Although we had been pondering the prospects of a return to Tennessee, General Sherman soon gave us another matter for thought and discussion. A great many citizens of Atlanta had already left the city and moved south. Sherman's troops were occupying all the vacant houses of the city. He next ordered all citizens to leave the city. Each family was allowed to take a certain amount of baggage, limited to the size of the family, but the amount was small. Those preparing to go north beyond the Ohio river were allowed to do so and were allowed passage on the trains, but were forced to go in freight and stock cars. Those going south were placed in Government freight wagons and hauled to Rough and Ready, a railroad, where by agreement Hood was allowed to send wagons and haul them and their baggage to Jonesboro.
I have heard it said that the hardest part of all wars fell on the non-combatants, women and children and aged men. Nothing was ever more substantially verified than was this saying which was proven at Rough and Ready; families there often consisting only of women and children, were hauled to that place, thrown out in an old field, without rations and with only scant bedding; while the nights were becoming cold, and only God and those poor unfortunates knew the sufferings they endured. General Hood furnished relief to them as fast as he could. Old men, women and children, sick and ailing, were all unloaded together as though they were brutish animals. One lady I will mention, with an infant only two days old, was hauled that eight miles and left to be cared for by strangers. These scenes of brutality were being enacted by people calling themselves civilized and having a holy horror of a people who were holding a class of others in bondage, yet little above brutes themselves; yet the principal actor in having these cruelties perpetrated has been eulogized from ocean to ocean, and his picture now hangs in the hall of fame at Washington, D.C. This man, William T. Sherman once said, and near this time; "War is hell, and I'll make Georgia howl."
These refugees were eventually placed on trains and given army rations by General Hood, and those having friends further south were given transportation to them, while others were sent to West Point, Georgia where they occupied tents during the coming cold winter, subject to all the exposure of camp life; women who had never known want before were forced to subsist on the coarsest food and were exposed to intolerable conditions, and many of them and the innocent babies of this camp falling a prey to disease.
Hood moved his army from Jonesboro to Palmetto, Georgia where he commenced to prepare for his march into Tennessee, while Sherman was preparing for his famous march to the sea.
The Spanish war in Cuba called forth the sympathy of the world on account of the barbarous treatment of the Cubans by the Spaniards, and this cruel treatment was one of the prime factors of Cuba's freedom and independence.
Since the war between the states, and within the memory of many people living today, the atrocities of many tribes of the western Indians caused a poor mother's heart to sink as she read of these Indians murdering defenseless women and children, but was that worse than Sherman did when he burned their houses, destroyed all their means of subsistance, left them to wander on foot through a country where everything that would sustain life had been destroyed and where they were forced to lie upon the bare ground on wintry nights, exposed to rain and storm, at times some of these poor women and children going as long as two days and three nights with nothing to eat and clothing wet and lying on frozen ground at night. Is it any wonder that many of them died from disease and exposure.
I have often wondered if the departed spirits of these unfortunate women and children would not rise up at the final judgement to condemn William T. Sherman.
On this march through Georgia Sherman divided his army into three columns, the low element of soldiery, the camp followers and bums were given to understand at the beginning of the march that no one would be held responsible for any excesses committed. Crime against innocent womanhood was openly boasted of, that if committed today in any civilized country, would be punished with death.
Many years after the war a Northern writer, boasting of this march, said that the tall pillars of black smoke by day and the lurid glare of burning buildings against the sky at night was proof that General Howard knew his duty and performed it well.
I will here quote a short passage from a book written by Brevet Major George Ward Nichols, Aide De Camp to General Sherman: "I know that thousands of the best blood of the South are in the rebel army, and they will feel the effects of this, our last visit of our army for years to come. Those who still have no homes, and in the glorious future they will have no name; the ancient homesteads where were gathered sacred association, the heritage of many generations are swept away."
It is far beyond the power of one of my intellectual ability to describe the scenes of crime and suffering caused by Sherman's raid, but would tax M. Quad or John Eston Cook to do it justice.
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