The Memoirs of General W. T. Sherman, Vol. II., Part 3
William T. Sherman
Part 4 out of 4
they will do all that patriots can achieve.....
The army of Sherman still defiantly holds Atlanta. He can and must
be driven from it. It is only for the good people of Georgia and
surrounding states to speak the word, and the work is done, we have
abundant provisions. There are men enough in the country, liable
to and able for service, to accomplish the result.....
My countrymen, respond to this call as you have done in days that
are past, and, with the blessing of a kind and overruling
Providence, the enemy shall be driven from your soil. The security
of your wives and daughters from the insults and outrages of a
brutal foe shall be established soon, and be followed by a
permanent and honorable peace. The claims of home and country,
wife and children, uniting with the demands of honor and
patriotism, summon us to the field. We cannot, dare not, will not
fail to respond. Full of hope and confidence, I come to join you
in your struggles, sharing your privations, and, with your brave
and true men, to strike the blow that shall bring success to our,
arms, triumph to our cause, and peace to our country!......
G. T. BEAUREGARD, General.
Notwithstanding this somewhat boastful order or appeal, General
Beauregard did not actually accompany General Hood on his
disastrous march to Nashville, but took post at Corinth,
Mississippi, to control the movement of his supplies and to watch
At Gaylesville the pursuit of Hood by the army under my immediate
command may be said to have ceased. During this pursuit, the
Fifteenth Corps was commanded by its senior major-general present,
P. J. Osterhaus, in the absence of General John A. Logan; and the
Seventeenth Corps was commanded by Brigadier-General T. E. G.
Ransom, the senior officer present, in the absence of General Frank
General Ransom was a young, most gallant, and promising officer,
son of the Colonel Ransom who was killed at Chapultepec, in the
Mexican War. He had served with the Army of the Tennessee in 1862
and 1863, at Vicksburg, where he was severely wounded. He was not
well at the time we started from Atlanta, but he insisted on going
along with his command. His symptoms became more aggravated on the
march, and when we were encamped near Gaylesville, I visited him in
company with Surgeon John Moors, United States Army, who said that
the case was one of typhoid fever, which would likely prove fatal.
A few days after, viz., the 28th, he was being carried on a litter
toward Rome; and as I rode from Gaylesville to Rome, I passed him
by the way, stopped, and spoke with him, but did not then suppose
he was so near his end. The next day, however, his escort reached
Rome, bearing his dead body. The officer in charge reported that,
shortly after I had passed, his symptoms became so much worse that
they stopped at a farmhouse by the road-side, where he died that
evening. His body was at once sent to Chicago for burial, and a
monument has been ordered by the Society of the Army of the
Tennessee to be erected in his memory.
On the 26th of October I learned that Hood's whole army had made
its appearance about Decatur, Alabama, and at once caused a strong
reconnoissance to be made down the Coosa to near Gadsden, which
revealed the truth that the enemy was gone except a small force of
cavalry, commanded by General Wheeler, which had been left to watch
us. I then finally resolved on my future course, which was to
leave Hood to be encountered by General Thomas, while I should
carry into full effect the long-contemplated project of marching
for the sea-coast, and thence to operate toward Richmond. But it
was all-important to me and to our cause that General Thomas should
have an ample force, equal to any and every emergency.
He then had at Nashville about eight or ten thousand new troops,
and as many more civil employs of the Quartermaster's Department,
which were not suited for the field, but would be most useful in
manning the excellent forts that already covered Nashville. At
Chattanooga, he had General Steedman's division, about five
thousand men, besides garrisons for Chattanooga, Bridgeport, and
Stevenson; at Murfreesboro' he also had General Rousseau's
division, which was full five thousand strong, independent of the
necessary garrisons for the railroad. At Decatur and Huntsville,
Alabama, was the infantry division of General R. S. Granger,
estimated at four thousand; and near Florence, Alabama, watching
the crossings of the Tennessee, were General Edward Hatch's
division of cavalry, four thousand; General Croxton's brigade,
twenty-five hundred; and Colonel Capron's brigade, twelve hundred;
besides which, General J. H. Wilson had collected in Nashville
about ten thousand dismounted cavalry, for which he was rapidly
collecting the necessary horses for a remount. All these
aggregated about forty-five thousand men. General A. J. Smith at
that time was in Missouri, with the two divisions of the Sixteenth
Corps which had been diverted to that quarter to assist General
Rosecrans in driving the rebel General Price out of Missouri. This
object had been accomplished, and these troops, numbering from
eight to ten thousand, had been ordered to Nashville. To these I
proposed at first to add only the Fourth Corps (General Stanley),
fifteen thousand; and that corps was ordered from Gaylesville to
march to Chattanooga, and thence report for orders to General
Thomas; but subsequently, on the 30th of October, at Rome, Georgia,
learning from General Thomas that the new troops promised by
General Grant were coming forward very slowly, I concluded to
further reenforce him by General Schofield's corps (Twenty-third),
twelve thousand, which corps accordingly marched for Resaca, and
there took the cars for Chattanooga. I then knew that General
Thomas would have an ample force with which to encounter General
Hood anywhere in the open field, besides garrisons to secure the
railroad to his rear and as far forward as Chattanooga. And,
moreover, I was more than convinced that he would have ample time
for preparation; for, on that very day, General R. S. Granger had
telegraphed me from Decatur, Alabama:
I omitted to mention another reason why Hood will go to Tusomnbia
before crossing the Tennessee River. He was evidently out of
supplies. His men were all grumbling; the first thing the
prisoners asked for was something to eat. Hood could not get any
thing if he should cross this side of Rogersville.
