Diary of Orrin Brown, Savannah, Georgia
There was a large detail at work on the fort last night but when we got up this morning and low and behold the rebs had disappeared, they evacuated the place, it is said that they crossed the river into S. Carolina. The 20th Corps occupy the City today. There is a cool west wind blowing today but it is clear and pleasant. There is a rhumor in camp that the 14th Corpe is going back to Chattanooga but I dont know how true it is. I saw an Officer that said our forces captured 72 pieces of Artilery in and around the city.
In the dark of the night, Gen. Hardee led his troops in retreat out of Savannah, across a pontoon bridge into South Carolina. When dawn broke four years and a day after South Carolina seceded from the Union, Gen. Sherman occupied the city. The retreating rebel army spiked the guns too large to transport and destroyed the munitions they had not yet shot at the federal siege lines. The boats at dock were burned, sunk or tried to run up river. By 3am, the evacuation of the Confederate army was complete. At 4:30 am, Mayor Richard D. Arnold and a delegation of aldermen formally surrendered the city to the Union command, requesting suitable protection of private property, which was granted.
Here ends Sherman’s March to the Sea. The next step was far from obvious—somewhat like the dog that caught its tail, the question became “now what?” Confederate President Jefferson Davis had urged Hardee to live and fight another day. Charleston, SC, or even Augusta, GA, could be next in line for Sherman’s wrath. Gen. Grant, on the other hand, urged Sherman to load his army on boats and join the main action against Lee in Virginia. Sherman of course had other ideas.