I received today letters from Grant and Halleck approving my raid on Meridian.
NASHVILLE, January 15, 1864
Major General W. T. SHERMAN, Commanding Department of the Tennessee:
Inclosed I send you copy of a letter just received from General Halleck, one from him to Steele, and my latter of this date to Halleck. The latter contains all the instructions I deem necessary to you in your present move.
Your dispatch suggesting the move on Meridian received and approved. Nearly all the troops in Thomas’s and Dodge’s commands having less than one year to serve have re-enlisted, and many of them have been furloughed. This, with the fact that Longstreet’s presence in East Tennessee makes it necessary from me to keep always ready a force to meet them, will prevent me doing much more than is indicated in my letter to General Halleck. I will have, however, both Thomas and Logan ready, so that if the enemy should weaken himself much in front they can advance. I see no special reason now for keeping up the force from Memphis to Corinth any longer. If you think proper, therefore, you may advance the whole of that line. Should you do so order all the locomotives and cars on the road shipped to this place at once.
Whilst you are at Vicksburg, order the shipment of all cars that can be spared from that road also. One locomotive and the cars are sufficient to keep there.
U. S. GRANT, Major-General
I sent General Grant my reply:
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE TENNESSEE, Memphis, January 24, 1864
Major General U. S. GRANT,
Commanding Division of the Mississippi:
DEAR GENERAL: I have received at the hands of Colonel Duff your letter of the 15th instant, with copies of yours to General Halleck and those of General Halleck to you and General Steele. All these concur in their general plan, and acts thus far are perfectly in accordance. The Sixteenth Corps had become so domiciled at Memphis and along the railroad that it is like pulling teeth to get them started, but I think three division (Veatch’s, Tuttle’s, and A. J. Smith’s) will be embarked today and tomorrow for the south. The cavalry under General William Sooy Smith should also be ready tomorrow, the day appointed, when I will start the former in the boats already collected here for Vicksburg, and the latter by land in light order for Pontotoc, Okolona, Meridian, &c.
As soon as the cavalry is off I will haste for Vicksburg, and with the infantry and a sufficient force of artillery (double-teamed) will start for Black River, Jackson, Brandon, and Meridian. I will use all caution, and feel no doubt unless Johnston had caught wind of our movement and brought an additional force from Georgia, which I do not believe. I have that William Sooy Smith will have a force of cavalry superior to that of Forrest and Stephen D. Lee, which is all that can meet him, and General Polk cannot have at Canton, Brandon, and Meridian a force to beat me.
Admiral Porter is hourly looked for, and I will confer with him. I will ask him to send a squadron of light-draught gun-boats up the Yazoo, and may send Hawkins up as far as Greenwood with orders, if the opportunity offers, to strike Grenada another blow. This would make a diversion, confuse the enemy, and demonstrate the value to us as a military channel of the Yazoo. It my be that Forrest will let Smith pass down and make a dash for Memphis. I leave General Buckland in command here with about 3,200 men. These, with the fort, will assure the safety of the place, but in addition General Veatch, under my orders, has enrolled three regiments of citizens, to whom I will issue arms, partial clothing, and ammunition, and have ordered the quartmaster to set aside for their use as armories cotton sheds, which will make excellent citadels or block-houses.
The mayor and citizens offered me a dinner, and I had to accept. I recall your experience, and as the affair comes off tonight I will try to be cautious in any remarks I will be forced to make. I pity you when you will have to go back to the States, for you will not be allowed to eat or sleep for the curious intrusion of the dear people.
Red River is still low, but should it rise by the time we get back form Meridian I will be tempted to help again Shreveport. Steele could move direct by land to Arkadelphia and Fulton; Banks could regain Opelousas and Alexandria; the admiral and I could pass directly up their river to Shreveport. This would be a consecutive movement, but a little risky if Dick Taylor, Price, and Magruder should unite; but the latter is supposed to be off in Texas, and the two former do not seem to pull together.
I will send you a messenger the moment I can after I reach Meridian. My supposition is that you will want William Sooy Smith with his calvary back to Pulaski by March, and will keep that in mind as soon as he can be spared. I am much troubled by the promises we have made the veteran for the furloughs. All want the furloughs at once. I doubt if thirty-five days will see any of them back. Once at home they will be beyond our reach and control.
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General