Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant

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This reached Sherman on September 20th.

On the 25th of September Sherman reported to Washington that
Hood’s troops were in his rear. He had provided against this by
sending a division to Chattanooga and a division to Rome,
Georgia, which was in the rear of Hood, supposing that Hood
would fall back in the direction from which he had come to reach
the railroad. At the same time Sherman and Hood kept up a
correspondence relative to the exchange of prisoners, the
treatment of citizens, and other matters suitable to be arranged
between hostile commanders in the field. On the 27th of
September I telegraphed Sherman as follows:

September 27, 1864–10.30 A.M.


I have directed all recruits and new troops from the Western
States to be sent to Nashville, to receive their further orders
from you. * * *


On the 29th Sherman sent Thomas back to Chattanooga, and
afterwards to Nashville, with another division (Morgan’s) of the
advanced army. Sherman then suggested that, when he was
prepared, his movements should take place against Milledgeville
and then to Savannah. His expectation at that time was, to make
this movement as soon as he could get up his supplies. Hood was
moving in his own country, and was moving light so that he could
make two miles to Sherman’s one. He depended upon the country to
gather his supplies, and so was not affected by delays.

As I have said, until this unexpected state of affairs happened,
Mobile had been looked upon as the objective point of Sherman’s
army. It had been a favorite move of mine from 1862, when I
first suggested to the then commander-in-chief that the troops
in Louisiana, instead of frittering away their time in the
trans- Mississippi, should move against Mobile. I recommended
this from time to time until I came into command of the army,
the last of March 1864. Having the power in my own hands, I now
ordered the concentration of supplies, stores and troops, in the
department of the Gulf about New Orleans, with a view to a move
against Mobile, in support of, and in conjunction with, the
other armies operating in the field. Before I came into
command, these troops had been scattered over the
trans-Mississippi department in such a way that they could not
be, or were not, gotten back in time to take any part in the
original movement; hence the consideration, which had caused
Mobile to be selected as the objective point for Sherman’s army
to find his next base of supplies after having cut loose from
Atlanta, no longer existed.

General G. M. Dodge, an exceedingly efficient officer, having
been badly wounded, had to leave the army about the first of
October. He was in command of two divisions of the 16th corps,
consolidated into one. Sherman then divided his army into the
right and left wings the right commanded by General O. O. Howard
and the left by General Slocum. General Dodge’s two divisions
were assigned, one to each of these wings. Howard’s command
embraced the 15th and 17th corps, and Slocum’s the 14th and 20th
corps, commanded by Generals Jeff. C. Davis and A. S. Williams.
Generals Logan and Blair commanded the two corps composing the
right wing. About this time they left to take part in the
presidential election, which took place that year, leaving their
corps to Osterhaus and Ransom. I have no doubt that their
leaving was at the earnest solicitation of the War Department.
General Blair got back in time to resume his command and to
proceed with it throughout the march to the sea and back to the
grand review at Washington. General Logan did not return to his
command until after it reached Savannah.

Logan felt very much aggrieved at the transfer of General Howard
from that portion of the Army of the Potomac which was then with
the Western Army, to the command of the Army of the Tennessee,
with which army General Logan had served from the battle of
Belmont to the fall of Atlanta–having passed successively
through all grades from colonel commanding a regiment to general
commanding a brigade, division and army corps, until upon the
death of McPherson the command of the entire Army of the
Tennessee devolved upon him in the midst of a hotly contested
battle. He conceived that he had done his full duty as
commander in that engagement; and I can bear testimony, from
personal observation, that he had proved himself fully equal to
all the lower positions which he had occupied as a soldier. I
will not pretend to question the motive which actuated Sherman
in taking an officer from another army to supersede General
Logan. I have no doubt, whatever, that he did this for what he
considered would be to the good of the service, which was more
important than that the personal feelings of any individual
should not be aggrieved; though I doubt whether he had an
officer with him who could have filled the place as Logan would
have done. Differences of opinion must exist between the best
of friends as to policies in war, and of judgment as to men’s
fitness. The officer who has the command, however, should be
allowed to judge of the fitness of the officers under him,
unless he is very manifestly wrong.

