Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman


Text to Speech

fast as its limited stock would carry them. General J. D. Webster

was superintendent of the railroad, and was enjoined to work night

and day, and to expedite the movement as rapidly as possible; but

the capacity of the road was so small, that I soon saw that I could

move horses, mules, and wagons faster by land, and therefore I

dispatched the artillery and wagons by the road under escort, and

finally moved the entire Fourth Division by land.

The enemy seems to have had early notice of this movement, and he

endeavored to thwart us from the start. A considerable force

assembled in a threatening attitude at Salem, south of Salisbury

Station; and General Carr, who commanded at Corinth, felt compelled

to turn back and use a part of my troops, that had already reached

Corinth, to resist the threatened attack.

On Sunday, October 11th, having put in motion my whole force, I

started myself for Corinth, in a special train, with the battalion

of the Thirteenth United States Regulars as escort. We reached

Collierville Station about noon, just in time to take part in the

defense made of that station by Colonel D. C. Anthony, of the

Sixty-sixth Indiana, against an attack made by General Chalmers

with a force of about three thousand cavalry, with eight pieces of

artillery. He was beaten off, the damage to the road repaired, and

we resumed our journey the next day, reaching Corinth at night.

I immediately ordered General Blair forward to Iuka, with the First

Division, and, as fast as I got troops up, pushed them forward of

Bear Creek, the bridge of which was completely destroyed, and an

engineer regiment, under command of Colonel Flag, was engaged in

its repairs.

Quite a considerable force of the enemy was assembled in our front,

near Tuscumbia, to resist our advance. It was commanded by General

Stephen D. Lee, and composed of Roddy's and Ferguson's brigades,

with irregular cavalry, amounting in the aggregate to about five

thousand.

In person I moved from Corinth to Burnsville on the 18th, and to

Iuka on the 19th of October.

Osterhaus's division was in the advance, constantly skirmishing

with the enemy; he was supported by General Morgan L. Smith's, both

divisions under the general command of Major-General Blair.

General John E. Smith's division covered the working-party engaged

in rebuilding the railroad.

Foreseeing difficulty in crossing the Tennessee River, I had

written to Admiral Porter, at Cairo, asking him to watch the

Tennessee and send up some gunboats the moment the stage of water

admitted; and had also requested General Allen, quartermaster at

St. Louis, to dispatch to Eastport a steam ferry-boat.

The admiral, ever prompt and ready to assist us, had two fine

gunboats at Eastport, under Captain Phelps, the very day after my

arrival at Iuka; and Captain Phelps had a coal-barge decked over,

with which to cross our horses and wagons before the arrival of the

ferry-boat.

Still following literally the instructions of General Halleck, I

pushed forward the repairs of the railroad, and ordered General

Blair, with the two leading divisions, to drive the enemy beyond

Tuscumbia. This he did successfully, after a pretty severe fight

at Cane Creek, occupying Tuscumbia on the 27th of October.

In the meantime many important changes in command had occurred,

which I must note here, to a proper understanding of the case.

General Grant had been called from Vicksburg, and sent to

Chattanooga to command the military division of the Mississippi,

composed of the three Departments of the Ohio, Cumberland, and

Tennessee; and the Department of the Tennessee had been devolved on

me, with instructions, however, to retain command of the army in

the field. At Iuka I made what appeared to me the best disposition

of matters relating to the department, giving General McPherson

full powers in Mississippi and General Hurlbut in West Tennessee,

and assigned General Blair to the command of the Fifteenth Army

Corps; and summoned General Hurlbut from Memphis, and General Dodge

from Corinth, and selected out of the Sixteenth Corps a force of

about eight thousand men, which I directed General Dodge to

organize with all expedition, and with it to follow me eastward.

On the 27th of October, when General Blair, with two divisions, was

at Tuscumbia, I ordered General Ewing, with the Fourth Division, to

cross the Tennessee (by means of the gunboats and scow) as rapidly

as possible at Eastport, and push forward to Florence, which he

did; and the same day a messenger from General Grant floated down

the Tennessee over Muscle Shoals, landed at Tuscumbia, and was sent

to me at Iuka. He bore a short message from the general to this

effect: "Drop all work on the railroad east of Bear Creek; push

your command toward Bridgeport till you meet orders;" etc.

Instantly the order was executed; the order of march was reversed,

and all the columns were directed to Eastport, the only place where

we could cross the Tennessee. At first we only had the gunboats

and coal-barge; but the ferry-boat and two transports arrived on

the 31st of October, and the work of crossing was pushed with all

the vigor possible. In person I crossed, and passed to the head of

the column at Florence on the 1st of November, leaving the rear

divisions to be conducted by General Blair, and marched to

Rogersville and Elk River. This was found impassable. To ferry

would have consumed to much time, and to build a bridge still more;

so there was no alternative but to turn up Elk River by way of

Gilbertsboro, Elkton, etc., to the stone bridge at Fayetteville,

where we crossed the Elk, and proceeded to Winchester and Deckerd.

At Fayetteville I received orders from General Grant to come to

Bridgeport with the Fifteenth Army Corps, and to leave General

Dodge's command at Pulaski, and along the railroad from Columbia to

Decatur. I instructed General Blair to follow with the Second and

First Divisions by way of New Market, Larkinsville, and Bellefonte,

while I conducted the other two divisions by way of Deckerd; the

Fourth Division crossing the mountain to Stevenson, and the Third

by University Place and Sweden's Cove.

In person I proceeded by Sweden's Cove and Battle Creek, reaching

Bridgeport on the night of November 13th. I immediately

telegraphed to the commanding general my arrival, and the positions

of my several divisions, and was summoned to Chattanooga. I took

the first steamboat daring the night of the 14th for Belly's Ferry,

and rode into Chattanooga on the 16th. I then learned the part

assigned me in the coming drama, was supplied with the necessary

maps and information, and rode, during the 18th, in company with

Generals Grant, Thomas, W. F. Smith, Brannan, and others, to the

positions occupied on the west bank of the Tennessee, from which

could be seen the camps of the enemy, compassing Chattanooga and

the line of Missionary Hills, with its terminus on Chickamauga

Creek, the point that I was expected to take, hold, and fortify.

Pontoons, with a full supply of balks and chesses, had been

prepared for the bridge over the Tennessee, and all things had been

prearranged with a foresight that elicited my admiration. From the

hills we looked down on the amphitheatre of Chattanooga as on a

map, and nothing remained but for me to put my troops in the

desired position. The plan contemplated that, in addition to

crossing the Tennessee River and making a lodgment on the terminus

of Missionary Ridge, I should demonstrate against Lookout Mountain,

near Trenton, with a part of my command.

All in Chattanooga were impatient for action, rendered almost acute

by the natural apprehensions felt for the safety of General

Burnside in East Tennessee.

My command had marched from Memphis, three hundred and thirty

miles, and I had pushed them as fast as the roads and distance

would admit, but I saw enough of the condition of men and animals

in Chattanooga to inspire me with renewed energy. I immediately

ordered my leading division (General Ewing's) to march via

Shellmound to Trenton, demonstrating against Lookout Ridge, but to

be prepared to turn quickly and follow me to Chattanooga and in

person I returned to Bridgeport, rowing a boat down the Tennessee

from Belly's Ferry, and immediately on arrival put in motion my

divisions in the order in which they had arrived. The bridge of

boats at Bridgeport was frail, and, though used day and night, our

passage was slow; and the road thence to Chattanooga was dreadfully

cut up and encumbered with the wagons of the other troops stationed

along the road. I reached General Hooker's headquarters during a

rain, in the afternoon of the 20th, and met General Grant's orders

for the general attack on the next day. It was simply impossible

for me to fulfill my part in time; only one division (General John

E. Smith's) was in position. General Ewing was still at Trenton,

and the other two were toiling along the terrible road from

Shellmound to Chattanooga. No troops ever were or could be in

better condition than mine, or who labored harder to fulfill their

part. On a proper representation, General Grant postponed the

attack. On the 21st I got the Second Division over Brown's-Ferry

Bridge, and General Ewing got up; but the bridge broke repeatedly,

and delays occurred which no human sagacity could prevent. All

labored night and day, and General Ewing got over on the 23d; but

my rear division was cut off by the broken bridge at Brown's Ferry,

and could not join me. I offered to go into action with my three

divisions, supported by General Jeff. C. Davis, leaving one of my

best divisions (Osterhaus's) to act with General Hooker against

Lookout Mountain. That division has not joined me yet, but I know

and feel that it has served the country well, and that it has

reflected honor on the Fifteenth Army Corps and the Army of the

Tennessee. I leave the record of its history to General Hooker, or

whomsoever has had its services during the late memorable events,

confident that all will do it merited honor.

