Chapter 52: operations about Charleston, 1865.--fall of Charleston, Savannah, etc.
- Formation of the naval brigade. -- operations of Generals Sherman and Foster in the vicinity of Savannah. -- expedition up Broad River and Boyd's Creek. -- Savannah invested. -- evacuation of Savannah and its defences by the Confederates. -- the naval vessels again in Charleston harbor. -- movements of Army around Charleston. -- naval pickets captured. -- Landing of naval forces at Bull's Bay. -- gun-boats and batteries open a terrific fire on Fort Moultrie and works on Sullivan's Island. -- Charleston evacuated. -- Isolation of the Confederacy. -- naval officers commended. -- Confederate vessels captured. -- ingenious methods used by Confederates to prevent Union vessels from penetrating the inner harbor. -- plans of forts along the rivers. -- Georgetown, S. C., occupied. -- the flag-ship Harvest Moon sunk by torpedoes. -- Admiral Dahlgren relieved. -- complimentary letter from Secretary of the Navy, -- list of vessels and officers of South Atlantic Squadron, 1865.
In the latter part of November, 1864, Rear-Admiral Dahlgren received information that General Sherman had reached Milledgeville and was about to march upon Savannah. He accordingly entered into an arrangement with General Foster to co-operate with Sherman in case the latter might require assistance. It was decided to form a naval brigade, to be furnished with two field-howitzer batteries of four guns each. All the forces that could be spared from the vessels on blockade were withdrawn, and the night of November 28th was appointed for proceeding up the Broad River and into Boyd's Creek, one of its branches, whence a short march only was necessary to reach the railroad connecting Savannah with Charleston. The vessels of the Navy selected for this service were the Pawnee, Commander Balch; Mingoe, Commander Creighton; Pontiac, Lieutenant-Commander Luce; Winona, Lieutenant-Commander Dana; Wissahickon, Lieutenant-Commander McGlensey; Sonoma, Lieutenant-Commander Scott; all carrying heavy guns. There were four half-companies of welldrilled seamen under Lieutenant James O'Kane; Lieutenant-Commander E. O. Mathews commanded the Navy artillery, and the marines from the different vessels were under the command of First-Lieutenant George G. Stoddard. After a harassing progress of twenty miles through a thick fog, Admiral Dahlgren had the satisfaction of reaching the appointed landing with five of the six vessels with which he had started, for the Wissahickon had grounded near the entrance of the river and did not succeed in joining the other gun-boats. The troops were somewhat later in arriving, but finally the transports were seen coming up the river, and in half an hour afterwards two batteries of naval howitzers and nine companies of seamen and marines were landed under Commander Preble, and advanced in skirmishing order, to cover the landing of the troops, Admiral Dahlgren returning to his duty afloat. After General Foster had landed all his soldiers, an advance was made towards the railroad above Grahamsville. The Confederates had assembled in considerable force, and did all they could to impede the march of the Union forces by a fire of musketry  and field-pieces, and at length the Federal forces came to a halt before a strong earthwork commanding the road, and flanked by a heavy growth of timber and other obstructions. The troops under General Hatch assaulted the works, but were repulsed with heavy loss, while the men from the fleet did their duty with boat-howitzers and musketry. Skirmishing and reconnaissances went on for several days, the Federals slowly advancing towards their objective point, the railroad. This was a new experience for the seamen and marines, but their spirited conduct won for them the applause of the soldiers. On the 6th of December the Army and Navy forces proceeded up the Tulfiny River, and at about 8 A. M. landed on an island. The Confederates sent troops to meet them, and for a time it looked as if the Federals would get the worst of the encounter; but the naval contingent coming rapidly on the field, and opening a heavy fire with howitzers and musketry, the enemy finally gave way, retreating in good order. This skirmishing lasted all day through a heavy rain, the seamen and marines behaving like veteran soldiers in an experience entirely new to the greater portion of their number. The object of the expedition was effected in spite of all opposition, and on the 12th of December Rear-Admiral Dahlgren opened communication with General Sherman, who was then near Savannah. The news of Sherman's arrival in the vicinity of Savannah gave great satisfaction to the people of the North, who had begun to feel uneasy in regard to him, owing to the exaggerated reports from Confederate sources. Prompt steps were taken to place vessels-of-war at every point on the coast where the General was likely to appear, and on the 18th of December Sherman in person presented himself on board Admiral Dahlgren's flag-ship, and was warmly greeted by officers and men, who held this gallant commander in the highest respect. Arrangements were made by General Sherman with Admiral Dahlgren, that, while the former should invest Savannah on the land side, the latter should hold every avenue by water; and when it was considered that the investment was complete. Sherman summoned General Hardee, the Confederate commander, to surrender, which request being declined Sherman prepared to attack the enemy's works. The Federal army was gradually drawing down to the Savannah River, and, in order to cut off the escape of the Confederates, it was concluded to reinforce the troops under General Foster on Broad River, and make a demonstration in the direction of the railroad, while that on Beaulieu would be limited to the naval cannonade, which was begun and continued by Lieutenant-Commander Scott in the Sonoma, assisted by the schooner Griffith, Acting-Master James Ogilvie. In order to complete the arrangements for cutting off the escape of the enemy and to insure the co-operation of all the Federal forces in the vicinity, General Sherman visited Hilton Head in company with Rear-Admiral Dahlgren, to communicate with General Foster, and make the latter acquainted with his plans; but on his return he was overtaken by a tug, with the following telegram:
To General Sherman: General Howard reports one of General Legget's brigades near Savannah, and no enemy. Prisoners say the city is abandoned and enemy gone to Hardeesville. From Station, near Headquarters.On receipt of this dispatch General Sherman hastened to his headquarters, and the Admiral to the division of vessels lying in front of Beaulieu, when the facts of the case became apparent. Lieutenant-Commander Scott, of the Sonoma, was in possession of Forts Beaulieu and Rose Dew, and all the other fortifications had been evacuated, leaving Sherman master of Savannah and its defences. Although, no doubt, the Army would have captured