Union Forces Commanded by: Brig. Gen. William B. Hazen
Confederate Forces Commanded by: Maj. George A. Anderson
**Missing and Captured
Conclusion: Union Victory
Atop a bluff on the south bank of the Ogeechee River, Fort McAllister was a key to the defense of Savannah, 15 miles to the north. During 1862 and 1863, Union warships repeatedly tried, in vain, to blast their way by the fort. Mounted by 22 large-caliber cannon, constructed of dirt and logs, and filled with bombproofs and traverses, it was as strong as it was important.
On December 10th, Gen. William T. Sherman's troops, many of them hungry and subsisting entirely on poorly husked rice from local plantations, marched from Kingston, through the heart of Georgia and reached Savannah. He began to invest the city when cavalry "discovered" Fort McAllister, lightly manned and guarding a backdoor to the Atlantic Ocean. First the bridge across the river had to be rebuilt. Manned by 230 troops, the fort was the only obstacle preventing Sherman from reaching the friendly fleet just off the Georgia coast.
Although Sherman could not see the sails of the American Navy from his perch atop a rice mill, the Union Navy was perched off Ossabaw Sound loaded with supplies, munitions and a good deal of mail. He signaled Brig. Gen. William B. Hazen to advance. Sherman determined that if he could take Fort McAllister, supply ships could reach him. Thus, he ordered Maj. Gen. O.O. Howard, commander of his right wing, to take the fort. Howard chose Hazen to accomplish the task.
Veteran soldiers manning the parapets of Fort McAllister rained deadly artillery fire on the advancing Federals. Hazen's men faced another problem as well, the land around the fort had been mined with torpedoes. Hazen, in the afternoon of the 13th, deployed 1,500 troops for the assault. With just 1 hour of daylight remaining, hazen's veterans rushed forward. Without a pause, they made their way over fallen trees, rows of abatis and chevaux-de-frise, a large ditch, and numerous 13-inch shells that had been converted into mines. Reaching the parapet, they scrambled to the top, then into the fort, where after ferocious hand-to-hand fighting, they overwhelmed the garrison. Hazen took the fort in 15 minutes.
With his supply line open, Sherman could now prepare for the siege and capture of Savannah. After Sherman's men contacted the Union Fleet, they were resupplied from the ships. Sherman began issuing messages north for the first time in 6 weeks. Less than a year earlier in Chattanooga a reporter asked Sherman, "What is your objective?" Sherman mumbled, "Salt water." Sherman had reached his objective.