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fully attending to routine work, was lost to sight in
the rush of events. The newspapers even forgot to
serve up the usual breakfast fare for their readers ;
the legend, " Sherman is insane" or " Sherman s
health is hopelessly broken 7 disappeared from
print. It looked, for the matter of that, as if our
general would go through the war in a subordinate
capacity, with mild honor but sans fame. Some
men might have resigned from the army in disgust.
But Sherman was like Benjamin Franklin, who
once said that he was not possessed of the virtue of
resignation.

It was in the bitterly contested battle of Shiloh
or Pittsburg Landing (April 6th and 7th) that
he emerged from the cloud of public censure, and
showed the fine material that was in him. From
that moment he began to see life in more roseate
lights.

The two brilliant victories of Grant at Forts Henry
and Donelson, had ruined, as they were intended
to do, the centre of the Confederate line ; General
Albert Sidney Johnston, who was in supreme com
mand of the enemy here, and who was looked upon
as the fondest hope of the South on the military



90 WILLIAM TECUMSEH SHERMAN

field, was obliged to retire to a new line along the
Memphis and Charleston Eailroad. Having suc
cessively evacuated Columbus and Nashville, and
practically abandoned Kentucky, he determined to
concentrate his army around Corinth, Miss., a
distance of twenty miles from the now historic
Pittsburg Landing.

Grant proposed to ascend the Tennessee Eiver,
and try to break this new line along the Memphis
and Charleston Eailroad, of which Corinth, of course,
formed the centre. He took his army to Pittsburg
Landing, on the Tennessee Eiver, and by orders
from Halleck, Buell, with 37,000 men, was dis
patched from Nashville, to re-enforce him. Hal
leck was now (March llth) made commander of
the Department of the Mississippi, embracing all
the troops west of a line drawn indefinitely north
and south through Knoxville, Tennessee, and east
of the western boundary of Missouri and Arkansas.
General Mitchell was sent out with a division to
seize some point of vantage on the Memphis and
Charleston Eailroad, which had great value to the
enemy ; he succeeded in capturing Huntsville and
occupied Bridgeport.

In the meantime Johnston advanced from Cor
inth, in order to fall upon Grant s army (comprising
nearly 40,000 fighting men) before Buell should ar
rive with the re-enforcements. Johnston made his
onslaught on the Union forces, as planned, and for
a time victory seemed to perch on the banners of
the Secessionists. The Union lines wavered j the



AT WAR IN EAKNEST 91

surprise had proved demoralizing. For a while
apparently there was uo hope for Grant s startled
soldiers. Then conies the death of the gallant Al
bert Sidney Johnston. Beauregard, succeeding to
the command, and thinking that Buell is still a
goodly distance away, calls a halt on the battle until
the following morning, when he hopes to have his
troops reformed for victory. But Buell is at hand ;
his forces, or at least 20,000 of them, come up in
time for the second day s battle. Beauregard makes
a desperately heroic struggle to retain his advantage
of the day before, and by skilful management he al
most succeeds in turning the Union left. "But
BuelPs men have profited by their rigid discipline.
Their ranks are adamant. They will not be denied.
An order for a general advance is given. Wallace
conies up on the right. Victory shifts to the stars
and stripes. The exhausted Confederates are forced
in confusion from the field."

The fight was one of the fiercest of the war.
Beauregard reported his entire loss as 10,699 ; the
Union losses, according to one estimate, aggregated
1,700 killed, 7,495 wounded, and 3,022 prisoners.
The struggle had been so severe that for a time
the victors were worn out and nerveless. "All
the division, brigade and regimental commanders,
were busy," says Sherman, " in collecting stragglers,
regaining lost property, in burying dead men and
horses, and in providing for their wounded."

