Chapter 21: Savannah and Pocotaligo.
December, 1864, and January, 1865.
The city of Savannah
was an old place, and usually accounted a handsome one.
Its houses were of brick or frame, with large yards, ornamented with shrubbery and flowers; its streets perfectly regular, crossing each other at right angles; and at many of the intersections were small inclosures in the nature of parks.
These streets and parks were lined with the handsomest shade-trees of which I have knowledge, viz., the willowleaf live-oak, evergreens of exquisite beauty; and these certainly entitled Savannah
to its reputation as a handsome town more than the houses, which, though comfortable, would hardly make a display on Fifth Avenue or the Boulevard Haussmann
The city was built on a plateau of sand about forty feet above the level of the sea, abutting against the river, leaving room along its margin for a street of stores and warehouses.
The customhouse, court-house, post-office, etc., were on the plateau above.
In rear of Savannah
was a large park, with a fountain, and between it and the court-house was a handsome monument, erected to the memory of Count Pulaski
, who fell in 1779 in the assault made on the city at the time it was held by the English
during the Revolutionary War
. Outside of Savannah
there was very little to interest a stranger, except the cemetery of Bonaventura, and the ride along the Wilmington Channel
by way of Thunderbolt, where might be seen some groves of the majestic live-oak trees, covered with gray and funereal moss, which were
truly sublime in grandeur, but gloomy after a few days' camping under them.
Within an hour of taking up my quarters in Mr. Green
's house, Mr. A. G. Browne
, of Salem, Massachusetts
, United States Treasury agent for the Department of the South, made his appearance to claim possession, in the name of the Treasury Department, of all captured cotton, rice, buildings, etc. Having use for these articles ourselves, and having fairly earned them, I did not feel inclined to surrender possession, and explained to him that the quartermaster and commissary could manage them more to my liking than he; but I agreed, after the proper inventories had been prepared, if there remained any thing for which we had no special use, I would turn it over to him. It was then known that in the warehouses were stored at least twenty-five thousand bales of cotton, and in the forts one hundred and fifty large, heavy sea-coast guns; although afterward, on a more careful count, there proved to be more than two hundred and fifty sea-coast or siege guns, and thirty-one thousand bales of cotton.
At that interview Mr. Browne
, who was a shrewd, clever Yankee, told me that a vessel was on the point of starting for Old Point
Comfort, and, if she had good weather off Cape Hatteras
, would reach Fortress Monroe
by Christmas-day, and he suggested that I might make it the occasion of sending a welcome Christmas
gift to the President
, Mr. Lincoln
, who peculiarly enjoyed such pleasantry.
I accordingly sat down and wrote on a slip of paper, to be left at the telegraph-office at Fortress Monroe
for transmission, the following:
This message actually reached him on Christmas-eve, was extensively published in the newspapers, and made many a house-hold unusually happy on that festive day; and it was in the
answer to this dispatch that Mr. Lincoln
wrote me the letter of December 28th, already given, beginning with the words, “Many, many thanks,” etc., which he sent at the hands of General John A. Logan
, who happened to be in Washington
, and was coming to Savannah
, to rejoin his command.
On the 23d of December were made the following general orders for the disposition of the troops in and about Savannah
It was estimated that there were about twenty thousand inhabitants in Savannah
, all of whom had participated more or less in the war, and had no special claims to our favor, but I regarded the war as rapidly drawing to a close, and it was becoming a political question as to what was to be done with the people of the South
, both white
, when the war was actually over.
I concluded to give them the option to remain or to join their friends in Charleston
, and so announced in general orders.
The mayor, Dr. Arnold
, was completely “subjugated,” and, after consulting with him, I authorized him to assemble his City Council to take charge generally of the interests of the people; but warned all who remained that they must be strictly subordinate to the military law, and to the interests of the General Government
About two hundred persons, mostly the families of men in the Confederate army, prepared to follow the fortunes of their husbands and fathers, and these were sent in a steamboat under a flag of truce, in charge of my aide Captain Audenried
, to Charleston harbor
, and there delivered to an officer of the Confederate army.
But the great bulk of the inhabitants chose to remain in Savannah
, generally behaved
with propriety, and good social relations at once arose between them and the army.
