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This Day in Georgia Civil War History

November 13, 1864

Fires Set in Marietta

Union General William T. Sherman ordered the the burning of a large steam mill - which he considered a military target - in Marietta, Georgia. What he did not order was the fires that also were set off - no one knew by whom - in downtown Marietta; these destroyed several buildings, including the courthouse.

Henry Hitchcock, military secretary to Sherman, wrote in his diary of the attempts to stop the fires in Marietta.

“In Marietta by 11 or 12 PM. Entering square, saw our men with fire engine front of Court House, pumping hard, and man inside with hose… Fires appear sundry places, and again in Court House, and at last this breaks out, and fairly burning. All our staff, and all other officers I heard, regret and condemn. Inquired-Nobody knew how set on fire: but … had three times put it out and tried hard to save it …’twas no use. This soon blazed furiously, and this set other buildings on fire, across the street, and opposite hotel. Elsewhere on Square large stores, etc. begun to burn, and spread. Large buildings opposite left of hotel showed smoke. This was put out by Maj. McCoy of our staff, and was saved. Found that up to this morning there were guards around these buildings, but they had gone on with column, and thus in unguarded interval fire was set without orders.” 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), p. 52.