Savannah in the Civil War - A Chronology of Key Events

by Lawrence Martin

Three novels on the Civil War by Lawrence Martin: Sherman's Mistress in Savannah; Out of Time - An alternative outcome to the Civil War; and Liberty Street: A novel of late Civil War Savannah. Click on cover for Amazon link.

Sherman's Mistress in Savannah Out of Time: Alternative Outcome LibertyStreet-cover

For Books, Pamphlets and Videos, see 1861-1862

Notables in Civil War Savannah

In alphabetical order, with internet links (hover over the name, then click for web link)

Mayor Richard Arnold (1808-1876)
Arnold was a physician and mayor of Savannah when Sherman's army arrived. He went out with some alderman early in the morning of 12/21/1864 to surrender the defenseless city and plead that it not be destroyed. He is credited with helping the city avoid destruction. Arnold later became the first Secretary of the American Medical Association.

Francis S. Bartow (1816-1861)
One of the first Savannahians to die in the Civil War. He was a prominent attorney and captain in the Oglethorpe Light Infantry, a Savannah militia unit. Took part in the January 1861 expedition that seized Fort Pulaski. Bartow also attended Georgia's secession convention in Milledgeville, Jan 16-19, 1861. His unit volunteered for the Confederate army and fought in the first civil war battle at Manassas, Virginia, July 1861, where he was killed. By that time he had been promoted to Brigadier General, and became the first Confederate brigade commander to die in combat (July 21, 1861). Bartow is buried in Laurel Grove Cemetery, Savannah.

General P.G.T. Beauregard (1818-1893)
Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard was Confederate Commander of the South during Sherman's siege of Savannah. He approved of General Hardee's evacuation on December 20, 1864, realizing it was more important to save the troops than try to defend Savannah against Sherman's much larger Army. Alhough he was active throughout the Civil War (Manassas, Shiloh, Corinth), Beauregard is most famous as the general who led the assault on Charleston's Fort Sumter, April 12, 1861, which began the Civil War.

Joseph E. Brown (1821-1894)
Governor of Georgia at time of secession from the Union, January 1861. He came to Savannah January 1, 1861 to order the takeover of Fort Pulaski by Confederate forces.

Fanny Yates Cohen (1840-1938)
Fanny Cohen is famous for her diary, meticulously kept during part of Sherman's occupation of Savannah: December 21, 1864 - January 3, 1865. In Chronology, see 12/25/1864.

Admiral John A. Dahlgren (1809-1970)
U.S. commander of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron from July 1863, replacing Admiral Dupont. When part of Sherman's army successfully sieged Fort McAllister, December 13, 1864, ships under Dahlgren's command were ready to resupply the entire army. Dahlgren was inventor of the Dahlgren gun, a muzzle loading cannon -- more accurate and able to fire both shot and shells, unlike previous shell-guns.

Jefferson Davis (1808-1889)
President of the Confederacy. He made a wartime appearance in Savannah October 31-Nov 2, 1864. Gave a rallying speech Oct 31 at Christ Church on Reynolds Square, which still stands today.After the war his wife Varina lived in Savannah while he was held prisoner in Fortress Monroe, Virginia.

Jefferson C. Davis (1828-1879)
Not to be confused with the Confederate President, this Jefferson Davis was a Union General. He is infamous for two reasons. First, in 1862 he murdered a superior officer, Maj. Gen. William "Bull" Nelson over some petty argument. Though arrested and imprisoned, he was soon released and the charge was dropped. Second, on December 9, 1864 he stranded some 600 slaves on the march from Atlanta to Savannah. When his section of the army crossed Ebenezer Creek, some 30 miles from Savannah, he had the pontoon bridge pulled up so the Negroes could not cross. Many of them jumped into the creek and drowned, while others were captured by Confederate cavalry. His act so appalled some Union soldiers that an enquiry was held in Savannah in January 1865, by Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. Ultimately no charges were filed against Davis.

Admiral Samuel Francis Du Pont (1803-1865)
Union Admiral and commander of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron until July 5, 1863, when Admiral Dahlgren took over. On November 7, 1861 he led successful attack on Port Royal, just 15 miles north of Fort Pulaski, establishing a base from which to man Tybee Island and take over Fort Pulaski. He was also in charge of ironclads that bombarded Fort McAllister during 1862. He came under intense criticism for failure to win Charleston in the famous naval battle of April 7, 1863, though the failure was more technical (difficult to navigate the ironclads) than strategic. Dupont Circle in Washington, DC is named for him.

General John G. Foster (1823-1874)
General Foster was oommander of Department of the South, headquarters South Carolina, during Sherman's march. He aided Sherman in forcing the surrender of Savannah.

Reverend Garrison Frazier (1797 - ?)
Garrison Frazier was chosen as representative of 20 black Savannah leaders who met with General Sherman and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton January 12, 1865. Stanton called the meeting to discuss emancipation issues, and from this meeting came General Field Order No. 15, granting 40 acres to each freed black (See Jan 12, 1865). In the minutes of the meeting Frazier is listed as participant No. 9: "Garrison Frazier, aged sixty-seven years, born in Granville County, N. C.; slave until eight years ago, when he bought himself and wife, paying $1,000 in gold and silver; is an ordained minister in the Baptist Church, but, his health failing, has now charge of no congregation; has been in the ministry thirty-five years."

General John W. Geary (1819-1873)
Geary led the first Union troops into Savannah early in the morning of December 21, 1864. During the first weeks of Union occupation he was the city's Military Governor, and helped restore order and important services such as fire and police. After the war he served two terms as Republican governor of Pennsylvania.

Brig-Gen Quincy Adams Gillmore (1825-1888)
Gillmore was Commander of Union forces on Tybee Island that successfully bombarded Fort Pulaski April 10-11, 1862. He is credited with being first to use new rifle canon in battle, and showed that brick forts were vulnerable to destruction from great distances (1-2 miles). On June 11, 1863 Gillmore took charge of the Department of the South, replacing Maj. Gen. David Hunter. He directed the ill-fated siege of Fort Wagner on Morris Island, July 1863 (in which the all-black 54th Massachusetts Regiment took part).

