Little Bits of History

March to the Sea

Posted in History by patriciahysell on December 22, 2010

William Tecumseh Sherman

December 22, 1864: William Tecumseh Sherman captures Savannah, Georgia in the US Civil War. Ulysses S. Grant had two main objectives for the year 1864: his own leadership to the capture of Richmond, Virginia – the capital of the Confederacy and Sherman’s capture of Atlanta, Georgia.

On May 6 Sherman left the Chattanooga, Tennessee area on his march to Atlanta with nearly 100,000 men. Prior to the Atlanta campaign, Sherman was asked what his objective was and he caustically replied, “Salt water.” He captured Atlanta on September 2. Sherman sent wounded men and excess supplies back north intending to live off the land on his march to Savannah, on the Atlantic Ocean.

His armies left on November 12 arranged in two columns, one led by General Howard and the second led by General Slocum. Without supplies, men called “bummers” were to obtain supplies from the countryside. Sherman ordered that these men should not enter dwellings, insult the people, and they were not to leave the residents destitute but leave some food. These orders were not enforced. In his memoirs, Sherman estimated the damage to property, willfully destroyed without need, to be about $80,000,000. It is noted that his destruction of supplies may have hastened the end of the war. Although many Confederate soldiers were starving, it was not because of lack of food, but because of the destruction of the rail system and the inability to move the food to the front lines. Sherman’s destruction of crops and livestock exacerbated this problem.

Sherman reached the Savannah area on December 10 and began his siege. His 62,000 veterans were no match for the 10,000 mostly untrained men left to defend the area. The distance from Atlanta to Savannah is 255 miles by today’s highway system. Sherman’s march destroyed a 60 mile wide swath of land. Savannah’s fall was the last stop before Sherman entered the Carolinas, sweeping North to victory.

“I beg to present you as a Christmas gift the City of Savannah, with one hundred and fifty guns and plenty of ammunition, also about twenty-five thousand bales of cotton.” – telegram to President Lincoln from Sherman

“War is cruelty. There’s no use trying to reform it. The crueler it is, the sooner it will be over.”

“It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, more vengeance, more desolation. War is hell.”

“You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out. I know I had no hand in making this war, and I know I will make more sacrifices to-day than any of you to secure peace.”

“Grant stood by me when I was crazy, and I stood by him when he was drunk, and now we stand by each other.” – all by William Tecumseh Sherman

Also on this day, in 1885 Ito Hirobumi became Japan’s first Prime Minister.

2 Responses

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  1. Tami said, on December 22, 2010 at 10:41 am

    Glad he gave it as a present instead of burning it to the ground! What a beautiful city!

  2. patriciahysell said, on December 23, 2010 at 6:28 am

    I love Savannah’s charm and beauty and am glad it was spared, too.

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