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. 17th, General Hardee, commander of the Confederate forces in Savannah, sends a request to Confederate President Jeff Davis for reinforcements from Lee’s Army in Virgina, but receives word that Lee can not spare any troops. General Sherman, knowing he has the upper hand, sends a request for Hardee’s surrender, but it is rejected by Hardee and the siege continues.
General Kilpatrick takes his cavalry column and leaves the Right Wing and feints toward Augusta with elements of the Left Wing. General Hardee arrives at Ball’s Ferry to assess the situation. He decides that their lines must be abandoned and they withdraw during the night.
They Left Wing begins to leave Milledgeville and moves through Hebron.
Parts of the Right Wing of Sherman’s army pass through Gordon and move on east to Irwinton. Their column stretches out for miles as they choke the roads. The Left Wing continues to move closer to Milledgeville. Sherman remarks in his memoirs that they only made 8 miles on this hard, cold, windy day. That night an uncommon early season snow storm blanketed the army with snow. The southern civilians accuse the yankees of bringing the cold weather with them.
General Hardee, in command of the Confederate forces in Georgia, is in Macon where he has been preparing to defend the city. His scouts have reported that the Federal columns have turned away from Macon and have started on a move eastward. Hardee now realizes that the Federal objective is most likely Augusta or Savannah. General Hardee begins to shift his troops as well as Wheeler’s cavalry to the east in an effort to slow down the Federal Advance.
General Sherman, having followed Hardee from Jonesboro on the previous day, has formed his troops in a line of battle across from what is left of Hardee’s Corps. Skirmishing continues throughout the day, buy Sherman does not order an assault. Just before breakfast, Sherman receives a dispatch from a courier sent by Slocum in Atlanta advising him that they have entered and secured the City of Atlanta and that the remainder of Hood’s forces have evacuated toward Love Joy’s Station via the McDonough Rd. Sherman, fearing that all of Hood’s forces have reunited, holds off on attacking the Confederates and with his objective “fairly won”, he decides to hold his position a day or two longer and destroy more railroad track, before returning to Atlanta. Slocum’s entire XX Corps has entered the city and is attempting to restore some semblance of order.