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In justifying his removal of Johnston, Jefferson
Davis says, in his " Eise and Fall of the Confederate
Government" :

"When it became known that the Army of Ten
nessee had been successively driven from one strong
position to another, until finally it had reached the
earthworks constructed for the exterior defense of
Atlanta, the popular disappointment was extreme.
The possible fall of the Gate City, with its
important railroad communications, vast stores,
factories for the manufacture of all sorts of military
supplies, rolling mills and foundries, was now con-



188 WILLIAM TECUMSEH SHERMAN

templated for the first time at its full value, and
produced intense anxiety far and wide. From
many quarters, including such as had most urged
his assignment, came delegations, petitions and let
ters, urging me to remove General Johnston from
the command of the army, and assign that impor
tant trust to some officer who would resolutely hold
and defend Atlanta. . . . Yet I did not [at
first] respond to the wishes of those who came in
hottest haste for the removal of General Johnston ;
for here again, more fully than many others, I real
ized how serious it was to change commanders in
the presence of the enemy. ... I was so fully
aware of the danger of changing commanders of an
army while actively engaged with the enemy, that
I only overcame the objection in view of an emer
gency, and in the hope that the impending danger
of the loss of Atlanta might be averted."

On the 17th, after Johnston had heard a report
that the whole Union army had crossed the Chatta-
hoochee Eiver, above Atlanta, and while he was giv
ing instructions to one of his officers regarding the
defense of the city, he received a telegram from
General Cooper. "I am directed by the secretary
of war," it ran, "to inform you that, as you have
failed to arrest the advance of the enemy to the
vicinity of Atlanta, far in the interior of Georgia,
and express no confidence that you can defeat or
expel him, you are hereby relieved of the command
of the Army and Department of Tennessee," etc.

It must be admitted that Johnston s telegram in



THE ATLANTA CAMPAIGN 189

reply, announcing that he had obeyed orders and
had turned the command over to General Hood, was
not exactly an inspiring defense. " As to the alleged
cause of my removal, 77 he telegraphed back, " I as
sert that Sherman s army is much stronger com
pared with that of Tennessee, than Grant s compared
with that of Northern Virginia. Yet the enemy
has been compelled to advance much more slowly
to the vicinity of Atlanta, than to that of Eichmond
and Petersburg ; and penetrated much deeper into
Virginia than into Georgia."

This excuse, even if a good one, leaves an un
pleasant impression on the mind, for it says, in ef
fect, Although I have had less advantages than
Lee, I have proved myself a better general than
Lee."

Johnston and his friends felt very bitter over his
removal, and many competent military critics con
sider that Jefferson Davis, in making it, was guilty
of a blunder. Among these critics was Grant him
self, who says, in his " Memoirs" that he thinks
Johnston s tactics were correct. u Anything that
could have prolonged the war a year beyond the
time that it did finally close, would probably have
exhausted the North to such an extent that they
might then have abandoned the contest and agreed
to a separation. Atlanta was very strongly in
trenched."

Although unable to carry them out, Johnston
had his own views as to the defense of the city. He
looked at the matter from both a political and a



190 WILLIAM TECUMSEH SHEBMAN

military view-point. From the political view-point
he knew that there was arising in the North, among
the Democrats, a strong peace party, and he
realized that if he could but foil Sherman in his at
tempt against Atlanta the hands of this party might
be strengthened, and the North might be brought
to declare the whole war a failure particularly if
Lee could repulse Grant in Virginia. From a
military standpoint, he had hoped that General
Forrest, with a good force of cavalry, might be
thrown into Sherman s rear, thus cutting off the
latter s railroad communications and supplies.
"Such a result," he reasoned, " would have com
pelled General Sherman to the desperate resource
of a decisive battle on our terms, which in
volved attacking excellent troops intrenched, or to
that of abandoning his enterprise. In the first event
the chances of battle would have been greatly in our
favor. In the second, a rout of the Federal army
could scarcely have been prevented."

From this removal of Johnston resulted the
greatest domestic quarrel within the Confederate
household. But had he remained in command,
could Johnston really have worsted Sherman ? We
think not.

