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Memoirs of General William T. Sherman

In the middle of February, 1862, Major-General Halleck commanded all the armies in the valley of the Mississippi, from his headquarters in St. Louis. These were, the Army of the Ohio, Major-General Buell, in Kentucky; the Army of the Tennessee, Major-General Grant, at Forts Henry and Donelson; and General S. R. Curtis, in Southern Missouri. He posted his chief of staff, General Cullum, at Cairo, and me at Paducah, chiefly to expedite and facilitate the important operations then in progress up the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers.

Fort Donelson surrendered to General Grant on the 16th of February, and there must have been a good deal of confusion resulting from the necessary care of the wounded, and disposition of prisoners, common to all such occasions, and there was a real difficulty in communicating between St. Louis and Fort Donelson.

General Buell had also followed up the rebel army, which had retreated hastily from Bowling Green to and through Nashville, a city of so much importance to the South, that it was at one time proposed as its capital. Both Generals Grant and Buell looked to its capture as an event of great importance. On the 21st General Grant sent General Smith with his division to Clarksville, fifty miles above Donelson, toward Nashville, and on the 27th went himself to Nashville to meet and confer with General Buell, but returned to Donelson the next day.

Meantime, General Halleck at St. Louis must have felt that his armies were getting away from him, and began to send dispatches to me at Paducah, to be forwarded by boat, or by a rickety telegraph-line up to Fort Henry, which lay entirely in a hostile country, and was consequently always out of repair. On the 1st of March I received the following dispatch, and forwarded it to General Grant, both by the telegraph and boat:

St. Louis, March 1, 1862.

To General GRANT, Fort Henry :

Transports will be sent you as soon as possible, to move your column up the Tennessee River. The main object of this expedition will be to destroy the railroad-bridge over Bear Creek, near Eastport, Mississippi; and also the railroad connections at Corinth, Jackson, and Humboldt. It is thought best that these objects be attempted in the order named. Strong detachments of cavalry and light artillery, supported by infantry, may by rapid movements reach these points from the river, without any serious opposition.

Avoid any general engagements with strong forces. It will be better to retreat than to risk a general battle. This should be strongly impressed on the officers sent with expeditions from the river. General C. F. Smith or some very discreet officer should be selected for such commands. Having accomplished these objects, or such of them as may be practicable, you will return to Danville, and move on Paris.

Perhaps the troops sent to Jackson and Humboldt can reach Paris by land as easily as to return to the transports. This must depend on the character of the roads and the position of the enemy. All telegraphic lines which can be reached must be cut. The gunboats will accompany the transports for their protection. Any loyal Tennesseeans who desire it, may be enlisted and supplied with arms. Competent officers should be loft to command Forts Henry and Donelson in your absence. I have indicated in general terms the object of this.

H. W. HALLECK, Major-General.

Again on the 2d:

CAIRO, March 2,1862.

To General GRANT:
General Halleck, February 25th, telegraphs me : " General Grant will send no more forces to Clarksville. General Smith's division will come to Fort Henry, or a point higher up on the Tennessee River; transports will also be collected at Paducah. Two gunboats in Tennessee River with Grant. General Grant will immediately have small garrisons detailed for Forts Henry and Donelson, and all other forces made ready for the field "

From your letter of the 28th, I learn you were at Fort Donelson, and General Smith at Nashville, from which I infer you could not have received orders. Halleck's telegram of last night says: " Who sent Smith's division to Nashville? I ordered it across to the Tennessee, where they are wanted immediately. Order them back. Send all spare transports up Tennessee to General Grant." Evidently the general supposes you to be on the Tennessee. I am sending all the transports I can find for you, reporting to General Sherman for orders to go up the Cumberland for you,, or, if you march across to Fort Henry, then to send them up the Tennessee.

G. W. Cullum, Brigadier-General.

On the 4th came this dispatch:

ST. Louis, March 4, 1862.

To Major-General U. S. GRANT :
You will place Major-General 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 ?

H. W. HALLECK, Major-General.

Halleck was evidently working himself into a passion, but he was too far from the seat of war to make due allowance for the actual state of facts. General Grant had done so much, that General Halleck should have been patient. Meantime, at Paducah I was busy sending boats in every direction—some under the orders of General Halleck, others of General Cullum; others for General Grant, and still others for General Buell at Nashville; and at the same time I was organizing out of the new troops that were arriving at Paducah a division for myself when allowed to take the field, which I had been promised by General Halleck. His purpose was evidently to operate up the Tennessee River, to break up Bear Greek Bridge and the railroad communications between the Mississippi and Tennessee Rivers, and no doubt he was provoked that Generals Grant and Smith had turned aside to Nashville. In the mean time several of the gunboats, under Captain Phelps, United States Navy, had gone up the Tennessee as far as Florence, and on their return had reported a strong Union feeling among the people along the river. On the 10th of March, having received the necessary orders from General Halleck, I embarked my division at Paducah. It was composed of four brigades. The First, commanded by Colonel S. G. Hicks, was composed of the Fortieth Illinois, Forty-sixth Ohio, and Morion's Indiana lottery, on the boats Sallie List, Golden Gate, J.B. Adams, and Lancaster.

The Second Brigade, Colonel D. Stuart, was composed of the Fifty-fifth Illinois, Seventy-first Ohio, and Fifty-fourth Ohio; embarked on the Hannibal, Universe, Hazel Dell, Cheeseman, and Prairie Rose.

