This Day in Georgia Civil War History
November 23, 1864
Sherman Entered Milledgeville; Ordered Next Leg of March to the Sea
Union General William T. Sherman and the 14th Corps rode into Milledgeville, then Georgia’s state capital. There, they joined the 20th Corps uniting the eastern wing. Twelve miles to the south, the western wing had arrived at Gordon. In his memoirs, Sherman later wrote:
“The first stage of the journey was, therefore, complete, and absolutely successful.” Sherman used the Governor’s Mansion as his quarters, while over in the state capitol, a number of Union officers held a mock convention in which Georgia’s ordinance of secession was repealed. The railroad depot and several factories and warehouses were burned, though the state capitol was spared.”
In Milledgeville, Sherman also issued orders for the next leg of the March to the Sea: the right wing (15th and 17th Corps) would follow by roads the path of the Savannah Railroad, while the left wing (14th and 20th Corps) would march to Sandersville, with the cavalry to proceed to the Confederate prison known as Camp Lawton just north of Millen to release Union prisoners confined there. Sherman did not know that Confederate authorities were anticipating this action and had abandoned Camp Lawton on November 17.
Before leaving on the second part of the march, Sherman issued orders outlining its objectives, and with orders to deal harshly with anyone who tried to slow them.
“… Advanced guards should be strengthened, attended by a pioneer corps prepared to construct temporary bridges in case of their destruction by the enemy; and wherever any such obstruction occurs the commanding officer of the troops present on the spot will deal harshly with the inhabitants near by, to show them that it is to their interest not to impede our movements. Should the enemy burn forage and corn on our route houses, barns, and cotton-gins must also be burned to keep them company… .” 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. 527.