Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman


Text to Speech

embarked; and on the 22d we were all rendezvoused at Friar's Point,

in the following order, viz.:

Steamer Forest Queen, general headquarters, and battalion

Thirteenth United States Infantry.

First Division, Brigadier-General A. J. SMITH.--Steamers Des Arc,

division headquarters and escort; Metropolitan, Sixth Indiana; J.

H. Dickey, Twenty-third Wisconsin; J. C. Snow, Sixteenth Indiana;

Hiawatha, Ninety-sixth Ohio; J. S. Pringle, Sixty-seventh Indiana;

J. W. Cheeseman, Ninth Kentucky; R. Campbell, Ninety-seventh

Indiana; Duke of Argyle, Seventy-seventh Illinois; City of Alton,

One Hundred and Eighth and Forty-eighth Ohio; City of Louisiana,

Mercantile Battery; Ohio Belle, Seventeenth Ohio Battery; Citizen,

Eighty-third Ohio; Champion, commissary-boat; General Anderson,

Ordnance.

Second Division,, Brigadier-General M. L. SMITH.--Steamers

Chancellor, headquarters, and Thielman's cavalry; Planet, One

Hundred and Sixteenth Illinois; City of Memphis, Batteries A and B

(Missouri Artillery), Eighth Missouri, and section of Parrott guns;

Omaha, Fifty-seventh Ohio; Sioux City, Eighty-third Indiana; Spread

Eagle, One Hundred and Twenty-seventh Illinois; Ed. Walsh, One

Hundred and Thirteenth Illinois; Westmoreland, Fifty-fifth

Illinois, headquarters Fourth Brigade; Sunny South, Fifty-fourth

Ohio; Universe, Sixth Missouri; Robert Allen, commissary-boat.

Third Division, Brigadier-General G. W. MORGAN.--Steamers Empress,

division headquarters; Key West, One Hundred and Eighteenth

Illinois; Sam Gaty, Sixty-ninth Indiana; Northerner, One Hundred

and Twentieth Ohio; Belle Peoria, headquarters Second Brigade, two

companies Forty-ninth Ohio, and pontoons; Die Vernon, Third

Kentucky; War Eagle, Forty-ninth Indiana (eight companies), and

Foster's battery; Henry von Phul, headquarters Third Brigade, and

eight companies Sixteenth Ohio; Fanny Bullitt, One Hundred and

Fourteenth Ohio, and Lamphere's battery; Crescent City,

Twenty-second Kentucky and Fifty-fourth Indiana; Des Moines,

Forty-second Ohio; Pembina, Lamphere's and Stone's batteries; Lady

Jackson, commissary-boat.

Fourth Division, Brigadier-General FREDERICK STEELE--Steamers

Continental, headquarters, escort and battery; John J. Roe, Fourth

and Ninth Iowa; Nebraska, Thirty-first Iowa; Key West, First Iowa

Artillery; John Warner, Thirteenth Illinois; Tecumseh, Twenty-sixth

Iowa; Decatur, Twenty-eighth Iowa; Quitman, Thirty-fourth Iowa;

Kennett, Twenty ninth Missouri; Gladiator, Thirtieth Missouri;

Isabella, Thirty-first Missouri; D. G. Taylor, quartermaster's

stores and horses; Sucker State, Thirty-second Missouri; Dakota,

Third Missouri; Tutt, Twelfth Missouri Emma, Seventeenth Missouri;

Adriatic, First Missouri; Meteor, Seventy-sixth Ohio; Polar Star,

Fifty-eighth Ohio.

At the same time were communicated the following instructions:

HEADQUARTERS RIGHT WING, THIRTEENTH ARMY Corps

FOREST QUEEN, December 23, 1882.

To Commanders of Divisions, Generals F. STEELE, GEORGE W. MORGAN,

A.J. SMITH, and M. L. SMITH

With this I hand to each of you a copy of a map, compiled from the

best sources, and which in the main is correct. It is the same

used by Admiral Porter and myself. Complete military success can

only be accomplished by united action on some general plan,

embracing usually a large district of country. In the present

instance, our object is to secure the navigation of the Mississippi

River and its main branches, and to hold them as military channels

of communication and for commercial purposes. The river, above

Vicksburg, has been gained by conquering the country to its rear,

rendering its possession by our enemy useless and unsafe to him,

and of great value to us. But the enemy still holds the river from

Vicksburg to Baton Rouge, navigating it with his boats, and the

possession of it enables him to connect his communications and

routes of supply, east and west. To deprive him of this will be a

severe blow, and, if done effectually, will be of great advantage

to us, and probably, the most decisive act of the war. To

accomplish this important result we are to act our part--an

important one of the great whole. General Banks, with a large

force, has reinforced General Butler in Louisiana, and from that

quarter an expedition, by water and land, is coming northward.

General Grant, with the Thirteenth Army Corps, of which we compose

the right wing, is moving southward. The naval squadron (Admiral

Porter) is operating with his gunboat fleet by water, each in

perfect harmony with the other.

