Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant

When I left Galena for the last time to take command of the 21st
regiment I took with me my oldest son, Frederick D. Grant, then a
lad of eleven years of age. On receiving the order to take rail
for Quincy I wrote to Mrs. Grant, to relieve what I supposed
would be her great anxiety for one so young going into danger,
that I would send Fred home from Quincy by river. I received a
prompt letter in reply decidedly disapproving my proposition,
and urging that the lad should be allowed to accompany me. It
came too late. Fred was already on his way up the Mississippi
bound for Dubuque, Iowa, from which place there was a railroad
to Galena.

My sensations as we approached what I supposed might be “a field
of battle” were anything but agreeable. I had been in all the
engagements in Mexico that it was possible for one person to be
in; but not in command. If some one else had been colonel and I
had been lieutenant-colonel I do not think I would have felt any
trepidation. Before we were prepared to cross the Mississippi
River at Quincy my anxiety was relieved; for the men of the
besieged regiment came straggling into town. I am inclined to
think both sides got frightened and ran away.

I took my regiment to Palmyra and remained there for a few days,
until relieved by the 19th Illinois infantry. From Palmyra I
proceeded to Salt River, the railroad bridge over which had been
destroyed by the enemy. Colonel John M. Palmer at that time
commanded the 13th Illinois, which was acting as a guard to
workmen who were engaged in rebuilding this bridge. Palmer was
my senior and commanded the two regiments as long as we remained
together. The bridge was finished in about two weeks, and I
received orders to move against Colonel Thomas Harris, who was
said to be encamped at the little town of Florida, some
twenty-five miles south of where we then were.

At the time of which I now write we had no transportation and
the country about Salt River was sparsely settled, so that it
took some days to collect teams and drivers enough to move the
camp and garrison equipage of a regiment nearly a thousand
strong, together with a week’s supply of provision and some
ammunition. While preparations for the move were going on I
felt quite comfortable; but when we got on the road and found
every house deserted I was anything but easy. In the twenty-
five miles we had to march we did not see a person, old or
young, male or female, except two horsemen who were on a road
that crossed ours. As soon as they saw us they decamped as fast
as their horses could carry them. I kept my men in the ranks and
forbade their entering any of the deserted houses or taking
anything from them. We halted at night on the road and
proceeded the next morning at an early hour. Harris had been
encamped in a creek bottom for the sake of being near water. The
hills on either side of the creek extend to a considerable
height, possibly more than a hundred feet. As we approached the
brow of the hill from which it was expected we could see Harris’
camp, and possibly find his men ready formed to meet us, my
heart kept getting higher and higher until it felt to me as
though it was in my throat. I would have given anything then to
have been back in Illinois, but I had not the moral courage to
halt and consider what to do; I kept right on. When we reached
a point from which the valley below was in full view I halted.
The place where Harris had been encamped a few days before was
still there and the marks of a recent encampment were plainly
visible, but the troops were gone. My heart resumed its
place. It occurred to me at once that Harris had been as much
afraid of me as I had been of him. This was a view of the
question I had never taken before; but it was one I never forgot
afterwards. From that event to the close of the war, I never
experienced trepidation upon confronting an enemy, though I
always felt more or less anxiety. I never forgot that he had as
much reason to fear my forces as I had his. The lesson was
valuable.

Inquiries at the village of Florida divulged the fact that
Colonel Harris, learning of my intended movement, while my
transportation was being collected took time by the forelock and
left Florida before I had started from Salt River. He had
increased the distance between us by forty miles. The next day
I started back to my old camp at Salt River bridge. The
citizens living on the line of our march had returned to their
houses after we passed, and finding everything in good order,
nothing carried away, they were at their front doors ready to
greet us now. They had evidently been led to believe that the
National troops carried death and devastation with them wherever
they went.

