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Series 1 Volume XLIV; Part 1, Operations in South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. November 14-December 31, 1864 The March to the Sea.

Official Report Number 04

Report of Capt. Orlando M. Poe, Corps of Engineers, U.S. Army, Chief Engineer..
Headquarters Military Division of the Mississippi,
Chief Engineer's Office,
Savannah, Georgia, December 26, 1864.

Sir: I have the honor of reporting to the Engineer Department as follows concerning the operations which just have ended in the occupation of Savannah and the opening of complete communication between this army and the forces in the Department of the South:

On the 15th of November the Fifteenth, Seventeenth, and Twentieth Corps took up their line of march from Atlanta. Preparatory to this movement, General Sherman direct me to destroy with engineer troops all railroads and property belonging thereto; all storehouses, machine shops, mills, factories, &c., within the lines of the enemy's defenses at Atlanta. The work of destruction was thoroughly done, under my personal supervision, by the Michigan Engineers and Missouri Engineers. About ten miles of track were destroyed by burning the wood-work and twisting each rail, the latter operation being performed by a very simple machine designed by myself. The designated buildings were first burned and the walls afterwards razed to the ground. For military purposes the city of Atlanta has ceased to exist, there being no railroad either to or from it. The Chattanooga road was destroyed from Cartersville to Atlanta, the West Point road to Fairburn, in the Macon road to Lovejoy's. On the morning of 15th of November the march began -- the Fifteenth and Seventeenth Corps taking the roads which lead to Griswold and Gordon on the Macon and Savannah Railroad, and the Calvary moving upon their right flank, threatening Macon; the Twentieth Corps took that passing through Stone Mountain to Social Circle, on the Augusta railroad; the Fourteenth Corps moved on the morning of 16th of November, taking the road through Lithonia and Covington. The Twentieth Corps destroyed the Augusta railroad from Social Circle to a point near Greensboro, the Fourteenth Corps destroying from Lithonia to Social Circle. The Twentieth Corps then hurried southward through Eatonton to Milledgeville, which place they entered on the eve evening of 22d of November. The Fourteenth Corps deflected at the Brick [Store] and passed via Shady Dale, Salem, Eatonton Factory, Vaugh´s, and Raimoth to Milledgeville, where they arrived early in the morning 23d of November. The Fifteenth and Seventeenth destroyed the Georgia Central Railroad from Griswold to Tennille Station, including the Oconee bridge. The Calvary made a strong demonstration on the works at Macon, and afterwards destroyed the railroad from Griswold westward, to include Walnut Creek bridge, three miles east of Macon. The Calvary, supported by Walcutt´s brigade, of the Fifteenth Army Corps, had a severe fight at Duncan's farm on the 21st [22d] of November, in which our forces gained a complete victory.

On the 24th of November the Fourteenth and Twentieth Corps and the Calvary moved from Milledgeville, the Calvary taking the road, via Sylvan Grove, to Waynesborough, intending to pass to the eastward of Millen, and, if possible, liberate the prisoners of war at that point. They struck the Augusta and Millen branch railroad near Waynesborough, capturing a train of cars, and burned some track and bridges, but learning that the prisoners had been removed from Millen turned back. The Fourteenth Corps marched direct to Sandersonville and the Twentieth Corps took the road, via Hebron, to the same place. At this point some Calvary, under the command of Wheeler, offered resistance, but were quickly dispersed, only the skirmishers of the advanced guard of the two infantry corps being engaged. The court-house and Sandersonville, a very substantial brick building, was burned by order of General Sherman, because the enemy had made use of its portico from which to fire upon our troops. The Fifteenth and Seventeenth Corps which had been destroying railroad, here communicated from Irwin's Cross-roads, and then left the railroad, the order of march being as follows: the Calvary on the left flank; the Fourteenth Corps direct to Louisville; the Twentieth Corps, via Davisborough, to the Ogeechee bridge, destroying the railroad from Tennille Station to and including said bridge; the Seventeenth Corps, by the first road south of the railroad, to Burton Station (No. 9 1/2 ); and the Fifteenth Corps via Johnson's. The Twentieth Corps, after burning Ogeechee Bridge, past to the northward to Louisville; the Seventeenth Corps crossed the Ogeechee on a pontoon bridge is Station 9 1/2, intense moved along the railroad to the Five-Mile post from Savannah; the Twentieth Corps through Springfield; and the Fourteenth Corps close as possible to the Savannah River, the Fifteenth Corps continued on the south side of the Ogeechee to Station 2 (Eden), where three divisions crossed to the north side, while one (Hazen´s) moved on down to Fort McAllister, which war was very handsomely carried by assault, capturing the entire garrison, twenty-three guns, and all the stores. The same evening General Sherman personally communicated with the fleet. Orders had been given on the previous day for the investment of the city. No assault was made, though the though the opinion universally prevailed that such an attempt would be successful. The general commanding was not willing to sacrifice any lives, feeling certain that the city must soon fall into our hands at any rate.

