This Day in Georgia Civil War History
December 09, 1864
Sherman Used Prisoners to Locate Mines on March to the Sea
General William T. Sherman wrote of his memoirs of discovering a new way Confederates were trying to slow the March to the Sea; it made him very angry, much to the chagrin of some Southern prisoners.
“On the 8th [actually the 9th – Sherman wrote his memoirs eleven years after the fact], as I rode along, I found the column turned out of the main road, marching through the fields. Close by, in the corner of a fence, was a group of men standing around a handsome young officer, whose foot had been blown to pieces by a torpedo planted in the road. He was waiting for a surgeon to amputate his leg and told me that he was riding along with the rest of his brigade-staff of the Seventeenth Corps, when a torpedo trodden on by his horse had exploded, killing the horse and literally blowing off all the flesh from one of his legs. I saw the terrible wound, and made full inquiry into the facts. There had been no resistance at that point, nothing to give warning of danger, and the rebels had planted eight-inch shells in the road, with friction-matches to explode them by being trod on. This was not war, but murder, and it made me very angry. I immediately ordered a lot of rebel prisoners to be brought from the provost-guard, armed with picks and spades, and made them march in close order along the road, so as to explode their own torpedoes, or to discover and dig them up. They begged hard, but I reiterated the order, and could hardly help laughing at their stepping so gingerly along the road, where it was supposed sunken torpedoes might explode at each step, but they found no other torpedoes till near Fort McAllister… , That night we reached Pooler’s Station, eight miles from Savannah.” Source: Mills Lane (ed.), Marching Through Georgia: William T. Sherman’s Personal Narrative of His March Through Georgia (New York: Arno Press, 1978), pp. 158-159.