Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman

Text to Speech


L. M. DAYTON, late Colonel of the Staff, now of Cincinnati, Ohio.

General W. T. SHERMAN.


[Special Field Orders, No. 11.]


MEMPHIS, January 27, 1864

V. The expedition is one of celerity, and all things must tend to

that. Corps commanders and staff-officers will see that our

movements are not encumbered by wheeled vehicles improperly loaded.

Not a tent, from the commander-in-chief down, will be carried. The

sick will be left behind, and the surgeons can find houses and

sheds for all hospital purposes.

VI. All the cavalry in this department is placed under the orders

and command of Brigadier-General W. S. Smith, who will receive

special instructions.

By order of Major-General W. T. SHERMAN

L. M. DAYTON, Aide-de-Camp.

NOTE.-That same evening I started in a steamboat for Vicksburg.

W. T. S.

St. Louis, 1885.


MEMPHIS, January 27, 1864

Brigadier-General W. S. SMITH, commanding Cavalry, etc., present.

DEAR GENERAL: By an order issued this day I have placed all the

cavalry of this department subject to your command. I estimate you

can make a force of full seven thousand men, which I believe to be

superior and better in all respects than the combined cavalry which

the enemy has in all the State of Mississippi. I will in person

start for Vicksburg to-day, and with four divisions of infantry,

artillery, and cavalry move out for Jackson, Brandon, and Meridian,

aiming to reach the latter place by February 10th. General Banks

will feign on Pascagoula and General Logan on Rome. I want you

with your cavalry to move from Colliersville on Pontotoc and

Okolona; thence sweeping down near the Mobile & Ohio Railroad,

disable that road as much as possible, consume or destroy the

resources of the enemy along that road, break up the connection

with Columbus, Mississippi, and finally reach me at or near

Meridian as near the date I have mentioned as possible. This will

call for great energy of action on your part, but I believe you are

equal to it, and you have the best and most experienced troops in

the service, and they will do anything that is possible. General

Grierson is with you, and is familiar with the whole country. I

will send up from Haines's Bluff an expedition of gunboats and

transports combined, to feel up the Yazoo as far as the present

water will permit. This will disconcert the enemy. My movement on

Jackson will also divide the enemy, so that by no combination can

he reach you with but a part of his force. I wish you to attack

any force of cavalry you meet and follow them southward, but in no

event be drawn into the forks of the streams that make up the Yazoo

nor over into Alabama. Do not let the enemy draw you into minor

affairs, but look solely to the greater object to destroy his

communication from Okolona to Meridian, and thence eastward to

Selma. From Okolona south you will find abundance of forage

collected along the railroad, and the farmers have corn standing in

the fields. Take liberally of all these, as well as horses, mules,

cattle, etc. As a rule, respect dwellings and families as

something too sacred to be disturbed by soldiers, but mills, barns,

sheds, stables, and such like things use for the benefit or

convenience of your command. If convenient, send into Columbus,

Mississippi, and destroy all machinery there, and the bridge across

the Tombigbee, which enables the enemy to draw the resources of the

east side of the valley, but this is not of sufficient importance

to delay your movement. Try and communicate with me by scouts and

spies from the time you reach Pontotoc. Avoid any large force of

infantry, leaving them to me. We have talked over this matter so

much that the above covers all points not provided for in my

published orders of to-day. I am, etc.,

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

MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE, January 27, 1864.

Brigadier-General J. P. HATCH, in charge of Cavalry Bureau, St.

Louis, Missouri.

SIR: Your favor of the 21st inst. is just received. Up to the

present time eight hundred and eighteen horses have arrived here

since Captain Hudson's visit to St. Louis. I wrote you upon his

return several days ago that it would not be necessary to divert

shipments to this point which could not reach us before February

1st. We shall certainly get off on our contemplated expedition

before that time. The number of horses estimated for in this

department by its chief quartermaster was two thousand, and this

number, including those already sent, will, I think, completely

mount all the dismounted cavalry of this department. Recruits for

cavalry regiments are arriving freely, and this will swell our

requisitions for a couple of months to come. I will as far as

possible procure horses from the regions of country traversed by

our cavalry.

Yours truly, W. SOOY SMITH, Brigadier-General,

Chief of Cavalry, Military Division of the Mississippi.

MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE, January 28, 1864

Brigadier-General GEORGE CROOK, commanding Second Cavalry Division,

Huntsville, Alabama.

I start in about three days with seven, thousand men to Meridian

via Pontotoc. Demonstrate on Decatur, to hold Roddy.

W. SOOY SMITH, Brigadier-General,

Chief of Cavalry, Military Division of the Mississippi.


General W. T. SHERMAN, Commander-in-Chief, United States Army.

SIR: Your letter of July 7th is just received.

Your entire statement in the "Memoirs" concerning my part in the

Meridian campaign is incorrect.

You overstate my strength, placing it at seven thousand effective,

when it was but six. The nominal strength of my command was seven


You understate the strength of my enemy, putting Forrest's force at

four thousand. On our return to Nashville, you stated it, in

General Grant's presence, to have been but twenty-five hundred.

Before and during my movement I positively knew Forrest's strength

to be full six thousand, and he has since told me so himself.

Instead of delaying from the 1st to the 11th of February for "some

regiment that was ice-bound near Columbus, Kentucky," it was an

entire brigade, Colonel Waring's, without which your orders to me

were peremptory not to move. I asked you if I should wait its

arrival, and you answered: "Certainly; if you go without it, you

will be, too weak, and I want you strong enough to go where you


The time set for our arrival at Meridian, the 10th of February, had

arrived before it was possible for me, under your orders, to move

from Memphis, and I would have been entirely justifiable if I had

not started at all. But I was at that time, and at all times

during the war, as earnest and anxious to carry out my orders, and

do my full duty as you or any other officer could be, and I set out

to make a march of two hundred and fifty miles into the

Confederacy, having to drive back a rebel force equal to my own.

After the time had arrived for the full completion of my movement,

I drove this force before me, and penetrated one hundred and sixty

miles into the Confederacy--did more hard fighting, and killed,

wounded, and captured more of the enemy than you did during the

campaign--did my work most thoroughly, as far as I could go without

encountering the rebel cavalry set loose by your return from

Meridian, and brought off my command, with all the captured

property and rescued negroes, with very small loss, considering

that inflicted on the enemy, and the long-continued and very severe

fighting. If I had disobeyed your orders, and started without

Waring's brigade, I would have been "too weak," would probably have

been defeated, and would have been subjected to just censure.

Having awaited its arrival, as I was positively and distinctly

ordered to do, it only remained for me to start upon its arrival,

and accomplish all that I could of the work allotted to me. To

have attempted to penetrate farther into the enemy's country, with

the cavalry of Polk's army coming up to reenforce Forrest, would

have insured the destruction of my entire command, situated as it

was. I cannot now go into all the particulars, though I assure you

that they make the proof of the correctness of my conduct as

conclusive as I could desire it to be. I was not headed off and

defeated by an inferior force near West Point. We had the fighting

all our own way near West Point, and at all other points except at

Okalona, on our return, when we had the worst of it for a little

while, but finally checked the enemy handsomely, and continued our

return march, fighting at the rear and on both flanks, repulsing

all attacks and moving in perfect order. And so my movement was

not a failure, except that I did not reach Meridian as intended,

for the reason stated, and for many more which it is not necessary

for me to detail here. On the other hand, it was a very decided

success, inflicting a terrible destruction of supplies of every

kind, and a heavy loss of men upon the enemy. You should have so

reported it in the beginning. You should so amend your report, and

"Memoirs" now. This, and no less than this, is due from one

soldier to another. It is due to the exalted position which you

occupy, and, above all, it is due to that truthfulness in history

which you claim to revere. If you desire it, I will endeavor to

visit you, and in a friendly manner "fight our battles o'er again,"

and endeavor to convince you that you have always been mistaken as

to the manner in which my part in the "Meridian campaign" was

performed. But I will never rest until the wrong statements

regarding it are fully and fairly corrected. Yours truly,



St. Louis, Missouri, July 11, 1875.

General J. D. WEBSTER, Chicago, Illinois

DEAR GENERAL: General W. Sooy Smith feels aggrieved and wronged by

my account of his part in the Meridian campaign, in my "Memoirs,"

pages 394, 395, and properly appeals to me for correction. I have

offered to modify any words or form of expression that he may point

out, but he asks me to completely change the whole that concerns

him. This, of course, I will not do, as his part was material to

the whole, and cannot be omitted or materially altered without

changing the remainder, for his failure to reach Meridian by

February 10th was the reason for other movements distant from him.

I now offer him, what seems to me fair and liberal, that we submit

the points at issue to you as arbitrator. You are familiar with

the ground, the coincident history, and most, if not all, the


I propose to supply you with

1. Copy of my orders placing all the cavalry under General Smith's

orders (with returns).

2. My letter of instructions to him of January 27th.

3. My official report of the campaign, dated Vicksburg, March 7,


4. General W. Sooy Smith's report of his operations, dated

Nashville, Tennessee, March 4, 1864.

After reading these, I further propose that you address us

questions which we will answer in writing, when you are to make us

a concise, written decision, which I will have published in close

connection with the subject in controversy. If General Smith will

show you my letter to him of this date, and also deliver this with

his written assent, I will promptly furnish you the above

documents, and also procure from the official files a return of the

cavalry force available at and near Memphis on the date of my

orders, viz., January 27, 1864.

With great respect, your friend and servant,

W. T. SHERMAN, General.

NOTE:--General Smith never submitted his case to the arbitration

offered. The whole will be made clear by the publication of the

official records, which are already in print, though not yet

issued. His orders were in writing, and I have no recollection of

the "peremptory" verbal orders to which he refers, and quotes as

from me.

ST. Louis, Missouri, 1895. W. T. S.

MAYWOOD, ILLINOIS, July 14, 1875.

General W. T. SHERMAN, Commander-in-Chief, etc.

DEAR GENERAL: Your letter of the 11th of July reaches me just as I

am starting to spend the first vacation I have ever allowed myself

--in the Territories, with my wife and son.

It indicates a spirit of fairness from which we have better things

than an arbitration to hope for. Though, if we should reach such a

necessity, there is no one living to whom our differences might

more properly be referred than to General Webster. I make no

objection to your writing your "Memoirs," and, as long as they

refer to your own conduct, you are at liberty to write them as you

like; but, when they refer to mine, and deal unjustly with my

reputation, I, of right, object.

Neither do I wish to write my "Memoirs," unless compelled to do so

to vindicate my good name. There were certain commands which were

to make up mine. These, Waring's brigade included, were spoken of

by us in the long conversation to which you refer. This brigade we

knew was having a hard time of it in its movement from Columbus to

Memphis. I asked you if I should move without it if it did not

arrive, and you answered me as stated in my last letter to you.

Those who immediately surrounded me during the painful delay that

occurred will inform you how sorely I chafed under the restraint of

that peremptory order.

In the conversation that occurred between us at Nashville, while

all the orders, written and verbal, were still fresh in your

memory, you did not censure me for waiting for Waring, but for

allowing myself to be encumbered with fugitive negroes to such an

extent that my command was measurably unfit for active movement or

easy handling, and for turning back from West Point, instead of

pressing on toward Meridian. Invitations had been industriously

circulated, by printed circulars and otherwise, to the negroes to

come into our lines, and to seek our protection wherever they could

find it, and I considered ourselves pledged to receive and protect

them. Your censure for so doing, and your remarks on that subject

to me in Nashville, are still fresh in my memory, and of a

character which you would now doubtless gladly disavow.

But we must meet and talk the whole matter over, and I will be at

any trouble to see you when I return.

Meantime I will not let go the hope that I will convince you

absolutely of your error, for the facts are entirely on my side.

Yours truly,



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By William T. Sherman





On the 18th day of March, 1864, at Nashville, Tennessee, I relieved

Lieutenant-General Grant in command of the Military Division of the

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