37 Weeks: Sherman On The March

Expand/Collapse 37 Weeks: Sherman On The March


April 2014 marks the 150th anniversary of General William T. Sherman’s first foray into Georgia. He and his army stayed for 37 weeks. Georgia Public Broadcasting, in partnership with the Atlanta History Center, will observe that significant date by premiering the first of a 37 part series that will bring to life Sherman’s devastating journey through Georgia. Each of the 90 second segments will bring to life what has happening that same week 150 years ago.    

Each of the segments will tell a story, a story that does more than just outline a military campaign. These will be stories that make us feel and understand the human dimension of war:

        What did it feel like when Sherman’s army - 100 thousand strong - was bearing down on your town or city?

        What was motivating Sherman’s fateful decisions?

        What was it like for the foot solider on either side of the battlefield?

        What were some of those twists of fate or ironic moments that war inevitably produces?

 

These are among the stories being explored. 

  • 37 Weeks: Sherman on the March - Prologue

    It is April 1864, exactly one hundred fifty years ago. The American Civil War is entering its fourth year as President Abraham Lincoln faces re-election. General William Tecumseh Sherman and his 110,000 Union soldiers prepare to invade Georgia, sights set on Atlanta. The fate of a nation hangs in the balance.

    Grades: 5-12
  • 37 Weeks: Sherman On The March - Week 01

    It is late April, 1864. General William T. Sherman plans to push his Union armies directly south by way of the Western and Atlantic Railroad, supply line for both the Union and Confederacy. The railroad leads Sherman to Atlanta, his target: home of the South’s most essential war industries. Sherman’s war in Georgia is about to begin.

    Grades: 5-12
  • 37 Weeks: Sherman On The March - Week 02

    It's late April, 1864. General William T. Sherman plans to push his Union armies directly south by way of the Western and Atlantic Railroad, supply line for both the Union and Confederacy.

    Grades: 5-13+
  • 37 Weeks: Sherman On The March - Week 03

    It is early May 1864. Johnston’s Confederate army lies in wait along Rocky Face Ridge defending their supply line. Sherman sends 24,000 troops under General McPherson from the south. Johnston is caught unawares. Instead of attacking, McPherson orders his weary men to entrench for the night. Confederate reinforcements arrive. The jig is up, and the opportunity gone. Sherman is sixty-five miles from Atlanta.

    Grades: 5-12
  • 37 Weeks: Sherman On The March - Week 04

    It is mid-May, 1864. Johnston’s army is entrenched at Resaca, protecting the railroad from Union troops. Having failed at Dalton, Sherman launches his attacks. Union Colonel Benjamin Harrison’s troops capture a fort with cannons. Both armies compete for ownership; the Union prevails. Nearly trapped again by Sherman’s army, Johnston retreats south. Sherman nears Atlanta as residents grow anxious.

    Grades: 5-12
  • 37 Weeks: Sherman On The March - Week 05

    It is the third week of May, 1864. Fifty miles from the city, Sherman’s men fan out across hills south of the Oostanaula. Near Cassville, Confederate General Johnston spies an opportunity to destroy an isolated column of Sherman’s army. But it never happens: Johnston finds Union soldiers on his flank. Johnston retreats south as the city readies for attack, Sherman now only thirty miles from Atlanta.

    Grades: 5-12
  • 37 Weeks: Sherman On The March - Week 06

    In the last week of May, 1864, Johnston’s Confederate army forms a defensive line that extends through Dallas from New Hope Church to Pickett’s Mill. Soldiers build dense fortifications of dirt and logs to protect their heads. Assaulting these is suicide; yet the Union advances, meeting heavy casualties. The fight at New Hope is named “The Hell Hole.” Attrition stalls Sherman’s advance on Atlanta.

    Grades: 5-12
  • 37 Weeks: Sherman On The March - Week 07

    It is the first week of June 1864. Sherman's attempt to bypass the Confederates has distanced him from his supply line. Food and ammunition run low. Most soldiers are farmboys averaging 24 years old. Sherman's soldiers are Westerners, veterans of victorious battles. Johnston's are Southerners acquainted with defeat. Sherman's advance stalls 25 miles from Atlanta, and Confederate confidence is restored.

    Grades: 5-12
  • 37 Weeks: Sherman On The March - Week 08

    Most soldiers on both sides of the the Civil War are literate: letters of love, shared memories, and a wish to be remembered are their lifeline home. Postal services deliver millions of letters to the troops monthly, but in war, they are not always delivered on time. It is a muggy day in early June 1864. Union Soldier Gilmer Watts pens a letter to his wife, Clara. Gilmer Watts is 25 miles from Atlanta.

    Grades: 5-12
  • 37 Weeks: Sherman On The March - Week 09

    The North and South are bothing sending out scouting parties near Marietta, 25 miles outside of Atlanta. It is mid -June, 1864. Private Gilmer Watts sends news to his wife declaring that they're well-equipped with supplies. Clara responds, hopeful that the family will be spared to spend a happy life together. Six days after writing his letter, Watts falls in the war, never to read his wife's reply. Today, Watts rests alongside 10,000 Union soldiers in the Marietta National Cemetery.

