Saturday, December 26, 1863

I communicated with General Halleck:

LANCASTER, OHIO, December 26, 1863

Major General H. W. HALLECK, General-in-Chief:

Mr. Ewing’s health and distress of my family almost forced me to come here for a few days, but I will be at Cairo and down the Mississippi by January 2, and strike Grenada and Shreveport, if the Admiral agrees. Hope to be back to my army at Huntsville by the time the Decatur road is done and before Grant can move. I left my command ragged, but in splendid fighting order. I fear the furloughs to veteran regiments may cripple us this spring. Will write you by mail at length.

W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General

General Halleck sent me some questions and I responded:

LANCASTER, OHIO, December 26, 1863
Major-General HALLECK, Washington, D. C.

DEAR GENERAL: I left my army in the field moving from Bridgeport to Huntsville, with orders to put in repair the railroad from Stevenson to Decatur, and Dodge’s division, of the Sixteenth Corps, has been at work from Columbia to Decatur. I estimate it will take six weeks for these two roads to be available.

With General Grant’s consent, I have come here for a few days to comfort my family, almost heart-broken at the death of our oldest boy and at the declining health of Mr. and Mrs. Ewing. I find all in better health than I had reason to expect, and on the 1st I shall start for Cairo, where by appointment I shall meet Admiral Porter to concert measures to check the attacks on our boats navigating the Mississippi.

I propose to send an expedition up the Yazoo City, to march back to the Grenada road and do a certain amount of damage. I will give general notice that for every boat fired on we will destroy some inland town, and, if need be, fire on houses, even if they have families. I know the secessionists have boasted that although we have the river, still it shall do us no good. Now, there is complicity between guerrillas and the people, and if the latter fire on our boats loaded with women and children, we should retaliate.

I shall send from Milliken’s Bend over to the Washita (Monroe or Harrisonburg) a brigade of negroes, and hold that rich district responsible for the safety of the main river from the mouth of Red River up to the Arkansas. If the admiral will agree, I will myself collect at Memphis and Vicksburg about 8,000 men and go up Red River as high as the water will permit, and make them feel their vulnerability.

The whole of the Mississippi from Cairo to the Balize should be in one command. Ought not General Grant’s command to be extended accordingly, and give General Banks all of Texas, with, of course, the right of deposit at New Orleans? I do not believe in holding possession of any part of the interior. This requires a vast force, which is rendered harmless to the enemy by its scattered parts. With Columbus, Memphis, Helena, and Vicksburg strongly held, and all other forces prepared to move to any point, we can do something, but in holding the line of the Memphis and Charleston road, inferior points on the Mississippi and the interior of Louisiana a large army is wasted in detachments.

I had a long conversation with General Grant at Nashville on these points, and he agreed I might write to you on the subject. I think I can accomplish all I here indicate, and be back at Huntsville to resume command of the army in the field before the railroads are done, and before General Grant can collect supplies on his base of the Tennessee, prepared for further aggressive movements.

I trust you are satisfied with the measure of relief we carried to Chattanooga and Knoxville.

As ever, your friend and servant,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General

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