WASHINGTON, February 16, 1864-1 p.m.
According to General Banks' last dispatch [February 7], Admiral Farragut was to threaten Mobile in order to draw the enemy from Sherman and Thomas. As soon as Sherman's present expedition is terminated [about March 1], it was understood that he and General Banks would move up Red River to meet Steele's advance against Shreveport. This was General Banks' plan if Sherman and Steele could co-operate with him. Sherman had agreed, but Steele not yet heard from. The time of movement would depend upon stage of water in Red River. It was understood that as soon as Steele and Banks had effected a junction on that river, Sherman's army could all be withdrawn to operate east of the Mississippi. Will not the probable delay in expelling Longstreet from East Tennessee justify the adoption of this plan of Banks and Sherman? Banks reports his force too weak to advance without Sherman's aid.
H. W. HALLECK,
NASHVILLE, February 16, 1864.
Major General J. M. SCHOFIELD,
I telegraphed you some days ago that conversation with General Foster had decided me not to make any push against Longstreet for the present; also, that you might now get off the veterans you think you can spare. At the same time every preparation should be made for as early a move in the spring as practicable. Clothing should be got for the men, and all the rations accumulated possible.
All new regiments you may receive during the winter, as well as any old ones back in Kentucky available for duty at the front, should be rendezvoused where they can be easily provisioned, and at the same time be on the road either to join the army in the field or forma column to march into Western Virginia [through] Pound [or Stone] Gap. There is probably such a force in Southwest Virginia as would prevent a cavalry force penetrating by that route unaided by infantry and artillery.
But it looks now to me as if a column should be pushed through by that or one of those routes in conjunction with an advance up Holston Valley. I have but little hope of Sturgis being ale to reach Longstreet's rear unaided. If he is preparing for it, as I understand from Foster he is, let him try. I supposed, going without infantry or only a mounted force, he would go by Jonesville and Estillville. This enterprise would be hazardous, but would pay well if successful. The destruction of important bridges between Bristol and Saltville and of salt-works there would compensate for great risks.
Let me know what you think and wish in this matter, so as I will know how to dispose of such new troops as I may intend to add to your command.
U. S. GRANT,