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North and South alike threw charity to the winds,
and engaged in a death struggle. Truly "war is

1 From the London edition of " The Rise and Fall of the Con
federate Government " ; Volume II, Part IV, page 1.


In this letter to Halleck General Sherman makes
some pungent remarks anent the people living along
the borders of the Mississippi Eiver. He divides
them into four classes: namely, the " large
planters" (in some districts "bitter as gall," in
other sections "conservative"); the "smaller
farmers, mechanics, merchants and laborers"
(" three -quarters of the whole," led into the war
"on the false theory that they were to be benefited
somehow they knew not how"); the "Union
men of the South" ; and the "young bloods of
the South." For the third class, over which it was
the fashion at the North to waste some foolish sym
pathy, the writer expresses the most profound con
tempt. l i Afraid of shadows, they submit tamely to
squads of dragoons, and permit them, without a
murmur, to burn their cotton, take their horses,
corn and everything ; and, when we reach them,
they are full of complaints if our men take a few
fence-rails for fire, or corn to feed our horses. They
give us no assistance or information, and are loudest
in their complaints at the smallest excesses of our
soldiers. Their sons, horses, arms, and everything
useful, are in the army against us, and they stay at
home, claiming all the exemptions of peaceful citi

Sherman would have had much more respect for
these "Union men of the South" had they been in
the Confederate army. He ever despised "trim
mers." Nowadays no one sheds a tear over these
men. In this twentieth century, when we look at


the war with calm feelings, we like to think of the
Southerners who fought for the Confederacy and the
Northerners who fought for the Union not of
" copperheads " in either camp.

Of the fourth class General Sherman gives Hal-
leek a short but picturesque description which
makes us almost regret that our hero after the war
never turned his attention to writing as a fine art.
" Sons of planters, lawyers about towns, good billiard
players, and sportsmen, men who never did work
and never will. War suits them and the rascals are
brave, fine riders, bold to rashness, and dangerous
subjects in every sense. They care not a sou for
niggers, laud, or anything. They hate Yankees,
per se, and don t bother their brains about the past,
present or future. As long as they have good
horses, plenty of forage, and an open country they
are happy. ... At present horses cost them
nothing, for they take what they find, and don t
bother their brains as to who is to pay for them ;
the same may be said of the corn-fields, which have,
as they believe, been cultivated by a good-natured
people for their especial benefit. We propose to
share with them the free use of these corn-fields,
planted by willing hands, that will never gather the

On the same day that he writes to Halleck, Sher
man sends a few lines to General Eawlins, Grant s
devoted friend and staff officer. At one time, he
tells Eawlins, he (Sherman) was considered " un
sound" by the authorities at Washington, because


he would not "go it blind" into the war; "now
that I insist on war pure and simple, with no ad
mixture of civil compromises, I am supposed vin
dictive." And he quotes the advice of Poloni us to
Laertes : l i Beware of entrance to a quarrel ; but,
being in, bear it, that the opposed may beware of
thee." There were still worthy souls in the North,
be it remembered, who hoped for some sort of "civil
compromises" and an immediate cessation of the

Thus Sherman whiled away his rare leisure with
the pen. It is curious to reflect, by the way, that
while he and Grant were so alike in some respects,
they differed very radically in this amusement of
letter-writing, as well as in the art of purely vocal
expression. Unlike Sherman, Grant at all times re
sisted the temptation to talk and write. l He was
apparently always striving to do as much as he could
with the least possible use of words." This was a
virtue that particularly commended him to Lincoln.
He never wrote a letter if he could avoid it, and
what he had to write was in general directly to the
point. " When the whole country would be sound
ing his praises he would be silently preparing for his
next splendid triumph, and when his detractors
would be most active in trying to humiliate and to
ruin him he would preserve the same quiet demeanor
and pursue the same steadfast course."

