Pictures and Illustrations.
Sherman and His Generals. Back row: Howard, Kilpatrick, Hazen, WIlliams, Jeff C. Davis, Blair, Mower. Front: Logan, Sherman, Slocum
Sherman's Great March.
"IF Sherman had been cut off in Georgia or Carolina," said an ex-Confederate officer the other day, "he would have been set down as the greatest military charlatan on record."
"Quite possibly," was our reply; "and so if the doctrine of the wise pundits of Salamanca had turned out to be true, that should a ship from Europe succeed in reaching India, she could never get back again, because the rotundity of the globe would present a kind of mountain up which it would be impossible for her to sail with the most favorable wind, then Columbus would have been justly set down as the most foolish visionary on record. Somehow it happened that Columbus did not slip irrecoverably down the round side of the globe, but got safely back to Spain, and a Castilla y a Lean Nuevo Mundo dio Colon. So, too, Sherman was not lost in the Georgia woods or Carolina swamps. Columbus was not a visionary or Sherman a charlatan simply because each proposed a feasible object, and employed the best means to accomplish it."
We do not propose in this paper to describe the Great March in its military aspects. Sherman himself has done this in his reports. They are as clear as those in which Caesar tells how
572he waged his Gallic wars, and almost as picturesque as the immortal pages in which Xenophon describes the march of the famous Ten Thousand. We propose to present — mainly in the words of Major Nichols — some scenes and incidents in the march of Sherman. Passing over the marches and battles which won Atlanta, in September, 1864, and the subsequent operations which sent Hood on his wild expedition toward Nashville, whence he was hurled back so disastrously by Thomas; passing over the heroic defense of Allatoona Pass, where Corse, with only fifteen hundred men, fought from early dawn until noon a force of no less than six thousand of the enemy, and drove them from the field, leaving their dead and wounded behind; we look, with Major Nichols, at the commanding general: "What prophetic intuitions filled the mind of General Sherman as he paced the piazza of that house in Atlanta, utterly abstracted in thought, his head cast a little to one side, one hand buried in his side pocket, the other fitfully snapping the ashes from his cigar, are known only to himself; but certain it is that one bright morning we were awakened with orders to move. Hood had already crossed the Chattahooche, and was forty-eight hours in advance. His objective point was then a mooted question, now has the military problem yet been fully answered: perhaps he did not know it himself. There can be little doubt, however, that the leading purpose of Hood's march was to draw Sherman
573away from Atlanta by a bold movement in our rear, threatening not only our line of communicatons but our base of supplies. He thought that he could retort upon Sherman his own tactics, and force him, for want of supplies, to give up the bravely-won victories of the summer's campaign, and force us back upon Chattanooga.
"The battle at Allatoona was the decisive point of the campaign in pursuit of Hood. The same night, Corse, though severely wounded and suffering, went to Rome with his remaining troops. After the failure of the rash assault the rebel general passed by Rome, and threatened, but did not attack, Resaca — for Sherman was now close in his track. Hood effected a temporary lodgment at Dalton. Then, collecting his hungry, barefooted men, and gathering vhat little plunder he could find, he fled over the mountains and down the valley at the rate of twenty-five miles a day to Gaylesville, and thenceto Gadsden, where he rejoined his trains, to make his fatal march toward Nashville.
"Sherman waited some time at Gaylesville, until fully assured of the direction taken by his lare antagonist. He then detached the Fourth Corps, and subsequently the Twenty-third, with orders to join General Thomas, who received full instructions as to the course he was to adopt. Sherman at once made preparations to abandon all the posts south of Dalton. From Gaylesville and Rome he issued his orders concerning the new movement. The sick and wounded, non-combatants, the machinery, extra baggage, tents, wagons, artillery, ammunition stores, every person and every thing not needed in the future campaigns, were sent back to Chattanooga. The army was stripped for fighting and marching.
"Let us for a moment look at General Sherman as he appeared at Gaylesville, seated upon a camp-stool in front of his tent, with a map of the United States spread upon his knees. General Easton and Colonel Beckwith, his chief quater-master and commissary, are standing near. By his side are Generals Howard and Slocum, the future commanders of the right and left wings. General Sherman's finger runs swiftly down the map until it reaches Atlanta; then, with unerring accuracy, it follows the general direction to be taken by the right and left wings, until a halt is made at Milledgeville. From here, the general says, we have several alternatives; I am sure we can go to Savannah, or open communication with the sea somewhere in that direction. After studying the map a while, tracing upon the tangled maze of streams and towns a line from Savannah north and east, at Columbia, South Carolina, General Sherman looks up at General Howard with the remark, Howard, I believe we can go there without any serious difficulty. If we can cross the Salkahatchie we can capture Columbia. From Columbia — passing his finger quickly over rivers, swamps, and cities to Goldsborough, North Carolina — that point is a few days march through a rich country. When we reach that important railroad junction — when I once plant this army at Goldsborough — Lee must leave Virginia, or he will be defeated beyond hope of recovery. We can make this march, for General Grant assures me that Lee can not get away from Richmond without his knowledge, nor without serious loss to his army.
