December 2014 Document of the Month


One of the most famous messages of the Civil War is that from Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman to President Abraham Lincoln on December 22, 1864 presenting him with the city of Savannah, Georgia, as a “Christmas gift.”  Two days earlier, Confederate President Jefferson Davis communicated with Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard about the fate of Savannah and other cities in the path of Sherman’s apparently relentless march to the sea. 

The Museum library collection has the copy of the communication that Beauregard received (almost certainly via telegraph) Most of it was transmitted in cipher.

Davis’ letter catalogues the simultaneous threats that the Confederacy faced along the South Atlantic coast in December 1864. Not only was Sherman maneuvering to capture Savannah and possibly advancing toward Charleston, South Carolina, but Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler and Adm. David Dixon Porter were mounting a combined Federal army and navy operation against Fort Fisher guarding the inlet to Wilmington, North Carolina. The president offered little encouragement to Beauregard, whom he had recently appointed commander of the Military Division of the West.

The decoded transcript is included below, but we encourage you to try and break the code yourself!



Note: italics indicated text communicated in cipher code

Richmond 20. Gen  Beauregard

Dispatch of 18th. recd.  Enemy is concentrating before Wilmington, and the indications ar that it will be speedily attacked. Grant has been reinforced from Sheridan’s Army, and so far as known has not detached any portion of his troops. This sufficiently shows the impracticality of complying with your request for Hoke’s and Johnson’s Divisions. You will be able to judge better than myself, should the necessity arise for the evacuation of Savannah, or of Charleston, and will realize the propriety of postponing such action as long as the safety of the Army will permit. In the meantime it is proper that whatever is not needed for the defense of either, should be removed to places of greater safety. Non-combatants and all moveable property, should be sent away as promptly as possible.  Should it be necessary to evacuate Savannah, it is suggested that by massing principal part of your force so as to threaten route to Charleston , in defense as well as communication with Augusta may be maintained, and the final withdrawal from Charleston secured if it should become necessary.

Jefferson Davis



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Document of the Month Archives

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November 2014

October 2014

September 2014


August 2014

July 2014

June 2014

May 2014

April 2014

March 2014

February 2014

January 2014

December 2013

November 2013

October 2013

September 2013


August 2013

July 2013

June 2013

May 2013

April 2013

March 2013

February 2013

January 2013

December 2012

Jackson Letter   Transcription

Livingston Letter   Transcription


Booker 1862 Booker 1863

Letter Descriptions

November 2012

October 2012

September 2012

August 2012

July 2012

June 2012

Document   Explanation/Transcription

May 2012

April 2012

March 2012