Part 20 out of 44
clamors of the press for immediate action, and the continued
interference in details by the President, Secretary of War, and
Congress. He spoke of organizing a grand army of invasion, of
which the regulars were to constitute the "iron column," and seemed
to intimate that he himself would take the field in person, though
he was at the time very old, very heavy, and very unwieldy. His
age must have been about seventy-five years.
At that date, July 4, 1861, the rebels had two armies in front of
Washington; the one at Manassas Junction, commanded by General
Beauregard, with his advance guard at Fairfax Court House, and
indeed almost in sight of Washington. The other, commanded by
General Joe Johnston, was at Winchester, with its advance at
Martinsburg and Harper's Ferry; but the advance had fallen back
before Patterson, who then occupied Martinsburg and the line of the
Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.
The temper of Congress and the people would not permit the slow and
methodical preparation desired by General Scott; and the cry of "On
to Richmond!" which was shared by the volunteers, most of whom had
only engaged for ninety days, forced General Scott to hasten his
preparations, and to order a general advance about the middle of
July. McDowell was to move from the defenses of Washington, and
Patterson from Martinsburg. In the organization of McDowell's army
into divisions and brigades, Colonel David Hunter was assigned to
command the Second Division, and I was ordered to take command of
his former brigade, which was composed of five regiments in
position in and about Fort Corcoran, and on the ground opposite
Georgetown. I assumed command on the 30th of June, and proceeded
at once to prepare it for the general advance. My command
constituted the Third Brigade of the First Division, which division
was commanded by Brigadier-General Daniel Tyler, a graduate of West
Point, but who had seen little or no actual service. I applied to
General McDowell for home staff-officers, and he gave me, as
adjutant-general, Lieutenant Piper, of the Third Artillery, and, as
aide-de-camp, Lieutenant McQuesten, a fine young cavalry-officer,
fresh from West Point.
I selected for the field the Thirteenth New York, Colonel Quinby;
the Sixty-ninth New York, Colonel Corcoran; the Seventy-ninth New
York, Colonel Cameron; and the Second Wisconsin, Lieutenant--
Colonel Peck. These were all good, strong, volunteer regiments,
pretty well commanded; and I had reason to believe that I had one
of the best brigades in the whole army. Captain Ayres's battery of
the Third Regular Artillery was also attached to my brigade. The
other regiment, the Twenty-ninth New York, Colonel Bennett, was
destined to be left behind in charge of the forts and camps during
our absence, which was expected to be short. Soon after I had
assumed the command, a difficulty arose in the Sixty-ninth, an
Irish regiment. This regiment had volunteered in New York, early
in April, for ninety days; but, by reason of the difficulty of
passing through Baltimore, they had come via Annapolis, had been
held for duty on the railroad as a guard for nearly a month before
they actually reached Washington, and were then mustered in about a
month after enrollment. Some of the men claimed that they were
entitled to their discharge in ninety days from the time of
enrollment, whereas the muster-roll read ninety days from the date
of muster-in. One day, Colonel Corcoran explained this matter to
me. I advised him to reduce the facts to writing, and that I would
submit it to the War Department for an authoritative decision. He
did so, and the War Department decided that the muster-roll was the
only contract of service, that it would be construed literally; and
that the regiment would be held till the expiration of three months
from the date of muster-in, viz., to about August 1, 1861. General
Scott at the same time wrote one of his characteristic letters to
Corcoran, telling him that we were about to engage in battle, and
he knew his Irish friends would not leave him in such a crisis.
Corcoran and the officers generally wanted to go to the expected
battle, but a good many of the men were not so anxious. In the
Second Wisconsin, also, was developed a personal difficulty. The
actual colonel was S. P. Coon, a good-hearted gentleman, who knew
no more of the military art than a child; whereas his lieutenant-
colonel, Peck, had been to West Point, and knew the drill.
Preferring that the latter should remain in command of the
regiment, I put Colonel Coon on my personal staff, which reconciled
In due season, about July 15th, our division moved forward
leaving our camps standing; Keyes's brigade in the lead, then
Schenck's, then mine, and Richardson's last. We marched via
Vienna, Germantown, and Centreville, where all the army, composed
of five divisions, seemed to converge. The march demonstrated
little save the general laxity of discipline; for with all my
personal efforts I could not prevent the men from straggling for
water, blackberries, or any thing on the way they fancied.
At Centreville, on the 18th, Richardson's brigade was sent by
General Tyler to reconnoitre Blackburn's Ford across Bull Run, and
he found it strongly guarded. From our camp, at Centreville, we
heard the cannonading, and then a sharp musketry-fire. I received
orders from General Tyler to send forward Ayres's battery, and very
soon after another order came for me to advance with my whole
brigade. We marched the three miles at the double-quick, arrived
in time to relieve Richardson's brigade, which was just drawing
back from the ford, worsted, and stood for half an hour or so under
a fire of artillery, which killed four or five of my men. General
Tyler was there in person, giving directions, and soon after he
ordered us all back to our camp in Centreville. This
reconnoissance had developed a strong force, and had been made
without the orders of General McDowell; however, it satisfied us
that the enemy was in force on the other side of Bull Run, and had
no intention to leave without a serious battle. We lay in camp at
Centreville all of the 19th and 20th, and during that night began
the movement which resulted in the battle of Bull Run, on July
21st. Of this so much has been written that more would be
superfluous; and the reports of the opposing commanders, McDowell
and Johnston, are fair and correct. It is now generally admitted
that it was one of the best-planned battles of the war, but one of
the worst-fought. Our men had been told so often at home that all
they had to do was to make a bold appearance, and the rebels would
run; and nearly all of us for the first time then heard the sound
of cannon and muskets in anger, and saw the bloody scenes common to
all battles, with which we were soon to be familiar. We had good
organization, good men, but no cohesion, no real discipline, no
respect for authority, no real knowledge of war. Both armies were
fairly defeated, and, whichever had stood fast, the other would
have run. Though the North was overwhelmed with mortification and
shame, the South really had not much to boast of, for in the three
or four hours of fighting their organization was so broken up that
they did not and could not follow our army, when it was known to be
in a state of disgraceful and causeless flight. It is easy to
criticise a battle after it is over, but all now admit that none
others, equally raw in war, could have done better than we did at
Bull Run; and the lesson of that battle should not be lost on a
people like ours.
I insert my official report, as a condensed statement of my share
in the battle:
HEADQUARTERS THIRD BRIGADE, FIRST DIVISION
FORT CORCORAN, July 25, 1861
To Captain A. BAIRD, Assistant Adjutant-General, First Division
Sir: I have the honor to submit this my report of the operations of
my brigade during the action of the 21st instant. The brigade is
composed of the Thirteenth New York Volunteers, Colonel Quinby's
Sixty-ninth New York, Colonel Corcoran; Seventy-ninth New York,
Colonel Cameron; Second Wisconsin, Lieutenant-Colonel Peck; and
Company E, Third Artillery, under command of Captain R. B. Ayres,
We left our camp near Centreville, pursuant to orders, at half-past
2 A. M., taking place in your column, next to the brigade of
General Schenck, and proceeded as far as the halt, before the
enemy's position, near the stone bridge across Bull Run. Here the
brigade was deployed in line along the skirt of timber to the right
of the Warrenton road, and remained quietly in position till after
10 a.m. The enemy remained very quiet, but about that time we saw
a rebel regiment leave its cover in our front, and proceed in
double-quick time on the road toward Sudley Springs, by which we
knew the columns of Colonels Hunter and Heintzelman were
approaching. About the same time we observed in motion a large
mass of the enemy, below and on the other side of the stone bridge.
I directed Captain Ayres to take position with his battery near our
right, and to open fire on this mass; but you had previously
detached the two rifle-guns belonging to this battery, and, finding
that the smooth-bore guns did not reach the enemy's position, we
ceased firing, and I sent a request that you would send to me the
thirty-pounder rifle-gun attached to Captain Carlisle's battery.
At the same time I shifted the New York Sixty-ninth to the extreme
right of the brigade. Thus we remained till we heard the musketry-
fire across Ball Run, showing that the head of Colonel Hunter's
column was engaged. This firing was brisk, and showed that Hunter
was driving before him the enemy, till about noon, when it became
certain the enemy had come to a stand, and that our forces on the
other side of Ball Run were all engaged, artillery and infantry.
Here you sent me the order to cross over with the whole brigade, to
the assistance of Colonel Hunter. Early in the day, when
reconnoitring the ground, I had seen a horseman descend from a
bluff in our front, cross the stream, and show himself in the open
field on this aide; and, inferring that we could cross over at the
same point, I sent forward a company as skirmishers, and followed
with the whole brigade, the New York Sixty-ninth leading.
We found no difficulty in crossing over, and met with no opposition
in ascending the steep bluff opposite with our infantry, but it was
impassable to the artillery, and I sent word back to Captain Ayres
to follow if possible, otherwise to use his discretion. Captain
Ayres did not cross Bull Run, but remained on that side, with the
rest of your division. His report herewith describes his
operations during the remainder of the day. Advancing slowly and
cautiously with the head of the column, to give time for the
regiments in succession to close up their ranks, we first
encountered a party of the enemy retreating along a cluster of
pines; Lieutenant-Colonel Haggerty, of the Sixty-ninth, without
orders, rode out alone, and endeavored to intercept their retreat.
One of the enemy, in full view, at short range, shot Haggerty, and
he fell dead from his horse. The Sixty-ninth opened fire on this
party, which was returned; but, determined to effect our junction
with Hunter's division, I ordered this fire to cease, and we
proceeded with caution toward the field where we then plainly saw
our forces engaged. Displaying our colors conspicuously at the
head of our column, we succeeded in attracting the attention of our
friends, and soon formed the brigade in rear of Colonel Porter's.
Here I learned that Colonel Hunter was disabled by a severe wound,
and that General McDowell was on the field. I sought him out, and
received his orders to join in pursuit of the enemy, who was
falling back to the left of the road by which the army had
approached from Sndley Springs. Placing Colonel Quinby's regiment
of rifles in front, in column, by division, I directed the other
regiments to follow in line of battle, in the order of the
Wisconsin Second, New York Seventy-ninth, and New York Sixty-ninth.
Quinby's regiment advanced steadily down the hill and up the ridge,
from which he opened fire upon the enemy, who had made another
stand on ground very favorable to him, and the regiment continued
advancing as the enemy gave way, till the head of the column
reached the point near which Rickett's battery was so severely cut
up. The other regiments descended the hill in line of battle,
under a severe cannonade; and, the ground affording comparative
shelter from the enemy's artillery, they changed direction, by the
right flank, and followed the road before mentioned. At the point
where this road crosses the ridge to our left front, the ground was
swept by a most severe fire of artillery, rifles, and musketry, and
we saw, in succession, several regiments driven from it; among them
the Zouaves and battalion of marines. Before reaching the crest of
this hill, the roadway was worn deep enough to afford shelter, and
I kept the several regiments in it as long as possible; but when
the Wisconsin Second was abreast of the enemy, by order of Major
Wadsworth, of General McDowell's staff, I ordered it to leave the
roadway, by the left flank, and to attack the enemy.
