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Copyright, 1912, by 

Published' October, igi2 

Printed in the United States of America 


June, 1855, 

June, 1860 

July, 1860 

July, 1861 


October, 1861 

October, 1861 

July, 1862 


October, 1862 

November, 1862 

January, 1863 

Cadet, United States Military Academy 
at West Point, five-year course. 

Brevet Second Lieutenant U. S. Topo- 
graphical Engineers, Fort Vancouver, 
Washington Territory. 

Recruiting Engineer Soldiers, Boston. 

Chief Topographical Engineer on the 
Staff of General T. W. Sherman, in 
the Port Royal Expedition ; Siege and 

s Capture of Fort Pulaski. 

Volunteer Aid-de-camp and Assistant 
Engineer, on the Staff of General Mc- 
Clellan in the Antietam Campaign. 

First Lieutenant Topographical Engi- 
neers; Captain of Engineers; Chief 
Topographical Engineer and Assistant 
Chief Engineer in West Tennessee and 
Northern Mississippi, on the Staff of 
General Grant. 



January, 1863 Lieutenant Colonel U. S. Volunteers; 

to Assistant Inspector General, Depart- 

October, 1863 ment and Army of the Tennessee, in 

the Vicksburg Campaign, on the Staff 

of General Grant. 

November, 1863 

February, 1864 

Brigadier General U. S. Volunteers ; As- 
sistant Inspector General Military 
Division of the Mississippi, in the 
Chattanooga Campaign, on the Staff 
of General Grant. 


May, 1864 

Chief of Cavalry Bureau, War Depart- 

May Brigadier General U. S. Volunteers, in 

to command of the Third Cavalry Divi- 

August, 1864 sion Sheridan's Corps, Virginia Cam- 


September, 1864 

Commanding Third Cavalry Division, 
Sheridan's Valley Campaign. 

October, 1864 Brigadier General and Brevet Major 
to General U. S. Volunteers; organized 

July, 1865 and commanded the Cavalry Corps 

Military Division of the Mississippi, 
in the Campaign against Hood in 
Middle Tennessee, and in the last 
Campaign of the War through Ala- 
bama and Georgia. Capture of Selma, 
Montgomery, Columbus, West Point 
and Macon. Pursuit and capture of 
Jefferson Davis ; End of War. 




July, 1866 

Captain of Engineers on Defenses of 
Delaware River and Bay. 

July, 1866 Lieutenant Colonel 35th U. S. Infantry, 

to on Engineer duty in connection with 

December, 1870 the Improvement of the Mississippi 

River and other western water-ways. 

December, 1870 

May, 1898 

April, 1899 

Honorably Discharged on the reduction 
of the Army, at his own request, De- 
cember 31, 1870. 

Major General U. S. Volunteers, in the 
War with Spain. Assigned to com- 
mand the 6th Army Corps, never or- 
ganized ; Volunteered and commanded 
the First Division First Army Corps 
in the expedition to Porto Rico ; First 
Governor of the District of Ponce. 

October, 1898 Commanded First Army Corps in Ken- 
to tucky and Georgia; also the Depart- 

January, 1899 ment of Matanzas and Santa Clara, 

in the first occupation of Cuba. 

April, 1899 At personal request of Secretary of War. 

to after the reduction of the Army and 

July, 1900 the reestablishment of Peace with 

Spain, accepted the reduced rank of 
Brigadier General U. S. Volunteers 
and remained in command of Depart- 
ment of Matanzas and Santa Clara. 

July Volunteered for service against Boxer 

to Rebellion in China. Reported to Ma- 

November, 1900 jor General Chaffee in Peking as sec- 



ond in command of the American 
Forces. As such had immediate com- 
mand of the American Contingent 
with charge of the American quarter 
and the Southern entrance to the For- 
bidden City. 

October, 1900 Commanded the successful joint expedi- 
tion of the American and British 
forces against Boxers at the Eight 
Temples. Held review of American 
Troops at Peking in presence of lead- 
ing officers of the Treaty Powers. 

December, 1900 

Returned to America. Declined fur- 
ther command or routine service. 

March, 1901 Placed on Retired List as Brigadier Gen- 

eral U. S. Army (with Generals Fitz- 
hugh Lee and Joseph Wheeler) , in ac- 
cordance with Special Act of Con- 
gress at the request of the President, 
March 2, 1901. 


Represented the United States Army, 
accompanied by Lieutenant Colonel 
John Biddle of the Engineers and 
Lieutenant Colonel Henry D. Borup 
of the Ordnance, at the Coronation of 
King Edward VII. 

Honorary Commissions 

Brevet Major U. S. A., April 11, 1862, for gallant and 
meritorious services at the capture of Fort Pulaski, 



Brevet Lieutenant Colonel, November 24, 1863, for gal- 
lant and meritorious services at the Battle of Chat- 
tanooga, Tenn. 

Brevet Colonel, May 5, 1864, for gallant and meritorious 
services at the Battle of the Wilderness. 

Brevet Major General U. S. Volunteers, October 5, 1864, 
for gallant and meritorious services during the Re- 

Brevet Brigadier General U. S. Army, March 13, 1865, 
for gallant and meritorious services at the Battle of 
Nashville, Tenn. 

Brevet Major General U. S. Army, March 13, 1865, for 
gallant and meritorious services in the capture of 
Selma, Ala. 

From the foregoing it will be seen that my modest ca- 
reer covered not only a great variety of military services, 
but three widely separated countries or theaters of opera- 
tions, at most important and interesting epochs. They 
brought me in contact with leading officers at army head- 
quarters, both at home and abroad, and thus gave me 
unusual opportunities for observing character and learning 
the inside details of what was taking place about me. 

Holding, as I do, that history and historical recollec- 
tions are valueless and had better not be written unless 
they tell the simple truth as nearly as it can be ascertained 
in regard to both men and events, I have given my story 
in the following pages as fully and frankly as my materials 
and memory would permit. But concealing nothing, I have 
set down naught in malice. Fortunately, in these modern 
days, our military men of rank, however much they may 
differ in personal characteristics or idiosyncrasies, are 
strictly honest, serious and devoted to duty. It gives me 
pleasure to add that I have never known one who was cor- 
rupt or wilfully negligent of his orders or opportunities 
or who was intentionally cruel or oppressive to those under 
his command or within his jurisdiction. 



In the work I now give to the public, I have had the 
assistance of my brother, Colonel Bluford Wilson, of 
Springfield, Illinois, in a careful comparison, page by page 
with the Official Records, and with such contemporaneous 
writings and memoirs as were within reach and I am under 
great obligation to him for his vigilance and perspicacity. 

James Harrison Wilson. 
Wilmington, Delaware. 

June 1, 1912. 




Family — Boyhood — West Point — Panama — Washington 

Territory — Return to the East 1 


Report at Washington — Visit McDowell's Army — Ordered 
to Boston — Chief topographical engineer of Port Royal 
Expedition — An army corps wasted 57 



Sherman's staff — Loading steamship — Savannah River — 
Venus Point — Siege of Fort Pulaski — General Hunter 
— General Benham — James* Islands — Secessionville — 
Officers of staff 70 


Return to Washington — McClelland staff — South Mountain 
— Battle of Antietam — Hooker wounded — Pleasant 
Valley — Return to Washington 98 


Halleck's Headquarters — General McClernand — Pleasant 
Valley — Interview with McClellan — Washington — Or- 
dered to Grant 119 




West Tennessee — Major Wilson — Northern Mississippi — 
Major Rawlins — General Grant — General McPherson — 
First service with Cavalry — True line of Operations — 
Campaign of Vicksburg — Yazoo Pass — Running the 
Batteries 130 




Bruinsburg — Port Gibson — Raymond — Jackson — Cham- 
pion's Hill — Big Black Bridge — Assault on Vicksburg 
— General Lawler — Sergeant Griffith — General McCler- 
nand — Charles A. Dana 173 



The Black Belt — Lorenzo Thomas — Cross the Mississippi — 
Bayou Pierre — Grand Gulf — Captain Badeau — Mc- 
Pherson at Raymond — Grant at Jackson — Champion's 
Hill — Passage of the Big Black — The American volun- 
teer 188 



First assault — Complete investment — Hot weather — Grant 
rides the lines — McClernand relieved — Close investment 
— Pemberton surrenders — Reorganization of volunteer 
army 208 


Headquarters in Vicksburg — Rawlins and Grant — Grant 
visits New Orleans — Season of rest — Inspection tour — 
Army wastes summer — Grant and staff ordered to 
Chattanooga — Military Division of the Mississippi. . . . 234 






Rosecrans relieved — Thomas succeeds — "Will hold Chatta- 
nooga till we starve" — Grant and staff arrive — Meet 
Thomas — Ride to Chattanooga — Recommended for pro- 
motion — Porter introduced — Grant and Thomas — Baldy 
Smith — Opening the Cracker Line — Ride to Knoxville 
— Orders for Burnside 263 



Brigadier and inspector general — Sherman arrives — Plan of 
battle — Details of movements — Claims of Grant and 
Sherman — Thomas carries Ridge — Granger and Sher- 
man sent to Knoxville — Bridging the rivers — Major 
Hoffman — Longstreet rejoins Lee — Grant goes to 
Knoxville — Cumberland Gap — Lexington — Establishes 
winter headquarters at Nashville 289 



Grant, Lieutenant General — Rawlins married — Chief-of- 
staff — Report to Secretary of War for duty — Prepare 
new regulations — Horse contractors — Duties of new 
position — Andrew Johnson's cavalry regiments — Part- 
ing with Secretary Stanton 321 


Administration and duties of Cavalry Bureau — Horse-pur- 
chasing stations — Governors Andrew, Morton, and Den- 
nison — Grant at Nashville — Dine with Lincoln — Lin- 
coln and Ward Lam on — Discontentment with govern- 
ment — Loyalty of army — Return to field service 341 






General plan of campaign — Report to Meade — Relieve Kil- 
patrick — Confirmation delayed — Spencer carbines — 
Position of opposing armies 357 



First to cross the Rapidan — Craig's Meeting House — Ca- 
tharpen Road — Todd's Tavern — Chancellorsville — 
Sedgwick's flank turned — Grant's behavior — Occupation 
of Spottsylvania Court House — Meade, Warren, and 
Sedgwick — Incident with Warren — Meeting with Grant 
— Defective organization of army 378 



Sherman's raid against Lee's communications — Battle of 
Yellow Tavern — Death of J. E. B. Stuart — Affair near 
Richmond — Passage of the Chickahominy — James River 
— Return to Grant's army — Turn Lee's left at Jericho 
Mills — Meet Grant and Rawlins — Army gossip 405 


Operations on Pamunkey and North Anna — Fights at Han- 
over Court House — Ashland and South Anna — Toto- 
potomy — Haw's Shop — Behind Lee's left — Captain 
Ulffers — Prepared rations — Sheridan detached — De- 
feated by Hampton — Cold Harbor — Upton's com- 
ments 426 





Crossing the Chickahominy — Charles City Court House — 
Saint Mary's Church — Parker the Indian — Covering 
the rear — Crossing the James — Visit from Dana and 
Rawlins — Prince George Court House — Operations 
against Weldon, Danville, and Southside Railroads — 
Destruction of railroads — Return from Staunton River 
— Sapony Creek — Reams Station — Failure of Sheridan 
and the infantry to keep door open 450 



Grant scatters his cavalry — Sheridan's failure north of 
Richmond — Wilson's destruction of railroads south of 
Richmond — Sheridan at White House — Slow to rejoin 
Army of Potomac — Hampton beats him to Weldon 
Railroad — Records and dispatches in the case — Sher- 
idan's delays and excuses — Wilson's return to Reams 
Station — Whitaker takes word to Meade — Grant, 
Meade, and Humphreys order assistance — Wilson runs 
for it — Sheridan still a laggard — Kautz lies down and 
quits — Sheridan's efforts to exculpate himself — Wilson 
crosses Blackwater and arrives at Chipoak Swamp — 
Case fully stated from the records — Grant, Meade, and 
Dana declare expedition a success — Confirmation of 
Confederate records 483 


Charges of Richmond newspapers — Meade asks for expla- 
nations — Serious epoch — Early crosses Potomac and 
threatens Washington — Sheridan in command against 
him — Wilson goes to Sheridan's assistance — Interview 
with Stanton at Washington — Covers Sheridan's rear 
from Winchester to Halltown — Affair at Kearneyville 
— Revisits Antietam battlefield — Return to Valley of 
Virginia 528 





Sheridan rests and reconnoiters — Mcintosh captures South 
Carolina regiments — Grant orders Sheridan to "go in" 
— Battle of the Opequan or Winchester — Wilson opens 
the engagement — Torbert and Wilson in pursuit — 
Gooney Run — Staunton — Browntown Gap — Return to 
Harrisonburg — Wilson ordered West to reorganize and 
command Sherman's cavalry 548 





Family — Boyhood — West Point — Panama — Washington 
Territory — Return to the East. 

My family name, Wilson, is of Anglo-Danish 
origin and is found wherever English-speaking 
people and their descendants are living. It belongs 
to the self-evoluting class and generally implies 
nothing closer than clanship. It has been known in 
the States from the earliest days. 

My own forbears first settled in Tidewater, Vir- 
ginia, whence they spread to Spottsylvania and Cul- 
peper Counties, thence over the Blue Ridge into the 
valley regions, and finally to Kentucky and the allur- 
ing West. My father, Harrison Wilson, was the 
eldest son of Alexander Wilson and his wife, Elinor 
Harrison. He was born near Front Royal, Virginia, 
in 1789. His mother, through Thomas Harrison, 
was connected with the Harrisons of the James 
River country. She was famed for her courtly man- 
ners and amiable character. 

Alexander Wilson's father was Isaac Wilson, for 
three years a sergeant in Captain Augustine Tabb 's 
company of the Second Virginia state line, com- 



manded by Colonel William Brent. His wife was 
Margaret Gordon, daughter of John Gordon and 
Barbara Cullom, evidently of Scotch origin. 

My paternal ancestors, as far back as we can 
trace them, originating in and coming from North- 
umberland, part of ancient Bernicia, intermarried 
with the leading families of the Old Dominion and 
took an active part in all that concerned its growth 
and welfare. But, like many Virginians, Isaac Wil- 
son with his brothers, sons, and nephews who were 
ruined by the War of Independence, wisely con- 
cluded that it would be easier to rebuild their homes 
and mend their fortunes in a new country than in the 
old, and consequently, as soon as they could manage 
it, after the Eevolution, emigrated to Kentucky. 

After settling with his family in the Blue Grass 
country near the present city of Lexington, Alex- 
ander Wilson and his brother Thornton went on to 
the Ohio Eiver, where the former opened a consid- 
erable farm near a shipping point known as Raleigh, 
a few miles below the mouth of the Wabash. 

Shortly afterward the general government own- 
ing the Illinois salines laid out Shawneetown on the 
Ohio River in the southeastern corner of the terri- 
tory as the landing and entrepot of the Salt Works. 
The place grew rapidly into the most important 
settlement of that region. My grandfather living 
nearby, naturally became one of the first settlers, 
and through his kinsman, General Harrison, then 
governor of the territory, received a grant of the 
ferry-right both ways across the Ohio, which, after 
his death in 1814, was confirmed to his heirs by the 
unanimous vote of the Illinois legislature. It came 
in due course, by inheritance and purchase, to my 



brother and myself and after a hundred years is 
still operated under lease from us. 

Alexander Wilson, evidently a notable citizen, 
was in 1812 elected a member of the first American 
legislature ever convened in Illinois, and as chair- 
man of several of its principal committees exercised 
a controlling influence not only in selecting, framing, 
and passing laws for the new territory, but in pro- 
viding for its defence against the British emissaries 
and their savage allies. Shortly after the session 
of 1813 my grandfather died, but my father, instead 
of leaving his body in a French graveyard at Kas- 
kaskia, removed it to Shawneetown, and, as was the 
custom, buried it on the paternal farm in Kentucky. 

Harrison Wilson was at that time just reaching 
man's estate. Although quite a lad when his family 
left Virginia, he remembered but little of it except 
that he had been taken to Alexandria by his father 
to call on General Washington, and that the general 
had kindly patted him on the head while making a 
neighborly inquiry as to his mother's health. 

My father, of course, shared the travels and 
hardships of his family, with but little time and less 
opportunity for education beyond that given by his 
mother and father. He had a few terms from the 
peripatetic schoolmaster of the settlements, and, be- 
ing intelligent and fond of reading, although books 
were scarce and newspapers unknown on the fron- 
tier, became a man of more than average attainments. 

At the outbreak of the second war with Great 
Britain, Harrison Wilson was commissioned ensign 
September 17, 1812, in Captain Thomas E. Craig's 
company of Frontier Riflemen, and took part in an 
expedition of two keel boats by the Illinois Eiver to 



Fort Creve-Cceur, near the present city of Peoria, 
for the purpose of breaking up the liquor traffic 
and overawing the Indian allies of the British. The 
boats were armed with swivels and blunderbusses 
and were impenetrable to rifle bullets. The expedi- 
tion, lasting four months, was so successful that 
Captain Craig was promoted to major of the Fourth 
Territorial Regiment, while my father, although only 
twenty-two, was made captain April 17, 1813, to 
fill the vacancy. Although no part of the regiment 
was again called into service, he continued his con- 
nection with it, and after the establishment of peace 
became its colonel. 

Although a farmer, stock-raiser, and trader to 
New Orleans, my father was elected county treasurer 
and sheriff in turn and led a busy and active life 
till the Black Hawk War took him again into the 
army as captain of Illinois Mounted Volunteers, 
first regiment, first brigade. His company, contain- 
ing many of the leading citizens of Gallatin County, 
was mustered into the service May 15, and dis- 
charged August 12, 1832. 

During the brief campaign which followed, my 
father made the acquaintance of Winfield Scott, 
Zachary Taylor, Jefferson Davis, Albert Sidney 
Johnston, and Joseph E. Johnston, all of whom were 
serving at that time in Illinois as officers of the 
regular army. He also met Captain Abraham Lin- 
coln and the leading officers of the territorial forces. 

After this campaign, the last against the Indians 
east of the Mississippi, my father settled down and 
led an uneventful life to the end. On the outbreak 
of the Mexican War, he offered a regiment of volun- 
teers from the lower counties of the state, but as 



only six were needed, his offer was declined with 
the assurance of the governor that if another were 
required his regiment should be taken. 

The decade after the Mexican War was a tur- 
bulent one in southeastern Illinois. The closing of 
the salt works had let loose a large number of rough 
operatives, white and black. Gambling, drinking, 
horse-racing, and gun-fighting prevailed, the slavery 
question came to the front as it had done once be- 
fore, and kidnapping became common along the bor- 
der of the slave states. Among the first victims 
was a colored girl who had belonged to the Wilson 
family. She was taken to New Orleans and sold 
to a planter on the Red Eiver, but as soon as she 
could be located my father went for her, and, after 
much legal formality and trouble, brought her home 
in triumph. After a similar service in another case 
of the same sort, which aroused the public con- 
science, under his leadership, he had the satisfaction 
of seeing all forms of violence vindicated and the 
rowdies and kidnappers brought to punishment or 
driven out of the state. 

But my father's career was drawing to a close. 
Although a man of extraordinary activity and en- 
durance, he fell sick, and, after a lingering illness, 
died February 9, 1852, at the age of 63. He was 
always independent in politics and never forgot that 
he was a Virginian. He was twice married. His 
first wife was a daughter of Andrew Waggoner, a 
Virginian, who had settled in Union County, Ken- 
tucky. She died early, leaving one son, John An- 
drew, who removed to Hamilton County, where he 
became sheriff, a member of the legislature, and a 
leading merchant. He had several children, the old- 



est of whom, John Harrison, became a highly suc- 
cessful contractor, and is now one of the wealthiest 
and most highly respected citizens of the county. 

Harrison Wilson's second wife, Katharine 
Schneyder, was my mother. She was the daughter 
of Augustus Schneyder, an ex-soldier of the Napo- 
leonic wars and mayor of Gambsheim, in Rhenish 
Alsace, near Strasburg. He was a manufacturer 
and a thoughtful man who, seeing the unsettled con- 
ditions at home and the coming greatness of the 
United States, emigrated, as was then the custom, 
with his wife, Louisa Studer, and several children, 
landing at Philadelphia in 1818. Thence he made 
his way to Pittsburg by wagon and down the Ohio 
by houseboat to New Harmony, Indiana, the idealist 
settlement of the Rappites. Here he remained sev- 
eral years, but on the death of his wife he removed 
with his family to Shawneetown, forty miles to the 
southwest, where my father made their acquaint- 
ance and married the eldest daughter, my mother. 
But, drawn by the superior attractions of the lead 
mine region in the northwestern corner of the state, 
my grandfather made his way to Galena, where, 
after some years of mining, he settled down on a 
farm near that of the Rawlins family, whose eldest 
son long years afterward became my intimate friend 
and associate on General Grant's staff and finally 
chief-of-staff of the army and secretary of war. 

My father and mother had three daughters and 
four sons. One daughter and three sons grew up 
and took part according to their opportunities in 
the affairs of our times. 

I was born at the home farm September 2, 1837, 
about two miles and a half from Shawneetown, 



where I went through the town schools kept by a 
series of worthy masters till I was fifteen. After 
a few months in a general store and a year with my 
uncle, Orval Pool, the principal produce merchant 
of the region, I saved money enough to pay for fur- 
ther education for something less than a year. I en- 
tered McKendree College, St. Clair County, as a 
freshman and passed the winter of 1854-5 in prepar- 
ing myself for West Point. 

Through the endorsement of Major Samuel K. 
Casey, Captain John M. Cunningham (whose eldest 
daughter became Mrs. John A. Logan), the Honor- 
able Willis Allen, outgoing member of Congress, and 
of the Honorable Samuel S. Marshall, his successor, 
all of whom were my warm personal friends, I se- 
cured my appointment to West Point, where, after 
an interesting trip by the way of Washington, Phil- 
adelphia and New York, I reported for duty on 
June 5, 1855. 

My class was the first ever appointed to pursue 
the five years' course ordered by Jefferson Davis, 
then secretary of war, and the first and only one, 
except the younger part of the class ahead of us, 
that ever completed that course. We were a hun- 
dred and twenty-one in all, but nineteen or twenty 
were rejected as cleficient in one or another of the 
modest requirements of the day. During the five 
years which followed the exactions were severe and 
the standard high, so that some sixty more fell by 
the wayside, leaving forty-one, or only one-third of 
the original number to graduate. 

Personally, I had nothing to complain of. I en- 
joyed the novelty of my first encampment. It was 
fresh, invigorating, and at times exciting, but from 



the first it was hard work during the day, with con- 
tinual vigilance and resistance during the night. 
Hazing was practiced in full force. It was good- 
natured, but at times rather rough play between 
old and new cadets, which, so far as I could see, did 
no harm but much good to all. It sharpened our 
observation, stimulated our vigilance and excited 
our curiosity. It may have discouraged the home- 
sick and weak-hearted, but it certainly diet no injury 
whatever to such as met it with good-natured re- 
sistance and were fit for the life they had chosen. 
It brought me but one adventure which, fortunately, 
ended to my advantage. Two older cadets, Lockett 
of Alabama and Nicodemus of Maryland, called on 
me one hot afternoon in July and most courteously 
invited me to go swimming with them. As it was 
the first civility of the kind I had received, and as 
I had begun to long for a plunge in the stately 
Hudson, I eagerly accepted, and in a few minutes 
we were at Gee's Point. After a question or two 
about the depth of the water and the best place 
to go in and come out, I jumped in head first and 
had hardly got my nose above the water when my 
friends were close upon me. A glance revealed the 
fact that they were aiming to duck me, but, select- 
ing the weaker swimmer, I made for him, and, sepa- 
rating him from the other, placed my hands on his 
head and pushed him under. As he went down I 
gave him an extra shove with both feet toward the 
bottom. The other was after me instantly, but, as 
soon as I thought it safe, I slackened speed and al- 
lowed him to close up, when I delivered him a sharp, 
" stern-wheel ' ' kick on the nose, which brought the 
blood and ended the engagement. My antagonists 



were both genuine sportsmen, and, instead of losing 
their temper, took my resistance good naturedly. 
They were somewhat surprised, however, to learn 
that a raw plebe could swim, but when I explained 
that I was brought up on the Ohio Eiver, not only 
did they conclude I would do, but we became fast 
friends and swimming companions for the rest of 
the season. 

Our class was composed of the usual assortment 
of young men from both north and south. We had 
the nephew of a president and the son of a governor, 
and the planters, farmers, lawyers, doctor, preach- 
ers, merchants, and even mechanics, were all repre- 
sented. It was a pure democracy in which all were 
equal, and nothing counted but character and brains. 
The January examinations weeded out a good many, 
but by the end of the year those likely to graduate 
had become pretty well known, and they had taken 
on the air and bearing of seasoned cadets, which in 
ranks made them look as much like each other as 
pins in a paper. 

At the end of the year, although I had started 
next to foot, I was in the first or second section in 
all the studies. My two terms at college had been 
of great advantage in teaching me how to study. 
I had no difficulty in any branch, and did my daily 
task easily enough, and, after a few months, had 
plenty of time left for general reading. This was 
the case to the end of my cadet life. The library 
contained some twenty thousand volumes, largely 
military, but all fairly well selected, and, although 
nothing was done to encourage its use, or to guide 
the cadets in the selection of books, it was free to 
all who had time or inclination to visit it after study 



hours or on holidays. I soon made the acquaintance 
of Fries, the curator. During my first encampment 
I read Story's "Constitutional Law" and a general 
assortment of romance and history, and after that 
not only became a steady patron of it, but close 
friends with the kindly Fries, who had a wonderful 
memory, and was most helpful in introducing me to 
his treasures. As I grew older he became more con- 
siderate, and I hold him in grateful memory for his 
unfailing kindness. The instructors came and went, 
but he remained at his post, not only for my term, 
but for long years afterward, and if I should be 
called upon to say who did me the most good and 
helped me most to equip myself for the duties of 
life, I should unhesitatingly say Andre Fries, the 
old librarian. 

At the end of my first year, all unconscious of 
having made any special progress, I was more 
greatly surprised and gratified than I ever was at 
any subsequent promotion when my name was read 
out at the head of the list of lance-corporals to 
receive and break in the new candidates for admis- 
sion. As this was followed by my appointment as 
first corporal, and later as acting first sergeant of 
"A" Company, and finally as the fi>st sergeant of 
"B" Company, I became quite military as well as 
a "stern man" on duty. 

I was thus a cadet non-commissioned officer in 
good standing for the better part of two years, but 
my career as such was cut short by an untoward 
incident for which I was not altogether culpable. 
My clerk, whose duty it was to keep the roster, made 
out the guard details, and put the daily list under 
my gunsight, unfortunately regarding it beneath the 



dignity of a first class man to perform sentry duty, 
and, in accordance with custom, omitted the names 
of all first class men from the details. The omission 
was soon discovered, but, compromising with my 
sense of duty, I refrained from putting an end to 
it till it was too late. By some means, never ex- 
plained, my company commander, Lieutenant Mc- 
Cook, afterward a distinguished major general and 
an army corps commander, discovered it and haled 
me with the other first sergeants before the com- 
mandant of cadets. The latter made short work 
of it as a clear case of gross neglect of duty, and, 
as it could neither be denied nor explained, he sent 
us all to our quarters in arrest. In a short time 
the superintendent reduced us to the ranks and sen- 
tenced each to perform ten extra tours of camp 
guard duty and to be confined to the limits of the 
camp till the punishment was completed. 

During my stay at West Point I naturally be- 
came expert in the exercises and tactics of the va- 
rious arms and, both as a corporal and sergeant, 
felt that I was as good a drill master as could be 
found. At West Point as well as elsewhere it is 
the pride of every non-commissioned officer to make 
his squad as nearly perfect as possible, and with the 
best men it is remarkable how rapidly they progress, 
and how soon they become skillful in every military 

Having in later life seen many of the crack regi- 
ments of Europe and Asia, I entertain no doubt 
whatever that the corps of cadets at West Point, all 
things considered, is the best battalion of infantry 
in the world. For most of my time Colonel Hardee, 
the author of the tactics, afterward a Confederate 



lieutenant-general, was commandant, and with his 
rigid instruction the corps became almost perfect 
in bearing, discipline, and drill. Under his search- 
ing eye no slouchy man escaped. I can hear now 
his clarion voice, with its slightly Southern accent, 
sing out: "Attention, battalion! Hold up your 
head, Mr. Sweet, you'll never make a soldier in your 
life ! ' • * And then would follow the command with 
which the drill began. But Hardee was not satisfied 
to let the battalion go with his instruction. No one 
knew better than he that perfection in the school 
of the soldier and squad is necessary to perfection 
in the school of the company and battalion, and con- 
sequently he was always on the drill ground when 
the new cadets were being broken in. 

I have a distinct recollection of an awkward in- 
cident under his eye which brought an unexpected 
laugh upon me. As we were approaching the end 
of our second encampment, I was putting my best 
squad of twelve men through inspection of arms in 
my severest manner. Hardee was looking on as I 
thought with approval. Everything went well and 
to my entire satisfaction till I stepped in front of 
the squad preparatory to closing ranks. I had no- 
ticed a pile of cobble-stones nearby, but, as I started 
to walk backward for the purpose of taking in the 
whole squad at a glance, I felt the stones under my 
heels, and almost instantly they began to roll. My 
feet became entangled and, losing my balance, I fell 
completely over backward. Of course, the exhibition 
I made was more than the squad could stand. Every 

1 In fact, he became one of the most gallant men of his day, 
and was killed while leading a squadron headon at Gaines' Mill 
against Jackson's Corps. 



man of them, and especially Cadet McKenzie, 1 broke 
out in an audible laugh. Hardee himself failed to 
keep his face straight, and this made the situation 
all the more embarrassing. But I always thought 
I proved myself equal to the occasion. Springing 
to my feet at once, I sang out : ' ' Close ranks, march ! 
Fours, left ! Forward, double quick, march ! ' ! And 
off we went around the plain without halting. By 
the time we had made one turn the breathing became 
heavy, but, as it seemed to me there was still enough 
breath left for another laugh, I continued the double- 
quick till we got around a second time, when I halted 
the squad and gave the command: " Order arms — 
in place, rest!" It is notable that although we had 
covered something like a mile and a half at full 
speed, no one had fallen out, but all were so nearly 
exhausted that when I asked quite informally, as I 
did, if they thought they could witness such another 
accident without laughing they were unanimous in 
saying they thought they could. This, of course, 
closed the incident, though the commandant inti- 
mated later that he thought the punishment some- 
what too great for the offense. In this he was prob- 
ably right, but it is interesting to note that as long 
as I remained first sergeant of that company I had 
perfect order in ranks. 

Those were great days, and, while the drilling 
and studying were intermingled with dancing, fenc- 
ing, riding, and gymnastics, time passed rapidly and 
agreeably, with marked improvement to both body 
and mind. 'When we graduated there was not an 
infirm or unsound man in the class, but, on the con- 

1 Afterwards a distinguished brigadier and major general of 



trary, there were many who would have passed any- 
where as athletes of no mean quality, although the 
period of football and baseball was yet in the future. 
The entire course was admirably arranged to com- 
bine physical with mental development, and in this 
connection I give it as my deliberate opinion, after 
many years of observation, that the national schools 
at West Point and Annapolis are the best of their 
kind in the world. They get all there is to be had 
out of the cadets, and ruthlessly send away those 
who cannot reach the required standard of efficiency. 
There is no idling, no lost time, and no favoritism, 
and the result is altogether admirable. 

Having been accustomed to horses from child- 
hood, I became a good theoretical, as well as practi- 
cal horseman. It was my lot to be put in charge of 
vicious mounts, more than one of which fell over 
backward or ran away with me, but, fortunately, 
without doing me any harm. It was due solely to 
this fact, as well as to the manner in which I man- 
aged my own horses in the field, that I was assigned 
to the command of cavalry after I reached the grade 
of brigadier general, through two and a half years' 
service in the engineering and inspecting depart- 

Looking back on my military life, I have only 
two regrets in connection with it: first, that I was 
never an enlisted man in the infantry or cavalry, 
because, with my health, activity, powers of endur- 
ance, and skill in handling a rifle and a horse, I al- 
ways felt that I would have been as good a soldier 
as could be found anywhere in the ranks, while I 
was far from having the same confidence in my ca- 
pacity as a commissioned officer; and, second, that 



I was never a prisoner of war, because I felt that 
the privation and ill treatment of that fate would 
have stimulated me to even greater determination 
and services in behalf of the Union cause. 

My last summer, like all the rest, was a busy one, 
for, in order to get rid of my confinement, as well 
as the extra guard duty to which I had been sen- 
tenced, I was allowed the privilege of walking my 
regular and extra tours consecutively, and thus for 
twelve days without intermission I was constantly 
on guard, walking two hours and resting four, both 
day and night, till I had paid the penalty and wiped 
out the score against me. 

In addition to performing all regular duties, I 
was up to everything within limits and to an occa- 
sional trip off limits in those days. At the ' ' Eagle 
Valley Retreat*' fried chicken and buckwheat cakes 
were most attractively served by the landlord's eld- 
est daughter, and cakes always kept coming till one 
of our number, a handsome Virginian, would stop 
them by a graceful wave of the hand and ' ' sufficient 
of the buckwheats, Sarie." Fortunately, these es- 
capades, during which I swam the river more than 
once to the trestle work above Garrisons and back 
to the Point, were undetected and therefore un- 

My aggregate recorded demerits amounted to 
something like one hundred and seventy for the five 
years of my cadet life, and, as conduct counts along 
with studies and duties in making up class standing, 
I paid the penalty in the end by graduating only 
sixth in the class, when, if I had been a "good boy," 
I might have done one or two files better. But, as 
General Grant used to say: "We had a power of 



fun in those days," and I do not see even now how 
closer attention to studies or a closer observance 
of regulations could have materially improved either 
my education or my happiness. 

My class, after having been sifted to the irre- 
ducible minimum of forty-one, was generally consid- 
ered a good one. It certainly had several admirable 
scholars in it, notably McFarland, Bowen and Tardy, 
besides quite a number who rose to high rank and 
distinction, among whom were Porter, Merritt, Pen- 
nington, Hall, Jones, Randol, Martin, Marsh, War- 
ner, and John M. Wilson. 

Although most of our number were disappointed 
at not graduating in four years, as was at one time 
ordered, instead of staying five, as originally in- 
tended, it is not to be denied that the extra year 
was well and profitably employed, and in the end 
gave us an unusually good preparation for the great 
war which broke out within a year after we grad- 
uated. I was not disappointed, for I felt that our 
last year would round out our education and put us 
on higher ground than our predecessors had gener- 
ally attained. 

The professors and instructors of the day were 
aole and conscientious men. Mahan, Church, Bart- 
lett, and Kendrick had already become famous, and 
our superintendent, military staff, and daily in- 
structors were mostly officers of rare ability. Among 
the number were Delafield, Duane, W. F. Smith, 
Casey, Craighill, and Weitzel, of the engineers ; Ben- 
ton and Howard of the ordnance; Hardee, Field, 
Williams, and Cosby of the cavalry; Silvey, Sill, 
Holabird, Fry, Perry, and Gibbon of the artillery; 
Walker, Clitz, Cogswell, Washington, Wilcox, Mc- 



Cook, and many others of the infantry. They had 
all seen service and were studious, hard-working, 
and dignified officers, who seemed to take as much 
pride in studying for their own information as for 
the instruction of the cadets. It is gratifying to 
note that several of the number rose afterward to 
high command and great distinction. 

In these later days of the War College and the 
special schools for the staff and line of the army, 
four years with the present standard, or even three 
years with a higher standard for admission, con- 
stitute an ample term for West Point ; but without 
these post-graduate schools, which did not exist in 
our time, five years were none too many. At all 
events, I valued them and the advantages they 
brought highly at the time, and since then I have 
always thought they gave us a broader view and 
a better preparation for the military profession than 
we could possibly have got in any other way. It 
is doubtless due to this fact that several of our 
number rose to high command by the time the con- 
flict between the states was hardly half over. At 
its outset they entered the field with as much, if not 
more, theoretical knowledge of the art and science 
of war than most of their seniors, and after a com- 
paratively short experience on the staff or with 
troops they were quite as well qualified in every 
way, except by age, for responsibility and high com- 
mand. Porter, who served with marked distinction 
on the staff of McClellan, Eosecrans, and Grant; 
Bowen, who served with W. F. Smith and Parke; 
Martin of the infantry and the cavalry bureau and 
afterward of the Adjutant General's Department, 
and Edson of the Ordnance, were certainly able offi- 



cers without reference to age. Merritt was one of 
the best and most successful cavalry commanders 
on either side. Whittemore, who served constantly 
and creditably as an ordnance officer, had but little 
chance for distinction. Randol, Pennington, and 
John M. Wilson became splendid battery command- 
ers, the first and second as chiefs of artillery. As 
if to illustrate the completeness of the West Point 
education for all branches of the service, Penning- 
ton later commanded a regiment and finally a 
brigade of cavalry under Sheridan with great suc- 
cess, while J. M. Wilson was shortly afterward 
transferred to the engineers, and after a long and 
honorable career, was retired for age as the chief 
of that distinguished corps. It may be truthfully 
said that no better officers ever rose to the command 
of a company or a regiment of infantry, whether 
regular or volunteer, than William G. Jones, Robert 
H. Hall, John N. Andrews, Salem S. Marsh, James 
P. Martin, and James M. Warner. They were preux 
chevaliers, as modest as girls, and by choice con- 
stantly with the colors, working hard and "hoping 
that they might find honor there.' ' By skill, cour- 
age, and success in many battles and campaigns they 
added luster to our arms, and may well be regarded 
by those they have left behind as model soldiers and 
gentlemen of faultless record. Among those des- 
tined for less brilliant careers were Kellogg, who 
commanded a volunteer cavalry regiment and, be- 
coming physically disqualified, had to retire, and 
Foster, who commanded a regiment of Missouri in- 
fantry and died from sickness contracted in service. 
There was Sweet, as brave as any knight, who lay 
down his young life at Gaines' Mill while leading 



a squadron of regular cavalry headlong to the charge 
against Stonewall Jackson's army corps. There 
were Tardy, the scholar, and Vanderbilt, the athlete, 
who fell sick and died in the earlier days of the war. 
They were preceded by the frail but heroic Mishler, 
who was killed with a shout of defiance on his lips 
while defending his guns against a charge at Val 
Verde. There was Powell, a favorite staff officer 
of McPherson, who served gallantly through the war 
and died on the plains from an accident. And there 
were Hopkins, Bowman, Cushing, Lynn, and Jordan, 
who served with the regulars or on detached duty, 
but for one reason or another failed to win the fame 
they had dreamed of. Lewis, short and stout, but 
the strongest and most agile man of the class, died 
from sickness in the field. We also had our Smith, 
Alfred T., with a splendid double-bass voice, who 
went through both the Civil War and the war 
against the Filipinos, and after a long and conscien- 
tious life always with the colors, retired by reason 
of advanced age as a colonel. 

Then, too, like all the other classes of the period, 
we had our Southerners — hot-headed, masterful, in- 
tolerant fellows who classed Black Eepublicans with 
the abolitionists, and believed in slavery as a divine 
institution. Benjamin Sloan, of South Carolina, was 
by far the ablest of the lot. As a boy it was said 
he left "F" out of his name because Benjamin 
Franklin was a Northerner. He served the South 
through to the end and then became a respected 
college president in his native state. Ramseur, 
of Huguenot origin, from North Carolina, was 
as handsome and attractive a young man as 
could be found. He came to be looked upon 



by the Confederate leaders as almost without 
a peer as an infantry commander and early 
rose to the rank of major general. He was 
mortally wounded in the battle of Cedar Creek 
and was tenderly nursed in his dying hours- by class- 
mates and friends whom he had known at West 
Point. Kerr, a man of intellect and courage, also 
from the old North state, died young without rising 
to distinction. Gibbes, of South Carolina, who 
fought Upton unsuccessfully as a cadet because he 
was an abolitionist, fired the first gun at Sumter 
and saw the last one fired at Appomattox. Huger, 
of the same state, with a long line of distinguished 
ancestors, was far from being a disunionist, but he 
cast his lot with "his people,' J and after serving 
them as a staff officer became a successful railroad 
man and lived beyond three score years. McCreery, 
a brilliant and ambitious Virginian, was killed at 
Antietam. He had provoked me, unfortunately for 
himself, into the only fight I had in my cadet days, 
ostensibly because of impatient words I had used 
toward him at artillery drill, but really because I 
was a Northerner, and he and his friends thought a 
licking would do me good. Gibbes was his second 
and Hall was mine. The fight was with bare fists, 
"rough and tumble ,, to a finish without a break, 
according to the local rules. It came off after 
supper within the hallowed precincts of old Fort 
Clinton of Revolutionary memory. It was short, 
sharp, and decisive. But the hardest case of all was 
that of Riley, one of the handsomest, most engaging, 
and most popular men of the class. He was the 
son of General Bennett Riley of the regular army, 
a noted hero of the Mexican War, originally 



from western New York. The youngster, on grad- 
uating, was sent to the extreme West, where he 
served with Earl Van Dorn and other Southern 
officers, and through some strange fatuity or some 
fatal friendship he cast his lot with the South and 
lost as bravely as the best with the comrades and 
the cause for which he stood. 

The man who graduated at the foot of the class 
was Borland, of Arkansas, the son of a senator of 
that name. He was a good fellow and a great 
favorite and had taken seven years to master the 
course. By reasoning altogether his own, although 
as poor as Job's turkey, he conceived that "his 
rights in the territories ' ' might be withheld by a Ke- 
publican administration, and so he, too, went to fight 
for the South. A life of obscure employments, fol- 
lowed by an old age of suffering and penury, are his 
lot among the people he served so faithfully. 

Last, but not least, was the grave and austere 
McFarland, the brightest of them all, who graduated 
easily head of the class, and from music to quater- 
nions never encountered an art or a science he did 
not master. With the mind of a Laplace and the 
skill of a Vauban, he was fitted for any place that 
fortune might bring, and should have left his mark 
deeply impressed upon the times in which he lived. 
But fortune was against him from the first, and his 
superb equipment as a soldier and scientist was 
his undoing. It brought him the duty of construct- 
ing permanent fortifications and sea-coast defences, 
which were to assist in making good the blockade 
and cutting off outside help, without which it was 
impossible for the Confederacy to succeed. This 
important but modest service kept him generally far 



from the march of contending armies and from the 
excitement and danger of battle, and thus it con- 
tinued, not only for the greater part of the war, but 
until middle life. He died from rheumatism of the 
heart. He was loved and honored by all, but his 
hopes had been disappointed and his " white, un- 
stained soldier's plume," with all its inspirations, 
remained to the end but a dream and a disappoint- 

I have always felt that the decade at the end of 
which my class graduated was the golden age of 
West Point. This may be because I knew it better 
than I have ever known it since, but in those days 
it was eminently the place of "the square deal." 
Neither outside pull nor inside intrigue could in- 
fluence the standing of any man nor change the 
course of the academic board so much as a hair's 
breadth. The officers of all grades were the selected 
men of the army. None but an engineer of the high- 
est rank and attainments had up to that time ever 
held the position of superintendent, and the disci- 
pline was perfect. There was now and then a little 
harmless hazing and occasionally some that was far 
too rough, but it was either judiciously ignored or 
firmly and effectively dealt with by the superinten- 
dent without advertising the matter or calling on 
the "War Department for assistance. The fact is 
that such a call would have been considered as an 
evidence of incapacity and weakness by an officer of 
Colonel Delafield's experience and character. 

During my time at the Academy and afterward 
till the first gun of the war was fired, politics ran 
high. We were boys, but, coming from every Con- 
gressional district of the Union, the corps of cadets 



was as much a representative body as Congress it- 
self. We all read the newspapers, not only from 
New York, but from home towns, and all took sides. 
I was a Douglas Democrat, possibly as much by rea- 
son of my Southern ancestry as because "the Little 
Giant" was from my state and because in debates 
with his opponents, and especially with Jefferson 
Davis, he proudly proclaimed that he would neither 
ask nor grant quarter. My section of the state was 
always strongly Democratic and it was devoted to 
Douglas. My own county, Gallatin, gave Mr. Lin- 
coln only sixty-five votes for president and Mr. 
Douglas all the rest. His doctrine of popular 
sovereignty seemed to be not only plausible, but con- 
sistent with the right of self-government which lay 
at the base of the American system. I was familiar 
with the Constitution and its commentaries as taught 
in our course of law, but I did not perceive that the 
District of Columbia and the territories were not 
sovereignties at all, but were under the absolute con- 
trol of Congress. I was opposed to slavery itself, 
but I realized that it was under the protection of 
the law and beyond the power of Congress to regu- 
late or abolish it. I believed in the patriotism of 
Dotiglas and in his steadfast devotion to the Union. 
It has always seemed to me that Lincoln's biog- 
raphers, Nicolay and Hay, often went out of their 
way to belittle Douglas in order to exalt their great 
Chief, and that this really served to depreciate Lin- 
coln. ' ' Arts of the demagogue, f9U vicious methods, * ' 
" quibbling,' * "success above principle," "plausible 
but delusive," are among the unkind phrases ap- 
plied to Douglas in reviewing the points of contact 
between these two really great men. But Lincoln's 


biographers were not always unkind. Indeed, they 
concede Douglas' great ability, and at times laud 
him highly, but generally leave the impression that 
he was actuated by motives less lofty, and that he 
moved on a moral plane distinctly lower than Lin- 
coln's. They seem to have overlooked the fact that 
in all the arts of the mere politician their wily Chief 
had served a full apprenticeship in the trade and 
that he could easily give Mr. Douglas large odds 
and beat him at the game. They pass over the great 
and inestimable service rendered by Douglas to the 
cause of the Union in his last days with slight or in- 
adequate mention, and make no quotations from his 
two masterly and decisive speeches following his last 
personal conference with Lincoln in Washington 
April 14, 1861. It is hardly too much to say of those 
speeches that they were decisive of a unified North 
in "the impending conflict," and that they consti- 
tuted beyond comparison the greatest individual 
service rendered to the Union by any public man, 
not even excepting Mr. Lincoln's, in the crucial days 
following the attack on Fort Sumter. In their far- 
reaching results they have rarely been equaled and 
never surpassed by any forensic effort of ancient 
or modern times. 

At Springfield, April 25, 1861, before a joint ses- 
sion of the two houses of the legislature, over which 
the now venerable Shelby M. Cullom presided, Doug- 
las, in the greatest speech of his life, aroused his 
large audience to a frenzy of patriotic enthusiasm 
when at the height of his eloquent appeal for the 
Union he said: 

"When hostile armies are marching under 
new and odious banners against the government 



of our Country, the shortest way to peace is the 
most stupendous and unanimous preparation for 
war. ' ' 

Of this speech Senator Cullom has since said: 
"Never in all my experience in public life, before 
or since, have I been so impressed by a speaker.' ' 
Another says: "His eloquence, his earnestness and 
power were such as to fairly transfigure him," while 
men and women were carried off their feet in an 
hysterical wave of patriotism. Later, at Chicago, 
in June, a few days before his death, in the last 
effort of his life, arousing the wildest enthusiasm 
of a vast audience and throughout the whole North, 
he said: 

' ' There are only two sides to the question. Every 
man must be for the United States or against it. 
There can be no neutrals in this war — ONLY 

Of this Horace White says : • ' That speech hushed 
the breath of treason in every corner of the State." 2 
And he might have added with equal truthfulness 
that it swept away for the time all party lines, uni- 
fied the whole North and brought to the unwavering 
support of Lincoln and the Union cause the millions 
of devoted, loyal, and enthusiastic personal and 
party friends of the Senator they fondly called 
"The Little Giant." 

It is but tardy justice to call particular attention 
to the fact that his manly and patriotic course 
brought Logan, McClernand, Ogleby, Palmer, Hurl- 
but, Lawler, and many other influential Douglas 
Democrats from Illinois into the army as generals 

1 Chicago Wigwam Speech, New York Tribune, June 13, 1861. 
'"Life of Lincoln," Herndon & Weik, Vol. II, pp. 126-7. 



and colonels. In the light of all this it can be truly 
said that Douglas was one of the strongest and most 
influential characters in all the galaxy of American 
statesmen. That Lincoln recognized his great serv- 
ices is shown by the fact that he offered him the 
commission of major general of Volunteers. A 
month afterward, at the age of forty-eight, he was 
in his grave. 

Since the above was written the attention of the 
venerable William Jayne, of Springfield, Illinois, has 
been called to the subject. He was Lincoln 's special 
friend, he stood up with him at his wedding, and 
was appointed by him governor of Dakota. He has 
always been a staunch Eepublican. He is one of the 
few surviving close friends of Lincoln, hale and 
hearty at eighty-five years of age, and does not hesi- 
tate to say : i ' There would have been war in Illinois 
but for Douglas. Justice has never been done to 
his memory. He was a very great man and a true 
patriot. ' ' 

In my day the teaching of the Academy was clear 
and unequivocal on this point: that whatever might 
be the reserved rights of the state or of its citizens, 
those who had taken the oath of allegiance to the 
Union and bound themselves to faithful service in 
the army had no reserved rights, and that no matter 
what a mere citizen might think or do, we were 
solemnly pledged to protect and defend the Consti- 
tution of the United States "against all its enemies 
and opposers whatsoever." We were told that these 
words included domestic as well as foreign enemies, 
and that so long as two states held together under 
the Constitution and the laws enacted in accordance 
therewith, it was the duty of all regular officers to 



uphold the flag and stand hy the government of the 
United States. 

At all events, this was my platform, and I am 
glad to say most of the Northern men stood with me 
on it. But my Southern classmates, almost to a 
man, in spite of their oath of allegiance, were 
against it and believed in state rights, and when 
the test came all went South, except Martin, of Ken- 
tucky. He was but a boy with a man's head on his 
shoulders, and never thereafter in any official emer- 
gency failed in his duty. We had plenty of Free- 
soilers, and a few Abolitionists, and when at leisure 
we had fierce discussions in spite of ourselves. While 
the political lines were closely drawn, friendly rela- 
tions were maintained, but the closest intimacies 
were sectional rather than national. We had our 
differences and our fights, but they, as well as the 
feelings which existed, have been so fully and so ad- 
mirably portrayed by other writers that nothing 
further need be said here. 1 

The representative character of the Military 
Academy, while obvious enough when attention is 
directed to it, has never been adequately set forth 
by the officers controlling the institution nor fully 
understood by the cadets themselves. Although it 
is absolutely national and, properly enough, now- 
adays makes known to its graduates the paramount 
claims of the nation upon their allegiance and serv- 
ice by commissioned officers of the army, nothing 
whatever is said as to their relations with the civil 
officials and their people at home, nor the advan- 
tages of maintaining close connection with them. 

w< The Spirit of Old West Point/ ' by General Morris Schaff, 



As pointed out in the case of my own class, the 
cadets are drawn from every rank and station of 
life absolutely without reference to "race, color or 
previous condition of servitude. ' ' Every man 's son 
is eligible for appointment if he has the proper quali- 
fications, and, when admitted, every man's son has 
an equal chance with every other man's son. I shall 
not deny that here and there at rare intervals young 
men present themselves who, by disagreeable or 
offensive appearance, manners, or behavior, arouse 
the antagonism of their associates, or even of those 
in authority over them. If they prove obdurate, in- 
tractable, or vicious, they are finally eliminated, al- 
though they might possibly, with patient encourage- 
ment and assistance, master the course of studies; 
but I cannot recall a case where real injustice was 
done. Human nature is a complex adjustment of 
contradictory and opposing elements in which abso- 
lute justice can neither be defined nor secured. Hon- 
orable men do the best they can and leave the con- 
sequences to take care of themselves. 

In the case of the cadets, the fashioning hands 
of discipline, instruction, and environment begin 
their work at once, and by the end of the year, as 
I have previously remarked, as far as an outsider 
can perceive, they all look alike, and in ranks as 
much so as a row of pins. But the training and 
assimilation do not end there. They go on to the 
end. When the young men at the close of their sec- 
ond year go home on furlough, clad in a smart uni- 
form, they are received with pride and satisfaction 
by their family and friends, and they are the envy 
of their old schoolmates and the admiration of the 
girls. They are proud and happy to a degree that 



no one who has not been through the experience 
can realize. They find everything agreeable and 
have altogether the best time they ever had. When 
they return to the Academy and buckle down again 
to their work they broaden in their minds and in 
their ambitions, and begin to wonder how they are 
coming out, what branch of service they will enter, 
and what will be their chance for glory. The change 
in person, in bearing, and in ideals goes on and they 
become grown men ; they have mastered the course, 
made their way to an assured position, and are about 
to enter into the real race of life. They graduate, 
choose their corps and regiment, and go home again 
to their family and friends. Of course, those who 
come from the higher walks of life find a welcome 
in society, and now and then one looks around and 
marries the girl he loved as a boy, or his sister's 
friend. But the great majority find themselves in 
an environment different from that in which they 
grew up. Their people and friends may be just as 
proud, or even prouder, of them than when they 
were at home on furlough, but the new graduate 
somehow or another may not be so proud of them 
as he once was. He has changed, but the plain 
people have not, and there is an incongruity, if not 
an inharmony, that makes him uneasy. And so 
when his leave is at an end he goes away — it used 
to be to the frontier, but now it is to the 
Philippines, or to a dull post on the sea coast. He 
enters upon his duty as an officer and soon becomes 
so much absorbed in making a record for himself, 
upon which he proudly imagines his whole future is 
to depend, that he thinks less and less frequently of 
his boyhood home, family, and friends Unfortu- 



nately, even if otherwise disposed, lie returns but 
seldom, and while he thinks of them occasionally, 
he finally forgets them, little by little to be sure, 
but when his father and mother die the strongest 
tie is broken and he loses his citizenship at home, 
and becomes a citizen of the country at large. He 
has lost his constituents and his backing and now 
has no chance for assistance in life except from 
friends he makes in the army or in the neighborhood 
of the posts at which he has served. 

If he realizes this at all, he consoles himself with 
the thought that he belongs to the army which is 
governed by a higher code than the civil callings, 
and where neither favoritism nor chicanery can pre- 
vail, but where everything depends upon the honor- 
able record of service he builds up for himself. He 
forgets that in emergencies, or even in ordinary 
times, his record, of which he is so proud and from 
which he expects so much, is filed away in the War 
Department, and is the last thing those in authority 
ever think of consulting in regard to the unknown 
and inconspicuous army officer. Indeed, unless there 
is at home someone sufficiently interested to remem- 
ber that he has a record, or is making one, he is 
almost as completely out of mind to those higher 
up as if he and his record were sleeping together 
in the tomb of Sesostris. 

I would not have it thought that I favor "pull" 
or personal influence instead of honorable record, 
but a young soldier, in the first instance at least, 
represents his home district, and unless he keeps in 
touch with it through his congressman, his senator, 
his teacher, the pastor, the judge, or even the gov- 
ernor, he will have no one to speak for him. In 



short, unless he is known favorably by the promi- 
nent and influential men of his own district, who are 
naturally interested in him, opportunity may never 
come his way, no matter what his real merit may 
be. And without opportunity obscurity is sure to 
be his lot. He should know that officials of all ranks 
are so constituted that when called upon to recom- 
mend a man for office or promotion, they naturally 
recommend first him whom they know in person, and 
second him whom they have heard well spoken of 
and favorably commended by people of position and 

In all that relates to this important subject my 
class had been no better instructed than those that 
went before it, nor those that came after it. It had 
this advantage, however: it found itself within less 
than a year on the threshold of a great war, where 
opportunity was looking for the men, and honor- 
able service was thrust upon all who wanted it, so 
that only the weak and unready failed to get it to 
their heart's content. 

After the usual graduating leave of absence, the 
men of the class of 1860 were distributed to the 
corps and regiments for which they had applied 
or to which they were assigned, and were scattered 
throughout the United States. Many were sent to 
the frontier and were there when the Civil War 
broke out. As I graduated only sixth in general 
standing, it was my lot to be commissioned a brevet 
second lieutenant of Topographical Engineers and 
to be ordered to the headquarters of the District 
of Washington at Fort Vancouver, on the Columbia 
Eiver. My orders made it necessary to take the 
longest ocean and river voyage it was then possible 



for any officer to be sent upon to a post within the 
limits of the United States. It was before the days 
of the transcontinental railroads, and the only feas- 
ible way to my station was by steamship to Aspin- 
wall, thence across the Isthmus by rail to Panama, 
and again by steamship to San Francisco and Port- 
land. It was, however, what I wanted, and I enjoyed 
every day of the voyage — all the strange scenes and 
experiences through which it took me. I sailed from 
New York late in September, 1860, by one of the 
Vanderbilt steamers then plying in the Isthmian 
route, to the east coast, and from Panama up the 
coast by the Pacific Mail Line. Including a few 
days' stop-over at San Francisco, it took about a 
month to reach my destination. 

Under the policy of John B. Floyd, then sec- 
retary of war, my first orders took me in October, 
1860, from New York by the Isthmus of Panama 
and San Francisco to Fort Vancouver, on the Co- 
lumbia River. The ship's company contained sev- 
eral courtesy majors and colonels, and, although I 
was only the ninth brevet second lieutenant in the 
corps of Topographical Engineers, they cheerfully 
waived their rank in my favor and unanimously 
gave me the title of "the general/ ' and "the gen- 
eral' ' I remained till the voyage ended. As the 
Zanfrettis of the Ravel troupe were going to try 
their fortune at San Francisco and were traveling 
with us, the voyage was a pleasant one. They were 
jolly, sociable, good-natured people, male and fe- 
male, and did their best to entertain their fellow- 
passengers. We crossed the Isthmus by railway, 
but had got hardly half way over when our train 
jumped the track. It was raining and very dark, 



and the scene, which was ordinarily weird enough, 
was made more so by a multitude of monkeys, which 
made the night hideous by their whining and chat- 
tering from the overhanging tropical forest. 

While at Panama Colonel Talcott, the chief en- 
gineer, expressed the opinion, based upon his ex- 
tensive acquaintance with the entire Isthmus, that 
the route the railroad occupied, the lowest level 
then known, was the only one on which a tide-level 
inter-oceanic ship canal could ever be built. Talcott 
was an ex-army officer and an able man, whose clear 
and decided views made a profound impression upon 
me at the time. They were emphasized more than 
a decade later by one Anthoine de Gogorza, who had 
traded up and down Central America for many 
years. After careful study he had come to the con- 
clusion that a still better route might be found by 
an exhaustive survey. 

The subject was always one of great interest to 
me, because after the Civil War, when I had re- 
turned to duty as a captain of engineers, both Gen- 
eral Grant and General Humphreys, then chief of 
engineers, directed me to keep myself constantly 
informed on the subject of an inter-oceanic ship 
canal and its proper location, with the intimation 
that I should be charged with the further surveys 
and with the construction when it should be author- 
ized by Congress. Therefore, I read everything 
that came before the public in regard to the sub- 
ject, reaching the conclusion that until every pos- 
sible route had been surveyed with the same care 
that had been bestowed upon the Isthmus of Pan- 
ama, that route must be preferred. As no further 
surveys have been made, that conclusion stands 



good to-day. In this faith, many years later, while 
a member of the National Republican Convention, 
I framed the resolution favoring an inter-oceanic 
canal, without designating the route, but a delegate 
from California, with a vigilance which could not 
have been greater if it had been paid for, always 
amended my report by inserting the Nicaragua 
route. Finally, at the instance, I have always be- 
lieved, of Senator Foraker, the resolution was 
passed in such form as to leave the subject indefi- 
nite, and the government free to adopt the Panama 
instead of the Nicaragua route. Thus Colonel Tal- 
cott 's views were finally adopted, but the great work 
was changed from a tide-level canal to one with 
locks and dams. It should be noted, however, that 
even to this late day there is a difference of opinion 
as to the wisdom of this decision. Personally I have 
always contended that the canal should be at tide 
level, without locks of any kind, and that the Gov- 
ernment cannot afford any other than the best pos- 
sible construction, no matter what it costs. 

Our voyage northward was broken by a few 
hours' stop at Acapulco, and several days at San 
Francisco. Both were full of interest for me, and 
I was greatly struck by the importance of San Fran- 
cisco, the harbor of which was crowded with ship- 
ping from all parts of the world. Spaniards, Mexi- 
cans, Frenchmen, and Chinamen jostled each other 
at every corner, and, although the common saying 
was that there was no Sunday west of Panama, 
order prevailed on all sides, and it was evident that 
the Americans were in absolute control. The mem- 
ory of the " Vigilantes ' ' was fresh in everybody's 
mind, and with that memory the conviction seemed 



widespread that license and frolic might go so far, 
but no farther. 

I remained in the city only long enough to get 
the first steamer for the northern coast. I neither 
knew nor cared to know anyone at San Francisco, 
and on the third morning I embarked for Portland, 
Oregon. The voyage was rough and kept me sea- 
sick till we had crossed the Columbia Eiver bar. 
The run to Portland was smooth and rapid. The 
river was broad and stately, and the mountain scen- 
ery on either hand the finest I had ever seen, but, 
finding Portland raw and unfinished, I tarried only 
long enough to make connections with the little 
steamer which took me in two hours to Fort Van- 
couver, on the Columbia, a few miles above the 
mouth of the Willamette. 

My first duty was to report to Captain George 
Thorn and then to call with him on Colonel George 
Wright, the courtly and courteous district com- 
mander. Both were glad to see me, and did what 
they could to make me feel that I was welcome. I 
was, of course, invited to join the bachelor officers' 
mess, and met there several acquaintances from 
West Point. My first business was to rent and fur- 
nish a little frame cottage of two rooms, a few rods 
outside of the garrison. The first night I called on 
the family of the commanding general. It was rain- 
ing and so dark that I found it difficult to keep the 
path. About half way to the general's I heard some- 
one splashing through the mud toward me, and called 
out at once: "Who comes there V The answer 
came back instantly : ' ' Hallo ! is that you, Wilson ? ' ' 
"Yes, Wildrick, how are you!" He had been my 
cadet first sergeant, and, although we had not met 



for three years, we recognized each other's voice 
instantly. What makes this somewhat remarkable 
is the fact that neither knew the other was within 
three thousand miles of Vancouver. 

My chief had already one assistant, Lieutenant 
Dixon, when I reported, and, as he had no profes- 
sional work for himself or anyone else, he was at a 
loss to find employment for us. He naturally told 
me to make myself comfortable, to get acquainted 
with the ladies and enjoy myself for a few days, 
all of which I proceeded to do. As there were only 
three unmarried ladies in the garrison at the time, 
and none in the village of Vancouver nearby, while 
there were fourteen bachelors at the post and about 
fourteen thousand scattered about through the ter- 
ritory, the disparity of the sexes was such as to 
seriously limit social diversions. The three young 
women were, of course, charming, but were forced 
to divide their time, so that no one had a monopoly. 
They rode with one, walked with another, danced 
with a third and flirted with all, and both day and 
night passed gaily enough. The times were growing 
serious, however. The presidential election was at 
hand, and even in that far-away corner of the coun- 
try that was the all-absorbing topic of conversation. 

While most of the officers were Northerners and 
Republicans or Douglas Democrats, there were a 
few Southerners among us, but no secessionists or 
disunionists. There was no intolerance and no quar- 
reling. It was too serious for that, and when the 
news came that Lincoln had been elected the gloom 
seemed to deepen and the fear to increase that the 
Union would be disrupted. The Eastern newspapers 
and the mails were a month on the road, and hence 



the suspense weighed heavily on all. "With the pas- 
sage of the ordinance of secession by South Caro- 
lina and the failure of the peace conferences, appre- 
hension deepened into a certainty that civil war 
would follow. 

The winter was a dreary one, varied so far as 
I was concerned by only one visit to the Dalles of 
the Columbia, one or two trips to Portland, and 
one to Olympia, the capital of Washington territory. 
All the duty that could be found for me was to lo- 
cate and mark out a wagon road through the wilder- 
ness, along the Cowlitz from Columbia River to 
Puget Sound. This gave but little trouble and took 
less than a fortnight. The route was clearly indi- 
cated by nature, and, as it was familiar to the fron- 
tiersmen, my task was soon completed and my map 
duly filed at headquarters. Mounted on an Indian 
pony, which cost but twenty dollars, with the assist- 
ance of a few axemen, I made my way through the 
forest, cutting out the vine-maple and underbrush, 
and blazing the road so that it could be easily fol- 
lowed. It is now the route of a double-track rail- 
road used by three transcontinental lines. 

Seattle was then the site of a sawmill, and Ta- 
coma but little more. Puget Sound, with its deep 
water and endless channels, had no commerce, and 
the country adjacent was broken here and there by 
one-company military posts to overawe the Indians 
and hold the country against the encroachments of 
the Hudson Bay Company. No one then foresaw 
its wonderful development. The entire coast fifty 
years later is crowded with large and flourishing 
cities and towns, all of which received a great and 
unexpected impetus from the discovery of gold, cop- 



per, and coal in Alaska. I frankly confess that 
when I renewed my acquaintance with the region of 
my first military service, and extended it to British 
Columbia, the Yukon District, and Alaska Terri- 
tory, I deeply regretted that our government had 
not resolutely enforced its claims to "Fifty-four 
Forty or Fight, f ' and to a junction with the Russian 

Shortly after reaching Fort Vancouver I went 
to Olympia, the capital, to make tracings of the 
land-survey maps of the government reservations 
in the territory, and on the trip visited Fort Steil- 
acoom, and the settlement at Tacoma. With the 
exception of one court-martial, this was the most 
important service I performed during my stay of 
nine months in the territory. Any intelligent ser- 
geant could have done it at an expense of fifty 
dollars. The fact is that all the officers in that 
section had been banished as far as possible from 
the scene of the coming conflict, and if each had 
been an undeveloped Napoleon he could not have 
been more flattered nor more exasperated. The only 
advantage got from their service on the frontier 
was ten cents a mile travel allowance, both going 
and coming. Personally, it was a sort of God-send 
to me, for, after paying my expenses, the remainder 
was sufficient to pay my debts and leave me a mod- 
est surplus. 

On my return from Puget Sound my chief charged 
me with the care of three government chronometers, 
doing his best to impress the awful consequences 
that would follow if I failed to keep them wound. 
But, withal, my heart was not in it. The army had 
begun to disintegrate. Dixon of Tennessee and 



Anderson of Georgia had resigned, and they were 
followed shortly by others from the interior. By 
the first of March, 1861, most of the Southern offi- 
cers serving in that quarter had gone home or sig- 
nified their intention of doing so. Two batteries 
without guns had been ordered South and our gar- 
rison had lost a number of subalterns, which made 
the duty heavier on those who remained. In the 
midst of the excitement I let my chronometers run 
down, and although this made my chief un- 
happy, he passed it over lightly. I confessed my 
fault and told him frankly that I must find some- 
thing more important to do, and that, with his per- 
mission, I should ask for orders to return to the 
East. Meanwhile, I should offer my services to the 
commandant as adjutant of the post. Fortunately, 
my chief, who was loyal to the backbone, gave me 
both sympathy and approval, and I entered at once 
on the duties of post adjutant, performing them to 
the best of my ability till the very day I received 
orders to return to the East. 

Early in the spring we turned out all the troops 
that could be mustered and called in the citizens to 
see them fully armed and equipped for war. On the 
fourth of July we took two companies to Portland, 
marched them through the streets, held parade on 
the public square, and passed them in review with 
the band playing and the flag flying, to the wild de- 
light of the patriotic people. There was no doubt 
about the loyalty of that garrison! 

Edwin V. Sumner commanded the department 
of the Pacific at that time, while his brother-in-law, 
George Wright, commanded the District of Oregon. 
No braver or more loyal officers ever upheld the 



flag, and with their approval the atmosphere in that 
region was resonant with patriotic salutes from our 
field guns and patriotic music from our band. But 
there were no secessionists in that part of the coun- 
try who dared avow themselves. It was evident that 
the war, if it came, would rage on the other side of 
the continent, fourteen thousand miles away by the 
traveled route, and to that quarter all patriotic eyes 
were turned. 

As the coming storm became more threatening 
my unhappiness and my anxiety grew apace. I had 
no shadow of doubt as to the course all graduates 
ought to follow. It lay perfectly clear before me. 
My brother, Henry, two years younger than I, had 
succeeded me at West Point. My brother Bluford 
had entered college, and I was naturally anxious 
that both should take the same view and adopt 
the same course I had marked out for myself. No 
mail passed that did not carry letters between us, 
as well as between me and other friends. With each 
day the line of duty became clearer and more cer- 
tain, and it is with pride and satisfaction that I 
record here that neither of my brothers ever hesi- 
tated for a moment. Both entered the army and 
were in active service throughout the war. Our 
widowed mother, with a sad heart and many tears, 
but with a gentle, patriotic, and Christian resigna- 
tion, gave her all to the country. Others, doubtless, 
made greater sacrifices because they had more sons, 
but she gave all she had. Fortunately, all were 
spared to return to her in safety at the end of the 

While I claim no special merit for my correspon- 
dence, except that it was patriotic and loyal to the 



country, with no suspicion of selfishness or section- 
alism, I feel that it will bear publication as an exam- 
ple of how young men of the day met the great 
crisis without assistance, and found their way into 
the struggle for the maintenance of the Constitution 
and the Union. 

On April 3, 1861, 1 wrote my brothers as follows : 

. . . Briefly, then, I am for the Union, one and in- 
separable, now and forever, as a blessing paramount to 
all others known to the American people. This is the pri- 
mary principle, the basis of our National honor and pros- 
perity, and above all of our National strength and glory. 
. . . It is a legacy we are bound in honor to transmit 
to posterity, as it was transmitted to us. We of this day 
and generation have no right to decree its dissolution or 
to join in its destruction, for it concerns not us alone but 

The "right of secession" is a transparent inconsistency, 
totally inadmissible and at variance with the first idea of 
stable government. But there is even a stronger reason for 
denying its validity. The Constitution (Art. I, Sec. X, 
par. 1 and 2) specially provides that "No state shall enter 
into any treaty, alliance or confederation," and the tone 
of that whole instrument is opposed to the idea of secession. 

"But the cotton states have seceded." Yes, but seces- 
sion is rebellion . . . and it may be claimed, rebellion 
is revolution, and the right of revolution is inalienable. 
Here we stop, for whoever revolts against constituted au- 
thority is guilty of treason and must pay the penalty, if 
that authority is strong enough to enforce the law. And, 
further, it is the duty of all constituted authority, what- 
ever be the form of government, to conserve its powers by 
enforcing the laws. 

This right and duty is plainly implied in our Consti- 
tution (Art. I, Sec. VIII, par. 14, and Art. II, Sec. Ill, 



par. 1), and, to my mind, leaves no doubt as to what should 
be the President's course in the present emergency. You 
may call it "coercion" if you please, but forcible means 
must be resorted to when all other means shall have failed. 

If the Southern states have been aggrieved, it is cause 
for a demand of redress, but it is no justification for seces- 
sion. If they have been denied any right under the Con- 
stitution, they can and ought to demand justice at the 
hands of the general government, but they have no right 
therefor to destroy or dismember that government. . . . 
I would withold justice from no party and no state, but 
I most emphatically . . . deny the "right" of any 
state or association of states to break up and destroy the 
American Union. It must be maintained peaceably by con- 
cession, compromise and kindness if possible . . . but 
when all these fail there is yet left the stern arbitrament 
of arms, and the duty of the general government to invoke 
it. It is conceivable, I admit, that the Constitution might 
by common consent be so amended as to provide for a 
peaceable dismemberment of the Union, but as the National 
charter now stands, Mr. Lincoln, who has been legally 
elected President, has no option as to the course he must 
finally pursue. He may defer action, and, indeed, should 
do so till all hope of reconciliation and adjustment is gone. 
But when that day comes, the people must support him 
to the bitter end in maintaining the National unity and 
taking care that the laws shall be enforced. 

As for me, I owe all allegiance and "true faith to the 
United States of America." They have given me my edu- 
cation and I have solemnly sworn more than once to defend 
them "against all their enemies and opposers whomso- 
ever." My duty and that of every officer of the army 
is too plain to be mistaken, and in the hour of danger I 
only hope my performance of it may be as honest and 
fearless as my conception of it is clear and decided. I am 
above all local or sectional prejudice. My country is Amer- 
ica and dear as is my native state, I should not hesitate 



to march to-morrow against even her, should she array her- 
self against the Constitution and the Union. . . . 

