General Sherman

Questions for Reflection

  1. Who was General William Tecumseh Sherman, and what role did he play in the American Civil War?
  2. What were the major military campaigns and strategies employed by Sherman during the war?
  3. How did Sherman's "March to the Sea" impact the Confederate states and the course of the war?
  4. What were the goals and objectives of Sherman's military actions, and how did they contribute to the Union's overall strategy?
  5. What were the historical implications and controversies surrounding Sherman's tactics and the concept of "total war" during the Civil War?

December 26, 1864

Lincoln Letter to Sherman

From Washington, D.C., Pres. Abraham Lincoln wrote Gen. Sherman in Savannah in response to Sherman’s Dec. 22 letter presenting Savannah to the president as a Christmas gift:

Letter of President Abraham Lincoln to Gen. Sherman in response to Sherman's letter in December 22 presenting Savannah to the president as a Christmas gift. - History By Mail

Transcript: “MY DEAR GENERAL SHERMAN: Many, many thanks for your Christmas gift, the capture of Savannah. When you were about 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 yours; for I believe none of us went further than to acquiesce. And taking the work of General Thomas into the county, 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 to the world that your army could be divided, putting the stronger part to an important 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 if I leave General Grant and yourself to decide. Please make my grateful acknowledgments to your whole army, officers and men.”

Source: U.S. War Department, The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1893, reprinted by The National Historical Society, 1971), Series I, Vol. XLIV, p. 809. 

Excerpt from General Sherman's 1875 Biography Memoirs (Volume  Savannah and Pocotaligo, Page 231). This excerpt shows where Sherman got the idea to write the telegram.

Within an hour of taking my quarters in Mr. Green's house, Mr. A.G. Browne, of Salem, Massachusetts, United States Treasury agent for the Department of the South, made his appearance to claim possession, in the name of the Treasury Department, of all captured cotton, rice, buildings, etc. Having use for these articles ourselves, and having fairly earned them, I did not feel inclined to surrender possession, and explained to him that the quartermaster and commissary could manage them more to my liking than he; but I agreed, after the proper inventories had been prepared, if there remained any thing for which we had no special use, I would turn it over to him. It was then known that in the warehouses were stored at least twenty-five thousand bales of cotton, and in the forts one hundred and fifty large, heavy sea-coast guns; although afterward, on a more careful count, there proved to be more than two hundred and fifty sea-coast guns, and thirty-one thousand bales of cotton. At that interview Mr. Browne, who was a shrewd, clever Yankee, told me that a vessel was on the point of starting for Old Point Comfort, and, if she had good weather off Cape Hatteras, would reach by Christmas-day, and he suggested that I might make it the occasion of sending a welcome Christmas gift to the President, Mr. Lincoln, who peculiarly enjoyed such pleasanty. I accordingly sat down and wrote on a slip of paper, to be left at the telegraph-office at Fortress Monroe for transmission, the following:

Savannah Georgia, December 22, 1864
To His Excellency President Lincoln, Washington, D.C.:
I beg to preset you as a Christmas-gift the city of Savannah, with one hundred and fifty heavy guns and plenty of ammunition, also about twenty-five thousand bales of cotton. 
W.T. Sherman, Major-General

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