Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman


Text to Speech

Nashville, and I had near me only my personal staff and

inspectors-general, with about half a dozen wagons, and a single

company of Ohio sharp-shooters (commanded by Lieutenant McCrory) as

headquarters or camp guard. I also had a small company of

irregular Alabama cavalry (commanded by Lieutenant Snelling), used

mostly as orderlies and couriers. No wall-tents were allowed, only

the flies. Our mess establishment was less in bulk than that of

any of the brigade commanders; nor was this from an indifference to

the ordinary comforts of life, but because I wanted to set the

example, and gradually to convert all parts of that army into a

mobile machine, willing and able to start at a minute's notice, and

to subsist on the scantiest food. To reap absolute success might

involve the necessity even of dropping all wagons, and to subsist

on the chance food which the country was known to contain. I had

obtained not only the United States census-tables of 1860, but a

compilation made by the Controller of the State of Georgia for the

purpose of taxation, containing in considerable detail the

"population and statistics" of every county in Georgia. One of my

aides (Captain Dayton) acted as assistant adjutant general, with an

order-book, letter-book, and writing-paper, that filled a small

chest not much larger than an ordinary candle-boa. The only

reports and returns called for were the ordinary tri-monthly

returns of "effective strength." As these accumulated they were

sent back to Nashville, and afterward were embraced in the archives

of the Military Division of the Mississippi, changed in 1865 to the

Military Division of the Missouri, and I suppose they were burned

in the Chicago fire of 1870. Still, duplicates remain of all

essential papers in the archives of the War Department.

The 6th of May was given to Schofield and McPherson to get into

position, and on the 7th General Thomas moved in force against

Tunnel Hill, driving off a mere picket-guard of the enemy, and I

was agreeably surprised to find that no damage had been done to the

tunnel or the railroad. From Tunnel Hill I could look into the

gorge by which the railroad passed through a straight and

well-defined range of mountains, presenting sharp palisade faces,

and known as "Rocky Face." The gorge itself was called the

"Buzzard Roost." We could plainly see the enemy in this gorge and

behind it, and Mill Creek which formed the gorge, flowing toward

Dalton, had been dammed up, making a sort of irregular lake,

filling the road, thereby obstructing it, and the enemy's batteries

crowned the cliffs on either side. The position was very strong,

and I knew that such a general as was my antagonist (Jos.

Johnston), who had been there six months, had fortified it to the

maximum. Therefore I had no intention to attack the position

seriously in front, but depended on McPherson to capture and hold

the railroad to its rear, which would force Johnston to detach

largely against him, or rather, as I expected, to evacuate his

position at Dalton altogether. My orders to Generals Thomas and

Schofield were merely to press strongly at all points in front,

ready to rush in on the first appearance of "let go," and, if

possible, to catch our enemy in the confusion of retreat.

All the movements of the 7th and 8th were made exactly as ordered,

and the enemy seemed quiescent, acting purely on the defensive.

I had constant communication with all parts of the army, and on the

9th McPherson's head of column entered and passed through Snake

Creek, perfectly undefended, and accomplished a complete surprise

to the enemy. At its farther debouche he met a cavalry brigade,

easily driven, which retreated hastily north toward Dalton, and

doubtless carried to Johnston the first serious intimation that a

heavy force of infantry and artillery was to his rear and within a

few miles of his railroad. I got a short note from McPherson that

day (written at 2 p.m., when he was within a mile and a half of the

railroad, above and near Resaca), and we all felt jubilant. I

renewed orders to Thomas and Schofield to be ready for the instant

pursuit of what I expected to be a broken and disordered army,

forced to retreat by roads to the east of Resaca, which were known

to be very rough and impracticable.

That night I received further notice from McPherson that he had

found Resaca too strong for a surprise; that in consequence he had

fallen back three miles to the month of Snake Creek Gap, and was

there fortified. I wrote him the next day the following letters,

copies of which are in my letter-book; but his to me were mere

notes in pencil, not retained

HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI

IN THE FIELD, TUNNEL HILL, GEORGIA, May 11, 1864

Major-General McPHERSON, commanding army of the Tennessee,

Sugar Valley, Georgia.

GENERAL: I received by courier (in the night) yours of 5 and 8.30

P. M. of yesterday.

You now have your twenty-three thousand men, and General Hooker is

in close support, so that you can hold all of Jos. Johnston's army

in check should he abandon Dalton. He cannot afford to abandon

Dalton, for he has fixed it up on purpose to receive us, and he

observes that we are close at hand, waiting for him to quit. He

cannot afford a detachment strong enough to fight you, as his army

will not admit of it.

Strengthen your position; fight any thing that comes; and threaten

the safety of the railroad all the time. But, to tell the truth, I

would rather the enemy would stay in Dalton two more days, when he

may find in his rear a larger party than he expects in an open

field. At all events, we can then choose our own ground, and he

will be forced to move out of his works. I do not intend to put a

column into Buzzard-Roost Gap at present.

See that you are in easy communication with me and with all head-

quarters. After to-day the supplies will be at Ringgold.

Yours,

W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General commanding.

HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI

IN THE FIELD, TUNNEL HILL, GEORGIA, May 11, 1864-Evening

Major-General McPHERSON, commanding army of the Tennessee,

Sugar Valley, Georgia

GENERAL: The indications are that Johnston is evacuating Dalton.

In that event, Howard's corps and the cavalry will pursue; all the

rest will follow your route. I will be down early in the morning.

Try to strike him if possible about the forks of the road.

Hooker must be with you now, and you may send General Garrard by

Summerville to threaten Rome and that flank. I will cause all the

lines to be felt at once.

W. T. SHERMAN, major-general commanding.

McPherson had startled Johnston in his fancied security, but had

not done the full measure of his work. He had in hand twenty-three

thousand of the best men of the army, and could have walked into

Resaca (then held only by a small brigade), or he could have placed

his whole force astride the railroad above Resaca, and there have

easily withstood the attack of all of Johnston's army, with the

knowledge that Thomas and Schofield were on his heels. Had he done

so, I am certain that Johnston would not have ventured to attack

him in position, but would have retreated eastward by Spring Place,

and we should have captured half his army and all his artillery and

wagons at the very beginning of the campaign.

Such an opportunity does not occur twice in a single life, but at

the critical moment McPherson seems to have been a little cautious.

Still, he was perfectly justified by his orders, and fell back and

assumed an unassailable defensive position in Sugar Valley, on the

Resaca side of Snake-Creek Gap. As soon as informed of this, I

determined to pass the whole army through Snake-Creek Gap, and to

move on Resaca with the main army.

But during the 10th, the enemy showed no signs of evacuating

Dalton, and I was waiting for the arrival of Garrard's and

Stoneman's cavalry, known to be near at hand, so as to secure the

full advantages of victory, of which I felt certain. Hooker's

Twentieth Corps was at once moved down to within easy supporting

distance of McPherson; and on the 11th, perceiving signs of

evacuation of Dalton, I gave all the orders for the general

movement, leaving the Fourth Corps (Howard) and Stoneman's cavalry

in observation in front of Buzzard-Roost Gap, and directing all the

rest of the army to march through Snake-Creek Gap, straight on

Resaca. The roads were only such as the country afforded, mere

rough wagon-ways, and these converged to the single narrow track

through Snake-Creek Gap; but during the 12th and 13th the bulk of

Thomas's and Schofield's armies were got through, and deployed

against Resaca, McPherson on the right, Thomas in the centre, and

Schofield on the left. Johnston, as I anticipated, had abandoned

all his well-prepared defenses at Dalton, and was found inside of

Resaca with the bulk of his army, holding his divisions well in

hand, acting purely on the defensive, and fighting well at all

points of conflict. A complete line of intrenchments was found

covering the place, and this was strongly manned at all points. On

the 14th we closed in, enveloping the town on its north and west,

and during the 15th we had a day of continual battle and skirmish.

At the same time I caused two pontoon-bridges to be laid across the

Oostenaula River at Lay's Ferry, about three miles below the town,

by which we could threaten Calhoun, a station on the railroad seven

miles below Resaca. At the same time, May 14th, I dispatched

General Garrard, with his cavalry division, down the Oostenaula by

the Rome road, with orders to cross over, if possible, and to

attack or threaten the railroad at any point below Calhoun and

above Kingston.

During the 15th, without attempting to assault the fortified works,

we pressed at all points, and the sound of cannon and musketry rose

all day to the dignity of a battle. Toward evening McPherson moved

his whole line of battle forward, till he had gained a ridge

overlooking the town, from which his field-artillery could reach

the railroad-bridge across the Oostenaula. The enemy made several

attempts to drive him away, repeating the sallies several times,

and extending them into the night; but in every instance he was

repulsed with bloody loss.

Hooker's corps had also some heavy and handsome fighting that

afternoon and night on the left, where the Dalton roan entered the

intrenchments, capturing a four-gun intrenched battery, with its

men and guns; and generally all our men showed the finest fighting

qualities.

Howard's corps had followed Johnston down from Dalton, and was in

line; Stoneman'a division of cavalry had also got up, and was on

the extreme left, beyond the Oostenaula.

On the night of May 15th Johnston got his army across the bridges,

set them on fire, and we entered Resaca at daylight. Our loss up

to that time was about six hundred dead and thirty-three hundred

and seventy-five wounded--mostly light wounds that did not

necessitate sending the men to the rear for treatment. That

Johnston had deliberately designed in advance to give up such

strong positions as Dalton and Resaca, for the purpose of drawing

us farther south, is simply absurd. Had he remained in Dalton

another hour, it would have been his total defeat, and he only

evacuated Resaca because his safety demanded it. The movement by

us through Snake-Creek Gap was a total surprise to him. My army

about doubled his in size, but he had all the advantages of natural

positions, of artificial forts and roads, and of concentrated

action. We were compelled to grope our way through forests, across

mountains, with a large army, necessarily more or less dispersed.

Of course, I was disappointed not to have crippled his, army more

at that particular stage of the game; but, as it resulted, these

rapid successes gave us the initiative, and the usual impulse of a

conquering army.

Johnston having retreated in the night of May 15th, immediate

pursuit was begun. A division of infantry (Jeff. C. Davis's) was

at once dispatched down the valley toward Rome, to support

Garrard's cavalry, and the whole army was ordered to pursue,

McPherson by Lay's Ferry, on the right, Thomas directly by the

railroad, and Schofield by the left, by the old road that crossed

the Oostenaula above Echota or Newtown.

We hastily repaired the railroad bridge at Resaca, which had been

partially burned, and built a temporary floating bridge out of

timber and materials found on the spot; so that Thomas got his

advance corps over during the 16th, and marched as far as Calhoun,

where he came into communication with McPherson's troops, which had

crossed the Oostenaula at Lay's Ferry by our pontoon-bridges,

previously laid. Inasmuch as the bridge at Resaca was overtaxed,

Hooker's Twentieth Corps was also diverted to cross by the fords

and ferries above Resaca, in the neighborhood of Echota.

On the 17th, toward evening, the head of Thomas's column, Newton's

division, encountered the rear-guard of Johnston's army near

Adairsville. I was near the head of column at the time, trying to

get a view of the position of the enemy from an elevation in an

open field. My party attracted the fire of a battery; a shell

passed through the group of staff-officers and burst just beyond,

which scattered us promptly. The next morning the enemy had

disappeared, and our pursuit was continued to Kingston, which we

reached during Sunday forenoon, the 19th.

From Resaca the railroad runs nearly due south, but at Kingston it

makes junction with another railroad from Rome, and changes

direction due east. At that time McPherson's head of column was

about four miles to the west of Kingston, at a country place called

"Woodlawn;" Schofield and Hooker were on the direct roads leading

from Newtown to Casaville, diagonal to the route followed by

Thomas. Thomas's head of column, which had followed the country

roads alongside of the railroad, was about four miles east of

Kingston, toward Cassville, when about noon I got a message from

him that he had found the enemy, drawn up in line of battle, on

some extensive, open ground, about half-way between Kingston and

Cassville, and that appearances indicated a willingness and

preparation for battle.

Hurriedly sending orders to McPherson to resume the march, to

hasten forward by roads leading to the south of Kingston, so as to

leave for Thomas's troops and trains the use of the main road, and

to come up on his right, I rode forward rapidly, over some rough

gravel hills, and about six miles from Kingston found General

Thomas, with his troops deployed; but he reported that the enemy

had fallen back in echelon of divisions, steadily and in superb

order, into Cassville. I knew that the roads by which Generals

Hooker and Schofield were approaching would lead them to a seminary

near Cassville, and that it was all-important to secure the point

of junction of these roads with the main road along which we were

marching. Therefore I ordered General Thomas to push forward his

deployed lines as rapidly as possible; and, as night was

approaching, I ordered two field-batteries to close up at a gallop

on some woods which lay between us and the town of Cassville. We

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