part of a volume entitled History of the Ninety - Third Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry: From Organization To Muster Out --Statistics Compiled by Aaron Dunbar Sergeant, Company " B", Revised and Edited by Harvey M. Trimble, Adjutant
Submitted by Jeffrey MacAdam, to whom every reader should be grateful.
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Part 3 of 3 for Chapter 9.
On the 17th, General Sherman made demand for the surrender of Savannah. He offered General Hardee liberal terms in case he surrendered; but otherwise, he notified him, that harsher measures would be resorted to, and told him plainly that he would make but little effort to restrain his army, "burning to avenge the great national wrong they attach to Savannah and other large cities, which have been so prominent in dragging our country into civil war." And he added: "I enclose you a copy of General Hood's demand for the surrender of the town of Resaca, to be used by you for what it is worth." That was a very pointed suggestion as to what might happen. General Hardee refused to surrender, because, he said, he still maintained his defensive lines, and was in communication with his superior officer. On the 18th, this command received rations from the fleet. On the morning of the 20th, General Sherman gave his army commanders orders to prepare for attack on the enemy's lines around the city, and started, by water, for Port Royal, to confer with General Foster and Admiral Dahlgren about measures necessary to close up the enemy's avenue of escape toward Charleston.
But that night, General Hardee evacuated Savannah. And on the morning of the 21st, the federal army took possession of the enemy's lines. General Sherman having returned up the Ogeechee River, early in the forenoon, rode directly into the city of Savannah. That day, he announced the termination of the campaign, and sent to President Lincoln a characteristic dispatch, as follows: "I beg to present you, as a Christmas gift, the city of Savannah, with one hundred and fifty heavy guns and plenty of ammunition, and also about twenty-five thousand bales of cotton." President Lincoln replied:
"My Dear General Sherman: Many, many thanks for your Christmas gift. When you were about to leaving Atlanta for the Atlantic coast, I was anxious, if not fearful; but, feeling that you were the better judge, and remembering that 'nothing risked, nothing gained.' I did not interfere. Now, the undertaking being a success, the honor is all yours; for I believe none of us went farther than to acquiesce. And, taking the work of General Thomas into the count, as it should be taken, it is indeed a great success. Not only does it afford the obvious and immediate military advantages, but, in showing the world that your army could be divided, putting the stronger part to an immediate new service, and yet leaving enough to vanquish the old opposing force of the whole--Hood's army--it brings those who sat in darkness to see a great light. But what next? I suppose it will be safer to leave General Grant and yourself to decide."
On the 21st, at 10 o'clock a.m., the Ninety-Third Illinois received orders to be ready to move at any moment. Starting at 1 o'clock p.m., the regiment marched thirteen miles, without a halt, and went into camp, in a beautiful grove of live-oaks, at 5 o'clock p.m., at Fort No. 11, near the city of Savannah. And here, for this command, the great Georgia campaign, the "March to the Sea," ended. Since leaving Atlanta, the regiment had marched three hundred and twenty-three miles. The losses in battle were one man mortally wounded, and two men slightly wounded, as stated under date 11th instant, being one and two-tenths percent of the number engaged.
The distance marched by the regiment, and also by our brigade and division, was somewhat greater than that traversed by the army generally. The cavalry, doubtless, traveled a considerably greater distance. The average distance marched by the Fifteenth Army Corps was about two hundred miles. That marched by the Twentieth Corps was about two hundred and fifty-five miles. These corps were on the extreme flanks of the army, the right and left, respectively. The distances marched by the Seventeenth and Fourteenth Corps, on the right and left centers, respectively, fell proportionately between those made by the two other corps, that of the Seventeenth corps being less than that of the Fifteenth, and that of the Fourteenth being greater than that of the Twentieth.