Before closing this letter, I want to condemn in the 
strongest terms the lack of principle, honor, and true 
faith already shown by many officials in both the civil and 
military service. President Buchanan has countenanced 
and retained in office many officials who were openly and 
avowedly for the dismemberment of the Union. Secretary 
Floyd has not only retained office while plotting to bring 
about secession, but has sent 150,000 stands of arms into 
the Gulf States, for no other purpose than to arm rebellion. 
He has distributed the regular army so as to render it 
almost unavailable for any purpose requiring celerity of 
action. He has even granted leave of absence to Colonel 
Hardee of the cavalry and the Colonel has accepted it, 
for the purpose of going to Europe to purchase arms and 
ammunition for a disaffected state. And, finally, he 
has accepted the resignation of several officers who had 
already been appointed to commands in the ranks of 

Many senators and representatives have in open con- 
gress declared their contempt for the Constitution, and in- 
voked its destruction. Judges of the federal courts have 
deserted their seats and scouted their oath of office. Rev- 
enue officers have surrendered their cutters to the mob and 
trampled their country's flag under foot. Army and navy 
officers have abandoned their posts and foresworn their 

. . . If these men who have sworn over and over 
again, with every new commission, ' ' To bear true faith and 
allegiance to the United States of America and to serve 
them honestly and faithfully against all their enemies and 
opposers whomsoever, ' ' have been permitted to go openly 
and without even a word of rebuke into the ranks of armed 
rebellion, may we not ask with anger and resentment, what 
has become of the noble principles of our forefathers and 
the fides militum, which have been the boast of all true 


. . . soldiers from the earliest days of civilization down 
to the present era? 

. . . How true and applicable to our own times are 
the words of Count de las Cases: 

. . . "It is a melancholy result of our modern sys- 
tems of education, which tend so little to elevate our minds 
that we cannot conceive either the merit or claims of heroic 
resolutions and sacrifices ! We think that all has been said 
and every act justified, when dangers to our private in- 
terests are put forward, little realizing that the richest 
inheritance we can leave our children is an example of real 
virtue and a name to which is attached a little true glory. ' ' 

As all this and more was written before the mail 
brought the news that Fort Sumter had been at- 
tacked and had surrendered, I am content to point 
to it fifty years later as the true doctrine for officers 
of the army to stand upon in all like emergencies. 
But, not satisfied with that, I wrote, May 6, 1861, 
to the Adjutant General at Washington as follows : 

I have the honor to place myself at the disposal of 
the Secretary of War or the commanding general for such 
duties with the line of the army or pertaining to my own 
corps as either may see fit to assign me. 

I do this with the hope of being able to render some 
aid in resisting rebellion, and for the reason that I have 
had no official duties to perform since my arrival in this 
department, and no hope of any during the continuance 
of our internal difficulties. 

On the same day I wrote Senator Douglas, whose 
generous sympathy and support of President Lin- 
coln were still unknown to me : 

The motive which prompts this letter will prove, I 
trust, sufficient apology for addressing you. 

I am a brevet second lieutenant in the Corps of Topo- 



graphical Engineers, U. S. Army, stationed at this post, 
with no technical duties to perform and no prospect of any 
during the continuance of our internal difficulties. 

This for a man of my age, just graduated at the Mili- 
tary Academy, would be under the most favorable cir- 
cumstances an unendurable situation, but at this particular 
juncture in our National history it is almost insupportable. 
As an officer of the army, lam bound by a solemn oath : 
1 'To bear true faith and allegiance to the United States 
of America and to serve them honestly and faithfully 
against all their enemies and opposers whomsoever. ' ' 

In these times of secession and rebellion the good-will 
and loyalty of every citizen, however humble, is a matter 
of importance, hence I depart from accustomed usage. I 
am ready and willing to act at any time, and in any por- 
tion of the country, according to the fullest requirements 
of this obligation, and I desire through you to tender my 
services to the War Department for any duty my educa- 
tion fits me for, either in my Corps or in the line of the 

I believe it has been the custom of the Department to 
detail or furlough regular officers, particularly those be- 
longing to the staff corps, for the purpose of serving with 
volunteers or other troops needing instruction. . . . 

From the journals that reach us, I see that it has been 
proposed to increase the regular army by . . . more 
mounted troops. Should anything of this kind be done, 
you would confer a great favor on me by presenting my 
name as that of a suitable person for a commission in one 
of the new regiments. 

I feel assured that such action on your part . . . 
would receive greater consideration, from the fact that I 
already hold a commission in the army, and any new ap- 
pointment would be nothing more than a transfer from 
a position of idleness to one of activity. 

Should the additional force not be intended as a per- 
manent increase of the army, I should prefer being fur- 



loughed from duty and ordered East, rather than relin- 
quish my present position entirely. 

With the news of the President's call for 75,000 
militia, the secession of Virginia, and the certainty 
of civil war, I also wrote to John A. Logan, who 
then represented my home district in Congress, and 
a few days later to my father's old friend and fel- 
low soldier, John A. McClernand, who had been 
lately the unsuccessful candidate of the Democrats 
for Speaker. Both, of these distinguished citizens, 
it will be remembered, followed the example of their 
great leader, Senator Douglas, in giving their ad- 
hesion to the government and in offering their sup- 
port to President Lincoln. Assured of their per- 
sonal friendship, I had no hesitation in asking for 
their assistance as a loyal officer to secure an early 
transfer to the East, either with or without in- 
creased rank. I pointed out my earnest desire to 
secure active service in support of the Union and 
called special attention to the fact that I had gone 
into the Topographical Engineers because I thought 
it offered a better field for useful employment in 
times of peace than the line, and I dwelt upon the 
changed condition of affairs due to the war already 
begun. In short, I begged that I should not be 
shelved or forgotten at the age of twenty-three in 
a remote corner of the country, when the Union 
was face to face with a great war and needed every 
loyal man it could find to support it. On May 30 
I wrote through the Adjutant General directly to 
Simon Cameron, the secretary of war, to the same 
effect, and to make sure that my letter would not 
fail to reach its destination I took the precaution 
of enclosing it to Logan, with the request that he 



should deliver it in person, and I do not doubt that 
he did it. Finally, in order that I might secure the 
support of my immediate chief, I asked him to give 
me his help, and this he did in no uncertain way. 
My application, after receiving his formal approval, 
was forwarded to General Sumner through district 
headquarters, with an endorsement from Colonel 
Wright as follows: 

Lieutenant Wilson is a young officer of great zeal, abil- 
ity and devotion to duty, and I recommend him specially 
for employment on active service. 

This brought an immediate reply, dated June 24, 
1861, to the effect that : 

There is at present no duty on which Lieutenant Wil- 
son could be employed, but his services will be called into 
requisition whenever the occasion exists. 

Obviously I could do nothing more. I had ap- 
pealed to everyone I knew and there was nothing 
left for me but to desert or to possess my soul in 
patience and wait. Of course, I chose the latter 
course, but not till July 13 was I made happy by 
orders from headquarters of the army directing me 
to proceed forthwith to Washington City and report 
to the chief of my corps. Who procured this order 
I never knew, but I do not doubt I owed it to one 
of the three prominent men whose aid I had so 
urgently solicited. It brought no promise nor in- 
timation of promotion, but that made no difference 
to me. What I wanted was useful work and active 
service, and in order that that should not be delayed 
I at once gave up my duties as post adjutant and 
took the first steamer for San Francisco, sailing 
July 17. 



Meanwhile, I disposed of my effects and took 
leave of my friends, every one of whom seemed in- 
terested in my future and wished me a successful 
and fortunate career. Fort Vancouver was the only 
permanent military post in which I ever served, 
and it left me with none but pleasant memories of 
the officers and ladies I met there. From the vet- 
eran commander to the lowest lieutenant, they were 
a selected lot of whom it may be truthfully said, 
"The men were all brave and the women all fair." 
A young widow and two unmarried girls, who were 
the life of the garrison, were mated in due course, 
and led happy and useful lives, but I have never 
seen any of them since. 

With Lieutenant Michler, also an officer of the 
Topographical Engineers, Mrs. Michler, and Lieu- 
tenant Hodges of the Quartermaster's Department, 
I steamed away from Portland on the afternoon of 
July 17. The current was with us and we made 
rapid progress. We retired early, but I had hardly 
fallen asleep when I was aroused by a shock, fol- 
lowed by an exclamation from my room mate, 
Hodges, who stuck his head out of the cabin win- 
dow and called out: "Dad burn my skin, if there 
isn't Coffin Rock!" I answered: "We must dress 
at once, for if our ship has struck Coffin Rock, 
there is a hole in her bigger than a barn door, and 
she will sink in less than a half hour." 

It turned out that we had run head on into that 
well-known obstruction and were filling fast. The 
captain shifted freight and tried to stop the leak, 
but his efforts were vain. It was soon apparent 
that the ship could not be kept afloat and conse- 
quently the captain beached her a few miles below 



Mt, Coffin on the only bar that would hold her. 
Even then her stern sank, while her bow and 'mid- 
ships held to the shelving beach a few feet from the 
land. By daylight we were all ashore with our be- 
longings. With the help of my companions I got 
a spare sail from the ship and soon had comfortable 
shelter for our party at the edge of a wheat field 
overlooking the scene. Shortly after daylight I re- 
turned to the ship and got a liberal supply of bread, 
boiled ham, cake, pickles, coffee, plates, knives, and 
forks. We had a jolly picnic, and had arranged to 
pass the night there when a rescue boat arrived, and 
took us back to Portland at an early hour the next 

The army officers returned to Fort Vancouver, 
where we were regarded as " shipwrecked brethren 
saved from a watery grave. ' I We had a few pleas- 
ant days, and then, with the prayers of our friends, 
started again on the 23d by the steamship Cor- 
tez, Captain Huntington commanding. Without 
further accident or delay we were in San Francisco 
at noon July 26. Here we had another wait, and 
employed the time visiting our friends at Benicia 
and the Presidio, where we were entertained with 
dinners and parties till we began the long voyage 
by the way of Panama to New York. 

We sailed for the Isthmus by the Golden Gate, 
Captain Pierson commanding, on August 1. Our 
party, reinforced at San Francisco by Major Floyd- 
Jones, Captains McPherson, Crook, De Hart, Har- 
die, Hodges, and B. F. Smith, and Lieutenant Con- 
nor, all going home to take part in the war, now 
numbered nine, representing nearly all branches of 
the regular service. Several of the number, notably 



McPherson and Crook, were destined to rise rapidly 
to great distinction. Those less fortunate served 
worthily till death or peace put an end to their 
dreams of glory. 

The return voyage was made memorable to me 
by the acquaintance and friendship of McPherson, 
which lasted till his death as a major general three 
years later. He was one of many who rose solely 
by his own merit. Graduating at the head of his 
class six years before the outbreak of the war, he 
had reached the rank of first lieutenant only in the 
corps of engineers, but just before sailing he re- 
ceived notice of a captaincy in his own corps and 
of an appointment as captain in one of the new regi- 
ments, accompanied by orders to report in Wash- 
ington without delay. Slightly over six feet tall, 
with a commanding figure, a Jove-like head, and 
flashing dark eyes, he was as fine a specimen of 
manhood as any race could produce. With a mind 
illuminated by learning and manners made charming 
by a sunny and hopeful temperament, he was the 
joy of our party and the favorite of everybody on 
the ship. We walked and talked together both day 
and night for over three weeks, and he opened his 
soul to me as though he had known me always. 
While he had not yet made up his mind to accept 
service in the line, it was yet certain by the time 
he reached Washington that he would be a captain 
of engineers and eligible to the command of a com- 
pany of l ' sappers and miners, ? ' which was the high- 
est command a captain of his corps could attain. 
Lee and McClellan had both served with the only 
engineer company in the war with Mexico, and both 
had gained such renown there that they were by 



common consent regarded as the most promising 
soldiers of their day. But McPherson supposed it 
to be far above his reach, though his mind turned 
toward it as the surest way to a glorious career. 
I encouraged him by every argument I could bring 
to bear to put forth all his influence to get the de- 
tail. He was as modest as a girl and had no power- 
ful friends, but one night, after considering the 
project in all its bearings and possibilities for the 
hundredth time, he exclaimed: "Well, I'll go for 
it, and if I can only get orders to raise such a com- 
pany with you for my first lieutenant, I shall be 
satisfied even if I am killed in the first battle ! ' ' 

That settled it. When we arrived in Washing- 
ton a few weeks later we were both surprised and 
gratified that our respective chiefs, already super- 
annuated, were so well pleased with our plan that 
they permitted us practically to write our own or- 
ders. Needless to add, we sent ourselves to Boston 
— McPherson to raise a company and I to assist a 
captain of my own corps in raising another. The 
two corps of engineers had not yet been merged, 
as was done by the next Congress. Meanwhile the 
war grew so fas* and the red tape became so en- 
tangled that neither of us ever had the honor of 
commanding a company of "sappers and miners." 
Our ambition in those days was a modest one, but 
it was genuine and would have satisfied us com- 

Our ship touched at Acapulco on Friday, Au- 
gust 9. I had hoped to land there some day and 
make my way through Mexico to Vera Cruz and 
thence to New York. But war had changed all that, 
and even the most rapid voyage was far too slow 



for our impatience. The ship had hardly dropped 
anchor when the consul brought on board a copy 
of the New York Herald containing an account of 
the first day's battle at Bull Kun. Seizing it from 
his hands, by common consent I mounted a chair 
in the main saloon, and read it aloud to the as- 
sembled passengers. Trembling with excitement, I 
hurried through the glorious news. There had been 
a successful preliminary skirmish, after which Mc- 
Dowell 's patriotic volunteers had thrown themselves 
headlong against the embattled Confederates and 
swept them from the field. Victory had perched 
upon the banners of the Union! The Constitution 
and the laws had been vindicated! The Confeder- 
acy had been crushed and peace would be re-estab- 
lished in a few days! There was no word about 
defeat, no suggestion of doubt or delay, and the 
exciting news was received with rapturous applause. 
It satisfied the most sceptical of us that the war was 
over and we went ashore rejoicing that the happy 
end was in sight. McPherson and I got an excel- 
lent dinner, laid in a supply of fruit, and aired our 
West Point Spanish with the natives ; but that night, 
when again under way, we confessed to more than 
a shade of disappointment that the fortunate result 
had been attained without the slightest help from us. 
Without anxiety we settled down for another 
week of reading and walking, but as our good ship 
ploughed her way toward home I became greatly 
interested in Hodson's services in the Sepoy Rebel- 
lion and set about preparing a plan for the organi- 
zation of an intelligence corps for our army based 
on his experience. After some study I concluded 
that a battalion of five hundred men and officers 



selected from both regulars and volunteers with spe- 
cial reference to brightness, zeal, discipline, and ac- 
tivity, divided into six troops, and mounted on the 
best horses that could be found, would be sufficient 
to start with. I thought that each troop should 
have one captain, two lieutenants, one first sergeant, 
five duty sergeants, one quartermaster sergeant, five 
corporals, ten first-class privates, and fifty second- 
class privates. The first-class privates should be 
enlisted as draughtsmen and the officers should be 
all West Pointers, selected for special aptitude from 
either corps of engineers and the line of the army. 
All vacancies should be filled by examination and 
selection, and officers and men alike should be 
armed with pistols and swords only. Obviously the 
special function of this corps would be to make 
reconnoissances, to discover the enemy's movements, 
and to draw sketches and maps of the theater of 
active operations. I worked out the details of or- 
ganization and equipment, but when I reached Wash- 
ington I could find no one to listen to me, or to 
recommend that my proposition should be carried 
into effect. Nothing, therefore, ever came of it, ex- 
cept that when I took command of a division of 
cavalry in the Army of the Potomac in 1864, I de- 
tailed Captain Boice, one of my best officers, together 
with the proper complement of commissioned and 
non-commissioned officers and privates for a com- 
pany, which, so long as I remained with the divi- 
sion, was used to my entire satisfaction in the way 
indicated above. My division was never surprised 
and never ran into an ambush, nor even into a tight 
place, for lack of information. Captain Boice and 
his company were always perfectly informed, and 



I am persuaded that such an organization on a 
larger scale would have been not only entirely suc- 
cessful, but most useful. 

We arrived at Panama August 15, and the con- 
sul, as before, brought us the latest papers from 
New York. Every passenger was anxious to hear 
the sequel, and I made haste to mount a chair and 
read the news. The latest details from Bull Eun 
converted the preliminary victory into a disgraceful 
and overwhelming defeat. The enemy, reenforced 
by Johnston from the Shenandoah Valley, had not 
only checked McDowell's turning movement, but 
had driven the Union forces from the field and 
forced them back to the defences of Washington. 

It was only too certain that the war was not over, 
but just fairly beginning. We crossed the Isthmus 
that night without accident or delay, and by eight 
o'clock were all safely on board the North Star, 
steaming rapidly toward New York. 

It is worthy of note that McPherson and I no 
longer had any doubt as to the course we should 
pursue. We realized that we should find a totally 
different state of affairs at Washington from that 
which we had pictured to ourselves at Acapulco, and 
our desires for a little true glory were strangely 
at variance with our patriotism. We were young 
and ambitious, and while sincerely sorry that the 
Union had not triumphed over its enemies, I must 
say we were all impatient to get to the scene of 
action and to know where the fortunes of war would 
land us. 

Although our ship was a good one and the 
weather favorable, the days passed slowly, but 
withal we made our land-fall early on August 23, 



and got ashore that afternoon. From the time we 
were within sight of land we realized that the coun- 
try must have been thoroughly aroused. The slopes 
of Staten Island were covered with the white tents 
of the volunteers, the Stars and Stripes were flut- 
tering over the camps and fortifications, and the 
sharp rattle of drums seemed to fill the air. It was 
an exciting and glorious scene, the full significance 
of which did not dawn upon us till we knew the pa- 
triotic response the country had made to the call 
of the President. The war was really under way 
both East and West. A successful battle had been 
fought at Wilson's Creek. The brave and aggres- 
sive Lyon had laid down his life, and everywhere 
patriots were rallying to the defence of the Union 
and for the overthrow of the Southern Confederacy. 



Report at Washington — Visit McDowell's Army— Ordered 
to Boston — Chief topographical engineer of Port Royal 
Expedition — An army corps wasted. 

We were now within reach of the War for the 
Union and McPherson and I were resolved to get 
into it without delay. Pausing at New York only 
long enough to call on our friends, we pushed on 
to Washington the next morning. There were no 
sleeping cars in those days, and unfortunately I fell 
violently ill and was compelled to leave the train 
at Wilmington. Fortunately, I met Dr. Grimshaw, 
the best physician of the town, at the station, and, 
although I had never seen him before, he took me to 
the "Indian Queen," put me to bed and cared for 
me tenderly till the crisis had passed. 

As soon as I could leave my bed, I drove to the 
country residence of Colonel Andrews, the father 
of my classmate and of the young girl who five years 
later became my wife. I was at once surrounded 
by an atmosphere of comfort, sympathy, and pa- 
triotism. My host, a gentleman of the old school, 
had received his early education with Meade and 
Kearney at a private military school and had played 
soldier with a company of Delaware dragoons at 



his own expense for many years. He was, besides, 
one of the few men of the state who had voted for 
Fremont. Naturally a Free-soiler and a Kepubli- 
can, he had supported Lincoln with all his might 
and was one of the first to answer the call for three 
months ' volunteers as lieutenant colonel of the 
First Delaware Infantry. When the regiment 
was reorganized and mustered into the service 
for three years he was its colonel. Handsome, 
accomplished, and learned in military history 
as well as in tactics, he was one of the best 
instructors and disciplinarians of the volunteer 

Quickly restored, I reached Washington three 
days later and early on August 27 I reported at 
the War Department, expecting to receive orders 
at once. Full of enthusiasm and anxiety and long- 
ing for active service, I innocently assumed that the 
service was longing for me. I supposed that there 
were a hundred places where I could make myself 
useful, but none of them was for me. The chief of 
my corps, a patriotic, loyal gentleman, was super- 
annuated, and, instead of having any definite idea 
as to how or where I should be used, he seemed to 
be half dazed and told me to look about a few days 
and make up my mind as to where I should like 
to serve. It was both disappointing and discourag- 
ing. The enemy was almost in sight of the capital 
from the heights beyond the Potomac, camps and 
entrenchments surrounded it on all sides, volunteers 
were pouring in from the North, and the air was 
full of bustle and excitement. No one seemed to be 
in charge, however, or to know what should be done 
to organize, discipline, and direct the forces that 



were rallying to the support of the Union, " three 
hundred thousand strong V I found my classmate, 
Andrews, who had arrived a few weeks ahead of 
me, connected with the provost guard, in charge of 
a houseful of Southern women, Confederate sym- 
pathizers, who were suspected of acting as spies 
and sending information to the Southern leaders.' 
With "suspicion poisoning his brother's cup," se- 
crecy and mystery in every movement, doubt, hesi- 
tation, and uncertainty in every measure, it was a 
time to try men's souls and to shake the courage of 
the boldest. 

With all Lincoln's simplicity, the White House 
lay beyond the reach of a second lieutenant, but, 
fortunately, both custom and duty required me to 
call upon the General-in-Chief, the aged and patriotic 
Lieutenant General Scott. Although a Virginian, no 
shadow of suspicion had ever been cast upon his 
loyalty. I found him still grand and majestic, but 
borne down by the weight of his laurels and of his 
public services. All eyes were turned upon him for 
inspiration and guidance, and he gave even me a 
sympathetic reception. Although clad yet with power 
and responsibility, he was the setting sun, and even 
at that early day the sycophants and place-hunters 
no longer crowded the entrance to his private office. 
Shown in at once, I found him seated at his desk, 
clad in full uniform, a herculean figure like a mighty 
ruin, "whose very frown terrified the glance its 
magnificence attracted." He was all courtesy and 
benevolence. Kising with difficulty, he extended his 
hand and waved me graciously to a seat near him, 
calling me his dear young friend. Making haste 
to tell him who I was and that I was just in from 



the far-away Columbia and had called to pay my 
respects, I assured him of my loyalty, my desire 
for service, and my sympathy for him in the 
great emergency which had overtaken him and 
the country. Thereupon he spoke in substance 
as follows: 

"We have indeed fallen upon perilous times! 
The country is torn by treason and rebellion. It 
has no guide and no army. I am old and feeble, 
and the men I have depended upon to help bear my 
burdens, and, if need be, to take my place, have 
sent in their resignations and are going over to the 
enemy. Lee has gone, Beauregard has gone, John- 
ston has gone, Hardee has gone, and the best of 
the younger officers are following them. How we 
shall make head against them, or how it will all end 
I dare not say, but my heart is full of doubt and 

I confess I was greatly surprised at this extraor- 
dinary outbreak of lamentation to a junior lieuten- 
ant of the army, though I had heard that the aged 
chieftain was much broken and discouraged. View- 
ing his tremulous speech as a permission, if not an 
invitation, to reply, I broke out : 

f f But pardon me, General ; all the best men have 
not gone and are not going ! You should not forget 
that we have McClellan, McDowell, Sumner, Eose- 
crans, Buell, Thomas, Anderson, Sherman and 
Wright and many other gallant officers, both regu- 
lars and volunteers, who will stand by the old flag 
to the last. The Northern states, with all their re- 
sources, are united in support of the Union and the 
Constitution, and in the end, with you to guide us, 
we shall not fail!" 



At this outburst the old hero's face brightened 
into a smile, and, stiffening himself proudly, he said : 
"I thank you, my young friend; that is the true 
spirit and I am sure it will lead us to victory! I 
know you will help, and that the younger men will 
prove our main dependence. ' ' 

Thereupon I took my leave and joined the chief- 
of-staff, Colonel Cullum, in the outer office almost 
immediately. He also received me warmly, and, 
after congratulating me on my long interview, as- 
sured me that I had made a favorable impression 
upon the Lieutenant General, that he would surely 
keep his eye on me, and that as an evidence of his 
interest he wanted me to go to West Point as an in- 
structor of cadets. 

I could not conceal my disappointment, but, for- 
tunately, this unexpected offer did not throw me 
off my guard. It astonished and disappointed me, 
but, without a moment's hesitation, I declared that 
I could not think of accepting the detail, add- 
ing with emphasis that if it were insisted on I 
should resign from the regular army and go back 
to my native state and enter the volunteers without 

I had not dared to say that I was looking for em- 
ployment, but when this offer came I ventured to 
suggest that I might better be employed as an 
officer of a mounted intelligence corps, the or- 
ganization of which I briefly summarized. Of 
course, this fell on dull ears, but in taking leave 
I was glad enough to have the assurance that I 
should not be sent to West Point, and that I must 
take such detail as might reach me through the regu- 
lar channels. 



In these later days when it is the fashion to mag- 
nify the virtues of Lee, not only as a military man, 
but as a patriot, it seems to me that the country is 
in danger of forgetting its immense debt of grati- 
tude to General Scott, who was fully Lee's equal 
as a soldier and far greater than Lee as a patriot. 
His conquest of Mexico was a performance of the 
first rank and that is more than can be said of Lee's 
best campaign. Scott's patriotism, unlike Lee's, was 
neither provincial nor bounded by state lines, but 
was national and all-embracing. He gave his serv- 
ices at all times and all places to the whole country, 
without hesitation and without question. Like Doug- 
las, his example was worth an army to the Union 
cause. All eyes were, indeed, turned to the veteran 
Brevet Lieutenant General Scott, second of that 
rank in America, for inspiration and guidance, and 
no one looked to him with more anxiety than Lin- 
coln, the newly-elected President. Happily both for 
him and the cause he upheld, Lincoln did not look 
in vain. The old soldier, staggering under the 
weight of years, put behind him all appeals to state 
pride and, like an old and seasoned oak, stood erect 
and unbending amid the raging storm of secession 
and civil war. 

To one who appealed to his pride and offered 
him at the same time the command of the Virginia 
forces he sternly replied : 

i ' Sir ! I have served my country under the flag 
of the Union for more than fifty years, and as long 
as God permits me to live I will defend that flag 
with my sword, even if my own native state assails 
it." 1 

1 "Lincoln," Nicolay and Hay, Vol. IV, p. 103. 


To another, bringing him the promise of wealth 
and honor if he would follow his native state, he 
indignantly said : 

"Go no further! It is best that we part here be- 
fore you compel me to resent a mortal insult." 

Broken in body, but not in spirit, and conscious 
of his unfitness for field duty, it will be recalled that 
the old hero had selected Eobert E. Lee as his suc- 
cessor and had urged his appointment to the active 
command of the* army upon the President and the 
Secretary of War. With no misgivings as to Lee's 
loyalty, Lincoln had promoted him to be colonel of 
his regiment and Lee had accepted this promotion 
at his hands. It is easy, therefore, to understand 
Scott 's grief and deep disappointment when Lee re- 
signed and left the capitol to march under "new and 
odious banners." Virginia secretly passed the Or- 
dinance of Secession on April 17. On the 18th 
F. P. Blair, at Lincoln's request and pursuant, 
doubtless, to Scott's recommendation, offered the 
command of the Union forces to Lee. On April 20 
Lee sent his resignation to Scott, and in it expressed 
his purpose never again to draw his sword except 
to repel invasion from his native state. But on 
April 22 he was appointed to the command of the 
Virginia forces and on the 23d was formally in- 
vested at Eichmond with full authority. He had 
not only accepted promotion from Lincoln, but had 
written his own son a most creditable letter char- 
acterizing secession as revolution and anarchy. He 
had listened to Scott and Blair, if not in an approv- 
ing, at least in a wavering, mind. He left Washing- 
ton and its authorities uncertain as to what his final 
reply would be. According to Cameron, he posi- 



tively signified his acceptance. According to Mont- 
gomery Blair, he did not refuse but agreed to take 
the offer under advisement. Both of these distin- 
guished men would ordinarily be accepted as credible 
witnesses, and they are quoted by Nicolay and Hay 
in support of the conclusion that Lee's attitude was 
one of "hesitation and indecision. ' ' 1 It should, how- 
ever, be noted that Lee himself not only positively 
denies that he ever intimated his acceptance, but, 
on the contrary, at once declined the offer. Giving 
him the full benefit of his denial, the cold historical 
fact remains that General Scott believed in his loy- 
alty and trusted him, and in view of their great in- 
timacy it is inconceivable, if such had not been the 
case, that Scott would have ever consented to his 
promotion to colonel or recommended him as his 
successor. It is also true that without waiting for 
the acceptance of his resignation he hastened to 
accept the command which his old friend had already 
peremptorily declined. Moreover, he did not live 
up to his declared purpose never again to draw his 
sword except to repel invasion. He entered upon 
duty at Eichmond in face of Lincoln's public dec- 
laration that Virginia would not, in the first in- 
stance, be invaded. To say the least, Colonel Lee's 
action, taking him upon his own ground, was incon- 
sistent and premature and left room for the worst 
possible interpretation of his patriotism and 

Elsewhere I have frankly given the strong and 
unfavorable impression which his course made upon 
my mind. The war has been over well-nigh fifty 
years and time has clarified our vision and given 

^'Lincoln," Vol. IV, p. 98. 



us a better perspective. It has also done its gentle 
work of rubbing down and obscuring the rough 
points of difference, while it has softened the bitter- 
ness of sectional animosity. I cheerfully recognize 
the many admirable qualities of the great Confed- 
erate leader and yet I cannot but contrast, as his- 
tory will, his conduct with that of Lieutenant Gen- 
eral Scott and with that of another great Virginian, 
Major General George H. Thomas, who was as well 
beloved of his men under the endearing title of 
"Old Pap Thomas" as ever "Uncle Bob" was and 
who was his equal in every soldierly quality and 
lofty Christian virtue. 

It is useless to speculate on what might have 
been the result if Lee had stood firmly by the flag 
of the Union, under which he had already won honor 
and fame. He was at heart neither a secessionist nor 
a disunionist. He had freed his slaves. He loved lib- 
erty. He was every inch a soldier, and it is hardly 
too much to assume that with the tremendous re- 
sources of the North at his command he might have 
stayed, if not turned, the tide of disunion in one or 
two campaigns, and thus divided with Washington 
and Lincoln the highest honors which a reunited 
and grateful country could bestow. 

The first free day after reaching Washington, 
McPherson and I borrowed horses and crossed the 
Potomac to ride the lines, look at the troops, and 
visit our friends. We started early and were gone 
till night, and, although we saw plenty of well-fed 
officers and men, the impression produced upon us 
was far from encouraging. We dined with McDow- 
ell and his staff at Arlington House, and were well 
received by all. McPherson met many friends and 



I at least met no enemies. We kept both eyes and 
ears open and took careful note of all we saw and 
heard, especially at headquarters. McDowell, still 
in chief command, made a deep impression upon 
me, but I regret to add that it was not altogether 
favorable. He was at that time in the full flush 
of mature manhood, fully six feet tall, deep-chested, 
strong-limbed, clear-eyed, and in every respect a 
fine and impressive soldier, but at dinner he was 
such a Gargantuan feeder and so absorbed in the 
dishes before him that he had but little time for 
conversation. While he drank neither wine nor 
spirits, he fairly gobbled the larger part of every 
dish within reach, and wound up with an entire 
watermelon, which he said was "monstrous fine!" 
That he was in every way a true patriot and an 
accomplished soldier there is no room to doubt. As 
we rode back to the city in the afternoon McPherson 
and I discussed him freely, and, allowing him every 
professional qualification, we agreed that no officer 
who was so great a gourmand as he could by any 
chance prove to be a great and successful leader 
of men. After a career full of vicissitudes it turned 
out as we had predicted. Many excuses and ex- 
planations have been given for his failure. A for- 
mal court of inquiry found nothing in his conduct 
to condemn, but I have never doubted from the last 
day of August, 1861, down to the present day that 
McPherson and I had correctly diagnosed the fatal 
defect in his make-up as a military man. 

Having learned all we could in and about Wash- 
ington, we went the next morning to our respective 
bureaus, where each was permitted to select his own 
assignment. Having concurred in choosing Boston 



as a recruiting station for engineer soldiers, we 
were assured that orders would be issued accord- 
ingly. This conclusion was reached on September 
2, 1861, on which day I was twenty-four years old, 
but my troubles were not yet ended. McPherson's 
orders came without delay, and he proceeded at once 
to his station, but mine were held back under one 
pretext or another till the 6th, and I did not reach 
Boston till September 9. Even then I did not find 
my commanding officer on the ground, and through 
an unseemly squabble between the veteran chiefs 
of the two corps of engineers, I never received au- 
thority to make actual enlistments. I, of course, 
joined McPherson and several other regular officers 
already at that station, but all were left more or less 
to their own resources without explicit orders or 
definite duties. 

It was a trying and discouraging experience. Six 
weeks passed in worse than idleness. On my own 
responsibility, I selected an excellent man for first 
sergeant, but that was as far as I ever got. I could 
do nothing further without authority. Meanwhile, 
through friends in Illinois I had received an offer 
of a major's commission in Colonel Dickey's cavalry 
regiment and had decided to accept it if I could 
get leave of absence, when, without notice or inti- 
mation of any sort, on the night of October 14, I 
received a printed order through the House tele- 
graph from the adjutant general to " repair forth- 
with to Annapolis, Maryland, and report to Briga- 
dier General Thomas W. Sherman for duty." It 
was an unexpected flash out of an overcast sky, and, 
rushing into the room where my discouraged com- 
panions were assembled, I waved my long white 



message before them and bade them an exultant 
good-bye. I was both the happiest and most en- 
vied man in Boston that night. Hurriedly pitching 
my things together, I took the first train by the 
Stonington line for New York, and reached Annap- 
olis on the second morning thereafter. 

I found a great force gathering there for an 
unknown destination, but that was no concern of 
mine. I asked no questions. Eeporting to the com- 
manding general, he announced me in orders as chief 
topographical engineer on his staff and told me to 
get ready as soon as possible with assistants and 
materials for active service in the field. There was 
a full staff of able men, among whom were my 
classmates, Tardy of the Engineers and Porter of 
the Ordnance, and my friend, 'Rorke, who had just 
graduated from West Point. All were glad to see 
me and all as ignorant as I was of the strength or 
the destination of the expeditionary corps to which 
we were attached. 

General "Tim Sherman' ' of artillery fame, at 
that time in the full maturity of his powers, was 
in command and his record was of the best. His 
habits were good, his technical knowledge great, his 
experience varied and extensive, and his character 
above reproach. With a handsome and impressive 
figure, flashing blue eyes, martial bearing, austere 
manners, and a voice that startled you like an elec- 
tric shock, he was deservedly regarded as one of 
the ablest, most self-reliant, and most promising 
officers in the regular army. A direct descendant 
of Roger Sherman, he was justly regarded not only 
as possessing all the virtues of an illustrious an- 
cestry, but as sure to rise on his own merits to the 



highest rank as a soldier. Indeed, it was generally 
thought that he was the ablest man of his name, and 
that the country was most fortunate in having him 
as one of the commanders of its army. But, not- 
withstanding his high and masterful qualities, he 
turned out to be a martinet of violent and ungovern- 
able temper, poorly qualified to train and to com- 
mand volunteers. In a force of established disci- 
pline and organization he would have been as brave 
a corps commander as Ney or Lannes, for he showed 
himself afterward in the assault of Port Hudson to 
be as resourceful and as intrepid as either of those 
great soldiers. With all his fine qualities, he was 
too exacting, too impatient, and too violent to get on 
with his troops. His part in the management of the 
Port Eoyal expedition was on the whole unfortu- 
nate. Although it was eminently successful in its 
preliminary stages, it soon became paralyzed, and, 
instead of pushing boldly inland and inflicting irre- 
parable injury to the rebel cause, it simply resulted 
in neutralizing an entire army corps of good troops, 
keeping them on useless coastwise service entirely 
out of the theater of active operations, when they 
should have been doing effective work elsewhere. 




Sherman's staff — Loading steamship — Savannah River — 
Venus Point — Siege of Fort Pulaski — General Hunter 
— General Benham — James ' Islands — Secession ville — 
Officers of staff. 

The staff of the expeditionary corps, composed 
of selected officers, were all graduates of the Mili- 
tary Academy. L. H. Pelouze was the adjutant; 
Q. A. Gillmore chief engineer, with Tardy and 
'Borke assistants ; McNutt chief of ordnance, with 
Shunk and Porter assistants; John Hamilton chief 
of artillery, Saxton chief quartermaster, Morgan 
chief commissary, and Wilson chief topographical 
engineer. The brigade commanders, H. G. Wright, 
Isaac I. Stevens, and Egbert L. Viele, were also 
West Pointers, while the troops were mainly from 
New York and the New England states, and although 
recently called into service, were as good as the 
country could furnish. On October 21 headquar- 
ters and the assembled troops sailed from Annapolis 
and arrived at Fort Monroe early next morning, 
where they joined the naval escort under Admiral 
DuPont. Here several days' delay occurred in cor- 
recting the stowage of the ordnance supplies. 
Through neglect on the part of the chief of ordnance, 



ammunition which should have been stored on top 
was placed at the bottom and other freight was 
piled on it. Water, coal, and rations were getting 
low and a good deal of confusion prevailed, in con- 
sequence of which and because of the superstition 
against sailing on Friday, the flotilla did not sail 
till the 29th. It was composed of the flagship 
Wabash, with sixteen men-of-war of various 
sizes and description, thirty-one transports carrying 
troops and supplies, and twenty-five chartered 
schooners carrying coal ; in all, seventy-two vessels, 
with about twenty-five thousand soldiers and five 
thousand sailors. The naval vessels and transports 
were formed in double echelon of three lines, covered 
front, flank, and rear by naval vessels, all making 
a most imposing array. It was altogether the most 
formidable armada ever sent out by the United 
States up to that time, and the great question with 
the staff assembled on the deck of the Collins liner, 
Atlantic, was, what was its destination? 

Sherman was reticent and austere, and although 
fairly at sea, none of us dared ask him where we 
were going. He and Wright were the only ones 
who knew, though there was some talk about sealed 
orders to be opened on the second day out. As we 
had wind enough off Hatteras on that day to disar- 
range the lines and scatter the smaller vessels, sev- 
eral of which were unsea worthy, many of the officers 
and most of the men were so seasick they did not 
care what port they were making for. Savannah 
was the favorite of the guessers, but to those who 
followed the course we were sailing Port Eoyal was 
soon recognized as our destination. On the 3d there 
was no longer any doubt. The next day we crossed 



the bar and anchored, but, instead of attacking at 
once, two days were spent in cautious reconnois- 
sances, and it was not till 10 a. m. of the 7th that the 
fleet sailed into the harbor and opened fire on the 
enemy's batteries. It was a splendid sight as the 
ships steamed slowly up one side of the harbor and 
down the other between the rebel batteries, deliver- 
ing first one broadside and then the other till the 
enemy's guns were silenced and his forts dismantled. 
The Confederate flag was shot away early, but the 
forts did not cease firing nor the garrisons decamp 
till about half-past two. The Stars and Stripes 
were run up to 2.45 p. m., and the victory was ours. 
Impatient at the caution and delay, I was the first 
man ashore and spent the afternoon examining the 
batteries and getting the lay of the land. 

The victory was an important one, but not so 
much for the trophies it yielded or the footing it 
gave us at the best harbor on the Southern coast 
as for the example it furnished and the benefits 
which were to follow it in an entirely different quar- 
ter. Up to that time it was considered impracti- 
cable for guns on shipboard to contend successfully 
with guns in shore batteries; but, to the surprise 
of all, even of the naval officers themselves, in the 
entire fleet only eight men were killed and twenty- 
three wounded. The wooden ships steamed several 
times between the batteries and were struck many 
times, but not one of them was disabled. When it 
is remembered that the guns in the shore batteries 
were of similar caliber and construction and occu- 
pied emplacements of somewhat greater command 
than those on shipboard, and that the action, which 
lasted four hours and a half, was at close range in 



broad daylight, with everything favorable for ac- 
curate firing, the significance of it all will be more 
easily understood. All the circumstances were care- 
fully noted and stored up for future reference. As 
it turned out, this experience was destined to play 
a decisive part in front of Vicksburg, where it was 
conclusively recounted, justifying the opinion that 
bofch gunboats and transports could run the river 
batteries without serious loss. 

The Port Royal expedition itself yielded but little 
additional advantage. Instead of pushing up Broad 
River with his infantry, landing at Beaufort and 
moving against Pocotaligo, where he could have 
seized and broken the railroad from Savannah to 
Charleston and thus deliver a vital blow, Sher- 
man contented himself, first, with occupying the 
islands and freeing the negroes; second, with be- 
sieging and capturing Fort Pulaski on the Savan- 
nah River, and, third, with making an abortive 
movement against Charleston. All of this was use- 
ful to the navy in perfecting the blockade of the 
Southern coast, but for the actual work done one- 
third of the land forces would have been quite suffi- 
cient, while the other two-thirds could have been 
sent North to assist the army of the Potomac long 
before it became really necessary. The navy had 
done its work slowly and cautiously, and, on the 
whole, successfully, while the army did practically 
nothing but sit down and hold the sea islands which 
the navy had captured for it. 

Instead of grasping the situation— pushing vig- 
orously inland on a line presenting no obstacles but 
clearly open— Sherman established a fortified camp 
at Hilton Head and gave his immediate attention to 



the siege of Fort Pulaski, which he had already 
turned and isolated. 

The preliminary operations leading to the cap- 
ture of that fort were pushed with zeal, ability, and 
complete success. They afforded me an opportunity 
for much interesting service, some of it entirely out 
of my own department, but all most instructive. The 
construction of the entrenched camp on Hilton Head 
and the conduct of the siege of Fort Pulaski were, 
of course, under the immediate charge of Gillmore 
and his assistants, but all the explorations and sur- 
veys both by land and water were conducted by me. 
In order that I might get from island to island and 
become familiar with the neighboring sounds, rivers, 
creeks, and inlets, it was necessary that I should 
have a swift rowboat. This was before the day of 
steam and electric launches, and as our quarter- 
master had failed to bring a supply of cutters, I 
had to find one suitable for my use. Fortunately, I 
was not long in getting one from a plantation nearby 
with seats and rowlocks for ten men. She was long, 
narrow, black, and beautifully modelled, with a good 
tiller and a cockpit large enough to hold my India- 
rubber bed and supplies. Manned by ten stout sea- 
island negroes, all splendid oarsmen and perfectly 
at home anywhere for fifty miles up and down the 
coast, I could make eight or nine miles an hour and 
on a spurt could pass an ordinary steamer. Before 
ten days had passed I had been into every creek 
between Pull-and-be-damned, behind Dawfuskie, 
through Calibogue Sound and the back passages to 
North Edisto. In a few weeks more I extended my 
operations through WalPs Cut, New Eiver, Tybee 
Eoads, and the Savannah Eiver to Ossabaw Sound. 



What the coast survey maps did not show my negro 
coxswain, Sammy Pope, pointed out with unerring 
accuracy. My operations outside of our lines were 
necessarily conducted during the night, and with 
muffled oars I moved from place to place, threading 
the narrow passages and taking the short cuts as 
noiselessly and as swiftly as a phantom boat could 
have done it. 

The first of the staff to feel the effects of ex- 
posure were Shunk and Porter. Late in November 
the latter fell violently ill and during his confine- 
ment, at the request of the commanding general, I 
took over his duties. They consisted mostly of 
mounting, dismounting, moving, and remounting six, 
eight, and ten-inch guns on the main line of defences, 
and for a week they afforded me a lot of very inter- 
esting work. In one day I handled as many as four 
guns, one of which was a ten-inch Columbiad, taking 
them from one emplacement to another. After this 
was done I was sent to dismantle a sea-coast battery 
which the enemy had erected on South Edisto and 
armed with two eight-inch guns. I had discovered 
it in one of my expeditions, and the day after, re- 
porting it to Sherman, he sent me with a company 
of volunteer engineers to dismantle it and bring in 
the guns. Of course, I had supplied myself with 
all the necessary tackle-blocks, skids, and lighters, 
and, as it was down-hill work, I was not long in 
getting the guns dismounted and on board the 
lighter. One chassis and one top carriage followed 
rapidly and another was satisfactorily on the ways ; 
but as it was getting late and I was afraid night 
might overtake us with our task uncompleted, I was 
using a handspike myself. As the carriage was 



passing over the gunwale of the boat one of the 
maneuvering bolts caught against it. Thereupon 
I threw my whole weight on the handspike, lifting 
the carriage clear of the obstruction, which brought 
all its weight on the short end of the lever and threw 
me as from a catapult clear across the lighter, ten 
feet into the air, heels over head, into the water 
as neatly as if I had been diving from a spring- 
board. Much surprised, but uninjured, I rose to the 
surface and struck out for the shore. My volun- 
teers naturally laughed heartily, but did not fail to 
give me their sympathy and help. Taking hold 
with renewed vigor, the task was soon finished, and 
the expedition on its way back to Hilton Head, to 
which I made haste with my swift cutter to report 
my success to the commanding general. 

Severe as he was generally, his face relaxed into 
an approving smile when I told him of my misad- 
venture. For the first time he invited me to take 
a drink, but seemed both surprised and pleased when 
I declined. 

Two or three nights later he sent for me, 
and as I reported at his tent said with evident im- 
patience : 

"Mr. Wilson, how long do you think it would 
take you to load the steamship Ben Deford with 
rations and supplies for the garrison at Fernan- 

I replied at once: "I don't know exactly, but I 
suppose it will take me four or five hours/ ' 

Whereupon the General broke out : 

< « Why — blankety, blank, blank ! you astonish me ! 
Saxton and his blankety-blank quartermasters say 
it will take three days." 



Fearing I might have made a mistake, I added : 
"But I must have all the men I can work." 

"Oh, that's all right! You can have the whole 
blankety-blank command ! How many do you want ? ' ' 

Seeing that I was in for the job, I replied : 

"Two regiments, one for two hours and the other 
for the rest of the time." 

Thereupon he ordered Pelouze to turn out the 
Eighth Michigan and the Ninth Maine, each a thou- 
sand strong, and instruct their colonels to report 
forthwith to Lieutenant Wilson at the wharf and 
obey all his orders to the letter. 

I had never loaded a steamship in my life, but, 
having seen a gang of roustabouts load the river 
steamer Liahtuna at the Shawneetown levee, I 
thought I could swing the job if I had not made a 
terrible mistake. Walking down to the wharf, I 
found the three thousand ton steamship lying along- 
side, and the captain impatiently waiting for his 
cargo. I told him my orders and asked him how 
fast he could stow freight. He replied as fast as 
I could send it aboard. \ ' All right, Captain ! Now 
turn out all your officers, man all your hatches, open- 
ings and gangways, and take everything as it comes, 
for this ship has got to be loaded and go to sea be- 
fore daylight !" He thought it impossible, but said 
he would do his best, and he did. 

The warehouse was within fifty yards, and at pre- 
cisely eleven the freight began to come to the wharf 
and to pass into the hold of the ship as fast as a 
thousand strong men could move it. For two hours 
they worked at the top of their speed, and I never 
saw officers or men work more rapidly or more will- 
ingly. The way they handled boxes, barrels, bales, 



and sacks would have made an Ohio Eiver steam- 
boat man happy. At one o 'clock the relief regiment 
took up the task, and within two hours and a half 
the hold of the ship was not only full, but her hur- 
ricane deck was piled up with hay to the top of the 
metal wind-sails. By four o'clock she had cast 
loose and was on her way to sea. I had made good 
and, sitting down on the top of a pile at the end 
of the wharf, I watched through the gray dawn till 
she was hull down, crossing the bar, headed south, 
and then I called at Sherman's tent on the way to 
my own and said: "General, the Ben Deford is 
at sea and the work of loading her was done in less 
than five hours." 

The General got up at once, his austere manner 
all gone, his face wreathed with smiles, and his voice 
ringing with thanks and compliments. "Come in, 
my boy, come in and let's have a bottle of cham- 
pagne to celebrate the occasion!" Again I declined, 
for sleep and not stimulants was what I needed. 

As soon as Porter got well enough for duty I 
was detailed as the recorder of a board for the ex- 
amination of such volunteer officers as might be or- 
dered before it. The first was a colonel from Maine, 
who forestalled a technical examination by request- 
ing the privilege of making a statement to the board. 
He was a large, heavy man, about sixty years of 
age, manifestly unfit for active service, which he 
frankly admitted. But he was a man of influence 
in his state, and had raised and taken command of 
his regiment as a patriotic duty. He declared that 
forty years ago military work was his delight, that 
he loved to train with the militia, to wear the uni- 
form, and prance about on horseback to the sound 



of martial music; but actual war was a different 
thing, for which he frankly confessed himself en- 
tirely unprepared. But this Was not all. He added 
just as frankly that he was too old to learn, and 
proposed to send in his resignation at once, if the 
board would suspend proceedings and save him from 
further humiliation by recommending its acceptance. 
Of course, it granted his request, and as there were 
several other cases of the same sort, it disposed 
of them promptly in like manner. It was in session 
only three days, during which time it rid the com- 
mand of all the objectionable officers ordered be- 
fore it. 

After this duty was completed I had a period of 
idleness, lasting nearly all the month of December. 
Having reached the conclusion that the expedition 
had spent its force and would do but little more, 
I became restless and determined to secure, if pos- 
sible, a transfer to a more active field of operations. 
I had private instructions from my bureau chief to 
keep him informed of my employments and observa- 
tions, and did not fail to do so ; but in the midst of 
my discontent I was sent on December 30 with a 
small force to occupy Dawfuskie Island and recon- 
noiter the rivers and marshes between the island, 
New Eiver, Savannah Eiver, and the mainland. It is 
a region of salt marsh, sluggish inlets, and narrow, 
crooked creeks, which I explored thoroughly. On 
the last night of the year at midnight I entered the 
Savannah Eiver by Wall's Cut and Mud Eiver, three 
miles inside of Fort Pulaski, and made a careful 
examination of both land and water for a mile or 
more, sounded the channels, and got exact knowledge 
of the entire region, including the obstruction of 



Wall's Cut. With muffled oars I rowed silently 
about, at times within sound of the enemy's patrol 
boats and pickets, the men talking and shouting in 
perfect ignorance of our presence. It was an in- 
teresting experience. I was convinced that the Cut 
could be easily cleared of the sunken bark and the 
double row of piles across it, that New and Mud 
rivers could be used by our lighter gunboats to reach 
the Savannah behind Fort Pulaski, and that a bat- 
tery could be erected on Venus Point to command 
the river within its range. 

"With the complete information I had gathered, 
I hurried to headquarters, walking the entire length 
of Hilton Head Island, nearly fourteen miles of dry 
sand, in four hours and a quarter. On the way 
back I carefully considered all the facts I had 
gathered and in presenting them to General Sher- 
man I recommended an immediate move on Savan- 
nah by the route I had explored, expressing the opin- 
ion that four gunboats and a small brigade of in- 
fantry could easily take the place. Sherman was 
favorably impressed, but as the movement would 
require the cooperation of the navy, the most he 
could do was to send me back to superintend the 
removal of the obstructions and to show the navy 
the practicability of the route into the Savannah. 

Lieutenant Colonel Beard of the Forty-eighth 
New York was told off to assist me, and, although 
he was a most vigorous officer, two weeks passed 
before he cleared the passage. All approaches were 
by water, and all the work had to be done on boats 
or on the marsh, and it was not only slow but trying. 
The regiment had already gained a good deal of 
notoriety from the fact that most of its officers were 



Methodist ministers and class leaders, but this job 
overtaxed their piety. Beard, who was six feet tall, 
brawny, vigorous, and "bearded like a pard," was 
the first to fall from grace. In the midst of his work, 
while standing on a bit of corduroy, where the mud 
was particularly soft and deep and his men particu- 
larly slow, he was cursing louder and more volu- 
minously than any pirate. In the midst of it all, 
Viele, his brigade commander, stepped up and, lay- 
ing his hand on the colonel 's shoulder, said: "Look 
here, Beard, are you a preacher, too?" Somewhat 
abashed at this unexpected question and gentle re- 
minder, he replied: "Well, no, general, I can't say 
I'ma regularly ordained minister. I am one of your 
blankety-blank local preachers, that's the sort of 
preacher I am." 

The answer brought a smile to Viele 's handsome 
face, but seemed satisfactory as he passed on, while 
Beard, with a temporary lull in the violent language, 
renewed his efforts to finish the task. I regret to 
add that he soon fell again into the use of language 
which, however irreverent, did not fail to convince 
his men that he was in dead earnest. 

During the delay in the completion of this work 
I made a reconnoissance up New River and across 
Hog Marsh to a point opposite the lower part of 
Savannah. I was accompanied by Mr. Badeau, 
afterward captain, lieutenant colonel, and brevet 
brigadier general of Grant's staff, at that time a 
reporter for the New York Express, He was a mod- 
est, slender, and delicate man of agreeable manners 
and high intelligence, and deservedly became a prime 
favorite with the staff. As he was always anxious 
to see things for himself, he was frequently my com- 



panion. Beside him I had a corporal and four men 
as a guard. We had six or seven miles to row, and 
about three miles to wade through the marsh. Start- 
ing early, we reached the landing-place by sunrise, 
and, leaving our boat and crew concealed in a run 
by high reeds and guarded by two men, we made our 
toilsome way through the marsh to a point near 
fast land, from which we could see everything going 
on at the city water front. The rebel engineers were 
driving a row of piles across the river and seemed 
very busy with preparations to stand off the Yan- 
kees. Having spent several hours of observation, 
we ate our luncheon and started back, but flood tide 
was now on, the low places and the runlets were 
full of water, and the walking through the high reeds 
was most difficult. It was easy enough to keep the 
direction by a pocket compass, but before we had 
covered half the distance to the boat, Badeau be- 
came so completely exhausted that he could not even 
swing his legs to the front as we broke our way, 
carrying him bodily through the reeds. We had 
neither whisky nor brandy, and although it was 
midwinter we soon drank all the water in our can- 
teens. It was exhausting work, tiresome to the cor- 
poral and myself, but killing to Badeau, who soon 
cried piteously for water and even for a morsel of 
tobacco, which none of us could furnish. As the tide 
rose the runlets became deeper and wider, and yet 
we crossed them at first easily enough; but before 
we reached the boat we were compelled more than 
once to swim a few strokes. Badeau begged us to 
leave him and save ourselves, but that was not to 
be thought of. With shoulders under his arms, we 
carried him in as far as we could wade. Then in 



deep water the corporal, after getting a footing in 
a shallow place beyond, would grab our exhausted 
companion as I pushed him across. In this way we 
reached the boat by the middle of the afternoon 
and within an hour more my stalwart crew landed 
us safely at Viele's headquarters on Dawfuskie 
Island. After getting something to eat, I rowed to 
the end of the island, where my orderly and horse 
were waiting, and that night I reached headquarters 
with my information and a new recommendation for 
a dash at Savannah. 

As before, it was necessary for the navy to co- 
operate. Sherman had no control, and hence I was 
sent back to Tybee to show the navy that iny route 
was practicable. I arrived there with my cutter 
and crew January 17, and, after nightfall, accom- 
panied by Captain John Rodgers and Lieutenant 
Barnes of the navy, I took them across the sound, 
steering by compass to the mouth of New River. 
As we approached the entrance we heard breakers 
through the darkness, at which my naval friends 
silently dropped their pistols, unbuckled their belts, 
kicked off their shoes, and stood up to throw off 
their coats, when I asked: "What's, the matter V* 
They replied: "Breakers ahead — this boat will be 
swamped and we shall have to swim for it ! ' ' 

Whereupon I turned to my negro coxswain and 
said: "Do you know this place ?" He replied at 
once: "Just like de palm of my hand." 
"Can you take her through ?" 
"Just as easy as falling off of a log." 
"Take the tiller then and order the men to give 
way. ' ! 

"Ay, ay, sir," and in a dozen strokes the boat 



had leapt through the breakers, and was in water 
as smooth as a mill-pond. As it was my job thence- 
forward, my coxswain remained at the tiller, and 
before daylight we passed New Eiver, Wall's Cut, 
Wright and Mud Rivers, into the Savannah, with a 
complete line of soundings which showed the route 
entirely practicable for the light gunboats and trans- 
ports. Both officers concurred in the report, but 
Captain Rodgers finally declined to recommend the 
route for an expedition against Savannah, and hence 
after a week's additional delay the scheme was 

This plan was succeeded by a determination to 
isolate Fort Pulaski and then batter down its walls 
at our leisure. The first step to that end was the 
erection of a battery of siege guns on Venus Point 
to command the river behind and above the fort, 
and, as that point is several miles from fast land 
and can be reached by water only, the undertaking 
was regarded by many as impracticable. I had, 
however, reported in favor of it, and to show that 
I was not mistaken I volunteered to take the two 
leading guns across the marsh and put them in po- 
sition. My offer was accepted and on the night of 
February 10 I showed conclusively that I was 
right. Landing in the marsh eight hundred yards 
by the shortest road from the point, I carried my 
guns forward on a series of short, movable runways 
made of heavy pine plank, two and a half inches 
thick, fourteen inches wide, and twenty-five feet long. 
With three sets of runways held in position by cross 
pieces, I carried the guns forward, plank by plank. 
As rapidly as the rear length was cleared it was 
moved around to the front, and thus the distance 



was slowly but safely covered. A wheel occasionally 
slipped off and sank to the axle in the mud, but by 
the use of blocks and handspikes it was soon lifted 
out and replaced on the runway. It was a work of 
incredible difficulty, which those who have ever tried 
to cross a salt marsh will understand; but, never- 
theless, I got my guns safely across and in posi- 
tion on the platform of the sandbag battery erected 
by the engineers by half-past two in the morning. 
Porter and Beard followed closely, each with two 
guns, and by sunrise we had six guns with a proper 
supply of ammunition ready to sweep the river ef- 
fectively. As no enemy was yet in sight, the guns 
and epaulements were covered with reeds during the 
day, but the next morning, as Commodore Tatnall ' 
and his Mosquito Fleet were coming down the river 
toward Pulaski, we held our fire till they got within 
close range, when we opened on them with our eight- 
inch guns, and not only halted them at once, but sent 
them scurrying back to the city. A corduroy road 
was laid to the battery and maintained, thus com- 
pletely cutting off all communication by the Savan- 
nah till Pulaski itself was compelled to surrender. 
Our operations were now transferred to Tybee 
Island as the base of a regular siege against Fort 
Pulaski, and I was sent to continue my explorations 
of *he adjacent islands and waterways to the main- 
land. In an expedition with the Eighth Michigan 
as an escort, we pushed our' way across Whitmarsh 
Island to Thunderbolt Inlet, close to the cemetery on 

1 It was this officer who made himself famous a few years before 
by saying, " Blood is thicker than water," and going to the rescue 
of the English sailors who were struggling in the water on the Taku 
Bar, at the mouth of the Peiho, China. 



the mainland near Savannah. After completing my 
sketches, we withdrew to our transport, but while 
calling in our rear guard we were fiercely attacked 
by a battalion of rebels that had followed us up 
closely. A sharp and bloody fight ensued, in which 
the adjutant of the regiment was shot through the 
head while standing so close that his blood and 
brains bespattered my face. We were in an open 
space surrounded by a hedge which the enemy had 
closed in upon, but, hastily deploying the reinforce- 
ments which came at once to our assistance, we 
turned the hedge and, taking the enemy in flank, 
drove him rapidly back a mile or more, and then 
withdrew and reembarked at our leisure. This was 
the first infantry fight I ever saw or participated in. 
I was struck by a musket ball, but, fortunately, my 
boot top turned the bullet aside, without leaving 
anything more than a severe bruise to remember 
it by. While the affair cost us quite a number of 
men, killed and wounded, it made a deep impression 
on my mind because of the great bravery and cool- 
ness displayed by the Michigan men and officers. 

A few days later, while rowing through one of 
the creeks back of Tybee, I ran into a small boat and 
two men carrying mail to the fort, and, although I 
had neither arms nor armed men, I put on a bold 
face and confidently called out: "Halt, toss your 
oars, and surrender, or I'll open on you!" Much 
to my relief, they promptly complied, and as they 
came alongside I discovered that both had rifles. 
Their mail proved to be interesting, for it contained 
newspapers giving an account of the capture of 
Forts Henry and Donelson by the combined opera- 
tions of Foote and Grant. 



Shortly before commencing the siege of Pulaski, 
Sherman appointed Captain Gillmore a brigadier 
general subject to the approval of the Washington 
authorities, and directed Captain Hamilton, chief of 
artillery, to report to him; but Hamilton peremp- 
torily declined on the legal ground that he was Gill- 
more 's senior in actual rank, and that nobody but 
the President could ask or compel him to waive his 
rights and take orders from his junior. Hamilton 
was an officer of regular artillery, a man of parts 
and of acknowledged ability, and, what was more, 
he was perfectly sure of his ground. Sherman rec- 
ognized his position, explained the necessity for 
more officers of rank, and asked Hamilton what he 
should do. The latter, after admitting all that the 
general said, coolly added: "I see no way out of 
the difficulty except for you to appoint me a major 
general and direct Gillmore to report to me. You 
have the same authority for that course as for what 
you have already done for Gillmore." The staff 
generally sympathized with Hamilton. Both he and 
Gillmore were able men and both served with dis- 
tinction till the end of the war. Gillmore was not 
only confirmed as a brigadier, but became a major 
general and a corps commander, but Hamilton got 
no volunteer rank whatever. 

Long before the impasse was dissolved, Sher- 
man was relieved and sent to report to Halleck 
on the Tennessee Eiver, while Major General 
David Hunter, accompanied by Brigadier Gen- 
eral Benham, assumed command of the expedition- 
ary corps. They were both regulars of age and dis- 
tinction, but neither was in any way an improve- 
ment on Sherman. Gillmore was left free to com- 



plete his batteries along the northeast side of Tybee, 
and after they were armed with heavy guns and 
mortars they opened fire on the fort about three- 
quarters of a mile away. Having volunteered my 
services, I was directed to supervise the batteries 
at Goat's Point. 

General Hunter and staff arrived April 7, 1862, 
and at half-past five on the 9th I was sent with a 
four-oared boat under flag of truce to demand the 
surrender of the fort. 

I had hardly taken my seat in the stern when 
General Benham, who outranked Gillmore, called out 
in a loud voice: 

1 ' Take your seat in the bow of the boat, Captain 

As I was only a lieutenant, I did not move. 

"Take your seat in the bow of the boat, Major 
Wilson," came with greater emphasis. 

Still I did not move. 

"Take your seat in the bow of the boat, Lieu- 
tenant Colonel Wilson !" 

Eealizing finally that these orders were intended 
for me, I replied : 

"All right, General, but you have my title all 
wrong. I am only a lieutenant. ! ' 

"Never mind, sir, you shall have them all in 
due time. Meanwhile take your position in the bow 
of the boat so you can see better when you approach 
the island.' ' 

And this I did, though the precaution was an un- 
necessary one. 

I was politely received by an officer, also under a 
flag of truce, who took my communication to the post 
commandant, returning shortly with a sealed reply, 



declining to surrender. Of course, I learned nothiDg 
of value, for I was not permitted to pass the land- 
ing stage. 

These formalities took an hour or more and then 
the reply had to be considered and communicated 
to Gillmore, with orders to reopen fire. In turn he 
had to send fo*rmal instructions to the battery com- 
manders, which he entrusted to Badeau, who was 
now a captain and additional aid-de-camp. This 
was his first important duty and the great event of 
his life. Near-sighted, wearing spectacles, entirely 
unused to horses, and so awkward that he hardly 
knew how to buckle a trunk strap, he mounted a 
mile or so in the rear and galloped to the batteries. 
Porter's were the first he reached. Porter was 
standing by the side of a thirteen-inch mortar with 
everything ready when Badeau appeared^ Jumping 
or half falling from his horse, he threw his reins 
over a pile of shells a few feet away and, rushing 
forward, called out : • ' Commence firing ! ' ' His or- 
der was instantly obeyed. The explosion shook the 
earth like a volcano. The shell rose gracefully like 
a black moon on its course, followed by a series of 
discharges from the other mortars, Columbiads, and 
breaching guns, and pandemonium seemed to have 
broken loose. Badeau 's horse, frightened almost to 
death, broke madly away without attracting the 
slightest attention. Tradition has it that when last 
seen he was disappearing in the neighboring marsh, 
from which he never returned. 

All through that day, the next, and the day after 
that till two o'clock the awful bombardment con- 
tinued. The enemy replied bravely, but his fire was 
wild and did but little harm. By ten o'clock of the 



third day a breach was opened in the thick gran- 
ite wall of the fort and by noon another showed 
itself. Meanwhile, mortar shells were falling in the 
terreplein of the work, and at 2 p. m. Friday, April 
11, the anniversary of Fort Sumter, the enemy 
struck his flag and orders went forth at once to 
cease firing. A practicable breach had been opened 
and the fort had become untenable after only seven- 
teen hours of constant firing. 

I was again detailed to accompany the party sent 
to arrange the terms of the surrender. The job 
was found to be a complete one, and as the fort was 
so horribly battered and so completely isolated that 
no one could escape, the surrender was made with- 
out terms or conditions. 

This success gave us complete control of the river 
to within close range of Savannah, but it was fol- 
lowed by no important results. We lost no men and 
the enemy but few besides the prisoners. 

Looking backward, it was a far less important 
and dangerous operation than we had thought it 
before we opened lire. The night our arrangements 
were all completed Porter and I slept but little. The 
positions assigned us were supposed to be quite 
as dangerous as any in the line of batteries. We 
naturally thought that one or both might be killed, 
and therefore made our wills, in which each agreed 
to act as executor to the other. 

For the first hour after our guns opened we were 
somewhat nervous, but in watching the effects of our 
own shots we could plainly see those of the enemy 
coming toward us. It was the day of ten-inch smooth 
bore guns and low velocities, so that as soon as we 
saw the flash of the enemy's gun we caught sight 



of the shot or shell coming our way and marked 
not only its flight, but guessed within a few feet 
where it would strike, whether it fell short or passed 
overhead. Fortunately our parapets and bomb- 
proofs were strong and gave us perfect protection. 
It must be confessed, however, that the enemy's 
practice was poor, and by the second day we had 
got so used to it that we did not hesitate to sit on 
a parapet or traverse, watching the shells coming 
toward us, till they got within a few rods, when 
we would jump down and take cover, or sit fast 
and allow them to pass over our heads. 

After the surrender, instead of pushing into the 
interior with all our force by the Savannah or Broad 
Eiver, one brigade under General Stevens made an 
ineffectual demonstration from Beaufort toward 
Pocotaligo, and then a dead calm fell upon the com- 
mand. Many officers were granted leave of absence. 
General Benham claimed to be "straining at the 
leash' \ to get at the enemy, while Hunter was abol- 
ishing slavery by proclamation ; but so far as I could 
see, an effective campaign from our base was just 
as far from realization under Hunter as under Sher- 
man. These two generals were equally brave, equally 
patriotic, and equally incompetent. They were 
lacking in aggressiveness and initiative, and, fully 
realizing that the occupation of the sea islands was 
an abortive and wasteful use of the troops, I went 
to Hunter and frankly asked to be relieved and or- 
dered to report to my chief at Washington for duty 
elsewhere. The general received me with both sym- 
pathy and kindness, but gave me no assurance of 
granting my request. He was a fine, gallant, and 
manly old fellow, but for the time he was more 



interested in abolishing slavery than in putting 
down the rebellion. His adjutant, Charles G. Hal- 
pine, was a brilliant Irish newspaper man, who 
gained an evanescent distinction as Miles O'Reilly. 
He was a most agreeable, sympathetic fellow who 
wasted a good deal of time after the war in trying to 
get me interested in the Fenian movement to free 
his native land. Both he and Hunter advised me to 
be patient, and intimated rather mysteriously that 
they would give me enough to do before the summer 
was over. 

I knew that they were calling on Washington for 
reinforcements and it did not take much guessing 
to hit on the fact that they had a movement against 
Charleston in their minds. But the development of 
their plans was too slow for me. Before the summer 
was over, we heard of the bloody battle of Shiloh 
and Halleck's great movement on Corinth. We 
knew also of McClellan's campaign against Rich- 
mond, and hence my anxiety to get away was con- 
stantly on the increase ; but as Hunter gave me only 
vague promises, I pulled every string I could touch, 
and even applied to the adjutant general of the 
army, who returned my letter to be forwarded 
through the official channels. 

Meanwhile, on June 2, Hunter and staff, with 
Wright's and Stevens' brigades, made a descent on 
Stono and James Island, near Charleston; but the 
movement was so badly combined and so languidly 
executed that it proved an ignominious failure. A 
few unimportant skirmishes and unsuccessful as- 
saults on the rebel lines at Secessionville ended the 
movement in disgrace. Drunkenness on the part of 
the leading officers was openly charged. Benham 



was arrested for disobedience of orders, relieved 
from command, and ordered North. 

I had charge of a war balloon in this expedition 
and made several ascents, but as soon as the anchor 
rope became taut, the basket danced about so that 
I could see nothing distinctly. After due considera- 
tion I concluded that captive balloons were worth- 
less for reconnoissance, and that neither expense 
nor time should be wasted in trying to utilize them. 
This is my opinion to the present day. Dirigible 
balloons and aeroplanes have become practicable 
and they can be efficiently used. 

On my return to Hilton Head I dismounted and 
brought in more guns, and when that task was fin- 
ished, I was detailed as the judge advocate of a gen- 
eral court-martial to try one of our colonels. The 
charges against him were shameless and promiscu- 
ous lying, with one hundred and twenty specifica- 
tions. Having reduced these to ten or eleven, we 
tried and found him guilty on all the counts and 
sentenced him to dismissal; but the reviewing au- 
thority disapproved the proceedings and sentence 
and restored the officer to duty on the ground that 
the multiplicity of the counts looked like persecu- 
tion. This officer served till the end of the war and 
was finally breveted brigadier general for the part 
played by him in what came to be designated long 
afterward as "the bloody battle of March 13, 1866," 
but it should be noted that he always had "the mis- 
fortune of being widely disbelieved. ' ' 

The same court tried the quartermaster and com- 
missary of a cavalry regiment for sanding the sugar, 
adulterating the pepper, making away with the for- 
age, selling rations, and falsifying his returns and 



accounts. He was convicted and, having no friends 
willing to plead for him, he was dismissed from 
the army. It was the only case of the kind I ever 
had anything to do with. 

Thus June and July, 1862, passed slowly. Hun- 
ter had become greatly depressed by his failure, and 
in midsummer, when the weather was the hottest 
and the outlook most discouraging, the news came 
of McClellan's defeat on the Peninsula, accompa- 
nied by orders to send ten thousand of our troops 
to reenforce him. 

Meanwhile, I was detailed as acting assistant in- 
spector general of the command and directed to 
draw up a plan for rearranging the system of out- 
posts and pickets, and a plan for breaking the rail- 
road between Pocotaligo and Coosahatchie. This 
work kept me employed in a way, but with more than 
half our force and many of our officers absent, the 
prospect was far from encouraging. It was now 
more than ever evident that the occupation of the 
sea islands was a wasteful mistake which could not 
be repaired, and my anxiety became greater and 
greater. I had done my best to get away and was 
not without hope that accumulating disasters to our 
armies farther north, if neither my prayers nor the 
solicitations of my friends, would bring me the nec- 
essary orders for a change of station. Finally, 
August 26, I was made happy by orders from the 
war department directing me to report forthwith at 

Thus ended the first year of my "active serv- 
ice. ' f Although I had been at the head of my branch 
of service on the staff, had served in the Ordnance, 
Quartermaster's, and Inspector General's Depart- 



ments, had helped the artillery, and had acted as 
judge advocate and also as the recorder of an exam- 
ining board, I was far from satisfied. I had gained 
experience and confidence, but I was far from 
pleased with my work. I had done my best to en- 
courage my commanding officers and to embolden 
them to push forward against the enemy, and while 
I had failed, it is pleasant to reflect that I had not 
made myself a nuisance nor lost their friendship. 
On the contrary, Sherman evidently thought I could 
do things, and when he was ordered west he requested 
that I be allowed to accompany him. While his 
request was denied, he wrote me frequently after- 
ward, and we remained close friends till his death. 

Hunter's good will was quite as unmistakable, 
for when he succeeded to the command of the Tenth 
Army Corps, he had me appointed assistant inspec- 
tor general of that corps, with the rank of lieutenant 
colonel, and although I was then serving as an en- 
gineer officer on the staff of General Grant in the 
Department of the Tennessee, I was ordered to re- 
port to Hunter as soon as I could be spared. 

In addition to the substantial promotion from 
lieutenant to lieutenant colonel, which came in 
time to give me the choice of remaining on the 
staff of General Grant as inspector general of 
his army with the same rank, my first campaign and 
my first year of active service in the field brought 
me the glory of repeated honorable mention in the 
reports of all of the general officers of the expedi- 
tionary corps, with whom I came in contact. Gen- 
eral Hunter in his official report, after mentioning 
General Gillmore for his industry, skill, and patriotic 
zeal, was pleased to say of me: " Great credit is 



due to his assistants, Lieutenant J. H. Wilson, U. 
S. Topographical Engineer, and Lieutenant Horace 
Porter of the Ordnance Department. ' ' Generals 
Benham, Viele, and Gillmore in their several reports 
also spoke of me and my services in kindly and com- 
plimentary terms. * So that while the expedition 
itself fell far short of its possibilities, it was for me 
an opportunity which "led on to fortune." 

