Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman

Text to Speech

confronted with a heavy force, and, as he began to withdraw

according to his orders, on the morning of the 28th he was fiercely

assailed on his right; a bloody battle ensued, in which he repulsed

the attack, inflicting heavy loss on his assailants, and it was not

until the 1st of June that he was enabled to withdraw from Dallas,

and to effect a close junction with Hooker in front of New Hope.

Meantime Thomas and Schofield were completing their deployments,

gradually overlapping Johnston on his right, and thus extending our

left nearer and nearer to the railroad, the nearest point of which

was Acworth, about eight miles distant. All this time a continual

battle was in progress by strong skirmish-lines, taking advantage

of every species of cover, and both parties fortifying each night

by rifle-trenches, with head-logs, many of which grew to be as

formidable as first-class works of defense. Occasionally one party

or the other would make a dash in the nature of a sally, but

usually it sustained a repulse with great loss of life. I visited

personally all parts of our lines nearly every day, was constantly

within musket-range, and though the fire of musketry and cannon

resounded day and night along the whole line, varying from six to

ten miles, I rarely saw a dozen of the enemy at any one time; and

these were always skirmishers dodging from tree to tree, or behind

logs on the ground, or who occasionally showed their heads above

the hastily-constructed but remarkably strong rifle-trenches. On

the occasion of my visit to McPherson on the 30th of May, while

standing with a group of officers, among whom were Generals

McPherson, Logan, Barry, and Colonel Taylor, my former chief of

artillery, a Minie-ball passed through Logan's coat-sleeve,

scratching the skin, and struck Colonel Taylor square in the

breast; luckily he had in his pocket a famous memorandum-book, in

which he kept a sort of diary, about which we used to joke him a

good deal; its thickness and size saved his life, breaking the

force of the ball, so that after traversing the book it only

penetrated the breast to the ribs, but it knocked him down and

disabled him for the rest of the campaign. He was a most competent

and worthy officer, and now lives in poverty in Chicago, sustained

in part by his own labor, and in part by a pitiful pension recently


On the 1st of June General McPherson closed in upon the right, and,

without attempting further to carry the enemy's strong position at

New Hope Church, I held our general right in close contact with it,

gradually, carefully, and steadily working by the left, until our

strong infantry-lines had reached and secured possession of all the

wagon-roads between New Hope, Allatoona, and Acworth, when I

dispatched Generals Garrard's and Stoneman's divisions of cavalry

into Allatoona, the first around by the west end of the pass, and

the latter by the direct road. Both reached their destination

without opposition, and orders were at once given to repair the

railroad forward from Kingston to Allatoona, embracing the bridge

across the Etowah River. Thus the real object of my move on Dallas

was accomplished, and on the 4th of June I was preparing to draw

off from New Hope Church, and to take position on the railroad in

front of Allatoona, when, General Johnston himself having evacuated

his position, we effected the change without further battle, and

moved to the railroad, occupying it from Allatoona and Acworth

forward to Big Shanty, in sight of the famous Kenesaw Mountain.

Thus, substantially in the month of May, we had steadily driven our

antagonist from the strong positions of Dalton, Resaea, Cassville,

Allatoona, and Dallas; had advanced our lines in strong, compact

order from Chattanooga to Big Shanty, nearly a hundred miles of as

difficult country as was ever fought over by civilized armies; and

thus stood prepared to go on, anxious to fight, and confident of

success as soon as the railroad communications were complete to

bring forward the necessary supplies. It is now impossible to

state accurately our loss of life and men in any one separate

battle; for the fighting was continuous, almost daily, among trees

and bushes, on ground where one could rarely see a hundred yards


The aggregate loss in the several corps for the month of May is

reported-as follows in the usual monthly returns sent to the

Adjutant-General's office, which are, therefore, official:

Casualties during the Month of May, 1864

(Major-General SHERMAN commanding).

Killed and Missing. Wounded. Total.

