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In Their Own Words

December 01, 1864

Union Attempt to Control Foraging

Throughout Sherman’s March to the Sea, Union foragers frequently went far beyond official policy on seizing and destroying civilian property in the path of the advancing army. On a number of occasions, Union commanding generals tried to stop the abuses, as indicated by this extract from Special Order 187 issued by Maj. Gen. P. Joseph Osterhaus near Millen, Georgia:

“I. The attention of division commanders and commanding officers of detachments is called to the irregularities existing in foraging and the manner in which this privilege is often abused. It is noticed that many men not belong to proper foraging parties are allowed to straggle from the ranks and forage for themselves, without any authority whatever. Is is by such men that the greater part of the pillaging is done and depredations committed, of which there is so much complaint. Officers in charge of foraging parties must be continually instructed to keep their men well in hand, never allowing them to precede the advance guard of the column; and to use more discretion in taking from the poor, being careful to leave them sufficient for their immediate subsistence. It is also noticed that the number of mounted men is very large increasing, and that the ranks [of walking soldiers] are correspondingly diminished. Measures will be at once taken to check this growing evil. The number of mounted foragers to each brigade should be limited and regulated in orders, which, if not done, mounted foragers will be no longer allowed… .”

Source: U.S. War Department, The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1893, reprinted by The National Historical Society, 1971), Series I, Vol. XLIV, p. 594.