Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant

After the war, during the summer of 1865, I travelled
considerably through the North, and was everywhere met by large
numbers of people. Every one had his opinion about the manner
in which the war had been conducted: who among the generals had
failed, how, and why. Correspondents of the press were ever on
hand to hear every word dropped, and were not always disposed to
report correctly what did not confirm their preconceived notions,
either about the conduct of the war or the individuals concerned
in it. The opportunity frequently occurred for me to defend
General Buell against what I believed to be most unjust
charges. On one occasion a correspondent put in my mouth the
very charge I had so often refuted–of disloyalty. This brought
from General Buell a very severe retort, which I saw in the New
York World some time before I received the letter itself. I
could very well understand his grievance at seeing untrue and
disgraceful charges apparently sustained by an officer who, at
the time, was at the head of the army. I replied to him, but
not through the press. I kept no copy of my letter, nor did I
ever see it in print; neither did I receive an answer.

General Albert Sidney Johnston, who commanded the Confederate
forces at the beginning of the battle, was disabled by a wound
on the afternoon of the first day. This wound, as I understood
afterwards, was not necessarily fatal, or even dangerous. But
he was a man who would not abandon what he deemed an important
trust in the face of danger and consequently continued in the
saddle, commanding, until so exhausted by the loss of blood that
he had to be taken from his horse, and soon after died. The news
was not long in reaching our side and I suppose was quite an
encouragement to the National soldiers.

I had known Johnston slightly in the Mexican war and later as an
officer in the regular army. He was a man of high character and
ability. His contemporaries at West Point, and officers
generally who came to know him personally later and who remained
on our side, expected him to prove the most formidable man to
meet that the Confederacy would produce.

I once wrote that nothing occurred in his brief command of an
army to prove or disprove the high estimate that had been placed
upon his military ability; but after studying the orders and
dispatches of Johnston I am compelled to materially modify my
views of that officer’s qualifications as a soldier. My
judgment now is that he was vacillating and undecided in his

All the disasters in Kentucky and Tennessee were so discouraging
to the authorities in Richmond that Jefferson Davis wrote an
unofficial letter to Johnston expressing his own anxiety and
that of the public, and saying that he had made such defence as
was dictated by long friendship, but that in the absence of a
report he needed facts. The letter was not a reprimand in
direct terms, but it was evidently as much felt as though it had
been one. General Johnston raised another army as rapidly as he
could, and fortified or strongly intrenched at Corinth. He knew
the National troops were preparing to attack him in his chosen
position. But he had evidently become so disturbed at the
results of his operations that he resolved to strike out in an
offensive campaign which would restore all that was lost, and if
successful accomplish still more. We have the authority of his
son and biographer for saying that his plan was to attack the
forces at Shiloh and crush them; then to cross the Tennessee and
destroy the army of Buell, and push the war across the Ohio
River. The design was a bold one; but we have the same
authority for saying that in the execution Johnston showed
vacillation and indecision. He left Corinth on the 2d of April
and was not ready to attack until the 6th. The distance his
army had to march was less than twenty miles. Beauregard, his
second in command, was opposed to the attack for two reasons:
first, he thought, if let alone the National troops would attack
the Confederates in their intrenchments; second, we were in
ground of our own choosing and would necessarily be
intrenched. Johnston not only listened to the objection of
Beauregard to an attack, but held a council of war on the
subject on the morning of the 5th. On the evening of the same
day he was in consultation with some of his generals on the same
subject, and still again on the morning of the 6th. During this
last consultation, and before a decision had been reached, the
battle began by the National troops opening fire on the enemy.
This seemed to settle the question as to whether there was to be
any battle of Shiloh. It also seems to me to settle the question
as to whether there was a surprise.

I do not question the personal courage of General Johnston, or
his ability. But he did not win the distinction predicted for
him by many of his friends. He did prove that as a general he
was over-estimated.

