Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant, Volume Two
Ulysses S. Grant
Part 4 out of 8
that point. I asked the general where the enemy was. He replied that
he did not know. He said the fact was, that he was so embarrassed with
orders from Washington moving him first to the right and then to the
left that he had lost all trace of the enemy.
I then told the general that I would find out where the enemy was, and
at once ordered steam got up and trains made up, giving directions to
push for Halltown, some four miles above Harper's Ferry, in the
Shenandoah Valley. The cavalry and the wagon trains were to march, but
all the troops that could be transported by the cars were to go in that
way. I knew that the valley was of such importance to the enemy that,
no matter how much he was scattered at that time, he would in a very
short time be found in front of our troops moving south.
I then wrote out General Hunter's instructions. (*39) I told him that
Sheridan was in Washington, and still another division was on its way;
and suggested that he establish the headquarters of the department at
any point that would suit him best, Cumberland, Baltimore, or elsewhere,
and give Sheridan command of the troops in the field. The general
replied to this, that he thought he had better be relieved entirely. He
said that General Halleck seemed so much to distrust his fitness for the
position he was in that he thought somebody else ought to be there. He
did not want, in any way, to embarrass the cause; thus showing a
patriotism that was none too common in the army. There were not many
major-generals who would voluntarily have asked to have the command of a
department taken from them on the supposition that for some particular
reason, or for any reason, the service would be better performed. I
told him, "very well then," and telegraphed at once for Sheridan to come
to the Monocacy, and suggested that I would wait and meet him there.
Sheridan came at once by special train, but reached there after the
troops were all off. I went to the station and remained there until he
arrived. Myself and one or two of my staff were about all the Union
people, except General Hunter and his staff, who were left at the
Monocacy when Sheridan arrived. I hastily told Sheridan what had been
done and what I wanted him to do, giving him, at the same time, the
written instructions which had been prepared for General Hunter and
directed to that officer.
Sheridan now had about 30,000 men to move with, 8,000 of them being
cavalry. Early had about the same number, but the superior ability of
the National commander over the Confederate commander was so great that
all the latter's advantage of being on the defensive was more than
counterbalanced by this circumstance. As I had predicted, Early was
soon found in front of Sheridan in the valley, and Pennsylvania and
Maryland were speedily freed from the invaders. The importance of the
valley was so great to the Confederates that Lee reinforced Early, but
not to the extent that we thought and feared he would.
To prevent as much as possible these reinforcements from being sent out
from Richmond, I had to do something to compel Lee to retain his forces
about his capital. I therefore gave orders for another move to the
north side of the James River, to threaten Richmond. Hancock's corps,
part of the 10th corps under Birney, and Gregg's division of cavalry
were crossed to the north side of the James during the night of the
13th-14th of August. A threatening position was maintained for a number
of days, with more or less skirmishing, and some tolerably hard
fighting; although it was my object and my instructions that anything
like a battle should be avoided, unless opportunities should present
themselves which would insure great success. General Meade was left in
command of the few troops around Petersburg, strongly intrenched; and
was instructed to keep a close watch upon the enemy in that quarter, and
himself to take advantage of any weakening that might occur through an
effort on the part of the enemy to reinforce the north side. There was
no particular victory gained on either side; but during that time no
more reinforcements were sent to the valley.
I informed Sheridan of what had been done to prevent reinforcements
being sent from Richmond against him, and also that the efforts we had
made had proven that one of the divisions which we supposed had gone to
the valley was still at Richmond, because we had captured six or seven
hundred prisoners from that division, each of its four brigades having
contributed to our list of captures. I also informed him that but one
division had gone, and it was possible that I should be able to prevent
the going of any more.
To add to my embarrassment at this time Sherman, who was now near
Atlanta, wanted reinforcements. He was perfectly willing to take the
raw troops then being raised in the North-west, saying that he could
teach them more soldiering in one day among his troops than they would
learn in a week in a camp of instruction. I therefore asked that all
troops in camps of instruction in the North-west be sent to him.
Sherman also wanted to be assured that no Eastern troops were moving out
against him. I informed him of what I had done and assured him that I
would hold all the troops there that it was possible for me to hold, and
that up to that time none had gone. I also informed him that his real
danger was from Kirby Smith, who commanded the trans-Mississippi
Department. If Smith should escape Steele, and get across the
Mississippi River, he might move against him. I had, therefore, asked
to have an expedition ready to move from New Orleans against Mobile in
case Kirby Smith should get across. This would have a tendency to draw
him to the defence of that place, instead of going against Sherman.
Right in the midst of all these embarrassments Halleck informed me that
there was an organized scheme on foot in the North to resist the draft,
and suggested that it might become necessary to draw troops from the
field to put it down. He also advised taking in sail, and not going too
The troops were withdrawn from the north side of the James River on the
night of the 20th. Before they were withdrawn, however, and while most
of Lee's force was on that side of the river, Warren had been sent with
most of the 5th corps to capture the Weldon Railroad. He took up his
line of march well back to the rear, south of the enemy, while the
troops remaining in the trenches extended so as to cover that part of
the line which he had vacated by moving out. From our left, near the
old line, it was about three miles to the Weldon Railroad. A division
was ordered from the right of the Petersburg line to reinforce Warren,
while a division was brought back from the north side of the James River
to take its place.
This road was very important to the enemy. The limits from which his
supplies had been drawn were already very much contracted, and I knew
that he must fight desperately to protect it. Warren carried the road,
though with heavy loss on both sides. He fortified his new position,
and our trenches were then extended from the left of our main line to
connect with his new one. Lee made repeated attempts to dislodge
Warren's corps, but without success, and with heavy loss.
As soon as Warren was fortified and reinforcements reached him, troops
were sent south to destroy the bridges on the Weldon Railroad; and with
such success that the enemy had to draw in wagons, for a distance of
about thirty miles, all the supplies they got thereafter from that
source. It was on the 21st that Lee seemed to have given up the Weldon
Railroad as having been lost to him; but along about the 24th or 25th he
made renewed attempts to recapture it; again he failed and with very
heavy losses to him as compared with ours.
On the night of the 20th our troops on the north side of the James were
withdrawn, and Hancock and Gregg were sent south to destroy the Weldon
Railroad. They were attacked on the 25th at Reams's Station, and after
desperate fighting a part of our line gave way, losing five pieces of
artillery. But the Weldon Railroad never went out of our possession
from the 18th of August to the close of the war.
SHERIDAN'S ADVANCE--VISIT TO SHERIDAN--SHERIDAN'S VICTORY IN THE
SHENANDOAH--SHERIDAN'S RIDE TO WINCHESTER--CLOSE OF THE CAMPAIGN FOR THE
We had our troops on the Weldon Railroad contending against a large
force that regarded this road of so much importance that they could
afford to expend many lives in retaking it; Sherman just getting through
to Atlanta with great losses of men from casualties, discharges and
detachments left along as guards to occupy and hold the road in rear of
him; Washington threatened but a short time before, and now Early being
strengthened in the valley so as, probably, to renew that attempt. It
kept me pretty active in looking after all these points.
On the 10th of August Sheridan had advanced on Early up the Shenandoah
Valley, Early falling back to Strasburg. On the 12th I learned that Lee
had sent twenty pieces of artillery, two divisions of infantry and a
considerable cavalry force to strengthen Early. It was important that
Sheridan should be informed of this, so I sent the information to
Washington by telegraph, and directed a courier to be sent from there to
get the message to Sheridan at all hazards, giving him the information.
The messenger, an officer of the army, pushed through with great energy
and reached Sheridan just in time. The officer went through by way of
Snicker's Gap, escorted by some cavalry. He found Sheridan just making
his preparations to attack Early in his chosen position. Now, however,
he was thrown back on the defensive.
On the 15th of September I started to visit General Sheridan in the
Shenandoah Valley. My purpose was to have him attack Early, or drive
him out of the valley and destroy that source of supplies for Lee's
army. I knew it was impossible for me to get orders through Washington
to Sheridan to make a move, because they would be stopped there and such
orders as Halleck's caution (and that of the Secretary of War) would
suggest would be given instead, and would, no doubt, be contradictory to
mine. I therefore, without stopping at Washington, went directly
through to Charlestown, some ten miles above Harper's Ferry, and waited
there to see General Sheridan, having sent a courier in advance to
inform him where to meet me.
When Sheridan arrived I asked him if he had a map showing the positions
of his army and that of the enemy. He at once drew one out of his side
pocket, showing all roads and streams, and the camps of the two armies.
He said that if he had permission he would move so and so (pointing out
how) against the Confederates, and that he could "whip them." Before
starting I had drawn up a plan of campaign for Sheridan, which I had
brought with me; but, seeing that he was so clear and so positive in his
views and so confident of success, I said nothing about this and did not
take it out of my pocket.
Sheridan's wagon trains were kept at Harper's Ferry, where all of his
stores were. By keeping the teams at that place, their forage did not
have to be hauled to them. As supplies of ammunition, provisions and
rations for the men were wanted, trains would be made up to deliver the
stores to the commissaries and quartermasters encamped at Winchester.
Knowing that he, in making preparations to move at a given day, would
have to bring up wagons trains from Harper's Ferry, I asked him if he
could be ready to get off by the following Tuesday. This was on Friday.
"O Yes," he said, he "could be off before daylight on Monday." I told
him then to make the attack at that time and according to his own plan;
and I immediately started to return to the army about Richmond. After
visiting Baltimore and Burlington, New Jersey, I arrived at City Point
on the 19th.
On the way out to Harper's Ferry I had met Mr. Robert Garrett, President
of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. He seemed very anxious to know when
workmen might be put upon the road again so as to make repairs and put
it in shape for running. It was a large piece of property to have
standing idle. I told him I could not answer then positively but would
try and inform him before a great while. On my return Mr. Garrett met
me again with the same and I told him I thought that by the Wednesday he
might send his workmen out on his road. I gave him no further
information however, and he had no suspicion of how I expected to have
the road cleared for his workmen.
Sheridan moved at the time he had fixed upon. He met Early at the
crossing of Opequon Creek, a most decisive victory--one which the
country. Early had invited this attack himself by his bad generalship
and made the victory easy. He had sent G. T. Anderson's division east
of the Blue Ridge before I went to Harper's Ferry; and about the time I
arrived there he started other divisions (leaving but two in their
camps) to march to Martinsburg for the purpose destroying the Baltimore
and Ohio Railroad at that point. Early here learned that I had been
with Sheridan and, supposing there was some movement on foot, started
back as soon as he got the information. But his forces were separated
and, as I have said, he was very badly defeated. He fell back to
Fisher's Hill, Sheridan following.
The valley is narrow at that point, and Early made another stand there,
behind works which extended across. But Sheridan turned both his flanks
and again sent him speeding up the valley, following in hot pursuit.
The pursuit was continued up the valley to Mount Jackson and New Market.
Sheridan captured about eleven hundred prisoners and sixteen guns. The
houses which he passed all along the route were found to be filled with
Early's wounded, and the country swarmed with his deserters. Finally,
on the 25th, Early turned from the valley eastward, leaving Sheridan at
Harrisonburg in undisputed possession.
Now one of the main objects of the expedition began to be accomplished.
Sheridan went to work with his command, gathering in the crops, cattle,
and everything in the upper part of the valley required by our troops;
and especially taking what might be of use to the enemy. What he could
not take away he destroyed, so that the enemy would not be invited to
come back there. I congratulated Sheridan upon his recent great victory
and had a salute of a hundred guns fired in honor of it, the guns being
aimed at the enemy around Petersburg. I also notified the other
commanders throughout the country, who also fired salutes in honor of
I had reason to believe that the administration was a little afraid to
have a decisive battle at that time, for fear it might go against us and
have a bad effect on the November elections. The convention which had
met and made its nomination of the Democratic candidate for the
presidency had declared the war a failure. Treason was talked as boldly
in Chicago at that convention as ever been in Charleston. It was a
question whether the government would then have had the power to make
arrests and punish those who talked treason. But this decisive victory
was the most effective campaign argument made in the canvass.
