December 18, 1864: Preparing an assault on Savannah

Sherman and men in Atlanta

Sherman, now that Hardee has declined to surrender Savannah, orders artillery readied for an assault. He also directs that the road to Charleston be broken to prevent Savannah’s resupply. Note that he has been ordered to take his troops by ship to Virginia to reinforce Grant, but the transport is not yet available.

Official Records 92:750


CONFIDENTIAL.] HDQRS. MILITARY DIV. OF THE MISSISSIPPI,
In the Field, near Savannah, GA., December 18, 1864-8 a. m.
Major General J. G. FOSTER,
Commanding Department of the South:

GENERAL: In compliance with the plan I indicated to you some days since, I made a demand during yesterday on General Hardee for the surrender of the city of Savannah and its dependent forts, and to-day received his answer declining to accede.

You are aware that I am ordered to carry this army to Virginia by sea, but I hope still to be able to get possession of Savannah before sufficient transportation can be had to enable me to comply with General Grant’s orders.

The 30-pounder Parrotts which you sent me are now being hauled to batteries prepared for them, and in about two days’ time, if we can possibly get the ground to stand upon, we shall assault the enemy’s lines at four or more points. It is all important that the railroad and telegraph wire should be broken between the Savannah River and Charleston, and the very best point is where your force is represented to be, near the Tullifinny.

It seems to me that our operations here, especially along the Savannah River, must have drawn away every man from that quarter that they could possibly spare, and a bold rush on the railroad would probably develop a weaker force there than is supposed to be; or it may be that you could diminish that force and use the balance in a small, handy detachment east of the Tullifinny over about Old Pocotaligo.

I merely throw out these ideas, and merely reiterate that it would aid us very much in this quarter if that force of yours be kept most active, more especially if you succeed in breaking the railroad and the telegraph wire-the farther toward Charleston the better. Even if nothing better can be done let them whale away with their 30-pounder Parrotts and break the road with cannon balls.

It is possible, as a part of the general movement, that I may send a force, in co-operation with the navy, toward the Union plank-road, in the direction of Bluffton. I will go over and see the admiral again to-morrow, and it may be that I will see you, as in your last note you said that you would return again.

I have the honor to be, your obedient servant,
W. T. SHERMAN,
Major-General, Commanding.

Posted in Georgia, Savannah, Sherman's March, William J. Hardee, William Tecumseh Sherman | Leave a comment

December 18, 1864: Sherman, what do you want to do next?

Ulysses S. Grant

Grant writes to his friend Sherman, congratulating him on his campaign. He “would not have entrusted the expedition to any other living commander.” Most important, he backs off from his previous instruction for Sherman to send his troops north to Virginia by ship. “I want to get your views about what ought to be done and what can be done. ”

Official Records 92:740


CONFIDENTIAL.] HDQRS. ARMIES OF THE UNITED STATES.
Washington, D. C., December 18, 1864.
Major General WILLIAM T. SHERMAN,
Commanding Military division of the Mississippi:

MY DEAR GENERAL: I have just received and received and read, I need not tell you with how much gratification, your letter to General Halleck. I congratulate you and the brave officers and men under you command on the successful termination of your most brilliant campaign. I never had a doubt of the result. When apprehensions for your safety were expressed by the President, I assured him with the army you had, and you in command of it, there was no danger but you would strike bottom on salt water some place; that I would not feel the same security-in fact, would not have entrusted the expedition to any other living commander.

It has been very hard work to get Thomas to attack Hood. I gave him the most peremptory order, and had started to go there myself before he got off. He has done magnificently, however, since he started. Up to last night 5,000 prisoners and 49 pieces of captured artillery, besides many wagons and innumerable small arms, had been received in Nashville. This is exclusive of the enemy’s loss at Franklin, which amounted to 13 general officers killed, wounded, and captured. The enemy probably lost 5,000 men at Franklin, and 10,000 in the last three days’ operations.

Breckinridge is said to he making for Murfreesborough; if so, he is in a most excellent place. Stoneman has nearly wiped out John Morgan’s old command and five days ago entered Bristol.

I did think the best thing to do was to bring the greater part of your army here and wipe out Lee. The turn affairs now seem to be taking has shaken me in that opinion. I doubt whether you may not accomplish more toward that result where you are than if brought here, especially as I am informed since by arrival in the city that it would take about two months to get you here, with all the other calls there are for ocean transportation. I want to get your views about what ought to be done and what can be done.

