Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman

Text to Speech

was the adjutant of the rebel general Chalmers, who demanded the

surrender of the place. I instructed them to return and give a

negative answer, but to delay him as much as possible, so as to

give us time for preparation. I saw Anthony, Dayton, and the rebel

bearer of the flag, in conversation, and the latter turn his horse

to ride back, when I ordered Colonel McCoy to run to the station,

and get a message over the wires as quick as possible to Memphis

and Germantown, to hurry forward Corse's division. I then ordered

the train to back to the depot, and drew back the battalion of

regulars to the small earth redoubt near it. The depot-building

was of brick, and had been punctured with loop-holes. To its east,

about two hundred yards, was a small square earthwork or fort, into

which were put a part of the regulars along with the company of the

Sixty-sixth Indiana already there. The rest of the men were

distributed into the railroad-cut, and in some shallow rifle-

trenches near the depot. We had hardly made these preparations

when the enemy was seen forming in a long line on the ridge to the

south, about four hundred yards off, and soon after two parties of

cavalry passed the railroad on both sides of us, cutting the wires

and tearing up some rails. Soon they opened on us with artillery

(of which we had none), and their men were dismounting and

preparing to assault. To the south of us was an extensive

cornfield, with the corn still standing, and on the other side was

the town of Colliersville. All the houses near, that could give

shelter to the enemy, were ordered to be set on fire, and the men

were instructed to keep well under cover and to reserve their fire

for the assault, which seemed inevitable. A long line of rebel

skirmishers came down through the cornfield, and two other parties

approached us along the railroad on both sides. In the fort was a

small magazine containing some cartridges. Lieutenant James, a

fine, gallant fellow, who was ordnance-officer on my staff, asked

leave to arm the orderlies and clerks with some muskets which he

had found in the depot, to which I consented; he marched them into

the magazine, issued cartridges, and marched back to the depot to

assist in its defense. Afterward he came to me, said a party of

the enemy had got into the woods near the depot, and was annoying

him, and he wanted to charge and drive it away. I advised him to

be extremely cautious, as our enemy vastly outnumbered us, and had

every advantage in position and artillery; but instructed him, if

they got too near, he might make a sally. Soon after, I heard a

rapid fire in that quarter, and Lieutenant. James was brought in

on a stretcher, with a ball through his breast, which I supposed to

be fatal.

[After the fight we sent him back to Memphis, where his mother and

father came from their home on the North River to nurse him. Young

James was recovering from his wound, but was afterward killed by a

fall from his borse, near his home, when riding with the daughters

of Mr. Hamilton Fish, now Secretary of State.]

The enemy closed down on us several times, and got possession of

the rear of our train, from which they succeeded in getting five of

our horses, among them my favorite mare Dolly; but our men were

cool and practised shots (with great experience acquired at

Vicksburg), and drove them back. With their artillery they knocked

to pieces our locomotive and several of the cars, and set fire to

the train; but we managed to get possession again, and extinguished

the fire. Colonel Audenreid, aide-de-camp, was provoked to find

that his valise of nice shirts had been used to kindle the fire. '

The fighting continued all round us for three or four hours, when

we observed signs of drawing off, which I attributed to the

rightful cause, the rapid approach of Corse's division, which

arrived about dark, having marched the whole distance from Memphis,

twenty-six miles, on the double-quick. The next day we repaired

damages to the railroad and locomotive, and went on to Corinth.

At Corinth, on the 16th, I received the following important


MEMPHIS, October 14, 1863--11 a.m.

Arrived this morning. Will be off in a few hours. My orders are

only to go to Cairo, and report from there by telegraph. McPherson

will be in Canton to-day. He will remain there until Sunday or

Monday next, and reconnoitre as far eastward as possible with

cavalry, in the mean time.

U. S. GRANT, Major-General.

WASHINGTON, October 14, 1863--1 p.m.

Major-General W. T. SHERMAN, Corinth

Yours of the 10th is received. The important matter to be attended

to is that of supplies. When Eastport can be reached by boats, the

use of the railroad can be dispensed with; but until that time it

must be guarded as far as need. The Kentucky Railroad can barely

supply General Rosecrans. All these matters must be left to your

judgment as circumstances may arise. Should the enemy be so strong

as to prevent your going to Athena, or connecting with General

Rosecrans, you will nevertheless have assisted him greatly by

drawing away a part of the enemy's forces.

H. W. HALLECK, Major-General.

On the 18th, with my staff and a small escort, I rode forward to

Burnsville, and on the 19th to Iuka, where, on the next day, I was

most agreeably surprised to hear of the arrival at Eastport (only

ten miles off) of two gunboats, under the command of Captain

Phelps, which had been sent up the Tennessee River by Admiral

Porter, to help us.

Satisfied that, to reach Athens and to communicate with General

Rosecrans, we should have to take the route north of the Tennessee

River, on the 24th I ordered the Fourth Division to cross at

Eastport with the aid of the gunboats, and to move to Florence.

About the same time, I received the general orders assigning

General Grant to command the Military Division of the Mississippi,

authorizing him, on reaching Chattanooga, to supersede General

Rosecrans by General George H. Thomas, with other and complete

authority, as set, forth in the following letters of General

Halleck, which were sent to me by General Grant; and the same

orders devolved on me the command of the Department and Army of the



WASHINGTON, D.C., October 16, 1863

Major-General U. S. GRANT, Louisville.

GENERAL: You will receive herewith the orders of the President of

the United States, placing you in command of the Departments of the

Ohio, Cumberland, and Tennessee. The organization of these

departments will be changed as you may deem most practicable. You

will immediately proceed to Chattanooga, and relieve General

Rosecrans. You can communicate with Generals Burnside and Sherman

by telegraph. A summary of the orders sent to these officers will

be sent to you immediately. It is left optional with you to

supersede General Rosecrans by General G. H. Thomas or not. Any

other changes will be made on your request by telegram.

One of the first objects requiring your attention is the supply of

your armies. Another is the security of the passes in the Georgia

mountains, to shut out the enemy from Tennessee and Kentucky. You

will consult with General Meigs and Colonel Scott in regard to

transportation and supplies.

Should circumstances permit, I will visit you personally in a few

days for consultation.

H. W. HALLECK, General-in-Chief.


WASHINGTON, D. C., October 20, 1868.

Major-General GRANT, Louisville.

GENERAL: In compliance with my promise, I now proceed to give you

a brief statement of the objects aimed at by General Rosecrans and

General Burnside's movement into East Tennessee, and of the

measures directed to be taken to attain these objects.

It has been the constant desire of the government, from the

beginning of the war, to rescue the loyal inhabitants of East

Tennessee from the hands of the rebels, who fully appreciated the

importance of continuing their hold upon that country. In addition

to the large amount of agricultural products drawn from the upper

valley of the Tennessee, they also obtained iron and other

materials from the vicinity of Chattanooga. The possession of East

Tennessee would cut off one of their most important railroad

communications, and threaten their manufactories at Rome, Atlanta,


When General Buell was ordered into East Tennessee in the summer of

1882, Chattanooga was comparatively unprotected; but Bragg reached

there before Buell, and, by threatening his communications, forced

him to retreat on Nashville and Louisville. Again, after the

battle of Perryville, General Buell was urged to pursue Bragg's

defeated army, and drive it from East Tennessee. The same was

urged upon his successor, but the lateness of the season or other

causes prevented further operations after the battle of Stone


Last spring, when your movements on the Mississippi River had drawn

out of Tennessee a large force of the enemy, I again urged General

Rosecrans to take advantage of that opportunity to carry out his

projected plan of campaign, General Burnside being ready to

cooperate, with a diminished but still efficient force. But he

could not be persuaded to act in time, preferring to lie still till

your campaign should be terminated. I represented to him, but

without avail, that by this delay Johnston might be able to

reenforce Bragg with the troops then operating against you.

When General Rosecrans finally determined to advance, he was

allowed to select his own lines and plans for carrying out the

objects of the expedition. He was directed, however, to report his

movements daily, till he crossed the Tennessee, and to connect his

left, so far as possible, with General Burnside's right. General

Burnside was directed to move simultaneously, connecting his right,

as far as possible, with General Roaecrans's left so that, if the

enemy concentrated upon either army, the other could move to its

assistance. When General Burnside reached Kingston and Knoxville,

and found no considerable number of the enemy in East Tennessee, he

was instructed to move down the river and cooperate with General


These instructions were repeated some fifteen times, but were not

carried out, General Burnside alleging as an excuse that he

believed that Bragg was in retreat, and that General Rosecrans

needed no reenforcements. When the latter had gained possession of

Chattanooga he was directed not to move on Rome as he proposed, but

simply to hold the mountain-passes, so as to prevent the ingress of

the rebels into East Tennessee. That object accomplished, I

considered the campaign as ended, at least for the present. Future

operations would depend upon the ascertained strength and;

movements of the enemy. In other words, the main objects of the

campaign were the restoration of East Tennessee to the Union, and

by holding the two extremities of the valley to secure it from

rebel invasion.

The moment I received reliable information of the departure of

Longstreet's corps from the Army of the Potomac, I ordered forward

to General Rosecrans every available man in the Department of the

Ohio, and again urged General Burnside to move to his assistance.

I also telegraphed to Generals Hurlbut, Sherman, and yourself, to

send forward all available troops in your department. If these

forces had been sent to General Roseerans by Nashville, they could

not have been supplied; I therefore directed them to move by

Corinth and the Tennessee River. The necessity of this has been

proved by the fact that the reinforcements sent to him from the

Army of the Potomac have not been able, for the want of railroad

transportation, to reach General Rosecrans's army in the field.

In regard to the relative strength of the opposing armies, it is

believed that General Rosecrans when he first moved against Bragg

had double, if not treble, his force. General Burnside, also, had

more than double the force of Buckner; and, even when Bragg and

Buckner united, Rosecrans's army was very greatly superior in

number. Even the eighteen thousand men sent from Virginia, under

Longstreet, would not have given the enemy the superiority. It is

now ascertained that the greater part of the prisoners parolled by

you at Vicksburg, and General Banks at Port Hudson, were illegally

and improperly declared exchanged, and forced into the ranks to

swell the rebel numbers at Chickamauga. This outrageous act, in

violation of the laws of war, of the cartel entered into by the

rebel authorities, and of all sense of honor, gives us a useful

lesson in regard to the character of the enemy with whom we are

contending. He neither regards the rules of civilized warfare, nor

even his most solemn engagements. You may, therefore, expect to

meet in arms thousands of unexchanged prisoners released by you and

others on parole, not to serve again till duly exchanged.

Although the enemy by this disgraceful means has been able to

concentrate in Georgia and Alabama a much larger force than we

anticipated, your armies will be abundantly able to defeat him.

Your difficulty will not be in the want of men, but in the means of

supplying them at this season of the year. A single-track railroad

can supply an army of sixty or seventy thousand men, with the usual

number of cavalry and artillery; but beyond that number, or with a

large mounted force, the difficulty of supply is very great.

I do not know the present condition of the road from Nashville to

Decatur, but, if practicable to repair it, the use of that triangle

will be of great assistance to you. I hope, also, that the recent

rise of water in the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers will enable

you to employ water transportation to Nashville, Eastport, or


If you reoccupy the passes of Lookout Mountain, which should never

have been given up, you will be able to use the railroad and river

from Bridgeport to Chattanooga. This seems to me a matter of vital

importance, and should receive your early attention.

I submit this summary in the hope that it will assist you in fully

understanding the objects of the campaign, and the means of

attaining these objects. Probably the Secretary of War, in his

interviews with you at Louisville, has gone over the same ground.

Whatever measures you may deem proper to adopt under existing

circumstances, you will receive all possible assistance from the

authorities at Washington. You have never, heretofore, complained

that such assistance has not been afforded you in your operations,

and I think you will have no cause of complaint in your present

campaign. Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

H. W. HALLECK, General-in-Chief

General Frank P. Blair, who was then ahead with the two divisions

of Osterhaus and John E. Smith, was temporarily assigned to the

command of the Fifteenth Corps. General Hurlbut remained at

Memphis in command of the Sixteenth Corps, and General McPherson at

Vicksburg with the Seventeenth. These three corps made up the Army

of the Tennessee. I was still busy in pushing forward the repairs

to the rail roadbridge at Bear Creek, and in patching up the many

breaks between it and Tuscumbia, when on the 27th of October, as I

sat on the porch of a house, I was approached by a dirty, black-

haired individual with mixed dress and strange demeanor, who

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