General Grant's left and centre were at last accounts approaching

the Yalabusha, near Grenada, and the railroad to his rear, by which

he drew his supplies, was reported to be seriously damaged. This

may disconcert him somewhat, but only makes more important our line

of operations. At the Yalabusha General Grant may encounter the

army of General Pemberton, the same which refused him battle on the

line of the Tallahatchie, which was strongly fortified; but, as he

will not have time to fortify it, he will hardly stand there; and,

in that event, General Grant will immediately advance down the high

ridge between the Big Black and Yazoo, and will expect to meet us

on the Yazoo and receive from us the supplies which he needs, and

which he knows we carry along. Parts of this general plan are to

cooperate with the naval squadron in the reduction of Vicksburg; to

secure possession of the land lying between the Yazoo and Big

Black; and to act in concert with General Grant against Pemberton's

forces, supposed to have Jackson, Mississippi, as a point of

concentration. Vicksburg is doubtless very strongly fortified,

both against the river and land approaches. Already the gunboats

have secured the Yazoo up for twenty-three miles, to a fort on the

Yazoo at Haines's Bluff, giving us a choice for a landing-place at

some point up the Yazoo below this fort, or on the island which

lies between Vicksburg and the present mouth of the Yazoo. (See

map [b, c, d], Johnson's plantation.)

But, before any actual collision with the enemy, I purpose,

after our whole land force is rendezvoused at Gaines's Landing,

Arkansas, to proceed in order to Milliken's Bend (a), and there

dispatch a brigade, without wagons or any incumbrances whatever, to

the Vicksburg & Shreveport Railroad (at h and k), to destroy that

effectually, and to cut off that fruitful avenue of supply; then to

proceed to the mouth of the Yazoo, and, after possessing ourselves

of the latest and most authentic information from naval officers

now there, to land our whole force on the Mississippi side, and

then to reach the point where the Vicksburg & Jackson Railroad

crosses the Big Black (f); after which to attack Vicksburg by land,

while the gun-boats assail it by water. It may be necessary

(looking to Grant's approach), before attacking Vicksburg, to

reduce the battery at Haine's Bluff first, so as to enable some of

the lighter gunboats and transports to ascend the Yazoo and

communicate with General Grant. The detailed manner of

accomplishing all these results will be communicated in due season,

and these general points are only made known at this time, that

commanders may study the maps, and also that in the event of

non-receipt of orders all may act in perfect concert by following

the general movement, unless specially detached.

You all now have the same map, so that no mistakes or confusion

need result from different names of localities. All possible

preparations as to wagons, provisions, axes, and intrenching-tools,

should be made in advance, so that when we do land there will be no

want of them. When we begin to act on shore, we must do the work

quickly and effectually. The gunboats under Admiral Porter will do

their full share, and I feel every assurance that the army will not

fall short in its work.

Division commanders may read this to regimental commanders, and

furnish brigade commanders a copy. They should also cause as many

copies of the map to be made on the same scale as possible, being

very careful in copying the names.

The points marked e and g (Allan's and Mount Albans) are evidently

strategical points that will figure in our future operations, and

these positions should be well studied.

I am, with great respect, your obedient servant,

W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General.

The Mississippi boats were admirably calculated for handling

troops, horses, guns, stores, etc., easy of embarkation and

disembarkation, and supplies of all kinds were abundant, except

fuel. For this we had to rely on wood, but most of the wood-yards,

so common on the river before the war, had been exhausted, so that

we had to use fence-rails, old dead timber, the logs of houses,

etc. Having abundance of men and plenty of axes, each boat could

daily procure a supply.

In proceeding down the river, one or more of Admiral Porter's

gunboats took the lead; others were distributed throughout the

column, and some brought up the rear. We manoeuvred by divisions

and brigades when in motion, and it was a magnificent sight as we

thus steamed down the river. What few inhabitants remained at the

plantations on the river-bank were unfriendly, except the slaves;

some few guerrilla-parties infested the banks, but did not dare to

molest so, strong a force as I then commanded.

We reached Milliken's Bend on Christmas-day, when I detached one

brigade (Burbridge's), of A. J. Smith's division, to the southwest,

to break up the railroad leading from Vicksburg toward Shreveport,

Louisiana. Leaving A. J. Smith's division there to await the

return of Burbridge, the remaining three divisions proceeded, on

the 26th, to the mouth of the Yazoo,. and up that river to

Johnson's plantation, thirteen miles, and there disembarked

Steele's division above the mouth of Chickasaw Bayou, Morgans

division near the house of Johnson (which had been burned by the

gunboats on a former occasion), and M. L. Smith's just below. A.

