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W.T. Sherman Threatens to Burn Savannah, Charleston and Wilmington
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W.T. Sherman Threatens to Burn Savannah, Charleston and Wilmington,: 4pp, 7.75" x 9.75". On letterhead Headquarters, Military Division of the Mississippi, In the Field and dated Mch 15, 1865, 12 miles from Fayetteville, NC, Raleigh Road. Maj. Genl Q A. Gilmore Cmdg. Dept. of the South Charleston General, I got a file of Northern papers yesterday from Wilmington in which I observe you are in Command of the Dept. of the South. I have had no official communications from the War Dept. or Genl Grant since my separation from Savannah and am compelled to pick up information the best way I can. I wrote to General Foster from Fayetteville supposing him in command of the Dept and hope you got the letter and it is a fear that its contents may not reach you promptly, which induces me to write this. When at Columbia I had the railroad broken down to Kingsville and the [Waterico?] Bridge. Subsequently from Cheraw, I arrived to strike Florence but sent too weak a party. But the enemy himself has destroyed the Reedee [Reedy?] Bridge and has on the Railroad at Sumpterville and between it and Florence a vast amount of rolling stock the destruction of which is all important and it should be done before any repairs can be made whereby they can be removed. I want it done at once and leave you to devise the way. I think 2500 men lightly equipped with pack mules only could reach the road either from Georgetown or the Santee Bridge. I think also that you can easily make up that force from Savannah and Charleston. As to the Garrisoning of the cities, I don't feel disposed to be over generous and should not hesitate to burn Savannah, Charleston and Wilmington or either of them if the garrisons were needed. Savannah & Wilmington are the only really useful ports because of their inland rivers. Still I suppose you can always get garrisons of sick, disabled or indifferent troops. All real good soldiers must now be marching. Do not let your command rest on its own but keep them going all the time even if for no other purpose that to exhaust the Enemy's country or compel him to defend it. The simple fact that a man's home has been visited by an enemy makes a soldier in Lee's & Johnston's army very anxious to get home to look after his family & property. But the expedition I have indicated to Sumpterville & Florence has even higher aims. Those cars and locomotives should be destroyed if to do it cost you four hundred men. I know you can get them all the bacon, beef, meat &c. your command may want and a good deal of corn meal. The men could march without knapsacks with a rough blanket and carry 8 days provisions which with what is in the country will feed the command two weeks. Let it be done at once and select your own point of departure. After destroying these cars and engines (not merely destroying them but an absolute destruction of boilers, steam chambers, connection rods, flanges, etc. Powder can be used to good advantage in blowing up boilers and engines but we use cold chisels and crowbars), you may reduce your garrison to the minimum and send any spare men to Newbern & Goldsboro. I want to collect an army that can whip Lee in open fight if he lets [out] for Richmond which I think he will soon be forced to do. Yours Truly, W.T. Sherman, Maj. Gen'l. By the time this letter was written, Sherman had reached the sea. Grant considered putting his troops on rail cars and boats and "fast-tracking" them to meet Lee in Virginia. Grant relented to Sherman's arguments, and let the General decide his own route to Richmond. Sherman decided to sweep north through the center of parts of Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, cutting off supply lines to Lee and Johnston and terrorizing a population that, up until then, had been relatively unscathed by battle. He also knew that the land had not been "picked clean" by other Union armies, and that the "bummers" would have a relatively easy time supplying the fast-moving army. This letter, written shortly after Sherman's troops had destroyed Columbia, as he moved through Sumter (which he identifies as "Sumpterville") and Florence to Fayetteville, indicates both of these strategies - cutting supply lines and demoralizing the enemy. Sherman was also "itching" to fight Lee in an open battle, the minimal resistance from Hardee's and Johnston's troops encountered along the way barely slowing him down. Brilliant strategist or terrorist? Opinions of Sherman's actions still invoke strong emotions on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line.
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*Note that the price is not recalculated to the current value, but refers to the actual final price at the time the product was sold.


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