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
I regard Savannah as already gained.
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General.
By this time the night was well advanced, and the tide was running
ebb-strong; so I asked. Captain Williamson to tow us up as near
Fort McAllister as he would venture for the torpedoes, of which the
navy-officers had a wholesome dread. The Dandelion steamed up some
three or four miles, till the lights of Fort McAllister could be
seen, when she anchored, and we pulled to the fort in our own boat.
General Howard and I then walked up to the McAllister House, where
we found General Hazen and his officers asleep on the floor of one
of the rooms. Lying down on the floor, I was soon fast asleep, but
shortly became conscious that some one in the room was inquiring
for me among the sleepers. Calling out, I was told that an officer
of General Fosters staff had just arrived from a steamboat anchored
below McAllister; that the general was extremely anxious to see me
on important business, but that he was lame from an old Mexican-War
wound, and could not possibly come to me. I was extremely weary
from the incessant labor of the day and night before, but got up,
and again walked down the sandy road to McAllister, where I found a
boat awaiting us, which carried us some three miles down the river,
to the steamer W. W. Coit (I think), on board of which we found
General Foster. He had just come from Port Royal, expecting to
find Admiral Dahlgren in Ossabaw Sound, and, hearing of the capture
of Fort McAllister, he had come up to see me. He described fully
the condition of affairs with his own command in South Carolina.
He had made several serious efforts to effect a lodgment on the
railroad which connects Savannah with Charleston near Pocotaligo,
but had not succeeded in reaching the railroad itself, though he
had a full division of troops, strongly intrenched, near Broad
River, within cannon-range of the railroad. He explained,
moreover, that there were at Port Royal abundant supplies of bread
and provisions, as well as of clothing, designed for our use. We
still had in our wagons and in camp abundance of meat, but we
needed bread, sugar, and coffee, and it was all-important that a
route of supply should at once be opened, for which purpose the
assistance of the navy were indispensable. We accordingly
steamed down the Ogeechee River to Ossabaw Sound, in hopes to meet
Admiral Dahlgren, but he was not there, and we continued on by the
inland channel to Warsaw Sound, where we found the Harvest Moon,
and Admiral Dahlgren. I was not personally acquainted with him at
the time, but he was so extremely kind and courteous that I was at
once attracted to him. There was nothing in his power, he said,
which he would not do to assist us, to make our campaign absolutely
successful. He undertook at once to find vessels of light draught
to carry our supplies from Port Royal to Cheeves's Mill, or to
Grog's Bridge above, whence they could be hauled by wagons to our
several camps; he offered to return with me to Fort McAllister, to
superintend the removal of the torpedoes, and to relieve me of all
the details of this most difficult work. General Foster then
concluded to go on to Port Royal, to send back to us six hundred
thousand rations, and all the rifled guns of heavy calibre, and
ammunition on hand, with which I thought we could reach the city of
Savannah, from the positions already secured. Admiral Dahlgren
then returned with me in the Harvest Moon to Fort McAllister. This
consumed all of the 14th of December; and by the 15th I had again
reached Cheeves's Mill, where my horse awaited me, and rode on to
General Howard's headquarters at Anderson's plantation, on the
plank-road, about eight miles back of Savannah. I reached this
place about noon, and immediately sent orders to my own head-
quarters, on the Louisville road, to have them brought over to the
plank-road, as a place more central and convenient; gave written
notice to Generals Slocum and Howard of all the steps taken, and
ordered them to get ready to receive the siege-guns, to put them in
position to bombard Savannah, and to prepare for the general
assault. The country back of Savannah is very low, and intersected
with innumerable saltwater creeks, swamps, and rice-fields.
Fortunately the weather was good and the roads were passable, but,
should the winter rains set in, I knew that we would be much
embarrassed. Therefore, heavy details of men were at once put to
work to prepare a wharf and depot at Grog's Bridge, and the roads
leading thereto were corduroyed in advance. The Ogeechee Canal was
also cleared out for use; and boats, such as were common on the
river plantations, were collected, in which to float stores from
our proposed base on the Ogeechee to the points most convenient to
the several camps.
