Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman

Text to Speech

brigade of Vaughn had artillery in position, covered by earthworks,

and displayed a force too respectable to be carried by a cavalry

dash, so that darkness closed in before General Howard's infantry

got up. The enemy abandoned the place in the night, destroying the

pontoons, running three locomotives and forty-eight cars into the

Tennessee River, and abandoned much provision, four guns, and other

material, which General Howard took at daylight. But the bridge

was gone, and we were forced to turn east and trust to General

Burnside's bridge at Knoxville. It was all-important that General

Burnside should have notice of our coming, and but one day of the

time remained.

Accordingly, at Philadelphia, during the night of the 2d of

December, I sent my aide (Major Audenried) forward to Colonel Long,

commanding the brigade of cavalry at London, to explain to him how

all-important it was that notice of our approach should reach

General Burnside within twenty-four hours, ordering him to select

the best materials of his command, to start at once, ford the

Little Tennessee, and push into Knoxville at whatever cost of life

and horse-flesh. Major Audenried was ordered to go along. The

distance to be traveled was about forty miles, and the roads

villainous. Before day they were off, and at daylight the

Fifteenth Corps was turned from Philadelphia for the Little

Tennessee at Morgantown, where my maps represented the river as

being very shallow; but it was found too deep for fording, and the

water was freezing cold--width two hundred and forty yards, depth

from two to five feet; horses could ford, but artillery and men

could not. A bridge was indispensable. General Wilson (who

accompanied me) undertook to superintend the bridge, and I am under

many obligations to him, as I was without an engineer, having sent

Captain Jenny back from Graysville to survey our field of battle.

We had our pioneers, but only such tools as axes, picks, and

spades. General Wilson, working partly with cut wood and partly

with square trestles (made of the houses of the late town of

Morgantown), progressed apace, and by dark of December 4th troops

and animals passed over the bridge, and by daybreak of the 5th the

Fifteenth Corps (General Blair's) was over, and Generals-Granger's

and Davis's divisions were ready to pass; but the diagonal bracing

was imperfect for, want of spikes, and the bridge broke, causing

delay. I had ordered General Blair to move out on the Marysville

road five miles, there to await notice that General Granger was on

a parallel road abreast of him, and in person I was at a house

where the roads parted, when a messenger rode up, bringing me a few

words from General Burnside, to the effect that Colonel Long had

arrived at Knoxville with his cavalry, and that all was well with

him there; Longstreet still lay before the place, but there were

symptoms of his speedy departure.

I felt that I had accomplished the first great step in the problem

for the relief of General Burnside's army, but still urged on the

work. As soon as the bridge was mended, all the troops moved

forward. General Howard had marched from Loudon, had found a

pretty good ford for his horses and wagons at Davis's, seven miles

below Morgantown, and had made an ingenious bridge of the wagons

left by General Vaughn at London, on which to pass his men. He

marched by Unitia and Louisville. On the night of the 5th all the

heads of columns communicated at Marysville, where I met Major Van

Buren (of General Burnside's staff), who announced that Longstreet

had the night before retreated on the Rutledge, Rogersville, and

Bristol road, leading to Virginia; that General Burnside's cavalry

was on his heels; and that the general desired to see me in person

as soon as I could come to Knoxville. I ordered all the troops to

halt and rest, except the two divisions of General Granger, which

were ordered to move forward to Little River, and General Granger

to report in person to General Burnside for orders. His was the

force originally designed to reenforce General Burnside, and it was

eminently proper that it should join in the stern-chase after


On the morning of December 6th I rode from Marysville into

Knoxville, and met General Burnside. General Granger arrived later

in the day. We examined his lines of fortifications, which were a

wonderful production for the short time allowed in their selection

of ground and construction of work. It seemed to me that they were

nearly impregnable. We examined the redoubt named "Sanders,"

where, on the Sunday previous, three brigades of the enemy had

assaulted and met a bloody repulse. Now, all was peaceful and

quiet; but a few hours before, the deadly bullet sought its victim

all round about that hilly barrier.

The general explained to me fully and frankly what he had done, and

what he proposed to do. He asked of me nothing but General

Granger's command; and suggested, in view of the large force I had

brought from Chattanooga, that I should return with due expedition

to the line of the Hiawasaee, lest Bragg, reenforced, might take

advantage of our absence to resume the offensive. I asked him to

reduce this to writing, which he did, and I here introduce it as

part of my report:


KNOXVILLE, December 7, 1863

Major-General W. T. SHERMAN, commanding, etc.

GENERAL: I desire to express to you and your command my most hearty

thanks and gratitude for your promptness in coming to our relief

during the siege of Knoxville, and I am satisfied your approach

served to raise the siege. The emergency having passed, I do not

deem, for the present, any other portion of your command but the

corps of General Granger necessary for operations in this section;

and, inasmuch as General Grant has weakened the forces immediately

with him in order to relieve us (thereby rendering the position of

General Thomas less secure), I deem it advisable that all the

troops now here, save those commanded by General Granger, should

return at once to within supporting distance of the forces in front

of Bragg's army. In behalf of my command, I desire again to thank

you and your command for the kindness you have done us.

I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

A. E. BURNSIDE, Major-General commanding.

Accordingly, having seen General Burnside's forces move out of

Knoxville in pursuit of Longstreet, and General Granger's move in,

I put in motion my own command to return. General Howard was

ordered to move, via Davis's Ford and Sweetwater, to Athena, with a

guard forward at Charleston, to hold and repair the bridge which

the enemy had retaken after our passage up. General Jeff. C.

Davis moved to Columbus, on the Hiawaesee, via Madisonville, and

the two divisions of the Fifteenth Corps moved to Tellico Plains,

to cover movement of cavalry across the mountains into Georgia, to

overtake a wagon-train which had dodged us on our way up, and had

escaped by way of Murphy. Subsequently, on a report from General

Howard that the enemy held Charleston, I diverted General Ewing's

division to Athena, and went in person to Tellico with General

Morgan L. Smith's division. By the 9th all our troops were in

position, and we held the rich country between the Little Tennessee

and the Hiawasaee. The cavalry, under Colonel Long, passed the

mountain at Tellico, and proceeded about seventeen miles beyond

Murphy, when Colonel Long, deeming his farther pursuit of the

wagon-train useless, returned on the 12th to Tellico. I then

ordered him and the division of General Morgan L. Smith to move to

Charleston, to which point I had previously ordered the corps of

General Howard.

On the 14th of December all of my command in the field lay along

the Hiawassee. Having communicated to General Grant the actual

state of affairs, I received orders to leave, on the line of the

Hiawassee, all the cavalry, and come to Chattanooga with the rest

of my command. I left the brigade of cavalry commanded by Colonel

Long, reenforced by the Fifth Ohio Cavalry (Lieutenant-Colonel

Heath)--the only cavalry properly belonging to the Fifteenth Army

Corps--at Charleston, and with the remainder moved by easy marches,

by Cleveland and Tyner's Depot, into Chattanooga, where I received

in person from General Grant orders to transfer back to their

appropriate commands the corps of General Howard and the division

commanded by General Jeff. C. Davis, and to conduct the Fifteenth

Army Corps to its new field of operations.

It will thus appear that we have been constantly in motion since

our departure from the Big Black, in Mississippi, until the present

moment. I have been unable to receive from subordinate commanders

the usual full, detailed reports of events, and have therefore been

compelled to make up this report from my own personal memory; but,

as soon as possible, subordinate reports will be received and duly


In reviewing the facts, I must do justice to the men of my command

for the patience, cheerfulness, and courage which officers and men

have displayed throughout, in battle, on the march, and in camp.

For long periods, without regular rations or supplies of any kind,

they have marched through mud and over rocks, sometimes barefooted,

without a murmur. Without a moment's rest after a march of over

four hundred miles, without sleep for three successive nights, we

crossed the Tennessee, fought our part of the battle of

Chattanooga, pursued the enemy out of Tennessee, and then turned

more than a hundred and twenty miles north and compelled Longstreet

to raise the siege of Knoxville, which gave so much anxiety to the

whole country. It is hard to realize the importance of these

events without recalling the memory of the general feeling which

pervaded all minds at Chattanooga prior to our arrival. I cannot

speak of the Fifteenth Army Corps without a seeming vanity; but as

I am no longer its commander, I assert that there is no better body

of soldiers in America than it. I wish all to feel a just pride in

its real honors.

To General Howard and his command, to General Jeff. C. Davis and

his, I am more than usually indebted for the intelligence of

commanders and fidelity of commands. The brigade of Colonel

Bushbeck, belonging to the Eleventh Corps, which was the first to

come out of Chattanooga to my flank, fought at the Tunnel Hill, in

connection with General Ewing's division, and displayed a courage

almost amounting to rashness. Following the enemy almost to the

tunnel-gorge, it lost many valuable lives, prominent among them

Lieutenant-Colonel Taft, spoken of as a most gallant soldier.

