Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant

This provision was made to enable him to fall back upon the sea
coast, in case he should encounter a force sufficient to stop
his onward progress. He also wrote me a letter, making
suggestions as to what he would like to have done in support of
his movement farther north. This letter was brought to City
Point by General Barnard at a time when I happened to be going
to Washington City, where I arrived on the 21st of January. I
cannot tell the provision I had already made to co-operate with
Sherman, in anticipation of his expected movement, better than
by giving my reply to this letter.

Jan. 21, 1865.

Commanding Mill Div. of the Mississippi.

GENERAL:–Your letters brought by General Barnard were 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 one P.M.,
and must leave at six 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 (six thousand) will reach the
seaboard by the 23d, the remainder following as rapidly as
railroad transportation can be procured from Cincinnati. The
corps numbers over twenty-one thousand men. I was induced to do
this because 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 subordinates, whilst Thomas followed far behind. When Hood
had crossed the Tennessee, and those in pursuit had reached it,
Thomas 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 a sufficient force surplus to go to
Selma under an energetic leader. He has been telegraphed to, to
know whether he could go, and, if so, 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,
towards Montgomery and Selma. Thomas’s forces will move from
the north at an early day, or some of his troops will be sent to
Canby. Without further reinforcements Canby will have a moving
column of twenty thousand men.

Fort Fisher, you are aware, has been captured. We have a force
there of eight thousand effective. At New Bern about half the
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 Bern. In either event, all the surplus
forces at the two points will move to the interior toward
Goldsboro’ in co-operation with your movements. From either
point, railroad communications can be run out, there being here
abundance of rolling-stock suited to the gauge of those roads.

There have been about sixteen thousand men sent from Lee’s army
south. Of these, you will have fourteen thousand against you,
if Wilmington is not held by the enemy, casualties at Fort
Fisher having overtaken about two thousand.

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 thirty thousand effective men to your support, from the
troops about Richmond.

To resume: 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 twenty-eight or thirty thousand will
co-operate with you from New Bern or Wilmington, or both. You
can call for reinforcements.

This will be handed 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 on
ship-board, at any point on the sea-coast, ready for you, let me
know it.

Yours truly,

I had written on the 18th of January to General Sherman, giving
him the news of the battle of Nashville. He was much pleased at
the result, although, like myself, he had been very much
disappointed at Thomas for permitting Hood to cross the
Tennessee River and nearly the whole State of Tennessee, and
come to Nashville to be attacked there. He, however, as I had
done, sent Thomas a warm congratulatory letter.

On the 10th of January, 1865, the resolutions of thanks to
Sherman and his army passed by Congress were approved.

Sherman, after the capture, at once had the debris cleared up,
commencing the work by removing the piling and torpedoes from
the river, and taking up all obstructions. He had then
intrenched the city, so that it could be held by a small
garrison. By the middle of January all his work was done,
except the accumulation of supplies to commence his movement

He proposed to move in two columns, one from Savannah, going
along by the river of the same name, and the other by roads
farther east, threatening Charleston. He commenced the advance
by moving his right wing to Beaufort, South Carolina, then to
Pocotaligo by water. This column, in moving north, threatened
Charleston, and, indeed, it was not determined at first what
they would have a force visit Charleston. South Carolina had
done so much to prepare the public mind of the South for
secession, and had been so active in precipitating the decision
of the question before the South was fully prepared to meet it,
that there was, at that time, a feeling throughout the North and
also largely entertained by people of the South, that the State
of South Carolina, and Charleston, the hot-bed of secession in
particular, ought to have a heavy hand laid upon them. In fact,
nothing but the decisive results that followed, deterred the
radical portion of the people from condemning the movement,
because Charleston had been left out. To pass into the interior
would, however, be to insure the evacuation of the city, and its
possession by the navy and Foster’s troops. It is so situated
between two formidable rivers that a small garrison could have
held it against all odds as long as their supplies would hold
out. Sherman therefore passed it by.

By the first of February all preparations were completed for the
final march, Columbia, South Carolina, being the first objective;
Fayetteville, North Carolina, the second; and Goldsboro, or
neighborhood, the final one, unless something further should be
determined upon. The right wind went from Pocotaligo, and the
left from about Hardeeville on the Savannah River, both columns
taking a pretty direct route for Columbia. The cavalry,
however, were to threaten Charleston on the right, and Augusta
on the left.

On the 15th of January Fort Fisher had fallen, news of which
Sherman had received before starting out on his march. We
already had New Bern and had soon Wilmington, whose fall
followed that of Fort Fisher; as did other points on the sea
coast, where the National troops were now in readiness to
co-operated with Sherman’s advance when he had passed

On the 18th of January I ordered Canby, in command at New
Orleans, to move against Mobile, Montgomery and Selma, Alabama,
for the purpose of destroying roads, machine shops, etc. On the
8th of February I ordered Sheridan, who was in the Valley of
Virginia, to push forward as soon as the weather would permit
and strike the canal west of Richmond at or about Lynchburg; and
on the 20th I made the order to go to Lynchburg as soon as the
roads would permit, saying: “As soon as it is possible to
travel, I think you will have no difficulty about reaching
Lynchburg with a cavalry force alone. From there you could
destroy the railroad and canal in every direction, so as to be
of no further use to the rebellion. * * * This additional raid,
with one starting from East Tennessee under Stoneman, numbering
about four or five thousand cavalry; one from Eastport,
Mississippi, ten thousand cavalry; Canby, from Mobile Bay, with
about eighteen thousand mixed troops–these three latter pushing
for Tuscaloosa, Selma and Montgomery; and Sherman with a large
army eating out the vitals of South Carolina–is all that will
be wanted to leave nothing for the rebellion to stand upon. I
would advise you to overcome great obstacles to accomplish
this. Charleston was evacuated on Tuesday last.”