Shortly after our occupation of Savannah
, a lady was announced at my headquarters by the orderly or sentinel at the front-door, who was ushered into the parlor, and proved to be the wife of General G. W. Smith
, whom I had known about 1850, when Smith
was on duty at West Point
She was a native of New London, Connecticut
, and very handsome.
She began her interview by presenting me a letter from her husband, who then commanded a division of the Georgia
militia in the rebel army, which had just quitted Savannah
, which letter began, “dear Sherman
: The fortunes of war, etc., compel me to leave my wife in Savannah
, and I beg for her your courteous protection,” etc., etc. I inquired where she lived, and if anybody was troubling her. She said she was boarding with a lady whose husband had, in like manner with her own, gone off with Hardee
's army; that a part of the house had been taken for the use of Major-General Ward
, of Kentucky
; that her landlady was approaching her confinement, and was nervous at the noise which the younger staff-officers made at night, etc. I explained to her that I could give but little personal attention to such matters, and referred her to General Slocum
, whose troops occupied the city.
I afterward visited her house, and saw, personally, that she had no reason to complain.
Shortly afterward Mr. Hardee
, a merchant of Savannah
, came to me and presented a letter from his brother, the general, to the same effect, alleging that his brother was a civilian, had never taken up arms, and asked of me protection for his family, his cotton, etc. To him I gave the general assurance that no harm was designed to any of the people of Savannah
who would remain quiet and peaceable, but that I could give him no guarantee as to his cotton, for over it I had no absolute control; and yet still later I received a note from the wife of General A. P. Stewart
(who commanded a corps in Hood
's army), asking me to come to see her. This I did, and found her to be a native of Cincinnati, Ohio
, wanting protection, and who was naturally anxious about the fate of her husband, known to be with General Hood
, in Tennessee
, retreating before General Thomas
I remember that I was able
to assure her that he had not been killed or captured, up to that date, and think that I advised her, instead of attempting to go in pursuit of her husband, to go to Cincinnati
, to her uncle, Judge Storer
, there await the issue of events.
Before I had reached Savannah
, and during our stay there, the rebel officers and newspapers represented the conduct of the men of our army as simply infamous; that we respected neither age nor sex; that we burned every thing we came across — barns, stables, cotton-gins, and even dwelling-houses; that we ravished the women and killed the men, and perpetrated all manner of outrages on the inhabitants.
Therefore it struck me as strange that Generals Hardee
should commit their families to our custody, and even bespeak our personal care and attention.
These officers knew well that these reports were exaggerated in the extreme, and yet tacitly assented to these false publications, to arouse the drooping energies of the people of the South
As the division of Major-General John W. Geary
, of the Twentieth Corps, was the first to enter Savannah
, that officer was appointed to command the place, or to act as a sort of governor.
He very soon established a good police, maintained admirable order, and I doubt if Savannah
, either before or since, has had a better government than during our stay.
The guard-mountings and parades, as well as the greater reviews, became the daily resorts of the ladies, to hear the music of our excellent bands; schools were opened, and the churches every Sunday were well filled with most devout and respectful congregations; stores were reopened, and markets for provisions, meat, wood, etc., were established, so that each family, regardless of race, color, or opinion, could procure all the necessaries and even luxuries of life, provided they had money.
Of course, many families were actually destitute of this, and to these were issued stores from our own stock of supplies.
I remember to have given to Dr. Arnold
, the mayor, an order for the contents of a large warehouse of rice, which he confided to a committee of gentlemen, who went North (to Boston
), and soon returned with one or more cargoes of flour, hams,
sugar, coffee, etc., for gratuitous distribution, which relieved the most pressing wants until the revival of trade and business enabled the people to provide for themselves.
A lady, whom I had known in former years as Miss Josephine Goodwin
, told me that, with a barrel of flour and some sugar which she had received gratuitously from the commissary, she had baked cakes and pies, in the sale of which she realized a profit of fifty-six dollars.
Meantime Colonel Poe
had reconnoitred and laid off new lines of parapet, which would enable a comparatively small garrison to hold the place, and a heavy detail of soldiers was put to work thereon; Generals Easton
had organized a complete depot of supplies; and, though vessels arrived almost daily with mails and provisions, we were hardly ready to initiate a new and hazardous campaign.
