Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant

Rosecrans did not start in pursuit till the morning of the 5th
and then took the wrong road. Moving in the enemy’s country he
travelled with a wagon train to carry his provisions and
munitions of war. His march was therefore slower than that of
the enemy, who was moving towards his supplies. Two or three
hours of pursuit on the day of battle, without anything except
what the men carried on their persons, would have been worth
more than any pursuit commenced the next day could have possibly
been. Even when he did start, if Rosecrans had followed the
route taken by the enemy, he would have come upon Van Dorn in a
swamp with a stream in front and Ord holding the only bridge;
but he took the road leading north and towards Chewalla instead
of west, and, after having marched as far as the enemy had moved
to get to the Hatchie, he was as far from battle as when he
started. Hurlbut had not the numbers to meet any such force as
Van Dorn’s if they had been in any mood for fighting, and he
might have been in great peril.

I now regarded the time to accomplish anything by pursuit as
past and, after Rosecrans reached Jonesboro, I ordered him to
return. He kept on to Ripley, however, and was persistent in
wanting to go farther. I thereupon ordered him to halt and
submitted the matter to the general-in-chief, who allowed me to
exercise my judgment in the matter, but inquired “why not
pursue?” Upon this I ordered Rosecrans back. Had he gone much
farther he would have met a greater force than Van Dorn had at
Corinth and behind intrenchments or on chosen ground, and the
probabilities are he would have lost his army.

The battle of Corinth was bloody, our loss being 315 killed,
1,812 wounded and 232 missing. The enemy lost many more.
Rosecrans reported 1,423 dead and 2,225 prisoners. We fought
behind breastworks, which accounts in some degree for the
disparity. Among the killed on our side was General
Hackelman. General Oglesby was badly, it was for some time
supposed mortally, wounded. I received a congratulatory letter
from the President, which expressed also his sorrow for the

This battle was recognized by me as being a decided victory,
though not so complete as I had hoped for, nor nearly so
complete as I now think was within the easy grasp of the
commanding officer at Corinth. Since the war it is known that
the result, as it was, was a crushing blow to the enemy, and
felt by him much more than it was appreciated at the North. The
battle relieved me from any further anxiety for the safety of the
territory within my jurisdiction, and soon after receiving
reinforcements I suggested to the general-in-chief a forward
movement against Vicksburg.

On the 23d of October I learned of Pemberton’s being in command
at Holly Springs and much reinforced by conscripts and troops
from Alabama and Texas. The same day General Rosecrans was
relieved from duty with my command, and shortly after he
succeeded Buell in the command of the army in Middle
Tennessee. I was delighted at the promotion of General
Rosecrans to a separate command, because I still believed that
when independent of an immediate superior the qualities which I,
at that time, credited him with possessing, would show
themselves. As a subordinate I found that I could not make him
do as I wished, and had determined to relieve him from duty that
very day.

At the close of the operations just described my force, in round
numbers, was 48,500. Of these 4,800 were in Kentucky and
Illinois, 7,000 in Memphis, 19,200 from Mound City south, and
17,500 at Corinth. General McClernand had been authorized from
Washington to go north and organize troops to be used in opening
the Mississippi. These new levies with other reinforcements now
began to come in.

On the 25th of October I was placed in command of the Department
of the Tennessee. Reinforcements continued to come from the
north and by the 2d of November I was prepared to take the
initiative. This was a great relief after the two and a half
months of continued defence over a large district of country,
and where nearly every citizen was an enemy ready to give
information of our every move. I have described very
imperfectly a few of the battles and skirmishes that took place
during this time. To describe all would take more space than I
can allot to the purpose; to make special mention of all the
officers and troops who distinguished themselves, would take a
volume. (*9)



Vicksburg was important to the enemy because it occupied the
first high ground coming close to the river below Memphis. From
there a railroad runs east, connecting with other roads leading
to all points of the Southern States. A railroad also starts
from the opposite side of the river, extending west as far as
Shreveport, Louisiana. Vicksburg was the only channel, at the
time of the events of which this chapter treats, connecting the
parts of the Confederacy divided by the Mississippi. So long as
it was held by the enemy, the free navigation of the river was
prevented. Hence its importance. Points on the river between
Vicksburg and Port Hudson were held as dependencies; but their
fall was sure to follow the capture of the former place.

