Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant

The remainder of the magnificent army of 120,000 men which
entered Corinth on the 30th of May had now become so scattered
that I was put entirely on the defensive in a territory whose
population was hostile to the Union. One of the first things I
had to do was to construct fortifications at Corinth better
suited to the garrison that could be spared to man them. The
structures that had been built during the months of May and June
were left as monuments to the skill of the engineer, and others
were constructed in a few days, plainer in design but suited to
the command available to defend them.

I disposed the troops belonging to the district in conformity
with the situation as rapidly as possible. The forces at
Donelson, Clarksville and Nashville, with those at Corinth and
along the railroad eastward, I regarded as sufficient for
protection against any attack from the west. The Mobile and
Ohio railroad was guarded from Rienzi, south of Corinth, to
Columbus; and the Mississippi Central railroad from Jackson,
Tennessee, to Bolivar. Grand Junction and La Grange on the
Memphis railroad were abandoned.

South of the Army of the Tennessee, and confronting it, was Van
Dorn, with a sufficient force to organize a movable army of
thirty-five to forty thousand men, after being reinforced by
Price from Missouri. This movable force could be thrown against
either Corinth, Bolivar or Memphis; and the best that could be
done in such event would be to weaken the points not threatened
in order to reinforce the one that was. Nothing could be gained
on the National side by attacking elsewhere, because the
territory already occupied was as much as the force present
could guard. The most anxious period of the war, to me, was
during the time the Army of the Tennessee was guarding the
territory acquired by the fall of Corinth and Memphis and before
I was sufficiently reinforced to take the offensive. The enemy
also had cavalry operating in our rear, making it necessary to
guard every point of the railroad back to Columbus, on the
security of which we were dependent for all our supplies.
Headquarters were connected by telegraph with all points of the
command except Memphis and the Mississippi below Columbus. With
these points communication was had by the railroad to Columbus,
then down the river by boat. To reinforce Memphis would take
three or four days, and to get an order there for troops to move
elsewhere would have taken at least two days. Memphis therefore
was practically isolated from the balance of the command. But
it was in Sherman’s hands. Then too the troops were well
intrenched and the gunboats made a valuable auxiliary.

During the two months after the departure of General Halleck
there was much fighting between small bodies of the contending
armies, but these encounters were dwarfed by the magnitude of
the main battles so as to be now almost forgotten except by
those engaged in them. Some of them, however, estimated by the
losses on both sides in killed and wounded, were equal in hard
fighting to most of the battles of the Mexican war which
attracted so much of the attention of the public when they
occurred. About the 23d of July Colonel Ross, commanding at
Bolivar, was threatened by a large force of the enemy so that he
had to be reinforced from Jackson and Corinth. On the 27th there
was skirmishing on the Hatchie River, eight miles from Bolivar.
On the 30th I learned from Colonel P. H. Sheridan, who had been
far to the south, that Bragg in person was at Rome, Georgia,
with his troops moving by rail (by way of Mobile) to Chattanooga
and his wagon train marching overland to join him at Rome. Price
was at this time at Holly Springs, Mississippi, with a large
force, and occupied Grand Junction as an outpost. I proposed to
the general-in-chief to be permitted to drive him away, but was
informed that, while I had to judge for myself, the best use to
make of my troops WAS NOT TO SCATTER THEM, but hold them ready
to reinforce Buell.

The movement of Bragg himself with his wagon trains to
Chattanooga across country, while his troops were transported
over a long round-about road to the same destination, without
need of guards except when in my immediate front, demonstrates
the advantage which troops enjoy while acting in a country where
the people are friendly. Buell was marching through a hostile
region and had to have his communications thoroughly guarded
back to a base of supplies. More men were required the farther
the National troops penetrated into the enemy’s country. I,
with an army sufficiently powerful to have destroyed Bragg, was
purely on the defensive and accomplishing no more than to hold a
force far inferior to my own.

