The Siege and Evacuation of Savannah,

Stiles/Akin

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#1
The Seige and Evacuation of Savannah,,,
by Colonel Charles C. Jones Jr.
Commander of Artillery.

December 19-21, 1864

During the 19th and 20th, our artillery and infantry fire was heavier than it had been on any previous days. The hour of evacuation being near at hand, a more liberal expenditure of ammunition was sanctioned, and the fire from the batteries increased at every available point until the shade of night on the 20th settled upon the contending lines. In obedience to instructions from artillery headquarters, the ammunition chests of the light batteries were thoroughly replenished and all available animals were exchanged for retiring such of the unattached guns as could be transported. All field guns of inferior quality were exchanged for superior pieces where they could be secured.

On the evening of the 19th, an order was issued for the evacuation of Whitemarsh Island. After spiking the guns and destroying the carriages and ammunition at Turners rocks, Gibson’s Point and on the line of lunettes across the island without attracting the notice of the enemy, the troops from their locality were dispatched over the pontoon bridges across the Savannah River to cooperate with General Wheeler in holding the enemy in check on the Carolina shore. Upon this retreat, all bridges connecting Whitemarsh Islands with the mainland were destroyed.

The garrison from the Savannah River batteries, from Fort Bartow, and from Fort Thunderbolt, having spiked their guns, destroyed their carriages and there own the ammunition into the water, concentrated at Fort Jackson at 8 O’clock on the evening of the 20th whence, under the command of Colonel Edward Anderson they were conveyed by steamer to Screven’s Ferry and marching the same night to Hardeeville ( South Carolina) They were accompanied by the crew of the Confederate Ironclad CSS Georgia- CPT Gwathmey- that floating battery having been scuttled by her officers. The guns having been spiked and carriages broke and ammunition destroyed at Isle of Hope, Rose Dew, the garrisons repaired to Savannah and the same night crossed the pontoon bridges, the artillerist from Beaulieu and Rose Dew moving forward to Hardeeville while the dismounted cavalry from the Isle of Hope reported for duty to General Wheeler.

From the western lines, our troops were quietly withdrawn in order and at hours indicated in the circular issued by General Hardee. There was no confusion and all movements were executed promptly and in silence. Abandoned guns were spiked their carriages disabled and all ammunition destroyed so far as we could without attracting the attention of the enemy in our immediate front. To conceal our operation, occasional firing was maintained until the latest moment. Forty-nine pieces of field artillery with limbers, caissons, forges, battery wagons, and baggage wagons were safely withdrawn and transported over the pontoon bridges. Without halting in Savannah, the retiring confederate army pursued its march for Hardeeville South Carolina, which was designated as the place of rendezvous.

The destruction of the ammunition on the western lines was not commenced until after the withdrawal of the infantry and was cautiously performed by the artillerists. The guns were not spiked until the last moment. With several rounds of ammunition on hand, they were ready for action while the ordinance stores and equipment’s which could not be retired were being rendered useless. The field return on the morning to the 20th of December 1864, showed in the trenches, on the detail duty, and in the fixed batteries along the water approaches to the city, an aggregate of 9,089 men of all arms, present for duty.

The Ladies gunboat or ironclad Georgia was sunk at her moorings abreast of Fort Jackson, by her crew on the night of the 20th. The ironclad Savannah, Captain Brent, being unable to proceed to sea in consequence of the torpedoes in the river and a strong gale setting from the northeast, after having, on the morning of the 21st, remained for some time in the neighborhood of Screven Ferry where a detail was engaged in the removal of some of the quartermaster and commissary stores and having returned artillery fire of the enemy in the bay was burnt nearly opposite Willink’s shipyard.

The steamers Isondiga and FireFly were burned by the Confederates in Back River. Several gunboats, Macon, Sampson, and Resolute had been dispatched upriver prior to the siege and the Ida had been captured.

The gallant Commodore Tattnall, having in-person superintended the destruction of most of his vessels, led his sailors and marines to Hardeeville marching at the head although suffering from rheumatism.

In order to deaden the sound, rice straw was thickly strewn over the pontoon bridges. By 3 o’clock on the morning of the 21st, the rear guard of the Confederate army had crossed over into Hutchinson Island and the evacuation was complete.
Engineer troops shortly afterward detached the flats, cutting holes in them and sending them adrift.

