HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, IN THE FIELD, NEAR SAVANNAH, GEORGIA, January 8, 1864
Special Field Order No. 6.
The general commanding announces to the troops composing the Military Division of the Mississippi that he has received from the President of the United States, and from Lieutenant-General Grant, letters conveying their high sense and appreciation of the campaign just closed, resulting in the capture of Savannah and the defeat of Hood’s army in Tennessee.
In order that all may understand the importance of events, it is proper to revert to the situation of affairs in September last. We held Atlanta, a city of little value to us, but so important to the enemy that Mr. Davis, the head of the rebellious faction in the South, visited his army near Palmetto, and commanded it to regain the place and also to ruin and destroy us, by a series of measures which he thought would be effectual. That army, by a rapid march, gained our railroad near Big Shanty, and afterward about Dalton. We pursued it, but it moved so rapidly that we could not overtake it, and General Hood led his army successfully far over toward Mississippi, in hope to decoy us out of Georgia. But we were not thus to be led away by him, and preferred to lead and control events ourselves.
Generals Thomas and Schofield, commanding the departments to our rear, returned to their posts and prepared to decoy General Hood into their meshes, while we came on to complete the original journey. We quietly and deliberately destroyed Atlanta, and all the railroads which the enemy had used to carry on war against us, occupied his State capital, and then captured his commercial capital, which had been so strongly fortified from the sea as to defy approach from that quarter. Almost at the moment of our victorious entry into Savannah came the welcome and expected news that our comrades in Tennessee had also fulfilled nobly and well their part, had decoyed General Hood to Nashville and then turned on him, defeating his army thoroughly, capturing all his artillery, great numbers of prisoners, and were still pursuing the fragments down in Alabama. So complete success in military operations, extending over half a continent, is an achievement that entitles it to a place in the military history of the world.
The armies serving in Georgia and Tennessee, as well as the local garrisons of Decatur, Bridgeport, Chattanooga, and Murfreesboro’, are alike entitled to the common honors, and each regiment may inscribe on its colors, at pleasure, the word “Savannah” or “Nashville.” The general commanding embraces, in the same general success, the operations of the cavalry under Generals Stoneman, Burbridge, and Gillem, that penetrated into Southwest Virginia, and paralyzed the efforts of the enemy to disturb the peace and safety of East Tennessee. Instead of being put on the defensive, we have at all points assumed the bold offensive, and have completely thwarted the designs of the enemies of our country.
By order of Major-General W. T. Sherman,
L. M. DAYTON, Aide-de-Camp
HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, Savannah, January 8, 1865.
Major-General HALLECK, Chief of Staff, Washington, D. C.:
GENERAL: My report of the Savannah campaign is finished. In spite of my urgency the map is not yet compiled, and the report of General Slocum is not yet in, so I must let the Arago depart without sending them. But as you are in possession of all substantial facts I suppose there is less anxiety for specific details. I am now moving my troops slowly and quietly to the new points, from which I can converge rapidly to my intended place of concentration; but I must have more bread and oats, but hope to have them in the course of this week.
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General, Commanding
Howard is moving his headquarters to Beaufort.
General Logan, who did not return in time for the march to Savannah is now here and resumes command of the Fifteenth Corp.
Lieutenant Joseph Houston escaped from Columbia, made his way into our lines and delivered this report:
We escaped from Columbia, S.C., about the 1st instant, struck the Savannah River eleven miles below Augusta, and came down in a dugout. Passed two camps of deserters from Wheeler’s command of about 100 men each; heard of another camp of 300 men; were informed by a free negro pilot, who furnished us a chart of the river, that about 3,000 men had crossed the river on their way home; after crossing most of them threw away their horses. Other negroes confirmed this. We were told of two gun-boats being at Augusta. These, and one transport we passed lying near Mathew’s Bluff, were said to be all the boats now on the river. Reports came to us from citizens and negroes all along the river that when General Sherman advanced Charleston would be given up and a line formed from Branchville to Mathew’s Bluff; an order had been issued by General Hardee conscripting 40,000 negroes to construct works, and calling upon citizens to remove their stock north of this line.
All the troops in South Carolina were said to be concentrating at Branchville. Negroes told us that all the people with their stock were moving to the north of Branchville. We passed Mathews’ Bluff in the night; saw camp-fires and heard voices; we were so near that we heard one man remark to another, “Colonel, I am under a thousand obligations to you. ” The distance from Mathews’ Bluff to Branchville is called thirty-five miles. We judge the distance from Savannah to the Bluff by river to be 125 miles. We saw no obstructions in the river below the Bluff except at one point, perhaps thirty miles from there; these had been there some time and were easily passed. Above the river there is but one bad place, which is called “Little Hell.”