Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman

Text to Speech

that the cares, perplexities, and anxiety of the situation had

unbalanced my judgment and mind. It was, doubtless, an incident

common to all civil wars, to which I could only submit with the

best grace possible, trusting to the future for an opportunity to

redeem my fortune and good name. Of course I could not deny the

fact, and had to submit to all its painful consequences for months;

and, moreover, I could not hide from myself that many of the

officers and soldiers subsequently placed under my command looked

at me askance and with suspicion. Indeed, it was not until the

following April that the battle of Shiloh gave me personally the

chance to redeem my good name.

On reaching St. Louis and reporting to General Halleck, I was

received kindly, and was shortly afterward (viz., November 23d)

sent up to Sedalia to inspect the camp there, and the troops

located along the road back to Jefferson City, and I was ordered to

assume command in a certain contingency. I found General Steels at

Sedalia with his regiments scattered about loosely; and General

Pope at Otterville, twenty miles back, with no concert between

them. The rebel general, Sterling Price, had his forces down about

Osceola and Warsaw. I advised General Halleck to collect the whole

of his men into one camp on the La Mine River, near Georgetown, to

put them into brigades and divisions, so as to be ready to be

handled, and I gave some preliminary orders looking to that end.

But the newspapers kept harping on my insanity and paralyzed my

efforts. In spite of myself, they tortured from me some words and

acts of imprudence. General Halleck telegraphed me on November

26th: "Unless telegraph-lines are interrupted, make no movement of

troops without orders;" and on November 29th: "No forward movement

of troops on Osceola will be made; only strong

reconnoitring-parties will be sent out in the supposed direction of

the enemy; the bulk of the troops being held in position till more

reliable information is obtained."

About the same time I received the following dispatch:


November 28, 1881. Brigadier

General SHERMAN, Sedalia:

Mrs. Sherman is here. General Halleck is satisfied, from reports

of scouts received here, that no attack on Sedalia is intended.

You will therefore return to this city, and report your

observations on the condition of the troops you have examined.

Please telegraph when you will leave.

SCHUYLER HAMILTON, Brigadier-General and Aide-de-Camp.

I accordingly returned to St. Louis, where I found Mrs. Sherman,

naturally and properly distressed at the continued and reiterated

reports of the newspapers of my insanity, and she had come from

Lancaster to see me. This recall from Sedalia simply swelled the

cry. It was alleged that I was recalled by reason of something

foolish I had done at Sedalia, though in fact I had done absolutely

nothing, except to recommend what was done immediately thereafter

on the advice of Colonel McPherson, on a subsequent inspection.

Seeing and realizing that my efforts were useless, I concluded to

ask for a twenty days' leave of absence, to accompany Mrs. Sherman

to our home in Lancaster, and to allow the storm to blow over

somewhat. It also happened to be mid-winter, when, nothing was

doing; so Mrs. Sherman and I returned to Lancaster, where I was

born, and where I supposed I was better known and appreciated.

The newspapers kept up their game as though instigated by malice,

and chief among them was the Cincinnati Comercial, whose editor,

Halsted, was generally believed to be an honorable man. P. B.

Ewing, Esq., being in Cincinnati, saw him and asked him why he, who

certainly knew better, would reiterate such a damaging slander. He

answered, quite cavalierly, that it was one of the news-items of

the day, and he had to keep up with the time; but he would be most

happy to publish any correction I might make, as though I could

deny such a malicious piece of scandal affecting myself. On the

12th of November I had occasion to write to General Halleck, and I

have a copy of his letter in answer:

ST. Louis, December 18, 1881.

Brigadier-General W. T. SHERMAN, Lancaster, Ohio.

My DEAR GENERAL: Yours of the 12th was received a day or two ago,

but was mislaid for the moment among private papers, or I should

have answered it sooner. The newspaper attacks are certainly

shameless and scandalous, but I cannot agree with you, that they

have us in their power "to destroy us as they please." I certainly

get my share of abuse, but it will not disturb me.

Your movement of the troops was not countermanded by me because I

thought it an unwise one in itself, but because I was not then

ready for it. I had better information of Price's movements than

you had, and I had no apprehension of an attack. I intended to

concentrate the forces on that line, but I wished the movement

delayed until I could determine on a better position.

