Monday, March 17, 2014

February 12, 1864 (Friday): Grant Shows Restraint

Nashville, Tenn., February 12, 1864.
Major General H. W. HALLECK,
General-in-Chief, Washington:
    GENERAL: I have got Thomas ready to move with a force of about 14,000 infantry into East Tennessee to aid the forces there in expelling Longstreet from the State. He would have started on Monday next if I had not revoked the order. My reasons for doing this are these: General Foster, who is now here (or only left this morning), says that our possession of the portion of East Tennessee in perfectly secure against all danger. The condition of the people within the rebel lines cannot be improved now after loosing all they had. Longstreet, where he is, makes more secure other parts of our possessions. Our men, from scanty clothing and short rations, are not in good condition for an advance. There are but very few animals in East Tennessee in condition to move artillery or other stores. If we move against Longstreet with an overwhelming force he will simply fall back toward Virginia until he can be re-enforced or take up an impregnable position. The country being exhausted, all our supplies will have to be carried from Knoxville the whole distance advanced. We would be obliged to advance rapidly and return soon whether the object of the expedition was accomplished or not. Longstreet, could return with impunity on the heels of our returning column, at least as far down the valley as he can supply himself from the road in his rear. Schofield telegraphs to the same effect. All these seem to be good reasons for abandoning the movement and I have therefore suspended it. Now that our men are ready for an advance, however, I have directed it to be made on Dalton, and hope to get possession of that place and hold it as a step toward a spring campaign. Our troops in East Tennessee are now clothed; rations are also accumulating. When Foster left most of the troops had ten days' supplies, with 500 barrels of flour and forty days' meat in store and the quantity increasing daily.
    I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant, 

    U. S. GRANT,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 32, Part 2, Page 374-375.

Grant often is portrayed as crudely wielding the power of his command, winning by blunt force attacks with overwhelming numbers.  But a reading of his memos in the O.R. shows a general who displayed clear logic and an understanding of the logistics of campaigning.  Grant understood, early in 1864, how important Dalton would be to the Atlanta campaign. 

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