December 8, 1864: Sherman approaches Savannah

P.G.T. Beauregard
Gen. Beauregard


Sherman is nearing Savannah, and he’s planning his assault on the city. Wheeler reports what he knows, but clearly his cavalry are insufficient to keep an eye on all of Sherman’s forces. Hardee is in charge of the defense of Savannah, but he lacks the manpower to resist Sherman. Beauregard, in a brief note, admonishes Hardee to remember that his army, small as it is, is more valuable than the city. “…whenever you shall have to select between their safety and that of Savannah, sacrifice the latter…” Hardee is also the only defense of South Carolina.

Meanwhile, Sherman’s men are trying to make contact with the Union fleet off Savannah’s coast, and I include a dispatch from Gen. Corse primarily for the sake of this turn of phrase: “that the road east of Eden, crossing the Cannouchee near where it flows into the Ogeechee, is a myth…” Dispatches had been talking about the road “east of Eden” for days, and clearly Corse couldn’t resist the chance to declare it a myth.

In the Field, December 8, 1864 – 7 p. m.
Major-General HOWARD,
Commanding Army of the Tennessee:

GENERAL: We are at a point on the road from Millen to Savannah, about two miles north of Numbers 2, called Mount Zion Church. General Slocum is but a short distance from us, and will move to-morrow on a road which branches off from this road and comes into the Augusta road ten miles north of Savannah, where he will effect a junction with General Davis, destroy that railroad, drive the enemy within his intrenchments, and then work to the right and form a junction with us, on this road, as near Savannah as we may get. General Blair will move on this road by Pooler, and so on until we drive the enemy within the intrenchments of Savannah, wherever they may be. The general wishes you to get down in the neighborhood of Beverly, Silk Hope, or Litchfield, so as to advance in the direction of the plank road until we come together, or communicate by the road which leads from Silk Hope to Cherokee Hill. He aims to push the enemy far enough into Savannah to have the use of the Shell road as a route of supply. If you can possibly to do so, he wishes you to send a note by a canoe down the Ogeechee, pass the railroad bridge in the night, and inform the naval commander that we have arrived in fine condition and are moving directly against Savannah, but, for the present, do not risk giving any details.

I am, General, with respect, &c.,


CHARLESTON, S. C., December 8, 1864.
Lieutenant-General HARDEE,
Savannah, GA.:

Having no army of relief to look to, and your forces being essential to the defense of Georgia and South Carolina, whenever you shall have to select between their safety and that of Savannah, sacrifice the latter, and form a junction with General Jones, holding the left bank of the Savannah River and the railroad to this place as long as possible.



GRAHAMVILLE, December 8, 1864.

The enemy are still moving on toward Savannah, obstructing the roads in their rear, and resisting warmly this morning. I cannot learn that any force of the enemy have crossed the Savannah River. I hear artillery firing far in my front; do not know what it means. The Fourteenth Corps and Kilpatrick’s cavalry are on the river road, Fifteenth on Middle Ground road, and Seventeenth, and probably Twentieth Corps, on Central railroad. I think the force on the right bank of the Ogeechee must be small.

Respectfully, your obedient servant,


Dillon’s Bridge, December 8, 1864.
Major-General HOWARD:

Captain Kirlin, of your staff, came to the opposite bank this evening, and reported that General O. was at Eden; that the road east of Eden, crossing the Cannouchee near where it flows into the Ogeechee, is a myth; that General Osterhaus has met a force intrenched on the south side of the Cannouchee, estimated from 1,000 to 5,000. The cannonading heard late to-day was from the rebels. General Osterhaus will try to effect a crossing west of where the Eden road crosses the Cannouchee. Our fleet came into Ossabaw Sound and signaled for Sherman’s forces on Saturday, landed forces and signaled again Monday. The foot bridge we found impracticable, but have a boat, by means of which we communicate with the western bank of the Ogeechee. My mounted force went out three miles and struck a rebel force on the main Savannah road, intrenched and with artillery. They developed the position and force of the enemy, but were so hotly pressed as to be compelled to leave one wounded man in the enemy’s possession. I am prepared to advance in the morning, either toward Savannah or the Gulf railroad, as you may be pleased to direct. There are six couriers on the other bank of the Ogeechee. In case you want orders to go to General O. this will prove your speediest route.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Brigadier-General, Commanding.

This entry was posted in Braxton Bragg, Francis Preston Blair, Georgia, Henry W. Slocum, Hugh Judson Kilpatrick, Joseph Wheeler, Oliver O. Howard, Pierre G.T. Beauregard, Savannah, Sherman's March, William J. Hardee, William Tecumseh Sherman. Bookmark the permalink.

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