General Beauregard was next in rank to Johnston and succeeded to
the command, which he retained to the close of the battle and
during the subsequent retreat on Corinth, as well as in the
siege of that place. His tactics have been severely criticised
by Confederate writers, but I do not believe his fallen chief
could have done any better under the circumstances. Some of
these critics claim that Shiloh was won when Johnston fell, and
that if he had not fallen the army under me would have been
annihilated or captured. IFS defeated the Confederates at
Shiloh. There is little doubt that we would have been
disgracefully beaten IF all the shells and bullets fired by us
had passed harmlessly over the enemy and IF all of theirs had
taken effect. Commanding generals are liable to be killed
during engagements; and the fact that when he was shot Johnston
was leading a brigade to induce it to make a charge which had
been repeatedly ordered, is evidence that there was neither the
universal demoralization on our side nor the unbounded
confidence on theirs which has been claimed. There was, in
fact, no hour during the day when I doubted the eventual defeat
of the enemy, although I was disappointed that reinforcements so
near at hand did not arrive at an earlier hour.

The description of the battle of Shiloh given by Colonel Wm.
Preston Johnston is very graphic and well told. The reader will
imagine that he can see each blow struck, a demoralized and
broken mob of Union soldiers, each blow sending the enemy more
demoralized than ever towards the Tennessee River, which was a
little more than two miles away at the beginning of the onset.
If the reader does not stop to inquire why, with such
Confederate success for more than twelve hours of hard fighting,
the National troops were not all killed, captured or driven into
the river, he will regard the pen picture as perfect. But I
witnessed the fight from the National side from eight o’clock in
the morning until night closed the contest. I see but little in
the description that I can recognize. The Confederate troops
fought well and deserve commendation enough for their bravery
and endurance on the 6th of April, without detracting from their
antagonists or claiming anything more than their just dues.

The reports of the enemy show that their condition at the end of
the first day was deplorable; their losses in killed and wounded
had been very heavy, and their stragglers had been quite as
numerous as on the National side, with the difference that those
of the enemy left the field entirely and were not brought back to
their respective commands for many days. On the Union side but
few of the stragglers fell back further than the landing on the
river, and many of these were in line for duty on the second
day. The admissions of the highest Confederate officers engaged
at Shiloh make the claim of a victory for them absurd. The
victory was not to either party until the battle was over. It
was then a Union victory, in which the Armies of the Tennessee
and the Ohio both participated. But the Army of the Tennessee
fought the entire rebel army on the 6th and held it at bay until
near night; and night alone closed the conflict and not the three
regiments of Nelson’s division.

The Confederates fought with courage at Shiloh, but the
particular skill claimed I could not and still cannot see;
though there is nothing to criticise except the claims put
forward for it since. But the Confederate claimants for
superiority in strategy, superiority in generalship and
superiority in dash and prowess are not so unjust to the Union
troops engaged at Shiloh as are many Northern writers. The
troops on both sides were American, and united they need not
fear any foreign foe. It is possible that the Southern man
started in with a little more dash than his Northern brother;
but he was correspondingly less enduring.

The endeavor of the enemy on the first day was simply to hurl
their men against ours–first at one point, then at another,
sometimes at several points at once. This they did with daring
and energy, until at night the rebel troops were worn out. Our
effort during the same time was to be prepared to resist
assaults wherever made. The object of the Confederates on the
second day was to get away with as much of their army and
material as possible. Ours then was to drive them from our
front, and to capture or destroy as great a part as possible of
their men and material. We were successful in driving them
back, but not so successful in captures as if farther pursuit
could have been made. As it was, we captured or recaptured on
the second day about as much artillery as we lost on the first;
and, leaving out the one great capture of Prentiss, we took more
prisoners on Monday than the enemy gained from us on Sunday. On
the 6th Sherman lost seven pieces of artillery, McClernand six,
Prentiss eight, and Hurlbut two batteries. On the 7th Sherman
captured seven guns, McClernand three and the Army of the Ohio

