Wednesday, August 17, 1864

Near Atlanta, Georgia

HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, 
In the Field, near Atlanta, Ga., August 17, 1864

Major General H. W. HALLECK, Washington, D. C.:
Your dispatch of yesterday is received. We must have the Alabama River, and, if I remember the bay, the best river channel is on the Tensas side; but, of course, I must trust to Admiral Farragut and General Canby. I have a tight grip on Atlanta, and was on the point of swinging round to the southeast when Wheeler went to my rear with 6,000 cavalry He has passed into East Tennessee, having damaged us but little. I will avail myself of his absence to reciprocate the compliment,and tomorrow night the Macon road must be broken good. General Kilpatrick will undertake it. Wheeler cannot disturb Knoxville or Loudon. He may hurt some of the minor points, but, on the whole, East Tennessee is a good place for him to break down his horses, and a poor place to steal new ones. All well.
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General

President Lincoln inquired about sending cotton north. I Respond:
NEAR ATLANTA, August 17, 1864: 11.30 a. m.

Major General H. W. HALLECK, Washington, D. C.:
The trouble about cotton is the time consumed in loading and unloading. It is all we can do to get supplies up, for I have to make allowance for our road being broken one-third of the time. There is very little cotton in North Georgia, but I will order quartermasters to collect all and send it to Colonel Donaldson at Nashville, where the Treasury Department may have it or buy it of nominal owners.
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General

I now have positive and official information that General Wheeler has gone up into East Tennessee beyond Spring Place. We will repair all damages to railroad and telegraph tonight. I will not move our infantry, but break the Macon road all to pieces with our cavalry tomorrow night. The infantry will therefore be active and demonstrate against Atlanta to occupy the front and make believe we will attack them in their trenches during tomorrow and next day.

I think I will defer the grand movement for a day or so, and precede it by a cavalry movement on the Macon road between Rough and Ready and Jonesborough, I propose to give General Kilpatrick his whole division and two of General Garrard’s brigades to move quietly down to Camp Creek, and then by a rapid movement strike and break thoroughly the Macon road, your infantry to co-operate and divert attention. We know that Wheeler is well to the north with a large part of the cavalry, and now is the time. I expect General Kilpatrick up. Any preparations for the infantry move will be all right, and we need only postpone the time of execution.

My orders to Kilpatrick:
It is not a raid, but a deliberate attack for the purpose of so disabling that road that the enemy will be unable to supply his army in Atlanta. He will have his own division of cavalry and two good bridges from General Garrard’s division. With these he will move to-morrow night, aiming to cross the West Point road between Red Oak and Fairburn. If he has time he should remove a small section of the road without using fire, simply to lessen the chances of an infantry force being sent to intercept his return. He should then move in force to the nearest point of the Macon road, about Jonesborough, and should destroy as much of that arms and horse for battle. He should avoid battle with infantry of artillery, but may safely fight any cavalry he encounters, because we know that the enemy has sent Wheeler with full 6,000 cavalry up into East Tennessee. I leave the extent of the break to General Kilpatrick, but will only say that he cannot destroy too much. Having fulfilled his task he will return and resume his post on the right flank of the army.

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