The contrast between the two men only makes their
friendship the more attractive. The taciturnity of
Grant fitted in well with the impulsiveness of his


colleague. And there were, too, other differences
of temperament. Long after the war a writer who
had studied the methods and personal qualities of
both generals pointed out that their similar educa
tion at West Point had not cast them in the same
mould of thought and feeling. The one looked at
things with a serenity that seemed little less than
heroic, whereas the other was easily susceptible to
causes of excitement. " While Grant could sit
upon his horse at the crisis of a battle, coolly smok
ing a cigar as he gave orders of vital significance,
Sherman could not remain still for a moment, but
would show in every way the keenest anxiety and
enthusiasm. It was impossible to tell from the ex
pression of the former s face how an engagement
was going, but the latter s features plainly adver
tised each successive advance or repulse. . . .
There was no movement that they executed in ex
actly the same manner. They observed the same
general rules, but applied them with variations of
detail that were no less curious than characteristic
and, somehow, the final results were usually such
as to vindicate both processes." *

Grant was a man of infinite patience ; Sherman
(save in certain military movements where common
sense warned him to be otherwise) was a man of in
finite impatience. It was not in his nature to con
ceal his honest sentiments, or to think that speech
was made to hide thought, or to wait patiently for
time to rectify abuses or injustices. "The fault
St. Louis Globe-Democrat, February 22, 1891.


would have been a grave one in a man more dis
posed to do injury and less capable of correcting a
blunder, but in Sherman it was readily forgivable,
because of his sterling integrity and his unfailing

It has been said that Sherman was a firmer be
liever in strategy than Grant. Yet we all know
that he was no blind servitor of this same strategy.
He was a thorough organizer and a great admirer
of tactics and discipline ; but he also reserved the
right to be original, and, if necessary, unconven
tional, in military matters. While he desired his
battalions to be well-appointed and skilfully
handled, he was not (as Colonels Bowman and
Irwin well say) " one of those cool, methodical and
tenacious" generals bent on owing everything to
tactics and nothing to Fortune. Nor yet would he
rely too much on that fickle lady. His theory, so
far as it can be described, was, " first to have a prop
erly appointed and duly proportioned army
equal to the undertaking in hand ; next, to school
his army in tactics, so as to make it capable of
quick and accurate movement ; then to accustom it
to battle in minor engagements and secondary
victories; and, finally, to strike home for grand
results." In short, Sherman, as we shall see, had
the mind to invent a colossal movement and the ex
ecutive ability to carry it out. More than that
could not have been asked of Napoleon. The latter
was inclined to believe, despite his fatalism, that
the gods generally favored the strongest battalions.


Whilst Sherman was lying idle in camp near
Vicksburg, on the west bank of the Big Black, the
eastern bank was watched by a division of Confed
erate cavalry. One day a flag of truce, borne by a
Louisville captain, with an escort of twenty men or
more, was dispatched from this division into the
Union camp. Sherman, taking the part of host
rather than that of the enemy, invited the captain
and another Confederate officer to come into his
tent and l make themselves at home. The captain
had brought a sealed letter for Grant, which was
forwarded to Vicksburg. In the evening Sherman
treated the two officers to a good supper, which they
doubtless appreciated (provisions not being very
plentiful just then among the Southerners around
Vicksburg), and supplemented the meal with wine
and good cigars. Of course, the conversation turned
upon the conflict that was raging.

i What is the use of your persevering ? asked
the captain. "It is simply impossible to subdue
8,000,000 people and the feeling in the South has
become so embittered that a reconciliation is out of
the question."

" Sitting as we now are, we appear pretty com
fortable," remarked Sherman, dryly, "and surely
there seems to be no trouble in our being friends.

"Yes, that is very true of us," answered the
Confederate, " but we are gentlemen of education,
and can easily adapt ourselves to any condition of
things. This, however, would not apply equally well
to the common people, or to the common soldiers."


Sherman did not answer in words. He merely
led the captain out to the camp-fires behind his tent,
and pointed to the members of the Confederate
escort, who were contentedly drinking coffee and
hobnobbing with Union soldiers.

" What do you think of that ? " asked the general.

"I must admit that you have the best of the
argument," said the captain, very handsomely,
and thus the discussion ended. Sherman s view r s
as to the quickness with which the two sections
could be reconciled would have been speedily vin
dicated at the close of the war had it not been for
the crimes committed by venal Northern politicians
in the name of " Eeconstruction. " The sending of
rascally " carpet-baggers " into the South, and the
mistake of granting the elective franchise to the
negro the dangerous policy of trying to put the
black race over the white race, a policy which no
self-respecting Northerner would ever stand in his
own section delayed for years the resumption of
really friendly relations between North and South.

