Diary of Orrin Brown, Savannah, Georgia
We got up this morning about 5 Oclock prepaired our breakfast and fell into line at 7 AM marched to the City for General Review we paraded through town and haulted in Broad Street to await the coming of the Hon. Gen. Sherman. Presently we had orders to present Arms and here came the Gen. and his staff but I did not see but what they were all men like ourselves only they had a little nicer clothes on and were on horseback. The Gen. rode along in front of us with his horse on the trot so that I did not have a fair sight of him but he looked as though he might be a pretty smart man.
The City of Savannah is built principaly of Brick with the chimneys runing up the ends of the buildings on the outside like the old log houses used to be in the north. The streets are generally narrow and well shaded with Live Oak trees, Broad Street is a little wider with three rows of shade trees. Business is entirely suspended all of the buisness houses being guarded. We got back to camp about 2 PM. The day has been clear and warm but it is cloudy and a little cooler this evening.
Savannah fared much better than Atlanta had in occupation. After the initial delay to prepare evacuation, the city had not actively resisted the Union army, and didn’t host the war making capacity that Atlanta had in its iron mills and supply depots. In his Official Report, Sherman wrote: “This may seem a hard species of warfare, but it brings the sad realities of war home to those who have been directly or indirectly instrumental in involving us in its attendant calamities.” It was infrastructure that Gen. Sherman was after, not necessarily the civilian population, but he wasn’t afraid of bringing the war home to those who actively instigated the entire affair.
Sherman may have also had a soft-spot for this city, as he had spent a good deal of time in the area during his earlier Army postings. Sherman wrote: “inasmuch as the inhabitants generally have manifested a friendly disposition, I shall disturb them as little as possible…” As John Rogers writes in his blog describing his family stories of the March:
In 1864, Savannah remained a jewel of southern cities. Its antebellum character had been one of an elegant but bustling city of business built around the cotton trade. Since its founding, Savannah had remained Georgia’s largest city and center of commerce. According to the 1860 census, the city’s population was 14,580 free persons (including 705 free blacks) and 7,712 slaves. Although commerce was appreciably affected by three years of civil war and the essential closing of its port by the Union blockade, the beauty and charm of the city remained largely intact. General Sherman, in his memoirs, described the city as he found it in December of 1864:
The city of Savannah was an old place, and usually accounted a handsome one. Its houses were of brick or frame, with large yards, ornamented with shrubbery and flowers; its streets perfectly regular, crossing each other at right angles; and at many of the intersections were small inclosures in the nature of parks. These streets and parks were lined with the handsomest shade-trees of which I have knowledge, viz., the Willow-leaf live-oak, evergreens of exquisite beauty; and these certainly entitled Savannah to its reputation as a handsome town more than the houses, which, though comfortable, would hardly make a display on Fifth Avenue or the Boulevard Haussmann of Paris.