Near Savannah, Georgia
The enemy has been driven within his lines at Savannah. These follow substantially a swampy creek which empties into the Savannah River about three miles above the city, across to the head of a corresponding stream which empties into the Little Ogeechee. These streams are singularly favorable to the enemy as a cover, being very marshy, and bordered by rice fields, which were flooded either by the tide water or by inland ponds, the gates to which are controlled and covered by heavy artillery of the enemy. The only approaches to the city are by five narrow causeways: namely, the two railroads, and the Augusta, the Louisville, and the Ogeechee dirt roads-all of which are commanded by heavy ordnance, too strong for us to fight with our light field-guns. To assault an enemy of unknown strength at such a disadvantage is unwise, especially as I have so successfully brought my army, almost unscathed, so great a distance, and can surely attain the same result by the operation of time. I therefore instructed my army commanders to closely invest the city from the north and west, and to reconnoiter well the ground in their fronts, respectively, whilst I gave my personal attention to opening communications with our fleet, which I know is waiting for us in Tybee, Wassaw, and Ossabaw Sounds.
General Slocum has struck the Charleston railroad near the bridge, and occupied the river-bank as his left flank. He captured two of the enemy’s river boats, and had prevented two others (gun-boats), from coming down the river to communicate with the city; while General Howard, by his right flank, has broken the Gulf railroad at Fleming’s and Way’s Stations, and occupies the railroad itself down to the Little Ogeechee, near Station 1; so that no supplies can reach Savannah by any of its accustomed channels. We, on the contrary, possess large herds of cattle, which we have brought along or gathered in the country and our wagons still contain a reasonable amount of breadstuffs and other necessaries. The fine rice crops of the Savannah and Ogeechee Rivers furnish to our men and animals a large amount of rice and rice straw. We also hold the country to the south and west of the Ogeechee as foraging ground.
Communication with the fleet is of vital importance; and I directed General Kilpatrick to cross the Ogeechee by a pontoon bridge, to reconnoiter Fort McAllister, and to proceed to Saint Catherine’s Sound, in the direction of Sunbery or Kilkenny Bluff, and open communication with the fleet. General Howard has previously sent one of his best scouts down the Ogeechee in a canoe for a like purpose. But more than this is necessary. We want the vessels and their contents; and the Ogeechee River, a navigable stream, close to the rear of our camps, is the proper avenue of supply.
My corps have reached the defenses of Savannah, the Fourteenth Corps on the left, touching the river; the Twentieth Corps next; then the Seventeenth; and the Fifteenth on the extreme right; thus completely investing the city. Wishing to reconnoitre the place in person, I rode forward by the Louisville road, into a dense wood of oak, pine, and cypress, left the horses, and walked down to the railroad-track, at a place where there was a side-track, and a cut about four feet deep. From that point the railroad was straight, leading into Savannah, and about eight hundred yards off were a rebel parapet and battery. I could see the cannoneers preparing to fire, and cautioned the officers near me to scatter, as we would likely attract a shot. Very soon I saw the white puff of smoke, and, watching close, caught sight of the ball as it rose in its flight, and, finding it coming pretty straight, I stepped a short distance to one side, but noticed a negro very near me in the act of crossing the track at right angles. Some one called to him to look out; but, before the poor fellow understood his danger, the ball (a thirty-two- pound round shot) struck the ground, and rose in its first ricochet, caught the negro under the right jaw, and literally carried away his head, scattering blood and brains about. A soldier close by spread an overcoat over the body, and we all concluded to get out of that railroad-cut.
Meantime, General Mower’s division of the Seventeenth Corps had crossed the canal to the right of the Louisville road, and had found the line of parapet continuous; so at Savannah we had again run up against the old familiar parapet, with its deep ditches, canals, and bayous, full of water; and it looked as though another siege was inevitable. I accordingly made a camp or bivouac near the Louisville road, about five miles from Savannah, and proceeded to invest the place closely, pushing forward reconnoissances at every available point.
HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, near Savannah, December 11, 1864 – 2 a. m.
Major General O. O. HOWARD, Commanding Army of the Tennessee:
Your dispatch of December 10, and also Special Field Orders, Numbers 191, are just received. The General-in-chief wishes you to secure the trains cut off on the Gulf road and also describe to him what is the position of King’s Bridge and Dillon’s Ferry. Neither is on the map. I have had couriers looking for you since 5 p. m. 10th, with orders, but they are unable to find your headquarters. I send inclosed another copy. The general understands the trains to be between Way’s and Fleming’s Stations.
I am, General,
L. M. DAYTON, Aide-de-Camp.
HDQRS. DEPARTMENT AND ARMY OF THE TENNESSEE, Little Ogeechee, Eleven Miles from Savannah, December 11, 1864.
Major General W. T. SHERMAN, Commanding Military Division of the Mississippi:
I inclose you a rough sketch made by Captain Reese. He will have a better very soon. The King’s Bridge road is the prolongation of the plank road. I have received your Field Order, Numbers 130. My headquarters are now on the King’s Bridge and Savannah road, three miles and a half mile in rear of Corse’s advanced line. I shall move up this morning, and will send an officer to let you know where I shall be. I think the atmosphere is now clear enough to communicate with the fleet by signal from a point Captain McClintock, signal officer, has selected. The Darien road is an excellent one from the canal across to this road, and will give us easy communication.