Sherman’s army, after all the depletions, numbered about sixty
thousand effective men. All weak men had been left to hold the
rear, and those remaining were not only well men, but strong and
hardy, so that he had sixty thousand as good soldiers as ever
trod the earth; better than any European soldiers, because they
not only worked like a machine but the machine thought.
European armies know very little what they are fighting for, and
care less. Included in these sixty thousand troops, there were
two small divisions of cavalry, numbering altogether about four
thousand men. Hood had about thirty-five to forty thousand men,
independent of Forrest, whose forces were operating in Tennessee
and Kentucky, as Mr. Davis had promised they should. This part
of Mr. Davis’s military plan was admirable, and promised the
best results of anything he could have done, according to my
judgment. I say this because I have criticised his military
judgment in the removal of Johnston, and also in the appointment
of Hood. I am aware, however, that there was high feeling
existing at that time between Davis and his subordinate, whom I
regarded as one of his ablest lieutenants.

On the 5th of October the railroad back from Atlanta was again
very badly broken, Hood having got on the track with his army.
Sherman saw after night, from a high point, the road burning for
miles. The defence of the railroad by our troops was very
gallant, but they could not hold points between their intrenched
positions against Hood’s whole army; in fact they made no attempt
to do so; but generally the intrenched positions were held, as
well as important bridges, and store located at them.
Allatoona, for instance, was defended by a small force of men
under the command of General Corse, one of the very able and
efficient volunteer officers produced by the war. He, with a
small force, was cut off from the remainder of the National army
and was attacked with great vigor by many times his own number.
Sherman from his high position could see the battle raging, with
the Confederate troops between him and his subordinate. He sent
men, of course, to raise the temporary siege, but the time that
would be necessarily consumed in reaching Corse, would be so
great that all occupying the intrenchments might be dead. Corse
was a man who would never surrender. From a high position some
of Sherman’s signal corps discovered a signal flag waving from a
hole in the block house at Allatoona. It was from Corse. He had
been shot through the face, but he signalled to his chief a
message which left no doubt of his determination to hold his
post at all hazards. It was at this point probably, that
Sherman first realized that with the forces at his disposal, the
keeping open of his line of communication with the North would be
impossible if he expected to retain any force with which to
operate offensively beyond Atlanta. He proposed, therefore, to
destroy the roads back to Chattanooga, when all ready to move,
and leave the latter place garrisoned. Yet, before abandoning
the railroad, it was necessary that he should repair damages
already done, and hold the road until he could get forward such
supplies, ordnance stores and small rations, as he wanted to
carry with him on his proposed march, and to return to the north
his surplus artillery; his object being to move light and to have
no more artillery than could be used to advantage on the field.

Sherman thought Hood would follow him, though he proposed to
prepare for the contingency of the latter moving the other way
while he was moving south, by making Thomas strong enough to
hold Tennessee and Kentucky. I, myself, was thoroughly
satisfied that Hood would go north, as he did. On the 2d of
November I telegraphed Sherman authorizing him definitely to
move according to the plan he had proposed: that is, cutting
loose from his base, giving up Atlanta and the railroad back to
Chattanooga. To strengthen Thomas he sent Stanley (4th corps)
back, and also ordered Schofield, commanding the Army of the
Ohio, twelve thousand strong, to report to him. In addition to
this, A. J. Smith, who, with two divisions of Sherman’s army,
was in Missouri aiding Rosecrans in driving the enemy from that
State, was under orders to return to Thomas and, under the most
unfavorable circumstances, might be expected to arrive there
long before Hood could reach Nashville.

In addition to this, the new levies of troops that were being
raised in the North-west went to Thomas as rapidly as enrolled
and equipped. Thomas, without any of these additions spoken of,
had a garrison at Chattanooga which had been strengthened by one
division and garrisons at Bridgeport, Stevenson, Decatur,
Murfreesboro, and Florence. There were already with him in
Nashville ten thousand soldiers in round numbers, and many
thousands of employees in the quartermaster’s and other
departments who could be put in the intrench meets in front of
Nashville, for its defence. Also, Wilson was there with ten
thousand dismounted cavalrymen, who were being equipped for the
field. Thomas had at this time about forty-five thousand men
without any of the reinforcements here above enumerated. These
reinforcements gave him altogether about seventy thousand men,
without counting what might be added by the new levies already
spoken of.

