HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI,
Savannah, GA., December 31, 1864-3 p. m.
[General U. S. GRANT:]
DEAR GENERAL; A mail leaves at 5 p. m. for Hilton Head and New York. I have written a short official letter to General Halleck, amounting to nothing, simply because I suppose you want to hear from me at every opportunity. I have already reviewed my four corps, and wind up in a day or two with Kilpatrick's cavalry, which I keep out about nine miles. There is no doubt of it but this army is in fine condition and impatient to go ahead. I would like to have Foster re-enforced, if possible, so that I will not have to leave him a division to hold Savannah. I will have all the heavy work done, such as moving the captured artillery to Hilton Head, where it can be more safety guarded, and building the redoubts in the new line for the defense of Savannah. This will be close in, for we don't care if the enemy does shell the town. Five thousand men will be plenty, and white troops will be best, as the people are dreadfully alarmed lest we garrison the place with negroes. Now, no matter what the negro soldiers are, you know that people have prejudices which must be regarded. Prejudice, like religion, cannot be discussed. As soon as I can accumulate enough provisions and forage to fill my wagons, I will be ready for South Carolina, and if you want me to take Charleston I think I can do it, for I know the place well. I was stationed there from '42 to '46, and used to hunt a good deal all along the Cooper River. the direction to approach Charleston is from the northwest, down the peninsula between Ashley and Cooper, as also that ending on the bay at Mount Pleasant. You had better notify General Meigs to send at once enough provisions for 65,000 men and 40,000 horses and mules for sixty days, instead of the daily allowance, for you know I must work on the surplus and not on the daily receipts. We have pretty well eaten up all the rice and rice straw for fifty miles. By making a wide circuit by Barnwell, Orangeburg, Columbia, and Santee I can reach the neighborhood of Georgetown and get a resupply. I do not issue rations to the people, but order the mayor to look to the people, and have given him the rough rice to be sold and exchanged into flour and meat. Thus the expense will fall on the holders of this rough rice, which I treat as prize of war. Inasmuch as Hardee refused to surrender, and thereby escaped with his garrison, I take it for granted that we will have to fight in South Carolina, though I believe G. W. Smith, with his Georgia militia, has returby way of Augusta, saying he would be damned if he would fight for South Carolina. The people here seem to be well content, as they have reason to be, for our troops have behaved magnificently; you would think it Sunday, so quiet is everything in the city day and night. All recognize my army a different body of men than they have ever seen before. I hope you will push Thomas up. Keep him going south anywhere. Let him make a track down into Alabama, or, if you think better, he can again come to Chattanooga and as far down as the Etowah, to which point I preserved the iron rails ready to be used again.
I am fully aware of your friendly feeling toward me, and you may always depend on me as your steadfast supporter. Your wish is law and gospel to me, and such is the feeling that pervades my army. I have an idea you will come to see me before I start.
Yours, in haste,
W. T. SHERMAN,