Tuesday, July 26, 1864

NEAR ATLANTA, GEORGIA, July 26, 1864: 9 p. m.

Major General H. W. HALLECK, Washington, D. C.:
Tomorrow we begin the move against Atlanta, having strongly trenched our front from the railroad east of Atlanta to the hill on the south of Proctor’s Creek. I move the whole Army of the Tennessee to the right, extending the line south, threatening East Point, and forcing, as I think, Hood to abandon Atlanta or allow us, at small cost, to occupy the railroad south of the town, that to the east being well destroyed. At the same time I send by the right a force of about 3,500 cavalry, under General McCook, and round by the left about 5,000 cavalry, under Stoneman, with orders to reach the railroad about Griffin. I also have consented that Stoneman (after he has executed this part of his plan), if he finds it feasible, may, with his division proper (about 2,000), go to Macon and attempt the release of our officers, prisoners there, and then to Andersonville to release the 20,000 of our men, prisoners there. This is probably more than he can accomplish, but it is worthy of determined effort. While these are in progress I will, with the main army, give employment to all of the rebel army still in Atlanta.
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General

I wrote to Stoneman:
I have received your letter of July 26, asking permission after breaking good the railroad below McDonough to push on to Macon, release the officers there, and afterward to go to Anderson[ville] and release the men confined there. I see many difficulties, but, as you say, even a chance of success will warrant the effort, and I consent to it. You may, after having fulfilled my present orders, send General Garrard back to the left flank of the army, and proceed with your command proper to accomplish oath or either of the objects named., I will keep the army busy, so that you shall have nothing to contend with but the cavalry, and if you can bring back to the army any or all those prisoners of war it will be an achievement that will entitle you and the men of your command to the love and admiration of the whole country. Be careful to break telegraph wire and railroad when and where you go, especially the telegraph, as it will prevent the enemy following your movement.

WASHINGTON, July 26, 1864: 2.30 p. m.

Major-General SHERMAN, Near Atlanta:
I have just seen complaining of the appointment of Hovey and Osterhaus. The point you make is unquestionably a good one, and yet please hear a word from us. My recollection is that both General Grant and yourself recommenced both Hovey and Osterhaus for promotion, and these, with other strong recommendations, drew committals from us which we could neither honorably or safely disregard. We blamed Hovey for coming away in the manner in which he did, but we knew he had apparent reason to feel disappointed and mortified, and we felt it was not best to crush one who certainly had been a good soldier. As to Osterhaus, we did not know of his leaving at the time we made the appointment, and do not now know the terms on which he left. Not to have appointed him, as the case appeared to us at the time, would have been almost, if not quite, a violation of our word. The word was given on what we thought was high merit and somewhat on his nationality. I beg you to believe we do not act in a spirit of disregarding merit. We expect to await your programme for further changes and promotions in your army. My profoundest thanks to you and your whole army for the present campaign so far.

Major-General SHERMAN, Georgia:
General Howard is assigned, as requested, to command the Army and Department of the Tennessee.
H. W. HALLECK, Major-General and Chief of Staff

I wrote to Thomas:
General McCook represents the enemy’s cavalry to his front intrenched behind good works, extending from about White Hall down to the Chattahoochee, and he apprehend difficulty in breaking through. I have consented to his down the west bank of the Chattahoochee to a point about Campbellton, crossing there and striking out for the railroad. This will turn the position of the cavalry, and force them back to meet General McCook on more open ground.
Major-General Howard is ordered to the command of the Army and Department of the Tennessee. I want him in his new command at once.
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General, Commanding

I wrote to Howard:
I have this moment received a dispatch from Halleck. You are assigned to command the Army and Department of the Tennessee. I want you tomorrow to assume command and give directions to the army as it goes into position tomorrow. If you will come to my headquarters, I will ride with you and explain my wishes.
I am, truly, your friend,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General, Commanding

In the Field, before Atlanta, Ga., July 26, 1864

Major-General THOMAS and SCHOFIELD:
GENTLEMAN: As a part of the movement tomorrow I wish, while the cavalry is moving out, say at 6 a.m., and General Logan’s troops shifting from left to right, that you send from some point of the front of each division in our line of circumvallation a bold party of about a regiment strong to push back the enemy’s outlying pickets and feel their position. This will have the effect of holding them and drawing there as large a body of the enemy as possible, as he will on such a display.

Inasmuch as Jeff. C. davis’ division is placed as a strong right flank, and therefore will be almost entirely in reserve when the Army of the Tennessee gets to the right, I wish the demonstration to his front be still more decided, viz, a whole brigade should move on the ridge due south from the hill intrenched beyond Proctor’s Creek, and should push back the enemy beyond any little rifle-pits to his main line, which will be found up on the main ridge which extends from Atlanta to East Point. This brigade should move toward the old village of White Hall, about two miles and a half from Atlanta. These demonstrations should proceed slowly and deliberately, and last all day, and should be as bold and provoking to the enemy as possible, tempting him to sally out and test our present lines.
I am, &c.,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General, Commanding

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