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150 Years Ago: Monday, February 3, 1862

At Benton Barracks outside St. Louis, Missouri, Brigadier-General William Tecumseh Sherman writes his brother John, a Senator in Washington City:

I am still here at the Barracks doing my best to organize, equip and prepare regiments for the coming Spring….

I believe an attempt will be made on the Forts on the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers in co-operation with Buell who finds with his 120,000 men he still needs help. I rather think they will come up to my figures yet. Halleck is expected to send them from 30,000 to 50,000 men. Had this been early and promptly, the Confederates would not have made Bowling Green and Columbia next to impregnable. Until these places are reduced it will not do to advance far into Tennessee and I doubt it will be done. East Tennessee cannot exercise much influence on the final result. West Tennessee is more important, as without the navigation of the Mississippi all commercial interests will lean to the Southern cause. If the Southern Confederacy can control the navigation of the lower Mississippi, the European nations from the mouths of the Mississippi, what can Missouri and Kentucky do? These are, however, questions for the future….

Affectionately, W. T. Sherman

In Washington City, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln responds to the 22-page letter he received from General George McClellan regarding the next movements for the Army of the Potomac; their opinions on the topic differ, but Lincoln is not closed minded on the topic. He responds with questions so he can better understand what McClellan is proposing:

My dear Sir:

You and I have distinct, and different plans for a movement of the Army of the Potomac — yours to be down the Chesapeake, up the Rappahannock to Urbana, and across land to the terminus of the Railroad on the York River –, mine to move directly to a point on the Railroad South West of Manassas.

If you will give me satisfactory answers to the following questions, I shall gladly yield my plan to yours.

1st. Does not your plan involve a greatly larger expenditure of time, and money than mine?

2nd. Wherein is a victory more certain by your plan than mine?

3rd. Wherein is a victory more valuable by your plan than mine?

4th. In fact, would it not be less valuable, in this, that it would break no great line of the enemies communications, while mine would?

5th. In case of disaster, would not a safe retreat be more difficult by your plan than by mine? Yours truly, A. Lincoln

Lincoln, upon further reflection, sends additional questions to McClellan later that day:

1. Suppose the enemy should attack us in force before we reach the Ocoquan, what? In view of the possibility of this, might it not be safest to have our entire force to move together from above the Ocoquan?

2. Suppose the enemy, in force, shall dispute the crossing of the Ocoquan, what? In view of this, might it not be safest for us to cross the Ocoquan at Colchester rather than at the village of Ocoquan? This would cost the enemy two miles more of travel to meet us, but would, on the contrary, leave us two miles further from our ultimate destination.

3. Suppose we reach Maple valley without an attack, will we not be attacked there, in force, by the enemy marching by the several roads from Manassas? and if so, what?

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