Robert Bike, LMT, LLC
FORTY-SIX YEARS IN THE ARMY
This volume is dedicated to the young citizens whose patriotism, valor and
Copyright, 1897 by The Century Co.
The De Vinne Press.
Most of the chapters constituting the contents of this volume, were written, from time to time, as soon as practicable after the events referred to, or after the publication of historical writings which seemed to me to require comment from the point of view of my personal knowledge. They were written entirely without reserve, and with the sole purpose of telling exactly what I thought and believed, not with any purpose of publication in my lifetime, but as my contribution to the materials which may be useful to the impartial historian of some future generation. These writings had been put away for safe-keeping with "instructions for the guidance of my executors," in which I said:
"All the papers must be carefully revised, errors corrected if any are found, unimportant matter eliminated, and everything omitted which may seem, to a cool and impartial judge, to be unjust or unnecessarily harsh or severe toward the memory of any individual. I have aimed to be just, and not unkind. If I have failed in any case, it is my wish that my mistakes may be corrected, as far as possible. I have not attempted to write history, but simply to make a record of events personally known to me, and of my opinion upon such acts of others, and upon such important subjects, as have come under my special notice. It is my contribution to the materials from which the future historian must draw for his data for a truthful history of our time."
Now, in the winter of 1896-97, I have endeavored to discharge, as far as I am able, the duty which I had imposed on my executors, and have decided to publish what I had written in past years, with corrections and comments, while many of the actors in the great drama of the Civil War are still living and can assist in correcting any errors into which I may have fallen.
After my chapters relating to the campaign of 1864 in Tennessee were in type, the monograph by General J. D. Cox, entitled "Franklin," was issued from the press of Charles Scribner's Sons. His work and mine are the results of independent analysis of the records, made without consultation with each other.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Chapter I. Parentage and Early LifeAppointment to West Point Virginian Room-MatesAcquaintance with General Winfield ScottCharacter of the West Point TrainingImportance of Learning how to ObeyA trip to New York on a WagerThe West Point Bible-classDismissed from the Academy Without TrialIntercession of Stephen A. Douglas Restoration to Cadet DutyJames B. McPhersonJohn B. Hood Robert E. Lee.
Chapter II. On Graduating LeaveBrevet Second Lieutenant in the 2d Artillery at Fort MoultrieAn Officer's Credit Before the War Second Lieutenant in the 1st ArtilleryJourney to Fort Capron, FloridaA Reservation as to WhiskyA Trip to Charleston and a Troublesome Money-BagAn "Affair of Honor"A Few Law-booksAn Extemporized "Map and Itinerary"Yellow FeverAt A. P. Hill's Home in VirginiaAssigned to Duty in the Department of Philosophy at West PointInterest in AstronomyMarriageA Hint from Jefferson DavisLeave of AbsenceProfessor of Physics in Washington University.
Chapter III. Return to DutyGeneral Harney's AttitudeNathaniel Lyon in CommandDefense of the St. Louis ArsenalService as Mustering OfficerMajor of the First MissouriSurrender of Camp JacksonAdjutant-general on Lyon's StaffA Missing Letter from Fremont to LyonLyon's ReplyBattle of Wilson's CreekDeath of LyonA Question of Command During the RetreatOrigin of the Opposition of the Baler to FremontAffair at Fredericktown.
Chapter IV. Halleck Relieves Fremont of the Command in Missouri A Special State MilitiaBrigadier-General of the Missouri Militia A Hostile Committee Sent to WashingtonThe Missouri Quarrel of 1862In Command of the "Army of the Frontier"Absent Through IllnessBattle of Prairie GroveCompelled to be Inactive Transferred to TennesseeIn Command of Thomas's Old Division of the Fourteenth CorpsReappointed Major-GeneralA Hibernian "Striker."
Chapter V. In Command of the Department of the MissouriTroops Sent to General GrantSatisfaction of the PresidentConditions on which Governor Gamble would Continue in OfficeAnti-Slavery ViewsLincoln on Emancipation in MissouriTrouble Following the Lawrence MassacreA Visit to Kansas, and the Party Quarrel There Mutiny in the State MilitiaRepressive MeasuresA Revolutionary Plot.
Chapter VI. A Memorandum for Mr. LincolnThe President's Instructions His Reply to the Radical DelegationThe Matter of Colored EnlistmentsModification of the Order Respecting Elections Refused A Letter to the President on the Condition of MissouriFormer Confederates in Union Militia RegimentsSummoned to Washington by Mr. LincolnOffered the Command of the Army of the OhioAnecdote of General Grant.
Chapter VII. Condition of the Troops at KnoxvilleEffect of the Promotion of Grant and ShermanLetter to Senator HendersonA Visit from General ShermanUnited with his other Armies for the Atlanta CampaignComments on Sherman's "Memoirs"Faulty Organization of Sherman's ArmyMcPherson's Task at ResacaMcPherson's CharacterExample of the Working of a Faulty System.
Chapter VIII. Sherman's Displeasure with Hooker growing out the Affair at Kolb's FarmHooker's Dispatch Evidently Misinterpreted A Conversation with James B. McPherson over the Question of Relative RankEncouraging John B. Hood to become a SoldierVisit to the Camp of Frank P. Blair, Jr.Anecdote of Sherman and Hooker under FireThe Assault on KenesawTendency of Veteran Troops The Death of McPherson before AtlantaSherman's error in a Question of Relative Rank.
Chapter IX. The Final Blow at AtlantaJohnston's Untried Plan of ResistanceHood's Faulty MoveHolding the Pivot of the Position Anecdotes of the Men in the RanksDeferring to General Stanley in a Question of Relative RankThe Failure at JonesboroThe Capture of AtlantaAbsent from the ArmyHood's Operations in Sherman's RearSent Back to Thomas's AidFaulty Instructions to Oppose Hood at PulaskiAt ColumbiaReason of the Delay in Exchanging Messages.
Chapter X. Hood Forces the Crossing of Duck RiverImportance of Gaining Time for Thomas to Concentrate Reinforcements at Nashville The Affair at Spring HillIncidents of the Night RetreatThomas's Reply to the Request that a Bridge be Laid over the HarpethThe Necessity of Standing Ground at FranklinHood's Formidable Attack Serious Error of Two Brigades of the Rear-GuardBrilliant Services of the ReserveYellow Fever AvertedHood's Assaults Repulsed Johnston's Criticism of HoodThe Advantage of Continuing the Retreat to Nashville.
FORTY-SIX YEARS IN THE ARMY - PART ONE
CHAPTER I Parentage and Early LifeAppointment to West PointVirginian Room- MatesAcquaintance with General Winfield ScottCharacter of the West Point TrainingImportance of Learning how to ObeyA trip to New York on a WagerThe West Point Bible-classDismissed from the Academy Without TrialIntercession of Stephen A. Douglas Restoration to Cadet DutyJames B. McPhersonJohn B. HoodRobert E. Lee.
I was born in the town of Gerry, Chautauqua County, New York, September 29, 1831. My father was the Rev. James Schofield, who was then pastor of the Baptist Church in Sinclairville, and who was from 1843 to 1881 a "home missionary" engaged in organizing new churches and building "meeting-houses" in Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri. My mother was Caroline McAllister, daughter of John McAllister of Gerry. We removed to Illinois in June, 1843, and, after a short stay in Bristol, my father made a new home for his family in Freeport, where he began his missionary work by founding the First Baptist Church of that place.
In all my childhood and youth I had what I regard as the best possible opportunities for education, in excellent public schools where the rudiments of English were taught with great thoroughness, and in a fair amount of all kinds of manly sports, and in hard work, mainly on the farm and in building a new home, which left no time and little inclination for any kind of mischief. At sixteen years of age I spent three months in surveying public lands in the wilds of northern Wisconsin, and at seventeen taught district school in the little town of Oneco. By that time I had chosen the law as my profession, and was working hard to complete the preparatory studies at my own expense.
APPOINTMENT TO WEST POINT
The winter's school term in Oneco having closed early in the spring of 1849, I returned to Freeport and resumed my struggle with Latin. Then an unforced event turned the course of my life. The young man who had been appointed to West Point from our district only a year or two before had failed to continue his course in the Military Academy. Thus a vacancy occurred just at the close of Mr. Thomas J. Turner's term in Congress. There was no time for applications or for consultation. He must select another candidate to enter the following June, or leave the place to be filled by his successor. Fortunately for me, Mr. Turner, as one of the public-school directors, had been present at an examination where the subject with which I had to deal was mathematical; if he had caught me at Latin, the result must have been fatal to all my prospects. Besides, Mr. Turner had heard from his brother James of the stamina I had shown in the public land-surveying expedition; and also from my father of my determination to get a good education before beginning the study of law. So he brought me a cadet appointment when he came home, and said he believed a boy with that record could get through West Point, the training there being, in his opinion, a good preparation for the study of law.
The little savings from all my past work had been invested in a piece of land which was sold to fit me out for my journey to West Point, including some inexpensive visits en route. I reported at the Academy on June 1, 1849, with less than two dollars in my pocket, which I conscientiously deposited with the treasurer, as required by the regulations. My reception was of the most satisfactory character. William P. Curlin of the second class, and Hezekiah H. Garber of the third, both from Illinois, found me out very soon after I reported, took me under their protection in a brotherly way, and gave me some timely advicenot to take too seriously any little fun the "men" might make of my blue dress-coat and fancy gilt buttons, or anything like that; but I never experienced anything even approaching to hazing. My rather mature appearance may have had something to do with the respect generally paid me. It was true I was only seventeen years and nine months old, as recorded in the register, but my experience may have had some visible effect.
I was assigned to a room in the old South Barracks, which were demolished the next year. My room-mates were Henry H. Walker and John R. Chambliss, two charming fellows from Virginia. We had hardly learned each other's names when one of them said something about the "blank Yankees"; but instantly, seeing something that might perhaps have appeared like Southern blood in my face, added, "You are not a Yankee!" I replied, "Yes, I am from Illinois." "Oh," said he, "we don't call Western men Yankees." In that remark I found my mission at West Point, as in after life, to be, as far as possible, a peacemaker between the hostile sections. If the great West could have been heard, and its more dispassionate voice heeded, possibly peace might have been preserved.
My experience at West Point did not differ in many particulars from the general average of cadet life, but a few incidents may be worthy of special mention. My experience in camp was comparatively limited. The first summer I was on guard only once. Then the corporal of the grand rounds tried to charge over my post without giving the countersign, because I had not challenged promptly. We crossed bayonets, but I proved too strong for him, and he gave it up, to the great indignation of the officer of the day, who had ordered him to charge, and who threatened to report me, but did not. That night I slept on the ground outside the guard tents, and caught cold, from which my eyes became badly inflamed, and I was laid up in the hospital during the remainder of my encampment. On that account I had a hard struggle with my studies the next year. While sitting on the east porch of the hospital in the afternoon, I attracted the kind attention of General Winfield Scott, who became from that time a real friend, and did me a great service some years later.
CHARACTER OF THE WEST POINT TRAINING
In our third-class encampment, when corporal of the guard, I had a little misunderstanding one night with the sentinel on post along Fort Clinton ditch, which was then nearly filled by a growth of bushes. The sentinel tore the breast of my shell-jacket with the point of his bayonet, and I tumbled him over backward into the ditch and ruined his musket. But I quickly helped him out, and gave him my musket in place of his, with ample apologies for my thoughtless act. We parted, as I thought, in the best of feeling; but many years later, a colonel in the army told me that story, as an illustration of the erroneous treatment sometimes accorded to sentinels in his time, and I was thus compelled to tell him I was that same corporal, to convince him that he had been mistaken as to the real character of the treatment he had received.
That third-class year I lived in the old North barracks, four of us in one room. There, under the malign influence of two men who were afterward found deficient, I contracted the bad habit of fastening a blanket against the window after "taps," so that no one could see us "burning the midnight oil" over pipes and cards. The corps of cadets was not as much disciplined in our day as it is now. If it had been, I doubt if I should have graduated. As it was, I got 196 demerits out of a possible 200 one year. One more "smoking in quarters" would have been too much for me. I protest now, after this long experience, that nothing else at West Point was either so enjoyable or so beneficial to me as smoking. I knew little and cared less about the different corps of the army, or about the value of class standing. I became quite indignant when a distinguished friend rather reproved me for not trying to graduate higherperhaps in part from a guilty conscience, for it occurred just after we had graduated. I devoted only a fraction of the study hours to the academic coursegenerally an hour, or one and a half, to each lesson. But I never intentionally neglected any of my studies. It simply seemed to me that a great part of my time could be better employed in getting the education I desired by the study of law, history, rhetoric, and general literature. Even now I think these latter studies have proved about as useful to me as what I learned of the art and science of war; and they are essential to a good general education, no less in the army than in civil life. I have long thought it would be a great improvement in the Military Academy if a much broader course could be given to those young men who come there with the necessary preparation, while not excluding those comparatively young boys who have only elementary education. There is too much of the "cast-iron" in this government of law under which we live, but "mild steel" will take its place in time, no doubt. The conditions and interests of so vast a country and people are too varied to be wisely subjected to rigid rules.
But I must not be misunderstood as disparaging the West Point education. As it was, and is now, there is, I believe, nothing equal to it anywhere in this country. Its methods of developing the reasoning faculties and habits of independent thought are the best ever devised. West Point training of the mind is practically perfect. Its general discipline is excellent and indispensable in the military service. Even in civil life something like it would be highly beneficial. In my case that discipline was even more needed than anything else. The hardest lesson I had to learn was to submit my will and opinions to those of an accidental superior in rank, who, I imagined, was my inferior in other things, and it took me many years to learn it. Nothing is more absolutely indispensable to a good soldier than perfect subordination and zealous service to him whom the national will may have made the official superior for the time being. I now think it one of the most important lessons of my own experience that, while I had no difficulty whatever in securing perfect subordination and obedience in a large public school when I was only seventeen years old, or ever afterward in any body of troops, from a squad of cadets up to a body of men, others did not find it by any means so easy to discipline me. What I needed to learn was not so much how to command as how to obey.
My observation of others has also taught much the same lesson. Too early independence and exercise of authority seem to beget some degree of disrespect for the authority of others. I once knew a young major-general who, in his zeal to prevent what he believed to be the improper application of some public funds, assumed to himself the action which lawfully belonged to the Secretary of War. The question thus raised was considered paramount to that of the proper use of the funds. The young officer lost his point, and got a well-merited rebuke. But it is not to be expected that complete military education can be obtained without complete military experience. The rules of subordination and obedience in an army are so simple that everybody learns them with the utmost ease. But the relations between the army and its administrative head, and with the civil power, are by no means so simple. When a too confident soldier rubs up against them, he learns what "military" discipline really means. It sometimes takes a civilian to "teach a soldier his place" in the government of a republic. If a soldier desires that his own better judgment shall control military policy, he must take care not to let it become known that the judgment is his. If he can contrive to let that wise policy be invented by the more responsible head, it will surely be adopted. It should never be suspected by anybody that there is any difference of opinion between the soldier and his civil chief; and nobody, not even the chief, will ever find it out if the soldier does not tell it. The highest quality attributed to Von Moltke was his ability to make it clearly understood by the Emperor and all the world that the Emperor himself commanded the German army.
A TRIP TO NEW YORK ON A WAGER
My constitutional habit once led me into a very foolish exploit at West Point. A discussion arose as to the possibility of going to New York and back without danger of being caught, and I explained the plan I had worked out by which it could be done. (I will not explain what the plan was, lest some other foolish boy try it.) I was promptly challenged to undertake it for a high wager, and that challenge overcame any scruple I may have had. I cared nothing for a brief visit to New York, and had only five dollars in my pocket which Jerome N. Bonaparte loaned me to pay my way. But I went to the city and back, in perfect safety, between the two roll- calls I had to attend that day. Old Benny Havens of blessed memory rowed me across the river to Garrison's, and the Cold Spring ferryman back to the Point a few minutes before evening parade. I walked across the plain in full view of the crowd of officers and ladies, and appeared in ranks at roll-call, as innocent as anybody. It is true my up-train did not stop at Garrison's or Cold Spring, but the conductor, upon a hint as to the necessity of the case, kindly slackened the speed of the express so that I could jump off from the rear platform. In due time I repaid Bonaparte the borrowed five dollars, but the wager was never paid. The only other bet I made at West Point was on Buchanan's election; but that was in the interest of a Yankee who was not on speaking terms with the Southerner who offered the wager. I have never had any disposition to wager anything on chance, but have always had an irresistible inclination to back my own skill whenever it has been challenged. The one thing most to be condemned in war is the leaving to chance anything which by due diligence might be foreseen. In the preparations for defense, especially, there is no longer any need that anything be left to chance or uncertainty.
THE WEST POINT BIBLE-CLASS
I attended the Bible-class regularly every Sunday after I went to West Point, and rejoiced greatly in that opportunity to hear the Scriptures expounded by the learned doctor of divinity of the Military Academy. I had never doubted for a moment that every word of the Bible was divinely inspired, for my father himself had told me it was. But I always had a curious desire to know the reason of things; and, more than that, some of my fellows were inclined to be a little skeptical, and I wanted the reasons with which I could overwhelm their unworthy doubts. So I ventured to ask the professor one Sunday what was the evidence of divine inspiration. He answered only what my father had before told me, that it was "internal evidence"; but my youthful mind had not yet perceived that very clearly. Hence I ventured very modestly and timidly to indicate my need of some light that would enable me to see. The learned doctor did not vouchsafe a word in reply, but the look of amazement and scorn he gave me for my display of ignorance sealed my lips on that subject forever. I have never since ventured to ask anybody any questions on that subject, but have studied it out for myself as well as I could. Soon after that the doctor preached a sermon in which he denounced skepticism in his own vigorous terms, and consigned to perdition all the great teachers of heresy, of whom he mentioned the namesbefore unheard, I am sure, by the great majority of cadets, thought their works were to be found in the West Point and all other public libraries. I never looked into any of those books, though other cadets told me that they, at his suggestion, had sought there for the information the good doctor had refused to give us. I have never, even to this day, been willing to read or listen to what seemed to me irreverent words, even though they might be intended to convey ideas not very different from my own. It has seemed to me that a man ought to speak with reverence of the religion taught him in his childhood and believed by his fellow-men, or else keep his philosophical thoughts, however profound, to himself.
Another sermon of the good doctor of divinity, which I did not happen to hear, on the Mosaic history of creation, contained, as stated to me, a denunciation of the "God-hating geologists." That offended me, for I had, in common with all the other cadets, learned greatly to admire and respect our professor of geology. So I did not go to the Bible-class any more. But the professor of ethics continued to drive his fine fast horse, much the best one on the Point, and I believe the best I had ever seen. Hence he continued to enjoy my esteem, though perhaps he did not know it.
Near the beginning of the last year of my cadet life an event occurred which very nearly proved fatal to my prospects, and I have often wondered that it did not have some effect on my hopes. But, singularly enough, I never had a moment's doubt or anxiety as to the final result. It was then the custom for candidates to report on June 1, or within the next few days. They were organized into sections, and placed under the instruction of cadets selected from the second class to prepare them, as far as possible, for examination about the middle of the month. I was given charge of a section in arithmetic, and have never in all my life discharged my duty with more conscientious fidelity than I drilled those boys in the subject with which I was familiar, and in teaching which I had had some experience. We had gone over the entire course upon which they were to be examined, and all were well prepared except two who seemed hopelessly deficient upon a few subjects which they had been unable to comprehend. Not willing to omit the last possible effort in behalf of those two boys, I took them to the blackboard and devoted the last fifteen or twenty minutes before the bugle-call to a final effort to prepare them for the ordeal they must face the next morning. While I was thus employed several of my classmates came into the room, and began talking to the other candidates. Though their presence annoyed me, it did not interfere with my work; so I kept on intently with the two young boys until the bugle sounded.
DISMISSED FROM THE ACADEMY WITHOUT TRIAL
I then went to my quarters without paying any attention to the interruption, or knowing anything of the character of what had occurred. But one of the candidates, perhaps by way of excuse for his failure, wrote to his parents some account of the "deviltry" in which my classmates had indulged that day. That report found its way to the War Department, and was soon followed by an order to the commandant of cadets to investigate. The facts were found fully to exonerate me from any participation in or countenance of the deviltry, except that I did not stop it; and showed that I had faithfully done my duty in teaching the candidates. After this investigation was over, I was called upon to answer for my own conduct; and, the names of my guilty classmates being unknown to the candidates, I was also held responsible for their conduct. I answered by averring and showing, as I believed, my own innocence of all that had been done, except my neglect of duty in tolerating such a proceeding. My conscience was so clear of any intentional wrong that I had no anxiety about the result. But in due time came an order from the Secretary of War dismissing me from the academy without trial. That, I believe, shocked me a little; but the sense of injustice was too strong in my mind to permit of a doubt that it would be righted when the truth was known. I proposed to go straight to Washington and lay the facts before the government. Then I realized for the first time what it meant to have friends. All my classmates and many other cadets came forward with letters to their congressmen, and many of them to senators whom they happened to know, and other influential men in Washington. So I carried with me a great bundle of letters setting forth my virtues in terms which might have filled the breast of George Washington with pride.
There was no public man in Washington whom I had ever seen, and probably no one who had ever heard of me, except the few in the War Department who knew of my alleged bad conduct. The Secretary of War would not even see me until I was at last presented to him by an officer of the army. Then he offered me his forefinger to shake, but he could give me no encouragement whatever. This was after I had been in Washington several weeks. My congressman, Mr. Campbell, who had succeeded Mr. Turner, and several others received me kindly, read my letters, and promised to see the Secretary of War, which no doubt they did, though without any apparent effect. The only result was the impossible suggestion that if I would give the names of my guilty classmates I might be let off. I had made an early call upon the "Little Giant," Senator Douglas, to whom I had no letter, and whom I had never met; had introduced myself as a "citizen of Illinois" in trouble; and had told my story. He said he was not on good terms with that administration, and preferred not to go near the War Department if it could be avoided, but if it proved necessary to let him know. Hence, after all else failed, including my personal appeal, which I had waited so long to make, I told Mr. Douglas all that had occurred, and suggested that there was nothing left but to "put in the reserve," as the tacticians call it. He replied: "Come up in the morning, and we will go to see about it." On our way to the War Department the next morning, the senator said, "I don't know that I can do anything with this Whig administration"; but he assured me all should be made right in the next. That seemed to me the kind of man I had looked for in vain up to that time. I waited in the anteroom only a few minutes, when the great senator came out with a genial smile on his face, shook me warmly by the hand, and bade by good-by, saying: "It is all right. You can go back to West Point. The Secretary has given me his promise." I need not go into the details of the long and tedious formalities through which the Secretary's promise was finally fulfilled. It was enough to me that my powerful friend had secured the promise that, upon proof of the facts as I had stated them, I should be fully exonerated and restored to the academy. I returned to West Point, and went through the long forms of a court of inquiry, a court martial, and the waiting for the final action of the War Department, all occupying some five or six months, diligently attending to my military and academic duties, and trying hard to obey all the regulations (except as to smoking), never for a moment doubting the final result. That lesson taught me that innocence and justice sometimes need powerful backing. Implicit trust in Providence does not seem to justify any neglect to employ also the biggest battalions and the heaviest guns.
JAMES B. McPHERSON
During all that time I continued to live with my old room-mate, James B. McPherson, in a tower room and an adjoining bedroom, which LaRhett L. Livingston also shared. I had been corporal, sergeant, and lieutenant up to the time of my dismissal; hence the duties of private were a little difficult, and I found it hard to avoid demerits; but with some help from our kind-hearted inspecting officer, Milton Cogswell,bless his memory!I contrived to get off with 196 demerits in a possible 200 that last year. In a mild way, McPherson was also a little under a cloud at that time. He had been first captain of the battalion and squad marcher of the class at engineering drill. In this latter capacity he also had committed the offense of not reporting some of the class for indulging in unauthorized sport. The offense was not so grave as mine, and, besides, his military record was very much better. So he was let off with a large demerit mark and a sort of honorable retirement to the office of quartermaster of the battalion. I still think, as I did then, that McPherson's punishment was the more appropriate. Livingston was one of those charming, amiable fellows with whom nobody could well find any fault, though I believe he did get a good many demerits. He also seemed to need the aid of tobacco in his studies. William P. Craighill, who succeeded McPherson as first captain, had no fault whatever, that I ever heard of, except onethat was, standing too high for his age. He was a beardless youth, only five feet high and sixteen years old when he entered the academy; yet he was so inconsiderate as to keep ahead of me all the time in everything but tactics, and that was of no consequence to him, for he was not destined to command troops in the field, while, as it turned out, I was. It has always seemed to me a little strange that the one branch which I never expected to use afterward was the only study in which I graduated at the head. Perhaps McPherson and Craighill thought, as I did, that it made no difference where I stood in tactics.
Among all the tactical officers of our time, Lieutenant John M. Jones was esteemed the most accomplished soldier and tactician, and the most rigid but just and impartial disciplinarian. It had been my good fortune to enjoy his instruction while I was private, corporal, sergeant, and lieutenant, and I fully shared with others in the above high estimate of his character. I even flattered myself that my soldierly conduct in all that time had not escaped his favorable notice. When my case was before the court of inquiry in the summer of 1852, the professors who had been called to testify gave me a high character as a faithful, diligent student. When Lieutenant Jones was called to testify as to my character as a soldier, he replied that, in his opinion, it was very bad! While I was not a little surprised and disappointed at that revelation of the truth from the lips of the superior whom I so highly respected, and did not doubt for a moment his better judgment, I could not be unmindful of the fact that the other tactical officers did not know me so well and had not so high a reputation as Lieutenant Jones in respect to discipline; and I felt at liberty to avail myself, in my own interest, of the opportunity suggested by this reflection. Hence, when, after my complete restoration to the academy in January, I found my demerits accumulating with alarming rapidity, I applied for and obtained a transfer to Company C, where I would be under Lieutenant Cogswell and Cadet Captain Vincent, my beloved classmate, who had cordially invited me to share his room in barracks.
ROBERT E. LEE
John B. Hood was a jolly good fellow, a little discouraged at first by unexpected hard work; but he fought his way manfully to the end. He was not quite so talented as some of his great associates in the Confederate army, but he was a tremendous fighter when occasion offered. During that last period of our cadet life, Colonel Robert E. Lee was superintendent of the academy; he was the personification of dignity, justice, and kindness, and he was respected and admired as the ideal of a commanding officer. Colonel Robert S. Garnett was commandant of cadets; he was a thorough soldier who meted out impartial justice with both hands. At our last parade I received "honorable mention" twice, both the personal judgment of the commandant himself. The one was for standing at the head of the class in tactics; the other, for "not carrying musket properly in ranks." Who can ever forget that last parade, when the entire class, officers and privates together, marched up in line and made their salute to the gallant commandant! To a West-Pointer no other emotion equals it, except that of victory in battle.
CHAPTER II On Graduating LeaveBrevet Second Lieutenant in the 2d Artillery at Fort MoultrieAn Officer's Credit Before the WarSecond Lieutenant in the 1st ArtilleryJourney to Fort Capron, Florida A Reservation as to WhiskyA Trip to Charleston and a Troublesome Money-BagAn "Affair of Honor"A Few Law-booksAn Extemporized "Map and Itinerary"Yellow FeverAt A. P. Hill's Home in Virginia Assigned to Duty in the Department of Philosophy at West Point Interest in AstronomyMarriageA Hint from Jefferson DavisLeave of AbsenceProfessor of Physics in Washington University.
An old army colonel many years ago described a West Point graduate, when he first reported for duty after graduating leave, as a very young officer with a full supply of self-esteem, a four-story leather trunk filled with good clothes, and an empty pocket. To that must be added, in my case, a debt equal to the full value of trunk and clothes and a hundred dollars borrowed money. My "equipment fund" and much more had been expended in Washington and in journeys to and fro during the period of administrative uncertainty in respect to the demands of discipline at West Point. Still I had so good a time, that graduating leave, as any millionaire in the United States. My good father was evidently disturbed, and began to fearfor the first time, I thinkthat I was really going to the bad! His worst fears as to the possible effects of a military education had, after all, been realized! When I showed him the first check from New York, covering my pay account for July, he said that it was enough to ruin any boy in the world. Indeed, I myself was conscious of the fact that I had not done a stroke of work all that month for those sixty-five and a half dollars; and in order that my father might be convinced of my determination not to let such unearned wealth lead me into dissipation, I at once offered to lend him fifty dollars to pay a debt due to somebody on the Freeport Baptist meeting-house. Confidence was thereby restored.
BREVET SECOND LIEUTENANT
My first orders assigned me to duty at Fort Moultrie, South Carolina, as brevet second lieutenant in the 2d Artillery. The steamer landed me at Charleston, September 29, 1853, the day I became twenty-two years of age. The next morning I found myself without money enough to pay my hotel bill and take me over to Sullivan's Island, but pay was due me for September. Upon inquiry, I found that the paymaster was not in the city, but that he kept his public funds in the Bank of South Carolina. Being unacquainted with any of the good people of Charleston, the well-known rules of banks about identification seemed a serious obstacle. I presented my pay account at the bank, informing the cashier with a confident air that I was well aware of the fact that the major's money was there, but that the major himself was out of town. The accomplished cashier, after scrutinizing me for a time, handed me the money. My older brother officers at the fort had a good laugh at what they were pleased to call my "brass"; but I consoled myself with the reflection that I had found out that my face was good for something. It is an instructive fact that before the Civil War an officer of the army needed no endorser anywhere in this country. His check or his pay account was as good as gold. All that was required was identification. It is lamentably true that such has not been the case since the war.
I found only one officer on duty with my battery at Fort Moultrie, and he was awaiting my arrival so that he might go on leave. He turned over the command with a manifestation of confidence which surprised me at the time, but which was fully explained the next day. In the morning the first sergeant reported to me, with the quarterly and monthly returns prepared for my signature, and made out more beautifully than anything in writing I had ever before seen, and explained to me in detail all the business affairs of the battery, as if he were reporting to an old captain who had just returned from a long leave of absence. Next to General Scott and Colonel Lee, with whom I had the honor of some acquaintance, I was quite sure there stood before me the finest-looking and most accomplished soldier in the United States Army. What a hard time young officers of the army would sometimes have but for the old sergeants! I have pitied from the bottom of my heart volunteer officers whom I have seen starting out, even in the midst of war, with perfectly raw regiments, and not even one old sergeant to teach them anything. No country ought to be so cruel to its soldiers as that.
In September we had the usual artillery target practice, which was afterward recalled to my mind many times by the bombardment of Fort Sumter in 1861 by the same guns I had used in practice, and at the same range. Then came the change of stations of troops, which took the Moultrie garrison to Florida, and some of the 1st Artillery to their place. For a time the fort was left without garrison except a few officers who were awaiting the arrival of their regiment. I also was ordered to remain until I "got off my brevet" and was appointed "full second" in the 1st Artillery. It had been a yellow- fever summer, and the cottages on Sullivan's Island were even more fully occupied than usual, mostly by families of planters from the rice plantations of South Carolina. Hospitality was unbounded, and of the most charming character. Nothing I have experienced at home or in the great capitals of Europe has surpassed or dimmed the memory of that first introduction to Southern society.
JOURNEY TO FORT CAPRON, FLORIDA
In December, 1853, the order came announcing my appointment as second lieutenant, 1st Artillery, and directing me to join Battery D at Fort Capron, Indian River, Florida. A steamer took me to Palatka, stopping a short time at Jacksonville, which was then little more than a landing on the St. John's River. After a week's delay at Palatka, another little mail-steamer carried me and few other passengers up the river to lake Monroe, whence a mule served for transportation across to New Smyrna, on Mosquito Lagoon, opposite the inlet. It was a great day's sport going up the river. The banks seemed almost lined with alligators, and the water covered with waterfowl of all kinds, while an occasional deer or flock of turkeys near by would offer a chance shot. At New Smyrna Mrs. Sheldon provided excellent entertainment during the ten days' waiting for the mail-boat down Mosquito Lagoon and Indian River, while Mr. Sheldon's pack of hounds furnished sport. At length old Captain Davis took the mail and my baggage and me on board his sloop, bound for Fort Capron, opposite the mouth of Indian River. He divided his time fairly between carrying the United States mail and drinking whisky, but he never attempted to do both at the same time. I am not sure but it was the captain's example which first suggested to me the rule which I adopted when commanding an army in the fieldto do no drinking till after the day's fighting was over. But, in fact, I never liked whisky, and never drank much, anyhow.
We arrived in twenty-five days from Charleston, which was regarded as a very satisfactory journey. At the fort I found Captain and Brevet-Major Joseph A. Haskin, commanding; First Lieutenant A. P. Hill, afterward lieutenant-general in the Confederate army; Dr. A. J. Foard, assistant surgeon; and my classmate Livingston, brevet second lieutenant; besides sixteen enlisted menrather a close approximation to the ideal of that old colonel who once said the army would be delightful if it were not for the soldiers. But that was changed after a while by the arrival of recruits enough in one batch to fill the battery full. The battery had recently come from the gulf coast, where yellow fever had done destructive work. I was told that there happened to be only one officer on duty with the batterya Lieutenant somebodywhen the fever broke out, and that he resigned and went home. If that is true, I trust he went into the Civil War and got killed in battle; for that was the only atonement he could possibly make for leaving his men in that way. But such cases have been exceedingly rare, while those of the opposite extreme have not been uncommon, where officers have remained with the sick and died there, instead of going with the main body of their men to a more healthy place. The proper place for a line officer is with the fighting force, to care for it and preserve its strength by every means in his power, for war may come tomorrow. The surgeons and their assistants must and do fully care for the sick and wounded.
Life at Fort Capron was not by any means monotonous. It was varied by sailing, fishing, and shooting, and even the continuity of sport was broken twice a month, generally, by the arrival of the mail- boat. But at length this diversion failed us. Some difference occurred between the United States Post-office Department and the mail-contractor on the St. John's River, and we got no mail for three months. Then the commanding officer ordered me to go to Charleston by the sloop that had brought us supplies, and bring back the mail by the regular route. I made the round trip in little more than a month. That same paymaster whom I had found away from his post on my first arrival in Charleston entrusted to me a carpet- bag full of gold and silver, to pay off the garrison for the past six months, with as much advance pay as the officers would consent to take, so that he would not have to make the trip down for a long time to come. I had to carry the money-bag and a revolver about with me for twenty-five days or more. I have never consented to handle Uncle Sam's money since that time.