Charles Green (1807-1881)
Green was a wealthy British merchant who lived in Savannah during the Civil War. He has become enshrined in civil war history because, on Sherman's first morning of occupation (December 22, 1864), he invited the General to use his Madison Square mansion as headquarters. During the 19th century it was the most expensive home in the city, and remains open today for touring. Sherman stayed until he left with the bulk of his army January 19, 1865. Green was a confederate sympathizer, not least because his fortune came from the cotton trade; He was in Europe in 1861 when the war began. Making his way back to the U.S. through Canada, he was arrested in Detroit and charged with spying. He was sent to Fort Warren prison in Boston Harbor for 3 months, then released after intervention of the British Consul; he returned to Savannah. Green died while on vacation in Maine in 1881.

Josephine Clay Habersham (1821-1893)
Josephine Habersham was member of a prominent Savannah Family that dated to the Colonial period. She is noteworthy for a diary kept during 1863. The diary itself is not online, but portions of it are included in a 1958 book that is on-line: Ebb Tide; As Seen through the Diary of Josephine Clay Habersham, 1983. For diary quotes, see 1863 in this web site.

General William J. Hardee (1815-1873)
Commander of approx. 10,000 Confederate Army troops defending Savannah when Sherman's army arrved there December 1864. On December 20-21, 1864 Hardee led his soldiers in famous nighttime escape from Savannah to South Carolina; they marched over hastily constructed pontoon bridges strung across the Savannah River.

General William Babcock Hazen (1830-1887)
Commander of forces that successfully sieged Fort McAllister, December 13, 1862. With the takeover of Ft. McAllister Savannah could not be defended, and without further battle the city surrendered to Union forces December 21, 1862.

General Oliver Otis Howard (1830-1909)
A Union General, he led the right wing of Maj. General Sherman's march to the sea, and then later into the Carolinas (the left wing was led by General Henry W. Slocum). Howard lost his right arm in the 1862 Civil War Battle of Fair Oaks. When in Savannah during the 1864-1865 occupation, he was introduced to 4-year-old Julliette "Daisy" Gordon (who as Juliette Gordon Low founded the Girl Scouts in 1912). She asked what happened to his arm. He replied that the rebels shot it off. She famously replied: "Did they? Well, I shoulnd't wonder if my Papa did it. He has shot lots of Yankees." After the war Howard became the first commissioner of the Freedman's Bureau, Howard University, in Washington, D.C., is named after him.

General David Hunter (1802-1886)
Union Commander of the South, superior to General Gillmore. On April 13, 1862 General Hunter issued Order No. 7, freeing all slaves on Cockspur Island, followed by Order No. 11 on May 9, freeing all slaves in Georgia, Florida and South Carolina. Both orders were quickly rescinded by President Lincoln, who then issued the Emancipation Proclamation January 1, 1863, freeing all slaves heldy by Confederate states.

Charles C. Jones, Jr. (1831-1893)
Jones was Mayor of Savannah Oct 1860 - Oct 1861. He wrote The Siege of Savannah In December, 1864, & the Confederate Operations in Georgia & the Third Military District of South Carolina During General Sherman's March from Atlanta to the Sea. Jones was an attorney and ardent Confederate. He moved from Savannah to New York in 1866, and later became an historian of Georgia history and a proponent of the Conferacy's "Lost Cause".

Gazaway Bugg Lamar (1798-1874)
Gazaway Lamar was one of the more colorful characters in Civil War Savannah. He was foremost a businessman and entrepreneur, but at various times he was also a Confederate agent, prisoner of war, and litigant against the Federal Government. Born in Augusta, he and his family moved to Savannah in the early 1830s. He became a succcessful businessman, and before the war had careers in both Savannah and Brooklyn, NY. In New York he founded and became president of the Bank of the Republic. In early 1861 he acted as a secret agent for the Confederacy, and arranged with Georgia Gov. Joseph E. Brown to purchase ten thousand muskets that were shipped to Savannah. In May 1861 he moved back to Savannah to take over all his southern business interests; he became president of the Bank of Commerce and head of the Importing and Exporting Company of Georgia, which was involved in blockade running. He became an advisor to key figures in the Confederate and Georgia governments, including President Jefferson Davis, Secretary of State Judah Benjamin, Secretary of the Treasury Christopher Memminger, and Governor Joseph E. Brown. Soon after Sherman’s army captured Savannah in late December 1864, Lamar, at age sixty-six, took the oath of allegiance to the Union. He was hoping to protect his assets from confiscation. After the war Lamar was imprisoned in the Old Capital Prison in Washington, as a suspect in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Released 3 months later (never charged), he tried to claim his cotton, which was stored at warehouses in Georgia and Florida. However, he was arrested and convicted for stealing government property and trying to bribe a government official. President Johnson commuted his sentence in 1869. Lamar spent the last years of his life pursuing financial compensation for his confiscated cotton, suing anyone involved with taking it, including the federal government, the former secretary of the treasury, and a treasury agent. Six months before his death in 1874, Lamar won the largest judgment ever against the federal government for confiscated property - $580,000.

General Alexander Lawton (1818-1896)
A West Point graduate (1839) and Harvard-trained lawyer (1842), Lawton became a colonel in the 1st Georgia Volunteers. He commanded the Savannah troops that sailed on the sidewheel steamer Ida, January 3, 1861, and seized Fort Pulaski for the Confederacy. In April that year he was commissioned a brigadier general in the Confederate Army, in charge of forces guarding Georgia's seacoast. Later he was transferred to Virginia and fought in the Shenandoah Valley and other battles.

