General Sherman's Christmas: Savannah, 1864

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9781400113910: General Sherman's Christmas: Savannah, 1864
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General Sherman's Christmas opens on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 24, 1864, one month before Christmas. Sherman was relentlessly pushing his troops across Georgia, reaching Savannah days before Christmas. His methodical encroachment of the city from all sides eventually convinced Confederate general W. J. Hardee to slip away in darkness across an improvised causeway toward South Carolina to the north. In freezing rain and terrifying fog, soldiers with their equipment crossed an improvised pontoon bridge across the mile-wide Savannah River.

Three days before Christmas, the mayor, Richard Arnold, surrendered the city, populated now mostly by women and children and slaves who had not fled. Then General Sherman telegraphed to Abraham Lincoln, "I beg to present you as a Christmas-gift the city of Savannah." The end of the long war was in sight.

The siege of Savannah took place as its inhabitants were preparing for Christmas, and Stanley Weintraub explores what remained of the holiday in the South by the last full year of the war. On Christmas Eve, the 33rd Massachusetts Regiment band serenaded Sherman and "a constant stream" of freed slaves filed by the house he had taken over for his headquarters. That he had come at Christmas was immensely symbolic to them.

Including the voices of soldiers and civilians on both sides of the conflict, General Sherman's Christmas is the perfect holiday present for the history buff.

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From the Back Cover:

From the author of the bestselling Silent Night comes a close look at the embattled holiday season of 1864, when Major General W. T. Sherman gave President Lincoln the city of Savannah and paved the way for the end of the Civil War.

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 fêted 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.

About the Author:

Stanley Weintraub is a historian, biographer, and professor emeritus of arts and humanities at Pennsylvania State University, as well as the author of Silent Night and General Washington's Christmas.

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9780061702983: General Sherman's Christmas: Savannah, 1864

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ISBN 10:  0061702986 ISBN 13:  9780061702983
Publisher: Smithsonian, 2009
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