At Shiloh the effective strength of the Union forces on the
morning of the 6th was 33,000 men. Lew. Wallace brought 5,000
more after nightfall. Beauregard reported the enemy’s strength
at 40,955. According to the custom of enumeration in the South,
this number probably excluded every man enlisted as musician or
detailed as guard or nurse, and all commissioned officers–
everybody who did not carry a musket or serve a cannon. With us
everybody in the field receiving pay from the government is
counted. Excluding the troops who fled, panic-stricken, before
they had fired a shot, there was not a time during the 6th when
we had more than 25,000 men in line. On the 7th Buell brought
20,000 more. Of his remaining two divisions, Thomas’s did not
reach the field during the engagement; Wood’s arrived before
firing had ceased, but not in time to be of much service.

Our loss in the two days’ fight was 1,754 killed, 8,408 wounded
and 2,885 missing. Of these, 2,103 were in the Army of the
Ohio. Beauregard reported a total loss of 10,699, of whom 1,728
were killed, 8,012 wounded and 957 missing. This estimate must
be incorrect. We buried, by actual count, more of the enemy’s
dead in front of the divisions of McClernand and Sherman alone
than here reported, and 4,000 was the estimate of the burial
parties of the whole field. Beauregard reports the Confederate
force on the 6th at over 40,000, and their total loss during the
two days at 10,699; and at the same time declares that he could
put only 20,000 men in battle on the morning of the 7th.

The navy gave a hearty support to the army at Shiloh, as indeed
it always did both before and subsequently when I was in
command. The nature of the ground was such, however, that on
this occasion it could do nothing in aid of the troops until
sundown on the first day. The country was broken and heavily
timbered, cutting off all view of the battle from the river, so
that friends would be as much in danger from fire from the
gunboats as the foe. But about sundown, when the National
troops were back in their last position, the right of the enemy
was near the river and exposed to the fire of the two gun-boats,
which was delivered with vigor and effect. After nightfall, when
firing had entirely ceased on land, the commander of the fleet
informed himself, approximately, of the position of our troops
and suggested the idea of dropping a shell within the lines of
the enemy every fifteen minutes during the night. This was done
with effect, as is proved by the Confederate reports.

Up to the battle of Shiloh I, as well as thousands of other
citizens, believed that the rebellion against the Government
would collapse suddenly and soon, if a decisive victory could be
gained over any of its armies. Donelson and Henry were such
victories. An army of more than 21,000 men was captured or
destroyed. Bowling Green, Columbus and Hickman, Kentucky, fell
in consequence, and Clarksville and Nashville, Tennessee, the
last two with an immense amount of stores, also fell into our
hands. The Tennessee and Cumberland rivers, from their mouths
to the head of navigation, were secured. But when Confederate
armies were collected which not only attempted to hold a line
farther south, from Memphis to Chattanooga, Knoxville and on to
the Atlantic, but assumed the offensive and made such a gallant
effort to regain what had been lost, then, indeed, I gave up all
idea of saving the Union except by complete conquest. Up to that
time it had been the policy of our army, certainly of that
portion commanded by me, to protect the property of the citizens
whose territory was invaded, without regard to their sentiments,
whether Union or Secession. After this, however, I regarded it
as humane to both sides to protect the persons of those found at
their homes, but to consume everything that could be used to
support or supply armies. Protection was still continued over
such supplies as were within lines held by us and which we
expected to continue to hold; but such supplies within the reach
of Confederate armies I regarded as much contraband as arms or
ordnance stores. Their destruction was accomplished without
bloodshed and tended to the same result as the destruction of
armies. I continued this policy to the close of the war.
Promiscuous pillaging, however, was discouraged and punished.
Instructions were always given to take provisions and forage
under the direction of commissioned officers who should give
receipts to owners, if at home, and turn the property over to
officers of the quartermaster or commissary departments to be
issued as if furnished from our Northern depots. But much was
destroyed without receipts to owners, when it could not be
brought within our lines and would otherwise have gone to the
support of secession and rebellion.

This policy I believe exercised a material influence in
hastening the end.

«- 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 | View All | Next -»