Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant

While arranging for this movement, and before the attempt to
execute the plan had been commenced, Sherman received
information through one of his staff officers that the enemy had
evacuated Savannah the night before. This was the night of the
21st of December. Before evacuating the place Hardee had blown
up the navy yard. Some iron-clads had been destroyed, as well
as other property that might have been valuable to us; but he
left an immense amount of stores untouched, consisting of
cotton, railroad cars, workshops, numerous pieces of artillery,
and several thousand stands of small arms.

A little incident occurred, soon after the fall of Savannah,
which Sherman relates in his Memoirs, and which is worthy of
repetition. Savannah was one of the points where blockade
runners entered. Shortly after the city fell into our
possession, a blockade runner came sailing up serenely, not
doubting but the Confederates were still in possession. It was
not molested, and the captain did not find out his mistake until
he had tied up and gone to the Custom House, where he found a new
occupant of the building, and made a less profitable disposition
of his vessel and cargo than he had expected.

As there was some discussion as to the authorship of Sherman’s
march to the sea, by critics of his book when it appeared before
the public, I want to state here that no question upon that
subject was ever raised between General Sherman and myself.
Circumstances made the plan on which Sherman expected to act
impracticable, as as commander of the forces he necessarily had
to devise a new on which would give more promise of success”
consequently he recommended the destruction of the railroad back
to Chattanooga, and that he should be authorized then to move, as
he did, from Atlanta forward. His suggestions were finally
approved, although they did not immediately find favor in
Washington. Even when it came to the time of starting, the
greatest apprehension, as to the propriety of the campaign he
was about commence, filled the mind of the President, induced no
doubt by his advisers. This went so far as to move the
President to ask me to suspend Sherman’s march for a day or two
until I could think the matter over. My recollection is, though
I find no record to show it, that out of deference to the
President’s wish I did send a dispatch to Sherman asking him to
wait a day or two, or else the connections between us were
already cut so that I could not do so. However this may be, the
question of who devised the plan of march from Atlanta to
Savannah is easily answered: it was clearly Sherman, and to him
also belongs the credit of its brilliant execution. It was
hardly possible that any one else than those on the spot could
have devised a new plan of campaign to supersede one that did
not promise success. (*40)

I was in favor of Sherman’s plan from the time it was first
submitted to me. My chief of staff, however, was very bitterly
opposed to it and, as I learned subsequently, finding that he
could not move me, he appealed to the authorities at Washington
to stop it.

CHAPTER LX.

THE BATTLE OF FRANKLIN–THE BATTLE OF NASHVILLE.

As we have seen, Hood succeeded in crossing the Tennessee River
between Muscle Shoals and the lower shoals at the end of
October, 1864. Thomas sent Schofield with the 4th and 23d
corps, together with three brigades of Wilson’s cavalry to
Pulaski to watch him. On the 17th of November Hood started and
moved in such a manner as to avoid Schofield, thereby turning
his position. Hood had with him three infantry corps, commanded
respectively by Stephen D. Lee, Stewart and Cheatham. These,
with his cavalry, numbered about forty-five thousand men.
Schofield had, of all arms, about thirty thousand. Thomas’s
orders were, therefore, for Schofield to watch the movements of
the enemy, but not to fight a battle if he could avoid it; but
to fall back in case of an advance on Nashville, and to fight
the enemy, as he fell back, so as to retard the enemy’s
movements until he could be reinforced by Thomas himself. As
soon as Schofield saw this movement of Hood’s, he sent his
trains to the rear, but did not fall back himself until the
21st, and then only to Columbia. At Columbia there was a slight
skirmish but no battle. From this place Schofield then retreated
to Franklin. He had sent his wagons in advance, and Stanley had
gone with them with two divisions to protect them. Cheatham’s
corps of Hood’s army pursued the wagon train and went into camp
at Spring Hill, for the night of the 29th.

Schofield retreating from Columbia on the 29th, passed Spring
Hill, where Cheatham was bivouacked, during the night without
molestation, though within half a mile of where the Confederates
were encamped. On the morning of the 30th he had arrived at
Franklin.