I had not yet received from General Grant
or General Halleck
any modification of the orders of December 6, 1864, to embark my command for Virginia
by sea; but on the 2d of January; 1865, General J. G. Barnard
, United States Engineers, arrived direct from General Grant
's headquarters, bearing the following letter, in the general's own handwriting, which, with my answer, is here given:
project for January.
Therefore, on the 2d of January, I was authorized to march with my entire army north by land, and concluded at once to secure a foothold or starting-point on the South Carolina
side, selecting Pocotaligo
as the points of rendezvous for the two wings; but I still remained in doubt as to the wishes of the Administration, whether I should take Charleston en route
, or confine my whole attention to the incidental advantages of breaking up the railways of South
and North Carolina
, and the greater object of uniting my army with that of General Grant
remained with me several days, and was regarded then, as now, one of the first engineers of the age, perfectly competent to advise me on the strategy and objects of the new campaign.
Hie expressed himself delighted with the high spirit of the army, the steps already taken, by which we had captured Savannah
, and he personally inspected some of the forts, such as Thunderbolt and Causten's Bluff, by which the enemy had so long held at bay the whole of our navy, and had defeated the previous attempts made in April, 1862, by the army of General Gillmore
, which had bombarded and captured Fort Pulaski
, but had failed to reach the city of Savannah
I think General Barnard
expected me to invite him to accompany us northward in his official capacity; but Colonel Poe
, of my staff, had done so well, and was so perfectly competent, that I thought it unjust to supersede him by a senior in his own corps.
I therefore said nothing of this to General Barnard
, and soon after he returned to his post with General Grant
, at City Point
, bearing letters and full personal messages of our situation and wants.
We were very much in want of light-draught steamers for navigating the shallow waters of the coast, so that it took the Seventeenth Corps more than a week to transfer from Thunderbolt to Beaufort, South Carolina
. Admiral Dahlgren
had supplied the Harvest Moon
and the Pontiac
, and General Foster
gave us a couple of hired steamers; I was really amused at the effect this short sea-voyage had on our men, most of whom had never before looked upon the ocean.
Of course, they were fit subjects for sea-sickness, and afterward they begged me never again to send them to sea, saying they would rather march a thousand miles on the worst roads of the South
than to spend a single night on the ocean.
By the 10th General Howard
had collected the bulk of the Seventeenth Corps (General Blair
) on Beaufort Island
, and began his march for Pocotaligo
, twenty-five miles inland.
They crossed the channel between the island and main-land during Saturday, the 14th of January, by a pontoon-bridge, and marched out to Garden
's Corners, where there was some light skirmishing; the next day, Sunday, they continued on to Pocotaligo
, finding the strong fort there abandoned, and accordingly made a lodgment on the railroad, having lost only two officers and eight men.
About the same time General Slocum
crossed two divisions of the Twentieth Corps over the Savannah River
, above the city, occupied Hardeeville
by one division and Purysburg
Thus, by the middle of January, we had effected a lodgment in South Carolina
, and were ready to resume the march northward; but we had not yet accumulated enough provisions and forage to fill the wagons, and other causes of delay occurred, of which I will make mention in due order.
On the last day of December, 1864, Captain Breese
, United States Navy, flag-officer
to Admiral Porter
, reached Savannah
, bringing the first news of General Butler
's failure at Fort Fisher
, and that the general had returned to James River
with his land-forces, leaving Admiral Porter
's fleet anchored off Cape Fear
, in that tempestuous season.
brought me a letter from the admiral, dated December 29th, asking me to send him from Savannah
one of my old divisions, with which
he said he would make short work of Fort Fisher
; that he had already bombarded and silenced its guns, and that General Butler
had failed because he was afraid to attack, or even give the order to attack, after (as Porter
insisted) the guns of Fort Fisher
had been actually silenced by the navy.
I answered him promptly on the 31st of December, that I proposed to march north inland
, and that I would prefer to leave the rebel garrisons on the coast, instead of dislodging and piling them up in my front as we progressed.
From the chances, as I then understood them, I supposed that Fort Fisher
was gar. risoned by a comparatively small force, while the whole division of General Hoke
remained about the city of Wilmington
; and that, if Fort Fisher
were captured, it would leave General Hoke
free to join the larger force that would naturally be collected to oppose my progress northward.
