The March To The Sea: An American Civil War Matrix Game – December 1864

Messages SentFrom: General Joseph E Johnston CSA (Army of Tennessee)

The Army of Tennessee will winter in the Kenesaw Mountains, astride the Yankee supply lines thus restricting Federal freedom of action. This will be made possible because:

  1. My Confederate heroes will be able to live well on captured Yankee supplies.
  2. Confederate cavalry will continue to harry the Federals.
  3. The cowardly Yankee are exhausted following the long siege of Atlanta and will be too busy burning houses and molesting livestock to pursue us.

From: General Nathan Bedford Forrest CSA (GOC Bedford’s Raiders)

Bedford’s Raiders will destroy the railway lines from Nashville to the North, and utilise all available trains to send the plentiful captured supplies to the Army of Tennessee, with the result that the Union lines-of-communication will be cut and completely disrupted. We will be successful because:

  1. There are no Union troops for miles, and the Bluebellies in Atlanta will have their hands full dealing with the mess they have gotten themselves into there.
  2. We are the best led and the finest fighting cavalry in the war, who adore our successful and charismatic leader, and pour scorn on the Northern jackasses who profane the word ‘cavalry’.
  3. The people love us, and now that they can see Salvation is upon the South, they will do all that they can to facilitate General Forrest’s brilliant plans.

From: General John Hunt Morgan CSA (GOC Morgan’s Cavalry)

My forces will patrol aggressively and heavily reconnoitre the area between the Army of Tennessee and the Union troops down as far as Atlanta itself, with the result that they will protect the former from any Yankee raids and give them ample warning of any larger Blue-belly move northward. We will be successful because:

  1. We are very experienced in this sort of operation, having spent a tremendous amount of time earlier in the war on spectacularly successful long-range patrols through Kentucky and Ohio using these same skills.
  2. The situation in Atlanta is so confused that the Yankees could never control of their troops and re-organise for an offensive without us knowing well in advance.
  3. Our martial prowess and ascendancy over the Yankee Donkey-wallopers precludes their use as a worthwhile raiding force.

From: General William Tecumseh Sherman USA (US Army of the Tennessee)

Following the re-organisation attendant upon the capture of Atlanta, executive command of the Armies of the Ohio and the Cumberland will be rested with Major General Thomas. The Army of the Tennessee will remain under my direct command and force march to Savannah, capturing that City before Christmas Day, and cutting a swathe of devastation through Georgia twenty miles wide in the process. The Army will achieve this because:

  1. The Army is in great heart having captured Atlanta and thrown the Rebel army out pell-mell.
  2. They are following the plan of campaign already explained to their leaders which has succeeded in every particular to date.
  3. Returning Savannah to the Union will be an appropriate method of showing the Rebels that their cause is doomed, and hence will shorten the war.

From: General George Thomas USA (US Army of the Cumberland)

During the month of December, my forces will advance along the railroad to Nashville, seeking a decisive engagement with the enemy that will re-open the lines of communication to Atlanta. The reasons that this shall happen are:

  1. I am personally leading my men, so they will be inspired by my example.
  2. The complacent Rebel bandits will be surprised by this bold and decisive action, so soon after the fall of Atlanta.
  3. Uncle Billy’s strategy of ‘increasing pressure’ on Atlanta has ensured that the city fell without my forces having to be decisively committed, enabling them to be quickly redeployed.

From: General John M Schofield USA (US Army of the Ohio)

The Army of the Ohio will now commence a campaign to complete the destruction of the Rebel forces in this theatre. My troops will assemble sufficient supplies for both the Armies of the Cumberland and the Ohio, together with our wounded and the prisoners, to be transported north by road and rail. My army will then destroy all manufactories and surplus stores of arms, munitions, uniforms, equipment and means of transport, in Atlanta, that might have any military value to the Rebels. Having completed these preparations, the Army of the Ohio will advance along the railroad toward Nashville, in support of the Army of the Cumberland. I shall be able to accomplish this for the following reasons:

  1. Inspired by the Union capture of Atlanta, the now free black population will give us intelligence of stocks of food that we may gather, and the movements of the enemy.
  2. The Union morale is supreme following our victory over the Rebels, with such a low number of casualties.
  3. In contrast, the Rebel morale is very low, due to their inability to hold Atlanta and to engage us in battle, and to the fact that they do not know who is in command of their army. The Rebels will not stand before us, but will desert their homes in the face of our advance.