How came Sherman himself into the battle, and
what did he accomplish? While at work at Pa-



92 WILLIAM TECUMSEH SHEBMAN

ducah he organized a division of his own out of
the troops arriving there, as General Halleck, who
now considered that his "health" was "restored,"
had promised the ex-" lunatic " that he might take
the field to assist in the coming movements. l On
the 10th of March Sherman embarked this new
division on the Tennessee Eiver, and, after certain
manoBuvring, we find him stationed just back of
Pittsburg Landing. This was in accordance with
the plan to attack the enemy at Corinth, when the
necessary forces had arrived, and secure his surren
der. Here, finally, the Army of the Tennessee,
under Grant, waited patiently for the arrival of
Buell, who was marching to the rescue with calm
but provoking deliberation. " The importance of
the crisis was apparent," says Colonel S. M. Bow
man, "for Johnston would naturally seek to strike
Grant before BuelPs arrival, but Buell marched his
troops with the same deliberation as if no other
army depended upon his promptness." But, to
give the other side of the picture and there were
often two sides to these stirring war landscapes
Dr. Eopes says, in his "Story of the Civil War,"
that as Halleck had never intimated that he had
any doubt as to Grant s safety, "Buell pursued his
march with primary regard to the comfort and
efficiency of his soldiers. The truth is, that the
object of BuelPs march, as it was understood both
by him and by Halleck, was, to use BuelPs own

1 See the letter which Halleck wrote Thomas Ewing on Febru
ary 15, 1862, in regard to Sherman s condition.



AT WAR IN EARNEST 93

words, which are very just, * not to succor General
Grant s army, but to form a junction with it for an
ulterior offensive campaign.

Be that as it may and the battle of Shiloh will
ever cause controversy Albert Sidney Johnston
made his descent before the arrival of the re-
enforcements. "On Sunday morning, the 6th,
early, 7 reports Sherman, " there was a good deal
of picket-firing, and I got breakfast, rode out along
my lines, and, about four hundred yards to the
front of Appier s regiment (Fifty-third Ohio), re
ceived from some bushes in a ravine to the left
front a volley which killed my orderly, Holliday.
About the same time I saw the rebel lines of battle
in front coming down on us as far as the eye could
reach. All my troops were in line of battle, ready,
and the ground was favorable to us. I gave the
necessary orders to the battery (Waterhouse s) at
tached to Hildebrand s brigade, and cautioned the
men to reserve their fire till the rebels had crossed
the ravine of Owl Creek, and had begun the ascent ;
also, sent staff officers to notify Generals McCler-
uaud and Prentiss of the coming blow. Indeed,
McClernand had already sent three regiments to
the support of my left flank, and they were in posi
tion when the onset came. In a few minutes the
battle of Shiloh began with extreme fury and lasted
two days."

The battle took its name from Shiloh Church,
near Pittsburg Landing. Pittsburg itself was a
mere steamboat lauding, situated in a deep ravine,



94 WILLIAM TECUMSEH SHERMAN

down which the Corinth road led to the Tennessee
Eiver. The ground in front of the Landing was an
undulating table-land, a hundred feet above the
road-bottom, lying between Lick Creek and Snake
Creek, two little tributaries of the Tennessee ; Owl
Creek, rising near the source of Lick Creek and
flowing in a northeasterly direction, emptied into
Snake Creek. The Confederates had formed under
cover of the brush lining Owl Creek bottom ; after
opening fire from their artillery, they were soon
moving forward the infantry across the open ground
and up a slope which separated them from the lines
of the Union Army. 1

Sherman saw that the enemy designed to pass his
left flank, and fall upon Generals McClernand and
Prentiss, whose camps were two miles back from
the Tennessee Eiver. Very soon the sharp, crack
ling sound of musketry and the booming of artillery
announced that Prentiss was engaged, and later
Sherman inferred that he was falling back. Eegi-
nieuts now began to break in disorder ; the enemy
pressed on madly ; it looked, for a time, as if Shiloh
was to end in a Union panic. Through all the
danger of the day, through all the fierce noise and
confusion, Sherman retained his coolness, inspiring
all around him, and giving the lie, then and there,
to the critics who had called him a faint-hearted
fool. After ten o clock the Confederates made a
furious attack on General McClernand s front.
" Finding him pressed," writes Sherman, in his
1 " Sherman and His Campaigns."



AT WAE IN EABNEST 95

official report, "I moved McDowell s brigade di
rectly against the left flank of the enemy, forced
him back some distance, and then directed the men
to avail themselves of every cover trees, fallen
timber, and a wooded valley to our right. We held
this position for four long hours, sometimes gaining
and at others losing ground ; General McClemand
and myself acting in perfect concert, and struggling
to maintain this line." It was a terrific ordeal,
through which these two generals remained as self-
possessed as if they were playing a quiet game of
chess. Later they selected a new line of defense,
with its right covering a bridge over Snake Creek,
by which General Lew Wallace was expected to
approach with re-enforcements. As they fell back
to this position the enemy s cavalry charged them,
but was finely repulsed by an Illinois regiment.
Later, McClernand s division made a dashing
charge against the enemy, "and drove him back
into the ravines to our front and right," reports
Sherman. "I had a clear field, about two hun
dred yards wide, in my immediate front, and con
tented myself with keeping the enemy s infantry
at that distance during the rest of the day."