During this period the Army of the Cumberland,
under General Eosecrans, was moving against
Bragg at Chattanooga ; and the Army of the Ohio,
under Burnside, was marching toward east Ten
nessee. Then Bragg, reinforced by Longstreet from
Virginia, drew out of Chattanooga, crossed Chicka-
mauga Creek, and fell upon General Thomas, com
manding the left of Eosecrans 7 army (September
19th). The results of this action the splendid
courage of Thomas in the midst of a routed army ;


Rosecrans frantic efforts to rally the right ; the
bottling up of the Army of the Cumberland in
Chattanooga are exciting chapters of our war
record. That army, which had lost some seventeen
thousand men, was now practically besieged. The
soldiers penned up there were in actual peril of
starvation ; the situation was more than dangerous,
and the government at Washington was in a state
bordering on panic. Some alarmists were asking
themselves whether the capture of Vicksburg and
the victory at Gettysburg were to have any real
value, after all. Bragg now took possession of
Missionary Ridge, overlooking Chattanooga, and
also occupied Lookout Mountain, west of the town,
which had been abandoned by Rosecrans.

Reinforcements, under General Hooker, were
hurried from the east, while Halleck sent word to
Grant to despatch at once toward Chattanooga such
troops as he could spare. Sherman was ordered
to take the major part of his corps from the Big-
Black to the same destination, via Memphis, it being
understood that he should move from that city east
ward, repairing railroads as he progressed.

Just after the arrival of General Sherman and
Mrs. Sherman in Memphis, his little boy, Willie,
died there of typhoid fever. 1 The parents were
almost heart-broken, and Sherman bitterly re
proached himself for having allowed the child to
visit him in the camp on the Big Black, " in that
sickly region," in the summer time. To the captain
1 October 3, 1863.


of a battalion of regulars acting as an escort at the
boy s funeral, General Sherman afterward addressed
a letter of thanks which, in its pathos, and in the
domestic light it shed upon its writer, formed a
strong contrast to the stern, grim duties of war
then engaging his attention.

"For myself I ask no sympathy," he says.
" On, on, I must go, to meet a soldier s fate, or live
to see our country rise superior to all factious, till
its flag is adored and respected by ourselves and by
all the powers of the earth. But Willie was, or
thought he was, a sergeant in the Thirteenth
[United States Regulars]. I have seen his eye
brighten, his heart beat as he beheld the battalion
under arms, and asked me if they were not real
soldiers. Child as he was, he had the enthusiasm,
the pure love of truth, honor, and love of country,
which should animate all soldiers. . . . Please
convey to the battalion my heart-felt thanks,
and assure each and all that if in after years
they call on me or mine, and mention that
they were of the Thirteenth Eegulars when Willie
was a sergeant, they will have a key to the affec
tions of my family that will open all it has, that
we will share with them our last blanket, our last

Sherman, however, had little time to indulge his
grief. War would not wait. About the middle of
October General Grant was called from Vicksburg
and sent in person to the relief of Eosecrans ;it
Chattanooga, being put in command of the "Mill-


tary Division of the Mississippi" (comprising the
Armies of the Ohio, Cumberland and Tennessee)
and authorized to replace Rosecrans by the steadier
George H. Thomas. On Sherman now devolved
the command of the Army of the Tennessee. He
had already set off on a special train for the scene
of the siege on Sunday morning, the llth of October
(after putting his whole force in motion) with the
battalion of the Thirteenth Regulars as an escort.
On that trip our general had a narrow escape from
being taken prisoner by the Confederates.

As the special was running about half a mile be
yond the station of Colliersville, twenty -five or
twenty-six miles out of Memphis, Sherman, who
was peacefully dozing in the rear car with his staff,
awoke to find the engine slackening in speed. The
train soon stopped. Noticing soldiers running to
and fro outside, Sherman leaped from the car, and
saw dashing toward him, on horseback, Colonel
Anthony, who commanded a Union post at this
point. "My pickets have just been driven in,
cried the officer, " and there is appearance of an at
tack by a large force of rebel cavalry coming from
the southeast !"

