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[238] with which these war-stained veterans opened the longed — for letters and sought the answer to the ever-recurring question, “How are things at home?”

Sherman had set his heart on capturing Savannah; but, on December 15th, he received a letter from Grant which greatly disturbed him. Grant ordered him to leave his artillery and cavalry, with infantry enough to support them, and with the remainder of his army to come by sea to Virginia and join the forces before Richmond. Sherman prepared to obey, but hoped that he would be able to capture the city before the transports would be ready to carry him northward.

He first called on Hardee to surrender the city, with a threat of bombardment. Hardee refused. Sherman hesitated to open with his guns because of the bloodshed it would occasion, and on December 21st he was greatly relieved to discover that Hardee had decided not to defend the city, that he had escaped with his army the night before, by the one road that was still open to him, which led across the Savannah River into the Carolinas. The stream had been spanned by an improvised pontoon bridge, consisting of river-boats, with planks from city wharves for flooring and with old car-wheels for anchors. Sherman immediately took possession of the city, and on December 22d he sent to President Lincoln this message: “I beg to present to you, as a Christmas gift, the city of Savannah, with one hundred and fifty heavy guns and plenty of ammunition, and also about twenty-five thousand bales of cotton.” As a matter of fact, over two hundred and fifty guns were captured, and thirty-one thousand bales of cotton. General Hardee retreated to Charleston.

Events in the West now changed Grant's views as to Sherman's joining him immediately in Virginia. On the 16th of December, General Thomas accomplished the defeat and utter rout of Hood's army at Nashville. In addition, it was found that, owing to lack of transports, it would take at least two months to transfer Sherman's whole army by sea. Therefore,

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