In a short time after our return to Salt River bridge I was
ordered with my regiment to the town of Mexico. General Pope
was then commanding the district embracing all of the State of
Missouri between the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, with his
headquarters in the village of Mexico. I was assigned to the
command of a sub-district embracing the troops in the immediate
neighborhood, some three regiments of infantry and a section of
artillery. There was one regiment encamped by the side of
mine. I assumed command of the whole and the first night sent
the commander of the other regiment the parole and
countersign. Not wishing to be outdone in courtesy, he
immediately sent me the countersign for his regiment for the
night. When he was informed that the countersign sent to him
was for use with his regiment as well as mine, it was difficult
to make him understand that this was not an unwarranted
interference of one colonel over another. No doubt he
attributed it for the time to the presumption of a graduate of
West Point over a volunteer pure and simple. But the question
was soon settled and we had no further trouble.

My arrival in Mexico had been preceded by that of two or three
regiments in which proper discipline had not been maintained,
and the men had been in the habit of visiting houses without
invitation and helping themselves to food and drink, or
demanding them from the occupants. They carried their muskets
while out of camp and made every man they found take the oath of
allegiance to the government. I at once published orders
prohibiting the soldiers from going into private houses unless
invited by the inhabitants, and from appropriating private
property to their own or to government uses. The people were no
longer molested or made afraid. I received the most marked
courtesy from the citizens of Mexico as long as I remained there.

Up to this time my regiment had not been carried in the school
of the soldier beyond the company drill, except that it had
received some training on the march from Springfield to the
Illinois River. There was now a good opportunity of exercising
it in the battalion drill. While I was at West Point the
tactics used in the army had been Scott’s and the musket the
flint lock. I had never looked at a copy of tactics from the
time of my graduation. My standing in that branch of studies
had been near the foot of the class. In the Mexican war in the
summer of 1846, I had been appointed regimental quartermaster
and commissary and had not been at a battalion drill since. The
arms had been changed since then and Hardee’s tactics had been
adopted. I got a copy of tactics and studied one lesson,
intending to confine the exercise of the first day to the
commands I had thus learned. By pursuing this course from day
to day I thought I would soon get through the volume.

We were encamped just outside of town on the common, among
scattering suburban houses with enclosed gardens, and when I got
my regiment in line and rode to the front I soon saw that if I
attempted to follow the lesson I had studied I would have to
clear away some of the houses and garden fences to make room. I
perceived at once, however, that Hardee’s tactics–a mere
translation from the French with Hardee’s name attached–was
nothing more than common sense and the progress of the age
applied to Scott’s system. The commands were abbreviated and
the movement expedited. Under the old tactics almost every
change in the order of march was preceded by a “halt,” then came
the change, and then the “forward march.” With the new tactics
all these changes could be made while in motion. I found no
trouble in giving commands that would take my regiment where I
wanted it to go and carry it around all obstacles. I do not
believe that the officers of the regiment ever discovered that I
had never studied the tactics that I used.

CHAPTER XIX.

COMMISSIONED BRIGADIER-GENERAL–COMMAND AT IRONTON,
MO.–JEFFERSON CITY–CAPE GIRARDEAU–GENERAL PRENTISS –SEIZURE
OF PADUCAH–HEADQUARTERS AT CAIRO.

I had not been in Mexico many weeks when, reading a St. Louis
paper, I found the President had asked the Illinois delegation
in Congress to recommend some citizens of the State for the
position of brigadier-general, and that they had unanimously
recommended me as first on a list of seven. I was very much
surprised because, as I have said, my acquaintance with the
Congressmen was very limited and I did not know of anything I
had done to inspire such confidence. The papers of the next day
announced that my name, with three others, had been sent to the
Senate, and a few days after our confirmation was announced.

When appointed brigadier-general I at once thought it proper
that one of my aides should come from the regiment I had been
commanding, and so selected Lieutenant C. B. Lagow. While
living in St. Louis, I had had a desk in the law office of
McClellan, Moody and Hillyer. Difference in views between the
members of the firm on the questions of the day, and general
hard times in the border cities, had broken up this firm.
Hillyer was quite a young man, then in his twenties, and very
brilliant. I asked him to accept a place on my staff. I also
wanted to take one man from my new home, Galena. The canvass in
the Presidential campaign the fall before had brought out a young
lawyer by the name of John A. Rawlins, who proved himself one of
the ablest speakers in the State. He was also a candidate for
elector on the Douglas ticket. When Sumter was fired upon and
the integrity of the Union threatened, there was no man more
ready to serve his country than he. I wrote at once asking him
to accept the position of assistant adjutant-general with the
rank of captain, on my staff. He was about entering the service
as major of a new regiment then organizing in the north-western
part of the State; but he threw this up and accepted my offer.

