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[306] all possible preparations, but not to assault the city during his absence. His return through the network of channels connecting Tybee and Ossabaw sounds was delayed by high winds and ebb tides, and on the 21st, he was met by a messenger from his own Headquarters, with the news that Savannah had been evacuated the night before. Hardee had crossed the river by a pontoon bridge, and marched off on the Charleston road, carrying with him his garrison of at least ten thousand men and all his light artillery, and blowing up the ironclad vessels and the navy-yard, but leaving one hundred and fifty heavy guns, twenty-five thousand bales of cotton, and all other public property.1

Early on the morning of the 21st, the national skirmishers detected the absence of the enemy, and occupied the lines simultaneously along their whole extent. Savannah, with all its forts, and the valuable harbor and river, was once more in the national hands. Sherman was greatly disappointed that Hardee should have escaped with his garrison, but Grant, when he announced the news to the Secretary of War, declared: ‘It was a good thing as it stands, and the country may well rejoice at it.’

Meanwhile the important operations on the North Carolina coast, so often contemplated, and so long delayed, had at last begun. The Cape Fear river runs due south from Wilmington to the Atlantic, a distance of twenty miles, and is separated from the

1 General Sherman says: ‘My first report was as here stated. The actual result was more than 200 guns and 34,000 bales of cotton. This was the exact inventory of Easton and Barry, but I forget where it can be found.’

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