On the 27th of February, more than a month after Canby had
received his orders, I again wrote to him, saying that I was
extremely anxious to hear of his being in Alabama. I notified
him, also, that I had sent Grierson to take command of his
cavalry, he being a very efficient officer. I further suggested
that Forrest was probably in Mississippi, and if he was there, he
would find him an officer of great courage and capacity whom it
would be difficult to get by. I still further informed him that
Thomas had been ordered to start a cavalry force into Mississippi
on the 20th of February, or as soon as possible thereafter. This
force did not get off however.

All these movements were designed to be in support of Sherman’s
march, the object being to keep the Confederate troops in the
West from leaving there. But neither Canby nor Thomas could be
got off in time. I had some time before depleted Thomas’s army
to reinforce Canby, for the reason that Thomas had failed to
start an expedition which he had been ordered to send out, and
to have the troops where they might do something. Canby seemed
to be equally deliberate in all of his movements. I ordered him
to go in person; but he prepared to send a detachment under
another officer. General Granger had got down to New Orleans,
in some way or other, and I wrote Canby that he must not put him
in command of troops. In spite of this he asked the War
Department to assign Granger to the command of a corps.

Almost in despair of having adequate service rendered to the
cause in that quarter, I said to Canby: “I am in receipt of a
dispatch * * * informing me that you have made requisitions for
a construction corps and material to build seventy miles of
railroad. I have directed that none be sent. Thomas’s army has
been depleted to send a force to you that they might be where
they could act in winter, and at least detain the force the
enemy had in the West. If there had been any idea of repairing
railroads, it could have been done much better from the North,
where we already had the troops. I expected your movements to
be co-operative with Sherman’s last. This has now entirely
failed. I wrote to you long ago, urging you to push promptly
and to live upon the country, and destroy railroads, machine
shops, etc., not to build them. Take Mobile and hold it, and
push your forces to the interior–to Montgomery and to Selma.
Destroy railroads, rolling stock, and everything useful for
carrying on war, and, when you have done this, take such
positions as can be supplied by water. By this means alone you
can occupy positions from which the enemy’s roads in the
interior can be kept broken.”

Most of these expeditions got off finally, but too late to
render any service in the direction for which they were designed.

The enemy, ready to intercept his advance, consisted of Hardee’s
troops and Wheeler’s cavalry, perhaps less than fifteen thousand
men in all; but frantic efforts were being made in Richmond, as
I was sure would be the case, to retard Sherman’s movements.
Everything possible was being done to raise troops in the
South. Lee dispatched against Sherman the troops which had been
sent to relieve Fort Fisher, which, including those of the other
defences of the harbor and its neighborhood, amounted, after
deducting the two thousand killed, wounded and captured, to
fourteen thousand men. After Thomas’s victory at Nashville what
remained, of Hood’s army were gathered together and forwarded as
rapidly as possible to the east to co-operate with these forces;
and, finally, General Joseph E. Johnston, one of the ablest
commanders of the South though not in favor with the
administration (or at least with Mr. Davis), was put in command
of all the troops in North and South Carolina.

Schofield arrived at Annapolis in the latter part of January,
but before sending his troops to North Carolina I went with him
down the coast to see the situation of affairs, as I could give
fuller directions after being on the ground than I could very
well have given without. We soon returned, and the troops were
sent by sea to Cape Fear River. Both New Bern and Wilmington
are connected with Raleigh by railroads which unite at
Goldsboro. Schofield was to land troops at Smithville, near the
mouth of the Cape Fear River on the west side, and move up to
secure the Wilmington and Charlotteville Railroad. This column
took their pontoon bridges with them, to enable them to cross
over to the island south of the city of Wilmington. A large
body was sent by the north side to co-operate with them. They
succeeded in taking the city on the 22d of February. I took the
precaution to provide for Sherman’s army, in case he should be
forced to turn in toward the sea coast before reaching North
Carolina, by forwarding supplies to every place where he was
liable to have to make such a deflection from his projected
march. I also sent railroad rolling stock, of which we had a
great abundance, now that we were not operating the roads in
Virginia. The gauge of the North Carolina railroads being the
same as the Virginia railroads had been altered too; these cars
and locomotives were ready for use there without any change.

On the 31st of January I countermanded the orders given to
Thomas to move south to Alabama and Georgia. (I had previously
reduced his force by sending a portion of it to Terry.) I
directed in lieu of this movement, that he should send Stoneman
through East Tennessee, and push him well down toward Columbia,
South Carolina, in support of Sherman. Thomas did not get
Stoneman off in time, but, on the contrary, when I had supposed
he was on his march in support of Sherman I heard of his being
in Louisville, Kentucky. I immediately changed the order, and
directed Thomas to send him toward Lynchburg. Finally, however,
on the 12th of March, he did push down through the north-western
end of South Carolina, creating some consternation. I also
ordered Thomas to send the 4th corps (Stanley’s) to Bull Gap and
to destroy no more roads east of that. I also directed him to
concentrate supplies at Knoxville, with a view to a probable
movement of his army through that way toward Lynchburg.

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