Much has been made of Sherman’s unprecedented march to the sea, and of Grant’s march on Vicksburg before that, which served as a test of the idea that an army could cut loose from its supply lines. The idea was actually arising frequently in the Civil War. In this case, Buell admonishes Alexander McCook about the best way to forage on the march.
From the Official Record:
HEADQUARTERS, Huntsville, August 20, 1862.
General McCOOK, Battle Creek:
The object of the enemy may be to forage in Sequatchie Valley or to advance in force. We must be prepared for either. Move your division up Sequatchie Valley on the north side of the Anderson road, and send out at once on the other side up the valley strong foraging parties to collect forage, beef, and flour if you can find it. Give receipts in all cases and see that not an ounce of anything is wasted.
Supplies in the great problem with us now, and we must solve it by management, and by starving, too, if necessary. Continue foraging daily in all directions, with the double object of starving the enemy and feeding ourselves.
Move Crittenden at the same time and halt him at the Little Sequatchie, near where the Higginbottom road turns off to Tracy City. He also must forage industriously while he remains. These supplies will be required for the other troops as well as your own.
Thomas’ division and your brigade are ordered to Tracy City to-morrow. As soon as you get your position communicate wit General Schoepf. I believe there is a road crossing to that point form the Anderson road, and if there is I will move Schoepf forward to near the Anderson road. As some little time would be required to concentrate, my wish is that you should not become too seriously engaged. If it should be necessary to retire do so toward Tracy City by the Anderson road, if, as I believe, a road from that to Tracy City exists. In that case you should only go far enough back to get a strong position or pass in which you can repel a superior force and where you can threaten the valley; but you must look to your rear also, for the road I speak of extends along the whole length of the mountain, I think.
Instruct Crittenden in a like case to fall back on the Higginbottom road toward Tracy City, but only far enough to take a strong position.
I have ordered two battalions of Zahm’s cavalry to join you. Observe that there are several roads coming into the valley from the Tennessee River by which cavalry and footmen can pass.
Rankin’s Ferry and Lowe’s Ferry should if possible be held by Crittenden’s pickets.
Keep yourself thoroughly informed about everything; be prudent, and fight hard when you have to fight.
D. C. BUELL.