Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman

Text to Speech

gullies, and our men had no cover but the few standing trees and

some logs on the ground. The troops advanced well under a heavy

fire, once or twice falling to the ground for a sort of rest or

pause. Every tree had its group of men, and behind each log was a

crowd of sharp-shooters, who kept up so hot a fire that the rebel

troops fired wild. The fire of the fort proper was kept busy by

the gunboats and Morgan's corps, so that all my corps had to

encounter was the direct fire from the newly-built parapet across

the peninsula. This line had three sections of field-guns, that

kept things pretty lively, and several round-shot came so near me

that I realized that they were aimed at my staff; so I dismounted,

and made them scatter.

As the gunboats got closer up I saw their flags actually over the

parapet of Fort Hindman, and the rebel gunners scamper out of the

embrasures and run down into the ditch behind. About the same time

a man jumped up on the rebel parapet just where the road entered,

waving a large white flag, and numerous smaller white rags appeared

above the parapet along the whole line. I immediately ordered,

"Cease firing!" and sent the same word down the line to General

Steele, who had made similar progress on the right, following the

border of he swamp. I ordered my aide, Colonel Dayton, to jump on

his horse and ride straight up to the large white flag, and when

his horse was on the parapet I followed with the rest of my staff.

All firing had ceased, except an occasional shot away to the right,

and one of the captains (Smith) of the Thirteenth Regulars was

wounded after the display of the white flag. On entering the line,

I saw that our muskets and guns had done good execution; for there

was a horse-battery, and every horse lay dead in the traces. The

fresh-made parapet had been knocked down in many places, and dead

men lay around very thick. I inquired who commanded at that point,

and a Colonel Garland stepped up and said that he commanded that

brigade. I ordered him to form his brigade, stack arms, hang the

belts on the muskets, and stand waiting for orders. Stuart's

division had been halted outside the parapet. I then sent Major

Hammond down the rebel line to the right, with orders to stop

Steele's division outside, and to have the other rebel brigade

stack its arms in like manner, and to await further orders. I

inquired of Colonel Garland who commanded in chief, and he said

that General Churchill did, and that he was inside the fort. I

then rode into the fort, which was well built, with good parapets,

drawbridge, and ditch, and was an inclosed work of four bastions.

I found it full of soldiers and sailors, its parapets toward the

river well battered in, and Porter's gunboats in the river, close

against the fort, with their bows on shore. I soon found General

Churchill, in conversation with Admiral Porter and General A. J.

Smith, and about this time my adjutant-general, Major J. H.

Hammond, came and reported that General Deshler, who commanded the

rebel brigade facing and opposed to Steele, had refused to stack

arms and surrender, on the ground that he had received no orders

from his commanding general; that nothing separated this brigade

from Steele's men except the light parapet, and that there might be

trouble there at any moment. I advised General Churchill to send

orders at once, because a single shot might bring the whole of

Steele's division on Deshler's brigade, and I would not be

responsible for the consequences; soon afterward, we both concluded

to go in person. General Churchill had the horses of himself and

staff in the ditch; they were brought in, and we rode together to

where Garland was standing, and Churchill spoke to him in an angry

tone, "Why did you display the white flag!" Garland replied, "I

received orders to do so from one of your staff." Churchill denied

giving such an order, and angry words passed between them. I

stopped them, saying that it made little difference then, as they

were in our power. We continued to ride down the line to its

extreme point, where we found Deshler in person, and his troops

were still standing to the parapet with their muskets in hand.

Steele'e men were on the outside. I asked Deshler: "What does this

mean? You are a regular officer, and ought to know better." He

answered, snappishly, that "he had received no orders to

surrender;" when General Churchill said: "You see, sir, that we are

in their power, and you may surrender." Deshler turned to his

staff-officers and ordered them to repeat the command to "stack

arms," etc., to the colonels of his brigade. I was on my horse,

and he was on foot. Wishing to soften the blow of defeat, I spoke

to him kindly, saying that I knew a family of Deshlers in Columbus,

Ohio, and inquired if they were relations of his. He disclaimed

any relation with people living north of the Ohio, in an offensive

tone, and I think I gave him a piece of my mind that he did not

relish. He was a West Point graduate, small but very handsome, and

was afterward killed in battle. I never met him again.

Returning to the position where I had first entered the rebel line,

I received orders from General McClernand, by one of his staff, to

leave General A. J. Smith in charge of the fort and prisoners, and

with my troops to remain outside. The officer explained that the

general was then on the Tigress, which had moved up from below, to

a point in the river just above the fort; and not understanding his

orders, I concluded to go and see him in person. My troops were

then in possession of two of the three brigades which composed the

army opposed to us; and my troops were also in possession of all

the ground of the peninsula outside the "fort-proper" (Hindman). I

found General McClernand on the Tigress, in high spirits. He said

repeatedly: "Glorious! glorious! my star is ever in the ascendant!"

He spoke complimentarily of the troops, but was extremely jealous

of the navy. He said: "I'll make a splendid report;" "I had a man

up a tree;" etc. I was very hungry and tired, and fear I did not

appreciate the honors in reserve for us, and asked for something to

eat and drink. He very kindly ordered something to be brought, and

explained to me that by his "orders" he did not wish to interfere

with the actual state of facts; that General A. J. Smith would

occupy "Fort Hindman," which his troops had first entered, and I

could hold the lines outside, and go on securing the prisoners and

stores as I had begun. I returned to the position of Garland's

brigade and gave the necessary orders for marching all the

prisoners, disarmed, to a pocket formed by the river and two deep

gullies just above the fort, by which time it had become quite

dark. After dark another rebel regiment arrived from Pine Bluff,

marched right in, and was also made prisoners. There seemed to be

a good deal of feeling among the rebel officers against Garland,

who asked leave to stay with me that night, to which I of course

consented. Just outside the rebel parapet was a house which had

been used for a hospital. I had a room cleaned out, and occupied

it that night. A cavalry-soldier lent me his battered coffee-pot

with some coffee and scraps of hard bread out of his nose-bag;

Garland and I made some coffee, ate our bread together, and talked

politics by the fire till quite late at night, when we lay down on

straw that was saturated with the blood of dead or wounded men.

The next day the prisoners were all collected on their boats, lists

were made out, and orders given for their transportation to St.

Louis, in charge of my aide, Major Sanger. We then proceeded to

dismantle and level the forts, destroy or remove the stores, and we

found in the magazine the very ammunition which had been sent for

us in the Blue Wing, which was secured and afterward used in our

twenty-pound Parrott guns.

On the 13th we reembarked; the whole expedition returned out of the

river by the direct route down the Arkansas during a heavy

snow-storm, and rendezvoused in the Mississippi, at Napoleon, at

the mouth of the Arkansas. Here General McClernand told me he had

received a letter from General Grant at Memphis, who disapproved of

our movement up the Arkansas; but that communication was made

before he had learned of our complete success. When informed of

this, and of the promptness with which it had been executed, he

could not but approve. We were then ordered back to Milliken's

Bend, to await General Grant's arrival in person. We reached

Milliken's Bend January 21st.

McClernand's report of the capture of Fort Hindman almost ignored

the action of Porter's fleet altogether. This was unfair, for I

know that the admiral led his fleet in person in the river-attack,

and that his guns silenced those of Fort Hindman, and drove the

gunners into the ditch.

The aggregate loss in my corps at Arkansas Post was five hundred

and nineteen, viz., four officers and seventy-five men killed,

thirty-four officers and four hundred and six men wounded. I never

knew the losses in the gunboat fleet, or in Morgan's corps; but

they must have been less than in mine, which was more exposed. The

number of rebel dead must have been nearly one hundred and fifty;

of prisoners, by actual count, we secured four thousand seven

hundred and ninety-one, and sent them north to St. Louis.




The campaign of 1863, resulting, in the capture of Vicksburg, was

so important, that its history has been well studied and well

described in all the books treating of the civil war, more

especially by Dr. Draper, in his "History of the Civil War in

America," and in Badeau's "Military History of General Grant." In

the latter it is more fully and accurately given than in any other,

and is well illustrated by maps and original documents. I now need

only attempt to further illustrate Badeau's account by some

additional details. When our expedition came out of the Arkansas

River, January, 18,1863, and rendezvoused at the river-bank, in

front of the town of Napoleon, Arkansas, we were visited by General

Grant in person, who had come down from Memphis in a steamboat.

Although at this time Major-General J. A. McClernand was in command

of the Army of the Mississippi, by virtue of a confidential order

of the War Department, dated October 21, 1862, which order bore the

indorsement of President Lincoln, General Grant still exercised a

command over him, by reason of his general command of the

Department of the Tennessee. By an order (No. 210) of December 18,

1862, from the War Department, received at Arkansas Post, the

Western armies had been grouped into five corps d'armee, viz.: the

Thirteenth, Major-General McClernand; the Fourteenth, Major-General

George H. Thomas, in Middle Tennessee; the Fifteenth, Major-General

W. T. Sherman; the Sixteenth, Major-General Hurlbut, then at or

near Memphis; and the Seventeenth, Major-General McPherson, also at

and back of Memphis. General Grant when at Napoleon, on the 18th

of January, ordered McClernand with his own and my corps to return

to Vicksburg, to disembark on the west bank, and to resume work on

a canal across the peninsula, which had been begun by General

Thomas Williams the summer before, the object being to turn the

Mississippi River at that point, or at least to make a passage for

our fleet of gunboats and transports across the peninsula, opposite

Vicksburg. General Grant then returned to Memphis, ordered to Lake

Providence, about sixty miles above us, McPherson's corps, the

Seventeenth, and then came down again to give his personal

supervison to the whole movement.

The Mississippi River was very high and rising, and we began that

system of canals on which we expended so much hard work

fruitlessly: first, the canal at Young's plantation, opposite

Vicksburg; second, that at Lake Providence; and third, at the Yazoo

Pass, leading into the head-waters of the Yazoo River. Early in

February the gunboats Indianola and Queen of the West ran the

batteries of Vicksburg. The latter was afterward crippled in Red

River, and was captured by the rebels; and the Indianola was butted

and sunk about forty miles below Vicksburg. We heard the booming

of the guns, but did not know of her loss till some days after.

During the months of January and February, we were digging the

canal and fighting off the water of the Mississippi, which

continued to rise and threatened to drown us. We had no sure place

of refuge except the narrow levee, and such steamboats as remained

abreast of our camps. My two divisions furnished alternately a

detail of five hundred men a day, to work on the canal. So high

was the water in the beginning of March, that McClernand's corps

was moved to higher ground, at Milliken's Bend, but I remained at

Young's plantation, laid off a due proportion of the levee for each

subdivision of my command, and assigned other parts to such

steamboats as lay at the levee. My own headquarters were in Mrs.

Grove's house, which had the water all around it, and could only be

reached by a plank-walk from the levee, built on posts. General

Frederick Steele commanded the first division, and General D. Smart

the second; this latter division had been reenforced by General

Hugh Ewing's brigade, which had arrived from West Virginia.

At the time of its date I received the following note from General


MILLIKEN'S BEND, March 16, 1863

General SHERMAN.

DEAR SIR: I have just returned from a reconnoissance up Steele's

Bayou, with the admiral (Porter), and five of his gunboats. With

some labor in cutting tree-tops out of the way, it will be

navigable for any class of steamers.

I want you to have your pioneer corps, or one regiment of good men

for such work, detailed, and at the landing as soon as possible.

The party will want to take with them their rations, arms, and

sufficient camp and garrison equipage for a few days. I will have

a boat at any place you may designate, as early as the men can be

there. The Eighth Missouri (being many of them boatmen) would be

excellent men for this purpose.

As soon as you give directions for these men to be in readiness,

come up and see me, and I will explain fully. The tug that takes

this is instructed to wait for you. A full supply of axes will be


Very respectfully,

U. S. GRANT, Major-General.

This letter was instantly (8 a.m.) sent to Colonel Giles A. Smith,

commanding the Eighth Missouri, with orders to prepare immediately.

He returned it at 9.15, with an answer that the regiment was all

ready. I went up to Milliken's Bend in the tug, and had a

conference with the general, resulting in these orders:


BEFORE VICKSBURG, March 16, 1863

Major-General W. T. SHERMAN, commanding Fifteenth Army Corps.

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