Diary of Orrin Brown—Oct 28, 1864

William Tecumseh Sherman, c.1864Diary of Orrin Brown, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Friday–Oct. 28th

Got up this morning feeling pretty well it is clearing off and is going to be a pleasant day, we were not called out today, three of us went down and bought 40 loaves of Bread at 10 cts a loaf sold it at 15 cts got our money back and had 9 loaves left for our own use. I went around the camp and sold about $4 worth of my trinkets such as thread and needles pins inkstand pens pencils etc, we went down town last night and bought 3 1/2 doz Pies at 20 cts and sold them for 25 cts apiece in Camp. I read 4 Chapters in the Testament today. I went down to Church last evening and heard a good sermon from Proverbs 3rd Chapt 17th verse. There was 7 soldiers came forward for prayers, there was two ladies out to church I think they were Soldiers wives.

At the end of October, 1864, Gen. William T. Sherman held Atlanta uncontested. So why did he dawdle?  Armies were known to do that, while they reinforced their troops and supply lines…or their leaders lay in drunken stupors, as the case may be.  In this case, Sherman was watching what Confederate General John Bell Hood was up to.  Hood had left Atlanta and tried to get Sherman to chase him north and west rather than raiding Georgia.  He was sitting in Alabama, feigning toward West Tennessee…and Sherman was just fine letting him go.  The excellent Civil War Daily project explains:

Sherman Still Waiting on Hood
– Would Rather Be Sacking Georgia

William Tecumseh Sherman badly wanted to march to the sea, laying waste to Georgia en route to Savannah. But the Confederate Army of Tennessee, commanded by John Bell Hood stood not in his way, but behind him. There was really no threat that Hood would fall upon his rear, but Sherman wanted to know just what the Rebels were planning before starting the march.

The last he knew, Hood and his command were in Gadsden, Alabama, over 100 miles west of Atlanta. But the last he knew was from nearly a week prior. Though he still believed Hood to be stationary, Sherman had some idea where he might be leaning. With the incorrect news that P.G.T. Beauregard was now in command of the Army of Tennesse, Sherman posited in a letter to George Thomas, commanding the Army of the Cumberland via Nashville, that the new old commander “may go on to perfect Davis’ plan for invading Tennessee and Kentucky to make me let go of Atlanta.”

This was indeed Jefferson Davis’ plan, though Hood would take credit for it from nearly its inception. “I adhere to my former plan,” Sherman continued, “proved always you can defend the line of the Tennessee. Decatur and Chattanooga must be held to the death.” Sherman’s former plan, of course, was the march to the sea. Thomas would be left in command, and though smaller outposts could be neglected and even the railroad to Atlanta abandoned, cities such as “Nashville, Murfreesborough, Pulaski, and Columbia” were to be strengthended.

Thomas was not to do anything but defend the Tennessee line “unless you know that Beauregard follows me south.” Sherman gave Thomas command of all of the troops he was not taking with him to the sea. This was namely the Fourth Corps, once under Oliver Otis Howard, but now commanded by David S. Stanley, a career military man from West Point and a veteran of only the Western Theater of the war.

[On] the 27th, in a letter to Chief of Staff Henry Halleck, Sherman expressed only hope that in a few days he would “Be all ready to carry into effect my original plan.” Sherman assured Halleck: “I will await a few days to hear what head he makes about Decatur, and may yet turn to Tennessee; but it woudl be a great pity to take a step backward. I think it would be better even to let him ravage the State of Tennessee, provided he does not gobble up too many of our troops.”

In another letter to Halleck, which he would pen three hours later, Sherman noted that he was “pushing my preparations for the march through Georgia.” The day after (the 28th), Sherman would ask Halleck to reinforce Thomas so that he might begin his march to the sea – “I do not want to go back myself [into Tennessee] with the whole army, as that is what the enemy wants.”



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