Sunday, April 24, 1864

Nashville, Tennessee

I spent the day communicating with Grant, Halleck and my far flung commands:

Confidential. Headquarters, Military Division of the Mississippi
Nashville, Tennessee, April 24, 1864

Lieutenant General U. S. Grant, Commanding Armies of the United States, Culpeper, Va.


I now have, at the hands of Colonel Comstock, of your Staff, the letter of April 19, and am as far prepared to assume the offensive as possible; I only ask as much time as you think proper to enable me to get up McPherson’s two divisions from Cairo. Their furloughs all expire about this time, and some of them should now be in motion for Clifton, whence they march to Decatur and join on to Dodge.

McPherson is ordered to assemble the Fifteenth Corps near Larkin’s, and to get Dodge, and Blair at Decatur at the earliest possible moment. From those two points he will direct his forces on Lebanon, Summerville, and LaFayette, where he will act against Johnston if he accepts battle at Dalton, or move in the direction of Rome if he gives up Dalton and falls behind the Oostenaula or Etowah. I see there is some risk in dividing our forces, but Thomas and Schofield will have forces enough to cover all the valley as far as Dalton, and should Johnston turn his whole force against McPherson, the latter will have his bridge at Larkin’s and the route to Chattanooga via Will’s Valley and the Chattanooga. If Johnston attempts to leave Dalton, Thomas will have force enough to push on through Dalton to Kingston, which would checkmate him.

My own opinion is Johnston will be compelled to hang to his railroad, the only possible avenue of supply to his army, estimated from 45,000 to 60,000 men.

At LaFayette all our armies will be together, and if Johnston stands at Dalton we must attack him in position. Thomas feels certain that he has no material increase of force, and that he has not sent away Hardee or any part of his army.

Supplies are the great question. I have materially increased the number of cars daily. When I got here they ran from 65 to 80 per day. Yesterday the report was 193, today 134, and my estimate is 145 per day will give us daily a days accumulation.

McPherson is ordered to carry in wagons twenty days supplies, and rely on the depot at Ringgold for the renewal of his bread ration. Beeves are now being driven to the front, and my commissary, Colonel Beckwith, seems fully alive to the importance of the whole matter.

Our weakest point will be from the direction of Decatur, and I will be forced to risk something from that quarter, depending on the fact that the enemy has no force available with which to threaten our communications from that direction.

Colonel Comstock will explain much that I cannot commit to paper.

I am, with great respect,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major- General

I wrote to General Halleck:

Headquarters, Military Division of the Mississippi,
Nashville, Tenn., April 24, 1864

Major General H. W. Halleck, Washington, D. C.

Dear General:

I now send you two more newspapers, my latest from Atlanta. I don’t know if you have a quicker mail from that foreign port. I sent dates of the 18th and 19th by Colonel Comstock, and these Are of the 20th.

Of course, in spite of all secrecy, Lee and Johnston are well apprised of the concentration going on to their front and are preparing for-the conflict which they Know to be inevitable. My greatest difficulty arises from the question of supplies, but when Grant moves I will, and then stand from under.

I see a mischievous paragraph that you are dissatisfied, and will resign; of course I don’t believe it. If I did I would enter my protest. You possess a knowledge of law and of the principles or war far beyond that of any other officer in our service. You remember that I regretted your going to Washington for your own sake, but now that you are there you should not leave.

Stability is what we lack in our Government, and changes are always bad. Stand by us and encourage us by your counsels and advice. I know Grant esteems you, and I assure you I do.

I will go forward and command in person the moment I get the word start. I am now moving all my men into position and am drawing forward everything I can by way of reserve and road guards.

As ever, your friend,

Thomas reports problems with citizens who smuggle themselves onto trains.

Headquarters, Military Division of the Mississippi,
Nashville, April 24, 1864

General Thomas, Chattanooga:

You may be as severe as possible with citizens who smuggle themselves into the cars. All are prohibited from going. I have more than doubled the number of cars per day. Yesterday we got off one hundred and ninety-three cars.

