This was followed up four days later by a long and careful review of Sherman’s whole western campaign, concluding with the dictum that his sole object now was to escape to some undefended point on the coast where he could be rescued by the Northern navy. The war had taken a definite turn in favour of the South; it was impossible to conceive that Sherman would venture to attack Savannah:
“For the escape or safety of Sherman and his army it is essential he should reach Beaufort, or some neighbouring point on the sea-coast as rapidly as possible. Delay would be equivalent to ruin, and he will do nothing to create it.”
Rarely, if ever, did the Times, in its now eager and avowed championship so definitely commit itself in an effort to preserve British confidence in the Southern cause. Even friends of the North were made doubtful by the positiveness of prediction indulged in by that journal whose opinions were supposed to be based on superior information. Their recourse was to a renewal of “deputations” calling on the American Minister to express steady allegiance to the Northern cause, and their relief was great when the news was received that Savannah had fallen, December 20, without a struggle. The Times recorded the event, December 29, but with no comment save that Southern prospects were less rosy than had been supposed. Then ensued a long silence, for this time there was no possibility of that editorial wiggling about the circle from excuses for misinterpretation to a complacent resumption of authoritative utterance.
For the editor, Delane, and for wise Southern sympathizers the fall of Savannah was a much harder blow than the mere loss of prestige to the Times. Courage failed and confidence in the South waned—momentarily almost vanished. Nearly two weeks passed before the Times ventured to lift again the banner of hope, and even then but half-heartedly.
“The capture of
the city completes the history of Sherman’s
march, and stamps it as one of the ablest, certainly one of
the most singular military achievements of the war.
“... The advantage gained for the Federal cause by the possession of Savannah is yet to be shown. To Sherman and his army ‘the change of base’ is indisputably a change for the better. Assuming that his position at Atlanta was as desperate as shortness of supplies and an interrupted line of retreat could make it, the command of a point near the sea-coast and free communication with the fleet is obviously an improvement. At the least the army secures full means of subsistence, and a point from which further operations may be commenced. On the other hand, the blow, as far as the Confederate Government is concerned, is mitigated by the fact that Savannah has been little used as a seaport since the capture of Fort Pulaski by the Federals at an early stage of the war.
the fall of the city is a patent fact, and it would
be absurd to deny that it has produced an impression
unfavourable to the prestige of the Confederacy.”