Sheridan, in his pursuit, got beyond where they could hear from him in
Washington, and the President became very much frightened about him. He
was afraid that the hot pursuit had been a little like that of General
Cass was said to have been, in one of our Indian wars, when he was an
officer of army. Cass was pursuing the Indians so closely that the
first thing he knew he found himself in front, and the Indians pursuing
him. The President was afraid that Sheridan had got on the other side
of Early and that Early was in behind him. He was afraid that Sheridan
was getting so far away that reinforcements would be sent out from
Richmond to enable Early to beat him. I replied to the President that I
had taken steps to prevent Lee from sending reinforcements to Early, by
attacking the former where he was.
On the 28th of September, to retain Lee in his position, I sent Ord with
the 18th corps and Birney with the 10th corps to make an advance on
Richmond, to threaten it. Ord moved with the left wing up to Chaffin's
Bluff; Birney with the 10th corps took a road farther north; while Kautz
with the cavalry took the Darby road, still farther to the north. They
got across the river by the next morning, and made an effort to surprise
the enemy. In that, however, they were unsuccessful.
The enemy's lines were very strong and very intricate. Stannard's
division of the 18th corps with General Burnham's brigade leading, tried
an assault against Fort Harrison and captured it with sixteen guns and a
good many prisoners. Burnham was killed in the assault. Colonel Stevens
who succeeded him was badly wounded; and his successor also fell in the
same way. Some works to the right and left were also carried with the
guns in them--six in number--and a few more prisoners. Birney's troops
to the right captured the enemy's intrenched picket-lines, but were
unsuccessful in their efforts upon the main line.
Our troops fortified their new position, bringing Fort Harrison into the
new line and extending it to the river. This brought us pretty close to
the enemy on the north side of the James, and the two opposing lines
maintained their relative positions to the close of the siege.
In the afternoon a further attempt was made to advance, but it failed.
Ord fell badly wounded, and had to be relieved; the command devolved
upon General Heckman, and later General Weitzel was assigned to the
command of the 18th corps. During the night Lee reinforced his troops
about Fort Gilmer, which was at the right of Fort Harrison, by eight
additional brigades from Petersburg, and attempted to retake the works
which we had captured by concentrating ten brigades against them. All
their efforts failed, their attacks being all repulsed with very heavy
loss. In one of these assaults upon us General Stannard, a gallant
officer who was defending Fort Harrison, lost an arm. Our casualties
during these operations amounted to 394 killed, I,554 wounded and 324
Whilst this was going on General Meade was instructed to keep up an
appearance of moving troops to our extreme left. Parke and Warren were
kept with two divisions, each under arms, ready to move leaving their
enclosed batteries manned, with a scattering line on the other
intrenchments. The object of this was to prevent reinforcements from
going to the north side of the river. Meade was instructed to watch the
enemy closely and, if Lee weakened his lines, to make an attack.
On the 30th these troops moved out, under Warren, and captured an
advanced intrenched camp at Peeble's farm, driving the enemy back to the
main line. Our troops followed and made an attack in the hope of
carrying the enemy's main line; but in this they were unsuccessful and
lost a large number of men, mostly captured. The number of killed and
wounded was not large. The next day our troops advanced again and
established themselves, intrenching a new line about a mile in front of
the enemy. This advanced Warren's position on the Weldon Railroad very
Sheridan having driven the enemy out of the valley, and taken the
productions of the valley so that instead of going there for supplies
the enemy would have to bring his provisions with him if he again
entered it, recommended a reduction of his own force, the surplus to be
sent where it could be of more use. I approved of his suggestion, and
ordered him to send Wright's corps back to the James River. I further
directed him to repair the railroad up the Shenandoah Valley towards the
advanced position which we would hold with a small force. The troops
were to be sent to Washington by the way of Culpeper, in order to watch
the east side of the Blue Ridge, and prevent the enemy from getting into
the rear of Sheridan while he was still doing his work of destruction.
The valley was so very important, however, to the Confederate army that,
contrary to our expectations, they determined to make one more strike,
and save it if possible before the supplies should be all destroyed.
Reinforcements were sent therefore to Early, and this before any of our
troops had been withdrawn. Early prepared to strike Sheridan at
Harrisonburg; but the latter had not remained there.
On the 6th of October Sheridan commenced retiring down the valley,
taking or destroying all the food and forage and driving the cattle
before him, Early following. At Fisher's Hill Sheridan turned his
cavalry back on that of Early, which, under the lead of Rosser, was
pursuing closely, and routed it most completely, capturing eleven guns
and a large number of prisoners. Sheridan lost only about sixty men.
His cavalry pursued the enemy back some twenty-five miles. On the 10th
of October the march down the valley was again resumed, Early again
I now ordered Sheridan to halt, and to improve the opportunity if
afforded by the enemy's having been sufficiently weakened, to move back
again and cut the James River Canal and Virginia Central Railroad. But
this order had to go through Washington where it was intercepted; and
when Sheridan received what purported to be a statement of what I wanted
him to do it was something entirely different. Halleck informed
Sheridan that it was my wish for him to hold a forward position as a
base from which to act against Charlottesville and Gordonsville; that he
should fortify this position and provision it.
Sheridan objected to this most decidedly; and I was impelled to
telegraph him, on the 14th, as follows:
CITY POINT, VA., October 14, 1864.--12.30 P.M.
MAJOR-GENERAL SHERIDAN, Cedar Creek, Va.
What I want is for you to threaten the Virginia Central Railroad and
canal in the manner your judgment tells you is best, holding yourself
ready to advance, if the enemy draw off their forces. If you make the
enemy hold a force equal to your own for the protection of those
thoroughfares, it will accomplish nearly as much as their destruction.
If you cannot do this, then the next best thing to do is to send here
all the force you can. I deem a good cavalry force necessary for your
offensive, as well as defensive operations. You need not therefore send
here more than one division of cavalry.
U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.
Sheridan having been summoned to Washington City, started on the 15th
leaving Wright in command. His army was then at Cedar Creek, some
twenty miles south of Winchester. The next morning while at Front
Royal, Sheridan received a dispatch from Wright, saying that a dispatch
from Longstreet to Early had been intercepted. It directed the latter
to be ready to move and to crush Sheridan as soon as he, Longstreet,
arrived. On the receipt of this news Sheridan ordered the cavalry up
the valley to join Wright.
On the 18th of October Early was ready to move, and during the night
succeeded in getting his troops in the rear of our left flank, which
fled precipitately and in great confusion down the valley, losing
eighteen pieces of artillery and a thousand or more prisoners. The
right under General Getty maintained a firm and steady front, falling
back to Middletown where it took a position and made a stand. The
cavalry went to the rear, seized the roads leading to Winchester and
held them for the use of our troops in falling back, General Wright
having ordered a retreat back to that place.
Sheridan having left Washington on the 18th, reached Winchester that
night. The following morning he started to join his command. He had
scarcely got out of town, when he met his men returning in panic from
the front and also heard heavy firing to the south. He immediately
ordered the cavalry at Winchester to be deployed across the valley to
stop the stragglers. Leaving members of his staff to take care of
Winchester and the public property there, he set out with a small escort
directly for the scene of battle. As he met the fugitives he ordered
them to turn back, reminding them that they were going the wrong way.
His presence soon restored confidence. Finding themselves worse
frightened than hurt the men did halt and turn back. Many of those who
had run ten miles got back in time to redeem their reputation as gallant
soldiers before night.
When Sheridan got to the front he found Getty and Custer still holding
their ground firmly between the Confederates and our retreating troops.
Everything in the rear was now ordered up. Sheridan at once proceeded to
intrench his position; and he awaited an assault from the enemy. This
was made with vigor, and was directed principally against Emory's corps,
which had sustained the principal loss in the first attack. By one
o'clock the attack was repulsed. Early was so badly damaged that he
seemed disinclined to make another attack, but went to work to intrench
himself with a view to holding the position he had already gained. He
thought, no doubt, that Sheridan would be glad enough to leave him
unmolested; but in this he was mistaken.
About the middle of the afternoon Sheridan advanced. He sent his
cavalry by both flanks, and they penetrated to the enemy's rear. The
contest was close for a time, but at length the left of the enemy broke,
and disintegration along the whole line soon followed. Early tried to
rally his men, but they were followed so closely that they had to give
way very quickly every time they attempted to make a stand. Our
cavalry, having pushed on and got in the rear of the Confederates,
captured twenty-four pieces of artillery, besides retaking what had been
lost in the morning. This victory pretty much closed the campaigning in
the Valley of Virginia. All the Confederate troops were sent back to
Richmond with the exception of one division of infantry and a little
cavalry. Wright's corps was ordered back to the Army of the Potomac,
and two other divisions were withdrawn from the valley. Early had lost
more men in killed, wounded and captured in the valley than Sheridan had
commanded from first to last.
On more than one occasion in these engagements General R. B. Hayes, who
succeeded me as President of the United States, bore a very honorable
part. His conduct on the field was marked by conspicuous gallantry as
well as the display of qualities of a higher order than that of mere
personal daring. This might well have been expected of one who could
write at the time he is said to have done so: "Any officer fit for duty
who at this crisis would abandon his post to electioneer for a seat in
Congress, ought to be scalped." Having entered the army as a Major of
Volunteers at the beginning of the war, General Hayes attained by
meritorious service the rank of Brevet Major-General before its close.
On the north side of the James River the enemy attacked Kautz's cavalry
on the 7th of October, and drove it back with heavy loss in killed,
wounded and prisoners, and the loss of all the artillery. This was
followed up by an attack on our intrenched infantry line, but was
repulsed with severe slaughter. On the 13th a reconnoissance was sent
out by General Butler, with a view to drive the enemy from some new
works he was constructing, which resulted in heavy loss to us.
On the 24th I ordered General Meade to attempt to get possession of the
South Side Railroad, and for that purpose to advance on the 27th. The
attempt proved a failure, however, the most advanced of our troops not
getting nearer than within six miles of the point aimed for. Seeing the
impossibility of its accomplishment I ordered the troops to withdraw,
and they were all back in their former positions the next day.
Butler, by my directions, also made a demonstration on the north side of
the James River in order to support this move, by detaining there the
Confederate troops who were on that side. He succeeded in this, but
failed of further results by not marching past the enemy's left before
turning in on the Darby road and by reason of simply coming up against
their lines in place.
This closed active operations around Richmond for the winter. Of course
there was frequent skirmishing between pickets, but no serious battle
was fought near either Petersburg or Richmond. It would prolong this
work to give a detailed account of all that took place from day to day
around Petersburg and at other parts of my command, and it would not
interest the general reader if given. All these details can be found by
the military student in a series of books published by the Scribners,
Badeau's history of my campaigns, and also in the publications of the
War Department, including both the National and Confederate reports.
In the latter part of November General Hancock was relieved from the
command of the 2d corps by the Secretary of War and ordered to
Washington, to organize and command a corps of veteran troops to be
designated the 1st corps. It was expected that this would give him a
large command to co-operate with in the spring. It was my expectation,
at the time, that in the final operations Hancock should move either up
the valley, or else east of the Blue Ridge to Lynchburg; the idea being
to make the spring campaign the close of the war. I expected, with
Sherman coming up from the South, Meade south of Petersburg and around
Richmond, and Thomas's command in Tennessee with depots of supplies
established in the eastern part of that State, to move from the
direction of Washington or the valley towards Lynchburg. We would then
have Lee so surrounded that his supplies would be cut off entirely,
making it impossible for him to support his army.
