Gateway to the Classics: Historic Poems and Ballads by Rupert S. Holland
Historic Poems and Ballads by  Rupert S. Holland

Marching Through Georgia

B Y the middle of the fourth year of the Civil War, in 1864, the Union forces had grown far superior to the Confederates in numbers and resources. The Northern armies numbered eight hundred thousand men, while the Southern had barely half that many. The Confederates were therefore largely compelled to keep on the defensive.

It was thought that the Federal army could now crush the Confederates by one great effort. General Ulysses S. Grant had shown himself the most successful commander on the Northern side, and he was made lieutenant-general and given entire direction of the campaign. He decided to march towards Richmond, and ordered General William Tecumseh Sherman to take Atlanta.

Sherman had an army of veterans, and advanced rapidly south. By the middle of July, 1864, he was in front of Atlanta. The Confederates tried to break through his lines, but were thrown back. On July 22nd Sherman ordered an attack on the city, and the fighting lasted for two days, with both armies losing many men. The Union troops could not take Atlanta by assault, and so settled down to tire out the Confederates. For almost a month daily skirmishes followed, and on September 2nd, the Southern armies evacuated the city.

When he had possession of Atlanta, Sherman decided on a manœuvre which was to have a great effect on the war. He planned to destroy Atlanta, and march through the state of Georgia, capturing one or more of the large seaport cities. He burned Atlanta, and set his army on march for Savannah on November 16, 1864.

This was the famous "march to the sea," which divided the Confederate country and despoiled the homes and farms of Georgia. The army left a track of ruin forty miles in width. Sherman had determined to do his utmost to end the war, and he considered this method a necessary evil. The South was alarmed. The Confederate General Beauregard tried to check Sherman's army, but that veteran army overcame all opposition, and on December 22, 1864, marched into Savannah, which the Confederates had abandoned. Sherman telegraphed to President Lincoln, "I beg to present to you, as a Christmas gift, the city of Savannah."

Sherman's army had marched two hundred and fifty miles from Atlanta to the sea. January 15, 1865, they started north into South Carolina, and soon had added the cities of Columbia and Charleston to their captures. Meantime Grant was gradually overcoming Lee's army in Virginia, and the war was soon brought to a close. Sherman's march through Georgia had contributed greatly to the speedy end of the conflict.

The song "Marching Through Georgia" became one of the most popular of the Union songs of the war. Wherever Sherman's veterans gathered that song was sure to be heard.

Marching Through Georgia

by Henry Clay Work

Bring the good old bugle, boys, we'll sing another song—

Sing it with a spirit that will start the world along—

Sing it as we used to sing it fifty thousand strong,

While we were marching through Georgia.


"Hurrah! Hurrah! we bring the jubilee!

Hurrah! Hurrah! the flag that makes you free!"

So we sang the chorus from Atlanta to the sea,

While we were marching through Georgia.

How the darkeys shouted when they heard the joyful sound!

How the turkeys gobbled which our commissary found!

How the sweet potatoes even started from the ground,

While we were marching through Georgia.

Yes, and there were Union men who wept with joyful tears,

When they saw the honored flag they had not seen for years;

Hardly could they be restrained from breaking forth in cheers

While we were marching through Georgia.

"Sherman's dashing Yankee boys will never reach the coast!"

So the saucy rebels said—and 'twas a handsome boast,

Had they not forgot, alas! to reckon on a host,

While we were marching through Georgia.

So we made a thoroughfare for Freedom and her train,

Sixty miles in latitude—three hundred to the main;

Treason fled before us, for resistance was in vain,

While we were marching through Georgia.

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