"I beg to present you, as a Christmas gift, the city of Savannah, with 150 heavy guns and plenty of ammunition, and also about 25,000 bales of cotton." Thus did U.S. General William Tecumseh Sherman notify President Lincoln that he had captured Savannah at the end of his March to the Sea.
Sherman left Atlanta on November 15, and for five weeks led his army of 60,000 men on an unprecedented march that left white Georgians devastated and demoralized, and often destitute. U.S. forces captured Fort McAllister on the Ogeechee River on December 13, opening the back door to the city. Mayor Richard Arnold surrendered Savannah on December 21.
Sherman accepted Charles Green’s offer to use his house on Madison Square as his headquarters. He met there with leaders of the black community to discuss emancipation. From that meeting came Sherman’s Special Field Order No. 15, which promised to confiscate 400,000 acres of coastal land for redistribution to newly freed slaves as restitution for slavery.
It would be a commitment Sherman couldn’t keep, unlike his gift of Savannah to President Lincoln on December 22, 1864, Today in Georgia History.
Today in Georgia History is a joint collaboration of the Georgia Historical Society & Georgia Public Broadcasting.