Grant sent a staff officer with the following message:
HEADQUARTERS ARMIES OF THE UNITED ST A TES CITY POINT, VIRGINIA, September 12, 1864
Major-General W. T. SHERMAN, commanding Military Division of ￼the Mississippi
GENERAL: I send Lieutenant-Colonel Horace Porter, of my staff, with this. Colonel Porter will explain to you the exact condition of affairs here, better than I can do in the limits of a letter. Although I feel myself strong enough now for offensive operations, I am holding on quietly, to get advantage of recruits and convalescents, who are coming forward very rapidly. My lines are necessarily very long, extending from Deep Bottom, north of the James, across the peninsula formed by the Appomattox and the James, and south of the Appomattox to the Weldon road. This line is very strongly fortified, and can be held with comparatively few men; but, from its great length, necessarily takes many in the aggregate.
I propose, when I do move, to extend my left so as to control what is known as the Southside, or Lynchburg & Petersburg road; then, if possible, to keep the Danville road out. At the same time this move is made, I want to send a force of from six to ten thousand men against Wilmington. The way I propose to do this is to land the men north of Fort Fisher, and hold that point. At the same time a large naval fleet will be assembled there, and the iron-clads will run the batteries as they did at Mobile. This will give us the same control of the harbor of Wilmington that we now have of the harbor of Mobile.
What you are to do with the forces at your command, I do not exactly see. The difficulties of supplying your army, except when they are constantly moving beyond where you are, I plainly see. If it had not been for Price’s movement, Canby could have sent twelve thousand more men to Mobile. From your command on the Mississippi, an equal number could have been taken. With these forces, my idea would have been to divide them, sending one-half to Mobile, and the other half to Savannah. You could then move as proposed in your telegram, so as to threaten Macon and Augusta equally. Whichever one should be abandoned by the enemy, you could take and open up a new base of supplies.
My object now in sending a staff-officer to you is not so much to suggest operations for you as to get your views, and to have plans matured by the time every thing can be got ready. It would probably be the 5th of October before any of the plans here indicated will be executed. If you have any promotions to recommend, send the names forward, and I will approve them.
In conclusion, it is hardly necessary for me to say that I feel you have accomplished the most gigantic undertaking given to any general in this war, and with a skill and ability that will be acknowledged in history as unsurpassed, if not unequaled. It gives me as much pleasure to record this in your favor as it would in favor of any living man, myself included.
U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General
HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI IN THE FIELD, ATLANTA, GEORGIA, September 20, 1864
Lieutenant-General U. S. GRANT, Commander-in-Chief, City Point, Virgina.
I have the honor to acknowledge, at the hands of Lieutenant Colonel Porter, of your staff, your letter of September 12th, and accept with thanks the honorable and kindly mention of the services of this army in the great cause in which we are all engaged.
I send by Colonel Porter all official reports which are completed, and will in a few days submit a list of names which are deemed worthy of promotion.
I think we owe it to the President to save him the invidious task of selection among the vast number of worthy applicants, and have ordered my army commanders to prepare their lists with great care, and to express their preferences, based upon claims of actual capacity and services rendered.
These I will consolidate, and submit in such a form that, if mistakes are made, they will at least be sanctioned by the best contemporaneous evidence of merit, for I know that vacancies do not exist equal in number to that of the officers who really deserve promotion.
As to the future, I am pleased to know that your army is being steadily reinforced by a good class of men, and I hope it will go on until you have a force that is numerically double that of your antagonist, so that with one part you can watch him, and with the other push out boldly from your left flank, occupy the Southside Railroad, compel him to attack you in position, or accept battle on your own terms.
We ought to ask our country for the largest possible armies that can be raised, as so important a thing as the self-existence of a great nation should not be left to the fickle chances of war.
Now that Mobile is shut out to the commerce of our enemy, it calls for no further effort on our part, unless the capture of the city can be followed by the occupation of the Alabama River and the railroad to Columbus, Georgia, when that place would be a magnificent auxiliary to my further progress into Georgia. Until General Canby is much reinforced, and until he can more thoroughly subdue the scattered armies west of the Mississippi, I suppose that much cannot be attempted by him against the Alabama River and Columbus, Georgia.
The utter destruction of Wilmington, North Carolina, is of importance only in connection with the necessity of cutting off all foreign trade to our enemy. If Admiral Farragut can get across the bar, and move quickly, I suppose he will succeed. From my knowledge of the mouth of Cape Fear River, I anticipate more difficulty in getting the heavy ships across the bar than in reaching the town of Wilmington; but, of course, the soundings of the channel are well known at Washington, as well as the draught of his iron-clads, so that it must be demonstrated to be feasible, or else it would not be attempted. If successful, I suppose that Fort Caswell will be occupied, and the fleet at once sent to the Savannah River. Then the reduction of that city is the next question. It once in our possession, and the river open to us, I would not hesitate to cross the State of Georgia with sixty thousand men, hauling some stores, and depending on the country for the balance.
