HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, near Atlanta, Ga., August 7, 1864.
Major General H. W. HALLECK,
Chief of Staff, Washington, D. C.:
GENERAL: In order that you may have a proper understanding of the recent cavalry operations form this army that terminated somewhat unsuccessfully, I will explain. On the 25th of July I had driven the enemy to his inner intrenchments of Atlanta, and had by Garrard’s division of cavalry broken the road leading to Augusta about the branches of the Ocmulgee forty miles east, and had by McPherson’s army taken up two sections of rails of about five miles each, near Stone Mountain and Decatur. I then proposed to throw the Army of the Tennessee rapidly moved by the right, so as to approach the only remaining railroad left to the enemy, leading due south for six miles, and then branching to Macon on the one hand and West Point, on the Chattahoochee, on the other. To accomplish this I placed General Stoneman with his own division of cavalry, 2,300 strong, and Garrard’s division, about 3,500,on my left near Decatur, and on the right General McCook with a small division of about 1,300 and a part of Harrison’s, just received under Rousseau, from the raid to Opelika. This force was about 1,700. Both expeditions started punctually on the 27th,and acted under my written orders, No. 42, a copy of which is inclosed.* The day before starting General Stoneman addressed me a note,+ a copy of which is inclosed, asking leave, after fulfilling his orders, to push on and release our prisoners to be confined at Macon and Andersonville. I gave my consent in a letter,+ a copy of which is also inclosed. Nothing put the natural and intense desire to accomplish an end so inviting to one’s feelings would have drawn me to commit a military mistake, at such a crisis, as that of dividing and risking my cavalry, so necessary to the success of my campaign. Stoneman ordered Garrard to move to Flat Rock, doubtless to attract the attention of the enemy, while he passed him and on the McDonough and the railroad about Lovejoy’s, where he would have met McCook, but for some reason he did no to McDonough, but to Covington, and down on the east side of Ocmulgee to Clinton, when he sent detachments that burned the Oconee bridge, seventeen locomotives, over 100 cars, tore down telegraph wire, and damaged the railroad east of Macon considerably. He attempted to get into Macon; shelled the town, but fell back to Clinton. Finding the enemy gathering into large a force, he seems to have turned back, but the roads were obstructed, and he fought till his ammunition was exhausted, and he seems to have given up. He told his brigade commanders, Adams and Capron, he would with 700 men engage the attention of the enemy, which they might escape. Adams has come in with his brigade, 900 strong; Capron is not in, and I think the bulk of his command were captured. About forty stragglers of it have got in. I have no doubt Stoneman surrendered in the manner and at the time described by the Macon paper I sent you yesterday. Garrard remained at Flat Rock until the 29th, and hearing nothing of Stoneman he came in without loss or serious opposition. McCook crossed the Chattahoochee at Rivertown, below Campbellton, by a pontoon bridge, which we sent back, intending to come in by a circuit east and north. At 2 p.m. of the 28th he left the banks of the Chattahoochee and struck the West Point branch at Magnolia Station, which he burned and tore up track. He then by a rapid night march pushed for Fayetteville, where he found the roads and by-ways full of army wagons belonging to the army in Atlanta, embracing the headquarters teams of all the generals. All were burned good, and about 800 mules sabered. He then pushed on for the railroad at Lovejoy’s, where he destroyed full two miles of track, the depot, a lot of cotton and stores, and carried off five miles of telegraph wire. Up to that time he had not encountered any opposition, for Stoneman’s and Garrard’s movements out from Decatur had attracted the enemy’s cavalry. Having, as he supposed, broken the road enough, and supposing his best way back was by Newman, he turned in that direction. He had 73 offices and 350 men prisoners, mounted on all sorts of horses and mules; still he reached Newman, where the enemy began to gather about him and oppose him. He thinks two brigades of dismounted cavalry, acting as infantry, had been stopped en route from Mississippi for Atlanta by the break he had made in the railroad and happened there. These, in addition to two divisions of cavalry, headed him off whichever way he turned. He fought hard for five hours, until he exhausted his artillery ammunition, when he chopped up the wheels, spiked and plugged the guns. He then kept Harrison’s brigade, and directed the smaller ones, commanded by General Croxton and Colonel Torrey, to cut out. He continued to fight until near night, when he dashed through an infantry line, reached the Chattahoochee, crossed his men, and go in. Harrison is a prisoner, I think of Croxton I can hear nothing. But nearly all the men not killed and wounded are in. McCook left his prisoners free, and his wounded in charge of his surgeons. His management was all that could be expected throughout.
With great respect,