Hood followed closely and reached Franklin in time to make an
attack the same day. The fight was very desperate and
sanguinary. The Confederate generals led their men in the
repeated charges, and the loss among them was of unusual
proportions. This fighting continued with great severity until
long after the night closed in, when the Confederates drew
off. General Stanley, who commanded two divisions of the Union
troops, and whose troops bore the brunt of the battle, was
wounded in the fight, but maintained his position.

The enemy’s loss at Franklin, according to Thomas’s report, was
1,750 buried upon the field by our troops, 3,800 in the
hospital, and 702 prisoners besides. Schofield’s loss, as
officially reported, was 189 killed, 1,033 wounded, and 1,104
captured and missing.

Thomas made no effort to reinforce Schofield at Franklin, as it
seemed to me at the time he should have done, and fight out the
battle there. He simply ordered Schofield to continue his
retreat to Nashville, which the latter did during that night and
the next day.

Thomas, in the meantime, was making his preparations to receive
Hood. The road to Chattanooga was still well guarded with
strong garrisons at Murfreesboro, Stevenson, Bridgeport and
Chattanooga. Thomas had previously given up Decatur and had
been reinforced by A. J. Smith’s two divisions just returned
from Missouri. He also had Steedman’s division and R. S.
Granger’s, which he had drawn from the front. His
quartermaster’s men, about ten thousand in number, had been
organized and armed under the command of the chief
quartermaster, General J. L. Donaldson, and placed in the
fortifications under the general supervision of General Z. B.
Tower, of the United States Engineers.

Hood was allowed to move upon Nashville, and to invest that
place almost without interference. Thomas was strongly
fortified in his position, so that he would have been safe
against the attack of Hood. He had troops enough even to
annihilate him in the open field. To me his delay was
unaccountable–sitting there and permitting himself to be
invested, so that, in the end, to raise the siege he would have
to fight the enemy strongly posted behind fortifications. It is
true the weather was very bad. The rain was falling and freezing
as it fell, so that the ground was covered with a sheet of ice,
that made it very difficult to move. But I was afraid that the
enemy would find means of moving, elude Thomas and manage to get
north of the Cumberland River. If he did this, I apprehended
most serious results from the campaign in the North, and was
afraid we might even have to send troops from the East to head
him off if he got there, General Thomas’s movements being always
so deliberate and so slow, though effective in defence.

I consequently urged Thomas in frequent dispatches sent from
City Point(*41) to make the attack at once. The country was
alarmed, the administration was alarmed, and I was alarmed lest
the very thing would take place which I have just described that
is, Hood would get north. It was all without avail further than
to elicit dispatches from Thomas saying that he was getting
ready to move as soon as he could, that he was making
preparations, etc. At last I had to say to General Thomas that
I should be obliged to remove him unless he acted promptly. He
replied that he was very sorry, but he would move as soon as he
could.

General Logan happening to visit City Point about that time, and
knowing him as a prompt, gallant and efficient officer, I gave
him an order to proceed to Nashville to relieve Thomas. I
directed him, however, not to deliver the order or publish it
until he reached there, and if Thomas had moved, then not to
deliver it at all, but communicate with me by telegraph. After
Logan started, in thinking over the situation, I became
restless, and concluded to go myself. I went as far as
Washington City, when a dispatch was received from General
Thomas announcing his readiness at last to move, and designating
the time of his movement. I concluded to wait until that time.
He did move, and was successful from the start. This was on the
15th of December. General Logan was at Louisville at the time
this movement was made, and telegraphed the fact to Washington,
and proceeded no farther himself.

The battle during the 15th was severe, but favorable to the
Union troops, and continued until night closed in upon the
combat. The next day the battle was renewed. After a
successful assault upon Hood’s men in their intrenchments the
enemy fled in disorder, routed and broken, leaving their dead,
their artillery and small arms in great numbers on the field,
besides the wounded that were captured. Our cavalry had fought
on foot as infantry, and had not their horses with them; so that
they were not ready to join in the pursuit the moment the enemy
retreated. They sent back, however, for their horses, and
endeavored to get to Franklin ahead of Hood’s broken army by the
Granny White Road, but too much time was consumed in getting
started. They had got but a few miles beyond the scene of the
battle when they found the enemy’s cavalry dismounted and behind
intrenchments covering the road on which they were advancing.
Here another battle ensued, our men dismounting and fighting on
foot, in which the Confederates were again routed and driven in
great disorder. Our cavalry then went into bivouac, and renewed
the pursuit on the following morning. They were too late. The
enemy already had possession of Franklin, and was beyond them.
It now became a chase in which the Confederates had the lead.

