March to the Sea
After capturing Atlanta Sept. 2, 1864, Union Gen. William T. Sherman lobbied his superiors for permission to cut across Georgia to deep water at Savannah. At first, worries about what Confederate Gen. John Bell Hood might be up to and the perilous nature of the adventure gave overall Union commander U.S. Grant pause. But Sherman prevailed and while at Kingston Nov. 12 got the go-ahead to march to Savannah. He wasted no time. Three days later, after giving orders to burn Atlanta, two wings of Union infantry totaling about 60,000 troops, headed east.
Since Union forces were abandoning their supply and communication line to Chattanooga, Sherman gave orders to “forage liberally during the march.” He also ordered mills and cotton gins burned along the way and if guerrilla activity was encountered then “army commanders should order and enforce a devastation more or less relentless according to the measure of such hostility.”
Those orders became the basis for widespread destruction during the march and hostility toward Sherman that lasts until today.
Organized Confederate opposition was virtually nonexistent during the march. There was a small battle fought with Southern militia near Macon and brief resistance at Honey Hill and near Savannah at Fort McAllister.
On Dec. 20, Confederate forces under Gen. William Hardee abandoned the city. Sherman accepted the formal surrender of the city the next day.
Inexperienced Georgia milita attemped to attack Sherman’s right wing here Nov. 22 but were repulsed easily. The small action was the only real fighting done during the March to the Sea. Preserved land here is administered as a state historic site.
Directions: From Macon take U.S. 80 east to Georgia 57; take 57 toward Gordon to Henderson Road, turn left and proceed approximately 1.25 miles. Turn right on Griswoldville Road and proceed approximately 1.5 miles to Baker Cemetery Road. Battle site and parking lot are on the left.
Milledgeville was the capital of Georgia 1803–1868 and played host to some of the most colorful characters in Southern political history. A state convention voted in January 1861 to leave the Union.
Sherman made the capital city one of the first objectives in his March to the Sea, with 30,000 Union troops entering the city Nov. 23, 1864. Although the occupiers burned some buildings and did some other damage, the town and its primary government buildings were left mostly intact.
Visiting Milledgeville: Pick up an inexpensive trolley tour and other information at the visitor center, 200 W Hancock St. More info: 800-653-1804.
Old Capital Museum
Jefferson and Grace streets, on the campus of Georgia Military College, 201 E Greene St, Milledgeville GA 31061
The museum is located on the first floor of the Old State Capitol, built in 1807. Among the exhibits depicting the general history of the area is a fine Civil War section. The room in which the Georgia secession convention was held Jan. 16-19, 1861, has been restored. Open Tuesday–Friday 10 am–4 pm; Saturday noon–4 pm. $5.50/adult.
Old Governor’s Mansion
120 S Clark St, Milledgeville GA 31061
This 1839 building was home to feisty Georgia Gov. Joseph E. Brown during the Civil War. Sherman made it his headquarters Nov. 23-24, 1864. Guided tours of the restored building Tuesday-Saturday 10 am-4 pm; Sunday 2-4 pm. $10 adults.
Brown House Museum
268 N Harris, Sandersville GA 31082
Sherman spent the night of Nov. 26, 1864 in this home. Open Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 2–5 pm and Saturday 10 am–3 pm.
Magnolia Springs State Park
1053 Magnolia Springs Drive, Millen GA 30442
The Millen prisoner-of-war prison or Camp Lawton was established on this site after Andersonville was evacuated during Sherman’s campaign against Atlanta in 1864. Designed for 40,000, Camp Lawton never held more than 10,000 prisoners. The camp was evacuated early November 1864 during Sherman’s March to the Sea. Sherman’s left wing came to liberate the camp Dec. 3, 1864, but found it empty. The Union commander ordered the depot and a nearby hotel burned. Remnants of the camp remain in this multi-use park. Open 7 am–10 pm.
See Fort McAllister in Savannah and Area Sites.
Links to the Georgia Civil War websites: Georgia Links