Friday, December 23, 1864

SPECIAL FIELD ORDERS, HDQRS. MIL. DIV. OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, Savannah, GA., NO. 139.

Savannah, being now in our possession, the river partially cleared out, and measures having been taken to remove all obstructions, will at once be made a grand depot for future operations.

I. The chief quartermaster, General Easton, will, after giving, the necessary order touching the transport in Ogeechee River and Ossabaw Sound, come in person to Savannah and take possession of all public buildings, all vacant store-rooms, warehouses, &c., that may be now or hereafter needed for any department of the army. No rents will be paid by the Government of the United States during the war, and all buildings must be distributed according to the accustomed rules of the quartermaster’s department, as though they were public property.

II. The chief commissary of subsistence, Colonel A. Beckwith, will transfer the grand depot of the army to the city of Savannah, secure possession of the needful buildings and offices, and give the necessary orders, to the end that the army may be supplied abundantly and well.

III. The chief engineer, Captain Poe, will at once direct which of the enemy’s forts are to be retained for our use and which dismantled and destroyed; and the chief ordnance officer, Captain Baylor, will, in like manner, take possession of all property pertaining to this department captured from the enemy and cause the same to be collected and carried to points of security. All the heavy sea-coast guns will dismounted and carried to Fort Pulaski.

IV. The troops, for the present, will be grouped about the city of Savannah, looking to the convenience of camps, General Slocum taking from the Savannah around to about the seven-mile post, on the canal, and General Howard thence to the sea. General Kilpatrick will hold King’s Bridge until Fort McAllister is dismantled and the troops withdrawn from the south side of the Ogeechee, when he will take post about Anderson’s plantation, and picket all the roads leading from the north and west.

V. General Howard will keep a small guard at Forts Rosedew, Beaulieu, Wimberly, Thunderbolt, and Bonaventure, and he will cause that shore and Skidaway Island to be examined very closely, with a view to finding many and convenient points for the embarkation of troops and wagons on sea-going vessels.

By order of Major General W. T. Sherman:
L. M. DAYTON, Aided-de-Camp

I received official dispatches from Major-General Thomas saying that he had attacked Hood in front of Nashville; had driven his left and left center eight miles, capturing 16 guns, a large number of prisoners, flags, earth-works, and trains; that night closed the battle, but that he would fight or follows the next day, and expected to destroy the entire army.

After having made the necessary orders for the disposition of the troops in and about Savannah, I ordered Captain O. M. Poe, chief engineer, to make a thorough examination of the enemy’s works in and about Savannah, with a view to making it conform to our future uses. New lines of defenses will be built, embracing the city proper; Forts Jackson, Thunderbolt, and Pulaski retained, with slight modifications in their armament and rear defenses; all the rest of the enemy’s forts will be dismantled and destroyed, and their heavy ordnance transferred to Hilton Head, where it can be more easily guarded. Our base of supplies will be established in Savannah as soon as the very difficult obstructions placed in the river can be partially removed. These obstructions at present offer a very serious impediment to the commerce of Savannah, consisting of crib-work of logs and timber heavily bolted together, and filled with the cobble stones which formerly paved the streets of Savannah. All the channels below the city were found more or less filled with torpedoes, which have been removed by order of Admiral Dahlgren. So that Savannah already fulfills the important part it was designed in our plans for the future.

I would merely sum up the advantages which I conceive have accrued to us by this march. Our former labors in North Georgia had demonstrated the truth that no large army, carrying with it the necessary stores and baggage, can overtake and capture an inferior force of the enemy in his own country. Therefore no alternative was left me but the one I adopted: namely, to divide my forces and with the one part act offensively against the enemy’s resources, while with the other I should act defensively, and invite the enemy to attack, risking the chances of battle. In this conclusion I have been singularly sustained by the results. General Hood had moved to the westward near Tuscumbia, with a view to decoy me away from Georgia. Finding himself mistaken, he was forced to choose either to pursue me, or to act offensively against the other part left in Tennessee. He adopted the latter course; and General Thomas has wisely and well fulfilled his part of the grand scheme in drawing Hood well up into Tennessee until he could concentrate all his own troops and then turn upon Hood, as he has done, and destroy or fatally cripple his army. That part of my army is so far removed from me that I leave, with perfect confidence, its management and history to General Thomas.

I was thereby left with a well-appointed army to sever the enemy’s only remaining railroad communications eastward and westward, for over 100 miles: namely, the Georgia State Railroad, which is broken up from Fairburn Station to Madison and the Oconee, and the Central Railroad, from Gordon clear to Savannah with numerous breaks on the latter road from Gordon to Eatonton and from Millen to Augusta, and the Savannah Gulf Railroad. We have consumed the corn and fodder in the region of country thirty miles on either side of a line from Atlanta to Savannah, as also the sweet potatoes, cattle, hogs, sheep and poultry, and have carried away more than 10,000 horses and mules, as well as a countless number of their slaves. I estimate the damage done to the State of Georgia and its military resources at $100,000,000; at least, $20,000,000 of which has inured to our advantage, and the remainder is simple waste and destruction. This may seem a hard species of warfare, but it brings the sad realities of war home to those who have been directly or indirectly instrumental in involving us in its attendant calamities. The campaign has also placed this branch of my army in a position from which other great military results may be attempted, besides leaving in Tennessee and North Alabama a force which is amply sufficient to meet all the chances of war in that region of our country.

In the body of my army I feel a just pride. Generals Howard and Slocum are gentlemen of singular capacity and intelligence, thorough soldiers and patriots, working day and night, not for themselves, but for their country and their men. General Kilpatrick, who commanded the cavalry of this army, has handled it with spirit and dash to my entire satisfaction, and kept a superior force of the enemy’s cavalry from even approaching our infantry columns or wagon trains. His report is full and graphic. All the division and brigade commanders merit my personal and official thanks, and I shall spare no efforts to secure them commissions equal to the rank they have exercised so well. As to the rank and file, they seem so full of confidence in themselves that I doubt if they want a compliment from me; but I must do them the justice to say that whether called on to fight, to march, to wade streams, to make roads, clear out obstructions, build bridges, make corduroy, or tear up railroads, they have done it with alacrity and a degree of cheerfulness unsurpassed. A little loose in foraging, they “did some things they ought not to have done,” yet, on the whole, they have supplied the wants of the army engaged with the enemy which would in ordinary times rank as respectable battles.

The behavior of our troops in Savannah has been so manly, so quiet, so perfect, that I take it as the best evidence of discipline and true courage. Never was a hostile city, filled with women and children, occupied by a large army with less disorder, or more system, order, and good government. The same general and generous spirit of confidence and good feeling pervades the army which it was ever afforded me especial pleasure to report on former occasions.

I avail myself of this occasion to express my heartfelt thanks to Admiral Dahlgren and the officers and men of his fleet, as also to General Foster and his command, for the hearty welcome given us at the coast, and for their ready and prompt co-operation in all measures tending to the result accomplished.

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