I add with unalloyed pleasure that the year was 
blessed by friendships with both army and navy 
men that lasted throughout life. Young as I was, 
I established close relations with Admiral DuPont, 
one of the most courtly and distinguished officers 
of his time, with John and Raymond Rodgers, Per- 
cival Drayton, Daniel Ammen, Napoleon Collins, 
John S. Barnes, and many of their juniors. Barnes 
was a peculiarly masterful man of great intelligence 
and splendid bearing. Strong, deep-chested, clear- 
eyed, bold, and resolute, he was a typical sailor, a 
graduate of the Naval Academy, who rendered val- 
uable service till the end of the war, when he re- 
signed, and in a few years amassed an ample for- 
tune as a railroad projector, builder, and manager. 

Gillmore of the Engineers was my senior by 
seven or eight years and, although he was an excel- 
lent officer of great learning, dignity, and reserve, 
with many military accomplishments, he extended 
to me his confidence and his intimacy. Our routes 
through life lay apart from the time I left Port 
Royal, but we touched again at the close of the war 
in Georgia where he occupied the coast with a corps 

1 O. R., Series I, Vol. VI, pp. 134, 138, 142, 146, 150, 152, 153, 
157, 160. 

See, also, Vol. XIV, pp. 5, 6, 8, 9, 326. 



of infantry while I occupied the interior with the 
Cavalry Corps, Military Division of the Mississippi. 
Our chief commissary, Captain M. R. Morgan, 
was an officer of character and ability, who rose to 
high rank and distinction after his career had been 
almost wrecked by confinement to the duty of feed- 
ing the troops when he should have been leading 
them to victory. The same may be said in substan- 
tially the same words of John W. Turner, formerly 
of the regular artillery, who stopped at Port Eoyal 
with General Butler on his way to New Orleans. He 
wasted at least two years in duties which might have 
been as well performed by any intelligent grocer, 
but finally broke the shackles that bound him and 
reached the rank of major general before the war 
ended. The Military Academy never turned out two 
better soldiers. Modest, serious, accomplished, and 
experienced in every branch of the military profes- 
sion, they needed only an opportunity to show their 
patriotism and their merits. Their cases, as well 
as many others, show how utterly uninformed the 
War Department was as to the record and character 
of its officers and how entirely it failed to organize 
an efficient system of making itself acquainted with 
their particular aptitude and merits. When all this 
is considered, the reader will be slow to condemn 
those officers who went out of their way to seek 
service in the hope that they might not only make 
themselves useful, but find rank and honor. 




Return to Washington — McClellan 's staff — South Mountain 
— Battle of Antietam — Hooker wounded — Pleasant 
Valley — Return to Washington. 

I sailed for Philadelphia on the Augusta, for- 
merly a merchantman, August 30. Her machinery 
was so out of order that she came into Port Eoyal 
at seven miles an hour, but when she started north 
for repairs she easily knocked off twelve or thirteen ; 
but with all, we were four days on the way, and I 
did not reach Washington till eight o'clock Septem- 
ber 5. While the new general-in-chief received 
me politely, I was not expected and no orders were 
ready for me. I had read Halleck's "Art of War", 
and was ready to believe him not only a learned 
man, but a mighty captain. Great victories had 
been gained and great disasters had been averted in 
his western command. Belmont, Fort Henry, Fort 
Donelson, Shiloh, and Corinth had been won, and 
while Grant was popularly regarded as the principal 
figure, Halleck was his titular chief, and in common 
with many others I was disposed to give him a 
great part of the credit. He had already received 
the sobriquet of "Old Brains", but when I beheld 



his bulging eyes, his flabby cheeks, his slack-twisted 
figure, and his slow and deliberate movements, and 
noted his sluggish speech, lacking in point and mag- 
netism, I experienced a distinct feeling of disap- 
pointment which from that day never grew less. I 
could not reconcile myself to the idea that an officer 
of such negative appearance could ever be a great 
leader of men. He might be a great lawyer, a great 
student, a great theorist, but never an active, ener- 
getic, and capable commander in the field, and that 
is now the verdict of history. For several years 
some thought him a wise and self-reliant counsellor, 
a good military organizer, and a far-seeing strate- 
gist ; but long before the war ended he came to be re- 
garded by close observers, and especially by the Sec- 
retary of War, as a negligible quantity. 

He was obliging and considerate with me and 
readily enough gave me permission to look about for 
a regiment, but that was the end of it. So far as 
I knew, he took no further interest in my career. I 
saw him but once after that, nor had I anything 
further to do with him, except that two years later, 
when relieved from charge of the Cavalry Bureau, 
the Secretary of War, at my suggestion, directed 
him to take general supervision of its administra- 
tion along with his other duties as chief -of-staff to 
which position he had finally been reduced. 

Leaving his office, I went at once to my bureau 
chief, and had a similar experience — plenty of civil- 
ity, lots of sympathy, but no orders. I was again 
asked where I wanted to go and what I wanted to 
do. Engineer officers were in great demand and, as 
there were but few of them, I might have my choice 
of places. The principal assistant evidently wanted 



to help me. He had read my letters and reports 
with interest and approval and did his best to place 
me where I should have a fair field for my energies, 
but he was powerless himself to make orders or 
to direct my services. He said that Grant had no 
engineer officer whatever, that he was calling loudly 
for as many as could be spared and that I could 
doubtless go to him if I saw nothing better. Where- 
upon I replied that I preferred to go to Grant rather 
than to anyone else, that my brothers and my west- 
ern friends were in his army, and that my interests 
and my inclinations lay in that direction. 

But the country was in the midst of a great 
crisis. McClellan had been beaten and withdrawn 
from the James River. Pope and McDowell had 
just been overthrown by Lee at Bull Eun and Chan- 
tilly, and, although both Fitz-John Porter and 
Franklin had reached the scene of conflict, the two 
armies had not been entirely united in front of 
Washington. In fact both were still retiring and, 
on the day I arrived, they began to pass through 
Washington into Maryland for the purpose of again 
confronting the victorious Confederates. 

A great campaign was on, great battles were 
pending and, of course, I wanted to participate. I 
therefore asked that I might be ordered definitely to 
Grant, but permitted to volunteer temporarily on 
McClelland staff. And thus the matter was ar- 
ranged. The next step was to find interest with 
McClellan, who had again become all-powerful. For- 
tunately, Major Hardie, one of my friends and com- 
panions in the long trip from Vancouver, had a desk 
in the adjutant general's office and kindly offered 
to see McClellan at once and, if possible, to get 



permission for me to join him. What difficulty 
he had I never knew, but the second morning there- 
after I received orders to report to McClellan at or 
beyond Eockville. The post quartermaster furnished 
me with a horse, and, hastily gathering up such 
equipment and supplies as I needed, I took the road 
for headquarters with Martin and Custer who were 
also out for service. 

Both Martin and I had known Custer well at^ 
West Point. He was an indifferent scholar, but a 
fellow of tremendous vitality and vigor. Six feet 
tall, with broad shoulders, deep chest, thin waist, 
and splendid legs, he had a perfect figure and was 
one of the best horsemen of his day. He had gone 
straight from the Academy to McClellan on the 
Peninsula where he had already shown himself to 
be a man of enterprise and daring, ready for any 
service that came his way. He was known in his 
cadet days and always afterward by his familiars 
as "Cinnamon", because he was partial to cinnamon 
hair oil, a bottle of which he brought with him to 
West Point. Shortly after reporting at army head- 
quarters, the story goes, McClellan advanced to the 
south bank of the Chickahominy attended by a nu- 
merous staff of princes, counts, rich men, and dis- 
tinguished regulars. Custer, then merely a plebe 
second lieutenant, was at the tail of the column. 
The general, after gazing with interest at the 
stream, which was both full and wide, said reflec- 
tively: "I wish I knew how deep it is." Of course, 
none of the great ones stirred, but as the question 
trickled slowly toward the rear, Custer caught its 
import, left his place in ranks, pushed to the river 
bank, drove his spurs into his horse, and plunged 



into the water with the remark: "I'll damn soon 
show how deep it is." In less time than it takes 
to tell it, he was swimming for the other shore. 
Beaching it shortly, he turned about and swam back, 
and as he came ashore he called out: "That's how 
deep it is, General, ' ' and then took his place quietly 
in the column. It was that sort of readiness and 
hardihood which soon won his stars, giving him first 
a brigade and then a division of cavalry, which in 
turn made him within three years one of the most 
distinguished men of his day. Custer was never 
rated as a great general, for, although full of dash, 
enterprise, and experience, he never acquired the 
habit of properly measuring the endurance of his 
men and horses. Besides, some thought him over- 
confident and occasionally jealous, and it was those 
two great defects of character that led to the final 
and fatal blunder which ended his brilliant career. 
It will be recalled that several years after the Civil 
War before going into battle with the Sioux In- 
dians he divided his regiment into two detachments, 
sending four troops in one direction, leading the 
remainder himself against the Indians in the other. 
In the desperate battle which followed, he and all 
his companions, to the last man, were slain. 

But during the Antietam campaign, Custer was 
the youngest officer of the staff, scarcely more than 
a boy. We overtook headquarters the first day out, 
and with Merritt, Bowen, Kellogg, and Jack Wil- 
son, all young West Pointers, we formed a mess 
and soon became known as a hard-working, hard- 
riding gang ready for any service that might come 
our way. McClellan was kind to us, one and all, 
and by his genial and gentle ways won our hearty 



approval and support from the start. While he 
spared none of us, he directed Ingalls, the chief 
quartermaster, to keep us supplied with fresh 
mounts so that we might go whenever called upon. 
By the end of the week we had a string of twenty- 
five horses, all about the best that the country could 
supply. We were a jolly and cheerful party, all of 
whom except myself had been with the Army of the 
Potomac since its organization. They had gone 
with it to the Peninsula and had participated cred- 
itably in all the battles of the campaign. Jack Wil- 
son had particularly distinguished himself, com- 
manding a battery during the retreat to the James 

Bowen and Merritt had been behind the scenes 
on the staff, and as they were both able and ob- 
servant men they were already veterans who needed 
only the experience of commanding troops to make 
them famous. This privilege came to Merritt and 
Custer a few months later when Pleasanton selected 
them to command cavalry brigades because they 
were well-educated, young, vigorous, intelligent, and 

But none of us was thinking much of death or 
even of fame at that time. We were in the midst 
of a great campaign, the significance of which we all 
understood quite as well as the wisest general, and 
our highest desire was for active and useful duty. 
Those of us who were engineers were kept going 
night and day, reconnoitering and scouting. Bowen 
and I, assisted by the French Count de Vilarceau, 
while operating on the left toward Crampton's Gap 
and Catoctin Mountain, passed through Damascus, 
Hyattsville, Goshen, Urbanna, Middletown, Fred- 



erick, and Keedysville, scouring the country in all 
directions for the enemy. 

It was on September 10 that General Hart- 
suff, one of my West Point instructors, offered me 
the command of the Sixteenth Maine, which I 
promptly accepted, and my name was sent in to 
Halleck for the detail. But neither the detail nor 
the commission ever came, mainly, as I always sup- 
posed, because the governor of the state did not 
know me or thought me too young. Two days there- 
after I received, through Colonel Fisher, an offer 
of the lieutenant colonelcy of the First Delaware 
Cavalry, but with a colonelcy pending I could not ac- 
cept a lower grade. I had, besides, telegraphed and 
written to the Governor of Illinois on my arrival at 
Washington offering my services with the volun- 
teers, and, not hearing from him, I was somewhat 
embarrassed as to the course I ought to pursue. 
Meanwhile I was leading a \ ' strenuous life ' ', though 
I did not know it, for that adjective did not come 
into fashion till many years afterward. Eiding all 
day with a detachment of cavalry and living off of 
the country whi~h was bountifully laden with sup- 
plies, I found both villagers and farmers not only 
patriotic, but everywhere hailing the Union flag with 
enthusiasm. Their hospitality and good cheer were 
unstinted. Camping when night overtook us where 
we could find forage, we sent our information and 
sketches by courier to the acting chief engineer, Ma- 
jor Duane, without relaxing our advance in search 
of the enemy. It soon became evident that Lee was 
retreating, and when Pleasanton with the cavalry, 
guided by us and supported by Cox, Reno, Burnside, 
and Hooker, pushed him along the turnpike through 



the Gap, we knew that we should soon overtake his 
army and have a great battle. * 

At the crossing of the main road over the Catoc- 
tin Eidge, after a good deal of hesitation and delay 
with some successful skirmishing, both Pleasanton 
and Eeno sent reports to McClellan claiming a ' i glo- 
rious victory," before any real fight had actually 
occurred. Fearing that McClellan might be misled 
thereby, Bowen and I, after suggesting that more 
troops should be put in, wrote a "private and con- 
fidential" note to Duane at general headquarters, 
urging that McClellan himself should come to the 
front. We intimated that he was being deceived, 
that the enemy occupied a position of great strength 
on the top of the ridge, and that we might be beaten 
unless our advance were made with an overwhelm- 
ing force. It was a bold proceeding on the part of 
two lieutenants, but it brought about the desired re- 
sult. Duane showed our note to McClellan, who 
mounted his horse and rode rapidly to the site of 
our operations. Upon this occasion at least he acted 
with both promptitude and vigor. Taking in the 
situation within fifteen minutes after reaching the 
ground, he sent orders to Hooker and Sumner which 
put them in motion and brought on the fight at once. 
Moving all together, they drove the enemy from be- 
hind the stone fences in the Gap with great slaugh- 
ter. The victory was a signal and encouraging one. 
It was here that I first saw infantry attacking after 
nightfall. The flash of the rebel rifles lit the moun- 
tain side like fireflies, but when Gibbon's serried 
line poured out its volleys from its front like con- 
tinuous streaks of lightning and kept steadily on 
without wavering or faltering till it had crowned 



the ridge, we knew the victory was surely ours. 
Shortly afterward news came from Franklin at 
Crampton's Gap, four miles south on the Berkits- 
ville road, that he had also been successful, and this 
made it certain that we were in contact with Lee's 
rear guard, and should soon have a general battle. 
Near the scene of conflict on the principal route 
when the affair was over, Bowen and I took shelter 
in a farmhouse. The nights were growing cold. We 
had neither overcoats nor camp outfit, and, as all 
the beds were occupied by officers of higher rank, 
we slept on the floor with law books for pillows. 
Before morning, however, as it grew more chilly, 
we half unconsciously tore up and crawled under 
the carpet for warmth, and when we got out in the 
morning we were as white as millers. In those days 
we did not mind a little thing like that, and dusting 
each other off as best we could, and grabbing such 
food as we could find, we swung into our saddles 
again and pushed on toward Antietam and Sharps- 
burg. We had been in the field for just a week, and 
while we had been zigzagging through the country 
at the rate of thirty and forty miles a day, we nat- 
urally thought the army in the rear was pushing on 
as impatiently as we were. We had, however, met 
McClellan first at Rockville on the 8th and had 
passed Burnside on the road only a few miles fur- 
ther out, apparently in no sort of a hurry. He was 
sitting by the roadside, and hailed us as we rode by 
with a jolly ' ! How are you, boys I Get down and wet 
your whistles/ f But we were in a hurry and pressed 
to the front. From this trivial circumstance and 
from the fact that our couriers were generally a 
long while absent, it gradually dawned on us that 



the progress of the army as a whole, averaging only- 
seven or eight miles a day, was far from rapid. Evi- 
dently no part of it was making forced marches, and 
this, to our youthful and ardent minds, was most 

But it had not occurred to us yet to doubt 
McClellan. So far he appeared to be not only more 
aggressive, but more active, than any of his lieu- 
tenants. He was again the popular favorite and the 
army as well as its officers of every grade still re- 
garded him as ' i The Young Napoleon ' ' of the War. 
His promptitude in coming to the front at the first 
clash of arms had encouraged us. It had strength- 
ened the dim far-off hope that his orderly and com- 
prehensive mind might be working out a splendid 
combination of strategy and grand tactics which 
would enable us to crush and perhaps capture Lee 's 
army, and thus put an end to the war. We had 
early come to believe that Lee 's forces were divided, 
and to hope, as we had been taught, that we should 
overtake and beat them in detail. But this was not 
to be. Our movements were too slow and too cir- 
cumspect, and yet "strategy, my boy," was the 
catchword of the day. After we crossed South 
Mountain and the Catoctin range, we thought that 
Harper's Ferry might be our destination, knowing 
that our garrison at that place lay within the 
enemy's theater of operations and was necessarily 
in danger. McClellan, so far as we could see, in- 
stead of hastening our march, advanced with still 
greater deliberation. Harper's Ferry was in every- 
body's mind and on everybody's tongue, but, instead 
of coming to it, it seemed to grow more and more 
distant, so that in the end as we rode by the slowly 



moving columns, the common soldiers in the ranks 
would cry out: "Who in the hell is Harper, and 
where's his ferry?" 

On the morning of September 10 we rejoined 
general headquarters, and one of the first things we 
heard there was the news of the capture by Stone- 
wall Jackson of Harper's Ferry and its garrison of 
twelve thousand men, yet McClellan did not seem 
to be disturbed. Calm and deliberate, he spent the 
entire day (Sept. 16) forming line of battle astride of 
Antietam Creek and "shelling the woods" beyond. 
Bowen and I were kept busy until after nightfall 
reconnoitering the field and placing the troops in 
position. But nobody seemed to be in a hurry except 
ourselves. Corps and divisions moved as languidly 
to the places assigned them as if they were getting 
ready for a grand review instead of a decisive battle. 
I had got from the books the idea that everything, 
after we were within reach of the enemy, should be 
bustle and push and rapid marching; but again I was 
disappointed, and when night came on without any- 
thing more serious than a little skirmishing, I lay 
down tired and discouraged. My confidence in the 
military virtues of "celerity and audacity" was be- 
ginning to fade, and it was dawning on me that, 
while we should probably win, we should win by 
"main strength and awkwardness," rather than by 
strategy or generalship. And with that thought 
uppermost in my mind I went to sleep in my clothes, 
ready for a call at any minute. 

At early dawn (Sept. 17) all were astir. The 
weather was fine but the air was hazy with the smoke 
of our camp fires. At six o 'clock cannonading began, 
but even before that, far away on the right, Hooker 



had anticipated the initial movement from the cen- 
ter, as if he hoped to win the battle without help, and 
thus monopolize the honors of the day. Receiving a 
slight wound in the foot, shortly after beginning his 
advance, he left the field without making any serious 
impression on the enemy's line, and was soon fol- 
lowed by many of his men. 

Sumner's splendid corps of over thirty thousand 
was ordered to move at seven o'clock, but did not 
cross the Antietam till nearly ten. He claimed that 
he had not actually been ordered to attack, but 
merely "to hold himself in readiness to move." But 
when he did attack, it was by "divisions in echelon" 
instead of in a line of proper columns. But from 
McClellan's headquarters it was a thrilling sight. 
With flags flying and the long unfaltering lines ris- 
ing and falling as they crossed the rolling fields, it 
looked as though nothing could stop them, but they 
were checked before getting within close range of 
the rebel rifles. The interval between echelons was 
too great and their flanks were too much exposed. 
Shortly the whole corps became disordered and not 
only lost its impulse, but fell back in confusion to 
the open fields, where it found sheltering swales 
pretty well out of range. 4 

About eleven o'clock, perhaps a little later, 
Franklin, with Baldy Smith's and Couch's divisions, 
arrived on the same field and advancing gallantly to 
the attack, checked the confusion and restored con- 
fidence to the ranks which had advanced against 
stone walls in vain. 

Fitz-John Porter with the Fifth Corps, composed 
of one division of regulars and two of volunteers, 
occupied the left center. As this formidable force, 



regarded as the flower of the army, received no or- 
ders to advance, it stood fast all day, taking no real 
part in the battle. For all the good it did it might 
as well have been at Frederick or in Washington. 

Still farther to the left Burnside, with a full 
army corps moving on the Keedysville road, was 
expected to force his way across the gorge of the 
lower Antietam which was justly regarded as im- 
passable except by the bridge ; but instead of carry- 
ing the bridge and getting into line on the other 
side before eleven, as was expected, Burnside 's first 
attempt was weak and irresolute, and without posi- 
tive results. 

Thus it will be seen that long before noon Mc- 
Clellan's disjointed and badly timed attacks against 
the enemy's compact line had come to naught, and 
the fortunes of the day were trembling in the bal- 
ance. Notwithstanding McClellan claimed then and 
always afterward that his plan of battle was mas- 
terly, he had committed the unpardonable blun- 
der of camping his army part on one side and part 
on the other side of the Antietam, thus making it 
exceedingly difficult for his different corps to move 
simultaneously and entirely impossible to engage 
the enemy at the same time. 

The force of this criticism becomes apparent 
when it is remembered that, notwithstanding re- 
peated orders, the last of which I carried in person, 
Burnside did not succeed in forcing his way across 
the Antietam till three o 'clock in the afternoon. His 
efforts throughout the morning had been weak and 
abortive, but he finally found in Colonel Kingsbury 
of the Eleventh Connecticut Volunteers the right 
man for the work in hand. 



This superb young colonel, less than a year out 
of West Point, had recently given hostages to fate ; 
but neither Caesar nor Napoleon ever had a better 
soldier or a more fearless man for a desperate un- 
dertaking. He had graduated fourth in a notable 
class and had served first with a battery of artillery 
where he finally won his regiment. He was a dis- 
tinguished scholar and an accomplished athlete, 
mentally and physically a perfect soldier. A judi- 
cious disciplinarian, an accomplished tactician, and 
a careful, considerate instructor, he was now fairly 
launched on a career which nothing but death could 
terminate in failure. His father, an old officer of 
the army, had been fortunate enough at an early 
day to become the owner of a large tract of land at 
the government price in what is now the center of 
Chicago, and which he is said to have sold fre- 
quently, but being too lazy to make the deed, held till 
death, when it descended to his son and daughter, 
the wife of Simon Bolivar Buckner. Having gone 
south with her husband and fearing confiscation, 
Mrs. Buckner conveyed her interests uncondition- 
ally, so far as the deed itself was concerned, but 
really in trust, to her brother. The latter, fear- 
ing that complications might arise in case of his 
death, the night before the battle sent for two 
of his friends of the regular army to witness his 
will, but they were busy or did not get his message 
and consequently did not act as witnesses. Whether 
he actually drew the will or made an authorita- 
tive declaration I never knew, but the next day he 
fell with a mortal wound while leading his regiment 
successfully across the Stone Bridge. Burnside won, 
but the gallant Kingsbury lost forever. In due 



course a posthumous son was born to him. After 
the peace this son and the Kingsbury estate were 
involved for years in one of the most remarkable 
lawsuits of the period with General Buckner and 
his wife, who after great expense finally secured 
the rights which a few lines written by Kingsbury 
and witnessed by his friends on the eve of battle 
would have freed forever from controversy. 

But to return to the battle. During the interval 
between the failure of Hooker and Sumner and of 
the partial but belated success of Burnside, Mc- 
Clellan and his staff were fearful of the result. For 
ffcur hours it was a question which army should first 
assume the offensive. While we still had at hand 
something like twenty thousand men who had not 
fired a shot, and while there was plenty of daylight 
to fight another battle, McClellan, under the timid 
counsels of his subordinates, still " dared not . . . 
put it to the touch and win or lose it all!" 

And thus it stood till Burnside was at last on 
the farther side of the creek. I had already ridden 
the whole line of battle more than once and reported 
its shaky condition to McClellan who, on receiving 
word of Burnside 's sadly delayed but encouraging 
success, sent me again to the right to tell Sumner 
"to get up his men and hold his position at all 
hazards, as Burnside had crossed and was advanc- 
ing finely. " Eiding a slashing gray as active as a 
deer, stone fences were nothing to me. I covered 
the ground going and coming in less than thirty 
minutes, including stops and delays. 

I found Sumner glum and grim, surrounded by 
his staff and several division commanders, and, so 
far as I could judge, with but little or no fight left 



in him. I delivered my orders at once, but instead 
of answering in a cheery and confident tone, he 
sang out: 

"Go back, young man, and ask General McClel- 
lan if I shall make a simultaneous advance with my 
whole line at the risk of not being able to rally 
a man on this side of the creek if I am driven 

As nothing had been said about an advance, I 
replied : 

"General, from the tenor of the order I have 
just delivered, I will assume to say that General 
McClellan simply desires and expects you to hold 
your position for the present." 

At this the general repeated : 

"Go back, young man, and bring an answer to 
my question." 

Whereupon I galloped to headquarters and de- 
livered Sumner's message as above, to which Mc- 
Clellan retorted in sharp and impatient tones : 

"Tell General Sumner to risk nothing. I ex- 
pect him to hold his present position at every cost. 
This is the great battle of the war and every man 
must do his duty." 

And then, as if changing his mind, he added: 

"Tell the general to crowd every man and gun 
into ranks, and, if he thinks it practicable, he may 
advance Franklin to carry the woods in front, hold- 
ing the rest of the line with his own command, as- 
sisted by those of Banks and Hooker." 

And this order was delivered with emphasis in 
the exact terms it had been given to me and at the 
spot where I had found the group before. Frank- 
lin, Smith, Howard, Newton, Gibbon, Gorman, and 



several others were standing by, apparently listen- 
ing for what was to be said. 

I had hardly got through with rny message, when 
Sumner returned to the subject, saying: 

"Go back, young man, and tell General McClel- 
lan I have no command. Tell him my command, 
Banks ' command and Hooker 's command are all cut 
up and demoralized. Tell him General Franklin 
has the only organized command on this part of the 

Of course, there was nothing for me but to return 
to headquarters with this discouraging message, and 
I am bound to add that in my judgment it indicated 
a demoralized state of mind, if not a demoralized 
state of affairs, for the only general whom I met 
on that ride who sounded a different note was Gen- 
eral French, to whom, as I rode by, I hastily said : 
"McClellan's orders are to hold your position at all 
hazards,' ' and instantly the bluff, hearty, red-faced 
old regular called out: "Tell him, by God, sir, I'll 
do it!" 

When I got back I found headquarters in charge 
of Fitz-John Porter, who received my report with- 
out comment. He was as glum and apparently as 
lacking in aggressive temper as any general on the 
field. McClellan, having had reports from others 
as to the unpromising condition of affairs, had 
gone in person to the right to see for himself. I 
had no conversation with him on his return, but do 
not doubt that he was discouraged by his ride, as 
he gave no orders for the resumption of hostilities 
that afternoon. 

During the day I rode the whole line from the 
center to both flanks several times. One of the sad- 



dest incidents of the morning was the death of the 
veteran Mansfield who had fallen mortally wounded, 
while leading his men into action. With snow-white 
hair and martial bearing, he was as knightly a fig- 
ure as ever gave up his life for the country, and 
his fall, which soon became known, was regarded 
as a serious loss to the entire army. 

Next to Sumner's right I found Meade with the 
Pennsylvania "Bucktails", badly scattered and with 
but little aggressive temper left. A short distance 
farther on I came to Hooker 's front and was amazed 
to find that both Hooker and the greater part of 
his corps had disappeared from the field, leaving 
no sort of an organization to hold the ground they 
had gained near the Dunkard Church and beyond. 
Indeed, the whole right center and extreme right of 
our line were so shattered and discouraged by the 
morning's disjointed work that I did not hesitate, 
young and inexperienced as I was, to say to Mc- 
Clellan that he should not only order his corps and 
division commanders to get all their men back into 
line, but send reinforcements and direct them as 
soon as possible to niove vigorously against the 
enemy's position. I felt the importance of assum- 
ing the offensive first, because I was sure that if 
the enemy should anticipate us, he would sweep our 
entire right wing from the field. Even at that late 
hour I do not doubt that if Lee could have rallied 
and concentrated enough men to make an aggressive 
return against our right wing, he would have won 
the day. But, fortunately, his men were also used 
up and content to stand at bay till night put an end 
to the conflict. 

Shortly after returning from my first ride to 


Hooker, George W. Smalley, war correspondent of 
the New York Tribune, joined the group of officers 
near the headquarters flag. Knowing that he had 
been on that part of the field all morning, I asked 
him where Hooker was. He was the only corps com- 
mander I had not found near the line of battle, and, 
having heard that he had been but slightly wound- 
ed, it occurred to me that it would be a most timely 
and inspiring thing if he would go back to the front. 
He had already won the nickname "Fighting Joe", 
and was known as a most ambitious man, and it 
flashed through my mind that he would jump at the 
suggestion. So when Smalley pointed out the red 
brick house about a mile and a half to the right and 
rear, where Hooker had established himself, with- 
out the slightest suggestion from anyone else but 
entirely on my own account I said: 

"Smalley, ride rapidly to Hooker and tell him 
to rally his corps and lead it back to the field, for 
by doing so he may not only save the day, but save 
the Union also ! ' ' 

Smalley 's horse was bleeding from a bullet 
wound, his hair was disheveled, and his clothes 
were covered with dust. He replied: "That's splen- 
did, and I'll go at once, but I fear Hooker is too 
severely wounded to mount his horse." 

I sang out: 

"That makes no difference. Let him get into an 
ambulance and drive back to the field. Or, what is 
still better, put him on a stretcher, and with his 
bugles blowing and his corps flag flying over him, 
let his men carry him back to the fighting line, while 
his staff take the news to the division and brigade 
commanders. ' ' 



Smalley, realizing that the part assigned him 
would not only be regarded as heroic and whatever 
the result would make him famous, dashed away at 
a gallop, calling out confidently: "Hooker will go 
back. I'll answer for it!" But in less than half 
an hour, Smalley rejoined us, looking discouraged 
and dejected. It was evident, without a word of ex- 
planation, that he had failed in his mission, and 
when questioned, he replied: "Hooker says he can't 
go back — his foot is too painful." 

When it is remembered that the bullet which 
wounded him passed between his boot sole and the 
hollow of his foot, and that he walked on it without 
crutches within ten days, it will be seen that "Fight- 
ing Joe" had but little of the fortitude and none of 
the heroism which are so necessary to a great lead- 
er. From that day forth I regarded him as possess- 
ing but little real merit. 

With the fight taken out of our army, all our 
corps commanders disheartened, and absolutely 
nothing done by any of them after Burnside had 
failed to press the enemy's right near Sharpsburg, 
we were still greatly encouraged at nightfall by 
finding the army still in possession of the field of 
battle. When it is recalled that Porter's corps add- 
ed to the divisions of Eeynolds and Humphreys with 
twenty thousand fresh men would give us not less 
than thirty thousand troops who had not yet fired 
a shot, we felt confident that a vigorous attack next 
morning would give us success all along the line. 
We were told and, of course, believed, that orders 
had been issued for an advance of the entire army 
at daylight, and in that belief we slept that night 
literally on our arms. Up at dawn and straining 



our ears to hear the opening guns, we mounted and 
were ready for orders when word came that every 
corps commander except Meade had protested, 
claiming that his troops "were too much cut up" 
to renew the action that day. To his never-ending 
shame, McClellan yielded and gave out word that 
there would be no more fighting till the 19th. When 
that day came the enemy had gone, leaving us the 
slender consolation that the field was ours. The 
enemy had used the rest under cover of night to 
recross the Potomac with all his impedimenta. 

McClellan, instead of pursuing hot-foot, con- 
tented himself with claiming a great victory, reoc- 
cupying Harper's Ferry and then settling down 
to rest and repair damages. My diary for the pe- 
riod is full of notes and reflections, which show that 
the course adopted made me heartsick and despond- 
ent; but as this is neither a history nor a military 
treatise, I conclude with the statement that, as soon 
as I realized that the campaign was ended, I asked 
to be relieved from further duty with that army and 
ordered back to Washington. McClellan at once 
granted my request and taking leave of my mess- 
mates, in Pleasant Valley at nightfall, mounted on 
my big gray, I covered the entire distance of about 
seventy-five miles by sunrise the next morning. 



Halleck 's Headquarters — General McClernand — Pleasant 
Valley — Interview with McClellan — Washington — Or- 
dered to Grant. 

Arriving at Halleck's headquarters early Sep- 
tember 28, I received a chilly welcome, due, as 
I soon learned, to the fact that I had delayed my de- 
parture to the West longer than had been expected. 
Although both Cullum, chief-of-staff , and my bureau 
chief had given me permission to volunteer on Mc- 
Clelland staff for the campaign, the former now 
let fall the unexpected intimation that I might be 
"dismissed for absence without leave.' ' This was 
more than I could stand, and called forth the hot 
and indignant reply: 

"Tell General Halleck to dismiss me if he thinks 
proper, but in doing so let him reflect that he will 
dismiss me for the most useful service of my life 
so far." 

Of course the storm soon blew over. As I had 
been regularly summoned to return to Pleasant 
Valley as a witness before a court-martial, I 
had several days' delay, which I passed mostly with 
General Hunter and General McClernand, tempo- 



rarily in Washington. It was during conversation 
with the latter that he explained the business which 
brought him there. The West had begun already to 
call loudly for the capture of Vicksburg and the 
opening of the Mississippi so that it might (in the 
phrase of the day) "flow unvexed to the sea", and 
he had come on for the purpose of getting authority 
to organize and command an expedition for that 
purpose. As a townsman and neighbor of the Presi- 
dent and as an influential Democrat who had greatly 
distinguished himself both at Donelson and Shi- 
loh, he was listened to with favor. Grant at that 
time was more or less under a cloud, and this made 
it easier for McClernand, who was far from friendly 
to him. 1 Indeed, he was the first person I ever heard 
speak positively of Grant's bad habits as a factor 
in the case. He had formed a project for taking 
Vicksburg and operating eastward from that place, 
as a base, against the interior railroads and centers 
of the Confederacy. His proposition was to raise 
twelve thousand new troops in the Northwest, which 
with his old division he thought would be sufficient 
for the preliminary operations. Successful in cap- 
turing the rebel stronghold, he counted confidently 
on an augmented command, if not upon a depart- 
ment of his own. 

Having fully explained his project and received 
the President's approval, he not only asked for my 
views, but offered me an important place on his 
staff. He was a forcible and interesting man and 
seemed to have but little doubt of success. His 
central idea was sound and in that I agreed fully; 
but I pointed out that as Vicksburg was the point 

1 O. E.— Shiloh, Series 1, Vol. X, part I, p. 114. 


of the greatest strategic importance in the western 
theater of operations, the government could not af- 
ford to let its capture be made a side issue or a 
secondary operation — that it would be compelled to 
concentrate all its efforts in that direction, and that 
while the campaign should not start with less than 
fifty thousand or sixty thousand men and a strong 
gun-boat fleet, eighty thousand or ninety thousand 
with a large proportion of cavalry and artillery 
would be probably necessary for effective operations 
after Vicksburg had been secured. I pointed out 
that in this case Halleck would probably be against 
him and in favor of giving Grant, who was already 
commanding the department containing the base of 
operations, the chief command. This had evidently 
not occurred to him, but I gave him my views frank- 
ly on every aspect of the case as I then saw it be- 
cause he asked for them. He did not tell me his 
final conclusions further than that Stanton as well 
as the President would support him, and with that 
assurance he started West to organize the new 
troops and complete his arrangements. That he 
finally realized that Halleck was against him and 
would probably beat him there can be but little 
doubt. Before leaving he renewed his invitation 
that I should go with him, to which I replied that 
having already received my orders to report to 
Grant, I could not ask to have them changed, adding, 
however, that my duty was to go where I was or- 
dered, and that I should doubtless be on the ground 
when he got there. 

During our conversations he explained the Presi- 
dent's disappointment at McClellan's failure to 
destroy Lee's army at Antietam, and to follow him 



up promptly after his retreat. He then said the 
President had early made up his mind to relieve 
McClellan from command and was delaying merely 
to select the proper general as his successor. Know- 
ing that I was going back to the army as a witness, 
he specially requested me to give McClellan this in- 
formation. I was asked to lay before him the 
project of capturing Vicksburg and operating 
eastward, with the suggestion that he should 
seek for the united command of the Mississippi 
valley and with the assurance that the entire 
military strength of the Northwest should be at his 

I arrived again at Pleasant Valley early on Oc- 
tober 16, and after vainly requesting Colburn of 
the staff for an interview with the general, I met 
the latter shortly afterward by chance coming from 
breakfast to his tent. Making my salute and re- 
ceiving a polite good morning, I said at once: "I 
am just up from Washington and have a message 
for you. ' ' At this he invited me into his tent, where 
I continued without further preface: 

"General, my friend, General McClernand, has 
requested me to say that the views expressed in the 
conversation he had with you while here a few days 
ago are in every way confirmed; you are to be re- 
moved from command ; the authorities are only wait- 
ing for the man, and General Halleck is at the bot- 
tom of it. How General McClernand knows all this 
he said it was not necessary to state, but his closing 
words were: '7 know itV ' " 

To this McClellan replied without apparent emo- 

"Yes, I expected it." 



After taking a seat, I pointed out briefly on the 
map McClernand's plan of operations, adding: 

"In view of the importance of this undertaking 
and of the tenacity with which Vicksburg will doubt- 
less be defended, the vast benefit of its capture, the 
conflicting interests in the Mississippi Valley aris- 
ing from a multiplicity of commands, and of the ab- 
solute necessity that all the military operations in 
that theater should be conducted toward the achieve- 
ment of the one grand object, General McClernand 
thinks you should seek supreme command in the 
West, and that you should put your friends to work 
to secure it for you. ' ' I added : "I think they could 
succeed because I believe the administration will be 
willing to compromise with you by giving you this 
new command. ,, 

McClellan's eyes brightened, and instantly 
grasping the idea, he said: 

' ' This is a suggestion that never occurred to me. 
I will give it due consideration, but" — his face 
growing serious again — "they will never give me 
such a command if they remove me from my pres- 
ent one, and, indeed, I doubt if I would accept any 
other. The Army of the Potomac is my army as 
much as any army ever belonged to the man that 
created it. We have grown together and fought 
together. We are wedded and should not be 
separated.' ! 

To this I replied: 

' ' Yes, General, but your friends and the country 
regard you as * wedded ' to a higher cause than that 
of any army — the cause of the country and of the 
Union under the Constitution. They will expect 
you, not only to retain your commission, but to ac- 



cept any service offered appropriate to your rank. 
Moreover, we are all below the law and all owe the 
common debt of military service; they will expect 
you not only to seek command, but to take any that 
may be offered you. Pardon me, General, if I add 
— if they don't give you an army, you should take 
an army corps or even a division. If they will 
not give you a division, were I in your place, I 
should ask for a brigade. If they deny that, I 
should resign and go back to my state and raise a 
regiment. If I couldn't get a colonelcy, I should 
take any other position open to me, and failing a 
commission, I should take my musket and go out 
as a private soldier. If you act on that principle, 
you will not only succeed, but you will be the next 
President of the United States !" 

In reply to this presumptuous speech, which 
certainly arrested his attention without offending 
him, he thanked me for what I had said, declared 
that no one had talked that way to him before, and 
assured me that he would give it all careful consid- 
eration. We then fell into a general conversation, 
during which he told me of his opposition to the 
division of his army into army corps and the assign- 
ment of commanders before they had developed 
their merits. He explained his protest against the 
recall of his army from the Peninsula, recounted 
the important services it had just rendered, dwelt 
with bitterness upon the failure of the staff depart- 
ments to send him the supplies which were neces- 
sary to enable him to continue the offensive, and 
claimed that all this should have been done within 
a week after the battle of Antietam. He did not 
fail to indicate his disappointment at the lack of 



zeal on the part of Sumner, Fitz-John Porter, and 
others, nor to point out that their cases fitly illus- 
trated the importance of promotion to high com- 
mand for military merit, vigor, and efficiency, rather 
than for seniority. 

His whole attitude was undoubtedly one of re- 
sentment and animosity against the government and 
the politicians. Wrapped in the mantle of his own 
injuries, he had no word for the country's claims 
or for the duties of the hour. He thanked me for 
the frankness with which I had spoken, and, after 
asking me to go with him should he have another 
assignment, he closed the conversation by saying: 

"Tell my friends if they have anything to com- 
municate to me to do it by a personal messenger or 
by letter sent by private, reliable conveyance ; trust 
nothing to the mail — my letters are opened and 

This interview produced a lasting impression 
upon my mind. While the General's self-poise 
was remarkable and his general demeanor that of 
an able and observant man, I was disagreeably im- 
pressed by one peculiarity — that of smiling spas- 
modically and unmeaningly after each important or 
significant remark. Although at that time in the 
full vigor of middle life, firm and erect in bearing, 
handsome of eye and face, deep-chested and strong- 
limbed, well set up and well clad and apparently 
in perfect health — the beau ideal of a regular sol- 
dier — he did not impress me as properly loyal to 
his lawful superiors, nor as displaying that activity 
and energy of mind and body that the opportunities 
before him seemed to call for. He was polite and 
considerate and went so far toward showing his 



appreciation of my frankness as to ask me if he 
ever took another command to accept a place on his 
staff. Of course, I replied to him as I did to Mc- 
Clernand, though I had little expectation of ever be- 
ing called to the staff of either. 

Notwithstanding its interesting and unusual fea- 
tures, my visit to McClellan was far from reassur- 
ing in any respect. In addition to his depressed 
frame of mind, I found a bad state of feeling among 
the officers of his staff, three of whom were drinking 
heavily, while others were talking both loudly and 
disloyally. They not only disapproved McClellan 's 
removal, which was felt to be imminent, but openly 
denounced the President's Emancipation Proclama- 
tion. Not only did several earnestly advocate Mc- 
Clellan 's resistance to the order relieving him, but 
one man declared that the army should change front 
on Washington and that when it arrived there, Mc- 
Clellan should turn the government out and take 
charge of both civil and military affairs himself. 
While this was merely camp-fire talk, it indicated 
bad feeling on the part of officers who should have 
known better. It culminated, however, in a way 
hardly foreseen. One of the number in a loud 
and resonant voice declared that he wouldn't serve 
Lincoln's abolition government any longer, but in- 
tended to send in his resignation and go home at 
once. Another called out: "That's the talk!" Still 
another loudly gave his approval, whereupon the 
only Southerner present, Martin of Kentucky, got 
up and, drawing his wallet from his pocket, ex- 
claimed: "I am tired of such senseless talk," and 
slapping his wallet with his open hand added, "I'll 
bet fifty dollars, and here's the money, that not a 



d — d one of you ever resigns so long as Uncle 
Abraham's greenback mill keeps grinding. Now- 
put up or shut up!" And that was the end of the 
seditious talk that night. 

After giving my testimony before the court-mar- 
tial, I returned to Washington, feeling depressed if 
not discouraged. I had joined McClelland staff 
with the conviction that he was our foremost organ- 
izer, disciplinarian, and leader, and was command- 
ing our best-trained veterans, which must be our 
main dependence for putting down the rebellion. To 
that general and that army, it seemed, we must look 
for superior genius, strategy, discipline, fortitude, 
and final victory. I left it greatly disappointed. 
While I was far from despairing, I felt sure our 
triumph over the Confederacy would be delayed, 
and when it did come, as come it must, it would 
not be due to superior generalship and discipline, 
but rather to superior resources in men, money, and 
determination — in short, "to main strength and 
awkwardness I ' rather than to geuius and strategy. 
I realized then for the first time that Gibbon, the 
historian, was right when he declared that "the 
great battles won by the lessons of tactics may be 
enumerated by the epic poems composed from the 
inspirations of rhetoric." 

With combined feelings of disillusionment and 
hope, I reached Washington on October 17, and, 
after giving McClernand a full account of my inter- 
view with McClellan and learning that, although the 
formal orders for his Vicksburg project had not yet 
reached him, he was still confident of receiving them 
at an early day, I got my traps together and started 
north four days later. 



Having been informally authorized to visit New 
York for the purpose of getting a regiment of vol- 
unteers, before going west, with letters to Thurlow 
Weed, at that time the political boss of the Empire 
State, I called on him at the Astor House the next 
day. He received me kindly and even graciously, 
but when I told him that I was a regular army man 
from Illinois under orders to report to Grant in 
the west, but wanted service in the line with a New 
York volunteer regiment, he grew perceptibly re- 
served. He asked my age and rank, and inquired 
where I had served, and after intimating that he 
might secure the position of major or even lieu- 
tenant colonel for me, he added frankly that the 
colonelcies must be reserved for New Yorkers. From 
this it was evident that I could expect nothing 
from him. By this time it had become pretty well 
known that the War Department would not give a 
regular leave of absence for anything less than the 
command of a regiment, which accounts for the high 
rank I was seeking, as well as for the fact that I 
had not already accepted the rank of lieutenant 
colonel in the First Delaware Cavalry. I was, how- 
ever, patient and waited around several days in 
hopes that I might find an opening, but in vain. The 
great man was dignified, considerate, and patroniz- 
ing. He said nothing to discourage either my am- 
bition or my desire for service, but, on the other 
hand, each interview bore it in upon me that he was 
considering the political rather than the military 
aspects of the case. As I was interested in 
the military rather than the political needs of the 
government, and as my education and my experi- 
ence so far had convinced me that I was better 



prepared than any civilian for the command of a 
regiment, I was not long in reaching the conclusion 
that I should hasten to my new field of duty. I 
therefore took leave of the distinguished politician, 
with deep disappointment and with the feeling that 
he was an entirely new type and had given me a 
new point of view from which to regard the war and 
the organization of the army. Eeflecting that armies 
must be raised as well as instructed and commanded, 
I made my way as rapidly as possible to the south- 
west, resolved to earn my promotion in the field 
rather than try to get it through the politicians 
and their influence. 



West Tennessee — Major Wilson — Northern Mississippi — 

Major Rawlins — General Grant — General McPherson 

— First service with Cavalry — True line of Operations 

— Campaign of Vicksburg — Yazoo Pass — Running the 


Although I hastened west my troubles were not 
yet ended. With delays and stop-overs caused by 
overworked railroads and broken connections de- 
laying my groom and horses, as well as myself, I 
did not reach Jackson, Tennessee, till November 
7. Almost the first man I met there was my 
brother Henry, who had left West Point early the 
year before to help raise the Eighteenth Illinois 
Infantry of which he became the adjutant. He had 
already been promoted to captain and was then 
serving temporarily on General Sullivan's staff in 
the campaign against Forrest, who had just come 
on the stage and was smashing things in west Ten- 
nessee. My brother had taken a gallant part in the 
capture of Forts Henry and Donelson and in the 
battle of Shiloh. He had been twice wounded and 
had but lately returned to duty. He had early be- 
come known to the leading generals as an active and 
fearless officer and an excellent drill-master with re- 



markable presence of mind. He had led his com- 
pany in the successful charge against the enemy 's 
works at Donelson, had been shot through the body, 
as he thought, and paralyzed, had been pulled to 
cover under the hillside he had just surmounted, by 
a comrade who covered him with a blanket and left 
him for dead, had revived, cut a crutch, rejoined 
his company, and fought with it till night when the 
bullet was cut out of his back. Fortunately it had 
"gone around, not through' 3 him. At Shiloh he 
distinguished himself by leading his men to the cap- 
ture of a battery and by turning it against the 
enemy. Having been drilled for a year at West 
Point, he was as much at home in the artillery as he 
was with the infantry. 1 While working the captured 
guns, one of his gunners thoughtlessly dropped an 
armful of shrapnel near the muzzle of a piece, the 
flash from which set the wrappings on fire. Fear- 
ing an explosion, my brother, without tremor or a 
moment's hesitation, seized the shell and hurled it 
to the front where its explosion did no harm. It 
was in allusion to this and other gallant feats that 
General Oglesby, afterward senator and governor 
of Illinois, said with an emphatic oath: "Captain 
Wilson was the bravest man I ever knew!" 

As all these events had taken place since I last 
met him two years before at West Point, I was glad 
to see him and to learn through him something of 
the rank and file of the army I was about to join. 
He afterward took a gallant part in the campaign 
and capture of Vicksburg and in all the operations 
of the Thirteenth Army Corps till the end of the 
war, serving in turn on the staff of Lawler, Logan, 

1 O. E. Series 1, Vol. X, part I, pp. 121, 127, 129. 


Washburn, and Steele, but when he was promoted 
to major, he returned to his regiment and command- 
ed it till it was "fought to a frazzle' ' and finally 
mustered out at the end of the war. He was duly 
commissioned both lieutenant colonel and colonel, 
but owing to the reduction of the regiment's 
strength and to the failure of the state to fill it with 
recruits, he was never mustered into the service on 
either of his higher commissions. During the Vicks- 
burg campaign I met him frequently and always 
learned more from him as to the opinions, conduct, 
and point of view of the enlisted men and junior of- 
ficers than from anyone else. For his high courage 
and cheerful disposition he was a prime favorite 
with all. He survived the war in broken health, and 
was finally drowned in the Ohio Eiver. 

The day after reaching Jackson I went to La- 
grange, a small town near Grand Junction, close to 
the Mississippi line, where I found Grant's head- 
quarters, reported for duty, and was promptly an- 
nounced as chief topographical engineer of the 
Army of the Tennessee. A day or two later Grant 
sent me as chief engineer to McPherson whom I had 
left in Boston the year before. This was for tem- 
porary duty only. I have always thought the order 
was suggested as much by the desire to gratify 
McPherson and myself as by the actual necessities 
of the case. This is shown by the following extract 
from a note written by McPherson to Eawlins : 

. . . You are a trump. I would rather have Wil- 
son for my engineer than any officer I know. We are 
old friends — came home from California together last 
fall . . * 

1 0. R. Series 1, Vol. 17, Part 2, McPherson to Rawlins, Oct. 
27, 1862. 


My first meeting with Eawlins, Grant's adjutant 
general, occurred immediately after my arrival at 
Lagrange, and was one of the notable events of my 
life. On entering his office, I found him alone, busy 
at his desk. After announcing myself and my de- 
sire to report for duty, Rawlins swung round from 
his desk and said: 

1 ' General Grant is absent at Memphis, but will J 
be back shortly ; I 'm Major Rawlins, his adjutant ; I 
am glad to see you, lieutenant; d — d glad to see 
you. We've been looking for you for several days. 
We need you here. I know all about you. I am 
from Illinois, as you are. Your grandfather was 
my friend and I want to be friends with you. In- 
deed, I want to form an alliance, offensive and de- 
fensive, with you. ■ ' 1 

This warm and hearty welcome did not surprise 
me, for I had already heard Rawlins spoken of as 
a man of good sense, simple manners, and great in- 
dependence. His frank and hearty greeting won 
me at once, and while he was talking with such un- 
usual freedom, I was doing my best to gauge him and 
his character. He interested me from the first by 
his steady gaze, his strong voice, and his direct and 
emphatic speech. He treated me from that meet- 
ing with as much frankness and confidence as if 
he had known me always. He was then about thirty- 
two years old, iive feet seven inches tall, broad- 
shouldered, stout-limbed, and of strong and vigorous 
health. With jet black hair and brown steady eyes, 
swarthy complexion, fine teeth, a firm mouth, and 
a clear, resonant voice, he impressed me as a very 
earnest, able man, so entirely concentrated in his 

1 Wilson's "Life of John A. Rawlins," etc., p. 95. 



duties that he gave no thought to conventionalities 
and but little to the words that fell from his lips. 
Having, as I afterward learned, been a charcoal 
burner till he was twenty-three, he earned the money 
for two terms at the Eock Eiver Seminary. After 
that he studied and practiced law, became city, at- 
torney, and a candidate for the electoral college on 
the Douglas ticket. He had had no time for any- 
thing else and least of all for gathering technical 
military knowledge or preparing himself for the 
military calling. He had won Grant's good opin- 
ion as a citizen and patriot by his impassioned Union 
speech at a Galena mass-meeting shortly after the 
Confederates had fired on Sumter. He had then 
declared himself as irrevocably opposed to secession 
and the dissolution of the Union, and in favor of the 
"Arbitrament of Arms!" * It was doubtless because 
of his bold, virile, and patriotic character that Grant 
invited him before all others to become a member of 
his staff. It was owing to these qualities and to 
others not yet developed that he accepted Grant's 
offer and thereafter till his death shared his for- 
tunes and participated in his promotions. Even at 
the date of my first acquaintance with him, Eaw- 
lins understood Grant's strength and weakness bet- 
ter than anyone else, and, to use Grant's own phrase 
a year later, had "come to be more nearly indis- 
pensable to him than anyone else." 

While Grant was absent at Memphis there was 
but little going on at headquarters and Eawlins evi- 
dently thought it a good opportunity to get ac- 
quainted and to tell me about Grant and his army, its 
campaigns, its leading generals, and the many col- 

1 Wilson's "Life of Rawlins." 


onels of note serving with it, about the staff officers 
at headquarters, and finally about even the com- 
manding general himself upon whom so much de- 
pended, and about whom the tongue of detraction 
had already had much to say. All of this and more 
he developed with amazing skill and comprehensive- 
ness. He had evidently satisfied himself before my 
arrival from McPherson and others as to my char- 
acter and trustworthiness as well as to my sense of 
discipline and my earnestness in the cause which 
that army was upholding. Our conversation 
took a wide range and, long before it was 
finished, encouraged him, much to my gratifica- 
tion, to declare that he wanted "to form an alliance 
offensive and defensive" with me. He frankly con- 
fessed that he had no technical knowledge of war, 
military science, or military administration, and as 
there were no other West Point men on the field 
staff and but few in that army, he would necessarily 
and frequently have to lean not only upon my book 
knowledge, but possibly upon my observation and 
experience. It was in every way a reassuring re- 
ception, and when it is considered that although I 
had had a five years ' course at West Point and one 
year's active campaigning, including the capture 
of Port Eoyal, the siege and reduction of Fort Pu- 
laski, the battle of Secessionville in front of Charles- 
ton, and the campaign and battle of Antietam, and 
yet was only a first lieutenant of Engineers, it will 
be seen that I had good reason to feel flattered by 
his reception. When I recall the fact that Grant 
on his return, although inclined to greater reticence, 
received me with the same cordial and hearty wel- 
come, it can readily be understood that I soon felt 



I had done well in casting my lot in with him and 
the army under his command. 

During the following weeks our conversations 
continued, and eventually we touched on every sub- 
ject connected with that army. Rawlins impressed 
me from the first as a strong, clear-headed, fearless 
and patriotic officer, thoroughly devoted to his chief 
and to the Union cause. So far as I knew, he con- 
cealed nothing from me, but opened his mind fully 
on all subjects of interest. He even gave me an es- 
timate of the staff I was entering. Theodore S. 
Bowers, his assistant, had been a printer in my na- 
tive town, and although a small and modest man 
received his unqualified commendation for clerical 
efficiency, sobriety, and courage ; but several aids-de- 
camp with higher rank were not so fortunate. How 
they had got on Grant's staff he never explained; 
but he made it clear that they were rounders with 
but little character and less military knowledge or 
useful experience. He intimated not only that their 
services were useless, but that their example and 
influence were thoroughly bad, and that he wanted 
my help to get rid of them. 

But by far the most interesting information 
Eawlins gave me related to Grant himself and to 
the perils by which he had been surrounded ever 
since the capture of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson. 
He carefully pointed out his modesty, his good 
sense, his endurance, and, above all, his sound judg- 
ment and unshakable self-reliance and courage. He 
dwelt upon his thorough knowledge of military ad- 
ministration and the customs of service, his famil- 
iarity with tactics and organization, and especially 
with his perfect knowledge of the supply, subsis- 



tence, and transportation departments. In reference 
to these things there was no uncertain sound. He 
evidently considered Grant in all ways easily ahead 
of the best of his subordinates, and yet it was not 
difficult to perceive that his mind was ill at ease. 
Indeed, he did not hesitate to refer to the newspaper 
charges against Grant's habits as a matter of grave 
concern, and while he declared that they were 
not as bad as either the newspapers or one of 
his ambitious generals had made them out, he frank- 
ly confessed that there was enough in them not only 
to make his true friends wish there were less, but 
to do all in their power to "stay him from falling". 
While pointing out the real dangers and concealing 
nothing, he evidently wanted me to understand them 
fully in order that I might do my part to nullify 
them. He dwelt upon the fact that Grant had in 
no case neglected his duty, nor failed to drive his 
advantage home, but on the contrary had in every 
instance done all that any man could do to ensure 
success and to prevent disaster. He declared that 
Grant was "a good man, who knew his business 
better than any of his ambitious subordinates and 
that we could win with him if the government would 
but trust him and let him alone.' ' On another oc- 
casion he said: "I am told you don't drink, but 
you should know there are lots of men in this army, 
some on Grant's staff, who not only drink them- 
selves but like to see others drink, and whenever 
they get a chance they tempt their chief, and I 
want you to help me clean them out. ' ' And it was 
this frank and unhesitating confidence which Raw- 
lins reposed in me that sealed our friendship and 
united us in a common cause as long as he lived. 



Having thus given me completely his confidence 
I naturally drew Rawlins out further, as opportu- 
nity offered, in regard to the operations from Bel- 
mont to Corinth. His opinions were favorable 
to Grant as well as to his generals and his troops. 
He praised them all with discrimination, except 
McClernand and Lew Wallace. He even praised 
McClernand for zeal and courage, but denounced 
his ambition, his jealousy, and his disposition to 
intrigue with the politicians in Washington. But 
he made no excuse for Lew Wallace, whom he 
charged with having been a laggard in the Shiloh 
campaign, and emphasized the charge by an account 
of the orders he had personally given him to march 
to the battlefield. He praised both Sherman and 
McPherson as brilliant and loyal subordinates, and 
fully exposed the personal peculiarities of the offi- 
cers about headquarters. He commended Bowers 
and Rowley as brave, patriotic, and honorable men 
with whom it was a pleasure to serve. He regarded 
Hilyer as an able man who had been a friend of 
Grant in the days of his poverty, but doubted his 
disinterestedness as well as his honesty. He de- 
nounced Lagow and Riggin as triflers out of their 
depth, whose services were worth nothing and whose 
influence was wholly bad. 

I met Grant first shortly after his return from 
Memphis, and, although somewhat disappointed at 
his simple and unmilitary bearing, his friendly wel- 
come won my heart at once. He was at first some- 
what reserved, but as we fell into conversation about 
the Antietam campaign and the progress of the war, 
east and west, he warmed up and became both fluent 
and interesting. While he showed but little of that 



smartness of carriage and dress and none of that 
hauteur or affectation of rank and superior knowl- 
edge which were so noticeable in McClellan as well 
as in many other regular army men, he seemed self- 
contained, simple-minded, and direct in all his 
thoughts and ways. Putting on no airs whatever 
and using nothing but the mildest and cleanest lan- 
guage, he treated me from the start with cordial- 
ity and without the slightest assumption of personal 
or official superiority. As I afterward learned, this 
was always his way, and while he invited no confi- 
dences, he repelled none, and thus got all that were 
worth having. Showing no sign whatever of hard 
living or bad habits, he produced a pleasant but by 
no means striking impression at first. With what I 
heard from others, I naturally suspended judgment, 
and as my first orders were to join McPherson with 
the right wing of the army for the movement about 
to begin, instead of to settle down at headquarters 
and organize my branch of the staff service, I nat- 
urally got the impression that Grant was neither a 
great organizer nor much of a theorist in military 
matters. This opinion grew gradually into a settled 
conviction, and in spite of his great achievements, 
which were won mainly by attention to broad gen- 
eral principles rather than to technical details, I 
have never had occasion to materially change these 
earlier impressions. 

By Grant's permission I remained at first at 
headquarters and in only a few days I got together 
a force of civil and military assistants and photog- 
raphers with the customary outfit for gathering 
information, surveying, sketching, and mapping the 
country. As this required close attention, I saw 



but little of Grant, not because he was inaccessible 
or offish, but because he appeared to take little 
interest in this work. Eawlins, whom I saw 
often and with whom my intimacy grew apace, 
seemed to be the head-center of all that was 
going on. The aids-de-camp and personal staff, 
whom I came gradually to know, turned out to 
be altogether as Eawlins had prepared me to 
find them. 

Fortunately, Grant always had able and experi- 
enced supply officers, the most notable of whom were 
Macfeeley, chief commissary, and Bingham, chief 
quartermaster, both graduates of West Point and 
both required to know but little beyond the numbers 
of the troops and the necessary preparations for 
their subsistence, equipment, and transportation. 
While neither of those officers actually joined head- 
quarters till the Vicksburg campaign was well under 
way, they were exceedingly level-headed men, and, 
although but little in evidence, they always per- 
formed their complicated and widely extended duties- 
so efficiently and so silently wherever they were that 
no one ever thought of going hungry or unclad, or 
even of asking who the chief commissary or the 
chief quartermaster was. Grant himself had had 
much experience in those departments in the Mex- 
ican War and on the frontier, and gave the chiefs 
both absolute liberty and absolute confidence. Bing- 
ham was too dignified and too serious a person to 
be treated lightly, but the chief commissary, while 
never neglecting his business, was a jolly good fel- 
low with whom Grant never lost a chance to crack 
a joke. His favorite one was to call him Kobert 
"X." Macfeeley because, as he laughingly said, 



that was the way Macfeeley's father always signed 
his name. 

As the preliminary movement toward central 
Mississippi was about to begin, I joined McPherson 
on November 16, and the next day received a per- 
sonal note from Grant, directing me to go with an 
advanced cavalry reconnoissance through Eipley 
and Oxford in the direction of Grenada. During 
the trip which lasted three days I took part in my 
first cavalry skirmish and charge. Being better 
mounted than anyone else, I outstripped my com- 
panions and, coming up with the flying enemy, emp- 
tied my revolvers and captured one prisoner, whom 
I brought in. 

On our way back with all the horses and mules 
we could gather in the country, I was not surprised 
to see that our Kansas " Jay-hawkers ' ' had but 
little respect for the people of the country and none 
for their property. Just outside of Ripley I saw 
a trooper carrying a Yankee clock and, of course, 
asked him where he got it and what he was going 
to do with it. He replied at once: "I got it in 
town and I am going to take it to camp and get a 
pair of the little wheels out of it for spur rowels.' ' 
It was a new idea to me, but I noticed afterward 
that many cavalrymen had adopted the picturesque 
fashion; and it was more or less in vogue till the 
end of the war. 

Although ordered sooner, McPherson did not ac- 
tually begin his forward movement till November 
28. The winter rains had already set in and the 
roads of unwrought dirt without macadam or 
metal of any kind were already getting soft. 
The trains soon cut them up so badly that 



our daily progress was never more than ten 
miles and frequently less, instead of twice 
as much. We passed slowly through Holly Springs, 
Waterf ord, and Oxford ; the columns encumbered by 
heavy trains gave plenty of time for straggling and 
plundering, both of which were new and discour- 
aging to me but which, so far as I could see, seemed 
to have already become the habit with western 
troops. Not much effort was made to stop either, 
and consequently I was frequently called upon by 
women and children for protection, which, as far as 
I could, I freely gave. While the custom of living 
off the country or "making war support war" was 
not yet the rule, it was fast becoming the practice to 
take everything in the way of supplies both for man 
and beast. Northern Mississippi was at that time 
thinly populated and extensively covered with dense 
forests. The farms and villages were small and 
the masses of the people poor. Of course, slavery 
prevailed, but only the richer planters of the Talla- 
hatchie and Yazoo bottoms had slaves in any num- 
ber, and yet both rich and poor, as far as I could 
see, were secessionists who hated Yankees with all 
their might. A Union man was hard to find, while 
it was impossible to find a Union woman. But it 
was in the Mississippi uplands, with their twenty 
bushels of corn and two hundred pounds of cotton 
s to the acre, that I first heard the phrase: "This is 
the rich man's war, but the poor man's fight." 

About this time my name appeared in the Chi- 
cago Tribune as assistant inspector general of the 
Tenth Army Corps, with the rank of lieutenant 
colonel. As I had already served with Hunter and 
received many marks of his favor, I was not sur- 



prised at the announcement. It was great promo- 
tion for me, but, of course, I could take no action in 
regard to it till I received official notice from the 
War Department. 

Meanwhile I told Grant about it, adding that I 
could not afford to decline, and as operations were 
so well under way, I should leave with great reluc- 
tance. He replied with sympathy and good feeling, 
but agreed with me that I could take no action for 
the present. Fortunately, however, while Grant's 
army was working its way painfully toward Oxford, 
in the absence of formal orders, it was both my duty 
and pleasure to continue with it, helping wherever 
opportunity offered, which was generally with the 
cavalry in the advance. As that arm was green 
and badly organized, I volunteered to act as adju- 
tant to Colonel Dickey, a lawyer and afterward a 
judge of the Illinois supreme court, who was the 
senior officer present. He had his own regiment, 
in which I had some time before been offered the 
position of lieutenant colonel, one from Iowa under 
Hatch, who later commanded a division under me, 
one from Michigan under Colonel Mizner, a regular, 
and one from Kansas under Colonel A. L. Lee, an 
original ' 1 Jay-hawker ' \ They were excellent ma- 
terial, but all untrained and badly deficient in dis- 
cipline. In the advance they did well, but in the re- 
treat they were entirely unmanageable. The jay-- 
hawkers were apparently more bent on plunder 
than fighting. The entire organization was lacking 
in coherence, cooperation, and steadiness. When 
Van Dorn and William H. Jackson, a few days la- 
ter, passed around Grant's army, capturing his 
"rear headquarters ' ! and his main depot of sup- 



plies at Holly Springs, with many of the infantry 
garrison which should have defended them, Dickey's 
raw and undisciplined cavalry, instead of following 
and harassing the enemy, turned tail and rejoined 
the infantry columns as soon as possible. 

While the capture of his depots was commonly 
regarded as fatal to Grant's campaign and as hav- 
ing compelled its abandonment, it really had but 
little effect in that direction. It had already become 
apparent that a campaign in midwinter over muddy 
roads and through poor country was not feasible 
for the force then in the field. With a single line of 
railway several hundred miles long through a hos- 
tile region, nothing but dirt roads to march on, no 
bridge-train and many swollen streams to cross, and 
with the farms already denuded of their supplies 
for men and animals, the least experienced officers 
soon perceived that our advance into central Missis- 
sippi must necessarily be so slow that the enemy 
would have ample time to concentrate a larger force 
against us. 

I not only pointed out all this to Grant, Mc- 
Pherson, and Eawlins, but I also undertook to show 
them that the Mississippi Kiver itself was the true, 
central, and only feasible line of operations and sup- 
ply for an army large enough for the task of taking 
Vicksburg. I availed myself of the capture of Holly 
Springs and the rupture of our railroad to the rear 
to insist upon the point that the great river could 
neither be broken nor obstructed north of Vicks- 

But this was not all. I naturally sought the 
earliest opportunity to tell Grant what I had heard 
in Washington of the government's real plans to 



capture Vicksburg and open the Mississippi. As a 
staff officer it was my duty to make known these 
plans as well as to point out that Vicksburg was the 
chief strategic center not only in his department, but 
in all that theater of operations, and that it was his 
right and duty as department commander to com- 
mand all the troops engaged in its capture, and es- 
pecially to take charge in person of the principal 
column for that purpose. 

I dwelt on McClernand's intimacy with Lincoln, 
his fellow townsman, as well as on the favor that 
he was supposed to enjoy with his fellow Democrat, 
Stanton; I called attention to the fact that he had 
not only been sent west to raise new troops, but 
had been specially authorized to organize and com- 
mand an expedition for the specific purpose of cap- 
turing Vicksburg and opening the Mississippi. In- 
asmuch as these facts were generally known to 
the public and the plans for carrying them out 
were fast taking definite shape, I urged Grant to 
give up the campaign by land and go in person with 
the main body of his troops down the river. I em- 
phasized the fact that this was the only way in which 
he could save himself from being supplanted by a 
subordinate and confined to secondary operations in 
his own department, and fortunately as it turned out 
his own inclinations were in accord with my sugges- 
tions. But before taking definite action he com- 
municated with Halleck for permission to go with 
the troops of his own department. It does not ap- 
pear that Halleck ever discussed the question of 
rank or priority as between Grant and McClernand 
with the Secretary of War or the President, and the 
probability is that he did not, but decided it on his 



own responsibility. He thoroughly knew McCler- 
nand as well as other leading generals, and in this 
instance at least was Grant's real friend. Indeed, 
the case seemed to call for no specific orders, for 
so long as Grant remained in command of the de- 
partment to which he had been assigned by the 
President, he was both by precedent and the customs 
of service at full liberty to direct all operations 
within its limits and to accompany such movements 
as he might think of sufficient importance to require 
his personal supervision and presence. 

But shortly afterward the situation was still fur- 
ther clarified by a Presidential order dividing the 
forces of the department into four army corps, the 
Thirteenth under McClernand, the Fifteenth under 
Sherman, the Sixteenth under Hurlbut, and the Sev- 
enteenth under McPherson, the whole constituting 
the Army of the Tennessee under Grant. This gave 
him a full army staff, and as soon as the facts be- 
came officially known he announced Rawlins as 
adjutant general with the rank of lieutenant colonel. 
Establishing headquarters at Memphis, but without 
delaying to perfect his organization, he proceeded 
on January 16, 1863, by steamer to visit that part 
of his army already down the river. He took Raw- 
lins and me with him, and it was during this trip, 
which lasted four days, that I got thoroughly ac- 
quainted with him. He treated both of us as equals 
rather than as subordinates. He acted throughout 
with a simplicity, modesty, and good fellowship that 
won my hearty admiration, friendship, and confi- 
dence. He made no pretensions to superior knowl- 
edge or intelligence, but discussed every question 
with us as though we were as old as himself and 



without the slightest reserve or assumption of su- 
perior knowledge. Indeed, his only thought seemed 
to be to concentrate his army and with such help as 
we could give him to find a practicable line of oper- 
ations on which to lead it to victory. 

It was early in this trip that he turned to my 
case and disposed of it as far as rested with him 
in a most satisfactory way. After alluding to the 
orders which were to take me away from him, he 
said with a kindly smile : 

"Wilson, I see old David Hunter and go him 
one better. He has made you lieutenant colonel and 
inspector general of the Tenth Corps, but I shall 
nominate you inspector general of the Army of the 
Tennessee. That beats him and you will remain 
with us ! ' ' 

It was a gratifying coincidence, but neither Grant 
nor I had any other than newspaper knowledge of 
the fact at the time that Hunter had formally named 
me as early as January 20, 1863, for lieutenant 
colonel and assistant inspector general, 1 and whether 
this was deserved or not, I regarded it as a piece of 
rare good fortune that my first year's service had 
won me the confidence of two such men as Hunter 
and Grant with promotion at their hands from lieu- 
tenant to lieutenant colonel, thus giving me the 
choice of service with either of them. 

As soon as we got back to Memphis, where I 
found my formal order to report to Hunter, Grant 
telegraphed and the next day, January 23, wrote 
to Halleck in complimentary terms asking again for 
authority to retain me. From that letter he got per- 
mission to keep me " temporarily' ' if I was actually 

1 0. E. Series 1, Vol. XIV, p. 392. 



engaged in " siege operations", but it was not till 
April 19, at Grant's renewed request, that Thom- 
as, the adjutant general of the army, then with us, 
issued an order subject to the approval of the Secre- 
tary of War, formally transferring me from the 
Tenth Army Corps to the department of the Ten- 
nessee, "to fill an original vacancy" in the Inspec- 
tor General 's Department. 

That action settled it, and not only gave me all 
the rank and pay I should have had elsewhere, but 
all the work and opportunity a soldier's heart could 
desire, and it was the very next day that Rawlins 
assured me the General had already come to rely 
upon my military judgment more fully than upon 
that of anyone else. 1 Thenceforth I am sure I en- 
joyed his full confidence in every professional mat- 
ter from military engineering to the daily operations 
and condition of the troops in the field, and in con- 
firmation of his good opinion it is my pleasant duty 
to add that I had even more encouragement and 
commendation than I considered myself entitled to. 
My relations with both Eawlins and our common 
chief grew more and more intimate, and as long 
as we served together we were as three men with 
but a single purpose. 

Among other questions discussed on our first 
trip down the river was that of consolidating the 
four departments in the Mississippi valley into a 
single military division, so as to unite and utilize 

1 O. E. Series 1, Vol. XXIV, Part III, p. 132, Grant to Admiral 
Porter, March 23, 1863. 

. . . "Col. Wilson, in whose judgment I place great reliance, 
writes that land forces cannot act till the batteries are silenced. 
He thinks, too, that there has been unnecessary delay in reaching 
that point" [Fort Pemberton]. 



all its resources in the great undertaking before us. 
I had brought the subject forward, and even went 
so far as to point out that the Government, if it 
adopted the measure, might send McClellan or some 
other man of higher rank to exercise supreme com- 
mand, but this did not appear to affect Grant's 
views. He was so deeply impressed with the wis- 
dom and importance of the suggestion that he di- 
rected me to draft a letter to Halleck not only 
covering the recommendation, but calling special 
attention to the fact that it was made with no de- 
sire on his part to receive the chief command. This 
was done and the paragraph with no essential change 
was incorporated with others and sent to its des- 
tination shortly after our return to Memphis. It 
has since passed into the official records, 1 but it is 
worthy of note that it was not carried into effect 
till after the capture of Vicksburg when the defeat 
of Chickamauga made the measure an absolute ne- 
cessity. 2 By that time Grant's fame had become 
world-wide, and there was no one left in the west 
to dispute the honor with him. McClernand had 
eliminated himself. Eosecrans had not only suf- 
fered an overwhelming defeat, but had been swept 
from the field with the right wing of his army. Sher- 
man had opposed the final movement which led to 
the capture of Vicksburg. McPherson had played 
his subordinate part well but with no special dis- 
tinction. Having graduated at the head of his class 
he had been credited by the West Point professors 
with having made Grant's plans and furnished him 

*0. R. Serial No. 36, p. 8, Grant to Halleck, Memphis, January 
20, 1863. 

