HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, Atlanta, Georgia
JAMES M. CALHOUN, Mayor, E. E. RAWSON, and S. C. WELLS,
Representing City Council of Atlanta:
GENTLEMEN: I have your letter of the 11th, in the nature of a petition to revoke my orders removing all the inhabitants from Atlanta. I have read it carefully, and give full credit to your statements of the distress that will be occasioned by it, and yet shall not revoke my orders, simply because my orders are not designed to meet the humanities of the case, but to prepare for the future struggles in which millions of good people outside of Atlanta have a deep interest. We must have peace, not only at Atlanta but in all America. To secure this we must stop the war that now desolates our once happy and favored country. To stop war we must defeat the rebel armies that are arrayed against the laws and Constitution, which all must respect and obey. To defeat these armies we must prepare the way to reach them in their recesses provided with the arms and instruments which enable us to accomplish our purpose.
Now, I know the vindictive nature of our enemy, and that we may have many years of military operations from this quarter, and therefore deem it wise and prudent to prepare in time. The use of Atlanta for warlike purposes is inconsistent with its character as a home for families. There will be no manufactures, commerce, or agriculture here for the maintenance of families, and sooner or later want will compel the inhabitants to go. Why not go now, when all the arrangements are completed for the transfer, instead of waiting till the plunging shot of contending armies will renew the scenes of the past month? Of course, I do not apprehend any such thing at this moment, but you do not suppose this army will be here until the war is over. I cannot discuss this subject with you fairly, because I cannot impart to you what I propose to do, but I assert that my military plans make it necessary for the inhabitants to go away, and I can only renew my offer of services to make their exodus in any direction as easy and comfortable as possible.
You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty and you cannot refine it, and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out. I know I had no hand in making this war, and I know I will make more sacrifices today than any of you to secure peace. But you cannot have peace and a division of our country. If the United States submits to a division now it will not stop, but will go on until we reap the fate of Mexico, which is eternal war. The United States does and must assert its authority wherever it once had power. If it relaxes one bit to pressure it is gone, and I know that such is the national feeling. This feeling assumes various shapes, but always comes back to that of Union. Once admit the Union, once more acknowledge the authority of the National Government, and instead of devoting your houses and streets and roads to the dread uses of war, this army becomes at once your protectors and supporters, shielding you from danger, let it come from what quarter it may.
I know that a few individuals cannot resist a torrent of error and passion such as swept the South into rebellion, but you can part out so that we may know those who desire a government and those who insist on war and its desolation. You might as well appeal against the thunder-storm as against these terrible hardships of war. They are inevitable, and the only way the people of Atlanta can hope once more to live in peace and quiet at home is to stop the war, which can alone be done by admitting that it began in error and is perpetuated in pride.
We don’t want your negroes or your horses or your houses or your lands or anything you have, but we do want, and will have, a just obedience to the laws of the United States. That we will have, and if it involves the destruction of your improvements we cannot help it. You have heretofore read public sentiment in your newspapers that live by falsehood and excitement, and the quicker you seek for truth in other quarters the better for you.
I repeat then that by the original compact of government the United States had certain rights in Georgia, which have never been relinquished and never will be; that the South began war by seizing forts, arsenals, mints, custom-houses, &c. long before Mr. Lincoln was installed and before the South had one jot or tittle of provocation. I myself have seen in Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi hundreds and thousands of women and children fleeing from your armies and desperadoes, hungry and with bleeding feet. In Memphis, Vicksburg, and Mississippi we fed thousands upon thousands of the families of rebel soldiers left on our hands and whom we could not see starve. Now that war comes home to you, you feel very different. You deprecate its horrors, but did not feel them when you sent car-loads of soldiers and ammunition and molded shells and shot to carry war into Kentucky and Tennessee, and desolate the homes of hundreds and thousands of good people who only asked to live in peace at their old homes and under the Government of their inheritance. But these comparisons are idle. I want peace, and believe it can now only be reached through union and war, and I will ever conduct war with a view to perfect an early success. But, my dear sirs, when that peace does come, you may call on me for anything. Then will I share with you the last cracker, and watch with you to shield your homes and families against danger from every quarter. Now you must go, and take with you the old and feeble, feed and nurse them and build for them in more quiet places proper habitations to shield them against the weather until the mad passions of men cool down and allow the Union and peace once more to settle over your old homes at Atlanta.
Yours, in haste,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General, Commanding.
General Hood Sends a Letter:
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF TENNESSEE, September 12, 1864.
Maj. Gen. W. T. SHERMAN, Commanding Military Division of the Mississippi:
GENERAL; I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 9th instant, with its inclosure, in reference to the women, children, and others whom you have thought proper to expel from their homes in the city of Atlanta. Had you seen proper to let the matter rest there, I would gladly have allowed your letter to close this correspondence, and without your expressing it in words would have been willing to believe that whilst “the interests of the United States,” in your opinion, compelled you to an act of barbarous cruelty, you regretted the necessity, and we would have dropped the subject. But you have chosen to indulge in statements which I feel compelled to notice, at least so far as to signify my dissent and not allow silence in regard to them to be construed as acquiescence.