There is no need to give in detail the story of
Sherman s great service to the Union on that or the
succeeding day at Shiloh. Throughout the whole
action he displayed surprising judgment and skill
in the management of his men, and although severely
wounded in the left hand on the first day, and again
wounded on the second day, besides having three



96 WILLIAM TECUMSEH SHEBMAN

horses shot from under him, he was never absent
from his post. Considering how new he was to real
warfare it may be truthfully said that he proved a
marvel in the way he rallied faltering troops, in
spired the braver men, and coolly issued his orders
ainid the storm of iron. Grant, between whom and
Sherman there would always exist the firmest
friendship, afterward said of him : " At the battle
of Shiloh, on the first day, he held, with raw troops,
the key-point of the landing. It is no disparage
ment to any other officer to say that I do not be
lieve there was another division commander on the
field who had the skill and experience to have done
it. To his individual efforts I am indebted for the
success of that battle. > ? General Halleck announced
that Sherman, according to unanimous opinion,
" saved the fortunes of the day," on April the 6th,
and " contributed largely to the glorious victory "
of the second day s battle. As a result he was pro
moted to a major-generalcy of volunteers (May 1,
1862).

Sherman was fortunate in emerging so bril
liantly from an action which was very harshly criti
cised in certain quarters. For it was maintained by
some that the army at Pittsburg Landing had been
not merely surprised, but surprised in the most
disgraceful way ; and there were all sorts of wild
rumors afloat, including one that General Grant had
been drunk at the beginning of the battle. Sher
man says, as to the last assertion: " Personally I
saw General Grant, who with his staff visited me



AT WAK IN EARNEST 97

about 10 A. M., of the 6th, when we were desperately
engaged. " As to the * i disgracefulness of the sur
prise we find Sherman writing to his brother, the
senator, in his graphic, vehement way :

4 The scoundrels who fled their ranks and left about
half their number to do their work have succeeded
in establishing their story of surprise, stuck with
bayonets and swords in their tents, and all that
stuff. They were surprised, astonished and dis
gusted at the utter want of respect for life on the
part of the Confederates, whom they have been
taught to regard as inferior to them, and were sur
prised to see them approach with banners fluttering,
bayonets glistening, and lines dressed on the centre.
It was a beautiful and dreadful sight, and I was
prepared for and have freely overlooked the fact
that many wilted and fled, but, gradually recover
ing, rejoined our ranks. But those who did not re
cover their astonishment had to cast about for a
legitimate excuse ; and the cheapest one was to
accuse their officers, and strange to say, this story
is believed before ours, who fought two whole days.

" In this instance the scamps will soon learn their
mistake. Those who ran and cried l surprise/
4 cut up, etc., expected all who stood to their work
to be killed, but all were not killed, and enough
remain as witnesses, after the public are satisfied
with the horrid stories of men butchered, etc.
. . . For two days they hung about the river
bank, filling the ears of newspaper reporters with
their tales of horrid surprise."



98 WILLIAM TECUMSEH SHEEMAN

This is not a very gratifying description, but it is
evidently a true one, and shows us, better than a
dozen histories, that war is not all heroism, waving
of flags and valor. It incidentally gives us an
other instance of why Sherman disliked newspaper
correspondents, who did so much, in this case, to
impress the public with the mistakes of Shiloh.
One thing at least is certain : The battle will be the
subject of spirited discussion so long as war histor
ians and the inevitable " military experts" shall
endure.

After the fight Beauregard returned to Corinth,
unpursued by Grant, whose critics asserted that he
should have used his tired men to chase the enemy.
Halleck now arrived on the scene to take personal
command of the armies under Grant, Buell and
Pope. The last-named general was diverted from
his success along the Mississippi Eiver, and brought
over to assist in besieging Corinth. Halleck evi
dently shared the prejudices rampant just then
against Grant, for in reorganizing the forces
(wherein Sherman was assigned to an important
division) he gave Grant the nominal position of
" second in command. 7 This assignment left
him without any well-defined duties, and he nat
urally looked upon it as little less than a polished
insult. And now it is that we see Sherman saving
this great officer for future services to his govern
ment.

