Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman


Text to Speech

Mississippi.

GENERAL: Your interesting letter of the 12th inst. is just

received. I have never felt any uneasiness for your safety, but I

have felt great anxiety to know just how you were progressing. I

knew, or thought I did, that, with the magnificent army with you,

you would come out safely somewhere.

To secure certain success, I deemed the capture of Wilmington of

the greatest importance. Butler came near losing that prize to us.

But Terry and Schofield have since retrieved his blunders, and I do

not know but the first failure has been as valuable a success for

the country as the capture of Fort Fisher. Butler may not see it

in that light.

Ever since you started on the last campaign, and before, I have

been attempting to get something done in the West, both to

cooperate with you and to take advantage of the enemy's weakness

there--to accomplish results favorable to us. Knowing Thomas to be

slow beyond excuse, I depleted his army to reinforce Canby, so that

he might act from Mobile Bay on the interior. With all I have

said, he has not moved at last advices. Canby was sending a

cavalry force, of about seven thousand, from Vicksburg toward

Selma. I ordered Thomas to send Wilson from Eastport toward the

same point, and to get him off as soon after the 20th of February

as possible. He telegraphed me that he would be off by that date.

He has not yet started, or had not at last advices. I ordered him

to send Stoneman from East Tennessee into Northwest South Carolina,

to be there about the time you would reach Columbia. He would

either have drawn off the enemy's cavalry from you, or would have

succeeded in destroying railroads, supplies, and other material,

which you could not reach. At that time the Richmond papers were

full of the accounts of your movements, and gave daily accounts of

movements in West North Carolina. I supposed all the time it was

Stoneman. You may judge my surprise when I afterward learned that

Stoneman was still in Louisville, Kentucky, and that the troops in

North Carolina were Kirk's forces! In order that Stoneman might

get off without delay, I told Thomas that three thousand men would

be sufficient for him to take. In the mean time I had directed

Sheridan to get his cavalry ready, and, as soon as the snow in the

mountains melted sufficiently, to start for Staunton, and go on and

destroy the Virginia Central Railroad and canal. Time advanced,

until he set the 28th of February for starting. I informed Thomas,

and directed him to change the course of Stoneman toward Lynchburg,

to destroy the road in Virginia up as near to that place as

possible. Not hearing from Thomas, I telegraphed to him about the

12th, to know if Stoneman was yet off. He replied not, but that he

(Thomas) would start that day for Knoxville, to get him off as soon

as possible.

Sheridan has made his raid, and with splendid success, so far as

heard. I am looking for him at "White House" to-day. Since about

the 20th of last month the Richmond papers have been prohibited

from publishing accounts of army movements. We are left to our own

resources, therefore, for information. You will see from the

papers what Sheridan has done; if you do not, the officer who bears

this will tell you all.

Lee has depleted his army but very little recently, and I learn of

none going south. Some regiments may have been detached, but I

think no division or brigade. The determination seems to be to

hold Richmond as long as possible. I have a force sufficient to

leave enough to hold our lines (all that is necessary of them), and

move out with plenty to whip his whole army. But the roads are

entirely impassable. Until they improve, I shall content myself

with watching Lee, and be prepared to pitch into him if he attempts

to evacuate the place. I may bring Sheridan over--think I will--

and break up the Danville and Southside Railroads. These are the

last avenues left to the enemy.

Recruits have come in so rapidly at the West that Thomas has now

about as much force as he had when he attacked Hood. I have

stopped all who, under previous orders, would go to him, except

those from Illinois.

Fearing the possibility of the enemy falling back to Lynchburg, and

afterward attempting to go into East Tennessee or Kentucky, I have

ordered Thomas to move the Fourth Corps to Bull's Gap, and to

fortify there, and to hold out to the Virginia line, if he can. He

has accumulated a large amount of supplies in Knoxville, and has

been ordered not to destroy any of the railroad west of the

Virginia Hue. I told him to get ready for a campaign toward

Lynchburg, if it became necessary. He never can make one there or

elsewhere; but the steps taken will prepare for any one else to

take his troops and come east or go toward Rome, whichever may be

necessary. I do not believe either will.

When I hear that you and Schofield are together, with your back

upon the coast, I shall feel that you are entirely safe against any

thing the enemy can do. Lee may evacuate Richmond, but he cannot

get there with force enough to touch you. His army is now

demoralized and deserting very fast, both to us and to their homes.

A retrograde movement would cost him thousands of men, even if we

did not follow.

Five thousand men, belonging to the corps with you, are now on

their way to join you. If more reenforoements are necessary, I

will send them. My notion is, that you should get Raleigh as soon

as possible, and hold the railroad from there back. This may take

more force than you now have.

From that point all North Carolina roads can be made useless to the

enemy, without keeping up communications with the rear.

Hoping to hear soon of your junction with the forces from

Wilmington and Newborn, I remain, very respectfully, your obedient

servant,

U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.

HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI IN THE FIELD,

COX'S BRIGADE, NEUSE RIVER, NORTH CAROLINA, March 22, 1865

Lieutenant-General U. S. GRANT, Commander-in-Chief, City Point,

Virginia.

GENERAL: I wrote you from Fayetteville, North Carolina, on Tuesday,

the 14th instant, that I was all ready to start for Goldsboro', to

which point I had also ordered General Schofield, from Newborn, and

General Terry, from Wilmington. I knew that General Jos. Johnston

was supreme in command against me, and that he would have time to

concentrate a respectable army to oppose the last stage of this

march. Accordingly, General Slocum was ordered to send his main

supply-train, under escort of two divisions, straight for

Bentonsville, while he, with his other four divisions,

disencumbered of all unnecessary wagons, should march toward

Raleigh, by way of threat, as far as Averysboro'. General Howard,

in like manner, sent his trains with the Seventeenth Corps, well to

the right, and, with the four divisions of the Fifteenth Corps,

took roads which would enable him to come promptly to the exposed

left flank. We started on the 16th, but again the rains set in,

and the roads, already bad enough, became horrible.

On Tuesday, the 16th, General Slocum found Hardee's army, from

Charleston, which had retreated before us from Cheraw, in position

across the narrow, swampy neck between Cape Fear and North Rivers,

where the road branches off to Goldsboro'. There a pretty severe

fight occurred, in which General Slocum's troops carried handsomely

the advanced line, held by a South Carolina brigade, commanded by a

Colonel Butler. Its Commander, Colonel Rhett, of Fort Sumter

notoriety, with one of his staff, had the night before been

captured, by Kilpatrick's scouts, from his very skirmish-line. The

next morning Hardee was found gone, and was pursued through and

beyond Averysboro'. General Slocum buried one hundred and eight

dead rebels, and captured and destroyed three guns. Some eighty

wounded rebels were left in our hands, and, after dressing their

wounds, we left them in a house, attended by a Confederate officer

and four privates, detailed out of our prisoners and paroled for

the purpose.

We resumed the march toward Goldsboro'. I was with the left wing

until I supposed all danger had passed; but, when General Slocum's

head of column was within four miles of Bentonsville, after

skirmishing as usual with cavalry, he became aware that there was

infantry in his front. He deployed a couple of brigades, which, on

advancing, sustained a partial repulse, but soon rallied, when he

formed a line of the two leading divisions (Morgan's and Carlin's)

of Jeff. C. Davis's corps. The enemy attacked these with violence,

but was repulsed. This was in the forenoon of Sunday, the 19th.

General Slocum brought forward the two divisions of the Twentieth

Corps, hastily disposed of them for defense, and General Kilpatrick

massed his cavalry on the left.

General Jos. Johnston had, the night before, marched his whole army

(Bragg, Cheatham, S. D. Lee, Hardee, and all the troops he had

drawn from every quarter), determined, as he told his men, to crash

one of our corps, and then defeat us in detail. He attacked

General Slocum in position from 3 P. M. on the 19th till dark; but

was everywhere repulsed, and lost heavily. At the time, I was with

the Fifteenth Corps, marching on a road more to the right; but, on

hearing of General Slocum's danger, directed that corps toward

Cox's Bridge, in the night brought Blair's corps over, and on the

20th marched rapidly on Johnston's flank and rear. We struck him

about noon, forced him to assume the defensive, and to fortify.

Yesterday we pushed him hard, and came very near crushing him, the

right division of the Seventeenth Corps (Mower's) having broken in

to within a hundred yards of where Johnston himself was, at the

bridge across Mill Creek. Last night he retreated, leaving us in

possession of the field, dead, and wounded. We have over two

thousand prisoners from this affair and the one at Averysboro', and

I am satisfied that Johnston's army was so roughly handled

yesterday that we could march right on to Raleigh; but we have now

been out six weeks, living precariously upon the collections of our

foragers, our men dirty, ragged, and saucy, and we must rest and

fix up a little. Our entire losses thus far (killed, wounded, and

prisoners) will be covered by twenty-five hundred, a great part of

which are, as usual, slight wounds. The enemy has lost more than

double as many, and we have in prisoners alone full two thousand.

I limited the pursuit, this morning, to Mill Creek, and will

forthwith march the army to Goldsboro', there to rest, reclothe,

and get some rations.

Our combinations were such that General Schofield entered

Goldsboro' from Newborn; General Terry got Cox's Bridge, with

pontoons laid, and a brigade across Neuse River intrenched; and we

whipped Jos. Johnston--all on the same day.

After riding over the field of battle to-day, near Bentonsville,

and making the necessary orders, I have ridden down to this place

(Cox's Bridge) to see General Terry, and to-morrow shall ride into

Goldsboro.

I propose to collect there my army proper; shall post General Terry

about Faison's Depot, and General Schofield about Kinston, partly

to protect the road, but more to collect such food and forage as

the country affords, until the railroads are repaired leading into

Goldsboro'.

I fear these have not been pushed with the vigor I had expected;

but I will soon have them both going. I shall proceed at once to

organize three armies of twenty-five thousand men each, and will

try and be all ready to march to Raleigh or Weldon, as we may

determine, by or before April 10th.

I inclose you a copy of my orders of to-day. I would like to be

more specific, but have not the data. We have lost no general

officers nor any organization. General Slocum took three guns at

Averysboro', and lost three others at the first dash on him at

Bentonsville. We have all our wagons and trains in good order.

Yours truly,

W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General.

HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI IN THE FIELD,

COX'S BRIGADE, GOLDSBORO', NORTH CAROLINA, March 23, 1865.

Lieutenant-General U. S. GRANT, commanding the Armies of the United

States, City Point, Virginia.

GENERAL: On reaching Goldsboro' this morning, I found Lieutenant

Dunn awaiting me with your letter of March 18th and dispatch of the

17th. I wrote you fully from Cox's Bridge yesterday, and since

reaching Goldsboro' have learned that my letter was sent punctually

to Newborn, whence it will be dispatched to you.

I am very glad to hear that General Sheridan did such good service

between Richmond and Lynchburg, and hope he will keep the ball

moving, I know that these raids and dashes disconcert our enemy and

discourage him much.

General Slocum's two corps (Fourteenth and Twentieth) are now

coming in. I will dispose of them north of Goldsboro', between the

Weldon road and Little River. General Howard to-day is marching

south of the Nenae, and to-morrow will come in and occupy ground

north of Goldsboro', extending from the Weldon Railroad to that

leading to Kinston.

I have ordered all the provisional divisions, made up of troops

belonging to the regular corps, to be broken up, and the men to

join their proper regiments and organizations; and have ordered

General Schofield to guard the railroads back to Newborn and

Wilmington, and to make up a movable column equal to twenty-five

thousand men, with which to take the field. His army will be the

centre, as on the Atlanta campaign. I do not think I want any more

troops (other than absentees and recruits) to fill up the present

regiments, and I can make up an army of eighty thousand men by

April 10th. I will post General Kilpatrick at Mount Olive Station

on the Wilmington road, and then allow the army some rest.

We have sent all our empty wagons, under escort, with the proper

staff-officers, to bring up from Kinston clothing and provisions.

As long as we move we can gather food and forage; but, the moment

we stop, trouble begins.

I feel sadly disappointed that our railroads are not done. I do

not like to say there has been any neglect until I make inquiries;

but it does seem to me the repairs should have been made ere this,

and the road properly stocked. I can only hear of one locomotive

(besides the four old ones) on the Newbern road, and two damaged

locomotives (found by General Terry) on the Wilmington road. I

left Generals Easton and Beckwith purposely to make arrangements in

anticipation of my arrival, and have heard from neither, though I

suppose them both to be at Morehead City.

At all events, we have now made a junction of all the armies, and

if we can maintain them, will, in a short time, be in a position to

march against Raleigh, Gaston, Weldon, or even Richmond, as you may

determine.

If I get the troops all well planed, and the supplies working well,

I may run up to see you for a day or two before diving again into

the bowels of the country.

I will make, in a very short time, accurate reports of our

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