1,863 7,436 9,299

General Joseph E. Johnston, in his "Narrative of his Military

Operations," just published (March 27, 1874), gives the effective

strength of his army at and about Dalton on the 1st of May, 1864

(page 302), as follows:

Infantry..................... 37,652

Artillery.................... 2,812

Cavalry...................... 2,392

Total ................... 42,856

During May, and prior to reaching Cassville, he was further

reenforced (page 352)

Polk's corps of three divisions....... 12,000

Martin's division of cavalry.......... 3,500

Jackson's division of cavalry......... 3,900

And at New Hope Church, May 26th

Brigade of Quarles.................... 2,200

Grand-total.................. 64,456

His losses during the month of May are stated by him, as taken from

the report of Surgeon Foard (page 325)

Killed Wounded Total

721 4,672 5,393

These figures include only the killed and wounded, whereas my

statement of losses embraces the "missing," which are usually

"prisoners," and of these we captured, during the whole campaign of

four and a half months, exactly 12,983, whose names, rank, and

regiments, were officially reported to the Commissary-General of

Prisoners; and assuming a due proportion for the month of May,

viz., one-fourth, makes 3,245 to be added to the killed and wounded

given above, making an aggregate loss in Johnston's army, from

Dalton to New Hope, inclusive, of 8,638, against ours of 9,299.

Therefore General Johnston is greatly in error, in his estimates on

page 357, in stating our loss, as compared with his, at six or ten

to one.

I always estimated my force at about double his, and could afford

to lose two to one without disturbing our relative proportion; but

I also reckoned that, in the natural strength of the country, in

the abundance of mountains, streams, and forests, he had a fair

offset to our numerical superiority, and therefore endeavored to

act with reasonable caution while moving on the vigorous


With the drawn battle of New Hope Church, and our occupation of the

natural fortress of Allatoona, terminated the month of May, and the

first stage of the campaign.



JUNE, 1864.

On the 1st of June our three armies were well in hand, in the

broken and densely-wooded country fronting the enemy intrenched at

New Hope Church, about five miles north of Dallas. General

Stoneman's division of cavalry had occupied Allatoona, on the

railroad, and General Garrard's division was at the western end of

the pass, about Stilesboro. Colonel W. W. Wright, of the

Engineers, was busily employed in repairing the railroad and

rebuilding the bridge across the Etowah (or High tower) River,

which had been destroyed by the enemy on his retreat; and the

armies were engaged in a general and constant skirmish along a

front of about six miles--McPherson the right, Thomas the centre,

and Schofield on the left. By gradually covering our front with

parapet, and extending to the left, we approached the railroad

toward Acworth and overlapped the enemy's right. By the 4th of

June we had made such progress that Johnston evacuated his lines in

the night, leaving us masters of the situation, when I deliberately

shifted McPherson's army to the extreme left, at and in front of

Acworth, with Thomas's about two miles on his right, and

Schofield's on his right all facing east. Heavy rains set in about

the 1st of June, making the roads infamous; but our marches were

short, as we needed time for the repair of the railroad, so as to

bring supplies forward to Allatoona Station. On the 6th I rode

back to Allatoona, seven miles, found it all that was expected, and

gave orders for its fortification and preparation as a "secondary


General Blair arrived at Acworth on the 8th with his two divisions

of the Seventeenth Corps--the same which had been on veteran

furlough--had come up from Cairo by way of Clifton, on the

Tennessee River, and had followed our general route to Allatoona,

where he had left a garrison of about fifteen hundred men. His

effective strength, as reported, was nine thousand. These, with

new regiments and furloughed men who had joined early in the month

of May, equaled our losses from battle, sickness, and by

detachments; so that the three armies still aggregated about one

hundred thousand effective men.

On the 10th of June the whole combined army moved forward six

miles, to "Big Shanty," a station on the railroad, whence we had a

good view of the enemy's position, which embraced three prominent

hills known as Kenesaw, Pine Mountain, and Lost Mountain. On each

of these hills the enemy had signal-stations and fresh lines of

parapets. Heavy masses of infantry could be distinctly seen with

the naked eye, and it was manifest that Johnston had chosen his

ground well, and with deliberation had prepared for battle; but his

line was at least ten miles in extent--too long, in my judgment, to

be held successfully by his force, then estimated at sixty

thousand. As his position, however, gave him a perfect view over

our field, we had to proceed with due caution. McPherson had the

left, following the railroad, which curved around the north base of

Kenesaw; Thomas the centre, obliqued to the right, deploying below

Kenesaw and facing Pine Hill; and Schofield, somewhat refused, was

on the general right, looking south, toward Lost Mountain.

On the 11th the Etowah bridge was done; the railroad was repaired

up to our very skirmish line, close to the base of Kenesaw, and a

loaded train of cars came to Big Shanty. The locomotive, detached,

was run forward to a water-tank within the range of the enemy's

guns on Kenesaw, whence the enemy opened fire on the locomotive;

but the engineer was not afraid, went on to the tank, got water,

and returned safely to his train, answering the guns with the

screams of his engine, heightened by the cheers and shouts of our


The rains continued to pour, and made our developments slow and

dilatory, for there were no roads, and these had to be improvised

by each division for its own supply train from the depot in Big

Shanty to the camps. Meantime each army was deploying carefully

before the enemy, intrenching every camp, ready as against a sally.

The enemy's cavalry was also busy in our rear, compelling us to

detach cavalry all the way back as far as Resaca, and to

strengthen all the infantry posts as far as Nashville. Besides,

there was great danger, always in my mind, that Forrest would

collect a heavy cavalry command in Mississippi, cross the Tennessee

River, and break up our railroad below Nashville. In anticipation

of this very danger, I had sent General Sturgis to Memphis to take

command of all the cavalry in that quarter, to go out toward

Pontotoc, engage Forrest and defeat him; but on the 14th of June I

learned that General Sturgis had himself been defeated on the 10th

of June, and had been driven by Forrest back into Memphis in

considerable confusion. I expected that this would soon be

followed by a general raid on all our roads in Tennessee. General

G. J. Smith, with the two divisions of the Sixteenth and

Seventeenth Corps which had been with General Banks up Red River,

had returned from that ill-fated expedition, and had been ordered

to General Canby at New Orleans, who was making a diversion about

Mobile; but, on hearing of General Sturgis's defeat, I ordered

General Smith to go out from Memphis and renew the offensive, so as

to keep Forrest off our roads. This he did finally, defeating

Forrest at Tupelo, on the 13th, 14th, and 15th days of July; and

he so stirred up matters in North Mississippi that Forrest could

not leave for Tennessee. This, for a time, left me only the task

of covering the roads against such minor detachments of cavalry as

Johnston could spare from his immediate army, and I proposed to

keep these too busy in their own defense to spare detachments. By

the 14th the rain slackened, and we occupied a continuous line of

ten miles, intrenched, conforming to the irregular position of the

enemy, when I reconnoitred, with a view to make a break in their

line between Kenesaw and Pine Mountain. When abreast of Pine

Mountain I noticed a rebel battery on its crest, with a continuous

line of fresh rifle-trench about half-way down the hill. Our

skirmishers were at the time engaged in the woods about the base of

this hill between the lines, and I estimated the distance to the

battery on the crest at about eight hundred yards. Near it, in

plain view, stood a group of the enemy, evidently observing us with

glasses. General Howard, commanding the Fourth Corps, was near by,

and I called his attention to this group, and ordered him to compel

it to keep behind its cover. He replied that his orders from

General Thomas were to spare artillery-ammunition. This was right,

according to the general policy, but I explained to him that we

must keep up the morale of a bold offensive, that he must use his

artillery, force the enemy to remain on the timid defensive, and

ordered him to cause a battery close by to fire three volleys. I

continued to ride down our line, and soon heard, in quick

succession, the three volleys. The next division in order was

Geary's, and I gave him similar orders. General Polk, in my

opinion, was killed by the second volley fired from the first

battery referred to.

In a conversation with General Johnston, after the war, he

explained that on that day he had ridden in person from Marietta to

Pine Mountain, held by Bates's division, and was accompanied by

Generals Hardee and Polk. When on Pine Mountain, reconnoitring,

quite a group of soldiers, belonging to the battery close by,

clustered about him. He noticed the preparations of our battery to

fire, and cautioned these men to scatter. They did so, and he

likewise hurried behind the parapet, from which he had an equally

good view of our position but General Polk, who was dignified and

corpulent, walked back slowly, not wishing to appear too hurried or

cautious in the presence of the men, and was struck across the

breast by an unexploded shell, which killed him instantly. This is

my memory of the conversation, and it is confirmed by Johnston

himself in his "Narrative," page 337, except that he calculated the

distance of our battery at six hundred yards, and says that Polk

was killed by the third shot; I know that our guns fired by volley,

and believe that he was hit by a shot of the second volley. It has

been asserted that I fired the gun which killed General Polk, and

that I knew it was directed against that general. The fact is, at

that distance we could not even tell that the group were officers

at all; I was on horseback, a couple of hundred yards off, before

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