Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman

Text to Speech

our advance. Shortly after, they opened fire on the gunboats from

batteries behind the cavalry and infantry. The boats not only

replied to the batteries, which they soon silenced, but poured a

destructive fire into their lines. Heavy skirmishing was also

heard in our front, supposed to be by three companies from the

Sixth and Eighth Missouri, whose position, taken the previous night

to guard the creek, was beyond the point reached by the enemy, and

consequently liable to be cut off or captured. Captain Owen, of

the Louisville, the leading boat, made every effort to go through

the obstructions and aid in the rescuing of the men. I ordered

Major Kirby, with four companies of the Sixth Missouri, forward,

with two companies deployed. He soon met General Sherman, with the

Thirteenth Infantry and One Hundred and Thirteenth Illinois,

driving the enemy before them, and opening communication along the

creek with the gunboats. Instead of our three companies referred

to as engaging the enemy, General Sherman had arrived at a very

opportune moment with the two regiments mentioned above, and the

Second Brigade. The enemy, not expecting an attack from that

quarter, after some hot skirmishing, retreated. General Sherman

immediately ordered the Thirteenth Infantry and One Hundred and

Thirteenth Illinois to pursue; but, after following their trace for

about two miles, they were recalled.

We continued our march for about two miles, when we bivouacked for

the night. Early on Monday morning (March 22d) we continued our

march, but owing to the slow progress of the gunboats did not reach

Hill's plantation until Tuesday, the 23d instant, where we remained

until the 25th; we then reembarked, and arrived at Young's Point on

Friday, the 27th instant.

Below you will find a list of casualties. Very respectfully,

Giles A. SMITH,

Colonel Eighth Missouri, commanding First Brigade.

P. S.-I forgot to state above that the Thirteenth Infantry and One

Hundred and Thirteenth Illinois being under the immediate command

of General Sherman, he can mention them as their conduct deserves.

On the 3d of April, a division of troops, commanded by Brigadier-

General J. M. Tuttle, was assigned to my corps, and was designated

the Third Division; and, on the 4th of April, Brigadier-General D.

Stuart was relieved from the command of the Second Division, to

which Major-General Frank P. Blair was appointed by an order from

General Grant's headquarters. Stuart had been with me from the

time we were at Benton Barracks, in command of the Fifty-fifth

Illinois, then of a brigade, and finally of a division; but he had

failed in seeking a confirmation by the Senate to his nomination as

brigadier-general, by reason of some old affair at Chicago, and,

having resigned his commission as colonel, he was out of service.

I esteemed him very highly, and was actually mortified that the

service should thus be deprived of so excellent and gallant an

officer. He afterward settled in New Orleans as a lawyer, and died

about 1867 or 1868.

On the 6th of April, my command, the Fifteenth Corps, was composed

of three divisions:

The First Division, commanded by Major-General Fred Steele; and his

three brigades by Colonel Manter, Colonel Charles R. Wood, and

Brigadier-General John M. Thayer.

The Second Division, commanded by Major-General Frank P. Blair; and

his three brigades by Colonel Giles A. Smith, Colonel Thomas gilby

Smith, and Brigadier-General Hugh Ewing.

The Third Division, commanded by Brigadier-General J. M. Tuttle;

and his three brigades by Brigadier-General R. P. Buckland, Colonel

J. A. Mower, and Brigadier-General John E. Smith.

My own staff then embraced: Dayton, McCoy, and Hill, aides; J. H.

Hammond, assistant adjutant-general; Sanger, inspector-general;

McFeeley, commissary; J. Condit Smith, quartermaster; Charles

McMillan, medical director; Ezra Taylor, chief of artillery;

Jno. C. Neely, ordnance-officer; Jenney and Pitzman, engineers.

By this time it had become thoroughly demonstrated that we could

not divert the main river Mississippi, or get practicable access to

the east bank of the Yazoo, in the rear of Vicksburg, by any of the

passes; and we were all in the habit of discussing the various

chances of the future. General Grant's headquarters were at

Milliken's Bend, in tents, and his army was strung along the river

all the way from Young's Point up to Lake Providence, at least

sixty miles. I had always contended that the best way to take

Vicksburg was to resume the movement which had been so well begun

the previous November, viz., for the main army to march by land

down the country inland of the Mississippi River; while the

gunboat-fleet and a minor land-force should threaten Vicksburg on

its river-front.