Where a million of people find subsistence, my army won’t starve; but, as you know, in a country like Georgia, with few roads and innumerable streams, an inferior force can so delay an army and harass it, that it would not be a formidable object; but if the enemy knew that we had our boats in the Savannah River I could rapidly move to Milledgeville, where there is abundance of corn and meat, and could so threaten Macon and Augusta that the enemy would doubtless give up Macon for Augusta; then I would move so as to interpose between Augusta and Savannah, and force him to give us Augusta, with the only powder-mills and factories remaining in the South, or let us have the use of the Savannah River. Either horn of the dilemma will be worth a battle. I would prefer his holding Augusta (as the probabilities are); for then, with the Savannah River in our possession, the taking of Augusta would be a mere matter of time. This campaign can be made in the winter.
But the more I study the game, the more am I convinced that it would be wrong for us to penetrate farther into Georgia without an objective beyond. It would not be productive of much good. I can start east and make a circuit south and back, doing vast damage to the State, but resulting in no permanent good; and by mere threatening to do so, I hold a rod over the Georgians, who are not over-loyal to the South.
I will therefore give it as my opinion that your army and Canby’s should be reinforced to the maximum; that, after you get Wilmington, you should strike for Savannah and its river; that General Canby should hold the Mississippi River, and send a force to take Columbus, Georgia, either by way of the Alabama or Appalachicola River; that I should keep Hood employed and put my army in fine order for a march on Augusta, Columbia, and Charleston; and start as soon as Wilmington is sealed to commerce, and the city of Savannah is in our possession.
I think it will be found that the movements of Price and Shelby, west of the Mississippi, are mere diversions. They cannot hope to enter Missouri except as raiders; and the truth is, that General Rosecrans should be ashamed to take my troops for such a purpose. If you will secure Wilmington and the city of Savannah from your centre, and let General Canby leave command over the Mississippi River and country west of it, I will send a force to the Alabama and Appalachicola, provided you give me one hundred thousand of the drafted men to fill up my old regiments. If you will fix a day to be in Savannah, I will insure our possession of Macon and a point on the river below Augusta. The possession of the Savannah River is more than fatal to the possibility of Southern independence. They may stand the fall of Richmond, but not of all Georgia.
I will have a long talk with Colonel Porter, and tell him every thing that may occur to me of interest to you. In the mean time, know that I admire your dogged perseverance and pluck more than ever. If you can whip Lee and I can march to the Atlantic, I think Uncle Abe will give us a twenty days’ leave of absence to see the young folks.
Yours as ever,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General
WASHINGTON, September 20, 1864: 2:55 p.m.
Major-General SHERMAN,Atlanta, Ga.:
General Schofield asks for permission to purchase mares in Kentucky for his cavalry. That would seriously injure the horse stock of the country, and is against the fixed policy of the Government. But all mares in Georgia, Alabama, and MISSISSIPPI should be seized as military supplies, and those not fit for cavalry or the quartermaster’s department sent North and sold. In parts of Tennessee and Kentucky liable to raids mares may be seized and appraised, but not purchased on contract or in open market. The objection purchasing is, that mares will be immediately run down there from Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan for a market. Please impress these views on General Thomas and Schofield in regard to their departments.
H. W. HALLECK,
Major-General and Chief of Staff
Webster Reports from Nashville:
General Washburn telegraphs that on the 10th Forrest was at Okolona with all his force for a movement, he thinks, into Middle Tennessee. If he should come, joined by Wheeler and Roddey, they might be rather heavy for us here. At the present stage of water they could get across the river.
The War Department Writes:
Yesterday, Monday, the 19th Major-General Sheridan, attacked the rebel forces under General Breckinridge and Early, and Bunker Hill, in the Shenandoah Valley, fought a hard battle all day and a brilliant victory was won by our forces. The enemy were driven off twelve miles, 2, 500 prisoners were captured, 9 stand of colors, 5 pieces of artillery were taken, and the rebel killed and wounded left in our hands. The rebel Generals Rodes and Gordon were killed, 4 other rebel generals wounded.
It is reported the enemy has sent a pontoon train, of about 100 wagons, from Griffin toward Jonesborough, and that rebel troops are moving from Lovejoy’s, in what direction is not yet known. Kilpatrick will ascertain, if possible, the movements of the enemy by a reconnaissance on the left bank of the Chattahoochee. He will also send Aldridge out again and gain all the information possible. General Garrard has been directed to make a reconnaissance on the right of the Chattahoochee for the same purpose. I will have spies tonight at Macon to watch way Hood goes. I think he will move back to Macon and send some men to Richmond.
Howard Forwards General Logan’s concern about parts of his army left on the Mississippi. This note was attached.
I am aware that measures have been already taken to make block- houses and relieve a part of our forces. But I call especial attention to General Logan’s representations. This army has between Atlanta and Dalton over 8,000 men on the railroad.
General Thomas has on the railroad to our rear more than five times the detachments of the Army of the Tennessee.