After receiving Lieutenant-Colonel McPherson's report, I made

precisely the location you had ordered. I was desirous at the time

not to prevent the advance of Price by any movement on our part,

hoping that he would move on Lexington; but finding that he had

determined to remain at Osceola for some time at least, I made the

movement you proposed. As you could not know my plans, you and

others may have misconstrued the reason of my countermanding your


I hope to see you well enough for duty soon. Our organization goes

on slowly, but we will effect it in time. Yours truly,


And subsequently, in a letter to Hon. Thomas Ewing, in answer to

some inquiries involving the same general subject, General Halleck

wrote as follows:

Hon. THOMAS EWING, Lancaster, Ohio.

DEAR SIR: Your note of the 13th, and one of this date, from Mr.

Sherman, in relation to Brigadier-General Sherman's having being

relieved from command in Sedalia, in November last, are just

received. General Sherman was not put in command at Sedalia; he

was authorized to assume it, and did so for a day or two. He did

not know my plans, and his movement of troops did not accord with

them. I therefore directed him to leave them as they were, and

report here the result of his inspection, for which purpose be had

been ordered there.

No telegram or dispatch of any kind was sent by me, or by any one

with my knowledge or authority, in relation to it. After his

return here, I gave him a leave of absence of twenty days, for the

benefit of his health. As I was then pressing General McClellan

for more officers, I deemed it necessary to explain why I did so.

I used these words: "I am satisfied that General Sherman's physical

and mental system is so completely broken by labor and care as to

render him, for the present, unfit for duty; perhaps a few weeks'

rest may restore him." This was the only communication I made on

the subject. On no occasion have I ever expressed an opinion that

his mind was affected otherwise than by over-exertion; to have said

so would have done him the greatest injustice.

After General Sherman returned from his short leave, I found that

his health was nearly restored, and I placed him temporarily in

command of the camp of instruction, numbering over fifteen thousand

men. I then wrote to General McClellan that he would soon be able

to again take the field. I gave General Sherman a copy of my

letter. This is the total of my correspondence on the subject. As

evidence that I have every confidence in General Sherman, I have

placed him in command of Western Kentucky--a command only second in

importance in this department. As soon as divisions and columns

can be organized, I propose to send him into the field where he can

render most efficient service. I have seen newspaper squibs,

charging him with being "crazy," etc. This is the grossest

injustice; I do not, however, consider such attacks worthy of

notice. The best answer is General Sherman's present position, and

the valuable services he is rendering to the country. I have the

fullest confidence in him.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

H. W. HALLECK, Major-General.

On returning to St. Louis, on the expiration of my leave of

absence, I found that General Halleck was beginning to move his

troops: one part, under General U. S. Grant, up the Tennessee

River; and another part, under General S. R. Curtis, in the

direction of Springfield, Missouri. General Grant was then at

Paducah, and General Curtis was under orders for Rolls. I was

ordered to take Curtis's place in command of the camp of

instruction, at Benton Barracks, on the ground back of North St.

Louis, now used as the Fair Grounds, by the following order:

[Special Order No. 87].


St. Louis, December 23, 1861


Brigadier-General W. T. Sherman, United States Volunteers, is

hereby assigned to the command of the camp of instruction and post

of Benton Barracks. He will have every armed regiment and company

in his command ready for service at a moment's warning, and will

notify all concerned that, when marching orders are received, it is

expected that they will be instantly obeyed; no excuses for delay

will be admitted. General Sherman will immediately report to these

headquarters what regiments and companies, at Benton Barracks, are

ready for the field.

By order of Major-General Halleck,

J. C. KELTEN, Assistant Adjutant-General.

I immediately assumed command, and found, in the building

constructed for the commanding officer, Brigadier-General Strong,

and the family of a captain of Iowa cavalry, with whom we boarded.

Major Curtis, son of General Curtis, was the adjutant-general, but

was soon relieved by Captain J. H. Hammond, who was appointed

assistant adjutant-general, and assigned to duty with me.

