|Pres. Abraham Lincoln|
After capturing Atlanta, Georgia, Union Army General William Tecumseh Sherman with about 60,000 men composed of cavalry and infantry continued his campaign called as “March to the Sea” to capture Savannah, Georgia which was of strategic importance because it was one of the south’s main ports.
Expecting the siege of Savannah by the Union Army, Lt. Gen. William J. Hardee, the Confederate Army commander defending the city against the union forces positioned about 10’000 troops composed of regulars and militias in the strategic positions of the city.
|Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman|
On the 9th and 10th of December, 1864, Sherman positioned his troops west, north and south to the city. At the same time he communicated with the Union Naval fleet for the needed supplies. On the 13th of December Sherman’s division led by William Hazen assaulted and captured Fort McAllister on the Ogeechee River south of Savannah thus opening the back door to the port city of Savannah and made Sherman’s forces closer to their main objective.
With him in the control of the conflict situation, Sherman called on Hardee to surrender, but the latter refused. Sherman then ordered his troops for an assault and at the same time he went to the headquarters of Maj. Gen John J. Foster, commander of Union forces in South Carolina to coordinate with him on blocking Hardees possible exit toward the north.
Before Gen. Sherman’s deal with Gen. Foster could be executed, Mayor Richard Arnold surrendered the city to the Union Army under Gen. Sherman. The mayor’s move had been prompted by the sufferings and hardships suffered by the civilians brought about by the foraging and other acts committed by the Union Army. Meanwhile, Hardee thought that it was unwise to pit his much smaller force against a larger and stronger enemy. Moreover, a battle between his and Sherman’s forces would level the city with artillery bombardments which would only add to the sufferings to the already besieged residents. With those considerations, Gen. Hardee sneaked his troops from the city through a makeshift pontoon bridge for a withdrawal to South Carolina on December 20, 1864.
On the 22 December 1864, at the headquarters of Gen. Forster in South Carolina, after being informed of the surrender of the city and withdrawal of Gen. Hardee’s troops, Sherman then declared the successful conclusion of the “March to the Sea”. He then telegraphed President Abraham Lincoln to inform him of the development, and to give the president the Christmas presents that were the city of Savannah and 25,000 bales of cotton.