Memoirs of General William T. Sherman
CHAPTER 11a - SHILOH TO MEMPHIS. APRIL TO JULY, 1862.
WHILE the " Army of the Tennessee," under Generals Grant and
C. F. Smith, was operating up the Tennessee River, another force, styled the "
Army of the Mississippi," commanded by Major-General John Pope, was moving
directly down the Mississippi River, against that portion of the rebel line
which, under Generals Polk and Pillow, had fallen back from Columbus, Kentucky,
to Island Number Ten and New Madrid. This army had the full cooperation of the
gunboat fleet, commanded by Admiral Foote, and was assisted by the high flood
of that season, which enabled General Pope, by great skill and industry, to
open a canal from a point above Island Number Ten to New Madrid below, by which
he interposed between the rebel army and its available line of supply and
retreat. At the very time that we were fighting the bloody battle on the
Tennessee River, General Pope and Admiral Foote were bombarding the batteries
on Island Number Ten, and the Kentucky shore abreast of it ; and General Pope
having crossed over by steamers a part of his army to the east bank, captured a
large part of this rebel army, at and near Tiptonville.
General Halleck still remained at St. Louis, whence he gave
general directions to the armies of General Curtis, General Grant, and General
Pope ; and instead of following up his most important and brilliant successes
directly down the Mississippi, he concluded to bring General Pope's army around
to the Tennessee, and to come in person to command there. The gunboat fleet
pushed on down the Mississippi, but was brought up again all standing by the
heavy batteries at Fort Pillow, about fifty miles above Memphis. About this
time Admiral Farragut, with another large sea-going fleet, and with the
cooperating army of General Butler, was entering the Mississippi River by the
Passes, and preparing to reduce Forts Jackson and St.. Philip in order to reach
New Orleans; so that all minds were turned to the conquest of the Mississippi
River, and surely adequate means were provided for the undertaking.
The battle of Shiloh had been fought, as described, on the
6th and 7th of April; and when the movement of the 8th had revealed that our
enemy was gone, in full retreat, leaving killed, wounded, and much property by
the way, we all experienced a feeling of relief. The struggle had been so long,
so desperate and bloody, that the survivors seemed exhausted and nerveless; we
appreciated the value of the victory, but realized also its great cost of life.
The close of the battle had left the Army of the Tennessee on the right, and
the Army of the Ohio on the left; but I believe neither General Grant nor Buell
exercised command, the one over the other; each of them having his hands full
in repairing damages. All the division, brigade, and regimental commanders were
busy in collecting stragglers, regaining lost property, in burying dead men and
horses, and in providing for their wounded. Some few new regiments came
forward, and some changes of organization became necessary. Then, or very soon
after, I consolidated my four brigades into three, which were commanded: First,
Brigadier-General Morgan L. Smith; Second, Colonel John A. McDowell; Third,
Brigadier-General J. W. Denver. About the same time I was promoted to major-
general of volunteers.
The Seventy-first Ohio was detached to Clarksville,
Tennessee, and the Sixth and Eighth Missouri were transferred to my division.
In a few days after the battle, General Halleck arrived by
steamboat from St. Louis, pitched his camp near the steamboat-landing, and
assumed personal command of all the armies. He was attended by his staff,
composed of General -. W. Cullum, U. S. Engineers, as his chief of staff;
Colonel George Thorn, U. S. Engineers; and Colonels Kelton and Kemper,
adjutants-general. It soon became manifest that his mind had been prejudiced by
the rumors which had gone forth to the detriment of General Grant; for in a few
days he issued an order, reorganizing and rearranging the whole army. General
Buell's Army of the Ohio constituted the centre; General Pope's army, then
arriving at Hamburg Landing, was the left ; the right was made up of mine and
Hurlbut's divisions, belonging to the old Army of the Tennessee, and two new
ones, made up from the fragments of the divisions of Prentiss and C. F. Smith,
and of troops transferred thereto, commanded by Generals T. W. Sherman and
Davies. General George H. Thomas was taken from Buell, to command the right.
McClernand's and Lew Wallace's divisions were styled the reserve, to be
commanded by McClernand. General Grant was substantially left out, and was
named " second in command," according to some French notion, with no clear,
well-defined command or authority. He still retained his old staff, composed of
Bawlins, adjutant-general; Biggin, Lagow, and Hilyer, aides; and he had a small
company of the Fourth Illinois Cavalry as an escort. For more than a month he
thus remained, without any apparent authority, frequently visiting me and
others, and rarely complaining; but I could see that he felt deeply the
indignity, if not insult, heaped upon him.
General Thomas at once assumed command of the right wing,
and, until we reached Corinth, I served immediately under his command. We were
classmates, intimately acquainted, had served together before in the old army,
and in Kentucky, and it made to us little difference who commanded the other,
provided the good cause prevailed.
