Monday, February 29, 1864

On board Diana, February 29, 1864

Major-General HALLECK, Washington, D. C.:

DEAR GENERAL: I got back from Meridian yesterday, and am now hurrying down to see General Banks as to some of the details of the expedition against Shreveport. I have yours of February 16, and fully appreciate the points you state. I know Grant well enough to believe he don’t want your place. I doubt if he ever dreamed of his own advancement so high, and should he be made lieutenant-general, I think he will stay in command of the great “army of the center”.

My movement to Meridian stampeded all Alabama. Polk retreated across the Tombigbee and left me to break railroad and smash things at pleasure. I think it is well done. Weather and everything favored me, and I do not regret that the enemy spared me battle at so great a distance out from the river. It would have been terrible to have been encumbered with hundreds of wounded. Our loss was trifling, and we broke absolutely and effectually a full hundred miles of railroad at and around Meridian. No car can pass through that place this campaign.

We lived off the country and made a swath of desolation 50 miles broad across the State of Mississippi, which the present generation will not forget. We bring in some 500 prisoners, a good many refugee families, and about 10 miles of negroes. I am afraid to guess at the number, but it was a string of ox wagons, negro women, and children behind each brigade that equaled in length the brigade itself, and I had twelve brigades.

I left the army at Canton, with orders to break up some more of the railroad there, and come to Vicksburg, ready to embark by March 7. The destruction of Meridian makes it simply impossible for the enemy to risk anything but light cavalry this side of Pearl River. Consequently, I can reduce the garrisons of Memphis, Vicksburg, and Natchez to mere guards, and, in fact, it will set free 15,000 men for other duty.

I could have gone on to Mobile or over to Selma, but without other concurrent operations it would have been unwise. If Red River will admit of similar prompt and decisive movement on Shreveport, I see no reason why Grant should not be re-enforced in all April with 20,000 men from this quarter. I am a little afraid that there are too many to consult. Banks, Steele, and I to act in one scheme, I’m afraid of some accident; not of feeling, for I hope such cannot be, but want of authority to compel as to time of movement to insure concurrent and contemporaneous action. I will see General Banks tomorrow in New Orleans, confer with him a day, and be back at Vicksburg by March 5 or 6 ready to embark 10,000 men for this new blow.

I inclose herewith to you for such action as you please on an original paper, Johnston’s order to Pemberton to evacuate Vicksburg May 17, 1863. Our army got to the rear of Vicksburg May 18, preventing its evacuation and resulting in the capture of the army. Pemberton should have this paper, which probably never reached him. Second, a declaration of independence by certain people who are trying to avoid the Southern conscription, and lie out in the swamps. I promised them countenance, and encouraged them to organization for mutual defense.

I am, truly, your friend.
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General

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