HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, near Savannah, GA., December 18, 1864. 8 p.m.
Lieutenant General U. S. GRANT, City Point, Va.:
GENERAL: I wrote you at length by Colonel Babcock on the 16th instant. As therein explained my purpose, yesterday I made a demand on General Hardee for the surrender of the city of Savannah, and today received his answer, refusing. Copies of both letters are herewith inclosed. You will notice that I claim that my lines are within easy cannon range of the heart of Savannah, but General Hardee claims we are four miles and a half distant. But I, myself, have been to the intersection of the Charleston and Georgia Central railroads, and the three-mile post is but a few yards beyond, within the line of our pickets. The enemy has no pickets outside of his fortified line, which is a full quarter of a mile within the three-mile post, and I have the evidence of Mr. R. R. Cuyler, president of the Georgia Central Railroad, who was a prisoner in our hands, that the mile posts are measured from the Exchange, which is but two squares back from the river. But by tomorrow morning I will have six 30-pounder Parrotts in position, and General Hardee will learn whether I am right or not.
From the left of our line, which is on the Savannah River, the spires can be plainly seen, but the country is so densely wooded with pine and live oak, and lies so flat, that we can see nothing from any other part of our lines. General Slocum feels confident that he can make a successful assault at one or two points in front of the Twentieth Corps, and one or two in front of General Davis’ (Fourteenth) Corps. But all of General Howard’s troops, the Right Wing, lie behind the Little Ogeechee, and I doubt if it can be passed by troops in the face of an enemy; still, we can make strong feints, and if I can get a sufficient number of boats I shall make a co-operative demonstration up Vernon river or Wassaw Sound.
I should like very much indeed to take Savannah before coming to you; but, as I wrote to you before, I will do nothing rash or hasty, and will embark for the James River as soon as General Easton, who has gone to Port Royal for that purpose, reports to me that he has an approximate number of vessels for the transportation of the contemplated force. I fear even this will cost more delay than you anticipate, for already the movement of our transports and the gun-boats has required more time than I had expected. We have had dense fogs, and there are more mud banks in the Ogeechee than were reported, and there are no pilots whatever. Admiral Dahlgren promised to have the channel buoyed and staked, but it is not done yet. We find only six feet water up to King’s Bridge at low tide, about ten up to the rice mill, and sixteen to Fort McAllister. All these points may be used by us, and we have a good strong bridge across Ogeechee at King’s, by which our wagons can go to Fort McAllister, to which point I am sending the wagons not absolutely necessary for daily use, the negroes, prisoners of war, sick, &c., en route for Port Royal.
In relation to Savannah, you will remark that General Hardee refers to his still being in communication with his War Department. This language he thought would deceive me, but I am confirmed in the belief that the route to which he refers-namely, the Union plank road, on the South Carolina shore-is inadequate to feed his army and the people of Savannah; for General Foster assures me that he has his force on that very road near the head of broad river, and that his guns command the railroad, so that cars no longer run between Charleston and Savannah. We hold this end of the Charleston railroad, and have destroyed it from the three-mile post back to the bridge-about twelve miles.
In anticipation of leaving this country I am continuing the destruction of their railroads, and at this moment have two divisions and the cavalry at work breaking up the Gulf railroad from the Ogeechee to the Altamaha; so that even if I do not take Savannah, I will leave it in a bad way. But I still hope that events will give me time to take Savannah, even if I have to assault with some loss. I am satisfied that unless we take it the gun-boats never will, for they can make no impression upon the batteries which guard every approach from the sea; and I have a faint belief that when Colonel Babcock reaches you, you will delay operations long enough to enable me to succeed. With Savannah in our possession at some future time, if not now, we can punish South Carolina as she deserves, and as thousands of people in Georgia hoped we would do. I do sincerely believe that the whole United States, North and South, would rejoice to have this army turned loose on South Carolina to devastate that State, in the manner we have done in Georgia, and it would have a direct and immediate bearing on your campaign in Virginia.
