Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman


Text to Speech

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.

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,

Georgia.

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.

Yours truly,

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

Mississippi

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

army.

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,

Virginia.

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

fleet.

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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