"To those who gazed upon the map, and measured the great distance to be traversed, from this quiet village away up in the mountains of Northern Alabama down to the sea, and thence hundreds of miles through a strange and impassable country away to the north again, and over wide rivers and treacherous bogs, the whole scheme, in the hands of any man but he who conceived it, seems weird, fatal, impossible. But it was at that moment in process of execution. The army was at once set in motion; the numerous threads spreading over a wide field of operations were gathered up. Out of confusion came exquisite order. Detachments guarding various depots were sent to their commands, outposts were withdrawn, the cavalry were concentrated in one division under the lead of a gallant soldier. Compact, confident, and cheerful, this well-appointed host, guided by that master mind, moved grandly on to the fulfillment of its high mission. Those who have written of this campaign always date its commencement from Atlanta. Inasmuch as we trod upon hitherto unconquered soil when we went out from Atlanta, this statement is true; but the march really began at Rome and Kingston."
It is from this point that Major Nichols begins his diary. He writes:
"November 13. — Yesterday the last train of cars whirled rapidly past the troops moving south, speeding over bridges and into the woods as if they feared they might be left helpless in the deserted land. At Cartersville the last communications with the North were severed with the telegraph wire. It bore the message to General Thomas, All is well. And so we have cut adrift from our base of operations, from our line of communications, launching out into uncertainty at the best, on a journey whose projected end only the general in command knows. Its real fate and destination he does not know, since that rests with the goodness of God and the brave hearts and strong limbs of our soldiers. The history of war bears no similar example, except that of Cortez burning his ships. It is a bold, hazardous undertaking. There is no backward step possible here. Thirty days rations and a new base: that time and those supplies will be exhausted in the most rapid march ere we can arrive at the nearest sea-coast; arrived there, what then? I never heard that manna grew on the sand-beaches or in the marshes, though we are sure that we can obtain forage on our way; and I have reason to know that General Sherman is in the highest degree sanguine and cheerful — sure even of success. As for the soldiers, they do not stop to ask questions. Sherman says "Come," and
that is the entire vocabulary to them. A most cheerful feature of the situation is the fact that the men are healthful and jolly as men can be; hoping for the best, willing to dare the worst.
"Behind us we leave a track of smoke and flame. Half of Marietta was burned, up — not by orders, however; for the command is that proper details shall be made to destroy all property which can ever be of use to the rebel armies. Stragglers will get into these places, and dwelling-houses are leveled to the ground. In nearly all cases these are the deserted habitations formerly owned by rebels who are now refugees."
Atlanta was a doomed city. It was a great military strong-hold. As such it was held by the enemy; as such it was captured and treated by Serman. Transportation was given to all who wished to go North; those who wished to go South were sent to the Confederate lines. It was a hard necessity. Sherman was far from his base of supplies, and his lines of communication were liable to constant interruption. He could not, if he would, undertake to feed the families of those who were in arms against his Government, and unless he fed them they must starve. So he must send them away.
When the army commenced its southward march Atlanta was given to the flames. Under date of November 15, Major Nichols writes:
"A grand and awful spectacle is presented to the beholder in this beautiful city, now in flames. By order, the chief engineer has destroyed by powder and fire all the store-houses,
depot buildings, and machine-shops. The heaven is one expanse of lurid fire; the air is filled with flying, burning cinders; buildings covering two hundred acres are in ruins or in flames; every instant there is the sharp detonation or the smothered booming sound of exploding shells and powder concealed in the buildings, and then the sparks and flame shoot away up into the black and red roof, scattering cinders far and wide. These are the machine-shops where have been forged and cast the rebel cannon, shot and shell that have carried death to many a brave defender of our nation's honor. These warehouses have been the receptacle of munitions of war, stored to be used for our destruction. The city, which, next to Richmond, has furnished more material for prosecuting the war than any other in the South, exists no more as a means for injury to be used by the enemies of the Union."
The command of a great army is the highest achievement of the human mind. It is made up of a hundred thousand men, each feeble in himself as a slender fibre of cotton which a breath will waft away; these countless fibres twisted and combined into companies, regiments, and brigades, are like the strong cable by which the mightiest vessel outrides the storm. Yet an army is not, like a cable, a dead thing. It is instinct with life as a whole and in each individual member. For one thing every man of the hundred thousand must be fed. This is no trifling matter even when in camp; on the march it is something wonderful. Twenty-four hours without supplies would reduce the best army to a helpless mass of disorganized humanity. Food for the men, forage for the animals must not only be provided, but must be at the precise spot where wanted. A great battle is a great thing; but a great march is a greater. Napoleon, the great master of war, had a score of Marshals any one of whom could fight and win a pitched battle where he had one who could lead an army on the march. An army on the march is something like a great serpent, whose slow and resistless progress is the most striking exemplar of absolute force. When unopposed it stretches its vast length for mile upon mile, yet always alert and watchful. When danger threatens, it recoils upon itself. The trains, its vital point, are enveloped, fold upon fold, in its gigantic coils. Out of these are darted its head, with the cavalry its keen eyes, and the artillery its fearful fangs, ready for offense and defense. The great beast, shrunk to a quarter of its former dimensions, is ready for attack or defense. The danger past or overcome, the great python unfolds its massy coils, and again stretches out its huge length for progress. All of these mighty operations must be under the control of one supreme mind — the brain which governs every movement.
Sherman's force, when it had fairly cut loose from Atlanta, was "divided into two armies, called the Right and Left Wings, each of which had a separate army commander — General Howard, of the right wing, and General Slocum, of the left. Each of these armies is composed of two corps, which are subdivided into divisions and brigades, with their proper commanding officers. In addition to these, there is a cavalry corps, under the command of General Kilpatrick, who takes his orders directly from General Sherman. This corps is the curtain behind whose gleaming folds our chief, marching with one or another column as circumstances dictate, gives his orders.
