Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman


Text to Speech

was requested to report to the commanding general the operations of

my division during the affair of the 27th, the action of the 28th,

and the battle of the 29th ult.

I had not received the report of subordinate commanders, nor had I

time to review the report I have the honor to submit.

Herewith I have the honor to forward these reports, connected with

which I will submit a few remarks.

Brigadier-General Blair speaks of having discovered, while on his

retreat from the enemy's works, a broad and easy road running from

the left of my position to the enemy's lines. The road is neither

broad nor easy, and was advanced over by De Courcey when leading

his brigade to the charge. The road General Blair speaks of is the

one running from Lake's Landing and intersecting with the Vicksburg

road on the Chickasaw Bluffs. Its existence was known to me on the

28th ult., but it was left open intentionally by the enemy, and was

commanded by a direct and cross fire from batteries and rifle-pits.

The withdrawal of his brigade from the assault by Colonel De

Courcey was justified by the failure of the corps of A. J. Smith,

and the command of Colonel Lindsey, to advance simultaneously to

the assault. Both had the same difficulties to encounter--

impassable bayous. The enemy's line of battle was concave, and De

Courcey advanced against his centre--hence he sustained a

concentric fire, and the withdrawal of Steele from the front of the

enemy's right on the 28th ult. enabled the enemy on the following

day to concentrate his right upon his centre.

I regret to find, from the report of Brigadier-General Thayer, some

one regiment skulked; this I did not observe, nor is it mentioned

by General Blair, though his were the troops which occupied that

portion of the field. As far as my observation extended, the

troops bore themselves nobly; but the Sixteenth Ohio Infantry was

peerless on the field, as it had ever been in camp or on the march.

Lieutenant-Colonel Kershner, commanding, was wounded and taken

prisoner. He is an officer of rare merit, and deserves to command

a brigade. Lieutenant-Colonel Dieter, commanding the Fifty-eighth

Ohio, was killed within the enemy's works; and Lieutenant-Colonel

Monroe, Twenty-second Kentucky, was struck down at the head of his

regiment.

I again express my profound acknowledgments to Brigadier-Generals

Blair and Thayer, and Colonels De Conrcey, Lindsey, and Sheldon,

brigade commanders. Also to Major M. C. Garber, assistant

quartermaster; Captain S. S. Lyon, acting topographical engineer;

Lieutenant Burdick, acting ordnance officer; Lieutenant Hutchins,

acting chief of staff; Lieutenants H. G. Fisher and Smith, of

Signal Corps; Lieutenant E. D. Saunders, my acting assistant

adjutant-general; and Lieutenants English and Montgomery, acting

aides-de-camp, for the efficient services rendered me.

Nor can I close this report without speaking in terms of high

praise of the meritorious and gallant services of Captains Foster

and Lamphier. Their batteries silenced several of the enemy's

works, and throughout the operations rendered good service. My

sincere acknowledgments are also due to Captain Griffith,

commanding First Iowa Battery, and Captain Hoffman, commanding

Fourth Ohio Battery.

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

GEORGE W. MORGAN, Brigadier-General Volunteers.

CINCINNATI, February 8, 1876.

MY DEAR GENERAL: Regarding the attack at Chickasaw Bayou, my record

shows the position of Steele on the left; Morgan to his right;

Morgan L. Smith to his right, and A. J. Smith on the extreme right;

the latter not expected to accomplish much more than a diversion,

the result to come from the three other divisions, Morgan having

the best opportunity. Saturday night they were in position; you

were at Lake's plantation, right and rear of Morgan.

The attack for lodgment on the hills was ordered for Sunday

morning, December 28th. I was sent to A. J. Smith before daylight,

and returned to you soon after. You were with Morgan. You had

fully explained to him the importance of his success, and that he

should be present with the attacking column, which was to be a part

of his division, supported by the remainder, and by Blair's brigade

of Steele's division cooperating. The attack was to be

simultaneous, by the four divisions, on a signal.

Morgan's answer to you was that, when the signal was given, he

would lead his attack, and with his life he would be on the bluffs

in fifteen minutes. He seemed of positive knowledge, and as sure of

success. You then retired to a central point, to be in easy

communication with Steele and Morgan L. Smith. The attack was

made, and developed, in the case of Steele, M. L. Smith, and A. J.

Smith, that to cross the bayou was impossible, if opposed by any

force, and in each they were by a strong one. Morgan's attacking

force succeeded in getting across the causeway and marsh, but he

did not go with it, nor support it with more men, and a large

number were captured from Blair's brigade after gaining the enemy's

last line of works covering the bayou. At the time everybody

blamed and criticised Morgan with the failure. You felt from the

advance of his attack it must be successful, and, as it pushed

forward, you sent me to urge on M. L. Smith, as Morgan was over,

and he, Smith, must aid by persistent attack, and give Morgan as

good a chance as could be to make his lodgment....

I am, etc., L. M. DAYTON

Late Colonel of the Staff, now of Cincinnati, Ohio

General W. T. SHERMAN, St. Louis, Missouri

[COPY.]

" . . . . The expedition was wonderfully well provided with

provisions, transportation, and munitions, and even axes, picks,

and shovels, so much in use later in the war, evidenced the

forethought that governed this force. The boats, from their open

lower deck construction, proved admirable for transports, but their

tinder-box construction made fire-traps of them, requiring

unremitting vigilance. These points were well understood, and the

readiness with which the troops adapted themselves to circumstances

was a constant source of wonder and congratulations.

"The fleet collected at Friar's Point for final orders, and there

the order of sailing was laid down with great minuteness, and

private instructions issued to commanders of divisions, all of whom

had personal interviews with the commanding general, and received

personal explanations on pretty much every point involved. Our

headquarters boat, the Forest Queen, was not very comfortable, nor

well provided, but General Sherman submitted cheerfully, on the

grounds of duty, and thought Conway a fine fellow. I was only able

to concede that he was a good steamboat captain....

"Our camp appointments were Spartan in the extreme, and in their

simplicity would have met the demands of any demagogue in the land.

The nights were cold and damp, and General Sherman uncomfortably

active in his preparations, so that the assistant adjutant-general

had no very luxurious post just then. We were surrounded with

sloughs. The ground was wet, and the water, although in winter,

was very unwholesome. Many of our men, to this day, have reminders

of the Yazoo in ague, fevers, and diseases of the bowels. Cavalry

was useless. One battalion of Illinois cavalry was strongly

suspected of camping in the timber, until time passed enough to

justify the suspicion of having been somewhere. Really the

strength of Vicksburg was in being out of reach of attack....

"My orders were to learn and report what was going on on the right,

particularly to try and form an idea of the enemy's force in front

of M. L. Smith's division, and at the sand-bar. Leaving my horse

close in the rear of the Sixth Missouri, when the fire became too

heavy for riding, I succeeded, by taking frequent cover, in

reaching unhurt the verge of the bayou among the drift-logs.

There, by concert of action with Lieutenant-Colonel Blood, of the

Sixth Missouri, his regiment, and the Thirteenth Regular Infantry,

kept up a heavy fire on everything that showed along the levee and

earthworks in front. The enemy were behind the embankment, not

over one hundred and fifty yards across the bayou. Several

officers, including Colonel Blood, Colonel Kilby Smith, and myself,

managed, by getting on the piles of drift, to see over the levee

through the cleared fields beyond, even to the foot of the bluff.

The chips and twigs flew around lively enough, but we staid up long

enough to make sure that the enemy had as many men behind the levee

as could get cover. We saw, also, a line of rifle-pits in the

rear, commanding the rear of the levee, and still beyond, winding

along the foot of the bluff, a road worn by long use deep into the

side-hill, and with the side next us strengthened with a good

earthwork, affording a covered line of communication in the rear.

The fire of our men was so well maintained that we were able to see

all these things, say a minute or more. Some of those who ventured

were wounded, but those mentioned and myself escaped unhurt. I

advised that men enough to hold the position, once across--say

three hundred--should make a rush (protected as our lookout had

been by a heavy fire) across the sand-bar, and get a footing under

the other bank of the bayou, as the nucleus of an attacking force,

if General Sherman decided to attack there, or to make a strong

diversion if the attack was made at the head of Chickasaw Bayou, in

front of Morgan. General A. J. Smith, commanding First and Second

Divisions, approved of this. While returning to General Sherman, I

passed along the Second and part of the Third Division. On the

left of the Second I found a new Illinois regiment, high up in

numbers, working its way into position. The colonel, a brave but

inexperienced officer, was trying to lead his men according to the

popular pictorial idea, viz., riding in advance waving his sword.