The line occupied by the enemy was as follows: beginning at the mouth of the small creek emptying into the Savannah two miles and a half above the city; thence along the southeastern bank of that creek until the headwaters of Salt Marsh Creek were reached; then followed along that stream to an along Vernon River to the Sea, the lower points being held by detached works behind impassable swamps. All the approaches to this line were rendered very difficult by dams constructed across all small streams. A line was found interior to this, commencing at Laurel Grove Cemetery on the right, and resting on the river between Savannah and Fort Jackson. This was a very heavy line, consisting in part of continuous bastioned line in a part of a system of detached lunetts in defense relations. No attempt was made by the enemy to hold this line. They abandoned Savannah and all its dependencies on the night of December 20, and we occupied them on the morning of the 21st, a vast amount of warlike material in many guns (the numbers not yet definitely known) falling into our hands. I noticed among them one brass 6-pounder having upon it the arms of the State of Georgia and the words "Georgia Military Institute." I suggested to Captain Weber, chief of ordnance, that he send that gun to the Military Academy at West Point, and he has signified his intention of do so. The enemy evidently evacuated his position on account of want of supplies. An assault had been ordered, and would have been made in a day or two, which would probably have been successful. I should have said that the enemy, in consequence of our occupation of the city, destroyed his gun-boats in the iron-clad ram Savannah.

A new line of defenses selected by myself in approved by General Sherman has been begun, Captain Reese, Corps of Engineers, being charged with its construction. It will consist of a system of detached lunettes, and defensive relations, which are intended to be connected at our leisure. These works will be principally armed with captured guns. The line will be about two miles and a half in development and is intended for a garrison of about 5,000 men.

On the march, the Engineer Department was constantly engaged in the most arduous duties, repairing roads, building bridges, destroying railroads, and all other matters coming under our province. I think I can safely say that the department is popular in this army, and enjoys the esteem and confidence of all commanders. Not having yet received detail reports, I cannot specify the amount of labor performed, but it was immense.

Capt. C. E. Reese, chief engineer Department and Army of the Tennessee, was my constant reliance and support. The Corps of Engineers has no more valuable officer in the field. His services are appreciated in the army to which he belongs. First Lieutenant Stickney acted as assistant Captain Reese and discharged his duty in a satisfactory manner.

First Lieut. William Ludlow acted as chief engineer of the wing commanded by General Slocum, and is highly commended by that officer. He is a dashing young officer.

The pontoon train accompanying the Left Wing was in charge of the Fifty-eighth Indiana Volunteers, Col. George P. Buell commanding; that with the Right Wing was in charge of the First Missouri Engineers, Lieutenant Colonel Tweeddale. Neither of these trains, though frequently used, failed us at any time. Their efficiency became a subject of remark throughout the army. One of these trains (the one belonging to the Right Wing) has been hauled on wagons all the way from Nashville, Tenn., whence it started in April last, and it is still an efficient condition -- strong evidence of the durability of the "canvas pontoon train."

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servants,

Brig. Gen. R. Delafield,
Chief of Engineers, U.S. Army.
Washington, D. C., October 8, 1865.


Early in November the preparations for the march to Savannah were completed and everything held in readiness therefor. Under direction from the major-general commanding, engineer orders were issued making the proper assignment of engineer troops and bridge trains.

Meanwhile a freshet in the Chattahoochee carried away all our trestle bridges, and such as were necessary for the passage of the army on its return to Atlanta were relaid from the pontoon trains. They were put down, two at the Chattahoochee railroad bridge and one Turner's ferry.

The engineer organization for the march to Savannah was as follows:

First. Engineer troops and troops of the line of engineering duty: (1) first Regiment Michigan Engineers and Mechanics, Col. J. B. Yates, unassigned, receiving orders directly from headquarters Military Division of the Mississippi, ten companies, 1,500 men. (2) First Missouri Engineers, Lieut. Col. William Tweeddale, in charge of pontoon train with Right Wing (Army of the Tennessee), five companies, 500 men. (3) Fifty-eight Regiment Indiana Volunteer Infantry, Col. George P. Buell, in charge of pontoon train of Left Wing, ten companies, 775 men. Total, 2,775 men.

