I received the following from General Grant:
Private and confidential.
Headquarters Armies of the United States,
Washington. D. C, April 4, 1864
Major General W. T. Sherman, Commanding Military Division of the Mississippi:
General: It is my design, if the enemy keep quiet and allow me to take the initiative in the spring campaign, to work all parts of the army together and somewhat toward a common center. For your information I now write you my programme as at present determined upon.
I have sent orders to Banks by private messenger 1) to finish up his present expedition against Shreveport with all dispatch; 2) to turn over the defense of the Red River to General Steele and the navy, and return your troops to you and his own to New Orleans; 3) to abandon all of Texas except the Rio Grande, and to hold that with not to exceed 4.000 men; 4) to reduce the number of troops on the Mississippi to the lowest number necessary to hold it, and to collect from his command not less than 25,000 men; to this I will add 5.000 from Missouri. With this force he is to commence operations against Mobile as soon as he can. It will be impossible for him to commence too early.
Gillmore joins Butler with 10,000 men, and the two operate against Richmond from the south side of James River. This will give Butler 33,000 men to operate with. W. F. Smith is commanding the right wing of his forces, and Gillmore the left wing. I will stay with the Army of the Potomac, increased by Burnside’s corps of not less than 25000 effective men, and operate directly against Lee’s army wherever it may be found.
Sigel collects all his available force in two columns; one. under Ord and Averell, to start from Beverly, Va., and the other, under Crook, to start from Charleston, on the Kanawha, to move against the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad. Crook will have all cavalry, and will endeavor to get in about Saltville and move east from there to join Ord. His force will be all cavalry, while Ord will have from 10.000 to 12,000 men of all arms.
You I propose to move against Johnston’s army, to break it up and to get into the interior of the enemy’s country as far as you can, inflicting all the damage you can against their war resources.
I do not propose to lay down for you a plan of campaign, but simply to lay down the work it is desirable to have done, and leave you free to execute in your own way. Submit to me. however, as early as you can. your plan of operations.
As stated, Banks is ordered to commence operations as soon as he can. Gillmore is ordered to report at Fortress Monroe by the 18th instant, or as soon thereafter as practicable. Sigel is concentrating now. None will move- from their places of rendezvous until I direct, except Banks. I want to lie ready to move by the 25th instant if possible; but all I can now direct is that you get ready as soon as possible. I know you will have difficulties to encounter getting through the mountains to where supplies are abundant, but I believe you will accomplish it.
From the expedition from the Department of West Virginia I do not calculate on very great results, but it is the only way 1 can take troops from there. With the long line of railroad Sigel has to protect he can spare no troops, except to move directly to his front. In this way he must get through to inflict great damage on the enemy, or the enemy must detach from one of his armies a large force to prevent it. In other words, if Sigel can’t skin himself he can hold a leg whilst some one else skins.
I am general, very respectfully, your obedient servant.
U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General