Thursday, July 7, 1864

On the Chattahoochee River

The enemy has a force this side of the river and have guarded all the nearby fords to prevent our crossing. Stoneman is downstream and draws the attention of their cavalry with a threat to cut the railroad. That leaves little enemy force upstream. Garrard has captured Roswell and can cross the river at that point. I have sent Schofield upriver to find a crossing and make a lodgment tomorrow.

I wrote to Schofield:
Garrard has possession of the factory at Roswell. I wish you to make an examination thereabouts and secure a foothold, fortified on the other side, anywhere about Roswell or mouth of Soap Creek. Johnston’s cavalry has moved to the southwest flank. It is important to cross at once, for the fords are very important to us.

At 7:30 pm Schofield replied:
I have not been able to reconnoiter as far as Roswell today. I find a pretty good crossing near mouth of Soap Creek. Half a mile above the creek is a shallow ford where infantry can cross easily, but there is no road leading to it and it would be difficult to make one. Isham’s Ferry just below mouth of the creek is a good place for a bridge. About 400 yards from the river on east side is a commanding ridge very favorable for a bridge-head. The crossing would be very difficult if that ridge were held in force; but there appears at present only a squad of cavalry and one or two pieces of artillery. If there be no greater force to oppose it, the crossing can be effected very easily by crossing infantry at the ford above, to clear the ridge and cover the construction of the bridge. The ground on this side is favorable for our artillery. Johnston’s cavalry being gone, I take it for granted that I can cross at Roswell without difficulty. The higher up the river the less probability of serious opposition; therefore I think we may choose whichever point you deem it most desirable to have. I propose to move at daylight and cross the river with as little delay as possible, and believe there is very little chance of failure, no matter which point you select.

I Replied:
You may move to the neighborhood of the mouth of Soap Creek. Mask well your command and make a lodgment across the Chattahoochee, but do not attempt it until you have a nearby ford near by which to re-enforce the party first sent, or by which it may be necessary to retire. We can, after lodgement, make roads to the crossing and may add pontoon bridges, of which we have enough for four bridges. After securing a point opposite Soap Creek, Roswell will follow as a matter of course, and will be additional. The moment I hear that General Garrard has made a lodgment at Roswell, I will send a division of General McPherson to hold fast all he makes. With Roswell and the mouth of Soap Creek, we have plenty of room, with Marietta as the depot. I will go down to General McPherson’s and stir them up in the morning by way of diversion.

Schofield Replies:
The ford above the mouth of Soap Creek is an old fish-dam. I do not think it can be made practicable for wagons, though it may be. I deem it important to have a bridge to throw across as soon as I have effected a lodgment, so that I can, without delay, put over force enough with artillery to make my position secure.

My Reply:
I will order a pontoon train to report to you on the road.
I will order the other troops to make demonstrations to distract from the crossing.

Schofield has issued orders for crossing the Chattahoochee tomorrow:
The corps will endeavor to effect a crossing of the Chattahoochee tomorrow. The point selected for the crossing is near the mouth of Soap Creek. The troops will march at 4 a.m., the Third Division in advance. General Hascall’s artillery will move near the head of his column, in order that it may be at hand to cover the crossing. The trains of both divisions will move in rear of the corps.

One brigade of the Third Division will cross Soap Creek at the paper-factory, about a mile above its mouth, and move down the road toward the bank of the river, keeping out of view from the opposite bank. The brigade commander will deploy a strong line of skirmishers, with large reserves, behind the ridge near the river, and prepare a party of about fifty good men to lead the crossing and effect a lodgment on the opposite side. The men should be tall and strong, on account of the possible difficulty in fording. It is not necessary to select men from the Twenty-third Corps for their bravery. The brigade commander will keep his men out of sight, and not open fire unless the enemy’s pickets be found on this side of the river, in which case he will drive them away without throwing any more force than necessary for the purpose.

The point of crossing for the advance is an old fish-dam, constituting a practicable ford for infantry, about half a mile above the mouth of Soap Creek. The brigade commander will report the completion of the above predations and await further orders. General Cox will mass the remainder of his division on the west side of Soap Creek and in rear of the ridges bordering the river, and reconnoiter for position for his artillery. General Hascall will mass his division in a convenient position in rear of that of General Cox and send forward his artillery to report to the chief of artillery. General Cox will cause his skirmishers to be deployed, under cover, ready to advance to the river-bank. The artillery will be ready to move into position, and the troops will clear the road for the pontoon train, which will follow immediately after the infantry.

Every precaution must be taken to avoid any display of force until the order is given to commence operations. Even groups of officers should not be seen by the enemy. This precaution is very important, since much delay may occur in perfecting the arrangements necessary to success, whereby the enemy, if warned of our intentions, might have time to bring up re-enforcements. The troops must make as little noise as practicable. Build no fires nor give any other indication of the presence of a large force. It is proposed to lay the pontoon bridge at Isham’s Ferry, just below the mouth of Soap Creek, and to use the ford above to cross infantry enough to cover the laying of the bridge. The commanding general will be on the ground, and will give further orders, after full and careful reconnaissance.

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