If you capture the garrison of Savannah it certainly will compel Lee to detach from Richmond, or give us nearly the whole South. My own opinion is that Lee is averse to going out of Virginia, and if the cause of the South is lost he wants Richmond to be the last place surrendered. If he has such views it may be well to indulge him until everything else is in our hands.

Congratulating you and the army again upon the splendid result of your campaign, the like of which is not read of in past history, I subscribe myself, more than ever, if possible,

Your friend,
U. S. GRANT,
Lieutenant-General.

Posted in Georgia, Sherman's March, South Carolina, Ulysses S. Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman | Leave a comment

December 17, 1864: Sherman demands the surrender of Savannah

Sherman and men in Atlanta

From Sherman’s official report:

On the 17th, a number of 30-pounder Parrott guns having reached King’s Bridge, I proceeded in person to the headquarters of Major-General Slocum, on the Augusta road, and dispatched thence into Savannah, by flag of truce, a formal demand for the surrender of the place; and on the following day received an answer from General Hardee refusing to surrender.

In the meantime further reconnaissances from our left flank had demonstrated that it was impracticable or unwise to push any considerable force across the Savannah River, for the enemy held the river opposite the city with iron-clad gun-boats, and could destroy any pontoons laid down by us between Hutchinson’s Island and the South Carolina shore, which would isolate any force sent over from that flank.

News of Sherman’s siege of Savannah reached the north. Sherman has demanded the surrender of the town, and Hardee refused. The last supply line to Savannah for the rebels runs northward toward South Carolina.


New York Times


WAR DEPARTMENT, WASHINGTON, Dec. 17 — 10 P.M.

Dispatches have been received to-day from Gen. FOSTER, who had a personal interview, on the morning of Wednesday, the 14th inst., with Gen. SHERMAN, at Fort McAllister, which had been taken by assault the preceding day.

Savannah was closely besieged, and its capture, with the rebel forces there, was confidently expected. It was to be summoned in two days, and if not surrendered, SHERMAN would open his batteries upon it.

Gen. FOSTER reports that SHERMAN’s army is in splendid condition, having lived on its march on the turkies, chickens, sweet potatoes and other good things of the richest part of Georgia.

E.M. STANTON, Secretary of War.

Posted in Edwin M. Stanton, Georgia, Savannah, Sherman's March, William Tecumseh Sherman | Leave a comment

December 16, 1864: Second day at Nashville

Gen. George Thomas

Battle of Nashville map

Even the President sent his congratulations to Thomas after his first day’s battle at Nashville, admonishing him to follow up on the success. Thomas continues to drive Hood’s routed army, taking more prisoners and guns. His estimate of his casualties at 3000 was pretty accurate, and Hood had twice as many. Hood’s Army of Tennessee was broken irrevocably, and Hood’s career over.

Official Records 94:211


WASHINGTON, D. C., December 16, 1864.
(Sent 11.25 a. m.)
Major-General THOMAS,
Nashville, Tenn.:

Please accept for yourself, officers, and men the nation’s thanks for your good work of yesterday. You made a magnificent beginning. A grand consummation is within your easy reach.

Do not let it slip.

A. LINCOLN.

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NASHVILLE, TENN., December 16, 1864-9 p. m.
Major T. T. ECKERT:

During last night Hood withdrew his right from the river and took a new position, covering Hillsborough, Granny White, and Franklin pikes, which line had been carefully prepared for just this contingency. He was driven from the first line easily, but the second was very stubbornly defended, and at last heavily assaulted three times before succeeding. It was carried, however, and 20 pieces of artillery and 2,000 men, including General Jackson, with the remnant of his division, were taken, the enemy forced back two miles, and his army broken into two parts–one on the [Granny] White pike, and the other on the Franklin, with the range of bluffy hills between them, Steedman and Wood pressing down the latter, and A. J. Smith, Schofield, and the cavalry down the former. Small-arms lay as thick on the completed line as the rebels had stood there. Hood cannot make another such a day’s fight, while Thomas is in good condition to press him. Caught more wagons–cannot say number.

Everybody, white and black, did splendidly.

J. C. VAN DUZER.

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HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE OHIO
, December 16, 1864-7.45 p. m.
Major General GEORGE H. THOMAS,
Commanding Department of the Cumberland:

GENERAL: I have the honor to report four pieces of artillery and a considerable number of prisoners captured by General Cox’s division this afternoon. General Cox also reported four other pieces and caissons captured in the valley between the hill carried by General McArthur and that taken by General Cox. I learned, however, upon inquiry, that General McArthur’s troops claimed, and, I have no doubt, justly, the honor of capturing the last four. My provost-marshal reports seventy-four prisoners captured this p. m. I have conversed with some of the officers captured, and am satisfied Hood’s army is more thoroughly beaten than any troops I have ever seen. I congratulate you most heartily upon the result of the two days’ operations. My messenger will wait for any orders you may have to send me.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. M. SCHOFIELD,
Major-General.

