The tug Red Legs brought me to Fort McAllister before dawn where I mounted my horse and rode to the rice mill. After some initial business, I rode into the city of Savannah, already occupied by our troops. I rode down Bull Street to the custom-house. We had an extensive view over the city, the river, and the vast extent of marsh and rice-fields on the South Carolina side. The navy-yard, and the wreck of the iron-clad ram Savannah, are still smouldering, but all else looks quiet enough.
Turning back, we rode to the Pulaski Hotel, which I had known in years long gone, and found it kept by a Vermont man with a lame leg, who used to be a clerk in the St. Louis Hotel, New Orleans, and I inquired about the capacity of his hotel for headquarters. He was very anxious to have us for boarders, but I soon explained to him that we had a full mess equipment along, and that we were not in the habit of paying board; that one wing of the building would suffice for our use, while I would allow him to keep an hotel for the accommodation of officers and gentlemen in the remainder.
I then dispatched an officer to look around for a livery-stable that could accommodate our horses, and, while waiting there, an English gentleman, Mr. Charles Green, came and said that he had a fine house completely furnished, for which he had no use, and offered it as headquarters. He explained, moreover, that General Howard had informed him, the day before, that I would want his house for headquarters. At first I felt strongly disinclined to make use of any private dwelling, lest complaints should arise of damage and loss of furniture, and so expressed myself to Mr. Green; but, after riding about the city, and finding his house so spacious, so convenient, with large yard and stabling, I accepted his offer.
I am very much disappointed that Hardee escaped with his garrison, and must content myself with the material fruits of victory without the cost of life which would have attended a general assault. The substantial results will be more clearly set forth in the inventory of heavy ordnance and other public property acquired. The important city of Savannah, with its valuable harbor and river, were the chief object of the campaign. With it we acquire all the forts and heavy ordnance in its vicinity, with large stores of ammunition, shot and shells, cotton, rice, and other valuable products of the country. We also gain locomotives and cars, which, though of little use to us in the present condition of the railroads, are a serious loss to the enemy; as well as four steam-boats gained, and the loss to the enemy of the iron-clad Savannah, one ram, and three transports, blown up or burned by them the night before.
I received this note from the Mayor:
SAVANNAH, December 21, 1864.
Major General W. T. SHERMAN, Commanding U. S. Military Forces near Savannah:
SIR: The city of Savannah was last night evacuated by the Confederate military and is now entirely defenseless. As chief magistrate of the city I respectfully request your protection of the lives and private property of the citizens and of our women and children.
Trusting that this appeal to your generosity and humanity may favorably influence your action, I have the honor to be, your obedient servant,
R. D. ARNOLD, Mayor of Savannah.
Formal demand having been made for the surrender, and having been refused, I contend that everything within the line of intrenchments belongs to the United States, and I shall not hesitate to use it, if necessary, for public purposes. But inasmuch as the inhabitants generally have manifested a friendly disposition, I shall disturb them as little as possible consistently with the military rights of present and future military commanders, without remitting in the least our just rights as captors.
I sent the following message to the President:
SAVANNAH, GA., December 22, 1864.
His Excellency President LINCOLN:
I beg to present you, as a Christmas gift, the city of Savannah, with 150 heavy guns and plenty of ammunition, and also about 25,000 bales of cotton.
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General
HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, near Savannah, GA., December 22, 1864. 5 a.m.
Brigadier-General KILPATRICK, Commanding Cavalry Division, Army of Georgia:
GENERAL: The General-in-chief has just returned to his headquarters, having been somewhat delayed on his way back from Port Royal by high winds. You are no doubt already aware that the enemy has evacuated Savannah, and our troops are in full possession of the city. For the present, however, supplies will continue to be received via Ogeechee River and the King’s Bridge road. The general directs me to say that he wishes you, until further orders, to continue to guard the depot of supplies at King’s Bridge with your cavalry, on the west of the river, in connection with the brigade of infantry remaining between Big and Little Ogeechee. He is anxious to hear as soon as possible from General Mower’s force, sent down the Gulf railroad; also from your cavalry sent toward the Altamaha; and desires that you will at once send him all information you have or may obtain from them. He will himself go into Savannah this morning, and remove his headquarters thither, and will send you further orders after going there.
I am, General, respectfully, your obedient servant,
HENRY HITCHCOCK, Major and Assistant Adjutant-General
HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI,
In the Field, Savannah, GA., December 22, 1864.
Major-General FOSTER, Commanding Department of the South:
We are now in full possession of Savannah and all its dependencies. Hardee is supposed to be about Hardeeville, and General Sherman directs me to say that he suggests you take a strong defensive position about the head of Broad River. If you need any help he will furnish you all assistance speedily. Hardee has from 15,000 to 20,000 men. As we are in possession, the proposed co-operation will not be required or necessary, but if you need help it will be at once sent you on notice. Please forward to the lieutenant-General the accompanying dispatch, by request of General Sherman.
I am, General, with respect,
L. M. DAYTON, Aide-de-Camp