Historic Markers Across Georgia

Shady Dale

Marker ID: DAR L8
Location: 22574 Main Street, Shady Dale, GA
County: Jasper
Coordinates: N 33° 24.066    W 083° 35.387
  33.4011    -83.58978333
Style: Interpretative Sign **
Waymark: None


Shady Dale
"Forage Liberally on the Country"

—March to the Sea Heritage Trail —

On a cold, damp and foggy Sunday, November 20, 1864, after having passed through Covington and Newborn over the previous two days, Union Major General William T. Sherman, traveling with Brigadier General Jefferson C. Davis's 14th Corps, reached Shady Dale. Major James A. Connolly noted in his diary that he had envisioned Shady Dale prior to their arrival as being "a nice, clean, aristocratic country town situated in a romantic, shady valley." He was surprised to find no town, only a 7,600-acre plantation with approximately 250 slaves. Its owner, 75-year-old Matthew Whitfield, had fled prior to the Federals arrival.

Major Connolly witnessed the Shady Dale plantation's slaves pouring from fifty whitewashed cabins as the Federal soldiers arrived. The slaves were equally impressed by the large number of soldiers. "It looked like the whole world was coming," one said. Many of the soldiers were entertained by the slaves' celebratory dancing and singing. Upon learning that the slaves had received little meat to eat and had to forage for themselves in the woods, the Federals vowed to strip the plantation of all food and livestock not needed by the army. Matthew Whitfield's Shady Dale plantation lost an estimated $50,000 worth of its possessions within the next hour.

Following General Sherman's orders to "forage liberally on the country," Federal soldiers collected a large quantity of food. Shady Dale's abundant crops had recently been harvested and none of the Federal cavalry raids over the summer months had reached the immediate area. One soldier wrote that there were "turkeys, chickens, geese, beef cattle, sheep and swine in abundance." John Van Duzer, chief telegraph officer, reported, "I have just feasted on one of the finest meals it has been my fortune to partake since I left home." Local women, often alone on their farms and fearing starvation, pleaded to Sherman and his officers for mercy. His usual reply was that the people of the South had brought this war upon themselves war upon themselves and must now pay the penalty. In their memoirs, Sherman and his officers commented that these scenes played heavily on their minds.

Upon leaving Shady Dale the Federal 14th Corps continued their march toward Milledgeville, camping for the night of November 20th near Eatonton Factory about eight miles southeast. The next morning many of Shady Dale's slaves trailed behind the Federal columns, and numerous soldiers had a follower carrying his knapsack. Connolly wrote, "What soldier wouldn't be an abolitionist under such circumstances?"

Georgia Civil War Heritage Trails, Inc.

A photo of this marker can be found on HMDB.org