General Humphreys, chief-of-staff of the Army of the Potomac, was
assigned to the command of the 2d corps, to succeed Hancock.
THE CAMPAIGN IN GEORGIA--SHERMAN'S MARCH TO THE SEA--WAR ANECDOTES--THE
MARCH ON SAVANNAH--INVESTMENT OF SAVANNAH--CAPTURE OF SAVANNAH.
Let us now return to the operations in the military division of the
Mississippi, and accompany Sherman in his march to the sea.
The possession of Atlanta by us narrowed the territory of the enemy very
materially and cut off one of his two remaining lines of roads from east
A short time after the fall of Atlanta Mr. Davis visited Palmetto and
Macon and made speeches at each place. He spoke at Palmetto on the 20th
of September, and at Macon on the 22d. Inasmuch as he had relieved
Johnston and appointed Hood, and Hood had immediately taken the
initiative, it is natural to suppose that Mr. Davis was disappointed
with General Johnston's policy. My own judgment is that Johnston acted
very wisely: he husbanded his men and saved as much of his territory as
he could, without fighting decisive battles in which all might be lost.
As Sherman advanced, as I have show, his army became spread out, until,
if this had been continued, it would have been easy to destroy it in
detail. I know that both Sherman and I were rejoiced when we heard of
the change. Hood was unquestionably a brave, gallant soldier and not
destitute of ability; but unfortunately his policy was to fight the
enemy wherever he saw him, without thinking much of the consequences of
In his speeches Mr. Davis denounced Governor Brown, of Georgia, and
General Johnston in unmeasured terms, even insinuating that their
loyalty to the Southern cause was doubtful. So far as General Johnston
is concerned, I think Davis did him a great injustice in this
particular. I had know the general before the war and strongly believed
it would be impossible for him to accept a high commission for the
purpose of betraying the cause he had espoused. There, as I have said,
I think that his policy was the best one that could have been pursued by
the whole South--protract the war, which was all that was necessary to
enable them to gain recognition in the end. The North was already
growing weary, as the South evidently was also, but with this
difference. In the North the people governed, and could stop
hostilities whenever they chose to stop supplies. The South was a
military camp, controlled absolutely by the government with soldiers to
back it, and the war could have been protracted, no matter to what
extent the discontent reached, up to the point of open mutiny of the
soldiers themselves. Mr. Davis's speeches were frank appeals to the
people of Georgia and that portion of the South to come to their relief.
He tried to assure his frightened hearers that the Yankees were rapidly
digging their own graves; that measures were already being taken to cut
them off from supplies from the North; and that with a force in front,
and cut off from the rear, they must soon starve in the midst of a
hostile people. Papers containing reports of these speeches immediately
reached the Northern States, and they were republished. Of course, that
caused no alarm so long as telegraphic communication was kept up with
When Hood was forced to retreat from Atlanta he moved to the south-west
and was followed by a portion of Sherman's army. He soon appeared upon
the railroad in Sherman's rear, and with his whole army began destroying
the road. At the same time also the work was begun in Tennessee and
Kentucky which Mr. Davis had assured his hearers at Palmetto and Macon
would take place. He ordered Forrest (about the ablest cavalry general
in the South) north for this purpose; and Forrest and Wheeler carried
out their orders with more or less destruction, occasionally picking up
a garrison. Forrest indeed performed the very remarkable feat of
capturing, with cavalry, two gunboats and a number of transports,
something the accomplishment of which is very hard to account for.
Hood's army had been weakened by Governor Brown's withdrawing the
Georgia State troops for the purpose of gathering in the season's crops
for the use of the people and for the use of the army. This not only
depleted Hood's forces but it served a most excellent purpose in
gathering in supplies of food and forage for the use of our army in its
subsequent march. Sherman was obliged to push on with his force and go
himself with portions of it hither and thither, until it was clearly
demonstrated to him that with the army he then had it would be
impossible to hold the line from Atlanta back and leave him any force
whatever with which to take the offensive. Had that plan been adhered
to, very large reinforcements would have been necessary; and Mr. Davis's
prediction of the destruction of the army would have been realized, or
else Sherman would have been obliged to make a successful retreat, which
Mr. Davis said in his speeches would prove more disastrous than
Napoleon's retreat from Moscow.
These speeches of Mr. Davis were not long in reaching Sherman. He took
advantage of the information they gave, and made all the preparation
possible for him to make to meet what now became expected, attempts to
break his communications. Something else had to be done: and to
Sherman's sensible and soldierly mind the idea was not long in dawning
upon him, not only that something else had to be done, but what that
something else should be.
On September 10th I telegraphed Sherman as follows:
CITY POINT, VA., Sept. 10, 1864.
MAJOR-GENERAL SHERMAN, Atlanta, Georgia.
So soon as your men are sufficiently rested, and preparations can be
made, it is desirable that another campaign should be commenced. We
want to keep the enemy constantly pressed to the end of the war. If we
give him no peace whilst the war lasts, the end cannot be distant. Now
that we have all of Mobile Bay that is valuable, I do not know but it
will be the best move to transfer Canby's troops to act upon Savannah,
whilst you move on Augusta. I should like to hear from you, however, in
U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.
Sherman replied promptly:
"If I could be sure of finding provisions and ammunition at Augusta, or
Columbus, Georgia, I can march to Milledgeville, and compel Hood to give
up Augusta or Macon, and then turn on the other. * * * If you can
manage to take the Savannah River as high up as Augusta, or the
Chattahoochee as far up as Columbus, I can sweep the whole State of
On the 12th I sent a special messenger, one of my own staff, with a
letter inviting Sherman's views about the next campaign.
CITY POINT, VA., Sept. 12, 1864.
MAJOR-GENERAL W. T. SHERMAN, Commanding Mill Division of the
I send Lieutenant-Colonel Porter, of my staff, with this. Colonel Porter
will explain to you the exact condition of affairs here better than I
can do in the limits of a letter. Although I feel myself strong enough
for offensive operations, I am holding on quietly to get advantage of
recruits and convalescents, who are coming forward very rapidly. My
lines are necessarily very long, extending from Deep Bottom north of the
James across the peninsula formed by the Appomattox and the James, and
south of the Appomattox to the Weldon Road. This line is very strongly
fortified, and can be held with comparatively few men, but from its
great length takes many in the aggregate. I propose, when I do move, to
extend my left so as to control what is known as the South Side, or
Lynchburg and Petersburg Road, then if possible to keep the Danville
Road cut. At the same time this move is made, I want to send a force of
from six to ten thousand men against Wilmington.
The way I propose to do this is to land the men north of Fort Fisher,
and hold that point. At the same time a large naval fleet will be
assembled there, and the iron-clads will run the batteries as they did
at Mobile. This will give us the same control of the harbor of
Wilmington that we now have of the harbor of Mobile. What you are to do
with the forces at your command, I do not see. The difficulties of
supplying your army, except when you are constantly moving, beyond where
you are, I plainly see. If it had not been for Price's movements Canby
would have sent twelve thousand more men to Mobile. From your command
on the Mississippi an equal number could have been taken. With these
forces my idea would have been to divide them, sending one half to
Mobile and the other half to Savannah. You could then move as proposed
in your telegram, so as to threaten Macon and Augusta equally.
Whichever was abandoned by the enemy you could take and open up a new
base of supplies. My object now in sending a staff officer is not so
much to suggest operations for you, as to get your views and have plans
matured by the time everything can be got ready. It will probably be
the 5th of October before any of the plans herein indicated will be
If you have any promotions to recommend, send the names forward and I
will approve them. * * *
U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.
This reached Sherman on September 20th.
On the 25th of September Sherman reported to Washington that Hood's
troops were in his rear. He had provided against this by sending a
division to Chattanooga and a division to Rome, Georgia, which was in
the rear of Hood, supposing that Hood would fall back in the direction
from which he had come to reach the railroad. At the same time Sherman
and Hood kept up a correspondence relative to the exchange of prisoners,
the treatment of citizens, and other matters suitable to be arranged
between hostile commanders in the field. On the 27th of September I
telegraphed Sherman as follows:
CITY POINT, VA., September 27, 1864--10.30 A.M.
I have directed all recruits and new troops from the Western States to
be sent to Nashville, to receive their further orders from you. * * *
U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.
On the 29th Sherman sent Thomas back to Chattanooga, and afterwards to
Nashville, with another division (Morgan's) of the advanced army.
Sherman then suggested that, when he was prepared, his movements should
take place against Milledgeville and then to Savannah. His expectation
at that time was, to make this movement as soon as he could get up his
supplies. Hood was moving in his own country, and was moving light so
that he could make two miles to Sherman's one. He depended upon the
country to gather his supplies, and so was not affected by delays.
As I have said, until this unexpected state of affairs happened, Mobile
had been looked upon as the objective point of Sherman's army. It had
been a favorite move of mine from 1862, when I first suggested to the
then commander-in-chief that the troops in Louisiana, instead of
frittering away their time in the trans-Mississippi, should move
against Mobile. I recommended this from time to time until I came into
command of the army, the last of March 1864. Having the power in my own
hands, I now ordered the concentration of supplies, stores and troops,
in the department of the Gulf about New Orleans, with a view to a move
against Mobile, in support of, and in conjunction with, the other armies
operating in the field. Before I came into command, these troops had
been scattered over the trans-Mississippi department in such a way that
they could not be, or were not, gotten back in time to take any part in
the original movement; hence the consideration, which had caused Mobile
to be selected as the objective point for Sherman's army to find his
next base of supplies after having cut loose from Atlanta, no longer
General G. M. Dodge, an exceedingly efficient officer, having been badly
wounded, had to leave the army about the first of October. He was in
command of two divisions of the 16th corps, consolidated into one.
Sherman then divided his army into the right and left wings the right
commanded by General O. O. Howard and the left by General Slocum.
General Dodge's two divisions were assigned, one to each of these wings.
Howard's command embraced the 15th and 17th corps, and Slocum's the 14th
and 20th corps, commanded by Generals Jeff. C. Davis and A. S. Williams.
Generals Logan and Blair commanded the two corps composing the right
wing. About this time they left to take part in the presidential
election, which took place that year, leaving their corps to Osterhaus
and Ransom. I have no doubt that their leaving was at the earnest
solicitation of the War Department. General Blair got back in time to
resume his command and to proceed with it throughout the march to the
sea and back to the grand review at Washington. General Logan did not
return to his command until after it reached Savannah.
Logan felt very much aggrieved at the transfer of General Howard from
that portion of the Army of the Potomac which was then with the Western
Army, to the command of the Army of the Tennessee, with which army
General Logan had served from the battle of Belmont to the fall of
Atlanta--having passed successively through all grades from colonel
commanding a regiment to general commanding a brigade, division and army
corps, until upon the death of McPherson the command of the entire Army
of the Tennessee devolved upon him in the midst of a hotly contested
battle. He conceived that he had done his full duty as commander in
that engagement; and I can bear testimony, from personal observation,
that he had proved himself fully equal to all the lower positions which
he had occupied as a soldier. I will not pretend to question the motive
which actuated Sherman in taking an officer from another army to
supersede General Logan. I have no doubt, whatever, that he did this
for what he considered would be to the good of the service, which was
more important than that the personal feelings of any individual should
not be aggrieved; though I doubt whether he had an officer with him who
could have filled the place as Logan would have done. Differences of
opinion must exist between the best of friends as to policies in war,
and of judgment as to men's fitness. The officer who has the command,
however, should be allowed to judge of the fitness of the officers under
him, unless he is very manifestly wrong.