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HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE CUMBERLAND, Eight Miles from Nashville, December 16, 1864-6 p. m. (Received Washington 5.30 a. m. 17th.)
The PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES,
Honorable E. M. STANTON,
Lieutenant General U. S. GRANT, and
Governor ANDREW JOHNSON, Nashville:

This army thanks you for your approbation of its conduct yesterday, and to assure you that it is not misplaced. I have the honor to report that the enemy has been pressed at all points to-day on his line of retreat to the Brentwood Hills, and Brigadier-General Hatch, of Wilson’s corps of cavalry, on the right, turned the enemy’s left, and captured a large number of prisoners, number not yet reported. Major-General Schofield’s troops, next on the left of cavalry, carried several heights, captured many prisoners and six pieces of artillery. Brevet Major-General Smith, next on the left of Major-General Schofield, carried the salient point of the enemy’s line with McMillen’s brigade, of McArthur’s division, capturing 16 pieces of artillery, 2 brigadier-generals, and about 2,000 prisoners. Brigadier-General Garrard’s division, of Smith’s command, next on the left of McArthur’s division, carried the enemy’s intrenchments, capturing all the artillery and troops of the enemy on the line. Brigadier-General Wood’s corps, on the Franklin pike, took up the assault, carrying the enemy’s intrenchments in his front, captured 8 pieces of artillery, something over 600 prisoners, and drove the enemy within one mile of the Brentwood Pass. Major-General Steedman, commanding detachments of the different armies of the Military Division of the Mississippi, most nobly supported General Wood’s left, and bore a most honorable part in the operations of the day.

I have ordered the pursuit to be continued in the morning at daylight, although the troops are very much fatigued. The greatest enthusiasm prevails.

I must not forget to report the operations of Brigadier-General Johnson, in successfully driving the enemy, with the co-operation of the gun-boats, under Lieutenant-Commander Fitch, from their established batteries on the Cumberland River below the city of Nashville, and of the services of Brigadier-Geenral Croxton’s brigade, in covering and relieving our right and rear, in the operations of yesterday and to-day. Although I have no report of the number of prisoners captured by Johnson’s and Croxton’s commands, I know they have made a large number. I am glad to be able to state that the number of prisoners captured yesterday greatly exceeds the number reported by me last evening. The woods, fields, and intrenchments are strewn with the enemy’s small-arms, abandoned in their retreat.

In conclusion, I am happy to state that all this has been effected with but a very small loss to us. Our loss does not probably exceed 3,000;* very few killed.

GEO. H. THOMAS,
Major-General, U. S. Volunteers, Commanding.

Posted in George Thomas, John Bell Hood, Tennessee | Leave a comment

December 15, 1864: Battle of Nashville

Gen. George Thomas

From Sherman’s official report:

After making communications to those officers, and a short communication to the War Department, I returned to Fort McAllister that night, and before daylight was overtaken by Major Strong, of General Foster’s staff, advising me that General Foster had arrived in the Ogeechee, near Fort McAllister, and was very anxious to meet me on board his boat. I accordingly returned with him, and met General Foster on board the steamer Nemaha; and after consultation determined to proceed with him down the sound in hopes to meet Admiral Dahlgren.

But we did not meet him until we reached Wassaw Sound, about noon. I there went on board the admiral’s flag-ship, the Harvest Moon, after having arranged with General Foster to send us from Hilton Head some siege ordnance and some boats suitable for navigating the Ogeechee River. Admiral Dahlgren very kindly furnished me with all the data concerning his fleet and the numerous forts that guarded the inland channels between the sea and Savannah.

I explained to him how completely Savannah was invested at all points, save only the plank road on the South Carolina shore, known as the Union Causeway, which I thought I could reach from my left flank across the Savannah River. I explained to him that if he would simply engage the attention of the forts along Wilmington Channel, at Beaulieu and Rosedew, I thought I could carry the defenses of Savannah by assault as soon as the heavy ordnance arrived from Hilton Head. On the 15th the admiral carried me back to Fort McAllister, whence I returned to our lines in the rear of Savannah.

Having received and carefully considered all the reports of division commanders, I determined to assault the lines of the enemy as soon as my heavy ordnance came from Port Royal, first making a formal demand for surrender.