2 "Diary of Gideon Welles. 1 ' 



with brains to carry them out, but it was well known 
in the army that this claim was without foundation 
in fact. 

Thomas, although in another department, was 
the only man, except Grant himself, connected with 
the western armies who had made no failures, but 
when Buell was relieved from command of the Army 
of the Cumberland, Thomas had protested so strong- 
ly against the injustice of it that he was passed over 
while another was assigned to the place. This ac- 
tion on the part of Thomas had been looked upon 
by the authorities in Washington as due rather to 
a lack of self-confidence than to modesty, and al- 
though the lofty Virginian had always borne him- 
self well and finally won the proud title of "The 
Rock of Chickamauga, ' ' it was left to Grant sev- 
eral months later to relieve the unfortunate Rose- 
crans and put the successful Thomas in the place 
he should have had before. And yet it is an open 
secret that Grant and Thomas never became close 

But to return to the Vicksburg campaign. The 
preliminary movement in northern Mississippi hav- 
ing been abandoned and the first advance against 
the principal stronghold itself having failed, it' 
became apparent that Grant was confronted 
by a problem of the first magnitude, and 
that it would require all the troops of his 
department and all that could be drawn from 
other departments to enable him to solve it. 
Accordingly, while concentrating his army at the 
front, he bent his efforts to the task of getting a 
footing for it on the high land east of the Yazoo 
bottoms. This complicated task will be better un- 



derstood when it is remembered that the head of 
the Mississippi delta is really at Cairo, and that it 
gradually widens from there to the Gulf. The river 
itself occasionally reaches the bluffs as at Memphis, 
Helena, and Vicksburg, and, as the banks are every- 
where subject to overflow, the H bottoms' ' are cut 
up by bayous, creeks, and lateral rivers, which make 
it entirely impassable during freshets and most dif- 
ficult even in the dry season. There are no graded 
roads and but few bridges, and as the Cold Water 
and the Tallahatchie, uniting in the Yazoo, were 
navigable and the Yazoo itself still wider and deep- 
er, military operations across or along them were 
so difficult and so slow, and the obstacles to be over- 
come so formidable, that a handful of rebels were 
able to foil, if not defeat, many times their own num- 
bers. The most strenuous effort was made to send 
an army through the Yazoo Pass, Moon Lake, the 
Cold Water, and the Tallahatchie into the Yazoo 
River, and by incredible efforts a force of over 
twenty thousand men were within reach of Fort 
Pemberton at the head of the Yazoo when they were 
stopped by an overflow which isolated the fortifica- 

This expedition under my personal supervision 
was covered by a detachment of light iron-clads 
and gunboats, and made its way by the winding riv- 
ers over one hundred and fifty miles through the 
overhanging forest. The Yazoo Pass to the Cold 
Water was about twenty miles long, but beyond 
Moon Lake it was so narrow that the enemy cut it 
full of forest trees from the banks. Many reached 
entirely across the stream and many others were 
felled diagonally across the others, so that for miles 



there was an entanglement so thick the troops could 
cross upon it from bank to bank. I thought at first 
that the trees could be trimmed up and hauled out 
by block, tackle, and capstan, but I soon found that 
this method was too slow and that as fast as we 
cleared out the obstructions above, the enemy made 
new ones below. 

The next plan tried was that of hitching steam- 
boat hawsers, five or six hundred feet long, to the 
ends of the logs, doubling them back, and then 
stringing out four or five hundred men with orders 
to lay hold and march. This plan proved entirely 
efficacious. Trees weighing thirty or forty tons, 
covered with spreading limbs, were drawn out as 
fast as the men could march. The working parties 
were multiplied till all our cables were in "use, and 
none who has not seen it can understand with what 
speed the trees were drawn out and the pass opened 
for navigation. The combined strength of a full reg- 
iment was irresistible, and as many officers and men 
were woodsmen, they soon became most expert in the 
work. Seeing such an exhibition of strength it is 
easy enough to understand how the Egyptians 
moved the great stones, columns, and slabs from 
the quarries to their temples and pyramids. But 
while the troops made good progress in the daytime, 
it was impossible to get the gunboats to move at all 
at night, even after they reached the open river be- 
yond the obstructions. The consequence was that 
the enemy had time to construct and arm fortifica- 
tions at the head of the Yazoo, and thereby make 
our entry into that river impossible. One of our 
iron-clads, after getting within range, was disabled 
by the shot of a heavy gun from the fort, and this 



so alarmed the naval commander that he refused to 
push others to closer quarters for fear that they 
might also be injured, become unmanageable, and 
prove a total loss. The expedition was therefore 
abandoned, but it was afterward found that the 
enemy was out of ammunition and would have given 
up his works had our ships continued their attack 
even at longer range. This is one of the best illus- 
trations that came under my observation during the 
war, that it is always better to continue an attack 
when you can than to give it up without some over- 
whelming necessity. 

One of the leading transports in the operations 
on Yazoo Pass was the river steamer Bill Hender- 
son, commanded by Captain Lamont, an alert, 
active, and resourceful man, full of patriotism and 
courage. His first pilot was one Mark Munday, a 
cool, nervy, sensible fellow, always ready to go and 
never afraid to express his opinions. But one day 
in the midst of our heaviest work, when every man 
was doing his best, Munday said: " Pardon me, 
Colonel, but do you think you will ever get the rebels 
on this liner' 

I replied: "Munday, I can't tell, but you can 
rest assured we'll do our best, and if we don't get 
them, we'll keep a lot of them mighty busy till we 
find out." 

Thereupon, without a thought of impoliteness, 
he said: 

"Colonel, that reminds me of an incident which 
occurred in my country when I was a boy. One of 
our neighbors had a half-witted son. While walking 
in the woods one day this boy saw a little gray sap- 
sucker hopping up the side of a tree, and, thinking 



he would like to have it, he pulled off his coat and 
started to climb the tree after it. As he neared the 
bird it hopped up higher. Finally, the boy and the 
bird got pretty well toward the top, when a neighbor 
coming by called out : ' John, what are you doing up 
there V 'Oh,' said John, 'I'm trying to catch this 
darned thing. ' 

\\ 'Why, you'll never do that as long as you live.' 

" 'Well,' said the boy, 'if I don't catch it, you 
can bet your life I '11 worry it like hell. ' ' ' 

And that was the way of it, not only on that 
route but on all the others on both sides of the riv- 
er, till it became certain that no land route could 
be used successfully, and that there was nothing left 
for us but to run by Vicksburg with the gunboats 
and transports and march the troops by the west 
side to some suitable point below from which we 
could ferry them to the east side of the river. 

In front of Vicksburg the river makes a great 
loop to the Vicksburg bluff, and from the year previ- 
ous, when Farragut ran by the place from below, 
before it was heavily fortified it was commonly 
believed that a canal might be cut across the 
narrow point and the river turned through 
it out of the range of the enemy's heavy guns. 
Indeed, General Williams had located and made 
a tentative but ineffectual cut the year before, 
and now the same project again became prominent. 
It was, however, destined to final failure. From 
the first time I saw it, I condemned it as impracti- 
cable, contending that even at a high stage of the 
river, the water would not flow across the point, 
but would follow the canal only to its low spoon-like 
axis and then spread out into the country back of it, 



unless the canal were made deep enough to take in 
the water necessary to scour it to a navigable depth 
at a medium stage of the river. But a still more 
fatal objection was that the canal pointed to the 
heights just below the city, and would surely be 
enfiladed by cannon fire from batteries, properly 
located and constructed for that purpose. Other 
canal projects, the most prominent of which was 
that through Lake Providence to connect with a 
series of bayous west of the river, were considered, 
but, one after the other, all were abandoned. The 
canals could not be made wide enough or deep 
enough. The bayous were too narrow, too crooked, 
or too much overhung by forest trees, or the Missis- 
sippi was too uncertain in its rise and fall to give 
the proper volume of water. I gave my opinion 
against them one after the other as they were pro- 
posed, but they were all tried and abandoned, with 
no actual advantage except that they kept our troops 
occupied and the enemy more or less worried and 

On the day Grant and his staff arrived at Milli- 
ken's Bend, he invited Sherman, McClernand, Mc- 
Pherson, Blair, Steele, Eawlins, and myself to ac- 
company him across the point commanded by Vicks- 
burg. I had been sent from Memphis several days 
in advance to look over the ground and prepare a 
report for the General on his arrival, and, of course, 
had been active in gathering information and study- 
ing the situation. 

Eawlins and I rode together. I had already told 
Grant that the old canal project could not be made 
successful and during the ride repeated this opinion 
to Eawlins more in detail. On arriving at the south- 



ern outlet of the canal, while the generals were gaz- 
ing at the heights beyond and Frank Blair was hold- 
ing forth as to the strategic and political importance 
of Vicksburg, the necessity and difficulty of its cap- 
ture, and the certainty that whoever controlled it 
would also control the Mississippi Valley, Rawlins 
and I climbed onto the butt of a big cottonwood, 
which had been undercut and had fallen headlong 
into the river. There we took up the subject in all 
its branches and aspects, and during the discussion 
I pointed out that there were only three possible 
plans for the capture of the stronghold, namely: 

First, to turn it by the left through the Yazoo 
River, the Sunflower, or the Yazoo Pass. 

Second, to make a direct landing against the 
wharf and carry it by escalade or coup de main, or 

Third, to run the batteries with the iron-clads, 
gunboats, transports and barges and march the 
troops across country to such point below as might 
be selected as the base of operations against the 
interior of the state and the defenses of the 

For various reasons, all the plans for reaching 
a footing east of the Yazoo were afterward found 
to be impracticable and were turned down. The 
second was dismissed as entirely too hazardous for 
troops no better trained and disciplined than ours, 
and this brought us to the third plan. Rawlins 
favored it strongly from the first, but, recognizing 
its boldness and realizing that in case of failure it 
might lead to a great disaster, he asked if I was 
sure it could be carried out. The idea that the 
"tin-clad gunboats' ' and the transports with their 
light upper works would be destroyed by the 



enemy 's guns was in his mind, and he at once asked 
why this would not be fatal to the plan. 

To this I replied that most professional soldiers 
would doubtless hold that opinion, but I had come 
to a different conclusion. I explained that I had 
been present the year before at the capture of Port 
Eoyal, where our wooden men-of-war at close range 
had engaged the enemy's fortifications, armed with 
heavy guns on both sides of the harbor, for the bet- 
ter part of a whole day, and had not only silenced 
them, but had suffered little injury with trifling loss 
of life. I pointed out that the naval vessels had 
circled around the harbor between the forts not only 
once but several times in broad daylight, engaging 
them almost muzzle to muzzle first on one side and 
then on the other, and that the result had shown 
that such operations were much less dangerous 
than they were commonly believed to be. I declared 
that the only way to stop them would be by torpe- 
does and mines, and that such devices could not be 
kept in place in the swift current of the Mississippi. 

We not only considered the suggestion from 
every point of view, but we considered and con- 
demned the proposition which was already gaining 
currency, that the army might have to abandon the 
campaign against Vicksburg and unite with the 
Army of the Cumberland on the Tennessee Eiver. 
While this proposition, or one something like it, 
was conceded to be sound enough as a measure of 
strategy after everything else had been tried, it was 
actually advocated by Sherman and perhaps others. 
Eawlins and I concurred in condemning it for the 
present as likely to be fatal to Grant and sure to 
be greatly discouraging to the country. Before we 



got back to our steamboat, Eawlins said : i i Wilson, 
I believe you are right, and I shall advise Grant to 
carry your plan into effect at once. ' ' 1 

That afternoon I was sent to lead the expedition 
through Yazoo Pass, Moon Lake, the Cold Water, 
and the Tallahatchie into the Yazoo. Having out- 
lined the history of that movement, which at one 
time seemed almost certain to succeed, I need not 
dwell further upon it. But its failure and sequel 
are important in connection with what Rawlins told 
me had taken place during my absence. 

On the evening of my departure the principal 
generals dined with Grant, and at dinner the prob- 
lem confronting the army came up again for discus- 
sion. Every suggestion, no matter who made it, re- 
ceived consideration, but none promised immediate 
or absolute success. The meeting was about to break 
up without a satisfactory solution, when Rawlins 
said : ' \ Wilson and I have a plan for taking Vicks- 
burg none of you have referred to yet." 

"What is it, Rawlins — what is it?" said Sher- 

"Oh, you will condemn it as too dangerous," 
said Rawlins. 

"Never mind that, let us have it," said Sher- 

Whereupon Rawlins explained my proposition 
to run the batteries under cover of darkness with 
the gunboats and transports and march the troops 
below by land, to the first feasible crossing. 

As Rawlins had predicted, Sherman at once and 
with emphasis declared: "It can't be done. It is 

1 Compare my letter, Jan. 18, 1862, to Pelouze A. A. G., O. R. 
Series 1, Vol. VI, p. 219. 



impracticable. The transports will be destroyed. 
The enemy's guns will sink them or set them afire." 
And that settled it for the time being, for although 
Rawlins gave the reasons clearly and emphatically 
for the faith that was in us, no one came to his sup- 
port. Even Grant kept silent, though he tells us 
clearly enough in his memoirs, written many years 
afterward, that it was his purpose from the first 
to carry that plan into effect if the others failed. 

Neither McClernand nor McPherson had a word 
to say in favor of running the rebel batteries, al- 
though it is possible that McClernand might have 
had an idea from the first of turning Vicksburg and 
then operating eastward from it as a base against 
the heart of the Confederacy. 

But be this as it may, the plan made its way 
slowly and it was not till all side operations through 
the Yazoo basin for getting a footing on the uplands 
of Mississippi had failed that serious attention 
was given to its execution, the essence of which was 
running the batteries with the transports. Mani- 
festly all canal projects and bayou routes on either 
side of the river had for their immediate object the 
avoidance of the enemy's heavy guns on the Vicks- 
burg bluffs, which were regarded as fatal to this 
plan, and it was not till each and every other had 
actually failed that the simple and only feasible plan 
was openly adopted and successfully carried into 

No one can say with absolute certainty just when 
it first received Grant's approval, but it is certain 
that he did not tell either Rawlins or me that he 
was going to carry it into effect till he told us he 
was going to ask Admiral Porter, the naval com- 



mander, to lead the transports with a section of 
his fleet by the batteries under cover of darkness. 
Even then both he and Porter thought it prudent 
to divide their fleets and try it with a part before 
risking the whole, and this was done. 

That the plan had its first suggestion as de- 
scribed above, three or four months before it was 
undertaken, there can be no doubt, nor is there any 
doubt, even after it was fully under way, that Sher- 
man thought it too hazardous and tried to dissuade 
Grant from carrying it out. Not only did he write 
Rawlins a letter to that end, 1 but he personally 
asked me to join in advising Grant to give up the 
plan, recommending that he should withdraw the 
army from the neighborhood of Vicksburg, and 
transfer it by way of Memphis to northern Missis- 

Sherman was earnest and impassioned in sup- 
port of his views. He quoted Jomini in favor of the 
policy of concentration. He pointed out the danger 
of cutting loose from our base, and dwelt upon the 
danger of the enemy's concentrating first against 
Grant, and, after using him up, turning against Rose- 
crans. But while all this was in accordance with 
the books and the precedents, I declined to give it 
my support. I felt that Grant was at last on the 
right road, that he could surely break into the 
enemy's country with a united and efficient army of 
forty-five thousand men, that he would be able to 
scatter Johnston's forces and beat them in detail 
before they could be concentrated or strongly re- 
enforced, and that, above all, any proposition on 
Grant's part to withdraw from the front of Vicks- 

V 'Sherman's Memoirs," Vol. 1, p. 343. 


burg at that stage, however sound in theory, would 
certainly be looked upon by the country as a sign 
of weakness and failure, which would result not 
only in his being relieved from command, but in 
scattering, disintegrating, and paralyzing his army. 
After giving Sherman these views as forcibly 
as I could, I returned to headquarters, and discussed 
the subject anew with Rawlins and Dana, the lat- 
ter of whom had joined us only a few days before 
as "the eyes of the Government". 1 Fortunately, 
both fully approved my conclusions and, as the cam- 
paign was under way with every prospect of success, 
they suggested that neither of us should say a word 
to Grant as to Sherman's state of mind, and, so 
far as I know, it was not till Sherman's letter of 
remonstrance reached him that Grant realized how 
fully his oldest corps commander was opposed to 
his final plan. My conversation with Rawlins, how- 
ever, prepared him to advise Grant, when Sher- 
man's letter came to hand, to lay it away unan- 
swered for the present. 

Before leaving this episode, it may be well to 
allude again to Sherman 's statement of fundamental 
principles, for it will be remembered that in the fol- 
lowing September the Confederate Government, by 
detaching Longstreet from Virginia and gathering 
up all the garrisons in Mississippi and Alabama, in- 
cluding Grant's Vicksburg prisoners, and sending 
them to reenforce Bragg, inflicted a great and al- 
most fatal defeat upon Rosecrans at Chickamauga. 

Here it should be remarked that Sherman would 
have been as sound in practice as he was in theory 
if, instead of making his fruitless campaign into 

1 Wilson 'a * ' The Life of Charles A. Dana, ' * p. 208 et seq. 


central and eastern Mississippi after the fall of 
Vicksburg, he had advised Grant to send him at once 
or to go in person with two army corps to reenforce 
Rosecrans. This measure could have been carried 
out easily in the three months otherwise wasted, not 
only to save that general from defeat, but to turn 
his campaign into a great success, but neither Sher- 
man, Grant, nor anyone in Washington seems to 
have seen the danger or to have thought of averting 
it till far too late. And this is the way in which 
war on a grand scale is frequently conducted by 
even the best generals and the most capable admin- 
istrations. It well illustrates the fact that, in modern 
days, the true principle is not only to outnumber 
the enemy at the vital point at the vital time, but, 
if possible, to greatly outnumber him at all the im- 
portant points all the time ! 

As the event showed, running the Vicksburg bat- 
teries, April 16, 1863, was a bloodless and compar- 
atively simple operation. Although the enemy's fire 
was terrific and the river was lighted up by burning 
buildings on the shores, the six iron-clads, one ram, 
and one tug received no damage whatever, and of 
three river steamers, one was abandoned through 
cowardice and by accident burnt, while one was dis- 
abled in her machinery so that she had to be towed ; 
but even in that way she was still entirely efficient 
as a transport. Of the next detachment a few nights 
later, all passed through unscathed, thus verifying 
my prediction that not more than one in ten would 
be destroyed in running the batteries. With that 
danger past, although it was incurred again on a 
smaller scale a few days later at Grand Gulf, the 
campaign became a simple one which developed rap- 



idly and successfully according to the usual practice 
of war. 

On the night of the first passage Grant with his 
staff and family moved down the river on his head- 
quarters steamboat to a favorable point of obser- 
vation just beyond the range of the enemy's guns 
and witnessed the whole extraordinary pageant. 
The fleet started after dark, between nine and ten 
o'clock, but before it got abreast of the enemy's 
guns all engines were stopped and all lights con- 
cealed, and for a few minutes it was hoped that the 
rapid current might carry the boats by unperceived, 
but this hope was fallacious. By the time they were 
abreast of the upper part of the bend, where the 
river was narrowest, the enemy discovered them 
and opened fire upon them with all the guns they 
could bring to bear. A small outhouse near the 
water was set on fire, lighting up the whole river 
and the opposite shore. The roar of the heavy guns 
both from the batteries and the fleet was incessant 
and impressive, but without starting the engines the 
fleet drifted by and out of danger, lighted in its 
lower course by the transport which had been set on 
fire, abandoned by the crew, and burned to the 
water's edge. 

It was an anxious hour for all, and especially for 
me. It was a brilliant moonlight night, and during 
the firing the point opposite the front of the city, as 
well as the surface of the river, in this bend only 
eight hundred yards wide, were further lighted up 
by the burning buildings on the banks. The roar 
of the enemy's heavy guns, twenty-five in number, 
from six-inch to ten-inch caliber, was deafening, 
and the whole scene was grand and awe-inspiring. 



One of the Grant children sat on my knees with its 
arms aronnd my neck, and as each crash came, it 
nervously clasped me closer, and finally became so 
frightened that it was put to bed. Mrs. Grant sat 
by the General's side with the other children near, 
while the staff and clerks looked on in silence and 
wonder, if not in doubt. It was not till after mid- 
night that the roar of artillery ceased and silence 
rested on the scene, and it was not till the next 
morning that the details became fully known. Field 
telegraphs for military purposes had not come into 
use, and telephones were not yet known. The only 
communication was by courier, and the facts had 
to be gathered twelve miles below as the crow flies 
before they could be sent overland to headquarters. 
But the couriers were too slow for Grant. He had 
been under a crucial strain and could get no relief 
except by riding across the bends to New Carthage 
in person for a conference with both Porter and Mc- 
Clernand. The round trip was nearly seventy-five 
miles, or a full day's ride each way, and he glad- 
dened my heart by taking me with him. The ride 
south took much of the day, which we devoted to 
conversation about the prospect our easy success 
had opened up. We passed the evening and such 
part of the night as was necessary in gathering the 
particulars about running the batteries and pro- 
viding for further movements. With this done, the 
next day we rode back to headquarters, discussing 
the details of carrying forward the campaign now 
open to us. I counseled Grant again to give up all 
work on canals and bayous as not only slow and fa- 
tiguing, but useless. The feasibility of running by 
the batteries having been demonstrated beyond fur- 



ther question, there was nothing left but to send the 
entire available force down country as rapidly as 
possible, and this was fully decided upon while sup- 
plies were left to follow by the river as needed. 

Immediately after returning to headquarters 
Grant obtained the order transferring me to his 
staff, subject to the approval of the Secretary of 
War, and told Eawlins that he depended more upon 
my judgment on military matters than upon that of 
any one else in that army. 

Shortly before running the batteries, Lorenzo 
Thomas, the adjutant general of the army, arrived 
at Milliken's Bend, and began the organization of 
negro troops. As he was not long in learning that 
the enrollment and use of negroes on an equality 
with white troops was not favorably regarded in that 
army, he took an early occasion to explain in a pub- 
lic address the Government's policy in respect to 
that important matter, and in doing so declared that 
he was authorized to remove any one, high or low, 
who should at any time- or in any way oppose or 
obstruct this policy, and that he should not fail to 
exercise his authority. Sherman, McPherson, Blair, 
Logan, and other leading officers were present and, 
while they had so far favored restricting the use of 
negroes to teamsters and laborers in the field or at 
most to the organization of heavy regiments for 
depot and garrison duty, they at once yielded their 
own sounder views and gave a ready assent to the 
new policy as announced by Thomas. 

This speech attracted much attention at the time, 
and its boldness of tone may have strengthened the 
impression, which first got abroad when Dana 
joined the army, that either he or Thomas might 



have authority to relieve even Grant and put Mc- 
Clernand or some one else in the place. It was a 
long distance from Washington, and there was but 
little communication from the army with that place. 
Grant was but a poor correspondent at best, and 
till Dana began sending his remarkable letters to 
Stanton, 1 there was more or less uncertainty prevail- 
ing as to the significance of two such influential 
agents of the War Department at the front. Spec- 
ulation was rife and, although so far both Dana and 
Thomas expressed nothing but the most friendly 
feeling toward Grant, even Grant himself was not 
altogether sure of his position till he reached Smith's 
plantation near New Carthage, and began to see his 
way to a firm footing on the east side of the Great 

The passage of the batteries by the gunboats and 
transports instantly cleared the situation. Canals 
and bayous were no longer necessary, and although 
the river was high and New Carthage could not be 
reached from the levee at the lower end of Bayou 
Vidal, except by boat, all became hopeful of getting 
forward with but little further delay. Fortunately 
it was believed that the river was at its highest, and 
that any change in the stage of the water must be 
for the better. Accordingly, as soon as we arrived 
at Smith's plantation, Grant directed me to find a 
boat and take him to Porter's flagship, some three 
miles below. Having, with but little delay, secured a 
skiff and crew of plantation negroes, we set out with 
General Thomas, making our way through the over- 
flowed bottom by a tortuous creek to the river, and 

1 Dana 'a ' ' Eecollections of the Civil War. ' ' D. Appleton & Co., 



thence down stream to the Admiral's flagship. The 
conference lasted several hours and, although night 
had come on and the Admiral was most pressing in 
his hospitality, Grant resolved to return to his own 
headquarters at the plantation. Porter, finding that 
he could not detain his guests, insisted upon giving 
him a naval cutter and crew for the return trip. It 
was arranged that I should lead the way, with our 
own boat, which, so long as we were in the open 
river, was plain enough. But in spite of the current 
and the night, dark as Erebus, my boat made the 
better speed, and by the time we turned into the 
creek Grant's was out of sight behind. Supposing 
that he or Thomas had not paid sufficient attention 
to land-marks to follow, I pushed through the tor- 
tuous creek and overhanging trees with a heavy rain 
falling and a boundless expanse of water on all sides, 
and reached headquarters at 10 p. m., believing that 
Grant would arrive in a few minutes. After wait- 
ing over half an hour in vain, Eawlins and I became 
alarmed and I set out again in search of him. In 
such darkness and such a waste of water almost 
any accident was possible, and hence I encouraged 
my crew to put forth their best efforts. Thirty 
minutes brought us to the open river and, with its 
swifter current behind us, a few more brought us 
to the first gunboat. Going on board to make in- 
quiry, I found the missing party, much to my grati- 
fication, enjoying the hospitalities of the captain. 
The general seemed glad to see me. His naval crew 
had been unable to follow and had lost their way. 
Fearing he might have to wander around all night 
if he persisted in trying to find his own way, he 
decided to return to the fleet and wait till morning, 



but soon as he saw me he expressed his desire to 
return, and in the same order as before we set out 
for the second time. By an hour and a half 's hard 
rowing and careful piloting we reached headquar- 
ters at one o'clock in the morning, where the ever- 
vigilant Kawlins was waiting impatiently to receive 
us. Accustomed as I had been to boating in the high 
water of the Ohio in my boyhood, I thought but 
little of the adventure at the time, but it is easy to 
see now that had the general's cutter been capsized, 
rowed as it was by a crew of landsmen unused to 
such navigation, nothing could have saved him from 

Withal, the incident was somewhat exciting to 
those immediately concerned. The greater power 
and width of the Mississippi at flood, the somber 
blackness of the night, made still blacker by the 
overhanging forest standing in a waste of water, the 
flash of lightning and the downpour of rain, with 
no noise but the rattling and dipping of our oars 
or the distant hooting of an owl, gave interest and 
emphasis to the real danger which surrounded 
Grant and his army in every stage of that most re- 
markable campaign. They well illustrate the diffi- 
culties which accompanied every movement in the 
Yazoo and Louisiana bottoms, and show how im- 
perative it was that they should gain a footing on 
the uplands east of the great river. 

My journal of those days contains many notes 
showing the difficulties of the march by the banks 
of Vidal, Negro, Mound, Gilbert, and Brushy bayous 
to the Mississippi levees below Vicksburg. The 
whole face of the country was under water. Hav- 
ing no pontoon train, the advance of the army, with 



no boats except the flats gathered from the various 
plantations and no bridge materials except such as 
we obtained by tearing down plantation houses, the 
forward movement might well have been stopped at 
the very outset. With troops less capable and com- 
manders less resolute and resourceful, we might 
well have been beaten before getting within reach 
of the enemy. But there was neither delay nor the 
thought of it. Three floating bridges, each over 
three hundred feet long, were built of flatboats and 
gin-house timbers, and in a few days we opened a 
practicable road crossing bayous and threading one 
of the most difficult regions that ever tested the re- 
sources of an army. When it is remembered that 
those bridges were built by green volunteers, who 
had never seen a bridge train nor had an hour's 
drill or instruction in bridge-building, some concep- 
tion may be had of the quality of the men and offi- 
cers who carried through that remarkable work. 

Having given careful instructions for each bridge 
as I came to it, I left the details to my assistants, 
and under Grant's personal orders J crossed the 
Mississippi with a regiment of infantry and made a 
reconnoissance of the country between the mouth 
of the Big Black and Warrenton, for the purpose of 
seeing whether or not we could find a landing on the 
east bank from which we could reach the rear of 
Vicksburg along the peninsula between the two riv- 
ers. But in this region as well as in that west of 
the river the bottoms were several miles wide in 
places, and everywhere so much overflowed that it 
was impracticable to get to the highlands through 
them. During this reconnoissance I visited i l Congo ' ' 
plantation, where I found the negroes in great ex- 



citement trying to remove their master's stock and 
household effects to the highlands. It was here that 
a negro shoemaker, calling himself Mason Jones, 
put himself under my protection and insisted upon 
becoming my body servant. As he proved himself 
to be faithful and intelligent, I took him with me 
everywhere till the end of the war, and then sent 
him to Illinois, where his family joined him and be- 
came good and prosperous citizens. It was he who 
cautioned me in the Valley of Virginia to take care 
of myself, just after a cannon shot had knocked over 
our dinner and scattered our campfire, for "if you 
get killed, gen'al, I can't stay in dis war nohow !" 
And it was his wife, Aunt Patsy, whose son " Ital- 
ian' ' got into a neighborhood difficulty which in her 
words "came mighty nigh gettin' us all into de 
circus co'te." 

But the most important discovery from the recon- 
noissance at the Congo plantation was that it as- 
sured us we could not reach the highlands be- 
tween Vicksburg and Grand Gulf, but would have to 
run the batteries at the latter place and look for a 
landing farther down the river. Although Porter 
declined to enter the Big Black with his boats as I 
suggested, he undertook to silence the batteries at 
Grand Gulf, on the understanding when that was 
done that Grant should land a force and "take the 
place by assault". While Grant was dubious as to 
the result, he agreed to the proposition, but after 
five hours' bombardment in which all the fleet took 
a gallant part and not a single hostile gun, in the 
proper sense of the term, was disabled or silenced, 
the attempt was abandoned and we were again face 
to face with running the batteries. By this time 



Rawlins and I had come to the conclusion that there 
should be no more delay for reconnoissance or bom- 
bardment, and that we should not only run the bat- 
teries again, but continue on down the river as far 
as Rodney if necessary. From all the information 
we had we felt assured that we should find neither 
guns nor rebel troops at that place, but an open road 
to the interior. With this assurance we urged 
Grant to cut loose with all the force the transports 
could carry and, at the first landing on the east side, 
to swing out into the open country toward Jackson 
without waiting for the rest of the army to join 
him. This was agreed to. The gunboats and the 
transports passed the batteries this time entirely 
without injury, and when an intelligent contraband 
informed us that there was a high- water landing and 
road at Bruinsburg only ten miles below by which 
we could reach the highlands dry-shod, we embarked 
the troops and made for that place. It required a 
good deal of resolution and steadiness of purpose 
to adopt that course. Our advanced division com- 
mander had begun to criticize and grumble, and al- 
though I reported this to Grant, it not only did not 
shake his resolution, but made him all the more de- 
termined to push into the interior from the first 
hard ground he could reach. Fortunately the ad- 
vance troops reached the landing at an early hour 
and found it to be good; the road was dry and the 
defile through the hills a mile back was undefended. 
At last the way into the interior was open, and 
thenceforth the only question was to get the troops 
across the river and push them forward as fast as 
possible, to make good the footing thus offered us 
after four months of incredible labor. 



Grant and his staff, leaving their own baggage, 
horses, and camp equipage behind, slept on board 
the steamboat on which they crossed the river on the 
last day of April. I occupied a pile of rope on the 
gnnboat Benton, and was awake at the break of 
day. Hearing the booming of distant cannon, I bor- 
rowed a horse for Grant and another for myself 
from Colonel Mudd's Illinois Cavalry, and by 7 
a. m., May 1, we were on the Bruinsbnrg road to 
the front. 




Bruinsburg — Port Gibson — Raymond — Jackson — Cham- 
pion 's Hill — Big Black Bridge — Assault on Vicksburg 
—General Lawler — Sergeant Griffith — General Mc- 
Clernand — Charles A. Dana. 

The story of the campaign from Bruinsburg to 
Jackson and from Jackson to the rear of Vicks- 
burg, with its masterly combinations and rapid 
marches, its notable victories at Port Gibson, Eay- 
mond, Jackson, Champion's Hill, and the Big Black; 
the capture of the state capital; the destruction 
of the railroads which centered there ; and finally the 
investment and capture of Vicksburg with its gar- 
rison of thirty thousand men, July 4, 1863, consti- 
tutes the most brilliant chapter in our military an- 
nals. It has been told many times before and re- 
quires no repetition to bring it to the student's 
mind. From the time Grant's army crossed the 
Mississippi at Bruinsburg, sixty-five miles below 
Vicksburg, on April 30, till it shut Pemberton and 
his army up inside their fortifications, was just 
twenty days, and from the time the siege began till 
it ended on July 4, when the garrison marched out 
and stacked its arms, was just forty-five days more. 



Nothing like this surrender had ever taken place on 
this continent, and, coming. as it did on the heels of 
the great battle of Gettysburg, fought at almost 
the same time, it marked not only the high tide, but 
the beginning of the end of the Great Eebellion. 

Throughout this campaign Grant remained the 
same modest, unassuming and self -poised man that 
he had shown himself to be in the Tennessee cam- 
paigns. He put on no airs and made no show of 
rank or superior authority. With a borrowed horse, 
no servant, and literally no baggage but a tooth 
brush, he gained the first battle at Port Gibson, 
and concentrated his army near Hankinson's Ferry 
on the Big Black, ready to advance either against 
Vicksburg or the capital of the state. Eiding in- 
cessantly for the first three days and most of the 
nights, he gave a splendid example of just how a 
general should bear himself in an active and suc- 
cessful campaign. 

During the battle of Port Gibson, which was 
fought mostly by McClernand's corps, Eawlins and 
I thought it a good time to bring about a rapproche- 
ment between Grant and his lieutenant. To that 
end we asked Grant to ride over and thank him 
for his good conduct and brilliant success, but, much 
to our surprise, he declined to do so, saying that 
McClernand had offended him seriously by asking 
permission to delay the crossing till Governor 
Yates of Illinois could review the troops, and, as 
if that were not enough, had that morning violated 
orders by encumbering his column with wagons 
which should have been left at the river during 
the preliminary movements. Finally, while the ac- 
tion was still under way and the result yet unset- 



tied, Grant sent instructions to the artillery to har- 
bor its ammunition, on hearing which, McClernand 
ordered it to continue firing, loudly declaring that 
he had fought the battle so far and fought it well, 
and would not be interfered with by anybody. Of 
course, the officer who carried Grant's order re- 
ported what McClernand had said and naturally 
this did not mend matters. In other words, the 
cocky corps commander, relying upon his under- 
standing with the Washington authorities, as be- 
fore explained, regarded himself in a measure, if 
not entirely, independent of the army commander 
and acted not only that day but throughout the 
campaign as though Grant's presence and his ex- 
ercise of authority on the battlefield were in viola- 
tion of his own privileges and rights. He was nat- 
urally a proud, austere, and imperious man, who 
took but little pains to conceal his feelings and 
acted always with noticeable reserve and hauteur 
toward Grant. How far he presumed in his own 
mind upon Grant's good nature or upon his reserve 
and self-control, as indicating a lack of self-respect 
and firmness, cannot be known, but if he expected 
to profit by the course he adopted he was inexcus- 
ably at fault. 

Shortly after this incident, as Osterhaus and 
John E. Smith were about to make the final attack 
against the enemy, Governor Yates, who was still 
with the army, joined us at the edge of the battle- 
field. He was a breezy, picturesque, and gallant 
gentleman, and, like the leading politicians of the 
day, was always on the lookout for an opportunity 
to attract public attention. As the battle was clearly 
going our way, it evidently struck him that it of- 



fered him an unusual chance for distinction. Bid- 
ing alongside of me, he said: "Colonel, I believe 
I'll put myself at the head of one of our Illinois 
regiments and lead it into action. Don't you think 
that would be a good thing to do?" 

Although the proposition was both novel and 
unnecessary, it struck me rather favorably and in 
a tone half jocular and half serious, I gave it my 
approval and advised him in words which Grant 
afterward made famous — to "go in ! ' ' Almost im- 
mediately the action became hot and I lost sight 
of the Governor, without knowing whether he 
had gone in or gone out. It so happened that 
I did not meet him again till the next day on the 
march, when he said with an air of evident satis- 
faction: "Well, Colonel, I am mighty glad I didn't 
go in with the boys yesterday afternoon, for those 
devilish rebels might have killed me!" 

The effort that Eawlins and I made on this oc- 
casion to bring about a better understanding be- 
tween Grant and McClernand was not only firmly 
rejected by Grant, but, as it turned out, it was 
followed by a determination on his part to keep a 
close watch and a steady hand over his self-consti- 
tuted rival. From that day forth Grant not only 
maintained the most formal attitude toward Mc- 
Clernand, but, so far as practicable, refrained from 
meeting him in person or giving him written or- 
ders. His general practice was to send me with 
discretionary authority to see that he did the proper 
thing in cooperation with the commanders who were 
entitled to great confidence. But even this was not 
always effective. 

At Champion's Hill, where McClernand a few 



days later had the chance of a lifetime, he was so 
slow and cautions that he did practically nothing. 
Hovey, who commanded one of his divisions, got 
on his own account a prominent place in the battle, 
while A. J. Smith was detached to operate under 
Grant's immediate orders. Logan did well, as usual, 
while Osterhaus', Carr's, and Smith's divisions, 
later under McClernand's personal command, let 
pass a great opportunity to destroy Pemberton's 
army by striking it heavily on the right and rear, 
while the rest of the army was attacking in front. 
Two or three orders were given to put these divi- 
sions in, but in vain. 

Again, at Big Black Bridge, Lawler's brigade 
of Carr's division played a most gallant and suc- 
cessful part, but it was solely on Lawler 's initiative. 
That officer was a very remarkable volunteer tac- 
tician, an ex-captain of the Mexican War, a plain 
Illinois farmer all his life, with a fine literary taste, 
and a most gallant bearing. But, withal, he was a 
man of no pretensions either in manners or dress. 
His favorite uniform was a blue flannel shirt, on 
which he tacked his shoulder straps, and he was 
of such ample proportions that he always wore his 
sword hung by a strap over his shoulder. For some 
unknown reason Dana always called him ' ' The High 
Dominie Dudgeon", and the flash of wit and poetry 
between them when they met was always most en- 
tertaining. 1 On the occasion referred to I met Law- 
ler and my brother Bluford, his adjutant, on the 
field in their shirt sleeves, wet with perspiration 
and covered with dust, but both leading their men 
gallantly against the enemy. Their success was 

1 Wilson's "Life of Charles A. Dana," p. 225 et seq. 


all their own, and neither had nor needed super- 
vision from those in higher authority. 1 

It was of this quaint and fine old soldier that 
General Grant, during the Chattanooga campaign, 
while praising several Illinois generals, said: 

"But when it comes to just plain hard fighting 
I would rather trust Old Mike Lawler than any of 

Lawler, although a man of Falstaffian girth, was 
a strictly temperate man, a devout Catholic, and 
as imperturbable under fire as any "Ironsides." 
When asked to take a drink — not at all an unusual 
occurrence in the army — his invariable reply was: 
"No, thank you! I have a brother, I am sorry to 
say, who drinks enough for both of us." 

To a profane member of his staff during the 
fighting days at Vicksburg, who was loudly violating 
the third commandment, the General said: "I am 
astonished to hear you praying at this time. I al- 
ways say my prayers before going into battle. ■ ! 

To my brother Bluford, who in his first battle 
at Champion's Hill unconsciously dodged the sing- 
ing rifle bullets, he sang out: "You d — d little 
fool, don't dodge! Don't you know when you hear 
the bullets they have already gone by ! " Whether it 
cured the Captain of the habit I don't know, but 
Lawler himself always "stood four square" to all 
the breezes that blew. 

In going to the front one morning, while passing 
another command on the march, a soldier was over- 
heard to say to his comrade: "Bill, who is that 
old tub of guts? I'd hate to be in his place. He 

1 0. E. Series 1, Vol. XXIV, Part II, pp. 133-143, Lawler >s 
report. Also Part I, p. 618, Carr's report. 



won't last a minute under fire." Lawler instantly 
said to the member of his staff riding next to him : 

"Huh! D d fool! I could lose two or three 

beefsteaks off my anatomy and not be hurt!" A 
fact which he had demonstrated at Donelson, where 
he was badly wounded but did not leave the field. 

A few days later, May 22, in the general assault 
on the enemy's fortifications surrounding Vicksburg, 
Lawler 's brigade, alone of the entire army, carried 
a substantial part of the works in its front. Sergeant 
Griffith, Twenty-second Iowa, with a handful of men, 
broke through the enemy's line into a salient redan, 
capturing it and its guns for a time, but he had not 
sufficient force without instant support to follow up 
his success. As the support was not forthcoming, 
the sergeant and his men, after sending their pris- 
oners one by one to the rear and holding on under 
cover till night, withdrew to their own side of the 
works. Griffith, a fine, hearty Iowa lad of great 
courage, became a popular hero and was at once 
promoted to the rank of lieutenant. Shortly after- 
ward General Grant designated him for appoint- 
ment as cadet at West Point. Although full of dev- 
iltry, which he displayed whenever occasion offered, 
once climbing into the Academic Building and ab- 
stracting the examination programs for the benefit 
of his duller classmates, he graduated fifth in his 
class, entered the engineers, and several years after 
the war became one of my assistants on the improve- 
ments of the upper Mississippi. When I resigned 
from the army, he followed my example and became 
an able and brilliant railroad contractor, but his 
career was cut short by death from disease con- 
tracted in his new calling. It is due to Lawler 's 



memory to repeat that the Confederate general, Ste- 
phen D. Lee, commanding in Lawler 's front, declared 
that Griffith's charge was made at the only point on 
the whole defensive line where onr forces succeeded 
in breaking through that day. This was because 
Lawler ordered his colonels to quietly arouse their 
men before daylight and move them up stealthily 
under cover of darkness to a thicket on the hillside 
about fifty yards from the works, where they lay 
unobserved until the general assault was sounded at 
10 a. m. To that end he carefully examined the inter- 
vening ground the evening before with his regi- 
mental commanders. Unfortunately, however, no 
provision was made by the division or corps com- 
manders for the reinforcements which were neces- 
sary for the full success of such an assault. Hours 
before support could reach Lawler, and after his 
charge had spent itself, the enemy rallied and 
strongly reenforced that part of their line. Even to 
get in touch with the detachment holding the bastion 
it was necessary to advance nearly a quarter of a 
mile, for the most part under fire, and this was a 
hopeless task. 1 

It was mainly on Griffith's success at Vicksburg 
that McClernand based the claim that he had car- 
ried the enemy's works and called for reinforce- 
ments, which was unfortunately followed by a 
renewal of the attack all along the line that cost the 
army a great many men. For this McClernand was 
severely blamed at the time, because the second at- 
tack was far more hopeless than the first, but can- 
dor compels me to say that McClernand 's conduct 
seems to have been no more blameworthy upon that 

1 O. B. Series 1, Vol. XXIV, part 1, pp. 178-79. 


occasion than Sherman's or McPherson's. The fact 
is that neither corps commander made the proper 
provision for the contingency of success in the at- 
tack. Eifle pits and fieldworks were assaulted many 
times throughout the war, but were rarely ever 
carried. But few of our generals became proficient 
in the management of such serious work, and now 
that it is all over it can do no harm to say that 
Upton, of the National Army, greatly distinguished 
in all arms of the service, was the only one of them 
who thoroughly mastered that branch of the mili- 
tary art. He always made proper provision for 
success, for reinforcements, for cooperating move- 
ments and for all contingencies that could be fore- 
seen. From the day he became a colonel he never 
once failed to break through the enemy's works or 
to make good his hold upon them, where he had been 
ordered and had sole charge of the arrangements. 
Hancock was next to him in this complicated work, 
but no other corps or division commander on either 
side ever equaled Upton in the uniform success 
which attended his efforts. He was a military en- 
thusiast and student of extraordinary ability, cour- 
age, and judgment, and, young as he was, I have 
never doubted that when the war ended he was the 
best all-round soldier of his day. 

When it is recalled that neither the brilliant 
Sherman nor the accomplished McPherson, both dis- 
tinguished West Point men, had yet mastered the 
trick of carrying fortified positions by assault, it 
need not be thought strange that McClernand, the 
lawyer and politician, who acquired his first mili- 
tary training in the Black Hawk War, should have 
failed at this dangerous and complicated business. 



He was naturally as able as the rest, but his tem- 
per, if not fate, was against him. A fortnight later 
I had occasion to carry an order from Grant, direct- 
ing him to strengthen the detachment from his corps 
watching the Big Black at Hall's Ferry. I had 
known him from boyhood, and had corresponded 
with him. Twice in October, 1862, he requested 
Stanton to detail me to his staff. He had been, 
besides, a private in my father's company in the 
Black Hawk War, and we were, as I thought, on 
excellent terms. Grant and Eawlins evidently 
thought so, also, but when I delivered the order re- 
ferred to above, I was greatly shocked, because, in- 
stead of receiving it kindly and signifying his obe- 
dience, he burst out with: "I'll be God damned if 
I'll do it — I am tired of being dictated to — I won't 
stand it any longer, and you can go back and tell 
General Grant!" He followed this up with a vol- 
ley of oaths which seemed as though they might 
have been aimed as much at me as at our common 
chief. We were both mounted at the time, and, 
although surprised at the violent and insubordinate 
outburst, I replied: 

"General McClernand, I am astonished at what 
you are saying. You surely do not understand the 
order I have given, and I'll repeat it: General 
Grant directs you to strengthen the outposts of 
your corps at Hall's Ferry, and you will disobey 
this order at your peril ! And now, General, in ad- 
dition to your highly insubordinate language, it 
seems to me that you are cursing me as much as 
you are cursing General Grant." 

Then, reining my horse quickly alongside of his, 
I added: 



"If this is so, although you are a major general, 
while I am only a lieutenant colonel, I will 
pull you off that horse and beat the boots off of 
you ! ' ' 

This brought him to his senses, and, seeing the 
mistake he had made, he said at once: 

Mi am not cursing you. I could not do that. 
Your father was my friend and I am yours. I was 
simply expressing my intense vehemence on the sub-^ 
ject matter, sir, and I beg your pardon.' ' 

But it was too late. He had exhausted my de- 
sire to. keep the peace between him and General 
Grant, as well as my patience, and, although he fol- 
lowed his friendly assurances by inviting me to his 
camp to take a drink, I declined with the remark 
that I didn 't drink, and galloped rapidly away, full 
of anger and resentment. 

Arriving at headquarters, I told Rawlins and 
Grant of the disagreeable scene through which I 
had gone, concluding with the remark that the order 
need not be repeated in writing, but that I was tired 
of trying to keep the peace between headquarters 
and our political generals. 

Thereupon Grant said: u While I shall not no- 
tice this violent outburst, I '11 get rid of McClernand 
the first chance I get." Ever afterward when he 
heard an officer using profane language, as was the 
custom in the army, he would say, with a smile: 
"He's not cursing. He is simply expressing his - 
intense vehemence on the subject matter ! ' ' It was 
a happy euphemism which saved him on many oc- 
casions from rough language when, if he had been 
a swearing man, he would have certainly yielded 
to temptation. 



Dana, from the day he joined the staff, con- 
ceived a dislike to McClernand, and his dispatches 
to Stanton throughout the Vicksburg campaign 
were altogether unfavorable to him. 1 

A few days later the opportunity came for get- 
ting rid of this insubordinate and high-tempered 
corps commander. Shortly after the general assault 
on the fortifications of Vicksburg, McClernand is- 
sued a general order congratulating his corps, which 
he designated without authority as "the Army of 
the Mississippi," and through some fault of his 
own or of his adjutant general he failed to send a 
copy of the order, as required by army regulations, 
to headquarters, but did not fail to send it North 
for publication in the newspapers. In due time it 
came back to the army and both Sherman and 
McPherson made haste to send it to Grant with 
their protest against it, not only as an injustice 
to their respective corps, but as giving praise to 
the Thirteenth to which it was not fairly entitled. 
Carr, one of his own division commanders, later 
protested against statements in the order. 2 Their 
points were well taken and Grant was prompt to 
respond. He referred the matter at once to Mc- 
Clernand for an explanation. The latter replied 
without delay that his order was not only correctly 
printed, but that he was prepared to stand by it and 
its allegations. 

This settled McClernand 's fate. I was absent 
from camp that day till midnight, but the order 
relieving him had been prepared, and on my return, 
Eawlins, who remained up to tell me about it, 

1 O. R. Series 1, Vol. XXIV, Part I, pp. 74, 81, 84, 86. 

2 O. R. Series 1, Vol. 24, Part I, pp. 623-4. 



handed it to me, recounting its purport and direct- 
ing me to deliver it in person the first thing in the 
morning. Eecognizing its importance and fearing 
that some contingency might occur that night or 
in the early dawn, which would involve a sortie or 
a battle in which McClernand would doubtless dis- 
play his usual gallantry, which in turn might cause 
Grant to delay, if not cancel the order, I said to 
Rawlins: "Why shouldn't I deliver it to-night ¥" 
This brought the reply: "Because you are tired 
and to-morrow will do." We then discussed the 
subject from every point of view, with the result 
that he yielded and I turned out the provost mar- 
shal with a sergeant and four men, and, after put- 
ting on full field uniform, mounted a fresh horse 
and set out on my mission. I reached McClernand ? s 
headquarters between 1 and 2 a. m., and, after wait- 
ing till the orderly on duty could arouse the general, 
and when he had clad himself properly, I was shown 
in. With all his violence he was a punctilious man, 
and I found him in full uniform, his sword lying 
across the table with two lighted candles in front 
of him. 

The provost marshal and his squad were within 
call, and, after saluting him, I said: "General, I 
have an important order for you which I am directed 
to deliver into your hands and to see that you read 
it in my presence, that you understand it, and that 
you signify your immediate obedience to it." I 
handed him the sealed envelope, watched him adjust 
his glasses, and then open and read it. When he 
caught its purport, almost instantly he said: "Well, 
sir! I am relieved!" And then, as if taking it 
all in, he added almost in the same breath: "By 



God, sir, we are both relieved !" — meaning Grant 
as well as himself. 

Seeing that he understood the order correctly, 
I added: 

"General, I am furthermore instructed to say 
that your functions as a corps commander in this 
army are at an end. A. J. Smith, next in rank, has 
been already notified, and, in case any emergency 
arises to-night, he will take charge of the corps. 
You will exercise none of the functions of a gen- 
eral, but you will proceed at your earliest conve- 
nience to your home in Illinois and there await the 
orders of the War Department." 

Perceiving that there was nothing left for him 
but to obey, he expressed his satisfaction with the 
order relieving him from a disagreeable situation 
and signified his intention of leaving for home early 
after daylight. As this was exactly what was de- 
sired, I took my leave, and, although he lived to a 
ripe old age, I never saw him again. With all his 
violence of temper and his lack of military training 
and discipline, he was a patriot and a man of strong, 
virile character, who, with an ordinary degree of 
self-control, would have come out of the war as 
one of its real heroes. His support of the Admin- 
istration at the outbreak of the rebellion and dur- 
ing the war rendered it a great and valuable politi- 
cal service, second only to that rendered by Douglas, 
and there can be but little doubt that both the Presi- 
dent and Secretary of War were partial to him, 
and had encouraged him with the hope, if not the 
formal promise, of the command of the expedition 
to open the Mississippi Eiver. 1 

1 O. E. Series 1, Vol. XVII, Part 2, pp. 275. 


The student of history, curious as to the details 
of this interesting episode, which interrupted the 
harmonious cooperation of the corps commanders 
in the Vicksburg campaign and influenced the course 
of events and which, but for the patriotism of those 
concerned, aided by Grant's good sense and pa- 
tience, might have led to disaster, will find the con- 
flicting views of the chief actors fully set out in the 
Official Eecords, 1 with a violent attack upon Grant's 
personal habits. 

Having disposed of McClernand as a disturb- 
ing element in that army, I shall now return to 
the consideration of other personal features of the 

1 0. E. Series 1, Vol. XXIV, Part 1, p. 169. 

This also contains McClernand 's extreme statement that Grant 
was indebted to the forbearance of officers under his command for 
his retention in the public service. 




The Black Belt — Lorenzo Thomas — Cross the Mississippi — 
Bayou Pierre — Grand Gulf — Captain Badeau — Mc- 
Pherson at Raymond — Grant at Jackson — Champion's 
Hill — Passage of the Big Black — The American 

The preliminary operations of the Vicksburg 
campaign were mostly in northeastern Louisiana 
and that part of Mississippi in which the slave pop- 
ulation was densest and the white population rich- 
est. The plantations in the bayou region were 
large, the land most fertile, and the buildings com- 
modious. As the troops were struggling to make 
their way over the almost impassable mud roads, I 
generally supervised the bridge building, and this 
made it necessary for me to pass from one column 
to the other. Dana, who came from Washington 
as "the eyes of the Government, ' ' and a couple of 
orderlies were my only companions, and, as we 
necessarily traveled light, we made it a rule to 
stop at the most opulent mansion within reach 
when night overtook us. And it gives me pleasure 
to record that, while all the proprietors, and es- 
pecially the ladies, were undisguised rebels, they 
never failed to give us a hospitable reception. This 



may have been largely due to a desire for protec- 
tion, but it was none the less acceptable on that 
account. After bridging Roundaway Bayou, we 
put up at the home of Mrs. Amis, a most charming 
and accomplished woman, whose stately mansion 
was embowered in flowers and ornamental trees, 
backed by a village of comfortable negro quarters. 
Here we saw the most attractive and successful 
features of slavery. Luxury was apparent in the 
whole establishment, and as far as we could see 
neither want nor suffering had yet reached that 
region. The family cook, if not a cordon bleu, was 
a past mistress of the art, and her broiled chick- 
ens, bacon, and hominy muffins were a delight neith- 
er of us ever forgot. While the place was pro- 
tected as long as we were in the neighborhood, it 
probably suffered at the hands of the following 
Yankees. The slaves, who had been docile and 
apparently content to that day, packed up their 
poor belongings and, with their pickaninnies on 
their backs or trudging by their sides, followed the 
flag which brought freedom to them. And this was 
the rule throughout both states. Wherever our 
columns went there freedom went also, and every 
colored man and woman that could walk eagerly 
embraced it. It was pitiful to see their ignorant 
upturned faces as they struggled through the mud 
beside or behind our columns to an unknown desti- 
nation, where they were sure they would be free. 
Many times as I rode by them I called out as cheer- 
ily as I could: "Wha' you-all gwine?" And as 
many times the answer came back ignorantly but 
hopefully: "Gwine along down, Massa — gwine 
along down wid you-all !" 



When it is remembered that it was in this re- 
gion, the heart of the Black Belt, that slavery had 
done its best, it will be seen that the presence of. 
our army was the precursor of agricultural disor- 
ganization and distress as well as of emancipation. 
Farm work was practically at an end and idle- 
ness, the negro's nearest conception of freedom, 
everywhere prevailed. This was soon followed, 
however, by the presence of Lorenzo Thomas, who, 
having failed to gain Stanton's approval as adju- 
tant general, was sent to the Mississippi to or- 
ganize negro regiments and look after the f reedmeh. 
He did his work, for lack of experience and means, 
with only moderate success, but he took the respon- 
sibility for it from the army commander and elimi- 
nated the negro question as far as the western army 
was concerned. 

After we crossed the Mississippi he traveled 
with us for a while, and it was in the midst of the 
campaign, with all its demands, that Eawlins and 
I concluded that Grant should have a private sec- 
retary to look after his personal correspondence, 
and agreed that I should bring the matter to his 
attention. I did this as soon as possible after we 
secured a footing on the Mississippi uplands. 

As I was the only regular officer then present 
and was always well mounted and ready for serv- 
ice, I generally rode next to Grant on the march, 
and this gave me a rare opportunity for personal as 
well as official conversation. The day after the 
battle of Port Gibson and the passage of Bayou 
Pierre, as we were making our way through the for- 
est to Eocky Springs, I said : 

"General, last night's experience has convinced 


both Eawlins and me that you ought to have a mili- 
tary secretary. As both he and Bowers have all 
they can do and as I am frequently away, you should 
have a special officer to look after your correspond- 
ence. ' ! 

"Yes," said the General, "I have been thinking 
of that myself. Do you know anybody who will 

"Oh, yes," said I, "there are plenty of them 
who, like Lincoln's coon dog, are good for nothing 
else, but you can't always get them when you want 
them. The best man in my mind now is Captain 
Badeau, A. A. D. C, who was a reporter with us at 
Port Boyal, and is now on T. W. Sherman's staff 
with Banks. Perhaps you know him. He was with 
Sherman during the Corinth campaign and you 
must have seen him. J ' 

"No, I don't recall him. What sort of a looking 
man was he ! " 

"He was a short, stoop-shouldered, red-headed 
fellow, who wore glasses." 

"Oh, yes, I remember him — a little pale, blue- 
eyed man, who wore spectacles and looked like a 
bent fo '-pence. Do you think he'll do?" 

I then told him of Badeau 's classical education, 
wide acquaintance with leading people, his literary 
experience, and his great desire to be of use. I 
pointed out that he had absolutely no military apti- 
tudes, and "would never make a soldier in his life," 
and that if he wasn't fit for a secretary he wasn't 
fit for anything connected with the service. I told 
the General in addition how he had endeared him- 
self to us all in the Port Eoyal expedition, and how 
we had united in recommending him to the Presi- 



dent for a commission, how the commission had been 
issued, and how Sherman had taken him on his staff 
to Shiloh, Corinth, and New Orleans. 

This settled it, and when I got through the Gen- 
eral said: "I guess he'll do. Please write a note 
to the Hippo- John-Thomas (the playful name by 
which he frequently referred to Adjutant General 
Thomas) and ask him to make an order directing 
Captain Badeau to report to me in the field at the 
earliest possible day." 

I wrote the request at the first halt and the order 
was duly made, but, as ill fortune would have it* the 
very day Badeau received it he was shot through the 
foot, while his chief lost a leg, leading the assault 
at Port Hudson. In consequence of this wound, 
which proved exceedingly severe and slow to heal, 
Badeau was invalided and did not report to Grant 
for duty till the latter had been still further pro- 
moted and had assumed personal command of 
the Union armies in Virginia. Badeau thus real- 
ized the dream of his life, and it is but just to add 
that he proved himself not only a faithful secretary 
but a painstaking and faithful military historian to 
the lieutenant general whom he ultimately came to 
regard as possessed of every virtue and as in every 
way the greatest man he had ever known. 

There will be many occasions to mention Badeau 
hereafter, for he was by no means without influ- 
ence or ambition. But unhappily he proved to have 
weaknesses which none of his military friends, and 
I, least of all, had ever suspected. Although pos- 
sessed of genuine scholarship and many accomplish- 
ments, he was essentially a vain and weak man, 
who owed everything to his chief and forgot some 



of it in the hour of adversity which finally overtook 
them both. 

It will be remembered that the first considera- 
tion in beginning the campaign east of the Great 
Eiver was to minimize the impedimenta and get as 
many fighting men into the first battle as possible. 
Everything and everybody not absolutely needed at 
the front was left behind. Even Dana, the special^ 
commissioner of the War Department, and Fred 
Grant, the GeneraPs eldest son, then a lad of four- 
teen, had to steal their passage across the river and 
make their way to the sound of the guns on foot. 
But they were not laggards, and although it was 
only the first day of May and the heat was intense 
they caught up with the army while it was gaining 
its first victory. On the road they helped them- 
selves to a pair of superannuated carriage horses, 
too old to work, and, with blind bridles and played- 
out saddles, finished the last stage of their journey 
without the fatigue of walking. 

One of the first prisoners of the day was a smart, 
well mounted young Confederate officer, who was 
brought at once to Grant's headquarters, where he 
was, of course, well treated. His welcome was so 
informal and hearty that he not only soon became 
much at his ease, but felt so encouraged that he 
asked General Grant, who had already admired his 
horse, that he might be allowed to keep it. He urged 
that it was private property which he had bred him- 
self, and to which he had become much attached. 
It was a moving appeal, but the General replied, 
with a gentle smile: 

"Yes, my young friend, I understand your feel- 
ings, but as we are now in need of horses and yours 



would just suit Mr. Dana, the commissioner of the 
War Department, I must ask you to turn it over to 
him. In exchange I will give you an order on the 
Confederate authorities for an excellent horse of my 
own, which one of your erring fellow countrymen 
took a few months ago, with a part of my head- 
quarters at Holly Springs." 

The young man smiled faintly at the General 's 
joke, and slowly but sadly dismounted, with newer 
but more exact knowledge of how the Yankees made 
war support war. The horse proved a satisfactory 
mount for Dana till the end of the campaign. 

It was such little things as this that cheered us 
on our way. Grant was an adept at them, and al- 
though kind and sympathetic to an unusual degree 
never failed to profit by advantages which came his 
way, no matter how small they might be. Cheerful, 
kind-hearted, and solicitous for the comfort of those 
about him, he was a most agreeable companion both 
on the march and in camp. He loved good horses 
and good horsemen, and always had a kind word for 
the man or officer who had a good mount and took 
good care of it. Frequently while marching through 
wooded country he would say: "Wilson, there's a 
fallen tree you haven't jumped yet. Put your horse 
at it and let us see how he takes it," and he always 
praised the horse. Seeing him upon such occasions 
no one would have ever thought he had any more 
care on his mind than a school boy, especially if the 
marches and the combinations were going to his sat- 
isfaction. Plain and simple in his manners, kind 
and considerate to the officers and men of his staff, 
and most gentle and sympathetic with the poor peo- 
ple of the country, it was like a continuous picnic 



to campaign with him when there was nothing more 
serious on hand than marching through a smiling 
land in the springtime. He gave the least trouble 
possible about camping or breaking camp, merely 
indicating in a general way what he wanted and 
leaving all the details to Eawlins and the proper 
officers of the staff. 

It should be noted that in our anxiety to forward 
troops, ammunition, and provisions, we left our 
headquarters baggage wagons, camp equipage, and 
horses, with the impedimenta of the army, on the 
west side of the Mississippi. They did not join us 
till May 8. We had been fully a week in the 
enemy's country, riding borrowed cavalry horses, 
and literally "making war support war," eating 
where we could get food, and sleeping where we 
could find shelter. Grant and his staff shared the 
hardships and privations of the troops, but being 
few in number generally occupied farm houses at 
night, receiving shelter and hospitality in exchange 
for protection. It was an exciting and encouraging 
time during which the General displayed all his 
amiable qualities to perfection. 

In repairing the bridge over the north fork of 
the Bayou Pierre after the battle of Port Gibson, 
Eawlins and I worked all night, taking neither rest 
nor sleep till it was certain that the bridge would 
serve its purpose. Without delay the marching col- 
umns were well under way to the front. It was now 
5 o'clock and broad daylight, but the excitement 
was over and we had at last become sensible of fa- 
tigue. We therefore returned to headquarters 
nearby and threw ourselves down for rest. The 
establishment was, however, already astir, the cooks 



were serving breakfast, the servants were packing, 
and the orderlies saddling and leading out the 
horses. Under these conditions both silence and 
sleep were impossible. In the midst of it all we 
heard the General, as he was mounting, caution the 
staff and orderlies not to call us, but leave us to get 
our " sleep out." Under such circumstances every 
soldier will understand we could neither sleep nor 
stay behind. We therefore waited only till our 
companions were gone, when we mounted and 
shortly afterward overtook them well on the road 
to Willow Springs. That afternoon we rode with 
Grant to our new base at Grand Gulf, where we 
found the navy in possession. The guns had already 
been branded: "Captured by the Mississippi 
Squadron under command of Rear Admiral David 
D. Porter/ ' but inasmuch as the enemy had blown 
up his batteries between 3 and 4 a. m. of May 2, 
this display legend struck us as hardly fair to the 
army. Grant, however, passed it over with a smile. 
The rebel garrison held on till 8 p. m. of that day, 
when it became certain that Bowen had been de- 
feated and that this outlying detachment would be 
captured unless it made haste to rejoin Pember- 
ton's main army in the field. This it did by a 
rapid march to the rebel bridge of boats at Han- 
kinson's Ferry. Thus our line of communications 
was shortened and the two armies were brought 
face to face twelve or fifteen miles in the interior 
on the lower reach of the Big Black. 

Grant, Rawlins, and I worked till after midnight 
of the 3rd on board Porter's flagship, writing orders 
and dispatches, and when every disposition that 
could be thought of had been duly provided for, we 



mounted and rode back to the army, which we found 
in camp near Hankinson's Ferry at four o'clock 
on the morning of the 4th. As all the houses in the 
neighborhood were occupied by those who got there 
before us, we unsaddled, spread our blankets, and 
threw ourselves down on the porch of a plantation 
house for rest. Grant was with us, tired and sleepy, 
but contented. We slept till the smell of breakfast 
and the rising sun awoke us. We remained in that 
region for about a week, engaged in watching the 
enemy while hurrying forward our whole army for^ 
the next step in the campaign. 

The first important point occupied after the 
battle of Port Gibson was Willow Springs, between 
Bayou Pierre and the Big Black, covering Grand 
Gulf. The next was Rocky Springs, eight miles 
farther to the northeast. From these points de- 
tachments were thrown out to the left toward Han- 
kinson's, Harmer's, and Hall's Ferries, while the 
Thirteenth Corps moved forward, its left skirting 
the river, its main body generally on the direct road 
through Cayuga and Auburn toward Edward's 
Depot. This naturally gave the impression that 
Grant intended to force a crossing of the Big Black 
and move directly against Vicksburg, while his real 
purpose was to screen the movement of his main 
column to the right through Utica and Raymond to 
Clinton on the east and west railroad. 

Sherman, who had been left behind, partly be- 
cause of his disapproval of the campaign and partly 
to still further confuse the enemy by a demonstra- 
tion against Hayne's Bluff, was the last to join the 
army in the field. Naturally his march was so di- 
rected after crossing the river that he could sup- 



port either column as might be necessary and 
finally take position on McPherson's right at Ray- 
mond. The city of Jackson, fourteen miles farther 
east, was, however, the chief railroad center in all 
that region as well as the capital of the state and 
the principal depot of supplies for the Confederates. 
It was, therefore, according to the art of war, the 
first strategic objective of the campaign, and till 
it was firmly in our hands and its bridges, depots, 
and supplies were destroyed, there would neces- 
sarily be danger of a concentrated and effective 
movement against the flank and rear of our columns 
from that quarter. 

McPherson's advance under Logan first encoun- 
tered the enemy on May 12 in force two or three 
miles from Raymond, about fifteen miles from Jack- 
son, and, after a spirited fight, drove him in confu- 
sion from the field. Anticipating this affair, Dana 
and I left Grant on the main road from Auburn for 
the same place, coming up with McPherson at dusk 
just after he had beaten the enemy, four or five 
thousand strong, and was going into camp for the 
night. As he had gained an easy victory, which 
it was important to improve, after congratulating 
him and praising his work, I directed him in 
Grant's name to push on at an early hour next 
morning to Clinton on the Jackson and Vicksburg 
Railroad, hardly seven miles farther to the north- 
east. Much to my surprise, he said pointblank he 
would be damned if he'd do any such thing, that 
he was not strong enough to venture so far alone, 
and besides he didn't intend that his men should do 
all the fighting for that army. 

This was such an unexpected and insubordinate 


answer from a West Point man, who was justly 
regarded as an ideal soldier, that I expressed my 
amazement in terms he could not fail to under- 
stand. Deliberately repeating the order, and calling 
his attention to the penalty of disobedience, I 
whirled my horse about and, accompanied by Dana, 
galloped through the dark to General Grant, whom 
we found in camp near the place we had left him. 
After reporting the spirited victory at Eaymond 
and pointing out the important positions on the 
map, I recited the order I had given in his name to 
McPherson and asked him to confirm it in writing. 
This he did at once and was about to send it by an- 
other officer, when I said: "No, General, give it 
to me. I have particular reasons for desiring to 
deliver it in person.' f Thereupon Dana and I, 
mounting fresh horses, rode back to McPherson and 
gave him Grant 's written order about midnight, but 
withal he held on at that place till after nine o 'clock 
the next morning, and did not reach Clinton till 
three o'clock in the afternoon the next day. When 
I overtook him with Grant early in the forenoon, he 
seemed to have forgotten his petulant and unsol- 
dierlike answer of the night before, but made no 
effort to quicken his march. His movement through- 
out was culpably slow, but as there was no enemy 
to resist him, slow as it was, it gave us indisputed 
possession of the railroad and interposed an entire 
army corps between Johnston and Pemberton. The 
next day, in pursuance of orders, he started early, 
but still moved slowly and cautiously toward Jack- 
son, where he might have cut off Johnston's retreat 
to the northward had he marched with proper celer- 
ity. As it was, he merely left the direct road from 



Eaymond to Jackson clear for Sherman's corps and 
enabled the latter to occupy that important center 
without much fighting, but with some delay accompa- 
nied by a good deal of noisy cannonading. Although 
the latter did but little harm, it had the effect of 
postponing McPherson 's detour north of the town 
and thus gave Johnston time to withdraw by the 
Canton road before his retreat in that direction 
could be seriously interfered with. 

Up to the evening of May 12, when McPherson 
gained his victory over Bowen at Eaymond, Grant 
had formed no other plan than to break the Vicks- 
burg and Jackson Eailroad at Clinton and then turn 
toward Vicksburg to confront Pemberton wherever 
he might be found. But while Dana and I were re- 
turning to headquarters from Eaymond the first 
time, we considered the whole situation and con- 
cluded that, Jackson being the principal railroad 
crossing and the strategic center of the state, Grant 
should order each of his army corps promptly to- 
ward that place, drive off or disperse the rebel 
force, occupy the city, destroy the military stores 
and supplies which might be found, burn the Pearl 
Eiver Eailroad bridge, and effectively break up the 
railroads centering at that place. It was evident 
that this course would seriously disconcert and delay 
the enemy and correspondingly facilitate our own 
operations, and, accordingly, after explaining it 
fully to Eawlins and securing his approval, I laid 
it before Grant. I briefly indicated the extent of 
McPherson 's victory as well as the orders I had 
given for following it up, pointed out his indisposi- 
tion to obey them unless heavily reenforced, and 
then advised Grant to move his whole army toward 



Jackson and take that place before turning to the 
west. Without asking a question or raising an ob- 
jection, he formally directed McPherson to push 
forward by the way of Clinton, Sherman by 
the Raymond road to Jackson, while McClernand 
should move by his right flank to Raymond and 
there hold himself in readiness to support either 
McPherson or Sherman as might become neces- 

During the whole of that night no question was 
raised as to the propriety of these dispositions, but 
by noon the next day, after every corps was in mo- 
tion, Grant for the first time expressed regret that he 
had ordered everything so far to the east. And dur- 
ing the afternoon he remarked to me more than once 
that he wished he had not sanctioned the movement 
to Jackson, but whether this was due to the slow- 
ness with which his orders were executed, or to a 
doubt as to their wisdom, he did not explain. After 
he had captured the place, however, he realized that 
Jackson was his opponent's center of intelligence 
as well as of operations and supply, and not only 
became convinced that he had done right in going 
there, but never again expressed doubt in reference 
to the subject. The subsequent course of the cam- 
paign made it certain that his strategy in this case 
was correct, and that he had come to a wise decision 
a few days before in declining to weaken his com- 
mand by sending any part of it to join Banks. He 
reached this conclusion in the course of a discus- 
sion with me, and it was then embodied in a formal 
letter which I wrote by his direction and dispatched 
to Banks by Captain UlfYers, one of my engineer 
assistants, who made his way by horse to Grand 




Gulf, and thence down the river on a steam tug- 
boat furnished by Admiral Porter. 

Immediately after entering Jackson, Grant es- 
tablished headquarters at the principal hotel, a 
favorable position from which to gather informa- 
tion and to supervise the destruction necessary for 
the further success of his own army. Perhaps the 
most fortunate incident of the day was the capture 
of a late dispatch from Johnston, directing Pember- 
ton to cross the Big Black and fall upon Grant's 
rear. This hastened the burning of the railroad 
bridge across Pearl Eiver, the destruction of the 
rolling stock and the enemy's supplies, and the coun- 
termarch and concentration of our army at Cham- 
pion's Hill, about six miles east of Edward's Sta- 
tion. No time was lost in this change from front to 
rear, but every soldier as well as every general, in- 
cluding McPherson, did his best to get strung out 
on the road and headed for Pemberton's army, which 
they were now sure of meeting in the open on fair 
and equal terms. 

