TO ULYSSES S. GRANT
Private & Confidential
Head-Quarters, Military Division of the Mississippi, Nashville, Tennessee
April 10 1864
Lt. General U. S. Grant, Commander in Chief, Washington D.C.
Your two letters of April 4 are now before me, and afford me infinite satisfaction. That we are now all to act on a Common plan, Converging on a Common Center looks like Enlightened War. Like yourself, you take the biggest load and from me you shall have thorough and hearty cooperation. I will not let side issues draw me off from your main plan in which I am to Knock Joe Johnston, and do as much damage to the resources of the Enemy as possible.
I have heretofore written to General Rawlins and Colonel Babcock of your staff somewhat of the method in which I propose to act. I have seen all my army, Corps and Division Commanders and have signified only to the former, viz. Schofield, Thomas and McPherson, our general plans, which I inferred from the purport of our conversation here and at Cincinnati.
First I am pushing stores to the Front with all possible despatch, and am completing the organization according to the orders from Washington which are ample & perfectly satisfactory. I did not wish to displace Palmer, but asked George Thomas to tell me in all frankness exactly what he wanted. All he asked is granted and all he said was that Palmer felt unequal to So large a Command and would be willing to take a Division provided Buell or some tried & experienced soldier were given the Corps. But on the whole Thomas is now well content with his Command, so are Schofield & McPherson.
It will take us all of April to get in our furloughed veterans, to bring up A. J. Smith’s command, and to collect provisions and cattle to the Line of the Tennessee. Each of the three armies will guard by detachments of its own, their Rear Communications. At the signal to be given, by you, Schofield will leave a select Garrison at Knoxville & Loudon and with 12,000 men drop down to Hiwassee & march on Johnston’s Right by the Old Federal Road. Stoneman, now in Kentucky organizing the Cavalry forces of the Army of the Ohio, will operate with Schofield on his left front, it may be pushing a select body of about 2000 Cavalry by Ducktown on Elijay & towards Athens.
Thomas will aim to have 45,000 men of all arms and move straight on Johnston wherever he may be, fighting him cautiously, persistently and to the best of advantage. He will have two Divisions of Cavalry to take advantage of any offering.
McPherson will have nine Divisions of the Army of the Tennessee if A. J. Smith get in, in which case he will have full 30,000 of the best men in America. He will cross the Tennessee at Decatur and Whitesburg, march towards Rome and feel for Thomas. If Johnston fall behind the Coosa, then McPherson will push for Rome, and if Johnston then fall behind the Chattahoochie as I believe he will, then McPherson will cross and join with Thomas. McPherson has no cavalry, but I have taken one of Thomas’ Divisions, viz. Garrards, 6000 strong, which I now have at Columbia mounting Equipping and preparing. I design this Division to operate on McPhersons Right Rear or Front according as the Enemy appears. But the moment I detect Johnston falling behind the Chattahoochee I propose to cast off the Effective part of this Cavalry Division after crossing Coosa, straight for Opelika, West Point, Columbus or Wetumpka, to break up the Road between Montgomery and Georgia. If Garrard can do this work good he can return to the main army, but should a superior force interpose, then he will seek safety at Pensacola, and join Banks, or after Rest act against any force that he can find on the East of Mobile, till such time as he can reach me.
Should Johnston fall behind Chattahoochee, I would feign to the Right but pass to the Left and act on Atlanta or on its Eastern communications according to developed facts. This is about as far ahead as I feel disposed to look, but I would ever bear in mind that Johnston is at all times to be kept so busy that he cannot in any event send any part of his command against you or Banks. If Banks can at the Same time carry Mobile and open up the Alabama River he will in a measure solve the most difficult part of my problem, Provisions. But in that I must venture. Georgia has a million of Inhabitants. If they can live, we should not starve. If the enemy interrupt my communications I will be absolved from all obligations to subsist on our own resources, but feel perfectly justified in taking whatever & whereever I can find. I will inspire my command if successful with my feeling that Beef & Salt are all that is absolutely necessary to Life, & parched Corn fed General Jackson’s Army once, on that very ground.
As Ever your friend & Servant
W. T. Sherman, Major General