Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman


Text to Speech

twenty days' supply per corps and some of the troops only had one

day's issue of bread during the trip of thirty days; yet they did

not want, for sweet-potatoes were very abundant, as well as

corn-meal, and our soldiers took to them naturally. We started

with about five thousand head of cattle, and arrived with over ten

thousand, of course consuming mostly turkeys, chickens, sheep,

hogs, and the cattle of the country. As to our mules and horses,

we left Atlanta with about twenty-five hundred wagons, many of

which were drawn by mules which had not recovered from the

Chattanooga starvation, all of which were replaced, the poor mules

shot, and our transportation is now in superb condition. I have no

doubt the State of Georgia has lost, by our operations, fifteen

thousand first-rate mules. As to horses, Kilpatrick collected all

his remounts, and it looks to me, in riding along our

columns, as though every officer had three or four led horses, and

each regiment seems to be followed by at least fifty negroes and

foot-sore soldiers, riding on horses and mules. The custom was for

each brigade to send out daily a foraging-party of about fifty men,

on foot, who invariably returned mounted, with several wagons

loaded with poultry, potatoes, etc., and as the army is composed of

about forty brigades, you can estimate approximately the number of

horses collected. Great numbers of these were shot by my order,

because of the disorganizing effect on our infantry of having too

many idlers mounted. General Euston is now engaged in collecting

statistics on this subject, but I know the Government will never

receive full accounts of our captures, although the result aimed at

was fully attained, viz., to deprive our enemy of them. All these

animals I will have sent to Port Royal, or collected behind Fort

McAllister, to be used by General Saxton in his farming operations,

or by the Quartermaster's Department, after they are systematically

accounted for. While General Easton is collecting transportation

for my troops to James River, I will throw to Port Royal Island all

our means of transportation I can, and collect the rest near Fort

McAllister, covered by the Ogeeehee River and intrenchments to be

erected, and for which Captain Poe, my chief-engineer, is now

reconnoitring the ground, but in the mean time will act as I have

begun, as though the city of Savannah were my objective: namely,

the troops will continue to invest Savannah closely, making attacks

and feints wherever we have fair ground to stand upon, and I will

place some thirty-pound Parrotts, which I have got from General

Foster, in position, near enough to reach the centre of the city,

and then will demand its surrender. If General Hardee is alarmed,

or fears starvation, he may surrender; otherwise I will bombard the

city, but not risk the lives of our men by assaults across the

narrow causeways, by which alone I can now reach it.

If I had time, Savannah, with all its dependent fortifications,

would surely fall into our possession, for we hold all its avenues

of supply.

The enemy has made two desperate efforts to get boats from above to

the city, in both of which he has been foiled-General Slocum (whose

left flank rests on the river) capturing and burning the first

boat, and in the second instance driving back two gunboats and

capturing the steamer Resolute, with seven naval officers and a

crew of twenty-five seamen. General Slocum occupies Argyle Island

and the upper end of Hutchinson Inland, and has a brigade on the

South Carolina shore opposite, and is very urgent to pass one of

his corps over to that shore. But, in view of the change of plan

made necessary by your order of the 6th, I will maintain things in

statu quo till I have got all my transportation to the rear and out

of the way, and until I have sea-transportation for the troops you

require at James River, which I will accompany and command in

person. Of course, I will leave Kilpatrick, with his cavalry (say

five thousand three hundred), and, it may be, a division of the

Fifteenth Corps; but, before determining on this, I must see

General Foster, and may arrange to shift his force (now over above

the Charleston Railroad, at the head of Broad River) to the

Ogeeohee, where, in cooperation with Kilpatrick's cavalry, he can

better threaten the State of Georgia than from the direction of

Port Royal. Besides, I would much prefer not to detach from my

regular corps any of its veteran divisions, and would even prefer

that other less valuable troops should be sent to reenforce Foster

from some other quarter. My four corps, full of experience and

full of ardor, coming to you en masse, equal to sixty thousand

fighting men, will be a reenforcement that Lee cannot disregard.

Indeed, with my present command, I had expected, after reducing

Savannah, instantly to march to Columbia, South Carolina; thence to

Raleigh, and thence to report to you. But this would consume, it

may be, six weeks' time after the fall of Savannah; whereas, by

sea, I can probably reach you with my men and arms before the

middle of January.