Second. Pioneers: Left Wing, six divisions, each having a pioneer corps of the average strength of 100 men, 600 men; Right Wing, seven divisions, each having a pioneer corps of the average strength of 100 whites and 70 negroes, 1,200 men; total, 1,800 men.

Recapitalization: Engineer troops and troops of the line doing engineer duty, 2,775 men; pioneers, 1,800 men; aggregate for engineer duty, 4,575 men.

Third. Tools and tool train: each of the pioneer corps carried a sufficient number of tools to work their full strength, and in the Right Wing they were supplied with a duplicate set, which were carried in wagons. In the Left Wing each brigade was provided with a tool wagon, loaded with about 350 intrenching tools. A great many axes and shovels were in the hands of the troops, but always within reach in case of emergency. The Michigan Engineers and Mechanics had a train to fifty wagons, of which twenty were loaded with tools, as follows: 1,500 axes and helves, 1,500 shovels, 700 picks and helves, 200 hatches, and an ample supply of carpenters and bridge building tools, and extra saws and augers; also, 100 hooks which I had devised for twisting railroad iron. The remainder of the wagons carried substance and quartermaster's stores. The Missouri Engineers had a much smaller train, which was somewhat mixed up with the pontoon train of which they had charge. They carried the following intrenching tools: 500 shovels, 500 axes; also, an assortment of carpenters´ and blacksmiths´ tools.

Fourth. Pontoon trains: Left Wing-pontoniers, Fifty-eight Regiment Indiana volunteer infantry, Col. George P. Buell commanding, 775 men. Materials: 51 canvas pontoon boats, complete, 15 extra covers, 10 anchors, 2,000 pounds rope, 37 horses, 505 mules, 94 wagons, 3 ambulances, 2 tool wagons, 3 forges, 850 chesses, 196 balks, and the necessary harnesses, &c., to make the outfit complete. This Regiment carried its own supply of substance and forage on the wagons in the above list. The length of bridges which could be built from this train by cutting small timber for the balk was 850 feet. Right Wing-pontoniers, First Missouri Engineers, Lieut. Col. William Tweeddale commanding; strength, 530 men. Materials: 28 canvas pontoon boats complete, 28 boat wagons, 600 chesses, 15 chess-wagons, 196 claw balks, 1 forge, 1 battery wagon, 2 tool wagons (a general assortment), 7 forge wagons, and a sufficient quantity of harnesses, rope, &c. links of bridge, 580 feet; total length of bridges, 1,430 feet.

The foregoing was the engineer organization and equipment which was considered sufficient to make the campaign which I knew would be made to Savannah.

On the 7th of November I received a telegram from General Sherman directing me to take charge of the destruction of the railroads, depot, steam machinery, &c., in the city of Atlanta. On the 9th I telegraphed as follows: "I am all ready to do the work assigned me, and will act the instant I get your orders to do so." I had called together the commanding officers of the engineer regiments and explain to them just what I wanted done and we had selected the buildings and works for destruction. On the morning of the 12th General Sherman directed me to proceed with my work, but be careful not to use fire, which would endanger other buildings than those set apart for destruction. The engineer regiments were divided into detachments, under picked officers, each of whom received a written order as follows:

You will please take the detachment now under your orders to the first high chimney (stating locality and building) and throw it down, and continued to work along (stating the route) until you reach (the point designated as the limit of work for this detachment), being careful not to use fire in doing the work, since it would endanger buildings which is not intended to destroy.

These orders were faithfully carried out, and neither fire nor power were used to for destroying buildings until after they had been put in ruins by battering down the walls, throwing down smokestacks, breaking up furnace arches, knocking steam machinery to pieces, and punching all boilers full of holes. The railroads within the limits of the old rebel defenses were destroyed by tearing up the rail, piling up the ties, and after putting the rails across them firing the wood which heated the iron in the rails were twisted. The rails were torn up by using a small but very strong iron "cant hook," devised by myself, and after they were heated were twisted by applying the same hooks at each end of each rail in twisting the iron bar around its horizontal axis, being careful to give the rail at least a half turn. The length of railroad destroyed in this manner, within the limits indicated above, was about ten miles. The depot, car sheds, machine shops, and water tanks were also destroyed.

It was not until the evening of the 15th of November that fire was applied to the heaps of rubbish we had made. I was upon the ground in person to see that the work was done in a proper and orderly manner; and, as far is engineer troops were concerned, this was the case. But many buildings in the business part of the city were destroyed by lawless persons, who, by sneaking around in blind alleys, succeeded in firing many houses where which were not intended to torch.

