Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman


Text to Speech

willows cut off eighteen inches or two feet long, with sharp points

above the mud, making it slow and difficult to pass, save at the

bridge. I overtook the rear of the advance about two or three

hundred feet up the gentle slope, and was astonished to find how

small a force was making the attack. I was also surprised to find

that they were Steele's men instead of Morgan's. I also saw

several regiments across the bayou, but not advancing; they were

near the levee. A heavy artillery and infantry fire was going on

all this time. While making my way along the column, from which

there were very few falling back, a shell burst near me, and the

concussion confused me at the time and left me with a headache for

several months. When I got my wits about me again I found a good

many coming back, but the main part of the force was compact and

keeping up the fight. I did not get closer to the woods than about

five hundred feet, and found that a large number had penetrated

into the enemy's works. When our men fell back, very few ran, but

came slowly and sullenly, far more angry than frightened. I found

General Frank Blair on foot, and with him Colonel Sea, of Southwest

Missouri, and learned that Colonel Thomas Fletcher, afterward

Governor of Missouri, was captured with many of his men. They both

insisted there on the spot, with those around us, that if all the

men ordered up had gone up, or even all that crossed the bayou had

moved forward, we could have readily established ourselves in the

enemy's works. I was firmly of the same opinion at the time on the

ground; and, an entrance effected, we could have brought the whole

force on dry ground, and had a base of operations against

Vicksburg--though probably, in view of later events, we would have

had to stand a siege from Pemberton's army. After explanations

with Blair, I rode to where the men were, who had crossed the

bayou, but had not advanced with the others. I found them to be De

Courcey's brigade; of Morgan's division, which General Sherman

supposed to be in advance. In fact, it was the intended support

that made the attack. A correspondence and controversy followed

between General Blair and Colonel De Courcey, most of which I have,

but nothing came of it. On reaching the bayou, I found that

Thayer's brigade, of Steele's division, had in some way lost its

direction and filed off to the right. Remembering the masked

battery, I suspected that had something to do with the matter, and,

on following it up, I learned that the Kentucky colonel before

mentioned had appealed for aid against the masked battery and

invisible force of rebels, and that a regiment had been ordered to

him. This regiment, filing off into the timber, had been followed

by Thayer's brigade, supposing it to be advancing to the front, and

thus left a single brigade to attack a superior force of the enemy

in an intrenched and naturally strong position. By the time the

mistake could be rectified, it was too late. Our loss was from one

hundred and fifty to two hundred killed, and about eleven hundred

prisoners and wounded. During the afternoon I went with a flag of

truce, with reference to burying the dead. I saw between eighty

and one hundred of our men dead, all stripped. There were others

closer into the enemy's works than I was allowed to go. On going

later to where the Sixth Missouri crossed, I found that they were

under the bank, and had dug in with their hands and bayonets, or

anything in reach, to protect themselves from a vertical fire from

the enemy overhead, who had a heavy force there. With great

difficulty they were withdrawn at night. Next day arrangements

were made to attempt a lodgment below Haines's Bluff: This was to

be done by Steele's command, while the rest of the force attacked

again where we had already tried. During the day locomotives

whistled, and a great noise and fuss went on in our front, and we

supposed that Grant was driving in Pemberton, and expected firing

any moment up the Yazoo or in the rear of Vicksburg. Not hearing

this, we concluded that Pemberton was throwing his forces into

Vicksburg. A heavy fog prevented Steele from making his movement.

Rain began to fall, and our location was not good to be in after a

heavy rain, or with the river rising. During the night (I think)