Campaign EventsEarly in December General Forrest, safe in Nashville, sent the following letter to General Sherman, using tried and trusted agents.

To: The Officer Commanding, Garrison of Atlanta

As you know we Gentlemen of the South are of good stock. I have some advice for you sir, which may be of assistance.

‘Prospice tibi – ut Gallia, tu quoque in tres partes dividaris’

I assure you sir that unless you surrender now, the warning will cease to be that, but will become a fitting epitaph on your tombstone.

Oh yes, I see that you are still there, but we of course are EVERYWHERE ELSE!!

I have the honour to remain etc. etc.

Nathan Bedford Forrest

General Nathan Bedford Forrest CSA (GOC Bedford’s Raiders)

In the meantime, General Johnston’s Army of Tennessee rested and regrouped in the Kenesaw Mountains, in preparation for the Union attacks they fully expected to follow, whilst Morgan’s Cavalry acted as his ‘eyes and ears’, aggressively patrolling the area between the City and the Mountains.

The Union forces seemed to have their hands full during the first half of the month. Not only did they have to deal with the aftermath of the siege, but in preparation for the next campaign, General Sherman re-organised the Armies of the Tennessee, Cumberland, and Ohio. The Armies now comprised the following units:

  • The Army of the Tennessee
    • 16th Ohio Infantry Regiment
    • 47th Wisconsin Infantry Regiment
    • 5th Indiana Cavalry Regiment
  • The Army of the Ohio
    • 42nd Indiana Infantry Regiment
    • 35th Kentucky Infantry Regiment
    • 24th Michigan Artillery Battery
    • 29th Michigan Cavalry Regiment
  • The Army of the Cumberland
    • 19th Illinois Infantry Regiment
    • 22nd Illinois Infantry Regiment
    • 38th Indiana Infantry Regiment
    • 15th Ohio Artillery Battery
    • 25th Illinois Cavalry Regiment

The reasons for this were more fully explained in two letters that Sherman sent to General Grant, the first by normal courier and the second by hand of a trusted senior officer of his staff.
The first letter was for public consumption.

To: Lieutenant General U. S. Grant, Virginia

Dear Sam,

Many thanks for your kind congratulations which arrived at the same time as the President’s. I am glad that the capture of this sad city has been of benefit to him at least. Lincoln will keep the war going until we have final victory.

However, the capture of Atlanta may not be of much gain in the long run. The city is in a terrible way and so are we. Our losses have been considerable and the cavalry raids have destroyed much of our store of foodstuffs. The country hereabouts is pretty much ‘eaten out’ and with Johnston on our supply line in the Kenesaw Mountains we shall be in a bad way by the New Year.

Our scouts report that he is in too strong a position for us to attack him with our present force. You must arrange for a relieving force to be assembled capable of forming a passage through to us by February at the latest. If this cannot be achieved the consequences will be awful.

Yours in distress

Bill Sherman

The second letter was confidential, and contained his plans for the immediate future.

To: Lieutenant General U. S. Grant, Virginia

Dear Sam,

There are those who read other men’s letters so I have taken pains to ensure that this one reaches you securely. There is another letter which other might read if they wish and much benefit may it bring them.

Many thanks for your kind words of congratulations for the capture of the City; it seem that I have done Mr. Lincoln a good turn in the recent election. At least we can proceed with the war.

Johnston ‘skedaddled’ out of Atlanta and is holed up in the Kenesaw Mountains. He took such supplies as his men could carry but was without any artillery or wagons as they have eaten their horses and mules! Kenesaw was pretty much ‘eaten out’ after we had fought over it in the Summer. They cannot last long there; the men were in a bad way before they left Atlanta. It never fails to amaze and humble me to witness the great goodness of our people. When the troops broke into the City after all these months a massacre was entirely likely. Instead the soldiers were moved by the suffering they found in the hospitals and among the common people. They gave their rations to feed the wounded soldiers of both sides and even some civilians.