If you send a staff officer, I will send you copies of General Grant’s letters. They embrace the points of mine. Time is nearly up, and you cannot have your preparations too far advanced. For the first week out we will need out few wagons.
As McPherson will not have A. J. Smith’s division, and some of his furloughed regiments will be late, you had better make ready with every man you can take along, and as McPherson’s detachments come up your surplus forces can be sent back. I will come down as soon as possible.
W. T. SHERMAN,Major- General.

Chattanooga, April 24. 1864; 10.30 p.m.

Major-General Sherman:
I will send Captain Kellogg, my aide, tomorrow to report to you. Order’s were given early this morning to concentrate General Hooker’s command. I will put in motion as many as I can. General Howard’s corps is now concentrated near Cleveland. One of the gun-boats is now on its way to this place from Bridgeport; another will be finished next week.

GEORGE H. THOMAS, Major- General
Chattanooga, April 24,1864; 10 a.m.
Major-General Sherman, Nashville:

I have given orders for the distribution of General Rousseau’s troops along the railroad from Nashville to this place, General Hooker being at the same time directed to concentrate his command in Lookout Valley. These dispositions can be completed, I hope, by the end of the month. One of the gun-boats is now ready to receive her armament and crew. Admiral Porter agreed with General Grant to furnish both if desired. I should prefer it, but willingly leave the choice to you. I can take into the field between 45,000 and 50,000 men. I shall lose from 5,000 to 8,000 men by the middle of June, by reason of expiration of service.
GEO. H. THOMAS, Major-General U. S. Volunteers.

The following dispatch was received from Schofield

Knoxville, April 24, 1864

Major-General Sherman :
Your dispatch of yesterday directing me to destroy the railroad and move down to the Hiwassee is just received. I have ordered the cavalry which left Bull’s Gap this morning to push forward and destroy the Watauga and Hotston bridges., and the brigade of infantry, which also started this morning, to break up the same, and to destroy the bridges above Greeneville. My other troops will destroy the road from Lick Creek toward Greeneville. I will push the work rapidly, and move down to the Hiwassee as soon as possible; think it will take me until the 1st of May to reach there if I take time to destroy the roads thoroughly. Will that be soon enough, or must I be there sooner ?

J. M. SCHOFIELD, Major-General
Nashville, Tennessee, April 24. 1864
General Schofield:
May 1 will be soon enough for you- to be at the Hiwassee. Colonel Comstock has just started for Washington and will keep me well advised of the progress there. We must move in concert with General Grant. I nave written you fully by courier today.

Your dispatch is received. I telegraphed you last night to begin your movement toward the Hiwassee in preparation for the advance into Georgia. Let the brigade of infantry sent beyond Bull’s Gap make the break in the railroad, and begin to move your command for active service down to Charleston. I write you fully today.
W. T. SHERMAN,Major-General

Confidential.] Headquarters, Military Division of the Mississippi,
Nashville, Tennessee, April 24, 1864
Major General J. M. Schofield

Commanding Department of the Ohio, Knoxville

I now have a messenger out from General Grant, which convinces me that the Army of the Potomac, from its shorter lines and superabundant supplies, will be ready sooner than we; but let come what may we must attack Joe Johnston in position, or force him back of Coosa, at the moment the initiative is made in the East. I prefer that Johnston should not move at all, but receive us on his present ground. But I do not propose rushing on him rashly until have, in hand all the available strength of your, Thomas’, and Mcpherson’s armies.

Supplies are the chief trouble; but if the worst comes to the worst, we can live on beef and salt, with such bread as our road ought to carry for us to Ringgold. Of course there remains now in East Tennessee no rebel force that can come down on our flank that could seriously endanger us moving forward from Chattanooga; but I wish you to dispose your command to guard against that chance. Destroy a considerable section of the railroad above Bull’s Gap, bending and twisting the rails or carrying them to Knoxville.

Leave Knoxville and Loudon well guarded, and assemble your effective force near Charleston, on the Hiwassee, prepared by May 1, if possible, to move in concert with Thomas down by way of Varnell’s Station direct on Dalton.