This regiment ascended to the brow of the hill steadily, received
the severe fire of the enemy, returned it with spirit, and
advanced, delivering its fire. This regiment is uniformed in gray
cloth, almost identical with that of the great bulk of the
secession army; and, when the regiment fell into confusion and
retreated toward the road, there was a universal cry that they were
being fired on by our own men. The regiment rallied again, passed
the brow of the hill a second time, but was again repulsed in
disorder. By this time the New York Seventy-ninth had closed up,
and in like manner it was ordered to cross the brow of, the hill,
and drive the enemy from cover. It was impossible to get a good
view of this ground. In it there was one battery of artillery,
which poured an incessant fire upon our advancing column, and the
ground was very irregular with small clusters of pines, affording
shelter, of which the enemy took good advantage. The fire of
rifles and musketry was very severe. The Seventy-ninth, headed by
its colonel, Cameron, charged across the hill, and for a short time
the contest was severe; they rallied several times under fire, but
finally broke, and gained the cover of the hill.
This left the field open to the New York Sixty-ninth, Colonel
Corcoran, who, in his turn, led his regiment over the crest; and
had in full, open view the ground so severely contested; the fire
was very severe, and the roar of cannon, musketry, and rifles,
incessant; it was manifest the enemy was here in great force, far
superior to us at that point. The Sixty-ninth held the ground for
some time, but finally fell back in disorder.
All this time Quinby's regiment occupied another ridge, to our
left, overlooking the same field of action, and similarly engaged.
Here, about half-past 3 p.m., began the scene of confusion and
disorder that characterized the remainder of the day. Up to that
time, all had kept their places, and seemed perfectly cool, and
used to the shell and shot that fell, comparatively harmless, all
around us; but the short exposure to an intense fire of small-arms,
at close range, had killed many, wounded more, and had produced
disorder in all of the battalions that had attempted to encounter
it. Men fell away from their ranks, talking, and in great
confusion. Colonel Cameron had been mortally wounded, was carried
to an ambulance, and reported dying. Many other officers were
reported dead or missing, and many of the wounded were making their
way, with more or less assistance, to the buildings used as
hospitals, on the ridge to the west. We succeeded in partially
reforming the regiments, but it was manifest that they would not
stand, and I directed Colonel Corcoran to move along the ridge to
the rear, near the position where we had first formed the brigade.
General McDowell was there in person, and need all possible efforts
to reassure the men. By the active exertions of Colonel Corcoran,
we formed an irregular square against the cavalry which were then
seen to issue from the position from which we had been driven, and
we began our retreat toward the same ford of Bull Run by which we
had approached the field of battle. There was no positive order to
retreat, although for an hour it had been going on by the operation
of the men themselves. The ranks were thin and irregular, and we
found a stream of people strung from the hospital across Bull Run,
and far toward Centreville. After putting in motion the irregular
square in person, I pushed forward to find Captain Ayres's battery
at the crossing of Bull Run. I sought it at its last position,
before the brigade had crossed over, but it was not there; then
passing through the woods, where, in the morning, we had first
formed line, we approached the blacksmith's shop, but there found a
detachment of the secession cavalry and thence made a circuit,
avoiding Cub Run Bridge, into Centreville, where I found General
McDowell, and from him understood that it was his purpose to rally
the forces, and make a stand at Centreville.
But, about nine o'clock at night, I received from General Tyler, in
person, the order to continue the retreat to the Potomac. This
retreat was by night, and disorderly in the extreme. The men of
different regiments mingled together, and some reached the river at
Arlington, some at Long Bridge, and the greater part returned to
their former camp, at or near Fort Corcoran. I reached this point
at noon the next day, and found a miscellaneous crowd crossing over
the aqueduct and ferries.. Conceiving this to be demoralizing, I
at once commanded the guard to be increased, and all persons
attempting to pass over to be stopped. This soon produced its
effect; men sought their proper companies and regiments.
Comparative order was restored, and all were posted to the best
I herewith inclose the official report of Captain Belly, commanding
officer of the New York Sixty-ninth; also, fall lists of the
killed, wounded, and missing.
Our loss was heavy, and occurred chiefly at the point near where
Rickett's battery was destroyed. Lieutenant-Colonel Haggerty was
killed about noon, before we had effected a junction with Colonel
Hunter's division. Colonel Cameron was mortally wounded leading
his regiment in the charge, and Colonel Corcoran has been missing
since the cavalry-charge near the building used as a hospital.
For names, rank, etc., of the above, I refer to the lists herewith.
Lieutenants Piper and McQuesten, of my personal staff, were under
fire all day, and carried orders to and fro with as much coolness
as on parade. Lieutenant Bagley, of the New York Sixty-ninth, a
volunteer aide, asked leave to serve with his company, during the
action, and is among those reported missing. I have intelligence
that he is a prisoner, and slightly wounded.
Colonel Coon, of Wisconsin, a volunteer aide, also rendered good
service during the day.
W. T. SHERMAN, Colonel commanding Brigade.
This report, which I had not read probably since its date till now,
recalls to me vividly the whole scene of the affair at Blackburn's
Ford, when for the first time in my life I saw cannonballs strike
men and crash through the trees and saplings above and around us,
and realized the always sickening confusion as one approaches a
fight from the rear; then the night-march from Centreville, on the
Warrenton road, standing for hours wondering what was meant; the
deployment along the edge of the field that sloped down to
Bull-Run, and waiting for Hunter's approach on the other aide from
the direction of Sudley Springs, away off to our right; the
terrible scare of a poor negro who was caught between our lines;
the crossing of Bull Run, and the fear lest we should be fired on
by our own men; the killing of Lieutenant-Colonel Haggerty, which
occurred in plain sight; and the first scenes of a field strewed
with dead men and horses. Yet, at that period of the battle, we
were the victors and felt jubilant. At that moment, also, my
brigade passed Hunter's division; but Heintzelman'a was still ahead
of us, and we followed its lead along the road toward Manassas
Junction, crossing a small stream and ascending a long hill, at the
summit of which the battle was going on. Here my regiments came
into action well, but successively, and were driven back, each in
its turn. For two hours we continued to dash at the woods on our
left front, which were full of rebels; but I was convinced their
organization was broken, and that they had simply halted there and
taken advantage of these woods as a cover, to reach which we had to
pass over the intervening fields about the Henry House, which were
clear, open, and gave them a decided advantage. After I had put in
each of my regiments, and had them driven back to the cover of the
road, I had no idea that we were beaten, but reformed the regiments
in line in their proper order, and only wanted a little rest, when
I found that my brigade was almost alone, except Syke's regulars,
who had formed square against cavalry and were coming back. I then
realized that the whole army was "in retreat," and that my own men
were individually making back for the stone bridge. Corcoran and I
formed the brigade into an irregular square, but it fell to pieces;
and, along with a crowd, disorganized but not much scared, the
brigade got back to Centreville to our former camps. Corcoran was
captured, and held a prisoner for some time; but I got safe to
Centreville. I saw General McDowell in Centreville, and understood
that several of his divisions had not been engaged at all, that he
would reorganize them at Centreville, and there await the enemy. I
got my four regiments in parallel lines in a field, the same in
which we had camped before the battle, and had lain down to sleep
under a tree, when I heard some one asking for me. I called out
where I was, when General Tyler in person gave me orders to march
back to our camps at Fort Corcoran. I aroused my aides, gave them
orders to call up the sleeping men, have each regiment to leave the
field by a flank and to take the same road back by which we had
come. It was near midnight, and the road was full of troops,
wagons, and batteries. We tried to keep our regiments separate,
but all became inextricably mixed. Toward morning we reached
Vienna, where I slept some hours, and the next day, about noon, we
reached Fort Corcoran.
A slow, mizzling rain had set in, and probably a more gloomy day
never presented itself. All organization seemed to be at an end;
but I and my staff labored hard to collect our men into their
proper companies and into their former camps, and, on the 23d of
July, I moved the Second Wisconsin and Seventy-ninth New York
closer in to Fort Corcoran, and got things in better order than I
had expected. Of course, we took it for granted that the rebels
would be on our heels, and we accordingly prepared to defend our
posts. By the 25th I had collected all the materials, made my
report, and had my brigade about as well governed as any in that
army; although most of the ninety-day men, especially the
Sixty-ninth, had become extremely tired of the war, and wanted to
go home. Some of them were so mutinous, at one time, that I had
the battery to unlimber, threatening, if they dared to leave camp
without orders, I would open fire on them. Drills and the daily
exercises were resumed, and I ordered that at the three principal
roll-calls the men should form ranks with belts and muskets, and
that they should keep their ranks until I in person had received
the reports and had dismissed them. The Sixty-ninth still occupied
Fort Corcoran, and one morning, after reveille, when I had just
received the report, had dismissed the regiment, and was leaving, I
found myself in a crowd of men crossing the drawbridge on their way
to a barn close by, where they had their sinks; among them was an
officer, who said: "Colonel, I am going to New York today. What
can I do for you?" I answered: "How can you go to New York? I do
not remember to have signed a leave for you." He said, "No; he did
not want a leave. He had engaged to serve three months, and had
already served more than that time. If the Government did not
intend to pay him, he could afford to lose the money; that he was a
lawyer, and had neglected his business long enough, and was then
going home." I noticed that a good many of the soldiers had paused
about us to listen, and knew that, if this officer could defy me,
they also would. So I turned on him sharp, and said: "Captain,
this question of your term of service has been submitted to the
rightful authority, and the decision has been published in orders.
You are a soldier, and must submit to orders till you are properly
discharged. If you attempt to leave without orders, it will be
mutiny, and I will shoot you like a dog! Go back into the fort
now, instantly, and don't dare to leave without my consent." I had
on an overcoat, and may have had my hand about the breast, for he
looked at me hard, paused a moment, and then turned back into the
fort. The men scattered, and I returned to the house where I was
quartered, close by.
That same day, which must have been about July 26th, I was near the
river-bank, looking at a block-house which had been built for the
defense of the aqueduct, when I saw a carriage coming by the road
that crossed the Potomac River at Georgetown by a ferry. I thought
I recognized in the carriage the person of President Lincoln. I
hurried across a bend, so as to stand by the road-side as the
carriage passed. I was in uniform, with a sword on, and was
recognized by Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Seward, who rode side by side in
an open hack. I inquired if they were going to my camps, and Mr.
Lincoln said: "Yes; we heard that you had got over the big scare,
and we thought we would come over and see the 'boys.'" The roads
had been much changed and were rough. I asked if I might give
directions to his coachman, he promptly invited me to jump in and
to tell the coachman which way to drive. Intending to begin on the
right and follow round to the left, I turned the driver into a
side-road which led up a very steep hill, and, seeing a soldier,
called to him and sent him up hurriedly to announce to the colonel
(Bennett, I think) that the President was coming: As we slowly
ascended the hill, I discovered that Mr. Lincoln was full of
feeling, and wanted to encourage our men. I asked if he intended
to speak to them, and he said he would like to. I asked him then
to please discourage all cheering, noise, or any sort of confusion;
that we had had enough of it before Bull Run to ruin any set of
men, and that what we needed were cool, thoughtful, hard-fighting
soldiers--no more hurrahing, no more humbug. He took my remarks in
the most perfect good-nature. Before we had reached the first
camp, I heard the drum beating the "assembly," saw the men running
for their tents, and in a few minutes the regiment was in line,
arms presented, and then brought to an order and "parade rest!"
Mr. Lincoln stood up in the carriage, and made one of the neatest,
best, and most feeling addresses I ever listened to, referring to
our late disaster at Bull Run, the high duties that still devolved
on us, and the brighter days yet to come. At one or two points the
soldiers began to cheer, but he promptly checked them, saying:
"Don't cheer, boys. I confess I rather like it myself, but Colonel
Sherman here says it is not military; and I guess we had better
defer to his opinion." In winding up, he explained that, as
President, he was commander-in-chief; that he was resolved that the
soldiers should have every thing that the law allowed; and he
called on one and all to appeal to him personally in case they were
wronged. The effect of this speech was excellent.
