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Lieutenant-General U.S. Grant, Commander-in-Chief, City Point, Virginia.
GENERAL: I received, day before yesterday, at the hands of Lieutenant Dunn, your letter of December 3, and last night, at the hands of Colonel Babcock, that of December 6. I had previously made you a hasty scrawl from the tug-boat Dandelion, in Ogeechee River, advising you that the army had reached the sea-coast, destroying all railroads across the State of Georgia and investing closely the city of Savannah, and had made connection with the fleet. Since writing that note I have in person met and conferred with General Foster and Admiral Dahlgren, and made all the arrangements which I deemed essential to reducing the city of Savannah to our possession. But since the receipt of yours of the 6th I have initiated measures looking principally to coming to you with 50,000 or 60,000 infantry, and, incidentally, to take Savannah, if time will allow. At the time we carried Fort McAllister by assault so handsomely, with its 22 guns and entire garrison, I was hardly aware of its importance; but since passing down the river with General Foster and up with Admiral Dahlgren I realize how admirably adapted are Ossabaw Sound and Ogeechee River to supply an army operating against Savannah. Sea-going vessels can easily come to King's Bridge, a point on Ogeechee River, fourteen and a half miles due west of Savannah, from which point we have roads leading to all our camps. The country is low and sandy, and cut up with marshes, which, in wet weather, will be very bad; but we have been so favored with weather that they are all now comparatively good, and heavy details are constantly employed in double corduroying the marshes, so that I have no fears even of bad weather. Fortunately, also, by liberal and judicious foraging, we reached the sea-coast abundantly supplied with forage and provisions, needing nothing on arrival except bread; of this we started from Atlanta provided with from eight to twenty days' supply per corps, and some of the troops only had one days' issue of bread during the trip of thirty days; and 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 5,000 head of cattle, and arrived with over 10,000; 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 2,500 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 operation, 15,000 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, &c.; 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 Easton is now engaged in collecting statistics in this line; 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 balance near Fort McAllister, covered by the Ogeechee River and intrenchments [sic] to be erected, and for which Captain Poe, my chief engineer, is now reconnoitering the ground; but in the meantime will act as I have begun, as though Savannah City was 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 30-pound Parrotts, which I have got from General Foster, in position near enough to reach the center 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, is already in 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 gun-boats 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's Island, and has a brigade on the South Carolina shore opposite, and he 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 5,300, and it may be a division of the Fifteenth Corps; but before determining 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 Ogeechee, where, in co-operation 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 60,000 fighting-men, will be a re-enforcement that Lee cannot disregard. Indeed, with my present command, I had expected upon reducing Savannah instantly to march to Columbia, S.C., 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 Hood 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 [Waynesboro]. 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-maneuver and destroy Hood.
As to matters in the Southeast, I think Hardee, in Savannah, has good artillerists, some 5,000 or 6,000 infantry, and it may be a mongrel mass of 8,000 to 10,000 militia. In all our marching through Georgia he has not forced us to use anything 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 25,000 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, as 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, &c., your obedient servant,
W.T. Sherman, Major-General, U.S. Army
Source: U.S. War Department, The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1893, reprinted by The National Historical Society, 1971), Series I, Vol. XLIV, pp. 726-728.
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