Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Major General William T. Sherman to Ellen Ewing Sherman, May 22, 1864

KINGSTON, GEO., May 22, 1864.

To-morrow we start again for Atlanta. I would like to go back and give you a connected narrative of events, but I know that it would take more time than I can devote to it and I suppose you will have curiosity enough to read everything with Sherman at the top of the page. I believe the world now admits my right to maintain public silence and recognizes it as a military power. The officers and soldiers too have realized that by bringing up McPherson's army with secrecy and despatch and putting it through Snake Creek Gap unobserved [?] that I saved them the terrible door of death that Johnston had prepared for them in the Buzzard Roost. We were forced to attack at Resaca, and there too by catching the strong and weak points I enabled the army to fight at as little disadvantage as possible; and following up quick and strong we gave Johnston no time to fortify, though every pass was barricaded all the way down. I think we inflicted more loss on the enemy than we sustained ourselves, and up to this time we have taken 15 guns, 2,500 prisoners and a large lot of property. Of course, being compelled to guard our communications, our strength is diminished as we advance and that of the enemy increases. I have no doubt we must have a terrific battle at some point near the Chattahoochee. The main roads, however, [?] cross the Etowah thirteen miles from here, and for six miles lay among hills that afford strong positions. These I must avoid, and shall move due south to Dallas and thence to Marietta and the Chattahoochee Bridge. You will no doubt recognize this very country as the one I was in twenty years ago and to which I took such a fancy. Yesterday I rode my lines and passed quite close to Col. Tumlin's place, the same where the big mounds are where I stopped in going from Marietta to Bellefonte and back.1 I will probably pass by those same big mounds to-morrow. The weather is oppressively hot and roads dusty. I do hope we will have rain as it is choking to soldiers and mules. Our larger trains make a fearful dust.

I will put up a map to go to you by the mail by which you can trace our progress. Thomas is my centre and has about 45,000 men; McPherson my right, 25,000; and Schofield my left, 15,000; in all 85,000 men, a vast army to feed and to move. I can't move about as I did with 15 or 20,000 men. I think I have the best army in the country, and if I can't take Atlanta and stir up Georgia considerably I am mistaken. Our greatest danger is from cavalry, in which arm of service the enemy is superior to us in quantity and quality, cutting our wagons or railroads. I have on hand, however, enough for twenty days and in that time I ought to determine a good deal. You will no doubt have full accounts of the fighting. At Rocky Face I made our display to attract attention away from McPherson. At Resaca we had some pretty sharp fights; one, Hooker pressing down from the north, another the 15th Corps dashing for position close to the enemy's flank and holding it against repeated night assaults, and Sweeny's division holding the pontoon bridge at Lay's Ferry; all were well and handsomely done. In pursuit I tried hard to strike in behind Johnston with my cavalry, but they did not accomplish it; but we did force the enemy to abandon the line of the Coosa and Etowah which was the first step in the game. Our next is to force him behind the Chattahoochee, and last to take Atlanta and disturb the peace of central Georgia and prevent reinforcements going to Lee. If that Banks force could only go to Mobile now, there would not be a shadow of doubt of full success.

1 See Memoirs, II, 42.

SOURCES: M. A. DeWolfe Howe, Editor, Home Letters of General Sherman, p. 291-4.  A full copy of this letter can be found in the William T Sherman Family papers (SHR), University of Notre Dame Archives (UNDA), Notre Dame, IN 46556, Folder CSHR 2/14

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