We passed along in the same manner to all the camps of my brigade;
and Mr. Lincoln complimented me highly for the order, cleanliness,
and discipline, that he observed. Indeed, he and Mr. Seward both
assured me that it was the first bright moment they had experienced
since the battle.
At last we reached Fort Corcoran. The carriage could not enter, so
I ordered the regiment, without arms, to come outside, and gather
about Mr. Lincoln, who would speak to them. He made to them the
same feeling address, with more personal allusions, because of
their special gallantry in the battle under Corcoran, who was still
a prisoner in the hands of the enemy; and he concluded with the
same general offer of redress in case of grievances. In the crowd I
saw the officer with whom I had had the passage at reveille that
morning. His face was pale, and lips compressed. I foresaw a
scene, but sat on the front seat of the carriage as quiet as a
lamb. This officer forced his way through the crowd to the
carriage, and said: "Mr. President, I have a cause of grievance.
This morning I went to speak to Colonel Sherman, and he threatened
to shoot me." Mr. Lincoln, who was still standing, said,
"Threatened to shoot you?" "Yes, sir, he threatened to shoot me."
Mr. Lincoln looked at him, then at me, and stooping his tall, spare
form toward the officer, said to him in a loud stage-whisper,
easily heard for some yards around: "Well, if I were you, and he
threatened to shoot, I would not trust him, for I believe he would
do it." The officer turned about and disappeared, and the men
laughed at him. Soon the carriage drove on, and, as we descended
the hill, I explained the facts to the President, who answered, "Of
course I didn't know any thing about it, but I thought you knew
your own business best." I thanked him for his confidence, and
assured him that what he had done would go far to enable me to
maintain good discipline, and it did.
By this time the day was well spent. I asked to take my leave, and
the President and Mr. Seward drove back to Washington. This spirit
of mutiny was common to the whole army, and was not subdued till
several regiments or parts of regiments had been ordered to Fort
Jefferson, Florida, as punishment.
General McDowell had resumed his headquarters at the Arlington
House, and was busily engaged in restoring order to his army,
sending off the ninety-days men, and replacing them by regiments
which had come under the three-years call. We were all trembling
lest we should be held personally accountable for the disastrous
result of the battle. General McClellan had been summoned from the
West to Washington, and changes in the subordinate commands were
announced almost daily. I remember, as a group of officers were
talking in the large room of the Arlington House, used as the
adjutant-general's office, one evening, some young officer came in
with a list of the new brigadiers just announced at the War
Department, which-embraced the names of Heintzehvan, Keyes,
Franklin, Andrew Porter, W. T. Sherman, and others, who had been
colonels in the battle, and all of whom had shared the common
stampede. Of course, we discredited the truth of the list; and
Heintzehvan broke out in his nasal voice, "Boys, it's all a lie!
every mother's son of you will be cashiered." We all felt he was
right, but, nevertheless, it was true; and we were all announced in
general orders as brigadier-generals of volunteers.
General McClellan arrived, and, on assuming command, confirmed
McDowell's organization. Instead of coming over the river, as we
expected, he took a house in Washington, and only came over from
time to time to have a review or inspection.
I had received several new regiments, and had begun two new forts
on the hill or plateau, above and farther out than Fort Corcoran;
and I organized a system of drills, embracing the evolutions of the
line, all of which was new to me, and I had to learn the tactics
from books; but I was convinced that we had a long, hard war before
us, and made up my mind to begin at the very beginning to prepare
August was passing, and troops were pouring in from all quarters;
General McClellan told me he intended to organize an army of a
hundred thousand men, with one hundred field-batteries, and I still
hoped he would come on our side of the Potomac, pitch his tent, and
prepare for real hard work, but his headquarters still remained in
a house in Washington City. I then thought, and still think, that
was a fatal mistake. His choice as general-in-chief at the time
was fully justified by his high reputation in the army and country,
and, if he then had any political views or ambition, I surely did
not suspect it.
About the middle of August I got a note from Brigadier-General
Robert Anderson, asking me to come and see him at his room at
Willard's Hotel. I rode over and found him in conversation with
several gentlemen, and he explained to me that events in Kentucky
were approaching a crisis; that the Legislature was in session, and
ready, as soon as properly backed by the General Government, to
take open sides for the Union cause; that he was offered the
command of the Department of the Cumberland, to embrace Kentucky,
Tennessee, etc., and that he wanted help, and that the President
had offered to allow him to select out of the new brigadiers four
of his own choice. I had been a lieutenant in Captain Anderson's
company, at Fort Moultrie, from 1843 to 1846, and he explained that
he wanted me as his right hand. He also indicated George H.
Thomas, D. C. Buell, and Burnside, as the other three. Of course,
I always wanted to go West, and was perfectly willing to go with
Anderson, especially in a subordinate capacity: We agreed to call
on the President on a subsequent day, to talk with him about it,
and we did. It hardly seems probable that Mr. Lincoln should have
come to Willard's Hotel to meet us, but my impression is that he
did, and that General Anderson had some difficulty in prevailing on
him to appoint George H. Thomas, a native of Virginia, to be
brigadier-general, because so many Southern officers, had already
played false; but I was still more emphatic in my indorsement of
him by reason of my talk with him at the time he crossed the
Potomac with Patterson's army, when Mr. Lincoln promised to appoint
him and to assign him to duty with General Anderson. In this
interview with Mr. Lincoln, I also explained to him my extreme
desire to serve in a subordinate capacity, and in no event to be
left in a superior command. He promised me this with promptness,
making the jocular remark that his chief trouble was to find places
for the too many generals who wanted to be at the head of affairs,
to command armies, etc.
The official order is dated:
[Special Order No. 114.]
HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMY
Washington, August 24, 1881.
The following assignment is made of the general officers of the
volunteer service, whose appointment was announced in General
Orders No. 82, from the War Department
To the Department of the Cumberland, Brigadier-General Robert
Brigadier-General W. T. Sherman,
Brigadier-General George H. Thomas.
By command of Lieutenant-General Scott:
E. D. TOWNSEND, Assistant adjutant-General.
After some days, I was relieved in command of my brigade and post
by Brigadier General Fitz-John Porter, and at once took my
departure for Cincinnati, Ohio, via Cresson, Pennsylvania, where
General Anderson was with his family; and he, Thomas, and I, met by
appointment at the house of his brother, Larz Anderson, Esq., in
Cincinnati. We were there on the 1st and 2d of September, when
several prominent gentlemen of Kentucky met us, to discuss the
situation, among whom were Jackson, Harlan, Speed, and others. At
that time, William Nelson, an officer of the navy, had been
commissioned a brigadier-general of volunteers, and had his camp at
Dick Robinson, a few miles beyond the Kentucky River, south of
Nicholasville; and Brigadier-General L. H. Rousseau had another
camp at Jeffersonville, opposite Louisville. The State Legislature
was in session at Frankfort, and was ready to take definite action
as soon as General Anderson was prepared, for the State was
threatened with invasion from Tennessee, by two forces: one from
the direction of Nashville, commanded by Generals Albert Sidney
Johnston and Buckner; and the other from the direction of
Cumberland Gap, commanded by Generals Crittenden and Zollicoffer.
General Anderson saw that he had not force enough to resist these
two columns, and concluded to send me in person for help to
Indianapolis and Springfield, to confer with the Governors of
Indiana, and Illinois, and to General Fremont, who commanded in St.
McClellan and Fremont were the two men toward whom the country
looked as the great Union leaders, and toward them were streaming
the newly-raised regiments of infantry and cavalry, and batteries
of artillery; nobody seeming to think of the intervening link
covered by Kentucky. While I was to make this tour, Generals
Anderson and Thomas were to go to Louisville and initiate the
department. None of us had a staff, or any of the machinery for
organizing an army, and, indeed, we had no army to organize.
Anderson was empowered to raise regiments in Kentucky, and to
commission a few brigadier-generals.
At Indianapolis I found Governor Morton and all the State officials
busy in equipping and providing for the new regiments, and my
object was to divert some of them toward Kentucky; but they were
called for as fast as they were mustered in, either for the army of
McClellan or Fremont. At Springfield also I found the same general
activity and zeal, Governor Yates busy in providing for his men;
but these men also had been promised to Fremont. I then went on to
St. Louis, where all was seeming activity, bustle, and preparation.
Meeting R. M. Renick at the Planters' House (where I stopped), I
inquired where I could find General Fremont. Renick said, "What do
you want with General Fremont?" I said I had come to see him on
business; and he added, "You don't suppose that he will see such as
you?" and went on to retail all the scandal of the day: that Fremont
was a great potentate, surrounded by sentries and guards; that he
had a more showy court than any real king; that he kept senators,
governors, and the first citizens, dancing attendance for days and
weeks before granting an audience, etc.; that if I expected to see
him on business, I would have to make my application in writing,
and submit to a close scrutiny by his chief of staff and by his
civil surroundings. Of course I laughed at all this, and renewed
my simple inquiry as to where was his office, and was informed that
he resided and had his office at Major Brant's new house on
Chouteau Avenue. It was then late in the afternoon, and I
concluded to wait till the next morning; but that night I received
a dispatch from General Anderson in Louisville to hurry back, as
events were pressing, and he needed me.
Accordingly, I rose early next morning before daybreak, got
breakfast with the early railroad-passengers, and about sunrise was
at the gate of General Fremont's headquarters. A sentinel with
drawn sabre paraded up and down in front of the house. I had on my
undress uniform indicating my rank, and inquired of the sentinel,
"Is General Fremont up?" He answered, "I don't know." Seeing that
he was a soldier by his bearing, I spoke in a sharp, emphatic
voice, "Then find out." He called for the corporal of the guard,
and soon a fine-looking German sergeant came, to whom I addressed
the same inquiry. He in turn did not know, and I bade him find
out, as I had immediate and important business with the general.
The sergeant entered the house by the front-basement door, and
after ten or fifteen minutes the main front-door above was slowly
opened from the inside, and who should appear but my old San
Francisco acquaintance Isaiah C. Woods, whom I had not seen or
heard of since his flight to Australia, at the time of the failure
of Adams & Co. in 1851! He ushered me in hastily, closed the door,
and conducted me into the office on the right of the hall. We were
glad to meet, after so long and eventful an interval, and mutually
inquired after our respective families and special acquaintances.
I found that he was a commissioned officer, a major on duty with
Fremont, and Major Eaton, now of the paymaster's Department, was in
the same office with him. I explained to them that I had come from
General Anderson, and wanted to confer with General Fremont in
person. Woods left me, but soon returned, said the general would
see me in a very few minutes, and within ten minutes I was shown
across the hall into the large parlor, where General Fremont
received me very politely. We had met before, as early as 1847, in
California, and I had also seen him several times when he was
senator. I then in a rapid manner ran over all the points of
interest in General Anderson's new sphere of action, hoped he would
spare us from the new levies what troops he could, and generally
act in concert with us. He told me that his first business would
be to drive the rebel General Price and his army out of Missouri,
when he would turn his attention down the Mississippi. He asked my
opinion about the various kinds of field-artillery which
manufacturers were thrusting on him, especially the then newly-
invented James gun, and afterward our conversation took a wide turn
about the character of the principal citizens of St. Louis, with
whom I was well acquainted.