AN "AFFAIR OF HONOR"
It was during that short visit to Charleston that I became engaged, for the first and only time, in an "affair of honor." A young man who had been in my class at West Point, but had resigned before the class had graduated, came to me at the hotel, and asked me, as his "friend," to deliver a note he held in his hand. I replied: "Yes. If you will place yourself in my hands and do what I decide is honorable and right, I will be your friend. Tell me about it." My condition was accepted without reserve. My friend, whose home was in a distant city, had been in Charleston some weeks, and had spent all the money he had and all he could borrow. He was on the eve of negotiating a further loan from a well-known banker when the son of that banker, who had met my friend about town, told his father the plain truth about my friend's habits and his probable value as a debtor. The negotiation was ended. My friend had become a stranger in a strange land, without the means to stay there any longer or to go home. It was a desperate caseone which could not be relived by anything less than the blood of the young "villain" who had told his father that "infamous"truth! I replied: "Yes, that is a bad case; we will have to fix that up. How are you off at home?" He said the "old man" had plenty of money, but had sent him enough to come home once or twice before, and would not send any more. Upon further inquiry, I found that my friend's hotel bill and expenses home would amount to a little less than the sum I had just drawn on my pay account up to date; so I handed him the money, saying that he could return it when convenient, and his "honor" was fully satisfied. I never afterward heard anything from him about that money, and my tailor had to wait a little longer for his pay; but I had done my duty, as I understood it, under the code of honor. I saw that friend once afterward. He went into the army in 1861, accidentally shot himself, and died miserably on the march, an old musket-barrel, placed there by my order, marking his grave by the wayside. It was not granted to him, poor fellow! to fight a battle for his country.
I took with me to Florida some law-booksBlackstone, Kent, and a few others: so few, indeed, that I learned them nearly all by heart; then, for want of anything better, I read over the entire code of the State of Florida. Several times in after years I found it necessary, in order to save time, to repeat to great lawyers the exact words of the Constitution of the United States; but their habit was much the better. It is seldom wise to burden the memory with those things which you have only to open a book to find out. I recollect well that answer once made by William M. Evarts, then attorney-general of the United States, to my inquiry whether he would give me, offhand, the law on a certain point, to save the time requisite for a formal application and answer in writing. He said if it was a question of statute law he would have to examine the books, but if only a question of common law he could make that as well as anybody. But I had nothing better to do for a time in Florida, and when I got out I did not find my memory half so much overloaded with law as my blood was with malarial poison. Luckily, I got rid of the poison after a while, but held on to the law, and I never found it did me any harm. In fact, I would advise all young officers to acquire as much of it as they can.
AN EXTEMPORIZED MAP AND ITINERARY
In the winter of 1853-4 there was an armed truce between the United States of America and the Seminole nation. A new policy was soon inaugurated, which had for its object to establish a complete line of posts across the State from Jupiter to Lake Okeechobee, and thence westward to the gulf, so as more securely to confine the Seminoles within the Everglade region, although, so far as I know, nobody then wanted the use of that more northern part of this vast territory. The first step was to reopen the old military road from the mouth of Indian River across to the Kissimmee River, and thence to Tampa. Being the second lieutenant of the single company, I was given the privilege of doing that work, and nine men and one wagon were assigned me for that purpose. I spent the larger part of my time, going and coming, in hunting on either the right or left of the road, thereby obtaining all the deer and turkeys the command could consume, but paying very little attention to the road itself, in utter disregard of the usual military rule which requires that a sketch be made and an itinerary kept of all such marches. Hence I was a little puzzled when Acting-Inspector-General Canby, from Washington, wanted to go across from Indian River to Tampa, and called on me for a copy of my map and itinerary. But I had stood very high in drawing at West Point, and could not allow myself to be disturbed in any such way as that; so I unlocked what little recollection I had of the route and my general knowledge of the country, and prepared a very beautiful map and a quite elaborate itinerary, with which the inspector-general seemed greatly pleased. But I took great care, in addition, to send a man with him who had been with me, and who was a good guide, so I felt quite safe respecting any possible imperfections that the inspector-general might find in my work. I never heard anything more about that matter until General Sherman and I met General Canby at Portland in 1870. At that time we had a little laugh at my expense respecting the beauty of that map of mine, and the accuracy with which I had delineated the route. But as I was then a major-general, and Canby was a brigadier-general under my command, I was not subjected to the just criticism I deserved for having forgotten that map and itinerary at the time I made the march.
The next step in the strategical operations designed by the War Department for Florida was the occupation of Fort Jupiter, and the construction of a new post there, reopening the old military road of General Jessup and building a block-house on the bank of Lake Okeechobee, similar work to be undertaken from the other shore of the lake westward. The work was commenced about midwinter of 1854- 5, and it was my privilege to do it. When the hot weather came on at Jupiter, fever began to break out among the troops. Jupiter Inlet had been closed for several years, and the water had become stagnant. Within a very few weeks, every man, woman, and child was down, or had been down, with fever. The mortality was such that there were hardly enough strong men remaining to bury the dead. As soon as I had sufficiently recovered to go in a boat to Fort Capron, the major sent me back with all the convalescents that were fit to be moved, and soon afterward broke up that pest-house at Jupiter and moved the command back to Capron. So far as I know, Fort Jupiter was never again occupied, and I think the block-house on Lake Okeechobee was never completed. At all events, as good luck would have it, I got through with my part of the work and was ordered out of Florida before the Seminoles found out what the plans of the War Department were. My old friend and companion George L. Hartsuff, who had like duty to perform on the west side of the lake, was attacked by the Indians and severely wounded, several of his men being killed. He and a few others made their escape. Hartsuff was one of the strongest, bravest, finest soldiers I ever knew, and one of my most intimate friends; but, unlike myself, he was always in bad luck. He got caught by the Seminoles in Florida; was shipwrecked on Lake Michigan; came very near dying of yellow fever; and after organizing the Twenty-third Army Corps and commanding it for a time, finally died of the wounds he had received in Florida.
I had a new and peculiar experience at Fort Capron during my convalescence. I had there twenty-five or thirty convalescent soldiers, and no doctor, but an intelligent hospital steward. I was like the lawyer who was asked to say grace at the table of one of his wealthy clients, and who was unwilling to admit, under such circumstances, that there was any one thing he could not do. So I had sick-call regularly every morning, carefully questioned every patient as to his symptoms, and told the steward what to give him, taking care not to prescribe anything which some doctor had not tried on me. All my patients got well. At length A. P. Hill came up from Jupiter, on his way home on sick-leave. At Capron he had a relapse, and was desperately ill. I had to send a barge to Jupiter for some medicine which he knew was necessary. Mr. Jones, the sutler, and some of the men helped me to nurse him night and day for a long time. At length he recovered so far as to continue his journey.
About the same time came orders promoting me to first lieutenant and detailing me for duty at West Point. So Hill and I came out of Florida together. On board the St. John's River steamer I had a relapse, and was very ill. Hill cared for me tenderly, kept me at Savannah awhile, and then some days at Charleston, where I became so much better that he ventured to leave me long enough to go over to Fort Moultrie to see some of our brother officers. While he was away I became so ill again that the doctor had to put me under the influence of chloroform. When Hill came back in the evening he cursed himself for all that was mean in the world for having left me even for an hour. That's the kind of friends and comrades soldiers are! As soon as I was well enough to travel, Hill took me to his home at Culpeper Courthouse in Virginia. There they kept me quite a long time. That dear old gentleman, his father, brought to my bedside every morning a brandy mint-julep, made with his own hand, to drink before I got up. Under its benign influence my recovery was very rapid. But let none of my young friends forget that the best gifts of Providence are those most liable to be abused. The wise Virginian never offered me too many of them. By the first of December Hill and I went together to West Point, I to report for duty, and he to visit his numerous warm friends at that delightful station. There we parted, in December, 1855, never to meet again. With the glad tidings from Virginia that peace was near, there came to me in North Carolina the report that Lieutenant- General A. P. Hill had been killed in the last battle at Petersburg. A keen pang shot through my heart, for he had not ceased to be esteemed as my kind friend and brother, though for four years numbered among the public enemy. His sense of duty, so false in my judgment, I yet knew to be sincere, because I knew the man. I wish all my fellow-citizens, North and South, East and West, could know each other as well as I knew A. P. Hill.
IN THE DEPARTMENT OF PHILOSOPHY AT WEST POINT
I was assigned to duty in the department of philosophy, under Professor W. H. C. Bartlett, one of the ablest, most highly esteemed, and most beloved of the great men who have placed the United States Military Academy among the foremost institutions of the world. At first it seemed a little strange to be called back, after the lapse of only two years, to an important duty at the place where my military record had been so "bad." But I soon found that at West Point, as elsewhere, the standard of merit depended somewhat upon the point of view of the judge. A master of "philosophy" could not afford to look too closely into past records in other subjects. Besides, philosophers know, if others do not, that philosophers are sure to profit by healthful experience. I never had any more trouble at West Point, though I did have much difficulty in helping younger men out. I had the great good fortune never to be compelled to report a cadet for any delinquency, nor to find one deficient in studies, though I did sometimes have, figuratively speaking, to beat them over the head with a cudgel to get in "phil" enough to pass the academic board.
I had then a strong impression, which has grown still stronger with time, that "equations A and B" need not be developed very far into the "mechanics of molecules" to qualify a gallant young fellow for the command of a squadron of cavalry; but this is, in fact, generally and perfectly well understood at West Point. The object there is to develop the mental, moral, and physical man to as high a degree as is practicable, and to ascertain his best place in the public service. It is only the hopelessly incorrigible in some respect who fall by the way. Even they, if they have stayed there long enough, are the better for the training they have received.
In this congenial work and its natural sequence I formed for the first time the habit of earnest, hard mental work to the limit of my capacity for endurance, and sometimes a little beyond, which I have retained the greater part of my life. After the short time required to master the "Analytical Mechanics" which had been introduced as a textbook since I had graduated, and a short absence on account of my Florida debility, which had reduced me to 120 pounds in weight, I began to pursue physics into its more secret depths. I even indulged the ambition to work out the mathematical interpretation of all the phenomena of physical science, including electricity and magnetism. After three years of hard labor in this direction, I thought I could venture to publish a part of my work in book form, and thus submit it to the judgment of the able scientists whose acquaintance I had made at the meetings of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.( 1)
INTEREST IN ASTRONOMY
While I was engaged in this work upon physics, a young gentleman named Drown came to West Point, and asked me to give him some private lessons in mechanics and astronomy, to perfect his qualifications as a teacher. I went over those subjects with him in about one hundred lessons, including a few in practical astronomy. He was the most ardent student I have ever known. Like, I doubt not, all the most earnest seekers for divine truth, in whatever way revealed to man, he would not be satisfied with his own perception of such truth unless he could feel it "burn in his brain." In that brief experience I became for the first time intensely interested in practical astronomy, about which I had thought little before, although I had had sole charge of the observatory for some time. I have always since given Professor Drown credit for teaching me practical astronomy by first leading me to the discovery that I had a natural taste and aptitude for such work, theretofore unsuspected. That new "lead" was followed with all possible zeal, day and night, for many months, until all the instruments in the observatory, fixed and movable, including the old mural circle, had gone through a season's work. Although my scientific experience has been very limited, I do not believe anything else in the broad domain of science can be half so fascinating as the study of the heavens. I have regretted many times that necessity limited my enjoyment of that great pleasure to a very few years instead of a lifetime.
In that West Point observatory I had one of the many opportunities of my lifeone which I always enjoyedof protecting the unfortunate from the stern decree of "justice." The old German custodian came to me one morning in great distress, saying that he had let the "astronomical chronometer" run down, and that the professor would kill him. I went with him to the transit tower, made an observation, and set the chronometer. The professor never knew the difference till I told him, after the lapse of time named in the military statute of limitations. Then he seemed to rejoice as much as I over the narrow escape of his faithful subordinate. The professor was not half as stern as he sometimes appeared to be.
I need hardly say that in the midst of these absorbing occupations I forgot all about the career I had chosen in my boyhood. The law had no longer any charms for me. Yet I found in after life far more use for the law than for physics and astronomy, and little less than for the art and science of war.
In June, 1857, I married Miss Harriet Bartlett, the second daughter of my chief in the department of philosophy. Five children were born to us, three of whomtwo sons and one daughtergrew to maturity and survive their mother, who died in Washington soon after I was assigned to the command of the army, and was buried at West Point by the side of our first-born son, who had died in 1868, soon after I became Secretary of War.
In the summer of 1860 came the end of my term of duty at West Point. My taste for service in the line of the army, if I ever had any, was gone; and all hope of promotion, if I ever had any, was still further away. I had been for more than four years about nineteenth first lieutenant in my regiment, without rising a single file. I was a man of family, and had already become quite bald "in the service of my country." There was no captaincy in sight for me during the ordinary lifetime of man, so I accepted the professorship of physics in Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri. But Mr. Jefferson Davis, an intimate friend of my father-in-law, gave me a timely hint that promotion might be better in a year or two; and his bitterest personal enemy, General Scott, gave me a highly flattering endorsement which secured leave of absence for a year. Thus I retained my commission.
PROFESSOR OF PHYSICS IN WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY
As the period of the Civil War approached a very large part of my time was occupied in reading and studying, as coolly as possible, every phase of the momentous questions which I had been warned must probably be submitted to the decision of war. Hence, when the crisis came I was not unprepared to decide for myself, without prejudice or passion, where the path of duty lay, yet not without some feeling of indulgence toward my brother officers of the army who, as I believed, were led by the influence of others so far astray. I took an early occasion to inform General Scott of my readiness to relinquish my leave of absence and return to duty whenever my services might be required, and I had the high honor of not being requested to renew my oath of allegiance.
My life in St. Louis during the eight months next preceding the Civil War was of great benefit to me in the delicate and responsible duties which so soon devolved upon me. My connection with Washington University brought me into close relations with many of the most patriotic, enlightened, and, above all, unselfish citizens of Missouri. Some of them were of the Southern school of politics, but the large majority were earnest Union men, though holding the various shades of opinion then common on the question of slavery. By long and intimate intercourse, in the joint prosecution of the work of the highest philanthropy, such men had learned to respect the sincerity of each others' adverse convictions, and had become the exact exemplars of the many shades of honest, patriotic Unionism so clearly described in 1863 by President Lincoln in his letter to a delegation of partisans who had not learned that principle of charity which seems to have been born in the great martyr of freedom.
Would that I could do fitting honor to the names of those patriots, nearly all of whom have gone to their rest, including Dr. Elliot, President of Washington University. James E. Yeatman, President of the Sanitary Commission, still lives to honor his country and the great cause of humanity of which he was the faithful and efficient servant. I did not meet Hamilton R. Gamble until after he had become governor. I shall have occasion to say more of him later. He was the foremost champion of the Union cause in Missouri, and the most abused by those who were the loudest in their professions of loyalty. Of the younger generation, I will mention only one, whose good deeds would otherwise never be known. While himself absent in the public service, wherein he was most efficient, he made me occupy his delightful residence near Lafayette Park, and consume all the products of his excellent garden. We knew each other then only as fellow-workers in the Union cause, but have been the most devoted friends from that day to this. The name of that dear friend of mine is Charles Gibson. Among the earliest and most active leaders in the Union cause in Missouri, I must not fail to mention the foremostFrank P. Blair, Jr. His patriotism and courage were like a calcium light at the head of the Union column in the dark days and nights of the spring of 1861.
[( 1) Much of my time in St. Louis during the winter preceding the Civil War was spent in revising this work, preparing illustrations, and getting it ready for the press. Then it was packed up in a box and carefully stored away in the St. Louis Arsenal, to abide the results of war.]
CHAPTER III. Return to DutyGeneral Harney's AttitudeNathaniel Lyon in Command Defense of the St. Louis ArsenalService as Mustering Officer Major of the First MissouriSurrender of Camp JacksonAdjutant- general on Lyon's StaffA Missing Letter from Fremont to Lyon Lyon's ReplyBattle of Wilson's CreekDeath of LyonA Question of Command During the RetreatOrigin of the Opposition of the Blairs to FremontAffair at Fredericktown.
When it became probable that military force would be required by the government to maintain its authority in the Southern States, I informed the War Department of my readiness to return to duty whenever my services might be required, and was instructed to await orders in St. Louis. Upon President Lincoln's first call for volunteers, I was detailed to muster in the troops required of the State of Missouri. With the order of detail was furnished a copy of the old instructions for mustering into service, etc., which required me to call upon the governor of Missouri for the regiments to be mustered, and to accept only fully organized regiments. It was well and publicly known that the executive of Missouri was disloyal to the United States, and that compliance with the President's demand for volunteers was not to be expected from the State government; yet my instructions authorized me to take no action which could be effective under such circumstances, and the then department commander, Brigadier-General William S. Harney, would not consent that any such action be taken without orders from Washington. I called upon Governor Jackson for his regiments, but received no reply.
RETURN TO DUTY
In my visit to General Harney after the attack on Fort Sumter, I urged the necessity of prompt measures to protect the St. Louis Arsenal, with its large stores of arms and ammunition, then of priceless value, and called his attention of a rumor of an intended attack upon the arsenal by the secessionists then encamped near the city under the guise of State militia. In reply, the general denounced in his usual vigorous language the proposed attempt upon the arsenal; and, as if to clinch his characterization of such a " outrage," said: "Why, the State has not yet passed an ordinance of secession; she has not gone out of the Union." That did not indicate to me that General Harney's Union principles were quite up to the standard required by the situation, and I shared with many others a feeling of great relief when he was soon after relieved, and Captain Nathaniel Lyons succeeded to the command of the department. Yet I have no doubt General Harney was, from his own point of view, thoroughly loyal to the Union, though much imbued with the Southern doctrines which brought on secession and civil war. His appropriate place after that movement began was that of the honorable retirement in which he passed the remainder of his days, respected by all for his sterling character and many heroic services to his country.
Two days later, Captain Lyon, then commanding the St. Louis Arsenal, having received from the War Department authority to enroll and muster into the service the Missouri volunteers as they might present themselves, I reported to him and acted under his orders. Fortunately, a large number of the loyal citizens of St. Louis had, in anticipation of a call to take up arms in support of the government, organized themselves into companies, and received some instruction in tactics at their places of secret nightly meeting in the city. On the other hand, the organized militia of the State, mostly disloyal, were in the city of St. Louis near the arsenal, which contained many thousand muskets, and which was defended by only a small body of regular troops. There was great danger that the arsenal would follow the fate of the public arsenals in the more Southern States. To avert this danger was the first great object.
Upon receipt of the necessary authority by Captain Lyon, I was called out of church on Sunday morning, April 21, and the loyal secret organizations were instructed to enter the arsenal at night, individually, each member being furnished with a pass for that purpose. The mustering officer employed himself all night and the following day in distributing arms and ammunition to the men as they arrived, and in stationing them along the arsenal walls. Thus the successful defense of the arsenal was secured, though its garrison was neither mustered into service nor organized into regiments, nor even enrolled. The organization of the volunteers now began, the mustering officer superintending the election of officers, enrolling the men, and perfecting the organization in conformity to the militia laws of the State.
On June 4 I transmitted to the adjutant-general "the muster-rolls of five regiments of infantry; of four rifle battalions of two companies each, attached to the 1st, 2d, 3d, and 4th regiments; of one artillery battalion of three companies; and of a company of pioneers"; also "the muster-roll of Brigadier-General Lyon's staff, mustered by himself." Accompanying the muster-rolls was a return showing the strength of each regiment and of the brigade.
Lyon had previously been elected brigadier-general of the brigade the regiments of which I had mustered in, but I had no authority to muster in a brigadier-general and staff.
MAJOR OF THE FIRST MISSOURI
The Missouri United States Reserve Corps, organized in St. Louis about the same time, consisting of five regiments, was mustered into service by General Lyon, under special authority from the War Department. Upon the cordial invitation of the officers of the 1st Regiment, I accepted the place of major of that regiment, mustered myself into service as such, and devoted all the time that could be spared from my mustering duties to instructing the officers in tactics and military administrationa labor which was abundantly repaid by the splendid record soon made by that regiment.
On June 24 I made a full report to the adjutant-general of the discharge of my duties as mustering officer, including three new regiments of three years' volunteers whose muster would be completed in a few days. With this report my connection with that service was terminated. On the following day I was relieved from mustering duty, and at General Lyon's request was ordered to report to him at Boonville, remaining with him as adjutant-general and chief of staff until his death at Wilson's Creek.
The foregoing account gives the organization (the strength was about 14,000) of the volunteer force with which the war in Missouri was begun. To this was added Lyon's company of the 2d Infantry, a detachment of regular recruits, about 180 strong, commanded by Lieutenant Lothrop, and Totten's battery of the 2d United States Artillery. Lyon, who, as described, had been elected brigadier- general of the militia, was on May 17 appointed by the President to the same grade in the United States volunteer forces; and when, on May 30, General Harney was relieved from the command of the Department of the West, General Lyon became the commander of that department.
General Lyon was a man of ability and scholarly attainments, an earnest patriot, keenly alive to the nature and magnitude of the struggle in which the country was about to engage, and eager to take the initiative as soon as he had at his command sufficient force to give promise of success. To his keen foresight the State militia at Camp Jackson, near St. Louis, though a lawful State organization engaged in its usual field exercises, was an incipient rebel army which ought to be crushed in the bud. This feeling was shared by the more earnest Union men of St. Louis, who had the confidence of the President and were in daily consultation with Lyon; while the more prudent or conservative, hoping to avoid actual conflict in the State, or at least in the city, advised forbearance. Subsequent events showed how illusive was the hope of averting hostilities in any of the border States, and how fortunate it was that active measures were adopted at once.
On May 10 General Lyon marched out with the force then organized, surrounded Camp Jackson, and demanded its surrender. The militia commander, Brigadier-General Daniel M. Frost, after protesting in vain against the "wrong and insult" to his State, seeing resistance hopeless, surrendered his command, about 1500 men, with their arms and munitions of war. After the surrender, and while preparations were making to conduct the prisoners to the arsenal, some shots were fired upon our troops from a crowd that had assembled round the campground. The fire was returned by some of the troops, in spite of all efforts of the officers to prevent it, and a number of persons, mostly inoffensive, were killed and wounded. In this affair I was designated by General Lyon to receive the surrender of the commander of Camp Jackson and his troops, and to take charge of the prisoners, conduct them to the arsenal, and the next day to parole them. I extended to the commander and other officers the courtesy of permitting them to retain their swords, and treated the prisoners in such a manner as to soothe somewhat their intensely excited feelings. One of the colonels, not anticipating such courteous treatment, had broken his sword and thrown the pieces upon the ground, rather than surrender it to the hated Yankees.
ADJUTANT-GENERAL ON LYON'S STAFF
The possession of St. Louis, and the supremacy of the national authority therein, being now secured, General Lyon directed his energies toward operations in the interior of the State. On June 13 he moved up the Missouri River with the 1st Missouri Volunteers, Totten's battery of the 2d United States Artillery, one company of the 2d United States Infantry, two companies of regular recruits, and nine companies of the 2d Missouri Volunteers, and attacked the enemy under Sterling Price on the 17th, near Boonville, and gained an easy victory. The loss on our side was two killed and nine wounded; that of the enemy, ten killed and a number of prisoners.
I joined General Lyon at Boonville on June 26, and began duty as his adjutant-general. Preparations were now made as rapidly as possible to push operations into the southwestern part of Missouri. A force consisting of about 1500 infantry and one battery of four guns, under Colonel Franz Sigel, was sent from St. Louis, via Rolla, to Springfield; while a force of regular troops under Major Samuel D. Sturgis, 1st Cavalry, consisting of one company of the 2d Dragoons, four companies of the 1st Cavalry, Du Bois' battery of four guns, three companies of the 1st Infantry, two companies of the 2d Infantry, some regular recruits, the 1st and 2d Kansas Infantry, and one company of Kansas Cavalry Volunteers, was ordered from Fort Leavenworth to join General Lyons's immediate command, en route to Springfield. General Lyon's march was begun on July 3, and Major Sturgis joined him at Clinton, Mo., on the 4th. The command reached Springfield on July 13, and there met Colonel Sigel's brigade, which we learned had pushed as far to the front as Newtonia, but, meeting a superior force of the enemy at Carthage on July 5, had fallen back to Springfield. General Lyons's intention was, upon effecting this junction with Sturgis and Sigel, to push forward and attack the enemy, if possible, while we were yet superior to him in strength. He had ordered supplies to be sent from St. Louis via Rolla, but they remained at Rolla, the railroad terminus, for want of wagon transportation. The troops had to live upon such supplies as could be obtained from the country, and many of them were without shoes. A continuous march of more than two or three days was impossible. General Lyon's force was rapidly diminishing, and would soon almost disappear by the discharge of the three months' men, while that of the enemy was as rapidly increasing and becoming more formidable by additions to its supplies of arms and ammunition. General Lyon made frequent appeals for reinforcements and for provisions, but received little encouragement, and soon became convinced that he must rely upon the resources then at his command. He was unwilling to abandon southwestern Missouri to the enemy without a struggle, even though almost hopeless of success, and determined to bring on a decisive battle, if possible, before his short-term volunteers were discharged. Learning that the enemy was slowly advancing from the southwest by two or three different roads, Lyon moved out, August 1, on the Cassville road, had a skirmish with the enemy's advance-guard at Dug Springs the next day, and the day following (the 3d) again at Curran Post-office. The enemy showed no great force, and offered but slight resistance to our advance. It was evident that a general engagement could not be brought on within the limits of time and distance to which we were confined by the state of our supplies. It was therefore determined to return to Springfield.
General Lyon was greatly depressed by the situation in which he was placed, the failure of expected reinforcements and supplies from St. Louis, and an evidently strong conviction that these failures were due to a plan to sacrifice him to the ambition of another, and by a morbid sensitiveness respecting the disaster to the Union people of southwestern Missouri, (who had relied upon him for protection) which must result from the retreat of his army. Lyon's personal feeling was so strongly enlisted in the Union cause, its friends were so emphatically his personal friends and its enemies his personal enemies, that he could not take the cool, soldierly view of the situation which should control the actions of the commander of a national army. If Lyon could have foreseen how many times the poor people of that section were destined to be overrun by the contending forces before the contest could be finally decided, his extreme solicitude at that moment would have disappeared. Or if he could have risen to an appreciation of the fact that his duty, as the commander in the field of one of the most important of the national armies, was not to protect a few loyal people from the inevitable hardships of war (loss of their cattle, grain, and fences), but to make as sure as possible the defeat of the hostile army, no matter whether today, tomorrow, or next month, the battle of Wilson's Creek would not have been fought.
A MISSING LETTER FROM Fremont TO LYON
On August 9 General Lyon received a letter from General John C. Fremont, then commanding the department, which had been forwarded to him from Rolla by Colonel John B. Wyman. The letter from General Fremont to Colonel Wyman enclosing that to General Lyon appears among the published papers submitted by Fremont to the Committee on the Conduct of the War in the early part of 1862, but the enclosure to Lyon is wanting. The original letter, with the records to which it belonged, must, it is presumed, have been deposited at the headquarters of the department in St. Louis when the Army of the West was disbanded, in the latter part of August, 1861. Neither the original letter nor any copy of it can now (July, 1897) be found. It can only be conjectured what motive caused General Fremont to omit a copy of the letter from the papers submitted to the committee, which were at the time strongly commented upon in Congress, or what caused to be removed from the official files the original, which had again come into his possession.
General Lyon's answer to this letter, given below, the original draft which was prepared by me and is yet in my possession, shows that Fremont's letter to Lyon was dated August 6, and was received on the 9th. I am not able to recall even the substance of the greater part of that letter, but the purport of that part of it which was then of vital importance is still fresh in my memory. That purport was instructions to the effect that if Lyon was not strong enough to maintain his position as far in advance as Springfield, he should fall back toward Rolla until reinforcements should meet him.
It is difficult to see why General Fremont did not produce a copy of those instructions in his statement to the committee. It would have furnished him with the best defense he could possibly have made against the charge of having sacrificed Lyon and his command. But the opinion then seemed so strong and so nearly universal that Lyon's fight at Wilson's Creek was a necessity, and that Fremont ought to have reinforced him before that time at any cost, that perhaps Fremont had not the courage to do what was really best for his own defense, namely, to acknowledge and maintain that he had ordered Lyon to fall back, and that the latter should have obeyed that order.
At my suggestion, General Lyon instructed me to prepare an answer to General Fremont's letter on the morning of August 9. He altered the original draft, in his own hand, as is shown in the copy following; a fair copy of the letter as amended was then made, and he signed it.
"Springfield, Aug. 9, 1861. "General: I have just received your note of the 6th inst. by special messenger.
"I retired to this place, as I have before informed you, reaching here on the 5th. The enemy followed to within ten miles of here. He has taken a strong position, and is recruiting his supplies of horses, mules, and provisions by forays into the surrounding country; his large force of mounted men enabling him to do this without annoyance from me.
"I find my position extremely embarrassing, and am at present unable to determine whether I shall be able to maintain my ground or be forced to retire. I can resist any attack from the front, but if the enemy moves to surround me I must retire. I shall hold my ground as long as possible, [and not] though I may without knowing how far endanger the safety of my entire force with its valuable material, being induced by the important considerations involved to take this step. The enemy yesterday made a show of force about five miles distant, and has doubtless a full purpose of making an attack upon me.
"Very respectfully your obedient servant, "N. Lyon, "Brigadier-General Vols., Commanding. "Major-General J. C. Fremont, "Commanding Western Department, St. Louis, Mo."
The words in my handwriting which were erased ("and not" in brackets) and those substituted by General Lyon, given in italics, clearly express the difference of opinion which then existed between us upon the momentous question which we had then been discussing for several days, namely: What action did the situation require of him as commander of the army?
I was then young and wholly inexperienced in war; but I have never yet seen any reason to doubt the correctness of the views I then urged with even more persistence than my subordinate position would fully justify. And this, I doubt not, must be the judgment of history. The fruitless sacrifice at Wilson's Creek was wholly unnecessary, and, under the circumstances, wholly unjustifiable. Our retreat to Rolla was open and perfectly safe, even if began as late as the night of the 9th. A few days or a few weeks at the most would have made us amply strong to defeat the enemy and drive him out of Missouri, without serious loss to ourselves. Although it is true that we barely failed winning a victory on August 10, that was, and could have been, hoped for only as a mere possibility. Lyon himself despaired of it before the battle was half over, and threw away his own life in desperation. In addition to the depressing effect of his wounds, he must probably have become convinced of the mistake he had made in hazarding an unnecessary battle on so unequal terms, and in opposition to both the advice of his subordinates and the instructions of his superior. But this is only an inference. After Lyon had with the aid of Sigel (as explained hereafter) decided to attack, and arranged the plan, not a word passed between him and me on the question whether an attack should be made, except the question: "Is Sigel willing to undertake this?" and Lyon's answer: "Yes; it is his plan."
We went forward together, slept under the same blanket while the column was halted, from about midnight till the dawn of day, and remained close together nearly all the time until his death. But he seemed greatly depressed, and except to give orders, hardly uttered a word save the few I have mentioned in this narrative.
He was still unwilling to abandon without a desperate struggle the country he had occupied, thought the importance of maintaining his position was not understood by his superior commander, and in his despondency believed, as above stated, that he was the intended victim of a deliberate sacrifice to another's ambition. He determined to fight a battle at whatever risk, and said: "I will gladly give my life for a victory."
BATTLE OF WILSON'S CREEK
The enemy had now concentrated his forces, and was encamped on Wilson's Creek, about ten miles from Springfield. There had been some skirmishing between our reconnoitering parties and those of the enemy during the past few days, and a general advance had been determined on for the night of August 8, but it was postponed on account of the fatigued condition of the troops, who had been employed that day in meeting a reconnaissance of the enemy. The attack was finally made at daylight on the morning of the eventful August 10.
The plan of battle was determined on the morning of the 9th, in a consultation between General Lyon and Colonel Sigel, no other officers being present. General Lyon said, "It is Sigel's plan," yet he seemed to have no hesitation in adopting it, notwithstanding its departure from accepted principles, having great confidence in Sigel's superior military ability and experience. Sigel's brigade, about 1200 strong, was to attack the enemy's right, while Lyon, with the main body, about 4000 strong, was to attack the enemy's left. The two columns were to advance by widely separated roads, and the points of attack were so distant that communication between the two columns was not even thought of. The attack was made, as intended, by both columns at nearly the same instant, and both drove the enemy from his advanced position, Sigel even occupying the enemy's camp. Here he was soon after assailed by a superior force, and driven from the field with the loss of his artillery and 292 men killed, wounded, and missing. He did not appear upon the scene again that day, and the result of his attack was unknown to any one in the other column until after the close of the battle. The main body, under Lyon's immediate command, made no general advance from the position first gained, but maintained that position against several fierce assaults. The enemy manifestly did not make good use of his superior numbers. He attacked us in front several times, but with a force not greatly superior to our own, and was invariably repulsed. Our men fought extremely well for raw troops, maintaining their ground, without any cover whatever, against repeated assaults for six hours, and losing in killed and wounded fully one third of their number. General Lyon received two wounds, one in the leg and one in the head, about the middle of the engagement; he then became more despondent than before, apparently from the effects of his wounds, for there appeared nothing in the state of the battle to dishearten a man of such unbounded courage as he undoubtedly possessed. A portion of our troops had given away in some disorder. Lyon said: "Major, I am afraid the day is lost." I looked at him in surprise, saw the blood trickling down his face, and divining the reason for his despondency, replied: "No, General; let us try it again." He seemed re-encouraged, and we then separated, rallied, and led forward the only troops then not in actiontwo regiments. Lyon was killed at the head of one of these regiments while exposing himself with utter recklessness to the enemy's fire.
DEATH OF LYON
When Lyon and I separated, he to lead the attack in which he fell, I reformed the other regiment and led it into action, giving the command "Charge!" as soon as we came within plain view of the enemy, hoping to try conclusions with the bayonet, with which we were much better supplied than they. That regiment advanced in splendid style until it received the enemy's fire, then the command "Charge!" was forgotten, and the regiment halted and commenced firing. Thus I found myself "between two fires." But the brave boys in my rear could see me, and I don't believe I was in any danger from their muskets, yet I felt less "out of place" when I had passed around the flank of a company and stood in rear of the line. I there witnessed, for the only time in my experience, one of those remarkable instances of a man too brave to think of running away, and yet too much frightened to be able to fight. He was loading his musket and firing in the air with great rapidity. When I took hold of his arm and shook him, calling his attention to what he was doing, he seemed as if aroused from a trance, entirely unconscious of what had happened.
This circumstance recalls the familiar story of two comrades in the ranks, the one apparently unmoved, the other pale and trembling. The first said: "Why, you seem to be scared!" "Yes," replied the other; "if you were half as scared as I am, you would run away!"
A few minutes later I went toward the right to rejoin my chief, and found his lifeless body a few feet in rear of the line, in charge of his faithful orderly, Lehman, who was mourning bitterly and loudly the death of the great soldier whom he adored. At that supremely critical momentfor the fight was then raging with great furymy only thought was the apprehension that the troops might be injuriously affected if they learned of the death of the commander who had so soon won their profound respect and confidence. I chided poor Lehman for his outcry, and ordered that the body be taken quietly to the rear, and that no one be told of the general's death.
