Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman

Text to Speech

Judge Lyons, which stood opposite one corner of the Court-House

Square, and at once set about a measure already ordered, of which I

had thought much and long, viz., to remove the entire civil

population, and to deny to all civilians from the rear the expected

profits of civil trade. Hundreds of sutlers and traders were

waiting at Nashville and Chattanooga, greedy to reach Atlanta with

their wares and goods, with, which to drive a profitable trade with

the inhabitants. I gave positive orders that none of these

traders, except three (one for each separate army), should be

permitted to come nearer than Chattanooga; and, moreover, I

peremptorily required that all the citizens and families resident

in Atlanta should go away, giving to each the option to go south or

north, as their interests or feelings dictated. I was resolved to

make Atlanta a pure military garrison or depot, with no civil

population to influence military measures. I had seen Memphis,

Vicksburg, Natchez, and New Orleans, all captured from the enemy,

and each at once was garrisoned by a full division of troops, if

not more; so that success was actually crippling our armies in the

field by detachments to guard and protect the interests of a

hostile population.

I gave notice of this purpose, as early as the 4th of September, to

General Halleck, in a letter concluding with these words:

If the people raise a howl against my barbarity and cruelty, I will

answer that war is war, and not popularity-seeking. If they want

peace, they and their relatives most stop the war.

I knew, of course, that such a measure would be strongly

criticised, but made up my mind to do it with the absolute

certainty of its justness, and that time would sanction its wisdom.

I knew that the people of the South would read in this measure two

important conclusions: one, that we were in earnest; and the other,

if they were sincere in their common and popular clamor "to die in

the last ditch," that the opportunity would soon come.

Soon after our reaching Atlanta, General Hood had sent in by a flag

of truce a proposition, offering a general exchange of prisoners,

saying that he was authorized to make such an exchange by the

Richmond authorities, out of the vast number of our men then held

captive at Andersonville, the same whom General Stoneman had hoped

to rescue at the time of his raid. Some of these prisoners had

already escaped and got in, had described the pitiable condition of

the remainder, and, although I felt a sympathy for their hardships

and sufferings as deeply as any man could, yet as nearly all the

prisoners who had been captured by us during the campaign had been

sent, as fast as taken, to the usual depots North, they were then

beyond my control. There were still about two thousand, mostly

captured at Jonesboro, who had been sent back by cars, but had not

passed Chattanooga. These I ordered back, and offered General Hood

to exchange them for Stoneman, Buell, and such of my own army as

would make up the equivalent; but I would not exchange for his

prisoners generally, because I knew these would have to be sent to

their own regiments, away from my army, whereas all we could give

him could at once be put to duty in his immediate army. Quite an

angry correspondence grew up between us, which was published at the

time in the newspapers, but it is not to be found in any book of

which I have present knowledge, and therefore is given here, as

illustrative of the events referred to, and of the feelings of the

actors in the game of war at that particular crisis, together with

certain other original letters of Generals Grant and Halleck, never

hitherto published.


CITY POINT, VIRGINIA, September 12, 1864

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


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 world in

favor of any living man, myself included.

Truly yours,

U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.


IN THE FIELD, ATLANTA, GEORGIA, September 20, 1864.

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


GENERAL: 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


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


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; but,

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, and 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 world 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; and 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


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 16, 1864.

General W. T. SHERMAN, Atlanta, Georgia.

My DEAR GENERAL: Your very interesting letter of the 4th is just

received. Its perusal has given me the greatest pleasure. I have

not written before to congratulate you on the capture of Atlanta,

the objective point of your brilliant campaign, for the reason that

I have been suffering from my annual attack of "coryza," or

hay-cold. It affects my eyes so much that I can scarcely see to

write. As you suppose, I have watched your movements most

attentively and critically, and I do not hesitate to say that your

campaign has been the most brilliant of the war. Its results are

less striking and less complete than those of General Grant at

Vicksburg, but then you have had greater difficulties to encounter,

a longer line of communications to keep up, and a longer and more

continuous strain upon yourself and upon your army.

You must have been very considerably annoyed by the State negro

recruiting-agents. Your letter was a capital one, and did much

good. The law was a ridiculous one; it was opposed by the War

Department, but passed through the influence of Eastern

manufacturers, who hoped to escape the draft in that way. They

were making immense fortunes out of the war, and could well afford

to purchase negro recruits, and thus save their employees at home.

I fully agree with you in regard to the policy of a stringent

draft; but, unfortunately, political influences are against us, and

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