“I think now that Sheridan is superior to Early”

I received the following letter, dated yesterday, from Gen. Halleck.

Washington, August 27, 1864.

Lieutenant-General GRANT, City Point:

GENERAL: In a letter just received from General Sherman he advises that Granger should not attack Mobile, but move directly up the Alabama River to Selma or Montgomery. He says the capture of Mobile will only weaken our active forces by the garrison required to hold it, whereas garrisoned by the enemy and threatened by our gun-boats, Hood’s forces are weakened to the amount of that garrison.

I think Sherman has entirely overestimated Granger’s forces and underestimated the difficulty of passing Mobile and ascending the Alabama some 150 or 200 miles. Possibly something of the kind might have been effected if A. J. Smith’s column had moved on Selma or Montgomery; but I now Learn from Sherman that he was ordered to strike the Tennessee at Eastport or Decatur. It will not do to attempt too many things at once with our rapidly diminishing armies. If Canby weakens the line of the MISSISSIPPI too much to re-enforce Granger, Kirby Smith may cross and re-enforce Hood. I fear that as it is he will send small parties across to meet at some place of rendezvous and then march to Atlanta.

General Canby and Admiral Farragut both understand that the main object of their operations is to assist Sherman, and I think it will be better to let them work out the problem as circumstances may require rather than to embarrass them with orders based on a supposed state of things which may be essentially different when the orders are received.

I have directed General Canby to permit no more exchange of prisoners of war. That part of the cartel which authorizes commanders to exchange on the field troops just captured, man for man, has been considered heretofore as still in effect. I do not see any objection to it, as it can give no advantage to either party and saves our men from barbarous treatment by the rebels. To exchange their healthy men for ours who are on the brink of the grave from their hellish treatment, of course gives them all the advantage; nevertheless it seems very cruel to leave our men to be slowly but deliberately tortured to death, but I suppose there is no remedy at present.

Horses and men for the Second Cavalry DIVISION are being sent down as rapidly as possible. The 100-days’s men in WEST Virginia are nearly all discharged. That country is nearly defenseless. The people of that country are in a panic about rebel raids and beg for troops. I have none to send them, and must leave it to Sheridan to keep the enemy occupied.

General Heintzelman reports of the condition of affairs in his department. He is firmly of opinion that the plots of the Copperheads to release the rebel prisoners were frustrated only by sending additional guards, and that such attempts will be made at the earliest favorable opportunity.

At the request of the Governor of Colorado, I telegraphed to General Rosecrans to send the regiment of Colorado cavalry, now at Kansas City, to operate against the hostile Indians on the plains and to protect the overland mail route, but the replied, as usual, that he could not spare any troops. The authorities of Colorado and the Post-Office and Interior Department are very urgent for more troops in that direction, but it is impossible to give them.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Major-General and Chief of Staff.


I replied,

City Point, Va., August 29, 1864.

Major General H. W. HALLECK,

Chief of Staff of the Army:

GENERAL: Your letter of the 27th is just received. I think with you it would be hazardous and productive of no special to send Granger past Mobile toward Atlanta. Granger would not be the right man to trust with an army cut loose form its base of supplies. Again, the movement Sherman is now making, result as it may, cannot be influenced by anything that can be done at Mobile in obedience to orders sent from here now.

On the subject of exchanges, I have no special objection to commanders making exchanges, after battles, of the men they have respectively captured, but I do not understand those to be the class of exchanges that have been made either by Canby or Foster. They have given men that will go immediately into the ranks to fight against us whilst we get nothing of the sort in return. Such exchanges are very much against us.

I think now that Sheridan is superior to Early, besides the latter being where it must take a good part of his force to collect supplies for the balance. He can at least feel the enemy and ascertain. If he can only get Early to retreating, the all of Crook’s force can be sent to Western Virginia. With the balance the enemy can be followed as far as may prove prudent; I hope to the Virginia Central Railroad. If this can be done the Sixth Corps might be brought here and the Nineteenth left for other service. My greatest alarm now is that Wheeler may go into Kentucky. He is easily whipped if boldly attacked by half his numbers, but I fear that Burbridge will not be able to raise even such a force. The only chance I know for him is to call upon the Governor of Kentucky for all the aid he can give. There is no doubt but Burbridge will fight with whatever force he had.

I cannot believe that General Heintzelman’s fears are well founded. The class of people who would threaten what he apprehends make a great noise, but it is hardly represented in the Union army have not friends to the soldiers enough left at home to prevent violence.

The only way a soldier can ever be taken from General Rosecrans is by sending a staff officer directly to him to execute the order in person. I do not know that he has any troops to spare, but it would be all the same if he had double the number he has.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,



The Papers of Ulysses S Grant, Vol 12, p 102-4

O.R., I, xxxix, part 2, p 309-10, 313

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