Sunday September 11, 1864

Atlanta Georgia

I received a plea from the officials of Atlanta:

ATLANTA, GA., September 11, 1864.
Major Gen. W. T. SHERMAN:
We, the undersigned, mayor and two of the council for the city of Atlanta, for the time being the only legal organ of the people of the said city to express their wants and wishes, ask leave most earnestly, but respectfully, to petition you to reconsider the order requiring them to leave Atlanta. At first view it struck us that the measure would involve extraordinary hardship and loss, but since we have seen the practical execution of it so far as it has progressed, and the individual condition of the people, and heard their statements as to the inconveniences, loss, and suffering attending it, we are satisfied that the amount of it will involve in the aggregate consequences appalling and heart-rending. Many poor women are in advanced state of pregnancy; others now having young children, and whose husbands, for the greater part, are either in the army, prisoners, or dead. Some say, “I have such an one sick at my house; who will wait on them when I am gone?” Others say, “what are we to do? We have no house to go to, and no means to buy, build, or rent any; no parents, relatives, or friends to go to.” Another says, “I will try and take this or that article of property, but such and such things I must leave behind, though I need them much.” We reply to them, “General Sherman will carry your property to Rough and Ready, and General Hood will take it thence on,” and they will reply to that, “but I want to leave the railroad at such place and cannot get conveyance from there on.”

We only refer to a few facts to try to illustrate in part how this measure will operate in practice. As you advanced, the people north of this fell back, and before your arrival here a large portion of the people had retired south, so that the country south of this is already crowded and without houses enough to accommodate the people. We are informed that many are now staying in churches and other outbuildings. This being so, how is it possible for the people still here (mostly women and children) to find any shelter? And how can they live through the winter in the woods? No shelter or subsistence, in the midst of strangers who know them not, and without the power to assist them much, if they were willing to do so. This is but a feeble picture of the consequences of this measure. You know the woe, the horrors and the suffering cannot be described by words; imagination can only conceive of it, and we ask you to take these things into consideration. We know your mind and time are constantly occupied with the duties of your command, which almost deters us from asking your attention to this matter, but thought it might be that you had not considered this subject in all of its awful consequences, and that on more reflection you, we hope, would not make this people an exception to all mankind, for we know of no such instance ever having occurred; surely none such in the United States, and what has this helpless people done, that they should be driven from their homes to wander strangers and outcasts and exiles, and to subsist on charity? We do not know as yet the number of people still here; of those who are here, we are satisfied a respectable number, if allowed to remain at home, could subsist for several months without assistance, and a respectable number for a much longer time, and who might not need assistance at any time.

In conclusion, we most earnestly and solemnly petition you to reconsider this order, or modify it, and suffer this unfortunate people to remain at home and enjoy what little means they have.

Respectfully submitted.

Canby Writes:


Major General W. T. SHERMAN, Commanding, &c., Atlanta, Ga.:
I have a disposable force of only 15,000 men, but this can be increased to 25,000 or 30,000 as soon as the enemy determines his line of operation. I do not think that Kirby Smith can concentrate more than 30,000, although his returns show 97,000.

Admiral Farragut and myself concurred in the opinion that the occupation of Mobile would be a disadvantage unless we had a sufficient land force to push up the Alabama River in the direction of Montgomery. It would absorb troops to garrison it, and it would become a depot for supplying the rebel armies.

Nearly half of Reynolds’ corps is now in Arkansas, but will return as soon as the troubles there are over, when I hope to resume operations up the Alabama River and east of Mobile. Preparations are now being made in Mobile Bay and at Pensacola. In the mean time, such demonstrations will be made about Mobile and the railroads as will keep up the feeling of uneasiness and prevent any reduction of the force now there. If you can suggest anything that will aid your operations, I will carry it out as far as I have the means. The rebels are concentrating supplies to a great extent at Montgomery.

I learn from Colonel Howard that there has been some misconception as to the nature and extent of the authority exercised by me over the troops on the east bank of the Mississippi. The orders and instructions give me the control of the troops on both banks of the river for the purpose of keeping it open and for such emergencies as might arise. I have considered that this authority was to be exercised in subordination to your own, and without interfering with the relations existing between the post or district and department commanders. The reports made to me are in addition to those which should be made to department commanders, and the assignments that I have made from troops in your DIVISION are temporary. This is fully stated in the orders (General Orders, Nos. 3, 6, and). If any officer has failed to make this report, it is from inattention to, or misconception of, these orders, and this will be corrected.

The organization of districts on the Lower Mississippi, the powers given to district commanders within the limits of your DIVISION, and the regulations for the police of the river are general in their character, but were necessary to secure uniformity on both banks of the river, and to give the greatest effect to the means under our control. They conform in the main to the regulations established by General Grant and yourself. The detachment of the Seventeenth Corps, now on White River, was sent by me to Memphis in accordance with your request about the 20th or 25th of May, and I supposed until now that it had been retained by your authority. I have directed General Reynolds to send it back to Memphis, and have advised General Washburn that you wish it to be sent forward. I have not counted upon Smith’s force, except as to the contingency of his being spared to support Steele in case of necessity, and upon being advised brn that yim to join you, modified my own plans to conform to this change. Beyond the duties with which I have been specially charged, I have regarded the operations in this DIVISION as entirely subordinate to yours, and have shaped them to accord with your intentions so far as they have been known.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
E. D. R. S. CANBY, Major-General, Commanding

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