Saturday, January 21, 1865

I left today for Hilton Head. I will join Howard tomorrow.

HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, Savannah, January 21, 1865.

Lieutenant General U. S. GRANT, City Point, Va.:
In fulfillment of my project General Howard moved the Seventeenth Corps, General Blair, from Thunderbolt to Beaufort, S. C., and on the 14th by a rapid movement secured the Port Royal Ferry and moved against Pocotaligo, which he gained on the 15th, the day appointed. By that course secured the use of the ground in South Carolina up to the Selkehatchie, and General Slocum was ordered in like manner to get his wing up about Robertsville by the way of the Savannah River and the Union Causeway.

The transfer of men, animals, and wagons by steamer is a very slow process, and on the 19th General Slocum had only two divisions of the Twentieth at Purysburg and Hardeeville with open communications with Howard. John E. Smith crossed by the Union Causeway, on which Slocum had put ten days’ hard work, but the hard rains had raised the Savannah River so that the whole country was under water, and the corduroy road on the Union Causeway was carried away, cutting off one brigade of John E. Smith, one division of the Fifteenth Corps (Corse’s), and all of the Fourteenth Corps, General Davis. All were ordered to move up the west bank of the Savannah to cross at Sister’s Ferry, but the rains have so flooded the country that we have been brought to a standstill; but I will persevere and get the army as soon as possible up to the line from Sister’s Ferry to Pocotaligo, where we will have terra firma to work on. Our supplies have come daily, that is, we have never had four days’ forage ahead, but I will depend on enough coming to get me out to the neighborhood of Barnwell, where we will find some.

General Grover’s division now occupies Savannah, which I had refortified, and I have turned over everything to General Foster, so that nothing now hinders me but water. I rather think the heavy rains in January will give us good weather in February and March. You cannot do much in Virginia till April or May, and when I am at Goldsborough and move against Raleigh, Lee will be forced to divide his command or give up Richmond.

I am rejoiced that Terry took Fisher, because it silences Butler, who was to you a dangerous man. His address to his troops on being relieved was a direct, mean, and malicious attack on you, and I admired the patience and skill by which you relieved yourself and the country of him. If you want some new and fresh men, able to handle large armies, I will offer you Charles R. Woods, Hazen, and Mower, all good and capable officers for an army of any size. Of course, I prefer to have them myself, but would give them up if you can do better by them.

As soon as possible, if I were in your place, I would break up the Department of the James, make the Richmond army one; then when I get to Goldsborough you will have a force to watch Lee, and I can be directed to gradually close in, cutting all communications. In the meantime Thomas’ Army should not be reduced too much, but he should hold Chattanooga, Decatur, and Eastport, collect supplies, and in March move on Tuscaloosa, Selma, Montgomery, and back to Rome, Ga., when he could be met from Chattanooga.

I take it for granted that Beauregard will bring, as fast as he can, such part of Hood’s army as can be moved over to Augusta to hit me in flank as I swing round Charleston. To cover the withdrawal Forrest will be left in Mississippi and West Tennessee, to divert attention by threatening the boats on the Mississippi and Tennessee Rivers. This should be disregarded and Thomas should break through the shell, expose the trick, and prevent the planting of corn this spring in Middle Alabama. The people of Georgia, like those of Mississippi, are worn out with care, but they are so afraid of their own leaders that they fear to organize for positive resistance. Their motives of “honor” and “fair play” are, that by abandoning the cause now they would be construed as “mean” for leaving their commands in the scrape. I have met the overtures of the people frankly, and given them the best advice I knew how.

I inclose copies of orders issued for the guidance of General Foster and other officers on this coast. These orders are made on conference with the Secretary of War.

I have been told that Congress meditates a bill to make another lieutenant-general for me. I have written to John Sherman to stop it, if it is designed for me. It would be mischievous, for there are enough rascals who would try to sow differences between us, whereas you and I now are in perfect understanding. I would rather have you in command than anybody else, for you are fair, honest, and have at heart the same purpose that should animate all. I should emphatically decline any commission calculated to bring us into rivalry, and I aks you to advise all your friends in Congress to this effect, especially Mr. Washburne. I doubt if men in Congress fully realize that you and I are honest in our professions of want of ambition. I know I feel none, and today will gladly surrender my position and influence to any other who is better able it wield the power. The flurry attending my recent success will soon blow over, and give place to new developments.

I inclose a letter of general instructions to General Thomas, which I beg you to revise and indorse or modify.
I am, truly yours,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General

HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, Savannah, January 21, 1865

Admiral D.D. PORTER, Wilmington:
DEAR ADMIRAL: I wrote you yesterday by Captain Ammen, and have this moment received a package, giving me very full reports from General Palmer of matters in North Carolina, which I am very glad to have received.

The weather has been villainous, and all the country is under water, and retards me much. It may be some days yet before I can cast off, as the roads are under water, and my men are not exactly amphibious yet, nor the mules either. I shall spare no efforts to be off, and the foul weather of January may be a guarantee for better in February and March. In the present attitude of things I would not deem it wise to push your gun-boats up to Wilmington, unless it could be done quick, for they will surely remove everything of value. You already have all that is of any value to you. As to the town, the land forces should watch it close, and slip in when it is discovered that I am approaching.

I have been much embarrassed by the want of shoal-water craft, five or six feet draft, and would ask to borrow some of you, but suppose all of yours are deep-sea craft, but if you have any short and shallow boats to spare for a few days it would help me much, both in Broad River and the Savannah. The deep boats get aground all the time, and the long ones cannot make the bends. You know, of course, that I am going to load up finally at Pocotaligo and Sister’s Ferry, on the Savannah. I have turned over everything to General Foster and General Grover, the latter commands the city and former the department, made to extend up the coast to the Chesapeake. It would be well if the Navy Department would unite yours and Dahlgren’s jurisdiction, or shove the line of demarkation.

The admiral here is very kind, indeed, and does for me everything possible.
The best part of the taking of Fort Fisher was the killing of Butler. He has no blood on his skirts, and, judging from the past, it will be long before his blood stains anything. His solicitude for the blood of his men is as moonshine, and his whole bombastic order was designed as a fling at Grant. The latter has quietly and completely laid him low forever. Even the negro cannot resurrect him. I may write you again from camp about Coosawhatchie, but I now consider myself afloat.

With sincere respect, as ever, your friend,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General

Two Contrabands, escaped from Charleston report the following:
They escaped from Charleston before daylight on the 19th, and state that General Hardee is in command of Charleston, General Johnston in command of the district. There is one division in and about Charleston, two brigades being inside the works at Charleston, one brigade at Adams’ Run, about twenty-seven miles from Charleston, between here and there, and one brigade at John’s Island. There are two brigades one mile and a half beyond the ferry across the Combahee River and a masked battery of field Artillery on the left of the road three-fourths of a mile beyond the ferry.

At Rantowles the road forks, one road leading to John’s Island. It is ten miles by the dirt road and twelve miles by the railroad from Rantowles to Charleston. There are two small forts on the dirt road two miles beyond Rantowles, near where two large factory chimneys are left standing, the building being burned. There were no guns in them when these men passed. Toward Charleston from this place is the Five-Mile Fort, being two works, one on each side of the road, each mounting about four guns. The guns are black and they think are not field pieces. There are no rifle-pits near these forts. They both cover the dirt road, the one on the right going to Charleston also covering the railroad. Two miles and a half from Charleston there are rifle-pits crossing the dirt road, extending on the right going from here about half a mile to a marsh, and on the left about half a mile, including a plantation house, but do not know where they terminate. They can be seen distinctly for some distance, being on high ground.

Beyond this, near the new bridge, going into town, are two large forts, having no guns with the exception of one very large one. The guns for the defense of the place are on the other side toward the Bay. The troops mentioned are all Browne’s Georgia Reserves. All the old troops that were there before the fall of Savannah have been sent to Branchville; also troops from Augusta and those that encamped from Savannah. There about ten warehouses filled with cotton at Charleston. The people wish to get in away, but General Hardee says he cannot give them transportation. All the engines and cars have been sent off excepting just enough for the use of the troops on the Savannah railroad. The people expect Charleston to be evacuated. Colonel Roy, General Hardee’s adjutant-general, told Mr. Willis that they expected to have to evacuate and make a stand at Branchville. Colonel Roy also said that General Lee could not spare any troops from Richmond, as he had barely enough to hold it. Some troops were sent down to Branchville from Richmond, but afterward ordered back.

My Engineer has submitted a report for the defense of Savannah:

Savannah, Ga., January 21, 1865.

Major-General GROVER, Commanding U. S. Forces, Savannah:
In accordance with your request I have the honor of submitting the following memoranda with reference to the defense of the city of Savannah:

First. The defense of the city itself: This is accomplished by the line of works now in process of construction after the plan indicated in my letter to Major-General Sherman, dated December 26, 1864. * these works are now ready to receive sixty guns, partly siege and partly field Artillery, and, in my opinion, are in a condition which would warrant their defense by the garrison estimated for. Captain Suter, U. S. Engineers, and Chief engineer, Department of the South, has been furnished with a trace of this line on which the several positions of the guns, composing the complete armament, are indicated. Captain Suter has also been furnished with those maps, captured at this city, which relate to the defense. Opposite the city on the main Carolina shore two small works should be built to command the Union Causeway and the Huger Causeway.
The above contemplates an attack by a much larger force than the garrison, and, in my opinion, will never be made.

Second. The defense of the approaches: Three main roads lead into the city from inland, viz, the Ogeechee plank road (Darien), the Louisville stage road, the Augusta stage road. The last two join within one mile and a half of the city. The points where the enemy’s late lines crossed these roads furnish the best defense. When taken in conjunction with the obstacles formed by opening the sluice gates at high tide the positions are strong. If the bridge across the Ogeechee at King’s is destroyed it effectually cuts off direct approach by that road, and it can only be reached by crossing the river above and getting to it be some of the numerous cross-roads. An enemy would not be likely to do this unless he were in largely, superior force, since he would necessarily put himself in a “pocket. ”

Third. The defense of the river navigation: This is best accomplished by a force stationed at this city large enough to go out and fight any enemy that would be likely to approach. In order that our opponents might reach any of the points where they could injure us much, they would be compelled to thrust themselves some miles beyond us, leaving whatever garrison there might be in Savannah on their flank and in rear. They could not interrupt navigation without establishing themselves in included works upon the bank of Saint Augustine Creek (we hold Fort Jackson), and very short time would suffice for the capture of any enemy having temerity enough to do this. with all our great resources of water transportation

I regard it impossible for our enemy to make a successful lodgment on Saint Augustine Creek.

A map is in course of preparation and under my direction, which will clearly show the topography of Savannah and vicinity, the works of attack and defense, the new lines constructed during our occupation of the city, and the lines of 1814. As soon as completed it will be forwarded to the Engineer Department.

I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
O. M. POE,
Captain of Engineers, Brevet Colonel, U. S. Army, Chief Engineer Military Division of the Mississippi

HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI,In the Field, Savannah, Ga., January 21, 1865

General INNIS N. PALMER, Commanding District of North Carolina, New Berne:
DEAR GENERAL: I have this moment received your letter of the 17th, inclosing the very full and complete returns which give me all the date, save only the gauge of your railroad, of which we are in doubt. One of my charts represent the gauge as four feet ten inches and the other at five feet. I shall send up my principal railroad man, Colonel W. W. Wright, to look at it and accumulate at Morehead City and New Berne iron and cars ready for use when the time comes. We can supply all these, if of the five-feet gauge, out of captured stock. I don’t want you to risk New Berne or Morehead City, and to take Kinston now would attract attention and lengthen your line too much to be held with any degree of security. Therefore don’t attempt to hold more than you now have until you know I am near at hand, and you can discover the effect of my approach.

I shall aim to reach Goldsborough, the effect of which will be threefold:
First. With my army at Goldsborough the enemy could not remain at Wilmington.
Second. I would have two railroads to the coast for supplies, viz, to Morehead City and Wilmington.
Third. Goldsborough is the point from which to strike Raleigh.
If my army can fight its way across South Carolina and reach Goldsborough these results will be certain.

I have already secured Pocotaligo and am moving my army into position on a line from Sister’s Ferry, on the Savannah, across to Pocotaligo, whence I will move around Charleston and across the country to Fayetteville and Goldsborough or Wilmington according to the supplies I find. General Foster will hold Savannah, &c., and will have a small force in hand to take advantage of any let-go the enemy may venture to make. I would have been off before this, but I am delayed by the rains, which have flooded the whole country. Don’t attract attention, but hold New Berne and Morehead City secure as points for me to depend on. Don’t risk anything; let me run the risk, but stand prepared to aid me as I approach. I leave my Chief quartermaster and commissary here to follow me up with boats and supplies.

I do not think Grant will spare you any more men, nor do I suppose them necessary for the simply defensive position you should maintain. As I approach you, I may aim for the railroad, near where it crosses the Neuse near Kinston, as I suppose there the enemy will oppose me, and it may be prudent to open communication with you before I cross and attack the position at Kinston or Goldsborough, but Goldsborough is the strategic point I shall aim to secure in North Carolina.

I am, with respect, your obedient servant,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General

General Foster has delivered more specific instructions to Palmer:

The present plans of General Sherman contemplate a devastating march through South Carolina and into North Carolina. Upon arriving in North Carolina he will draw his supplies from New Berne by striking the railroad at Goldsborough. He may also before reaching Goldsborough obtain supplies by striking the coast at Wilmington. There is more certainty, however, of his striking the railroad at Goldsborough. You will, therefore, make every preparation, not only to aid promptly and efficiently the forwarding of supplies when General Sherman reaches that point, but also to have your position perfectly secure against any attempts that may possibly by made against you, by detachments from Lee’s Army, for the purpose of preventing the attainment of the very purpose sought to be secured by these orders.

In the first place be sure and watch the enemy, and prevent any attempt to destroy the railroad within the limits of your extreme outer pickets, and as much beyond as you possibly can defend.
Secondly. Prepare for landing and forwarding, either from New Berne or Beaufort, principally from Beaufort, supplies for 70,000 men and 40,000 animals. (These supplies are to come from here in transports). The wharves at Beaufort must be put in order, and all the facilities for landing supplies made perfect. Accurate information must also be obtained of the extent of railroad between Batchelder’s Creek and Kinston, which it will be necessary to rebuild. Also the condition of the bridge over the Trent at Kinston.

Lieutenant-Colonel Wright, of General Sherman’s Army, will be sent up to ascertain all the wants of the railroad, rolling-stock, construction, &c. General McCallum, the railroad constructor, is here and at the proper time will be there ready for immediate work. What I want I to know from you is, exactly what is wanted, so that it may be provided and brought there at the moment for operations. The object is not to divulge the important fact that a new base is to be made at that point until the last moment. I want also to know how much of the railroad from Beaufort to Goldsborough you can protect after General Sherman has reached Goldsborough, and the exact force you can concentrate for this or any other purpose. Of course no movement of any description will be made until you receive orders from General Sherman or myself. General Sherman will probably be at Goldsborough, or in communication with you, by the 22nd of February. The greatest secrecy must be observed by yourself to prevent the enemy ascertaining the fact that General Sherman will draw his supplies over the railroad to Goldsborough. If they penetrate the secret they will, of course, destroy the railroad. You will divulge the information contained in this confidential letter to no one, but make all the preparations ordered.

Foster Sent Similar Orders to Terry at Fort Fisher:

General Sherman’s plans contemplate a devastating march through South Carolina and into North Carolina. He will draw his supplies from the coast, receiving them by different rivers in South Carolina, and when he arrives in North Carolina, from Wilmington and from New Berne. His army has now commenced moving. Full and definite instructions have been given to general Palmer, at New Berne. Less definite instructions are given to you, because it is not certain that Wilmington may be taken at the time General Sherman arrives in North Carolina, and also that you be prepared to take efficient independent action.

What I wish attained by this information is a vigilant watch for General Sherman’s appearance in your vicinity about the 15th of February, and as great a preparation on your part for the purpose of aiding him. The supplies for his army will come from here in transports loaded for the purpose. There are many things, however, which you can do to facilitate the transmission of these supplies to his army when it arrives. These preparations should have in view the fact that his army numbers 70,000 men and 40,000 animals. If Wilmington be taken you will occupy as much of the railroad toward Manchester as possible, and guard as many of the bridges in that direction as you can. In fact, the same order holds good in regard to the Goldsborough railroad and the railroad through Lumberton and Rockingham toward Charlotte. If Wilmington be not taken of course you can do nothing of this kind, but must be on the watch and ready to act when required.

The utmost secrecy must be observed in regard to this. The enemy may suspect the locality of General Sherman’s route, but nothing should transpire to lead them on as to his real objects or the points at which he is to get supplies.

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One Response to Saturday, January 21, 1865

  1. Pingback: January 21, 1865: “We have never had more than four days’ forage ahead”: Limited supplies of fodder hinder Federal operations | To the Sound of the Guns

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