HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE OHIO,
August 11, 1864-9.30 p.m.
I will try to explain fully the situation and why I regard the move as suggested by you extra hazardous. You have correctly understood my dispatches about the enemy's works. There are none visible covering the West Point road, and those visible run substantially parallel to the Macon road. Relative to the distance from Hascall to the West Point you have, misunderstood me. My picket officers reported they saw what appeared to be a railroad, as I telegraphed you, but I subsequently stated that I knew very little about the distance; that it might be a little more than a mile and it might be three miles; but that I thought Hascall might strike the road and return without any great risk. I still think the same, viz, that a light force, just large enough to sweep away it, and return without much risk. Such a force can make a circuit through the woods, kept out of the enemy's view, do its work, and return before a large force can concentrate against it. I would expect this force, if threatened by superior numbers, not to fight but to fall back behind the flank of our intrenched position, which it could do with safety so long as this position is held. On the other hand, to make the move with a large force, I must virtually abandon my lines, send my transportation and hospitals to the rear, and separate my command from three to five miles from the right of the Army of the Tennessee, a movement which has, as I understand, invariably been regarded too hazardous. I take it for granted that any attack upon Hascall in his movement would not come from the enemy's line in my front but from his reserves, which might be nearly the whole of his veteran troops. I would not hesitate to fight all of those with my two corps, but I would want all my troops concentrated and prepared in advance. I have not the slightest hesitation in making the effort to strike and break the railroad, though I may fail in the attempt, but I did think you expected me to do more than I could safely attempt in the event of my meeting unexpected resistance, and I am free to say I felt not a little chagrined at your imputation of want of enterprise. There is also some confusion about my estimate of force necessary to cut the road. I suggested that instead of a continuous line my corps and one other be detached from the flank of the Fourteenth and strike in rear of East Point, cutting the Macon road, meaning to seize and hold a position there. To detach the Fourteenth with mine would separate us three miles farther from the army than what I suggested. I have not in the least changed my opinion as to the practicability of making a mere raid or reconnaissance to the West Point road with a single division, or of gaining and holding a point of the Macon road with two corps, starting from the right of the Fourteenth. I regret that I have failed to make myself understood.
J. M. SCHOFIELD,
HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI,
In the Field, near Atlanta, August 11, 1864.
I have read and considered your dispatch. It is a physical impossibility for the enemy to ascertain the force which moves against the railroad and to act against it with any more than one-third of this reserves.