Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant



“Man proposes and God disposes.” There are but few important
events in the affairs of men brought about by their own choice.

Although frequently urged by friends to write my memoirs I had
determined never to do so, nor to write anything for
publication. At the age of nearly sixty-two I received an
injury from a fall, which confined me closely to the house while
it did not apparently affect my general health. This made study
a pleasant pastime. Shortly after, the rascality of a business
partner developed itself by the announcement of a failure. This
was followed soon after by universal depression of all
securities, which seemed to threaten the extinction of a good
part of the income still retained, and for which I am indebted
to the kindly act of friends. At this juncture the editor of
the Century Magazine asked me to write a few articles for him. I
consented for the money it gave me; for at that moment I was
living upon borrowed money. The work I found congenial, and I
determined to continue it. The event is an important one for
me, for good or evil; I hope for the former.

In preparing these volumes for the public, I have entered upon
the task with the sincere desire to avoid doing injustice to any
one, whether on the National or Confederate side, other than the
unavoidable injustice of not making mention often where special
mention is due. There must be many errors of omission in this
work, because the subject is too large to be treated of in two
volumes in such way as to do justice to all the officers and men
engaged. There were thousands of instances, during the
rebellion, of individual, company, regimental and brigade deeds
of heroism which deserve special mention and are not here
alluded to. The troops engaged in them will have to look to the
detailed reports of their individual commanders for the full
history of those deeds.

The first volume, as well as a portion of the second, was
written before I had reason to suppose I was in a critical
condition of health. Later I was reduced almost to the point of
death, and it became impossible for me to attend to anything for
weeks. I have, however, somewhat regained my strength, and am
able, often, to devote as many hours a day as a person should
devote to such work. I would have more hope of satisfying the
expectation of the public if I could have allowed myself more
time. I have used my best efforts, with the aid of my eldest
son, F. D. Grant, assisted by his brothers, to verify from the
records every statement of fact given. The comments are my own,
and show how I saw the matters treated of whether others saw them
in the same light or not.

With these remarks I present these volumes to the public, asking
no favor but hoping they will meet the approval of the reader.












































Volume one begins



My family is American, and has been for generations, in all its
branches, direct and collateral.

Mathew Grant, the founder of the branch in America, of which I
am a descendant, reached Dorchester, Massachusetts, in May,
1630. In 1635 he moved to what is now Windsor, Connecticut, and
was the surveyor for that colony for more than forty years. He
was also, for many years of the time, town clerk. He was a
married man when he arrived at Dorchester, but his children were
all born in this country. His eldest son, Samuel, took lands on
the east side of the Connecticut River, opposite Windsor, which
have been held and occupied by descendants of his to this day.

I am of the eighth generation from Mathew Grant, and seventh
from Samuel. Mathew Grant’s first wife died a few years after
their settlement in Windsor, and he soon after married the widow
Rockwell, who, with her first husband, had been fellow-
passengers with him and his first wife, on the ship Mary and
John, from Dorchester, England, in 1630. Mrs. Rockwell had
several children by her first marriage, and others by her
second. By intermarriage, two or three generations later, I am
descended from both the wives of Mathew Grant.

In the fifth descending generation my great grandfather, Noah
Grant, and his younger brother, Solomon, held commissions in the
English army, in 1756, in the war against the French and
Indians. Both were killed that year.

My grandfather, also named Noah, was then but nine years old. At
the breaking out of the war of the Revolution, after the battles
of Concord and Lexington, he went with a Connecticut company to
join the Continental army, and was present at the battle of
Bunker Hill. He served until the fall of Yorktown, or through
the entire Revolutionary war. He must, however, have been on
furlough part of the time–as I believe most of the soldiers of
that period were–for he married in Connecticut during the war,
had two children, and was a widower at the close. Soon after
this he emigrated to Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, and
settled near the town of Greensburg in that county. He took
with him the younger of his two children, Peter Grant. The
elder, Solomon, remained with his relatives in Connecticut until
old enough to do for himself, when he emigrated to the British
West Indies.

Not long after his settlement in Pennsylvania, my grandfather,
Captain Noah Grant, married a Miss Kelly, and in 1799 he
emigrated again, this time to Ohio, and settled where the town
of Deerfield now stands. He had now five children, including
Peter, a son by his first marriage. My father, Jesse R. Grant,
was the second child–oldest son, by the second marriage.

Peter Grant went early to Maysville, Kentucky, where he was very
prosperous, married, had a family of nine children, and was
drowned at the mouth of the Kanawha River, Virginia, in 1825,
being at the time one of the wealthy men of the West.

My grandmother Grant died in 1805, leaving seven children. This
broke up the family. Captain Noah Grant was not thrifty in the
way of “laying up stores on earth,” and, after the death of his
second wife, he went, with the two youngest children, to live
with his son Peter, in Maysville. The rest of the family found
homes in the neighborhood of Deerfield, my father in the family
of judge Tod, the father of the late Governor Tod, of Ohio. His
industry and independence of character were such, that I imagine
his labor compensated fully for the expense of his maintenance.

There must have been a cordiality in his welcome into the Tod
family, for to the day of his death he looked upon judge Tod and
his wife, with all the reverence he could have felt if they had
been parents instead of benefactors. I have often heard him
speak of Mrs. Tod as the most admirable woman he had ever
known. He remained with the Tod family only a few years, until
old enough to learn a trade. He went first, I believe, with his
half-brother, Peter Grant, who, though not a tanner himself,
owned a tannery in Maysville, Kentucky. Here he learned his
trade, and in a few years returned to Deerfield and worked for,
and lived in the family of a Mr. Brown, the father of John
Brown–“whose body lies mouldering in the grave, while his soul
goes marching on.” I have often heard my father speak of John
Brown, particularly since the events at Harper’s Ferry. Brown
was a boy when they lived in the same house, but he knew him
afterwards, and regarded him as a man of great purity of
character, of high moral and physical courage, but a fanatic and
extremist in whatever he advocated. It was certainly the act of
an insane man to attempt the invasion of the South, and the
overthrow of slavery, with less than twenty men.

My father set up for himself in business, establishing a tannery
at Ravenna, the county seat of Portage County. In a few years he
removed from Ravenna, and set up the same business at Point
Pleasant, Clermont County, Ohio.

During the minority of my father, the West afforded but poor
facilities for the most opulent of the youth to acquire an
education, and the majority were dependent, almost exclusively,
upon their own exertions for whatever learning they obtained. I
have often heard him say that his time at school was limited to
six months, when he was very young, too young, indeed, to learn
much, or to appreciate the advantages of an education, and to a
“quarter’s schooling” afterwards, probably while living with
judge Tod. But his thirst for education was intense. He
learned rapidly, and was a constant reader up to the day of his
death in his eightieth year. Books were scarce in the Western
Reserve during his youth, but he read every book he could borrow
in the neighborhood where he lived. This scarcity gave him the
early habit of studying everything he read, so that when he got
through with a book, he knew everything in it. The habit
continued through life. Even after reading the daily
papers–which he never neglected–he could give all the
important information they contained. He made himself an
excellent English scholar, and before he was twenty years of age
was a constant contributor to Western newspapers, and was also,
from that time until he was fifty years old, an able debater in
the societies for this purpose, which were common in the West at
that time. He always took an active part in politics, but was
never a candidate for office, except, I believe, that he was the
first Mayor of Georgetown. He supported Jackson for the
Presidency; but he was a Whig, a great admirer of Henry Clay,
and never voted for any other democrat for high office after

My mother’s family lived in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, for
several generations. I have little information about her
ancestors. Her family took no interest in genealogy, so that my
grandfather, who died when I was sixteen years old, knew only
back to his grandfather. On the other side, my father took a
great interest in the subject, and in his researches, he found
that there was an entailed estate in Windsor, Connecticut,
belonging to the family, to which his nephew, Lawson
Grant–still living–was the heir. He was so much interested in
the subject that he got his nephew to empower him to act in the
matter, and in 1832 or 1833, when I was a boy ten or eleven
years old, lie went to Windsor, proved the title beyond dispute,
and perfected the claim of the owners for a consideration–three
thousand dollars, I think. I remember the circumstance well,
and remember, too, hearing him say on his return that he found
some widows living on the property, who had little or nothing
beyond their homes. From these he refused to receive any

My mother’s father, John Simpson, moved from Montgomery County,
Pennsylvania, to Clermont County, Ohio, about the year 1819,
taking with him his four children, three daughters and one
son. My mother, Hannah Simpson, was the third of these
children, and was then over twenty years of age. Her oldest
sister was at that time married, and had several children. She
still lives in Clermont County at this writing, October 5th,
1884, and is over ninety ears of age. Until her memory failed
her, a few years ago, she thought the country ruined beyond
recovery when the Democratic party lost control in 1860. Her
family, which was large, inherited her views, with the exception
of one son who settled in Kentucky before the war. He was the
only one of the children who entered the volunteer service to
suppress the rebellion.

Her brother, next of age and now past eighty-eight, is also
still living in Clermont County, within a few miles of the old
homestead, and is as active in mind as ever. He was a supporter
of the Government during the war, and remains a firm believer,
that national success by the Democratic party means
irretrievable ruin.

In June, 1821, my father, Jesse R. Grant, married Hannah
Simpson. I was born on the 27th of April, 1822, at Point
Pleasant, Clermont County, Ohio. In the fall of 1823 we moved
to Georgetown, the county seat of Brown, the adjoining county
cast. This place remained my home, until at the age of
seventeen, in 1839, I went to West Point.

The schools, at the time of which I write, were very
indifferent. There were no free schools, and none in which the
scholars were classified. They were all supported by
subscription, and a single teacher–who was often a man or a
woman incapable of teaching much, even if they imparted all they
knew–would have thirty or forty scholars, male and female, from
the infant learning the A B C’s up to the young lady of eighteen
and the boy of twenty, studying the highest branches taught–the
three R’s, “Reading, ‘Riting, ‘Rithmetic.” I never saw an
algebra, or other mathematical work higher than the arithmetic,
in Georgetown, until after I was appointed to West Point. I
then bought a work on algebra in Cincinnati; but having no
teacher it was Greek to me.

My life in Georgetown was uneventful. From the age of five or
six until seventeen, I attended the subscription schools of the
village, except during the winters of 1836-7 and 1838-9. The
former period was spent in Maysville, Kentucky, attending the
school of Richardson and Rand; the latter in Ripley, Ohio, at a
private school. I was not studious in habit, and probably did
not make progress enough to compensate for the outlay for board
and tuition. At all events both winters were spent in going
over the same old arithmetic which I knew every word of before,
and repeating: “A noun is the name of a thing,” which I had
also heard my Georgetown teachers repeat, until I had come to
believe it–but I cast no reflections upon my old teacher,
Richardson. He turned out bright scholars from his school, many
of whom have filled conspicuous places in the service of their
States. Two of my contemporaries there–who, I believe, never
attended any other institution of learning–have held seats in
Congress, and one, if not both, other high offices; these are
Wadsworth and Brewster.

My father was, from my earliest recollection, in comfortable
circumstances, considering the times, his place of residence,
and the community in which he lived. Mindful of his own lack of
facilities for acquiring an education, his greatest desire in
maturer years was for the education of his children.
Consequently, as stated before, I never missed a quarter from
school from the time I was old enough to attend till the time of
leaving home. This did not exempt me from labor. In my early
days, every one labored more or less, in the region where my
youth was spent, and more in proportion to their private
means. It was only the very poor who were exempt. While my
father carried on the manufacture of leather and worked at the
trade himself, he owned and tilled considerable land. I
detested the trade, preferring almost any other labor; but I was
fond of agriculture, and of all employment in which horses were
used. We had, among other lands, fifty acres of forest within a
mile of the village. In the fall of the year choppers were
employed to cut enough wood to last a twelve-month. When I was
seven or eight years of age, I began hauling all the wood used
in the house and shops. I could not load it on the wagons, of
course, at that time, but I could drive, and the choppers would
load, and some one at the house unload. When about eleven years
old, I was strong enough to hold a plough. From that age until
seventeen I did all the work done with horses, such as breaking
up the land, furrowing, ploughing corn and potatoes, bringing in
the crops when harvested, hauling all the wood, besides tending
two or three horses, a cow or two, and sawing wood for stoves,
etc., while still attending school. For this I was compensated
by the fact that there was never any scolding or punishing by my
parents; no objection to rational enjoyments, such as fishing,
going to the creek a mile away to swim in summer, taking a horse
and visiting my grandparents in the adjoining county, fifteen
miles off, skating on the ice in winter, or taking a horse and
sleigh when there was snow on the ground.

While still quite young I had visited Cincinnati, forty-five
miles away, several times, alone; also Maysville, Kentucky,
often, and once Louisville. The journey to Louisville was a big
one for a boy of that day. I had also gone once with a two-horse
carriage to Chilicothe, about seventy miles, with a neighbor’s
family, who were removing to Toledo, Ohio, and returned alone;
and had gone once, in like manner, to Flat Rock, Kentucky, about
seventy miles away. On this latter occasion I was fifteen years
of age. While at Flat Rock, at the house of a Mr. Payne, whom I
was visiting with his brother, a neighbor of ours in Georgetown,
I saw a very fine saddle horse, which I rather coveted, and
proposed to Mr. Payne, the owner, to trade him for one of the
two I was driving. Payne hesitated to trade with a boy, but
asking his brother about it, the latter told him that it would
be all right, that I was allowed to do as I pleased with the
horses. I was seventy miles from home, with a carriage to take
back, and Mr. Payne said he did not know that his horse had ever
had a collar on. I asked to have him hitched to a farm wagon and
we would soon see whether he would work. It was soon evident
that the horse had never worn harness before; but he showed no
viciousness, and I expressed a confidence that I could manage
him. A trade was at once struck, I receiving ten dollars

The next day Mr. Payne, of Georgetown, and I started on our
return. We got along very well for a few miles, when we
encountered a ferocious dog that frightened the horses and made
them run. The new animal kicked at every jump he made. I got
the horses stopped, however, before any damage was done, and
without running into anything. After giving them a little rest,
to quiet their fears, we started again. That instant the new
horse kicked, and started to run once more. The road we were
on, struck the turnpike within half a mile of the point where
the second runaway commenced, and there there was an embankment
twenty or more feet deep on the opposite side of the pike. I
got the horses stopped on the very brink of the precipice. My
new horse was terribly frightened and trembled like an aspen;
but he was not half so badly frightened as my companion, Mr.
Payne, who deserted me after this last experience, and took
passage on a freight wagon for Maysville. Every time I
attempted to start, my new horse would commence to kick. I was
in quite a dilemma for a time. Once in Maysville I could borrow
a horse from an uncle who lived there; but I was more than a
day’s travel from that point. Finally I took out my
bandanna–the style of handkerchief in universal use then–and
with this blindfolded my horse. In this way I reached Maysville
safely the next day, no doubt much to the surprise of my
friend. Here I borrowed a horse from my uncle, and the
following day we proceeded on our journey.

About half my school-days in Georgetown were spent at the school
of John D. White, a North Carolinian, and the father of Chilton
White who represented the district in Congress for one term
during the rebellion. Mr. White was always a Democrat in
politics, and Chilton followed his father. He had two older
brothers–all three being school-mates of mine at their father’s
school–who did not go the same way. The second brother died
before the rebellion began; he was a Whig, and afterwards a
Republican. His oldest brother was a Republican and brave
soldier during the rebellion. Chilton is reported as having
told of an earlier horse-trade of mine. As he told the story,
there was a Mr. Ralston living within a few miles of the
village, who owned a colt which I very much wanted. My father
had offered twenty dollars for it, but Ralston wanted
twenty-five. I was so anxious to have the colt, that after the
owner left, I begged to be allowed to take him at the price
demanded. My father yielded, but said twenty dollars was all
the horse was worth, and told me to offer that price; if it was
not accepted I was to offer twenty-two and a half, and if that
would not get him, to give the twenty-five. I at once mounted a
horse and went for the colt. When I got to Mr. Ralston’s house,
I said to him: ” Papa says I may offer you twenty dollars for
the colt, but if you won’t take that, I am to offer twenty-two
and a half, and if you won’t take that, to give you
twenty-five.” It would not require a Connecticut man to guess
the price finally agreed upon. This story is nearly true. I
certainly showed very plainly that I had come for the colt and
meant to have him. I could not have been over eight years old
at the time. This transaction caused me great heart-burning.
The story got out among the boys of the village, and it was a
long time before I heard the last of it. Boys enjoy the misery
of their companions, at least village boys in that day did, and
in later life I have found that all adults are not free from the
peculiarity. I kept the horse until he was four years old, when
he went blind, and I sold him for twenty dollars. When I went
to Maysville to school, in 1836, at the age of fourteen, I
recognized my colt as one of the blind horses working on the
tread-wheel of the ferry-boat.

I have describes enough of my early life to give an impression
of the whole. I did not like to work; but I did as much of it,
while young, as grown men can be hired to do in these days, and
attended school at the same time. I had as many privileges as
any boy in the village, and probably more than most of them. I
have no recollection of ever having been punished at home,
either by scolding or by the rod. But at school the case was
different. The rod was freely used there, and I was not exempt
from its influence. I can see John D. White–the school
teacher–now, with his long beech switch always in his hand. It
was not always the same one, either. Switches were brought in
bundles, from a beech wood near the school house, by the boys
for whose benefit they were intended. Often a whole bundle
would be used up in a single day. I never had any hard feelings
against my teacher, either while attending the school, or in
later years when reflecting upon my experience. Mr. White was a
kindhearted man, and was much respected by the community in which
he lived. He only followed the universal custom of the period,
and that under which he had received his own education.



In the winter of 1838-9 I was attending school at Ripley, only
ten miles distant from Georgetown, but spent the Christmas
holidays at home. During this vacation my father received a
letter from the Honorable Thomas Morris, then United States
Senator from Ohio. When he read it he said to me, Ulysses, I
believe you are going to receive the appointment.” “What
appointment?” I inquired. To West Point; I have applied for
it.” “But I won’t go,” I said. He said he thought I would, AND
I THOUGHT SO TOO, IF HE DID. I really had no objection to going
to West Point, except that I had a very exalted idea of the
acquirements necessary to get through. I did not believe I
possessed them, and could not bear the idea of failing. There
had been four boys from our village, or its immediate
neighborhood, who had been graduated from West Point, and never
a failure of any one appointed from Georgetown, except in the
case of the one whose place I was to take. He was the son of
Dr. Bailey, our nearest and most intimate neighbor. Young
Bailey had been appointed in 1837. Finding before the January
examination following, that he could not pass, he resigned and
went to a private school, and remained there until the following
year, when he was reappointed. Before the next examination he
was dismissed. Dr. Bailey was a proud and sensitive man, and
felt the failure of his son so keenly that he forbade his return
home. There were no telegraphs in those days to disseminate news
rapidly, no railroads west of the Alleghanies, and but few east;
and above ail, there were no reporters prying into other
people’s private affairs. Consequently it did not become
generally known that there was a vacancy at West Point from our
district until I was appointed. I presume Mrs. Bailey confided
to my mother the fact that Bartlett had been dismissed, and that
the doctor had forbidden his son’s return home.

The Honorable Thomas L. Hamer, one of the ablest men Ohio ever
produced, was our member of Congress at the time, and had the
right of nomination. He and my father had been members of the
same debating society (where they were generally pitted on
opposite sides), and intimate personal friends from their early
manhood up to a few years before. In politics they differed.
Hamer was a life-long Democrat, while my father was a Whig. They
had a warm discussion, which finally became angry–over some act
of President Jackson, the removal of the deposit of public
moneys, I think–after which they never spoke until after my
appointment. I know both of them felt badly over this
estrangement, and would have been glad at any time to come to a
reconciliation; but neither would make the advance. Under these
circumstances my father would not write to Hamer for the
appointment, but he wrote to Thomas Morris, United States
Senator from Ohio, informing him that there was a vacancy at
West Point from our district, and that he would be glad if I
could be appointed to fill it. This letter, I presume, was
turned over to Mr. Hamer, and, as there was no other applicant,
he cheerfully appointed me. This healed the breach between the
two, never after reopened.

Besides the argument used by my father in favor of my going to
West Point–that “he thought I would go”–there was another very
strong inducement. I had always a great desire to travel. I was
already the best travelled boy in Georgetown, except the sons of
one man, John Walker, who had emigrated to Texas with his
family, and immigrated back as soon as he could get the means to
do so. In his short stay in Texas he acquired a very different
opinion of the country from what one would form going there now.

I had been east to Wheeling, Virginia, and north to the Western
Reserve, in Ohio, west to Louisville, and south to Bourbon
County, Kentucky, besides having driven or ridden pretty much
over the whole country within fifty miles of home. Going to
West Point would give me the opportunity of visiting the two
great cities of the continent, Philadelphia and New York. This
was enough. When these places were visited I would have been
glad to have had a steamboat or railroad collision, or any other
accident happen, by which I might have received a temporary
injury sufficient to make me ineligible, for a time, to enter
the Academy. Nothing of the kind occurred, and I had to face
the music.

Georgetown has a remarkable record for a western village. It
is, and has been from its earliest existence, a democratic
town. There was probably no time during the rebellion when, if
the opportunity could have been afforded, it would not have
voted for Jefferson Davis for President of the United States,
over Mr. Lincoln, or any other representative of his party;
unless it was immediately after some of John Morgan’s men, in
his celebrated raid through Ohio, spent a few hours in the
village. The rebels helped themselves to whatever they could
find, horses, boots and shoes, especially horses, and many
ordered meals to be prepared for them by the families. This was
no doubt a far pleasanter duty for some families than it would
have been to render a like service for Union soldiers. The line
between the Rebel and Union element in Georgetown was so marked
that it led to divisions even in the churches. There were
churches in that part of Ohio where treason was preached
regularly, and where, to secure membership, hostility to the
government, to the war and to the liberation of the slaves, was
far more essential than a belief in the authenticity or
credibility of the Bible. There were men in Georgetown who
filled all the requirements for membership in these churches.

Yet this far-off western village, with a population, including
old and young, male and female, of about one thousand–about
enough for the organization of a single regiment if all had been
men capable of bearing arms–furnished the Union army four
general officers and one colonel, West Point graduates, and nine
generals and field officers of Volunteers, that I can think of.
Of the graduates from West Point, all had citizenship elsewhere
at the breaking out of the rebellion, except possibly General A.
V. Kautz, who had remained in the army from his graduation. Two
of the colonels also entered the service from other
localities. The other seven, General McGroierty, Colonels
White, Fyffe, Loudon and Marshall, Majors King and Bailey, were
all residents of Georgetown when the war broke out, and all of
them, who were alive at the close, returned there. Major Bailey
was the cadet who had preceded me at West Point. He was killed
in West Virginia, in his first engagement. As far as I know,
every boy who has entered West Point from that village since my
time has been graduated.

I took passage on a steamer at Ripley, Ohio, for Pittsburg,
about the middle of May, 1839. Western boats at that day did
not make regular trips at stated times, but would stop anywhere,
and for any length of time, for passengers or freight. I have
myself been detained two or three days at a place after steam
was up, the gang planks, all but one, drawn in, and after the
time advertised for starting had expired. On this occasion we
had no vexatious delays, and in about three days Pittsburg was
reached. From Pittsburg I chose passage by the canal to
Harrisburg, rather than by the more expeditious stage. This
gave a better opportunity of enjoying the fine scenery of
Western Pennsylvania, and I had rather a dread of reaching my
destination at all. At that time the canal was much patronized
by travellers, and, with the comfortable packets of the period,
no mode of conveyance could be more pleasant, when time was not
an object. From Harrisburg to Philadelphia there was a
railroad, the first I had ever seen, except the one on which I
had just crossed the summit of the Alleghany Mountains, and over
which canal boats were transported. In travelling by the road
from Harrisburg, I thought the perfection of rapid transit had
been reached. We travelled at least eighteen miles an hour,
when at full speed, and made the whole distance averaging
probably as much as twelve miles an hour. This seemed like
annihilating space. I stopped five days in Philadelphia, saw
about every street in the city, attended the theatre, visited
Girard College (which was then in course of construction), and
got reprimanded from home afterwards, for dallying by the way so
long. My sojourn in New York was shorter, but long enough to
enable me to see the city very well. I reported at West Point
on the 30th or 31st of May, and about two weeks later passed my
examination for admission, without difficulty, very much to my

A military life had no charms for me, and I had not the faintest
idea of staying in the army even if I should be graduated, which
I did not expect. The encampment which preceded the commence-
ment of academic studies was very wearisome and uninter-
esting. When the 28th of August came–the date for breaking up
camp and going into barracks–I felt as though I had been at
West Point always, and that if I staid to graduation, I would
have to remain always. I did not take hold of my studies with
avidity, in fact I rarely ever read over a lesson the second
time during my entire cadetship. I could not sit in my room
doing nothing. There is a fine library connected with the
Academy from which cadets can get books to read in their
quarters. I devoted more time to these, than to books relating
to the course of studies. Much of the time, I am sorry to say,
was devoted to novels, but not those of a trashy sort. I read
all of Bulwer’s then published, Cooper’s, Marryat’s, Scott’s,
Washington Irving’s works, Lever’s, and many others that I do
not now remember. Mathematics was very easy to me, so that when
January came, I passed the examination, taking a good standing in
that branch. In French, the only other study at that time in the
first year’s course, my standing was very low. In fact, if the
class had been turned the other end foremost I should have been
near head. I never succeeded in getting squarely at either end
of my class, in any one study, during the four years. I came
near it in French, artillery, infantry and cavalry tactics, and

Early in the session of the Congress which met in December,
1839, a bill was discussed abolishing the Military Academy. I
saw in this an honorable way to obtain a discharge, and read the
debates with much interest, but with impatience at the delay in
taking action, for I was selfish enough to favor the bill. It
never passed, and a year later, although the time hung drearily
with me, I would have been sorry to have seen it succeed. My
idea then was to get through the course, secure a detail for a
few years as assistant professor of mathematics at the Academy,
and afterwards obtain a permanent position as professor in some
respectable college; but circumstances always did shape my
course different from my plans.

At the end of two years the class received the usual furlough,
extending from the close of the June examination to the 28th of
August. This I enjoyed beyond any other period of my life. My
father had sold out his business in Georgetown–where my youth
had been spent, and to which my day-dreams carried me back as my
future home, if I should ever be able to retire on a
competency. He had moved to Bethel, only twelve miles away, in
the adjoining county of Clermont, and had bought a young horse
that had never been in harness, for my special use under the
saddle during my furlough. Most of my time was spent among my
old school-mates–these ten weeks were shorter than one week at
West Point.

Persons acquainted with the Academy know that the corps of
cadets is divided into four companies for the purpose of
military exercises. These companies are officered from the
cadets, the superintendent and commandant selecting the officers
for their military bearing and qualifications. The adjutant,
quartermaster, four captains and twelve lieutenants are taken
from the first, or Senior class; the sergeants from the second,
or junior class; and the corporals from the third, or Sophomore
class. I had not been “called out” as a corporal, but when I
returned from furlough I found myself the last but one–about my
standing in all the tactics–of eighteen sergeants. The
promotion was too much for me. That year my standing in the
class–as shown by the number of demerits of the year–was about
the same as it was among the sergeants, and I was dropped, and
served the fourth year as a private.

During my first year’s encampment General Scott visited West
Point, and reviewed the cadets. With his commanding figure, his
quite colossal size and showy uniform, I thought him the finest
specimen of manhood my eyes had ever beheld, and the most to be
envied. I could never resemble him in appearance, but I believe
I did have a presentiment for a moment that some day I should
occupy his place on review–although I had no intention then of
remaining in the army. My experience in a horse-trade ten years
before, and the ridicule it caused me, were too fresh in my mind
for me to communicate this presentiment to even my most intimate
chum. The next summer Martin Van Buren, then President of the
United States, visited West Point and reviewed the cadets; he
did not impress me with the awe which Scott had inspired. In
fact I regarded General Scott and Captain C. F. Smith, the
Commandant of Cadets, as the two men most to be envied in the
nation. I retained a high regard for both up to the day of
their death.

The last two years wore away more rapidly than the first two,
but they still seemed about five times as long as Ohio years, to
me. At last all the examinations were passed, and the members of
the class were called upon to record their choice of arms of
service and regiments. I was anxious to enter the cavalry, or
dragoons as they were then called, but there was only one
regiment of dragoons in the Army at that time, and attached to
that, besides the full complement of officers, there were at
least four brevet second lieutenants. I recorded therefore my
first choice, dragoons; second, 4th infantry; and got the
latter. Again there was a furlough–or, more properly speaking,
leave of absence for the class were now commissioned
officers–this time to the end of September. Again I went to
Ohio to spend my vacation among my old school-mates; and again I
found a fine saddle horse purchased for my special use, besides a
horse and buggy that I could drive–but I was not in a physical
condition to enjoy myself quite as well as on the former
occasion. For six months before graduation I had had a
desperate cough (“Tyler’s grip” it was called), and I was very
much reduced, weighing but one hundred and seventeen pounds,
just my weight at entrance, though I had grown six inches in
stature in the mean time. There was consumption in my father’s
family, two of his brothers having died of that disease, which
made my symptoms more alarming. The brother and sister next
younger than myself died, during the rebellion, of the same
disease, and I seemed the most promising subject for it of the
three in 1843.

Having made alternate choice of two different arms of service
with different uniforms, I could not get a uniform suit until
notified of my assignment. I left my measurement with a tailor,
with directions not to make the uniform until I notified him
whether it was to be for infantry or dragoons. Notice did not
reach me for several weeks, and then it took at least a week to
get the letter of instructions to the tailor and two more to
make the clothes and have them sent to me. This was a time of
great suspense. I was impatient to get on my uniform and see
how it looked, and probably wanted my old school-mates,
particularly the girls, to see me in it.

The conceit was knocked out of me by two little circumstances
that happened soon after the arrival of the clothes, which gave
me a distaste for military uniform that I never recovered
from. Soon after the arrival of the suit I donned it, and put
off for Cincinnati on horseback. While I was riding along a
street of that city, imagining that every one was looking at me,
with a feeling akin to mine when I first saw General Scott, a
little urchin, bareheaded, footed, with dirty and ragged pants
held up by bare a single gallows–that’s what suspenders were
called then–and a shirt that had not seen a wash-tub for weeks,
turned to me and cried: “Soldier! will you work? No, sir–ee;
I’ll sell my shirt first!!” The horse trade and its dire
consequences were recalled to mind.

The other circumstance occurred at home. Opposite our house in
Bethel stood the old stage tavern where “man and beast” found
accommodation, The stable-man was rather dissipated, but
possessed of some humor. On my return I found him parading the
streets, and attending in the stable, barefooted, but in a pair
of sky-blue nankeen pantaloons–just the color of my uniform
trousers–with a strip of white cotton sheeting sewed down the
outside seams in imitation of mine. The joke was a huge one in
the mind of many of the people, and was much enjoyed by them;
but I did not appreciate it so highly.

During the remainder of my leave of absence, my time was spent
in visiting friends in Georgetown and Cincinnati, and
occasionally other towns in that part of the State.



On the 30th of September I reported for duty at Jefferson
Barracks, St. Louis, with the 4th United States infantry. It
was the largest military post in the country at that time, being
garrisoned by sixteen companies of infantry, eight of the 3d
regiment, the remainder of the 4th. Colonel Steven Kearney, one
of the ablest officers of the day, commanded the post, and under
him discipline was kept at a high standard, but without
vexatious rules or regulations. Every drill and roll-call had
to be attended, but in the intervals officers were permitted to
enjoy themselves, leaving the garrison, and going where they
pleased, without making written application to state where they
were going for how long, etc., so that they were back for their
next duty. It did seem to me, in my early army days, that too
many of the older officers, when they came to command posts,
made it a study to think what orders they could publish to annoy
their subordinates and render them uncomfortable. I noticed,
however, a few years later, when the Mexican war broke out, that
most of this class of officers discovered they were possessed of
disabilities which entirely incapacitated them for active field
service. They had the moral courage to proclaim it, too. They
were right; but they did not always give their disease the right

At West Point I had a class-mate–in the last year of our
studies he was room-mate also–F. T. Dent, whose family resided
some five miles west of Jefferson Barracks. Two of his
unmarried brothers were living at home at that time, and as I
had taken with me from Ohio, my horse, saddle and bridle, I soon
found my way out to White Haven, the name of the Dent estate. As
I found the family congenial my visits became frequent. There
were at home, besides the young men, two daughters, one a school
miss of fifteen, the other a girl of eight or nine. There was
still an older daughter of seventeen, who had been spending
several years at boarding-school in St. Louis, but who, though
through school, had not yet returned home. She was spending the
winter in the city with connections, the family of Colonel John
O’Fallon, well known in St. Louis. In February she returned to
her country home. After that I do not know but my visits became
more frequent; they certainly did become more enjoyable. We
would often take walks, or go on horseback to visit the
neighbors, until I became quite well acquainted in that
vicinity. Sometimes one of the brothers would accompany us,
sometimes one of the younger sisters. If the 4th infantry had
remained at Jefferson Barracks it is possible, even probable,
that this life might have continued for some years without my
finding out that there was anything serious the matter with me;
but in the following May a circumstance occurred which developed
my sentiment so palpably that there was no mistaking it.

The annexation of Texas was at this time the subject of violent
discussion in Congress, in the press, and by individuals. The
administration of President Tyler, then in power, was making the
most strenuous efforts to effect the annexation, which was,
indeed, the great and absorbing question of the day. During
these discussions the greater part of the single rifle regiment
in the army–the 2d dragoons, which had been dismounted a year
or two before, and designated “Dismounted Rifles”–was stationed
at Fort Jessup, Louisiana, some twenty-five miles east of the
Texas line, to observe the frontier. About the 1st of May the
3d infantry was ordered from Jefferson Barracks to Louisiana, to
go into camp in the neighborhood of Fort Jessup, and there await
further orders. The troops were embarked on steamers and were
on their way down the Mississippi within a few days after the
receipt of this order. About the time they started I obtained a
leave of absence for twenty days to go to Ohio to visit my
parents. I was obliged to go to St. Louis to take a steamer for
Louisville or Cincinnati, or the first steamer going up the Ohio
River to any point. Before I left St. Louis orders were
received at Jefferson Barracks for the 4th infantry to follow
the 3d. A messenger was sent after me to stop my leaving; but
before he could reach me I was off, totally ignorant of these
events. A day or two after my arrival at Bethel I received a
letter from a classmate and fellow lieutenant in the 4th,
informing me of the circumstances related above, and advising me
not to open any letter post marked St. Louis or Jefferson
Barracks, until the expiration of my leave, and saying that he
would pack up my things and take them along for me. His advice
was not necessary, for no other letter was sent to me. I now
discovered that I was exceedingly anxious to get back to
Jefferson Barracks, and I understood the reason without
explanation from any one. My leave of absence required me to
report for duty, at Jefferson Barracks, at the end of twenty
days. I knew my regiment had gone up the Red River, but I was
not disposed to break the letter of my leave; besides, if I had
proceeded to Louisiana direct, I could not have reached there
until after the expiration of my leave. Accordingly, at the end
of the twenty days, I reported for duty to Lieutenant Ewell,
commanding at Jefferson Barracks, handing him at the same time
my leave of absence. After noticing the phraseology of the
order–leaves of absence were generally worded, “at the end of
which time he will report for duty with his proper command”–he
said he would give me an order to join my regiment in
Louisiana. I then asked for a few days’ leave before starting,
which he readily granted. This was the same Ewell who acquired
considerable reputation as a Confederate general during the
rebellion. He was a man much esteemed, and deservedly so, in
the old army, and proved himself a gallant and efficient officer
in two wars–both in my estimation unholy.

I immediately procured a horse and started for the country,
taking no baggage with me, of course. There is an insignificant
creek–the Gravois–between Jefferson Barracks and the place to
which I was going, and at that day there was not a bridge over
it from its source to its mouth. There is not water enough in
the creek at ordinary stages to run a coffee mill, and at low
water there is none running whatever. On this occasion it had
been raining heavily, and, when the creek was reached, I found
the banks full to overflowing, and the current rapid. I looked
at it a moment to consider what to do. One of my superstitions
had always been when I started to go any where, or to do
anything, not to turn back, or stop until the thing intended was
accomplished. I have frequently started to go to places where I
had never been and to which I did not know the way, depending
upon making inquiries on the road, and if I got past the place
without knowing it, instead of turning back, I would go on until
a road was found turning in the right direction, take that, and
come in by the other side. So I struck into the stream, and in
an instant the horse was swimming and I being carried down by
the current. I headed the horse towards the other bank and soon
reached it, wet through and without other clothes on that side of
the stream. I went on, however, to my destination and borrowed a
dry suit from my–future–brother-in-law. We were not of the
same size, but the clothes answered every purpose until I got
more of my own.

Before I returned I mustered up courage to make known, in the
most awkward manner imaginable, the discovery I had made on
learning that the 4th infantry had been ordered away from
Jefferson Barracks. The young lady afterwards admitted that she
too, although until then she had never looked upon me other than
as a visitor whose company was agreeable to her, had experienced
a depression of spirits she could not account for when the
regiment left. Before separating it was definitely understood
that at a convenient time we would join our fortunes, and not
let the removal of a regiment trouble us. This was in May,
1844. It was the 22d of August, 1848, before the fulfilment of
this agreement. My duties kept me on the frontier of Louisiana
with the Army of Observation during the pendency of Annexation;
and afterwards I was absent through the war with Mexico,
provoked by the action of the army, if not by the annexation
itself During that time there was a constant correspondence
between Miss Dent and myself, but we only met once in the period
of four years and three months. In May, 1845, I procured a leave
for twenty days, visited St. Louis, and obtained the consent of
the parents for the union, which had not been asked for before.

As already stated, it was never my intention to remain in the
army long, but to prepare myself for a professorship in some
college. Accordingly, soon after I was settled at Jefferson
Barracks, I wrote a letter to Professor Church–Professor of
Mathematics at West Point–requesting him to ask my designation
as his assistant, when next a detail had to be made. Assistant
professors at West Point are all officers of the army, supposed
to be selected for their special fitness for the particular
branch of study they are assigned to teach. The answer from
Professor Church was entirely satisfactory, and no doubt I
should have been detailed a year or two later but for the
Mexican War coming on. Accordingly I laid out for myself a
course of studies to be pursued in garrison, with regularity, if
not persistency. I reviewed my West Point course of mathematics
during the seven months at Jefferson Barracks, and read many
valuable historical works, besides an occasional novel. To help
my memory I kept a book in which I would write up, from time to
time, my recollections of all I had read since last posting
it. When the regiment was ordered away, I being absent at the
time, my effects were packed up by Lieutenant Haslett, of the
4th infantry, and taken along. I never saw my journal after,
nor did I ever keep another, except for a portion of the time
while travelling abroad. Often since a fear has crossed my mind
lest that book might turn up yet, and fall into the hands of some
malicious person who would publish it. I know its appearance
would cause me as much heart-burning as my youthful horse-trade,
or the later rebuke for wearing uniform clothes.

The 3d infantry had selected camping grounds on the reservation
at Fort Jessup, about midway between the Red River and the
Sabine. Our orders required us to go into camp in the same
neighborhood, and await further instructions. Those authorized
to do so selected a place in the pine woods, between the old
town of Natchitoches and Grand Ecore, about three miles from
each, and on high ground back from the river. The place was
given the name of Camp Salubrity, and proved entitled to it. The
camp was on a high, sandy, pine ridge, with spring branches in
the valley, in front and rear. The springs furnished an
abundance of cool, pure water, and the ridge was above the
flight of mosquitoes, which abound in that region in great
multitudes and of great voracity. In the valley they swarmed in
myriads, but never came to the summit of the ridge. The regiment
occupied this camp six months before the first death occurred,
and that was caused by an accident.

There was no intimation given that the removal of the 3d and 4th
regiments of infantry to the western border of Louisiana was
occasioned in any way by the prospective annexation of Texas,
but it was generally understood that such was the case.
Ostensibly we were intended to prevent filibustering into Texas,
but really as a menace to Mexico in case she appeared to
contemplate war. Generally the officers of the army were
indifferent whether the annexation was consummated or not; but
not so all of them. For myself, I was bitterly opposed to the
measure, and to this day regard the war, which resulted, as one
of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker
nation. It was an instance of a republic following the bad
example of European monarchies, in not considering justice in
their desire to acquire additional territory. Texas was
originally a state belonging to the republic of Mexico. It
extended from the Sabine River on the east to the Rio Grande on
the west, and from the Gulf of Mexico on the south and east to
the territory of the United States and New Mexico–another
Mexican state at that time–on the north and west. An empire in
territory, it had but a very sparse population, until settled by
Americans who had received authority from Mexico to colonize.
These colonists paid very little attention to the supreme
government, and introduced slavery into the state almost from
the start, though the constitution of Mexico did not, nor does
it now, sanction that institution. Soon they set up an
independent government of their own, and war existed, between
Texas and Mexico, in name from that time until 1836, when active
hostilities very nearly ceased upon the capture of Santa Anna,
the Mexican President. Before long, however, the same
people–who with permission of Mexico had colonized Texas, and
afterwards set up slavery there, and then seceded as soon as
they felt strong enough to do so–offered themselves and the
State to the United States, and in 1845 their offer was
accepted. The occupation, separation and annexation were, from
the inception of the movement to its final consummation, a
conspiracy to acquire territory out of which slave states might
be formed for the American Union.

Even if the annexation itself could be justified, the manner in
which the subsequent war was forced upon Mexico cannot. The
fact is, annexationists wanted more territory than they could
possibly lay any claim to, as part of the new acquisition.
Texas, as an independent State, never had exercised jurisdiction
over the territory between the Nueces River and the Rio Grande.
Mexico had never recognized the independence of Texas, and
maintained that, even if independent, the State had no claim
south of the Nueces. I am aware that a treaty, made by the
Texans with Santa Anna while he was under duress, ceded all the
territory between the Nueces and the Rio Grande–, but he was a
prisoner of war when the treaty was made, and his life was in
jeopardy. He knew, too, that he deserved execution at the hands
of the Texans, if they should ever capture him. The Texans, if
they had taken his life, would have only followed the example
set by Santa Anna himself a few years before, when he executed
the entire garrison of the Alamo and the villagers of Goliad.

In taking military possession of Texas after annexation, the
army of occupation, under General Taylor, was directed to occupy
the disputed territory. The army did not stop at the Nueces and
offer to negotiate for a settlement of the boundary question,
but went beyond, apparently in order to force Mexico to initiate
war. It is to the credit of the American nation, however, that
after conquering Mexico, and while practically holding the
country in our possession, so that we could have retained the
whole of it, or made any terms we chose, we paid a round sum for
the additional territory taken; more than it was worth, or was
likely to be, to Mexico. To us it was an empire and of
incalculable value; but it might have been obtained by other
means. The Southern rebellion was largely the outgrowth of the
Mexican war. Nations, like individuals, are punished for their
transgressions. We got our punishment in the most sanguinary
and expensive war of modern times.

The 4th infantry went into camp at Salubrity in the month of
May, 1844, with instructions, as I have said, to await further
orders. At first, officers and men occupied ordinary tents. As
the summer heat increased these were covered by sheds to break
the rays of the sun. The summer was whiled away in social
enjoyments among the officers, in visiting those stationed at,
and near, Fort Jessup, twenty-five miles away, visiting the
planters on the Red River, and the citizens of Natchitoches and
Grand Ecore. There was much pleasant intercourse between the
inhabitants and the officers of the army. I retain very
agreeable recollections of my stay at Camp Salubrity, and of the
acquaintances made there, and no doubt my feeling is shared by
the few officers living who were there at the time. I can call
to mind only two officers of the 4th infantry, besides myself,
who were at Camp Salubrity with the regiment, who are now alive.

With a war in prospect, and belonging to a regiment that had an
unusual number of officers detailed on special duty away from
the regiment, my hopes of being ordered to West Point as
instructor vanished. At the time of which I now write, officers
in the quartermaster’s, commissary’s and adjutant–general’s
departments were appointed from the line of the army, and did
not vacate their regimental commissions until their regimental
and staff commissions were for the same grades. Generally
lieutenants were appointed to captaincies to fill vacancies in
the staff corps. If they should reach a captaincy in the line
before they arrived at a majority in the staff, they would elect
which commission they would retain. In the 4th infantry, in
1844, at least six line officers were on duty in the staff, and
therefore permanently detached from the regiment. Under these
circumstances I gave up everything like a special course of
reading, and only read thereafter for my own amusement, and not
very much for that, until the war was over. I kept a horse and
rode, and staid out of doors most of the time by day, and
entirely recovered from the cough which I had carried from West
Point, and from all indications of consumption. I have often
thought that my life was saved, and my health restored, by
exercise and exposure, enforced by an administrative act, and a
war, both of which I disapproved.

As summer wore away, and cool days and colder nights came upon
us, the tents We were occupying ceased to afford comfortable
quarters; and “further orders” not reaching us, we began to look
about to remedy the hardship. Men were put to work getting out
timber to build huts, and in a very short time all were
comfortably housed–privates as well as officers. The outlay by
the government in accomplishing this was nothing, or nearly
nothing. The winter was spent more agreeably than the summer
had been. There were occasional parties given by the planters
along the “coast”–as the bottom lands on the Red River were
called. The climate was delightful.

Near the close of the short session of Congress of 1844-5, the
bill for the annexation of Texas to the United States was
passed. It reached President Tyler on the 1st of March, 1845,
and promptly received his approval. When the news reached us we
began to look again for “further orders.” They did not arrive
promptly, and on the 1st of May following I asked and obtained a
leave of absence for twenty days, for the purpose of visiting–
St. Louis. The object of this visit has been before stated.

Early in July the long expected orders were received, but they
only took the regiment to New Orleans Barracks. We reached
there before the middle of the month, and again waited weeks for
still further orders. The yellow fever was raging in New Orleans
during the time we remained there, and the streets of the city
had the appearance of a continuous well-observed Sunday. I
recollect but one occasion when this observance seemed to be
broken by the inhabitants. One morning about daylight I
happened to be awake, and, hearing the discharge of a rifle not
far off, I looked out to ascertain where the sound came from. I
observed a couple of clusters of men near by, and learned
afterwards that “it was nothing; only a couple of gentlemen
deciding a difference of opinion with rifles, at twenty paces.
“I do not remember if either was killed, or even hurt, but no
doubt the question of difference was settled satisfactorily, and
“honorably,” in the estimation of the parties engaged. I do not
believe I ever would have the courage to fight a duel. If any
man should wrong me to the extent of my being willing to kill
him, I would not be willing to give him the choice of weapons
with which it should be done, and of the time, place and
distance separating us, when I executed him. If I should do
another such a wrong as to justify him in killing me, I would
make any reasonable atonement within my power, if convinced of
the wrong done. I place my opposition to duelling on higher
grounds than here stated. No doubt a majority of the duels
fought have been for want of moral courage on the part of those
engaged to decline.

At Camp Salubrity, and when we went to New Orleans Barracks, the
4th infantry was commanded by Colonel Vose, then an old gentleman
who had not commanded on drill for a number of years. He was not
a man to discover infirmity in the presence of danger. It now
appeared that war was imminent, and he felt that it was his duty
to brush up his tactics. Accordingly, when we got settled down
at our new post, he took command of the regiment at a battalion
drill. Only two or three evolutions had been gone through when
he dismissed the battalion, and, turning to go to his own
quarters, dropped dead. He had not been complaining of ill
health, but no doubt died of heart disease. He was a most
estimable man, of exemplary habits, and by no means the author
of his own disease.



Early in September the regiment left New Orleans for Corpus
Christi, now in Texas. Ocean steamers were not then common, and
the passage was made in sailing vessels. At that time there was
not more than three feet of water in the channel at the outlet
of Corpus Christi Bay; the debarkation, therefore, had to take
place by small steamers, and at an island in the channel called
Shell Is land, the ships anchoring some miles out from shore.
This made the work slow, and as the army was only supplied with
one or two steamers, it took a number of days to effect the
landing of a single regiment with its stores, camp and garrison
equipage, etc. There happened to be pleasant weather while this
was going on, but the land-swell was so great that when the ship
and steamer were on opposite sides of the same wave they would
be at considerable distance apart. The men and baggage were let
down to a point higher than the lower deck of the steamer, and
when ship and steamer got into the trough between the waves, and
were close together, the load would be drawn over the steamer and
rapidly run down until it rested on the deck.

After I had gone ashore, and had been on guard several days at
Shell Island, quite six miles from the ship, I had occasion for
some reason or other to return on board. While on the Suviah–I
think that was the name of our vessel–I heard a tremendous
racket at the other end of the ship, and much and excited sailor
language, such as “damn your eyes,” etc. In a moment or two the
captain, who was an excitable little man, dying with
consumption, and not weighing much over a hundred pounds, came
running out, carrying a sabre nearly as large and as heavy as he
was, and cry ing, that his men had mutinied. It was necessary to
sustain the captain without question, and in a few minutes all
the sailors charged with mutiny were in irons. I rather felt
for a time a wish that I had not gone aboard just then. As the
men charged with mutiny submitted to being placed in irons
without resistance, I always doubted if they knew that they had
mutinied until they were told.

By the time I was ready to leave the ship again I thought I had
learned enough of the working of the double and single pulley,
by which passengers were let down from the upper deck of the
ship to the steamer below, and determined to let myself down
without assistance. Without saying anything of my intentions to
any one, I mounted the railing, and taking hold of the centre
rope, just below the upper block, I put one foot on the hook
below the lower block, and stepped off just as I did so some one
called out “hold on.” It was too late. I tried to “hold on”
with all my might, but my heels went up, and my head went down
so rapidly that my hold broke, and I plunged head foremost into
the water, some twenty-five feet below, with such velocity that
it seemed to me I never would stop. When I came to the surface
again, being a fair swimmer, and not having lost my presence of
mind, I swam around until a bucket was let down for me, and I
was drawn up without a scratch or injury. I do not believe there
was a man on board who sympathized with me in the least when they
found me uninjured. I rather enjoyed the joke myself The captain
of the Suviah died of his disease a few months later, and I
believe before the mutineers were tried. I hope they got clear,
because, as before stated, I always thought the mutiny was all in
the brain of a very weak and sick man.

After reaching shore, or Shell Island, the labor of getting to
Corpus Christi was slow and tedious. There was, if my memory
serves me, but one small steamer to transport troops and baggage
when the 4th infantry arrived. Others were procured later. The
distance from Shell Island to Corpus Christi was some sixteen or
eighteen miles. The channel to the bay was so shallow that the
steamer, small as it was, had to be dragged over the bottom when
loaded. Not more than one trip a day could be effected. Later
this was remedied, by deepening the channel and increasing the
number of vessels suitable to its navigation.

Corpus Christi is near the head of the bay of the same name,
formed by the entrance of the Nueces River into tide-water, and
is on the west bank of that bay. At the time of its first
occupancy by United States troops there was a small Mexican
hamlet there, containing probably less than one hundred souls.
There was, in addition, a small American trading post, at which
goods were sold to Mexican smugglers. All goods were put up in
compact packages of about one hundred pounds each, suitable for
loading on pack mules. Two of these packages made a load for an
ordinary Mexican mule, and three for the larger ones. The bulk
of the trade was in leaf tobacco, and domestic cotton-cloths and
calicoes. The Mexicans had, before the arrival of the army, but
little to offer in exchange except silver. The trade in tobacco
was enormous, considering the population to be supplied. Almost
every Mexican above the age of ten years, and many much younger,
smoked the cigarette. Nearly every Mexican carried a pouch of
leaf tobacco, powdered by rolling in the hands, and a roll of
corn husks to make wrappers. The cigarettes were made by the
smokers as they used them.

Up to the time of which I write, and for years afterwards–I
think until the administration of President Juarez–the
cultivation, manufacture and sale of tobacco constituted a
government monopoly, and paid the bulk of the revenue collected
from internal sources. The price was enormously high, and made
successful smuggling very profitable. The difficulty of
obtaining tobacco is probably the reason why everybody, male and
female, used it at that time. I know from my own experience that
when I was at West Point, the fact that tobacco, in every form,
was prohibited, and the mere possession of the weed severely
punished, made the majority of the cadets, myself included, try
to acquire the habit of using it. I failed utterly at the time
and for many years afterward; but the majority accomplished the
object of their youthful ambition.

Under Spanish rule Mexico was prohibited from producing anything
that the mother-country could supply. This rule excluded the
cultivation of the grape, olive and many other articles to which
the soil and climate were well adapted. The country was governed
for “revenue only;” and tobacco, which cannot be raised in Spain,
but is indigenous to Mexico, offered a fine instrumentality for
securing this prime object of government. The native population
had been in the habit of using “the weed” from a period, back of
any recorded history of this continent. Bad habits–if not
restrained by law or public opinion–spread more rapidly and
universally than good ones, and the Spanish colonists adopted
the use of tobacco almost as generally as the natives. Spain,
therefore, in order to secure the largest revenue from this
source, prohibited the cultivation, except in specified
localities–and in these places farmed out the privilege at a
very high price. The tobacco when raised could only be sold to
the government, and the price to the consumer was limited only
by the avarice of the authorities, and the capacity of the
people to pay.

All laws for the government of the country were enacted in
Spain, and the officers for their execution were appointed by
the Crown, and sent out to the New El Dorado. The Mexicans had
been brought up ignorant of how to legislate or how to rule.
When they gained their independence, after many years of war, it
was the most natural thing in the world that they should adopt as
their own the laws then in existence. The only change was, that
Mexico became her own executor of the laws and the recipient of
the revenues. The tobacco tax, yielding so large a revenue
under the law as it stood, was one of the last, if not the very
last, of the obnoxious imposts to be repealed. Now, the
citizens are allowed to cultivate any crops the soil will
yield. Tobacco is cheap, and every quality can be produced. Its
use is by no means so general as when I first visited the

Gradually the “Army of Occupation” assembled at Corpus
Christi. When it was all together it consisted of seven
companies of the 2d regiment of dragoons, four companies of
light artillery, five regiments of infantry–the 3d, 4th, 5th,
7th and 8th–and one regiment of artillery acting as
infantry–not more than three thousand men in all. General
Zachary Taylor commanded the whole. There were troops enough in
one body to establish a drill and discipline sufficient to fit
men and officers for all they were capable of in case of
battle. The rank and file were composed of men who had enlisted
in time of peace, to serve for seven dollars a month, and were
necessarily inferior as material to the average volunteers
enlisted later in the war expressly to fight, and also to the
volunteers in the war for the preservation of the Union. The
men engaged in the Mexican war were brave, and the officers of
the regular army, from highest to lowest, were educated in their
profession. A more efficient army for its number and armament, I
do not believe ever fought a battle than the one commanded by
General Taylor in his first two engagements on Mexican–or Texan

The presence of United States troops on the edge of the disputed
territory furthest from the Mexican settlements, was not
sufficient to provoke hostilities. We were sent to provoke a
fight, but it was essential that Mexico should commence it. It
was very doubtful whether Congress would declare war; but if
Mexico should attack our troops, the Executive could announce,
“Whereas, war exists by the acts of, etc.,” and prosecute the
contest with vigor. Once initiated there were but few public
men who would have the courage to oppose it. Experience proves
that the man who obstructs a war in which his nation is engaged,
no matter whether right or wrong, occupies no enviable place in
life or history. Better for him, individually, to advocate
“war, pestilence, and famine,” than to act as obstructionist to
a war already begun. The history of the defeated rebel will be
honorable hereafter, compared with that of the Northern man who
aided him by conspiring against his government while protected
by it. The most favorable posthumous history the stay-at-home
traitor can hope for is–oblivion.

Mexico showing no willingness to come to the Nueces to drive the
invaders from her soil, it became necessary for the “invaders” to
approach to within a convenient distance to be struck.
Accordingly, preparations were begun for moving the army to the
Rio Grande, to a point near Matamoras. It was desirable to
occupy a position near the largest centre of population possible
to reach, without absolutely invading territory to which we set
up no claim whatever.

The distance from Corpus Christi to Matamoras is about one
hundred and fifty miles. The country does not abound in fresh
water, and the length of the marches had to be regulated by the
distance between water supplies. Besides the streams, there
were occasional pools, filled during the rainy season, some
probably made by the traders, who travelled constantly between
Corpus Christi and the Rio Grande, and some by the buffalo.
There was not at that time a single habitation, cultivated
field, or herd of do mestic animals, between Corpus Christi and
Matamoras. It was necessary, therefore, to have a wagon train
sufficiently large to transport the camp and garrison equipage,
officers’ baggage, rations for the army, and part rations of
grain for the artillery horses and all the animals taken from
the north, where they had been accustomed to having their forage
furnished them. The army was but indifferently supplied with
transportation. Wagons and harness could easily be supplied
from the north but mules and horses could not so readily be
brought. The American traders and Mexican smugglers came to the
relief. Contracts were made for mules at from eight to eleven
dollars each. The smugglers furnished the animals, and took
their pay in goods of the description before mentioned. I doubt
whether the Mexicans received in value from the traders five
dollars per head for the animals they furnished, and still more,
whether they paid anything but their own time in procuring
them. Such is trade; such is war. The government paid in hard
cash to the contractor the stipulated price.

Between the Rio Grande and the Nueces there was at that time a
large band of wild horses feeding; as numerous, probably, as the
band of buffalo roaming further north was before its rapid
extermination commenced. The Mexicans used to capture these in
large numbers and bring them into the American settlements and
sell them. A picked animal could be purchased at from eight to
twelve dollars, but taken at wholesale, they could be bought for
thirty-six dollars a dozen. Some of these were purchased for the
army, and answered a most useful purpose. The horses were
generally very strong, formed much like the Norman horse, and
with very heavy manes and tails. A number of officers supplied
themselves with these, and they generally rendered as useful
service as the northern animal in fact they were much better
when grazing was the only means of supplying forage.

There was no need for haste, and some months were consumed in
the necessary preparations for a move. In the meantime the army
was engaged in all the duties pertaining to the officer and the
soldier. Twice, that I remember, small trains were sent from
Corpus Christi, with cavalry escorts, to San Antonio and Austin,
with paymasters and funds to pay off small detachments of troops
stationed at those places. General Taylor encouraged officers
to accompany these expeditions. I accompanied one of them in
December, 1845. The distance from Corpus Christi to San Antonio
was then computed at one hundred and fifty miles. Now that roads
exist it is probably less. From San Antonio to Austin we
computed the distance at one hundred and ten miles, and from the
latter place back to Corpus Christi at over two hundred miles. I
know the distance now from San Antonio to Austin is but little
over eighty miles, so that our computation was probably too high.

There was not at the time an individual living between Corpus
Christi and San Antonio until within about thirty miles of the
latter point, where there were a few scattering Mexican
settlements along the San Antonio River. The people in at least
one of these hamlets lived underground for protection against the
Indians. The country abounded in game, such as deer and
antelope, with abundance of wild turkeys along the streams and
where there were nut-bearing woods. On the Nueces, about
twenty-five miles up from Corpus Christi, were a few log cabins,
the remains of a town called San Patricio, but the inhabitants
had all been massacred by the Indians, or driven away.

San Antonio was about equally divided in population between
Americans and Mexicans. From there to Austin there was not a
single residence except at New Braunfels, on the Guadalupe
River. At that point was a settlement of Germans who had only
that year come into the State. At all events they were living
in small huts, about such as soldiers would hastily construct
for temporary occupation. From Austin to Corpus Christi there
was only a small settlement at Bastrop, with a few farms along
the Colorado River; but after leaving that, there were no
settlements except the home of one man, with one female slave,
at the old town of Goliad. Some of the houses were still
standing. Goliad had been quite a village for the period and
region, but some years before there had been a Mexican massacre,
in which every inhabitant had been killed or driven away. This,
with the massacre of the prisoners in the Alamo, San Antonio,
about the same time, more than three hundred men in all,
furnished the strongest justification the Texans had for
carrying on the war with so much cruelty. In fact, from that
time until the Mexican. war, the hostilities between Texans and
Mexicans was so great that neither was safe in the neighborhood
of the other who might be in superior numbers or possessed of
superior arms. The man we found living there seemed like an old
friend; he had come from near Fort Jessup, Louisiana, where the
officers of the 3d and 4th infantry and the 2d dragoons had
known him and his family. He had emigrated in advance of his
family to build up a home for them.



When our party left Corpus Christi it was quite large, including
the cavalry escort, Paymaster, Major Dix, his clerk and the
officers who, like myself, were simply on leave; but all the
officers on leave, except Lieutenant Benjamin–afterwards killed
in the valley of Mexico–Lieutenant, now General, Augur, and
myself, concluded to spend their allotted time at San Antonio
and return from there. We were all to be back at Corpus Christi
by the end of the month. The paymaster was detained in Austin so
long that, if we had waited for him, we would have exceeded our
leave. We concluded, therefore, to start back at once with the
animals we had, and having to rely principally on grass for
their food, it was a good six days’ journey. We had to sleep on
the prairie every night, except at Goliad, and possibly one night
on the Colorado, without shelter and with only such food as we
carried with us, and prepared ourselves. The journey was
hazardous on account of Indians, and there were white men in
Texas whom I would not have cared to meet in a secluded place.
Lieutenant Augur was taken seriously sick before we reached
Goliad and at a distance from any habitation. To add to the
complication, his horse–a mustang that had probably been
captured from the band of wild horses before alluded to, and of
undoubted longevity at his capture–gave out. It was absolutely
necessary to get for ward to Goliad to find a shelter for our
sick companion. By dint of patience and exceedingly slow
movements, Goliad was at last reached, and a shelter and bed
secured for our patient. We remained over a day, hoping that
Augur might recover sufficiently to resume his travels. He did
not, however, and knowing that Major Dix would be along in a few
days, with his wagon-train, now empty, and escort, we arranged
with our Louisiana friend to take the best of care of the sick
lieutenant until thus relieved, and went on.

I had never been a sportsman in my life; had scarcely ever gone
in search of game, and rarely seen any when looking for it. On
this trip there was no minute of time while travelling between
San Patricio and the settlements on the San Antonio River, from
San Antonio to Austin, and again from the Colorado River back to
San Patricio, when deer or antelope could not be seen in great
numbers. Each officer carried a shot-gun, and every evening,
after going into camp, some would go out and soon return with
venison and wild turkeys enough for the entire camp. I,
however, never went out, and had no occasion to fire my gun;
except, being detained over a day at Goliad, Benjamin and I
concluded to go down to the creek–which was fringed with
timber, much of it the pecan–and bring back a few turkeys. We
had scarcely reached the edge of the timber when I heard the
flutter of wings overhead, and in an instant I saw two or three
turkeys flying away. These were soon followed by more, then
more, and more, until a flock of twenty or thirty had left from
just over my head. All this time I stood watching the turkeys
to see where they flew–with my gun on my shoulder, and never
once thought of levelling it at the birds. When I had time to
reflect upon the matter, I came to the conclusion that as a
sportsman I was a failure, and went back to the house. Benjamin
remained out, and got as many turkeys as he wanted to carry back.

After the second night at Goliad, Benjamin and I started to make
the remainder of the journey alone. We reached Corpus Christi
just in time to avoid “absence without leave.” We met no one
not even an Indian–during the remainder of our journey, except
at San Patricio. A new settlement had been started there in our
absence of three weeks, induced possibly by the fact that there
were houses already built, while the proximity of troops gave
protection against the Indians. On the evening of the first day
out from Goliad we heard the most unearthly howling of wolves,
directly in our front. The prairie grass was tall and we could
not see the beasts, but the sound indicated that they were
near. To my ear it appeared that there must have been enough of
them to devour our party, horses and all, at a single meal. The
part of Ohio that I hailed from was not thickly settled, but
wolves had been driven out long before I left. Benjamin was
from Indiana, still less populated, where the wolf yet roamed
over the prairies. He understood the nature of the animal and
the capacity of a few to make believe there was an unlimited
number of them. He kept on towards the noise, unmoved. I
followed in his trail, lacking moral courage to turn back and
join our sick companion. I have no doubt that if Benjamin had
proposed returning to Goliad, I would not only have “seconded
the motion” but have sug gested that it was very hard-hearted in
us to leave Augur sick there in the first place; but Benjamin did
not propose turning back. When he did speak it was to ask:
“Grant, how many wolves do you think there are in that pack?”
Knowing where he was from, and suspecting that he thought I
would over-estimate the number, I determined to show my
acquaintance with the animal by putting the estimate below what
possibly could be correct, and answered: “Oh, about twenty,”
very indifferently. He smiled and rode on. In a minute we were
close upon them, and before they saw us. There were just TWO of
them. Seated upon their haunches, with their mouths close
together, they had made all the noise we had been hearing for
the past ten minutes. I have often thought of this incident
since when I have heard the noise of a few disappointed
politicians who had deserted their associates. There are always
more of them before they are counted.

A week or two before leaving Corpus Christi on this trip, I had
been promoted from brevet second-lieutenant, 4th infantry, to
full second-lieutenant, 7th infantry. Frank Gardner,(*1) of the
7th, was promoted to the 4th in the same orders. We immediately
made application to be transferred, so as to get back to our old
regiments. On my return, I found that our application had been
approved at Washington. While in the 7th infantry I was in the
company of Captain Holmes, afterwards a Lieutenant-general in
the Confederate army. I never came in contact with him in the
war of the Rebellion, nor did he render any very conspicuous
service in his high rank. My transfer carried me to the company
of Captain McCall, who resigned from the army after the Mexican
war and settled in Philadelphia. He was prompt, however, to
volunteer when the rebellion broke out, and soon rose to the
rank of major-general in the Union army. I was not fortunate
enough to meet him after he resigned. In the old army he was
esteemed very highly as a soldier and gentleman. Our relations
were always most pleasant.

The preparations at Corpus Christi for an advance progressed as
rapidly in the absence of some twenty or more lieutenants as if
we had been there. The principal business consisted in securing
mules, and getting them broken to harness. The process was slow
but amusing. The animals sold to the government were all young
and unbroken, even to the saddle, and were quite as wild as the
wild horses of the prairie. Usually a number would be brought
in by a company of Mexicans, partners in the delivery. The
mules were first driven into a stockade, called a corral,
inclosing an acre or more of ground. The Mexicans,–who were
all experienced in throwing the lasso,–would go into the corral
on horseback, with their lassos attached to the pommels of their
saddles. Soldiers detailed as teamsters and black smiths would
also enter the corral, the former with ropes to serve as
halters, the latter with branding irons and a fire to keep the
irons heated. A lasso was then thrown over the neck of a mule,
when he would immediately go to the length of his tether, first
one end, then the other in the air. While he was thus plunging
and gyrating, another lasso would be thrown by another Mexican,
catching the animal by a fore-foot. This would bring the mule
to the ground, when he was seized and held by the teamsters
while the blacksmith put upon him, with hot irons, the initials
“U. S.” Ropes were then put about the neck, with a slipnoose
which would tighten around the throat if pulled. With a man on
each side holding these ropes, the mule was released from his
other bindings and allowed to rise. With more or less
difficulty he would be conducted to a picket rope outside and
fastened there. The delivery of that mule was then complete.
This process was gone through with every mule and wild horse
with the army of occupation.

The method of breaking them was less cruel and much more
amusing. It is a well-known fact that where domestic animals
are used for specific purposes from generation to generation,
the descendants are easily, as a rule, subdued to the same
uses. At that time in Northern Mexico the mule, or his
ancestors, the horse and the ass, was seldom used except for the
saddle or pack. At all events the Corpus Christi mule resisted
the new use to which he was being put. The treatment he was
subjected to in order to overcome his prejudices was summary and

The soldiers were principally foreigners who had enlisted in our
large cities, and, with the exception of a chance drayman among
them, it is not probable that any of the men who reported
themselves as competent teamsters had ever driven a mule-team in
their lives, or indeed that many had had any previous experience
in driving any animal whatever to harness. Numbers together can
accomplish what twice their number acting individually could not
perform. Five mules were allotted to each wagon. A teamster
would select at the picket rope five animals of nearly the same
color and general appearance for his team. With a full corps of
assistants, other teamsters, he would then proceed to get his
mules together. In two’s the men would approach each animal
selected, avoiding as far as possible its heels. Two ropes
would be put about the neck of each animal, with a slip noose,
so that he could be choked if too unruly. They were then led
out, harnessed by force and hitched to the wagon in the position
they had to keep ever after. Two men remained on either side of
the leader, with the lassos about its neck, and one man retained
the same restraining influence over each of the others. All
being ready, the hold would be slackened and the team started.
The first motion was generally five mules in the air at one
time, backs bowed, hind feet extended to the rear. After
repeating this movement a few times the leaders would start to
run. This would bring the breeching tight against the mules at
the wheels, which these last seemed to regard as a most
unwarrantable attempt at coercion and would resist by taking a
seat, sometimes going so far as to lie down. In time all were
broken in to do their duty submissively if not cheerfully, but
there never was a time during the war when it was safe to let a
Mexican mule get entirely loose. Their drivers were all
teamsters by the time they got through.

I recollect one case of a mule that had worked in a team under
the saddle, not only for some time at Corpus Christi, where he
was broken, but all the way to the point opposite Matamoras,
then to Camargo, where he got loose from his fastenings during
the night. He did not run away at first, but staid in the
neighborhood for a day or two, coming up sometimes to the feed
trough even; but on the approach of the teamster he always got
out of the way. At last, growing tired of the constant effort
to catch him, he disappeared altogether. Nothing short of a
Mexican with his lasso could have caught him. Regulations would
not have warranted the expenditure of a dollar in hiring a man
with a lasso to catch that mule; but they did allow the
expenditure “of the mule,” on a certificate that he had run away
without any fault of the quartermaster on whose returns he was
borne, and also the purchase of another to take his place. am a
competent witness, for I was regimental quartermaster at the

While at Corpus Christi all the officers who had a fancy for
riding kept horses. The animals cost but little in the first
instance, and when picketed they would get their living without
any cost. I had three not long before the army moved, but a sad
accident bereft me of them all at one time. A colored boy who
gave them all the attention they got–besides looking after my
tent and that of a class-mate and fellow-lieutenant and cooking
for us, all for about eight dollars per month, was riding one to
water and leading the other two. The led horses pulled him from
his seat and all three ran away. They never were heard of
afterwards. Shortly after that some one told Captain Bliss,
General Taylor’s Adjutant-General, of my misfortune. “Yes; I
heard Grant lost five or six dollars’ worth of horses the other
day,” he replied. That was a slander; they were broken to the
saddle when I got them and cost nearly twenty dollars. I never
suspected the colored boy of malicious intent in letting them
get away, because, if they had not escaped, he could have had
one of them to ride on the long march then in prospect.



At last the preparations were complete and orders were issued
for the advance to begin on the 8th of March. General Taylor
had an army of not more than three thousand men. One battery,
the siege guns and all the convalescent troops were sent on by
water to Brazos Santiago, at the mouth of the Rio Grande. A
guard was left back at Corpus Christi to look after public
property and to take care of those who were too sick to be
removed. The remainder of the army, probably not more than
twenty five hundred men, was divided into three brigades, with
the cavalry independent. Colonel Twiggs, with seven companies
of dragoons and a battery of light artillery, moved on the
8th. He was followed by the three infantry brigades, with a
day’s interval between the commands. Thus the rear brigade did
not move from Corpus Christi until the 11th of March. In view
of the immense bodies of men moved on the same day over narrow
roads, through dense forests and across large streams, in our
late war, it seems strange now that a body of less than three
thousand men should have been broken into four columns,
separated by a day’s march.

General Taylor was opposed to anything like plundering by the
troops, and in this instance, I doubt not, he looked upon the
enemy as the aggrieved party and was not willing to injure them
further than his instructions from Washington demanded. His
orders to the troops enjoined scrupulous regard for the rights
of all peaceable persons and the payment of the highest price
for all supplies taken for the use of the army.

All officers of foot regiments who had horses were permitted to
ride them on the march when it did not interfere with their
military duties. As already related, having lost my “five or
six dollars’ worth of horses ” but a short time before I
determined not to get another, but to make the journey on
foot. My company commander, Captain McCall, had two good
American horses, of considerably more value in that country,
where native horses were cheap, than they were in the States. He
used one himself and wanted the other for his servant. He was
quite anxious to know whether I did not intend to get me another
horse before the march began. I told him No; I belonged to a
foot regiment. I did not understand the object of his
solicitude at the time, but, when we were about to start, he
said: “There, Grant, is a horse for you.” I found that he
could not bear the idea of his servant riding on a long march
while his lieutenant went a-foot. He had found a mustang, a
three-year old colt only recently captured, which had been
purchased by one of the colored servants with the regiment for
the sum of three dollars. It was probably the only horse at
Corpus Christi that could have been purchased just then for any
reasonable price. Five dollars, sixty-six and two-thirds per
cent. advance, induced the owner to part with the mustang. I
was sorry to take him, because I really felt that, belonging to
a foot regiment, it was my duty to march with the men. But I
saw the Captain’s earnestness in the matter, and accepted the
horse for the trip. The day we started was the first time the
horse had ever been under saddle. I had, however, but little
difficulty in breaking him, though for the first day there were
frequent disagreements between us as to which way we should go,
and sometimes whether we should go at all. At no time during
the day could I choose exactly the part of the column I would
march with; but after that, I had as tractable a horse as any
with the army, and there was none that stood the trip better. He
never ate a mouthful of food on the journey except the grass he
could pick within the length of his picket rope.

A few days out from Corpus Christi, the immense herd of wild
horses that ranged at that time between the Nueces and the Rio
Grande was seen directly in advance of the head of the column
and but a few miles off. It was the very band from which the
horse I was riding had been captured but a few weeks before. The
column was halted for a rest, and a number of officers, myself
among them, rode out two or three miles to the right to see the
extent of the herd. The country was a rolling prairie, and,
from the higher ground, the vision was obstructed only by the
earth’s curvature. As far as the eye could reach to our right,
the herd extended. To the left, it extended equally. There was
no estimating the number of animals in it; I have no idea that
they could all have been corralled in the State of Rhode Island,
or Delaware, at one time. If they had been, they would have been
so thick that the pasturage would have given out the first day.
People who saw the Southern herd of buffalo, fifteen or twenty
years ago, can appreciate the size of the Texas band of wild
horses in 1846.

At the point where the army struck the Little Colorado River,
the stream was quite wide and of sufficient depth for
navigation. The water was brackish and the banks were fringed
with timber. Here the whole army concentrated before attempting
to cross. The army was not accompanied by a pontoon train, and
at that time the troops were not instructed in bridge
building. To add to the embarrassment of the situation, the
army was here, for the first time, threatened with opposition.
Buglers, concealed from our view by the brush on the opposite
side, sounded the “assembly,” and other military calls. Like
the wolves before spoken of, they gave the impression that there
was a large number of them and that, if the troops were in
proportion to the noise, they were sufficient to devour General
Taylor and his army. There were probably but few troops, and
those engaged principally in watching the movements of the
“invader.” A few of our cavalry dashed in, and forded and swam
the stream, and all opposition was soon dispersed. I do not
remember that a single shot was fired.

The troops waded the stream, which was up to their necks in the
deepest part. Teams were crossed by attaching a long rope to
the end of the wagon tongue passing it between the two swing
mules and by the side of the leader, hitching his bridle as well
as the bridle of the mules in rear to it, and carrying the end to
men on the opposite shore. The bank down to the water was steep
on both sides. A rope long enough to cross the river,
therefore, was attached to the back axle of the wagon, and men
behind would hold the rope to prevent the wagon “beating” the
mules into the water. This latter rope also served the purpose
of bringing the end of the forward one back, to be used over
again. The water was deep enough for a short distance to swim
the little Mexican mules which the army was then using, but
they, and the wagons, were pulled through so fast by the men at
the end of the rope ahead, that no time was left them to show
their obstinacy. In this manner the artillery and
transportation of the “army of occupation” crossed the Colorado

About the middle of the month of March the advance of the army
reached the Rio Grande and went into camp near the banks of the
river, opposite the city of Matamoras and almost under the guns
of a small fort at the lower end of the town. There was not at
that time a single habitation from Corpus Christi until the Rio
Grande was reached.

The work of fortifying was commenced at once. The fort was laid
out by the engineers, but the work was done by the soldiers under
the supervision of their officers, the chief engineer retaining
general directions. The Mexicans now became so incensed at our
near approach that some of their troops crossed the river above
us, and made it unsafe for small bodies of men to go far beyond
the limits of camp. They captured two companies of dragoons,
commanded by Captains Thornton and Hardee. The latter figured
as a general in the late war, on the Confederate side, and was
author of the tactics first used by both armies. Lieutenant
Theodric Porter, of the 4th infantry, was killed while out with
a small detachment; and Major Cross, the assistant
quartermaster-general, had also been killed not far from camp.

There was no base of supplies nearer than Point Isabel, on the
coast, north of the mouth of the Rio Grande and twenty-five
miles away. The enemy, if the Mexicans could be called such at
this time when no war had been declared, hovered about in such
numbers that it was not safe to send a wagon train after
supplies with any escort that could be spared. I have already
said that General Taylor’s whole command on the Rio Grande
numbered less than three thousand men. He had, however, a few
more troops at Point Isabel or Brazos Santiago. The supplies
brought from Corpus Christi in wagons were running short. Work
was therefore pushed with great vigor on the defences, to enable
the minimum number of troops to hold the fort. All the men who
could be employed, were kept at work from early dawn until
darkness closed the labors of the day. With all this the fort
was not completed until the supplies grew so short that further
delay in obtaining more could not be thought of. By the latter
part of April the work was in a partially defensible condition,
and the 7th infantry, Major Jacob Brown commanding, was marched
in to garrison it, with some few pieces of artillery. All the
supplies on hand, with the exception of enough to carry the rest
of the army to Point Isabel, were left with the garrison, and the
march was commenced with the remainder of the command, every
wagon being taken with the army. Early on the second day after
starting the force reached its destination, without opposition
from the Mexicans. There was some delay in getting supplies
ashore from vessels at anchor in the open roadstead.



While General Taylor was away with the bulk of his army, the
little garrison up the river was besieged. As we lay in our
tents upon the sea-shore, the artillery at the fort on the Rio
Grande could be distinctly heard.

The war had begun.

There were no possible means of obtaining news from the
garrison, and information from outside could not be otherwise
than unfavorable. What General Taylor’s feelings were during
this suspense I do not know; but for myself, a young
second-lieutenant who had never heard a hostile gun before, I
felt sorry that I had enlisted. A great many men, when they
smell battle afar off, chafe to get into the fray. When they
say so themselves they generally fail to convince their hearers
that they are as anxious as they would like to make believe, and
as they approach danger they become more subdued. This rule is
not universal, for I have known a few men who were always aching
for a fight when there was no enemy near, who were as good as
their word when the battle did come. But the number of such men
is small.

On the 7th of May the wagons were all loaded and General Taylor
started on his return, with his army reinforced at Point Isabel,
but still less than three thousand strong, to relieve the
garrison on the Rio Grande. The road from Point Isabel to
Matamoras is over an open, rolling, treeless prairie, until the
timber that borders the bank of the Rio Grande is reached. This
river, like the Mississippi, flows through a rich alluvial valley
in the most meandering manner, running towards all points of the
compass at times within a few miles. Formerly the river ran by
Resaca de la Palma, some four or five miles east of the present
channel. The old bed of the river at Resaca had become filled
at places, leaving a succession of little lakes. The timber
that had formerly grown upon both banks, and for a considerable
distance out, was still standing. This timber was struck six or
eight miles out from the besieged garrison, at a point known as
Palo Alto–“Tall trees” or “woods.”

Early in the forenoon of the 8th of May as Palo Alto was
approached, an army, certainly outnumbering our little force,
was seen, drawn up in line of battle just in front of the
timber. Their bayonets and spearheads glistened in the sunlight
formidably. The force was composed largely of cavalry armed with
lances. Where we were the grass was tall, reaching nearly to the
shoulders of the men, very stiff, and each stock was pointed at
the top, and hard and almost as sharp as a darning-needle.
General Taylor halted his army before the head of column came in
range of the artillery of the Mexicans. He then formed a line of
battle, facing the enemy. His artillery, two batteries and two
eighteen-pounder iron guns, drawn by oxen, were placed in
position at intervals along the line. A battalion was thrown to
the rear, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Childs, of the
artillery, as reserves. These preparations completed, orders
were given for a platoon of each company to stack arms and go to
a stream off to the right of the command, to fill their canteens
and also those of the rest of their respective companies. When
the men were all back in their places in line, the command to
advance was given. As I looked down that long line of about
three thousand armed men, advancing towards a larger force also
armed, I thought what a fearful responsibility General Taylor
must feel, commanding such a host and so far away from
friends. The Mexicans immediately opened fire upon us, first
with artillery and then with infantry. At first their shots did
not reach us, and the advance was continued. As we got nearer,
the cannon balls commenced going through the ranks. They hurt
no one, however, during this advance, because they would strike
the ground long before they reached our line, and ricochetted
through the tall grass so slowly that the men would see them and
open ranks and let them pass. When we got to a point where the
artillery could be used with effect, a halt was called, and the
battle opened on both sides.

