On 10 December, Union General William Tecumseh Sherman reached Savannah after carving a 40 mile wide swath through Southeast Georgia. Sherman declared Savannah a “Christmas present” for President Lincoln.
Prelude to the March to the Sea
The decision to march through Georgia free from Union supply lines was a stroke of genius. Confederate General John Bell Hood, after the defeat at Atlanta, tried to draw Sherman back north by cutting his communications and heading for middle Tennessee. Sherman was undeterred and set his mind on the sea and “making Georgia howl.” Sherman sent Major General George H. Thomas to face Hood in Tennessee. Hood was playing his last card in hopes of drawing Sherman north and defeating him, recruiting new troops in northern Tennessee and Kentucky, and finally heading east over the mountains to help Lee in Richmond. It was not to be, as Thomas defeated Hood decisively at the Battle of Nashville.
Sherman Reaches Savannah
Meanwhile, Sherman continued to ravage Georgia. With a width of forty miles and sometimes wider, Sherman’s forces marched from Atlanta to Savannah. Sherman’s troops were so spread out at times that he instructed his far flung commanders to burn a few barns to indicate their positions. The destruction had Sherman’s desired effect of making the people of the Confederacy, especially the fatigued troops think twice about continuing the cause. Desertion rates of Confederate forces increased heavily, especially in Georgia, with the fall of Atlanta and the march to the sea. Once on the coast, Sherman took Fort McAllister then sieged Savannah. It did not take long as the Confederate forces broke the lines to escape.
Sherman Reaches Savannah Motorcycle Ride
For a nice long ride that follows the general path, take the GA SR-16 East from I-75 (between Atlanta and Macon) to Eatonton. At Eatonton
, go South on US-441 to Milledgeville. At Milledgeville, take GA SR-24 East through Waynesboro to US-301, turn right on US-301 and go to Sylvania. At Sylvania, take GA SR-21 in to North Savannah.