Order Stoneman to move by the best route available to him so as to report to you. If Johnston refuses us battle, this cavalry will be sent by way of Spring Place, or it may be higher up by the copper mines, to threaten the enemy’s right rear.

Order all your forces in Kentucky to be most active, even to feel out through Pound Gap into the valley beyond. I have no apprehension of the enemy interfering with our lines of communication in Kentucky, because we have here in Nashville the essential supplies for six months. Those in the western part of Kentucky ought to watch well the line, and to arrest all suspicious men hanging about who have no honest employment. Precaution may save us temporary annoyance. Such men are not prisoners of war, but simply men held by us rather than incur the risks of their mischievous acts.

It is useless for us to expect the new cavalry from Indiana. We cannot mount even the veteran cavalry, which should, of course”, have precedence. I will be at Chattanooga about May 1.

Truly, yours,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major General, Commanding

Headquarters, Military Division of the Mississippi
Nashville, Tennessee April 24, 1864

Major General W. T. Sherman :
Three veteran regiments, Thirty-second Ohio, Thirtieth Illinois and Sixteenth Wisconsin, with an aggregate of 1,705 men, have reached Cairo. Brigadier-General Leggett has arrived there and reported for duty. The Twentieth, Sixty-eighth, and Seventy-eighth Ohio Regiments, which should have been ready to return to Cairo before the end of this mouth, will not leave Ohio before the 6th or 7th of May, their furloughs not being up until that date, as they were detained several days to be paid off before their furloughs were given them. I am afraid the same thing may have occurred in some of the other States. It is going to be a difficult matter to bring the two divisions up to 5,000 men each, leaving out Smith’s command up Red River, but I suppose it cannot be helped now. Have you anything definite from Forrest? The accounts I get here are very conflicting.. Some reports state that he is still in Jackson, Tennessee, others that he is moving south.
Jason B. Mcpherson, Major-General
Headquarters Military Division of the Mississippi,
Nashville, April 24, 1864
General McPherson, Huntsville:

Let the regiments at Cairo, the detachments, and transportation come up to Clifton at once, and some general officer left there to forward the others as fast they come. To save time, I will order the Twentieth, Sixty-eighth, and Seventy-eighth Ohio Regiments to come to you all the way by railroad via Nashville, and try and got them started by May 1.

Nothing from Forrest. Hurlbut reports him positively south of LaGrange. Washburn will soon find out. Make up the best force you can for your projected advance, and I will try and get some detachments to protect your roads until all your troops reach you. Get as near 30,000 as you can. I will send the pontoons down by the cars, but they need not start across the Tennessee till we know we will want them.
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General

Confidential.] Headquarters Military Division of the Mississippi,
Nashville, April 24, 1864
Maj. Gen. J. B. McPherson,
Commanding Department of the Tennessee, Huntsville


I telegraphed you last night that Colonel Comstock had come from General Grant with a letter; that he (General Grant) would be ready by the 27th to take the initiative, if in the mean time Lee did not, and of course he wants me to act at the same time. But Colonel Comstock tells me he does not think General Grant can do anything till May 2.

Of course the movement in Virginia is the principal and ours is secondary, and must conform. We must be as far ready as possible.

First. Give General Slocum and Washburn orders to seem most active; to hold there all the enemy possible, even at a small risk to the river, for if we whip Joe Johnston good, everything lying west will feel the blow.

Second. Do all that is within the power of mortal to get up your two divisions from Cairo, with wagons, beef-cattle, &c. I will write to Lieutenant-Commander Shirk, U. S. Navy, to watch the Tennessee all that is possible to prevent any damage to our roads from that quarter.

Third. You should at once move your effective force of the Fifteenth Corps to the neighborhood of Larkin’s, or wherever you propose to cross, ready to move on Lebanon. Dodge’s command should cross at Decatur and brush away that cavalry, and move on Guntersville and Lebanon. From Lebanon your army should move, as light as possible, by Summerville or other good route toward LaFayette or Villanow to communicate with Thomas. From LaFayette you can renew your supply of bread, salt, sugar, and coffee from Ringgold, to which point we have cars. We are accumulating stores as fast as possible at Chattanooga. If you can start with twenty days’ supply it is all that I now expect. I will explain to Comstock and send word to General Grant how important it is we should have the two divisions now at Cairo and on furlough, and have him correspond by telegraph with them at Cairo, and judge when they can reach your right flank via Clifton.