I accordingly answered Admiral Porter
to this effect, declining to loan him the use of one of my divisions.
It subsequently transpired, however, that, as soon as General Butler
reached City Point
, General Grant
was unwilling to rest under a sense of failure, and accordingly dispatched back the same troops, reenforced and commanded by General A. H. Terry
, who, on the 15th day of January, successfully assaulted and captured Fort Fisher
, with its entire garrison.
After the war was over, about the 20th of May, when I was giving my testimony before the Congressional Committee on the Conduct of the War
, the chairman of the committee, Senator B. F. Wade
, of Ohio
, told me that General Butler
had been summoned before that committee during the previous January, and had just finished his demonstration to their entire satisfaction that Fort Fisher
could not be carried by assault, when they heard the newsboy in the hall crying out an “extra.”
Calling him in, they inquired the news, and he answered, “Fort Fisher
Of course, they all laughed, and none more heartily than General Butler
On the 11th of January there arrived at Savannah
a revenuecutter, having on board Simeon Draper
, of New York City, the Hon. E. M. Stanton
, Secretary of War
, Quartermaster-General Meigs
, Adjutant-General Townsend
, and a retinue of
civilians, who had come down from the North
to regulate the civil affairs of Savannah
I was instructed by Mr. Stanton
to transfer to Mr. Draper
the custom-house, post-office, and such other public buildings as these civilians needed in the execution of their office, and to cause to be delivered into their custody the captured cotton.
This was accomplished by--
Up to this time all the cotton had been carefully guarded, with orders to General Easton
to ship it by the return-vessels to New York, for the adjudication of the nearest prize-court, accompanied with invoices and all evidence of title to ownership.
Marks, numbers, and other figures, were carefully preserved on the bales, so that the court might know the history of each bale.
But Mr. Stanton
, who surely was an able lawyer, changed all this, and ordered the obliteration of all the marks; so that no man, friend or foe, could trace his identical cotton.
I thought it strange at the time, and think it more so now; for I am assured that claims, real and fictitious, have been proved up
against this identical cotton of three times the quantity actually captured, and that reclamations on the Treasury have been allowed
for more than the actual quantity captured, viz., thirty-one thousand bales.
staid in Savannah
several days, and seemed very curious about matters and things in general.
I walked with him through the city, especially the bivouacs of the several regiments that occupied the vacant squares, and he seemed particularly pleased at the ingenuity of the men in constructing their temporary huts.
Four of the “dog-tents,” or tentes d'abri
, buttoned together, served for a roof, and the sides were made of clapboards, or rough boards brought from demolished houses or fences.
I remember his marked admiration for the hut of a soldier who had made his door out of a handsome parlor mirror, the glass gone and its gilt frame serving for his door.
He talked to me a great deal about the negroes, the former slaves, and I told him of many interesting incidents, illustrating their simple character and faith in our arms and progress.
Hie inquired particularly about General Jeff. C. Davis
, who, he said, was a Democrat, and hostile to the negro.
I assured him that General Davis
was an excellent soldier, and I did not believe he had any hostility to the negro; that in our army we had no negro soldiers, and, as a rule, we preferred white soldiers, but that we employed a large force of them as servants, teamsters, and pioneers, who had rendered admirable service.
He then showed me a newspaper account of General Davis
taking up his pontoon-bridge across Ebenezer Creek
, leaving sleeping negro men, women, and children, on the other side, to be slaughtered by Wheeler
I had heard such a rumor, and advised Mr. Stanton
, before becoming prejudiced, to allow me to send for General Davis
, which he did, and General Davis
explained the matter to his entire satisfaction.
The truth was, that, as we approached the seaboard, the freedmen in droves, old and young, followed the several columns to reach a place of safety.
It so happened that General Davis
's route into Savannah
followed what was known as the “River-road,” and he had to make constant use of his pontoon-train — the head of his column reaching some deep, impassable creek before the rear was fairly over another.
He had occasionally to use the pontoons both day and night.
