Wednesday, May 18, 1864

ADAIRSVILLE, GA., May 18, 1864

Major General H. W. HALLECK, Washington, D. C.:

Johnston passed last night here. We overtook him at sundown yesterday, and skirmished heavily with his rear till dark. In the morning he was gone and we are after him. By tonight all the heads of columns will be near Kingston, whither Johnston is moving. Whether he proposes to fight there or not we cannot tell, but tomorrow will know, for I propose to attack him wherever he may be. Our cavalry has not yet succeeded in breaking the railroad to his rear. I now have four heads of columns, all directed on Kingston, with orders to be within four miles by night. Weather fine, roads good, and the country more open and less mountains.

W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General

Until we know exactly the course taken by Johnston from Kingston I cannot make orders more exact than those already existing. Thomas is now on the plain, well-marked trail of the enemy. The Army of the Cumberland will, early in the morning, renew the pursuit, following this trail till it leads beyond the Etowah or gets to the eastward of Cassville. We will halt there unless new information leads me to do otherwise. We will attack the enemy if possible. General McPherson, should now be at Woodland, and General Hooker where he can easily join Thomas at Kingston by 8 or 9 a.m. I hope Generals Garrard and Stoneman have done good work today and have broken the railroad. We will order up the pontoons and ascertain the whereabouts.

Jeff C. Davis has captured Rome and is in possession of its forts. He reports:

The orders directing me to return and cross the Oostenaula at Lay’s Ferry came to hand last evening about an hour before sunset. The enemy, variously estimated at 3,000 to 5,000, were moving forward to attack me. While reading the note the main lines on both sides opened with volleys at close range. The fighting was done mostly by McCook’s brigade and a few regiments of Mitchell’s. My men, notwithstanding the hard day’s march, fought exceedingly well and made short work of it. Ten minutes sufficed to drive the enemy back into his works. The works looked so strong that I thought it imprudent to storm them hastily, and ordered my troops to hold the positions gained, close up under their rifle pits. A heavy skirmish fight soon brought night. This morning after the dense fog rose, I ordered the skirmishers to attack, the works, but no one was found. The bridges across the Oostenaula and Etowah were set on fire just before daylight. The enemy is only seen this morning in their works on the south bank of the Coosa.

These works command all the other works around Rome, but a few shells thrown this morning caused the enemy to leave them, and I think they are in full retreat. My loss is not quite 150 officers and men. The enemy’s is greater by considerable than ours; his dead left on the field is reported double ours. My troops are much fatigued and must rest today. By tomorrow I shall bridge the Oostenaula and march to join the corps as directed.

The forces who engaged us yesterday proved to have been a mixed command of infantry and cavalry in all amounting to 4,000 to 5,000. Most of this command came from Blue Mountain and was trying to join Johnston. They were commanded by General French, and were ordered to renew the attack this morning, but late last night French received orders to retreat, which he did. We have had only a little skirmishing today, yet the enemy’s cavalry hang back and seem to be guarding us closely. A brigade is reported on the road leading from here to Kingston, but a short distance from the town. Where is our cavalry? I have been expecting Garrard all day; had he been operating between Calhoun and this place this morning, he could have driven or caught the whole of that part which retreated toward Kingston.

General Sherman informed me that Garrard was to operate in this direction; also that McPherson was moving on Rome. Please inform me if this be still the plan of operations. Is Rome to be held? I desire to know so that I can make disposition of my wounded. A small cavalry force by tomorrow could, I think, open communication with me. I shall have a bridge across the river by tomorrow afternoon, and should like to have communication with our forces on the left before moving direct from here to join the corps. Please answer by return courier or sooner if you can. My troops are enjoying the rest here.

Please ask the general commanding, however, to send a pontoon bridge here at once; it will be very important for future operations in this vicinity. It will prove almost indispensable. I have but four days’ rations, and will be out probably by the time I can join the corps. By crossing here I will save at least forty miles marching. This I know will accord with the general’s wishes.

Hooker has information that Johnston will not fight at Kingston but will retreat across the Etowah. I want to fight him before he can get across.

General SCHOFIELD, Army of the Ohio, Marsteller’s Mill

GENERAL: Yours of 6 p.m. is at hand. I was in hopes you would be farther a head by to-night, but the roads are not suited to one concentric movement on Kingston, and we must approach the game as near as the case admits of. All the signs continue of Johnston’s having retreated on Kingston, and why he should lead to Kingston, if he designs to cover his trains to Cartersville, I do not see. But it is probable he has sent to Allatoona all he can by cars, and his wagons are escaping south of the Etowah by the brigade and fords near Kingston. In any hypothesis our plan is right.

All of General Thomas’ command will follow his trail straight, let it lead to the fords or toward Allatoona. You must shape your course to support General Hooker and strike the line of railway to his left. As soon as you can march in the morning get up to General Hooker and act according to the developments. If we can bring Johnston to battle this side of Etowah we must do it, even at the hazard of beginning battle with but a part of our forces. If you hear the sound of battle direct your course so as to come up to the left of General Thomas’ troops. If Johnson has got beyond Etowah we will take two days to pick up fragments from Rome to Etowah. You will, in that event, still bear to the left and help General Stoneman, who should now be on the railroad somewhere between Cassville and Cartersville. I will be at Kingston.

W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General, Commanding

I wrote to McPherson:

HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, near Kingston, May 18, 1864; 12 midnight.

General McPHERSON, Army of the Tennessee, Woodland:

I dispatched a courier to you at 10.30 ordering you early in the morning to move on Kingston, to which point General Thomas will also move, and where I will meet you. I now have General Garrard’s report and hope he is right in his conclusion that many locomotives and cars are west of the break in the railroad. Let General Garrard send a detachment of about 100 men to Rome and to hunt up General Jeff. Davis. Also, to scour the country west of Barnsley Creek as far as Oostenaula for prisoners, deserters, wagons, horses, &c. Let General Garrard with all his cavalry a section of guns, but no wagons, move at same time with you on the point of Etowah River about two miles west of Kingston, just below the mouth of Connasene Creek, where a bridge or ferry is represented; then in succession the other bridges and ferries supposed to be south of Kingston, and as far east as the road leading from the Saltpetre Cave to Euharlee Mills, and as much farther as he thinks he can achieve anything, trying at all these points to make captures of boats if possible.

He may count on our attacking Kingston if not already abandoned as also Cassville and its railroad station. General Stoneman should today have struck the same railroad near Cartersville, in which case we cannot fail to make many captures of men and material tomorrow with a promise of a two days’ rest and plenty of forage up by the cars by the day after tomorrow. In the mean time the pastures are all he could ask.

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

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