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[297] vigorously pushed against the thin line of Confederate pickets covering this causeway, all escape from Savannah must have been cut off. General Sherman saw his mistake too late, and, in his letter of December 24th, 1864, he excused himself to Halleck: “I feel somewhat disappointed at Hardee's escape, but really am not to blame. I moved as quickly as possible to close up the Union causeway, but intervening obstacles were such that before I could get troops on the road, Hardee had slipped out.” The real point is, that disposing of an overwhelming force, his movement should have been a prompt and vigorous one to the rear of Savannah, and not a voyage to Hilton Head to borrow such a movement from General Foster. As to intervening obstacles, they consisted of some light artillery and a very thin line of that cavalry of which, in his letters, he sees fit to write in the most disparaging terms. In this case they seem to have sufficed to cover the retreat of about ten thousand men whom he should have captured!

To estimate General Sherman's error here, we must consider that the Confederate troops in Savannah formed the only substantial force then interposed, and the bulk of the only force afterward interposed between him and Grant. From a military point of view, therefore, this failure was of chief importance and might have led to grievous consequences, as in the event of a bold and rapid junction of a portion of Lee's army with the forces then assembling under Beauregard in order to strike a supreme, decisive blow against Sherman, and, if successful, then to concentrate all forces upon Grant — an operation which, with the advantage of interior lines, Beauregard had suggested to the Government as the only chance left to save the Confederacy.

General Sherman's report to the Committee on the Conduct of the War consists of his letters, orders, &c.--these being, as he says, the best report he could submit. His letters are, indeed, an industrious daily correspondence, full of interest to the military student, including those who fought against him; and from the date of Vicksburg, March 4th, 1864, to Saint Louis, November 21st, 1865, have all been carefully published by him, excepting his letters and orders during the four days between the date of “In the field opposite Columbia, South Carolina, February 16, 1865,” and “In the field, Winsboroa, South Carolina, February 21st, 1865,” (pages 327, 328 of report). Why are these surpressed? In his “Memoirs” (page 287) he states that “the burning of Columbia [during this four days period] was accidental.” Yet in the “cotton cases” it transpired

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W. T. Sherman (4)
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