Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman

Text to Speech

results; hastened somewhat by the supposed danger of Burnside, at

Knoxville, yet so completely successful, that nothing is left for

cavil or fault-finding. The first day was lowering and overcast,

favoring us greatly, because we wanted to be concealed from Bragg,

whose position on the mountain-tops completely overlooked us and

our movements. The second day was beautifully clear, and many a

time, in the midst of its carnage and noise, I could not help

stopping to look across that vast field of battle, to admire its


The object of General Hooker's and my attacks on the extreme flanks

of Bragg's position was, to disturb him to such an extent, that

he would naturally detach from his centre as against us, so that

Thomas's army could break through his centre. The whole plan

succeeded admirably; but it was not until after dark that I learned

the complete success at the centre, and received General Grant's

orders to pursue on the north side of Chickamauga Creek:


TENNESSEE, Nov. 25, 1863

Major-General SHERMAN.

GENERAL: No doubt you witnessed the handsome manner in which

Thomas's troops carried Missionary Ridge this afternoon, and can

feel a just pride, too, in the part taken by the forces under your

command in taking first so much of the same range of hills, and

then in attracting the attention of so many of the enemy as to make

Thomas's part certain of success. The neat thing now will be to

relieve Burnside. I have heard from him to the evening of the 23d.

At that time he had from ten to twelve days' supplies, and spoke

hopefully of being able to hold out that length of time.

My plan is to move your forces out gradually until they reach the

railroad between Cleveland and Dalton. Granger will move up the

south side of the Tennessee with a column of twenty thousand men,

taking no wagons, or but few, with him. His men will carry four

days' rations, and the steamer Chattanooga, loaded with rations,

will accompany the expedition.

I take it for granted that Bragg's entire force has left. If not,

of course, the first thing is to dispose of him. If he has gone,

the only thing necessary to do to-morrow will be to send out a

reconnoissance to ascertain the whereabouts of the enemy. Yours


U. S. GRANT, Major-General.

P. S.-On reflection, I think we will push Bragg with all our

strength to-morrow, and try if we cannot out off a good portion of

his rear troops and trains. His men have manifested a strong

disposition to desert for some time past, and we will now give them

a chance. I will instruct Thomas accordingly. Move the advance

force early, on the most easterly road taken by the enemy.

U. S. G.

This compelled me to reverse our column, so as to use the bridge

across the Chickamauga at its mouth. The next day we struck the

rebel rear at Chickamauga Station, and again near Graysville.

There we came in contact with Hooker's and Palmer's troops, who had

reached Ringgold. There I detached Howard to cross Taylor's Ridge,

and strike the railroad which comes from the north by Cleveland to

Dalton. Hooker's troops were roughly handled at Ringgold, and the

pursuit was checked. Receiving a note from General Hooker, asking

help, I rode forward to Ringgold to explain the movement of Howard;

where I met General Grant, and learned that the rebels had again

retreated toward Dalton. He gave orders to discontinue the

pursuit, as he meant to turn his attention to General Burnside,

supposed to be in great danger at Knoxville, about one hundred and

thirty miles northeast. General Grant returned and spent part of

the night with me, at Graysville. We talked over matters

generally, and he explained that he had ordered General Gordon

Granger, with the Fourth Corps, to move forward rapidly to

Burnsides help, and that he must return to Chattanooga to push him.

By reason of the scarcity of food, especially of forage, he

consented that, instead of going back, I might keep out in the

country; for in motion I could pick up some forage and food,

especially on the Hiawassee River, whereas none remained in


Accordingly, on the 29th of November, my several columns marched to

Cleveland, and the next day we reached the Hiawassee at Charleston,

where the Chattanooga & Knoxville Railroad crosses it. The

railroad-bridge was partially damaged by the enemy in retreating,

but we found some abandoned stores. There and thereabouts I

expected some rest for my weary troops and horses; but, as I rode

into town, I met Colonel J. H. Wilson and C. A. Dana (Assistant

Secretary of War), who had ridden out from Chattanooga to find me,

with the following letter from General Grant, and copies of several

dispatches from General Burnside, the last which had been received

from him by way of Cumberland Gap:


TENNESSEE, Nov. 29, 1863

Major-General W. T. SHERMAN

News are received from Knoxville to the morning of the 27th. At

that time the place was still invested, but the attack on it was

not vigorous. Longstreet evidently determined to starve the

garrison out. Granger is on the way to Burnside's relief, but I

have lost all faith in his energy or capacity to manage an

expedition of the importance of this one. I am inclined to think,

therefore, I shall have to send you. Push as rapidly as you can to

the Hiawassee, and determine for yourself what force to take with

you from that point. Granger has his corps with him, from which

you will select in conjunction with the force now with you. In

plain words, you will assume command of all the forces now moving

up the Tennessee, including the garrison at Kingston, and from that

force, organize what you deem proper to relieve Burnside. The

balance send back to Chattanooga. Granger has a boat loaded with

provisions, which you can issue, and return the boat. I will have

another loaded, to follow you. Use, of course, as sparingly as

possible from the rations taken with you, and subsist off the

country all you can.

It is expected that Foster is moving, by this time, from Cumberland

Gap on Knoxville. I do not know what force he will have with him,

but presume it will range from three thousand five hundred to five

thousand I leave this matter to you, knowing that you will do

better acting upon your discretion than you could trammeled with

instructions. I will only add, that the last advices from Burnside

himself indicated his ability to hold out with rations only to

about the 3d of December. Very respectfully,

U. S. GRANT, Major-General commanding,

This showed that, on the 27th of November, General Burnside was in

Knoxville, closely besieged by the rebel General Longstreet; that

his provisions were short, and that, unless relieved by December

3d, he might have to surrender. General Grant further wrote that

General Granger, instead of moving with great rapidity as ordered,

seemed to move "slowly, and with reluctance;" and, although he

(General Grant) hated to call on me and on my tired troops, there

was no alternative. He wanted me to take command of every thing

within reach, and to hurry forward to Knoxville.

All the details of our march to Knoxville are also given in my

official report. By extraordinary efforts Long's small brigade of

cavalry reached Knoxville during the night of the 3d, purposely to

let Burnside know that I was rapidly approaching with an adequate

force to raise the siege.

With the head of my infantry column I reached Marysville, about

fifteen miles short of Knoxville, on the 5th of December; when I

received official notice from Burnside that Longstreet had raised

the siege, and had started in retreat up the valley toward

Virginia. Halting all the army, except Granger's two divisions, on

the morning of the 6th, with General Granger and some of my staff I

rode into Knoxville. Approaching from the south and west, we

crossed the Holston on a pontoon bridge, and in a large pen on the

Knoxville side I saw a fine lot of cattle, which did not look much

like starvation. I found General Burnside and staff domiciled in a

large, fine mansion, looking very comfortable, and in, a few words

he described to me the leading events, of the previous few days,

and said he had already given orders looking to the pursuit of

Longstreet. I offered to join in the pursuit, though in fact my

men were worn out, and suffering in that cold season and climate.

Indeed, on our way up I personally was almost frozen, and had to

beg leave to sleep in the house of a family at Athens.

Burnside explained to me that, reenforced by Granger's two

divisions of ten thousand men, he would be able to push Longstreet

out of East Tennessee, and he hoped to capture much of his

artillery and trains. Granger was present at our conversation, and

most unreasonably, I thought, remonstrated against being left;

complaining bitterly of what he thought was hard treatment to his

men and himself. I know that his language and manner at that time

produced on my mind a bad impression, and it was one of the causes

which led me to relieve him as a corps commander in the campaign of

the next spring. I asked General Burnside to reduce his wishes to

writing, which he did in the letter of December 7th, embodied in my

official report. General Burnside and I then walked along his

lines and examined the salient, known as Fort Sanders, where, some

days before, Longstreet had made his assault, and had sustained a

bloody repulse.

Returning to Burnside's quarters, we all sat down to a good dinner,

embracing roast-turkey. There was a regular dining table, with

clean tablecloth, dishes, knives, forks, spoons, etc., etc. I had

seen nothing of this kind in my field experience, and could not

help exclaiming that I thought "they were starving," etc.; but

Burnside explained that Longstreet had at no time completely

invested the place, and that he had kept open communication with

the country on the south side of the river Holston, more especially

with the French Broad settlements, from whose Union inhabitants he

had received a good supply of beef, bacon, and corn meal. Had I

known of this, I should not have hurried my men so fast; but until

I reached Knoxville I thought his troops there were actually in

danger of starvation. Having supplied General Burnside all the

help he wanted, we began our leisurely return to Chattanooga, which

we reached on the 16th; when General Grant in person ordered me to

restore to General Thomas the divisions of Howard and Davis, which

belonged to his army, and to conduct my own corps (the Fifteenth)

to North Alabama for winter-quarters.


