"...its destruction was a brilliant spectacle."
—March to the Sea Heritage Trail —
Millen Junction was founded in 1835 as an inn owned by Robert
Hendricks Gray. Originally named Brisonville, it is located
approximately 80 miles from Savannah on the Central Railroad of
Georgia. Thus the town was also called "The 80 Mile Depot" or
simply "Old 79." It was renamed for McPherson B. Millen, who
became the railroad's superintendent in 1848, and was officially
shortened to "Millen" in 1881. The railroad's construction reached
Millen in 1839, linking it to Savannah and later Macon. After a spur
to Waynesboro (1851) and Augusta (1854) was added Millen became
a vital rail junction during the Civil War for transporting men and materials
between Savannah, Macon and Augusta.
Union Major General William T.
Sherman, traveling with Major General
Francis Blair, Jr. and the more than
11,000 men in his 17th Corps, camped at
Buck Head Creek just west of Millen on
Friday, December 2, 1864. That evening
Blair's infantry began entering town
General Sherman arrived before 9:00 a.m
the following day. Soldiers torched many of
the town's structures. The depot, all railroad buildings and storehouses, including two used to house captured Federal officers, and even the old inn were all burned.
Major George Ward Nichols, a member of Sherman's staff later wrote "The extensive depot at Millen was a wooden structure
of exceedingly graceful proportions. It was ignited in three places simultaneously, and its destruction was
a brilliant spectacle."
As the buildings burned a war correspondent and artist, Theodore R. Davis, accurately depicted the burning of the Millen Junction depot.
Major Henry Hitchcock, another member of General Sherman's staff, described the depot as being "some 200 feet long...open at the sides, the roof resting on wooden arches springing longitudinally from wooden columns. On the E. side of this was a handsome little station house, apparently used for ticket and other offices...On the west side, apparently used for ticket and other offices...On the west side, facing Stationhouse, say 100 feet off was [al] large two story frame hotel, with many rooms, large dining hall, and quite a number of outbuildings."
Hitchcock added later that the railroad's destruction "is a terrible blow to JD & Co."
He referred to the destroyed community as the "late town of Millen."
As the old inn burned Major Hitchcock learned that a "crazy
woman'' was inside. He and two other officers rushed in to save her but found she had already been led out. Hitchcock pitied her and gave her five dollars. Another incident occurred at the home of a Mr. Myers, located on a hill south of the railroad overlooking the depot. After General Sherman and his staff arrived Myers
claim of Union loyalty was disproved when 100 cotton bales were discovered buried under a cabin. Both the cabin and cotton were promptly burned.
Around 1:00 p.m. on the 3rd General Sherman and the 17th
Corps began leaving town. That evening they camped in the
vicinity of Scarborough. After the war Millen's railroad facilities
were rebuilt. The brick depot dates from 1868.
Top left: Destruction of the Millen Junction Depot, December 3, 1864
(by Theodore R. Davis, Harper's Weekly)
Bottom left: George Ward Nichols (on horseback) Shortly after the war his article in Harper's Weekly immortalized the exploits of "Wild Bill" Hickok (standing)
Top right: Approximate routes of the "March to the Sea" through coastal Georgia in November & December 1864
(adopted from the Atlas to Accompany the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies)
Background watermark: Destruction of Millen Junction, Georgia