150 Years Ago Today: Dec. 18th – Dec. 24, 1864

General Hardee has had his forces quietly construct a pontoon bridge across the Savannah River.  They constructed it out any boat or pretty much any floating object they could use.  On top of the boats, boards were placed to make a road.  They then placed straw and hay on top of the bridge to dampen the noise of travelers.   On the night of Dec. 20th, Confederate forces withdrew from Savannah and crossed the pontoon bridge into South Carolina.

Dec. 21st, at 4:00am, Federal forces were met on the outskirts of town by the Mayor and aldermen.  They formally surrendered the city and requested protection from the Federal Army.  Word was immediately sent to General Sherman, who was meeting with Navy Officers.  Sherman was taken back to King’s Bridge.  From there he rode into Savannah.

Dec. 22nd, General Sherman entered Savannah and established his headquarters at the Pulaski House.  While working out the details here, an English merchant, Charles Green, offered the General his home as his Headquarters.  General Sherman accepted and the Headquarters was moved to the Green House.  It was here that Sherman penned his famous telegram to President Lincoln.  It read as follows: 
            “I beg to present you as a Christmas gift the city of Savannah, with one hundred fifty heavy guns and plenty of ammunition, also about twenty-five thousand bales of cotton.”

Dec. 24, President Lincoln receives Sherman’s telegram.  The telegram is published in newspapers across the country.  Lincoln replied with “Many, many thanks for your Christmas gift, the capture of Savannah, but what next?”

The March to the Sea is complete.  Sherman has reached his goal of Savannah and now has control of the city.  Camps are established and order is maintained.  Sherman’s Chief Engineer, Orland Poe, is reconstructing and fortifying the cities defenses.  The mines and obstructions are removed from the Savannah River and the port is reopened.  The citizens are encouraged to go back to life as normal, as as much of normal as can be expected under occupation.  Freed Blacks begin working for the Federal Army in various roles and schools are established for them in places that were once used in the slave trade.  Sherman rests, repairs, and refits his Army for there is more to come.

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