Near Atlanta, Georgia
I sent Halleck and Grant a detailed account of the events concerning the battles for Atlanta and my justification for replacement of McPherson and other commands:
HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, near Atlanta, August 16, 1864.
Major- General HALLECK, Chief of Staff, Washington, D. C.:
It occurs to me that preliminary to a future report of the history of this campaign, I should record certain facts of great personal interest to officers of this command.
General McPherson was killed by the musketry fire at the beginning of the battle of July 22. He had in person selected the ground for his troops, constituting the left wing of the army, I being in person with the center, General Schofield. The moment the information of the attack reached me, I sent one of my staff to announce the fact to General McPherson, and if possible for him to repulse the attack, but if pressed to hard to refuse his left flank, but at events to hold the railroad and main Decatur road. I did not propose to move or gain ground by that flank, but rather by the right. I wanted the Army of the Tennessee to fight it out unaided.
General Logan admirably conceived my orders and executed them, and if he gave ground on the left of the Seventeenth Corps, it was properly done by my orders. He held a certain hill by the right division of the Seventeenth Corps, the only ground on that line the possession of which by an enemy would have damaged us by giving a reverse fire on the remainder of the troops. General Logan fought that battle out as required unaided, save by a small brigade sent by my orders from General Schofield to the Decatur road well to the rear, where it was reported the enemy’s cavalry had got into the town of Decatur and was operating directly on the rear of Logan. That brigade was not disturbed, and was replaced that night by a part of the Fifteenth Corps, next to General Schofield. General Schofield’s brigade was brought back, so as to be kept together on its own line.
General Logan managed the Army of the Tennessee well during his command, and it may be that an unfair inference might be drawn to his prejudice, because he did not succeed to the permanent command. I was forced to choose a commandeer, not only for the army in the field, but of the Department of the Tennessee, covering a vast extent of country with troops much dispersed. It was a delicate and difficult task, and I gave preference to Major General O. O. Howard, then in command of the Fourth Army Corps in the Department of the Cumberland. Instead of giving my reasons, I prefer that the wisdom of the choice be left to the test of time. The President kindly ratified my choice, and I am willing to assume the responsibility. I meant no disrespect to any officer, and hereby declare that general Logan submitted with the grace and dignity of a soldier, gentleman, and patriot, resumed the command of his corps proper (Fifteenth), and enjoys the love ad respect of his army and his commanders.
It so happened that on the 28th of July I had again thrown the same army to the extreme right, the exposed flank, where the enemy repeated the same maneuver, striking in mass the extreme corps deployed in line and refused as a flank (the Fifteenth, Major- General Loagan), and he commanded in person, General Howard and myself being near. That corps, as heretofore reported, repulsed the rebel army completely, and next day advanced and occupied the ground fought over and the road the enemy sought to cover. General Howard, who had that very day assumed his new command, unequivocally gave General Logan all the credit possible, and I also beg to add my unqualified admiration of the bravery, skill, and, more yet, good sense that influenced him to bear a natural disappointment and do his whole duty like a man. If I could bestow on him substantial reward it would afford me unalloyed satisfaction. I do believe, in the consciousness of acts done from noble impulses and gracefully admitted by his superiors in authority, he will be contented. He already holds the highest known commission in the army, and it is hard to say how we can better manifest our applause.
At the time of General Howard’s selection, Major General Hooker commanded the Twentieth Army Corps in the Army of the Cumberland, made up for his special accommodation out of the old Eleventh and Twelfth Corps, whereby General Slocum was deprived of his corps command. Both the law and practice are and have been to fill vacancies in the higher army commands by selection. Rank or dates of commission have not controlled, nor am I aware that any reflection can be inferred unless the junior be placed immediately over the senior. But General Howard was not put over him, but in charge of a distinct and separate army. no indignity was offered nor intended, and I must say that General Hooker was not justified in retiring. At all events had he spoken or written to me I would have made every explanation and concession he could have expected, but could not have changed my course, because then, as now, I believe I did right and for the good of our country and cause. As a matter of justice, General Slocum, having been displaced by the consolidation, was deemed by General Thomas as entitled to the vacancy created by General Hooker’s voluntary withdrawal and has received it.
With great respect,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major- General, Commanding