August 28, 1864: Sherman’s neckties

Sherman necktie

Atlanta campaign map

Sherman’s three armies are all assembling for the move to Jonesboro, and in the meantime they have instructions to take a day to thoroughly destroy the West Point and Atlanta railroad. Sherman gives Thomas explicit instructions on the best way to permanently disable a railroad:

“To march a regiment to the road, stack arms, loosen two rails opposite the right and two opposite the left of the regiment, then to heave the whole track, rails and ties, over, breaking it all to pieces, then pile the ties in the nature of crib work and lay the rails over them, then by means of fence rails make a bonfire, and when the rails are red-hot in the middle let men give the rail a twist, which cannot be straightened without machinery.”

A variant of this procedure, when the heated rails were twisted around tree trunks, was to become known as a “Sherman necktie”.

Official Records:

August 28, 1864-4 p. m.
(Received 29th.)
Major General H. W. HALLECK,
Washington, D. C.:

Army of the Tennessee is on the West Point railroad near Fairburn; Army of the Cumberland is on the same road at Red Oak; and that of the Ohio will be to-night at Camp Creek. Enemy has made no serious opposition to our movement.



Near Cook’s House, August 28, 1864.
Major General W. T. SHERMAN,
Commanding Military Division of the Mississippi:

GENERAL: I have General Davis in position on commanding ground, his left resting on the railroad, his line extending south to within a mile of the Jonesborough road, from New Hope or Fairburn. I suppose it runs nearly east and west. General Morgan has a strong picket on that road, and General Davis’s right flank is completely covered by the breaks of the ground and General Morgan’s picket. General Stanley has been ordered to post his pickets on the north of the railroad, his left extending toward Mims’ house, and covering the road by which the troops marched. The trains are getting into position on the right and rear of our position. Major-General Howard is about a mile in rear of our right. Will we march to-morrow, or will we remain here to destroy the railroad? I had almost forgotten to report that General Morgan’s picket officer on the Jonesborough road reports that the woman living on that road at his picket-post says that a considerable body of rebel cavalry had passed there, and that they had informed her that the rebel army was moving toward Jonesborough.

Very respectfully, yours, &c.,
Major-General, U. S. Volunteers, Commanding.


In the Field, Red Oak, Ga., August 28, 1864-6.45 p. m.
Major-General THOMAS,

GENERAL: We will remain here to-morrow. I wish the railroad thoroughly destroyed as far forward as possible, and to the rear until you meet General Howard’s troops. Let the destruction be so thorough that not a rail or tie can be used again. My own experience demonstrates the proper method to be: To march a regiment to the road, stack arms, loosen two rails opposite the right and two opposite the left of the regiment, then to heave the whole track, rails and ties, over, breaking it all to pieces, then pile the ties in the nature of crib work and lay the rails over them, then by means of fence rails make a bonfire, and when the rails are red-hot in the middle let men give the rail a twist, which cannot be straightened without machinery. Also fill up some of the cuts with heavy logs and trunks of trees and branches and cover up and fill with dirt. Please give minute instructions on this subject to-night, and have the work commenced as early in the morning as possible, taking proper precaution also to guard against attack on either the working parties or the general position. General Howard has received similar instructions and General Schofield will be moved to your left front.

Major-General, Commanding.


Near Red Oak Station, Ga., August 28, 1864-11.30 p. m.
Brigadier-General KIMBALL,
First Division, Fourth Army Corps:

GENERAL: The general commanding directs that you readjust your lines to-morrow morning, and build a strong barricade along your front. We will remain in our present position to-morrow. He also directs that you instruct Colonel Taylor to report with his brigade to General Wood to-morrow, to assist him in destroying the track of the Atlanta and West Point Railroad. Have these troops make preparations to perform such duty as soon as rations are issued to them in the morning.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Assistant Adjutant-General.