On the occasion referred to, the bridge was taken up
from Ebenezer Creek
while some of the camp-followers remained asleep on the farther side, and these were picked up by Wheeler
Some of them, in their fright, were drowned in trying to swim over, and others may have been cruelly killed by Wheeler
's men, but this was a mere supposition.
At all events, the same thing might have resulted to General Howard
, or to any other of the many most humane commanders who filled the army.
General Jeff. C. Davis
was strictly a soldier, and doubtless hated to have his wagons and columns encumbered by these poor negroes, for whom we all felt sympathy, but a sympathy of a different sort from that of Mr. Stanton
, which was not of pure humanity, but of politics
. The negro question was beginning to loom up among the political eventualities of the day, and many foresaw that not only would the slaves secure their freedom, but that they would also have votes.
I did not dream of such a result then, but knew that slavery, as such, was dead forever, and did not suppose that the former slaves would be suddenly, without preparation, manufactured into voters, equal to all others, politically and socially.
seemed desirous of coming into contact with the negroes to confer with them, and he asked me to arrange an interview for him. I accordingly sent out and invited the most intelligent of the negroes, mostly Baptist
and Methodist preachers, to come to my rooms to meet the Secretary of War
. Twenty responded, and were received in my room up-stairs in Mr. Green
's house, where Mr. Stanton
and Adjutant-General Townsend
took down the conversation in the form of questions and answers.
Each of the twenty gave his name and partial history, and then selected Garrison Frazier
as their spokesman:
First Question. State what your understanding is in regard to the acts of Congress and President Lincoln's proclamation touching the colored people in the rebel States?
Answer. So far as I understand President Lincoln's proclamation to the rebel States, it is, that if they will lay down their arms and submit to the laws of the United States, before the 1st of January, 1863, all should be well; but if they did not, then all the slaves in the Southern States should be free, henceforth and forever.
That is what I understood.
Second Question. State what you understand by slavery, and the freedom that was to be given by the President's proclamation?
Answer. Slavery is receiving by irresistible power the work of another man, and not by his consent.
The freedom, as I understand it, promised by the proclamation, is taking us from under the yoke of bondage and placing us where we can reap the fruit of our own labor, and take care of ourselves and assist the Government in maintaining our freedom.
. . . . . . . . .
Fourth Question. State in what manner you would rather live — whether scattered among the whites, or in colonies by yourselves?
Answer. I would prefer to live by ourselves, for there is a prejudice against us in the South that will take years to get over; but I do not know that I can answer for my brethren.
(All but Mr. Lynch, a missionary from the North, agreed with Frazier, but he thought they ought to live together, along with the whites.)
. . . . . . . . .
Eighth Question. If the rebel leaders were to arm the slaves, what would be its effect?
Answer. I think they would fight as long as they were before the “bayonet,” and just as soon as they could get away they would desert, in my opinion.
. . . . . . . . .
Tenth Question. Do you understand the mode of enlistment of colored persons in the rebel States by State agents, under the act of Congress; if yes, what is your understanding?
Answer. My understanding is, that colored persons enlisted by State agents are enlisted as substitutes, and give credit to the State and do not swell the army, because every black man enlisted by a State agent leaves a white man at home; and also that larger bounties are given, or promised, by the State agents than are given by the United States.
The great object should be to push through this rebellion the shortest way; and there seems to be something wanting in the enlistment by State agents, for it don't strengthen the army, but takes one away for every colored man enlisted.
Eleventh Question. State what, in your opinion, is the best way to enlist colored men as soldiers?
Answer. I think, sir, that all compulsory operations should be put a stop to. The ministers would talk to them, and the young men would enlist.
It is my opinion that it would be far better for the State agents to stay at home and the enlistments be made for the United States under the direction of General Sherman.
Up to this time I was present, and, on Mr. Stanton
's intimating that he wanted to ask some questions affecting me, I withdrew, and then he put the twelfth and last question:
Twelfth Question. State what is the feeling of the colored people toward General Sherman, and how far do they regard his sentiments and actions as friendly to their rights and interests, or otherwise?
Answer. We looked upon General Sherman, prior to his arrival, as a man, in the providence of God, specially set apart to accomplish this work, and we unanimously felt inexpressible gratitude to him, looking upon him as a man who should be honored for the faithful performance of his duty.
