Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman

Text to Speech

directed against the rebel army commanded by General Joseph E.

Johnston, then lying on the defensive, strongly intrenched at

Dalton, Georgia; and I was required to follow it up closely and

persistently, so that in no event could any part be detached to

assist General Lee in Virginia; General Grant undertaking in like

manner to keep Lee so busy that he could not respond to any calls

of help by Johnston. Neither Atlanta, nor Augusta, nor Savannah,

was the objective, but the "army of Jos. Johnston," go where it




WASHINGTON D. C., April 4, 1864.

Major-General W. T. SHERMAN, commanding Military Division of the


GENERAL: It is my design, if the enemy keep quiet and allow me to

take the initiative in the spring campaign, to work all parts of

the army together, and somewhat toward a common centre. For your

information I now write you my programme, as at present determined


I have sent orders to Banks, by private messenger, to finish up his

present expedition against Shreveport with all dispatch; to turn

over the defense of Red River to General Steels and the navy, and

to return your troops to you, and his own to New Orleans; to

abandon all of Texas, except the Rio Grande, and to hold that with

not to exceed four thousand men; to reduce the number of troops on

the Mississippi to the lowest number necessary to hold it, and to

collect from his command not less than twenty-five thousand men.

To this I will add five thousand from Missouri. With this force he

is to commence operations against Mobile as soon as he can. It

will be impossible for him to commence too early.

Gillmore joins Butler with ten thousand men, and the two operate

against Richmond from the south aide of James River. This will

give Butler thirty-three thousand men to operate with, W. F. Smith

commanding the right wing of his forces, and Gillmore the left

wing. I will stay with the Army of the Potomac, increased by

Burnside's corps of not less than twenty-five thousand effective

men, and operate directly against Lee's army, wherever it may be


Sigel collects all his available force in two columns, one, under

Ord and Averill, to start from Beverly, Virginia, and the other,

under Crook, to start from Charleston, on the Kanawha, to move

against the Virginia & Tennessee Railroad.

Crook will have all cavalry, and will endeavor to get in about

Saltville, and move east from there to join Ord. His force will be

all cavalry, while Ord will have from ten to twelve thousand men of

all arms.

You I propose to move against Johnston's army, to break it up, and

to get into the interior of the enemy's country as far as you can,

inflicting all the damage you can against their war resources.

I do not propose to lay down for you a plan of campaign, but simply

to lay down the work it is desirable to have done, and leave you

free to execute it in your own way. Submit to me, however, as

early as you can, your plan of operations.

As stated, Banks is ordered to commence operations as soon as he

can. Gillmore is ordered to report at Fortress Monroe by the 18th

inst., or as soon thereafter as practicable. Sigel is

concentrating now. None will move from their places of rendezvous

until I direct, except Banks. I want to be ready to move by the

25th inst., if possible; but all I can now direct is that you get

ready as soon as possible. I know you will have difficulties to

encounter in getting through the mountains to where supplies are

abundant, but I believe you will accomplish it.

From the expedition from the Department of West Virginia I do not

calculate on very great results; but it is the only way I can take

troops from there. With the long line of railroad Sigel has to

protect, he can spare no troops, except to move directly to his

front. In this way he must get through to inflict great damage on

the enemy, or the enemy must detach from one of his armies a large

force to prevent it. In other words, if Sigel can't skin himself,

he can hold a leg while some one else skins.

I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.



Lieutenant-General U. S. GRANT, Commander-in-Chief, Washington, D.

DEAR GENERAL: Your two letters of April 4th are now before me, and

afford me infinite satisfaction. That we are now all to act on a

common plan, converging on a common centre, looks like enlightened


Like yourself, you take the biggest load, and from me you shall

have thorough and hearty cooperation. I will not let side issues

draw me off from your main plans in which I am to knock Jos.

Johnston, and to do as much damage to the resources of the enemy as

possible. I have heretofore written to General Rawlins and to

Colonel Comstock (of your staff) somewhat of the method in which I

propose to act. I have seen all my army, corps, and division

commanders, and have signified only to the former, viz., Schofield,

Thomas, and McPherson, our general plans, which I inferred from the

purport of our conversation here and at Cincinnati.

