HDQRS. LEFT WING, 16TH ARMY CORPS, Numbers 47.
Near Atlanta, Ga., August 19, 1864.
In compliance with instructions received, I hereby assume temporary command of the Left Wing, Sixteenth Army Corps.
T. E. G. RANSOM,
HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, near Atlanta, August 20, 1864.
Major General H. W. HALLECK,
GENERAL: I received last night your dispatch of 19th concerning jurisdiction on the Mississippi.* At long as we can all pull together it makes little difference who commands, and I perfectly accord to General Canby the control of matters on the great river. I have sent by telegraph to General Washburn a copy of your dispatch, with an order to be governed by it, but it will need some further orders to make things straight. I will see General Howard to-day, and we will submit some proposition that will give General Canby all the troops of the Department of the Tennessee resting on the Mississippi, but for the sake of accountability we should have sent to this army certain detachments that resulted from the General Banks expedition. You will remember that I make up my Meridian force out of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Corps, and when General Banks asked for 10,000 men for one month on Red River we made up the force by using troops, non-veterans, and availed ourselves of the lull to furlough the veterans. In this operations some considerable confusion was made in old divisions, brigades, and even regiments, so that still fractions of these are here and the other fractions down the Mississippi, making it very difficult to preserve the standard organizations. My orders to General Washburn were to let General A. J. Smith sweep across North Mississippi and reach either Eastport or Decatur, whence I would draw these fragments and the division of General A. J. Smith, which was designed to form a part of General McPherson's column, and send the balance, including the cavalry, back. I only gave this order after I knew that Stephen D. Lee had joined General Johnston at Atlanta with a large part of the Mississippi army. I think it would be well, if possible still, to send here by river and rail, if necessary, to fragments to which I refer, which cannot amount to more than 2,000 or 3,000 men, and leave General Canby the balance.
Our casualties here from death, wounds, and sickness have been and must continue large, but we lose more by the expiration of service of regiments and individuals. I think more than half this army is entitled to discharge between this and October, so that if Hood can simply hold on here he will be enabled to defeat us by the superior method they have of recruitment. In the South all men are soldiers, and they are not held for limited terms, but for life if the war lasts that long. In the end we must adopt the same plan, but in the mean time may lose the result of all former labors and have to commence de novo.
If General Canby can hold the river and prevent Kirby Smith passing over (which he cannot, for the men pass by individuals and meet at some rendezvous in Mississippi, whence they come in organized masses to Hood), he will accomplish the same result as here. Also the
*See Vol. XXXIX, Part II.
39 R R-VOL XXXVIII, PT V