The infantry under General Taylor was armed with flint-lock
muskets, and paper cartridges charged with powder, buck-shot and
ball. At the distance of a few hundred yards a man might fire at
you all day without your finding it out. The artillery was
generally six-pounder brass guns throwing only solid shot; but
General Taylor had with him three or four twelve-pounder
howitzers throwing shell, besides his eighteen-pounders before
spoken of, that had a long range. This made a powerful
armament. The Mexicans were armed about as we were so far as
their infantry was concerned, but their artillery only fired
solid shot. We had greatly the advantage in this arm.

The artillery was advanced a rod or two in front of the line,
and opened fire. The infantry stood at order arms as
spectators, watching the effect of our shots upon the enemy, and
watching his shots so as to step out of their way. It could be
seen that the eighteen-pounders and the howitzers did a great
deal of execution. On our side there was little or no loss
while we occupied this position. During the battle Major
Ringgold, an accomplished and brave artillery officer, was
mortally wounded, and Lieutenant Luther, also of the artillery,
was struck. During the day several advances were made, and just
at dusk it became evident that the Mexicans were falling back. We
again advanced, and occupied at the close of the battle
substantially the ground held by the enemy at the beginning. In
this last move there was a brisk fire upon our troops, and some
execution was done. One cannon-ball passed through our ranks,
not far from me. It took off the head of an enlisted man, and
the under jaw of Captain Page of my regiment, while the
splinters from the musket of the killed soldier, and his brains
and bones, knocked down two or three others, including one
officer, Lieutenant Wallen,–hurting them more or less. Our
casualties for the day were nine killed and forty-seven wounded.

At the break of day on the 9th, the army under Taylor was ready
to renew the battle ; but an advance showed that the enemy had
entirely left our front during the night. The chaparral before
us was impenetrable except where there were roads or trails,
with occasionally clear or bare spots of small dimensions. A
body of men penetrating it might easily be ambushed. It was
better to have a few men caught in this way than the whole army,
yet it was necessary that the garrison at the river should be
relieved. To get to them the chaparral had to be passed. Thus
I assume General Taylor reasoned. He halted the army not far in
advance of the ground occupied by the Mexicans the day before,
and selected Captain C. F. Smith, of the artillery, and Captain
McCall, of my company, to take one hundred and fifty picked men
each and find where the enemy had gone. This left me in command
of the company, an honor and responsibility I thought very great.

Smith and McCall found no obstruction in the way of their
advance until they came up to the succession of ponds, before
describes, at Resaca. The Mexicans had passed them and formed
their lines on the opposite bank. This position they had
strengthened a little by throwing up dead trees and brush in
their front, and by placing artillery to cover the approaches
and open places. Smith and McCall deployed on each side of the
road as well as they could, and engaged the enemy at long
range. Word was sent back, and the advance of the whole army
was at once commenced. As we came up we were deployed in like
manner. I was with the right wing, and led my company through
the thicket wherever a penetrable place could be found, taking
advantage of any clear spot that would carry me towards the
enemy. At last I got pretty close up without knowing it. The
balls commenced to whistle very thick overhead, cutting the
limbs of the chaparral right and left. We could not see the
enemy, so I ordered my men to lie down, an order that did not
have to be enforced. We kept our position until it became
evident that the enemy were not firing at us, and then withdrew
to find better ground to advance upon.

By this time some progress had been made on our left. A section
of artillery had been captured by the cavalry, and some prisoners
had been taken. The Mexicans were giving way all along the line,
and many of them had, no doubt, left early. I at last found a
clear space separating two ponds. There seemed to be a few men
in front and I charged upon them with my company.

There was no resistance, and we captured a Mexican colonel, who
had been wounded, and a few men. Just as I was sending them to
the rear with a guard of two or three men, a private came from
the front bringing back one of our officers, who had been badly
wounded in advance of where I was. The ground had been charged
over before. My exploit was equal to that of the soldier who
boasted that he had cut off the leg of one of the enemy. When
asked why he did not cut off his head, he replied: “Some one
had done that before.” This left no doubt in my mind but that
the battle of Resaca de la Palma would have been won, just as it
was, if I had not been there. There was no further resistance.
The evening of the 9th the army was encamped on its old ground
near the Fort, and the garrison was relieved. The siege had
lasted a number of days, but the casualties were few in
number. Major Jacob Brown, of the 7th infantry, the commanding
officer, had been killed, and in his honor the fort was named.
Since then a town of considerable importance has sprung up on
the ground occupied by the fort and troops, which has also taken
his name.

The battles of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma seemed to us
engaged, as pretty important affairs; but we had only a faint
conception of their magnitude until they were fought over in the
North by the Press and the reports came back to us. At the same
time, or about the same time, we learned that war existed
between the United States and Mexico, by the acts of the latter
country. On learning this fact General Taylor transferred our
camps to the south or west bank of the river, and Matamoras was
occupied. We then became the “Army of Invasion.”

Up to this time Taylor had none but regular troops in his
command; but now that invasion had already taken place,
volunteers for one year commenced arriving. The army remained
at Matamoras until sufficiently reinforced to warrant a movement
into the interior. General Taylor was not an officer to trouble
the administration much with his demands, but was inclined to do
the best he could with the means given him. He felt his
responsibility as going no further. If he had thought that he
was sent to perform an impossibility with the means given him,
he would probably have informed the authorities of his opinion
and left them to determine what should be done. If the judgment
was against him he would have gone on and done the best he could
with the means at hand without parading his grievance before the
public. No soldier could face either danger or responsibility
more calmly than he. These are qualities more rarely found than
genius or physical courage.

General Taylor never made any great show or parade, either of
uniform or retinue. In dress he was possibly too plain, rarely
wearing anything in the field to indicate his rank, or even that
he was an officer; but he was known to every soldier in his army,
and was respected by all. I can call to mind only one instance
when I saw him in uniform, and one other when I heard of his
wearing it, On both occasions he was unfortunate. The first was
at Corpus Christi. He had concluded to review his army before
starting on the march and gave orders accordingly. Colonel
Twiggs was then second in rank with the army, and to him was
given the command of the review. Colonel and Brevet
Brigadier-General Worth, a far different soldier from Taylor in
the use of the uniform, was next to Twiggs in rank, and claimed
superiority by virtue of his brevet rank when the accidents of
service threw them where one or the other had to command. Worth
declined to attend the review as subordinate to Twiggs until the
question was settled by the highest authority. This broke up
the review, and the question was referred to Washington for
final decision.

General Taylor was himself only a colonel, in real rank, at that
time, and a brigadier-general by brevet. He was assigned to
duty, however, by the President, with the rank which his brevet
gave him. Worth was not so assigned, but by virtue of
commanding a division he must, under the army regulations of
that day, have drawn the pay of his brevet rank. The question
was submitted to Washington, and no response was received until
after the army had reached the Rio Grande. It was decided
against General Worth, who at once tendered his resignation and
left the army, going north, no doubt, by the same vessel that
carried it. This kept him out of the battles of Palo Alto and
Resaca de la Palma. Either the resignation was not accepted, or
General Worth withdrew it before action had been taken. At all
events he returned to the army in time to command his division
in the battle of Monterey, and served with it to the end of the

The second occasion on which General Taylor was said to have
donned his uniform, was in order to receive a visit from the
Flag Officer of the naval squadron off the mouth of the Rio
Grande. While the army was on that river the Flag Officer sent
word that he would call on the General to pay his respects on a
certain day. General Taylor, knowing that naval officers
habitually wore all the uniform the “law allowed” on all
occasions of ceremony, thought it would be only civil to receive
his guest in the same style. His uniform was therefore got out,
brushed up, and put on, in advance of the visit. The Flag
Officer, knowing General Taylor’s aversion to the wearing of the
uniform, and feeling that it would be regarded as a compliment
should he meet him in civilian’s dress, left off his uniform for
this occasion. The meeting was said to have been embarrassing to
both, and the conversation was principally apologetic.

The time was whiled away pleasantly enough at Matamoras, while
we were waiting for volunteers. It is probable that all the
most important people of the territory occupied by our army left
their homes before we got there, but with those remaining the
best of relations apparently existed. It was the policy of the
Commanding General to allow no pillaging, no taking of private
property for public or individual use without satisfactory
compensation, so that a better market was afforded than the
people had ever known before.

Among the troops that joined us at Matamoras was an Ohio
regiment, of which Thomas L. Hamer, the Member of Congress who
had given me my appointment to West Point, was major. He told
me then that he could have had the colonelcy, but that as he
knew he was to be appointed a brigadier-general, he preferred at
first to take the lower grade. I have said before that Hamer was
one of the ablest men Ohio ever produced. At that time he was in
the prime of life, being less than fifty years of age, and
possessed an admirable physique, promising long life. But he
was taken sick before Monterey, and died within a few days. I
have always believed that had his life been spared, he would
have been President of the United States during the term filled
by President Pierce. Had Hamer filled that office his
partiality for me was such, there is but little doubt I should
have been appointed to one of the staff corps of the army–the
Pay Department probably–and would therefore now be preparing to
retire. Neither of these speculations is unreasonable, and they
are mentioned to show how little men control their own destiny.

Reinforcements having arrived, in the month of August the
movement commenced from Matamoras to Camargo, the head of
navigation on the Rio Grande. The line of the Rio Grande was
all that was necessary to hold, unless it was intended to invade
Mexico from the North. In that case the most natural route to
take was the one which General Taylor selected. It entered a
pass in the Sierra Madre Mountains, at Monterey, through which
the main road runs to the City of Mexico. Monterey itself was a
good point to hold, even if the line of the Rio Grande covered
all the territory we desired to occupy at that time. It is
built on a plain two thousand feet above tide water, where the
air is bracing and the situation healthy.

On the 19th of August the army started for Monterey, leaving a
small garrison at Matamoras. The troops, with the exception of
the artillery, cavalry, and the brigade to which I belonged,
were moved up the river to Camargo on steamers. As there were
but two or three of these, the boats had to make a number of
trips before the last of the troops were up. Those who marched
did so by the south side of the river. Lieutenant-Colonel
Garland, of the 4th infantry, was the brigade commander, and on
this occasion commanded the entire marching force. One day out
convinced him that marching by day in that latitude, in the
month of August, was not a beneficial sanitary measure,
particularly for Northern men. The order of marching was
changed and night marches were substituted with the best results.

When Camargo was reached, we found a city of tents outside the
Mexican hamlet. I was detailed to act as quartermaster and
commissary to the regiment. The teams that had proven
abundantly sufficient to transport all supplies from Corpus
Christi to the Rio Grande over the level prairies of Texas, were
entirely inadequate to the needs of the reinforced army in a
mountainous country. To obviate the deficiency, pack mules were
hired, with Mexicans to pack and drive them. I had charge of the
few wagons allotted to the 4th infantry and of the pack train to
supplement them. There were not men enough in the army to
manage that train without the help of Mexicans who had learned
how. As it was the difficulty was great enough. The troops
would take up their march at an early hour each day. After they
had started, the tents and cooking utensils had to be made into
packages, so that they could be lashed to the backs of the
mules. Sheet-iron kettles, tent-poles and mess chests were
inconvenient articles to transport in that way. It took several
hours to get ready to start each morning, and by the time we were
ready some of the mules first loaded would be tired of standing
so long with their loads on their backs. Sometimes one would
start to run, bowing his back and kicking up until he scattered
his load; others would lie down and try to disarrange their
loads by attempting to get on the top of them by rolling on
them; others with tent-poles for part of their loads would
manage to run a tent-pole on one side of a sapling while they
would take the other. I am not aware of ever having used a
profane expletive in my life; but I would have the charity to
excuse those who may have done so, if they were in charge of a
train of Mexican pack mules at the time.



The advance from Camargo was commenced on the 5th of September.
The army was divided into four columns, separated from each
other by one day’s march. The advance reached Cerralvo in four
days and halted for the remainder of the troops to come up. By
the 13th the rear-guard had arrived, and the same day the
advance resumed its march, followed as before, a day separating
the divisions. The forward division halted again at Marin,
twenty-four miles from Monterey. Both this place and Cerralvo
were nearly deserted, and men, women and children were seen
running and scattered over the hills as we approached; but when
the people returned they found all their abandoned property
safe, which must have given them a favorable opinion of Los
Grengos–“the Yankees.” From Marin the movement was in mass.
On the 19th General Taylor, with is army, was encamped at Walnut
Springs, within three miles of Monterey.

The town is on a small stream coming out of the mountain-pass,
and is backed by a range of hills of moderate elevation. To the
north, between the city and Walnut Springs, stretches an
extensive plain. On this plain, and entirely outside of the
last houses of the city, stood a strong fort, enclosed on all
sides, to which our army gave the name of “Black Fort.” Its
guns commanded the approaches to the city to the full extent of
their range. There were two detached spurs of hills or
mountains to the north and northwest of the city, which were
also fortified. On one of these stood the Bishop’s Palace. The
road to Saltillo leaves the upper or western end of the city
under the fire of the guns from these heights. The lower or
eastern end was defended by two or three small detached works,
armed with artillery and infantry. To the south was the
mountain stream before mentioned, and back of that the range of
foot-hills. The plaza in the centre of the city was the
citadel, properly speaking. All the streets leading from it
were swept by artillery, cannon being intrenched behind
temporary parapets. The house-tops near the plaza were converted
into infantry fortifications by the use of sand-bags for
parapets. Such were the defences of Monterey in September,
1847. General Ampudia, with a force of certainly ten thousand
men, was in command.

General Taylor’s force was about six thousand five hundred
strong, in three divisions, under Generals Butler, Twiggs and
Worth. The troops went into camp at Walnut Springs, while the
engineer officers, under Major Mansfield–a General in the late
war–commenced their reconnoissance. Major Mansfield found that
it would be practicable to get troops around, out of range of the
Black Fort and the works on the detached hills to the north-west
of the city, to the Saltillo road. With this road in our
possession, the enemy would be cut off from receiving further
supplies, if not from all communication with the interior.
General Worth, with his division somewhat reinforced, was given
the task of gaining possession of the Saltillo road, and of
carrying the detached works outside the city, in that quarter.
He started on his march early in the afternoon of the 20th. The
divisions under Generals Butler and Twiggs were drawn up to
threaten the east and north sides of the city and the works on
those fronts, in support of the movement under General Worth.
Worth’s was regarded as the main attack on Monterey, and all
other operations were in support of it. His march this day was
uninterrupted; but the enemy was seen to reinforce heavily about
the Bishop’s Palace and the other outside fortifications on their
left. General Worth reached a defensible position just out of
range of the enemy’s guns on the heights north-west of the city,
and bivouacked for the night. The engineer officers with
him–Captain Sanders and Lieutenant George G. Meade, afterwards
the commander of the victorious National army at the battle of
Gettysburg–made a reconnoissance to the Saltillo road under
cover of night.

During the night of the 20th General Taylor had established a
battery, consisting of two twenty-four-pounder howitzers and a
ten inch mortar, at a point from which they could play upon
Black Fort. A natural depression in the plain, sufficiently
deep to protect men standing in it from the fire from the fort,
was selected and the battery established on the crest nearest
the enemy. The 4th infantry, then consisting of but six reduced
companies, was ordered to support the artillerists while they
were intrenching themselves and their guns. I was regimental
quartermaster at the time and was ordered to remain in charge of
camp and the public property at Walnut Springs. It was supposed
that the regiment would return to its camp in the morning.

The point for establishing the siege battery was reached and the
work performed without attracting the attention of the enemy. At
daylight the next morning fire was opened on both sides and
continued with, what seemed to me at that day, great fury. My
curiosity got the better of my judgment, and I mounted a horse
and rode to the front to see what was going on. I had been
there but a short time when an order to charge was given, and
lacking the moral courage to return to camp–where I had been
ordered to stay–I charged with the regiment As soon as the
troops were out of the depression they came under the fire of
Black Fort. As they advanced they got under fire from batteries
guarding the cast, or lower, end of the city, and of musketry.
About one-third of the men engaged in the charge were killed or
wounded in the space of a few minutes. We retreated to get out
of fire, not backward, but eastward and perpendicular to the
direct road running into the city from Walnut Springs. I was, I
believe, the only person in the 4th infantry in the charge who
was on horseback. When we got to a lace of safety the regiment
halted and drew itself together–what was left of it. The
adjutant of the regiment, Lieutenant Hoskins, who was not in
robust health, found himself very much fatigued from running on
foot in the charge and retreat, and, seeing me on horseback,
expressed a wish that he could be mounted also. I offered him
my horse and he accepted the offer. A few minutes later I saw a
soldier, a quartermaster’s man, mounted, not far away. I ran to
him, took his horse and was back with the regiment in a few
minutes. In a short time we were off again; and the next place
of safety from the shots of the enemy that I recollect of being
in, was a field of cane or corn to the north-east of the lower
batteries. The adjutant to whom I had loaned my horse was
killed, and I was designated to act in his place.

This charge was ill-conceived, or badly executed. We belonged
to the brigade commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Garland, and he
had received orders to charge the lower batteries of the city,
and carry them if he could without too much loss, for the
purpose of creating a diversion in favor of Worth, who was
conducting the movement which it was intended should be
decisive. By a movement by the left flank Garland could have
led his men beyond the range of the fire from Black Fort and
advanced towards the northeast angle of the city, as well
covered from fire as could be expected. There was no undue loss
of life in reaching the lower end of Monterey, except that
sustained by Garland’s command.

Meanwhile Quitman’s brigade, conducted by an officer of
engineers, had reached the eastern end of the city, and was
placed under cover of the houses without much loss. Colonel
Garland’s brigade also arrived at the suburbs, and, by the
assistance of some of our troops that had reached house-tops
from which they could fire into a little battery covering the
approaches to the lower end of the city, the battery was
speedily captured and its guns were turned upon another work of
the enemy. An entrance into the cast end of the city was now
secured, and the houses protected our troops so long as they
were inactive. On the west General Worth had reached the
Saltillo road after some fighting but without heavy loss. He
turned from his new position and captured the forts on both
heights in that quarter. This gave him possession of the upper
or west end of Monterey. Troops from both Twiggs’s and Butler’s
divisions were in possession of the east end of the town, but the
Black Fort to the north of the town and the plaza in the centre
were still in the possession of the enemy. Our camps at Walnut
Springs, three miles away, were guarded by a company from each
regiment. A regiment of Kentucky volunteers guarded the mortars
and howitzers engaged against Black Fort. Practically Monterey
was invested.

There was nothing done on the 22d by the United States troops;
but the enemy kept up a harmless fire upon us from Black Fort
and the batteries still in their possession at the east end of
the city. During the night they evacuated these; so that on the
morning of the 23d we held undisputed possession of the east end
of Monterey.

Twiggs’s division was at the lower end of the city, and well
covered from the fire of the enemy. But the streets leading to
the plaza–all Spanish or Spanish-American towns have near their
centres a square called a plaza–were commanded from all
directions by artillery. The houses were flat-roofed and but
one or two stories high, and about the plaza the roofs were
manned with infantry, the troops being protected from our fire
by parapets made of sand-bags. All advances into the city were
thus attended with much danger. While moving along streets
which did not lead to the plaza, our men were protected from the
fire, and from the view, of the enemy except at the crossings;
but at these a volley of musketry and a discharge of grape-shot
were invariably encountered. The 3d and 4th regiments of
infantry made an advance nearly to the plaza in this way and
with heavy loss. The loss of the 3d infantry in commissioned
officers was especially severe. There were only five companies
of the regiment and not over twelve officers present, and five
of these officers were killed. When within a square of the
plaza this small command, ten companies in all, was brought to a
halt. Placing themselves under cover from the shots of the
enemy, the men would watch to detect a head above the sand-bags
on the neighboring houses. The exposure of a single head would
bring a volley from our soldiers.

We had not occupied this position long when it was discovered
that our ammunition was growing low. I volunteered to go back
(*2) to the point we had started from, report our position to
General Twiggs, and ask for ammunition to be forwarded. We were
at this time occupying ground off from the street, in rear of the
houses. My ride back was an exposed one. Before starting I
adjusted myself on the side of my horse furthest from the enemy,
and with only one foot holding to the cantle of the saddle, and
an arm over the neck of the horse exposed, I started at full
run. It was only at street crossings that my horse was under
fire, but these I crossed at such a flying rate that generally I
was past and under cover of the next block of houses before the
enemy fired. I got out safely without a scratch.

At one place on my ride, I saw a sentry walking in front of a
house, and stopped to inquire what he was doing there. Finding
that the house was full of wounded American officers and
soldiers, I dismounted and went in. I found there Captain
Williams, of the Engineer Corps, wounded in the head, probably
fatally, and Lieutenant Territt, also badly wounded his bowels
protruding from his wound. There were quite a number of
soldiers also. Promising them to report their situation, I
left, readjusted myself to my horse, recommenced the run, and
was soon with the troops at the east end. Before ammunition
could be collected, the two regiments I had been with were seen
returning, running the same gauntlet in getting out that they
had passed in going in, but with comparatively little loss. The
movement was countermanded and the troops were withdrawn. The
poor wounded officers and men I had found, fell into the hands
of the enemy during the night, and died.

While this was going on at the east, General Worth, with a small
division of troops, was advancing towards the plaza from the
opposite end of the city. He resorted to a better expedient for
getting to the plaza–the citadel–than we did on the east.
Instead of moving by the open streets, he advanced through the
houses, cutting passageways from one to another. Without much
loss of life, he got so near the plaza during the night that
before morning, Ampudia, the Mexican commander, made overtures
for the surrender of the city and garrison. This stopped all
further hostilities. The terms of surrender were soon agreed
upon. The prisoners were paroled and permitted to take their
horses and personal property with them.

My pity was aroused by the sight of the Mexican garrison of
Monterey marching out of town as prisoners, and no doubt the
same feeling was experienced by most of our army who witnessed
it. Many of the prisoners were cavalry, armed with lances, and
mounted on miserable little half-starved horses that did not
look as if they could carry their riders out of town. The men
looked in but little better condition. I thought how little
interest the men before me had in the results of the war, and
how little knowledge they had of “what it was all about.”

After the surrender of the garrison of Monterey a quiet camp
life was led until midwinter. As had been the case on the Rio
Grande, the people who remained at their homes fraternized with
the “Yankees” in the pleasantest manner. In fact, under the
humane policy of our commander, I question whether the great
majority of the Mexican people did not regret our departure as
much as they had regretted our coming. Property and person were
thoroughly protected, and a market was afforded for all the
products of the country such as the people had never enjoyed
before. The educated and wealthy portion of the population
here, as elsewhere, abandoned their homes and remained away from
them as long as they were in the possession of the invaders; but
this class formed a very small percentage of the whole



The Mexican war was a political war, and the administration
conducting it desired to make party capital out of it. General
Scott was at the head of the army, and, being a soldier of
acknowledged professional capacity, his claim to the command of
the forces in the field was almost indisputable and does not
seem to have been denied by President Polk, or Marcy, his
Secretary of War. Scott was a Whig and the administration was
democratic. General Scott was also known to have political
aspirations, and nothing so popularizes a candidate for high
civil positions as military victories. It would not do
therefore to give him command of the “army of conquest.” The
plans submitted by Scott for a campaign in Mexico were
disapproved by the administration, and he replied, in a tone
possibly a little disrespectful, to the effect that, if a
soldier’s plans were not to be supported by the administration,
success could not be expected. This was on the 27th of May,
1846. Four days later General Scott was notified that he need
not go to Mexico. General Gaines was next in rank, but he was
too old and feeble to take the field. Colonel Zachary Taylor–a
brigadier-general by brevet–was therefore left in command. He,
too, was a Whig, but was not supposed to entertain any political
ambitions; nor did he; but after the fall of Monterey, his third
battle and third complete victory, the Whig papers at home began
to speak of him as the candidate of their party for the
Presidency. Something had to be done to neutralize his growing
popularity. He could not be relieved from duty in the field
where all his battles had been victories: the design would have
been too transparent. It was finally decided to send General
Scott to Mexico in chief command, and to authorize him to carry
out his own original plan: that is, capture Vera Cruz and march
upon the capital of the country. It was no doubt supposed that
Scott’s ambition would lead him to slaughter Taylor or destroy
his chances for the Presidency, and yet it was hoped that he
would not make sufficient capital himself to secure the prize.

The administration had indeed a most embarrassing problem to
solve. It was engaged in a war of conquest which must be
carried to a successful issue, or the political object would be
unattained. Yet all the capable officers of the requisite rank
belonged to the opposition, and the man selected for his lack of
political ambition had himself become a prominent candidate for
the Presidency. It was necessary to destroy his chances
promptly. The problem was to do this without the loss of
conquest and without permitting another general of the same
political party to acquire like popularity. The fact is, the
administration of Mr. Polk made every preparation to disgrace
Scott, or, to speak more correctly, to drive him to such
desperation that he would disgrace himself.

General Scott had opposed conquest by the way of the Rio Grande,
Matamoras and Saltillo from the first. Now that he was in
command of all the forces in Mexico, he withdrew from Taylor
most of his regular troops and left him only enough volunteers,
as he thought, to hold the line then in possession of the
invading army. Indeed Scott did not deem it important to hold
anything beyond the Rio Grande, and authorized Taylor to fall
back to that line if he chose. General Taylor protested against
the depletion of his army, and his subsequent movement upon Buena
Vista would indicate that he did not share the views of his chief
in regard to the unimportance of conquest beyond the Rio Grande.

Scott had estimated the men and material that would be required
to capture Vera Cruz and to march on the capital of the country,
two hundred and sixty miles in the interior. He was promised all
he asked and seemed to have not only the confidence of the
President, but his sincere good wishes. The promises were all
broken. Only about half the troops were furnished that had been
pledged, other war material was withheld and Scott had scarcely
started for Mexico before the President undertook to supersede
him by the appointment of Senator Thomas H. Benton as
lieutenant-general. This being refused by Congress, the
President asked legislative authority to place a junior over a
senior of the same grade, with the view of appointing Benton to
the rank of major-general and then placing him in command of the
army, but Congress failed to accede to this proposition as well,
and Scott remained in command: but every general appointed to
serve under him was politically opposed to the chief, and
several were personally hostile.

General Scott reached Brazos Santiago or Point Isabel, at the
mouth of the Rio Grande, late in December, 1846, and proceeded
at once up the river to Camargo, where he had written General
Taylor to meet him. Taylor, however, had gone to, or towards
Tampico, for the purpose of establishing a post there. He had
started on this march before he was aware of General Scott being
in the country. Under these circumstances Scott had to issue his
orders designating the troops to be withdrawn from Taylor,
without the personal consultation he had expected to hold with
his subordinate.

General Taylor’s victory at Buena Vista, February 22d, 23d, and
24th, 1847, with an army composed almost entirely of volunteers
who had not been in battle before, and over a vastly superior
force numerically, made his nomination for the Presidency by the
Whigs a foregone conclusion. He was nominated and elected in
1848. I believe that he sincerely regretted this turn in his
fortunes, preferring the peace afforded by a quiet life free
from abuse to the honor of filling the highest office in the
gift of any people, the Presidency of the United States.

When General Scott assumed command of the army of invasion, I
was in the division of General David Twiggs, in Taylor’s
command; but under the new orders my regiment was transferred to
the division of General William Worth, in which I served to the
close of the war. The troops withdrawn from Taylor to form part
of the forces to operate against Vera Cruz, were assembled at the
mouth of the Rio Grande preparatory to embarkation for their
destination. I found General Worth a different man from any I
had before served directly under. He was nervous, impatient and
restless on the march, or when important or responsible duty
confronted him. There was not the least reason for haste on the
march, for it was known that it would take weeks to assemble
shipping enough at the point of our embarkation to carry the
army, but General Worth moved his division with a rapidity that
would have been commendable had he been going to the relief of a
beleaguered garrison. The length of the marches was regulated by
the distances between places affording a supply of water for the
troops, and these distances were sometimes long and sometimes
short. General Worth on one occasion at least, after having
made the full distance intended for the day, and after the
troops were in camp and preparing their food, ordered tents
struck and made the march that night which had been intended for
the next day. Some commanders can move troops so as to get the
maximum distance out of them without fatigue, while others can
wear them out in a few days without accomplishing so much.
General Worth belonged to this latter class. He enjoyed,
however, a fine reputation for his fighting qualities, and thus
attached his officers and men to him.

The army lay in camp upon the sand-beach in the neighborhood of
the mouth of the Rio Grande for several weeks, awaiting the
arrival of transports to carry it to its new field of
operations. The transports were all sailing vessels. The
passage was a tedious one, and many of the troops were on
shipboard over thirty days from the embarkation at the mouth of
the Rio Grande to the time of debarkation south of Vera Cruz.
The trip was a comfortless one for officers and men. The
transports used were built for carrying freight and possessed
but limited accommodations for passengers, and the climate added
to the discomfort of all.

The transports with troops were assembled in the harbor of Anton
Lizardo, some sixteen miles south of Vera Cruz, as they arrived,
and there awaited the remainder of the fleet, bringing
artillery, ammunition and supplies of all kinds from the
North. With the fleet there was a little steam propeller
dispatch-boat–the first vessel of the kind I had ever seen, and
probably the first of its kind ever seen by any one then with the
army. At that day ocean steamers were rare, and what there were
were sidewheelers. This little vessel, going through the fleet
so fast, so noiselessly and with its propeller under water out
of view, attracted a great deal of attention. I recollect that
Lieutenant Sidney Smith, of the 4th infantry, by whom I happened
to be standing on the deck of a vessel when this propeller was
passing, exclaimed, “Why, the thing looks as if it was propelled
by the force of circumstances.”

Finally on the 7th of March, 1847, the little army of ten or
twelve thousand men, given Scott to invade a country with a
population of seven or eight millions, a mountainous country
affording the greatest possible natural advantages for defence,
was all assembled and ready to commence the perilous task of
landing from vessels lying in the open sea.

The debarkation took place inside of the little island of
Sacrificios, some three miles south of Vera Cruz. The vessels
could not get anywhere near shore, so that everything had to be
landed in lighters or surf-boats; General Scott had provided
these before leaving the North. The breakers were sometimes
high, so that the landing was tedious. The men were got ashore
rapidly, because they could wade when they came to shallow
water; but the camp and garrison equipage, provisions,
ammunition and all stores had to be protected from the salt
water, and therefore their landing took several days. The
Mexicans were very kind to us, however, and threw no obstacles
in the way of our landing except an occasional shot from their
nearest fort. During the debarkation one shot took off the head
of Major Albertis. No other, I believe, reached anywhere near
the same distance. On the 9th of March the troops were landed
and the investment of Vera Cruz, from the Gulf of Mexico south
of the city to the Gulf again on the north, was soon and easily
effected. The landing of stores was continued until everything
was got ashore.

Vera Cruz, at the time of which I write and up to 1880, was a
walled city. The wall extended from the water’s edge south of
the town to the water again on the north. There were
fortifications at intervals along the line and at the angles. In
front of the city, and on an island half a mile out in the Gulf,
stands San Juan de Ulloa, an enclosed fortification of large
dimensions and great strength for that period. Against
artillery of the present day the land forts and walls would
prove elements of weakness rather than strength. After the
invading army had established their camps out of range of the
fire from the city, batteries were established, under cover of
night, far to the front of the line where the troops lay. These
batteries were intrenched and the approaches sufficiently
protected. If a sortie had been made at any time by the
Mexicans, the men serving the batteries could have been quickly
reinforced without great exposure to the fire from the enemy’s
main line. No serious attempt was made to capture the batteries
or to drive our troops away.

The siege continued with brisk firing on our side till the 27th
of March, by which time a considerable breach had been made in
the wall surrounding the city. Upon this General Morales, who
was Governor of both the city and of San Juan de Ulloa,
commenced a correspondence with General Scott looking to the
surrender of the town, forts and garrison. On the 29th Vera
Cruz and San Juan de Ulloa were occupied by Scott’s army. About
five thousand prisoners and four hundred pieces of artillery,
besides large amounts of small arms and ammunition, fell into
the hands of the victorious force. The casualties on our side
during the siege amounted to sixty-four officers and men, killed
and wounded.



General Scott had less than twelve thousand men at Vera Cruz. He
had been promised by the administration a very much larger force,
or claimed that he had, and he was a man of veracity. Twelve
thousand was a very small army with which to penetrate two
hundred and sixty miles into an enemy’s country, and to besiege
the capital; a city, at that time, of largely over one hundred
thousand inhabitants. Then, too, any line of march that could
be selected led through mountain passes easily defended. In
fact, there were at that time but two roads from Vera Cruz to
the City of Mexico that could be taken by an army; one by Jalapa
and Perote, the other by Cordova and Orizaba, the two coming
together on the great plain which extends to the City of Mexico
after the range of mountains is passed.

It was very important to get the army away from Vera Cruz as
soon as possible, in order to avoid the yellow fever, or vomito,
which usually visits that city early in the year, and is very
fatal to persons not acclimated; but transportation, which was
expected from the North, was arriving very slowly. It was
absolutely necessary to have enough to supply the army to
Jalapa, sixty-five miles in the interior and above the fevers of
the coast. At that point the country is fertile, and an army of
the size of General Scott’s could subsist there for an
indefinite period. Not counting the sick, the weak and the
garrisons for the captured city and fort, the moving column was
now less than ten thousand strong. This force was composed of
three divisions, under Generals Twiggs, Patterson, and Worth.
The importance of escaping the vomito was so great that as soon
as transportation enough could be got together to move a
division the advance was commenced. On the 8th of April,
Twiggs’s division started for Jalapa. He was followed very soon
by Patterson, with his division. General Worth was to bring up
the rear with his command as soon as transportation enough was
assembled to carry six days’ rations for his troops with the
necessary ammunition and camp and garrison equipage. It was the
13th of April before this division left Vera Cruz.

The leading division ran against the enemy at Cerro Gordo, some
fifty miles west, on the road to Jalapa, and went into camp at
Plan del Rio, about three miles from the fortifications. General
Patterson reached Plan del Rio with his division soon after
Twiggs arrived. The two were then secure against an attack from
Santa Anna, who commanded the Mexican forces. At all events they
confronted the enemy without reinforcements and without
molestation, until the 18th of April. General Scott had
remained at Vera Cruz to hasten preparations for the field; but
on the 12th, learning the situation at the front, he hastened on
to take personal supervision. He at once commenced his
preparations for the capture of the position held by Santa Anna
and of the troops holding it.

Cerro Gordo is one of the higher spurs of the mountains some
twelve to fifteen miles east of Jalapa, and Santa Anna had
selected this point as the easiest to defend against an invading
army. The road, said to have been built by Cortez, zigzags
around the mountain-side and was defended at every turn by
artillery. On either side were deep chasms or mountain walls. A
direct attack along the road was an impossibility. A flank
movement seemed equally impossible. After the arrival of the
commanding-general upon the scene, reconnoissances were sent out
to find, or to make, a road by which the rear of the enemy’s
works might be reached without a front attack. These
reconnoissances were made under the supervision of Captain
Robert E. Lee, assisted by Lieutenants P. G. T. Beauregard,
Isaac I. Stevens, Z. B. Tower, G. W. Smith, George B. McClellan,
and J. G. Foster, of the corps of engineers, all officers who
attained rank and fame, on one side or the other, in the great
conflict for the preservation of the unity of the nation. The
reconnoissance was completed, and the labor of cutting out and
making roads by the flank of the enemy was effected by the 17th
of the month. This was accomplished without the knowledge of
Santa Anna or his army, and over ground where he supposed it
impossible. On the same day General Scott issued his order for
the attack on the 18th.

The attack was made as ordered, and perhaps there was not a
battle of the Mexican war, or of any other, where orders issued
before an engagement were nearer being a correct report of what
afterwards took place. Under the supervision of the engineers,
roadways had been opened over chasms to the right where the
walls were so steep that men could barely climb them. Animals
could not. These had been opened under cover of night, without
attracting the notice of the enemy. The engineers, who had
directed the opening, led the way and the troops followed.
Artillery was let down the steep slopes by hand, the men engaged
attaching a strong rope to the rear axle and letting the guns
down, a piece at a time, while the men at the ropes kept their
ground on top, paying out gradually, while a few at the front
directed the course of the piece. In like manner the guns were
drawn by hand up the opposite slopes. In this way Scott’s
troops reached their assigned position in rear of most of the
intrenchments of the enemy, unobserved. The attack was made,
the Mexican reserves behind the works beat a hasty retreat, and
those occupying them surrendered. On the left General Pillow’s
command made a formidable demonstration, which doubtless held a
part of the enemy in his front and contributed to the victory. I
am not pretending to give full details of all the battles fought,
but of the portion that I saw. There were troops engaged on both
sides at other points in which both sustained losses; but the
battle was won as here narrated.

The surprise of the enemy was complete, the victory
overwhelming; some three thousand prisoners fell into Scott’s
hands, also a large amount of ordnance and ordnance stores. The
prisoners were paroled, the artillery parked and the small arms
and ammunition destroyed. The battle of Buena Vista was
probably very important to the success of General Scott at Cerro
Gordo and in his entire campaign from Vera Cruz to the great
plains reaching to the City of Mexico. The only army Santa Anna
had to protect his capital and the mountain passes west of Vera
Cruz, was the one he had with him confronting General Taylor. It
is not likely that he would have gone as far north as Monterey to
attack the United States troops when he knew his country was
threatened with invasion further south. When Taylor moved to
Saltillo and then advanced on to Buena Vista, Santa Anna crossed
the desert confronting the invading army, hoping no doubt to
crush it and get back in time to meet General Scott in the
mountain passes west of Vera Cruz. His attack on Taylor was
disastrous to the Mexican army, but, notwithstanding this, he
marched his army to Cerro Gordo, a distance not much short of
one thousand miles by the line he had to travel, in time to
intrench himself well before Scott got there. If he had been
successful at Buena Vista his troops would no doubt have made a
more stubborn resistance at Cerro Gordo. Had the battle of
Buena Vista not been fought Santa Anna would have had time to
move leisurely to meet the invader further south and with an
army not demoralized nor depleted by defeat.

After the battle the victorious army moved on to Jalapa, where
it was in a beautiful, productive and healthy country, far above
the fevers of the coast. Jalapa, however, is still in the
mountains, and between there and the great plain the whole line
of the road is easy of defence. It was important, therefore, to
get possession of the great highway between the sea-coast and the
capital up to the point where it leaves the mountains, before the
enemy could have time to re-organize and fortify in our front.
Worth’s division was selected to go forward to secure this
result. The division marched to Perote on the great plain, not
far from where the road debouches from the mountains. There is
a low, strong fort on the plain in front of the town, known as
the Castle of Perote. This, however, offered no resistance and
fell into our hands, with its armament.

General Scott having now only nine or ten thousand men west of
Vera Cruz, and the time of some four thousand of them being
about to expire, a long delay was the consequence. The troops
were in a healthy climate, and where they could subsist for an
indefinite period even if their line back to Vera Cruz should be
cut off. It being ascertained that the men whose time would
expire before the City of Mexico could possibly fall into the
hands of the American army, would not remain beyond the term for
which they had volunteered, the commanding-general determined to
discharge them at once, for a delay until the expiration of
their time would have compelled them to pass through Vera Cruz
during the season of the vomito. This reduced Scott’s force in
the field to about five thousand men.

Early in May, Worth, with his division, left Perote and marched
on to Puebla. The roads were wide and the country open except
through one pass in a spur of mountains coming up from the
south, through which the road runs. Notwithstanding this the
small column was divided into two bodies, moving a day apart.
Nothing occurred on the march of special note, except that while
lying at the town of Amozoque–an easy day’s march east of
Puebla–a body of the enemy’s cavalry, two or three thousand
strong, was seen to our right, not more than a mile away. A
battery or two, with two or three infantry regiments, was sent
against them and they soon disappeared. On the 15th of May we
entered the city of Puebla.

General Worth was in command at Puebla until the latter end of
May, when General Scott arrived. Here, as well as on the march
up, his restlessness, particularly under responsibilities,
showed itself. During his brief command he had the enemy
hovering around near the city, in vastly superior numbers to his
own. The brigade to which I was attached changed quarters three
different times in about a week, occupying at first quarters
near the plaza, in the heart of the city; then at the western
entrance; then at the extreme east. On one occasion General
Worth had the troops in line, under arms, all day, with three
days’ cooked rations in their haversacks. He galloped from one
command to another proclaiming the near proximity of Santa Anna
with an army vastly superior to his own. General Scott arrived
upon the scene the latter part of the month, and nothing more
was heard of Santa Anna and his myriads. There were, of course,
bodies of mounted Mexicans hovering around to watch our movements
and to pick up stragglers, or small bodies of troops, if they
ventured too far out. These always withdrew on the approach of
any considerable number of our soldiers. After the arrival of
General Scott I was sent, as quartermaster, with a large train
of wagons, back two days’ march at least, to procure forage. We
had less than a thousand men as escort, and never thought of
danger. We procured full loads for our entire train at two
plantations, which could easily have furnished as much more.

There had been great delay in obtaining the authority of
Congress for the raising of the troops asked for by the
administration. A bill was before the National Legislature from
early in the session of 1846-7, authorizing the creation of ten
additional regiments for the war to be attached to the regular
army, but it was the middle of February before it became a
law. Appointments of commissioned officers had then to be made;
men had to be enlisted, the regiments equipped and the whole
transported to Mexico. It was August before General Scott
received reinforcement sufficient to warrant an advance. His
moving column, not even now more than ten thousand strong, was
in four divisions, commanded by Generals Twiggs, Worth, Pillow
and Quitman. There was also a cavalry corps under General
Harney, composed of detachments of the 1st, 2d, and 3d
dragoons. The advance commenced on the 7th of August with
Twiggs’s division in front. The remaining three divisions
followed, with an interval of a day between. The marches were
short, to make concentration easier in case of attack.

I had now been in battle with the two leading commanders
conducting armies in a foreign land. The contrast between the
two was very marked. General Taylor never wore uniform, but
dressed himself entirely for comfort. He moved about the field
in which he was operating to see through his own eyes the
situation. Often he would be without staff officers, and when
he was accompanied by them there was no prescribed order in
which they followed. He was very much given to sit his horse
side-ways–with both feet on one side–particularly on the
battlefield. General Scott was the reverse in all these
particulars. He always wore all the uniform prescribed or
allowed by law when he inspected his lines; word would be sent
to all division and brigade commanders in advance, notifying
them of the hour when the commanding general might be
expected. This was done so that all the army might be under
arms to salute their chief as he passed. On these occasions he
wore his dress uniform, cocked hat, aiguillettes, sabre and
spurs. His staff proper, besides all officers constructively on
his staff–engineers, inspectors, quartermasters, etc., that
could be spared–followed, also in uniform and in prescribed
order. Orders were prepared with great care and evidently with
the view that they should be a history of what followed.

In their modes of expressing thought, these two generals
contrasted quite as strongly as in their other
characteristics. General Scott was precise in language,
cultivated a style peculiarly his own; was proud of his
rhetoric; not averse to speaking of himself, often in the third
person, and he could bestow praise upon the person he was
talking about without the least embarrassment. Taylor was not a
conversationalist, but on paper he could put his meaning so
plainly that there could be no mistaking it. He knew how to
express what he wanted to say in the fewest well-chosen words,
but would not sacrifice meaning to the construction of
high-sounding sentences. But with their opposite
characteristics both were great and successful soldiers; both
were true, patriotic and upright in all their dealings. Both
were pleasant to serve under–Taylor was pleasant to serve
with. Scott saw more through the eyes of his staff officers
than through his own. His plans were deliberately prepared, and
fully expressed in orders. Taylor saw for himself, and gave
orders to meet the emergency without reference to how they would
read in history.



The route followed by the army from Puebla to the City of Mexico
was over Rio Frio mountain, the road leading over which, at the
highest point, is about eleven thousand feet above tide water.
The pass through this mountain might have been easily defended,
but it was not; and the advanced division reached the summit in
three days after leaving Puebla. The City of Mexico lies west
of Rio Frio mountain, on a plain backed by another mountain six
miles farther west, with others still nearer on the north and
south. Between the western base of Rio Frio and the City of
Mexico there are three lakes, Chalco and Xochimilco on the left
and Texcoco on the right, extending to the east end of the City
of Mexico. Chalco and Texcoco are divided by a narrow strip of
land over which the direct road to the city runs. Xochimilco is
also to the left of the road, but at a considerable distance
south of it, and is connected with Lake Chalco by a narrow
channel. There is a high rocky mound, called El Penon, on the
right of the road, springing up from the low flat ground
dividing the lakes. This mound was strengthened by
intrenchments at its base and summit, and rendered a direct
attack impracticable.

Scott’s army was rapidly concentrated about Ayotla and other
points near the eastern end of Lake Chalco. Reconnoissances
were made up to within gun-shot of El Penon, while engineers
were seeking a route by the south side of Lake Chalco to flank
the city, and come upon it from the south and south-west. A way
was found around the lake, and by the 18th of August troops were
in St. Augustin Tlalpam, a town about eleven miles due south
from the plaza of the capital. Between St. Augustin Tlalpam and
the city lie the hacienda of San Antonio and the village of
Churubusco, and south-west of them is Contreras. All these
points, except St. Augustin Tlalpam, were intrenched and
strongly garrisoned. Contreras is situated on the side of a
mountain, near its base, where volcanic rocks are piled in great
confusion, reaching nearly to San Antonio. This made the
approach to the city from the south very difficult.

The brigade to which I was attached–Garland’s, of Worth’s
division–was sent to confront San Antonio, two or three miles
from St. Augustin Tlalpam, on the road to Churubusco and the
City of Mexico. The ground on which San Antonio stands is
completely in the valley, and the surface of the land is only a
little above the level of the lakes, and, except to the
south-west, it was cut up by deep ditches filled with water. To
the south-west is the Pedregal–the volcanic rock before spoken
of–over which cavalry or artillery could not be passed, and
infantry would make but poor progress if confronted by an
enemy. From the position occupied by Garland’s brigade,
therefore, no movement could be made against the defences of San
Antonio except to the front, and by a narrow causeway, over
perfectly level ground, every inch of which was commanded by the
enemy’s artillery and infantry. If Contreras, some three miles
west and south, should fall into our hands, troops from there
could move to the right flank of all the positions held by the
enemy between us and the city. Under these circumstances
General Scott directed the holding of the front of the enemy
without making an attack until further orders.

On the 18th of August, the day of reaching San Augustin Tlalpam,
Garland’s brigade secured a position within easy range of the
advanced intrenchments of San Antonio, but where his troops were
protected by an artificial embankment that had been thrown up for
some other purpose than defense. General Scott at once set his
engineers reconnoitring the works about Contreras, and on the
19th movements were commenced to get troops into positions from
which an assault could be made upon the force occupying that
place. The Pedregal on the north and north-east, and the
mountain on the south, made the passage by either flank of the
enemy’s defences difficult, for their work stood exactly between
those natural bulwarks; but a road was completed during the day
and night of the 19th, and troops were got to the north and west
of the enemy.

This affair, like that of Cerro Gordo, was an engagement in
which the officers of the engineer corps won special
distinction. In fact, in both cases, tasks which seemed
difficult at first sight were made easier for the troops that
had to execute them than they would have been on an ordinary
field. The very strength of each of these positions was, by the
skill of the engineers, converted into a defence for the
assaulting parties while securing their positions for final
attack. All the troops with General Scott in the valley of
Mexico, except a part of the division of General Quitman at San
Augustin Tlalpam and the brigade of Garland (Worth’s division)
at San Antonio, were engaged at the battle of Contreras, or were
on their way, in obedience to the orders of their chief, to
reinforce those who were engaged. The assault was made on the
morning of the 20th, and in less than half an hour from the
sound of the advance the position was in our hands, with many
prisoners and large quantities of ordnance and other stores. The
brigade commanded by General Riley was from its position the most
conspicuous in the final assault, but all did well, volunteers
and regulars.

From the point occupied by Garland’s brigade we could see the
progress made at Contreras and the movement of troops toward the
flank and rear of the enemy opposing us. The Mexicans all the
way back to the city could see the same thing, and their conduct
showed plainly that they did not enjoy the sight. We moved out
at once, and found them gone from our immediate front. Clarke’s
brigade of Worth’s division now moved west over the point of the
Pedregal, and after having passed to the north sufficiently to
clear San Antonio, turned east and got on the causeway leading
to Churubusco and the City of Mexico. When he approached
Churubusco his left, under Colonel Hoffman, attacked a
tete-de-pont at that place and brought on an engagement. About
an hour after, Garland was ordered to advance directly along the
causeway, and got up in time to take part in the engagement. San
Antonio was found evacuated, the evacuation having probably taken
place immediately upon the enemy seeing the stars and stripes
waving over Contreras.

The troops that had been engaged at Contreras, and even then on
their way to that battle-field, were moved by a causeway west
of, and parallel to the one by way of San Antonio and
Churubusco. It was expected by the commanding general that
these troops would move north sufficiently far to flank the
enemy out of his position at Churubusco, before turning east to
reach the San Antonio road, but they did not succeed in this,
and Churubusco proved to be about the severest battle fought in
the valley of Mexico. General Scott coming upon the
battle-field about this juncture, ordered two brigades, under
Shields, to move north and turn the right of the enemy. This
Shields did, but not without hard fighting and heavy loss. The
enemy finally gave way, leaving in our hands prisoners,
artillery and small arms. The balance of the causeway held by
the enemy, up to the very gates of the city, fell in like
manner. I recollect at this place that some of the gunners who
had stood their ground, were deserters from General Taylor’s
army on the Rio Grande.

Both the strategy and tactics displayed by General Scott in
these various engagements of the 20th of August, 1847, were
faultless as I look upon them now, after the lapse of so many
years. As before stated, the work of the engineer officers who
made the reconnoissances and led the different commands to their
destinations, was so perfect that the chief was able to give his
orders to his various subordinates with all the precision he
could use on an ordinary march. I mean, up to the points from
which the attack was to commence. After that point is reached
the enemy often induces a change of orders not before
contemplated. The enemy outside the city outnumbered our
soldiery quite three to one, but they had become so demoralized
by the succession of defeats this day, that the City of Mexico
could have been entered without much further bloodshed. In
fact, Captain Philip Kearney–afterwards a general in the war of
the rebellion–rode with a squadron of cavalry to the very gates
of the city, and would no doubt have entered with his little
force, only at that point he was badly wounded, as were several
of his officers. He had not heard the call for a halt.

General Franklin Pierce had joined the army in Mexico, at
Puebla, a short time before the advance upon the capital
commenced. He had consequently not been in any of the
engagements of the war up to the battle of Contreras. By an
unfortunate fall of his horse on the afternoon of the 19th he
was painfully injured. The next day, when his brigade, with the
other troops engaged on the same field, was ordered against the
flank and rear of the enemy guarding the different points of the
road from San Augustin Tlalpam to the city, General Pierce
attempted to accompany them. He was not sufficiently recovered
to do so, and fainted. This circumstance gave rise to
exceedingly unfair and unjust criticisms of him when he became a
candidate for the Presidency. Whatever General Pierce’s
qualifications may have been for the Presidency, he was a
gentleman and a man of courage. I was not a supporter of him
politically, but I knew him more intimately than I did any other
of the volunteer generals.

General Scott abstained from entering the city at this time,
because Mr. Nicholas P. Trist, the commissioner on the part of
the United States to negotiate a treaty of peace with Mexico,
was with the army, and either he or General Scott
thought–probably both of them–that a treaty would be more
possible while the Mexican government was in possession of the
capital than if it was scattered and the capital in the hands of
an invader. Be this as it may, we did not enter at that time.
The army took up positions along the slopes of the mountains
south of the city, as far west as Tacubaya. Negotiations were
at once entered into with Santa Anna, who was then practically
THE GOVERNMENT and the immediate commander of all the troops
engaged in defence of the country. A truce was signed which
denied to either party the right to strengthen its position, or
to receive reinforcements during the continuance of the
armistices, but authorized General Scott to draw supplies for
his army from the city in the meantime.

Negotiations were commenced at once and were kept up vigorously
between Mr. Trist and the commissioners appointed on the part of
Mexico, until the 2d of September. At that time Mr. Trist handed
in his ultimatum. Texas was to be given up absolutely by Mexico,
and New Mexico and California ceded to the United States for a
stipulated sum to be afterwards determined. I do not suppose
Mr. Trist had any discretion whatever in regard to boundaries.
The war was one of conquest, in the interest of an institution,
and the probabilities are that private instructions were for the
acquisition of territory out of which new States might be
carved. At all events the Mexicans felt so outraged at the
terms proposed that they commenced preparations for defence,
without giving notice of the termination of the armistice. The
terms of the truce had been violated before, when teams had been
sent into the city to bring out supplies for the army. The first
train entering the city was very severely threatened by a mob.
This, however, was apologized for by the authorities and all
responsibility for it denied; and thereafter, to avoid exciting
the Mexican people and soldiery, our teams with their escorts
were sent in at night, when the troops were in barracks and the
citizens in bed. The circumstance was overlooked and
negotiations continued. As soon as the news reached General
Scott of the second violation of the armistice, about the 4th of
September, he wrote a vigorous note to President Santa Anna,
calling his attention to it, and, receiving an unsatisfactory
reply, declared the armistice at an end.

General Scott, with Worth’s division, was now occupying
Tacubaya, a village some four miles south-west of the City of
Mexico, and extending from the base up the mountain-side for the
distance of half a mile. More than a mile west, and also a
little above the plain, stands Molino del Rey. The mill is a
long stone structure, one story high and several hundred feet in
length. At the period of which I speak General Scott supposed a
portion of the mill to be used as a foundry for the casting of
guns. This, however, proved to be a mistake. It was valuable
to the Mexicans because of the quantity of grain it contained.
The building is flat roofed, and a line of sand-bags over the
outer walls rendered the top quite a formidable defence for
infantry. Chapultepec is a mound springing up from the plain to
the height of probably three hundred feet, and almost in a direct
line between Molino del Rey and the western part of the city. It
was fortified both on the top and on the rocky and precipitous

The City of Mexico is supplied with water by two aqueducts,
resting on strong stone arches. One of these aqueducts draws
its supply of water from a mountain stream coming into it at or
near Molino del Rey, and runs north close to the west base of
Chapultepec; thence along the centre of a wide road, until it
reaches the road running east into the city by the Garita San
Cosme; from which point the aqueduct and road both run east to
the city. The second aqueduct starts from the east base of
Chapultepec, where it is fed by a spring, and runs north-east to
the city. This aqueduct, like the other, runs in the middle of a
broad road-way, thus leaving a space on each side. The arches
supporting the aqueduct afforded protection for advancing troops
as well as to those engaged defensively. At points on the San
Cosme road parapets were thrown across, with an embrasure for a
single piece of artillery in each. At the point where both road
and aqueduct turn at right angles from north to east, there was
not only one of these parapets supplied by one gun and infantry
supports, but the houses to the north of the San Cosme road,
facing south and commanding a view of the road back to
Chapultepec, were covered with infantry, protected by parapets
made of sandbags. The roads leading to garitas (the gates) San
Cosme and Belen, by which these aqueducts enter the city, were
strongly intrenched. Deep, wide ditches, filled with water,
lined the sides of both roads. Such were the defences of the
City of Mexico in September, 1847, on the routes over which
General Scott entered.

Prior to the Mexican war General Scott had been very partial to
General Worth–indeed he continued so up to the close of
hostilities–but, for some reason, Worth had become estranged
from his chief. Scott evidently took this coldness somewhat to
heart. He did not retaliate, however, but on the contrary
showed every disposition to appease his subordinate. It was
understood at the time that he gave Worth authority to plan and
execute the battle of Molino del Rey without dictation or
interference from any one, for the very purpose of restoring
their former relations. The effort failed, and the two generals
remained ever after cold and indifferent towards each other, if
not actually hostile.

The battle of Molino del Rey was fought on the 8th of
September. The night of the 7th, Worth sent for his brigade and
regimental commanders, with their staffs, to come to his quarters
to receive instructions for the morrow. These orders
contemplated a movement up to within striking distance of the
Mills before daylight. The engineers had reconnoitred the
ground as well as possible, and had acquired all the information
necessary to base proper orders both for approach and attack.

By daylight on the morning of the 8th, the troops to be engaged
at Molino were all at the places designated. The ground in
front of the Mills, to the south, was commanded by the artillery
from the summit of Chapultepec as well as by the lighter
batteries at hand; but a charge was made, and soon all was
over. Worth’s troops entered the Mills by every door, and the
enemy beat a hasty retreat back to Chapultepec. Had this
victory been followed up promptly, no doubt Americans and
Mexicans would have gone over the defences of Chapultepec so
near together that the place would have fallen into our hands
without further loss. The defenders of the works could not have
fired upon us without endangering their own men. This was not
done, and five days later more valuable lives were sacrificed to
carry works which had been so nearly in our possession on the
8th. I do not criticise the failure to capture Chapultepec at
this time. The result that followed the first assault could not
possibly have been foreseen, and to profit by the unexpected
advantage, the commanding general must have been on the spot and
given the necessary instructions at the moment, or the troops
must have kept on without orders. It is always, however, in
order to follow a retreating foe, unless stopped or otherwise
directed. The loss on our side at Molino del Rey was severe for
the numbers engaged. It was especially so among commissioned

I was with the earliest of the troops to enter the Mills. In
passing through to the north side, looking towards Chapultepec,
I happened to notice that there were armed Mexicans still on top
of the building, only a few feet from many of our men. Not
seeing any stairway or ladder reaching to the top of the
building, I took a few soldiers, and had a cart that happened to
be standing near brought up, and, placing the shafts against the
wall and chocking the wheels so that the cart could not back,
used the shafts as a sort of ladder extending to within three or
four feet of the top. By this I climbed to the roof of the
building, followed by a few men, but found a private soldier had
preceded me by some other way. There were still quite a number
of Mexicans on the roof, among them a major and five or six
officers of lower grades, who had not succeeded in getting away
before our troops occupied the building. They still had their
arms, while the soldier before mentioned was walking as sentry,
guarding the prisoners he had SURROUNDED, all by himself. I
halted the sentinel, received the swords from the commissioned
officers, and proceeded, with the assistance of the soldiers now
with me, to disable the muskets by striking them against the edge
of the wall, and throw them to the ground below.

Molino del Rey was now captured, and the troops engaged, with
the exception of an appropriate guard over the captured position
and property, were marched back to their quarters in Tacubaya.
The engagement did not last many minutes, but the killed and
wounded were numerous for the number of troops engaged.

During the night of the 11th batteries were established which
could play upon the fortifications of Chapultepec. The
bombardment commenced early on the morning of the 12th, but
there was no further engagement during this day than that of the
artillery. General Scott assigned the capture of Chapultepec to
General Pillow, but did not leave the details to his judgment.
Two assaulting columns, two hundred and fifty men each, composed
of volunteers for the occasion, were formed. They were commanded
by Captains McKinzie and Casey respectively. The assault was
successful, but bloody.

In later years, if not at the time, the battles of Molino del
Rey and Chapultepec have seemed to me to have been wholly
unnecessary. When the assaults upon the garitas of San Cosme
and Belen were determined upon, the road running east to the
former gate could have been reached easily, without an
engagement, by moving along south of the Mills until west of
them sufficiently far to be out of range, thence north to the
road above mentioned; or, if desirable to keep the two attacking
columns nearer together, the troops could have been turned east
so as to come on the aqueduct road out of range of the guns from
Chapultepec. In like manner, the troops designated to act
against Belen could have kept east of Chapultepec, out of range,
and come on to the aqueduct, also out of range of Chapultepec.
Molino del Rey and Chapultepec would both have been necessarily
evacuated if this course had been pursued, for they would have
been turned.

General Quitman, a volunteer from the State of Mississippi, who
stood well with the army both as a soldier and as a man,
commanded the column acting against Belen. General Worth
commanded the column against San Cosme. When Chapultepec fell
the advance commenced along the two aqueduct roads. I was on
the road to San Cosme, and witnessed most that took place on
that route. When opposition was encountered our troops
sheltered themselves by keeping under the arches supporting the
aqueduct, advancing an arch at a time. We encountered no
serious obstruction until within gun-shot of the point where the
road we were on intersects that running east to the city, the
point where the aqueduct turns at a right angle. I have
described the defences of this position before. There were but
three commissioned officers besides myself, that I can now call
to mind, with the advance when the above position was reached.
One of these officers was a Lieutenant Semmes, of the Marine
Corps. I think Captain Gore, and Lieutenant Judah, of the 4th
infantry, were the others. Our progress was stopped for the
time by the single piece of artillery at the angle of the roads
and the infantry occupying the house-tops back from it.

West of the road from where we were, stood a house occupying the
south-west angle made by the San Cosme road and the road we were
moving upon. A stone wall ran from the house along each of
these roads for a considerable distance and thence back until it
joined, enclosing quite a yard about the house. I watched my
opportunity and skipped across the road and behind the south
wall. Proceeding cautiously to the west corner of the
enclosure, I peeped around and seeing nobody, continued, still
cautiously, until the road running east and west was reached. I
then returned to the troops, and called for volunteers. All that
were close to me, or that heard me, about a dozen, offered their
services. Commanding them to carry their arms at a trail, I
watched our opportunity and got them across the road and under
cover of the wall beyond, before the enemy had a shot at us. Our
men under cover of the arches kept a close watch on the
intrenchments that crossed our path and the house-tops beyond,
and whenever a head showed itself above the parapets they would
fire at it. Our crossing was thus made practicable without loss.

When we reached a safe position I instructed my little command
again to carry their arms at a trail, not to fire at the enemy
until they were ordered, and to move very cautiously following
me until the San Cosme road was reached; we would then be on the
flank of the men serving the gun on the road, and with no
obstruction between us and them. When we reached the south-west
corner of the enclosure before described, I saw some United
States troops pushing north through a shallow ditch near by, who
had come up since my reconnaissance. This was the company of
Captain Horace Brooks, of the artillery, acting as infantry. I
explained to Brooks briefly what I had discovered and what I was
about to do. He said, as I knew the ground and he did not, I
might go on and he would follow. As soon as we got on the road
leading to the city the troops serving the gun on the parapet
retreated, and those on the house-tops near by followed; our men
went after them in such close pursuit–the troops we had left
under the arches joining–that a second line across the road,
about half-way between the first and the garita, was carried. No
reinforcements had yet come up except Brooks’s company, and the
position we had taken was too advanced to be held by so small a
force. It was given up, but retaken later in the day, with some

Worth’s command gradually advanced to the front now open to
it. Later in the day in reconnoitring I found a church off to
the south of the road, which looked to me as if the belfry would
command the ground back of the garita San Cosme. I got an
officer of the voltigeurs, with a mountain howitzer and men to
work it, to go with me. The road being in possession of the
enemy, we had to take the field to the south to reach the
church. This took us over several ditches breast deep in water
and grown up with water plants. These ditches, however, were
not over eight or ten feet in width. The howitzer was taken to
pieces and carried by the men to its destination. When I
knocked for admission a priest came to the door who, while
extremely polite, declined to admit us. With the little Spanish
then at my command, I explained to him that he might save
property by opening the door, and he certainly would save
himself from becoming a prisoner, for a time at least; and
besides, I intended to go in whether he consented or not. He
began to see his duty in the same light that I did, and opened
the door, though he did not look as if it gave him special
pleasure to do so. The gun was carried to the belfry and put
together. We were not more than two or three hundred yards from
San Cosme. The shots from our little gun dropped in upon the
enemy and created great confusion. Why they did not send out a
small party and capture us, I do not know. We had no infantry
or other defences besides our one gun.

The effect of this gun upon the troops about the gate of the
city was so marked that General Worth saw it from his position.
(*3) He was so pleased that he sent a staff officer, Lieutenant
Pemberton–later Lieutenant-General commanding the defences of
Vicksburg–to bring me to him. He expressed his gratification
at the services the howitzer in the church steeple was doing,
saying that every shot was effective, and ordered a captain of
voltigeurs to report to me with another howitzer to be placed
along with the one already rendering so much service. I could
not tell the General that there was not room enough in the
steeple for another gun, because he probably would have looked
upon such a statement as a contradiction from a second
lieutenant. I took the captain with me, but did not use his gun.

The night of the 13th of September was spent by the troops under
General Worth in the houses near San Cosme, and in line
confronting the general line of the enemy across to Belen. The
troops that I was with were in the houses north of the road
leading into the city, and were engaged during the night in
cutting passage-ways from one house to another towards the
town. During the night Santa Anna, with his army–except the
deserters–left the city. He liberated all the convicts
confined in the town, hoping, no doubt, that they would inflict
upon us some injury before daylight; but several hours after
Santa Anna was out of the way, the city authorities sent a
delegation to General Scott to ask–if not demand–an armistice,
respecting church property, the rights of citizens and the
supremacy of the city government in the management of municipal
affairs. General Scott declined to trammel himself with
conditions, but gave assurances that those who chose to remain
within our lines would be protected so long as they behaved
themselves properly.

General Quitman had advanced along his line very successfully on
the 13th, so that at night his command occupied nearly the same
position at Belen that Worth’s troops did about San Cosme. After
the interview above related between General Scott and the city
council, orders were issued for the cautious entry of both
columns in the morning. The troops under Worth were to stop at
the Alameda, a park near the west end of the city. Quitman was
to go directly to the Plaza, and take possession of the
Palace–a mass of buildings on the east side in which Congress
has its sessions, the national courts are held, the public
offices are all located, the President resides, and much room is
left for museums, receptions, etc. This is the building
generally designated as the “Halls of the Montezumas.”



On entering the city the troops were fired upon by the released
convicts, and possibly by deserters and hostile citizens. The
streets were deserted, and the place presented the appearance of
a “city of the dead,” except for this firing by unseen persons
from house-tops, windows, and around corners. In this firing
the lieutenant-colonel of my regiment, Garland, was badly
wounded, Lieutenant Sidney Smith, of the 4th infantry, was also
wounded mortally. He died a few days after, and by his death I
was promoted to the grade of first lieutenant.(*4) I had gone
into the battle of Palo Alto in May, 1846, a second lieutenant,
and I entered the city of Mexico sixteen months later with the
same rank, after having been in all the engagements possible for
any one man and in a regiment that lost more officers during the
war than it ever had present at any one engagement. My regiment
lost four commissioned officers, all senior to me, by steamboat
explosions during the Mexican war. The Mexicans were not so
discriminating. They sometimes picked off my juniors.

General Scott soon followed the troops into the city, in
state. I wonder that he was not fired upon, but I believe he
was not; at all events he was not hurt. He took quarters at
first in the “Halls of the Montezumas,” and from there issued
his wise and discreet orders for the government of a conquered
city, and for suppressing the hostile acts of liberated convicts
already spoken of–orders which challenge the respect of all who
study them. Lawlessness was soon suppressed, and the City of
Mexico settled down into a quiet, law-abiding place. The people
began to make their appearance upon the streets without fear of
the invaders. Shortly afterwards the bulk of the troops were
sent from the city to the villages at the foot of the mountains,
four or five miles to the south and south-west.

Whether General Scott approved of the Mexican war and the manner
in which it was brought about, I have no means of knowing. His
orders to troops indicate only a soldierly spirit, with probably
a little regard for the perpetuation of his own fame. On the
other hand, General Taylor’s, I think, indicate that he
considered the administration accountable for the war, and felt
no responsibility resting on himself further than for the
faithful performance of his duties. Both generals deserve the
commendations of their countrymen and to live in the grateful
memory of this people to the latest generation.

Earlier in this narrative I have stated that the plain, reached
after passing the mountains east of Perote, extends to the
cities of Puebla and Mexico. The route travelled by the army
before reaching Puebla, goes over a pass in a spur of mountain
coming up from the south. This pass is very susceptible of
defence by a smaller against a larger force. Again, the highest
point of the road-bed between Vera Cruz and the City of Mexico is
over Rio Frio mountain, which also might have been successfully
defended by an inferior against a superior force. But by moving
north of the mountains, and about thirty miles north of Puebla,
both of these passes would have been avoided. The road from
Perote to the City of Mexico, by this latter route, is as level
as the prairies in our West. Arriving due north from Puebla,
troops could have been detached to take possession of that
place, and then proceeding west with the rest of the army no
mountain would have been encountered before reaching the City of
Mexico. It is true this road would have brought troops in by
Guadalupe–a town, church and detached spur of mountain about
two miles north of the capital, all bearing the same general
name–and at this point Lake Texcoco comes near to the mountain,
which was fortified both at the base and on the sides: but
troops could have passed north of the mountain and come in only
a few miles to the north-west, and so flanked the position, as
they actually did on the south.

It has always seemed to me that this northern route to the City
of Mexico, would have been the better one to have taken. But my
later experience has taught me two lessons: first, that things
are seen plainer after the events have occurred; second, that
the most confident critics are generally those who know the
least about the matter criticised. I know just enough about the
Mexican war to approve heartily of most of the generalship, but
to differ with a little of it. It is natural that an important
city like Puebla should not have been passed with contempt; it
may be natural that the direct road to it should have been
taken; but it could have been passed, its evacuation insured and
possession acquired without danger of encountering the enemy in
intricate mountain defiles. In this same way the City of Mexico
could have been approached without any danger of opposition,
except in the open field.

But General Scott’s successes are an answer to all criticism. He
invaded a populous country, penetrating two hundred and sixty
miles into the interior, with a force at no time equal to
one-half of that opposed to him; he was without a base; the
enemy was always intrenched, always on the defensive; yet he won
every battle, he captured the capital, and conquered the
government. Credit is due to the troops engaged, it is true,
but the plans and the strategy were the general’s.

I had now made marches and been in battle under both General
Scott and General Taylor. The former divided his force of
10,500 men into four columns, starting a day apart, in moving
from Puebla to the capital of the nation, when it was known that
an army more than twice as large as his own stood ready to resist
his coming. The road was broad and the country open except in
crossing the Rio Frio mountain. General Taylor pursued the same
course in marching toward an enemy. He moved even in smaller
bodies. I never thought at the time to doubt the infallibility
of these two generals in all matters pertaining to their
profession. I supposed they moved in small bodies because more
men could not be passed over a single road on the same day with
their artillery and necessary trains. Later I found the fallacy
of this belief. The rebellion, which followed as a sequence to
the Mexican war, never could have been suppressed if larger
bodies of men could not have been moved at the same time than
was the custom under Scott and Taylor.

The victories in Mexico were, in every instance, over vastly
superior numbers. There were two reasons for this. Both
General Scott and General Taylor had such armies as are not
often got together. At the battles of Palo Alto and
Resaca-de-la-Palma, General Taylor had a small army, but it was
composed exclusively of regular troops, under the best of drill
and discipline. Every officer, from the highest to the lowest,
was educated in his profession, not at West Point necessarily,
but in the camp, in garrison, and many of them in Indian wars.
The rank and file were probably inferior, as material out of
which to make an army, to the volunteers that participated in
all the later battles of the war; but they were brave men, and
then drill and discipline brought out all there was in them. A
better army, man for man, probably never faced an enemy than the
one commanded by General Taylor in the earliest two engagements
of the Mexican war. The volunteers who followed were of better
material, but without drill or discipline at the start. They
were associated with so many disciplined men and professionally
educated officers, that when they went into engagements it was
with a confidence they would not have felt otherwise. They
became soldiers themselves almost at once. All these conditions
we would enjoy again in case of war.

The Mexican army of that day was hardly an organization. The
private soldier was picked up from the lower class of the
inhabitants when wanted; his consent was not asked; he was
poorly clothed, worse fed, and seldom paid. He was turned
adrift when no longer wanted. The officers of the lower grades
were but little superior to the men. With all this I have seen
as brave stands made by some of these men as I have ever seen
made by soldiers. Now Mexico has a standing army larger than
that of the United States. They have a military school modelled
after West Point. Their officers are educated and, no doubt,
generally brave. The Mexican war of 1846-8 would be an
impossibility in this generation.

The Mexicans have shown a patriotism which it would be well if
we would imitate in part, but with more regard to truth. They
celebrate the anniversaries of Chapultepec and Molino del Rey as
of very great victories. The anniversaries are recognized as
national holidays. At these two battles, while the United
States troops were victorious, it was at very great sacrifice of
life compared with what the Mexicans suffered. The Mexicans, as
on many other occasions, stood up as well as any troops ever
did. The trouble seemed to be the lack of experience among the
officers, which led them after a certain time to simply quit,
without being particularly whipped, but because they had fought
enough. Their authorities of the present day grow enthusiastic
over their theme when telling of these victories, and speak with
pride of the large sum of money they forced us to pay in the
end. With us, now twenty years after the close of the most
stupendous war ever known, we have writers–who profess devotion
to the nation–engaged in trying to prove that the Union forces
were not victorious; practically, they say, we were slashed
around from Donelson to Vicksburg and to Chattanooga; and in the
East from Gettysburg to Appomattox, when the physical rebellion
gave out from sheer exhaustion. There is no difference in the
amount of romance in the two stories.

I would not have the anniversaries of our victories celebrated,
nor those of our defeats made fast days and spent in humiliation
and prayer; but I would like to see truthful history written.
Such history will do full credit to the courage, endurance and
soldierly ability of the American citizen, no matter what
section of the country he hailed from, or in what ranks he
fought. The justice of the cause which in the end prevailed,
will, I doubt not, come to be acknowledged by every citizen of
the land, in time. For the present, and so long as there are
living witnesses of the great war of sections, there will be
people who will not be consoled for the loss of a cause which
they believed to be holy. As time passes, people, even of the
South, will begin to wonder how it was possible that their
ancestors ever fought for or justified institutions which
acknowledged the right of property in man.

After the fall of the capital and the dispersal of the
government of Mexico, it looked very much as if military
occupation of the country for a long time might be necessary.
General Scott at once began the preparation of orders,
regulations and laws in view of this contingency. He
contemplated making the country pay all the expenses of the
occupation, without the army becoming a perceptible burden upon
the people. His plan was to levy a direct tax upon the separate
states, and collect, at the ports left open to trade, a duty on
all imports. From the beginning of the war private property had
not been taken, either for the use of the army or of individuals,
without full compensation. This policy was to be pursued. There
were not troops enough in the valley of Mexico to occupy many
points, but now that there was no organized army of the enemy of
any size, reinforcements could be got from the Rio Grande, and
there were also new volunteers arriving from time to time, all
by way of Vera Cruz. Military possession was taken of
Cuernavaca, fifty miles south of the City of Mexico; of Toluca,
nearly as far west, and of Pachuca, a mining town of great
importance, some sixty miles to the north-east. Vera Cruz,
Jalapa, Orizaba, and Puebla were already in our possession.

Meanwhile the Mexican government had departed in the person of
Santa Anna, and it looked doubtful for a time whether the United
States commissioner, Mr. Trist, would find anybody to negotiate
with. A temporary government, however, was soon established at
Queretaro, and Trist began negotiations for a conclusion of the
war. Before terms were finally agreed upon he was ordered back
to Washington, but General Scott prevailed upon him to remain,
as an arrangement had been so nearly reached, and the
administration must approve his acts if he succeeded in making
such a treaty as had been contemplated in his instructions. The
treaty was finally signed the 2d of February, 1848, and accepted
by the government at Washington. It is that known as the
“Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo,” and secured to the United States
the Rio Grande as the boundary of Texas, and the whole territory
then included in New Mexico and Upper California, for the sum of

Soon after entering the city of Mexico, the opposition of
Generals Pillow, Worth and Colonel Duncan to General Scott
became very marked. Scott claimed that they had demanded of the
President his removal. I do not know whether this is so or not,
but I do know of their unconcealed hostility to their chief. At
last he placed them in arrest, and preferred charges against them
of insubordination and disrespect. This act brought on a crisis
in the career of the general commanding. He had asserted from
the beginning that the administration was hostile to him; that
it had failed in its promises of men and war material; that the
President himself had shown duplicity if not treachery in the
endeavor to procure the appointment of Benton: and the
administration now gave open evidence of its enmity. About the
middle of February orders came convening a court of inquiry,
composed of Brevet Brigadier-General Towson, the
paymaster-general of the army, Brigadier-General Cushing and
Colonel Belknap, to inquire into the conduct of the accused and
the accuser, and shortly afterwards orders were received from
Washington, relieving Scott of the command of the army in the
field and assigning Major-General William O. Butler of Kentucky
to the place. This order also released Pillow, Worth and Duncan
from arrest.

If a change was to be made the selection of General Butler was
agreeable to every one concerned, so far as I remember to have
heard expressions on the subject. There were many who regarded
the treatment of General Scott as harsh and unjust. It is quite
possible that the vanity of the General had led him to say and do
things that afforded a plausible pretext to the administration
for doing just what it did and what it had wanted to do from the
start. The court tried the accuser quite as much as the
accused. It was adjourned before completing its labors, to meet
in Frederick, Maryland. General Scott left the country, and
never after had more than the nominal command of the army until
early in 1861. He certainly was not sustained in his efforts to
maintain discipline in high places.

The efforts to kill off politically the two successful generals,
made them both candidates for the Presidency. General Taylor was
nominated in 1848, and was elected. Four years later General
Scott received the nomination but was badly beaten, and the
party nominating him died with his defeat.(*5)



The treaty of peace between the two countries was signed by the
commissioners of each side early in February, 1848. It took a
considerable time for it to reach Washington, receive the
approval of the administration, and be finally ratified by the
Senate. It was naturally supposed by the army that there would
be no more fighting, and officers and men were of course anxious
to get home, but knowing there must be delay they contented
themselves as best they could. Every Sunday there was a bull
fight for the amusement of those who would pay their fifty
cents. I attended one of them–just one–not wishing to leave
the country without having witnessed the national sport. The
sight to me was sickening. I could not see how human beings
could enjoy the sufferings of beasts, and often of men, as they
seemed to do on these occasions.

At these sports there are usually from four to six bulls
sacrificed. The audience occupies seats around the ring in
which the exhibition is given, each seat but the foremost rising
higher than the one in front, so that every one can get a full
view of the sport. When all is ready a bull is turned into the
ring. Three or four men come in, mounted on the merest
skeletons of horses blind or blind-folded and so weak that they
could not make a sudden turn with their riders without danger of
falling down. The men are armed with spears having a point as
sharp as a needle. Other men enter the arena on foot, armed
with red flags and explosives about the size of a musket
cartridge. To each of these explosives is fastened a barbed
needle which serves the purpose of attaching them to the bull by
running the needle into the skin. Before the animal is turned
loose a lot of these explosives are attached to him. The pain
from the pricking of the skin by the needles is exasperating;
but when the explosions of the cartridges commence the animal
becomes frantic. As he makes a lunge towards one horseman,
another runs a spear into him. He turns towards his last
tormentor when a man on foot holds out a red flag; the bull
rushes for this and is allowed to take it on his horns. The
flag drops and covers the eyes of the animal so that he is at a
loss what to do; it is jerked from him and the torment is
renewed. When the animal is worked into an uncontrollable
frenzy, the horsemen withdraw, and the matadores–literally
murderers–enter, armed with knives having blades twelve or
eighteen inches long, and sharp. The trick is to dodge an
attack from the animal and stab him to the heart as he passes.
If these efforts fail the bull is finally lassoed, held fast and
killed by driving a knife blade into the spinal column just back
of the horns. He is then dragged out by horses or mules,
another is let into the ring, and the same performance is

On the occasion when I was present one of the bulls was not
turned aside by the attacks in the rear, the presentations of
the red flag, etc., etc., but kept right on, and placing his
horns under the flanks of a horse threw him and his rider to the
ground with great force. The horse was killed and the rider lay
prostrate as if dead. The bull was then lassoed and killed in
the manner above described. Men came in and carried the dead
man off in a litter. When the slaughtered bull and horse were
dragged out, a fresh bull was turned into the ring. Conspicuous
among the spectators was the man who had been carried out on a
litter but a few minutes before. He was only dead so far as
that performance went; but the corpse was so lively that it
could not forego the chance of witnessing the discomfiture of
some of his brethren who might not be so fortunate. There was a
feeling of disgust manifested by the audience to find that he had
come to life again. I confess that I felt sorry to see the
cruelty to the bull and the horse. I did not stay for the
conclusion of the performance; but while I did stay, there was
not a bull killed in the prescribed way.

