Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman


Text to Speech

solved the whole Mississippi problem; and, from what he then told

me, I believe he intended such a campaign, but was overruled from

Washington. Be that as it may, the army had no sooner settled down

at Corinth before it was scattered: General Pope was called to the

East, and his army distributed among the others; General Thomas was

relieved from the command of the right wing, and reassigned to his

division in the Army of the Ohio; and that whole army under General

Buell was turned east along the Memphis & Charleston road, to march

for Chattanooga. McClernand's "reserve" was turned west to Bolivar

and Memphis. General Halleck took post himself at Corinth,

assigned Lieutenant-Colonel McPherson to take charge of the

railroads, with instructions to repair them as far as Columbus,

Kentucky, and to collect cars and locomotives to operate them to

Corinth and Grand Junction. I was soon dispatched with my own and

Hurlbut's divisions northwest fourteen miles to Chewalla, to save

what could be of any value out of six trains of cars belonging to

the rebels which had been wrecked and partially burned at the time

of the evacuation of Corinth.

A short time before leaving Corinth I rode from my camp to General

Halleck's headquarters, then in tents just outside of the town,

where we sat and gossiped for some time, when he mentioned to me

casually that General Grant was going away the next morning. I

inquired the cause, and he said that he did not know, but that

Grant had applied for a thirty days' leave, which had been given

him. Of course we all knew that he was chafing under the slights

of his anomalous position, and I determined to see him on my way

back. His camp was a short distance off the Monterey road, in the

woods, and consisted of four or five tents, with a sapling railing

around the front. As I rode up, Majors Rawlins, Lagow, and Hilyer,

were in front of the camp, and piled up near them were the usual

office and camp chests, all ready for a start in the morning. I

inquired for the general, and was shown to his tent, where I found

him seated on a camp-stool, with papers on a rude camp-table; he

seemed to be employed in assorting letters, and tying them up with

red tape into convenient bundles. After passing the usual

compliments, I inquired if it were true that he was going away. He

said, "Yes." I then inquired the reason, and he said "Sherman, you

know. You know that I am in the way here. I have stood it as long

as I can, and can endure it no longer." I inquired where he was

going to, and he said, "St. Louis." I then asked if he had any

business there, and he said, "Not a bit." I then begged him to

stay, illustrating his case by my own.

Before the battle of Shiloh, I had been cast down by a mere

newspaper assertion of "crazy;" but that single battle had given me

new life, and now I was in high feather; and I argued with him

that, if he went away, events would go right along, and he would be

left out; whereas, if he remained, some happy accident might

restore him to favor and his true place. He certainly appreciated

my friendly advice, and promised to wait awhile; at all events, not

to go without seeing me again, or communicating with me. Very soon

after this, I was ordered to Chewalla, where, on the 6th of June, I

received a note from him, saying that he had reconsidered his

intention, and would remain. I cannot find the note, but my answer

I have kept:

Chewalla, Jane 6, 1862.

Major-General GRANT.

My DEAR SIR: I have just received your note, and am rejoiced at

your conclusion to remain; for you could not be quiet at home for a

week when armies were moving, and rest could not relieve your mind

of the gnawing sensation that injustice had been done you.

My orders at Chewalla were to rescue the wrecked trains there, to

reconnoitre westward and estimate the amount of damage to the

railroad as far as Grand Junction, about fifty miles. We camped

our troops on high, healthy ground to the south of Chewalla, and

after I had personally reconnoitred the country, details of men

were made and volunteer locomotive engineers obtained to

superintend the repairs. I found six locomotives and about sixty

cars, thrown from the track, parts of the machinery detached and

hidden in the surrounding swamp, and all damaged as much by fire as

possible. It seems that these trains were inside of Corinth during

the night of evacuation, loading up with all sorts of commissary

stores, etc., and about daylight were started west; but the

cavalry-picket stationed at the Tuscumbia bridge had, by mistake or

panic, burned the bridge before the trains got to them. The

trains, therefore, were caught, and the engineers and guards

hastily scattered the stores into the swamp, and disabled the

trains as far as they could, before our cavalry had discovered

their critical situation. The weather was hot, and the swamp

fairly stunk with the putrid flour and fermenting sugar and

molasses; I was so much exposed there in the hot sun, pushing

forward the work, that I got a touch of malarial fever, which hung

on me for a month, and forced me to ride two days in an ambulance,

the only time I ever did such a thing during the whole war. By the

7th I reported to General Halleck that the amount of work necessary

to reestablish the railroad between Corinth and Grand Junction was

so great, that he concluded not to attempt its repair, but to rely

on the road back to Jackson (Tennessee), and forward to Grand

Junction; and I was ordered to move to Grand Junction, to take up

the repairs from there toward Memphis.