"In the long marches, when the army has covered a vast extent of country, this organization proves to be of the highest practical use. Each column marches within supporting distance of the others. Yet exceptional instances have occurred where one wing may be forced to act in a measure independent of the others, as when the communication is cut off by a stream difficult to cross, or by a mountainous district which can be but slowly traversed. At such times there is a complete organization united in one command, ready to act as the emergency may require. But, as before said, these instances are exceptional. The conditions of our success are attended with such weighty responsibilities and dangerous risks, that this great moving mass of men and material is never fairly out of hand. The General commanding issues his orders, directed toward or including certain objective points, to reach which requires several days marching. It is the office of the subordinate commanders to put in motion that apparently unwieldy, but really manageable, orderly mass of humanity, wherein every man has his place, and duties which must be performed; and by this beautiful and practical system an army of sixty or seventy thousand men is shifted from place to place with a safety and celerity almost magical."
The excellently designed map of Major Nichols shows by distinct colors the line of march of every corps of this army. Let us glance at its main features: From Rome, in the extreme northwestern corner of Georgia, close by the border of Alabama, draw a straight line southeastward. After three hundred miles it will touch Savannah. Then draw another line north one hundred and fifty miles, and it will strike Columbia, the capital of South Carolina. Thence draw another line northeastward two hundred miles, and it will touch Goldsborough, in North Carolina; from thence another line, drawn northwestward a hundred miles, will touch Raleigh and Chapel Hill, where the march really closed. In all there was a march of seven hundred and fifty miles in a straight line — but something more than a thousand measured along the roads actually traveled. A straight line drawn from Rome, the beginning of the march, a little north of east to Raleigh, its close, would measure about four hundred miles. For the thousand miles of the march the columns swept an average breadth of fifty miles. It is curious to trace upon the map the complex lines which denote the routes of the different corps, and to
576discover the order that overrules the apparent disorder. Thus, the black, blue, yellow, and red lines, which denote the various infantry corps, keep almost the same relative positions. But the green line, which indicates the cavalry, shifts from side to side, and from sides to centre. From Atlanta to Macon it is on the extreme right. Then, by a sharp turn, it crosses the other lines and takes place on the left to Millen, whence to Savannah it appears in the centre. From Savannah, half-way through South Carolina, it is in the centre; thence to Fayetteville it is on the left; then to Goldsborough, in the centre, but with a sharp dash to the right; thence again on the left to Raleigh, until at Chapel Hill it forms the front. The explanation of these complicated movements is really simple. The cavalry is the eye of the army, always open to the side where the enemy is supposed to be. If he is on the left, it is on the left; if he is on the right, it is there; if he is on both sides, it is in the centre, ready to meet him on either hand.
Let us now catch some glimpses of a single army corps on the march:
"The order of march is issued by the army commanders the preceding night, from them to the corps commanders, and then passed along until every soldier, teamster, and camp-follower knows that an early start is to be made. At three o'clock the watch-fires are burning dimly, and, but for the occasional neighing of horses, all is so silent that it is difficult to imagine that twenty thousand men are within a radius of a few miles. the ripple of the brook can be distinctly heard as it breaks over the pebbles, or winds petulantly about the gnarled roots. The wind sweeping gently through the tall pines overhead only serves to lull to deeper repose the slumbering soldier, who in his tent is dreaming of his far-off Northern home.
"But in an instant all is changed. From some commanding elevation the clear-toned bugle sounds out the reveille, and another and another responds, until the startled echoes double and treble the clarion-calls. Intermingled with this comes the beating of drums, often rattling and jarring on unwilling ears. In a few moments the peaceful quiet is replaced by noise and tumult, arising from hill and dale, from field and forest. Camp-fires, hitherto extinct or smouldering in dull gray ashes, awaken to new life and brilliancy, and send forth their sparks high into the morning air. Although no gleam of sunrise blushes in the east, the harmless flames on every side light up the scene, so that there is no disorder or confusion.
"The aesthetic aspects of this sudden change do not, however, occupy much of the soldier's time. He is more practically engaged in getting his breakfast ready. The potatoes are frying nicely in the well-larded pan; the chicken is roasting delicately on the red-hot coals, and grateful fumes from steaming coffee-pots delight the nostrils. The animals are not less busy. An ample supply of corn and huge piles of fodder are greedily devoured by these faithful friends of the boys in blue, and any neglect is quickly made known by the pawing of neighing horses and the fearful braying of the mules. Amidst all is the busy clatter of tongues and tools — a Babel of sound, forming a contrast to the quiet of the previous hour as marked as that between peace and war. Then the animals are hitched into the traces, and the droves of cattle relieved from the night's confinement in the corral. Knapsacks are strapped, men seize their trusty weapons, and as again the bugles sound the note of command, the soldiers fall into line and file out upon the road.
"There is a halt in the column. The officer in charge of the pioneer corps, which follows the advance-guard, has discovered an ugly place in the road, which must be corduroyed at once, before the wagons can pass. The pioneers quickly tear down the fence near by and bridge over the treacherous place, perhaps at the rate of a quarter of a mile in fifteen minutes. If rails are not near, pine saplings and split logs supply their place. Meanwhile the bugles have sounded, and the column has halted. The soldiers, during the temporary halt, drop out of line on the road-side, lying upon their backs, supported by their still unstrapped knapsacks. If the halt is a long one, the different regiments march by file right, one behind the other, into the fields, stacking their muskets, and taking their rest at ease, released from their knapsack.