I was leading my horse, and taking advantage of such cover as I

could find on my course, but this man acted so bravely that I tried

to save him. He did not accept my expostulations with very good

grace, but was not rough about it. While I was begging him to

dismount, he waved his sword and advanced. In a second he was

shot, through the chest, and dropped from his horse, plucky to the

last. He died, I was told, within the hour. Many of the regiments

were new and inexperienced, but as a rule behaved well. The fire

along the bayou was severe, but not very fatal, on account of the

cover. I was constantly asked what news from Grant, for from the

moment of our arrival in the Yazoo we were in expectation of either

hearing his guns in the rear, or of having communication with him.

This encouraged the men greatly, but the long waiting was

disappointing, as the enemy was evidently in large force in the

plenty of works, and a very strong position. Careful estimates and

available information placed their force at fifteen to twenty

thousand men. I returned to headquarters about the middle of the

afternoon, and made my report to the general. We were busy till

after midnight, and again early in the morning of the 29th, in

preparing orders for the attack. These were unusually minute in

detail. It seemed as though no contingency was left unprovided

for. Urgent orders and cautions as to rations and ammunition were

given. Drawings of the line of attack, orders for supports, all

and everything was foreseen and given in writing, with personal

explanations to commanders of divisions, brigades, and even

commanders of regiments. Indeed, the commanding general, always

careful as to detail, left nothing to chance, and with experienced

and ordinate officers we would have succeeded, for the troops were

good. The general plan involved a feint on our left toward

Haines's Bluff, by the navy, under Admiral Porter, with whom we

were in constant communication, while between him and General

Sherman perfect harmony existed. On the right a demonstration by

A. J. Smith was to be made. The Second Division (Stuart's) was to

cross the sand-bar, and the Third (General Morgan's) was to cross

on a small bridge over the dough at the head of Chickasaw Bayou,

and, supported by Steele, was to push straight for the Bluff at the

nearest spur where there was a battery in position, and to effect

a lodgment there and in the earthworks. General Sherman gave his

orders in person to Morgan and Steele. I understood Morgan to

promise that he would lead his division in person, and he seemed to

expect an easy victory, and expressed himself freely to that

effect. The aides were sent out, until I was left alone with the

general and a couple of orderlies. He located himself in a

position easy of access, and the most convenient afforded to the

point of attack. He directed me to see what I could, and report if

I met anything that he should know. I galloped as fast as possible

to the right, and found part of the Sixth Missouri pushing over the

sand-bar covered by the Thirteenth Regulars with a heavy fire. We

supposed, if once across, they could get up the bank and turn the

levee against the enemy, and left with that impression. Being in

heavy timber, I was not quite sure of my way back to the general,

his location being new, and therefore pushed full gallop for

Morgan's front, catching a good many stray shots from the

sharpshooters behind the levee, as I was compelled to keep in sight

of the bayou to hold direction. Something over half-way along

Morgan's division front, the commander of a Kentucky regiment

hailed me and said he must have support, as he was threatened by a

masked battery, and the enemy was in force in his front, and might

cross any moment. I answered, rather shortly, 'How the devil do

you know there is a masked battery? If you can't get over, how can

the rebels get at you?' He insisted on the battery, and danger. I

finally told him the bayou was utterly impassable there, but, if he

insisted the enemy could cross, I would insist on an advance on our

side at that point. Hurrying on to make up lost time, I soon

reached Morgan. He was making encouraging speeches in a general

way, but stopped to ask me questions as to Steele's rank, date of

commission, etc. I was very much disturbed at this, fearing want

of harmony, and rode on to Steele, whom I found cursing Morgan so

fiercely that I could not exactly make out the source of the

trouble, or reason why; but saw want of concert clearly enough. I

hastened back to General Sherman, and endeavored to impress my

ideas on him and my fears; but, while he admitted the facts, he

could not be made to believe that any jealousy or personal quarrel

could lead to a failure to support each other, and a neglect of

duty. The signal for attack had already been given, and the

artillery had opened, when I left him again for Morgan's front. I

found Morgan where I left him, and the troops advancing. I had

understood that he was to lead his division, and asked about it,

but, getting no satisfaction, pushed for the front, crossing the

slough at the little bridge at the head of the bayou. I found the

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