A Most Momentous Enterprise ~ December, 1864~ 1st to 2nd

A Most Momentous Enterprise ~ Times of London

marching through Georgia

marching through Georgia

The year of 1864 concludes with a hectic month. The Confederacy suffers two significant defeats, one in Georgia, the other in Tennessee. By the end of the month, many are talking about the end of the Confederacy. At the beginning of the month newspapers from Charleston and Richmond to London, England, are commenting about and watching for General Sherman’s march through Georgia. Sherman orders limits on foraging, orders which many of his soldiers will ignore. A Democratic paper in the North continues to criticize President Lincoln. An abolitionist paper in Boston praises Federal war aims.

December 1– Thursday– New York City– “Is Old Abe napping? Has the drowsiness which has so long brooded over the Navy Department extended to the White House? Does Mr. Lincoln construe his re-election as a popular grant to him of four years more in which to put down the rebellion, and that accordingly he can take his time, the late necessity for an energetic and irresistible pressure upon the rebel armies having passed away? Is he dozing in his easy chair under this consoling narcotic? One would think so from the present appearance of inactivity at Washington. . . . It is thus apparent that Mr. Lincoln owes his triumphant re-election not so much to his own merits as to the Chicago copperheads and their treasonable affiliations in the Northwest. . . . in view of the staggering condition of the rebel confederacy, he may, and we think he should, call at once for three hundred thousand twelve months volunteers, so that against every possible contingency we may celebrate, with the next Fourth of July, the absolute extinction of the rebellion. We dare say, considering the present divided, weakened and demoralized condition of the rebellious States, that this call itself would be apt to decide the contest. In any event, now is the time for the reinforcement of our armies, in order to demolish the crippled and divided forces of Jeff Davis before he can concentrate them in any movement east or west.” ~ New York Herald.

New York Herald building, c.1895

New York Herald building, c.1895

December 1– Thursday– Washington, D. C.– President Lincoln sends a telegram to James Speed of Kentucky informing Speed that the President wants Speed to become Attorney General.

December 1– Thursday– Moffett’s Creek, Virginia–”Yours of the 22nd came to hand Tuesday and I had just set down to answer it when Estaline came from the [post] office with the one that was written the 26th. I was glad to hear from you and know that you were well and I hope when this comes to hand you may still be enjoying the same great blessing. I am glad you have such a good situation, as you cannot be at home for I think it is a better place than down the Valley. . . . Your cat has deserted the mill he did not like staying about there alone [so] he went up to Mr. Black’s and Alex brought him down and took him to the mill again but he would not stay there; he is a great pet he gets up on my lap any time, and you know it is something new for me to nurse a cat, but they all say if was any other cat than yours I would [not] nurse it. . . . Charlotte said to tell [you] that her and Cal are getting along finely and you need not surprised to hear of a wedding some day. Colonel Yates’ oldest daughter was married the 10th day [last] month to Charlie Cameron they had quite a jolly time. . . . There has been a good many marriages in the neighborhood of Fairfield. I do not remember any but Mr James Shirey & Miss Eliza McCormick – he said he had waited long enough on the war to close and would not wait any longer. . . . David Black & Thomas Christ & Jacob Hanger got home last week. Mr Black and some of the rest of the family did not know Davie when he came home – he has long whiskers & mustache and is very much sunburnt. James Smith has been home for several weeks. There was [no] sacrament at New Providence last Sabbath [as] Mr Junkin had no one to assist him. I believe there was no one joined except two black women and one of them old Dr Hamilton’s [slave].” ~ Letter from Ginnie Ott to Enos, her husband.