In the campaign just closed, together with the Atlanta campaign, this army had covered more than one-third of the State of Georgia. General Sherman estimated the damage to the state at one hundred millions of dollars, one-fifth of which had been of use to his army, and the remainder absolute waste and destruction. He said: "This may seem a hard species of warfare, but it brings the sad realities of war home to those who have been directly or indirectly instrumental in involving us in its attendant calamities." It is beyond dispute, that the campaign was a most effective blow to the Confederacy. The quantities of supplies and forage captured and used by the army were enormous, almost beyond belief. And the destruction of property was even more fabulous. The statistics given in the reports of General Howard and Slocum are inserted here, as the only adequate means of showing how great they were. General Howard's report, for the right wing, contained statistics as follows:
Negroes set free, (estimated number) ............ 3,000 Prisoners captured--By Fifteenth Army Corps: Commissioned officers ................... 32 Enlisted men ............................ 515 547 By Seventeenth Army Corps: Commissioned officers ................... 2 Enlisted men ............................ 117 119 Total prisoners captured .................. 666 Escaped Federal prisoners: Commissioned officers: 6 Enlisted men ............................ 43 Bales of cotton burned: At Ocmulgee Mills ........................ 1,500 Spindles and large amount of cotton cloth burned, value not known. Subsistence captured: Namely, bread-stuffs, beef, sugar and coffee, at government cost of rations at Louisville $283,202 Command started from Atlanta with head cattle ................................... 1,000 Took up as captured ..................... 10,500 Consumed on the trip .................... 9,000 Balance on hand December 18, 1864 ...... 2,500 Horses captured: By the Fifteenth Army Corps .............. 369 By the Seventeenth Army Corps ........... 562 931 Mules captured: By the Fifteenth Army Corps .............. 786 By the Seventeenth Army Corps ........... 1,064 1,850 Corn taken: By the Fifteenth Army Corps lb............. 2,500,000 By the Seventeenth Army Corps lb.......... 2,000,000 4,500,000 Fodder taken: By the Fifteenth Army Corps lb............. 2,500,000 By the Seventeenth Army Corps lb.......... 2,000,000 4,500,000 Miles of railroad destroyed ...................... 191
General Slocum's report, for the left wing, contained statistics, as follows:
It was thirty-four days from the date my command left Atlanta to the day supplies were received from the fleet. The total number of rations required during this period was 1,360,000. Of this amount there were issued by the Subsistence Department 440,900 rations of bread, 142,473 rations of meat, 876,800 of coffee and tea, 778,466 of sugar, 213,500 of soap, and 1,123,000 of salt. As the troops were well supplied at all times, if we deduct the above issues from the amount actually due the soldiers, we have the approximate quantities taken from the country, namely, rations of bread, 919,100; meat, 1,217,527; coffee, 483,200; sugar, 581,534; soap, 1.146,500; and salt, 237,000. The above is the actual saving to the government in issue of rations during the campaign, and it is probable that even more than the equivalent of the above supplies was obtained by the soldiers from the country. Four thousand and ninety (4,090) turned over to the Quartermaster's Department. Our transportation was in far better condition on our arrival at Savannah than it was at the commencement of the campaign.
The average number of horses and mules with my command, including those of the pontoon train and a part of the Michigan engineers, was fourteen thousand five hundred. We started from Atlanta with four days' grain in wagons. Estimating the amount fed the animals at the regulation allowance, and deducting the amount on hand on leaving Atlanta. I estimate the amount of grain taken from the country at five million pounds; fodder, six million pounds; besides the forage consumed by the immense herds of cattle that were driven with the different columns. It is very difficult to estimate the amount of damage done the enemy by the operations of the troops under my command. During the campaign one hundred and nineteen miles of railroad were thoroughly and effectually destroyed, scarcely a tie or rail, a bridge or culvert on the entire line being left in a condition to be of use again. At Rutledge, Madison, Eatonton, Milledgeville, Tennille and Davisboro, machine shops, turntables, depots, water-tanks, and much other valuable property was destroyed. The quantity of cotton destroyed is estimated by my subordinate commanders at seventeen thousand bales. A very large number of cotton gins and presses were also destroyed. Negro men, women and children joined the column at every mile of our march, many of them bringing horses and mules, which they cheerfully turned over to the officers of the Quartermaster's Department. I think at least fourteen thousand of these people joined the two columns at different points on the march; but many of them were too old and infirm, and others too young, to endure the fatigues of the march, and were therefore left in the rear. More than one-half of the above number, however, reached the coast with us. Many of the able-bodied men were transferred to the officers of the Quartermaster's and Subsistence Departments, and others were employed in the two corps as teamsters, cooks and servants.