When Sherman heard of the change of generals,
he asked Schofield, who had been one of Hood s
classmates at West Point, about the Confederate s
character. Bold even to rashness, and cour
ageous in the extreme," was the decided answer.
"The change means flglit /" said Sherman, as he



THE ATLANTA CAMPAIGN 191

sent word to his division commanders to be pre
pared for battle in any shape. " This is just what
we want to fight in open ground, on anything like
equal terms, instead of being forced to run up
against prepared entrenchments. But the enemy,
having Atlanta behind him, can choose the time
and place of attack, and can at pleasure mass a
superior force on our weakest point. Therefore, we
must be constantly ready !

Several days later John Sherman was writing to
his brother from the North :

"We feel that upon Grant and you, and the
armies under your command, the fate of this
country depends. If you are successful, it is
ardently hoped that peace may soon follow with a
restored union. If you fail, the wisest can hope for
nothing but a long train of disasters, and the strife
of factious. . . . Everybody here dreads the
breaking up of the Union as the beginning of
anarchy. The very thing they fight for in the
South is for them, and for us, the worst calamity.
. . . But the anarchy of unsuccessful war will
reduce us to a pitiable state, in which we shall
easily fall victims to demagogism or tyranny.
Every one feels that you have done your part
nobly. Grant has not had such success. ... I
congratulate you on the ability and success of your
campaign. I see many officers, and they all speak
of it not only as a success, but as a scientific suc
cess, evincing abilities of a high order."

It was well for the country at large that Sherman



192 WILLIAM TECUMSEH SHERMAN

and Grant, despite their incessant smoking, could
boast of good nerves. Otherwise they must have
collapsed when they realized, as they fully did, how
upon them alone depended the future of America.



CHAPTER VIII

THE FALL OF A STRONGHOLD

GENERAL HOOD now determined to reverse the
policy of Johnston, officially under a cloud, and do
what the Richmond government had so long been
urging of the Army of Tennessee fight. Johnston
went home, with what feelings we may imagine ;
Jefferson Davis and the South now looked for na
tional salvation to the new commander and to
Eobert E. Lee.

About the time that Hood assumed command, his
forces were strongly posted four miles in front of
Atlanta, on the hills forming the south bank of
Peach-tree Creek. On the afternoon of the 20th of
July, when Sherman s army had closed in toward
the city, the Confederates sallied out from their en
trenchments and fell against his right centre. The
troops thus unexpectedly assailed, including
Hooker s corps, had crossed Peach-tree Creek, and
were resting at noon when the enemy came pouring
out of their trenches and down upon them. It was
a terribly exciting scene, as many of the Union
soldiers, rising nobly to the occasion, jumped to
their feet and, in many instances, began a hand-to-
hand conflict with the Confederates. Hood had
inaugurated his fighting policy with a vengeance.



194 WILLIAM TECUMSEH SHEKMAN

For a time the situation for the right centre
seemed to be critical ; but General Thomas brought
some field batteries into position, on the north side
of Peach-tree Creek, from which he directed a
furious fire upon the enemy. The Confederates
fought magnificently for two hours, but they finally
gave up the contest, and retired in good order to
their works, leaving upon the ground four hundred
dead and several thousand wounded. " We had
met successfully a bold sally, " Sherman records,
* l had repelled it handsomely, and were also put on
our guard; and the event illustrated the future
tactics of our enemy. This sally came from the
Peach-tree line, which General Johnston had care
fully prepared in advance, from which to fight us
outside of Atlanta. We then advanced our lines in
compact order, close up to these finished intrench-
ments, overlapping them on our left. From vari
ous parts of our lines the houses inside of Atlanta
were plainly visible, though between us were the
strong parapets, with ditch, fraise, chevaux-de-frise,
and abatis, prepared long in advance by Colonel
Jeremy F. Gilmer, formerly of the United States
Engineers."

It was discovered by Sherman on the morning of
the 22d that during the previous night, the Con
federates had fallen back from the line of Peach-tree
Creek, to the front of Schofield and Thomas, and
had retreated to a strong line of redoubts forming
the immediate defenses of Atlanta and covering all
the approaches to the city. For some minutes the



THE FALL OF A STRONGHOLD 195

surprised general supposed that Hood intended to
evacuate Atlanta. But when he rode at the head
of the troops under the command of Schofield who
had advanced to some open ground in front of a
building known as the Howard House, he could see
the Confederate main line strongly manned, with
guns in position at intervals. Schofield was dress
ing forward his lines when General McPherson and
his staff came up. McPherson and Sherman rode
back to the Howard House, where they discussed
the methods of Hood, who, by the way, had been
a fellow-student at West Point with McPhersou.
"We ought to be unusually cautious, and pre
pared at all times for hard fighting," said Sher
man, and his companion gave this sentiment un
stinted approval.