I knew that the country about Decatur and Tuscumbia, Alabama, was
bare of provisions, and inferred that General Hood would have to
draw his supplies, not only of food, but of stores, clothing, and
ammunition, from Mobile, Montgomery, and Selma, Alabama, by the
railroad around by Meridian and Corinth, Mississippi, which we had
most effectually disabled the previous winter.
General Hood did not make a serious attack on Decatur, but hung
around it from October 26th to the 30th, when he drew off and
marched for a point on the south side of the Tennessee River,
opposite Florence, where he was compelled to remain nearly a month,
to collect the necessary supplies for his contemplated invasion of
Tennessee and Kentucky.
The Fourth Corps (Stanley) had already reached Chattanooga, and had
been transported by rail to Pulaski, Tennessee; and General Thomas
ordered General Schofield, with the Twenty-third Corps, to
Columbia, Tennessee, a place intermediate between Hood (then on the
Tennessee River, opposite Florence) and Forrest, opposite
On the 31st of October General Croxton, of the cavalry, reported
that the enemy had crossed the Tennessee River four miles above
Florence, and that he had endeavored to stop him, but without
success. Still, I was convinced that Hood's army was in no
condition to march for Nashville, and that a good deal of further
delay might reasonably be counted on. I also rested with much
confidence on the fact that the Tennessee River below Muscle Shoals
was strongly patrolled by gunboats, and that the reach of the river
above Muscle Shoals, from Decatur as high up as our railroad at
Bridgeport, was also guarded by gunboats, so that Hood, to cross
over, would be compelled to select a point inaccessible to these
gunboats. He actually did choose such a place, at the old
railroad-piers, four miles above Florence, Alabama, which is below
Muscle Shoals and above Colbert Shoals.
On the 31st of October Forrest made his appearance on the Tennessee
River opposite Johnsonville (whence a new railroad led to
Nashville), and with his cavalry and field pieces actually crippled
and captured two gunboats with five of our transports, a feat of
arms which, I confess, excited my admiration.
There is no doubt that the month of October closed to us looking
decidedly squally; but, somehow, I was sustained in the belief that
in a very few days the tide would turn.
On the 1st of November I telegraphed very fully to General Grant,
at City Point, who must have been disturbed by the wild rumors that
filled the country, and on the 2d of November received (at Rome)
CITY POINT, November 1, 1864--6 P.M.
Do you not think it advisable, now that Hood has gone so far north,
to entirely ruin him before starting on your proposed campaign?
With Hood's army destroyed, you can go where you please with
impunity. I believed and still believe, if you had started south
while Hood was in the neighborhood of you, he would have been
forced to go after you. Now that he is far away he might look upon
the chase as useless, and he will go in one direction while you are
pushing in the other. If you can see a chance of destroying Hood's
army, attend to that first, and make your other move secondary.
U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.
My answer is dated
ROME, GEORGIA, November 2, 1864.
Lieutenant-General U. S. GRANT, City Point, Virginia:
Your dispatch is received. If I could hope to overhaul Hood, I
would turn against him with my whole force; then he would retreat
to the south west, drawing me as a decoy away from Georgia, which
is his chief object. If he ventures north of the Tennessee River, I
may turn in that direction, and endeavor to get below him on his
line of retreat; but thus far he has not gone above the Tennessee
River. General Thomas will have a force strong enough to prevent
his reaching any country in which we have an interest; and he has
orders, if Hood turns to follow me, to push for Selma, Alabama. No
single army can catch Hood, and I am convinced the best results
will follow from our defeating Jeff. Davis's cherished plea of
making me leave Georgia by manoeuvring. Thus far I have confined
my efforts to thwart this plan, and have reduced baggage so that I
can pick up and start in any direction; but I regard the pursuit of
Hood as useless. Still, if he attempts to invade Middle Tennessee,
I will hold Decatur, and be prepared to move in that direction;
but, unless I let go of Atlanta, my force will not be equal to his.