I see nothing in your communication which induces me to modify the language of condemnation with which I characterized your order. It but strengthens me in the opinion that it stands” pre-eminent in the dark history of war, for studied and ingenious cruelty.” Your original order was stripped of all pretenses; you announced the edict for the sole reason that it was “to the interest of the United States.” This alone you offered to us and the civilized world as an all-sufficient reason for disregarding the laws of God and man. You say that “General Johnston himself, very wisely and properly, removed the families all the way from Dalton down,” It is due to that gallant soldier and gentleman to say that no act of his distinguished career gives the least color to your unfounded aspersions upon his conduct. He depopulated no villages nor towns nor cities, either friendly or hostile. He offered and extended friendly aid to his unfortunate fellow-citizens who desired to flee from your fraternal embraces. You are equally unfortunate in your attempt to find a justification for this act of cruelty either in the defense of Jonesborough, by General Hardee, or of Atlanta by myself. General Hardee defended his position in front of Jonesborough at the expense of injury to the houses, an ordinary, proper, and justifiable act of war. I defended Atlanta at the same risk and cost. If there was any fault in either case, it was your own, in not giving notice, especially in the case of Atlanta, of your purpose to shell the town, which is usual in war among civilized nations. No inhabitant was expelled from his home and fireside by the orders of General Hardee or myself, and therefore your recent order can find no support from the conduct of either of us. I feel no other emotion than pain in reading that portion of your letter which attempts to justify your shelling Atlanta without notice under pretense that I defended Atlanta upon a line so close to town that every cannon shot, and many musket balls from your line of investment, that over-shot their mark went into the habitations of women and children. I made no complaint of your firing into Atlanta in any way you thought proper. I make none now, but there are a hundred thousand witnesses that you fired into the habitations of women and children for weeks, firing far above and miles beyond my line of defense. I have too good an opinion, founded both upon observation and experience, of the skill of your artillerists to credit the insinuation that they for several weeks unintentionally fired too high for my modest field-works, and slaughtered women and children by accident and want of skill.
The residue of your letter is rather discussion. It opens a wide field for the discussion of questions which I do not feel are committed to me. I am only a general of one of the armies of the Confederate States, charged with military operations in the field, under the direction of my superior officers, and I am not called upon to discuss with you the causes of the present war, or the political questions which led to or resulted from it. These grave and important questions have been committed to far abler hands than mine, and I shall only refer to them so far as to repel any unjust conclusion which might be drawn from my silence. You charge my country with “daring and badgering you to battle.” The truth is, we sent commissioners to you respectfully offering a peaceful separation before the first gun was fired on either side. You say we insulted your flag. The truth is we fired upon it and those who fought under it when you came to our doors upon the mission of subjugation. You say we seized upon your forts and arsenals and made prisoners of the garrisons sent to protect us against negroes and Indians. The truth is, we, by force of arms, drove out insolent intruders, and took possession of our own forts and arsenals to resist your claims to dominion over masters, slaves, and Indians, all of whom are to this day, with a unanimity unexampled in the history of the world, warring against your attempts to become their masters. You say that we tried to force Missouri and Kentucky into rebellion in spite of themselves. The truth is my Government, from the beginning of this struggle to this hour, has again and again offered, before the whole world to leave it to the unbiased will of these States and all others to determine for themselves whether they will cast their destiny with your Government or ours? and your Government has resisted this fundamental principle of free institutions with the bayonet, and labors daily by force and fraud to fasten its hateful tyranny upon the unfortunate freemen of these States.
You say we falsified the vote of Louisiana. The truth is, Louisiana not only separated herself from your Government by nearly a unanimous vote of her people, but has vindicated the act upon every battle-field from Gettysburg to the Sabine, and has exhibited an heroic devotion to her decision which challenges the admiration and respect of every man capable of feeling sympathy for the oppressed or admiration for heroic valor. You say that we turned loose pirates to plunder your unarmed ships. The truth is, when you robbed us of our part of the navy, we built and bought a few vessels, hoisted the flag of our country, and swept the seas, in defiance of your navy, around the whole circumference of the globe. You say we have expelled Union families by thousands. The truth is not a single family has been expelled from the Confederate States, that I am aware of, but, on the contrary, the moderation of our Government toward traitors has been a fruitful theme of denunciation by its enemies and many well-meaning friends of our cause. You say my Government, by acts of Congress, has “confiscated all debts due Northern men for goods sold and delivered.” The truth is our Congress gave due and ample time to your merchants and traders to depart from our shores with their ships, goods, and effects, and only sequestrated the property of our enemies in retaliation for their acts, declaring us traitors and confiscating our property wherever their power extended, either in their country or our own. Such are your accusations, and such are the facts known of all men to be true.