"A great many of the mounted officers ride through the fields, on either side of the line of march, so as not to interfere with the troops. General Sherman always takes to the fields, dashing through thickets or plunging into the swamps, and, when forced to take the road, never breaks into a regiment or brigade, but waits until it passes, and then falls in. He says that they, and not he, have the right to the road.
"But the sun has long since passed the zenith, the droves of cattle which have been driven through the swamps and fields are lowing and wandering in search of a corral, the soldiers are beginning to lag a little, the teamsters are obliged to apply the whip oftener, ten or fifteen miles have been traversed, and the designated halting-place for the night is near. The column must now be got into camp. Officers ride on in advance to select the ground for each brigade, giving the preference to slopes in the vicinity of wood and water. Soon the troops file out into the woods and fields, the leading division pitching tents first, those in the rear marching on yet farther, ready to take their turn in the advance the next day.
"As soon as the arms are stacked, the boys attack the fences and rail-piles, and with incredible swiftness their little shelter-tents spring up all over the ground. The fires are kindled with equal celerity, and the luxurious repeat prepared, while good digestion waits on appetite, and health on both. After this is heard the music of dancing or singing, the pleasant
buzz of conversation, and the measured sound of reading. The wagons are meanwhile parked and the animals fed. By-and-by the tattoo rings out on the night air. Its familiar sound is understood. Go to rest, go to rest, it says, as plainly as organs of human speech.
"Shortly after follows the peremptory command of Taps. Out lights, out lights, out lights! The soldier gradually disappears from the camp-fire. Rolled snugly in his blanket, the soldier dreams again of home, or revisits in imagination the battle-fields he has trod. The animals, with dull instinct, lie down to rest. The fires go out. The army is asleep. But around the slumbering host the picket-guards keep quiet watch."
It is curious to note the dumb pets which the soldiers gather and keep around them. One company will have a cat, another a donkey, another a kid, another a dog. But a fighting-cock is the pet and pride. They ride upon cannon or mules, or arE affectionately borne in the arms of their protectors. Breed is of little account so that the animal is game. If he will not fight he is sure to be eaten. A victor gets a pet-name. He is "Bill Sherman" or "Johnny Logan," while his worsted opponent is dubbed "Jeff Davis" or "Pete Beauregard."
Among the duties of the army was that of destroying the railroads. "The method of destruction is simple, but very effective. Two ingenious instruments have been made for tin's purpose. One of them is a clasp, which locks under the rail. It has a ring in the top, into
578which is inserted a long lever, and the rail is thus ripped from the sleepers. The sleepers are then piled in a heap and set on fire, the rails roasting in the flames until they bend by their own weight. When sufficiently heated, each rail is taken off by wrenches fitting closely over the ends, and by turning in opposite directions, it is so twisted that even a rolling-machine could not bring it back into shape."
As the army pressed on in its march through Georgia not a few odd characters were encountered. As a representative let us introduce one whom Major Nichols designates simply as W — a fat fellow, who tried hard to be jolly under difficult circumstances:
"‘They say you are retreating,’ he said, ‘but it is the strangest sort of retreat I ever saw. Why, dog bite them, the newspapers have been lying in this way all along. They allers are whipping the Federal armies, and they allers fall back after the battle is over. It was that ar idee that first opened my eyes. Our army was always whipping the Feds, and we allers fell back. I allers told em it was a d — d humbug, and now by — I know it, for here you are right on old W.'s place; hogs, potatoes, corn, and fences all gone. I don't find any fault. I expected it all. Jeff Davis and the rest,’ he continued, ‘talk about splitting the Union. Why, if South Carolina had gone out by herself, she would have been split in four pieces by this time. Splitting the Union! Why, the State of Georgia is being split right through from end to end. It is these rich fellows who are making this war, and keeping their precious bodies out of harm's way. There's John Franklin went through here the other day, running away from your army. I could have played dominoes on his coat-tails. There's my poor brother sick with small-pox at Macon, working for eleven dollars a month, and hasn't got a cent of the d — d stuff for a year. Leven dollars a month and eleven thousand bullets a minute. I don't believe in it, Sir!’"
"As rumors of the approach of the army reached the frightened inhabitants, frantic efforts were made to conceal not only their valuable personal effects, plate, jewelry, and other rich goods, but also articles of food, such as hams, sugar, flour, etc. A large part of these supplies were carried to the neighboring swamps; but the favorite method of concealment was the burial of the treasures in the pathways and gardens adjoining the dwelling-houses. Sometimes, also, the grave-yards were selected as the best place of security from the Vandal hands of the invaders. Unfortunately for these people, the negroes betrayed them, and in the early part of the march the soldiers learned the secret. With untiring zeal the soldiers hunted for concealed treasures. Wherever the army halted, almost every inch of ground in the vicinity of the dwellings was poked by ramrods, pierced with sabres, or upturned with spades. The universal digging was good for the garden land, but its results were distressing to the rebel owners of exhumed property, who saw it rapidly and irretrievably confiscated. If they struck a vein a spade was instantly put in requisition, and the coveted wealth was speedily unearthed. Nothing escaped the observation of these sharp-witted soldiers. A woman standing upon the porch of a house, apparently watching their proceedings, instantly became an object of suspicion, and she was watched until some movement betrayed a place of concealment. The fresh earth recently thrown up, a bed of flowers just set out, the slightest indication of a change in appearance or position, all attracted the gaze of these military agriculturists. It was all fair spoil of war, and the search made one of the excitements of the march."