Posted in Atlanta, George Thomas, Georgia, J.M. Schofield, Oliver O. Howard, William Tecumseh Sherman | Leave a comment

August 27, 1864: Sherman’s armies move south

Atlanta campaign map

Howard’s Army of the Tennessee constitutes the right wing of Sherman’s southward advance. Schofield’s Army of the Ohio is on the left, and Thomas’s Army of the Cumberland is in the center. They’re pulling out of their positions and negotiating the congested roads toward Jonesboro and the railroads supplying Atlanta from the south. Only the XX Corps is left behind to pin down Hood’s defenders in Atlanta.

Official Records:

Near Widow Forsyth’s, Ga., August 27, 1864.
Major General W. T. SHERMAN,
Commanding, &c.:

GENERAL: We had little difficulty in drawing out last night; some shelling. I heard of but one casualty, but we found the roads rough and the bottoms marshy, so that with great difficulty and delay we made the march. General Logan is now pretty well across Camp Creek, about due south from this place. General Blair is crossing at William Campbell’s, about a mile farther to the right. Kilpatrick reports himself across Camp Creek and about a mile south of Enon Church. Logan’s position is 71. Have no word from Schofield as yet. A great portion of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Corps have been broken of their rest two nights. I would prefer not to march till to-morrow morning if this will do. My headquarters are on the Campbellton road, near Widow Forsyth’s, one mile east of Dry Pond.

Respectfully, your obedient servant,

Posted in Atlanta, George Thomas, Georgia, Hugh Judson Kilpatrick, J.M. Schofield, Oliver O. Howard, William Tecumseh Sherman | Leave a comment

August 26, 1864: Heading for Jonesboro

Atlanta campaign map

Sherman has decided to draw Hood out of his defenses. He sends the Twentieth Corps to hold on to the north side of Atlanta, while the rest of his army proceeds south in three columns to break the railroads to the south, cutting off Hood’s supply lines. He’s not worried about Wheeler’s cavalry, loose to his north toward Tennessee.

NEAR EAST POINT, GA., August 26, 1864-6.45 p. m.
Major General H. W. HALLECK,
Washington, D. C.:

I have moved the Twentieth Corps to the Chattahoochee bridge, where it is intrenched, and with the balance of the army am moving for Jonesborough on the Macon road. Last night we made the first move without trouble; to-night I make the second, and the third will place the army massed near Fairburn. If Hood attacks he must come out, which is all we ask. All well thus far.


In the Field, Mount Gilead, Ga., August 26, 1864.

If Wheeler goes up into East Tennessee beyond the Holston let him go. The people must rally and destroy bridges and roads, and worry him. He cannot do us any harm, but will simply consume the grain and hay needed by the people. He cannot disturb Loudon or Knoxville. Let General McCook incase his cavalry from Nashville, and after a while we will send him to attend to Wheeler, who is well out of our way.

Major-General, Commanding.

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August 25, 1864: Quit stealing horses.

Kenner Garrard

Garrard has to remind his troops that when you commandeer mounts, they’re government property, not yours to sell or keep.

Official Records:

Before Atlanta, Ga., August 25, 1864.

The colonel commanding has had, in common with every officer and soldier of his command, occasion to know from personal observation that horses and mules captured from the enemy, and taken from disloyal citizens, have not been treated as the property of the Government, but and such claimed as the private property of the Government, but have been claimed as the private property of both officers and soldiers, and as such have been the subject of trade and sale between soldiers, and between soldiers and officers, and in many instances have been sold to the Government buyers, to private horse dealers, or shipped to the homes of their pretended owners. In common with all honest men, both soldiers and officers of this command, the colonel commanding desires that these dishonest practices be stopped, and that our Government be no more defrauded by any one of this command of its right to captured property.

The two desirable objects to be attained are: first, that the captured horses and mules shall become the property of the United States; second, that the individual company or regiment making the capture shall have the privilege of the use of it. Both of these desirable ends can be attained by frequent inspection of companies and regiments, and the branding of all horses and mules found to be without the brand.

