Augusta

Joshism

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Ted Savas has written and published a book about how critical the Augusta Powder Works were for the Confederate war effort. The question is, even if the Union understood the importance of the works when could they have practically been taken?

The Union wrecked and captured Fort Pulaski early in 1862, but made little further attempt to take Savannah before Sherman's arrival at the end of 1864. I assume it wasn't practical to take Savannah from the Atlantic. The only way to get to Augusta from the coast was the Savannah River, which meant passing Savannah. The South Carolina terrain east of the river was prohibitive for operations. Sherman only succeeded in 1865 with a large army facing limited resistance and supported by a large, experienced engineering force.

Cavalry raids weren't practical for this sort of work and easily came to grief. Sherman had dispatched raids from around Atlanta toward Macon, with disaster for his mounted arm.

That leaves the March to the Sea. Yes, Augusta was sparsely defended but Sherman deliberately bypassed Augusta and Macon. He had a careful plan and a timetable. Any serious delay against Augusta, or even slow progress, would have been logistically disastrous - or so Sherman thought. That's my understanding from Southern Storm. I think Sherman would have been happy to seize and smash those cities if he thought he could.

The largest city he passed through on his way to Savannah was I think the state capital of Milledgeville, a fall-line community like Augusta and Macon but on a lesser river. But even there he didn't stay long.

Thoughts?
 

5fish

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Here Is a Georgia Military Institute part of Augusta history...


During the late summer and fall of 1864 Brown reassigned the GMI cadets to protect the state capital at Milledgeville from Union cavalry raids. In mid-November 1864 the cadets left Milledgeville as part of a ragtag group of militia and convicts hoping to stop Sherman's march to the sea. Despite their efforts Savannah fell in December, and the GMI battalion spent the remainder of the war acting as guards in Milledgeville and Augusta. The battalion officially disbanded on May 20, 1865.
 

Joshism

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Map of Sherman's March To The Sea from Wikipedia:

You can find the powder works site on Google Maps easily - search for Confederate Powder Works Chimney near Augusta.

From Madison, where XX Corps left the railroad, is about 90 miles from Augusta. (Today it's a easy drive on I-20.) Waynesboro, the closest Sherman's infantry passed south of Augusta, is about 30 miles south of the Augusta Powder Works.

Significantly, the powder works were on an island with the Savannah River on the east side and a canal on the west side. They're also slightly northwest of downtown Augusta, which I assume is the same area as ACW Augusta. The railroad, which I assume is on the same general route as it was in the 1860s, enters Augusta from the southwest.

I don't know what the topography of the area around Augusta was like in the 1860s, but note the map above indicates lowlands south of Augusta along the railroad route about halfway to Waynesboro. The lowlands south of Statesboro was where Sherman's army started to have supply challenges.

While Sherman might have shelled the factory from across the canal, to really destroy the works he would need to take the city (population about 13,000 in 1861) to get to the factory and properly destroy everything by hand, Atlanta-style.
 

jgoodguy

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This is interesting. What we seem to know is that the man on the spot with the best information and objectives chose to bypass the Augusta Powder Works. Maybe there is more information to be found.
 

5fish

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I don't know what the topography of the area around Augusta was like in the 1860s,
I am guessing it was about where the food was to be found in Georgia... A path design to feed an army... This link is to a good article or paper about Sherman and his plan use of foraging as an weapon and feed an army...


snip...

“I Can Make This March, and Make Georgia Howl”: Planning the Use of Foraging as a Weapon in the March to the Sea

snip...

This dissertation came about because of my independent reading. While free reading time can be non-existent in graduate school, I have tried to improve my time when I could find it. After finishing my master’s thesis and while casting about for dissertation research, I began reading Noah Andre Trudeau’s Southern Storm: Sherman’s March to the Sea at night. After fifteen years of researching the Civil War, I encountered something that piqued my combined research interests. Fifty-two pages into Southern Storm, for the first time that I could remember, Trudeau laid out the agricultural importance of Sherman’s March to the Sea. “He utilized a map prepared by the Department of the Interior that displayed the Georgia counties he wished to traverse, over which he hand wrote livestock and crop production from information he found in the 1860 census.”3 For some reason, this was the first time that I saw a clear intersection between agriculture and the March to the Sea. Successful foraging was reliant on the state of Georgia’s agriculture, and it was so much more than just a supplemental action to the destruction of railroads and moving to Savannah. Foraging provided the central dialogue for the Savannah Campaign; as such, to understand the success of the campaign, it is essential to understand the agriculture of the state of Georgia.

snip...

