Sherman wrote to Grant yesterday that he views Hood’s advance northward as leaving Georgia open to attack. He has floated the idea of heading for the Georgia capital, Milledgeville, and ultimately to Savannah. Back in August, he suggested that if he got cut off, he’d make for the sea at Savannah.
However, his friend Gen. Halleck prefers another plan that Sherman has mentioned to him, of heading southwest to Mobile. Halleck avers, inaccurately, that this is the “shortest and most direct” line to the ocean, and gives seven other arguments for it. But he assures Grant that “I do not write this for the purpose of influencing your adoption of a particular plan.”
HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMY,
Washington, D. C., October 2, 1864.
Lieutenant-General GRANT, City Point:
GENERAL: Some time since General Sherman asked my opinion in regard to his operations after the capture of Atlanta. While free to give advice to the best of my ability, I felt it my duty to refer him to you for instructions, not being advised of your views on that subject. I presume from his dispatches that you have corresponded upon the subject, and perhaps his plan of future operations has already been decided upon. At one time he seemed most decidedly of opinion that he ought to operate by Montgomery and Selma and connect himself with Canby and Farragut on the Alabama River, thus severing the northern part of Georgia and Alabama and all of MISSISSIPPI from the rebel Confederacy. This view was taken in his letters to General Canby, copies of which were sent to the Adjutant-General’s Office, and in this opinion I fully concurred, and so wrote both to him and Canby, directing them, however, to make no important movements till they received your instructions.
I judge from a dispatch just received from General Sherman that he is now proposing to move eastwardly toward Augusta or Millen, expecting to connect with the coast by the Savannah River. Whether this is simply a suggestion or change of opinion on his part, or the result of his consultation with you, or of your orders to him, I have no means of knowing. All I wish to say or know upon the subject is, that if any definite plans have been adopted it is desirable that the Secretary of War or myself should be informed of that plan as early as possible. Large requisitions have been received within the last day or two from General Canby’s staff officers for water transportation and quartermasters, commissary, and medical stores to be sent to Mobile and Pensacola for an army of 30,000 or 40,000 men. Indeed, in the single article of forage the amount asked for is more than can possibly be furnished in the Northern and Eastern States, and more than all the available sea- going vessels in Northern ports could float.
On receiving these requisitions I directed General Meigs to take active measures to fill them so far as possible, but to make no shipments until further orders. Now, if General Sherman is going to move east to connect with the coast by the Savannah River these stores should not be shipped to Mobile or Pensacola, but to Hilton Head, and transportation be sent to New Orleans to move all available troops to that point. Moreover, operations at Mobile should in that case be limited to a mere demonstration and continued only so long as they may serve to deceive the enemy. It is exceedingly important that some definite conclusion should be arrived at as early as possible, for the expenses of the water transportation, and especially of the demurrage of large fleets, are enormous.
Perhaps it may be desirable that I should give my reasons in brief for concurring with General Sherman in his first proposed plan of operations. In the first place, that line of connection with the coast is the shortest and most direct; second, by cutting off a smaller slice of rebel territory it is not so directly exposed, and leaves a smaller force to attack in rear; THIRD, it does not leave Tennessee and Kentucky so open to rebel raids; fourth, the Alabama River is more navigable for our gun-boats than the Savannah; fifth, this line is more defensible for General Canby’s troops than the other; sixth, Montgomery, Selma, and Mobile are, in a military point of view, more important than Augusta, Millen, and Savannah; seventh, Mobile can be more easily captured than Savannah, and eight, this line will bring within our control a more valuable and important section of country than that by the Savannah.
There is a section of country from fifty to one hundred and fity miles wide extending from Selma west to Meridian, and thence north on both sides of the Tombigbee to Columbus, Aderdeen, and Okolona, more rich in agricultural products than any equal extent of country in the Confederacy. Slave labor has been but very little disturbed in this section, and the large corps of this year are being collected at Demopolis, Selma, Montgomery, and other points for the use of the rebel army. By moving that line they will be converted to our use or be destroyed. By moving on Augusta they will be left for the use of Hood’s forces.
I do not write this for the purpose of influencing your adoption of a particular plan of campaign, or of changing your decision, if you have adopted any plan, but simply to urge on you an early decision if you have not already made one. It is proper, however, to remark that I have taken every possible means to obtain correct information on the subject and present these conclusions only after through examination and the most mature consideration.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
H. W. HALLECK,
Major-General and Chief of Staff.