"Utmost Disorder and Confusion"
—March to the Sea Heritage Trail —
Construction of this Executive Mansion was authorized in 1835 and completed in 1839. The governor's earlier residence, Government House, just to the south on the corner of Clarke and Greene Streets, had fallen into disrepair. The Mansion is considered one of the finest examples of High Greek Revival architecture in the nation. It served Georgia's governors until the capital was moved to Atlanta in 1868. During the Civil War the Mansion was the home of Governor Joseph E. Brown.
Beginning in late 1860, the Mansion became the stage for pro Southern celebrations, political speeches and the efforts of Governor Brown to assert Georgia's "states rights" within the Confederacy. Such activities ended abruptly when Union Major General William T. Sherman and approximately 30,000 troops marched into Milledgeville on November 23, 1864. These were the 14th Corps of Major General Jefferson C. Davis and the 20th Corps under Brigadier General Alpheus S. Williams, comprising the Left Wing of Sherman's command, led by Major General Henry W. Slocum. They were preceded by some cavalry. Slocum established a strong guard to maintain order. But most local citizens remained inside their homes. The few bystanders witnessing the arrival of Federal soldiers were mostly slaves. "We are indeed in a den of enemies,"
one officer wrote.
made his headquarters in the abandoned Governor's Mansion, having been stripped by Brown and his family of all its furnishings, including carpet, curtains and furniture, before fleeing to Macon. In his memoirs, Sherman mocked Brown, referring to him as "brave and patriotic,"
and his removal of property from the Mansion, even down to "the cabbages and vegetables from his kitchen and cellar."
Here, for the first time since leaving Atlanta, Sherman found newspapers from all over the South, reporting "the consternation which had filled the Southern mind at our temerity."
Besides Governor Brown and his family, state officials and the legislature had also fled, as Sherman wrote, "ignominiously... in the utmost disorder and confusion, standing not on the order of their going, but going at once."
Despite destruction elsewhere in Milledgeville, the Mansion was relatively unharmed during its military occupation.
The arrival of Sherman army in Milledgeville completed the first phase of his "March to the Sea." While here, he met with various generals and gave orders for the second phase, beginning on November 25th. This included a cavalry feint toward Augusta, the destruction of railroad bridges and an attempt to release Federal prisoners from Camp Lawton near Millen.
Governor Brown and other state officials returned to Milledgeville near
the war's end. In May 1865 Brown was arrested in the Mansion by Federal troops and taken to Washington, DC, where he was briefly imprisoned. President Andrew Johnson pardoned him on the condition he resign the governorship. By the summer of 1868, Georgia's capital was moved from Milledgeville to Atlanta.
Since 1889, the Old Governors Mansion has been an integral part of what is today Georgia College & State University. The Mansion was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1973.
Left: Governor Joseph E. Brown
Middle: The Governor's Mansion under Federal occupation, November 1864
Right top: Major General William T. Sherman
Right bottom map: The Old Governor's Mansion in downtown Milledgeville