Grant, with his staff and escort, remained with 
Sherman's Corps in the town overnight. All com- 
munication with the North had been cut off since 
we left Cayuga, no dispatches except from his own 
subordinate could reach us, and none could be sent 
away. So there was nothing left for Grant but 
to gather information, make orders, and superin- 
tend the work of the destroyers. Although Jackson 
was the first capital of an interior state occupied 
by us, it was in those days a raw, rambling Southern 
town, mostly of cheap frame houses, with here and 
there a pretentious brick store, or a still more pre- 
tentious residence or public building, all of which 



were protected, as far as possible, from fire and ma- 
rauders. We, of course, took possession of the post 
office and the mails, from which we got a good lot of 
interesting Confederate correspondence, treasury- 
drafts, and money. 

The next morning before leaving I asked the ho- 
tel keeper for our bill. He replied breezily enough : 
1 ' Sixty-five dollars, ' ' doubtless expecting his pay in 
national currency, but when I handed him a brand 
new one-hundred-dollar Confederate note his face 
took on a disappointed look as he said : ' ' Oh, if you 
pay in Confederate money, it will be ninety-five dol- 
lars. ' ' To this I answered : ' ' That 's all right, and 
never mind the change ! ' ' But unfortunately for the 
landlord one of his neighbors was a witness to the 
transaction and the colloquy, and with true in- 
tolerance made haste to report them to his 
fellow townsmen, through whom it promptly reached 
the rebel authorities. It was a fatal but perhaps 
an unconscious blunder, for it was a public admis- 
sion that Southern currency was at a heavy discount 
and Yankee money at a corresponding premium, 
and this was at that stage of the war an unpardon- 
able sin. Accordingly, we had hardly got out of 
the city when, as we afterward learned, the hotel 
was set on fire and speedily reduced to ashes, but 
whether this quickened the patriotism or aroused 
the enmity of the hotel keeper we never knew. 

It will be remembered that this was about the 
middle of May, 1863, and looking back upon it after 
nearly half a century, it must be regarded as a / 
striking commentary upon the hopes of the rebel- 

The battle of Champion's Hill was fought on 


May 16. Grant had concentrated three army 
corps, with not far from forty-five thousand men, 
within close supporting distance of each other, while 
Pemberton, with twenty-five, and Johnston, with ten 
or fifteen thousand men at most, were separated by 
thirty-five or forty miles of poor country, and 
neither force strong enough to make head against 
his confident opponent. Johnston's orders on this 
occasion, as well as throughout the campaign, were 
well enough, but they were in every instance too 
late to meet the rapidly changing condition of af- 
fairs. Grant, in the midst of Johnston's scattered 
divisions, had the short line to all possible points 
of the field, except Vicksburg, and, aided by his 
own staff, as well as by the quickened movements 
of both Sherman and McPherson, he was enabled 
in every instance to "get there first with the most 
men." Had McClernand been as active and ag- 
gressive as he should have been, and promptly put 
in, when ordered, his three other divisions, idle 
throughout the fight, Pemberton 's army might have 
been taken both in flank and rear, as well as in front, 
and captured or at least completely scattered at 
Champion's Hill. 

The capture of the tete de pont at the railroad 
crossing of the Big Black by Lawler the next day 
has already been sufficiently described, and as this 
opened the way to Vicksburg and made it easy to 
bridge the river wherever the Union columns might 
come to it, the rest of the field operations were sim- 
ple enough for all concerned. But the night we 
reached the Big Black was a particularly busy one 
for me. 

We had but one regular pontoon train in that 


army, and as Sherman's advance now in the right 
front was hastening its march to the river at Bridge- 
port on the direct road to Hayne's Bluff, the future 
base of supplies, the train was sent to him. The 
bridge was promptly laid, and by the time Pem- 
berton was safe inside his works, Sherman was well 
on his way to the new base on the Yazoo, which, 
before noon of the next day, was safely within his 
control. But McClernand's corps on the railroad, 
and McPherson's, with its right at Amsterdam, had 
also to cross the river without delay, and to this end 
it was necessary to build three additional bridges 
out of such materials as could be found at hand. The 
duty of designing and supervising their construc- 
tion was mine. Fortunately, the task turned out 
to be a simple one. The first bridge was made of 
the dry trestlework timbers, which were cut down, 
dragged to the water one by one, rafted into place 
and kept steady by longitudinal side rails, all lashed 
firmly together and connected at both ends with 
proper land approaches. The actual work was most 
efficiently directed by Lieutenant Hains of the reg- 
ular engineers. 

The second bridge, two miles above, was made 
of cotton bales fastened end to end with a frame- 
work of scantling taken from nearby plantation 
houses and covered by joists and flooring held to- 
gether by rack lashings applied in the usual manner. 

The third, at Amsterdam, was like the first, but 
the dry timbers composing it were obtained by tear- 
ing down cotton gins and barns in and near the vil- 
lage, dragging them to the river, and making a solid 
raft of them across the sluggish stream. The prac- 
tical work on the second and third was ably and 



rapidly done by Captain Hickenlooper, McPher son's 
chief engineer, and all were ready for the troops 
to begin crossing before sun-up. Each served its 
purpose perfectly. Counting these improvised 
bridges, as well as those used between Milliken's 
Bend, New Carthage, and Bruinsburg on the west 
side of the Mississippi, there were between five 
thousand and six thousand feet of such bridges con- 
structed during the Vicksburg campaign, and what 
is still more noteworthy is the fact that most of 
them were built during the night, so that no part of 
the army was compelled to delay its march while 
the bridges were under construction. 

While the work was under way, Grant, Eawlins, 
Dana, and I spent the time together, passing from 
bridge site to bridge site, encouraging officers and 
men in their novel and necessary work. And no one 
could witness what was done on the Big Black with- 
out conceiving the deepest admiration for the Ameri- 
can volunteer soldier and his unequaled capacity for 
the practical work of bridge building. It was only 
necessary to indicate and briefly explain what was 
wanted and leave him to do the rest. Other soldiers 
may be as courageous as he, but none can beat him in 
the general business of campaigning. He is at all 
times alert, active, and intelligent, and, I must add, I 
never saw a man or an officer of volunteers hesitate 
to obey orders. All he ever needs is reasonable cer- 
tainty as to what is expected of him and then, if 
fairly well instructed and led, he is not only obe- 
dient but invincible. As General Grant used to say, 
' ' the common soldiers are as smart as town folks, ' ' 
and when the campaign is going right, which they 
are quick to perceive, they show their satisfaction 



by the cheerfulness with which they march and the 
spirit with which they fight. All this was especially 
noticeable in the campaign east of the river which, 
from start to finish, was as gay and far more ex- 
citing than a picnic excursion, while its skirmishes 
and battles were "gentle and joyous jousts' ' which 
would have gladdened the hearts of the Knights at 
Ashbv de la Zouche. 




First assault — Complete investment — Hot weather — Grant 
rides the lines — McClernand relieved — Close invest- 
ment — Pemberton surrenders — Reorganization of vol- 
unteer army. 

Grant's army, having closed in on Vicksburg, 
made a spirited effort the next morning to rush the 
enemy's entrenchments, but owing principally to 
the rough and unknown ground, covered by fallen 
trees and entanglements, the assault was neces- 
sarily too broken and disjointed to succeed. It was 
justified, however, by the chance that it would find 
the enemy too much discouraged and demoralized 
to make an effective defense or too much spread out 
to fully cover his whole line. According to prece- 
dent such a dash might have succeeded the evening 
before, immediately after our troops arrived on the 
ground, but the marching columns had to find their 
places and deploy, which on a strange terrain took 
too much time. Later in the war, darkness, which 
came on before the troops got fully into position, 
might have favored a successful attack, as at Selma 
and Columbus, in 1865, but in May, 1863, no one had 
had sufficient experience to venture upon such an un- 
dertaking. Besides the troops, having been march- 



ing and fighting constantly for three weeks, were 
both tired and short of regular supplies, and this 
made it advisable to give them a rest while roads 
were being opened and rations, ammunition, and 
clothing were coming forward from the transports 
at Chickasaw Landing. 

Within three days all wants were sufficiently sup- 
plied to warrant a general assault, but the enemy 
had also pulled himself together and strengthened 
his position to such an extent as to make it secure. 
The assault was made, and although the national 
troops reached the entrenchments at several salients, 
and actually broke through at one, the general re- 
sult was a complete failure, the details and causes 
of which have already been sufficiently set forth 
elsewhere in this narrative. 

A complete investment and a regular siege nec- 
essarily followed, during which the officers and men 
displayed the same high qualities that characterized 
their deeds in the previous stages of the campaign. 
It will be remembered that there were present at 
first only six, and at no time more than eight, West • 
Point officers, including Grant, and from first to last 
not a single experienced engineer soldier. But withal 
the siege operations, including sapping, mining, the 
construction of roads, approaches, shelters, paral- 
lels, places d'armes, and siege materials of all kinds, 
including even wooden siege mortars, were carried 
forward with as much order, regularity, and per- 
fection as would have been practicable in any Euro- 
pean army. It was slow, heavy, and exacting work, ( 
which tried the patience and strength of all from Y 
highest to lowest. The hot weather of June was at 
hand and soon began to tell heavily upon the spirits 



of the army. The excitement of a dashing campaign 
had died out, and while the health of the men re- 
mained singularly good for the climate, the lack 
of vegetables and seasonable food, combined with 
the work and restraint of the siege, soon brought 
about a feeling of lassitude and depression from 
which none but the toughest and most buoyant were 
exempt. Staff and line officers suffered alike. Doc- 
tors and caterers cooperated with each other, and 
Doctor Kittoe, our staff surgeon, whose people had 
served in India, prescribed curries and red pepper 
for the messes that could get them, but at best they 
proved to be palliatives, hot remedies. 

Even Grant himself, when the weather was hot- 
test and things were dullest, felt the depression and 
longed for a change. Before the end of the first 
week in June he started by steamer to visit an out- 
lying detachment on the Yazoo, but before reaching 
his destination he "fell ill," which, but for the 
timely action of Dana and the firmness and devo- 
tion of Eawlins, might have proved a great mis- 
fortune both to Grant and his army. It was upon 
this occasion that Eawlins, in the late and silent 
hours of the night, wrote his remarkable letter of 
June 6, 1863, 1 appealing to Grant's sense of duty 
and propriety. And it was the next morning that 
this fearless and faithful staff officer took measures 
for the exclusion of wine and liquor from the head- 
quarters encampment by personally searching every 
suspected tent and ruthlessly breaking every bottle 

1 Dana's f ' Eecollections of the Civil War/' p. 82 et seq., Wilson's 
"Life of John A. Eawlins." "From Chattanooga to Petersburg 
Under Generals Grant and Butler," by William Farrar Smith, 
Houghten, Mifflin & Co., pp. 179, 180. 



he found over a nearby stump. That he did this 
without resistance from any quarter shows that his 
action was not only pardonable but necessary. It 
is pleasant to add that, although .Grant said some- 
thing about keeping a case of champagne, which a 
friend had sent him to celebrate the capture of 
Vicksburg with, he allowed Rawlins to have his 7 
way without further objection. 

When it is recalled that this episode became 
known to the leading generals of the army, all of 
whom fully approved Rawlins ' intervention, the 
character of the transaction will be better under- 
stood. Human nature in soldiers as well as in com- 
mon people is a complex and puzzling thing, but 
it generally bends to the will of a masterful man. 

As the interested reader will find the details of 
this siege and of the final surrender on July 4, 
1863, sufficiently set forth in the military histories 
of the day, I shall confine myself to such personal 
incidents as seem worthy of attention. 

After the failure to capture Vicksburg by assault 
and the several army corps and divisions had taken 
up their definite positions within the lines of cir- 
cumvallation and countervallation, it became Grant 's - 
custom to ride the lines daily and mine to accom- 
pany him when I had no special duty to take me 
elsewhere. On the first of these rides, just after 
reaching the Hall 's Ferry road and turning towards 
the besieged city, we met two elderly women walk- 
ing to a neighbor's, and as we saluted them politely 
one of them raised her eyes and hesitatingly said 
to the General, who was, as usual, smoking, and 
whose well-worn blouse showed no sign of rank: 

"Soldier, please give me a cigar?" 


At this the General reined in his horse, and, 
thrusting his hand into his side pocket, took out a 
half dozen Havanas and, politely handing them 
to her, passed on, up the road. 

I, however, remained at a halt till he got out of 
earshot, when I said: 

" Madam, you had better make those cigars go 
as far as possible, for General Grant will not 
be coming this way every day to keep you 
supplied. * ' 

A few rods farther on we turned into a stately, 
white mansion, over which a field-hospital flag was 
flying, for the purpose of seeing its condition. We 
had hardly dismounted and got inside when one of 
the ladies whom we had just met came forward in 
a state of confusion, and, after offering her apolo- 
gies for her friend who had addressed the General 
in such familiar terms, explained that the mansion 
was known as Magnolia Hall, and belonged to Mr. 
Latham, her husband, and she made haste to pre- 
sent us to him and her family. We found in the 
drawing room several charming young women, all 
of whom, except a visitor from Long Island, were 
sympathizers with the Southern cause. They were, 
however, well-bred and accomplished, and it was 
pleasant to reassure and protect them. I shall not 
add that the certainty of finding them there after- 
wards made us more frequent visitors than we oth- 
erwise should have been, but I cheerfully admit that 
we never rode that way without stopping to pay 
our respects to the ladies and to enjoy their witty 
but disloyal sallies. 

The owner was a planter, past the military age, 
but, notwithstanding the fact that we had every as- 



surance of his loyalty and good will, I learned long 
years afterward that he had been paid most inade- 
quately for the use of his house and nothing what- 
ever for the injury done his furniture, bedding, car- 
pets, and hangings by the sick and wounded who 
filled his luxurious rooms. It is sad to relate that 
the house burned down shortly after peace was de- 
clared, and the owner, who lost his slaves and his 
lands, died impoverished, while his daughters, al- 
though married, were scattered and embittered for 
life. I am sorry to add that they never recovered 
from the losses inflicted on them and their helpless 
children by the war. Thus the innocent are too fre- 
quently made to suffer more than the guilty, and 
with all my experience I know of no case more piti- 
ful than the one I have just described. 

Fortunately, the grounds occupied by the op- 
posing forces in and about Vicksburg were with this 
exception completely deserted by the inhabitants, 
and we had no other case brought so forcibly to our 
notice till after the place had surrendered, when it 
became our duty as well as our pleasure to console 
and feed the destitute and to heal the wounds of 
war as far as circumstances would permit. 

After the siege was well under way, we varied 
our rides occasionally by going toward the landing 
for a swim in Chickasaw Bayou, or one of its clear, 
cool lagoons. The country was covered by a dense 
forest and, at places in the river valley, by exten- 
sive canebrakes, but was quite free of guerrillas, 
hence the riding and swimming were entirely safe 
except for our own marauders. Dana and I were 
one day threatened by a small party of the latter 
outside of camp lines, and although one of them 



struck me with an iron bucket I managed to hold 
them in check while Dana galloped to headquarters 
and brought the provost guard. As I was unarmed, 
it looked for a while as though I might be roughly 
handled, but, fortunately, the guard came in time 
to prevent any further violence. 

One of our rides extended to Mrs. Johnson's 
house on the Yazoo, seven or eight miles from 
camp as the crow flies, and as the scenery was pic- 
turesque and the shade of the overhanging trees 
most restful and cooling, we concluded to return by 
a more direct route, through the bottom that none 
of us had traversed. Besides General Grant, there 
were half a dozen officers and eight or ten orderlies 
in the party, all of whom enjoyed the outing greatly. 
The General and I were leading as usual, when quite 
unexpectedly we came to a lagoon, the outer end of 
which had but little water in it, but its bed was 
filled with black, slimy ooze, which looked impass- 
able. As I was supposed to be the guide, it was up 
to me to get them through. It was growing late 
and as it was ten or twelve miles by the way we had 
come, and not more than three by the compass to 
headquarters, it was important that we should get 
across and not turn back. Spurring forward and 
looking over the ground, I discovered an extensive 
drift pile near by containing a good many fence 
rails and other light stuff, whereupon I dismounted 
the orderlies and, assisted by such officers as were 
disposed to help, we constructed a corduroy road 
forty or fifty feet long, and in less than half an hour 
were safely over and on our way to camp. Dana 
and Eawlins as usual gave willing assistance, while 
Grant, seeing at a glance that the plan would suc- 



ceed, expressed his approval and watched its prog- 
ress with cheerful satisfaction. 

The incident was a trivial one, but it made a deep 
impression on the others, and taught the nonprofes- 
sional members of the staff a lesson which they 
never forgot. 

During the whole of the campaign and siege I 
kept a journal showing daily and hourly what we 
learned of the features of the country, its roads, 
streams, bridges, fords; the movement of our own 
troops and those of the enemy as they developed; 
what we gathered from prisoners, deserters, trav- 
elers, contrabands, and natives; where the General 
and his staff went, when they started, what they did, 
and when they got into camp. In it I also recorded 
the resources of the country, the distance from place 
to place, the condition of the roads, the rumored 
movements and the strength of the enemy, the in- 
formation collected from local newspapers and cap- 
tured mails, and in general such circumstances and 
facts, great and small, as might be useful or even 
interesting to the commanding general. This jour- 
nal was closely written in pencil and always by my- 
self, except when I was absent from headquarters, 
when Dana kept it for me. 1 

It gives many inside views of what was going on 
among the people, and, also, of what the Confederate 
soldiers had to say about their hardships, their 
marches, and even their officers. One young man at 
Edward's Depot wrote disparagingly about his bri- 
gade commander: "There's Old Featherstone ! He 
has no humanity about him ; his head is as flat on 

1 Journal Military Service Institution, No. CLIV, pp. 93-109, 
and No. CLV, pp. 261-275. 



top as an African Negro's, and he's as mean as the 
devil wants him to be. ! ' 

But among more important matters it contains 
the two dispatches from McClernand to Grant which 
figured in the controversy between those officers, 
but unfortunately another, which preceded them, 
was sent to Quimby with an endorsement directing 
him to take his division to McClernand 's assistance. 
To save time Quimby endorsed an order on it and 
sent it to Colonel Boomer, directing him to lead off 
with his brigade. Shortly after arriving at the 
scene of action, Boomer was killed and the dispatch 
disappeared forever. 

The entry connected with the later dispatches is 
in Dana's hand. It was made May 22, at 6 p. m., 
and runs as follows : 

At about two o'clock this afternoon General Grant 
received the following dispatch from General McClernand : 

Headquarters, Thirteenth Army Corps, 
In the field near Vicksburg, Miss., 
May 22, 1863. 
General : 

We have gained the enemy's entrenchments at several 
points, but are brought to a stand. 

I have sent word to McArthur to re-enforce me if he 

Would it not be best to concentrate the whole or a part 
of his command on this point? 

John A. McClernand, 
Maj. Gen. commanding. 
Maj. Gen. U. S. Grant. 

P. S. — I have received your dispatch. My troops are 
all engaged and I cannot withdraw any to re-enforce 
others. McC. 



The following was received at four o 'clock : 

Headquarters, Thirteenth Army Corps, 
May 23, 3.15 p. m. 
General : 

I have received your dispatch in regard to General 
Quimby's division and General McArthur's division. As 
soon as they arrive I will press the enemy with all possible 
speed and doubt not that I will force my way through. 
I have lost no ground. My men are in two of the enemy's 
forts, but they are commanded by rifle pits in the rear. 
Several prisoners have been taken, who intimate that the 
rear is strong. At this moment I am hard pressed. 

John A. McClernand, 
Maj. Gen. commanding. 
Maj. Gen. U. S. Grant, 
Department of Tennessee. 

In consequence of the last dispatch the assault 
was renewed in Sherman's and McPherson's front 
without success and with the loss of about one thou- 
sand men killed and wounded. 

These dispatches, and especially the parts which 
I have put in italics, together with McClernand's 
threatened disobedience of orders, his profane lan- 
guage described elsewhere, and the order issued des- 
ignating his corps as "the Army of the Mississippi' ' 
and unduly magnifying its deeds, while minimizing 
those of Sherman and McPherson, were what finally 
exhausted Grant's patience and caused him to re- 
lieve McClernand and send him to his home in Illi- 

It is but repeating what has been stated several 
times before to say that after this action was taken 
perfect subordination and good feeling prevailed 



throughout that army. Keenforcements poured in 
from the North and by the end of June raised our 
effective strength to about eighty-five thousand men, 
mostly infantry and field artillery. With the steady 
progress of the siege operations, the gradual sev- 
ering of communication between the besieged and 
the Confederacy, and the exhaustion of the garri- 
son's munitions and supplies, it daily became more 
and more certain that Johnston could not raise the 
siege, and that Pemberton would soon be forced by 
starvation, if not by a successful assault, to sur- 
render at discretion. My journal shows most of the 
facts which led to this conclusion, as well as those 
that enabled us to predict within a few days just 
when the surrender must take place. 

From the habit which grew up between the op- 
posing sentries and videttes, as soon as the heads of 
sap were at the enemy's ditches, the actual condi- 
tion of the enemy became known with increasing cer- 
tainty. On Lawler's front it was a common thing, 
toward the last days of the siege, to exchange an 
occasional drink of whiskey for a Vicksburg news- 

The scarcity of percussion caps and artillery am- 
munition was admitted soon after the investment, 
and the silence of the enemy, except under extreme 
provocation, confirmed the admission. It soon be- 
came known, also, that the garrison of the besieged 
town was on short rations, and with the certainty 
that the investment on both sides of the river was 
complete, and that all communication with the sur- 
rounding country was effectively cut off, it required 
no prophet to discern that the end was near at 
hand. Indeed, by the middle of June we were cer- 



tain that the defense could not be prolonged beyond 
the middle of July. 

While for reasons of economy the enemy wasted 
no ammunition on us, it was altogether different 
with our men, many of whom were expert riflemen. 
Every commanding point in our lines was occupied 
by sharp-shooters and, in addition, several wooden 
turrets were built at points which gave a plunging 
and enfilading fire by which many of the enemy were 
picked off. One of the notable features of the siege 
was the voluntary practice of the good marksmen, 
many of whom selected advantageous positions be- 
hind stumps and head logs, either to the front or in 
the main line of works, and, after covering them- 
selves effectively from observation and crossfire, 
made it their daily practice to watch the enemy and, 
whenever a head or even a hand showed itself above 
the defenses, to fire at it singly or in groups, and 
it is to this practice, which seemed to have a strange 
fascination for men of a sporting turn of mind, that 
was due the unusually large number of the enemy 
who were found in the hospitals after the surrender, 
suffering from wounds in the head, arms, and hands. 
The curious thing about it was that no one 
seemed to feel any more compunction in taking a 
good shot at an unknown enemy than at a deer, and 
yet, when they got to know each other at the ad- 
vanced posts, there was a punctilious observance by 
both sides of the informal truce which was early 
established. In other words, the mounted, passing, 
or concealed enemy was always in danger, while 
those within talking distance or acquaintance were 
never molested without due warning. In recogni- 
tion of these natural conventions I never exposed 



myself unnecessarily during daylight, but after 
nightfall I took advantage of all the open roads and 
short cuts, with the feeling that I was running but 
little risk. And yet the rebels, like our own people, 
had no compunction at firing on the passing but 
unseen enemy, especially when he could be plainly 
heard. In this way I had several close calls. Once 
a shot just missed me and my brother, riding with 
me, and severely wounded my orderly behind us. 

With the knowledge of the exact state of affairs 
spreading throughout the army, a spirit of friendly 
banter grew up between the opposing forces which 
would have been impossible had they belonged to 
different races and spoken different languages. A 
common question from the inside was : " Yank, why 
don't you all make a general assault and end this 
thing Vf Or, "When are you all going to attack 
again and close up this siege f " A common answer 
was: "Oh, don't be impatient, Johnny, we are in 
no hurry. We are just guarding prisoners and it 
would be inhuman to fire on them unless they under- 
take to break out." This was frequently varied by 
the promise of "fireworks on the 4th of July," from 
which the impression got abroad among both men 
and officers that we might do something desperate 
on that day, and that it would save a ' ' further effu- 
sion of blood" if they should forestall us by sur- 
rendering. We knew pretty well on our side that 
the other side had enough food still on hand to last 
several days, and we were therefore taken somewhat 
by surprise late in the afternoon of July 3 by the 
display of a white flag on the enemy's works and 
the appearance of Major General Bowen under a 
flag of truce, bearing a letter to General Grant. Of 



course, everybody was on the qui vive to learn what 
it meant, and it was not long before it became known 
that Pemberton had asked for an armistice and the 
appointment of three commissioners on each side 
to arrange terms of capitulation. The usual desire 
was expressed: "To save the further effusion of 
blood, which must otherwise be shed to a frightful 
extent," and this was backed up by the boastful 
claim that the garrison could "maintain its position 
for an indefinite period. ' ' 

Of course, Grant saw that the essence of this 
thinly veiled proposition was an immediate surren- 
der, and with pardonable pride replied that 1 ? the use- 
less effusion of blood' \ could be ended at any time 
. . . "by an unconditional surrender of the city and 
garrison." He followed this by saying: "Men who 
have shown so much endurance and courage as those 
now in Vicksburg will always challenge the respect 
of an adversary, and I can assure you will be treated 
with all the respect due to prisoners of war." 

Having written this he concluded his note with 
the declaration that he did not favor the appoint- 
ment of commissioners because he had no other 
terms to offer than those already indicated. 

To my great satisfaction, this reply was handed 
to me for delivery to the Confederate flag, and I was 
directed to wait for such reply as might be sent. 
This took me till a late hour that night, but I was 
well repaid for the vigil by the surrender which fol- 
lowed the next morning. 

Pemberton 's reply, brought by Colonel Locket, 
who had been a cadet with me at West Point, was 
followed by the surrender of the place on the 4th 
of July, on Grant's terms, which were unnecessarily 



lenient. Instead of holding the captured army at 
Vicksburg or sending it north and scattering and 
disintegrating it, Grant required only that it should 
march out, lay down its flags and stack arms, and 
then return to camp, where he fed it till it had made 
out a full set of muster rolls and its officers and 
men had given their individual parole not to serve 
against the United States till duly exchanged. 

These preliminaries required several days, and 
when completed the whole army, with the exception 
of seven or eight hundred men, who were tired of 
the rebellion and declined to serve any longer, 
marched back into the Confederacy with all their 
organizations, by division, brigade, regiment and 
company complete. Practically all they gave up 
were their flags and arms, and as soon as these could 
be replaced they were again in the Confederate 
ranks fighting to overthrow the Union. The prob- 
ability of such a sequel was apparent to all at our 
headquarters as well as to Halleck in Washington, 
who finally foresaw the danger and directed Grant, 
July 8, to retain them as prisoners of war "till fur- 
ther orders.' ' 1 The matter was discussed with the 
General, but, claiming that he did not have sufficient 
transports to carry them to Cairo, he let them march 
out, practically as Pemberton had originally pro- 
posed. It is now certain that his sullen opponent, 
by good management or good fortune, outwitted 
Grant in this arrangement. But little was said of 
it by the Administration or the press at large, but 
subsequent events at Chickamauga and Chattanooga 
showed plainly that it was a serious mistake which 

^adeau's "Military History of Ulysses S. Grant,' ' Vol. 1, p. 



cost the country a great many lives, and for which 
the leniency of the victorious general was mainly 

The generous terms of the capitulation were but 
poorly requited by the Confederate leaders. Shortly 
after they were arranged, Grant and his staff en- 
tered the captured works and rode to Pemberton's 
headquarters, where they were received with the 
coldest formality. No one even offered Grant a 
seat, and when he asked for a glass of water a mem- 
ber of the Confederate staff merely told him where 
he could find it. The situation was a trying one, but 
Pemberton and his officers met it badly. Their be- 
havior was unhandsome and disagreeable in the ex- 
treme, while that of Grant and his staff was both 
modest and magnanimous to an extent to which the 
enemy had no just claim. Three young West Point- 
ers, Saunders, Locket, and Landis, were polite and 
courteous, in recognition of which their haversacks 
and canteens were well filled with provisions and 
whiskey when they bade us good-by. 

Without showing a trace of ill feeling or in 
any way recognizing the slight put upon him, the 
modest hero of Vicksburg terminated the interview 
as soon as possible and then established his head- 
quarters at the commodious house of a planter's 
wife overlooking the river. It had been reported 
that she had made a Union flag and threatened to 
hoist it, but we saw nothing of it, although we re- 
mained there for over a month and became quite in- 
timate with the family. 

The next day, July 5, I rode the entire line of 
rebel entrenchments and made a critical examina- 
tion of them. I found them to consist mainly of rifle 



trench, not particularly strong or well laid out, but 
difficult of approach by troops in anything like good 
order. The line followed generally the top of the 
ridge, with here and there a redan or a stronger 
emplacement for field or siege guns, and occasionally 
a loop or second line sweeping the gorge of a work 
in front. The ground outside, generally broken and 
rough, was further obstructed by fallen timber and 
entanglements in such manner as to render an as- 
sault even by the roads and wider boyaus extremely 
costly and difficult. It was evident that nothing but 
the most methodical and painstaking preparation 
could insure a successful assault, and that the de- 
fence could have stood us off indefinitely had the 
garrison been properly supplied with provisions and 

From the abundant experience of this siege and 
defense it may be confidently asserted that no well- 
constructed, well-defended line of earthworks or rifle 
trench can be successfully assaulted by troops carry- 
ing the same arms as the defenders, unless they 
have a great preponderance of numbers and have 
made every possible preparation, not only for the 
attack, but for instantly following up every prelim- 
inary success. Even with a great preponderance 
of force, the assailants should work with all their 
might for a surprise or for some other advantage 
which would neutralize the entrenchments to be at- 
tacked. In those days the books on field fortifica- 
tions dwelt upon the advantage of Rogniat's line or 
other entrenchments more or less regularly laid out 
with bastions, flanking arrangements, curtains, and 
openings, but I know of no instance during the en- 
tire war where anything so methodical was resorted 



to in an active campaign. In every case that came 
under my observation, except at Selma, the practice 
was similar to that at Vicksburg, a simple line of 
rifle trench conforming to the ground, partly dug 
out and partly thrown up, with here and there a 
heavier section for artillery. At Selma, situated 
as it was on a level plain and covered by a regular 
bastioned line of strong profile, behind a stockade 
and mounting thirty-two guns, all constructed for 
permanent defense, we succeeded partly by surprise 
and partly because our troops were armed with 
Spencer magazine carbines and rifles, while the 
enemy had nothing but old-fashioned muzzle loaders. 
But even this case strengthens the conclusion that 
for the emergencies of a campaign, with long-range 
rapid-fire small arms, the simple line of rifle trench 
is all-sufficient and can be easily held against a su- 
perior number of similar troops in the open field. 
The only chance of victory over such lines, all other 
things being equal, must be looked for in stratagem 
or in a turning movement. Yet Grant, in the cam- 1 
paign against Eichmond and Petersburg, and Sher- 
man in that against Atlanta, in spite of all their 
previous experience, frequently resorted to the di- 
rect assault of temporary entrenchments, and in 
nearly every instance failed to gain any adequate 
advantage. Vicksburg taught this lesson, while the 
great campaigns just mentioned wrote it perma- 
nently into the modern art of war. 

But the Port Eoyal expedition and the Antietam 
campaign, where I was a subordinate, gave me un- 
usual opportunity for observation. Having been 
constantly on the move in both I picked up much 
information in reference to the crudities of our mili- 



tary system. These were both confirmed and en- 
larged in the campaign and siege of Vicksburg, 
where I held a much more important position. To 
any educated military man it was evident on all 
hands that the Western volunteers, no matter what 
state they came from, were intelligent, vigorous, pa- 
triotic, and naturally amenable to discipline and 
were good soldiers in every respect except in in- 
struction. This, coming from officers essentially of 
the same class, was necessarily crude and imperfect, 
but even the officers were in many respects excel- 
lent. They were generally capable of learning their 
duties and willing to perform them, but the system 
under which they labored in many instances para- 
lyzed their efforts. Those who worked hardest and 
fought best lost the most men. Their regiments and 
companies were soonest run down and reduced to 
a state of inefficiency, and here is where the mis- 
chief first showed itself. Instead of keeping the 
road to the front crowded with recruits for the deci- 
mated companies and battalions, the state authori- 
ties, when they did anything at all, organized new 
regiments, mostly with new officers, and sent them 
fresh and green to the field, where they had to 
learn not only their tactics, but how to march, camp, 
cook, and care for themselves. Obviously all this 
would have come much easier, more quickly, and at 
far less expense of time and money had the men 
been enlisted or selected by conscription and sent 
direct to the regiments from their own region. 

It had always been a favorite idea with military 
writers that while our regular army should be kept 
in time of peace, few in numbers, but highly trained 
and finely equipped for such emergencies as might 



arise on the Indian frontier or elsewhere, it should 
be expanded in times of war in such manner as 
would make it fit to cope with any enemy that might 
assail us. In practice this was never done. A few 
regiments were added from time to time, but they 
were always made up of raw recruits drawn from 
the ranks of the people just as the volunteers were. 
In time they, of course, became regulars, and be- 
longing to a national army and a fixed system, they 
became good soldiers, but even this method of ex- 
pansion was unpopular with Congress and never 
gave sufficient reenforcement to produce any influ- 
ence whatever on the course of the war. On the 
whole, it was wasted effort and expense. I had fre- 
quently heard Grant, whose army was made up al-*^ 
most entirely of volunteers, and who needed regular 
officers more than anything else, say that, so far as 
the Western armies were concerned, it would have 
been a great deal better if the regular army, except 
the staff and the staff corps, had been disbanded at 
the outbreak of the rebellion and the officers sent 
home to their respective states for the purpose of 
entering and helping organize the volunteer army. 
I held this view from the first and did all I could 
to get a volunteer regiment, but, as this narrative 
shows, I failed, and finally gave up the effort en- 
tirely. But I never changed my opinion on this 
important subject. On the contrary, the more I 
studied it and the wider my experience became, the 
more firmly did I become convinced that our system 
should be reformed and our army nationalized, and 
to this end I made it a practice to confer with our 
generals, all of whom it will be remembered were ap- 
pointed by the President and commissioned "by and 



with the advice and consent of the Senate." They 
were classed as "United States Volunteers,' ' and by 
that name and fact immediately took on greater stat- 
ure and authority, and, I may add, I never met one 
who had come to be recognized as a good officer that 
did not favor the nationalization of the Volunteer 

So greatly was I impressed by that proposition 
that I made it the subject of correspondence with 
all the congressmen and leading men I knew. One 
of my letters finally found its way, without my 
knowledge or procurement, into the editorial page 
of the New York Times for April 12, 1863. It 
was introduced under the caption: "Necessity of 
a Eeorganization of our Armies — Points to be t 
Beached. ' ■ The editorial remarks run as follows : 

In view of the probable and speedy enforcement of the 
Conscription act, and the consequent necessity for the 
reorganization of our armies, we offer for the earnest con- 
sideration of the country some views written during this 
war by an officer of talent, rank and experience in the 
regular army. He has served on the staffs of Generals 
Sherman and Hunter at Port Royal, McClellan at An- 
tietam, and, recently, Grant in Mississippi. His plans 
have been submitted to General Grant, General McCler- 
nand, General McPherson and General Logan, as well as 
to many others of the Western army, and received the 
warm approval of all those officers. Indeed, no man can 
have been long in the service and not acknowledge the 
absolute necessity of a reorganization of our armies. This 
it is which the rebels possess and we lack ; this it is which 
too often turns the scales when they are equally balanced ; 
this it is which is likely eventually to decide the great 
contest in which we are engaged. 

Some of the views expressed below have already been 



adopted, but we allow them to remain, as the fact of their 
acceptance by the Government will assist in giving weight 
to the judgment of the Writer. 

What follows is quoted verbatim from my letter, 
under the head of 


Organization is a subject of which our army knows 
little, and the people and Congress nothing, but upon 
which, more than anything else, depends the efficiency of 
all armed forces. A just distribution of labor is a military 
as well as a civil necessity. This is secured only by a proper 

First, then, our grades of general officers are by no 
means complete. We should have lieutenant generals and 
generals, in addition to the present. 

Second: The adjutant general's department should be 
reorganized and have its duties defined. The best model 
is that of the French Etat Major. Its officers should be 
selected with more care, given more rank, and be held 
more strictly accountable for the prompt performance of 
their duty. As an evidence of the inefficiency of our pres- 
ent system, see the absolute want of knowledge concerning 
the strength of the National armed forces to-day (August 
10, 1862). Mr. Senator Wilson probably obtained from 
General Thomas his data for the statement that we had 
too many men in the field by 150,000 ! There is probably 
not an army in the field whose strength is properly ac- 
counted for. There is probably not a general who does 
not waste half his time in attending to details which 
should be disposed of by a "well-regulated staff.' ' 

Third: The Inspector General's Department is simply 
a nonentity — totally inefficient and devoid of power to cor- 
rect evils, where by chance it may find them. Every 
brigade, division and corps ought to have its inspector 
selected with a special reference to his soldierly qualities 



and general knowledge of organizations and the different 
arms ; and in our armies there should be special inspectors 
of cavalry and artillery — all empowered, as officers of the 
staff, to correct all disarrangements, as a well-digested sys- 
tem of regulations should prescribe. There is no depart- 
ment of the military service by which a more salutary 
influence could be produced than by the inspector gen- 
eral's, thoroughly reorganized and set to work. 

Fourth: The Quartermaster's Department is sadly in 
need of internal regulation. Meigs is a very able man, 
but lacks practical experience. 

Fifth : The Commissary Department approaches nearer 
to efficiency than any I know. 

Sixth: The strength of the Engineer Department is 
simply frittered away by the double organization, and the 
dead-heads upon both. With more talent than any other 
corps in the service, it has less influence. Neither branch 
of it is used as it should be ; not one-half the work of which 
they are capable is exacted, and, finally, they are not strong 
enough by half in officers, nor a tenth part in engineer 

Seventh : The Ordnance is a little better off, but is also 
paralyzed. It should have more vigor, more officers, more 
men, and more facilities for manufacturing munitions of 

Eighth : A well-regulated Staff is the soul of military 
organization. "With these improvements, the line would at 
once be elevated greatly, both in spirit and efficiency, but 
by a judicious system of examinations and reward for 
meritorious conduct in officers and privates, many worth- 
less men would be turned out of service and many useful 
ones inspired with new vigor and ardor. 

Ninth: During the English revolution in the time of 
the Charles', for the first two years, Parliament scattered 
money with a lavish hand — everything was bought in the 
army — patriotism, valor, public spirit — all had their price. 
As a consequence, the Cavaliers, under Prince Rupert, and 



the dashing courtiers conquered in every battle. It was 
not till Cromwell and Hampden arose, with their organized 
regiments, that the principles of the revolution began to 
make head against the fiery valor of the Cavaliers. The 
army was reorganized. The " Ironsides ' ' and the New 
Model Army became renowned in the world's history for 
manly and invincible courage ; they always conquered. The 
analogy between then and now, in principles and facts, is 
too striking for me to trace it further. Must we not profit 
by history? Is not the lesson plain? Organize and con- 
centrate. Organize by building upon the old basis, rather 
than attempting to lay the foundations anew. Fill up 
the old regiments; weed out inefficient officers, fill the 
vacancies by meritorious officers and non-commissioned offi- 
cers — adopt a system. Let the anomaly of two distinct 
armies be destroyed; let us return to the traditions of the 
Government with reference to our standing army. Let it 
be expanded by merging the entire volunteer army with 
it. Give each regiment a portion of the National Army 
in name as well as in fact. Regulate the promotions so 
as to get a homogeneous, united, spirited army. As for 
the details of what I propose I will not go into them, but 
simply say that a far better arrangement than that of add- 
ing a simple new regiment to the volunteer army would 
be to expand as many as necessary to two or three bat- 
talions. In this way the new levy of 300,000 men of July 
last could be thoroughly incorporated with the present 
forces in a few weeks. 

Tenth : With a remark in reference to a system of re- 
serves, I will close. Should the army be reorganized as 
I suggest, the drafts would then be made for the general 
service and could be kept at general depots for instruction, 
till needed to fill up the vacancies; thus vacancies could 
be filled promptly in those regiments which required it 
most. Under the present system some of the regiments 
which have been kept out of harm's way are overflowing 
with men, because recruiting happens to be brisk in the 



states from which they come ; while other regiments which 
have been decimated by disease and battle are rendered 
almost useless because recruiting happens to be slow in 
their states, or because new regiments are organized rather 
than old ones filled up. 

The prominent ideas of this plan are: First, a well- 
regulated Staff; second, a well-organized homogeneous 
army, to be formed by a union of the volunteer and regular 
armies, on a proper and equitable basis, and, third, a 
proper and efficient system of reserves and recruiting — 
all so combined as to stimulate merit, zeal, courage, and 
a national spirit of devotion and constancy. 

It is only by some such system that we can possibly 
continue the war to a successful issue. It is absolutely 
necessary, in point of economy as well as of military effi- 

The war has been conducted too far already upon the 
principle of main-strength and awkwardness. New life, 
new vigor and unity must be infused into it. These can 
only be secured by organization and discipline. We have 
the old question among military men to decide, which is 
most to be depended upon — enthusiasm or discipline? 
Without undertaking to say which of these virtues is best, 
I will simply remark: the rebels are certainly superior 
to us in the former, equal to us in the latter, and far 
ahead of us in unity of action and purpose. To conquer 
them, then, it is clear we must have something beside sim- 
ple superiority of numbers and material; and have them, 
too, elsewhere than at home, or in the depots, arsenals and 
storehouses. The military and true principle is that num- 
bers, discipline and material avail nothing except when 
arrayed upon the vital point at the vital moment. 

These truths will be recognized yet, before this war i» 
terminated. The rebels understand them now. 

It may be here observed that while the Union 
cause signally triumphed in the end without a reor- 



ganization of the Union army on a national basis 
or a prompt and effective enforcement of the con- 
scription, it is none the less trne that some such 
reorganization as that recommended by me would 
have promptly put it on a far more effective and 
economical basis than it ever reached. This, as well 
as the extravagant wastefulness of our system is 
conclusively shown by General Upton in his ad- 
mirable work on "The Military Policy of the United 
States/ ' published at the Government Printing 
Office, Washington, 1904. 




Headquarters in Vicksburg — Rawlins and Grant — Grant 
visits New Orleans — Season of rest — Inspection tour 
— Army wastes summer — Grant and staff ordered to 
Chattanooga — Military Division of the Mississippi. 

Immediately after the surrender of Vicksburg, 
Sherman, reinforced by McPherson, was sent to 
drive Johnston out of Mississippi, but the weather 
was extremely hot, the roads dusty, water scarce, 
and foraging poor. Consequently his columns, after 
reoccupying Jackson, went but a few miles beyond 
that place and there gave up the pursuit. Instead 
of following Johnston and pushing into central 
Alabama, as had been expected, he halted on the 
excuse that no water could be found in eastern Mis- 
sissippi, and without even arranging to hold Jackson 
as an advanced post and rallying place for the 
Union sentiment of the state he left everything to 
the enemy and within three weeks was again in his 
old camp on the Big Black. 

I had predicted this conclusion of the campaign 
to Rawlins and Grant. I contended that Sherman 
ought to be able to go where Johnston went. I 
urged that the time and conditions were favorable 



to the continuance of a vigorous campaign along 
the line of railroad running from Vicksburg east- 
ward through central Alabama, which would not 
only give us Selma, the main Confederate arsenal 
and military depot, and Montgomery, the first Con- 
federate capital, but cause the evacuation of Mobile 
on one hand and northern Georgia on the other. 

It seemed clear that the failure to make such 
a campaign as was now open to us would be short- 
sighted and weak on our part and just what the 
enemy desired, because it would neutralize our 
army, put it on the defensive, and give the enemy 
time to collect and reorganize his scattered forces 
and to send reinforcements to Bragg against Eose- 
crans. And this is precisely what took place. I 
argued the case with Eawlins and Grant as long as 
it was open, but they stood by Sherman to the end. 
Even when he brought forward the additional claim 
that his men were tired, they accepted it as valid, 
although I pointed out the indisputable fact that 
most of the troops with him had been in camp from 
the last of May till the 4th of July, and that the rest 
had been engaged in the siege, which was by no 
means so fatiguing as an active campaign. 

The simple fact is that Sherman, as if depressed 
by his disastrous failure at Chickasaw Bayou, was 
at that time a timid leader, who could not be de- 
pended upon to push home his advantages. And he 
was still under the cloud of the cruel and unjust 
newspaper criticism received during his command in 
Kentucky. My opinion was confirmed by the failure 
of his movement against Bragg 's right at the battle 
of Missionary Eidge and still further by his belated 
and abortive second campaign in January and Feb- 



ruary, 1864, from Vicksburg through Jackson to- 
ward central Alabama. 

Frankness requires me to add that both Rawlins 
and Grant were displeased at the freedom with 
which I criticized Sherman in the instances just 
mentioned, but Rawlins, when the events were all 
ended, freely admitted that my criticisms had been, 
fully vindicated. 

But to return to Grant 's army, the paralysis and 
disintegration of which began shortly after the cap- 
ture of Vicksburg, when the Thirteenth Corps, about 
fifteen thousand strong, was sent to Banks in Louisi- 
ana. A division was sent about the same time to 
Steele in Arkansas, and Parke, with the Ninth 
Corps, was returned to Burnside in east Tennessee, 
while McPherson, with the Seventeenth Corps, was 
left at Vicksburg with detachments at Grand Gulf 
and Natchez, to make good the national control of 
the Mississippi from Cairo to the Gulf. This was 
mainly due to orders from Washington, where the 
principles of "Pepper Box Strategy,' \ as professed 
by Halleck, too long held sway. 

While we were still at Vicksburg, an incident 
took place which gave rise to some comment and a 
good deal of annoyance to General Grant. He was 
* fond of McPherson, who, like himself, was some- 
what easily imposed upon by designing men. 
Shortly after promotion to the rank of major gen- 
eral, the latter had taken a man without a commis- 
sion on his staff, and had allowed him to wear a 
colonel's uniform and shoulder straps and to make 
himself generally officious about headquarters, es- 
pecially in connection with railroad matters. He 
was the brother of a Chicago banker and made pre- 



tentions to riches and influence on his own account. 
He was presented to me in northern Mississippi, 
but his sycophancy at once aroused my suspicions, 
which I communicated in due time to Rawlins, who 
promptly adopted them as his own. This person 
claimed to be a colonel in the Mexican Liberal Army 
and seemed to have plenty of money, but finally 
became widely known as a common rascal and 
swindler, who, after defrauding the governor of 
New Jersey and many others in all parts of the 
country, was convicted and sent to the penitentiary 
in Arkansas for a term of years. He died before 
the expiration of his sentence, but not till he had 
made a full confession, which was published by the 
press throughout the country. 

Shortly after the fall of Vicksburg he presented 
a beautiful thoroughbred charger to McPherson and 
a major general's dress sword and belt said to have 
cost $1,100 to General Grant. Rawlins and I both 
advised the General not to accept it, but, fearing to 
hurt McPherson 's feelings, he received the sword, 
but sent it home at once. As inspector general I 
soon discovered that this man had no right to wear 
a colonel's coat and shoulder straps and reported 
him to both Grant and McPherson. The former ac- 
cepted my report, and, after it was confirmed and 
extended by friends at Chicago, wrote McPherson 
that he should get rid of the bogus colonel as soon 
and as quietly as possible, but McPherson resented 
our interference between him and his friend, and, 
as he was killed in battle the next year in front of 
Atlanta, never fully realized how completely he had 
been imposed upon. 

The unfortunate and disastrous results which 


followed the adoption of the policy of dispersion 
after the capture of Vicksburg are now a matter 
of history. They might not have been so costly 
had there been no other armies in the Western thea- 
ter of operations, but when it is recalled that Bose- 
crans had crossed the Tennessee and was, as he evi- 
dently believed, in full pursuit of a retreating army, 
which, when reenforced by the army paroled at 
Vicksburg, as well as by Longstreet's corps from 
Virginia, was late in September to gain a great vic- 
tory, it will be seen that a much better disposition 
of Grant's forces would have been to send them to 
Chattanooga before, rather than after, the battle of 

I presented this view as soon as Sherman sig- 
nified his intention of giving up the campaign east 
of Jackson, but under the plea that all first-class 
military operations were dictated from Washington 
my remonstrance produced no effect. I also op- 
posed the detachment of the Thirteenth Corps to 
Banks, where it was" scattered along the coast all 
the way from New Orleans to the mouth of the Eio 
Grande, adding that our true policy in reference 
to that part of the Confederacy which had been cut 
off west of the Mississippi was to leave it, like the 
dissevered tail of a snake, to die of itself, while we 
should send Sherman, with all the troops that could 
be spared from the imperative duty of keeping the 
Mississippi open, by steamboat to Memphis and 
thence by rail and country road to form a junction 
with Kosecrans wherever he might be found. 

Shortly after the surrender, General Banks, ac- 
companied by General Stone and one or two other 
staff officers, paid us a visit at Vicksburg and I 



had the pleasure of showing them about* the de- 
fenses and through our parallels and approaches. 
They seemed to be greatly interested in my ex- 
planation of the operations, and asked a multitude 
of questions. Stone, who afterward served in the 
Khedive's army, was particularly inquisitive and, 
being a West Point man, caught on rapidly to the 
particulars of the campaign and the siege. They 
remained two days with us and in taking their leave 
warmly pressed Grant to return their visit at New 
Orleans and to bring Lieutenant Colonel Wilson 
with him. This he kindly promised to do, and nat- 
urally I felt flattered by the warmth of their invi- 
tation, and still more by the general's ready prom- 
ise of compliance, but I could not think of leaving 
my work at a time so particularly favorable to put- 
ting it on a satisfactory basis. It was the first 
real leisure that the Army of the Tennessee had 
ever had — the first period in its history favorable 
to the perfection of its discipline and administra- 
tion, and I considered it my duty to give the work 
unremitting personal attention. Besides, neither 
Eawlins nor I approved the return visit. We 
thought General Grant's place was also with his 
own army and that as Banks' operations, in what- 
ever direction they might lie, must necessarily be 
of secondary importance, they would concern us but 
little. We distinctly disapproved the visit, and as 
it turned out it was not only a source of proper 
solicitude to Eawlins, but of very great personal 
disadvantage to Grant, without benefiting either 
army or the cause of the country in the slightest 
degree. It was simply time wasted for all con- 



At the house chosen for headquarters in Vicks- 
burg we found several young ladies, one of whom 
was a Northerner of very unusual beauty, living 
there as a governess. Naturally enough, General 
Grant was the first to make their acquaintance; 
my turn followed a few days later, when I had an 
occasion to look up the General, whom I found in 
the drawing-room, chatting with the Northern 
beauty. As the business in hand required him to 
leave the room, he presented me and suggested that 
I should remain till he returned. During his ab- 
sence a beautiful bouquet was brought in and pre- 
sented to the young lady, without card or explana- 
tion of any sort. Seeing her puzzled and embar- 
rassed, I was about to take my leave when she ex- 
plained that this was the second bouquet she had 
received in the same unconventional and irregular 
way, and as it was under the circumstances an un- 
welcome attention, she did not know how to treat 
the matter. Eegarding her remarks as an appeal 
for aid, I said at once that she should explain her 
embarrassment to Mrs. Grant, who had just joined 
us and who would, through her husband, give ample 
protection. This, for obvious reasons, she did not 
like to do, consequently I undertook to ascertain who 
her unknown admirer was and to put him under 
Bawlins' surveillance. As it turned out my plan 
of procedure was easily and promptly successful. 
The swain was shortly discovered to be a married 
man, a handsome and very gallant additional aid- 
de-camp, with the rank of colonel on the General's 
staff. The case was fully explained to Eawlins, 
whose indignation was expressed in language no 
one could fail to understand. The necessary ad- 



monitions were issued, the unwelcome advances were 
discontinued and a standard of behavior established 
about headquarters that left nothing to be desired. 

Eawlins, who had been a widower for something 
over two years, was a man of austere manners and 
unusual shyness, entirely given up to his duties. 
He sought neither the acquaintance nor the society 
of the ladies, but lived absolutely apart and rather 
disapproved the contrary course for the General 
and his staff, but when the General left for New 
Orleans and I for Eed Eiver, Eawlins was present- 
ed to the ladies and became their guardian. The 
story is soon told. He fell deeply in love with the 
object of his solicitude and, like all good men, de- 
sired to appear worthy of her. As his most noted 
sins were an occasional outburst of violence and 
profanity, he made a solemn resolution to control 
his temper and give up swearing. He soon told her 
the simple story of his life, and in due time offered 
her the protection of his name and station. They 
were married at her home at Danbury, Connecticut, 
on the twenty-fourth of December following. 

Shortly after the incident of the bouquet an in- 
teresting event of another sort took place at head- 
quarters which well illustrates the relations between 
Grant and Eawlins. Although it was the policy of 
the Administration to encourage the purchase and 
shipment of cotton, one of the standing orders is- 
sued while headquarters were still in west Tennes- 
see had forbidden the practice on account of its 
demoralizing tendencies to both men and officers. 
But, in spite of this well-known order, we had hardly 
got into Vicksburg when a kinsman of General 
Grant's bringing a permit from the Secretary of 



the Treasury established himself nearby and began 
buying cotton. This soon became known and, with- 
out consultation, Rawlins at once issued an order 
expelling the cotton buyer from the department. 
This came to Grant 's attention without delay, where- 
upon he mildly suggested that Rawlins should hold 
up the order as unnecessarily harsh, and as giving 
more publicity to the case than was required. 

This was more than the rugged and determined 
chief-of-staff could stand, and, evidently fearing 
that it meant a relaxation of discipline, if not a 
defeat of justice, he burst forth, perhaps uncon- 
sciously, with a volley of oaths, followed by the dec- 
laration that if he were the commanding general 
of a department and any kinsman of his dared to 
come within its limits and violate one of its im- 
portant standing orders he would arrest him, march 
him out, and hang him to the highest tree within 
five miles of camp! 

Thereupon, without waiting to note the effect 
of his stentorian speech, he turned about and, re- 
entering his own office, violently slammed the door 
behind him. 

It was an embarrassing episode — the only one 
of the kind I had ever witnessed — and as the punc- 
tuation of his remarks was both profane and dis- 
respectful, I followed him out and said: 

"Rawlins, that won't do. You have used lan- 
guage in the General 's presence that was both in- 
subordinate and inexcusable, and you should not 
only withdraw it, but apologize for it." 

Without a moment's hesitation, he replied: "You 
are right. I am already ashamed of myself for los- 
ing my temper. Come with me," and, walking back 



into the General's presence, he said in his deep, 
sonorous voice: 

"General, I have just used rough and violent 
language in your presence which I should not have 
used and I not only want to withdraw it, but to 
humbly beg your pardon for it." 

Then with a pause and a blush he added : 

' * The fact is, General, when I made the acquain- 
tance of the ladies at our headquarters I resolved 
to give up the use of profane language and blankety- 
blank my soul if I didn't think I had done it!" 

At this naive confession Grant's face lightened 
with a smile as he replied: 

"That's all right, Eawlins! I understand; you 
were not cursing, but, like Wilson's friend, simply 
expressing your intense vehemence on the subject 
matter. ' ' 

It 'is needless to add that the incident passed off 
to the satisfaction of all concerned. The order was 
suspended, but discipline was vindicated by a quiet 
intimation on the part of the General that the in- 
truder's health would be improved by an early re- 
turn to the North, and he went the next day! 

Grant had, however, been somewhat fatigued by 
the campaign and, feeling that he needed a vaca- 
tion, shortly after Sherman returned to the Big 
Black, took steamer with several ornamental mem- 
bers of his staff for the return visit to Banks at 
New Orleans, while Eawlins remained at headquar- 
ters, considerably troubled in his own mind, pre- 
paring the detailed report of the late operations. 
As soon as this was finished he took it to Washing- 
ton in person, where he was received by the Presi- 
dent and cabinet with marked civility. While it is 



known that he gave them a personal account of the 
campaign and of the situation at Vicksburg and 
throughout the state of Mississippi, he unfortu- 
nately left no record of what he said upon that in- 
teresting occasion, but it is well known that he 
produced a favorable impression on the President 
and the members of his cabinet. 1 * He got back to 
the army about the middle of August and remained 
there, practically in command over both Sherman 
and McPherson till his chief returned. 

It was during this unfortunate visit to Banks 
that Grant, while galloping rapidly to a review at 
Carrollton, had a fall with his horse which severely 
injured his leg and made it both painful and diffi- 
cult for him to get about for several months. In- 
deed, Grant's hurt was so severe that he suffered 
considerably from it till after the Chattanooga cam- 
paign, and had more or less trouble from it 'to the 
end of his life. His injury doubtless had its in- 
fluence at the time in inclining him to the policy of 
inaction for the heated term at least, and as it was 
an unusually dry season, there was but little said 
either in Washington or elsewhere in regard to 
wasted opportunities. 

All these circumstances combined to make it to 
a certain extent a season of rest, or of senseless and 
misdirected marching up and down in the land for 
all except myself. Up to that time, although titular 
inspector general, my duties had necessarily been 
those of an engineer and general staff officer. En- 
joying robust health as I did throughout the cam- 
paign, I had all the work I could attend to, while 
the troops were actually engaged in marching and 

w ' Diary of Gideon Welles." 


fighting, as well as constructing parallels and ap- 
proaches, with but little time for special inspections 
or for putting my own department on a regular 
and systematic basis. As this became my first duty 
as soon as the siege was fairly over, I drew up and 
with Grant's approval sent out to the corps and 
division inspectors a set of detailed instructions 
covering their duties in reference to every branch 
of the service, both active and administrative, and 
directed that they should begin at once a series of 
minute inspections, extending to every division, bri- 
gade, regiment, company, and detachment in the 
army. This done, I then arranged for a series of 
personal inspections to see that orders and regu- 
lations were everywhere duly enforced, and that the 
troops, as far as I could influence them, should be 
brought to the highest possible state of discipline, 
instruction, and efficiency. These instructions were 
all sent out by the end of the first week after we 
entered Vicksburg, but as they were altogether mili- 
tary and technical, they have long since passed into 
the limbo of uninteresting and forgotten things 
which call for no resurrection. While they played 
their part in making the Army of the Tennessee 
one of the best that ever upheld the national cause, 
so far as I am concerned they must be allowed to 
rest in the peaceful oblivion of the Eecords. 

When Pemberton's army marched back into the 
Confederacy they left behind several hundred sick 
and wounded, which Grant agreed to deliver at* 
Monroe, a river town in northeastern Louisiana. 
They were a poor, helpless set that had suffered 
as much from inattention as from sickness and 
wounds and would have fared much better in our 



hospitals than in their own, but on July 21 about 
three hundred of them were placed aboard two 
steamboats and started to their destination under 
my charge. I had, besides, several families, in- 
creased at Grand Gulf by another, bound for the 
trans-Mississippi, and this full complement of pas- 
sengers taxed my means of entertainment to the 
utmost. It was indeed a dreary and distressing 
trip. The doctors and the boats ! crews did their 
best to make the suffering soldiers comfortable and 
to cheer them on their way, but several died and 
were buried, uncoffined, on the river bank, while 
most of the remainder had evidently got all they 
wanted of the war and went with suffering bodies 
and sinking hearts to this remote corner of the Con- 

Such of the women and children as were well 
gave us far more trouble than our sick and wounded. 
They were persistent in their demands as well as 
offensive in their loyalty to the South, and did their 
best to make the trip lively for us. But for the 
part taken by one MacMahon, purser of the steamer 
Belle Creole, on which I had taken passage, the 
trip would have been a particularly distressing one. 
He generously took the burden of entertainment off 
my shoulders, and, although an Irishman from In- 
diana, he cheerfully did his best, not only to satisfy 
the wants of our passengers, but to defend the gov- 
ernment authorities from their attacks. They were, 
as might have been expected, bitterly opposed to 
the emancipation of the negroes, which had now 
become the settled policy of the government, and 
firm in the conviction that they would be utterly 
unable to profit by it, our guests denounced the meas- 



ure as both ill-advised and wrong in every re- 
spect. They boldly declared that even MacMa- 
hon himself did not believe in it and would not try 
to defend it. 

But in this they were mistaken. The fluent and 
enthusiastic Irishman burst forth with a torrent 
of eloquence and an aptitude of Biblical reference 
that put an end for the time to the controversy. 
The women of the South were firm believers in the 
Bible and its sanction of slavery, but MacMahon 
was equal to the occasion: 

"Yes," he exclaimed, "I do approve of the proc- 
lamation, and I firmly believe the whole negro race 
will be better off for freedom. I accept your appeal 
to the Bible and refer you to the story of the Chil- 
dren of Israel, and how Moses led them out of the 
land of bondage. You all know that was one of 
the steps by which the Christian plan of salvation 
was given to the world, and by which all mankind 
are to be ultimately saved. But do any of you re- 
call how many of the Children of Israel who crossed 
the Red Sea dry-shod and wandered in the Wilder- 
ness for forty years ever succeeded in getting even 
a sight of the Promised Land?" 

Of course, none recalled, whereupon MacMahon 
triumphantly added: 

"I knew you could not! Only one of all that 
mighty host! And I say — if in God's providence 
only one negro slave in all this land shall gather 
the full fruits of freedom, we should not despair, 
but leave God in his own good time to lead the whole 
negro race into the Promised Land!" 

The scenery of the Mississippi, the Red, the 
Black and the Wachita Rivers, through which our 



voyage lay for four hundred miles, was wild and 
primitive in the extreme. Here and there half a 
dozen houses, a woodpile, or a steamboat landing, 
called by some high-sounding name, and occasionally 
a cornfield were all we saw to break the continuity 
of the primeval forest, which seemed to stretch in- 
definitely into the interior. I saw but one white 
man on the Black Eiver, and he was so old, decrepit, 
and ignorant that he hardly knew there was war in 
the land. All the able-bodied men were absent in 
the army. 

At Harrisonburg we came to the first landing not 
subject to overflow. It was guarded by Fort Beau- 
regard, an earthwork mounting several guns, one 
of which brought us to with a round shot fired across 
our bows. A parley followed at once with Colonel 
Logan, the Confederate commandant, and, after re- 
ceiving an explanation of my humane mission, he 
permitted me to continue my voyage to within three 
miles of Monroe. Why he decided to stop us short 
of the town I never knew, but the river was falling 
rapidly, and as it turned out the shoal water and 
sandbars forced us to stop twelve miles short of 
our destination. Finding it impossible to go on, I 
sent a Confederate messenger to ask what we should 
do with our poor, helpless sick and wounded. Noth- 
ing had yet been done for their comfort, but word 
soon came back that we should transfer as many as 
possible to a little country church nearby and leave 
the rest at the landing to be reembarked on several 
small steamboats which would be sent for them. 
Having discharged these unfortunate creatures, we 
turned about and made our way back to the Mis- 
sissippi as rapidly as possible. We ^ere forbidden 



to land anywhere except at Harrisonburg to put 
out our pilot. The Confederate authorities seemed 
to be fearful that we would learn the exact arma- 
ment of their little fort, but their caution was un- 
necessary, for I had already made out that it 
mounted three smooth bore thirty-two pounders, one 
twelve-pounder and one six-pounder rifle, all of 
which I felt confident would fall into our hands 
whenever we chose to go for them. 

I left Vicksburg with General and Mrs. Grant 
on the steamer Ben Franklin August 18. The 
General was going to Cairo for the purpose of com- 
municating with the Government by telegraph. We 
were accompanied by General Lorenzo Thomas and 
two of his sons, on their way to Washington, and 
the party, while far from hilarious, was a pleasant 
one. I had been trying ever since the fall of Vicks- 
burg to begin a tour of inspection, which, I thought, 
would last five or six weeks. As I had not been at 
home since the outbreak of the war, with Grant's 
permission I went on by steamer to visit my mother 
before beginning my tour. I arrived in the early 
evening, and, having brought my horse with me, 
I mounted and rode home. I saw no one at the 
landing whom I had ever seen before. All the 
young men had gone to the war and the old ones 
were probably in bed, and so I arrived unheralded 
and ungreeted, but my mother recognized my voice 
as she heard me directing my orderly to take my 
horse to the stable. We had a joyous meeting and 
the next day I looked up my relations and friends 
and had a pleasant reunion with all. My two 
brothers, both of whom had been home on sick leave, 
had rejoined their commands, the major in Arkan- 



sas and the captain in the Thirteenth Corps with 
Banks. Under the tender care of relatives and 
friends they had reveled in "the fleshpots of Egypt" 
and had returned to duty completely restored in 
health and strength. 

As there was nothing the matter with me, I set 
about my inspection without delay, and in forty- 
eight hours I was again on the river packet Char- 
lie Bowen, with my early friend, Gus Lemcke, the 
purser, with whom I passed a few pleasant hours. 
He knew everybody on the river, male and female, 
and told me who had gone to the war, who had mar- 
ried, and who had gone over to the majority. Al- 
though only a steamboat man, he had beautiful taste 
in literature and was fully in touch with the latest 
in history, romance, and poetry. It was a delight- 
ful trip down the Ohio, and as it covered exactly 
the same points as the one I took some years before 
in quest of the steamer Liahtuna, it produced a 
lasting impression on me. 

As soon as my inspection of a few hours at Pa- 
ducah was finished I went on to Cairo, where there 
was a strong garrison for the protection of the 
supplies at that place. It was under the command 
of an old West Pointer, Napoleon Bonapart Buf ord, 
a distinguished veteran of the old regular army 
type. It was his boast that he was a "hermeneutic 
philosopher, ' f whose pleasure between times was to 
consider the problems of life, both present and fu- 
ture. I found his garrison in fair condition, but 
far too large for the work in hand. He was con- 
scious of that fact and ambitious for a more active 
command, and at dinner that evening talked freely 
on all the questions of the day, among others about 



army reorganization and army commanders. He 
shared the common belief that so far we had de- 
veloped no great leader in the East and only one 
in the West, and there was much interest among 
military men at least in regard to the coming man. 
Up to that time we had had only one " Young Napo- 
leon/ p one "Old Brains" and one "Fighting Joe," 
but the impression was slowly gaining ground that 
none of these quite filled the bill. Grant's name 
had come strongly to the front from the Vicksburg 
campaign, but there was still a lingering fear that 
something might go wrong even with him. All this 
the old veteran carefully recited, and when he had 
covered the whole ground he stated his conclusion 
with impressive deliberation: 

"The fact is, Colonel, there are just three men 
in the United States fully capable of commanding 
the Army of the Potomac." And then pausing long 
enough for me to ask who they were, he added: 
1 * George B. McClellan is one, Henry W. Halleck is 
another," and, with his hand on his breast and a 
stately bow, he continued: "Modesty forbids me 
to mention the third ! ■ ' 

It was an unexpected conclusion, but I made no 
comment till I related the incident to General Grant 
just after he was called to Washington as lieuten- 
ant general. He enjoyed it greatly and, not only 
never forgot it, but frequently used the modest 
phrase when a more direct one might have savored 
of egotism. 

From Cairo I went to Columbus, where I found 
General A. J. Smith, an old regular, commanding. 
One of his subordinates was the Hungarian patriot 
Asboth, a distinguished and courtly gentleman with 



gray hair, a fierce moustache and a staff in which 
two of Kossuth's nephews were serving. He had 
a fine string of horses and a pack of greyhounds, 
but they were sadly out of place, and it might be 
truthfully said that his camp, like that of Marshal 
Soubise, was nearly all " kitchen, cellar, and toilet 
table.' ' I found also at Island No. 10 and Fort 
Pillow far too many troops, artillery, infantry, cav- 
alry, and negroes. The camps were generally clean 
and in fairly good sanitary condition, but so far 
as I could see without an enemy within two hun- 
dred miles. 

The next permanent post was Memphis, where 
I found Major General Hurlbut with the headquar- 
ters of the Sixteenth Corps. He was a South Caro- 
linian, educated in the North, and long resident in 
Illinois. He had a mixed command, mainly stationed 
at Fort Pickering, and after a full day spent in 
pointing out how it could be still further improved 
in drill, discipline, and administration, on Septem- 
ber 16, at 9 p. m., I wrote to Kawrins' chief-of-staff. 
After certain explanations in regard to a proposed 
cavalry expedition, 1 I continued as follows: 

My understanding of the case was that yon wanted a 
cavalry commander quite as badly as the cavalry itself, and 
I have only to say on that head that I always thought Hatch 
Grierson's superior, and to-day I became thoroughly con- 
vinced that my judgment was properly founded. I in- 
spected the Second Iowa this afternoon, and I say to you 
what I said to Hatch, that, though it is not all that cavalry 
should be, it is by far the best cavalry regiment in the 
department of the Tennessee ; and, what is more, Hatch is 
the best officer and ought to be sent down. From what 
1 O. E. Series 1, Vol. XXX, p. 664. 



Sargent said you probably take the same view of the case, 
and therefore wish Hatch's regiment to be sent. Hurlbut 
(who, between me and you, is small enough to be envious 
and jealous of General Grant) knows fully the worth of 
Hatch's regiment, and will retain it here unless you order 
it down. 

I don't like this part of the machine. We have too 
many generals engaged in semi-civil affairs, to the utter 
neglect of their military duties. I have not yet seen one 
who was not commanding a "post," or "district," or a 
"city." I have reviewed and inspected nearly all of the 
Sixteenth Army Corps, and have not yet seen any troops 
on the parade ground commanded by a general. This may 
be a little surprising to you, but is nevertheless true. 
These distinguished gentlemen should be required to assume 
command of their men as their first duty and dispose of 
civil and trade business afterward. They should be held 
responsible for the discipline, order, and instruction of their 
troops, and give their first attention to those matters rather 
than devote their undivided time to cotton, confederates, 
and corruption. I tell you, sir, the Government of the 
United States cannot be upheld in purity and honesty by 
hands that lay aside the sword for instruments of trade 
and peace. We want soldiers, not traders; generals, not 
governors and civil agents. A few hundred thousand bayo- 
nets led by clear heads and military rules can crush the 
rebellion, but a million without military generals can do 
nothing except by main strength and awkwardness. The 
system of occupying undisputed territory is all wrong. We 
must put our armies in the field and compel our generals 
to lead them against the enemy, and, if they fail from ignor- 
ance, put them aside. I am disgusted with the whole system. 

The next day I inspected posts in West Tennes- 
see along the Ohio and Mobile Eailroad and the 
Memphis and Charleston Eailroad as far east as 



Corinth, and found them occupied by permanent 
detachments, amounting in the aggregate to many 
thousand men. As there were no rebel forces with- 
in reach, the trip confirmed me in the impression 
that we were frittering away almost an entire army 
corps in the useless occupation of territory al- 
ready fully within our control. I therefore wrote 
again to Bawlins, urging the abandonment of 
these outlying posts, and the concentration of the 
troops at central points from which they could 
be rapidly sent to strengthen the moving army 
in the field. I pointed out that we could never 
put down the rebellion by conducting an old-fash- 
ioned war of occupation or positions — that our 
forces must keep constantly after the rebel armies 
and that all communities within our lines should 
be compelled to protect themselves against their 
own guerrillas. I urged that by adopting this 
policy and rigidly adhering to it the Army of the 
Tennessee would soon be able to put that part of 
the Confederacy against which it was directed com- 
pletely on the defensive and to give the larger hos- 
tile forces so much employment that they would 
have but little time and no opportunity for detach- 
ments, raids, or counter movements against our com- 

I spent two weeks in the District of West Ten- 
nessee, traveling and working night and day, sleep- 
ing where and when I could, and eating what I could 
get. On my first visit to Memphis I sought the 
service of a dentist and the work he did left my 
teeth in a sensitive and painful condition, which, for 
the first time in my life, banished sleep for an en- 
tire night. But the next day at Pocahontas I was 



completely relieved and tranquilized, strange as it 
may seem, by a dose of ipecachuana. Surgeon Cady 
said I was suffering from malaria, and while neither 
he nor any one else pretended to know what malaria 
was, his remedy was efficacious and gave me almost 
instantaneous relief. This was the nearest I came 
to being laid up during the entire war. From the 
first I had a natural prejudice against flies, mos- 
quitoes, and insects generally, and made it a rule 
never to sleep on the ground without a mosquito bar 
when I could get one, never to drink surface water 
or to use either liquor or tobacco, and consequently 
I enjoyed almost perfect health no matter where 
I was. 

I governed my conduct by the same rule in both 
the Spanish and Boxer wars, and can truthfully aver 
that I never lost a day from duty by sickness during 
my entire military and civil career. The scientific 
world now knows that nearly all fevers are due to 
inoculation from insect life. In my own case habit- 
ually guarding against that sort of annoyance and 
avoiding excesses of all kinds, I am now certain I 
took the very course that science would have pre- 
scribed had it known enough to prescribe at all. 

On my last inspection at Memphis my horse, in 
turning a corner, slipped and fell heavily, catching 
my left foot between him and the pavement. I was 
up and remounted in a second, but my heel and toes 
had been so pressed together and the ligaments and 
muscles so strained that I was soon in great pain. 
On reaching headquarters the chief surgeon cut the 
boot from my foot, which soon became so sore and 
swollen that I could not walk on it for ten days. 
Fortunately, my work in that district was finished 



and with the support of bandages and a pair of 
crutches I took steamer for Helena, where I was 
to have made my last inspection, but I was forced 
to leave this to my assistant attached to that com- 

While at Memphis General Lorenzo Thomas, still 
engaged in organizing negro troops, came aboard 
and gave me a full account of General Grant 's simi- 
lar injury at New Orleans a short time before. 