First, I am pushing stores to the front with all possible dispatch,

and am completing the army organization according to the orders

from Washington, which are ample and perfectly satisfactory.

It will take us all of April to get in our furloughed veterans, to

bring up A. J. Smith's command, and to collect provisions and

cattle on the line of the Tennessee. Each of the armies will

guard, by detachments of its own, its rear communications.

At the signal to be given by you, Schofield, leaving a select

garrison at Knoxville and London, with twelve thousand men will

drop down to the Hiawassee, and march against Johnston's right by

the old Federal road. Stoneman, now in Kentucky, organizing the

cavalry forces of the Army of the Ohio, will operate with Schofield

on his left front--it may be, pushing a select body of about two

thousand cavalry by Ducktown or Elijah toward Athena, Georgia.

Thomas will aim to have forty-five thousand men of all arms, and

move straight against Johnston, wherever he may be, fighting him

cautiously, persistently, and to the best advantage. He will have

two divisions of cavalry, to take advantage of any offering.

McPherson will have nine divisions of the Army of the Tennessee, if

A. J. Smith gets here, in which case he will have full thirty

thousand of the best men in America. He will cross the Tennessee

at Decatur and Whitesburg, march toward Rome, and feel for Thomas.

If Johnston falls behind the Coosa, then McPherson will push for

Rome; and if Johnston falls behind the Chattahoochee, as I believe

he will, then McPherson will cross over and join Thomas.

McPherson has no cavalry, but I have taken one of Thomas's

divisions, viz., Garrard's, six thousand strong, which is now at

Colombia, mounting, equipping, and preparing. I design this

division to operate on McPheraon's right, rear, or front, according

as the enemy appears. But the moment I detect Johnston falling

behind the Chattahoochee, I propose to cast off the effective part

of this cavalry division, after crossing the Coosa, straight for

Opelika, West Point, Columbus, or Wetumpka, to break up the road

between Montgomery and Georgia. If Garrard can do this work well,

he can return to the Union army; but should a superior force

interpose, then he will seek safety at Pensacola and join Banks,

or, after rest, will act against any force that he can find east of

Mobile, till such time as he can reach me.

Should Johnston fall behind the Chattahoochee, I will feign to the

right, but pass to the left and act against Atlanta or its eastern

communications, according to developed facts.

This is about as far ahead as I feel disposed, to look, but I will

ever bear in mind that Johnston is at all times to be kept so busy

that he cannot in any event send any part of his command against

you or Banks.

If Banks can at the same time carry Mobile and open up the Alabama

River, he will in a measure solve the most difficult part of my

problem, viz., "provisions." But in that I must venture. Georgia

has a million of inhabitants. If they can live, we should not

starve. If the enemy interrupt our communications, I will be

absolved from all obligations to subsist on our own resources, and

will feel perfectly justified in taking whatever and wherever we

can find. I will inspire my command, if successful, with the

feeling that beef and salt are all that is absolutely necessary to

life, and that parched corn once fed General Jackson's army on that

very ground.

As ever, your friend and servant,

W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General.



Major-General W. T. SHERMAN, commanding Military Division of the


GENERAL: Since my letter to you of April 4th I have seen no reason

to change any portion of the general plan of campaign, if the enemy

remain still and allow us to take the initiative. Rain has

continued so uninterruptedly until the last day or two that it will

be impossible to move, however, before the 27th, even if no more

should fall in the meantime. I think Saturday, the 30th, will

probably be the day for our general move.

Colonel Comstock, who will take this, can spend a day with you, and

fill up many little gaps of information not given in any of my


What I now want more particularly to say is, that if the two main

attacks, yours and the one from here, should promise great success,

the enemy may, in a fit of desperation, abandon one part of their

line of defense, and throw their whole strength upon the other,

believing a single defeat without any victory to sustain them

better than a defeat all along their line, and hoping too, at the

same time, that the army, meeting with no resistance, will rest

perfectly satisfied with their laurels, having penetrated to a

given point south, thereby enabling them to throw their force first

upon one and then on the other.

