TO GEORGE H. THOMAS
Headquarters, Military Division of the Mississippi, In the Field, Summerville Georgia.
Maj. Gen. Thomas Commanding Dept. of the Cumberland:
I think I have thought on the whole Field of the Future, and being now authorized to act I want all things bent to the following General plan of action for the next three months.
Out of the forces now here, and at Atlanta I propose to organize an efficient army of 60, to 65,000 men, with which I propose to destroy Macon, Augusta, and it may be Savannah and Charleston, but I will always Keep open the alternates of the Mouth of Appalachicola and Mobile. By this I propose to demonstrate the vulnerability of the South and make its inhabitants feel that war & individual Ruin are synonymous terms. To pursue Hood is folly, for he can twist & turn like a fox and wear out any army in pursuit. To continue to occupy long lines of Railroad simply exposes our small detachments to be picked up in detail and forces me to make countermarches to protect Lines of Communication. I know I am right in this and shall proceed to its maturity.
As to details. I propose to take Howard & his army, Schofield & his, and two of your Corps, viz. Davis and Slocum’s. I propose to remain along the Coovee watching Hood till all my preperations are made, viz. till I have repaired the Railroad, sent back all supplies men & material and stript for the work. Then I will send Stanley with the 4th Corps across by Wills Valley and Caperton to Stevenson to report to you. If you send me 5 or 6000 new conscripts, I may also send back one of Slocums or Davis Divisions, but I prefer to maintain organizations.
I want you to retain command in Tennessee, and before starting I will give you delegated authority over Kentucky and Mississipi Alabama &c. whereby there will be unity of action behind me. I will want you to hold Chattanooga and Decatur in force, and on the occasion of my departure of which you shall have ample notice, to watch Hood close. I think he will follow me, at least with his Cavalry in which Event I want you to push south from Decatur and the head of the Tennessee for Columbus Miss, and Selma. Not absolutely to reach these points but to divert or pursue according to the state of facts. If however Hood moves on you, you must act defensively on the Line of the Tennessee.
I will ask and you may also urge that at the same time Canby act vigorously up the Alabama River. I do not fear that the Southern Army will again make a lodgment on the Mississipi, for past events demonstrate how rapidly armies can be raised in the North West on that question and how easily handled & supplied. The only hope of a southern success is in the remote regions difficult of access. We now have a good entering wedge, and should drive it home. It will take some time to complete these details and I hope to hear from you fully in the meantime. We must preserve a large amount of secrecy, and I may actually change the ultimate point of arrival, but not the main object.
I am &c.
W. T. Sherman, Major General