Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman


Text to Speech

attack him; but if he goes to the Selma & Talladega road, why will

it not do to leave Tennessee to the forces which Thomas has, and

the reserves soon to come to Nashville, and for me to destroy

Atlanta and march across Georgia to Savannah or Charleston,

breaking roads and doing irreparable damage? We cannot remain on

the defensive.

The Selma & Talladega road herein referred to was an unfinished

railroad from Selma, Alabama, through Talladega, to Blue Mountain,

a terminus sixty-five miles southwest of Rome and about fifteen

miles southeast of Gadsden, where the rebel army could be supplied

from the direction of Montgomery and Mobile, and from which point

Hood could easily threaten Middle Tennessee. My first impression

was, that Hood would make for that point; but by the 3d of October

the indications were that he would strike our railroad nearer us,

viz., about Kingston or Marietta.

Orders were at once made for the Twentieth Corps (Slocum's) to hold

Atlanta and the bridges of the Chattahoochee, and the other corps

were put in motion for Marietta.

The army had undergone many changes since the capture of Atlanta.

General Schofield had gone to the rear, leaving General J. D. Cog

in command of the Army of the Ohio (Twenty-third Corps). General

Thomas, also, had been dispatched to Chattanooga, with Newton's

division of the Fourth Corps and Morgan's of the Fourteenth Corps,

leaving General D. S. Stanley, the senior major-general of the two

corps of his Army of the Cumberland, remaining and available for

this movement, viz., the Fourth and Fourteenth, commanded by

himself and Major-General Jeff. C. Davis; and after General Dodge

was wounded, his corps (the Sixteenth) had been broken up, and its

two divisions were added to the Fifteenth and Seventeenth Corps,

constituting the Army of the Tennessee, commanded by Major-General

O. O. Howard. Generals Logan and Blair had gone home to assist in

the political canvass, leaving their corps, viz., the Fifteenth and

Seventeenth, under the command of Major-Generals Osterhaus and T.

E. G. Ransom.

These five corps were very much reduced in strength, by detachments

and by discharges, so that for the purpose of fighting Hood I had

only about sixty thousand infantry and artillery, with two small

divisions of cavalry (Kilpatrick's and Garrard's). General Elliott

was the chief of cavalry to the Army of the Cumberland, and was the

senior officer of that arm of service present for duty with me.

We had strong railroad guards at Marietta and Kenesaw, Allatoona,

Etowah Bridge, Kingston, Rome, Resaca, Dalton, Ringgold, and

Chattanooga. All the important bridges were likewise protected by

good block-houses, admirably constructed, and capable of a strong

defense against cavalry or infantry; and at nearly all the regular

railroad-stations we had smaller detachments intrenched. I had

little fear of the enemy's cavalry damaging our roads seriously,

for they rarely made a break which could not be repaired in a few

days; but it was absolutely necessary to keep General Hood's

infantry off our main route of communication and supply. Forrest

had with him in Middle Tennessee about eight thousand cavalry, and

Hood's army was estimated at from thirty-five to forty thousand

men, infantry and artillery, including Wheeler's cavalry, then

about three thousand strong.

We crossed the Chattahoochee River during the 3d and 4th of

October, rendezvoused at the old battle-field of Smyrna Camp, and

the next day reached Marietta and Kenesaw. The telegraph-wires had

been cut above Marietta, and learning that heavy masses of

infantry, artillery, and cavalry, had been seen from Kenesaw

(marching north), I inferred that Allatoona was their objective

point; and on the 4th of October I signaled from Mining's Station

to Kenesaw, and from Kenesaw to Allatoona, over the heads of the

enemy, a message for General Corse, at Rome, to hurry back to the

assistance of the garrison at Allatoona. Allatoona was held by, a

small brigade, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Tourtellotte, my

present aide-de-camp. He had two small redoubts on either side of

the railroad, overlooking the village of Allatoona, and the

warehouses, in which were stored over a million rations of bread.

Reaching Kenesaw Mountain about 8 a.m. of October 5th (a beautiful

day), I had a superb view of the vast panorama to the north and

west. To the southwest, about Dallas, could be seen the smoke of

camp-fires, indicating the presence of a large force of the enemy,

and the whole line of railroad from Big Shanty up to Allatoona

(full fifteen miles) was marked by the fires of the burning

railroad. We could plainly see the smoke of battle about,

Allatoona, and hear the faint reverberation of the cannon.

