On the 12th of November the railroad and telegraph communications with the rear were broken, and the army stood detached from all friends, dependent on its own resources and supplies. The strength of the army, as officially reported shows an aggregate of fifty-five thousand three hundred and twenty-nine infantry, five thousand and sixty-three cavalry, and eighteen hundred and twelve artilleryin all, sixty-two thousand two hundred and four officers and men.
The most extraordinary efforts had been made to purge this army of non-combatants and of sick men so that all on this exhibit may be assumed to have been able-bodied, experienced soldiers, well armed, well equipped, and provided, as far as human foresight permitted, with all the essentials of life, strength, and vigorous action.
The two general orders made for this march appear to me, even at this late day, so clear, emphatic, and well digested, that no account of that historic event is perfect without them and, tho they called for great sacrifice and labor on the part of the officers and men, I insist that these orders were obeyed as well as any similar orders ever were, by an army operating wholly in an enemy's country, and dispersed, as we necessarily were, during the subsequent period of nearly six months. The wagon-trains were divided equally between the four corps, so that each had about eight hundred wagons, and these usually on the march occupied five miles or more of road. . . .
The march from Atlanta began on the morning of November 15th, the right wing and cavalry following the railroad southeast toward Jonesboro, and General Slocum with the Twentieth Corps leading off to the east by Decatur and Stone Mountain, toward Madison. These were divergent lines, designed to threaten both Macon and Augusta at the same time, so as to prevent a concentration at our intended destination, or "objective," Milledgeville, the capital of Georgia, distant southeast about one hundred miles. . . .
About 7 A. M. of November 16th we rode out of Atlanta by the Decatur road, filled by the marching troops and wagons of the Fourteenth Corps; and reaching the hill, just outside of the old rebel works, we naturally paused to look back upon the scenes of our past battles. We stood upon the very ground whereon was fought the bloody battle of July 22d, and could see the copse of wood where McPherson fell.2 Behind us lay Atlanta, smoldering and in ruins, the black smoke rising high in air, and hanging like a pall over the ruined city. Away off in the distance, on the McDonough road, was the rear of Howard's column, the gun barrels glistening in the sun, the white-topped wagons stretching away to the south; and right before us the Fourteenth Corps, marching steadily and rapidly, with a cheery look and swinging pace, that made light of the thousand miles that lay between us and Richmond. Some band, by accident struck up the anthem of "John Brown's soul goes marching on"; the men caught up the strain, and never before or since have I heard the chorus of "Glory, glory, hallelujah!" done with more spirit, or in better harmony of time and place. . . .
The first night out we camped by the roadside near Lithonia. The whole horizon was lurid with the bonfires of rail-ties, and groups of men all night were carrying the heated rails to the nearest trees, and bending them around the trunks. Colonel Poe had provided tools for ripping up the rails and twisting them when hot; but the best and easiest way is the one of heating the middle of the iron rails on bonfires made of the cross-ties, and then winding them around a telegraph-pole or the trunk of some convenient sapling. I attached some importance to this destruction of the railroad, gave it my own personal attention, and made reiterated orders to others on the subject. . . .
We found abundance of corn, molasses, meal, bacon, and sweet potatoes. We also took a good many cows and oxen, and a large number of mules. In all these the country was quite rich, never before having been visited by a hostile army; the recent crop had been excellent, had been just gathered and laid by for the winter. As a rule, we destroyed none, but kept our wagons full, and fed our teams bountifully.
The skill and success of the men in collecting forage was one of the features of this march. Each brigade commander had authority to detail a company of foragers, usually about fifty men, with one or two commissioned officers selected for their boldness and enterprise. This party would be dispatched before daylight with a knowledge of the intended day's march and camp; would proceed on foot five or six miles from the route traveled by their brigade, and then visit every plantation and farm within range. They would usually procure a wagon or family carriage, load it with bacon, corn-meal, turkeys, chickens, ducks, and everything that could be used as food or forage, and would then regain the main road, usually in advance of their train. When this came up, they would deliver to the brigade commissary the supplies thus gathered by the way.
