Thursday, November 20, 2014

It's complicated: Milledgeville, Georgia, commemorates debated March to the Sea

St. Stephen's in Milledgeville (Thomas Blenk)

The church organ that endured the indignity of having molasses syrup poured into its pipes by mischievous Yankee soldiers was replaced by a fellow from New York, no less.

The visual reminders reportedly left by Union horses stabled at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church? “There are not really hoof prints,” said parish administrator Carolyn H. Stone. “Plus, the whole place is carpeted.”

As for the picket fences and outhouses dismantled by the invaders as a firewood source during the chilly month of November 1864? They could be replaced.

Milledgeville, capital of Georgia during the Civil War, was able to survive the ordeals that accompanied three days of occupation by Federal troops during Sherman’s March to the Sea -- and eventually rebounded.

But those days of misery were not forgotten. Memories of privation during the war and the psychological impact of the march, disorder and scavenging have been passed down from generation to generation in the antebellum city in middle Georgia.

Sherman's March to the Sea (Library of Congress)

“They destroyed so much of the food and left people destitute with winter coming on,” said Amy J. Wright, executive director of Georgia’s Old Capital Museum. “There is nothing like being hungry.”

This Saturday, Milledgeville will have a day of activities, including tours, a marker dedication, symposium and re-enactments to commemorate Union Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman’s five-week march through a swath of Georgia. He arrived in Milledgeville 150 years ago to the day.

In recent years, scholars, historians and many ordinary Georgians have begun to widen the lens on Sherman’s march beyond the legend: Uncle Billy, the devil incarnate who mowed down buildings and homes in the land between Atlanta and Savannah.

A new sign erected in Atlanta labels some of the stories as “popular myth.” W. Todd Groce, president of the Georgia Historical Society, which sponsored the marker, told The New York Times that the movie “Gone with the Wind” is to blame for ongoing regional perceptions of the general and Union army.

Others point out that visitors can still take antebellum home tours.

Critics, though, are not happy.

Stephen Davis, author of “What the Yankees Did to Us: Sherman’s Bombardment and Wrecking of Atlanta,” told the newspaper that some are “bending over backward to give Sherman a whitewash that he does not deserve.”


Today, there are more voices being heard -- such as those of Northern soldiers and slaves that were set free -- and new discussions of the march’s military purpose and its aim of dispiriting Southern soldiers enough to force them to leave the front and return home.

Those voices will be heard when the Old Capital Museum in late February will put on a three-act play, “Dinner with Uncle Billy,” which originally was scheduled for this week’s commemoration. Teacher and author Mauriel Joslyn wrote the script, but a director was not in place in time.

“For many people born and grown up in the South, we have one perspective. Much of what Mauriel has interwoven is from perspectives of soldiers who served with Sherman,” said Wright.  “It is multifaceted. It is the opportunity to delve into multiple perspectives, not just the Southern view -- a more universal perspective, how the Union saw it and those who experienced it.”

Among the characters drawn from diaries and historical accounts are Sherman, his officers, Milledgeville merchants, a young mother and slaves, “all presenting their perspective of what was first anticipated, what happened and (what they see) in retrospect.”

As part of the sesquicentennial, the Georgia Civil War Commission is sponsoring a free Civil War symposium from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday at the Georgia Military College Atrium in Milledgeville.

The wide-ranging lineup includes discussions of horses and mules in the Atlanta Campaign, hospitals, “The Civil War in Movies,” “Total Warfare on Southern Civilians” and black Confederate soldiers, a topic that has engendered much debate over how many actually served.

Georgia's Civil War capitol (Old Capital Museum)

John Culpepper, chairman of the commission, told the Picket the objective is to “tell it like it was.”

“Some of the stuff that is coming out is politically correct. War is brutal. Sherman said he would make Georgia howl and he made Georgia howl, militarily and civilian and so on,” said Culpepper. “As far as tactics and Union winning the war, it was the right thing to do. You still had many people who suffered because of that and they suffer every day. It was the beginning of the war on civilians and manufacturing.”

Joslyn said she is appalled by what she calls the downplaying by historians of actions against civilians.

I do take issue with the recent revisionist history trying to claim the destruction and purposeful hardships were exaggerated. I have found plenty of sources from Union soldiers as well as civilians that describe the same events.” 

