1864, shows by red lines the territory occupied by us at the beginning of the rebellion and at the opening of the campaign of 1864, while those in blue are the lines which it was proposed to occupy.
Behind the Union lines there were many bands of guerrillas and a large population disloyal to the Government, making it necessary to guard every foot of road or river used in supplying our armies. In the South a reign of military despotism prevailed which made every man and boy capable of bearing arms a soldier, and those who could not bear arms in the field acted as provost for collecting deserters and returning them. This enabled the enemy to bring almost his entire strength into the field.
The enemy had concentrated the bulk of his forces east of the Mississippi into two armies, commanded by Generals R. S. Lee and J. E. Johnston, his ablest and best generals. The army commanded by Lee occupied the south bank of the Rapidan, extending from Mine Run westward, strongly intrenched, covering and defending Richmond, the rebel capital, against the Army of the Potomac. The army under Johnston occupied a strongly intrenched position at Dalton, Ga., covering and defending Atlanta, Ga., a place of great importance as a railroad center, against the armies under Major General W. T. Sherman. In addition to these armies, he had a large cavalry force under Forrest in Northeast Mississippi; a considerable force of all arms in the Shenandoah Valley and in the western part of Virginia and extreme eastern part of Tennessee, and also confronting our sea-coast garrisons and holding blockaded ports where we had no foothold upon land. These two armies, and the cities covered and denied by them, were the main objective points of the campaign.
Major General W. T. Sherman, who was appointed to the command of the Military Division of the Mississippi, embracing all the armies and territory east of the Mississippi River to the Alleghanies and the Department of Arkansas, west of the Mississippi, had the immediate command of the armies operating against Johnston.
Major General George G. Meade had the immediate command of the Army of the Potomac, from where I exercised general supervision of the movements of all our armies.
General Sherman was instructed* to move against Johnston's army, to break it up,and to go into the interior of the enemy's country as far as he could, inflicting all the damage he could upon their was resources; if the enemy in his front showed signs of joining Lee, to follow him up to the full extent of his ability,while I would prevent the concentration of Lee upon him if it was in the power of the Army of the Potomac to do so. More specific written instructions were not given, for the reason that I had talked over with him the plans of the campaign, and was satisfied that he understood them and would execute them to the fullest extent possible.
Major General N. P. Banks, then on an expedition up Red River against Shreveport, La. (which had been organized previous to my appointment to command), was notified by me on the 15th of March of the importance it was that Shreveport should be taken at the earliest possible day, and that if he found that the taking of it would occupy from ten to fifteen days more time than General Sherman had given his troops to be absent from their command,he would send them back at the time specified by General Sherman, even if it led to the abandonment of the main object of the Red River expedition,
*See Vol. XXXII, Part III, p.245.