Chronicle 225

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Sherman had reason for passing Augusta by

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One could make a good argument that the most famous letter to the editor ever printed in The Chronicle was published Oct. 21, 1888.

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Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman spared Augusta during his March to the Sea.   Special
Special
Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman spared Augusta during his March to the Sea.

That's when former Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman wrote to editor Pleasant A. Stovall to answer a question that had been debated locally since the Civil War had ended: Why had the ruthless general not attacked Augusta during his famous March to the Sea?

For most of the Southern men, it was obvious: Sherman was frightened of the powerful Augusta defenders. The women, on the other hand, had a lot more to say:

- Sherman -- who had been stationed as a young federal officer at the Augusta Arsenal -- had an old girlfriend here (his only true love) and saved the town for her.

- Sherman had an infant child who was buried here.

- Sherman had secret orders from President Lincoln not to burn the town because it would destroy considerable stores of cotton. Those bales, one source says, belonged to the sister of Lincoln's wife, Mary Todd.

Finally, Stovall showed the initiative that others had lacked and wrote the famous old general. The general, then 68, wrote back.

Basically, he said, he didn't attack Augusta because he didn't have to.

It suited him just fine that every available man with a gun between him and his objective -- the coast -- would all collect in one spot, Augusta, and not delay his journey. He wanted to get to Savannah, where the Union Navy could bring him supplies easily.

But then, being William Tecumseh Sherman, he offered to correct the oversight if anyone still felt neglected.

What he wrote

"If the people of Augusta think I slighted them in the winter of 1864 they are mistaken; or if they think I made a mistake in strategy let them say so and with the President's consent, I can send a detachment of 100,000 or so of Sherman's Bummers and their descendants who will finish up the job without charging Uncle Sam a cent. The truth is these incidents come back to me in a humorous vein."

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