Ford. My own headquarters were in tents in a fine grove of old
oaks near Parson Fox's house, and the battalion of the Thirteenth
Regulars was the headquarters guard.
All the camps were arranged for health, comfort, rest, and drill.
It being midsummer, we did not expect any change till the autumn
months, and accordingly made ourselves as comfortable as possible.
There was a short railroad in operation from Vicksburg to the
bridge across the Big Black, whence supplies in abundance were
hauled to our respective camps. With a knowledge of this fact Mrs.
Sherman came down from Ohio with Minnie, Lizzie, Willie, and Tom,
to pay us a visit in our camp at Parson Fog's. Willie was then
nine years old, was well advanced for his years, and took the most
intense interest in the affairs of the army. He was a great
favorite with the soldiers, and used to ride with me on horseback
in the numerous drills and reviews of the time. He then had the
promise of as long a life as any of my children, and displayed more
interest in the war than any of them. He was called a "sergeant"
in the regular battalion, learned the manual of arms, and regularly
attended the parade and guard-mounting of the Thirteenth, back of
my camp. We made frequent visits to Vicksburg, and always stopped
with General McPherson, who had a large house, and boarded with a
family (Mrs. Edwards's) in which were several interesting young
ladies. General Grant occupied another house (Mrs. Lum's) in
Vicksburg during that summer, and also had his family with him.
The time passed very agreeably, diversified only by little events
of not much significance, among which I will recount only one.
While, we occupied the west bank of the Big Black, the east bank
was watched by a rebel cavalry-division, commanded by General
Armstrong. He had four brigades, commanded by Generals Whitfield,
Stark, Cosby, and Wirt Adams. Quite frequently they communicated
with us by flags of truce on trivial matters, and we reciprocated;
merely to observe them. One day a flag of truce, borne by a
Captain B...., of Louisville, Kentucky, escorted by about
twenty-five men, was reported at Messinger's Ferry, and I sent
orders to let them come right into my tent. This brought them
through the camps of the Fourth Division, and part of the Second;
and as they drew up in front of my tent, I invited Captain B....
and another officer with him (a major from Mobile) to dismount, to
enter my tent, and to make themselves at home. Their escort was
sent to join mine, with orders to furnish them forage and every
thing they wanted. B.... had brought a sealed letter for General
Grant at Vicksburg, which was dispatched to him. In the evening we
had a good supper, with wine and cigars, and, as we sat talking,
B.... spoke of his father and mother, in Louisville, got leave to
write them a long letter without its being read by any one, and
then we talked about the war. He said: "What is the use of your
persevering? It is simply impossible to subdue eight millions of
people;" asserting that "the feeling in the South had become so
embittered that a reconciliation was impossible." I answered that,
"sitting as we then were, we appeared very comfortable, and surely
there was no trouble in our becoming friends." "Yes," said he,
"that is very true of us, but we are gentlemen of education, and
can easily adapt ourselves to any condition of things; but this
would not apply equally well to the common people, or to the common
soldiers." I took him out to the camp-fires behind the tent, and
there were the men of his escort and mine mingled together,
drinking their coffee, and happy as soldiers always seem. I asked
B.... what he thought of that, and he admitted that I had the best
of the argument. Before I dismissed this flag of truce, his
companion consulted me confidentially as to what disposition he
ought to make of his family, then in Mobile, and I frankly gave him
the best advice I could.
While we were thus lying idle in camp on the big Black, the Army of
the Cumberland, under General Rosecrans, was moving against Bragg
at Chattanooga; and the Army of the Ohio, General Burnside, was
marching toward East Tennessee. General Rosecrans was so confident
of success that he somewhat scattered his command, seemingly to
surround and capture Bragg in Chattanooga; but the latter,
reenforced from Virginia, drew out of Chattanooga, concentrated his
army at Lafayette, and at Chickamauga fell on Rosecrans, defeated
him, and drove him into Chattanooga. The whole country seemed
paralyzed by this unhappy event; and the authorities in Washington
were thoroughly stampeded. From the East the Eleventh Corps
(Slocum), and the Twelfth Corps (Howard), were sent by rail to
Nashville, and forward under command of General Hooker; orders were
also sent to General Grant, by Halleck, to send what reenforcements
he could spare immediately toward Chattanooga.
Bragg had completely driven Rosecrans's army into Chattanooga; the
latter was in actual danger of starvation, and the railroad to his
rear seemed inadequate to his supply. The first intimation which I
got of this disaster was on the 22d of September, by an order from
General Grant to dispatch one of my divisions immediately into
Vicksburg, to go toward Chattanooga, and I designated the First,
General Osterhaus--Steele meantime having been appointed to the
command of the Department of Arkansas, and had gone to Little Rock.
General Osterhaus marched the same day, and on the 23d I was
summoned to Vicksburg in person, where General Grant showed me the
alarming dispatches from General Halleck, which had been sent from
Memphis by General Hurlbut, and said, on further thought, that he
would send me and my whole corps. But, inasmuch as one division of
McPherson's corps (John E. Smith's) had already started, he
instructed me to leave one of my divisions on the Big Black, and to
get the other two ready to follow at once. I designated the
Second, then commanded by Brigadier-General Giles A. Smith, and the
Fourth, commanded by Brigadier-General Corse.
On the 25th I returned to my camp on Big Black, gave all the
necessary orders for these divisions to move, and for the Third
(Tittle's) to remain, and went into Vicksburg with my family. The
last of my corps designed for this expedition started from camp on
the 27th, reached Vicksburg the 28th, and were embarked on boats
provided for them. General Halleck's dispatches dwelt upon the
fact that General Rosecrans's routes of supply were overtaxed, and
that we should move from Memphis eastward, repairing railroads as
we progressed, as far as Athens, Alabama, whence I was to report to
General Rosecrans, at Chattanooga, by letter.
I took passage for myself and family in the steamer Atlantic,
Captain Henry McDougall. When the boat was ready to start, Willie
was missing. Mrs. Sherman supposed him to have been with me,
whereas I supposed he was with her. An officer of the Thirteenth
went up to General McPherson's house for him, and soon returned,
with Captain Clift leading him, carrying in his hands a small
double-barreled shot gun; and I joked him about carrying away
captured property. In a short time we got off. As we all stood on
the guards to look at our old camps at Young's Point, I remarked
that Willie was not well, and he admitted that he was sick. His
mother put him to bed, and consulted Dr. Roler, of the Fifty-fifth
Illinois, who found symptoms of typhoid fever. The river was low;
we made slow progress till above Helena; and, as we approached
Memphis, Dr. Roler told me that Willie's life was in danger, and he
was extremely anxious to reach Memphis for certain medicines and
for consultation. We arrived at Memphis on the 2d of October,
carried Willie up to the Gayoso Hotel, and got the most experienced
physician there, who acted with Dr. Roler, but he sank rapidly, and
died the evening of the 3d of October. The blow was a terrible one
to us all, so sudden and so unexpected, that I could not help
reproaching myself for having consented to his visit in that sickly
region in the summer-time. Of all my children, he seemed the most
precious. Born in San Francisco, I had watched with intense
interest his development, and he seemed more than any of the
children to take an interest in my special profession. Mrs.
Sherman, Minnie, Lizzie, and Tom, were with him at the time, and we
all, helpless and overwhelmed, saw him die. Being in the very
midst of an important military enterprise, I had hardly time to
pause and think of my personal loss. We procured a metallic
casket, and had a military funeral, the battalion of the Thirteenth
United States Regulars acting as escort from the Gayoso Hotel to
the steamboat Grey Eagle, which conveyed him and my family up to
Cairo, whence they proceeded to our home at Lancaster, Ohio, where
he was buried. I here give my letter to Captain C. C. Smith, who
commanded the battalion at the time, as exhibiting our intense
GAYOSO HOUSE, MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE
October 4, 1863, Midnight
Captain C. C. SMITH, commanding Battalion Thirteenth United States
MY DEAR FRIEND: I cannot sleep to-night till I record an expression
of the deep feelings of my heart to you, and to the officers and
soldiers of the battalion, for their kind behavior to my poor
child. I realize that you all feel for my family the attachment of
kindred, and I assure you of full reciprocity. Consistent with a
sense of duty to my profession and office, I could not leave my
post, and sent for the family to come to me in that fatal climate,
and in that sickly period of the year, and behold the result! The
child that bore my name, and in whose future I reposed with more
confidence than I did in my own plan of life, now floats a mere
corpse, seeking a grave in a distant land, with a weeping mother,
brother, and sisters, clustered about him. For myself, I ask no
sympathy. On, on I must go, to meet a soldier's fate, or live to
see our country rise superior to all factions, till its flag is
adored and respected by ourselves and by all the powers of the
But Willie was, or thought he was, a sergeant in the Thirteenth. I
have seen his eye brighten, his heart beat, as he beheld the
battalion under arms, and asked me if they were not real soldiers.
Child as he was, he had the enthusiasm, the pure love of truth,
honor, and love of country, which should animate all soldiers.
God only knows why he should die thus young. He is dead, but will
not be forgotten till those who knew him in life have followed him
to that same mysterious end.
Please convey to the battalion my heart-felt thanks, and assure
each and all that if in after-years they call on me or mine, and
mention that they were of the Thirteenth Regulars when Willie was a
sergeant, they will have a key to the affections of my family that
will open all it has; that we will share with them our last
blanket, our last crust! Your friend,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-general.
Long afterward, in the spring of 1867, we had his body disinterred
and brought to St. Louis, where he is now buried in a beautiful
spot, in Calvary Cemetery, by the side of another child, "Charles,"
who was born at Lancaster, in the summer of 1864, died early, and
was buried at Notre Dame, Indiana. His body was transferred at the
same time to the same spot. Over Willie's grave is erected a
beautiful marble monument, designed and executed by the officers
and soldiers, of that battalion which claimed him as a sergeant and
During the summer and fall of 1863 Major-General S. A. Hurlbut was
in command at Memphis. He supplied me copies of all dispatches
from Washington, and all the information he possessed of the events
about Chattanooga. Two of these dispatches cover all essential
WASHINGTON CITY, September 15, 1863--5 p.m.
Major-General S. A. HURLBUT, Memphis:
All the troops that can possibly be spared in West Tennessee and on
the Mississippi River should be sent without delay to assist
General Rosecrans on the Tennessee River.
Urge Sherman to act with all possible promptness.
If you have boats, send them down to bring up his troops.
Information just received indicates that a part of Lee's army has
been sent to reenforce Bragg.
H. W. HALLECK, General-in-Chief.
Washington, September 19, 1868--4 p.m.
Major-General S. A. HURLBUT, Memphis, Tennessee:
Give me definite information of the number of troops sent toward
Decatur, and where they are. Also, what other troops are to
follow, and when.
Has any thing been heard from the troops ordered from Vicksburg?
No efforts must be spared to support Rosecrans's right, and to
guard the crossings of the Tennessee River.
H. W. HALLECK, General-in-Chief.
My special orders were to repair the Memphis & Charleston Railroad
eastward as I progressed, as far as Athens, Alabama, to draw
supplies by that route, so that, on reaching Athens, we should not
be dependent on the roads back to Nashville, already overtaxed by
the demand of Rosecrans's army.
On reaching Memphis, October 2d, I found that Osterhaus's division
had already gone by rail as far as Corinth, and than John E.
Smith's division was in the act of starting by cars. The Second
Division, then commanded by Brigadier-General Giles A. Smith,
reached Memphis at the same time with me; and the Fourth Division,
commanded by Brigadier-General John M. Corse, arrived a day or two
after. The railroad was in fair condition as far as Corinth,
ninety-six miles, but the road was badly stocked with locomotives
and cars, so that it took until the 9th to get off the Second
Division, when I gave orders for the Fourth Division and
wagon-trains to march by the common road.
On Sunday morning, October 11th, with a special train loaded with
our orderlies and clerks, the horses of our staff, the battalion of
the Thirteenth United States Regulars, and a few officers going
forward to join their commands, among them Brigadier-General Hugh
Ewing, I started for Corinth.
At Germantown, eight miles, we passed Corse's division (Fourth) on
the march, and about noon the train ran by the depot at
Colliersville, twenty-six miles out. I was in the rear car with my
staff, dozing, but observed the train slacking speed and stopping
about half a mile beyond the depot. I noticed some soldiers
running to and fro, got out at the end of the car, and soon Colonel
Anthony (Silty-sixth Indiana), who commanded the post, rode up and
said that his pickets had just been driven in, and there was an
appearance of an attack by a large force of cavalry coming from the
southeast. I ordered the men to get off the train, to form on the
knoll near the railroad-cut, and soon observed a rebel officer
riding toward us with a white flag. Colonel Anthony and Colonel
Dayton (one of my aides) were sent to meet him, and to keep him in
conversation as long as possible. They soon returned, saying it
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