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General.
By this date, under the intelligent and energetic action of Colonel
W. W. Wright, and with the labor of fifteen hundred men, the
railroad break of fifteen miles about Dalton was repaired so far as
to admit of the passage of cars, and I transferred my headquarters
to Kingston as more central; and from that place, on the same day
(November 2d), again telegraphed to General Grant:
KINGSTON, GEORGIA, November 2, 1884.
Lieutenant-General U. S. GRANT, City Point, Virginia:
If I turn back, the whole effect of my campaign will be lost. By my
movements I have thrown Beauregard (Hood) well to the west, and
Thomas will have ample time and sufficient troops to hold him until
the reenforcements from Missouri reach him. We have now ample
supplies at Chattanooga and Atlanta, and can stand a month's
interruption to our communications. I do not believe the
Confederate army can reach our railroad-lines except by
cavalry-raids, and Wilson will have cavalry enough to checkmate
them. I am clearly of opinion that the best results will follow my
contemplated movement through Georgia.
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General.
That same day I received, in answer to the Rome dispatch, the
CITY POINT, VIRGINIA, November 2,1864--11.30 a.m.
Your dispatch of 9 A.M. yesterday is just received. I dispatched
you the same date, advising that Hood's army, now that it had
worked so far north, ought to be looked upon now as the "object."
With the force, however, that you have left with General Thomas, he
must be able to take care of Hood and destroy him.
I do not see that you can withdraw from where you are to follow
Hood, without giving up all we have gained in territory. I say,
then, go on as you propose.
U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General,
This was the first time that General Grant ordered the "march to
the sea," and, although many of his warm friends and admirers
insist that he was the author and projector of that march, and that
I simply executed his plans, General Grant has never, in my
opinion, thought so or said so. The truth is fully given in an
original letter of President Lincoln, which I received at Savannah,
Georgia, and have at this instant before me, every word of which is
in his own familiar handwriting. It is dated--
WASHINGTON, December 26, 1864.
When you were about leaving Atlanta for the Atlantic coast, I was
anxious, if not fearful; but, feeling that you were the better
judge, and remembering "nothing risked, nothing gained," I did not
interfere. Now, the undertaking being a success, the honor is all
yours; for I believe none of us went further than to acquiesce;
and, taking the work of General Thomas into account, as it should
be taken, it is indeed a great success. Not only does it afford
the obvious and immediate military advantages, but, in showing to
the world that your army could be divided, putting the stronger
part to an important new service, and yet leaving enough to
vanquish the old opposing force of the whole, Hood's army, it
brings those who sat in darkness to see a great light. But what
next? I suppose it will be safer if I leave General Grant and
yourself to decide.
Of course, this judgment; made after the event, was extremely
flattering and was all I ever expected, a recognition of the truth
and of its importance. I have often been asked, by well-meaning
friends, when the thought of that march first entered my mind. I
knew that an army which had penetrated Georgia as far as Atlanta
could not turn back. It must go ahead, but when, how, and where,
depended on many considerations. As soon as Hood had shifted
across from Lovejoy's to Palmetto, I saw the move in my "mind's
eye;" and, after Jeff. Davis's speech at Palmetto, of September
26th, I was more positive in my conviction, but was in doubt as to
the time and manner. When General Hood first struck our railroad
above Marietta, we were not ready, and I was forced to watch his
movements further, till he had "carromed" off to the west of
Decatur. Then I was perfectly convinced, and had no longer a
shadow of doubt. The only possible question was as to Thomas's
strength and ability to meet Hood in the open field. I did not
suppose that General Hood, though rash, would venture to attack
fortified places like Allatoona, Resaca, Decatur, and Nashville;
but he did so, and in so doing he played into our hands perfectly.
On the 2d of November I was at Kingston, Georgia, and my four
corps--the Fifteenth, Seventeenth, Fourteenth, and Twentieth--with
one division of cavalry, were strung from Rome to Atlanta. Our
railroads and telegraph had been repaired, and I deliberately
prepared for the march to Savannah, distant three hundred miles
from Atlanta. All the sick and wounded men had been sent back by
rail to Chattanooga; all our wagon-trains had been carefully
overhauled and loaded, so as to be ready to start on an hour's
notice, and there was no serious enemy in our front.
General Hood remained still at Florence, Alabama, occupying both
banks of the Tennessee River, busy in collecting shoes and clothing
for his men, and the necessary ammunition and stores with which to
invade Tennessee, most of which had to come from Mobile, Selma, and
Montgomery, Alabama, over railroads that were still broken.
