October 11, 1864: I can do it.

William Tecumseh Sherman

Sherman writes to Halleck, thanking him for supporting his decision to evacuate Atlanta, and again explains his view that it is harder to hold Atlanta than to take it. He wants to tear up the railroad to Chattanooga and push southeast to Savannah.

Official Records:


HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI,
In the Field, Kingston, October 11, 1864.
General HALLECK,
Washington:

DEAR GENERAL: Yours of September 28* is just received and is exceedingly to my liking because it is the judgment of history. [Halleck wrote approving Sherman’s removal of Atlanta’s civilian population. See:
Official Records]

I don’t care about the silly titles of Southern or Northern editors, but I do want to do right, and at Memphis and Vicksburg I experienced in my own sphere of action the unwisdom of expending millions of money and thousands of lives and then turn to and rent or entertain claims of indemnity for property fairly won. I think the gage of battle was made to us and if we win we are entitled to the conquests.

And how soon was I forced to realize my crude judgment. Hood at once moved against my communications, and by contracting my lines I left a corps impregnable in Atlanta, with ninety days’ food, and sallied out prepared to fight him wherever he chose. No army can keep an enemy off my long line, but its vital points are secure.

Allatoona prevented the occupation of my line and covered 8,000 cattle, which are necessary to me. I am here at a point where if Hood passes up toward Chattanooga I can cross at Rome and be on his rear. I have Rome strongly held also, but I am loath to remain on the defensive, and want to break up this line back to Chattanooga, leave Thomas to defend Tennessee, and collect my forces and go to the seashore, taking Macon, Milledgeville, and Savannah en route. I can do it. Still I am acting to defend Atlanta and its defenses, a harder task than to take them.

I have just got a mail and letters from everybody, McClellan included, the first I ever remember to have received; also several inclosing a slip from a newspaper saying that I pledge 99 votes of every 100 of this army for McClellan. It is like newspaper assertions, a pure fabrication.

I am not the citizen of any State; my State allegiance is divided between Ohio, California, Missouri, and Louisiana, and by the laws of no one State could I vote. Not being a voter; indeed, I cannot conceive how my opinion is pertinent to the occasion. I deny ever having said or thought of such a thing as here indicated. I hate to express a political opinion, because it is tested, not by reason or general principles, but by some dirty party platform.

Again let me say that I value your opinion of matters of importance above those of any other, because I know you to be frank, honest, and learned in the great principles of history. Both Grant and I are deficient in these and are mere actors in a grand drama, the end of which we do not see. Mr. John C. Hamilton has written me and I shall answer. Show this to the President, except this conclusion: Damn the mischievous newspapers.

Your friend.
W. T. SHERMAN.

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