About this time Beauregard arrived upon the field, not to
supersede Hood in command, but to take general charge over the
entire district in which Hood and Sherman were, or might be,
operating. He made the most frantic appeals to the citizens for
assistance to be rendered in every way: by sending
reinforcements, by destroying supplies on the line of march of
the invaders, by destroying the bridges over which they would
have to cross, and by, in every way, obstructing the roads to
their front. But it was hard to convince the people of the
propriety of destroying supplies which were so much needed by
themselves, and each one hoped that his own possessions might

Hood soon started north, and went into camp near Decatur,
Alabama, where he remained until the 29th of October, but
without making an attack on the garrison of that place.

The Tennessee River was patrolled by gunboats, from Muscle
Shoals east; and, also, below the second shoals out to the Ohio
River. These, with the troops that might be concentrated from
the garrisons along the river at any point where Hood might
choose to attempt to cross, made it impossible for him to cross
the Tennessee at any place where it was navigable. But Muscle
Shoals is not navigable, and below them again is another shoal
which also obstructs navigation. Hood therefore moved down to a
point nearly opposite Florence, Alabama, crossed over and
remained there for some time, collecting supplies of food,
forage and ammunition. All of these had to come from a
considerable distance south, because the region in which he was
then situated was mountainous, with small valleys which produced
but little, and what they had produced had long since been
exhausted. On the 1st of November I suggested to Sherman, and
also asked his views thereon, the propriety of destroying Hood
before he started on his campaign.

On the 2d of November, as stated, I approved definitely his
making his proposed campaign through Georgia, leaving Hood
behind to the tender mercy of Thomas and the troops in his
command. Sherman fixed the 10th of November as the day of

Sherman started on that day to get back to Atlanta, and on the
15th the real march to the sea commenced. The right wing, under
Howard, and the cavalry went to Jonesboro, Milledgeville, then
the capital of Georgia, being Sherman’s objective or stopping
place on the way to Savannah. The left wing moved to Stone
Mountain, along roads much farther east than those taken by the
right wing. Slocum was in command, and threatened Augusta as the
point to which he was moving, but he was to turn off and meet the
right wing at Milledgeville.

Atlanta was destroyed so far as to render it worthless for
military purposes before starting, Sherman himself remaining
over a day to superintend the work, and see that it was well
done. Sherman’s orders for this campaign were perfect. Before
starting, he had sent back all sick, disabled and weak men,
retaining nothing but the hardy, well-inured soldiers to
accompany him on his long march in prospect. His artillery was
reduced to sixty-five guns. The ammunition carried with them was
two hundred rounds for musket and gun. Small rations were taken
in a small wagon train, which was loaded to its capacity for
rapid movement. The army was expected to live on the country,
and to always keep the wagons full of forage and provisions
against a possible delay of a few days.

The troops, both of the right and left wings, made most of their
advance along the line of railroads, which they destroyed. The
method adopted to perform this work, was to burn and destroy all
the bridges and culverts, and for a long distance, at places, to
tear up the track and bend the rails. Soldiers to do this
rapidly would form a line along one side of the road with
crowbars and poles, place these under the rails and, hoisting
all at once, turn over many rods of road at one time. The ties
would then be placed in piles, and the rails, as they were
loosened, would be carried and put across these log heaps. When
a sufficient number of rails were placed upon a pile of ties it
would be set on fire. This would heat the rails very much more
in the middle, that being over the main part of the fire, than
at the ends, so that they would naturally bend of their own
weight; but the soldiers, to increase the damage, would take
tongs and, one or two men at each end of the rail, carry it with
force against the nearest tree and twist it around, thus leaving
rails forming bands to ornament the forest trees of Georgia.
All this work was going on at the same time, there being a
sufficient number of men detailed for that purpose. Some piled
the logs and built the fire; some put the rails upon the fire;
while others would bend those that were sufficiently heated: so
that, by the time the last bit of road was torn up, that it was
designed to destroy at a certain place, the rails previously
taken up were already destroyed.

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