Thus fell one of our bravest and truest soldiers and patriots, a man who had no fear of death, but who could not endure defeat. Upon Lyon's fall, Major Sturgis became the senior officer of military education and experience present. Several of the senior volunteer officers had been wounded and carried from the field. Who was the actual senior in rank on the ground was not easy to ascertain in the midst of a fierce engagement. It was no time to make experiments with untried military genius.
I captured a "secesh" horse found running loose,for my own horse had been killed and I had been afoot quite a long time,mounted him, and as soon as the state of the contest would permit, I rode to Major Sturgis, informed him of Lyon's death, and told him he must assume the command, which he accordingly did. It afterward appeared that there was one lieutenant-colonel of volunteers remaining on the field, but neither he nor any one else thought of questioning the propriety of Major Sturgis' taking the command. Soon after Lyon's death the enemy was repulsed, but then seemed to gather up all his remaining strength for a last effort. His final attack was heavier than any of the preceding, but it was more firmly met by our troops and completely repulsed. There is probably no room for doubt that the enemy was beaten if we had but known it; but the battlefield was covered with timber and underbrush, so that nothing could be seen beyond a few hundred yards. Our troops were nearly out of ammunition, and exhausted by a night march and by six hours' hard fighting without breakfast.
It did not seem possible to resist another such attack as the last, and there was no apparent assurance that another would not be made. Hence Major Sturgis decided to withdraw from the field while he was free to do so. The movement was effected without opposition, the wounded were brought off, and the command returned to Springfield in the afternoon. This retreat was undoubtedly an error, and the battle of Wilson's Creek must be classed as a defeat for the Union army. The error was a failure to estimate the effect that must have been produced upon the enemy as well as upon ourselves by so much hard fighting. It was only necessary to hold our ground, trusting to the pluck and endurance of our men, and the victory would have been ours. Had Lyon, who was in the front of the line of battle when wounded as well as when killed, appreciated this fact and acted upon it, instead of throwing his life away, it is safe to say he would have won a brilliant victory.
A QUESTION OF COMMAND DURING THE RETREAT
On the march from the battlefield the main body was joined by the remnant of Sigel's brigade, which had made a complete circuit in rear of the enemy's position. They were without brigade or regimental commanders, and were escorted by a troop of regular cavalry. On our arrival in Springfield it was found that Colonel Sigel and Colonel Salomon, commanding the 5th Missouri Regiment, of Sigel's brigade, had arrived in town some hours before. Major Sturgis then relinquished the command to Colonel Sigel, and it was determined to retreat toward Rolla next morning. Sigel's brigade was placed in advance, and Sturgis' brigade of regulars was assigned the important post of rear-guard. This order of march was continued during three days, and the march was so conducted that while the advance would reach camp at a reasonable hour and be able to get supper and rest, the rear-guard, and even the main body, would be kept in the road until late in the night, and then, unable to find their wagons, be compelled to lie down without food. The clamor for relief from this hardship became so general that Major Sturgis determined to resume the command, justifying this action upon the ground that Colonel Sigel, although mustered into the United States service, had no commission from any competent authority. Colonel Sigel protested against this assumption of Major Sturgis, but the latter was so manifestly sustained by the great majority of the officers of the army that Colonel Sigel quietly submitted.
One of Sigel's officers proposed that the question of title to the command be put to a vote of the assembled officers. Sturgis objected on the ground that the vote might possibly be in favor of Sigel. "Then," said Sturgis, "some of you might refuse to obey my orders, and I should be under the necessity of shooting you."
The march was continued under Sturgis' command, and the column arrived at Rolla on August 19, nine days after the battle. Here the little Army of the West, after its short but eventful career, disappeared in the much larger army which Major-General Fremont was then organizing.( 1)
My knowledge of the operations conducted by General Fremont in Missouri is so slight that I must confine myself to some account of those minor affairs with which I was personally concerned.
My duties as assistant adjutant-general ceased when Major Sturgis resumed command on August 13. I then took command of my regiment, the 1st Missouri, the colonel and lieutenant-colonel being absent, the latter on account of wounds received at Wilson's Creek. Soon after our arrival at Rolla the regiment was ordered to St. Louis, to be converted into an artillery regiment. I was employed in the reorganization and equipment of batteries until September 16, when General Fremont ordered me to visit Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Washington, West Point, and such other places in the East as I might find necessary, to procure guns, harness, etc., to complete the equipment of the regiment.
While in St. Louis after the battle of Wilson's Creek, I learned much in confirmation of the opinion of the character and ability of General Fremont which had very generally been held in the army.
ORIGIN OF THE OPPOSITION OF THE BLAIRS TO Fremont
Immediately after my arrival Colonel Frank P. Blair, Jr., said he wanted me to go with him to see Fremont; so we went the next morning. The headquarters palace was surrounded by a numerous guard, and all ingress by the main entrance appeared to be completely barred. But Blair had some magic word or sign by which we passed the sentinels at the basement door. Ascending two flights of stairs, we found the commanding general with a single secretary or clerk occupying the suite of rooms extending from front to rear of the building. The general received me cordially, but, to my great surprise, no questions were asked, nor any mention made, of the bloody field from which I had just come, where Lyon had been killed, and his army, after a desperate battle, compelled to retreat. I was led at once to a large table on which maps were spread out, from which the general proceeded to explain at length the plans of the great campaign for which he was then preparing. Colonel Blair had, I believe, already been initiated, but I listened attentively for a long time, certainly more than an hour, to the elucidation of the project. In general outline the plan proposed a march of the main Army of the West through southwestern Missouri and northwestern Arkansas to the valley of the Arkansas River, and thence down that river to the Mississippi, thus turning all the Confederate defenses of the Mississippi River down to and below Memphis. As soon as the explanation was ended Colonel Blair and I took our leave, making our exit through the same basement door by which we had entered. We walked down the street for some time in silence. The Blair turned to me and said: "Well, what do you think of him?" I replied, in words rather too strong to repeat in print, to the effect that my opinion as to his wisdom was the same as it had always had been. Blair said: "I have been suspecting that for some time."
It was a severe blow to the whole Blair familythe breaking, by the rude shock of war, of that idol they had so much helped to set up and make the commander of a great army. From that day forward there was no concealment of the opposition of the Blairs to Fremont
I had another occasion at that time to learn something important as to Fremont's character. He had ordered me to convert the 1st Regiment of Missouri Volunteer Infantry into an artillery regiment. I had organized eight batteries and used all the field-guns I could get. There remained in the arsenal a battery of new rifled guns which Fremont had purchased in Europe. I applied to him personally for those guns, telling him I had a well-disciplined company of officers and men ready to man them. He gave me the order without hesitation, but when I went to the arsenal I found an order there countermanding the order he had given me. I returned to headquarters, and easily obtained a renewal of the order to issue the guns to me. Determining to get ahead this time, I took the quickest conveyance to the arsenal, but only to find that the telegraph had got ahead of methe order was again countermanded. The next day I quietly inquired at headquarters about the secret of my repeated disappointment, and learned that some foreign adventurer had obtained permission to raise a company of artillery troops and wanted those new rifled guns. It was true the company had not been raised, but I thought that would probably make no difference, so I never mentioned the matter to the general again. Instead I planned a flank movement which proved far more successful than the direct attack could possibly have been. I explained to General Fremont the great need of field-guns and equipment for his army, and suggested that if ordered East I might by personal efforts obtain all he needed. He at once adopted my suggestion, bade me sit down at a desk in his room and write the necessary order, and he signed it without reading. I readily obtained twenty-four new rifled Parrott guns, and soon had them in service in the Western Department, in lieu of the six guns I had failed to get from the St. Louis Arsenal.
When I had accomplished this duty and returned to St. Louis, where I arrived in the early part of October, 1861, General Fremont had taken the field in the central part of Missouri, with the main body of his army, in which were eight batteries of my regiment. I was instructed to remain in St. Louis and complete the organization and equipment of the regiment upon the arrival of guns and equipment procured in the East.
AFFAIR AT FREDERICKTOWN
It was while waiting for the expected guns that a demand for artillery came from Colonel W. P. Carlin, commanding a brigade at Pilot Knob and threatened with an attack by a Confederate force under Jeff. Thompson. The latter had already made a raid in Carlin's rear, and interfered seriously with the communication to St. Louis. In the nervous condition of the military as well as the public mind at that time, even St. Louis was regarded as in danger.
There was no organized battery in St. Louis, but there were officers and men enough belonging to the different batteries of the 1st Missouri, and recruits, to make a medium-sized company. They had been instructed in the school of the piece, but no more. I hastily put them upon the cars, with four old smooth-bore bronze guns, horses that had never been hitched to a piece, and harness that had not been fitted to the horses. Early next morning we arrived at the Big River where the bridge had been burned, unloaded the battery and horses by the use of platforms extemporized from railroad ties, hitched up, and forded the river. On the other side we converted platform-cars into stock-cars, loaded up, and arrived at Pilot Knob the next morning (October 20). The enemy was understood to be at Fredericktown, about twenty miles distant, and Colonel Carlin determined to march that night and attack him at daylight the next morning. Carlin's command consisted of the 8th Wisconsin Volunteers, 21st Illinois Volunteers, parts of the 33d and 38th Illinois Volunteers, 350 of the 1st Indiana Cavalry, one company of Missouri Cavalry, and six pieces of artillery (including two old iron guns which he had managed to make available in addition to the four from St. Louis). His total force was about 3000 men. The enemy's strength was supposed to be about the same, but it turned out that he had only four old iron guns, so we had the advantage of him in artillery at least.
AFFAIR AT FREDERICKTOWN
The head of our column reached the vicinity of Fredericktown some time before daylight, and the troops lay upon their arms until dawn. Upon entering the town in the morning, no enemy was found, and citizens reported that he had marched south the day before. The troops were ordered to rest in the village, and Colonel Carlin, who was not well, went to bed in the hotel. Some hours later, I think near noon, Colonel J. B. Plummer, with a brigade of infantry and two pieces of artillery from Cape Girardeau, arrived at Fredericktown. I am not aware whether this junction was expected by the respective commanders, or what orders they had received from department headquarters. Soon after Colonel Plummer arrived I was summoned to the presence of the two commanders and requested to decide a question of rank between them. It appeared that Colonel Carlin had the older date as colonel of volunteers, while Colonel Plummer was commanding, by special assignment of General Fremont, a brigade in which at least one of the colonels was senior, not only to him, but also to Colonel Carlin. It was clear enough that according to the Articles of War this senior colonel of the Cape Girardeau brigade should command the combined forces; but that would be in plain disregard of General Fremont's order, the authority for which nobody knew, but in comparison with which the Articles of War or the Army Regulations were at that time regarded as practically of trifling consequence. The question was settled, or rather avoided (for there was no satisfactory settlement of it), by the proposition that Colonel Plummer, who proposed to go in pursuit of the enemy, should take with him, besides his own brigade, such portion of Colonel Carlin's as he (Plummer) thought necessary, Colonel Carlin, who was sick, remaining behind with the remainder. Accordingly, early in the afternoon Plummer's column started in pursuit. It had hardly got well out of the village when the head of column received a volley from the enemy drawn up in line of battle. How long the enemy had been in that position I have never learned; but it is certain that his presence there was not even suspected by our commander, who supposed him to be in full retreat. This mistake, however, did not seem to cost us anything, except perhaps the loss of a few men at the head of the column in the first volley. Colonel Plummer quickly formed his troops; Carlin jumped out of bed and galloped to the front, followed by those who had remained in town. The volunteers, who had not yet been in battle, threw off their knapsacks, blankets, and overcoats, and went into action most gallantly. The engagement was sharp for a few moments, and resulted in considerable loss on both sides; but the enemy soon gave way and retreated in disorder. The pursuit was continued several miles, and until near night, when a recall was ordered, and our troops returned to the town to pick up their trappings and get their supper.
The next morning Colonel Plummer continued his pursuit. I left my extemporized battery, under Captain Manter, with Colonel Carlin, and returned to St. Louis.( 2)
[( 1) My official report and others are published in the War Records, Vol. III.]
[( 2) For the official reports, see the War Records, Vol. III.]
CHAPTER IV Halleck Relieves Fremont of the Command in MissouriA Special State MilitiaBrigadier-General of the Missouri MilitiaA Hostile Committee Sent to WashingtonThe Missouri Quarrel of 1862In Command of the "Army of the Frontier"Absent Through IllnessBattle of Prairie GroveCompelled to be Inactive Transferred to TennesseeIn Command of Thomas's Old Division of the Fourteenth CorpsReappointed Major-GeneralA Hibernian "Striker."
On November 19, 1861, Major-General H. W. Halleck relieved Major- General Fremont of the command of the Department of the Mississippi. On November 21 I was appointed brigadier-general of volunteers, and reported to General Halleck for duty.
In the spring of 1861 a convention of the State of Missouri had assembled at St. Louis to consider the question of secession, and had decided to adhere to the Union. Nevertheless, the governor, Claiborne Fox Jackson, and the executive officers had joined the rebellion and fled from the State. The convention reassembled on July 20, and organized a provisional government. Hamilton R. Gamble was chosen provisional governor, and entrusted with very large powers. He was a sterling patriot, a man of ability and of the highest character in his public and private relations, much too conservative on the questions of States' rights and slavery to suit the "radical" loyalists of that time, but possessing probably in a higher degree than any other citizen of Missouri the confidence of all classes of Union men in the State.
A SPECIAL STATE MILITIA
One of Governor Gamble's first important public acts was to seek and obtain from President Lincoln authority to raise a special force of State militia, to be employed only in defense of the State, but to be paid, equipped, and supplied in all respects by the United States. This force was to be organized in conformity with the militia laws of the State, was to include an adjutant-general, a quartermaster-general, and three aides-de-camp to the governor, one major-general and his staff, and a brigadier-general and staff for each brigade. The number of regiments, aggregate strength and arms of service were not specified.
By the terms of this arrangement the force would remain subject to the governor's command; but at the suggestion of Major-General McClellan, then general-in-chief, to avoid possible conflict of command it was stipulated by the President that the commanding general of the department should be ex-officio major-general of the militia. And it is due to the memory of Governor Gamble to say that although partisan enemies often accused him of interfering with the operations of the militia in the interest of his supposed political views, there never was, while I was in command of the militia, the slightest foundation for such accusation. He never attempted to interfere in any manner with the legitimate exercise of the authority of the commanding general, but was, on the contrary, governed by the commander's views and opinions in the appointment and dismissal of officers and in other matters in which his own independent authority was unquestioned. This authority, given by the President, was subsequently confirmed by act of Congress, by which the force was limited to 10,000 men.
As stated above, I was appointed brigadier-general, to date from November 21, 1861; and on November 27 was assigned by General Halleck to the "command of all the militia of the State," and charged with the duty of raising, organizing, etc., the special force which had been authorized by the President.
The organization of the militia was not completed until about the middle of April, 1862, when the aggregate force was 13,800 men, consisting of fourteen regiments and two battalions of cavalry (mounted riflemen), one regiment of infantry, and one battery of artillery. But the troops were enrolled mainly in the districts where their services were required. As rapidly as companies were organized and equipped, they were put in the field with the United States troops then occupying the State, and thus rapidly acquired, by active service with older troops, the discipline and instruction necessary to efficiency, so that by the time the organization was completed this body of troops was an efficient and valuable force.
BRIGADIER-GENERAL OF THE MISSOURI MILITIA
My official report, made on December 7, 1862,( 1) to the department commander and the general-in-chief, gives a detailed account of the purely military operations of that period. But many matters less purely military which entered largely into the history of that time deserve more than a passing notice.
During the short administration of General Fremont in Missouri, the Union party had split into two factions, "radical" and "conservative," hardly less bitter in their hostility to each other than to the party of secession. The more advanced leaders of the radicals held that secession had abolished the constitution and all laws restraining the powers of the government over the people of the Confederate States, and even over disloyal citizens of States adhering to the Union. They advocated immediate emancipation of the slaves, and confiscation by military authority of all property of "rebels and rebel sympathizers"that is to say, of all persons not of the radical party, for in their partisan heat they disdained to make any distinction between "conservatives," "copperheads," and "rebels." So powerful and persistent was the radical influence that even so able a lawyer as Edwin M. Stanton, then Secretary of War, was constrained to send an order to the commander of the District of Missouri, directing him to execute the act of Congress of July 17, 1862, relative to the confiscation of property of persons engaged in the rebellion, although the law provided for its execution in the usual way by the judicial department of the government, and gave no shadow of authority for military action.
It is only necessary here to remark that the order was not, as it could not be lawfully, obeyed. Action under it was limited to the securing of property subject to confiscation, and liable to be removed or otherwise disposed of, and the collection of evidence for the use of the judicial officers. The following is Secretary Stanton's order sent by telegraph, September 5, 1862:
"It is represented that many disloyal persons residing at St. Louis and elsewhere in your command are subject to the provisions of the Confiscation Act, and that it would be expedient to enforce against them the provisions of that act. You are instructed to enforce that act within your command, and will please send directions for that purpose to your provost-marshal."
In compliance with the Secretary's instructions, I issued an order, on September 11, providing for the action above stated, and no further.
These instructions from the Secretary of War were subsequently repudiated by President Lincoln; but in the meantime they produced serious evil under my successor, who fully enforced them by apparently committing the national administration to the extreme radical doctrine, and making the military commander in Missouri appear to be acting not in harmony with the President's views. So far as I know, this subject does not appear to have been submitted to the President until some time in 1863, after Major-General Curtis, as department commander, had for some months carried out the radical theory of military confiscation, and I, as his successor, had put a stop to it. Then an appeal was made to the President, and he, in his celebrated letter of instructions of October 1, 1863, directed the military to have nothing to do with the matter.
The State administration of Missouri, under its conservative governor, was of course sternly opposed to this radical policy, including the forced liberation of slaves, for which there was at that time no warrant of law or executive authority. A simple sense of duty compelled the military commander to act in these matters more in harmony with the State government than with the radical party, and in radical eyes he thus became identified with their enemies, the conservatives.
This gave rise on August 4, 1862, to a meeting of prominent citizens of St. Louis, who adopted resolutions, of the most important of which the following was reported to be a true copy:
"Resolved, That a committee of gentlemen be requested to go to Washington City to urge upon the President the appointment of a commander of the military forces of this State who will, under instructions, act with vigor in suppressing the guerillas of this State, and with authority to enlist the militia of the State into the service of the United States."
A HOSTILE COMMITTEE SENT TO WASHINGTON
The chair appointed, as the committee to go to Washington, Henry T. Blow, John C. Vogle, I. H. Sturgeon, and Thomas O'Reilley, and authorized Mr. Blow to add to this committee any other "true Union man" who would go. Who, if any, besides Messrs. Blow, Vogle, and O'Reilley actually composed the committee, I was never informed. On August 10, Halleck, then general-in-chief, telegraphed me from Washington: "There is a deputation here from Colonel Blair and others asking for your removal on account of inefficiency."
Colonel Blair happened into my office a few minutes after the receipt of the dispatch on the 11th, and I handed it to him. He at once said in substance, and with feeling: "That is not true. No one is authorized to ask in my name for your removal"; and he sent a dispatch to that effect to General Halleck.
The next day (August 12) dispatches were exchanged between General Halleck and Colonel Blair, of which the latter furnished me a copy, enclosed with the following note from himself:
"St. Louis, Mo., August 13th, '62. "Brig.-Gen'l Schofield.
"Dear Schofield: I enclose you a copy of a dispatch (marked 'A') received yesterday from Major-General Halleck, and my answer thereto, marked 'B'.
"Yours, "Frank P. Blair, Jr."
"To Hon. F. P. Blair,
"August 12, 1862. "(By telegraph from War Dep't.) "Washington, 12:50 P.M. "The committee from St. LouisHenry T. Blow, John C. Vogle, and Thomas O'Reilleytold me, in presence of the President, that they were authorized by you to ask for Gen. Schofield's removal for inefficiency. The Postmaster-General has today sent me a letter from Mr. , asking that you be put in Gen. Schofield's place. There has been no action in this or on the papers presented by the above-named committee.
"H. W. Halleck, "General-in-chief."
"St. Louis, Mo., August 12th, 1862. "Major-General Halleck, "General-in-chief, Washington City, D. C.:
"I dispatched to you yesterday, and wrote the Postmaster-General last week. Let the letter be submitted to you. Nobody is authorized to ask in my name for Gen'l Schofield's removal. I think the State military organization should be abandoned as soon as practicable, and a military commander, in this State, authorized to act without respect to Gov. Gamble. I do not want the place, but want the commander in the State to be instructed to act without any regard to the State authorities.
"Frank P. Blair, Jr."
The foregoing gives, so far as I know it, the essence of the Missouri quarrel of 1862. I have never had the curiosity to attempt to ascertain how far the meeting of August 4 was hostile to me personally.
During the time, subsequent to General Halleck's departure for Washington, July 23, 1862, that the Department of the Mississippi was left without any immediate commander, there appears to have been a contest in Washington between the military and the political influence, relative to the disposition to be made of that important command. The following from General Halleck to me, dated September 9, 1862, indicates the situation at that time:
"My dear Gen'l:
"There has been a strong political pressure of outsiders to get certain parties put in command of new Dep'ts to be made out of the old Dep't of the Miss. The presence of the enemy and the danger of the capital have for the moment suspended these political intrigues, or rather prevented the accomplishment of their objects. If any one of our Western Gen'ls would do something creditable and brilliant in the present crisis, it would open the way to a new organization such as it should be.
"From the position of St. Louis as the source of supplies, Missouri ought not to be separated from Arkansas and western Tennessee. What will be done in the matter I do not know.
"Yours truly, "H. W. Halleck."
None of "our Western generals" had then done anything very "creditable and brilliant." Even Grant was the object of grave charges and bitter attacks. Powerful influences were at work to supersede him in command of the army in west Tennessee. Had there been any available general at that time capable of commanding public confidence, the military idea would doubtless have prevailed, but in the absence of such a leader the politicians triumphed in part.
IN COMMAND OF THE "ARMY OF THE FRONTIER"
The old department, called Department of the Mississippi, was divided, and Major-General Samuel R. Curtis was assigned to command the new Department of the Missouri, composed of the territory west of the Mississippi River. For some months the radicals had it all their own way, and military confiscation was carried on without hindrance.
When this change occurred I was in the field in immediate command of the forces which I had assembled there for aggressive operations, and which General Curtis named the "Army of the Frontier." My official report of December 7, 1862, gave a full account of the operations of that army up to November 20, when sickness compelled me to relinquish the command.
As will be seen from that report and from my correspondence with General Curtis at that time, it was then well known that the enemy was concentrating in the Arkansas valley all the troops he could raise, and making preparations to return across the Boston Mountains and "dispute with us the possession of northwestern Arkansas and southwestern Missouri"; and I had placed my troops where they could live to a great extent on the country, and quickly concentrate to meet the enemy when he should advance. But General Curtis ordered me to move north and east with two divisions, leaving Blunt with one division to occupy that country. It was on this return march that I was overtaken by a severe attack of bilious fever.
As my official report of December 7, 1862, is published in Volume XIII of the War Records, I make no reference here to the operations covered by it. That able and impartial historian, the Comte de Paris, published a very accurate history of the operations in Missouri in the summer of 1862, in which he paid me the compliment, which a soldier values so highly, of saying that I was free from partisan passion.
It was during my absence through illness that Hindman made his expected advance. Blunt's division was encamped at Cane Hill, and Hindman crossed the mountains at Lee's Creek, aiming to reach Blunt's rear, cut off his retreat, and overwhelm him.
BATTLE OF PRAIRIE GROVE
Fortunately, Blunt had received information in advance of the intended movement, and had called the two divisions from Missouri to his support. These two divisions, under General Herron, were encamped at Wilson's Creek, a distance of about 116 miles. On the morning of December 3 they began their march to join General Blunt. They had reached a point about six miles south of Fayetteville, when, unexpectedly to both, Herron's and Hindman's heads of column met at Prairie Grove about seven o'clock in the morning of December 7, and the engagement commenced immediately. Blunt, hearing the sound of battle, moved rapidly toward Prairie Grove and attacked the enemy's left. The battle lasted all day, with heavy losses on both sides, and without any decided advantage to either side. At dark the enemy still held his position, but in the morning was found to be in full retreat across the mountains. A portion of our troops occupied the battlefield of Prairie Grove when I resumed command on December 29, and the remainder were making a raid to the Arkansas River, where they destroyed some property, and found that Hindman had retreated toward Little Rock. It was evident that the campaign in that part of the country for that season was ended. The question was "What next?" I took it for granted that the large force under my commandnearly 16,000 menwas not to remain idle while Grant or some other commander was trying to open the Mississippi River; and I was confirmed in this assumption by General Curtis' previous order to march eastward with two divisions, which order, though premature when given, might now be renewed without danger. At once, therefore, I set to work to organize a suitable force, including the Indian regiments, to hold the country we had gained, and three good divisions to prosecute such operations as might be determined on, and at once commenced the march north and east toward the theater of future active operations.
Although I had at first esteemed General Blunt much more highly than he deserved, and had given him most liberal commendation in my official report for all he had done, I became satisfied that he was unfit in any respect for the command of a division of troops against a disciplined enemy. As was my plain duty, I suggested confidentially to General Curtis that the command of a division in the field was not General Blunt's true place, and that he be assigned to the District of Kansas, where I permitted him to go, at his own request, to look after his personal interests. General Curtis rebuked me for making such a suggestion, and betrayed my confidence by giving my dispatch to James H. Lane, senator from Kansas, and others of Blunt's political friends, thus putting me before the President and the United States Senate in the light of unjust hostility to gallant officers who had just won a great victory over the enemy at Prairie Grove. The result of this, and of radical influence in general, was that my nomination as major-general of volunteers, then pending in the Senate, was not confirmed, while both Blunt and Herron were nominated and confirmed as major- generals!
Such as Lane and Blunt were the men who so long seemed to control the conduct of military affairs in the West, and whom I found much more formidable enemies than the hostile army in my front. Herron I esteemed a very different man from Blunt, and thought he would, with experience, make a good division commander. But circumstances occurred soon after which shook my confidence in his character as well as in that of General Curtis. Herron and some of his staff- officers were subpoenaed, through department headquarters, as material witnesses for the defense in the case of an officer on trial before a military commission. They failed to appear. Soon after, when Herron was assigned to command the Army of the Frontier, he "dissolved" the commission "for the present," adding: "The court will be reassembled by order from these headquarters in the field when witnesses not at present to be had can be brought forward." Upon learning this, after I assumed command of the department I ordered Herron to report for duty to General Grant before Vicksburg. In the meantime Herron wrote to the War Department protesting against serving under me as department commander, and got a sharp rebuke from the President through the Secretary of War. This brief explanation is all that seems necessary to show the connection between the several events as they appear in the official records.
COMPELLED TO BE INACTIVE
After the battle of Prairie Grove, being then in St. Louis, I asked General Curtis to let me go down the Mississippi and join the expedition against Vicksburg, saying that as Blunt and Herron had won a battle in my absence, I did not wish to resume command over them. But Curtis would not consent to this; he said he wanted me to command the Army of the Frontier. He thus invited the confidence which he afterward betrayed, and for which he rebuked me. I felt outraged by this treatment, and thereafter did not feel or show toward General Curtis the respect or subordination which ought to characterize the relations of an officer toward his commander. This feeling was intensified by his conduct in the Herron affair, and by the determination gradually manifested not to permit me or my command to do anything. He for a long time kept up a pretense of wanting me to move east or west, or south, or somewhere, but negated all my efforts actually to move. The situation seemed to me really unendurable: I was compelled to lie at Springfield all the latter part of winter, with a well-appointed army corps eager for active service, hundreds of miles from any hostile force, and where we were compelled to haul our own supplies, in wagons, over the worst of roads, 120 miles from the railroad terminus at Rolla. I could not get permission even to move nearer the railroad, much less toward the line of which the next advance must be made; and this while the whole country was looking with intense anxiety for the movement that was to open the Mississippi to the Gulf, and the government was straining every nerve to make that movement successful. Hence I wrote to General Halleck the letters of January 31, 1863, and February 3. These appear to have called forth some correspondence between Generals Halleck and Curtis, of which General Halleck's letter of February 18 was the only part that came into my possession.( 2) This account was written several years before the War Records were published.
In my letter of January 31, I said:
"Pardon me for suggesting that the forces under command of Davidson, Warren, and myself might be made available in the opening of the Mississippi, should that result not be accomplished quickly. . . ."
The immediate result of this correspondence was that some troops were sent down the river, but none of my command, while two divisions of the latter were ordered toward the east. This march was in progress when Congress adjourned. The Senate not having confirmed by appointment as major-general, the time of my temporary humiliation arrived. But I had not relied wholly in vain upon General Halleck's personal knowledge of my character. He had not been able fully to sustain me against selfish intrigue in Kansas, Missouri, and Washington; but he could and did promptly respond to my request, and ordered me to Tennessee, where I could be associated with soldiers who were capable of appreciating soldierly qualities. One of the happiest days of my life was when I reported to Rosecrans and Thomas at Murfreesboro, received their cordial welcome, and was assigned to the command of Thomas's own old division of the Fourteenth Corps. One of the most agreeable parts of my whole military service was the thirty days in command of that division at Triune, and some of my strongest and most valued army attachments were formed there.
But that happy period of soldier life was brief. Early in May President Lincoln reappointed me major-general, with original date, November 29, 1862, and ordered me back to the old scene of unsoldierly strife and turmoil in Missouri and Kansas.
A HIBERNIAN "STRIKER"
In 1861 and 1862 I had a Hibernian "striker" who had been a soldier of the old mounted rifles, and had been discharged on account of a wound received in an Indian fight, but was yet well able to perform the duties of an officer's servant in the field. His care of his master's property, and sometimes of the master himself, was very remarkable. In the midst of the battle of Wilson's Creek the horse I was riding was killed, and I called in vain for my spare horse. From the best information obtained I concluded that both the horse and my faithful orderly had been killed, and I sincerely mourned my loss. But after the fight was over I found my man quietly riding the spare horse along with the troops, as if nothing unusual had happened. When I upbraided him for his conduct and demanded to know where he had been all that time, he replied: "Ah, Major, when I saw the one horse killed I thought I'd better take the other to a place of safety!"
Where my efficient assistant obtained his supplies I never knew, but he would fill without delay any requisition I might make, from a shoe-string to a buffalo-robe. One day in 1862 I found in my camp trunk several pairs of shoulder-straps belonging to the grades of captain, major, and lieutenant-colonel. As I was then a brigadier- general, I inquired of my man why he kept those badges of inferior grades. He replied: "Ah, General, nobody can tell what may happen to you." When, only a few months later, after having been promoted to the rank of major-general I was again reduced to that of brigadier- general, I remembered the forethought of my Irish orderly.
[( 1) See War Records, Vol. XIII, p. 7.]
[( 2) The whole correspondence may be found in the War Records, Vol. XXII, part ii.]
CHAPTER V In Command of the Department of the MissouriTroops Sent to General GrantSatisfaction of the PresidentConditions on which Governor Gamble would Continue in OfficeAnti-Slavery ViewsLincoln on Emancipation in MissouriTrouble Following the Lawrence Massacre A Visit to Kansas, and the Party Quarrel ThereMutiny in the State MilitiaRepressive MeasuresA Revolutionary Plot.
On May 24, 1863, I relieved General Curtis in command of the Department of the Missouri. In his instructions of May 22, General Halleck said:
"You owe your appointment entirely to the choice of the President himself. I have not, directly or indirectly, interfered in the matter. But I fully concur in the choice, and will give you all possible support and assistance in the performance of the arduous duties imposed upon you."
IN COMMAND OF THE DEPARTMENT OF THE MISSOURI
A few days later I received the following significant letter from the President:
"Executive Mansion, Washington, May 27, 1863. "General J. M. Schofield:
"My dear Sir: Having relieved General Curtis and assigned you to the command of the Department of the Missouri, I think it may be of some advantage for me to state to you why I did it.
"I did not relieve General Curtis because of any full conviction that he had done wrong by commission or omission. I did it because of a conviction in my mind that the Union men of Missouri, constituting, when united, a vast majority of the whole people, have entered into a pestilent factional quarrel among themselves General Curtis, perhaps not of choice, being the head of one faction, and Governor Gamble that of the other. After months of labor to reconcile the difficulty, it seemed to grow worse and worse, until I felt it my duty to break it up somehow; and as I could not remove Governor Gamble, I had to remove General Curtis.
"Now that you are in the position, I wish you to undo nothing merely because General Curtis or Governor Gamble did it, but to exercise your own judgment and do right for the public interest.
"Let your military measures be strong enough to repel the invader and keep the peace, and not so strong as to unnecessarily harass and persecute the people. It is a difficult role, and so much greater will be the honor if you perform it well. If both factions, or neither, shall abuse you, you will probably be about right. Beware of being assailed by one and praised by the other.
"Yours truly, "A. Lincoln."
In acknowledging the President's letter on June 1, I concluded by saying:
"I have strong hopes that the Missouri State Convention, at its approaching session, will adopt such measures for the speedy emancipation of slaves as will secure the acquiescence of the large majority of Union men, though perhaps not quite satisfactory to either extreme. If this hope be realized, one of my most embarrassing difficulties will be removed, or at least greatly diminished."
The military problem in that department, as understood by me and by my superiors in Washington, was at that time a comparatively simple one, though my predecessor in command of the department entertained different views. With my views of the military situation, whether confined to my own department or extended to embrace the entire country, there was but one course to pursue, namely, to send all available forces to assist in the capture of Vicksburg and the opening of the Mississippi to the gulf. After that I could easily operate from points on the Mississippi as a base, capture Little Rock and the line of the Arkansas, and then make that river the base of future operations.
Hence, in response to a request from General Halleck, I at once sent to General Grant and other commanders at the front all the troops I could possibly spare, saying at the same time that this would leave me very weak, but that I was "willing to risk it in view of the vast importance of Grant's success."
Thus I began my military operations by stripping the department of troops to the lowest possible defensive limit. But this was what I had so earnestly urged before, when in a subordinate position; and I was glad to do it when the responsibility rested upon me. My loss of troops to Grant was returned with interest as soon as practicable after Vicksburg had fallen, and I was then able to advance a large force, under General Steele, for the capture of Little Rock, resulting in holding the entire line of the Arkansas River from that time forward.
At the time I had met General Grant but once, and then only for a moment, and I have always assumed that the timely aid sent him at Vicksburg was the foundation for the kind and generous friendship and confidence which he ever afterward manifested toward me, and which, with the like manifestations of approval from President Lincoln, are to me the most cherished recollections of my official career.