You should have a force of about 30,000, exclusive of Garrard’s cavalry, which will remain with your extreme right till we are beyond the Coosa, when it must strike for the Montgomery and Atlanta road.

I think I understand the cavalry force in front of Dodge. It is a detachment from Johnston sent there to watch your operations, but the moment you cross the Tennessee in force it will hasten to cover Rome, and watch Johnston’s left flank and rear.

The worst we have to apprehend is that Forrest may come across to act against our right flank, but this would be prevented if Washburn and Slocum threaten Grenada.

I take it for granted that unless Banks gets out of Red River and attacks Mobile, which is a material part of General Grant’s plan, that we will have to fight Polk’s army as wall as Johnston’s. General Corse has returned. Banks would not spare Smith. Indeed, it appears that Smith’s force is the real substance of his army. He was whipped near Mansfield and retreated to Grand Ecore. 40 miles, though Banks claims a victory. From what General Corse tells me, he might have made it a victory by going ahead, but by retreating he left the enemy in possession of wounded, dead, artillery, and trains, and, worst of all, leaves Steele in danger. General Banks writes me that all is well there, but facts do not sustain him.
General Prince will go to Columbus, and you had better give Washburn command of all the river from Cairo down, to include the Memphis district. Grant thinks him a man of action.

I will send your pontoon train down, and I think you had better have it at Scottsborough with orders to follow as soon as facts demonstrate that Johnston will not fight us this side of the Coosa. Until that fact is demonstrated we should be as little encumbered as possible.
Yours, &c,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General, Commanding

Headquarters District of West Tennessee,
Memphis, Tenn., April 24, 1864

Maj. Gen. W. T. Sherman.
Commmanding, Military Division of the Mississippi, Nashville, Tennessee


Since I arrived here yesterday morning I have written and telegraphed to you the condition of affairs and what I propose to do. With the very limited means I have it is difficult to do what ought to be done, but I shall do my best with the means I have.

I have sent three steamers today to Vicksburg to bring cavalry from there, and as soon as they arrive I shall move in pursuit of Forrest. They can hardly get here before Friday, and the horses should rest a few hours on shore before starting on a march. Colonel Winslow, with 550 men and 800 horses, has just arrived, the men without arms, and the horses are all to be shod. They will be armed with muskets at once and the horses put in marching order.

The cars can be run as far as Moscow, and I propose to run 2,000 infantry to that point on Saturday morning, from which they will march to support the cavalry in the pursuit of Forrest, who is still at or near Jackson. I regret that there should be any delay in moving, but I see no help for it. I intend that my force shall reach Bolivar Sunday night, and shall expect to meet an infantry force there, sent by you from the Tennessee River.

A spy returned last night who was at Bolivar, and went to within a few miles of Corinth. He says that Forrest, with all his force, is at and near Jackson. He also says that the railroad is not repaired to Corinth, but that the cars are running to Tupelo, and they are repairing the mad as fast as they can.

General Sturgis reported today. I have examined the lines thoroughly today. I do not feel much apprehension of an attack here, but I think “they mean to menace us to disturb your equanimity. If we should be attacked by a very large force we might have to retire to the fort. On account of the large amount of Government supplies in the city and the prestige which its capture would give the rebels, it is very desirable to hold the city, and I shall only in case of attack retire to the fort as a last resort. I have every confidence that we can take care of ourselves here, but as caution is the parent of safety, it is well to look at all the chances.