J. Smith's division arrived the next night, and disembarked below

that of M. L. Smith. The place of our disembarkation was in fact

an island, separated from the high bluff known as Walnut Hills, on

which the town of Vicksburg stands, by a broad and shallow

bayou-evidently an old channel of the Yazoo. On our right was

another wide bayou, known as Old River; and on the left still

another, much narrower, but too deep to be forded, known as

Chickasaw Bayou. All the island was densely wooded, except

Johnson's plantation, immediately on the bank of the Yazoo, and a

series of old cotton-fields along Chickasaw Bayou. There was a

road from Johnson's plantation directly to Vicksburg, but it

crossed numerous bayous and deep swamps by bridges, which had been

destroyed; and this road debouched on level ground at the foot of

the Vicksburg bluff, opposite strong forts, well prepared and

defended by heavy artillery. On this road I directed General A. J.

Smith's division, not so much by way of a direct attack as a

diversion and threat.

Morgan was to move to his left, to reach Chickasaw Bayou, and to

follow it toward the bluff, about four miles above A. J. Smith.

Steele was on Morgan's left, across Chickasaw Bayou, and M. L.

Smith on Morgan's right. We met light resistance at all points,

but skirmished, on the 27th, up to the main bayou, that separated

our position from the bluffs of Vicksburg, which were found to be

strong by nature and by art, and seemingly well defended. On

reconnoitring the front in person, during the 27th and 28th, I

became satisfied that General A. J. Smith could not cross the

intervening obstacles under the heavy fire of the forts immediately

in his front, and that the main bayou was impassable, except at two

points--one near the head of Chickasaw Bayou, in front of Morgan,

and the other about a mile lower down, in front of M. L. Smith's

division.

During the general reconnoissance of the 28th General Morgan L.

Smith received a severe and dangerous wound in his hip, which

completely disabled him and compelled him to go to his steamboat,

leaving the command of his division to Brigadier General D.

Stuart; but I drew a part of General A. J. Smith's division, and

that general himself, to the point selected for passing the bayou,

and committed that special task to his management.

General Steele reported that it was physically impossible to reach

the bluffs from his position, so I ordered him to leave but a show

of force there, and to return to the west side of Chickasaw Bayou

in support of General Morgan's left. He had to countermarch and

use the steamboats in the Yazoo to get on the firm ground on our

side of the Chickasaw.

On the morning of December 29th all the troops were ready and in

position. The first step was to make a lodgment on the foot-hills

and bluffs abreast of our position, while diversions were made by

the navy toward Haines's Bluff, and by the first division directly

toward Vicksburg. I estimated the enemy's forces, then strung from

Vicksburg to Haines's Bluff, at fifteen thousand men, commanded by

the rebel Generals Martin Luther Smith and Stephen D. Lee. Aiming

to reach firm ground beyond this bayou, and to leave as little time

for our enemy to reenforce as possible, I determined to make a show

of attack along the whole front, but to break across the bayou at

the two points named, and gave general orders accordingly. I

pointed out to General Morgan the place where he could pass the

bayou, and he answered, "General, in ten minutes after you give the

signal I'll be on those hills." He was to lead his division in

person, and was to be supported by Steele's division. The front

was very narrow, and immediately opposite, at the base of the hills

about three hundred yards from the bayou, was a rebel battery,

supported by an infantry force posted on the spurs of the hill

behind. To draw attention from this, the real point of attack, I

gave instructions to commence the attack at the flanks.

I went in person about a mile to the right rear of Morgan's

position, at a place convenient to receive reports from all other

parts of the line; and about noon of December 29th gave the orders

and signal for the main attack. A heavy artillery-fire opened

along our whole line, and was replied to by the rebel batteries,

and soon the infantry-fire opened heavily, especially on A. J.

Smith's front, and in front of General George W. Morgan. One

brigade (DeCourcey's) of Morgan's troops crossed the bayou safely,

but took to cover behind the bank, and could not be moved forward.

Frank Blairs brigade, of Steele's division, in support, also

crossed the bayou, passed over the space of level ground to the

foot of the hills; but, being unsupported by Morgan, and meeting a

very severe cross-fire of artillery, was staggered and gradually

fell back, leaving about five hundred men behind, wounded and

prisoners; among them Colonel Thomas Fletcher, afterward Governor

of Missouri. Part of Thayer's brigade took a wrong direction, and

did not cross the bayou at all; nor did General Morgan cross in

person. This attack failed; and I have always felt that it was due

to the failure of General G. W. Morgan to obey his orders, or to

fulfill his promise made in person. Had he used with skill and

boldness one of his brigades, in addition to that of Blair's, he

could have made a lodgment on the bluff, which would have opened

the door for our whole force to follow. Meantime the Sixth

Missouri Infantry, at heavy loss, had also crossed the bayou at the

narrow passage lower down, but could not ascend the steep bank;

right over their heads was a rebel battery, whose fire was in a

measure kept down by our sharp-shooters (Thirteenth United States

Infantry) posted behind logs, stumps, and trees, on our side of the

bayou.

The men of the Sixth Missouri actually scooped out with their hands

caves in the bank, which sheltered them against the fire of the

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