It is well known to all cavalrymen that it is almost, if not entirely, impossible that there should be a fair, bona fide purchase of a horse from a citizen or soldier in this country. The colonel commanding, therefore, desires it to be known to his command, that it will give him pleasure to see all his officers and men well mounted on captured horses bearing the brand of the Government, and trusts that the only claim any one in this command may ever make to a captured horse may be to use it in the service of the Government.

It is therefore ordered that all horses and mules captured from the enemy or taken from citizens be branded with the Government brand as soon as practicable after the capture; and that captured horses and mules in excess of the need of the company or regiments be turned over to the regimental, brigade, or division quartermaster for issue to other portions of the command. Company and regimental officer are charged with the duty of making inspections, which will be necessary to carry this order into effect, and will be held responsible for such neglect as will countenance or encourage the conversion of captured property to private use. It will be the duty of the acting assistant inspector-general of this command to report to these headquarters the names of officers having in their commands unbranded animals.

This order to be read to each company in this command within forty-eight hours.

By command of Israel Garrard, colonel, commanding:
Captain and Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.

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August 24, 1864: Sherman prepares to move south

General William Tecumseh Sherman

In his daily report to Halleck, Sherman announces that he’ll be starting his planning circuit around the south of Atlanta tomorrow. He warns that he won’t be in touch for a while.

Official Records:

NEAR ATLANTA, GA., August 24, 1864-7.15 p .m. (Received 12.15 a. m. 25th.)
Major General H. W. HALLECK,
Washington, D. C.:

Heavy fires in Atlanta all day, caused by our artillery. I will be all ready and will commence the movement round Atlanta by the south to-morrow night, and for some time you will hear little of me. I will keep open a courier line with Chattahoochee bridge by the way of Sandtown. The Twentieth Corps will hold the bridge, and I will move with the balance of the army, provisioned for twenty days.


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August 23, 1864: News of Wheeler

Gen. Joseph Wheeler

Wheeler’s cavalry, sent north to attack Sherman’s supply lines, were defeated at Dalton, in part by the stout resistance of the 14th US Colored Troops regiment. The Richmond Daily Dispatch can only call their reports about this “muddled” — which apparently means “hard to reconcile with our relentless optimism”.

Sherman’s Communications — Wheeler’s operations.

The telegrams in regard to Wheeler’s operations at and around Dalton are exceedingly muddled. –On Sunday and Monday last Wheeler is reported to have attacked the Federal garrison at Dalton, and to have been put to flight in great confusion by troops sent to the relief of the garrison by General Steadman. It is now represented that Steadman, in advancing from Chattanoogathree days later, met Wheeler at Graysville, north of Dalton, and but eight miles distant from Chattanooga; that a fight ensued, in which General Steedman was badly wounded, and Colonel Straight, of Indians, killed. In one account of this affair the result is not stated; but in a telegram from Nashville it is reported that Wheeler was defeated. Another Confederate force was, on Wednesday last, at Cleveland, a point on the Knoxville road, northeast of Chattanooga. A brigade had been sent from Chattanooga to drive off the enemy and re-occupy Cleveland.

The New York Times touts the victory in a less ambiguous way:

NASHVILLE, Tenn., Wednesday, Aug. 17.

The Chattanooga Gazette, of the 16th inst., has the following highly interesting intelligence:

The rebels, in their attack on Dalton, Ga., numbered 5,000 men, infantry and cavalry, with six brass howitzers. They were commanded by Maj.-Gen. WHEELER.

Our garrison at Dalton numbered 400 men of the Second Division, commanded by Col. LEIBOLDT.

On Sunday morning the rebels approached the town in line of battle, and Gen. WHEELER sent forward the following formal letter for the surrender of the place:

To prevent the effusion of blood, I have the honor to demand the immediate and unconditional surrender of the forces under your command at this garrison. (Signed.)

JAMES WHEELER, Major-General,
Commanding Confederate Forces.

Col. LEIBOLDT responded in the following laconic terms:

I have been placed here to defend the post, but not to surrender it.