Brigadier-General Hurlbut was also there, and about a dozen

regiments of infantry and cavalry. I at once gave all matters

pertaining to the post my personal attention, got the regiments in

as good order as possible, kept up communication with General

Halleck's headquarters by telegraph, and, when orders came for the

movement of any regiment or detachment, it moved instantly. The

winter was very wet, and the ground badly drained. The quarters

had been erected by General Fremont, under contract; they were mere

shells, but well arranged for a camp, embracing the Fair Grounds,

and some forty acres of flat ground west of it. I instituted

drills, and was specially ordered by General Halleck to watch

Generals Hurlbut and Strong, and report as to their fitness for

their commissions as brigadier-generals. I had known Hurlbut as a

young lawyer, in Charleston, South Carolina, before the Mexican

War, at which time he took a special interest in military matters,

and I found him far above the average in the knowledge of

regimental and brigade drill, and so reported. General Strong had

been a merchant, and he told me that he never professed to be a

soldier, but had been urged on the Secretary of War for the

commission of a brigadier-general, with the expectation of be

coming quartermaster or commissary-general. He was a good,

kind-hearted gentleman, boiling over with patriotism and zeal. I

advised him what to read and study, was considerably amused at his

receiving instruction from a young lieutenant who knew the company

and battalion drill, and could hear him practise in his room the

words of command, and tone of voice, "Break from the right, to

march to the left!" "Battalion, halt!" "Forward into line!" etc.

Of course I made a favorable report in his case. Among the

infantry and cavalry colonels were some who afterward rose to

distinction--David Stuart, Gordon Granger, Bussey, etc., etc.

Though it was mid-winter, General Halleck was pushing his

preparations most vigorously, and surely he brought order out of

chaos in St. Louis with commendable energy. I remember, one night,

sitting in his room, on the second floor of the Planters' House,

with him and General Cullum, his chief of staff, talking

of things generally, and the subject then was of the much-talked-of

"advance," as soon as the season would permit. Most people urged

the movement down the Mississippi River; but Generals Polk and

Pillow had a large rebel force, with heavy guns in a very strong

position, at Columbus, Kentucky, about eighteen miles below Cairo.

Commodore Foote had his gunboat fleet at Cairo; and General U. S.

Grant, who commanded the district, was collecting a large force at

Paducah, Cairo, and Bird's Point. General Halleck had a map on his

table, with a large pencil in his hand, and asked, "where is the

rebel line?" Cullum drew the pencil through Bowling Green, Forts

Donelson and Henry, and Columbus, Kentucky. "That is their line,"

said Halleck. "Now, where is the proper place to break it?" And

either Cullum or I said, "Naturally the centre." Halleck drew a

line perpendicular to the other, near its middle, and it coincided

nearly with the general course of the Tennessee River; and he said,

"That's the true line of operations." This occurred more than a

month before General Grant began the movement, and, as he was

subject to General Halleck's orders, I have always given Halleck

the full credit for that movement, which was skillful, successful,

and extremely rich in military results; indeed, it was the first

real success on our side in the civil war. The movement up the

Tennessee began about the 1st of February, and Fort Henry was

captured by the joint action of the navy under Commodore Foote, and

the land forces under General Grant, on the 6th of February, 1862.

About the same time, General S. R. Curtis had moved forward from

Rolls, and, on the 8th of March, defeated the rebels under

McCulloch, Van Dom, and Price, at Pea Ridge.

As soon as Fort Henry fell, General Grant marched straight across

to Fort Donelson, on the Cumberland River, invested the place, and,

as soon as the gunboats had come round from the Tennessee, and had

bombarded the water-front, he assaulted; whereupon Buckner

surrendered the garrison of twelve thousand men; Pillow and

ex-Secretary of War General Floyd having personally escaped across

the river at night, occasioning a good deal of fun and criticism at

their expense.

Before the fall of Donelson, but after that of Henry, I received,

at Benton Barracks, the following orders:


St. Louis, February,13, 1862

Brigadier-General SHERMAN, Benton Barracks:

You will immediately repair to Paducah, Kentucky, and assume

command of that post. Brigadier-General Hurlbut will accompany

you. The command of Benton Barracks will be turned over to General


H. W. HALECK, Major-General.

I started for Paducah the same day, and think that General Cullum

went with me to Cairo; General Halleck's purpose being to push

forward the operations up the Tennessee River with unusual vigor.

On reaching Paducah, I found this dispatch:


St. Louis, February 15, 1862

Brigadier-General SHERMAN, Paducah, Kentucky:

Send General Grant every thing you can spare from Paducah and Smith

and also General Hurlbut.

Bowling Green has been evacuated entirely.

H. W. HALLECK, Major-General.

The next day brought us news of the surrender of Buckner, and

probably at no time during the war did we all feel so heavy a

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