Friday, December 13, 2013

Major General William T. Sherman to Ellen Ewing Sherman, December 16, 1864

NEAR SAVANNAH, December 16, 1864.

I have no doubt you have heard of my safe arrival on the coast. . . . We came right along living on turkeys, chickens, pigs, bringing along our wagons loaded as we started with bread, etc. I suppose Jeff Davis will now have to feed the people of Georgia instead of collecting provisions of them to feed his armies. We have destroyed nearly two hundred miles of railroad and are not yet done. As I approached Savannah I found every river and outlet fortified. The Ogeechee River emptying into Ossabaw Sound was best adapted to our use, but it was guarded by Fort McAllister which has defied the Navy for two years. I ordered Howard to carry it with one division. The detail fell on the 2nd Division of the 15th Corps, and it was the handsomest thing I have seen in this war. The division is the same I commanded at Shiloh in which Buckland, Hildebrand, Cockerill and others were, and Cockerill's Regiment was about the first to reach the interior and is now its garrison, but Cockerill is not in service now. As soon as we got the fort I pulled down the bay and opened communications. General Foster and Admiral Dahlgren received me, manned the yards and cheered, the highest honor at sea. They had become really nervous as to our safety, and were delighted at all I told them of our easy success. I can now starve out Savannah unless events call my army to Virginia. I would prefer to march through Columbia and Raleigh, but the time would be too long, and we may go by sea. I have letters from Grant of the 3rd and 6th. I never saw a more confident army. The soldiers think I know everything and that they can do anything. The strength of Savannah lies in its swamps which can only be crossed by narrow causeways all of which are swept by heavy artillery. I came near being hit the first day in approaching too near to reconnoitre. A negro's head was shot off close by me. The weather is and has been all we could have asked. It is now warm and pleasant, and the live-oaks are sublime; japonicas in blossom in the open air and the orange is but slightly touched by the frost. I expect rain soon and have heavy details at work corduroying the roads in anticipation of such an event. I have some heavy guns coming from Port Royal, and as soon as they come I shall demand the surrender of Savannah, but will not assault, as a few days will starve out its garrison, about 15,000, and its people 25,000. I do not apprehend any army to attempt to relieve Savannah except Lee's, and if he gives up Richmond it will be the best piece of strategy ever made, to make him let go there. We have lived sumptuously — turkeys, chickens and sweet potatoes1 all the way, but the poor women and children will starve. All I could tell them was, if Jeff Davis expects to found an empire on the ruins of the South, he ought to afford to feed the people. . . .

It was just 30 days from Atlanta till I was sitting with the Admiral on a sea steamer at sea. Grant's letter of the 3rd proposed to bring you down to see me, but his of the 6th looked to my coming to James River. Await events and trust to fortune. I will turn up where and when you least expect me. . . .

1 These words bear a curious testimony to the accuracy of a stanza in one of the most familiar of war-songs:

How the darkeys shouted when they heard the joyful sound!
How the turkeys gobbled which our commissary found!
How the sweet potatoes even started from the ground
While we were marching through Georgia!

SOURCES: M. A. DeWolfe Howe, Editor, Home Letters of General Sherman, p. 316-8.  A full copy of this letter can be found in the William T Sherman Family papers (SHR), University of Notre Dame Archives (UNDA), Notre Dame, IN 46556, Folder CSHR 2/19

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