TROOPS SENT TO GENERAL GRANT
The appreciation of my action in Washington was expressed by General Halleck in a letter dated July 7, 1863, in which he said: "The promptness with which you sent troops to General Grant gave great satisfaction here"; and by the President himself, in a letter to the "Hon. Charles D. Drake and others, committee," dated October 5, 1863, in which he wrote: "Few things have been so grateful to my anxious feelings as when, in June last, the local force in Missouri aided General Schofield to so promptly send a large general force to the relief of General Grant, then investing Vicksburg and menaced from without by General Johnston."
It would have been impossible for me to send away more than a small part of those troops if I had not been able to replace them by Missouri militia. This General Curtis had probably been unable to do because of the unfortunate antagonism between him and the State government; and perhaps this much ought to be said in explanation of his apparently selfish policy of retaining so many idle troops in Missouri. For my part, I could see neither necessity nor excuse for quarreling with the governor of Missouri, and thus depriving myself and the nation of his legitimate aid. Governor Gamble was perhaps "behind the times" in his views on the slavery question, although decidedly in favor of gradual emancipation; and he was utterly intolerant of those radical schemes for accomplishing ends by lawless means, then so loudly advocated. I thought at the time a more radical policy might possibly tend to harmonize the Union factions and allay the excitement, and frequently told Governor Gamble that it would be necessary to adopt a policy on the Negro question more in harmony with the views of the administration and of the Northern people. To this the governor assented, and seemed desirous of going as far in that direction as he could carry the Union people of Missouri with him. From his seat in the State Convention at Jefferson City he made a speech advocating emancipation in a much shorter period than the convention could finally be prevailed upon to adopt, while I was using my personal influence with members to the same end.
But it soon became evident that nothing would satisfy the radical leaders short of the overthrow of the existing State government; that a reconciliation of the quarrel between the "pestilent factions" ( 1) in Missouri, so much desired by Mr. Lincoln, was exactly what the radicals did not want and would not have. Satisfied of this and disgusted with the abuse heaped upon him by men who owed him warm and honest support, Governor Gamble tendered his resignation to the convention, then in session. His resignation was not accepted, and by a "majority of the convention and multitudes of private citizens" he was requested to withdraw it. In this request I united, for I could see no possibility of improvement under any governor that the conventiona very conservative bodymight elect, while the result might be confusion worse confounded.
CONDITIONS OF GOVERNOR GAMBLE'S CONTINUING
The governor submitted to me the following letter including conditions upon which he would consent to continue in office:
"General: For the purpose of restoring order and law and maintaining the authority of the Federal and State governments in the State of Missouri, it is necessary that we have an understanding as to the most important measures to be adopted.
"I have tendered my resignation as governor, and have been requested to withdraw it on the ground that it is necessary to the peace and quiet of the State that I remain in office. In this request you have united with a majority of the convention and multitudes of private citizens. I am willing to accede to the request, and, if an ordinance of emancipation is passed, to remain in office, if on the part of the government I can be sure of its co-operation in my efforts to preserve the peace and remove all causes of dissension and dissatisfaction from among the people.
"I think it necessary that the following measures be adopted by you as the commanding general of the department:
"First. That it be distinctly made known that the provisional government of the State is the government recognized by the government of the United States, and that any attempt, in any way, to interfere by violence, or by tumultuous assemblages, or in any other unlawful manner, will be suppressed by the power of the government of the United States.
"Second. That the functions of civil government of the State will be supported and upheld, and that the process of the State in civil and criminal matters may be executed in all posts and encampments of the troops of the United States, and that resistance thereto by military persons shall be punished.
"Third. That no recruiting of Negroes within this State shall be recognized, unless the persons recruiting them shall be able to produce the written permission of the governor of the State; and that any person attempting to recruit without such permission, if he be in the military service shall be immediately prohibited from all such conduct, and if in civil life shall be proceeded against by the State authorities, without any interference by the military.
"Fourth. That no countenance or encouragement shall be given to provost-marshals, or others in military authority, in any proceedings against the property of citizens, slaves included, upon the ground of its being liable to confiscation; but the confiscation shall be executed by the civil officers of the United States, as is directed by the authorities at Washington.
"When we arrive at a perfect understanding between ourselves, I am willing to put myself in the same boat with you, and we will sink or swim together. If you should be censured or removed from this command because of what is done to carry these propositions into effect, I will abandon office immediately . . . "
To this I replied verbally that I could not enter into any agreement as to the policy to be pursued by me as commander of the department; that I must hold myself free to pursue such course as circumstances should from time to time indicate, or such as might be ordered by the President; my policy would be indicated from time to time by my general orders; in some respects it would doubtless conflict with that submitted by his Excellency. Nevertheless the governor finally consented to withdraw his resignation.
The convention at length passed an ordinance providing for the gradual extinction of slavery in the State, and adjourned. The feeling of bitterness between the opposing factions rather increased than diminished during its session.
The following letter to my friend Mr. Williams, which was published in the New York and St. Louis papers with my consent, made sufficiently clear the views I then entertained upon the slavery question, and left no reasonable ground for any emancipationist to quarrel with me on that subject, however much he may have been dissatisfied with the action of the convention,just as my letter of June 1 to the President left him no room for doubtif, indeed, he had entertained any beforeupon the question then deemed so important:
"Headquarters, Dep't of the Missouri, "St. Louis, June 1, 1863. "J. E. Williams, Esq. "Pres't Metropolitan Bank, New York.
"My dear Sir: Professor Bartlett has informed me of the interest you have manifested in my promotion and connection with this department, and, above all, that you have done me the kindness to assert my soundness on the important question of the day.
"You are right in saying that I was an anti-slavery man, though not an abolitionist, before the war. These terms have greatly enlarged their relative meaning since the rebellion broke out. I regard universal emancipation as one of the necessary consequences of the rebellion, or rather as one of the means absolutely necessary to a complete restoration of the Unionand this because slavery was the great cause of the rebellion, and the only obstacle in the way of a perfect union. The perception of these important truths is spreading with almost astounding rapidity in this State. I have great hope that the State Convention, which meets on the 15th instant, will adopt some measure for the speedy emancipation of slaves. If so, our difficulties will be substantially at an end.
"When the popular mind seizes a great principle and resolves to carry it into execution, it becomes impatient of the restraints imposed by existing laws, and in its haste to break down the barriers which stand in the way of its darling object, becomes regardless of all law, and anarchy is the result. This is our difficulty here. The people will have freedom for the slave. No law of the United States nor of Missouri, nor yet any order of the President, meets the case.
"The loyal slave-owner demands that his rights under the law be protected. Let us have an ordinance of the State Convention which will satisfy the demands of the popular mind, and no loyal man will murmur.
"You can imagine with what deep interest I look forward to the legal settlement of this question, so deeply involving the success of the great cause for the time being entrusted to my care.
"In Arkansas and other States to which the President's proclamation applies, so far as I have observed, no such difficulty exists. The loyal people accept the decree without complaint, perfectly willing to give up all they have for the Union. So much the greater honor is due them for this cheerful sacrifice because they do not and cannot be expected to appreciate and understand the principle of freedom as it is impressed upon the loyal heart of the North.
"Please accept my thanks for your kindness, and believe me,
"Yours very truly," (Signed) "J. M. Schofield."
On June 20, I telegraphed to Mr. Lincoln:
"The action of the Missouri State Convention upon the question of emancipation will depend very much upon whether they can be assured that their action will be sustained by the General Government and the people protected in their slave property during the short time that slavery is permitted to exist. Am I authorized in any manner, directly or indirectly, to pledge such support and protection?
"The question is of such vital importance to the peace of Missouri that I deem it my duty to lay it before your Excellency."
LINCOLN ON EMANCIPATION IN MISSOURI
The following reply from the President fairly illustrates the wisdom and justice of his views, and shows how perfectly I was in accord with him in my desire to do what was wisest and best for the peace of Missouri:
"Executive Mansion, Washington, June 22, 1863. "Genl. John M. Schofield.
"My dear Sir: Your dispatch, asking in substance whether, in case Missouri shall adopt gradual emancipation, the General Government will protect slave-owners in that species of property during the short time it shall be permitted by the State to exist within it, has been received.
"Desirous as I am that emancipation shall be adopted by Missouri, and believing as I do that gradual can be made better than immediate, for both black and white, except when military necessity changes the case, my impulse is to say that such protection would be given. I cannot know exactly what shape an act of emancipation may take. If the period from the initiation to the final end should be comparatively short, and the act should prevent persons being sold during that period into more lasting slavery, the whole world would be easier. I do not wish to pledge the General Government to the affirmative support of even temporary slavery, beyond what can be fairly claimed under the Constitution. I suppose, however, this is not desired; but that it is desired for the military force of the United States, while in Missouri, not to be used in subverting the temporarily reserved legal rights in slaves during the progress of emancipation. This I would desire also. I have very earnestly urged the slave States to adopt emancipation; and it ought to be, and is, an object with me not to overthrow or thwart what any of them may in good faith do to that end. You are therefore authorized to act in the spirit of this letter, in conjunction with what may appear to be the military necessities of your department.
"Although this letter will become public at some time, it is not intended to be made so now.
"Yours truly, "A. Lincoln."
My impression is that the nature of this quarrel in Missouri was not fully understood at the time in Washington, as General Halleck wrote me that neither of the factions was regarded as really friendly to the President. But my belief is that they were then, as they subsequently proved to be, divided on the Presidential question as well as in State politics; that the conservative were sincere in their friendship and support of Mr. Lincoln, and desired his renomination, while the radicals were intriguing for Mr. Chase or some other more radical man.
This struggle between extreme radicalism and conservatism among the Union men of Missouri was long and bitter, but I have nothing to do with its history beyond the period of my command in that department. It resulted, as is now well known, in the triumph of radicalism in the Republican party, and the consequent final loss of power by that party in the State. Such extremes could not fail to produce a popular revulsion, and it required no great foresight to predict the final result.
TROUBLE FOLLOWING THE LAWRENCE MASSACRE
The factions in Missouri gave the military commander trouble enough in 1863; but to that was added the similar and hardly less troublesome party quarrel in Kansas. I cannot give a more accurate account of the complicated situation there than by quoting from my correspondence and journal of that period. On August 28 I wrote to President Lincoln as follows:
"In reply to your telegram of the 27th, transmitting copy of one received from two influential citizens of Kansas, I beg leave to state some of the facts connected with the horrible massacre at Lawrence, and also relative to the assault made upon me by a certain class of influential politicians.
"Since the capture of Vicksburg, a considerable portion of the rebel army in the Mississippi valley has disbanded, and large numbers of men have come back to Missouri, many of them doubtless in hope of being permitted to remain at their former homes in peace, while some have come under instructions to carry on a guerilla warfare, and others, men of the worst character, become marauders on their own account, caring nothing for the Union, nor for the rebellion, except as the latter affords them a cloak for their brigandage.
"Under instructions from the rebel authorities, as I am informed and believe, considerable bands, called "Border Guards," were organized in the counties of Missouri bordering upon Kansas, for the ostensible purpose of protecting those counties from inroads from Kansas, and preventing the slaves of rebels from escaping from Missouri into Kansas. These bands were unquestionably encouraged, fed, and harbored by a very considerable portion of the people of those border counties. Many of those people were in fact the families of these "bushwhackers," who are brigands of the worst type.
"Upon the representation of General Ewing and others familiar with the facts, I became satisfied there could be no cure for this evil short of the removal from those counties of all slaves entitled to their freedom, and of the families of all men known to belong to these bands, and others who were known to sympathize with them. Accordingly I directed General Ewing to adopt and carry out the policy he had indicated, warning him, however, of the retaliation which might be attempted, and that he must be fully prepared to prevent it before commencing such severe measures.
"Almost immediately after it became known that such policy had been adopted, Quantrill secretly assembled from several of the border counties of Missouri about 300 of his men. They met at a preconcerted place of rendezvous near the Kansas line, at about sunset, and immediately marched for Lawrence, which place they reached at daylight the next morning. They sacked and burned the town and murdered the citizens in the most barbarous manner.
"It is easy to see that any unguarded town in a country where such a number of outlaws can be assembled is liable to a similar fate, if the villains are willing to risk the retribution which must follow. In this case 100 of them have already been slain, and the remainder are hotly pursued in all directions. If there was any fault on the part of General Ewing, it appears to have been in not guarding Lawrence. But of this it was not my purpose to speak. General Ewing and the governor of Kansas have asked for a court of inquiry, and I have sent to the War Department a request that one may be appointed, and I do not wish to anticipate the result of a full investigation. . . .
"I am officially informed that a large meeting has been held at Leavenworth, in which a resolution was adopted to the effect that the people would assemble at a certain place on the border, on September 8, for the purpose of entering Missouri to search for their stolen property. Efforts have been made by the mayor of Leavenworth to get possession of the ferry at that place, for the purpose of crossing armed parties of citizens into north Missouri.
"I have strong reasons for believing that the authors of the telegram to you are among those who introduced and obtained the adoption of the Leavenworth resolution, and who are endeavoring to organize a force for the purpose of general retaliation upon Missouri. Those who so deplore my 'imbecility' and 'incapacity' are the very men who are endeavoring to bring about a collision between the people of Kansas and the troops under General Ewing's command.
"I have not the 'capacity' to see the wisdom or justice of permitting an irresponsible mob to enter Missouri for the purpose of retaliation, even for so grievous a wrong as that which Lawrence has suffered.
"I have increased the force upon the border as far as possible, and no effort has been, or will be, spared to punish the invaders of Kansas, and to prevent such acts in the future. The force there has been all the time far larger than in any other portion of my department, except on the advanced line in Arkansas and the Indian Territory. . . .
"P. S. Since writing the above I have received the 'Daily Times' newspaper, published at Leavenworth, containing an account of the meeting referred to, and Senator Lane's speech, which I have the honor to enclose herewith for your information."
In a letter of that same date (August 28), Governor Carney informed me, among other things, that "after the fearful disaster at Lawrence and on the return of our troops who had pursued Quantrill and his murderous band, General Ewing and General James H. Lane met at Morristown and spent the night together. The latter returned to Lawrence and called a mass meeting, at which he defended General Ewing and made an intensely bitter speech against you. Yesterday he arrived in this city, and soon after caused to be issued a placard stating he would address the citizens on war matters. There are two parties hereone for and the other against Ewing. That against him is headed by Mr. Wilder, member of Congress, and by Mr. Anthony, mayor of this city. This division put General Lane in this dilemma here, that he could not defend Ewing as he had done in Lawrence, and hence he devoted his whole attention to you. The more violent of the men opposing you are for independent raids into Missouri. How far General Lane encouraged this class you must judge from the facts I have stated and from the enclosed speech. To give tone and distinction to the meeting, General Lane offered a resolution calling upon the President to relieve you, affirming that there could be no safety in Kansas, no help for Kansas, unless this was done. . . . You will judge from the facts stated, from the course pursued by General Lane at Lawrence, and from his speech here, how far General Ewing is your friend or fit to command this district."
On August 31, I started for the scene of the agitation. The following extracts from my journal reveal the situation:
"Sept. 2.Reached Leavenworth at five o'clock A. M. Stopped at the Planters' Hotel; was called upon by Governor Carney and several of his political friends. Discussed at much length the condition of affairs in the District of the Border. Carney is an aspirant for the United States Senate. Intends to run against Lane. Desires to kill off Ewing, considering him a formidable rival, or at least a supporter of Lane. Ewing has determined not to be a candidate at the next election, and will not commit himself in support of either Carney or Lane. Desires to keep on good terms with Lane because he thinks Lane will probably be re-elected. Carney understands Ewing as supporting Lane, or at least of having withdrawn in Lane's favor. In fact, Ewing refuses an alliance with Carney. Carney therefore desires to kill Ewing. Lane finds it to his interest to sustain Ewing so long as Schofield commands the department. Ewing is a better man for Lane than any other Schofield would be likely to give him. Lane's desire is to remove Schofield and get in his place a general who would place Kansas under command of one of Lane's tools, or a man who could be made one by Lane; therefore Lane defends Ewing and concentrates his attack upon Schofield. . . .
"Asked and obtained a long private interview with Lane. Went over the whole ground of his hostility to Genl. S. during the past year. Showed him the injustice he had done Genl. S., and how foolish and unprofitable to himself his hostility had been. He stated with apparent candor that he had bent the whole energies of his soul to the destruction of Genl. S.; had never labored harder to accomplish any object in his life. Said he had been evidently mistaken in the character and principles of Genl. S., and that no man was more ready than he to atone for a fault. We then approached the subject of the invasion of Missouri by the people of Kansas. Genl. Lane still adheres to his design of collecting the people at Paola and leading them on an expedition "for the purpose of searching for their stolen property." He professes his ability to control the people; that he would be answerable, and offered to pledge himself to Genl. S. and the government that they should do nothing beyond that which he declares as the object of the expedition. . . .
"Lane was informed that Genl. S. would go to Kansas City the next day, and Lane replied that he intended to go also. It was agreed that both should go the next morning and converse with Genl. Ewing on the subject. The same evening Genl. Lane made a public speech in Leavenworth, in which he urged the people to meet at Paola, and assured them that the department and district commanders would not interfere with the proposed expedition; on the contrary, that both would countenance and cooperate with it. He also proclaimed the object to be to lay waste the border counties of Missouri and exterminate the disloyal people. This statement, following an interview on that subject, was calculated to mislead a large number of well-disposed people who would not for a moment think of acting in opposition to military rules, and to greatly increase the number of people who would assemble at Paola, and seriously complicate the difficulty.
"In the evening had another interview with Gov. Carney and some of his friends. My main object was to secure the full co-operation of the State government in preventing the invasion of Missouri. For this purpose I had to consult to a considerable degree the political views and aims of the governor and his friends. Their object was, of course, to make out of Lane's project as much capital as possible against him. It was held by many of them that Lane had no serious design of entering Missouri; that he expected, of course, that the military authorities would forbid it; and that he would yield as a military necessity, and thus gain with his people additional ground for condemnation of the department commander, while he had the credit of having done all he possibly could to enable them to 'recover their stolen property.' . . . Viewing matters in this light, the governor and his advisers were strongly inclined to the opinion that the surest way of making capital for themselves out of Lane's move was to let him go on with it, without any interference on their part, confident that it would turn out a grand humbug. . . . After reaching Kansas City and talking with Genl. Ewing, I replied to the governor, accepting the services of as many of his troops as he and Genl. Ewing should deem necessary for the protection of all the towns in Kansas near the border, stating that with Kansas so protected, Genl. Ewing would not only carry out his order for the expulsion of disloyal persons, but also in a short time drive out the guerillas from his district and restore peace. In addition to this, I wrote the governor a private letter urging him to issue his proclamation discouraging the Paola meeting and warning his people against any attempt to go into Missouri, and informing him I would issue an order forbidding armed men not in the regular military service from crossing the line.
"Sept. 4I received the governor's reply that he would issue his proclamation as requested, and also asking permission to publish a letter which I had written him on August 29, in reply to one from him regarding these matters. This permission was granted.
"My order was also published declaring that the militia of Kansas and Missouri would be used only for the defense of their respective States; that they should not pass from one State into the other without express orders from the district commander; that armed bodies of men not belonging to the United States troops, or to the militia placed under the orders of the department commander by the governors of their respective States, should not, under any pretext whatever, pass from one State into the other.
VISIT TO KANSAS, AND THE PARTY QUARREL THERE
"In the evening of the 3d I sent a dispatch to the general-in-chief [Halleck], informing him that the Paola movement was under the control and guidance of Lane, and that I should not permit them to enter Missouri; that Lane said he would appeal to the President; that I did not apprehend a hostile collision; but that a dispatch from the President or the Secretary of War (to Lane) would aid me much in preventing difficulty.
"If such dispatch should be sent, I request to be informed of its purport. No reply received from the general-in-chief up to this time (1 P. M., Sept. 5). . . .
"Sept. 6Lane failed to meet me at Kansas City, according to agreement. My correspondence with Governor Carney relative to the Lawrence massacre and the Paola movement appeared in the Leavenworth papers of yesterday; also my order forbidding armed citizens from crossing into Missouri.
"The governor's proclamation did not appear according to promise; probably he may have decided to defer it until after the Paola meeting, as a means of making capital against Lane.
"A private letter from one of Governor Carney's advisers was received yesterday (5th), dated the 3d, but evidently written in the evening of the 4th or morning of the 5th, which indicated that Carney does not intend to publish a proclamation, for the reason that Lane desires to force him to do it. . . .
"Went to Westport yesterday. Met several of the leading loyal citizens; all agree that Genl. Ewing's order No. 11 is wise and justin fact a necessity. I have yet to find the first loyal man in the border counties who condemns it. They are also warm in their support of Genl. Ewing, and deprecate his removal. I am satisfied he is acting wisely and efficiently. . . .
"The radicals in Missouri condemn him (Ewing) as one of my friends; the conservatives, because he is a Kansas man, and more especially because of his order No. 11, and similar reasons and radical measures. For a time this will weaken me very much, and possibly may cause my overthrow. This risk I must take, because I am satisfied I am doing the best for the public good, and acting according to my instructions from the President. I seem in a fair way to reach one of the positions referred to in the President's letter of instructions, viz: That in which both factions will abuse me. According to the President's standard, this is the only evidence that I will ever have that I am right. It is hardly possible that I will ever reach a point where both will commend me. . . .
"Sept. 8Went to Independence yesterday, in company with Genl. Ewing; . . . made a few remarks to quite a large assemblage of people, which were well received; was followed by Genl. Ewing in an appropriate speech, which produced a good effect.
"Have determined to modify General Ewing's order, or rather he will modify it at my suggestion, so that no property shall be destroyed. I deem the destruction of property unnecessary and useless. The chief evil has resulted from the aid given to guerillas in the way of information conveyed by disloyal people, and by preparing their food for them. This evil is now removed. Forage and grain cannot be destroyed or carried away to such an extent as materially to cripple them. I will as far as possible preserve the property of all loyal people, with the view of permitting them to return as soon as the guerillas shall be driven out. Property of known rebels will be appropriated as far as possible to the use of the army and loyal people who are made destitute. None will be destroyed.
"Had a long interview this morning with Mayor Anthony of Leavenworth and a number of influential citizens of that place. Anthony was arrested and sent to this place yesterday by a detective in the employ of Genl. Ewing. The arrest was without authority, and Genl. Ewing promptly discharged the mayor. The object of the citizens was to obtain a revocation of martial law in Leavenworth, and come to a correct understanding as to the relation between the military and civil authorities in that town, so as to prevent difficulty in future. The whole matter was satisfactorily arranged. . . .
"So far as can be learned, no people have gone from Leavenworth to the Paola meeting, and it is probable the whole affair will amount to nothing. Believing that the trouble here is substantially over, I propose to start for St. Louis tomorrow morning."
MUTINY IN THE STATE MILITIA
A regiment of enrolled militia ordered to New Madrid to relieve the 25th Missouri, in order that the latter might go to reinforce General Steele in Arkansas, mutinied after they had gone on board the steamer, brought the boat ashore, and went to their homes. The provost guard of St. Louis was sent to arrest them. News having come of the capture of Little Rock, the two enrolled militia regiments in St. Louis were dismissed, except the mutineers, who were kept at hard labor for some time, and the leaders tried for mutiny.
This mutiny was caused by the efforts of the radical papers and politicians, who had for some time openly opposed the organization of the provisional regiments, and encouraged the men to mutiny.
I published an order enforcing martial law against all who should incite mutiny among the troops, and through General Halleck obtained the President's approval of this order, but did not find it necessary to make that approval public until it was made known by the President himself.
In writing to General Halleck on September 20, I said:
"I enclose herewith a copy of an order which I have found it necessary to publish and enforce. The revolutionary faction which has so long been striving to gain the ascendancy in Missouri, particularly in St. Louis, to overthrow the present State government and change the policy of the national administration, has at length succeeded so far as to produce open mutiny of one of the militia regiments and serious difficulties in others.
"I enclose a number of slips from papers published in Missouri, to show the extent to which this factious opposition to the government has been carried. The effect already produced is but natural, and the ultimate effect will be disastrous in the extreme, unless a strong remedy be applied speedily.
"Out of consideration for popular opinion and the well-known wishes of the President relative to freedom of speech and of the press, I have forborne until, in my belief, further forbearance would lead to disastrous results. I am thoroughly convinced of the necessity for prompt and decided measures to put down this revolutionary scheme, and my sense of duty will not permit me to delay it longer. It is barely possible that I may not have to enforce the order against the public press. They may yield without the application of force; but I do not expect it. The tone of some of their articles since the publication of the order indicates a determination to wage the war which they have begun to the bitter end. This determination is based upon the belief that the President will not sustain me in any such measures as those contemplated in the order. A distinct approval by the President of my proposed action, and a knowledge of the fact here, would end the whole matter at once. I desire, if possible, to have such approval before taking action in any individual case. Indeed, I believe such approval would prevent the necessity for the use of force. It is difficult, I am aware, for any one at a distance to believe that such measures can be necessary against men and papers who claim to be 'radically loyal.' The fact is, they are 'loyal' only to their 'radical' theories, and are so 'radical' that they cannot possibly be 'loyal' to the government. . . ."
A REVOLUTIONARY PLOT
These men were styled "revolutionists" not without sufficient cause. It was currently reported that they had in 1861 conceived the elevation of Fremont to a dictatorship. In 1862, and again in 1863, they invented a scheme for the violent overthrow of the provisional State government and the existing national administration in Missouri. The first act of the program was to seize and imprison Governor Gamble and me. In 1862 some of them committed the indiscretion of confiding their plans to General Frank P. Blair, Jr., who at once warned me of it, but refused to give me the names of his informers or of the leaders. He said he could not do so without breach of confidence, but that he had informed them that he should give me warning and expose the individuals if any further steps were taken. Here the matter ended.
In 1863 I received warning through the guard stationed at my residence in the suburbs of the city, with which the revolutionists had the folly to tamper in their efforts to spread disaffection among my troops. This discovery, and the premature mutiny of the regiment ordered to New Madrid, nipped the plot in the bud. I refer to the circumstances now only to show that I was not unjust in my denunciation of the "revolutionary faction" in Missouri.
In General Halleck's letter of September 26, enclosing the President's written approval of my general order, he said:
". . . Neither faction in Missouri is really friendly to the President and administration; but each is striving to destroy the other, regardless of all other considerations. In their mutual hatred they seem to have lost all sense of the perils of the country and all sentiment of national patriotism. Every possible effort should be made to allay this bitter party strife in that State."
In reply, September 30, I expressed the following opinion:
". . . I feel compelled to say that I believe you are not altogether right in your information about the factions in Missouri. If the so-called 'claybank' faction are not altogether friendly to the President and administration, I have not been able to discover it. The men who now sustain me are the same who rallied round Lyon and sustained the government in the dark days of 1861, while the leaders of the present 'charcoal' faction stood back until the danger was past. I believe I have carried out my instructions as literally as possible, yet I have received a reasonable support from one faction and the most violent opposition from the other. I am willing to pledge my official position that those who support me now will support me in the execution of any policy the President may order. They are the real friends of the government. It is impossible for me to be blind to this fact, notwithstanding the existence, to some extent, of the factional feeling to which you allude."
The improvement produced by the order was so decided that publication of the President's approval was thought unnecessary. It only became public through his letter of October 1, 1863, of which he gave a copy to the radical delegation.
In September the governor of Missouri placed all the militia of the State, including those not in active service, under my command. I published orders intended to control their action and prevent interference with political meetings; also to secure freedom of voting at the coming election in November. Several militia officers guilty of such interference were dismissed, which produced a wholesome effect.
[( 1) The division of the Union party into radicals and conservatives, or "charcoals" and "claybanks," originated during the administration of General Fremont]
CHAPTER VI A Memorandum for Mr. LincolnThe President's InstructionsHis Reply to the Radical DelegationThe Matter of Colored Enlistments Modification of the Order Respecting Elections RefusedA Letter to the President on the Condition of MissouriFormer Confederates in Union Militia RegimentsSummoned to Washington by Mr. Lincoln Offered the Command of the Army of the OhioAnecdote of General Grant.
On October 1, 1863, I furnished the following memorandum to the Hon. James S. Rollins, M. C., for the information of the President. It was doubtless seen by the President before the date of his letter to the radical delegation, quoted further on.
"The radicals urge as evidence of Genl. Schofield's misrule that Missouri is in a worse condition than at any time since the rebellion; that he has failed to use the troops at his disposal to put down the rebellion. This charge is false, unless it be admitted that the radicals are rebels. It is true that the State is in a bad condition, and it is equally true that this condition is directly brought about by professed Union menradicals.
"There has been no time since the beginning of the war when there were so few armed rebels or guerillas in Missouri as at the present time. The only trouble at all worth mentioning in comparison with what the State has suffered heretofore is the lawless acts of radicals in their efforts to exterminate or drive out all who differ from them in political sentiment. This lawlessness is instigated, encouraged, and applauded by the radical press and leaders. Every effort to put down this lawlessness is denounced by the radicals as persecution of loyal men. When Genl. Curtis relinquished command he had in Missouri and Kansas 43,000 men; Genl. Schofield retained in these States only 23,000. Of the remaining 20,000, he sent some reinforcements to Genl. Rosecrans and a large force to Genl. Grant, to assist in the capture of Vicksburg; and with the remainder and a force equivalent to the one sent to Genl. Grant, returned by him after the fall of Vicksburg, he has reclaimed all Arkansas and the Indian Territory.
"The radicals denounce Genl. Schofield because of his relations to the State government. It is true that those relations have been most cordial, but it is not true that his policy has been controlled or materially influenced by Gov. Gamble. Gov. Gamble has not sought to exercise any such control. He, without hesitation, placed all the militia in active service under Genl. S.'s command, and yielded to him the control of all military operations. As an example to illustrate the truth of this statement: Genl. S. required the militia to obey the 102d Article of War; although they were not in the service of the United States, and although they constituted the only force in the State capable of arresting fugitive slaves with any certainty, no complaint was made by the State government. No military force is used in this department for the return of fugitives. All assertions to the contrary are false. On the contrary, it has been invariably held by Genl. Schofield and Col. Broadhead that free papers given under Genl. Curtis were to be held valid, even though wrongfully given, the Negroes having been the slaves of loyal men. So also when the slaves of loyal men have, by mistake or otherwise, been enlisted in colored regiments, Genl. Schofield has invariably held that they have been made free by their enlistment, and cannot be returned to their masters or discharged from the service.
A MEMORANDUM FOR MR. LINCOLN
"It cannot be denied that Genl. Schofield's whole influence has been in favor of emancipation. He did all in his power to secure the passage of an ordinance of emancipation by the late State Convention. The leaders of the present 'charcoal' faction, who now war on Genl. Schofield, are not the men who sustained the government at the beginning of the war. The men who now support Genl. S. are the identical ones who stood around Lyon and sustained the government in the dark days of 1861. They are the true friends of the government; men who stand between the rebels on one side and the radical revolutionists on the other; the men who maintain the Constitution, uphold the laws, and advocate justice to all men. If sustained by the President, they will rally to their standard all the best men of the State, of both parties.
"Secession is dead in Missouri. As a party the secessionists are utterly without influence. The degree of support which they will hereafter give to the government will depend upon its policy. If the radicals triumph, the enemies of the government will be increased both in numbers and bitterness. If a wise and just policy be pursued, every respectable man in the State will soon be an active supporter of the government, and Missouri will be the most loyal State in the Union.
"This, in fact, is the cause of the present fierce action of the radicals. They know they must get the power at once, or there will soon be an overwhelming loyal party opposed to them. The 'claybank' leaders control all the conservative elements in the State, and give to Genl. S., as the representative of the President, an honest support. They will continue to support him in the execution of any policy the President may order to be carried out. They sustain him, and will sustain him in future, although they may not approve all his acts, because it is their duty to the government."
About the last of September a radical delegation of about one hundred members from Missouri and Kansas went to Washington to urge my removal from command in Missouri. The President sent me the following instructions, and made a reply to the delegation, also given below:
"Executive Mansion, Washington, D. C., Oct. 1, 1863. "General John M. Schofield.
"Sir: There is no organized military force in avowed opposition to the General Government now in Missouri; and if any such shall reappear, your duty in regard to it will be too plain to require any special instructions. Still, the condition of things both there and elsewhere is such as to render it indispensable to maintain for a time the United States military establishment in that State, as well as to rely upon it for a fair contribution of support to the establishment generally. Your immediate duty in regard to Missouri now is to advance the efficiency of that establishment, and to use it, as far as practicable, to compel the excited people there to leave one another alone.
"Under your recent order, which I have approved, you will only arrest individuals, and suppress assemblies or newspapers, when they may be working palpable injury to the military in your charge; and in no other case will you interfere with the expression of opinion in any form, or allow it to be interfered with violently by others. In this you have a discretion to exercise with great caution, calmness, and forbearance.
"With the matters of removing the inhabitants of certain counties en masse, and of removing certain individuals from time to time, who are supposed to be mischievous, I am not now interfering, but am leaving to your own discretion.
"Nor am I interfering with what may still seem to you to be necessary restrictions upon trade and intercourse.
"I think proper, however, to enjoin upon you the following: Allow no part of the military under your command to be engaged in either returning fugitive slaves, or in forcing or enticing slaves from their homes; and, so far as practicable, enforce the same forbearance upon the people.
"Report to me your opinion upon the availability for good of the enrolled militia of the State.
"Allow no one to enlist colored troops, except upon orders from you, or from here through you.
"Allow no one to assume the functions of confiscating property, under the law of Congress or otherwise, except upon orders from here.
"At elections see that those, and only those, are allowed to vote who are entitled to do so by the laws of Missouri, including, as of those laws, the restriction laid by the Missouri Convention upon those who may have participated in the rebellion.
"So far as practicable, you will, by means of your military force, expel guerillas, marauders, and murderers, and all who are known to harbor, aid, or abet them. But, in like manner, you will repress assumptions of unauthorized individuals to perform the same service, because, under pretense of doing this, they become marauders and murderers themselves.
"To now restore peace, let the military obey orders, and those not of the military leave each other alone, thus not breaking the peace themselves.
"In giving the above directions, it is not intended to restrain you in other expedient and necessary matters not falling within their range.
"Your obt. servt., "A. Lincoln."
THE PRESIDENT'S INSTRUCTIONS
I wrote in my journal, under date of October 2:
"Colonel Du Bois, Captain Benham, and Captain Howard, who were sent to inspect in Genl. Ewing's and Genl. Blunt's districts, have returned. They report affairs in Blunt's district in a disgraceful condition. I have determined to relieve Blunt, and propose to send McNeil to Fort Smith. I telegraphed my intentions to Genl. Halleck this morning, and asked for a general officer to command one of the two districts. Soon after I received a dispatch from the President saying Genl. Halleck had shown him my dispatch, and adding: 'If possible, you better allow me to get through with a certain matter here before adding to the difficulties of it. Meantime supply me with the particulars of Maj.-Genl. Blunt's case.'
