Marietta, 1844

Following up on a previous post I wrote about Marietta Georgia and my third great-grandfather David Dobbs, I discovered that on at least one and possibly two occasions, David, a Colonel in the Georgia militia, had a prior association with General Sherman. Searching the newspaper archives for “Marietta” in November 1864, I wanted to see what the contemporary reports were about the town at the start of Sherman’s infamous March to the Sea. While I did find a couple of reports that listed Marietta as being one of the towns surrounding Atlanta that were “torched” when Union forces evacuated the area, there was an assertion made in one report that jumped out at me:

“Gen. Sherman once taught school at Marietta…”

I found this on the front page of the November 23, 1864, edition of the Janesville (Wisconsin) Daily Chronicle. The article was reprinted from the Milwaukee News.

However, that statement didn’t sound right to me. I questioned this because I knew that prior to the start of the Civil War, Sherman was the superintendent of a new military school located at Alexandria, Louisiana – the school eventually became Louisiana State University (LSU). At the start of the war, Sherman left the school and returned to his home state of Ohio. Yet, if he did once “teach school at Marietta,” it would have been at Georgia Military Institute in the 1850s when David Dobbs sat on the board of GMI and his son, my great, great-grandfather, DJ Dobbs, was a student at the school.

I decided to consult another source, a best-selling biography of Sherman titled William Tecumseh Sherman: In the Service of My Country: A Life by James L. McDonough, published in 2016. While the book does describe Sherman’s time at the military school in Louisiana in 1860, there is no mention of his having taught school in Marietta, Georgia.

Nevertheless, in this biography, I discovered that Sherman did have a prior association with Marietta (and most likely Col. Dobbs), not in the 1850s, but rather it was in the 1840s. According to Mr. McDonough, Sherman, a young Army officer, spent six weeks in Marietta, twenty years before the Atlanta campaign, when he accompanied an inspector general from the U.S. Army investigating allegations of fraud committed by the Georgia Militia during the Seminole wars in Florida.

Here is what McDonough wrote about Sherman’s time in Marietta:

“Three weeks into January [1844] he had a new assignment. Colonel Sylvester Churchill, inspector general of the army, had chosen Sherman to assist him in investigating the claims of Georgia militia seeking reimbursement for alleged losses, particularly of their horses, while serving in Florida during the Seminole Wars.”

“[Sherman] reported for duty to Colonel Churchill on February 17. The colonel, assisted by a lieutenant named R. P. Hammond, was already at work. Sherman, Hammond and the colonel and his family all lived in a tavern, with the three officers working out of a nearby office. Their investigation revealed fraud on an alarming scale and served to reinforce Sherman’s already negative view of ‘citizen-soldiers.’ He thought ‘they were about the d——dest rascals that could be found in the United States.'”

“Most reported that they had lost one or more horses while serving in Florida, but many of the horses were discovered to be alive and healthy. Others had been killed sure enough—although at the hands of their owners, who valued the prospect of financial reimbursement more than the life of their animals. Also, virtually every owner overstated the value of the loss supposedly suffered. ‘I have unfolded some pretty pieces of rascality,’ Sherman sarcastically commented, ‘for an honest and religious people.’

“Later, back at Fort Moultrie [South Carolina], he would speak of having been ‘away among the Barbarians and heathens, robbing them of their . . . dreams of Gold and Silver.’ Remaining in Marietta approximately six weeks, while he labored to expose the militia wrongdoers, Sherman sometimes took a break and rode to the top of a nearby mountain known as Kennesaw. From its towering height he could gaze southward toward Marthasville [the original name for Atlanta].”

There is no doubt that Lieut. Sherman would have encountered Col. David Dobbs, the highest-ranking member of the Georgia militia in Cobb County at that time. Although I do not know what my great, great, great-grandfather’s role in this fraud investigation was, it is another family history mystery waiting for me to solve.

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