HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMY,
Washington, February 14, 1862.
Brigadier General THOMAS W. SHERMAN,
Commanding at Port Royal, &c.:
GENERAL: Your dispatches in regard to the occupation of Daufuskie Island, &c., were received to-day. I was also to-day for the first time your requisition for a siege train for Savannah.
After giving the subject all the consideration in my power I am forced to the conclusion that under present circumstances the siege and capture of Savannah do not promise results commensurate with the sacrifices necessary. When I learned that it was possible for the gunboats to reach the Savannah River above Fort Pulaski, two operations suggested themselves to my mind as its immediate results:
First. The captured of Savannah by coup de main-the result of an instantaneous advance and attack by the Army and Navy.
The time for this has passed, and your letter indicates that you are not accountable for the failure to seize the propitious moment, but that, on the contrary, you perceived its advantages.
Second. To isolate Fort Pulaski, cut off its supplies, and at least facilitate its reduction by a bombardment.
Although we have a long delay to deplore, the second course still remains open to us; and I strongly advise the close blockade of Pulaski and its bombardment as soon as the 13-inch mortars and heavy guns reach you. I am confident you can thus reduce it. With Pulaski your gain all that in really essential; you obtain complete control of the harbor; you relieve the blockading fleet, and render the main body of your force disposable for other operations.
I do not consider the possession of Savannah worth a siege after Pulaski is in our hands. But the possession if Pulaski is of the first importance. The expedition to Fernandina is well, and I shall be glad to learn that it is ours.
But, after all, the greatest moral effect would be produced by the reduction of Charleston and its defenses. There the rebellion had its birth; there the unnatural hatred of our Government is most intense; there is the center of the boasted power a]courage of the rebels.
To gain Fort Sumer and hold Charleston is a task well worthy of our greatest efforts and considerable sacrifices. That is the problem I would be glade to have you study. Some time must elapse before we can be in all respects ready to accomplish that purpose. Fleets are en route and armies in motion which have certain preliminary objects to accomplish before we are ready to take Charleston in hand, but the time will before long arrive when I shall be prepared to make that movement. In the mean time it is my advice and wish that no attempt be made upon Savannah, unless it can be carried with certainty by a coup de main.
Please concentrate your attention and force upon Pulaski and Fernandina. Saint Augustine might as well be taken by way of an interlude, while awaiting the preparations for Charleston. Success attends us everywhere at present.
Very truly, yours,
GEO. B. McCLELLAN,
Major-General, Commanding U. S. Army.
15 R R-VOL VI