Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman


Text to Speech

Thirteenth Regulars, whose commanding officer, Captain Washington,

was mortally wounded, and afterward died in the hands of the enemy,

which battalion lost seventy-seven men out of the two hundred and

fifty engaged; the Eighty-third Indiana (Colonel Spooner), and the

One Hundred and Twenty seventh Illinois (Lieutenant-Colonel

Eldridge), the aggregate being about two hundred.

In the assaults of the 22d, the loss in the Fifteenth Corps was

about six hundred.

In the attack on Jackson, Mississippi, during the 11th-16th of

July, General Ord reported the loss in the Thirteenth Army Corps

seven hundred and sixty-two, of which five hundred and thirty-three

were confined to Lauman's division; General Parkes reported, in the

Ninth Corps, thirty-seven killed, two hundred and fifty-eight

wounded, and thirty-three missing: total, three hundred and

twenty-eight. In the Fifteenth Corps the loss was less; so that,

in the aggregate, the loss as reported by me at the time was less

than a thousand men, while we took that number alone of prisoners.

In General Grant's entire army before Vicksburg, composed of the

Ninth, part of the Sixteenth, and the whole of the Thirteenth;

Fifteenth, and Seventeenth Corps, the aggregate loss, as stated by

Badeau, was:

Killed: ....................... 1243

Wounded:....................... 7095

Missing: ...................... 535

Total: ........................ 8873

Whereas the Confederate loss, as stated by the same author,

Surrendered at Vicksburg .............. 32000

Captured at Champion Hills............. 3000

Captured at Big Black Bridge .......... 2000

Captured at Port Gibson................ 2000

Captured with Loring .................. 4000

Killed and wounded .................... 10000

Stragglers............................. 3000

Total.................................. 56000

Besides which, "a large amount of public property, consisting of

railroads, locomotives, cars, steamers, cotton, guns, muskets,

ammunition, etc., etc., was captured in Vicksburg."

The value of the capture of Vicksburg, however, was not measured by

the list of prisoners, guns, and small-arms, but by the fact that

its possession secured the navigation of the great central river of

the continent, bisected fatally the Southern Confederacy, and set

the armies which had been used in its conquest free for other

purposes; and it so happened that the event coincided as to time

with another great victory which crowned our arms far away, at

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. That was a defensive battle, whereas

ours was offensive in the highest acceptation of the term, and the

two, occurring at the same moment of time, should have ended the

war; but the rebel leaders were mad, and seemed determined that

their people should drink of the very lowest dregs of the cup of

war, which they themselves had prepared.

The campaign of Vicksburg, in its conception and execution,

belonged exclusively to General Grant, not only in the great whole,

but in the thousands of its details. I still retain many of his

letters and notes, all in his own handwriting, prescribing the

routes of march for divisions and detachments, specifying even the

amount of food and tools to be carried along. Many persons gave

his adjutant general, Rawlins, the credit for these things, but

they were in error; for no commanding general of an army ever gave

more of his personal attention to details, or wrote so many of his

own orders, reports, and letters, as General Grant. His success at

Vicksburg justly gave him great fame at home and abroad. The

President conferred on him the rank of major-general in the regular

army, the highest grade then existing by law; and General McPherson

and I shared in his success by receiving similar commissions as

brigadier-generals in the regular army.

But our success at Vicksburg produced other results not so

favorable to our cause--a general relaxation of effort, and desire

to escape the hard drudgery of camp: officers sought leaves of

absence to visit their homes, and soldiers obtained furloughs and

discharges on the most slender pretexts; even the General

Government seemed to relax in its efforts to replenish our ranks

with new men, or to enforce the draft, and the politicians were

pressing their schemes to reorganize or patch up some form of civil

government, as fast as the armies gained partial possession of the

States.

In order to illustrate this peculiar phase of our civil war, I give

at this place copies of certain letters which have not heretofore

been published:

[Private.]

WASHINGTON, Augustt 29, 1868.

Major-General W. T. SHERMAN, Vicksburg, Mississippi

My DEAR GENERAL: The question of reconstruction in Louisiana,

Mississippi, and Arkansas, will soon come up for decision of the

Government, and not only the length of the war, but our ultimate

and complete success, will depend upon its decision. It is a

difficult matter, but I believe it can be successfully solved, if

the President will consult opinions of cool and discreet men, who

are capable of looking at it in all its bearings and effects. I

think he is disposed to receive the advice of our generals who have

been in these States, and know much more of their condition than

gassy politicians in Congress. General Banks has written pretty

fully, on the subject. I wrote to General Grant, immediately,

after the fall of Vicksburg, for his views in regard to

Mississippi, but he has not yet answered.

I wish you would consult with Grant, McPherson, and others of cool,

good judgment, and write me your views fully, as I may wish to use

them with the President. You had better write me unofficially, and

then your letter will not be put on file, and cannot hereafter be

used against you. You have been in Washington enough to know how

every thing a man writes or says is picked up by his enemies and

misconstrued. With kind wishes for your further success,

I am yours truly,

H. W. HALLECK

[Private and Confidential.]

HEADQUARTERS, FIFTEENTH ARMY CORPS,

CAMP ON BIG BLACK, MISSISSIPPI, September 17 1863

H. W. HALLECK, Commander-in-Chief, Washington, D. C.

DEAR GENERAL: I have received your letter of August 29th, and with

pleasure confide to you fully my thoughts on the important matters

you suggest, with absolute confidence that you will use what is

valuable, and reject the useless or superfluous.

That part of the continent of North America known as Louisiana,

Mississippi, and Arkansas, is in my judgment the key to the whole

interior. The valley of the Mississippi is America, and, although

railroads have changed the economy of intercommunication, yet the

water-channels still mark the lines of fertile land, and afford

cheap carriage to the heavy products of it.

The inhabitants of the country on the Monongahela, the Illinois,

the Minnesota, the Yellowstone, and Osage, are as directly

concerned in the security of the Lower Mississippi as are those who

dwell on its very banks in Louisiana; and now that the nation has

recovered its possession, this generation of men will make a

fearful mistake if they again commit its charge to a people liable

to misuse their position, and assert, as was recently done, that,

because they dwelt on the banks of this mighty stream, they had a

right to control its navigation.

I would deem it very unwise at this time, or for years to come, to

revive the State governments of Louisiana, etc., or to institute in

this quarter any civil government in which the local people have

much to say. They had a government so mild and paternal that they

gradually forgot they had any at all, save what they themselves

controlled; they asserted an absolute right to seize public moneys,

forts, arms, and even to shut up the natural avenues of travel and

commerce. They chose war--they ignored and denied all the

obligations of the solemn contract of government and appealed to

force.

We accepted the issue, and now they begin to realize that war is a

two-edged sword, and it may be that many of the inhabitants cry for

peace. I know them well, and the very impulses of their nature;

and to deal with the inhabitants of that part of the South which

borders on the great river, we must recognize the classes into

which they have divided themselves

First. The large planters, owning lands, slaves, and all kinds of

personal property. These are, on the whole, the ruling class.

They are educated, wealthy, and easily approached. In some

districts they are bitter as gall, and have given up slaves,

plantations, and all, serving in the armies of the Confederacy;

whereas, in others, they are conservative. None dare admit a

friendship for us, though they say freely that they were at the

outset opposed to war and disunion. I know we can manage this

class, but only by action. Argument is exhausted, and words have

lost their usual meaning. Nothing but the logic of events touches

their understanding; but, of late, this has worked a wonderful

change. If our country were like Europe, crowded with people, I

would say it would be easier to replace this class than to

reconstruct it, subordinate to the policy of the nation; but, as

this is not the case, it is better to allow the planters, with

individual exceptions, gradually to recover their plantations, to

hire any species of labor, and to adapt themselves to the new order

of things. Still, their friendship and assistance to reconstruct

order out of the present ruin cannot be depended on. They watch

the operations of our armies, and hope still for a Southern

Confederacy that will restore to them the slaves and privileges

which they feel are otherwise lost forever. In my judgment, we

have two more battles to win before we should even bother our minds

with the idea of restoring civil order--viz., one near Meridian, in

November, and one near Shreveport, in February and March next, when

Red River is navigable by our gunboats. When these are done, then,

and not until then, will the planters of Louisiana, Arkansas, and

Mississippi, submit. Slavery is already gone, and, to cultivate

the land, negro or other labor must be hired. This, of itself, is

a vast revolution, and time must be afforded to allow men to adjust

their minds and habits to this new order of things. A civil

government of the representative type would suit this class far

less than a pure military role, readily adapting itself to actual

occurrences, and able to enforce its laws and orders promptly and

emphatically.

Second. The smaller farmers, mechanics, merchants, and laborers.

This class will probably number three-quarters of the whole; have,

in fact, no real interest in the establishment of a Southern

Confederacy, and have been led or driven into war on the false

theory that they were to be benefited somehow--they knew not how.

They are essentially tired of the war, and would slink back home if

they could. These are the real tiers etat of the South, and are

hardly worthy a thought; for they swerve to and fro according to

events which they do not comprehend or attempt to shape. When the

time for reconstruction comes, they will want the old political

system of caucuses, Legislatures, etc., to amuse them and make them

believe they are real sovereigns; but in all things they will

follow blindly the lead of the planters. The Southern politicians,

who understand this class, use them as the French do their masses--

seemingly consult their prejudices, while they make their orders

and enforce them. We should do the same.

Third. The Union men of the South. I must confess I have little

respect for this class. They allowed a clamorous set of demagogues

to muzzle and drive them as a pack of curs. Afraid of shadows,

they submit tamely to squads of dragoons, and permit them, without

a murmur, to burn their cotton, take their horses, corn, and every

thing; and, when we reach them, they are full of complaints if our

men take a few fence-rails for fire, or corn to feed our horses.

They give us no assistance or information, and are loudest in their

complaints at the smallest excesses of our soldiers. Their sons,

horses, arms, and every thing useful, are in the army against us,

and they stay at home, claiming all the exemptions of peaceful

citizens. I account them as nothing in this great game of war.

Fourth. The young bloods of the South: sons of planters, lawyers

about towns, good billiard-players and sportsmen, men who never did

work and never will. War suits them, and the rascals are brave,

fine riders, bold to rashness, and dangerous subjects in every

sense. They care not a sou for niggers, land, or any thing. They

hate Yankees per se, and don't bother their brains about the past,

present, or future. As long as they have good horses, plenty of

forage, and an open country, they are happy. This is a larger

class than most men suppose, and they are the most dangerous set of

men that this war has turned loose upon the world. They are

splendid riders, first-rate shots, and utterly reckless. Stewart,

John Morgan, Forrest, and Jackson, are the types and leaders of

this class. These men must all be killed or employed by us before

we can hope for peace. They have no property or future, and

therefore cannot be influenced by any thing, except personal

considerations. I have two brigades of these fellows in my front,

commanded by Cosby, of the old army, and Whitfield, of Texas.

Stephen D. Lee is in command of the whole. I have frequent

interviews with their officers, a good understanding with them, and

am inclined to think, when the resources of their country are

exhausted, we must employ them. They are the best cavalry in the

world, but it will tax Mr. Chase's genius for finance to supply

them with horses. At present horses cost them nothing; for they

take where they find, and don't bother their brains as to who is to

pay for them; the same may be said of the cornfields, which have,

as they believe, been cultivated by a good-natured people for their

special benefit. We propose to share with them the free use of

these cornfields, planted by willing hands, that will never gather

the crops.

Now that I have sketched the people who inhabit the district of

country under consideration, I will proceed to discuss the future.

A civil government now, for any part of it, would be simply

ridiculous. The people would not regard it, and even the military

commanders of the antagonistic parties would treat it lightly.

Governors would be simply petitioners for military assistance, to

protect supposed friendly interests, and military commanders would

refuse to disperse and weaken their armies for military reasons.

Jealousies would arise between the two conflicting powers, and,

instead of contributing to the end of the war, would actually defer

it. Therefore, I contend that the interests of the United States,

and of the real parties concerned, demand the continuance of the

simple military role, till after all the organized armies of the

South are dispersed, conquered, and subjugated.

The people of all this region are represented in the Army of

Virginia, at Charleston, Mobile, and Chattanooga. They have sons

and relations in each of the rebel armies, and naturally are

interested in their fate. Though we hold military possession of

the key-points of their country, still they contend, and naturally,

that should Lee succeed in Virginia, or Bragg at Chattanooga, a

change will occur here also. We cannot for this reason attempt to

reconstruct parts of the South as we conquer it, till all idea of

the establishment of a Southern Confederacy is abandoned. We

should avail ourselves of the present lull to secure the

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