Page images



turned the head of his columns toward the sea. At Sandersville, Wheeler made a stand, but after a brief action fell back to Waynesboro, only thirty miles south of Augusta, whither Kilpatrick followed him. Wheeler now attacked in turn, but was repulsed with a loss of two hundred men. The inhabitants of Augusta were alarmed at the near approach of Kilpatrick to the city, and entertained no doubt, that it was the point aimed at by Sherman. But while the cavalry swarmed the country in its vicinity, concealing the movements of the army, the latter was marching rapidly on Millen, located on the railroad that connects Augusta and Savannah. Here Sherman again halted for several days, while the cavalry scoured the country in


direction. Whether he intended to march north on Augusta, or south on Savannah, the rebel commanders could not tell, and hence the forces at these places remained separate.

From this position Sherman looked back in his track, and saw the Georgia railroad destroyed for a hundred miles, and the Georgia road for more than sixty.

He had hitherto completely deceived the enemy as to the point he was aiming at, but concealment was now no longer possible. Sherman, however, felt no vacillation as to his course, and when his columns were well closed up, and sufficient provisions stored in his wagons, he on the 2nd of December, swung his noble army on Millen as on a pivot, and in six grand columns by as many different roads, swept down on Sa vannah, leaving Augusta as he had Macon, far in his rear.

The face of the country, through which his line of march now lay, was totally different from the one he had hitherto traversed. Through richly cultivated fields and plantations, and past thriving towns, and peaceful country villages, where every luxury abounded, the army had for weeks been marching, but now it entered on long stretches of pine forests whose dark green branches swayed with a ceaseless



murmur over the soldiers' heads. A river on either side volled its flood toward the Atlantic, whither the heads of his columns were pressing, protecting both his flanks—thus performing the duty which had hitherto devolved on Kilpatrick's cavalry. This force now marched in front and rear, awakening the echoes of the pine forest with their bugle calls, and lighting up its green arcades with the flashing weapons of the bold riders. It was a strange, yet magnificent spectacle, this mighty army moving unmolested through a hostile country, its bands making the woods resonant with their thrilling strains, and the gay battalions streaking them with the long lines of light from their camp-fires by night.

Thus, day after day, the army swept on for more than . eighty miles to Savannah. About ten miles from the city, the left wing struck the Charleston railroad, when it came upon the skirmishers of Hardee, who was in command of the troops that held the place. As the right wing approached the outer line of the enemy's works, Shermap heard the deep, heavy thunder of cannon booming over the swamps and forests from Ossabaw Sound, where our fleet lay; and knew them to be signal guns for him, should he be approaching the coast. On the 9th he answered them by sending Colonel Duncan down the Ogeechee, who, three days after, stepped on board one of Dahlgren’s vessels, and thus put the army once more in communication with the outer world.

Sherman now began to close gradually but steadily in upon the city. But he had no siege guns, for only field artillery could be taken in the long and difficult march across the State of Georgia. The former he must get up from the fleet in Ossabaw Sound, or the city could not be taken. But Fort McAllister, that had twice repulsed an attack by our iron-clads, commanded the entrance of the (geechee River, effcctually preventing the ascent of our vessels

Its cap



ture, therefore was indispensable to success. It is singular that the enemy did not see this and strengthen its garrison and defenses landward. But thinking the great danger was from the fleet, they left a garrison of less than three hundred men to hold it.

Sherman, aware of this, resolved by one bold stroke to seize it, and the gallant Hazen was selected with his tried division to carry it by assault. This division, the second, was Sherman's old division of the Fifteenth Corps, which was the corps he spoke so proudly of after the battle of Missionary Ridge. When he sent word to this old favorite division that he expected them to take Fort McAllister, they were as delighted, says an officer, as though " he had sent them a wagon load of brandy."

