Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB
[graphic]

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 Sherman. 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,

ATLANTA IN RUINS.

dépôt 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 of fense 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.

ard, 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.

At such

"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. 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 thouSherman's force, when it had fairly cut loose sand miles of the march the columns swept an from Atlanta, was "divided into two armies, average breadth of fifty miles. It is curious to called the Right and Left Wings, each of which trace upon the map the complex lines which dehad a separate army commander-General How-note the routes of the different corps, and to dis

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 hill 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.

cover the order that overrules the apparent dis- | of fodder are greedily devoured by these faithful order. 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.

"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

Let us now catch some glimpses of a single supply their place. Meanwhile the bugles have 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 reveillé, 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 æsthetic aspects of this sudden change do not, however, occupy much of the soldier's time. He is more practically engaged in get ting 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

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 repast prepared, while 'good digestion waits on appetite, and health on both.' After this is heard the music of dancing or singing, the pleasant

[graphic][merged small]

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."

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 accouat, 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 this purpose. One of them is a clasp, which locks

It is curious to note the dumb pets which the under the rail. It has a ring in the top, into VOL. XXXI.-No. 185.-QQ

BILL SHERMAN" AND "PETE BEAUREGARD."

which 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 ef

forts 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 sharpwitted 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'Allister, 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

[graphic]
« AnteriorContinua »