Sunday, December 21, 2014

Fall of Savannah

Ruins of Savannah
Upon the conclusion of his march to the sea, when he established contact with the Federal fleet, William Sherman immediately began a siege of Savannah, Georgia. The fleet brought supplies and the siege artillery necessary to capture the city. With his troops in place, he sent a message to the Confederate commander, William Hardee, on December 17th:
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 …. 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.
Hardee did not take Sherman's offer of terms. Instead he abandoned the city, using an improvised pontoon bridge to cross the Savannah River on December 20th. The next day the mayor surrendered the city to Sherman, who telegraphed the president, “I beg to present you as a Christmas gift the City of Savannah, with one hundred and fifty guns and plenty of ammunition, also about twenty-five thousand bales of cotton.” Sherman's gamble, of abandoning his supply lines and heading into Georgia while Hood invaded Tennessee, had paid off. Lincoln was thankful that he had found able generals who could fight and defeat the Confederate forces. He wrote to Sherman,
Many, many thanks for your Christmas gift – the capture of Savannah. When you were leaving Atlanta for the Atlantic coast, I was anxious, if not fearful; but feeling that you were the better judge, and remembering that 'nothing risked, nothing gained' I did not interfere. Now, the undertaking being a success, the honor is all yours; for I believe none of us went farther than to acquiesce. … But what next? I suppose it will be safer if I leave Gen. Grant and yourself to decide.



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