(Signed) B. LEIBOLDT,
Commanding U.S. Forces.

The rebels outnumbered Col. LEIBOLDT ten to one, and his command sought protection in their earthworks and a large brick building.

The invaders swarmed into the town, but were gallantly kept at bay by the garrison, who from their earthworks mowed down the rebels in great numbers.

On Monday morning Gen. STEEDMAN arrived with reinforcements.

A skirmish at once commenced, and the garrison rallied out of their earthworks.

At this stage, the Fourteenth United States Colored Infantry, Col. MORGAN commanding, were ordered to charge.
With a ringing cheer and an impetuous rush, which was irresistible, they charged upon the rebels, who broke and fled in the utmost confusion.

The rebels slightly damaged the railroad track one mile this side of Dalton. The damage has been repaired.

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August 22, 1864: Kilpatrick returns.

Hugh Judson Kilpatrick

After everyone got a little nervous, Kilpatrick returned from his Macon expedition, and reports considerable success. They broke up a fair amount of railroad track, and had a lot of prisoners, though they had to release them rather than haul them back.

Official Records:

NEAR ATLANTA, GA., August 22, 1864-10 p. m. (Received 11 p .m. 23d.)
Major General H. W. HALLECK,
Washington, D. C.:

General Kilpatrick is back. He had pretty hard fighting with a division of infantry and three brigades of cavalry. He broke the cavalry into disorder and captured a battery, which he destroyed, except one gun, which he brought in in addition to all his own. He also brought in 3 captured flags and 70 prisoners. He had possession of a large part of Ross’ brigade, but could not encumber himself with them. He destroyed 3 miles of the road about Jonesborough, and broke pieces for about 10 miles more, enough to disable the road for ten days. I expect I will have to swing across to that road in force to make the matter certain. General Kilpatrick destroyed 2 locomotives and trains. It has been very quiet with us here. Wheeler is about Athens, Tenn., and General Steedman will move out against him from Chattanooga.



Major-General SHERMAN:

General Kilpatrick is about to start for your headquarters. He reports having torn up four miles connectedly of railroad between Rough and Ready and Jonesborough, and ten miles at intervals, and destroyed two trains, including the one destroyed by Klein. He virtually captured Ross and brigade, but could not bring the men away. He was attacked by Jackson’s cavalry and a division of infantry but effected his escape before the enemy could surround him, and brought off his own artillery and one piece of the 4 captured. Two pieces and 9 caissons were destroyed by him. He brought in about 70 prisoners and 3 battle-flags; all his own wounded. Has 97 killed and missing, among the missing 4 officers. Brigadier-General Long was wounded slightly in two places. He speaks in high terms of the behavior of his whole command. Captured Barlett is well and on the road with him to your headquarters.


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August 21, 1864: Where’s Kilpatrick?

Hugh Judson Kilpatrick

Part of Kilpatrick’s cavalry were cut off after doing some damage to the railroad, and have returned. Still no news of Kilpatrick’s main force, and Sherman’s getting a little concerned — after all, look what happened to Stoneman. Meanwhile, the Charleston Mercury is quite certain that Sherman is doomed.

Major-General SHERMAN:

Did you receive Colonel Klein’s report forwarded this morning? He broke the road near Fayette and destroyed a train of cars with locomotive, but being attacked by cavalry, supported by infantry, and cut off, as he says, from Kilpatrick, returned to Sandtown with but very little loss. If he broke the road between Atlanta and Kilpatrick, and then succeeded in effecting his escape, there can be but little doubt of Kilpatrick’s success, if he worked away from Atlanta, as there is but little probability of his meeting concentrating all cavalry coming to the front at Dalton have been given.



HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, near Atlanta, August 21, 1864-12 m.

General THOMAS:

I received Colonel Klein’s report. I feel certain that General Kilpatrick is doing good work; still it is time for us to hear from him direct.



HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE OHIO, Near Atlanta, Ga., August 21, 1864.
Major-General SHERMAN:

Prisoners captured by General Cox last evening report that Kilpatrick struck the railroad at Jonesborough the morning after he started. Very distant artillery firing was heard in the direction of Macon from our extreme right last evening. I have learned nothing further indicative of Kilpatrick’s movements. Cox is making a demonstration on the right to aid him in his return. The enemy is using his artillery quite in front of the Fourteenth Corps this morning.



Reprinted in the Richmond Daily Dispatch:

Operations in Sherman’s rear.

–It is stated that Wheeler has destroyed the bridges across the Etowah and Oostanaula rivers and burnt the track the whole way from Marietta. A large amount of stores are said to have fallen into his hands at Resaca, which was destroyed after our cavalry had appropriated all that was needful to them. At last accounts, the report says General Wheeler was rapidly marching in the direction of Dalton, where an immense amount of stones, both subsistence and ordnance, has been congregating for some time.
From the Macon Confederate of Friday we learn that General Wheeler massed his cavalry corps near Covington, on the Augusta railroad; and on Mondaymorning the grand cavalcade of gay cavaliers started for adventure and Sherman’s rear. It was rumored in town yesterday that he had captured Marietta and burned the Federal stores there, and had taken an immense number of prisoners. Be it as it may, it is certain that the long-expected effort to cut Sherman’s communication is now about to be realized. The Federal cavalry have nearly all recently been destroyed; and General Wheeler is now out just at the right time.
We are assured by gentlemen direct from headquarters that there is not the slightest intention entertained there of a retrograde move or the evacuation of Atlanta. On the other hand, it is expected that Sherman will be forced to retreat.–Charleston Mercury.

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August 20, 1864: Cavalry and rail on both sides

General Haupt train

Wheeler’s cavalry are north of Atlanta trying to destroy Sherman’s supply line; they tore up the rails near Dalton, but they’re already repaired. Meanwhile Kilpatrick’s cavalry are tearing up the Macon railroad that constitutes Hood’s last supply line, and this seems to be successful at least for now.

NEAR ATLANTA, GA., August 20, 1864-7 p.m. (Received 11 p. m.)
Major General H. W. HALLECK,
Washington, D. C.:
General Kilpatrick is out yet, and I infer has broken the Macon road, because three trains of cars left Atlanta and returned, backing the trains. Our infantry to-day was on the West Point road at Red Oak, five miles below East Point. General Lightburn was struck in the head last evening by a sharpshooter, very much as General Dodge, but will get well. We have kept up brisk skirmishing all day. Our road is now repaired and in good order. Wheeler is above the Hiwassee.


Posted in Atlanta, Georgia, Henry Halleck, Hugh Judson Kilpatrick, John Bell Hood, Joseph Wheeler, William Tecumseh Sherman | Leave a comment

August 19, 1864: Cutting the Macon rail line

Train over the Bull Run bridge, 1863

Kilpatrick’s cavalry have been sent out to cut the Macon railroad, and apparently they’ve had some early success, because trains sent out from Atlanta by the rebels have come back empty.

HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, near Atlanta, August 19, 1864-11.15 a. m.
General HOWARD:

General Kilpatrick reported last night at 11 o’clock he would be on the road at 12.30 to-day. He will cut the road and force the infantry to disembark. No train can carry more than 800 men, and General Kilpatrick can work on both sides of that train. Being mounted he can circumvent any infantry except at a single point, and he is not limited to any point. He can be at Jonesborough at noon, tear up a few rails, and ten miles below in a couple of hours. I think General Kilpatrick equal to anything Hood can now do. Still we should take advantage of the detachment of his best troops for that duty.

Major-General, Commanding.

General SHERMAN:

Train which left Atlanta at 9.35 returned at 11.35 empty. Know it is same train by peculiarity of one of the cars. Another train which left at 11.10 returned at 11.40 empty.


Posted in Atlanta, Georgia, Hugh Judson Kilpatrick, John Bell Hood, Oliver O. Howard, William Tecumseh Sherman | Leave a comment