From Kenesaw I ordered the Twenty-third Corps (General Cox) to

march due west on the Burnt Hickory road, and to burn houses or

piles of brush as it progressed, to indicate the head of column,

hoping to interpose this corps between Hood's main army at Dallas

and the detachment then assailing Allatoona. The rest of the army

was directed straight for Allatoona, northwest, distant eighteen

miles. The signal-officer on Kenesaw reported that since daylight

he had failed to obtain any answer to his call for Allatoona; but,

while I was with him, he caught a faint glimpse of the tell-tale

flag through an embrasure, and after much time he made out these

letters-" C.," "R.," "S.," "E.," "H.," "E.," "R.," and translated

the message--"Corse is here." It was a source of great relief, for

it gave me the first assurance that General Corse had received his

orders, and that the place was adequately garrisoned.

I watched with painful suspense the indications of the battle

raging there, and was dreadfully impatient at the slow progress of

the relieving column, whose advance was marked by the smokes which

were made according to orders, but about 2 p.m. I noticed with

satisfaction that the smoke of battle about Allatoona grew less and

less, and ceased altogether about 4 p.m. For a time I attributed

this result to the effect of General Cog's march, but later in the

afternoon the signal-flag announced the welcome tidings that the

attack had been fairly repulsed, but that General Corse was

wounded. The next day my aide, Colonel Dayton, received this

characteristic dispatch:

ALLATOONA, GEORGIA, October 6, 1884-2 P.M.

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

I am short a cheek-bone and an ear, but am able to whip all h--l

yet! My losses are very heavy. A force moving from Stilesboro' to

Kingston gives me some anxiety. Tell me where Sherman is.

JOHN M. CORSE, Brigadier-General.

Inasmuch as the, enemy had retreated southwest, and would probably

next appear at Rome, I answered General Corse with orders to get

back to Rome with his troops as quickly as possible.

General Corse's report of this fight at Allatoona is very full and

graphic. It is dated Rome, October 27, 1864; recites the fact that

he received his orders by signal to go to the assistance of

Allatoona on the 4th, when he telegraphed to Kingston for cars, and

a train of thirty empty cars was started for him, but about ten of

them got off the track and caused delay. By 7 p.m. he had at Rome

a train of twenty cars, which he loaded up with Colonel Rowett's

brigade, and part of the Twelfth Illinois Infantry; started at 8

p.m., reached Allatoona (distant thirty-five miles) at 1 a.m. of

the 5th, and sent the train back for more men; but the road was in

bad order, and no more men came in time. He found Colonel

Tourtellotte's garrison composed of eight hundred and ninety men;

his reenforcement was one thousand and fifty-four: total for the

defense, nineteen hundred and forty-four. The outposts were

already engaged, and as soon as daylight came he drew back the men

from the village to the ridge on which the redoubts were built.

The enemy was composed of French's division of three brigades,

variously reported from four to five thousand strong. This force

gradually surrounded the place by 8 a.m., when General French sent

in by flag of truce this note:

AROUND ALLATOONA, October 5, 1884.

Commanding Officer, United States Forces, Allatoona:

I have placed the forces under my command in such positions that

you are surrounded, and to avoid a needless effusion of blood I

call on you to surrender your forces at once, and unconditionally.

Five minutes will be allowed you to decide. Should you accede to

this, you will be treated in the most honorable manner as prisoners

of war.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully yours,

S. G. FRENCH,

Major-General commanding forces Confederate States.

General Corse answered immediately:

HEADQUARTERS FOURTH DIVISION, FIFTEENTH CORPS

ALLATOONA, GEORGIA, October 5, 1864.

Major-General S. G. FRENCH, Confederate States, etc:

Your communication demanding surrender of my command I acknowledge

receipt of, and respectfully reply that we are prepared for the

"needless effusion of blood" whenever it is agreeable to you.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

JOHN M. CORSE,

Brigadier-General commanding forces United States.

Of course the attack began at once, coming from front, flank, and

rear. There were two small redoubts, with slight parapets and

ditches, one on each side of the deep railroad-cut. These redoubts

had been located by Colonel Poe, United States Engineers, at the

time of our advance on Kenesaw, the previous June. Each redoubt

overlooked the storehouses close by the railroad, and each could

aid the other defensively by catching in flank the attacking force

of the other. Our troops at first endeavored to hold some ground

outside the redoubts, but were soon driven inside, when the enemy

made repeated assaults, but were always driven back. About 11 a.m.,

Colonel Redfield, of the Thirty-ninth Iowa, was killed, and Colonel

Rowett was wounded, but never ceased to fight and encourage his

men. Colonel Tourtellotte was shot through the hips, but continued

to command. General Corse was, at 1 p.m., shot across the face,

the ball cutting his ear, which stunned him, but he continued to

encourage his men and to give orders. The enemy (about 1.30 p.m.)

made a last and desperate effort to carry one of the redoubts, but

was badly cut to pieces by the artillery and infantry fire from the

other, when he began to draw off, leaving his dead and wounded on

the ground.

