The fighting hardly disturbed the daily routine. Sherman was never in danger; though wiseacre Washington, supposing that he ought to be, used to pester Lincoln, who always replied: "Grant says the men are safe with Sherman, and that if they can't get out where they want to, they can crawl back by the hole they went in at." This seemed to allay anxiety; though the truth was that Sherman's real safety lay in going ahead to the Union sea, not in retracing his steps over the devastated line of his advance.
On approaching Savannah a mounted officer was blown up by a land torpedo, his horse killed, and himself badly lacerated. Sherman at once sent his prisoners ahead to dig up the other torpedoes or get blown up by those they failed to find. No more explosions took place. Savannah itself was strongly entrenched and further defended by Fort McAllister. Against this fort Sherman detached his own old Shiloh division of the Fifteenth Corps, now under the very capable command of General William B. Hazen. As the day wore on Sherman became very impatient, watching for Hazen's attack, when a black object went gliding up the Ogeechee River toward the fort. Presently a man-of-war appeared flying the Stars and Stripes and signaling, "Who are you?" On getting the answer, "General Sherman", she asked, "Is Fort McAllister taken?" and immediately received the cheering assurance, "No; but it will be in a minute." Then, just as the signal flags ceased waving, Hazen's straight blue lines broke cover, advanced, charged through the hail of shot, shell, and rifle bullets, rushed the defenses, and stood triumphant on the top.
Before midnight Sherman was writing his dispatches on board the U.S.S. Dandelion and examining those received from Grant. He learned now, from Grant's of the third (ten days before), that Thomas was facing Hood round Nashville and that the Government, and even Grant, were getting very impatient with Thomas for not striking hard and at once. A week later the Confederate general, Hardee, managed to evacuate Savannah before his one remaining line of retreat had been cut off. He was a thorough soldier. But men and means and time were lacking; and the civil population hoped to save all that was not considered warlike stores. Thus immense supplies fell into Sherman's hands. Savannah was of course placed under martial law. But as the wax was now nearing its inevitable end, and the citizens were thoroughly "subjugated," those who wished to remain were allowed to do so. Only two hundred left, going to Charleston under a flag of truce.
The following official announcement reached Lincoln on Christmas Eve.
Savannah, Georgia, December 22, 1864.
To His Excellency President Lincoln, Washington, D. C.
I beg to present you as a Christmas gift the city of Savannah, with one hundred and fifty heavy guns and plenty of ammunition, also about twenty-five thousand bales of cotton. W. T. Sherman, Major-General.
In the meantime Hood's desperate sortie had struck north as far as Franklin, Tennessee. Here, on the last of November, General John Schofield, commanding the advanced part of Thomas's army, gallantly withstood a furious attack. On this the closing day of a lingering Indian summer the massed Confederates charged with the piercing rebel yell, and charged again; re-formed under cover of the dense pall of stationary smoke; and returned to the charge again and again. Many a leader met his death right against the very breastworks. Another would instantly spring forward, only to fall in his turn. Thirteen times the gaunt gray lines rushed madly through the battle smoke and lost their front ranks against the withering fire before the autumn night closed in. Schofield then fell back on Brentwood, halfway on the twenty miles to Nashville. He had lost over two thousand men. But Hood had lost three times as many; and Hood's were irreplaceable except by a very few local recruits.