On Nov. 15, 1864, after destroying Atlanta and cutting his communications with the North, Maj. Gen. W. T. Sherman, USA, began his destructive campaign for Savannah — the March to the Sea. He divided his army [US] into two wings. The Right Wing marched south from Atlanta, to feint at Macon but to cross the Ocmulgee River above the city and concentrate at Gordon.
The Left Wing (14th and 20th Corps), Maj. Gen. H. W. Slocum, USA, marched east to Decatur where the 20th Corps, Brig. Gen. A. S. Williams, USA, took the road to Social circle (16 miles NW), striking the Georgia Railroad there and destroying it to Madison. At Rutledge, all railway facilities were destroyed late in July by Garrard's cavalry [US]. That night, the 20th Corps camped two miles west of Madison on the old Covington road.
On the 19th, Geary's division was detached to destroy the RR bridge over the Oconee River (13 miles E) and other bridges downriver toward Milledgeville. Jackson's division marched through town and camped four miles south on the Eatonton road. Ward's division destroyed the depot, water tank, warehouses, switching tracks, side-tracked cars and other railway facilities here in Madison, and quantities of cotton and army supplies.
This was Madison's second ordeal by fire, large stocks of army supplies and valuable industrial property having been burned by Adams? brigade (of Stoneman's cavalry) [US] on August 1st.