “Rueben” is to cook for my breakfast. Heavy cannonading west of us.

SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 319-20

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Captain Charles Wright Wills: November 6, 1864

November 6, 1864.

Rain all day. We are preparing for a huge campaign, and are all right glad of it; 50 days' rations is the word. Don't know when we start. Montgomery or Augusta are probably the points. We are going to shake up the bones of the rebellion. I would not miss this campaign for anything.

SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 318

Friday, April 3, 2020

Major-General Henry W. Halleck to Major-General William T. Sherman, December 30, 1864

HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMY,                     
Washington, D.C., December 30, 1864.*
Maj. Gen. W. T. SHERMAN,

MY DEAR GENERAL: I take the liberty of calling your attention, in this private and friendly way, to a matter which may possibly hereafter be of more importance to you than either of us may now anticipate. While almost every one is praising your great march through Georgia and the capture of Savannah, there is a certain class, having now great influence with the President, and very probably anticipating still more on a change of Cabinet, who are decidedly disposed to make a point against you—I mean in regard to “Inevitable Sambo.” They say that you have manifested an almost criminal dislike to the negro, and that you are not willing to carry out the wishes of the Government in regard to him, but repulse him with contempt. They say you might have brought with you to Savannah more than 50,000, thus stripping Georgia of that number of laborers and opening a road by which as many more could have escaped from their masters; but that instead of this you drove them from your ranks, prevented then, from following you by cutting the bridges in your rear, and thus caused the massacre of large numbers by Wheeler's cavalry.

To those who know you as I do such accusations will pass as the idle winds, for we presume that you discouraged the negroes from following you simply because you had not the means of supporting them and feared they might seriously embarrass your march. But there are others, and among them some in high authority, who think, or pretend to think, otherwise, and they are decidedly disposed to make a point against you.

I do not write this to induce you to conciliate this class of men by doing anything which you do not think right and proper and for the interest of the Government and the country, but simply to call your attention to certain things which are viewed here somewhat differently than from your standpoint. I will explain as briefly as possible: Some here think that, in view of the scarcity of labor in the South, and the probability that a part, at least, of the able-bodied slaves will be called into the military service of the rebels, it is of the greatest importance to open outlets by which the slaves can escape into our lines, and, they say, that the route you have passed over should be made the route of escape and Savannah the great place of refuge. These I know are the views of some of the lending men in the administration, and they now express dissatisfaction that you did not carry them out in your great raid.

Now that you are in possession of Savannah, and there can be no further fears about supplies, would it not be possible for you to reopen these avenues of escape for the negroes without interfering with your military operations? Could not such escaped slaves find, at least, a partial supply of food in the rice fields about Savannah, and occupation in the rice and cotton plantations on the coast?

I merely throw out these suggestions; I know that such a course would be approved by the Government, and I believe that a manifestation on your part of a desire to bring the slaves within our lines will do much to silence your opponents.

You will appreciate my motives in writing this private letter.

Yours, truly,

* General Sherman’s reply of January 12, 1865, refers to this letter as dated January 1st, but General Halleck’s copy is dated as here given.

SOURCE: The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Volume 44 (Serial No. 92), p. 836-7

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Major-General William T. Sherman to Major-General Henry W. Halleck, December 13, 1864 – 11:50 p.m.

ON BOARD DANDELION,                                   
Ossabaw Sound, December 13, 186411.50 p.m.               
(Received 15th.)
General H. W. HALLECK, Washington:

To-day, at 5 p.m., General Hazen's division of the Fifteenth Corps carried Fort McAllister by assault, capturing its entire garrison and stores. This opened to us the Ossabaw Sound, and I pulled down to this gunboat to communicate with the fleet. Before opening communication we had completely destroyed all the railroads leading into Savannah and invested the city. The left is on the Savannah River, three miles above the city, and right on the Ogeechee, at King's Bridge. Were it not for the swamps we could march into the city, but as it is I would have to assault at one or two places over narrow causeways, leading to much loss; whereas in a day or two, with my communications restored and the batteries in position within short range of the city, I will demand its surrender. The army is in splendid order, and equal to anything. Weather has been fine, and supplies abundant. Our march was most agreeable, and we were not at all molested by guerrillas. We reached Savannah three days ago, but owing to Fort McAllister we could not communicate; but now we have McAllister we can go ahead. We have already captured two boats in the Savannah River, and prevented their gun-boats from coming down, and, if General Foster will prevent the escape of the garrison of Savannah and its people by land across South Carolina, we will capture all. I estimate the population at 25,000 and the garrison at 15,000; General Hardee commands. We have on hand plenty of meat, salt, and potatoes; all we need is bread, and I have sent to Port Royal for that. We have not lost a wagon on the trip, but have gathered in a large supply of negroes, mules, horses, &c., and our teams are in far better condition than when we started. My first duty will be to clear the army of surplus negroes, mules, and horses, and suppose General Saxton can relieve me of these.

I am writing on board a dispatch-boat, down Ossabaw, at midnight, and have to go back to where I left my horse, eight miles up, in a row boat, and thence fifteen miles over to our lines by daylight, so that I hope this will be accepted as an excuse for this informal letter; but I know you are anxious to hear of our safety and good condition. Full and detailed reports of the events of the past mouth will be prepared at a more leisure moment, and in the meantime I can only say that I hope by Christmas to be in possession of Savannah, and by the new year to be ready to resume our journey to Raleigh. The whole army is crazy to be turned loose in Carolina; and with the experience of the past thirty days I judge that a month's sojourn in South Carolina would make her less bellicose.

The editors in Georgia profess to be indignant at the horrible barbarities of Sherman's army, but I know the people don't want our visit repeated. We have utterly destroyed over 200 miles of railroad, and consumed stores and provisions that were essential to Lee's and Hood's armies.. A similar destruction of roads and resources hence to Raleigh would compel General Lee to come out of his intrenched camp. I hope General Thomas has held Hood. My last accounts are of the fight at Franklin, but rebel papers state that Decatur, Ala., has been evacuated. This I regret, though it is not essential to the future. If Hood is making any real progress I would not hesitate to march hence, after taking Savannah, for Montgomery, which would bring him out of Tennessee; but it seems to me that winter is a bad time for him. I will try and see Admiral Dahlgren and General Foster before demanding the surrender of Savannah, which I do not propose to make till my batteries are able to open. The quick work made with McAllister, and the opening communication with our fleet, and consequent independence for supplies, dissipated all their boasted threats to head me off and starve the army. The efforts thus far have been puerile, and I regard Savannah as already gained.

Yours, truly,
W. T. SHERMAN,    

SOURCE: The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Volume 44 (Serial No. 92), p. 701-2