Often would I pass these foraging-parties at the roadside, waiting for their wagons to come up, and was amused at their strange collectionsmules, horses, even cattle, packed with old saddles and loaded with hams, bacon, bags of corn-meal, and poultry of every character and description. Altho this foraging was attended with great danger and hard work, there seemed to be a charm about it that attracted the soldiers, and it was a privilege to be detailed on such a party. Daily they returned mounted on all sorts of beasts, which were at once taken from them and appropriated to the general use; but the next day they would start out again on foot, only to repeat the experience of the day before.
No doubt, many acts of pillage, robbery, and violence were committed by these parties of foragers, usually called "bummers"; for I have since heard of jewelry taken from women, and the plunder of articles that never reached the commissary; but these acts were exceptional and incidental. No army could have carried along sufficient food and forage for a march of three hundred miles; so that foraging in some shape was necessary. By it our men were well supplied with all the essentials of life and health, while the wagons retained enough in case of unexpected delay, and our animals were well fed. Indeed, when we reached Savannah, the trains were pronounced by experts to be the finest in flesh and appearance ever seen with any army. . . .
November 23d, we rode into Milledgeville, the capital of the State, whither the Twentieth Corps had preceded us; and during that day the left wing was all united, in and around Milledgeville. The first stage of the journey was, therefore, complete, and absolutely successful.
I was in Milledgeville with the left wing, and was in full communication with the right wing at Gordon. The people of Milledgeville remained at home, except the Governor (Brown), the State officers, and Legislature, who had ignominiously fled, in the utmost disorder and confusion. . . .
Meantime orders were made for the total destruction of the arsenal and its contents, and of such public buildings as could be easily converted to hostile uses. Meantime the right wing continued its movement along the railroad toward Savannah, tearing up the track and destroying its iron. Kilpatrick's cavalry was brought into Milledgeville, and crossed the Oconee by the bridge near the town; and on the 23d I made the general orders for the next stage of the march as far as Millen.3
1 From Sherman's "Memoirs," by permission of the publishers, D. Appleton & Co. Copyright 1875.
2 General James B. McPherson, who graduated at West Point, and at the time of his death commanded the Army of the Tennessee.
3 John Formby, the English writer, in his "American Civil War," says of the march to the sea: "The peculiarities of the march were not the battles fought, but that the destruction of railways and foraging to enable the army to live on the country were reduced to exact sciences. A whole division would lift a long length of line, drop it to loosen the sleepers, then pile them up, make a fire, and heat and twist the rails, often round trees: over 800 miles of line were thus destroyed, and all forage along a belt sixty miles wide.
"To destroy the subsistence in the country, the army lived on it entirely, each brigade detailing a foraging party daily, and turning over to the quartermaster's department everything it brought in. The men started on foot and returned mounted, thus keeping the army teams strong and the Confederate cavalry weak; if attacked they formed a skirmishing line to protect the laden mules, and generally brought them in.
"Tho there were strict orders not to damage private property, unless attacked by the people, when it was done by order, there was much looting and needless destruction. Pioneer corps, largely composed of negroes, were organized for repairing roads, and marched between the advanced guard and the main body. Tho the work was hard, the weather was perfect, and the march was almost a pleasant picnic to the men after what they had gone through. So things went on till the army neared Savannah."
I steamed out of the harbor of Cherbourg between 9 and 10 o'clock on the morning of June 19 for the purpose of engaging the enemy's steamer Kearsarge,2 which had been lying off and on the port for several days previously. After clearing the harbor we descried the enemy, with his head offshore, at a distance of about nine miles. We were three-quarters of an hour in coming up with him.
Let me say I had previously pivoted my guns to starboard, and made all my preparations for engaging the enemy on that side. When within about a mile and a quarter of the enemy he suddenly wheeled, and bringing his head inshore presented his starboard battery to me.
