I received a reply from Gen. Sherman to my letter outlining the general plan of campaign this spring.
PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL.
HDQRS. MIL. DIV. OF THE MISSISSIPPI,
Nashville, Tenn., April 10, 1864.
Lieutenant General U. S. GRANT,
Commander-in-Chief,Washington, D. C.:
Your two letters of April 4 are now before me, and afford me infinite satisfaction. That we are now all to act in a common plan, converging on a common center, looks like enlightened war.
Like yourself you take the biggest load, and from me you shall have thorough and hearty co-operation. I will not let side issues draw me off from your main plan, in which I am to knock Joe Johnston, and do as much damage to the resources of the enemy as possible. I have heretofore written to General Rawlins and Colonel Babcock, 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 organization according to the orders from Washington, which are ample and perfectly satisfactory. I did not wish to displace Palmer, but asked George Thomas to tell me in all frankness exactly what he wanted. All he asked is granted, and all he said was that Palmer, but asked George Thomas to tell me in all frankness exactly what he wanted. All he asked is granted, and all he said was that Palmer felt unequal to so large a command, and would be willing to take a division, provided Buell or some tried and experienced soldier were given the corps. But on the whole Thomas is now well content with his command; so are Schofield and McPherson.
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 to the line of the Tennessee. Each of the three armies will guard by detachments of its own their rear communications. At the signal to be given by you, Schofield will leave a select garrison at Knoxville and Loudon, and with 12,000 men drop down to Hiwassee and march on 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 2,000 cavalry by Ducktown on Ellijay and toward Athens.
Thomas will aim to have 45,000 men of all arms and move straight on Johnston wherever he may be, fighting him cautiously, persistently, and to the best of 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 in, in which case he will have full 30,000 of the best men in America. He will cross the Tennessee at Decatur and Whitesburg, march toward Rome and feel for Thomas. If Johnston fall behind the Coosa, then McPherson will push for Rome, and if Johnston then fall behind the Chattahoochee, as I believe he will, then McPherson will cross and join with Thomas. McPherson has no cavalry, but I have taken one of Thomas’ divisions, viz, Garrard’s, 6,000 strong, which I now have at Columbia, mounting, equipping, and preparing. I design this division to operate on McPherson’s right rear or front, according as the enemy appears; but the moment I detect Johnston falling behind the Chattahochee, I propose to cast off the effective part of this cavalry division, after crossing Coosa, straight for Opelika, West Point, Columbus, or Wetumpka, to break up the road between Montgomery and Georgia. If Garrard can do this work good, he can return to the main army; but should a superior force interpose, then he will seek safety at Pensacola, and join Banks, or after rest act against any force that he can find on the east of Mobile, till such time as he can reach me.
Should Johnston fall behind Chattahoochee I would feint to the right, but pass to the left, and act on Atlanta, or on its eastern communications, according to developed facts.
This is about as far ahead as I feel disposed to look, but I would 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 your 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-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 my communications, I will be absolved from all obligations to subsist on our own sources, but will feel perfectly justified in taking whatever and whenever I can find. I will inspire my command, if successful, with my feeling that beef and salt are all that is absolutely necessary to life, and parched corn fed General Jackson’s army once on that very ground.
As ever, your friend and servant,
W. T. SHERMAN,