Some of us called upon him immediately upon his arrival, and it is probable he did not meet the secretary with more courtesy than he did us. His conduct and deportment toward us characterized him as a friend and gentleman.
We have confidence in General Sherman, and think what concerns us could not be in better hands.
This is our opinion now, from the short acquaintance and intercourse we have had.
It certainly was a strange fact that the great War Secretary
should have catechized negroes concerning the character of a general who had commanded a hundred thousand men in battle, had captured cities conducted sixty-five thousand men successfully across four hundred miles of hostile territory, and had just brought tens of thousands of freedmen to a place of security; but because I had not loaded down my army by other hundreds of thousands of poor negroes, I was construed by others as hostile to the black race.
I had received from General Halleck
, at Washington
, a letter warning me that there were certain influential parties near the President
who were torturing him with suspicions of my fidelity to him and his negro policy; but I shall always believe that Mr. Lincoln
, though a civilian, knew better, and appreciated my motives and character.
Though this letter of General Halleck
has always been treated by me as confidential, I now insert it here at length:
There is no doubt that Mr. Stanton
, when he reached Sa. vannah, shared these thoughts, but luckily the negroes themselves
convinced him that he was in error, and that they understood their own interests far better than did the men in Washington
, who tried to make political capital out of this negro question.
The idea that such men should have been permitted to hang around Mr. Lincoln
, to torture his life by suspicions of the officers who were toiling with the single purpose to bring the war to a successful end, and thereby to liberate all
slaves, is a fair illustration of the influences that poison a political capital.
My aim then was, to whip the rebels, to humble their pride, to follow them to their inmost recesses, and make them fear and dread us. “Fear of the lord is the beginning of wisdom.”
I did not want them to cast in our teeth what General Hood
had once done in Atlanta
, that we had to call on their
slaves to help us to subdue them.
But, as regards kindness to the race, encouraging them to patience and forbearance, procuring them food and clothing, and providing them with land whereon to labor, I assert that no army ever did more for that race than the one I commanded in Savannah
When we reached Savannah
, we were beset by ravenous State agents from Hilton Head
, who enticed and carried away our servants, and the corps of pioneers which we had organized, and which had done such excellent service.
On one occasion, my own aide-de-camp, Colonel Audenried
, found at least a hundred poor negroes shut up in a house and pen, waiting for the night, to be conveyed stealthily to Hilton Head
They appealed to him for protection, alleging that they had been told that they must be
soldiers, that “Massa Lincoln” wanted them, etc. I never denied the slaves a full opportunity for voluntary enlistment, but I did prohibit force to be used, for I knew that the State
agents were more influenced by the profit they derived from the large bounties then being paid than by any love of country or of the colored race.
In the language of Mr. Frazier
, the enlistment of every black man “did not strengthen the army, but took away one white man from the ranks.”
During Mr. Stanton
's stay in Savannah
we discussed this negro question very fully; he asked me to draft an order on the subject, in accordance with my own views, that would meet
the pressing necessities of the case, and I did so. We went over this order, No. 15, of January 16, 1865, very carefully.
The secretary made some verbal modifications, when it was approved by him in all its details, I published it, and it went into operation at once.
It provided fully for the enlistment of colored troops, and gave the freedmen certain possessory rights to land, which afterward became matters of judicial in quiry and decision.
Of course, the military authorities at that day, when war prevailed, had a perfect right to grant the possession of any vacant land to which they could extend military protection, but we did not undertake to give a fee-simple title; and all that was designed by these special field orders was to make temporary provisions for the freedmen and their families during the rest of the war, or until Congress should take action in the premises.
All that I now propose to assert is, that Mr. Stanton
, Secretary of War
, saw these orders in the rough, and approved every paragraph thereof, before they were made public:
I saw a good deal of the secretary socially, during the time of his visit to Savannah
He kept his quarters on the revenuecutter with Simeon Draper
, which cutter lay at a wharf in the river, but he came very often to my quarters at Mr. Green
Though appearing robust and strong, he complained a good deal of internal pains, which he said threatened his life, and would compel him soon to quit public office.
