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In Their Own Words

December 13, 1864

Sherman Witnessed Assault on Fort McAllister

Sherman watched the Union capture of Fort McAllister from a roof top. Here is his description of the battle:

“About 2 p.m. we observed signs of commotion in the fort and noticed one or two guns fired inland and some musket-skirmishing in the woods close by. This betokened the approach of Hazen’s division, which had been anxiously expected, and soon thereafter the signal-officer discovered about three miles above the fort a signal-flag, with which he conversed, and found it belonged to General Hazen, who was preparing to assault the fort and wanted to know if I were there. On being assured of this fact and that I expected the fort to be carried before night, I received by signal the assurance of General Hazen that he was making his preparations and would soon attempt the assault. The sun was rapidly declining, and Was dreadfully impatient. At that very moment someone discovered a faint cloud of smoke and an object gliding, as it were,along the horizon above the tops of the sedge toward the sea, which little by little grew till it was pronounced to be the smoke-stack of a steamer coming up the river… . Soon the flag of the United States was plainly visible, and our attention was divided between this approaching steamer and the expected assault. When the sun was about an hour high, another signal-message came from General Hazen that he was all ready, and I replied to go ahead, as a friendly steamer was approaching from below. Soon we made out a group of officers on the deck of this vessel, signaling with a flag, ‘Who are you?’ The answer went back promptly, ‘General Sherman.’ Then followed the question ‘Is Fort McAllister taken?’ ‘Not yet, but it will be in a minute!’ Almost at that instant of time, we saw Hazen’s troops come out of the dark fringe of woods that encompassed the fort, the lines dressed as on parade, with colors flying, and moving forward with quick, steady pace. Fort McAllister was then all alive, its big guns belching forth dense clouds of smoke, which soon enveloped our approaching lines. One color went down, but was up in a moment. As the lines advance, faintly seen in the white sulphurous smoke, there was a pause, a cessation of fire; the smoke cleared away, and the parapets were blue with our men, who fired their muskets in the air and shouted so that we actually heard them, or felt we did. Fort McAllister was taken, and the good news was instantly sent by the signal-officer to our navy friends on the approaching gunboat … .”

Source: Mills Lane (ed.), Marching Through Georgia: William T. Sherman’s Personal Narrative of His March Through Georgia (New York: Arno Press, 1978), p. 161.