Sifting through fact and fiction

An article in the Nov. 14 issue of The New York Times, on the eve of the anniversary of the beginning of Sherman’s march, captured the ongoing debate about the general’s aims and conduct.

The marker, placed at the Carter Center, reads:

On November 15, 1864, during the Civil War, U.S. forces under Gen. William T. Sherman set out from Atlanta on the March to the Sea, a military campaign designed to destroy the Confederacy’s ability to wage war and break the will of its people to resist. After destroying Atlanta’s industrial and business (but not residential) districts, Sherman’s 62,500 men marched over 250 miles, reaching Savannah in mid-December. Contrary to popular myth, Sherman’s troops primarily destroyed only property used for waging war – railroads, train depots, factories, cotton gins, and warehouses. Abandoning their supply base, they lived off the land, destroying food they could not consume. They also liberated thousands of enslaved African Americans in their path. Sherman’s “hard hand of war” demoralized Confederates, hastening the end of slavery and the reunification of the nation.

Sherman during occupation of Atlanta (Library of Congress)

The Georgia Historical Society’s Groce writes in The Times’ Disunion blog that Sherman’s “hard war” policy was sanctioned by President Abraham Lincoln and was considered a military necessity to hasten victory and damage Confederate morale.

“Sherman’s primary targets -- foodstuffs and industrial, government and military property -- were carefully chosen to create the desired effect, and never included mass killing of civilians, especially those law-abiding noncombatants who did not resist what Sherman described as the national authority,” Groce writes.

Only one person (who was inebriated) died in Milledgeville during Sherman’s march.

“It was a freak situation that we had an ice storm, said Matthew Davis, director of the Old Governor’s Mansion on the campus of Georgia College & State University. “This overseer of a local plantation did through snowballs and ice (at the troops) and he got shot for it.” 

Civilians and soldiers alike left behind journals, including that of Dolly Burge, who lived on a plantation near Covington, Ga., and witnessed one wing of Sherman’s army come through on Nov. 19, 1864.

Like demons they rush in! My yards are full. To my smoke-house, my dairy, pantry, kitchen, and cellar, like famished wolves they come, breaking locks and whatever is in their way. (Source: “The Diary of Dolly Lunte Burge”)

“Sherman’s goal was to destroy any means of continuing the war,” said Wright. “It was things like the arsenal, magazine, factories that were producing arms and uniforms.” The museum’s legislative chamber was where Georgians voted to secede in 1861 and Union soldiers held a mock assembly more than three years later to repeal that move.

“When I look back at my family 150 years ago …. they did not know where he was headed or his intentions,” said Wright, whose mother is from Baldwin County and her father a “reconstructed Yankee” from Pennsylvania. “There was not the opportunity to read objective reports. There was a sheer terror of anticipation … that if Sherman did not come across his farm there was expectation that some of his foragers would.”

Historian John Marszalek, author of "Sherman: A Soldier's Passion for Order," told the Associated Press recently that the general was more about “shock and awe” than anything else. Marszalek said he is approached by people after lectures and told an ancestor’s barn was burned by Federal troops, but the farm was nowhere near the army’s path.

Still, many private homes in central Georgia were ransacked and damaged by Sherman’s foragers, or “bummers,” as they came to be called, and a few were burned. Sherman and his officers turned a blind eye to many cases of wanton destruction, according to Wright.

Most of Milledgeville was spared, although a key bridge, the penitentiary, the arsenal and a powder magazine were destroyed. Union troops emptied the library of the capitol and threw the documents and books onto muddy ground.

“The horses trampled the books and documents,” said Wright. “Some were priceless. That was done out of orneriness.”

Another legend has been slow to die.

“There is a story that Sherman was a womanizer, that he had girlfriends in some of the towns,” said Stone, of St. Stephen’s. “Any town where one of his ladies lived had less damage than others. That is one reason (according to the story) we did not get burned.”

Sticky situation finally resolved

Lectern at St. Stephen's (Thomas Blenk)

Soldiers from the 107th New York Infantry Regiment occupied St. Stephen’s Episcopal and other Milledgeville churches during the brief occupation.

Besides the syrup incident, they burned some pews, ostensibly to keep warm. The church roof was damaged and windows were blown out when the magazine and arsenal were set to the torch.

The current stained glass window over the altar was a gift of Christ Church, Savannah “in appreciation for hospitality extended during the Civil War years.”