He professed to have come from Washington
purposely for rest and recreation, and he spoke unreservedly of the bickerings and jealousies at the national capital; of the interminable quarrels of the State Governors
about their quotas, and more particularly of the financial troubles that threatened the very existence of the Government
He said that the price of every thing had so risen in comparison with the depreciated money, that there was danger of national bankruptcy, and he appealed to me, as a soldier and patriot, to hurry up matters so as to bring the war to a close.
He left for Port Royal
about the 15th of January, and promised to go North without delay, so as to hurry back to me the supplies I had called for, as indispensable for the prosecution of the next stage of the campaign.
I was quite impatient to get off myself, for a city-life had become dull and tame, and we were all anxious to get into the pine-woods again, free from the importunities of rebel women asking for protection, and of the civilians from the North
who were coming to Savannah
for cotton and all sorts of profit.
On the 18th of January General Slocum
was ordered to turn over the city of Savannah
to General J. G. Foster
, commanding the Department of the South, who proposed to retain his own headquarters at Hilton Head
, and to occupy Savannah
by General Grover
's division of the Nineteenth Corps, just arrived from James River
; and on the next day, viz., January 19th, I made the first general orders for the move.
These were substantially to group the right wing of the army at Pocotaligo
, already held by the Seventeenth Corps, and the left wing and cavalry at or near Robertsville, in South Carolina
The army remained substantially the same as during the march from Atlanta
, with the exception of a few changes in the commanders of brigades and divisions, the addition of some men who had joined from furlough, and the loss of others from the expiration of their term of service.
My own personal staff remained the same, with the exception that General W. F. Barry
had rejoined us at Savannah
, perfectly recovered from his attack of erysipelas, and continued with us to the end of the war. Generals Easton
remained at Savannah
, in charge of their respective depots, with orders to follow and meet us by sea with supplies when we should reach the coast at Wilmington
or Newbern, North Carolina
Of course, I gave out with some ostentation, especially among the rebels, that we were going to Charleston
; but I had long before made up my mind to waste no time on either, further than to play off on their fears, thus to retain for their protection a force of the enemy which would otherwise concentrate in our front, and make the passage of some of the great rivers that crossed our route more difficult and bloody.
Having accomplished all that seemed necessary, on the 21st of January, with my entire headquarters, officers, clerks
, orderlies, etc., with wagons and horses, I embarked in a steamer for Beaufort, South Carolina
, touching at Hilton Head
, to see General Foster
The weather was rainy and bad, but we reached Beaufort
safely on the 23d, and found some of General Blair
's troops there.
The bulk of his corps (Seventeenth) was, however, up on the railroad about Pocotaligo
, near the head of Broad River
which their supplies were carried from Hilton Head
's division (of General Foster
's command) was still at Coosawhatchie
or Tullafinny, where the Charleston & Savannah Railroad crosses the river of that name.
All the country between Beaufort
was low alluvial land, cut up by an infinite number of salt-water sloughs and fresh-water creeks, easily susceptible of defense by a small force; and why the enemy had allowed us to make a lodgment at Pocotaligo
so easily I did not understand, unless it resulted from fear or ignorance.
It seemed to me then that the terrible energy they had displayed in the earlier stages of the war was beginning to yield to the slower but more certain industry and discipline of our Northern men. It was to me manifest that the soldiers and people of the South
entertained an undue fear of our Western men, and, like children, they had invented such ghostlike stories of our prowess in Georgia
, that they were scared by their own inventions.
Still, this was a power, and I intended to utilize it. Somehow, our men had got the idea that South Carolina
was the cause of all our troubles; her people were the first to fire on Fort Sumter
, had been in a great hurry to precipitate the country into civil war; and therefore on them should fall the scourge of war in its worst form.
Taunting messages had also come to us, when in Georgia
, to the effect that, when we should reach South Carolina
, we would find a people less passive, who would fight us to the bitter end, daring us to come over, etc.; so that I saw and felt that we would not be able longer to restrain our men as we had done in Georgia
Personally I had many friends in Charleston
, to whom I would gladly have extended protection and mercy, but they were beyond my personal reach, and I would not restrain the army lest its vigor and energy should be impaired; and I had every reason to expect bold and strong resistance at the many broad and deep rivers that lay across our path.
's Department of the South had been enlarged to embrace the coast of North Carolina
, so that the few troops serving there, under the command of General Innis N. Palmer
, at Newbern
, became subject to my command.