The evacuation of Corinth by Beauregard, and the movements of

General McClernand's force toward Memphis, had necessitated the

evacuation of Fort Pillow, which occurred about June 1st; soon

followed by the further withdrawal of the Confederate army from

Memphis, by reason of the destruction of the rebel gunboats in the

bold and dashing attack by our gun-boats under command of Admiral

Davis, who had succeeded Foote. This occurred June 7th. Admiral

Farragut had also captured New Orleans after the terrible passage

of Forts Jackson and St. Philip on May 24th, and had ascended the

river as high as Vicksburg; so that it seemed as though, before the

end of June, we should surely have full possession of the whole

river. But it is now known that the progress of our Western armies

had aroused the rebel government to the exercise of the most

stupendous energy. Every man capable of bearing arms at the South

was declared to be a soldier, and forced to act as such. All their

armies were greatly reenforced, and the most despotic power was

granted to enforce discipline and supplies. Beauregard was

replaced by Bragg, a man of more ability--of greater powers of

organization, of action, and discipline--but naturally exacting and

severe, and not possessing the qualities to attract the love of his

officers and men. He had a hard task to bring into order and

discipline that mass of men to whose command he succeeded at

Tupelo, with which he afterward fairly outmanoeuvred General Buell,

and forced him back from Chattanooga to Louisville. It was a fatal

mistake, however, that halted General Halleck at Corinth, and led

him to disperse and scatter the best materials for a fighting army

that, up to that date, had been assembled in the West.

During the latter part of June and first half of July, I had my own

and Hurlbut's divisions about Grand Junction, Lagrange, Moscow, and

Lafayette, building railroad-trestles and bridges, fighting off

cavalry detachments coming from the south, and waging an

everlasting quarrel with planters about their negroes and fences--

they trying, in the midst of moving armies, to raise a crop of

corn. On the 17th of June I sent a detachment of two brigades,

under General M. L. Smith, to Holly Springs, in the belief that I

could better protect the railroad from some point in front than by

scattering our men along it; and, on the 23d, I was at Lafayette

Station, when General Grant, with his staff and a very

insignificant escort, arrived from Corinth en route for Memphis, to

take command of that place and of the District of West Tennessee.

He came very near falling into the hands of the enemy, who infested

the whole country with small but bold detachments of cavalry. Up

to that time I had received my orders direct from General Halleck

at Corinth, but soon after I fell under the immediate command of

General Grant and so continued to the end of the war; but, on the

29th, General Halleck notified me that "a division of troops under

General C. S. Hamilton of 'Rosecrans's army corps,' had passed the

Hatchie from Corinth," and was destined for Holly Springs, ordering

me to "cooperate as far as advisable," but "not to neglect the

protection of the road." I ordered General Hurlbut to leave

detachments at Grand Junction and Lagrange, and to march for Holly

Springs. I left detachments at Moscow and Lafayette, and, with

about four thousand men, marched for the same point. Hurlbut and I

met at Hudsonville, and thence marched to the Coldwater, within

four miles of Holly Springs. We encountered only small detachments

of rebel cavalry under Colonels Jackson and Pierson, and drove them

into and through Holly Springs; but they hung about, and I kept an

infantry brigade in Holly Springs to keep them out. I heard

nothing from General Hamilton till the 5th of July, when I received

a letter from him dated Rienzi, saying that he had been within

nineteen miles of Holly Springs and had turned back for Corinth;

and on the next day, July 6th, I got a telegraph order from General

Halleck, of July 2d, sent me by courier from Moscow, "not to

attempt to hold Holly Springs, but to fall back and protect the

railroad." We accordingly marched back twenty-five miles--Hurlbut

to Lagrange, and I to Moscow. The enemy had no infantry nearer

than the Tallahatchee bridge, but their cavalry was saucy and

active, superior to ours, and I despaired of ever protecting a

railroad, preventing a broad front of one hundred miles, from their

dashes.