McPherson then began to discuss some move
ments which he proposed to make, and which his
superior sanctioned. He was in high spirits as he
explained his plans, and with his striking face,
fine height and bearing, and becoming major-
general s uniform, looked as handsome an officer
as one could expect to find in the whole country,
North or South. The two men now walked down
the road a short distance, when they heard firing
that neither could explain. " What can it mean ? "
asked Sherman. "I ll hurry down my line and
send you back word." answered McPherson, as he
called for his horse and summoned his staff. He
quickly gathered together his papers, placed them
in a wallet which he thrust into his breast-pocket,



196 WILLIAM TECUMSEH SHERMAN

jumped on his horse, and dashed off. His adjutant-
general and aides hurried away with him.

The sound of musketry on Sherman s left and the
booming of artillery back toward Decatur, five
miles away, grew in volume. Becoming anxious,
and knowing the intrepidity of Hood, he ordered
Schofield to send a brigade to Decatur at once.
He returned to the Howard House, and was walk
ing nervously up and down the porch, listening to
the noise, when one of McPherson s aides rode up
rapidly. His horse was in a foam ; the rider was
pale and excited. Sherman ran to meet him with
a question on his lips.

" General McPherson is either killed or a pris
oner ! " the aide cried. He went on to explain,
breathlessly, that, after leaving General Sherman,
McPherson had ridden off to the head of General
Dodge s corps, to which he had given certain
orders ; then he had passed in full view of many of
the troops in the direction of General Blair s posi
tion, after which, alone or attended by only one
orderly, he had disappeared into dense woods. A
sound of musketry was next heard from these
woods, and soon McPherson s horse came galloping
back, bleeding and riderless. It was learned later
that upon entering the forest the general had
suddenly met some Confederate skirmishers. They
called upon him to surrender ; he started to ride to
the rear, and was shot down dead or dying.

Hood was now making a bold attack ; it seemed
evident that he intended to throw a superior force



THE FALL OF A STRONGHOLD 197

against Sherman s left, while the latter s front
would be checked by the fortifications of Atlanta.
Sherman had no time just then to grieve over the
death of his friend. He gave instant orders for the
repulse of the enemy already the entire line was
becoming engaged in battle and placed General
Logan in temporary command of the Army of the
Tennessee. We have dramatic portraits of the
soldierly -appearing Logan, ever a bit spectacular,
as he succeeded the unfortunate McPherson in com
mand. " Bareheaded, flushed with rage and an
instinct to avenge the death of his commander and
friend, he spurred his high-strung black charger
to its utmost speed, and dashed along the lines of
his troops, somewhat disordered in places, restoring
confidence everywhere by his gallant bearing and
sharp, assuring words." Some persons have since
asserted that he shrieked the words, " McPherson
and Revenge ! " but whether he did, or did not, it
is certain that, throughout this trying engagement,
he behaved in a way which did honor to the Ameri
can valor shown alike by the Blue and the Gray.

The sounds of battle grew more and more furious.
Within another hour an ambulance bearing the
body of McPherson came in to Sherman, who had
it tenderly carried inside of the Howard House.
But how little can death count when the living
must think of war ! Sherman found that the wal
let, into which McPherson had thrust his papers on

lu What Sheridan was at Winchester that was Logan at
Atlanta." JF. Y. Hedley.



198 WILLIAM TECUMSEH SHEKMAN

riding away, was gone, and he felt alarmed. In that
wallet was an important letter of instruction and in
formation which he had written the dead general
the previous night. l I was much concerned, says
Sherman. But, fortunately enough, the wallet was
found in the haversack of a Southern prisoner who
was captured a few minutes after McPherson s
death, and thus never reached the headquarters of
General Hood. As Sherman gazed sadly on the re
mains of his dead friend, the shells of the enemy
were raining on the Howard House, as if in vin
dictive pursuit of the stricken man. " Have the
body carried to Marietta," ordered Sherman, "and
I will see that it is taken back to his home in
Ohio." Then he turned to give further orders for
what was afterward called the " Battle of Atlanta."
It may be inferred that it was no child s play to
give such orders. The corps of General Hardee had
sallied out from Atlanta, and, by making a circuit
to the east, had struck General Blair s left flank.
The battle, thus begun, raged throughout the day
in front of the Seventeenth and Fifteenth Corps.
But Hood s tactics did not prevail. At dusk the
Confederates, " crushed and dispirited," drew off,
with heavy cost. The total loss of the Northern