On the 2d of August I was ordered from Washington to live upon
the country, on the resources of citizens hostile to the
government, so far as practicable. I was also directed to
“handle rebels within our lines without gloves,” to imprison
them, or to expel them from their homes and from our lines. I
do not recollect having arrested and confined a citizen (not a
soldier) during the entire rebellion. I am aware that a great
many were sent to northern prisons, particularly to Joliet,
Illinois, by some of my subordinates with the statement that it
was my order. I had all such released the moment I learned of
their arrest; and finally sent a staff officer north to release
every prisoner who was said to be confined by my order. There
were many citizens at home who deserved punishment because they
were soldiers when an opportunity was afforded to inflict an
injury to the National cause. This class was not of the kind
that were apt to get arrested, and I deemed it better that a few
guilty men should escape than that a great many innocent ones
should suffer.

On the 14th of August I was ordered to send two more divisions
to Buell. They were sent the same day by way of Decatur. On
the 22d Colonel Rodney Mason surrendered Clarksville with six
companies of his regiment.

Colonel Mason was one of the officers who had led their
regiments off the field at almost the first fire of the rebels
at Shiloh. He was by nature and education a gentleman, and was
terribly mortified at his action when the battle was over. He
came to me with tears in his eyes and begged to be allowed to
have another trial. I felt great sympathy for him and sent him,
with his regiment, to garrison Clarksville and Donelson. He
selected Clarksville for his headquarters, no doubt because he
regarded it as the post of danger, it being nearer the enemy.
But when he was summoned to surrender by a band of guerillas,
his constitutional weakness overcame him. He inquired the
number of men the enemy had, and receiving a response indicating
a force greater than his own he said if he could be satisfied of
that fact he would surrender. Arrangements were made for him to
count the guerillas, and having satisfied himself that the enemy
had the greater force he surrendered and informed his
subordinate at Donelson of the fact, advising him to do the
same. The guerillas paroled their prisoners and moved upon
Donelson, but the officer in command at that point marched out
to meet them and drove them away.

Among other embarrassments, at the time of which I now write,
was the fact that the government wanted to get out all the
cotton possible from the South and directed me to give every
facility toward that end. Pay in gold was authorized, and
stations on the Mississippi River and on the railroad in our
possession had to be designated where cotton would be
received. This opened to the enemy not only the means of
converting cotton into money, which had a value all over the
world and which they so much needed, but it afforded them means
of obtaining accurate and intelligent information in regard to
our position and strength. It was also demoralizing to the
troops. Citizens obtaining permits from the treasury department
had to be protected within our lines and given facilities to get
out cotton by which they realized enormous profits. Men who had
enlisted to fight the battles of their country did not like to be
engaged in protecting a traffic which went to the support of an
enemy they had to fight, and the profits of which went to men
who shared none of their dangers.

On the 30th of August Colonel M. D. Leggett, near Bolivar, with
the 20th and 29th Ohio volunteer infantry, was attacked by a
force supposed to be about 4,000 strong. The enemy was driven
away with a loss of more than one hundred men. On the 1st of
September the bridge guard at Medon was attacked by guerillas.
The guard held the position until reinforced, when the enemy
were routed leaving about fifty of their number on the field
dead or wounded, our loss being only two killed and fifteen
wounded. On the same day Colonel Dennis, with a force of less
than 500 infantry and two pieces of artillery, met the cavalry
of the enemy in strong force, a few miles west of Medon, and
drove them away with great loss. Our troops buried 179 of the
enemy’s dead, left upon the field. Afterwards it was found that
all the houses in the vicinity of the battlefield were turned
into hospitals for the wounded. Our loss, as reported at the
time, was forty-five killed and wounded. On the 2d of September
I was ordered to send more reinforcements to Buell. Jackson and
Bolivar were yet threatened, but I sent the reinforcements. On
the 4th I received direct orders to send Granger’s division also
to Louisville, Kentucky.

General Buell had left Corinth about the 10th of June to march
upon Chattanooga; Bragg, who had superseded Beauregard in
command, sent one division from Tupelo on the 27th of June for
the same place. This gave Buell about seventeen days’ start. If
he had not been required to repair the railroad as he advanced,
the march could have been made in eighteen days at the outside,
and Chattanooga must have been reached by the National forces
before the rebels could have possibly got there. The road
between Nashville and Chattanooga could easily have been put in
repair by other troops, so that communication with the North
would have been opened in a short time after the occupation of
the place by the National troops. If Buell had been permitted
to move in the first instance, with the whole of the Army of the
Ohio and that portion of the Army of the Mississippi afterwards
sent to him, he could have thrown four divisions from his own
command along the line of road to repair and guard it.