Sherman, ever ready for a brush, at once
ordered the soldiers on the train to form on a little
hill near the railroad cut. This they did. Soon a
Confederate officer, bearing a white flag, came
riding boldly up, and explaining that he was the
adjutant of General Chalmers, demanded, in the
latter s name, the surrender of the place. Sherman


was iii an extremely precarious position, but he
retained that presence of mind and exhibited that
resourcefulness which never deserted him before the
enemy. He refused to capitulate, and, the moment
the Confederate had ridden off to report to Chalmers,
he hurried one of his staff back to the railroad
station at Colliersville, with directions to tele
graph for help to General John M. Corse, who was
marching along from Memphis with the Fourth
Division of the corps. Soon the urgent message
was flashed over the wires, while Sherman had the
train backed quickly into the station. Near the
platform was a small earth redoubt. The depot
building itself was of brick, and had been punctured
with loop holes; several hundred yards eastward
was a square earthwork or fort, in which some of
the regulars were stationed, with soldiers of the
post already there. Other troops were distributed
into the railroad cut, and in some rifle-trenches.

Then, on a ridge to the southward, four hundred
yards distant, a number of Confederate cavalry be
gan to appear, ominously forming there in a long
line. To add to the excitement, two parties of horse
men came galloping along the tracks, one on each
side of the railroad. Soon many of the cavalrymen
were dismounting, preparing to assault; lines of
skirmishers came running through a corn-field, and
some artillery which the enemy had mysteriously
brought into play began to operate on the little
Union garrison. Sherman would have been j ustified
in giving himself up for lost, so far as relieving


Rosecrans or Thomas was concerned. The Confed
erates greatly outnumbered his own force, and had
advantages in position and artillery. But he handled
the situation with rare tact and skill. He ordered
his men to keep well under cover, and as they were
practiced shots (having acquired that useful expe
rience when before Vicksburg) they succeeded in
driving the cavalrymen back in the face of several
dashing assaults. Once the enemy seized the train,
and secured five horses, among them Sherman s
favorite mare j once, too, they set fire to the cars,
but a sortie was made from the miniature fort, and
the flames were extinguished. It would not have
been long, however, before the besieged party must
have surrendered, if help, thanks to that telegraph
message, had not been at hand. After nearly four
hours of fighting, the Confederates suddenly drew off
and disappeared. General Corse s division, march
ing on double quick time, had come to the rescue.
The next day Sherman resumed his journey.

After reaching Corinth, he pushed forward, mak
ing railroad repairs on the way, until he received
the following despatch (27th of October) :

i i Drop all work on Memphis and Charleston Rail
road, cross the Tennessee, and hurry eastward with
all possible despatch toward Bridgeport, till you
meet further orders from me.


Thereupon Sherman hastened to Bridgeport, and
there received another telegram, as a result of which
he reached Chattanooga, on the 14th of November


and was warmly welcomed by Grant and Thomas.
Many were the compliments which were paid him for
his briskness in coming to the relief of the besieged
army. The next morning Sherman walked out with
Grant, and viewed from the defenses of the city, the
grand panorama spread out before them. "All
along Missionary Eidge were the tents of the rebel
beleaguering force ; the lines of trenches from Look
out up toward the Chickamauga were plainly visible,
and rebel sentinels, in a continuous chain, were walk
ing their posts in plain view, not a thousand yards

Sherman turned to Grant. * Why, you are be
sieged!" he said. And Grant answered, stolidly
but expressively, "Yes, it s too true. 7 He added
that the horses and mules of Thomas s army were
almost starving, and that provisions had been so
scarce that the men, "in hunger, stole the few
grains of corn that were given to favorite horses."
Grant also went on to say that General Bragg, at
whose headquarters on Missionary Eidge they were
now gazing, had detached Longstreet up into east
Tennessee, to capture the Union forces under Gen
eral Burnside, who, having occupied Knoxville, was
now in great danger. " I want your troops to take
the offensive first," said the general, with emphasis.
The situation was almost desperate ; he depended
upon Sherman to help extricate him from the
perilous position into which the force had been led
by the blundering of Eosecrans.