Meanwhile, Thomas was finally ready to attack Hood’s troops outside Nashville. Grant had been ready to relieve him from command, having ordered him to go after Thomas for months. Thomas may have been deliberate, but once he was ready he didn’t hold back. Hood’s lines were broken and he was routed thoroughly, with large numbers of cannon and prisoners taken. Thomas would pursue the next day as well. Grant got word as he was en route to give him the sack, and turned around instead, sending his congratulations.


NASHVILLE, TENN., December 15, 1864-10.30 p. m.
(Received 11 p. m.)
Major T. T. ECKERT:

Our line advanced and engaged the rebel line at 9 this a. m. The line was formed thus: Steedman on the left; T. J. Wood, with the Fourth Corps, next; A. J. Smith next; with Cox, in reserve, next; and the cavalry, under Wilson, fighting dismounted, occupying the extreme right, aided by gun-boats on the river.

The artillery practice has been fine, and at times the musketry firing continuous and heavy, and, though the casualties have been slight, the results are very fair. The left occupies the same ground as at morning, but right has advanced five miles, driving enemy from river, from his entrenchments, from the range of hills on which his left rested, and forced back upon his right and center. His center pushed back from one to three miles, with loss, in all, of 17 guns and about 1,500 prisoners, and his whole line of earth-works, except about a mile on his extreme right, where no serious attempt was made to dislodge him.

From our new line General Thomas expects to be able to drive the enemy at daylight east of the road to Franklin, and so open communication with our forces at Murfreesborough. The whole of Hood’s army is here, except the cavalry and one division, which has been detached to threaten or attack Murfreesborough.

The whole action of to-day was splendidly successful. The divisions commanded by General Kimball, of the Fourth Corps, by General Garrard, of the command under General A. J. Smith, and the cavalry division under General Knipe, were under my observation, and I have never seen better work. General Kimball’s division carried two fortified positions by assault, with very slight loss, capturing at one point 400 prisoners and 6 guns. No doubt the other parts of the line did as well; I only speak of what I saw.

J. C. VAN DUZER.

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NASHVILLE, TENN., December 15, 1864-9 p. m.
(Received 11.25 p. m.)
Major General H. W. HALLECK,
Washington, D. C.:

I attacked the enemy’s left this morning and drove it from the river, below the city, very nearly to the Franklin pike, a distance about eight miles. Have captured General Chalmers’ headquarters and train, and a second train of about 20 wagons, with between 800 and 1,000 prisoners and 16 pieces of artillery. The troops behaved splendidly, all taking their share in assaulting and carrying the enemy’s breast-works. I shall attack the enemy again to-morrow, if he retreats during the night, will pursue him, throwing a heavy cavalry force in his rear, to destroy his trains, if possible.

GEO. H. THOMAS,
Major-General, U. S. Volunteers, Commanding.

*************************************************************************

WASHINGTON, D. C., December 15, 1864-11.30 p. m.
Major-General THOMAS,
Nashville, Tenn.:

I was just on my way to Nashville, but receiving a dispatch from Van Duzer, detailing your splendid success of to-day, I shall go no farther. Push the enemy now, and give him no rest until he is entirely destroyed. Your army will cheerfully suffer many privations to break up Hood’s army and render it useless for future operations. Do not stop for trains or supplies, but take them from the country, as the enemy have done. Much is now expected.

U. S. GRANT,
Lieutenant-General.

Posted in George Thomas, Georgia, John Bell Hood, Savannah, Sherman's March, Tennessee, Ulysses S. Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman | 2 Comments

December 14, 1864: News of Sherman reaches New York

William Tecumseh Sherman

The New York Times publishes the first dispatches from Savannah, brought by a scout in Howard’s army to the Union fleet.


Sunday, December 7, 2014
3:00 PM

WASHINGTON, Wednesday, Dec. 14.
The following telegram has been received at the War Department:

HILTON HEAD, S.C., Monday, Dec. 12, 1864, via FORTRESS MONROE, Wednesday, Dec. 14.
To major-Gen. Halleck, Chief of Staff:

GENERAL: Capt. DUNCAN, of Gen. HOWARD’s Scouts, has just come in from Gen. HOWARD, having descended the Ogeechee River in a small boat. He left the army on the evening of the 9th. Gen. SHERMAN’s whole army was then within ten miles of Savannah, advancing to attack it.
The enemy’s works, five miles from the city, were probably attacked yesterday, as heavy firing was heard in that direction.

