"...thoroughly and completely ransacked..."
—March to the Sea Heritage Trail —
On Monday, November 28, 1864, Union Major General William T. Sherman's "Left Wing" commanded by Major General Henry W. Slocum reached the Ogeechee River and Rocky Comfort Creek just west of Louisville. The bridges had been destroyed by portions of Confederate Major General Joseph Wheeler's cavalry only a short time prior. Several hours were necessary for repairs and "corduroying" 3/4 mile of swamp (the laying of tree trunks side-by-side along a muddy road) to enable the entire Left Wing with its 1,200 wagons to cross. Yet scores of soldiers made improvised crossings and began arriving in Louisville. These enterprising foragers arrived with few officers to command them. During an initial period after their arrival heavy looting occurred.
Union Private William C. Johnson of the 89th Ohio Infantry Regiment described the
town of about 1,000 inhabitants as having "...quite a number of stores of different kinds, all fairly stocked with goods. The delay in laying the pontoons, and getting trains and troops over, gave our boys ample time to go through the town, which, unfortunately for the inhabitants, they did most completely; everything was appropriated that could be used, and many things that could not be used. The town was thoroughly and completely ransacked, and by some unaccountable means late in the afternoon, the town caught
The fire started in a house on Broad Street. It consumed half the street before Federal officers arrived and ordered that a firewall be created by demolishing a warehouse. One source indicated that the Federals had been angered by a Broad Street store flying a Confederate flag. Some Federal soldiers also reported they had been sniped at from homes and businesses. But there is no record of any military or civilian resistance in Louisville.
Some acts of kindness were recorded. A woman whose house had been ransacked was told by a soldier that she could ask General Slocum, who arrived in town on the 29th, to post a guard at her home. Slocum's headquarters was on the grounds of the courthouse. Slocum posted two soldiers at her house, one at the front door and one at the rear. Guards were also provided for other households when requested.
Approximately 28,000 Federal infantry camped at or near Louisville from November 28th to December 1st. In addition, more than 5,000 cavalrymen of Brigadier General H. Judson Kilpatrick's division arrived on the 29th after having engaged General Wheeler's Confederate cavalry the two previous days near Waynesboro. After resting their horses for two days Kilpatrick's cavalry left for Waynesboro again on December 1st accompanied by the infantry division of Brigadier General Absalom Baird, 14th Corps. The remainder of
the Left Wing marched southeast the same morning toward Buckhead Church with several bands playing. Afterwards Louisville was very quiet, with no hogs, cows, chickens or even dogs to be seen or heard. Yet the townspeople were thankful that circumstances had not been worse.
Top left: Union Major General Henry W. Slocum
Bottom left: Confederate Major General Joseph Wheeler
Middle top: Federal foragers Union Brigadier General H. Judson Kilpatrick
Top right: Approximate routes of the "March to the Sea" through middle Georgia in November 1864 (adopted from the Atlas to Accompany the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies)
Background watermark: Market House, Louisville