Sunday, January 19, 2014

January 19, 1864: U.S. Grant to George M. Thomas


On this day 150 years ago, Ulysses S. Grant updated George M. Thomas on the evolving Union strategy in the western theater.
HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI,
Nashville, January 19, 1864.

Major General GEORGE H., THOMAS,

Chattanooga:

Owing to the presence of Longstreet still in East Tennessee it will be impossible to attempt any movement from present positions while he remains. The great number of veteran volunteers now absent and you to be furloughed will be another difficulty in the way of any movement this winter. Sherman, however, will be able to collect about 20,000 men from that part of his command now along the Mississippi River available for a movement eastward from Vicksburg. He excepts to have these ready to start about the 14th instant. He will proceed eastward as far as meridian at least, and will thoroughly destroy the roads east and south from there, and if possible will throw troops as far east as Selma; or if he finds Mobile so far unguarded as to make his force sufficient for the enterprise, will go there. To co-operate with this movement you want to keep up appearances of preparation of an advances of preparation of an advance from Chattanooga; it may be necessary, even, to move a column as far as La Fayette. The time for this advance, however, would not be before the 30th instant, or when you might learn the enemy were falling back. Logan will also be instructed to move as the same time what force he can from Bellefonte toward Rome. We will want to be ready at the earliest possible moment in the spring for a general advance.

I look upon the line for this army to secure in its next campaign to be that from Chattanooga to Mobile, Atlanta and Montgomery being the important intermediate points. I look upon the Tennessee River and Mobile as being the most practicable points from which to start and to hold as bases of supplies after the line is secured. I have so written to the General-in-Chief, only giving ny views more fully, and shall write to him to-day giving my views of the co-operation we should have from the Eastern armies. I shall recommend that no attempt be made toward Richmond by any of the routes heretofore operated on, but that a moving force of 60,000 men be thrown into New Berne or Suffolk (favoring the late place), and move out, destroying the road as far toward richmond as possible; then move to Raleigh as rapidly as possible; hold that point, and open communication with New Berne-even Wilmington. From Raleigh the enemy's most inland line would be so threatened as to force them to keep on it a guard that would reduce their armies in the field much below our own. Before any part of this programme can be carried out Longstreet must be driven from East Tennessee. To do this it may be necessary to send more force from your command.. I write to give you an idea of what I propose and at the same time to hear such suggestions as you may have to propose.

U. S. GRANT,

Major-General.

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