The sticky pipe organ was never quite right for decades after the war and worshipers made plans to replace it.

A boy told the church’s new rector that, “The Yankees poured molasses down the pipes when that doggone old Sherman was here.”

Hugh T. Harrington, in “Civil War Milledgeville: Tales from the Confederate Capital of Georgia,” tells the story of a young girl who helped bring about a new organ by writing a letter mentioning what the Yankees did and seeking a donation.

Nylic Bland, 11, owed her unusual first name to her father, Marshall, who worked for the New York Life Insurance Company. He used the company’s acronym for her name.

Nylic, whose mother was the church organist, wrote to George W. Perkins of New York in 1909. Perkins formerly was an executive with the insurance company and was currently a financier with J.P. Morgan and Company.

According to the book, “Little Nylic Bland received a telegram from George W. Perkins. ‘Buy the organ and send the bill to me.’ The church bought a new organ for $2,100 and Mr. Perkins, the Yankee, paid the bill.”

The replacement organ, too, is long gone, but the story is still told to visitors who drop by the church or come during tours put on by the Milledgeville Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Carolyn Stone, the parish administrator, told the Picket that visitors also see the original pulpit and lectern.

The congregation has a food pantry and is well-known in the community for its volunteers in outreach.

While to forgive is divine, it’s now always been easy for Southerners to do the same for their Civil War transgressors, said Stone, adding with a touch of humor that she is careful about saying she was raised in Pennsylvania.

A host of activities, interpretation

An exhibit at Georgia's Old Capital Museum

Saturday’s events include tours and a re-enactment at Lockerly Aboretum, re-enactments at the Old Governor’s Mansion and two exhibits at the Old Capital Museum.

At the latter, one exhibit, “From Broom to Musket: Women of the South, 1861-1865,” chronicles the lives of eight women, six from the Milledgeville area, said Wright.

“The focus so long has been on the soldiers, both Northern and Southern…. Women and what they were doing has been a subject largely marginalized.”

Featured are depictions of a sharecropper’s wife, a teen, a woman who disguised herself as a soldier, a nurse, slave, plantation mistress, widow and spy.

A new exhibit, “Butternut to Gray,” depicts the life of a Confederate soldier through the art of W.L. Sheppard and Gilbert Gaul.

(Courtesy of Old Governor's Mansion)

At 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., re-enactors dressed as Union troops will raise the U.S. flag outside the Old Governor’s Mansion to coincide with Sherman occupying the home Nov. 23, 1864. The mansion, which underwent a $9.5 million restoration nearly 10 years ago, will be open for tours and re-enactors will patrol the building and issue passes.

Georgia Gov. Joseph E. Brown had the house stripped of nearly everything three days before Sherman arrived. He and many other townspeople evacuated.

“A letter said the governor was eating turnips and greens while furnishings were boxed and moved around him,” Davis told the Picket.

Sherman’s arrival in the mansion brought an irony: He set up his headquarters, including field equipment, in the room where Brown dined. “It is a nice synergy that they were in the same place,” said Davis.

Sherman was gone the next day, after a strategy council with his officers in the mansion. The mansion and capitol weren’t destroyed by Federal forces.

“There was no really reason to do that type of damage, or take that action,” said Davis. “He said he would destroy property if you would impede his march …”

The Georgia Civil War Heritage Trails is dedicating a new marker at 9 a.m. Saturday.

Executive director Steve Longcrier said the organization continues to install interpretive markers along the March to the Sea Heritage Trail. Others were recently placed in Conyers, Social Circle and Sandersville.

Three markers are planned or already installed in Milledgeville.

Our marker at the Old Governor's Mansion was installed several years ago and the one next to the main archway entrance at Georgia Military College will be installed later this week (Saturday).” It is entitled “State House Square.” In coming weeks, a third sign will interpret the old state penitentiary.

Longcrier distributes brochures about the March to the Sea and Atlanta Campaign to visitor centers across Georgia. “To date, the ratio of brochures requested and shipped to these centers is 52% Atlanta Campaign vs. 48% March to the Sea.  Both brochures are very popular.  We just shipped 900 more of each brochure to one location.”

“I believe the Atlanta Campaign Heritage Trail will always attract the most attention because that is where most of the battles were fought, where two major national parks are located, and because of its close proximity to metro Atlanta and Chattanooga.  But the March to the Sea Heritage Trail is a strong second because of the uniqueness of its Civil War era history.”

