Friday August 5, 1864

Near Atlanta, Georgia

In the Field, near Atlanta, Ga., August 5, 1864.
Honorable E. M. STANTON, Secretary of War:
The time has now come that we must have the exclusive use of the Northwestern road from Nashville to Reynoldsburg. It has been substantially done for some time, but Governor Johnson retains the management of it for some reason, under your former orders; but to be of service of us in the present emergency it must be in the control of Mr. Anderson, superintendent of military roads, that trains may run continuously from the Tennessee River, at Reynoldsburg, to our camp. This main road has been admirably managed, and has supplied this vast army, so that not a man, horse, or mule has been for a day without food and abundant supplies of clothing and ammunition. Our progress may be slow to you all at a distance, but if you ever cross this ground you will not accuse us of being idlers.
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General, Commanding

I wrote to General Webster at Nashville:
See Governor Johnson and arrange for transferring the railroad to the Tennessee, from Reynoldsburg to Nashville, to Mr. Anderson, superintendent of road, that he may use his trains from Reynoldsburg to our camp at Atlanta. Notify Colonel Donaldson to use that road hereafter, and to make temporary sheds at the river. Telegraph to Admiral Porter as to patrolling the river up as far as Reynoldsburg, and see General Rousseau as to guarding it to Nashville. Make all arrangements that the route may be entire and complete under one single management. When the Cumberland River rises so as to be available it may again, so far as I am concerned, go back to the management of Governor Johnson. I will telegraph the Secretary of War as to the necessity of this change.

General Halleck telegraphs the lack of cavalry horses:

Your request about horses from Saint Louis has been anticipated. Instead of 2,000 on hand, they will not be able to send you 1,000 in less than a week. The country is nearly exhausted of cavalry horses, and unless there is a greater economy in their use the men must very soon go afoot.

General Palmer is compromising our effort with his selfish and obstinate behavior.

In the Field, near Atlanta, Ga., August 5, 1864

General THOMAS, Army of the Cumberland:

Yesterday General Palmer raised the question of rank with General Schofield. I went in person and found that General Schofield ranked General Palmer as a brigadier; but General Palmer was appointed and confirmed major-general to date November 29, 1862. General Schofield was also nominated from same date, but the Senate would not confirm. But since that session the Senate has confirmed, and General Schofield has his commission of same date as General Palmer, and ranks him by virtue of prior commission. I have so decided, and General Palmer asks to be relieved of his command and to be ordered North. I declined and ordered him emphatically to go on today and execute the plan prescribed for yesterday, in connection with and under command of General Schofield.

I have another letter from him, asking to be relieved after today’s operations. Now, what say you? General Davis is unwell and General Johnson ranks him. That is the largest corps we have, and thus far has not sustained heavy loss in this campaign. It moves slowly and reluctantly and there is something wrong. What are your plans and wishes?

General Schofield reports that General Johnson’s division has reached the Sandtown road well to the right by a road I put it on last night. General Morgan’s division also has reached it, and General Baird is swinging by a left wheel, so his right flank will reach it. Generals Schofield and Palmer have both gone out to complete the movement, which involves a push toward the railroad till our right flank is near enough the railroad to control it by short-range artillery. There was sharp firing for a few moments this morning, but it has ceased now, so that I begin to think we will succeed on that flank without the serious battle I apprehended. Still, keep your ears open, and if you hear heavy musketry over near White Hall, either make a break into Atlanta or so occupy the lines that the enemy may not detach too heavily against Generals Schofield and Palmer. Generals Howard and Schofield will connect by a shorter line across the head of Utoy Creek. Our cavalry has scouted down to the mouth of Utoy Creek.

W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General, Commanding

August 5, 1864: 9.30 a. m.

Major-General SHERMAN:
Your dispatch received. I regret to hear that Palmer has taken the course he has, and as I know he intends to offer his resignation as soon as he feels he can do so without injury to himself I recommend that his application to be relieved from the command of the Fourteenth Army Corps be granted. I earnestly recommend Brigadier General J. C. Davis for major-general U. S. Volunteers for past services and uniform gallantry in battle, and apply to have him assigned to the command of the Fourteenth Army Corps. I have everybody on the lookout for any movement of the enemy.

GEO. H. THOMAS, Major-General, U. S. Volunteers

HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, near Atlanta, Ga., August 5, 1864
General THOMAS:
Your dispatch is received. I will send a copy of it to General Palmer and give him a couple of hours to think of it, and if he reiterates his application I will leave you to accept and let him go. I will then indorse your recommendation of General Jeff. C. Davis as major-general and commander of the Fourteenth Corps. I don’t want General Palmer to make so fatal a mistake as he seems bent on committing.
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General, Commanding

HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, near Atlanta, Ga., August 5, 1864.
General THOMAS:
Colonel Warner, one of my inspectors-general, who was on the right all day, reports nothing done or would be done. Will General Johnson be any better than General Palmer? I would prefer to move a rock than to move that corps. On the defensive it would be splendid, but for offensive it is of no use. It must have a head that will give it life and impulse. I was ashamed yesterday and kept away on purpose today to see if orders would not move it, but if an enemy can be seen by a spy-glass the whole corps is halted and intrenched for a siege. Unless it will attack I must relieve it in orders and state the reason. I will call for official reports and act to-night. Is General Johnson capable of handling the corps till we can have General Davis commissioned and ordered to the command?
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General, Commanding