Neither Hillyer nor Lagow proved to have any particular taste or
special qualifications for the duties of the soldier, and the
former resigned during the Vicksburg campaign; the latter I
relieved after the battle of Chattanooga. Rawlins remained with
me as long as he lived, and rose to the rank of brigadier general
and chief-of-staff to the General of the Army–an office created
for him–before the war closed. He was an able man, possessed
of great firmness, and could say “no” so emphatically to a
request which he thought should not be granted that the person
he was addressing would understand at once that there was no use
of pressing the matter. General Rawlins was a very useful
officer in other ways than this. I became very much attached to
him.

Shortly after my promotion I was ordered to Ironton, Missouri,
to command a district in that part of the State, and took the
21st Illinois, my old regiment, with me. Several other
regiments were ordered to the same destination about the same
time. Ironton is on the Iron Mountain railroad, about seventy
miles south of St. Louis, and situated among hills rising almost
to the dignity of mountains. When I reached there, about the 8th
of August, Colonel B. Gratz Brown–afterwards Governor of
Missouri and in 1872 Vice-Presidential candidate–was in
command. Some of his troops were ninety days’ men and their
time had expired some time before. The men had no clothing but
what they had volunteered in, and much of this was so worn that
it would hardly stay on. General Hardee–the author of the
tactics I did not study–was at Greenville some twenty-five
miles further south, it was said, with five thousand Confederate
troops. Under these circumstances Colonel Brown’s command was
very much demoralized. A squadron of cavalry could have ridden
into the valley and captured the entire force. Brown himself
was gladder to see me on that occasion than he ever has been
since. I relieved him and sent all his men home within a day or
two, to be mustered out of service.

Within ten days after reading Ironton I was prepared to take the
offensive against the enemy at Greenville. I sent a column east
out of the valley we were in, with orders to swing around to the
south and west and come into the Greenville road ten miles south
of Ironton. Another column marched on the direct road and went
into camp at the point designated for the two columns to meet. I
was to ride out the next morning and take personal command of the
movement. My experience against Harris, in northern Missouri,
had inspired me with confidence. But when the evening train
came in, it brought General B. M. Prentiss with orders to take
command of the district. His orders did not relieve me, but I
knew that by law I was senior, and at that time even the
President did not have the authority to assign a junior to
command a senior of the same grade. I therefore gave General
Prentiss the situation of the troops and the general condition
of affairs, and started for St. Louis the same day. The
movement against the rebels at Greenville went no further.

From St. Louis I was ordered to Jefferson City, the capital of
the State, to take command. General Sterling Price, of the
Confederate army, was thought to be threatening the capital,
Lexington, Chillicothe and other comparatively large towns in
the central part of Missouri. I found a good many troops in
Jefferson City, but in the greatest confusion, and no one person
knew where they all were. Colonel Mulligan, a gallant man, was
in command, but he had not been educated as yet to his new
profession and did not know how to maintain discipline. I found
that volunteers had obtained permission from the department
commander, or claimed they had, to raise, some of them,
regiments; some battalions; some companies–the officers to be
commissioned according to the number of men they brought into
the service. There were recruiting stations all over town, with
notices, rudely lettered on boards over the doors, announcing the
arm of service and length of time for which recruits at that
station would be received. The law required all volunteers to
serve for three years or the war. But in Jefferson City in
August, 1861, they were recruited for different periods and on
different conditions; some were enlisted for six months, some
for a year, some without any condition as to where they were to
serve, others were not to be sent out of the State. The
recruits were principally men from regiments stationed there and
already in the service, bound for three years if the war lasted
that long.

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