Bull fights are now prohibited in the Federal District–
embracing a territory around the City of Mexico, somewhat larger
than the District of Columbia–and they are not an institution in
any part of the country. During one of my recent visits to
Mexico, bull fights were got up in my honor at Puebla and at
Pachuca. I was not notified in advance so as to be able to
decline and thus prevent the performance; but in both cases I
civilly declined to attend.

Another amusement of the people of Mexico of that day, and one
which nearly all indulged in, male and female, old and young,
priest and layman, was Monte playing. Regular feast weeks were
held every year at what was then known as St. Augustin Tlalpam,
eleven miles out of town. There were dealers to suit every
class and condition of people. In many of the booths
tlackos–the copper coin of the country, four of them making six
and a quarter cents of our money–were piled up in great
quantities, with some silver, to accommodate the people who
could not bet more than a few pennies at a time. In other
booths silver formed the bulk of the capital of the bank, with a
few doubloons to be changed if there should be a run of luck
against the bank. In some there was no coin except gold. Here
the rich were said to bet away their entire estates in a single
day. All this is stopped now.

For myself, I was kept somewhat busy during the winter of
1847-8. My regiment was stationed in Tacubaya. I was
regimental quartermaster and commissary. General Scott had been
unable to get clothing for the troops from the North. The men
were becoming–well, they needed clothing. Material had to be
purchased, such as could be obtained, and people employed to
make it up into “Yankee uniforms.” A quartermaster in the city
was designated to attend to this special duty; but clothing was
so much needed that it was seized as fast as made up. A
regiment was glad to get a dozen suits at a time. I had to look
after this matter for the 4th infantry. Then our regimental fund
had run down and some of the musicians in the band had been
without their extra pay for a number of months.

The regimental bands at that day were kept up partly by pay from
the government, and partly by pay from the regimental fund. There
was authority of law for enlisting a certain number of men as
musicians. So many could receive the pay of non-commissioned
officers of the various grades, and the remainder the pay of
privates. This would not secure a band leader, nor good players
on certain instruments. In garrison there are various ways of
keeping up a regimental fund sufficient to give extra pay to
musicians, establish libraries and ten-pin alleys, subscribe to
magazines and furnish many extra comforts to the men. The best
device for supplying the fund is to issue bread to the soldiers
instead of flour. The ration used to be eighteen ounces per day
of either flour or bread; and one hundred pounds of flour will
make one hundred and forty pounds of bread. This saving was
purchased by the commissary for the benefit of the fund. In the
emergency the 4th infantry was laboring under, I rented a bakery
in the city, hired bakers–Mexicans–bought fuel and whatever
was necessary, and I also got a contract from the chief
commissary of the army for baking a large amount of hard
bread. In two months I made more money for the fund than my pay
amounted to during the entire war. While stationed at Monterey I
had relieved the post fund in the same way. There, however, was
no profit except in the saving of flour by converting it into

In the spring of 1848 a party of officers obtained leave to
visit Popocatapetl, the highest volcano in America, and to take
an escort. I went with the party, many of whom afterwards
occupied conspicuous positions before the country. Of those who
“went south,” and attained high rank, there was Lieutenant
Richard Anderson, who commanded a corps at Spottsylvania;
Captain Sibley, a major-general, and, after the war, for a
number of years in the employ of the Khedive of Egypt; Captain
George Crittenden, a rebel general; S. B. Buckner, who
surrendered Fort Donelson; and Mansfield Lovell, who commanded
at New Orleans before that city fell into the hands of the
National troops. Of those who remained on our side there were
Captain Andrew Porter, Lieutenant C. P. Stone and Lieutenant Z.
B. Tower. There were quite a number of other officers, whose
names I cannot recollect.

At a little village (Ozumba) near the base of Popocatapetl,
where we purposed to commence the ascent, we procured guides and
two pack mules with forage for our horses. High up on the
mountain there was a deserted house of one room, called the
Vaqueria, which had been occupied years before by men in charge
of cattle ranging on the mountain. The pasturage up there was
very fine when we saw it, and there were still some cattle,
descendants of the former domestic herd, which had now become
wild. It was possible to go on horseback as far as the
Vaqueria, though the road was somewhat hazardous in places.
Sometimes it was very narrow with a yawning precipice on one
side, hundreds of feet down to a roaring mountain torrent below,
and almost perpendicular walls on the other side. At one of
these places one of our mules loaded with two sacks of barley,
one on each side, the two about as big as he was, struck his
load against the mountain-side and was precipitated to the
bottom. The descent was steep but not perpendicular. The mule
rolled over and over until the bottom was reached, and we
supposed of course the poor animal was dashed to pieces. What
was our surprise, not long after we had gone into bivouac, to
see the lost mule, cargo and owner coming up the ascent. The
load had protected the animal from serious injury; and his owner
had gone after him and found a way back to the path leading up to
the hut where we were to stay.

The night at the Vaqueria was one of the most unpleasant I ever
knew. It was very cold and the rain fell in torrents. A little
higher up the rain ceased and snow began. The wind blew with
great velocity. The log-cabin we were in had lost the roof
entirely on one side, and on the other it was hardly better then
a sieve. There was little or no sleep that night. As soon as it
was light the next morning, we started to make the ascent to the
summit. The wind continued to blow with violence and the
weather was still cloudy, but there was neither rain nor snow.
The clouds, however, concealed from our view the country below
us, except at times a momentary glimpse could be got through a
clear space between them. The wind carried the loose snow
around the mountain-sides in such volumes as to make it almost
impossible to stand up against it. We labored on and on, until
it became evident that the top could not be reached before
night, if at all in such a storm, and we concluded to return.
The descent was easy and rapid, though dangerous, until we got
below the snow line. At the cabin we mounted our horses, and by
night were at Ozumba.

The fatigues of the day and the loss of sleep the night before
drove us to bed early. Our beds consisted of a place on the
dirt-floor with a blanket under us. Soon all were asleep; but
long before morning first one and then another of our party
began to cry out with excruciating pain in the eyes. Not one
escaped it. By morning the eyes of half the party were so
swollen that they were entirely closed. The others suffered
pain equally. The feeling was about what might be expected from
the prick of a sharp needle at a white heat. We remained in
quarters until the afternoon bathing our eyes in cold water.
This relieved us very much, and before night the pain had
entirely left. The swelling, however, continued, and about half
the party still had their eyes entirely closed; but we concluded
to make a start back, those who could see a little leading the
horses of those who could not see at all. We moved back to the
village of Ameca Ameca, some six miles, and stopped again for
the night. The next morning all were entirely well and free
from pain. The weather was clear and Popocatapetl stood out in
all its beauty, the top looking as if not a mile away, and
inviting us to return. About half the party were anxious to try
the ascent again, and concluded to do so. The remainder–I was
with the remainder–concluded that we had got all the pleasure
there was to be had out of mountain climbing, and that we would
visit the great caves of Mexico, some ninety miles from where we
then were, on the road to Acapulco.

The party that ascended the mountain the second time succeeded
in reaching the crater at the top, with but little of the labor
they encountered in their first attempt. Three of them–
Anderson, Stone and Buckner–wrote accounts of their journey,
which were published at the time. I made no notes of this
excursion, and have read nothing about it since, but it seems to
me that I can see the whole of it as vividly as if it were but
yesterday. I have been back at Ameca Ameca, and the village
beyond, twice in the last five years. The scene had not changed
materially from my recollection of it.

The party which I was with moved south down the valley to the
town of Cuantla, some forty miles from Ameca Ameca. The latter
stands on the plain at the foot of Popocatapetl, at an elevation
of about eight thousand feet above tide water. The slope down is
gradual as the traveller moves south, but one would not judge
that, in going to Cuantla, descent enough had been made to
occasion a material change in the climate and productions of the
soil; but such is the case. In the morning we left a temperate
climate where the cereals and fruits are those common to the
United States, we halted in the evening in a tropical climate
where the orange and banana, the coffee and the sugar-cane were
flourishing. We had been travelling, apparently, on a plain all
day, but in the direction of the flow of water.

Soon after the capture of the City of Mexico an armistice had
been agreed to, designating the limits beyond which troops of
the respective armies were not to go during its continuance. Our
party knew nothing about these limits. As we approached Cuantla
bugles sounded the assembly, and soldiers rushed from the
guard-house in the edge of the town towards us. Our party
halted, and I tied a white pocket handkerchief to a stick and,
using it as a flag of truce, proceeded on to the town. Captains
Sibley and Porter followed a few hundred yards behind. I was
detained at the guard-house until a messenger could be
dispatched to the quarters of the commanding general, who
authorized that I should be conducted to him. I had been with
the general but a few minutes when the two officers following
announced themselves. The Mexican general reminded us that it
was a violation of the truce for us to be there. However, as we
had no special authority from our own commanding general, and as
we knew nothing about the terms of the truce, we were permitted
to occupy a vacant house outside the guard for the night, with
the promise of a guide to put us on the road to Cuernavaca the
next morning.

Cuernavaca is a town west of Guantla. The country through which
we passed, between these two towns, is tropical in climate and
productions and rich in scenery. At one point, about half-way
between the two places, the road goes over a low pass in the
mountains in which there is a very quaint old town, the
inhabitants of which at that day were nearly all full-blooded
Indians. Very few of them even spoke Spanish. The houses were
built of stone and generally only one story high. The streets
were narrow, and had probably been paved before Cortez visited
the country. They had not been graded, but the paving had been
done on the natural surface. We had with us one vehicle, a
cart, which was probably the first wheeled vehicle that had ever
passed through that town.

On a hill overlooking this town stands the tomb of an ancient
king; and it was understood that the inhabitants venerated this
tomb very highly, as well as the memory of the ruler who was
supposed to be buried in it. We ascended the mountain and
surveyed the tomb; but it showed no particular marks of
architectural taste, mechanical skill or advanced
civilization. The next day we went into Cuernavaca.

After a day’s rest at Cuernavaca our party set out again on the
journey to the great caves of Mexico. We had proceeded but a
few miles when we were stopped, as before, by a guard and
notified that the terms of the existing armistice did not permit
us to go further in that direction. Upon convincing the guard
that we were a mere party of pleasure seekers desirous of
visiting the great natural curiosities of the country which we
expected soon to leave, we were conducted to a large hacienda
near by, and directed to remain there until the commanding
general of that department could be communicated with and his
decision obtained as to whether we should be permitted to pursue
our journey. The guard promised to send a messenger at once, and
expected a reply by night. At night there was no response from
the commanding general, but the captain of the guard was sure he
would have a reply by morning. Again in the morning there was no
reply. The second evening the same thing happened, and finally
we learned that the guard had sent no message or messenger to
the department commander. We determined therefore to go on
unless stopped by a force sufficient to compel obedience.

After a few hours’ travel we came to a town where a scene
similar to the one at Cuantia occurred. The commanding officer
sent a guide to conduct our party around the village and to put
us upon our road again. This was the last interruption: that
night we rested at a large coffee plantation, some eight miles
from the cave we were on the way to visit. It must have been a
Saturday night; the peons had been paid off, and spent part of
the night in gambling away their scanty week’s earnings. Their
coin was principally copper, and I do not believe there was a
man among them who had received as much as twenty-five cents in
money. They were as much excited, however, as if they had been
staking thousands. I recollect one poor fellow, who had lost
his last tlacko, pulled off his shirt and, in the most excited
manner, put that up on the turn of a card. Monte was the game
played, the place out of doors, near the window of the room
occupied by the officers of our party.

The next morning we were at the mouth of the cave at an early
hour, provided with guides, candles and rockets. We explored to
a distance of about three miles from the entrance, and found a
succession of chambers of great dimensions and of great beauty
when lit up with our rockets. Stalactites and stalagmites of
all sizes were discovered. Some of the former were many feet in
diameter and extended from ceiling to floor; some of the latter
were but a few feet high from the floor; but the formation is
going on constantly, and many centuries hence these stalagmites
will extend to the ceiling and become complete columns. The
stalagmites were all a little concave, and the cavities were
filled with water. The water percolates through the roof, a
drop at a time–often the drops several minutes apart–and more
or less charged with mineral matter. Evaporation goes on
slowly, leaving the mineral behind. This in time makes the
immense columns, many of them thousands of tons in weight, which
serve to support the roofs over the vast chambers. I recollect
that at one point in the cave one of these columns is of such
huge proportions that there is only a narrow passage left on
either side of it. Some of our party became satisfied with
their explorations before we had reached the point to which the
guides were accustomed to take explorers, and started back
without guides. Coming to the large column spoken of, they
followed it entirely around, and commenced retracing their steps
into the bowels of the mountain, without being aware of the
fact. When the rest of us had completed our explorations, we
started out with our guides, but had not gone far before we saw
the torches of an approaching party. We could not conceive who
these could be, for all of us had come in together, and there
were none but ourselves at the entrance when we started in. Very
soon we found it was our friends. It took them some time to
conceive how they had got where they were. They were sure they
had kept straight on for the mouth of the cave, and had gone
about far enough to have reached it.



My experience in the Mexican war was of great advantage to me
afterwards. Besides the many practical lessons it taught, the
war brought nearly all the officers of the regular army together
so as to make them personally acquainted. It also brought them
in contact with volunteers, many of whom served in the war of
the rebellion afterwards. Then, in my particular case, I had
been at West Point at about the right time to meet most of the
graduates who were of a suitable age at the breaking out of the
rebellion to be trusted with large commands. Graduating in
1843, I was at the military academy from one to four years with
all cadets who graduated between 1840 and 1846–seven classes.
These classes embraced more than fifty officers who afterwards
became generals on one side or the other in the rebellion, many
of them holding high commands. All the older officers, who
became conspicuous in the rebellion, I had also served with and
known in Mexico: Lee, J. E. Johnston, A. S. Johnston, Holmes,
Hebert and a number of others on the Confederate side; McCall,
Mansfield, Phil. Kearney and others on the National side. The
acquaintance thus formed was of immense service to me in the war
of the rebellion–I mean what I learned of the characters of
those to whom I was afterwards opposed. I do not pretend to say
that all movements, or even many of them, were made with special
reference to the characteristics of the commander against whom
they were directed. But my appreciation of my enemies was
certainly affected by this knowledge. The natural disposition
of most people is to clothe a commander of a large army whom
they do not know, with almost superhuman abilities. A large
part of the National army, for instance, and most of the press
of the country, clothed General Lee with just such qualities,
but I had known him personally, and knew that he was mortal; and
it was just as well that I felt this.

The treaty of peace was at last ratified, and the evacuation of
Mexico by United States troops was ordered. Early in June the
troops in the City of Mexico began to move out. Many of them,
including the brigade to which I belonged, were assembled at
Jalapa, above the vomito, to await the arrival of transports at
Vera Cruz: but with all this precaution my regiment and others
were in camp on the sand beach in a July sun, for about a week
before embarking, while the fever raged with great virulence in
Vera Cruz, not two miles away. I can call to mind only one
person, an officer, who died of the disease. My regiment was
sent to Pascagoula, Mississippi, to spend the summer. As soon
as it was settled in camp I obtained a leave of absence for four
months and proceeded to St. Louis. On the 22d of August, 1848, I
was married to Miss Julia Dent, the lady of whom I have before
spoken. We visited my parents and relations in Ohio, and, at
the end of my leave, proceeded to my post at Sackett’s Harbor,
New York. In April following I was ordered to Detroit,
Michigan, where two years were spent with but few important

The present constitution of the State of Michigan was ratified
during this time. By the terms of one of its provisions, all
citizens of the United States residing within the State at the
time of the ratification became citizens of Michigan also.
During my stay in Detroit there was an election for city
officers. Mr. Zachariah Chandler was the candidate of the Whigs
for the office of Mayor, and was elected, although the city was
then reckoned democratic. All the officers stationed there at
the time who offered their votes were permitted to cast them. I
did not offer mine, however, as I did not wish to consider myself
a citizen of Michigan. This was Mr. Chandler’s first entry into
politics, a career he followed ever after with great success,
and in which he died enjoying the friendship, esteem and love of
his countrymen.

In the spring of 1851 the garrison at Detroit was transferred to
Sackett’s Harbor, and in the following spring the entire 4th
infantry was ordered to the Pacific Coast. It was decided that
Mrs. Grant should visit my parents at first for a few months,
and then remain with her own family at their St. Louis home
until an opportunity offered of sending for her. In the month
of April the regiment was assembled at Governor’s Island, New
York Harbor, and on the 5th of July eight companies sailed for
Aspinwall. We numbered a little over seven hundred persons,
including the families of officers and soldiers. Passage was
secured for us on the old steamer Ohio, commanded at the time by
Captain Schenck, of the navy. It had not been determined, until
a day or two before starting, that the 4th infantry should go by
the Ohio; consequently, a complement of passengers had already
been secured. The addition of over seven hundred to this list
crowded the steamer most uncomfortably, especially for the
tropics in July.

In eight days Aspinwall was reached. At that time the streets
of the town were eight or ten inches under water, and foot
passengers passed from place to place on raised foot-walks. July
is at the height of the wet season, on the Isthmus. At intervals
the rain would pour down in streams, followed in not many minutes
by a blazing, tropical summer’s sun. These alternate changes,
from rain to sunshine, were continuous in the afternoons. I
wondered how any person could live many months in Aspinwall, and
wondered still more why any one tried.

In the summer of 1852 the Panama railroad was completed only to
the point where it now crosses the Chagres River. From there
passengers were carried by boats to Gorgona, at which place they
took mules for Panama, some twenty-five miles further. Those who
travelled over the Isthmus in those days will remember that boats
on the Chagres River were propelled by natives not inconveniently
burdened with clothing. These boats carried thirty to forty
passengers each. The crews consisted of six men to a boat,
armed with long poles. There were planks wide enough for a man
to walk on conveniently, running along the sides of each boat
from end to end. The men would start from the bow, place one
end of their poles against the river bottom, brace their
shoulders against the other end, and then walk to the stern as
rapidly as they could. In this way from a mile to a mile and a
half an hour could be made, against the current of the river.

I, as regimental quartermaster, had charge of the public
property and had also to look after the transportation. A
contract had been entered into with the steamship company in New
York for the transportation of the regiment to California,
including the Isthmus transit. A certain amount of baggage was
allowed per man, and saddle animals were to be furnished to
commissioned officers and to all disabled persons. The
regiment, with the exception of one company left as guards to
the public property–camp and garrison equipage principally–and
the soldiers with families, took boats, propelled as above
described, for Gorgona. From this place they marched to Panama,
and were soon comfortably on the steamer anchored in the bay,
some three or four miles from the town. I, with one company of
troops and all the soldiers with families, all the tents, mess
chests and camp kettles, was sent to Cruces, a town a few miles
higher up the Chagres River than Gorgona. There I found an
impecunious American who had taken the contract to furnish
transportation for the regiment at a stipulated price per
hundred pounds for the freight and so much for each saddle
animal. But when we reached Cruces there was not a mule, either
for pack or saddle, in the place. The contractor promised that
the animals should be on hand in the morning. In the morning he
said that they were on the way from some imaginary place, and
would arrive in the course of the day. This went on until I saw
that he could not procure the animals at all at the price he had
promised to furnish them for. The unusual number of passengers
that had come over on the steamer, and the large amount of
freight to pack, had created an unprecedented demand for
mules. Some of the passengers paid as high as forty dollars for
the use of a mule to ride twenty-five miles, when the mule would
not have sold for ten dollars in that market at other times.
Meanwhile the cholera had broken out, and men were dying every
hour. To diminish the food for the disease, I permitted the
company detailed with me to proceed to Panama. The captain and
the doctors accompanied the men, and I was left alone with the
sick and the soldiers who had families. The regiment at Panama
was also affected with the disease; but there were better
accommodations for the well on the steamer, and a hospital, for
those taken with the disease, on an old hulk anchored a mile
off. There were also hospital tents on shore on the island of
Flamingo, which stands in the bay.

I was about a week at Cruces before transportation began to come
in. About one-third of the people with me died, either at Cruces
or on the way to Panama. There was no agent of the
transportation company at Cruces to consult, or to take the
responsibility of procuring transportation at a price which
would secure it. I therefore myself dismissed the contractor
and made a new contract with a native, at more than double the
original price. Thus we finally reached Panama. The steamer,
however, could not proceed until the cholera abated, and the
regiment was detained still longer. Altogether, on the Isthmus
and on the Pacific side, we were delayed six weeks. About
one-seventh of those who left New York harbor with the 4th
infantry on the 5th of July, now lie buried on the Isthmus of
Panama or on Flamingo island in Panama Bay.

One amusing circumstance occurred while we were Iying at anchor
in Panama Bay. In the regiment there was a Lieutenant Slaughter
who was very liable to sea-sickness. It almost made him sick to
see the wave of a table-cloth when the servants were spreading
it. Soon after his graduation, Slaughter was ordered to
California and took passage by a sailing vessel going around
Cape Horn. The vessel was seven months making the voyage, and
Slaughter was sick every moment of the time, never more so than
while Iying at anchor after reaching his place of destination.
On landing in California he found orders which had come by the
Isthmus, notifying him of a mistake in his assignment; he should
have been ordered to the northern lakes. He started back by the
Isthmus route and was sick all the way. But when he arrived at
the East he was again ordered to California, this time
definitely, and at this date was making his third trip. He was
as sick as ever, and had been so for more than a month while
lying at anchor in the bay. I remember him well, seated with
his elbows on the table in front of him, his chin between his
hands, and looking the picture of despair. At last he broke
out, “I wish I had taken my father’s advice; he wanted me to go
into the navy; if I had done so, I should not have had to go to
sea so much.” Poor Slaughter! it was his last sea voyage. He
was killed by Indians in Oregon.

By the last of August the cholera had so abated that it was
deemed safe to start. The disease did not break out again on
the way to California, and we reached San Francisco early in



San Francisco at that day was a lively place. Gold, or placer
digging as it was called, was at its height. Steamers plied
daily between San Francisco and both Stockton and Sacramento.
Passengers and gold from the southern mines came by the Stockton
boat; from the northern mines by Sacramento. In the evening when
these boats arrived, Long Wharf–there was but one wharf in San
Francisco in 1852–was alive with people crowding to meet the
miners as they came down to sell their “dust” and to “have a
time.” Of these some were runners for hotels, boarding houses
or restaurants; others belonged to a class of impecunious
adventurers, of good manners and good presence, who were ever on
the alert to make the acquaintance of people with some ready
means, in the hope of being asked to take a meal at a
restaurant. Many were young men of good family, good education
and gentlemanly instincts. Their parents had been able to
support them during their minority, and to give them good
educations, but not to maintain them afterwards. From 1849 to
1853 there was a rush of people to the Pacific coast, of the
class described. All thought that fortunes were to be picked
up, without effort, in the gold fields on the Pacific. Some
realized more than their most sanguine expectations; but for one
such there were hundreds disappointed, many of whom now fill
unknown graves; others died wrecks of their former selves, and
many, without a vicious instinct, became criminals and
outcasts. Many of the real scenes in early California life
exceed in strangeness and interest any of the mere products of
the brain of the novelist.

Those early days in California brought out character. It was a
long way off then, and the journey was expensive. The fortunate
could go by Cape Horn or by the Isthmus of Panama; but the mass
of pioneers crossed the plains with their ox-teams. This took
an entire summer. They were very lucky when they got through
with a yoke of worn-out cattle. All other means were exhausted
in procuring the outfit on the Missouri River. The immigrant,
on arriving, found himself a stranger, in a strange land, far
from friends. Time pressed, for the little means that could be
realized from the sale of what was left of the outfit would not
support a man long at California prices. Many became
discouraged. Others would take off their coats and look for a
job, no matter what it might be. These succeeded as a rule.
There were many young men who had studied professions before
they went to California, and who had never done a day’s manual
labor in their lives, who took in the situation at once and went
to work to make a start at anything they could get to do. Some
supplied carpenters and masons with material–carrying plank,
brick, or mortar, as the case might be; others drove stages,
drays, or baggage wagons, until they could do better. More
became discouraged early and spent their time looking up people
who would “treat,” or lounging about restaurants and gambling
houses where free lunches were furnished daily. They were
welcomed at these places because they often brought in miners
who proved good customers.

My regiment spent a few weeks at Benicia barracks, and then was
ordered to Fort Vancouver, on the Columbia River, then in Oregon
Territory. During the winter of 1852-3 the territory was
divided, all north of the Columbia River being taken from Oregon
to make Washington Territory.

Prices for all kinds of supplies were so high on the Pacific
coast from 1849 until at least 1853–that it would have been
impossible for officers of the army to exist upon their pay, if
it had not been that authority was given them to purchase from
the commissary such supplies as he kept, at New Orleans
wholesale prices. A cook could not be hired for the pay of a
captain. The cook could do better. At Benicia, in 1852, flour
was 25 cents per pound; potatoes were 16 cents; beets, turnips
and cabbage, 6 cents; onions, 37 – 1/2 cents; meat and other
articles in proportion. In 1853 at Vancouver vegetables were a
little lower. I with three other officers concluded that we
would raise a crop for ourselves, and by selling the surplus
realize something handsome. I bought a pair of horses that had
crossed the plains that summer and were very poor. They
recuperated rapidly, however, and proved a good team to break up
the ground with. I performed all the labor of breaking up the
ground while the other officers planted the potatoes. Our crop
was enormous. Luckily for us the Columbia River rose to a great
height from the melting of the snow in the mountains in June, and
overflowed and killed most of our crop. This saved digging it
up, for everybody on the Pacific coast seemed to have come to
the conclusion at the same time that agriculture would be
profitable. In 1853 more than three-quarters of the potatoes
raised were permitted to rot in the ground, or had to be thrown
away. The only potatoes we sold were to our own mess.

While I was stationed on the Pacific coast we were free from
Indian wars. There were quite a number of remnants of tribes in
the vicinity of Portland in Oregon, and of Fort Vancouver in
Washington Territory. They had generally acquired some of the
vices of civilization, but none of the virtues, except in
individual cases. The Hudson’s Bay Company had held the
North-west with their trading posts for many years before the
United States was represented on the Pacific coast. They still
retained posts along the Columbia River and one at Fort
Vancouver, when I was there. Their treatment of the Indians had
brought out the better qualities of the savages. Farming had
been undertaken by the company to supply the Indians with bread
and vegetables; they raised some cattle and horses; and they had
now taught the Indians to do the labor of the farm and herd. They
always compensated them for their labor, and always gave them
goods of uniform quality and at uniform price.

Before the advent of the American, the medium of exchange
between the Indian and the white man was pelts. Afterward it
was silver coin. If an Indian received in the sale of a horse a
fifty dollar gold piece, not an infrequent occurrence, the first
thing he did was to exchange it for American half dollars. These
he could count. He would then commence his purchases, paying for
each article separately, as he got it. He would not trust any
one to add up the bill and pay it all at once. At that day
fifty dollar gold pieces, not the issue of the government, were
common on the Pacific coast. They were called slugs.

The Indians, along the lower Columbia as far as the Cascades and
on the lower Willamette, died off very fast during the year I
spent in that section; for besides acquiring the vices of the
white people they had acquired also their diseases. The measles
and the small-pox were both amazingly fatal. In their wild
state, before the appearance of the white man among them, the
principal complaints they were subject to were those produced by
long involuntary fasting, violent exercise in pursuit of game,
and over-eating. Instinct more than reason had taught them a
remedy for these ills. It was the steam bath. Something like a
bake-oven was built, large enough to admit a man lying down.
Bushes were stuck in the ground in two rows, about six feet long
and some two or three feet apart; other bushes connected the rows
at one end. The tops of the bushes were drawn together to
interlace, and confined in that position; the whole was then
plastered over with wet clay until every opening was filled.
Just inside the open end of the oven the floor was scooped out
so as to make a hole that would hold a bucket or two of water.
These ovens were always built on the banks of a stream, a big
spring, or pool of water. When a patient required a bath, a
fire was built near the oven and a pile of stones put upon it.
The cavity at the front was then filled with water. When the
stones were sufficiently heated, the patient would draw himself
into the oven; a blanket would be thrown over the open end, and
hot stones put into the water until the patient could stand it
no longer. He was then withdrawn from his steam bath and doused
into the cold stream near by. This treatment may have answered
with the early ailments of the Indians. With the measles or
small-pox it would kill every time.

During my year on the Columbia River, the small-pox exterminated
one small remnant of a band of Indians entirely, and reduced
others materially. I do not think there was a case of recovery
among them, until the doctor with the Hudson Bay Company took
the matter in hand and established a hospital. Nearly every
case he treated recovered. I never, myself, saw the treatment
described in the preceding paragraph, but have heard it
described by persons who have witnessed it. The decimation
among the Indians I knew of personally, and the hospital,
established for their benefit, was a Hudson’s Bay building not a
stone’s throw from my own quarters.

The death of Colonel Bliss, of the Adjutant General’s
department, which occurred July 5th, 1853, promoted me to the
captaincy of a company then stationed at Humboldt Bay,
California. The notice reached me in September of the same
year, and I very soon started to join my new command. There was
no way of reaching Humboldt at that time except to take passage
on a San Francisco sailing vessel going after lumber. Red wood,
a species of cedar, which on the Pacific coast takes the place
filled by white pine in the East, then abounded on the banks of
Humboldt Bay. There were extensive saw-mills engaged in
preparing this lumber for the San Francisco market, and sailing
vessels, used in getting it to market, furnished the only means
of communication between Humboldt and the balance of the world.

I was obliged to remain in San Francisco for several days before
I found a vessel. This gave me a good opportunity of comparing
the San Francisco of 1852 with that of 1853. As before stated,
there had been but one wharf in front of the city in 1852–Long
Wharf. In 1853 the town had grown out into the bay beyond what
was the end of this wharf when I first saw it. Streets and
houses had been built out on piles where the year before the
largest vessels visiting the port lay at anchor or tied to the
wharf. There was no filling under the streets or houses. San
Francisco presented the same general appearance as the year
before; that is, eating, drinking and gambling houses were
conspicuous for their number and publicity. They were on the
first floor, with doors wide open. At all hours of the day and
night in walking the streets, the eye was regaled, on every
block near the water front, by the sight of players at faro.
Often broken places were found in the street, large enough to
let a man down into the water below. I have but little doubt
that many of the people who went to the Pacific coast in the
early days of the gold excitement, and have never been heard
from since, or who were heard from for a time and then ceased to
write, found watery graves beneath the houses or streets built
over San Francisco Bay.

Besides the gambling in cards there was gambling on a larger
scale in city lots. These were sold “On Change,” much as stocks
are now sold on Wall Street. Cash, at time of purchase, was
always paid by the broker; but the purchaser had only to put up
his margin. He was charged at the rate of two or three per
cent. a month on the difference, besides commissions. The sand
hills, some of them almost inaccessible to foot-passengers, were
surveyed off and mapped into fifty vara lots–a vara being a
Spanish yard. These were sold at first at very low prices, but
were sold and resold for higher prices until they went up to
many thousands of dollars. The brokers did a fine business, and
so did many such purchasers as were sharp enough to quit
purchasing before the final crash came. As the city grew, the
sand hills back of the town furnished material for filling up
the bay under the houses and streets, and still further out. The
temporary houses, first built over the water in the harbor, soon
gave way to more solid structures. The main business part of
the city now is on solid ground, made where vessels of the
largest class lay at anchor in the early days. I was in San
Francisco again in 1854. Gambling houses had disappeared from
public view. The city had become staid and orderly.



My family, all this while, was at the East. It consisted now of
a wife and two children. I saw no chance of supporting them on
the Pacific coast out of my pay as an army officer. I
concluded, therefore, to resign, and in March applied for a
leave of absence until the end of the July following, tendering
my resignation to take effect at the end of that time. I left
the Pacific coast very much attached to it, and with the full
expectation of making it my future home. That expectation and
that hope remained uppermost in my mind until the Lieutenant-
Generalcy bill was introduced into Congress in the winter of
1863-4. The passage of that bill, and my promotion, blasted my
last hope of ever becoming a citizen of the further West.

In the late summer of 1854 I rejoined my family, to find in it a
son whom I had never seen, born while I was on the Isthmus of
Panama. I was now to commence, at the age of thirty-two, a new
struggle for our support. My wife had a farm near St. Louis, to
which we went, but I had no means to stock it. A house had to be
built also. I worked very hard, never losing a day because of
bad weather, and accomplished the object in a moderate way. If
nothing else could be done I would load a cord of wood on a
wagon and take it to the city for sale. I managed to keep along
very well until 1858, when I was attacked by fever and ague. I
had suffered very severely and for a long time from this
disease, while a boy in Ohio. It lasted now over a year, and,
while it did not keep me in the house, it did interfere greatly
with the amount of work I was able to perform. In the fall of
1858 I sold out my stock, crops and farming utensils at auction,
and gave up farming.

In the winter I established a partnership with Harry Boggs, a
cousin of Mrs. Grant, in the real estate agency business. I
spent that winter at St. Louis myself, but did not take my
family into town until the spring. Our business might have
become prosperous if I had been able to wait for it to grow. As
it was, there was no more than one person could attend to, and
not enough to support two families. While a citizen of St.
Louis and engaged in the real estate agency business, I was a
candidate for the office of county engineer, an office of
respectability and emolument which would have been very
acceptable to me at that time. The incumbent was appointed by
the county court, which consisted of five members. My opponent
had the advantage of birth over me (he was a citizen by
adoption) and carried off the prize. I now withdrew from the
co-partnership with Boggs, and, in May, 1860, removed to Galena,
Illinois, and took a clerkship in my father’s store.

While a citizen of Missouri, my first opportunity for casting a
vote at a Presidential election occurred. I had been in the
army from before attaining my majority and had thought but
little about politics, although I was a Whig by education and a
great admirer of Mr. Clay. But the Whig party had ceased to
exist before I had an opportunity of exercising the privilege of
casting a ballot; the Know-Nothing party had taken its place, but
was on the wane; and the Republican party was in a chaotic state
and had not yet received a name. It had no existence in the
Slave States except at points on the borders next to Free
States. In St. Louis City and County, what afterwards became
the Republican party was known as the Free-Soil Democracy, led
by the Honorable Frank P. Blair. Most of my neighbors had known
me as an officer of the army with Whig proclivities. They had
been on the same side, and, on the death of their party, many
had become Know-Nothings, or members of the American party.
There was a lodge near my new home, and I was invited to join
it. I accepted the invitation; was initiated; attended a
meeting just one week later, and never went to another

I have no apologies to make for having been one week a member of
the American party; for I still think native-born citizens of the
United States should have as much protection, as many privileges
in their native country, as those who voluntarily select it for
a home. But all secret, oath-bound political parties are
dangerous to any nation, no matter how pure or how patriotic the
motives and principles which first bring them together. No
political party can or ought to exist when one of its
corner-stones is opposition to freedom of thought and to the
right to worship God “according to the dictate of one’s own
conscience,” or according to the creed of any religious
denomination whatever. Nevertheless, if a sect sets up its laws
as binding above the State laws, wherever the two come in
conflict this claim must be resisted and suppressed at whatever

Up to the Mexican war there were a few out and out
abolitionists, men who carried their hostility to slavery into
all elections, from those for a justice of the peace up to the
Presidency of the United States. They were noisy but not
numerous. But the great majority of people at the North, where
slavery did not exist, were opposed to the institution, and
looked upon its existence in any part of the country as
unfortunate. They did not hold the States where slavery existed
responsible for it; and believed that protection should be given
to the right of property in slaves until some satisfactory way
could be reached to be rid of the institution. Opposition to
slavery was not a creed of either political party. In some
sections more anti-slavery men belonged to the Democratic party,
and in others to the Whigs. But with the inauguration of the
Mexican war, in fact with the annexation of Texas, “the
inevitable conflict” commenced.

As the time for the Presidential election of 1856–the first at
which I had the opportunity of voting–approached, party feeling
began to run high. The Republican party was regarded in the
South and the border States not only as opposed to the extension
of slavery, but as favoring the compulsory abolition of the
institution without compensation to the owners. The most
horrible visions seemed to present themselves to the minds of
people who, one would suppose, ought to have known better. Many
educated and, otherwise, sensible persons appeared to believe
that emancipation meant social equality. Treason to the
Government was openly advocated and was not rebuked. It was
evident to my mind that the election of a Republican President
in 1856 meant the secession of all the Slave States, and
rebellion. Under these circumstances I preferred the success of
a candidate whose election would prevent or postpone secession,
to seeing the country plunged into a war the end of which no man
could foretell. With a Democrat elected by the unanimous vote of
the Slave States, there could be no pretext for secession for
four years. I very much hoped that the passions of the people
would subside in that time, and the catastrophe be averted
altogether; if it was not, I believed the country would be
better prepared to receive the shock and to resist it. I
therefore voted for James Buchanan for President. Four years
later the Republican party was successful in electing its
candidate to the Presidency. The civilized world has learned
the consequence. Four millions of human beings held as chattels
have been liberated; the ballot has been given to them; the free
schools of the country have been opened to their children. The
nation still lives, and the people are just as free to avoid
social intimacy with the blacks as ever they were, or as they
are with white people.

While living in Galena I was nominally only a clerk supporting
myself and family on a stipulated salary. In reality my
position was different. My father had never lived in Galena
himself, but had established my two brothers there, the one next
younger than myself in charge of the business, assisted by the
youngest. When I went there it was my father’s intention to
give up all connection with the business himself, and to
establish his three sons in it: but the brother who had really
built up the business was sinking with consumption, and it was
not thought best to make any change while he was in this
condition. He lived until September, 1861, when he succumbed to
that insidious disease which always flatters its victims into the
belief that they are growing better up to the close of life. A
more honorable man never transacted business. In September,
1861, I was engaged in an employment which required all my
attention elsewhere.

During the eleven months that I lived in Galena prior to the
first call for volunteers, I had been strictly attentive to my
business, and had made but few acquaintances other than
customers and people engaged in the same line with myself. When
the election took place in November, 1860, I had not been a
resident of Illinois long enough to gain citizenship and could
not, therefore, vote. I was really glad of this at the time,
for my pledges would have compelled me to vote for Stephen A.
Douglas, who had no possible chance of election. The contest
was really between Mr. Breckinridge and Mr. Lincoln; between
minority rule and rule by the majority. I wanted, as between
these candidates, to see Mr. Lincoln elected. Excitement ran
high during the canvass, and torch-light processions enlivened
the scene in the generally quiet streets of Galena many nights
during the campaign. I did not parade with either party, but
occasionally met with the “wide awakes”–Republicans–in their
rooms, and superintended their drill. It was evident, from the
time of the Chicago nomination to the close of the canvass, that
the election of the Republican candidate would be the signal for
some of the Southern States to secede. I still had hopes that
the four years which had elapsed since the first nomination of a
Presidential candidate by a party distinctly opposed to slavery
extension, had given time for the extreme pro-slavery sentiment
to cool down; for the Southerners to think well before they took
the awful leap which they had so vehemently threatened. But I
was mistaken.

The Republican candidate was elected, and solid substantial
people of the North-west, and I presume the same order of people
throughout the entire North, felt very serious, but determined,
after this event. It was very much discussed whether the South
would carry out its threat to secede and set up a separate
government, the corner-stone of which should be, protection to
the “Divine” institution of slavery. For there were people who
believed in the “divinity” of human slavery, as there are now
people who believe Mormonism and Polygamy to be ordained by the
Most High. We forgive them for entertaining such notions, but
forbid their practice. It was generally believed that there
would be a flurry; that some of the extreme Southern States
would go so far as to pass ordinances of secession. But the
common impression was that this step was so plainly suicidal for
the South, that the movement would not spread over much of the
territory and would not last long.

Doubtless the founders of our government, the majority of them
at least, regarded the confederation of the colonies as an
experiment. Each colony considered itself a separate
government; that the confederation was for mutual protection
against a foreign foe, and the prevention of strife and war
among themselves. If there had been a desire on the part of any
single State to withdraw from the compact at any time while the
number of States was limited to the original thirteen, I do not
suppose there would have been any to contest the right, no
matter how much the determination might have been regretted. The
problem changed on the ratification of the Constitution by all
the colonies; it changed still more when amendments were added;
and if the right of any one State to withdraw continued to exist
at all after the ratification of the Constitution, it certainly
ceased on the formation of new States, at least so far as the
new States themselves were concerned. It was never possessed at
all by Florida or the States west of the Mississippi, all of
which were purchased by the treasury of the entire nation.
Texas and the territory brought into the Union in consequence of
annexation, were purchased with both blood and treasure; and
Texas, with a domain greater than that of any European state
except Russia, was permitted to retain as state property all the
public lands within its borders. It would have been ingratitude
and injustice of the most flagrant sort for this State to
withdraw from the Union after all that had been spent and done
to introduce her; yet, if separation had actually occurred,
Texas must necessarily have gone with the South, both on account
of her institutions and her geographical position. Secession was
illogical as well as impracticable; it was revolution.

Now, the right of revolution is an inherent one. When people
are oppressed by their government, it is a natural right they
enjoy to relieve themselves of the oppression, if they are
strong enough, either by withdrawal from it, or by overthrowing
it and substituting a government more acceptable. But any
people or part of a people who resort to this remedy, stake
their lives, their property, and every claim for protection
given by citizenship–on the issue. Victory, or the conditions
imposed by the conqueror–must be the result.

In the case of the war between the States it would have been the
exact truth if the South had said,–“We do not want to live with
you Northern people any longer; we know our institution of
slavery is obnoxious to you, and, as you are growing numerically
stronger than we, it may at some time in the future be
endangered. So long as you permitted us to control the
government, and with the aid of a few friends at the North to
enact laws constituting your section a guard against the escape
of our property, we were willing to live with you. You have
been submissive to our rule heretofore; but it looks now as if
you did not intend to continue so, and we will remain in the
Union no longer.” Instead of this the seceding States cried
lustily,–“Let us alone; you have no constitutional power to
interfere with us.” Newspapers and people at the North
reiterated the cry. Individuals might ignore the constitution;
but the Nation itself must not only obey it, but must enforce
the strictest construction of that instrument; the construction
put upon it by the Southerners themselves. The fact is the
constitution did not apply to any such contingency as the one
existing from 1861 to 1865. Its framers never dreamed of such a
contingency occurring. If they had foreseen it, the
probabilities are they would have sanctioned the right of a
State or States to withdraw rather than that there should be war
between brothers.

The framers were wise in their generation and wanted to do the
very best possible to secure their own liberty and independence,
and that also of their descendants to the latest days. It is
preposterous to suppose that the people of one generation can
lay down the best and only rules of government for all who are
to come after them, and under unforeseen contingencies. At the
time of the framing of our constitution the only physical forces
that had been subdued and made to serve man and do his labor,
were the currents in the streams and in the air we breathe. Rude
machinery, propelled by water power, had been invented; sails to
propel ships upon the waters had been set to catch the passing
breeze–but the application of stream to propel vessels against
both wind and current, and machinery to do all manner of work
had not been thought of. The instantaneous transmission of
messages around the world by means of electricity would probably
at that day have been attributed to witchcraft or a league with
the Devil. Immaterial circumstances had changed as greatly as
material ones. We could not and ought not to be rigidly bound
by the rules laid down under circumstances so different for
emergencies so utterly unanticipated. The fathers themselves
would have been the first to declare that their prerogatives
were not irrevocable. They would surely have resisted secession
could they have lived to see the shape it assumed.

I travelled through the Northwest considerably during the winter
of 1860-1. We had customers in all the little towns in
south-west Wisconsin, south-east Minnesota and north-east
Iowa. These generally knew I had been a captain in the regular
army and had served through the Mexican war. Consequently
wherever I stopped at night, some of the people would come to
the public-house where I was, and sit till a late hour
discussing the probabilities of the future. My own views at
that time were like those officially expressed by Mr. Seward at
a later day, that “the war would be over in ninety days.” I
continued to entertain these views until after the battle of
Shiloh. I believe now that there would have been no more
battles at the West after the capture of Fort Donelson if all
the troops in that region had been under a single commander who
would have followed up that victory.

There is little doubt in my mind now that the prevailing
sentiment of the South would have been opposed to secession in
1860 and 1861, if there had been a fair and calm expression of
opinion, unbiased by threats, and if the ballot of one legal
voter had counted for as much as that of any other. But there
was no calm discussion of the question. Demagogues who were too
old to enter the army if there should be a war, others who
entertained so high an opinion of their own ability that they
did not believe they could be spared from the direction of the
affairs of state in such an event, declaimed vehemently and
unceasingly against the North; against its aggressions upon the
South; its interference with Southern rights, etc., etc. They
denounced the Northerners as cowards, poltroons, negro-
worshippers; claimed that one Southern man was equal to five
Northern men in battle; that if the South would stand up for its
rights the North would back down. Mr. Jefferson Davis said in a
speech, delivered at La Grange, Mississippi, before the
secession of that State, that he would agree to drink all the
blood spilled south of Mason and Dixon’s line if there should be
a war. The young men who would have the fighting to do in case
of war, believed all these statements, both in regard to the
aggressiveness of the North and its cowardice. They, too, cried
out for a separation from such people. The great bulk of the
legal voters of the South were men who owned no slaves; their
homes were generally in the hills and poor country; their
facilities for educating their children, even up to the point of
reading and writing, were very limited; their interest in the
contest was very meagre–what there was, if they had been
capable of seeing it, was with the North; they too needed
emancipation. Under the old regime they were looked down upon
by those who controlled all the affairs in the interest of
slave-owners, as poor white trash who were allowed the ballot so
long as they cast it according to direction.

I am aware that this last statement may be disputed and
individual testimony perhaps adduced to show that in ante-bellum
days the ballot was as untrammelled in the south as in any
section of the country; but in the face of any such
contradiction I reassert the statement. The shot-gun was not
resorted to. Masked men did not ride over the country at night
intimidating voters; but there was a firm feeling that a class
existed in every State with a sort of divine right to control
public affairs. If they could not get this control by one means
they must by another. The end justified the means. The
coercion, if mild, was complete.

There were two political parties, it is true, in all the States,
both strong in numbers and respectability, but both equally loyal
to the institution which stood paramount in Southern eyes to all
other institutions in state or nation. The slave-owners were
the minority, but governed both parties. Had politics ever
divided the slave-holders and the non-slave-holders, the
majority would have been obliged to yield, or internecine war
would have been the consequence. I do not know that the
Southern people were to blame for this condition of affairs.
There was a time when slavery was not profitable, and the
discussion of the merits of the institution was confined almost
exclusively to the territory where it existed. The States of
Virginia and Kentucky came near abolishing slavery by their own
acts, one State defeating the measure by a tie vote and the
other only lacking one. But when the institution became
profitable, all talk of its abolition ceased where it existed;
and naturally, as human nature is constituted, arguments were
adduced in its support. The cotton-gin probably had much to do
with the justification of slavery.

The winter of 1860-1 will be remembered by middle-aged people of
to-day as one of great excitement. South Carolina promptly
seceded after the result of the Presidential election was
known. Other Southern States proposed to follow. In some of
them the Union sentiment was so strong that it had to be
suppressed by force. Maryland, Delaware, Kentucky and Missouri,
all Slave States, failed to pass ordinances of secession; but
they were all represented in the so-called congress of the
so-called Confederate States. The Governor and Lieutenant-
Governor of Missouri, in 1861, Jackson and Reynolds, were both
supporters of the rebellion and took refuge with the enemy. The
governor soon died, and the lieutenant-governor assumed his
office; issued proclamations as governor of the State; was
recognized as such by the Confederate Government, and continued
his pretensions until the collapse of the rebellion. The South
claimed the sovereignty of States, but claimed the right to
coerce into their confederation such States as they wanted, that
is, all the States where slavery existed. They did not seem to
think this course inconsistent. The fact is, the Southern
slave-owners believed that, in some way, the ownership of slaves
conferred a sort of patent of nobility–a right to govern
independent of the interest or wishes of those who did not hold
such property. They convinced themselves, first, of the divine
origin of the institution and, next, that that particular
institution was not safe in the hands of any body of legislators
but themselves.

Meanwhile the Administration of President Buchanan looked
helplessly on and proclaimed that the general government had no
power to interfere; that the Nation had no power to save its own
life. Mr. Buchanan had in his cabinet two members at least, who
were as earnest–to use a mild term–in the cause of secession
as Mr. Davis or any Southern statesman. One of them, Floyd, the
Secretary of War, scattered the army so that much of it could be
captured when hostilities should commence, and distributed the
cannon and small arms from Northern arsenals throughout the
South so as to be on hand when treason wanted them. The navy
was scattered in like manner. The President did not prevent his
cabinet preparing for war upon their government, either by
destroying its resources or storing them in the South until a de
facto government was established with Jefferson Davis as its
President, and Montgomery, Alabama, as the Capital. The
secessionists had then to leave the cabinet. In their own
estimation they were aliens in the country which had given them
birth. Loyal men were put into their places. Treason in the
executive branch of the government was estopped. But the harm
had already been done. The stable door was locked after the
horse had been stolen.

During all of the trying winter of 1860-1, when the Southerners
were so defiant that they would not allow within their borders
the expression of a sentiment hostile to their views, it was a
brave man indeed who could stand up and proclaim his loyalty to
the Union. On the other hand men at the North–prominent
men–proclaimed that the government had no power to coerce the
South into submission to the laws of the land; that if the North
undertook to raise armies to go south, these armies would have to
march over the dead bodies of the speakers. A portion of the
press of the North was constantly proclaiming similar views.
When the time arrived for the President-elect to go to the
capital of the Nation to be sworn into office, it was deemed
unsafe for him to travel, not only as a President-elect, but as
any private citizen should be allowed to do. Instead of going
in a special car, receiving the good wishes of his constituents
at all the stations along the road, he was obliged to stop on
the way and to be smuggled into the capital. He disappeared
from public view on his journey, and the next the country knew,
his arrival was announced at the capital. There is little doubt
that he would have been assassinated if he had attempted to
travel openly throughout his journey.



The 4th of March, 1861, came, and Abraham Lincoln was sworn to
maintain the Union against all its enemies. The secession of
one State after another followed, until eleven had gone out. On
the 11th of April Fort Sumter, a National fort in the harbor of
Charleston, South Carolina, was fired upon by the Southerners
and a few days after was captured. The Confederates proclaimed
themselves aliens, and thereby debarred themselves of all right
to claim protection under the Constitution of the United
States. We did not admit the fact that they were aliens, but
all the same, they debarred themselves of the right to expect
better treatment than people of any other foreign state who make
war upon an independent nation. Upon the firing on Sumter
President Lincoln issued his first call for troops and soon
after a proclamation convening Congress in extra session. The
call was for 75,000 volunteers for ninety days’ service. If the
shot fired at Fort Sumter “was heard around the world,” the call
of the President for 75,000 men was heard throughout the
Northern States. There was not a state in the North of a
million of inhabitants that would not have furnished the entire
number faster than arms could have been supplied to them, if it
had been necessary.

As soon as the news of the call for volunteers reached Galena,
posters were stuck up calling for a meeting of the citizens at
the court-house in the evening. Business ceased entirely; all
was excitement; for a time there were no party distinctions; all
were Union men, determined to avenge the insult to the national
flag. In the evening the court-house was packed. Although a
comparative stranger I was called upon to preside; the sole
reason, possibly, was that I had been in the army and had seen
service. With much embarrassment and some prompting I made out
to announce the object of the meeting. Speeches were in order,
but it is doubtful whether it would have been safe just then to
make other than patriotic ones. There was probably no one in
the house, however, who felt like making any other. The two
principal speeches were by B. B. Howard, the post-master and a
Breckinridge Democrat at the November election the fall before,
and John A. Rawlins, an elector on the Douglas ticket. E. B.
Washburne, with whom I was not acquainted at that time, came in
after the meeting had been organized, and expressed, I
understood afterwards, a little surprise that Galena could not
furnish a presiding officer for such an occasion without taking
a stranger. He came forward and was introduced, and made a
speech appealing to the patriotism of the meeting.

After the speaking was over volunteers were called for to form a
company. The quota of Illinois had been fixed at six regiments;
and it was supposed that one company would be as much as would
be accepted from Galena. The company was raised and the
officers and non-commissioned officers elected before the
meeting adjourned. I declined the captaincy before the
balloting, but announced that I would aid the company in every
way I could and would be found in the service in some position
if there should be a war. I never went into our leather store
after that meeting, to put up a package or do other business.

The ladies of Galena were quite as patriotic as the men. They
could not enlist, but they conceived the idea of sending their
first company to the field uniformed. They came to me to get a
description of the United States uniform for infantry;
subscribed and bought the material; procured tailors to cut out
the garments, and the ladies made them up. In a few days the
company was in uniform and ready to report at the State capital
for assignment. The men all turned out the morning after their
enlistment, and I took charge, divided them into squads and
superintended their drill. When they were ready to go to
Springfield I went with them and remained there until they were
assigned to a regiment.

There were so many more volunteers than had been called for that
the question whom to accept was quite embarrassing to the
governor, Richard Yates. The legislature was in session at the
time, however, and came to his relief. A law was enacted
authorizing the governor to accept the services of ten
additional regiments, one from each congressional district, for
one month, to be paid by the State, but pledged to go into the
service of the United States if there should be a further call
during their term. Even with this relief the governor was still
very much embarrassed. Before the war was over he was like the
President when he was taken with the varioloid: “at last he had
something he could give to all who wanted it.”

In time the Galena company was mustered into the United States
service, forming a part of the 11th Illinois volunteer
infantry. My duties, I thought, had ended at Springfield, and I
was prepared to start home by the evening train, leaving at nine
o’clock. Up to that time I do not think I had been introduced
to Governor Yates, or had ever spoken to him. I knew him by
sight, however, because he was living at the same hotel and I
often saw him at table. The evening I was to quit the capital I
left the supper room before the governor and was standing at the
front door when he came out. He spoke to me, calling me by my
old army title “Captain,” and said he understood that I was
about leaving the city. I answered that I was. He said he
would be glad if I would remain over-night and call at the
Executive office the next morning. I complied with his request,
and was asked to go into the Adjutant-General’s office and render
such assistance as I could, the governor saying that my army
experience would be of great service there. I accepted the

My old army experience I found indeed of very great service. I
was no clerk, nor had I any capacity to become one. The only
place I ever found in my life to put a paper so as to find it
again was either a side coat-pocket or the hands of a clerk or
secretary more careful than myself. But I had been
quartermaster, commissary and adjutant in the field. The army
forms were familiar to me and I could direct how they should be
made out. There was a clerk in the office of the Adjutant-
General who supplied my deficiencies. The ease with which the
State of Illinois settled its accounts with the government at
the close of the war is evidence of the efficiency of Mr. Loomis
as an accountant on a large scale. He remained in the office
until that time.

As I have stated, the legislature authorized the governor to
accept the services of ten additional regiments. I had charge
of mustering these regiments into the State service. They were
assembled at the most convenient railroad centres in their
respective congressional districts. I detailed officers to
muster in a portion of them, but mustered three in the southern
part of the State myself. One of these was to assemble at
Belleville, some eighteen miles south-east of St. Louis. When I
got there I found that only one or two companies had arrived.
There was no probability of the regiment coming together under
five days. This gave me a few idle days which I concluded to
spend in St. Louis.

There was a considerable force of State militia at Camp Jackson,
on the outskirts of St. Louis, at the time. There is but little
doubt that it was the design of Governor Claiborn Jackson to
have these troops ready to seize the United States arsenal and
the city of St. Louis. Why they did not do so I do not know.
There was but a small garrison, two companies I think, under
Captain N. Lyon at the arsenal, and but for the timely services
of the Hon. F. P. Blair, I have little doubt that St. Louis
would have gone into rebel hands, and with it the arsenal with
all its arms and ammunition.

Blair was a leader among the Union men of St. Louis in 1861.
There was no State government in Missouri at the time that would
sanction the raising of troops or commissioned officers to
protect United States property, but Blair had probably procured
some form of authority from the President to raise troops in
Missouri and to muster them into the service of the United
States. At all events, he did raise a regiment and took command
himself as Colonel. With this force he reported to Captain Lyon
and placed himself and regiment under his orders. It was
whispered that Lyon thus reinforced intended to break up Camp
Jackson and capture the militia. I went down to the arsenal in
the morning to see the troops start out. I had known Lyon for
two years at West Point and in the old army afterwards. Blair I
knew very well by sight. I had heard him speak in the canvass of
1858, possibly several times, but I had never spoken to him. As
the troops marched out of the enclosure around the arsenal,
Blair was on his horse outside forming them into line
preparatory to their march. I introduced myself to him and had
a few moments’ conversation and expressed my sympathy with his
purpose. This was my first personal acquaintance with the
Honorable–afterwards Major-General F. P. Blair. Camp Jackson
surrendered without a fight and the garrison was marched down to
the arsenal as prisoners of war.

Up to this time the enemies of the government in St. Louis had
been bold and defiant, while Union men were quiet but
determined. The enemies had their head-quarters in a central
and public position on Pine Street, near Fifth–from which the
rebel flag was flaunted boldly. The Union men had a place of
meeting somewhere in the city, I did not know where, and I doubt
whether they dared to enrage the enemies of the government by
placing the national flag outside their head-quarters. As soon
as the news of the capture of Camp Jackson reached the city the
condition of affairs was changed. Union men became rampant,
aggressive, and, if you will, intolerant. They proclaimed their
sentiments boldly, and were impatient at anything like disrespect
for the Union. The secessionists became quiet but were filled
with suppressed rage. They had been playing the bully. The
Union men ordered the rebel flag taken down from the building on
Pine Street. The command was given in tones of authority and it
was taken down, never to be raised again in St. Louis.

I witnessed the scene. I had heard of the surrender of the camp
and that the garrison was on its way to the arsenal. I had seen
the troops start out in the morning and had wished them
success. I now determined to go to the arsenal and await their
arrival and congratulate them. I stepped on a car standing at
the corner of 4th and Pine streets, and saw a crowd of people
standing quietly in front of the head-quarters, who were there
for the purpose of hauling down the flag. There were squads of
other people at intervals down the street. They too were quiet
but filled with suppressed rage, and muttered their resentment
at the insult to, what they called, “their” flag. Before the
car I was in had started, a dapper little fellow–he would be
called a dude at this day–stepped in. He was in a great state
of excitement and used adjectives freely to express his contempt
for the Union and for those who had just perpetrated such an
outrage upon the rights of a free people. There was only one
other passenger in the car besides myself when this young man
entered. He evidently expected to find nothing but sympathy
when he got away from the “mud sills” engaged in compelling a
“free people” to pull down a flag they adored. He turned to me
saying: “Things have come to a —- pretty pass when a free
people can’t choose their own flag. Where I came from if a man
dares to say a word in favor of the Union we hang him to a limb
of the first tree we come to.” I replied that “after all we
were not so intolerant in St. Louis as we might be; I had not
seen a single rebel hung yet, nor heard of one; there were
plenty of them who ought to be, however.” The young man
subsided. He was so crestfallen that I believe if I had ordered
him to leave the car he would have gone quietly out, saying to
himself: “More Yankee oppression.”

By nightfall the late defenders of Camp Jackson were all within
the walls of the St. Louis arsenal, prisoners of war. The next
day I left St. Louis for Mattoon, Illinois, where I was to
muster in the regiment from that congressional district. This
was the 21st Illinois infantry, the regiment of which I
subsequently became colonel. I mustered one regiment
afterwards, when my services for the State were about closed.

Brigadier-General John Pope was stationed at Springfield, as
United States mustering officer, all the time I was in the State
service. He was a native of Illinois and well acquainted with
most of the prominent men in the State. I was a carpet-bagger
and knew but few of them. While I was on duty at Springfield
the senators, representatives in Congress, ax-governors and the
State legislators were nearly all at the State capital. The
only acquaintance I made among them was with the governor, whom
I was serving, and, by chance, with Senator S. A. Douglas. The
only members of Congress I knew were Washburne and Philip
Foulk. With the former, though he represented my district and
we were citizens of the same town, I only became acquainted at
the meeting when the first company of Galena volunteers was
raised. Foulk I had known in St. Louis when I was a citizen of
that city. I had been three years at West Point with Pope and
had served with him a short time during the Mexican war, under
General Taylor. I saw a good deal of him during my service with
the State. On one occasion he said to me that I ought to go into
the United States service. I told him I intended to do so if
there was a war. He spoke of his acquaintance with the public
men of the State, and said he could get them to recommend me for
a position and that he would do all he could for me. I declined
to receive endorsement for permission to fight for my country.

Going home for a day or two soon after this conversation with
General Pope, I wrote from Galena the following letter to the
Adjutant-General of the Army.

May 24, 1861.

Adjt. Gen. U. S. A.,
Washington, D. C.

SIR:–Having served for fifteen years in the regular army,
including four years at West Point, and feeling it the duty of
every one who has been educated at the Government expense to
offer their services for the support of that Government, I have
the honor, very respectfully, to tender my services, until the
close of the war, in such capacity as may be offered. I would
say, in view of my present age and length of service, I feel
myself competent to command a regiment, if the President, in his
judgment, should see fit to intrust one to me.

Since the first call of the President I have been serving on the
staff of the Governor of this State, rendering such aid as I
could in the organization of our State militia, and am still
engaged in that capacity. A letter addressed to me at
Springfield, Illinois, will reach me.

I am very respectfully,
Your obt. svt.,

This letter failed to elicit an answer from the Adjutant-General
of the Army. I presume it was hardly read by him, and certainly
it could not have been submitted to higher authority. Subsequent
to the war General Badeau having heard of this letter applied to
the War Department for a copy of it. The letter could not be
found and no one recollected ever having seen it. I took no
copy when it was written. Long after the application of General
Badeau, General Townsend, who had become Adjutant-General of the
Army, while packing up papers preparatory to the removal of his
office, found this letter in some out-of-the-way place. It had
not been destroyed, but it had not been regularly filed away.

I felt some hesitation in suggesting rank as high as the
colonelcy of a regiment, feeling somewhat doubtful whether I
would be equal to the position. But I had seen nearly every
colonel who had been mustered in from the State of Illinois, and
some from Indiana, and felt that if they could command a regiment
properly, and with credit, I could also.

Having but little to do after the muster of the last of the
regiments authorized by the State legislature, I asked and
obtained of the governor leave of absence for a week to visit my
parents in Covington, Kentucky, immediately opposite
Cincinnati. General McClellan had been made a major-general and
had his headquarters at Cincinnati. In reality I wanted to see
him. I had known him slightly at West Point, where we served
one year together, and in the Mexican war. I was in hopes that
when he saw me he would offer me a position on his staff. I
called on two successive days at his office but failed to see
him on either occasion, and returned to Springfield.



While I was absent from the State capital on this occasion the
President’s second call for troops was issued. This time it was
for 300,000 men, for three years or the war. This brought into
the United States service all the regiments then in the State
service. These had elected their officers from highest to
lowest and were accepted with their organizations as they were,
except in two instances. A Chicago regiment, the 19th infantry,
had elected a very young man to the colonelcy. When it came to
taking the field the regiment asked to have another appointed
colonel and the one they had previously chosen made
lieutenant-colonel. The 21st regiment of infantry, mustered in
by me at Mattoon, refused to go into the service with the
colonel of their selection in any position. While I was still
absent Governor Yates appointed me colonel of this latter
regiment. A few days after I was in charge of it and in camp on
the fair grounds near Springfield.

My regiment was composed in large part of young men of as good
social position as any in their section of the State. It
embraced the sons of farmers, lawyers, physicians, politicians,
merchants, bankers and ministers, and some men of maturer years
who had filled such positions themselves. There were also men
in it who could be led astray; and the colonel, elected by the
votes of the regiment, had proved to be fully capable of
developing all there was in his men of recklessness. It was
said that he even went so far at times as to take the guard from
their posts and go with them to the village near by and make a
night of it. When there came a prospect of battle the regiment
wanted to have some one else to lead them. I found it very hard
work for a few days to bring all the men into anything like
subordination; but the great majority favored discipline, and by
the application of a little regular army punishment all were
reduced to as good discipline as one could ask.

The ten regiments which had volunteered in the State service for
thirty days, it will be remembered, had done so with a pledge to
go into the National service if called upon within that time.
When they volunteered the government had only called for ninety
days’ enlistments. Men were called now for three years or the
war. They felt that this change of period released them from
the obligation of re-volunteering. When I was appointed
colonel, the 21st regiment was still in the State service. About
the time they were to be mustered into the United States service,
such of them as would go, two members of Congress from the State,
McClernand and Logan, appeared at the capital and I was
introduced to them. I had never seen either of them before, but
I had read a great deal about them, and particularly about Logan,
in the newspapers. Both were democratic members of Congress, and
Logan had been elected from the southern district of the State,
where he had a majority of eighteen thousand over his Republican
competitor. His district had been settled originally by people
from the Southern States, and at the breaking out of secession
they sympathized with the South. At the first outbreak of war
some of them joined the Southern army; many others were
preparing to do so; others rode over the country at night
denouncing the Union, and made it as necessary to guard railroad
bridges over which National troops had to pass in southern
Illinois, as it was in Kentucky or any of the border slave
states. Logan’s popularity in this district was unbounded. He
knew almost enough of the people in it by their Christian names,
to form an ordinary congressional district. As he went in
politics, so his district was sure to go. The Republican papers
had been demanding that he should announce where he stood on the
questions which at that time engrossed the whole of public
thought. Some were very bitter in their denunciations of his
silence. Logan was not a man to be coerced into an utterance by
threats. He did, however, come out in a speech before the
adjournment of the special session of Congress which was
convened by the President soon after his inauguration, and
announced his undying loyalty and devotion to the Union. But I
had not happened to see that speech, so that when I first met
Logan my impressions were those formed from reading
denunciations of him. McClernand, on the other hand, had early
taken strong grounds for the maintenance of the Union and had
been praised accordingly by the Republican papers. The
gentlemen who presented these two members of Congress asked me
if I would have any objections to their addressing my
regiment. I hesitated a little before answering. It was but a
few days before the time set for mustering into the United
States service such of the men as were willing to volunteer for
three years or the war. I had some doubt as to the effect a
speech from Logan might have; but as he was with McClernand,
whose sentiments on the all-absorbing questions of the day were
well known, I gave my consent. McClernand spoke first; and
Logan followed in a speech which he has hardly equalled since
for force and eloquence. It breathed a loyalty and devotion to
the Union which inspired my men to such a point that they would
have volunteered to remain in the army as long as an enemy of
the country continued to bear arms against it. They entered the
United States service almost to a man.

General Logan went to his part of the State and gave his
attention to raising troops. The very men who at first made it
necessary to guard the roads in southern Illinois became the
defenders of the Union. Logan entered the service himself as
colonel of a regiment and rapidly rose to the rank of
major-general. His district, which had promised at first to
give much trouble to the government, filled every call made upon
it for troops, without resorting to the draft. There was no call
made when there were not more volunteers than were asked for.
That congressional district stands credited at the War
Department to-day with furnishing more men for the army than it
was called on to supply.

I remained in Springfield with my regiment until the 3d of July,
when I was ordered to Quincy, Illinois. By that time the
regiment was in a good state of discipline and the officers and
men were well up in the company drill. There was direct
railroad communication between Springfield and Quincy, but I
thought it would be good preparation for the troops to march
there. We had no transportation for our camp and garrison
equipage, so wagons were hired for the occasion and on the 3d of
July we started. There was no hurry, but fair marches were made
every day until the Illinois River was crossed. There I was
overtaken by a dispatch saying that the destination of the
regiment had been changed to Ironton, Missouri, and ordering me
to halt where I was and await the arrival of a steamer which had
been dispatched up the Illinois River to take the regiment to St.
Louis. The boat, when it did come, grounded on a sand-bar a few
miles below where we were in camp. We remained there several
days waiting to have the boat get off the bar, but before this
occurred news came that an Illinois regiment was surrounded by
rebels at a point on the Hannibal and St. Joe Railroad some
miles west of Palmyra, in Missouri, and I was ordered to proceed
with all dispatch to their relief. We took the cars and reached
Quincy in a few hours.

When I left Galena for the last time to take command of the 21st
regiment I took with me my oldest son, Frederick D. Grant, then a
lad of eleven years of age. On receiving the order to take rail
for Quincy I wrote to Mrs. Grant, to relieve what I supposed
would be her great anxiety for one so young going into danger,
that I would send Fred home from Quincy by river. I received a
prompt letter in reply decidedly disapproving my proposition,
and urging that the lad should be allowed to accompany me. It
came too late. Fred was already on his way up the Mississippi
bound for Dubuque, Iowa, from which place there was a railroad
to Galena.

My sensations as we approached what I supposed might be “a field
of battle” were anything but agreeable. I had been in all the
engagements in Mexico that it was possible for one person to be
in; but not in command. If some one else had been colonel and I
had been lieutenant-colonel I do not think I would have felt any
trepidation. Before we were prepared to cross the Mississippi
River at Quincy my anxiety was relieved; for the men of the
besieged regiment came straggling into town. I am inclined to
think both sides got frightened and ran away.

I took my regiment to Palmyra and remained there for a few days,
until relieved by the 19th Illinois infantry. From Palmyra I
proceeded to Salt River, the railroad bridge over which had been
destroyed by the enemy. Colonel John M. Palmer at that time
commanded the 13th Illinois, which was acting as a guard to
workmen who were engaged in rebuilding this bridge. Palmer was
my senior and commanded the two regiments as long as we remained
together. The bridge was finished in about two weeks, and I
received orders to move against Colonel Thomas Harris, who was
said to be encamped at the little town of Florida, some
twenty-five miles south of where we then were.

At the time of which I now write we had no transportation and
the country about Salt River was sparsely settled, so that it
took some days to collect teams and drivers enough to move the
camp and garrison equipage of a regiment nearly a thousand
strong, together with a week’s supply of provision and some
ammunition. While preparations for the move were going on I
felt quite comfortable; but when we got on the road and found
every house deserted I was anything but easy. In the twenty-
five miles we had to march we did not see a person, old or
young, male or female, except two horsemen who were on a road
that crossed ours. As soon as they saw us they decamped as fast
as their horses could carry them. I kept my men in the ranks and
forbade their entering any of the deserted houses or taking
anything from them. We halted at night on the road and
proceeded the next morning at an early hour. Harris had been
encamped in a creek bottom for the sake of being near water. The
hills on either side of the creek extend to a considerable
height, possibly more than a hundred feet. As we approached the
brow of the hill from which it was expected we could see Harris’
camp, and possibly find his men ready formed to meet us, my
heart kept getting higher and higher until it felt to me as
though it was in my throat. I would have given anything then to
have been back in Illinois, but I had not the moral courage to
halt and consider what to do; I kept right on. When we reached
a point from which the valley below was in full view I halted.
The place where Harris had been encamped a few days before was
still there and the marks of a recent encampment were plainly
visible, but the troops were gone. My heart resumed its
place. It occurred to me at once that Harris had been as much
afraid of me as I had been of him. This was a view of the
question I had never taken before; but it was one I never forgot
afterwards. From that event to the close of the war, I never
experienced trepidation upon confronting an enemy, though I
always felt more or less anxiety. I never forgot that he had as
much reason to fear my forces as I had his. The lesson was

Inquiries at the village of Florida divulged the fact that
Colonel Harris, learning of my intended movement, while my
transportation was being collected took time by the forelock and
left Florida before I had started from Salt River. He had
increased the distance between us by forty miles. The next day
I started back to my old camp at Salt River bridge. The
citizens living on the line of our march had returned to their
houses after we passed, and finding everything in good order,
nothing carried away, they were at their front doors ready to
greet us now. They had evidently been led to believe that the
National troops carried death and devastation with them wherever
they went.

In a short time after our return to Salt River bridge I was
ordered with my regiment to the town of Mexico. General Pope
was then commanding the district embracing all of the State of
Missouri between the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, with his
headquarters in the village of Mexico. I was assigned to the
command of a sub-district embracing the troops in the immediate
neighborhood, some three regiments of infantry and a section of
artillery. There was one regiment encamped by the side of
mine. I assumed command of the whole and the first night sent
the commander of the other regiment the parole and
countersign. Not wishing to be outdone in courtesy, he
immediately sent me the countersign for his regiment for the
night. When he was informed that the countersign sent to him
was for use with his regiment as well as mine, it was difficult
to make him understand that this was not an unwarranted
interference of one colonel over another. No doubt he
attributed it for the time to the presumption of a graduate of
West Point over a volunteer pure and simple. But the question
was soon settled and we had no further trouble.

My arrival in Mexico had been preceded by that of two or three
regiments in which proper discipline had not been maintained,
and the men had been in the habit of visiting houses without
invitation and helping themselves to food and drink, or
demanding them from the occupants. They carried their muskets
while out of camp and made every man they found take the oath of
allegiance to the government. I at once published orders
prohibiting the soldiers from going into private houses unless
invited by the inhabitants, and from appropriating private
property to their own or to government uses. The people were no
longer molested or made afraid. I received the most marked
courtesy from the citizens of Mexico as long as I remained there.

Up to this time my regiment had not been carried in the school
of the soldier beyond the company drill, except that it had
received some training on the march from Springfield to the
Illinois River. There was now a good opportunity of exercising
it in the battalion drill. While I was at West Point the
tactics used in the army had been Scott’s and the musket the
flint lock. I had never looked at a copy of tactics from the
time of my graduation. My standing in that branch of studies
had been near the foot of the class. In the Mexican war in the
summer of 1846, I had been appointed regimental quartermaster
and commissary and had not been at a battalion drill since. The
arms had been changed since then and Hardee’s tactics had been
adopted. I got a copy of tactics and studied one lesson,
intending to confine the exercise of the first day to the
commands I had thus learned. By pursuing this course from day
to day I thought I would soon get through the volume.

We were encamped just outside of town on the common, among
scattering suburban houses with enclosed gardens, and when I got
my regiment in line and rode to the front I soon saw that if I
attempted to follow the lesson I had studied I would have to
clear away some of the houses and garden fences to make room. I
perceived at once, however, that Hardee’s tactics–a mere
translation from the French with Hardee’s name attached–was
nothing more than common sense and the progress of the age
applied to Scott’s system. The commands were abbreviated and
the movement expedited. Under the old tactics almost every
change in the order of march was preceded by a “halt,” then came
the change, and then the “forward march.” With the new tactics
all these changes could be made while in motion. I found no
trouble in giving commands that would take my regiment where I
wanted it to go and carry it around all obstacles. I do not
believe that the officers of the regiment ever discovered that I
had never studied the tactics that I used.



I had not been in Mexico many weeks when, reading a St. Louis
paper, I found the President had asked the Illinois delegation
in Congress to recommend some citizens of the State for the
position of brigadier-general, and that they had unanimously
recommended me as first on a list of seven. I was very much
surprised because, as I have said, my acquaintance with the
Congressmen was very limited and I did not know of anything I
had done to inspire such confidence. The papers of the next day
announced that my name, with three others, had been sent to the
Senate, and a few days after our confirmation was announced.

When appointed brigadier-general I at once thought it proper
that one of my aides should come from the regiment I had been
commanding, and so selected Lieutenant C. B. Lagow. While
living in St. Louis, I had had a desk in the law office of
McClellan, Moody and Hillyer. Difference in views between the
members of the firm on the questions of the day, and general
hard times in the border cities, had broken up this firm.
Hillyer was quite a young man, then in his twenties, and very
brilliant. I asked him to accept a place on my staff. I also
wanted to take one man from my new home, Galena. The canvass in
the Presidential campaign the fall before had brought out a young
lawyer by the name of John A. Rawlins, who proved himself one of
the ablest speakers in the State. He was also a candidate for
elector on the Douglas ticket. When Sumter was fired upon and
the integrity of the Union threatened, there was no man more
ready to serve his country than he. I wrote at once asking him
to accept the position of assistant adjutant-general with the
rank of captain, on my staff. He was about entering the service
as major of a new regiment then organizing in the north-western
part of the State; but he threw this up and accepted my offer.

Neither Hillyer nor Lagow proved to have any particular taste or
special qualifications for the duties of the soldier, and the
former resigned during the Vicksburg campaign; the latter I
relieved after the battle of Chattanooga. Rawlins remained with
me as long as he lived, and rose to the rank of brigadier general
and chief-of-staff to the General of the Army–an office created
for him–before the war closed. He was an able man, possessed
of great firmness, and could say “no” so emphatically to a
request which he thought should not be granted that the person
he was addressing would understand at once that there was no use
of pressing the matter. General Rawlins was a very useful
officer in other ways than this. I became very much attached to

Shortly after my promotion I was ordered to Ironton, Missouri,
to command a district in that part of the State, and took the
21st Illinois, my old regiment, with me. Several other
regiments were ordered to the same destination about the same
time. Ironton is on the Iron Mountain railroad, about seventy
miles south of St. Louis, and situated among hills rising almost
to the dignity of mountains. When I reached there, about the 8th
of August, Colonel B. Gratz Brown–afterwards Governor of
Missouri and in 1872 Vice-Presidential candidate–was in
command. Some of his troops were ninety days’ men and their
time had expired some time before. The men had no clothing but
what they had volunteered in, and much of this was so worn that
it would hardly stay on. General Hardee–the author of the
tactics I did not study–was at Greenville some twenty-five
miles further south, it was said, with five thousand Confederate
troops. Under these circumstances Colonel Brown’s command was
very much demoralized. A squadron of cavalry could have ridden
into the valley and captured the entire force. Brown himself
was gladder to see me on that occasion than he ever has been
since. I relieved him and sent all his men home within a day or
two, to be mustered out of service.

Within ten days after reading Ironton I was prepared to take the
offensive against the enemy at Greenville. I sent a column east
out of the valley we were in, with orders to swing around to the
south and west and come into the Greenville road ten miles south
of Ironton. Another column marched on the direct road and went
into camp at the point designated for the two columns to meet. I
was to ride out the next morning and take personal command of the
movement. My experience against Harris, in northern Missouri,
had inspired me with confidence. But when the evening train
came in, it brought General B. M. Prentiss with orders to take
command of the district. His orders did not relieve me, but I
knew that by law I was senior, and at that time even the
President did not have the authority to assign a junior to
command a senior of the same grade. I therefore gave General
Prentiss the situation of the troops and the general condition
of affairs, and started for St. Louis the same day. The
movement against the rebels at Greenville went no further.

From St. Louis I was ordered to Jefferson City, the capital of
the State, to take command. General Sterling Price, of the
Confederate army, was thought to be threatening the capital,
Lexington, Chillicothe and other comparatively large towns in
the central part of Missouri. I found a good many troops in
Jefferson City, but in the greatest confusion, and no one person
knew where they all were. Colonel Mulligan, a gallant man, was
in command, but he had not been educated as yet to his new
profession and did not know how to maintain discipline. I found
that volunteers had obtained permission from the department
commander, or claimed they had, to raise, some of them,
regiments; some battalions; some companies–the officers to be
commissioned according to the number of men they brought into
the service. There were recruiting stations all over town, with
notices, rudely lettered on boards over the doors, announcing the
arm of service and length of time for which recruits at that
station would be received. The law required all volunteers to
serve for three years or the war. But in Jefferson City in
August, 1861, they were recruited for different periods and on
different conditions; some were enlisted for six months, some
for a year, some without any condition as to where they were to
serve, others were not to be sent out of the State. The
recruits were principally men from regiments stationed there and
already in the service, bound for three years if the war lasted
that long.

The city was filled with Union fugitives who had been driven by
guerilla bands to take refuge with the National troops. They
were in a deplorable condition and must have starved but for the
support the government gave them. They had generally made their
escape with a team or two, sometimes a yoke of oxen with a mule
or a horse in the lead. A little bedding besides their clothing
and some food had been thrown into the wagon. All else of their
worldly goods were abandoned and appropriated by their former
neighbors; for the Union man in Missouri who staid at home
during the rebellion, if he was not immediately under the
protection of the National troops, was at perpetual war with his
neighbors. I stopped the recruiting service, and disposed the
troops about the outskirts of the city so as to guard all
approaches. Order was soon restored.

