Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman

Text to Speech

the two main roads, coming into Iuka from the south, viz., they

Jacinto and Fulton roads.

On the 18th General Ord encountered the enemy about four miles out

of Iuka. His orders contemplated that he should not make a serious

attack, until Rosecrans had gained his position on the south; but,

as usual, Rosecrans had encountered difficulties in the confusion

of roads, his head of column did not reach the vicinity of Iuka

till 4 p.m. of the 19th, and then his troops were long drawn out

on the single Jacinto road, leaving the Fulton road clear for

Price's use. Price perceived his advantage, and attacked with

vehemence the head of Rosecrans's column, Hamilton's division,

beating it back, capturing a battery, and killing and disabling

seven hundred and thirty-six men, so that when night closed in

Rosecrans was driven to the defensive, and Price, perceiving his

danger, deliberately withdrew by the Fulton road, and the next

morning was gone. Although General Ord must have been within four

or six miles of this battle, he did not hear a sound; and he or

General Grant did not know of it till advised the next morning by a

courier who had made a wide circuit to reach them. General Grant

was much offended with General Rosecrans because of this affair,

but in my experience these concerted movements generally fail,

unless with the very best kind of troops, and then in a country on

whose roads some reliance can be placed, which is not the case in

Northern Mississippi. If Price was aiming for Tennessee; he

failed, and was therefore beaten. He made a wide circuit by the

south, and again joined Van Dorn.

On the 6th of September, at Memphis, I received an order from

General Grant dated the 2d, to send Hurlbut's division to

Brownsville, in the direction of Bolivar, thence to report by

letter to him at Jackson. The division started the same day, and,

as our men and officers had been together side by side from the

first landing at Shiloh, we felt the parting like the breaking up

of a family. But General Grant was forced to use every man, for he

knew well that Van Dorn could attack him at pleasure, at any point

of his long line. To be the better prepared, on the 23d of

September he took post himself at Jackson, Tennessee, with a small

reserve force, and gave Rosecrans command of Corinth, with his

three divisions and some detachments, aggregating about twenty

thousand men. He posted General Ord with his own and Hurlbut'a

divisions at Bolivar, with outposts toward Grand Junction and

Lagrange. These amounted to nine or ten thousand men, and I held

Memphis with my own division, amounting to about six thousand men.

The whole of General Grant's men at that time may have aggregated

fifty thousand, but he had to defend a frontage of a hundred and

fifty miles, guard some two hundred miles of railway, and as much

river. Van Dom had forty thousand men, united, at perfect liberty

to move in any direction, and to choose his own point of attack,

under cover of woods, and a superior body of cavalry, familiar with

every foot of the ground. Therefore General Grant had good reason

for telegraphing to General Halleck, on the 1st of October, that

his position was precarious, "but I hope to get out of it all

right." In Memphis my business was to hold fast that important

flank, and by that date Fort Dickering had been made very strong,

and capable of perfect defense by a single brigade. I therefore

endeavored by excursions to threaten Van Dorn's detachments to the

southeast and east. I repeatedly sent out strong detachments

toward Holly Springs, which was his main depot of supply; and

General Grierson, with his Sixth Illinois, the only cavalry I had,

made some bold and successful dashes at the Coldwater, compelling

Van Dorn to cover it by Armstrong's whole division of cavalry.

Still, by the 1st of October, General Grant was satisfied that the

enemy was meditating an attack in force on Bolivar or Corinth; and

on the 2d Van Dorn made his appearance near Corinth, with his

entire army. On the 3d he moved down on that place from the north

and northwest, General Roseerana went out some four miles to meet

him, but was worsted and compelled to fall back within the line of

his forts. These had been began under General Halleck, but were

much strengthened by General Grant, and consisted of several

detached redoubts, bearing on each other, and inclosing the town

and the depots of stores at the intersection of the two railroads.

