Destruction Fairly Commenced~November 1864~14th to 16th

Destruction Fairly Commenced ~ Henry Hitchcock

So it begins, the campaign which will attach infamy in the South and glory in the North to the name of William Tecumseh Sherman. Splitting his force into multiple columns and leaving Atlanta ablaze, Sherman begins to carve a bitter swath through Georgia as he heads toward Savannah. Ordinary Georgia folks fret. The Confederacy is so short of soldiers that the government gives serious consideration to arming slaves to fight the Yankees. Reverend Finney gives thanks for the abolition of slavery and the reelection of Lincoln. A Radical Republican [yes, gentle reader, there was a time in American history when those two words were not mutually exclusive!] advocates the vote for former slaves.

damage in Atlanta

damage in Atlanta

November 14– Monday– Atlanta, Georgia– “I reached Atlanta during the afternoon of the 14th , and found that all preparations had been made. Colonel Poe, United States Engineer, of my staff, had been busy in his special task of destruction. He had a large force at work, had leveled the great depot, round-house, and the machine-shops of the Georgia railroad, and had applied fire to the wreck. One of these machine shops had been used by the rebels as an arsenal, and in it were stored piles of shot and shell, some of which proved to be loaded, and that night was made hideous by the bursting of shells, whose fragments came uncomfortably near Judge Lyon’s house, in which I was quartered. The fire also reached the block of stores near the depot, and the heart of the city was in flames all night, but the fire did not reach the parts of Atlanta where the court-house was or the great mass of dwelling-houses.” ~ Memoirs of William Tecumseh Sherman.

November 15– Tuesday– New York City– “Rebel editors and Congressmen are in a great heat over the question whether they shall arm a few thousand slaves, offering them freedom as a reward for a certain term of military service. The chief objection to doing so seems to be that they would thereby admit that freedom is a boon to the field hand, whereas slavery is its highest blessing, and emancipation a penalty and a curse instead of a reward. The policy proposed, therefore violates first Southern principles. They don’t want to stultify themselves, but necessity will probably outweigh logic in the end and their most sacred and inviolable theories will have to be violated. The most pious pirate would consent to raise the Devil to help him in extremity, but the Devil is not to be depended upon as an ally.” ~ Diary of George Templeton Strong.

November 15– Tuesday– Oberlin, Ohio— “Many thanks for your dear letters of the 3rd & 10th instant. I did not know where you were & in my loneliness it seemed a great while since I had heard from you. I thank the Lord that Mary is better. . . . Now [my] wife has gone I am more than ever thankful for this kindness. From your letter Mary, I infer that you have relinquished the thought of paying us a visit. So, Delia Woods is with you. Dear Precious Child, she is. Give abundant love to her. I do wish she would come & spend next summer with us. . . . We are enjoying a blessed revival of religion. It commenced about 2 months ago on Sabbath & last Sabbath we received 50 converts to the Church as first fruits. . . . I preach twice on Sabbath & once during the week. We have had but few extra prayer meetings. Meetings of enquiry have been held more frequently than usual. . . I have kept up the fire upon the unconverted so far as I deemed it wise. The work has gone on powerfully. We soon close our fall term. The students generally are greatly blessed & I hope will spread this revival spirit in many places. Until this fall I have not dared to make any revival efforts for some years. And now I have changed the direction rather than increase the number of services. I am sorry that Boston ministers will make no revival efforts the coming winter. I guess they will before spring. I am glad to hear Mary speak so well of Brother Kirk’s political efforts. God bless him. I have the spirit of thanksgiving for the special blessings connected with the recent election. When this college was first established, our faculty & students were held in great abomination almost all over this state. Hissed, pelted with eggs & stones, & hooted, & hunted, as the enemies of the country. But we quietly & firmly bore our testimony. Our students have scattered all through this state, & through the west until the tables are completely turned. Thank God for this. Our Eastern friends are not aware of the part Oberlin has taken in making Ohio & the north west a unity for freedom. You know only a little of it. I mention it only as cause of thanksgiving. I do thank the Lord that I have lived to see this marvelous change. My health is better than ever you saw it. I do not know how long I can hold out but at present I enjoy my labors quite as well as ever in my life.” ~ Letter from Reverend Charles Grandison Finney to Edwin and Mary Lamson.

