On this date in 1864, the grand old city of Savannah, Georgia, fell to Union forces during the American Civil War. It was the beginning of the end, as Union Major General William T. Sherman’s remaining 62,000 men finalized their March to the Sea by capturing Savannah. The march, which began on November 15, swept through Georgia, wreaking havoc and destruction in its path. The Union Army captured Atlanta without much trouble, and continued on until they reached Savannah. The intention was to sweep upward toward Virginia, and with the help of Union Lt. General Ulysses S. Grant’s army, strangle Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s forces. In the end, the ploy worked.
Confederate Generals Joseph Wheeler and William J. Hardy’s men opposed, but in the end, they fled across the Savannah River, leaving the citizens to fend for themselves. Because Sherman thought the city was so lovely, he decided (thankfully) not to raze it.
One Confederate officer estimated that 10,000 slaves followed the Union Army on their way to freedom, but instead, met their demise through “hunger, disease, and exposure.” Sherman himself estimated that his army had inflicted $100 million in damage, which is over 1.5 billion in today’s dollars. The Federal Army destroyed railroads, bridges, telegraph lines, and seized over 22,000 head of livestock. It also took 20 million pounds of corn and fodder, and destroyed an unaccountable number of cotton mills and gins.