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This Day in Georgia History

November 15, 1864

March to the Sea Began

To view images from the March to the Sea, see the Digital Library of Georgia.

Early this morning, the bulk of Sherman’s forces departed Atlanta to begin what would be known as the March to the Sea. The Union Army was divided into two wings. The right (or western) wing was commanded by Maj. Gen. Oliver Howard and consisted of the 15th and 17th Corps plus Kilpatrick’s cavalry division. Howard’s wing marched southward out of Atlanta following the Macon & Western Railroad to White Hall, just south of the city, where they split. The 15th Corps would take the road to Jonesboro, and from there proceed to McDonough, Jackson, Clinton, and then reunite in seven days with the 17th Corps at Gordon (located south of Milledgeville). The planned route for the 17th Corps was to march from White Hall to Stockbridge, McDonough, Jackson, Monticello, and Gordon. Just north of Stockbridge, however, the 17th encountered several Confederate regiments that were part of the “Kentucky Orphan Brigade” (so-called because Kentucky had not seceded, which left Confederate units from that state as “orphans.”). A brief engagement followed (sometimes designated as the Battle of Stockbridge). Greatly outnumbered, the Kentuckians temporarily blocked the Union advance - but they were soon outflanked and forced to retreat. To the west, one or two Kentucky regiments engaged the 15th Corps in another skirmish - but with no better results. The two Union columns camped for the night, ready to continue their March to the Sea the next morning. Meanwhile, earlier that morning, Maj. Gen. Henry Slocum had led the 20th Corps eastward out of Atlanta with instructions to follow the Georgia Railroad eastward to Decatur, Lithonia, Covington, and Madison, tearing up the railroad along the way. Slocum’s forces were supposed to burn the railroad bridge over the Oconee River east of Madison, and then proceed southward to Georgia’s capital city of Milledgeville. With three of his four columns on the road, Gen. Sherman remained in Atlanta with the 14th corps to oversee the destruction of anything with possible military value to the Confederacy. The next day, they would then proceed east on the road to Lithonia, then in a southeastern direction to Milledgeville, where the 20th and 14th corps would reunite in seven days.