In a little more than three weeks the army had accomplished the three hundred miles from Rome, and were close upon Savannah. It had taken M'Clellan as long to traverse the thirty miles between Williamsburg and the Chickahominy, without having seen the face of an enemy. Fort M'Atlister, the key to Savannah, was captured by Hazen, how gallantly we must leave Nichols to tell, on the 13th of December, just a month lacking two days after the Great March began.
For a full month after the capture of Savannah there was no apparent movement of the Union force. But Richmond was all the while in Sherman's eye as the real point to which his march was to tend. To reach this he must traverse a part of Georgia, the whole of South and North Carolina, and a part of Virginia. On the 15th of January the troops were in motion for the new field of operations. The enterprise looked hazardous enough. "The march through Georgia," said the fearful Unionists and the confident Confederates, "was safe enough; but this is a march into the jaws of destruction. Sherman is going straight to Lee, who can throw his columns right across the track, Hardee has 30,000 men in front, and the approaches to Charleston are impracticable." But the army pressed on, straight northward, in separate columns as before — the Fourteenth Corps, under
579Slocum, on the left; the Seventeenth, under Howard, on the right; the Fifteenth and the Twentieth being in the centre; where also was Kilpatrick's cavalry, ready to dash to either flank. By the 30th Georgia had been left behind, and the invasion of South Carolina was fairly began. It can not be denied that the army looked with special aversion upon this State. Major Nichols writes:
"Houses are burning, and South Carolina has commenced to pay an installment, long overdue, on her debt to justice and humanity. With the help of God, we will have principal and interest before we leave her borders. There is a terrible gladness in the realization of so many hopes and wishes. This cowardly traitor State, secure from harm, as she thought, in her central position, with hellish haste dragged her Southern sisters into the caldron of secession. Little did she dream that the hated flag would again wave over her soil; but this bright morning a thousand Union banners are floating in the breeze, and the ground trembles beneath the tramp of thousands of brave Northmen, who know their mission, and will perform it to the end."
And again, after passing the low swampy region:
"The land improves as we advance into the interior. The region through which we are now traveling is rich in forage and supplies, and the army is once more reveling in the luxurious experiences of the Georgia campaign — turkeys, geese, ducks, chickens, nicely-cured hams, potatoes, honey, and abundance of other luxuries
for the soldiers, and plenty of corn and fodder for the animals. The soil does not seem to be very prolific in Barnwell County, as it has a large proportion of sand, yet the planters, judging from their houses and the outbuildings, seem to have been wealthy. Nearly all these places are deserted, although here and there we find women and children, whom it is difficult to persuade they are not at once to be murdered. Wide-spreading columns of smoke continue to rise wherever our army goes. Building material is likely to be in great demand in this State for some time to come.
"It is grievous to see a beautiful woman, highly cultured and refined, standing in the gateway of her dismantled home, perhaps with an infant in her arms, while she calls upon some passing officers to protect her home from farther pillage; for the advance-guard, who have just been skirmishing with the enemy or some stragglers, have entered and helped themselves to what they needed or desired. No violence is done to the inmates, but household furniture is pushed about somewhat. The men of the house have all run away, as did Cain after killing his brother. Perhaps it is the best protection for their property to leave women at home, for the soldiers always respect a woman, even if they do sometimes enter a house. These people have one cry in common, now that they feel the bitterness of war. They pray God that it may cease upon any terms."
Here is a sketch of veteran soldiers on the march:
"Our command is in splendid health. Marching and the open air have brought out all the invalids. Day before yesterday we sent back a train with all the wounded, so they will be well cared for, and will not encumber us in our onward march. This is more than well. To be affective for marching or fighting an army must be stripped of superfluities and encumbrances, and thus the old soldier reduces himself to a few slimple necessities. He travels light. You may distinguish him from his fellows in the column by his small, well-packed knapsack and blanket tightly rolled; his well-ordered musket and accoutrements; his fine springy step, his determined nonchalance. This man has learned the best philosophy of soldiering by practical experience. This daily experience of marching, scouting, foraging, skirmishing, drilling, manoeuvring, and fighting, joined to other natural qualifications, makes the American the best soldier in the world. I affirm this with some knowledge, for I have seen the English, French, Austrian, and Italian soldiers. I do not believe there is an army in the world, outside the United States, that could make such a march as we are making now. Road and bridge building, which we have learned to perfection, would stop them the first day out.
"It is impossible to pass the columns of the army without observing the excellent condition of the animals. The abundant forage found upon the plantations, and the short marches which
we make, have put the horses, mules, and beef cattle in the best possible condition. Each day, as the army moves forward, large additions are made to the droves of cattle. Our conscription is remorseless. Every species of four-footed boast that South Carolina planters cherished among their live-stock is swept in by our flanking foragers, and the music of the animal creation mingles with the sound of the footfall of the army."
