Saturday, December 31, 1864

HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, Savannah, GA., December 31, 1864. 3 p.m.

General U. S. GRANT:
A mail leaves at 5 p.m. for Hilton Head and New York. I have written a short official letter to General Halleck, amounting to nothing, simply because I suppose you want to hear from me at every opportunity. I have already reviewed my four corps, and wind up in a day or two with Kilpatrick’s cavalry, which I keep out about nine miles. There is no doubt of it but this army is in fine condition and impatient to go ahead. I would like to have Foster re-enforced, if possible, so that I will not have to leave him a division to hold Savannah. I will have all the heavy work done, such as moving the captured artillery to Hilton Head, where it can be more safety guarded, and building the redoubts in the new line for the defense of Savannah. This will be close in, for we don’t care if the enemy does shell the town. Five thousand men will be plenty, and white troops will be best, as the people are dreadfully alarmed lest we garrison the place with negroes. Now, no matter what the negro soldiers are, you know that people have prejudices which must be regarded. Prejudice, like religion, cannot be discussed.

As soon as I can accumulate enough provisions and forage to fill my wagons, I will be ready for South Carolina, and if you want me to take Charleston I think I can do it, for I know the place well. I was stationed there from ’42 to ’46, and used to hunt a good deal all along the Cooper River. The direction to approach Charleston is from the northwest, down the peninsula between Ashley and Cooper, as also that ending on the bay at Mount Pleasant. You had better notify General Meigs to send at once enough provisions for 65,000 men and 40,000 horses and mules for sixty days, instead of the daily allowance, for you know I must work on the surplus and not on the daily receipts. We have pretty well eaten up all the rice and rice straw for fifty miles. By making a wide circuit by Barnwell, Orangeburg, Columbia, and Santee I can reach the neighborhood of Georgetown and get a resupply.

I do not issue rations to the people, but order the mayor to look to the people, and have given him the rough rice to be sold and exchanged into flour and meat. Thus the expense will fall on the holders of this rough rice, which I treat as prize of war. Inasmuch as Hardee refused to surrender, and thereby escaped with his garrison, I take it for granted that we will have to fight in South Carolina, though I believe G. W. Smith, with his Georgia militia, has return by way of Augusta, saying he would be damned if he would fight for South Carolina.

The people here seem to be well content, as they have reason to be, for our troops have behaved magnificently; you would think it Sunday, so quiet is everything in the city day and night. All recognize my army a different body of men than they have ever seen before. I hope you will push Thomas up. Keep him going south anywhere. Let him make a track down into Alabama, or, if you think better, he can again come to Chattanooga and as far down as the Etowah, to which point I preserved the iron rails ready to be used again.

I am fully aware of your friendly feeling toward me, and you may always depend on me as your steadfast supporter. Your wish is law and gospel to me, and such is the feeling that pervades my army. I have an idea you will come to see me before I start.

Yours, in haste,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General.

HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, Savannah, GA., December 31, 1864.
Major General H. W. HALLECK, Chief of Staff, Washington, D. C.:

The steamer leaves with the mail this afternoon at 5 p.m. I write only to say that since my last to you there is nothing of importance to communicate. The city is perfectly quiet and orderly. The enemy appear to be making preparations to receive us over in South Carolina. As soon as I can accumulate a sufficient surplus of forage and provisions to load my wagons, I shall be ready to start.

We find the Savannah River more obstructed than we expected. It is filled with crib-works loaded with paving stones, making mud islands, with narrow, tortuous, and difficult channels. All our stores have to be lightened up from the ship anchorage about Tybee.

I have been engaged in reviewing my troops, and feel a just pride in their fine soldierly condition and perfect equipment. I propose at once to make lodgments in South Carolina, about Port Royal, opposite this city, and up about Sister’s Ferry. When all is ready I can feign at one or more places and cross at the other, after which my movements will be governed by those of the enemy, and such instructions as I may receive from Lieutenant-General Grant before starting. I do not think I can employ better strategy than I have hitherto done, namely, make a good ready and then move rapidly to my objective, avoiding a battle at points where I would be encumbered by wounded, but striking boldly and quickly when my objective is reached. I will give due heed and encouragement to all peace movements, but conduct war as though it could only terminate with the destruction of the enemy and the occupation of all his strategic points.

The Weather is fine, the air cool and bracing, and my experience in this latitude convinces me that I may safely depend on two good months for field-work. I await your and General Grant’s answers to my proposed plan of operations before taking any steps indicative of future movements. I should like to receive, before starting, the detachments left behind in Tennessee belonging to these four corps, and it would be eminently proper that General Foster should be re-enforced by about 5,000 men, to enable him to hold Savannah without calling upon me to leave him one of my old divisions, which is too valuable in the field to be left behind in garrison. I would also deem it wise, so far to respect the prejudices of the people of Savannah, as not to garrison the place with negro troops. It seems a perfect bug-bear to them, and I know that all people are more influenced by prejudice than by reason. The army continues in the best of health and spirits, and, notwithstanding the habits begotten during our rather vandalic march, its behavior in Savannah has excited the wonder and admiration of all.

I am, with great respect, very truly, yours,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General, Commanding, &c.

HDQRS. MIL. DIV. OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, Savannah, GA.,
SPECIAL FIELD ORDERS, Numbers 148. December 31, 1864

I. The work of constructing the fortifications of Savannah will commence at once, under the supervision of Captain Poe, chief engineer, and the line will be divided into two divisions, the Ogeechee road being the dividing line, and he is authorized to call upon army commanders for such details for labor as he may require.

II. Major-General Slocum, commanding Left Wing, will furnish details to Captain Poe for that part of the work north of and between the Ogeechee roach and Savannah River, and Major-General Howard, commanding Right Wing, will furnish details for the work south of the Ogeechee road.

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

Blair sends me inquiry from a lawyer about my policies. I reply:

HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, Savannah, GA., December 31, 1864.
Major General F. P. BLAIR, Commanding Seventeenth Army Corps:

GENERAL: Your note inclosing Mr. Cohen’s of this date is received, and I answer frankly, through you, his inquiries.

First. No one can practice law as an attorney in the United States without acknowledging the supremacy of our Government. If I am not in error, an attorney is as much an officer of the court as the clerk, and it would be a novel thing in a government to have a court to administer law that denied the supremacy of the Government itself.

Second. No one will be allowed to seek of the Government the privileges of a merchant to trade &c. without, in like manner, acknowledging its supremacy.

Third. If Mr. Cohen remains in Savannah as a denizen, his property, real and personal, will not be disturbed, unless its temporary use by necessary for the military authorities of the city. The title to property will not be disturbed, in any event, until adjudicated by the courts of the United States.

Fourth. If Mr. Cohen leaves Savannah under my Special Orders, Numbers 143, it is a public acknowledgment that he “adheres to the enemies of the United States,” and all his property becomes forfeited to the United States. But as a matter of favor he will be allowed to carry with him clothing and fortunate for the use of himself, his family, and servants, and will be transported, at our cost, within the enemy’s lines, but not be way of Fort Royal.

These rules will apply to all parties, and from them no exceptions will be made.

I have the honor to be, General, your obedient servant,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General

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