Capt. DUNCAN represents the army to be in the best spirits possible, and the most excellent condition. Very little opposition had been met with on the march, as the enemy could not tell what routes were to be taken.

The army has lived off the country, and has accumulated a considerable number of horses and cattle. It was also well supplied. The following is a copy of the dispatch brought by Captain DUNCAN.

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HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE TENNESSEE, NEAR SAVANNAH CANAL, Dec. 9, 1864.
To the Commander of the United States Naval Forces in the vicinity of Savannah, Ga.:

“SIR: We have met with perfect success thus far. The troops are in fine spirits, and near by.

Respectfully,
O.O. HOWARD.
Maj.-Gen. Commanding.
Right Wing of the Army.

Another dispatch brought by Capt. DUNCAN, directed to the Signal Officer of the fleet, from Gen. HOWARD’s Chief Signal Officer, requests a good lookout to be kept for signals.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant, J.G. FOSTER,
Major-General Commanding.

Posted in Georgia, Henry Halleck, Oliver O. Howard, Savannah, Sherman's March | Leave a comment

December 13, 1864: Sherman takes Fort McAllister

Fort Macallister

From Sherman’s official report:

The enemy had burned the road bridge across the Ogeechee, just below the mouth of the Cannouchee, known as King’s Bridge. This was reconstructed in an incredibly short time, in the most substantial manner, by the Fifty-eighth Indiana (Colonel Buell), under the direction of Captain Reese, of the Engineer Corps, and on the morning of the 13th of December the Second Division of the Fifteenth Corps, under command of Brigadier-General Hazen, crossed the bridge to the west bank of the Ogeechee and marched down with orders to carry by assault Fort McAllister, a strong inclosed redoubt, manned by two companies of artillery and three of infantry, in all about 200 men, and mounting twenty-three guns in barbette and one mortar.

General Hazen reached the vicinity of Fort McAllister about 1 p. M., deployed his division about the place, with both flanks resting upon the river, posted his skirmishers judiciously behind the trunks of trees, whose branches had been used for abatis, and about 5 p. M. assaulted the place with nine regiments at three points, all of them successfully. I witnessed the assault from a rice mill on the opposite bank of the river, and can bear testimony to the handsome manner in which it was accomplished.

Up to this time we had not communicated with our fleet. From the signal station at the rice mill our officers had looked for two days over the rice fields and salt marsh in the direction of Ossabaw Sound, but could see nothing of it. But while watching the preparations for the assault on Fort McAllister we discovered in the distance what seemed to be the smoke-stack of a steamer, which became more and more distinct, until about the very moment of the assault she was plainly visible below the fort, and our signal was answered. As soon as I saw our colors fairly planted upon the walls of McAllister, in company with General Howard I went in a small boat down to the fort and met General Hazen, who had not yet communicated with the gun-boat below, as it was shut out to him by a point of timber. Determined to communicate that night, I got another small boat and a crew and pulled down the river till I found the tug Dandelion, Captain Williamson, U. S. Navy, who informed me that Captain Duncan, who had been sent by General Howard, had succeeded in reaching Admiral Dahlgren and General Foster, and that he was expecting them hourly in Ossabaw Sound.

Hazen has taken Fort McAllister, just south of Savannah, opening up direct communication with the Union Fleet. Sherman sends his first report to the Secretary of War since September from the deck of the US ship Dandelion, telling him that the army “is in splendid order, and equal to anything.” As he now has access to all the supplies he wants from the fleet, while they have cut off Savannah from any hope of resupply, he concludes that “I regard Savannah as already gained”. Meanwhile, Jefferson Davis responds to Beauregard’s request for more troops to defend South Carolina in the negative. “Events have rendered it impracticable,” which is of course just what Grant intended from the first when he planned simultaneous assaults in all the theaters of the war.


ON BOARD DANDELION,
Ossabaw Sound, December 13, 1864 – 11. 50 p. m.
(Received 15th.)
Honorable . M. STANTON,
Secretary of War, Washington, D. C.:

To-day, at 5 p. m., General Hazen’s division of the Fifteenth Corps carried Fort McAllister by assault, capturing its entire garrison and stores. This opened to us Ossabaw Sound, and I pushed down to this gun-boat to communicate with the fleet. Before opening communication we had completely destroyed all the railroads leading into Savannah and invested the city. The left of the army is on the Savannah River, three miles above the city, and the right on the Ogeechee, at King’s Bridge.