But all soldiers are not veterans. In, or rather about, Sherman's army were a class of men known as "Bummers." How the term originated nobody seems to know. We hope the editor of the next edition of the Slang Dictionary will investigate the matter. A Bummer, according to Major Nichols, is a raider on his own account — a man who has left his place in the ranks, and has set out on a foraging expedition without special orders. Sometimes he is absent for only a few days, at other times he disappears for weeks together. An officer who had to pass from column to column would not unfrequently light upon a camp of Bummers, bearing all the appearance of a regular foraging party, and almost always having proof of abundant success. If asked to what command they belong, one will reply, with an impudent laugh. "We don't answer for any body in particular — bout every corps in the army." There is one distinguishing mark of a Bummer: he is never on foot. Now and then he is mounted on a
583splendid horse, which he has somehow "raised;" more frequently he bestrides a broken-down nag; oftener still a mule. "Sometimes," writes Nichols, "we see the Bummer approaching the camp from a piece of woods with a wagon which he has overloaded with good things. The scene is frequently exhilarating. The Bummer, coming in on horseback, holding the bridle in his teeth, clasps under one arm a basket of fresh eggs, and under the other a pailful of delicious honey, while a brace of fat sheep, hams, chickens, or geese lie across the saddle in front and rear, and the carcass of a hog, firmly tied to the mule's tail, is dragged along the road. The Bummer himself is probably clothed in an irregular sack-coat of linen, with a ridiculously unmilitary hat perched on one side of his head, and, as he approaches, his face beams with smiles of recognition, tempered by a half-suppressed apprehension lest his bounteous supplies should not be accepted as a peace-offering for his delinquencies."
"Aside from the freedom from control which gives had men opportunities to commit wanton deeds of violence, these wanderers from the ranks are often of great benefit to the army. Better flankers can not be found. Spreading out from the marching column, they are the first to scent danger, and the last to leave the field, unless actually forced back. They understand the art of squad-fighting to perfection. Parties of them, without officers, will join together to resist an onset of rebel cavalry, or to make an attack upon the enemy, and they are almost always the victors in a skirmish."
A Bummer, sharply reprimanded by an officer, made this reply: "See hyar, cap'n; we I ain't so bad after all. We keep ahead of the skirmish line allers. We let's em know when an enemy's a-comin; and then we ain't allers away from the regiment. We turns over all we don't want ourselves, and we can lick five times as many rebs as we are, any day." The Bummers are the nearest modern representatives of the motley crowd whom Walter the Penniless, in the first Crusade, led from Burgundy through Hungary and Bulgaria to the Holy Land.
On the 17th of February, Columbia, the capital of South Carolina, was occupied, not without some fighting. Major Nichols, under that date writes:
"It is with a feeling of proud exultation that I write the date of Columbia. We have conquered and occupy the capital of the haughty State that instigated and forced forward the treason which has brought on this desolating war. The city which was to have been the capital of the Confederacy if Lee and the rebel hosts had been driven from Richmond is now overrun by Northern soldiers. The beautiful capitol building bears the marks of Yankee shot and shell, and the old flag which the rebels insulted at Sumter now floats freely in the air from the house-tops of the central city of South Carolina. On our march hither we had the choice of Augusta or Columbia; and while many a brave man turned his indignant eves toward Sumter and the sea, yet our General knew that this Holy of Holies to the Southern mind was of infinitely more importance than either of the other two cities, and he feels certain that Charleston is ours in any event. General Sherman also knew that, while he might capture Augusta, he could not be certain of reaching Columbia afterward, while with Columbia gained, Augusta was almost as easily won as in the commencement of the campaign."
Sherman and Howard, with their staffs, were the first to enter the city. On every side were evidences of disorder. Bales of cotton were scattered here and there; furniture and merchandise were cast pell-mell in every direction. In the main street Sherman was met by some of our prisoners who had escaped in the confusion, and had been secreted by the negroes. The material belonging to the Confederate Treasury Department had been brought here, as to a place of perfect security. Much of this had been removed, but much remained behind. The arsenal was found stocked with arms and munitions, the work-shops full of machinery for the manufacture of arms, the storehouses crowded with supplies. The capitol when finished would have been the finest public building in the United States. This was ordered to be spared; but other public buildings and property were destroyed. In the evening the disastrous conflagration began which laid the city in ruins. The cause of this is still enveloped in doubt. Nichols believes that the main fire originated in sparks flying from the hundreds of bales of cotton which the Confederates had placed along the streets, and fired when they left. Other fires, he thinks, are to be ascribed to the desire for revenge from some two hundred of our prisoners who had escaped from the cars as they were being conveyed from this city to Charlotte, who sought this means of retaliation for their sufferings in the miserable prison-pen close by. But, he adds: "Whatever may have been the cause of the disaster, the direful result is deprecated by General Sherman most emphatically; for however heinous the crimes of this people against our common country, we do not war against women and children and helpless persons." Inline morning the fires were all subdued, and the houseless people were provided with shelter in the residences deserted by their former refugee owners. "So far as it went, the fire made clean work; but there were fewer dwelling-houses destroyed than was at first supposed; as the devastation was confined chiefly to the business parts of the city."