Those two reports make a showing that is really startling. And yet, it is not to be doubted that the actual losses and damage to the enemy were largely in excess of the amounts given in the reports. But, of course, Savannah was the great prize. And it was gained without any great battle and consequent loss of life. Other than the assault on Fort McAllister, some heavy skirmishing was all. The total Federal casualties, killed, 10 officers and 93 men, wounded, 24 officers and 404 men, and missing, 1 officer and 277 men, making a total of 809, was remarkably small. While the casualties of the enemy probably reached nearly three thousand men, a large number of them were really deserters from the sinking ship, and willingly surrendered. It is not believed that the killed, on either side, exceeded fifty men. In this regard, considering the important consequences of it, the campaign was without a parallel in history. Great in conception and great in execution.
The conduct of the army while on this great march has been severely criticized in some quarters. And truth requires the admission, that some wrongs and a few outrages were committed. General Sherman said, that his soldiers "did some things they ought not to have done." But those occurrences were not nearly so numerous as some critics have imagined. Negroes sometimes disclosed the hiding-places where fine jewels and ornaments, and gold watches and silver plate, and the like, were concealed, and they were taken. But the number of such instances and the quantities taken, were greatly exaggerated by a few wealth people who suffered such losses; and, afterward, such losses were claimed by people who never had any such property. And the army was accused of other wrongs that never transpired at all. That the better and more humane sentiments of the American people had fixed a higher standard for the conduct of army operations than had ever before been established, is not to be denied. Neither can it be successfully asserted that the standard so fixed was too high. But certain it is, that a just standard, so fixed, should never have been used as a cloak for exaggeration and barefaced falsehood. General Sherman recognized the standard, and issued positive and very explicit orders, for the prevention of all unlawful acts, and therein prescribed heavy penalties for violations thereof; and, it must be admitted, he and his subordinate commanders did all they could to enforce obedience to such orders, and to punish offenders against them. So that, while the wrongs that were actually perpetuated cannot be justified, general Sherman and his subordinate commanders must be exonerated of the responsibility for them. No disciplinary restrictions could have prevented all wrongdoing. And it is safe to say, the number and character of the wrongs actually perpetuated was much less and milder than might have been expected under the circumstances. No European army would have done less. No army was ever under better discipline than this one; otherwise, that march could not have been so promptly executed as it was. And when the army reached Savannah, its organization was thoroughly efficient.
Every corps, and division, and brigade, and regiment, was well in hand, and ready for any duty. After the army entered, and while it occupied the city of Savannah, there was no breach of good discipline; nor were there then any complaints of bad discipline from any quarter. On that subject, in his report, General Sherman said: "The behavior of our troops in Savannah has been so manly, so quiet, so perfect, that I take it is as the best evidence of discipline and true courage. Never was a hostile city, filled with women and children, occupied by a large army with less disorder, or more system, order and good government. The same general and generous spirit of confidence and good feeling pervades the army which it has ever afforded me especial pleasure to report on former occasions." Certainly, if the army had been so very bad on the march, it must have contained remarkably active and effective elements of a reformatory nature. The fact is, that it was not so very bad on the march, after all. If it had been, its reformation was, indeed, miraculous. It is matter of great satisfaction, now, to the members of the Ninety-Third Illinois that the discipline of the regiment was most excellent throughout the entire campaign, as it was, in fact, during its entire service.
It remains to be added, of this campaign, that the most sanguine hopes of Generals Sherman and Grant, and the expressed belief of General Thomas, were fully realized. The anxious doubts of many Northern people, as to the ultimate issue of it, were happily dispelled. Confederate leaders, and people who had confidently predicted its failure and the utter ruin of the army, were deeply disappointed and chagrined. Its great success filled their hearts and souls with deep grief and gloomy forebodings. As the capitulation of Vicksburg and the Union victory at Gettysburg, together, were the turning point of the war, this great victory was "the beginning of the end." And it was then plainly "written on the wall" that the end was not far away. It was the dawn of early peace.
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