'It was brutal, a brutal conflict'

Georgia’s capital moved to Atlanta in 1868, leaving Milledgeville with a large void.

Today, Milledgeville continues to strongly promote antebellum and other historical tourism, including its place on the old frontier. But Wright also touts the city’s educational institutions, including Georgia College & State University and Central Georgia Technical College. And there are many state offices in the city.

She also mentioned efforts to redevelop the old Central State Hospital, which began as a mental health institution in 1837. The campus declined as such treatment was decentralized. It has 200 buildings on 2,000 acres.

This Saturday’s events will cast a spotlight on the past and what Sherman’s March to the Sea means today.

Sherman's foragers, as seen in S. Carolina (Library of Congress)

The Georgia Civil War Commission’s Culpepper questioned those who say the general didn’t focus on civilians: “How can you say he only attacked the Southern military complex and did not destroy houses. How long did he besiege Atlanta?”

Culpepper said he is aware there is debate over the march’s effects and legacy.

“The bottom line is we are one nation, and came together to make the greatest nation in the world. History is history. Put the facts out there. It was brutal, a brutal conflict. Don’t try to soft soap what happened: Just the facts.”

The Picket recently published a three-part series on Sherman’s March, asking historians and experts to weigh in on its legacy.

Charlie Crawford, president of the Georgia Battlefields Association, said: “Sherman can be criticized for not keeping better control over his troops and for sometimes turning a blind eye to their excesses, especially regarding theft; but his attitude is consistent with his belief that the war would end sooner if the people of the South lost the will to fight and wrote to their husbands, sons, and brothers in Virginia to come home.”

Davis, of the Old Governor’s Mansion, said it is the job of historians to look at what is myth and what is fact. He hopes visitors leave with questions that they can pursue.

“I somewhat agree with revisionists in that regard,” he said of the destruction. “If every building burned, would we have so many antebellum buildings in the state. No? There is a fog of war. (Sherman) couldn’t have been everywhere.”

It’s true that Sherman’s troops did unspeakable things, but that has to be tempered with the reality that “horrible things” occur during war, said the mansion director.

Regardless, the March to the Sea and the Civil War will continue to fascinate for years to come, said Davis.

“If the state of Georgia has a bogeyman, Sherman is that man.”

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

See how Lincoln grappled with Constitution

A free traveling exhibit has opened at the main library in Louisville, Ky. “Lincoln: the Constitution and the Civil War,” library director Craig Buthod said, “shows how Lincoln struggled with issues of secession, slavery and civil liberties — all questions our country’s founding charter left unanswered.” • Article

Saturday, November 15, 2014

10 cool artifacts documented in Tennessee

Uniform buttons, a spy map, a Union drum and a survivor's "half boot" are among 4,000 Civil War-era artifacts held by descendants and documented by Tennessee officials. • Photos

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Sherman's March to the Sea: 150 years later, its legacy has many stories to tell

Sherman's bummers (foragers) in S.C. (Library of Congress)
(Part 3)

Today we wrap up our three-part look at Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman’s March to the Sea, the bold move away from a military base and supply lines to accomplish an objective. The Picket asked Civil War experts, historians, an archaeologist and a living historian/re-enactor about their thoughts on myths and realities of the November and December 1864 march, what associated sites should be visited and the campaign's legacy today. Here are their responses to the third question.

Q. What is the march's legacy, seen through the lens of today?

ANNE SARAH RUBIN, history professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and author of “A Shattered Nation: The Rise and Fall of the Confederacy, 1861-1868”

The March has come to symbolize the impact that the war as a whole had on civilians. But I also think that we forget that the march was one of liberation -- Sherman’s soldiers brought freedom to hundreds of thousands of African-Americans. The problem was that, first the soldiers, and Sherman himself, were not always comfortable with that role, nor did they care very much about African-Americans. And second, all Sherman’s soldiers brought was freedom, but no way to hold on to it.