Our troops continued the pursuit to within a few miles of
Columbia, where they found the rebels had destroyed the railroad
bridge as well as all other bridges over Duck River. The heavy
rains of a few days before had swelled the stream into a mad
torrent, impassable except on bridges. Unfortunately, either
through a mistake in the wording of the order or otherwise, the
pontoon bridge which was to have been sent by rail out to
Franklin, to be taken thence with the pursuing column, had gone
toward Chattanooga. There was, consequently, a delay of some
four days in building bridges out of the remains of the old
railroad bridge. Of course Hood got such a start in this time
that farther pursuit was useless, although it was continued for
some distance, but without coming upon him again.

CHAPTER LXI.

EXPEDITION AGAINST FORT FISHER–ATTACK ON THE FORT–FAILURE OF
THE EXPEDITION–SECOND EXPEDITION AGAINST THE FORT– CAPTURE OF
FORT FISHER.

Up to January, 1865, the enemy occupied Fort Fisher, at the
mouth of Cape Fear River and below the City of Wilmington. This
port was of immense importance to the Confederates, because it
formed their principal inlet for blockade runners by means of
which they brought in from abroad such supplies and munitions of
war as they could not produce at home. It was equally important
to us to get possession of it, not only because it was desirable
to cut off their supplies so as to insure a speedy termination of
the war, but also because foreign governments, particularly the
British Government, were constantly threatening that unless ours
could maintain the blockade of that coast they should cease to
recognize any blockade. For these reasons I determined, with
the concurrence of the Navy Department, in December, to send an
expedition against Fort Fisher for the purpose of capturing it.

To show the difficulty experienced in maintaining the blockade,
I will mention a circumstance that took place at Fort Fisher
after its fall. Two English blockade runners came in at
night. Their commanders, not supposing the fort had fallen,
worked their way through all our fleet and got into the river
unobserved. They then signalled the fort, announcing their
arrival. There was a colored man in the fort who had been there
before and who understood these signals. He informed General
Terry what reply he should make to have them come in, and Terry
did as he advised. The vessels came in, their officers entirely
unconscious that they were falling into the hands of the Union
forces. Even after they were brought in to the fort they were
entertained in conversation for some little time before
suspecting that the Union troops were occupying the fort. They
were finally informed that their vessels and cargoes were prizes.

I selected General Weitzel, of the Army of the James, to go with
the expedition, but gave instructions through General Butler. He
commanded the department within whose geographical limits Fort
Fisher was situated, as well as Beaufort and other points on
that coast held by our troops; he was, therefore, entitled to
the right of fitting out the expedition against Fort Fisher.

General Butler conceived the idea that if a steamer loaded
heavily with powder could be run up to near the shore under the
fort and exploded, it would create great havoc and make the
capture an easy matter. Admiral Porter, who was to command the
naval squadron, seemed to fall in with the idea, and it was not
disapproved of in Washington; the navy was therefore given the
task of preparing the steamer for this purpose. I had no
confidence in the success of the scheme, and so expressed
myself; but as no serious harm could come of the experiment, and
the authorities at Washington seemed desirous to have it tried, I
permitted it. The steamer was sent to Beaufort, North Carolina,
and was there loaded with powder and prepared for the part she
was to play in the reduction of Fort Fisher.

General Butler chose to go in command of the expedition himself,
and was all ready to sail by the 9th of December (1864). Very
heavy storms prevailed, however, at that time along that part of
the sea-coast, and prevented him from getting off until the 13th
or 14th. His advance arrived off Fort Fisher on the 15th. The
naval force had been already assembled, or was assembling, but
they were obliged to run into Beaufort for munitions, coal,
etc.; then, too, the powder-boat was not yet fully prepared. The
fleet was ready to proceed on the 18th; but Butler, who had
remained outside from the 15th up to that time, now found
himself out of coal, fresh water, etc., and had to put into
Beaufort to replenish. Another storm overtook him, and several
days more were lost before the army and navy were both ready at
the same time to co-operate.

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