Suppose I send a column of 5.000 as far as Jackson, 100 miles from here. That will leave me a very small force here. Forrest, being able to move more rapidly than our infantry which I send after him. might, swoop down upon us here with his whole force. If you could manage to send 1,000 or 2,000 men from Cairo to arrive about Sunday morning to remain until Sturgis returns it might be a proper measure of prudence. Of that you can judge. There are one or two regiments at Cairo on their way to the Department of the Gulf, which I would detain for a few days as they pass here but for the miserable fiasco on Red River. They are probably wanted there worse than I want them.

I am, general, your obedient servant,
C. C. WASHBURN, Major-General

Confidential.] Headquarters, Military Division of the Mississippi,
Nashville, Tennessee, April 24, 1864

General C. C. Washburn,
Commanding District of Memphis
Yours of April 21 from Cairo is this moment received. I answered your dispatch the minute it came, in hopes it would catch you at Cairo, but am glad you hurried down.
There should be at Memphis:
Buckland’s brigade, entire 2,000
Three white regiments (103d Illinois one) 1,500
Kappner’s negro regiment, Fort Pickering 1,200
Chetlain’s black brigade 3,000
Grierson s division of cavalry, at least 4,000

Total . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10,700
We have never taken any of Grierson’s cavalry from Memphis, and it amounted to nearly 10,000, with over 7,000 horses, before the Smith expedition. What has become of them? Please make close inquiry.

I know our troops fall off fearfully, but I cannot imagine how such discrepancies occur. Smith reported bringing in from his Okolona trip 4,000 animals. None have been brought away save 600 recently sent to General Allen.

I cannot understand General Hurlbut’s reports. He took a short leave of absence when I first came to Nashville, and hearing that Forrest had passed above Memphis, wrote me that Grierson was after him. supported by infantry. Every report since, the strength of the cavalry has fallen off more and more, until now you report it down to 1,100. Please examine into it and let me know as early as possible the exact truth. My opinion is by a close examination you will find at Memphis full 7,000 good men, beside the garrison of Fort Pickering and the militia.

I know that the furloughed veterans have reduced our armies terribly. Mine and Grant’s are far less than the world suppose, and we have to keep the truth to ourselves. I expect that I will have to advance against Joe Johnston with one, and it may be three, divisions less than we calculated.

Do the best you can, but try and not exaggerate the forces of the enemy or your own weakness, but use your force to the best advantage. Don’t let Forrest insult you by passing in sight almost of your command. At the time I had Memphis in 1862, I had but one division and one regiment, 600 cavalry (Grierson’s), and Van Dorn was at Holly Springs with a division of cavalry and near 8,000 infantry.

More than one-half my cavalry here is dismounted and it is almost impossible to procure horses. I don’t see how our cavalry destroy so many horses. When I left Memphis Grierson had full 5,000 horses. Not one has been drawn away, and I want to know what has become of them.
Truly, your friend,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General, Commanding

Confidential.] Hdqrs. Mil. Div. op the Mississippi,
Nashville, Tennessee, April 24, 1864

Brigadier General A. J. Smith, Commanding Detachment on Red River

Dear General:
General Corse has returned. He brought no letter from you but gave good accounts of you and your troops. I had hoped, from the rapid work you did up to Alexandria, that the whole expedition would go on in like manner. I want your command, but of course you could not leave under the circumstances by which you were surrounded on the 14th of April.
General Corse says that in the Second day’s fight at Pleasant Hill the enemy were beaten and were retreating. I cannot understand why our army retraced its steps to Grand Ecore, when it was so important in time, in distance, more especially as Steele was known to be approaching from the north. But all will be explained in time.
I have simply ordered that when you do come out of Red River, that Mower’s division remain at Memphis, and yours come round by Cairo, and up the Tennessee to Clifton, and thence across to Decatur; but as time and circumstances may change, I will have orders meet you at Memphis.
General McPherson now commands the department, and all our attention is engaged in the awful responsibilities that rest on us here. General Grant has ordered that Steele command on Red River, and he must order things according to the result of your expedition. I was in hopes it would have been made more rapidly, so that those troops could have taken part with us in the events soon to transpire.

You will, us soon as you can possibly be spared, come to Memphis, where orders will meet you.

I am, with respect, your obedient servant,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General, Commanding

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