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Therefore their goods shall become a booty, and their houses a desolation: they shall also build houses, but not inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, but not drink the wine thereof.

Lieutenant-General W.J. Hardee, C.S.A., author of the manual on Rifle and light infantry tactics : for the exercise and manoeuvres of troops when acting as light infantry or riflemen

One of the more overlooked aspects of the war of northern aggression is the systematic looting, prior to the equally systematic destruction, of conquered territory. In his letter “gifting” Savannah to Lincoln the items are generally itemized as “150 heavy guns & plenty of ammunition & also about 25,000 bales of cotton.” This last item was of more importance than the guns since Lincoln had bankrupted the states that formed the northern alliance and was, by the time of this battle, selling every bale of cotton captured as well as dealing with some in Southern states to procure even more cotton for sale to England at premium prices. This latter practice, had it been revealed, may well have seen him impeached for treason since the monies paid were being used to fund the Southern War for Independence and the irony is that it was Southern cotton that bought the bullets for both sides.

General Sherman’s Christmas : Savannah, 1864    [Washington, D.C.] : Smithsonian Books ; [New York] : Harper, c 2009 Stanley Weintraub Savannah (Ga.) History Siege, 1864, Sherman, William T. (William Tecumseh), 1820-1891 Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. xvi, 238 p. : ill., map ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 219-229) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

A close look at the embattled holiday season of 1864, when Major General W. T. Sherman laid siege to the city of Savannah and then “gave” it to Lincoln as a Christmas gift[sic].

General Sherman’s Christmas opens on Thanksgiving Day 1864. Sherman was relentlessly pushing his troops nearly three hundred miles across Georgia in his “March to the Sea,” to reach Savannah just days before Christmas. His methodical encroachment of the city from all sides eventually convinced Confederate general W. J. Hardee, who had refused a demand for surrender of his troops, to slip away in darkness across an improvised causeway and escape to South Carolina.

In freezing rain and through terrifying fog, equipment-burdened soldiers crossed a hastily built pontoon bridge spanning the mile-wide Savannah River. Three days before Christmas, the mayor, Richard Arnold, surrendered the city, now populated mostly by women, children, and the slaves who had not fled. General Sherman then telegraphed to Abraham Lincoln, “I beg to present you as a Christmas gift the city of Savannah with 150 heavy guns & plenty of ammunition & also about 25.000 bales of cotton.”

The fight for Savannah took place as its inhabitants were anxiously preparing for Christmas. Weintraub explores how Christmas was traditionally feted in the South and what remained of the holiday to celebrate during the waning last full year of the war. Illustrated with striking period prints, General Sherman’s Christmas captures the voices of soldiers and civilians on both sides of the conflict, as they neared the end of a long war.


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