Pocotaligo, South Carolina
Captain Hudson just arrived carrying this letter from General Grant:
WASHINGTON, D. C., January 21, 1865.
Major General W. T. SHERMAN, Commanding Military Division of the Mississippi:
Your letters brought by General Barnard received at City Point and read with interest. Not having them with me, however, I cannot say that in this I will be able to satisfy you on all points of recommendation. As I arrived here at 1 p.m. and must leave at 6 p.m., having in the meantime spent over three hours with the Secretary and General Halleck, I must be brief. Before your last request to have Thomas make a campaign into the heart of Alabama, I had ordered Schofield to Annapolis, Md., with his corps. The advance, 6,000, will reach seaboard by the 23rd, the remainder following as rapidly as railroad transportation can be procured from Cincinnati. The corps numbers over 21,000 men. I was induced to do this became I did not believe Thomas could possibly be got off before spring. His pursuit of Hood indicated a sluggishness that satisfied me that he would never do to conduct one of your campaigns. The command of the advance of the pursuit was left to the subordinates, whilst Thomas followed far behind. When Hood had not much more than half crossed the State, from whence he returned to Nashville to take steamer for Eastport. He is possessed of excellent judgment, great coolness, and honesty, but he is not good on a pursuit. He also reported his troops fagged, and that it was necessary to equip up.
This report and a determination to give the enemy no rest determined me to use his surplus troops elsewhere. Thomas is still left with sufficient force, surplus, to go to Selma under an energetic leader. He has been telegraphed to know whether he could go, and, if so, by which of the several routes he would select. No reply is yet received. Canby has been ordered to act offensively from the sea coast to the interior toward Montgomery and Selma. Thomas’ forces will move from the north and early or some of his troops will be sent to Canby. Without further re-enforcement Canby will have a moving column of 20,000 men.
Fort Fisher, you are aware, has been captured. We have a force there of 8,000 effective. At New Berne about half that number. It is rumored through deserters that Wilmington also has fallen. I am inclined to believe the rumor, because on the 17th we knew the enemy were blowing up their works about Fort Caswell, and that on the 18th Terry moved on Wilmington. If Wilmington is captured Schofield will go there. If not, he will be sent to New Berne. In either event all the surplus force at the two points will move to the interior toward Goldsborough in co-operation with your movement. From either point railroad communication can be run out, there being here abundance of rolling-stock suited to the gauge of those roads.
There have been about 16,000 men sent from Lee’s army south. Of these you will have against you, if Wilmington is not held by the enemy, about 14,000, casualties at Fort Fisher having overtaken about 2,000. All these troops are subject to your orders as you come in communication with them. They will be so instructed. From about Richmond I will watch Lee closely, and if he detaches much more or attempts to evacuate, will pitch in. In the meantime should you be brought to a halt anywhere, I can send two corps of 30,000 effective men to your support from the troops about Richmond.
To review: Canby is ordered to operate to the interior from the gulf. A.J. Smith may go from the north, but I think it doubtful. A force of 28,000 or 30,000 men will co-operate with you from New Berne or Wilmington, or both. You can call for re-enforcements. This will be handed to you by Captain Hudson of my staff, who will return with any message you may have for me. If there is anything I can do for you in the way of having supplies of shipboard at any point on the sea coast ready for you let me know it.
U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General
HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, Pocotaligo, S. C., January 29, 1865
Lieutenant General U. S. GRANT, City Point, Va.:
DEAR GENERAL: Captain Hudson has this moment arrived with your letter of January 21, which I have read with interest. The capture of Fort Fisher has a most important bearing on my campaign and I rejoice in it for many reasons, because of its intrinsic importance and because it gives me another point of security on the sea-board. I hope General Terry will follow it up by the capture of Wilmington, although I do not look for it from Admiral Porter’s dispatch to me. I rejoiced that Terry was not a West Pointer, that he belonged to your Army, and that he had the same troops with which Butler feared to make the attempt. Porter is in high glee.
Admiral Dahglreen, whose fleet is re-enforced by some more iron-clads, wants to make an assault a la Fisher on Fort Moultrie, but I withhold my consent for the reason that the capture of all Sullivan’s Island is not conclusive as to Charleston. The capture of James Island would be, but all pronounce that impossible at this time. Therefore, I am moving, as hitherto designed, for the railroad west of Branchville; then swing across to Orangeburg, which will interpose my army between Charleston and the interior. Contemporaneous with this Foster will demonstrate up the Edisto and afterward make a lodgment at Bull’s Bay and occupy the common road which leads from Mount Pleasant toward Georgetown. When I get to Columbia I think I shall move straight for Goldsborough, via Fayetteville. By this circuit I cut all roads and devastate the land, and the forces along the coast, commanded by Foster, will follow my movement, taking anything the enemy lets go, or so occupies his attention that he cannot detach all his forces against me.
I feel sure of getting Wilmington and may be Charleston. Being at Goldsborough, with its railroads finished back to Morehead City and Wilmington, I can easily take Raleigh, when it seems that Lee must come out of his trenches or allow his army to be absolutely invested. If Schofield comes to Beaufort he should be pushed out to Kinston on the Neuse, and may be Goldsborough, or rather a point on the Wilmington road south of Goldsborough. It is not necessary to storm Goldsborough, because it is in a distant region of no importance in itself, and if its garrison is forced to draw supplies from its north it will be eating up the same stores on which Lee depends for his command.
I have no doubt Hood will bring his army to Augusta, and Canby and Thomas should penetrate Alabama as far as possible to keep employed, at least, a part of Hood’s Army. What would accomplish the same thing, Thomas might reoccupy the railroad from Chattanooga forward to the Etowah, viz, Rome, Kingston, and Allatoona, thereby threaten Georgia. I know that the Georgia troops are disaffected. At Savannah I met delegates from several counties to the southwest that manifested a decidedly hostile spirit to the Confederate cause. I nursed it along as far as possible and instructed Grover to keep it up.
My Left Wing must now be at Sister’s Ferry, crossing the Savannah River to the east bank. Slocum has orders to be at Robertsville tomorrow, prepared to move on Barnwell. Howard is here, all ready to start for the Augusta railroad at Midway.
We find the enemy on the east side of the Salkehatchie and cavalry in our front, but all give ground on our approach, and seem to be merely watching us. If I start on Tuesday, in one week I will be near Orangeburg, having broken up the Augusta road, from the Edisto westward twenty or twenty-five miles. I will be sure that every rail is twisted. Should I encounter too much opposition near Orangeburg, then I will for a time neglect that branch and rapidly move on Columbia and fill up the triangle formed by the Congaree and Wateree, tributaries of the Santee, breaking up that great center of the Carolina roads. Up to that point I feel full confidence, but from there I may have to maneuver some, and will be guided by the questions of weather and supplies. You remember I had fine weather all February for my Meridian trip, and my memory of the weather at Charleston is that February is usually a fine month. Before the March storms come I should be within striking distance of the coast. The months of April and May will be the best for operations from Goldsborough to Raleigh and the Roanoke. You may rest assured that I will keep my troops well in hand, and if I get worsted will aim to make the enemy pay so dearly that you will have less to do. I know this trip is necessary to the war. It must be made sooner or later, and I am on time and in the right position for it. My army is large enough for the purpose, and I ask no re-enforcement, but simply wish the utmost activity at all other points, so that concentration against me may not be universal.
I expect Davis will move Heaven and earth to catch me, for success to my column is fatal to his dream of empire. Richmond is not more vital to his cause than Columbia and the heart of South Carolina. If Thomas will not move on Selma, order him to occupy Rome, Kingston, and Allatoona, and again threaten Georgia in the direction of Athens. I think the poor white trash of the South are falling out of their ranks by sickness, desertion, and every available means; but there is a large class of vindictive Southerners who will fight to the last. The squabbles in Richmond, the howls in Charleston, and the disintegration elsewhere are all good omens to us, but we must not relax one iota, but on the contrary pile up our efforts.
I would ere this have been off, but we had terrific rains which caught me in motion and nearly drowned some of my columns in the rice fields of the Savannah, swept away our causeway, which had been carefully corduroyed, and made the swamps hereabout mere lakes of slimy mud, but the weather is now good and I have my army on terra firma. Supplies, too, came for a long time by daily driblets instead of in bulk; but this is now all remedied, and I hope to start on Tuesday.
I will issue instructions to Foster, based on the re-enforcements of North Carolina, and if Schofield comes you had better relieve Foster, who cannot take the field, and needs an operation on his leg, and let Schofield take command with headquarters at Beaufort, N. C., and orders to secure, if possible, Goldsborough, with railroad connections back to Beaufort and Wilmington. If Lee lets us get that position he is gone up.
I will start with my Atlanta Army, 60,000; supplied as before and depending on the country for all in excess of thirty days. I will have less cattle on the hoof, but I hear of hogs, cows and calves in Barnwell and the Columbia Districts; even here we found some forage. Of course the enemy will carry off and destroy some forage but I will burn the houses where the people burn forage and they will get tired of that.
I must risk Hood, and trust to you to hold Lee, or be on his heels if he comes south. I observe that the enemy has some respect for my men, for they gave up Pocotaligo quick when they heard that the attacking force belonged to me. I will try and keep up that feeling, which is a real power.
With respect, your friend.
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General, Commanding
I leave my Chief quartermaster and commissary behind to follow coastwise.
SPECIAL FIELD ORDERS:
HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, Pocataligo, January 29, 1865.
General McCALLUM, Railroad Department, Savannah:
I have well reconnoitered the country hereabouts, and am satisfied that it is not to our interest to reconstruct, at this time, any of the railroads out of Savannah. After securing all the property there, I wish you to transfer your men to North Carolina-New Berne, unless Wilmington should fall into our possession-and prepare to make railroad communication to Goldsborough by the middle of March. You need not build the bridge over Port Royal, which I requested of you at Savannah; that can be done by Foster’s command. General Grant advises me of heavy re-enforcements being sent to North Carolina. You may, therefore, at once, transport Colonel Wright and his operatives to New Berne, or Wilmington, if that place be in our possession, and prepare timber, irons, cars and locomotives adapted to the road of North Carolina, enough to build out to Goldsborough, when you can get possession of the road. Let Colonel Wright report to General Schofield, or other commanding officer he may find, who, on presenting this letter, will furnish all aid. General Easton will furnish the necessary transportation.
I have the honor to be, your obedient servant,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General, Commanding