Diary of Orrin Brown, Outside of Milledgeville, Georgia
We received orders last night to march at 6 Oclock this morning. It is so cold this morning that the roads are froze so as to hold up the waggons. We marched about an hour, then haulted an hour built fires of rails to keep warm, we went into camp about 4 PM one mile west of Millageville, It is a little warmer tonight.
Milledgeville was established in 1804 as a new town to serve as state capital of Georgia, named after one-time Congressman and then-serving governor, John Milledge. The planned city, it is said, looked to elements of both Savannah, Georgia, and Washington, DC, in its layout and design. The area surveyed was located on the Fall Line (where the coastal plain meets the piedmont), which had recently been ceded by the Creek tribe. In addition to cotton plantations, a penitentiary and and asylum added to the city’s antebellum allure.
On Tuesday, the 22nd, Gen. Sherman had left the XIV Corps and ridden forward to the leading edge of the XX Crops, and stayed the night in the plantation house of Confederate Gen. Howell Cobb (which was subsequently fully destroyed). Late that afternoon, advance columns entered Milledgeville, as James Bonner wrote in The Journal of Southern History (“Sherman at Milledgeville in 1864”, 22:3 1956):
With flags unfurled, the band at the head of the column playing the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and other martial airs, the division marched by the Statehouse and went into camp on the east side of the Oconee River.
Union troops occupied the city on 23 November 1864. They burned the railroad depot and military supplies, but not the Capitol building nor textile mills and the iron works. No private homes were destroyed, other than two plantation houses whose owners had incited resistance to the Federal troops, and the home of the state treasurer, although looting was widespread. Sherman slept in the Governor’s Mansion the night of the 23rd, but found all of the furniture, even the beds, vacated with the fleeing residents. A city of 2,500 in 1860, Milledgeville lost the state capital to Atlanta in 1868, during Reconstruction. There were 18,382 residents counted in 2010. The historic Old State Capitol building remains as a museum on the Georgia Military College campus in the center of town.