"...sacks of cornmeal, all rapidly ‘acquired'..."
—March to the Sea Heritage Trail —
Union Major General William T. Sherman and the 17th Corps of his army's "Right Wing" left their encampment at New Hope Methodist Church on Tuesday morning, November 29, 1864. They marched generally southeast toward Tarver Place, Plantation. Their first stop was at Tarver's Mill.
A member of General Sherman's staff, Major Henry Hitchcock, recorded in his diary that when Sherman arrived at Tarver's Mill he found Major General Francis P. Blair, Jr., commander of the 17th Corps, and his staff. Blair's troops had found a plentiful "quantity cornmeal in [the] mill, all rapidly 'acquired,' and Nichols got two for our mess—bully!"
Major George W. Nichols was a fellow member of Sherman's staff.
While at the mill Harper's Weekly artist and war correspondent Theodore R. Davis sketched the scene. According to Major Hitchcock, Davis stood on a "little elevation to the right of road and rear of mill, under branches of a fine live oak tree." Tarver's Mill is located on Limestone Creek. Its dam formed the lake above with standing cypress trees draped by Spanish moss. The current mill house is not original. General Sherman did not order the original mill burned, although years later it was destroyed by fire and subsequently rebuilt. Yet the original mill stone, and milling equipment remain. As you look around this quiet
place you will see the swampy wilderness the Federal soldiers witnessed. Listen closely and you will hear the water rushing exactly as it did on a day Major Hitchcock described as having "cleared off beautifully—
weather so warm that I could not wear any cape after 10 A.M."
A short distance away was the, Tarver Place plantation, owned by Judge Andrew E. Tarver. It was there that General Sherman and his staff joined Right Wing commander Major General Oliver O. Howard and his staff for the mid-day meal. The main house was a large two-story frame structure with a surrounding porch and a wide breezeway hall. The plantation had numerous out-houses plus plenty of forage, corn and fodder, most of which was also "rapidly acquired."
Judge Tarver was not present, so Sherman advised the Tarver women to quickly gather as much food as they could in tubs and buckets and take it into their home. He subsequently ordered the posting of a guard.
Tarver family lore tells of a compliment General Sherman gave about the cornmeal. Major Hitchcock recorded that Sherman and his staff stayed at the plantation for about two hours before continuing their march along the Savannah road, keeping just west and south of the Ogeechee River and heading toward the Central Railroad of Georgia Station 9½ at Midville.
left: Union Major Henry Hitchcock (in later life as a St. Louis attorney) Judge Advocate on General Sherman's staff, 1864-65 President of the American Bar Association, 1889-90
Middle top: Tarver's Mill (Harper's Weekly)
Middle bottom: Theodore R. Davis After the war he served as a key advisor for the painting of the Atlanta Cyclorama
Bottom right map: Approximate routes of the "March to the Sea" through middle Georgia in November 1864
(adopted from the Atlas to Accompany the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies)