Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman

Text to Speech

Mississippi, embracing the Departments of the Ohio, Cumberland,

Tennessee, and Arkansas, commanded respectively by Major-Generals

Schofield, Thomas, McPherson, and Steele. General Grant was in the

act of starting East to assume command of all the armies of the

United States, but more particularly to give direction in person to

the Armies of the Potomac and James, operating against Richmond;

and I accompanied him as far as Cincinnati on his way, to avail

myself of the opportunity to discuss privately many little details

incident to the contemplated changes, and of preparation for the

great events then impending. Among these was the intended

assignment to duty of many officers of note and influence, who had,

by the force of events, drifted into inactivity and discontent.

Among these stood prominent Generals McClellan, Burnside, and

Fremont, in, the East; and Generals Buell, McCook, Negley, and

Crittenden, at the West. My understanding was that General Grant

thought it wise and prudent to give all these officers appropriate

commands, that would enable them to regain the influence they had

lost; and, as a general reorganization of all the armies was then

necessary, he directed me to keep in mind especially the claims of

Generals Buell, McCook, and Crittenden, and endeavor to give them

commands that would be as near their rank and dates of commission

as possible; but I was to do nothing until I heard further from

him on the subject, as he explained that he would have to consult

the Secretary of War before making final orders. General Buell and

his officers had been subjected to a long ordeal by a court of

inquiry, touching their conduct of the campaign in Tennessee and

Kentucky, that resulted in the battle of Perryville, or Chaplin's

Hills, October 8,1862, and they had been substantially acquitted;

and, as it was manifest that we were to have some hard fighting, we

were anxious to bring into harmony every man and every officer of

skill in the profession of arms. Of these, Generals Buell and

McClellan were prominent in rank, and also by reason of their fame

acquired in Mexico, as well as in the earlier part of the civil


After my return to Nashville I addressed myself to the task of

organization and preparation, which involved the general security

of the vast region of the South which had been already conquered,

more especially the several routes of supply and communication with

the active armies at the front, and to organize a large army to

move into Georgia, coincident with the advance of the Eastern

armies against Richmond. I soon received from Colonel J. B. Fry--

now of the Adjutant-General's Department, but then at Washington in

charge of the Provost-Marshal-General's office--a letter asking me

to do something for General Buell. I answered him frankly, telling

him of my understanding with General Grant, and that I was still

awaiting the expected order of the War Department, assigning

General Buell to my command. Colonel Fry, as General Buell's

special friend, replied that he was very anxious that I should make

specific application for the services of General Buell by name, and

inquired what I proposed to offer him. To this I answered that,

after the agreement with General Grant that he would notify me from

Washington, I could not with propriety press the matter, but if

General Buell should be assigned to me specifically I was prepared

to assign him to command all the troops on the Mississippi River

from Cairo to Natchez, comprising about three divisions, or the

equivalent of a corps d'armee. General Grant never afterward

communicated to me on the subject at all; and I inferred that Mr.

Stanton, who was notoriously vindictive in his prejudices, would

not consent to the employment of these high officers. General

Buell, toward the close of the war, published a bitter political

letter, aimed at General Grant, reflecting on his general

management of the war, and stated that both Generals Canby and

Sherman had offered him a subordinate command, which he had

declined because he had once outranked us. This was not true as to

me, or Canby either, I think, for both General Canby and I ranked

him at West Point and in the old army, and he (General Buell) was

only superior to us in the date of his commission as major-general,

for a short period in 1862. This newspaper communication, though

aimed at General Grant, reacted on himself, for it closed his

military career. General Crittenden afterward obtained authority

for service, and I offered him a division, but he declined it for

the reason, as I understood it, that he had at one time commanded a

corps. He is now in the United States service, commanding the

Seventeenth Infantry. General McCook obtained a command under

General Canby, in the Department of the Gulf, where he rendered

good service, and he is also in the regular service, lieutenant-

colonel Tenth Infantry.

I returned to Nashville from Cincinnati about the 25th of March,

and started at once, in a special car attached to the regular

train, to inspect my command at the front, going to Pulaski,

Tennessee, where I found General G. M. Dodge; thence to Huntsville,

Alabama, where I had left a part of my personal staff and the

records of the department during the time we had been absent at

Meridian; and there I found General McPherson, who had arrived from

Vicksburg, and had assumed command of the Army of the Tennessee.

General McPherson accompanied me, and we proceeded by the cars to

Stevenson, Bridgeport, etc., to Chattanooga, where we spent a day

or two with General George H. Thomas, and then continued on to

Knoxville, where was General Schofield. He returned with us to

Chattanooga, stopping by the way a few hours at Loudon, where were

the headquarters of the Fourth Corps (Major-General Gordon

Granger). General Granger, as usual, was full of complaints at the

treatment of his corps since I had left him with General Burnside,

at Knoxville, the preceding November; and he stated to me

personally that he had a leave of absence in his pocket, of which

he intended to take advantage very soon. About the end of March,

therefore, the three army commanders and myself were together at

Chattanooga. We had nothing like a council of war, but conversed

freely and frankly on all matters of interest then in progress or

impending. We all knew that, as soon as the spring was fairly

open, we should have to move directly against our antagonist,

General Jos. E. Johnston, then securely intrenched at Dalton,

thirty miles distant; and the purpose of our conference at the time

was to ascertain our own resources, and to distribute to each part

of the army its appropriate share of work. We discussed every

possible contingency likely to arise, and I simply instructed each

army commander to make immediate preparations for a hard campaign,

regulating the distribution of supplies that were coming up by rail

from Nashville as equitably as possible. We also agreed on some

subordinate changes in the organization of the three separate

armies which were destined to take the field; among which was the

consolidation of the Eleventh and Twelfth Corps (Howard and Slocum)

into a single corps, to be commanded by General Jos. Hooker.

General Howard was to be transferred to the Fourth Corps, vice

Gordon Granger to avail himself of his leave of absence; and

General Slocum was to be ordered down the Mississippi River, to

command the District of Vicksburg. These changes required the

consent of the President, and were all in due time approved.

The great question of the campaign was one of supplies. Nashville,

our chief depot, was itself partially in a hostile country, and

even the routes of supply from Louisville to Nashville by rail, and

by way of the Cumberland River, had to be guarded. Chattanooga

(our starting-point) was one hundred and thirty-six miles in front

of Nashville, and every foot of the way, especially the many

bridges, trestles, and culverts, had to be strongly guarded against

the acts of a local hostile population and of the enemy's cavalry.

Then, of course, as we advanced into Georgia, it was manifest that

we should have to repair the railroad, use it, and guard it like-

wise: General Thomas's army was much the largest of the three, was

best provided, and contained the best corps of engineers, railroad

managers, and repair parties, as well as the best body of spies and

provost-marshals. On him we were therefore compelled in a great

measure to rely for these most useful branches of service. He had

so long exercised absolute command and control over the railroads

in his department, that the other armies were jealous, and these

thought the Army of the Cumberland got the lion's share of the

supplies and other advantages of the railroads. I found a good

deal of feeling in the Army of the Tennessee on this score, and

therefore took supreme control of the roads myself, placed all the

army commanders on an equal footing, and gave to each the same

control, so far as orders of transportation for men and stores were

concerned. Thomas's spies brought him frequent and accurate

reports of Jos. E. Johnston's army at Dalton, giving its strength

anywhere between forty and fifty thousand men, and these were being

reenforced by troops from Mississippi, and by the Georgia militia,

under General G. W. Smith. General Johnston seemed to be acting

purely on the defensive, so that we had time and leisure to take

all our measures deliberately and fully. I fixed the date of May

1st, when all things should be in readiness for the grand forward

movement, and then returned to Nashville; General Schofield going

back to Knoxville, and McPherson to Huntsville, Thomas remaining at


On the 2d of April, at Nashville, I wrote to General Grant, then at

Washington, reporting to him the results of my visit to the several

armies, and asked his consent to the several changes proposed,

which was promptly given by telegraph. I then addressed myself

specially to the troublesome question of transportation and

supplies. I found the capacity of the railroads from Nashville

forward to Decatur, and to Chattanooga, so small, especially in the

number of locomotives and care, that it was clear that they were

barely able to supply the daily wants of the armies then dependent

on them, with no power of accumulating a surplus in advance. The

cars were daily loaded down with men returning from furlough, with

cattle, horses, etc.; and, by reason of the previous desolation of

the country between Chattanooga and Knoxville, General Thomas had

authorized the issue of provisions to the suffering inhabitants.

We could not attempt an advance into Georgia without food,

ammunition, etc.; and ordinary prudence dictated that we should

have an accumulation at the front, in case of interruption to the

railway by the act of the enemy, or by common accident.

Accordingly, on the 6th of April, I issued a general order,

limiting the use of the railroad-cars to transporting only the

essential articles of food, ammunition, and supplies for the army

proper, forbidding any further issues to citizens, and cutting off

all civil traffic; requiring the commanders of posts within thirty

miles of Nashville to haul out their own stores in wagons;

requiring all troops destined for the front to march, and all beef-

cattle to be driven on their own legs. This was a great help, but

of course it naturally raised a howl. Some of the poor Union

people of East Tennessee appealed to President Lincoln, whose kind

heart responded promptly to their request. He telegraphed me to

know if I could not modify or repeal my orders; but I answered him

that a great campaign was impending, on which the fate of the

nation hung; that our railroads had but a limited capacity, and

could not provide for the necessities of the army and of the people

too; that one or the other must quit, and we could not until the

army of Jos. Johnston was conquered, etc., etc. Mr. Lincoln seemed

to acquiesce, and I advised the people to obtain and drive out

cattle from Kentucky, and to haul out their supplies by the wagon-

road from the same quarter, by way of Cumberland Gap. By these

changes we nearly or quite doubled our daily accumulation of stores

at the front, and yet even this was not found enough.

I accordingly called together in Nashville the master of

transportation, Colonel Anderson, the chief quartermaster, General

J. L. Donaldson, and the chief commissary, General Amos Beckwith,

for conference. I assumed the strength of the army to move from

Chattanooga into Georgia at one hundred thousand men, and the

number of animals to be fed, both for cavalry and draught, at

thirty-five thousand; then, allowing for occasional wrecks of

trains, which were very common, and for the interruption of the

road itself by guerrillas and regular raids, we estimated it would

require one hundred and thirty cars, of ten tons each, to reach

Chattanooga daily, to be reasonably certain of an adequate supply.

Even with this calculation, we could not afford to bring forward

hay for the horses and mules, nor more than five pounds of oats or

corn per day for each animal. I was willing to risk the question

of forage in part, because I expected to find wheat and corn

fields, and a good deal of grass, as we advanced into Georgia at

that season of the year. The problem then was to deliver at

Chattanooga and beyond one hundred and thirty car-loads daily,

leaving the beef-cattle to be driven on the hoof, and all the

troops in excess of the usual train-guards to march by the ordinary

roads. Colonel Anderson promptly explained that he did not possess

cars or locomotives enough to do this work. I then instructed and

authorized him to hold on to all trains that arrived at Nashville

from Louisville, and to allow none to go back until he had secured

enough to fill the requirements of our problem. At the time he

only had about sixty serviceable locomotives, and about six hundred

cars of all kinds, and he represented that to provide for all

contingencies he must have at least one hundred locomotives and one

thousand cars. As soon as Mr. Guthrie, the President of the

Louisville & Nashville Railroad, detected that we were holding on

to all his locomotives and cars, he wrote me, earnestly

remonstrating against it, saying that he would not be able with

diminished stock to bring forward the necessary stores from

Louisville to Nashville. I wrote to him, frankly telling him

exactly how we were placed, appealed to his patriotism to stand by

us, and advised him in like manner to hold on to all trains coming

into Jeffersonville, Indiana. He and General Robert Allen, then

quartermaster-general at Louisville, arranged a ferry-boat so as to

transfer the trains over the Ohio River from Jeffersonville, and in

a short time we had cars and locomotives from almost every road at

the North; months afterward I was amused to see, away down in

Georgia, cars marked "Pittsburg & Fort Wayne," "Delaware &

Lackawanna," "Baltimore & Ohio," and indeed with the names of

almost every railroad north of the Ohio River. How these railroad

companies ever recovered their property, or settled their

transportation accounts, I have never heard, but to this fact, as

much as to any other single fact, I attribute the perfect success

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