Lieutenant Colonel Paul of General Hardee’s staff was ordered to take command of a small force and after seeing that the pontoon bridge was destroyed to collects such stragglers and cross by way of Screven’s ferry. This command was detailed to preserve order until the last moment. No disturbances occurred during the night. Just before sunrise he withdrew his pickets and having collected all stragglers embarked on board the steamer Swan for Screven Ferry. As the boat got underway, the advanced guard of the enemy appeared on the bay.

It was not until half past 3 o’clock on the morning of the 21st that our abandonment of the western lines was discovered. Orders were at once issued to advance the pickets on the left of the Federal line and to press forward into the city. By six o’clock AM, General Geary’s division had entered without opposition and the city of Savannah was in possession of the Federals.

Near the junction of the Louisville and Augusta Roads, and about half-past four o’clock in the morning of the 21st, the Honorable Richard D. Arnold, Mayor of Savannah and a delegation from the Board of Aldermen, met that officer and through him made a formal surrender of the city just evacuated by the Confederates.”

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#2
The Seige and Evacuation of Savannah,,,
by Colonel Charles C. Jones Jr.
Commander of Artillery.

December 19-21, 1864

During the 19th and 20th, our artillery and infantry fire was heavier than it had been on any previous days. The hour of evacuation being near at hand, a more liberal expenditure of ammunition was sanctioned, and the fire from the batteries increased at every available point until the shade of night on the 20th settled upon the contending lines. In obedience to instructions from artillery headquarters, the ammunition chests of the light batteries were thoroughly replenished and all available animals were exchanged for retiring such of the unattached guns as could be transported. All field guns of inferior quality were exchanged for superior pieces where they could be secured.

On the evening of the 19th, an order was issued for the evacuation of Whitemarsh Island. After spiking the guns and destroying the carriages and ammunition at Turners rocks, Gibson’s Point and on the line of lunettes across the island without attracting the notice of the enemy, the troops from their locality were dispatched over the pontoon bridges across the Savannah River to cooperate with General Wheeler in holding the enemy in check on the Carolina shore. Upon this retreat, all bridges connecting Whitemarsh Islands with the mainland were destroyed.

The garrison from the Savannah River batteries, from Fort Bartow, and from Fort Thunderbolt, having spiked their guns, destroyed their carriages and there own the ammunition into the water, concentrated at Fort Jackson at 8 O’clock on the evening of the 20th whence, under the command of Colonel Edward Anderson they were conveyed by steamer to Screven’s Ferry and marching the same night to Hardeeville ( South Carolina) They were accompanied by the crew of the Confederate Ironclad CSS Georgia- CPT Gwathmey- that floating battery having been scuttled by her officers. The guns having been spiked and carriages broke and ammunition destroyed at Isle of Hope, Rose Dew, the garrisons repaired to Savannah and the same night crossed the pontoon bridges, the artillerist from Beaulieu and Rose Dew moving forward to Hardeeville while the dismounted cavalry from the Isle of Hope reported for duty to General Wheeler.

From the western lines, our troops were quietly withdrawn in order and at hours indicated in the circular issued by General Hardee. There was no confusion and all movements were executed promptly and in silence. Abandoned guns were spiked their carriages disabled and all ammunition destroyed so far as we could without attracting the attention of the enemy in our immediate front. To conceal our operation, occasional firing was maintained until the latest moment. Forty-nine pieces of field artillery with limbers, caissons, forges, battery wagons, and baggage wagons were safely withdrawn and transported over the pontoon bridges. Without halting in Savannah, the retiring confederate army pursued its march for Hardeeville South Carolina, which was designated as the place of rendezvous.

The destruction of the ammunition on the western lines was not commenced until after the withdrawal of the infantry and was cautiously performed by the artillerists. The guns were not spiked until the last moment. With several rounds of ammunition on hand, they were ready for action while the ordinance stores and equipment’s which could not be retired were being rendered useless. The field return on the morning to the 20th of December 1864, showed in the trenches, on the detail duty, and in the fixed batteries along the water approaches to the city, an aggregate of 9,089 men of all arms, present for duty.

