This Day in Georgia Civil War History
December 02, 1864
Letter from Augusta Eyewitness Account of March to the Sea Destruction
The Richmond Times Dispatch reprinted a letter from an Augusta, Georgia newspaper, claiming to be an eyewitness account to some of the destruction on the March to the Sea.
The Georgia papers of the 27th contain some facts about the raid through that State. Seven hundred prisoners have been received at Augusta, who were captured while foraging for Sherman’s army. The following extract from a letter in the Augusta Chronicle, from a writer who fled with the Legislature from Milledgeville, shows how the country is being devastated along the route of the invading army:
“Leaving our baggage, we took a hasty dinner, determined to keep the road to Madison until our pickets should notify us of the approach of the Yankees.–About 3 o’clock, a south came dashing down the road at a Gilpin speed, crying “to the woods,” “to the woods”; and we wooded. Waiting several hours in the rain, under a rail pen improvised for the occasion, we determined to go out on the road and see what was going on. –We had not traveled a hundred yards before a party of cerulean-clad equestrian came dashing up, and in a very polite and insinuating manner briefly requested us to half. The request was a companied with most significant coking of oil bens and pistols, which, brought, to a horizontal altitude in one’s front, are very persuasive, especially to an unarmed civilian; and we halted. After a brief and hurried talk, in which we were questioned very closely about the country, troops in the vicinity, etc., they drove on. We gathered from their actions that they were the advance guard of the force from Madison, and were expecting to meet another force from Monticello at the fort near by.
“Apprehending that our overcoats and small residue of cash and other personal effects would not be safe in the motley crew composing the Yankee army, we resolved to keep the woods until they should pass. We therefore returned to our pen and staid until morning. We then proceeded through the woods, within hearing distance of the road.–Late on Sunday, their main column commenced passing, and we found it very difficult to avoid them. They swarmed through the field, shooting cattle and plundering indiscriminately, until late in the night. We were in more dread of being shot as bushwhackers than we had of being plundered, and probably should have kept the road. But we now had no choice but to avoid them if possible - Their wagons were rumbling along the Monticello road on our left, and on the Madison road on the right, while they swarmed in the country between. We could hear them talk and hear their caps explode as they passed within a few feet of us. The night was intensely cold, wet and dark, save when the distant gleam of a burning house lighted up the horizon. Their main columns were passing from about two o’clock on Sunday afternoon until about nine o’clock at night. The next day they were passing during the morning, and we continued in the woods. This was our third day out, during which time it had rained continually, and we had subsisted on parched corn.
“On Tuesday morning we determined to take the road and push on. Going to Mr. Credel’s place we found his fine house in ashes and his gin-house burned, and every horse and mule gone. In his lot were about one hundred horses lying dead. They looked like good stock, and were evidently killed to deprive planters of them. A number of Mr. Credel’s negroes were gone. Proceed we found every plantation on the devastated, except that no other dwelling houses were burned until we reached the fine farm of Hon. Joshua Hill. This is a perfect wreck. A large gin-house full of cotton corn-cribs, dwelling - all a smouldering ruin. His loss was greater than that of any-planter in this section. Besides the cotton, several thousand bushels of corn, potatoes, several hundred of wheat, and much other valuable property, with every horse and mule and many negroes, are gone. No farm on the road to this place, and, as far as we can hear, towards Atlanta, escaped their brutal ravages. They ravaged the country below here to the Oconee river. The roads were strewn with the debris of their progress. Dead horses, cows, sheep, hog, chickens, corn, wheat, cotton, books, paper, broken vehicles, coffee mills, and fragments of nearly every species of property that adorned the beautiful farms of this county, straw the wayside, monuments of the meanness rapacity and hypocrisy of the people who boats that they are not robbers and do not interfere with private property.
“In Madison, they burned the depot and one or two old warehouses, with the jail and market-house. They gutted every store, and plundered more or less on every lot. They fired the drug store and several other houses, and their officers, with a show of magnanimity, aided to put out the flames. Many families have not a pound of meat or a peck of meal or flour. Many negroes were enticed away from homes of comfort to share the uncertain fortunes of a winter march to the coast, and then - freedom to starve. Families of wealth have not a house servant left, and those who were the most trusted were often the first to leave.
“The Yankees entered the house of my next-door neighbor, an old man of over three score years, and tore up his wife’s clothes and bedding, trampling her bonnet on the floor, and robbing the house and pantry of nearly everything of value. There was no provocation for any of these acts, for everybody treated them civilly and offered them all they wanted to eat. Their excuse is, that they cannot control their men. Many of them, including their officers, behave civilly; and my humble domicil escaped any serious depredations.
“Those citizens who remained at home and watched their premises lost little save horses, food and stock. Those who, from any cause, chanced to be away, lost all. A lady on the Eatonton road, whose father is in the army, feeling afraid to stay at home, went to the house of a neighbor, and, on returning, found every plate broke, every knife and fork and spoon gone, and her own clothes stripped to shreds and scattered about the lot.”
Another letter says:
“From Milledgeville we learn that the Government has been removed. The Governor has pardoned all the convicts in the penitentiary, put arms in their hands and sent them to the front, except those put in for life, whom he could not reprieve according to law.”