of January, 1, 1863, our troops were embarked, material and

provisions having been loaded during the day. A short time before

daylight of the 2d, I went by order of the general commanding, to

our picket lines and carefully examined the enemy's lines, wherever

a camp-fire indicated their presence. They were not very vigilant,

and I once got close enough to hear them talk, but could understand

nothing. Early in the morning I came in with the rear-guard, the

enemy advancing his pickets and main guards only, and making no

effort at all to press us. Once I couldn't resist the temptation

to fire into a squad that came bolder than the rest, and the two

shots were good ones. We received a volley in return that did come

very close among us, but hurt none of my party. Very soon after

our rear-guard was aboard, General Sherman learned from Admiral

Porter that McClernand had arrived at the mouth of the Yazoo. He

went, taking me and one other staff-officer, to see McClernand, and

found that, under an order from the President, he had taken command

of the Army of the Mississippi. He and his staff, of whom I only

remember two-Colonels Scates and Braham, assistant adjutant-general

and aide-de-camp--seemed to think they had a big thing, and, so far

as I could judge, they had just that. All hands thought the

country expected them to cut their way to the Gulf; and to us, who

had just come out of the swamp, the cutting didn't seem such an

easy job as to the new-comers. Making due allowance for the

elevation they seemed to feel in view of their job, everything

passed off pleasantly, and we learned that General Grant's

communications had been cut at Holly Springs by the capture of

Murphy and his force (at Holly Springs), and that he was either in

Memphis by that time or would soon be. So that, everything

considered, it was about as well that we did not get our forces on

the bluff's of Walnut Hill."

The above statement was sent to General Sherman in a letter dated

"Chicago, February 5,1876," and signed "John H. Hammond." Hammond

was General Sherman's assistant adjutant-general at the Chickasaw

Bayou.

J. E. TOURTELOTTE, Colonel and Aide-de-Camp.

On 29th December, 1862, at Chickasaw Bayou, I was in command of the

Thirty-first Missouri Volunteer Infantry, First Brigade, First

Division, Fifteenth Army Corps (Blair's brigade). Colonel Wyman,

of the Thirteenth Illinois Volunteer Infantry, having been killed,

I was the senior colonel of the brigade. General Blair rode up to

where my regiment lay, and said to me:

"We are to make a charge here; we will charge in two lines; your

regiment will be in the first line, and the Twenty-ninth

(Cavender's) will support you. Form here in the timber, and move

out across the bayou on a double-quick, and go right on to the top

of the heights in your front." He then told me to await a signal.

