Thursday, June 23, 1864

BIG SHANTY, GEORGIA, June 23, 1864: 9.30 p.m.

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

We continue to press forward, operating on the principle of an advance against fortified positions. The whole country is one vast fort, and Johnston must have full fifty miles of connected trenches, with abatis and finished batteries. We gain ground daily, fighting all the time. On the 21st General Stanley gained a position near the southeast of Kenesaw, from which the enemy attempted in vain to drive him, and the same day General T. J. Wood’s division took a hill, which the enemy assaulted three times at night without success, leaving more than 100 dead on the ground. Yesterday the extreme right (Hooker and Schofield) advanced on the Powder Springs Road to within three miles of Marietta. The enemy made a strong effort to drive them away, but failed signally, leaving more than 200 dead on the field.

Our lines are now in close contact and the fighting incessant, with a good deal of artillery. As fast as we gain one position the enemy has anther all ready, but I think he will soon have to let go Kenesaw, which is the key to whole country. The weather is now better, and the roads are drying up fast. Our losses are light, and, notwithstanding the repeated breaks of the road to our rear, supplies are ample.

W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General

The question of torpedoes and other explosive traps planted by the enemy has arisen.

Hdqrs. Military Division of the Mississippi,
In the Field, Big Shanty, June 23,1864.

Maj. Gen. J. B. Steedman, Commanding District of the Etowah, Chattanooga:

As the question may arise, and you have a right to the support of my authority, I now decide that the use of the torpedo is justifiable in war in advance of an army, so as to make his advance up a river or over a road more dangerous and difficult. But after the adversary has gained the country by fair warlike means, then the case entirely changes. The use of torpedoes in blowing up our cars and the road after they are in our possession, is simply malicious. It cannot alter the great problem, but simply makes trouble. Now, if torpedoes are found in the possession of an enemy to our rear, you may cause them to be put on the ground and tested by wagonloads of prisoners, or, if need be, citizens implicated in their use. In like manner, if a torpedo is suspected on any part of the road, order the point to be tested by a car-load of prisoners, or citizens implicated, drawn by a long rope. Of course an enemy cannot complain of his own traps.

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

Yesterday, I received this message from General Hooker:

KULP HOUSE, 5.30 P.M.
General SHERMAN: We have repulsed two heavy attacks, and feel confident, our only apprehension being from our extreme right flank. Three entire corps are in front of us.
Major-General HOOKER

I am specially disturbed by Hooker’s assertion in his report that he was uneasy about his right flank, when Schofield has been specially ordered to protect that. I first inquired of my adjutant, Dayton, if he were certain that General Schofield had received his orders, and he answered that the envelope in which he had sent them was receipted by General Schofield himself. I knew, therefore, that General Schofield must be near by, in close support of Hooker’s right flank. General Thomas had before this occasion complained to me of General Hooker’s disposition to “switch off,” leaving wide gaps in his line, so as to be independent, and to make glory on his own account. I therefore resolved not to overlook this breach of discipline and propriety. The rebel army is only composed of three corps; I had this very day ridden six miles of their lines, found them everywhere strongly occupied, and therefore Hooker could not have encountered “three entire corps.”

Both McPherson and Schofield had also complained to me of this same tendency of Hooker to widen the gap between his own corps and his proper army (Thomas’s), so as to come into closer contact with one or other of the wings, asserting that he was the senior by commission to both McPherson and Schofield, and that in the event of battle he should assume command over them, by virtue of his older commission.
They appealed to me to protect them. I had heard during that day some cannonading and heavy firing down toward the “Kulp House,” which was about five miles southeast of where I was, but this was nothing unusual, for at the same moment there was firing along our lines full ten miles in extent.

Early this morning, I rode down to the “Kulp House,” which was on a road leading from Powder Springs to Marietta, about three miles distant from the latter. On the way I passed through General Butterfield’s division of Hooker’s corps, which I learned had not been engaged at all in the battle of the day before; then I rode along Geary’s and Williams’s divisions, which occupied the field of battle, and the men were engaged in burying the dead. I found General Schofield’s corps on the Powder Springs road, its head of column abreast of Hooker’s right, therefore constituting “a strong right flank,” and I met General Schofield and Hooker together. As it started to rain , we passed into a little church standing by the road-side, and I there showed General Schofield Hooker’s signal- message of the day before. He was very angry, and pretty sharp words passed between them, Schofield saying that his head of column (Hascall’s division) had been, at the time of the battle, actually in advance of Hooker’s line; that the attack or sally of the enemy struck his troops before it did Hooker’s; that General Hooker knew of it at the time; and he offered to go out and show me that the dead men of his advance division (Hascall’s) were lying farther out than any of Hooker’s. General Hooker pretended not to have known this fact. I then asked him why he had called on me for help, until he had used all of his own troops; asserting that I had just seen Butterfield’s division, and had learned from him that he had not been engaged the day before at all. I asserted that the enemy’s sally must have been made by one corps (Hood’s), in place of three, and that it had fallen on Geary’s and Williams’s divisions, which had repulsed the attack handsomely. As we rode away from that church General Hooker was by my side, and I told him that such a thing must not occur again. In other words, I reproved him more gently than the occasion demanded.

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