The Ladies gunboat or ironclad Georgia was sunk at her moorings abreast of Fort Jackson, by her crew on the night of the 20th. The ironclad Savannah, Captain Brent, being unable to proceed to sea in consequence of the torpedoes in the river and a strong gale setting from the northeast, after having, on the morning of the 21st, remained for some time in the neighborhood of Screven Ferry where a detail was engaged in the removal of some of the quartermaster and commissary stores and having returned artillery fire of the enemy in the bay was burnt nearly opposite Willink’s shipyard.

The steamers Isondiga and FireFly were burned by the Confederates in Back River. Several gunboats, Macon, Sampson, and Resolute had been dispatched upriver prior to the siege and the Ida had been captured.

The gallant Commodore Tattnall, having in-person superintended the destruction of most of his vessels, led his sailors and marines to Hardeeville marching at the head although suffering from rheumatism.

In order to deaden the sound, rice straw was thickly strewn over the pontoon bridges. By 3 o’clock on the morning of the 21st, the rear guard of the Confederate army had crossed over into Hutchinson Island and the evacuation was complete.
Engineer troops shortly afterward detached the flats, cutting holes in them and sending them adrift.

Lieutenant Colonel Paul of General Hardee’s staff was ordered to take command of a small force and after seeing that the pontoon bridge was destroyed to collects such stragglers and cross by way of Screven’s ferry. This command was detailed to preserve order until the last moment. No disturbances occurred during the night. Just before sunrise he withdrew his pickets and having collected all stragglers embarked on board the steamer Swan for Screven Ferry. As the boat got underway, the advanced guard of the enemy appeared on the bay.

It was not until half past 3 o’clock on the morning of the 21st that our abandonment of the western lines was discovered. Orders were at once issued to advance the pickets on the left of the Federal line and to press forward into the city. By six o’clock AM, General Geary’s division had entered without opposition and the city of Savannah was in possession of the Federals.

Near the junction of the Louisville and Augusta Roads, and about half-past four o’clock in the morning of the 21st, the Honorable Richard D. Arnold, Mayor of Savannah and a delegation from the Board of Aldermen, met that officer and through him made a formal surrender of the city just evacuated by the Confederates.”

View attachment 214604
Thanks for posting this, you gave information of which I was not aware regarding the siege of Savannah that helps to fill in some of the gaps in my understanding of events that took place there.... My 3rd Great Grandfather, James A. Gould, who fought and served with the 2nd Alabama Cavalry Regiment in Brig. General Samuel Wragg Ferguson`s Cavalry Brigade, harassed Sherman`s Army the entire distance from Atlanta to Savannah, during his: "march to the sea" and then dismounted and took to the trenches at Savannah, filling in the weak spots of Hardees lines for 11 days before Hardee eventually gave up the city. Ferguson`s Cavalry Brigade which was comprised then of the 2nd Alabama Cavalry Regiment, the 56th Alabama Partisan Rangers, Inge`s Mississippi Cavalry Regiment (12th Mississippi Cavalry), Perrin`s Mississippi Cavalry Regiment (11th Mississippi Cavalry), Millers Mississippi Cavalry Regiment (9th Mississippi Cavalry) and 25 Scouts which was formed from the Company of Captain Thomas Flourney (Sanders' Tennessee Battalion), helped man the trenches with Hardees garrison at Savannah from 10 Dec 1864 - 21 Dec 1864 when Hardee ordered the city to be evacuated and Ferguson`s Cavalry Brigade was ordered to perform a rear guard action and to get Hardee and his garrison across the Savannah River and then up to Charleston as Sherman took the city of Savannah with great celebration.

Below was the role played by Ferguson`s Cavalry Brigade during this time frame:

Immediately after Brig. General Samuel Wragg Ferguson and his Cavalry Brigade supervised and ordered Mayor James M. Calhoun to surrender the City of Atlanta to the Federal Army on the morning of 2 Sep 1864, Ferguson`s Cavalry Brigade, the last Confederate Troops to leave the City of Atlanta, covered the rear of General John Bell Hood and the Army of Tennessee, until they reached Lovejoy`s Station. Then Ferguson`s Cavalry Brigade operated with General John Bell Hood in and around Atlanta, in North Georgia and North Alabama in operations against Sherman`s Army until General Hood initiated his Tennessee Campaign.