Telling General Fremont that I had been summoned to Louisville and
that I should leave in the first train, viz., at 3 p.m., I took my
leave of him. Returning to Wood's office, I found there two more
Californians, viz., Messrs. Palmer and Haskell, so I felt that,
while Fremont might be suspicious of others, he allowed free
ingress to his old California acquaintances.
Returning to the Planters' House, I heard of Beard, another
Californian, a Mormon, who had the contract for the line of
redoubts which Fremont had ordered to be constructed around the
city, before he would take his departure for the interior of the
State; and while I stood near the office-counter, I saw old Baron
Steinberger, a prince among our early California adventurers, come
in and look over the register. I avoided him on purpose, but his
presence in St. Louis recalled the maxim, "Where the vultures are,
there is a carcass close by;" and I suspected that the profitable
contracts of the quartermaster, McKinstry, had drawn to St. Louis
some of the most enterprising men of California. I suspect they
can account for the fact that, in a very short time, Fremont fell
from his high estate in Missouri, by reason of frauds, or supposed
frauds, in the administration of the affairs of his command.
I left St. Louis that afternoon and reached Louisville the next
morning. I found General Anderson quartered at the Louisville
Hotel, and he had taken a dwelling hones on _____ Street as an
office. Captain O. D. Greens was his adjutant-general, Lieutenant
Throckmorton his aide, and Captain Prime, of the Engineer Corps,
was on duty with him. General George H. Thomas had been dispatched
to camp Dick Robinson, to relieve Nelson.
The city was full of all sorts of rumors. The Legislature, moved
by considerations purely of a political nature, had taken the step,
whatever it was, that amounted to an adherence to the Union,
instead of joining the already-seceded States. This was
universally known to be the signal for action. For it we were
utterly unprepared, whereas the rebels were fully prepared.
General Sidney Johnston immediately crossed into Kentucky, and
advanced as far as Bowling Green, which he began to fortify, and
thence dispatched General Buckner with a division forward toward
Louisville; General Zollicoffer, in like manner, entered the State
and advanced as far as Somerset. On the day I reached Louisville
the excitement ran high. It was known that Columbus, Kentucky, had
been occupied, September 7th, by a strong rebel force, under
Generals Pillow and Polk, and that General Grant had moved from
Cairo and occupied Paducah in force on the 6th. Many of the rebel
families expected Buckner to reach Louisville at any moment. That
night, General Anderson sent for me, and I found with him Mr.
Guthrie, president of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad, who had
in his hands a dispatch to the effect that the bridge across the
Rolling Fork of Salt Creek, less than thirty miles out, had been
burned, and that Buckner's force, en route for Louisville, had been
detained beyond Green River by a train thrown from the track. We
learned afterward that a man named Bird had displaced a rail on
purpose to throw the train off the track, and thereby give us time.
Mr. Guthrie explained that in the ravine just beyond Salt Creek
were several high and important trestles which, if destroyed, would
take months to replace, and General Anderson thought it well.
worth the effort to save them. Also, on Muldraugh's Hill beyond,
was a strong position, which had in former years been used as the
site for the State "Camp of Instruction," and we all supposed that
General Buckner, who was familiar with the ground, was aiming for a
position there, from which to operate on Louisville.
All the troops we had to counteract Buckner were Rousseau's Legion,
and a few Home Guards in Louisville. The former were still
encamped across the river at Jeffersonville; so General Anderson
ordered me to go over, and with them, and such Home Guards as we
could collect, make the effort to secure possession of Muldraugh's
Hill before Buckner could reach it. I took Captain Prime with me;
and crossed over to Rousseau's camp. The long-roll was beaten, and
within an hour the men, to the number of about one thousand, were
marching for the ferry-boat and for the Nashville depot. Meantime
General Anderson had sent to collect some Home Guards, and Mr.
Guthrie to get the trains ready. It was after midnight before we
began to move. The trains proceeded slowly, and it was daybreak
when we reached Lebanon Junction, twenty-six miles out, where we
disembarked, and marched to the bridge over Salt River, which we
found had been burnt; whether to prevent Buckner coming into
Louisville, or us from going out, was not clear. Rousseau's Legion
forded the stream and marched up to the State Camp of Instruction,
finding the high trestles all secure. The railroad hands went to
work at once to rebuild the bridge. I remained a couple of days at
Lebanon Junction, during which General Anderson forwarded two
regiments of volunteers that had come to him. Before the bridge
was done we advanced the whole camp to the summit of Muldraugh's
Hill, just back of Elizabethtown. There I learned definitely that
General Buckner had not crossed Green River at all, that General
Sidney Johnston was fortifying Bowling Green, and preparing for a
systematic advance into Kentucky, of which he was a native, and
with whose people and geography he must have been familiar. As
fast as fresh troops reached Louisville, they were sent out to me
at Muldraugh's Hill, where I was endeavoring to put them into shape
for service, and by the 1st of October I had the equivalent of a
division of two brigades preparing to move forward toward Green
River. The daily correspondence between General Anderson and
myself satisfied me that the worry and harassment at Louisville
were exhausting his strength and health, and that he would soon
leave. On a telegraphic summons from him, about the 5th of
October, I went down to Louisville, when General Anderson said he
could not stand the mental torture of his command any longer, and
that he must go away, or it would kill him. On the 8th of October
he actually published an order relinquishing the command, and, by
reason of my seniority, I had no alternative but to assume command,
though much against the grain, and in direct violation of Mr.
Lincoln's promise to me. I am certain that, in my earliest
communication to the War Department, I renewed the expression of my
wish to remain in a subordinate position, and that I received the
assurance that Brigadier-General Buell would soon arrive from
California, and would be sent to relieve me. By that time I had
become pretty familiar with the geography and the general resources
of Kentucky. We had parties all over the State raising regiments
and companies; but it was manifest that the young men were
generally inclined to the cause of the South, while the older men
of property wanted to be let alone--i.e., to remain neutral. As to
a forward movement that fall, it was simply impracticable; for we
were forced to use divergent lines, leading our columns farther and
farther apart; and all I could attempt was to go on and collect
force and material at the two points already chosen, viz., Dick
Robinson and Elizabethtown. General George H. Thomas still
continued to command the former, and on the 12th of October I
dispatched Brigadier-General A. McD. McCook to command the latter,
which had been moved forward to Nolin Creek, fifty-two miles out of
Louisville, toward Bowling Green. Staff-officers began to arrive
to relieve us of the constant drudgery which, up to that time, had
been forced on General Anderson and myself; and these were all good
men. Colonel Thomas Swords, quartermaster, arrived on the 13th;
Paymaster Larned on the 14th; and Lieutenant Smyzer, Fifth
Artillery, acting ordnance-officer, on the 20th; Captain Symonds
was already on duty as the commissary of subsistence; Captain O.
D. Greene was the adjutant-general, and completed a good working
The everlasting worry of citizens complaining of every petty
delinquency of a soldier, and forcing themselves forward to discuss
politics, made the position of a commanding general no sinecure. I
continued to strengthen the two corps forward and their routes of
supply; all the time expecting that Sidney Johnston, who was a real
general, and who had as correct information of our situation as I
had, would unite his force with Zollicoffer, and fall on Thomas at
Dick Robinson, or McCook at Nolin: Had he done so in October, 1861,
he could have walked into Louisville, and the vital part of the
population would have hailed him as a deliverer. Why he did not,
was to me a mystery then and is now; for I know that he saw the
move; and had his wagons loaded up at one time for a start toward
Frankfort, passing between our two camps. Conscious of our
weakness, I was unnecessarily unhappy, and doubtless exhibited it
too much to those near me; but it did seem to me that the
Government at Washington, intent on the larger preparations of
Fremont in Missouri and McClellan in Washington, actually ignored
us in Kentucky.
About this time, say the middle of October, I received notice, by
telegraph, that the Secretary of War, Mr. Cameron (then in St.
Louis), would visit me at Louisville, on his way back to
Washington. I was delighted to have an opportunity to properly
represent the actual state of affairs, and got Mr. Guthrie to go
with me across to Jeffersonville, to meet the Secretary of War and
escort him to Louisville. The train was behind time, but Mr.
Guthrie and I waited till it actually arrived. Mr. Cameron was
attended by Adjutant-General Lorenzo Thomas, and six or seven
gentlemen who turned out to be newspaper reporters. Mr. Cameron's
first inquiry was, when he could start for Cincinnati, saying that,
as he had been detained at St. Louis so long, it was important he
should hurry on to Washington. I explained that the regular
mail-boat would leave very soon--viz., at 12 M.--but I begged him
to come over to Louisville; that I wanted to see him on business as
important as any in Washington, and hoped he would come and spend
at least a day with us. He asked if every thing was not well with
us, and I told him far from it; that things were actually bad, as
bad as bad could be. This seemed to surprise him, and Mr. Guthrie
added his persuasion to mine; when Mr. Cameron, learning that he
could leave Louisville by rail via Frankfort next morning early,
and make the same connections at Cincinnati, consented to go with
us to Louisville, with the distinct understanding that he must
leave early the next morning for Washington.
We accordingly all took hacks, crossed the river by the ferry, and
drove to the Galt House, where I was then staying. Brigadier-
General T. J. Wood had come down from Indianapolis by the same
train, and was one of the party. We all proceeded to my room on
the first floor of the Galt House, where our excellent landlord,
Silas Miller, Esq., sent us a good lunch and something to drink.
Mr. Cameron was not well, and lay on my bed, but joined in the
general conversation. He and his party seemed to be full of the
particulars of the developments in St. Louis of some of Fremont's
extravagant contracts and expenses, which were the occasion of
Cameron's trip to St. Louis, and which finally resulted in
Fremont's being relieved, first by General Hunter, and after by
General H. W. Halleck.
After some general conversation, Mr. Cameron called to me, "Now,
General Sherman, tell us of your troubles." I said I preferred not
to discuss business with so many strangers present. He said,
"They are all friends, all members of my family, and you may speak
your mind freely and without restraint." I am sure I stepped to
the door, locked it to prevent intrusion, and then fully and fairly
represented the state of affairs in Kentucky, especially the
situation and numbers of my troops. I complained that the new
levies of Ohio and Indiana were diverted East and West, and we got
scarcely any thing; that our forces at Nolin and Dick Robinson were
powerless for invasion, and only tempting to a general such as we
believed Sidney Johnston to be; that, if Johnston chose, he could
march to Louisville any day. Cameron exclaimed: "You astonish me!
Our informants, the Kentucky Senators and members of Congress,
claim that they have in Kentucky plenty of men, and all they want
are arms and money." I then said it was not true; for the young
men were arming and going out openly in broad daylight to the rebel
camps, provided with good horses and guns by their fathers, who
were at best "neutral;" and as to arms, he had, in Washington,
promised General Anderson forty thousand of the best Springfield
muskets, instead of which we had received only about twelve
thousand Belgian muskets, which the Governor of Pennsylvania had
refused, as had also the Governor of Ohio, but which had been
adjudged good enough for Kentucky. I asserted that volunteer
colonels raising regiments in various parts of the State had come
to Louisville for arms, and when they saw what I had to offer had
scorned to receive them--to confirm the truth of which I appealed
to Mr. Guthrie, who said that every word I had spoken was true, and
he repeated what I had often heard him say, that no man who owned a
slave or a mule in Kentucky could be trusted.