"I replied: 'I will forward the papers in Genl. Blunt's case, and defer action until I know your pleasure regarding it. I desire, if possible, to diminish and not increase your difficulties. This is one reason why I informed Genl. Halleck what I thought it necessary to do.' Have since received a dispatch from Genl. Halleck saying that he had ordered Brig.-Genl. J. B. Sanborn from Vicksburg to report to me for duty.
"Have received a letter from Atty.-Genl. Bates, dated Sept. 29, saying I need have no fear of the result of the efforts of the radical delegation.
"On Sept. 30 I received a dispatch from the President transmitting the false report from Leavenworth that Col. Moss, of the militia, was driving out Union families from Platt and Union counties. After full inquiry from Col. Guitar, Genl. Ewing, and Col. Williams at St. Joseph, have replied to the President, informing him that the report is false, and a base attempt of my enemies to influence his action."
Under date of October 4, I wrote in my journal:
"The address presented to the President by the radical delegation from Missouri was published in the 'Democrat' last evening. I telegraphed the President last night that 'so much of it as relates to me is not only untrue in spirit, but most of it is literally false. If an answer or explanation is on any account desirable, I shall be glad to make it.' Today I received from the President a dispatch saying: 'Think you will not have just cause to complain of my action. . . . '"
THE PRESIDENT'S REPLY TO THE RADICAL DELEGATION
The next day the President made this reply to the radical delegation:
"Executive Mansion, Washington, D. C., October 5, 1863. "Hon. Charles D. Drake and Others, Committee.
"Gentlemen: Your original address, presented on the 30th ultimo, and the four supplementary ones, presented on the 3d inst., have been carefully considered. I hope you will regard the other duties claiming my attention, together with the great length and importance of the documents, as constituting a sufficient apology for my not having responded sooner.
"These papers, framed for a common object, consist of the things demanded, and the reasons for demanding them.
"The things demanded are:
"First. That General Schofield shall be relieved and General Butler be appointed as commander of the Military Department of Missouri.
"Second. That the system of enrolled militia in Missouri may be broken up, and national forces be substituted for it; and,
"Third. That at elections persons may not be allowed to vote who are not entitled by law to do so.
"Among the reasons given, enough of suffering and wrong to Union men is certainly, and I suppose truly, stated. Yet the whole case as presented fails to convince me that General Schofield, or the enrolled militia, is responsible for that suffering and wrong. The whole can be explained on a more charitable and, as I think, a more rational hypothesis.
"We are in civil war. In such cases there always is a main question; but in this case that question is a perplexing compoundUnion and slavery. It thus becomes a question not of two sides merely, but of at least four sides, even among those who are for the Union, saying nothing of those who are against it. Thus, those who are for the Union with, but not without, slavery; those for it without, but not with; those for it with or without, but prefer it with; and those for it with or without, but prefer it without. Among these again is a subdivision of those who are for gradual, but not for immediate, and those who are for immediate, but not for gradual, extinction of slavery.
"It is easy to conceive that all these shades of opinion, and even more, may be sincerely entertained by honest and truthful men; yet all being for the Union, by reason of these differences each will prefer a different way of sustaining the Union. At once sincerity is questioned and motives are assailed; actual war coming, blood grows hot and blood is spilled. Thought is forced from old channels into confusion; deception breeds and thrives; confidence dies, and universal suspicion reigns. Each man feels an impulse to kill his neighbor, lest he be first killed by him. Revenge and retaliation follow, and all this, as before said, may be among honest men only. But this is not all. Every foul bird comes abroad, and every dirty reptile rises up. These add crime to confusion. Strong measures deemed indispensable, but harsh at best, such men make worse by maladministration. Murders for old grudges and murders for pelf proceed under any cloak that will best cover for the occasion.
"These causes amply account for what has occurred in Missouri, without ascribing it to the weakness or wickedness of any general. The newspaper filesthose chronicles of current eventswill show that evils now complained of were quite as prevalent under Fremont, Hunter, Halleck, and Curtis as under Schofield.
"If the former had greater force opposed to them, they had also greater forces with which to meet it. When the organized rebel army left the State, the main Federal force had to go also, leaving the department commander at home relatively no stronger than before.
"Without disparaging any, I affirm with confidence that no commander of that department has, in proportion to his means, done better than General Schofield.
"The first specific charge against General Schofield is that the enrolled militia was placed under his command, when it had not been placed under the command of General Curtis.
"That, I believe, is true; but you do not point out, nor can I conceive, how that did or could injure loyal men or the Union cause.
"You charge that upon General Curtis being superseded by General Schofield, Franklin A. Dick was superseded by James O. Broadhead as provost-marshal-general. No very specific showing is made as to how this did or could injure the Union cause. It recalls, however, the condition of things, as presented to me, which led to a change of commanders for the department.
"To restrain contraband intelligence and trade, a system of searches seizures, permits, and passes had been introduced by General Fremont When General Halleck came, he found and continued the system, and added an order, applicable to some parts of the State, to levy and collect contributions from noted rebels to compensate losses and relieve destitution caused by the rebellion. The action of General Fremont and General Halleck, as stated, constituted a sort of system which General Curtis found in full operation when he took command of the department. That there was a necessity for something of the sort was clear; but that it could only by justified by stern necessity, and that it was liable to great abuse in administration, was equally clear. Agents to execute it, contrary to the great prayer, were led into temptation. Some might, while others would not, resist that temptation. It was not possible to hold any to a very strict accountability; and those yielding to the temptation would sell permits and passes to those who would pay most, and most readily, for them, and would seize property and collect levies in the aptest way to fill their own pockets; money being the object, the man having money, whether loyal or disloyal, would be a victim. This practice doubtless existed to some extent, and it was a real additional evil that it could be, and was, plausibly charged to exist in greater extent than it did.
THE PRESIDENT'S REPLY TO THE RADICAL DELEGATION
"When General Curtis took command of the department, Mr. Dick, against whom I never knew anything to allege, had general charge of this system. A controversy in regard to it rapidly grew into almost unmanageable proportions. One side ignored the necessity and magnified the evils of the system, while the other ignored the evils and magnified the necessity, and each bitterly assailed the motives of the other. I could not fail to see that the controversy enlarged in the same proportion as the professed Union men there distinctly took sides in two opposing political parties. I exhausted my wits, and very nearly my patience also, in efforts to convince both that the evils they charged on each other were inherent in the case, and could not be cured by giving either party a victory over the other.
"Plainly the irritating system was not to be perpetual, and it was plausibly urged that it could be modified at once with advantage. The case could scarcely be worse; and whether it could be made better, could only be determined by a trial. In this view, and not to ban or brand General Curtis, or to give a victory to any party, I made the change of commander for the department. I now learn that soon after this change Mr. Dick was removed, and that Mr. Broadhead, a gentleman of no less good character, was put in the place. The mere fact of this change is more distinctly complained of than is any conduct of the new officer, or other consequences of the change.
"I gave the new commander no instructions as to the administration of the system mentioned, beyond what is contained in the private letter, afterward surreptitiously published,( 1) in which I directed him to act solely for the public good, and independently of both parties. Neither anything you have presented me, nor anything I have otherwise learned, has convinced me that he has been unfaithful to this charge.
"Imbecility is urged as one cause for removing General Schofield; and the late massacre at Lawrence, Kansas, is pressed as evidence of that imbecility. To my mind that fact scarcely tends to prove the proposition. That massacre is only an example of what Grierson, John Morgan, and many others might have repeatedly done on their respective raids, had they chosen to incur the personal hazard and possessed the fiendish hearts to do it.
"The charge is made that General Schofield, on purpose to protect the Lawrence murderers, would not allow them to be pursued into Missouri. While no punishment could be too sudden or too severe for those murderers, I am well satisfied that the preventing of the remedial raid into Missouri was the only safe way to avoid an indiscriminate massacre there, including probably more innocent than guilty. Instead of condemning, I therefore approve what I understand General Schofield did in that respect.
"The charges that General Schofield has purposely withheld protection from loyal people, and purposely facilitated the objects of the disloyal, are altogether beyond my power of belief. I do not arraign the veracity of gentlemen as to the facts complained of, but I do more than question the judgment which would infer that those facts occurred in accordance with the purposes of General Schofield.
"With my present views, I must decline to remove General Schofield. In this I decide nothing against General Butler. I sincerely wish it were convenient to assign him to a suitable command.
"In order to meet some existing evils, I have addressed a letter of instructions to General Schofield, a copy of which I enclose to you.
"As to the 'enrolled militia,' I shall endeavor to ascertain better than I now know what is its exact value. Let me say now, however, that your proposal to substitute national forces for the enrolled militia implies that in your judgment the latter is doing something which needs to be done, and if so, the proposition to throw that force away, and supply its place by bringing other forces from the field, where they are urgently needed, seems to me very extraordinary. Whence shall they come? Shall they be withdrawn from Banks, or Grant, or Steele, or Rosecrans?
"Few things have been so grateful to my anxious feelings as when, in June last, the local force in Missouri aided General Schofield to so promptly send a large general force to the relief of General Grant, then investing Vicksburg and menaced from without by General Johnston. Was this all wrong? Should the enrolled militia then have been broken up, and General Herron kept from Grant to police Missouri? So far from finding cause to object, I confess to a sympathy for whatever relieves our general force in Missouri, and allows it to serve elsewhere. I, therefore, as at present advised, cannot attempt the destruction of the enrolled militia of Missouri. I may add that, the force being under the national military control, it is also within the proclamation in regard to the habeas corpus.
"I concur in the propriety of your request in regard to elections, and have, as you see, directed General Schofield accordingly. I do not feel justified to enter upon the broad field you present in regard to the political differences between radicals and conservatives. From time to time I have done and said what appeared to me proper to do and say. The public knows it all. It obliges nobody to follow me, and I trust it obliges me to follow nobody. The radicals and conservatives each agree with me in some things and disagree in others. I could wish both to agree with me in all things; for then they would agree with each other, and would be too strong for any foe from any quarter. They, however, choose to do otherwise, and I do not question their right; I, too, shall do what seems to be my duty. I hold whoever commands in Missouri, or elsewhere, responsible to me, and not to either radicals or conservatives. It is my duty to hear all; but at last, I must, within my sphere, judge what to do and what to forbear.
"Your obt. servt., "A. Lincoln."
THE MATTER OF COLORED ENLISTMENTS
On October 13, I wrote in my journal:
"The radical delegation has returned from Washington very much crestfallen. It is generally conceded that they have accomplished nothing. Nothing official is yet known on the subject. . . .
"Lane spoke at Turner's Hall last evening; no disturbance; was silent on the subject of the department commander. He informed me yesterday, through Major Vaughan, that he had stopped the war upon me, and intended hereafter not to oppose me unless circumstances rendered it necessary. Said the President told him that whoever made war on General Schofield, under the present state of affairs, made war on himthe President. Said he never had made war on General S., 'except incidentally.'
"Oct. 14Received yesterday an order from Genl. [Lorenzo] Thomas appointing officers for the 1st Regt. Mo. Volunteers, of African descent, and directing that they be detailed to raise the regiment.
"Have telegraphed to the War Department for instructions as to the mode of raising these troops, referring to a letter I wrote to Col. Townsend on the subject on the 29th of September. In that letter I explained the difficulty of raising such troops in Missouri, unless it be done without regard to the claims of loyal slave- owners. I also recommended that all able-bodied Negroes be enlisted, receipts given as a basis for payment to loyal owners, and suggested that those of unquestioned loyalty might be paid at once from the substitute fund. No answer has been received to that letter.
"Some months ago I wrote to the Secretary of War, asking instructions about the Negro question. No answer. The Hon. Secretary seems determined to make me deal with that question on my own responsibility. It is very natural, but hardly just to me."
I had issued an order respecting elections, in accordance with the President's instructions. A personal request was made to me for a modification of the order. The following letter was written in reply to that request:
"Headqrs., Department of the Missouri, "St. Louis, Oct. 24th, 1863. "Hon. C. Drake, St. Louis.
"Sir: After full consideration of the subject of our conversation this morning, I am of the opinion that no further orders upon the subject of the election are necessary. The law which provides the manner in which soldiers shall vote, and directs how the judges of election shall be appointed, is as binding upon all persons to whom it relates as any order would be.
"Genl. Order No. 120 also alludes to the subject of soldiers voting, I think, in sufficiently strong terms, although it is taken for granted in that order that officers will do their duty in giving their men an opportunity to vote. Moreover, any failure on their part to do their whole duty in this regard would be a clear violation of Genl. Order 101. I believe there is no ground for apprehension that officers will neglect their duty regarding the election. If anything is needed, it is that the troops be given full information through the daily papers, which they all read, of their duties and privileges under the laws.
"From the short examination I have been able to give, I am of the opinion that the Act of the General Assembly changing the mode of voting does not apply to soldiers voting at the company polls; that the ordinance of the convention remains unrepealed.
"This, however, is a question which I will not presume to decide or to refer to even in an order.
"I return herewith the copy of Laws of Missouri which you were so kind as to lend me.
"Very respectfully your obt. servt., "J. M. Schofield, Major-Genl."
A LETTER ON THE CONDITION OF MISSOURI
On October 25 I wrote to Mr. Lincoln in regard to a reorganization of the militia of northwestern Missouri, which had been made for the purpose of suppressing the lawlessness that had prevailed there under the name of "loyalty," saying:
"I take the liberty of sending you a letter which I have this day received from Hon. Willard P. Hall, Lieut.-Governor of Missouri.
"It may be of interest to you, as showing the good effect of the stringent measures which I felt compelled to adopt in some portions of Missouri, and of the firm support you have given me.
"The immediate effect, as might have been expected, was a terrible storm, but it has passed away, I hope never to return.
"The State is now in far better condition than it has been at any time during the war.
"I have issued an election order in compliance with your instructions, with which all parties express themselves well satisfied. It seems I have at last succeeded in doing one thing which nobody can find fault with.
"Shelby's raid has terminated with a loss of about one half of the men with which he entered the State, and he received no recruits except the robbers under Quantrill and Jackman. These left the State with him. This fact is gratifying as showing that the rebel power in Missouri is completely broken.
"Whatever may be the secret feelings of the former secessionists of Missouri, their influence now, so far as it is exerted at all, is for peace and submission to the national authority. All that is now necessary to secure peace to Missouri, with the possible exception of occasional raids from Arkansas, is union among the loyal people. I shall spare no effort to reconcile their differences as far as possible, or at least to restrain their quarrel within peaceable limits. The additional strength your support has given me will enable me to do this far better then before. My radical friends now exhibit some disposition to stop their war upon me, and I shall certainly not give them any good reason for continuing it. The honest enthusiasts on the subject of liberty, who compose the respectable portion of this party, are already well disgusted with their lawless brethren who have brought such odium upon them, and now begin to realize the necessity of sustaining men in enforcing the laws.
"Whatever may be the result of the pending election, I believe the most serious danger is already past.
"I shall not fail to exercise great forbearance in enforcing restrictions upon speech and the press. I have enforced my order in only one case, and that so clear that the offender fully confessed and asked pardon on any terms. It will not probably be necessary for me to exercise any control over the press hereafter.
"Your accurate appreciation of the real difficulty here, and the strong and generous manner in which you have sustained me, will do more good in Missouri than to have doubled the troops under my command. This I hope soon to show you by sending additional forces to the front."
With the above letter to the President I enclosed the following:
"St. Joseph, Mo., Oct. 21st, 1863.
"General: It is with very great pleasure that I can inform you of the satisfactory condition of things in this section of Missouri. There is more security for men and property in northwestern Missouri than there has been since the rebellion began. There is not a spark of rebellious feeling left here, and all citizens seem to be, and I believe are, ready to discharge all the duties of loyal men.
"The people are truly grateful to you for your efforts to protect them, and you may rest assured will never fail you in any emergency.
"Yours truly, "Willard P. Hall "Major-Genl. Schofield, etc."
A LETTER ON THE CONDITION OF MISSOURI
The following was written by me, November 1, 1863, to Mr. James L. Thomas of St. Louis, in answer to what was understood to be an attempt to obtain some expression of partisan preference as between the "pestilent factions":
"In reply to your letter of Oct. 30th, I will state that in some important particulars you entirely misapprehend my remarks made during our conversation on the 29th. I spoke of the lawless acts committed in some portions of Missouri by men claiming to be radicals and acting in the name of radicalism; and asserted that leading men and papers of the party had failed to do their duty by disavowing and frowning down this lawlessness; that in this course they had been guilty of great folly, and had brought odium upon their party in Missouri and throughout the country; that they had injured rather than advanced the cause of emancipation. I made no remarks relative to the radical party, nor to radicals as a party of class of citizens. I spoke of those men and papers who by tolerating and encouraging lawlessness in the name of radicalism had done so much towards producing trouble in the State.
"It is perhaps natural that any honest man should feel, as you propose, to disown a party in which such abuses are tolerated, but I cannot see the propriety of so doing. Would it not be much wiser and more patriotic to endeavor to purify the party, to bring it back to the high principles upon which it was founded, and to rid it of the elements which have disgraced those principles?
"Our conversation on the 29th was regarded by me as confidential, and I still desire it to be so regarded by you, and also this letter. No possible good can result from a public discussion by me of such matters.
"You are aware that as department commander I have nothing to do with politics, nor with offenders as members of any party. I shall unquestionably, upon proper proof, punish all who have been, or may hereafter be, guilty of the crimes you mention, without regard to the party they may belong to; but I do not propose to condemn any party or class of men because of the guilt of one or any number of its members. When I find men acting wrongfully or unwisely to the prejudice of the Union cause, I endeavor, within my proper sphere, to correct or restrain them by appropriate means according to circumstances. Whether my influence thus exerted inures to the benefit of one party or another is a question which I cannot take into consideration.
"My dealing is with individuals, not with parties. Officially I know nothing of radicals or conservatives. The question with me is simply what individuals obey the laws and what violate them; who are for the government and who against it. The measures of the President are my measures; his orders, my rule of action. Whether a particular party gains strength or loses it by my action must depend upon the party, and not upon me."
FORMER CONFEDERATES IN UNION MILITIA REGIMENTS
At this time occurred the following exchange of letters with the President:
"(Private and confidential.)
"Executive Mansion, Washington, Oct. 28th, 1863. "General John M. Schofield: There have recently reached the War Department, and thence been laid before me, from Missouri, three communications, all similar in import and identical in object. One of them, addressed to nobody, and without place or date, but having the signature of (apparently) the writer, is a letter of eight closely written foolscap pages. The other two are written by a different person at St. Joseph, Mo., and of the date, respectively, October 12th and 13th, and each enclosing a large number of affidavits.
"The general statements of the whole are that the Federal and State authorities are arming the disloyal and disarming the loyal, and that the latter will all be killed or driven out of the State unless there should be a change.
"In particular, no loyal man who has been disarmed is named, but the affidavits show, by name, forty-two persons as disloyal who have been armed. They are as follows: [Names omitted.]
"A majority of these are shown to have been in the rebel service. I believe it could be shown that the government here has deliberately armed more than ten times as many captured at Gettysburg, to say nothing of similar operations in East Tennessee. These papers contain altogether thirty-one manuscript pages, and one newspaper in extenso; and yet I do not find it anywhere charged in them that any loyal man has been harmed by reason of being disarmed, or that any disloyal one has harmed anybody by reason of being armed by the Federal or State government.
"Of course I have not had time to carefully examine all; but I have had most of them examined and briefed by others, and the result is as stated. The remarkable fact that the actual evil is yet only anticipatedinferredinduces me to suppose that I understand the case. But I do not state my impression, because I might be mistaken, and because your duty and mine is plain in any event.
"The locality of nearly all this seems to be St. Joseph and Buchanan County. I wish you to give special attention to this region, particularly on Election day. Prevent violence, from whatever quarter, and see that the soldiers themselves do no wrong.
"Yours truly, "A. Lincoln."
"Hdqrs., Dept. of the Missouri. "St. Louis, Nov. 9th, 1863. "Mr. President: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your confidential letter dated Oct. 28th, and containing the names of men enlisted in the militia of northwest Missouri who are said to have been disloyal.
"On my visit to Kansas and northwest Missouri during the troubles there in September last, I examined personally into the difficulties in Platte, Buchanan, and other western counties, and learned fully their nature and origin. I at once ordered the reorganization of the militia, which created so much commotion for a time, but which has restored that portion of the State to a condition of profound peace.
"I have watched the progress of affairs there closely, and have kept myself fully advised of all the facts. It is true that about twice as many former rebels as were named by your informants are in the militia organization, amounting to from five to ten per cent of the whole. It is also true that a very much larger number of returned Missouri rebels have enlisted in the Kansas Volunteers, and, so far as I know, are faithful, good soldiers.
"The rule I established for the militia organization in northwest Missouri was that the officers should be of undoubted loyalty, original Union men, and that both officers and privates, as far as possible, should be men of wealth and respectability, whose all depended upon the preservation of peace.
"The former sufferings of these men from the lawlessness which has so long existed on the border made them willing to do military duty to save from destruction or loss what property they had left. I have yet to hear the first report of a murder, robbery, or arson in that whole region since this new organization was made. The late election was conducted in perfect peace and good order. There is not the slightest pretense from any source of any interference or other misconduct on the part of any of the troops. I have not deemed it necessary to be very particular about the antecedents of troops that are producing such good results. If I can make a repentant rebel of more service to the government than a man who never had any political sins to repent of, I see no reason for not doing so. Indeed, I take no little satisfaction in making these men guard the property of their more loyal neighbors, and in holding their own property responsible for their fidelity.
"I have the satisfaction of reporting to you that the late election in all parts of the State passed off in perfect quiet and good order. I have heard of no disturbance of any kind anywhere. The aggregate vote, I think, shows that the purity of the ballot-box was preserved in a remarkable degree. If the loyal people all voted, few or no rebels did.
"The prospects of future peace in this State are highly encouraging.
"I am very respectfully your obt. servt., "J. M. Schofield, Maj.-Genl. "To the President."
I had abundant reason to be satisfied with the result of this controversy, so far as it concerned me, and with the condition of the department when it terminated, near midwinter. Yet I was satisfied some change was impending, and cared not how soon it might come, now that my administration had been fully vindicated. In fact, such a command was not at all to my taste, and I had always longed for purely military service in the field, free from political complications. It was therefore with sincere pleasure that I received, in December, a summons from the President to come to Washington.
SUMMONED TO WASHINGTON BY MR. LINCOLN
But before relating the circumstances of my visit to the President, I must refer to an incident which occurred a short time before I left St. Louis, and which I was afterward led to suspect was the immediate cause of the President's desire to see me.
The Missouri legislature was in session and balloting for a United States senator. The legislature was divided into three parties radicals, conservative Republicans, and Democrats, or "copperheads," neither strong enough to elect without a fusion with one of the others. A union of the radicals and the conservatives was, of course, most desired by the administration; but their bitterness had become so great that either would prefer a bargain with the Democrats rather than with the other. The Hon. E. B. Washburne, representative in Congress from Illinois, made an opportune visit to St. Louis about this time, procured an interview with me at the house of a common friend, and led me into a frank conversation relative to this political question. I told him candidly that in my opinion the desired union of radicals and conservatives was impossible, for they were more bitterly opposed to each other then either was to the Democrats. Mr. Washburne went to Washington, and reported to the President that I was opposed to the much-desired radical and conservative union in Missouri, and was using my influence to prevent it. So opposite was this to the truth that I had even written a letter to my friend Colonel J. O. Broadhead, the conservative candidate, asking him to withdraw in favor of the radical candidate, as a means of bringing about the harmony so much desired by the President. This letter was not sent, because the telegraphic reports from Jefferson City showed that it was too late to do any good; but it was handed to Colonel Broadhead on his return to show him my wishes in the matter.
Upon my first visit to the President, he repeated to me this Washburne story, without, however, intimating that he attached much weight to it. I at once replied by giving him the simple facts about my conversation with Washburne, and what my true position was on that question. Mr. Lincoln promptly dismissed the subject with the words: "I believe you, Schofield; those fellows have been lying to me again."
Mr. Lincoln undoubtedly referred here to a previous incident which was related to me by the Hon. James S. Rollins, member of Congress from Missouri, one of the truest and most truthful men in the world, as having occurred in his presence. Some men from Missouri had prevailed upon Mr. Rollins to introduce them to the President, to whom they wished to represent the condition of affairs in Missouri as viewed from their standpoint. After listening to their story, the President opened the little right-hand drawer of his desk, took out a letter from me, and read it to them. He then said: "That is the truth about the matter; you fellows are lying to me."
Determined to leave no room for doubt in the President's mind, I telegraphed to St. Louis and got the Broadhead letter; but by the time it arrived I had become so satisfied of Mr. Lincoln's confidence that I did not think it worth while to show it to him.
I remained at the capital several weeks, and had full conversations with the President on public affairs. The political situation was a perplexing one. The state of parties in the West seemed that of inextricable confusion, which Mr. Lincoln and his friends were anxious to unravel, if possible, before the next Presidential nomination. In Missouri the faction which had been friendly to me was also a supporter of Mr. Lincoln, while the radicals were opposed to him. In Kansas, on the contrary, the so-called Lane and Carney factions, while vying with each other in professions of radicalism, were divided in the opposite manner. The former supported the President, but was bitterly hostile to me, while the latter was friendly to me and opposed to Mr. Lincoln. I frankly told the President that it was impossible for me to reconcile these differences indeed, that I did not believe any general in the army could, as department commander, satisfy the Union people of both Kansas and Missouri; neither the man nor the policy that would suit the one would be at all satisfactory to the other. Mr. Lincoln had evidently already arrived at much the same conclusion, and soon determined to divide the old Department of the Missouri into three departments, and try to assign to each a commander suited to its peculiarities. But Mr. Lincoln declared decidedly to me, and to my friends in the Senate, that he would make no change until the Senate united with him in vindicating me by confirming my nomination as major-general, then in the hands of the Military Committee of the Senate, and that he would then give me a more important command.
OFFERED THE COMMAND OF THE ARMY OF THE OHIO
A large majorityindeed, all but some half-dozenof the Senate were known to be favorable to the confirmation; but this small minority had control of the Military Committee, and were consequently able to delay any report of the case to the Senate, and thus to thwart the President's wishes.
The matter stood thus for nearly a month, and seemed no nearer solution than at first, when a dispatch was received in Washington from General Grant, then commanding the Military Division of the Mississippi, saying it was necessary to relieve General Foster, on account of ill-health, from the command of the Department and Army of the Ohio, and to appoint a successor. Upon being asked whom he wanted for that command, Grant replied: "Either McPherson or Schofield."
Among the changes then known in Washington to be in the near future was Grant's elevation to the command of "all the armies," to be naturally followed by Sherman's succession to that of the Division of the Mississippi, and McPherson's to that of the Army of the Tennessee. But Grant alone, perhaps, had no right to anticipate those changes, hence he gave his just preference to my senior, McPherson.
Halleck handed me Grant's dispatch, and asked me how I would like that. I replied: "That is exactly what I want; nothing in the world could be better." He then told me to take the dispatch to the President, which I immediately did, and in handing it to him said: "If you want to give me that, I will gladly take all chances for the future, whether in the Senate or elsewhere." Mr. Lincoln replied in his characteristic way: "Why, Schofield, that cuts the knot, don't it? Tell Halleck to come over here, and we will fix it right away." I bade the President adieu, and started at once for St. Louis, to turn over my command and proceed to my new field of duty.
I saw Mr. Lincoln only once after that time. That was when, just a year later, I was passing through Washington with the Twenty- third Corps, and called merely to pay my respects. The President greeted me with the words: "Well, Schofield, I have n't heard anything against you for a year." Apparently, the great trouble to him with which I had been so closely connected, if not the cause, was uppermost in his mind.
With Mr. Lincoln I had no personal acquaintance, having met him but once, previous to the visit above described. But in assigning me to the command in Missouri he had, contrary to the usual custom, written for me his own instructions, thus inviting my fullest confidence. I had availed myself of this to tell him everything without reserve, and he appeared never to doubt the exact truth of my statements.
ANECDOTE OF GENERAL GRANT
My personal acquaintance with General Grant was equally limited we having met but once, and for only a moment. He knew me only by reputation. I never had any conversation or correspondence with him on the subject, but presume he knew something about the trouble I was in, had not forgotten the aid I sent him at Vicksburg, and believed I would do what was right to the best of my ability. I have had abundant reasons for believing that he never felt disappointed in his trust and confidence.
General Halleck knew me much better, having been my immediate commander in Missouri in 1861 and 1862. Although on one or two occasions he seemed a little harsh in respect to unimportant matters, he was uniformly kind, considerate, and unwavering in his personal and official support.
The Secretary of War, Mr. Stanton, expressed his confidence and approval; said he was opposed to any change; that it was the President's affair, with which he had nothing to do. I got the impression that he regarded the whole scheme as a political one, in which he took no interest, and with which he felt no sympathy.
In St. Louis I met General Grant, who was then so soon to be assigned to the command of "all the armies of the United States," and for the first time really became acquainted with him. We were together much of the time for several days and nights. The citizens of St. Louis entertained the general in a most magnificent manner. At a grand banquet given in his honor, at which I sat on his right, he did not even touch one of the many glasses of wine placed by the side of his plate. At length I ventured to remark that he had not tasted his wine. He replied: "I dare not touch it. Sometimes I can drink freely without any unpleasant effect; at others I cannot take even a single glass of light wine." A strong man, indeed, who could thus know and govern his own weakness! In reply to the toast in his honor, he merely arose and bowed without saying a word. Then turning to me, he said it was simply impossible for him to utter a word when on his feet. As is well known, the great general finally overcame his reserve.
It was very difficult for me to comprehend the political necessity which compelled Mr. Lincoln to give his official countenance to such men as Lane and Blunt in Kansas, but such necessity was thought to exist. I suppose that a great statesman should use in the best way he can the worst materials as well as the best that are within his reach, and, if possible, make them all subserve the great purposes he has to accomplish.
The old department was cut up, the Lane faction in Kansas was given the man of its choiceGeneral Curtis; Missouri was placed alone under General Rosecransnot Butler, as the radicals had asked; Arkansas, having no voice in the matter, was left under the soldier, General Steele, then in command there; and I left them all without regret and with buoyant hopes of more satisfactory service in a purely military field.
[( 1) By a radical newspaper.]
CHAPTER VII Condition of the Troops at KnoxvilleEffect of the Promotion of Grant and ShermanLetter to Senator HendersonA Visit from General ShermanUnited with his other Armies for the Atlanta Campaign Comments on Sherman's "Memoirs"Faulty Organization of Sherman's ArmyMcPherson's Task at ResacaMcPherson's CharacterExample of the Working of a Faulty System.
I arrived at Knoxville, Tennessee, on February 8, 1864, and the next day relieved General John G. Foster. The troops then about Knoxville were the Ninth Corps, two divisions of the Twenty-third, and about one thousand cavalry and two divisions of the Fourth Corps; the latter belonged to the Department of the Cumberland, but had been left with General Burnside after the siege of Knoxville was raised by General Sherman.
The Ninth and Twenty-third Corps were reduced in effective strength to mere skeletons, the former reporting present for duty equipped only 2800 men, and the latter 3000 men; and these had for a long time been living on half rations or less, and were generally far less than half clad, many of them being entirely without shoes. The remainder of these troops were disabled by wounds, sickness, lack of food or clothing, or were employed in the care of the sick or on extra duty.
Many thousands of dead horses and mules were scattered round the town, while the few remaining alive were reduced to skeletons. Of about 30,000 animals with which General Burnside had gone into East Tennessee, scarcely 1000 remained fit for service; while his army of over 25,000 men had been reduced to not more than 7000 fit for duty and effective for service in the field. Such was the result of the siege of Knoxville, and such the Army of the Ohio when I became its commander.
But the splendid victory gained a short time before at Chattanooga had raised the blockade upon our line of supply, and the railroad to Chattanooga and Nashville was soon opened, so that our starving and naked troops could begin to get supplies of food and clothing. The movement of the first train of cars was reported by telegraph from every station, and was eagerly awaited by the entire army. When the locomotive whistle announced its approach, everybody turned out to welcome it with shouts of joy. It proved to consist of ten car-loads of horse and mule shoes for the dead animals which strewed the plains! Fortunately the disgust produced by this disappointment was not of long duration. The next train, which followed very soon, contained coffee, sugar, and other articles to gladden the hearts of hungry soldiers.
The Confederate army under Longstreet still remained in East Tennessee. A movement had recently been made by our troops, under the immediate command of General John G. Parke (General Foster being too lame to take the field in person), to drive Longstreet out. But the movement had failed, the troops returning to Knoxville with the loss of considerable material. In consequence of this, much anxiety was felt in Washington regarding the situation in East Tennessee. It was even apprehended that Knoxville might be in danger; and an advance of Longstreet's force to Strawberry Plains, where he laid a bridge over the Holston and crossed a part of his troops, seemed to give some ground for such apprehensions.
CONDITION OF THE TROOPS AT KNOXVILLE
The miserable condition of our troops, the season of the year, the almost total lack of means of transportation for supplies and of a pontoon bridge to cross the river, rendered any considerable movement on our part impossible. But to relieve the existing apprehension, I determined to assume the offensive at once, and to maintain it as far as possible.
Early in February General Grant had proposed to give me 10,000 additional troops from General Thomas's army at Chattanooga, and to let me begin the campaign against Longstreet at once. But on February 16 he informed me that the movement would have to be delayed because of some operations in which General Thomas was to engage. Nevertheless, I advanced on the 24th with what force I had, at the same time sending a reconnaissance south of the French Broad River to ascertain the nature of a hostile movement reported in that direction.
Upon our advance, Longstreet's troops withdrew across the Holston and French Broad and retreated toward Morristown. His advance had evidently been intended only to cover an attempted cavalry raid upon our rear, which the high water in the Little Tennessee rendered impracticable.
We now occupied Strawberry Plains, rebuilt the railroad bridge, pushed forward the construction of a bateau bridge which had been commenced, in the meantime using the bateaux already constructed to ferry the troops across the river. In this manner we were able to advance as far as Morristown by February 29 with sufficient force to reconnoiter Longstreet's position. This reconnaissance demonstrated that the enemy held Bull's Gap, and that his entire force was grouped about that strong position. The object of this movement having been accomplished without loss, our troops retired to New Market to await the arrival of the troops to be sent by General Thomas, the completion of the railroad bridge, and other necessary preparations for the expected campaign.
