I wrote to Gen. Canby with instructions on how to proceed in his campaign against Mobile.
CITY POINT, VA., February 27, 1865.
Major General E. R. S. CANBY,
Commanding Military Division of West Mississippi:
Bvt. Brigadier General C. B. Comstock, the bearer of this, will report to you for temporary service. Relieve him and order him back to these headquarters as soon as you commence a movement to the interior from Mobile, should that city fall into your possession soon, or when it is clearly ascertained that you are to have a protracted siege. Until recently I supposed that Mobile would probably be surrendered without a struggle. Since, however, I have learned that orders have been given from Richmond to hold the place at all hazards. These orders are now but about a week old, and may have reached there too late. The great length of time that has elapsed since I have heard from you, however, makes it impossible for me to judge whether your campaign has progressed far enough to interfere with a compliance with this order. I am extremely anxious to hear of your forces getting to the interior of Alabama. I send Grierson, an experienced cavalry commander, to take command of your cavalry. At the time he received his orders I did not know that you were intending to send your cavalry from Vicksburg. He was, therefore, directed to report to you in person. I am afraid this will prevent his taking the command I intended, and interfere somewhat with the success of your cavalry. Forrest seems to be near Jackson, Miss., and, if he is, none but the best of our cavalry commanders will get by him. Thomas was directed to start a cavalry force from Eastport, Miss., as soon after the 20th of February as possible, to move on Selma, Ala., which would tent to ward Forrest off. He promised to start it by that day, but I know he did not, and I do not know that he has yet started it.
It but rarely happens that a number of expeditions starting from various points to act upon a common center materially aid each other. They never do except when each acts with vigor, and either makes rapid marches or keeps confronting an enemy. Whilst one column is engaging anything like an equal force it is necessarily aiding the other by holding that force. With Grierson, I am satisfied you would either find him at the appointed place in time or you would find him holding an enemy, which would enable the other column to get there. I think you will find the same true of Wilson, who I suppose will command the forces starting from Eastport.
I directed that you should organize your forces in two corps, one under Steele and the other under A. J. Smith. Both these officers have had experience in subsisting off the country through which they are passing.
I write this now, not to give any instructions not heretofore given, but because I feel a great anxiety to see the enemy entirely broken up in the West whilst I believe it will be an easy job. Time will enable the enemy to reorganize and collect in their deserters and get up a formidable force. By giving them no rest what they now have in their ranks will leave them.
It is also important to prevent, as far as possible, the planting of a crop this year and to destroy their railroads, machine-shops, &c. It is also important to get all the negro men we can before the enemy put them in their ranks.
Stoneman starts from East Tennessee in a few days to make a raid as far up on Lynchburg road as he can get. Sheridan started this morning from Winchester, Va., to destroy the Virginia Central road and James River Canal, and to get to Lynchburg if he can. Each starts with cavalry forces alone.
I am not urging because of any even supposed delay, but because I feel a great anxiety to see everything pushed, and the time it takes to communicate leaves me in the dark as to the progress you are making.
Please write to me fully on receipt of this. General Comstock will give you detailed news from this quarter.
U. S. GRANT,
The Papers of Ulysses S Grant, Vol 14, p 61-3
O.R., I, xlix, part 1, p 780-1