Saturday, December 13, 2014

Battle of Fort McAllister

March to the Sea
As Sherman's army marched across Georgia, through November and December, destroying southern property along the way, they encountered only very feeble resistance. All the Confederate troops in arms were needed where they were stationed, and they could not be spared to resist this invasion. Several thousand Confederate cavalry under Joseph Wheeler did harass the Federal's march, but they could not hope to defeat the entire column. The Georgia militia tried to make a stand, but the small force, many of whom were young boys or old men, were easily defeated by Sherman's veterans.

The Union troops approached Savannah, their destination on December 10. A Union fleet under Admiral John Dahlgren floated just off the town with supplies for the army, but the town and its fortifications were still in Confederate hands. Sherman deployed his men to surrounded the town's works. He decided to attack Fort McAllister. He believed his infantry could capture it, and then they would have access to the Ogeechee River, which led to the sea.

Fort McAllister
On December 13, 150 years ago today, 4,000 Federals, William Hazen's division, which happened to be Sherman's old command, advanced toward the fort, held by only 230 Confederates. Sherman, who watched the attack, later wrote:
[W]e saw Hazen's troops come out of the dark fringe of woods that encompassed the fort, their lines dressed as on parade, with colors flying, and moving forward with a quick, steady pace. Fort McAllister was then all alive, its big guns belching forth dense clouds of smoke, which soon enveloped our assaulting lines. One color went down, but was up in a moment. On the lines advanced, faintly seen in the white, sulfurous smoke; there was a pace, a cessation of fire; the smoke cleared away, and the parapets were blue with our men.... Fort McAllister was taken....
The assault had taken only 15 minutes. The army met ships from the fleet, and the March to the Sea was officially over. Sherman's men turned without delay to their next task – the siege of Savannah.

Union troops in Fort McAllister


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