Major General H. W. HALLECK, Washington, D. C.:
Get Captain Merrill’s map at the Chief Engineer’s Office, as I use it in my dispatches. General McPherson is all across the Oostenaula at Lay’s Ferry, and is out abreast of Calhoun. General Thomas is across here, where we have improvised three bridges, and General Schofield has passed the Connesauga at Fite’s Ferry, and will pass the Coosawattee at or near Field’s. Tonight I propose my three head of columns to be abreast of Adairsville. Johnston will be compelled to fight on this side of the Etowah or be forced to divide his army, or give up either Rome or Allatoona. If he attempts to hold both, I will break the line at Kingston. If he concentrates at Kingston, I will break his railroads right and left, and fight him square in front. My belief is he will abandon Kingston and Rome, and retire on Allatoona, beyond the Etowah, in which case I will fix up my roads to Kingston, and then determine in what manner to advance beyond the Etowah.
It will take five days to repair the railroad bridge here. We are abundantly supplied, and our animals are improving on the grass and grain fields, which now afford good pasture. I start in person now for Adairsville. I think everything has progressed and is progressing as favorably as we could expect; but I know we must have one or more bloody battles, such as have characterized Grant’s terrific struggles. Johnston has Hardee’s, Hood’s and Polk’s corps, with irregulars and militia on his lines of communication. His cavalry outnumbers ours, but acts on the defensive.
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General
I would like to draw Johnston into battle closer to my base of supplies:
HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, near Adairsville, May 17, 1864
Major-General THOMAS, Commanding Army and Department of the Cumberland:
GENERAL: It is probable on reaching Adairsville in the early morning we will find the enemy has retreated via Cassville. If such be the case I want you to put your head of column after him as far as Cassville, when I will determine whether to continue the pursuit as far as Cartersville or let him go. I prefer he should divide between Rome and Cartersville, in which event you will march directly on Kingston. I will be with you in the morning, and only mention these points that you may instruct your leading division.
I wish you would put one of your boldest division commanders to lead tomorrow, and explain to him that General McPherson is close on his right and General Schofield on his left, and that two heavy columns of cavalry, Garrard’s and Stoneman’s have orders to strike the road, the one between Kingston and Rome, and the other between Kingston and Cartersville. Instead of skirmishing only with the rear guard it should be attacked promptly by his whole division, deployed in whole or part, according to the ground, but it should be preceded by the usual skirmish line. A real battle tomorrow might save us much work at a later period.
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General, Commanding
Stoneman writes of his position and he is further east than I prefer. I want my cavalry, Stoneman from the East and Garrard from the West to attack and break the railroad just north of the Etowah River.
The rest of the army is in pursuit of Johnston but we move slowly.