That being on 28 October 1864 when General Hood crossed into Tennessee with his Army of Tennessee to initiate his Campaign there in Franklin, Columbia, Spring Hill, Murfreesboro, and Nashville, While Brig. General Samuel Wragg Ferguson was ordered by Hood to return to Atlanta and keep an eye on the demonstrations being made by Maj. General Sherman and his Army. A couple of weeks later on 14 Nov 1864 Sherman left Atlanta in flames on his march to Savannah, Ferguson`s Cavalry Brigade pursued him and soon they made it to Macon, Ga. there they met with Maj. General Howell Cobb, and later Lt. General Richard Taylor. It was at this time that Ferguson's Cavalry Brigade was attached to Maj. General Joseph Wheeler's "under strength" Cavalry Corps.

When Ferguson`s Cavalry Brigade left Macon, with Maj. General Joseph Wheeler in command, they were just a few miles from the rear of Sherman`s Army, where they soon caught him after Milledgeville and began harassing his rear and skirmishing with him as he crossed the River there and then again they fought with him at Sandersville. They harassed the rear of Sherman`s Army on a day to day basis for the entire distance from Milledgeville to Savannah. In addition to skirmishing and fighting daily with the enemy`s Cavalry while they were enroute to Savannah they picked up many Federal prisoners who were plundering and straggling as well as Union wagons sent out to collect forage. Allegations after the War made by some of the Field Officers of Ferguson`s Cavalry Brigade alleged that during this time Brig. General Ferguson: "refused to take Prisoners of War out of fear that it would slow his march and that he ordered his Provost Marshall and Guards to take the Prisoners off at a close distance and shoot them in the head so that they would not hinder their ability to remain mobile and fight." No charges were ever brought against him over these allegations.

On December 10, 1864, after skirmishing and fighting for more than 300 miles in 27 days, and positioning themselves in front of Sherman`s Army some distance, Ferguson`s Cavalry Brigade neared Savannah as they came up to and crossed Town Creek, after which they could go no further. So they turned back to Sisters Ferry and there they crossed the Savannah River into South Carolina. Brig. General Ferguson was then ordered by Maj. General Joseph Wheeler to dismount his command and leave their horses on the Carolina side of the river and to re-cross the Savannah River back on the Georgia side on a flat and oars (river ferry), so small that the man steering had to lay down under the wagon to use his steering oar. This took some time but they eventually all got to the west side of the Savannah River and could then march closer to Savannah and from there confront Sherman`s Army as they soon arrived behind them. Some of Ferguson`s Cavalry Brigade swam across the river as opposed to being brought over on the flat. The horses for Ferguson`s Cavalry Brigade were sent to nearby Barnwell County, S.C. until they would be needed again.

Comparing several Maps of the period regarding the March to Savannah, General Kilpatrick and the Federal Cavalry, with General`s Wheeler and Ferguson harassing his rear the whole way, left Macon and then went through Milledgeville, Sparta, Sandersville, Louisville (north), Waynesboro and then they came up on and followed the Savannah River south to the City of Savannah (Georgia). But Brig. General Ferguson with his Cavalry Brigade tried to cross the Savannah River to the Carolina side at Town Creek but could not get across there, so they turned back and crossed at Sisters Ferry, which was about 35 miles north of Savannah, up stream near Sand Hills, S.C. (about 5 miles south-west of Robertville, S.C.). Then at some point they were ordered by Maj. General Joseph Wheeler to dismount and leave their horses on the Carolina side of the Savannah River and cross the river back into Georgia again, which would have either been there at Sisters Ferry, or farther south around Ebenezer Creek, just a few miles north of Savannah. Then they marched on foot and took up defensive positions with the Infantry filling in the weak spots of the trench lines on the outskirts of the City around where Hardee had flooded some of the Rice Fields to make it more difficult for Sherman to enter into the city.

It was a bitter pill for the men of Ferguson`s Cavalry Brigade to be separated from their horses. They marched from the west bank of the river towards Savannah on foot, somewhat demoralized but anxious to fight the enemy. Brig. General Ferguson recognizing this, to make them feel better he gave commands to them as if they were still mounted on their chargers. He ordered as they came upon their entrenchments: "Rear rank open order. Prepare to dismount, Dismount!!!." When they broke ranks they gave a cheer, showing they appreciated the joke. Then it was serious business as they took to the trenches and made preparations to fight against Sherman`s Army should he attempt to make an assault on Savannah.

