Arrival at Savannah
Chapter 63 (December 12, 1864 – December 22, 1864)
In Front of Savannah, Georgia, December 12, 1864
Savannah is a beautiful city, located on the west side of a river by the same name. The city was well fortified. The positions of our troops, which completely invested the city, were as follows: The 14th corps on the left, touching the river; the 20th corps next; then the 17th and the 15th on the extreme right. To the left and rear of us was an island, behind which several Rebel gunboats were hidden and which made things very unpleasant for us, for we had our hands full to look to the front. The fortifications around the city were fine, equipped with 64 and 100 pound cannons and when they belched forth the very earth trembled.
We kept on getting closer and closer and building our works stronger and stronger. Rebel General Wm. J. Hardee had command of the city. On Tuesday, December 13, Fort McAllister on the right of our line, was assaulted by General Hazen’s Division of the 15th corps. The fort was carried, and soon after this communications were opened with our friends in the North. November 15 we left Atlanta, cut off from all communication with our friends. The Rebel papers had reported us to be harassed, defeated, starving, and fleeing for safety to the coast.
How different the day, December 14! Fort McAllister was ours. Two gunboats on the Savannah were destroyed. Sherman’s Army had destroyed over 200 miles of railroads and consumed stores and provisions intended for Lee’s army at Richmond. We lost not a wagon on the trip, but gathered horses, mules and Negroes by the hundred. We think this is one of the remarkable marches on record. The estimated population of Savannah was 25,000 and the garrison 15,000. General Hardee commanding.
One evening while in the breastworks P. R. Hoffer and some one else of the company, whom I have forgotten, were detailed to fetch from the butchers a quarter of beef for Company G. They carried it between them on a stick on their shoulders. When they reached the right of the regiment a shell thrown from a Rebel battery, exploded near them and a piece of the shell cut off the bone just under the stick the beef falling to the ground. They were considerably excited and leaving the beef lying in the sand came to the company to tell what a narrow escape they made, then returned for the meat.
On Wednesday December 18 the first mail went out since November 12 at Atlanta. We were paid off before leaving Atlanta and this was the first opportunity we had for sending home our money The money was sent to Mr. George Schnure and Col. Henry C. Eyer both of Selinsgrove, to be distributed by them to our different friends. There were no ladies along our line of march, no ice cream saloons nor candy stores, therefore we had about as much money as when we started on the campaign.
On the night of December 19, Monday, everything was ready for the assault on the Rebel forts during the night, and some of the troops already beyond our breastworks. It was a cold night and our skirmishers reported the Rebels up and around their fires. This caused a countermand of the orders to assault and the boys were mighty glad.
The Rebels evacuated the city on the night of December 20. Tuesday crossing the river into South Carolina on pontoon bridges our division was the first to discover the retreat and we at once moved forward and entered the city about daylight on the 21st. General Geary being the first to enter was made Military Governor and his troops were marched to the United States barracks, where the General made a speech to us. From here we were taken up Bull street (the principal street of the city) and were encamped in Madison square.
We remained here until Monday the 26th, when only our regiment camped in the park. We were moved into the beautiful city park which was surrounded by a high iron fence and a fine large fountain was in the centre. Here we were ordered to build winter quarters and make ourselves comfortable. The writer with a number of Company G boys whose names I can not recall was detailed for duty at General Slocum’s headquarters. (General Slocum you will remember commanded the left wing of Sherman’s army as we marched thru Georgia.) Our duty was to patrol Bull street and also to notify all citizens to keep indoors and close all doors and shutters on their houses.
December 22, Thursday. General Sherman and staff entered the city and rode down Bull street to the custom house. This was done for the General’s safety as he made his visit into the city. We found everything quiet wherever we went. While on guard in the park Admiral Dahlgreen and General Sherman, in the presence of the writer came into the park with linked arms and sat down and were talking when two little girls the one about 10 or 12 years of age and the other about three came to where they were sitting. General Sherman drew the larger one to him and asked her where she lived and what her name was and then kissed her, and taking the smaller one on his knee kissed her also, then handed both to Admiral Dahlgreen and told him to kiss them, which he seemed to be delighted to do. Then General Sherman said: “Now girls when you go home to your mama you tell her that Admiral Dahlgreen and General Sherman kissed you both.” When the girls had gone away they both had a hearty laugh.
The following telegram explains itself:
Savannah, Ga. Dec. 22 1864
To His Excellency, President Lincoln Washington D. C.
I beg to present you as a Christmas gift the City of Savannah, with one hundred and fifty heavy guns and plenty of ammunition also about twenty-five thousand bales of cotton.
“W. T Sherman Major General.”
The 147th regiment, of which Company G was a part, can well feel proud of the humble part they took in the capture of the city of Savannah.
We had no picket duty to do while in the city because guarding and patrolling kept us busy. The city is beautifully laid out. Some streets have two driveways and a railroad in the center with four rows of beautiful live oak trees. The weather from the middle of December, 1864 until January 27, 1865 the time of our leaving was fine. Ladies would come out to the park carrying parasols while the North had the coldest kind of weather. Only once during the winter we saw a few flying snow flakes. Generals Sherman, Howard and Slocum had their headquarters on Bull street. The bands would serenade these places frequently.