ANTHONY WINEGAR, chief ranger, Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park

The legacy today is mostly military in nature in my mind. Sherman was able to leave a stronghold (Atlanta) and march through the heart of enemy held terrain to destroy their infrastructure and prove to the rest of the country and world that the South was finished and did not have the means to keep up the war effort. It is often dubbed "Total War" but in true definition, it was not. Sherman did not execute Southerners or totally destroy towns, homes, etc. Also, under previous definitions of total war, such as in Europe, rape and other unorthodox strategies were not used as weapons. Perhaps what is lost on history now is the fact that some people could not believe that Lincoln would allow a general to go completely "off the grid" during the march. Lincoln's trust for Sherman had to be deep. Lincoln responded at one point by stating that, "I know what he went in at, but I can't tell what hole he will come out of."

Lastly, the quote that summed up the western Federal soldiers that participated in the march described them best. A German ambassador watching the Grand Review in Washington after the war, as the first divisions passed, reportedly said, “An army like that could whip all Europe.” A half-hour later he said, “An army like that could whip the world.” An hour later: “An army like that could whip the devil.”

Union Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman

CHARLIE CRAWFORD, president of the Georgia Battlefields Association

The march’s legacy is its influence on the American Way of War. Rather than taking strategic points (McClellan and his “on to Richmond” approach), Sherman showed that destroying infrastructure and reducing the enemy’s will to fight (consider strategic bombing to destroy German factories in WWII, even though it meant civilian casualties) could be important components to a successful strategy. Grant showed that destroying the enemy’s armed forces was another important component. Remember that Grant’s plan for the spring of 1864 was for the Federal forces in Virginia to destroy Lee’s army and for the Federal forces in Georgia to destroy Johnston’s army. The plan did not call for the capture of Richmond or Atlanta. These beliefs still influence American strategy, which is one reason why we have such trouble fighting non-state opponents.

TALLEY KIRKLAND, park ranger, Fort McAllister State Park (near Savannah, taken by Sherman’s troops near the end of the march)

It pretty much demonstrated that the Confederacy was truly done for. If you could let an army completely cut its supply line and go through enemy territory pretty much unopposed you have a real problem.

They talk about him burning personal property: I try to explain and often people take exception that it was war. I point out what was done by World War II during the carpet bombing of Germany. You are going to destroy personal property. War is not a pretty thing. Which is worse: Dropping things from the stratosphere or burning stuff? They did not destroy everything, they did not burn all the plantation houses. They would burn cotton houses and presses, anything that could produce revenue for the Confederacy. If foraging parties were shot at by irregulars they would destroy personal property in the area knowing those guerrillas were being supported in the area. There were some (properties) burned maliciously.

(Library of Congress)

DAN ELLIOTT, president of the LAMAR Institute, which conducts archaeological research from its base in Georgia

Sherman's March through Georgia was the final nail in the coffin of the Confederacy. At the beginning of the march in May 1864, the outcome was uncertain and the tide could have shifted back in favor of the South. By early September and the end of most fighting around Atlanta, the outcome was pretty clear. The South's transportation and supply hub had been broken. The final leg of the march to Savannah (and then on through the Carolinas) was more vindication than strategy. Major General Hood's forces left the state for Tennessee and the reduced Confederate force left to defend Georgia was woefully inadequate. The stories of Yankee and Bummer depredations on the defenseless plantation families remain fodder for debate, as do the stories of Sherman's treatment of the newly freed enslaved. Unlike Virginia, which also boasts many Civil War engagements on its landscape, many of Georgia's battlefields have been lost to development and modern land use. Those that survive promise to tell real stories -- stories that may contradict or confirm many Georgia history myths and unverified claims. These hallowed places that remain need to be remembered for all times.

DAVID EVANS, historian and author of "Sherman's Horsemen"

The main legacy of "The March" is the beginning of the concept now known as "Total War," the idea that modern warfare is not just a conflict between opposing armies, but an all-inclusive clash that pits one society against another, economically, politically, and spiritually, as well as militarily. Sherman believed the best way to end the fighting quickly was to make war terrible, by making it all-inclusive, for soldiers and civilians alike. At that time, this was a quite a departure from accepted practice and this helped forge Sherman's reputation, in the eyes of many Southerners, as a "barbarian."

HERB COATS, living historian/re-enactor living in Georgia

It is a tactical masterpiece that is still taught in military academies, and discussed by historians still. You can’t think of Sherman without the “March to the Sea.” It is a larger-scale version of what Winfield Scott did in Mexico, but with no supply line, and more men. It is was the North’s flexing of their military power through the lower south, and showed that no one was safe from their reach. Native-born Georgians with long family histories within the state still to this day speak of Sherman with contempt. I’ve seen it firsthand.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

March to the Sea: Tourists can visit places where Yankees walked by in 1864

Georgia's Old Capitol Building (visitmilledgeville.org)
(Part 2)

Much of the ground covered by the Union army on its November-December 1864 March to the Sea from Atlanta to Savannah and beyond remains rural and there are few visible signs that it occurred. But interpretive signs and museum exhibits do help tell the story.

