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This Day in Georgia Civil War History

November 17, 1864

Farmer Recorded Devastation Left by Union Troops

A Georgia farmer wrote in his journal of the devastation left behind by Union soldiers as they came through.

“Still in the woods. Slept but little, was dodging about in the woods trying to see the Yankees from our hiding place. The Yankees all gone about 11 o’clock. I came home at 2 tired enough and sleepy but glad to find that home folks were not abused although there was great destruction of property. Gin house and screw burned, stables and barn all in ashes, fencing burned and destruction visible all around. The carriage and big wagon burned up, corn and potatoes gone, horses and steers gone, sheep, chicken and geese, also syrup boiler damaged, one barrel of syrup burned, saddles and bridles in the same fix. Now engaged in gathering up the fragments of the spoils. It is useless to try to record the destruction of property, still I hope we can live. I think we have plenty of corn & wheat & syrup hid out. There was some 20 bushels of wheat burned in the gin house of our own, some of Mr. Minor’s and others. Had much to do to save the corn cribs, gin house still burning and the straw piles, also three bales of cotton burned and the other cut open to make beds for the soldiers, all belonging to Mr. Ed Turner. The gin thrash and fan burned, the castings laying to cog wheel and other parts of machinery in ruins; the destruction of Jerusalem on a small scale.” Source: Franklin M. Garrett, Atlanta and Its Environs: A Chronicle of Its People and Events (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1969 reprint of original 1954 volume), pp. 648-649.

Union officers did make some attempts to control the “foraging.”

“In order to secure to the soldier an equal share of stores gathered from the country, each brigade commander will send out daily, until further orders, foraging parties composed of fifty privates and an adequate number of commissioned and non-commissioned officers, whose duty it will be to gather forage and meat rations. These parties will in no case go beyond supporting distance from the main column. The supplies collected must be brought to the roadside and there loaded in their respective brigade wagons and turned over to the brigade quartermasters. Cattle and sheep are to be driven on the hoof whenever practicable. The officers in charge of these parties should enforce the strictest discipline and order. Foraging parties will on no pretense be permitted to enter houses except by written authority from the division commander. The assistant provost-marshal will see this last clause strictly enforced, and will arrest all soldiers found in houses without competent authority.” 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. 480.