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Sandersville in Washington County, Georgia — The American South (South Atlantic)
 

Washington County Courthouse

"We had fought for the town and it was our plunder."

— Jefferson Davis Heritage Trail —

 
 
Washington County Courthouse Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Mark Hilton, April 30, 2017
1. Washington County Courthouse Marker
Inscription.  On Thursday, November 24, 1864, the 14th and 20th Corps of Union Major General William T. Sherman's army began entering Washington County. By November 26th the 28,000 soldiers of the two corps arrived in Sandersville, marching on separate roads that converged at the town's cemetery. General Sherman entered Sandersville early in the day riding with the 20th Corps.

The first units to arrive were the 17th New York and 16th Illinois infantry regiments. These Federals and others skirmished for 30 minutes with elements of Confederate Major General Joseph Wheeler's cavalry. The Southern troopers fired from within the courthouse, from street corners and behind houses but quickly retreated. For the 600 inhabitants of Sandersville, mostly women and children, it was a terrifying spectacle. There were few casualties on either side.

Captain James Ladd of the 13th Ohio Infantry recorded in his diary "Sandersville...contains 2 churches, several fine stores, large hotel buildings and several fine residences. The boys were allowed to do just as they pleased. We had fought for the town and it was our plunder." Sandersville resident
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Ella Mitchell and her family were at breakfast when they heard a clattering of horses' hooves. "In a few minutes our house was filled with the surging mass [of Federal soldiers]. In a little while there was not a piece of china, silver, or even the tablecloth left and the food disappeared in a second." I. W. Avery wrote, "...a piano was butchered to fragments, books and pictures destroyed, and for days the female inmates of the house lived upon corn gathered from where horses of the Federal troopers had been fed." And Mrs. S. B. Jones reported, "locks were broken and our houses were filled with Yankee soldiers who ripped our beds open, cut our carpets, and carried off everything that they could lay their hands on, not leaving even a dust of flour or a pound of meat." Yet some Northern officers paid for meals and lodging. Union Brigadier General Jefferson C. Davis, commanding the 14th Corps, upon hearing the cries of Mrs. Jones' baby sent her a "silver waiter full of nice things to eat."

After using a nearby residence (the Brown House) as his overnight headquarters, General Sherman left Sandersville on November 27th riding south toward Tennille. Before leaving he ordered the burning of the Greek Revival style Washington County Courthouse in retribution for its use by General Wheeler's Confederate cavalry the previous day. County Ordinary,
Washington County Courthouse with marker on right. image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Mark Hilton, April 30, 2017
2. Washington County Courthouse with marker on right.
Haywood Brookins, had earlier ordered the courthouse records brought to him then hid them between his bed's mattresses. The courthouse's reconstruction was completed in 1869 on the same foundation. It was remodeled in 1900.

On Saturday, May 6, 1865, Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his party passed through Washington County. They stopped briefly for Postmaster General John Reagan who was also acting Secretary of the Treasury, and Captain M. H. Clark, acting treasurer, to conduct the last official transaction of the Confederate treasury. The group then continued south toward Tennille and Ball's Ferry.

[Photo captions]
Top left: Washington County Courthouse prior to its accidental burning in 1855. Rebuilt then burned by Federal troops on Sunday, November 27, 1864.
(Georgia Archives, Vanishing Georgia collection)
Bottom left: Federals skirmishing with Confederate cavalry in Sandersville's Courthouse Square
(Harper's Weekly)
Map of right: Approximate routes of the March to the Sea (November 1864) and Jefferson Davis (May 1865) through Washington County and surrounding region
(adapted from the Atlas to Accompany the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies)
Background watermark: Skirmishing in Sandersville's Courthouse Square

 
Erected by
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Georgia Civil War Heritage Trails, Inc. (Marker Number L17.)
 
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: War, US Civil. In addition, it is included in the Georgia Civil War Trails series list. A significant historical date for this entry is November 24, 1864.
 
Location. 32° 59.004′ N, 82° 48.685′ W. Marker is in Sandersville, Georgia, in Washington County. Marker is at the intersection of West Haynes Street and Stacer Avenue, on the right when traveling west on West Haynes Street. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 132 West Haynes Street, Sandersville GA 31082, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Washington County Viet Nam War Monument (a few steps from this marker); Washington County Korean War Memorial (a few steps from this marker); Washington County Korean Monument (a few steps from this marker); Pvt. Willie Lee Duckworth Sr. (a few steps from this marker); Washington County World War I Monument (a few steps from this marker); Washington County World War II Monuments (a few steps from this marker); Washington County World War II Memorial (a few steps from this marker); Governor Thomas W. Hardwick (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Sandersville.
 
Regarding Washington County Courthouse. The Courthouse in Sandersville was one of the few Courthouses burned during the March to the Sea campaign.

Washington County is the only place where both the “March to the Sea Heritage Trail” and the “Escape of Jefferson Davis Heritage Trail” cross.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on November 16, 2017. It was originally submitted on May 5, 2017, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. This page has been viewed 302 times since then and 9 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on May 5, 2017, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.

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Feb. 24, 2024