Beauregard was at Corinth, hastening forward these necessary
General Thomas was at Nashville, with Wilson's dismounted cavalry
and a mass of new troops and quartermaster's employs amply
sufficient to defend the place. The Fourth and Twenty-third Corps,
under Generals Stanley and Schofield were posted at Pulaski,
Tennessee, and the cavalry of Hatch, Croxton, and Capron, were
about Florence, watching Hood. Smith's (A. J.) two divisions of
the Sixteenth Corps were still in Missouri, but were reported as
ready to embark at Lexington for the Cumberland River and
Nashville. Of course, General Thomas saw that on him would likely
fall the real blow, and was naturally anxious. He still kept
Granger's division at Decatur, Rousseau's at Murfreesboro', and
Steedman's at Chattanooga, with strong railroad guards at all the
essential points intermediate, confident that by means of this very
railroad he could make his concentration sooner than Hood could
possibly march up from Florence.
Meantime, General F. P. Blair had rejoined his corps (Seventeenth),
and we were receiving at Kingston recruits and returned
furlough-men, distributing them to their proper companies.
Paymasters had come down to pay off our men before their departure to
a new sphere of action, and commissioners were also on hand from the
several States to take the vote of our men in the presidential
election then agitating the country.
On the 6th of November, at Kingston, I wrote and telegraphed to
General Grant, reviewing the whole situation, gave him my full plan
of action, stated that I was ready to march as soon as the election
was over, and appointed November 10th as the day for starting. On
the 8th I received this dispatch:
CITY POINT, VIRGINIA, November 7, 1864-10.30 P.M.
Your dispatch of this evening received. I see no present reason
for changing your plan. Should any arise, you will see it, or if I
do I will inform you. I think everything here is favorable now.
Great good fortune attend you! I believe you will be eminently
successful, and, at worst, can only make a march less fruitful of
results than hoped for.
U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.
Meantime trains of cars were whirling by, carrying to the rear an
immense amount of stores which had accumulated at Atlanta, and at
the other stations along the railroad; and General Steedman had
come down to Kingston, to take charge of the final evacuation and
withdrawal of the several garrisons below Chattanooga.
On the 10th of November the movement may be said to have fairly
begun. All the troops designed for the campaign were ordered to
march for Atlanta, and General Corse, before evacuating his post at
Rome, was ordered to burn all the mills, factories, etc., etc.,
that could be useful to the enemy, should he undertake to pursue
us, or resume military possession of the country. This was done on
the night of the 10th, and next day Corse reached Kingston. On the
11th General Thomas and I interchanged full dispatches. He had
heard of the arrival of General A. J. Smith's two divisions at
Paducah, which would surely reach Nashville much sooner than
General Hood could possibly do from Florence, so that he was
perfectly satisfied with his share of the army.
On the 12th, with a full staff, I started from Kingston for
Atlanta; and about noon of that day we reached Cartersville, and
sat on the edge of a porch to rest, when the telegraph operator,
Mr. Van Valkenburg, or Eddy, got the wire down from the poles to
his lap, in which he held a small pocket instrument. Calling
"Chattanooga," he received this message from General Thomas,
NASHVILLE, November 12, 1884--8.80 A.M.
Your dispatch of twelve o'clock last night is received. I have no
fears that Beauregard can do us any harm now, and, if he attempts
to follow you, I will follow him as far as possible. If he does
not follow you, I will then thoroughly organize my troops, and
believe I shall have men enough to ruin him unless he gets out of
the way very rapidly.
The country of Middle Alabama, I learn, is teeming with supplies
this year, which will be greatly to our advantage. I have no
additional news to report from the direction of Florence.
I am now convinced that the greater part of Beauregard's army is
near Florence and Tuscumbia, and that you will have at least a
clear road before you for several days, and that your success will
fully equal your expectations.
George H. THOMAS, Major-General.
I answered simply: "Dispatch received--all right." About that
instant of time, some of our men burnt a bridge, which severed the
telegraph-wire, and all communication with the rear ceased
As we rode on toward Atlanta that night, I remember the railroad-
trains going to the rear with a furious speed; the engineers and
the few men about the trains waving us an affectionate adieu. It
surely was a strange event--two hostile armies marching in opposite
directions, each in the full belief that it was achieving a final
and conclusive result in a great war; and I was strongly inspired
with the feeling that the movement on our part was a direct attack
upon the rebel army and the rebel capital at Richmond, though a
full thousand miles of hostile country intervened, and that, for
better or worse, it would end the war.
Back to Full Books