Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman

Text to Speech

could not see the town by reason of these woods, but a high range

of hills just back of the town was visible over the tree-tops. On

these hills could be seen fresh-made parapets, and the movements of

men, against whom I directed the artillery to fire at long range.

The stout resistance made by the enemy along our whole front of a

couple of miles indicated a purpose to fight at Cassville; and, as

the night was closing in, General Thomas and I were together, along

with our skirmish-lines near the seminary, on the edge of the town,

where musket-bullets from the enemy were cutting the leaves of the

trees pretty thickly about us. Either Thomas or I remarked that

that was not the place for the two senior officers of a great army,

and we personally went back to the battery, where we passed the

night on the ground. During the night I had reports from

McPherson, Hooker, and Schofield. The former was about five miles

to my right rear, near the "nitre-caves;" Schofield was about six

miles north, and Hooker between us, within two miles. All were

ordered to close down on Cassville at daylight, and to attack the

enemy wherever found. Skirmishing was kept up all night, but when

day broke the next morning, May 20th, the enemy was gone, and our

cavalry was sent in pursuit. These reported him beyond the Etowah

River. We were then well in advance of our railroad-trains, on

which we depended for supplies; so I determined to pause a few days

to repair the railroad, which had been damaged but little, except

at the bridge at Resaca, and then to go on.

Nearly all the people of the country seemed to have fled with

Johnston's army; yet some few families remained, and from one of

them I procured the copy of an order which Johnston had made at

Adairsville, in which he recited that he had retreated as far as

strategy required, and that his army must be prepared for battle at

Cassville. The newspapers of the South, many of which we found,

were also loud in denunciation of Johnston's falling back before us

without a serious battle, simply resisting by his skirmish-lines

and by his rear-guard. But his friends proclaimed that it was all

strategic; that he was deliberately drawing us farther and farther

into the meshes, farther and farther away from our base of

supplies, and that in due season he would not only halt for battle,

but assume the bold offensive. Of course it was to my interest to

bring him to battle as soon as possible, when our numerical

superiority was at the greatest; for he was picking up his

detachments as he fell back, whereas I was compelled to make

similar and stronger detachments to repair the railroads as we

advanced, and to guard them. I found at Cassville many evidences

of preparation for a grand battle, among them a long line of fresh

intrenchments on the hill beyond the town, extending nearly three

miles to the south, embracing the railroad-crossing. I was also

convinced that the whole of Polk's corps had joined Johnston from

Mississippi, and that he had in hand three full corps, viz.,

Hood's, Polk's, and Hardee's, numbering about sixty thousand men,

and could not then imagine why he had declined battle, and did not

learn the real reason till after the war was over, and then from

General Johnston himself.

In the autumn of 1865, when in command of the Military Division of

the Missouri, I went from St. Louis to Little Rock, Arkansas, and

afterward to Memphis. Taking a steamer for Cairo, I found as

fellow-passengers Generals Johnston and Frank Blair. We were, of

course, on the most friendly terms, and on our way up we talked

over our battles again, played cards, and questioned each other as

to particular parts of our mutual conduct in the game of war. I

told Johnston that I had seen his order of preparation, in the

nature of an address to his army, announcing his purpose to retreat

no more, but to accept battle at Cassville. He answered that such

was his purpose; that he had left Hardee's corps in the open fields

to check Thomas, and gain time for his formation on the ridge, just

behind Cassville; and it was this corps which General Thomas had

seen deployed, and whose handsome movement in retreat he had

reported in such complimentary terms. Johnston described how he

had placed Hood's corps on the right, Polk's in the centre, and

Hardee's on the left. He said he had ridden over the ground, given

to each corps commander his position, and orders to throw up

parapets during the night; that he was with Hardee on his extreme

left as the night closed in, and as Hardee's troops fell back to

the position assigned them for the intended battle of the next day;

and that, after giving Hardee some general instructions, he and his

staff rode back to Cassville. As he entered the town, or village,

he met Generals Hood and Polk. Hood inquired of him if he had had

any thing to eat, and he said no, that he was both hungry and

tired, when Hood invited him to go and share a supper which had

been prepared for him at a house close by. At the supper they

discussed the chances of the impending battle, when Hood spoke of

the ground assigned him as being enfiladed by our (Union)

artillery, which Johnston disputed, when General Polk chimed in

with the remark that General Hood was right; that the cannon-shots

fired by us at nightfall had enfiladed their general line of

battle, and that for this reason he feared they could not hold

their men. General Johnston was surprised at this, for he

understood General Hood to be one of those who professed to

criticise his strategy, contending that, instead of retreating, he

should have risked a battle. General Johnston said he was

provoked, accused them of having been in conference, with being

beaten before battle, and added that he was unwilling to engage in

a critical battle with an army so superior to his own in numbers,

with two of his three corps commanders dissatisfied with the ground

and positions assigned them. He then and there made up his mind to

retreat still farther south, to put the Etowah River and the

Allatoona range between us; and he at once gave orders to resume

the retrograde movement.

This was my recollection of the substance of the conversation, of

which I made no note at the time; but, at a meeting of the Society

of the Army of the Cumberland some years after, at Cleveland, Ohio,

about 1868, in a short after-dinner speech, I related this

conversation, and it got into print. Subsequently, in the spring

of 1870, when I was at New Orleans, on route for Texas, General

Hood called to see me at the St. Charles Hotel, explained that he

had seen my speech reprinted in the newspapers and gave me his

version of the same event, describing the halt at Cassville, the

general orders for battle on that ground, and the meeting at supper

with Generals Johnston and Polk, when the chances of the battle to

be fought the next day were freely and fully discussed; and he

stated that he had argued against fighting the battle purely on the

defensive, but had asked General Johnston to permit him with his

own corps and part of Polk's to quit their lines, and to march

rapidly to attack and overwhelm Schofield, who was known to be

separated from Thomas by an interval of nearly five miles, claiming

that he could have defeated Schofield, and got back to his position

in time to meet General Thomas's attack in front. He also stated

that he had then contended with Johnston for the "offensive-

defensive" game, instead of the "pure defensive," as proposed by

General Johnston; and he said that it was at this time that General

Johnston had taken offense, and that it was for this reason he had

ordered the retreat that night. As subsequent events estranged

these two officers, it is very natural they should now differ on

this point; but it was sufficient for us that the rebel army did

retreat that night, leaving us masters of all the country above the

Etowah River.

For the purposes of rest, to give time for the repair of the

railroads, and to replenish supplies, we lay by some few days in

that quarter--Schofield with Stoneman's cavalry holding the ground

at Cassville Depot, Cartersville, and the Etowah Bridge; Thomas

holding his ground near Cassville, and McPherson that near

Kingston. The officer intrusted with the repair of the railroads

was Colonel W. W. Wright, a rairoad-engineer, who, with about two

thousand men, was so industrious and skillful that the bridge at

Resaca was rebuilt in three days, and cars loaded with stores came

forward to Kingston on the 24th. The telegraph also brought us the

news of the bloody and desperate battles of the Wilderness, in

Virginia, and that General Grant was pushing his operations against

Lee with terrific energy. I was therefore resolved to give my

enemy no rest.

In early days (1844), when a lieutenant of the Third Artillery, I

had been sent from Charleston, South Carolina, to Marietta,

Georgia, to assist Inspector-General Churchill to take testimony

concerning certain losses of horses and accoutrements by the

Georgia Volunteers during the Florida War; and after completing the

work at Marietta we transferred our party over to Bellefonte,

Alabama. I had ridden the distance on horseback, and had noted

well the topography of the country, especially that about Kenesaw,

Allatoona, and the Etowah River. On that occasion I had stopped

some days with a Colonel Tumlin, to see some remarkable Indian

mounds on the Etowah River, usually called the "Hightower:" I

therefore knew that the Allatoona Pass was very strong, would be

hard to force, and resolved not even to attempt it, but to turn the

position, by moving from Kingston to Marietta via. Dallas;

accordingly I made orders on the 20th to get ready for the march to

begin on the 23d. The Army of the Cumberland was ordered to march

for Dallas, by Euharlee and Stilesboro; Davis's division, then in

Rome, by Van Wert; the Army of the Ohio to keep on the left of

Thomas, by a place called Burnt Hickory; and the Army of the

Tennessee to march for a position a little to the south, so as to

be on the right of the general army, when grouped about Dallas.

The movement contemplated leaving our railroad, and to depend for

twenty days on the contents of our wagons; and as the country was

very obscure, mostly in a state of nature, densely wooded, and with

few roads, our movements were necessarily slow. We crossed the

Etowah by several bridges and fords, and took as many roads as

possible, keeping up communication by cross-roads, or by couriers

through the woods. I personally joined General Thomas, who had the

centre, and was consequently the main column, or "column of

direction." The several columns followed generally the valley of

the Euharlee, a tributary coming into the Etowah from the south,

and gradually crossed over a ridge of mountains, parts of which had

once been worked over for gold, and were consequently full of paths

and unused wagon-roads or tracks. A cavalry picket of the enemy at

Burnt Hickory was captured, and had on his person an order from

General Johnston, dated at Allatoona, which showed that he had

detected my purpose of turning his position, and it accordingly

became necessary to use great caution, lest some of the minor

columns should fall into ambush, but, luckily the enemy was not

much more familiar with that part of the country than we were. On

the other side of the Allatoona range, the Pumpkin-Vine Creek, also

a tributary of the Etowah, flowed north and west; Dallas, the point

aimed at, was a small town on the other or east side of this creek,

and was the point of concentration of a great many roads that led

in every direction. Its possession would be a threat to Marietta

and Atlanta, but I could not then venture to attempt either, till I

had regained the use of the railroad, at least as far down as its

debouche from the Allatoona range of mountains. Therefore, the

movement was chiefly designed to compel Johnston to give up


On the 25th all the columns were moving steadily on Dallas--

McPherson and Davis away off to the right, near Van Wert; Thomas on

the main road in the centre, with Hooker's Twentieth Corps ahead,

toward Dallas; and Schofield to the left rear. For the convenience

of march, Hooker had his three divisions on separate roads, all

leading toward Dallas, when, in the afternoon, as he approached a

bridge across Pumpkin-Vine Creek, he found it held by a cavalry

force, which was driven off, but the bridge was on fire. This fire

was extinguished, and Hooker's leading division (Geary's) followed

the retreating cavalry on a road leading due east toward Marietta,

instead of Dallas. This leading division, about four miles out

from the bridge, struck a heavy infantry force, which was moving

down from Allatoona toward Dallas, and a sharp battle ensued. I

came up in person soon after, and as my map showed that we were

near an important cross-road called "New Hope," from a Methodist

meeting-house there of that name, I ordered General Hooker to

secure it if possible that night. He asked for a short delay, till

he could bring up his other two divisions. viz., of Butterfield and

Williams, but before these divisions had got up and were deployed,

the enemy had also gained corresponding strength. The woods were

so dense, and the resistance so spirited, that Hooker could not

carry the position, though the battle was noisy, and prolonged far

into the night. This point, "New Hope," was the accidental

intersection of the road leading from Allatoona to Dallas with that

from Van Wert to Marietta, was four miles northeast of Dallas, and

from the bloody fighting there for the next week was called by the

soldiers "Hell-Hole."

The night was pitch-dark, it rained hard, and the convergence of

our columns toward Dallas produced much confusion. I am sure

similar confusion existed in the army opposed to us, for we were

all mixed up. I slept on the ground, without cover, alongside of a

log, got little sleep, resolved at daylight to renew the battle,

and to make a lodgment on the Dallas and Allatoona road if

possible, but the morning revealed a strong line of intrenchments

facing us, with a heavy force of infantry and guns. The battle was

renewed, and without success. McPherson reached Dallas that

morning, viz., the 26th, and deployed his troops to the southeast

and east of the town, placing Davis's division of the Fourteenth

Corps, which had joined him on the road from Rome, on his left; but

this still left a gap of at least three miles between Davis and

Hooker. Meantime, also, General Schofield was closing up on

Thomas's left.

Satisfied that Johnston in person was at New Hope with all his

army, and that it was so much nearer my "objective;" the railroad,

than Dallas, I concluded to draw McPherson from Dallas to Hooker's

right, and gave orders accordingly; but McPherson also was

«- Previous | 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133 134 135 136 | View All | Next -»