Three army corps's moved on the morning of the 15th of November, striking boldly out towards the sea. On the morning of the 16th the other army corps in the headquarters military division moved. The map forwarded to the Bureau of Engineers with my letter dated Goldsboro, N. C., April 7, 1865, will indicate the routes pursued by each army corps until our arrival in front of Savannah. During this march the Augusta railroad was destroyed, as described above, to include the Oconee bridge. The Georgia Central was destroyed from Walnut Creek, within three miles of Macon, to the city of Savannah. The Charleston and Savannah Railroad from the Savannah River bridge to Savannah, the Savannah and Gulf Railroad from Savannah to the Altamaha, the branch from Midland to Augusta for several miles from Millen, and branch from Gordon to Eatonton suffered severely.

Pontoon bridges were built at the following points: over the Yellow River, at railroad crossing, 100 feet; over the Ulcofanhachee, at road crossing, 80 feet; over the Ocmulgee, at Planters´ factory, 200 feet; over the Little River, at the railroad crossing, 250 feet; over the Oconee River, at Balls Ferry, 300 feet; over the Buffalo Creek, old Sandersville Road, 400 feet; over the Buffalo Creek, on the upper Sandersville Road, 400 feet; over the Ogeechee River, on Louisville Road, 200 feet; over the Ogeechee River, Jones ferry, 300 feet; over the Buck Head Creek, on Millen Road, 100 feet; over the Little Ogeechee, at Dolphins Ferry, 250 feet; over the Ogeechee, at Hilton´s Bridge, 300 feet; total, 3460 feet.

On the 10th of December the army arrived in front of Savannah. Reconnaissances were pushed south of the Cannouchee River, and, fortunately, a plan for Ford McAllister was found. Other reconnaissances were made along the entire extent of the enemy's front, which was found located along the southeastern edge of the chain of swamps running from the Savannah River, opposite King´s Island, via the point where the Ogeechee road crossed Salt Marsh Creek, to the junction between the Salt Marsh Creek and the Little Ogeechee , and thence through the Vernon, Rosedew, and Beaulieu batteries to Fort McAllister. This line was entrenched in the usual manner, and the defenses were greatly strengthened by closing the sluice gates at the Savannah River and building dams across the Salt Marsh Creek, in effect being to make a body of water in front of their entire line.

On the 11th it was decided to attack Fort McAllister, as that was the only obstacle to our free communication with the fleet in Ossabaw Sound. The enemy had destroyed the bridge over the Ogeechee, on the Darien road, commonly known as the "King´s bridge." This was rebuilt by the First Missouri Engineers, under direction of Capt. C. B. Rees, Corps of Engineers, and chief engineer Department of the Army of the Tennessee, and on the morning of the 13th the Second Division, Fifteenth Army Corps, crossed over and moved along the south bank of the river, reaching the vicinity of Fort McAllister in the afternoon. As soon as the troops could be properly formed the assault was made, and the Fort was carried in handsome style. The same evening the general commanding the military division pass down the river and communicated with the fleet. Fort McAllister stood on the right bank of the Ogeechee River, at the first point of "fast land" met with in ascending that stream, and perfectly commanding the channel. The trace of the fort was irregular, the waterfront conforming to the shoreline in the line of "fast land," while the land front was on a regular bastion trace. The guns - of which there were twenty-two - were generally mounted in barbetts. The fort was provided on its land front with a good ditch, having a row of stout palisades at its bottom, well built glacis, and a row of excellent abatis, exterior to which was planted a row of 8 inch shells arranged to explode when trodden upon. These shells were arranged in a single road just outside the abatis, and were about 3 feet from center to center. It was impossible to move an assaulting force upon the fort without suffering from the explosion of these shells. The fact that nearly all the guns of the fort were mounted in barbett rendering it much easier to carry an assault, since our skirmish line advancing at a run readily approached within 200 yards, and by filling themselves flat on the ground were well concealed by the high grass, and could pick off the rebel gunners at their leisure, readily silencing the fire of the fort, after which are assaulting force was formed in full view of and not more than 500 yards from the parapet.

