Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman

Text to Speech

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



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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