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In Their Own Words

November 18, 1864

Jefferson Davis to Howell Cobb on March to the Sea

After numerous letters and telegrams were sent to the Confederate War Department pleading for troops to be sent to Georgia to stop Sherman’s March to the Sea, Confederate president Jefferson Davis telegraphed Gen. Howell Cobb in Macon. His message followed by eleven days his controversial proposal to the Confederate Congress for “the enrollment of 40,000 negroes to be employed as pioneer and engineer laborers.” Davis also proposed using explosive mines (then known as “subterra shells”) to impede Sherman’s progress:

“In addition to the troops of all kinds you should endeavor to get out every man who can render any service, even for a short period, and employ negroes in obstructing roads by every practicable means. Colonel Rains, at Augusta, can furnish you with shells prepared to explode by pressure, and these will be effective to check an advance. General Hardee has, I hope, brought some re-enforcements, and General Taylor will probably join you with some further aid. You have a difficult task, but will realize the necessity for the greatest exertion.”

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. 865.