November 12, 1864: Burning of Atlanta


On November 12, 1864 the destruction of sections of Atlanta began under Sherman’s chief of engineers, Captain Orlando Metcalfe Poe.

Sherman had expelled the civilian population from Atlanta in September.  Go here to read about it.


Forced relocation of civilians and the burning of towns and cities is not uncommon in war. George Washington was given the nickname “town destroyer” by the Iroqois after Sullivan’s expedition in 1779 where, under Washington’s orders, numerous Indian towns and villages were destroyed in retaliation for raids against the Americans. Sherman burned Atlanta because he did not want it turned into a Confederate base in his rear as his Army marched to the Sea. A perfectly legitimate, although unpleasant, aspect of war. Of course similar tactics were used by the Confederates in areas they considered disloyal, such as East Tennessee which was heavily Unionist in sympathy. Sherman did not burn churches or hospitals, and ordered that no dwellings be burned. The burning he ordered was to be limited to the business and industrial sections and any Confederate property that Hood had not burned when he retreated from the city. However many civilian dwellings were burned against Sherman’s orders, mostly by civilian looters who had stayed behind to rob vacant house. About 37% of the city was destroyed. The civilian population returned within three weeks later and were well on their way to rebuilding the portions of the city destroyed before the end of the war. The burning of Atlanta was rough business, but it was not a major war atrocity.

Here is Sherman’s brief mention of the destruction in his memoirs: (more…)

Published in: on November 12, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on November 12, 1864: Burning of Atlanta  
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