Gen. Sherman has proposed to march his army north to join the Army of the Potomac and bring all our weight to bear on Lee. I wrote him,
HEADQUARTERS ARMIES OF THE UNITED STATES,
City Point, Va., December 27, 1864.
Major General W. T. SHERMAN,
Commanding Military Division of the Mississippi:
GENERAL: Before writing you definite instructions for the next campaign, I wanted to receive your answer to my letter written from Washington. Your confidence in being able to march up and join this army pleases me, and I believe it can be done. The effect of such a campaign will be to disorganize the South, and prevent the organization of new armies from their broken fragments. Hood is now retreating, with his army broken and demoralized. His loss in men has probably not been far from 20,000, besides, deserters. If time is given the fragments may be collected together and many of the deserters reassemble; if we can we should act to prevent this. Your spare army, as it were, moving as proposed, will do this.
In addition to holding Savannah, it looks me that an intrenched camp ought to be held on the railroad between Savannah and Charleston. Your movement toward Branchville will probably enable Foster to reach this with his own force. This will give us a position in the South from which we can threaten the interior, without marching over long narrow causeways easily defends, as we have heretofore been compelled to do. Could not such a camp be established about Pocotaligo, or Coosawhatchie?
I have thought that Hood being so completely wiped out for present harm, I might bring A. J. Smith here with from 10,000 to 15,000 men. With this increase I could hold my lines and move out with a greater force than Lee has. It would compel Lee to retain all his present force in the defenses of Richmond, or abandon them entirely. This latter contingency is probably the only danger to the easy success of your expedition. In the event you should meet Lee’s army, you would be compelled to beat it, or find the sea-coast.
Of course I shall not let Lee’s army escape if I can help it, and will not let it go without following to the best of my ability.
Without waiting further directions, then, you may make preparations to start on your northern expedition without delay. Break up the railroads in South and North Carolina, and join the armies operating against Richmond as soon as you can.
I will leave out all suggestions about the route you should take, knowing that your information, gained daily in the progress of events, will be better than any that can be obtained now.
It may not be possible for you to march to the rear of Petersburg, but failing is this you could strike either of the sea-coast ports in North Carolina held by us; from there you could take shipping. It would be decidedly preferable, however, if you could march the whole distance.
From the best information I have, you will find no difficulty in supplying your army until you cross the Roanoke. From there here is but a few days’ march, and supplies could be collected south of the river to bring you through. I shall establish communication with you there by steam-boat and gun-boat. By this means your wants can be partially supplied.
I shall hope to hear from you soon, and to hear your plan and about the time and starting.
Please instruct Foster to hold on to all the property captured in Savannah, and especially the cotton. Do not turn it over to citizens or Treasury agents without orders of the War Department.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
U. S. GRANT,