Friday, July 10, 2009
No Army Since Caesar
"Confederate defenders expected the swamps in tidewater South Carolina to stop Sherman before he got fairly started. Indeed, so far under water were the roads in this region that Union scouts had to reconnoiter some of them in canoes. But Sherman organized 'pioneer battalions' of soldiers and freedmen (some of the latter recruited from the thousands of contrabands who had trailed the army to Savannah) to cut saplings and trees to corduroy the roads, build bridges, and construct causeways. Meeting resistance from Wheeler's cavalry at some rain-swollen streams and rivers, the bluecoats sent out flanking columns that waded through water up to their armpits, brushing aside alligators and snakes, and drove the rebels away. Northward lapped the blue wave at a rate of nearly ten miles a day for forty-five days including skirmishing and fighting. Rain fell during twenty-eight of those days, but this seemed to benefit South Carolina only by slightly damping the style of Sherman's arsonists. 'When I learned that Sherman's army was marching through the Salk swamps, making its own corduroy roads at the rate of a dozen miles a day,' said Joseph Johnston, 'I made up my mind that there had been no army in existence since the days of Julius Caesar.'"