SHERMAN, William, Tecumseh. Autograph letter signed ("W. T. Sherman") to Gen. J. H. Wilson, In the field, Headquarters, Military Division of the Mississippi, 27 October 1864. 2 pages, 8vo, ruled paper, glue remnants along right edge of verso.
"STILL, HOOD IS CAPABLE OF UNDERTAKING ANYTHING": SHERMAN SETS THE STAGE FOR HIS MARCH TO THE SEA
Operating deep in enemy territory without a line of communication to friendly territory, Sherman was particularly anxious to know the disposition and movement of rebel forcers in his vicinity, especially those of John Bell Hood: "Your two despatches are received. I am anxious to learn what Cavalry if any are left back towards Villa Rica & the Chattahoochee. Appearances are still at variance. A position report comes that Hardee's Corps is in Willis Valley, and the Enemy's Cavalry followed Gerard in from Turkey Town. I have no doubt a large part if not the whole of Hood's army has gone off towards Decatur. He would not venture up to Guntersville though he might feign all along the River from Decatur to Gunters. I hardly think he would give so much publicity to a movement into Tennessee. Still Hood is capable of undertaking anything. Find out if you can if the Enemy has a Comm. Line on the road from Newnan Georgia via Villa Rica, Cedartown, Jacksonville, Gadsden, etc. I would like you to hit some...of the Cavalry a good bit if they will stand, for you can judge that if they cover anything like a depot of stores at River Mountain. I ordered Schofield to send a Brigade of Light Infantry out some 5 miles tomorrow morning."
When Sherman got underway in mid-November, his force of 55,000 men was opposed by only 13,000 rebels. To throw them off his trail, he had his two main forces, led by O. O. Howard and Slocum, move by different routes, with Howard traveling along the Macon railroad line towards Lovejoy, and Sherman and Slocum heading towards Augusta. The Confederates were unable to determine whether Sherman's ultimate target was Macon, Savannah or Augusta, thus slowing the movement of Rebel forces to stop him. By 23 November, the Union forces linked up and cut their path of destruction to Savannah. "Until we can repopulate Georgia," Sherman famously said, "it is useless to occupy it; but the utter destruction of its roads, houses and people will cripple their military resources....I can make the march and make Georgia howl." He advised meting out the same, if not more terrible treatment, to the birthplace of secession, South Carolina, where he next turned his attention.