During a visit to Halleck s headquarters Sherman
was informed that Grant had applied for, and re-



AT WAR IN EARNEST 99

ceived, a thirty-days 7 leave of absence, and proposed
going away the next morning. Sherman knew
that this probably meant a permanent withdrawal
from the army, for he realized how Grant was chaf
ing under the slight which had been put upon him
by Halleck. So, with the best intentions that man
ever had, he galloped oif to the camp of the dis
credited general.

As he rode up, he found Major Rawlins and
other members of Grant s staff surrounded by
chests and articles which indicated a sort of mil
itary moving day. Sherman inquired for " the
general," and was shown to his tent. Here he
found Grant assorting letters and papers, and tying
them up with red tape into little bundles. The
visitor asked Grant if it were true that he was going
away.

4 Yes, 7 was the laconic answer.

" What is the reason?" demanded Sherman.

Grant replied and we can fancy him taking the
ever-present cigar from his mouth: " Sherman,
you know. You know I am in the way here ! T
have stood it as long as I can, and I can endure it
no longer."

" Where are you going to ? "

"To St. Louis."

" Have you any business there!"

"Not a bit!"

Sherman, who had, as he confessed, received new
life from the battle of Shiloh, and no longer fretted
over the old allegations as to his "craziness," was



100 WILLIAM TECUMSEH SHERMAN

now intent on bearing patiently the " slings and ar
rows " of misfortune. He argued that if Grant re
tired, events would go " right along," and he would
be forgotten ; whereas, if he remained in the army
" some happy accident might restore him to favor
and his true place." Grant took this advice in a
friendly spirit, and promised to do nothing rash.
Shortly thereafter he wrote Sherman that he had
decided to remain with the army. In answering
this note General Sherman said: "I . . . am
rejoiced at your conclusion to remain ; for you could
not be quiet at home for a week when armies were
moving, and rest could not relieve your mind of the
gnawing sensation that injustice had been done
you."

Thus it appears that in his interview Sherman
wrought better than he then knew. Nothing
speaks more eloquently in his behalf than this epi
sode. Some generals, more jealous than he, might
have been only too glad to get rid of Grant as a
dangerous rival. But through all the pettiness of
the war and Heaven knows that it was full of
smallness, bickerings and false pride in certain di
rections there stands out, in bold and delightful
relief, the steadfast trust which Grant and Sherman,
the two greatest military figures of the conflict, on
the Northern side, maintained in each other.

On the 30th of April the grand army under Hal-
leck, estimated in round numbers at 120,000 men,
began its movement against Corinth, where Beaure-
gard, now re-enforced by General Van Dorn, had



AT WAR IN EARNEST 101

fortified himself for the coining ordeal. The ad
vance, as General Grant says, in his " Personal Mem
oirs, " " was a siege from the start to the close. 7 The
Union troops "were always behind intrenchments,
except, of course, the small reconnoitring parties
sent to the front to clear the way for an advance."
Indeed, the army was thoroughly entrenched all the
way from the Tennessee River to Corinth. About
the 28th of May General Logan told Grant that he
knew the Confederates were evacuating Corinth.
It was said that loaded trains had been heard leav
ing the place. Logan was right j the stronghold
was being abandoned by the Confederates, who had
manfully cheered every time an empty train reached
there, in order to give the " Yankees" the impres
sion that re-enforcenients were arriving. When the
Union troops marched into the town they found
neither active Confederates nor stores of any kind.
The trophies of war comprised a few "Quaker
guns," otherwise black logs pointed in a threaten
ing fashion toward the Northerners.

Beauregard had wisely abandoned the place as
untenable. The evacuation had great strategic
value for the North ; the Confederates were now
driven out of west Tennessee. Soon Fort Pillow
was evacuated, and Memphis surrendered (June 6th)
to the Union forces. The Mississippi River was
open from its source to the latter point ; while
the Federals also held New Orleans and Baton
Rouge. The possession of the Mississippi from
Memphis to Baton Rouge, with Vicksburg as the



102 WILLIAM TECUMSEH SHERMAN

chief objective, now became a matter of the first im
portance. It was evident that the western armies
had accomplished much more than had McClellan
and the forces in the East.