I have the honor to be, your obedient servant,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General, Commanding
HDQRS. DEPT. OF S. CAROLINA, Georgia, AND FLORIDA, Savannah, GA., December 17, 1864
Major General W. T. SHERMAN, Commanding Federal Forces, near Savannah, GA.:
GENERAL: I have to acknowledge receipt of a communication from you of this date, in which you demand “the surrender of Savannah and its dependent fort,” on the ground that you have “received guns that can cast heavy and destructive shot into the heart of the city,” and for the further reason that you “have for some days held and controlled every avenue by which the people and garrison can be supplied. ” You add that should you be “forced to resort to assault, or to the slower and surer process of starvation, you will then feel justified in resorting to the harshest measures, and will make little effort to restrain your army,” &c. The position of your forces, a half a mile beyond the outer line for the land defenses of Savannah, is, at the nearest point, at least four miles from the heart of the city. That and the interior line are both intact. Your statement that you “have for some days held and controlled every avenue by which the people and garrison can be supplied” is incorrect. I am in free and constant communication with my department. 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 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 future.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
W. J. HARDEE, Lieutenant-General.
HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, near Savannah, GA., December 18, 1864.
Major General O. O. HOWARD, Commanding Army of the Tennessee:
GENERAL: The General-in-chief has just returned from General Slocum’s, where he made a demand or the surrender of Savannah, &c., which was denied. He wishes you to make the necessary preparations at once for assaulting the place. He wishes to know if the crossing of the creek is practicable, and if you can make a diversion about Rosedew. General Slocum has received his orders, and General Davis and General Williams are ready, or nearly so.
I am, General, with respect, &c.,
L. M. DAYTON, Aide-de-Camp
HDQRS. DEPARTMENT AND ARMY OF THE TENNESSEE, Near Savannah, GA., December 18, 1864
Major General W. T. SHERMAN, Commanding Military Division of the Mississippi:
GENERAL: Your letter of date just received. Major-General Blair thinks he can make a lodgement in his front, and has been directed to proceed as rapidly as possible with the preparations. If I can get the water transportation from General Foster in time I believe the diversion just beyond Beaulieu to be practicable-that is, with one division.
O. O. HOWARD, Major-General
CONFIDENTIAL.] HDQRS. MILITARY DIV. OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, near Savannah, GA., December 18, 1864. 8 a.m.
Major General J. G. FOSTER, Commanding Department of the South:
GENERAL: In compliance with the plan I indicated to you some days since, I made a demand during yesterday on General Hardee for the surrender of the city of Savannah and its dependent forts, and today received his answer declining to accede. You are aware that I am ordered to carry this army to Virginia by sea, but I hope still to be able to get possession of Savannah before sufficient transportation can be had to enable me to comply with General Grant’s orders. The 30-pounder Parrotts which you sent me are now being hauled to batteries prepared for them, and in about two days’ time, if we can possibly get the ground to stand upon, we shall assault the enemy’s lines at four or more points. It is all important that the railroad and telegraph wire should be broken between the Savannah River and Charleston, and the very best point is where your force is represented to be, near the Tullifinny. It seems to me that our operations here, especially long the Savannah River, must have drawn away every man from that quarter that they could possibly spare, and a bold rush on the railroad would probably develop a weaker force there than is supposed to be; or it may be that you could diminish that force and use the balance in a small detachment east of the Tullifinny over about Old Pocotaligo. I merely throw out these ideas, and merely reiterate that it would aid us very much in this quarter if that force of yours be kept most active, more especially if you succeed in breaking the railroad and the telegraph wire-the farther toward Charleston the better. Even if nothing better can be done, let them whale away with their 30-pounder Parrotts and break the road with cannon balls. It is possible, as a part of the general movement, that I may send a force, in co-operation with the navy, toward the Union plank-road, in the direction of Bluffton. I will go over and see the admiral again tomorrow, and it may be that I will see you, as in your last note you said that you would return again.
I have the honor to be, your obedient servant,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General, Commanding