Lincoln 1860

Lincoln 1860

Thursday, December 24, 2009

General Sherman's Christmas Gift To Lincoln

This week marks the 145th anniversary of the capture of Savannah, Georgia by Union troops under the command of Major General William Tecumseh Sherman. It completed his "March To The Sea" which had begun just a few weeks earlier in Atlanta. The march cut a large swath through the Georgia landscape and did much to destroy the will of the Confederacy.

After the fall of Savannah, Sherman sent a now-famous telegram to President Lincoln in which he presented the city as a "gift" to the president. The original War Department transcription of the telegram is shown above. Sherman stated: "I beg to present you as a Christmas gift the City of Savannah, with one hundred and fifty guns and plenty of ammunition, also about 25,000 bales of cotton."

Lincoln of course was overcome with joy at the news, for he recognized that it was the beginning of the end of the Civil War. On December 26, 1864 Lincoln sent an eloquent letter of thanks to Sherman, reading: "Many, many thanks for your Christmas gift - the capture of Savannah. When you were leaving Atlanta for the Atlantic coast, I was anxious, if not fearful; but feeling that you were the better judge, and remembering that 'nothing risked, nothing gained' I did not interfere. Now, the undertaking being a success, the honour is all yours; for I believe that none of us went farther to acquiesce." Lincoln went on to mention other actions by other troops and wondered what was next for Sherman and Grant. Lincoln concluded: "Please make my grateful acknowledgements to your whole army - officers and men."

Savannah suffered almost no damage during its capture by Sherman's troops. It remains much the same in appearance as it did 145 years this week. It is a beautiful southern city. If you ever have a chance to visit, take the opportunity to do so. I had the pleasure of seeing it for the first time in 2008, and was struck by the charm and history of the city.

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