General Robert E. Lee (1807-1870)
Commander of the South through March 1862, Lee was in charge of fortifying coastal defenses. In November 1861, meeting with the fort's Commander Charles Olmstead, Lee predicted Fort Pulaski would not be breached with canon. He was back in Virginia when the fort was successfully sieged by Union rifled canon.

Hugh W. Mercer (1808-1877)
A native of Virginia, and from a prominent family (his grandfather served as a general under George Washington), Mercer married a Savannah woman and settled there. He joined the local militia and when war broke out he was commissioned Colonel in the 1st Georgia Infantry. A few months later he was promoted to Bridadier General and served as Commander of the District of Georga. In late 1864 he left Savannah to join the Atlanta Campaign, where he became ill. He returned to Savannah, recovered, and under General Hardee commanded the 10th Battalion, Georgia Infantry, which was in charge of defending the city. When General Hardee evacuated Mercer left as well. After the war he was briefly imprisoned in Fort Pulaski. He moved to Baltimore in 1869, and died in Germany (looking for a cure for his chronic illness) in 1877. Two interesting footnotes regarding Hugh Mercer: 1) Before the war he started construction of an Italianate-style mansion; though forever called the Mercer House, no Mercer ever lived there. In the late 20th century it was bought by artist Jim Williams, and is where Williams allegdly murdered his male lover. The house then became famous after publication of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Some of the movie was filmed in the house, now known as the Mercer Williams House. It is an historic landmark and open for visitors. 2) Hugh Mercer's great great grandson was Johnny Mercer (1909-1976), who became world famous as a lyricist ("Moon River", "Days of Wine and Roses" and many other songs).

Commander Charles Olmstead (1837-1926)
Commander of Confederate forces in Fort Pulaski at time of Union bombardment, April 10-11, 1862. He recognized that fort could not withstand bombardment from rifled canon and that explosion of fort's magazine could destroy all his men. He surrendered fort and on April 13, 1862 was shipped to a northern prison.

General Thomas W. Sherman (1813-1879)
Not William Tecumseh Sherman. Thomas W. Sherman, no relation to the more famous Union general, was the Union general in charge of ground forces during the battle of Port Royal, South Carolina. Thomas Sherman's army, and naval forces under command of Flag Officer Samuel F. du Pont, captured Port Royal November 7, 1861. After Port Royal, Thomas Sherman deployed his army to capture Fort Pulaski and tried to interest du Pont in capturing Savannah itself. He got into an argument with du Pont over the feasibility of invading Savannah by the back waterways, which would require naval forces. As result, Thomas Sherman was removed from the campaign in March, 1862. However, plans already in place for the siege of Fort Pulaski proved successful on April 10-11, 1862, when the fort was captured after Union bombardment.

General William Tecumseh Sherman (1820-1891)
Led 62,000 man army from Atlanta to Savannah, Nov-Dec, 1864, occupied Savannah and wrote famous telegram to President Lincoln offering him the city as a Christmas gift. Following a month-long stay in Savannah, Sherman traveled by boat to Hilton Head, and began his army's march through South and North Carolina. He finally ended the Civil War two weeks after General Lee surrendered at Appomattox, when he secured the surrender of General Joseph E. Johnston April 26, 1865.

Henry W. Slocum (1827-1894)
General Slocum commanded one of the two wings of Sherman's 62,000 man army that marched from Atlanta to Savannah, Nov-Dec 1864 (the other was under command of General Oliver O. Howard). He commanded the XX Corps and the XIV Corps, which comprised the left wing in Sherman's March to the Sea. Upon reaching Savannah, Slocum recommended to Sherman that Confederate Gen. William J. Hardee's corps, be cut off from escaping across the Savannah River. This advice was not taken and on Dec 20, 1864, General Hardee's 10000 man army escaped over pontoon bridges into South Carolina. After the city surrendered he and General Howard were the two generals directly in charge of the army.

Edwin M. Stanton (1814-1869)
Secretary of War in Lincoln's cabinet. He met with Sherman in Savannah in January 1865 to discuss Ebenezer Creek incident and the future of emancipated slaves. Out of a January 12, 1865 meeting with 20 black leaders came Field Order No. 15, granting land to blacks along coastal South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

Alexander Stephens (1812-1883)
Vice President of the Confederacy. In Savannah on March 19, 1861 he gave his famous, extemporaneous "Cornerstone Speech," laying out the governing principles of the Confederacy, and repudiating Declaration of Independence statement that all men are created equal. After the war Stephens was arrested and imprisoned in Boston Harbor for 5 months. He later served in the U.S. House of Representatives, and then in 1882 became governor of Georgia. He died March 4, 1883.

Commander Josiah Tatnall (1795-1871)
A native Georgian (born near Savannah, in Tattnall County), Josiah Tatnall was a U.S. Naval officer at outbreak of the Civil War. He resigned his commission Feb 21, 1861 and joined the Confederacy. Tattnall commanded confederate ships during the battle of Port Royal, South Carolina (November 7, 1861). He then moved to command naval defenses of Virginia until May 1862, when he returned to Georgia to concentrate on Savannah's shore defenses. When Savannah fell to Sherman's foreces in December 1864, Tattnall became a prisoner of war. He was paroled May 9, 1865. then moved to Nova Scotia for a few years, returning to Savannah in 1869 to serve as Inspector of the Port of Savannah. He was accorded a public funeral and a hero's burial in Savannah's Bonaventure Cemetery.


Though Union troops took over Fort Pulaski in April 1862, Savannah remained well defended until Sherman captured it by land in December 1864, following the fall of Ft. McAllister December 13, 1864. During all of 1863 there was widespread belief that the South could either win the war or force the North into a favorable truce. At the same time, Savannah suffered from the naval blockade, effectively closing its port and impoverishing many citizens. By the time of Atlanta's fall in September 1864, it became clear that the South would not prevail. Ft. McAllister was located in Bryan County, adjacent to Savannah's Chatham County. It was situated on the southern bank of the Ogeechee River, one of two main waterways that lead from the Atlantic Ocean to Savannah (the other is the Savannah River). Sherman realized that if he took Ft. McAllister his army could be resupplied from the Atlantic (where Union ships were waiting) and lay siege to Savannah indefinitely.