You order into exile the whole population of a city, drives men, women, and children from their homes at the point of the bayonet, under the plea that it is to the interest of your Government, and on the claim that it is an act of “kindness to these families of Atlanta.” Butler only banished from New Orleans the registered enemies of his Government, and acknowledged that he did it as a punishment. You issue a sweeping edict covering all the inhabitants of a city and add insult to the injury heaped upon the defenseless by assuming that you have done them a kindness. This you follow by the assertion that you will “make as much sacrifice for the peace and honor of the South as the best born Southerner.” And because I characterized what you call a kindness as being real cruelty you presume to sit in judgment between me and my God and you decide that my earnest prayer to the Almighty Father to save our women and children from what you call kindness is a “sacrilegious, hypocritical appeal.”
You came into our country with your army avowedly for the purpose of subjugating free white men, women, and children, and not only intend to rule over them, but you make negroes your allies and desire to place over us an inferior race, which we have raised from barbarism to its present position, which is the highest ever attained by that race in any country in all time. I must, therefore, decline to accept your statements in reference to your kindness toward the people of Atlanta, and your willingness to sacrifice everything for the peace and honor of the South, and refuse to be governed by your decision in regard to matters between myself, my country, and my God. You say, “let us fight it out like men.” To this my reply is, for myself, and, I believe, for all the true men, aye, and women and children, in my country, we will fight you to the death. Better die a thousand deaths than submit to live under you or your Government and your negro allies.
Having answered the points forced upon me by your letter of the 10th of September, I close this correspondence with you, and notwithstanding your comments upon my appeal to God in the cause of humanity, I again humbly and reverently invoke His Almighty aid in defense of justice and right.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. B. HOOD, General
TO JOHN BELL HOOD
Headquarters, Military Division of the Mississippi,In the Field, Atlanta Sept. 12, 1864.
Genl. J. B. Hood, Comdg. Dept. of Tenn., Confederate Army:
I have yours of today. You asked to Exchange Prisoners, and I consented as
far as those which remained in my hands here and this side of Chattanooga.
These I will exchange in the manner I have stated and not otherwise. As you
Cannot know those of our men whose terms have expired I authorized Colonel
Warner to say I would receive any number taken of this army between certain
dates, say the last two thousand or in any other single period: but as a matter of business I offered terms that could not be misunderstood.
You have not answered my proposition as to the “men captured in Atlanta who are soldiers of the Confederate Army detailed on Extra duty,” in the shops. I think I understand the Laws of Civilized nations and “the Customs of War”, but if at a loss at any time I Know where to Seek information to refresh my memory. If you will give our prisoners at Anderson, a little more Elbow Room, and liberty to make out of the abundant timber shelters for themselves, and also a fair allowance of food to enable them to live in health, they will ask nothing more till such time as we will provide for them.
I am with respect, Your Obedient Servant,
W. T. Sherman, Major General Commanding
I write Grant:
HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field
General GRANT, City Point, Va.:
I have Macon papers of the 10th and 11th. Dick Taylor is in command of the department, including Mobile. Forrest and his men have reached Mobile. All well here. The exodus of people is progressing and matters coming into shape. I will have all official reports of the campaign in and off for Washington by the 15th. I don’t understand whether you propose to act against Savannah direct from Fort Pulaski or by way of Florida or from the direction of Mobile. If you can take Savannah by a sudden coup de main it would be valuable. The enemy is evidently concentrating all his MISSISSIPPI forces at Mobile, and Hood is about Lovejoy’s Station watching me, apprehensive of big raids.
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General, Commanding
I write Halleck Concerning Cavalry:
HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI,
In the Field, Atlanta, Ga., September 12, 1864-11 p. m.
(Received 3. 15 a. m. 13th.)
Major General H. W. HALLECK, Chief of Staff:
I do not think that I need at this time cavalry horses in undue proportion. I have lost faith in cavalry raids, and our men take bad care of their animals. There is a large abundance of forage in Alabama and Georgia, and independent columns of cavalry might operate by a circuit from one army to another and destroy the enemy’s cavalry, which is more to be feared by us than their infantry. As soon as General Grant determines for me the next move on the chessboard, I will estimate the number I will want, and, in the mean time, would not ask more than a fair proportion for remounts. Wheeler might have been utterly destroyed if we had had more cavalry in Tennessee, but that is now too late. In the future we will have to use cavalry offensively, and trust to the enemy’s corn-fields for forage. Our road is repaired and bringing forward supplies, but I doubt its capacity to do much more than feed our trains and artillery horses. All well.
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General
General A. J. SMITH, Cairo, Ill.:
I have been trying for three months to get you and Mower to me, but am headed off at every turn. General Halleck asks for you to clean out Price. Can’t you make a quick job of it and then get to me? Your command belongs to me, and is only loaned to help our neighbors, but I fear they make you do the lion’s share. However, do as General Halleck orders, and as soon as possible come to me. All well.
W. T. SHERMAN,Major-General, Commanding.
Honorable EDWIN M. STANTON, Secretary of War:
I am very glad to hear the draft will be enforced: First, we need the men; second, they come as privates to fill up our old and tried regiments with their experienced officers already on hand; and THIRD, because the stern enforcement of the law will manifest a power resident in our Government equal to the occasion. Our Government, though a democracy, should in times of trouble and danger by able to wield the most despotic power of a great nation. All well.
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General