At last, on the 28d of November, my three divisions lay behind the

hills opposite the mouth of the Chickamauga. I dispatched the

brigade of the Second Division, commanded by General Giles A.

Smith, under cover of the hills, to North Chickamauga Creek, to man

the boats designed for the pontoon-bridge, with orders (at

midnight) to drop down silently to a point above the mouth of the

South Chickamauga, there land two regiments, who were to move along

the river-bank quietly, and capture the enemy's river-pickets.

General Giles A. Smith then was to drop rapidly below the month of

the Chickamauga, disembark the rest of his brigade, and dispatch

the boats across for fresh loads. These orders were skillfully

executed, and every rebel picket but one was captured. The balance

of General Morgan L. Smith's division was then rapidly ferried

across; that of General John E. Smith followed, and by daylight of

November 24th two divisions of about eight thousand men were on the

east bank of the Tennessee, and had thrown up a very respectable

rifle-trench as a tete du pont. As soon as the day dawned, some of

the boats were taken from the use of ferrying, and a pontoon-bridge

was begun, under the immediate direction of Captain Dresser, the

whole planned and supervised by General William F. Smith in person.

A pontoon-bridge was also built at the same time over Chickamanga

Creek, near its mouth, giving communication with the two regiments

which had been left on the north side, and fulfilling a most

important purpose at a later stage of the drama. I will here bear

my willing testimony to the completeness of this whole business.

All the officers charged with the work were present, and manifested

a skill which I cannot praise too highly. I have never beheld any

work done so quietly, so well; and I doubt if the history of war

can show a bridge of that extent (viz., thirteen hundred and fifty

feet) laid so noiselessly and well, in so short a time. I

attribute it to the genius and intelligence of General William F.

Smith. The steamer Dunbar arrived up in the course of the morning,

and relieved Ewing's division of the labor of rowing across; but by

noon the pontoon-bridge was done, and my three divisions were

across, with men, horses, artillery, and every thing.

General Jeff. C. Davis's division was ready to take the bridge, and

I ordered the columns to form in order to carry the Missionary

Hills. The movement had been carefully explained to all division

commanders, and at 1 p.m. we marched from the river in three

columns in echelon: the left, General Morgan L. Smith, the column

of direction, following substantially Chickamauga Creek; the

centre, General, John E. Smith, in columns, doubled on the centre,

at one brigade interval to the right and rear; the right, General

Ewing, in column at the same distance to the right rear, prepared

to deploy to the right, on the supposition that we would meet an

enemy in that direction. Each head of column was covered by a good

line of skirmishers, with supports. A light drizzling rain

prevailed, and the clouds hung low, cloaking our movement from the

enemy's tower of observation on Lookout Mountain. We soon gained

the foothills; our skirmishers crept up the face of the hills,

followed by their supports, and at 3.30 p.m. we had gained, with no

loss, the desired point. A brigade of each division was pushed

rapidly to the top of the hill, and the enemy for the first time

seemed to realize the movement, but too late, for we were in

possession. He opened with artillery, but General Ewing soon got

some of Captain Richardson's guns up that steep hill and gave back

artillery, and the enemy's skirmishers made one or two ineffectual

dashes at Genaral Lightburn, who had swept round and got a farther

hill, which was the real continuation of the ridge. From studying

all the maps, I had inferred that Missionary Ridge was a continuous

hill; but we found ourselves on two high points, with a deep

depression between us and the one immediately over the tunnel,

which was my chief objective point. The ground we had gained,

however, was so important, that I could leave nothing to chance,

and ordered it to be fortified during the night. One brigade of

each division was left on the hill, one of General Morgan L.

Smith's closed the gap to Chickamauga Creek, two of General John E.

Smith's were drawn back to the base in reserve, and General Ewing's

right was extended down into the plain, thus crossing the ridge in

a general line, facing southeast.

The enemy felt our left flank about 4 p.m., and a pretty smart

engagement with artillery and muskets ensued, when he drew off; but

it cost us dear, for General Giles A. Smith was severely wounded,

and had to go to the rear; and the command of the brigade devolved

on Colonel Topper (One Hundred and Sixteenth Illinois), who managed

it with skill during the rest of the operations. At the moment of

my crossing the bridge, General Howard appeared, having come with

three regiments from Chattanooga, along the east bank of the

Tennessee, connecting my new position with that of the main army in

Chattanooga. He left the three regiments attached temporarily to

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