I reasoned that, with the large force then subject to General

Grant's orders-viz., four army corps--he could easily resume the

movement from Memphis, by way of Oxford and Grenada, to Jackson,

Mississippi, or down the ridge between the Yazoo and Big Black; but

General Grant would not, for reasons other than military, take any

course which looked like, a step backward; and he himself concluded

on the river movement below Vicksburg, so as to appear like

connecting with General Banks, who at the same time was besieging

Port Hudson from the direction of New Orleans.

Preliminary orders had already been given, looking to the digging

of a canal, to connect the river at Duckport with Willow Bayou,

back of Milliken's Bend, so as to form a channel for the conveyance

of supplies, by way of Richmond, to New Carthage; and several steam

dredge-boats had come from the upper rivers to assist in the work.

One day early in April, I was up at General Grant's headquarters,

and we talked over all these things with absolute freedom. Charles

A. Dana, Assistant Secretary of War, was there, and Wilson,

Rawlins, Frank Blair, McPherson, etc. We all knew, what was

notorious, that General McClernand was still intriguing against

General Grant, in hopes to regain the command of the whole

expedition, and that others were raising a clamor against General

Grant in the news papers at the North. Even Mr. Lincoln and

General Halleck seemed to be shaken; but at no instant of time did

we (his personal friends) slacken in our loyalty to him. One

night, after such a discussion, and believing that General

McClernand had no real plan of action shaped in his mind, I wrote

my letter of April 8, 1863, to Colonel Rawlins, which letter is

embraced in full at page 616 of Badeau's book, and which I now

reproduce here:



Colonel J. A. RAWLINS, Assistant Adjutant-General to General GRANT.

SIR: I would most respectfully suggest (for reasons which I will

not name) that General Grant call on his corps commanders for their

opinions, concise and positive, on the best general plan of a

campaign. Unless this be done, there are men who will, in any

result falling below the popular standard, claim that their advice

was unheeded, and that fatal consequence resulted therefrom. My

own opinions are:

First. That the Army of the Tennessee is now far in advance of the

other grand armies of the United States.

Second. That a corps from Missouri should forthwith be moved from

St. Louis to the vicinity of Little Rock, Arkansas; supplies

collected there while the river is full, and land communication

with Memphis opened via Des Arc on the White, and Madison on the

St. Francis River.

Third. That as much of the Yazoo Pass, Coldwater, and Tallahatchie

Rivers, as can be gained and fortified, be held, and the main army

be transported thither by land and water; that the road back to

Memphis be secured and reopened, and, as soon as the waters

subside, Grenada be attacked, and the swamp-road across to Helena

be patrolled by cavalry.

Fourth. That the line of the Yalabusha be the base from which to

operate against the points where the Mississippi Central crosses

Big Black, above Canton; and, lastly, where the Vicksburg & Jackson

Railroad crosses the same river (Big Black). The capture of

Vicksburg would result.

Fifth. That a minor force be left in this vicinity, not to exceed

ten thousand men, with only enough steamboats to float and

transport them to any desired point; this force to be held always

near enough to act with the gunboats when the main army is known to

be near Vicksburg--Haines's Bluff or Yazoo City.

Sixth. I do doubt the capacity of Willow Bayou (which I estimate

to be fifty miles long and very tortuous) as a military channel, to

supply an army large enough to operate against Jackson,

Mississippi, or the Black River Bridge; and such a channel will be

very vulnerable to a force coming from the west, which we must

expect. Yet this canal will be most useful as the way to convey

coals and supplies to a fleet that should navigate the lower reach

of the Mississippi between Vicksburg and the Red River.

Seventh. The chief reason for operating solely by water was the

season of the year and high water in the Tallahatchie and Yalabusha

Rivers. The spring is now here, and soon these streams will be no

serious obstacle, save in the ambuscades of the forest, and

whatever works the enemy may have erected at or near Grenada.

North Mississippi is too valuable for us to allow the enemy to hold

it and make crops this year.

I make these suggestions, with the request that General Grant will

read them and give them, as I know he will, a share of his

thoughts. I would prefer that he should not answer this letter,

but merely give it as much or as little weight as it deserves.

Whatever plan of action he may adopt will receive from me the same

zealous cooperation and energetic support as though conceived by

myself. I do not believe General Banks will make any serious

attack on Port Hudson this spring. I am, etc.,

W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General.

This is the letter which some critics have styled a "protest." We

never had a council of war at any time during the Vicksburg

campaign. We often met casually, regardless of rank or power, and

talked and gossiped of things in general, as officers do and

should. But my letter speaks for itself--it shows my opinions

clearly at that stage of the game, and was meant partially to

induce General Grant to call on General McClernand for a similar

expression of opinion, but, so far as I know, he did not. He went

on quietly to work out his own designs; and he has told me, since

the war, that had we possessed in December, 1862, the experience of

marching and maintaining armies without a regular base, which we

afterward acquired, he would have gone on from Oxford as first

contemplated, and would not have turned back because of the

destruction of his depot at Holly Springs by Van Dorn. The

distance from Oxford to the rear of Vicksburg is little greater

than by the circuitous route we afterward followed, from Bruinsburg

to Jackson and Vicksburg, during which we had neither depot nor

train of supplies. I have never criticised General Grant's

strategy on this or any other occasion, but I thought then that he

had lost an opportunity, which cost him and us six months' extra-

hard work, for we might have captured Vicksburg from the direction

of Oxford in January, quite as easily as was afterward done in

July, 1863.

General Grant's orders for the general movement past Vicksburg, by

Richmond and Carthage, were dated April 20, 1863. McClernand was

to lead off with his corps, McPherson next, and my corps (the

Fifteenth) to bring up the rear. Preliminary thereto, on the night

of April 16th, seven iron-clads led by Admiral Porter in person, in

the Benton, with three transports, and ten barges in tow, ran the

Vicksburg batteries by night. Anticipating a scene, I had four

yawl-boats hauled across the swamp, to the reach of the river below

Vicksburg, and manned them with soldiers, ready to pick up any of

the disabled wrecks as they floated by. I was out in the stream

when the fleet passed Vicksburg, and the scene was truly sublime.

As soon as the rebel gunners detected the Benton, which was in the

lead, they opened on her, and on the others in succession, with

shot and shell; houses on the Vicksburg side and on the opposite

shore were set on fire, which lighted up the whole river; and the

roar of cannon, the bursting of shells, and finally the burning of

the Henry Clay, drifting with the current, made up a picture of the

terrible not often seen. Each gunboat returned the fire as she

passed the town, while the transports hugged the opposite shore.

When the Benton had got abreast of us, I pulled off to her,

boarded, had a few words with Admiral Porter, and as she was

drifting rapidly toward the lower batteries at Warrenton, I left,

and pulled back toward the shore, meeting the gunboat Tuscumbia

towing the transport Forest Queen into the bank out of the range of

fire. The Forest Queen, Captain Conway, had been my flag-boat up

the Arkansas, and for some time after, and I was very friendly with

her officers. This was the only transport whose captain would not

receive volunteers as a crew, but her own officers and crew stuck

to their boat, and carried her safely below the Vicksburg

batteries, and afterward rendered splendid service in ferrying

troops across the river at Grand Gulf and Bruinsburg. In passing

Vicksburg, she was damaged in the hull and had a steam-pipe cut

away, but this was soon repaired. The Henry Clay was set on fire

by bursting shells, and burned up; one of my yawls picked up her

pilot floating on a piece of wreck, and the bulk of her crew

escaped in their own yawl-boat to the shore above. The Silver

Wave, Captain McMillan, the same that was with us up Steele's

Bayou, passed safely, and she also rendered good service afterward.

Subsequently, on the night of April 26th, six other transports with

numerous barges loaded with hay, corn, freight, and provisions,

were drifted past Vicksburg; of these the Tigress was hit, and sunk

just as she reached the river-bank below, on our side: I was there

with my yawls, and saw Colonel Lagow, of General Grant's staff, who

had passed the batteries in the Tigress, and I think he was

satisfied never to attempt such a thing again. Thus General

Grant's army had below Vicksburg an abundance of stores, and boats

with which to cross the river. The road by which the troops

marched was very bad, and it was not until the 1st of May that it

was clear for my corps. While waiting my turn to march, I received

a letter from General Grant, written at Carthage, saying that he

proposed to cross over and attack Grand Gulf, about the end of

April, and he thought I could put in my time usefully by making a

"feint" on Haines's Bluff, but he did not like to order me to do

it, because it might be reported at the North that I had again been

"repulsed, etc." Thus we had to fight a senseless clamor at the

North, as well as a determined foe and the obstacles of Nature. Of

course, I answered him that I would make the "feint," regardless of

public clamor at a distance, and I did make it most effectually;

using all the old boats I could get about Milliken's Bend and the

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