With fires burning brightly, this day was still one of the darkest in Atlanta’s history.
Atlanta was the gateway through which most of the traffic passed between the south Atlantic seaboard and the regions to the west, and the city became a major prize during the Civil War.
Sherman captured the city in September after a five-month campaign, but he knew he couldn’t hold it for long, as his army’s supply line ran hundreds of miles back to Nashville, Tennessee.
He decided to split his army in two, sending half back toward Nashville under General George Thomas to keep the Confederate army of Tennessee busy, while he would lead the other half on a march across Georgia. Before evacuating Atlanta, Sherman directed his men to destroy everything of military value.
Most of the business district was torched along with many private homes.
Sherman’s army was now cut off from its supply line and on its own, and 40 percent of Atlanta lay in ruins after the destruction that began on November 12, 1864, Today in Georgia History.
Today in Georgia History is a joint collaboration of the Georgia Historical Society & Georgia Public Broadcasting.