Chapter 59 (November 15, 1864 – November 23, 1864)
From day to day this destruction was continued until all bridges and railroad stations along the tracks were destroyed. As we looked back from our camp at Stone Mountain we could still see the great columns of smoke, arising from the burning city Atlanta. This all seemed hard but it was war, and war to the finish.
November 16th, Wednesday, broke camp, crossed Yellow river and encamped, marched 15 miles. Today noon we could still see the black smoke from burning Atlanta.
Thursday, November 17th. Struck tents, crossed Broad Run, then encamped, marched 20 miles. November 18th, Friday, broke camp, passed thru Social Circle, and Rutledge, encamped near Madison, marched 15 miles.
Saturday, November l9th. Struck tents, passed thru Madison. This is a beautiful little town with a fine country surrounding it. Also passed Buckhead Station, and then encamped, marched 15 miles. Next day, Sunday, broke camp, marched to the Oconee river, burned the railroad bridge and destroyed the railroad, each day as we marched along. We encamped on the plantation of Howell Cobb, a prominent politician of the South and at this time a general in the Rebel army. General Sherman encamped with us on this plantation and while sitting on a chair with his back to the fire he noticed an old negro with a tallow candle in his hand, scanning him closely. Sherman inquired: “What do you want old man?” He answered, “Dey say you is Massa Sherman.” Sherman assured him that such was the case, and then asked what he wanted. He only wanted to look at him, and then the old man kept muttering, “Dis nigger can’t sleep dis night.” Traveled 15 miles.
Tuesday, November 22nd, struck tents, crossed Little river, passed thru Milledgeville, marched 15 miles. The country we passed thru from Atlanta to the State Capitol was as fine as any we saw south of the Mason’s and Dixon’s line. Abounding with hogs, turkeys, chickens, geese, ducks, sweet potatoes, peanuts, and everything in the line of edibles except ice cream. But as we had no ladies to treat, this did not matter so much.
The weather was the coldest we experienced during the winter of 1864 and 1865. We had no overcoats, and we were a shivering army. Before we arrived at Milledgeville, the State Legislature of Georgia had been in session there, but when the head of Sherman’s columns were turned in that direction, they hurriedly adjourned and struck out for parts unknown.
Wednesday we remained in camp. This gave the boys a good chance of seeing the city. A goodly number went into the Halls of the Legislature. A speaker was elected, who called the senate to order. Resolutions were passed denouncing the Confederacy, the hurried adjournment of the Rebel Legislature, Jeff Davis, Robert E. Lee and the entire Confederacy, and after a number of spicy speeches had been delivered, they adjourned to meet at the call of the chair.
Our entrance into Milledgeville was at night about ten o’clock. We saw little of the town until next day. Whenever we went to camp before dark, our bands would begin to play, and as soon as the darkies on nearby plantations would hear the music, we could see men, women and children coming across he fields from every direction. When the band would strike up some lively piece, the darkies, from the old gray haired men and women, down to the pickaninnies, who were clouts, would begin swinging to and fro, and want to dance.
Whenever we had time, several end boards of wagons were taken off and while someone would sing and keep time and pat, the fun would begin and they would dance until the sweat was rolling down their black faces. Each one was anxious to show how well he could move, and all wanted to so badly that one could scarcely wait for the other to finish. Finally, when one old fellow could stand the pressure no longer he said: “Luff dis nigger dance dis nigger u’ll make de dus fly,” and he sure was a good one. And we were all like the Dutchman said: “He laffed, un he laffed, bis he couldn’t laff any more, den he layed down on his sthomack un laffed some more.”
These were certainly joyful times. Our marching columns covered about 50 miles front. The four corps were 10 miles apart, and the cavalry on the flanks about five miles from the infantry. Foraging squads were sent out each day to bring supplies for those in the marching column. The whole country was being scoured for provisions.
One day we discovered a fine lot of hams in some chaff in a barn. These were distributed to those in the detail to carry to camp. Jim Ulrich was given a fine ham and when we neared the camp we found he had traded the ham off for tobacco, which trade cut a number short on their ham ration.