General Sherman Recalls the March Through Georgia
William T. Sherman
Memoirs of General William T. Sherman by Himself, 1875. Bloomington: Indiana
University Press, 1957. p182-183. Rpt. in
CourseReader. Detroit, MI: Gale, 1864.
… The skill and success of the men in collecting forage was one of the features of this
march. Each brigade commander had authority to detail a company of foragers, usually
about fifty men, with one or two commissioned officers selected for their boldness and
enterprise. This party would be dispatched before daylight with a knowledge of the
intended day's march and camp; would proceed on foot five or six miles from the route
traveled by their brigade, and then visit every plantation and farm within range. They
would usually procure a wagon or family carriage, load it with bacon, corn-meal,
turkeys, chickens, ducks, and every thing that could be used as food or forage, and
would then regain the main road, usually in advance of their train. When this came up,
they would deliver to the brigade commissary the supplies thus gathered by the way. …
No doubt, many acts of pillage, robbery, and violence, were committed by these parties
of foragers, usually called “bummers”; for I have since heard of jewelry taken from
women, and the plunder of articles that never reached the commissary; but these acts
were exceptional and incidental. I never heard of any cases of murder or rape; and no
army could have carried along sufficient food and forage for a march of three hundred
miles; so that foraging in some shape was necessary. The country was sparsely settled,
with no magistrates or civil authorities who could respond to requisitions, as is done in
all the wars of Europe; so that this system of foraging was simply indispensable to our
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