The army is in splendid order, and equal to anything. The Weather has been fine, and supplies were abundant. Our march was most agreeable, and we were not at all molested by guerrillas. We reached Savannah three days ago, but owing to Fort McAllister could not communicate; but now that we have McAllister we can go ahead. We have already captured two boats on the Savannah river, and prevented their gun-boats from coming down. I estimate the population of Savannah at 25,000 and the garrison at 15,000; General Hardee commands. We have not lost a wagon on the trip, but have gathered a large supply of negroes, mules, horses. We have utterly destroyed over 200 miles of rails, and consumed stores and provisions that were essential to Lee’s and Hood’s armies. The quick work made with McAllister, the opening of communication with our fleet, and our consequent independence as to supplies, dissipate all their boasted threats to head us off and starve the army.

I regard Savannah as already gained.

Yours, truly,
W. T. SHERMAN,
Major-General.

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RICHMOND, VA., December 13, 1864.
General G. T. BEAUREGARD,
Charleston, S. C.:

I have anxiously desired to send re-enforcements, but events have rendered it impracticable to add to those forwarded some time since. Should a charge of circumstances render it possible to do more no time will be lost in doing so. Should the enemy’s fleet be detached for operations against Savannah the opportunity will be presented for our squadron at Charleston to assume the offensive, and perhaps to destroy his depot at Port Royal.

JEFF’N DAVIS.

Posted in Edwin M. Stanton, Georgia, Jefferson Davis, Pierre G.T. Beauregard, Savannah, Sherman's March, South Carolina, William Tecumseh Sherman | Leave a comment

December 12, 1864: Sherman heads for Fort McAllister; contact with the fleet

Savannah Campaign

Sherman’s men are approaching Savannah, and Gen. Young worries that they’ll cut the crossing at Screven’s Ferry. He’s right, as Sherman is sending Hazen’s division that way to take Fort McAllister tomorrow. Meanwhile, Jefferson Davis realizes that they need more troops, and he’ll send some when and if he can spare them. Finally, a scout from Howard’s wing of Sherman’s army reached the fleet with a message that they’re in good shape, well fed, and ready to take Savannah.


HARDEEVILLE, December 12, 1864.
(Received 10. 55 p. m.)
Major-General JONES:

There is a guard of fifty men at the bridge; the bridge has been destroyed. A party of Yankees from Sherman’s army landed at Hayward’s plantain to-day; destroyed some houses, and scouts report they have gone. It seems to me that this is the most important place just now. Can you send some troops here, with some artillery? Sherman must be aware that our only communication with Savannah is by Screven’s Ferry. He will do all in his power to cut it; I believe he is doing it now. If my opinion is worth anything I should say intrench where you are, and come here with all than can be spared. I hope you
will urge upon the railroad men the necessity of keeping at east two trains this side Coosawhatchie. If I had an engine I would run up and have a talk with you. I will execute your orders at once.

Most respectfully,
P. M. B. YOUNG,
Brigadier-General.

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KING’S BRIDGE, December 12, 1864 – 4. 30 p. m.
General SLOCUM:

The Ogeechee here is a large navigable stream. Fort McAllister is six miles below, on the west bank, and to-morrow early I will send Hazen’s division to attack it. Kilpatrick is over already, and will examine Saint Catherine’s Sound and Sunbery; but if we can get Ossabaw we are all right. I want you to be active to-morrow, and to get two or more of your (largest range guns) batteries at the point south of the canal where Mower was and where Carlin went in last night. That is the only point I know of where guns will reach the heart of Savannah. Your line need not reach the plank road, but the causeway about two miles this side the canal, the point where the enemy has the range of the road; there Blair will connect with you. Keep rather thin lines, and your troops massed ready for action. I want to connect with the fleet before doing anything positive. Send me word of anything of interest on that flank to-morrow. The fleet can be seen, or is reported, but as yet has answered none of our signals, but I think to-morrow I will make them notice us.

Yours,
W. T. SHERMAN

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RICHMOND, VA.
, December 12, 1864.
Governor BONHAM,
Columbia, S. C.:

Yours of the 11th instant received. I have for some time realized the importance of adding veteran troops to the force assembled to resist Sherman, and have corresponded with General Lee on the subject. The recent operations of the enemy have increased the previously entertained estimate of the danger of detaching troops from the Army of Virginia. My anxiety will render me prompt to respond to your request should it become practicable to do so, and General Lee will in no degree withhold any further assistance which he can give consistently with the safety of his position.

JEFF’N DAVIS.