Corinth was about thirty miles distant, and we all knew that
we should find there the same army with which we had so fiercely grappled at
Shiloh, reorganized, reenforced, and commanded in chief by General Beauregard
in place of Johnston, who had fallen at Shiloh. But we were also reenforced by
Buell's and Pope's armies; so that before the end of April our army extended
from Snake River on the right to the Tennessee River at Hamburg, on the left,
and must have numbered nearly one hundred thousand men.
Ample supplies of all kinds reached us by the Tennessee
River, which had a good stage of water; but our wagon transportation was
limited, and much confusion occurred in hauling supplies to the several camps.
By the end of April, the several armies seemed to be ready, and the general
forward movement on Corinth began. My division was on the extreme right of the
right wing, and marched out by the " White House," leaving Monterey or Pea
Ridge to the south. Crossing Lick Creek, we came into the main road about a
mile south of Monterey, where we turned square to the right, and came into the
Purdy road, near "Elams." Thence we followed the Purdy road to Corinth, my
skirmishers reaching at all times the Mobile & Ohio Railroad. Of course our
marches were governed by the main centre, which followed the direct road from
Pittsburg Landing to Corinth; and this movement was provokingly slow. We
fortified almost every camp at night, though we had encountered no serious
opposition, except from cavalry, which gave ground easily as we advanced. The
opposition increased as we neared Corinth, and at a place called Russell's we
had a sharp affair of one brigade, under the immediate direction of
Brigadier-General Morgan L. Smith, assisted by the brigade of General Denver.
This affair occurred on the 19th of May, and our line was then within about two
miles of the northern intrenchments of Corinth.
On the 27th I received orders from General Halleck " to send
a force the next day to drive the rebels from the house in our front, on the
Corinth road, to drive in their pickets as far as possible, and to make a
strong demonstration on Corinth itself; " authorizing me to call on any
adjacent division for assistance.
I reconnoitred the ground carefully, and found that the main
road led forward along the fence of a large cotton-field to our right front,
and ascended a wooded hill, occupied in some force by the enemy, on which was
the farm-house referred to in General Halleck's orders. At the farther end of
the field was a double log-house, whose chinking had been removed; so that it
formed a good block-house from which the enemy could fire on any person
approaching from our quarter.
General Hurlbut's division was on my immediate left, and
General McClernand's reserve on our right rear. I asked of each the assistance
of a brigade. The former sent General Veatch's, and the latter General John A.
Logan's brigade. I asked the former to support our left flank, and the latter
our right flank. The next morning early, Morgan L. Smith's brigade was deployed
under cover on the left, and Denver's on the right, ready to move forward
rapidly at a signal. I had a battery of four twenty-pound Parrott guns,
commanded by Captain Silversparre. Colonel Ezra Taylor, chief of artillery, had
two of these guns moved up silently by hand behind a small knoll, from the
crest of which the enemy's block-house and position could be distinctly seen;
when all were ready, these guns were moved to the crest, and several quick
rounds were fired at the house, followed after an interval by a single gun.
This was the signal agreed on, and the troops responded beautifully, crossed
the field in line of battle, preceded by their skirmishers who carried the
position in good style, and pursued the enemy for half a mile beyond.
The main line halted on the crest of the ridge, from which
we could look over the parapets of the rebel works at Corinth, and hear their
drum and bugle calls. The rebel brigade had evidently been taken by surprise in
our attack; it soon rallied and came back on us with the usual yell, driving in
our skirmishers, but was quickly checked when it came within range of our guns
and line of battle. Generals Grant and Thomas happened to be with me during
this affair, and were well pleased at the handsome manner in which the troops
behaved. That night we began the usual entrenchments, and the next day brought
forward the artillery and the rest of the division, which then extended from
the Mobile & Ohio Railroad, at Bowie Hill Out, to the Corinth & Purdy
road, there connecting with Hurlbut's division. That night, viz., May 29th, we
heard unusual sounds in Corinth, the constant whistling of locomotives, and
soon after daylight occurred a series of explosions followed by a dense smoke
rising high over the town. There was a telegraph line connecting my
headquarters with those of General Halleck, about four miles off, on the
Hamburg road. I inquired if he knew the cause of the explosions and of the
smoke, and he answered to " advance with my division and feel the enemy if
still in my front." I immediately dispatched two regiments from each of my
three brigades to feel the immediate front, and in a very short time advanced
with the whole division. Each brigade found the rebel parapets abandoned, and
pushed straight for the town, which lies in the northeast angle of intersection
of the Mobile & Ohio and Memphis & Charleston Railroads. Many buildings
had been burned by the enemy on evacuation, which had begun the night before at
6 P.M. and continued through the night, the rear-guard
burning their magazine at the time of withdrawing, about daybreak. Morgan L.