On the 12th Sherman sent for Hazen, and told him what he wanted him to do. In a half-hour this gallant officer was off with his division, and by night reached King's bridge, ten miles from the fort. The next morning he kept on till within a mile of it, when he halted. Selecting nine regiments with which to make the assault, he moved them forward to within six hundred yards of the works. The fort stood on the right bank of the Ogeechee, just where the firm land and sex-marsh join. Between him and it, stretched an open space more than a third of a mile wide, planted thick with torpedoes, and swept by artillery, across which in broad daylight, the storming force must march before they could reach the ramparts. These were surrounded by a heavy abattis, and beyond it was a deep ditch, along which were driven high, strong palisades. Sherman was well aware of the desperate nature of the undertaking, and designed to have the flect co-operate in the attack, so as to draw off a part of the hostile force from Hazen. He had gone down the river with Howard, and was at this time standing on the top of a rice-mill, thrce miles off, on the opposite side of the stream,



anxiously watching for the appearance of the expected gun. boat, for he had not heard from the fleet since Colonel Dun. can set off to communicate with it. At length he saw the smoke of a steamer seaward and exclaimed, "See, Howard, there is the gunboat.” In a short time its signal waved, " Is fort McAllister ours?" "No," was the answering signal from the rice-mill. “Can you assist ?" “Yes," was the reply, "what shall we do?” The thunder of guns from the fort announcing that the struggle had commenced, rendered a reply unnecessary.

Hazen had sent forward some sharp-shooters to within two hundred yards of the fort to clear the parapets, while he got his lines in position. This was attended with a good deal of difficulty on the right, where the marsh was soft, and crossed by a lagoon, and caused Hazen much solicitude. He saw this signal flying from the top of the rice-mill, three miles away, " The fort must be taken at all hazards, to-night!and yet the sun was then almost touching the rim of the western horizon. He knew that Sherman and Howard were both watching him through their glasses, that Savannah was the stake at issue, and hence could not but feel the fearful responsibility under which he was to fight the coming battle. His anxiety was depicted on his grave countenance, yet every lineament was fixed and stern as fate itself. At length lie saw his line in position, when he called the nearest bugler to him, and ordered him to sound the "Attention.” The prolonged Warning notes swept along the waiting line, and died in faint echoes over the sca. "Sound it again,” he exclaimed, and again the well known strain stirred every heart, and called the foe to the ramparts. “Sound it again,” cried Hazen in sterner accents, and for the third time the appealing notes swept in ft cadences over the plaja, making each soldier clutch his musket with

[blocks in formation]

a firmer grasp. Now, shouted Hazen, in tones that made the bugler start, “ Sound the forward."

The shrill, rapid notes shook the excited line as a sudden wind-gust the tree-tops, and the next moment, with a loud and ringing cheer, it bounded forward. In an instant, the guns of the fort opened, sweeping all the level space the brave fellows must traverse, with a horrible fire. Breasting this without flinching, they came upon torpedoes, buried in the sand, that exploded to their tread, sending men, mangled and torn, into the air. Heedless of these, as of the fire in front, they kept unhesitatingly on their terrible way, moving on the double-quick, until, at length, they reached the abattis. Pulling this apart by main strength, they stormed through it and reached the ditch. Seizing the strong palisades here, they wrenched them fiercely out, and making a gap, poured through it with loud shouts, and mounted the parapets.

Sherman stood on the rice-mill watching all this, through his glass, with emotions that can but faintly be imagined. As the blue line swept steadily onward, he exclaimed “How grandly they advance! not a waver!” With his eye still glued to that unwavering line, he, in a few seconds, again exclaimed, “Look, Howard! see that flag in the advance; how steadily it moves! not a man faltors. Grand, grand!” After a short pause, he cried, “The flag still goes forward; there is no flinching there.” But in a few seconds, he said, in an altered tone, “Look, it has halted! They waver. But as the smoke lifted a moment, he almost shouted, “No, it's the parapet. There they go, again, right over it! See, there is a flag on the works! another! another! It's ours ! The fort is ours.

The firing ceased; the rebel flag came down; the Stars and Stripes went up; the glass dropped, and a smile lighted up his features, for he well knew what a shout was going

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »