Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman

Text to Speech

informed they are fortifying the place, and placing many heavy guns

in position. It would be better for us that they should stand

there, as we might make large and important captures. But I do not

believe the enemy will fight a force of thirty thousand men, acting

in concert with gunboats.

I will be most happy to take part in the proposed expedition, and

hope, before you have made your final dispositions, that I will

have the necessary permission. Half the Army of the Tennessee is

near the Tennessee River, beyond Huntsville, Alabama, awaiting the

completion of the railroad, and, by present orders, I will be

compelled to hasten there to command it in person, unless meantime

General Grant modifies the plan. I have now in this department

only the force left to hold the river and the posts, and I am

seriously embarrassed by the promises made the veteran volunteers

for furlough. I think, by March 1st, I can put afloat for

Shreveport ten thousand men, provided I succeed in my present

movement in cleaning out the State of Mississippi, and in breaking

up the railroads about Meridian.

I am, with great respect, your obedient servant,

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

The object of the Meridian expedition was to strike the roads

inland, so to paralyze the rebel forces that we could take from the

defense of the Mississippi River the equivalent of a corps of

twenty thousand men, to be used in the next Georgia campaign; and

this was actually done. At the same time, I wanted to destroy

General Forrest, who, with an irregular force of cavalry, was

constantly threatening Memphis and the river above, as well as our

routes of supply in Middle Tennessee. In this we failed utterly,

because General W. Sooy Smith did not fulfill his orders, which

were clear and specific, as contained in my letter of instructions

to him of January 27th, at Memphis, and my personal explanations to

him at the same time. Instead of starting at the date ordered,

February 1st, he did not leave Memphis till the 11th, waiting for

Warings brigade that was ice-bound near Columbus, Kentucky; and

then, when he did start, he allowed General Forrest to head him off

and to defeat him with an inferior force, near West Point, below

Okalona, on the Mobile & Ohio Railroad.

We waited at Meridian till the 20th to hear from General Smith, but

hearing nothing whatever, and having utterly destroyed the

railroads in and around that junction, I ordered General McPherson

to move back slowly toward Canton. With Winslow's cavalry, and

Hurlbut's infantry, I turned north to Marion, and thence to a place

called "Union," whence I dispatched the cavalry farther north to

Philadelphia and Louisville, to feel as it were for General Smith,

and then turned all the infantry columna toward Canton,

Mississippi. On the 26th we all reached Canton, but we had not

heard a word of General Smith, nor was it until some time after (at

Vicksburg) that I learned the whole truth of General Smith's

movement and of his failure. Of course I did not and could not

approve of his conduct, and I know that he yet chafes under the

censure. I had set so much store on his part of the project that I

was disappointed, and so reported officially to General Grant.

General Smith never regained my confidence as a soldier, though I

still regard him as a most accomplished gentleman and a skillful

engineer. Since the close of the war he has appealed to me to

relieve him of that censure, but I could not do it, because it

would falsify history.

Having assembled all my troops in and about Canton, on the 27th of

February I left them under the command of the senior major-general,

Hurlbut, with orders to remain till about the 3d of March, and then

to come into Vicksburg leisurely; and, escorted by Winslow's

cavalry, I rode into Vicksburg on the last day of February. There

I found letters from General Grant, at Nashville, and General

Banks, at New Orleans, concerning his (General Banks's) projected

movement up Red River. I was authorized by the former to

contribute aid to General Banks for a limited time; but General

Grant insisted on my returning in person to my own command about

Huntsville, Alabama, as soon as possible, to prepare for the spring


About this time we were much embarrassed by a general order of the

War Department, promising a thirty-days furlough to all soldiers

who would "veteranize"--viz., reenlist for the rest of the war.

This was a judicious and wise measure, because it doubtless secured

the services of a very large portion of the men who had almost

completed a three-years enlistment, and were therefore veteran

soldiers in feeling and in habit. But to furlough so many of our

men at that instant of time was like disbanding an army in the very

midst of battle.

In order to come to a perfect understanding with General Banks, I

took the steamer Diana and ran down to New Orleans to see him.

Among the many letters which I found in Vicksburg on my return from

Meridian was one from Captain D. F. Boyd, of Louisiana, written

from the jail in Natchez, telling me that he was a prisoner of war

in our hands; had been captured in Louisiana by some of our scouts;

and he bespoke my friendly assistance. Boyd was Professor of

Ancient Languages at the Louisiana Seminary of Learning during my

administration, in 1859-'60; was an accomplished scholar, of

moderate views in politics, but, being a Virginian, was drawn, like

all others of his kind, into the vortex of the rebellion by the

events of 1861, which broke up colleges and every thing at the

South. Natchez, at this time, was in my command, and was held by a

strong division, commanded by Brigadier-General J. W. Davidson. In

the Diana we stopped at Natchez, and I made a hasty inspection of

the place. I sent for Boyd, who was in good health, but quite

dirty, and begged me to take him out of prison, and to effect his

exchange. I receipted for him; took him along with me to New

Orleans; offered him money, which he declined; allowed him to go

free in the city; and obtained from General Banks a promise to

effect his exchange, which was afterward done. Boyd is now my

legitimate successor in Louisiana, viz., President of the Louisiana

University, which is the present title of what had been the

Seminary of Learning. After the war was over, Boyd went back to

Alexandria, reorganized the old institution, which I visited in

1866 but the building was burnt down by an accident or by an

incendiary about 1868, and the institution was then removed to

Baton Rouge, where it now is, under its new title of the University

of Louisiana.

We reached New Orleans on the 2d of March. I found General Banks,

with his wife and daughter, living in a good house, and he

explained to me fully the position and strength of his troops, and

his plans of action for the approaching campaign. I dined with

him, and, rough as I was--just out of the woods--attended, that

night, a very pleasant party at the house of a lady, whose name I

cannot recall, but who is now the wife of Captain Arnold, Fifth

United States Artillery. At this party were also Mr. and Mrs.

Frank Howe. I found New Orleans much changed since I had been

familiar with it in 1853 and in 1860-'61. It was full of officers

and soldiers. Among the former were General T. W. Sherman, who had

lost a leg at Port Hudson, and General Charles P: Stone, whom I

knew so well in California, and who is now in the Egyptian service

as chief of staff. The bulk of General Banks's army was about

Opelousas, under command of General Franklin, ready to move on

Alexandria. General Banks seemed to be all ready, but intended to

delay his departure a few days to assist in the inauguration of a

civil government for Louisiana, under Governor Hahn. In Lafayette

Square I saw the arrangements of scaffolding for the fireworks and

benches for the audience. General Banks urged me to remain over

the 4th of March, to participate in the ceremonies, which he

explained would include the performance of the "Anvil Chorus" by

all the bands of his army, and during the performance the

church-bells were to be rung, and cannons were to be fired by

electricity. I regarded all such ceremonies as out of place at a

time when it seemed to me every hour and every minute were due to

the war. General Banks's movement, however, contemplated my

sending a force of ten thousand men in boats up Red River from

Vicksburg, and that a junction should occur at Alexandria by March

17th. I therefore had no time to wait for the grand pageant of the

4th of March, but took my departure from New Orleans in the Diana

the evening of March 3d.

On the next day, March 4th, I wrote to General Banks a letter,

which was extremely minute in conveying to him how far I felt

authorized to go under my orders from General Grant. At that time

General Grant commanded the Military Division of the Mississippi,

embracing my own Department of the Tennessee and that of General

Steele in Arkansas, but not that of General Banks in Louisiana.

General Banks was acting on his own powers, or under the

instructions of General Halleck in Washington, and our, assistance

to him was designed as a loan of ten thousand men for a period of

thirty days. The instructions of March 6th to General A. J. Smith,

who commanded this detachment, were full and explicit on this

point. The Diana reached Vicksburg on the 6th, where I found that

the expeditionary army had come in from Canton. One division of

five thousand men was made up out of Hurlbut's command, and placed

under Brigadier-General T. Kilby Smith; and a similar division was

made out of McPherson's and Hurlbut's troops, and placed under

Brigadier-General Joseph A. Mower; the whole commanded by

Brigadier-General A. J. Smith. General Hurlbut, with the rest of

his command, returned to Memphis, and General McPherson remained at

Vicksburg. General A. J. Smith's command was in due season

embarked, and proceeded to Red River, which it ascended, convoyed

by Admiral Porter's fleet. General Mower's division was landed

near the outlet of the Atchafalaya, marched up by land and captured

the fort below Alexandria known as Fort De Russy, and the whole

fleet then proceeded up to Alexandria, reaching it on the day

appointed, viz., March 17th, where it waited for the arrival of

General Banks, who, however, did not come till some days after.

These two divisions participated in the whole of General Banks's

unfortunate Red River expedition, and were delayed so long up Red

River, and subsequently on the Mississippi, that they did not share

with their comrades the successes and glories of the Atlanta

campaign, for which I had designed them; and, indeed, they, did not

join our army till just in time to assist General George H. Thomas

to defeat General Hood before Nashville, on the 15th and 16th of

December, 1864.

General Grant's letter of instructions, which was brought me by

General Butterfield, who had followed me to New Orleans, enjoined

on me, after concluding with General Banks the details for his Red

River expedition, to make all necessary arrangements for

furloughing the men entitled to that privilege, and to hurry back

to the army at Huntsville, Alabama. I accordingly gave the

necessary orders to General McPherson, at Vicksburg, and continued

up the river toward Memphis. On our way we met Captain Badeau, of

General Grant's staff, bearing the following letter, of March 4th,

which I answered on the 10th, and sent the answer by General

Butterfield, who had accompanied me up from New Orleans. Copies of

both were also sent to General McPherson, at Vicksburg:



DEAR SHERMAN: The bill reviving the grade of lieutenant-general in

the army has become a law, and my name has been sent to the Senate

for the place.

I now receive orders to report at Washington immediately, in

person, which indicates either a confirmation or a likelihood of

confirmation. I start in the morning to comply with the order, but

I shall say very distinctly on my arrival there that I shall accept

no appointment which will require me to make that city my

headquarters. This, however, is not what I started out to write


While I have been eminently successful in this war, in at least

gaining the confidence of the public, no one feels more than I how

much of this success is due to the energy, skill, and the

harmonious putting forth of that energy and skill, of those whom it

has been my good fortune to have occupying subordinate positions

under me.

There are many officers to whom these remarks are applicable to a

greater or less degree, proportionate to their ability as soldiers;

but what I want is to express my thanks to you and McPherson, as

the men to whom, above all others, I feel indebted for whatever I

have had of success. How far your advice and suggestions have been

of assistance, you know. How far your execution of whatever has

been given you to do entitles you to the reward I am receiving, you

cannot know as well as I do. I feel all the gratitude this letter

would express, giving it the most flattering construction.

The word you I use in the plural, intending it for McPherson also.

I should write to him, and will some day, but, starting in the

morning, I do not know that I will find time just now. Your


U. S. GRANT, Major-General.


NEAR MEMPHIS, March 10, 1864

General GRANT.

DEAR GENERAL: I have your more than kind and characteristic letter

of the 4th, and will send a copy of it to General McPherson at


You do yourself injustice and us too much honor in assigning to us

so large a share of the merits which have led to your high

advancement. I know you approve the friendship I have ever

professed to you, and will permit me to continue as heretofore to

manifest it on all proper occasions.

You are now Washington's legitimate successor, and occupy a

position of almost dangerous elevation; but if you can continue as

heretofore to be yourself, simple, honest, and unpretending, you

will enjoy through life the respect and love of friends, and the

homage of millions of human beings who will award to you a large

share for securing to them and their descendants a government of

law and stability.

I repeat, you do General McPherson and myself too much honor. At

Belmont you manifested your traits, neither of us being near; at

Donelson also you illustrated your whole character. I was not

near, and General McPherson in too subordinate a capacity to

influence you.

Until you had won Donelson, I confess I was almost cowed by the

terrible array of anarchical elements that presented themselves at

every point; but that victory admitted the ray of light which I

have followed ever since.

I believe you are as brave, patriotic, and just, as the great

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