[Following the Battle of Fort McAllister on December 13, 1864 General Sherman was able to resupply his troops from Union Naval ships waiting in the area. Sherman then demanded the surrender of Confederate trooops guarding Savannah, who were under the command of General Hardee. Hardee refused, secretly planning to evacuate the city. Meanwhile Sherman went to South Carolina (by ship) to seek additional support from troops stationed there. While he was away, on the evening of Dec 20 and early morning of Dec 21, Confederate General Hardee evacuated approximately 10,000 troops; they walked over a pontoon bridge into South Carolina (see picture in Part 2). At that point Union forces entered the city, unopposed. Sherman returned to Savannah late on December 21, and entered the city on the morning of December 22.]
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).
Sherman's Stay in Savannah: Dec 22, 1864 - Jan 21, 1865
COMMENT: While Sherman wrote his detailed 2-Volume Memoirs, and left hundreds of letters, he did not keep a diary of day to day events during the Savannah occupation. We have reams of official correspondence, but precious little to illustrate the daily activities when 62,000 soldiers occupy a city and prepare for the next phase of battle. Notable exceptions are the few diary entries by Fanny Cohen, all-too-brief mentions of Savannah activity by Major Hitchcock in his Marching with Sherman, and the more extensive diary entries of Cornelius C. Platter.
Sherman in his Memoirs quotes lots of Special Field Orders, and his letters home speak of familiy matters and personal tragedy, but one yearns to find out more mundane information about Sherman himself and the Union Occupation: What did you do this morning? Where were you when Stanton said he wanted to meet with the black ministers, and how did he bring it up? Just how did you contact them all? What did Mayor Arnold do when he wasn't Mayoring? And what did Mr. Green do with his family when you stayed in his house? Also, why aren't there photographs of the occupation troops, or of you for that matter in any Savannah scene? The list of questions is endless, and endlessly unanswered by the major 'primary resources'.
December 22, 1864 (Thursday)
Early in the morning General Sherman enters Savannah, stops at Pulaski House to secure lodging and establish his Savannah headquarters. Major Henry Hitchcock wrote about this first day in a letter to his wife on Christmas Eve (Marching with Sherman, pp. 198-199):
(Charles Green remained in the home, occupying just two of the rooms. Sherman used the house as his army headquarters his entire stay in Savannah. 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.)
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):
"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".
December 24, 1864 (Friday)
Sherman issues Special Field Order No. 139:
"Savannah, being now in our possession, the river partially cleared out, and measures having been taken to remove all obstructions, will at made be made a depot for future operations:"
Whereupon Sherman followed with specifics about possession of public buildings, fact that no rents were to be paid, and also orders for the stationing of troops in and about the city. On the same day Sherman also issued Special Field Order No. 143, stating:
"During war, the military is superior to civil authority, and where interests clash, the civil must give way; yet, where there is no conflict, every encouragement should be given to well-disposed and peaceful inhabitants to resume their usual pursuits."
"...Not more than two newspapers will be published in Savannah; their editors and proprietors will be held to the strictest accountability, and will be punished severely, in person and property, for any libelous publication, mischievous matter, premature news, exaggerated statements, or any comments whatever upon the acts of the constituted authorities; they will be held accountable for such articles, even though copied from other papers."
December 25, 1864 (Sunday)
- General Sherman celebrates Christmas dinner in the Green mansion with his officers: From
Harper's Weekly for January 28, 1865 (with accompanying story).
- 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."
December 28, 1864 (Wednesday)
In another letter to his wife Major Hitchcock made these comments about the Savannah Occupation (Marching with Sherman, p. 200):
January 1, 1865
New-Year's Day in Savannah. General Sherman's Reception at Mr. Green's. [Sketched by Theodore R. Davis]. From Harper's Weekly for January 28, 1865 (with accompanying story).
Saturday, January 7, 1865
Below is an entry from Cornelius C. Platter Civil War Diary for Saturday, January 7, 1865. Parades were common in occupied Savannah, both to boost morale of the citizenry and to give soldiers something to do. Note that Sherman reviewed this 'grand review'.
January 11, 1865
Secretary of War Stanton arrives to Savannah aboad the steamship Spaulding,
"On the 11th of January there arrived at Savannah a revenue-cutter, having on board Simeon Draper, Esq., of New York City, the Hon. E.M. Stanton, Secretary of War, Quartermaster-General Meigs, Adjutant-General Townsend, and a retinue of civilians, who had come down from the North to regulate the civil affiars of Savannah..." (Sherman's Memoirs, Volume II, Chapter XXII. Savannah and Pocotoglio).
"Mr. Stanton staid in Savannah several days, and seemed very curious about matters and things in general. I walked with him through the city, especially the bivouacs of the several regiments that occupied the vacant squares, and he seemed particularly pleased at the ingenuity of the men in constructing their temporary huts. Four of the "dog-tents," or tentes d'abri, buttoned together, served for a roof, and the sides were made of clapboards, or rough boards brought from demolished houses or fences. I remember his marked admiration for the hut of a soldier who had made his door out of a handsome parlor mirror, the glass gone and its gilt frame serving for his door." (Sherman's Memoirs, Volume II, Chapter XXII. Savannah and Pocotoglio).
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, all ministers and clergy, choose Reverend Garrison Frazier, age 67, to represent their views, Frazier is asked a series of 12 questions, and the answers are recorded by Stanton's aide Townsend. 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 and the land is returned to its previous owners.)
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. "These 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.
Events After Sherman's Departure
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 over a wide range: that it was caused by Rebel soldiers or 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.
February 2, 1865
"On February 3, 1865, the Savannah Herald reported that a huge mass meeting of the freedman of Savannah and vicinity had been held the previous day, February the 2nd, at the Second Baptist Church, at which time the then Major General R. Saxton, Commanding General, Department of the South, explained the details of the order [Special Field Orders No. 15], and urged all to "enter at once upon the business of locating where they could support themselves and failiies in comfort and peache, by their own industry, calling no man master and with none to deprive them of the fruits of their toil." "
- 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 6 - Battle of Sailor's Creek, the last major battle of the war.
- 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 -- Early in the morning John Wilkes Booth is captured and killed at Garrett's farm in northern Virginia. Later that day, in North Carolina, General Joe 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 the 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.]
End of Part 3: December 21, 1864 - April, 1865
For Part 1 (1861-1862) Click here
For Part 2 (December 21, 1864 - April 1865) Click here
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Copyright © 2012-2013 Lakeside Press. Initially posted February 28, 2013; revised March 6, 2013.