April 22, 1864: What’s Sherman up to?

Sherman in Atlanta, 1864

The Richmond Daily Dispatch reports that Sherman is cutting loose from his base — an act of desperation, they say — and heading perhaps for Mobile, perhaps some places in Georgia.

The situation in Mississippi.

It is the general impression that Sherman will have something else to do before marching direct on Mobile. His expedition may first strike the Tombigbee at Demopolis and capture Selma and Montgomery; but the final point is the Gulf city. The AtlantaAppeal, speaking of the situation, says:

The late movement of the enemy in Mississippi, whether regarded as a military enterprise, a strategic policy, or a coup de guerre, is certainly the most extraordinary of the war. For an army of thirty or forty thousand men to cut itself loose from its base, like a balloon from its moorings, and plunge into the depths of an unexplored country, confronting the hazards not only of resistance but of exhaustion and starvation, is a mark of boldness, not to say of extreme recklessness, and is but an additional evidence of the extremities to which the enemy is driven in order that an end may be accomplished or a point carried.

There can scarcely be a doubt, we presume, but that the capture of Mobile is the ultimate aim and purpose of this enterprise, whatever may be its present purposes, and, so far, from all we have yet learned, the enemy have met with but few obstacles to oppose his advance. His movements have been so rapid and eccentric that our Generals seemed to be baffled in their efforts at resistance, not knowing where to make a stand or what points to defend.

One plausible supposition is, that if Mobile be not really the objective points of this movement, it is their purpose to push our army back into Eastern Mississippi and Alabama, thereby securing the uninterrupted possession of the railroad from New Orleans to Memphis, and redeeming the large belt of cotton-growing country lying between that road and the Mississippi river. This supposition would seem to receive strength from the fact that the Federal force is said to have divided at Morton, one column going North and the other South. By a light detour, these columns would again strike the railroad, the one at canton and the other at Hazlehurst or Brookhaven, while at the same time the Vicksburg and Jackson road is being rapidly repaired to the latter place.

Several objects would be accomplished by the consummation of a design of this sort. In the first place, the navigation of the river would be freed from the interruption of our troops on this side, and in the second, the planters, assured of future tranquillity, might be induced to plant largely of cotton, which is now worth more than gold to the Yankees, while a new base or bases would be secured from which to commence operations when the spring shall have fairly opened.

We are loth to believe that the enemy is so reckless as to project an overland expedition from Vicksburg against Mobile at this season of the year. Their policy hitherto has been to advance by gradual approaches, and so we think it will be in this instance. The distance to travel, the dangers to hazard, and the obstacles to overcome, are too many and great to justify such a belief. But a few days at most must develop the plans and purposes of the foe, when we shall be enabled to pass a more correct judgment upon his conduct.

We find the following items in the Mississippi papers:

The State archives of Mississippi are being removed to Selma, Ala.

Nothing has been heard of a column of fifteen thousand, promised by the Yankees papers, to advance from Port Hudson; neither has there been any force landed at Pascagoula as was expected.

The cars on the Mobile and Ohio railroad do not go above Citronelli.

Some of our exchanges think Mobile is the place Sherman intends to attack, others think he intends to move on Columbus, Macon and Demopolis.–From Demopils they say the Federal would advance on Tuscaloosa and Selma, with the purpose of co-operating with a column from Huntsville.

The Federal were known to be in the vicinity of Decatur, Newton county, Miss., in force, on Saturdayevening, and Confederate troops in their front.

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