The ensuing battles of Chattanooga, Lookout


Mountain, and Missionary Eidge, have been suc
cinctly described as " parts of one single engage
ment, having for object to drive Bragg from the
position he had chosen." x This was the plan of
action :

Sherman was to move up the Tennessee, on the
north side, opposite Chattanooga, with four divi
sions ; cross, under cover of artillery, near the mouth
of Chickamauga Creek, on a pontoon bridge ; and
attack and capture the north end of Missionary
Eidge. Thomas was to concentrate in Chattanooga
Valley, while General Hooker was to patrol Look
out Valley, making a diversion to assist Sherman.
Throughout the whole movement Grant showed
what complete trust he placed in Sherman.

General Sherman got his command over to the
hills opposite the mouth of the Chickamauga by the
23d of November, driving the Confederates from the
north end of Missionary Eidge on the 24th, but
found an obstacle in his way in the shape of a deep
depression or gap. "I had inferred," he says
in his report to Eawlins, "that Missionary Eidge
was a continuous hill ; but we found ourselves on
two high points, with a deep depression between
us and the one immediately over the tunnel, which
was my chief objective point. The ground we had
gained, however, was so important that I could
leave nothing to chance, and ordered it to be forti-

1 See a " Bird s Eye View of Onr Civil War " ; also consult
the memoirs of Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan, the several lives
of General Thomas, etc.


fied during the night. The enemy felt our left
flank about 4 P. M. , and a pretty smart engagement
with artillery and muskets ensued, when he drew
off; but it cost us dear, for General Giles A. Smith
was severely wounded, and had to go to the rear.
. . . As night closed in, I ordered General Jef
ferson C. Davis to keep one of his brigades at the
bridge, one close up to my position, and one inter
mediate. Thus we passed the night, heavy details
being kept busy at work on the entrenchments on
the hill. During the night the sky cleared away
bright, a cold frost filled the air, and our camp-
fires revealed to the enemy and to our friends in
Chattanooga our position on Missionary Ridge."

At midnight Sherman received an order from
Grant, directing him to attack the enemy at dawn
with notice that General Thomas was to i attack
in force early in the day." Accordingly Sherman
was in the saddle before sunrise (November 25th),
and attended by his staff, was preparing his brigades.
As we have seen, a rather wide valley lay between his
forces and the next hill of the series, and the farther
point of this hill was held by the enemy with a breast
work of logs and fresh earth, occupied by men and
two guns. The enemy was also seen in great force
on a still higher hill beyond the tunnel. The sun
had hardly risen when General Corse completed
his preparations for his brigade to attack from the
right centre, and his bugle was soon sounding that
most inspiring of all calls to the brave soldier " For
ward !" Other brigades were to aid him at the


proper moment. Corse now quickly moved down
the face of the hill held by the Union troops, and
steadily, gallantly, up that held by the enemy,
until he found and seized a secondary crest about
eighty yards away from their intrenchments.
Then came a stirring assault by the Federal
battalions, a stubborn defense by the Confed
erates, but through the hour s fierce contest, Corse
valiantly kept his original position. Another bri
gade was now gaining ground on the left spurs of Mis
sionary Eidge ; more troops were aiding from various
directions ; Sherman was carefully directing every

About ten o clock in the morning General Corse,
receiving a severe wound, was taken from the field,
and the command of the assault devolved on a young
Colonel (Walcutt of the Forty -sixth Ohio) who
"fulfilled his part manfully," pressed forward, and
was later joined by energetic reinforcements. The
enemy, being massed in great strength in the tunnel -
gorge, suddenly appeared on the right rear of the
new troops, who, exposed as they were in the open
field, fell back in disorder, but soon reformed. The
real attacking columns were not repulsed. They
struggled heroically throughout the better part of
the day.

"Thus matters stood," officially reports Sherman,
i l about 3 P. M. The day was bright and clear, and the
amphitheatre at Chattanooga lay in beauty at our
feet. . . . Column after column of the enemy

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Online LibraryEdward RobinsWilliam T. Sherman → online text (page 9 of 22)