Slocum's wing extended from the Savannah River to the canal, and
Howard's wing from the canal to the extreme right, along down the
Little Ogeechee. The enemy occupied not only the city itself, with
its long line of outer works, but the many forts which had been
built to guard the approaches from the sea-such as at Beaulieu,
Rosedew, White Bluff, Bonaventura, Thunderbolt, Cansten's Bluff,
Forts Tatnall, Boggs, etc., etc. I knew that General Hardee could
not have a garrison strong enough for all these purposes, and I was
therefore anxious to break his lines before he could receive
reenforcements from Virginia or Augusta. General Slocum had
already captured a couple of steamboats trying to pass down the
Savannah River from Augusta, and had established some of his men on
Argyle and Hutchinson Islands above the city, and wanted to
transfer a whole corps to the South Carolina bank; but, as the
enemy had iron-clad gunboats in the river, I did not deem it
prudent, because the same result could be better accomplished from
General Fosters position at Broad River.
Fort McAllister was captured as described, late in the evening of
December 13th, and by the 16th many steamboats had passed up as
high as King's Bridge; among them one which General Grant had
dispatched with the mails for the army, which had accumulated since
our departure from Atlanta, under charge of Colonel A. H. Markland.
These mails were most welcome to all the officers and soldiers of
the army, which had been cut off from friends and the world for two
months, and this prompt receipt of letters from home had an
excellent effect, making us feel that home was near. By this
vessel also came Lieutenant Dune, aide-de-camp, with the following
letter of December 3d, from General Grant, and on the next day
Colonel Babcock , United States Engineers, arrived with the letter
of December 6th, both of which are in General Grant's own
handwriting, and are given entire:
HEADQUARTERS ARMIES OF THE UNITED STATES
CITY POINT, VIRGINIA, December 3, 1864.
Major-General W. T. SHERMAN, commanding Armies near Savannah,
GENERAL: The little information gleaned from the Southern press
indicating no great obstacle to your progress, I have directed your
mails (which had been previously collected in Baltimore by Colonel
Markland, special-agent of the Post-Office Department) to be sent
as far as the blockading squadron off Savannah, to be forwarded to
you as soon as heard from on the coast.
Not liking to rejoice before the victory is assured, I abstain from
congratulating you and those under your command, until bottom has
been struck. I have never had a fear, however, for the result.
Since you left Atlanta no very great progress has been made here.
The enemy has been closely watched, though, and prevented from
detaching against you. I think not one man has gone from here,
except some twelve or fifteen hundred dismounted cavalry. Bragg
has gone from Wilmington. I am trying to take advantage of his
absence to get possession of that place. Owing to some
preparations Admiral Porter and General Butler are making to blow
up Fort Fisher (which, while hoping for the best, I do not believe
a particle in), there is a delay in getting this expedition off. I
hope they will be ready to start by the 7th, and that Bragg will
not have started back by that time.
In this letter I do not intend to give you any thing like
directions for future action, but will state a general idea I have,
and will get your views after you have established yourself on the
sea-coast. With your veteran army I hope to get control of the only
two through routes from east to west possessed by the enemy before
the fall of Atlanta. The condition will be filled by holding
Savannah and Augusta, or by holding any other port to the east of
Savannah and Branchville. If Wilmington falls, a force from there
can cooperate with you.
Thomas has got back into the defenses of Nashville, with Hood close
upon him. Decatur has been abandoned, and so have all the roads,
except the main one leading to Chattanooga. Part of this falling
back was undoubtedly necessary, and all of it may have been. It
did not look so, however, to me. In my opinion, Thomas far
outnumbers Hood in infantry. In cavalry Hood has the advantage in
morale and numbers. I hope yet that Hood will be badly crippled,
if not destroyed. The general news you will learn from the papers
better than I can give it.
After all becomes quiet, and roads become so bad up here that there
is likely to be a week or two when nothing can be done, I will run
down the coast to see you. If you desire it, I will ask Mrs.
Sherman to go with me.
U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.
HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMIES OF THE UNITED STATES.
CITY POINT, VIRGINIA, December 6, 1864.