Before finally withdrawing, General French converged a heavy fire

of his cannon on the block-house at Allatoona Creek, about two

miles from the depot, set it on fire, and captured its garrison,

consisting of four officers and eighty-five men. By 4 p.m. he was

in full retreat south, on the Dallas road, and got by before the

head of General Cox's column had reached it; still several

ambulances and stragglers were picked up by this command on that

road. General Corse reported two hundred and thirty-one rebel

dead, four hundred and eleven prisoners, three regimental colors,

and eight hundred muskets captured.

Among the prisoners was a Brigadier-General Young, who thought that

French's aggregate loss would reach two thousand. Colonel

Tourtellotte says that, for days after General Corse had returned

to Rome, his men found and buried at least a hundred more dead

rebels, who had doubtless been wounded, and died in the woods near

Allatoona. I know that when I reached Allatoona, on the 9th, I saw

a good many dead men, which had been collected for burial.

Corse's entire loss, officially reported, was:

Killed. Wounded. Missing. Total.

142 353 212 707

I esteemed this defense of Allatoona so handsome and important,

that I made it the subject of a general order, viz., No. 86, of

October 7, 1864:

The general commanding avails himself of the opportunity, in the

handsome defense made of Allatoona, to illustrate the most

important principle in war, that fortified posts should be defended

to the last, regardless of the relative numbers of the party

attacking and attacked . . . . The thanks of this army are due

and are hereby accorded to General Corse, Colonel Tourtellotte,

Colonel Rowett, officers, and men, for their determined and gallant

defense of Allatoona, and it is made an example to illustrate the

importance of preparing in time, and meeting the danger, when

present, boldly, manfully, and well.

Commanders and garrisons of the posts along our railroad are hereby

instructed that they must hold their posts to the last minute, sure

that the time gained is valuable and necessary to their comrades at

the front.

By order of Major-General W. T. Sherman,

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

The rebels had struck our railroad a heavy blow, burning every tie,

bending the rails for eight miles, from Big Shanty to above

Acworth, so that the estimate for repairs called for thirty-five

thousand new ties, and six miles of iron. Ten thousand men were

distributed along the break to replace the ties, and to prepare the

road-bed, while the regular repair-party, under Colonel W. W.

Wright, came down from Chattanooga with iron, spikes, etc., and in

about seven days the road was all right again. It was by such acts

of extraordinary energy that we discouraged our adversaries, for

the rebel soldiers felt that it was a waste of labor for them to

march hurriedly, on wide circuits, day and night, to burn a bridge

and tear up a mile or so of track, when they knew that we could lay

it back so quickly. They supposed that we had men and money

without limit, and that we always kept on hand, distributed along

the road, duplicates of every bridge and culvert of any importance.

A good story is told of one who was on Kenesaw Mountain during our

advance in the previous June or July. A group of rebels lay in the

shade of a tree, one hot day, overlooking our camps about Big

Shanty. One soldier remarked to his fellows:

"Well, the Yanks will have to git up and git now, for I heard

General Johnston himself say that General Wheeler had blown up the

tunnel near Dalton, and that the Yanks would have to retreat,

because they could get no more rations."

"Oh, hell!" said a listener, "don't you know that old Sherman

carries a duplicate tunnel along?"

After the war was over, General Johnston inquired of me who was our

chief railroad-engineer. When I told him that it was Colonel W. W.

Wright, a civilian, he was much surprised, said that our feats of

bridge-building and repairs of roads had excited his admiration;

and he instanced the occasion at Kenesaw in June, when an officer

from Wheeler's cavalry had reported to him in person that he had

come from General Wheeler, who had made a bad break in our road

about Triton Station, which he said would take at least a fortnight

to repair; and, while they were talking, a train was seen coming

down the road which had passed that very break, and had reached me

at Big Shanty as soon as the fleet horseman had reached him

(General Johnston) at Marietta

I doubt whether the history of war can furnish more examples of

skill and bravery than attended the defense of the railroad from

Nashville to Atlanta during the year 1864.

In person I reached Allatoona on the 9th of October, still in doubt

as to Hood's immediate intentions. Our cavalry could do little

against his infantry in the rough and wooded country about Dallas,

which masked the enemy's movements; but General Corse, at Rome,

with Spencer's First Alabama Cavalry and a mounted regiment of

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