Mr. Cameron appeared alarmed at what was said, and turned to
Adjutant-General L. Thomas, to inquire if he knew of any troops
available, that had not been already assigned. He mentioned
Negley's Pennsylvania Brigade, at Pittsburg, and a couple of other
regiments that were then en route for St. Louis. Mr. Cameron
ordered him to divert these to Louisville, and Thomas made the
telegraphic orders on the spot. He further promised, on reaching
Washington, to give us more of his time and assistance.
In the general conversation which followed, I remember taking a
large map of the United States, and assuming the people of the
whole South to be in rebellion, that our task was to subdue them,
showed that McClellan was on the left, having a frontage of less
than a hundred miles, and Fremont the right, about the same;
whereas I, the centre, had from the Big Sandy to Paducah, over
three hundred miles of frontier; that McClellan had a hundred
thousand men, Fremont sixty thousand, whereas to me had only been
allotted about eighteen thousand. I argued that, for the purpose
of defense we should have sixty thousand men at once, and for
offense, would need two hundred thousand, before we were done. Mr.
Cameron, who still lay on the bed, threw up his hands and
exclaimed, "Great God! where are they to come from?" I asserted
that there were plenty of men at the North, ready and willing to
come, if he would only accept their services; for it was notorious
that regiments had been formed in all the Northwestern States,
whose services had been refused by the War Department, on the
ground that they would not be needed. We discussed all these
matters fully, in the most friendly spirit, and I thought I had
aroused Mr. Cameron to a realization of the great war that was
before us, and was in fact upon us. I heard him tell General
Thomas to make a note of our conversation, that he might attend to
my requests on reaching Washington. We all spent the evening
together agreeably in conversation, many Union citizens calling to
pay their respects, and the next morning early we took the train
for Frankfort; Mr. Cameron and party going on to Cincinnati and
Washington, and I to Camp Dick Robinson to see General Thomas and
the troops there.
I found General Thomas in a tavern, with most of his regiments
camped about him. He had sent a small force some miles in advance
toward Cumberland Gap, under Brigadier-General Schoepf. Remaining
there a couple of days, I returned to Louisville; on the 22d of
October, General Negley's brigade arrived in boats from Pittsburg,
was sent out to Camp Nolin; and the Thirty-seventh Indiana.,
Colonel Hazzard, and Second Minnesota, Colonel Van Cleve, also
reached Louisville by rail, and were posted at Elizabethtown and
Lebanon Junction. These were the same troops which had been
ordered by Mr. Cameron when at Louisville, and they were all that I
received thereafter, prior to my leaving Kentucky. On reaching
Washington, Mr. Cameron called on General Thomas, as he himself
afterward told me, to submit his memorandum of events during his
absence, and in that memorandum was mentioned my insane request for
two hundred thousand men. By some newspaper man this was seen and
published, and, before I had the least conception of it, I was
universally published throughout the country as "insane, crazy,"
etc. Without any knowledge, however, of this fact, I had
previously addressed to the Adjutant-General of the army at
Washington this letter:
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OP THE CUMBERLAND, LOUISVILLE, KENTUKY,
October 22, 1881.
To General L. THOMAS, Adjutant-General, Washington, D. C.
Sir: On my arrival at Camp Dick Robinson, I found General Thomas
had stationed a Kentucky regiment at Rock Castle Hill, beyond a
river of the same name, and had sent an Ohio and an Indiana
regiment forward in support. He was embarrassed for
transportation, and I authorized him to hire teams, and to move his
whole force nearer to his advance-guard, so as to support it, as he
had information of the approach of Zollicoffer toward London. I
have just heard from him, that he had sent forward General Schoepf
with Colonel Wolford's cavalry, Colonel Steadman's Ohio regiment,
and a battery of artillery, followed on a succeeding day by a
Tennessee brigade. He had still two Kentucky regiments, the
Thirty-eighth Ohio and another battery of artillery, with which he
was to follow yesterday. This force, if concentrated, should be
strong enough for the purpose; at all events, it is all he had or I
could give him.
I explained to you fully, when here, the supposed position of our
adversaries, among which was a force in the valley of Big Sandy,
supposed to be advancing on Paris, Kentucky. General Nelson at
Maysville was instructed to collect all the men he could, and
Colonel Gill's regiment of Ohio Volnnteers. Colonel Harris was
already in position at Olympian Springs, and a regiment lay at
Lexington, which I ordered to his support. This leaves the line of
Thomas's operations exposed, but I cannot help it. I explained so
fully to yourself and the Secretary of War the condition of things,
that I can add nothing new until further developements, You know my
views that this great centre of our field is too weak, far too
weak, and I have begged and implored till I dare not say more.
Buckner still is beyond Green River. He sent a detachment of his
men, variously estimated at from two to four thousand toward
Greensburg. General Ward, with about one thousand men, retreated
to Campbellsburg, where he called to his assistance some
partially-formed regiments to the number of about two thousand.
The enemy did not advance, and General Ward was at last dates at
Campbellsburg. The officers charged with raising regiments must of
necessity be near their homes to collect men, and for this reason
are out of position; but at or near Greensburg and Lebanon, I
desire to assemble as large a force of the Kentucky Volunteers as
possible. This organization is necessarily irregular, but the
necessity is so great that I must have them, and therefore have
issued to them arms and clothing during the process of formation.
This has facilitated their enlistment; but inasmuch as the
Legislature has provided money for organizing the Kentucky
Volunteers, and intrusted its disbursement to a board of loyal
gentlemen, I have endeavored to cooperate with them to hasten the
formation of these corps.
The great difficulty is, and has been, that as volunteers offer, we
have not arms and clothing to give them. The arms sent us are, as
you already know, European muskets of uncouth pattern, which the
volunteers will not touch.
General McCook has now three brigades--Johnson's, Wood's, and
Rousseau's. Negley's brigade arrived to-day, and will be sent out
at once. The Minnesota regiment has also arrived, and will be sent
forward. Hazzard's regiment of Indiana troops I have ordered to
the month of Salt Creek, an important point on the turnpike-road
leading to Elizabethtown.
I again repeat that our force here is out of all proportion to the
importance of the position. Our defeat would be disastrous to the
nation; and to expect of new men, who never bore arms, to do
miracles, is not right.
I am, with much respect, yours truly,
W. T. SHERMAN, Brigadier-General commanding.
About this time my attention was drawn to the publication in all
the Eastern papers, which of course was copied at the West, of the
report that I was "crazy, insane, and mad," that "I had demanded
two hundred thousand men for the defense of Kentucky;" and the
authority given for this report was stated to be the Secretary of
War himself, Mr. Cameron, who never, to my knowledge, took pains to
affirm or deny it. My position was therefore simply unbearable,
and it is probable I resented the cruel insult with language of
intense feeling. Still I received no orders, no reenforcements,
not a word of encouragement or relief. About November 1st, General
McClellan was appointed commander-in-chief of all the armies in the
field, and by telegraph called for a report from me. It is
HEADQUARTERS THE DEPARTMENT OF THE CUMBERLAND, Louisville,
Kentucky, November 4, 1861
General L. THOMAS, Adjutant-General, Washington, D. C.
Sir: In compliance with the telegraphic orders of General
McClellan, received late last night, I submit this report of the
forces in Kentucky, and of their condition.
The tabular statement shows the position of the several regiments.
The camp at Nolin is at the present extremity of the Nashville
Railroad. This force was thrown forward to meet the advance of
Buckner's army, which then fell back to Green River, twenty-three
miles beyond. These regiments were substantially without means of
transportation, other than the railroad, which is guarded at all
dangerous points, yet is liable to interruption at any moment, by
the tearing up of a rail by the disaffected inhabitants or a hired
enemy. These regiments are composed of good materials, but devoid
of company officers of experience, and have been put under thorough
drill since being in camp. They are generally well clad, and
provided for. Beyond Green River, the enemy has masked his forces,
and it is very difficult to ascertain even the approximate numbers.
No pains have been spared to ascertain them, but without success,
and it is well known that they far outnumber us. Depending,
however, on the railroads to their rear for transportation, they
have not thus far advanced this side of Green River, except in
marauding parties. This is the proper line of advance, but will
require a very large force, certainly fifty thousand men, as their
railroad facilities south enable them to concentrate at
Munfordsville the entire strength of the South. General McCook's
command is divided into four brigades, under Generals Wood, R. W.
Johnson, Rousseau, and Negley.
General Thomas's line of operations is from Lexington, toward
Cumberland Gap and Ford, which are occupied by a force of rebel
Tennesseeans, under the command of Zollicoffer. Thomas occupies
the position at London, in front of two roads which lead to the
fertile part of Kentucky, the one by Richmond, and the other by
Crab Orchard, with his reserve at Camp Dick Robinson, eight miles
south of the Kentucky River. His provisions and stores go by
railroad from Cincinnati to Nicholasville, and thence in wagons to
his several regiments. He is forced to hire transportation.
Brigadier-General Nelson is operating by the line from Olympian
Springs, east of Paris, on the Covington & Lexington Railroad,
toward Prestonburg, in the valley of the Big Sandy where is
assembled a force of from twenty-five to thirty-five hundred rebel
Kentuckians waiting reenforcements from Virginia. My last report
from him was to October 28th, at which time he had Colonel Harris's
Ohio Second, nine hundred strong; Colonel Norton's Twenty-first
Ohio, one thousand; and Colonel Sill's Thirty-third Ohio, seven
hundred and fifty strong; with two irregular Kentucky regiments,
Colonels Marshall and Metcalf. These troops were on the road near
Hazel Green and West Liberty, advancing toward Prestonburg.
Upon an inspection of the map, you will observe these are all
divergent lines, but rendered necessary, from the fact that our
enemies choose them as places of refuge from pursuit, where they
can receive assistance from neighboring States. Our lines are all
too weak, probably with the exception of that to Prestonburg. To
strengthen these, I am thrown on the raw levies of Ohio and
Indiana, who arrive in detachments, perfectly fresh from the
country, and loaded down with baggage, also upon the Kentuckians,
who are slowly forming regiments all over the State, at points
remote from danger, and whom it will be almost impossible to
assemble together. The organization of this latter force is, by
the laws of Kentucky, under the control of a military board of
citizens, at the capital, Frankfort, and they think they will be
enabled to have fifteen regiments toward the middle of this month,
but I doubt it, and deem it unsafe to rely on them: There are four
regiments forming in the neighborhood of Owensboro, near the mouth
of Green River, who are doing good service, also in the
neighborhood of Campbellsville, but it is unsafe to rely on troops
so suddenly armed and equipped. They are not yet clothed or
uniformed. I know well you will think our force too widely
distributed, but we are forced to it by the attitude of our
enemies, whose force and numbers the country never has and probably
never will comprehend.
I am told that my estimate of troops needed for this line, viz.,
two hundred thousand, has been construed to my prejudice, and
therefore leave it for the future. This is the great centre on
which our enemies can concentrate whatever force is not employed
elsewhere. Detailed statement of present force inclosed with this.
With great respect, your obedient servant,
W. T. SHERMAN, Brigadier-General commanding.
BRIGADIER-GENERAL McCOOK'S CAMP, AT NOLIN, FIFTY-TWO MILES FROM
LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY, NOVEMBER 4, 1861.
First Brigade (General ROUSSEAU).-Third Kentucky, Colonel Bulkley;
Fourth Kentucky, Colonel Whittaker; First Cavalry, Colonel Board;
Stone's battery; two companies Nineteenth United States Infantry,
and two companies Fifteenth United States Infantry, Captain Gilman.
