December 7, 1864: Hardee tries to defend Savannah

William J. Hardee

The rebels continue to fight a guerrilla action against Sherman’s advance, felling trees across the road and burning bridges, but the pioneers — including lots of former slaves freed by the advancing columns — clear the road, build bridges, and corduroy the way with little delay.

Hardee, defending Savannah, knows that Howard is approaching rapidly, and he is trying desperately to hold onto the troops he has and supplement them with others. He has doubts about his ability to hold out against Sherman.

From Sherman’s official report:
All the columns reached their destinations on time, and continued to march on their several roads-General Davis following the Savannah River road; General Slocum the middle road, by way of Springfield; General Blair the railroad, and General Howard still south and west of the Ogeechee, with orders to cross to the east bank opposite Eden Station, or Station Numbers 2.
As we approached Savannah the country became more marshy and difficult, and more obstructions were met in the way of felled trees, where the roads crossed the creek, swamps, or narrow causeways; but our pioneer companies were well organized, and removed these obstructions in an incredibly short time.


HDQRS. DEPARTMENT AND ARMY OF THE TENNESSEE,

Jenks’ Bridge, GA., December 7, 1864.
Major General W. T. SHERMAN,
Commanding Military Division of the Mississippi:

On the arrival of the bridge at this point, Captain Reese, finding the enemy on the other shore, threw over a regiment of Hazen’s division in boats and cleared the way. The bridge was immediately laid, and a brigade of General Corse’s division, General Rice commanding, pushed
over, met the enemy’s skirmishers about 500 yards beyond, drove them, and routed a battalion of rebels, behind rail piles, in a very handsome manner, capturing 17 prisoners, and killing and wounding several. He lost 2 killed and 2 or 3 wounded. He then pushed on to Twenty-Mile Station. General Wood’s brigade from Wright’s Bridge formed a junction with General Rice near that point. These troops are all I have now near Station Numbers 2; the rest of the Fifteenth Corps is still on this side of the Ogeechee. I propose while General Blair is coming up to-morrow to reconnoiter down both banks of the Ogeechee, break the Gulf railroad, and secure, if possible, the wagon road bridges. It is again reported by General Hazen that our prisoners are on the Gulf road, but only seventy miles out, at a place called Doctor Town. Prisoners and negroes report breast-works in progress of construction about twelve miles from Savannah. They claim to have 17,000 men with which to man them. We shall soon see. I send yesterday’s papers. Schofield victory is not quite satisfactory.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
O. O. HOWARD,
Major-General.

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BRANCHVILLE, December 7, 1864.
General S. COOPER,
Adjutant and Inspector General:

I cannot return exchanged prisoners to their commands; they will be kept temporarily for defense of Savannah.

G. T. BEAUREGARD.

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SAVANNAH, December 7, 1864.
General SAMUEL JONES:

You must send me at once the Augusta battalion, the Georgia battalion, which arrived to-day, and such other troops as you can spare. Bring part of Chestnut’s command to Coosawhatchie; the enemy has left his front. The enemy is advancing on Savannah.

W. J. HARDEE,
Lieutenant-General.

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SAVANNAH, December 7, 1864.
(Received 10. 45 8th.)
General S. COOPER,
Adjutant and Inspector General:

Considerable fighting at Coosawhatchie to-day without definite results. The enemy hold a position near Coosawhatchie and the railroad. Heavy skirmishing at Numbers 2, Central railroad, with large force of the enemy, which have crossed the Ogeechee opposite that point. Fighting also at Cannouchee Bridge. Enemy have made their appearance at Hudson’s Ferry and Matthews’ Point, on the Savannah River. The gun-boat Macon is at Sister’s Ferry, with orders to patrol the river as high up as Hudson’s Ferry. Howard’s wing of the Federal army is believed to be on the right bank of the Ogeechee crossing to the left bank.

W. J. HARDEE,
Lieutenant-General.

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SAVANNAH, December 7, 1864.
General JONES:

I do not know how long I shall be able to hold the railroad between this and Savannah railroad bridge. It is therefore all-important that all the re-enforcements I am to receive should be sent forward immediately.

W. J. HARDEE,
Lieutenant-General.

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