I had been at Jefferson City but a few days when I was directed
from department headquarters to fit out an expedition to
Lexington, Booneville and Chillicothe, in order to take from the
banks in those cities all the funds they had and send them to St.
Louis. The western army had not yet been supplied with
transportation. It became necessary therefore to press into the
service teams belonging to sympathizers with the rebellion or to
hire those of Union men. This afforded an opportunity of giving
employment to such of the refugees within our lines as had teams
suitable for our purposes. They accepted the service with
alacrity. As fast as troops could be got off they were moved
west some twenty miles or more. In seven or eight days from my
assuming command at Jefferson City, I had all the troops, except
a small garrison, at an advanced position and expected to join
them myself the next day.

But my campaigns had not yet begun, for while seated at my
office door, with nothing further to do until it was time to
start for the front, I saw an officer of rank approaching, who
proved to be Colonel Jefferson C. Davis. I had never met him
before, but he introduced himself by handing me an order for him
to proceed to Jefferson City and relieve me of the command. The
orders directed that I should report at department headquarters
at St. Louis without delay, to receive important special
instructions. It was about an hour before the only regular
train of the day would start. I therefore turned over to
Colonel Davis my orders, and hurriedly stated to him the
progress that had been made to carry out the department
instructions already described. I had at that time but one
staff officer, doing myself all the detail work usually
performed by an adjutant-general. In an hour after being
relieved from the command I was on my way to St. Louis, leaving
my single staff officer(*6) to follow the next day with our
horses and baggage.

The “important special instructions” which I received the next
day, assigned me to the command of the district of south-east
Missouri, embracing all the territory south of St. Louis, in
Missouri, as well as all southern Illinois. At first I was to
take personal command of a combined expedition that had been
ordered for the capture of Colonel Jeff. Thompson, a sort of
independent or partisan commander who was disputing with us the
possession of south-east Missouri. Troops had been ordered to
move from Ironton to Cape Girardeau, sixty or seventy miles to
the south-east, on the Mississippi River; while the forces at
Cape Girardeau had been ordered to move to Jacksonville, ten
miles out towards Ironton; and troops at Cairo and Bird’s Point,
at the junction of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, were to hold
themselves in readiness to go down the Mississippi to Belmont,
eighteen miles below, to be moved west from there when an
officer should come to command them. I was the officer who had
been selected for this purpose. Cairo was to become my
headquarters when the expedition terminated.

In pursuance of my orders I established my temporary
headquarters at Cape Girardeau and sent instructions to the
commanding officer at Jackson, to inform me of the approach of
General Prentiss from Ironton. Hired wagons were kept moving
night and day to take additional rations to Jackson, to supply
the troops when they started from there. Neither General
Prentiss nor Colonel Marsh, who commanded at Jackson, knew their
destination. I drew up all the instructions for the contemplated
move, and kept them in my pocket until I should hear of the
junction of our troops at Jackson. Two or three days after my
arrival at Cape Girardeau, word came that General Prentiss was
approaching that place (Jackson). I started at once to meet him
there and to give him his orders. As I turned the first corner
of a street after starting, I saw a column of cavalry passing
the next street in front of me. I turned and rode around the
block the other way, so as to meet the head of the column. I
found there General Prentiss himself, with a large escort. He
had halted his troops at Jackson for the night, and had come on
himself to Cape Girardeau, leaving orders for his command to
follow him in the morning. I gave the General his orders–which
stopped him at Jackson–but he was very much aggrieved at being
placed under another brigadier-general, particularly as he
believed himself to be the senior. He had been a brigadier, in
command at Cairo, while I was mustering officer at Springfield
without any rank. But we were nominated at the same time for
the United States service, and both our commissions bore date
May 17th, 1861. By virtue of my former army rank I was, by law,
the senior. General Prentiss failed to get orders to his troops
to remain at Jackson, and the next morning early they were
reported as approaching Cape Girardeau. I then ordered the
General very peremptorily to countermarch his command and take
it back to Jackson. He obeyed the order, but bade his command
adieu when he got them to Jackson, and went to St. Louis and
reported himself. This broke up the expedition. But little
harm was done, as Jeff. Thompson moved light and had no fixed
place for even nominal headquarters. He was as much at home in
Arkansas as he was in Missouri and would keep out of the way of
a superior force. Prentiss was sent to another part of the

General Prentiss made a great mistake on the above occasion, one
that he would not have committed later in the war. When I came
to know him better, I regretted it much. In consequence of this
occurrence he was off duty in the field when the principal
campaign at the West was going on, and his juniors received
promotion while he was where none could be obtained. He would
have been next to myself in rank in the district of south-east
Missouri, by virtue of his services in the Mexican war. He was
a brave and very earnest soldier. No man in the service was
more sincere in his devotion to the cause for which we were
battling; none more ready to make sacrifices or risk life in it.

On the 4th of September I removed my headquarters to Cairo and
found Colonel Richard Oglesby in command of the post. We had
never met, at least not to my knowledge. After my promotion I
had ordered my brigadier-general’s uniform from New York, but it
had not yet arrived, so that I was in citizen’s dress. The
Colonel had his office full of people, mostly from the
neighboring States of Missouri and Kentucky, making complaints
or asking favors. He evidently did not catch my name when I was
presented, for on my taking a piece of paper from the table where
he was seated and writing the order assuming command of the
district of south-east Missouri, Colonel Richard J. Oglesby to
command the post at Bird’s Point, and handing it to him, he put
on an expression of surprise that looked a little as if he would
like to have some one identify me. But he surrendered the office
without question.

The day after I assumed command at Cairo a man came to me who
said he was a scout of General Fremont. He reported that he had
just come from Columbus, a point on the Mississippi twenty miles
below on the Kentucky side, and that troops had started from
there, or were about to start, to seize Paducah, at the mouth of
the Tennessee. There was no time for delay; I reported by
telegraph to the department commander the information I had
received, and added that I was taking steps to get off that
night to be in advance of the enemy in securing that important
point. There was a large number of steamers Iying at Cairo and
a good many boatmen were staying in the town. It was the work
of only a few hours to get the boats manned, with coal aboard
and steam up. Troops were also designated to go aboard. The
distance from Cairo to Paducah is about forty-five miles. I did
not wish to get there before daylight of the 6th, and directed
therefore that the boats should lie at anchor out in the stream
until the time to start. Not having received an answer to my
first dispatch, I again telegraphed to department headquarters
that I should start for Paducah that night unless I received
further orders. Hearing nothing, we started before midnight and
arrived early the following morning, anticipating the enemy by
probably not over six or eight hours. It proved very fortunate
that the expedition against Jeff. Thompson had been broken up.
Had it not been, the enemy would have seized Paducah and
fortified it, to our very great annoyance.

When the National troops entered the town the citizens were
taken by surprise. I never after saw such consternation
depicted on the faces of the people. Men, women and children
came out of their doors looking pale and frightened at the
presence of the invader. They were expecting rebel troops that
day. In fact, nearly four thousand men from Columbus were at
that time within ten or fifteen miles of Paducah on their way to
occupy the place. I had but two regiments and one battery with
me, but the enemy did not know this and returned to Columbus. I
stationed my troops at the best points to guard the roads leading
into the city, left gunboats to guard the river fronts and by
noon was ready to start on my return to Cairo. Before leaving,
however, I addressed a short printed proclamation to the
citizens of Paducah assuring them of our peaceful intentions,
that we had come among them to protect them against the enemies
of our country, and that all who chose could continue their
usual avocations with assurance of the protection of the
government. This was evidently a relief to them; but the
majority would have much preferred the presence of the other
army. I reinforced Paducah rapidly from the troops at Cape
Girardeau; and a day or two later General C. F. Smith, a most
accomplished soldier, reported at Cairo and was assigned to the
command of the post at the mouth of the Tennessee. In a short
time it was well fortified and a detachment was sent to occupy
Smithland, at the mouth of the Cumberland.

The State government of Kentucky at that time was rebel in
sentiment, but wanted to preserve an armed neutrality between
the North and the South, and the governor really seemed to think
the State had a perfect right to maintain a neutral position. The
rebels already occupied two towns in the State, Columbus and
Hickman, on the Mississippi; and at the very moment the National
troops were entering Paducah from the Ohio front, General Lloyd
Tilghman–a Confederate–with his staff and a small detachment
of men, were getting out in the other direction, while, as I
have already said, nearly four thousand Confederate troops were
on Kentucky soil on their way to take possession of the town.
But, in the estimation of the governor and of those who thought
with him, this did not justify the National authorities in
invading the soil of Kentucky. I informed the legislature of
the State of what I was doing, and my action was approved by the
majority of that body. On my return to Cairo I found authority
from department headquarters for me to take Paducah “if I felt
strong enough,” but very soon after I was reprimanded from the
same quarters for my correspondence with the legislature and
warned against a repetition of the offence.

Soon after I took command at Cairo, General Fremont entered into
arrangements for the exchange of the prisoners captured at Camp
Jackson in the month of May. I received orders to pass them
through my lines to Columbus as they presented themselves with
proper credentials. Quite a number of these prisoners I had
been personally acquainted with before the war. Such of them as
I had so known were received at my headquarters as old
acquaintances, and ordinary routine business was not disturbed
by their presence. On one occasion when several were present in
my office my intention to visit Cape Girardeau the next day, to
inspect the troops at that point, was mentioned. Something
transpired which postponed my trip; but a steamer employed by
the government was passing a point some twenty or more miles
above Cairo, the next day, when a section of rebel artillery
with proper escort brought her to. A major, one of those who
had been at my headquarters the day before, came at once aboard
and after some search made a direct demand for my delivery. It
was hard to persuade him that I was not there. This officer was
Major Barrett, of St. Louis. I had been acquainted with his
family before the war.



From the occupation of Paducah up to the early part of November
nothing important occurred with the troops under my command. I
was reinforced from time to time and the men were drilled and
disciplined preparatory for the service which was sure to
come. By the 1st of November I had not fewer than 20,000 men,
most of them under good drill and ready to meet any equal body
of men who, like themselves, had not yet been in an
engagement. They were growing impatient at lying idle so long,
almost in hearing of the guns of the enemy they had volunteered
to fight against. I asked on one or two occasions to be allowed
to move against Columbus. It could have been taken soon after
the occupation of Paducah; but before November it was so
strongly fortified that it would have required a large force and
a long siege to capture it.

In the latter part of October General Fremont took the field in
person and moved from Jefferson City against General Sterling
Price, who was then in the State of Missouri with a considerable
command. About the first of November I was directed from
department headquarters to make a demonstration on both sides of
the Mississippi River with the view of detaining the rebels at
Columbus within their lines. Before my troops could be got off,
I was notified from the same quarter that there were some 3,000
of the enemy on the St. Francis River about fifty miles west, or
south-west, from Cairo, and was ordered to send another force
against them. I dispatched Colonel Oglesby at once with troops
sufficient to compete with the reported number of the enemy. On
the 5th word came from the same source that the rebels were about
to detach a large force from Columbus to be moved by boats down
the Mississippi and up the White River, in Arkansas, in order to
reinforce Price, and I was directed to prevent this movement if
possible. I accordingly sent a regiment from Bird’s Point under
Colonel W. H. L. Wallace to overtake and reinforce Oglesby, with
orders to march to New Madrid, a point some distance below
Columbus, on the Missouri side. At the same time I directed
General C. F. Smith to move all the troops he could spare from
Paducah directly against Columbus, halting them, however, a few
miles from the town to await further orders from me. Then I
gathered up all the troops at Cairo and Fort Holt, except
suitable guards, and moved them down the river on steamers
convoyed by two gunboats, accompanying them myself. My force
consisted of a little over 3,000 men and embraced five regiments
of infantry, two guns and two companies of cavalry. We dropped
down the river on the 6th to within about six miles of Columbus,
debarked a few men on the Kentucky side and established pickets
to connect with the troops from Paducah.

I had no orders which contemplated an attack by the National
troops, nor did I intend anything of the kind when I started out
from Cairo; but after we started I saw that the officers and men
were elated at the prospect of at last having the opportunity of
doing what they had volunteered to do–fight the enemies of their
country. I did not see how I could maintain discipline, or
retain the confidence of my command, if we should return to
Cairo without an effort to do something. Columbus, besides
being strongly fortified, contained a garrison much more
numerous than the force I had with me. It would not do,
therefore, to attack that point. About two o’clock on the
morning of the 7th, I learned that the enemy was crossing troops
from Columbus to the west bank to be dispatched, presumably,
after Oglesby. I knew there was a small camp of Confederates at
Belmont, immediately opposite Columbus, and I speedily resolved
to push down the river, land on the Missouri side, capture
Belmont, break up the camp and return. Accordingly, the pickets
above Columbus were drawn in at once, and about daylight the
boats moved out from shore. In an hour we were debarking on the
west bank of the Mississippi, just out of range of the batteries
at Columbus.

The ground on the west shore of the river, opposite Columbus, is
low and in places marshy and cut up with sloughs. The soil is
rich and the timber large and heavy. There were some small
clearings between Belmont and the point where we landed, but
most of the country was covered with the native forests. We
landed in front of a cornfield. When the debarkation commenced,
I took a regiment down the river to post it as a guard against
surprise. At that time I had no staff officer who could be
trusted with that duty. In the woods, at a short distance below
the clearing, I found a depression, dry at the time, but which at
high water became a slough or bayou. I placed the men in the
hollow, gave them their instructions and ordered them to remain
there until they were properly relieved. These troops, with the
gunboats, were to protect our transports.

Up to this time the enemy had evidently failed to divine our
intentions. From Columbus they could, of course, see our
gunboats and transports loaded with troops. But the force from
Paducah was threatening them from the land side, and it was
hardly to be expected that if Columbus was our object we would
separate our troops by a wide river. They doubtless thought we
meant to draw a large force from the east bank, then embark
ourselves, land on the east bank and make a sudden assault on
Columbus before their divided command could be united.

About eight o’clock we started from the point of debarkation,
marching by the flank. After moving in this way for a mile or a
mile and a half, I halted where there was marshy ground covered
with a heavy growth of timber in our front, and deployed a large
part of my force as skirmishers. By this time the enemy
discovered that we were moving upon Belmont and sent out troops
to meet us. Soon after we had started in line, his skirmishers
were encountered and fighting commenced. This continued,
growing fiercer and fiercer, for about four hours, the enemy
being forced back gradually until he was driven into his camp.
Early in this engagement my horse was shot under me, but I got
another from one of my staff and kept well up with the advance
until the river was reached.

The officers and men engaged at Belmont were then under fire for
the first time. Veterans could not have behaved better than they
did up to the moment of reaching the rebel camp. At this point
they became demoralized from their victory and failed to reap
its full reward. The enemy had been followed so closely that
when he reached the clear ground on which his camp was pitched
he beat a hasty retreat over the river bank, which protected him
from our shots and from view. This precipitate retreat at the
last moment enabled the National forces to pick their way
without hinderance through the abatis–the only artificial
defence the enemy had. The moment the camp was reached our men
laid down their arms and commenced rummaging the tents to pick
up trophies. Some of the higher officers were little better
than the privates. They galloped about from one cluster of men
to another and at every halt delivered a short eulogy upon the
Union cause and the achievements of the command.

All this time the troops we had been engaged with for four
hours, lay crouched under cover of the river bank, ready to come
up and surrender if summoned to do so; but finding that they were
not pursued, they worked their way up the river and came up on
the bank between us and our transports. I saw at the same time
two steamers coming from the Columbus side towards the west
shore, above us, black–or gray–with soldiers from boiler-deck
to roof. Some of my men were engaged in firing from captured
guns at empty steamers down the river, out of range, cheering at
every shot. I tried to get them to turn their guns upon the
loaded steamers above and not so far away. My efforts were in
vain. At last I directed my staff officers to set fire to the
camps. This drew the fire of the enemy’s guns located on the
heights of Columbus. They had abstained from firing before,
probably because they were afraid of hitting their own men; or
they may have supposed, until the camp was on fire, that it was
still in the possession of their friends. About this time, too,
the men we had driven over the bank were seen in line up the
river between us and our transports. The alarm “surrounded” was
given. The guns of the enemy and the report of being surrounded,
brought officers and men completely under control. At first some
of the officers seemed to think that to be surrounded was to be
placed in a hopeless position, where there was nothing to do but
surrender. But when I announced that we had cut our way in and
could cut our way out just as well, it seemed a new revelation
to officers and soldiers. They formed line rapidly and we
started back to our boats, with the men deployed as skirmishers
as they had been on entering camp. The enemy was soon
encountered, but his resistance this time was feeble. Again the
Confederates sought shelter under the river banks. We could not
stop, however, to pick them up, because the troops we had seen
crossing the river had debarked by this time and were nearer our
transports than we were. It would be prudent to get them behind
us; but we were not again molested on our way to the boats.

From the beginning of the fighting our wounded had been carried
to the houses at the rear, near the place of debarkation. I now
set the troops to bringing their wounded to the boats. After
this had gone on for some little time I rode down the road,
without even a staff officer, to visit the guard I had stationed
over the approach to our transports. I knew the enemy had
crossed over from Columbus in considerable numbers and might be
expected to attack us as we were embarking. This guard would be
encountered first and, as they were in a natural intrenchment,
would be able to hold the enemy for a considerable time. My
surprise was great to find there was not a single man in the
trench. Riding back to the boat I found the officer who had
commanded the guard and learned that he had withdrawn his force
when the main body fell back. At first I ordered the guard to
return, but finding that it would take some time to get the men
together and march them back to their position, I countermanded
the order. Then fearing that the enemy we had seen crossing the
river below might be coming upon us unawares, I rode out in the
field to our front, still entirely alone, to observe whether the
enemy was passing. The field was grown up with corn so tall and
thick as to cut off the view of even a person on horseback,
except directly along the rows. Even in that direction, owing
to the overhanging blades of corn, the view was not extensive. I
had not gone more than a few hundred yards when I saw a body of
troops marching past me not fifty yards away. I looked at them
for a moment and then turned my horse towards the river and
started back, first in a walk, and when I thought myself
concealed from the view of the enemy, as fast as my horse could
carry me. When at the river bank I still had to ride a few
hundred yards to the point where the nearest transport lay.

The cornfield in front of our transports terminated at the edge
of a dense forest. Before I got back the enemy had entered this
forest and had opened a brisk fire upon the boats. Our men, with
the exception of details that had gone to the front after the
wounded, were now either aboard the transports or very near
them. Those who were not aboard soon got there, and the boats
pushed off. I was the only man of the National army between the
rebels and our transports. The captain of a boat that had just
pushed out but had not started, recognized me and ordered the
engineer not to start the engine; he then had a plank run out
for me. My horse seemed to take in the situation. There was no
path down the bank and every one acquainted with the Mississippi
River knows that its banks, in a natural state, do not vary at
any great angle from the perpendicular. My horse put his fore
feet over the bank without hesitation or urging, and with his
hind feet well under him, slid down the bank and trotted aboard
the boat, twelve or fifteen feet away, over a single gang
plank. I dismounted and went at once to the upper deck.

The Mississippi River was low on the 7th of November, 1861, so
that the banks were higher than the heads of men standing on the
upper decks of the steamers. The rebels were some distance back
from the river, so that their fire was high and did us but
little harm. Our smoke-stack was riddled with bullets, but
there were only three men wounded on the boats, two of whom were
soldiers. When I first went on deck I entered the captain’s room
adjoining the pilot-house, and threw myself on a sofa. I did not
keep that position a moment, but rose to go out on the deck to
observe what was going on. I had scarcely left when a musket
ball entered the room, struck the head of the sofa, passed
through it and lodged in the foot.

When the enemy opened fire on the transports our gunboats
returned it with vigor. They were well out in the stream and
some distance down, so that they had to give but very little
elevation to their guns to clear the banks of the river. Their
position very nearly enfiladed the line of the enemy while he
was marching through the cornfield. The execution was very
great, as we could see at the time and as I afterwards learned
more positively. We were very soon out of range and went
peacefully on our way to Cairo, every man feeling that Belmont
was a great victory and that he had contributed his share to it.

Our loss at Belmont was 485 in killed, wounded and missing.
About 125 of our wounded fell into the hands of the enemy. We
returned with 175 prisoners and two guns, and spiked four other
pieces. The loss of the enemy, as officially reported, was 642
men, killed, wounded and missing. We had engaged about 2,500
men, exclusive of the guard left with the transports. The enemy
had about 7,000; but this includes the troops brought over from
Columbus who were not engaged in the first defence of Belmont.

The two objects for which the battle of Belmont was fought were
fully accomplished. The enemy gave up all idea of detaching
troops from Columbus. His losses were very heavy for that
period of the war. Columbus was beset by people looking for
their wounded or dead kin, to take them home for medical
treatment or burial. I learned later, when I had moved further
south, that Belmont had caused more mourning than almost any
other battle up to that time. The National troops acquired a
confidence in themselves at Belmont that did not desert them
through the war.

The day after the battle I met some officers from General Polk’s
command, arranged for permission to bury our dead at Belmont and
also commenced negotiations for the exchange of prisoners. When
our men went to bury their dead, before they were allowed to land
they were conducted below the point where the enemy had engaged
our transports. Some of the officers expressed a desire to see
the field; but the request was refused with the statement that
we had no dead there.

While on the truce-boat I mentioned to an officer, whom I had
known both at West Point and in the Mexican war, that I was in
the cornfield near their troops when they passed; that I had
been on horseback and had worn a soldier’s overcoat at the
time. This officer was on General Polk’s staff. He said both
he and the general had seen me and that Polk had said to his
men, “There is a Yankee; you may try your marksmanship on him if
you wish,” but nobody fired at me.

Belmont was severely criticised in the North as a wholly
unnecessary battle, barren of results, or the possibility of
them from the beginning. If it had not been fought, Colonel
Oglesby would probably have been captured or destroyed with his
three thousand men. Then I should have been culpable indeed.



While at Cairo I had frequent opportunities of meeting the rebel
officers of the Columbus garrison. They seemed to be very fond
of coming up on steamers under flags of truce. On two or three
occasions I went down in like manner. When one of their boats
was seen coming up carrying a white flag, a gun would be fired
from the lower battery at Fort Holt, throwing a shot across the
bow as a signal to come no farther. I would then take a steamer
and, with my staff and occasionally a few other officers, go down
to receive the party. There were several officers among them
whom I had known before, both at West Point and in Mexico.
Seeing these officers who had been educated for the profession
of arms, both at school and in actual war, which is a far more
efficient training, impressed me with the great advantage the
South possessed over the North at the beginning of the
rebellion. They had from thirty to forty per cent. of the
educated soldiers of the Nation. They had no standing army and,
consequently, these trained soldiers had to find employment with
the troops from their own States. In this way what there was of
military education and training was distributed throughout their
whole army. The whole loaf was leavened.

The North had a great number of educated and trained soldiers,
but the bulk of them were still in the army and were retained,
generally with their old commands and rank, until the war had
lasted many months. In the Army of the Potomac there was what
was known as the “regular brigade,” in which, from the
commanding officer down to the youngest second lieutenant, every
one was educated to his profession. So, too, with many of the
batteries; all the officers, generally four in number to each,
were men educated for their profession. Some of these went into
battle at the beginning under division commanders who were
entirely without military training. This state of affairs gave
me an idea which I expressed while at Cairo; that the government
ought to disband the regular army, with the exception of the
staff corps, and notify the disbanded officers that they would
receive no compensation while the war lasted except as
volunteers. The register should be kept up, but the names of
all officers who were not in the volunteer service at the close,
should be stricken from it.

On the 9th of November, two days after the battle of Belmont,
Major-General H. W. Halleck superseded General Fremont in
command of the Department of the Missouri. The limits of his
command took in Arkansas and west Kentucky east to the
Cumberland River. From the battle of Belmont until early in
February, 1862, the troops under my command did little except
prepare for the long struggle which proved to be before them.

The enemy at this time occupied a line running from the
Mississippi River at Columbus to Bowling Green and Mill Springs,
Kentucky. Each of these positions was strongly fortified, as
were also points on the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers near the
Tennessee state line. The works on the Tennessee were called
Fort Heiman and Fort Henry, and that on the Cumberland was Fort
Donelson. At these points the two rivers approached within
eleven miles of each other. The lines of rifle pits at each
place extended back from the water at least two miles, so that
the garrisons were in reality only seven miles apart. These
positions were of immense importance to the enemy; and of course
correspondingly important for us to possess ourselves of. With
Fort Henry in our hands we had a navigable stream open to us up
to Muscle Shoals, in Alabama. The Memphis and Charleston
Railroad strikes the Tennessee at Eastport, Mississippi, and
follows close to the banks of the river up to the shoals. This
road, of vast importance to the enemy, would cease to be of use
to them for through traffic the moment Fort Henry became ours.
Fort Donelson was the gate to Nashville–a place of great
military and political importance–and to a rich country
extending far east in Kentucky. These two points in our
possession the enemy would necessarily be thrown back to the
Memphis and Charleston road, or to the boundary of the cotton
states, and, as before stated, that road would be lost to them
for through communication.

The designation of my command had been changed after Halleck’s
arrival, from the District of South-east Missouri to the
District of Cairo, and the small district commanded by General
C. F. Smith, embracing the mouths of the Tennessee and
Cumberland rivers, had been added to my jurisdiction. Early in
January, 1862, I was directed by General McClellan, through my
department commander, to make a reconnoissance in favor of
Brigadier-General Don Carlos Buell, who commanded the Department
of the Ohio, with headquarters at Louisville, and who was
confronting General S. B. Buckner with a larger Confederate
force at Bowling Green. It was supposed that Buell was about to
make some move against the enemy, and my demonstration was
intended to prevent the sending of troops from Columbus, Fort
Henry or Donelson to Buckner. I at once ordered General Smith
to send a force up the west bank of the Tennessee to threaten
forts Heiman and Henry; McClernand at the same time with a force
of 6,000 men was sent out into west Kentucky, threatening
Columbus with one column and the Tennessee River with another. I
went with McClernand’s command. The weather was very bad; snow
and rain fell; the roads, never good in that section, were
intolerable. We were out more than a week splashing through the
mud, snow and rain, the men suffering very much. The object of
the expedition was accomplished. The enemy did not send
reinforcements to Bowling Green, and General George H. Thomas
fought and won the battle of Mill Springs before we returned.

As a result of this expedition General Smith reported that he
thought it practicable to capture Fort Heiman. This fort stood
on high ground, completely commanding Fort Henry on the opposite
side of the river, and its possession by us, with the aid of our
gunboats, would insure the capture of Fort Henry. This report
of Smith’s confirmed views I had previously held, that the true
line of operations for us was up the Tennessee and Cumberland
rivers. With us there, the enemy would be compelled to fall
back on the east and west entirely out of the State of
Kentucky. On the 6th of January, before receiving orders for
this expedition, I had asked permission of the general
commanding the department to go to see him at St. Louis. My
object was to lay this plan of campaign before him. Now that my
views had been confirmed by so able a general as Smith, I renewed
my request to go to St. Louis on what I deemed important military
business. The leave was granted, but not graciously. I had
known General Halleck but very slightly in the old army, not
having met him either at West Point or during the Mexican war. I
was received with so little cordiality that I perhaps stated the
object of my visit with less clearness than I might have done,
and I had not uttered many sentences before I was cut short as
if my plan was preposterous. I returned to Cairo very much

Flag-officer Foote commanded the little fleet of gunboats then
in the neighborhood of Cairo and, though in another branch of
the service, was subject to the command of General Halleck. He
and I consulted freely upon military matters and he agreed with
me perfectly as to the feasibility of the campaign up the
Tennessee. Notwithstanding the rebuff I had received from my
immediate chief, I therefore, on the 28th of January, renewed
the suggestion by telegraph that “if permitted, I could take and
hold Fort Henry on the Tennessee.” This time I was backed by
Flag-officer Foote, who sent a similar dispatch. On the 29th I
wrote fully in support of the proposition. On the 1st of
February I received full instructions from department
headquarters to move upon Fort Henry. On the 2d the expedition

In February, 1862, there were quite a good many steamers laid up
at Cairo for want of employment, the Mississippi River being
closed against navigation below that point. There were also
many men in the town whose occupation had been following the
river in various capacities, from captain down to deck hand But
there were not enough of either boats or men to move at one time
the 17,000 men I proposed to take with me up the Tennessee. I
loaded the boats with more than half the force, however, and
sent General McClernand in command. I followed with one of the
later boats and found McClernand had stopped, very properly,
nine miles below Fort Henry. Seven gunboats under Flag-officer
Foote had accompanied the advance. The transports we had with
us had to return to Paducah to bring up a division from there,
with General C. F. Smith in command.

Before sending the boats back I wanted to get the troops as near
to the enemy as I could without coming within range of their
guns. There was a stream emptying into the Tennessee on the
east side, apparently at about long range distance below the
fort. On account of the narrow water-shed separating the
Tennessee and Cumberland rivers at that point, the stream must
be insignificant at ordinary stages, but when we were there, in
February, it was a torrent. It would facilitate the investment
of Fort Henry materially if the troops could be landed south of
that stream. To test whether this could be done I boarded the
gunboat Essex and requested Captain Wm. Porter commanding it, to
approach the fort to draw its fire. After we had gone some
distance past the mouth of the stream we drew the fire of the
fort, which fell much short of us. In consequence I had made up
my mind to return and bring the troops to the upper side of the
creek, when the enemy opened upon us with a rifled gun that sent
shot far beyond us and beyond the stream. One shot passed very
near where Captain Porter and I were standing, struck the deck
near the stern, penetrated and passed through the cabin and so
out into the river. We immediately turned back, and the troops
were debarked below the mouth of the creek.

When the landing was completed I returned with the transports to
Paducah to hasten up the balance of the troops. I got back on
the 5th with the advance the remainder following as rapidly as
the steamers could carry them. At ten o’clock at night, on the
5th, the whole command was not yet up. Being anxious to
commence operations as soon as possible before the enemy could
reinforce heavily, I issued my orders for an advance at 11 A.M.
on the 6th. I felt sure that all the troops would be up by that

Fort Henry occupies a bend in the river which gave the guns in
the water battery a direct fire down the stream. The camp
outside the fort was intrenched, with rifle pits and outworks
two miles back on the road to Donelson and Dover. The garrison
of the fort and camp was about 2,800, with strong reinforcements
from Donelson halted some miles out. There were seventeen heavy
guns in the fort. The river was very high, the banks being
overflowed except where the bluffs come to the water’s edge. A
portion of the ground on which Fort Henry stood was two feet
deep in water. Below, the water extended into the woods several
hundred yards back from the bank on the east side. On the west
bank Fort Heiman stood on high ground, completely commanding
Fort Henry. The distance from Fort Henry to Donelson is but
eleven miles. The two positions were so important to the enemy,
AS HE SAW HIS INTEREST, that it was natural to suppose that
reinforcements would come from every quarter from which they
could be got. Prompt action on our part was imperative.

The plan was for the troops and gunboats to start at the same
moment. The troops were to invest the garrison and the gunboats
to attack the fort at close quarters. General Smith was to land
a brigade of his division on the west bank during the night of
the 5th and get it in rear of Heiman.

At the hour designated the troops and gunboats started. General
Smith found Fort Heiman had been evacuated before his men
arrived. The gunboats soon engaged the water batteries at very
close quarters, but the troops which were to invest Fort Henry
were delayed for want of roads, as well as by the dense forest
and the high water in what would in dry weather have been
unimportant beds of streams. This delay made no difference in
the result. On our first appearance Tilghman had sent his
entire command, with the exception of about one hundred men left
to man the guns in the fort, to the outworks on the road to Dover
and Donelson, so as to have them out of range of the guns of our
navy; and before any attack on the 6th he had ordered them to
retreat on Donelson. He stated in his subsequent report that
the defence was intended solely to give his troops time to make
their escape.

Tilghman was captured with his staff and ninety men, as well as
the armament of the fort, the ammunition and whatever stores
were there. Our cavalry pursued the retreating column towards
Donelson and picked up two guns and a few stragglers; but the
enemy had so much the start, that the pursuing force did not get
in sight of any except the stragglers.

All the gunboats engaged were hit many times. The damage,
however, beyond what could be repaired by a small expenditure of
money, was slight, except to the Essex. A shell penetrated the
boiler of that vessel and exploded it, killing and wounding
forty-eight men, nineteen of whom were soldiers who had been
detailed to act with the navy. On several occasions during the
war such details were made when the complement of men with the
navy was insufficient for the duty before them. After the fall
of Fort Henry Captain Phelps, commanding the iron-clad
Carondelet, at my request ascended the Tennessee River and
thoroughly destroyed the bridge of the Memphis and Ohio Railroad.



I informed the department commander of our success at Fort Henry
and that on the 8th I would take Fort Donelson. But the rain
continued to fall so heavily that the roads became impassable
for artillery and wagon trains. Then, too, it would not have
been prudent to proceed without the gunboats. At least it would
have been leaving behind a valuable part of our available force.

On the 7th, the day after the fall of Fort Henry, I took my
staff and the cavalry–a part of one regiment–and made a
reconnoissance to within about a mile of the outer line of works
at Donelson. I had known General Pillow in Mexico, and judged
that with any force, no matter how small, I could march up to
within gunshot of any intrenchments he was given to hold. I
said this to the officers of my staff at the time. I knew that
Floyd was in command, but he was no soldier, and I judged that
he would yield to Pillow’s pretensions. I met, as I expected,
no opposition in making the reconnoissance and, besides learning
the topography of the country on the way and around Fort
Donelson, found that there were two roads available for
marching; one leading to the village of Dover, the other to

Fort Donelson is two miles north, or down the river, from
Dover. The fort, as it stood in 1861, embraced about one
hundred acres of land. On the east it fronted the Cumberland;
to the north it faced Hickman’s creek, a small stream which at
that time was deep and wide because of the back-water from the
river; on the south was another small stream, or rather a
ravine, opening into the Cumberland. This also was filled with
back-water from the river. The fort stood on high ground, some
of it as much as a hundred feet above the Cumberland. Strong
protection to the heavy guns in the water batteries had been
obtained by cutting away places for them in the bluff. To the
west there was a line of rifle pits some two miles back from the
river at the farthest point. This line ran generally along the
crest of high ground, but in one place crossed a ravine which
opens into the river between the village and the fort. The
ground inside and outside of this intrenched line was very
broken and generally wooded. The trees outside of the
rifle-pits had been cut down for a considerable way out, and had
been felled so that their tops lay outwards from the
intrenchments. The limbs had been trimmed and pointed, and thus
formed an abatis in front of the greater part of the line.
Outside of this intrenched line, and extending about half the
entire length of it, is a ravine running north and south and
opening into Hickman creek at a point north of the fort. The
entire side of this ravine next to the works was one long abatis.

General Halleck commenced his efforts in all quarters to get
reinforcements to forward to me immediately on my departure from
Cairo. General Hunter sent men freely from Kansas, and a large
division under General Nelson, from Buell’s army, was also
dispatched. Orders went out from the War Department to
consolidate fragments of companies that were being recruited in
the Western States so as to make full companies, and to
consolidate companies into regiments. General Halleck did not
approve or disapprove of my going to Fort Donelson. He said
nothing whatever to me on the subject. He informed Buell on the
7th that I would march against Fort Donelson the next day; but on
the 10th he directed me to fortify Fort Henry strongly,
particularly to the land side, saying that he forwarded me
intrenching tools for that purpose. I received this dispatch in
front of Fort Donelson.

I was very impatient to get to Fort Donelson because I knew the
importance of the place to the enemy and supposed he would
reinforce it rapidly. I felt that 15,000 men on the 8th would
be more effective than 50,000 a month later. I asked
Flag-officer Foote, therefore, to order his gunboats still about
Cairo to proceed up the Cumberland River and not to wait for
those gone to Eastport and Florence; but the others got back in
time and we started on the 12th. I had moved McClernand out a
few miles the night before so as to leave the road as free as

Just as we were about to start the first reinforcement reached
me on transports. It was a brigade composed of six full
regiments commanded by Colonel Thayer, of Nebraska. As the
gunboats were going around to Donelson by the Tennessee, Ohio
and Cumberland rivers, I directed Thayer to turn about and go
under their convoy.

I started from Fort Henry with 15,000 men, including eight
batteries and part of a regiment of cavalry, and, meeting with
no obstruction to detain us, the advance arrived in front of the
enemy by noon. That afternoon and the next day were spent in
taking up ground to make the investment as complete as
possible. General Smith had been directed to leave a portion of
his division behind to guard forts Henry and Heiman. He left
General Lew. Wallace with 2,500 men. With the remainder of his
division he occupied our left, extending to Hickman creek.
McClernand was on the right and covered the roads running south
and south-west from Dover. His right extended to the back-water
up the ravine opening into the Cumberland south of the village.
The troops were not intrenched, but the nature of the ground was
such that they were just as well protected from the fire of the
enemy as if rifle-pits had been thrown up. Our line was
generally along the crest of ridges. The artillery was
protected by being sunk in the ground. The men who were not
serving the guns were perfectly covered from fire on taking
position a little back from the crest. The greatest suffering
was from want of shelter. It was midwinter and during the siege
we had rain and snow, thawing and freezing alternately. It would
not do to allow camp-fires except far down the hill out of sight
of the enemy, and it would not do to allow many of the troops to
remain there at the same time. In the march over from Fort Henry
numbers of the men had thrown away their blankets and
overcoats. There was therefore much discomfort and absolute

During the 12th and 13th, and until the arrival of Wallace and
Thayer on the 14th, the National forces, composed of but 15,000
men, without intrenchments, confronted an intrenched army of
21,000, without conflict further than what was brought on by
ourselves. Only one gunboat had arrived. There was a little
skirmishing each day, brought on by the movement of our troops
in securing commanding positions; but there was no actual
fighting during this time except once, on the 13th, in front of
McClernand’s command. That general had undertaken to capture a
battery of the enemy which was annoying his men. Without orders
or authority he sent three regiments to make the assault. The
battery was in the main line of the enemy, which was defended by
his whole army present. Of course the assault was a failure, and
of course the loss on our side was great for the number of men
engaged. In this assault Colonel William Morrison fell badly
wounded. Up to this time the surgeons with the army had no
difficulty in finding room in the houses near our line for all
the sick and wounded; but now hospitals were overcrowded. Owing,
however, to the energy and skill of the surgeons the suffering
was not so great as it might have been. The hospital
arrangements at Fort Donelson were as complete as it was
possible to make them, considering the inclemency of the weather
and the lack of tents, in a sparsely settled country where the
houses were generally of but one or two rooms.

On the return of Captain Walke to Fort Henry on the 10th, I had
requested him to take the vessels that had accompanied him on
his expedition up the Tennessee, and get possession of the
Cumberland as far up towards Donelson as possible. He started
without delay, taking, however, only his own gunboat, the
Carondelet, towed by the steamer Alps. Captain Walke arrived a
few miles below Donelson on the 12th, a little after noon. About
the time the advance of troops reached a point within gunshot of
the fort on the land side, he engaged the water batteries at
long range. On the 13th I informed him of my arrival the day
before and of the establishment of most of our batteries,
requesting him at the same time to attack again that day so that
I might take advantage of any diversion. The attack was made and
many shots fell within the fort, creating some consternation, as
we now know. The investment on the land side was made as
complete as the number of troops engaged would admit of.

During the night of the 13th Flag-officer Foote arrived with the
iron-clads St. Louis, Louisville and Pittsburg and the wooden
gunboats Tyler and Conestoga, convoying Thayer’s brigade. On
the morning of the 14th Thayer was landed. Wallace, whom I had
ordered over from Fort Henry, also arrived about the same
time. Up to this time he had been commanding a brigade
belonging to the division of General C. F. Smith. These troops
were now restored to the division they belonged to, and General
Lew. Wallace was assigned to the command of a division composed
of the brigade of Colonel Thayer and other reinforcements that
arrived the same day. This new division was assigned to the
centre, giving the two flanking divisions an opportunity to
close up and form a stronger line.

The plan was for the troops to hold the enemy within his lines,
while the gunboats should attack the water batteries at close
quarters and silence his guns if possible. Some of the gunboats
were to run the batteries, get above the fort and above the
village of Dover. I had ordered a reconnoissance made with the
view of getting troops to the river above Dover in case they
should be needed there. That position attained by the gunboats
it would have been but a question of time–and a very short
time, too–when the garrison would have been compelled to

By three in the afternoon of the 14th Flag-officer Foote was
ready, and advanced upon the water batteries with his entire
fleet. After coming in range of the batteries of the enemy the
advance was slow, but a constant fire was delivered from every
gun that could be brought to bear upon the fort. I occupied a
position on shore from which I could see the advancing navy. The
leading boat got within a very short distance of the water
battery, not further off I think than two hundred yards, and I
soon saw one and then another of them dropping down the river,
visibly disabled. Then the whole fleet followed and the
engagement closed for the day. The gunboat which Flag-officer
Foote was on, besides having been hit about sixty times, several
of the shots passing through near the waterline, had a shot enter
the pilot-house which killed the pilot, carried away the wheel
and wounded the flag-officer himself. The tiller-ropes of
another vessel were carried away and she, too, dropped
helplessly back. Two others had their pilot-houses so injured
that they scarcely formed a protection to the men at the wheel.

The enemy had evidently been much demoralized by the assault,
but they were jubilant when they saw the disabled vessels
dropping down the river entirely out of the control of the men
on board. Of course I only witnessed the falling back of our
gunboats and felt sad enough at the time over the repulse.
Subsequent reports, now published, show that the enemy
telegraphed a great victory to Richmond. The sun went down on
the night of the 14th of February, 1862, leaving the army
confronting Fort Donelson anything but comforted over the
prospects. The weather had turned intensely cold; the men were
without tents and could not keep up fires where most of them had
to stay, and, as previously stated, many had thrown away their
overcoats and blankets. Two of the strongest of our gunboats
had been disabled, presumably beyond the possibility of
rendering any present assistance. I retired this night not
knowing but that I would have to intrench my position, and bring
up tents for the men or build huts under the cover of the hills.

On the morning of the 15th, before it was yet broad day, a
messenger from Flag-officer Foote handed me a note, expressing a
desire to see me on the flag-ship and saying that he had been
injured the day before so much that he could not come himself to
me. I at once made my preparations for starting. I directed my
adjutant-general to notify each of the division commanders of my
absence and instruct them to do nothing to bring on an engagement
until they received further orders, but to hold their
positions. From the heavy rains that had fallen for days and
weeks preceding and from the constant use of the roads between
the troops and the landing four to seven miles below, these
roads had become cut up so as to be hardly passable. The
intense cold of the night of the 14th-15th had frozen the ground
solid. This made travel on horseback even slower than through
the mud; but I went as fast as the roads would allow.

When I reached the fleet I found the flag-ship was anchored out
in the stream. A small boat, however, awaited my arrival and I
was soon on board with the flag-officer. He explained to me in
short the condition in which he was left by the engagement of
the evening before, and suggested that I should intrench while
he returned to Mound City with his disabled boats, expressing at
the time the belief that he could have the necessary repairs made
and be back in ten days. I saw the absolute necessity of his
gunboats going into hospital and did not know but I should be
forced to the alternative of going through a siege. But the
enemy relieved me from this necessity.

When I left the National line to visit Flag-officer Foote I had
no idea that there would be any engagement on land unless I
brought it on myself. The conditions for battle were much more
favorable to us than they had been for the first two days of the
investment. From the 12th to the 14th we had but 15,000 men of
all arms and no gunboats. Now we had been reinforced by a fleet
of six naval vessels, a large division of troops under General L.
Wallace and 2,500 men brought over from Fort Henry belonging to
the division of C. F. Smith. The enemy, however, had taken the
initiative. Just as I landed I met Captain Hillyer of my staff,
white with fear, not for his personal safety, but for the safety
of the National troops. He said the enemy had come out of his
lines in full force and attacked and scattered McClernand’s
division, which was in full retreat. The roads, as I have said,
were unfit for making fast time, but I got to my command as soon
as possible. The attack had been made on the National right. I
was some four or five miles north of our left. The line was
about three miles long. In reaching the point where the
disaster had occurred I had to pass the divisions of Smith and
Wallace. I saw no sign of excitement on the portion of the line
held by Smith; Wallace was nearer the scene of conflict and had
taken part in it. He had, at an opportune time, sent Thayer’s
brigade to the support of McClernand and thereby contributed to
hold the enemy within his lines.

I saw everything favorable for us along the line of our left and
centre. When I came to the right appearances were different. The
enemy had come out in full force to cut his way out and make his
escape. McClernand’s division had to bear the brunt of the
attack from this combined force. His men had stood up gallantly
until the ammunition in their cartridge-boxes gave out. There
was abundance of ammunition near by lying on the ground in
boxes, but at that stage of the war it was not all of our
commanders of regiments, brigades, or even divisions, who had
been educated up to the point of seeing that their men were
constantly supplied with ammunition during an engagement. When
the men found themselves without ammunition they could not stand
up against troops who seemed to have plenty of it. The division
broke and a portion fled, but most of the men, as they were not
pursued, only fell back out of range of the fire of the enemy.
It must have been about this time that Thayer pushed his brigade
in between the enemy and those of our troops that were without
ammunition. At all events the enemy fell back within his
intrenchments and was there when I got on the field.

I saw the men standing in knots talking in the most excited
manner. No officer seemed to be giving any directions. The
soldiers had their muskets, but no ammunition, while there were
tons of it close at hand. I heard some of the men say that the
enemy had come out with knapsacks, and haversacks filled with
rations. They seemed to think this indicated a determination on
his part to stay out and fight just as long as the provisions
held out. I turned to Colonel J. D. Webster, of my staff, who
was with me, and said: “Some of our men are pretty badly
demoralized, but the enemy must be more so, for he has attempted
to force his way out, but has fallen back: the one who attacks
first now will be victorious and the enemy will have to be in a
hurry if he gets ahead of me.” I determined to make the assault
at once on our left. It was clear to my mind that the enemy had
started to march out with his entire force, except a few
pickets, and if our attack could be made on the left before the
enemy could redistribute his forces along the line, we would
find but little opposition except from the intervening abatis.
I directed Colonel Webster to ride with me and call out to the
men as we passed: “Fill your cartridge-boxes, quick, and get
into line; the enemy is trying to escape and he must not be
permitted to do so.” This acted like a charm. The men only
wanted some one to give them a command. We rode rapidly to
Smith’s quarters, when I explained the situation to him and
directed him to charge the enemy’s works in his front with his
whole division, saying at the same time that he would find
nothing but a very thin line to contend with. The general was
off in an incredibly short time, going in advance himself to
keep his men from firing while they were working their way
through the abatis intervening between them and the enemy. The
outer line of rifle-pits was passed, and the night of the 15th
General Smith, with much of his division, bivouacked within the
lines of the enemy. There was now no doubt but that the
Confederates must surrender or be captured the next day.

There seems from subsequent accounts to have been much
consternation, particularly among the officers of high rank, in
Dover during the night of the 15th. General Floyd, the
commanding officer, who was a man of talent enough for any civil
position, was no soldier and, possibly, did not possess the
elements of one. He was further unfitted for command, for the
reason that his conscience must have troubled him and made him
afraid. As Secretary of War he had taken a solemn oath to
maintain the Constitution of the United States and to uphold the
same against all its enemies. He had betrayed that trust. As
Secretary of War he was reported through the northern press to
have scattered the little army the country had so that the most
of it could be picked up in detail when secession occurred.
About a year before leaving the Cabinet he had removed arms from
northern to southern arsenals. He continued in the Cabinet of
President Buchanan until about the 1st of January, 1861, while
he was working vigilantly for the establishment of a confederacy
made out of United States territory. Well may he have been
afraid to fall into the hands of National troops. He would no
doubt have been tried for misappropriating public property, if
not for treason, had he been captured. General Pillow, next in
command, was conceited, and prided himself much on his services
in the Mexican war. He telegraphed to General Johnston, at
Nashville, after our men were within the rebel rifle-pits, and
almost on the eve of his making his escape, that the Southern
troops had had great success all day. Johnston forwarded the
dispatch to Richmond. While the authorities at the capital were
reading it Floyd and Pillow were fugitives.

A council of war was held by the enemy at which all agreed that
it would be impossible to hold out longer. General Buckner, who
was third in rank in the garrison but much the most capable
soldier, seems to have regarded it a duty to hold the fort until
the general commanding the department, A. S. Johnston, should get
back to his headquarters at Nashville. Buckner’s report shows,
however, that he considered Donelson lost and that any attempt
to hold the place longer would be at the sacrifice of the
command. Being assured that Johnston was already in Nashville,
Buckner too agreed that surrender was the proper thing. Floyd
turned over the command to Pillow, who declined it. It then
devolved upon Buckner, who accepted the responsibility of the
position. Floyd and Pillow took possession of all the river
transports at Dover and before morning both were on their way to
Nashville, with the brigade formerly commanded by Floyd and some
other troops, in all about 3,000. Some marched up the east bank
of the Cumberland; others went on the steamers. During the night
Forrest also, with his cavalry and some other troops about a
thousand in all, made their way out, passing between our right
and the river. They had to ford or swim over the back-water in
the little creek just south of Dover.

Before daylight General Smith brought to me the following letter
from General Buckner:

February 16, 1862.

SIR:–In consideration of all the circumstances governing the
present situation of affairs at this station, I propose to the
Commanding Officer of the Federal forces the appointment of
Commissioners to agree upon terms of capitulation of the forces
and fort under my command, and in that view suggest an armistice
until 12 o’clock to-day.

I am, sir, very respectfully,
Your ob’t se’v’t,
Brig. Gen. C. S. A.

To Brigadier-General U. S. Grant,
Com’ding U. S. Forces,
Near Fort Donelson.

To this I responded as follows:

Camp near Donelson,
February 16, 1862.

General S. B. BUCKNER,
Confederate Army.

SIR:–Yours of this date, proposing armistice and appointment of
Commissioners to settle terms of capitulation, is just
received. No terms except an unconditional and immediate
surrender can be accepted. I propose to move immediately upon
your works.

I am, sir, very respectfully,
Your ob’t se’v’t,
Brig. Gen.

To this I received the following reply:

February 16, 1862.

To Brig. Gen’I U. S. GRANT,
U. S. Army.

SIR:–The distribution of the forces under my command, incident
to an unexpected change of commanders, and the overwhelming
force under your command, compel me, notwithstanding the
brilliant success of the Confederate arms yesterday, to accept
the ungenerous and unchivalrous terms which you propose.

I am, sir,
Your very ob’t se’v’t,
Brig. Gen. C. S. A.

General Buckner, as soon as he had dispatched the first of the
above letters, sent word to his different commanders on the line
of rifle-pits, notifying them that he had made a proposition
looking to the surrender of the garrison, and directing them to
notify National troops in their front so that all fighting might
be prevented. White flags were stuck at intervals along the line
of rifle-pits, but none over the fort. As soon as the last
letter from Buckner was received I mounted my horse and rode to
Dover. General Wallace, I found, had preceded me an hour or
more. I presume that, seeing white flags exposed in his front,
he rode up to see what they meant and, not being fired upon or
halted, he kept on until he found himself at the headquarters of
General Buckner.

I had been at West Point three years with Buckner and afterwards
served with him in the army, so that we were quite well
acquainted. In the course of our conversation, which was very
friendly, he said to me that if he had been in command I would
not have got up to Donelson as easily as I did. I told him that
if he had been in command I should not have tried in the way I
did: I had invested their lines with a smaller force than they
had to defend them, and at the same time had sent a brigade full
5,000 strong, around by water; I had relied very much upon their
commander to allow me to come safely up to the outside of their
works. I asked General Buckner about what force he had to
surrender. He replied that he could not tell with any degree of
accuracy; that all the sick and weak had been sent to Nashville
while we were about Fort Henry; that Floyd and Pillow had left
during the night, taking many men with them; and that Forrest,
and probably others, had also escaped during the preceding
night: the number of casualties he could not tell; but he said
I would not find fewer than 12,000, nor more than 15,000.

He asked permission to send parties outside of the lines to bury
his dead, who had fallen on the 15th when they tried to get
out. I gave directions that his permit to pass our limits
should be recognized. I have no reason to believe that this
privilege was abused, but it familiarized our guards so much
with the sight of Confederates passing to and fro that I have no
doubt many got beyond our pickets unobserved and went on. The
most of the men who went in that way no doubt thought they had
had war enough, and left with the intention of remaining out of
the army. Some came to me and asked permission to go, saying
that they were tired of the war and would not be caught in the
ranks again, and I bade them go.

The actual number of Confederates at Fort Donelson can never be
given with entire accuracy. The largest number admitted by any
writer on the Southern side, is by Colonel Preston Johnston. He
gives the number at 17,000. But this must be an underestimate.
The commissary general of prisoners reported having issued
rations to 14,623 Fort Donelson prisoners at Cairo, as they
passed that point. General Pillow reported the killed and
wounded at 2,000; but he had less opportunity of knowing the
actual numbers than the officers of McClernand’s division, for
most of the killed and wounded fell outside their works, in
front of that division, and were buried or cared for by Buckner
after the surrender and when Pillow was a fugitive. It is known
that Floyd and Pillow escaped during the night of the 15th,
taking with them not less than 3,000 men. Forrest escaped with
about 1,000 and others were leaving singly and in squads all
night. It is probable that the Confederate force at Donelson,
on the 15th of February, 1862, was 21,000 in round numbers.

On the day Fort Donelson fell I had 27,000 men to confront the
Confederate lines and guard the road four or five miles to the
left, over which all our supplies had to be drawn on wagons.
During the 16th, after the surrender, additional reinforcements

During the siege General Sherman had been sent to Smithland, at
the mouth of the Cumberland River, to forward reinforcements and
supplies to me. At that time he was my senior in rank and there
was no authority of law to assign a junior to command a senior
of the same grade. But every boat that came up with supplies or
reinforcements brought a note of encouragement from Sherman,
asking me to call upon him for any assistance he could render
and saying that if he could be of service at the front I might
send for him and he would waive rank.



The news of the fall of Fort Donelson caused great delight all
over the North. At the South, particularly in Richmond, the
effect was correspondingly depressing. I was promptly promoted
to the grade of Major-General of Volunteers, and confirmed by
the Senate. All three of my division commanders were promoted
to the same grade and the colonels who commanded brigades were
made brigadier-generals in the volunteer service. My chief, who
was in St. Louis, telegraphed his congratulations to General
Hunter in Kansas for the services he had rendered in securing
the fall of Fort Donelson by sending reinforcements so
rapidly. To Washington he telegraphed that the victory was due
to General C. F. Smith; “promote him,” he said, “and the whole
country will applaud.” On the 19th there was published at St.
Louis a formal order thanking Flag-officer Foote and myself, and
the forces under our command, for the victories on the Tennessee
and the Cumberland. I received no other recognition whatever
from General Halleck. But General Cullum, his chief of staff,
who was at Cairo, wrote me a warm congratulatory letter on his
own behalf. I approved of General Smith’s promotion highly, as
I did all the promotions that were made.

My opinion was and still is that immediately after the fall of
Fort Donelson the way was opened to the National forces all over
the South-west without much resistance. If one general who would
have taken the responsibility had been in command of all the
troops west of the Alleghanies, he could have marched to
Chattanooga, Corinth, Memphis and Vicksburg with the troops we
then had, and as volunteering was going on rapidly over the
North there would soon have been force enough at all these
centres to operate offensively against any body of the enemy
that might be found near them. Rapid movements and the
acquisition of rebellious territory would have promoted
volunteering, so that reinforcements could have been had as fast
as transportation could have been obtained to carry them to their
destination. On the other hand there were tens of thousands of
strong able-bodied young men still at their homes in the
South-western States, who had not gone into the Confederate army
in February, 1862, and who had no particular desire to go. If
our lines had been extended to protect their homes, many of them
never would have gone. Providence ruled differently. Time was
given the enemy to collect armies and fortify his new positions;
and twice afterwards he came near forcing his north-western front
up to the Ohio River.

I promptly informed the department commander of our success at
Fort Donelson and that the way was open now to Clarksville and
Nashville; and that unless I received orders to the contrary I
should take Clarksville on the 21st and Nashville about the 1st
of March. Both these places are on the Cumberland River above
Fort Donelson. As I heard nothing from headquarters on the
subject, General C. F. Smith was sent to Clarksville at the time
designated and found the place evacuated. The capture of forts
Henry and Donelson had broken the line the enemy had taken from
Columbus to Bowling Green, and it was known that he was falling
back from the eastern point of this line and that Buell was
following, or at least advancing. I should have sent troops to
Nashville at the time I sent to Clarksville, but my
transportation was limited and there were many prisoners to be
forwarded north.

None of the reinforcements from Buell’s army arrived until the
24th of February. Then General Nelson came up, with orders to
report to me with two brigades, he having sent one brigade to
Cairo. I knew General Buell was advancing on Nashville from the
north, and I was advised by scouts that the rebels were leaving
that place, and trying to get out all the supplies they could.
Nashville was, at that time, one of the best provisioned posts
in the South. I had no use for reinforcements now, and thinking
Buell would like to have his troops again, I ordered Nelson to
proceed to Nashville without debarking at Fort Donelson. I sent
a gunboat also as a convoy. The Cumberland River was very high
at the time; the railroad bridge at Nashville had been burned,
and all river craft had been destroyed, or would be before the
enemy left. Nashville is on the west bank of the Cumberland,
and Buell was approaching from the east. I thought the steamers
carrying Nelson’s division would be useful in ferrying the
balance of Buell’s forces across. I ordered Nelson to put
himself in communication with Buell as soon as possible, and if
he found him more than two days off from Nashville to return
below the city and await orders. Buell, however, had already
arrived in person at Edgefield, opposite Nashville, and
Mitchell’s division of his command reached there the same day.
Nelson immediately took possession of the city.

After Nelson had gone and before I had learned of Buell’s
arrival, I sent word to department headquarters that I should go
to Nashville myself on the 28th if I received no orders to the
contrary. Hearing nothing, I went as I had informed my superior
officer I would do. On arriving at Clarksville I saw a fleet of
steamers at the shore–the same that had taken Nelson’s
division–and troops going aboard. I landed and called on the
commanding officer, General C. F. Smith. As soon as he saw me
he showed an order he had just received from Buell in these

NASHVILLE, February 25, 1862.

Commanding U. S. Forces, Clarksville.

GENERAL:–The landing of a portion of our troops, contrary to my
intentions, on the south side of the river has compelled me to
hold this side at every hazard. If the enemy should assume the
offensive, and I am assured by reliable persons that in view of
my position such is his intention, my force present is
altogether inadequate, consisting of only 15,000 men. I have to
request you, therefore, to come forward with all the available
force under your command. So important do I consider the
occasion that I think it necessary to give this communication
all the force of orders, and I send four boats, the Diana,
Woodford, John Rain, and Autocrat, to bring you up. In five or
six days my force will probably be sufficient to relieve you.

Very respectfully, your ob’t srv’t,
Brigadier-General Comd’g.

P. S.–The steamers will leave here at 12 o’clock to-night.

General Smith said this order was nonsense. But I told him it
was better to obey it. The General replied, “of course I must
obey,” and said his men were embarking as fast as they could. I
went on up to Nashville and inspected the position taken by
Nelson’s troops. I did not see Buell during the day, and wrote
him a note saying that I had been in Nashville since early
morning and had hoped to meet him. On my return to the boat we
met. His troops were still east of the river, and the steamers
that had carried Nelson’s division up were mostly at Clarksville
to bring Smith’s division. I said to General Buell my
information was that the enemy was retreating as fast as
possible. General Buell said there was fighting going on then
only ten or twelve miles away. I said: “Quite probably;
Nashville contained valuable stores of arms, ammunition and
provisions, and the enemy is probably trying to carry away all
he can. The fighting is doubtless with the rear-guard who are
trying to protect the trains they are getting away with.” Buell
spoke very positively of the danger Nashville was in of an attack
from the enemy. I said, in the absence of positive information,
I believed my information was correct. He responded that he
“knew.” “Well,” I said, “I do not know; but as I came by
Clarksville General Smith’s troops were embarking to join you.”

Smith’s troops were returned the same day. The enemy were
trying to get away from Nashville and not to return to it.

At this time General Albert Sidney Johnston commanded all the
Confederate troops west of the Alleghany Mountains, with the
exception of those in the extreme south. On the National side
the forces confronting him were divided into, at first three,
then four separate departments. Johnston had greatly the
advantage in having supreme command over all troops that could
possibly be brought to bear upon one point, while the forces
similarly situated on the National side, divided into
independent commands, could not be brought into harmonious
action except by orders from Washington.

At the beginning of 1862 Johnston’s troops east of the
Mississippi occupied a line extending from Columbus, on his
left, to Mill Springs, on his right. As we have seen, Columbus,
both banks of the Tennessee River, the west bank of the
Cumberland and Bowling Green, all were strongly fortified. Mill
Springs was intrenched. The National troops occupied no
territory south of the Ohio, except three small garrisons along
its bank and a force thrown out from Louisville to confront that
at Bowling Green. Johnston’s strength was no doubt numerically
inferior to that of the National troops; but this was
compensated for by the advantage of being sole commander of all
the Confederate forces at the West, and of operating in a
country where his friends would take care of his rear without
any detail of soldiers. But when General George H. Thomas moved
upon the enemy at Mill Springs and totally routed him, inflicting
a loss of some 300 killed and wounded, and forts Henry and Heiman
fell into the hands of the National forces, with their armaments
and about 100 prisoners, those losses seemed to dishearten the
Confederate commander so much that he immediately commenced a
retreat from Bowling Green on Nashville. He reached this latter
place on the 14th of February, while Donelson was still
besieged. Buell followed with a portion of the Army of the
Ohio, but he had to march and did not reach the east bank of the
Cumberland opposite Nashville until the 24th of the month, and
then with only one division of his army.

The bridge at Nashville had been destroyed and all boats removed
or disabled, so that a small garrison could have held the place
against any National troops that could have been brought against
it within ten days after the arrival of the force from Bowling
Green. Johnston seemed to lie quietly at Nashville to await the
result at Fort Donelson, on which he had staked the possession of
most of the territory embraced in the States of Kentucky and
Tennessee. It is true, the two generals senior in rank at Fort
Donelson were sending him encouraging dispatches, even claiming
great Confederate victories up to the night of the 16th when
they must have been preparing for their individual escape.
Johnston made a fatal mistake in intrusting so important a
command to Floyd, who he must have known was no soldier even if
he possessed the elements of one. Pillow’s presence as second
was also a mistake. If these officers had been forced upon him
and designated for that particular command, then he should have
left Nashville with a small garrison under a trusty officer, and
with the remainder of his force gone to Donelson himself. If he
had been captured the result could not have been worse than it

Johnston’s heart failed him upon the first advance of National
troops. He wrote to Richmond on the 8th of February, “I think
the gunboats of the enemy will probably take Fort Donelson
without the necessity of employing their land force in
cooperation.” After the fall of that place he abandoned
Nashville and Chattanooga without an effort to save either, and
fell back into northern Mississippi, where, six weeks later, he
was destined to end his career.

From the time of leaving Cairo I was singularly unfortunate in
not receiving dispatches from General Halleck. The order of the
10th of February directing me to fortify Fort Henry strongly,
particularly to the land side, and saying that intrenching tools
had been sent for that purpose, reached me after Donelson was
invested. I received nothing direct which indicated that the
department commander knew we were in possession of Donelson. I
was reporting regularly to the chief of staff, who had been sent
to Cairo, soon after the troops left there, to receive all
reports from the front and to telegraph the substance to the St.
Louis headquarters. Cairo was at the southern end of the
telegraph wire. Another line was started at once from Cairo to
Paducah and Smithland, at the mouths of the Tennessee and
Cumberland respectively. My dispatches were all sent to Cairo
by boat, but many of those addressed to me were sent to the
operator at the end of the advancing wire and he failed to
forward them. This operator afterwards proved to be a rebel; he
deserted his post after a short time and went south taking his
dispatches with him. A telegram from General McClellan to me of
February 16th, the day of the surrender, directing me to report
in full the situation, was not received at my headquarters until
the 3d of March.

On the 2d of March I received orders dated March 1st to move my
command back to Fort Henry, leaving only a small garrison at
Donelson. From Fort Henry expeditions were to be sent against
Eastport, Mississippi, and Paris, Tennessee. We started from
Donelson on the 4th, and the same day I was back on the
Tennessee River. On March 4th I also received the following
dispatch from General Halleck:

Fort Henry:

You will place Maj.-Gen. C. F. Smith in command of expedition,
and remain yourself at Fort Henry. Why do you not obey my
orders to report strength and positions of your command?


I was surprised. This was the first intimation I had received
that General Halleck had called for information as to the
strength of my command. On the 6th he wrote to me again. “Your
going to Nashville without authority, and when your presence with
your troops was of the utmost importance, was a matter of very
serious complaint at Washington, so much so that I was advised
to arrest you on your return.” This was the first I knew of his
objecting to my going to Nashville. That place was not beyond
the limits of my command, which, it had been expressly declared
in orders, were “not defined.” Nashville is west of the
Cumberland River, and I had sent troops that had reported to me
for duty to occupy the place. I turned over the command as
directed and then replied to General Halleck courteously, but
asked to be relieved from further duty under him.

Later I learned that General Halleck had been calling lustily
for more troops, promising that he would do something important
if he could only be sufficiently reinforced. McClellan asked
him what force he then had. Halleck telegraphed me to supply
the information so far as my command was concerned, but I
received none of his dispatches. At last Halleck reported to
Washington that he had repeatedly ordered me to give the
strength of my force, but could get nothing out of me; that I
had gone to Nashville, beyond the limits of my command, without
his authority, and that my army was more demoralized by victory
than the army at Bull Run had been by defeat. General
McClellan, on this information, ordered that I should be
relieved from duty and that an investigation should be made into
any charges against me. He even authorized my arrest. Thus in
less than two weeks after the victory at Donelson, the two
leading generals in the army were in correspondence as to what
disposition should be made of me, and in less than three weeks I
was virtually in arrest and without a command.

On the 13th of March I was restored to command, and on the 17th
Halleck sent me a copy of an order from the War Department which
stated that accounts of my misbehavior had reached Washington and
directed him to investigate and report the facts. He forwarded
also a copy of a detailed dispatch from himself to Washington
entirely exonerating me; but he did not inform me that it was
his own reports that had created all the trouble. On the
contrary, he wrote to me, “Instead of relieving you, I wish you,
as soon as your new army is in the field, to assume immediate
command, and lead it to new victories.” In consequence I felt
very grateful to him, and supposed it was his interposition that
had set me right with the government. I never knew the truth
until General Badeau unearthed the facts in his researches for
his history of my campaigns.

General Halleck unquestionably deemed General C. F. Smith a much
fitter officer for the command of all the forces in the military
district than I was, and, to render him available for such
command, desired his promotion to antedate mine and those of the
other division commanders. It is probable that the general
opinion was that Smith’s long services in the army and
distinguished deeds rendered him the more proper person for such
command. Indeed I was rather inclined to this opinion myself at
that time, and would have served as faithfully under Smith as he
had done under me. But this did not justify the dispatches which
General Halleck sent to Washington, or his subsequent concealment
of them from me when pretending to explain the action of my

On receipt of the order restoring me to command I proceeded to
Savannah on the Tennessee, to which point my troops had
advanced. General Smith was delighted to see me and was
unhesitating in his denunciation of the treatment I had
received. He was on a sick bed at the time, from which he never
came away alive. His death was a severe loss to our western
army. His personal courage was unquestioned, his judgment and
professional acquirements were unsurpassed, and he had the
confidence of those he commanded as well as of those over him.



When I reassumed command on the 17th of March I found the army
divided, about half being on the east bank of the Tennessee at
Savannah, while one division was at Crump’s landing on the west
bank about four miles higher up, and the remainder at Pittsburg
landing, five miles above Crump’s. The enemy was in force at
Corinth, the junction of the two most important railroads in the
Mississippi valley–one connecting Memphis and the Mississippi
River with the East, and the other leading south to all the
cotton states. Still another railroad connects Corinth with
Jackson, in west Tennessee. If we obtained possession of
Corinth the enemy would have no railroad for the transportation
of armies or supplies until that running east from Vicksburg was
reached. It was the great strategic position at the West between
the Tennessee and the Mississippi rivers and between Nashville
and Vicksburg.

I at once put all the troops at Savannah in motion for Pittsburg
landing, knowing that the enemy was fortifying at Corinth and
collecting an army there under Johnston. It was my expectation
to march against that army as soon as Buell, who had been
ordered to reinforce me with the Army of the Ohio, should
arrive; and the west bank of the river was the place to start
from. Pittsburg is only about twenty miles from Corinth, and
Hamburg landing, four miles further up the river, is a mile or
two nearer. I had not been in command long before I selected
Hamburg as the place to put the Army of the Ohio when it
arrived. The roads from Pittsburg and Hamburg to Corinth
converge some eight miles out. This disposition of the troops
would have given additional roads to march over when the advance
commenced, within supporting distance of each other.

Before I arrived at Savannah, Sherman, who had joined the Army
of the Tennessee and been placed in command of a division, had
made an expedition on steamers convoyed by gunboats to the
neighborhood of Eastport, thirty miles south, for the purpose of
destroying the railroad east of Corinth. The rains had been so
heavy for some time before that the low-lands had become
impassable swamps. Sherman debarked his troops and started out
to accomplish the object of the expedition; but the river was
rising so rapidly that the back-water up the small tributaries
threatened to cut off the possibility of getting back to the
boats, and the expedition had to return without reaching the
railroad. The guns had to be hauled by hand through the water
to get back to the boats.

On the 17th of March the army on the Tennessee River consisted
of five divisions, commanded respectively by Generals C. F.
Smith, McClernand, L. Wallace, Hurlbut and Sherman. General W.
H. L. Wallace was temporarily in command of Smith’s division,
General Smith, as I have said, being confined to his bed.
Reinforcements were arriving daily and as they came up they were
organized, first into brigades, then into a division, and the
command given to General Prentiss, who had been ordered to
report to me. General Buell was on his way from Nashville with
40,000 veterans. On the 19th of March he was at Columbia,
Tennessee, eighty-five miles from Pittsburg. When all
reinforcements should have arrived I expected to take the
initiative by marching on Corinth, and had no expectation of
needing fortifications, though this subject was taken into
consideration. McPherson, my only military engineer, was
directed to lay out a line to intrench. He did so, but reported
that it would have to be made in rear of the line of encampment
as it then ran. The new line, while it would be nearer the
river, was yet too far away from the Tennessee, or even from the
creeks, to be easily supplied with water, and in case of attack
these creeks would be in the hands of the enemy. The fact is, I
regarded the campaign we were engaged in as an offensive one and
had no idea that the enemy would leave strong intrenchments to
take the initiative when he knew he would be attacked where he
was if he remained. This view, however, did not prevent every
precaution being taken and every effort made to keep advised of
all movements of the enemy.

Johnston’s cavalry meanwhile had been well out towards our
front, and occasional encounters occurred between it and our
outposts. On the 1st of April this cavalry became bold and
approached our lines, showing that an advance of some kind was
contemplated. On the 2d Johnston left Corinth in force to
attack my army. On the 4th his cavalry dashed down and captured
a small picket guard of six or seven men, stationed some five
miles out from Pittsburg on the Corinth road. Colonel Buckland
sent relief to the guard at once and soon followed in person
with an entire regiment, and General Sherman followed Buckland
taking the remainder of a brigade. The pursuit was kept up for
some three miles beyond the point where the picket guard had
been captured, and after nightfall Sherman returned to camp and
reported to me by letter what had occurred.

At this time a large body of the enemy was hovering to the west
of us, along the line of the Mobile and Ohio railroad. My
apprehension was much greater for the safety of Crump’s landing
than it was for Pittsburg. I had no apprehension that the enemy
could really capture either place. But I feared it was possible
that he might make a rapid dash upon Crump’s and destroy our
transports and stores, most of which were kept at that point,
and then retreat before Wallace could be reinforced. Lew.
Wallace’s position I regarded as so well chosen that he was not

At this time I generally spent the day at Pittsburg and returned
to Savannah in the evening. I was intending to remove my
headquarters to Pittsburg, but Buell was expected daily and
would come in at Savannah. I remained at this point, therefore,
a few days longer than I otherwise should have done, in order to
meet him on his arrival. The skirmishing in our front, however,
had been so continuous from about the 3d of April that I did not
leave Pittsburg each night until an hour when I felt there would
be no further danger before the morning.

On Friday the 4th, the day of Buckland’s advance, I was very
much injured by my horse falling with me, and on me, while I was
trying to get to the front where firing had been heard. The
night was one of impenetrable darkness, with rain pouring down
in torrents; nothing was visible to the eye except as revealed
by the frequent flashes of lightning. Under these circumstances
I had to trust to the horse, without guidance, to keep the
road. I had not gone far, however, when I met General W. H. L.
Wallace and Colonel (afterwards General) McPherson coming from
the direction of the front. They said all was quiet so far as
the enemy was concerned. On the way back to the boat my horse’s
feet slipped from under him, and he fell with my leg under his
body. The extreme softness of the ground, from the excessive
rains of the few preceding days, no doubt saved me from a severe
injury and protracted lameness. As it was, my ankle was very
much injured, so much so that my boot had to be cut off. For
two or three days after I was unable to walk except with

On the 5th General Nelson, with a division of Buell’s army,
arrived at Savannah and I ordered him to move up the east bank
of the river, to be in a position where he could be ferried over
to Crump’s landing or Pittsburg as occasion required. I had
learned that General Buell himself would be at Savannah the next
day, and desired to meet me on his arrival. Affairs at Pittsburg
landing had been such for several days that I did not want to be
away during the day. I determined, therefore, to take a very
early breakfast and ride out to meet Buell, and thus save
time. He had arrived on the evening of the 5th, but had not
advised me of the fact and I was not aware of it until some time
after. While I was at breakfast, however, heavy firing was heard
in the direction of Pittsburg landing, and I hastened there,
sending a hurried note to Buell informing him of the reason why
I could not meet him at Savannah. On the way up the river I
directed the dispatch-boat to run in close to Crump’s landing,
so that I could communicate with General Lew. Wallace. I found
him waiting on a boat apparently expecting to see me, and I
directed him to get his troops in line ready to execute any
orders he might receive. He replied that his troops were
already under arms and prepared to move.

Up to that time I had felt by no means certain that Crump’s
landing might not be the point of attack. On reaching the
front, however, about eight A.M., I found that the attack on
Pittsburg was unmistakable, and that nothing more than a small
guard, to protect our transports and stores, was needed at
Crump’s. Captain Baxter, a quartermaster on my staff, was
accordingly directed to go back and order General Wallace to
march immediately to Pittsburg by the road nearest the river.
Captain Baxter made a memorandum of this order. About one P.M.,
not hearing from Wallace and being much in need of
reinforcements, I sent two more of my staff, Colonel McPherson
and Captain Rowley, to bring him up with his division. They
reported finding him marching towards Purdy, Bethel, or some
point west from the river, and farther from Pittsburg by several
miles than when he started. The road from his first position to
Pittsburg landing was direct and near the river. Between the
two points a bridge had been built across Snake Creek by our
troops, at which Wallace’s command had assisted, expressly to
enable the troops at the two places to support each other in
case of need. Wallace did not arrive in time to take part in
the first day’s fight. General Wallace has since claimed that
the order delivered to him by Captain Baxter was simply to join
the right of the army, and that the road over which he marched
would have taken him to the road from Pittsburg to Purdy where
it crosses Owl Creek on the right of Sherman; but this is not
where I had ordered him nor where I wanted him to go.

I never could see and do not now see why any order was necessary
further than to direct him to come to Pittsburg landing, without
specifying by what route. His was one of three veteran
divisions that had been in battle, and its absence was severely
felt. Later in the war General Wallace would not have made the
mistake that he committed on the 6th of April, 1862. I presume
his idea was that by taking the route he did he would be able to
come around on the flank or rear of the enemy, and thus perform
an act of heroism that would redound to the credit of his
command, as well as to the benefit of his country.

Some two or three miles from Pittsburg landing was a log
meeting-house called Shiloh. It stood on the ridge which
divides the waters of Snake and Lick creeks, the former emptying
into the Tennessee just north of Pittsburg landing, and the
latter south. This point was the key to our position and was
held by Sherman. His division was at that time wholly raw, no
part of it ever having been in an engagement; but I thought this
deficiency was more than made up by the superiority of the
commander. McClernand was on Sherman’s left, with troops that
had been engaged at forts Henry and Donelson and were therefore
veterans so far as western troops had become such at that stage
of the war. Next to McClernand came Prentiss with a raw
division, and on the extreme left, Stuart with one brigade of
Sherman’s division. Hurlbut was in rear of Prentiss, massed,
and in reserve at the time of the onset. The division of
General C. F. Smith was on the right, also in reserve. General
Smith was still sick in bed at Savannah, but within hearing of
our guns. His services would no doubt have been of inestimable
value had his health permitted his presence. The command of his
division devolved upon Brigadier-General W. H. L. Wallace, a most
estimable and able officer; a veteran too, for he had served a
year in the Mexican war and had been with his command at Henry
and Donelson. Wallace was mortally wounded in the first day’s
engagement, and with the change of commanders thus necessarily
effected in the heat of battle the efficiency of his division
was much weakened.

The position of our troops made a continuous line from Lick
Creek on the left to Owl Creek, a branch of Snake Creek, on the
right, facing nearly south and possibly a little west. The
water in all these streams was very high at the time and
contributed to protect our flanks. The enemy was compelled,
therefore, to attack directly in front. This he did with great
vigor, inflicting heavy losses on the National side, but
suffering much heavier on his own.

The Confederate assaults were made with such a disregard of
losses on their own side that our line of tents soon fell into
their hands. The ground on which the battle was fought was
undulating, heavily timbered with scattered clearings, the woods
giving some protection to the troops on both sides. There was
also considerable underbrush. A number of attempts were made by
the enemy to turn our right flank, where Sherman was posted, but
every effort was repulsed with heavy loss. But the front attack
was kept up so vigorously that, to prevent the success of these
attempts to get on our flanks, the National troops were
compelled, several times, to take positions to the rear nearer
Pittsburg landing. When the firing ceased at night the National
line was all of a mile in rear of the position it had occupied in
the morning.

In one of the backward moves, on the 6th, the division commanded
by General Prentiss did not fall back with the others. This left
his flanks exposed and enabled the enemy to capture him with
about 2,200 of his officers and men. General Badeau gives four
o’clock of the 6th as about the time this capture took place. He
may be right as to the time, but my recollection is that the hour
was later. General Prentiss himself gave the hour as half-past
five. I was with him, as I was with each of the division
commanders that day, several times, and my recollection is that
the last time I was with him was about half-past four, when his
division was standing up firmly and the General was as cool as
if expecting victory. But no matter whether it was four or
later, the story that he and his command were surprised and
captured in their camps is without any foundation whatever. If
it had been true, as currently reported at the time and yet
believed by thousands of people, that Prentiss and his division
had been captured in their beds, there would not have been an
all-day struggle, with the loss of thousands killed and wounded
on the Confederate side.

With the single exception of a few minutes after the capture of
Prentiss, a continuous and unbroken line was maintained all day
from Snake Creek or its tributaries on the right to Lick Creek
or the Tennessee on the left above Pittsburg.

There was no hour during the day when there was not heavy firing
and generally hard fighting at some point on the line, but seldom
at all points at the same time. It was a case of Southern dash
against Northern pluck and endurance. Three of the five
divisions engaged on Sunday were entirely raw, and many of the
men had only received their arms on the way from their States to
the field. Many of them had arrived but a day or two before and
were hardly able to load their muskets according to the
manual. Their officers were equally ignorant of their duties.
Under these circumstances it is not astonishing that many of the
regiments broke at the first fire. In two cases, as I now
remember, colonels led their regiments from the field on first
hearing the whistle of the enemy’s bullets. In these cases the
colonels were constitutional cowards, unfit for any military
position; but not so the officers and men led out of danger by
them. Better troops never went upon a battle-field than many of
these, officers and men, afterwards proved themselves to be, who
fled panic stricken at the first whistle of bullets and shell at

During the whole of Sunday I was continuously engaged in passing
from one part of the field to another, giving directions to
division commanders. In thus moving along the line, however, I
never deemed it important to stay long with Sherman. Although
his troops were then under fire for the first time, their
commander, by his constant presence with them, inspired a
confidence in officers and men that enabled them to render
services on that bloody battle-field worthy of the best of
veterans. McClernand was next to Sherman, and the hardest
fighting was in front of these two divisions. McClernand told
me on that day, the 6th, that he profited much by having so able
a commander supporting him. A casualty to Sherman that would
have taken him from the field that day would have been a sad one
for the troops engaged at Shiloh. And how near we came to this!
On the 6th Sherman was shot twice, once in the hand, once in the
shoulder, the ball cutting his coat and making a slight wound,
and a third ball passed through his hat. In addition to this he
had several horses shot during the day.

