Fort McAllister, Near Savannah Georgia
Admiral Dahlgren carried me back to Fort McAllister, whence I returned to our lines in the rear of Savannah.
HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, near Savannah, GA. (Major-General Howard’s Headquarters), December 15, 1864. 2 p.m.
Major General H. W. SLOCUM, commanding Left Wing:
The general has just returned from a visit to Ossabaw and Wassaw Sounds, and directs me to inform you in full terms of the result. After having opened communication by signal with the gunboats and got possession of Fort McAllister, he went in person to the gun-boat below Fort McAllister, which proved to be a messenger-boat from the flag-ship lying at the mouth of Ossabaw Sound. After making communications to Washington, &c., he returned to Fort McAllister, and was overtaken by a messenger from General Foster, just from Port Royal. The general went on board General Foster’s boat, and proceeded with him down the bay in hopes to meet the admiral, but did not find him till after running around to Wassaw Sound.
General Foster then proceeded to Port Royal at 12 m. yesterday, to return with a fleet of transports loaded with 600,000 rations and ten days’ forage for 40,000 animals, and promised to be here by tonight. He will also bring with him six 20-pounder Parrott guns and six 30-pounder Parrotts, with 300 rounds of ammunition per gun. General Sherman then transferred to the admiral’s vessel and returned to Fort McAllister, whence the admiral accompanied him as far up as the rice mill, where he had left his horse. He is now at General Howard’s headquarters, and has sent for his camp to be transferred to a point near this, which is not far from the Seven-Mile Post on the main road leading west from Savannah to the Ogeechee, marked on our maps as a plank road. This point is about five miles from his present headquarters, on the Louisville road.
General Foster has 5,000 men near the Charleston railroad, north of Broad River, and near enough to the railroad to command it, so that he feels sure that cars cannot pass either way; but he has been unable to reach the railroad itself with his men, on account of the enemy’s force. The gun-boats and General Howard occupy all other avenues of approach to Savannah connecting with your right. Now, if you can close the Savannah River to navigation, and also get a force over the Savannah River to threaten in flank any dirt road leading out of Savannah, between the city and Coosawhatchie, the investment of the city will be complete and the enemy will have no escape.
The general wants to place the batteries expected from General Foster in position as near the heart of Savannah as possible, ready to bombard it as soon as possible. You may, therefore, send horses to the Ogeechee River, at King’s Bridge, ready to haul those guns to your right front, and, as soon they are well in position, ready to open on the city, he proposes to demand its surrender. In the meantime our stores of all kinds will come up Ossabaw Sound and the Ogeechee to King’s Bridge, and thence be hauled to the camps. The canal is admirably adapted to your use, and the general suggests that you send some competent staff officer over to the Ogeechee, and, in concert with General Easton, chief quartermaster, collect as many boats as possible to transport your stores from King’s Bridge, thorough me canal, up to your very camp. At Doctor Cheves’ plantation, ten miles from King’s Bridge, the general himself saw at least half a dozen fine, large flats, built expressly to transport rice through the canal to Savannah, the very things wanted, and he has no doubt on other plantations at least twenty or twenty-five boats could be collected, each capable of transporting twenty tons. In dry Weather the wagons will be best, but in case of rainy Weather these boats would be admirable.
As soon as possible the general wants your batteries, which are nearest the city, prepared to execute the foregoing plans, and he wants you to write him in full tonight any ideas that may have been suggested by your closer observation of the ground in your immediate front; and you may at once give orders for hauling provisions and forage from King’s Bridge, as Admiral Dahlgren assured him this morning that he would have all torpedoes and obstructions removed in the course of today. There is also a steam-boat load of mail for your army, Colonel A. H. Markland in charge, which will be at King’s Bridge the instant the torpedoes are removed. Captain Merritt brings this to you, and can satisfy all your inquiries, as he has been with the General.
I have the honor to be, General, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
HENRY HITCHCOCK, Major and Assistant Adjutant-General.
HEADQUARTERS LEFT WING, ARMY OF Georgia, December 15, 1864. 5 p.m.
Major Henry HITCHCOCK, Assistant Adjutant-General:
Your communication of 2 p. m. has just come to hand. The heavy guns can be used to advantage in my front. From my extreme left I can shell the city with the 3-inch gun. I think I can safely place a force on the Carolina side of the river and gradually work my way opposite the city. I shall send teams for stores at once.
I will write fully tomorrow.
H. W. SLOCUM, Major-General
HEADQUARTERS LEFT WING, ARMY OF Georgia, December 15, 1864. 9 p.m.
I have two regiments on the Carolina shore north of Clydesdale Creek. Tomorrow morning the remainder of the brigade, three additional regiments, will endeavor to take the line from Clydesdale Creek to a point on the Savannah River opposite to Cruger’s Island, with orders to intrench on that line and feel forward toward the causeway road. With your consent I will try to place a division on the line marked 2 on the inclosed diagram. It will be necessary to move with some caution on that side; and, to render the position entirely safe, it maybe necessary to throw an entire corps over, with instructions to intrench strongly. There are many points in front of our present position that can be guarded by a good pickets-line. If a portion of the line now held by Davis can be held by General Howard, or by the troops under General Foster, the Twentieth Corps can be spared, and will seal up that sides of the city and be in a position to shell every portion of it.
I shall go no further than to send a brigade over to take the line marked 1 until I hear from you; but I have no fear of placing a corps on that side; and this done the fate of the city is sealed. I think Foster’s command might be of use in the swamps on this side if placed behind the line already established. I think there are points on the left of my line form which the city can be shelled with those heavy guns to more advantage than on the right of the line. The point held by Carlin, where Mower was, is within three miles and a half of the city, but there are points nearer the river quite as close, and from which the city can be seen. Please give me your views as to the propriety of attempting to throw one entire corps over. We can send supplies via Argyle Island, which is held by us. The enemy hold the lower part of Hutchinson’s Island, and command the whole island, with their batteries on this side. They also send a small gun-boat up to a point between Cruger’s Island and Hutchinson’s at a point marked B. She has one heavy gun and gives us some annoyance. She is just out of range of our field guns.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
H. W. SLOCUM, Major-General
HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, near Savannah, GA., (Major-General Howard’s Headquarters), December 15, 1864. 11:30 p.m.
Major General H. W. SLOCUM, Commanding Left Wing, Army of Georgia:
The General-in-chief directs me to write you as follows:
“Your note of 9 p.m. is just received. For the present do not send more than one brigade, and instead of threatening south toward the Union Causeway, rather let it threaten eastward toward the road marked as running up toward Augusta on the east side of the Savannah River, seemingly threatening in flank the movement of troops attempting to escape from Savannah. There are some points which I will explain in person as soon as I can ride over to see you. A messenger is just arrived from general Grant with dispatches of importance. Prepare for the rifled guns and get them into position as soon as possible. Let the engineer regiment continue to destroy the railroad, and cover their work up as far as the bridge, including if possible. After making some letters tomorrow I will come over to see you. Also get from the island in the river all the rice you can as forage for your horses.”
I have the honor to be,
HENRY HITCHCOCK, Major and Assistant Adjutant-General