On March 12 another reconnaissance was made as far as Bull's Gap, which was found to be still occupied by the enemy, although reliable information indicated that Longstreet was preparing for, and had perhaps already begun, his movement toward Virginia. Although his force, if concentrated, was much superior to mine, I determined to endeavor to take advantage of his movement to attack his rear. My advance held Morristown; all the troops were ordered forward to that place, and preparations were made for an attack, when, on the 15th, orders came from General Grant to send the Ninth Corps to the Army of the Potomac.
Such a reduction of my command, instead of the expected reinforcement, left me wholly unable to do more than observe Longstreet as he leisurely withdrew from Tennessee and joined Lee in Virginia, and prepare for the campaign of the coming summer, the nature of which I could then only conjecture.
EFFECT OF THE PROMOTION OF GRANT AND SHERMAN
This entire change of program doubtless resulted from the promotion of General Grant to lieutenant-general and commander-in-chief, and General Sherman to his place in command of the Military Division of the Mississippi, which occurred at that time. The change of plans was undoubtedly wise. The Confederate government could not afford to leave Longstreet's force in East Tennessee during the summer. He must join Lee or Johnston before the opening of the summer campaign. It was not worth while for us to expend time and strength in driving him out, which ought to be devoted to preparations for vastly more important work. I felt disappointed at the time in not having an opportunity of doing something that would silence my enemies in Washington, who were not slow to avail themselves of any pretext for hostile action against me. It was not difficult to manufacture one out of the public reports of what had been done, or not done, in East Tennessee, and the Military Committee of the Senate reported against the confirmation of my appointment as major- general. Of this I was informed by my friend Senator J. B. Henderson, in a letter urging me to "whip somebody anyhow." This information and advice elicited a long reply, from which the following are extracts, which expressed pretty fully my views and feelings on the subject, and which, with events that soon followed, ended all trouble I ever had with that august body, the United States Senate.
I recollect in this connection a very pertinent remark made by General Grant soon after he became President. My nomination as major-general in the regular army, with those of Sherman and Sheridan as general and lieutenant-general, had been sent to the Senate and returned approved so promptly as to occasion comment. I remarked that it had on one occasion taken me a year and a half to get through the Senate. President Grant, as he handed me my commission, replied: "Yes; and if your conduct then had been such as to avoid that difficulty with the Senate, you would probably never have received this commission at all." I have no doubt he was right. To have pleased the radical politicians of that day would have been enough to ruin any soldier.
LETTER TO SENATOR HENDERSON
"Headquarters, Army of the Ohio, "Knoxville, Tenn., April 15, 1864. "Dear Senator: I have just received your letter of the 7th informing me that the Military Committee has reported against my nomination, and urging me to 'whip somebody anyhow.' I am fully aware of the importance to me personally of gaining a victory. No doubt I might easily get up a little 'claptrap' on which to manufacture newspaper notoriety, and convince the Senate of the United States that I had won a great victory, and secure my confirmation by acclamation. Such things have been done, alas! too frequently during this war. But such is not my theory of a soldier's duties. I have an idea that my military superiors are the proper judges of my character and conduct, and that their testimony ought to be considered satisfactory as to my military qualities.
"I have the approval and support of the President, the Secretary of War, General Halleck, General Grant, and General Sherman. I am willing to abide the decision of any one or all of them, and I would not give a copper for the weight of anybody's or everybody's opinion in addition to, or in opposition to, theirs.
"If the Senate is not satisfied with such testimony, I can't help it. I never have and never will resort to 'buncombe' for the purpose of securing my own advancement. If I cannot gain promotion by legitimate means, I do not want it at all. . . . In all this time I have yet to hear the first word of disapproval, from my superior officer, of any one of my military operations (unless I except Curtis, who disapproved of my pursuing Hindman so far into Arkansas), and in general have received high commendation from my superiors, both for my military operations and administration. I would rather have this record without a major-general's commission, then to gain the commission by adding to my reputation one grain of falsehood. . . .
"Grant was here in the winter, and Sherman only a few days ago. They are fully acquainted with the condition of affairs. I have been acting all the time under their instructions, and I believe with their entire approval. They are generally understood to be men whose opinions on military matters are entitled to respect. I cannot do more or better than refer the Senate to them.
"One thing is certain: I shall not be influenced one grain in the discharge of my duty by any questions as to what action the Senate may take on my nomination. . . . If the Senate is not satisfied as to my past services, why not wait until they can know more? I am tired enough of this suspense, but still am perfectly willing to wait. In fact, I have become, in spite of myself, very indifferent on the subject. I am pretty thoroughly convinced that a major- general's commission is not worth half the trouble I and my friends have had about mine, and I feel very little inclination to trouble them, or even myself, any more about it.
"The Senate has its duty to perform in this matter, as well as myself and my superior officers. If senators are not willing to act upon the concurrent testimony of all my superior officers as to what services I have rendered, I shall not condescend to humbug them into the belief that I have done something which I really have not.
"You ask me what are the prospects of putting down the rebellion. I answer unhesitatingly that when the management of military matters is left to military men, the rebellion will be put down very quickly, and not before. I regard it as having been fully demonstrated that neither the Senate, nor the House of Representatives, nor the newspapers, nor the people of the United States, nor even all of them together, can command an army. I rather think if you let Grant alone, and let him have his own way, he will end the war this year. At all events, the next ninety days will show whether he will or not.
"I find this letter is both too long and too ill-natured. I feel too much as if I would like to 'whip somebody anyhow,' so I will stop where I am. Let me hear from you again soon.
"Yours very truly, "J. M. Schofield. "Hon. J. B. Henderson, "U. S. Senate, Washington, D. C."
Of course I knew the advice of my friend Senator Henderson was not intended to be taken seriously, but only as expressing his view, much the same as my own, of the then existing situation in the Senate. But it gave me, all the same, the opportunity I wanted to give his brother senators, through him, "a piece of my mind."
General Sherman, on a visit to Knoxville about the end of March, a few days before the date of the foregoing letter, disclosed to me his general plans for the coming campaign, and the part I was expected to take in it.
It would be difficult to give an adequate conception of the feeling of eager expectation and enthusiasm with which, having given my final salutation to my "friends" in the Senate, I entered upon the preparations for this campaign. Of its possible results to the country there was room in my mind only for confidence. But for myself, it was to decide my fate, and that speedily. My reputation and rank as a soldier, so long held in the political balance, were at length to be settled. The long-hoped-for opportunity had come, and that under a general whose character and ability were already established, and of the justice of whose judgment and action regarding his subordinates there could be no reason for doubt in my mind. My command was to be mostly of veteran troops, and not too large for my experience. Its comparative smallness was a source of satisfaction to me at that time, rather than anything like jealousy of my senior brother commanders of the Cumberland and Tennessee.
My first care was to provide my men with all necessary equipment for the campaign, and to fill up the ranks by calling in all absentees. It was a refreshing sight to see the changed aspect and feeling of the gallant little army as it marched with full ranks and complete equipment, newly clad, from Knoxville toward Dalton.
My next thought was to win the respect and confidence of my men. An opportunity to do this was speedily afforded in the delicate operations in front of Dalton. The result may perhaps be fairly expressed in the words of an old soldier who was overhead to say as I passed his regiment that day under fire: "It is all right, boys; I like the way the old man chaws his tobacco." From that day forward I felt that the Twenty-third Corps confided in me as I did in them. I never had any doubt they would do just what I expected them to do, and would take it for granted that it was "all right."
It is with greatest pleasure that I record here the just tribute paid to that splendid body of men by General Sherman about the close of the Atlanta campaign: "The Twenty-third Corps never failed to do all that was expected of it."
COMMENTS ON SHERMAN'S "MEMOIRS"
And it is with equal pleasure that I record the just and generous treatment shown by General Sherman toward me from the beginning of that campaign. Although much my senior in years, experience, and reputation, he never showed that he was aware of it, but always treated me as his peer. In his official reports and his memoirs he has never been unkind or unjust, though it has never been his habit to bestow much praise on individuals, or to think much of the rewards due his subordinates, generally giving credit as justly due to troops rather than to commanders. It would be impossible for me not to cherish feelings of strong affection for my old commander, as well as the profound respect due his character as a man and solider, and his brilliant genius.
If anything I may say in criticism of General Sherman's acts or words shall seem unkind or be considered unjust, I can only disclaim any such feeling, and freely admit that it would be wholly unworthy of the relations that always existed between us. I write not for the present, but for the future, and my only wish is to represent the truth as it appears to me. If I fail to see it clearly, I do but condemn myself. History will do impartial justice. Having been in a subordinate position in the campaigns of 1864 in Georgia and Tennessee, I shall not attempt to write a full account of those campaigns, but shall limit myself to such comments as seem to me to be called upon the already published histories of those campaigns.
In estimating the merits of Sherman's "Memoirs,"( 1) it should be remembered that he does not, and does not claim to, occupy the position of a disinterested, impartial historian. He writes, not for the purpose of doing equal and exact justice to all actors in a great historical drama, but for the purpose of elucidating his own acts and motives, and vindicating himself against the harsh criticism and censure which have followed some of his most important transactions. However unconscious General Sherman himself may have been of the influence of such motives, their existence was natural, even inevitable, and they have manifestly given their coloring to all of the memoirs. This should not occasion surprise, nor even regret, much less be held to justify unkind criticism. It is desirable for the future historian to have the view of the chief actor in any portion of history taken from his own standpoint. It is only by a critical, laborious and honest comparison of this view with those of other actors and eyewitnesses that impartial history may ultimately be written.
My present purpose is simply to direct attention to some points in the history of those campaigns of General Sherman in which I was one of his principal subordinates, upon which the views of others were at the time, or have since been, different from his own. In what I have to say the motive of self-vindication can have little or no influence; for, with some unimportant exceptions, General Sherman does relatively full justice to me and to the little army which I had the honor to command. I shall speak mainly of the acts of others, especially the noble dead.
FAULTY ORGANIZATION OF SHERMAN'S ARMY
I must preface my remarks by observing that the organization of Sherman's army during the Atlanta campaign was extremely faulty, in that the three grand divisions were very unequal in strength, the Army of the Cumberland having nearly five times the infantry strength of the Army of the Ohio, and more than twice that of the Army of the Tennessee, even after the junction of Blair's corps. The cavalry, of which two divisions belonged to the Army of the Ohio, always acted either under the direct orders of General Sherman or of the nearest army commander, according to the flank on which it was operating. This inequality resulted from the fact that Sherman's army was composed of three separate armies, or such portions of them as could be spared from their several departments, united for that campaign. General Thomas was, naturally enough, disinclined to part with any of his troops, and the troops did not wish to be separated from the old army in which they had won so much honor, nor from the commander whom they revered. Besides, General Thomas had had much greater experience in the command of troops in the field than I, and General Sherman, if he thought of it at all, may well have doubted the wisdom of diminishing the command of the one to increase that of the other. I do not know whether this matter was discussed at all before the opening of the campaign, certainly not by me, who would have been restrained by motives of delicacy, if by no other, from mentioning it. But in fact my ambition was then limited to fighting well and successfully with the single corps under my command. It was only after experience had drawn attention more pointedly to the evils resulting from faulty organization, and success had inspired legitimate confidence, that this subject became matter of much thought and some discussion.
But this faulty organization continued to the end of the Atlanta campaign, and was, as I think will clearly appear, one of the causes of many of the partial failures or imperfect successes that characterized our operations. General Thomas's command often proved unwieldy and slow from being larger than one man could handle in a rough and in many places densely wooded country, while the others were frequently too small for the work to be done. It was often attempted to remedy this defect by ordering a division or corps of the Army of the Cumberland to "cooperate with" or "support" one of the others in making an attack; but military experience has shown that "cooperate" and "support" mean, in general, to do nothing effective. The corps commanders, generally, not being in the habit of acting independently, and not being in direct communication with the general-in-chief, and hence not familiar with his plans and views, would not act with the necessary promptness or vigor; and not regarding themselves as absolutely under the orders of the general they were directed to support, they would not obey his orders or requests unless they were in accord with their own views; while one of these corps commanders, General Sherman says, manifested an ambition to get one of the separate armies under his command and win a victory on his "own hook." But General Sherman fails to state that he encouraged all this by his own now well-known erroneous opinion upon the question of the relative rank of army and corps commanders; that this vital question was evaded until its decision in a special casethat of Stanley and Schofieldbecame absolutely necessary, and was then decided erroneously, the error resulting in failure and great disappointment to Sherman. Had this question been decided at an early day according to the plain import of the law, as was afterward done by the War Department, and orders given to corps commanders to obey instead of "cooperate" or "support," much trouble would have been avoided.
First among the most important events of the Atlanta campaign were the operations about Dalton and Resaca. Here I have always thought General Sherman committed the mistake, so common in war (and, as I believe, not infrequently afterward committed by himself and others in the Union armies), of assigning to too small a force the main attack upon the vital point of an enemy's position. McPherson had only about 22,000 infantry, while Sherman estimated Johnston's force at about 60,000. Thomas's position in front of Rocky-face Ridge was virtually as unassailable as that of Johnston behind it. The only weak point of our position was that of two divisions of the Twenty-third Corps on our left, north of Dalton. Had those divisions been attacked, as Sherman apprehended, they might have suffered severely, but would have drawn off force enough from the enemy to increase largely the probabilities of success in the attack in Johnston's rear. One half of Sherman's infantry was ample for the demonstration in front of Dalton. At least one half should have been sent through Snake Creek Gap to strike the enemy's rear. There was no necessity to attack Resaca at all, and experience has shown what terrible losses a small force in a strongly fortified position may inflict upon a very large attacking force. Two or three brigades could have invested Resaca, with the garrison it then held, while a force large enough to hold its ground against Johnston's whole army could have been put upon the railroad between Resaca and Dalton. The result would then, in all probability, have been what Sherman expected. Indeed, the fate of Johnston's army might perhaps have been decided then and there.
McPHERSON'S TASK AT RESACA
Sherman certainly cannot be suspected of wishing to do injustice to the memory of McPherson, for he loved and respected him most highly, and mourned his death with evident sincerity. But I think he is in error in saying that "at the critical moment McPherson seems to have been a little timid." I believe the error was Sherman's, not McPherson's; that McPherson was correct in his judgment, which certainly was mine (after passing over the same ground and fighting the battle of Resaca), that his force was entirely too small for the work assigned it. I had not the same opportunity General Sherman had of judging of McPherson's qualities as a commander; but I knew him well and intimately, having sat upon the same bench with him at West Point for four years, and been his room-mate for a year and a half. His was the most completely balanced mind and character with which I have ever been intimately acquainted, although he did not possess in a very high degree the power of invention or originality of thought. His personal courage seemed to amount to unconsciousness of danger, while his care of his troops cannot, I believe, be justly characterized otherwise than as wise prudence. I consider this to be only a just tribute to the memory of the nearest and dearest friend of my youth.
If McPherson had commanded one third of the army, he might, with a corps of Thomas's army in close support, have felt strong enough to occupy and hold a position between Dalton and Resaca. As it was, Thomas should have followed close upon his rear through Snake Creek Gap, with two corps. The distance between the two wings of the army would have been so short and the ground between them so impassable to the enemy as to give us practically a continuous line of battle, and Thomas's two corps in the valley of the Connasauga near Tilton would have been in far better position to strike the retreating enemy when he was compelled to let go of Dalton, than they were in front of Rocky-face Ridge. Impartial history must, I believe, hold Sherman himself mainly responsible for the failure to realize his expectations in the first movement against Johnston.
MCPHERSON'S TASK AT RESACA
It seems at least probable that at the beginning of the movement against Dalton, Sherman did not fully understand the character of the enemy's position; for his plan clearly appears to have been to make the main attack in front at the moment Johnston should be compelled to let go from his stronghold by reason of McPherson's operations in his rear; while McPherson, after breaking the railroad and then falling back for security to the Gap, should strike Johnston in flank during the confusion of retreat.
The nature of the position rendered this plan impracticable for producing any important result. Had McPherson broken the road ever so "good" and then fallen back to the Gap as ordered, Johnston could have moved his main army to Resaca that night, and at daylight the next morning Sherman would have found in the enemy's trenches at Dalton only a skirmish-line which would have leisurely retreated before him to the new position at Resaca. The result would have been essentially the same as that which was actually accomplished.
Indeed, as it now seems clearly to appear to General Sherman, the only possible mode of striking an effective blow at Dalton was to capture Resaca or seize and hold a point on the road in rear of Dalton, and not to break the road and fall back as McPherson was ordered to do. If Sherman had seen this clearly at the time, it is inconceivable that he would have sent less than one fourth of his army to execute the all-important part of the plan. And now he judges McPherson as manifesting timidity ( 2) because he did not at the critical moment attempt to accomplish, with his comparatively small force, what Sherman should have ordered to be done by a much larger force.
A very bold, independent commander might have attempted, whether successful or not, what Sherman thinks McPherson ought to have done at Resaca; and, as Sherman says, such an opportunity does not occur twice in the life of any man. But McPherson was a subordinate in spirit as well as in fact, and cannot fairly be charged with timidity for not attempting what he was not ordered to do, and what, in fact, was no part of the plans of his superior so far as they were indicated in his orders.
If McPherson had assaulted Resaca, it is possible, but only possible, that he might have succeeded. There were some cases during the Civil War where intrenchments hastily constructed and imperfectly defended were carried by assault; many more where the assault failed; and, I believe, not one case where intrenchments carefully prepared in advance, with obstructions in front, and defended by a force commensurate with the extent of the line, like those at Resaca, were successfully assaulted.
It is true that McPherson's force was vastly superior to the single brigade that held Resaca that day, but that practically amounts to nothing. A single division would have been as good for such an assault as two corps. Beyond a reasonable proportion, say of three or four to one, numbers amount to nothing in making such an assault. It would be physically possible for numbers to succeed in such a case if their immediate commander was willing to sacrifice them and they were willing to be sacrificed. But considering the general unwillingness among commanders and men to sacrifice or to be sacrificed beyond what seems to them a reasonable expenditure of life for the object to be gained, success is morally impossible, or very nearly so, in an assault such as would have been required to capture Resaca on May 9, 1864. Clearly, such an assault should not be attempted except as the only chance of victory; and then the subordinate officers and men should be clearly informed precisely what they are expected to do, and made to understand the necessity for so great and unusual a sacrifice. In that case, brave and true men will make the sacrifice required, provided their pluck holds out long enough; and that no man is wise enough to predict, even of himself, much less of a large number of men.
McPHERSON'S TASK AT RESACA
The only chance of success was to invest Resaca on the west and north, and put between the investing line and Dalton troops enough to hold their ground against the main body of Johnston's army; and this must have been done in a single day, starting from the débouché of Snake Creek Gap, the troops moving by a single, common country road. Johnston's whole army, except a small rear-guard, would by the use of three roads have been in position to attack McPherson at dawn of day the next morning, while the main body of Sherman's army was far away on the other side of Rocky-face. Or if McPherson had not held the entire natural position as far east as the Connasauga River, Johnston could have passed round him in the night. It seems to me certain that McPherson's force was too small to have taken and held that position. Indeed it does not seem at all certain that, however large his force might have been, he could have put troops enough in position before night to accomplish the object of cutting of Johnston's retreat. The case was analogous to that of Hood's crossing Duck River in November of that year, and trying to cut off our retreat at Spring Hill. There was simply not time enough to do it in that one day, and if not done in one day it could not be done at all.
So that it does not seem at all certain that this, which was "Thomas's plan" to throw the entire Army of the Cumberland on the road in Johnston's rear and thus cut off his retreat, would have succeeded any better than Sherman's, yet it gave greater promise of success, and therefore ought to have been tried. It is at least probable that Johnston's view of the case (see his "Narrative," pages 15, 16, 17) is the correct one: That, with his thorough knowledge of the ground, ample roads, and means of early information, together with our ignorance of the ground and our extremely deficient roads, he could have defeated any possible attempt to cut him off from Resaca.
To illustrate the faulty system of organization and command which characterized the Atlanta campaign, I will now refer to an incident of the operations about Dallas, it being next in order of date of those I wish to consider. General Sherman does not allude to it at all in his "Memoirs."
Near the close of the operations about Dallas, the Twenty-third Corps was moved to our left, under instructions from General Sherman to endeavor to strike the enemy's right flank. A division of the Army of the Cumberland was ordered to "support" the Twenty-third Corps. There were no roads available, and the country was in the main densely wooded. The head of the column was directed by the compass toward a point where our maps, the general topography of the country, and the enemy's known position indicated that his right must probably rest. After a laborious march through dense undergrowth, during which our skirmish-line was lost in the woods and another deployed to replace it, we struck an entrenched line strongly held, and a sharp action ensued. The Twenty-third Corps was deployed as far to the left as possible, and the skirmishers reported that they had reached the extremity of the enemy's entrenched line, but could not overlap it. At this moment the division of the Army of the Cumberland came up in splendid style, and massed immediately in the rear of our left, in "close supporting distance," and under a pretty heavy fire. I first sent a staff officer and then went myself to the division commander, explained the situation, and asked him to put in a brigade on my left and turn the enemy's flank so as to give us a footing beyond his parapet. He replied that he was ordered by General Thomas only to "support" me, and that he would do no more. The day was already far advanced, and before I could bring troops from another part of my line darkness came on, and the action ended for the day. By the next morning I had brought another division of the Twenty-third Corps to the flank, and General Sherman arrived on the ground. By his personal orders this division was pushed straight through the woods to a point in the enemy's rear, on the road leading from Dallas to Acworth, which point it reached without any opposition, and there entrenched That night Johnston abandoned his lines. An inspection of the enemy's intrenchments demonstrated that our skirmishers were right, and that a single brigade on our left would have been ample to turn the enemy's flank and open the way to victory. The above facts were immediately reported to Sherman and Thomas. I do now know what action, if any, was taken upon them.
EXAMPLE OF THE WORKING OF A FAULTY SYSTEM
I refer to this incident, not as especially affecting the military reputation of any officer one way or the other, but to illustrate the working of a faulty system. Under proper organization and discipline, any division commander could hardly have failed with that fine division to do all that was desired of him that day. I believe that division commander's commission as major-general of volunteers was anterior in date to mine, and he, no doubt, with General Sherman and some others, thought he was not subject to my orders.
[( 1) The following was written in 1875, soon after the appearance of the first edition.]
[( 2) In the revised edition, Vol. II, p. 34, General Sherman substitutes "cautious" for "timid."]
CHAPTER VIII Sherman's Displeasure with Hooker growing out the Affair at Kolb's FarmHooker's Dispatch Evidently MisinterpretedA Conversation with James B. McPherson over the Question of Relative Rank Encouraging John B. Hood to become a SoldierVisit to the Camp of Frank P. Blair, Jr.Anecdote of Sherman and Hooker under Fire The Assault on KenesawTendency of Veteran TroopsThe Death of McPherson before AtlantaSherman's error in a Question of Relative Rank.
In the affair at Kolb's Farm, on June 22, Hascall's division of the Twenty-third Corps was abreast of and connecting with Hooker's right, while his advance-guard was many yards in advance of the line, when the enemy's attack at the Kolb House began. The first attack fell upon this advance-guard, the 14th Kentucky Volunteers, which gallantly held its ground until twice ordered to retire and join the main line. In the meantime Hascall's line had been formed in prolongation of Hooker's and covered with the usual hastily constructed parapets, and three brigades of Cox's division had been ordered forward to protect Hascall's right. The attack was repulsed with ease, and there was no ground for apprehension about the safety of my immediate flank, much less of Hooker's, after the arrival of Cox's division, which occurred before the hour of Hooker's signal- dispatch to Sherman expressing anxiety about our extreme right. On the following morning we reoccupied the ground held by the 14th Kentucky at the opening of the engagement, and not only did I offer to show General Sherman that the dead of my "advance division were lying farther out than any of Hooker's," but he actually rode with me over the ground, and saw the dead of the 14th Kentucky lying in advance of Hooker's picket-line.
SHERMAN'S DISPLEASURE WITH HOOKER
My impression is that Hooker, in his signal-despatch of 5:30 P. M., saying, "We have repulsed two heavy attacks, and feel confident, our only apprehension being for our extreme right flank. Three entire corps are in front of us,"( 1) meant by "our extreme right flank" not his own right, but minethat is, the extreme right of the entire line; for at the time of that dispatch nearly my whole corps was strongly posted on Hooker's right, and was well "refused," forming a strong right flank. This General Hooker well knew. But the Sandtown Road leading to our rear, on which Cox's division had been posted until Johnston's attack made it necessary to close him up on Hascall, was now less strongly guarded. I believe that General Hooker had conceived the idea, as indicated by his dispatch to Sherman, that Johnston had drawn his main force from around Kenesaw, and was about to strike our extreme right. I recollect that I was all the time on the watch for such a blow, but relied upon my cavalry to give me some warning of it, and made it a rule to be always as well prepared for it as I could. Being habitually on the flank, I had got used to that sort of thing, while Hooker, having been habitually in the center with his flanks well protected, was more nervous about having them exposed. At all events, I did not regard the situation at the Kolb House as anything unusual, and did not think of mentioning it in such a light to General Sherman; while General Hooker, with a sort of paternal feeling of seniority, may have thought it his duty to take care of the whole right wing of the army, and to advise the general- in-chief of the supposed danger to our "extreme right flank."
There occurred on that occasion one of those little and seemingly trifling incidents which never escape the memory, and are always a source of pride, especially to those who are comparatively young. When Sherman read Hooker's dispatch, which he interpreted as meaning that my corps was not in position to protect Hooker's flank, he said in substance, if not literally, and with great emphasis: "That is not true. I sent Schofield an order to be there. I know he received the order, for his initials, in his own hand, are on the envelop which the orderly brought back, and I know he is there. Hooker's statement is false." What a delight it was to execute the orders of a chief who manifested such confidence!
HOOKER'S DISPATCH EVIDENTLY MISINTERPRETED
I do not remember that I was "very angry" about Hooker's dispatch, as General Sherman says (Vol. II, page 59), though I think Sherman was. Indeed, he had more reason to be angry than I; for the fact, and evidence of it, were so plain that the Twenty-third Corps had done its duty as ordered, that if Hooker's dispatch was meant to imply the contrary, which I doubt, that was a cause of anger to the general-in-chief, whom he had unnecessarily alarmed, rather than to me, who had no apprehension of being suspected by the general-in-chief of having failed in my duty.
In fact, I do not recollect having seen Hooker's dispatch at all until I saw it quoted in Sherman's "Memoirs." My recollection is that Sherman told me, on his visiting us the next day, that he had received during the battle a dispatch from Hooker to the effect that his flank was unprotected. In reply to this I explained to General Sherman where my troops had been during the engagement, and showed him the dead of the 14th Kentucky lying on the advanced ground they had held while Hascall's division was forming. I believe that if I had seen Hooker's dispatch at the time, I should have interpreted it then, as I do now, as referring, not to his immediate right, but to the extreme right of the line. I do not recollect any words, "pretty sharp" or otherwise, between General Hooker and myself on that subject, and do not believe it was ever mentioned between us. In short, I do not think I was present at the interview in the "little church" described by General Sherman (Sherman's "Memoirs," Vol. II, page 59). I have an impression that General Hascall was there, and that it is to him General Sherman refers. I believe the Kolb House difficulty was almost entirely a misapprehension between General Sherman and General Hooker. Why this mistake was not explained at the time or afterward I do not know, unless it was that the feelings of those two gentlemen toward each other were unfavorable to any such explanation.
I will add that General Hooker and I were together both before and after the opening of the Kolb House engagement. He knew perfectly well where my troops were, and what they were doing, and it seems to me utterly impossible that he can have meant by his dispatch what General Sherman understood it to mean.
My dispatches of that date to Sherman show that I had no special apprehension even in respect to our extreme right flank, and that I doubted the report that one whole corps was in our front.
My orders on that day,( 2) show that Hascall was up with Hooker at the intersection of the Marietta and Powder Spring roads, near the Kolb House, as early as 3 P. M., and that Cox was ordered up with three brigades at 4:15 P. M., before the assault began. Cox arrived with the head of his column during the enemy's attack, and was directed by me in person where and how to put his troops in position. Hence I think I must be right in the inference that in Hooker's dispatch to Sherman of 5:30 P. M., the words "our extreme right flank" must have been intended to refer to my extreme right, and not his. He was simply unduly apprehensive for the safety of the extreme right flank of the army, not of his own corps in particular. My report to General Sherman at 9 P. M. simply shows that I did not share that apprehension; that, instead of believing there were "three entire corps in front of us," I doubted whether there was even all of Hood's corps.
General Hooker's habit of swinging off from the rest of General Thomas's army, and getting possession of roads designated for McPherson or for me, was a common subject of remark between Sherman, Thomas, McPherson, and myself; and his motive was understood to be, as General Sherman states, to get command of one of the armies, in the event of battle, by virtue of his senior commission. But the subject was never mentioned between General Hooker and me, and he never even approximated to giving me an order. No doubt he entertained the opinion that he would have a right to give orders to either General McPherson or myself under certain circumstances likely to arise, for General Sherman entertained the same opinion. What General Thomas thought on the question I never knew. My own opinion and McPherson's were decidedly the contrary.
CONVERSATION OVER THE QUESTION OF RELATIVE RANK
In the final movement which resulted in the withdrawal of Johnston's army from Kenesaw, the Army of the Tennessee passed by the right flank of my infantry line along the famous Sandtown Road. While this was going on, McPherson and I sat on our horses together a long time, observing the movement and renewing the familiar intercourse of our youth. We had a long and free conversation on a great variety of subjectsa rare opportunity for commanders, even in the same army, where their troops were generally from ten to twenty miles apart in line of battle. One of the first subjects that came up was that question of relative rank; for our troops had "met" and were then "doing duty together," in the language of the old article of war. But the subject was quickly dismissed with the remark, made almost simultaneously by both, that such a question could not possible cause any difficulty between us. McPherson had the senior commission of major-general, and I the senior assignment as army commander. Perhaps it would have puzzled even Halleck to frame a satisfactory decision in that peculiar case. I had long before determined what my decision would be if that question ever became a practical one between McPherson and myself on the field of battle. I would have said, in substance at least: "Mac, just tell me what you want me to do."
As we sat together that day, McPherson confided to me the secret of his marriage engagement, for the purpose, as he stated, of inquiring whether, in my opinion, he could before long find a chance to go home and get married. I told him I thought that after the capture of Atlanta operations would be suspended long enough for that. But my dear and noble friend was killed in the next great battle. After Atlanta had fallen I went home, as McPherson would doubtless have done if he had lived; but our common friend and classmate Hood cut the visit so short that there would have been little time for marriage festivities.
McPherson, among other high qualities, was one of the most generous men I ever knew. He was remarkably skillful in topographical drawing, etching, lettering, and all other uses of the pen. Although at the head of the class and a most conscientious student whose time was very valuable to himself, he would spend a very large part of that precious time in "lettering" problems for classmates who needed such help. For this reason and others he was, by common consent of all the classes, the most popular man in the corps. I could not compete with "Mac" at all in the lettering business, but I tried to follow his good example, in my own way, by helping the boys over knotty points in "math" and "phil." I had taught district school one winter before going to West Point, and hence had acquired the knack of explaining things.
Hood was not well up in mathematics. The first part of the course especially he found very hardso much so that he became discouraged. After the unauthorized festivities of Christmas, particularly, he seemed much depressed. On the 26th he asked me which I would prefer to be, "an officer of the army or a farmer in Kentucky?" I replied in a way which aroused his ambition to accomplish what he had set out to do in coming to West Point, without regard to preference between farming and soldiering. He went to work in good earnest, and passed the January examinations, though by a very narrow margin. From that time on he did not seem to have so much difficulty. When we were fighting each other so desperately fifteen years later, I wondered whether Hood remembered the encouragement I had given him to become a soldier, and came very near thinking once or twice that perhaps I had made a mistake. But I do not believe that public enmity ever diminished my personal regard for my old friend and classmate.
VISIT TO THE CAMP OF FRANK P. BLAIR, JR.
In thinking of McPherson, I recall an interesting incident connected with Frank P. Blair, Jr.'s arrival with his corps about June 9, referred to by General Sherman (Vol. II, page 24). For some reason we had an afternoon's rest the day after Blair arrived; so I rode over to his campseven or eight miles, perhapsto greet my old friend. McPherson, to whose army Blair's corps belonged, and other officers were there. To our immense surprise, Blair had brought along great hogsheads of ice and numerous baskets of champagne, as if to increase the warmth of our welcome. Of course we did not disdain such an unusual treat in the enemy's country. About sunset McPherson invited me to visit his camp, and we started off at a full gallop, which we kept up all the way, yet it was some time after dark when we reached the headquarters of the Army of the Tennessee. A good camp supper was awaiting us, with jolly young officers to make it merry. It was not until supper was ended that I began to realize the necessity of a night's march to get back to my own camp. As our infantry line was twenty miles long, and the cavalry stretched it out on either flank as many more, my single orderly was quite sufficient protection from any attack by the enemy; but the Georgia bushes, brambles, and mud, combined with the absence of any known road, constituted an enemy hard to overcome. However, by the aid of the compass which I have always carried in my head since I used to hunt in the wilds of the West, I got back to camp, and went to bed, taking care not to observe the time of night by my watch.
As I have said, I was often much annoyed by General Hooker's corps getting possession of roads which had been designated for mine to advance upon, thus greatly delaying my movements. But it is but just to say that this is susceptible of an explanation much more creditable to General Hooker than that given by General Sherman. General Thomas's army was so large that he could never get his three corps into position as soon as expected by the use of the roads designated for him. Hence, when Hooker was not in advance he would "switch off" and hunt for another road to the right or left, and thus sometimes strike in ahead of McPherson or me, and leave us no road at all to move on. In fact, the army was so large and the roads were so few that our movements were often painfully slow and tedious, and General Hooker's motive may have been only to get ahead and bring his corps into action or to the position assigned to it in whatever way he could.