1 McPherson was born November 14, 1828, and was therefore
cut off in his very prime, at the early age of thirty-five years.
Sherman made a report of his death to the secretary of war
which was in itself a noble monument in words. "General
McPherson fell in battle, booted and spurred, as the gallant
and heroic gentleman should wish. Not his the loss, but the
country s ; and the army will mourn his death and cherish his



THE FALL OF A STRONGHOLD 199

forces was about 3,500. It had been a bloody
conflict and nobly had Sherman and his men done
their work. The skill of the Northern com
mander had been too much for the impetuous
Confederate general.

After Sherman had recovered from the strain of
the battle he set himself to the task of appointing
a successor to McPherson as permanent commander
of the Army of the Tennessee. " General Logan,"
he says, u had taken command by virtue of his
seniority, and had done well, but I did not consider
him equal to the command of three corps. " He
recognized the undoubted ability of Logan, but re
garded him as a politician who looked to personal
military fame as a stepping-stone to the gratifica
tion of his ambitions for civil preferment. Further
more, Logan was not a regular army officer, and
Sherman, who was now more than ever determined
to capture Atlanta, desired commanders who were
"purely and technically soldiers," and who could
execute delicate manoeuvres, requiring the utmost
skill and precision. Yet he might have given the
post to Logan had not General Thomas made
strenuous objections.

As it was, General Howard was appointed to com
mand the Army of the Tennessee. The selection
was a good one. General Logan went back to his
old corps, the Fifteenth, returning later to the North
to assist in the political canvass; while Hooker, ag
grieved that he himself had not been elevated to
McPherson s place, asked to be relieved of command



200 WILLIAM TECUMSEH SHEKMAN

of the Twentieth Corps, in the Army of the Cumber
land. Poor Hooker was never a favorite of Sher
man s, who was not slow to grant the request.

This incident gave rise to much unpleasant feel
ing on the part of Hooker s admirers, who asserted
that he had been unfortunate enough to bring upon
himself the jealousy of Sherman and General
Thomas. "This is hardly probable," writes Sher
man, "for we on the spot did not rate his fighting
qualities as high as he did." Throughout he
speaks of this commander in a way as unusual as it
is bitter, which shows how strained their relations
must have been. Sherman was, indeed, a good
hater, and was as honestly sincere in his dislikes as
in his likes.

In some respects, Grant agreed with Sherman, in
the estimate of Hooker s character. He conceded
that his achievements at Chattanooga had been
brilliant, but regarded him as a dangerous man.
He was not subordinate to his superiors. He was
ambitious to the extent of caring nothing for the
rights of others." It is certain that Hooker had
what another writer has termed l an overplus of
self-esteem," but he was a brave man and a hard
fighter. We can see, however, that his egotistical
temperament did not tend to find favor with Sher
man who, although a pardonable egotist himself, in
a perfectly safe way, never let his self-respect or his
ambitions run away with his head even though
his tongue occasionally led him into imprudence. 1

1 "His [Hooker s] disposition was, when engaged in battle,



THE FALL OF A STRONGHOLD 201

On the night of July 26th Sherman moved the
Army of the Tennessee out of its works for more
activity. He planned to advance it rapidly to the
right against the railroad below Atlanta, at the
same time sending all the cavalry around by the
right and left to make a lodgment about Jonesboro.
As a result of this movement there was a sharp at
tack from the enemy on the morning of the 28th.
The battle lasted until three o clock in the after
noon, and each charge of the Confederate infantry
was grandly repulsed. The enemy s losses were in
the neighborhood of 5,000 men, and the result
proved, in every way, a great victory for the
Union, and, in a particular sense, for General
Logan, whose Fifteenth Corps bore the brunt of the
contest.

Sherman was delighted, and none the less so be
cause Howard had acquitted himself so well in
command of the Army of the Tennessee. It seems
that the latter exposed himself freely, and when the
firing finally ceased he walked the lines, where
upon the men, as reported to Sherman, "gathered
about him in the most affectionate way, and he at
once gained their respect and confidence."