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New York Times:
WASHINGTON, Wednesday, Dec. 14.
The following telegram has been received at the War Department:

HILTON HEAD, S.C., Monday, Dec. 12, 1864, via FORTRESS MONROE, Wednesday, Dec. 14.
To major-Gen. Halleck, Chief of Staff:

GENERAL: Capt. DUNCAN, of Gen. HOWARD’s Scouts, has just come in from Gen. HOWARD, having descended the Ogeechee River in a small boat. He left the army on the evening of the 9th. Gen. SHERMAN’s whole army was then within ten miles of Savannah, advancing to attack it.

The enemy’s works, five miles from the city, were probably attacked yesterday, as heavy firing was heard in that direction.
Capt. DUNCAN represents the army to be in the best spirits possible, and the most excellent condition. Very little opposition had been met with on the march, as the enemy could not tell what routes were to be taken.

The army has lived off the country, and has accumulated a considerable number of horses and cattle. It was also well supplied.

The following is a copy of the dispatch brought by Captain DUNCAN.

HEADQUATERS ARMY OF THE TENNESSEE, NEAR SAVANNAH CANAL, Dec. 9, 1864.

To the Commander of the United States Naval Forces in the vicinity of Savannah, Ga.:

“SIR: We have met with perfect success thus far. The troops are in fine spirits, and near by.

Respectfully,
O.O. HOWARD.
Maj.-Gen. Commanding.
Right Wing of the Army.

Another dispatch brought by Capt. DUNCAN, directed to the Signal Officer of the fleet, from Gen. HOWARD’s Chief Signal Officer, requests a good lookout to be kept for signals.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant, J.G. FOSTER,
Major-General Commanding.

Posted in Jefferson Davis, Oliver O. Howard, Savannah, Sherman's March, William Tecumseh Sherman | Leave a comment

December 11, 1864: Still trying to reach the fleet.

Gen. O.O. Howard
Gen. O. O. Howard

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Howard says the best bet is to take Fort McAllister, just south of Savannah. He’s still trying to communicate with the Union fleet offshore. Meanwhile, the defenders are trying to block Sherman’s advance, but lack troop strength.


HDQRS. DEPARTMENT AND ARMY OF THE TENNESSEE, [OR 92:683]
Little Ogeechee, near Savannah, December 11, 1864.
Major General W. T. SHERMAN,
Commanding Military Division of the Mississippi:

GENERAL: I have carefully reconnoitered this part of the rebel position. I find that there are at least five batteries, one of them mounting four guns and the others probably one each. The marsh extending along their whole front is impassable either to foot or horsemen, and the only way by which it can be crossed, leading from Doctor Cheves’ plantation, has a battery planted at the other shore. Their line runs along the eastern branch of the Little Ogeechee, terminating near its mouth, where it cannot be approached owing to the swamps bordering the river.

At Screven’s there is a good landing, opposite which is Fort McAllister. The fort is well supplied with guns; some of the negroes saying that there are thirty-five mounted – others, less – and that there are but fifty men fit for duty.

I have given General Kilpatrick four pontoons, and ordered him to cross the Cannouchee and take the fort if possible. If he is unsuccessful I shall march down a division. King’s Bridge will be finished to-morrow night, and from there to Fort McAllister there is a good road, without obstructions.

We have tried in every way to communicate with the fleet, but have thus has been unsuccessful. I hope that by to-night we shall be able to do so with signal rockets. I find that about 150 feet of the Ogeechee railroad bridge at each end had been destroyed at the first breaking of the road. We find no trains between Way’s and Fleming’s Stations.

Respectfully,
O. O. HOWARD,
Major-General.

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COLUMBIA, December 11, 1864. [OR 92:949]
President DAVIS:

It is to be feared the force at Coosawhatchie is insufficient to save the road. I have ordered out all the State forces that can be spared. Cannot some of the infantry and cavalry from this State be sent to her assistance? The loss of that road will isolate Savannah.

M. L. BONHAM.

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Savannah, December 11, 1864-6 p. m.
Major-General WHEELER,
Commanding Cavalry:

Lieutenant-General Hardee is apprehensive that the enemy may cross the Savannah River between the railroad bridge and the city on flats captured on the island plantations and get on his line of communication. He considers it important to provide against such a contingency, and desires you to transfer to the left bank of the river a sufficient force to protect his left flank. He also thinks it best that you should cross the river and establish your headquarters at Hardeeville, or some other convenient locality.

Respectfully, General, your obedient servant,
T. B. ROY,
Assistant Adjutant-General.