In General Howard throughout I found a polished and Christian

gentleman, exhibiting the highest and most chivalric traits of the

soldier. General Davis handled his division with artistic skill,

more especially at the moment we encountered the enemy's

rear-guard, near Graysville, at nightfall. I must award to this

division the credit of the best order during our movement through

East Tennessee, when long marches and the necessity of foraging to

the right and left gave some reason for disordered ranks:

Inasmuch as exception may be taken to my explanation of the

temporary confusion, during the battle of Chattanooga, of the two

brigades of General Matthias and Colonel Raum, I will here state

that I saw the whole; and attach no blame to any one. Accidents

will happen in battle, as elsewhere; and at the point where they so

manfully went to relieve the pressure on other parts of our

assaulting line, they exposed themselves unconsciously to an enemy

vastly superior in force, and favored by the shape of the ground.

Had that enemy come out on equal terms, those brigades would have

shown their mettle, which has been tried more than once before and

stood the test of fire. They reformed their ranks, and were ready

to support General Ewing's division in a very few minutes; and the

circumstance would have hardly called for notice on my part, had

not others reported what was seen from Chattanooga, a distance of

nearly five miles, from where could only be seen the troops in the

open field in which this affair occurred.

I now subjoin the best report of casualties I am able to compile

from the records thus far received:

Killed; Wounded; and Missing............... 1949

No report from General Davis's division, but loss is small.

Among the killed were some of our most valuable officers: Colonels

Putnam, Ninety-third Illinois; O'Meara, Ninetieth Illinois; and

Torrence, Thirtieth Iowa; Lieutenant-Colonel-Taft, of the Eleventh

Corps; and Major Bushnell, Thirteenth Illinois.

Among the wounded are Brigadier-Generals Giles A. Smith, Corse, and

Matthias; Colonel Raum; Colonel Waugelin, Twelfth Missouri;

Lieutenant-Colonel Partridge, Thirteenth Illinois; Major P. I.

Welsh, Fifty-sixth Illinois; and Major Nathan McAlla, Tenth Iowa.

Among the missing is Lieutenant-Colonel Archer, Seventeenth Iowa.

My report is already so long, that I must forbear mentioning acts

of individual merit. These will be recorded in the reports of

division commanders, which I will cheerfully indorse; but I must

say that it is but justice that colonels of regiments, who have so

long and so well commanded brigades, as in the following cases,

should be commissioned to the grade which they have filled with so

much usefulness and credit to the public service, viz.: Colonel J.

R. Cockerell, Seventieth, Ohio; Colonel J. M. Loomis, Twenty-sixth

Illinois; Colonel C. C. Walcutt, Forty-sixth Ohio; Colonel J. A.

Williamson, Fourth Iowa; Colonel G. B. Raum, Fifty-sixth Illinois;

Colonel J. I. Alexander, Fifty-ninth Indiana.

My personal staff, as usual, have served their country with

fidelity, and credit to themselves, throughout these events, and

have received my personal thanks.

Inclosed you will please find a map of that part of the

battle-field of Chattanooga fought over by the troops under my

command, surveyed and drawn by Captain Jenney, engineer on my

staff. I have the honor to be, your obedient servant,

W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General commanding.

[General Order No. 68.]


WASHINGTON, February 21, 1884

Joint resolution tendering the thanks of Congress to Major-General

W. T. Sherman and others.

Be it resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the

United States of America in Congress assembled, That the thanks of

Congress and of the people of the United States are due, and that

the same are hereby tendered, to Major-General W. T. Sherman,

commander of the Department and Army of the Tennessee, and the

officers and soldiers who served under him, for their gallant and

arduous services in marching to the relief of the Army of the

Cumberland, and for their gallantry and heroism in the battle of

Chattanooga, which contributed in a great degree to the success of

our arms in that glorious victory.

Approved February 19, 1864.

By order of the Secretary of War:

E. D. TOWNSEND, Assistant Adjutant-General.

On the 19th of December I was at Bridgeport, and gave all the

orders necessary for the distribution of the four divisions of the

Fifteenth Corps along the railroad from Stevenson to Decatur, and

the part of the Sixteenth Corps; commanded by General Dodge, along

the railroad from Decatur to Nashville, to make the needed repairs,

and to be in readiness for the campaign of the succeeding year; and

on the 21st I went up to Nashville, to confer with General Grant

and conclude the arrangements for the winter. At that time General

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