About this time, we were taunted by the Confederate soldiers and

citizens with the assertion that Lee had defeated McClellan at

Richmond; that he would soon be in Washington; and that our turn

would come next. The extreme caution of General Halleck also

indicated that something had gone wrong, and, on the 16th of July,

at Moscow, I received a dispatch from him, announcing that he had

been summoned to Washington, which he seemed to regret, and which

at that moment I most deeply deplored. He announced that his

command would devolve on General Grant, who had been summoned

around from Memphis to Corinth by way of Columbus, Kentucky, and

that I was to go into Memphis to take command of the District of

West Tennessee, vacated by General Grant. By this time, also, I

was made aware that the great, army that had assembled at Corinth

at the end of May had been scattered and dissipated, and that

terrible disasters had befallen our other armies in Virginia and

the East.

I soon received orders to move to Memphis, taking Hurlbut's

division along. We reached Memphis on the 21st, and on the 22d I

posted my three brigades mostly in and near Fort Dickering, and

Hurlbut's division next below on the river-bank by reason of the

scarcity of water, except in the Mississippi River itself. The

weather was intensely hot. The same order that took us to Memphis

required me to send the division of General Lew Wallace (then

commanded by Brigadier-General A. P. Hovey) to Helena, Arkansas, to

report to General Curtis, which was easily accomplished by

steamboat. I made my own camp in a vacant lot, near Mr. Moon's

house, and gave my chief attention to the construction of Fort

Pickering, then in charge of Major Prime, United States Engineers;

to perfecting the drill and discipline of the two divisions under

my command; and to the administration of civil affairs.

At the time when General Halleck was summoned from Corinth to

Washington, to succeed McClellan as commander-in-chief, I surely

expected of him immediate and important results. The Army of the

Ohio was at the time marching toward Chattanooga, and was strung

from Eastport by Huntsville to Bridgeport, under the command of

General Buell. In like manner, the Army of the Tennessee was

strung along the same general line, from Memphis to Tuscumbia, and

was commanded by General Grant, with no common commander for both

these forces: so that the great army which General Halleck had so

well assembled at Corinth, was put on the defensive, with a

frontage of three hundred miles. Soon thereafter the rebels

displayed peculiar energy and military skill. General Bragg had

reorganized the army of Beauregard at Tupelo, carried it rapidly

and skillfully toward Chattanooga, whence he boldly assumed the

offensive, moving straight for Nashville and Louisville, and

compelling General Buell to fall back to the Ohio River at

Louisville.

The army of Van Dorn and Price had been brought from the

trans-Mississippi Department to the east of the river, and was

collected at and about Holly Springs, where, reenforced by

Armstrong's and Forrests cavalry, it amounted to about forty

thousand brave and hardy soldiers. These were General Grant's

immediate antagonists, and so many and large detachments had been

drawn from him, that for a time he was put on the defensive. In

person he had his headquarters at Corinth, with the three divisions

of Hamilton, Davies, and McKean, under the immediate orders of

General Rosecrans. General Ord had succeeded to the division of

McClernand (who had also gone to Washington), and held Bolivar and

Grand Junction. I had in Memphis my own and Hurlbut's divisions,

and other smaller detachments were strung along the Memphis &

Charleston road. But the enemy's detachments could strike this

road at so many points, that no use could be made of it, and

General Grant had to employ the railroads, from Columbus, Kentucky,

to Corinth and Grand Junction, by way of Jackson, Tennessee, a

point common to both roads, and held in some force.

In the early part of September the enemy in our front manifested

great activity, feeling with cavalry at all points, and on the 13th

General Van Dorn threatened Corinth, while General Price seized the

town of Iuka, which was promptly abandoned by a small garrison

under Colonel Murphy. Price's force was about eight thousand men,

and the general impression was that he was en route for Eastport,

with the purpose to cross the Tennessee River in the direction of

Nashville, in aid of General Bragg, then in full career for

Kentucky. General Grant determined to attack him in force,

prepared to regain Corinth before Van Dorn could reach it. He had

drawn Ord to Corinth, and moved him, by Burnsville, on Iuka, by the

main road, twenty-six miles. General Grant accompanied this column

as far as Burnsville. At the same time he had dispatched Rosecrans

by roads to the south, via Jacinto, with orders to approach Iuka by

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