Sherman's army, after all the depletions, numbered about sixty thousand
effective men. All weak men had been left to hold the rear, and those
remaining were not only well men, but strong and hardy, so that he had
sixty thousand as good soldiers as ever trod the earth; better than any
European soldiers, because they not only worked like a machine but the
machine thought. European armies know very little what they are fighting
for, and care less. Included in these sixty thousand troops, there were
two small divisions of cavalry, numbering altogether about four thousand
men. Hood had about thirty-five to forty thousand men, independent of
Forrest, whose forces were operating in Tennessee and Kentucky, as Mr.
Davis had promised they should. This part of Mr. Davis's military plan
was admirable, and promised the best results of anything he could have
done, according to my judgment. I say this because I have criticised his
military judgment in the removal of Johnston, and also in the
appointment of Hood. I am aware, however, that there was high feeling
existing at that time between Davis and his subordinate, whom I regarded
as one of his ablest lieutenants.
On the 5th of October the railroad back from Atlanta was again very
badly broken, Hood having got on the track with his army. Sherman saw
after night, from a high point, the road burning for miles. The defence
of the railroad by our troops was very gallant, but they could not hold
points between their intrenched positions against Hood's whole army; in
fact they made no attempt to do so; but generally the intrenched
positions were held, as well as important bridges, and store located at
them. Allatoona, for instance, was defended by a small force of men
under the command of General Corse, one of the very able and efficient
volunteer officers produced by the war. He, with a small force, was cut
off from the remainder of the National army and was attacked with great
vigor by many times his own number. Sherman from his high position could
see the battle raging, with the Confederate troops between him and his
subordinate. He sent men, of course, to raise the temporary siege, but
the time that would be necessarily consumed in reaching Corse, would be
so great that all occupying the intrenchments might be dead. Corse was
a man who would never surrender. From a high position some of Sherman's
signal corps discovered a signal flag waving from a hole in the block
house at Allatoona. It was from Corse. He had been shot through the
face, but he signalled to his chief a message which left no doubt of his
determination to hold his post at all hazards. It was at this point
probably, that Sherman first realized that with the forces at his
disposal, the keeping open of his line of communication with the North
would be impossible if he expected to retain any force with which to
operate offensively beyond Atlanta. He proposed, therefore, to destroy
the roads back to Chattanooga, when all ready to move, and leave the
latter place garrisoned. Yet, before abandoning the railroad, it was
necessary that he should repair damages already done, and hold the road
until he could get forward such supplies, ordnance stores and small
rations, as he wanted to carry with him on his proposed march, and to
return to the north his surplus artillery; his object being to move
light and to have no more artillery than could be used to advantage on
Sherman thought Hood would follow him, though he proposed to prepare for
the contingency of the latter moving the other way while he was moving
south, by making Thomas strong enough to hold Tennessee and Kentucky.
I, myself, was thoroughly satisfied that Hood would go north, as he did.
On the 2d of November I telegraphed Sherman authorizing him definitely
to move according to the plan he had proposed: that is, cutting loose
from his base, giving up Atlanta and the railroad back to Chattanooga.
To strengthen Thomas he sent Stanley (4th corps) back, and also ordered
Schofield, commanding the Army of the Ohio, twelve thousand strong, to
report to him. In addition to this, A. J. Smith, who, with two
divisions of Sherman's army, was in Missouri aiding Rosecrans in driving
the enemy from that State, was under orders to return to Thomas and,
under the most unfavorable circumstances, might be expected to arrive
there long before Hood could reach Nashville.
In addition to this, the new levies of troops that were being raised in
the North-west went to Thomas as rapidly as enrolled and equipped.
Thomas, without any of these additions spoken of, had a garrison at
Chattanooga which had been strengthened by one division and garrisons at
Bridgeport, Stevenson, Decatur, Murfreesboro, and Florence. There were
already with him in Nashville ten thousand soldiers in round numbers,
and many thousands of employees in the quartermaster's and other
departments who could be put in the intrenchments in front of Nashville,
for its defence. Also, Wilson was there with ten thousand dismounted
cavalrymen, who were being equipped for the field. Thomas had at this
time about forty-five thousand men without any of the reinforcements
here above enumerated. These reinforcements gave him altogether about
seventy thousand men, without counting what might be added by the new
levies already spoken of.
About this time Beauregard arrived upon the field, not to supersede Hood
in command, but to take general charge over the entire district in which
Hood and Sherman were, or might be, operating. He made the most frantic
appeals to the citizens for assistance to be rendered in every way: by
sending reinforcements, by destroying supplies on the line of march of
the invaders, by destroying the bridges over which they would have to
cross, and by, in every way, obstructing the roads to their front. But
it was hard to convince the people of the propriety of destroying
supplies which were so much needed by themselves, and each one hoped
that his own possessions might escape.
Hood soon started north, and went into camp near Decatur, Alabama, where
he remained until the 29th of October, but without making an attack on
the garrison of that place.
The Tennessee River was patrolled by gunboats, from Muscle Shoals east;
and, also, below the second shoals out to the Ohio River. These, with
the troops that might be concentrated from the garrisons along the river
at any point where Hood might choose to attempt to cross, made it
impossible for him to cross the Tennessee at any place where it was
navigable. But Muscle Shoals is not navigable, and below them again is
another shoal which also obstructs navigation. Hood therefore moved
down to a point nearly opposite Florence, Alabama, crossed over and
remained there for some time, collecting supplies of food, forage and
ammunition. All of these had to come from a considerable distance south,
because the region in which he was then situated was mountainous, with
small valleys which produced but little, and what they had produced had
long since been exhausted. On the 1st of November I suggested to
Sherman, and also asked his views thereon, the propriety of destroying
Hood before he started on his campaign.
On the 2d of November, as stated, I approved definitely his making his
proposed campaign through Georgia, leaving Hood behind to the tender
mercy of Thomas and the troops in his command. Sherman fixed the 10th
of November as the day of starting.
Sherman started on that day to get back to Atlanta, and on the 15th the
real march to the sea commenced. The right wing, under Howard, and the
cavalry went to Jonesboro, Milledgeville, then the capital of Georgia,
being Sherman's objective or stopping place on the way to Savannah. The
left wing moved to Stone Mountain, along roads much farther east than
those taken by the right wing. Slocum was in command, and threatened
Augusta as the point to which he was moving, but he was to turn off and
meet the right wing at Milledgeville.
Atlanta was destroyed so far as to render it worthless for military
purposes before starting, Sherman himself remaining over a day to
superintend the work, and see that it was well done. Sherman's orders
for this campaign were perfect. Before starting, he had sent back all
sick, disabled and weak men, retaining nothing but the hardy,
well-inured soldiers to accompany him on his long march in prospect.
His artillery was reduced to sixty-five guns. The ammunition carried
with them was two hundred rounds for musket and gun. Small rations were
taken in a small wagon train, which was loaded to its capacity for rapid
movement. The army was expected to live on the country, and to always
keep the wagons full of forage and provisions against a possible delay
of a few days.
The troops, both of the right and left wings, made most of their advance
along the line of railroads, which they destroyed. The method adopted
to perform this work, was to burn and destroy all the bridges and
culverts, and for a long distance, at places, to tear up the track and
bend the rails. Soldiers to do this rapidly would form a line along one
side of the road with crowbars and poles, place these under the rails
and, hoisting all at once, turn over many rods of road at one time. The
ties would then be placed in piles, and the rails, as they were
loosened, would be carried and put across these log heaps. When a
sufficient number of rails were placed upon a pile of ties it would be
set on fire. This would heat the rails very much more in the middle,
that being over the main part of the fire, than at the ends, so that
they would naturally bend of their own weight; but the soldiers, to
increase the damage, would take tongs and, one or two men at each end of
the rail, carry it with force against the nearest tree and twist it
around, thus leaving rails forming bands to ornament the forest trees of
Georgia. All this work was going on at the same time, there being a
sufficient number of men detailed for that purpose. Some piled the logs
and built the fire; some put the rails upon the fire; while others would
bend those that were sufficiently heated: so that, by the time the last
bit of road was torn up, that it was designed to destroy at a certain
place, the rails previously taken up were already destroyed.
The organization for supplying the army was very complete. Each brigade
furnished a company to gather supplies of forage and provisions for the
command to which they belonged. Strict injunctions were issued against
pillaging, or otherwise unnecessarily annoying the people; but
everything in shape of food for man and forage for beast was taken. The
supplies were turned over to the brigade commissary and quartermaster,
and were issued by them to their respective commands precisely the same
as if they had been purchased. The captures consisted largely of
cattle, sheep, poultry, some bacon, cornmeal, often molasses, and
occasionally coffee or other small rations.
The skill of these men, called by themselves and the army "bummers," in
collecting their loads and getting back to their respective commands,
was marvellous. When they started out in the morning, they were always
on foot; but scarcely one of them returned in the evening without being
mounted on a horse or mule. These would be turned in for the general use
of the army, and the next day these men would start out afoot and return
again in the evening mounted.
Many of the exploits of these men would fall under the head of romance;
indeed, I am afraid that in telling some of their experiences, the
romance got the better of the truth upon which the story was founded,
and that, in the way many of these anecdotes are told, very little of
the foundation is left. I suspect that most of them consist chiefly of
the fiction added to make the stories better. In one instance it was
reported that a few men of Sherman's army passed a house where they
discovered some chickens under the dwelling. They immediately proceeded
to capture them, to add to the army's supplies. The lady of the house,
who happened to be at home, made piteous appeals to have these spared,
saying they were a few she had put away to save by permission of other
parties who had preceded and who had taken all the others that she had.
The soldiers seemed moved at her appeal; but looking at the chickens
again they were tempted and one of them replied: "The rebellion must be
suppressed if it takes the last chicken in the Confederacy," and
proceeded to appropriate the last one.
Another anecdote characteristic of these times has been told. The South,
prior to the rebellion, kept bloodhounds to pursue runaway slaves who
took refuge in the neighboring swamps, and also to hunt convicts.
Orders were issued to kill all these animals as they were met with. On
one occasion a soldier picked up a poodle, the favorite pet of its
mistress, and was carrying it off to execution when the lady made a
strong appeal to him to spare it. The soldier replied, "Madam, our
orders are to kill every bloodhound." "But this is not a bloodhound,"
said the lady. "Well, madam, we cannot tell what it will grow into if
we leave it behind," said the soldier as he went off with it.
Notwithstanding these anecdotes, and the necessary hardship they would
seem to imply, I do not believe there was much unwarrantable pillaging
considering that we were in the enemy's territory and without any
supplies except such as the country afforded.
On the 23d Sherman, with the left wing, reached Milledgeville. The right
wing was not far off: but proceeded on its way towards Savannah
destroying the road as it went. The troops at Milledgeville remained
over a day to destroy factories, buildings used for military purposes,
etc., before resuming its march.
The governor, who had been almost defying Mr. Davis before this, now
fled precipitately, as did the legislature of the State and all the
State officers. The governor, Sherman says, was careful to carry away
even his garden vegetables, while he left the archives of the State to
fall into our hands. The only military force that was opposed to
Sherman's forward march was the Georgia militia, a division under the
command of General G. W. Smith, and a battalion under Harry Wayne.
Neither the quality of the forces nor their numbers was sufficient to
even retard the progress of Sherman's army.
The people at the South became so frantic at this time at the successful
invasion of Georgia that they took the cadets from the military college
and added them to the ranks of the militia. They even liberated the
State convicts under promise from them that they would serve in the
army. I have but little doubt that the worst acts that were attributed
to Sherman's army were committed by these convicts, and by other
Southern people who ought to have been under sentence--such people as
could be found in every community, North and South--who took advantage
of their country being invaded to commit crime. They were in but little
danger of detection, or of arrest even if detected.