I arrived at Vicksburg on September 21 and 
found the General hardly yet able to go on crutches, 
but neither of us was in such pain as to make 
us indifferent to the state of affairs in the Depart- 
ment or at headquarters. We found Eawlins deeply 
in love with the beautiful governess, but doubtful 
of his fate. The lady was ' i uncertain, coy, and hard 
to please." They were acquaintances of but a few 
weeks and had been thrown together by circum- 
stances over which neither had full control. It was, 
therefore, not strange that * ' the course of true love 
did not run smooth," or that it took all that their 
friends could do to guide them around the obstacles 
in the way. Fortunately, those were not insuper- 
able, but the country had reached a great emergency 
in its history, which controlled the immediate move- 
ments of both Grant and his chief-of-staff. 

While the General and the rest were deeply in- 
terested in a favorable outcome of the romance, 
there was far more important business both inside 
and outside of the Department requiring attention. 
In addition to the facts set forth in my written re- 
ports, I gave General Grant many details of the 
conditions at the various points in western Ken- 
tucky and Tennessee, and especially^ at Memphis, 



where a large illicit contraband trade with the Con- 
federates was going on through the lines. Cotton, 
then scarce at all manufacturing centers, was com- 
ing in in considerable quantities, while ammunition, 
clothing, liquors, medicines, and small supplies of 
every kind were going out. Many officers of rank 
and consideration, including the provost marshal, 
a member of Grant 's department staff, were thought 
to be engaged in the illicit business, and, as it after- 
ward appeared from a "Eebel War Clerk's Diary," 
the provost marshal was actually in the pay of the 
Confederates. The atmosphere was heavy with 
fraud and corruption. The hotels were crowded 
with Treasury agents, cotton traders, sharpers and 
runners of every kind and nationality. The restric- 
tions on trade were so light and so easily avoided 
and there was so little actual campaigning under 
way that the whole military service in that part of 
the Department was demoralized. The situation 
called for drastic measures, and for a radical reor- 
ganization of the military administration, especially 
in that region, as I had already pointed out to Grant 
and his subordinate generals and local commanders. 
But this was not the worst. Banks' operations 
on the Eed Eiver and Bayou Teche were at a stand- 
still, while affairs were fast reaching a crisis in 
northwestern Georgia. Eosecrans had driven Bragg 
across the Tennessee, and, still calling for reinforce- 
ments, was advancing with exultation and confidence 
to what he evidently thought certain victory. But 
Longstreet, with a veteran army corps from Lee's 
Army of North Virginia, all unknown, was making 
his way by rail to the scene of what was to be one 
of the deadliest conflicts of the Civil War. 



While Grant's victorious army, mainly at Vicks- 
burg, midway between Eosecrans and Banks and 
five hundred miles as the crow flies from either, was 
still resting supinely in its camps, with the General 
himself confined to his bed or his crutches by an 
injured leg, he was not altogether responsible for 
the situation. That, in accordance with the vicious 
system of the day, was still controlled from Wash- 
ington. Grant had recommended an expedition from 
New Orleans to Mobile, but, instead of authorizing 
that movement, it had been turned down and various 
detachments under one pretext or another had been 
made from his army. He was therefore becoming 
sensible of the fact that his forces would soon be 
scattered over the whole theater of war unless he 
should lead them in a body in some particular direc- 
tion. At this juncture Banks called for further re- 
enforcements, but, fortunately, before the matter 
could be disposed of, orders came from Halleck, 
September 22, directing that all the troops which 
could be spared from Mississippi and west Ten- 
nessee should be sent at once to assist Eosecrans on 
the Tennessee Eiver. 

This clear but long-deferred order broke the ten 
weeks • rest and aroused the Army of the Tennessee 
into intense activity. I was sent three days after 
the order was received to Cairo with dispatches by 
the fastest steamer that could be had, but had pro- 
ceeded only a hundred miles when her boilers gave 
out. We were at first taken in tow by a gunboat, 
but I soon transferred to another transport and 
finally to a hospital steamer, and did not reach 
Memphis till October 1, nor Cairo till just before 
midnight of the 2d. 



I sent my dispatches, including a report of the 
forces and their disposition, to Washington at once, 
and the next day received a telegraphic order direct- 
ing Grant to go by the way of Cairo, Louisville, and 
Nashville to Chattanooga. With this I started at 
once by the same steamer to Vicksburg, but on ac- 
count of low water, slow speed and inefficient officers 
I did not reach Memphis till noon of the 6th, nor 
Vicksburg till just before noon of the 10th. I found 
Grant prepared for the orders I carried, and in 
pursuance thereof we started north that night at 
eleven o 'clock with the entire staff, but did not reach 
Cairo till the 16th. Thus it will be seen that three 
full weeks, or more than twice as much time as nec- 
essary, were spent in carrying dispatches up and 
down the Mississippi and in getting Grant in com- 
munication with the Washington authorities. This 
was due partly to low water, but mainly to slow and 
disabled steamers and to the unwillingness of cap- 
tains and pilots to run at night. I had a strenuous 
and disheartening time, but by persuasion, threats, 
and an occasional appeal to military authority I 
finally got the officers and boats to put forth their 
best efforts. Being somewhat of a river man my- 
self, I knew what could and what could not be done 
quite as well as the masters themselves, and insisted 
on having my way. 

Leaving Cairo on October 17, we arrived at 
Indianapolis on the morning of the 18th, and were 
there met by Mr. Stanton, the Secretary of War. 
He had never seen Grant nor any of the staff ex- 
cept Eawlins, but on coming to our car, instead of 
asking for Grant, he rushed up to Doctor Kittoe, 
the staff surgeon, who also wore an army hat and 



full whiskers, seized him by the hand, and said im- 
pulsively: "How do you do, General Grant? I 
recognize you from your pictures.' ' 

The scene which followed was an embarrassing 
one. Kittoe was quite as modest as Grant and all 
three were momentarily confused. While they were 
blushing and Eawlins was straightening out the mis- 
take, the rest of the staff could hardly conceal their 
smiles. A perceptible interval elapsed before the 
introductions were completed and the great men of 
the meeting got down to business. Grant, although 
entirely without pretension, had been sensibly dis- 
concerted, while the Secretary became at once less 
talkative and more reserved than had apparently 
been his intention, but long before they reached 
Louisville they had recovered and either talked them- 
selves out or become wary of each other. Of course, 
no one overheard what passed between Grant and 
Stanton, but it is certain that none of the staff 
looked upon what occurred on the train or after- 
ward at Louisville as having established close or 
sympathetic relations between them. The simple 
fact is, without reference to the cause or to the idio- 
syncrasies of these two great characters, that they 
never became close personal friends. They sup- 
ported each other loyally and efficiently to the end 
of the war, but neither ever became a devoted ally 
of the other. 

The night we arrived at Louisville, Grant and 
most of the staff went to the theater, but Eawlins 
disapproved highly and did not hesitate to inveigh 
against it as a thoughtless and undignified proceed- 
ing. He was at best rather inclined to be taciturn 
and moody. Deeply impressed by the combined 



wickedness and strength of the rebellion and the 
necessity of putting it down at whatever cost, he 
allowed himself but little relaxation and no dissi- 
pation. He seemed to think it rather a time for pen- 1 
ance and prayer than for enjoyment, however inno- 
cent, and was unusually concerned for Grant and 
the outcome of the new responsibilities which had 
just been imposed upon him. He realized that his 
general was now face to face with the greatest 
task of his life. The four military departments of 
the Mississippi valley had at last been consolidated 
into a great military division as Grant had recom- 
mended the year before, and Grant had been placed 
in chief command, as he had not recommended. The 
military administration in Washington, rather than 
in the field, had been out-maneuvered and beaten by 
the Government at Eichmond. Ten weeks had been 
lost by the Army of the Tennessee. Eosecrans had 
been defeated before the reinforcements so tardily 
ordered from Grant's Department could reach him. 
The chief point of interest — the strategic center of 
the entire western theater of war — was now at Chat- 
tanooga, where the beaten army had been shut up 
and besieged. To meet this great emergency plen- 
ary power and authority had been imposed upon 
Grant, and no one knew better than Eawlins what- 
this new responsibility implied. He had personally u 
promised "the eyes of the Government" that his 
chief, notwithstanding his infirmities, would make 
good, and his promise had been redeemed in a man- 
ner and by means to which no individual had con- 
tributed mere and of which none knew the details 
so fully as himself. It is not strange that Eawlins, 
who had the more sensitive conscience, should that 



night at Louisville have denied himself and taken 
a serious view of the new campaign, the heaviest 
details of which were sure to fall upon himself. 

I spent the evening with him and Bowers con- 
ferring about the necessity of reconstructing the 
staff and of putting brains and respectability into 
such vacancies as we could find or make. We three 
had been of one mind from the first as to the men 
surrounding the General, and now that he was on 
the threshold of a still greater career we felt deeply 
concerned that he should find the right sort of offi- 
cers to assist in the great work before him. 

Just before midnight, October 19, 1863, I wrote 
a friend hurriedly to make certain that he would 
understand the newspaper reports correctly: 

. . . General Grant takes command of the Depart- 
ments and Armies of the Tennessee, Cumberland and Ohio, 
as the Military Division of the Mississippi, headquarters 
in the field. Rosecrans is relieved and Major General 
George H. Thomas takes his place. Sherman commands 
the Department of the Tennessee. These changes are radi- 
cal, of vast moment and most intimately concern the Na- 
tion's welfare. I think they are in the right direction and 
if properly backed ought to give us most decisive results. 
There are many things connected with them I should like 
to write — but cannot for want of time. We start for the 
front at daylight. 



Rosecrans relieved — Thomas succeeds — "Will hold Chat- 
tanooga till we starve* ' — Grant and staff arrive — 
Meet Thomas — Ride to Chattanooga — Recommended 
for promotion — Porter introduced — Grant and Thomas 
— Baldy Smith — Opening the Cracker Line — Ride to 
Knoxville — Orders for Burnside. 

Before leaving Louisville a telegram from Dana 
reached us indicating that the hard-pressed army at 
Chattanooga was so in need of food and forage 
that it might have to give up the place and fall back 
to a new base on the railroad from Nashville to 
Chattanooga, and it was this dispatch that called 
forth Grant's celebrated order: "Hold Chatta- 
nooga at all hazards/ ' as well as Thomas' character- 
istic reply : * ' I will hold the town till we starve ! ' ' 

These two messages tell the story. Kosecrans, 
never having had Grant's full confidence, and not 
having yet recovered from the stunning blow in- 
flicted on him at Chickamauga, had been relieved 
from command; the enemy had closed in and the 
national troops were on short rations, but it was a 
great satisfaction to know that the imperturbable 
Thomas would hold the town till he and his army 
starved. With that stern assurance we made the 



trip through Nashville to Stevenson without inci- 
dent or additional anxiety. Dana met us on the road 
and gave us full particulars of the great battle and 
its results, as well as of the situation at Chattanooga 
and of the rupture of communications between that 
place and the rear. He explained the break in the 
railroad in the Wauhatchie valley, the difficulty of 
bringing supplies by steamboat from Bridgeport 
through the "Pot and Kettle' ' and the ''Suck," and 
informed us that the rebel sharp-shooters had com- 
mand of the river at and below Brown's Ferry. He 
pointed out the long and rough roads from Chatta- 
nooga to Bridgeport through the mountains north 
of the river and the immediate necessity of short- 
ening the supply line. By the time we reached 
Stevenson near the crossing of the Tennessee, we 
had an accurate understanding of the situation. 
Hooker had already arrived with Howard 's and Slo- 
cum's corps from the Army of the Potomac. Sher- 
man was on his way from Memphis and, as far as 
men were concerned, it was evident that we would 
soon have enough to hold Chattanooga and the in- 
termediate country against all comers if we could 
supply them properly. 

On reaching the end of the road word came from 
Hooker that he was not well and would like Grant 
to call on him at his quarters. They had been 
brother officers and boon companions years before 
on the Columbia, but had not met since the outbreak 
of the war. It was at once evident that Hooker was 
"trying it on" with Grant, and naturally both Eaw- 
lins and I were struck by the message we had just 
overheard. Without waiting for Grant to reply, 
Eawlins said at once and in a tone that could not be 



misunderstood : ' ' General Grant himself is not very- 
well and will not leave his car to-night. He expects 
General Hooker and all other generals who have 
business with him to call at once, as he will start 
overland to Chattanooga early to-morrow morning. ' V 

This settled it promptly and unmistakably for 
Hooker as well as for everybody else. Rosecrans, 
who had already left Chattanooga for the North, 
called shortly after Grant's arrival at Stevenson, 
and in addition to paying his respects, imparted all 
the information he had to Grant, whom he knew 
well as his department commander at Corinth and 
Iuka. The meeting was brief and courteous but not 
effusive. They were far from sympathetic with 
each other. Grant's intimates knew that he re- 
garded Rosecrans as an able man, but as Jesuitical, 
insincere, and pretentious and that Rosecrans on the 
other hand thought Grant rather "a fool for luck"- 
than a great commander. 

I had not previously met Rosecrans, but before 
taking his departure he called me aside and gave me 
the first information I had yet received that he had 
applied to the War Department for my detail as 
colonel of a veteran three-battalion regiment of vol- 
unteer engineers, which would in turn give me com- 
mand of the brigade then under Colonel St. Clair 
Morton. This flattering news was no surprise, how- 
ever, for Dana had already informed me that Baldy 
Smith, the chief engineer, and Horace Porter, the 
chief of ordnance, had made the suggestion, and had 
already carried it as far as it could go without the 
concurrence of the Secretary of War and the Gov- 
ernor of the state. It was an exceedingly kind ac- 
tion on the part of all concerned, and would have 



suited me exactly, but, in the excitement of the other 
duties which fell to my lot, it was soon forgotten. 
As it afterwards appeared, Grant was about to rec- 
ommend me for promotion to brigadier general and, 
pending the appointment, naturally took but little 
interest in securing the lower grade of colonel for 
me. With his usual kindly reticence he did not 
mention the matter till some time afterwards. But 
meanwhile in grateful recognition of Porter's 
thoughtful concurrence with Dana, when a suitable 
^occasion presented itself, I said to Grant: "Porter 
is a man you ought to have on your staff. He was 
my classmate and roommate at West Point. He was 
cadet adjutant and is a very able man, fit to com- 
mand an army corps." Although I heard Grant 
shortly afterward using those exact words, as far 
as I knew, he took no immediate action in Porter's 
behalf, which was somewhat puzzling, but it was 
made clear a few weeks later as Porter was taking 
his leave, that Grant had not forgotten him but 
wanted him to wait till action was taken on certain 
telegrams he had lately sent to Washington. As it 
turned out, these telegrams related, first, to my own 
promotion to brigadier general, and, second, to Por- 
ter's as lieutenant colonel, both of which Grant had 
no doubt would follow. In further explanation he 
said the Secretary of War had assured him at Louis- 
ville that he could make no request in such matters 
that would not be promptly granted. He added in 
further explanation that he had himself conceived 
the idea of making Porter lieutenant colonel and 
inspector general in my place before he was advised 
of the steps taken by Thomas and the other generals 
to secure a higher grade for him, and that he did 



not want Porter to reach Washington ahead of for- 
mal papers in his case. 

These facts, added to what I learned from Eaw- 
lins, made it clear that the General did not wish to 
complicate my case with that of any other officer, 
however meritorious, who had been serving under 
another general with another army. 

My promotion came in due time, and I may be 
pardoned for adding that I was the only officer ever 
promoted from Grant's regular staff to command 
troops. He early conceived the idea, from my horse- 
manship, which came to me quite as much in the 
way of inheritance as instruction, that I would make 
a good cavalry commander. 

I have always regarded it as a most gratifying 
coincidence that Eosecrans should have asked Hal- 
leck, October 17, to make me colonel of a veteran 
engineer regiment, expressing his preference for me 
over "all others," while Grant, through Dana, Oc- 
tober 29, 1863, urged * Stanton to appoint me a 
brigadier general to command cavalry, for which 
both Grant and Dana were pleased to say, "he pos- 
sesses uncommon qualifications. " 2 When I joined 
Grant just a year before, my rank was only that of 
first lieutenant of engineers. My promotion as as- 
sistant inspector general with the rank of lieutenant 
colonel of volunteers and captain of engineers in 
the regular establishment had followed. Now, 
when just rounding my twenty-sixth year to be 
named by Eosecrans as colonel to command engi- 
neers and by Grant as brigadier general to command 
cavalry, was not only a fine reward for such service 

1 0. R. Series 1, Vol. XXX, Part IV, p. 435. 
2 O. R. Series 1, Vol. XXXI, Part I, p. 73. 



as I had been able to render, but was also crown- 
ing evidence that I had General Grant's good will 
and confidence, for both of which I have always been 
deeply grateful. 

While it should be noted that Grant did not meet 
Porter till the night he got into Chattanooga, nor 
succeed in getting him assigned to his staff till after 
he had been commissioned lieutenant general, and 
had gone east to take command of all our forces in 
the field, it is noteworthy that the good opinions 
Porter received from all at Chattanooga as well as 
from me were conclusive factors in his final promo- 
tion and subsequent career. Ordnance officers were 
scarce, and all the influences of the bureau chief 
were against their detachment. The final order in 
the case was not made, however, till Dana returned 
to his duties in the War Department, but even then 
it was largely due to Dana's personal intercession. 

Meanwhile this narrative has brought Grant and 
his staff no farther than Bridgeport, where they 
were compelled to take horse for a roundabout ride 
up the Sequatchie Valley and across the mountains 
to Chattanooga. The General had mounted a 
horse for the first time since his injury at New Or- 
leans, hence his progress was both painful and slow. 
The road was rough and muddy, and the traveling 
bad, but he got a considerable distance beyond Jas- 
per that night. As I was anxious to have at least 
one day in which to study the situation of the be- 
leagured army in its own camp and behind its own 
breastworks before Grant got there, I was bent on 
pushing on. Dana, who was familiar with the roads 
and all the short cuts, went along as guide, and, 
after baiting our horses and getting something to 



eat for ourselves, we struck out eastward up the 
mountain side. Darkness overtook us soon after we 
reached the plateau of Walden's Ridge, and after 
nine o'clock we found ourselves near its eastern 
edge overlooking the valley in the direction of Chat- 
tanooga. It was a wild and somber scene. The 
forest was almost unbroken, and not a sound reached 
our ears except the hooting of an owl or the baying 
of a far-away "honest watch dog." It was a clear, 
brilliant night and the light of the new moon made it 
dangerous to proceed. There was nothing to be done 
but dismount and wait for the moon to set and cover 
the road with darkness and security. Fortunately 
we lost but an hour or so, which we passed in con- 
versing about the campaign before us, broken oc- 
casionally by poetry and romance. Dana was at 
that time in the prime of his intellectual life, and 
there was a charm in his conversation that made 
time slip by unnoticed. 

At ten o'clock we remounted and descended by 
the crooked road to the north bank of the Tennessee 
River, which in that stretch runs through a gorge 
only eight or nine hundred feet wide. The enemy's 
pickets and sharp-shooters lined the opposite bank 
for some distance; and although we kept in the 
shadow of the trees and sought the softer parts of 
the road so we could be neither seen nor heard, the 
enemy's riflemen took an occasional crack at us. 
Fortunately the man who shoots at a sound in the 
dark shoots wild, and consequently we ran the gant- 
let and reached the ferry at Chattanooga without 
delay. Dana knew the guard as well as the ferry- 
man, and got us promptly across the river. Thread- 
ing the streets of the sleeping town, we reached 



Captain Porter's quarters just before midnight. 
Although we were not expected and his larder was 
lean, he gave us a hearty welcome. As we were 
both desperately tired and hungry he made haste to 
give us supper, consisting of fried hard-tack, salt 
pork, and coffee without sugar or milk. With char- 
acteristic wit our host made this simple fare more 
acceptable than a dinner at Delmonico's, but when 
he explained that he could give our half -famished 
horses only two ears of corn apiece and no hay, we 
recognized that we were surely within a beleagured 
garrison on short rations, and that the direct sup- 
ply line must be reopened as quickly as possible. 

Our hunger appeased, we devoted the rest of the 
night to talking over old times and present pros- 
pects. As previously stated, Porter and I had served 
together at Port Eoyal and Antietam and had much 
to tell each other. According to all accounts he 
had borne himself exceedingly well in the late cam- 
paign and battle, and had won good opinions from 
all. As an officer of careful observation and sound 
judgment, his prospects for early promotion seemed 
to be good, but unfortunately he was under orders 
which compelled him to return to the Ordnance 
Bureau at Washington as soon as his relief arrived 
and he could turn over his property. Notwithstand- 
ing that Porter and I spent the night without sleep, 
Dana and I were out by daylight riding through the 
camps and around the lines of defense. We found 
the troops cheerful and comfortable, and their posi- 
tion impregnable so long as they were supplied with 
food and munitions. Although they were on short 
rations, and had been roughly handled before falling 
back into Chattanooga, they were now self-reliant 



and confident. We found the artillery horses, how- 
ever, starving for want of forage and the roads to 
the depots in rear so long and so muddy that the 
mules could hardly haul enough forage to feed them- 
selves both ways. The situation though far from 
desperate was grave enough. We could see at least 
a week into the future, but with falling and wintry 
weather it was clearly impossible for the army to 
hold its advanced position indefinitely, strong as it 
was, unless the railroad to the rear could be repos- 
sessed, repaired, and held against the enemy. 

This was apparent to all, from the highest gen- 
eral to the lowest private. Fortunately the Wash- 
ington authorities had already selected and sent out 
an officer fully capable of dealing with every ques- 
tion connected with the extraordinary circumstances 
of the case. I refer to General William Farrar 
Smith of the Regular Engineers. To distinguish 
him from many other officers of the same surname, 
he had been designated while still a cadet, and was 
always known thereafter as "Baldy Smith.' ■ He 
had organized the Vermont "Iron Brigade ,, and 
commanded the Sixth Army Corps with credit, but 
he was one of those distinguished men of the old 
army whose sharp tongue and sententious speech 
had done much to make enemies in high place and 
to mar his immediate career. He was popular with 
his subordinates, for he was a conscientious, pains- 
taking, and industrious officer who spared no effort 
to keep his soldiers in good condition or to lead 
them successfully, no matter how great the diffi- 
culties which surrounded them. He had been one 
of my instructors at West Point, and I had carried 
orders to him during the battle of Antietam, but up 



to my meeting him at Chattanooga I knew but little 
of him except by hearsay. 1 

As soon as the proper time came, we rode to 
headquarters «to pay our respects to the new com- 
manding general. I had never seen him before, but 
Dana, who presented me, had fully described him 
and his imperturbable sangfroid and courage dur- 
ing the campaign and battle of Chickamauga. My 
mind had therefore become strongly prepossessed 
in his favor, and I was ready to greet him as an able 
and reliable commander, but I am free to confess I 
was not prepared to see in him so many of the ex- 
ternal evidences of greatness. Six feet tall, of Jove- 
like figure, impressive countenance, and lofty bear- 
ing, he struck me at once as I have elsewhere said, 
as resembling the traditional Washington in ap- 
pearance, manners, and character more than any 
man I had ever met. I found him as calm and se- 
rene as the morning. He received me gravely and 
courteously, but without the slightest show of un- 
easiness or concern. He expressed a modest con- 
fidence in being able to make good his hold on 
Chattanooga, and at once inspired me with faith in 
his steadiness and courage. He intimated that he 
had never sought command nor, contrary to the 
popular impression, declined it when offered, but 
felt himself fully competent to meet all the re- 
sponsibility that might be laid upon him. And later 
when I came to know him better, he not only con- 
firmed the impression of perfect self-reliance he 
gave me on that occasion, but made it clear that the 

*The character and services of this officer are fully set forth 
in "The Life of Major-General William Farrar Smith/ ' by James 
Harrison Wilson, The Eogers Press, Wilmington, Del. 



need of supervision from any source had never pre- 
sented itself to his mind. 

In our brief interview he asked after Grant's 
health, and at what hour he might be expected. As 
soon as he had my answer he indicated that the 
General should be his guest till he could select and 
occupy quarters of his own, and then referred me 
to Smith for whatever information I might need in 
regard to the situation of the army. It was a long 
and busy day, for I continued my investigations 
with Smith and did not get back to headquarters till 
nine o'clock that night. 

It had been raining since midnight of the 22d. 
The mountain road was steep, muddy, and slippery, 
but Grant and his staff, wet, hungry, and tired, 
had arrived after nightfall. We had parted at 
Jasper, but from there they had taken a more north- 
ern and more circuitous road and had slept on the 
mountain. Starting early and traveling as fast as 
their horses could carry them, they left their wag- 
ons, baggage, and camp equipage behind, not be- 
cause they did not need them, but because they could 
not keep up. Grant had suffered greatly during the 
long and tiresome ride, and to make matters worse, 
"Old Jack," his sturdy claybank horse, had slipped 
and fallen heavily with him, severely jamming his 
injured leg, just after they had crossed the Tennes- 
see and entered the town. 

On getting back to headquarters, I found Grant 
at one side of the fireplace, steaming from the heat 
over a small puddle which had run from his sodden 
clothing. Thomas was on the other side, neither 
saying a word, but both looking glum and ill at ease. 
What the greeting between them had been I did not 



stop to inquire, but learning from Rawlins that 
nothing had yet been offered for their comfort, and 
knowing that Grant would not condescend to ask 
for an act of hospitality, I took the liberty of say- 
ing: "General Thomas, General Grant is wet and 
tired and ought to have some dry clothes, particu- 
larly a pair of socks and a pair of slippers. He is 
hungry, besides, and needs something to eat. Can't 
your officers attend to these matters for him!" 

This broke the silence and set the machinery of 
hospitality in motion. It had apparently not oc- 
curred to the stately Virginian that Grant was his 
guest as well as his commanding general, but I had 
hardly spoken before he called Willard, his senior 
aid-de-camp, and directed him to find clothes and 
order supper for the party. Everything possible 
was done and apparently in the most cheerful man- 
ner to make Grant and his staff comfortable for the 
night. Conversation became free, if not hilarious. 
Supper was served and in due time quarters were 
found for all. General Smith and Captain Porter 
called during the evening and were presented and 
at once established friendly relations with the new 
commander. 1 Neither had ever seen him before and 
both were favorably impressed by his gentle and 
modest demeanor. They soon became fast friends 
with him, the first for a year or more and the second 
for a lifetime. But Thomas's coolness and neglect 
at first were so apparent to all that Grant made 
haste to establish his own headquarters, though his 
wagons did not reach town till the second day after- 

What could have offended Thomas remained al- 

1 Porter 's ' ' Campaigning with Grant, ' ' pp. 4-6 et seq. 


ways a matter of conjecture, but it cannot be doubted 
that he felt justified in the reserve which he showed 
towards Grant, not only then but always afterwards. 
It is certain that this reserve was perceived and 
imitated by his staff and that cordial and friendly 
relations were never established between their re- 
spective headquarters. Eawlins was one of the first 
to note a disposition on the part of General Whip- 
ple, Thomas's chief-of-staff, an old regular, to raise 
technical objections, amounting in several instances 
to personal rudeness in regard to current business, 
and these became so annoying that he was forced to 
put an end to them by positive orders. Withal, re- 
lations never became cordial or friendly, and this 
fact in some degree explains Grant's readiness to 
prefer Sherman, McPherson, and even Sheridan to 
Thomas, and to charge Thomas with being slow, not 
only in action, but in his mental operations. 

I have always been inclined to think that Thomas, 
having graduated higher at West Point, entered a 
more scientific arm of service and served generally 
with greater distinction, regarded himself as a bet- 
ter soldier than Grant, and that he thereby, perhaps 
unconsciously, resented Grant's assignment to duty 
over him. In considering their relations he might 
have recalled the fact that he had never been in 
trouble in regard to his habits, and that when they 
came together at Shiloh and in the Corinth cam- 
paign, Halleck had stripped Grant of his troops and 
given them to him. It would not have been strange 
if the correct and austere Thomas had said to him- 
self, it is true that Grant captured Donelson and 
Vicksburg, but was defeated at Shiloh and slighted 
in the campaign which followed, while I was vie- 



torious at Mill Spring, preferred in the Corinth cam- 
paign, and saved a great army at Chickamanga. Be 
all this as it may, it seems to be certain that Thomas 
acted with reserve towards Grant in the Shiloh-Cor- 
inth campaign the year before, had not met him 
again till the fortune of war brought them together 
at Chattanooga, and finally was not disposed to 
change his attitude merely because Grant was now 
his commanding officer. He doubtless believed to 
the end that while Grant had put him in Eosecrans' 
place, it was not because he loved Thomas more, but 
because he distrusted Eosecrans too much to keep 
him in command at all. 

It was my good fortune to enjoy most friendly 
relations with Thomas from the start, and to play 
the part of mutual friend between him and Grant 
to the end of the war. Much to my regret I was 
never entirely successful in establishing cordial re- 
lations between them, but I shall have occasion dur- 
ing this narrative to point out several instances in 
which my efforts strengthened the favorable feel- 
ings of each for the other. While they were both 
entirely honorable in their personal and official con- 
duct, I have always thought that Grant was at first 
more considerate and conciliatory towards Thomas 
than Thomas was towards Grant. This was certainly 
the case at Chattanooga, but after all they were both 
strong men with different points of view, habits of 
mind, and idiosyncrasies, and it is by no means 
strange that their prejudices and their preferences 
should have pushed them in different directions. 
Whatever their personal feelings may have been to- 
wards each other they were both beyond all question 
loyal to their sense of duty. 



The next two days were spent in further investi- 
gating the situation at Chattanooga. I found that 
General Baldy Smith, who arrived shortly after the 
army occupied the place, had carefully worked out 
a plan for shortening communications with the rear, 
had discovered a way to seize the northern entrance 
to Lookout Valley at Brown's Ferry, and had ar- 
ranged to lay a bridge across the Tennessee at that 
point so that the troops coming from Bridgeport 
might repair the railroad and occupy the valley 
against the enemy on Lookout Mountain. He had 
carefully settled all the details, and General Thomas 
had given the suggestions and plans his full ap- 
proval. This important point minimized the work 
of General Grant and placed upon him merely the 
responsibility of carrying the plans already ma- 
tured into effect. Smith personally guided him and 
me to the place at which the crossing of the Ten- 
nessee should be made and explained the details of 
how he would seize the place and lay a bridge for 
the passage of the troops. As a part of the plan 
I was sent to Bridgeport on the 25th to accompany 
Hooker and his troops through Lookout Valley. 
This movement beginning on the 27th, crossed the 
Tennessee on a pontoon bridge at Shellmound and 
reached Whitesides at dark, where we first encoun- 
tered the enemy's pickets, capturing two men of the 
Ninth Kentucky Bebel Cavalry. The next day we 
pushed on through the valley, encountering here 
and there a small hostile force, and finally in the 
evening formed a junction with Smith's command 
at Brown's Ferry. 

But, unfortunately, Hooker stopped short of 
safety in the valley and allowed a portion of his 



troops under Geary to go into camp at a place 
known as Wauhatchie, three miles south of Brown's 
Ferry, while the rest of his command spread over 
the country between the two places. The rebels oc- 
cupying Lookout Mountain could see the disorder 
on our side and evidently thought the opportunity 
too good to lose. Accordingly in the dead of night 
they made a descent and a vigorous attack on 
Geary's camp and gained a partial success. Hooker 
himself, in explaining the matter as we rode over 
the grounds the next day, said if it had not been 
that Geary's mules became stampeded and galloped 
down upon the rebels like a charge of cavalry, the 
dash against Geary's camp would have been com- 
pletely successful. There is no doubt that the mules 
did stampede and gallop wildly through the oncom- 
ing rebels, but I have always supposed that the re- 
pulse of the attack was due mainly to the courage 
and steadiness of Geary and his men. In telling 
the mule story Hooker strongly insisted that the 
Confederates had been so alarmed at what they sup- 
posed was a cavalry charge that they threw down 
their arms and ran for their lives. He claimed that 
our men after the action picked up over a thousand 
muskets which the flying Southerners had thrown 
down. Naturally, I should have believed the story 
on seeing the muskets, and asked the General to 
show them to me, but it is hardly necessary to state 
that they had disappeared. The truth is the rebels 
carried off about all the guns they brought with 
them, and that those our men picked up, if there 
were any such, belonged to our own people. Gen- 
eral Hooker did not tell the story of the mule charge 
again in my presence, but I believe it has grown to 



be semi-historical. We lost between three and four 
hundred men, killed, wounded, and missing, which 
shows that the enemy's attack was well directed and 
had plenty of impulse. His loss was only twenty 
killed and sixty prisoners. 

Instead of stopping that night with the column I 
went on to headquarters and told the General about 
the disorderly and scattered condition of Hooker's 
camp. He was at first disposed to send me back 
with directions that Hooker should draw his com- 
mand into Brown's Ferry, but upon reflection, con- 
cluded to leave matters as they were. The rela- 
tions between these generals were never cordial and 
the affair at Wauhatchie did not strengthen them. 
Hooker was vain and patronizing and his manners 
were offensive to the modest Grant. They never 
became close friends, but as soon as the emergency 
which brought them together was passed, Grant 
cheerfully enough consented to Hooker being de- 
tached from his command. 

The shorter "cracker line" was at once reopened, 
and while the work of rebuilding the bridges and re- 
pairing the railroad was going on, careful attention 
was given to the fortification of the passes in the 
ridges covering the railroad and the river, so that 
the line of supplies might not be again interfered 
with. I was engaged on this work till the 8th of 
November. All the passes were fortified with earth 
works. Slashings and abattis were constructed and 
every known device resorted to to make the country 
impassable for the enemy. Much of the time I was 
on foot, because the country was too rough to get 
over it with horses. Upon one occasion I went from 
Shellmound to Bridgeport in a pontoon, and upon 



another walked from Whitesides to Brown's Ferry. 
The scenery was picturesque, but the country had 
been cleared of its forage and food, and there was 
nothing left in it except the railroad to invite or en- 
courage the enterprise of the enemy. 

It was in the midst of this work on November 
3 that Eawlins gave me the gratifying informa- 
tion that General Grant had requested my promotion 
to the rank of brigadier general and said he 
had no doubt that it would be made. The compli- 
ment was all the greater because the next day Grant 
recommended that a distinguished engineer officer 
serving with that army as a brigadier general should 
be transferred to duty on sea coast fortifications, 
and in reply the Secretary of War requested that he 
be mustered out. By common consent this was re- 
garded as a step in the right direction, and had it 
been followed by a rigid adherence to the principle 
that all general officers who had shown themselves 
incompetent and unfit for their position should be 
mustered out, the situation would have been greatly 
improved, not only in that but in other armies. 

While waiting for the completion of the road and 
the arrival of Sherman's army from Memphis, we 
had a period of rest at Chattanooga, and during 
the evenings it was customary for the generals to 
gather at our headquarters. Upon one of these oc- 
casions Thomas, Granger, Wood, Brannan, Smith, 
and several older regulars were gathered about the 
fire in Grant's sitting room, all official cares thrown 
aside and all formality discarded. While cracking 
jokes and telling stories of cadet and army life, it 
was pleasant to hear them calling each other by 
their nicknames. Even Thomas unbent and told 



his reminiscences with wit and good feeling. Both 
Grant and he, though noted for their capacity "to 
keep silent in seven languages' ' were interesting if 
not brilliant conversationalists upon such occasions. 
It is worthy of note that both were entirely free 
from the use of profane or smutty language. 

Having finished the work in connection with for- 
tifying and making good our hold on the railroad to 
the rear, I was sent by horse-back overland to Knox- 
ville for the purpose of carrying orders to and con- 
ferring with Burnside. He was an officer of mag- 
nificent appearance and correct demeanor, but none 
of his superiors had much confidence in his ability 
or judgment. It was hoped, however, that he could 
hold not only east Tennessee against Longstreet, 
but with him disposed of, could move down the valley 
in such manner as to cooperate in the final struggle 
for the possession of upper Georgia. Grant asked 
Dana as "the eyes of the Government' P repre- 
senting the War Department to go with me, and we 
left Chattanooga at half past two on the 9th, es- 
corted by fifteen cavalrymen under the command of 
a Captain Field. Our route on the north side of the 
river lay through Dallas, Washington, and Kingston. 
We camped the first night with an outlying infantry 
detachment where we received a hearty welcome. 
The weather was cold and the wind high, but a blaz- 
ing fire of logs in front of our tent tempered the 
winds and enabled us to pass the night in compara- 
tive comfort. We spread our blankets on some short 
boards which the Colonel (Smith by name) kindly 
provided, to keep us from the cold ground, and I 
slept well, but Dana complained that I had taken an 
unfair advantage by laying my boards lengthwise 



while he placed his crosswise and thus hurt his sides 

The next day we passed through the camps of 
one General Spears, an ignorant, loyal Tennesseean, 
an ardent Union man, but an exceedingly poor sol- 
dier, whose methods of command and administration 
were peculiar. He permitted his men to go home 
when they pleased, stay as long as they thought best 
and come back when they were ready. It was this 
officer of whom the following story is told. Having 
a section of artillery under a sergeant in his com- 
mand and feeling somewhat uneasy as to the enemy's 
movements, he one day wrote as follows : 

Sergeant Brown, 

Commanding Section of Artillery. 
Dear Sir: 

Immediately on receipt of this order, you will take your 
guns down to the river, load 'em up, fire 'em off, swab 'em 
out and report the result. Yours truly, 

B. G. Spears. 

In this case B. G. stood for brigadier general. 
In reply the sergeant wrote as follows : 

Camp on the Tennessee Biver, 
B. G. Spears, Comdg. 
Dear Sir: 

In obedience to your order, I have taken my guns down 
to the river, loaded 'em up, fired 'em off, swabbed 'em 
out and now have to report the result — nothing in par- 
ticular. Yours truly, 

S. Brown. 

S. in this case meant sergeant. 
It was well understood in all that region that 
B. G. Spears received his appointment through the 



influence of Andrew Johnson for loyalty and not 
on account of his military accomplishments or 

At the end of a long march the next day we 
reached the camp of General Jefferson C. Davis, 
commanding a division and district north of the 
river, and spent the night comfortably with him. 
Pushing on at an early hour next morning toward 
Lenoir Station, we found Lieutenant Colonel Bab- 
cock, chief engineer of the Ninth Corps, who had 
been with us at Vicksburg and who had just fin- 
ished a bridge across the Holston. In doing this 
work he had reconstructed a saw mill, cut the lum- 
ber, built the pontoons, spun the yarn, twisted the 
rope, made the pitch, forged the anchors, and com- 
pleted all the work in exactly seven days. He gave 
us an excellent dinner and sent us on that night by 
train to Knoxville, where we arrived at half past 
nine. We delivered Grant's orders, received a 
hearty welcome, and the next day had a full discus- 
sion with Burnside and Parke in reference to the 
situation and the probable course of events in East 

We found Burnside exceedingly anxious to cross 
to the south side of the Holston, claiming that he 
could support his army in that region for six or 
eight weeks, although he admitted if he did so that 
he might not be able to thwart the enemy's move- 
ments or prevent his going into Knoxville, which 
the President, the Secretary of War, and General 
Grant concurred in regarding as the key point of 
all that region. Burnside seemed to have a clear 
enough idea of the relative strength of the opposing 
forces, the strategic and political considerations in- 



volved in the campaign, and of the absolute neces- 
sity of holding Knoxville to the last, but when 
brought face to face with the means by which his 
instructions were to be carried out, his mind and 
judgment seemed utterly lost. Instead of drawing 
the conclusions that were inevitable upon the facts 
as they existed, he persistently turned to his project 
of crossing into the country southeast of the Hols- 
ton by Babcock's beautiful new bridge, as the best 
course he could possibly adopt. When confronted 
with the statement that this would not only leave 
the road open but cost him Knoxville, if not the de- 
struction of his army, and that it was no part of 
Grants plan to permit such a sacrifice as this, he 
consented to adopt the policy which Dana and I laid 
down for him. This simply contemplated a sturdy 
resistance step by step to the northward march of 
Longstreet who was now known to have been de- 
tached from Bragg's army and to be on the way to 
Knoxville. Finally if driven out of Knoxville we 
instructed Burnside to fall back towards Cumber- 
land Gap by the best road to ensure the safety of his 

The object of these orders as explained time and 
time again was to hold our own advantages and keep 
Longstreet 's corps in east Tennessee till after a 
vital blow should be struck at the rebels in front of 
Chattanooga. The fact was emphasized that Bragg 
had weakened himself so greatly by the detachment 
of this splendid body of veterans that he would 
surely be defeated by Grant as soon as arrange- 
ments could be made to attack him. The tiresome 
discussion continued till midnight and was only 
closed after all points were settled arid fully com- 



municated to General Grant and to the War De- 
partment. Even then, however, Burnside declared 
that his own judgment favored a different policy 
and that he had yielded only because he believed 
General Grant would approve our views rather than 
his own. 

Finally I was called back to headquarters at 
three o'clock by Burnside, saying that the enemy 
had already crossed at Hoff's Ferry and was ad- 
vancing on Knoxville. As soon as I reported, the 
General went over the whole ground again spending 
the rest of the night in discussing the details of the 
policy already decided upon and in sending orders 
to carry it into effect. But in spite of both orders 
and argument, he still favored the plan of throwing 
himself south of the Holston and leaving the more 
important country behind him open to Longstreet. 
I again pointed out how completely this would de- 
feat the purpose of General Grant, and insisted that 
he should march out and fight the enemy at what- 
ever cost. At nine o'clock he and his staff, accom- 
panied by us, started by rail to Lenoir Station. We 
reached there in two hours and found the corps 
moving to the front for the purpose of verifying the 
enemy's advance. Fortunately Babcock had already 
destroyed his new bridge, thus making it absolutely 
necessary for Burnside to confront Longstreet and 
delay his march to Knoxville. A sharp skirmish 
had already begun, which Bowen and Babcock, the 
brains of Burnside 's staff, afterward somewhat de- 
risively designated as "The Battle of Hackberry's 

The principal result was to compel the enemy to 
move with caution. Incidentally it enabled Dana 



and me to pass around the head of Longstreet's col- 
umns and take up our return journey to Chatta- 
nooga. Our horses having had a good rest and fair 
feeding, we turned their heads across country to- 
wards Kingston, escorted by a detachment of forty 
cavalry, and after a rapid ride arrived there at 
nightfall. We could not have delayed another hour 
nor ridden less rapidly, for had we done either we 
should certainly have been captured. As it was we 
passed the road on which Longstreet was marching 
only a short while before his advance reached the 
crossing. We were reported at Washington as hav- 
ing been taken prisoners. We found the country 
in a state of consternation, the loyal east Tennessee 
farmers fearing that they would lose what little 
provisions they had left and that the presence of 
the rebel army would place them again under the 
dominion of the Confederate authorities. 

Passing through the camp of "B. G." Spears on 
Sale Creek, we found him also greatly excited, but 
the rebel route lying east of him, he suffered in mind 
rather than in body. The Honorable Horace May- 
nard, a loyal and distinguished citizen of Tennessee, 
born in Massachusetts, accompanied us both ways 
on our ride and came back with us to Chattanooga 
where we received a hearty welcome. General Grant 
had hoped that we would remain at Knoxville, first, 
because he had no confidence in the fight Burnside 
would put up without us, and next, because he 
feared we should be captured in trying to return. 
Indeed, he had already heard that this fate had be- 
fallen us. 

This ride of something over three hundred miles 
to Knoxville and back through loyal east Tennessee 



was just dangerous enough to make it romantic. It 
showed us the loyal "po' white man"' of the South 
in his native hue. Plain, simple-minded, and sen- 
sible without sham or pretension; loving the Union 
because he had been taught to love it; hating the 
slaveholders ' rebellion and caring nothing for "his 
rights in the territories" because he had no slaves; 
staying at home when he could and taking no part 
in the struggle unless he must, because he realized 
from the first that it was "the rich man's war and 
the poor man's fight." This was the sum of his po- 
litical philosophy, and when we look back upon it, 
the only wonder is that we did not realize it as hej 
did. A political writer has since pointed out that 
only six and a half per cent of the Southern people 
had any property interest in slavery when the Re- 
bellion broke out, while ninety-three and a half per 
cent were naturally and economically interested on 
the other side. Another writer has shown beyond 
reasonable doubt that this interesting fact was the 
underlying cause of the final depletion and disin- 
tegration of the rebel armies. The commissioned 
officers, largely drawn from the slaveholding class 
and those who sympathized with it, naturally re- 
mained with the colors, while the rank and file, 
drawn from the common people holding no slaves, 
just as naturally began to desert as soon as they 
discovered that they had to do all the fighting and 
had no real interest in the outcome. 

This fact also accounts for the rapid recovery of 
the cotton-growing interest after the war ended. 
That part of the Southern population holding no 
slaves and possessing little or no land, when peace 
came, were nearly as well off as they were before 



the war commenced. They had been the principal 
producers of Southern staples before the war and 
naturally became the principal producers as soon as 
it was over. The land was all there and much of it 
fallow. The horses, mules, and agricultural imple- 
ments were but little diminished, and so when the 
fighting and the conscripting ended, it was compara- 
tively easy for the "po* white man" and the negroes 
at least to begin growing cotton again largely as be- 
fore on rented land, and this is what they did. 

The ex-slaveholders found it harder to get down 
to work and naturally enough turned to politics. It 
was this class that wanted to hold public meetings, 
pass resolutions and give their views about recon- 
struction, and it was to one of this class that Sena- 
tor Hoar said, a year later, that if he and his friends 
would go home and " raise more cotton and less 
hell, ,, they would probably find that reconstruction 
in the end would take care of itself. 




Brigadier and inspector general — Sherman arrives — Plan of 
battle — Details of movements — Claims of Grant and 
Sherman — Thomas carries Ridge — Granger and Sher- 
man sent to Knoxville — Bridging the rivers — Major 
Hoffman — Longstreet rejoins Lee — Grant goes to 
Knoxville — Cumberland Gap — Lexington — Establishes 
winter headquarters at Nashville. 

On returning to Chattanooga, November 17, I 
found my commission as brigadier general and the 
usual oath was administered by General Grant, but 
as we were still confronting Bragg, making ready for 
a decisive battle, I continued to act as inspector gen- 
eral of the military division without any new as- 
signment. But as there was neither necessity nor 
time for inspections, I lent a hand, as had always 
been my practice, wherever I saw a chance for 
service. I was still the only active regular officer 
on Grant's staff, and being an engineer besides I 
found plenty to do, carrying orders and assisting 
Baldy Smith in reconnoitering the country for a 
suitable crossing of the Tennessee for Sherman's 
turning movement against the enemy's right flank 
and rear. 

It should be remembered that Sherman marched 


from his camp on Black Eiver into Vicksburg whence 
he took steamboats to Memphis. From there he was 
transferred to Corinth by rail with instructions to 
march eastward along the railroad, rebuilding it as 
he went. In this way it took just two months to 
transfer his army corps of four divisions from the 
Big Black to Chattanooga, while it took the War 
Department less than two weeks to transfer two 
army corps from Virginia to the same destination. 

Great credit has always been accorded Sherman 
for the rapidity of his transfer, and he doubtless did 
his part well enough, but in view of the perilous po- 
sition of the Army of the Cumberland at Chatta- 
nooga, it must be confessed that it was a great mis- 
take to select that route when another and a far bet- 
ter one was open, namely, that by steamboat to 
Cairo and by rail from Cairo to Louisville, Nash- 
ville, and Bridgeport. It was contended at the time, 
however, that it would be impracticable to transport 
and supply the army by the single line of railroad 
from the Ohio River, but when it is remembered 
that a few months later it was the sole dependence 
of a very much larger army, while the line Sherman 
was rebuilding, skirting the northern border of the 
Confederacy, was constantly exposed to raids and 
interruption and was not and could not be used to 
any extent as a supply line, it will be seen that the 
time occupied in its repair was time wasted and that 
Sherman going by the other route should have been 
on the ground he finally occupied a month to six 
weeks earlier than he was. The railroad could have 
been repaired later as it was. 

But even after Sherman reached Bridgeport, he 
was unnecessarily slow in marching to Chattanooga. 



Before getting within reach of the enemy his col- 
umns were naturally enough badly strung out. He 
was encumbered by heavy wagon trains, and now 
that rainy weather had begun to make the roads 
muddy — and there were but few in the country, 
none parallel — this faulty marching order could 
hardly be helped as a general arrangement, but it 
might have been easily remedied for the last day by 
leaving the wagons in Lookout Valley to follow at 
leisure while the troops pushed to the front without 
them. As this was not done, Sherman lost at least 
two days more in getting into position. To make 
matters still worse the pontoon bridge at Brown's 
Ferry broke while he was crossing the river and 
thus cut off his last division entirely. As everybody 
else had already reached the place assigned him, 
within striking distance of the enemy, Sherman's 
delays gave Grant great annoyance at the time, and 
had they not been warm friends might have led to 
sharp criticism and censure. This surely would 
have been the case had the operations, which were 
to follow, ended in failure and disappointment. But 
success wipes out or greatly minimizes individual 
shortcomings and, as will be shown hereafter, this 
was the result in Sherman's case. 

During my absence at Knoxville all the details 
for the forthcoming battle had been finally arranged 
mainly by Generals Smith and Thomas under 
Grant's personal supervision. The situation was a 
complicated one. The beleaguered army, reenforced 
from many directions, now greatly outnumbered 
Bragg 's which had been fatally weakened, first, by 
the detachment of Longstreet's corps, and afterward 
by that of Buckner's division. Our center occupied 



Chattanooga south of the Tennessee at the entrance 
of a valley about three miles wide, with Lookout 
Mountain on one side and Missionary Ridge on the 
other, but this place had now become an inexpug- 
nable camp surrounded by well-constructed fortifi- 
cations. It was at last amply supplied from the rear 
by rail and wagon road, and, although the enemy 
still had an outlying detachment on Lookout, it was 
too far from his main body on Missionary Ridge to 
be a serious menace to Grant's communications or 

Bragg 's position was essentially a weak one. His 
main line held Missionary Ridge about two hundred 
feet high, fortified by rifle trenches at top and bot- 
tom and regarded as secure against direct attack. 
It covered both the wagon and railroads to the in- 
terior of Georgia. Its right rested at the railroad 
tunnel near the end of Missionary Ridge; its left, 
held by an outlying detachment, was near Rossville, 
and the whole was about five miles long with but 
little more than forty thousand men to defend it. 

Grant had within reach nearly twice as many 
men much better equipped and better supplied in 
every respect. His plan, stripped of all unnecessary 
verbiage, was that Sherman should cross from the 
north to the south side of the Tennessee just below 
the mouth of Chickamauga Creek by a pontoon 
bridge, the boats and materials for which Smith had 
concealed in the North Chickamauga, and after mak- 
ing good his footing, Sherman should drive back 
or turn the enemy's right, resting near the end of 
Missionary Ridge. Howard was to advance from 
Chattanooga, form a junction with Sherman on the 
south side of the river, and thus strengthen his 



movement, while Thomas was to advance to Or- 
chard Knoll and cooperate from there as occasion 
might require. 

Preliminary to all this Hooker was to force his 
way around the point of Lookout Mountain, followed 
by Osterhaus, who had been cut off from Sherman, 
and thus put their combined forces in position to 
move by the shortest line up the Chattanooga Val- 
ley against the enemy's extreme left near Eoss- 
ville. This was the movement that gave rise to the 
so-called "Battle above the Clouds" as described 
by Quartermaster General Meigs, who was at that 
time exiled from Washington and was visiting at 
Grant's headquarters. He had never seen a battle, 
and it so happened that this one, which was merely 
a sharp skirmish on the nose of the mountain be- 
tween the rebel detachment and Hooker's advance, 
did not end till after dark. Seen from Grant's 
headquarters, below and about two miles away, the 
flashing of small arms looked like fireflies above a 
small bank of mist that rested against the mountain 
side, nowhere more than fifteen hundred feet high. 
It was picturesque enough while it lasted, but as the 
rebel detachment on Lookout made but feeble re- 
sistance and got out rapidly as soon as it found that 
the force coming against it was really a formidable 
one, the affair was altogether insignificant and soon 
ended. During the night the rebel force made its 
way around to Missionary Eidge, where it had a 
much more serious time the next day. So far as the 
records show, there were at no time more than two 
thousand men, counting both sides, engaged in this 
much-exaggerated and misnamed "Battle above the 
Clouds." It should be noted, however, that Hooker 



in his official report, written after the campaign 
ended, did not hesitate to claim for his various op- 
erations a larger number of prisoners than were 
captured by the entire army at the battle of Mis- 
sionary Eidge, and that in forwarding this report 
General Grant endorsed it to the following effect: 
"The number of prisoners claimed to have been 
captured by General Hooker, it will be observed, 
is in excess of the number actually captured by the 
entire army." This cold and somewhat unusual 
endorsement shows quite as plainly as a more direct 
statement that there was no love lost between the 
distinguished generals concerned in it. 

The bridge for Sherman's movement was laid 
with the regularity of clockwork by Smith and his 
assistants to the entire satisfaction of all con- 
cerned. But to shorten and insure a safe passage 
for the entire force I was put in charge of the com- 
modious side-wheel steamboat Dunbar, and its 
barges, and not only ferried the advance, but seven 
thousand men besides across the river between eight 
o 'clock and noon, landing each regiment at the very 
spot most advantageous to its immediate advance. 
Thus it will be seen that the passage of the river, 
which was about half a mile wide, was made with 
unusual rapidity and perfect safety. Not a shot 
was fired except at the Dunbar on her way from 
Chattanooga to the crossing, and not an animal nor 
a man lost his life in the operation. Although it 
might have been timed for an earlier hour, it was a 
complete surprise and a complete success, all the 
details of which from first to last were carried out 
entirely independent of Sherman and in such man- 
ner as to command his heartiest praise. With his 



three divisions, of not less than fifteen thousand 
men, safely landed on the south bank of the river, 
there was nothing left for him to do but to move 
against the enemy. The country was entirely open, 
and, while the ground was high and rolling, the way 
both to the enemy's flank and rear was straight out 
from the river. Nothing could have been more fa- 
vorable to a direct attack or to a turning movement 
against the enemy's right flank and rear, but from 
the first to the close of the next day Sherman's 
movements were slow and ineffective. Instead of 
pushing resolutely to the attack he lost several hours 
in digging rifle pits to cover the bridge, and when 
he finally advanced, found the enemy fully ready 
and able to resist him. Having discovered the peril 
he was in, Bragg made haste that afternoon to 
strengthen his extreme right by bringing troops 
from other parts of his line. So prompt and vigor- 
ous was his action that he made good his position 
and repelled every attack not only that day but the 
next. Sherman's men fought bravely enough, but 
their efforts were disjointed, desultory, and abortive, 
while those of the enemy were coherent and effec- 

The fact is that halting to fortify had cost the 
Federal commander all the advantages of a surprise 
and had reduced his operations from a successful 
turning movement to a direct attack of entrench- 
ments, which from Chickasaw Bayou to the siege of 
Vicksburg had for him generally been a failure. 
Why, as soon as he found out what he was up 
against, he did not throw himself around the enemy 's 
flank, against his communications and rear has never 
been satisfactorily explained. It may be claimed 



that he had not been ordered to do so, but the sim- 
ple fact is that Sherman, with all his brilliancy, was 
not the man for such bold and conclusive operations. 
He had not even reached the tunnel, and never did, 
but even with this failure there can be no doubt that 
so long as he held his menacing position on the end 
of the ridge, enveloping the enemy's flank, the latter 
could not regard his entrenchments as tenable 
and would feel compelled to abandon them as 
soon as our forces in his front were put in mo- 
tion. And this is exactly what occurred the next 

The preliminary operations merely resulted in 
bringing the opposing armies face to face with each 
other ; Bragg was on the top of the Ridge with Sher- 
man enveloping and outflanking his right and Hooker 
moving against his left, while Howard and Thomas, 
with overwhelming numbers, occupied the valley in 
front of him, all in continuous line or within easy 
supporting distance of each other. 

This much accomplished or rendered certain, 
Grant's orders contemplated a simultaneous ad- 
vance against the enemy at dawn the second day, 
but Sherman started late as usual and was soon re- 
pulsed. He renewed his attack unaided and was 
again repulsed, after which he stood practically idle 
till nightfall. Howard at first did nothing. Thomas, 
seeing but little to encourage him, stood silent and 
watchful. Granger, commanding the Fourth Corps 
of Thomas' army, neither received nor gave orders 
for an advance, but remained on Orchard Knoll di- 
recting the fire of a battery and thus worked himself 
into a terrible state of excitement. Howard finally 
moved to the left across Citico Creek to Sherman's 



support. Hooker was delayed in his advance to 
Eossville by the necessity of rebuilding the bridge 
across Chattanooga Creek, which had been burned 
by the enemy as he fell back from Lookout Moun- 
tain. Thus the morning passed without decisive re- 
sults. Grant, noting with some impatience that the 
enemy still held his position in front, modestly asked 
Thomas if he didn't think he should make a demon- 
stration in Sherman's favor, but Thomas, evidently 
seeing no opening and not regarding the question as 
an order, stood unresponsive and silent. 

Having seen Sherman's column safely across the 
Tennessee the day before, I returned to headquar- 
ters and, after an anxious night, accompanied Gen- 
eral Grant and the rest of his staff to Orchard Knoll, 
from which the whole field was plainly within sight. 
At first everybody semed hopeful, but as the day 
wore on toward noon and afternoon, with nothing 
done, the situation became exceedingly embarrass- 
ing. Eawlins, always an anxious and questioning 
observer, grew sullen and finally indignant, first at 
Granger and next at Thomas himself. Baldy Smith, 
Rawlins, and I formed a group of our own, exchang- 
ing opinions freely and frequently on every point 
worthy of notice. Grant himself seemed anxious 
but undecided and gave*no positive orders, but as 
time continued to drag with nothing done Rawlins 
finally, at my suggestion, urged Grant to silence 
Granger and give Thomas positive orders for a gen- 
eral advance by the Army of the Cumberland, to 
begin at the firing of six guns at regular intervals 
from the battery on Orchard Knoll. All thought at 
the time that the enemy was moving troops con- 
stantly from his left and center toward his right, 



where Sherman was believed to be pressing him. 
Every officer on Orchard Knoll was sure he could 
see such a movement actually in progress, and it 
was a strong conviction to that effect which at last 
caused Grant to order Granger to rejoin his corps 
and then to turn with equal firmness to Thomas and 
direct him to advance his whole line against the rifle 
trench at the foot of the Eidge in front. Thomas, 
recognizing at once the difference between a sug- 
gestion and a positive order, sent his aids-de-camp 
to the various division commanders with orders to 
move at the appointed signal against the enemy. The 
final movement was begun without the slightest help 
from Sherman on the left. Cleburne, commanding 
in his front, had fought him to a standstill for the 
rest of that day. Thomas now held the center of 
the field, and his splendid divisions moved out with 
the regularity of troops on parade. Led by Sheri- 
dan, Baird, Thomas J. Wood, Brannan, and their 
brigade commanders, they swept across the first 
line of entrenchments without a pause. The enemy, 
it is now known, amounted to fully half of Bragg's 
forces but, for a reason which will be explained 
later, after one round gave way and, starting on the 
retreat, never stopped till they reached their main 
line. The Federal divisions scarcely paused after 
finding themselves in possession of the enemy's first 
entrenchments, but pushed on as it were under their 
original impulse till they reached and swept tri- 
umphantly over the top of the Eidge. The enemy 
had hastily the day before constructed several slight 
entrenchments between the bottom and the summit, 
but, for want of sufficient entrenching tools, left them 
unfinished. It is also claimed that the entrench- 



ments on the top of the Ridge were placed on the 
highest ground without much regard to the command 
of the slopes up which the attacking force would be 
compelled to advance. The consequence was that 
no adequate defence was made either at the bottom 
or at the top, and in an incredibly short time the en- 
tire position was abandoned and the enemy >s whole 
line was driven in confusion from the field. 

Both Grant and Sherman to the day of their 
death claimed that their success on that occasion 
was due principally to the fact that Bragg had all 
day long been strengthening his right at the expense 
of his center and left, but this is now known to have 
been an error, for, according to all Confederate re- 
ports both written and verbal, whatever was done in 
that direction was done on the day and night before, 
while on the second and final day of the battle no 
troops whatever were moved to the right of the 
enemy 's line. A better explanation of the enemy's 
weakness is that on the night of the 24th and the 
morning of the 25th one half of each Confederate 
brigade was holding the foot of the hill, while the 
other half held the line at the top. This disposition 
extended to all the troops on the Ridge and the num- 
ber available gave only a single rank for the final 
stand with the men about a yard apart. It is also 
alleged that the superior officers were instructed, if 
attacked by more than a single line, to await the 
enemy's approach till within two hundred yards, 
then to deliver their fire and retire to the works 
above. 1 At all events this is exactly what they did, 
and manifestly it was a fatal mistake. 

1 ■ ' Military Memoirs of a Confederate, 9 ' by General E. P. Alesan- 
der, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1907, p. 475 et seq. 



Many errors have crept into the accounts of this 
battle, the most persistent of which is that Grant 
ordered his troops to halt at the first line of en- 
trenchments. No such orders were given by him or 
by any one else in authority. The simple fact is that 
no one either high or low thought for a moment that 
it was feasible to go further than the first line, and 
when the troops were seen to be moving, of their 
own accord, beyond the captured first line of rifle 
trench up the hillside in pursuit of the enemy it was 
supposed that they would be repulsed before they 
could reach the top of the Eidge. Every observer 
thought they would be so blown and disordered by 
the rough and exhausting climb that they would 
have insufficient strength or momentum left to carry 
the second line of entrenchments. Grant, Eawlins, 
Smith, Thomas, and all the rest believed that it was 
impossible to succeed in sweeping over the line 
which would there confront them, but no orders were 
issued by Grant or any one else at any time to halt 
the advance. Looking on with much interest and 
seeing that our people were not repulsed and were 
fast approaching the top, I suggested to General 
Grant that we mount and proceed to the front our- 
selves with the view of encouraging the troops and 
pressing home our victory. My suggestion was 
adopted without hesitation and in less than thirty 
minutes we were all on top of Missionary Eidge, 
with the enemy disappearing down its eastern slope. 
Near the summit we met a few wounded men com- 
ing to the rear. They received General Grant with 
exultation, calling out: "We are now even with 
them for Chickamauga. All we needed was a 
leader !" 



The victory was quite as surprising to those who 
won it as to those who lost it. Although both 
Bragg 's flanks had been turned, neither Sherman's 
operations on the left nor Hooker's on the right had 
their proper effect in bringing it about. It could 
easily have been made complete had Sherman fully 
appreciated his position and moved with proper 
celerity to throw himself around the enemy's left 
across his communications before the break took 
place. With activity on his part the entire rebel 
army might have been captured. Hooker's posi- 
tion and movements were alarming, but in no case 
could they have been made conclusive. As it 
was nearly night when the final rout occurred and 
Sherman did nothing to complete it, Bragg suc- 
ceeded in withdrawing his whole army, leaving be- 
hind His killed and wounded, and here and there de- 
tachments which were captured, amounting in all to 
something less than two thousand men. 

That night and the next day Bragg retreated to 
Einggold and, after a stand of but little importance 
at that place, finally withdrew to Dalton on the road 
toward Atlanta. Having saved his army he was 
soon relieved at his own request from further com- 
mand. His casualties were three hundred and sixty- 
one killed, two thousand one hundred and sixty 
wounded, and about two thousand captured, while 
Grant's were seven hundred and fifty-three killed, 
four thousand seven hundred and twenty-two 
wounded. For the numbers engaged these figures 
are surprisingly small. 1 

1 Livermore estimates the forces engaged as follows: Effective 
Federal infantry and artillery, 56,359; effective Confederate infantry 
and artillery, 40,929. 



As soon as the decisive results were fully known 
Grant detached first Granger with the Fourth Corps 
and afterward Sherman and Howard with their re- 
spective forces to march as rapidly as possible to 
Knoxville for the relief of Burnside, who was now 
calling loudly for help, and whose fears it was 
thought might induce him to retreat from that place 
if not to surrender it and its garrison. 

During the first night after the battle of Mis- 
sionary Ridge Grant and his staff followed Sheri- 
dan's division in pursuit of the enemy several miles 
beyond Chickamauga Creek, but finding that our 
own troops were badly separated on the various 
roads the enemy had taken, the General concluded to 
return to Chattanooga for the night. Knowing that 
his subordinate commanders would communicate 
with him, he thought it easier for them to find him 
at his old headquarters than at any new ones he 
might establish. He had already sent Colonel La- 
gow, one of his aids-de-camp, to find Thomas, but as 
Grant recrossed the Chickamauga he met that officer 
returning with the statement that he could find 
neither Thomas nor his command. Thereupon Grant 
said: " Wilson, please take this matter in hand and 
report to me at your earliest convenience in Chat- 
tanooga. | ' I set out at once through the forest bor- 
dering the creek, and after a ride by compass two 
or three hours through the forest in the dark, over 
logs and across ravines, I ran into Baird's division, 
and finding that the rest of the corps was close at 
hand and that Thomas had fully reported his dis- 
positions to Grant at his old headquarters, I de- 
clined Baird's urgent offers of hospitality and made 
my way back to the town as rapidly as my tired 



horse could carry me. I arrived at headquarters 
just at dawn, and as I ascended the steps and opened 
the door into the room which I was using in common 
with General Grant, he called out: "Is that you, 
Wilson? I am glad you are back. Of course, I 
found here all the information I wanted about the 
troops, and have not slept a wink this whole night, 
for thinking of what a long, cold, and unnecessary 
ride I have given you. ,, 

It was this sort of solicitude on the part of the 
General which so greatly endeared him to his offi- 
cers. Without being effusive he was altogether the 
most thoughtful and considerate general with whom 
I ever served in regard to the comfort of his staff 
and of the troops under his command. It was no 
part of his practice to give unnecessary trouble or 
to impose unnecessary work upon any one, and the 
results were always beneficial to himself. This anx- 
iety to minimize the hardship of others arose per- 
haps as much from temperament as from personal 
kindness. Deliberate and careful in his mental op- 
erations, he rarely ever found it necessary to change 
his mind or his instructions, and when the work of 
his subordinates was completed in accordance there- 
with it was dismissed for good and all. He never 
countermarched his troops if it could be avoided, 
and never changed their destination till the necessity 
for the change was shown beyond question. If any 
mistake was made by his staff or by his subordinate 
commanders he generally assumed all the responsi- 
bility for it with the modest declaration that "it was 
my fault; I ought to have known better, or given 
more specific instructions. ' ' 

His orders detaching Granger to Knoxville were 


not promptly put into execution, and this was per- 
haps partly due to the fact that the troops were not 
expecting so long a march at once and partly to the 
fact that Granger himself had what was known in 
the army as a "swelled head," which prompted him 
to take liberties with his orders. It will be remem- 
bered that he had performed an important service 
at the battle of Chickamauga by withdrawing his 
division from the Kossville-Einggold road, march- 
ing an canon to the battlefield and taking his place 
on the right just in time to check the successful on- 
set of Longstreet against that part of the line. While 
this voluntary movement on Granger's part was 
partly due to the influence of General Steadman, 
Granger always received most of the credit for it. 
It made him a popular hero for the time, and in the 
reorganization which took place after the battle was 
over gave him command of the Fourth Corps. There 
was a sort of halo about his impressive head and 
aggressive personality till the morning of the second 
day of the battle of Missionary Eidge. His be- 
havior on that day was a great disappointment to 
all. It was not only trivial, but brought upon him a 
severe rebuke from Grant for wasting his time on a 
battery and leaving his army corps to take care of 
itself. From that day forth his fortune was on the 
wane. 1 It was no surprise to Grant that Granger 
was slow in starting to Burnside 's relief. After he 
arrived at Knoxville another incident took place 
which completed his fall. Longstreet had raised the 
siege on the approach of the relieving army under 
Sherman, and had resumed his return march for 

1 See Dana O. R. Series 1, Vol. XXXI, Part I, pp. 258-264. Also 
Wilson, it., pp. 265-267. 



Virginia. Grant had given instructions for the whole 
force now in that theater to continue in pursuit of 
the enemy and destroy or drive him out of East 
Tennessee. The force available for that purpose 
was ample, but for some reason beyond the fact that 
the weather was cold and wintry, our force was 
badly handled and, instead of destroying the enemy, 
permitted him to escape practically unhurt. When 
Christmas came, instead of being well on their way 
toward Bristol a hundred or so miles up the valley, 
the commanding officers assembled in Knoxville for 
the usual holiday jollification. Having dined and 
gathered about a blazing fire, Granger in his loudest 
voice said: " Let's send a telegram to Grant,' ' and, 
calling for a blank, wrote as follows: "We are in 
Knoxville and will hold it till hell freezes over." 
Handing it to Foster, who was the senior officer 
present, he asked: "How will that do?" Where- 
upon Foster, seeing that the message was both un- 
necessary and in bad form, wrote at the end of it 
the word i i Tight, ' f meaning to indicate that Granger 
was under the influence of liquor and that the mes- 
sage should not go. But, unfortunately, the operator 
did not understand, and sent the message with the 
extra word added to it. It came thus duly to head- 
quarters, which happened to be at that time in my 
charge, and, as none of the explanations came with 
it, I also failed to understand it. When I handed it 
to Grant on his return a few days later, he was nat- 
urally both puzzled and indignant, first because the 
phraseology used was trivial if not discourteous and, 
second, because he thought the army and its officers 
were in close pursuit of Longstreet far on the road 
toward Virginia. It, of course, completed the con- 



viction in Grant's mind that Granger was a trifler 
unworthy of high command or great responsibilities, 
and although the full explanation was received after 
Grant arrived at Knoxville ten days later, he had 
no further use for the man who sent the despatch. 

Gordon Granger was a cavalry officer of the old 
school. A classmate of Fitz-John Porter, Thomas 
J. Wood, and W. F. Smith, in the prime of life he 
had an ideal figure with a fine head, a fierce mous- 
tache, and a withering glance. While his port and 
bearing were those of the traditional swashbuckler, 
he had natural parts and professional acquirements 
far above the ordinary. Imprudent and reckless in 
behavior, he would do himself more harm by a day 
of senseless braggadocio than he could repair by a 
month of irreproachable conduct. A compound of 
opposites, inconsiderate, overbearing, and profane to 
a degree rarely surpassed, he knew how to be a gen- 
tleman of the most courtly manners. Brave, bril- 
liant, and aggressive, a bolt of steel in action, he 
occasionally fell into fits of indolence and wasted 
hours when minutes were of inestimable value. His 
voluntary and timely appearance on the field of 
Chickamauga lifted him at one bound into the posi- 
tion of a national hero. Dana called him the Mar- 
shal Ney of the war, and had he but known how to 
profit by the high qualities this compliment ascribed 
to him, he might easily have been one of our fore- 
most generals. But with vanity which was as weak 
as it was futile he fell into the error of supposing 
that he had nothing more to do, not even to obey 
orders promptly and willingly. With fully as much 
courage, more brains, and a far more impressive 
figure and appearance than Sheridan, he fell far be- 



low that general in the cheerful alacrity and readi- 
ness with which he watched for opportunity and 
performed the duty that always comes to those who 
earnestly hunt for it. While Granger's soldierly 
conduct brought him to the battle of Chickamauga 
without orders and greatly distinguished him, Sheri- 
dan ? s conduct in withdrawing from it and marching 
around without authority came near being his ruin. 
On the other hand, Missionary Ridge brought the 
latter prominently into notice and made Grant his 
friend forever, while it seriously impaired the fame 
of the former and caused his ultimate disappearance 
from the field of opportunity. From that day forth 
Sheridan's star was in the ascendant, while Gran- 
ger's was on the wane. Thus the fortunes of sol- 
diers are made or marred when they are least con- 
scious of it. 

The relief expedition from Chattanooga to Knox- 
ville finally fell under the command of Sherman, 
who displayed unusual facility in getting through 
an unfamiliar region with readiness and celerity. 
Dana and I accompanied him, I as chief engineer 
and Dana as the representative of the War Depart- 
ment. The enemy destroyed the railroad bridges on 
the route, and, as the small rivers and creeks flow- 
ing into the Tennessee were mostly too high for 
fording and generally without highway bridges, tem- 
porary means of crossing them had to be provided 
and it became my place to look after their location 
and construction. 