Many of those markers have been placed by the Georgia Historical Society and Civil War Heritage Trails of Georgia. The latter will place a commemorative sign in front of the Old State Capitol in Milledgeville on Nov. 22. The historical society plans a Dec. 11 March to the Sea marker dedication at Madison Square in Savannah.

Events relating to the march recently occurred in Kennesaw, Augusta and Sandersville, Ga. A Nov.16 symposium, “Yankees Marching By,” in Madison will focus on the impact of the Civil War and March to the Sea on the town and Morgan County. A Nov. 22 commemoration will be held at Griswoldville Battlefield near Macon. The lopsided Union victory was the only major battle of the march.

The Picket asked Civil War experts, historians, an archaeologist and a living historian/re-enactor about their thoughts on myths and realities of the march, what associated sites should be visited and the campaign's legacy today. Here are their responses to the second question, with a focus largely on Georgia.

Q. For the scholar or casual follower of the Civil War, what location(s) in Georgia or Carolinas would you recommend they visit to get a flavor of what occurred?

-- JIM OGDEN, historian, Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park

While I wish it weren't so, visiting the March to the Sea requires preparation, more than it should. I have to recommend Jim Miles' “To the Sea: A History and Tour Guide ofSherman's March (1989/2002)” as the best of what's out there right now to get you to many of the March to the Sea sites. The one place along the route I'd recommend visiting?  Milledgeville. It has many of the aspects of the era and of the march -- military, political, social, economic, industrial -- together in one place. Union soldiers held a mock session of the Georgia Legislature in the State House and rescinded the Ordinance of Secession. The arsenal, magazine and penitentiary were destroyed. But other industrial facilities and the majority of the town escaped destruction, belying the common perception that Sherman burned everything in his path as he marched across the Empire State of the South.

While Miles' book will help get you to sites in Milledgeville and his narrative will give you some of the history, take the time also to find and read James C. Bonner's "Sherman at Milledgeville in 1864" in The Journal of Southern History, Volume 22, Number 3, August, 1956, pp. 273-291. The Old Capitol and the Old Governor's Mansion can be visited today. Information about visiting Milledgeville, including a guide to the Historic District, can be obtained at http://www.visitmilledgeville.org/.

-- CHARLIE CRAWFORD, president of the Georgia Battlefields Association

While one could literally retrace the March to the Sea, it would be frustrating to follow the routes of two armies and a cavalry force that were sometimes separated by 60 miles. A selective list would be:

-- The site of the Neal house in downtown Atlanta (now the site of City Hall) – A marker here relates to the March to the Sea. Sherman stayed in the Neal house before departing, and it is also the site from which a famous photo of the 1864 city hall was taken.

-- Griswoldville Battlefield, northeast of Macon – Site of the only infantry battle during the march.  Interpretive markers and maps illustrate how little resistance the militia offered.

-- Milledgeville – The wartime capital. The old Capitol (What? The Yankees didn’t burn it down?) and the old Governor’s mansion (What? The Yankees didn’t burn it down?) still stand and have historical displays. Sherman spent the night in the governor’s mansion.

-- Magnolia Springs State Park – Site of Camp Lawton, a large POW camp built to house prisoners transferred from Andersonville, but (they) moved again a month after they arrived once the Confederates realized they had moved the prisoners into Sherman’s path. Historical displays and earthworks remain, and recent archaeological digs have unearthed artifacts.

-- Ebenezer Creek – Site of the notorious incident (in Effingham County) in which U.S. General Davis ordered the pontoon bridge taken up, stranding thousands of slaves that had been following his column.

-- Fort McAllister State Park – Fort in Richmond Hill (south of Savannah) that was the site of several wartime incidents. When the Federals took it on 13 December 1864, they established communications with the U.S. Navy. The Ogeechee River then became the principal supply route for the Federals besieging Savannah, with King’s Bridge landing (now a recreation area) becoming one of the busiest ports in the U.S. for a few weeks.