After the capture of Fort McAllister the obstructions in the river, consisting of a double row of piles and torpedoes, were removed, and steamboat ascended to the King's Bridge, where was established our depot of supplies. Some of the guns were removed from Fort McAllister and there preparatory to placing them in battery all on our lines, and six 30-pounder Parrotts were brought down from Hilton Head for the same purpose. We were fast getting ready for another assault, which would this time had been made directly upon their main lines, when, on the night of the 20th of December, the enemy, crossing the Savannah River on a bridge of flat boats, made their escape, having abandoned a large number of guns and other material of war, and blowing up his iron-clads. In this case, as in that of Atlanta, no attempt was made to make regular siege approaches. Our lines were thrust forward at all points to the edge of the water defenses of the enemy without any necessity for siege approaches, and upon that it was useless to attempt anything of the kind. We could only get into the rebel lines by open assault, which was deemed quite practicable, particularly near the crossing of the Ogeechee Road over Salt Marsh Creek, and in front of our batteries at Shaw´s Bridge, over the Ogeechee Canal. I had closely reconnoitered the latter point and found that the natural obstacles were not very great, but the enemy's words were strongest here. Soon after our occupation of the city of Savannah, the major general commanding directed me to select a new line, to be intrenched for the defense of such stores, depots, and material as we would leave here in future operations. In company with Captain Reese, I made a careful reconnaissance, and decided upon the location and character of the works. These were, in their main features, a system of large lunettes to be closed at the Gorge and to be placed in defensive relations with each other, so that they might be held independently, but to be also connected by curtains of infantry parapet, so as to be used as a continuous line, if that was deemed desirable. The estimated garrison was 5,000 men. The location of the was very nearly the same as those of 1814.

Before leaving Savannah on the campaign through the Carolinas, by request of General Grover, who was left in command at Savannah, I handed him a paper, which the following is a copy:

Chief Engineer's Office,
Savannah, Georgia, January 21, 1865.

General: in accordance with the request I have the honor of submitting the following memoranda, with references to the defenses of the city of Savannah:

First. The defense of the city itself: this is accomplished by the line of works now in process of construction, after the plan indicated in my letter to Major-General Sherman, dated December 26, 1864. These works are now ready to receive sixty guns, partly siege and partly field artillery, and in my opinion are in a condition which would warrant their defense by the garrison estimated for. Captain Suter, U.S. Engineers, and Chief Engineer Department of the South, has been furnished with a trace of this line, on which the several positions of the guns composing the complete armament are indicated. Captain Suter has also been furnished with those maps captured at this city which relate to the defense. Opposite the city, on the main Carolina shore, two small works should be built to command the Union causeway and the Huger causeway. The above contemplation place an attack by a much larger force than the garrison, and, in my opinion, would never be made.

Second. The defense of the approaches: Three main roads lead into the city from inland, viz, the Ogeechee plank road (Darien road), the Louisville stage road, the Augusta stage road. The last to join within one mile and a half of the city. The points were the enemy´s late lines crossed the roads furnish the best defense. When taken in conjunction with the obstacles formed by opening this sluice gates at high tide the positions are strong. If the bridge across the Ogeechee at King´s is destroyed, it effectually cuts all direct approach by that road, and it can only be reached by crossing the river above in getting to it by some of the numerous cross-roads. An enemy would not be likely to do this, unless he were in largely superior force, since he would necessarily put himself in a "pocket"


Third. The defense of the river navigation: This is best accomplished by a force stationed at this city large enough to go out and fight any enemy that would be likely to approach. In order that our opponents might reach any of the points where they could injure us much, they would be compelled to thrust themselves some miles beyond us, leaving whatever garrison there might be in Savannah on their flank and in rear. They could not interrupt navigation without establishing themselves in inclosed works upon the bank of the Saint Augustine Creek (we hold Fort Jackson), and a very short time with suffice for the capture of any enemy having temerity enough to do this. With all our great resources of water transportation I regard it impossible for our enemy to make successful lodgment on Saint Augustine Creek.

I am, Gen., very respectfully, your obedient servant,

O. M. Poe,
Captain of Engineers, Chief Engineer Mil. Div. of the Mississippi.

A Map is in the course of preparation, under my direction, which will clearly show the topography of Savannah and vicinity, the works of attack and defense, the new lines constructed during our occupation of the city, and the lines of 1814. As soon as completed it will be forwarded to the Engineering Department.

All of which is respectfully submitted,

O. M. Poe,
Captain of Engineers, Chief Engineer Mil. Div. of the Mississippi.



Title: The war of the rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies.
Series 1Volume XLIV; Part 1, Capt. Orlando M. Poe, Corps of Engineers, U.S. Army, Chief Engineer. Pages 56 - 63
Chapter:LVI - Operations in South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. November 14-December 31, 1864
Author: United States. War Dept., John Sheldon Moody, Calvin Duvall Cowles, Frederick Caryton Ainsworth, Robert N. Scott, Henry Martyn Lazelle, George Breckenridge Davis, Leslie J. Perry, Joseph William Kirkley
Published: Washington: Government Printing Office
Date: 1893