Major-General SHERMAN:
I am surprised to receive such a report of the Fourteenth Corps, for it has always been prompt in executing any work given to it heretofore. If General Palmer is an obstacle to its efficiency, I would let him go. I had the Fourth and Twentieth Corps demonstrate strongly on the enemy’s line from 12 m. until night. They found the intrenchments heavily manned. I will have the skirmishers feel forward again to-night to see if the enemy have left. The Fourth and Twentieth Corps now occupy the whole line held by the Twenty-third, Twentieth, and Fourth Corps before the movement on the right commenced, consequently they are in single line, and it will be impossible to form an assaulting column. I sent Whipple to the right to-day. He has just returned and informed me that all that was done to-day on the right was done by Baird’s division, which advanced in obedience to Schofield’s orders, but not being supported either on its right or left, General Baird fell back to his former position after having driven the enemy from two lines of rifle-pits, and capturing 160 prisoners, losing about 100 men himself.

Johnson ought to be able to maneuver the corps. He has commanded a division for more than two years.

In the Field, near Atlanta, Ga., August 5, 1864

General THOMAS:
I telegraphed to General R. S. Granger this morning that he need not send the battery along with the infantry brigade. If not needed at Decatur order General Granger to send it to Nashville in reserve.

I know that the slowness of the troops on the right was not the fault of the men, but the want of proper direction on the part of the commanders. First, was the question of rank; and next, the course taken was too far west, away from the railroad rather than toward it. Tonight General Schofield will put General Johnson in the trenches, take his out, and move perpendicular to the road, and not extend to the right more than is necessary, and will have Generals Baird and Morgan in support. If we can keep the forts of Atlanta full, with four divisions in hand, we can whip any force outside of rebel intrenchments, and will have General Johnson near enough for support. All our line is well developed, but is generally strengthened by good abatis and parapet, and conforms pretty close to the enemy, so that if we force the enemy to stick in his trenches General Schofield should surely reach the railroad and overcome any force the enemy has outside.

I have no doubt by our delay the enemy is better prepared than he would have been could we have moved quick, as I ordered yesterday. Last night I could see the cars, say a mile and a quarter due southeast, whereas Generals Baird and Johnson today moved southwest, or nearly due west, away from the enemy. But we will try again tomorrow, and persevere to the end.

I have written to General Palmer at length, and asked him to come and see me very early in the morning, and if he wants to go I will assent, and in that event will make the recommendations your suggested this morning.

I have personally examined our line from right to left, and feel no uneasiness as to the enemy making a sally. I know it will be hard to make an assaulting column, but all I want is to force the enemy to hold troops at all points, so as not to mass too heavy on our right.
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General, Commanding

In the Field, near Atlanta, Ga., August 5, 1864

General PALMER:
I would like to have you to come and see me as early in the morning as convenient. If you think of resigning it is probably better it should be now, as I fear the intention lessens your interests in our operations. Should you agree with me in this, turn over the command to General Johnson, and then you can assign as a reason anything you prefer. I would suggest that you put it on the ground of a prior resolve as soon as the campaign was over, and it having settled down into a quasi siege, you request now to be relieved and to be permitted to go to Illinois; or, if you prefer it, the reason that you considered your rank superior to General Schofield’s. To be honest, I must say the operations on that flank yesterday and today have not been satisfactory. Yet I will not say that there has been want of energy or skill, but events have not kept pace with my desires.
Major-General, Commanding.

Before Atlanta, Ga., August 5, 1864: 10.05 p.m.

General SHERMAN: I confess my surprise at the contents of your telegraphic note, this moment received.
Waiving any statement of what were my purposes and intentions in respect to quitting the service, I will frankly say that if I were in your place, at the head of an army, I would require of my subordinates the faithful and energetic performance of their respective duties, and if my plans failed of execution, I would ascertain the cause and punish the delinquent vigorously, as no man is to be regarded when contrasted with [the] great cause of the country.

I am not surprised that you are dissatisfied with the operations of the army of this flank on yesterday and today, for I am also dissatisfied, and think much more ought to have been done, and readily confess myself in some measure responsible. Still I do earnestly protest against your inference of a want of interest in our operations. On yesterday you were present, and I will not speak of what I said or did. Today I exerted myself more, I think, than any officer on the field to carry out General Schofield’s orders, until the afternoon, near night, I found that aside from Baird’s handsome operation in the forenoon nothing would be accomplished. I am to blame, however, in this, that I have not done as you obviously intend doing in my case–hold some one responsible for the failures. I think I could select the proper objects of responsibility more accurately than you have done in selecting me. I am so well convinced that this campaign has been lengthened out by the negligence and inattention of officers, and will be hereafter lengthened and drawn out from the same cause, that I accept your intimation to me not as offensive (though I think unjust), but as a sign of a purpose on your part, in future, to inquire into the causes of our almost daily failures to meet your avowed expectations, and when the cause is discovered to apply the correction. If you will do this justly, without favor or affection, I will venture my life that you will be astonished at the result.

I will accept your offer to relieve me, not upon the ground that your suspicion of a want of interest is well founded, nor that I am in any other than the manner already admitted responsible for the unsatisfactory results on this flank, but upon the principle that as you are responsible to the country for this campaign every subordinate officer employed ought upon the first intimation from you of a want of confidence step out of the way promptly and feel that he is serving the country in doing so. Pardon this long letter. I will call upon you tomorrow morning and present a formal application to be relieved.
JOHN M. PALMER, Major-General

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