Reverend Charles G Finney

Reverend Charles G Finney

November 15– Tuesday– Richmond, Virginia– “About 5 o’clock yesterday morning, the car shed of the Danville railroad company, in Manchester, was set on fire by an incendiary, and destroyed, with ten railroad cars, which were burned in it at the time. The loss is estimated at twenty thousand dollars in old currency.” ~ Richmond Sentinel.

November 15– Tuesday– St Louis, Missouri– “Without doubt, assuming the abolition of slavery as settled, the concomitant question of franchise will claim all the faith and tax all the firmness of the friends of radical freedom for its right settlement. That violent prejudices will have to be encountered, and all the weary round of two-facedness and demagoguery and subterfuge confronted, is rendered certain by the attitudes of the conflict of the past three years in Missouri. But that any people forming anew constitution of their liberties, after such experience as ours, should willingly leave to breed other conflicts unjust discriminations against large portions of their population, in the shape of a refusal of any participation in government, is scarcely to be credited. To those who are emancipated, access to the franchise must be opened up, otherwise the boasted freedom conceded to them is a cheat, and their status for the future becomes one of abjectness or else active hostility. Temporary and transitory stages of qualification may be prescribed, if needful– service in the armies is already qualifying thousands for the duties of citizenship; but the primary condition of aright of suffrage must be incorporated into their estate, if the honor and safety and prosperity of this commonwealth for all time are to be consulted. The same logic that obtains in the absorption of any other large element of population into the body political so controls with respect to those manumitted as a class. The argument of slavery is inferiority of race. Shall we abolish the name, but retain the argument? The most patent evils of slavery flow from caste distinctions reacting upon society. Shall we make a merit of destroying the institution, yet insist on perpetuating the distinctions that breed social disease and death? There surely are considerations of State, that should weigh decisively with a community just emerging from the fierce fires of an unparalleled strife engendered by like prejudices and errors, and should cause it to cling to the path of safety. But before all such, and higher than any question of profit or peace, is the knowledge that it is right and conforms to God’s appointment, whereby all men are created free and equal.” ~ Public letter from Benjamin Gratz Brown. [Brown, age 38, lawyer, politician, Union veteran, is a Radical Republican serving as U S Senator from Missouri, which office he will hold until 1867. He will serve as governor of Missouri from 1871 to 1873. He will support woman suffrage, the 8 hour day, the merit system in civil service and government construction and ownership of telegraph lines. He dies December 13, 1885.]

Benjamin Gratz Brown

Benjamin Gratz Brown

November 15– Tuesday– Nashville, Tennessee– “I got into camp about 11 o’clock and then it was raining a little and before morning it rained considerable. Nashville must be very near as large as Cleveland and it is a real pretty place and kept pretty clean. Dry goods stores plenty of them and well filled up [with] groceries any amount of them. I can’t tell you how odd it did seem to us to be transferred from Chattanooga and everlasting mend, almost a scarcity of everything unless at exorbitant prices. In this place if a man has money, here he can get most anything he could yearn for and at reasonable prices too. . . . I suppose by this time Sherman has struck out from Atlanta with 60,000 men and gone south. The railroad between Chattanooga and that place having been torn up by our troops. General Thomas is left here to take care of Hood with the 4th and 23rd Corps while Sherman goes right through the confederacy. He will take some of them up and with a rush. Some think he will go to Savannah or Charleston. But time will tell where.” ~ Letter from Union soldier John Watkins to his wife Sarah.

November 15–Tuesday– Atlanta, Georgia–”Today the destruction fairly commenced. This P.M. the torch applied. Clouds of heavy smoke rise and hang like pall over doomed city. At night, the grandest and most awful scene. From our rear windows [the] horizon shows immense and raging fires, lighting up whole heavens. First bursts of smoke, dense, black volumes, then tongues of flame, then huge waves of fire roll up into the sky: presently the skeletons of great warehouses stand out in relief against and amidst sheets of roaring, blazing, furious flames, then the angry waves roll less high, and are of deeper color, then sink and cease, and only the fierce glow from the bare and blackened walls as one fire sinks another rises, further along the horizon, it is a line of fire and smoke, lurid, angry, dreadful to look upon.” ~ Diary of Henry Hitchcock.

leaving Atlanta

leaving Atlanta

November 15– Tuesday– Stockbridge, Georgia– In a heavy skirmish Confederate troops fail in an attempt to stop one of Sherman’s advancing columns.