Ferguson`s dismounted Cavalry Brigade was sent in small detachments all along the trench lines, to points that were weakest, preparing to fight once again along side the Confederate Infantry of Hardee`s men and the Savannah garrison who were stationed there, as he had done numerous times during the Atlanta Campaign at New Hope Church, along the Chattahoochee River, Kennesaw Mountain, Marietta, Peachtree Creek, and the City of Atlanta. Brig. General Ferguson himself made his headquarters at the home of his friend, Mr. R. H. Anderson during the 11 days that they remained in the city. Brig. General Samuel Wragg Ferguson commented in his journal that:

"there was a strong contrast of appearance between my old soldiers who had been marching and fighting for months and were ragged and smoke begrimed from the camp fires of pine and the neat neatly dressed garrison of Savannah which had access to the stores of blockade runners, and had some transactions even with the Confederate Quartermasters".

Maj. General Sherman also reached the outskirts of Savannah on 10 Dec 1864, just behind Brig. General Ferguson and his men. Once Maj. General Sherman arrived to the vicinity he soon discovered that General William J. Hardee was protecting the city with ten thousand well-entrenched Confederate soldiers. General William J. Hardee's men had flooded the numerous rice fields around the city, virtually creating swamps and limiting access to a few narrow causeways which could only be used for foot travel. In lieu of needlessly jeopardizing the lives of his soldiers, Sherman chose to invest the city. On 17 Dec 1864 Sherman demanded that Hardee surrender under threat of bombardment and starvation. Rather than submit, General William J. Hardee elected to evacuate the city late at night on 20 Dec 1864.

So in the early hours of the morning on 21 Dec 1864, 11 days after they first took to the trenches as dismounted Cavalry, orders were given to Brig. General Samuel Wragg Ferguson to return back to the Carolina side of the River and to remount his Cavalry Brigade on their chargers and then cover the crossing of the Infantry of Lt. General William J. Hardee and the Savannah garrison who were being ordered to fall back and evacuate the city by leading his men across the Savannah River over a hastily erected pontoon bridge. As he covered the River crossing of the Infantry he dispatched couriers to bring back his Brigades horses which had been sent to Barnwell County 11 days earlier. A few hours later Savannah Mayor Richard Dennis Arnold surrendered Savannah in exchange for Sherman's promise to protect the city's citizens and their property as Hardees Forces marched north through the Carolinas to safety with Brig. General Samuel Wragg Ferguson`s Cavalry Brigade protecting their march by conducting a rear guard action.

Savannah Mayor Richard Dennis Arnold surrendered the city to Union forces with the following letter, written early in the morning on 21 Dec 1864, addressed to Maj. General William T. Sherman:

“The city of Savannah was last night evacuated by the Confederate military and is now entirely defenseless. As chief magistrate of the city I respectfully request your protection of the lives and private property of the citizens and of our women and children. Trusting that this appeal to your generosity and humanity may favorably influence your action, I have the honor to be, your obedient servant.”

After ensuring the safety of Lt. General William J. Hardee and allowing him to get some safe distance between his forces and Sherman`s Army, Brig. General Samuel Wragg Ferguson had acquired a 4 day furlough to go home for Christmas to be with his Father, Mother and Wife at Dockon Plantation outside of Charleston, South Carolina which is where he grew up. About this time the 17th Mississippi Cavalry (State Troops), who were part of Col. Horace Miller`s Cavalry Regiment (later the 9th Mississippi Cavalry Regiment), deserted and went back to their homes in Southern Mississippi. Soon after Christmas Brig. General Ferguson returned to his Cavalry Brigade, who had remained encamped in the vicinity of Brighton, S.C. just north of Savannah since leaving the besieged city of Savannah on December 22, 1864.

Ferguson`s Cavalry Brigade spent the next couple of weeks taking some much needed rest in the low country of South Carolina until being ordered by Maj. General Joseph Wheeler to pursue Maj. General Sherman again once he left Savannah and headed to North Carolina.
 
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