With the majority of military commanders they might do this.

But you have had too much experience in traveling light, and

subsisting upon the country, to be caught by any such ruse. I hope

my experience has not been thrown away. My directions, then, would

be, if the enemy in your front show signs of joining Lee, follow

him up to the full extent of your ability. I will prevent the

concentration of Lee upon your front, if it is in the power of this

army to do it.

The Army of the Potomac looks well, and, so far as I can judge,

officers and men feel well. Yours truly,

U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.



Lieutenant-General U. S. GRANT, Commander-in-Chief,

Culpepper, Virginia

GENERAL: I now have, at the hands of Colonel Comstock, of your

staff, the letter of April 19th, and am as far prepared to assume

the offensive as possible. I only ask as much time as you think

proper, to enable me to get up McPherson's two divisions from

Cairo. Their furloughs will expire about this time, and some of

them should now be in motion for Clifton, whence they will march to

Decatur, to join General Dodge.

McPherson is ordered to assemble the Fifteenth Corps near Larkin's,

and to get the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Corps (Dodge and Blair) at

Decatur at the earliest possible moment. From these two points he

will direct his forces on Lebanon, Summerville, and Lafayette,

where he will act against Johnston, if he accept battle at Dalton;

or move in the direction of Rome, if the enemy give up Dalton, and

fall behind the Oostenaula or Etowah. I see that there is some

risk in dividing our forces, but Thomas and Schofield will have

strength enough to cover all the valleys as far as Dalton; and,

should Johnston turn his whole force against McPherson, the latter

will have his bridge at Larkin's, and the route to Chattanooga via

Willa's Valley and the Chattanooga Creek, open for retreat; and if

Johnston attempt to leave Dalton, Thomas will have force enough to

push on through Dalton to Kingston, which will checkmate him. My

own opinion is that Johnston will be compelled to hang to his

railroad, the only possible avenue of supply to his army, estimated

at from forty-five to sixty thousand men.

At Lafayette all our armies will be together, and if Johnston

stands at Dalton we must attack him in position. Thomas feels

certain that he has no material increase of force, and that he has

not sent away Hardee, or any part of his army. Supplies are the

great question. I have materially increased the number of cars

daily. When I got here, the average was from sixty-five to eighty

per day. Yesterday the report was one hundred and ninety-three;

to-day, one hundred and thirty-four; and my estimate is that one

hundred and forty-five cars per day will give us a day's supply and

a day's accumulation.

McPherson is ordered to carry in wagons twenty day's rations, and

to rely on the depot at Ringgold for the renewal of his bread.

Beeves are now being driven on the hoof to the front; and the

commissary, Colonel Beckwith, seems fully alive to the importance

of the whole matter.

Our weakest point will be from the direction of Decatur, and I will

be forced to risk something from that quarter, depending on the

fact that the enemy has no force available with which to threaten

our communications from that direction.

Colonel Comstock will explain to you personally much that I cannot

commit to paper. I am, with great respect,

W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General.

On the 28th of April I removed my headquarters to Chattanooga, and

prepared for taking the field in person. General Grant had first

indicated the 30th of April as the day for the simultaneous

advance, but subsequently changed the day to May 5th. McPhersons

troops were brought forward rapidly to Chattanooga, partly by rail

and partly by marching. Thomas's troops were already in position

(his advance being out as far as Ringgold-eighteen miles), and

Schofield was marching down by Cleveland to Red Clay and Catoosa

Springs. On the 4th of May, Thomas was in person at Ringgold, his

left at Catoosa, and his right at Leet's Tan-yard. Schofield was

at Red Clay, closing upon Thomas's left; and McPherson was moving

rapidly into Chattanooga, and out toward Gordon's Mill.

On the 5th I rode out to Ringgold, and on the very day appointed by

General Grant from his headquarters in Virginia the great campaign

was begun. To give all the minute details will involve more than

is contemplated, and I will endeavor only to trace the principal

events, or rather to record such as weighed heaviest on my own mind

at the time, and which now remain best fixed in my memory.

My general headquarters and official records remained back at

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