Smith's brigade followed the retreating rear-guard some four miles to the
Tuscumbia Bridge, which was found burned. I halted the other brigades at the
college, about a mile to the southwest of the town, where I was overtaken by
General Thomas in person.
The heads of all the columns had entered the rebel lines
about the same time, and there was some rather foolish clamor for the first
honors, but in fact there was no honor in the event. Beauregard had made a
clean retreat to the south, and was only seriously pursued by cavalry from
General Pope's flank. But he reached Tupelo, where he halted for
reorganization; and there is no doubt that at the moment there was much
disorganization in his ranks, for the woods were full of deserters whom we did
not even take prisoners, but advised them to make their way home and stay
there. We spent the day at and near the college, when General Thomas, who
applied for orders at Halleck's headquarters, directed me to conduct my
division back to the camp of the night before, where we had left our trains.
The advance on Corinth had occupied all of the month of May, the most beautiful
and valuable month of the year for campaigning in this latitude. There had been
little fighting, save on General Pope's left flank about Farmington; and on our
right I esteemed it a magnificent drill, as it served for the instruction of
our men in guard and picket duty, and in habituating them to out-door life; and
by the time we had reached Corinth I believe that army was the best then on
this continent, and could have gone where it pleased. The four subdivisions
were well commanded, as were the divisions and brigades of the whole army.
General Halleck was a man of great capacity, of large acquirements, and at the
time possessed the confidence of the country, and of most of the army. I held
him in high estimation, and gave him credit for the combinations which had
resulted in placing this magnificent army of a hundred thousand men, well
equipped and provided, with a good base, at Corinth, from which he could move
in any direction.
Had he held his force as a unit, he could have gone to
Mobile, or Vicksburg, or anywhere in that region, which would by one move have
solved the whole Mississippi problem; and, from what he then told me, I believe
he intended such a campaign, but was overruled from Washington. Be that as it
may, the army had no sooner settled down at Corinth before it was scattered:
General Pope was called to the East, and his army distributed among the others;
General Thomas was relieved from the command of the right wing, and reassigned
to his division in the Army of the Ohio; and that whole army under General
Buell was turned east along the Memphis & Charleston road, to march for
Chattanooga. McClernand's " reserve " was turned west to Bolivar and Memphis.
General Halleck took post himself at Corinth, assigned Lieutenant-Colonel
McPherson to take charge of the railroads, with instructions to repair them as
far as Columbus, Kentucky, and to collect cars and locomotives to operate them
to Corinth and Grand Junction. I was soon dispatched with my own and Hurlbut's
divisions northwest fourteen miles to Chewalla, to save what could be of any
value out of six trains of cars belonging to the rebels which had been wrecked
and partially burned at the time of the evacuation of Corinth.
A short time before leaving Corinth I rode from my camp to
General Halleck's headquarters, then in tents just outside of the town, where
we sat and gossiped for some time, when he mentioned to me casually that
General Grant was going away the next morning. I inquired the cause, and he
said that he did not know, but that Grant had applied for a thirty days' leave,
which had been given him. Of course we all knew that he was chafing under the
slights of his anomalous position, and I determined to see him on my way back.
His camp was a short distance off the Monterey road, in the woods, and
consisted of four or five tents, with a sapling railing around the front. As I
rode up, Majors Bawlins, Lagow, and Hilyer, were in front of the camp, and
piled up near them were the usual office and camp chests, all ready for a start
in the morning. I inquired for the general, and was shown to his tent, where I
found him seated on a camp-stool, with papers on a rude camp-table; he seemed
to be employed in assorting letters, and tying them up with red tape into
convenient bundles. After passing the usual compliments, I inquired if it were
true that he was going away. He said, " Yes." I then inquired the reason, and
he said: " Sherman, you know. You know that I am in the way here. I have stood
it as long as I can, and can endure it no longer." I inquired where he was
going to, and he said, " St. Louis." I then asked if he had any business there,
and he said, " Not a bit." I then begged him to stay, illustrating his case by
Before the battle of Shiloh, I had been cast down by a mere
newspaper assertion of " crazy; " but that single battle had given me new life,
and now I was in high feather; and I argued with him that, if he went away,
events would go right along, and he would be left out; whereas, if he remained,
some happy accident might restore him to favor and his true place. He certainly
appreciated my friendly advice, and promised to wait awhile; at all events, not
to go without seeing me again, or communicating with me. Very soon after this,
I was ordered to Chewalla, where, on the 6th of June, I received a note from
him, saying that he had reconsidered his intention, and would remain. I cannot
find the note, but my answer I have kept.
CHEWALLA, June 6,1862.
MY DEAR SIR
: I have just received your note, and am rejoiced at your conclusion to remain;
for you could not be quiet at home for a week when armies were moving, and rest
could not relieve your mind of the gnawing sensation that injustice had been