Soon enough the impudence of the local citizenry re-asserted itself and I have been besieged myself with petitions from ‘prominent citizens’ for the alleviation of their woes! Since I pointed out that citizens who take up arms against their legitimate government have forsaken all rights to such consideration they have abated a little. I have now issued a proclamation – copy attached – which has given them more to worry about.

Our next moves are now in train. I have re-organised our forces appropriately. As we discussed so long ago, Atlanta must be made useless to the Rebel cause; we are dismantling anything we can use and destroying that which we cannot. The work is taking some time but the troops are working with a will. They are in great heart and despite the efforts of the Rebels we still have ample supplies.

By the end of the month George and John will be heading West along the railroad with our trains, baggage and everything else we can move. They will push Morgan and Johnston aside if they try to interfere; they can rebuild the railroad in front and dismantle it behind; there is no need for a Union Army to operate in this region anymore. I shall take my ‘whiplash’ and scourge the rest of Georgia, taking Savannah by Christmas. We shall move light and fast, and let any who wish to stop us, try!

Best wishes

Bill Sherman

The proclamation to which General Sherman alluded in his letter was printed in large numbers and displayed prominently throughout Atlanta.

NOTICE

TO ALL CITIZENS OF ATLANTA

EVERY PERSON NOT A MEMBER OF THE UNION ARMY OR ACCREDITED BY THIS OFFICE MUST LEAVE THE CITY BEFORE 1ST DECEMBER 1864

BY ORDER
W. T. SHERMAN (Maj. Gen.)
Officer Commanding the Western Theatre

The reorganisation of the Union Armies did not go without mishap, and when, in the middle of the month, General Thomas began his march towards Nashville along the railroad, he took with him troops assigned to the Army of the Tennessee and left behind units that should have gone with him. This confusion was reflected by a letter he sent to Sherman soon after he had marched out of Atlanta.

To: General William Tecumseh Sherman

Dear Uncle Billy,

I have just received your message – the young man you sent was delayed by a band of rioting Citizens as he tried to find me in the wreck that is Atlanta, only to find me gone from that burning vision of Hell as fast as I could re-deploy.

I have, as you will have already seen, given orders for my forces to advance to Nashville, with the aim of destroying any Rebel remnants that I find on the way. I think that this is sufficiently in mind of what you wished me to do, as to not require a change in instructions. I should, of course, be delighted if you would include a line in your instructions re-assigning to my command the specific Regiments you mention.

It was a pleasure and a privilege to serve with you once again, and I look forward to continue doing so in the future.

I remain, Sir, Your obedient servant

George Thomas

Sherman’s Chief of Staff immediately sent orders for General Thomas to halt his march, and despatched those units that had been left behind in error to meet him in the foothills of the Kenesaw Mountains. They also ordered the 16th Ohio Infantry Regiment to return to Atlanta to join the Army of the Tennessee. This confusion delayed the advance of both the Armies of the Cumberland and of the Tennessee, and led to certain young staff officers at General Thomas’s Headquarters to be heard whistling the tune ‘The Grand Old Duke of York’ and referring to Sherman as ‘The Duke of New York’.

In the meantime, Schofield’s Army of the Ohio set about the task of destroying all the ‘military’ installations and storehouses in Atlanta, as a result of which a large part of the City was burned to the ground. This activity spared them from the confusion caused by Sherman’s reorganisation of the Union Armies, but it also delayed the start of their march towards Nashville to such an extent that they were barely outside the boundaries of the City of Atlanta before the end of the year came.

Please click on the map to make it larger.


Troop Strengths

N.B.

  1. As from the beginning of July, The Army of the Cumberland will have a +1 increase in its Combat Effectiveness when it is in Nashville.
  2. Any unit whose Basic Combat Effectiveness falls to -3 has a 50% chance of surrendering to the enemy at the beginning of the next month.
  3. Any unit whose Basic Combat Effectiveness falls below -3 is destroyed.

N.B.

  1. Any unit whose Basic Combat Effectiveness falls to -3 has a 50% chance of surrendering to the enemy at the beginning of the next month.
  2. Any unit whose Basic Combat Effectiveness falls below -3 is destroyed.

Please click on the charts to make them larger.

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