Posted in Georgia, Joseph Wheeler, Oliver O. Howard, Savannah, Sherman's March, William Tecumseh Sherman | Leave a comment

December 10, 1864: Sherman invests Savannah

Savannah Campaign

From Sherman’s official report:

No opposition from the enemy worth speaking of was encountered until the heads of columns were within fifteen miles of Savannah, where all the roads leading to the city were obstructed more or less by felled timber, with earth-works and artillery. But these were easily turned and the enemy driven away, so that by the 10th of December the enemy was driven within his lines at Savannah. These followed substantially a swampy creek which empties into the Savannah River about three miles above the city, across to the head of a corresponding stream which empties into the Little Ogeechee. These streams were singularly favorable to the enemy as a cover, being very marshy, and bordered by rice fields, which were flooded either by the tide water or by inland ponds, the gates to which were controlled and covered by his heavy artillery.

The only approaches to the city were by five narrow causeways-namely, the two railroads, and the Augusta, the Louisville, and the Ogeechee dirt roads — all of which were commanded by heavy ordnance, too strong for us to fight with our light field-guns. To assault an enemy of unknown strength at such a disadvantage appeared to me unwise, especially as I had so successfully brought my army, almost unscathed, so great a distance, and could surely attain the same result by the operation of time.

I therefore instructed my army commanders to closely invest the city from the north and west, and to reconnoiter well the ground in their fronts, respectively, whilst I gave my personal attention to opening communications with our fleet, which I knew was waiting for us in Tybee, Wassaw, and Ossabaw Sounds.

In approaching Savannah General Slocum struck the Charleston railroad near the bridge, and occupied the river-bank as his left flank, where he had captured two of the enemy’s river boats, and had prevented two others (gun-boats), from coming down the river to communicate with the city; while General Howard, by his right flank, had broken the Gulf railroad at Fleming’s and Way’s Stations, and occupied the railroad itself down to the Little Ogeechee, near Station 1; so that no supplies could reach Savannah by any of its accustomed channels.

We, on the contrary, possessed large herds of cattle, which we had brought along or gathered in the country and our wagons still contained a reasonable amount of breadstuffs and other necessaries, and the fine rice crops of the Savannah and Ogeechee Rivers furnished to our men and animals a large amount of rice and rice straw. We also held the country to the south and west of the Ogeechee as foraging ground.

Still, communication with the fleet was of vital importance; and I directed General Kilpatrick to cross the Ogeechee by a pontoon bridge, to reconnoiter Fort McAllister, and to proceed to Saint Catherine’s Sound, in the direction of Sunbery or Kilkenny Bluff, and open communication with the fleet. General Howard had previously, by my direction, sent one of his best scouts down the Ogeechee in a canoe for a like purpose. But more than this was necessary. We wanted the vessels and their contents; and the Ogeechee River, a navigable stream, close to the rear of our camps, was the proper avenue of supply.

Sherman’s orders before Savannah:


SPECIAL HDQRS. MIL. DIV. OF THE MISSISSIPPI, FIELD ORDERS,
In the Field, near Savannah, GA., Numbers 130. December 10, 1864.

The army having arrived before Savannah, will proceed to invest the place, and to open up communication with our fleet in Ossabaw and Wassaw Sounds.

I. The Left Wing, Major-General Slocum, will make a left flank near the Savannah River above the city, and extend round to a point near the plank road. He is also charged with the utter destruction of the Savannah and Charleston Railroad back to and including the Savannah River bridge, as also the Central Georgia road from his line back to Pooler (Numbers 1). One battalion of the First Regiment Michigan Engineers and Mechanics will be ordered to report to General Slocum, to twist the rails.

II. The Right Wing, Major-General Howard, will extend from General Slocum’s right to the Savannah River below the city, or to the Shell road. General Howard is also charged with opening communication with the destruction of the Gulf railroad back to and including the Ogeechee River bridge.

III. Captain O. M. Poe, chief engineer, will forthwith cause thorough reconnaissances to be made, so as to compile an approximate map for the use of army commanders, and will also cause roads to be examined and opened, to facilitate communication with the different parts of it.

IV. Brigadier-General Kilpatrick, commanding cavalry, will watch all roads to the rear, and also assist General Howard in opening communication with the fleet; and army and corps commanders will at once overhaul their trains, and be prepared, on short notice, to send to the fleet everything not absolutely required for our success.

By order of Major General W. T. Sherman:
L. M. DAYTON,
Aide-de-Camp.

Posted in Georgia, Henry W. Slocum, Oliver O. Howard, Savannah, Sherman's March, William Tecumseh Sherman | Leave a comment