January 27, 1863

The ironclad Montauk, accompanied by a small flotilla of wooden gunboats (Seneca, Wissahickon, Dawn and C.P Williams), heads up the Ogeechee River for Fort McAllister. The Montauk takes many hits from the fort's guns, without major damage. It bombards the fort for 4 hours, also without inflicting much damage. The fighting ends around noon when the Montauk, having used all her shell, retreats during a rain storm. A newspaper correspondent aboard the vessel (Bradley Osbon, for the New York Herald), writes: "In all, the Montauk was struck thirteen times, mostly by 10-inch and rifled solid shot... To may seen very strange that an ironclad, assisted by four gunboats, should in so long a space of time, have accomplished so litte"

February 1, 1863

The same flotilla as on January 27 makes yet another attack on Ft. McAllister, commencing Sunday, February 1, at 7:27 am. The fort's commander, Major John B. Gallie, is killed in the attack. Shelling back and forth continues until just before noon, When Montauk weighs anchor and leaves, since it is running out of ammunition. Again, the ship ddoes not suffer major damage, due to its iron hull. Fort McAllister is badly damaged, but being of earthen nature, is easily repairable (unlike with Ft. Pulaski in April 1862).

February 4, 1863

Ironclad CSS Savannah is launched on the Savannah River. It won't be officially turned over to the CSS Navy until June 30, 1865, and will not see any battle until December 1864, when it is assigned to protect General Hardee's army escaping from Savannah. CSS Savannah

The CSS Savannah. The ship was scuttled December 21, 1864, after General Hardee's army escaped into South Carolina.

February 28, 1863

The ironclad Montauk anchors within 1200 yards of the Confederate raider "Nashville (Rattlesnake)" that had earlier run aground in the Ogeechee River near Ft. McAllister. The Montauk opens fire with 11-inch and 15-inch guns while a sister ship shells Ft. McAllister. The Rattlesnake bursts into flames and is sunk. After the attack Montauk hits a torpedo (mine) and is damaged. The damage is soon repaired and the ship later takes part in the April 1863 bombardment of Charleston.

March 3, 1863

A flotilla of Union ships returns to bombard Fort McAllister in what will be the 7th and final attack on the fort. They include mortal schooners (C.P. Williams, Norfolk, Packer, Para), gunboats Wissahickon and Seneca, and the ironclads Passaic, Patapsco and Nahant. Mountauk stays in the rear and acts a a reserves ship. Almost all the fighting takes place between the fort and the Union's closest ironclad, the Passaic. After 7 hours of back and forth shelling, neither the ships nor the fort are severely damaged, and the boats retreat. The result convinces U.S. Admiral Samuel Du Pont that the ironclads can be used effectively in battle, and the Montauk becomes the principal ironclad in the naval attack on Charleston in April 1863. The assault on Fort McAllister also proves that earthen forts, like McAllister, are better able to withstand shelling than brick forts like Pulaski.

June 17, 1863

CSS Atlanta runs aground while targeting blockaders in Wassau Sound. She is forced to surrender by Union ships USS Nahant and USS Weehawken. At the time of capture 21 officers and 124 men are on board. From there she is brought up north and enters U.S. Navy as USS Atlanta.

June 30, 1863

Ironclad CSS Savannah (see photo above) is transferred to the Confederate Navy, under the command of Flag Officer William W. Hunter. Its armament includes two 7-inch rifled cannons and two 6.4-inch Brooks guns. It has a top speed of only 6 knots. The crew consists of 180 men.

July 8, 1863

From the diary of Josephine Clay Habersham, as quoted in Ebb Tide, page 38.

News sad enough, but not believed, that Vicksburg has fallen! It seems impossible after the repeated assurances that Pemberton's sustenance would last much longer. It would be dreadful, but it is not credited. Against this, we hear that Lee has fought with Meade (Hooker's Army) and beat and captured 40,000 prisoners! 14 Pity they hadn't just happened to chance to get killed instead. [Comment: Lee's 3-day assault at Gettysburg ended July 3 and he retreated back to Virginia. Vicksburg surrended July 4 and this news did not reach Savannah unitl July 8. Evidently the real outcome at Gettysburg had not yet reached Savannahians; see August 1, 1863.]

August 1, 1863

From the diary of Josephine Clay Habersham, as quoted in Ebb Tide, page 57.

July has been a gloomy month for our beloved Confederacy! Beginning with every cheerful aspect, everybody confident, yet early in July Vicksburg surrendered. Lee's invasion was unfortunate; he had to recross the Potomac. Fort Hudson surrendered, Jackson evacuated and burnt, and all the country round about devastated. Morgan the Raider captured with many men. Bragg had to retreat from the fertile country of East Tennessee and fall upon Chattanooga without fighting and overcoming Rosencranz. Charleston invested! To be sure, so far, we have repulsed the enemy there, but can Fort Wagner stand much more? All this is a heavy gloomy list. Reports, too, of coming raids in Alabama and Northern Georgia. So much for July. Yet we are not despondent. Reverses will but nerve to greater energy and self sacrifice the Southern arm and the Southern heart.