    Grades: 5-12
  • 37 Weeks: Sherman On The March - Week 10

    In what will be Sherman's last frontal assault of the war, he pays triple the casualties of his opponent. The temperature reaches 100 degrees on the morning of June 27, 1864. Soldiers are clothed in wool. Confederates entrenched atop Kennesaw Mountain have blocked Sherman for nine days. He orders an attack, and soon, the battle is hand-to-hand. Men vomit from the heat; battle sounds assail the ears.

    Grades: 5-12
  • 37 Weeks: Sherman On The March - Week 11

    By the 11th week of Sherman's march, his total war campaign becomes apparent. Sherman intends to take Atlanta by the Fourth of July, despite delays at Kennesaw Mountain. On July 2, he bypasses Johnston, who withdraws toward the Chattahoochee. Atlantans panic; streets swarm. Union armies decimate fences and crops, stealing food and livestock. Sherman's men burn two textile mills and send 600 workers north as prisoners. Soon, eighty percent of Atlanta's residents are refugees.

    Grades: 5-12
  • 37 Weeks: Sherman On The March - Week 12

    In early July 1864, Sherman's army cuts across Atlanta's final defender: the Chattahoochee River. Outflanked, Johnston retreats and burns the railroad bridge in his wake. Johnston's men still trust him, despite his months-long inability to outmaneuver the enemy. While Sherman closes in, Atlanta's women face the realities of war as nurses to the injured and dying. Civilians prepare for the worst.

    Grades: 5-12
  • 37 Weeks: Sherman On The March - Week 13

    As Sherman nears Atlanta, the Conferedacy changes tactics to protect Atlanta. It is mid-July, 1864. The President of the Confederate States of America discharges General Johnston of his command for failing to halt the enemy's drive to the gates of Atlanta. The city is a fortress, encircled by ten miles of fortifications that have destroyed its forests. Unlike his predecessor's retreat, General John Bell Hood believes the offensive power of his infantry can protect them.

    Grades: 5-12
  • 37 Weeks: Sherman On The March - Week 14

    Confederate General Hood proves his fervent drive for control of the Georgia railroad. It is the third week in July, 1864. Union forces threaten to cut Atlanta's railroad supply lines. To Sherman's surprise, Confederate General John Bell Hood attacks north of Atlanta on the twentieth, though his efforts fall short. Unfazed, he strikes east of the city two days later, in what is known as the Battle of Atlanta. Though victorious in the battle's start, Hood's attack ultimately fails.

    Grades: 5-12
  • 37 Weeks: Sherman On The March - Week 15

    General Hood fights to keep Sherman outside the city and protect the rail line. It is late July, 1864. Confederate General Hood holds Sherman outside Atlanta's fortifications. Union armies approach from the West, intending to cut the railroad and force Hood out. Hood's men counter by attacking Union trenches at Ezra Church, but they suffer a demoralizing defeat. Still, Hood succeeds in keeping the rail line open. Thwarted again, Sherman shells the city with siege artillery.

    Grades: 5-12
  • 37 Weeks: Sherman On The March - Week 16

    General Sherman encloses Atlanta by shelling the town, thus commencing his brutal siege. It is the first week of August, 1864. Thus far, Sherman has been halted repeatedly, prompting him to aim a cannon into Atlanta to drive the enemy out. Martha Powell writes of her family having to flee as Sherman invades. One of the first civilians to die during Sherman's siege is Solomon Luckie, a free African American who is struck on the corner of Whitehall and Alabama Streets on August ninth.

    Grades: 5-12
  • 37 Weeks: Sherman On The March - Week 17

    Union artillery ceaselessly shells Atlanta while weary residents seek shelter underground. It is the third week of Sherman's bombardment of Atlanta. Union artillery rains shells on the city at an alarming rate: 6-10 a minute for hours on end. The terror of bursting shells drives residents to bombproof structures, even underground, for refuge. Young Lucy Caldwell finds sanctuary in a pit dug six feet deep in her neighbor's yard. An estimated 100,000 shells are fired over 37 days.

    Grades: 5-12
  • 37 Weeks: Sherman On The March - Week 18

    Atlanta continues to endure relentless bombardment from Sherman's army. Sherman has shelled Atlanta for four weeks. A father and daughter die from a shelling while asleep, thus unnerving Atlanta. The Augusta Constitutionalist predicts the slaying of innocents to be one of the most tragic blights of the modern day. Burial records are not kept during the siege, but personal accounts reveal estimated deaths. And it's not over yet.

    Grades: 5-12
  • 37 Weeks: Sherman On The March - Week 19

    Sherman's five-week attempt to fire Atlanta into submission isn't working. With the Confederate army controlling the Macon Railroad, the siege is a stalemate. In the North, President Lincoln fears losing re-lection if he is beaten, the war not won. On August 26, Atlanta residents awaken to a deafening silence. Union lines are empty: Sherman is gone, but no one knows what his next move will be.

    Grades: 5-12