On the 21st the army was again fairly on its march toward Goldsborough. Among the significant features of the journey were the bands of refugees seeking to make their escape northward under protection of the army. For a while it was impossible to comply with their requests on account of the lack of transportation. But in time many of the wagons of the train were empty; vehicles and animals were captured
584from the enemy; and besides, many of the refugees were able to furnish their own transportation. A refugee train was organized and placed under guard of escaped prisoners. Of this train Major Nichols writes:
"The refugees are getting along famously. Ladies who have been always accustomed to the refinements of life seem to enjoy the journey as much as if it were a picnic. In truth, it is better than that; for, while they are not exposed to the dangers of war, they participate in its excitements. The column has a singularly outre appearance. First there will be a huge family coach containing ladies, with their personal baggage crowded about them; then an army wagon loaded with men, women, and children, comfortably seated upon such articles of household furniture as they are allowed to carry. Following this, will be a country cart filled with negro women — for the negroes come along also — and hosts of the little curly, bullet-headed youngsters gaze curiously upon the strange sights which meet their eyes."
The weather was for a while delightful; the roads dry; the wind from the east came laden with the perfumes of pine and cedar; and the army pressed on as happy and contented as men had a right to be who had plodded on so many dreary days through heavy mud and pitiless rain. On the 8th of March the boundary between South and North Carolina was crossed. On the previous evening Major Nichols wrote in his diairy:
"To-night we went into camp in a magnificent grove of pines. The roots of the trees are buried in the spindles and burs which have fallen undisturbed for centuries. The wind sings, or rather murmurs — for that is the sound — through the lofty tree-tops, while the air is filled with delicious fragrance. This evening the sun went down behind glowing bars of silver and purple, although now and then its bright rays would stream out, throwing long shadows across this great cathedral floor, transforming tree and bough into columns and arches of glittering gold. As I write the camp-fires dance and flare upward; away out in the dark forest strange, uncouth forms peer out from the shadows; while a distant band of music, mellowed by the distance, rounds in soothing cadences the restful tattoo. Ah! this is not the blood, the carnage, or the suffering of war; it is its delightful romance."
Three days after he has occasion to paint a different picture:
"About five o'clock in the afternoon there descended from the heavens a deluge of rain. Deluge is the only expressive word to use; for so large a quantity of rain fell in so short a space of time that by nightfall the surface of the country was one entire sheet of water. It was my fortune to be separated from my canvas home some fifteen miles, and, with a party of couriers, attempted to cross the country. The way led through pine forests, where roads,
if dependence can be placed in the State maps, existed several years ago. The rain fell in torrents, blinding riders and horses, and drenching every one to the skin. Waterproofs were not proof against this flood-water, which seemed to have a power and penetration peculiarly its own. The road soon became less marked; a mile farther it degenerated into a single path; and, finally, it disappeared from sight altogether. Investigations to the right and left and before us gave no clew to the lost track. Halting under the tall pines we held a council of war. It was but an hour before nightfall, and, supposing we had come thus far in the right direction, there were yet ten miles between us and our destination. Consulting my pocket-compass we ascertained that the general direction was correct; yet we hesitated to push blindly through an enemy's country so far in advance of the army, and with so wide a space between the columns, but the darkening sky and sullen thunder warned us to push on in some direction. If there had been a plantation near, or any indication of human existence, we could speedily have settled the difficulty; but for miles around nothing was visible but the solemn woods and sandy plains. So again we applied the spur, and splashed through the wet grass, keeping to the south as before."
"March 11. — The sun shone out again this morning bright and cheerful, making glad the
hearts of all of us, and of none more than the soldiers and teamsters who have been laboring night and day through these wretched swamps. What a noble army we have here! Every day produces fresh and striking illustrations of the men's cheerful acceptance of all the discouraging circumstances of the situation. For instance: a wagon, painfully toiling along the road, suddenly careens; the wheels are submerged in a quicksand; every effort of the mules or horses to pull out only buries the unfortunate vehicle deeper in the mire, and very soon the animals have dug for themselves a pit, out of which many are never extricated alive. The driver sees at once that it is useless to whip and swear; so he dismounts. Then the train guard, who have been resting upon their muskets watching the proceedings, quietly stack their weapons and at once plunge into the mud. A dozen of them are at work with shoulders at the wheels and body of the wagon, and finally they lift it out of the hole upon firmer ground. One or two wagons stuck in this way show at once that the road must be corduroyed. Then, with many a jest and an untiring flow of good-humor, the men wade into the neighboring swamp, cut down and split the trees, and soon bridge over these impassable places. A few rods farther on the head of column arrives at a creek, which in ordinary seasons is ten feet wide, and has a few inches of water running over a hard sandy bottom. Now the water is four or six feet in depth, and spreads out to a width of sixty feet, encroaching upon the softer earth. A bridge must be built. Into the water dash our men without hesitation, for they know the work must be done at once. Waist-deep, throat-deep, not a dry spot about them. No matter for that, they say; we shall be in camp by-and-by, and then, before our roaring fires, we will rehearse the incidents of the day. Thus these good, brave soldiers endure every hardship, shrink at no exposure of life or limb; not only without grumbling, but with a good-humor and merriment which no hardship dampens and no risk discourages. Old officers of the army, who have served in Florida and Mexico, continually remark this peculiar feature of Sherman's army. It does not belong to any particular corps or regiment, but all the soldiers share it alike, and at all times."