December 1– Thursday– in the field, General Sherman’s headquarters, Georgia– “The attention of division commanders and commanding officers of detachments is called to the irregularities existing in foraging and the manner in which this privilege is often abused. It is noticed that many men not belonging to proper foraging parties are allowed to straggle from the ranks and forage for themselves, without any authority whatever. It is by such men that the greater part of the pillaging is done and depredations committed, of which there is so much complaint. Officers in charge of foraging parties must be continually instructed to keep their men well in hand, never allowing them to precede the advance guard of the column; and to use more discretion in taking from the poor, being careful to leave them sufficient for their immediate subsistence. It is also noticed that the number of mounted men is very large increasing, and that the ranks [of walking soldiers] are correspondingly diminished. Measures will be at once taken to check this growing evil. The number of mounted foragers to each brigade should be limited and regulated in orders, which, if not done, mounted foragers will be no longer allowed.” ~ Orders from General William Tecumseh Sherman.

destroying Georgia's railroads

destroying Georgia’s railroads

December 1– Thursday– Charleston, South Carolina– “The telegraph being still silent, and there having been complete failure of the Western and Savannah mails last evening, we have absolutely not a word of later intelligence of Sherman’s whereabouts.” ~ Charleston Mercury.

December 1– Thursday– London, England– “That it is a most momentous enterprise cannot be denied; but it is exactly one of those enterprises which are judged by the event. It may either make Sherman the most famous general of the North, or it may prove the ruin of his reputation, his army, and even his cause together.” ~ The Times.

John Walter III, editor of the Times of London, 1847 to 1894

John Walter III, editor of the Times of London, 1847 to 1894

December 2– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts– “It is no self-flattery to say that in all other respects the North has evinced the greatest magnanimity throughout the war. When the Richmond journals cry out, as they now do, commenting on the recent election, that we are bent on purposes of ruthless strife and desolation, that we ‘have vowed to destroy them, to ravage their fields, to burn their houses, to beggar their children, and brand their names with infamy forever,’ they do it in order to ‘fire the Southern heart,’ not because they believe it. Our purpose is to assert the supremacy of the constitution and the laws against armed violence, and to maintain the national integrity at all hazards; and in order to reach these ends we shall use the strongest and sternest of military measures; but there is in this no animosity towards the South, no bitterness of dislike growing out of our ancient intercourse, and least of all a feeling of revenge for any wrongs, real or imaginary, it may have inflicted upon us. We are impelled solely by the determination to vindicate the majesty of the government, and to put down the fatal and wretched experiment of rising in arms against a popular vote. On that line we mean to fight it out if it takes, not only all the summer, but all the years. Further than that, however, we have no designs.” ~ The Liberator.

William Lloyd Garrison, founding editor of The Liberator

William Lloyd Garrison, founding editor of The Liberator

December 2– Friday– New York City– “Our latest despatches from in front of Richmond show that the artillery firing on last Tuesday, alluded to yesterday did not result in anything serious. The enemy opened both in front of the second corps and on the north side of James river, in the vicinity of Dutch Gap. Their shots, however, did no damage, but they were responded to by the Union guns, our Monitors taking part. There have been slight changes of positions at the front of the Army of the Potomac, by some troops relieving others who have had severe service; but no movement of importance has taken place. A new intrenching tool, to be used for digging rifle and skirmish pits, has been introduced into the army. It is a very simple affair, but will be very useful to the soldiers. The troops are again enjoying warm, sunny days, after the recent cold weather. In the Shenandoah valley affairs remain undisturbed. The rebels were so closely followed up after their raids on New Creek and Piedmont that they have not deemed it prudent to attempt any similar operations at other points.” ~ New York Herald.