The nature of this battle was such that cavalry could not be
used in front; I therefore formed ours into line in rear, to
stop stragglers–of whom there were many. When there would be
enough of them to make a show, and after they had recovered from
their fright, they would be sent to reinforce some part of the
line which needed support, without regard to their companies,
regiments or brigades.

On one occasion during the day I rode back as far as the river
and met General Buell, who had just arrived; I do not remember
the hour, but at that time there probably were as many as four
or five thousand stragglers lying under cover of the river
bluff, panic-stricken, most of whom would have been shot where
they lay, without resistance, before they would have taken
muskets and marched to the front to protect themselves. This
meeting between General Buell and myself was on the
dispatch-boat used to run between the landing and Savannah. It
was brief, and related specially to his getting his troops over
the river. As we left the boat together, Buell’s attention was
attracted by the men lying under cover of the river bank. I saw
him berating them and trying to shame them into joining their
regiments. He even threatened them with shells from the
gunboats near by. But it was all to no effect. Most of these
men afterward proved themselves as gallant as any of those who
saved the battle from which they had deserted. I have no doubt
that this sight impressed General Buell with the idea that a
line of retreat would be a good thing just then. If he had come
in by the front instead of through the stragglers in the rear, he
would have thought and felt differently. Could he have come
through the Confederate rear, he would have witnessed there a
scene similar to that at our own. The distant rear of an army
engaged in battle is not the best place from which to judge
correctly what is going on in front. Later in the war, while
occupying the country between the Tennessee and the Mississippi,
I learned that the panic in the Confederate lines had not
differed much from that within our own. Some of the country
people estimated the stragglers from Johnston’s army as high as
20,000. Of course this was an exaggeration.

The situation at the close of Sunday was as follows: along the
top of the bluff just south of the log-house which stood at
Pittsburg landing, Colonel J. D. Webster, of my staff, had
arranged twenty or more pieces of artillery facing south or up
the river. This line of artillery was on the crest of a hill
overlooking a deep ravine opening into the Tennessee. Hurlbut
with his division intact was on the right of this artillery,
extending west and possibly a little north. McClernand came
next in the general line, looking more to the west. His
division was complete in its organization and ready for any
duty. Sherman came next, his right extending to Snake Creek.
His command, like the other two, was complete in its
organization and ready, like its chief, for any service it might
be called upon to render. All three divisions were, as a matter
of course, more or less shattered and depleted in numbers from
the terrible battle of the day. The division of W. H. L.
Wallace, as much from the disorder arising from changes of
division and brigade commanders, under heavy fire, as from any
other cause, had lost its organization and did not occupy a
place in the line as a division. Prentiss’ command was gone as
a division, many of its members having been killed, wounded or
captured, but it had rendered valiant services before its final
dispersal, and had contributed a good share to the defence of

The right of my line rested near the bank of Snake Creek, a
short distance above the bridge which had been built by the
troops for the purpose of connecting Crump’s landing and
Pittsburg landing. Sherman had posted some troops in a
log-house and out-buildings which overlooked both the bridge
over which Wallace was expected and the creek above that
point. In this last position Sherman was frequently attacked
before night, but held the point until he voluntarily abandoned
it to advance in order to make room for Lew. Wallace, who came
up after dark.

There was, as I have said, a deep ravine in front of our left.
The Tennessee River was very high and there was water to a
considerable depth in the ravine. Here the enemy made a last
desperate effort to turn our flank, but was repelled. The
gunboats Tyler and Lexington, Gwin and Shirk commanding, with
the artillery under Webster, aided the army and effectually
checked their further progress. Before any of Buell’s troops
had reached the west bank of the Tennessee, firing had almost
entirely ceased; anything like an attempt on the part of the
enemy to advance had absolutely ceased. There was some
artillery firing from an unseen enemy, some of his shells
passing beyond us; but I do not remember that there was the
whistle of a single musket-ball heard. As his troops arrived in
the dusk General Buell marched several of his regiments part way
down the face of the hill where they fired briskly for some
minutes, but I do not think a single man engaged in this firing
received an injury. The attack had spent its force.

General Lew. Wallace, with 5,000 effective men, arrived after
firing had ceased for the day, and was placed on the right. Thus
night came, Wallace came, and the advance of Nelson’s division
came; but none–unless night–in time to be of material service
to the gallant men who saved Shiloh on that first day against
large odds. Buell’s loss on the 6th of April was two men killed
and one wounded, all members of the 36th Indiana infantry. The
Army of the Tennessee lost on that day at least 7,000 men. The
presence of two or three regiments of Buell’s army on the west
bank before firing ceased had not the slightest effect in
preventing the capture of Pittsburg landing.

So confident was I before firing had ceased on the 6th that the
next day would bring victory to our arms if we could only take
the initiative, that I visited each division commander in person
before any reinforcements had reached the field. I directed them
to throw out heavy lines of skirmishers in the morning as soon as
they could see, and push them forward until they found the enemy,
following with their entire divisions in supporting distance, and
to engage the enemy as soon as found. To Sherman I told the
story of the assault at Fort Donelson, and said that the same
tactics would win at Shiloh. Victory was assured when Wallace
arrived, even if there had been no other support. I was glad,
however, to see the reinforcements of Buell and credit them with
doing all there was for them to do.

During the night of the 6th the remainder of Nelson’s division,
Buell’s army crossed the river and were ready to advance in the
morning, forming the left wing. Two other divisions,
Crittenden’s and McCook’s, came up the river from Savannah in
the transports and were on the west bank early on the 7th. Buell
commanded them in person. My command was thus nearly doubled in
numbers and efficiency.

During the night rain fell in torrents and our troops were
exposed to the storm without shelter. I made my headquarters
under a tree a few hundred yards back from the river bank. My
ankle was so much swollen from the fall of my horse the Friday
night preceding, and the bruise was so painful, that I could get
no rest.

The drenching rain would have precluded the possibility of sleep
without this additional cause. Some time after midnight, growing
restive under the storm and the continuous pain, I moved back to
the log-house under the bank. This had been taken as a
hospital, and all night wounded men were being brought in, their
wounds dressed, a leg or an arm amputated as the case might
require, and everything being done to save life or alleviate
suffering. The sight was more unendurable than encountering the
enemy’s fire, and I returned to my tree in the rain.

The advance on the morning of the 7th developed the enemy in the
camps occupied by our troops before the battle began, more than a
mile back from the most advanced position of the Confederates on
the day before. It is known now that they had not yet learned
of the arrival of Buell’s command. Possibly they fell back so
far to get the shelter of our tents during the rain, and also to
get away from the shells that were dropped upon them by the
gunboats every fifteen minutes during the night.

The position of the Union troops on the morning of the 7th was
as follows: General Lew. Wallace on the right; Sherman on his
left; then McClernand and then Hurlbut. Nelson, of Buell’s
army, was on our extreme left, next to the river.

Crittenden was next in line after Nelson and on his right,
McCook followed and formed the extreme right of Buell’s
command. My old command thus formed the right wing, while the
troops directly under Buell constituted the left wing of the
army. These relative positions were retained during the entire
day, or until the enemy was driven from the field.

In a very short time the battle became general all along the
line. This day everything was favorable to the Union side. We
had now become the attacking party. The enemy was driven back
all day, as we had been the day before, until finally he beat a
precipitate retreat. The last point held by him was near the
road leading from the landing to Corinth, on the left of Sherman
and right of McClernand. About three o’clock, being near that
point and seeing that the enemy was giving way everywhere else,
I gathered up a couple of regiments, or parts of regiments, from
troops near by, formed them in line of battle and marched them
forward, going in front myself to prevent premature or
long-range firing. At this point there was a clearing between
us and the enemy favorable for charging, although exposed. I
knew the enemy were ready to break and only wanted a little
encouragement from us to go quickly and join their friends who
had started earlier. After marching to within musket-range I
stopped and let the troops pass. The command, CHARGE, was
given, and was executed with loud cheers and with a run; when
the last of the enemy broke. (*7)



During this second day of the battle I had been moving from
right to left and back, to see for myself the progress made. In
the early part of the afternoon, while riding with Colonel
McPherson and Major Hawkins, then my chief commissary, we got
beyond the left of our troops. We were moving along the
northern edge of a clearing, very leisurely, toward the river
above the landing. There did not appear to be an enemy to our
right, until suddenly a battery with musketry opened upon us
from the edge of the woods on the other side of the clearing.
The shells and balls whistled about our ears very fast for about
a minute. I do not think it took us longer than that to get out
of range and out of sight. In the sudden start we made, Major
Hawkins lost his hat. He did not stop to pick it up. When we
arrived at a perfectly safe position we halted to take an
account of damages. McPherson’s horse was panting as if ready
to drop. On examination it was found that a ball had struck him
forward of the flank just back of the saddle, and had gone
entirely through. In a few minutes the poor beast dropped dead;
he had given no sign of injury until we came to a stop. A ball
had struck the metal scabbard of my sword, just below the hilt,
and broken it nearly off; before the battle was over it had
broken off entirely. There were three of us: one had lost a
horse, killed; one a hat and one a sword-scabbard. All were
thankful that it was no worse.

After the rain of the night before and the frequent and heavy
rains for some days previous, the roads were almost
impassable. The enemy carrying his artillery and supply trains
over them in his retreat, made them still worse for troops
following. I wanted to pursue, but had not the heart to order
the men who had fought desperately for two days, lying in the
mud and rain whenever not fighting, and I did (*8) not feel
disposed to positively order Buell, or any part of his command,
to pursue. Although the senior in rank at the time I had been
so only a few weeks. Buell was, and had been for some time
past, a department commander, while I commanded only a
district. I did not meet Buell in person until too late to get
troops ready and pursue with effect; but had I seen him at the
moment of the last charge I should have at least requested him
to follow.

I rode forward several miles the day after the battle, and found
that the enemy had dropped much, if not all, of their provisions,
some ammunition and the extra wheels of their caissons,
lightening their loads to enable them to get off their guns.
About five miles out we found their field hospital abandoned. An
immediate pursuit must have resulted in the capture of a
considerable number of prisoners and probably some guns.

Shiloh was the severest battle fought at the West during the
war, and but few in the East equalled it for hard, determined
fighting. I saw an open field, in our possession on the second
day, over which the Confederates had made repeated charges the
day before, so covered with dead that it would have been
possible to walk across the clearing, in any direction, stepping
on dead bodies, without a foot touching the ground. On our side
National and Confederate troops were mingled together in about
equal proportions; but on the remainder of the field nearly all
were Confederates. On one part, which had evidently not been
ploughed for several years, probably because the land was poor,
bushes had grown up, some to the height of eight or ten feet.
There was not one of these left standing unpierced by bullets.
The smaller ones were all cut down.

Contrary to all my experience up to that time, and to the
experience of the army I was then commanding, we were on the
defensive. We were without intrenchments or defensive
advantages of any sort, and more than half the army engaged the
first day was without experience or even drill as soldiers. The
officers with them, except the division commanders and possibly
two or three of the brigade commanders, were equally
inexperienced in war. The result was a Union victory that gave
the men who achieved it great confidence in themselves ever

The enemy fought bravely, but they had started out to defeat and
destroy an army and capture a position. They failed in both,
with very heavy loss in killed and wounded, and must have gone
back discouraged and convinced that the “Yankee” was not an
enemy to be despised.

After the battle I gave verbal instructions to division
commanders to let the regiments send out parties to bury their
own dead, and to detail parties, under commissioned officers
from each division, to bury the Confederate dead in their
respective fronts and to report the numbers so buried. The
latter part of these instructions was not carried out by all;
but they were by those sent from Sherman’s division, and by some
of the parties sent out by McClernand. The heaviest loss
sustained by the enemy was in front of these two divisions.

The criticism has often been made that the Union troops should
have been intrenched at Shiloh. Up to that time the pick and
spade had been but little resorted to at the West. I had,
however, taken this subject under consideration soon after
re-assuming command in the field, and, as already stated, my
only military engineer reported unfavorably. Besides this, the
troops with me, officers and men, needed discipline and drill
more than they did experience with the pick, shovel and axe.
Reinforcements were arriving almost daily, composed of troops
that had been hastily thrown together into companies and
regiments–fragments of incomplete organizations, the men and
officers strangers to each other. Under all these circumstances
I concluded that drill and discipline were worth more to our men
than fortifications.

General Buell was a brave, intelligent officer, with as much
professional pride and ambition of a commendable sort as I ever
knew. I had been two years at West Point with him, and had
served with him afterwards, in garrison and in the Mexican war,
several years more. He was not given in early life or in mature
years to forming intimate acquaintances. He was studious by
habit, and commanded the confidence and respect of all who knew
him. He was a strict disciplinarian, and perhaps did not
distinguish sufficiently between the volunteer who “enlisted for
the war” and the soldier who serves in time of peace. One system
embraced men who risked life for a principle, and often men of
social standing, competence, or wealth and independence of
character. The other includes, as a rule, only men who could
not do as well in any other occupation. General Buell became an
object of harsh criticism later, some going so far as to
challenge his loyalty. No one who knew him ever believed him
capable of a dishonorable act, and nothing could be more
dishonorable than to accept high rank and command in war and
then betray the trust. When I came into command of the army in
1864, I requested the Secretary of War to restore General Buell
to duty.

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.

The battle of Shiloh, or Pittsburg landing, has been perhaps
less understood, or, to state the case more accurately, more
persistently misunderstood, than any other engagement between
National and Confederate troops during the entire rebellion.
Correct reports of the battle have been published, notably by
Sherman, Badeau and, in a speech before a meeting of veterans,
by General Prentiss; but all of these appeared long subsequent
to the close of the rebellion and after public opinion had been
most erroneously formed.

I myself made no report to General Halleck, further than was
contained in a letter, written immediately after the battle
informing him that an engagement had been fought and announcing
the result. A few days afterwards General Halleck moved his
headquarters to Pittsburg landing and assumed command of the
troops in the field. Although next to him in rank, and
nominally in command of my old district and army, I was ignored
as much as if I had been at the most distant point of territory
within my jurisdiction; and although I was in command of all the
troops engaged at Shiloh I was not permitted to see one of the
reports of General Buell or his subordinates in that battle,
until they were published by the War Department long after the
event. For this reason I never made a full official report of
this engagement.



General Halleck arrived at Pittsburg landing on the 11th of
April and immediately assumed command in the field. On the 21st
General Pope arrived with an army 30,000 strong, fresh from the
capture of Island Number Ten in the Mississippi River. He went
into camp at Hamburg landing five miles above Pittsburg. Halleck
had now three armies: the Army of the Ohio, Buell commanding;
the Army of the Mississippi, Pope commanding; and the Army of
the Tennessee. His orders divided the combined force into the
right wing, reserve, centre and left wing. Major-General George
H. Thomas, who had been in Buell’s army, was transferred with
his division to the Army of the Tennessee and given command of
the right wing, composed of all of that army except McClernand’s
and Lew. Wallace’s divisions. McClernand was assigned to the
command of the reserve, composed of his own and Lew. Wallace’s
divisions. Buell commanded the centre, the Army of the Ohio;
and Pope the left wing, the Army of the Mississippi. I was
named second in command of the whole, and was also supposed to
be in command of the right wing and reserve.

Orders were given to all the commanders engaged at Shiloh to
send in their reports without delay to department
headquarters. Those from officers of the Army of the Tennessee
were sent through me; but from the Army of the Ohio they were
sent by General Buell without passing through my hands. General
Halleck ordered me, verbally, to send in my report, but I
positively declined on the ground that he had received the
reports of a part of the army engaged at Shiloh without their
coming through me. He admitted that my refusal was justifiable
under the circumstances, but explained that he had wanted to get
the reports off before moving the command, and as fast as a
report had come to him he had forwarded it to Washington.

Preparations were at once made upon the arrival of the new
commander for an advance on Corinth. Owl Creek, on our right,
was bridged, and expeditions were sent to the north-west and
west to ascertain if our position was being threatened from
those quarters; the roads towards Corinth were corduroyed and
new ones made; lateral roads were also constructed, so that in
case of necessity troops marching by different routes could
reinforce each other. All commanders were cautioned against
bringing on an engagement and informed in so many words that it
would be better to retreat than to fight. By the 30th of April
all preparations were complete; the country west to the Mobile
and Ohio railroad had been reconnoitred, as well as the road to
Corinth as far as Monterey twelve miles from Pittsburg.
Everywhere small bodies of the enemy had been encountered, but
they were observers and not in force to fight battles.

Corinth, Mississippi, lies in a south-westerly direction from
Pittsburg landing and about nineteen miles away as the bird
would fly, but probably twenty-two by the nearest wagon-road. It
is about four miles south of the line dividing the States of
Tennessee and Mississippi, and at the junction of the
Mississippi and Chattanooga railroad with the Mobile and Ohio
road which runs from Columbus to Mobile. From Pittsburg to
Corinth the land is rolling, but at no point reaching an
elevation that makes high hills to pass over. In 1862 the
greater part of the country was covered with forest with
intervening clearings and houses. Underbrush was dense in the
low grounds along the creeks and ravines, but generally not so
thick on the high land as to prevent men passing through with
ease. There are two small creeks running from north of the town
and connecting some four miles south, where they form Bridge
Creek which empties into the Tuscumbia River. Corinth is on the
ridge between these streams and is a naturally strong defensive
position. The creeks are insignificant in volume of water, but
the stream to the east widens out in front of the town into a
swamp impassable in the presence of an enemy. On the crest of
the west bank of this stream the enemy was strongly intrenched.

Corinth was a valuable strategic point for the enemy to hold,
and consequently a valuable one for us to possess ourselves
of. We ought to have seized it immediately after the fall of
Donelson and Nashville, when it could have been taken without a
battle, but failing then it should have been taken, without
delay on the concentration of troops at Pittsburg landing after
the battle of Shiloh. In fact the arrival of Pope should not
have been awaited. There was no time from the battle of Shiloh
up to the evacuation of Corinth when the enemy would not have
left if pushed. The demoralization among the Confederates from
their defeats at Henry and Donelson; their long marches from
Bowling Green, Columbus, and Nashville, and their failure at
Shiloh; in fact from having been driven out of Kentucky and
Tennessee, was so great that a stand for the time would have
been impossible. Beauregard made strenuous efforts to reinforce
himself and partially succeeded. He appealed to the people of
the South-west for new regiments, and received a few. A. S.
Johnston had made efforts to reinforce in the same quarter,
before the battle of Shiloh, but in a different way. He had
negroes sent out to him to take the place of teamsters, company
cooks and laborers in every capacity, so as to put all his white
men into the ranks. The people, while willing to send their sons
to the field, were not willing to part with their negroes. It is
only fair to state that they probably wanted their blacks to
raise supplies for the army and for the families left at home.

Beauregard, however, was reinforced by Van Dorn immediately
after Shiloh with 17,000 men. Interior points, less exposed,
were also depleted to add to the strength at Corinth. With
these reinforcements and the new regiments, Beauregard had,
during the month of May, 1862, a large force on paper, but
probably not much over 50,000 effective men. We estimated his
strength at 70,000. Our own was, in round numbers, 120,000. The
defensible nature of the ground at Corinth, and the
fortifications, made 50,000 then enough to maintain their
position against double that number for an indefinite time but
for the demoralization spoken of.

On the 30th of April the grand army commenced its advance from
Shiloh upon Corinth. The movement was a siege from the start to
the close. The National troops were always behind intrenchments,
except of course the small reconnoitring parties sent to the
front to clear the way for an advance. Even the commanders of
these parties were cautioned, “not to bring on an engagement.”
“It is better to retreat than to fight.” The enemy were
constantly watching our advance, but as they were simply
observers there were but few engagements that even threatened to
become battles. All the engagements fought ought to have served
to encourage the enemy. Roads were again made in our front, and
again corduroyed; a line was intrenched, and the troops were
advanced to the new position. Cross roads were constructed to
these new positions to enable the troops to concentrate in case
of attack. The National armies were thoroughly intrenched all
the way from the Tennessee River to Corinth.

For myself I was little more than an observer. Orders were sent
direct to the right wing or reserve, ignoring me, and advances
were made from one line of intrenchments to another without
notifying me. My position was so embarrassing in fact that I
made several applications during the siege to be relieved.

General Halleck kept his headquarters generally, if not all the
time, with the right wing. Pope being on the extreme left did
not see so much of his chief, and consequently got loose as it
were at times. On the 3d of May he was at Seven Mile Creek with
the main body of his command, but threw forward a division to
Farmington, within four miles of Corinth. His troops had quite
a little engagement at Farmington on that day, but carried the
place with considerable loss to the enemy. There would then
have been no difficulty in advancing the centre and right so as
to form a new line well up to the enemy, but Pope was ordered
back to conform with the general line. On the 8th of May he
moved again, taking his whole force to Farmington, and pushed
out two divisions close to the rebel line. Again he was ordered
back. By the 4th of May the centre and right wing reached
Monterey, twelve miles out. Their advance was slow from there,
for they intrenched with every forward movement. The left wing
moved up again on the 25th of May and intrenched itself close to
the enemy. The creek with the marsh before described, separated
the two lines. Skirmishers thirty feet apart could have
maintained either line at this point.

Our centre and right were, at this time, extended so that the
right of the right wing was probably five miles from Corinth and
four from the works in their front. The creek, which was a
formidable obstacle for either side to pass on our left, became
a very slight obstacle on our right. Here the enemy occupied
two positions. One of them, as much as two miles out from his
main line, was on a commanding elevation and defended by an
intrenched battery with infantry supports. A heavy wood
intervened between this work and the National forces. In rear
to the south there was a clearing extending a mile or more, and
south of this clearing a log-house which had been loop-holed and
was occupied by infantry. Sherman’s division carried these two
positions with some loss to himself, but with probably greater
to the enemy, on the 28th of May, and on that day the investment
of Corinth was complete, or as complete as it was ever made.
Thomas’ right now rested west of the Mobile and Ohio railroad.
Pope’s left commanded the Memphis and Charleston railroad east
of Corinth.

Some days before I had suggested to the commanding general that
I thought if he would move the Army of the Mississippi at night,
by the rear of the centre and right, ready to advance at
daylight, Pope would find no natural obstacle in his front and,
I believed, no serious artificial one. The ground, or works,
occupied by our left could be held by a thin picket line, owing
to the stream and swamp in front. To the right the troops would
have a dry ridge to march over. I was silenced so quickly that I
felt that possibly I had suggested an unmilitary movement.

Later, probably on the 28th of May, General Logan, whose command
was then on the Mobile and Ohio railroad, said to me that the
enemy had been evacuating for several days and that if allowed
he could go into Corinth with his brigade. Trains of cars were
heard coming in and going out of Corinth constantly. Some of
the men who had been engaged in various capacities on railroads
before the war claimed that they could tell, by putting their
ears to the rail, not only which way the trains were moving but
which trains were loaded and which were empty. They said loaded
trains had been going out for several days and empty ones coming
in. Subsequent events proved the correctness of their
judgment. Beauregard published his orders for the evacuation of
Corinth on the 26th of May and fixed the 29th for the departure
of his troops, and on the 30th of May General Halleck had his
whole army drawn up prepared for battle and announced in orders
that there was every indication that our left was to be attacked
that morning. Corinth had already been evacuated and the
National troops marched on and took possession without
opposition. Everything had been destroyed or carried away. The
Confederate commander had instructed his soldiers to cheer on the
arrival of every train to create the impression among the Yankees
that reinforcements were arriving. There was not a sick or
wounded man left by the Confederates, nor stores of any kind.
Some ammunition had been blown up–not removed–but the trophies
of war were a few Quaker guns, logs of about the diameter of
ordinary cannon, mounted on wheels of wagons and pointed in the
most threatening manner towards us.

The possession of Corinth by the National troops was of
strategic importance, but the victory was barren in every other
particular. It was nearly bloodless. It is a question whether
the MORALE of the Confederate troops engaged at Corinth was not
improved by the immunity with which they were permitted to
remove all public property and then withdraw themselves. On our
side I know officers and men of the Army of the Tennessee–and I
presume the same is true of those of the other commands–were
disappointed at the result. They could not see how the mere
occupation of places was to close the war while large and
effective rebel armies existed. They believed that a well-
directed attack would at least have partially destroyed the army
defending Corinth. For myself I am satisfied that Corinth could
have been captured in a two days’ campaign commenced promptly on
the arrival of reinforcements after the battle of Shiloh.

General Halleck at once commenced erecting fortifications around
Corinth on a scale to indicate that this one point must be held
if it took the whole National army to do it. All commanding
points two or three miles to the south, south-east and
south-west were strongly fortified. It was expected in case of
necessity to connect these forts by rifle-pits. They were laid
out on a scale that would have required 100,000 men to fully man
them. It was probably thought that a final battle of the war
would be fought at that point. These fortifications were never
used. Immediately after the occupation of Corinth by the
National troops, General Pope was sent in pursuit of the
retreating garrison and General Buell soon followed. Buell was
the senior of the two generals and commanded the entire
column. The pursuit was kept up for some thirty miles, but did
not result in the capture of any material of war or prisoners,
unless a few stragglers who had fallen behind and were willing
captives. On the 10th of June the pursuing column was all back
at Corinth. The Army of the Tennessee was not engaged in any of
these movements.

The Confederates were now driven out of West Tennessee, and on
the 6th of June, after a well-contested naval battle, the
National forces took possession of Memphis and held the
Mississippi river from its source to that point. The railroad
from Columbus to Corinth was at once put in good condition and
held by us. We had garrisons at Donelson, Clarksville and
Nashville, on the Cumberland River, and held the Tennessee River
from its mouth to Eastport. New Orleans and Baton Rouge had
fallen into the possession of the National forces, so that now
the Confederates at the west were narrowed down for all
communication with Richmond to the single line of road running
east from Vicksburg. To dispossess them of this, therefore,
became a matter of the first importance. The possession of the
Mississippi by us from Memphis to Baton Rouge was also a most
important object. It would be equal to the amputation of a limb
in its weakening effects upon the enemy.

After the capture of Corinth a movable force of 80,000 men,
besides enough to hold all the territory acquired, could have
been set in motion for the accomplishment of any great campaign
for the suppression of the rebellion. In addition to this fresh
troops were being raised to swell the effective force. But the
work of depletion commenced. Buell with the Army of the Ohio
was sent east, following the line of the Memphis and Charleston
railroad. This he was ordered to repair as he advanced–only to
have it destroyed by small guerilla bands or other troops as soon
as he was out of the way. If he had been sent directly to
Chattanooga as rapidly as he could march, leaving two or three
divisions along the line of the railroad from Nashville forward,
he could have arrived with but little fighting, and would have
saved much of the loss of life which was afterwards incurred in
gaining Chattanooga. Bragg would then not have had time to
raise an army to contest the possession of middle and east
Tennessee and Kentucky; the battles of Stone River and
Chickamauga would not necessarily have been fought; Burnside
would not have been besieged in Knoxville without the power of
helping himself or escaping; the battle of Chattanooga would not
have been fought. These are the negative advantages, if the term
negative is applicable, which would probably have resulted from
prompt movements after Corinth fell into the possession of the
National forces. The positive results might have been: a
bloodless advance to Atlanta, to Vicksburg, or to any other
desired point south of Corinth in the interior of Mississippi.



My position at Corinth, with a nominal command and yet no
command, became so unbearable that I asked permission of Halleck
to remove my headquarters to Memphis. I had repeatedly asked,
between the fall of Donelson and the evacuation of Corinth, to
be relieved from duty under Halleck; but all my applications
were refused until the occupation of the town. I then obtained
permission to leave the department, but General Sherman happened
to call on me as I was about starting and urged me so strongly
not to think of going, that I concluded to remain. My
application to be permitted to remove my headquarters to Memphis
was, however, approved, and on the 21st of June I started for
that point with my staff and a cavalry escort of only a part of
one company. There was a detachment of two or three companies
going some twenty-five miles west to be stationed as a guard to
the railroad. I went under cover of this escort to the end of
their march, and the next morning proceeded to La Grange with no
convoy but the few cavalry men I had with me.

From La Grange to Memphis the distance is forty-seven miles.
There were no troops stationed between these two points, except
a small force guarding a working party which was engaged in
repairing the railroad. Not knowing where this party would be
found I halted at La Grange. General Hurlbut was in command
there at the time and had his headquarters tents pitched on the
lawn of a very commodious country house. The proprietor was at
home and, learning of my arrival, he invited General Hurlbut and
me to dine with him. I accepted the invitation and spent a very
pleasant afternoon with my host, who was a thorough Southern
gentleman fully convinced of the justice of secession. After
dinner, seated in the capacious porch, he entertained me with a
recital of the services he was rendering the cause. He was too
old to be in the ranks himself–he must have been quite seventy
then–but his means enabled him to be useful in other ways. In
ordinary times the homestead where he was now living produced
the bread and meat to supply the slaves on his main plantation,
in the low-lands of Mississippi. Now he raised food and forage
on both places, and thought he would have that year a surplus
sufficient to feed three hundred families of poor men who had
gone into the war and left their families dependent upon the
“patriotism” of those better off. The crops around me looked
fine, and I had at the moment an idea that about the time they
were ready to be gathered the “Yankee” troops would be in the
neighborhood and harvest them for the benefit of those engaged
in the suppression of the rebellion instead of its support. I
felt, however, the greatest respect for the candor of my host
and for his zeal in a cause he thoroughly believed in, though
our views were as wide apart as it is possible to conceive.

The 23d of June, 1862, on the road from La Grange to Memphis was
very warm, even for that latitude and season. With my staff and
small escort I started at an early hour, and before noon we
arrived within twenty miles of Memphis. At this point I saw a
very comfortable-looking white-haired gentleman seated at the
front of his house, a little distance from the road. I let my
staff and escort ride ahead while I halted and, for an excuse,
asked for a glass of water. I was invited at once to dismount
and come in. I found my host very genial and communicative, and
staid longer than I had intended, until the lady of the house
announced dinner and asked me to join them. The host, however,
was not pressing, so that I declined the invitation and,
mounting my horse, rode on.

About a mile west from where I had been stopping a road comes up
from the southeast, joining that from La Grange to Memphis. A
mile west of this junction I found my staff and escort halted
and enjoying the shade of forest trees on the lawn of a house
located several hundred feet back from the road, their horses
hitched to the fence along the line of the road. I, too,
stopped and we remained there until the cool of the afternoon,
and then rode into Memphis.

The gentleman with whom I had stopped twenty miles from Memphis
was a Mr. De Loche, a man loyal to the Union. He had not
pressed me to tarry longer with him because in the early part of
my visit a neighbor, a Dr. Smith, had called and, on being
presented to me, backed off the porch as if something had hit
him. Mr. De Loche knew that the rebel General Jackson was in
that neighborhood with a detachment of cavalry. His neighbor
was as earnest in the southern cause as was Mr. De Loche in that
of the Union. The exact location of Jackson was entirely unknown
to Mr. De Loche; but he was sure that his neighbor would know it
and would give information of my presence, and this made my stay
unpleasant to him after the call of Dr. Smith.

I have stated that a detachment of troops was engaged in
guarding workmen who were repairing the railroad east of
Memphis. On the day I entered Memphis, Jackson captured a small
herd of beef cattle which had been sent east for the troops so
engaged. The drovers were not enlisted men and he released
them. A day or two after one of these drovers came to my
headquarters and, relating the circumstances of his capture,
said Jackson was very much disappointed that he had not captured
me; that he was six or seven miles south of the Memphis and
Charleston railroad when he learned that I was stopping at the
house of Mr. De Loche, and had ridden with his command to the
junction of the road he was on with that from La Grange and
Memphis, where he learned that I had passed three-quarters of an
hour before. He thought it would be useless to pursue with jaded
horses a well-mounted party with so much of a start. Had he gone
three-quarters of a mile farther he would have found me with my
party quietly resting under the shade of trees and without even
arms in our hands with which to defend ourselves.

General Jackson of course did not communicate his disappointment
at not capturing me to a prisoner, a young drover; but from the
talk among the soldiers the facts related were learned. A day
or two later Mr. De Loche called on me in Memphis to apologize
for his apparent incivility in not insisting on my staying for
dinner. He said that his wife accused him of marked
discourtesy, but that, after the call of his neighbor, he had
felt restless until I got away. I never met General Jackson
before the war, nor during it, but have met him since at his
very comfortable summer home at Manitou Springs, Colorado. I
reminded him of the above incident, and this drew from him the
response that he was thankful now he had not captured me. I
certainly was very thankful too.

My occupation of Memphis as district headquarters did not last
long. The period, however, was marked by a few incidents which
were novel to me. Up to that time I had not occupied any place
in the South where the citizens were at home in any great
numbers. Dover was within the fortifications at Fort Donelson,
and, as far as I remember, every citizen was gone. There were
no people living at Pittsburg landing, and but very few at
Corinth. Memphis, however, was a populous city, and there were
many of the citizens remaining there who were not only
thoroughly impressed with the justice of their cause, but who
thought that even the “Yankee soldiery” must entertain the same
views if they could only be induced to make an honest
confession. It took hours of my time every day to listen to
complaints and requests. The latter were generally reasonable,
and if so they were granted; but the complaints were not always,
or even often, well founded. Two instances will mark the general
character. First: the officer who commanded at Memphis
immediately after the city fell into the hands of the National
troops had ordered one of the churches of the city to be opened
to the soldiers. Army chaplains were authorized to occupy the
pulpit. Second: at the beginning of the war the Confederate
Congress had passed a law confiscating all property of “alien
enemies” at the South, including the debts of Southerners to
Northern men. In consequence of this law, when Memphis was
occupied the provost-marshal had forcibly collected all the
evidences he could obtain of such debts.

Almost the first complaints made to me were these two
outrages. The gentleman who made the complaints informed me
first of his own high standing as a lawyer, a citizen and a
Christian. He was a deacon in the church which had been defiled
by the occupation of Union troops, and by a Union chaplain
filling the pulpit. He did not use the word “defile,” but he
expressed the idea very clearly. He asked that the church be
restored to the former congregation. I told him that no order
had been issued prohibiting the congregation attending the
church. He said of course the congregation could not hear a
Northern clergyman who differed so radically with them on
questions of government. I told him the troops would continue
to occupy that church for the present, and that they would not
be called upon to hear disloyal sentiments proclaimed from the
pulpit. This closed the argument on the first point.

Then came the second. The complainant said that he wanted the
papers restored to him which had been surrendered to the
provost-marshal under protest; he was a lawyer, and before the
establishment of the “Confederate States Government” had been
the attorney for a number of large business houses at the North;
that “his government” had confiscated all debts due “alien
enemies,” and appointed commissioners, or officers, to collect
such debts and pay them over to the “government”: but in his
case, owing to his high standing, he had been permitted to hold
these claims for collection, the responsible officials knowing
that he would account to the “government” for every dollar
received. He said that his “government,” when it came in
possession of all its territory, would hold him personally
responsible for the claims he had surrendered to the provost-
marshal. His impudence was so sublime that I was rather amused
than indignant. I told him, however, that if he would remain in
Memphis I did not believe the Confederate government would ever
molest him. He left, no doubt, as much amazed at my assurance
as I was at the brazenness of his request.

On the 11th of July General Halleck received telegraphic orders
appointing him to the command of all the armies, with
headquarters in Washington. His instructions pressed him to
proceed to his new field of duty with as little delay as was
consistent with the safety and interests of his previous
command. I was next in rank, and he telegraphed me the same day
to report at department headquarters at Corinth. I was not
informed by the dispatch that my chief had been ordered to a
different field and did not know whether to move my headquarters
or not. I telegraphed asking if I was to take my staff with me,
and received word in reply: “This place will be your
headquarters. You can judge for yourself.” I left Memphis for
my new field without delay, and reached Corinth on the 15th of
the month. General Halleck remained until the 17th of July; but
he was very uncommunicative, and gave me no information as to
what I had been called to Corinth for.

When General Halleck left to assume the duties of
general-in-chief I remained in command of the district of West
Tennessee. Practically I became a department commander, because
no one was assigned to that position over me and I made my
reports direct to the general-in-chief; but I was not assigned
to the position of department commander until the 25th of
October. General Halleck while commanding the Department of the
Mississippi had had control as far east as a line drawn from
Chattanooga north. My district only embraced West Tennessee and
Kentucky west of the Cumberland River. Buell, with the Army of
the Ohio, had, as previously stated, been ordered east towards
Chattanooga, with instructions to repair the Memphis and
Charleston railroad as he advanced. Troops had been sent north
by Halleck along the line of the Mobile and Ohio railroad to put
it in repair as far as Columbus. Other troops were stationed on
the railroad from Jackson, Tennessee, to Grand Junction, and
still others on the road west to Memphis.

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.

I had been constantly called upon to reinforce Buell until at
this time my entire force numbered less than 50,000 men, of all
arms. This included everything from Cairo south within my
jurisdiction. If I too should be driven back, the Ohio River
would become the line dividing the belligerents west of the
Alleghanies, while at the East the line was already farther
north than when hostilities commenced at the opening of the
war. It is true Nashville was never given up after its first
capture, but it would have been isolated and the garrison there
would have been obliged to beat a hasty retreat if the troops in
West Tennessee had been compelled to fall back. To say at the
end of the second year of the war the line dividing the
contestants at the East was pushed north of Maryland, a State
that had not seceded, and at the West beyond Kentucky, another
State which had been always loyal, would have been discouraging
indeed. As it was, many loyal people despaired in the fall of
1862 of ever saving the Union. The administration at Washington
was much concerned for the safety of the cause it held so dear.
But I believe there was never a day when the President did not
think that, in some way or other, a cause so just as ours would
come out triumphant.

Up to the 11th of September Rosecrans still had troops on the
railroad east of Corinth, but they had all been ordered in. By
the 12th all were in except a small force under Colonel Murphy
of the 8th Wisconsin. He had been detained to guard the
remainder of the stores which had not yet been brought in to

On the 13th of September General Sterling Price entered Iuka, a
town about twenty miles east of Corinth on the Memphis and
Charleston railroad. Colonel Murphy with a few men was guarding
the place. He made no resistance, but evacuated the town on the
approach of the enemy. I was apprehensive lest the object of
the rebels might be to get troops into Tennessee to reinforce
Bragg, as it was afterwards ascertained to be. The authorities
at Washington, including the general-in-chief of the army, were
very anxious, as I have said, about affairs both in East and
Middle Tennessee; and my anxiety was quite as great on their
account as for any danger threatening my command. I had not
force enough at Corinth to attack Price even by stripping
everything; and there was danger that before troops could be got
from other points he might be far on his way across the
Tennessee. To prevent this all spare forces at Bolivar and
Jackson were ordered to Corinth, and cars were concentrated at
Jackson for their transportation. Within twenty-four hours from
the transmission of the order the troops were at their
destination, although there had been a delay of four hours
resulting from the forward train getting off the track and
stopping all the others. This gave a reinforcement of near
8,000 men, General Ord in command. General Rosecrans commanded
the district of Corinth with a movable force of about 9,000
independent of the garrison deemed necessary to be left
behind. It was known that General Van Dorn was about a four
days’ march south of us, with a large force. It might have been
part of his plan to attack at Corinth, Price coming from the east
while he came up from the south. My desire was to attack Price
before Van Dorn could reach Corinth or go to his relief.

General Rosecrans had previously had his headquarters at Iuka,
where his command was spread out along the Memphis and
Charleston railroad eastward. While there he had a most
excellent map prepared showing all the roads and streams in the
surrounding country. He was also personally familiar with the
ground, so that I deferred very much to him in my plans for the
approach. We had cars enough to transport all of General Ord’s
command, which was to go by rail to Burnsville, a point on the
road about seven miles west of Iuka. From there his troops were
to march by the north side of the railroad and attack Price from
the north-west, while Rosecrans was to move eastward from his
position south of Corinth by way of the Jacinto road. A small
force was to hold the Jacinto road where it turns to the
north-east, while the main force moved on the Fulton road which
comes into Iuka further east. This plan was suggested by

Bear Creek, a few miles to the east of the Fulton road, is a
formidable obstacle to the movement of troops in the absence of
bridges, all of which, in September, 1862, had been destroyed in
that vicinity. The Tennessee, to the north-east, not many miles
away, was also a formidable obstacle for an army followed by a
pursuing force. Ord was on the north-west, and even if a rebel
movement had been possible in that direction it could have
brought only temporary relief, for it would have carried Price’s
army to the rear of the National forces and isolated it from all
support. It looked to me that, if Price would remain in Iuka
until we could get there, his annihilation was inevitable.

On the morning of the 18th of September General Ord moved by
rail to Burnsville, and there left the cars and moved out to
perform his part of the programme. He was to get as near the
enemy as possible during the day and intrench himself so as to
hold his position until the next morning. Rosecrans was to be
up by the morning of the 19th on the two roads before described,
and the attack was to be from all three quarters
simultaneously. Troops enough were left at Jacinto and Rienzi
to detain any cavalry that Van Dorn might send out to make a
sudden dash into Corinth until I could be notified. There was a
telegraph wire along the railroad, so there would be no delay in
communication. I detained cars and locomotives enough at
Burnsville to transport the whole of Ord’s command at once, and
if Van Dorn had moved against Corinth instead of Iuka I could
have thrown in reinforcements to the number of 7,000 or 8,000
before he could have arrived. I remained at Burnsville with a
detachment of about 900 men from Ord’s command and communicated
with my two wings by courier. Ord met the advance of the enemy
soon after leaving Burnsville. Quite a sharp engagement ensued,
but he drove the rebels back with considerable loss, including
one general officer killed. He maintained his position and was
ready to attack by daylight the next morning. I was very much
disappointed at receiving a dispatch from Rosecrans after
midnight from Jacinto, twenty-two miles from Iuka, saying that
some of his command had been delayed, and that the rear of his
column was not yet up as far as Jacinto. He said, however, that
he would still be at Iuka by two o’clock the next day. I did not
believe this possible because of the distance and the condition
of the roads, which was bad; besides, troops after a forced
march of twenty miles are not in a good condition for fighting
the moment they get through. It might do in marching to relieve
a beleaguered garrison, but not to make an assault. I
immediately sent Ord a copy of Rosecrans’ dispatch and ordered
him to be in readiness to attack the moment he heard the sound
of guns to the south or south-east. He was instructed to notify
his officers to be on the alert for any indications of battle.
During the 19th the wind blew in the wrong direction to transmit
sound either towards the point where Ord was, or to Burnsville
where I had remained.

A couple of hours before dark on the 19th Rosecrans arrived with
the head of his column at garnets, the point where the Jacinto
road to Iuka leaves the road going east. He here turned north
without sending any troops to the Fulton road. While still
moving in column up the Jacinto road he met a force of the enemy
and had his advance badly beaten and driven back upon the main
road. In this short engagement his loss was considerable for
the number engaged, and one battery was taken from him. The
wind was still blowing hard and in the wrong direction to
transmit sounds towards either Ord or me. Neither he nor I nor
any one in either command heard a gun that was fired upon the
battle-field. After the engagement Rosecrans sent me a dispatch
announcing the result. This was brought by a courier. There was
no road between Burnsville and the position then occupied by
Rosecrans and the country was impassable for a man on
horseback. The courier bearing the message was compelled to
move west nearly to Jacinto before he found a road leading to
Burnsville. This made it a late hour of the night before I
learned of the battle that had taken place during the
afternoon. I at once notified Ord of the fact and ordered him
to attack early in the morning. The next morning Rosecrans
himself renewed the attack and went into Iuka with but little
resistance. Ord also went in according to orders, without
hearing a gun from the south of town but supposing the troops
coming from the south-west must be up by that time. Rosecrans,
however, had put no troops upon the Fulton road, and the enemy
had taken advantage of this neglect and retreated by that road
during the night. Word was soon brought to me that our troops
were in Iuka. I immediately rode into town and found that the
enemy was not being pursued even by the cavalry. I ordered
pursuit by the whole of Rosecrans’ command and went on with him
a few miles in person. He followed only a few miles after I
left him and then went into camp, and the pursuit was continued
no further. I was disappointed at the result of the battle of
Iuka–but I had so high an opinion of General Rosecrans that I
found no fault at the time.



On the 19th of September General Geo. H. Thomas was ordered east
to reinforce Buell. This threw the army at my command still more
on the defensive. The Memphis and Charleston railroad was
abandoned, except at Corinth, and small forces were left at
Chewalla and Grand Junction. Soon afterwards the latter of
these two places was given up and Bolivar became our most
advanced position on the Mississippi Central railroad. Our
cavalry was kept well to the front and frequent expeditions were
sent out to watch the movements of the enemy. We were in a
country where nearly all the people, except the negroes, were
hostile to us and friendly to the cause we were trying to
suppress. It was easy, therefore, for the enemy to get early
information of our every move. We, on the contrary, had to go
after our information in force, and then often returned without

On the 22d Bolivar was threatened by a large force from south of
Grand Junction, supposed to be twenty regiments of infantry with
cavalry and artillery. I reinforced Bolivar, and went to
Jackson in person to superintend the movement of troops to
whatever point the attack might be made upon. The troops from
Corinth were brought up in time to repel the threatened movement
without a battle. Our cavalry followed the enemy south of Davis’
mills in Mississippi.

On the 30th I found that Van Dorn was apparently endeavoring to
strike the Mississippi River above Memphis. At the same time
other points within my command were so threatened that it was
impossible to concentrate a force to drive him away. There was
at this juncture a large Union force at Helena, Arkansas, which,
had it been within my command, I could have ordered across the
river to attack and break up the Mississippi Central railroad
far to the south. This would not only have called Van Dorn
back, but would have compelled the retention of a large rebel
force far to the south to prevent a repetition of such raids on
the enemy’s line of supplies. Geographical lines between the
commands during the rebellion were not always well chosen, or
they were too rigidly adhered to.

Van Dorn did not attempt to get upon the line above Memphis, as
had apparently been his intention. He was simply covering a
deeper design; one much more important to his cause. By the 1st
of October it was fully apparent that Corinth was to be attacked
with great force and determination, and that Van Dorn, Lovell,
Price, Villepigue and Rust had joined their strength for this
purpose. There was some skirmishing outside of Corinth with the
advance of the enemy on the 3d. The rebels massed in the
north-west angle of the Memphis and Charleston and the Mobile
and Ohio railroads, and were thus between the troops at Corinth
and all possible reinforcements. Any fresh troops for us must
come by a circuitous route.

On the night of the 3d, accordingly, I ordered General
McPherson, who was at Jackson, to join Rosecrans at Corinth with
reinforcements picked up along the line of the railroad equal to
a brigade. Hurlbut had been ordered from Bolivar to march for
the same destination; and as Van Dorn was coming upon Corinth
from the north-west some of his men fell in with the advance of
Hurlbut’s and some skirmishing ensued on the evening of the
3d. On the 4th Van Dorn made a dashing attack, hoping, no
doubt, to capture Rosecrans before his reinforcements could come
up. In that case the enemy himself could have occupied the
defences of Corinth and held at bay all the Union troops that
arrived. In fact he could have taken the offensive against the
reinforcements with three or four times their number and still
left a sufficient garrison in the works about Corinth to hold
them. He came near success, some of his troops penetrating the
National lines at least once, but the works that were built
after Halleck’s departure enabled Rosecrans to hold his position
until the troops of both McPherson and Hurlbut approached towards
the rebel front and rear. The enemy was finally driven back with
great slaughter: all their charges, made with great gallantry,
were repulsed. The loss on our side was heavy, but nothing to
compare with Van Dorn’s. McPherson came up with the train of
cars bearing his command as close to the enemy as was prudent,
debarked on the rebel flank and got in to the support of
Rosecrans just after the repulse. His approach, as well as that
of Hurlbut, was known to the enemy and had a moral effect.
General Rosecrans, however, failed to follow up the victory,
although I had given specific orders in advance of the battle
for him to pursue the moment the enemy was repelled. He did not
do so, and I repeated the order after the battle. In the first
order he was notified that the force of 4,000 men which was
going to his assistance would be in great peril if the enemy was
not pursued.

General Ord had joined Hurlbut on the 4th and being senior took
command of his troops. This force encountered the head of Van
Dorn’s retreating column just as it was crossing the Hatchie by
a bridge some ten miles out from Corinth. The bottom land here
was swampy and bad for the operations of troops, making a good
place to get an enemy into. Ord attacked the troops that had
crossed the bridge and drove them back in a panic. Many were
killed, and others were drowned by being pushed off the bridge
in their hurried retreat. Ord followed and met the main
force. He was too weak in numbers to assault, but he held the
bridge and compelled the enemy to resume his retreat by another
bridge higher up the stream. Ord was wounded in this engagement
and the command devolved on Hurlbut.

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.

Leave the District of Memphis in the command of an efficient
officer, and with a garrison of four regiments of infantry, the
siege guns, and whatever cavalry may be there.


This idea had presented itself to my mind earlier, for on the 3d
of December I asked Halleck if it would not be well to hold the
enemy south of the Yallabusha and move a force from Helena and
Memphis on Vicksburg. On the 5th again I suggested, from
Oxford, to Halleck that if the Helena troops were at my command
I though it would be possible to take them and the Memphis
forces south of the mouth of the Yazoo River, and thus secure
Vicksburg and the State of Mississippi. Halleck on the same
day, the 5th of December , directed me not to attempt to hold
the country south of the Tallahatchie, but to collect 25,000
troops at Memphis by the 20th for the Vicksburg expedition. I
sent Sherman with two divisions at once, informed the
general-in-chief of the fact, and asked whether I should command
the expedition down the river myself or send Sherman. I was
authorized to do as I though best for the accomplishment of the
great object in view. I sent Sherman and so informed General

As stated, my action in sending Sherman back was expedited by a
desire to get him in command of the forces separated from my
direct supervision. I feared that delay might bring McClernand,
who was his senior and who had authority from the President and
Secretary of War to exercise that particular command,–and
independently. I doubted McClernand’s fitness; and I had good
reason to believe that in forestalling him I was by no means
giving offence to those whose authority to command was above
both him and me.

Neither my orders to General Sherman, nor the correspondence
between us or between General Halleck and myself, contemplated
at the time my going further south than the Yallabusha.
Pemberton’s force in my front was the main part of the garrison
of Vicksburg, as the force with me was the defence of the
territory held by us in West Tennessee and Kentucky. I hoped to
hold Pemberton in my front while Sherman should get in his rear
and into Vicksburg. The further north the enemy could be held
the better.

It was understood, however, between General Sherman and myself
that our movements were to be co-operative; if Pemberton could
not be held away from Vicksburg I was to follow him; but at that
time it was not expected to abandon the railroad north of the
Yallabusha. With that point as a secondary base of supplies,
the possibility of moving down the Yazoo until communications
could be opened with the Mississippi was contemplated.

It was my intention, and so understood by Sherman and his
command, that if the enemy should fall back I would follow him
even to the gates of Vicksburg. I intended in such an event to
hold the road to Grenada on the Yallabusha and cut loose from
there, expecting to establish a new base of supplies on the
Yazoo, or at Vicksburg itself, with Grenada to fall back upon in
case of failure. It should be remembered that at the time I
speak of it had not been demonstrated that an army could operate
in an enemy’s territory depending upon the country for
supplies. A halt was called at Oxford with the advance
seventeen miles south of there, to bring up the road to the
latter point and to bring supplies of food, forage and munitions
to the front.

On the 18th of December I received orders from Washington to
divide my command into four army corps, with General McClernand
to command one of them and to be assigned to that part of the
army which was to operate down the Mississippi. This interfered
with my plans, but probably resulted in my ultimately taking the
command in person. McClernand was at that time in Springfield,
Illinois. The order was obeyed without any delay. Dispatches
were sent to him the same day in conformity.

On the 20th General Van Dorn appeared at Holly Springs, my
secondary base of supplies, captured the garrison of 1,500 men
commanded by Colonel Murphy, of the 8th Wisconsin regiment, and
destroyed all our munitions of war, food and forage. The
capture was a disgraceful one to the officer commanding but not
to the troops under him. At the same time Forrest got on our
line of railroad between Jackson, Tennessee, and Columbus,
Kentucky, doing much damage to it. This cut me off from all
communication with the north for more than a week, and it was
more than two weeks before rations or forage could be issued
from stores obtained in the regular way. This demonstrated the
impossibility of maintaining so long a line of road over which
to draw supplies for an army moving in an enemy’s country. I
determined, therefore, to abandon my campaign into the interior
with Columbus as a base, and returned to La Grange and Grand
Junction destroying the road to my front and repairing the road
to Memphis, making the Mississippi river the line over which to
draw supplies. Pemberton was falling back at the same time.

The moment I received the news of Van Dorn’s success I sent the
cavalry at the front back to drive him from the country. He had
start enough to move north destroying the railroad in many
places, and to attack several small garrisons intrenched as
guards to the railroad. All these he found warned of his coming
and prepared to receive him. Van Dorn did not succeed in
capturing a single garrison except the one at Holly Springs,
which was larger than all the others attacked by him put
together. Murphy was also warned of Van Dorn’s approach, but
made no preparations to meet him. He did not even notify his

Colonel Murphy was the officer who, two months before, had
evacuated Iuka on the approach of the enemy. General Rosecrans
denounced him for the act and desired to have him tried and
punished. I sustained the colonel at the time because his
command was a small one compared with that of the enemy–not
one-tenth as large–and I thought he had done well to get away
without falling into their hands. His leaving large stores to
fall into Price’s possession I looked upon as an oversight and
excused it on the ground of inexperience in military matters. He
should, however, have destroyed them. This last surrender
demonstrated to my mind that Rosecrans’ judgment of Murphy’s
conduct at Iuka was correct. The surrender of Holly Springs was
most reprehensible and showed either the disloyalty of Colonel
Murphy to the cause which he professed to serve, or gross

After the war was over I read from the diary of a lady who
accompanied General Pemberton in his retreat from the
Tallahatchie, that the retreat was almost a panic. The roads
were bad and it was difficult to move the artillery and
trains. Why there should have been a panic I do not see. No
expedition had yet started down the Mississippi River. Had I
known the demoralized condition of the enemy, or the fact that
central Mississippi abounded so in all army supplies, I would
have been in pursuit of Pemberton while his cavalry was
destroying the roads in my rear.

After sending cavalry to drive Van Dorn away, my next order was
to dispatch all the wagons we had, under proper escort, to
collect and bring in all supplies of forage and food from a
region of fifteen miles east and west of the road from our front
back to Grand Junction, leaving two months’ supplies for the
families of those whose stores were taken. I was amazed at the
quantity of supplies the country afforded. It showed that we
could have subsisted off the country for two months instead of
two weeks without going beyond the limits designated. This
taught me a lesson which was taken advantage of later in the
campaign when our army lived twenty days with the issue of only
five days’ rations by the commissary. Our loss of supplies was
great at Holly Springs, but it was more than compensated for by
those taken from the country and by the lesson taught.

The news of the capture of Holly Springs and the destruction of
our supplies caused much rejoicing among the people remaining in
Oxford. They came with broad smiles on their faces, indicating
intense joy, to ask what I was going to do now without anything
for my soldiers to eat. I told them that I was not disturbed;
that I had already sent troops and wagons to collect all the
food and forage they could find for fifteen miles on each side
of the road. Countenances soon changed, and so did the
inquiry. The next was, “What are WE to do?” My response was
that we had endeavored to feed ourselves from our own northern
resources while visiting them; but their friends in gray had
been uncivil enough to destroy what we had brought along, and it
could not be expected that men, with arms in their hands, would
starve in the midst of plenty. I advised them to emigrate east,
or west, fifteen miles and assist in eating up what we left.



This interruption in my communications north–I was really cut
off from communication with a great part of my own command
during this time–resulted in Sherman’s moving from Memphis
before McClernand could arrive, for my dispatch of the 18th did
not reach McClernand. Pemberton got back to Vicksburg before
Sherman got there. The rebel positions were on a bluff on the
Yazoo River, some miles above its mouth. The waters were high
so that the bottoms were generally overflowed, leaving only
narrow causeways of dry land between points of debarkation and
the high bluffs. These were fortified and defended at all
points. The rebel position was impregnable against any force
that could be brought against its front. Sherman could not use
one-fourth of his force. His efforts to capture the city, or
the high ground north of it, were necessarily unavailing.

Sherman’s attack was very unfortunate, but I had no opportunity
of communicating with him after the destruction of the road and
telegraph to my rear on the 20th. He did not know but what I
was in the rear of the enemy and depending on him to open a new
base of supplies for the troops with me. I had, before he
started from Memphis, directed him to take with him a few small
steamers suitable for the navigation of the Yazoo, not knowing
but that I might want them to supply me after cutting loose from
my base at Grenada.

On the 23d I removed my headquarters back to Holly Springs. The
troops were drawn back gradually, but without haste or confusion,
finding supplies abundant and no enemy following. The road was
not damaged south of Holly Springs by Van Dorn, at least not to
an extent to cause any delay. As I had resolved to move
headquarters to Memphis, and to repair the road to that point, I
remained at Holly Springs until this work was completed.

On the 10th of January, the work on the road from Holly Springs
to Grand Junction and thence to Memphis being completed, I moved
my headquarters to the latter place. During the campaign here
described, the losses (mostly captures) were about equal,
crediting the rebels with their Holly Springs capture, which
they could not hold.

When Sherman started on his expedition down the river he had
20,000 men, taken from Memphis, and was reinforced by 12,000
more at Helena, Arkansas. The troops on the west bank of the
river had previously been assigned to my command. McClernand
having received the orders for his assignment reached the mouth
of the Yazoo on the 2d of January, and immediately assumed
command of all the troops with Sherman, being a part of his own
corps, the 13th, and all of Sherman’s, the 15th. Sherman, and
Admiral Porter with the fleet, had withdrawn from the Yazoo.
After consultation they decided that neither the army nor navy
could render service to the cause where they were, and learning
that I had withdrawn from the interior of Mississippi, they
determined to return to the Arkansas River and to attack
Arkansas Post, about fifty miles up that stream and garrisoned
by about five or six thousand men. Sherman had learned of the
existence of this force through a man who had been captured by
the enemy with a steamer loaded with ammunition and other
supplies intended for his command. The man had made his
escape. McClernand approved this move reluctantly, as Sherman
says. No obstacle was encountered until the gunboats and
transports were within range of the fort. After three days’
bombardment by the navy an assault was made by the troops and
marines, resulting in the capture of the place, and in taking
5,000 prisoners and 17 guns. I was at first disposed to
disapprove of this move as an unnecessary side movement having
no especial bearing upon the work before us; but when the result
was understood I regarded it as very important. Five thousand
Confederate troops left in the rear might have caused us much
trouble and loss of property while navigating the Mississippi.

Immediately after the reduction of Arkansas Post and the capture
of the garrison, McClernand returned with his entire force to
Napoleon, at the mouth of the Arkansas River. From here I
received messages from both Sherman and Admiral Porter, urging
me to come and take command in person, and expressing their
distrust of McClernand’s ability and fitness for so important
and intricate an expedition.

On the 17th I visited McClernand and his command at Napoleon. It
was here made evident to me that both the army and navy were so
distrustful of McClernand’s fitness to command that, while they
would do all they could to insure success, this distrust was an
element of weakness. It would have been criminal to send troops
under these circumstances into such danger. By this time I had
received authority to relieve McClernand, or to assign any
person else to the command of the river expedition, or to assume
command in person. I felt great embarrassment about
McClernand. He was the senior major-general after myself within
the department. It would not do, with his rank and ambition, to
assign a junior over him. Nothing was left, therefore, but to
assume the command myself. I would have been glad to put
Sherman in command, to give him an opportunity to accomplish
what he had failed in the December before; but there seemed no
other way out of the difficulty, for he was junior to
McClernand. Sherman’s failure needs no apology.

On the 20th I ordered General McClernand with the entire
command, to Young’s Point and Milliken’s Bend, while I returned
to Memphis to make all the necessary preparation for leaving the
territory behind me secure. General Hurlbut with the 16th corps
was left in command. The Memphis and Charleston railroad was
held, while the Mississippi Central was given up. Columbus was
the only point between Cairo and Memphis, on the river, left
with a garrison. All the troops and guns from the posts on the
abandoned railroad and river were sent to the front.

On the 29th of January I arrived at Young’s Point and assumed
command the following day. General McClernand took exception in
a most characteristic way–for him. His correspondence with me
on the subject was more in the nature of a reprimand than a
protest. It was highly insubordinate, but I overlooked it, as I
believed, for the good of the service. General McClernand was a
politician of very considerable prominence in his State; he was a
member of Congress when the secession war broke out; he belonged
to that political party which furnished all the opposition there
was to a vigorous prosecution of the war for saving the Union;
there was no delay in his declaring himself for the Union at all
hazards, and there was no uncertain sound in his declaration of
where he stood in the contest before the country. He also gave
up his seat in Congress to take the field in defence of the
principles he had proclaimed.

The real work of the campaign and siege of Vicksburg now
began. The problem was to secure a footing upon dry ground on
the east side of the river from which the troops could operate
against Vicksburg. The Mississippi River, from Cairo south,
runs through a rich alluvial valley of many miles in width,
bound on the east by land running from eighty up to two or more
hundred feet above the river. On the west side the highest
land, except in a few places, is but little above the highest
water. Through this valley the river meanders in the most
tortuous way, varying in direction to all points of the
compass. At places it runs to the very foot of the bluffs.
After leaving Memphis, there are no such highlands coming to the
water’s edge on the east shore until Vicksburg is reached.

The intervening land is cut up by bayous filled from the river
in high water–many of them navigable for steamers. All of them
would be, except for overhanging trees, narrowness and tortuous
course, making it impossible to turn the bends with vessels of
any considerable length. Marching across this country in the
face of an enemy was impossible; navigating it proved equally
impracticable. The strategical way according to the rule,
therefore, would have been to go back to Memphis; establish that
as a base of supplies; fortify it so that the storehouses could
be held by a small garrison, and move from there along the line
of railroad, repairing as we advanced, to the Yallabusha, or to
Jackson, Mississippi. At this time the North had become very
much discouraged. Many strong Union men believed that the war
must prove a failure. The elections of 1862 had gone against
the party which was for the prosecution of the war to save the
Union if it took the last man and the last dollar. Voluntary
enlistments had ceased throughout the greater part of the North,
and the draft had been resorted to to fill up our ranks. It was
my judgment at the time that to make a backward movement as long
as that from Vicksburg to Memphis, would be interpreted, by many
of those yet full of hope for the preservation of the Union, as
a defeat, and that the draft would be resisted, desertions ensue
and the power to capture and punish deserters lost. There was
nothing left to be done but to go FORWARD TO A DECISIVE
VICTORY. This was in my mind from the moment I took command in
person at Young’s Point.

The winter of 1862-3 was a noted one for continuous high water
in the Mississippi and for heavy rains along the lower river. To
get dry land, or rather land above the water, to encamp the
troops upon, took many miles of river front. We had to occupy
the levees and the ground immediately behind. This was so
limited that one corps, the 17th, under General McPherson, was
at Lake Providence, seventy miles above Vicksburg.

It was in January the troops took their position opposite
Vicksburg. The water was very high and the rains were
incessant. There seemed no possibility of a land movement
before the end of March or later, and it would not do to lie
idle all this time. The effect would be demoralizing to the
troops and injurious to their health. Friends in the North
would have grown more and more discouraged, and enemies in the
same section more and more insolent in their gibes and
denunciation of the cause and those engaged in it.

I always admired the South, as bad as I thought their cause, for
the boldness with which they silenced all opposition and all
croaking, by press or by individuals, within their control. War
at all times, whether a civil war between sections of a common
country or between nations, ought to be avoided, if possible
with honor. But, once entered into, it is too much for human
nature to tolerate an enemy within their ranks to give aid and
comfort to the armies of the opposing section or nation.

Vicksburg, as stated before, is on the first high land coming to
the river’s edge, below that on which Memphis stands. The bluff,
or high land, follows the left bank of the Yazoo for some
distance and continues in a southerly direction to the
Mississippi River, thence it runs along the Mississippi to
Warrenton, six miles below. The Yazoo River leaves the high
land a short distance below Haines’ Bluff and empties into the
Mississippi nine miles above Vicksburg. Vicksburg is built on
this high land where the Mississippi washes the base of the
hill. Haines’ Bluff, eleven miles from Vicksburg, on the Yazoo
River, was strongly fortified. The whole distance from there to
Vicksburg and thence to Warrenton was also intrenched, with
batteries at suitable distances and rifle-pits connecting them.

From Young’s Point the Mississippi turns in a north-easterly
direction to a point just above the city, when it again turns
and runs south-westerly, leaving vessels, which might attempt to
run the blockade, exposed to the fire of batteries six miles
below the city before they were in range of the upper
batteries. Since then the river has made a cut-off, leaving
what was the peninsula in front of the city, an island. North
of the Yazoo was all a marsh, heavily timbered, cut up with
bayous, and much overflowed. A front attack was therefore
impossible, and was never contemplated; certainly not by me. The
problem then became, how to secure a landing on high ground east
of the Mississippi without an apparent retreat. Then commenced
a series of experiments to consume time, and to divert the
attention of the enemy, of my troops and of the public
generally. I, myself, never felt great confidence that any of
the experiments resorted to would prove successful. Nevertheless
I was always prepared to take advantage of them in case they did.

In 1862 General Thomas Williams had come up from New Orleans and
cut a ditch ten or twelve feet wide and about as deep, straight
across from Young’s Point to the river below. The distance
across was a little over a mile. It was Williams’ expectation
that when the river rose it would cut a navigable channel
through; but the canal started in an eddy from both ends, and,
of course, it only filled up with water on the rise without
doing any execution in the way of cutting. Mr. Lincoln had
navigated the Mississippi in his younger days and understood
well its tendency to change its channel, in places, from time to
time. He set much store accordingly by this canal. General
McClernand had been, therefore, directed before I went to
Young’s Point to push the work of widening and deepening this
canal. After my arrival the work was diligently pushed with
about 4,000 men–as many as could be used to advantage–until
interrupted by a sudden rise in the river that broke a dam at
the upper end, which had been put there to keep the water out
until the excavation was completed. This was on the 8th of

Even if the canal had proven a success, so far as to be
navigable for steamers, it could not have been of much advantage
to us. It runs in a direction almost perpendicular to the line
of bluffs on the opposite side, or east bank, of the river. As
soon as the enemy discovered what we were doing he established a
battery commanding the canal throughout its length. This battery
soon drove out our dredges, two in number, which were doing the
work of thousands of men. Had the canal been completed it might
have proven of some use in running transports through, under the
cover of night, to use below; but they would yet have to run
batteries, though for a much shorter distance.

While this work was progressing we were busy in other
directions, trying to find an available landing on high ground
on the east bank of the river, or to make water-ways to get
below the city, avoiding the batteries.

On the 30th of January, the day after my arrival at the front, I
ordered General McPherson, stationed with his corps at Lake
Providence, to cut the levee at that point. If successful in
opening a channel for navigation by this route, it would carry
us to the Mississippi River through the mouth of the Red River,
just above Port Hudson and four hundred miles below Vicksburg by
the river.

Lake Providence is a part of the old bed of the Mississippi,
about a mile from the present channel. It is six miles long and
has its outlet through Bayou Baxter, Bayou Macon, and the Tensas,
Washita and Red Rivers. The last three are navigable streams at
all seasons. Bayous Baxter and Macon are narrow and tortuous,
and the banks are covered with dense forests overhanging the
channel. They were also filled with fallen timber, the
accumulation of years. The land along the Mississippi River,
from Memphis down, is in all instances highest next to the
river, except where the river washes the bluffs which form the
boundary of the valley through which it winds. Bayou Baxter, as
it reaches lower land, begins to spread out and disappears
entirely in a cypress swamp before it reaches the Macon. There
was about two feet of water in this swamp at the time. To get
through it, even with vessels of the lightest draft, it was
necessary to clear off a belt of heavy timber wide enough to
make a passage way. As the trees would have to be cut close to
the bottom–under water–it was an undertaking of great

On the 4th of February I visited General McPherson, and remained
with him several days. The work had not progressed so far as to
admit the water from the river into the lake, but the troops had
succeeded in drawing a small steamer, of probably not over thirty
tons’ capacity, from the river into the lake. With this we were
able to explore the lake and bayou as far as cleared. I saw
then that there was scarcely a chance of this ever becoming a
practicable route for moving troops through an enemy’s
country. The distance from Lake Providence to the point where
vessels going by that route would enter the Mississippi again,
is about four hundred and seventy miles by the main river. The
distance would probably be greater by the tortuous bayous
through which this new route would carry us. The enemy held
Port Hudson, below where the Red River debouches, and all the
Mississippi above to Vicksburg. The Red River, Washita and
Tensas were, as has been said, all navigable streams, on which
the enemy could throw small bodies of men to obstruct our
passage and pick off our troops with their sharpshooters. I let
the work go on, believing employment was better than idleness for
the men. Then, too, it served as a cover for other efforts which
gave a better prospect of success. This work was abandoned after
the canal proved a failure.

Lieutenant-Colonel Wilson of my staff was sent to Helena,
Arkansas, to examine and open a way through Moon Lake and the
Yazoo Pass if possible. Formerly there was a route by way of an
inlet from the Mississippi River into Moon Lake, a mile east of
the river, thence east through Yazoo Pass to Coldwater, along
the latter to the Tallahatchie, which joins the Yallabusha about
two hundred and fifty miles below Moon Lake and forms the Yazoo
River. These were formerly navigated by steamers trading with
the rich plantations along their banks; but the State of
Mississippi had built a strong levee across the inlet some years
before, leaving the only entrance for vessels into this rich
region the one by way of the mouth of the Yazoo several hundreds
of miles below.

On the 2d of February this dam, or levee, was cut. The river
being high the rush of water through the cut was so great that
in a very short time the entire obstruction was washed away. The
bayous were soon filled and much of the country was overflowed.
This pass leaves the Mississippi River but a few miles below
Helena. On the 24th General Ross, with his brigade of about
4,500 men on transports, moved into this new water-way. The
rebels had obstructed the navigation of Yazoo Pass and the
Coldwater by felling trees into them. Much of the timber in
this region being of greater specific gravity than water, and
being of great size, their removal was a matter of great labor;
but it was finally accomplished, and on the 11th of March Ross
found himself, accompanied by two gunboats under the command of
Lieutenant-Commander Watson Smith, confronting a fortification
at Greenwood, where the Tallahatchie and Yallabusha unite and
the Yazoo begins. The bends of the rivers are such at this
point as to almost form an island, scarcely above water at that
stage of the river. This island was fortified and manned. It
was named Fort Pemberton after the commander at Vicksburg. No
land approach was accessible. The troops, therefore, could
render no assistance towards an assault further than to
establish a battery on a little piece of ground which was
discovered above water. The gunboats, however, attacked on the
11th and again on the 13th of March. Both efforts were failures
and were not renewed. One gunboat was disabled and we lost six
men killed and twenty-five wounded. The loss of the enemy was

Fort Pemberton was so little above the water that it was thought
that a rise of two feet would drive the enemy out. In hope of
enlisting the elements on our side, which had been so much
against us up to this time, a second cut was made in the
Mississippi levee, this time directly opposite Helena, or six
miles above the former cut. It did not accomplish the desired
result, and Ross, with his fleet, started back. On the 22d he
met Quinby with a brigade at Yazoo Pass. Quinby was the senior
of Ross, and assumed command. He was not satisfied with
returning to his former position without seeing for himself
whether anything could be accomplished. Accordingly Fort
Pemberton was revisited by our troops; but an inspection was
sufficient this time without an attack. Quinby, with his
command, returned with but little delay. In the meantime I was
much exercised for the safety of Ross, not knowing that Quinby
had been able to join him. Reinforcements were of no use in a
country covered with water, as they would have to remain on
board of their transports. Relief had to come from another
quarter. So I determined to get into the Yazoo below Fort

Steel’s Bayou empties into the Yazoo River between Haines’ Bluff
and its mouth. It is narrow, very tortuous, and fringed with a
very heavy growth of timber, but it is deep. It approaches to
within one mile of the Mississippi at Eagle Bend, thirty miles
above Young’s Point. Steel’s Bayou connects with Black Bayou,
Black Bayou with Deer Creek, Deer Creek with Rolling Fork,
Rolling Fork with the Big Sunflower River, and the Big Sunflower
with the Yazoo River about ten miles above Haines’ Bluff in a
right line but probably twenty or twenty-five miles by the
winding of the river. All these waterways are of about the same
nature so far as navigation is concerned, until the Sunflower is
reached; this affords free navigation.

Admiral Porter explored this waterway as far as Deer Creek on
the 14th of March, and reported it navigable. On the next day
he started with five gunboats and four mortar-boats. I went
with him for some distance. The heavy overhanging timber
retarded progress very much, as did also the short turns in so
narrow a stream. The gunboats, however, ploughed their way
through without other damage than to their appearance. The
transports did not fare so well although they followed behind.
The road was somewhat cleared for them by the gunboats. In the
evening I returned to headquarters to hurry up reinforcements.
Sherman went in person on the 16th, taking with him Stuart’s
division of the 15th corps. They took large river transports to
Eagle Bend on the Mississippi, where they debarked and marched
across to Steel’s Bayou, where they re-embarked on the
transports. The river steamers, with their tall smokestacks and
light guards extending out, were so much impeded that the
gunboats got far ahead. Porter, with his fleet, got within a
few hundred yards of where the sailing would have been clear and
free from the obstructions caused by felling trees into the
water, when he encountered rebel sharp-shooters, and his
progress was delayed by obstructions in his front. He could do
nothing with gunboats against sharpshooters. The rebels,
learning his route, had sent in about 4,000 men–many more than
there were sailors in the fleet.

Sherman went back, at the request of the admiral, to clear out
Black Bayou and to hurry up reinforcements, which were far
behind. On the night of the 19th he received notice from the
admiral that he had been attacked by sharp-shooters and was in
imminent peril. Sherman at once returned through Black Bayou in
a canoe, and passed on until he met a steamer, with the last of
the reinforcements he had, coming up. They tried to force their
way through Black Bayou with their steamer, but, finding it slow
and tedious work, debarked and pushed forward on foot. It was
night when they landed, and intensely dark. There was but a
narrow strip of land above water, and that was grown up with
underbrush or cane. The troops lighted their way through this
with candles carried in their hands for a mile and a half, when
they came to an open plantation. Here the troops rested until
morning. They made twenty-one miles from this resting-place by
noon the next day, and were in time to rescue the fleet. Porter
had fully made up his mind to blow up the gunboats rather than
have them fall into the hands of the enemy. More welcome
visitors he probably never met than the “boys in blue” on this
occasion. The vessels were backed out and returned to their
rendezvous on the Mississippi; and thus ended in failure the
fourth attempt to get in rear of Vicksburg.



The original canal scheme was also abandoned on the 27th of
March. The effort to make a waterway through Lake Providence
and the connecting bayous was abandoned as wholly impracticable
about the same time.

At Milliken’s Bend, and also at Young’s Point, bayous or
channels start, which connecting with other bayous passing
Richmond, Louisiana, enter the Mississippi at Carthage
twenty-five or thirty miles above Grand Gulf. The Mississippi
levee cuts the supply of water off from these bayous or
channels, but all the rainfall behind the levee, at these
points, is carried through these same channels to the river
below. In case of a crevasse in this vicinity, the water
escaping would find its outlet through the same channels. The
dredges and laborers from the canal having been driven out by
overflow and the enemy’s batteries, I determined to open these
other channels, if possible. If successful the effort would
afford a route, away from the enemy’s batteries, for our
transports. There was a good road back of the levees, along
these bayous, to carry the troops, artillery and wagon trains
over whenever the water receded a little, and after a few days
of dry weather. Accordingly, with the abandonment of all the
other plans for reaching a base heretofore described, this new
one was undertaken.

As early as the 4th of February I had written to Halleck about
this route, stating that I thought it much more practicable than
the other undertaking (the Lake Providence route), and that it
would have been accomplished with much less labor if commenced
before the water had got all over the country.

The upper end of these bayous being cut off from a water supply,
further than the rainfall back of the levees, was grown up with
dense timber for a distance of several miles from their
source. It was necessary, therefore, to clear this out before
letting in the water from the river. This work was continued
until the waters of the river began to recede and the road to
Richmond, Louisiana, emerged from the water. One small steamer
and some barges were got through this channel, but no further
use could be made of it because of the fall in the river. Beyond
this it was no more successful than the other experiments with
which the winter was whiled away. All these failures would have
been very discouraging if I had expected much from the efforts;
but I had not. From the first the most I hoped to accomplish
was the passage of transports, to be used below Vicksburg,
without exposure to the long line of batteries defending that

This long, dreary and, for heavy and continuous rains and high
water, unprecedented winter was one of great hardship to all
engaged about Vicksburg. The river was higher than its natural
banks from December, 1862, to the following April. The war had
suspended peaceful pursuits in the South, further than the
production of army supplies, and in consequence the levees were
neglected and broken in many places and the whole country was
covered with water. Troops could scarcely find dry ground on
which to pitch their tents. Malarial fevers broke out among the
men. Measles and small-pox also attacked them. The hospital
arrangements and medical attendance were so perfect, however,
that the loss of life was much less than might have been
expected. Visitors to the camps went home with dismal stories
to relate; Northern papers came back to the soldiers with these
stories exaggerated. Because I would not divulge my ultimate
plans to visitors, they pronounced me idle, incompetent and
unfit to command men in an emergency, and clamored for my
removal. They were not to be satisfied, many of them, with my
simple removal, but named who my successor should be.
McClernand, Fremont, Hunter and McClellan were all mentioned in
this connection. I took no steps to answer these complaints,
but continued to do my duty, as I understood it, to the best of
my ability. Every one has his superstitions. One of mine is
that in positions of great responsibility every one should do
his duty to the best of his ability where assigned by competent
authority, without application or the use of influence to change
his position. While at Cairo I had watched with very great
interest the operations of the Army of the Potomac, looking upon
that as the main field of the war. I had no idea, myself, of
ever having any large command, nor did I suppose that I was
equal to one; but I had the vanity to think that as a cavalry
officer I might succeed very well in the command of a brigade.
On one occasion, in talking about this to my staff officers, all
of whom were civilians without any military education whatever, I
said that I would give anything if I were commanding a brigade of
cavalry in the Army of the Potomac and I believed I could do some
good. Captain Hillyer spoke up and suggested that I make
application to be transferred there to command the cavalry. I
then told him that I would cut my right arm off first, and
mentioned this superstition.

In time of war the President, being by the Constitution
Commander-in-chief of the Army and Navy, is responsible for the
selection of commanders. He should not be embarrassed in making
his selections. I having been selected, my responsibility ended
with my doing the best I knew how. If I had sought the place,
or obtained it through personal or political influence, my
belief is that I would have feared to undertake any plan of my
own conception, and would probably have awaited direct orders
from my distant superiors. Persons obtaining important commands
by application or political influence are apt to keep a written
record of complaints and predictions of defeat, which are shown
in case of disaster. Somebody must be responsible for their

With all the pressure brought to bear upon them, both President
Lincoln and General Halleck stood by me to the end of the
campaign. I had never met Mr. Lincoln, but his support was

At last the waters began to recede; the roads crossing the
peninsula behind the levees of the bayous, were emerging from
the waters; the troops were all concentrated from distant points
at Milliken’s Bend preparatory to a final move which was to crown
the long, tedious and discouraging labors with success.

I had had in contemplation the whole winter the movement by land
to a point below Vicksburg from which to operate, subject only to
the possible but not expected success of some one of the
expedients resorted to for the purpose of giving us a different
base. This could not be undertaken until the waters receded. I
did not therefore communicate this plan, even to an officer of my
staff, until it was necessary to make preparations for the
start. My recollection is that Admiral Porter was the first one
to whom I mentioned it. The co-operation of the navy was
absolutely essential to the success (even to the contemplation)
of such an enterprise. I had no more authority to command
Porter than he had to command me. It was necessary to have part
of his fleet below Vicksburg if the troops went there. Steamers
to use as ferries were also essential. The navy was the only
escort and protection for these steamers, all of which in
getting below had to run about fourteen miles of batteries.
Porter fell into the plan at once, and suggested that he had
better superintend the preparation of the steamers selected to
run the batteries, as sailors would probably understand the work
better than soldiers. I was glad to accept his proposition, not
only because I admitted his argument, but because it would
enable me to keep from the enemy a little longer our designs.
Porter’s fleet was on the east side of the river above the mouth
of the Yazoo, entirely concealed from the enemy by the dense
forests that intervened. Even spies could not get near him, on
account of the undergrowth and overflowed lands. Suspicions of
some mysterious movements were aroused. Our river guards
discovered one day a small skiff moving quietly and mysteriously
up the river near the east shore, from the direction of
Vicksburg, towards the fleet. On overhauling the boat they
found a small white flag, not much larger than a handkerchief,
set up in the stern, no doubt intended as a flag of truce in
case of discovery. The boat, crew and passengers were brought
ashore to me. The chief personage aboard proved to be Jacob
Thompson, Secretary of the Interior under the administration of
President Buchanan. After a pleasant conversation of half an
hour or more I allowed the boat and crew, passengers and all, to
return to Vicksburg, without creating a suspicion that there was
a doubt in my mind as to the good faith of Mr. Thompson and his

Admiral Porter proceeded with the preparation of the steamers
for their hazardous passage of the enemy’s batteries. The great
essential was to protect the boilers from the enemy’s shot, and
to conceal the fires under the boilers from view. This he
accomplished by loading the steamers, between the guards and
boilers on the boiler deck up to the deck above, with bales of
hay and cotton, and the deck in front of the boilers in the same
way, adding sacks of grain. The hay and grain would be wanted
below, and could not be transported in sufficient quantity by
the muddy roads over which we expected to march.

Before this I had been collecting, from St. Louis and Chicago,
yawls and barges to be used as ferries when we got below. By
the 16th of April Porter was ready to start on his perilous
trip. The advance, flagship Benton, Porter commanding, started
at ten o’clock at night, followed at intervals of a few minutes
by the Lafayette with a captured steamer, the Price, lashed to
her side, the Louisville, Mound City, Pittsburgh and
Carondelet–all of these being naval vessels. Next came the
transports–Forest Queen, Silver Wave and Henry Clay, each
towing barges loaded with coal to be used as fuel by the naval
and transport steamers when below the batteries. The gunboat
Tuscumbia brought up the rear. Soon after the start a battery
between Vicksburg and Warrenton opened fire across the
intervening peninsula, followed by the upper batteries, and then
by batteries all along the line. The gunboats ran up close under
the bluffs, delivering their fire in return at short distances,
probably without much effect. They were under fire for more
than two hours and every vessel was struck many times, but with
little damage to the gunboats. The transports did not fare so
well. The Henry Clay was disabled and deserted by her crew.
Soon after a shell burst in the cotton packed about the boilers,
set the vessel on fire and burned her to the water’s edge. The
burning mass, however, floated down to Carthage before
grounding, as did also one of the barges in tow.

The enemy were evidently expecting our fleet, for they were
ready to light up the river by means of bonfires on the east
side and by firing houses on the point of land opposite the city
on the Louisiana side. The sight was magnificent, but
terrible. I witnessed it from the deck of a river transport,
run out into the middle of the river and as low down as it was
prudent to go. My mind was much relieved when I learned that no
one on the transports had been killed and but few, if any,
wounded. During the running of the batteries men were stationed
in the holds of the transports to partially stop with cotton
shot-holes that might be made in the hulls. All damage was
afterwards soon repaired under the direction of Admiral Porter.

The experiment of passing batteries had been tried before this,
however, during the war. Admiral Farragut had run the batteries
at Port Hudson with the flagship Hartford and one iron-clad and
visited me from below Vicksburg. The 13th of February Admiral
Porter had sent the gunboat Indianola, Lieutenant-Commander
George Brown commanding, below. She met Colonel Ellet of the
Marine brigade below Natchez on a captured steamer. Two of the
Colonel’s fleet had previously run the batteries, producing the
greatest consternation among the people along the Mississippi
from Vicksburg (*10) to the Red River.

The Indianola remained about the mouth of the Red River some
days, and then started up the Mississippi. The Confederates
soon raised the Queen of the West, (*11) and repaired her. With
this vessel and the ram Webb, which they had had for some time in
the Red River, and two other steamers, they followed the
Indianola. The latter was encumbered with barges of coal in tow,
and consequently could make but little speed against the rapid
current of the Mississippi. The Confederate fleet overtook her
just above Grand Gulf, and attacked her after dark on the 24th
of February. The Indianola was superior to all the others in
armament, and probably would have destroyed them or driven them
away, but for her encumbrance. As it was she fought them for an
hour and a half, but, in the dark, was struck seven or eight
times by the ram and other vessels, and was finally disabled and
reduced to a sinking condition. The armament was thrown
overboard and the vessel run ashore. Officers and crew then

I had started McClernand with his corps of four divisions on the
29th of March, by way of Richmond, Louisiana, to New Carthage,
hoping that he might capture Grand Gulf before the balance of
the troops could get there; but the roads were very bad,
scarcely above water yet. Some miles from New Carthage the
levee to Bayou Vidal was broken in several places, overflowing
the roads for the distance of two miles. Boats were collected
from the surrounding bayous, and some constructed on the spot
from such material as could be collected, to transport the
troops across the overflowed interval. By the 6th of April
McClernand had reached New Carthage with one division and its
artillery, the latter ferried through the woods by these
boats. On the 17th I visited New Carthage in person, and saw
that the process of getting troops through in the way we were
doing was so tedious that a better method must be devised. The
water was falling, and in a few days there would not be depth
enough to use boats; nor would the land be dry enough to march
over. McClernand had already found a new route from Smith’s
plantation where the crevasse occurred, to Perkins’ plantation,
eight to twelve miles below New Carthage. This increased the
march from Milliken’s Bend from twenty-seven to nearly forty
miles. Four bridges had to be built across bayous, two of them
each over six hundred feet long, making about two thousand feet
of bridging in all. The river falling made the current in these
bayous very rapid, increasing the difficulty of building and
permanently fastening these bridges; but the ingenuity of the
“Yankee soldier” was equal to any emergency. The bridges were
soon built of such material as could be found near by, and so
substantial were they that not a single mishap occurred in
crossing all the army with artillery, cavalry and wagon trains,
except the loss of one siege gun (a thirty-two pounder). This,
if my memory serves me correctly, broke through the only pontoon
bridge we had in all our march across the peninsula. These
bridges were all built by McClernand’s command, under the
supervision of Lieutenant Hains of the Engineer Corps.

I returned to Milliken’s Bend on the 18th or 19th, and on the
20th issued the following final order for the movement of troops:

April 20, 1863.

Special Orders, No. 110.
* * * * *
* * VIII. The following orders are published for the
information and guidance of the “Army in the Field,” in its
present movement to obtain a foothold on the east bank of the
Mississippi River, from which Vicksburg can be approached by
practicable roads.

First.–The Thirteenth army corps, Major-General John A.
McClernand commanding, will constitute the right wing.

Second.–The Fifteenth army corps, Major-General W. T. Sherman
commanding, will constitute the left wing.

Third.–The Seventeenth army corps, Major-General James B.
McPherson commanding, will constitute the centre.

Fourth.–The order of march to New Carthage will be from right
to left.

Fifth.–Reserves will be formed by divisions from each army
corps; or, an entire army corps will be held as a reserve, as
necessity may require. When the reserve is formed by divisions,
each division will remain under the immediate command of its
respective corps commander, unless otherwise specially ordered
for a particular emergency.

Sixth.–Troops will be required to bivouac, until proper
facilities can be afforded for the transportation of camp

Seventh.–In the present movement, one tent will be allowed to
each company for the protection of rations from rain; one wall
tent for each regimental headquarters; one wall tent for each
brigade headquarters; and one wall tent for each division
headquarters; corps commanders having the books and blanks of
their respective commands to provide for, are authorized to take
such tents as are absolutely necessary, but not to exceed the
number allowed by General Orders No. 160, A. G. O., series of

Eighth.–All the teams of the three army corps, under the
immediate charge of the quartermasters bearing them on their
returns, will constitute a train for carrying supplies and
ordnance and the authorized camp equipage of the army.

Ninth.–As fast as the Thirteenth army corps advances, the
Seventeenth army corps will take its place; and it, in turn,
will be followed in like manner by the Fifteenth army corps.

Tenth.–Two regiments from each army corps will be detailed by
corps commanders, to guard the lines from Richmond to New

Eleventh.–General hospitals will be established by the medical
director between Duckport and Milliken’s Bend. All sick and
disabled soldiers will be left in these hospitals. Surgeons in
charge of hospitals will report convalescents as fast as they
become fit for duty. Each corps commander will detail an
intelligent and good drill officer, to remain behind and take
charge of the convalescents of their respective corps; officers
so detailed will organize the men under their charge into squads
and companies, without regard to the regiments they belong to;
and in the absence of convalescent commissioned officers to
command them, will appoint non-commissioned officers or
privates. The force so organized will constitute the guard of
the line from Duckport to Milliken’s Bend. They will furnish
all the guards and details required for general hospitals, and
with the contrabands that may be about the camps, will furnish
all the details for loading and unloading boats.

Twelfth.–The movement of troops from Milliken’s Bend to New
Carthage will be so conducted as to allow the transportation of
ten days’ supply of rations, and one-half the allowance of
ordnance, required by previous orders.

Thirteenth.–Commanders are authorized and enjoined to collect
all the beef cattle, corn and other necessary supplies on the
line of march; but wanton destruction of property, taking of
articles useless for military purposes, insulting citizens,
going into and searching houses without proper orders from
division commanders, are positively prohibited. All such
irregularities must be summarily punished.

Fourteenth.–Brigadier-General J. C. Sullivan is appointed to
the command of all the forces detailed for the protection of the
line from here to New Carthage. His particular attention is
called to General Orders, No. 69, from Adjutant-General’s
Office, Washington, of date March 20, 1863.

By order of

McClernand was already below on the Mississippi. Two of
McPherson’s divisions were put upon the march immediately. The
third had not yet arrived from Lake Providence; it was on its
way to Milliken’s Bend and was to follow on arrival.

Sherman was to follow McPherson. Two of his divisions were at
Duckport and Young’s Point, and the third under Steele was under
orders to return from Greenville, Mississippi, where it had been
sent to expel a rebel battery that had been annoying our

It had now become evident that the army could not be rationed by
a wagon train over the single narrow and almost impassable road
between Milliken’s Bend and Perkins’ plantation. Accordingly
six more steamers were protected as before, to run the
batteries, and were loaded with supplies. They took twelve
barges in tow, loaded also with rations. On the night of the
22d of April they ran the batteries, five getting through more
or less disabled while one was sunk. About half the barges got
through with their needed freight.

When it was first proposed to run the blockade at Vicksburg with
river steamers there were but two captains or masters who were
willing to accompany their vessels, and but one crew. Volunteers
were called for from the army, men who had had experience in any
capacity in navigating the western rivers. Captains, pilots,
mates, engineers and deck-hands enough presented themselves to
take five times the number of vessels we were moving through
this dangerous ordeal. Most of them were from Logan’s division,
composed generally of men from the southern part of Illinois and
from Missouri. All but two of the steamers were commanded by
volunteers from the army, and all but one so manned. In this
instance, as in all others during the war, I found that
volunteers could be found in the ranks and among the
commissioned officers to meet every call for aid whether
mechanical or professional. Colonel W. S. Oliver was master of
transportation on this occasion by special detail.



On the 24th my headquarters were with the advance at Perkins’
plantation. Reconnoissances were made in boats to ascertain
whether there was high land on the east shore of the river where
we might land above Grand Gulf. There was none practicable.
Accordingly the troops were set in motion for Hard Times,
twenty-two miles farther down the river and nearly opposite
Grand Gulf. The loss of two steamers and six barges reduced our
transportation so that only 10,000 men could be moved by water.
Some of the steamers that had got below were injured in their
machinery, so that they were only useful as barges towed by
those less severely injured. All the troops, therefore, except
what could be transported in one trip, had to march. The road
lay west of Lake St. Joseph. Three large bayous had to be
crossed. They were rapidly bridged in the same manner as those
previously encountered. (*12)

On the 27th McClernand’s corps was all at Hard Times, and
McPherson’s was following closely. I had determined to make the
attempt to effect a landing on the east side of the river as soon
as possible. Accordingly, on the morning of the 29th, McClernand
was directed to embark all the troops from his corps that our
transports and barges could carry. About 10,000 men were so
embarked. The plan was to have the navy silence the guns at
Grand Gulf, and to have as many men as possible ready to debark
in the shortest possible time under cover of the fire of the
navy and carry the works by storm. The following order was

April 27,1863.

Commanding 13th A. C.

Commence immediately the embarkation of your corps, or so much
of it as there is transportation for. Have put aboard the
artillery and every article authorized in orders limiting
baggage, except the men, and hold them in readiness, with their
places assigned, to be moved at a moment’s warning.

All the troops you may have, except those ordered to remain
behind, send to a point nearly opposite Grand Gulf, where you
see, by special orders of this date, General McPherson is
ordered to send one division.

The plan of the attack will be for the navy to attack and
silence all the batteries commanding the river. Your corps will
be on the river, ready to run to and debark on the nearest
eligible land below the promontory first brought to view passing
down the river. Once on shore, have each commander instructed
beforehand to form his men the best the ground will admit of,
and take possession of the most commanding points, but avoid
separating your command so that it cannot support itself. The
first object is to get a foothold where our troops can maintain
themselves until such time as preparations can be made and
troops collected for a forward movement.

Admiral Porter has proposed to place his boats in the position
indicated to you a few days ago, and to bring over with them
such troops as may be below the city after the guns of the enemy
are silenced.

It may be that the enemy will occupy positions back from the
city, out of range of the gunboats, so as to make it desirable
to run past Grand Gulf and land at Rodney. In case this should
prove the plan, a signal will be arranged and you duly informed,
when the transports are to start with this view. Or, it may be
expedient for the boats to run past, but not the men. In this
case, then, the transports would have to be brought back to
where the men could land and move by forced marches to below
Grand Gulf, re-embark rapidly and proceed to the latter place.
There will be required, then, three signals; one, to indicate
that the transports can run down and debark the troops at Grand
Gulf; one, that the transports can run by without the troops;
and the last, that the transports can run by with the troops on

Should the men have to march, all baggage and artillery will be
left to run the blockade.

If not already directed, require your men to keep three days’
rations in their haversacks, not to be touched until a movement


At 8 o’clock A.M., 29th, Porter made the attack with his entire
strength present, eight gunboats. For nearly five and a half
hours the attack was kept up without silencing a single gun of
the enemy. All this time McClernand’s 10,000 men were huddled
together on the transports in the stream ready to attempt a
landing if signalled. I occupied a tug from which I could see
the effect of the battle on both sides, within range of the
enemy’s guns; but a small tug, without armament, was not
calculated to attract the fire of batteries while they were
being assailed themselves. About half-past one the fleet
withdrew, seeing their efforts were entirely unavailing. The
enemy ceased firing as soon as we withdrew. I immediately
signalled the Admiral and went aboard his ship. The navy lost
in this engagement eighteen killed and fifty-six wounded. A
large proportion of these were of the crew of the flagship, and
most of those from a single shell which penetrated the ship’s
side and exploded between decks where the men were working their
guns. The sight of the mangled and dying men which met my eye as
I boarded the ship was sickening.

Grand Gulf is on a high bluff where the river runs at the very
foot of it. It is as defensible upon its front as Vicksburg
and, at that time, would have been just as impossible to capture
by a front attack. I therefore requested Porter to run the
batteries with his fleet that night, and to take charge of the
transports, all of which would be wanted below.

There is a long tongue of land from the Louisiana side extending
towards Grand Gulf, made by the river running nearly east from
about three miles above and nearly in the opposite direction
from that point for about the same distance below. The land was
so low and wet that it would not have been practicable to march
an army across but for a levee. I had had this explored before,
as well as the east bank below to ascertain if there was a
possible point of debarkation north of Rodney. It was found
that the top of the levee afforded a good road to march upon.

Porter, as was always the case with him, not only acquiesced in
the plan, but volunteered to use his entire fleet as
transports. I had intended to make this request, but he
anticipated me. At dusk, when concealed from the view of the
enemy at Grand Gulf, McClernand landed his command on the west
bank. The navy and transports ran the batteries successfully.
The troops marched across the point of land under cover of
night, unobserved. By the time it was light the enemy saw our
whole fleet, ironclads, gunboats, river steamers and barges,
quietly moving down the river three miles below them, black, or
rather blue, with National troops.

When the troops debarked, the evening of the 29th, it was
expected that we would have to go to Rodney, about nine miles
below, to find a landing; but that night a colored man came in
who informed me that a good landing would be found at
Bruinsburg, a few miles above Rodney, from which point there was
a good road leading to Port Gibson some twelve miles in the
interior. The information was found correct, and our landing
was effected without opposition.

Sherman had not left his position above Vicksburg yet. On the
morning of the 27th I ordered him to create a diversion by
moving his corps up the Yazoo and threatening an attack on
Haines’ Bluff.

My object was to compel Pemberton to keep as much force about
Vicksburg as I could, until I could secure a good footing on
high land east of the river. The move was eminently successful
and, as we afterwards learned, created great confusion about
Vicksburg and doubts about our real design. Sherman moved the
day of our attack on Grand Gulf, the 29th, with ten regiments of
his command and eight gunboats which Porter had left above

He debarked his troops and apparently made every preparation to
attack the enemy while the navy bombarded the main forts at
Haines’ Bluff. This move was made without a single casualty in
either branch of the service. On the first of May Sherman
received orders from me (sent from Hard Times the evening of the
29th of April) to withdraw from the front of Haines’ Bluff and
follow McPherson with two divisions as fast as he could.

I had established a depot of supplies at Perkins’ plantation.
Now that all our gunboats were below Grand Gulf it was possible
that the enemy might fit out boats in the Big Black with
improvised armament and attempt to destroy these supplies.
McPherson was at Hard Times with a portion of his corps, and the
depot was protected by a part of his command. The night of the
29th I directed him to arm one of the transports with artillery
and send it up to Perkins’ plantation as a guard; and also to
have the siege guns we had brought along moved there and put in

The embarkation below Grand Gulf took place at De Shroon’s,
Louisiana, six miles above Bruinsburg, Mississippi. Early on
the morning of 30th of April McClernand’s corps and one division
of McPherson’s corps were speedily landed.

When this was effected I felt a degree of relief scarcely ever
equalled since. Vicksburg was not yet taken it is true, nor
were its defenders demoralized by any of our previous moves. I
was now in the enemy’s country, with a vast river and the
stronghold of Vicksburg between me and my base of supplies. But
I was on dry ground on the same side of the river with the
enemy. All the campaigns, labors, hardships and exposures from
the month of December previous to this time that had been made
and endured, were for the accomplishment of this one object.

I had with me the 13th corps, General McClernand commanding, and
two brigades of Logan’s division of the 17th corps, General
McPherson commanding–in all not more than twenty thousand men
to commence the campaign with. These were soon reinforced by
the remaining brigade of Logan’s division and Crocker’s division
of the 17th corps. On the 7th of May I was further reinforced by
Sherman with two divisions of his, the 15th corps. My total
force was then about thirty-three thousand men.

The enemy occupied Grand Gulf, Haines’ Bluff and Jackson with a
force of nearly sixty thousand men. Jackson is fifty miles east
of Vicksburg and is connected with it by a railroad. My first
problem was to capture Grand Gulf to use as a base.

Bruinsburg is two miles from high ground. The bottom at that
point is higher than most of the low land in the valley of the
Mississippi, and a good road leads to the bluff. It was natural
to expect the garrison from Grand Gulf to come out to meet us and
prevent, if they could, our reaching this solid base. Bayou
Pierre enters the Mississippi just above Bruinsburg and, as it
is a navigable stream and was high at the time, in order to
intercept us they had to go by Port Gibson, the nearest point
where there was a bridge to cross upon. This more than doubled
the distance from Grand Gulf to the high land back of
Bruinsburg. No time was to be lost in securing this foothold.
Our transportation was not sufficient to move all the army
across the river at one trip, or even two; but the landing of
the 13th corps and one division of the 17th was effected during
the day, April 30th, and early evening. McClernand was advanced
as soon as ammunition and two days’ rations (to last five) could
be issued to his men. The bluffs were reached an hour before
sunset and McClernand was pushed on, hoping to reach Port Gibson
and save the bridge spanning the Bayou Pierre before the enemy
could get there; for crossing a stream in the presence of an
enemy is always difficult. Port Gibson, too, is the starting
point of roads to Grand Gulf, Vicksburg and Jackson.

McClernand’s advance met the enemy about five miles west of Port
Gibson at Thompson’s plantation. There was some firing during
the night, but nothing rising to the dignity of a battle until
daylight. The enemy had taken a strong natural position with
most of the Grand Gulf garrison, numbering about seven or eight
thousand men, under General Bowen. His hope was to hold me in
check until reinforcements under Loring could reach him from
Vicksburg; but Loring did not come in time to render much
assistance south of Port Gibson. Two brigades of McPherson’s
corps followed McClernand as fast as rations and ammunition
could be issued, and were ready to take position upon the
battlefield whenever the 13th corps could be got out of the way.

The country in this part of Mississippi stands on edge, as it
were, the roads running along the ridges except when they
occasionally pass from one ridge to another. Where there are no
clearings the sides of the hills are covered with a very heavy
growth of timber and with undergrowth, and the ravines are
filled with vines and canebrakes, almost impenetrable. This
makes it easy for an inferior force to delay, if not defeat, a
far superior one.

Near the point selected by Bowen to defend, the road to Port
Gibson divides, taking two ridges which do not diverge more than
a mile or two at the widest point. These roads unite just
outside the town. This made it necessary for McClernand to
divide his force. It was not only divided, but it was separated
by a deep ravine of the character above described. One flank
could not reinforce the other except by marching back to the
junction of the roads. McClernand put the divisions of Hovey,
Carr and A. J. Smith upon the right-hand branch and Osterhaus on
the left. I was on the field by ten A.M., and inspected both
flanks in person. On the right the enemy, if not being pressed
back, was at least not repulsing our advance. On the left,
however, Osterhaus was not faring so well. He had been repulsed
with some loss. As soon as the road could be cleared of
McClernand’s troops I ordered up McPherson, who was close upon
the rear of the 13th corps, with two brigades of Logan’s
division. This was about noon. I ordered him to send one
brigade (General John E. Smith’s was selected) to support
Osterhaus, and to move to the left and flank the enemy out of
his position. This movement carried the brigade over a deep
ravine to a third ridge and, when Smith’s troops were seen well
through the ravine, Osterhaus was directed to renew his front
attack. It was successful and unattended by heavy loss. The
enemy was sent in full retreat on their right, and their left
followed before sunset. While the movement to our left was
going on, McClernand, who was with his right flank, sent me
frequent requests for reinforcements, although the force with
him was not being pressed. I had been upon the ground and knew
it did not admit of his engaging all the men he had. We
followed up our victory until night overtook us about two miles
from Port Gibson; then the troops went into bivouac for the



We started next morning for Port Gibson as soon as it was light
enough to see the road. We were soon in the town, and I was
delighted to find that the enemy had not stopped to contest our
crossing further at the bridge, which he had burned. The troops
were set to work at once to construct a bridge across the South
Fork of the Bayou Pierre. At this time the water was high and
the current rapid. What might be called a raft-bridge was soon
constructed from material obtained from wooden buildings,
stables, fences, etc., which sufficed for carrying the whole
army over safely. Colonel J. H. Wilson, a member of my staff,
planned and superintended the construction of this bridge, going
into the water and working as hard as any one engaged. Officers
and men generally joined in this work. When it was finished the
army crossed and marched eight miles beyond to the North Fork
that day. One brigade of Logan’s division was sent down the
stream to occupy the attention of a rebel battery, which had
been left behind with infantry supports to prevent our repairing
the burnt railroad bridge. Two of his brigades were sent up the
bayou to find a crossing and reach the North Fork to repair the
bridge there. The enemy soon left when he found we were
building a bridge elsewhere. Before leaving Port Gibson we were
reinforced by Crocker’s division, McPherson’s corps, which had
crossed the Mississippi at Bruinsburg and come up without
stopping except to get two days’ rations. McPherson still had
one division west of the Mississippi River, guarding the road
from Milliken’s Bend to the river below until Sherman’s command
should relieve it.

On leaving Bruinsburg for the front I left my son Frederick, who
had joined me a few weeks before, on board one of the gunboats
asleep, and hoped to get away without him until after Grand Gulf
should fall into our hands; but on waking up he learned that I
had gone, and being guided by the sound of the battle raging at
Thompson’s Hill–called the Battle of Port Gibson–found his way
to where I was. He had no horse to ride at the time, and I had
no facilities for even preparing a meal. He, therefore, foraged
around the best he could until we reached Grand Gulf. Mr. C. A.
Dana, then an officer of the War Department, accompanied me on
the Vicksburg campaign and through a portion of the siege. He
was in the same situation as Fred so far as transportation and
mess arrangements were concerned. The first time I call to mind
seeing either of them, after the battle, they were mounted on two
enormous horses, grown white from age, each equipped with
dilapidated saddles and bridles.

Our trains arrived a few days later, after which we were all
perfectly equipped.

My son accompanied me throughout the campaign and siege, and
caused no anxiety either to me or to his mother, who was at
home. He looked out for himself and was in every battle of the
campaign. His age, then not quite thirteen, enabled him to take
in all he saw, and to retain a recollection of it that would not
be possible in more mature years.

When the movement from Bruinsburg commenced we were without a
wagon train. The train still west of the Mississippi was
carried around with proper escort, by a circuitous route from
Milliken’s Bend to Hard Times seventy or more miles below, and
did not get up for some days after the battle of Port Gibson. My
own horses, headquarters’ transportation, servants, mess chest,
and everything except what I had on, was with this train.
General A. J. Smith happened to have an extra horse at
Bruinsburg which I borrowed, with a saddle-tree without
upholstering further than stirrups. I had no other for nearly a

It was necessary to have transportation for ammunition.
Provisions could be taken from the country; but all the
ammunition that can be carried on the person is soon exhausted
when there is much fighting. I directed, therefore, immediately
on landing that all the vehicles and draft animals, whether
horses, mules, or oxen, in the vicinity should be collected and
loaded to their capacity with ammunition. Quite a train was
collected during the 30th, and a motley train it was. In it
could be found fine carriages, loaded nearly to the top with
boxes of cartridges that had been pitched in promiscuously,
drawn by mules with plough, harness, straw collars, rope-lines,
etc.; long-coupled wagons, with racks for carrying cotton bales,
drawn by oxen, and everything that could be found in the way of
transportation on a plantation, either for use or pleasure. The
making out of provision returns was stopped for the time. No
formalities were to retard our progress until a position was
secured when the time could be spared to observe them.

It was at Port Gibson I first heard through a Southern paper of
the complete success of Colonel Grierson, who was making a raid
through central Mississippi. He had started from La Grange
April 17th with three regiments of about 1,700 men. On the 21st
he had detached Colonel Hatch with one regiment to destroy the
railroad between Columbus and Macon and then return to La
Grange. Hatch had a sharp fight with the enemy at Columbus and
retreated along the railroad, destroying it at Okalona and
Tupelo, and arriving in La Grange April 26. Grierson continued
his movement with about 1,000 men, breaking the Vicksburg and
Meridian railroad and the New Orleans and Jackson railroad,
arriving at Baton Rouge May 2d. This raid was of great
importance, for Grierson had attracted the attention of the
enemy from the main movement against Vicksburg.

During the night of the 2d of May the bridge over the North Fork
was repaired, and the troops commenced crossing at five the next
morning. Before the leading brigade was over it was fired upon
by the enemy from a commanding position; but they were soon
driven off. It was evident that the enemy was covering a
retreat from Grand Gulf to Vicksburg. Every commanding position
from this (Grindstone) crossing to Hankinson’s ferry over the Big
Black was occupied by the retreating foe to delay our progress.
McPherson, however, reached Hankinson’s ferry before night,
seized the ferry boat, and sent a detachment of his command
across and several miles north on the road to Vicksburg. When
the junction of the road going to Vicksburg with the road from
Grand Gulf to Raymond and Jackson was reached, Logan with his
division was turned to the left towards Grand Gulf. I went with
him a short distance from this junction. McPherson had
encountered the largest force yet met since the battle of Port
Gibson and had a skirmish nearly approaching a battle; but the
road Logan had taken enabled him to come up on the enemy’s right
flank, and they soon gave way. McPherson was ordered to hold
Hankinson’s ferry and the road back to Willow Springs with one
division; McClernand, who was now in the rear, was to join in
this as well as to guard the line back down the bayou. I did
not want to take the chances of having an enemy lurking in our

On the way from the junction to Grand Gulf, where the road comes
into the one from Vicksburg to the same place six or seven miles
out, I learned that the last of the enemy had retreated past
that place on their way to Vicksburg. I left Logan to make the
proper disposition of his troops for the night, while I rode
into the town with an escort of about twenty cavalry. Admiral
Porter had already arrived with his fleet. The enemy had
abandoned his heavy guns and evacuated the place.

When I reached Grand Gulf May 3d I had not been with my baggage
since the 27th of April and consequently had had no change of
underclothing, no meal except such as I could pick up sometimes
at other headquarters, and no tent to cover me. The first thing
I did was to get a bath, borrow some fresh underclothing from one
of the naval officers and get a good meal on the flag-ship. Then
I wrote letters to the general-in-chief informing him of our
present position, dispatches to be telegraphed from Cairo,
orders to General Sullivan commanding above Vicksburg, and gave
orders to all my corps commanders. About twelve o’clock at
night I was through my work and started for Hankinson’s ferry,
arriving there before daylight. While at Grand Gulf I heard
from Banks, who was on the Red River, and who said that he could
not be at Port Hudson before the 10th of May and then with only
15,000 men. Up to this time my intention had been to secure
Grand Gulf, as a base of supplies, detach McClernand’s corps to
Banks and co-operate with him in the reduction of Port Hudson.

The news from Banks forced upon me a different plan of campaign
from the one intended. To wait for his co-operation would have
detained me at least a month. The reinforcements would not have
reached ten thousand men after deducting casualties and necessary
river guards at all high points close to the river for over three
hundred miles. The enemy would have strengthened his position
and been reinforced by more men than Banks could have brought. I
therefore determined to move independently of Banks, cut loose
from my base, destroy the rebel force in rear of Vicksburg and
invest or capture the city.

Grand Gulf was accordingly given up as a base and the
authorities at Washington were notified. I knew well that
Halleck’s caution would lead him to disapprove of this course;
but it was the only one that gave any chance of success. The
time it would take to communicate with Washington and get a
reply would be so great that I could not be interfered with
until it was demonstrated whether my plan was practicable. Even
Sherman, who afterwards ignored bases of supplies other than what
were afforded by the country while marching through four States
of the Confederacy with an army more than twice as large as mine
at this time, wrote me from Hankinson’s ferry, advising me of the
impossibility of supplying our army over a single road. He urged
me to “stop all troops till your army is partially supplied with
wagons, and then act as quick as possible; for this road will be
jammed, as sure as life.” To this I replied: “I do not
calculate upon the possibility of supplying the army with full
rations from Grand Gulf. I know it will be impossible without
constructing additional roads. What I do expect is to get up
what rations of hard bread, coffee and salt we can, and make the
country furnish the balance.” We started from Bruinsburg with an
average of about two days’ rations, and received no more from our
own supplies for some days; abundance was found in the mean
time. A delay would give the enemy time to reinforce and

McClernand’s and McPherson’s commands were kept substantially as
they were on the night of the 2d, awaiting supplies sufficient to
give them three days’ rations in haversacks. Beef, mutton,
poultry and forage were found in abundance. Quite a quantity of
bacon and molasses was also secured from the country, but bread
and coffee could not be obtained in quantity sufficient for all
the men. Every plantation, however, had a run of stone,
propelled by mule power, to grind corn for the owners and their
slaves. All these were kept running while we were stopping, day
and night, and when we were marching, during the night, at all
plantations covered by the troops. But the product was taken by
the troops nearest by, so that the majority of the command was
destined to go without bread until a new base was established on
the Yazoo above Vicksburg.

While the troops were awaiting the arrival of rations I ordered
reconnoissances made by McClernand and McPherson, with the view
of leading the enemy to believe that we intended to cross the
Big Black and attack the city at once.

On the 6th Sherman arrived at Grand Gulf and crossed his command
that night and the next day. Three days’ rations had been
brought up from Grand Gulf for the advanced troops and were
issued. Orders were given for a forward movement the next
day. Sherman was directed to order up Blair, who had been left
behind to guard the road from Milliken’s Bend to Hard Times with
two brigades.

The quartermaster at Young’s Point was ordered to send two
hundred wagons with Blair, and the commissary was to load them
with hard bread, coffee, sugar, salt and one hundred thousand
pounds of salt meat.

On the 3d Hurlbut, who had been left at Memphis, was ordered to
send four regiments from his command to Milliken’s Bend to
relieve Blair’s division, and on the 5th he was ordered to send
Lauman’s division in addition, the latter to join the army in
the field. The four regiments were to be taken from troops near
the river so that there would be no delay.

During the night of the 6th McPherson drew in his troops north
of the Big Black and was off at an early hour on the road to
Jackson, via Rocky Springs, Utica and Raymond. That night he
and McClernand were both at Rocky Springs ten miles from
Hankinson’s ferry. McPherson remained there during the 8th,
while McClernand moved to Big Sandy and Sherman marched from
Grand Gulf to Hankinson’s ferry. The 9th, McPherson moved to a
point within a few miles west of Utica; McClernand and Sherman
remained where they were. On the 10th McPherson moved to Utica,
Sherman to Big Sandy; McClernand was still at Big Sandy. The
11th, McClernand was at Five Mile Creek; Sherman at Auburn;
McPherson five miles advanced from Utica. May 12th, McClernand
was at Fourteen Mile Creek; Sherman at Fourteen Mile Creek;
McPherson at Raymond after a battle.

After McPherson crossed the Big Black at Hankinson’s ferry
Vicksburg could have been approached and besieged by the south
side. It is not probable, however, that Pemberton would have
permitted a close besiegement. The broken nature of the ground
would have enabled him to hold a strong defensible line from the
river south of the city to the Big Black, retaining possession of
the railroad back to that point. It was my plan, therefore, to
get to the railroad east of Vicksburg, and approach from that
direction. Accordingly, McPherson’s troops that had crossed the
Big Black were withdrawn and the movement east to Jackson

As has been stated before, the country is very much broken and
the roads generally confined to the tops of the hills. The
troops were moved one (sometimes two) corps at a time to reach
designated points out parallel to the railroad and only from six
to ten miles from it. McClernand’s corps was kept with its left
flank on the Big Black guarding all the crossings. Fourteen
Mile Creek, a stream substantially parallel with the railroad,
was reached and crossings effected by McClernand and Sherman
with slight loss. McPherson was to the right of Sherman,
extending to Raymond. The cavalry was used in this advance in
reconnoitring to find the roads: to cover our advances and to
find the most practicable routes from one command to another so
they could support each other in case of an attack. In making
this move I estimated Pemberton’s movable force at Vicksburg at
about eighteen thousand men, with smaller forces at Haines’
Bluff and Jackson. It would not be possible for Pemberton to
attack me with all his troops at one place, and I determined to
throw my army between his and fight him in detail. This was
done with success, but I found afterwards that I had entirely
under-estimated Pemberton’s strength.

Up to this point our movements had been made without serious
opposition. My line was now nearly parallel with the Jackson
and Vicksburg railroad and about seven miles south of it. The
right was at Raymond eighteen miles from Jackson, McPherson
commanding; Sherman in the centre on Fourteen Mile Creek, his
advance thrown across; McClernand to the left, also on Fourteen
Mile Creek, advance across, and his pickets within two miles of
Edward’s station, where the enemy had concentrated a
considerable force and where they undoubtedly expected us to
attack. McClernand’s left was on the Big Black. In all our
moves, up to this time, the left had hugged the Big Black
closely, and all the ferries had been guarded to prevent the
enemy throwing a force on our rear.

McPherson encountered the enemy, five thousand strong with two
batteries under General Gregg, about two miles out of Raymond.
This was about two P.M. Logan was in advance with one of his
brigades. He deployed and moved up to engage the enemy.
McPherson ordered the road in rear to be cleared of wagons, and
the balance of Logan’s division, and Crocker’s, which was still
farther in rear, to come forward with all dispatch. The order
was obeyed with alacrity. Logan got his division in position
for assault before Crocker could get up, and attacked with
vigor, carrying the enemy’s position easily, sending Gregg
flying from the field not to appear against our front again
until we met at Jackson.

In this battle McPherson lost 66 killed, 339 wounded, and 37
missing–nearly or quite all from Logan’s division. The enemy’s
loss was 100 killed, 305 wounded, besides 415 taken prisoners.

I regarded Logan and Crocker as being as competent division
commanders as could be found in or out of the army and both
equal to a much higher command. Crocker, however, was dying of
consumption when he volunteered. His weak condition never put
him on the sick report when there was a battle in prospect, as
long as he could keep on his feet. He died not long after the
close of the rebellion.



When the news reached me of McPherson’s victory at Raymond about
sundown my position was with Sherman. I decided at once to turn
the whole column towards Jackson and capture that place without

Pemberton was now on my left, with, as I supposed, about 18,000
men; in fact, as I learned afterwards, with nearly 50,000. A
force was also collecting on my right, at Jackson, the point
where all the railroads communicating with Vicksburg connect.
All the enemy’s supplies of men and stores would come by that
point. As I hoped in the end to besiege Vicksburg I must first
destroy all possibility of aid. I therefore determined to move
swiftly towards Jackson, destroy or drive any force in that
direction and then turn upon Pemberton. But by moving against
Jackson, I uncovered my own communication. So I finally decided
to have none–to cut loose altogether from my base and move my
whole force eastward. I then had no fears for my
communications, and if I moved quickly enough could turn upon
Pemberton before he could attack me in the rear.

Accordingly, all previous orders given during the day for
movements on the 13th were annulled by new ones. McPherson was
ordered at daylight to move on Clinton, ten miles from Jackson;
Sherman was notified of my determination to capture Jackson and
work from there westward. He was ordered to start at four in
the morning and march to Raymond. McClernand was ordered to
march with three divisions by Dillon’s to Raymond. One was left
to guard the crossing of the Big Black.

On the 10th I had received a letter from Banks, on the Red
River, asking reinforcements. Porter had gone to his assistance
with a part of his fleet on the 3d, and I now wrote to him
describing my position and declining to send any troops. I
looked upon side movements as long as the enemy held Port Hudson
and Vicksburg as a waste of time and material.

General Joseph E. Johnston arrived at Jackson in the night of
the 13th from Tennessee, and immediately assumed command of all
the Confederate troops in Mississippi. I knew he was expecting
reinforcements from the south and east. On the 6th I had written
to General Halleck: “Information from the other side leaves me
to believe the enemy are bringing forces from Tullahoma.”

Up to this time my troops had been kept in supporting distances
of each other, as far as the nature of the country would
admit. Reconnoissances were constantly made from each corps to
enable them to acquaint themselves with the most practicable
routes from one to another in case a union became necessary.

McPherson reached Clinton with the advance early on the 13th and
immediately set to work destroying the railroad. Sherman’s
advance reached Raymond before the last of McPherson’s command
had got out of the town. McClernand withdrew from the front of
the enemy, at Edward’s station, with much skill and without
loss, and reached his position for the night in good order. On
the night of the 13th, McPherson was ordered to march at early
dawn upon Jackson, only fifteen miles away. Sherman was given
the same order; but he was to move by the direct road from
Raymond to Jackson, which is south of the road McPherson was on
and does not approach within two miles of it at the point where
it crossed the line of intrenchments which, at that time,
defended the city. McClernand was ordered to move one division
of his command to Clinton, one division a few miles beyond
Mississippi Springs following Sherman’s line, and a third to
Raymond. He was also directed to send his siege guns, four in
number with the troops going by Mississippi Springs.
McClernand’s position was an advantageous one in any event. With
one division at Clinton he was in position to reinforce
McPherson, at Jackson, rapidly if it became necessary; the
division beyond Mississippi Springs was equally available to
reinforce Sherman; the one at Raymond could take either road. He
still had two other divisions farther back now that Blair had
come up, available within a day at Jackson. If this last
command should not be wanted at Jackson, they were already one
day’s march from there on their way to Vicksburg and on three
different roads leading to the latter city. But the most
important consideration in my mind was to have a force
confronting Pemberton if he should come out to attack my rear.
This I expected him to do; as shown further on, he was directed
by Johnston to make this very move.

I notified General Halleck that I should attack the State
capital on the 14th. A courier carried the dispatch to Grand
Gulf through an unprotected country.

Sherman and McPherson communicated with each other during the
night and arranged to reach Jackson at about the same hour. It
rained in torrents during the night of the 13th and the fore
part of the day of the 14th. The roads were intolerable, and in
some places on Sherman’s line, where the land was low, they were
covered more than a foot deep with water. But the troops never
murmured. By nine o’clock Crocker, of McPherson’s corps, who
was now in advance, came upon the enemy’s pickets and speedily
drove them in upon the main body. They were outside of the
intrenchments in a strong position, and proved to be the troops
that had been driven out of Raymond. Johnston had been
reinforced; during the night by Georgia and South Carolina
regiments, so that his force amounted to eleven thousand men,
and he was expecting still more.

Sherman also came upon the rebel pickets some distance out from
the town, but speedily drove them in. He was now on the south
and south-west of Jackson confronting the Confederates behind
their breastworks, while McPherson’s right was nearly two miles
north, occupying a line running north and south across the
Vicksburg railroad. Artillery was brought up and
reconnoissances made preparatory to an assault. McPherson
brought up Logan’s division while he deployed Crocker’s for the
assault. Sherman made similar dispositions on the right. By
eleven A.M. both were ready to attack. Crocker moved his
division forward, preceded by a strong skirmish line. These
troops at once encountered the enemy’s advance and drove it back
on the main body, when they returned to their proper regiment and
the whole division charged, routing the enemy completely and
driving him into this main line. This stand by the enemy was
made more than two miles outside of his main fortifications.
McPherson followed up with his command until within range of the
guns of the enemy from their intrenchments, when he halted to
bring his troops into line and reconnoitre to determine the next
move. It was now about noon.

While this was going on Sherman was confronting a rebel battery
which enfiladed the road on which he was marching–the
Mississippi Springs road–and commanded a bridge spanning a
stream over which he had to pass. By detaching right and left
the stream was forced and the enemy flanked and speedily driven
within the main line. This brought our whole line in front of
the enemy’s line of works, which was continuous on the north,
west and south sides from the Pearl River north of the city to
the same river south. I was with Sherman. He was confronted by
a force sufficient to hold us back. Appearances did not justify
an assault where we were. I had directed Sherman to send a
force to the right, and to reconnoitre as far as to the Pearl
River. This force, Tuttle’s division, not returning I rode to
the right with my staff, and soon found that the enemy had left
that part of the line. Tuttle’s movement or McPherson’s
pressure had no doubt led Johnston to order a retreat, leaving
only the men at the guns to retard us while he was getting
away. Tuttle had seen this and, passing through the lines
without resistance, came up in the rear of the artillerists
confronting Sherman and captured them with ten pieces of
artillery. I rode immediately to the State House, where I was
soon followed by Sherman. About the same time McPherson
discovered that the enemy was leaving his front, and advanced
Crocker, who was so close upon the enemy that they could not
move their guns or destroy them. He captured seven guns and,
moving on, hoisted the National flag over the rebel capital of
Mississippi. Stevenson’s brigade was sent to cut off the rebel
retreat, but was too late or not expeditious enough.

Our loss in this engagement was: McPherson, 37 killed, 228
wounded; Sherman, 4 killed and 21 wounded and missing. The
enemy lost 845 killed, wounded and captured. Seventeen guns
fell into our hands, and the enemy destroyed by fire their
store-houses, containing a large amount of commissary stores.

On this day Blair reached New Auburn and joined McClernand’s 4th
division. He had with him two hundred wagons loaded with
rations, the only commissary supplies received during the entire

I slept that night in the room that Johnston was said to have
occupied the night before.

About four in the afternoon I sent for the corps commanders and
directed the dispositions to be made of their troops. Sherman
was to remain in Jackson until he destroyed that place as a
railroad centre, and manufacturing city of military supplies. He
did the work most effectually. Sherman and I went together into
a manufactory which had not ceased work on account of the battle
nor for the entrance of Yankee troops. Our presence did not seem
to attract the attention of either the manager or the operatives,
most of whom were girls. We looked on for a while to see the
tent cloth which they were making roll out of the looms, with
“C. S. A.” woven in each bolt. There was an immense amount of
cotton, in bales, stacked outside. Finally I told Sherman I
thought they had done work enough. The operatives were told
they could leave and take with them what cloth they could
carry. In a few minutes cotton and factory were in a blaze.
The proprietor visited Washington while I was President to get
his pay for this property, claiming that it was private. He
asked me to give him a statement of the fact that his property
had been destroyed by National troops, so that he might use it
with Congress where he was pressing, or proposed to press, his
claim. I declined.

On the night of the 13th Johnston sent the following dispatch to
Pemberton at Edward’s station: “I have lately arrived, and learn
that Major-General Sherman is between us with four divisions at
Clinton. It is important to establish communication, that you
may be reinforced. If practicable, come up in his rear at
once. To beat such a detachment would be of immense value. All
the troops you can quickly assemble should be brought. Time is
all-important.” This dispatch was sent in triplicate, by
different messengers. One of the messengers happened to be a
loyal man who had been expelled from Memphis some months before
by Hurlbut for uttering disloyal and threatening sentiments.
There was a good deal of parade about his expulsion, ostensibly
as a warning to those who entertained the sentiments he
expressed; but Hurlbut and the expelled man understood each
other. He delivered his copy of Johnston’s dispatch to
McPherson who forwarded it to me.

Receiving this dispatch on the 14th I ordered McPherson to move
promptly in the morning back to Bolton, the nearest point where
Johnston could reach the road. Bolton is about twenty miles
west of Jackson. I also informed McClernand of the capture of
Jackson and sent him the following order: “It is evidently the
design of the enemy to get north of us and cross the Big Black,
and beat us into Vicksburg. We must not allow them to do
this. Turn all your forces towards Bolton station, and make all
dispatch in getting there. Move troops by the most direct road
from wherever they may be on the receipt of this order.”

And to Blair I wrote: “Their design is evidently to cross the
Big Black and pass down the peninsula between the Big Black and
Yazoo rivers. We must beat them. Turn your troops immediately
to Bolton; take all the trains with you. Smith’s division, and
any other troops now with you, will go to the same place. If
practicable, take parallel roads, so as to divide your troops
and train.”

Johnston stopped on the Canton road only six miles north of
Jackson, the night of the 14th. He sent from there to Pemberton
dispatches announcing the loss of Jackson, and the following

“As soon as the reinforcements are all up, they must be united
to the rest of the army. I am anxious to see a force assembled
that may be able to inflict a heavy blow upon the enemy. Can
Grant supply himself from the Mississippi? Can you not cut him
off from it, and above all, should he be compelled to fall back
for want of supplies, beat him.”

The concentration of my troops was easy, considering the
character of the country. McPherson moved along the road
parallel with and near the railroad. McClernand’s command was,
one division (Hovey’s) on the road McPherson had to take, but
with a start of four miles. One (Osterhaus) was at Raymond, on
a converging road that intersected the other near Champion’s
Hill; one (Carr’s) had to pass over the same road with
Osterhaus, but being back at Mississippi Springs, would not be
detained by it; the fourth (Smith’s) with Blair’s division, was
near Auburn with a different road to pass over. McClernand
faced about and moved promptly. His cavalry from Raymond seized
Bolton by half-past nine in the morning, driving out the enemy’s
pickets and capturing several men.

The night of the 15th Hovey was at Bolton; Carr and Osterhaus
were about three miles south, but abreast, facing west; Smith
was north of Raymond with Blair in his rear.

McPherson’s command, with Logan in front, had marched at seven
o’clock, and by four reached Hovey and went into camp; Crocker
bivouacked just in Hovey’s rear on the Clinton road. Sherman
with two divisions, was in Jackson, completing the destruction
of roads, bridges and military factories. I rode in person out
to Clinton. On my arrival I ordered McClernand to move early in
the morning on Edward’s station, cautioning him to watch for the
enemy and not bring on an engagement unless he felt very certain
of success.

I naturally expected that Pemberton would endeavor to obey the
orders of his superior, which I have shown were to attack us at
Clinton. This, indeed, I knew he could not do; but I felt sure
he would make the attempt to reach that point. It turned out,
however, that he had decided his superior’s plans were
impracticable, and consequently determined to move south from
Edward’s station and get between me and my base. I, however,
had no base, having abandoned it more than a week before. On
the 15th Pemberton had actually marched south from Edward’s
station, but the rains had swollen Baker’s Creek, which he had
to cross so much that he could not ford it, and the bridges were
washed away. This brought him back to the Jackson road, on which
there was a good bridge over Baker’s Creek. Some of his troops
were marching until midnight to get there. Receiving here early
on the 16th a repetition of his order to join Johnston at
Clinton, he concluded to obey, and sent a dispatch to his chief,
informing him of the route by which he might be expected.

About five o’clock in the morning (16th) two men, who had been
employed on the Jackson and Vicksburg railroad, were brought to
me. They reported that they had passed through Pemberton’s army
in the night, and that it was still marching east. They reported
him to have eighty regiments of infantry and ten batteries; in
all, about twenty-five thousand men.

I had expected to leave Sherman at Jackson another day in order
to complete his work; but getting the above information I sent
him orders to move with all dispatch to Bolton, and to put one
division with an ammunition train on the road at once, with
directions to its commander to march with all possible speed
until he came up to our rear. Within an hour after receiving
this order Steele’s division was on the road. At the same time
I dispatched to Blair, who was near Auburn, to move with all
speed to Edward’s station. McClernand was directed to embrace
Blair in his command for the present. Blair’s division was a
part of the 15th army corps (Sherman’s); but as it was on its
way to join its corps, it naturally struck our left first, now
that we had faced about and were moving west. The 15th corps,
when it got up, would be on our extreme right. McPherson was
directed to get his trains out of the way of the troops, and to
follow Hovey’s division as closely as possible. McClernand had
two roads about three miles apart, converging at Edward’s
station, over which to march his troops. Hovey’s division of
his corps had the advance on a third road (the Clinton) still
farther north. McClernand was directed to move Blair’s and A.
J. Smith’s divisions by the southernmost of these roads, and
Osterhaus and Carr by the middle road. Orders were to move
cautiously with skirmishers to the front to feel for the enemy.

Smith’s division on the most southern road was the first to
encounter the enemy’s pickets, who were speedily driven in.
Osterhaus, on the middle road, hearing the firing, pushed his
skirmishers forward, found the enemy’s pickets and forced them
back to the main line. About the same time Hovey encountered
the enemy on the northern or direct wagon road from Jackson to
Vicksburg. McPherson was hastening up to join Hovey, but was
embarrassed by Hovey’s trains occupying the roads. I was still
back at Clinton. McPherson sent me word of the situation, and
expressed the wish that I was up. By half-past seven I was on
the road and proceeded rapidly to the front, ordering all trains
that were in front of troops off the road. When I arrived
Hovey’s skirmishing amounted almost to a battle.

McClernand was in person on the middle road and had a shorter
distance to march to reach the enemy’s position than
McPherson. I sent him word by a staff officer to push forward
and attack. These orders were repeated several times without
apparently expediting McClernand’s advance.

Champion’s Hill, where Pemberton had chosen his position to
receive us, whether taken by accident or design, was well
selected. It is one of the highest points in that section, and
commanded all the ground in range. On the east side of the
ridge, which is quite precipitous, is a ravine running first
north, then westerly, terminating at Baker’s Creek. It was
grown up thickly with large trees and undergrowth, making it
difficult to penetrate with troops, even when not defended. The
ridge occupied by the enemy terminated abruptly where the ravine
turns westerly. The left of the enemy occupied the north end of
this ridge. The Bolton and Edward’s station wagon-road turns
almost due south at this point and ascends the ridge, which it
follows for about a mile; then turning west, descends by a
gentle declivity to Baker’s Creek, nearly a mile away. On the
west side the slope of the ridge is gradual and is cultivated
from near the summit to the creek. There was, when we were
there, a narrow belt of timber near the summit west of the road.

From Raymond there is a direct road to Edward’s station, some
three miles west of Champion’s Hill. There is one also to
Bolton. From this latter road there is still another, leaving
it about three and a half miles before reaching Bolton and leads
direct to the same station. It was along these two roads that
three divisions of McClernand’s corps, and Blair of Sherman’s,
temporarily under McClernand, were moving. Hovey of
McClernand’s command was with McPherson, farther north on the
road from Bolton direct to Edward’s station. The middle road
comes into the northern road at the point where the latter turns
to the west and descends to Baker’s Creek; the southern road is
still several miles south and does not intersect the others
until it reaches Edward’s station. Pemberton’s lines covered
all these roads, and faced east. Hovey’s line, when it first
drove in the enemy’s pickets, was formed parallel to that of the
enemy and confronted his left.

By eleven o’clock the skirmishing had grown into a
hard-contested battle. Hovey alone, before other troops could
be got to assist him, had captured a battery of the enemy. But
he was not able to hold his position and had to abandon the
artillery. McPherson brought up his troops as fast as possible,
Logan in front, and posted them on the right of Hovey and across
the flank of the enemy. Logan reinforced Hovey with one brigade
from his division; with his other two he moved farther west to
make room for Crocker, who was coming up as rapidly as the roads
would admit. Hovey was still being heavily pressed, and was
calling on me for more reinforcements. I ordered Crocker, who
was now coming up, to send one brigade from his division.
McPherson ordered two batteries to be stationed where they
nearly enfiladed the enemy’s line, and they did good execution.

From Logan’s position now a direct forward movement carried him
over open fields, in rear of the enemy and in a line parallel
with them. He did make exactly this move, attacking, however,
the enemy through the belt of woods covering the west slope of
the hill for a short distance. Up to this time I had kept my
position near Hovey where we were the most heavily pressed; but
about noon I moved with a part of my staff by our right around,
until I came up with Logan himself. I found him near the road
leading down to Baker’s Creek. He was actually in command of
the only road over which the enemy could retreat; Hovey,
reinforced by two brigades from McPherson’s command, confronted
the enemy’s left; Crocker, with two brigades, covered their left
flank; McClernand two hours before, had been within two miles and
a half of their centre with two divisions, and the two divisions,
Blair’s and A. J. Smith’s, were confronting the rebel right;
Ransom, with a brigade of McArthur’s division of the 17th corps
(McPherson’s), had crossed the river at Grand Gulf a few days
before, and was coming up on their right flank. Neither Logan
nor I knew that we had cut off the retreat of the enemy. Just
at this juncture a messenger came from Hovey, asking for more
reinforcements. There were none to spare. I then gave an order
to move McPherson’s command by the left flank around to Hovey.
This uncovered the rebel line of retreat, which was soon taken
advantage of by the enemy.

During all this time, Hovey, reinforced as he was by a brigade
from Logan and another from Crocker, and by Crocker gallantly
coming up with two other brigades on his right, had made several
assaults, the last one about the time the road was opened to the
rear. The enemy fled precipitately. This was between three and
four o’clock. I rode forward, or rather back, to where the
middle road intersects the north road, and found the skirmishers
of Carr’s division just coming in. Osterhaus was farther south
and soon after came up with skirmishers advanced in like
manner. Hovey’s division, and McPherson’s two divisions with
him, had marched and fought from early dawn, and were not in the
best condition to follow the retreating foe. I sent orders to
Osterhaus to pursue the enemy, and to Carr, whom I saw
personally, I explained the situation and directed him to pursue
vigorously as far as the Big Black, and to cross it if he could;
Osterhaus to follow him. The pursuit was continued until after

The battle of Champion’s Hill lasted about four hours, hard
fighting, preceded by two or three hours of skirmishing, some of
which almost rose to the dignity of battle. Every man of Hovey’s
division and of McPherson’s two divisions was engaged during the
battle. No other part of my command was engaged at all, except
that as described before. Osterhaus’s and A. J. Smith’s
divisions had encountered the rebel advanced pickets as early as
half-past seven. Their positions were admirable for advancing
upon the enemy’s line. McClernand, with two divisions, was
within a few miles of the battle-field long before noon and in
easy hearing. I sent him repeated orders by staff officers
fully competent to explain to him the situation. These
traversed the wood separating us, without escort, and directed
him to push forward; but he did not come. It is true, in front
of McClernand there was a small force of the enemy and posted in
a good position behind a ravine obstructing his advance; but if
he had moved to the right by the road my staff officers had
followed the enemy must either have fallen back or been cut
off. Instead of this he sent orders to Hovey, who belonged to
his corps, to join on to his right flank. Hovey was bearing the
brunt of the battle at the time. To obey the order he would have
had to pull out from the front of the enemy and march back as far
as McClernand had to advance to get into battle and substantially
over the same ground. Of course I did not permit Hovey to obey
the order of his intermediate superior.

We had in this battle about 15,000 men absolutely engaged. This
excludes those that did not get up, all of McClernand’s command
except Hovey. Our loss was 410 killed, 1,844 wounded and 187
missing. Hovey alone lost 1,200 killed, wounded and
missing–more than one-third of his division.

Had McClernand come up with reasonable promptness, or had I
known the ground as I did afterwards, I cannot see how Pemberton
could have escaped with any organized force. As it was he lost
over three thousand killed and wounded and about three thousand
captured in battle and in pursuit. Loring’s division, which was
the right of Pemberton’s line, was cut off from the retreating
army and never got back into Vicksburg. Pemberton himself fell
back that night to the Big Black River. His troops did not stop
before midnight and many of them left before the general retreat
commenced, and no doubt a good part of them returned to their
homes. Logan alone captured 1,300 prisoners and eleven guns.
Hovey captured 300 under fire and about 700 in all, exclusive of
500 sick and wounded whom he paroled, thus making 1,200.

McPherson joined in the advance as soon as his men could fill
their cartridge-boxes, leaving one brigade to guard our
wounded. The pursuit was continued as long as it was light
enough to see the road. The night of the 16th of May found
McPherson’s command bivouacked from two to six miles west of the
battlefield, along the line of the road to Vicksburg. Carr and
Osterhaus were at Edward’s station, and Blair was about three
miles south-east; Hovey remained on the field where his troops
had fought so bravely and bled so freely. Much war material
abandoned by the enemy was picked up on the battle-field, among
it thirty pieces of artillery. I pushed through the advancing
column with my staff and kept in advance until after night.
Finding ourselves alone we stopped and took possession of a
vacant house. As no troops came up we moved back a mile or more
until we met the head of the column just going into bivouac on
the road. We had no tents, so we occupied the porch of a house
which had been taken for a rebel hospital and which was filled
with wounded and dying who had been brought from the
battle-field we had just left.

While a battle is raging one can see his enemy mowed down by the
thousand, or the ten thousand, with great composure; but after
the battle these scenes are distressing, and one is naturally
disposed to do as much to alleviate the suffering of an enemy as
a friend.



We were now assured of our position between Johnston and
Pemberton, without a possibility of a junction of their
forces. Pemberton might have made a night march to the Big
Black, crossed the bridge there and, by moving north on the west
side, have eluded us and finally returned to Johnston. But this
would have given us Vicksburg. It would have been his proper
move, however, and the one Johnston would have made had he been
in Pemberton’s place. In fact it would have been in conformity
with Johnston’s orders to Pemberton.

Sherman left Jackson with the last of his troops about noon on
the 16th and reached Bolton, twenty miles west, before
halting. His rear guard did not get in until two A.M. the 17th,
but renewed their march by daylight. He paroled his prisoners at
Jackson, and was forced to leave his own wounded in care of
surgeons and attendants. At Bolton he was informed of our
victory. He was directed to commence the march early next day,
and to diverge from the road he was on to Bridgeport on the Big
Black River, some eleven miles above the point where we expected
to find the enemy. Blair was ordered to join him there with the
pontoon train as early as possible.

This movement brought Sherman’s corps together, and at a point
where I hoped a crossing of the Big Black might be effected and
Sherman’s corps used to flank the enemy out of his position in
our front, thus opening a crossing for the remainder of the
army. I informed him that I would endeavor to hold the enemy in
my front while he crossed the river.

The advance division, Carr’s (McClernand’s corps), resumed the
pursuit at half-past three A.M. on the 17th, followed closely by
Osterhaus, McPherson bringing up the rear with his corps. As I
expected, the enemy was found in position on the Big Black. The
point was only six miles from that where my advance had rested
for the night, and was reached at an early hour. Here the river
makes a turn to the west, and has washed close up to the high
land; the east side is a low bottom, sometimes overflowed at
very high water, but was cleared and in cultivation. A bayou
runs irregularly across this low land, the bottom of which,
however, is above the surface of the Big Black at ordinary
stages. When the river is full water runs through it,
converting the point of land into an island. The bayou was
grown up with timber, which the enemy had felled into the
ditch. At this time there was a foot or two of water in it. The
rebels had constructed a parapet along the inner bank of this
bayou by using cotton bales from the plantation close by and
throwing dirt over them. The whole was thoroughly commanded
from the height west of the river. At the upper end of the
bayou there was a strip of uncleared land which afforded a cover
for a portion of our men. Carr’s division was deployed on our
right, Lawler’s brigade forming his extreme right and reaching
through these woods to the river above. Osterhaus’ division was
deployed to the left of Carr and covered the enemy’s entire
front. McPherson was in column on the road, the head close by,
ready to come in wherever he could be of assistance.

While the troops were standing as here described an officer from
Banks’ staff came up and presented me with a letter from General
Halleck, dated the 11th of May. It had been sent by the way of
New Orleans to Banks to be forwarded to me. It ordered me to
return to Grand Gulf and to co-operate from there with Banks
against Port Hudson, and then to return with our combined forces
to besiege Vicksburg. I told the officer that the order came too
late, and that Halleck would not give it now if he knew our
position. The bearer of the dispatch insisted that I ought to
obey the order, and was giving arguments to support his position
when I heard great cheering to the right of our line and, looking
in that direction, saw Lawler in his shirt sleeves leading a
charge upon the enemy. I immediately mounted my horse and rode
in the direction of the charge, and saw no more of the officer
who delivered the dispatch; I think not even to this day.

The assault was successful. But little resistance was made. The
enemy fled from the west bank of the river, burning the bridge
behind him and leaving the men and guns on the east side to fall
into our hands. Many tried to escape by swimming the river.
Some succeeded and some were drowned in the attempt. Eighteen
guns were captured and 1,751 prisoners. Our loss was 39 killed,
237 wounded and 3 missing. The enemy probably lost but few men
except those captured and drowned. But for the successful and
complete destruction of the bridge, I have but little doubt that
we should have followed the enemy so closely as to prevent his
occupying his defences around Vicksburg.

As the bridge was destroyed and the river was high, new bridges
had to be built. It was but little after nine o’clock A.M. when
the capture took place. As soon as work could be commenced,
orders were given for the construction of three bridges. One
was taken charge of by Lieutenant Hains, of the Engineer Corps,
one by General McPherson himself and one by General Ransom, a
most gallant and intelligent volunteer officer. My recollection
is that Hains built a raft bridge; McPherson a pontoon, using
cotton bales in large numbers, for pontoons; and that Ransom
felled trees on opposite banks of the river, cutting only on one
side of the tree, so that they would fall with their tops
interlacing in the river, without the trees being entirely
severed from their stumps. A bridge was then made with these
trees to support the roadway. Lumber was taken from buildings,
cotton gins and wherever found, for this purpose. By eight
o’clock in the morning of the 18th all three bridges were
complete and the troops were crossing.

Sherman reached Bridgeport about noon of the 17th and found
Blair with the pontoon train already there. A few of the enemy
were intrenched on the west bank, but they made little
resistance and soon surrendered. Two divisions were crossed
that night and the third the following morning.

On the 18th I moved along the Vicksburg road in advance of the
troops and as soon as possible joined Sherman. My first anxiety
was to secure a base of supplies on the Yazoo River above
Vicksburg. Sherman’s line of march led him to the very point on
Walnut Hills occupied by the enemy the December before when he
was repulsed. Sherman was equally anxious with myself. Our
impatience led us to move in advance of the column and well up
with the advanced skirmishers. There were some detached works
along the crest of the hill. These were still occupied by the
enemy, or else the garrison from Haines’ Bluff had not all got
past on their way to Vicksburg. At all events the bullets of
the enemy whistled by thick and fast for a short time. In a few
minutes Sherman had the pleasure of looking down from the spot
coveted so much by him the December before on the ground where
his command had lain so helpless for offensive action. He
turned to me, saying that up to this minute he had felt no
positive assurance of success. This, however, he said was the
end of one of the greatest campaigns in history and I ought to
make a report of it at once. Vicksburg was not yet captured,
and there was no telling what might happen before it was taken;
but whether captured or not, this was a complete and successful
campaign. I do not claim to quote Sherman’s language; but the
substance only. My reason for mentioning this incident will
appear further on.

McPherson, after crossing the Big Black, came into the Jackson
and Vicksburg road which Sherman was on, but to his rear. He
arrived at night near the lines of the enemy, and went into
camp. McClernand moved by the direct road near the railroad to
Mount Albans, and then turned to the left and put his troops on
the road from Baldwin’s ferry to Vicksburg. This brought him
south of McPherson. I now had my three corps up the works built
for the defence of Vicksburg, on three roads–one to the north,
one to the east and one to the south-east of the city. By the
morning of the 19th the investment was as complete as my limited
number of troops would allow. Sherman was on the right, and
covered the high ground from where it overlooked the Yazoo as
far south-east as his troops would extend. McPherson joined on
to his left, and occupied ground on both sides of the Jackson
road. McClernand took up the ground to his left and extended as
far towards Warrenton as he could, keeping a continuous line.

On the 19th there was constant skirmishing with the enemy while
we were getting into better position. The enemy had been much
demoralized by his defeats at Champion’s Hill and the Big Black,
and I believed he would not make much effort to hold Vicksburg.
Accordingly, at two o’clock I ordered an assault. It resulted
in securing more advanced positions for all our troops where
they were fully covered from the fire of the enemy.

The 20th and 21st were spent in strengthening our position and
in making roads in rear of the army, from Yazoo River or
Chickasaw Bayou. Most of the army had now been for three weeks
with only five days’ rations issued by the commissary. They had
an abundance of food, however, but began to feel the want of
bread. I remember that in passing around to the left of the
line on the 21st, a soldier, recognizing me, said in rather a
low voice, but yet so that I heard him, “Hard tack.” In a
moment the cry was taken up all along the line, “Hard tack! Hard
tack!” I told the men nearest to me that we had been engaged ever
since the arrival of the troops in building a road over which to
supply them with everything they needed. The cry was instantly
changed to cheers. By the night of the 21st all the troops had
full rations issued to them. The bread and coffee were highly

I now determined on a second assault. Johnston was in my rear,
only fifty miles away, with an army not much inferior in numbers
to the one I had with me, and I knew he was being reinforced.
There was danger of his coming to the assistance of Pemberton,
and after all he might defeat my anticipations of capturing the
garrison if, indeed, he did not prevent the capture of the
city. The immediate capture of Vicksburg would save sending me
the reinforcements which were so much wanted elsewhere, and
would set free the army under me to drive Johnston from the
State. But the first consideration of all was–the troops
believed they could carry the works in their front, and would
not have worked so patiently in the trenches if they had not
been allowed to try.

The attack was ordered to commence on all parts of the line at
ten o’clock A.M. on the 22d with a furious cannonade from every
battery in position. All the corps commanders set their time by
mine so that all might open the engagement at the same minute.
The attack was gallant, and portions of each of the three corps
succeeded in getting up to the very parapets of the enemy and in
planting their battle flags upon them; but at no place were we
able to enter. General McClernand reported that he had gained
the enemy’s intrenchments at several points, and wanted
reinforcements. I occupied a position from which I believed I
could see as well as he what took place in his front, and I did
not see the success he reported. But his request for
reinforcements being repeated I could not ignore it, and sent
him Quinby’s division of the 17th corps. Sherman and McPherson
were both ordered to renew their assaults as a diversion in
favor of McClernand. This last attack only served to increase
our casualties without giving any benefit whatever. As soon as
it was dark our troops that had reached the enemy’s line and
been obliged to remain there for security all day, were
withdrawn; and thus ended the last assault upon Vicksburg.



I now determined upon a regular siege–to “out-camp the enemy,”
as it were, and to incur no more losses. The experience of the
22d convinced officers and men that this was best, and they went
to work on the defences and approaches with a will. With the
navy holding the river, the investment of Vicksburg was
complete. As long as we could hold our position the enemy was
limited in supplies of food, men and munitions of war to what
they had on hand. These could not last always.

The crossing of troops at Bruinsburg commenced April 30th. On
the 18th of May the army was in rear of Vicksburg. On the 19th,
just twenty days after the crossing, the city was completely
invested and an assault had been made: five distinct battles
(besides continuous skirmishing) had been fought and won by the
Union forces; the capital of the State had fallen and its
arsenals, military manufactories and everything useful for
military purposes had been destroyed; an average of about one
hundred and eighty miles had been marched by the troops engaged;
but five days’ rations had been issued, and no forage; over six
thousand prisoners had been captured, and as many more of the
enemy had been killed or wounded; twenty-seven heavy cannon and
sixty-one field-pieces had fallen into our hands; and four
hundred miles of the river, from Vicksburg to Port Hudson, had
become ours. The Union force that had crossed the Mississippi
River up to this time was less than forty-three thousand men.
One division of these, Blair’s, only arrived in time to take
part in the battle of Champion’s Hill, but was not engaged
there; and one brigade, Ransom’s of McPherson’s corps, reached
the field after the battle. The enemy had at Vicksburg, Grand
Gulf, Jackson, and on the roads between these places, over sixty
thousand men. They were in their own country, where no rear
guards were necessary. The country is admirable for defence,
but difficult for the conduct of an offensive campaign. All
their troops had to be met. We were fortunate, to say the
least, in meeting them in detail: at Port Gibson seven or eight
thousand; at Raymond, five thousand; at Jackson, from eight to
eleven thousand; at Champion’s Hill, twenty-five thousand; at
the Big Black, four thousand. A part of those met at Jackson
were all that was left of those encountered at Raymond. They
were beaten in detail by a force smaller than their own, upon
their own ground. Our loss up to this time was:


Port Gibson….. 131 719 25
South Fork Bayou Pierre….. .. 1 ..
Skirmishes, May 3 ….. 1 9 ..
Fourteen Mile Creek….. 6 24 ..
Raymond…………… 66 339 39
Jackson….. 42 251 7
Champion’s Hill….. 410 1,844 187
Big Black….. 39 237 3
Bridgeport….. .. 1 ..
Total….. 695 3,425 259

Of the wounded many were but slightly so, and continued on
duty. Not half of them were disabled for any length of time.

After the unsuccessful assault of the 22d the work of the
regular siege began. Sherman occupied the right starting from
the river above Vicksburg, McPherson the centre (McArthur’s
division now with him) and McClernand the left, holding the road
south to Warrenton. Lauman’s division arrived at this time and
was placed on the extreme left of the line.

In the interval between the assaults of the 19th and 22d, roads
had been completed from the Yazoo River and Chickasaw Bayou,
around the rear of the army, to enable us to bring up supplies
of food and ammunition; ground had been selected and cleared on
which the troops were to be encamped, and tents and cooking
utensils were brought up. The troops had been without these
from the time of crossing the Mississippi up to this time. All
was now ready for the pick and spade. Prentiss and Hurlbut were
ordered to send forward every man that could be spared. Cavalry
especially was wanted to watch the fords along the Big Black,
and to observe Johnston. I knew that Johnston was receiving
reinforcements from Bragg, who was confronting Rosecrans in
Tennessee. Vicksburg was so important to the enemy that I
believed he would make the most strenuous efforts to raise the
siege, even at the risk of losing ground elsewhere.

My line was more than fifteen miles long, extending from Haines’
Bluff to Vicksburg, thence to Warrenton. The line of the enemy
was about seven. In addition to this, having an enemy at Canton
and Jackson, in our rear, who was being constantly reinforced, we
required a second line of defence facing the other way. I had
not troops enough under my command to man these. General
Halleck appreciated the situation and, without being asked,
forwarded reinforcements with all possible dispatch.

The ground about Vicksburg is admirable for defence. On the
north it is about two hundred feet above the Mississippi River
at the highest point and very much cut up by the washing rains;
the ravines were grown up with cane and underbrush, while the
sides and tops were covered with a dense forest. Farther south
the ground flattens out somewhat, and was in cultivation. But
here, too, it was cut up by ravines and small streams. The
enemy’s line of defence followed the crest of a ridge from the
river north of the city eastward, then southerly around to the
Jackson road, full three miles back of the city; thence in a
southwesterly direction to the river. Deep ravines of the
description given lay in front of these defences. As there is a
succession of gullies, cut out by rains along the side of the
ridge, the line was necessarily very irregular. To follow each
of these spurs with intrenchments, so as to command the slopes
on either side, would have lengthened their line very much.
Generally therefore, or in many places, their line would run
from near the head of one gully nearly straight to the head of
another, and an outer work triangular in shape, generally open
in the rear, was thrown up on the point; with a few men in this
outer work they commanded the approaches to the main line

The work to be done, to make our position as strong against the
enemy as his was against us, was very great. The problem was
also complicated by our wanting our line as near that of the
enemy as possible. We had but four engineer officers with us.
Captain Prime, of the Engineer Corps, was the chief, and the
work at the beginning was mainly directed by him. His health
soon gave out, when he was succeeded by Captain Comstock, also
of the Engineer Corps. To provide assistants on such a long
line I directed that all officers who had graduated at West
Point, where they had necessarily to study military engineering,
should in addition to their other duties assist in the work.

The chief quartermaster and the chief commissary were
graduates. The chief commissary, now the Commissary-General of
the Army, begged off, however, saying that there was nothing in
engineering that he was good for unless he would do for a
sap-roller. As soldiers require rations while working in the
ditches as well as when marching and fighting, and as we would
be sure to lose him if he was used as a sap-roller, I let him
off. The general is a large man; weighs two hundred and twenty
pounds, and is not tall.

We had no siege guns except six thirty-two pounders, and there
were none at the West to draw from. Admiral Porter, however,
supplied us with a battery of navy-guns of large calibre, and
with these, and the field artillery used in the campaign, the
siege began. The first thing to do was to get the artillery in
batteries where they would occupy commanding positions; then
establish the camps, under cover from the fire of the enemy but
as near up as possible; and then construct rifle-pits and
covered ways, to connect the entire command by the shortest
route. The enemy did not harass us much while we were
constructing our batteries. Probably their artillery ammunition
was short; and their infantry was kept down by our sharpshooters,
who were always on the alert and ready to fire at a head whenever
it showed itself above the rebel works.

In no place were our lines more than six hundred yards from the
enemy. It was necessary, therefore, to cover our men by
something more than the ordinary parapet. To give additional
protection sand bags, bullet-proof, were placed along the tops
of the parapets far enough apart to make loop-holes for
musketry. On top of these, logs were put. By these means the
men were enabled to walk about erect when off duty, without fear
of annoyance from sharpshooters. The enemy used in their defence
explosive musket-balls, no doubt thinking that, bursting over our
men in the trenches, they would do some execution; but I do not
remember a single case where a man was injured by a piece of one
of these shells. When they were hit and the ball exploded, the
wound was terrible. In these cases a solid ball would have hit
as well. Their use is barbarous, because they produce increased
suffering without any corresponding advantage to those using

The enemy could not resort to our method to protect their men,
because we had an inexhaustible supply of ammunition to draw
upon and used it freely. Splinters from the timber would have
made havoc among the men behind.

There were no mortars with the besiegers, except what the navy
had in front of the city; but wooden ones were made by taking
logs of the toughest wood that could be found, boring them out
for six or twelve pound shells and binding them with strong iron
bands. These answered as cochorns, and shells were successfully
thrown from them into the trenches of the enemy.

The labor of building the batteries and intrenching was largely
done by the pioneers, assisted by negroes who came within our
lines and who were paid for their work; but details from the
troops had often to be made. The work was pushed forward as
rapidly as possible, and when an advanced position was secured
and covered from the fire of the enemy the batteries were
advanced. By the 3oth of June there were two hundred and twenty
guns in position, mostly light field-pieces, besides a battery of
heavy guns belonging to, manned and commanded by the navy. We
were now as strong for defence against the garrison of Vicksburg
as they were against us; but I knew that Johnston was in our
rear, and was receiving constant reinforcements from the east.
He had at this time a larger force than I had had at any time
prior to the battle of Champion’s Hill.

As soon as the news of the arrival of the Union army behind
Vicksburg reached the North, floods of visitors began to pour
in. Some came to gratify curiosity; some to see sons or
brothers who had passed through the terrible ordeal; members of
the Christian and Sanitary Associations came to minister to the
wants of the sick and the wounded. Often those coming to see a
son or brother would bring a dozen or two of poultry. They did
not know how little the gift would be appreciated. Many of the
soldiers had lived so much on chickens, ducks and turkeys
without bread during the march, that the sight of poultry, if
they could get bacon, almost took away their appetite. But the
intention was good.

Among the earliest arrivals was the Governor of Illinois, with
most of the State officers. I naturally wanted to show them
what there was of most interest. In Sherman’s front the ground
was the most broken and most wooded, and more was to be seen
without exposure. I therefore took them to Sherman’s
headquarters and presented them. Before starting out to look at
the lines–possibly while Sherman’s horse was being
saddled–there were many questions asked about the late
campaign, about which the North had been so imperfectly
informed. There was a little knot around Sherman and another
around me, and I heard Sherman repeating, in the most animated
manner, what he had said to me when we first looked down from
Walnut Hills upon the land below on the 18th of May, adding:
“Grant is entitled to every bit of the credit for the campaign;
I opposed it. I wrote him a letter about it.” But for this
speech it is not likely that Sherman’s opposition would have
ever been heard of. His untiring energy and great efficiency
during the campaign entitle him to a full share of all the
credit due for its success. He could not have done more if the
plan had been his own. (*13)

On the 26th of May I sent Blair’s division up the Yazoo to drive
out a force of the enemy supposed to be between the Big Black and
the Yazoo. The country was rich and full of supplies of both
food and forage. Blair was instructed to take all of it. The
cattle were to be driven in for the use of our army, and the
food and forage to be consumed by our troops or destroyed by
fire; all bridges were to be destroyed, and the roads rendered
as nearly impassable as possible. Blair went forty-five miles
and was gone almost a week. His work was effectually done. I
requested Porter at this time to send the marine brigade, a
floating nondescript force which had been assigned to his
command and which proved very useful, up to Haines’ Bluff to
hold it until reinforcements could be sent.

On the 26th I also received a letter from Banks, asking me to
reinforce him with ten thousand men at Port Hudson. Of course I
could not comply with his request, nor did I think he needed
them. He was in no danger of an attack by the garrison in his
front, and there was no army organizing in his rear to raise the

On the 3d of June a brigade from Hurlbut’s command arrived,
General Kimball commanding. It was sent to Mechanicsburg, some
miles north-east of Haines’ Bluff and about midway between the
Big Black and the Yazoo. A brigade of Blair’s division and
twelve hundred cavalry had already, on Blair’s return from the
Yazoo, been sent to the same place with instructions to watch
the crossings of the Big Black River, to destroy the roads in
his (Blair’s) front, and to gather or destroy all supplies.

On the 7th of June our little force of colored and white troops
across the Mississippi, at Milliken’s Bend, were attacked by
about 3,000 men from Richard Taylor’s trans-Mississippi
command. With the aid of the gunboats they were speedily
repelled. I sent Mower’s brigade over with instructions to
drive the enemy beyond the Tensas Bayou; and we had no further
trouble in that quarter during the siege. This was the first
important engagement of the war in which colored troops were
under fire. These men were very raw, having all been enlisted
since the beginning of the siege, but they behaved well.

On the 8th of June a full division arrived from Hurlbut’s
command, under General Sooy Smith. It was sent immediately to
Haines’ Bluff, and General C. C. Washburn was assigned to the
general command at that point.

On the 11th a strong division arrived from the Department of the
Missouri under General Herron, which was placed on our left. This
cut off the last possible chance of communication between
Pemberton and Johnston, as it enabled Lauman to close up on
McClernand’s left while Herron intrenched from Lauman to the
water’s edge. At this point the water recedes a few hundred
yards from the high land. Through this opening no doubt the
Confederate commanders had been able to get messengers under
cover of night.

On the 14th General Parke arrived with two divisions of
Burnside’s corps, and was immediately dispatched to Haines’
Bluff. These latter troops–Herron’s and Parke’s–were the
reinforcements already spoken of sent by Halleck in anticipation
of their being needed. They arrived none too soon.

I now had about seventy-one thousand men. More than half were
disposed across the peninsula, between the Yazoo at Haines’
Bluff and the Big Black, with the division of Osterhaus watching
the crossings of the latter river farther south and west from the
crossing of the Jackson road to Baldwin’s ferry and below.

There were eight roads leading into Vicksburg, along which and
their immediate sides, our work was specially pushed and
batteries advanced; but no commanding point within range of the
enemy was neglected.

On the 17th I received a letter from General Sherman and one on
the 18th from General McPherson, saying that their respective
commands had complained to them of a fulsome, congratulatory
order published by General McClernand to the 13th corps, which
did great injustice to the other troops engaged in the
campaign. This order had been sent North and published, and now
papers containing it had reached our camps. The order had not
been heard of by me, and certainly not by troops outside of
McClernand’s command until brought in this way. I at once wrote
to McClernand, directing him to send me a copy of this order. He
did so, and I at once relieved him from the command of the 13th
army corps and ordered him back to Springfield, Illinois. The
publication of his order in the press was in violation of War
Department orders and also of mine.



On the 22d of June positive information was received that
Johnston had crossed the Big Black River for the purpose of
attacking our rear, to raise the siege and release Pemberton.
The correspondence between Johnston and Pemberton shows that all
expectation of holding Vicksburg had by this time passed from
Johnston’s mind. I immediately ordered Sherman to the command
of all the forces from Haines’ Bluff to the Big Black River.
This amounted now to quite half the troops about Vicksburg.
Besides these, Herron and A. J. Smith’s divisions were ordered
to hold themselves in readiness to reinforce Sherman. Haines’
Bluff had been strongly fortified on the land side, and on all
commanding points from there to the Big Black at the railroad
crossing batteries had been constructed. The work of connecting
by rifle-pits where this was not already done, was an easy task
for the troops that were to defend them.

We were now looking west, besieging Pemberton, while we were
also looking east to defend ourselves against an expected siege
by Johnston. But as against the garrison of Vicksburg we were
as substantially protected as they were against us. Where we
were looking east and north we were strongly fortified, and on
the defensive. Johnston evidently took in the situation and
wisely, I think, abstained from making an assault on us because
it would simply have inflicted loss on both sides without
accomplishing any result. We were strong enough to have taken
the offensive against him; but I did not feel disposed to take
any risk of losing our hold upon Pemberton’s army, while I would
have rejoiced at the opportunity of defending ourselves against
an attack by Johnston.

From the 23d of May the work of fortifying and pushing forward
our position nearer to the enemy had been steadily
progressing. At three points on the Jackson road, in front of
Leggett’s brigade, a sap was run up to the enemy’s parapet, and
by the 25th of June we had it undermined and the mine charged.
The enemy had countermined, but did not succeed in reaching our
mine. At this particular point the hill on which the rebel work
stands rises abruptly. Our sap ran close up to the outside of
the enemy’s parapet. In fact this parapet was also our
protection. The soldiers of the two sides occasionally
conversed pleasantly across this barrier; sometimes they
exchanged the hard bread of the Union soldiers for the tobacco
of the Confederates; at other times the enemy threw over
hand-grenades, and often our men, catching them in their hands,
returned them.

Our mine had been started some distance back down the hill;
consequently when it had extended as far as the parapet it was
many feet below it. This caused the failure of the enemy in his
search to find and destroy it. On the 25th of June at three
o’clock, all being ready, the mine was exploded. A heavy
artillery fire all along the line had been ordered to open with
the explosion. The effect was to blow the top of the hill off
and make a crater where it stood. The breach was not sufficient
to enable us to pass a column of attack through. In fact, the
enemy having failed to reach our mine had thrown up a line
farther back, where most of the men guarding that point were
placed. There were a few men, however, left at the advance
line, and others working in the countermine, which was still
being pushed to find ours. All that were there were thrown into
the air, some of them coming down on our side, still alive. I
remember one colored man, who had been under ground at work when
the explosion took place, who was thrown to our side. He was not
much hurt, but terribly frightened. Some one asked him how high
he had gone up. “Dun no, massa, but t’ink ’bout t’ree mile,”
was his reply. General Logan commanded at this point and took
this colored man to his quarters, where he did service to the
end of the siege.

As soon as the explosion took place the crater was seized by two
regiments of our troops who were near by, under cover, where they
had been placed for the express purpose. The enemy made a
desperate effort to expel them, but failed, and soon retired
behind the new line. From here, however, they threw
hand-grenades, which did some execution. The compliment was
returned by our men, but not with so much effect. The enemy
could lay their grenades on the parapet, which alone divided the
contestants, and roll them down upon us; while from our side they
had to be thrown over the parapet, which was at considerable
elevation. During the night we made efforts to secure our
position in the crater against the missiles of the enemy, so as
to run trenches along the outer base of their parapet, right and
left; but the enemy continued throwing their grenades, and
brought boxes of field ammunition (shells), the fuses of which
they would light with portfires, and throw them by hand into our
ranks. We found it impossible to continue this work. Another
mine was consequently started which was exploded on the 1st of
July, destroying an entire rebel redan, killing and wounding a
considerable number of its occupants and leaving an immense
chasm where it stood. No attempt to charge was made this time,
the experience of the 25th admonishing us. Our loss in the
first affair was about thirty killed and wounded. The enemy
must have lost more in the two explosions than we did in the
first. We lost none in the second.

From this time forward the work of mining and pushing our
position nearer to the enemy was prosecuted with vigor, and I
determined to explode no more mines until we were ready to
explode a number at different points and assault immediately
after. We were up now at three different points, one in front
of each corps, to where only the parapet of the enemy divided us.

At this time an intercepted dispatch from Johnston to Pemberton
informed me that Johnston intended to make a determined attack
upon us in order to relieve the garrison at Vicksburg. I knew
the garrison would make no formidable effort to relieve
itself. The picket lines were so close to each other–where
there was space enough between the lines to post pickets–that
the men could converse. On the 21st of June I was informed,
through this means, that Pemberton was preparing to escape, by
crossing to the Louisiana side under cover of night; that he had
employed workmen in making boats for that purpose; that the men
had been canvassed to ascertain if they would make an assault on
the “Yankees” to cut their way out; that they had refused, and
almost mutinied, because their commander would not surrender and
relieve their sufferings, and had only been pacified by the
assurance that boats enough would be finished in a week to carry
them all over. The rebel pickets also said that houses in the
city had been pulled down to get material to build these boats
with. Afterwards this story was verified: on entering the city
we found a large number of very rudely constructed boats.

All necessary steps were at once taken to render such an attempt
abortive. Our pickets were doubled; Admiral Porter was notified,
so that the river might be more closely watched; material was
collected on the west bank of the river to be set on fire and
light up the river if the attempt was made; and batteries were
established along the levee crossing the peninsula on the
Louisiana side. Had the attempt been made the garrison of
Vicksburg would have been drowned, or made prisoners on the
Louisiana side. General Richard Taylor was expected on the west
bank to co-operate in this movement, I believe, but he did not
come, nor could he have done so with a force sufficient to be of
service. The Mississippi was now in our possession from its
source to its mouth, except in the immediate front of Vicksburg
and of Port Hudson. We had nearly exhausted the country, along
a line drawn from Lake Providence to opposite Bruinsburg. The
roads west were not of a character to draw supplies over for any
considerable force.

By the 1st of July our approaches had reached the enemy’s ditch
at a number of places. At ten points we could move under cover
to within from five to one hundred yards of the enemy. Orders
were given to make all preparations for assault on the 6th of
July. The debouches were ordered widened to afford easy egress,
while the approaches were also to be widened to admit the troops
to pass through four abreast. Plank, and bags filled with
cotton packed in tightly, were ordered prepared, to enable the
troops to cross the ditches.

On the night of the 1st of July Johnston was between Brownsville
and the Big Black, and wrote Pemberton from there that about the
7th of the month an attempt would be made to create a diversion
to enable him to cut his way out. Pemberton was a prisoner
before this message reached him.

On July 1st Pemberton, seeing no hope of outside relief,
addressed the following letter to each of his four division

“Unless the siege of Vicksburg is raised, or supplies are thrown
in, it will become necessary very shortly to evacuate the
place. I see no prospect of the former, and there are many
great, if not insuperable obstacles in the way of the latter.
You are, therefore, requested to inform me with as little delay
as possible, as to the condition of your troops and their
ability to make the marches and undergo the fatigues necessary
to accomplish a successful evacuation.”

Two of his generals suggested surrender, and the other two
practically did the same. They expressed the opinion that an
attempt to evacuate would fail. Pemberton had previously got a
message to Johnston suggesting that he should try to negotiate
with me for a release of the garrison with their arms. Johnston
replied that it would be a confession of weakness for him to do
so; but he authorized Pemberton to use his name in making such
an arrangement.

On the 3d about ten o’clock A.M. white flags appeared on a
portion of the rebel works. Hostilities along that part of the
line ceased at once. Soon two persons were seen coming towards
our lines bearing a white flag. They proved to be General
Bowen, a division commander, and Colonel Montgomery,
aide-de-camp to Pemberton, bearing the following letter to me:

“I have the honor to propose an armistice for–hours, with the
view to arranging terms for the capitulation of Vicksburg. To
this end, if agreeable to you, I will appoint three
commissioners, to meet a like number to be named by yourself at
such place and hour to-day as you may find convenient. I make
this proposition to save the further effusion of blood, which
must otherwise be shed to a frightful extent, feeling myself
fully able to maintain my position for a yet indefinite
period. This communication will be handed you under a flag of
truce, by Major-General John S. Bowen.”

It was a glorious sight to officers and soldiers on the line
where these white flags were visible, and the news soon spread
to all parts of the command. The troops felt that their long
and weary marches, hard fighting, ceaseless watching by night
and day, in a hot climate, exposure to all sorts of weather, to
diseases and, worst of all, to the gibes of many Northern papers
that came to them saying all their suffering was in vain, that
Vicksburg would never be taken, were at last at an end and the
Union sure to be saved.

Bowen was received by General A. J. Smith, and asked to see
me. I had been a neighbor of Bowen’s in Missouri, and knew him
well and favorably before the war; but his request was
refused. He then suggested that I should meet Pemberton. To
this I sent a verbal message saying that, if Pemberton desired
it, I would meet him in front of McPherson’s corps at three
o’clock that afternoon. I also sent the following written reply
to Pemberton’s letter:

“Your note of this date is just received, proposing an armistice
for several hours, for the purpose of arranging terms of
capitulation through commissioners, to be appointed, etc. The
useless effusion of blood you propose stopping by this course
can be ended at any time you may choose, by the unconditional
surrender of the city and garrison. Men who have shown so much
endurance and courage as those now in Vicksburg, will always
challenge the respect of an adversary, and I can assure you will
be treated with all the respect due to prisoners of war. I do
not favor the proposition of appointing commissioners to arrange
the terms of capitulation, because I have no terms other than
those indicated above.”

At three o’clock Pemberton appeared at the point suggested in my
verbal message, accompanied by the same officers who had borne
his letter of the morning. Generals Ord, McPherson, Logan and
A. J. Smith, and several officers of my staff, accompanied me.
Our place of meeting was on a hillside within a few hundred feet
of the rebel lines. Near by stood a stunted oak-tree, which was
made historical by the event. It was but a short time before
the last vestige of its body, root and limb had disappeared, the
fragments taken as trophies. Since then the same tree has
furnished as many cords of wood, in the shape of trophies, as
“The True Cross.”

Pemberton and I had served in the same division during part of
the Mexican War. I knew him very well therefore, and greeted
him as an old acquaintance. He soon asked what terms I proposed
to give his army if it surrendered. My answer was the same as
proposed in my reply to his letter. Pemberton then said, rather
snappishly, “The conference might as well end,” and turned
abruptly as if to leave. I said, “Very well.” General Bowen, I
saw, was very anxious that the surrender should be consummated.
His manner and remarks while Pemberton and I were talking,
showed this. He now proposed that he and one of our generals
should have a conference. I had no objection to this, as
nothing could be made binding upon me that they might propose.
Smith and Bowen accordingly had a conference, during which
Pemberton and I, moving a short distance away towards the
enemy’s lines were in conversation. After a while Bowen
suggested that the Confederate army should be allowed to march
out with the honors of war, carrying their small arms and field
artillery. This was promptly and unceremoniously rejected. The
interview here ended, I agreeing, however, to send a letter
giving final terms by ten o’clock that night.

Word was sent to Admiral Porter soon after the correspondence
with Pemberton commenced, so that hostilities might be stopped
on the part of both army and navy. It was agreed on my paging
with Pemberton that they should not be renewed until our
correspondence ceased.

When I returned to my headquarters I sent for all the corps and
division commanders with the army immediately confronting
Vicksburg. Half the army was from eight to twelve miles off,
waiting for Johnston. I informed them of the contents of
Pemberton’s letters, of my reply and the substance of the
interview, and that I was ready to hear any suggestion; but
would hold the power of deciding entirely in my own hands. This
was the nearest approach to a “council of war” I ever held.
Against the general, and almost unanimous judgment of the
council I sent the following letter:

“In conformity with agreement of this afternoon, I will submit
the following proposition for the surrender of the City of
Vicksburg, public stores, etc. On your accepting the terms
proposed, I will march in one division as a guard, and take
possession at eight A.M. to-morrow. As soon as rolls can be
made out, and paroles be signed by officers and men, you will be
allowed to march out of our lines, the officers taking with them
their side-arms and clothing, and the field, staff and cavalry
officers one horse each. The rank and file will be allowed all
their clothing, but no other property. If these conditions are
accepted, any amount of rations you may deem necessary can be
taken from the stores you now have, and also the necessary
cooking utensils for preparing them. Thirty wagons also,
counting two two-horse or mule teams as one, will be allowed to
transport such articles as cannot be carried along. The same
conditions will be allowed to all sick and wounded officers and
soldiers as fast as they become able to travel. The paroles for
these latter must be signed, however, whilst officers present are
authorized to sign the roll of prisoners.”

By the terms of the cartel then in force, prisoners captured by
either army were required to be forwarded as soon as possible to
either Aiken’s landing below Dutch Gap on the James River, or to
Vicksburg, there to be exchanged, or paroled until they could be
exchanged. There was a Confederate commissioner at Vicksburg,
authorized to make the exchange. I did not propose to take him
a prisoner, but to leave him free to perform the functions of
his office. Had I insisted upon an unconditional surrender
there would have been over thirty thousand men to transport to
Cairo, very much to the inconvenience of the army on the
Mississippi. Thence the prisoners would have had to be
transported by rail to Washington or Baltimore; thence again by
steamer to Aiken’s–all at very great expense. At Aiken’s they
would have had to be paroled, because the Confederates did not
have Union prisoners to give in exchange. Then again
Pemberton’s army was largely composed of men whose homes were in
the South-west; I knew many of them were tired of the war and
would get home just as soon as they could. A large number of
them had voluntarily come into our lines during the siege, and
requested to be sent north where they could get employment until
the war was over and they could go to their homes.

Late at night I received the following reply to my last letter:

“I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your
communication of this date, proposing terms of capitulation for
this garrison and post. In the main your terms are accepted;
but, in justice both to the honor and spirit of my troops
manifested in the defence of Vicksburg, I have to submit the
following amendments, which, if acceded to by you, will perfect
the agreement between us. At ten o’clock A.M. to-morrow, I
propose to evacuate the works in and around Vicksburg, and to
surrender the city and garrison under my command, by marching
out with my colors and arms, stacking them in front of my
present lines. After which you will take possession. Officers
to retain their side-arms and personal property, and the rights
and property of citizens to be respected.”

This was received after midnight. My reply was as follows:

“I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your
communication of 3d July. The amendment proposed by you cannot
be acceded to in full. It will be necessary to furnish every
officer and man with a parole signed by himself, which, with the
completion of the roll of prisoners, will necessarily take some
time. Again, I can make no stipulations with regard to the
treatment of citizens and their private property. While I do
not propose to cause them any undue annoyance or loss, I cannot
consent to leave myself under any restraint by stipulations. The
property which officers will be allowed to take with them will be
as stated in my proposition of last evening; that is, officers
will be allowed their private baggage and side-arms, and mounted
officers one horse each. If you mean by your proposition for
each brigade to march to the front of the lines now occupied by
it, and stack arms at ten o’clock A.M., and then return to the
inside and there remain as prisoners until properly paroled, I
will make no objection to it. Should no notification be
received of your acceptance of my terms by nine o’clock A.M. I
shall regard them as having been rejected, and shall act
accordingly. Should these terms be accepted, white flags should
be displayed along your lines to prevent such of my troops as may
not have been notified, from firing upon your men.”

Pemberton promptly accepted these terms.

During the siege there had been a good deal of friendly sparring
between the soldiers of the two armies, on picket and where the
lines were close together. All rebels were known as “Johnnies,”
all Union troops as “Yanks.” Often “Johnny” would call: “Well,
Yank, when are you coming into town?” The reply was sometimes:
“We propose to celebrate the 4th of July there.” Sometimes it
would be: “We always treat our prisoners with kindness and do
not want to hurt them;” or, “We are holding you as prisoners of
war while you are feeding yourselves.” The garrison, from the
commanding general down, undoubtedly expected an assault on the
fourth. They knew from the temper of their men it would be
successful when made; and that would be a greater humiliation
than to surrender. Besides it would be attended with severe
loss to them.

The Vicksburg paper, which we received regularly through the
courtesy of the rebel pickets, said prior to the fourth, in
speaking of the “Yankee” boast that they would take dinner in
Vicksburg that day, that the best receipt for cooking a rabbit
was “First ketch your rabbit.” The paper at this time and for
some time previous was printed on the plain side of wall
paper. The last number was issued on the fourth and announced
that we had “caught our rabbit.”

I have no doubt that Pemberton commenced his correspondence on
the third with a two-fold purpose: first, to avoid an assault,
which he knew would be successful, and second, to prevent the
capture taking place on the great national holiday, the
anniversary of the Declaration of American Independence. Holding
out for better terms as he did he defeated his aim in the latter

At the appointed hour the garrison of Vicksburg marched out of
their works and formed line in front, stacked arms and marched
back in good order. Our whole army present witnessed this scene
without cheering. Logan’s division, which had approached nearest
the rebel works, was the first to march in; and the flag of one
of the regiments of his division was soon floating over the
court-house. Our soldiers were no sooner inside the lines than
the two armies began to fraternize. Our men had had full
rations from the time the siege commenced, to the close. The
enemy had been suffering, particularly towards the last. I
myself saw our men taking bread from their haversacks and giving
it to the enemy they had so recently been engaged in starving
out. It was accepted with avidity and with thanks.

Pemberton says in his report:

“If it should be asked why the 4th of July was selected as the
day for surrender, the answer is obvious. I believed that upon
that day I should obtain better terms. Well aware of the vanity
of our foe, I knew they would attach vast importance to the
entrance on the 4th of July into the stronghold of the great
river, and that, to gratify their national vanity, they would
yield then what could not be extorted from them at any other

This does not support my view of his reasons for selecting the
day he did for surrendering. But it must be recollected that
his first letter asking terms was received about 10 o’clock
A.M., July 3d. It then could hardly be expected that it would
take twenty-four hours to effect a surrender. He knew that
Johnston was in our rear for the purpose of raising the siege,
and he naturally would want to hold out as long as he could. He
knew his men would not resist an assault, and one was expected on
the fourth. In our interview he told me he had rations enough to
hold out for some time–my recollection is two weeks. It was
this statement that induced me to insert in the terms that he
was to draw rations for his men from his own supplies.

On the 4th of July General Holmes, with an army of eight or nine
thousand men belonging to the trans-Mississippi department, made
an attack upon Helena, Arkansas. He was totally defeated by
General Prentiss, who was holding Helena with less than
forty-two hundred soldiers. Holmes reported his loss at 1,636,
of which 173 were killed; but as Prentiss buried 400, Holmes
evidently understated his losses. The Union loss was 57 killed,
127 wounded, and between 30 and 40 missing. This was the last
effort on the part of the Confederacy to raise the siege of

On the third, as soon as negotiations were commenced, I notified
Sherman and directed him to be ready to take the offensive
against Johnston, drive him out of the State and destroy his
army if he could. Steele and Ord were directed at the same time
to be in readiness to join Sherman as soon as the surrender took
place. Of this Sherman was notified.

I rode into Vicksburg with the troops, and went to the river to
exchange congratulations with the navy upon our joint victory.
At that time I found that many of the citizens had been living
under ground. The ridges upon which Vicksburg is built, and
those back to the Big Black, are composed of a deep yellow clay
of great tenacity. Where roads and streets are cut through,
perpendicular banks are left and stand as well as if composed of
stone. The magazines of the enemy were made by running
passage-ways into this clay at places where there were deep
cuts. Many citizens secured places of safety for their families
by carving out rooms in these embankments. A door-way in these
cases would be cut in a high bank, starting from the level of
the road or street, and after running in a few feet a room of
the size required was carved out of the clay, the dirt being
removed by the door-way. In some instances I saw where two
rooms were cut out, for a single family, with a door-way in the
clay wall separating them. Some of these were carpeted and
furnished with considerable elaboration. In these the occupants
were fully secure from the shells of the navy, which were dropped
into the city night and dav without intermission.

I returned to my old headquarters outside in the afternoon, and
did not move into the town until the sixth. On the afternoon of
the fourth I sent Captain Wm. M. Dunn of my staff to Cairo, the
nearest point where the telegraph could be reached, with a
dispatch to the general-in-chief. It was as follows:

“The enemy surrendered this morning. The only terms allowed is
their parole as prisoners of war. This I regard as a great
advantage to us at this moment. It saves, probably, several
days in the capture, and leaves troops and transports ready for
immediate service. Sherman, with a large force, moves
immediately on Johnston, to drive him from the State. I will
send troops to the relief of Banks, and return the 9th army
corps to Burnside.”

This news, with the victory at Gettysburg won the same day,
lifted a great load of anxiety from the minds of the President,
his Cabinet and the loyal people all over the North. The fate
of the Confederacy was sealed when Vicksburg fell. Much hard
fighting was to be done afterwards and many precious lives were
to be sacrificed; but the MORALE was with the supporters of the
Union ever after.

I at the same time wrote to General Banks informing him of the
fall and sending him a copy of the terms; also saying I would
send him all the troops he wanted to insure the capture of the
only foothold the enemy now had on the Mississippi River.
General Banks had a number of copies of this letter printed, or
at least a synopsis of it, and very soon a copy fell into the
hands of General Gardner, who was then in command of Port
Hudson. Gardner at once sent a letter to the commander of the
National forces saying that he had been informed of the
surrender of Vicksburg and telling how the information reached
him. He added that if this was true, it was useless for him to
hold out longer. General Banks gave him assurances that
Vicksburg had been surrendered, and General Gardner surrendered
unconditionally on the 9th of July. Port Hudson with nearly
6,000 prisoners, 51 guns, 5,000 small-arms and other stores fell
into the hands of the Union forces: from that day to the close
of the rebellion the Mississippi River, from its source to its
mouth, remained in the control of the National troops.

Pemberton and his army were kept in Vicksburg until the whole
could be paroled. The paroles were in duplicate, by
organization (one copy for each, Federals and Confederates), and
signed by the commanding officers of the companies or
regiments. Duplicates were also made for each soldier and
signed by each individually, one to be retained by the soldier
signing and one to be retained by us. Several hundred refused
to sign their paroles, preferring to be sent to the North as
prisoners to being sent back to fight again. Others again kept
out of the way, hoping to escape either alternative.

Pemberton appealed to me in person to compel these men to sign
their paroles, but I declined. It also leaked out that many of
the men who had signed their paroles, intended to desert and go
to their homes as soon as they got out of our lines. Pemberton
hearing this, again appealed to me to assist him. He wanted
arms for a battalion, to act as guards in keeping his men
together while being marched to a camp of instruction, where he
expected to keep them until exchanged. This request was also
declined. It was precisely what I expected and hoped that they
would do. I told him, however, that I would see that they
marched beyond our lines in good order. By the eleventh, just
one week after the surrender, the paroles were completed and the
Confederate garrison marched out. Many deserted, and fewer of
them were ever returned to the ranks to fight again than would
have been the case had the surrender been unconditional and the
prisoners sent to the James River to be paroled.

As soon as our troops took possession of the city guards were
established along the whole line of parapet, from the river
above to the river below. The prisoners were allowed to occupy
their old camps behind the intrenchments. No restraint was put
upon them, except by their own commanders. They were rationed
about as our own men, and from our supplies. The men of the two
armies fraternized as if they had been fighting for the same
cause. When they passed out of the works they had so long and
so gallantly defended, between lines of their late antagonists,
not a cheer went up, not a remark was made that would give
pain. Really, I believe there was a feeling of sadness just
then in the breasts of most of the Union soldiers at seeing the
dejection of their late antagonists.

The day before the departure the following order was issued:

“Paroled prisoners will be sent out of here to-morrow. They
will be authorized to cross at the railroad bridge, and move
from there to Edward’s Ferry, (*14) and on by way of Raymond.
Instruct the commands to be orderly and quiet as these prisoners
pass, to make no offensive remarks, and not to harbor any who
fall out of ranks after they have passed.”



The capture of Vicksburg, with its garrison, ordnance and
ordnance stores, and the successful battles fought in reaching
them, gave new spirit to the loyal people of the North. New
hopes for the final success of the cause of the Union were
inspired. The victory gained at Gettysburg, upon the same day,
added to their hopes. Now the Mississippi River was entirely in
the possession of the National troops; for the fall of Vicksburg
gave us Port Hudson at once. The army of northern Virginia was
driven out of Pennsylvania and forced back to about the same
ground it occupied in 1861. The Army of the Tennessee united
with the Army of the Gulf, dividing the Confederate States

The first dispatch I received from the government after the fall
of Vicksburg was in these words:

“I fear your paroling the prisoners at Vicksburg, without actual
delivery to a proper agent as required by the seventh article of
the cartel, may be construed into an absolute release, and that
the men will immediately be placed in the ranks of the enemy.
Such has been the case elsewhere. If these prisoners have not
been allowed to depart, you will detain them until further

Halleck did not know that they had already been delivered into
the hands of Major Watts, Confederate commissioner for the
exchange of prisoners.

At Vicksburg 31,600 prisoners were surrendered, together with
172 cannon about 60,000 muskets and a large amount of
ammunition. The small-arms of the enemy were far superior to
the bulk of ours. Up to this time our troops at the West had
been limited to the old United States flint-lock muskets changed
into percussion, or the Belgian musket imported early in the
war–almost as dangerous to the person firing it as to the one
aimed at–and a few new and improved arms. These were of many
different calibers, a fact that caused much trouble in
distributing ammunition during an engagement. The enemy had
generally new arms which had run the blockade and were of
uniform caliber. After the surrender I authorized all colonels
whose regiments were armed with inferior muskets, to place them
in the stack of captured arms and replace them with the
latter. A large number of arms turned in to the Ordnance
Department as captured, were thus arms that had really been used
by the Union army in the capture of Vicksburg.

In this narrative I have not made the mention I should like of
officers, dead and alive, whose services entitle them to special
mention. Neither have I made that mention of the navy which its
services deserve. Suffice it to say, the close of the siege of
Vicksburg found us with an army unsurpassed, in proportion to
its numbers, taken as a whole of officers and men. A military
education was acquired which no other school could have given.
Men who thought a company was quite enough for them to command
properly at the beginning, would have made good regimental or
brigade commanders; most of the brigade commanders were equal to
the command of a division, and one, Ransom, would have been equal
to the command of a corps at least. Logan and Crocker ended the
campaign fitted to command independent armies.

General F. P. Blair joined me at Milliken’s Bend a full-fledged
general, without having served in a lower grade. He commanded a
division in the campaign. I had known Blair in Missouri, where I
had voted against him in 1858 when he ran for Congress. I knew
him as a frank, positive and generous man, true to his friends
even to a fault, but always a leader. I dreaded his coming; I
knew from experience that it was more difficult to command two
generals desiring to be leaders than it was to command one army
officered intelligently and with subordination. It affords me
the greatest pleasure to record now my agreeable disappointment
in respect to his character. There was no man braver than he,
nor was there any who obeyed all orders of his superior in rank
with more unquestioning alacrity. He was one man as a soldier,
another as a politician.

The navy under Porter was all it could be, during the entire
campaign. Without its assistance the campaign could not have
been successfully made with twice the number of men engaged. It
could not have been made at all, in the way it was, with any
number of men without such assistance. The most perfect harmony
reigned between the two arms of the service. There never was a
request made, that I am aware of, either of the flag-officer or
any of his subordinates, that was not promptly complied with.

The campaign of Vicksburg was suggested and developed by
circumstances. The elections of 1862 had gone against the
prosecution of the war. Voluntary enlistments had nearly ceased
and the draft had been resorted to; this was resisted, and a
defeat or backward movement would have made its execution
impossible. A forward movement to a decisive victory was
necessary. Accordingly I resolved to get below Vicksburg, unite
with Banks against Port Hudson, make New Orleans a base and, with
that base and Grand Gulf as a starting point, move our combined
forces against Vicksburg. Upon reaching Grand Gulf, after
running its batteries and fighting a battle, I received a letter
from Banks informing me that he could not be at Port Hudson under
ten days, and then with only fifteen thousand men. The time was
worth more than the reinforcements; I therefore determined to
push into the interior of the enemy’s country.

With a large river behind us, held above and below by the enemy,
rapid movements were essential to success. Jackson was captured
the day after a new commander had arrived, and only a few days
before large reinforcements were expected. A rapid movement
west was made; the garrison of Vicksburg was met in two
engagements and badly defeated, and driven back into its
stronghold and there successfully besieged. It looks now as
though Providence had directed the course of the campaign while
the Army of the Tennessee executed the decree.

Upon the surrender of the garrison of Vicksburg there were three
things that required immediate attention. The first was to send
a force to drive the enemy from our rear, and out of the
State. The second was to send reinforcements to Banks near Port
Hudson, if necessary, to complete the triumph of opening the
Mississippi from its source to its mouth to the free navigation
of vessels bearing the Stars and Stripes. The third was to
inform the authorities at Washington and the North of the good
news, to relieve their long suspense and strengthen their
confidence in the ultimate success of the cause they had so much
at heart.

Soon after negotiations were opened with General Pemberton for
the surrender of the city, I notified Sherman, whose troops
extended from Haines’ Bluff on the left to the crossing of the
Vicksburg and Jackson road over the Big Black on the right, and
directed him to hold his command in readiness to advance and
drive the enemy from the State as soon as Vicksburg
surrendered. Steele and Ord were directed to be in readiness to
join Sherman in his move against General Johnston, and Sherman
was advised of this also. Sherman moved promptly, crossing the
Big Black at three different points with as many columns, all
concentrating at Bolton, twenty miles west of Jackson.

Johnston heard of the surrender of Vicksburg almost as soon as
it occurred, and immediately fell back on Jackson. On the 8th
of July Sherman was within ten miles of Jackson and on the 11th
was close up to the defences of the city and shelling the
town. The siege was kept up until the morning of the 17th, when
it was found that the enemy had evacuated during the night. The
weather was very hot, the roads dusty and the water bad.
Johnston destroyed the roads as he passed and had so much the
start that pursuit was useless; but Sherman sent one division,
Steele’s, to Brandon, fourteen miles east of Jackson.

The National loss in the second capture of Jackson was less than
one thousand men, killed, wounded and missing. The Confederate
loss was probably less, except in captured. More than this
number fell into our hands as prisoners.

Medicines and food were left for the Confederate wounded and
sick who had to be left behind. A large amount of rations was
issued to the families that remained in Jackson. Medicine and
food were also sent to Raymond for the destitute families as
well as the sick and wounded, as I thought it only fair that we
should return to these people some of the articles we had taken
while marching through the country. I wrote to Sherman:
“Impress upon the men the importance of going through the State
in an orderly manner, abstaining from taking anything not
absolutely necessary for their subsistence while travelling.
They should try to create as favorable an impression as possible
upon the people.” Provisions and forage, when called for by
them, were issued to all the people, from Bruinsburg to Jackson
and back to Vicksburg, whose resources had been taken for the
supply of our army. Very large quantities of groceries and
provisions were so issued.

Sherman was ordered back to Vicksburg, and his troops took much
the same position they had occupied before–from the Big Black
to Haines’ Bluff. Having cleaned up about Vicksburg and
captured or routed all regular Confederate forces for more than
a hundred miles in all directions, I felt that the troops that
had done so much should be allowed to do more before the enemy
could recover from the blow he had received, and while important
points might be captured without bloodshed. I suggested to the
General-in-chief the idea of a campaign against Mobile, starting
from Lake Pontchartrain. Halleck preferred another course. The
possession of the trans-Mississippi by the Union forces seemed
to possess more importance in his mind than almost any campaign
east of the Mississippi. I am well aware that the President was
very anxious to have a foothold in Texas, to stop the clamor of
some of the foreign governments which seemed to be seeking a
pretext to interfere in the war, at least so far as to recognize
belligerent rights to the Confederate States. This, however,
could have been easily done without wasting troops in western
Louisiana and eastern Texas, by sending a garrison at once to
Brownsville on the Rio Grande.

Halleck disapproved of my proposition to go against Mobile, so
that I was obliged to settle down and see myself put again on
the defensive as I had been a year before in west Tennessee. It
would have been an easy thing to capture Mobile at the time I
proposed to go there. Having that as a base of operations,
troops could have been thrown into the interior to operate
against General Bragg’s army. This would necessarily have
compelled Bragg to detach in order to meet this fire in his
rear. If he had not done this the troops from Mobile could have
inflicted inestimable damage upon much of the country from which
his army and Lee’s were yet receiving their supplies. I was so
much impressed with this idea that I renewed my request later in
July and again about the 1st of August, and proposed sending all
the troops necessary, asking only the assistance of the navy to
protect the debarkation of troops at or near Mobile. I also
asked for a leave of absence to visit New Orleans, particularly
if my suggestion to move against Mobile should be approved. Both
requests were refused. So far as my experience with General
Halleck went it was very much easier for him to refuse a favor
than to grant one. But I did not regard this as a favor. It was
simply in line of duty, though out of my department.

The General-in-chief having decided against me, the depletion of
an army, which had won a succession of great victories,
commenced, as had been the case the year before after the fall
of Corinth when the army was sent where it would do the least
good. By orders, I sent to Banks a force of 4,000 men; returned
the 9th corps to Kentucky and, when transportation had been
collected, started a division of 5,000 men to Schofield in
Missouri where Price was raiding the State. I also detached a
brigade under Ransom to Natchez, to garrison that place
permanently. This latter move was quite fortunate as to the
time when Ransom arrived there. The enemy happened to have a
large number, about 5,000 head, of beef cattle there on the way
from Texas to feed the Eastern armies, and also a large amount
of munitions of war which had probably come through Texas from
the Rio Grande and which were on the way to Lee’s and other
armies in the East.

The troops that were left with me around Vicksburg were very
busily and unpleasantly employed in making expeditions against
guerilla bands and small detachments of cavalry which infested
the interior, and in destroying mills, bridges and rolling stock
on the railroads. The guerillas and cavalry were not there to
fight but to annoy, and therefore disappeared on the first
approach of our troops.

The country back of Vicksburg was filled with deserters from
Pemberton’s army and, it was reported, many from Johnston’s
also. The men determined not to fight again while the war
lasted. Those who lived beyond the reach of the Confederate
army wanted to get to their homes. Those who did not, wanted to
get North where they could work for their support till the war
was over. Besides all this there was quite a peace feeling, for
the time being, among the citizens of that part of Mississippi,
but this feeling soon subsided. It is not probable that
Pemberton got off with over 4,000 of his army to the camp where
he proposed taking them, and these were in a demoralized

On the 7th of August I further depleted my army by sending the
13th corps, General Ord commanding, to Banks. Besides this I
received orders to co-operate with the latter general in
movements west of the Mississippi. Having received this order I
went to New Orleans to confer with Banks about the proposed
movement. All these movements came to naught.

During this visit I reviewed Banks’ army a short distance above
Carrollton. The horse I rode was vicious and but little used,
and on my return to New Orleans ran away and, shying at a
locomotive in the street, fell, probably on me. I was rendered
insensible, and when I regained consciousness I found myself in
a hotel near by with several doctors attending me. My leg was
swollen from the knee to the thigh, and the swelling, almost to
the point of bursting, extended along the body up to the
arm-pit. The pain was almost beyond endurance. I lay at the
hotel something over a week without being able to turn myself in
bed. I had a steamer stop at the nearest point possible, and was
carried to it on a litter. I was then taken to Vicksburg, where
I remained unable to move for some time afterwards.

While I was absent General Sherman declined to assume command
because, he said, it would confuse the records; but he let all
the orders be made in my name, and was glad to render any
assistance he could. No orders were issued by my staff,
certainly no important orders, except upon consultation with and
approval of Sherman.

On the 13th of September, while I was still in New Orleans,
Halleck telegraphed to me to send all available forces to
Memphis and thence to Tuscumbia, to co-operate with Rosecrans
for the relief of Chattanooga. On the 15th he telegraphed again
for all available forces to go to Rosecrans. This was received
on the 27th. I was still confined to my bed, unable to rise
from it without assistance; but I at once ordered Sherman to
send one division to Memphis as fast as transports could be
provided. The division of McPherson’s corps, which had got off
and was on the way to join Steele in Arkansas, was recalled and
sent, likewise, to report to Hurlbut at Memphis. Hurlbut was
directed to forward these two divisions with two others from his
own corps at once, and also to send any other troops that might
be returning there. Halleck suggested that some good man, like
Sherman or McPherson, should be sent to Memphis to take charge
of the troops going east. On this I sent Sherman, as being, I
thought, the most suitable person for an independent command,
and besides he was entitled to it if it had to be given to any
one. He was directed to take with him another division of his
corps. This left one back, but having one of McPherson’s
divisions he had still the equivalent.

Before the receipt by me of these orders the battle of
Chickamauga had been fought and Rosecrans forced back into
Chattanooga. The administration as well as the General-in-chief
was nearly frantic at the situation of affairs there. Mr.
Charles A. Dana, an officer of the War Department, was sent to
Rosecrans’ headquarters. I do not know what his instructions
were, but he was still in Chattanooga when I arrived there at a
later period.

It seems that Halleck suggested that I should go to Nashville as
soon as able to move and take general direction of the troops
moving from the west. I received the following dispatch dated
October 3d: “It is the wish of the Secretary of War that as
soon as General Grant is able he will come to Cairo and report
by telegraph.” I was still very lame, but started without
delay. Arriving at Columbus on the 16th I reported by
telegraph: “Your dispatch from Cairo of the 3d directing me to
report from Cairo was received at 11.30 on the 10th. Left the
same day with staff and headquarters and am here en route for


End of Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant Volume One

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Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant
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PREFACE. [To both volumes]

“Man proposes and God disposes.” There are but few important
events in the affairs of men brought about by their own choice.

Although frequently urged by friends to write my memoirs I had
determined never to do so, nor to write anything for
publication. At the age of nearly sixty-two I received an
injury from a fall, which confined me closely to the house while
it did not apparently affect my general health. This made study
a pleasant pastime. Shortly after, the rascality of a business
partner developed itself by the announcement of a failure. This
was followed soon after by universal depression of all
securities, which seemed to threaten the extinction of a good
part of the income still retained, and for which I am indebted
to the kindly act of friends. At this juncture the editor of
the Century Magazine asked me to write a few articles for him. I
consented for the money it gave me; for at that moment I was
living upon borrowed money. The work I found congenial, and I
determined to continue it. The event is an important one for
me, for good or evil; I hope for the former.

In preparing these volumes for the public, I have entered upon
the task with the sincere desire to avoid doing injustice to any
one, whether on the National or Confederate side, other than the
unavoidable injustice of not making mention often where special
mention is due. There must be many errors of omission in this
work, because the subject is too large to be treated of in two
volumes in such way as to do justice to all the officers and men
engaged. There were thousands of instances, during the
rebellion, of individual, company, regimental and brigade deeds
of heroism which deserve special mention and are not here
alluded to. The troops engaged in them will have to look to the
detailed reports of their individual commanders for the full
history of those deeds.

The first volume, as well as a portion of the second, was
written before I had reason to suppose I was in a critical
condition of health. Later I was reduced almost to the point of
death, and it became impossible for me to attend to anything for
weeks. I have, however, somewhat regained my strength, and am
able, often, to devote as many hours a day as a person should
devote to such work. I would have more hope of satisfying the
expectation of the public if I could have allowed myself more
time. I have used my best efforts, with the aid of my eldest
son, F. D. Grant, assisted by his brothers, to verify from the
records every statement of fact given. The comments are my own,
and show how I saw the matters treated of whether others saw them
in the same light or not.

With these remarks I present these volumes to the public, asking
no favor but hoping they will meet the approval of the reader.







































Begin Volume Two



The reply (to my telegram of October 16, 1863, from Cairo,
announcing my arrival at that point) came on the morning of the
17th, directing me to proceed immediately to the Galt House,
Louisville, where I would meet an officer of the War Department
with my instructions. I left Cairo within an hour or two after
the receipt of this dispatch, going by rail via Indianapolis.
Just as the train I was on was starting out of the depot at
Indianapolis a messenger came running up to stop it, saying the
Secretary of War was coming into the station and wanted to see

I had never met Mr. Stanton up to that time, though we had held
frequent conversations over the wires the year before, when I
was in Tennessee. Occasionally at night he would order the
wires between the War Department and my headquarters to be
connected, and we would hold a conversation for an hour or
two. On this occasion the Secretary was accompanied by Governor
Brough of Ohio, whom I had never met, though he and my father had
been old acquaintances. Mr. Stanton dismissed the special train
that had brought him to Indianapolis, and accompanied me to

Up to this time no hint had been given me of what was wanted
after I left Vicksburg, except the suggestion in one of
Halleck’s dispatches that I had better go to Nashville and
superintend the operation of troops sent to relieve Rosecrans.
Soon after we started the Secretary handed me two orders, saying
that I might take my choice of them. The two were identical in
all but one particular. Both created the “Military Division of
Mississippi,” (giving me the command) composed of the
Departments of the Ohio, the Cumberland, and the Tennessee, and
all the territory from the Alleghanies to the Mississippi River
north of Banks’s command in the south-west. One order left the
department commanders as they were, while the other relieved
Rosecrans and assigned Thomas to his place. I accepted the
latter. We reached Louisville after night and, if I remember
rightly, in a cold, drizzling rain. The Secretary of War told
me afterwards that he caught a cold on that occasion from which
he never expected to recover. He never did.

A day was spent in Louisville, the Secretary giving me the
military news at the capital and talking about the
disappointment at the results of some of the campaigns. By the
evening of the day after our arrival all matters of discussion
seemed exhausted, and I left the hotel to spend the evening
away, both Mrs. Grant (who was with me) and myself having
relatives living in Louisville. In the course of the evening
Mr. Stanton received a dispatch from Mr. C. A. Dana, then in
Chattanooga, informing him that unless prevented Rosecrans would
retreat, and advising peremptory orders against his doing so.

As stated before, after the fall of Vicksburg I urged strongly
upon the government the propriety of a movement against
Mobile. General Rosecrans had been at Murfreesboro’, Tennessee,
with a large and well-equipped army from early in the year 1863,
with Bragg confronting him with a force quite equal to his own
at first, considering it was on the defensive. But after the
investment of Vicksburg Bragg’s army was largely depleted to
strengthen Johnston, in Mississippi, who was being reinforced to
raise the siege. I frequently wrote General Halleck suggesting
that Rosecrans should move against Bragg. By so doing he would
either detain the latter’s troops where they were or lay
Chattanooga open to capture. General Halleck strongly approved
the suggestion, and finally wrote me that he had repeatedly
ordered Rosecrans to advance, but that the latter had constantly
failed to comply with the order, and at last, after having held a
council of war, had replied in effect that it was a military
maxim “not to fight two decisive battles at the same time.” If
true, the maxim was not applicable in this case. It would be
bad to be defeated in two decisive battles fought the same day,
but it would not be bad to win them. I, however, was fighting
no battle, and the siege of Vicksburg had drawn from Rosecrans’
front so many of the enemy that his chances of victory were much
greater than they would be if he waited until the siege was over,
when these troops could be returned. Rosecrans was ordered to
move against the army that was detaching troops to raise the
siege. Finally he did move, on the 24th of June, but ten days
afterwards Vicksburg surrendered, and the troops sent from Bragg
were free to return.

It was at this time that I recommended to the general-in-chief
the movement against Mobile. I knew the peril the Army of the
Cumberland was in, being depleted continually, not only by
ordinary casualties, but also by having to detach troops to hold
its constantly extending line over which to draw supplies, while
the enemy in front was as constantly being strengthened. Mobile
was important to the enemy, and in the absence of a threatening
force was guarded by little else than artillery. If threatened
by land and from the water at the same time the prize would fall
easily, or troops would have to be sent to its defence. Those
troops would necessarily come from Bragg. My judgment was
overruled, and the troops under my command were dissipated over
other parts of the country where it was thought they could
render the most service.

Soon it was discovered in Washington that Rosecrans was in
trouble and required assistance. The emergency was now too
immediate to allow us to give this assistance by making an
attack in rear of Bragg upon Mobile. It was therefore necessary
to reinforce directly, and troops were sent from every available

Rosecrans had very skilfully manoeuvred Bragg south of the
Tennessee River, and through and beyond Chattanooga. If he had
stopped and intrenched, and made himself strong there, all would
have been right and the mistake of not moving earlier partially
compensated. But he pushed on, with his forces very much
scattered, until Bragg’s troops from Mississippi began to join
him. Then Bragg took the initiative. Rosecrans had to fall
back in turn, and was able to get his army together at
Chickamauga, some miles south-east of Chattanooga, before the
main battle was brought on. The battle was fought on the 19th
and 20th of September, and Rosecrans was badly defeated, with a
heavy loss in artillery and some sixteen thousand men killed,
wounded and captured. The corps under Major-General George H.
Thomas stood its ground, while Rosecrans, with Crittenden and
McCook, returned to Chattanooga. Thomas returned also, but
later, and with his troops in good order. Bragg followed and
took possession of Missionary Ridge, overlooking Chattanooga. He
also occupied Lookout Mountain, west of the town, which Rosecrans
had abandoned, and with it his control of the river and the river
road as far back as Bridgeport. The National troops were now
strongly intrenched in Chattanooga Valley, with the Tennessee
River behind them and the enemy occupying commanding heights to
the east and west, with a strong line across the valley from
mountain to mountain, and with Chattanooga Creek, for a large
part of the way, in front of their line.

On the 29th Halleck telegraphed me the above results, and
directed all the forces that could be spared from my department
to be sent to Rosecrans. Long before this dispatch was received
Sherman was on his way, and McPherson was moving east with most
of the garrison of Vicksburg.

A retreat at that time would have been a terrible disaster. It
would not only have been the loss of a most important strategic
position to us, but it would have been attended with the loss of
all the artillery still left with the Army of the Cumberland and
the annihilation of that army itself, either by capture or

All supplies for Rosecrans had to be brought from Nashville. The
railroad between this base and the army was in possession of the
government up to Bridgeport, the point at which the road crosses
to the south side of the Tennessee River; but Bragg, holding
Lookout and Raccoon mountains west of Chattanooga, commanded the
railroad, the river and the shortest and best wagon-roads, both
south and north of the Tennessee, between Chattanooga and
Bridgeport. The distance between these two places is but
twenty-six miles by rail, but owing to the position of Bragg,
all supplies for Rosecrans had to be hauled by a circuitous
route north of the river and over a mountainous country,
increasing the distance to over sixty miles.

This country afforded but little food for his animals, nearly
ten thousand of which had already starved, and not enough were
left to draw a single piece of artillery or even the ambulances
to convey the sick. The men had been on half rations of hard
bread for a considerable time, with but few other supplies
except beef driven from Nashville across the country. The
region along the road became so exhausted of food for the cattle
that by the time they reached Chattanooga they were much in the
condition of the few animals left alive there–“on the lift.”
Indeed, the beef was so poor that the soldiers were in the habit
of saying, with a faint facetiousness, that they were living on
“half rations of hard bread and BEEF DRIED ON THE HOOF.”

Nothing could be transported but food, and the troops were
without sufficient shoes or other clothing suitable for the
advancing season. What they had was well worn. The fuel within
the Federal lines was exhausted, even to the stumps of trees.
There were no teams to draw it from the opposite bank, where it
was abundant. The only way of supplying fuel, for some time
before my arrival, had been to cut trees on the north bank of
the river at a considerable distance up the stream, form rafts
of it and float it down with the current, effecting a landing on
the south side within our lines by the use of paddles or poles.
It would then be carried on the shoulders of the men to their

If a retreat had occurred at this time it is not probable that
any of the army would have reached the railroad as an organized
body, if followed by the enemy.

On the receipt of Mr. Dana’s dispatch Mr. Stanton sent for me.
Finding that I was out he became nervous and excited, inquiring
of every person he met, including guests of the house, whether
they knew where I was, and bidding them find me and send me to
him at once. About eleven o’clock I returned to the hotel, and
on my way, when near the house, every person met was a messenger
from the Secretary, apparently partaking of his impatience to see
me. I hastened to the room of the Secretary and found him pacing
the floor rapidly in his dressing-gown. Saying that the retreat
must be prevented, he showed me the dispatch. I immediately
wrote an order assuming command of the Military Division of the
Mississippi, and telegraphed it to General Rosecrans. I then
telegraphed to him the order from Washington assigning Thomas to
the command of the Army of the Cumberland; and to Thomas that he
must hold Chattanooga at all hazards, informing him at the same
time that I would be at the front as soon as possible. A prompt
reply was received from Thomas, saying, “We will hold the town
till we starve.” I appreciated the force of this dispatch later
when I witnessed the condition of affairs which prompted it. It
looked, indeed, as if but two courses were open: one to starve,
the other to surrender or be captured.

On the morning of the 20th of October I started, with my staff,
and proceeded as far as Nashville. At that time it was not
prudent to travel beyond that point by night, so I remained in
Nashville until the next morning. Here I met for the first time
Andrew Johnson, Military Governor of Tennessee. He delivered a
speech of welcome. His composure showed that it was by no means
his maiden effort. It was long, and I was in torture while he
was delivering it, fearing something would be expected from me
in response. I was relieved, however, the people assembled
having apparently heard enough. At all events they commenced a
general hand-shaking, which, although trying where there is so
much of it, was a great relief to me in this emergency.

From Nashville I telegraphed to Burnside, who was then at
Knoxville, that important points in his department ought to be
fortified, so that they could be held with the least number of
men; to Admiral Porter at Cairo, that Sherman’s advance had
passed Eastport, Mississippi, that rations were probably on
their way from St. Louis by boat for supplying his army, and
requesting him to send a gunboat to convoy them; and to Thomas,
suggesting that large parties should be put at work on the
wagon-road then in use back to Bridgeport.

On the morning of the 21st we took the train for the front,
reaching Stevenson Alabama, after dark. Rosecrans was there on
his way north. He came into my car and we held a brief
interview, in which he described very clearly the situation at
Chattanooga, and made some excellent suggestions as to what
should be done. My only wonder was that he had not carried them
out. We then proceeded to Bridgeport, where we stopped for the
night. From here we took horses and made our way by Jasper and
over Waldron’s Ridge to Chattanooga. There had been much rain,
and the roads were almost impassable from mud, knee-deep in
places, and from wash-outs on the mountain sides. I had been on
crutches since the time of my fall in New Orleans, and had to be
carried over places where it was not safe to cross on
horseback. The roads were strewn with the debris of broken
wagons and the carcasses of thousands of starved mules and
horses. At Jasper, some ten or twelve miles from Bridgeport,
there was a halt. General O. O. Howard had his headquarters
there. From this point I telegraphed Burnside to make every
effort to secure five hundred rounds of ammunition for his
artillery and small-arms. We stopped for the night at a little
hamlet some ten or twelve miles farther on. The next day we
reached Chattanooga a little before dark. I went directly to
General Thomas’s headquarters, and remaining there a few days,
until I could establish my own.

During the evening most of the general officers called in to pay
their respects and to talk about the condition of affairs. They
pointed out on the map the line, marked with a red or blue
pencil, which Rosecrans had contemplated falling back upon. If
any of them had approved the move they did not say so to me. I
found General W. F. Smith occupying the position of chief
engineer of the Army of the Cumberland. I had known Smith as a
cadet at West Point, but had no recollection of having met him
after my graduation, in 1843, up to this time. He explained the
situation of the two armies and the topography of the country so
plainly that I could see it without an inspection. I found that
he had established a saw-mill on the banks of the river, by
utilizing an old engine found in the neighborhood; and, by
rafting logs from the north side of the river above, had got out
the lumber and completed pontoons and roadway plank for a second
bridge, one flying bridge being there already. He was also
rapidly getting out the materials and constructing the boats for
a third bridge. In addition to this he had far under way a
steamer for plying between Chattanooga and Bridgeport whenever
we might get possession of the river. This boat consisted of a
scow, made of the plank sawed out at the mill, housed in, and a
stern wheel attached which was propelled by a second engine
taken from some shop or factory.

I telegraphed to Washington this night, notifying General
Halleck of my arrival, and asking to have General Sherman
assigned to the command of the Army of the Tennessee,
headquarters in the field. The request was at once complied



The next day, the 24th, I started out to make a personal
inspection, taking Thomas and Smith with me, besides most of the
members of my personal staff. We crossed to the north side of
the river, and, moving to the north of detached spurs of hills,
reached the Tennessee at Brown’s Ferry, some three miles below
Lookout Mountain, unobserved by the enemy. Here we left our
horses back from the river and approached the water on foot.
There was a picket station of the enemy on the opposite side, of
about twenty men, in full view, and we were within easy range.
They did not fire upon us nor seem to be disturbed by our
presence. They must have seen that we were all commissioned
officers. But, I suppose, they looked upon the garrison of
Chattanooga as prisoners of war, feeding or starving themselves,
and thought it would be inhuman to kill any of them except in

That night I issued orders for opening the route to
Bridgeport–a cracker line, as the soldiers appropriately termed
it. They had been so long on short rations that my first thought
was the establishment of a line over which food might reach them.

Chattanooga is on the south bank of the Tennessee, where that
river runs nearly due west. It is at the northern end of a
valley five or six miles in width, through which Chattanooga
Creek runs. To the east of the valley is Missionary Ridge,
rising from five to eight hundred feet above the creek and
terminating somewhat abruptly a half mile or more before
reaching the Tennessee. On the west of the valley is Lookout
Mountain, twenty-two hundred feet above-tide water. Just below
the town the Tennessee makes a turn to the south and runs to the
base of Lookout Mountain, leaving no level ground between the
mountain and river. The Memphis and Charleston Railroad passes
this point, where the mountain stands nearly perpendicular. East
of Missionary Ridge flows the South Chickamauga River; west of
Lookout Mountain is Lookout Creek; and west of that, Raccoon
Mountains. Lookout Mountain, at its northern end, rises almost
perpendicularly for some distance, then breaks off in a gentle
slope of cultivated fields to near the summit, where it ends in
a palisade thirty or more feet in height. On the gently sloping
ground, between the upper and lower palisades, there is a single
farmhouse, which is reached by a wagon-road from the valley east.

The intrenched line of the enemy commenced on the north end of
Missionary Ridge and extended along the crest for some distance
south, thence across Chattanooga valley to Lookout Mountain.
Lookout Mountain was also fortified and held by the enemy, who
also kept troops in Lookout valley west, and on Raccoon
Mountain, with pickets extending down the river so as to command
the road on the north bank and render it useless to us. In
addition to this there was an intrenched line in Chattanooga
valley extending from the river east of the town to Lookout
Mountain, to make the investment complete. Besides the
fortifications on Mission Ridge, there was a line at the base of
the hill, with occasional spurs of rifle-pits half-way up the
front. The enemy’s pickets extended out into the valley towards
the town, so far that the pickets of the two armies could
converse. At one point they were separated only by the narrow
creek which gives its name to the valley and town, and from
which both sides drew water. The Union lines were shorter than
those of the enemy.

Thus the enemy, with a vastly superior force, was strongly
fortified to the east, south, and west, and commanded the river
below. Practically, the Army of the Cumberland was besieged.
The enemy had stopped with his cavalry north of the river the
passing of a train loaded with ammunition and medical
supplies. The Union army was short of both, not having
ammunition enough for a day’s fighting.

General Halleck had, long before my coming into this new field,
ordered parts of the 11th and 12th corps, commanded respectively
by Generals Howard and Slocum, Hooker in command of the whole,
from the Army of the Potomac to reinforce Rosecrans. It would
have been folly to send them to Chattanooga to help eat up the
few rations left there. They were consequently left on the
railroad, where supplies could be brought to them. Before my
arrival, Thomas ordered their concentration at Bridgeport.

General W. F. Smith had been so instrumental in preparing for
the move which I was now about to make, and so clear in his
judgment about the manner of making it, that I deemed it but
just to him that he should have command of the troops detailed
to execute the design, although he was then acting as a staff
officer and was not in command of troops.

On the 24th of October, after my return to Chattanooga, the
following details were made: General Hooker, who was now at
Bridgeport, was ordered to cross to the south side of the
Tennessee and march up by Whitesides and Wauhatchie to Brown’s
Ferry. General Palmer, with a division of the 14th corps, Army
of the Cumberland, was ordered to move down the river on the
north side, by a back road, until opposite Whitesides, then
cross and hold the road in Hooker’s rear after he had passed.
Four thousand men were at the same time detailed to act under
General Smith directly from Chattanooga. Eighteen hundred of
them, under General Hazen, were to take sixty pontoon boats, and
under cover of night float by the pickets of the enemy at the
north base of Lookout, down to Brown’s Ferry, then land on the
south side and capture or drive away the pickets at that
point. Smith was to march with the remainder of the detail,
also under cover of night, by the north bank of the river to
Brown’s Ferry, taking with him all the material for laying the
bridge as soon as the crossing was secured.

On the 26th, Hooker crossed the river at Bridgeport and
commenced his eastward march. At three o’clock on the morning
of the 27th, Hazen moved into the stream with his sixty pontoons
and eighteen hundred brave and well-equipped men. Smith started
enough in advance to be near the river when Hazen should
arrive. There are a number of detached spurs of hills north of
the river at Chattanooga, back of which is a good road parallel
to the stream, sheltered from the view from the top of
Lookout. It was over this road Smith marched. At five o’clock
Hazen landed at Brown’s Ferry, surprised the picket guard, and
captured most of it. By seven o’clock the whole of Smith’s
force was ferried over and in possession of a height commanding
the ferry. This was speedily fortified, while a detail was
laying the pontoon bridge. By ten o’clock the bridge was laid,
and our extreme right, now in Lookout valley, was fortified and
connected with the rest of the army. The two bridges over the
Tennessee River–a flying one at Chattanooga and the new one at
Brown’s Ferry–with the road north of the river, covered from
both the fire and the view of the enemy, made the connection
complete. Hooker found but slight obstacles in his way, and on
the afternoon of the 28th emerged into Lookout valley at
Wauhatchie. Howard marched on to Brown’s Ferry, while Geary,
who commanded a division in the 12th corps, stopped three miles
south. The pickets of the enemy on the river below were now cut
off, and soon came in and surrendered.

The river was now opened to us from Lookout valley to
Bridgeport. Between Brown’s Ferry and Kelly’s Ferry the
Tennessee runs through a narrow gorge in the mountains, which
contracts the stream so much as to increase the current beyond
the capacity of an ordinary steamer to stem it. To get up these
rapids, steamers must be cordelled; that is, pulled up by ropes
from the shore. But there is no difficulty in navigating the
stream from Bridgeport to Kelly’s Ferry. The latter point is
only eight miles from Chattanooga and connected with it by a
good wagon-road, which runs through a low pass in the Raccoon
Mountains on the south side of the river to Brown’s Ferry,
thence on the north side to the river opposite Chattanooga.
There were several steamers at Bridgeport, and abundance of
forage, clothing and provisions.

On the way to Chattanooga I had telegraphed back to Nashville
for a good supply of vegetables and small rations, which the
troops had been so long deprived of. Hooker had brought with
him from the east a full supply of land transportation. His
animals had not been subjected to hard work on bad roads without
forage, but were in good condition. In five days from my arrival
in Chattanooga the way was open to Bridgeport and, with the aid
of steamers and Hooker’s teams, in a week the troops were
receiving full rations. It is hard for any one not an
eye-witness to realize the relief this brought. The men were
soon reclothed and also well fed, an abundance of ammunition was
brought up, and a cheerfulness prevailed not before enjoyed in
many weeks. Neither officers nor men looked upon themselves any
longer as doomed. The weak and languid appearance of the troops,
so visible before, disappeared at once. I do not know what the
effect was on the other side, but assume it must have been
correspondingly depressing. Mr. Davis had visited Bragg but a
short time before, and must have perceived our condition to be
about as Bragg described it in his subsequent report. “These
dispositions,” he said, “faithfully sustained, insured the
enemy’s speedy evacuation of Chattanooga for want of food and
forage. Possessed of the shortest route to his depot, and the
one by which reinforcements must reach him, we held him at our
mercy, and his destruction was only a question of time.” But
the dispositions were not “faithfully sustained,” and I doubt
not but thousands of men engaged in trying to “sustain” them now
rejoice that they were not. There was no time during the
rebellion when I did not think, and often say, that the South
was more to be benefited by its defeat than the North. The
latter had the people, the institutions, and the territory to
make a great and prosperous nation. The former was burdened
with an institution abhorrent to all civilized people not
brought up under it, and one which degraded labor, kept it in
ignorance, and enervated the governing class. With the outside
world at war with this institution, they could not have extended
their territory. The labor of the country was not skilled, nor
allowed to become so. The whites could not toil without
becoming degraded, and those who did were denominated “poor
white trash.” The system of labor would have soon exhausted the
soil and left the people poor. The non-slaveholders would have
left the country, and the small slaveholder must have sold out
to his more fortunate neighbor. Soon the slaves would have
outnumbered the masters, and, not being in sympathy with them,
would have risen in their might and exterminated them. The war
was expensive to the South as well as to the North, both in
blood and treasure, but it was worth all it cost.

The enemy was surprised by the movements which secured to us a
line of supplies. He appreciated its importance, and hastened
to try to recover the line from us. His strength on Lookout
Mountain was not equal to Hooker’s command in the valley
below. From Missionary Ridge he had to march twice the distance
we had from Chattanooga, in order to reach Lookout Valley; but on
the night of the 28th and 29th an attack was made on Geary at
Wauhatchie by Longstreet’s corps. When the battle commenced,
Hooker ordered Howard up from Brown’s Ferry. He had three miles
to march to reach Geary. On his way he was fired upon by rebel
troops from a foot-hill to the left of the road and from which
the road was commanded. Howard turned to the left, charged up
the hill and captured it before the enemy had time to intrench,
taking many prisoners. Leaving sufficient men to hold this
height, he pushed on to reinforce Geary. Before he got up,
Geary had been engaged for about three hours against a vastly
superior force. The night was so dark that the men could not
distinguish one from another except by the light of the flashes
of their muskets. In the darkness and uproar Hooker’s teamsters
became frightened and deserted their teams. The mules also
became frightened, and breaking loose from their fastenings
stampeded directly towards the enemy. The latter, no doubt,
took this for a charge, and stampeded in turn. By four o’clock
in the morning the battle had entirely ceased, and our “cracker
line” was never afterward disturbed.

In securing possession of Lookout Valley, Smith lost one man
killed and four or five wounded. The enemy lost most of his
pickets at the ferry, captured. In the night engagement of the
28th-9th Hooker lost 416 killed and wounded. I never knew the
loss of the enemy, but our troops buried over one hundred and
fifty of his dead and captured more than a hundred.

After we had secured the opening of a line over which to bring
our supplies to the army, I made a personal inspection to see
the situation of the pickets of the two armies. As I have
stated, Chattanooga Creek comes down the centre of the valley to
within a mile or such a matter of the town of Chattanooga, then
bears off westerly, then north-westerly, and enters the
Tennessee River at the foot of Lookout Mountain. This creek,
from its mouth up to where it bears off west, lay between the
two lines of pickets, and the guards of both armies drew their
water from the same stream. As I would be under short-range
fire and in an open country, I took nobody with me, except, I
believe, a bugler, who stayed some distance to the rear. I rode
from our right around to our left. When I came to the camp of
the picket guard of our side, I heard the call, “Turn out the
guard for the commanding general.” I replied, “Never mind the
guard,” and they were dismissed and went back to their tents.
Just back of these, and about equally distant from the creek,
were the guards of the Confederate pickets. The sentinel on
their post called out in like manner, “Turn out the guard for
the commanding general,” and, I believe, added, “General
Grant.” Their line in a moment front-faced to the north, facing
me, and gave a salute, which I returned.

The most friendly relations seemed to exist between the pickets
of the two armies. At one place there was a tree which had
fallen across the stream, and which was used by the soldiers of
both armies in drawing water for their camps. General
Longstreet’s corps was stationed there at the time, and wore
blue of a little different shade from our uniform. Seeing a
soldier in blue on this log, I rode up to him, commenced
conversing with him, and asked whose corps he belonged to. He
was very polite, and, touching his hat to me, said he belonged
to General Longstreet’s corps. I asked him a few questions–but
not with a view of gaining any particular information–all of
which he answered, and I rode off.



Having got the Army of the Cumberland in a comfortable position,
I now began to look after the remainder of my new command.
Burnside was in about as desperate a condition as the Army of
the Cumberland had been, only he was not yet besieged. He was a
hundred miles from the nearest possible base, Big South Fork of
the Cumberland River, and much farther from any railroad we had
possession of. The roads back were over mountains, and all
supplies along the line had long since been exhausted. His
animals, too, had been starved, and their carcasses lined the
road from Cumberland Gap, and far back towards Lexington, Ky.
East Tennessee still furnished supplies of beef, bread and
forage, but it did not supply ammunition, clothing, medical
supplies, or small rations, such as coffee, sugar, salt and rice.

Sherman had started from Memphis for Corinth on the 11th of
October. His instructions required him to repair the road in
his rear in order to bring up supplies. The distance was about
three hundred and thirty miles through a hostile country. His
entire command could not have maintained the road if it had been
completed. The bridges had all been destroyed by the enemy, and
much other damage done. A hostile community lived along the
road; guerilla bands infested the country, and more or less of
the cavalry of the enemy was still in the West. Often Sherman’s
work was destroyed as soon as completed, and he only a short
distance away.

The Memphis and Charleston Railroad strikes the Tennessee River
at Eastport, Mississippi. Knowing the difficulty Sherman would
have to supply himself from Memphis, I had previously ordered
supplies sent from St. Louis on small steamers, to be convoyed
by the navy, to meet him at Eastport. These he got. I now
ordered him to discontinue his work of repairing roads and to
move on with his whole force to Stevenson, Alabama, without
delay. This order was borne to Sherman by a messenger, who
paddled down the Tennessee in a canoe and floated over Muscle
Shoals; it was delivered at Iuka on the 27th. In this Sherman
was notified that the rebels were moving a force towards
Cleveland, East Tennessee, and might be going to Nashville, in
which event his troops were in the best position to beat them
there. Sherman, with his characteristic promptness, abandoned
the work he was engaged upon and pushed on at once. On the 1st
of November he crossed the Tennessee at Eastport, and that day
was in Florence, Alabama, with the head of column, while his
troops were still crossing at Eastport, with Blair bringing up
the rear.

Sherman’s force made an additional army, with cavalry,
artillery, and trains, all to be supplied by the single track
road from Nashville. All indications pointed also to the
probable necessity of supplying Burnside’s command in East
Tennessee, twenty-five thousand more, by the same route. A
single track could not do this. I gave, therefore, an order to
Sherman to halt General G. M. Dodge’s command, of about eight
thousand men, at Athens, and subsequently directed the latter to
arrange his troops along the railroad from Decatur north towards
Nashville, and to rebuild that road. The road from Nashville to
Decatur passes over a broken country, cut up with innumerable
streams, many of them of considerable width, and with valleys
far below the road-bed. All the bridges over these had been
destroyed, and the rails taken up and twisted by the enemy. All
the cars and locomotives not carried off had been destroyed as
effectually as they knew how to destroy them. All bridges and
culverts had been destroyed between Nashville and Decatur, and
thence to Stevenson, where the Memphis and Charleston and the
Nashville and Chattanooga roads unite. The rebuilding of this
road would give us two roads as far as Stevenson over which to
supply the army. From Bridgeport, a short distance farther
east, the river supplements the road.

General Dodge, besides being a most capable soldier, was an
experienced railroad builder. He had no tools to work with
except those of the pioneers–axes, picks, and spades. With
these he was able to intrench his men and protect them against
surprises by small parties of the enemy. As he had no base of
supplies until the road could be completed back to Nashville,
the first matter to consider after protecting his men was the
getting in of food and forage from the surrounding country. He
had his men and teams bring in all the grain they could find, or
all they needed, and all the cattle for beef, and such other food
as could be found. Millers were detailed from the ranks to run
the mills along the line of the army. When these were not near
enough to the troops for protection they were taken down and
moved up to the line of the road. Blacksmith shops, with all
the iron and steel found in them, were moved up in like
manner. Blacksmiths were detailed and set to work making the
tools necessary in railroad and bridge building. Axemen were
put to work getting out timber for bridges and cutting fuel for
locomotives when the road should be completed. Car-builders
were set to work repairing the locomotives and cars. Thus every
branch of railroad building, making tools to work with, and
supplying the workmen with food, was all going on at once, and
without the aid of a mechanic or laborer except what the command
itself furnished. But rails and cars the men could not make
without material, and there was not enough rolling stock to keep
the road we already had worked to its full capacity. There were
no rails except those in use. To supply these deficiencies I
ordered eight of the ten engines General McPherson had at
Vicksburg to be sent to Nashville, and all the cars he had
except ten. I also ordered the troops in West Tennessee to
points on the river and on the Memphis and Charleston road, and
ordered the cars, locomotives and rails from all the railroads
except the Memphis and Charleston to Nashville. The military
manager of railroads also was directed to furnish more rolling
stock and, as far as he could, bridge material. General Dodge
had the work assigned him finished within forty days after
receiving his orders. The number of bridges to rebuild was one
hundred and eighty-two, many of them over deep and wide chasms;
the length of road repaired was one hundred and two miles.

The enemy’s troops, which it was thought were either moving
against Burnside or were going to Nashville, went no farther
than Cleveland. Their presence there, however, alarmed the
authorities at Washington, and, on account of our helpless
condition at Chattanooga, caused me much uneasiness. Dispatches
were constantly coming, urging me to do something for Burnside’s
relief; calling attention to the importance of holding East
Tennessee; saying the President was much concerned for the
protection of the loyal people in that section, etc. We had not
at Chattanooga animals to pull a single piece of artillery, much
less a supply train. Reinforcements could not help Burnside,
because he had neither supplies nor ammunition sufficient for
them; hardly, indeed, bread and meat for the men he had. There
was no relief possible for him except by expelling the enemy
from Missionary Ridge and about Chattanooga.

On the 4th of November Longstreet left our front with about
fifteen thousand troops, besides Wheeler’s cavalry, five
thousand more, to go against Burnside. The situation seemed
desperate, and was more aggravating because nothing could be
done until Sherman should get up. The authorities at Washington
were now more than ever anxious for the safety of Burnside’s
army, and plied me with dispatches faster than ever, urging that
something should be done for his relief. On the 7th, before
Longstreet could possibly have reached Knoxville, I ordered
Thomas peremptorily to attack the enemy’s right, so as to force
the return of the troops that had gone up the valley. I
directed him to take mules, officers’ horses, or animals
wherever he could get them to move the necessary artillery. But
he persisted in the declaration that he could not move a single
piece of artillery, and could not see how he could possibly
comply with the order. Nothing was left to be done but to
answer Washington dispatches as best I could; urge Sherman
forward, although he was making every effort to get forward, and
encourage Burnside to hold on, assuring him that in a short time
he should be relieved. All of Burnside’s dispatches showed the
greatest confidence in his ability to hold his position as long
as his ammunition held out. He even suggested the propriety of
abandoning the territory he held south and west of Knoxville, so
as to draw the enemy farther from his base and make it more
difficult for him to get back to Chattanooga when the battle
should begin. Longstreet had a railroad as far as Loudon; but
from there to Knoxville he had to rely on wagon trains.
Burnside’s suggestion, therefore, was a good one, and it was
adopted. On the 14th I telegraphed him:

“Sherman’s advance has reached Bridgeport. His whole force will
be ready to move from there by Tuesday at farthest. If you can
hold Longstreet in check until he gets up, or by skirmishing and
falling back can avoid serious loss to yourself and gain time, I
will be able to force the enemy back from here and place a force
between Longstreet and Bragg that must inevitably make the former
take to the mountain-passes by every available road, to get to
his supplies. Sherman would have been here before this but for
high water in Elk River driving him some thirty miles up that
river to cross.”

And again later in the day, indicating my plans for his relief,
as follows:

“Your dispatch and Dana’s just received. Being there, you can
tell better how to resist Longstreet’s attack than I can
direct. With your showing you had better give up Kingston at
the last moment and save the most productive part of your
possessions. Every arrangement is now made to throw Sherman’s
force across the river, just at and below the mouth of
Chickamauga Creek, as soon as it arrives. Thomas will attack on
his left at the same time, and together it is expected to carry
Missionary Ridge, and from there push a force on to the railroad
between Cleveland and Dalton. Hooker will at the same time
attack, and, if he can, carry Lookout Mountain. The enemy now
seems to be looking for an attack on his left flank. This
favors us. To further confirm this, Sherman’s advance division
will march direct from Whiteside to Trenton. The remainder of
his force will pass over a new road just made from Whiteside to
Kelly’s Ferry, thus being concealed from the enemy, and leave
him to suppose the whole force is going up Lookout Valley.
Sherman’s advance has only just reached Bridgeport. The rear
will only reach there on the 16th. This will bring it to the
19th as the earliest day for making the combined movement as
desired. Inform me if you think you can sustain yourself until
this time. I can hardly conceive of the enemy breaking through
at Kingston and pushing for Kentucky. If they should, however,
a new problem would be left for solution. Thomas has ordered a
division of cavalry to the vicinity of Sparta. I will ascertain
if they have started, and inform you. It will be entirely out
of the question to send you ten thousand men, not because they
cannot be spared, but how would they be fed after they got even
one day east from here?”

Longstreet, for some reason or other, stopped at Loudon until
the 13th. That being the terminus of his railroad
communications, it is probable he was directed to remain there
awaiting orders. He was in a position threatening Knoxville,
and at the same time where he could be brought back speedily to
Chattanooga. The day after Longstreet left Loudon, Sherman
reached Bridgeport in person and proceeded on to see me that
evening, the 14th, and reached Chattanooga the next day.

My orders for battle were all prepared in advance of Sherman’s
arrival (*15), except the dates, which could not be fixed while
troops to be engaged were so far away. The possession of
Lookout Mountain was of no special advantage to us now. Hooker
was instructed to send Howard’s corps to the north side of the
Tennessee, thence up behind the hills on the north side, and to
go into camp opposite Chattanooga; with the remainder of the
command, Hooker was, at a time to be afterwards appointed, to
ascend the western slope between the upper and lower palisades,
and so get into Chattanooga valley.

The plan of battle was for Sherman to attack the enemy’s right
flank, form a line across it, extend our left over South
Chickamauga River so as to threaten or hold the railroad in
Bragg’s rear, and thus force him either to weaken his lines
elsewhere or lose his connection with his base at Chickamauga
Station. Hooker was to perform like service on our right. His
problem was to get from Lookout Valley to Chattanooga Valley in
the most expeditious way possible; cross the latter valley
rapidly to Rossville, south of Bragg’s line on Missionary Ridge,
form line there across the ridge facing north, with his right
flank extended to Chickamauga Valley east of the ridge, thus
threatening the enemy’s rear on that flank and compelling him to
reinforce this also. Thomas, with the Army of the Cumberland,
occupied the centre, and was to assault while the enemy was
engaged with most of his forces on his two flanks.

To carry out this plan, Sherman was to cross the Tennessee at
Brown’s Ferry and move east of Chattanooga to a point opposite
the north end of Mission Ridge, and to place his command back of
the foot-hills out of sight of the enemy on the ridge. There are
two streams called Chickamauga emptying into the Tennessee River
east of Chattanooga–North Chickamauga, taking its rise in
Tennessee, flowing south, and emptying into the river some seven
or eight miles east; while the South Chickamauga, which takes its
rise in Georgia, flows northward, and empties into the Tennessee
some three or four miles above the town. There were now one
hundred and sixteen pontoons in the North Chickamauga River,
their presence there being unknown to the enemy.

At night a division was to be marched up to that point, and at
two o’clock in the morning moved down with the current, thirty
men in each boat. A few were to land east of the mouth of the
South Chickamauga, capture the pickets there, and then lay a
bridge connecting the two banks of the river. The rest were to
land on the south side of the Tennessee, where Missionary Ridge
would strike it if prolonged, and a sufficient number of men to
man the boats were to push to the north side to ferry over the
main body of Sherman’s command while those left on the south
side intrenched themselves. Thomas was to move out from his
lines facing the ridge, leaving enough of Palmer’s corps to
guard against an attack down the valley. Lookout Valley being
of no present value to us, and being untenable by the enemy if
we should secure Missionary Ridge, Hooker’s orders were
changed. His revised orders brought him to Chattanooga by the
established route north of the Tennessee. He was then to move
out to the right to Rossville.

Hooker’s position in Lookout Valley was absolutely essential to
us so long as Chattanooga was besieged. It was the key to our
line for supplying the army. But it was not essential after the
enemy was dispersed from our front, or even after the battle for
this purpose was begun. Hooker’s orders, therefore, were
designed to get his force past Lookout Mountain and Chattanooga
Valley, and up to Missionary Ridge. By crossing the north face
of Lookout the troops would come into Chattanooga Valley in rear
of the line held by the enemy across the valley, and would
necessarily force its evacuation. Orders were accordingly given
to march by this route. But days before the battle began the
advantages as well as the disadvantages of this plan of action
were all considered. The passage over the mountain was a
difficult one to make in the face of an enemy. It might consume
so much time as to lose us the use of the troops engaged in it at
other points where they were more wanted. After reaching
Chattanooga Valley, the creek of the same name, quite a
formidable stream to get an army over, had to be crossed. I was
perfectly willing that the enemy should keep Lookout Mountain
until we got through with the troops on Missionary Ridge. By
marching Hooker to the north side of the river, thence up the
stream, and recrossing at the town, he could be got in position
at any named time; when in this new position, he would have
Chattanooga Creek behind him, and the attack on Missionary Ridge
would unquestionably cause the evacuation by the enemy of his
line across the valley and on Lookout Mountain. Hooker’s order
was changed accordingly. As explained elsewhere, the original
order had to be reverted to, because of a flood in the river
rendering the bridge at Brown’s Ferry unsafe for the passage of
troops at the exact juncture when it was wanted to bring all the
troops together against Missionary Ridge.

The next day after Sherman’s arrival I took him, with Generals
Thomas and Smith and other officers, to the north side of the
river, and showed them the ground over which Sherman had to
march, and pointed out generally what he was expected to do. I,
as well as the authorities in Washington, was still in a great
state of anxiety for Burnside’s safety. Burnside himself, I
believe, was the only one who did not share in this anxiety.
Nothing could be done for him, however, until Sherman’s troops
were up. As soon, therefore, as the inspection was over,
Sherman started for Bridgeport to hasten matters, rowing a boat
himself, I believe, from Kelly’s Ferry. Sherman had left
Bridgeport the night of the 14th, reached Chattanooga the
evening of the 15th, made the above-described inspection on the
morning of the 16th, and started back the same evening to hurry
up his command, fully appreciating the importance of time.

His march was conducted with as much expedition as the roads and
season would admit of. By the 20th he was himself at Brown’s
Ferry with the head of column, but many of his troops were far
behind, and one division (Ewing’s) was at Trenton, sent that way
to create the impression that Lookout was to be taken from the
south. Sherman received his orders at the ferry, and was asked
if he could not be ready for the assault the following
morning. News had been received that the battle had been
commenced at Knoxville. Burnside had been cut off from
telegraphic communications. The President, the Secretary of
War, and General Halleck, were in an agony of suspense. My
suspense was also great, but more endurable, because I was where
I could soon do something to relieve the situation. It was
impossible to get Sherman’s troops up for the next day. I then
asked him if they could not be got up to make the assault on the
morning of the 22d, and ordered Thomas to move on that date. But
the elements were against us. It rained all the 20th and 21st.
The river rose so rapidly that it was difficult to keep the
pontoons in place.

General Orlando B. Willcox, a division commander under Burnside,
was at this time occupying a position farther up the valley than
Knoxville–about Maynardville–and was still in telegraphic
communication with the North. A dispatch was received from him
saying that he was threatened from the east. The following was
sent in reply:

“If you can communicate with General Burnside, say to him that
our attack on Bragg will commence in the morning. If
successful, such a move will be made as I think will relieve
East Tennessee, if he can hold out. Longstreet passing through
our lines to Kentucky need not cause alarm. He would find the
country so bare that he would lose his transportation and
artillery before reaching Kentucky, and would meet such a force
before he got through, that he could not return.”

Meantime, Sherman continued his crossing without intermission as
fast as his troops could be got up. The crossing had to be
effected in full view of the enemy on the top of Lookout
Mountain. Once over, however, the troops soon disappeared
behind the detached hill on the north side, and would not come
to view again, either to watchmen on Lookout Mountain or
Missionary Ridge, until they emerged between the hills to strike
the bank of the river. But when Sherman’s advance reached a
point opposite the town of Chattanooga, Howard, who, it will be
remembered, had been concealed behind the hills on the north
side, took up his line of march to join the troops on the south
side. His crossing was in full view both from Missionary Ridge
and the top of Lookout, and the enemy of course supposed these
troops to be Sherman’s. This enabled Sherman to get to his
assigned position without discovery.



On the 20th, when so much was occurring to discourage–rains
falling so heavily as to delay the passage of troops over the
river at Brown’s Ferry and threatening the entire breaking of
the bridge; news coming of a battle raging at Knoxville; of
Willcox being threatened by a force from the east–a letter was
received from Bragg which contained these words: “As there may
still be some non-combatants in Chattanooga, I deem it proper to
notify you that prudence would dictate their early withdrawal.”
Of course, I understood that this was a device intended to
deceive; but I did not know what the intended deception was. On
the 22d, however, a deserter came in who informed me that Bragg
was leaving our front, and on that day Buckner’s division was
sent to reinforce Longstreet at Knoxville, and another division
started to follow but was recalled. The object of Bragg’s
letter, no doubt, was in some way to detain me until Knoxville
could be captured, and his troops there be returned to

During the night of the 21st the rest of the pontoon boats,
completed, one hundred and sixteen in all, were carried up to
and placed in North Chickamauga. The material for the roadway
over these was deposited out of view of the enemy within a few
hundred yards of the bank of the Tennessee, where the north end
of the bridge was to rest.

Hearing nothing from Burnside, and hearing much of the distress
in Washington on his account, I could no longer defer operations
for his relief. I determined, therefore, to do on the 23d, with
the Army of the Cumberland, what had been intended to be done on
the 24th.

The position occupied by the Army of the Cumberland had been
made very strong for defence during the months it had been
besieged. The line was about a mile from the town, and extended
from Citico Creek, a small stream running near the base of
Missionary Ridge and emptying into the Tennessee about two miles
below the mouth of the South Chickamauga, on the left, to
Chattanooga Creek on the right. All commanding points on the
line were well fortified and well equipped with artillery. The
important elevations within the line had all been carefully
fortified and supplied with a proper armament. Among the
elevations so fortified was one to the east of the town, named
Fort Wood. It owed its importance chiefly to the fact that it
lay between the town and Missionary Ridge, where most of the
strength of the enemy was. Fort Wood had in it twenty-two
pieces of artillery, most of which would reach the nearer points
of the enemy’s line. On the morning of the 23d Thomas, according
to instructions, moved Granger’s corps of two divisions, Sheridan
and T. J. Wood commanding, to the foot of Fort Wood, and formed
them into line as if going on parade, Sheridan on the right,
Wood to the left, extending to or near Citico Creek. Palmer,
commanding the 14th corps, held that part of our line facing
south and southwest.. He supported Sheridan with one division
(Baird’s), while his other division under Johnson remained in
the trenches, under arms, ready to be moved to any point.
Howard’s corps was moved in rear of the centre. The picket
lines were within a few hundred yards of each other. At two
o’clock in the afternoon all were ready to advance. By this
time the clouds had lifted so that the enemy could see from his
elevated position all that was going on. The signal for advance
was given by a booming of cannon from Fort Wood and other points
on the line. The rebel pickets were soon driven back upon the
main guards, which occupied minor and detached heights between
the main ridge and our lines. These too were carried before
halting, and before the enemy had time to reinforce their
advance guards. But it was not without loss on both sides. This
movement secured to us a line fully a mile in advance of the one
we occupied in the morning, and the one which the enemy had
occupied up to this time. The fortifications were rapidly
turned to face the other way. During the following night they
were made strong. We lost in this preliminary action about
eleven hundred killed and wounded, while the enemy probably lost
quite as heavily, including the prisoners that were captured.
With the exception of the firing of artillery, kept up from
Missionary Ridge and Fort Wood until night closed in, this ended
the fighting for the first day.

The advantage was greatly on our side now, and if I could only
have been assured that Burnside could hold out ten days longer I
should have rested more easily. But we were doing the best we
could for him and the cause.

By the night of the 23d Sherman’s command was in a position to
move, though one division (Osterhaus’s) had not yet crossed the
river at Brown’s Ferry. The continuous rise in the Tennessee
had rendered it impossible to keep the bridge at that point in
condition for troops to cross; but I was determined to move that
night even without this division. Orders were sent to Osterhaus
accordingly to report to Hooker, if he could not cross by eight
o’clock on the morning of the 24th. Because of the break in the
bridge, Hooker’s orders were again changed, but this time only
back to those first given to him.

General W. F. Smith had been assigned to duty as Chief Engineer
of the Military Division. To him were given the general
direction of moving troops by the boats from North Chickamauga,
laying the bridge after they reached their position, and
generally all the duties pertaining to his office of chief
engineer. During the night General Morgan L. Smith’s division
was marched to the point where the pontoons were, and the
brigade of Giles A. Smith was selected for the delicate duty of
manning the boats and surprising the enemy’s pickets on the
south bank of the river. During this night also General J. M.
Brannan, chief of artillery, moved forty pieces of artillery,
belonging to the Army of the Cumberland, and placed them on the
north side of the river so as to command the ground opposite, to
aid in protecting the approach to the point where the south end
of the bridge was to rest. He had to use Sherman’s artillery
horses for this purpose, Thomas having none.

At two o’clock in the morning, November 24th, Giles A. Smith
pushed out from the North Chickamauga with his one hundred and
sixteen boats, each loaded with thirty brave and well-armed
men. The boats with their precious freight dropped down quietly
with the current to avoid attracting the attention of any one who
could convey information to the enemy, until arriving near the
mouth of South Chickamauga. Here a few boats were landed, the
troops debarked, and a rush was made upon the picket guard known
to be at that point. The guard were surprised, and twenty of
their number captured. The remainder of the troops effected a
landing at the point where the bridge was to start, with equally
good results. The work of ferrying over Sherman’s command from
the north side of the Tennessee was at once commenced, using the
pontoons for the purpose. A steamer was also brought up from the
town to assist. The rest of M. L. Smith’s division came first,
then the division of John E. Smith. The troops as they landed
were put to work intrenching their position. By daylight the
two entire divisions were over, and well covered by the works
they had built.

The work of laying the bridge, on which to cross the artillery
and cavalry, was now begun. The ferrying over the infantry was
continued with the steamer and the pontoons, taking the
pontoons, however, as fast as they were wanted to put in their
place in the bridge. By a little past noon the bridge was
completed, as well as one over the South Chickamauga connecting
the troops left on that side with their comrades below, and all
the infantry and artillery were on the south bank of the

Sherman at once formed his troops for assault on Missionary
Ridge. By one o’clock he started with M. L. Smith on his left,
keeping nearly the course of Chickamauga River; J. E. Smith next
to the right and a little to the rear; and Ewing still farther to
the right and also a little to the rear of J. E. Smith’s command,
in column, ready to deploy to the right if an enemy should come
from that direction. A good skirmish line preceded each of
these columns. Soon the foot of the hill was reached; the
skirmishers pushed directly up, followed closely by their
supports. By half-past three Sherman was in possession of the
height without having sustained much loss. A brigade from each
division was now brought up, and artillery was dragged to the
top of the hill by hand. The enemy did not seem to be aware of
this movement until the top of the hill was gained. There had
been a drizzling rain during the day, and the clouds were so low
that Lookout Mountain and the top of Missionary Ridge were
obscured from the view of persons in the valley. But now the
enemy opened fire upon their assailants, and made several
attempts with their skirmishers to drive them away, but without
avail. Later in the day a more determined attack was made, but
this, too, failed, and Sherman was left to fortify what he had

Sherman’s cavalry took up its line of march soon after the
bridge was completed, and by half-past three the whole of it was
over both bridges and on its way to strike the enemy’s
communications at Chickamauga Station. All of Sherman’s command
was now south of the Tennessee. During the afternoon General
Giles A. Smith was severely wounded and carried from the field.

Thomas having done on the 23d what was expected of him on the
24th, there was nothing for him to do this day except to
strengthen his position. Howard, however, effected a crossing
of Citico Creek and a junction with Sherman, and was directed to
report to him. With two or three regiments of his command he
moved in the morning along the banks of the Tennessee, and
reached the point where the bridge was being laid. He went out
on the bridge as far as it was completed from the south end, and
saw Sherman superintending the work from the north side and
moving himself south as fast as an additional boat was put in
and the roadway put upon it. Howard reported to his new chief
across the chasm between them, which was now narrow and in a few
minutes closed.

While these operations were going on to the east of Chattanooga,
Hooker was engaged on the west. He had three divisions:
Osterhaus’s, of the 15th corps, Army of the Tennessee; Geary’s,
12th corps, Army of the Potomac; and Cruft’s, 14th corps, Army
of the Cumberland. Geary was on the right at Wauhatchie, Cruft
at the centre, and Osterhaus near Brown’s Ferry. These troops
were all west of Lookout Creek. The enemy had the east bank of
the creek strongly picketed and intrenched, and three brigades
of troops in the rear to reinforce them if attacked. These
brigades occupied the summit of the mountain. General Carter L.
Stevenson was in command of the whole. Why any troops, except
artillery with a small infantry guard, were kept on the
mountain-top, I do not see. A hundred men could have held the
summit–which is a palisade for more than thirty feet
down–against the assault of any number of men from the position
Hooker occupied.

The side of Lookout Mountain confronting Hooker’s command was
rugged, heavily timbered, and full of chasms, making it
difficult to advance with troops, even in the absence of an
opposing force. Farther up, the ground becomes more even and
level, and was in cultivation. On the east side the slope is
much more gradual, and a good wagon road, zigzagging up it,
connects the town of Chattanooga with the summit.

Early on the morning of the 24th Hooker moved Geary’s division,
supported by a brigade of Cruft’s, up Lookout Creek, to effect a
crossing. The remainder of Cruft’s division was to seize the
bridge over the creek, near the crossing of the railroad.
Osterhaus was to move up to the bridge and cross it. The bridge
was seized by Gross’s brigade after a slight skirmish with the
pickets guarding it. This attracted the enemy so that Geary’s
movement farther up was not observed. A heavy mist obscured him
from the view of the troops on the top of the mountain. He
crossed the creek almost unobserved, and captured the picket of
over forty men on guard near by. He then commenced ascending
the mountain directly in his front. By this time the enemy was
seen coming down from their camps on the mountain slope, and
filing into their rifle-pits to contest the crossing of the
bridge. By eleven o’clock the bridge was complete. Osterhaus
was up, and after some sharp skirmishing the enemy was driven
away with considerable loss in killed and captured.

While the operations at the bridge were progressing, Geary was
pushing up the hill over great obstacles, resisted by the enemy
directly in his front, and in face of the guns on top of the
mountain. The enemy, seeing their left flank and rear menaced,
gave way, and were followed by Cruft and Osterhaus. Soon these
were up abreast of Geary, and the whole command pushed up the
hill, driving the enemy in advance. By noon Geary had gained
the open ground on the north slope of the mountain, with his
right close up to the base of the upper palisade, but there were
strong fortifications in his front. The rest of the command
coming up, a line was formed from the base of the upper palisade
to the mouth of Chattanooga Creek.

Thomas and I were on the top of Orchard Knob. Hooker’s advance
now made our line a continuous one. It was in full view,
extending from the Tennessee River, where Sherman had crossed,
up Chickamauga River to the base of Mission Ridge, over the top
of the north end of the ridge to Chattanooga Valley, then along
parallel to the ridge a mile or more, across the valley to the
mouth of Chattanooga Creek, thence up the slope of Lookout
Mountain to the foot of the upper palisade. The day was hazy,
so that Hooker’s operations were not visible to us except at
moments when the clouds would rise. But the sound of his
artillery and musketry was heard incessantly. The enemy on his
front was partially fortified, but was soon driven out of his
works. During the afternoon the clouds, which had so obscured
the top of Lookout all day as to hide whatever was going on from
the view of those below, settled down and made it so dark where
Hooker was as to stop operations for the time. At four o’clock
Hooker reported his position as impregnable. By a little after
five direct communication was established, and a brigade of
troops was sent from Chattanooga to reinforce him. These troops
had to cross Chattanooga Creek and met with some opposition, but
soon overcame it, and by night the commander, General Carlin,
reported to Hooker and was assigned to his left. I now
telegraphed to Washington: “The fight to-day progressed
favorably. Sherman carried the end of Missionary Ridge, and his
right is now at the tunnel, and his left at Chickamauga Creek.
Troops from Lookout Valley carried the point of the mountain,
and now hold the eastern slope and a point high up. Hooker
reports two thousand prisoners taken, besides which a small
number have fallen into our hands from Missionary Ridge.” The
next day the President replied: “Your dispatches as to fighting
on Monday and Tuesday are here. Well done. Many thanks to
all. Remember Burnside.” And Halleck also telegraphed: “I
congratulate you on the success thus far of your plans. I fear
that Burnside is hard pushed, and that any further delay may
prove fatal. I know you will do all in your power to relieve

The division of Jefferson C. Davis, Army of the Cumberland, had
been sent to the North Chickamauga to guard the pontoons as they
were deposited in the river, and to prevent all ingress or egress
of citizens. On the night of the 24th his division, having
crossed with Sherman, occupied our extreme left from the upper
bridge over the plain to the north base of Missionary Ridge.
Firing continued to a late hour in the night, but it was not
connected with an assault at any point.



At twelve o’clock at night, when all was quiet, I began to give
orders for the next day, and sent a dispatch to Willcox to
encourage Burnside. Sherman was directed to attack at
daylight. Hooker was ordered to move at the same hour, and
endeavor to intercept the enemy’s retreat if he still remained;
if he had gone, then to move directly to Rossville and operate
against the left and rear of the force on Missionary Ridge.
Thomas was not to move until Hooker had reached Missionary
Ridge. As I was with him on Orchard Knob, he would not move
without further orders from me.

The morning of the 25th opened clear and bright, and the whole
field was in full view from the top of Orchard Knob. It
remained so all day. Bragg’s headquarters were in full view,
and officers–presumably staff officers–could be seen coming
and going constantly.

The point of ground which Sherman had carried on the 24th was
almost disconnected from the main ridge occupied by the enemy. A
low pass, over which there is a wagon road crossing the hill, and
near which there is a railroad tunnel, intervenes between the two
hills. The problem now was to get to the main ridge. The enemy
was fortified on the point; and back farther, where the ground
was still higher, was a second fortification commanding the
first. Sherman was out as soon as it was light enough to see,
and by sunrise his command was in motion. Three brigades held
the hill already gained. Morgan L. Smith moved along the east
base of Missionary Ridge; Loomis along the west base, supported
by two brigades of John E. Smith’s division; and Corse with his
brigade was between the two, moving directly towards the hill to
be captured. The ridge is steep and heavily wooded on the east
side, where M. L. Smith’s troops were advancing, but cleared and
with a more gentle slope on the west side. The troops advanced
rapidly and carried the extreme end of the rebel works. Morgan
L. Smith advanced to a point which cut the enemy off from the
railroad bridge and the means of bringing up supplies by rail
from Chickamauga Station, where the main depot was located. The
enemy made brave and strenuous efforts to drive our troops from
the position we had gained, but without success. The contest
lasted for two hours. Corse, a brave and efficient commander,
was badly wounded in this assault. Sherman now threatened both
Bragg’s flank and his stores, and made it necessary for him to
weaken other points of his line to strengthen his right. From
the position I occupied I could see column after column of
Bragg’s forces moving against Sherman. Every Confederate gun
that could be brought to bear upon the Union forces was
concentrated upon him. J. E. Smith, with two brigades, charged
up the west side of the ridge to the support of Corse’s command,
over open ground and in the face of a heavy fire of both
artillery and musketry, and reached the very parapet of the
enemy. He lay here for a time, but the enemy coming with a
heavy force upon his right flank, he was compelled to fall back,
followed by the foe. A few hundred yards brought Smith’s troops
into a wood, where they were speedily reformed, when they
charged and drove the attacking party back to his intrenchments.

Seeing the advance, repulse, and second advance of J. E. Smith
from the position I occupied, I directed Thomas to send a
division to reinforce him. Baird’s division was accordingly
sent from the right of Orchard Knob. It had to march a
considerable distance directly under the eye of the enemy to
reach its position. Bragg at once commenced massing in the same
direction. This was what I wanted. But it had now got to be
late in the afternoon, and I had expected before this to see
Hooker crossing the ridge in the neighborhood of Rossville and
compelling Bragg to mass in that direction also.

The enemy had evacuated Lookout Mountain during the night, as I
expected he would. In crossing the valley he burned the bridge
over Chattanooga Creek, and did all he could to obstruct the
roads behind him. Hooker was off bright and early, with no
obstructions in his front but distance and the destruction above
named. He was detained four hours crossing Chattanooga Creek,
and thus was lost the immediate advantage I expected from his
forces. His reaching Bragg’s flank and extending across it was
to be the signal for Thomas’s assault of the ridge. But
Sherman’s condition was getting so critical that the assault for
his relief could not be delayed any longer.

Sheridan’s and Wood’s divisions had been lying under arms from
early morning, ready to move the instant the signal was given. I
now directed Thomas to order the charge at once (*16). I watched
eagerly to see the effect, and became impatient at last that
there was no indication of any charge being made. The centre of
the line which was to make the charge was near where Thomas and I
stood, but concealed from view by an intervening forest. Turning
to Thomas to inquire what caused the delay, I was surprised to
see Thomas J. Wood, one of the division commanders who was to
make the charge, standing talking to him. I spoke to General
Wood, asking him why he did not charge as ordered an hour
before. He replied very promptly that this was the first he had
heard of it, but that he had been ready all day to move at a
moment’s notice. I told him to make the charge at once. He was
off in a moment, and in an incredibly short time loud cheering
was heard, and he and Sheridan were driving the enemy’s advance
before them towards Missionary Ridge. The Confederates were
strongly intrenched on the crest of the ridge in front of us,
and had a second line half-way down and another at the base.
Our men drove the troops in front of the lower line of
rifle-pits so rapidly, and followed them so closely, that rebel
and Union troops went over the first line of works almost at the
same time. Many rebels were captured and sent to the rear under
the fire of their own friends higher up the hill. Those that
were not captured retreated, and were pursued. The retreating
hordes being between friends and pursuers caused the enemy to
fire high to avoid killing their own men. In fact, on that
occasion the Union soldier nearest the enemy was in the safest
position. Without awaiting further orders or stopping to
reform, on our troops went to the second line of works; over
that and on for the crest–thus effectually carrying out my
orders of the 18th for the battle and of the 24th (*17) for this

I watched their progress with intense interest. The fire along
the rebel line was terrific. Cannon and musket balls filled the
air: but the damage done was in small proportion to the
ammunition expended. The pursuit continued until the crest was
reached, and soon our men were seen climbing over the
Confederate barriers at different points in front of both
Sheridan’s and Wood’s divisions. The retreat of the enemy along
most of his line was precipitate and the panic so great that
Bragg and his officers lost all control over their men. Many
were captured, and thousands threw away their arms in their

Sheridan pushed forward until he reached the Chickamauga River
at a point above where the enemy crossed. He met some
resistance from troops occupying a second hill in rear of
Missionary Ridge, probably to cover the retreat of the main body
and of the artillery and trains. It was now getting dark, but
Sheridan, without halting on that account pushed his men forward
up this second hill slowly and without attracting the attention
of the men placed to defend it, while he detached to the right
and left to surround the position. The enemy discovered the
movement before these dispositions were complete, and beat a
hasty retreat, leaving artillery, wagon trains, and many
prisoners in our hands. To Sheridan’s prompt movement the Army
of the Cumberland, and the nation, are indebted for the bulk of
the capture of prisoners, artillery, and small-arms that day.
Except for his prompt pursuit, so much in this way would not
have been accomplished.

While the advance up Mission Ridge was going forward, General
Thomas with staff, General Gordon Granger, commander of the
corps making the assault, and myself and staff occupied Orchard
Knob, from which the entire field could be observed. The moment
the troops were seen going over the last line of rebel defences,
I ordered Granger to join his command, and mounting my horse I
rode to the front. General Thomas left about the same time.
Sheridan on the extreme right was already in pursuit of the
enemy east of the ridge. Wood, who commanded the division to
the left of Sheridan, accompanied his men on horseback in the
charge, but did not join Sheridan in the pursuit. To the left,
in Baird’s front where Bragg’s troops had massed against
Sherman, the resistance was more stubborn and the contest lasted
longer. I ordered Granger to follow the enemy with Wood’s
division, but he was so much excited, and kept up such a roar of
musketry in the direction the enemy had taken, that by the time I
could stop the firing the enemy had got well out of the way. The
enemy confronting Sherman, now seeing everything to their left
giving way, fled also. Sherman, however, was not aware of the
extent of our success until after nightfall, when he received
orders to pursue at daylight in the morning.

As soon as Sherman discovered that the enemy had left his front
he directed his reserves, Davis’s division of the Army of the
Cumberland, to push over the pontoon-bridge at the mouth of the
Chickamauga, and to move forward to Chickamauga Station. He
ordered Howard to move up the stream some two miles to where
there was an old bridge, repair it during the night, and follow
Davis at four o’clock in the morning. Morgan L. Smith was
ordered to reconnoitre the tunnel to see if that was still
held. Nothing was found there but dead bodies of men of both
armies. The rest of Sherman’s command was directed to follow
Howard at daylight in the morning to get on to the railroad
towards Graysville.

Hooker, as stated, was detained at Chattanooga Creek by the
destruction of the bridge at that point. He got his troops
over, with the exception of the artillery, by fording the stream
at a little after three o’clock. Leaving his artillery to follow
when the bridge should be reconstructed, he pushed on with the
remainder of his command. At Rossville he came upon the flank
of a division of the enemy, which soon commenced a retreat along
the ridge. This threw them on Palmer. They could make but
little resistance in the position they were caught in, and as
many of them as could do so escaped. Many, however, were
captured. Hooker’s position during the night of the 25th was
near Rossville, extending east of the ridge. Palmer was on his
left, on the road to Graysville.

During the night I telegraphed to Willcox that Bragg had been
defeated, and that immediate relief would be sent to Burnside if
he could hold out; to Halleck I sent an announcement of our
victory, and informed him that forces would be sent up the
valley to relieve Burnside.

Before the battle of Chattanooga opened I had taken measures for
the relief of Burnside the moment the way should be clear. Thomas
was directed to have the little steamer that had been built at
Chattanooga loaded to its capacity with rations and
ammunition. Granger’s corps was to move by the south bank of
the Tennessee River to the mouth of the Holston, and up that to
Knoxville accompanied by the boat. In addition to the supplies
transported by boat, the men were to carry forty rounds of
ammunition in their cartridge-boxes, and four days’ rations in

In the battle of Chattanooga, troops from the Army of the
Potomac, from the Army of the Tennessee, and from the Army of
the Cumberland participated. In fact, the accidents growing out
of the heavy rains and the sudden rise in the Tennessee River so
mingled the troops that the organizations were not kept
together, under their respective commanders, during the
battle. Hooker, on the right, had Geary’s division of the 12th
corps, Army of the Potomac; Osterhaus’s division of the 15th
corps, Army of the Tennessee; and Cruft’s division of the Army
of the Cumberland. Sherman had three divisions of his own army,
Howard’s corps from the Army of the Potomac, and Jefferson C.
Davis’s division of the Army of the Cumberland. There was no
jealousy–hardly rivalry. Indeed, I doubt whether officers or
men took any note at the time of the fact of this intermingling
of commands. All saw a defiant foe surrounding them, and took
it for granted that every move was intended to dislodge him, and
it made no difference where the troops came from so that the end
was accomplished.

The victory at Chattanooga was won against great odds,
considering the advantage the enemy had of position, and was
accomplished more easily than was expected by reason of Bragg’s
making several grave mistakes: first, in sending away his
ablest corps commander with over twenty thousand troops; second,
in sending away a division of troops on the eve of battle; third,
in placing so much of a force on the plain in front of his
impregnable position.

It was known that Mr. Jefferson Davis had visited Bragg on
Missionary Ridge a short time before my reaching Chattanooga. It
was reported and believed that he had come out to reconcile a
serious difference between Bragg and Longstreet, and finding
this difficult to do, planned the campaign against Knoxville, to
be conducted by the latter general. I had known both Bragg and
Longstreet before the war, the latter very well. We had been
three years at West Point together, and, after my graduation,
for a time in the same regiment. Then we served together in the
Mexican War. I had known Bragg in Mexico, and met him
occasionally subsequently. I could well understand how there
might be an irreconcilable difference between them.

Bragg was a remarkably intelligent and well-informed man,
professionally and otherwise. He was also thoroughly upright.
But he was possessed of an irascible temper, and was naturally
disputatious. A man of the highest moral character and the most
correct habits, yet in the old army he was in frequent trouble.
As a subordinate he was always on the lookout to catch his
commanding officer infringing his prerogatives; as a post
commander he was equally vigilant to detect the slightest
neglect, even of the most trivial order.

I have heard in the old army an anecdote very characteristic of
Bragg. On one occasion, when stationed at a post of several
companies commanded by a field officer, he was himself
commanding one of the companies and at the same time acting as
post quartermaster and commissary. He was first lieutenant at
the time, but his captain was detached on other duty. As
commander of the company he made a requisition upon the
quartermaster–himself–for something he wanted. As
quartermaster he declined to fill the requisition, and endorsed
on the back of it his reasons for so doing. As company
commander he responded to this, urging that his requisition
called for nothing but what he was entitled to, and that it was
the duty of the quartermaster to fill it. As quartermaster he
still persisted that he was right. In this condition of affairs
Bragg referred the whole matter to the commanding officer of the
post. The latter, when he saw the nature of the matter
referred, exclaimed: “My God, Mr. Bragg, you have quarrelled
with every officer in the army, and now you are quarrelling with

Longstreet was an entirely different man. He was brave, honest,
intelligent, a very capable soldier, subordinate to his
superiors, just and kind to his subordinates, but jealous of his
own rights, which he had the courage to maintain. He was never
on the lookout to detect a slight, but saw one as soon as
anybody when intentionally given.

It may be that Longstreet was not sent to Knoxville for the
reason stated, but because Mr. Davis had an exalted opinion of
his own military genius, and thought he saw a chance of “killing
two birds with one stone.” On several occasions during the war
he came to the relief of the Union army by means of his SUPERIOR

I speak advisedly when I saw Mr. Davis prided himself on his
military capacity. He says so himself, virtually, in his answer
to the notice of his nomination to the Confederate presidency.
Some of his generals have said so in their writings since the
downfall of the Confederacy.

My recollection is that my first orders for the battle of
Chattanooga were as fought. Sherman was to get on Missionary
Ridge, as he did; Hooker to cross the north end of Lookout
Mountain, as he did, sweep across Chattanooga Valley and get
across the south end of the ridge near Rossville. When Hooker
had secured that position the Army of the Cumberland was to
assault in the centre. Before Sherman arrived, however, the
order was so changed as that Hooker was directed to come to
Chattanooga by the north bank of the Tennessee River. The
waters in the river, owing to heavy rains, rose so fast that the
bridge at Brown’s Ferry could not be maintained in a condition to
be used in crossing troops upon it. For this reason Hooker’s
orders were changed by telegraph back to what they were

NOTE.–From this point on this volume was written (with the
exception of the campaign in the Wilderness, which had been
previously written) by General Grant, after his great illness in
April, and the present arrangement of the subject-matter was made
by him between the 10th and 18th of July, 1885.



Chattanooga now being secure to the National troops beyond any
doubt, I immediately turned my attention to relieving Knoxville,
about the situation of which the President, in particular, was
very anxious. Prior to the battles, I had made preparations for
sending troops to the relief of Burnside at the very earliest
moment after securing Chattanooga. We had there two little
steamers which had been built and fitted up from the remains of
old boats and put in condition to run. General Thomas was
directed to have one of these boats loaded with rations and
ammunition and move up the Tennessee River to the mouth of the
Holston, keeping the boat all the time abreast of the troops.
General Granger, with the 4th corps reinforced to make twenty
thousand men, was to start the moment Missionary Ridge was
carried, and under no circumstances were the troops to return to
their old camps. With the provisions carried, and the little
that could be got in the country, it was supposed he could hold
out until Longstreet was driven away, after which event East
Tennessee would furnish abundance of food for Burnside’s army
and his own also.

While following the enemy on the 26th, and again on the morning
of the 27th, part of the time by the road to Ringgold, I
directed Thomas, verbally, not to start Granger until he
received further orders from me; advising him that I was going
to the front to more fully see the situation. I was not right
sure but that Bragg’s troops might be over their stampede by the
time they reached Dalton. In that case Bragg might think it well
to take the road back to Cleveland, move thence towards
Knoxville, and, uniting with Longstreet, make a sudden dash upon

When I arrived at Ringgold, however, on the 27th, I saw that the
retreat was most earnest. The enemy had been throwing away guns,
caissons and small-arms, abandoning provisions, and, altogether,
seemed to be moving like a disorganized mob, with the exception
of Cleburne’s division, which was acting as rear-guard to cover
the retreat.

When Hooker moved from Rossville toward Ringgold Palmer’s
division took the road to Graysville, and Sherman moved by the
way of Chickamauga Station toward the same point. As soon as I
saw the situation at Ringgold I sent a staff officer back to
Chattanooga to advise Thomas of the condition of affairs, and
direct him by my orders to start Granger at once. Feeling now
that the troops were already on the march for the relief of
Burnside I was in no hurry to get back, but stayed at Ringgold
through the day to prepare for the return of our troops.

Ringgold is in a valley in the mountains, situated between East
Chickamauga Creek and Taylor’s Ridge, and about twenty miles
south-east from Chattanooga. I arrived just as the artillery
that Hooker had left behind at Chattanooga Creek got up. His
men were attacking Cleburne’s division, which had taken a strong
position in the adjacent hills so as to cover the retreat of the
Confederate army through a narrow gorge which presents itself at
that point. Just beyond the gorge the valley is narrow, and the
creek so tortuous that it has to be crossed a great many times
in the course of the first mile. This attack was unfortunate,
and cost us some men unnecessarily. Hooker captured, however, 3
pieces of artillery and 230 prisoners, and 130 rebel dead were
left upon the field.

I directed General Hooker to collect the flour and wheat in the
neighboring mills for the use of the troops, and then to destroy
the mills and all other property that could be of use to the
enemy, but not to make any wanton destruction.

At this point Sherman came up, having reached Graysville with
his troops, where he found Palmer had preceded him. Palmer had
picked up many prisoners and much abandoned property on the
route. I went back in the evening to Graysville with Sherman,
remained there over night and did not return to Chattanooga
until the following night, the 29th. I then found that Thomas
had not yet started Granger, thus having lost a full day which I
deemed of so much importance in determining the fate of
Knoxville. Thomas and Granger were aware that on the 23d of the
month Burnside had telegraphed that his supplies would last for
ten or twelve days and during that time he could hold out
against Longstreet, but if not relieved within the time
indicated he would be obliged to surrender or attempt to
retreat. To effect a retreat would have been an
impossibility. He was already very low in ammunition, and with
an army pursuing he would not have been able to gather supplies.

Finding that Granger had not only not started but was very
reluctant to go, he having decided for himself that it was a
very bad move to make, I sent word to General Sherman of the
situation and directed him to march to the relief of
Knoxville. I also gave him the problem that we had to
solve–that Burnside had now but four to six days supplies left,
and that he must be relieved within that time.

Sherman, fortunately, had not started on his return from
Graysville, having sent out detachments on the railroad which
runs from Dalton to Cleveland and Knoxville to thoroughly
destroy that road, and these troops had not yet returned to
camp. I was very loath to send Sherman, because his men needed
rest after their long march from Memphis and hard fighting at
Chattanooga. But I had become satisfied that Burnside would not
be rescued if his relief depended upon General Granger’s

Sherman had left his camp on the north side of the Tennessee
River, near Chattanooga, on the night of the 23d, the men having
two days’ cooked rations in their haversacks. Expecting to be
back in their tents by that time and to be engaged in battle
while out, they took with them neither overcoats nor blankets.
The weather was already cold, and at night they must have
suffered more or less. The two days’ rations had already lasted
them five days; and they were now to go through a country which
had been run over so much by Confederate troops that there was
but little probability of finding much food. They did, however,
succeed in capturing some flour. They also found a good deal of
bran in some of the mills, which the men made up into bread; and
in this and other ways they eked out an existence until they
could reach Knoxville.

I was so very anxious that Burnside should get news of the steps
being taken for his relief, and thus induce him to hold out a
little longer if it became necessary, that I determined to send
a message to him. I therefore sent a member of my staff,
Colonel J. H. Wilson, to get into Knoxville if he could report
to Burnside the situation fully, and give him all the
encouragement possible. Mr. Charles A. Dana was at Chattanooga
during the battle, and had been there even before I assumed
command. Mr. Dana volunteered to accompany Colonel Wilson, and
did accompany him. I put the information of what was being done
for the relief of Knoxville into writing, and directed that in
some way or other it must be secretly managed so as to have a
copy of this fall into the hands of General Longstreet. They
made the trip safely; General Longstreet did learn of Sherman’s
coming in advance of his reaching there, and Burnside was
prepared to hold out even for a longer time if it had been

Burnside had stretched a boom across the Holston River to catch
scows and flats as they floated down. On these, by previous
arrangements with the loyal people of East Tennessee, were
placed flour and corn, with forage and provisions generally, and
were thus secured for the use of the Union troops. They also
drove cattle into Knoxville by the east side, which was not
covered by the enemy; so that when relief arrived Burnside had
more provisions on hand than when he had last reported.

Our total loss (not including Burnside’s) in all these
engagements amounted to 757 killed, 4,529 wounded and 330
missing. We captured 6,142 prisoners–about 50 per cent. more
than the enemy reported for their total loss–40 pieces of
artillery, 69 artillery carriages and caissons and over 7,000
stands of small-arms. The enemy’s loss in arms was probably
much greater than here reported, because we picked up a great
many that were found abandoned.

I had at Chattanooga, in round numbers, about 60,000 men. Bragg
had about half this number, but his position was supposed to be
impregnable. It was his own fault that he did not have more men
present. He had sent Longstreet away with his corps swelled by
reinforcements up to over twenty thousand men, thus reducing his
own force more than one-third and depriving himself of the
presence of the ablest general of his command. He did this,
too, after our troops had opened a line of communication by way
of Brown’s and Kelly’s ferries with Bridgeport, thus securing
full rations and supplies of every kind; and also when he knew
reinforcements were coming to me. Knoxville was of no earthly
use to him while Chattanooga was in our hands. If he should
capture Chattanooga, Knoxville with its garrison would have
fallen into his hands without a struggle. I have never been
able to see the wisdom of this move.

Then, too, after Sherman had arrived, and when Bragg knew that
he was on the north side of the Tennessee River, he sent
Buckner’s division to reinforce Longstreet. He also started
another division a day later, but our attack having commenced
before it reached Knoxville Bragg ordered it back. It had got
so far, however, that it could not return to Chattanooga in time
to be of service there. It is possible this latter blunder may
have been made by Bragg having become confused as to what was
going on on our side. Sherman had, as already stated, crossed
to the north side of the Tennessee River at Brown’s Ferry, in
full view of Bragg’s troops from Lookout Mountain, a few days
before the attack. They then disappeared behind foot hills, and
did not come to the view of the troops on Missionary Ridge until
they met their assault. Bragg knew it was Sherman’s troops that
had crossed, and, they being so long out of view, may have
supposed that they had gone up the north bank of the Tennessee
River to the relief of Knoxville and that Longstreet was
therefore in danger. But the first great blunder, detaching
Longstreet, cannot be accounted for in any way I know of. If he
had captured Chattanooga, East Tennessee would have fallen
without a struggle. It would have been a victory for us to have
got our army away from Chattanooga safely. It was a manifold
greater victory to drive away the besieging army; a still
greater one to defeat that army in his chosen ground and nearly
annihilate it.

The probabilities are that our loss in killed was the heavier,
as we were the attacking party. The enemy reported his loss in
killed at 361: but as he reported his missing at 4,146, while
we held over 6,000 of them as prisoners, and there must have
been hundreds if not thousands who deserted, but little reliance
can be placed on this report. There was certainly great
dissatisfaction with Bragg on the part of the soldiers for his
harsh treatment of them, and a disposition to get away if they
could. Then, too, Chattanooga, following in the same half year
with Gettysburg in the East and Vicksburg in the West, there was
much the same feeling in the South at this time that there had
been in the North the fall and winter before. If the same
license had been allowed the people and press in the South that
was allowed in the North, Chattanooga would probably have been
the last battle fought for the preservation of the Union.

General William F. Smith’s services in these battles had been
such that I thought him eminently entitled to promotion. I was
aware that he had previously been named by the President for
promotion to the grade of major-general, but that the Senate had
rejected the nomination. I was not aware of the reasons for this
course, and therefore strongly recommended him for a
major-generalcy. My recommendation was heeded and the
appointment made.

Upon the raising of the siege of Knoxville I, of course,
informed the authorities at Washington–the President and
Secretary of War–of the fact, which caused great rejoicing
there. The President especially was rejoiced that Knoxville had
been relieved (*18) without further bloodshed. The safety of
Burnside’s army and the loyal people of East Tennessee had been
the subject of much anxiety to the President for several months,
during which time he was doing all he could to relieve the
situation; sending a new commander (*19) with a few thousand
troops by the way of Cumberland Gap, and telegraphing me daily,
almost hourly, to “remember Burnside,” “do something for
Burnside,” and other appeals of like tenor. He saw no escape
for East Tennessee until after our victory at Chattanooga. Even
then he was afraid that Burnside might be out of ammunition, in
a starving condition, or overpowered: and his anxiety was still
intense until he heard that Longstreet had been driven from the

Burnside followed Longstreet only to Strawberry Plains, some
twenty miles or more east, and then stopped, believing that
Longstreet would leave the State. The latter did not do so,
however, but stopped only a short distance farther on and
subsisted his army for the entire winter off East Tennessee.
Foster now relieved Burnside. Sherman made disposition of his
troops along the Tennessee River in accordance with
instructions. I left Thomas in command at Chattanooga, and,
about the 20th of December, moved my headquarters to Nashville,

Nashville was the most central point from which to communicate
with my entire military division, and also with the authorities
at Washington. While remaining at Chattanooga I was liable to
have my telegraphic communications cut so as to throw me out of
communication with both my command and Washington.

Nothing occurred at Nashville worthy of mention during the
winter, (*20) so I set myself to the task of having troops in
positions from which they could move to advantage, and in
collecting all necessary supplies so as to be ready to claim a
due share of the enemy’s attention upon the appearance of the
first good weather in the spring. I expected to retain the
command I then had, and prepared myself for the campaign against
Atlanta. I also had great hopes of having a campaign made against
Mobile from the Gulf. I expected after Atlanta fell to occupy
that place permanently, and to cut off Lee’s army from the West
by way of the road running through Augusta to Atlanta and thence
south-west. I was preparing to hold Atlanta with a small
garrison, and it was my expectation to push through to Mobile if
that city was in our possession: if not, to Savannah; and in
this manner to get possession of the only east and west railroad
that would then be left to the enemy. But the spring campaign
against Mobile was not made.

The Army of the Ohio had been getting supplies over Cumberland
Gap until their animals had nearly all starved. I now
determined to go myself to see if there was any possible chance
of using that route in the spring, and if not to abandon it.
Accordingly I left Nashville in the latter part of December by
rail for Chattanooga. From Chattanooga I took one of the little
steamers previously spoken of as having been built there, and,
putting my horses aboard, went up to the junction of the Clinch
with the Tennessee. From that point the railroad had been
repaired up to Knoxville and out east to Strawberry Plains. I
went by rail therefore to Knoxville, where I remained for
several days. General John G. Foster was then commanding the
Department of the Ohio. It was an intensely cold winter, the
thermometer being down as low as zero every morning for more
than a week while I was at Knoxville and on my way from there on
horseback to Lexington, Kentucky, the first point where I could
reach rail to carry me back to my headquarters at Nashville.

The road over Cumberland Gap, and back of it, was strewn with
debris of broken wagons and dead animals, much as I had found it
on my first trip to Chattanooga over Waldron’s Ridge. The road
had been cut up to as great a depth as clay could be by mules
and wagons, and in that condition frozen; so that the ride of
six days from Strawberry Plains to Lexington over these holes
and knobs in the road was a very cheerless one, and very

I found a great many people at home along that route, both in
Tennessee and Kentucky, and, almost universally, intensely
loyal. They would collect in little places where we would stop
of evenings, to see me, generally hearing of my approach before
we arrived. The people naturally expected to see the commanding
general the oldest person in the party. I was then forty-one
years of age, while my medical director was gray-haired and
probably twelve or more years my senior. The crowds would
generally swarm around him, and thus give me an opportunity of
quietly dismounting and getting into the house. It also gave me
an opportunity of hearing passing remarks from one spectator to
another about their general. Those remarks were apt to be more
complimentary to the cause than to the appearance of the
supposed general, owing to his being muffled up, and also owing
to the travel-worn condition we were all in after a hard day’s
ride. I was back in Nashville by the 13th of January, 1864.

When I started on this trip it was necessary for me to have some
person along who could turn dispatches into cipher, and who could
also read the cipher dispatches which I was liable to receive
daily and almost hourly. Under the rules of the War Department
at that time, Mr. Stanton had taken entire control of the matter
of regulating the telegraph and determining how it should be
used, and of saying who, and who alone, should have the
ciphers. The operators possessed of the ciphers, as well as the
ciphers used, were practically independent of the commanders whom
they were serving immediately under, and had to report to the War
Department through General Stager all the dispatches which they
received or forwarded.

I was obliged to leave the telegraphic operator back at
Nashville, because that was the point at which all dispatches to
me would come, to be forwarded from there. As I have said, it
was necessary for me also to have an operator during this
inspection who had possession of this cipher to enable me to
telegraph to my division and to the War Department without my
dispatches being read by all the operators along the line of
wires over which they were transmitted. Accordingly I ordered
the cipher operator to turn over the key to Captain Cyrus B.
Comstock, of the Corps of Engineers, whom I had selected as a
wise and discreet man who certainly could be trusted with the
cipher if the operator at my headquarters could.

The operator refused point blank to turn over the key to Captain
Comstock as directed by me, stating that his orders from the War
Department were not to give it to anybody–the commanding
general or any one else. I told him I would see whether he
would or not. He said that if he did he would be punished. I
told him if he did not he most certainly would be punished.
Finally, seeing that punishment was certain if he refused longer
to obey my order, and being somewhat remote (even if he was not
protected altogether from the consequences of his disobedience
to his orders) from the War Department, he yielded. When I
returned from Knoxville I found quite a commotion. The operator
had been reprimanded very severely and ordered to be relieved. I
informed the Secretary of War, or his assistant secretary in
charge of the telegraph, Stager, that the man could not be
relieved, for he had only obeyed my orders. It was absolutely
necessary for me to have the cipher, and the man would most
certainly have been punished if he had not delivered it; that
they would have to punish me if they punished anybody, or words
to that effect.

This was about the only thing approaching a disagreeable
difference between the Secretary of War and myself that occurred
until the war was over, when we had another little spat. Owing
to his natural disposition to assume all power and control in
all matters that he had anything whatever to do with, he boldly
took command of the armies, and, while issuing no orders on the
subject, prohibited any order from me going out of the
adjutant-general’s office until he had approved it. This was
done by directing the adjutant-general to hold any orders that
came from me to be issued from the adjutant-general’s office
until he had examined them and given his approval. He never
disturbed himself, either, in examining my orders until it was
entirely convenient for him; so that orders which I had prepared
would often lie there three or four days before he would sanction
them. I remonstrated against this in writing, and the Secretary
apologetically restored me to my rightful position of
General-in-Chief of the Army. But he soon lapsed again and took
control much as before.

After the relief of Knoxville Sherman had proposed to Burnside
that he should go with him to drive Longstreet out of Tennessee;
but Burnside assured him that with the troops which had been
brought by Granger, and which were to be left, he would be amply
prepared to dispose of Longstreet without availing himself of
this offer. As before stated Sherman’s command had left their
camps north of the Tennessee, near Chattanooga, with two days’
rations in their haversacks, without coats or blankets, and
without many wagons, expecting to return to their camps by the
end of that time. The weather was now cold and they were
suffering, but still they were ready to make the further
sacrifice, had it been required, for the good of the cause which
had brought them into service. Sherman, having accomplished the
object for which he was sent, marched back leisurely to his old
camp on the Tennessee River.



Soon after his return from Knoxville I ordered Sherman to
distribute his forces from Stevenson to Decatur and thence north
to Nashville; Sherman suggested that he be permitted to go back
to Mississippi, to the limits of his own department and where
most of his army still remained, for the purpose of clearing out
what Confederates might still be left on the east bank of the
Mississippi River to impede its navigation by our boats. He
expected also to have the co-operation of Banks to do the same
thing on the west shore. Of course I approved heartily.

About the 10th of January Sherman was back in Memphis, where
Hurlbut commanded, and got together his Memphis men, or ordered
them collected and sent to Vicksburg. He then went to Vicksburg
and out to where McPherson was in command, and had him organize
his surplus troops so as to give him about 20,000 men in all.

Sherman knew that General (Bishop) Polk was occupying Meridian
with his headquarters, and had two divisions of infantry with a
considerable force of cavalry scattered west of him. He
determined, therefore, to move directly upon Meridian.

I had sent some 2,500 cavalry under General Sooy Smith to
Sherman’s department, and they had mostly arrived before Sherman
got to Memphis. Hurlbut had 7,000 cavalry, and Sherman ordered
him to reinforce Smith so as to give the latter a force of about
7,000 with which to go against Forrest, who was then known to be
south-east from Memphis. Smith was ordered to move about the
1st of February.

While Sherman was waiting at Vicksburg for the arrival of
Hurlbut with his surplus men, he sent out scouts to ascertain
the position and strength of the enemy and to bring back all the
information they could gather. When these scouts returned it was
through them that he got the information of General Polk’s being
at Meridian, and of the strength and disposition of his command.

Forrest had about 4,000 cavalry with him, composed of thoroughly
well-disciplined men, who under so able a leader were very
effective. Smith’s command was nearly double that of Forrest,
but not equal, man to man, for the lack of a successful
experience such as Forrest’s men had had. The fact is, troops
who have fought a few battles and won, and followed up their
victories, improve upon what they were before to an extent that
can hardly be counted by percentage. The difference in result
is often decisive victory instead of inglorious defeat. This
same difference, too, is often due to the way troops are
officered, and for the particular kind of warfare which Forrest
had carried on neither army could present a more effective
officer than he was.

Sherman got off on the 3d of February and moved out on his
expedition, meeting with no opposition whatever until he crossed
the Big Black, and with no great deal of opposition after that
until he reached Jackson, Mississippi. This latter place he
reached on the 6th or 7th, Brandon on the 8th, and Morton on the
9th. Up to this time he moved in two columns to enable him to
get a good supply of forage, etc., and expedite the march. Here,
however, there were indications of the concentration of
Confederate infantry, and he was obliged to keep his army close
together. He had no serious engagement; but he met some of the
enemy who destroyed a few of his wagons about Decatur,
Mississippi, where, by the way, Sherman himself came near being
picked up.

He entered Meridian on the 14th of the month, the enemy having
retreated toward Demopolis, Alabama. He spent several days in
Meridian in thoroughly destroying the railroad to the north and
south, and also for the purpose of hearing from Sooy Smith, who
he supposed had met Forrest before this time and he hoped had
gained a decisive victory because of a superiority of numbers.
Hearing nothing of him, however, he started on his return trip
to Vicksburg. There he learned that Smith, while waiting for a
few of his men who had been ice-bound in the Ohio River, instead
of getting off on the 1st as expected, had not left until the
11th. Smith did meet Forrest, but the result was decidedly in
Forrest’s favor.

Sherman had written a letter to Banks, proposing a co-operative
movement with him against Shreveport, subject to my approval. I
disapproved of Sherman’s going himself, because I had other
important work for him to do, but consented that he might send a
few troops to the aid of Banks, though their time to remain
absent must be limited. We must have them for the spring
campaign. The trans-Mississippi movement proved abortive.

My eldest son, who had accompanied me on the Vicksburg campaign
and siege, had while there contracted disease, which grew worse,
until he had grown so dangerously ill that on the 24th of January
I obtained permission to go to St. Louis, where he was staying at
the time, to see him, hardly expecting to find him alive on my
arrival. While I was permitted to go, I was not permitted to
turn over my command to any one else, but was directed to keep
the headquarters with me and to communicate regularly with all
parts of my division and with Washington, just as though I had
remained at Nashville.

When I obtained this leave I was at Chattanooga, having gone
there again to make preparations to have the troops of Thomas in
the southern part of Tennessee co-operate with Sherman’s movement
in Mississippi. I directed Thomas, and Logan who was at
Scottsboro, Alabama, to keep up a threatening movement to the
south against J. E. Johnston, who had again relieved Bragg, for
the purpose of making him keep as many troops as possible there.

I learned through Confederate sources that Johnston had already
sent two divisions in the direction of Mobile, presumably to
operate against Sherman, and two more divisions to Longstreet in
East Tennessee. Seeing that Johnston had depleted in this way, I
directed Thomas to send at least ten thousand men, besides
Stanley’s division which was already to the east, into East
Tennessee, and notified Schofield, who was now in command in
East Tennessee, of this movement of troops into his department
and also of the reinforcements Longstreet had received. My
object was to drive Longstreet out of East Tennessee as a part
of the preparations for my spring campaign.

About this time General Foster, who had been in command of the
Department of the Ohio after Burnside until Schofield relieved
him (*21), advised me that he thought it would be a good thing
to keep Longstreet just where he was; that he was perfectly
quiet in East Tennessee, and if he was forced to leave there,
his whole well-equipped army would be free to go to any place
where it could effect the most for their cause. I thought the
advice was good, and, adopting that view, countermanded the
orders for pursuit of Longstreet.

On the 12th of February I ordered Thomas to take Dalton and hold
it, if possible; and I directed him to move without delay.
Finding that he had not moved, on the 17th I urged him again to
start, telling him how important it was, that the object of the
movement was to co-operate with Sherman, who was moving eastward
and might be in danger. Then again on the 21st, he not yet
having started, I asked him if he could not start the next
day. He finally got off on the 22d or 23d. The enemy fell back
from his front without a battle, but took a new position quite as
strong and farther to the rear. Thomas reported that he could
not go any farther, because it was impossible with his poor
teams, nearly starved, to keep up supplies until the railroads
were repaired. He soon fell back.

Schofield also had to return for the same reason. He could not
carry supplies with him, and Longstreet was between him and the
supplies still left in the country. Longstreet, in his retreat,
would be moving towards his supplies, while our forces,
following, would be receding from theirs. On the 2d of March,
however, I learned of Sherman’s success, which eased my mind
very much. The next day, the 3d, I was ordered to Washington.

The bill restoring the grade of lieutenant-general of the army
had passed through Congress and became a law on the 26th of
February. My nomination had been sent to the Senate on the 1st
of March and confirmed the next day (the 2d). I was ordered to
Washington on the 3d to receive my commission, and started the
day following that. The commission was handed to me on the
9th. It was delivered to me at the Executive Mansion by
President Lincoln in the presence of his Cabinet, my eldest son,
those of my staff who were with me and and a few other visitors.

The President in presenting my commission read from a
paper–stating, however, as a preliminary, and prior to the
delivery of it, that he had drawn that up on paper, knowing my
disinclination to speak in public, and handed me a copy in
advance so that I might prepare a few lines of reply. The
President said:

“General Grant, the nation’s appreciation of what you have done,
and its reliance upon you for what remains to be done in the
existing great struggle, are now presented, with this commission
constituting you lieutenant-general in the Army of the United
States. With this high honor, devolves upon you, also, a
corresponding responsibility. As the country herein trusts you,
so, under God, it will sustain you. I scarcely need to add,
that, with what I here speak for the nation, goes my own hearty
personal concurrence.”

To this I replied: “Mr. President, I accept the commission,
with gratitude for the high honor conferred. With the aid of
the noble armies that have fought in so many fields for our
common country, it will be my earnest endeavor not to disappoint
your expectations. I feel the full weight of the
responsibilities now devolving on me; and I know that if they
are met, it will be due to those armies, and above all, to the
favor of that Providence which leads both nations and men.”

On the 10th I visited the headquarters of the Army of the
Potomac at Brandy Station; then returned to Washington, and
pushed west at once to make my arrangements for turning over the
commands there and giving general directions for the preparations
to be made for the spring campaign.

It had been my intention before this to remain in the West, even
if I was made lieutenant-general; but when I got to Washington
and saw the situation it was plain that here was the point for
the commanding general to be. No one else could, probably,
resist the pressure that would be brought to bear upon him to
desist from his own plans and pursue others. I determined,
therefore, before I started back to have Sherman advanced to my
late position, McPherson to Sherman’s in command of the
department, and Logan to the command of McPherson’s corps. These
changes were all made on my recommendation and without
hesitation. My commission as lieutenant-general was given to me
on the 9th of March, 1864. On the following day, as already
stated, I visited General Meade, commanding the Army of the
Potomac, at his headquarters at Brandy Station, north of the
Rapidan. I had known General Meade slightly in the Mexican war,
but had not met him since until this visit. I was a stranger to
most of the Army of the Potomac, I might say to all except the
officers of the regular army who had served in the Mexican
war. There had been some changes ordered in the organization of
that army before my promotion. One was the consolidation of five
corps into three, thus throwing some officers of rank out of
important commands. Meade evidently thought that I might want
to make still one more change not yet ordered. He said to me
that I might want an officer who had served with me in the West,
mentioning Sherman specially, to take his place. If so, he
begged me not to hesitate about making the change. He urged
that the work before us was of such vast importance to the whole
nation that the feeling or wishes of no one person should stand
in the way of selecting the right men for all positions. For
himself, he would serve to the best of his ability wherever
placed. I assured him that I had no thought of substituting any
one for him. As to Sherman, he could not be spared from the

This incident gave me even a more favorable opinion of Meade
than did his great victory at Gettysburg the July before. It is
men who wait to be selected, and not those who seek, from whom we
may always expect the most efficient service.

Meade’s position afterwards proved embarrassing to me if not to
him. He was commanding an army and, for nearly a year previous
to my taking command of all the armies, was in supreme command
of the Army of the Potomac–except from the authorities at
Washington. All other general officers occupying similar
positions were independent in their commands so far as any one
present with them was concerned. I tried to make General
Meade’s position as nearly as possible what it would have been
if I had been in Washington or any other place away from his
command. I therefore gave all orders for the movements of the
Army of the Potomac to Meade to have them executed. To avoid
the necessity of having to give orders direct, I established my
headquarters near his, unless there were reasons for locating
them elsewhere. This sometimes happened, and I had on occasions
to give orders direct to the troops affected. On the 11th I
returned to Washington and, on the day after, orders were
published by the War Department placing me in command of all the
armies. I had left Washington the night before to return to my
old command in the West and to meet Sherman whom I had
telegraphed to join me in Nashville.

Sherman assumed command of the military division of the
Mississippi on the 18th of March, and we left Nashville together
for Cincinnati. I had Sherman accompany me that far on my way
back to Washington so that we could talk over the matters about
which I wanted to see him, without losing any more time from my
new command than was necessary. The first point which I wished
to discuss was particularly about the co-operation of his
command with mine when the spring campaign should commence.
There were also other and minor points, minor as compared with
the great importance of the question to be decided by sanguinary
war–the restoration to duty of officers who had been relieved
from important commands, namely McClellan, Burnside and Fremont
in the East, and Buell, McCook, Negley and Crittenden in the

Some time in the winter of 1863-64 I had been invited by the
general-in-chief to give my views of the campaign I thought
advisable for the command under me–now Sherman’s. General J.
E. Johnston was defending Atlanta and the interior of Georgia
with an army, the largest part of which was stationed at Dalton,
about 38 miles south of Chattanooga. Dalton is at the junction of
the railroad from Cleveland with the one from Chattanooga to

There could have been no difference of opinion as to the first
duty of the armies of the military division of the
Mississippi. Johnston’s army was the first objective, and that
important railroad centre, Atlanta, the second. At the time I
wrote General Halleck giving my views of the approaching
campaign, and at the time I met General Sherman, it was expected
that General Banks would be through with the campaign which he
had been ordered upon before my appointment to the command of
all the armies, and would be ready to co-operate with the armies
east of the Mississippi, his part in the programme being to move
upon Mobile by land while the navy would close the harbor and
assist to the best of its ability. (*22) The plan therefore was
for Sherman to attack Johnston and destroy his army if possible,
to capture Atlanta and hold it, and with his troops and those of
Banks to hold a line through to Mobile, or at least to hold
Atlanta and command the railroad running east and west, and the
troops from one or other of the armies to hold important points
on the southern road, the only east and west road that would be
left in the possession of the enemy. This would cut the
Confederacy in two again, as our gaining possession of the
Mississippi River had done before. Banks was not ready in time
for the part assigned to him, and circumstances that could not
be foreseen determined the campaign which was afterwards made,
the success and grandeur of which has resounded throughout all

In regard to restoring officers who had been relieved from
important commands to duty again, I left Sherman to look after
those who had been removed in the West while I looked out for
the rest. I directed, however, that he should make no
assignment until I could speak to the Secretary of War about the
matter. I shortly after recommended to the Secretary the
assignment of General Buell to duty. I received the assurance
that duty would be offered to him; and afterwards the Secretary
told me that he had offered Buell an assignment and that the
latter had declined it, saying that it would be degradation to
accept the assignment offered. I understood afterwards that he
refused to serve under either Sherman or Canby because he had
ranked them both. Both graduated before him and ranked him in
the old army. Sherman ranked him as a brigadier-general. All
of them ranked me in the old army, and Sherman and Buell did as
brigadiers. The worse excuse a soldier can make for declining
service is that he once ranked the commander he is ordered to
report to.

On the 23d of March I was back in Washington, and on the 26th
took up my headquarters at Culpeper Court-House, a few miles
south of the headquarters of the Army of the Potomac.

Although hailing from Illinois myself, the State of the
President, I never met Mr. Lincoln until called to the capital
to receive my commission as lieutenant-general. I knew him,
however, very well and favorably from the accounts given by
officers under me at the West who had known him all their
lives. I had also read the remarkable series of debates between
Lincoln and Douglas a few years before, when they were rival
candidates for the United States Senate. I was then a resident
of Missouri, and by no means a “Lincoln man” in that contest;
but I recognized then his great ability.

In my first interview with Mr. Lincoln alone he stated to me
that he had never professed to be a military man or to know how
campaigns should be conducted, and never wanted to interfere in
them: but that procrastination on the part of commanders, and
the pressure from the people at the North and Congress, WHICH
WAS ALWAYS WITH HIM, forced him into issuing his series of
“Military Orders”–one, two, three, etc. He did not know but
they were all wrong, and did know that some of them were. All
he wanted or had ever wanted was some one who would take the
responsibility and act, and call on him for all the assistance
needed, pledging himself to use all the power of the government
in rendering such assistance. Assuring him that I would do the
best I could with the means at hand, and avoid as far as
possible annoying him or the War Department, our first interview

The Secretary of War I had met once before only, but felt that I
knew him better.

While commanding in West Tennessee we had occasionally held
conversations over the wires, at night, when they were not being
otherwise used. He and General Halleck both cautioned me against
giving the President my plans of campaign, saying that he was so
kind-hearted, so averse to refusing anything asked of him, that
some friend would be sure to get from him all he knew. I should
have said that in our interview the President told me he did not
want to know what I proposed to do. But he submitted a plan of
campaign of his own which he wanted me to hear and then do as I
pleased about. He brought out a map of Virginia on which he had
evidently marked every position occupied by the Federal and
Confederate armies up to that time. He pointed out on the map
two streams which empty into the Potomac, and suggested that the
army might be moved on boats and landed between the mouths of
these streams. We would then have the Potomac to bring our
supplies, and the tributaries would protect our flanks while we
moved out. I listened respectfully, but did not suggest that
the same streams would protect Lee’s flanks while he was
shutting us up.

I did not communicate my plans to the President, nor did I to
the Secretary of War or to General Halleck.

March the 26th my headquarters were, as stated, at Culpeper, and
the work of preparing for an early campaign commenced.



When I assumed command of all the armies the situation was about
this: the Mississippi River was guarded from St. Louis to its
mouth; the line of the Arkansas was held, thus giving us all the
North-west north of that river. A few points in Louisiana not
remote from the river were held by the Federal troops, as was
also the mouth of the Rio Grande. East of the Mississippi we
held substantially all north of the Memphis and Charleston
Railroad as far east as Chattanooga, thence along the line of
the Tennessee and Holston rivers, taking in nearly all of the
State of Tennessee. West Virginia was in our hands; and that
part of old Virginia north of the Rapidan and east of the Blue
Ridge we also held. On the sea-coast we had Fortress Monroe and
Norfolk in Virginia; Plymouth, Washington and New Berne in North
Carolina; Beaufort, Folly and Morris islands, Hilton Head, Port
Royal and Fort Pulaski in South Carolina and Georgia;
Fernandina, St. Augustine, Key West and Pensacola in Florida.
The balance of the Southern territory, an empire in extent, was
still in the hands of the enemy.

Sherman, who had succeeded me in the command of the military
division of the Mississippi, commanded all the troops in the
territory west of the Alleghanies and north of Natchez, with a
large movable force about Chattanooga. His command was
subdivided into four departments, but the commanders all
reported to Sherman and were subject to his orders. This
arrangement, however, insured the better protection of all lines
of communication through the acquired territory, for the reason
that these different department commanders could act promptly in
case of a sudden or unexpected raid within their respective
jurisdictions without awaiting the orders of the division

In the East the opposing forces stood in substantially the same
relations towards each other as three years before, or when the
war began; they were both between the Federal and Confederate
capitals. It is true, footholds had been secured by us on the
sea-coast, in Virginia and North Carolina, but, beyond that, no
substantial advantage had been gained by either side. Battles
had been fought of as great severity as had ever been known in
war, over ground from the James River and Chickahominy, near
Richmond, to Gettysburg and Chambersburg, in Pennsylvania, with
indecisive results, sometimes favorable to the National army,
sometimes to the Confederate army; but in every instance, I
believe, claimed as victories for the South by the Southern
press if not by the Southern generals. The Northern press, as a
whole, did not discourage these claims; a portion of it always
magnified rebel success and belittled ours, while another
portion, most sincerely earnest in their desire for the
preservation of the Union and the overwhelming success of the
Federal armies, would nevertheless generally express
dissatisfaction what whatever victories were gained because they
were not more complete.

That portion of the Army of the Potomac not engaged in guarding
lines of communication was on the northern bank of the
Rapidan. The Army of Northern Virginia confronting it on the
opposite bank of the same river, was strongly intrenched and
commanded by the acknowledged ablest general in the Confederate
army. The country back to the James River is cut up with many
streams, generally narrow, deep, and difficult to cross except
where bridged. The region is heavily timbered, and the roads
narrow, and very bad after the least rain. Such an enemy was
not, of course, unprepared with adequate fortifications at
convenient intervals all the way back to Richmond, so that when
driven from one fortified position they would always have
another farther to the rear to fall back into.

To provision an army, campaigning against so formidable a foe
through such a country, from wagons alone seemed almost
impossible. System and discipline were both essential to its

The Union armies were now divided into nineteen departments,
though four of them in the West had been concentrated into a
single military division. The Army of the Potomac was a
separate command and had no territorial limits. There were thus
seventeen distinct commanders. Before this time these various
armies had acted separately and independently of each other,
giving the enemy an opportunity often of depleting one command,
not pressed, to reinforce another more actively engaged. I
determined to stop this. To this end I regarded the Army of the
Potomac as the centre, and all west to Memphis along the line
described as our position at the time, and north of it, the
right wing; the Army of the James, under General Butler, as the
left wing, and all the troops south, as a force in rear of the
enemy. Some of these latter were occupying positions from which
they could not render service proportionate to their numerical
strength. All such were depleted to the minimum necessary to
hold their positions as a guard against blockade runners; where
they could not do this their positions were abandoned
altogether. In this way ten thousand men were added to the Army
of the James from South Carolina alone, with General Gillmore in
command. It was not contemplated that General Gillmore should
leave his department; but as most of his troops were taken,
presumably for active service, he asked to accompany them and
was permitted to do so. Officers and soldiers on furlough, of
whom there were many thousands, were ordered to their proper
commands; concentration was the order of the day, and to have it
accomplished in time to advance at the earliest moment the roads
would permit was the problem.

As a reinforcement to the Army of the Potomac, or to act in
support of it, the 9th army corps, over twenty thousand strong,
under General Burnside, had been rendezvoused at Annapolis,
Maryland. This was an admirable position for such a
reinforcement. The corps could be brought at the last moment as
a reinforcement to the Army of the Potomac, or it could be thrown
on the sea-coast, south of Norfolk, in Virginia or North
Carolina, to operate against Richmond from that direction. In
fact Burnside and the War Department both thought the 9th corps
was intended for such an expedition up to the last moment.

My general plan now was to concentrate all the force possible
against the Confederate armies in the field. There were but two
such, as we have seen, east of the Mississippi River and facing
north. The Army of Northern Virginia, General Robert E. Lee
commanding, was on the south bank of the Rapidan, confronting
the Army of the Potomac; the second, under General Joseph E.
Johnston, was at Dalton, Georgia, opposed to Sherman who was
still at Chattanooga. Beside these main armies the Confederates
had to guard the Shenandoah Valley, a great storehouse to feed
their armies from, and their line of communications from
Richmond to Tennessee. Forrest, a brave and intrepid cavalry
general, was in the West with a large force; making a larger
command necessary to hold what we had gained in Middle and West
Tennessee. We could not abandon any territory north of the line
held by the enemy because it would lay the Northern States open
to invasion. But as the Army of the Potomac was the principal
garrison for the protection of Washington even while it was
moving on Lee, so all the forces to the west, and the Army of
the James, guarded their special trusts when advancing them from
as well as when remaining at them. Better indeed, for they
forced the enemy to guard his own lines and resources at a
greater distance from ours, and with a greater force. Little
expeditions could not so well be sent out to destroy a bridge or
tear up a few miles of railroad track, burn a storehouse, or
inflict other little annoyances. Accordingly I arranged for a
simultaneous movement all along the line. Sherman was to move
from Chattanooga, Johnston’s army and Atlanta being his
objective points.(*23) Crook, commanding in West Virginia, was
to move from the mouth of the Gauley River with a cavalry force
and some artillery, the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad to be
his objective. Either the enemy would have to keep a large
force to protect their communications, or see them destroyed and
a large amount of forage and provision, which they so much
needed, fall into our hands. Sigel was in command in the Valley
of Virginia. He was to advance up the valley, covering the North
from an invasion through that channel as well while advancing as
by remaining near Harper’s Ferry. Every mile he advanced also
gave us possession of stores on which Lee relied. Butler was to
advance by the James River, having Richmond and Petersburg as his

Before the advance commenced I visited Butler at Fort Monroe.
This was the first time I had ever met him. Before giving him
any order as to the part he was to play in the approaching
campaign I invited his views. They were very much such as I
intended to direct, and as I did direct (*24), in writing,
before leaving.

General W. F. Smith, who had been promoted to the rank of
major-general shortly after the battle of Chattanooga on my
recommendation, had not yet been confirmed. I found a decided
prejudice against his confirmation by a majority of the Senate,
but I insisted that his services had been such that he should be
rewarded. My wishes were now reluctantly complied with, and I
assigned him to the command of one of the corps under General
Butler. I was not long in finding out that the objections to
Smith’s promotion were well founded.

In one of my early interviews with the President I expressed my
dissatisfaction with the little that had been accomplished by
the cavalry so far in the war, and the belief that it was
capable of accomplishing much more than it had done if under a
thorough leader. I said I wanted the very best man in the army
for that command. Halleck was present and spoke up, saying:
“How would Sheridan do?” I replied: “The very man I want.”
The President said I could have anybody I wanted. Sheridan was
telegraphed for that day, and on his arrival was assigned to the
command of the cavalry corps with the Army of the Potomac. This
relieved General Alfred Pleasonton. It was not a reflection on
that officer, however, for I did not know but that he had been
as efficient as any other cavalry commander.

Banks in the Department of the Gulf was ordered to assemble all
the troops he had at New Orleans in time to join in the general
move, Mobile to be his objective.

At this time I was not entirely decided as to whether I should
move the Army of the Potomac by the right flank of the enemy, or
by his left. Each plan presented advantages. (*25) If by his
right–my left–the Potomac, Chesapeake Bay and tributaries
would furnish us an easy hauling distance of every position the
army could occupy from the Rapidan to the James River. But Lee
could, if he chose, detach or move his whole army north on a
line rather interior to the one I would have to take in
following. A movement by his left–our right–would obviate
this; but all that was done would have to be done with the
supplies and ammunition we started with. All idea of adopting
this latter plan was abandoned when he limited quantity of
supplies possible to take with us was considered. The country
over which we would have to pass was so exhausted of all food or
forage that we would be obliged to carry everything with us.

While these preparations were going on the enemy was not
entirely idle. In the West Forrest made a raid in West
Tennessee up to the northern border, capturing the garrison of
four or five hundred men at Union City, and followed it up by an
attack on Paducah, Kentucky, on the banks of the Ohio. While he
was able to enter the city he failed to capture the forts or any
part of the garrison. On the first intelligence of Forrest’s
raid I telegraphed Sherman to send all his cavalry against him,
and not to let him get out of the trap he had put himself
into. Sherman had anticipated me by sending troops against him
before he got my order.

Forrest, however, fell back rapidly, and attacked the troops at
Fort Pillow, a station for the protection of the navigation of
the Mississippi River. The garrison consisted of a regiment of
colored troops, infantry, and a detachment of Tennessee
cavalry. These troops fought bravely, but were overpowered. I
will leave Forrest in his dispatches to tell what he did with

“The river was dyed,” he says, “with the blood of the
slaughtered for two hundred yards. The approximate loss was
upward of five hundred killed, but few of the officers
escaping. My loss was about twenty killed. It is hoped that
these facts will demonstrate to the Northern people that negro
soldiers cannot cope with Southerners.” Subsequently Forrest
made a report in which he left out the part which shocks
humanity to read.

At the East, also, the rebels were busy. I had said to Halleck
that Plymouth and Washington, North Carolina, were unnecessary
to hold. It would be better to have the garrisons engaged there
added to Butler’s command. If success attended our arms both
places, and others too, would fall into our hands naturally.
These places had been occupied by Federal troops before I took
command of the armies, and I knew that the Executive would be
reluctant to abandon them, and therefore explained my views; but
before my views were carried out the rebels captured the garrison
at Plymouth. I then ordered the abandonment of Washington, but
directed the holding of New Berne at all hazards. This was
essential because New Berne was a port into which blockade
runners could enter.

General Banks had gone on an expedition up the Red River long
before my promotion to general command. I had opposed the
movement strenuously, but acquiesced because it was the order of
my superior at the time. By direction of Halleck I had
reinforced Banks with a corps of about ten thousand men from
Sherman’s command. This reinforcement was wanted back badly
before the forward movement commenced. But Banks had got so far
that it seemed best that he should take Shreveport on the Red
River, and turn over the line of that river to Steele, who
commanded in Arkansas, to hold instead of the line of the
Arkansas. Orders were given accordingly, and with the
expectation that the campaign would be ended in time for Banks
to return A. J. Smith’s command to where it belonged and get
back to New Orleans himself in time to execute his part in the
general plan. But the expedition was a failure. Banks did not
get back in time to take part in the programme as laid down. Nor
was Smith returned until long after the movements of May, 1864,
had been begun. The services of forty thousand veteran troops,
over and above the number required to hold all that was
necessary in the Department of the Gulf, were thus paralyzed. It
is but just to Banks, however, to say that his expedition was
ordered from Washington and he was in no way responsible except
for the conduct of it. I make no criticism on this point. He
opposed the expedition.

By the 27th of April spring had so far advanced as to justify me
in fixing a day for the great move. On that day Burnside left
Annapolis to occupy Meade’s position between Bull Run and the
Rappahannock. Meade was notified and directed to bring his
troops forward to his advance. On the following day Butler was
notified of my intended advance on the 4th of May, and he was
directed to move the night of the same day and get as far up the
James River as possible by daylight, and push on from there to
accomplish the task given him. He was also notified that
reinforcements were being collected in Washington City, which
would be forwarded to him should the enemy fall back into the
trenches at Richmond. The same day Sherman was directed to get
his forces up ready to advance on the 5th. Sigel was in
Winchester and was notified to move in conjunction with the

The criticism has been made by writers on the campaign from the
Rapidan to the James River that all the loss of life could have
been obviated by moving the army there on transports. Richmond
was fortified and intrenched so perfectly that one man inside to
defend was more than equal to five outside besieging or
assaulting. To get possession of Lee’s army was the first great
object. With the capture of his army Richmond would necessarily
follow. It was better to fight him outside of his stronghold
than in it. If the Army of the Potomac had been moved bodily to
the James River by water Lee could have moved a part of his
forces back to Richmond, called Beauregard from the south to
reinforce it, and with the balance moved on to Washington. Then,
too, I ordered a move, simultaneous with that of the Army of the
Potomac, up the James River by a formidable army already
collected at the mouth of the river.

While my headquarters were at Culpeper, from the 26th of March
to the 4th of May, I generally visited Washington once a week to
confer with the Secretary of War and President. On the last
occasion, a few days before moving, a circumstance occurred
which came near postponing my part in the campaign altogether.
Colonel John S. Mosby had for a long time been commanding a
partisan corps, or regiment, which operated in the rear of the
Army of the Potomac. On my return to the field on this
occasion, as the train approached Warrenton Junction, a heavy
cloud of dust was seen to the east of the road as if made by a
body of cavalry on a charge. Arriving at the junction the train
was stopped and inquiries made as to the cause of the dust. There
was but one man at the station, and he informed us that Mosby had
crossed a few minutes before at full speed in pursuit of Federal
cavalry. Had he seen our train coming, no doubt he would have
let his prisoners escape to capture the train. I was on a
special train, if I remember correctly, without any guard.

Since the close of the war I have come to know Colonel Mosby
personally, and somewhat intimately. He is a different man
entirely from what I had supposed. He is slender, not tall,
wiry, and looks as if he could endure any amount of physical
exercise. He is able, and thoroughly honest and truthful. There
were probably but few men in the South who could have commanded
successfully a separate detachment in the rear of an opposing
army, and so near the border of hostilities, as long as he did
without losing his entire command.

On this same visit to Washington I had my last interview with
the President before reaching the James River. He had of course
become acquainted with the fact that a general movement had been
ordered all along the line, and seemed to think it a new feature
in war. I explained to him that it was necessary to have a great
number of troops to guard and hold the territory we had captured,
and to prevent incursions into the Northern States. These troops
could perform this service just as well by advancing as by
remaining still; and by advancing they would compel the enemy to
keep detachments to hold them back, or else lay his own territory
open to invasion. His answer was: “Oh, yes! I see that. As we
say out West, if a man can’t skin he must hold a leg while
somebody else does.”

There was a certain incident connected with the Wilderness
campaign of which it may not be out of place to speak; and to
avoid a digression further on I will mention it here.

A few days before my departure from Culpeper the Honorable E. B.
Washburne visited me there, and remained with my headquarters for
some distance south, through the battle in the Wilderness and, I
think, to Spottsylvania. He was accompanied by a Mr. Swinton,
whom he presented as a literary gentleman who wished to
accompany the army with a view of writing a history of the war
when it was over. He assured me–and I have no doubt Swinton
gave him the assurance–that he was not present as a
correspondent of the press. I expressed an entire willingness
to have him (Swinton) accompany the army, and would have allowed
him to do so as a correspondent, restricted, however, in the
character of the information he could give. We received
Richmond papers with about as much regularity as if there had
been no war, and knew that our papers were received with equal
regularity by the Confederates. It was desirable, therefore,
that correspondents should not be privileged spies of the enemy
within our lines.

Probably Mr. Swinton expected to be an invited guest at my
headquarters, and was disappointed that he was not asked to
become so. At all events he was not invited, and soon I found
that he was corresponding with some paper (I have now forgotten
which one), thus violating his word either expressed or
implied. He knew of the assurance Washburne had given as to the
character of his mission. I never saw the man from the day of
our introduction to the present that I recollect. He
accompanied us, however, for a time at least.

The second night after crossing the Rapidan (the night of the
5th of May) Colonel W. R. Rowley, of my staff, was acting as
night officer at my headquarters. A short time before midnight
I gave him verbal instructions for the night. Three days later
I read in a Richmond paper a verbatim report of these

A few nights still later (after the first, and possibly after
the second, day’s fighting in the Wilderness) General Meade came
to my tent for consultation, bringing with him some of his staff
officers. Both his staff and mine retired to the camp-fire some
yards in front of the tent, thinking our conversation should be
private. There was a stump a little to one side, and between
the front of the tent and camp-fire. One of my staff, Colonel
T. S. Bowers, saw what he took to be a man seated on the ground
and leaning against the stump, listening to the conversation
between Meade and myself. He called the attention of Colonel
Rowley to it. The latter immediately took the man by the
shoulder and asked him, in language more forcible than polite,
what he was doing there. The man proved to be Swinton, the
“historian,” and his replies to the question were evasive and
unsatisfactory, and he was warned against further eaves-dropping.

The next I heard of Mr. Swinton was at Cold Harbor. General
Meade came to my headquarters saying that General Burnside had
arrested Swinton, who at some previous time had given great
offence, and had ordered him to be shot that afternoon. I
promptly ordered the prisoner to be released, but that he must
be expelled from the lines of the army not to return again on
pain of punishment.



The armies were now all ready to move for the accomplishment of
a single object. They were acting as a unit so far as such a
thing was possible over such a vast field. Lee, with the
capital of the Confederacy, was the main end to which all were
working. Johnston, with Atlanta, was an important obstacle in
the way of our accomplishing the result aimed at, and was
therefore almost an independent objective. It was of less
importance only because the capture of Johnston and his army
would not produce so immediate and decisive a result in closing
the rebellion as would the possession of Richmond, Lee and his
army. All other troops were employed exclusively in support of
these two movements. This was the plan; and I will now endeavor
to give, as concisely as I can, the method of its execution,
outlining first the operations of minor detached but
co-operative columns.

As stated before, Banks failed to accomplish what he had been
sent to do on the Red River, and eliminated the use of forty
thousand veterans whose cooperation in the grand campaign had
been expected–ten thousand with Sherman and thirty thousand
against Mobile.

Sigel’s record is almost equally brief. He moved out, it is
true, according to programme; but just when I was hoping to hear
of good work being done in the valley I received instead the
following announcement from Halleck: “Sigel is in full retreat
on Strasburg. He will do nothing but run; never did anything
else.” The enemy had intercepted him about New Market and
handled him