JANUARY 24TH, 1865: Major General W.T. Sherman commenced his march north from Savannah while the ships of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron operated in the rivers in the proximity of his army. These naval operations served to protect Sherman's army and simultaneously forced Confederate commanders to spread thin their remaining forces.
Rear Admiral Dahlgren reported to Secretary Welles the deployment of naval vessels supporting the advance of Sherman's men: "I have the Dai Ching and a tug on the Combahee to assist the move at the ferry. The Sonoma is in the North Edisto, and the Pawnee leaves at early light with a tug to the Ashepoo, where a battery and obstructions are reported.
"The orders of all is to drive in the rebel pickets and knock down his batteries where they can be reached. The Tuscorora, Mingoe, State of Georgia, and Nipsic are at Georgetown with orders to prevent erection there of any batteries.
"The Pontiac is in the Savannah River at Purysburg, advancing with General Sherman's extreme left. The demonstration desired by General Sherman at Charleston may be said to be begun by the collection there of so many ironclads.