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In Their Own Words

November 17, 1864

Rail Destuction Described

Sherman’s military secretary Henry Hitchcock made the following entry in his diary with reference to the March to the Sea:

“[S]econd day out … we did not start until 7 A.M… . Marched three miles to town of Lithonia, on the railroad, halted say an hour: troops busy destroying track. Capt. Poe’s hooks enable a few men to do pretty much upsetting … Poe reports railroad depot was burned at L. [Lithonia] and sparks set fire to and destroyed some two or three dwellings. Merely bending rails in ordinary way, by piling ties, laying rails across, and allowing their own weight at ends to bend them, thus, is not effectual. If thus merely bent, they can be restored by reverse process. But if twisted, even a little, they are ruined and must be rerolled. Poe has provided wrenches with which his pioneers very quickly and effectually do this – one man at each end of a rail pulling in opposite directions, and thus twisting the heated middle.”

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. 63-64.