[CIVIL WAR]. GRANT, Ulysses S. Autograph letter signed ("U.S. Grant Lt. Gen") to Major General George Thomas, City Point, Va., 16 February 1865. 1 page, 4to, "Head Quarters Armies of the United States" stationery, fine.
GRANT URGES THAT THE STONEMAN RAID INTO CAROLINA BE LAUNCHED AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.
A brief but important message sent to General George Thomas (1816-1870), the "Rock of Chickamauga," then Commander of the Army of the Cumberland, in Nashville, Tennessee. As General Sherman's army triumphantly marched into the Carolinas after the capture of Savannah, Grant organized a series of raids to support its operations. General Stoneman's 4000-man cavalry under Thomas's command, had the responsibility of disrupting the railroad between Charlotte and Columbia. In an effort to hasten Stoneman's movements, Grant dispatched this note as Sherman's army approached Columbia; "As it is desirable to start Stoneman without delay I think it advisable for him to go without waiting to get the remainder of the 4th Mo. Cavalry. Keep that portion of it in your command." Grant notes on the top corner of the letter that it is to be ciphered.
Thomas, known as "The Rock of Chickamauga" for his heroic defense on that battlefield, failed to act promptly. Grant criticized the delay in his memoirs; "I directed ... that he should send Stoneman through East Tennessee, and push him well down toward Columbia, South Carolina, in support of Sherman. Thomas did not get Stoneman off in time, but, on the contrary, when I had supposed he was on his march in support of Sherman I heard of his being in Louisville, Kentucky." (Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant, Fawcett edition, p. 388) Stoneman's cavalry eventually moved on March 12th, but failed to reach its destination in North Carolina until after the Battle of Bentonville (March 19 -21, 1865), the last major effort of the Confederates to stop Sherman's advance.