ANECDOTE OF SHERMAN AND HOOKER UNDER FIRE
The first time I ever saw General Sherman and General Hooker together, or got even a suspicion that their personal relations were other than the most satisfactory, was at Resaca. Cox's division had gained possession of some portions of the enemy's outer works, so that from a bald hill just in rear of our line some parts of the main line of defense could be distinctly seen. Upon my informing General Sherman of this, he soon appeared on the ground, accompanied or closely followed by a large number of general and staff officers. Besides Sherman, Thomas, Hooker, and Newton, a score of others were there, all eager to see what they could of the now famous stronghold which McPherson had refrained from assaulting. I led them to the hill, on which a few dead trees were still standing, and from which the much-desired view could be obtained. Of course all were on foot, yet they were too numerous not to attract the attention of the enemy. Very soon the sound of musketry in front, then not very heavy, was varied by the sharp explosion of a shell overhead, and fragments of branches of dead trees came falling all around. A general "scatteration" occurred in all directions save one. Newton and I, who were conversing at the time, quietly stepped aside a few paces out of the line of fire, where we were much safer than we would have been in full retreat, and then turned round to see what had become of our companions. All save two had disappeared, even Thomas having abandoned the field, probably for the first and only time in his life. But still there, on the bald hill, in full view of the hostile artillery, were the two already highly distinguished generals, Sherman and Hooker, both alike famous for supreme courage, striding round the ground, appearing to look at nothing in particular and not conversing with each other, but seeming at least a foot taller than usual, each waiting for the other to lead off in retreat. After quite a long continuance of this little drama, which greatly entertained Newton and me, the two great soldiers, as if by some mysterious impulse,for they did not speak a word,simultaneously and slowly strode to the rear, where their horses were held. I cheerfully gave the "Johnny Rebs" credit for the courtesy of not firing another shot after they saw the effect of the first, which I doubt not was intended only as a gentle hint that such impudence in Yankees was not to be tolerated. Yet a single shell from the same direction,probably from the same battery,when we were moving into action that morning, exploded near my head, and killed the aide who was riding behind me.( 3) My too numerous staff and escort had attracted attention. I had at Dalton a few days before forbade the staff and escort to follow me into action, unless specially ordered to do so; but they had not so soon learned the lesson which the sad casualty at Resaca taught them. It was then early in the campaign. Later, both generals and orderlies had learned to restrain somewhat their curiosity and their too thoughtless bravery. The perfect old soldier has learned to economize the life and strength of men, including his own, with somewhat the same care that he does those of artillery horses and transportation mules. It is only the young soldier who does not know the difference between husbanding the national resources and showing cowardice in face of the enemy.
At Wilson's Creek, where the brave Lyon was killed in August, 1861, and where the gallant volunteers on both sides had fought with almost unexampled courage, standing up to their work all the time, until one third of their numbers were killed or wounded, and their forty rounds of ammunition gone, the little companies of old, regular Indian-fighters had been deployed as skirmishers in close order, behind trees and bushes and hillocks, and had suffered comparatively small losses. The following colloquy occurred between one of them and a volunteer whose cartridge-box, as he was proud to show, was empty. Volunteer: "How many shots did you fire?" Old soldier (looking into his cartridge-box): "I fired just nineteen." Volunteer: "And how many rebs do you think you killed?" Old soldier: "I guess I killed about nineteen."
One beautiful, quiet Sunday afternoon, in front of Atlanta, when even the pickets were respecting the Sabbath day, my headquarters band, which had been playing selections of sacred music, easily heard on the other side of the lines, struck up a favorite Southern air of quite a different character. Quickly came a shell crashing through the trees far over our heads. The band as quickly took the hint and changed the tune. Such little "courtesies" from our "friends the enemy" were not at all uncommon in the short intervals of rest from deadly work.
THE ASSAULT ON KENESAW
General Sherman says in Vol. II, page 60, of his "Memoirs":
"During the 24th and 25th of June, General Schofield extended his right as far as prudent, so as to compel the enemy to thin out his lines correspondingly, with the intention to make two strong assaults at points where success would give us the greatest advantage. I had consulted Generals Thomas, McPherson, and Schofield, and we all agreed that we could not with prudence stretch out any more, and therefore there was no alternative but to attack 'fortified lines'a thing carefully avoided up to that time."
The first sentence literally means that I extended my right "with the intention," on my part, "to make two strong assaults," etc. But that is a mere verbal error. General Sherman, of course, meant to say that the intention was his.
The second sentence is, perhaps, ambiguous. At least it has been construed to mean more than the truth. It is undoubtedly true that "we all agreed that we could not with prudence stretch out any more," but we did not agree in the conclusion "and therefore there was no alternative," etc.
Indeed, such conclusion was extremely illogical, as was demonstrated a few days later, when one of the other "alternatives" was adopted with success. This successful movement was essentially the same as that which had been previously made to dislodge the enemy from Dalton, and that by which Sherman's army had been transferred from New Hope Church to the railroad in front of Allatoona, as well as that by which Atlanta was afterward captured. Hence the existence of this "alternative" could not have been unthought of by any of us at the time of the assault on Kenesaw.
But there was another alternative in this and similar cases, which was much discussed at various times during the campaign. Its practicability can be judged of only upon general principles, for it was never tried. It was to detach two or three corps, nearly half our army (which was about double the strength of the enemy), make a detour wide enough to avoid his fortifications, and strike directly at his flank and rear. Such a movement, it was urged, at Dalton, Kenesaw, or Atlanta would have compelled Johnston to fight a battle on equal terms with one half of Sherman's army, while he had to hold his parapets against the other half. Whatever else may be said of this proposed movement, it would undoubtedly have been more hazardous and much more decisive, one way or the other, than any of the plans actually adopted. It certainly promised success proportionate to the cost, instead of a costly failure, which the assault of fortified lines had almost invariably proved to be.
I did not see Thomas or McPherson for some days before the assault, but I believe their judgment, like mine, was opposed to it. Undoubtedly it was generally opposed, though deferentially as became subordinates toward the commanding general. The responsibility was entirely Sherman's, as he afterward frankly stated; and I presume he did not mean to imply otherwise by the language used in his "Memoirs" above quoted (Vol. II, page 60). General Sherman's orders, issued on June 24 (Special Field Orders, No. 28), directed each of the three armies to make an attack (under the word "assault" for Thomas and "attack" for McPherson and me). I had made all preparations to carry out the order on my part. Being visited by General Sherman a day or two before the date named for the execution of the order (June 27), I explained to him what I had done, and how little hope there was of success, on account of the smallness of my reserve to push the advantage even if we should break the line, when he at once replied that it was not intended that I should make an attack in front, but to make a strong demonstration in my front, and gain what advantage I could on the enemy's flank. During the day Cox's division forced the passage of Olley's Creek and secured a position on the head of Nickajack, which was spoken of by Sherman as the only success of the day.
TENDENCY OF VETERAN TROOPS
There were doubtless many occasions in the Atlanta campaign when the enemy's intrenchments could have been assaulted with success. These were when the position had been but recently occupied and the fortifications were very slight. After several days' occupation, as at the points attacked by Thomas and McPherson, the lines became impregnable. Frequent efforts were made, and by none more earnestly than by General Sherman, to press the troops to a vigorous assault of the enemy's position under the favorable circumstances above referred to. But the general feeling of the army, including not only privates, but officers of nearly all grades, was undoubtedly opposed to such attacks. The notion was very prevalent that there was no necessity of fighting the enemy on unequal terms. When attacked, either with or without cover, the troops would fight with the most determined valor, and almost invariably with success. So when attacking the enemy in open ground there was no lack of energy or pluck. But we lose one of the most important lessons of the war if we fail to remember and appreciate the fact that our veteran troops are very loath to make an attack where they believe they have not a fair chance of success. This feeling must be attributed, not to a lack of high soldierly qualities, but to intelligence and good sense. The veteran American soldier fights very much as he has been accustomed to work his farm or run his sawmill: He wants to see a fair prospect that it is "going to pay." His loyalty, discipline, and pluck will not allow him under any circumstances to retreat without orders, much less to run away; but if he encounters a resistance which he thinks he cannot overcome, or which he thinks it would "cost too much" to overcome, he will lie down, cover himself with a little parapet, and hold his ground against any force that may attempt to drive him back. This feeling of the soldier is an element in the problem of war which cannot be ignored. The general who, with such an army, would win the full measure of success due to greatly superior numbers, must maneuver so as to compel the enemy to fight him on approximately equal terms, instead of assaulting fortifications where, against modern weapons, numbers are of little or no avail. In the days of the bayonet successful tactics consisted in massing a superior force upon some vital point, and breaking the enemy's line. Now it is the fire of the musket, not the bayonet, that decides the battle. To mass troops against the fire of a covered line is simply to devote them to destruction. The greater the mass, the greater the lossthat is all. A large mass has no more chance of success than a small one. That this is absolutely true since the introduction of breech-loaders is probably not doubted by any one; and it was very nearly true with the muzzle- loading rifles used during our late war, as was abundantly demonstrated on many occasions.
I have always believed that the true tactics of our late war, whenever our force was double that of the enemy (as it sometimes was and always should have been at all points where decisive movements were to be made), were to throw one half the force upon the enemy's rear, so as to compel him to attack that force or else retreat by side roads with loss of trains and artillery. This would doubtless have been a bold departure from the ancient tactics, which had not yet been proved obsolete. Yet I always thought it strange that our leading generals were unwilling to attempt it. Had Sherman divided his army in such a way, and struck at Hood's rear, he might have found a chance to destroy that army as well as the railroads in Georgia.
THE DEATH OF McPHERSON BEFORE ATLANTA
The death of McPherson, on July 22, was felt by all to be an irreparable loss, and by none more so than by General Sherman, who manifested deep feeling when the body was brought to the Howard House, east of Atlanta. I recollect well his remark to the effect that the whole of the Confederacy could not atone for the sacrifice of one such life.
My recollection of some of the incidents of that day differs in some respects from that of General Sherman. As soon as it was known that the Army of the Tennessee was heavily engaged I drew out of line the larger part of my troops, leaving the picket-line in position, with strong reserves behind the parapets, and massed them near my left, ready to send reinforcements to the Army of the Tennessee if necessary, or to form a temporary left flank if the line on my left should be broken, as it was late in the day, as described by General Sherman.( 4)
When that break was made in the line immediately to the left of mine, I had a rare opportunity of witnessing Sherman's splendid conduct as a simple soldier, the occasion for which occurs so rarely to the general-in-chief of a great army. Sherman at once sent to me for all my artillery, which responded to his call at a full gallop. He led the batteries in person to some high, open ground in front of our line near the Howard House, placed them in position, and directed their fire, which from that advanced position enfiladed the parapets from which our troops had been driven, and which the enemy then occupied. With the aid of that terrible raking fire, the division of Union troops very quickly regained the intrenchments they had lost. General Sherman, on page 81, Vol. II, gives me the credit due to himself for that soldierly conduct as an artillery commander. I was occupied in forming my infantry reserve to meet the enemy if Logan's troops did not drive them back. Only my artillery was used in restoring this broken line, because Logan's infantry proved sufficient without further aid. This action of mine was taken with General Sherman's knowledge and approval, and was the correct thing to do, for the reason that the ground in my front was such as to make both my position and that of the enemy practically unassailable. I had no apprehension of an attack in my front, and there was no question of my attempting to "make a lodgment in Atlanta" that day, as stated by Sherman in Vol. II, page 80.
It was proposed by me that my reserve and Thomas's should go the assistance of the Army of the Tennessee, either directly or, better still, by making a counter-attack in front of the right of that army, which, if successful, would cut off the hostile force then attacking in left. Sherman replied, as I recollect, that he had asked Thomas to send some troops to the left, and the latter had replied that he had none to spare. Without these the proposition to make a counter-attack could not be entertained. But my memory is only that of conversations with General Sherman during the day, and he ought to be much better informed than I concerning what passed between General Thomas and himself. I recollect that General Sherman during the day expressed something like a wish to "let the Army of the Tennessee fight its own battle," but in his statement of motive for so doing I think he does that army injustice. My impression was, and is, that they would have been very glad of assistance, and that timely help would have increased the fraternal feeling between the armies, instead of creating unworthy jealousy.
I cannot but believe, as I then thought, that we were losing a great opportunity that day. A large force of the enemy had made a wide circuit from his defenses about Atlanta and attacked our left several miles distant. We there had a chance to fight him on equal terms. I thought, and still think, we ought to have concentrated a large part of Thomas's force and mine near the Howard House, and made a strong counter-attack upon this attacking column of the enemy, with the hope of cutting it off from Atlanta. Instead of this, Thomas spent the day in efforts to "make a lodgment in Atlanta" over well-prepared fortifications which the Georgia militia could hold against him about as well as the veteran Confederate troops.
The movement of August 4 and 5 was designed to be substantially what had been frequently suggested, but which I have heretofore referred to as having never been tried, with the exception that the attacking force was not to sever its connection with the main body, and hence might not reach far enough to strike an exposed flank of the enemy. But even with this modification I thought the movement ought to have a fair chance of success. That movement was not suggested by me in any way, and, so far as I know, not by General Thomas. I believe it originated entirely with General Sherman. I never heard of it until I received his orders. There was no "argument" by me of the question of relative rank, as suggested by General Sherman (Vol. II, page 99).
SHERMAN'S ERROR IN A QUESTION OF RELATIVE RANK
The positions of the troops when the order for the movement was made rendered it convenient that the Twenty-third Corps be put in first,that is, next to the right of General Thomas's troops then in position,while the Fourteenth Corps, commanded by General John M. Palmer, was relied upon to develop rapidly to our right and endeavor to strike the enemy's flank before he could extend his entrenched line far enough to meet and resist our attack. It was not until some time after my orders for this movement had been issued and should have been in progress of vigorous execution that I received the first intimation that the question of rank had been raised, as stated by General Sherman, and that my orders had simply been transmitted to the division commanders of the Fourteenth Corps.
It cannot for a moment be admitted that any share of the blame for that failure attaches to the Fourteenth Corps, as such. Nor do I believe with General Sherman that its slowness on that occasion was due to anything "imbibed" from General Thomas.
SHERMAN'S ERROR IN A QUESTION OF RELATIVE RANK
My own view of military duty was different from that entertained by the commander of the Fourteenth Corps, as was shown in my subsequent action, hereinafter referred to, when I was ordered to report to and act under the orders of General Stanley. But if the distinguished statesman who then commanded the Fourteenth Corps fell into error at that time, he has doubtless since regretted it far more than any other man could possible do; and he has many times atoned for that error by the great services to the country which he has continued to render up to the present time.
The primary and principal cause of this and all similar difficulties during the Atlanta campaign was the grave error of opinion which disregarded the special rank of army and department commanders given them by the President's assignment under the law, and the still graver error of judgment in leaving such an important question open until the eve of battle, in the "hope that there would be no necessity for making this decision." This error seems incomprehensible when it is considered that it in effect nullified the President's selection of army and department commanders at the most important of all moments, the crisis of battle, by making these commanders subject to the orders of any general of older commission whose troops happened to be adjacent to theirs.
In the midst of battle, when the orders of a common superior cannot be obtained in time to meet an emergency, the highest commander present must give the necessary orders and must be obeyed. This is probably the gravest responsibility of war. Yet Sherman's opinion and decision would have placed this responsibility, not upon the army commander who had been selected by the President, upon the advice of the general-in-chief, under an act of Congress passed especially for the purpose, but upon some one who through political influence or otherwise had got an earlier commission of major-general. So many of the latter had proved to be unqualified for responsible command that Congress had enacted a special law authorizing the President to supersede such prior commissions and assign commanders of armies or army corps in the field and in any department whom he deemed competent.( 5) Palpable as this fallacy seems, yet it was adhered to until overruled by the War Department.
It is proper for me to add that I had at that time but a very slight personal acquaintance with General Palmer. However, I knew him well by reputation, and esteemed him highly. General Thomas, especially, had given me a high estimate of his character and abilities. If there was any cause of jealousy or ill-feeling between us, I never suspected it.
[( 1) War Records, Vol. XXXVIII, part iv, p. 558.]
[( 2) War Records, Vol. XXXVIII, part iv, pp. 566 and 568.]
[( 3) Captain A. H. Engle, who was killed at Resaca, was a most charming and talented youth, only twenty years of age. That was his first battle. He was caterer of the headquarters mess. That morning, before leaving camp, Captain Engle made out all his accounts and handed them, with the money for which he was responsible, to another staff officer, saying that he was going to be killed that day.]
[( 4) Vol. II, pp. 80, 81.]
[( 5) Reference is made here to the 122d Article of War, and the resolution of Congress especially intended to modify it in respect to command in any "field or department," approved April 4, 1862.]
CHAPTER IX The Final Blow at AtlantaJohnston's Untried Plan of Resistance Hood's Faulty MoveHolding the Pivot of the PositionAnecdotes of the Men in the RanksDeferring to General Stanley in a Question of Relative RankThe Failure at Jonesboro'The Capture of Atlanta Absent from the ArmyHood's Operations in Sherman's RearSent Back to Thomas's AidFaulty Instructions to Oppose Hood at Pulaski At ColumbiaReason of the Delay in Exchanging Messages.
When all our efforts to accomplish decisive results by partial operations upon the flanks had failed, this question was much discussed: What more decisive movement shall next be made for the capture of Atlanta? There were practically but two propositions to be considered: That of General Sherman, which was adopted with success; and that heretofore referred to as having never been tried, to detach two or more corps to make a lodgment on the railroad at or below East Point, and then compel the enemy to come out of Atlanta and endeavor to regain control of his only line of supply, or abandon that city altogether. General Sherman thought it too hazardous to detach two corps, though he was willing for me to undertake it with one. In fact, this feeling marked General Sherman's action throughout the campaign. He had no hesitation in detaching a small force, the loss of which would still leave him greatly superior in numbers to the enemy, or a very large force under his own command, leaving the enemy to the care of the smaller part, as in his march to Savannah. General Thomas, on the contrary, thought the movement proposed by General Sherman "extra hazardous," as Sherman says in his "Memoirs" (Vol. II, page 106). I did not regard either of them as very hazardous, and upon consideration rather preferred General Sherman's, because I thought it could not fail to be decisive of the capture of Atlanta, while the other might fail if not executed with promptness and vigor, and this, experience had warned us, we could not be quite sure of.
JOHNSTON'S UNTRIED PLAN OF RESISTANCE
Some time after the war, that very able commander General Joseph E. Johnston told me that in his judgment Sherman's operations in Hood's rear ought not to have caused the evacuation of Atlanta; that he (Johnston), when in command, had anticipated such a movement, and had prepared, or intended to prepare, to oppose it by constructing artillery redoubts at all suitable points in the rear of Atlanta, as well as in front, which redoubts could be very speedily connected by infantry intrenchments whenever necessary; that he aimed to keep on longer than Sherman's army could subsist on the contents of their wagons and haversacks; and that Sherman could not possibly hold all the railroads leading into Atlanta at the same time, nor destroy any one of them so thoroughly that it could not be repaired in time to replenish Johnston's supplies in Atlanta.
Here is presented a question well worthy of the candid study of military critics. Whatever may be the final judgment upon that question, it seems perfectly clear that Johnston's plan of defense ought at least to have been tried by his successor. If Hood had kept all his troops in compact order about Atlanta, he would have been in the best possible condition to resist Sherman if the latter turned back from Jonesboro' and attacked Atlanta from the rear, or to strike Sherman's rear or flank in full force if he made any other movement. The division of Hood's forces at that time, one part holding on to Atlanta while the other went to head off Sherman, was the worst disposition that could have been made.
As related to me personally by General Sheridan,for I have not yet studied the Virginia campaigns so thoroughly as to justify me in speaking from the records,it was a similar mistake on the part of the Confederate cavalry commander J. E. B. Stuart, in trying to get between Sheridan and Richmond, which gave Sheridan the advantage and led to Stuart's defeat. Stuart had ridden hard all night, and got between Sheridan and Richmond, his men and horses exhausted, while Sheridan had been resting and feeding his own men and animals. In the morning Sheridan "rode over" his exhausted antagonist. These are among the many cases where exaggerated ideas of the importance of places have led to the defeat of armies. I knew Stuart well at West Point, he having been in the class next to mine. He then gave promise of his future as a cavalry leader.
The only specially hazardous part of Sherman's movement was that which would fall to my lotnamely, to hold the "pivot" against a possible attack of Hood's whole army while Thomas and Howard should swing round it, and then draw out and join them after the swing was made. Upon my reporting that I was perfectly willing to undertake this task, and had no doubt of the ability of my corps to accomplish it, all question about making the movement appeared to be settled, and it was at once ordered. Hood did not avail himself of his opportunity to attack me when alone, either in position or in motion, hence my part of the movement proved easiest of all.
I had placed my corps in a completely enclosed field-work, large enough to contain all my trains, and strong enough to resist any attack from a greatly superior force until Sherman's movement could be accomplished.
ANECDOTES OF THE MEN IN THE RANKS
I recollect even to this day a little incident of that time which was, at least to me, both amusing and instructive. After receiving Sherman's orders, which meant "suspend aggressive work and go to fortifying," I was directing the laying out of the new work at the most important part of the line, and the men had been ordered to commence digging, when I heard an old volunteer, as he laid aside his gun and put off his accoutrements with manifest reluctance, say, sotto voce: "Well, if digging is the way to put down the rebellion, I guess we will have to do it." Our old soldiers had a "mind of their own," and were not afraid to let their commanders know it; yet they were essentially as thoroughly subordinate and reliable as any troops any general ever had the honor to command.
I now recall another incident which occurred a few days earlier, in which a young Indiana volunteer was somewhat less respectful, though he had no idea whom he was addressing, nor, probably, any thought whatever about "relative rank." I had come out from my tent, before sunrise in the morning, and was performing my morning ablutions in the ordinary camp basin, preparatory to putting on my outer clothing. None of my "people" were yet up, and the night sentinel of my camp was a little way off. There came up a weary, belated soldier who had, perhaps, been trudging along much of the night, trying to overtake his regiment. I heard him ask in a loud voice: "Where is the 128th Indiana?" Not supposing the question was addressed to me, I did not look up. Then came in still louder tones and in an amended form which left no room for doubt as to whom it was addressed: "I mean you old fellow there with the red shirt! Where is the 128th Indiana?"
If from lapse of time my memory may not be exact as to the number of the regiment, I am sure no apology is necessary to the gallant 128th. It was, anyhow, one of those very high-numbered new Indiana regiments which had recently joined the army. The young soldier was sent to the headquarters escort, given his breakfast, and carried along until his regiment was overtaken.
The Twenty-third Corps reached the railroad about the close of day on August 31, having time to do no more than entrench our positions. The orders that day and night were urgent to make the destruction of the railroad thorough and extensive. This was evidently General Sherman's primary object, showing a doubt in his mind whether the effect of his movement would be the speedy abandonment of Atlanta, or whether he would have to trust to his destruction of the railroad to accomplish that object.
Late in the night of the 31st, after General Stanley and I, who were encamped near together, had gone to sleep, we received dispatches from General Sherman stating in effect that as we were too far from the main body of the army to receive orders from him or General Thomas, our two corps must act on the morrow under the orders of the highest commander present, and that General Stanley, having the older commission, was that highest commander. I was therefore directed to report to General Stanley and act under his orders. I replied to General Sherman that while I differed from him in opinion upon the question of relative rank, I would for the present cheerfully abide his decision and execute his orders. Early the next morning, before I had time to report to General Stanley, he appeared at my camp, evidently much disturbed by the orders he had received. He said General Sherman was wrong; that he was not entitled to the command and did not want it; and urged me to accept the chief command, and let him act under my orders. I replied that General Sherman's order was imperative, and I could not relieve him (General Stanley) from the responsibility of executing it. It was all wrong, but there was no present remedy, and he must do the best he could. The position of his corps on the right made it necessary that it should have the advance in the day's movement, while I would follow close after and support him under all circumstances.
THE FAILURE AT JONESBORO'
So we started early in the morning to execute Sherman's orders thoroughly to destroy the railroad, and close down on Thomas toward Jonesboro'. That morning, as Sherman says (Vol. II, page 107), "Howard found an entrenched foe (Hardee's corps) covering Jonesboro'," and "orders were sent to Generals Thomas and Schofield to turn straight for Jonesboro', tearing up the railroad track as they advanced." But of course, as General Sherman had anticipated, such orders could not reach me in time to do any good. They were not received until after the affair at Jonesboro' was ended. But hearing the sound of battle in our front, I rode rapidly forward to the head of Stanley's column, which was then not advancing, made inquiries for that officer, and was informed that he was trying to find General Thomas to get orders. I immediately brought my infantry of the Twenty-third Corps out of the road occupied by Stanley's corps, moved it to the front through woods and fields, and endeavored to find a way by which I could reach the enemy's flank or rear, riding so far ahead with a few staff officers and orderlies that I escaped very narrowly being captured by the enemy. Finally, near dark, General Stanley's troops began to deploy and attack the enemy; and as there were more troops on the ground than could possibly be used that day, I could do not more than stand and watch their movements, as I did with intense interest until my medical director, Dr. Hewit, one of the bravest and coolest men I ever knew, called my attention to the fact that the place was much too hot for a general and his staff who had nothing to do there. I believe if General Sherman had been in our place he would have thought it "more than a skirmish-line" (Vol. II, page 108) in Stanley's front that gave us that fire both of musketry and artillery which my staff officers have frequently spoken of as one of the ugliest they ever experienced. General Stanley's fault was, not that he deployed his troops, but that he did not put them in at once when he arrived on the ground, instead of waiting for orders. But General Stanley, whose gallantry was never questioned, was a subordinate in experience. He had but recently risen to the command of a corps, and had been little accustomed to act on his own responsibility. Feeling overburdened with the responsibility wrongfully thrust upon him that day, he naturally sought relief from it by reporting for orders to General Thomas as soon as his corps was reunited to the main army.
The failure at Jonesboro', as at so many other places, was due to that erroneous interpretation of the law that threw the supreme responsibility at the crisis of battle upon untried and (in this case) unwilling shoulders, or else left the lawful commander without recognized authority, to beg in vain of others to "cooperate" with him.
THE CAPTURE OF ATLANTA
During the night of August 31 others besides General Sherman were too restless and impatient to sleep (Vol. II, page 108). The sounds of explosion in Atlanta were distinctly heard, and the flashes of light distinctly seen. With the compass for direction and the watch for intervals of time between flash and sound, there was no difficulty in locating their origin at Atlanta. An untutored farmer may well have thought "these sounds were just like those of a battle," but a practiced ear could not have failed to note the difference. First there would come an explosion louder and unlike the report of one or several guns, and this would be followed by numerous smaller, sharper, and perfectly distinct reports, quite unlike that of musketry, which could not be mistaken for anything but the explosion of shells. There could be no room for doubt that these lights and sounds meant the destruction in Atlanta of magazines or carloads of fixed ammunition, and hence that Hood was abandoning that place. I reported my observations and conclusion to General Sherman, but he "still remained in doubt." The doubt was to me incomprehensible; but perhaps that was because I had no doubt from the start, whether I was right or wrong, what the result would be. My period of elation was when we got firm hold of the railroad at Rough and Ready. Hood having failed to attack our exposed flank during the movement, the fall of Atlanta was already an accomplished fact with me when Sherman was still in doubt, as well as when Thomas thought the news "too good to be true." But the above is worthy of noting only as a necessary introduction to something far more important.
Hood's army was now divided and scattered over a distance of thirty miles, one corps below Jonesboro' being just driven from its ground with considerable loss and in retreat to Lovejoy's, the main body leaving Atlanta and stretched along the road toward McDonough; while Sherman's whole army, except Slocum's corps, was in compact order about Jonesboro', nearly in a straight line between Atlanta and Lovejoy's. This seemed exactly the opportunity to destroy Hood's army, if that was the objective of the campaign. So anxious was I that this be attempted that I offered to go with two corps, or even with one, and intercept Hood's retreat on the McDonough road, and hold him until Sherman could dispose of Hardee or interpose his army between him and Hood. But more prudent counsels prevailed, and we remained quietly in our camps for five days, while Hood leisurely marched round us with all his baggage and Georgia militia, and collected his scattered fragments at Lovejoy's.
Atlanta had become, like Richmond, in popular estimation the real objective of military operations. The public lost sight of the fact that it was armies in the field, and not fortified places, which gave strength to the rebellion; and apparently even prominent generals, if they did not share the popular delusion, at least recognized its value. The capture of Atlanta was enough to meet the "political necessity," make "the election of Mr. Lincoln certain," and win rejoicings and congratulations from all parts of the North! It was not worth while to run any risk of trying to do more at that time! It had to be left for two of Sherman's corps, after the other four had gone on "the march to the sea," to fight Hood at Columbia and Spring Hill, hurl him back from Franklin, and then, with reinforcements not equal to half what Sherman had taken away, to overwhelm him at Nashville. Why was not this done with a much larger force under Sherman at Atlanta? This is one of the questions for the future historian to discuss.
During our rest near Lovejoy's, General Sherman requested me to give him a statement in writing of my dissent from his decision upon the question of relative rank, which I did. This he submitted to the War Department for decision, as a "question of rank that had arisen between Generals Schofield and Stanley." At this General Stanley was very indignant, as well as at General Sherman's censure of his conduct on September 1; for the reason that no question of rank had been raised by us, and the command was thrust upon him in opposition to his wish and in violation of the law as he understood it. In due time came the decision of the War Department, written by General Halleck, sustaining the view of the law Stanley and I had taken, and reversing that of General Sherman; also kindly commending my action in waiving the question during active operations.
It was by virtue of the above decision of the War Department that I, instead of General Stanley, had command of the force that in the following November, 1864, opposed Hood's advance from the Tennessee River and repulsed his fierce assault at Franklin.
ABSENT FROM THE ARMY
As I was absent from the army on business connected with my department during most of Hood's raid upon the railroad in the rear of Atlanta (Sherman having announced his purpose to let his army rest during that time), I have little to say in respect to the operations resulting therefrom. But some things in Sherman's account seem to require a little elucidation.
Being informed by General Sherman of Hood's movement, I hurried to the front and tried to reach the army by a special train with a small guard from Cleveland, Tenn., but met, October 13, the head of Hood's column at Dalton, where several trains of cars with supplies and men without arms returning from furlough on their way to Sherman had been stopped by the reported approach of Hood. I ordered all back to Cleveland, and we barely had time to escape capture by Hood's cavalry. On arriving at Cleveland, I reported by telegraph to General Thomas, then at Nashville; and he desired me to go to Chattanooga, take command of the troops there, and prepare to defend that place, which it was thought Hood might attempt to take by a coup de main, or to cooperate with Sherman. As General Sherman says (Vol. II, page 156), "Hood had broken up the telegraph, and thus had prevented quick communication"; but through my own scouts and spies I was able to keep track of Hood's movements. As soon as he turned westward I determined to move with the troops, when no longer necessary to the defense of Chattanooga, rapidly to Trenton and Valley Head, seize the passes through the Lookout range, and prevent Hood's escape in that direction, presuming that Sherman would intercept his retreat down the Chattanooga valley. I sent a courier to General Sherman informing him of my purpose, and informed General Thomas by telegraph. But the latter disapproved my plan, and directed me to move to defend Caperton's Ferry. This is what General Sherman refers to in his dispatch of October 16: "Your first move on Trenton and Valley Head was right; the move to defend Caperton's Ferry is wrong. Notify General Thomas of these, my views." But the difference between right and wrong proved immaterial, since Hood was left free to escape down the Chattanooga valley. Why this was done, or why Sherman did not want to force the enemy east, by Spring Place, into the barren mountains, where Johnston would have been compelled to go if McPherson's move on Resaca in May had been successful, seems a mystery. The explanation is probably to be found in Sherman's wish that Hood would go where he would not be compelled to follow, and thus would leave him (Sherman) a clear road for his march to the sea. Indeed the conviction seems irresistible that Sherman and Hood could hardly have acted in more perfect concert if they had been under the same commander. The one did exactly what the other wanted, and the other took care not to interfere with his movement.
At the close of the Atlanta campaign, I promised General Sherman that I would, as soon as I should be able to do so, write a full critical history of that campaign as a textbook for military students. I have not yet found time to fulfill that promise. The foregoing pages were intended, when written, as only a very partial fulfillment of that task, and that almost entirely of one side of itfar the most difficult side. The other side is so easy, comparatively, and is already so familiar to military students, that further elucidation now seems hardly necessary. Yet I hope, as a labor of love, if for no other reason, to present my impressions of those grand tactical evolutions of a compact army of one hundred thousand men, as I witnessed them with the intense interest of a young commander and student of the great art which has so often in the history of the world determined the destinies of nations.
HOOD'S OPERATIONS IN SHERMAN'S REAR
After the capture of Atlanta, in September, 1864, General Sherman proposed to give his army rest for a month while he perfected his plans and preparations for a change of base to some point on the Atlantic or the gulf, in pursuance of the general plan outlined by General Grant before the Atlanta campaign was opened in May. But the Confederate commander took the initiative, about September 20, by moving his army around Sherman's right, striking his railroad about Allatoona and toward Chattanooga, doing some damage, and then marching off westward with the design of transferring the theater of war from Georgia to Alabama, Mississippi, or Tennessee.
Sherman very promptly decided not to accept that challenge to meet Hood upon a field chosen by the latter, but to continue substantially the original plan for his own operations, having in view also new ulterior plans opened to him by this erratic movement of his adversary. An essential modification of the original plan, to meet the unexpected movement of Hood, was to send back into Tennessee force enough, in addition to the troops then there and others to be assembled from the rear, to cope with Hood in the event of his attempting the invasion of Tennessee and Kentucky, or to pursue and occupy his attention if he should attempt to follow Sherman. General George H. Thomas, commanding the Department of the Cumberland, whose headquarters were at Nashville, was already at that place, and was directed by General Sherman to assume command of all the troops in the three departments under Sherman's command, except those with the latter in Georgia, and to direct the operations against Hood.
Thomas had in his department at that time only the garrisons and railroad guards which had been deemed essential during the preceding operations in Georgia; and many of those were soon to be discharged by expiration of their terms of enlistment, their places to be supplied by new regiments coming from the rear. General A. J. Smith's corps, then in Missouri, about ten thousand strong, was ordered to Tennessee, and Sherman also ordered Stanley, with the Fourth Corps, about twelve thousand men, to return from Georgia to Tennessee and report to Thomas. Stanley had started by rail to Tullahoma, and was to march, as he did, from the latter point to Pulaski, Tennessee, which had been selected as the point of concentration for Thomas's forces. This was the situation when I returned to the army and reported in person to General Sherman.
Under Sherman's promise of a month's rest for his army, I had gone back to attend to the business of my department, as General Thomas had also done, and hence was in the rear when Hood made his raid upon Sherman's railroad. Upon reporting to General Sherman near the end of October, I learned for the first time his purpose to march to Savannah, and what troops he had provided for Thomas in Tennessee. I told Sherman, with that perfect candor which he always invited, that in my opinion Thomas's force was much too small; that Hood evidently intended to invade Tennessee; and that he would not be diverted from his purpose by Sherman's march in the opposite direction, but would, on the contrary, be encouraged thereby to pursue his own plan. Hence I requested Sherman to send me back with the Twenty-third Corps to join Thomas. Sherman at first appeared to understand my suggestions as a desire to be left in Tennessee instead of Thomas, the latter to go with Sherman. But I explained to him emphatically that such was not my thought. I took it for granted that Thomas was to command the army in Tennessee, and I wanted only to go back and help him because he would, in my opinion, have to do the fighting while Sherman's march would be unopposed. Sherman then replied that he must have three grand divisions, under Slocum, Howard, and myself, to make his army complete, and that he could not spare me; and he gave no indication of concurrence in my opinion that he ought to send back more troops.
SENT BACK TO THOMAS'S AID
After leaving General Sherman that afternoon and returning to my own camp, I wrote him a letter giving a special reason why my corps, rather than any other, should be sent back to Tennessee in order that it might be filled up my new regiments which had been ordered from the North. No answer came to these suggestions until I had made three days' march toward Atlanta, en route for Savannah. Then I received an order, October 30, to march to the nearest point on the railroad, and report by telegraph to General Thomas for orders.
At first General Thomas ordered me to move by rail to Tullahoma, and then march across to Pulaski, as Stanley was doing. But just then Forrest with his cavalry appeared at Johnsonville, on the Tennessee River west of Nashville, and destroyed a great quantity of property, General Thomas not having sufficient force available to oppose him; hence on November 3 Thomas ordered me to come at once by rail to Nashville with my corps, where I reported to him with the advance of my troops on November 5. He then ordered me to go at once with some of my troops to Johnsonville and dispose of the Confederate cavalry there, and then to return to Nashville and proceed to Pulaski, to take command of all the troops in the field, which would then include the Fourth Corps, my own Twenty- third, except the detachment left at Johnsonville, and the cavalry watching Hood toward Florence. My duty at Johnsonville, where I left two brigades, was soon disposed of; and I then returned to Nashville, and went at once by rail to Pulaski, arriving at that place in the evening of November 13.
Some so-called histories of the Tennessee campaign have been based upon the theory that I was marching from Georgia to Tennessee, to unite my corps with General Thomas's army at Nashville, when I encountered Hood at Franklin, and after a sharp contest managed to elude him and continue my march and unite with the Army of the Cumberland at Nashville. Hence I wish to point out clearly that I had been with the entire Twenty-third Corps to Nashville, with a part of it to Johnsonville and back to Nashville, and thence to Columbia and near Pulaski, all by rail; that all of the Army of the Cumberland then in Tennessee was the Fourth Corps and the cavalry at and near Pulaski; that General Thomas placed those troops under my command, and that they remained so until after the battle of Franklin, November 30, and the retreat to Nashville that night; and that General Thomas did not have an army at Nashville until December 1. I had united with Thomas's troops two weeks before the battle of Franklin, and was commanding his army in the field as well as my own during that time. If the historians had read the records ( 1) they could not possibly have fallen into such a mistake.
FAULTY INSTRUCTIONS TO OPPOSE HOOD AT PULASKI
Before reaching Pulaski I was furnished with an order from General Thomas's headquarters assigning me to the command in the field, by virtue of my rank as a department commander, and a copy of instructions which had already been telegraphed to General Stanley at Pulaski. I assumed command in the morning of November 14. The moment I met Stanley at Pulaski, in the evening of November 13, he called my attention to the faulty position of the troops and to an error in General Thomas's instructions, about which I then knew nothing because I was unacquainted with the geography of the surrounding country. Upon Stanley's statement, I halted Cox's division of the Twenty-third Corps a few miles north of Pulaski so that the troops might be the more readily placed as the situation required when I had time to consider it. No part of the Twenty-third Corps actually went to Pulaski, although that was the place to which General Thomas had ordered it.
On the 19th General Thomas repeated to me the same orders he had sent to General Stanley, in these words: "If the enemy advances in force, as General Hatch believes, have everything in readiness either to fight him at Pulaski if he advances on that place, or cover the railroad and concentrate at Columbia, should he attempt to turn your right flank. . . ."( 2) I then telegraphed General Thomas, November 20, pointing out the faulty nature of the position selected by him for the troops at Pulaski, and the danger that must be incurred in attempting to carry out his instructions to fight Hood at Pulaski if he should advance upon that place; also suggesting what seemed to be the best way to avoid that difficulty. General Thomas very promptly approved these suggestions, and thus ended the embarrassment occasioned by the faulty instructions. But his official report on that point has made it necessary for me to comment upon it more fully later.
The season of Hood's invasion of Tennessee was extremely unfavorable for aggressive operations, and hence correspondingly favorable for the defense. The ordinary country roads were almost impassable, while the turnpikes were in good condition. As we held the crossing of the Tennessee River at Decatur, Hood was compelled to cross at the Shoals below, and to advance over those very bad roads; hence we had ample time in which to make the necessary dispositions to oppose him.
Our cavalry gave us accurate information that the enemy was advancing on the 21st, when Cox, with Wagner in support, was ordered to interpose between the enemy's cavalry and Columbia; while Stanley, with two divisions of the Fourth Corps, marched from Pulaski to that place, and our cavalry moved on the enemy's right to cover the turnpike and railroad. The whole army was in position at Columbia, November 24, and began to entrench Hood's infantry did not appear in sight until the 26th. Cox had a brush with the enemy's cavalry, which had driven in one of our cavalry brigades. That action was magnified at the time, and afterward, into evidence of a race between our troops and the enemy for the possession of Columbia. In fact, Ruger's troops at Columbia were quite capable of holding that place against Forrest, and Hood's infantry was not within a day's march of either Cox or Stanley until after both had reached Columbia.
We held our entrenched position in front of Columbia until the evening of November 27, inviting an attack, and hoping that Thomas would arrive with, or send, reinforcements in time to assume the offensive from Columbia; but reinforcements did not come, and the enemy did not attack. It became evident that Hood's intention was not to attack that position, but to turn it by crossing Duck River above; hence the army was moved to the north bank of the river in the night of the 27th. It was still hoped that the line of Duck River might be held until reinforcements could arrive. General Thomas was very urgent that this should be done, if possible, as the arrival of General A. J. Smith's corps from Missouri had been expected daily for some time, when General Thomas intended, as it was understood, to come to the front in person with that corps and all the other troops he could assemble in his department, take command, and move against the enemy.
REASON OF THE DELAY IN EXCHANGING MESSAGES
About that time was disclosed one of those contrivances by which the non-military agencies of government interfere with the operations of armies. The War Department telegraph corps alone was entrusted with the cipher in which General Thomas and I could communicate with each other by telegraph. Neither he, nor I, nor any of our staff officers were permitted to know the telegraph code. The work was so badly done that from eight to forty-eight hours were occupied in sending and delivering a dispatch Finally the cipher-operator attached to my headquarters in the field deserted his post and went to Franklin, so that the time required for a messenger to ride from Franklin to my position in the field was added to the delay caused by deciphering dispatches From all this it resulted that my superior at Nashville was able to give me little assistance during the critical days of that campaign. It has been generally supposed that I was all that time acting under orders or instructions from General Thomas, and his numerous dispatches have been quoted in "histories" as evidence in support of that supposition. The fact is that I was not only without any appropriate orders or instructions nearly all the time, but also without any timely information from General Thomas to guide my action.
This fact appears to have been fully recognized by General Thomas in his official report, wherein he made no mention of any orders or instructions given by him during the progress of those operations, but referred only to "instructions already given" before I went to Pulaski, and said: "My plans and wishes were fully explained to General Schofield, and, as subsequent events will show, properly appreciated and executed by him."( 3)
[( 1) War Records, Vol. XLV.]
[( 2) War Records, Vol. XLV, part I, p. 944.]
[( 3) War Records, Vol. XXXIX, part I, p. 590.]
CHAPTER X Hood Forces the Crossing of Duck RiverImportance of Gaining Time for Thomas to Concentrate Reinforcements at NashvilleThe Affair at Spring HillIncidents of the Night RetreatThomas's Reply to the Request that a Bridge be Laid over the HarpethThe Necessity of Standing Ground at FranklinHood's Formidable AttackSerious Error of Two Brigades of the Rear-GuardBrilliant Services of the ReserveYellow Fever AvertedHood's Assaults RepulsedJohnston's Criticism of HoodThe Advantage of Continuing the Retreat to Nashville.
In the afternoon of November 28 I received information that the enemy's cavalry had forced the crossing of Duck River above Columbia, and driven our cavalry back; and, about two o'clock that night, that prisoners reported the enemy laying pontoon bridges, and that Hood's infantry would begin to cross that morning. The army was ready to march at a moment's notice. It could have retired to Spring Hill or to Franklin without molestation or delay, but that would have given the enemy the crossing of Duck River at Columbia and the turnpike road for his advance with his artillery and trains. There was no assurance that Thomas had assembled any of his expected reinforcements at Nashville or elsewhere. It was known that orders had been given some days before looking to concentration of some of the troops in his department somewhere, but what had been accomplished I was not informed. About A. J. Smith I was in a like state of uncertainty. Only one thing was clear, and that was that I must hold Hood back, if possible, until informed that Thomas had concentrated his troops; for if I failed in that, Hood would not only force me back upon Nashville before Thomas was ready to meet him there, but would get possession of the Chattanooga Railroad, and thus cut off the troops coming to Nashville from that direction. After considering the matter some time in the night, I decided to hold on at least until morning. Early in the morning a brigade of infantry was sent up the river to reconnoiter and watch the enemy's movements; at the same time Stanley was ordered, with two divisions of his corps, back to Spring Hill, to occupy and entrench a position there covering the roads and the trains, which were ordered to be parked at that place, and General Thomas H. Ruger was ordered to join him.
IMPORTANCE OF GAINING TIME FOR THOMAS
About 8 A. M. on the 29th came a dispatch from Thomas, dated 8 P. M. of the day before, conveying the information that Smith had not arrived, and saying nothing about any other reinforcements, but expressing the wish that the Duck River position be held until Smith arrived; and another dispatch designating Franklin, behind the Harpeth River, as the place to which I would have to retire if it became necessary to fall back from Duck River. I then decided to hold on to the crossing of Duck River until the night of the 29th, thus gaining twenty-four hours more for Thomas to concentrate his troops. I did not apprehend any serious danger at Spring Hill; for Hood's infantry could not reach that place over a wretched country road much before night, and Stanley, with one division and our cavalry, could easily beat off Forrest. Hence I retained Ruger's division and one of Stanley's, and disposed all the troops to resist any attempt Hood might make, by marching directly from his bridges upon my position on the north bank of Duck River, to dislodge me from that position. That was his best chance of success, but he did not try it.
Stanley arrived at Spring Hill in time to beat off Forrest and protect our trains. Then he entrenched a good position in which to meet Hood's column when it should arrive, which it did late in the afternoon. They had a hard fight which lasted until about dark. Much bitter controversy arose between Hood and some of his subordinates because of their failure to dislodge Stanley's division and get possession of the turnpike at Spring Hill. While I have no wish to take any part in that discussion, I must say that I think the mistake was Hood's. I think he attempted a little longer march, over a very bad road, than could be made in so short a time. The 29th of November is a very short day, and the march of troops across pontoon bridges and through deep mud is very slow. If Hood had turned down the north bank of Duck River, across the fields, which were no worse than his road, he could have got into a fight about noon; but he thought, according to his own account in "Advance and Retreat," that he was deceiving me by his thundering demonstrations at Columbia, and that I did not know he was marching to Spring Hill. He thought he was going to "catch me napping," after the tactics of Stonewall Jackson, while in fact I was watching him all day. Besides, Hood went to bed that night, while I was in the saddle all night, directing in person all the important movements of my troops. Perhaps that is enough to account for the difference between success and failure, without censuring subordinate commanders. Mine did all I could have asked anybody to do that night.
THE AFFAIR AT SPRING HILL
As soon as I was satisfied that Hood was gone to Spring Hill and would not attack me on the bank of Duck River, I took the head of my troopsRuger's divisionand marched rapidly to Spring Hill, leaving staff officers to give orders to the other division commanders to follow immediately in proper order as then formed in line. These orders were somehow misunderstood. The order of march was reversed, and the troops, except Ruger's, and Whitaker's brigade of Kimball's division, did not move at once. But the delay did no harm, and I did not know of the mistake until several days afterward. If Hood had only known of that mistake, he might have troubled me no little, perhaps, by pushing a column across from his camp, south of Whitaker's right flank at Spring Hill, until it reached the Columbia turnpike. But I had prepared even for that, as well as I could, by sending a company of infantry to occupy the only cross- road I could see near Spring Hill as we approached that place. I ordered the captain of that company to hold that road at all hazards until he was relieved by my orders! Some of Hood's troops "relieved" him next morning! We have to do cruel things sometimes in war. On arriving at Spring Hill, Whitaker's brigade was put in line on the right of the troops then in position, so as to cover the turnpike on which we were marching. This was about dark. In a few minutes the Confederate camp-fires were lighted a few hundred yards in front of that brigade. It was a very interesting sight, but I don't think any of Whitaker's men cared to give the Confederates a similar view of them.
After stopping to see Stanley a few minutes, and learning that some of Forrest's troopers had been seen at Thompson's Station, three miles farther north, about dusk, I went with Ruger's division to drive them off and clear the way to Franklin. To my great surprise, I found only smoldering firesno cavalry. This was where our men passed so close to the "bivouac" that they "lighted their pipes by the enemy's camp-fires"; and that is the way romance is woven into history! But I took it for granted that the famous Forrest must be on my road somewhere; for he was there in the afternoon, and I had no cavalry anywhere near to drive him away. I could not take time to go with or send infantry to find out where he was. But I had with me my headquarters troop and as gallant an aide Captain William J. Twiningas ever wore spur. Twining was the same gallant and accomplished aide and officer of the corps of engineers, now dead, who afterward made the famous ride of one hundred and ten miles, through the enemy's country in North Carolina, to carry a dispatch from me to Sherman. He was a commissioner of the District of Columbia at the time of his death. I ordered them to go at full gallop down the pike to Franklin, and to ride over whatever might be found in their way. I sat motionless on my horse at Thompson's Station until the clatter of hoofs on that hard road died out in the distance, and I knew the road was clear. I did not tell the brave Twining the object of that ride, but simply to report the situation to General Thomas by telegraph from Franklin, and if any troops were at that place, as had been reported, to order them forward at once. I had not yet determined whether I could continue the retreat that night, or whether it might be necessary to fight Hood at Spring Hill the next day. In either case the troops at Franklin, if any were there, might be useful.
INCIDENTS OF THE NIGHT RETREAT
Upon returning to Spring Hill near midnight, I found my column from Duck River there in compact order. As the road was clear and the Confederates all sound asleep, while the Union forces were all wide awake, there was no apparent reason for not continuing the march that night. A column of artillery and wagons, and another of infantry, moved side by side along the broad turnpike, so that if the redoubtable Forrest should wake up and make his appearance anywhere, he would be quickly brushed away. It was reported that he did attack somewhere in the night, but I heard nothing of it at the time, perhaps because I was sleeping quietly on my horse as we marched along!
I arrived at Franklin with the head of my column a short time before the dawn of day, November 30; indicated to General J. D. Cox, commanding the Twenty-third Corps, the line upon which the troops were to be formed; and entrusted to him the formation, as the several divisions of both corps should arrive, General Stanley being in the rear directing the operations of the rear-guard. The Twenty-third Corps occupied the center of the line crossing the Columbia turnpike, and extended to the river on the left, while the Fourth Corps was to extend the line to the river on the right. Fortunately the natural position was such that Kimball's division of the Fourth Corps was sufficient, leaving both Wood's and Wagner's in reserve. I then gave my undivided attention to the means of crossing the Harpeth River.
Two days before I had telegraphed to General Thomas suggesting that he have a pontoon bridge laid at Franklin, to which he replied: "You can send some of the pontoons you used at Columbia to Franklin to lay a bridge there."( 1) General Thomas or his staff should have known that it was utterly impossible for me to use the pontoons which I had at Columbia. Those pontoons were heavy wooden bateaux, and there were no wagons to transport them, the train that brought them there having been taken away, it is presumed by his order, certainly not by mine. Hence I was compelled to burn that pontoon bridge as well as the railroad bridge (partially) when my troops retreated from Ducktown. But even if this were not all true, Thomas knew the enemy was already crossing Duck River on my flank, and that I must speedily take up a new position behind the Harpeth, and that I desired him to provide the means for my army to cross that river. It was a reasonable inference that I should not have asked him to send another bridge if I already had one that I could use. Besides, I was commanding General Thomas's army, operating in his department, wherein I had no control of anything in rear of the troops under my charge. It was his duty to foresee and provide for all the necessities that might arise in the rear of the army in the field. I telegraphed him again for a bridge at the Harpeth on the 29th, when I found that retreat was inevitable, but he apparently did not get that dispatch He nevertheless sent bridge material by rail to Franklin, where it arrived on the morning of November 30, too late for the pontoons to be used, though the flooring was useful in covering the railroad bridge and the burned wagon-bridge. I found also on the south side of the river a very large park of wagons belonging to the Department of the Cumberland, which, as well as my own trains and artillery, must be crossed over before I could withdraw my troops to the north side. The troops were very much fatigued by their long night march, rendering considerable rest indispensable. Hence there could not be much time in which to prepare defensive works with such obstructions as to insure successful defense against a very heavy assault. But, much more serious, Hood might cross the river above Franklin with a considerable force of infantry, as well as with all his cavalry, before I could get my materials over and troops enough to meet him on the north side. The situation at Franklin had become vastly more serious than that at Columbia or Spring Hill, and solely because of the neglect of so simple a thing as to provide the bridge I had asked for across the Harpeth. If that had been done, my trains could have passed over at once, and the entire army could have crossed before Hood reached Franklin.
THE NECESSITY OF STANDING GROUND AT FRANKLIN
To meet this greatest danger, Wood's division of the Fourth Corps was crossed to the north side to support the cavalry in holding the fords above, if that should become necessary; while Wagner's division, which had acted as rear-guard from Spring Hill, was ordered to remain far enough in front of the line to compel Hood to disclose his intention to attack in front or to turn the position, and was to retire and take its position in reserve at the proper time, if the enemy formed for attack. Only one of those three brigadesOpdycke'scame in at the proper time and took its appropriate place; and that, it was asserted, and no doubt truly, was by the brigade commander's own volition, he having been a soldier enough to know his duty in such a case, without the necessity for any orders. The other two brigades remained in their advanced position until they were run over by the enemy. Much idle controversy was indulged in among officers of the Fourth Corps and others in respect to the action of those two brigades. The only proper way to settle such a question was by a court-martial. As the corps passed from my command the next morning, and had been under by orders only a few days, I have never made any effort to fix, even in my own mind, the responsibility for that blunder.
By great exertion on the part of the engineers, the means of crossing the river were at length provided. The supports of the burned wagon-bridge were still standing at a level with the surface of the water. They were timbered and planked over, and the railroad bridge was also covered with planking, thus giving us two passable bridges. The trains had all been crossed over, and a part of the artillery. Orders had been issued for the troops to begin crossing at dark, when Hood disclosed his purpose to attack. The artillery was ordered back to its position in line, and General Stanley and I, who were then together on the north side of the river, rode rapidly to our posts, he to his corps on the south side, and I to the high redoubt on the north bank, overlooking the entire field.
There I witnessed the grandest display possible in war. Every battalion and battery of the Union army in line was distinctly seen. The corps of the Confederate army which were advancing or forming for the attack could also be seen, though less clearly on account of their greater distance, while the Confederate cavalry could be dimly discerned moving to the fords of the river above Franklin. Only a momentary view was permitted of this scene of indescribable grandeur when it was changed into one of most tragic interest and anxiety. The guns of the redoubt on the parapet of which I stood with two or three staff officers had fired only a few shots over the heads of our troops at the advancing enemy when his heavy line overwhelmed Wagner's two brigades and rapidly followed their fragments in a confused mass over our light intrenchments. The charging ranks of the enemy, the flying remnants of our broken troops, and the double ranks of our first line of defense, coming back from the trenches together, produced the momentary impression of an overwhelming mass of the enemy passing over our parapets.
HOOD'S FORMIDABLE ATTACK
It is hardly necessary to say that for a moment my "heart sank within me." But instantly Opdycke's brigade and the 12th and 16th Kentucky sprang forward, and steadily advanced to the breach. Up to this moment there had been but little firing at that point, because of our own troops and the enemy coming in pell-mell; hence there was not much smoke, and the whole could be seen. But now all became enveloped in a dense mass of smoke, and not a man was visible except the fragments of the broken brigades and others, afterward known to be prisoners, flocking to the rear. A few seconds of suspense and intense anxiety followed, then the space in the rear of our line became clear of fugitives, and the steady roar of musketry and artillery and the dense volume of smoke rising along the entire line told me that "the breach is restored, the victory won"! That scene, and the emotion of that one moment, were worth all the losses and dangers of a soldier's lifetime.
It would hardly be possible to frame language that would do more than justice to the magnificent conduct of Emerson Opdycke's brigade and Laurence H. Rousseau's 12th Kentucky and John S. White's 16th Kentucky, which were also in reserve, and their commanders, in that battle. Their action was beyond all praise, and nothing that can justly be said in respect to the battle can detract one iota from their proud fame. Yet the light in which the part acted by Opdycke's brigade (the others not being mentioned) is presented by some "historians," to the prejudice, relatively, of other portions of the army and of their commanders, is essentially false. It is represented as something purely spontaneous, out of the ordinary course, not contemplated in the dispositions made for battle, unforeseen and unexpected; in short, something moreyes, vastly morethan the reasonable duty of the brigade; or, "beyond all power of generalship to mold the battle or control its issue, the simple charge of Opdycke's brigade stands in boldest relief." The same might be said with equal truth of the action of any brigade upon which devolves the assault of defense of the key of a military position. The success or failure of "generalship to mold the battle or control its issue" depends absolutely upon the action of such brigades, their doing, or failure to do, the duty belonging to the position to which they are assigned. Every soldier in the army knew what his duty was in such a caseknew for what he had been placed in that position. It would have been strange indeed if the gallant commander of that brigade had waited for orders from some higher officer to move "forward to the lines." As well might the commander of a brigade in line wait for orders from the general-in- chief before commencing to fire on the advancing enemy.
The highest tribute that can be paid to Opdycke's brigade is the just and true one, that it did exactly the duty assigned it in the plan of battle, and did that duty nobly and with complete success. That other brigades did the same is sufficiently shown by the fact that twenty battle-flags were captured by a single brigade of the Twenty-third Corps on the same part of the line, and that the 12th and 16th Kentucky regiments relatively suffered equally heavy losses in killed and wounded with those of Opdycke.( 2)
SERIOUS ERROR OF TWO BRIGADES
As before stated, the dispositions for defense contemplated the whole of Wagner's division as the reserve to support the center, that being the only part of the line upon which the enemy would have time to make a heavy assault that day. This provision for an ample reserve had been made after full consideration and before Wood's division was ordered to the north side of the river, which was after the day was well advanced and the enemy's cavalry had begun to threaten the crossing above. The blunder respecting the two brigades of Wagner's division came near being disastrous, and the repulse of the assault in spite of that blunder makes it highly probable that if the dispositions ordered had been properly made, the repulse of the enemy would have been easy beyond reasonable doubt. Yet it would be difficult to find a fairer chance of success in a direct assault upon troops in position. Our intrenchments were of the slightest kind, and without any considerable obstructions in front to interfere seriously with the assault. The attack, no less than the defense, was characterized by incomparable valor, and the secret of its failure is to be found in one of the principles taught by all military experiencethe great superiority in strength of a fresh body of troops in perfect order over another in the state of disorder which necessarily results from even the most successful assault. There was really no comparison, in effective strength, between Opdycke's orderly and compact brigade and the confused mass of Confederates that were crossing over our parapet. The result was nothing extraordinary or at all unprecedented. It was but one of the numerous proofs afforded by military history of the value of that prudent maxim in the art of war which dictates the placing of a suitable reserve in close support of that portion of a defensive line which is liable to heavy assault.
The surprising conduct of the commanders of the two brigades of Wagner's division which were run over by the enemy, and of the division commander himself, whatever may be true as to the conflicting statements published in respect to their action, is one of the strongest possible illustrations of the necessity of the higher military education, and of the folly of entrusting high commands to men without such education, which, fortunately for the country and the army, is rarely learned by experience, but must be acquired by laborious study of the rules and principles laid down by standard authors as derived from the practice and teachings of the great masters of the art of war in all ages. A well-educated officer, either as brigade or division commander, would not have needed orders from any source to tell him what to do in that emergency. He would have known so surely what his duty was that he would have retired at the proper time behind the main line, without ever thinking whether or not he had orders to do so. As well might I have waited for orders from General Thomas to retire across the Harpeth after my duty on the south side of that river had been accomplished. The cases are closely parallel. Any unofficial discussion of the question of responsibility for the sacrifice of those two brigades is idle. According to the established rules of war, those three commanders ought to have been tried by court- martial, and, if found guilty, shot or cashiered, for sacrificing their own men and endangering the army. One example of such punishment would do much to deter ignorant and incompetent men from seeking high commands in the field. But the discipline of the volunteer army of a republic must, it appears, inevitably be, especially in respect to officers of high rank, quite imperfect, although it may become in respect to the great mass of the troops, as ours certainly did, exceedingly efficient.
In the Atlanta campaign I sent a division commander to the rear in permanent disgrace for sacrificing his men in a hopeless assault upon a fortified line, contrary to the general orders and instructions which General Sherman had published before the opening of the campaign. But I never heard of another similar case of even approximate justice to an officer of high rank. It is a striking proof of the evil effect of war upon the minds and passions of men, not only of those who are engaged in it, but even more upon those who see it from a distance, that commanders are often severely condemned for prudent care of the lives of men under their command, who have no choice but to march blindly to death when ordered, while the idiotic sacrifice of the bravest and noblest of patriotic soldiers is loudly applauded as a grand exhibition of "gallantry" in action. If George H. Thomas had had no other title to honor or fame, he would have deserved the profound gratitude of the American people, and a very high place among the country's patriots and heroes, for the reason that while he never yielded ground to an attacking foe, he never uselessly sacrificed the life of a soldier.
It is a sin for a soldier to throw away his own life. It is not his, but belongs to his country. How much greater sin and crime in an officer the throw away the lives of a thousand men! If he threw away a thousand dollars, he would be court-martialed and cashiered. Are not the soldiers of a republic worth even a dollar apiece! Patriotism and courage exist in great abundance in the breasts of young Americans. All they need is instruction, discipline, a little experience, such as our greatest soldier said he himself needed at first, and, above all, intelligent leadership, which can be acquired only by military education, to make them the best soldiers the world has ever known.
YELLOW FEVER AVERTED
When I joined my company as second lieutenant in Florida in the winter of 1853-4, I found the company had been reduced to one lance- sergeant, two lance-corporals, and thirteen privates. Yellow fever had done its deadly work. But that lesson was not lost. In later years, upon the approach of that enemy, which could not be conquered even by the highest science then known or practiced, the troops were marched a few miles into the pure air of the piney woods, where the dreaded fever could not reach them. At the close of the epidemic season which occurred when I had the honor to command the army, I had the great satisfaction of reporting that not a single soldier had been killed by that most dreaded of all enemies, and the even greater satisfaction of reporting that those bravest of the brave, the surgeons who volunteered to go into the very midst of the camp of the enemy that does not respect even the red cross, to minister to those who had been stricken down and to study the nature of the disease for the future benefit of the army and of mankind, had also been unharmed. As chief of those I do not hesitate to name the present surgeon-general of the army, George M. Sternberg. Yet how many of the noblest soldiers of humanity have given their lives in that cause!
Hood's assault at Franklin has been severely criticized. Even so able a man as General J. E. Johnston characterizes it as a "useless butchery." These criticisms are founded upon a misapprehension of the facts, and are essentially erroneous. Hood must have been fully aware of our relative weakness in numbers at Franklin, and of the probable, if not certain, concentration of large reinforcements at Nashville. He could not hope to have at any future time anything like so great an advantage in that respect. The army at Franklin and the troops at Nashville were within one night's march of each other; Hood must therefore attack on November 30, or lose the advantage of greatly superior numbers. It was impossible, after the pursuit from Spring Hill, in a short day to turn our position or make any other attack but a direct one in front. Besides, our position, with a river in our rear, gave him the chance of vastly greater results, if his assault were successful, than could be hoped for by any attack he could make after we had crossed the Harpeth. Still more, there was no unusual obstacle to a successful assault at Franklin. The defenses were of the slightest character, and it was not possible to make them formidable during the short time our troops were in position, after the previous exhausting operations of both day and night, which had rendered some rest on the 30th absolutely necessary.
HOOD'S ASSAULTS REPULSED
The Confederate cause had reached a condition closely verging on desperation, and Hood's commander-in-chief had called upon him to undertake operations which he thought appropriate to such an emergency. Franklin was the last opportunity he could expect to have to reap the results hoped for in his aggressive movement. He must strike there, as best he could, or give up his cause as lost. I believe, therefore, that there can be no room for doubt that Hood's assault was entirely justifiable. It may have been faulty in execution, in not having been sufficiently supported by a powerful reserve at the moment of first success. I have not the means of knowing the actual facts in this regard; but the result seems to render such a hypothesis at least probable, and the rapidity and impetuosity of Hood's advance and assault add to that probability.
It is interesting to consider what would probably have been the march of events if we had retreated from Duck River in the night of November 28, upon first learning that Hood had forced the crossing of that river. We would have reached Franklin early on the 29th, could have rebuilt the bridges and crossed the Harpeth that day and night, and Hood could not have got up in time to make any serious attack that day. So far as our little army was concerned, for the moment all would have been well. But Hood would have been in front of Franklin, with his whole army, artillery, and ammunition- trains, by dawn of day on the 30th; he could have forced the crossing of the Harpeth above Franklin early that day, compelled us to retire to Nashville, and interposed his cavalry between Nashville and Murfreesboro' that night or early on December 1. Thus Thomas's remaining reinforcements from the south and east would have been cut off, and he might have been attacked in Nashville, not later than December 2, with several thousand fewer men than he finally had there, a large part of his armyA. J. Smith's three divisions not fully ready for battle, and with fewer effective cavalry; while Hood would have had his whole army, fresh and spirited, without the losses and depression caused by its defeat at Franklin, ready to attack an inferior force at Nashville or to cross the Cumberland and invade Kentucky. In short, the day gained at Duck River and Spring Hill was indispensable to Thomas's success. The time gained by that "temerity" made success possible. The additional time and relative strength gained by Hood's disastrous repulse at Franklin made final success easy and certain. A retreat at any time before nine o'clock A. M. on the 29th would have led to substantially the same result as if begun at 2 A. M.
If the plan adopted and ordered early in the morning of November 29 had been carried out, by which the line of Duck River would have been abandoned in the middle of that day, the head of column from Spring Hill would have arrived at Franklin about midnight, expecting to cross the Harpeth without delay; but, under the conditions actually found to exist at Franklin, not much progress toward providing the means of crossing the Harpeth could have been made before daylight in the morning; therefore our condition for battle at Franklin would not have been materially different, in time or otherwise, from what it actually was. Hood's artillery, as well as his infantry, could have reached Spring Hill before daylight on the 30th, and would have had practically a clear road to Franklin; for the enemy's superior cavalry having been interposed between our cavalry and infantry, it was necessary for our infantry, artillery, and trains to retreat from Spring Hill to Franklin in one compact column. A small force could not have been left at Spring Hill, as had been suggested, to delay Hood's advance, because of the imminent danger that it would be attacked in flank and rear by the enemy's cavalry, and thus cut off and captured; hence Hood could have made his attack at Franklin about noon, instead of at 4:30 P. M., and with a large force of artillery as well as of infantry. Such an attack would, of course, have been far more formidable than that which was actually made; whether it could have been successfully resisted from noon until dark can only be conjectured. It is sufficient here to note that the delay of Hood's advance very greatly diminished the force of his attack at Franklin, besides making his arrival before that place so late that he could not turn that position that day by crossing the Harpeth above. The tenacity with which the crossing of Duck River at Columbia was held was well rewarded at Franklin.
THE ADVANTAGE OF CONTINUING THE RETREAT
The question has been raised whether we ought not to have held our position in front of Franklin after having repulsed Hood's attack and inflicted such heavy losses upon his troops. General Sherman himself impliedly made this suggestion when he expressed the opinion that Thomas ought to have turned on Hood after his repulse at Franklin; and General Jacob D. Cox, who had been in the thickest of the fight all the time, with high soldierly instinct sent me, by one of my staff officers, the suggestion that we stay there and finish the fight the next day. A fight to a finish, then and there, might quite probably have given us the prize. But the reasons for declining that tempting opportunity for complete victory will, I believe, seem perfectly clear when fully stated.
In anticipation of orders from General Thomas to fall back to Nashville that night, the trains had been ordered to the rear before the battle began, so as to clear the way for the march of our troops, and to render impossible any interference by the enemy's cavalry. Our ammunition had been well-nigh exhausted in the battle at Franklin, as is shown by my telegram to General Thomas to send a million rounds to Brentwood, thinking he might want me to hold Hood there until he could get A. J. Smith's troops in position and supplied with ammunition. If I had needed any such warning, that given me by the general in his dispatch,( 3) "But you must look out that the enemy does not still persist," would have been sufficient to deter me from fighting him the next day with my "back to the river." Besides, it is not easy to estimate at midnight exactly the results of a desperate battle then just terminated. But all this is insignificant when compared with the controlling reason. I had then fully accomplished the object (and I could not then know how much more) for which the command in the field had for a time been entrusted to me. My junction with reinforcements at Nashville was assured, as also the future success of the army under my superior in command. Why run any further risk? If it had been possible for me, at that moment of supreme satisfaction, to have had any thought of self, I might perhaps have considered the project of turning upon my adversary at dawn the next morning, in hope of routing his dispirited army. But if any man thinks such a thought possible under such circumstances, he knows nothing about the character of a patriotic soldier. If the troops I then had at Franklin had been the sole reliance for ultimate success in the campaign, nothing could have been clearer than my duty to turn and strike with all my might at dawn the next day.
(A copy of all the correspondence between General Thomas and myself, with annotations showing the time of receipt of the several dispatches from General Thomas, thereby showing their influence upon my actions, has been placed on file at the War Department. These copies of dispatches, with annotations, are intended mainly for the military student who may care to make a close and critical study of such military operations. The original records of such correspondence are often worse than useless, for the reason that the exact time of sending and receipt of a dispatch is so often omitted. All sent or received the same day are frequently printed in the records indiscriminately, so that the last if as likely to come first as otherwise; and, sometimes, historians have used dispatches as if they had been received at the time they were sent, though in fact many hours or some days had elapsed. My annotations were made in 1882-3, at Black Point, San Francisco, California, with the assistance of my ever faithful and efficient aide, Colonel William M. Wherry, now lieutenant-colonel of the 2d United States Infantry, and were attached to the copies of the records in 1886.)
[( 1) War Records, Vol. XLV, part I, p. 1108.]
[( 2) War Records, Vol. XLV, part I, pp. 241 and 413. The loss at Franklin of Opdycke's six regiments was 205, while the 12th and 16th Kentucky regiments lost 106 men.]
[( 3) War Records, Vol. XLV, part I, p. 1171.]