The Southern papers in commenting upon Sherman's movements pictured him
as in the most deplorable condition: stating that his men were
starving, that they were demoralized and wandering about almost without
object, aiming only to reach the sea coast and get under the protection
of our navy. These papers got to the North and had more or less effect
upon the minds of the people, causing much distress to all loyal persons
particularly to those who had husbands, sons or brothers with Sherman.
Mr. Lincoln seeing these accounts, had a letter written asking me if I
could give him anything that he could say to the loyal people that would
comfort them. I told him there was not the slightest occasion for
alarm; that with 60,000 such men as Sherman had with him, such a
commanding officer as he was could not be cut off in the open country.
He might possibly be prevented from reaching the point he had started
out to reach, but he would get through somewhere and would finally get
to his chosen destination: and even if worst came to worst he could
return North. I heard afterwards of Mr. Lincoln's saying, to those who
would inquire of him as to what he thought about the safety of Sherman's
army, that Sherman was all right: "Grant says they are safe with such a
general, and that if they cannot get out where they want to, they can
crawl back by the hole they went in at."
While at Milledgeville the soldiers met at the State House, organized a
legislature, and proceeded to business precisely as if they were the
legislative body belonging to the State of Georgia. The debates were
exciting, and were upon the subject of the situation the South was in at
that time, particularly the State of Georgia. They went so far as to
repeal, after a spirited and acrimonious debate, the ordinance of
The next day (24th) Sherman continued his march, going by the way of
Waynesboro and Louisville, Millen being the next objective and where the
two columns (the right and left wings) were to meet. The left wing
moved to the left of the direct road, and the cavalry still farther off
so as to make it look as though Augusta was the point they were aiming
for. They moved on all the roads they could find leading in that
direction. The cavalry was sent to make a rapid march in hope of
surprising Millen before the Union prisoners could be carried away; but
they failed in this.
The distance from Milledgeville to Millen was about one hundred miles.
At this point Wheeler, who had been ordered from Tennessee, arrived and
swelled the numbers and efficiency of the troops confronting Sherman.
Hardee, a native of Georgia, also came, but brought no troops with him.
It was intended that he should raise as large an army as possible with
which to intercept Sherman's march. He did succeed in raising some
troops, and with these and those under the command of Wheeler and Wayne,
had an army sufficient to cause some annoyance but no great detention.
Our cavalry and Wheeler's had a pretty severe engagement, in which
Wheeler was driven towards Augusta, thus giving the idea that Sherman
was probably making for that point.
Millen was reached on the 3d of December, and the march was resumed the
following day for Savannah, the final objective. Bragg had now been sent
to Augusta with some troops. Wade Hampton was there also trying to
raise cavalry sufficient to destroy Sherman's army. If he ever raised a
force it was too late to do the work expected of it. Hardee's whole
force probably numbered less than ten thousand men.
From Millen to Savannah the country is sandy and poor, and affords but
very little forage other than rice straw, which was then growing. This
answered a very good purpose as forage, and the rice grain was an
addition to the soldier's rations. No further resistance worthy of note
was met with, until within a few miles of Savannah. This place was
found to be intrenched and garrisoned. Sherman proceeded at once on his
arrival to invest the place, and found that the enemy had placed
torpedoes in the ground, which were to explode when stepped on by man or
beast. One of these exploded under an officer's horse, blowing the
animal to pieces and tearing one of the legs of the officer so badly
that it had to be amputated. Sherman at once ordered his prisoners to
the front, moving them in a compact body in advance, to either explode
the torpedoes or dig them up. No further explosion took place.
On the 10th of December the siege of Savannah commenced. Sherman then,
before proceeding any further with operations for the capture of the
place, started with some troops to open communication with our fleet,
which he expected to find in the lower harbor or as near by as the forts
of the enemy would permit. In marching to the coast he encountered Fort
McAllister, which it was necessary to reduce before the supplies he
might find on shipboard could be made available. Fort McAllister was
soon captured by an assault made by General Hazen's division.
Communication was then established with the fleet. The capture of
Savannah then only occupied a few days, and involved no great loss of
life. The garrison, however, as we shall see, was enabled to escape by
crossing the river and moving eastward.
When Sherman had opened communication with the fleet he found there a
steamer, which I had forwarded to him, carrying the accumulated mails
for his army, also supplies which I supposed he would be in need of.
General J. G. Foster, who commanded all the troops south of North
Carolina on the Atlantic sea-board, visited General Sherman before he
had opened communication with the fleet, with the view of ascertaining
what assistance he could be to him. Foster returned immediately to his
own headquarters at Hilton Head, for the purpose of sending Sherman
siege guns, and also if he should find he had them to spare, supplies of
clothing, hard bread, etc., thinking that these articles might not be
found outside. The mail on the steamer which I sent down, had been
collected by Colonel A. H. Markland of the Post Office Department, who
went in charge of it. On this same vessel I sent an officer of my staff
(Lieutenant Dunn) with the following letter to General Sherman:
CITY POINT, VA., Dec. 3, 1864.
MAJOR-GENERAL W. T. SHERMAN, Commanding Armies near Savannah, Ga.
The little information gleaned from the Southern press, indicating no
great obstacle to your progress, I have directed your mails (which had
been previously collected at Baltimore by Colonel Markland, Special
Agent of the Post Office Department) to be sent as far as the blockading
squadron off Savannah, to be forwarded to you as soon as heard from on
Not liking to rejoice before the victory is assured, I abstain from
congratulating you and those under your command, until bottom has been
struck. I have never had a fear, however, for the result.
Since you left Atlanta, no very great progress has been made here. The
enemy has been closely watched though, and prevented from detaching
against you. I think not one man has gone from here, except some twelve
or fifteen hundred dismounted cavalry. Bragg has gone from Wilmington.
I am trying to take advantage of his absence to get possession of that
place. Owing to some preparations Admiral Porter and General Butler are
making to blow up Fort Fisher (which, while hoping for the best, I do
not believe a particle in), there is a delay in getting this expedition
off. I hope they will be ready to start by the 7th, and that Bragg will
not have started back by that time.
In this letter I do not intend to give you anything like directions for
future action, but will state a general idea I have, and will get your
views after you have established yourself on the sea-coast. With your
veteran army I hope to get control of the only two through routes from
east to west possessed by the enemy before the fall of Atlanta. The
condition will be filled by holding Savannah and Augusta, or by holding
any other port to the east of Savannah and Branchville. If Wilmington
falls, a force from there can co-operate with you.
Thomas has got back into the defences of Nashville, with Hood close upon
him. Decatur has been abandoned, and so have all the roads except the
main one leading to Chattanooga. Part of this falling back was
undoubtedly necessary and all of it may have been. It did not look so,
however, to me. In my opinion, Thomas far outnumbers Hood in infantry.
In cavalry, Hood has the advantage in morale and numbers. I hope yet
that Hood will be badly crippled if not destroyed. The general news you
will learn from the papers better than I could give it.
After all becomes quiet, and roads become so bad up here that there is
likely to be a week or two when nothing can be done, I will run down the
coast to see you. If you desire it, I will ask Mrs. Sherman to go with
Yours truly, U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General
I quote this letter because it gives the reader a full knowledge of the
events of that period.
Sherman now (the 15th) returned to Savannah to complete its investment
and insure the surrender of the garrison. The country about Savannah is
low and marshy, and the city was well intrenched from the river above to
the river below; and assaults could not be made except along a
comparatively narrow causeway. For this reason assaults must have
resulted in serious destruction of life to the Union troops, with the
chance of failing altogether. Sherman therefore decided upon a complete
investment of the place. When he believed this investment completed, he
summoned the garrison to surrender. General Hardee, who was in command,
replied in substance that the condition of affairs was not such as
Sherman had described. He said he was in full communication with his
department and was receiving supplies constantly.
Hardee, however, was cut off entirely from all communication with the
west side of the river, and by the river itself to the north and south.
On the South Carolina side the country was all rice fields, through
which it would have been impossible to bring supplies so that Hardee had
no possible communication with the outside world except by a dilapidated
plank road starting from the west bank of the river. Sherman, receiving
this reply, proceeded in person to a point on the coast, where General
Foster had troops stationed under General Hatch, for the purpose of
making arrangements with the latter officer to go through by one of the
numerous channels running inland along that part of the coast of South
Carolina, to the plank road which General Hardee still possessed, and
thus to cut him off from the last means he had of getting supplies, if
not of communication.
While arranging for this movement, and before the attempt to execute the
plan had been commenced, Sherman received information through one of his
staff officers that the enemy had evacuated Savannah the night before.
This was the night of the 21st of December. Before evacuating the place
Hardee had blown up the navy yard. Some iron-clads had been destroyed,
as well as other property that might have been valuable to us; but he
left an immense amount of stores untouched, consisting of cotton,
railroad cars, workshops, numerous pieces of artillery, and several
thousand stands of small arms.
A little incident occurred, soon after the fall of Savannah, which
Sherman relates in his Memoirs, and which is worthy of repetition.
Savannah was one of the points where blockade runners entered. Shortly
after the city fell into our possession, a blockade runner came sailing
up serenely, not doubting but the Confederates were still in possession.
It was not molested, and the captain did not find out his mistake until
he had tied up and gone to the Custom House, where he found a new
occupant of the building, and made a less profitable disposition of his
vessel and cargo than he had expected.
As there was some discussion as to the authorship of Sherman's march to
the sea, by critics of his book when it appeared before the public, I
want to state here that no question upon that subject was ever raised
between General Sherman and myself. Circumstances made the plan on which
Sherman expected to act impracticable, as as commander of the forces he
necessarily had to devise a new on which would give more promise of
success: consequently he recommended the destruction of the railroad
back to Chattanooga, and that he should be authorized then to move, as
he did, from Atlanta forward. His suggestions were finally approved,
although they did not immediately find favor in Washington. Even when
it came to the time of starting, the greatest apprehension, as to the
propriety of the campaign he was about commence, filled the mind of the
President, induced no doubt by his advisers. This went so far as to
move the President to ask me to suspend Sherman's march for a day or two
until I could think the matter over. My recollection is, though I find
no record to show it, that out of deference to the President's wish I
did send a dispatch to Sherman asking him to wait a day or two, or else
the connections between us were already cut so that I could not do so.
However this may be, the question of who devised the plan of march from
Atlanta to Savannah is easily answered: it was clearly Sherman, and to
him also belongs the credit of its brilliant execution. It was hardly
possible that any one else than those on the spot could have devised a
new plan of campaign to supersede one that did not promise success.
I was in favor of Sherman's plan from the time it was first submitted to
me. My chief of staff, however, was very bitterly opposed to it and, as
I learned subsequently, finding that he could not move me, he appealed
to the authorities at Washington to stop it.
THE BATTLE OF FRANKLIN--THE BATTLE OF NASHVILLE.
As we have seen, Hood succeeded in crossing the Tennessee River between
Muscle Shoals and the lower shoals at the end of October, 1864. Thomas
sent Schofield with the 4th and 23d corps, together with three brigades
of Wilson's cavalry to Pulaski to watch him. On the 17th of November
Hood started and moved in such a manner as to avoid Schofield, thereby
turning his position. Hood had with him three infantry corps, commanded
respectively by Stephen D. Lee, Stewart and Cheatham. These, with his
cavalry, numbered about forty-five thousand men. Schofield had, of all
arms, about thirty thousand. Thomas's orders were, therefore, for
Schofield to watch the movements of the enemy, but not to fight a battle
if he could avoid it; but to fall back in case of an advance on
Nashville, and to fight the enemy, as he fell back, so as to retard the
enemy's movements until he could be reinforced by Thomas himself. As
soon as Schofield saw this movement of Hood's, he sent his trains to the
rear, but did not fall back himself until the 21st, and then only to
Columbia. At Columbia there was a slight skirmish but no battle. From
this place Schofield then retreated to Franklin. He had sent his wagons
in advance, and Stanley had gone with them with two divisions to protect
them. Cheatham's corps of Hood's army pursued the wagon train and went
into camp at Spring Hill, for the night of the 29th.