The victorious officers and troops felt particularly
encouraged by this day s work, for they realized
that Hood could now be attacked, at his own dis
advantage, outside his fortified lines. The men

to get detached from the main body of the army and exercise a
separate command, gathering to his standard all he could of his
juniors." Grant.



202 WILLIAM TECUMSEH SHEBMAN

of the Fifteenth Corps told SherniaD (who always
treated them in an unassuming, familiar way
which they appreciated) that the battle had been
for them "the easiest thing in the world." It
was, they said, a common slaughter of the enemy ;
and they pointed out "where the rebel lines had
been, and how they themselves had fired deliber
ately, had shot down their antagonists, whose bodies
still lay unburied, and marked plainly their lines
of battle. . . . All bore willing testimony to
the courage and spirit of the foe." *

It is not to be forgotten that Sherman himself
nearly lost his life during this action. A cannon
ball passed directly over his shoulder and killed
the horse of his orderly who rode a short distance
behind him.

Thus the month of July ended, considerably in
favor of the Union armies before Atlanta. True,
their losses had been about 10,000 men, killed,
wounded, or missing ; but the Confederates had
lost perhaps 1,000 more than that number without
accomplishing anything. Sherman, with an army
splendidly equipped, well-fed, and gaining in mili
tary experience every hour, remained placidly en
trenched before the city. Hood, indeed, was already
bringing disappointment to those who had fondly
hoped that he would fall upon Sherman and cap
ture the Northern forces. One Southern newspaper
remarked satirically, "If Mr. Hood keeps on in
this way of fighting, his army will be wiped out in
1 " Memoirs of General William T. Sherman," Vol. II, p. 91.



THE FALL OF A STRONGHOLD 203

ten days, aiid the Yankees will still have a few men
left to go to Mobile."

The mouth of August opened hot and sultry, but
the troops besieging Atlanta were but little incon
venienced. Their skirmish and main lines were in
good position ; the field batteries were covered by
imposing parapets ; an occasional shot or clatter of
musketry gave animation to the scene. The men
loitered about the trenches, or built huts for them
selves, and seemed "as snug, comfortable, and
happy, as though they were at home."

An amusing and highly characteristic incident
occurred about this time. Sherman received noti
fication from Washington that Brigadier-Generals
Osterhaus and Alvan P. Hovey, had been appointed
major-generals by President Lincoln. Both officers
were very efficient, and had begun the campaign
with Sherman as division commanders, but had
now gone to the rear Osterhaus on account of
illness, and Hovey because of a certain dissatisfac
tion over the composition of his division. When
Sherman heard of the promotions he was angry,
since other prominent officers serving under him
had not been " advanced a peg," and he wrote to
the War Department, sarcastically observing that
"if the rear be the post of honor, then we had
better all change front on Washington."

To Sherman s amazement he received a personal
letter from Lincoln, explaining that he had made
the two appointments at the suggestion "of two
men whose advice and character he prized most



204 WILLIAM TECUMSEH SHEKMAN

highly" namely , Generals Grant and Sherman.
Sherman then recalled the fact that after the victory
of Vicksburg he, with Grant, had recommended
the advancement of Osterhaus and Hovey, among
other officers. The President had good-humoredly
turned the tables on Sherman and the latter en
joyed the joke as much as any one.

A side-issue of the campaign which, but for its
failure, might have formed one of the most dashing
episodes of the war, should be briefly described. It
involved that spirited soldier, General George Stone-
man, at this time in command of the cavalry of
Sherman s Army of the Ohio. Stoneman proposed
to Sherman an inspiring project, it being nothing
more or less than to break up the Macon Eailroad
and then make a raid on Andersonville, rescuing
the thousands of Union prisoners who were con
fined there, " badly fed and harshly treated." The
difficulties of such a cavalry movement were great,
but the risk was well worth taking, since success
meant so much of value to the Federals. Sherman
gave his consent to the movement, saying, " If you
can bring back to this army any or all of those
prisoners of war it will be an achievement that will
entitle you and your command to the love and
admiration of the whole country."

The raid proved to be a dismal failure, although


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Online LibraryEdward RobinsWilliam T. Sherman → online text (page 12 of 22)