General A. H.
held Fort Fisher
, and a rumor came that he had taken the city of Wilmington
; but this was premature.
He had about eight thousand men. General Schofield
was also known to be en route
for North Carolina
, with the entire Twenty-third Corps, so that I had every reason to be satisfied that I would receive additional strength as we progressed northward, and before I should need it.
General W. J. Hardee
commanded the Confederate forces in Charleston
, with the Salkiehatchie River as his line of defense.
It was also known that General Beauregard
had come from the direction of Tennessee
, and had assumed the general command of all the troops designed to resist our progress.
The heavy winter rains had begun early in January, rendered the roads execrable, and the Savannah River
became so swollen that it filled its many channels, overflowing the vast extent of rice-fields that lay on the east bank.
This flood delayed our departure two weeks; for it swept away our pontoon-bridge at Savannah
, and came near drowning John E. Smith
's division of the Fifteenth Corps, with several heavy trains of wagons that were en route
by the old causeway.
had already ferried two of his divisions across the river, when Sister's Ferry, about forty miles above Savannah
, was selected for the passage of the rest of his wing and of Kilpatrick
The troops were in motion for that point before I quitted Savannah
, and Captain S. B. Luce
, United States Navy, had reported to me with a gunboat (the Pontiac
) and a couple of transports, which I requested him to use in protecting Sister's Ferry during the passage of Slocum
's wing, and to facilitate the passage of the troops all he could.
The utmost activity prevailed at all points, but it was manifest we could not get off much before the 1st day of February; so I determined to go in person to Pocotaligo
, and there act as though we were bound for Charleston
On the 24th of January I started from Beaufort
with a part of my staff, leaving the rest to follow at leisure, rode across the island to a pontoon-bridge that spanned the channel between it and the main-land, and thence rode by Garden
's Corners to a plantation not far from Pocotaligo
by General Blair
There we found a house, with a majestic avenue of live-oaks, whose limbs had been cut away by the troops for firewood, and desolation marked one of those splendid South Carolina
estates where the proprietors formerly had dispensed a hospitality that distinguished the old regime
of that proud State.
I slept on the floor of the house, but the night was so bitter cold that I got up by the fire several times, and when it burned low I rekindled it with an old mantel-clock and the wreck of a bedstead which stood in a corner of the room — the only act of vandalism that I recall done by myself personally during the war.
The next morning I rode to Pocotaligo
, and thence reconnoitred our entire line down to Coosawhatchie
Pocotaligo Fort was on low, alluvial ground, and near it began the sandy pineland which connected with the firm ground extending inland, constituting the chief reason for its capture at the very first stage of the campaign.
's division was ordered to that point from Coosawhatchie
, and the whole of Howard
's right wing was brought near by, ready to start by the 1st of February.
I also reconnoitred the point of the Salkiehatchie River, where the Charleston Railroad crossed it, found the bridge protected by a rebel battery on the farther side, and could see a few men about it; but the stream itself was absolutely impassable, for the whole bottom was overflowed by its swollen waters to the breadth of a full mile.
Nevertheless, a division (Mower
's) of the Seventeenth Corps was kept active, seemingly with the intention to cross over in the direction of Charleston
, and thus to keep up the delusion that that city was our immediate “objective.”
Meantime, I had reports from General Slocum
of the terrible difficulties he had encountered about Sister's Ferry, where the Savannah River
was reported nearly three miles wide, and it seemed for a time almost impossible for him to span it at all with his frail pontoons.
About this time (January 25th), the weather cleared away bright and cold, and I inferred that the river would soon run down, and enable Slocum
to pass the river before February 1st. One of the divisions of the Fifteenth Corps (Corse
's) had also been cut off by the loss of the pontoon-bridge
, so that General Slocum
had with him, not only his own two corps, but Corse
's division and Kilpatrick
's cavalry, without which it was not prudent for me to inaugurate the campaign.
We therefore rested quietly about Pocotaligo
, collecting stores and making final preparations, until the 1st of February, when I learned that the cavalry and two divisions of the Twentieth Corps were fairly across the river, and then gave the necessary orders for the march northward.
Before closing this chapter, I will add a few original letters that bear directly on the subject, and tend to illustrate it: