Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman

Text to Speech

of Adams & Co. in 1851! He ushered me in hastily, closed the door,

and conducted me into the office on the right of the hall. We were

glad to meet, after so long and eventful an interval, and mutually

inquired after our respective families and special acquaintances.

I found that he was a commissioned officer, a major on duty with

Fremont, and Major Eaton, now of the paymaster's Department, was in

the same office with him. I explained to them that I had come from

General Anderson, and wanted to confer with General Fremont in

person. Woods left me, but soon returned, said the general would

see me in a very few minutes, and within ten minutes I was shown

across the hall into the large parlor, where General Fremont

received me very politely. We had met before, as early as 1847, in

California, and I had also seen him several times when he was

senator. I then in a rapid manner ran over all the points of

interest in General Anderson's new sphere of action, hoped he would

spare us from the new levies what troops he could, and generally

act in concert with us. He told me that his first business would

be to drive the rebel General Price and his army out of Missouri,

when he would turn his attention down the Mississippi. He asked my

opinion about the various kinds of field-artillery which

manufacturers were thrusting on him, especially the then newly-

invented James gun, and afterward our conversation took a wide turn

about the character of the principal citizens of St. Louis, with

whom I was well acquainted.

Telling General Fremont that I had been summoned to Louisville and

that I should leave in the first train, viz., at 3 p.m., I took my

leave of him. Returning to Wood's office, I found there two more

Californians, viz., Messrs. Palmer and Haskell, so I felt that,

while Fremont might be suspicious of others, he allowed free

ingress to his old California acquaintances.

Returning to the Planters' House, I heard of Beard, another

Californian, a Mormon, who had the contract for the line of

redoubts which Fremont had ordered to be constructed around the

city, before he would take his departure for the interior of the

State; and while I stood near the office-counter, I saw old Baron

Steinberger, a prince among our early California adventurers, come

in and look over the register. I avoided him on purpose, but his

presence in St. Louis recalled the maxim, "Where the vultures are,

there is a carcass close by;" and I suspected that the profitable

contracts of the quartermaster, McKinstry, had drawn to St. Louis

some of the most enterprising men of California. I suspect they

can account for the fact that, in a very short time, Fremont fell

from his high estate in Missouri, by reason of frauds, or supposed

frauds, in the administration of the affairs of his command.

I left St. Louis that afternoon and reached Louisville the next

morning. I found General Anderson quartered at the Louisville

Hotel, and he had taken a dwelling homes on _____ Street as an

office. Captain O. D. Greens was his adjutant-general, Lieutenant

Throckmorton his aide, and Captain Prime, of the Engineer Corps,

was on duty with him. General George H. Thomas had been dispatched

to camp Dick Robinson, to relieve Nelson.

The city was full of all sorts of rumors. The Legislature, moved

by considerations purely of a political nature, had taken the step,

whatever it was, that amounted to an adherence to the Union,

instead of joining the already-seceded States. This was

universally known to be the signal for action. For it we were

utterly unprepared, whereas the rebels were fully prepared.

General Sidney Johnston immediately crossed into Kentucky, and

advanced as far as Bowling Green, which he began to fortify, and

thence dispatched General Buckner with a division forward toward

Louisville; General Zollicoffer, in like manner, entered the State

and advanced as far as Somerset. On the day I reached Louisville

the excitement ran high. It was known that Columbus, Kentucky, had

been occupied, September 7th, by a strong rebel force, under

Generals Pillow and Polk, and that General Grant had moved from

Cairo and occupied Paducah in force on the 6th. Many of the rebel

families expected Buckner to reach Louisville at any moment. That

night, General Anderson sent for me, and I found with him Mr.

Guthrie, president of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad, who had

in his hands a dispatch to the effect that the bridge across the

Rolling Fork of Salt Creek, less than thirty miles out, had been

burned, and that Buckner's force, en route for Louisville, had been

detained beyond Green River by a train thrown from the track. We

learned afterward that a man named Bird had displaced a rail on

purpose to throw the train off the track, and thereby give us time.

Mr. Guthrie explained that in the ravine just beyond Salt Creek

were several high and important trestles which, if destroyed, would

take months to replace, and General Anderson thought it well.

worth the effort to save them. Also, on Muldraugh's Hill beyond,

was a strong position, which had in former years been used as the

site for the State "Camp of Instruction," and we all supposed that

General Buckner, who was familiar with the ground, was aiming for a

position there, from which to operate on Louisville.

All the troops we had to counteract Buckner were Rousseau's Legion,

and a few Home Guards in Louisville. The former were still

encamped across the river at Jeffersonville; so General Anderson

ordered me to go over, and with them, and such Home Guards as we

could collect, make the effort to secure possession of Muldraugh's

Hill before Buckner could reach it. I took Captain Prime with me;

and crossed over to Rousseau's camp. The long-roll was beaten, and

within an hour the men, to the number of about one thousand, were

marching for the ferry-boat and for the Nashville depot. Meantime

General Anderson had sent to collect some Home Guards, and Mr.

Guthrie to get the trains ready. It was after midnight before we

began to move. The trains proceeded slowly, and it was daybreak

when we reached Lebanon Junction, twenty-six miles out, where we

disembarked, and marched to the bridge over Salt River, which we

found had been burnt; whether to prevent Buckner coming into

Louisville, or us from going out, was not clear. Rousseau's Legion

forded the stream and marched up to the State Camp of Instruction,

finding the high trestles all secure. The railroad hands went to

work at once to rebuild the bridge. I remained a couple of days at

Lebanon Junction, during which General Anderson forwarded two

regiments of volunteers that had come to him. Before the bridge

was done we advanced the whole camp to the summit of Muldraugh's

Hill, just back of Elizabethtown. There I learned definitely that

General Buckner had not crossed Green River at all, that General

Sidney Johnston was fortifying Bowling Green, and preparing for a

systematic advance into Kentucky, of which he was a native, and

with whose people and geography he must have been familiar. As

fast as fresh troops reached Louisville, they were sent out to me

at Muldraugh's Hill, where I was endeavoring to put them into shape

for service, and by the 1st of October I had the equivalent of a

division of two brigades preparing to move forward toward Green

River. The daily correspondence between General Anderson and

myself satisfied me that the worry and harassment at Louisville

were exhausting his strength and health, and that he would soon

leave. On a telegraphic summons from him, about the 5th of

October, I went down to Louisville, when General Anderson said he

could not stand the mental torture of his command any longer, and

that he must go away, or it would kill him. On the 8th of October

he actually published an order relinquishing the command, and, by

reason of my seniority, I had no alternative but to assume command,

though much against the grain, and in direct violation of Mr.

Lincoln's promise to me. I am certain that, in my earliest

communication to the War Department, I renewed the expression of my

wish to remain in a subordinate position, and that I received the

assurance that Brigadier-General Buell would soon arrive from

California, and would be sent to relieve me. By that time I had

become pretty familiar with the geography and the general resources

of Kentucky. We had parties all over the State raising regiments

and companies; but it was manifest that the young men were

generally inclined to the cause of the South, while the older men

of property wanted to be let alone--i.e., to remain neutral. As to

a forward movement that fall, it was simply impracticable; for we

were forced to use divergent lines, leading our columns farther and

farther apart; and all I could attempt was to go on and collect

force and material at the two points already chosen, viz., Dick

Robinson and Elizabethtown. General George H. Thomas still

continued to command the former, and on the 12th of October I

dispatched Brigadier-General A. McD. McCook to command the latter,

which had been moved forward to Nolin Creek, fifty-two miles out of

Louisville, toward Bowling Green. Staff-officers began to arrive

to relieve us of the constant drudgery which, up to that time, had

been forced on General Anderson and myself; and these were all good

men. Colonel Thomas Swords, quartermaster, arrived on the 13th;

Paymaster Larned on the 14th; and Lieutenant Smyzer, Fifth

Artillery, acting ordnance-officer, on the 20th; Captain Symonds

was already on duty as the commissary of subsistence; Captain O.

D. Greene was the adjutant-general, and completed a good working


The everlasting worry of citizens complaining of every petty

delinquency of a soldier, and forcing themselves forward to discuss

politics, made the position of a commanding general no sinecure. I

continued to strengthen the two corps forward and their routes of

supply; all the time expecting that Sidney Johnston, who was a real

general, and who had as correct information of our situation as I

had, would unite his force with Zollicoffer, and fall on Thomas at

Dick Robinson, or McCook at Nolin: Had he done so in October, 1861,

he could have walked into Louisville, and the vital part of the

population would have hailed him as a deliverer. Why he did not,

was to me a mystery then and is now; for I know that he saw the

move; and had his wagons loaded up at one time for a start toward

Frankfort, passing between our two camps. Conscious of our

weakness, I was unnecessarily unhappy, and doubtless exhibited it

too much to those near me; but it did seem to me that the

Government at Washington, intent on the larger preparations of

Fremont in Missouri and McClellan in Washington, actually ignored

us in Kentucky.

About this time, say the middle of October, I received notice, by

telegraph, that the Secretary of War, Mr. Cameron (then in St.

Louis), would visit me at Louisville, on his way back to

Washington. I was delighted to have an opportunity to properly

represent the actual state of affairs, and got Mr. Guthrie to go

with me across to Jeffersonville, to meet the Secretary of War and

escort him to Louisville. The train was behind time, but Mr.

Guthrie and I waited till it actually arrived. Mr. Cameron was

attended by Adjutant-General Lorenzo Thomas, and six or seven

gentlemen who turned out to be newspaper reporters. Mr. Cameron's

first inquiry was, when he could start for Cincinnati, saying that,

as he had been detained at St. Louis so long, it was important he

should hurry on to Washington. I explained that the regular

mail-boat would leave very soon--viz., at 12 M.--but I begged him

to come over to Louisville; that I wanted to see him on business as

important as any in Washington, and hoped he would come and spend

at least a day with us. He asked if every thing was not well with

us, and I told him far from it; that things were actually bad, as

bad as bad could be. This seemed to surprise him, and Mr. Guthrie

added his persuasion to mine; when Mr. Cameron, learning that he

could leave Louisville by rail via Frankfort next morning early,

and make the same connections at Cincinnati, consented to go with

us to Louisville, with the distinct understanding that he must

leave early the next morning for Washington.

We accordingly all took hacks, crossed the river by the ferry, and

drove to the Galt House, where I was then staying. Brigadier-

General T. J. Wood had come down from Indianapolis by the same

train, and was one of the party. We all proceeded to my room on

the first floor of the Galt House, where our excellent landlord,

Silas Miller, Esq., sent us a good lunch and something to drink.

Mr. Cameron was not well, and lay on my bed, but joined in the

general conversation. He and his party seemed to be full of the

particulars of the developments in St. Louis of some of Fremont's

extravagant contracts and expenses, which were the occasion of

Cameron's trip to St. Louis, and which finally resulted in

Fremont's being relieved, first by General Hunter, and after by

General H. W. Halleck.

After some general conversation, Mr. Cameron called to me, "Now,

General Sherman, tell us of your troubles." I said I preferred not

to discuss business with so many strangers present. He said,

"They are all friends, all members of my family, and you may speak

your mind freely and without restraint." I am sure I stepped to

the door, locked it to prevent intrusion, and then fully and fairly

represented the state of affairs in Kentucky, especially the

situation and numbers of my troops. I complained that the new

levies of Ohio and Indiana were diverted East and West, and we got

scarcely any thing; that our forces at Nolin and Dick Robinson were

powerless for invasion, and only tempting to a general such as we

believed Sidney Johnston to be; that, if Johnston chose, he could

march to Louisville any day. Cameron exclaimed: "You astonish me!

Our informants, the Kentucky Senators and members of Congress,

claim that they have in Kentucky plenty of men, and all they want

are arms and money." I then said it was not true; for the young

men were arming and going out openly in broad daylight to the rebel

camps, provided with good horses and guns by their fathers, who

were at best "neutral;" and as to arms, he had, in Washington,

promised General Anderson forty thousand of the best Springfield

muskets, instead of which we had received only about twelve

thousand Belgian muskets, which the Governor of Pennsylvania had

refused, as had also the Governor of Ohio, but which had been

adjudged good enough for Kentucky. I asserted that volunteer

colonels raising regiments in various parts of the State had come

to Louisville for arms, and when they saw what I had to offer had

scorned to receive them--to confirm the truth of which I appealed

to Mr. Guthrie, who said that every word I had spoken was true, and

he repeated what I had often heard him say, that no man who owned a

slave or a mule in Kentucky could be trusted.

Mr. Cameron appeared alarmed at what was said, and turned to

«- Previous | 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133 134 135 136 | View All | Next -»