I then attempted to make a reconnaissance of the ground over which

we would have to charge, and rode out to the open ground in my

front, and saw that there was water and soft mud in the bayou, and

was fired upon by the sharp-shooters of the enemy, and turned and

went back into the woods where my command lay. Soon after that

General Blair came near me, and I told him there was water and mud

in the bayou, and I doubted if we could get across. He answered me

that General Morgan told him there was no water nor mud to hinder

us. I remarked that I had seen it myself, and General Morgan, or

any one else, could see it if he would risk being shot at pretty

lively. I then told General Blair that it was certain destruction

to us if we passed over the abatis upon the open ground where there

had once been a corn-field; that we could never reach the base of

the hill. He turned to me and said, "Can't you take your regiment

up there?" I told him, "Yes, I can take my regiment anywhere,

because the men do not know any better than to go," but remarked

that old soldiers could not be got to go up there. General Blair

then said, "Tom, if we succeed, this will be a grand thing; you

will have the glory of leading the assault." He then went on to

say that General Morgan's division would support us, and they were

heroes of many battles, and pointed to the Fifty-eighth Ohio, then

forming in the rear of the Thirteenth Illinois on my right, and

said: "See these men? They are a part of Morgan's division, and are

heroes of many battles." I laughingly said that they might be

heroes, but the regiment did not number as many as one of my

companies. He again assured me we would be supported by Morgan's

division, and all I had to do was to keep right on and "keep going

till you get into Vicksburg." I took my position in advance of my

regiment and awaited the signal. When we heard it, we raised a

shout, and started at a double-quick, the Thirteenth Illinois on my

right. I saw no troops on my left. When we emerged from the

woods, the enemy opened upon us; crossing the bayou under fire, and

many of the men sinking in the mud and water, our line was very

much disordered, but we pretty well restored it before reaching the

abatis. Here we were greatly disordered, but somewhat restored the

line on reaching the plateau or corn-field. The Twenty-ninth

Missouri came on, gallantly supporting us. The Thirteenth Illinois

came out upon the corn-field, and the Fifty-eighth Ohio followed

close upon it. There was firing to my left, and as I afterward

learned was from the Fourth Iowa of Thayer's brigade (and I believe

of Steele's division). I was struck and fell, and my regiment went

back in great disorder. The fire was terrific. I saw beyond the

Thirteenth Illinois, to my right, a disordered line, and learned

afterward it was the Sixteenth Ohio. When I was taken from the

field by the enemy and taken into Vicksburg, I found among the

wounded and prisoners men and officers of the Sixteenth and

Fifty-eighth Ohio, and of the Twenty-ninth and Thirty-first

Missouri, and Thirteenth Illinois. After I was exchanged and

joined my command, General Blair laughingly remarked to me that I

had literally obeyed his order and gone "straight on to Vicksburg."

He lamented the cutting to pieces of our force on that day. We

talked the whole matter over at his headquarters during the siege

of Vicksburg. He said that if the charge had been made along our

whole line with the same vigor of attack made by his brigade, and

if we had been supported as Morgan promised to do, we might have

succeeded. I dissented from the opinion that we could even then

have succeeded. I asked him what excuse Morgan gave for failing to

support us, and he said that Colonel or General De Courcey was in

some manner to blame for that, but he said Morgan was mistaken as

to the nature of the ground and generally as to the feasibility of

the whole thing, and was responsible for the failure to afford us

the support he had promised; that he and General Sherman and all of

them were misled by the statements and opinions of Morgan as to the

situation in our front, and Morgan was, on his part, deceived by

the reports of his scouts about other matters as well as the matter

of the water in the bayou.

THOMAS C. FLETCHER

ARKANSAS POST.

Extracts from Admiral Porter's Journal.

Sherman and I had made arrangements to capture Arkansas Post.

On the 31st of December, while preparing to go out of the Yazoo, an

army officer called to see me, and said that he belonged to General

McClernand's staff, and that the general was at the mouth of the

Yazoo River, and desired to see me at once. I sent word to the

general that if he wished to see me he could have an opportunity by

calling on board my flag-ship.

A few moments after I had heard the news of McClernand'a arrival, I

saw Sherman pulling about in a boat, and hailed him, informing him

that McClernand was at the mouth of the Yazoo. Sherman then came

on board, and, in consequence of this unexpected news, determined

to postpone the movement out of the Yazoo River, and let McClernand

take that upon himself.

General McClernand took my hint and came on board the flag-ship,

but I soon discovered that any admiral, Grant, Sherman, or all the

generals in the army, were nobody in his estimation. Sherman had

been at McClernand's headquarters to see him and state the

condition of affairs, and he then suggested to the latter the plan

of going to Arkansas Post.

I had a number of fine maps hanging up in my cabin, and when

McClernand came on board he examined them all with the eye of a

connoisseur. He then stated to me as a new thing the plan he

proposed!!! of going to Arkansas Post and stirring up our troops,

which had been "demoralized by the late defeat" (Sherman was

present, looking daggers at him). I answered, "Yes, General

Sherman and myself have already arranged for going to Arkansas

Post." Sherman then made some remark about the disposition of the

troops in the coming expedition, when McClernand gave him rather a

curt answer. McClernand then remarked, "If you will let me have

three gunboats, I will go and take the place." Now General

McClernand had about as much idea of what a gunboat was, or could

do, as the man in the moon. He did not know, the difference

between an ironclad and a "tin-clad." He had heard that gunboats

had taken Fort Henry, and that was all be knew about them. I said

to him: "I'll tell you what I will do, General McClernand. If

General Sherman goes in command of the troops, I will go myself in

command of a proper force, and will insure the capture of the

post." McClernand winced under this, and Sherman quietly walked

off into the after-cabin. He beckoned me to come there, while

McClernand was apparently deeply engaged in studying out a chart,

making believe he was interested, in order to conceal his temper.

Sherman said to me: "Admiral, how could you make such a remark to

McClernand? He hates me already, and you have made him an enemy

for life."

"I don't care," said I; "he shall not treat you rudely in my cabin,

and I was glad of the opportunity of letting him know my

sentiments." By this time, General McClernand having bottled up

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