On the 13th Sherman was near Fayetteville, seventy-five miles north of Wilmington, and in full communication with Terry and Schofield. Rumors were flying thick and fast. One report said that Johnston, whom Davis had reluctantly placed in command, would certainly make a stand at Goldsborough, fifty miles away; another said that Lee was evacuating Richmond in order to throw his forces into North Carolina; another told that a large Confederate force — whence gathered was not stated — was closing in upon Sherman's rear. "These stories," says Nichols, " which float about among the citizens, give the army subjects for jest; the fact being that we know all that is necessary for us to know of the rebel movements. Beyond that we bother ourselves but little." However, Johnston was not an enemy to be despised. If a fair chance had been given him we imagine that his name, instead of that of Lee, would have stood foremost on the list of Confederate commanders. But Davis had an old grudge against him, dating as far back as Bull Run. He set him to work only when somebody else's mistakes were to be remedied, and always got rid of him as soon as he could. The action at Averysboro, fought March 16, shows that it was well to be ready for Johnston. Subsequent skirmishes and the battle at Bentonville, won by Slocum on the 21st, confirmed this. This was really the only battle fought during the Great March.
On the 22d the army entered Goldsborough. There it rested for three weeks. In the interim Sherman made a flying visit to Grant at City Point, where the plan for future operations was decided upon. Then followed, in the early days of April, Grant's great blows at Lee. April 13th — Sherman having again taken up his march three days before — came tidings of the surrender of Lee. Next day Raleigh, the capital of North Carolina, was occupied. Then, on the 15th, came a letter from Johnston, asking whether there were not means for preventing further shedding of blood. On the 16th an interview between the two Generals was arranged to take place on the following day. Of this Major Nichols writes:
"The day of this conference — Monday, April 17 — will be memorable in the history of the war. The fratricidal struggle of four long and weary years virtually ended on the day when two great men came together in the heart of the State of North Carolina, intent, with true nobility of soul and in the highest interests of humanity, upon putting a stop to the needless sacrifice of life. This conference was not held after days of bloody battle, when the heavens had been rent with the roar of artillery, the scream of shell, and the rattle and crash of musketry, but under better auspices than these. As General Sherman rode past his picket line upon that sunny spring morning the ear was not pained by the moans and cries of mangled men, but the fresh breeze came laden with the fragrance of the pines, of apple blossoms, of lilacs, roses, and violets. The eye rested upon a thousand forms of beauty; for the rains and warm sun had quickened into life countless buds and flowering plants, until the hill-sides, and glens and bushes were brilliant in their robes of delicate green. Here and there in the forest, the deep-toned evergreen of some sturdy old pine or cedar was displayed in dark relief against the fresher verdure; but the prevailing tone of earth and sky was pregnant with the loving promise of spring. The scene was symbolic of the new era of peace then just beginning to dawn upon the nation. The two Generals met upon the road, warmly greeting each other with extended
hands. On the brow of a hill a few yards farther on there was a small farm-house, to which they repaired for consultation, while the general officers and staffs who accompanied their respective chiefs fell, after a few moments, into amicable conversation."
Johnston is vastly changed from the pleasant-looking man with thin dark hair, side whiskers, mustache, and goatee, shown in the pictures taken four years ago. He now wears "a full beard and mustache of silvery whiteness, partly concealing a genial and generous mouth, that must have become habituated to a kindly smile. His eyes, dark-brown in color, varied in expression — now intense and sparkling, and then soft with tenderness or twinkling with humor. The nose was Roman, and the forehead full and prominent. The general cast of the tenures gave an expression of goodness and manliness, mingling a fine nature with the decision and energy of the capable soldier." A personable, attractive man, and one whom — if we could forget the cause for which he fought, and the obligations which he violated in espousing that cause — we must respect and honor. "A a soldier," writes Major Nichols, "he has beer open and manly; and now at this crisis in the fate of the cause he espoused, while his own army may not be said to be in extremis, he courageously steps forward, and proposes to the fate unnatural struggle by honorable capitulation of all forces in arms against the United States Government."
This meeting was informal, but preliminaries
589were agreed upon. A formal meeting was agreed upon for next day. Major Nichols thus describes this interview:
"On the 18th, with a proper degree of ceremony, the two Generals again met. Precisely at the hour of noon, Sherman and Johnston, with their staffs, rode to the top of the eminence opposite to the little farm-house already referred to, and the brilliantly-costumed crowd of staff officers, in full uniform, paused for a moment, as their chiefs rode forward into the open space, lifting their hats courteously, and then, grasping each other by the hand, Sherman and Johnston dismounted and passed into the house. In a few moments one of the rebel officers dashed off down the road in the direction of the escort which had accompanied General Johnston, and in a short time a tall gentleman rode up, and, hurrying through the crowd of officers, quickly entered the house where the two Generals were in conference. Almost every person present recognized in the new-comer John C. Breckinridge, the Confederate Secretary of War."
At this meeting the terms of the capitulation were arranged which virtually brought the Great March to an end. It had accomplished all, and more than all, that had been proposed by Sherman. We do not here propose to touch upon the difficulties which grew out of the terms there agreed upon. The country has now fairly made up its mind upon that matter, and the decision which has been reached will not be reversed.
We have attempted in this paper only to reproduce some of the prominent characteristics of the Great March. To have even attempted to present its military character, or to speak fittingly of the officers and men who made up the army which accomplished it would have compelled us to have quoted half of the volume in which Major Nichols has told "The Story of the Great March." It was our purpose to have introduced a few of the many sketches which the writer has given of the character and conduct of those — once slaves, now freedmen — those destiny and that of the "poor whites" of the South is likely to be the great social problem of the present and next generation. But we have overpassed the space allotted to us, and can only recommend the complete "Story of the Great March" to the careful consideration of all those with whom our opinion may have weight.