I received a letter from Gen. Sherman detailing his movements.
HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI,
In the Field, Savannah, January 21, 1865.
Lieutenant General U. S. GRANT,
City Point, Va.:
GENERAL: In fulfillment of my project General Howard moved the Seventeenth Corps, General Blair, from Thunderbolt to Beaufort, S. C., and on the 14th by a rapid movement secured the Port Royal Ferry and moved against Pocotaligo, which he gained on the 15th, the day appointed. By that course secured the use of the ground in South Carolina up to the Selkehatchie (Saltkatcher), and General Slocum was ordered in like manner to get his wing up about Robertsville by the way of the Savannah River and the Union Causeway. The transfer of men, animals, and wagons by steamer is a very slow process, and on the 19th General Slocum had only two divisions of the Twentieth at Purysburg and Hardeeville with open communications with Howard. John E. Smith crossed by the Union Causeway, on which Slocum had put ten days’ hard work, but the hard rains had raised the Savannah River so that the whole country was under water, and the corduroy road on the Union Causeway was carried away, cutting off one
brigade of John E. Smith, one division of the Fifteenth Corps (Corse’s), and all of the Fourteenth Corps, General Davis. All were ordered to move up the west bank of the Savannah to cross at Sister’s Ferry, but the rains have so flooded the country that we have been brought to a standstill; but I will persevere and get the army as soon as possible up to the line from Sister’s Ferry to Pocotaligo, where we will have terra firma to work on. Our supplies have come daily, that is, we have never had four days’ forage ahead, but I will depend on enough coming to get me out to the neighborhood of Barnwell, where we will find some.
General Grover’s division now occupies Savannah, which I had refortified, and I have turned over everything to General Foster, so that nothing now hinders me but water. I rather think the heavy rains in January will give us good weather in February and March. You cannot do much in Virginia till April or May, and when I am at Goldsborough and move against Raleigh, Lee will be forced to divide his command or give up Richmond.
I am rejoiced that Terry took Fisher, because it silences Butler, who was to you a dangerous man. His address to his troops on being relieved was a direct, mean, and malicious attack on you, and I admired the patience and skill by which you relieved yourself and the country of him. If you want some new and fresh men, able to handle large armies, I will offer you Charles R. Woods, Hazen, and Mower, all good and capable officers for an army of any size. Of course, I prefer to have them myself, but would give them up if you can do better by them.
As soon as possible, if I were in your place, I would break up the Department of the James, make the Richmond army one; then when I get to Goldsborough you will have a force to watch Lee, and I can be directed to gradually close in, cutting all communications. In the meantime Thomas’ Army should not be reduced too much, but he should hold Chattanooga, Decatur, and Eastport, collect supplies, and in March move on Tuscaloosa, Selma, Montgomery, and back to Rome, Ga., when he could be met from Chattanooga.
I take if for granted that Beauregard will bring, as fast as he can, such part of Hood’s army as can be moved over to Augusta to hit me in flank as I swing round Charleston. To cover the withdrawal Forrest will be left in Mississippi and West Tennessee, to divert attention by threatening the boats on the Mississippi and Tennessee Rivers. This should be disregarded and Thomas should break through the shell, expose the thick, and prevent the planting of corn this spring in Middle Alabama. The people of Georgia, like those of Mississippi, are worn out with care, but they are so afraid of their own leaders that they fear to organize for positive resistance. Their motives of “honor” and “fair play” are, that by abandoning the cause now they would be construed as “mean” for leaving their commands in the scrape. I have met the overtures of the people frankly, and given them the best advice I knew how.
I inclose copies of orders issued for the guidance of General Foster and other officers on this coast. These orders are made on conference with the Secretary of War.
I have been told that Congress meditates a bill to make another lieutenant-general for me. I have written to John Sherman to stop it, if it is designed for me. It would be mischievous, for there are enough rascals who would try to sow differences between us, whereas you and I now are in perfect understanding. I would rather have you in command than anybody else, for you are fair, honest, and have at heart the same purpose that should animate all. I should emphatically decline any commission calculated to bring us into rivalry, and I aks you to advise all your friends in Congress to this effect, especially Mr. Washburne. I doubt if men in Congress fully realize that you and I are honest in our professions of want of ambition. I know I feel none, and to-day will gladly surrender my position and influence to any other who is better able it wield the power. The flurry attending my recent success will soon blow over, and give place to new developments.
I inclose a letter of general instructions to General Thomas, which I beg you to revise and indorse or modify.
I am, truly, yours,
W. T. SHERMAN,
CITY POINT, VA., February 1, 1865.
Major General W. T. SHERMAN,
Commanding Military Division of the Mississippi:
Without much expectation of its reaching you in time to be of any service, I have mailed to you copies of instructions to Schofield and Thomas. I have informed Schofield by telegraph of the departure of Mahone’s division south from the Petersburg front. The troops marched down the Weldon road, and as they apparently went without baggage, it is doubtful whether they have not returned. I was absent from here when they left. Just returned yesterday morning from Cape Fear River. I went there to determine where Schofield’s corps had better go to operate against Wilmington and Goldsborough. The instructions with this will inform you of the conclusion arrived at. Schofield was with me and the plan of the movement against Wilmington fully determined before we started back; hence the absence of more detailed instructions to him. He will land one division at Smithville and move rapidly up the south side of the river and secure the Wilmington and Goldsborough Railroad, and with his pontoon train cross into the island south of the city if he can. With the aid of the gunboats there is no doubt but this move will drive the enemy from their position, eight miles east of the city, either back to their inner line or away altogether. There will be a large force on the north bank of Cape Fear ready to follow up and resist the garrison if they should go inside.
The railroads of North Carolina are four feet eight inches and a half gauge. I have sent large parties of railroad men there to build them up, and have ordered stock to run them. We have abundance of it idle from the non-use of the Virginia roads.
I have taken every precaution to have supplies ready for you wherever you may turn up. I did this before, when you left Atlanta, and regret that they did not reach you promptly when you arrived at salt-water. The fact is, Foster, from physical disability, is entirely unfit for his command. I would like to change him for a man who can get about and see for himself.
Alexander H. Stephens. R. M. T. Hunter, and Judge Campbell are now at my headquarters very desirous of going to Washington to see Mr. Lincoln informally on the subject of peace. The peace feeling within the rebel lines in gaining ground rapidly. This, however, should not relax our energies in the least, but should stimulate us to greater activity. I have received your very kind letter in which you say you would decline, or are opposed to, promotion. No one would be more pleased at your advancement than I, and if you should be placed in my position, and I put subordinate, it would not change our relations in the least. I would make the same exertions to support you that you have ever done to support me, and I would do all in my power to make our cause win.
U. S. GRANT,
The Papers of Ulysses S Grant, Vol 13, p 349-351
O.R., I, xlvii, part 2, p 102-4, 193-4