The campaign against Vicksburg commenced on the 2d of November
as indicated in a dispatch to the general-in-chief in the
following words: “I have commenced a movement on Grand
Junction, with three divisions from Corinth and two from
Bolivar. Will leave here [Jackson, Tennessee] to-morrow, and
take command in person. If found practicable, I will go to
Holly Springs, and, may be, Grenada, completing railroad and
telegraph as I go.”

At this time my command was holding the Mobile and Ohio railroad
from about twenty-five miles south of Corinth, north to Columbus,
Kentucky; the Mississippi Central from Bolivar north to its
junction with the Mobile and Ohio; the Memphis and Charleston
from Corinth east to Bear Creek, and the Mississippi River from
Cairo to Memphis. My entire command was no more than was
necessary to hold these lines, and hardly that if kept on the
defensive. By moving against the enemy and into his unsubdued,
or not yet captured, territory, driving their army before us,
these lines would nearly hold themselves; thus affording a large
force for field operations. My moving force at that time was
about 30,000 men, and I estimated the enemy confronting me,
under Pemberton, at about the same number. General McPherson
commanded my left wing and General C. S. Hamilton the centre,
while Sherman was at Memphis with the right wing. Pemberton was
fortified at the Tallahatchie, but occupied Holly Springs and
Grand Junction on the Mississippi Central railroad. On the 8th
we occupied Grand Junction and La Grange, throwing a
considerable force seven or eight miles south, along the line of
the railroad. The road from Bolivar forward was repaired and put
in running order as the troops advanced.

Up to this time it had been regarded as an axiom in war that
large bodies of troops must operate from a base of supplies
which they always covered and guarded in all forward
movements. There was delay therefore in repairing the road
back, and in gathering and forwarding supplies to the front.

By my orders, and in accordance with previous instructions from
Washington, all the forage within reach was collected under the
supervision of the chief quartermaster and the provisions under
the chief commissary, receipts being given when there was any
one to take them; the supplies in any event to be accounted for
as government stores. The stock was bountiful, but still it
gave me no idea of the possibility of supplying a moving column
in an enemy’s country from the country itself.

It was at this point, probably, where the first idea of a
“Freedman’s Bureau” took its origin. Orders of the government
prohibited the expulsion of the negroes from the protection of
the army, when they came in voluntarily. Humanity forbade
allowing them to starve. With such an army of them, of all ages
and both sexes, as had congregated about Grand Junction,
amounting to many thousands, it was impossible to advance. There
was no special authority for feeding them unless they were
employed as teamsters, cooks and pioneers with the army; but
only able-bodied young men were suitable for such work. This
labor would support but a very limited percentage of them. The
plantations were all deserted; the cotton and corn were ripe:
men, women and children above ten years of age could be employed
in saving these crops. To do this work with contrabands, or to
have it done, organization under a competent chief was
necessary. On inquiring for such a man Chaplain Eaton, now and
for many years the very able United States Commissioner of
Education, was suggested. He proved as efficient in that field
as he has since done in his present one. I gave him all the
assistants and guards he called for. We together fixed the
prices to be paid for the negro labor, whether rendered to the
government or to individuals. The cotton was to be picked from
abandoned plantations, the laborers to receive the stipulated
price (my recollection is twelve and a half cents per pound for
picking and ginning) from the quartermaster, he shipping the
cotton north to be sold for the benefit of the government.
Citizens remaining on their plantations were allowed the
privilege of having their crops saved by freedmen on the same

At once the freedmen became self-sustaining. The money was not
paid to them directly, but was expended judiciously and for
their benefit. They gave me no trouble afterwards.

Later the freedmen were engaged in cutting wood along the
Mississippi River to supply the large number of steamers on that
stream. A good price was paid for chopping wood used for the
supply of government steamers (steamers chartered and which the
government had to supply with fuel). Those supplying their own
fuel paid a much higher price. In this way a fund was created
not only sufficient to feed and clothe all, old and young, male
and female, but to build them comfortable cabins, hospitals for
the sick, and to supply them with many comforts they had never
known before.

