By Stephen Davis Murder or ill-treatment of civilians: Union artillery had barely gotten into range of Atlanta when, on July 19, 1864, Sherman ordered a bombardment of the city’s buildings: “No consideration must be paid to the fact they are occupied by families, but the place must be cannonaded.” The Yankee guns fired their first shells on July 20, and within a few days, Confederate newspapers began reporting casualties. One shell wounded a woman and killed the child she was carrying in her arms. In my book, I have concluded that the victims were the wife and child of John M. Weaver, an engineer who lived on Walton Street.
Sherman maintained a perverse determination to shell Atlanta, denying that innocent civilians still lived there. “You may fire from 10 to 15 shots from every gun you have in position into Atlanta that will reach any of its houses,” he ordered his artillery on Aug. 1. “Fire slowly and with deliberation between 4 p.m. and dark.”
Three weeks later, the bombardment ceased only because Sherman gave up on his semi-siege of Atlanta and led most of his army toward Jonesboro to break the Rebels’ railroad supply line (this he did on Aug. 31, forcing Confederate evacuation of the city the next day). Civilian casualties of Sherman’s 37-day bombardment are hard to count, but I estimate about 25 dead, and two or three times more wounded.