Green-Meldrim House (W. Waud-Library of Congress)

-- Green-Meldrim House in Savannah – Where Sherman stayed from late December 1864 to late January 1865. The adjoining square has historical markers that address Sherman’s stay, the visit by Secretary of War Stanton, the meeting with local African-American preachers and the issuance of the “forty acres and a mule” order.

-- ANNE SARAH RUBIN, history professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and author of “A Shattered Nation: The Rise and Fall of the Confederacy, 1861-1868”

-- Milledgeville, Ga., see the Old Governor’s mansion and statehouse, and get a feel for the way the march played out in a town

-- Ebenezer Creek, Ga., to think about the impact of the March on African-Americans (freed slaves were abandoned by Union troops being pursued by Confederate cavalry)

-- Columbia, S.C. --the enduring anger is still palpable.

-- Bennett Place, N.C. -- the site of the surrender

Federal troops quickly stormed Fort McAllister near Savannah

-- HERB COATS, Georgia living historian/re-enactor

In Georgia, Griswoldville Battlefield (Georgia militia attacks a brigade of US infantry), Milledgeville with the Old State Capitol and Governor’s Mansion, Fort McAllister State Park, Savannah History Museum for a local history of the “siege.” (Fort McAllister's winter muster on Dec. 13 will re-enact the Federal victory at the fort on the anniversary of the date it occurred)

-- DAVID EVANS, historian and author of "Sherman's Horsemen"

I would recommend a driving tour, similar to the one Charlie Geiger compiled for "Cump & Company" back in the 1990s. This will take you to the towns Sherman's army passed through, and some of them, such as Madison, Milledgeville and Sandersville, have museums with exhibits devoted to "The March." At the end, you get to see Fort McAllister on the Ogeechee River and the splendid city of Savannah (with all that great seafood).

Griswoldville Battlefield

-- ANTHONY WINEGAR, chief ranger, Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park

I would drive from Atlanta to Griswoldville, then on to Milledgeville. From there I would drive to Fort McAllister near Savannah. Tourists would receive a good sense of the march from those locations. Andersonville is always a good side trip although the prison was not liberated during the march. Once you reach South Carolina, there isn't much to see. Sherman and his men spared nothing there, as they viewed the state as the instigator to the war.

-- DAN ELLIOTT, president of the LAMAR Institute, which conducts archaeological research from its base in Georgia

A skewed sample perhaps, but I would recommend the crest of Rocky Face Ridge at Dug Gap (U.S. Forest Service property with a walking trail, in northwest Georgia), Nash Farm Battlefield Park at Hampton/Lovejoy, Georgia (a Henry County Park), and Monteith Swamp (a slow drive through the swamp on Hodgeville Road, near Savannah). Of course, all of the artillery shell craters on the grounds Fort McAllister State Historic Site are pretty impressive to stroll around.  It has been more than 25 years since I went there, but I also would recommend the Cyclorama at Grant Park.

Fort Pulaski fell relatively early to Union forces.

-- JOEL CADOFF, park ranger and spokesman for Fort Pulaski National Monument, near Savannah, Ga.

With the fall of the fort in April 1862, Savannah, by and large, lost most of its significance as an important Confederate city long before Sherman reaches it in December of 1864. Maybe it would have made for a bigger story had Pulaski not fallen and Savannah had remained a vital blockade running port. However, that was not the case. With Fort Pulaski in Federal hands, the city was more important for its dock facilities to receive much-needed supply after the long "march."

With Sherman's army nearing Savannah in mid-December, 1864, Fort Pulaski had partially been transitioned into a prison. That's where most of our story lies during the time frame. We are running the diary of Henry Clay Dickinson, 2nd Virginia Cavalry, on Facebook and Twitter. This is his entry on the fall of the city:

December 21. 1864. 
Firing heavy again this morning and continued until the high wind prevented us from hearing much. The day was quite cold and windy, and many said it was a very long one. At sunset there were unmistakable signs that the Yanks had good news. Presently the band began to play, three cheers were given and they soon brought us news that Savannah had fallen. They say a captain is the bearer of the news, that the city fell at 5 o'clock this morning, and that the captain walked through the streets. We still can't believe this. It seems preposterous. If true, Beauregard certainly is no longer himself. I have had rheumatism in my left side, right leg and arm all the week and can hardly get about. Whilst writing I breathe with great difficulty.