By this time we were distant about one mile from each other, when I opened on him with solid shot, to which he replied in a few minutes, and the engagement became active on both sides. The enemy now prest his ship under a full head of steam, and to prevent our passing each other too speedily, and to keep our respective broadsides bearing, it became necessary to fight in a circle, the two ships steaming around a common center and preserving a distance from each other of from a quarter to half a mile. When we got within good shell range, we opened upon him with shell.
Some ten or fifteen minutes after the commencement of the action our spanker gaff was shot away and our ensign came down by the run. This was immediately replaced by another at the mizzen-masthead. The firing now became very hot, and the enemy's shot and shell soon began to tell upon our hull, knocking down, killing, and disabling a number of men in different parts of the ship. Perceiving that our shell, tho apparently exploding against the enemy's sides, were doing but little damage, I returned to solid shot firing, and from this time onward alternated with shot and shell.
After the lapse of about one hour and ten minutes our ship was ascertained to be in a sinking condition, the enemy's shell having exploded in our sides and between decks, opening large apertures, through which the water rushed with great rapidity. For some few minutes I had hopes of being able to reach the French coast, for which purpose I gave the ship all steam and set such of the fore-and-aft sails as were available. The ship filled so rapidly, however, that before we had made much progress the fires were extinguished in the furnaces, and we were evidently on the point of sinking.
I now hauled down my colors to prevent the further destruction of life, and dispatched a boat to inform the enemy of our condition. Altho we were now but 400 yards from each other, the enemy fired upon me five times after my colors had been struck, dangerously wounding several of my men. It is charitable to suppose that a ship of war of a Christian nation could not have done this intentionally. We now turned all our exertions toward the wounded, and such of the boys as were unable to swim. These were dispatched in my quarter-boats, the only boats remaining to me, the wait-boats having been torn to pieces.
Some twenty minutes after my furnace fires had been extinguished, and the ship being on the point of settling, every man, in obedience to a previous order which had been given to the crew, jumped overboard and endeavored to save himself. There was no appearance of any boat coming to me from the enemy until after the ship went down. Fortunately, however, the steam-yacht Deerhound, owned by a gentleman of Lancashire, England (Mr. John Lancaster), who was himself on board, steamed up in the midst of my drowning men and rescued a number of both officers and men from the water. I was fortunate enough myself thus to escape to the shelter of the neutral flag, together with about forty others, all told. About this time the Kearsarge sent one and then, tardily, another boat.
Accompanying you will find lists of the killed and wounded, and of those who were picked up by the Deerhound. The remainder there is reason to hope were picked up by the enemy and by a couple of French pilot-boats, which were also fortunately near the scene of action. At the end of the engagement it was discovered by those of our officers who went alongside the enemy's ship with the wounded that her midship section on both sides was thoroughly iron-coated, this having been done with chains constructed for the purpose, placed perpendicularly from the rail to the water's edge, the whole covered over by a thin outer planking, which gave no indication of the armor beneath. This planking had been ripped off in every direction by our shot and shell, the chain broken and indented in many places, and forced partly into the ship's side.
My officers and men behaved steadily and gallantly, and tho they have lost their ship they have not lost honor. Where all behaved so well it would be invidious to particularize; but I can not deny myself the pleasure of saying that Mr. Kell, my first lieutenant, deserves great credit for the fine condition in which the ship went into action, with regard to her battery, magazine, and shellrooms; also that he rendered me great assistance by his coolness and judgment.
The enemy was heavier than myself, both in ship, battery, and crew; but I did not know until the action was over that she was also ironclad. Our total loss in killed and wounded is 30, to wit, 9 killed and 21 wounded.
The Alabama was a wooden ship of about a thousand tons, built for the Confederacy at Birkenhead, England. Her crew and equipments were English. When she met the Kearsarge off Cherbourg, she had destroyed, as a cruiser, much American shipping. Because she was built and manned in England, claims for damages were preferred against England by the United States. These were finally adjusted at the Geneva Arbitration Tribunal in June, 1872. The gross award for damages caused by the Alabama and other ships for whose acts England was held to be responsible amounted to $15,000,000. in Volume IX will be found an account of the Geneva settlements, by James G. Blaine.