The combination of the change in agriculture and war policy created the opportunity for William Tecumseh Sherman to pursue the Savannah Campaign after the fall of Atlanta. Chapter three discusses the process of planning the campaign. The march to the sea was an unorthodox maneuver by design, with a planned disconnection from any base of supply. Sherman used a copy of the newly published agricultural census from 1860 to lay out his army’s path as it wove its way across Georgia, satisfied in his knowledge that Georgia’s untapped agricultural resources could provide the food and forage necessary to keep his men alive as they moved on Savannah.


Snip..

During the march, some of the men of Sherman’s army kept detailed diaries that noted the state of farming and the environment around them. The fourth chapter uses those diaries to better understand the way soldiers from the Midwest encountered Georgia’s agricultural landscape

Snip...

Foraging represented the ultimate interaction between Union tactical doctrine and Southern agriculture. This work views Sherman’s March to the Sea through the lens of agriculture. Rather than discuss foraging as one of the myriad tales of destruction that arose from the Savannah Campaign, I view the foraging of Georgia’s farms as the central theme of the March to the Sea. While foraging created short-term damage that is difficult to differentiate from the total effects of the loss of the Civil War, it played a crucial role in the punitive nature of the campaign. The act of foraging brought war to the doorstep of Georgia’s farms and plantations, and it implied that the operations of Sherman’s army could be replicated wherever rebellion still existed within the South. It ensured the survival of an army, the success of a campaign, and the destruction of a people’s will to fight. Leslie Anders began his history of the Twenty-First Missouri with a simple premise. “It was the Union armies west of the Appalachians that struck the death knell of the Confederacy.”8 That death knell sounded for Georgians when William Tecumseh Sherman’s men brought the war into the farmyards and homes along their path to Savannah
 

5fish

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Here is this... It seemed to be plans to move south to Mobile at first?


snip...

After Sherman's forces captured Atlanta on September 2, 1864, Sherman spent several weeks making preparations for a change of base to the coast. He rejected the Union plan to move through Alabama to Mobile, pointing out that after Rear Admiral David G. Farragut closed Mobile Bay in August 1864, the Alabama port no longer held any military significance. Rather, he decided to proceed southeast toward Savannah or Charleston. He carefully studied census records to determine which route could provide food for his men and forage for his animals. Although U.S. president Abraham Lincoln was skeptical and did not want Sherman to move into enemy territory before the presidential election in November, Sherman persuaded his friend Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant that the campaign was possible in winter. Through Grant's intervention Sherman finally gained permission, although he had to delay until after election day.
 

5fish

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Here off Savannah... Sherman was hurting for supplies...


The city of Savannah was fortified and defended by some 10,000 Confederates under the command of General William Hardee. The Rebels flooded the rice fields around Savannah, so only a few narrow causeways provided access to the city. Sherman’s army was running low on supplies and he had not made contact with supply ships off the coast. His army had been completely cut off from the North, and only the reports of destruction provided any evidence of its whereabouts. Sherman directed General Oliver O. Howard to the coast to locate friendly ships. Howard dispatched Captain William Duncan and two comrades to contact the Union fleet, but nothing was heard of the trio for several days. Duncan located a Union gunboat that carried him to Hilton Head, South Carolina. Supply ships were sent to Savannah, and Duncan continued on to Washington, D.C.,to deliver news of the successful March to the Sea to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton.
 
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Joshism

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This is interesting. What we seem to know is that the man on the spot with the best information and objectives chose to bypass the Augusta Powder Works. Maybe there is more information to be found.
Admittedly I have not read Ted Savas' book so maybe he addresses some of these questions in there. If anyone reads it please let us know.
 
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