October 31, 1863

Confederate President Jefferson Davis (photo below) visits Savannah during his train tour of southern cities. [Regarding this visit, Spencer Bidwell King Jr., the author of Ebb Tide, writes (page 104):]

Confederate President Jefferson Davis

Davis was at the coastal city inspecting the batteries. He arrived by special train from Atlanta, via Macon, at 8:00 Saturday, Oct. 31. Mayor Richard Arnold welcomed him with "an eloquent and appropriate address," after which he was escorted to his quarters at the Pulaski House. About ten o'clock, attended by Brigadier-General Hugh Mercer, Colonel E. C. Anderson, the Mayor, and other army, navy, and civil authorities, President Davis boarded the steamer Beauregard and proceeded down the river to view the fortifications. He went ashore at Thunderbolt and was received by the Phoenix Regiment, commanded by Colonel George A. Gordon. In the evening, following a torch light procession with band music and fanfare, a reception was held at the Masonic Hall. The President attended Christ Church on Sunday morning and left early the next morning for Charleston.

[The passage below is from the October 31, 1863 diary entry of Josephine Clay Habersham, as quoted in Spencer King's book Ebb Tide:]

Saturday. Went to the Shops, frightened at the prices of things—disgusted. Anna King takes it more quietly, being used to it—the flaying— $195.00 for a dress I could have got two years ago for just $9.00. One hundred and ninety-five dollars for a dress for Anna, for they would not cut ten yards for her. Sixty dollars for a straw bonnet for me—untrimmed! Dr. J. C. has been taking his meals with us. I was writing to Joseph Clay when Neyle came in, said he had seen the President, and I had better go to the Masonic Hall to the "Shaking of hands." We did so—were much pleased with the affability of the President. He has a good, mild, pleasant face, not very remarkable, but thoughtful and, altogether, looks as a President of our struggling Country should look—care worn and thoughtful, and firm, and quiet.


[Comment: Regarding Civil War activity, Savannah is relatively inactive for most of 1864. The city is effectively blockaded for sea trade, though the Savannah-Charleston railroad is still operating and there are many confederate troops in and around the city. In late November and through the end of December, General Sherman and his Army draw the nation's attention to the city.]

February 22, 1864

Union forces land on Whitemarsh Island along the Savannah River. Confederate attack causes them to retreat.

March 17, 1864

"St. Patrick's day came and went with little or no notice, most of the city's Irishmen in Confederate Service." (Derek Smith, Civil War Savannah)
[This is noteworthy because for years before the war, and every year since, there has been a large St. Patrick's Day parade in the city.]

June 3, 1864

Confederates mount 2 am surprise attack on the USS Water Witch, a 378-ton sidewheel gunboat anchored near Savannah in Bradley Creek. Though their leader Lieutenant Thomas P. Pelot is killed, Confederates overpower the Union crew and seize the boat. On June 19 the Water Witch is burned so she cannot be recaptured by the Union navy.

October 23, 1864

600 Confederate prisoners are herded into Ft. Pulaski, as retaliation for the Confederates keeping Union prisoners in the line of fire in Charleston. [While some of the men are later transferred to Hilton Head, several hundred remain through a miserable winter, and many die of disease. In March 1865 survivors are shipped back to Fort Delaware, where 25 more succumb to illness. The last man of the group is not released until July 1865. The harsh conditions of imprisonment inspired one of the captives, John O. Murray, to record his experiences in the 1905 book The Immortal Six-Hundred. The name he gave the group stuck, and today they are still referred to as the Immortal 600.]

November 16, 1864

Sherman commences march of his 62000-man army southward. Only he and a few officers know the intended destination (Savannah), and during the march they make feints toward Augusta and Macon.

December 9, 1864

After his troops cross Ebenezer Creek near Savannah, Union General Jefferson C. Davis orders the pontoons to be taken up, before some 600 newly-freed blacks can cross over. This leaves them stranded on the other side, with Confederate cavalry closing in. Many blacks panic and jump into the creek, where they drown. Others are captured by Confederate cavalry. Davis' action at Ebenezer Creek appalls some Union soldiers, one of whom writes his congressman. [The soldier's letter was leaked to the press and became a big story in northern papers. In January 1865 Secretary of War Edwin Stanton conducted an informal inquest while in Savannah. Sherman supported Davis' action and no charges were brought. Below is a current marker near the site where the troops crossed.]

Ebenezer Creek 

December 8-10, 1864

Over a two-day period Sherman's army reaches outskirts of Savannah, having traveled some 300 miles since mid-November. [An outline of the paths taken by the two wings of his army is shown in the map.] Fort McAllister 1864 map
They find the city well protected by flooded rice swamps that leave only narrow causeways for foot travel. He is able to make contact with the union fleet waiting in the waters of Ossabaw Sound, but cannot receive supplies because the Ogeechee River is guarded by Fort McAllister. His next objective is to take the Fort, something Union gunboats have not been able to do since attempts began in July 1862.

Fort McAllister current map

Google map showing location where Fort McAllister stood on the Ogeechee River, south of Savannah

December 13, 1864 (Tuesday)

Under command of Brig. Gen. William B. Hazen, troops storm Ft. McAllister, which only has about 120 Confederate troops, under the command of Maj. George A. Anderson. Commencing about 4:45 pm, the battle is over in 15 minutes. Total estimated casualties: 92 Union, 50 Confederate. With his supply line now open to the Navy supply ships, General Sherman prepares for the siege and capture of Savannah.

Storming Fort McAllister
General Hazen's Division, Fifteenth Corps, Storming Fort McAllister, December 13, 1864
, as published in Harper's Weekly, January 14, 1865

December 17, 1864 (Saturday)

Sherman sends following message to General Hardee, demanding surrender of the city.

Headquarters Military Division of the Mississippi,In the Field, near Savannah, Ga.,
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 Ogeechee to the rear of my army, giving me abundant supplies of all kinds, and more especially heavy ordnance necessary to 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 a copy of General Hood's demand for the surrender of the town of Resaca, 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.

December 18, 1864 (Sunday)

General Hardee Replies to General Sherman's surrender demand.

Major-General W.T. Sherman, commanding Federal Forces near Savannah, Georgia

...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 the future. I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

W. J. Hardee, Lieutenant-General
Headquarters Military Division of the Missisippi, in the Field, near Savannah, Georgia, December 18, 1864- 8 p.m.

