In Their Own Words
November 15, 1864
Burning of Atlanta Recorded
On this evening in Atlanta, Henry Hitchcock (Sherman’s military secretary) recorded in his diary:
“Today the destruction fairly commenced … .This P.M. the torch applied … .Clouds of heavy smoke rise and hang like pall over doomed city. At night, the grandest and most awful scene… From our rear windows … horizon shows immense and raging fires, lighting up whole heavens… . First bursts of smoke, dense, black volumes, then tongues of flame, then huge waves of fire roll up into the sky: presently the skeletons of great warehouses stand out in relief against and amidst sheets of roaring, blazing, furious flames, - then the angry waves roll less high, and are of deeper color, then sink and cease, and only the fierce glow from the bare and blackened walls … as one fire sinks another rises, further along the horizon, … it is a line of fire and smoke, lurid, angry, dreadful to look upon.”
Source: M.A. DeWolfe Howe (ed.), Marching with Sherman: Passages from the Letters and Campaign Diaries of Henry Hitchcock, Major and Assistant Adjutant General of Volunteers, November 1864-May 1865 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995), pp. 56-57.