We left Chattanooga at two o'clock, Sunday, 
November 29, 1863. The wind was high and the 
weather bitterly cold, and on crossing Citico Creek 
one of our pack-mules fell with the pack-man under 



him into the freezing water. When I heard the 
clatter and looked back I conld just see the man's 
head, and, fearing he might get hurt or drowned, I 
was about to go to his rescue, when he sang out 
cheerily: "Go on, General, don't wait for me, I'll 
be along directly.' ' 

We reached Tyner's Station, ten miles from 
Chattanooga, that night and took refuge in a large, 
white frame house, full of women and children. The 
house belonged to a high Confederate official, but 
the women and children were of the native poor 
white class. The furniture had all been carried off 
except bedsteads and feather beds, and the house 
was entirely without provisions. We soon had a 
blazing fire in what had been the parlor, and our 
orderly had killed a pig, parts of which we broiled 
on the coals. As we had brought bread, coffee, 
and sugar, we had a comfortable supper, in which 
the family eagerly participated. The old man ap- 
peared to be about sixty, while his fair-haired, blue- 
eyed young wife looked as though she could not be 
over twenty-two or twenty-three. There were five 
or six daughters, one of whom was evidently older 
than her young step-mother, another scarcely a year 
old. After eating heartily they told us a touching 
story of deprivation and want, brought about by 
the soldiers of both armies who had preyed upon 
them till they were reduced to the point of actual 
starvation. One after another, from the oldest to 
the youngest, they began to cry over their suffer- 
ings, and, as the tears rolled down their cheeks, the 
mother, young girls, and babies in turn pulled out 
their snuff bottles and, much to our astonishment, 
began to dip snuff. The youngest child could not 


talk, but it " dipped' ' from the start with the best 
of them and seemed to find just as much consolation 
in " dipping' y as its seniors. The head of the fam- 
ily was past the military age, and therefore permit- 
ted to remain at home. He was of the gray-back, 
east Tennessee type, and it is safe to say neither 
he nor any of his connections had ever owned a 
slave, while his wife and girls were as blonde as the 
morning and all exceedingly good-looking. They 
were of the pure Saxon type which we found every- 
where throughout the mountain regions of Tennes- 
see, Georgia, and the Carolinas. 

We started the next morning after a hearty 
breakfast of pork chops which had frozen during 
the night and were far more palatable than our 
first mess from that pig. We overtook Sherman 
about noon a short distance beyond Cleveland, and, 
pushing on with him, reached Charleston on the Hi- 
wassee Eiver just before dark. Here we found 
Howard with the Eleventh Corps repairing the rail- 
road bridge for his troops. This work was in charge 
of Major Ernest F. Hoffman, an ex-officer of the 
Prussian Engineers, who attracted my attention by 
the great energy, ability and good sense with which 
he utilized the materials at hand and put a safe road- 
way over the bridge before midnight. A few days 
later I saw him again building a bridge across the 
Little Tennessee with army wagons for supports, 
thus aptly illustrating the advantages of military 
education and experience. 

After the war I employed Major Hoffman as a 
civil assistant on government works and found him 
to be a most experienced, accomplished, and con- 
scientious engineer. He was the son of Lieutenant 



General Hoffman of the Prussian army, a graduate 
of the Military School at Berlin, was assigned to 
the (engineers and served with the Pioneer Corps 
till 1851. He afterward served on fortifications and 
received a memorial medal for his work. About this 
time he had a romantic love affair closed by the 
death of his sweetheart which he commemorated in 
a novel that became famous for its impassioned and 
touching eloquence. Then with slow promotion and 
too much routine, he resigned and took service in 
the British Foreign Legion as captain and adjutant 
of the rifle battalion and went with it to the Crimean 
War. After the war ended he served with the Le- 
gion at the Cape of Good Hope, where he distin- 
guished himself for bravery in two campaigns 
against the Zulu-Kaffirs. He made two voyages to 
England and back, during one of which he stopped 
at St. Helena to visit the scene of Napoleon's im- 
prisonment. He was finally mustered out when the 
Legion disbanded in 1857 and returned to Berlin on 
a visit. Shortly after arriving there he volunteered 
and joined Garibaldi, who was then organizing his 
expedition against Sicily, and served on his staff in 
all the wonderful events from the first landing till 
the Garibaldian forces were absorbed into the army 
of United Italy under Victor Immanuel. He took a 
prominent part in the siege of Gaeta and greatly 
distinguished himself for courage and enterprise. 
He was decorated for gallantry, promoted to the 
rank of major of engineers in the regular Italian 
army, and was rewarded by a pension of five hun- 
dred lire, which was paid annually to the day of 
his death. He was a scholar and mathematician of 
the highest quality, and as such made the acquain- 



tance of George P. Marsh, then American minister 
at the Italian capital, where the latter in due time 
made it known to the major and perhaps others that 
foreign officers of experience could find employment 
in the United States. Being a lover of freedom, and 
as he called himself "a patriot," he threw up his 
commission in Italy and, with the Minister's creden- 
tials, made his way to Washington, where he was 
promptly appointed major and additional aid-de- 
camp. He served with Blenker, Siegel, Schurz, 
and Howard, winning the confidence and respect of 
all. It is no disparagement to the best of them to 
say that Hoffman, who lacked nothing but rank, was 
superior in every military virtue and accomplish- 
ment. Sober, serious, and untiring, as brave as 
any paladin, and as punctilious as any knight er- 
rant, he was always ready and always practical. It 
was his proudest boast that he was indeed a " Dutch 
Yankee. ' ' Modest and gentle as a woman, industri- 
ous and patient as a navvy, an accomplished musi- 
cian, and an interesting conversationalist, he was 
one of the most useful and most lovable men I ever 
came in contact with. When our army was reorgan- 
ized after the war he was appointed on my recom- 
mendation a lieutenant in my own regiment, the 
Thirty-fifth Infantry. At his examination the presi- 
dent of the board gave him an equation of the sec- 
ond degree to solve, which he did without going to 
the blackboard. After a moment's pause for an- 
other question, he said: "But that is quite simple. 
Will the board please have the kindness to give me 
something a little more abstruse in the mathemat- 
ics V* He was promptly pronounced proficient. 
Hoffman was so good an engineer, however, that I 



never permitted him to join his regiment, but kept 
him on public works as an assistant, so long as he 
remained an army officer, and afterward as a civil 
engineer at higher pay till his death in 1884. I 
have never known a better or more interesting man. 

During the same trip I made the acquaintance of 
General Schurz and Colonel Hecker. The former 
was not a military man by profession, while the lat- 
ter had held only the lowest rank, but both had par- 
ticipated in the revolution of 1848, and Hecker had 
been president of the so-called German Republic. 
They were both notable men but of very dissimilar 
characteristics. One tall, slender, and professor-like 
in appearance, was commanding a division ; the oth- 
er, of middle height, fine figure, and benevolent coun- 
tenance, had settled in Illinois and was commanding 
an Illinois regiment, mostly Germans. Dana and I 
rode with Schurz much of the way, both going and 
coming, and found him a most agreeable companion. 
He had already become famed as an orator who 
spoke English with perfect accuracy and fluency, but 
never rose to any great distinction as a commander 
of troops. While he was zealous and courageous, he 
probably adopted the military calling too late in life 
and entered it with too much rank ever to become 
highly proficient in it. It was during this trip that 
he and Dana conversed first in one language and 
then in the other, and in mutual admiration each 
complimented the other as speaking both tongues 

Hecker was of a different sort; grave and dig- 
nified in bearing, he spoke English imperfectly and 
with a strong German accent. But he was conscien- 
tiously observant of orders and discipline and com- 



manded the respect of all with whom he came in con- 
tact. On the return journey Dana's horse gave out, 
and, being unable to borrow or buy another, he was 
forced to pick up one as best he might. In the last 
extremity near Hecker 's column we saw a horse gal- 
loping gaily about a field, and, liking its movements, 
Dana asked Hecker to direct his men to catch it 
for him. But it was evidently a horse of the coun- 
try and strict orders were in force against taking 
property from the east Tennesseeans, who were as- 
sumed to be loyal. The Colonel hesitated for a 
moment, then, with a pleasant smile lighting up his 
handsome face, he called out to one of his men: 
1 'Hans, you see that horse galloping yonder? That's 
Herr Dana's horse. Herr Dana is the Secretary of 
War. You go catch it. Herr Dana will give you 
ten dollars IV A vigorous but ineffectual chase took 
place, as the horse, leaping the fence, took to the 
woods and made its escape. 

On our northward march we passed through Ath- 
ens, Mousecreek, Sweetwater, and Philadelphia, all 
pretty villages surrounded by fertile fields. The 
east Tennessee valley is everywhere well watered 
and fortunately we found it plentifully supplied 
with cattle, sheep, corn, and hay, which the troops 
took as they needed and settled for with vouchers 
on the quartermaster 's department. Rumors reached 
us on the march that Richmond had fallen, that 
Knoxville had surrendered, and finally that Long- 
street had been repulsed and had begun his retreat. 
On the night of December 3 we reached Morgan- 
town on the Little Tennessee River. Here we found 
a ford in which the water, three and a half feet 
deep, was passable by teams and cavalry, but too 



wide and too cold for infantry. A bridge was 
therefore necessary, and, having but few tools, nails, 
or other materials, we were compelled to tear down 
houses to obtain lumber for the bridge. By the next 
morning at five o 'clock the structure was ready. It 
was a simple trestle without tenons or mortises and 
was put together with square joints, secured by 
diagonal boards nailed to the uprights and sills. The 
spans were braced diagonally in the same manner, 
and while the structure was a frail one, it proved 
ample with only one or two short interruptions to 
pass our entire column across the river dry shod. 

While the troops were crossing, a large Maltese 
ass, ridden by one of the men, afforded a laughable 
example of obstinacy. He had got about half way 
across the river by the ford when he took a notion 
to stop in the deepest water almost as cold as ice, 
nearly half way up his sides. His rider persuaded, 
punched, cursed, and beat him in every known way, 
but all to no purpose. The stubborn animal backed 
square around against the current and stood stock 
still, the ice-cold water cutting him like a knife for 
four or five hours. His rider finally took refuge in 
a passing wagon, and still the stupid beast would 
not move. Finally, toward the last, one of the team- 
sters hitched a rope to its neck which he fastened to 
the tail of his wagon, and then starting his team 
drew him with his feet braced to the shore, appar- 
ently to his intense disgust. 

I rode into Knoxville after dark December 5, 
having learned at Marysville that Longstreet had 
raised the siege and started to Virginia. I found 
Burnside, Bowen, and Babcock glad that relief was 
at hand. They had sustained themselves well, and, 



although they had been desperately assaulted, had 
repelled every attack with great loss to the enemy. 
Sherman came in the next day and, after a confer- 
ence with Burnside and his officers, concluded to 
return with his own corps to Chattanooga, for the 
reason that he could more easily feed it near 
there and could get it ready more quickly to join 
the campaign which must soon begin against At- 
lanta. The destruction of the railroad bridges be- 
tween Knoxville and Cleveland and the great amount 
of depredation which had already been committed 
in east Tennessee by the contending armies ren- 
dered it extremely difficult to longer support so 
large a force in that region. Both sides had lived 
off the country in their march, and, although they 
had paid in vouchers for what they had taken, they 
left a wide swath of destitution in their wake. In 
view of the further fact that Longstreet had already 
got too far ahead to be overtaken, the determina- 
tion of Sherman to countermarch to Cleveland and 
Dalton, if not in strict accord with Grants orders, 
was the best thing under all the circumstances left 
open for him. As I concurred in this opinion, Dana 
and I also concluded to return to headquarters for 
the purpose of fully explaining the course adopted. 
It was understood that Burnside and Granger would 
continue the pursuit of Longstreet, though the slush, 
snow, and cold weather of mid-winter made all oper- 
ations necessarily both difficult and slow. 

The campaign about both Chattanooga and 
Knoxville having terminated in our favor, Grant 
anxiously discussed the question of future opera- 
tions with W. F. Smith, Eawlins, and myself. The 
relations between the war in the West and the East' 



were carefully considered and the conclusion was 
reached that a general plan should now be arranged 
for a cooperative and extensive campaign against 
the interior. Hitherto it had not mattered seriously 
whether plans in the two widely separated theaters 
of war were carried on simultaneously or not, but 
since the great step forward at Vicksburg and the, 
active cooperation between Lee's army and Bragg's, 
it had become apparent that the entire method of 
carrying on the war should be changed. By common 
consent Grant was supreme in the West and would 
have absolute control of any movement into the 
heart of the Confederacy. We concluded, there- 
fore, that it was of the first importance that some 
one should be assigned to command the Army of 
the Potomac who could be depended upon to co- 
operate fully in the next general plan for the final 
overthrow of the rebellion. Many different plans 
were discussed for the attainment of that end. It 
was at first deemed most important that Mobile 
should be taken, and then that Atlanta and central 
Georgia should be occupied. It appeared obvious 
that Grant and Sherman would be called upon to 
undertake those operations, and Grant gave it as 
his opinion that Smith was the best available man 
for the command of the Army of the Potomac. Be- 
lieving that his great capacities would find ample 
scope in that command and that Smith would co- 
operate harmoniously and fully with him and Sher- 
man, he asked Dana, who had taken a part in all 
the discussions, to lay his views fully before the 
Government at Washington, and, accordingly, Dana 
set out for that place about the middle of the month. 
On his arrival he had full and frequent conferences 



with both the Secretary of "War and the President. 
General Eawlins started with him, but went to Con- 
necticut for the purpose of marrying the young lady 
whom he had so gallantly protected at Vicksburg. 
Before rejoining the army he visited Washington, 
where he again produced a most favorable impres- 
sion. 1 

On December 18 General Grant, with Colonels 
Comstock and Duff and Chief Surgeon Kittoe, went 
to Nashville, leaving me in sole charge of headquar- 
ters. During the lull which followed I ran the 
current business, and employed my spare time in 
the preparation of a memoir on the siege and cam- 
paign of Vicksburg to be submitted to the Board of 
Engineers as a thesis for my promotion to the rank 
of captain. I worked night and day till Grant re- 
turned toward the end of the month. For the first 
time I was troubled with a carbuncle on the back of 
my neck which the doctor said arose from defective 
nutrition. That this should have been the case was 
by no means surprising, for, like the rest of the 
army high and low, I had lived on army rations 
supplemented by what I could get from the coun- 
try. On Christmas I received a dozen boxes of 
freshly canned oysters, which a friend of General 
Grants sent from Baltimore. I divided them with 
Thomas, Sheridan, and Brannan, and received in 
return from Sheridan a half dozen quails that one 
of his scouts had brought in from the head of Se- 
quatchie Valley. 

On December 29 Grant returned to headquar- 
ters, but started the same day with Bowers, Com- 

*See the Diary of Gideon Welles; also Wilson >s "Life of John 
A. Eawlins." 



stock, Dunn, Doctor Kittoe, and myself to Knox- 
ville. During our operations between Bridgeport 
and Chattanooga the Quartermaster's Department 
had built a steamer on which we embarked with our 
horses, orderlies, and servants, and at 10 a. m. of 
the last day of the year we reached Knoxville, hav- 
ing transferred to the cars at Loudon. 

During my service in the Vicksburg and Chat- 
tanooga campaign I rode a little bay horse with 
black points which General Grant called the "Waif" 
from the fact that he had been picked up as a stray 
by my groom during the siege of Vicksburg. He 
was by all odds the best and most stylish piece of 
horse flesh that came under my observation during 
the war. He was only fifteen hands high and 
weighed about eight hundred and fifty pounds, but 
judging from his carriage it never occurred to him 
that he was not equal in size and endurance to any 
horse in the army. Patient, hardy, and sound, he 
was as nimble as a cat. With a high head, an arched 
neck, and so perfectly broken that he could feel on 
which side of a tree I wished him to pass, he could 
leap anything that he could put his head over and 
could carry me for eight hours at a stretch without 
showing the slightest sign of fatigue. General Grant 
rode him during the battle of Missionary Ridge, 
and, for a few days thereafter, wherever he went, 
never forgot to see that "Waif" was included in' 
the horses taken. On the way to Knoxville the little 
fellow berthed near one of the cylinders of the boat, 
when the engineer thoughtlessly turned on a steam 
cock and gave him such a fright that he broke his 
halter and leaped overboard. Of course the boat 
stopped and he was picked up at the shore just as 



a native was mounting and making away with him 
to the country. I rode him afterward from Knox- 
ville to Lexington and almost constantly for six 
months while commanding cavalry in Virginia. 
Later I took him with me back to Nashville and used 
him during the Hood campaign till he was entirely 
disabled by breaking through the ice on the road to 
the Tennessee Eiver when the mud froze on his 
legs. From there I sent him to the hospital at 
Nashville to rest and recover, and had him back 
fresh as a lark before the spring campaign began. 
His military career ended with the long march 
through Alabama and Georgia. I afterward gave 
him as a saddle and phaeton horse to my wife. He 
died in Delaware fifteen years later, not from old 
age, but from a miscalculation in leaping a marsh- 
ditch into which he fell and wore himself out trying 
to regain his footing. 

At the first station beyond Loudon, a tall, griz- 
zled, gangling east Tennesseean on the platform 
asked if General Grant was on that train. When I 
said he was, the Tennesseean threw up his hands 
and exclaimed: "Well, my God, there'll be war in 
this country now ! ' ' 

Shortly afterward another Tennesseean, com- 
menting on the certainty of the rebel defeat, said 
in the most feeling terms : ' ' But I hope that won 't 
happen till Sherman and his army have marched 
through South Carolina so that those people shall 
have a taste of what they have brought upon this 
war-scarred region." This feeling was widespread 
and accounts for much of the depredation afterward 
committed by Sherman's army in his campaign 
through that state. 



We remained at Knoxville but a few days, and 
after taking such measures as were necessary for 
the safety of that region Grant set out on horseback 
with his staff and orderlies by the way of Straw- 
berry Plains, Cumberland Gap, Barbersville, and 
Loudon to Lexington, Kentucky, where we arrived 
on the 10th of January, 1864. The General and his 
party received every mark of respect from the loyal 
people of that region. At Lexington he had his first 
popular ovation, where Leslie Coombs made every 
effort to induce him to make a speech, but the Gen- 
eral persistently declined to say a single word. The 
controversy was finally settled by his mounting a 
chair and showing himself to the crowd. He was, 
however, deeply gratified at the good feeling of the 
people and especially at the favor extended to him 
by the ladies of the city, and at the evidences of 
the many loyal families of that beautiful region. 

At Lexington we took train for Louisville and 
Nashville, where the next day we established head- 
quarters for the winter. 




Grant, Lieutenant General — Rawlins married — Chief-of- 
staff — Report to Secretary of War for duty — Prepare 
new regulations — Horse contractors — Duties of new 
position — Andrew Johnson's cavalry regiments — 
Parting with Secretary Stanton. 

Grants headquarters were now concentrated in 
an eligibly situated, pleasant, and capacious house 
at Nashville, and all his officers settled down for a 
comfortable winter, as was then the custom. The 
armies under his command remained separate and 
distinct, and this minimized the work of the various 
departments and left the higher staff officers com- 
paratively free to consider and discuss plans for 
the future. The first thing in hand was to testify 
to Rawlins' new wife the high regard in which his 
brother officers held him. This was done by a purse 
of $250, which was invested in spoons, forks, cream 
jug, sugar bowl, and napkin rings for Mrs. Rawlins 
as a wedding present. This little diversion ended, 
we turned our thought more earnestly than ever to 
the future campaign as though the sole responsibil- 
ity was on us. Every conceivable movement from 
the Military Division of the Mississippi was con- 



sidered. All the important cities, strongholds, de- 
pots, manufacturing centers, lines of communication, 
and military bases, together with such information 
as could be got, were passed in review night after 
night, not only between ourselves, but with General 
Grant. The weight of opinion seemed to favor a 
general advance from Chattanooga against Atlanta 
and this was finally settled upon as promising the 
greatest advantage to the Union cause. Grant, hav- 
ing become the center of all eyes and the hero of 
the public as the only successful general so far pro- 
duced by the war, was advanced March 2, 1864, to 
the rank of lieutenant general and put in command 
of all our armies, and this in turn necessarily pro- 
duced a corresponding change in the work of the 

I had served sixteen months with him through 
two great campaigns, and during most of the time 
had been the only regular officer in daily contact 
with him. As I have frankly said elsewhere, I 
joined him with some lack of faith in both his habits 
and his character, but my opinion of his real worth 
grew constantly more favorable. I found him mod- 
est and unpretentious, but with an even temper 
and exceedingly sound judgment. He was not then 
and never became what regular officers regarded as 
a first-class technical or theoretical soldier. He 
dealt with large things in a large way, and left de- 
tails of every sort as far as possible to those below 
him. He had great faith in both Sherman and Mc- 
Pherson and, therefore, habitually left them abso- 
lutely free to manage such movements as he directed 
them to make in their own way. He had no great 
confidence in the average political general, but here 



and there men from civil life like Logan, Crocker, 
John E. Smith, Morgan L. Smith, and Gresham won 
his entire confidence. He looked upon Logan as a 
brave, ambitions, and competent officer, but regard- 
ed him as a habitual grumbler who claimed to be do- 
ing all the work and getting less than half the praise 
to which he was justly entitled. Both Sherman and 
McPherson were credited by the country at large 
and especially by the professors at West Point with 
supplying him with brains. Many thought that they 
formulated as well as executed his plans, but to 
those of us on the inside this claim was not only 
baseless but absurd. Sherman was a talented, talk- 
ative man, widely read in military science and mili- 
tary history, and had brilliant views on all subjects, 
but his critical mind was destructive rather than 
constructive. He had opposed the great turning 
movement of the Vicksburg campaign, but had co- 
operated loyally to make it a success. He had won 
Grant's confidence and support by giving him sym- 
pathy and encouragement in the Corinth campaign. 
They both had the highest respect for C. F. Smith, 
who was commandant while they were cadets at 
West Point, and they never quite got over the sense 
of awe which they felt in his presence when they 
were boys and he the ideal soldier of the regular 
army. Sherman expressed only the popular opin- 
ion when he declared that neither he nor Grant 
would have ever been heard of but for the untimely 
death of that admirable officer. This may not have 
been altogether true, for Grant at least outranked 
them both from the start and in the exercise of his 
functions had the constant aid of a very strong 
adlatus and adjutant. I refer of course to Rawlins, 


who showed himself from the first to be a vigorous, 
virile, aggressive character who commanded atten- 
tion wherever he appeared. As we have seen, he 
had no technical military knowledge whatever, but 
his intimate relations with Grant from the time he 
joined the staff put him at the very center of influ- 
ence and responsibility, and in the emergencies of 
Grant's military life gave him not only the last 
word, but in more than one instance the controlling 
one. Withal his place was difficult to fill. Conscious 
of his own shortcomings as a military expert, he 
necessarily fell back upon common sense and the 
simple obligations of daily life as the best guides 
in counseling his chief. He was the one man who 
never feared to offer his opinions or to advocate 
them with all his might, whether they were sought 
for or not. He asserted from the first conversation 
he ever had with me that Grant was i i a good man, ' ' 
and that we could "win with him if we could stay 
him from falling". Certain it is that he was never 
rebuffed and that the leading officers found in him 
a safe and direct channel through which they could 
always reach their common chief with the most deli- 
cate suggestion after it had received Bawlins' con- 
sideration and approval. He was as far from being 
a sycophant or a time-server as any man I ever 
knew, but, eliminating and effacing himself and his 
personal interests absolutely, he never failed to 
speak out with fearlessness and independence when 
he thought the interests of his chief or of the coun- 
try required it. In this he was habitually respect- 
ful, but, as has been shown, there were occasions 
when he did not hesitate to express his most "in- 
tense vehemence on the subject matter" in tone and 



language which no man could affect to misunder- 
stand, and it was this well known fact that so fully 
justified Dana in saying as he did, just after the 
close of the Chattanooga campaign, that "the best 
brains ever supplied to Grant from any quarter 
were supplied by the generals of his own staff. ' ! 

In further explanation it may be truly said that 
great commanders as well as princes and potentates 
generally get all the advice and assistance they 
need, and the most fortunate are those who have it 
winnowed by such masterful men as John A. Raw- 
lins. The combination in Grant's case was a cred- 
itable and fortunate one. The great character which 
passed into history under the name of Grant was 
lacking and indeed never acquired the technical per- 
fection which characterized the great soldiers of 
history, but, as the sequel showed, it finally achieved 
signal and complete success. If this was at a great- 
er expense of life and treasure than it might have 
otherwise cost, every American should rejoice that 
the country's resources in both were equal to the 
demands made upon them, and that there were two 
men at least willing to pledge their character and 
lives to the successful outcome of the great enter- 
prise in which they were engaged. 

My stay at Nashville lasted from January 12 
to January 20, during which I took part in discus- 
sions between Grant, W. F. Smith, and Rawlins in 
reference to future plans, but in the midst of them 
I was lifted out of that environment by an order 
from the Secretary of War, handed to me by Gen- 
eral Grant, directing me to proceed to Washington 
for the purpose of taking charge of the Cavalry 
Bureau for a period of sixty days, or till active op- 
* 325 


erations were resumed in the spring. It seems that 
at Dana's suggestion the Secretary had asked the 
General to lend me to the Department for that pe- 
riod, at the end of which time I was to return to 
active service in the field. The terms of this prop- 
osition were of the most flattering character. 1 Dana 
telegraphed as follows: 

Washington, D. C, 
January 17, 1864, 1 p. m. 
Maj. Gen. U. S. Grant : 

Will it be practicable for you to spare General Wilson 
for a time to come here and get the Cavalry Bureau into 
order and honesty? 

Of course, the Department will make no order which 
will deprive you of the services of such an officer without 
your full consent, but the necessity for him is very great, 
and I know of no one else who can perform the duty as 
well as he. It is a question of saving millions of money 
and rendering the cavalry arm everywhere efficient. You 
can have him again as soon as he gets the machine in good 
working order, say in sixty days. If you spare him let 
him come directly. He will be appointed chief of the 
bureau. Please answer by telegraph. 2 

C. A. Dana. 

Grant replied the next day as follows : 

Nashville, Tenn., 
January 18, 1864, 11 :30 a. m. 
C. A. Dana, Esquire, 

Washington, D. C. 
I will order General Wilson at once. No more efficient 
or better appointment could be made for the place. 3 

U. S. Grant, 
Major General. 
1 O. R. Series 1, Vol. XXXII, Part 2, pp. 115, 1131. 
? O. R. Serial No. 58, p. 115. 
3 lb., p. 131. 




Inasmuch as I had never set a squadron in the 
field I was greatly surprised at the Secretary's re- 
quest, but I had no option and at once proceeded to 
Washington, relying on the understanding that I 
should rejoin the general in the field on the resump- 
tion of operations in the spring. General Grant was 
to have accompanied me as far as Louisville, but on 
the eve of my departure was compelled to go to Chat- 
tanooga for the purpose of making final dispositions 
for the expulsion of Longstreet from east Tennessee. 
That General had shown a disposition to counter- 
march toward Knoxville and had compelled Granger 
and Parke to retreat from Dandridge toward Sauls- 
bury Plain. 

Immediately after reaching Washington I called 
on the Secretary of War. He received me with a 
scowling countenance. He was evidently disap- 
pointed with my youthful appearance, but proceeded 
at once to lay down the law: "I have sent for you," 
said he, "because I understand you do not fear re- 
sponsibility. My life is worried out of me by the 
constant calls of the generals in the field for more 
cavalry horses, and by the dishonesty of the con- 
tractors who supply us with inferior horses, or 
who transfer their contracts to sub-contractors who 
do not fill them at all. They are a set of unmitigated 
scoundrels, and I want you to reorganize the busi- 
ness, drive the rascals out and put the cavalry serv- 
ice on an effective footing. I don't want you to 
fail as Stoneman did, nor to say, as Garard did: 
'I cannot hope to surpass the efforts of Stoneman. ' 
Don't tell me you can't swing the job. I give you 
carte blanche and will support you with all the re- 
sources of the Department. While I have called 



you here for this particular purpose, please remem- 
ber that if you see anything else in the "War De- 
partment which requires attention or ought to be 
changed you are to come and tell me about it. That 
will do, sir." He afterward told a friend of mine 
that he thought my body was too short for my legs. 

With this dismissal from the great war minis- 
ter's presence, I proceeded directly to the office of 
the Bureau in what was known as the Chain Build- 
ing, and entered at once on my duties. The first 
thing that engaged my attention after installing 
my able classmate, James P. Martin, as adjutant, 
was to reorganize the system of horse inspections 
in such way as to ensure with greater certainty the 
delivery of sound and serviceable horses. To this 
end, with the assistance of the bureau officers, I 
prepared a new system of inspection. Each board 
was to' consist of three persons, one regular and one 
volunteer cavalry officer, and one citizen expert, at 
each purchasing depot. The regulations provided 
among other things for branding horses already 
rejected for unsoundness if presented again before 
the unsoundness had been removed, with a hot iron 
under the mane, imprinting the letter "B" perma- 
nently on the skin. 

Shortly afterward several of the principal horse 
contractors invited me to dinner and showed a dis- 
position to extend other civilities, but, of course, 
these invitations were declined. A letting was near 
at hand for eleven thousand horses to be delivered 
at St. Louis, Indianapolis, Columbus, St. Paul, and 
Elmira. The new regulations had gone out and the 
bids for the horses were soon to be opened. On the 
day before I invited all the known bidders to as- 



semble at my office at three o 'clock in the afternoon. 
When they were all there I notified them verbally 
that the laws and regulations as they then were 
would be enforced to the letter, that every man 
offering horses would be required to fill the contract 
awarded him exactly in the manner specified there- 
in, that no contracts could be sublet, and that every 
successful bidder would not only be compelled to 
enter into, but carry out, his contract to the letter. 
I expressed the hope that all this would be cheer- 
fully acquiesced in, but concluded with the remark 
that it was my duty to see that every man filled his 
contract, and if I couldn't make him do it peaceably, 
* ' I should make it out of his hide. ' ' This it must be 
confessed was rather a rough speech, but from the 
stories I had heard I deemed it necessary. The next 
day the bids were opened and the contracts awarded. 
The lowest bidder for horses at St. Louis had been 
a good while in the business and seemed to be com- 
petent and trustworthy, but, inasmuch as he received 
an award for only half instead of all the horses at 
that point, he remarked as he left my office that he 
didn't think he would enter into or fill the contract 
awarded him. As he was leaving L remarked : S f You 
had better think it over carefully before deciding 
on your course, and in doing so it will perhaps be 
well to remember that, according to the records of 
this office, the Government now owes you for a thou- 
sand head of horses, not one dollar of which will it 
pay if I can prevent it, till you have not only en- 
tered into your new contract, but shown that you 
intend to carry it faithfully into effect. Think it 
over, Colonel, and let me hear from you to-mor- 


The next morning the doubtful Colonel pre- 
sented himself with a smiling countenance and 
said: "General, I have carefully considered the 
remark you made as I was leaving your office 
last night, and, seeing that you have a de- 
cided advantage in the matter, I intend to enter 
into that contract and I give you every assurance 
that I shall faithfully carry out all of its pro- 

It is my pleasant duty to add that he made good 
on every count, furnished his two thousand five 
hundred head of horses within the specified time, 
all of which were fully up to the standard of the 
new regulations, but he was the only one of six 
successful bidders that carried his contract through. 
All the others failed entirely, one or two did not 
sign, and several undertook to sublet their contracts 
after they were awarded, but not another furnished 
the horses awarded him. On reporting the facts 
with my recommendations to Dana, then Assistant 
Secretary of War, he ordered that each of the de- 
faulting contractors should be promptly arrested, 
brought to Washington, thrown into the old Capitol 
prison, and tried by court martial. Each was found 
guilty of violating the law and sentenced to fine and 
imprisonment. The incident created a good deal 
of excitement among contractors and the politicians 
backing them, but from that time forth the supply 
of cavalry horses became much more regular, and 
the quality greatly improved. While the price rose 
from $125 to $150, the horses proved to be much 
more serviceable and the cavalry rose rapidly from 
that day to the high state of efficiency which it 
reached before the close of the war. The new regu- 



lations were effective, but my course in carrying 
them out made me many active enemies. 

The bureau over which I presided also superin- 
tended the purchase and supply of arms and equip- 
ments for the cavalry service, but there was no such 
necessity for radical measures in that branch of the 
business, as the details of manufacture and inspec- 
tion were conscientiously and honestly looked after 
by the regular officers of the Ordnance Department. 
It was under my administration, however, that the 
Spencer magazine carbine was adopted as the stand- 
ard for the cavalry service, and the division which 
I commanded in Sheridan's cavalry was the first in 
the world completely supplied with that or any 
similar arm. I may also add that the three divi- 
sions of the cavalry corps of the Military Division 
of the Mississippi, which I led in 1864 and 1865 
through Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia, was the 
first command of that size in the world ever com- 
pletely supplied with magazine firearms of any 
sort. The Spencer carbine carried a magazine in 
the stock from the butt to the trigger guard. It 
held six cartridges, with one in the firing chamber. 
The whole could be fired as rapidly as the guard 
could be thrown to the front and pulled back, by 
the simple mechanism designed for that purpose. It 
was by all odds the most effective firearm of the 
day, and I have never had any doubt that its ma- 
chinery was easily adaptable with such minor 
changes as might be found necessary either in the 
size of the cartridge or the diameter of the bore. 
There was no other arm to be compared with it in 
the National, Confederate, or any other service at 
that time, and consequently no charge made with it 



in hand ever failed. To the perfection of this car- 
bine and the rapidity with which it could be fired 
I attribute the uniform success of the assaults made 
against the enemy's entrenchments at Nashville, 
Selma, West Point, and Columbus. It was surely 
of great advantage to the Federal cavalry, yet many 
older and more experienced officers looked upon it 
with disfavor. Conservatism in such matters is 
frequently far more costly than the most reckless 

My ten weeks in Washington that winter was a 
time of great activity. My office hours were from 
eight o'clock till four, and were given to the faith- 
ful study of the needs of the cavalry service and the 
means by which that service could be best supplied 
and made most effective. The most pressing want 
was for remounts, and, while large numbers of 
horses of superior quality were bought, they were 
necessarily always sent to the troops in the field 
without proper breaking or training. At no time 
could a sufficient number be had to keep the old 
regiments properly supplied. In view of this fact 
the efforts of the bureau were directed against the 
organization of new cavalry regiments, and this 
sound policy brought me in antagonism to many 
ambitious governors who favored the cavalry serv- 
ice because it was more showy and therefore more 
popular than the infantry. It was always easier to 
raise new regiments than to fill up the old ones. 
Among those who favored this idea was Andrew 
Johnson, then a brigadier general of volunteers 
and provisional governor of Tennessee. He sought 
authority from the Secretary of War to raise twelve 
regiments of twelve months' men from the loyal 



citizens of his state, but so long as I remained in 
the bureau I frustrated his plans by representing 
that with all our efforts we could not secure enough 
horses for the old regiments, that it took much long- 
er to make good cavalry than good infantry, and 
that it was wasteful and costly in the extreme to 
permit the organization of such regiments as those 
favored by Governor Johnson. Curiously enough, 
when I took command of the cavalry corps, Military 
Division of the Mississippi, in October of that year, 
I found that the Governor had succeeded in organ- 
izing and mustering his twelve regiments into the 
army. They were, of course, stationed in the state 
so they could easily get home, and consequently less 
than half of the officers and men were present with 
the colors. It was a great disappointment to find 
these regiments under my command, but it was my 
plain duty to do the best I could to make them ef- 
fective. Under the ample authority allowed me I 
scattered them among the Northern troops where 
they would have closer supervision and better dis- 
cipline, but many of the officers were untrained and 
inefficient. A number were drunken rowdies who 
used their authority to terrorize the people among 
whom they were stationed. Several field officers 
were court-martialed and dismissed for absence 
without leave, and this made it necessary to fill the 
vacancies with better men, not always the next in 
rank. In such cases the cooperation of the Gover- 
nor, who had the appointing power, was regarded as 
essential, and under the advice of General Thomas 
I called upon Andrew Johnson at the Governor's 
Mansion for consultation. He received me with 
coldness and reserve, and, when I stated my busi- 



ness, which I did frankly and fully, he became angry 
and burst out with the declaration that he would 
not permit me to asperse the Tennessee cavalry or 
its officers, alleging that they were as good as any 
in the service. As this was far from the fact and 
we were from the start widely at variance on the 
subject, I rose to take my leave, remarking: "I 
am sorry I called upon you, Governor. I hoped to 
obtain your friendly cooperation, but I have made 
a mistake and will try to get on without your help. ' ' 
Whereupon he said: "Why are you sorry V 9 To 
which I replied: "Because I am disillusioned. I 
came here thinking that you were a statesman and 
patriot, but I am sorry to find that you are merely 
a politician of the common sort. I read your speech 
in the Senate against secession and I said to my- 
self, here is a man worthy to be President, but this 
interview convinces me that I am wrong." * 

At this frank but perhaps indiscreet remark, the 
Governor instantly changed his manner and declared 
his anxiety to cooperate with me to the fullest ex- 
tent, but the facility with which he metamorphosed 
himself convinced me that he was both insincere 
and untrustworthy, and, although he then begged 
me to be seated and give him my views fully, I was 
so discouraged by my reception that I declined, 
merely remarking that, as he was a brigadier, while 
I was serving as a brevet major general under the 
President's assignment, I had no doubt I should 
be able to carry out all necessary measures for the 
establishment and maintenance of discipline in my 
command without either his help or his approval. 

This view of the matter had evidently not oc- 
curred to him, and, although it was followed by many 



friendly assurances on his part, I dropped the sub- 
ject there and took my leave. I met him several 
times afterward while Hood was confronting us at 
Nashville, and am glad to say he was always effu- 
sive in his offers of friendship and cooperation in 
what he called "our plan for the reorganization of 
the Tennessee cavalry, \ ' but I never again asked for 
his assistance. Under authority granted me by the 
War Department a few weeks later I impressed his 
saddle and carriage horses along with those of all 
other non-combatants in that region for the purpose 
of remounting the cavalrymen who had lost their 
mounts in the preceding campaigns. I broke up 
the separate division containing his regiments and 
transferred them to such of the older divisions as 
were most likely to be ordered out of the state. 
Where necessary I filled vacancies as they occurred, 
whether from court-martial or otherwise, by assign- 
ing veterans of the same grade from Northern regi- 
ments which had been reduced sufficiently in 
strength to spare them. Fortunately we had plenty, 
such as George Spaulding of Michigan, who were 
experienced and gallant officers ready to embark 
in any service which with a few hard knocks prom- 
ised them a little true glory. The plan worked well 
and soon brought the Tennessee cavalry, especially 
the Twelfth, which Spaulding led till the end of the 
war, to a high state of efficiency. If there was ever 
any fault found with it by those actually concerned 
I never heard of it, but the sequel a few months 
later shows that Andrew Johnson never quite for- 
gave me for the plain speech I made to him while 
military governor. 

It will be recalled that Andrew Johnson was 


elected vice-president in November, 1864, and 
shortly after the inauguration succeeded to the of- 
fice of President through the assassination of Lin- 
coln. By that act he became commander-in-chief, 
and, although the war was at an end, he did not for- 
get. As I passed through Washington late in De- 
cember of the next year on my way North I felt it 
incumbent on me, as was then customary, to pay 
my respects to the President at the Executive Man- 
sion. The rest of the story is soon told. This was 
my first meeting with him since leaving Nashville 
in pursuit of Hood and he received me promptly, 
but with all the austerity and dignity he could com- 
mand. He made no responses to my respects and 
good wishes, but with the fewest words and the most 
formal behavior he brought my call to an end, and, 
although I was just up from Georgia where recon- 
struction had already become a live issue, he asked 
no questions, and made no allusions to the past, but 
the scowl on his heavy face showed that he not only 
had not forgotten my plain talk, but was fully con- 
scious of the superior rank he now enjoyed. I was 
married on the third of January and in just three 
days thereafter I received a formal order, issued 
by the President's authority, mustering out of the 
service Major General James H. Wilson "at his 
own request' \ and directing him as a captain of en- 
gineers to report at the end of his leave to the chief 
of his corps for duty. 

In further explanation I should perhaps state 
that the end of the war found me in command of 
central Georgia, and it was General Grant's purpose 
when the Southern states were divided into military 
departments to assign me to the command of the 



Department of Georgia, but President Johnson 
promptly turned that down and gave the place to 
General Steedman. After holding command of the 
District of Macon, to which I succeeded by seniority, 
for several weeks, I concluded I had too much rank 
for such command, and, as I did not want to stand 
about with nothing to do, I made a formal applica- 
tion to be mustered out. This request having 
reached the President in due course was promptly 
granted and the formal order was issued, but as it 
passed through army headquarters Grant held it up 
and asked me to remain in the service as a major 
general for the present. As he assured me that I 
should have an appropriate command, I quite will- 
ingly consented, but Johnson had evidently not been 
consulted, and when I called, as above related, to 
pay my official respects, it put him on inquiry with 
the result that he directed the original order to be 
reissued, and this accounts for the muster out at 
my "own request." 

The incident serves to show that it is not safe for 
an army officer to offend even the vice-president of 
the United States by too much frankness. The de- 
scent from the higher rank a few months earlier was 
of itself without consequence or inconvenience, but 
the reduction of revenue from a major general's pay 
and allowances to those of a captain, with a wife 
to provide for, was a serious embarrassment. From 
a thousand dollars a month to less than two hun- 
dred, with a debt of eight hundred on top of that, 
was a come down long to be remembered, but withal 
it had its amusing side. I never saw Andrew John- 
son after that, but I have every assurance that his 
troubles were greater than mine. I had no sym- 



pathy with his political vagaries, but I never be- 
lieved that he had committed high crimes or misde- 
meanors for which he should have been either im- 
peached or convicted. He was a coarse, obstinate, 
self-willed man of low tastes and instincts, but he 
was also frank, courageous, and loyal to his con- 
victions, and his bitterest enemy never intimated 
that his hand had been sullied by an ill-gotten far- 

Stanton was a man of altogether different type. 
A learned lawyer, an ardent patriot, and a most tire- 
less worker, he was, besides, the least politic man 
I ever met. No one could meet him without admir- 
ing his tremendous energy and comprehensive judg- 
ment, but he excited neither affection nor sym- 
pathy. He was rough, overbearing, and outrageous 
to his inferiors; negligent and contemptuous to- 
ward his equals, and, I do not doubt, at times bold 
and uncompromising with his superiors. Dana, as- 
sistant secretary of war, was one of the few men 
in office who did not seem to fear him, and through 
Dana I transacted my business requiring the sanc- 
tion of the Secretary. Notwithstanding Stanton's 
invitation to call upon him whenever I had any sug- 
gestion to make, I met him only twice during my 
stay in Washington. The first time was for the pur- 
pose of informing him that my management of the 
Cavalry Bureau had aroused the animosity of the 
contractors and their political backers, several of 
whom in both the House and the Senate had openly 
threatened to prevent my confirmation as brigadier 
general and had threatened vengeance against the 
Secretary of War if he dared to approve my action. 
In the interview which followed I gave him the 



name of one senator from the northwest and one 
representative from Pennsylvania, whereupon he 
burst out vehemently : ' ' Oh, I know them. They are 
both d — d cowards; neither one of them will ever 
come within five hundred yards of the War Depart- 
ment. I'll take care of them; you can leave that to 
me and go fearlessly about your business." 

The order relieving me from service in the Cav- 
alry Bureau came April 7, but before starting to 
the field I called upon the Secretary to pay my re- 
spects and take my leave. Inasmuch as he had in- 
vited me to make such suggestions as might occur 
to me for the betterment of administration, I ven- 
tured, in recalling that circumstance, to say: "Mr. 
Secretary, I regret to inform you that a mistake has 
been made in assigning Colonel Ekin, the Quarter- 
master's Department, to duty as chief of the Bu- 
reau.' \ Instantly he flew into a rage, exclaiming: 
"What in hell is the matter with Ekin!" I re- 
plied: "Nothing except he is a volunteer with 
neither rank nor experience for the position." The 
Secretary rejoined: "Why can't he give his orders 
in my name?" To this I replied: "He can, but 
you will not have the time to explain what you want 
done, and he will not have the knowledge to decide 
what he should do." The Secretary, with increas- 
ing anger, and a still louder voice, then said : * ■ Well, 

I wish the whole d d thing were in hell. What 

do you recommend?" In reply I suggested that 
General Halleck, chief of staff of the army, should 
have supervision over the Bureau, explaining that 
Colonel Kautz, my principal assistant, an expe- 
rienced old officer, aided by Colonel Martin, the ad- 
jutant general, also an able officer, would be com- 



petent to carry on the business of the Bureau with- 
out delay or interruption, and especially without 
annoying the Secretary with the details. My sug- 
gestion was accepted, and, so far as I know, the re- 
sults were satisfactory, but it may be remarked that 
the withdrawal of Kautz for duty in the field a few 
weeks later placed the burden more firmly on Hal- 
leck 's shoulders. As he was far from being a prac- 
tical soldier, he came to the conclusion before the 
war ended that the cavalry was but a poor arm at 
best, and that horses enough could not be found to 
supply the organized regiments with remounts. 




Administration and duties of Cavalry Bureau — Horse-pur- 
chasing stations — Governors Andrew, Morton, and 
Dennison — Grant at Nashville — Dine with Lincoln — 
Lincoln and Ward Lamon — Discontentment with gov- 
ernment — Loyalty of army — Return to field service. 

My services in the Cavalry Bureau at Washing- 
ton extended from January 23 to April 7, 1864, 
or about ten weeks. It ended in accordance with the 
understanding between General Grant and Secre- 
tary Stanton at the time the detail was made. It 
covered a wide range of subjects connected with the 
cavalry service, as fully shown in the records and 
correspondence of the Bureau. They touched every 
question that could arise in regard to the organiza- 
tion, equipment, mounts, remounts, armament, in- 
struction, efficiency, and standardization of that 
most expensive arm. The purchase, supply, and 
care of horses at the depots, their preparation, and 
issue for service, their care and recuperation when 
sick or worn down by overwork and exposure re- 
quired constant supervision and involved daily cor- 
respondence by telegraph and letter with army com- 
manders, chiefs of cavalry, horse inspectors, Bureau 
officers, commanders of camps, and governors of 



states. I was occupied from morning till night, 
week days and Sundays, not only with those matters, 
but with senators, representatives, contractors, man- 
ufacturers, and inventors. It was my duty to serve 
as a breakwater to the Department and a protection 
to the public treasury against fraud and spoliation. 
When it is remembered besides that in doing all 
this it was necessary to keep myself solid with those 
in authority over me, without running to them with 
details, it will be readily understood that I had no 
time for play, and that my job was no sinecure. I 
was then in my middle twenties and absolutely with- 
out general experience or any but the most super- 
ficial knowledge of the business world. I had no 
guide but army regulations and standing orders and 
what I had learned at West Point, supplemented by 
my short service after graduating, in regard to or- 
ganization, supply, maintenance, and administration 
of armies and their several branches. It follows 
that I depended mainly upon my capacity to gather 
facts and to apply common sense and good judg- 
ment in the use of them. 

From the first I made it a rule to lay nothing 
over, but to take action upon every case as it arose. 
This I learned from Dana, who had by all odds the 
greatest capacity for work and was the best admin- 
istrator I ever met in public office. With intense 
powers of concentration he disposed of one case 
after another exactly as a competent mason lays 
bricks. He hardly got one settled in place before 
he took another in hand. And thus it was all day 
long, week in and week out. It was my good for- 
tune to room and board in the same house with 
Dana. We went to our offices together in the morn- 



ing and left them at the close of office hours in the 
afternoon. When our day's work was done, it was 
our custom to go out on horseback for an hour and 
a half and on Sundays to visit the Giesboro depot 
and camp of instructions which I had early placed 
under the command of Colonel Lowell, of the Mas- 
sachusetts Cavalry. We led a strenuous life, de- 
voting our whole time and attention to the public 
service and to the cause of the country. We ac- 
cepted but few invitations, in fact, none except such 
as came to us in the way of duty. As soon as I got 
the machinery of my Bureau in condition to trans- 
act business with certainty and dispatch, I sought 
and obtained authority to visit New York, Boston, 
Elmira, Louisville, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Cincin- 
nati, and Columbus for the purpose of inspecting 
horse-purchasing stations, conferring with the quar- 
termasters, inspecting officers, and governors. 

At Boston I made the acquaintance of Governor 
Andrew, at that time almost the first of the so-called 
war governors. I found him full of interest in all 
that pertained to the organization and supply of the 
army. He was bold, vigorous, and active, and not 
only promised but gave me every assistance in his 
power. At Columbus I met Governor Dennison, and 
at Indianapolis Governor Morton. With such men 
as these cooperating and supporting the plans of the 
Government, it was easy to command the resources 
of their states in the matter of troops and other 
means for carrying on war. Morton was evidently 
a more rugged character than either Dennison or 
Andrew. With less learning and less suavity than 
either, he was a tremendous force and bent all his 
energies to supporting the war against the Con- 



federacy. He was an excellent manipulator of pub- 
lic opinion, and by his strong will and vigorous 
management called forth the resources and com- 
manded the support of the loyal men of his state. 
On the other hand, he forced all sympathizers with 
the Eebellion into the open or into secret organiza- 
tions for giving it aid and comfort. He kept a close 
supervision over the leading officers from his state 
in the army, and did his best to make them look to 
him rather than to the general government for sup- 
port and promotion. For this reason he was never 
altogether popular with the commanding generals 
in the field. Neither Grant nor Sherman became 
particularly intimate with him, and it was with ref- 
erence to Albin P. Hovey, one of the best of the 
Indiana generals, that Sherman made his celebrated 
remark : ' 4 If Washington is the place to get promo- 
tion, the army ought to change front on Washing- 
ton. ' ' But, withal, the Indiana generals were a vital 
and virile set. Without those qualities they could 
never have obtained either the commissions or the 
support of Morton, and without Morton's help sev- 
eral of them would have failed to reach the rank of 
general officer. 

During the trip west I ran down from Louisville 
to Nashville for the purpose of conferring with Gen- 
eral Grant, who was still at that place considering 
plans for the future conduct of the war in his mili- 
tary division. But it will be recalled that immedi- 
ately after his success at Chattanooga he had be- 
come the cynosure of all patriotic eyes. To Don- 
aldson and Vicksburg he had now added Missionary 
Bidge, thus making himself the only entirely suc- 
cessful general that the war had so far developed, 



which, in turn, led to a popular call for the creation 
of still higher rank and the promotion of Grant to 
fill it. It was in response to this call that Congress 
a few weeks later revived the grade of lieutenant 
general, which the President assigned to Grant, 
with the command of all our armies. 

But it would be misleading to state that the call 
was instantly complied with. Notwithstanding his 
tremendous success, Grant was but little known in 
Washington, and there was among the leading mem- 
bers of the cabinet and of the Senate a lingering 
doubt as to his entire trustworthiness. Immedi- 
ately after arriving in Washington I was consulted 
by such senators and representatives as I knew or 
chanced to meet in regard to his fitness for the pro- 
motion and for the great power which it- would 
place in his hands. Washburne, the member of 
Congress from his district, was the most potent and 
aggressive factor in the scheme of reviving the lieu- 
tenant generalcy and giving it to Grant. He was 
bold, active, and persistent in advocating the meas- 
ure, and was, besides, the firm friend of Rawlins 
and his close ally in every measure for Grant's ad- 
vancement. I boarded at the same house with him, 
and from the date of my arrival gave him and the 
measure he was advocating my most active and 
unqualified support. We conferred about it in every 
possible aspect. He, of course, had known from the 
first, through letters from Rawlins and through the 
western press, that a serious doubt had been cast 
upon Grant's sobriety, 1 but he also knew that, with 
Rawlins' support, the modest general had in no 
serious degree lapsed from that propriety of con- 

1 Wilson s ■ ■ Life of Charte* A. Dana, ' ' p. 309 et seq. 



duct necessary for his success. He knew from 
Dana, Rawlins, and myself the real facts of his case, 
and that in no instance had he yielded to such an 
extent as to imperil the safety of his army or the 
success of his campaigns. But above all Washburne 
knew that, so long as Rawlins stood by him as guide, 
philosopher, and friend, the combination would con- 
tinue to be successful. Therefore, while providing 
for Grant's promotion, he provided also for Raw- 
lins' further advancement by getting Congress to 
create the office of chief-of-staff for him. Thus the 
union between them was perpetuated. Nearly every 
writer of the times has alluded to these circum- 
stances, but no one has gone to the extent of de- 
claring, as was indubitably the case, that the whole 
question of Grant 's advancement was decided in his 
favor after a careful but informal consideration of 
the facts and probabilities affecting his personal 
habits and character. I know whereof I write, and 
that I am not mistaken, because every official in 
Washington who consulted me at all asked questions 
which left no doubt in my mind as to the ground of 
their solicitude. I know of no other case like this 
in history. It stands alone, and it was decided on 
the probabilities that, as Grant had been success- 
ful with the support of those nearest him, he would 
continue to be successful so long as they continued 
to stand by him. The sequel showed that confidence 
in him and them was not misplaced. 

After reaching Washington I wrote to Rawlins, 
giving him the result of my observations and con- 
ferences from day to day, and making known 
through him to General Grant the progress of the 
measure for his advancement. It became more and 



more evident as the days passed that Grant's friends 
were masters of the situation, and that he could re- 
ject his new rank should it not come with the clear 
understanding that he was to have untrammeled con- 
trol of the army and the concurrence and support of 
the central government. Among those who knew 
best, the sentiment was that he should bring east 
with him only Eawlins, Smith, Bowers, and Badeau, 
of the old staff, and that he should take command 
of the Army of the Potomac, either directly or in- 
directly, as soon as spring operations should begin. 
It was to explain the situation at Washington and 
to give such details in regard to the various cur- 
rents of feeling and opinion that had developed in 
reference to the measure under consideration that 
I visited Nashville, arriving there March 16, in the 

I found General Grant suffering from chills, but 
eager for all the news I could give him. I talked 
freely with him and with Rawlins, Bowers, and Ba- 
deau till midnight and afterwards with Bowers till 
daybreak. I found them all deeply impressed with 
the importance of the changes about to take place, 
and while they realized as fully as I did that their 
chief required "the courage of heroes, the purity 
of angels, and the omniscience of the gods," he 
would have to content himself with his natural en- 
dowments and the support of the friends who had 
stood with him from the first. From Grant down 
they were ready for the change and resolved to 
meet it with unfaltering hearts. There was not the 
slightest show of doubt in any of them that Grant 
would succeed. 

It is well known that Sherman, of all his gen- 


erals, counseled him not to remain in Washington 
or to take command in the East, but to return to the 
Mississippi valley and finish up the great work 
there, on the theory that the rest of the country 
would follow the destiny of that extensive region. 
He evidently doubted Grant's capacity to stand 
alone or to meet the machinations against him which 
his new position would surely bring. But Rawlins 
and Bowers, who were closer to Grant than any 
others, showed no sign of sharing such doubts. 
They recognized from the first that the commission 
of lieutenant general and the command of all the 
loyal armies imposed upon Grant the inevitable duty 
of meeting Lee and his hitherto invincible army 
face to face, and of trying out the issue with them 
to the bitter end. 

Having told my story and satisfied myself as to 
the feelings of Grant and his staff as well as to the 
military conditions prevailing at Nashville, I re- 
turned to Washington as rapidly as possible, where 
I made known to Washburne, Dana, and others the" 
feelings I had found at Grant's headquarters. 

As before intimated, I took but little interest in 
social matters during that winter in Washington. 
Shortly after arriving there, I had been invited to 
dine at the White House and to accompany the Pres- 
ident and his family to the theater. It was a new 
experience for me, and one of mingled emotions. 
The President was kindness itself and seemed to 
know without explanations that I was the son of his 
old friend, Harrison Wilson, of the Black Hawk 
War. He told me many anecdotes and asked me a 
good many questions. Among the rest he wanted to 
know about the Generals, Crooke and Stoughton, 



who had recently been captured in the Shenandoah 
Valley while visiting ladies outside their camp. It 
so happened that I knew both quite well, and was 
enabled to assure the President that they were good 
officers, and that such an accident might readily 
overtake any one in that region. It was upon this 
occasion that he said: "I don't care so much for 
brigadiers ; I can make them. But horses and mules 
cost money." 

Directly after the passage of the bill reviving the 
grade of lieutenant general, Grant came to Wash- 
ington to confer with the President and receive his 
new commission. On this trip, he was accompanied 
by Rawlins and Mrs. Grant, and on their arrival 
I called to pay my respects. I found the party well 
pleased with their reception, but unable or unwill- 
ing to accept social invitations from even those in 
highest authority. The Lieutenant General was 
necessarily busy informing himself as to the condi- 
tion of affairs in Virginia. As I recall it, he and 
Mrs. Grant had been expected to dine at the White 
House, but, as the General was delayed in getting 
back to Washington from Fort Monroe, Mrs. Grant 
asked me to call and explain to Mrs. Lincoln that 
they would not be able to keep their engagement. 
Upon that occasion I was again invited to dine, and 
go to the theater, and, of course, the invitation was 
equivalent to a command. 

After dinner we went to the theater and, while 
seated in the President's box, he told me between 
the acts a great many characteristic anecdotes, but 
made no allusion to public affairs. Now and then, 
for an instant, his countenance seemed "sicklied 
o'er with a pale cast of thought," like a peaceful 



landscape shadowed by passing clouds, but on the 
whole he looked brighter and more cheerful than 
usual. He did not disguise the relief he felt at hav- 
ing at last found a leader for the army with the 
prestige and habit of success. This, more than any- 
thing else, lifted a great load from his mind, but, 
withal, it was evident that he was still wearied and 
weighed down by the cares of his great office and 
that he sought relief in the play before him. I 
was struck that night by the gravity of his counte- 
nance in contrast with the extraordinary mobility 
of his lips and tongue and the clear and rapid enun- 
ciation they gave to his words. Something in the 
play caused him to turn to me and imitate the low 
and plaintive "ba-a-a" of a lamb, which he did with 
singular accuracy and effect. 

It was about that time, while walking out with 
Ward Lamon, the herculean marshal, that a Con- 
federate sympathizer had stopped them, and, grasp- 
ing the President's hand, wrung it till he cried out 
with pain. As it was not the first time that he had 
received such greetings under the guise of friend- 
ship, nor that Lamon had witnessed it, the latter, 
with the fist of a gladiator, delivered a blow straight 
in the ruffian's face and felled him to the ground. 
In sorrow for the poor devil, who hardly knew what 
had struck him, Lincoln gazed sadly upon his pros- 
trate form and said: "For God's sake, Ward, give 
the man a chance ! The next time you hit him, hit 
him with an axe handle ! ' ' 

I saw the President several times after that 
night, but the injunction to "give the man a 
chance," followed by an unconscious light on his 
countenance, not only brought this anecdote to my 



mind, but recalled the familiar scene at the frontier 
town where the storekeeper habitually kept behind 
the door a hickory axe handle ready on a moment's 
notice as the last argument with the ruffian who 
had drunk too much and could not be got rid of 
without a breach of the peace. 

The contrast between Lincoln's life at New 
Salem on the Sangamon River, where he cleaned out 
the Clary's grove gang in a bout at fisticuffs, and 
his life in Washington, where he was struggling as 
Chief Magistrate of the nation to overthrow the 
greatest rebellion of modern times, well illustrates 
the opposite ends of our civilization and presents 
as strange a chapter as can be found in the annals 
of the human race. 

I attended but one reception at the White House. 
Mr. Lincoln, accompanied by his wife, took position 
in what was then known as the Red Room, with a 
few invited guests behind, and, as the procession 
passed two by two, he listlessly grasped their ex- 
tended hands and passed them on without a word. 
Occasionally a man and his wife more distinguished 
than the rest would be pulled over by an attend- 
ant to join the guests behind the President. I and 
my friends had this honor, and we found a few ac- 
quaintances who were enjoying it with us. But the 
whole meeting seemed pervaded by a sense of duty 
mingled with curiosity rather than by a spirit of 
enjoyment. The President's gloves were far too 
large, and this was doubtless a matter of choice to 
enable him to get them on and off easily and to dis- 
courage the hearty handshake that was so prevalent 
both with the friends and the enemies of that illus- 
trious man. 



I also attended a ball at a private banker's, then 
one of the leaders of fashion in the Federal city. 
It was a brilliant affair. The music was beautiful 
and the ladies charmingly dressed, according to the 
fashion of the day, but the pleasure of the occasion 
was marred for me in a most unexpected manner. 
The party I accompanied was composed of a field 
officer of engineers, his wife, and two young ladies, 
and I was authorized to bring with me a captain 
who was convalescing from a painful wound. Be- 
fore the dancing began our party divided into cou- 
ples and within a few minutes after we began cir- 
culating I observed a commotion in the larger recep- 
tion room. Pushing my way through the excited 
guests I found my friend, the captain, extended on 
three chairs in a faint, gasping for breath and suf- 
fering from the heat. Making my way to his side, 
and seeing that he was in a state of collapse, it 
occurred to me that he might be revived by a glass 
of punch, which I made haste to take from the punch 
bowl near at hand.* He swallowed it with unex- 
pected avidity and then, with a languid upward 
look, said : i [ More, " ' whereupon I gave him another, 
which he received in the same manner and swal- 
lowed with a similar result. Again he called for 
more. Thinking that his position was not suitable 
for further refreshment of that sort, assisted by a 
couple of the gentlemen, I carried him out to a back 
piazza, where we found a swinging hammock. Lift- 
ing him in it, I began further investigation. Sev- 
eral bystanders pressed in to assist, but, thinking 
my friend was suffering from nothing worse than 
heat and possibly his wound, I pushed them aside, 
remarking to one who asked if I were a medical 



man : ! ' No, but I think I can handle this case. ' ' But 
the harder I strove to restore my friend the less I 
succeeded in doing so. One of the gentlemen there- 
upon asked if I knew who the elderly person was I 
had pushed aside. When I said I had never seen 
him before, the gentleman replied : ' ' That was Doc- 
tor Blank, the most distinguished medical practi- 
tioner of this city." Eealizing at once that I had 
made a mistake, I sought and found the Doctor en- 
joying himself as though nothing had happened. 
I made a humble apology, confessing that the case 
appeared to be too complicated for anyone except a 
doctor, and begging him to come again to my 
friend's assistance. This he did in the most amiable 
manner, and, after feeling his pulse, lifting his eye- 
lid, auscultating his chest and applying all the other 
proper tests, I noted a gentle smile about the cor- 
ners of his mouth, immediately after which he 
looked up and said : 1 ■ You should put your friend 
to bed. He will be better to-morrow. He is simply 
drunk.' ' Whereupon, in astonishment, I remarked 
that it could not be possible. The Doctor at once 
rejoined: "Oh, yes, General, drunk; very drunk, 
indeed." And this ended the discussion, and closed 
the incident. 

While I remained in Washington one most im- 
portant matter affecting the public welfare was 
sifted to the bottom. A correspondent who had 
opportunities through his association with states- 
men and newspaper men to know what was going on 
in the East had written me early in 1863 that great 
discontentment prevailed in regard to the Govern- 
ment and the failure of its efforts to suppress the 
rebellion. This discontentment showed itself in sev- 



eral ways. A group of congressmen, fully con- 
vinced that Lincoln and his cabinet were unequal to 
the task before them, concocted a scheme, with vari- 
ous ramifications, to elect a stronger man for Presi- 
dent, and this scheme was still on. The same group, 
with allies among the governors, were strongly 
prejudiced against Stanton and threatened to with- 
hold their support from the Government unless he 
were expelled from the War Department and Hal- 
leck relieved as general-in-chief. But our late suc- 
cesses in the West had greatly discouraged this com- 
bination. Another group of which a political major 
general was the center felt that a different and far 
more drastic remedy should be resorted to. It was 
believed by many that this group was plotting the 
overthrow of the Government and the establishment 
of a dictatorship of which the major general should 
be either the head or the Secretary of War, and that 
the first business would be to lead the army to 
Washington and turn the President and his cabi- 
net out of office. With this done, affairs were to be 
carried on by the dictator, and the war was to be 
thereafter conducted in a more scientific and vigor- 
ous manner. But again military success in the West 
also put this scheme to confusion and instead of 
usurpation and a dictatorship of the vulgar sort, 
substantially the same end was to be accomplished 
by the act of Congress creating the grade of lieu- 
tenant general and the assignment of Grant to that 
rank, with the understanding that he was to have 
full powers, subject only to the supreme command 
of the President and the constituted authorities. 
The underlying idea of this legislation was undoubt- 
edly to give the new and successful commander com- 



plete control and at the same time, without saying 
so directly, to restrict the functions and activities 
of the President and the Secretary of War to sup- 
plying men, money, and material for carrying on the 
struggle, while the actual work in the field should 
be supervised by the new general-in-chief, and all 
subordinate army commanders should take their 
orders and carry on their operations solely under 
his direction. 

Notwithstanding the particulars, which reached 
me from time to time, both while in Washington 
and before I went there, I always felt that the con- 
spiracies to which I have alluded were more or less 
fictitious, but I am now persuaded that for a while 
at least they were promoted by various elements of 
discontent in and out of Congress, as well as in and 
out of the army* Fortunately, the lieutenant gen- 
eralcy was not only a constitutional but an emi- 
nently practical solution of the country's more 
pressing difficulties. Knowing the modesty, patriot- 
ism, and unquestioning sense of subordination which 
controlled Grant in all his actions, and feeling as- 
sured that the men and influences surrounding him 
would be managed if not dominated hereafter as 
heretofore by his strong, aggressive, and patriotic 
chief-of-staff, I had no sort of doubt that the entire 
army would be confined henceforth to the duty of 
sustaining the civil government in all its branches, 
while it would be called upon to put forth at the 
same time its best efforts to overthrow and sup- 
press the slaveholders' rebellion. The country ac- 
cepted this plan as a happy solution of its most 
pressing difficulties, and for the immediate future 
gave but little heed to illegal and quixotic schemes 



for getting control of the Government. This view of 
the matter was loyally accepted by the leading news- 
papers as well as by the leading congressmen and 
governors, and the new era began with an immediate 
restoration of hope and confidence in which I fully 
shared. While the new plans necessarily developed 
themselves but slowly, the measures, as they became 
known, relieved my mind of all apprehension, and 
when the hour came to give up my office in Wash- 
ington and to rejoin Grant in the field I went most 
willingly and with every confidence that both the 
civil and military crises had been successfully 
passed and that the Government provided for in 
the Constitution would surely and within a reason- 
able time triumph over all its enemies and op- 
posers whomsoever. 




General plan of campaign — Report to Meade — Relieve Kil- 
patrick — Confirmation delayed — Spencer carbines — 
Position of opposing armies. 

The Lieutenant General's plan for the spring 
campaign was not only most resolute, but as simple 
and direct as it was wise. Lee's army was the objec- 
tive of the Army of the Potomac. Major General 
George G. Meade was in immediate command, reen- 
forced by the Ninth Corps under Burnside, all under 
the personal supervision of General Grant. ' \ Wher- 
ever Lee goes there you will go also," summarized 
his terse instructions to Meade. As aid to this ag- 
gressive forward movement against the main army 
of the Confederacy under command of its greatest 
general, Grant had also the Army of the James, 
twenty-three thousand men, under Major General 
Benjamin F. Butler, composed of Butler's own 
troops and those of Major General Quincy A. Gill- 
more, from the south Atlantic coast. This army, 
under the immediate command of Major General 
William Farrar Smith, was ordered to operate on 
the south side of the James, with Bichmond for its 
objective. The armies of Meade and Butler were 
to become a unit in the event of the success of the 



latter in forcing the enemy into the entrenchments 
of Eichmond. Cooperative offensive action of all 
our armies in the field, east or west, as far as possi- 
ble, was provided for and insisted upon. Especially 
important as an aid of the principal movements 
against Lee and Eichmond, respectively, was the 
march against Lynchburg and the Tennessee and 
Virginia Eailroad to be made by a column of ten 
thousand or twelve thousand men moving out from 
Beverly under Major General E. O. C. Ord, and an- 
other column, principally cavalry, moving in con- 
cert from Charlestown, West Virginia, under Major 
General George Crook. It will be observed that 
Grant, as was characteristic and proper, reserved 
to himself much the hardest job. The campaign 
began early in May, 1864, and was pressed with 
varying fortunes not only through the spring but 
"all summer," and until the successful end, about 
one year later, at Appomattox. From various 
causes, chiefly Lee's generalship, which was fore- 
seen, but largely from the inefficiency and lack of 
cooperation among his own subordinates, which, if 
foreseen, could not be adequately reckoned with in 
advance, Grant, in his initial eastern campaign, 
met with many cruel, almost heartbreaking, losses 
and disappointments. Men cast in a less sturdy 
mold would have yielded, and turned back in defeat 
as did all his predecessors. But to every reverse 
and failure he opposed an iron obstinacy and stead- 
iness of purpose, ever resolutely and increasingly 
greater with the failures and obstacles to be over- 
come. 1 

My part in this epoch-making campaign, while 

1 0. K. Serial No. 60, pp. 758, 794, 798, 803, 827-9, 1017. 


relatively unimportant, was, nevertheless, shaped in 
accordance with the immediate personal wishes and 
direction of General Grant. On the 28th of March, 
1864, shortly after he took the field, he wrote Hal- 
leck from Culpeper Court House, Virginia, saying, 
among other things : 

I think General Wilson should be relieved from duty 
in the Cavalry Bureau as soon as it is possible to find an 
officer to succeed him. I cannot suggest an officer to take 
his place. 1 

On April 6 he telegraphed Halleck : 

Is General Wilson to come here ? If he can be spared 
from the Cavalry Bureau, he is much wanted to command 
a cavalry division. I would like to know the decision of 
the Secretary of War in this matter as soon as possible, 
so that the cavalry command can be arranged. 2 

To which Halleck replied next day: 

General Wilson has been relieved and directed to re- 
port to the Lieutenant General for assignment to duty. 3 

It is also an interesting and strange coincidence 
in my fairly eventful career that while the fall be- 
fore, about the time Grant was urging my promo- 
tion to brigadier general to command cavalry, and 
Eosecrans was asking my detail to command an en- 
gineer regiment, Major General Butler, command- 
ing the Department of Virginia and North Carolina, 
without my knowledge or concurrence wired Gen- 
eral Grant: 

Don't think me importunate, but for the good of 
the service can you not send me Brigadier General J. H. 

1 O. R. Serial No. 60, p. 753. 
8 lb., p. 809. 
8 Zb., pp. 815-816. 



Wilson, now of the Cavalry Bureau, as chief of cavalry, 
to lead our expedition ? x 

The next day General Grant ordered me to re- 
port without delay to Major General Meade, com- 
manding the Army of the Potomac, for duty, and 
on the same day General Butler renewed, without 
result, his preference for me to command his cav- 
alry. 2 Having in no way sought to influence either 
Grant or Butler, I assume that the latter, with whom 
I had but slight personal acquaintance, was inspired 
by my friend, Major General W. F. Smith, to single 
me out and request my assignment to service as 
above. It was a curious episode in my life, and, 
looking back upon it after a half century, it is per- 
haps not immodest in me to say that what Smith, 
notwithstanding his conceded great ability and Gen- 
eral Grant 's confidence in him, found himself under 
the Butler handicap utterly unable to do, we, to- 
gether, working as at Chattanooga, as one man 
might possibly have done. We should have had my 
old friend, Gillmore's, loyal help and cooperation, 
and, putting my more youthful energy and enthu- 
siam into the scale, along with the wisdom and vet- 
eran experience of two such capable soldiers as 
Smith and Gillmore, it is conceivable and at least 
possible, if not probable, that we three might have 
overcome not only Butler's utter lack of military 
skill, but the resistance of the enemy as well, and 
so have realized General Grant's hope early in the 
campaign, that the enemy, as the result of the oper- 
ations on the James and those under his immediate 
personal direction, might be forced into the in- 

1 O. R. Serial No. 60, pp. 850, 851, Butler to Grant, April 12. 
'lb., p. 862, Butler to Grant, April 13, 1864. 



trenchments of Eichmond, where assuredly Grant 
might have repeated his success of Vicksburg. 

It is impossible to overestimate the importance 
of thorough personal touch, mutual confidence, and 
loyal cooperation between the leading officers of any 
army. This lack of it in the army of the James was 
most unfortunate in its personal consequences and 
in its influence upon the success of the campaign. 
Initial success on the James and at Petersburg 
might have changed the whole course of history. 
But it was not to come at that time. 

During my stay in Washington I kept in close 
touch with Grant's headquarters through personal 
correspondence with Eawlins, Smith, and Bowers, 
and an occasional letter to the General himself, 
and this custom continued, as opportunity permit- 
ted, to the end of the war. After Grant became 
lieutenant general and took the field in Virginia, 
my list of correspondents at his headquarters was 
enlarged to include Porter, Babcock, and Badeau, 
and it is from that correspondence, supplemented 
by my reports and diaries, that I have drawn largely 
for the dates and facts in this narrative. 