Schofield retreating from Columbia on the 29th, passed Spring Hill,
where Cheatham was bivouacked, during the night without molestation,
though within half a mile of where the Confederates were encamped. On
the morning of the 30th he had arrived at Franklin.
Hood followed closely and reached Franklin in time to make an attack the
same day. The fight was very desperate and sanguinary. The Confederate
generals led their men in the repeated charges, and the loss among them
was of unusual proportions. This fighting continued with great severity
until long after the night closed in, when the Confederates drew off.
General Stanley, who commanded two divisions of the Union troops, and
whose troops bore the brunt of the battle, was wounded in the fight, but
maintained his position.
The enemy's loss at Franklin, according to Thomas's report, was 1,750
buried upon the field by our troops, 3,800 in the hospital, and 702
prisoners besides. Schofield's loss, as officially reported, was 189
killed, 1,033 wounded, and 1,104 captured and missing.
Thomas made no effort to reinforce Schofield at Franklin, as it seemed
to me at the time he should have done, and fight out the battle there.
He simply ordered Schofield to continue his retreat to Nashville, which
the latter did during that night and the next day.
Thomas, in the meantime, was making his preparations to receive Hood.
The road to Chattanooga was still well guarded with strong garrisons at
Murfreesboro, Stevenson, Bridgeport and Chattanooga. Thomas had
previously given up Decatur and had been reinforced by A. J. Smith's two
divisions just returned from Missouri. He also had Steedman's division
and R. S. Granger's, which he had drawn from the front. His
quartermaster's men, about ten thousand in number, had been organized
and armed under the command of the chief quartermaster, General J. L.
Donaldson, and placed in the fortifications under the general
supervision of General Z. B. Tower, of the United States Engineers.
Hood was allowed to move upon Nashville, and to invest that place almost
without interference. Thomas was strongly fortified in his position, so
that he would have been safe against the attack of Hood. He had troops
enough even to annihilate him in the open field. To me his delay was
unaccountable--sitting there and permitting himself to be invested, so
that, in the end, to raise the siege he would have to fight the enemy
strongly posted behind fortifications. It is true the weather was very
bad. The rain was falling and freezing as it fell, so that the ground
was covered with a sheet of ice, that made it very difficult to move.
But I was afraid that the enemy would find means of moving, elude Thomas
and manage to get north of the Cumberland River. If he did this, I
apprehended most serious results from the campaign in the North, and was
afraid we might even have to send troops from the East to head him off
if he got there, General Thomas's movements being always so deliberate
and so slow, though effective in defence.
I consequently urged Thomas in frequent dispatches sent from City
Point(*41) to make the attack at once. The country was alarmed, the
administration was alarmed, and I was alarmed lest the very thing would
take place which I have just described that is, Hood would get north.
It was all without avail further than to elicit dispatches from Thomas
saying that he was getting ready to move as soon as he could, that he
was making preparations, etc. At last I had to say to General Thomas
that I should be obliged to remove him unless he acted promptly. He
replied that he was very sorry, but he would move as soon as he could.
General Logan happening to visit City Point about that time, and knowing
him as a prompt, gallant and efficient officer, I gave him an order to
proceed to Nashville to relieve Thomas. I directed him, however, not to
deliver the order or publish it until he reached there, and if Thomas
had moved, then not to deliver it at all, but communicate with me by
telegraph. After Logan started, in thinking over the situation, I
became restless, and concluded to go myself. I went as far as
Washington City, when a dispatch was received from General Thomas
announcing his readiness at last to move, and designating the time of
his movement. I concluded to wait until that time. He did move, and was
successful from the start. This was on the 15th of December. General
Logan was at Louisville at the time this movement was made, and
telegraphed the fact to Washington, and proceeded no farther himself.
The battle during the 15th was severe, but favorable to the Union
troops, and continued until night closed in upon the combat. The next
day the battle was renewed. After a successful assault upon Hood's men
in their intrenchments the enemy fled in disorder, routed and broken,
leaving their dead, their artillery and small arms in great numbers on
the field, besides the wounded that were captured. Our cavalry had
fought on foot as infantry, and had not their horses with them; so that
they were not ready to join in the pursuit the moment the enemy
retreated. They sent back, however, for their horses, and endeavored to
get to Franklin ahead of Hood's broken army by the Granny White Road,
but too much time was consumed in getting started. They had got but a
few miles beyond the scene of the battle when they found the enemy's
cavalry dismounted and behind intrenchments covering the road on which
they were advancing. Here another battle ensued, our men dismounting and
fighting on foot, in which the Confederates were again routed and driven
in great disorder. Our cavalry then went into bivouac, and renewed the
pursuit on the following morning. They were too late. The enemy
already had possession of Franklin, and was beyond them. It now became a
chase in which the Confederates had the lead.
Our troops continued the pursuit to within a few miles of Columbia,
where they found the rebels had destroyed the railroad bridge as well as
all other bridges over Duck River. The heavy rains of a few days before
had swelled the stream into a mad torrent, impassable except on bridges.
Unfortunately, either through a mistake in the wording of the order or
otherwise, the pontoon bridge which was to have been sent by rail out to
Franklin, to be taken thence with the pursuing column, had gone toward
Chattanooga. There was, consequently, a delay of some four days in
building bridges out of the remains of the old railroad bridge. Of
course Hood got such a start in this time that farther pursuit was
useless, although it was continued for some distance, but without coming
upon him again.
EXPEDITION AGAINST FORT FISHER--ATTACK ON THE FORT--FAILURE OF THE
EXPEDITION--SECOND EXPEDITION AGAINST THE FORT--CAPTURE OF FORT FISHER.
Up to January, 1865, the enemy occupied Fort Fisher, at the mouth of
Cape Fear River and below the City of Wilmington. This port was of
immense importance to the Confederates, because it formed their
principal inlet for blockade runners by means of which they brought in
from abroad such supplies and munitions of war as they could not produce
at home. It was equally important to us to get possession of it, not
only because it was desirable to cut off their supplies so as to insure
a speedy termination of the war, but also because foreign governments,
particularly the British Government, were constantly threatening that
unless ours could maintain the blockade of that coast they should cease
to recognize any blockade. For these reasons I determined, with the
concurrence of the Navy Department, in December, to send an expedition
against Fort Fisher for the purpose of capturing it.
To show the difficulty experienced in maintaining the blockade, I will
mention a circumstance that took place at Fort Fisher after its fall.
Two English blockade runners came in at night. Their commanders, not
supposing the fort had fallen, worked their way through all our fleet
and got into the river unobserved. They then signalled the fort,
announcing their arrival. There was a colored man in the fort who had
been there before and who understood these signals. He informed General
Terry what reply he should make to have them come in, and Terry did as
he advised. The vessels came in, their officers entirely unconscious
that they were falling into the hands of the Union forces. Even after
they were brought in to the fort they were entertained in conversation
for some little time before suspecting that the Union troops were
occupying the fort. They were finally informed that their vessels and
cargoes were prizes.
I selected General Weitzel, of the Army of the James, to go with the
expedition, but gave instructions through General Butler. He commanded
the department within whose geographical limits Fort Fisher was
situated, as well as Beaufort and other points on that coast held by our
troops; he was, therefore, entitled to the right of fitting out the
expedition against Fort Fisher.
General Butler conceived the idea that if a steamer loaded heavily with
powder could be run up to near the shore under the fort and exploded, it
would create great havoc and make the capture an easy matter. Admiral
Porter, who was to command the naval squadron, seemed to fall in with
the idea, and it was not disapproved of in Washington; the navy was
therefore given the task of preparing the steamer for this purpose. I
had no confidence in the success of the scheme, and so expressed myself;
but as no serious harm could come of the experiment, and the authorities
at Washington seemed desirous to have it tried, I permitted it. The
steamer was sent to Beaufort, North Carolina, and was there loaded with
powder and prepared for the part she was to play in the reduction of
General Butler chose to go in command of the expedition himself, and was
all ready to sail by the 9th of December (1864). Very heavy storms
prevailed, however, at that time along that part of the sea-coast, and
prevented him from getting off until the 13th or 14th. His advance
arrived off Fort Fisher on the 15th. The naval force had been already
assembled, or was assembling, but they were obliged to run into Beaufort
for munitions, coal, etc.; then, too, the powder-boat was not yet fully
prepared. The fleet was ready to proceed on the 18th; but Butler, who
had remained outside from the 15th up to that time, now found himself
out of coal, fresh water, etc., and had to put into Beaufort to
replenish. Another storm overtook him, and several days more were lost
before the army and navy were both ready at the same time to co-operate.
On the night of the 23d the powder-boat was towed in by a gunboat as
near to the fort as it was safe to run. She was then propelled by her
own machinery to within about five hundred yards of the shore. There
the clockwork, which was to explode her within a certain length of time,
was set and she was abandoned. Everybody left, and even the vessels put
out to sea to prevent the effect of the explosion upon them. At two
o'clock in the morning the explosion took place--and produced no more
effect on the fort, or anything else on land, than the bursting of a
boiler anywhere on the Atlantic Ocean would have done. Indeed when the
troops in Fort Fisher heard the explosion they supposed it was the
bursting of a boiler in one of the Yankee gunboats.
Fort Fisher was situated upon a low, flat peninsula north of Cape Fear
River. The soil is sandy. Back a little the peninsula is very heavily
wooded, and covered with fresh-water swamps. The fort ran across this
peninsula, about five hundred yards in width, and extended along the sea
coast about thirteen hundred yards. The fort had an armament of 21 guns
and 3 mortars on the land side, and 24 guns on the sea front. At that
time it was only garrisoned by four companies of infantry, one light
battery and the gunners at the heavy guns less than seven hundred men
with a reserve of less than a thousand men five miles up the peninsula.
General Whiting of the Confederate army was in command, and General
Bragg was in command of the force at Wilmington. Both commenced calling
for reinforcements the moment they saw our troops landing. The Governor
of North Carolina called for everybody who could stand behind a parapet
and shoot a gun, to join them. In this way they got two or three
hundred additional men into Fort Fisher; and Hoke's division, five or
six thousand strong, was sent down from Richmond. A few of these troops
arrived the very day that Butler was ready to advance.
On the 24th the fleet formed for an attack in arcs of concentric
circles, their heavy iron-clads going in very close range, being nearest
the shore, and leaving intervals or spaces so that the outer vessels
could fire between them. Porter was thus enabled to throw one hundred
and fifteen shells per minute. The damage done to the fort by these
shells was very slight, only two or three cannon being disabled in the
fort. But the firing silenced all the guns by making it too hot for the
men to maintain their positions about them and compelling them to seek
shelter in the bomb-proofs.
On the next day part of Butler's troops under General Adelbert Ames
effected a landing out of range of the fort without difficulty. This
was accomplished under the protection of gunboats sent for the purpose,
and under cover of a renewed attack upon the fort by the fleet. They
formed a line across the peninsula and advanced, part going north and
part toward the fort, covering themselves as they did so. Curtis pushed
forward and came near to Fort Fisher, capturing the small garrison at
what was called the Flag Pond Battery. Weitzel accompanied him to
within a half a mile of the works. Here he saw that the fort had not
been injured, and so reported to Butler, advising against an assault.
Ames, who had gone north in his advance, captured 228 of the reserves.