The Third Brigade, Colonel Hildebrand, was composed of the Seventy-seventh Ohio, Fifty-seventh Ohio, and Fifty-third Ohio; embarked on the Poland, Anglo-Saxon, Ohio No. Three, and Continental.

The Fourth Brigade, Colonel Buckland, was composed of the Seventy-second Ohio, Forty-eighth Ohio, and Seventieth Ohio; embarked on the Empress, Baltic, Shenango, and Marengo.

We steamed up to Fort Henry, the river being high and in splendid order. There I reported in person to General C, F. Smith, and by him was ordered a few miles above, to the remains of the burned railroad bridge, to await the rendezvous of the rest of his army. I had my headquarters on the Continental.

Among my colonels I had a strange character—Thomas Worthington, colonel of the Forty-sixth Ohio. He was a graduate of West Point, of the class of 1827; was, therefore, older than General Halleck, General Grant, or myself, and claimed to know more of war than all of us put together. In ascending the river he did not keep his place in the column, but pushed on and reached Savannah a day before the rest of my division. When I reached that place, I found that Worthington had landed his regiment, and was flying about giving orders, as though he were commander-in-chief. I made him get back to his boat, and gave him to understand that he must thereafter keep his place. General C. F. Smith arrived about the 13th of March, with a large fleet of boats, containing Hurlbut's division, Lew. Wallace's division, and that of himself, then commanded by Brigadier-General W. H. L. Wallace.

General Smith sent for me to meet him on his boat, and ordered me to push on under escort of the two gunboats, Lexington and Tyler, commanded by Captains Gwin and Shirk, United States Navy. I was to land at some point below Eastport, and make a break of the Memphis & Charleston Railroad, between Tuscumbia and Corinth. General Smith was quite unwell, and was suffering from his leg, which was swollen and very sore, from a mere abrasion in stepping into a small-boat. This actually mortified, and resulted in his death about a month after, viz., April 25, 1862. He was adjutant of the Military Academy during the early part of my career there, and afterward commandant of cadets, he was a very handsome and soldierly man, of great experience, and at Donelson had acted with so much personal bravery that to him many attributed the success of the assault. I immediately steamed up the Tennessee River, following the two gunboats, and, in passing Pittsburg Landing, was told by Captain Gwin that, on his former trip up the river, he had found a rebel regiment of cavalry posted there, and that it was the usual landing-place for the people about Corinth, distant thirty miles. I sent word back to General Smith that, if we were detained up the river, he ought to post some troops at Pittsburg Landing. We went on up the river cautiously, till we saw Eastport and Chickasaw, both of which were occupied by rebel batteries and a small rebel force of infantry.

We then dropped back quietly to the mouth of Yellow River, a few miles below, whence led a road to Burnsville, a place on the Memphis & Charleston road, where were the company's repair-shops. We at once commenced disembarking the command : first the cavalry, which started at once for Burnsville, with orders to tear up the railroad-track, and burn the depots, shops, etc; and I followed with the infantry and artillery as fast as they were disembarked. It was raining very hard at the time. Daylight found us about six miles out, where we met the cavalry returning. They had made numerous attempts to cross the streams, which had become so swollen that mere brooks covered the whole bottom; and my aide-de-camp, Sanger, whom I had dispatched with the cavalry, reported the loss, by drowning, of several of the men. The rain was pouring in torrents, and reports from the rear came that the river was rising very fast, and that, unless we got back to our boats soon, the bottom would be simply impassable. There was no alternative but to regain our boats; and even. this was so difficult, that we had to unharness the artillery-horses, and drag the guns under water through the bayous, to reach the bank of the river. Once more embarked, I concluded to drop down to Pittsburg Landing, and to make the attempt from there. During the night of the 14th, we dropped down to Pittsburg Landing, where I found Hurlbut's division in boats. Leaving my command there, I steamed down to Savannah, and reported to General Smith in person, who saw in the flooded Tennessee the full truth of my report ; and he then instructed me to disembark my own division, and that of General Hurlbut, at Pittsburg Landing; to take positions well back, and to leave room for his whole army; telling me that he would soon come up in person, and move out in force to make the lodgment on the railroad, contemplated by General Halleck's orders.

Lieutenant-Colonel McPherson, of General C. F. Smith's, or rather General Halleck's, staff, returned with me, and on the 16th of March we disembarked and marched out about ten miles toward Corinth, to a place called Monterey or Pea Ridge, where the rebels had a cavalry regiment, which of course decamped on our approach, but from the people we learned that trains were bringing large masses of men from every direction into Corinth. McPherson and I reconnoitred the ground well, and then returned to our boats. On the 18th, Hurlbut disembarked his division and took post about a mile and a half out, near where the roads branched, one leading to Corinth and the other toward Hamburg. On the 19th I disembarked my division, and took post about three miles back, three of the brigades covering the roads to Purdy and Corinth, and the other brigade (Stuart's) temporarily at a place on the Hamburg Road, near Lick Creek Ford, where the Bark Road came into the Hamburg Road. Within a few days, Prentiss's division arrived and camped on my left, and afterward McClernand's and W. H. L. Wallace's divisions, which formed a line to our rear. Lew Wallace's division remained on the north side of Snake Creek, on a road leading from Savannah or Crump's Landing to Purdy.

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