2 The Kearsarge was a wooden ship of about 1,000 tons, and was commanded by Captain John A. Winslow. In 1894 she was wrecked in the Caribbean Sea.
The vessels outside the bar, which were designed to participate in the engagement, were all under way by forty minutes past five in the morning (August 5), two abreast, and lasht together. The ironclads were already inside the bar, and had been ordered to take up their positions on the starboard side of the wooden ships, or between them and Fort Morgan, for the double purpose of keeping down the fire from the water battery and the parapet guns of the fort, as well as to attack the ram Tennessee as soon as the fort was passed. . . .
The attacking fleet steamed steadily up the main ship-channel, the Tecumseh firing the first shot at forty-seven minutes past six o'clock. At six minutes past seven the fort opened upon us, and was replied to by a gun from the Brooklyn, and immediately after the action became general. It was soon apparent that there was some difficulty ahead.
The Brooklyn, for some cause which I did not then clearly understand, arrested the advance of the whole fleet, while, at the same time, the guns of the fort were playing with great effect upon that vessel and the Hartford. A moment after I saw the Tecumseh, struck by a torpedo, disappear almost instantaneously beneath the waves, carrying with her gallant commander and nearly all her crew. I determined at once, as I had originally intended, to take the lead; and after ordering the Metacomet to send a boat to save, if possible, any of the perishing crew, I dashed ahead with the Hartford, and the ships followed on, their officers believing that they were going to a noble death with their commander-in-chief.2
I steamed through between the buoys, where the torpedoes were supposed to have been sunk. These buoys had been previously examined by my flag-lieutenant, J. Crittenden Watson, in several nightly reconnaissances. Tho he had not been able to discover the sunken torpedoes, yet we had been assured by refugees, deserters, and others, of their existence, but believing that, from their having been some time in the water they were probably innocuous, I determined to take the chance of their explosion. From the moment I turned to the northwestward, to clear the middle ground, we were enabled to keep such a broadside fire upon the batteries of Fort Morgan that their guns did us comparatively little injury. . . .
Having passed the fort and dispersed the enemy's gunboats, I had ordered most of the vessels to anchor, when I perceived the ram Tennessee standing up for this ship. This was at forty-five minutes past eight. I was not long in comprehending his intentions to be the destruction of the flag-ship. The monitors, and such of the wooden vessels as I thought best adopted for the purpose, were immediately ordered to attack the ram, not only with their guns, but bows on at full speed, and then began one of the fiercest naval combats on record.
Monongahela, Commander Strong, was the first vessel that struck her, and in doing so carried away his own prow, together with the cutwater, without apparently doing her adversary much injury. The Lackawanna, Captain Marchand, was the next vessel to strike her, which she did at full speed; but tho her stem was cut and crushed to the plank ends for the distance of three feet above the water's edge to five feet below, the only perceptible effect on the ram was to give her a heavy list.
The Hartford was the third vessel which struck her, but, as the Tennessee quickly shifted her helm, the blow was a glancing one, and as she rasped along our side, we poured our whole port broadside of nine-inch solid shot within ten feet of her casement. The monitors worked slowly, but delivered their fire as opportunity offered. The Chickasaw succeeded in getting under her stern, and a fifteen-inch shot from the Manhattan broke through her iron plating and heavy wooden backing tho the missile itself did not enter the vessel.
Immediately after the collision with the flagship, I directed Captain Drayton to bear down for the ram again. He was doing so at full speed when, unfortunately, the Lackawanna ran into the Hartford just forward of the mizzen-mast, cutting her down to within two feet of the water's edge. We soon got clear again, however, and were fast approaching our adversary, when she struck her colors and ran up the white flag.
