On November 15th, 1864, Major General William T. Sherman began one of the more famous–or infamous depending on one’s point of view–chapters of the Civil War when his roughly 60,000 man army left Atlanta, Georgia, and marched southeast towards Savannah and the Atlantic Ocean. Rather than rely on lengthy and tenuous supply lines, Sherman ordered his army to “forage liberally on the country” and essentially supply themselves by taking food, horses, and anything else needed from the farms and towns along the way.
Sherman divided his army into two wings that marched roughly parallel to each other. The Army of the Tennessee under Major General Oliver O. Howard was the Right Wing and consisted of the 15th and 17th Corps. The Left Wing was the Army of Georgia, consisting of the 14th and 20th Corps and under the command of Major General Henry W. Slocum. A separate cavalry division under Brigadier General Judson Kilpatrick operated in support of both infantry wings. The Federals took or destroyed anything of military value in and around Atlanta and sent non combatants including sick and wounded soldiers north before setting out on the march.
Though not unopposed, Sherman faced relatively light resistance along the way, mostly from Georgia militia and some cavalry under General Joseph Wheeler. Sherman reached the Savannah area on December 10th; the city was defended by a 10,000 man force under Lieutenant General William Hardee. On December 13th, a Union division stormed Fort McAllister on the Ogeechee River, capturing it in a 15 minute battle. The army linked up with U.S. Navy supply and warships off the Georgia coast, and prepared to lay siege to Savannah. With his situation impossible, Hardee abandoned the city to Sherman and December 20th; the mayor of Savannah surrendered the city the next day. Sherman telegraphed President Abraham Lincoln with the news, saying he offered the city as a Christmas present to him. The March to the Sea was over, but early in 1865, Sherman would employ similar tactics as he marched north through the Carolinas.
Here is Sherman’s Official Report on the march from Atlanta to the sea: Continue reading “General William T. Sherman’s Report on The March to the Sea and Capture of Savannah” »
On November 30th, 1864, Major General John M. Schofield’s Army of the Ohio was dug in around the town of Franklin, Tennessee. Schofield’s line extended around the town in a semicircle, with the ends anchored on
the Harpeth River. Schofield had been in the process of withdrawing his army from the Pulaski, Tennessee area north to Nashville ahead of the advancing Confederate Army of Tennessee under Lieutenant General John Bell Hood, when he was nearly encircled and cut off near the town of Spring Hill. But Schofield was somehow able to slip his entire force past Hood’s army under cover of darkness and redeploy at Franklin. Now, Hood was closing in again as the Federals finalized their defensive positions.
One of the Union units at Franklin was the 1st Brigade of the 2nd Division of the 4th Corps. The 1st Brigade consisted of the 36th, 44th, 73rd, 74th, and 88th Illinois Infantry regiments, plus the 125th Ohio and 24th Wisconsin. The brigade was under the command of Colonel Emerson Opdycke, a former commander of the 125th Ohio and veteran of many of the major battles in the west. As the 2nd Division approached the Union outer defensive line, the division commander, Brigadier General George Wagner, ordered two of his brigades to take position about a half mile out from the main Federal line. They did so, but the location afforded little cover. When the rear guard brigade of Emerson Opdycke arrived, Wagner ordered Opdycke to place his men in position to extend his line. Continue reading “Colonel Emerson Opdycke’s Report on His Brigade’s Action at the Battle of Franklin” »
At long last, on November 6th, 2014, Lt. Alonzo Cushing was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions at Gettysburg on July 3rd, 1863. Cushing, who was in command of Battery A of the 4th U.S. Artillery, was killed in action on Cemetery Ridge while directing fire against the advancing Confederates in Pickett’s Charge. Cushing’s Medal of Honor was the culmination of years of effort by historians, Civil War buffs, and politicians of both parties. The chief sticking point had been the length of time since the events happened. Cushing was 22 when he died and left no descendents. The Medal was presented by President Obama to Helen Loring Ensign, a distant cousin, on Cushing’s behalf.
Here’s part of the White House presentation ceremony: