Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman

Text to Speech

inquired for me, and, on being assured that I was in fact the man,

he handed me a letter from General Blair at Tuscumbia, and another

short one, which was a telegraph-message from General Grant at

Chattanooga, addressed to me through General George Crook,

commanding at Huntsville, Alabama, to this effect:

Drop all work on Memphis & Charleston Railroad, cross the Tennessee

and hurry eastward with all possible dispatch toward Bridgeport,

till you meet further orders from me.


The bearer of this message was Corporal Pike, who described to me,

in his peculiar way, that General Crook had sent him in a canoe;

that he had paddled down the Tennessee River, over Muscle Shoals,

was fired at all the way by guerrillas, but on reaching Tuscumbia

he had providentially found it in possession of our troops. He had

reported to General Blair, who sent him on to me at Iuka. This

Pike proved to be a singular character; his manner attracted my

notice at once, and I got him a horse, and had him travel with us

eastward to about Elkton, whence I sent him back to General Crook

at Huntsville; but told him, if I could ever do him a personal

service, he might apply to me. The next spring when I was in

Chattanooga, preparing for the Atlanta campaign, Corporal Pike made

his appearance and asked a fulfillment of my promise. I inquired

what he wanted, and he said he wanted to do something bold,

something that would make him a hero. I explained to him, that we

were getting ready to go for Joe Johnston at Dalton, that I

expected to be in the neighborhood of Atlanta about the 4th of

July, and wanted the bridge across the Savannah River at Augusta,

Georgia, to be burnt about that time, to produce alarm and

confusion behind the rebel army. I explained to Pike that the

chances were three to one that he would be caught and hanged; but

the greater the danger the greater seemed to be his desire to

attempt it. I told him to select a companion, to disguise himself

as an East Tennessee refugee, work his way over the mountains into

North Carolina, and at the time appointed to float down the

Savannah River and burn that bridge. In a few days he had made his

preparations and took his departure. The bridge was not burnt, and

I supposed that Pike had been caught and hanged.

When we reached Columbia, South Carolina, in February, 1865, just

as we were leaving the town, in passing near the asylum, I heard my

name called, and saw a very dirty fellow followed by a file of men

running toward me, and as they got near I recognized Pike. He

called to me to identify him as one of my men; he was then a

prisoner under guard, and I instructed the guard to bring him that

night to my camp some fifteen miles up the road, which was done.

Pike gave me a graphic narrative of his adventures, which would

have filled a volume; told me how he had made two attempts to burn

the bridge, and failed; and said that at the time of our entering

Columbia he was a prisoner in the hands of the rebels, under trial

for his life, but in the confusion of their retreat he made his

escape and got into our lines, where he was again made a prisoner

by our troops because of his looks. Pike got some clothes, cleaned

up, and I used him afterward to communicate with Wilmington, North

Carolina. Some time after the war, he was appointed a lieutenant

of the Regular, Cavalry, and was killed in Oregon, by the

accidental discharge of a pistol. Just before his death he wrote

me, saying that he was tired of the monotony of garrison-life, and

wanted to turn Indian, join the Cheyennes on the Plains, who were

then giving us great trouble, and, after he had gained their

confidence, he would betray them into our hands. Of course I wrote

him that he must try and settle down and become a gentleman as well

as an officer, apply himself to his duties, and forget the wild

desires of his nature, which were well enough in time of war, but

not suited to his new condition as an officer; but, poor fellow I

he was killed by an accident, which probably saved him from a

slower but harder fate.

At Iuka I issued all the orders to McPherson and Hurlbut necessary

for the Department of the Tennessee during my absence, and,

further, ordered the collection of a force out of the Sixteenth

Corps, of about eight thousand men, to be commanded by General G.

M. Dodge, with orders to follow as far east as Athens, Tennessee,

there to await instructions. We instantly discontinued all

attempts to repair the Charleston Railroad; and the remaining three

divisions of the Fifteenth Corps marched to Eastport, crossed the

Tennessee River by the aid of the gunboats, a ferry-boat, and a

couple of transports which had come up, and hurried eastward.

In person I crossed on the 1st of November, and rode forward to

Florence, where I overtook Ewing's division. The other divisions

followed rapidly. On the road to Florence I was accompanied by my

staff, some clerks, and mounted orderlies. Major Ezra Taylor was

chief of artillery, and one of his sons was a clerk at head-

quarters. The latter seems to have dropped out of the column, and

gone to a farm house near the road. There was no organized force

of the rebel army north of the Tennessee River, but the country was

full of guerrillas. A party of these pounced down on the farm,

caught young Taylor and another of the clerks, and after reaching

Florence, Major Taylor heard of the capture of his son, and learned

that when last seen he was stripped of his hat and coat, was tied

to the tail-board of a wagon, and driven rapidly to the north of

the road we had traveled. The major appealed to me to do something

for his rescue. I had no cavalry to send in pursuit, but knowing

that there was always an understanding between these guerrillas and

their friends who staid at home, I sent for three or four of the

principal men of Florence (among them a Mr. Foster, who had once

been a Senator in Congress), explained to them the capture of young

Taylor and his comrade, and demanded their immediate restoration.

They, of course, remonstrated, denied all knowledge of the acts of

these guerrillas, and claimed to be peaceful citizens of Alabama,

residing at home. I insisted that these guerrillas were their own

sons and neighbors; that they knew their haunts, and could reach

them if they wanted, and they could effect the restoration to us of

these men; and I said, moreover, they must do it within twenty-four

hours, or I would take them, strip them of their hats and coats,

and tie them to the tail-boards of our wagons till they were

produced. They sent off messengers at once, and young Taylor and

his comrade were brought back the next day.

Resuming our march eastward by the large road, we soon reached Elk

River, which was wide and deep, and could only be crossed by a

ferry, a process entirely too slow for the occasion; so I changed

the route more by the north, to Elkton, Winchester, and Deckerd.

At this point we came in communication with the Army of the

Cumberland, and by telegraph with General Grant, who was at

Chattanooga. He reiterated his orders for me and my command to

hurry forward with all possible dispatch, and in person I reached

Bridgeport during the night of November 13th, my troops following

behind by several roads. At Bridgeport I found a garrison guarding

the railroad-bridge and pontoon bridge there, and staid with the

quartermaster, Colonel William G. Le Due (who was my school-mate at

How's School in 1836). There I received a dispatch from General

Grant, at Chattanooga, to come up in person, leaving my troops to

follow as fast as possible. At that time there were two or three

small steamboats on the river, engaged in carrying stores up as far

as Kelly's Ferry. In one of these I took passage, and on reaching

Kelly's Ferry found orderlies, with one of General Grant's private

horses, waiting for me, on which I rode into Chattanooga, November

14th. Of course, I was heartily welcomed by Generals Grant,

Thomas, and all, who realized the extraordinary efforts we had made

to come to their relief. The next morning we walked out to Fort

Wood, a prominent salient of the defenses of the place, and from

its parapet we had a magnificent view of the panorama. Lookout

Mountain, with its rebel flags and batteries, stood out boldly, and

an occasional shot fired toward Wauhatchee or Moccasin Point gave

life to the scene. These shots could barely reach Chattanooga, and

I was told that one or more shot had struck a hospital inside the

lines. All along Missionary Ridge were the tents of the rebel

beleaguering force; the lines of trench from Lookout up toward the

Chickamauga were plainly visible; and rebel sentinels, in a

continuous chain, were walking their posts in plain view, not a

thousand yards off. "Why," said I, "General Grant, you are

besieged;" and he said, "It is too true." Up to that moment I had

no idea that things were so bad. The rebel lines actually extended

from the river, below the town, to the river above, and the Army of

the Cumberland was closely held to the town and its immediate

defenses. General Grant pointed out to me a house on Missionary

Ridge, where General Bragg's headquarters were known to be. He

also explained the situation of affairs generally; that the mules

and horses of Thomas's army were so starved that they could not

haul his guns; that forage, corn, and provisions, were so scarce

that the men in hunger stole the few grains of corn that were given

to favorite horses; that the men of Thomas's army had been so

demoralized by the battle of Chickamauga that he feared they could

not be got out of their trenches to assume the offensive; that

Bragg had detached Longstreet with a considerable force up into

East Tennessee, to defeat and capture Burnside; that Burnside was

in danger, etc.; and that he (Grant) was extremely anxious to

attack Bragg in position, to defeat him, or at least to force him

to recall Longstreet. The Army of the Cumberland had so long been

in the trenches that he wanted my troops to hurry up, to take the

offensive first; after which, he had no doubt the Cumberland army

would fight well. Meantime the Eleventh and Twelfth Corps, under

General Hooker, had been advanced from Bridgeport along the

railroad to Wauhatchee, but could not as yet pass Lookout Mountain.

A pontoon-bridge had been thrown across the Tennessee River at

Brown's Ferry, by which supplies were hauled into Chattanooga from

Kelly's and Wauhatchee..

Another bridge was in course of construction at Chattanooga, under

the immediate direction of Quartermaster-General Meigs, but at the

time all wagons, etc., had to be ferried across by a flying-bridge.

Men were busy and hard at work everywhere inside our lines, and

boats for another pontoon-bridge were being rapidly constructed

under Brigadier-General W. F. Smith, familiarly known as "Baldy

Smith," and this bridge was destined to be used by my troops, at a

point of the river about four miles above Chattanooga, just below

the mouth of the Chickamauga River. General Grant explained to me

that he had reconnoitred the rebel line from Lookout Mountain up to

Chickamauga, and he believed that the northern portion of

Missionary Ridge was not fortified at all; and he wanted me, as

soon as my troops got up, to lay the new pontoon-bridge by night,

cross over, and attack Bragg's right flank on that part of the

ridge abutting on Chickamauga Creek, near the tunnel; and he

proposed that we should go at once to look at the ground. In

company with Generals Thomas, W. F. Smith, Brannan, and others, we

crossed by the flying-bridge, rode back of the hills some four

miles, left our horses, and got on a hill overlooking the whole

ground about the mouth of the Chickamauga River, and across to the

Missionary Hills near the tunnel. Smith and I crept down behind a

fringe of trees that lined the river-bank, to the very point

selected for the new bridge, where we sat for some time, seeing the

rebel pickets on the opposite bank, and almost hearing their words.

Having seen enough, we returned to Chattanooga; and in order to

hurry up my command, on which so much depended, I started back to

Kelly's in hopes to catch the steamboat that same evening; but on

my arrival the boat had gone. I applied to the commanding officer,

got a rough boat manned by four soldiers, and started down the

river by night. I occasionally took a turn at the oars to relieve

some tired man, and about midnight we reached Shell Mound, where

General Whittaker, of Kentucky, furnished us a new and good crew,

with which we reached Bridgeport by daylight. I started Ewings

division in advance, with orders to turn aside toward Trenton, to

make the enemy believe we were going to turn Braggs left by pretty

much the same road Rosecrans had followed; but with the other three

divisions I followed the main road, via the Big Trestle at

Whitesides, and reached General Hooker's headquarters, just above

Wauhatchee, on the 20th; my troops strung all the way back to

Bridgeport. It was on this occasion that the Fifteenth Corps

gained its peculiar badge: as the men were trudging along the

deeply-cut, muddy road, of a cold, drizzly day, one of our Western

soldiers left his ranks and joined a party of the Twelfth Corps at

their camp-fire. They got into conversation, the Twelfth-Corps men

asking what troops we were, etc., etc. In turn, our fellow (who

had never seen a corps-badge, and noticed that every thing was

marked with a star) asked if they were all brigadier-generals. Of

course they were not, but the star was their corps-badge, and every

wagon, tent, hat, etc., had its star. Then the Twelfth-Corps men

inquired what corps he belonged to, and he answered, "The Fifteenth

Corps." "What is your badge?" "Why," said he (and he was an

Irishman), suiting the action to the word, "forty rounds in the

cartridge-box, and twenty in the pocket." At that time Blair

commanded the corps; but Logan succeeded soon after, and, hearing

the story, adopted the cartridge-box and forty rounds as the corps-


The condition of the roads was such, and the bridge at Brown's so

frail, that it was not until the 23d that we got three of my

divisions behind the hills near the point indicated above

Chattanooga for crossing the river. It was determined to begin the

battle with these three divisions, aided by a division of Thomas's

army, commanded by General Jeff. C. Davis, that was already near

that point. All the details of the battle of Chattanooga, so far

as I was a witness, are so fully given in my official report

herewith, that I need add nothing to it. It was a magnificent

battle in its conception, in its execution, and in its glorious

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