I myself am somewhat astonished at the attitude of things in

Tennessee. I purposely delayed at Kingston until General Thomas

assured me that he was all ready, and my last dispatch from him of

the 12th of November was full of confidence, in which he promised

me that he would ruin Hood if he dared to advance from Florence,

urging me to go ahead, and give myself no concern about Hood's army

in Tennessee.

Why he did not turn on him at Franklin, after checking and

discomfiting him, surpasses my understanding. Indeed, I do not

approve of his evacuating Decatur, but think he should have assumed

the offensive against Hood from Pulaski, in the direction of

Waynesburg.

I know full well that General Thomas is slow in mind and in action;

but he is judicious and brave and the troops feel great confidence

in him. I still hope he will out-manoeuvre and destroy Hood.

As to matters in the Southeast, I think Hardee, in Savannah, has

good artillerists, some five or six thousand good infantry, and,

it may be, a mongrel mass of eight to ten thousand militia. In all

our marching through Georgia, he has not forced us to use any thing

but a skirmish-line, though at several points he had erected

fortifications and tried to alarm us by bombastic threats. In

Savannah he has taken refuge in a line constructed behind swamps

and overflowed rice-fields, extending from a point on the Savannah

River about three miles above the city, around by a branch of the

Little Ogeechee, which stream is impassable from its salt-marshes

and boggy swamps, crossed only by narrow causeways or common

corduroy-roads.

There must be twenty-five thousand citizens, men, women, and

children, in Savannah, that must also be fed, and how he is to feed

them beyond a few days I cannot imagine. I know that his

requisitions for corn on the interior counties were not filled, and

we are in possession of the rice-fields and mills, which could

alone be of service to him in this neighborhood. He can draw

nothing from South Carolina, save from a small corner down in the

southeast, and that by a disused wagon-road. I could easily get

possession of this, but hardly deem it worth the risk of making a

detachment, which would be in danger by its isolation from the main

army. Our whole army is in fine condition as to health, and the

weather is splendid. For that reason alone I feel a personal

dislike to turning northward. I will keep Lieutenant Dunn here

until I know the result of my demand for the surrender of Savannah,

but, whether successful or not, shall not delay my execution of

your order of the 6th, which will depend alone upon the time it

will require to obtain transportation by sea.

I am, with respect, etc., your obedient servant,

W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General United States Army.

Having concluded all needful preparations, I rode from my

headquarters, on the plank-road, over to General Slocum's

headquarters, on the Macon road, and thence dispatched (by flag of

truce) into Savannah, by the hands of Colonel Ewing,

inspector-general, a demand for the surrender of the place. The

following letters give the result. General Hardee refused to

surrender, and I then resolved to make the attempt to break his

line of defense at several places, trusting that some one would

succeed.

HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI,

IN THE FIELD, NEAR SAVANNAH, December 17, 1864.

General WILLIAM J. HARDEE, commanding Confederate Forces in

Savannah.

GENERAL: You have doubtless observed, from your station at Rosedew

that sea-going vessels now come through Ossabaw Sound and up the

Ogeechee to the rear of my army, giving me abundant supplies of all

kinds, and more especially heavy ordnance necessary for the

reduction of Savannah. I have already received guns that can cast

heavy and destructive shot as far as the heart of your city; also,

I have for some days held and controlled every avenue by which the

people and garrison of Savannah can be supplied, and I am therefore

justified in demanding the surrender of the city of Savannah, and

its dependent forts, and shall wait a reasonable time for your

answer, before opening with heavy ordnance. Should you entertain

the proposition, I am prepared to grant liberal terms to the

inhabitants and garrison; but should I be forced to resort to

assault, or the slower and surer process of starvation, I shall

then feel justified in resorting to the harshest measures, and

shall make little effort to restrain my army--burning to avenge the

national wrong which they attach to Savannah and other large cities

which have been so prominent in dragging our country into civil

war. I inclose you a copy of General Hood's demand for the

surrender of the town of Resaoa, to be used by you for what it is

worth. I have the honor to be your obedient servant,

W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General.

HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT SOUTH CAROLINA, GEORGIA AND FLORIDA

SAVANNAH, GEORGIA, December 17, 1864

Major-General W. T. SHERMAN, commanding Federal Forces near

Savannah, Georgia.

GENERAL: I have to acknowledge the receipt of a communication from

you of this date, in which you demand "the surrender of Savannah

and its dependent forts," on the ground that you "have received

guns that can cast heavy and destructive shot into the heart of the

city," and for the further reason that you "have, for some days,

held and controlled every avenue by which the people and garrison

can be supplied." You add that, should you be "forced to resort to

assault, or to the slower and surer process of starvation, you will

then feel justified in resorting to the harshest measures, and will

make little effort to restrain your army," etc., etc. The position

of your forces (a half-mile beyond the outer line for the land-

defense of Savannah) is, at the nearest point, at least four miles

from the heart of the city. That and the interior line are both

intact.

Your statement that you have, for some days, held and controlled

every avenue by which the people and garrison can be supplied, is

incorrect. I am in free and constant communication with my

department.

Your demand for the surrender of Savannah and its dependent forts

is refused.

With respect to the threats conveyed in the closing paragraphs of

your letter (of what may be expected in case your demand is not

complied with), I have to say that I have hitherto conducted the

military operations intrusted to my direction in strict accordance

with the rules of civilized warfare, and I should deeply regret the

adoption of any course by you that may force me to deviate from

them in future. I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your

obedient servant,

W. J. HARDEE, Lieutenant-General.

HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI,

IN THE FIELD, NEAR SAVANNAH, December 18, 1864 8 p.m.

Lieutenant-General U. S. GRANT, City Point, Virginia.

GENERAL: I wrote you at length (by Colonel Babcock) on the 16th

instant. As I therein explained my purpose, yesterday I made a

demand on General Hardee for the surrender of the city of Savannah,

and to-day received his answer--refusing; copies of both letters

are herewith inclosed. You will notice that I claim that my lines

are within easy cannon-range of the heart of Savannah; but General

Hardee asserts that we are four and a half miles distant. But I

myself have been to the intersection of the Charleston and Georgia

Central Railroads, and the three-mile post is but a few yards

beyond, within the line of our pickets. The enemy has no pickets

outside of his fortified line (which is a full quarter of a mile

within the three-mile post), and I have the evidence of Mr. R. R.

Cuyler, President of the Georgia Central Railroad (who was a

prisoner in our hands), that the mile-posts are measured from the

Exchange, which is but two squares back from the river. By

to-morrow morning I will have six thirty-pound Parrotts in

position, and General Hardee will learn whether I am right or not.

From the left of our line, which is on the Savannah River, the

spires can be plainly seen; but the country is so densely wooded

with pine and live-oak, and lies so flat, that we can see nothing

from any other portion of our lines. General Slocum feels

confident that he can make a successful assault at one or two

points in front of General Davis's (Fourteenth) corps. All of

General Howard's troops (the right wing) lie behind the Little

Ogeecbee, and I doubt if it can be passed by troops in the face of

an enemy. Still, we can make strong feints, and if I can get a

sufficient number of boats, I shall make a cooperative

demonstration up Vernon River or Wassaw Sound. I should like very

much indeed to take Savannah before coming to you; but, as I wrote

to you before, I will do nothing rash or hasty, and will embark for

the James River as soon as General Easton (who is gone to Port

Royal for that purpose) reports to me that he has an approximate

number of vessels for the transportation of the contemplated force.

I fear even this will cost more delay than you anticipate, for

already the movement of our transports and the gunboats has

required more time than I had expected. We have had dense fogs;

there are more mud-banks in the Ogeechee than were reported, and

there are no pilots whatever. Admiral Dahlgren promised to have

the channel buoyed and staked, but it is not done yet. We find

only six feet of water up to King's Bridge at low tide, about ten

feet up to the rice-mill, and sixteen to Fort McAllister. All

these points may be used by us, and we have a good, strong bridge

across Ogeechee at King's, by which our wagons can go to Fort

McAllister, to which point I am sending all wagons not absolutely

necessary for daily use, the negroes, prisoners of war, sick, etc.,

en route for Port Royal. In relation to Savannah, you will remark

that General Hardee refers to his still being in communication with

his department. This language he thought would deceive me; but I

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