Granger’s division was promptly sent on the 4th of September. I
was at the station at Corinth when the troops reached that point,
and found General P. H. Sheridan with them. I expressed surprise
at seeing him and said that I had not expected him to go. He
showed decided disappointment at the prospect of being
detained. I felt a little nettled at his desire to get away and
did not detain him.

Sheridan was a first lieutenant in the regiment in which I had
served eleven years, the 4th infantry, and stationed on the
Pacific coast when the war broke out. He was promoted to a
captaincy in May, 1861, and before the close of the year managed
in some way, I do not know how, to get East. He went to
Missouri. Halleck had known him as a very successful young
officer in managing campaigns against the Indians on the Pacific
coast, and appointed him acting-quartermaster in south-west
Missouri. There was no difficulty in getting supplies forward
while Sheridan served in that capacity; but he got into
difficulty with his immediate superiors because of his stringent
rules for preventing the use of public transportation for private
purposes. He asked to be relieved from further duty in the
capacity in which he was engaged and his request was granted.
When General Halleck took the field in April, 1862, Sheridan was
assigned to duty on his staff. During the advance on Corinth a
vacancy occurred in the colonelcy of the 2d Michigan cavalry.
Governor Blair, of Michigan, telegraphed General Halleck asking
him to suggest the name of a professional soldier for the
vacancy, saying he would appoint a good man without reference to
his State. Sheridan was named; and was so conspicuously
efficient that when Corinth was reached he was assigned to
command a cavalry brigade in the Army of the Mississippi. He
was in command at Booneville on the 1st of July with two small
regiments, when he was attacked by a force full three times as
numerous as his own. By very skilful manoeuvres and boldness of
attack he completely routed the enemy. For this he was made a
brigadier-general and became a conspicuous figure in the army
about Corinth. On this account I was sorry to see him leaving
me. His departure was probably fortunate, for he rendered
distinguished services in his new field.

Granger and Sheridan reached Louisville before Buell got there,
and on the night of their arrival Sheridan with his command
threw up works around the railroad station for the defence of
troops as they came from the front.



At this time, September 4th, I had two divisions of the Army of
the Mississippi stationed at Corinth, Rienzi, Jacinto and
Danville. There were at Corinth also Davies’ division and two
brigades of McArthur’s, besides cavalry and artillery. This
force constituted my left wing, of which Rosecrans was in
command. General Ord commanded the centre, from Bethel to
Humboldt on the Mobile and Ohio railroad and from Jackson to
Bolivar where the Mississippi Central is crossed by the Hatchie
River. General Sherman commanded on the right at Memphis with
two of his brigades back at Brownsville, at the crossing of the
Hatchie River by the Memphis and Ohio railroad. This made the
most convenient arrangement I could devise for concentrating all
my spare forces upon any threatened point. All the troops of the
command were within telegraphic communication of each other,
except those under Sherman. By bringing a portion of his
command to Brownsville, from which point there was a railroad
and telegraph back to Memphis, communication could be had with
that part of my command within a few hours by the use of
couriers. In case it became necessary to reinforce Corinth, by
this arrangement all the troops at Bolivar, except a small
guard, could be sent by rail by the way of Jackson in less than
twenty-four hours; while the troops from Brownsville could march
up to Bolivar to take their place.

On the 7th of September I learned of the advance of Van Dorn and
Price, apparently upon Corinth. One division was brought from
Memphis to Bolivar to meet any emergency that might arise from
this move of the enemy. I was much concerned because my first
duty, after holding the territory acquired within my command,
was to prevent further reinforcing of Bragg in Middle
Tennessee. Already the Army of Northern Virginia had defeated
the army under General Pope and was invading Maryland. In the
Centre General Buell was on his way to Louisville and Bragg
marching parallel to him with a large Confederate force for the
Ohio River.

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