In the Field, Couch’s House, August 31, 1864-9.15 p. m.
As the question of rank will come up, I will decide it now, and beg you to acquiesce whatever your present opinion may be. Whenever two or more officers happen together on a common duty calling for a common head, even for a minute, the officer highest in rank present must give the necessary orders. Your own, Stanley’s, and Davis’ commands will to-morrow form a common movement requiring a common head in case of battle or extreme danger, and whoever happens to rank must command and be held responsible. The real point is your being a separate army commander, but the overruling necessity of the well established principle before recited take precedence, or in a combined army like this, embracing three, the latter lose their separate character and become parts or components of the single army. I have and shall continue to keep each army separate, employed as far as may be on tasks proportioned to the strength of each, but when these unexpected combinations arise from the nature of things a fixed rule had better be established now. My decision, I repeat, is that when current events carry your corps and another together in a common object your rank is then determined by the well established rule, and as a separate army commander you have no legal right to exercise that authority over an officer of superior rank in another separate army, but the one having the highest commission must command the whole. Please act on this decision. I will be near Jonesborough to-morrow, prepared to act promptly, according to the signs, but again beg to impress on you and all the great importance of destroying that railroad absolutely beyond hope of repair.
I am, &c.,
Major-General, Commanding.

August 31, 1864-8 p. m.
Major-General STANLEY,
Commanding Fourth Army Corps:
GENERAL: I inclose you a copy of a dispatch from General Sherman giving his plan of operations for to-morrow.* I have seen Garrard, and he will strike in toward Rough and Ready early in the morning. At the same time I will send Cox up toward Rough and Ready to break the road as far as practicable and help Garrard to get between us and Atlanta. Meanwhile Hascall will move down and join Cox. I propose that you move forward at daylight toward Jonesborough, covering the railroad and the main wagon road, breaking the track as much as you can, and I will follow as soon as Cox is done above and Hascall joins. I will complete the destruction of the road in your rear, and be ready to re-enforce you if you meet the enemy in force. During the day we can alternate according to circumstances. Please inform me if this meets your views, or suggest any change which may occur to you by which we can work together to the best advantage.
Very respectfully,
*See Sherman to Schofield, p. 733.