Major George W. Anderson commanded the modest garrison of about 230 men inside Fort McAllister, the key to Savannah's coastal defenses. After serving with the Republican Blues -- a Savannah militia outfit-- for several years, Anderson took command of the unit when his uncle, John Wayne Anderson, retired in late 1862. When the commander of Fort McAllister, Maj. John B. Gallie, died on February 1, 1863, Anderson stepped into his place.
In December, 1864, when he emerged from the Georgia interior, Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman determined to attack McAllister, so that he might establish contact with the supply ships waiting just beyond the fort's artillery range. On December 13, a force of around 4,000 men led by Gen. William Hazen swept over the abatis and other deadly impediments and into the fort, leaving Major Anderson a prisoner-of-war and Savannah effectively in Union hands. Anderson and Hazen had been acquainted before the war, and recognized each other almost immediately amidst the fighting. Hazen writes, "As I leaped upon the parapet, the first man I saw was [Maj. Anderson]... He was lying on his back...contused by the butt of a gun. He recognized and spoke to me." According to Anderson, Hazen cried, "Get to the rear, George, and report to me later."
It was a point of pride among Anderson and his men that the fort had not been surrendered, but had to be taken by force. Lt. Col. Strong, who helped capture the Confederate stronghold, wrote that, "Major Anderson, commanding the fort, fought his men right gallantly till the very last moment, and in fact never surrendered at all. The garrison was captured one man at a time, or in squads, after our troops had gained possession of the fort."
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