December 19, 1864 (Monday)

Mayor Richard Arnold learns that Sherman's troops are advancing on the city and that the Confedate army plans to evacuate.

Having received General Hardee's refusal to surrender, Sherman assumes he will have to invade Savannah, Preparatory to this invasion, Sherman travels by boat to Hilton Head Island, SC, to secure support from General Foster. Sherman doesn't want to split his army above and below the Savannah River. He arranges for General Foster's troops to aid the invasion from the South Carolina side of the river, mainly by blocking Hardee from escaping.

December 20, 1864 (Tuesday)

By late afternoon, plans for evacuation of all able-bodied Confederate troops are complete. General Hardee gives order for evacuation to begin in the evening, under cover of darkness. Unaware of these developments, General Sherman departs Port Royal to make his way back to Savannah. Bad weather delays his ship, and after changing to a smaller boat, Sherman finally reaches King's Point on the Ogeechee River (south of Savannah and one mile upstream from Ft. McAllister) late on December 21st. There he spends the night.

Also evacuated on this date are troops from Fort Jackson, which guarded the Savannah River just 3 miles upstream from the city. During the day the Confederates scuttle the CSS Georgia just 200 yards from the fort.

December 20-21, 1864 (Tuesday night - Wednesday morning)

General Hardee begins evacuation of all able-bodied confederate troops. They march over a pontoon causeway laid over two branches of the Savannah River; the first section goes from the foot of West Broad Street to Hutchinson Island, and the second section from the island to South Carolina. An estimated 10,000 troops escape in this manner. (A contemporary drawing of the evacuation is shown below.)

Confederate Army leaves Savannah

December 21, 1864 (Wednesday)

In the early morning hours, after Hardee's army has evacuated Savannah, Mayor Arnold and a group of Alderman rush to meet up with Union General John W. Geary; his troops are closest to Savannah. They plead for a peaceful surrender, to avoid any destruction of property. Just before dawn, Geary and his soldiers enter the city unopposed. They walk up West Broad Street (now Martin Luther King Blvd.) and turn right on Bay St. Geary stops at the Customs House (Bay and Bull streets) and climbs to the roof to survey the city. As illustrated in Harper's Weekly, later in the day the Union Army marches triumphantly down Bay Street, past the Customs House (columned building on the left).

Union army enters Savannah

Pages from the Cornelius C. Platter Civil War Diary, December 21, 1864. (A transcription for entries of 12/21/1864 is below the diary photocopies; click on either image for enlargement. Platter's diary is of historical significance because it gives a Union Soldier's first person account of Sherman's March. Note in this entry his comment on Savannah's beauty at the time, and also about General Sherman being "out generaled" in letting General Hardee's army escape.)

Platter Diary for Dec 21, 1864      Platter Diary for Dec 21, 1864

This morning after breakfast we were informed that the "Rebs" had taken up their departure last night not believing it I went down to the front and seen for myself that the enemy had indeed left. We were immediately ordered to cross. 81st and 66th crossed in a pontoon boat at the same point where Lt [Lieutenant] Pittman and party effected a crossing. We supposed at first that the enemy had only fallen back to a stronger line of works. - so after crossing we advanced cautiously - but soon discovered that they had bid the city of Savannah adieu.

-- We soon struck the Gulf RR and proceeded directly towards the City - down the RR track - Major Henry & I had left our horses on the other side of the "Little Ogeechee - so we took it "afoot" and reached the "suburbs" of S about 3 PM and went into camp southeast of the city among the "dutch gardens" Which are full of all kinds of vegetables. As soon as our horses arrived Maj [Major] H and I rode into the city -- With the exception of Huntsville it is the prettiest city I have seen in the 'Southern Confederacy" - The "Wharfs and docks" are magnificent but on account of the obstructions in the River below [illegible] Jackson our fleet cannot come up. The town was quite full of Soldiers - quite a number of stores were plundered by soldiers assisted by negros and "poor white folks" who seemed delighted at having a chance to pillage - As a general thing the Citizens kept 'in doors". Saw the Rebel [illegible] Savannah and a gun boat laying on the opposite side of the river -- The enemy finished crossing this morning about daylight and are supposed to be making for Charleston. I think Sherman has rather been "out generaled" by Hardee. or since he couldn't have gotten away so easily - Who is to blame for allowing him to escape -- time alone can tell. but it is the general [unclear: informs] us that Gen [General] Foster is the "guilty man" -- We found a great many Guns Cotton & c [et cetera] which the enemy had to leave. Cold and windy this evening -- Procured some nice riding bridles today Retired early.

December 22, 1864 (Thursday)

Early in the morning General Sherman enters Savannah, stops at Pulaski House to secure lodging and establish his Savannah headquartes. There he meets Mayor Arnold and one Charles Green, an English cotton merchant. Green offers Sherman his mansion on Madison Square. At first Sherman declines, but later that same morning accepts, and moves his headquarters there. Green remains in the home, occupying just two of the rooms.

(Photo on left shows Green's house in 1865. Right photo is a current view of front entrance of house on Macon St. Now known as the Green-Meldrim house, it is restored and open for visitors.)

Green Mansion - 1865 Green Mansion - 1865

In the afternoon of December 22, 1864, as recorded in Sherman's Memoirs, published 1875:

"Within an hour of taking my my quarters in Mr. Green's house, Mr. A.G. Browne, of Salem, Massachusetts, United States Treasury agent for the Department of the South, made his appearance to claim possession, in the name of the Treasury Department...".

During this discussion, Browne suggests that Sherman send a telegram to president Lincoln offering him the city of Savannah as a Christmas present. Sherman writes out the message (below), which is then sent by ship to Fortress Monroe, Virginia, from where it is wired to the white house. (Click on photo for larger image):

Sherman Telegram to Lincoln "To his excellency President Lincoln. I beg to present you as a Christmas Gift the City of Savannah, with 150 heavy guns and plenty of ammunition and also about 25,000 bales of cotton".