These prisoners reported to Butler that sixteen hundred of Hoke's
division of six thousand from Richmond had already arrived and the rest
would soon be in his rear.
Upon these reports Butler determined to withdraw his troops from the
peninsula and return to the fleet. At that time there had not been a
man on our side injured except by one of the shells from the fleet.
Curtis had got within a few yards of the works. Some of his men had
snatched a flag from the parapet of the fort, and others had taken a
horse from the inside of the stockade. At night Butler informed Porter
of his withdrawal, giving the reasons above stated, and announced his
purpose as soon as his men could embark to start for Hampton Roads.
Porter represented to him that he had sent to Beaufort for more
ammunition. He could fire much faster than he had been doing, and would
keep the enemy from showing himself until our men were within twenty
yards of the fort, and he begged that Butler would leave some brave
fellows like those who had snatched the flag from the parapet and taken
the horse from the fort.
Butler was unchangeable. He got all his troops aboard, except Curtis's
brigade, and started back. In doing this, Butler made a fearful
mistake. My instructions to him, or to the officer who went in command
of the expedition, were explicit in the statement that to effect a
landing would be of itself a great victory, and if one should be
effected, the foothold must not be relinquished; on the contrary, a
regular siege of the fort must be commenced and, to guard against
interference by reason of storms, supplies of provisions must be laid in
as soon as they could be got on shore. But General Butler seems to have
lost sight of this part of his instructions, and was back at Fort Monroe
on the 28th.
I telegraphed to the President as follows:
CITY POINT, VA., Dec. 28, 1864.--8.30 P.M.
The Wilmington expedition has proven a gross and culpable failure. Many
of the troops are back here. Delays and free talk of the object of the
expedition enabled the enemy to move troops to Wilmington to defeat it.
After the expedition sailed from Fort Monroe, three days of fine weather
were squandered, during which the enemy was without a force to protect
himself. Who is to blame will, I hope, be known.
U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.
Porter sent dispatches to the Navy Department in which he complained
bitterly of having been abandoned by the army just when the fort was
nearly in our possession, and begged that our troops might be sent back
again to cooperate, but with a different commander. As soon as I heard
this I sent a messenger to Porter with a letter asking him to hold on.
I assured him that I fully sympathized with him in his disappointment,
and that I would send the same troops back with a different commander,
with some reinforcements to offset those which the enemy had received.
I told him it would take some little time to get transportation for the
additional troops; but as soon as it could be had the men should be on
their way to him, and there would be no delay on my part. I selected A.
H. Terry to command.
It was the 6th of January before the transports could be got ready and
the troops aboard. They sailed from Fortress Monroe on that day. The
object and destination of the second expedition were at the time kept a
secret to all except a few in the Navy Department and in the army to
whom it was necessary to impart the information. General Terry had not
the slightest idea of where he was going or what he was to do. He
simply knew that he was going to sea and that he had his orders with
him, which were to be opened when out at sea.
He was instructed to communicate freely with Porter and have entire
harmony between army and navy, because the work before them would
require the best efforts of both arms of service. They arrived off
Beaufort on the 8th. A heavy storm, however, prevented a landing at
Forth Fisher until the 13th. The navy prepared itself for attack about
as before, and the same time assisted the army in landing, this time
five miles away. Only iron-clads fired at first; the object being to
draw the fire of the enemy's guns so as to ascertain their positions.
This object being accomplished, they then let in their shots thick and
fast. Very soon the guns were all silenced, and the fort showed evident
signs of being much injured.
Terry deployed his men across the peninsula as had been done before, and
at two o'clock on the following morning was up within two miles of the
fort with a respectable abatis in front of his line. His artillery was
all landed on that day, the 14th. Again Curtis's brigade of Ame's
division had the lead. By noon they had carried an unfinished work less
than a half mile from the fort, and turned it so as to face the other
Terry now saw Porter and arranged for an assault on the following day.
The two commanders arranged their signals so that they could communicate
with each other from time to time as they might have occasion. At day
light the fleet commenced its firing. The time agreed upon for the
assault was the middle of the afternoon, and Ames who commanded the
assaulting column moved at 3.30. Porter landed a force of sailors and
marines to move against the sea-front in co-operation with Ames's
assault. They were under Commander Breese of the navy. These sailors
and marines had worked their way up to within a couple of hundred yards
of the fort before the assault. The signal was given and the assault
was made; but the poor sailors and marines were repulsed and very badly
handled by the enemy, losing 280 killed and wounded out of their number.
Curtis's brigade charged successfully though met by a heavy fire, some
of the men having to wade through the swamp up to their waists to reach
the fort. Many were wounded, of course, and some killed; but they soon
reached the palisades. These they cut away, and pushed on through. The
other troops then came up, Pennypacker's following Curtis, and Bell, who
commanded the 3d brigade of Ames's division, following Pennypacker. But
the fort was not yet captured though the parapet was gained.
The works were very extensive. The large parapet around the work would
have been but very little protection to those inside except when they
were close up under it. Traverses had, therefore, been run until really
the work was a succession of small forts enclosed by a large one. The
rebels made a desperate effort to hold the fort, and had to be driven
from these traverses one by one. The fight continued till long after
night. Our troops gained first one traverse and then another, and by 10
o'clock at night the place was carried. During this engagement the
sailors, who had been repulsed in their assault on the bastion, rendered
the best service they could by reinforcing Terry's northern line--thus
enabling him to send a detachment to the assistance of Ames. The fleet
kept up a continuous fire upon that part of the fort which was still
occupied by the enemy. By means of signals they could be informed where
to direct their shots.
During the succeeding nights the enemy blew up Fort Caswell on the
opposite side of Cape Fear River, and abandoned two extensive works on
Smith's Island in the river.
Our captures in all amounted to 169 guns, besides small-arms, with full
supplies of ammunition, and 2,083 prisoners. In addition to these,
there were about 700 dead and wounded left there. We had lost 110
killed and 536 wounded.
In this assault on Fort Fisher, Bell, one of the brigade commanders, was
killed, and two, Curtis and Pennypacker, were badly wounded.
Secretary Stanton, who was on his way back from Savannah, arrived off
Fort Fisher soon after it fell. When he heard the good news he promoted
all the officers of any considerable rank for their conspicuous
gallantry. Terry had been nominated for major-general, but had not been
confirmed. This confirmed him; and soon after I recommended him for a
brigadier-generalcy in the regular army, and it was given to him for
SHERMAN'S MARCH NORTH--SHERIDAN ORDERED TO LYNCHBURG--CANBY ORDERED TO
MOVE AGAINST MOBILE--MOVEMENTS OF SCHOFIELD AND THOMAS--CAPTURE OF
COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA--SHERMAN IN THE CAROLINAS.
When news of Sherman being in possession of Savannah reached the North,
distinguished statesmen and visitors began to pour in to see him. Among
others who went was the Secretary of War, who seemed much pleased at the
result of his campaign. Mr. Draper, the collector of customs of New
York, who was with Mr. Stanton's party, was put in charge of the public
property that had been abandoned and captured. Savannah was then turned
over to General Foster's command to hold, so that Sherman might have his
own entire army free to operate as might be decided upon in the future.
I sent the chief engineer of the Army of the Potomac (General Barnard)
with letters to General Sherman. He remained some time with the
general, and when he returned brought back letters, one of which
contained suggestions from Sherman as to what ought to be done in
co-operation with him, when he should have started upon his march
I must not neglect to state here the fact that I had no idea originally
of having Sherman march from Savannah to Richmond, or even to North
Carolina. The season was bad, the roads impassable for anything except
such an army as he had, and I should not have thought of ordering such a
move. I had, therefore, made preparations to collect transports to
carry Sherman and his army around to the James River by water, and so
informed him. On receiving this letter he went to work immediately to
prepare for the move, but seeing that it would require a long time to
collect the transports, he suggested the idea then of marching up north
through the Carolinas. I was only too happy to approve this; for if
successful, it promised every advantage. His march through Georgia had
thoroughly destroyed all lines of transportation in that State, and had
completely cut the enemy off from all sources of supply to the west of
it. If North and South Carolina were rendered helpless so far as
capacity for feeding Lee's army was concerned, the Confederate garrison
at Richmond would be reduced in territory, from which to draw supplies,
to very narrow limits in the State of Virginia; and, although that
section of the country was fertile, it was already well exhausted of
both forage and food. I approved Sherman's suggestion therefore at
The work of preparation was tedious, because supplies, to load the
wagons for the march, had to be brought from a long distance. Sherman
would now have to march through a country furnishing fewer provisions
than that he had previously been operating in during his march to the
sea. Besides, he was confronting, or marching toward, a force of the
enemy vastly superior to any his troops had encountered on their
previous march; and the territory through which he had to pass had now
become of such vast importance to the very existence of the Confederate
army, that the most desperate efforts were to be expected in order to
Sherman, therefore, while collecting the necessary supplies to start
with, made arrangements with Admiral Dahlgren, who commanded that part
of the navy on the South Carolina and Georgia coast, and General Foster,
commanding the troops, to take positions, and hold a few points on the
sea coast, which he (Sherman) designated, in the neighborhood of
This provision was made to enable him to fall back upon the sea coast,
in case he should encounter a force sufficient to stop his onward
progress. He also wrote me a letter, making suggestions as to what he
would like to have done in support of his movement farther north. This
letter was brought to City Point by General Barnard at a time when I
happened to be going to Washington City, where I arrived on the 21st of
January. I cannot tell the provision I had already made to co-operate
with Sherman, in anticipation of his expected movement, better than by
giving my reply to this letter.
HEADQUARTERS ARMIES OF THE UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON, D. C., Jan. 21,
MAJOR-GENERAL W. T. SHERMAN, Commanding Mill Div. of the Mississippi.
GENERAL:--Your letters brought by General Barnard were received at City
Point, and read with interest. Not having them with me, however, I
cannot say that in this I will be able to satisfy you on all points of
recommendation. As I arrived here at one P.M., and must leave at six
P.M., having in the meantime spent over three hours with the Secretary
and General Halleck, I must be brief. Before your last request to have
Thomas make a campaign into the heart of Alabama, I had ordered
Schofield to Annapolis, Md., with his corps. The advance (six thousand)
will reach the seaboard by the 23d, the remainder following as rapidly
as railroad transportation can be procured from Cincinnati. The corps
numbers over twenty-one thousand men. I was induced to do this because
I did not believe Thomas could possibly be got off before spring. His
pursuit of Hood indicated a sluggishness that satisfied me that he would
never do to conduct one of your campaigns. The command of the advance
of the pursuit was left to subordinates, whilst Thomas followed far
behind. When Hood had crossed the Tennessee, and those in pursuit had
reached it, Thomas had not much more than half crossed the State, from
whence he returned to Nashville to take steamer for Eastport. He is
possessed of excellent judgment, great coolness and honesty, but he is
not good on a pursuit. He also reported his troops fagged, and that it
was necessary to equip up. This report and a determination to give the
enemy no rest determined me to use his surplus troops elsewhere.
Thomas is still left with a sufficient force surplus to go to Selma
under an energetic leader. He has been telegraphed to, to know whether
he could go, and, if so, which of the several routes he would select.
No reply is yet received. Canby has been ordered to act offensively
from the sea-coast to the interior, towards Montgomery and Selma.
Thomas's forces will move from the north at an early day, or some of his
troops will be sent to Canby. Without further reinforcements Canby will
have a moving column of twenty thousand men.
Fort Fisher, you are aware, has been captured. We have a force there of
eight thousand effective. At New Bern about half the number. It is
rumored, through deserters, that Wilmington also has fallen. I am
inclined to believe the rumor, because on the 17th we knew the enemy
were blowing up their works about Fort Caswell, and that on the 18th
Terry moved on Wilmington.