Second Brigade (General T. J. WOOD).-Thirty-eighth Indiana, Colonel
Scribner; Thirty-ninth Indiana, Colonel Harrison; Thirtieth
Indiana, Colonel Bass; Twenty-ninth Indiana, Colonel Miller.
Third Brigade (General JOHNSON).-Forty-ninth Ohio, Colonel Gibson;
Fifteenth Ohio, Colonel Dickey; Thirty-fourth Illinois, Colonel
King; Thirty-second Indiana, Colonel Willach.
Fourth Brigade (General NEGLEY).-Seventy-seventh Pennsylvania,
Colonel Hambright; Seventy-eighth Pennsylvania, Colonel Sinnell;
Seventy-ninth Pennsylvania, Colonel Stambaugh; Battery, Captain
Camp Dick Robinson (General G. H. THOMAS).---Kentucky, Colonel
Bramlette;--Kentucky, Colonel Fry;--Kentucky Cavalry, Colonel
Woolford; Fourteenth Ohio, Colonel Steadman; First Artillery,
Colonel Barnett; Third Ohio, Colonel Carter;--East Tennessee,
Bardstown, Kentucky.-Tenth Indiana, Colonel Manson.
Crab Orchard.-Thirty-third Indiana, Colonel Coburn.
Jeffersonville, Indiana.-Thirty-fourth Indiana, Colonel Steele;
Thirty-sixth Indiana, Colonel Gross; First Wisconsin, Colonel
Mouth of Salt River.-Ninth Michigan, Colonel Duffield; Thirty-
seventh Indiana, Colonel Hazzard.
Lebanon Junction..-Second Minnesota, Colonel Van Cleve.
Olympian Springs.-Second Ohio, Colonel Harris.
Cynthiana, Kentucky.-Thirty-fifth Ohio, Colonel Vandever.
Nicholasville, Kentucky.-Twenty-first Ohio, Colonel Norton; Thirty-
eighth Ohio, Colonel Bradley.
Big Hill.-Seventeenth Ohio, Colonel Connell.
Colesburg.-Twenty-fourth Illinois, Colonel Hecker.
Elizabethtown, Kentucky.-Nineteenth Illinois, Colonel Turchin.
Owensboro' or Henderson.-Thirty-first Indiana, Colonel Cruft;
Colonel Edwards, forming Rock Castle; Colonel Boyle, Harrodsburg;
Colonel Barney, Irvine; Colonel Hazzard, Burksville; Colonel
And, in order to conclude this subject, I also add copies of two
telegraphic dispatches, sent for General McClellan's use about the
same time, which are all the official letters received at his
headquarters, as certified by the Adjutant-General, L. Thomas, in a
letter of February 1, 1862; in answer to an application of my
brother, Senator John Sherman, and on which I was adjudged insane:
Louisville, November 3, 10 p.m.
To General McLELLAN, Washington, D. C.:
Dispatch just received. We are forced to operate on three lines,
all dependent on railroads of doubtful safety, requiring strong
guards. From Paris to Prestonbnrg, three Ohio regiments and some
militia--enemy variously reported from thirty-five hundred to seven
thousand. From Lexington toward Cumberland Gap, Brigadier-General
Thomas, one Indiana and five Ohio regiments, two Kentucky and two
Tennessee; hired wagons and badly clad. Zollicoffer, at Cumberland
Ford, about seven thousand. Lee reported on the way with Virginia
reenforcements. In front of Louisville, fifty-two miles, McCook,
with four brigades of about thirteen thousand, with four regiments
to guard the railroad, at all times in danger. Enemy along the
railroad from Green River to Bowling Green, Nashville, and
Clarksville. Buckner, Hardee, Sidney Johnston, Folk, and Pillow,
the two former in immediate command, the force as large as they
want or can subsist, from twenty-five to thirty thousand. Bowling
Green strongly fortified. Our forces too small to do good, and too
large to sacrifice.
W. T. SHERMAN, Brigadier-General.
HEADQUARTERS THE DEPARTMENT OF THE CUMBERLAND, Louisville,
Kentucky, November 6, 1861
General L. THOMAS, Adjutant-General.
Sir: General McClellan telegraphs me to report to him daily the
situation of affairs here. The country is so large that it is
impossible to give clear and definite views. Our enemies have a
terrible advantage in the fact that in our midst, in our camps, and
along our avenues of travel, they have active partisans, farmers
and business-men, who seemingly pursue their usual calling, but are
in fact spies. They report all our movements and strength, while
we can procure information only by circuitous and unreliable means.
I inclose you the copy of an intercepted letter, which is but the
type of others. Many men from every part of the State are now
enrolled under Buckner--have gone to him--while ours have to be
raised in neighborhoods, and cannot be called together except at
long notice. These volunteers are being organized under the laws
of the State, and the 10th of November is fixed for the time of
consolidating them into companies and regiments. Many of them are
armed by the United States as home guards, and many by General
Anderson and myself, because of the necessity of being armed to
guard their camps against internal enemies. Should we be
overwhelmed, they would scatter, and their arms and clothing will
go to the enemy, furnishing the very material they so much need.
We should have here a very large force, sufficient to give
confidence to the Union men of the ability to do what should be
done--possess ourselves of all the State. But all see and feel we
are brought to a stand-still, and this produces doubt and alarm.
With our present force it would be simple madness to cross Green
River, and yet hesitation may be as fatal. In like manner the
other columns are in peril, not so much in front as rear, the
railroads over which our stores must pass being much exposed. I
have the Nashville Railroad guarded by three regiments, yet it is
far from being safe; and, the moment actual hostilities commence,
these roads will be interrupted, and we will be in a dilemma. To
meet this in part I have put a cargo of provisions at the mouth of
Salt River, guarded by two regiments. All these detachments weaken
the main force, and endanger the whole. Do not conclude, as
before, that I exaggerate the facts. They are as stated, and the
future looks as dark as possible. It would be better if some man
of sanguine mind were here, for I am forced to order according to
W. T. SHERMAN, Brigadier-General commanding.
After the war was over, General Thomas J. Wood, then in command of
the district of Vicksburg, prepared a statement addressed to the
public, describing the interview with the Secretary of War, which
he calls a "Council of War." I did not then deem it necessary to
renew a matter which had been swept into oblivion by the war
itself; but, as it is evidence by an eyewitness, it is worthy of
On the 11th of October, 1861, the writer, who had been personally
on mustering duty in Indiana, was appointed a brigadier-general of
volunteers, and ordered to report to General Sherman, then in
command of the Department of the Cumberland, with his headquarters
at Louisville, having succeeded General Robert Anderson. When the
writer was about leaving Indianapolis to proceed to Louisville, Mr.
Cameron, returning from his famous visit of inspection to General
Fremont's department, at St. Louis, Missouri, arrived at
Indianapolis, and announced his intention to visit General Sherman.
The writer was invited to accompany the party to Louisville.
Taking the early morning train from Indianapolis to Louisville on
the 16th of October, 1861, the party arrived in Jeffersonville
shortly after mid-day. General Sherman met the party in
Jeffersonville, and accompanied it to the Galt House, in
Louisville, the hotel at which he was stopping.
During the afternoon General Sherman informed the writer that a
council of war was to be held immediately in his private room in
the hotel, and desired him to be present at the council. General
Sherman and the writer proceeded directly to the room. The writer
entered the room first, and observed in it Mr. Cameron, Adjutant-
General L. Thomas, and some other persons, all of whose names he
did not know, but whom he recognized as being of Mr. Cameron's
party. The name of one of the party the writer had learned, which
he remembers as Wilkinson, or Wilkerson, and who he understood was
a writer for the New York Tribune newspaper. The Hon. James
Guthrie was also in the room, having been invited, on account of
his eminent position as a citizen of Kentucky, his high civic
reputation, and his well-known devotion to the Union, to meet the
Secretary of War in the council. When General Sherman entered the
room he closed the door, and turned the key in the lock.
Before entering on the business of the meeting, General Sherman
remarked substantially: "Mr. Cameron, we have met here to discuss
matters and interchange views which should be known only by persons
high in the confidence of the Government. There are persons
present whom I do not know, and I desire to know, before opening
the business of the council, whether they are persons who may be
properly allowed to hear the views which I have to submit to you."
Mr. Cameron replied, with some little testiness of manner, that the
persons referred to belonged to his party, and there was no
objection to their knowing whatever might be communicated to him.
Certainly the legitimate and natural conclusion from this remark of
Mr. Cameron's was that whatever views might be submitted by General
Sherman would be considered under the protection of the seal of
secrecy, and would not be divulged to the public till all
apprehension of injurious consequences from such disclosure had
passed. And it may be remarked, further, that justice to General
Sherman required that if, at any future time, his conclusions as to
the amount of force necessary to conduct the operations committed
to his charge should be made public, the grounds on which his
conclusions were based should be made public at the same time.
Mr. Cameron then asked General Sherman what his plans were. To
this General Sherman replied that he had no plans; that no
sufficient force had been placed at his disposition with which to
devise any plan of operations; that, before a commanding general
could project a plan of campaign, he must know what amount of force
he would have to operate with.
The general added that he had views which he would be happy to
submit for the consideration of the Secretary. Mr. Cameron desired
to hear General Sherman's views.
General Sherman began by giving his opinion of the people of
Kentucky, and the then condition of the State. He remarked that he
believed a very large majority of the people of Kentucky were
thoroughly devoted to the Union, and loyal to the Government, and
that the Unionists embraced almost all the older and more
substantial men in the State; but, unfortunately, there was no
organization nor arms among the Union men; that the rebel minority,
thoroughly vindictive in its sentiments, was organized and armed
(this having been done in advance by their leaders), and, beyond
the reach of the Federal forces, overawed and prevented the Union
men from organizing; that, in his opinion, if Federal protection
were extended throughout the State to the Union men, a large force
could be raised for the service of the Government.
General Sherman next presented a resume of the information in his
possession as to the number of the rebel troops in Kentucky.
Commencing with the force at Columbus, Kentucky, the reports
varied, giving the strength from ten to twenty thousand. It was
commanded by Lieutenant-General Polk. General Sherman fixed it at
the lowest estimate; say, ten thousand. The force at Bowling
Green, commanded by General. A. S. Johnston, supported by Hardee,
Buckner, and others, was variously estimated at from eighteen to
thirty thousand. General Sherman estimated this force at the
lowest figures given to it by his information--eighteen thousand.
He explained that, for purposes of defense, these two forces ought,
owing to the facility with which troops might be transported from
one to the other, by the net-work of railroads in Middle and West
Tennessee, to be considered almost as one. General Sherman
remarked, also, on the facility with which reinforcements could be
transported by railroad to Bowling Green, from the other rebellions
The third organized body of rebel troops was in Eastern Kentucky,
under General Zollicoffer, estimated, according to the most
reliable information, at six thousand men. This force threatened a
descent, if unrestrained, on the blue-grass region of Kentucky,
including the cities of Lexington, and Frankfort, the capital of
the State; and if successful in its primary movements, as it would
gather head as it advanced, might endanger the safety of
General Sherman said that the information in his possession
indicated an intention, on the part of the rebels, of a general and
grand advance toward the Ohio River. He further expressed the
opinion that, if such advance should be made, and not checked, the
rebel force would be swollen by at least twenty thousand recruits
from the disloyalists in Kentucky. His low computation of the
organized rebel soldiers then in Kentucky fixed the strength at
about thirty-five thousand. Add twenty thousand for reenforcements
gained in Kentucky, to say nothing of troops drawn from other rebel
States, and the effective rebel force in the State, at a low
estimate, would be fifty-five thousand men.