I have carefully reconnoitered this part of the rebel position. I find that there are at least five batteries, one of them mounting four guns and the others probably one each. The marsh extending along their whole front is impassable either to foot or horsemen, and the only way by which it can be crossed, leading from Doctor Cheves’ plantation, has a battery planted at the other shore. Their line runs along the eastern branch of the Little Ogeechee, terminating near its mouth, where it cannot be approached owing to the swamps bordering the river. As Screven’s there is a good landing, opposite which is Fort McAllister. The fort is well supplied with guns; some of the negroes saying that there are thirty-five mounted, others, less, and that there are but fifty men fit for duty. I have given General Kilpatrick four pontoons, and ordered him to cross the Cannouchee and take the fort if possible. If he is unsuccessful I shall march down a division. King’s Bridge will be finished tomorrow night, and from there to Fort McAllister there is a good road, without obstructions. We have tried in every way to communicate with the fleet, but have thus has been unsuccessful. I hope that by tonight we shall be able to do so with signal rockets. I find that about 150 feet of the Ogeechee railroad bridge at each end had been destroyed at the first breaking of the road. We find no trains between Way’s and Fleming’s Stations.
O. O. HOWARD, Major-General.
SPECIAL HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT AND FIELD ORDERS,
ARMY OF THE TENNESSEE, Numbers 192. Little Ogeechee, near Savannah, December 11, 1864.
The scarcity of forage, and the necessity of horses and mules for the cavalry service, necessitates the issuing of the following orders, viz:
First, all General, staff, and other officers entitled to be mounted will be allowed only the number of horses prescribed by regulations and orders.
Second, officers, officers’ servants, clerks, forages, and all other unauthorized persons riding Government horses and mules, will be at once dismounted, and the animals turned over to respective division quartermasters, the serviceable to be turned over, under the direction of the chief quartermaster, for the use of the cavalry, and the unserviceable and worthless to be shot and buried.
Third, all horses, and mules captured during the late march must now be properly taken up, branded, and accounted for as public property.
Fourth, corps commanders will cause a rigid inspection to be made in their commands, in accordance with this order, and will be responsible that in spirit and intent it is fully carried out.
Fifth, orderlies and other soldiers entitled to be mounted while on duty with their commands should be provided with passes, or orders to that effect, to prevent their horses being taken, as provided for in Special Field Orders, Numbers 17 and 129, Military Division of the Mississippi, current series.
II. Major-General Osterhaus, commanding Fifteenth Army Corps, will cause to be detailed from his command one section of Captain De Gress’ battery and one small regiment of infantry, to report to Major T. W. Osborn, chief of artillery, at these headquarters tomorrow at 7 a. m., for duty at Cheves’ Mill.
By order of Major General O. O. Howard
The following are the orders for the operations of the corps tomorrow:
The First, Third, and Fourth Divisions will move, by the right flank, south of the King’s Bridge and Savannah road, at 8 a. m., in the following order: Brigadier-General Corse, commanding Fourth Division, will move his entire command to the right, toward the railroad, as far as the conformation of the ground will permit, placing his brigades in double lines. He will cause, however, the regiments now on the railroad to remain in their present position. Brigadier-Generals Woods and Smith will close up, by the right flank, on General Corse’s lines, respectively, and will place their troops on an alignment, with General Smith resting his left on the King’s Bridge and Savannah road. The entire movement must be well screened from the view of the enemy, and division commanders will be careful in selecting their roads to attain that end. The present pickets or skirmish-line of the Fourth Division will remain until the three divisions are in position, when division commanders will relieve those on the right of the Savannah road in their respective fronts; those on the left of said road will remain until relieved by the Seventeenth Army Corps. Brigadier-General Hazen, commanding Second Division, will take up a reserve position west of the Little Ogeechee, covering well his flank and rear by pickets. He will furnish to Captain Reese, chief engineer of the army, the pioneer corps of his command, and all such details of men, teams, &c., as may be necessary in the reconstruction of King’s Bridge. All the teams and cattle will be ordered up to their respective divisions, and will be parked and corralled with a view to the convenience of forage. As the article will become very scarce during our stay, the greatest economy in the use of its is recommended, and the collecting and distributing of the same must be well systematized within the divisions to prevent waste. The regiments of General Woods’ division now on guard at Dillon’s Bridge will remain there and secure the said bridge by a tete-de-pont on the west side of the Ogeechee.
HEADQUARTERS LEFT WING, ARMY OF Georgia, December 11, 1864. 7 p. m.
Captain L. M. DAYTON, Aide-de-Camp:
Some of Wheeler’s cavalry were at Monteith, the residence of General Harrison, when the party sent to arrest him arrived there. I have sent a brigade of infantry to cover my rear and protect trains. The left of my line is now established in very close proximity to the line of the enemy. I have sent a regiment across the river to scout the country, and am throwing up two redoubts on the river-bank.
Very respectfully, &c.,
H. W. SLOCUM, Major-General