I have reconnoitered the entire rebel lines about Atlanta, which are entirely too extensive to be held by a single corps or division of troops. I have instructed Colonel Poe, United States Engineers, on my staff, to lay off an inner and shorter line, susceptible of defense by a smaller garrison. This will require the destruction of many houses in Atlanta, another reason to evacuate Atlanta. I do not desire a repeat of my experience in Memphis and we cannot supply both this army and civilians by a tenuous supply line under attack by the enemy.
Webster Reports from Nashville on the enemy in my rear.
NASHVILLE, TENN., September 13, 1864-3.30 p. m.
Major-General SHERMAN, Atlanta:
General Rousseau has just arrived. Wheeler and his main force crossed the Tennessee River at the Shoals on the 10th. Parties of them have been crossing also at Savannah, as I learn from Captain Shirk, of the Navy. Another force of from 2,000 to 3,000 rebels, under Williams, reported to be much demoralized and out of ammunition, is in White County, east of Murfreesborough. General Burbridge is about starting to destroy the salt-works near Abingdon, Virginia,\ taking Gillem along. Illumination and a really great congratulatory meeting here last night to celebrate fall of Atlanta, &c.
J. D. WEBSTER, Brigadier-General
General Hood has sent in by a flag of truce a proposition, offering a general exchange of prisoners, saying that he was authorized to make such an exchange by the Richmond authorities, out of the vast number of our men held captive at Andersonville, the same whom General Stoneman had hoped to rescue at the time of his raid. Some of these prisoners have already escaped and got in, and described the pitiable condition of the remainder. I feel a sympathy for their hardships and sufferings as deeply as any man could. Yet as nearly all the prisoners who have been captured by us during the campaign have been sent, as fast as taken, to the usual depots North, they are then beyond my control. There are still about two thousand, mostly captured at Jonesboro, who have been sent back by cars, but have not passed Chattanooga. I ordered these back, and offer General Hood to exchange them for Stoneman, Buell, and such of my own army as would make up the equivalent. I will not exchange for his prisoners generally, because I know these will be sent to their own regiments, away from my army, whereas all we could give him could at once be put to duty in his immediate army.
I Write Halleck:
HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI,
In the Field, Atlanta, Ga., September 13, 1864.
Major-General HALLECK, Washington, D. C.:
GENERAL: I inclose you a couple of rebel papers of September 9 and 13, which contain articles I would have you and Mr. Stanton to read. In the latter you will find General Hood has published my letter about moving the people of Atlanta and his answer. You will observe he characterizes this removal in somewhat harsh terms, and I feel sure he has made his answer public before it went to the Richmond government, as is required by their official usage. He has, therefore, appealed to the public as a demagogue, and hopes to make capital. Of course, he is welcome, for the more he arouses the indignation of the Southern masses the bigger will be the bill of bitterness they have to swallow.
The people of Atlanta are going, and we will have the place for military uses, and not have to engage in a ceaseless wrangle every time we need a house or a site for a battery. The present rebel lines would require a garrison of 30,000 men, whereas we must contract it to the vital points, viz, the railroad and necessary storehouses – all of which can be embraced in a circle of quarter the radius and requiring less than a sixth part of that number.
I can’t use this line of reasoning to a people who have no right to gain such a clue to our future plans and purposes. At some future time I will submit to you the entire correspondence between General Hood and myself on the subject, as also of the special exchange of prisoners not yet concluded. At the present I send you only my reply to his insinuations of unprecedented cruelty toward the families of a “brave people,” which I hardly expect he will publish. If his is widely circulated it might also be well to let the Southern papers get mine through Northern channels.
I will have all my official reports in by the 15th, which will dispose of the past, and leave us free to think of and prepare for the future. Now I will only renew the expression of the hope that our ranks will be replenished by a liberal supply of recruits.
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General, Commanding