November 15– Tuesday– Covington, Georgia– “Went up to Covington to-day to pay the Confederate tax. Did not find the commissioners. Mid [a slave] drove me with Beck and the buggy. Got home about three o’clock. How very different is Covington from what it used to be! And how little did they who tore down the old flag and raised the new realize the results that have ensued!” ~Diary of Dolly Sumner Lunt Burge.

November 16– Wednesday– near Pulaski, Tennessee– “I was very glad to hear from home and that you were all well. I have not much time to write as I have to go out on detail duty of some kind this afternoon and I have dinner toget before I go. We have been assigned to our companies. There was six of us put in Company C, so you can direct my letters and papers to that company now. I would like to get a paper some times as we do not get anything to read here. We see enough but hear little that is reliable. We are getting along finely. . . . I would like if you would send me a pr of good socks. The socks we get from [the] government is no account. They will not last over two weeks. Write as often as you can. Tell Eddie that he must learn to write and write me a letter. Kiss them all for me andtake good care of yourselves. Tell Mag she must write me a letter and let meknow how she likes married life.” ~ Letter from Union soldier John Seibert to his family.

November 16– Wednesday– Atlanta, Georgia– “About 7 a.m. of November 16th we rode out of Atlanta by the Decatur road, filled by the marching troops and wagons of the Fourteenth Corps; and reaching the hill, just outside of the old rebel works, we naturally paused to look back upon the scenes of our past battles. We stood upon the very ground whereon was fought the bloody battle of July 22nd and could see the copse of wood where McPherson fell. Behind us lay Atlanta, smoldering and in ruins, the black smoke rising high in air and hanging like a pall over the ruined city. Then we turned our horses’ heads to the east; Atlanta was soon lost behind the screen of trees, and became a thing of the past. Around it clings many a thought of desperate battle, of hope and fear, that now seem like the memory of a dream. The day was extremely beautiful, clear sunlight, with bracing air, and an unusual feeling of exhilaration seemed to pervade all minds – a feeling of something to come, vague and undefined, still full of venture and intense interest.” ~ Memoirs of William Tecumseh Sherman.

Atlanta burns

Atlanta burns

November 16– Wednesday– south of Atlanta, Georgia– “Up last night nearly all night. News that Yankees were coming this way after burning Atlanta, Decatur and some houses at Stone Mountain. Hid out box, tools, horse, buggy and other things. Mr. Anderson left after breakfast. We are now waiting for the worst to come, still hoping they will not come this way. If they are coming there will be here by nine o’clock. It is now 7. I went to see Mr. Anderson and while I was gone the Yankees came sure enough. I did not like to go back home so I stayed with David. A little after ten the Yankees were here and coming. Slocum’s corps came and camped all around the house. At every side hogs and sheep are being shot down and skinned to regale the Yankee palates. Mr. Anderson and I slept in the woods all night, not very pleasant for either body or mind not knowing what was going on at home.” ~ Journal of a farmer.

November 16– Wednesday– Covington, Georgia– “As I could not obtain in Covington what I went for in the way of dye stuffs, etc., I concluded this morning, in accordance with Mrs. Ward’s wish, to go to the Circle. We took Old Dutch and had a pleasant ride as it was a delightful day, but how dreary looks the town! Where formerly all was bustle and business, now naked chimneys and bare walls, for the depot and surroundings were all burned by last summer’s raiders. Engaged to sell some bacon and potatoes. Obtained my dye stuffs. Paid seven dollars [most likely in Confederate money] a pound for coffee, six dollars an ounce for indigo, twenty dollars for a quire of paper, five dollars for ten cents worth of flax thread, six dollars for pins, and forty dollars for a bunch of factory thread. On our way home we met Brother Evans accompanied by John Hinton, who inquired if we had heard that the Yankees were coming. He said that a large force was at Stockbridge, that the Home Guard was called out, and that it was reported that the Yankees were on their way to Savannah. We rode home chatting about it and finally settled it in our minds that it could not be so. Probably a foraging party. Just before night I walked up to Joe Perry’s to know if they had heard anything of the report. He was just starting off to join the company [of the Home Guard], being one of them.” ~Diary of Dolly Sumner Lunt Burge.

November 16– Wednesday– Lyon, France– Birth of Stephane Javelle, astronomer. [Dies August 3, 1917.]

Stephane Javelle

Stephane Javelle

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