Tuesday, May 10, 1864

Buzzard’s Roost, Georgia

McPherson has failed to break the railroad at Resaca. I sent this message:

HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, 
Buzzard Roost, May 10, 1864; 10.30 a. m.

General McPHERSON, Sugar Valley:

I have yours of last night and have talked to Captain Audenried. I regret beyond measure you did not break the railroad, however little, and close to Resaca, but I suppose it was impossible. We find in Buzzard Roost Gap an almost impassable obstacle; the spurs on either side run down to a stream Mill Creek, and are all escarped and rifle-pitted with batteries on the upper plateau. The ridge itself is very rocky, not unlike Lookout Mountain. I doubt if we can force a passage, but we may render it equally impassable to the enemy, and leaving a comparatively small force here can rapidly, and by night, if necessary, march through Snake Creek Gap, and hold the point near Resaca, where the Dalton road comes in.

I wish you to select near the debouch a strong impregnable position, such as this country abounds in, and fortify and strengthen it by fallen timber and rifle-pits. I have sent one of Hooker’s divisions to you; you should post them in support, with one regiment on the mountain to the east of the gap, not far from the letter “M” or “O” in the word “mountain” east of Villanow. This would prevent the occupation of this mountain, by which the pass would be made dangerous from sharpshooters. I suppose you have already done this or if not that Hooker will do it by Thomas’ order, at my suggestion. I want that road kept open and all unnecessary wagons to be kept to the rear.

Kilpatrick has been ordered to report to you, and Garrard left at Villanow to cover your rear and trains from the direction of Summerville and Rome. I am expecting Stoneman’s cavalry today from the north and they will enable me to threaten Dalton by the north and east. Garrard has moved so slow that I doubt if he has the dash we need in a cavalry officer. I may re-enforce Kilpatrick from him the moment I know he is at Villanow. If any occasion calls for that cavalry, and you find there is no danger from the direction of Summerville, order it to you. Hold on a day or so and I will, as soon as all things are ready, come down. Hold on a day or so and I will, as soon as all things are ready, came down. Hooker is near Trickum and could get to your rear in twelve miles’ march. Williams’ division should have marched all night, but Corse reported he met it at sunrise this side of Villanow. It must now be in the gap.

Order Blair as soon as he makes up his two divisions to hurry forward to you via Chattanooga. He had better march, as you said that a railroad in the end saves but little time in moving troops. Besides it will take all our road to supply us. Depot now at Tunnel Hill, the roads to which are good.

Do you think Johnston knows your strength? Should he attack you fight him to the last and I will get to you. In the mean time I will so maneuver here that he will not detach against your own force. Let me hear from you fully.

Yours,
W. T. SHERMAN,
Major-General, Commanding.

McPherson replies:

HDQRS. DEPARTMENT AND ARMY OF THE TENNESSEE, 
Camp in Sugar Creek Valley, May 10, 1864; 5 p. m.
Major General W. T. SHERMAN, Commanding Military Division of the Mississippi:

GENERAL: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your dispatches today. Brigadier-General Williams has reported his division at the west end of the gap, and I have directed him to leave one brigade there to guard the trains and to bring the other two through to this side, posting one regiment on the crest of the mountain near the letter “M” on the northeast side of the mountain. Brigadier-General Kilpatrick’s cavalry is just arriving here, and Garrard will be in Villanow to-night.

Early this morning I sent out my engineer officers and selected a line which I think a good one, and have been fortifying it all day. The work has not progressed as satisfactorily as I could have wished, for want of intrenching tools in sufficient quantity, though we get along very well. If the enemy attack me, you may rest assured we will give him the best fight we can and he will have to come in strong force to disturb us.

We have been skirmishing more or less all day with rebel cavalry, and they have a line of vedettes extending all around us except on the west, watching our movements and evidently to make out our force. From some of the elevated points they can obtain a pretty good view. Their skirmish line, a very light one, easily driven back, and composed of cavalry, is about seven miles long. From what you say of the position at Buzzard Roost I think this is the place to attack them, and by throwing in here a large force we would have the chances of a decided victory on our side. I fell satisfied if you could see the position of things here you would be of the same opinion. The road through Snake Creek Gap is good and about six miles long. After getting through the country is undulating and generally densely timbered.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JAB. B. McPHERSON, Major-General, Commanding

HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, 
In the Field, Tunnel Hill, May 10, 1864
Major-General McPHERSON, Commanding Army of the Tennessee:

GENERAL: The Buzzard Roost Gap is so well defended and naturally is so strong that I will undertake to attack Johnston through Snake Creek Gap in this manner: Hooker’s corps is already ordered to support you. His troops will arrive tomorrow and next day and will be instructed to widen and improve the road through the gap so that wagons may pass going and coming and troops may march by paths alongside. You had better do this at your end of the gap at once.

Another corps of Thomas (Palmer’s) will follow, and then Schofield. We expect all to be in motion the day after tomorrow, and to mask the movement as up the feint to the last moment, and if forced back, will be prepared to do so, having sent back to Ringgold in advance his supply wagons and all incumbrances. He will have a small division of cavalry to watch the road between this and Snake Creek Gap, the same where Geary now is, and Stoneman, with two brigades of calvary, to his north and east. This force will cover us to the brigades of cavalry will guard to the south and west, and we must take care of ourselves. Once through the gap I would interpose between Johnston and Resaca and might, if it could be done quick, attack Resaca or Johnston. In the mean time mask your own force as much as possible, but hold your ground and look well to secure the mountain range to the east and north.

A single peak held by a regiment becomes a key to the whole range. I wish you to calculate to have ten days’ supplies and to send your wagons to the rear, not to come up till the time expires or your order them.
I have a note from Schofield, who says that one brigade of Stoneman got to Cleveland today and another will tomorrow, so that we may not be able to put our project in operation by the day after tomorrow, but we will get all ready.

We can give you supplies here. If you think it practicable you may order Kilpatrick to make a strike at the railroad. If Johnston passes down can’t you hit him in flank, or has he too many roads? Can’t you get a road or find a way from the mouth of the valley across three or four miles north of Resaca? Do you think Johnston has yet discovered the nature of your force?

Write me fully.

Yours,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General

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