At this stage of the campaign against Vicksburg I was very much
disturbed by newspaper rumors that General McClernand was to
have a separate and independent command within mine, to operate
against Vicksburg by way of the Mississippi River. Two
commanders on the same field are always one too many, and in
this case I did not think the general selected had either the
experience or the qualifications to fit him for so important a
position. I feared for the safety of the troops intrusted to
him, especially as he was to raise new levies, raw troops, to
execute so important a trust. But on the 12th I received a
dispatch from General Halleck saying that I had command of all
the troops sent to my department and authorizing me to fight the
enemy where I pleased. The next day my cavalry was in Holly
Springs, and the enemy fell back south of the Tallahatchie.

Holly Springs I selected for my depot of supplies and munitions
of war, all of which at that time came by rail from Columbus,
Kentucky, except the few stores collected about La Grange and
Grand Junction. This was a long line (increasing in length as
we moved south) to maintain in an enemy’s country. On the 15th
of November, while I was still at Holly Springs, I sent word to
Sherman to meet me at Columbus. We were but forty-seven miles
apart, yet the most expeditious way for us to meet was for me to
take the rail to Columbus and Sherman a steamer for the same
place. At that meeting, besides talking over my general plans I
gave him his orders to join me with two divisions and to march
them down the Mississippi Central railroad if he could. Sherman,
who was always prompt, was up by the 29th to Cottage Hill, ten
miles north of Oxford. He brought three divisions with him,
leaving a garrison of only four regiments of infantry, a couple
of pieces of artillery and a small detachment of cavalry.
Further reinforcements he knew were on their way from the north
to Memphis. About this time General Halleck ordered troops from
Helena, Arkansas (territory west of the Mississippi was not under
my command then) to cut the road in Pemberton’s rear. The
expedition was under Generals Hovey and C. C. Washburn and was
successful so far as reaching the railroad was concerned, but
the damage done was very slight and was soon repaired.

The Tallahatchie, which confronted me, was very high, the
railroad bridge destroyed and Pemberton strongly fortified on
the south side. A crossing would have been impossible in the
presence of an enemy. I sent the cavalry higher up the stream
and they secured a crossing. This caused the enemy to evacuate
their position, which was possibly accelerated by the expedition
of Hovey and Washburn. The enemy was followed as far south as
Oxford by the main body of troops, and some seventeen miles
farther by McPherson’s command. Here the pursuit was halted to
repair the railroad from the Tallahatchie northward, in order to
bring up supplies. The piles on which the railroad bridge rested
had been left standing. The work of constructing a roadway for
the troops was but a short matter, and, later, rails were laid
for cars.

During the delay at Oxford in repairing railroads I learned that
an expedition down the Mississippi now was inevitable and,
desiring to have a competent commander in charge, I ordered
Sherman on the 8th of December back to Memphis to take charge.
The following were his orders:

Headquarters 13th Army Corps,
Department of the Tennessee.
OXFORD, MISSISSIPPI, December 8,1862.

Commanding Right Wing:

You will proceed, with as little delay as possible, to Memphis,
Tennessee, taking with you one division of your present
command. On your arrival at Memphis you will assume command of
all the troops there, and that portion of General Curtis’s
forces at present east of the Mississippi River, and organize
them into brigades and divisions in your own army. As soon as
possible move with them down the river to the vicinity of
Vicksburg, and with the co-operation of the gunboat fleet under
command of Flag-officer Porter proceed to the reduction of that
place in such a manner as circumstances, and your own judgment,
may dictate.

The amount of rations, forage, land transportation, etc.,
necessary to take, will be left entirely with yourself. The
Quartermaster at St. Louis will be instructed to send you
transportation for 30,000 men; should you still find yourself
deficient, your quartermaster will be authorized to make up the
deficiency from such transports as may come into the port of

On arriving in Memphis, put yourself in communication with
Admiral Porter, and arrange with him for his co-operation.

Inform me at the earliest practicable day of the time when you
will embark, and such plans as may then be matured. I will hold
the forces here in readiness to co-operate with you in such
manner as the movements of the enemy may make necessary.

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