The Memoirs of General Ulysses S. Grant, Part 2.
Ulysses S. Grant

Part 1 out of 3

Produced by David Widger


by U. S. Grant



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GALENA, ILLINOIS, May 24, 1861.

COL. L. THOMAS Adjt. Gen. U. S. A., Washington, D. C.

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

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

I am very respectfully, Your obt. svt., U. S. GRANT.

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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


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