She was at this time sore beset; the Chickasaw was pounding away at her stern, the Ossipee was approaching her at full speed, and the Monongahela, Lackawanna, and this ship were bearing down upon her, determined upon her destruction. Her smoke-stack had been shot away, her steering-chains were gone, compelling a resort to her relieving tackles, and several of her port shutters were jammed. Indeed, from the time the Hartford struck her, until her surrender, she never fired a gun. As the Ossipee Commander Le Roy, was about to strike her, she hoisted the white flag, and the vessel immediately stopt her engine, tho not in time to avoid a glancing blow.
As I had an elevated position in the main rigging near the top, I was able to overlook not only the deck of the Hartford, but the other vessels.3
1 From Farragut's official report.
2 Of this famous incident in the Battle of Mobile Day, Farragut's son, Lloyd Farragut, in his biography of the admiral, says: "By half-past seven the Tecumseh was well UP with the fort, and drawing slowly by the Tennessee, with having her on the port beam, when suddenly she reeled to port and went down with almost every soul on board, destroyed by a torpedo. Craven, in his eagerness to engage the ram, had passed to the west of the fatal buoy. If he had gone but his breadth of beam eastward of it, he would have been safe, so far as the torpedoes were concerned.
"This appalling disaster was not immediately realized by the fleet. Some supposed the Tennessee had been sunk, or some advantage gained over the enemy, and cheer after cheer from the Hartford was taken up and echoed along the line. But Farragut, from his lofty perch, saw the true state of affairs, and his anxiety was not decreased when the Brooklyn, just ahead, suddenly stopt. He hailed his pilot, Freeman, above him in the top, to ask, 'What is the matter with the Brooklyn. She must have plenty of water there! 'Plenty, and to spare, Admiral,' the man replied. Alden had seen the Tecumseh go down, and the heavy line of torpedoes across the channel made him pause. The Brooklyn began to back; the vessels in the rear, pressing on those in the van, soon created confusion, and disaster seemed imminent. 'The batteries of our ships were almost silent,' says an eye-witness, 'while the whole of Mobile Point was a living flame.'
"'What's the trouble?' was shouted through a trumpet from the flagship to the Brooklyn.
" 'Torpedoes' was shouted back in reply.
"'Damn the torpedoes!' said Farragut. 'Four bells! Captain Drayton, go ahead! Jouett, full speed!' And the Hartford passed the Brooklyn, assumed the head of the line, and led the fleet to victory. It was the one only way out of the difficulty, and any hesitation would have closed even this escape from a frightful disaster. Nor did the Admiral forget the poor fellows who were struggling in the water where the Tecumseh had gone down, but ordered Jouett to lower a boat and pick up the survivors."
3 Of this "Farragut lasht to the mast" incident, Lloyd Farragut says: "While the movements of the Tecumseh are being eagerly watched by all in the fleet, let us turn to the scene on the flagship. On the poop-deck stands Captain Drayton. About him are the officers of the staffWatson, Yates, McKinley, and Brownellwhile Knowles, the signal-quartermaster, identified with the Hartford, attends to his duties. We must not forget the three old sailors at the wheelMcFarland, Wood, and Jassin. They have been in every engagement of the ship, and upon their coolness, in a great measure, depends its safety. And there stood the Admiral in the port main rigging, a few ratlins up, where he could see all about him, and at the same time converse with Jouett, who stood on the wheelhouse of the Metacomet, which was lasht alongside. Freeman, his trusty pilot, stood above him in the top. In contrast with this, the scene on deck, where the men worked their guns with a will, was one of animation. As the smoke increased and obscured his view, the Admiral, step by step, ascended the rigging, until he found himself partly above the futtock bands and holding on to the futtock shrouds. The watchful eye of Drayton detected his perilous position, and, fearing that some slight shock might precipitate him into the sea, he ordered Knowles to take up a line and make the Admiral's position more secure. Knowles says, in his simple narrative, 'I went up with a piece of lead-line, and made it fast to one of the forward shrouds, and then took it around the Admiral to the after shroud, making it fast there. The Admiral said, "Never mind, I am all right."'"