Thursday, May 5, 1864


Major-General McPHERSON, Commanding Army of the Tennessee:

SIR: The enemy still lies about Dalton, and from all appearances is on the defensive, guarding approaches mostly from the north and west. He occupies in some force the range of hills known as the Tunnel Hill. By tomorrow night our forces will be about as follows: Schofield at Red Clay; Thomas at Ringgold – his left, Catoosa Springs, center at Ringgold, and right (Hooker) near Wood’s Station; and you at Gordon’s Mills. If you are all ready I propose on Saturday morning to move against the enemy: Thomas directly on Tunnel Hill; Schofield to Varnell’s and the gap between it and Catoosa Springs, feeling toward Thomas; Hooker will move through Nickajack Gap on Trickum and threaten the road which runs from Buzzard Roost to Snake Creek Gap. As these are in progress I want you to move, via Rock Spring, Tavern Road, to the head of Middle Chickamauga; then to Villanow; then to Snake [Creek] Gap, secure it and from it make a bold attack on the enemy’s flank or his railroad at any point between Tilton and Resaca. I am in hopes that Garrard’s cavalry will be at Villanov as soon as you, for, you know, I have sent General Corse to meet him at Shellmound and conduct him across the mountain to La Fayette and to you. But, in any event, his movement will cover your right rear and enable you to leave all incumbrances either at Ship’s Gap or Villanov, as you deem best.

I hope the enemy will fight at Dalton, in which case he can have no force there that can interfere with you. But, should his policy be to fall back along his railroad, you will hit him in flank. Do not fail in that event to make the most of the opportunity by the most vigorous attack possible, as it may save us what we have most reason to apprehend: a slow pursuit, in which he gains strength as we lose it. In either event you may be sure the forces north of you will prevent his turning on you alone. In the event of hearing the sound of heavy battle about Dalton, the greater necessity for your rapid movement on the railroad. If once broken to an extent that would take them days to repair, you can withdraw to Snake Creek Gap and come to us or await the development according to your judgment or information you may received. I want to put this plan in operation, beginning with Saturday morning if possible. The sooner the better for us.

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

I write to my commanders:

In the Field, Ringgold, Ga., May 5, 1864

Major General G. H. THOMAS, Commanding Army of the Cumberland

SIR: The position of our troops tomorrow night, the 6th instant, will be, Schofield at Red Clay, you at Ringgold, and McPherson at Gordon’s Mills. The plan of action will be: You move in force on Tunnel Hill, secure it and threaten Dalton in front, but not to attack its defenses until further orders, unless the enemy assume the offensive against either of our wings, when all must attack directly in front toward the enemy’s main army and not without orders detach to the relief of the threatened wing. At the time you move against Tunnel Hill, McPherson will move to Ship’s Gap and Villanow, and secure possession of Snake Creek Gap, from which he will operate vigorously against the enemy’s flank or line of communication between Tilton Station and Resaca. I want you, with cavalry or infantry, to fill well up Dogwood Valley, and communicate with McPherson at Villanow.
Trains likely to embarrass our movements should not be taken east of Taylor’s Ridge, till we have observed the effect of these first movements. I expect to be all ready to move on Saturday, and wish you to make all preparations accordingly.

I am, &c.,
T. SHERMAN, Major-General, Commanding

Ringgold, Ga., May 5, 1864

Major-General SCHOFIELD, Commanding Army of the Ohio, Red Clay

GENERAL: The enemy still lies about Dalton, seemingly on the defensive, his preparations being mostly against an approach from the north and west. I wish to give him little time for preparation, and to assume the offensive on Saturday. Thomas will move straight on Tunnel Hill. McPherson will move from Gordon’s Mills, via Rock Spring, to Ship’s Gap and Villanow; thence he will occupy Snake Creek Gap, and from that point operate on the enemy’s flank if in motion, or against the railroad at some point between Tilton and Resaca. I want you to keep up communication with Howard, and as he moves toward Tunnel Hill you move on Varnell’s Station, inclining to your right so as to hold the road between Varnell’s and Catoosa Springs. If you have reason to apprehend encountering a force superior to your own, you can cross the hills to your right and make for Catoosa.

As you perceive I do not propose to attack Dalton from the north, but the west and south, therefore the movement should continue to Varnell’s, except with almost a certainty of the case I make of a superior force there. Keep your columns as light as possible, your wagons over toward Parker’s Gap, till the issue of the first battle is determined. As soon as Tunnel Hill is secured to us, I shall pause to give McPherson time for his longer march, but we must occupy the attention of all the enemy lest he turn his whole force on McPherson, which must be prevented. Therefore, on the sound of heavy battle, always close up on Howard and act according to circumstances. We will not be able to detach to McPherson’s assistance, but can press so closely from this direction that he cannot detach but a part of his command against him. I have reason to believe Johnston has sent most of his cavalry to North Alabama, but still you should guard against a cavalry sweep on that flank, which can best be done by keeping your columns compact.
I am, with the respect, yours, truly,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General, Commanding

It is 7:30 pm. I communicated our positions to all the command and to Halleck who will forward the information on to Grant.

In the Field, Ringgold, Ga., May 5, 1864; 7.30 p.m.
General SCHOFIELD, Red Clay, Ga.:

Will you be able to move to Varnell’s on Saturday? All well here. Keep up communication with Howard.
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General

In the Field, Ringgold, Ga., May 5, 1864; 7.30 p. m.
General McPHERSON, Chattanooga, Tennessee:

I am here. Thomas has advanced his lines three miles. I want you all up at Gordon’s Mills by tomorrow night. Don’t leave Chattanooga till I give you full orders. Plans remain unchanged and appear to me the best possible.
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General

RINGGOLD, GA., May 5, 1864; 7.30 p.m.
Major-General HALLECK, Washington, D. C.:
Telegraph to General Grant that I am here, and we have advanced our lines three miles to-day. McPherson is one day behind. I will attack Tunnel Hill on Saturday, and, in the mean time, will occupy Johnston’s whole attention.
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General

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