Sherman responds to Grant, happy that he doesn’t have to send his troops north by ship, and making plans for his assault on South Carolina. Is Charleston worth taking — for the symbolic significance if nothing else?
HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI,
Savannah, GA., December 24, 1864.
Lieutenant General U. S. GRANT,
City Point, Va.:
GENERAL: Your letter of December 18 is just received. I feel very much gratified at receiving the handsome commendation you pay my army. I will, in general orders, convey to the officers and men the substance of your note. I am also gratified that you have modified your former orders, as I feared that the transportation by sea would very much disturb the unity and morale of my army, now so perfect.
The occupation of Savannah, which I have heretofore reported, completes the first part of our game, and fulfills a great part of your instructions, and I am now engaged in dismantling the rebel forts which bear upon the sea channels, and transferring the heavy ordnance and ammunition to Fort Pulaski, where they can be more easily guarded than if left in the city. The rebel inner lines are well adapted to our purpose, and, with slight modifications, can be held by a comparatively small force, and in about ten days I expect to be ready to sally forth again.
I feel no doubt whatever as to our future plans; I have thought them over so long and well that they appear as clear as daylight. I left Augusta untouched on purpose, because now the enemy will be in doubt as to my objective point after crossing the Savannah River, whether it be Augusta or Charleston, and will naturally divide his forces. I will then move either on Branchville or Columbia, on any curved line that give me the best supplies, breaking up in my course as much railroad as possible; then, ignoring Charleston and Augusta both, occupy Columbia and Camden; pausing there long enough to observe the effect I would strike for the Charleston and Wilmington Railroad, somewhere between the Santee and the Cape Fear River, and, if possible, communicate with the fleet under Admiral Dahlgren (whom I find a most agreeable gentleman, in every way accommodating himself to our wishes and would favor Wilmington, in the belief that Porter and Butler will fail in their present undertaking.
Charleston is now a mere desolated wreck, and is hardly worthy the time it would take to starve it out; still, I am aware that, historically and politically, much importance is attached to the place, and it may be that, apart from its military importance, both you and the administration would prefer I should give it more attention, and it would be well for you to give me some general idea on that subject, as otherwise I would treat it as I have expressed, as a point of little importance as all its railroads leading into the interior are destroyed or occupied by us.
But, on the hypothesis of ignoring Charleston and taking Wilmington, I would then favor a movement direct on Raleigh. The game is then up with Lee, unless he comes our of Richmond, avoids you, and fights me, in which event I should reckon on your being on his heels.
Now that Hood is used up by Thomas, I feel disposed to bring the matter to an issue just as quick as possible. I feel confident that I can break up the whole railroad system of South Carolina and North Carolina, and be on the Roanoke, either at Raleigh or Weldon, by the time the spring fairly opens. And if you feel confident that you can whip Lee outside of his intrenchments, I feel equally confined that I can handle him in the open country.
One reason why I would ignore Charleston is this, that I believe they will reduce the garrison to a small force, with plenty of provisions, and I know that the neck back of Charleston can be made impregnable to assault, and we will hardly have time for siege operations.
I will have to leave in Savannah a garrison, and, if Thomas can spare them, I would like to nave all detachments, convalescents, etc., belonging to these four corps sent forward at once. I don’t want to cripple Thomas, because I regard his operations as all important, and I have ordered him pursue Hood down into Alabama, trusting to the country for supplies.
I reviewed one of my corps to-day, and shall continue to review the whole army. I don’t like to boast, but I believe this army has a confidence in itself that makes it almost invincible. I wish you wold run down and see us; it would have a good effect, and would show to both armies that they are acting on a common plan. The Weather is now cool and pleasant, and the general health very good.
Your true friend,
W. T. SHERMAN,