General Sherman explained forcibly how largely the difficulties of
suppressing the rebellion would be enhanced, if the rebels should
be allowed to plant themselves firmly, with strong fortifications,
at commanding points on the Ohio River. It would be facile for
them to carry the war thence into the loyal States north of the
To resist an advance of the rebels, General Sherman stated that he
did not have at that time in Kentucky more than some twelve to
fourteen thousand effective men. The bulk of this force was posted
at camp Nolin, on the Louisville & Nashville Railway, fifty miles
south of Louisville. A part of it was in Eastern Kentucky, under
General George H. Thomas, and a very small force was in the lower
valley of Green River.
This disposition of the force had been made for the double purpose
of watching and checking the rebels, and protecting the raising and
organization of troops among the Union men of Kentucky.
Having explained the situation from the defensive point of view,
General Sherman proceeded to consider it from the offensive
stand-point. The Government had undertaken to suppress the
rebellion; the onus faciendi, therefore, rested on the Government.
The rebellion could never be put down, the authority of the
paramount Government asserted, and the union of the States declared
perpetual, by force of arms, by maintaining the defensive; to
accomplish these grand desiderata, it was absolutely necessary the
Government should adopt, and maintain until the rebellion was
crushed, the offensive.
For the purpose of expelling the rebels from Kentucky, General
Sherman said that at least sixty thousand soldiers were necessary.
Considering that the means of accomplishment must always be
proportioned to the end to be achieved, and bearing in mind the
array of rebel force then in Kentucky, every sensible man must
admit that the estimate of the force given by General Sherman, for
driving the rebels out of the State, and reestablishing and
maintaining the authority of the Government, was a very low one.
The truth is that, before the rebels were driven from Kentucky,
many more than sixty thousand soldiers were sent into the State.
Ascending from the consideration of the narrow question of the
political and military situation in Kentucky, and the extent of
force necessary to redeem the State from rebel thraldom,
forecasting in his sagacious intellect the grand and daring
operations which, three years afterward, he realized in a campaign,
taken in its entirety, without a parallel in modern times, General
Sherman expressed the opinion that, to carry the war to the Gulf of
Mexico, and destroy all armed opposition to the Goverment, in the
entire Mississippi Valley, at least two hundred thousand troops
were absolutely requisite.
So soon as General Sherman had concluded the expression of his
views, Mr. Cameron asked, with much warmth and apparent irritation,
"Where do you suppose, General Sherman, all this force is to come
from." General Sherman replied that he did not know; that it was
not his duty to raise, organize, and put the necessary military
force into the field; that duty pertained to the War Department.
His duty was to organize campaigns and command the troops after
they had been put into the field.
At this point of the proceedings, General Sherman suggested that it
might be agreeable to the Secretary to hear the views of Mr.
Guthrie. Thus appealed to, Mr. Guthrie said he did not consider
himself, being a civilian, competent to give an opinion as to the
extent of force necessary to parry the war to the Gulf of Mexico;
but, being well informed of the condition of things in Kentucky, he
indorsed fully General Sherman'e opinion of the force required to
drive the rebels out of the State.
The foregoing is a circumstantial account of the deliberations of
the council that were of any importance.
A good deal of desultory conversation followed, on immaterial
matters; and some orders were issued by telegraph, by the Secretary
of War, for some small reenforcements to be sent to Kentucky
immediately, from Pennsylvania and Indiana.
A short time after the council was held--the exact time is not now
remembered by the writer--an imperfect narrative of it appeared in
the New York Tribune. This account announced to the public the
conclusions uttered by General Sherman in the council, without
giving the reasons on which his conclusions were based. The
unfairness of this course to General Sherman needs no comment. All
military men were shocked by the gross breach of faith which had
TH. J. WOOD, Major-General Volunteeers
Vicksburg, Mississippi, August 24, 1886.
Brigadier-General Don Carlos Buell arrived at Louisville about the
middle of November, with orders to relieve me, and I was
transferred for duty to the Department of the Missouri, and ordered
to report in person to Major-General H. W. Halleck at St. Louis. I
accompanied General Buell to the camp at Nolin, where he reviewed
and inspected the camp and troops under the command of General A.
McD. McCook, and on our way back General Buell inspected the
regiment of Hazzard at Elizabethtown. I then turned over my
command to him, and took my departure for St. Louis.
At the time I was so relieved I thought, of course, it was done in
fulfillment of Mr. Lincoln's promise to me, and as a necessary
result of my repeated demand for the fulfillment of that promise;
but I saw and felt, and was of course deeply moved to observe, the
manifest belief that there was more or less of truth in the rumor
that the cares, perplexities, and anxiety of the situation had
unbalanced my judgment and mind. It was, doubtless, an incident
common to all civil wars, to which I could only submit with the
best grace possible, trusting to the future for an opportunity to
redeem my fortune and good name. Of course I could not deny the
fact, and had to submit to all its painful consequences for months;
and, moreover, I could not hide from myself that many of the
officers and soldiers subsequently placed under my command looked
at me askance and with suspicion. Indeed, it was not until the
following April that the battle of Shiloh gave me personally the
chance to redeem my good name.
On reaching St. Louis and reporting to General Halleck, I was
received kindly, and was shortly afterward (viz., November 23d)
sent up to Sedalia to inspect the camp there, and the troops
located along the road back to Jefferson City, and I was ordered to
assume command in a certain contingency. I found General Steels at
Sedalia with his regiments scattered about loosely; and General
Pope at Otterville, twenty miles back, with no concert between
them. The rebel general, Sterling Price, had his forces down about
Osceola and Warsaw. I advised General Halleck to collect the whole
of his men into one camp on the La Mine River, near Georgetown, to
put them into brigades and divisions, so as to be ready to be
handled, and I gave some preliminary orders looking to that end.
But the newspapers kept harping on my insanity and paralyzed my
efforts. In spite of myself, they tortured from me some words and
acts of imprudence. General Halleck telegraphed me on November
26th: "Unless telegraph-lines are interrupted, make no movement of
troops without orders;" and on November 29th: "No forward movement
of troops on Osceola will be made; only strong
reconnoitring-parties will be sent out in the supposed direction of
the enemy; the bulk of the troops being held in position till more
reliable information is obtained."
About the same time I received the following dispatch:
HEADQUARTERS, ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI
November 28, 1881. Brigadier
General SHERMAN, Sedalia:
Mrs. Sherman is here. General Halleck is satisfied, from reports
of scouts received here, that no attack on Sedalia is intended.
You will therefore return to this city, and report your
observations on the condition of the troops you have examined.
Please telegraph when you will leave.
SCHUYLER HAMILTON, Brigadier-General and Aide-de-Camp.
I accordingly returned to St. Louis, where I found Mrs. Sherman,
naturally and properly distressed at the continued and reiterated
reports of the newspapers of my insanity, and she had come from
Lancaster to see me. This recall from Sedalia simply swelled the
cry. It was alleged that I was recalled by reason of something
foolish I had done at Sedalia, though in fact I had done absolutely
nothing, except to recommend what was done immediately thereafter
on the advice of Colonel McPherson, on a subsequent inspection.
Seeing and realizing that my efforts were useless, I concluded to
ask for a twenty days' leave of absence, to accompany Mrs. Sherman
to our home in Lancaster, and to allow the storm to blow over
somewhat. It also happened to be mid-winter, when, nothing was
doing; so Mrs. Sherman and I returned to Lancaster, where I was
born, and where I supposed I was better known and appreciated.
The newspapers kept up their game as though instigated by malice,
and chief among them was the Cincinnati Comercial, whose editor,
Halsted, was generally believed to be an honorable man. P. B.
Ewing, Esq., being in Cincinnati, saw him and asked him why he, who
certainly knew better, would reiterate such a damaging slander. He
answered, quite cavalierly, that it was one of the news-items of
the day, and he had to keep up with the time; but he would be most
happy to publish any correction I might make, as though I could
deny such a malicious piece of scandal affecting myself. On the
12th of November I had occasion to write to General Halleck, and I
have a copy of his letter in answer:
ST. Louis, December 18, 1881.
Brigadier-General W. T. SHERMAN, Lancaster, Ohio.
My DEAR GENERAL: Yours of the 12th was received a day or two ago,
but was mislaid for the moment among private papers, or I should
have answered it sooner. The newspaper attacks are certainly
shameless and scandalous, but I cannot agree with you, that they
have us in their power "to destroy us as they please." I certainly
get my share of abuse, but it will not disturb me.
Your movement of the troops was not countermanded by me because I
thought it an unwise one in itself, but because I was not then
ready for it. I had better information of Price's movements than
you had, and I had no apprehension of an attack. I intended to
concentrate the forces on that line, but I wished the movement
delayed until I could determine on a better position.
After receiving Lieutenant-Colonel McPherson's report, I made
precisely the location you had ordered. I was desirous at the time
not to prevent the advance of Price by any movement on our part,
hoping that he would move on Lexington; but finding that he had
determined to remain at Osceola for some time at least, I made the
movement you proposed. As you could not know my plans, you and
others may have misconstrued the reason of my countermanding your
I hope to see you well enough for duty soon. Our organization goes
on slowly, but we will effect it in time. Yours truly,
H. W. HALLECK.
And subsequently, in a letter to Hon. Thomas Ewing, in answer to
some inquiries involving the same general subject, General Halleck
wrote as follows:
Hon. THOMAS EWING, Lancaster, Ohio.
DEAR SIR: Your note of the 13th, and one of this date, from Mr.
Sherman, in relation to Brigadier-General Sherman's having being
relieved from command in Sedalia, in November last, are just
received. General Sherman was not put in command at Sedalia; he
was authorized to assume it, and did so for a day or two. He did
not know my plans, and his movement of troops did not accord with
them. I therefore directed him to leave them as they were, and
report here the result of his inspection, for which purpose be had
been ordered there.
No telegram or dispatch of any kind was sent by me, or by any one
with my knowledge or authority, in relation to it. After his
return here, I gave him a leave of absence of twenty days, for the
benefit of his health. As I was then pressing General McClellan
for more officers, I deemed it necessary to explain why I did so.
I used these words: "I am satisfied that General Sherman's physical
and mental system is so completely broken by labor and care as to
render him, for the present, unfit for duty; perhaps a few weeks'
rest may restore him." This was the only communication I made on
the subject. On no occasion have I ever expressed an opinion that
his mind was affected otherwise than by over-exertion; to have said
so would have done him the greatest injustice.
After General Sherman returned from his short leave, I found that
his health was nearly restored, and I placed him temporarily in
command of the camp of instruction, numbering over fifteen thousand
men. I then wrote to General McClellan that he would soon be able
to again take the field. I gave General Sherman a copy of my
letter. This is the total of my correspondence on the subject. As
evidence that I have every confidence in General Sherman, I have
placed him in command of Western Kentucky--a command only second in
importance in this department. As soon as divisions and columns
can be organized, I propose to send him into the field where he can
render most efficient service. I have seen newspaper squibs,
charging him with being "crazy," etc. This is the grossest
injustice; I do not, however, consider such attacks worthy of
notice. The best answer is General Sherman's present position, and
the valuable services he is rendering to the country. I have the
fullest confidence in him.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
H. W. HALLECK, Major-General.
On returning to St. Louis, on the expiration of my leave of
absence, I found that General Halleck was beginning to move his
troops: one part, under General U. S. Grant, up the Tennessee
River; and another part, under General S. R. Curtis, in the
direction of Springfield, Missouri. General Grant was then at
Paducah, and General Curtis was under orders for Rolls. I was
ordered to take Curtis's place in command of the camp of
instruction, at Benton Barracks, on the ground back of North St.
