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Sherman's Neckties
About North Georgia

Shermans Necktie at Marietta History Museum
Iron and steam were the essential elements in feeding John Bell Hood's Army of Tennessee and destroying the Confederate railroads would be the key to the capture of Atlanta (Atlanta history). Merely tearing up track would not be enough because Rebel crewmen could quickly repair damaged rails. A more permanent solution must be found to effectively block the lines of transportation into the city. Four railroads ran into Atlanta in 1864. From the northwest came the Western and Atlantic Railroad, which William Tecumseh Sherman followed from Chattanooga, Tennessee to Atlanta during the Atlanta Campaign. Additional railroads to Atlanta were the Georgia Railroad, connecting Atlanta with cities to the east from Decatur to Augusta (Augusta, Georgia timeline), the Atlanta and West Point, running south and west from East Point to Columbus, and the Macon and Western, which shared track with the A&WP to East Point, then turned to the south.

On July_18, 1864 Sherman issued exact instructions on what to do with the rails...:

"...twisting the bars when hot. Officers should be instructed that bars simply bent may be used again, but if when red hot they are twisted out of line they cannot be used again. Pile the ties into shape for a bonfire, put the rails across and when red hot in the middle, let a man at each end twist the bar so that its surface becomes spiral."

With completed work in the foreground, a Union soldier prepares to twist more rails in the background
Within days three of the four railroads had been destroyed beyond repair. By August 1, the Macon and Western was the only railroad to supply Confederate forces now almost completely surrounded in Atlanta. That line was cut during the battle of Jonesboro, August_31, 1864 to September_1, 1864 and Hood evacuated the city.

During the March to the Sea Sherman's neckties became a symbol of the intentional destruction of Georgia's heartland by the Union Army. What supplies Confederate soldiers had not taken were "impressed" by Sherman's bummers and used to feed his 60,000 man army as it marched across the breadbasket of Georgia. With the railroad torn up the women and children had little food to speak of and little hope of getting more. With the onset of winter shortly after the passing of Sherman's men and the lack of transportation in a 60-mile wide swath from Dalton to Savannah, life on the home front meant near-starvation.

The legend of Sherman's Neckties would grow after the army had left. One story of particular interest concerns the shape of the "neckties" left by the invaders. As the Union soldiers became more skilled at heating and bending the rails, they would create a U and an S and leave them in a prominent position.

In Jonesboro, Sherman's men destroy the railroad.
In Jonesboro, Sherman's men destroy the railroad.


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