If Wilmington is captured, Schofield will go there. If not, he will be
sent to New Bern. In either event, all the surplus forces at the two
points will move to the interior toward Goldsboro' in co-operation with
your movements. From either point, railroad communications can be run
out, there being here abundance of rolling-stock suited to the gauge of
There have been about sixteen thousand men sent from Lee's army south.
Of these, you will have fourteen thousand against you, if Wilmington is
not held by the enemy, casualties at Fort Fisher having overtaken about
All these troops are subject to your orders as you come in communication
with them. They will be so instructed. From about Richmond I will
watch Lee closely, and if he detaches much more, or attempts to
evacuate, will pitch in. In the meantime, should you be brought to a
halt anywhere, I can send two corps of thirty thousand effective men to
your support, from the troops about Richmond.
To resume: Canby is ordered to operate to the interior from the Gulf.
A. J. Smith may go from the north, but I think it doubtful. A force of
twenty-eight or thirty thousand will co-operate with you from New Bern
or Wilmington, or both. You can call for reinforcements.
This will be handed you by Captain Hudson, of my staff, who will return
with any message you may have for me. If there is anything I can do for
you in the way of having supplies on ship-board, at any point on the
sea-coast, ready for you, let me know it.
Yours truly, U. S. GRANT, Lieut.-General.
I had written on the 18th of January to General Sherman, giving him the
news of the battle of Nashville. He was much pleased at the result,
although, like myself, he had been very much disappointed at Thomas for
permitting Hood to cross the Tennessee River and nearly the whole State
of Tennessee, and come to Nashville to be attacked there. He, however,
as I had done, sent Thomas a warm congratulatory letter.
On the 10th of January, 1865, the resolutions of thanks to Sherman and
his army passed by Congress were approved.
Sherman, after the capture, at once had the debris cleared up,
commencing the work by removing the piling and torpedoes from the river,
and taking up all obstructions. He had then intrenched the city, so
that it could be held by a small garrison. By the middle of January all
his work was done, except the accumulation of supplies to commence his
He proposed to move in two columns, one from Savannah, going along by
the river of the same name, and the other by roads farther east,
threatening Charleston. He commenced the advance by moving his right
wing to Beaufort, South Carolina, then to Pocotaligo by water. This
column, in moving north, threatened Charleston, and, indeed, it was not
determined at first that they would have a force visit Charleston.
South Carolina had done so much to prepare the public mind of the South
for secession, and had been so active in precipitating the decision of
the question before the South was fully prepared to meet it, that there
was, at that time, a feeling throughout the North and also largely
entertained by people of the South, that the State of South Carolina,
and Charleston, the hot-bed of secession in particular, ought to have a
heavy hand laid upon them. In fact, nothing but the decisive results
that followed, deterred the radical portion of the people from
condemning the movement, because Charleston had been left out. To pass
into the interior would, however, be to insure the evacuation of the
city, and its possession by the navy and Foster's troops. It is so
situated between two formidable rivers that a small garrison could have
held it against all odds as long as their supplies would hold out.
Sherman therefore passed it by.
By the first of February all preparations were completed for the final
march, Columbia, South Carolina, being the first objective;
Fayetteville, North Carolina, the second; and Goldsboro, or
neighborhood, the final one, unless something further should be
determined upon. The right wing went from Pocotaligo, and the left from
about Hardeeville on the Savannah River, both columns taking a pretty
direct route for Columbia. The cavalry, however, were to threaten
Charleston on the right, and Augusta on the left.
On the 15th of January Fort Fisher had fallen, news of which Sherman had
received before starting out on his march. We already had New Bern and
had soon Wilmington, whose fall followed that of Fort Fisher; as did
other points on the sea coast, where the National troops were now in
readiness to co-operate with Sherman's advance when he had passed
On the 18th of January I ordered Canby, in command at New Orleans, to
move against Mobile, Montgomery and Selma, Alabama, for the purpose of
destroying roads, machine shops, etc. On the 8th of February I ordered
Sheridan, who was in the Valley of Virginia, to push forward as soon as
the weather would permit and strike the canal west of Richmond at or
about Lynchburg; and on the 20th I made the order to go to Lynchburg as
soon as the roads would permit, saying: "As soon as it is possible to
travel, I think you will have no difficulty about reaching Lynchburg
with a cavalry force alone. From there you could destroy the railroad
and canal in every direction, so as to be of no further use to the
rebellion. * * * This additional raid, with one starting from East
Tennessee under Stoneman, numbering about four or five thousand cavalry;
one from Eastport, Mississippi, ten thousand cavalry; Canby, from Mobile
Bay, with about eighteen thousand mixed troops--these three latter
pushing for Tuscaloosa, Selma and Montgomery; and Sherman with a large
army eating out the vitals of South Carolina--is all that will be wanted
to leave nothing for the rebellion to stand upon. I would advise you to
overcome great obstacles to accomplish this. Charleston was evacuated
on Tuesday last."
On the 27th of February, more than a month after Canby had received his
orders, I again wrote to him, saying that I was extremely anxious to
hear of his being in Alabama. I notified him, also, that I had sent
Grierson to take command of his cavalry, he being a very efficient
officer. I further suggested that Forrest was probably in Mississippi,
and if he was there, he would find him an officer of great courage and
capacity whom it would be difficult to get by. I still further informed
him that Thomas had been ordered to start a cavalry force into
Mississippi on the 20th of February, or as soon as possible thereafter.
This force did not get off however.
All these movements were designed to be in support of Sherman's march,
the object being to keep the Confederate troops in the West from leaving
there. But neither Canby nor Thomas could be got off in time. I had
some time before depleted Thomas's army to reinforce Canby, for the
reason that Thomas had failed to start an expedition which he had been
ordered to send out, and to have the troops where they might do
something. Canby seemed to be equally deliberate in all of his
movements. I ordered him to go in person; but he prepared to send a
detachment under another officer. General Granger had got down to New
Orleans, in some way or other, and I wrote Canby that he must not put
him in command of troops. In spite of this he asked the War Department
to assign Granger to the command of a corps.
Almost in despair of having adequate service rendered to the cause in
that quarter, I said to Canby: "I am in receipt of a dispatch * * *
informing me that you have made requisitions for a construction corps
and material to build seventy miles of railroad. I have directed that
none be sent. Thomas's army has been depleted to send a force to you
that they might be where they could act in winter, and at least detain
the force the enemy had in the West. If there had been any idea of
repairing railroads, it could have been done much better from the North,
where we already had the troops. I expected your movements to be
co-operative with Sherman's last. This has now entirely failed. I
wrote to you long ago, urging you to push promptly and to live upon the
country, and destroy railroads, machine shops, etc., not to build them.
Take Mobile and hold it, and push your forces to the interior--to
Montgomery and to Selma. Destroy railroads, rolling stock, and
everything useful for carrying on war, and, when you have done this,
take such positions as can be supplied by water. By this means alone
you can occupy positions from which the enemy's roads in the interior
can be kept broken."
Most of these expeditions got off finally, but too late to render any
service in the direction for which they were designed.
The enemy, ready to intercept his advance, consisted of Hardee's troops
and Wheeler's cavalry, perhaps less than fifteen thousand men in all;
but frantic efforts were being made in Richmond, as I was sure would be
the case, to retard Sherman's movements. Everything possible was being
done to raise troops in the South. Lee dispatched against Sherman the
troops which had been sent to relieve Fort Fisher, which, including
those of the other defences of the harbor and its neighborhood,
amounted, after deducting the two thousand killed, wounded and captured,
to fourteen thousand men. After Thomas's victory at Nashville what
remained, of Hood's army were gathered together and forwarded as rapidly
as possible to the east to co-operate with these forces; and, finally,
General Joseph E. Johnston, one of the ablest commanders of the South
though not in favor with the administration (or at least with Mr.
Davis), was put in command of all the troops in North and South
Schofield arrived at Annapolis in the latter part of January, but before
sending his troops to North Carolina I went with him down the coast to
see the situation of affairs, as I could give fuller directions after
being on the ground than I could very well have given without. We soon
returned, and the troops were sent by sea to Cape Fear River. Both New
Bern and Wilmington are connected with Raleigh by railroads which unite
at Goldsboro. Schofield was to land troops at Smithville, near the
mouth of the Cape Fear River on the west side, and move up to secure the
Wilmington and Charlotteville Railroad. This column took their pontoon
bridges with them, to enable them to cross over to the island south of
the city of Wilmington. A large body was sent by the north side to
co-operate with them. They succeeded in taking the city on the 22d of
February. I took the precaution to provide for Sherman's army, in case
he should be forced to turn in toward the sea coast before reaching
North Carolina, by forwarding supplies to every place where he was
liable to have to make such a deflection from his projected march. I
also sent railroad rolling stock, of which we had a great abundance, now
that we were not operating the roads in Virginia. The gauge of the
North Carolina railroads being the same as the Virginia railroads had
been altered too; these cars and locomotives were ready for use there
without any change.
On the 31st of January I countermanded the orders given to Thomas to
move south to Alabama and Georgia. (I had previously reduced his force
by sending a portion of it to Terry.) I directed in lieu of this
movement, that he should send Stoneman through East Tennessee, and push
him well down toward Columbia, South Carolina, in support of Sherman.
Thomas did not get Stoneman off in time, but, on the contrary, when I
had supposed he was on his march in support of Sherman I heard of his
being in Louisville, Kentucky. I immediately changed the order, and
directed Thomas to send him toward Lynchburg. Finally, however, on the
12th of March, he did push down through the north-western end of South
Carolina, creating some consternation. I also ordered Thomas to send
the 4th corps (Stanley's) to Bull Gap and to destroy no more roads east
of that. I also directed him to concentrate supplies at Knoxville, with
a view to a probable movement of his army through that way toward
Goldsboro is four hundred and twenty-five miles from Savannah. Sherman's
march was without much incident until he entered Columbia, on the 17th
of February. He was detained in his progress by having to repair and
corduroy the roads, and rebuild the bridges. There was constant
skirmishing and fighting between the cavalry of the two armies, but this
did not retard the advance of the infantry. Four days, also, were lost
in making complete the destruction of the most important railroads south
of Columbia; there was also some delay caused by the high water, and the
destruction of the bridges on the line of the road. A formidable river
had to be crossed near Columbia, and that in the face of a small
garrison under General Wade Hampton. There was but little delay,
however, further than that caused by high water in the stream. Hampton
left as Sherman approached, and the city was found to be on fire.
There has since been a great deal of acrimony displayed in discussions
of the question as to who set Columbia on fire. Sherman denies it on the
part of his troops, and Hampton denies it on the part of the
Confederates. One thing is certain: as soon as our troops took
possession, they at once proceeded to extinguish the flames to the best
of their ability with the limited means at hand. In any case, the
example set by the Confederates in burning the village of Chambersburg,
Pa., a town which was not garrisoned, would seem to make a defence of
the act of firing the seat of government of the State most responsible
for the conflict then raging, not imperative.
The Confederate troops having vacated the city, the mayor took
possession, and sallied forth to meet the commander of the National
forces for the purpose of surrendering the town, making terms for the
protection of property, etc. Sherman paid no attention at all to the
overture, but pushed forward and took the town without making any
conditions whatever with its citizens. He then, however, co-operated
with the mayor in extinguishing the flames and providing for the people
who were rendered destitute by this destruction of their homes. When he
left there he even gave the mayor five hundred head of cattle to be
distributed among the citizens, to tide them over until some arrangement
could be made for their future supplies. He remained in Columbia until
the roads, public buildings, workshops and everything that could be
useful to the enemy were destroyed. While at Columbia, Sherman learned
for the first time that what remained of Hood's army was confronting
Back to Full Books