THE CAPTURE OF SAVANNAH, story from Harper's Weekly, January 14, 1865.

AFTER having completed his grand march through Georgia, from Atlanta to Savannah, General SHERMAN'S first object was to communicate with the fleet off Savannah. This he accomplished by the capture of Fort McAllister, the only serious obstruction to the navigation of the Ogechee River. The fort was sixteen miles from the mouth of the Savannah. This was the first fort ever bombarded by our Monitors. It was now, however, taken by direct assault. The party to whom the work was assigned was General HAZEN'S Division. The garrison of the fort was insignificant in point of number, there being only men enough to man the guns, of which there were twenty-one. The assault was most spirited. The men marched at double-quick, penetrated the abatis, and, crossing the ditch, scaled the parapets of the fort, and in three minutes the garrison were prisoners. The capture of the fort gave us a large quantity of ordnance stores, guns, ammunition, etc. The guns were taken to the headquarters of the ordnance-officer, Lieutenant SPENCER, near the fort.

Pretty closely investing the city, except at a point on the north side directly across the river, SHERMAN at length determined to make an assault. Previous to this attempt, however, he sent a message to General HARDER [sic] demanding the surrender of the city. The latter assumed a rather defiant attitude and refused. But during the night he slipped across the Savannah on a pontoon with his fifteen thousand men. The movement was soon observed by General GEARY, who immediately pushed his division (the Second of the Twentieth Corps) on into the city. Before his arrival he was met by the Mayor and Commonalty of Savannah, who surrendered the city unconditionally. The forts were then taken possession of with all their ordnance The captures included 150 guns, 13 locomotives, and 35,000 bales of cotton. The rebels had destroyed their shipping. A floating battery was sunk. The Savannah, a formidable war vessel, was blown up. When the troops entered the city there was no disorder except that occasioned by ill-disposed people in the city, who plundered every thing within reach. Even the rebel soldiers had been participating in acts of violence. Order was soon restored, and the next Sabbath the churches were attended as usual. General GEARY has been appointed commander of the city, which is divided into two Departments, the Eastern and Western, commanded respectively by Colonel WOOD and Colonel BARNUM. GEARY took all the Commissary stores which be found in the city and placed them at the disposal of the Mayor and Common Council. It is estimated that 25,000 inhabitants remained in the city. The illustration on the first page [See December 21, 1864] shows our troops entering Savannah at sunrise. Colonel BARNUM'S brigade was the first in town. General SHERMAN'S loss, after he invested Savannah, was from six to eight hundred men.

December 25, 1864 (Sunday)
  • General Sherman celebrates Christmas dinner in the Green mansion with his officers: As depicted in Harper's Weekly for January 28, 1865 (with accompanying story).

    Sherman's Christmas Party, 12/25/1864

  • President Lincoln receives Sherman's telegram offering him the city as Christmas gift (see December 22, 1864).
  • Fanny Yates Cohen, a 24-year-old Savannah woman, writes in her diary:
    "Christmas is here again...A season of sadness & gloomy retrospection for us of the South, one of joy & gayety to the people of the North. This is the saddest Christmas that I have ever spent and my only pleasure during the day has been in looking forward to spending my next Christmas in the Confederacy."


January 12, 1865

General Sherman and U.S. War Secretary Edwin Stanton hold an historic meeting with 20 black leaders of Savannah, to discuss emancipation. They meet at Sherman's headquarters in the Charles Green mansion. The black Savannahians, mostly ministers and clergy, choose Reverend Garrison Frazier, age 67, to represent their views, He is asked a series of 12 questions, and the answers were are down by Stanton's aide and recorded Sherman's Memoirs. From this meeting came Field Order No. 15, approved by President Lincoln. The first 11 questions are asked with General Sherman in the room. For the twelfth question, Sherman is asked to leave, since it is about him. As stated in the official minutes:

Twelfth. State what is the feeling of the colored people in regard to General Sherman, and how far do they regard his sentiments and actions as friendly to their rights and interests, or otherwise.

Answer. We looked upon General Sherman, prior to his arrival, as a man, in the providence of God, specially set apart to accomplish this work, and we unanimously felt inexpressible gratitude to him, looking upon him as a man that should be honored for the faithful performance of his duty. Some of us called upon him immediately upon his arrival, and it is probable he did not meet the Secretary with more courtesy than he met us. His conduct and deportment toward us characterized him as a friend and a gentleman. We have confidence in General Sherman, and think that what concerns us could not be under better hands. This is is our opinion now from the short acquaintance and intercourse we have had.

(Mr. Lynch states that, with his limited acquaintance with General Sherman, he is unwilling to express an opinion. All others present declare their agreement with Mr. Frazier about General Sherman.)

January 16, 1865

Special Field Order, No. 15 (sometimes referred to as "Field Orders No. 15") is issued by General Sherman while in Savannah. The order provides for the confiscation of 400,000 acres (1,600 km²) of land along the Atlantic coast from Charleston, South Carolina to north Florida, and dividing it into 40-acre (0.16 km2) parcels for the Negroes. Specifically, the land is to be "the islands from Charleston, south, the abandoned rice fields along the rivers for thirty miles back from the sea, and the country bordering the St. Johns River, Florida." These parcels are to be settled by approximately 18,000 freed slave families and other Blacks then living in the area. Brig. Gen. Rufus Saxton, an abolitionist from Massachusetts who had previously organized the recruitment of black soldiers for the Union Army, is put in charge of implementing the orders. A later order by General Sherman authorizes the army to loan mules to newly settled black farmers, hence origin of the term "forty acres and a mule." (The orders are rescinded by President Johnson in the fall of 1865.)

January 18, 1865

General Sherman orders General Slocum to turn over Savannah to Maj. Gen. Foster, who is Commander of the Department of the South, with headquarters in Hilton Head.

