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  • This Week In Army History - General Sherman
  • This Week In Army History - General Sherman

On December 7, 1864, Major General William T. ShermanAca,!a,,cs Union army closed on Savannah as they concluded their March to the Sea. They faced a difficult job taking the city by assault, and with the army stopped by the Savannah defenses, supplies stopped coming in. It was imperative that a supply line be opened to a fleet waiting to provide for ShermanAca,!a,,cs army. The nearest avenue to those ships was the Ogeechee River south of Savannah, and the last obstacle was Fort McAllister, a large, earthen fort guarding the river entrance.

Sherman ordered the 2nd Division of the 15th Army Corps to take the fort. This was his old division, the one he commanded at Shiloh. On December 13, the fort was captured, opening the route to the sea. That evening Sherman traveled downriver to confer with General John Foster, commander of the U.S. forces at Hilton Head.

In the course of the meeting, treasury agent Albert Browne spoke with Sherman. Having been in the saddle for days Sherman was obviously a little worse for wear, but what struck Browne was ShermanAca,!a,,cs hat. He remarked: Aca,!A"For a man of your rank and reputation, you wear a shocking bad hat.Aca,!A? Sherman replied: Aca,!A"Well, what would you expect, Browne' ItAca,!a,,cs seen a lot of hard service. YouAca,!a,,cve got a good hat, IAca,!a,,cll swap you.Aca,!A? Aca,!A"DoneAca,!A? said Browne, and the trade was made.

Sherman departed that night wearing BrowneAca,!a,,cs hat. Browne kept ShermanAca,!a,,cs worn hat that had probably seen hard service since Vicksburg. He eventually sent it home to Massachusetts, where he gave it to his nephew, Joseph Browne Gardner.

Browne probably saw his old hat again in late December when he visited Sherman in Savannah after the city had been taken. When Savannah fell, a large quantity of cotton had come into the possession of the army, and Browne wanted to claim it for the Treasury Department. Sherman refused to give it up, saying it belonged to his Aca,!A"boysAca,!A? since they had taken it. Browne realized he was not going to get the cotton, but he mentioned to Sherman that there was a steamer in the river due to depart for Fort Monroe, Virginia, and that he could send a telegram to President Lincoln by that steamer. Sherman quickly penned a message to Lincoln, presenting the President with the city of Savannah as a Christmas present. It was duly delivered to Lincoln, informing him of the cityAca,!a,,cs fall.

ShermanAca,!a,,cs hat remained in Massachusetts for many years in the custody of BrowneAca,!a,,cs nephew, who eventually donated it to the museum of the Massachusetts Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States (MOLLUS). It remained there until that museum closed in 1970. At that time the collection was obtained by the U.S. Army Military History Institute at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, and ShermanAca,!a,,cs hat has resided in Carlisle ever since. Today, his hat is one of the many silent witnesses to history that are part of the U.S. Army Heritage Museum Collection.

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