During the movement to Corinth Sherman acted
with a dash and good sense that increased the rep
utation he had made at Shiloh. There was no
chance for much brilliancy under the cautious ad
vance of Halleck, who moved as an engineer rather
than as a strategist. Yet Sherman gave more than
one evidence of his energy and skill ; as, for in
stance, when his men gallantly carried two posi
tions, one of which was two miles out from the main
line of the enemy, on a commanding elevation, and
defended by an entrenched battery with infantry
supports. After numerous activities Sherman was
ordered by Grant, who had been appointed to com
mand the Army of the Tennessee, to repair to
Memphis and put it in a state of defense. Halleck
had just been made commander of all the armies of
the United States, with headquarters in Washing
ton.

When Sherman arrived with his troops in Mem
phis (July 21st) he found the place "dead." All
churches, schools and stores were closed ; the scene
was one of dreariness, and the citizens, who were
naturally in sympathy with the South, either kept
sullenly indoors or moved about with resentful
faces. It was one of those times when the con
queror did not receive the customary crown. The
general caused all the closed places to be opened,



AT WAE IN EARNEST 103

restored the old city government to its public func
tions, brought an air of peaceful prosperity once
more into the streets, fortified his position, drilled
his division, watched the military situation in west
ern Tennessee, and sharply supervised the adminis
tration of civil affairs in the town. He acted as a
shrewd soldier and a good business man, and realiz
ing that he was in the midst of a hostile population
he wisely divested himself of any shreds of senti
ment. He was a man who never let the feeling
which he undoubtedly possessed interfere with the
stern, harsh duties of war ; he became such an
adept in hiding his heart by a barrier of bayonets
that a good many of our Southern brethren some
of whom still live came to regard him as a won
derfully close imitation of the Emperor Nero.

His ability as an administrator is well shown by
a reference to his letter -book. His correspondence
therein, which emphasizes his peculiar talente of
expression, covers the widest range of subjects,
from matters of supreme military importance to in
structions as to the pettiest details of municipal
government. At one time he addresses a long let
ter to Mr. Chase, Secretary of the Treasury, pro
testing against the government s policy of allowing
speculators to purchase cotton within the lines of
the Confederacy. i l If England ever threatens war,
he says, "because we don t furnish her cotton, tell her
plainly if she can t employ and feed her own people,
to send them here, where they can not only earn an
honest living, but soon secure independence by



104 WILLIAM TECUMSEH SHEBMAN

moderate labor. We are not bound to furnish her
cotton.

Again, Sherman writes to the editor of the Mem
phis Union- Appeal: " Personalities in a newspaper
are wrong and criminal. Thus, though you meant
to be complimentary in your sketch of my career,
you make more than a dozen mistakes of fact, which
I need not correct, as I don t desire my biography
to be written till I am dead. . . . Use your in
fluence to re-establish system, order, government.
You may rest easy that no military commander is
going to neglect internal safety, or to guard against
external danger ; but to do right requires time, and
more patience than I usually possess. If I find the
press of Memphis actuated by high principle, and a
sole devotion to their country, I will be their best
friend ; but, if I find them personal, abusive, deal
ing in innuendoes, and hints, at a blind venture,
and looking to their own selfish aggrandizement and
fame, then they had better look out ; for I regard
such persons as greater enemies to their country,
and to mankind, than the men who, from a mis
taken sense of State pride, have taken up muskets,
and fight us about as hard as we care about. "

Then we see General Sherman writing to Grant,
under date of August 26th : i l The newspapers are
accusing me of cruelty to the sick as base a charge
as ever was made. I would not let the sanitary

1 It was natural that in discussing this intricate cotton ques
tion General Sherman should regard it from the standpoint of
the imperative military man, rather than from the more subtle
view -point of the statesman.



AT WAK IN EAKNEST 105

committee carry off a boat-load of sick because I
have no right to. We have good hospitals here,
and plenty of them. Our regimental hospitals are
in the camps of the men, and the sick do much bet
ter there than in the general hospitals. So say my
division surgeon and the regimental surgeons."

In a letter to the editor of the Memphis Bulletin
he says, in stating his willingness to follow up a rea
sonable complaint against the misbehavior of any of
his soldiers : " In some instances where our soldiers
are complained of they have been insulted by sneer
ing remarks about Yankees/ Northern barbar


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Online LibraryEdward RobinsWilliam T. Sherman → online text (page 6 of 22)