January 19, 1865

General Sherman gives the "first general orders for the move" of troops into South Carolina. "Thse were substantially to group the right wing of the army at Pocataligo, already held by the Seventeenth Corps., and the left wing and cavalry at or near Robertsville, in South Carolina." [Comment: There had been troop movements all month from Savannah into South Carolina, but in his Memoirs (Chapter 22) Sherman indicates this was his "first general orders" for the move. The Union Army's goal (unknown to the Confederates, who assumed Augusta, Ga or Charleston, SC might be the intendend path) is Columbia, SC, which they will burn to the ground February 17, 1865 (though some will claim escaping Confederates caused the fires).]

January 21, 1865

Sherman leaves Savannah by steamer for South Carolina.

"Having accomplaished all that seemed necessary, on the 21st of January, with my entire headquarters, officers, clerks, orderlies, etc., with wagons and horses, I embarked in a steamer for Beaufort, South Carolina, touching at Hilton Head, to see General Foster. The weather was rainy and bad, but we reached Beaufort safely on the 23rd and found some of General Blair's troops there." [ Sherman's Memoirs, Chapter 22].

January 27-29, 1865

A fire erupts around 11 pm, and causes explosion of hundreds of shells in a captured Confederate Naval arsenal on West Broad Street. By the time the fire is put out next morning over 100 buildings are destroyed and 7 people (estimated) are killed. The cause is never found, though there is speculation it was caused by Rebel soldiers, southern sympathizers or departing Yankee troops.

Below are excerpts from Cornelius C. Platter Civil War Diary for Friday, January 27 through Sunday, January 29, 1865. These entries cover: receipt of orders to move out of Savannah; the above West Broad Street fire; and information about where the army is going once it is out of Savannah.

Friday Jany 27th 1865

Up early -- There is a strong probability afloat that we will move tomorrow. So Joe and I spent the forenoon in making out reports so as to be ready to move. The last of the 20th Corps move out today and the 3d Brigade moved out after them. Recd [Received] a large mail today. got 3 letters. One from home. one from Lizzie and the other announcing Dave Murphys arrival at Columbus, O. This will be our last mail for sometime as we will not join our Corps untill [until] we get near Branchville S.C. Nothing definite is known concerning the coming campaigns. It is said we will take the same amount of rations as we did on the Savannah campaign - Wrote several letters and will send them North by Leut [Lieutenant] Robinson who will start North as soon as a[illegible] leaves -- Packed up this eve and will be ready to start at 7 AM tomorrow morning - the time we are ordered to be ready to move. Retired late.

Saturday Jany 28th 1865

After retiring last night was awakened at 11 1/2 A.M. by the explosions of shells in the Rebel arsenel [arsenal] which was destroyed by fire - at times the explosions were terrific. A great many buildings were burned and a number of lives, were lost. The 'fire engines" could do but very little to extinguishe [extinguish] the flames on account of the bursting of the shells. Was up early - packed and loaded up and left at the time ordered. 81st bringing up the rear of the Brigade - rear of the Div [Division] and the rear of Shermans army. We passed through the city and took the Louisville Road and traveled briskly untill [until] sundown making 18 mile and camped 2 mile east of Eden - We passed through a low marsh country and as the roads were impassable, we marched on the RR [unclear: ( C and A RR)] the rails and this having been removed so that wagons could travel over it. This has been a cold raw day. Lt. [Lieutenant] Robinson left this morning in the "America" for the North. There are various rumors afloat as to our probable destination but the general impression is that we will make for Wilmington N.C. Our Div Div [Div [Division] ] will cross the Savannah at Sisters Ferry. The 14th and 21st Corps are ahead of us. Retired early.

Sunday Jany 29th 1865

This has not seemed much like Sunday. "Broke up" camp at 6 1/2 am and traveled until sundown, camping 1 mile south of Springfield - having marched 14 mile over the most miserable roads imaginable - Country very poor. only saw two houses to day -- No forage - The 81st being in the advance we had plenty of work to do, making "corduroy" . The country to day [today] was swampy and unproductive -- Heard to day [today] Genl [General] Shermans order concerning the coming campaigns - Army of the Tenn under Genl [General] Howard to concentrate at on Pocataligo S.C. The army of the Cumberland under [illegible] to concentrate at Robertville S.C. -- both armies to load their wagons with the same amount of supplies as on the "Savannah Campaign" and then both armies to march onwards. Retired late.

April 1865
  • April 2 -- With the fall of Richmond, VA to Union forces imminent, the Confederate government evacuates the city.
  • April 3 -- Petersburg, VA surrenders to General Grant in the morning, and later that day Richmond, Va surrenders.
  • April 4 -- President Lincoln tours Richmond.
  • April 9 -- General Lee surrenders at Appomattox Court House, Virginia.
  • April 14 -- President Lincoln is shot by John Wilkes Booth at Ford's Theatre in Washington, DC. He dies the next morning.
  • April 26 -- In North Carolina, General Johnston surrenders his army to General Sherman.

[Comment: The war Civil War ended in April 1865, though there were still a few confederate troop holdouts in Mississippi (they surrendered in May). While the Civil War war ended legal slavery, it did not end oppression and brutality toward blacks in the South. The period of Reconstruction -- roughly 1865-1877 -- has been called by some a "second civil war", because bands of whites took up vigilante roles in their war against the blacks (the Ku Klux Klan was founded in 1866). For an excellent overview of the post-Civil War period in Savannah see Saving Savannah by Jacqueline Jones.]

Civil War Savannah 1861-1862 | Sherman's Telegram to Lincoln, Dec 1864 | Return to Lakeside Press | Subject Index all web sites | Alphabetical Index all web sites | email Lawrence Martin

Copyright © 2012-2016, Lakeside Press. Initially posted March 31, 2012. Last revision June 3, 2016. All rights reserved.

Feedback Form

Your name (optional):

Your email (optional):


How did you find this site?