When he appeared in rear of Savannah, and capturing Fort McAllister by a coup de main, communicated with the naval squadron, the transports were sent round to the mouths of the Ogeechee and Savannah Rivers, and light-draft steamers, fitted for river and bay service, which had been dispatched upon the first news of his approach, arrived in time to transfer to the landings the clothing, camp and garrison equipage, quartermaster's stores, and forage and provision which had been of necessity sent in seagoing vessels, both sail and steam, and which were of too heavy draft to enter the Ogeechee or pass through the opening first make in the artificial obstructions of the Savannah.
The army was quickly reclothed, reshod, and refitted; its wagons filled with rations and forage.
A large portion of the army was transferred by steamers from the Savannah to beaufort, S. C., or Port Royal Harbor, at which place the vessels of heavy draft could land their stores without the labor of transshipment.
After a short and much-needed rest, the army,re-equipped, left the coast, and the transports and fleet of light-draft steamers repaired to the harbor of Morehead City, where they awaited the arrival of the troops, who, after a march of 500 miles through a hostile country, without communication with their base of supplies, depending solely upon the stores in their wagons and the resources of the enemy's country for their subsistence, were certain to arrive in a condition to require an entire renewal of their clothing and shoes and a new supply of provisions.
When I parted with General Sherman at Savannah on the 19th of January he told me to look out for him at Kinston, and also to be prepared for him lower down the coast should the rebel Army of Virginia, abandoning Richmond, unite with the troops in the Carolinas and succeed in preventing his passage of the Santee.
During the month of December, also, an expedition was embarked at City Point and Fortress Monroe, which made an unsuccessful attempt, in co-operation with the navy, upon Fort Fisher, at the month of Cape Fear River. The troops failing to attack were re- embarked and returned to Hampton Roads. The transportation by sea, the landing and return, were successfully performed.
In January the expedition was re-embarked with a large force and successfully landed above Fort Fisher, which place, with the aid of a naval bombardment unexampled in severity, they carried by assault. The troops of the Twenty-third Army Corps,under General Schofield, having borne their part in the campaign in Georgia and Tennessee, after the battle of Nashville, which took place on the 15th and 16th of December, and the termination of the pursuit of the rebel army on the Tennessee, were moved by rail and river to Washington and Baltimore, where, amid many difficulties from the severity of the season, ice entirely suspending for a time the navigation of the potomac, they were embarked on ocean steamers and dispatched to the Cape Fear River and to Beaufort, N. C., to move, in co-operation with the victors of Fort Fisher, upon Wilmington and Kinston, N. C.
In anticipation of the arrival of General Sherman's army, I had order to Savannah a portion of the Military Railroad Construction Corps. Two division of the corps, as organized, with tools and materials and officers, were brought from Nashville to Baltimore by railroad. At Baltimore they were re-enforced and embarked on ocean steamers and were promptly at the rendezvous.