Major-General W. T. SHERMAN, commanding Military Division of the
GENERAL: On reflection since sending my letter by the hands of
Lieutenant Dunn, I have concluded that the most important operation
toward closing out the rebellion will be to close out Lee and his
You have now destroyed the roads of the South so that it will
probably take them three months without interruption to reestablish
a through line from east to west. In that time I think the job here
will be effectually completed.
My idea now is that you establish a base on the sea-coast, fortify
and leave in it all your artillery and cavalry, and enough infantry
to protect them, and at the same time so threaten the interior that
the militia of the South will have to be kept at home. With the
balance of your command come here by water with all dispatch.
Select yourself the officer to leave in command, but you I want in
person. Unless you see objections to this plan which I cannot see,
use every vessel going to you for purposes of transportation.
Hood has Thomas close in Nashville. I have said all I can to force
him to attack, without giving the positive order until to-day.
To-day, however, I could stand it no longer, and gave the order
without any reserve. I think the battle will take place to-morrow.
The result will probably be known in New York before Colonel
Babcock (the bearer of this) will leave it. Colonel Babcock will
give you full information of all operations now in progress.
Very respectfully your obedient servant,
U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.
The contents of these letters gave me great uneasiness, for I had
set my heart on the capture of Savannah, which I believed to be
practicable, and to be near; for me to embark for Virginia by sea
was so complete a change from what I had supposed would be the
course of events that I was very much concerned. I supposed, as a
matter of course, that a fleet of vessels would soon pour in, ready
to convey the army to Virginia, and as General Grant's orders
contemplated my leaving the cavalry, trains, and artillery, behind,
I judged Fort McAllister to be the best place for the purpose, and
sent my chief-engineer, Colonel Poe, to that fort, to reconnoitre
the ground, and to prepare it so as to make a fortified camp large
enough to accommodate the vast herd of mules and horses that would
thus be left behind. And as some time might be required to collect
the necessary shipping, which I estimated at little less than a
hundred steamers and sailing-vessels, I determined to push
operations, in hopes to secure the city of Savannah before the
necessary fleet could be available. All these ideas are given in
my answer to General Grant's letters (dated December 16, 1864)
herewith, which is a little more full than the one printed in the
report of the Committee on the Conduct of the War, because in that
copy I omitted the matter concerning General Thomas, which now need
no longer be withheld:
HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI,
IN THE FIELD, NEAR SAVANNAH, December 16, 1864.
Lieutenant-General U. S. GRANT, Commander-in-Chief, City Point,
GENERAL: I received, day before yesterday, at the hands of
Lieutenant Dunn, your letter of December 8d, and last night, at the
hands of Colonel Babcock, that of December 6th. I had previously
made you a hasty scrawl from the tugboat Dandelion, in Ogeechee
River, advising you that the army had reached the sea-coast,
destroying all the railroads across the State of Georgia, investing
closely the city of Savannah, and had made connection with the
Since writing that note, I have in person met and conferred with
General Foster and Admiral Dahlgren, and made all the arrangements
which were deemed essential for reducing the city of Savannah to
our possession. But, since the receipt of yours of the 6th, I have
initiated measures looking principally to coming to you with fifty
or Sixty thousand infantry, and incidentally to capture Savannah,
if time will allow.
At the time we carried Fort McAllister by assault so handsomely,
with its twenty-two guns and entire garrison, I was hardly aware
of its importance; but, since passing down the river with General
Foster and up with Admiral Dahlgren, I realize how admirably
adapted are Ossabaw Sound and Ogeechee River to supply an army
operating against Savannah. Seagoing vessels can easily come to
King's Bridge, a point on Ogeechee River, fourteen and a half miles
due west of Savannah, from which point we have roads leading to all
our camps. The country is low and sandy, and cut up with marshes,
which in wet weather will be very bad, but we have been so favored
with weather that they are all now comparatively good, and heavy
details are constantly employed in double-corduroying the marshes,
so that I have no fears even of bad weather. Fortunately, also, by
liberal and judicious foraging, we reached the sea-coast abundantly
supplied with forage and provisions, needing nothing on arrival
except bread. Of this we started from Atlanta, with from eight to
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