December 2– Friday– Richmond, Virginia– “The Georgia papers of the 27th contain some facts about the raid through that State. Seven hundred prisoners have been received at Augusta, who were captured while foraging for Sherman’s army. The following extract from a letter in the Augusta Chronicle, from a writer who fled with the Legislature from Milledgeville, shows how the country is being devastated along the route of the invading army: ‘Leaving our baggage, we took a hasty dinner, determined to keep the road to Madison until our pickets should notify us of the approach of the Yankees. About 3 o’clock, a south came dashing down the road at a Gilpin speed, crying “to the woods, to the woods” and we wooded. Waiting several hours in the rain, under a rail pen improvised for the occasion, we determined to go out on the road and see what was going on. We had not traveled a hundred yards before a party of cerulean-clad equestrian came dashing up, and in a very polite and insinuating manner briefly requested us to halt. The request was accompanied with most significant cocking of . . . pistols, which, brought, to a horizontal altitude in one’s front, are very persuasive, especially to an unarmed civilian; and we halted. After a brief and hurried talk, in which we were questioned very closely about the country, troops in the vicinity, etc., they drove on. We gathered from their actions that they were the advance guard of the force from Madison, and were expecting to meet another force from Monticello at the fort near by. Apprehending that our overcoats and small residue of cash and other personal effects would not be safe in the motley crew composing the Yankee army, we resolved to keep the woods until they should pass. We therefore returned to our pen and staid until morning. We then proceeded through the woods, within hearing distance of the road. Late on Sunday, their main column commenced passing, and we found it very difficult to avoid them. They swarmed through the field, shooting cattle and plundering indiscriminately, until late in the night. We were in more dread of being shot as bushwhackers than we had of being plundered, and probably should have kept the road. But we now had no choice but to avoid them if possible. Their wagons were rumbling along the Monticello road on our left, and on the Madison road on the right, while they swarmed in the country between. We could hear them talk and hear their [gunshots] explode as they passed within a few feet of us. The night was intensely cold, wet and dark, save when the distant gleam of a burning house lighted up the horizon. Their main columns were passing from about two o’clock on Sunday afternoon until about nine o’clock at night. The next day they were passing during the morning, and we continued in the woods. This was our third day out, during which time it had rained continually, and we had subsisted on parched corn. On Tuesday morning we determined to take the road and push on. Going to Mr. Credel’s place we found his fine house in ashes and his gin-house burned, and every horse and mule gone. In his lot were about one hundred horses lying dead. They looked like good stock, and were evidently killed to deprive planters of them. A number of Mr. Credel’s Negroes were gone. Proceeding we found every plantation on the devastated, except that no other dwelling houses were burned until we reached the fine farm of Honorable Joshua Hill. This is a perfect wreck. A large gin-house full of cotton corn-cribs, dwelling – all a smouldering ruin. His loss was greater than that of any-planter in this section. Besides the cotton, several thousand bushels of corn, potatoes, several hundred of wheat, and much other valuable property, with every horse and mule and many Negroes, are gone. No farm on the road to this place, and, as far as we can hear, towards Atlanta, escaped their brutal ravages. They ravaged the country below here to the Oconee river. The roads were strewn with the debris of their progress. Dead horses, cows, sheep, hog, chickens, corn, wheat, cotton, books, paper, broken vehicles, coffee mills, and fragments of nearly every species of property that adorned the beautiful farms of this county, strew the wayside, monuments of the meanness rapacity and hypocrisy of the people who boast that they are not robbers and do not interfere with private property. . . . Many families have not a pound of meat or a peck of meal or flour. Many Negroes were enticed away from homes of comfort to share the uncertain fortunes of a winter march to the coast, and then – freedom to starve. Families of wealth have not a house servant left, and those who were the most trusted were often the first to leave.’” ~ Richmond Times Dispatch.

marching through Georgia

marching through Georgia

December 2– Friday– Waynesboro, Georgia– Union General Judson Kilpatrick “remained a couple of days to rest his horses, and, receiving orders from me to engage [Confederate General Joseph] Wheeler and give him all the fighting he wanted, he procured from General Slocum the assistance of the infantry division of General Baird, and moved back to Waynesboro . . . the remainder of the left wing continuing its march on toward Millen. Near Waynesboro Wheeler was again encountered and driven through the town and beyond Brier Creek, toward Augusta, thus keeping up the delusion that the main army was moving toward Augusta. Having thus covered that flank, he [Kilpatrick] turned south and followed the movement of the Fourteenth Corps to Buckhead Church, north of Millen and near it.” ~ Memoirs of William Tecumseh Sherman.

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