“With these changes this army will be a unit in all respects”: Sherman organizes for his march on Atlanta

On this day (April 2) in 1864, Major-General William T. Sherman wrote Lieutenant-General U.S. Grant seeking approval for organizational changes in his department, in front of preparations for the spring campaign season:

Hdqrs. Military Division of the Mississippi,
Nashville, Tenn., April 2, 1864. (Received 6 p.m.)
Lieut. Gen. U.S. Grant,
Washington, D.C.:
After a full consultation with all my army commanders, I have settled down to the following conclusions, to which I would like to have the President’s consent before I make the orders:

First. Army of the Ohio, three divisions of infantry, to be styled the Twenty-third Corps, Major-General Schofield in command, and one division of cavalry, Major-General Stoneman, to push Longstreet’s forces well out of the valley, then fall back, breaking railroad to Knoxville; to hold Knoxville and Loudon, and be ready by May 1, with 12,000 men, to act as the left of the grand army.

Second. General Thomas to organize his army into three corps, the Eleventh and Twelfth to be united under General Hooker, to be composed of four divisions. The corps to take a new title, viz, one of the series now vacant. General Slocum to be transferred east, or assigned to some local command on the Mississippi. The Fourth Corps, Major-General Granger, to remain unchanged, save to place Major-General Howard in command. The Fourteenth Corps to remain the same. Major-General Palmer is not equal to such a command, and all parties are willing that General Buell or any tried soldier should be assigned. Thomas to guard the lines of communication, and have, by May 1, a command of 45,000 men for active service, to constitute the center.

Third. Major-General McPherson to draw from the Mississippi the divisions of Crocker and Leggett, now en route, mostly of veterans on furlough, and of A. J. Smith, now up Red River, but due on the 10th instant out of that expedition, and to organize a force of 30,000 men to operate from Larkinsville or Guntersville as the right of the grand army; his corps to be commanded by Generals Logan, Blair, and Dodge. Hurlbut will not resign, and I know no better disposition of him than to leave him at Memphis.

I propose to put Major-General Newton, when he arrives, at Vicksburg.
With these changes this army will be a unit in all respects, and I can suggest no better.

Please ask the President’s consent, and ask what title we shall give the new corps of Hooker, in lieu of the Eleventh and Twelfth, consolidated. The lowest number of the army corps now vacant will be most appropriate.

I will have the cavalry of the Department of the Ohio reorganize under Stoneman at or near Camp Nelson, and the cavalry of Thomas, at least one good division, under Garrard, at Columbia.

W. T. Sherman,
Major-General.

Looking at this request 150 years after the fact, we know Longstreet’s corps in East Tennessee returned to Virginia before Major-General John Schofield’s Army of the Ohio had anything to say about the matter.  The Army of the Ohio was for all practical matters simply the Twenty-third Corps when counting maneuver elements.  But Sherman purposely kept that command separate for use as a “left guard.”

Major-General George Thomas’ Army of the Cumberland formed Sherman’s “center.” And Sherman mentioned two very significant changes within that army.  The first of which, consolidating the old Eleventh and Twelfth Corps into (though not known at the time of writing) the Twentieth Corps, involved old Army of the Potomac formations sent west in the fall of 1863.  Generals Alpheus Williams, John Geary, and Daniel Butterfield retained divisions in that consolidated corps.  And of course, Major-General Joseph Hooker remained employed as the head of that corps.  So the names involved were familiar to you “easterners.”

The Fourth Corps, Army of the Cumberland, received a new commander in the form of Major-General O.O. Howard.  Major-General John Newton, formerly of the Army of the Potomac’s First Corps, took command of the Second Division of Howard’s Corps.  So disregard that “exiled to Vicksburg” line from Sherman.  Major-General Henry Slocum drew that assignment instead.

The Fourteenth Corps, Thomas’ old corps, was, in my opinion, the cornerstone of the Army of the Cumberland.  But despite Sherman’s reservations, Major-General John Palmer remained at the head.  Don Carlos Buell left the service instead of serving under Sherman.  Buell’s explanation was he held date-of-rank over Sherman.  Read into that what you will, as Grant has long since weighed in on the matter.

The Army of the Tennessee was once Grant’s command and later Sherman’s. Now it served under the very capable Major-General James McPherson. Note however, the three corps in that army had non-West Pointers in charge – Major-General John A. Logan with the Fifteenth Corps; Major-General Grenville Dodge with the Sixteenth Corps; and Major-General Frank P. Blair with the Seventeenth Corps.

With mention of these commands and commanders, I would pose a question.  Were the personalities and internal friction in Sherman’s command any better or worse than that of armies in the east?

(Citation from OR, Series I, Volume 32, Part III, Serial 59, page 221.)

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One response to ““With these changes this army will be a unit in all respects”: Sherman organizes for his march on Atlanta

  1. Pingback: Wainwright’s Diary, April 10, 1864: “the rain fell much in the way it did in old Noah’s time” | To the Sound of the Guns

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