Van Dorn closed down on the forts by the evening of the 3d, and on

the morning of the 4th assaulted with great vehemence. Our men,

covered by good parapets, fought gallantly, and defended their

posts well, inflicting terrible losses on the enemy, so that by

noon the rebels were repulsed at all points, and drew off, leaving

their dead and wounded in our hands. Their losses, were variously

estimated, but the whole truth will probably never be known, for in

that army reports and returns were not the fashion. General

Rosecrans admitted his own loss to be three hundred and fifteen

killed, eighteen hundred and twelve wounded, and two hundred and

thirty-two missing or prisoners, and claimed on the part of the

rebels fourteen hundred and twenty-three dead, two thousand and

twenty-five prisoners and wounded. Of course, most of the wounded

must have gone off or been carried off, so that, beyond doubt, the

rebel army lost at Corinth fully six thousand men.

Meantime, General Grant, at Jackson, had dispatched Brigadier-

General McPherson, with a brigade, directly for Corinth, which

reached General Rosecrans after the battle; and, in anticipation of

his victory, had ordered him to pursue instantly, notifying him

that he had ordered Ord's and Hurlbut's divisions rapidly across to

Pocahontas, so as to strike the rebels in flank. On the morning of

the 5th, General Ord reached the Hatchie River, at Davies bridge,

with four thousand men; crossed over and encountered the retreating

army, captured a battery and several hundred prisoners, dispersing

the rebel advance, and forcing the main column to make a wide

circuit by the south in order to cross the Hatchie River. Had

General Rosecrans pursued promptly, and been on the heels of this

mass of confused and routed men, Van Dorn's army would surely have

been utterly ruined; as it was, Van Dom regained Holly Springs

somewhat demoralized.

General Rosecrans did not begin his pursuit till the next morning,

the 5th, and it was then too late. General Grant was again

displeased with him, and never became fully reconciled. General

Rosecrans was soon after relieved, and transferred to the Army of

the Cumberland, in Tennessee, of which he afterward obtained the

command, in place of General Buell, who was removed.

The effect of the battle of Corinth was very great. It was,

indeed, a decisive blow to the Confederate cause in our quarter,

and changed the whole aspect of affairs in West Tennessee. From

the timid defensive we were at once enabled to assume the bold

offensive. In Memphis I could see its effects upon the citizens,

and they openly admitted that their cause had sustained a

death-blow. But the rebel government was then at its maximum

strength; Van Dorn was reenforced, and very soon Lieutenant-General

J. C. Pemberton arrived and assumed the command, adopting for his

line the Tallahatchie River, with an advance-guard along the

Coldwater, and smaller detachments forward at Grand Junction and

Hernando. General Grant, in like manner, was reenforced by new


Out of those which were assigned to Memphis, I organized two new

brigades, and placed them under officers who had gained skill and

experience during the previous campaign.



JULY, 1882 TO JANUARY, 1883

When we first entered Memphis, July 21,1862, I found the place

dead; no business doing, the stores closed, churches, schools, and

every thing shut up. The people were all more or less in sympathy

with our enemies, and there was a strong prospect that the whole

civil population would become a dead weight on our hands. Inasmuch

as the Mississippi River was then in our possession northward, and

steamboats were freely plying with passengers and freight, I caused

all the stores to be opened, churches, schools, theatres, and

places of amusement, to be reestablished, and very soon Memphis

resumed its appearance of an active, busy, prosperous place. I

also restored the mayor (whose name was Parks) and the city

government to the performance of their public functions, and

required them to maintain a good civil police.

Up to that date neither Congress nor the President had made any

clear, well-defined rules touching the negro slaves, and the

different generals had issued orders according to their own

political sentiments. Both Generals Halleck and Grant regarded the

slave as still a slave, only that the labor of the slave belonged

to his owner, if faithful to the Union, or to the United States, if

the master had taken up arms against the Government, or adhered to

the fortunes of the rebellion. Therefore, in Memphis, we received

all fugitives, put them to work on the fortifications, supplied

them with food and clothing, and reserved the question of payment

of wages for future decision. No force was allowed to be used to

restore a fugitive slave to his master in any event; but if the

master proved his loyalty, he was usually permitted to see his

slave, and, if he could persuade him to return home, it was

permitted. Cotton, also, was a fruitful subject of controversy.

The Secretary of the Treasury; Mr. Chase, was extremely anxious at

that particular time to promote the purchase of cotton, because

each bale was worth, in gold, about three hundred dollars, and

answered the purpose of coin in our foreign exchanges. He

therefore encouraged the trade, so that hundreds of greedy

speculators flocked down the Mississippi, and resorted to all sorts

of measures to obtain cotton from the interior, often purchasing it

from negroes who did not own it, but who knew where it was

concealed. This whole business was taken from the jurisdiction of

the military, and committed to Treasury agents appointed by Mr.


Other questions absorbed the attention of military commanders; and

by way of illustration I here insert a few letters from my

"letter-book," which contains hundreds on similar subjects:


Memphis, Tennessee, August 11, 1862

Hon. S. P. CHASE, Secretary of the Treasury.

Sir: Your letter of August 2d, just received, invites my discussion

of the cotton question.

I will write plainly and slowly, because I know you have no time to

listen to trifles. This is no trifle; when one nation is at war

with another, all the people of the one are enemies of the other:

then the rules are plain and easy of understanding. Most

unfortunately, the war in which we are now engaged has been

complicated with the belief on the one hand that all on the other

are not enemies. It would have been better if, at the outset, this

mistake had not been made, and it is wrong longer to be misled by

it. The Government of the United States may now safely proceed on

the proper rule that all in the South are enemies of all in the

North; and not only are they unfriendly, but all who can procure

arms now bear them as organized regiments, or as guerrillas. There

is not a garrison in Tennessee where a man can go beyond the sight

of the flag-staff without being shot or captured. It so happened

that these people had cotton, and, whenever they apprehended our

large armies would move, they destroyed the cotton in the belief

that, of course, we world seize it, and convert it to our use.

They did not and could not dream that we would pay money for it.

It had been condemned to destruction by their own acknowledged

government, and was therefore lost to their people; and could have

been, without injustice, taken by us, and sent away, either as

absolute prize of war, or for future compensation. But the

commercial enterprise of the Jews soon discovered that ten cents

would buy a pound of cotton behind our army; that four cents would

take it to Boston, where they could receive thirty cents in gold.

The bait was too tempting, and it spread like fire, when here they

discovered that salt, bacon, powder, fire-arms, percussion-caps,

etc., etc., were worth as much as gold; and, strange to say, this

traffic was not only permitted, but encouraged. Before we in the

interior could know it, hundreds, yea thousands of barrels of salt

and millions of dollars had been disbursed; and I have no doubt

that Bragg's army at Tupelo, and Van Dorn's at Vicksburg, received

enough salt to make bacon, without which they could not have moved

their armies in mass; and that from ten to twenty thousand fresh

arms, and a due supply of cartridges, have also been got, I am

equally satisfied. As soon as I got to Memphis, having seen the

effect in the interior, I ordered (only as to my own command) that

gold, silver, and Treasury notes, were contraband of war, and

should not go into the interior, where all were hostile. It is

idle to talk about Union men here: many want peace, and fear war

and its results; but all prefer a Southern, independent government,

and are fighting or working for it. Every gold dollar that was

spent for cotton, was sent to the seaboard, to be exchanged for

bank-notes and Confederate scrip, which will buy goods here, and

are taken in ordinary transactions. I therefore required cotton to

be paid for in such notes, by an obligation to pay at the end of

the war, or by a deposit of the price in the hands of a trustee,

viz., the United States Quartermaster. Under these rules cotton is

being obtained about as fast as by any other process, and yet the

enemy receives no "aid or comfort." Under the "gold" rule, the

country people who had concealed their cotton from the burners, and

who openly scorned our greenbacks, were willing enough to take

Tennessee money, which will buy their groceries; but now that the

trade is to be encouraged, and gold paid out, I admit that cotton

will be sent in by our open enemies, who can make better use of

gold than they can of their hidden bales of cotton.

I may not appreciate the foreign aspect of the question, but my

views on this may be ventured. If England ever threatens war

because we don't furnish her cotton, tell her plainly if she can't

employ and feed her own people, to send them here, where they

cannot only earn an honest living, but soon secure independence by

moderate labor. We are not bound to furnish her cotton. She has

more reason to fight the South for burning that cotton, than us for

not shipping it. To aid the South on this ground would be

hypocrisy which the world would detect at once. Let her make her

ultimatum, and there are enough generous minds in Europe that will

counteract her in the balance. Of course her motive is to cripple

a power that rivals her in commerce and manufactures, that

threatenes even to usurp her history. In twenty more years of

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