ALABAMA December 19, 1863

Brigadier-General John A. RAWLINS, Chief of Staff to General GRANT,


GENERAL: For the first time, I am now at leisure to make an

official record of events with which the troops under my command

have been connected daring the eventful campaign which has just

closed. Dating the month of September last, the Fifteenth Army

Corps, which I had the honor to command, lay in camps along the Big

Black, about twenty miles east of Vicksburg, Mississippi. It

consisted of four divisions:

The First, commanded by Brigadier-General P. J. Osterhaus, was

composed of two brigades, led by Brigadier-General C. R. Woods and

Colonel J. A. Williamson (of the Fourth Iowa).

The Second, commanded by Brigadier-General Morgan L. Smith, was

composed of two brigades, led by Brigadier-Generals Giles A. Smith

and J. A. J. Lightburn.

The Third, commanded by Brigadier-General J. M. Tuttle, was

composed of three brigades, led by Brigadier-Generals J. A. Mower

and R. P. Buckland, and Colonel J. J. Wood (of the Twelfth Iowa).

The Fourth, commanded by Brigadier-General Hugh Ewing, was composed

of three brigades, led by Brigadier-General J. M. Corse, Colonel

Loomis (Twenty-sixth Illinois), and Colonel J. R. Cockerill (of the

Seventieth Ohio).

On the 22d day of September I received a telegraphic dispatch from

General Grant, then at Vicksburg, commanding the Department of the

Tennessee, requiring me to detach one of my divisions to march to

Vicksburg, there to embark for Memphis, where it was to form a part

of an army to be sent to Chattanooga, to resnforce General

Rosecrans. I designated the First Division, and at 4 a. m. the

same day it marched for Vicksburg, and embarked the neat day.

On the 23d of September I was summoned to Vicksburg by the general

commanding, who showed me several dispatches from the general-in-

chief, which led him to suppose he would have to send me and my

whole corps to Memphis and eastward, and I was instructed to

prepare for such orders. It was explained to me that, in

consequence of the low stage of water in the Mississippi, boats had

arrived irregularly, and had brought dispatches that seemed to

conflict in their meaning, and that General John E. Smith's

division (of General McPherson's corps) had been ordered up to

Memphis, and that I should take that division and leave one of my

own in its stead, to hold the line of the Big Black. I detailed my

third division (General Tuttle) to remain and report to Major-

General McPherson, commanding the Seventeenth Corps, at Vicksburg;

and that of General John E. Smith, already started for Memphis, was

styled the Third Division, Fifteenth Corps, though it still

belongs to the Seventeenth Army Corps. This division is also

composed of three brigades, commanded by General Matthias, Colonel

J. B. Raum (of the Fifty-sixth Illinois), and Colonel J. I.

Alexander (of the Fifty-ninth Indiana).

The Second and Fourth Divisions were started for Vicksburg the

moment I was notified that boats were in readiness, and on the 27th

of September I embarked in person in the steamer Atlantic, for

Memphis, followed by a fleet of boats conveying these two

divisions. Our progress was slow, on account of the

unprecedentedly low water in the Mississippi, and the scarcity of

coal and wood. We were compelled at places to gather fence-rails,

and to land wagons and haul wood from the interior to the boats;

but I reached Memphis during the night of the 2d of October, and

the other boats came in on the 3d and 4th.

On arrival at Memphis I saw General Hurlbut, and read all the

dispatches and letters of instruction of General Halleck, and

therein derived my instructions, which I construed to be as


To conduct the Fifteenth Army Corps, and all other troops which

could be spared from the line of the Memphis & Charleston Railroad,

to Athens, Alabama, and thence report by letter for orders to

General Rosecrans, commanding the Army of the Cumberland, at

Chattanooga; to follow substantially the railroad eastward,

repairing it as I moved; to look to my own line for supplies; and

in no event to depend on General Rosecrans for supplies, as the

roads to his rear were already overtaxed to supply his present


I learned from General Hurlbut that General Osterhaus's division

was already out in front of Corinth, and that General John E. Smith

was still at Memphis, moving his troops and material by railroad as

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