James Ford Rhodes (1848–1927). History of the Civil War, 1861–1865. 1917.

Page 405

  largely from Georgia. “The State of Georgia alone,” said Jefferson Davis in a speech at Augusta, “produces food enough not only for her own people and the army within it but feeds too the Army of Virginia.” It became of the utmost importance to sever the railroad communication between the Gulf States and Richmond and to this Sherman gave his personal attention. The bridges and trestles were burned, the masonry of the culverts blown up. In the destruction of the iron rails mechanical skill vied with native ingenuity in doing the most effective work. The chief engineer designed a machine for twisting the rails after heating them in the fires made by burning the ties: this was used by Michigan and Missouri engineers. But the infantry with the mania for destruction which pervaded the army joined in the work, carrying the rails when they came to a red heat to the nearest trees and twisting them about the trunks or warping them in some fantastic way so that they were useless except as old iron and, even as such, in unmanageable shape for working in a mill. About 265 miles of railroad were thus destroyed. This in the heart of Jeff. Davis’s empire, as Sherman called it, effected a damage almost irreparable owing to the scarcity of factories which could make rails for renewals and to the embargo on imports by the blockade of the Southern ports. Stations and machine shops along the lines were burned. Many thousand bales of cotton and a large number of cotton gins and presses were destroyed. At Milledgeville, Sherman reported, “I burned the railroad buildings and the arsenals; the state-house and Governor’s mansion I left unharmed.” 1 The penitentiary had been burned by the convicts before the arrival of the army. A negro, from whom Sherman asked information regarding the operations
Note 1. O. R., XLIV, 789. [back]