On December 17, 1864 Union General William Tecumseh Sherman and his army were nearing the Georgia coast. Four days earlier, his troops had overrun Fort McAllister, a Confederate fortification built to defend Savannah against naval attacks. The city of Savannah was next.
Sherman sent the head of Confederate forces in Savannah, Lieutenant-General William Joseph Hardee, a letter suggesting that Hardee surrender the city immediately. As quoted from Sherman's letter, "Should you entertain the proposition, I am prepared to grant liberal terms to the inhabitants and garrison; but should I be forced to resort to assault, or the slower and surer process of starvation, I shall then feel justified in resorting to the harshest measures."
"Your demand for the surrender of Savannah and its dependent forts is refused." wrote back Hardee. Hardee instead chose to retreat, leading his troops out of the city on December 20, leaving the locals at the mercy of the Union army which then captured the city on December 21.
On December 22, 1864 Sherman sent the following telegram to President Lincoln. “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,” signed Wm T. Sherman, Maj. General
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