Sherman's “Wings” Converge
—March to the Sea Heritage Trail —
Tennille was founded in 1837 as Franklinville for Sam O. Franklin who gave land for the railroad's right-of-way and the town's creation. Its name was changed in 1842 after a prominent local citizen, Francis Tennille. The following year Tennille also became Station Number 13 along the "Central Rail Road and Banking Company of Georgia" tracks being constructed between Savannah and Macon.
During the Civil War, fifteen companies of about 100 men each were formed in Washington County for Confederate or state military service. Most of these men departed the county by rail from Tennille. Local women organized ladies' aid societies to raise money, make uniforms bandages and socks, and collect blankets for the army. Tables were set-up along the tracks to supply food for soldiers on frequently passing trains. Wounded and ill soldiers were often served through the train's windows.
During the "March to the Sea," Confederate Lieutenant General William J. Hardee arrived in Tennille on Thursday, November 24, 1864. He conferred with Henry C. Wayne, inspector and adjutant general of Georgia, about Confederate attempts to slow the Federal advance. Wayne's vastly outnumbered troops withdrew from their defense along the Oconee River heading east by rail through Tennille shortly before the Federals destroyed the tracks.
9,000 Federal soldiers in two divisions of the 20th Corps arrived in Tennille on November 26th. They were parts of the "Left Wing" in Major General William T. Sherman's army. These two divisions were commanded by Brigadier Generals Nathaniel J. Jackson and John W. Geary, respectively. They burned the depot and four large warehouses plus 342 bales of cotton. Rails between Tennille and Davisboro were pried loose by Geary's division and crossties were burned. Each rail was heated before being twisted around trees. Deformed rails garnered various nicknames including "bowties," "neckties" and "hairpins." The current depot was constructed in 1869.
The majority of Sherman's Left Wing marched east from Sandersville to Davisboro and other points by various routes, all rejoining Louisville Sherman's "Right Wing" about 28,000 men in the 15th and 17th Corps passed just south of Tennille on November 27th and 28th after having destroyed railroad tracks from the Oconee River east toward Tennille.
On Sunday morning, November 27th General Sherman rode to Tennille from his overnight headquarters at the Brown House in Sandersville. Major Henry Hitchcock of Sherman's staff noted in his diary, "Marched all of four miles today ~ from Sandersville to this place...through pine forests over sandy road. Beautiful Sabbath morning, air delightful...and the quiet of the woods is
In Tennille, Sherman transferred from his army's Left Wing to continue his march with the Right Wing. He accompanied the 17th Corps of Union Major General Francis P. Blair, Jr. whose "knowledge and hospitality"
On Saturday, May 6, 1865, Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his travel party
passed near Tennille en route to Ball's Ferry. From there they intended to cross the Oconee River but other events intervened.