Louis, now used as the Fair Grounds, by the following order:
[Special Order No. 87].
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE MISSOURI
St. Louis, December 23, 1861
Brigadier-General W. T. Sherman, United States Volunteers, is
hereby assigned to the command of the camp of instruction and post
of Benton Barracks. He will have every armed regiment and company
in his command ready for service at a moment's warning, and will
notify all concerned that, when marching orders are received, it is
expected that they will be instantly obeyed; no excuses for delay
will be admitted. General Sherman will immediately report to these
headquarters what regiments and companies, at Benton Barracks, are
ready for the field.
By order of Major-General Halleck,
J. C. KELTEN, Assistant Adjutant-General.
I immediately assumed command, and found, in the building
constructed for the commanding officer, Brigadier-General Strong,
and the family of a captain of Iowa cavalry, with whom we boarded.
Major Curtis, son of General Curtis, was the adjutant-general, but
was soon relieved by Captain J. H. Hammond, who was appointed
assistant adjutant-general, and assigned to duty with me.
Brigadier-General Hurlbut was also there, and about a dozen
regiments of infantry and cavalry. I at once gave all matters
pertaining to the post my personal attention, got the regiments in
as good order as possible, kept up communication with General
Halleck's headquarters by telegraph, and, when orders came for the
movement of any regiment or detachment, it moved instantly. The
winter was very wet, and the ground badly drained. The quarters
had been erected by General Fremont, under contract; they were mere
shells, but well arranged for a camp, embracing the Fair Grounds,
and some forty acres of flat ground west of it. I instituted
drills, and was specially ordered by General Halleck to watch
Generals Hurlbut and Strong, and report as to their fitness for
their commissions as brigadier-generals. I had known Hurlbut as a
young lawyer, in Charleston, South Carolina, before the Mexican
War, at which time he took a special interest in military matters,
and I found him far above the average in the knowledge of
regimental and brigade drill, and so reported. General Strong had
been a merchant, and he told me that he never professed to be a
soldier, but had been urged on the Secretary of War for the
commission of a brigadier-general, with the expectation of be
coming quartermaster or commissary-general. He was a good,
kind-hearted gentleman, boiling over with patriotism and zeal. I
advised him what to read and study, was considerably amused at his
receiving instruction from a young lieutenant who knew the company
and battalion drill, and could hear him practise in his room the
words of command, and tone of voice, "Break from the right, to
march to the left!" "Battalion, halt!" "Forward into line!" etc.
Of course I made a favorable report in his case. Among the
infantry and cavalry colonels were some who afterward rose to
distinction--David Stuart, Gordon Granger, Bussey, etc., etc.
Though it was mid-winter, General Halleck was pushing his
preparations most vigorously, and surely he brought order out of
chaos in St. Louis with commendable energy. I remember, one night,
sitting in his room, on the second floor of the Planters' House,
with him and General Cullum, his chief of staff, talking
of things generally, and the subject then was of the much-talked-of
"advance," as soon as the season would permit. Most people urged
the movement down the Mississippi River; but Generals Polk and
Pillow had a large rebel force, with heavy guns in a very strong
position, at Columbus, Kentucky, about eighteen miles below Cairo.
Commodore Foote had his gunboat fleet at Cairo; and General U. S.
Grant, who commanded the district, was collecting a large force at
Paducah, Cairo, and Bird's Point. General Halleck had a map on his
table, with a large pencil in his hand, and asked, "where is the
rebel line?" Cullum drew the pencil through Bowling Green, Forts
Donelson and Henry, and Columbus, Kentucky. "That is their line,"
said Halleck. "Now, where is the proper place to break it?" And
either Cullum or I said, "Naturally the centre." Halleck drew a
line perpendicular to the other, near its middle, and it coincided
nearly with the general course of the Tennessee River; and he said,
"That's the true line of operations." This occurred more than a
month before General Grant began the movement, and, as he was
subject to General Halleck's orders, I have always given Halleck
the full credit for that movement, which was skillful, successful,
and extremely rich in military results; indeed, it was the first
real success on our side in the civil war. The movement up the
Tennessee began about the 1st of February, and Fort Henry was
captured by the joint action of the navy under Commodore Foote, and
the land forces under General Grant, on the 6th of February, 1862.
About the same time, General S. R. Curtis had moved forward from
Rolls, and, on the 8th of March, defeated the rebels under
McCulloch, Van Dom, and Price, at Pea Ridge.
As soon as Fort Henry fell, General Grant marched straight across
to Fort Donelson, on the Cumberland River, invested the place, and,
as soon as the gunboats had come round from the Tennessee, and had
bombarded the water-front, he assaulted; whereupon Buckner
surrendered the garrison of twelve thousand men; Pillow and
ex-Secretary of War General Floyd having personally escaped across
the river at night, occasioning a good deal of fun and criticism at
Before the fall of Donelson, but after that of Henry, I received,
at Benton Barracks, the following orders:
HEADQUARTERS THE DEPARTMENT OF MISSOURI
St. Louis, February,13, 1862
Brigadier-General SHERMAN, Benton Barracks:
You will immediately repair to Paducah, Kentucky, and assume
command of that post. Brigadier-General Hurlbut will accompany
you. The command of Benton Barracks will be turned over to General
H. W. HALECK, Major-General.
I started for Paducah the same day, and think that General Cullum
went with me to Cairo; General Halleck's purpose being to push
forward the operations up the Tennessee River with unusual vigor.
On reaching Paducah, I found this dispatch:
HEADQUARTERS THE DEPARTMENT OF MISSOURI
St. Louis, February 15, 1862
Brigadier-General SHERMAN, Paducah, Kentucky:
Send General Grant every thing you can spare from Paducah and Smith
and also General Hurlbut.
Bowling Green has been evacuated entirely.
H. W. HALLECK, Major-General.
The next day brought us news of the surrender of Buckner, and
probably at no time during the war did we all feel so heavy a
weight raised from our breasts, or so thankful for a most fruitful
series of victories. They at once gave Generals Halleck, Grant,
and C. F. Smith, great fame. Of course, the rebels let go their
whole line, and fell back on Nashville and Island No. Ten, and to
the Memphis & Charleston Railroad. Everybody was anxious to help.
Boats passed up and down constantly, and very soon arrived the
rebel prisoners from Donelson. I saw General Buckner on the boat,
he seemed self-sufficient, and thought their loss was not really so
serious to their cause as we did.
About this time another force of twenty or twenty-five thousand men
was collected on the west bank of the Mississippi, above Cairo,
under the command of Major-General John Pope, designed to become
the "Army of the Mississippi," and to operate, in conjunction with
the navy, down the river against the enemy's left flank, which had
held the strong post of Columbus, Kentucky, but which, on the fall
of Fort Donelson, had fallen back to New Madrid and Island No. 10.
BATTLE of SHILOH.
MARCH AND APRIL, 1862.
By the end of February, 1862, Major-General Halleck commanded all
the armies in the valley of the Mississippi, from his headquarters
in St: Louis. These were, the Army of the Ohio, Major-General
Buell, in Kentucky; the Army of the Tennessee, Major-General Grant,
at Forts Henry and Donelson; the Army of the Mississippi,
Major-General Pope; and that of General S. R. Curtis, in Southwest
Missouri. He posted his chief of staff, General Cullum, at Cairo,
and me at Paducah, chiefly to expedite and facilitate the important
operations then in progress up the Tennessee, and Cumberland
Fort Donelson had surrendered to General Grant on the 16th of
February, and there must have been a good deal of confusion
resulting from the necessary care of the wounded, and disposition
of prisoners, common to all such occasions, and there was a real
difficulty in communicating between St. Louis and Fort Donelson.
General Buell had also followed up the rebel army, which had
retreated hastily from Bowling Green to and through Nashville, a
city of so much importance to the South, that it was at one time
proposed as its capital. Both Generals Grant and Buell looked to
its capture as an event of great importance. On the 21st General
Grant sent General Smith with his division to Clarksville, fifty
miles above Donelson, toward Nashville, and on the 27th went
himself to Nashville to meet and confer with General Buell, but
returned to Donelson the next day.
Meantime, General Halleek at St. Louis must have felt that his
armies were getting away from him, and began to send dispatches to
me at Paducah, to be forwarded by boat, or by a rickety
telegraph-line up to Fort Henry, which lay entirely in a hostile
country, and was consequently always out of repair. On the 1st of
March I received the following dispatch, and forwarded it to
General Grant, both by the telegraph and boat:
To General GRANT, Fort Henry
Transports will be sent you as soon as possible, to move your
column up the Tennessee River. The main object of this expedition
will be to destroy the railroad-bridge over Bear Creek, near
Eastport, Mississippi; and also the railroad connections at
Corinth, Jackson, and Humboldt. It is thought best that these
objects be attempted in the order named. Strong detachments of
cavalry and light artillery, supported by infantry, may by rapid
movements reach these points from the river, without any serious
Avoid any general engagements with strong forces. It will be
better to retreat than to risk a general battle. This should be
strongly impressed on the officers sent with expeditions from the
river. General C. F. Smith or some very discreet officer should be
selected for such commands. Having accomplished these objects, or
such of them as may be practicable, you will return to Danville,
and move on Paris.
Perhaps the troops sent to Jackson and Humbolt can reach Paris by
land as easily as to return to the transports. This must depend on
the character of the roads and the position of the enemy. All
telegraphic lines which can be reached must be cut. The gunboats
will accompany the transports for their protection. Any loyal
Tenneaseeans who desire it, may be enlisted and supplied with arms.
Competent officers should be left to command Forts Henry and
Donelson in your absence. I have indicated in general terms the
object of this.
H. W. HALLECK, Major-General.
Again on the 2d:
Cairo, March 1, 1862
To General GRANT:
General Halleck, February 25th, telegraphs me: "General Grant will
send no more forces to Clarksville. General Smith's division will
come to Fort Henry, or a point higher up on the Tennessee River;
transports will also be collected at Paducah. Two gunboats in
Tennessee River with Grant. General Grant will immediately have
small garrisons detailed for Forts Henry and Donelson, and all
other forces made ready for the field"
From your letter of the 28th, I learn you were at Fort Donelson,
and General Smith at Nashville, from which I infer you could not
have received orders. Halleck's telegram of last night says: "Who
sent Smith's division to Nashville? I ordered it across to the
Tennessee, where they are wanted immediately. Order them back.
Send all spare transports up Tennessee to General Grant."
Evidently the general supposes you to be on the Tennessee. I am
sending all the transports I can find for you, reporting to General
Sherman for orders to go up the Cumberland for you, or, if you
march accross to Fort Henry, then to send them up the Tennessee.
G. W. CULLUM, Brigadier-General.
On the 4th came this dispatch:
To Major-General U. S. GRANT
You will place Major-General C. F. Smith in command of expedition,
and remain yourself at Fort Henry. Why do you not obey my orders
to report strength and positions of your command?
H. W. HALLECK, Major-General.
Halleck was evidently working himself into a passion, but he was
too far from the seat of war to make due allowance for the actual