It will be recalled that shortly after Grant came 
east he sent for Sheridan, who had greatly dis- 
tinguished himself with his division of infantry 
at Missionary Ridge, and gave him command of the 
cavalry corps of the Army of the Potomac. In turn, 
as soon as it could be arranged, he relieved Kilpat- 
rick, at his own request, from further duty with the 
corps and sent him west, while he transferred Mer- 
ritt, Custer, and Davies to other brigades so as to 
make way for my formal assignment to the com- 
mand of the Third Division. Although Merritt was 



below me in class standing and Kilpatrick and Cus- 
ter came out a year later, while Davies was from 
the Volunteers, each of them got his general's star 
a few months before I did. In short, they out- 
ranked me as brigadiers, and this made the changes 
noted above necessary in order to give me command 
of a division. As my services had been confined 
so far to the staff and to the War Department, my 
assignment to the command of a division, under 
the circumstances, gave particular offense to my 
seniors of the line and led to hard feelings and com- 
plications which were not without influence in the 
cavalry operations and which did not entirely dis- 
appear till I was relieved from duty with the Army 
of the Potomac and sent west to reorganize and com- 
mand the cavalry of Sherman's armies. 1 It was as- 
sumed, perhaps naturally enough, by those con- 
cerned that I had overslaughed them through per- 
sonal influence and solicitation, but nothing could 
have been further from the fact. In that matter, 
at least, the Lieutenant General acted entirely on 
his own judgment, without consulting me in any way 
whatever, and, without reference to the precise rea- 
sons for the selection, he is entitled to all the praise 
and equally to all the blame for my assignment as 
well as for Sheridan's. 

But a further word of explanation may be inter- 
esting. It will be remembered that the cavalry of 
the Army of the Potomac was at that time resting 
under some discredit. Although it had been organ- 
ized by Stoneman, a distinguished cavalryman 
of the old army, and was afterwards commanded 
by Pleasanton, also an officer of good reputation, 

1 O. E. Serial No. 60, pp. 753, 809, 862, 872, 881, 893. 



it had as yet achieved no marked superiority over 
the Confederate cavalry. Both Stoneman and Pleas- 
anton had met Stuart with varying fortunes. If 
anything, Stuart was regarded as having shown 
superior enterprise and ability both in action and 
in the raids he had conducted, so that when Sheridan 
took command it was generally understood that the 
prestige of the Confederate was greater than that 
of the National cavalry. This, it was conceived, 
made necessary and fully justified the importation 
of new blood and the assignment of new officers to 
command the cavalry corps and its First and Third 
Divisions. Torbert was brought over from the in- 
fantry with a reputation for courage, steadiness, 
and dash, and, without dwelling on details, the re- 
sults achieved, although not marked by unbroken 
success, may be considered as having justified the 

In behalf of both Stoneman and Pleasanton it 
may be fairly claimed that their failure was due 
rather to the way in which the cavalry was scat- 
tered and overworked by those from whom they 
took their orders than from any shortcomings of 
their own. It is equally true that the disasters 
which occurred and the mistakes which were made 
by Sheridan were due generally to the same causes, 
and particularly to the manner in which the cav- 
alry corps was upon certain important occasions 
broken into detachments and sent on eccentric move- 
ments by General Grant. All this will appear more 
fully in the course of this narrative. 

Meanwhile it is interesting to note that William 
Farrar Smith, Sheridan, and I were the only gen- 
eral officers Grant brought from the West to com- 



mand troops who had ever been with him in battle 
or knew anything from personal observation as to 
his methods of conducting warfare. Smith had 
been with him a few weeks at Chattanooga ; Sheri- 
dan had served under his eyes at Corinth and at 
Missionary Ridge, while Burnside had commanded 
in east Tennessee. Ord, who joined later, had 
served in the Vicksburg Campaign. I had been on 
his staff during the period of his greatest glory, 
from the beginning of the campaign in northern 
Mississippi to the end of the campaign at Chatta- 
nooga. It seems but natural, therefore, that he 
should want a few officers whom he knew person- 
ally, and in whom he had confidence, both in the 
Army of the Potomac and in the Army of the James. 
Before leaving this subject, it may be well to 
state that in General David McM. Gregg, who com- 
manded the Second Division, the cavalry had one of 
its very best officers. He had always belonged to 
that branch of the service, and was noted for ster- 
ling ability and great experience. Steady as a clock 
and as gallant as Murat, it has been often said that 
he was the best all-' round cavalry officer that ever 
commanded a division in either army. Somewhat 
lacking in enthusiasm and possibly in aggressive 
temper, he was a man of unusual modesty, but of 
far more than usual capacity. He had done splen- 
did service wherever called upon and especially in 
the command of the cavalry at Gettysburg, but for 
some reason not easy to define he had not impressed 
himself sufficiently upon his immediate commanders 
to secure the position which was given to Sheridan. 
He outranked Torbert, Merritt, Custer, and Wilson, 
and, whenever they came together, necessarily had 



command over them. While he always acquitted 
himself with marked ability and credit, it must al- 
ways remain a question whether he would have done 
as well as Sheridan in command of the cavalry 
corps. He did not serve through to the end of the 
war, but after participating in all the cavalry en- 
gagements in the campaign against Lee he resigned 
his commission and left the service early in Febru- 
ary, 1865. Whether this was due to pique or to dis- 
appointment, he was always too proud to explain. 
But whatever may have been the real cause it is due 
him to add that it cost the army in its closing cam- 
paign the services of a most gallant and useful offi- 
cer, whose superb figure, knightly bearing, and per- 
fect self-possession won the admiration of his com- 
panions in arms and secured for him the reputation 
of a soldier "sans peur et sans reproche." 

On my way to the front I stopped over at Cul- 
peper Court House to pay my respects to Generals 
Grant, Meade, and Sheridan, and had a flattering 
reception from all. After receiving my assignment 
to command the Third Cavalry Division, I spent a 
few hours with Grant's staff. While there I re- 
ceived the gratifying information from Eawlins, 
confirmed before I left by Mrs. Grant, who was 
spending a few days with the General, that he had 
reserved a place for me on the staff with the rank 
of lieutenant colonel to provide for the contingency 
of my nonconfirmation by the Senate as brigadier 
general. Up to that date, although we had been ap- 
pointed the year before, that august body had with- 
held its consent and approval to the advancement of 
both Rawlins and myself. As we were staff officers 
neither of whom had yet commanded troops, our 



friends, notwithstanding the tremendous influence 
of the lieutenant general, had what afterwards came 
to be recognized as a well-grounded doubt as to our 
confirmation. Congress in the exercise of its dis- 
cretion had with doubtful wisdom limited the num- 
ber of general officers that could be appointed by 
the President, and the Senate had still further cur- 
tailed his authority by closely scrutinizing the serv- 
ices and merits of those whose names were sent be- 
fore it for its consent and approval. But up to that 
time neither of us gave much thought to the dispo- 
sition of that body toward us. Both, I may truth- 
fully say, were much more interested in the work 
we might have to do than in the rank or the pay we 
might get for it, and yet it was most gratifying to 
know that the man mainly responsible for our pro- 
motion amid the sea of cares which surrounded him 
had not forgotten to provide suitable place and rank 
for our future services. 

It turned out, however, that both our names were 
hung up in the Senate somewhat indefinitely, and 
while both finally received favorable consideration 
mine was lost between the Military Committee room 
and the engrossing clerk's office after official notice 
of confirmation had been sent by Stanton to Grant, 
and by Grant to me. Fortunately, through Grant's 
intercession, my name was sent again without delay 
to the Senate for confirmation to take effect from 
the date of my original appointment. In due course 
it was again favorably acted upon and this fact was 
finally certified by the issuance of the proper com- 

I had naturally assumed that my name was lost 
in the first instance through the procurement of the 



defaulting horse contractors whom I had caused to 
be arrested and imprisoned, and who had promptly 
sworn vengeance against me. But as I was leaving 
for the West six months later, under a new assign- 
ment, I was pained and surprised to receive a vol- 
untary statement from an officer concerned that he 
and another, whom I had superseded, had in anger 
and resentment induced the Senate Committee's 
clerk to drop my name in the shuffle and confusion, 
which always more or less certainly occur at the 
end of the session. The officer in question showed 
every evidence of shame at the part he had taken 
"to get even with me," as he expressed it, and vol- 
unteered to go West and serve under me to show 
that he was not only not inspired by malevolence but 
was anxious to do all in his power to make full repa- 
ration for the wrong he would have done me. While 
this manly, but surprising, speech explained and 
made clear other incidents of the past six months, 
it fortunately enabled me to assure him that I had 
used no influence whatever to secure my preferment, 
and that as I had received no permanent injury at 
his hands I had nothing to forgive. I need not add 
that we parted better friends than we had ever been 
and that, as he was withal a gallant officer in whose 
good faith I had no sort of doubt, I shortly after- 
wards made official application that he, with sev- 
eral others, might be sent to assist in the great work 
I had been detailed to undertake. Although this re- 
quest was not granted, and we were never thrown 
together again, we remained good friends to the end 
of his brilliant career. 

On Sunday, April 17, 1864, I rode from Cul- 
peper Court House to Stevensburg, in front of 



which the Third Cavalry Division held position, and 
immediately assumed command. Before leaving 
Grant's headquarters, the General showed me the 
telegram from General Butler already quoted, re- 
questing that I be assigned to command the cavalry 
attached to the Army of the James. This was quite 
a surprise, for, although I had met General Butler 
while serving as an engineer officer at Port Eoyal 
as he was on his way to New Orleans, I had, as be- 
fore stated, but little acquaintance with him and 
none from which he could have known anything of 
my capacity to command cavalry. I was much flat- 
tered by his request, but always attributed it to the 
suggestion of General Smith or of Colonel Turner, 
both regular officers, with whom I was intimate, 
rather than to the personal favor of the department 

Kilpatrick was naturally chagrined at the order 
relieving him from command of the Third Division, 
and had already taken his departure for the West. 1 
I had known him well at West Point. Although 
nearly two years my senior, he was a member of 
the class next after mine and had served in the cadet 
company of which I was first sergeant, both as a 
private and as a corporal, and while I can scarcely 
claim to have been a mother to him, as is the duty 
of a first sergeant, I had taken a friendly interest in 
him and had eome to regard him highly as an officer 
of energy, ability, and patriotism. He early began 
the war for the Union and he was just as enthu- 
siastic and outspoken for it as was the hottest- 
headed fire-eater in favor of the South and its pe- 
culiar institution. He was a brilliant orator, and 

1 O. E. Serial No. 60, p. 862. 


while on furlough had taken an active part in the 
political meetings of his native state. During his 
cadet days he distinguished himself as an amateur 
actor in the plays given by the Dialectic Society. 
Somewhat below medium size, with sandy, reddish 
hair and a fiery temper, he was distinctly unpopu- 
lar with the Southerners, whose growing aggres- 
siveness and intolerance he was prompt to resent. 
This naturally led to a number of personal squabbles 
and encounters, but no matter how big his antago- 
nist Kilpatrick always bore himself with unflinching 
courage. Although married the day he graduated, 
he was at once assigned as a second lieutenant to 
the Eegular Artillery. As he was one of the first 
graduates of West Point to perceive that the war 
for the Union would be fought mainly by volunteers, 
he at once resolved to cast his lot in with them. 
Within a week he was elected a captain in the Fifth 
New York Infantry, known as Duryea's Zouaves. 
Shortly afterwards he took a conspicuous part in 
the battle of Big Bethel, and although severely 
wounded he refused to leave the field till overcome 
by the loss of blood. He was the first regular officer 
wounded during the war of the Eebellion, and to 
find himself loudly praised in the newspapers, which 
was doubtless the reason for his election as lieu- 
tenant colonel of the Second New York Cavalry as 
well as for his detail as inspector general on Mc- 
Dowell's staff. Too energetic to remain long on 
detached duty, however honorable, he sought per- 
mission at the beginning of active operations to re- 
join his regiment, and for the next two years his 
life was one of incessant activity. He became colonel 
of his regiment before the end of the second year 



and took a tireless and gallant part in all the raids, 
battles, and skirmishes connected with the cam- 
paigns in Virginia and Pennsylvania. He was the 
first of the younger West Pointers to win the star 
of a brigadier general, and to succeed in turn to 
the command of a brigade and a division. During 
his entire service, it is safe to say that no other 
officer could have been personally present at more 
engagements or have been more frequently in dan- 
ger of sudden death than was the ubiquitous and 
fearless Kilpatrick. At the battle of Gettysburg 
he made a gallant but unsuccessful charge against 
the right wing of Lee's army, and for the next two 
weeks was daily in pursuit and conflict with the 
enemy. Neither fall nor winter put an end to his 
activities. In the early spring of 1864 he conducted 
a daring but unsuccessful raid against Richmond, 
in which Ulric Dahlgren, the gallant son of Admiral 
Dahlgren, lost his life, and many officers and men 
were wounded and taken prisoner. It cannot be 
said that Kilpatrick was always successful, but no 
man ever charged him with being a laggard in cam- 
paign or battle, or that he did not bear himself al- 
ways with conspicuous gallantry. Full of enthu- 
siasm and romance, he naturally loved streamers, 
guidons, and banners, and rejoiced in the bugles, 
the racket, rattle, and fanfaronade of the cavalry 
service. No enterprise was too dangerous to ap- 
pall him, no odds too great to deter him from the 
charge, and, like his far abler and far steadier 
classmate, the incomparable Upton, there was no 
position in the army to which he did not aspire. 
His ambition was simply boundless, and from his 
intimates he did not disguise his faith that, if he 



got through the war alive, he would become gov- 
ernor of New Jersey, and ultimately president of 
the United States. Withal, his habits were unexcep- 
tionable. While he was as gay and boastful as the 
traditional cavalier, he neither drank nor gambled, 
and the severest thing ever said of him, excepting 
the rough, half-jocular criticism by Sherman, to be 
mentioned later, was that he should have been 
known as ' ' Kil-Cavalry, ' ' rather than as Kilpat- 
rick. That he did not take proper care of his men 
and horses was generally alleged, but the sufficient 
answer is that neither he nor any one in his place 
could do so under the system prevailing in the army 
at any time up to the end. No civilian can realize 
how impossible it was, till Grant became generalis- 
simo, for the cavalry leaders to manage their arm of 
service with the conservatism and prudence neces- 
sary to build up and maintain its efficiency and yet 
give it on the march and in battle that coherence 
and dash without which it could not hope to succeed. 
While it may be truthfully inferred that I had 
nothing to do with Kilpatrick's transfer to the 
West, it is proper to add that I was destined, when 
detailed to reorganize and command the Western 
cavalry, to supersede him again. On joining Sher- 
man later in that year at Gaylesville I found Kil- 
patrick commanding the Third Cavalry Division of 
the Army of the Tennessee, which in the reorgani- 
zation became the Third Division of the Cavalry 
Corps of the Military Division of the Mississippi. 
He had taken an active part in the Atlanta cam- 
paign and, although from no fault of his own the 
cavalry operations were sadly lacking coherence, 
it is certain that he had, in the main, won Sherman 's 



personal confidence and regard. In conference at 
the camp fire that night about plans and organiza- 
tion, the General selected Kilpatrick's division and 
directed me to fit it out thoroughly for the march 
to the sea, adding at once in language more graphic 
than just or considerate: "I know that Kilpatrick 
is a hell of a damned fool, but I want just that sort 
of a man to command my cavalry on this expedi- 
tion." This was as breezy and still more unfair 
than what he had just written to Grant: "Kilpat- 
rick is well enough for small scouts, but I do want 
a man of sense and courage to manage my cavalry, 
and will take any one that you have tried. ' ' * And 
this accounts for the fact that Kilpatrick was with 
Sherman to the last day of the war, but, proof 
against fatigue himself, he worked his division as 
usual beyond its capacity, and took but little care 
of his horses, which all good cavalrymen know are 
the principal factor in the efficiency of the mounted 
service. From first to last Kilpatrick was as brave, 
enterprising, and energetic as any officer on either 
side of the Great Conflict. In later years it became 
my willing task to prepare the sketch of his life 
and services for Cullum's Biographical Eegister of 
the officers and graduates of the Military Academy. 2 
With the incessant activity imposed upon Kil- 
patrick, in season and out of season, it was but 
natural that he should leave his division in the Army 
of the Potomac badly run down. Its camps were 
badly placed and badly policed; its horses were 
overworked and exhausted ; its equipment and cloth- 

1 O. R. Serial No. 78, p. 442. 

'"Cullum's Eegister," Vol. II, p. 784. Also " Biographical 
Sketch," by J. H. Wilson, p. 786 et seq. 



ing nearly used up, and its heterogeneous collection 
of carbines dirty and out of order. 1 To make mat- 
ters worse, the division staff was scattered, part go- 
ing with Kilpatrick and part remaining behind. 
When I took command I found but seven regiments, 
the Second, Fifth, and Eighth New York ; the Eigh- 
teenth Pennsylvania, the Third New Jersey, and the 
First Connecticut, together with one troop of the 
Third Indiana, and one of the Second Ohio, in all 
three thousand four hundred and thirty-six men for 
duty. Of these, only two thousand six hundred and 
ninety-two were mounted, while seven hundred and 
forty-four were entirely dismounted and three hun- 
dred and seventy-eight were furnished with worn- 
out or disabled horses which had been condemned 
as unserviceable. From this it will be seen that 
one thousand one hundred and twenty-two remounts 
were needed to enable the division to take the field. 
The greater part of its available force was stretched 
in an unbroken picket line covering the army's left 
wing and in sight of it, for twenty-eight miles, so 
that the next afternoon only six hundred and fifteen 
men were turned out for drill. At the first morning 
inspection I found but few officers attending stable 
call, while all routine duties were so poorly per- 
formed that I felt obliged to put one colonel in ar- 
rest and to admonish the rest that radical improve- 
ments must be made at once if they would save 
themselves from a similar fate. The actual condi- 
tions could not have been more discouraging. It 
was evident that a hard job had fallen to my lot 
and that I should be compelled to put forth the most 
vigorous efforts to procure the necessary remounts, 

1 0. R. Serial No. 60, p. 891-2. 



equipment, clothing, and improved arms in time to 
take an efficient part in the campaign about to be- 
gin. Fortunately, while chief of the Cavalry Bu- 
reau, I had induced the chief of Ordnance to con- 
tract for all the Spencer magazine carbines that 
could be turned out, and, as this was the best re- 
peating firearm so far invented, I at once made req- 
uisition for five thousand, or enough to supply the 
entire division, but it was three months before the 
contractors could deliver them. Meanwhile, the 
regiment did the best it could with Burnside, Smith, 
Sharp, and Colt carbines, supplemented by sabers 
and revolvers. Under the prevailing conditions it 
was uphill work to establish regular discipline and 
repair the deficiencies of equipment and outfit, but 
the officers and men were excellent in quality and 
character, and gave most cheerful assistance in the 
work to be done. I had hardly got acquainted with 
its extent and character when I was summoned to 
Washington as a witness before a general court- 
martial. Fortunately, General Grant was called 
there the same day, and as we traveled on together 
I acquainted him with the actual condition of af- 
fairs. He was sympathetic and gave me assurance 
of both personal and official support in such meas- 
ures as I might find necessary to get my division 
ready for service. 

I was absent five days, but before leaving the 
front I had started the work, and during my absence 
was able to hurry forward remounts and new equip- 
ment. The next two weeks constituted a period of 
incessant activity, not only on my own part, but 
on the part of my quartermaster and ordnance offi- 
cer. Through Sheridan's intercession the cavalry 



picket line was reduced to a few points of observa- 
tion, and the greater part of the mounted troops 
returned to camp, where they at once engaged in 
drilling and refitting for an active campaign. 1 Dana, 
the assistant secretary of war, spent several days 
with us, and became personally acquainted with the 
condition of the army, and especially of the cavalry. 
Through his aid much was done to repair the waste 
of the previous campaigns. Drills were instituted, 
reviews were held, inspections were made, instruc- 
tion given, and a system of daily administration 
was instituted, so that by the first of May a vis- 
itor to the army would have been impressed by the 
apparent readiness of the cavalry, as well as of the 
infantry, for the onward movement. During the 
early stages of the campaign the First Vermont, one 
of the best cavalry regiments in the army, returned 
to the division, and the Twenty-second New York, 
a new cavalry regiment, was assigned to it, mainly, 
I always supposed, because it was so green that no 
one else wanted it. The last few days in camp were 
taken up with final arrangements, with visits to 
Sheridan and Grant and with reti rn visits from 
Grant's staff officers. It was a time of intense ac- 
tivity to all. Grant was on trial with a new army 
in a new theater of operations, and yet he was ac- 
tual generalissimo of all the Union forces, subject 
only to the President as commander-in-chief. 

The Army of the Potomac and the Confederate 
army of North Virginia had been facing each other 
without any decisive engagement since the battle of 
Gettysburg, July 1, 2, and 3, the year before. 
Grant's headquarters were at Culpeper Court 

1 O. R. Serial No. 60, p. 909, Sheridan to Meade, Apr. 19, 1864. 



House, sometimes known as Fairfax, in Piedmont, 
Virginia, with the Blue Ridge in sight, sixty-five 
miles south-southwest from Washington. Lee's 
were at Orange Court House, also in sight of the 
Blue Ridge, about twenty miles farther on by the 
same railroad, and about seventy miles by its con- 
nections, northwest from Richmond. The distance 
between them was unequally divided by the Rapi- 
dan, with outposts of both on that stream. 

Grant held the country between the Rapidan, the 
Blue Ridge, and Washington, and drew his supplies 
at first by rail, afterwards, as he moved forward, 
by rail and water. Lee, with two corps at Orange 
and east of Orange and one at Gordonsville and to 
the south, covered the junction of the railroads to 
Lynchburg and Richmond, and drew supplies from 
the country tributary to both places. The entire 
region south of him, with the exception of the sea 
coast, the larger bays, and the estuaries, was under 
his control. Grant's strength was about one hun- 
dred and fifteen thousand; Lee's about eighty-five 
thousand men for duty. The conditions, as they 
then existed, put upon Grant the necessity of as- 
suming the offensive, while they imperatively re- 
quired Lee to stand on the defensive. 

From this statement it is evident that the first 
battle must be fought south of the Rapidan, and 
as an advance by the left flank would necessarily 
shorten Grant's line of supply and make his move- 
ments safer, he wisely concluded to open the cam- 
paign by moving in that direction. As Lee's main 
body occupied the region eastward from Orange 
Court House to Mine Run, a small stream flowing 
north into the Rapidan, which had stayed Meade's 



march in the unfortunate mud campaign of the late 
winter, it was apparent that, while the Union army's 
advance must be generally southeast, its flank would 
be exposed to a counter movement from Lee nearly 
at right angles to the roads it must follow. 

The distance . from the center of Grant's army 
to Spottsylvania Court House was from twenty-five 
to thirty miles by the several country roads, while 
the distance from the center of Lee's line east of 
Orange to the same points was on the average about 
five miles less. As much of the region, soon to be- 
come the scene of a series of the bloodiest battles 
of modern times, was covered by forest trees and 
tangled underbrush which appropriately gave it the 
name of the Wilderness, the advantages were about 
equally divided. As Grant knew exactly when his 
columns would begin to move, and Lee could not be 
certain about either their direction or weight, and 
must gather these essential facts from the report of 
his outposts and spies, it may be fairly assumed 
that, with proper secrecy and celerity, Grant's col- 
umns could have passed through the Wilderness and 
reached the open country beyond before Lee could, 
reach or confront them. When it is considered that 
about half the distance to be traversed was on the 
north side of the Rapidan, where the initial move- 
ments could be made under cover of darkness be- 
yond the observations of the enemy, it will be seen 
that the advantages of a surprise might have been 
realized had the details been carefully worked out 
beforehand and the invading columns pushed for- 
ward with the utmost confidence and celerity. 1 

1 By far the best Confederate accounts of this campaign are 
Longstreet's "From Manassas to Appomattox' ? and Alexander's 
"Military Memoirs of a Confederate." 




First to cross the Rapidan — Craig's Meeting House — 
Catharpen Road — Todd 's Tavern — Chancellorsville — 
Sedgwick's flank turned — Grant's behavior — Occupa- 
tion of Spottsylvania Court House — Meade, Warren, 
and Sedgwick — Incident with Warren — Meeting with 
Grant — Defective organization of army. 

Grant having completed his plans for a general 
and simultaneous advance, it was the duty of his 
subordinates to perform the part assigned them to 
the best of their ability. The details of the pre- 
liminary movements were worked out by Meade and 
his officers. This done, a calm, full of anxiety, fell 
upon Grant's staff, and, realizing that the respon- 
sibility was now on other shoulders, Eawlins, Por- 
ter, Babcock, and Badeau rode over to my head- 
quarters on the evening the advance began. Know- 
ing that I would have the lead, they came to wish 
me success and Godspeed. We passed a pleasant 
hour, exchanging confidences and good cheer, and 
then, with a hearty hand-shake all round, parted to 
meet again on the field of strife a few days later. 

My division was as nearly ready as volunteer 
cavalry ever is, and as it had the extreme left and 
front at Stevensburg, five miles from Culpeper and 



eight miles from Germanna ford, it naturally opened 
the campaign. Calling in my detachments after 
dark, I took the road about nine o'clock, and just 
before midnight, May 3, reached the north bank 
of the Eapidan, where arrangements had already 
been made to lay a pontoon bridge. A few minutes 
after midnight, on the morning of May 4, the 
dismounted men of Chapman's advance forded the 
river and, driving back the enemy's pickets, opened 
the way for the division, which was in turn fol- 
lowed closely by the Fifth Corps. By 5 a. m. I 
pushed out on the direct road to Old Wilderness 
Tavern, where I halted and sent out strong detach- 
ments to patrol the roads to the west and south of 
that place. 

As soon as the infantry made its appearance we 
pushed on five miles further to Parker's Store on 
the Orange plank-road, where we bivouacked for the 
night, while Colonel Hammond with his splendid 
regiment, the Fifth New York Cavalry, well out 
toward New Hope Church and Mine Run, guarded 
the roads from Lee's right against surprise. As it 
afterward became known, Lee with his main body 
was advancing from that quarter and our advance 
guards that night halted within two miles of each 
other. But we met nothing during the day except 
the rebel pickets, all of whom fled to the westward 
upon our approach. 

Passing into the Wilderness, we expected that 
the infantry would relieve our detachments on the 
various roads and throw out their own in turn, to 
cover and protect their flanks from the enemy, and 
this expectation was fully realized. Although my 
headquarters were within four or five miles of the 



enemy's, we passed the entire night in perfect quiet- 
ude, and the next morning at five o'clock I moved 
forward with the division well in hand to Craig's 
Meeting House, near Danielsville, on the Catharpen 
Eoad, leaving Colonel Hammond with the Fifth New 
York to hold the position at Parker's Store till re- 
lieved by Warren's leading division. An hour or 
more after I had gone forward the enemy under 
Lee's personal command made his appearance from 
the direction of Mine Eun, and a sharp fight ensued, 
lasting six hours. Hammond, soon joined by Mc- 
intosh, his brigade commander, sent word at once 
to Crawford's division, the nearest infantry, that 
the enemy were pressing heavily upon him, and, if 
the position was to be held, help should be sent at 
once, but help never came. Mcintosh and Hammond, 
with about five hundred men, armed with Spencer 
carbines, fighting behind trees on foot, in extended 
order, made the enemy think that he had encoun- 
tered Grant's infantry, but the dismounted horse- 
men were finally outflanked, overweighted, and 
pressed back upon Crawford, a mile and a half to 
the right and rear. This Was the opening fight of 
the campaign and gave ample notice of the Confed- 
erate advance in force. The next began about the 
same time by the main body of the division under 
my personal command on the Catharpen Eoad, near 
Craig's Meeting House, or Danielsville, about seven 
miles southwest of Parker's Store, and fully eight 
and a half miles from the nearest infantry. 

I reached that point at eight o 'clock without op- 
position, but shortly afterward the enemy's cavalry, 
led by the dashing Eosser, a Texan, who had been 
four years a cadet with me, supported by Hampton 



with the other two brigades of his division, as well 
as by Stuart, with his second division — in all about 
eight thousand men, or double my force — attacked 
my advance guard with vigor. As this was my first 
engagement as a cavalry commander, I lost no time 
in personally leading my second brigade under the 
modest but intrepid Chapman, colonel of the Third 
Indiana Cavalry, to the attack. As was customary 
in those days, three-quarters of the men, or about 
one thousand three hundred in all, were dismounted 
and deployed in open order as skirmishers, while 
the other quarter held the horses under cover of the 
woods and the accidents of the ground in the rear. 
The action was on at once and, as both sides were 
anxious to gain the first advantage, it soon became 
furious. My two batteries of horse artillery, under 
Pennington and Fitzhugh, both young West Pointers 
of courage and experience, followed up the skir- 
mishers closely, combing the ground to the front 
with a rapid and noisy fire of shrapnel and canister. 
Bosser's advance was promptly checked and driven 
back upon Lomax and Gordon's brigades of the same 
division, which were in turn thrown into confusion, 
and before they could reform had been driven about 
two miles. It was practically a head-on collision 
on a forest road in which both parties bore them- 
selves gallantly, making all the noise they could. 
While the initial advantage was decidedly with us 
and while I pushed it as far as I could, I soon learned 
from prisoners and wounded in our hands that we 
were in the presence of Stuart's entire cavalry corps, 
supported probably by Longstreet 's infantry, which 
had also begun its march from Gordonsville that 
morning. I gave orders to discontinue the pursuit, 



rally and fall slowly back to a junction with my 
first brigade near the crossing of Robinson's Run 
on the road by which we had advanced. As Chap- 
man's ammunition with so much fighting was run- 
ning low and the reserve was some distance in rear, 
it was Chapman 's duty to get back as rapidly as he 
could without running, though in accordance with 
the usage of cavalry, we might have done even that 
without discredit, had it been necessary or had we 
known, as we afterward learned, that we were out- 
numbered two or three to one. 

I had fully accomplished the task assigned me 
and had sent courier after courier to the rear with 
written reports of what was going on in that quar- 
ter, but, unfortunately, not one of them got through 
without delay or a roundabout ride, owing to the 
fact that the enemy's infantry had forced Mcintosh 
and Hammond from the crossroads at Parker's 
Store and thereby cut out direct communication with 
army headquarters. 

Meanwhile Hampton and Rosser, with their sup- 
ports, having got their breath, as soon as the pres- 
sure upon them eased up, came at us again with 
all their vigor. They were dashing fellows and 
their men promptly responded to their leadership. 
Fierce fighting was resumed. Our men, as they 
reached their horses, remounted, when charge and 
counter charge with saber and pistol followed in 
quick succession, each causing a halt in the action 
of the other. When Chapman's line, still deployed, 
but facing about whenever necessary, had passed 
beyond me, I found myself with a single troop of 
the Eighth Illinois Cavalry, under Lieutenant Long, 
covering the rear. Under a rattling fire from our 




artillery sweeping the enemy's front with shrapnel 
and canister, Long and I led the little guard of 
Illinoisians headlong against the enemy's advance, 
scattering it in all directions. After pushing the 
charge as far as it could go I sounded the rally 
and slowly fell back by the road on which I had 
advanced. Although the enemy followed at a dis- 
tance, we were not engaged again that day. We 
joined the first brigade where we had left it, cover- 
ing the road to Parker's Store, but had hardly got 
there when, greatly to my disappointment, I learned 
that our couriers had not got through to Meade's 
headquarters. The road was barred by the enemy. 
I had had no word from Sheridan that day and 
knew absolutely nothing as to his whereabouts or 
even as to the position of any part of the army ex- 
cept my own. It was now late in the afternoon, 
and, fearing that my exposed position far in front 
might invite the enemy to concentrate heavily 
against me, I resolved to make my way to Todd's 
Tavern, five miles farther to the east, and either 
form a junction with Gregg at that place or rejoin 
the cavalry corps wherever it might be found. 

Having reunited my command at Robinson's Run 
and discovered that the enemy's infantry were not 
only behind our right and rear in the direction of 
Parker's Store, but that his cavalry were moving 
by our left as if to get behind us, I made my way 
rapidly through the woods to the left, regained the 
Catharpen Road in advance of the enemy and con- 
tinued along it to the Tavern, in front of which we 
found Gregg's division in line of battle. Fortu- 
nately, he had not yet seen the enemy and with his 
fresh men we not only easily checked Rosser and 



Hampton, but made good our position for the 

During the operations of the afternoon, however, 
while covering the rear with my own escort, I was 
several times in danger of being cut off in making 
a detour to rejoin the division farther back. In 
the last instance, while trotting along leisurely be- 
hind the troops, the rattle and racket going on back 
of us so alarmed my horse, the "Waif," a veteran 
of the Vicksburg and Chattanooga campaigns, that 
he suddenly seized his bit and dashed off at full 
speed till he found himself in the midst of our re- 
tiring skirmishers, when he yielded to the reins, 
and, with what might have been considered a sigh 
of relief, again settled down to an orderly gait. 
Shortly afterward I formed the junction with Gregg 
with no further loss except a few men and horses 
wounded. After a conference it became apparent 
that our new position was still nearly five miles 
in front of the infantry, and that it would be neces- 
sary to establish and maintain communication by 
the Brock Eoad, on which Gregg had advanced. To 
this end I sent Chapman's brigade, just before mid- 
night, back a mile and a half, with orders to patrol 
and cover the country between us and the advance 
corps of the army. Fortunately, the enemy was not 
moving in the dark, so our jaded men and horses 
got a few hours of badly needed rest. We had been 
marching and fighting most of the time for two 
days and three nights, swinging entirely around 
from the extreme right to the farthest advanced 
post through field and forest in the midst of which 
the great battles of the Wilderness were fought. 
We had perfectly screened Grant's advance, engag- 



ing the enemy wherever we encountered him and 
making good our hold on the important points of 
the field, but so far had received neither support 
nor new orders from the rear. Both men and horses 
were getting hungry, the country was equally bare 
of provisions and forage, and as we knew nothing 
yet of how it had fared with the infantry, our third 
night was necessarily one of intense anxiety. 

Communication was finally opened with corps 
headquarters during the night, and early the next 
morning Sheridan sent me orders to make my way 
to Chancellorsville for ammunition and rations. 
Moving by wood-roads, which were everywhere ob- 
scure, several hours were consumed in finding our 
trains and renewing our supplies. The next morn- 
ing, bright and early, we were ordered to take po- 
sition further to our left and front, with one bri- 
gade at Piney Branch Church and the other at Al- 
drich's House, near the Fredericksburg and Spott- 
sylvania road. As that was far beyond the reach 
of the enemy at that stage of the campaign, we 
had no further fighting and were withdrawn again 
after dark to Chancellorsville, where we bivouacked 
for the night. 

I there learned for the first time that the whole 
of that day, May 6, had been one of desperate 
battle. While the cavalry operations had developed 
the enemy's movements and screened our own, they 
equally gave Lee, through his pickets, timely notice 
of Grant's advance from the Rapidan into the Wil- 
derness. As we soon knew to our cost, the Confed- 
erate leader wasted no time in uncertainty, but sal- 
lied out with his entire army on the several parallel 
roads leading from his camps at and east of Orange 



and Gordonsville toward Fredericksburg, crossing 
those nearly at right angles on which Grant was 
necessarily advancing. 

Notwithstanding the successful operations of the 
cavalry, the infantry battle was soon joined on a 
grand scale in the tangled woods and underbrush 
of the Wilderness, every trail through which was 
familiar to the enemy and his guides, but the story 
has been told so many times that I shall not even 
recount the details of our own operations, 1 although 
nearly all historical accounts ignore or minimize the 
part played by the cavalry, but shall confine my- 
self to certain incidents which, so far as I know, 
have not yet found a place in the annals of the 

In the desperate efforts to resist our passage 
through the Wilderness, Lee was necessarily the as- 
sailant and threw himself with the frenzy of des- 
peration against Grant's columns. But the Union 
army, with varying fortunes, due mostly to the un- 
favorable features of the battlefield, everywhere 
held its own except on the extreme right, where the 
enemy under Gordon after sundown made an unex- 
pected advance, turning Sedgwick's right flank and 
capturing almost a division of his infantry, but fail- 
ing, partly on account of darkness, which obscured 
the great advantage he had gained, and partly be- 
cause his column lacked weight, his movement soon 
came to an end. Meanwhile, the imperturbable 
Sedgwick, by refusing that part of his line which 
remained intact, restored order, formed a new line, 
and made good his position for the night. The dan- 
ger was soon past, but while it lasted it was an 

1 See my report, O. E. Serial No. 67, pp. 871-884. 


episode of terrible import, followed by a night of 
anxiety which none of us will ever forget. 1 

About nine o'clock Forsyth, Sheridan's chief - 
of-staff, an intimate friend from our cadet days, 
came to my headquarters with the first news of the 
disaster which had befallen the Sixth Corps. My 
division was next to the scene of action and I was 
directed to hold it in instant readiness for any or- 
ders that might reach us. The situation was one 
of extraordinary gravity. 2 Sheridan had already 
been notified that the reserve trains had been or- 
dered to the left and would thereafter be under his 
protection and base themselves on Fredericksburg. 
This movement he construed as foreshadowing an 
entire change of base and possibly a retreat to the 
north side of the Eappahannock. We both knew 
that the Army of the Potomac had executed such 
maneuvers before, and, above all, we knew that it 
had not hitherto fought its battles to a finish. In 
ignorance yet of what might follow from the 
enemy's turning movement early in the evening, we 
feared the worst. Forsyth, far from being a tyro 
or an alarmist, was a veteran of long service and 
hard knocks, who knew the signs and portents of 
war as well as any man living. My inflated India- 
rubber bed had already been spread upon the 
ground for the night, and after we had fully con- 
sidered the situation with all the light we could 
get, and I had given my staff and brigade com- 
manders such orders as were required by the occa- 
sion, I invited Forsyth to lie down with me. Of 
course, neither of us undressed, but our heads had 

1 0. R. Serial No. 67, pp. 2, 18, 190, 1028, 1071, 1077-8. 
3 O. R. Serial No. 68, pp. 2, 448. 



scarcely touched the pillow when we caught the 
sound and tremor of a distant roar that seemed like 
the musketry of battle. We listened with bated 
breath, and, while we were not certain, we both 
concluded that if the fighting was still going on, it 
indicated a desperate condition of affairs, the end 
of which no one could foretell. We were between 
three and four miles from the center and fully five 
from the extreme right of our army, but were sepa- 
rated from it by a dense tangle of forest trees and 
underbrush which, while deadening the sound, re- 
lieved it of none of its ominous quality. I sent an 
aid-de-camp to investigate, but he was gone nearly 
an hour, during the whole of which time the distant 
roar continued without intermission. When he 
brought the welcome information that the fighting 
had long since ceased, that all was quiet along the 
army's front, and that the noise borne in upon us 
came from the wagon trains moving on the turn- 
pike and plank roads toward Fredericksburg, we 
were relieved from our greatest anxiety, and For- 
syth returned at once to his own camp. Shortly aft- 
erwards, he sent an order from Sheridan directing 
me to move as soon as I could see my way to the 
Germanna ford road and ascertain what the enemy 
were doing in that quarter. Quite as anxious as 
either Grant, Meade, or Sheridan could be, I was 
off betimes and by eight o'clock had scoured the 
entire region threaded by that road, almost back 
to the Rapidan. I found no sign of the enemy, and 
as soon as I satisfied myself that he had no ade- 
quate idea of the excitement and confusion his turn- 
ing movement had created the night before, and that 
the crisis was over, I sent the proper information to 



Sheridan and then rode rapidly to army headquar- 
ters, not only to reassure our commanders by a 
personal report but to see for myself how Grant 
had so far borne the strain and responsibility of 
the great campaign into which our advance had 
plunged us. 

I found him surrounded by his staff on a cleared 
knoll at the edge of the forest, a short distance 
from the old Wilderness Tavern. Meade's head- 
quarters occupied a portion of the same clearing a 
little to the southeast. Dismounting at the bottom 
of the hillock thirty or forty yards from his camp 
fire and handing the bridle to my orderly I started 
up the hill, when Grant, catching sight of me, threw 
up his hand and cheerily called out : ' ' It 's all right, 
Wilson; the army is moving toward Richmond I" 
He evidently read anxiety and apprehension in my 
countenance, knowing that I would favor advancing 
rather than falling back, and he made haste to reas- 
sure me. I have always regarded this as the great- 
est compliment Grant ever paid me, except that con- 
tained in his letter of October 4, 1864, to Sher- 
man, for it showed that he knew what my advice 
would be and wished to anticipate it with the cheer- 
ing information cited above. 

I found him in a state of perfect composure, 
while his staff, with the exception of Rawlins and 
Bowers, were engaged in breaking camp and getting 
ready to take the road to the front. After a few 
minutes' conversation, in which I explained that 
the rebels had evidently not understood the extent 
of their success the night before and were making 
no movement on our right to improve it, I strongly 
favored the offensive as the surest way of bringing 



the enemy to a general engagement in the open 
field, and was gratified beyond measure to find that 
this had already become Grant's settled policy and 

A few minutes later I withdrew to a private con- 
versation with Eawlins and Bowers. It will be re- 
membered that those officers had been with Grant 
from the first of the war, had seen him in every bat- 
tle, and knew his idiosyncrasies better than any one 
else. From our first acquaintance they had no se- 
crets from me, and on this occasion they made haste 
to say that the night before had tested Grant's for- 
titude and self-control more seriously than any 
event of his past career. Eawlins explained that 
the first news which reached headquarters from the 
right gave the impression that an overwhelming dis- 
aster had befallen our line, and that, although Grant 
received it with his usual self-possession, the coming 
of officer after officer with additional details soon 
made it apparent that the General was confronted 
by the greatest crisis of his life. Still he gave his 
orders calmly and coherently without any external 
sign of undue tension or agitation. But when all 
proper measures had been taken and there was 
nothing further to do but to wait, both Eawlins and 
Bowers concurred in the statement that Grant went 
into his tent, and, throwing himself face downward 
on his cot, gave way to the greatest emotion, but 
without uttering any word of doubt or discourage- 
ment. What was in his heart can only be inferred, 
but from what they said nothing can be more cer- 
tain than that he was stirred to the very depths of 
his soul. How long he remained under extreme ten- 
sion neither Eawlins nor Bowers stated, but they 



were clear and emphatic in declaring that they had 
never before seen him so deeply moved as upon that 
occasion, and that not till it became apparent that 
the enemy was not pressing his advantage did he 
entirely recover his perfect composure. 

Others who knew him less intimately and had 
never seen him in battle have stated that he showed 
no emotion whatever in that momentous emergency, 
but received the news of the disaster which threat- 
ened to overwhelm his army and put an end to his 
career with Spartan calmness and equanimity, and 
that, within ten minutes after receiving the last 
alarming report, "he was sleeping as soundly and 
peacefully as an infant." 1 

I have always regarded the statement of Eawlins 
and Bowers as not only far more reasonable, but 
far more creditable to Grant than the one last 
quoted, for it shows that after all he was not the 
stolid and indifferent man, without sensibility or 
emotion, which such impassibility at such a crisis 
would have indicated. With the certainty which 
soon followed the first alarming accounts that the 
enemy were not pressing their advantage, it was 
but natural that Grant should recover his compo- 
sure. It was still more natural that with the soul 
of a true hero he should resolve to resume the ag- 
gressive and "fight it out on that line if it takes 
all summer." As it turned out, this was exactly 
the right course to adopt and to adhere to, not only 
for the whole summer, but till the end of the war. 
It was doubtless during the trying night of May 
6 that Grant reached the sound conclusions which 

1 " Campaigning with Grant," by Gen. Horace Porter, p. 67, 
et seq. 



he began the next day by his forward movement to 
put into effect, and of which, by his memorable dis- 
patch of May 11, he made haste to reassure the 
Government, and the people. 1 

In his interview with me on the morning of the 
7th, he summed up the situation with the character- 
istic statement that, although we had not beaten the 
enemy, the enemy had certainly not beaten us, that 
while we had lost many officers and men the enemy 
must have lost as many, and that if we were justi- 
fied in fighting him for two days as we had done, we 
were still more justified in continuing the fight till 
we had gained a complete victory no matter how 
long it took. In conversation with me he com- 
mended the part the cavalry had played, but ex- 
pressed dissatisfaction with the slowness and the 
caution of the infantry commanders. While he 
made no allusion whatever to his emotions of the 
night before, he spoke with calmness and confidence 
of yet forcing Lee to give battle in the open country 
beyond the Wilderness, and of beating him or com- 
pelling him to retreat. With the conviction that 
this courageous policy was not only sound but would 
ensure victory in the end, I rejoined my division 
with a lighter heart and greater confidence than I 
had felt at any time since crossing the Eapidan. 

Having, in my "Life of Grant," 2 given as full 
an account of the campaign and battles in the Wil- 
derness as seems to be necessary for the general 
reader, I now return to incidents of a more personal 

1 O. E. Serial No. 67, pp. 2, 3, 4. 

2 ''Life of Ulysses S. Grant," by Dana & Wilson, Gurdon Bill 
& Co., Springfield, Mass., etc., 1868. 



Generally speaking, my division held the left 
and front of the advance. It covered the movement 
of Grant's left in the direction of Spottsylvania 
Court House till the cavalry corps cut loose from 
the army and began its independent operations 
against the railroad which connected Lee and his 
army with their base at Kichmond. Early on the 
7th I occupied Aldrich's Farm, and, crossing the 
Eiver Ny, drove back the rebel pickets toward 
Spottsylvania Court House. But the Infantry 
failing to come to my support, as I supposed it 
would, night put an end to my operations. My first 
brigade bivouacked at Tabernacle Church, and my 
second at Silver's Farm. The night passed without 
incident, for the enemy had not yet made his appear- 
ance in front. I was, however, directed to continue 
my movement at five o'clock on the morning of the 
8th through Spottsylvania Court House toward 
Snell's Bridge. By nine o'clock I had brushed 
Wickham's brigade of Stuart's cavalry out of the 
way and occupied the court house. By a rapid and 
vigorous advance, I captured forty-five prisoners 
from the rear and right of Longstreet 's corps which 
had already passed to the left of the village, and re- 
captured a number of our men whom the enemy had j 
captured from our advancing infantry earlier that 
morning or late the day before. A hasty examina- 
tion of the prisoners convinced me that I was in 
Longstreet 's rear, marching by a cut-off road to 
forestall Grant in his movement on Spottsylvania. 
It was evident, therefore, that, unless promptly sup- 
ported by Burnside or other infantry from the rear, 
I should have to give up the advantageous position 
I had so easily gained. Although neither cavalry 



nor infantry came to my support, I held the court- 
house till eleven o'clock, when an order came from 
Sheridan directing me not to go there at all, but to 
fall back by the road I had advanced upon to a 
place marked on the map as "Alsop's Gate." As 
the perils were thickening, and reenforeement no- 
where in sight, I withdrew to the point indicated 
without further encountering the enemy. 1 

Thus it will be observed that my division was 
the only part of Grant's army that ever occupied 
Spottsylvania Court House till Lee had given up 
his lines in front of that place and withdrawn to- 
ward Richmond. But it has always been my con- 
viction that had Burnside pushed promptly through 
the Wilderness to the left and front he might have 
joined me in time to make good the position I had 
gained. With such a union of cavalry and infantry 
in Lee's right rear, there would have been nothing 
left for him but to fall back to a new position be- 
yond the next river, or suffer an overwhelming de- 
feat. The bloody battles which took place for the 
capture and defense of Spottsylvania Court House 
would have been avoided and many thousand lives 
would have been spared to continue operations 
under much more favorable circumstances. It was 
a great opportunity lost, but rapid infantry march- 
ing in those days was not in fashion. Upon this 
particular occasion, no one in authority seems to 
have given the slightest thought to the opportunity 
offered, nor to have had the slightest idea as to the 
value of celerity in such operations. The custom of 
out-marching and out-flanking the enemy had not yet 
made its appearance in that army, and even after 

1 O. R. Serial No. 67, pp. 991, 871, 878. 



it came it was of painfully slow and uncertain 
growth. 1 

In the direct movement from Todd's Tavern to- 
ward Spottsylvania Court House the other two 
divisions of the cavalry corps had the advance. 
They were expected to clear the road to Snell's 
Bridge and at or near that place to form a junction 
with me, and although they started early the night 
before, May 7, they soon met the enemy and, be- 
coming hotly engaged, were forced to stay their ad- 
vance. Stuart's cavalry got there first. Sheridan 
never reached Snell's Bridge, but was shortly forced 
to one side by the resistance of the enemy and the 
oncoming of the Fifth and Sixth Corps. Warren, 
commanding the Fifth, years afterwards complained 
bitterly of the way in which Torbert and Gregg de- 
layed the march of his weightier columns and com- 
pelled them between waking and sleeping through- 
out a long and tiresome night to creep slowly to 
the front. He always contended that the cavalry 
should have kept together on the left flank and given 
the infantry a clear road. As it was, both the Fifth 
and the Sixth Corps were compelled more than once 
to halt and develop line of battle during the night. 
With all they could do, they made but poor prog- 
ress, and by daylight found themselves stopped 
altogether. It was shortly after this that Meade 
rode upon the field, but the opposing lines were al- 
ready formed, and, after looking over the situa- 
tion, which was now clearly one of a deadlock 
or an impasse, Meade turned to Warren and, 
as related several years afterwards by the latter, 

1 O. R. Serial No. 67, pp. 18, 190, 191, 326, 871, 907. 


"Warren, I want you to cooperate with Sedg- 
wick and see what can be done." 

Whereupon Warren, who had been Meade's 
chief-of-staff, and had doubtless been accustomed 
to talking plainly with him, said: 

"General Meade, I'll be God d d if I'll co- 
operate with Sedgwick or anybody else. You are 
the commander of this army and can give your or- 
ders and I will obey them ; or you can put Sedgwick 
in command and he can give the orders and I will 
obey them ; or you can put me in command and I will 
give the orders and Sedgwick shall obey them; but 

I'll be God d d if I'll cooperate with General 

Sedgwick or anybody else." 

Strange as it may seem, Meade took no notice 
of this extraordinary speech, but, leaving the com- 
mand largely to Sedgwick, who was the senior, de- 
voted himself to bringing more troops to the front. 
It was while looking at the enemy's position and 
encouraging his men the next day that the heroic 
Sedgwick was shot through the head and instantly 

It is scarcely conceivable that such language 
could have been used to the commander of an army 
by one of his subordinates, and when I told Warren 
that if I had been in Meade's place I should have 
sent him to the rear in arrest, he replied that he 
knew to whom he was talking, and then added, with 
pensive sadness, that if he had been arrested at that 
time it would probably have saved him from a 
greater misfortune afterwards. In this he was 
doubtless alluding to the fact that Sheridan, at the 
close of the battle of Five Forks, relieved him from 
command for hesitation and slowness which might 



never have been charged against him had Meade 
properly resented the insubordinate language 
quoted above. 

Warren, it is but fair to observe, was a gallant 
West Point officer of great experience and fine abil- 
ity, who was generally regarded as one of the most 
capable corps commanders our army ever had, but 
he was captious and impatient of control, and per- 
haps naturally became more and more accustomed 
to the use of violent language as he beheld with 
what fatuity the Army of the Potomac was com- 
manded. Certain it is that toward the latter part 
of his career he hardly ever received an order which 
he did not criticize nor a suggestion which he did 
not resent, but I am persuaded that no man in the 
army knew better than he the difference between 
discussion looking to delay or to change of plan 
and prompt obedience to a positive order from his 
superior. On the occasion mentioned above, he 
doubtless meant to rebuke Meade, who had appar- 
ently directed cooperation without carefully consid- 
ering that it was a formless and almost meaningless 
use of words where positive orders would have been 
far more creditable to himself as well as more cer- 
tain to secure the best efforts of the general to 
whom they were directed. 

This incident recalls another in which Warren 
took part a few weeks later and in which he made 
himself most disagreeable to me and my staff. It 
was shortly after the costly and unfortunate battle 
at Cold Harbor. Sheridan had been detached with 
two divisions to break up the railroads north of 
Richmond, while I was left to cover the passage of 
the Chickahominy and the march to the James. The 



orders for this movement, as I construed them, con- 
templated that the first pontoon bridge should be 
laid at the site of Long Bridge after nightfall un- 
der Warren's supervision, and, that done, I was 
to cross and push out with Chapman's brigade 
toward White Oak Swamp and Eichmond, and thus 
cover and screen the movements of the infantry 

In accordance with my invariable custom, my 
command was mounted and at the appointed place 
on the minute, but the pontoniers had not laid the 
bridge, and the advance was correspondingly de- 
layed. It was soon dark, and, as the bridge site was 
near at hand, I naturally kept close watch upon it 
in order that I might get under way at the earliest 
possible moment, but, as the pontoniers were doing 
nothing, I sent an officer to Warren, calling his at- 
tention to the fact that the bridge was not ready, 
and my advance could not begin. As this produced 
no effect I shortly sent another officer with a simi- 
lar message and the same result. It was now after 
nine o'clock, and the delay was becoming serious. 
My impatience was increasing, and this finally 
caused me to send Lieutenant Yard, my junior aid- 
de-camp, with a still more urgent message and an 
injunction to ride fast. He was back in a few min- 
utes, his face flaming and his eyes suffused with 
tears. He was but a boy, and although much agi- 
tated by the incident reported at once : 

"General, I gave your compliments and message 
to General Warren, exactly as you gave them to 
me, but, instead of receiving me politely, he cursed 
me out and then with a loud and insulting oath 
said: 'Tell General Wilson if he can't lay that 



bridge to get out of the way with his damned cav- 
alry and I'll lay it,' " 

While I was amazed at this rough and discour- 
teous message, I lost no time in sending my three 
West Point officers, Andrews, Beaumont, and Noyes, 
either of whom was quite as competent as Warren 
to lay a bridge, all at once to take charge of the job, 
while my Adjutant Captain Siebert, with ready alac- 
rity, threw a detachment across the creek on drift 
logs and overhanging trees and drove the enemy's 
pickets from the opposite bank. The operation was 
a simple and effective one. The bridge was soon 
ready and although the night was well advanced 
the cavalry crossed at once and pushed the enemy 
rapidly back upon his supports. The next day we 
advanced to the Charles City crossroads, where 
Warren, with his leading division, joined us shortly 
after sunup. As I had not seen him personally for 
several days, he not only greeted me in complimen- 
tary terms, but, much to my surprise, extended his 
hand politely, as though nothing had passed to dis- 
turb our relations. Eecalling his rude message the 
night before I declined to shake hands, coldly re- 
marking that he must excuse me. Thereupon he 
asked what was the matter, to which I replied I did 
not care to have anything to do with a general who 
would insult an aid-de-camp and send such a mes- 
sage as he had sent me the night before. To my 
surprise he did not seem to remember clearly, and, 
declaring that he didn't mean an offense, offered 
what was evidently a sincere apology for his rude- 

This, of course, closed the incident for the time, 
but a few days later I found myself at Grant's head- 



quarters near the crossing of the James Eiver. The 
campaign had not been going as rapidly or as sat- 
isfactorily as he wished. The different army corps 
had begun to show the qualities of the balky team 
to which he afterward likened them, and success 
was far from presenting itself as it had on every 
field of the west. The general was evidently feeling 
the strain of the situation and, in the resulting 
frame of mind, said : 

"Wilson, what is the matter with this army?" 

I replied at once: 

"General, there is a great deal the matter with 
it, but I can tell you much more easily how to 
cure it." 

Whereupon he asked me: "How?" 

"Send for Parker, the Indian chief, and, 
after giving him a tomahawk, a scalping knife, 
and a gallon of the worst whiskey the Com- 
missary Department can supply, send him out 
with orders to bring in the scalps of major 
generals. ' ' 

This brought a smile to the General's face, 
promptly followed by the question: "Whose?" 

Quite as promptly, I replied: 

"Oh, the first he comes to, and so on in succes- 
sion till he gets at least a dozen. ! ' 

The General evidently understood what I meant 
and far from resenting my suggestion, without a mo- 
menta pause, asked: "But where shall we get gen- 
erals to fill their places?" 

To which I replied: 

"Oh, that's easy! To use a favorite phrase of 
yours, every brigadier in this army 'will step up 
and take sugar in his'n';" by which I meant such 



as might be selected would promptly accept any 
higher grade coming his way. 

With a smile showing that he understood the al- 
lusion, his face grew more serious as he asked if I 
had any particular person in mind. And thereupon 
I described Warren's conduct the night we crossed 
the Chickahominy. As though he had heard com- 
plaints of that officer before, the General added 
at once: "Well, I'll take care of Warren anyhow.' ' 
And from that day forward, there is reason to be- 
lieve he kept Warren under close observation. 

The simple fact was that the army organization 
itself was bad throughout. The staff arrangements 
were sadly defective and orders for movements 
were frequently lacking in detail and coherence, 
and were, therefore, executed poorly and ineffect- 
ually. With the Army of the Potomac composed of 
the Second, Fifth and Sixth Corps and cavalry 
corps, with Hunter's independent force in the Val- 
ley of Virginia, with Butler's Army of the James, 
based on Fortress Monroe, and with Burnside's 
corps independent of these three separate organi- 
zations, operations were generally lacking in co- 
ordination and coherence, if not in vigor. Grant's 
staff, while composed of able and energetic men, 
was not organized to supervise or direct military 
movements. Bawlins, his chief-of-staff, although 
from civil life, possessed as much vigor and prac- 
tical experience as any volunteer in the army, but 
soon after coming east he began to lose control over 
policies as well as over details. He was, besides, 
in bad health and naturally felt some hesitation in 
asserting himself in the presence of others and es- 
pecially of the regulars who now constituted the 



larger part of Grant's working staff. Besides it 
was Grant's declared policy to give his orders in 
general terms, leaving those to whom they were di- 
rected free to carry out the details in their own 
way. The result with so big and complicated a ma- 
chine was far from satisfactory. 

I have always thought that had Grant at the 
start consolidated the various corps in Virginia into 
a single army and organized his staff, not only for 
gathering information and making orders, but for 
supervising their execution, the results must have 
been far better. With corps and division com- 
manders differing in talents, temperament, and idio- 
syncrasies and their forces spread out in a thinly 
settled country abounding in rivers, creeks, forests, 
and dirt roads, it was natural that they should look 
at matters from different points of view, that they 
should differ in regard to the best way of reaching 
and engaging the enemy, and that their final move- 
ments should be neither synchronous nor well de- 
signed to accomplish the results at which all were 
aiming. With such officers as Sherman, McPher- 
son, and Thomas, each commanding an army corps, 
coherence was fairly obtained, and it was safe to 
leave minor details to be worked out by them, but 
in Virginia, with a much wider and more difficult 
terrain and much greater numbers, a different policy 
and a compact organization of the staff as well as 
of the armies would doubtless have brought about 
better results. 

While the strategy and logistics of the Overland 
campaign, as it was called, were good, if not bril- 
liant, the tactics, both minor and grand, were of the 
simplest kind, the infantry marching was in nearly 



every instance culpably slow, the order of battle 
was generally parallel and in single line, and, as the 
enemy was nearly always strongly entrenched and 
on the defensive, the attacking forces lost heavily 
from the start. They naturally grew more and more 
timid as they advanced into the enemy's country. 
Then, too, it is not to be denied that the corps com- 
manders and troops were somewhat inclined to doubt 
Grant's superiority over the generals who had pre- 
viously led them. Many openly declared that he 
had not so far met either the Confederacy's best 
generals or its best troops, and more than once 
good patriotic officers openly expressed the opinion 
that Grant would find Lee a very much more diffi- 
cult man to beat than Buckner, Pemberton, Joe 
Johnston, or Bragg. A few went even further and 
said: "When Lee takes command of both armies, 
as he has done several times before, we shall go 
rattling back to the Potomac.' \ 

This feeling was not allayed, but rather 
strengthened, by the earlier events of the Overland 
campaign, and it was still arousing the apprehen- 
sion of the timid, when Gordon's turning movement 
overwhelmed the right flank of the Sixth Corps in 
the Wilderness. At all events, from that time forth 
till the beginning of the final campaign next year 
the Army of the Potomac seemed generally to lack 
both elan and coherence, while its attacks were made 
with decreasing vigor and determination. Of course, 
there were notable exceptions, such as the attack 
of Hancock and Upton at Spottsylvania, and of 
Baldy Smith and Upton at Cold Harbor, but, withal, 
it is safe to say that the one thing which held the 
army to its bloody work was its superiority of num- 



bers and resources and Grants unshakable resolu- 
tion to continue the campaign till he had worn out 
Lee and his army by persistence, superiority of num- 
bers, and "mere attrition," if not by superior 
strategy and fighting. 1 

1 See Grant's final report, O. R., also "Personal Memoirs of 
U. S. Grant," Vol. II, p. 555. 




Sheridan's raid against Lee's communications — Battle of 
Yellow Tavern — Death of J. E. B. Stuart — Affair near 
Richmond — Passage of the Chickahominy — James 
River — Return to Grant's army — Turn Lee's left at 
Jericho Mills — Meet Grant and Rawlins — Army gossip. 

The infantry and artillery of the two armies at 
last facing each other in the Wilderness, in what 
has been aptly called a death-grapple, there was 
little required of the cavalry but to come together 
on the extreme left and front, to cover any turning 
movement Grant might make around Lee's right, or 
to cut loose entirely, throwing itself with all its 
weight against Lee's cavalry and his communica- 
tions. For the first time, Sheridan had his corps, 
fully twelve thousand men in the saddle, united and 
well in hand. Each division had filled its part in 
the preliminary operations, but, working separately, 
had done but little more than develop the enemy's 
movements, while screening our own. 

At dawn, May 9, we began a cooperating 
campaign against Lee's communications with Rich- 
mond. The redoubtable but over-praised Stuart, 
with two divisions, somewhat strung out, was 
promptly in pursuit, but, withal, we were able to 



make way toward the south without material diffi- 
fTculty or delay. We found the country open and 
fairly well supplied with food and forage, but the 
old Virginia farmsteads showed the usual signs of 
poverty and exhaustion. The landscape, like that 
of the entire Piedmont region, was most beautiful, 
the country fine and rolling, and both fields and 
streams fringed with growing timber. We found 
but few houses with any pretensions to elegant archi- 
tecture and none to prosperity. The white men 
of military age were all in the army, while even the 
old men and women generally fled upon our ap- 
proach. Even the negroes and the farmstock hid 
' in the woods till we passed. 

My division had the lead the first day, camping 
that night near Anderson's Bridge, on the North 
Anna Eiver. At daylight on the 10th I encountered 
and drove the enemy's advanced detachments to the 
south side, covering the passage of the Second Divi- 
sion, the rear guard of which became strongly en- 
gaged with the rebel cavalry coming down from 
Lee's army. It had discovered our movements, but 
was too weak in front to delay us seriously. All 
that day, however, we had sharp skirmishing to 
the South Anna Eiver, which we crossed at the 
Ground Squirrel Bridge with but little trouble. The 
whole corps bivouacked that night ' south of the 
bridge, and early the next morning continued its 
march toward Eichmond, the first division in ad- 
vance, the second bringing up the rear. Although 
both front and rear were skirmishing more or less 
actively throughout the day, my men in the middle 
of the column did not fire a shot till the afternoon, 
when we came up with the enemy under Stuart in 



force near the Yellow Tavern, on the main Bich- 
mond road, ten or twelve miles north of the city. 
Custer's brigade was first to develop the enemy's 
position without becoming actively engaged. As my 
division was following closely, with Chapman's bri- 
gade in the lead, we went rapidly into line on Cus- 
ter's left. It was evident from the deliberate move- 
ments and strong show of force that a serious fight 
was at hand, and with that confidence and dash which 
always come with the consciousness of strength, a 
general rush was made upon the enemy posted in 
the edge of the field beyond the Tavern, and in an 
incredibly short time we overbore his line, carried 
his position, and drove his men in confusion from 
the field. It was a spirited affair, in which Colonel 
Chapman, the brigade commander, and Colonel 
Preston of the Third Vermont led his splendid regi- 
ment in a mounted charge with flashing sabers 
against the enemy's center, while I directed the dis- 
mounted men against his right with the result that 
we captured his guns, crumpled up his dismounted 
line, and broke it into hopeless fragments. Cus- 
ter, with the First Michigan mounted and the rest 
of his brigade dismounted, charged abreast of Chap- 
man farther to the right and was also fully success- 
ful, but while my men were pressing the enemy Cus- 
ter halted to gather up the spoils and to sound 
paeans of victory. 1 

From the accounts of this brilliant affair, which 
soon found their way into the newspapers, it might 
have been supposed that Custer's brigade did all 
the fighting and was entitled to all the credit, while 
as a matter of fact my whole division was present, 

1 O. R. Serial No. 67, pp. 790, 879, 898. 


and it was well understood by all who saw it that 
the modest Chapman did fully half the fighting and 
was entitled to fully half the credit. In the general 
melee following the first charge every man did his 
duty, and much gallantry was displayed, but, after 
all, the victory was far more easily gained than 
might have been expected. The truth is that while 
we had only about three thousand men actually en- 
gaged, supported by seven thousand more within 
close call, Stuart had not more than two thousand 
five hundred men in our front under his personal 
command, while his other division was too far to 
the rear to give him any help. It will be seen, there- 
fore, that the advantage was from the first in our 
favor, and that it was not a battle a outrance, be- 
tween Sheridan and Stuart, nor between their re- 
spective corps on a fair and open field. But it was 
not without decided and important results, for, as 
we learned later, Stuart, who commanded in person, 
received a mortal wound early in the fight and was 
carried into Richmond, where he died the next day. 
It was this fact that made the affair an epoch in 
the history of the Confederate cavalry. Stuart, 
knowing the defenseless condition of Richmond and 
assuming that it was Sheridan's objective, staked 
his all in vainly trying to check his antagonist's 
dashing onset. While the calm and imperturbable 
Wade Hampton, a far steadier and more judicious 
leader, succeeded Stuart in command, it soon be- 
came known to us that the Confederate cavalry as 
well as the Confederate infantry in Virginia were 
overweighted, and therefore destined to be com- 
pletely defeated in the end. 

We naturally thought at first that Stuart 's whole 


corps had confronted us at the Yellow Tavern and 
that, having defeated him in fair fight, onr suprem- 
acy was assured. I have never been one of those 
who regarded him as the Eupert of the Confederate 
army. He was a hardy, cheerful, and gallant leader, 
full of enterprise and daring, but by no means an 
invincible or even a model cavalryman. Like Kil- 
patrick, he generally overworked his men and horses 
in useless raids and seems never to have fully real- 
ized the advantage of operating in masses in close 
cooperation with the infantry. His failure to cover 
Lee's concentration at Gettysburg and his absence 
from that field were mistakes which have never been 
satisfactorily explained. The simple fact is he was 
as great a favorite with Lee as Sheridan was with 
Grant, and seems to have had carte blanche to do 
about as he pleased. Although without previous 
military training, Hampton in the East and Forrest 
in the West were quite his equals in personal prow- 
ess and leadership, while Hampton was certainly 
his superior in administration and generalship. 
While both were finally outweighted and overborne, 
Hampton never divided his forces in the face of 
his opponent, but, as will be pointed out more in 
detail further on, he used his entire corps with con- 
summate ability a few weeks later, first against 
Sheridan, north of Eichmond, and second against 
me, south of Petersburg. Having a central position 
and shorter lines, he lacked nothing but weight to 
use us both up completely. As it was, he forced 
Sheridan to retire from Trevellian Station by a 
wide detour, and gave me all I could do to save my 
command and rejoin the army from which both had 
been detached and sent on divergent and dangerous 



missions in flagrant violation of well-established 
military principles. 

After a few hours at the Yellow Tavern, during 
which the corps closed up and men and horses rested 
and fed, we resumed our movement toward Eich- 

In pursuance of verbal instructions, our march 
began at 11 p. m., with my division in the lead and 
the other divisions following. Our purpose was not 
at any time to attack Eichmond, but to cross the 
Chickahominy, which encircled and covered it as 
a wet ditch, and march between it and the defenses 
of Eichmond by the way of Fair Oaks Station to 
HaxalPs Landing on the James. Our route lay 
along the Brook turnpike southward to within five 
miles of the city, and then turned to the left by 
country roads along the south bank of the Chicka- 
hominy to the Virginia Central Eailroad and the 
Mechanicsville turnpike, which we reached just be- 
fore daylight, without opposition or unusual delay. 
But the night was an exciting one. We were within 
a few miles of the Confederate capital, and while 
we knew neither the strength of its garrison nor 
the position of the cavalry which we had defeated, 
we kept a sharp lookout in all directions. While 
there was no fighting, my column was thrown into 
some confusion by exploding torpedoes, planted in 
the turnpike along which we were marching. Sup- 
posing that the actual explosions indicated other 
mines, we naturally took the roadside where the 
country would permit it, and fortunately met noth- 
ing else to halt or delay us till the advance reached 
the Mechanicsville turnpike. Here my guide with 
some trepidation declared he could take us no far- 



ther, without explaining the reason, which became 
all too evident a few minutes later. Having no time 
to waste, I halted long enough to send an officer to 
a neighboring house for another guide. Day was 
just dawning when he returned with a farmer who 
said he knew the country thoroughly. While some- 
what surprised at our presence, he offered no ob- 
jection to serving us, and at once asked if I knew 
where we were, to which I replied I had a vague 
idea we were wedged in between the fortifications 
of Eichmond on the one hand and the Chickahominy 
on the other, and that they could not be far apart. 
Thereupon the new guide said: "You're right, but 
you are also up against a battery of heavy guns 
not two hundred yards away completely sweeping 
the road on which you are standing as well as the 
country on both sides, and it is impossible to pass 
between that battery and the river.' \ Eealizing at 
once that we might be in a tight place, I ordered 
my aid-de-camp, Captain Whitaker, to ride up the 
road toward the rebel lines. Although it was still 
quite dark, his large, gray horse could be plainly 
seen for fifty or sixty yards, but had just disap- 
peared from view when the whole side of the heavens 
seemed lit up by a flash, followed instantly by the 
roar of cannon and the rush of hot air and round 
shot down the road on which I was standing with 
my staff and orderlies. Several horses were dis- 
emboweled, several had their legs knocked off and 
floundered into the ditches by the roadside, while 
the staff swept back a few yards toward the river, 
taking cover under the brow of the hill overlooking 
the bottom beyond. Fortunately, neither officer nor 
man was seriously injured, though several were 



badly bruised. As I escaped without being dis- 
mounted, I hurriedly ordered the two brigade com- 
manders to dismount the whole division and throw 
out their dismounted men toward the fortifications, 
while screening their led horses in the valley of the 
Chickahominy to our rear. Although the situation 
was exciting, as we were in a cut de sac, with for- 
tifications to the front not three hundred yards 
away, and a river not half that distance to the rear, 
my orders were executed without confusion. My 
two batteries, under their splendid young leaders, 
Fitzhugh and Pennington, were thrown promptly 
into position and were soon combing the crests of 
the fortifications, now plainly in sight, while the 
dismounted troopers were deploying to the front. 
Their carbines made lively music and soon drove 
the Confederates back into their works. As it turned 
out, they were largely home guards, and, had we 
known it, we could have easily captured the city 
and its scanty garrison, as well as the Confederate 
Government, but, unfortunately, this was not Sheri- 
dan's plan. His first duty was to make good his 
position and get into the open country again. In 
the midst of the racket at its highest, Sheridan's 
aid, Captain Goddard, galloped up to me in great 
excitement, exclaiming: "General Sheridan orders 
you to hold your position at all hazards while he 
arranges to withdraw the corps to the north side 
of the river." 

As there was nothing else to do unless we con- 
cluded to risk all in assaulting the enemy's works, 
after twitting the captain about the "ricochet hat" 
he wore, I said: "Go back to General Sheridan 
and tell him his orders shall be obeyed, but, like 



John Phoenix in his celebrated fight with the editor 
of the San Diego Herald, say onr hair is badly en- 
tangled in his fingers and our nose firmly inserted 
in his mouth, and we shall, therefore, hold on here 
till something breaks!" This was literally true, 
but our condition was not quite so desperate as it 
seemed. As daylight made the situation clearer 
we had but little difficulty in getting rid of the 
enemy, but as soon as we could look about, it became 
certain that we could not cross the Mechanicsville 
turnpike, that the fortifications actually rested on 
the brow of the hill overlooking the valley, and 
that there was no road whatever between them and 
the river. Having made good our position, there 
was nothing further to do but to hold on while Sheri- 
dan cleared the ground behind us, and repaired the 
bridge in rear of his center, and as soon as it be- 
came passable to withdraw by the flanks of divi- 
sions to the north side of the river. 

As Custer covered the road to the rear, he was 
detailed to reconstruct the bridge, but, having no 
bridge train, he had to tear down the neighboring 
houses for the necessary materials. He was not an 
engineer, but with his West Point training he made 
short work of the job, and before the morning was 
half spent, although the enemy made a feeble show 
of advancing, Gregg, Merritt, and Custer had crossed 
and left me to bring off the rear. This, as it turned 
out, was a simple task, though Sheridan evidently 
thought it a complicated one, for he rode up and 
down the line, waving his hat and sword and en- 
couraging the men by words both rude and profane 
to hold on firmly till their comrades were all safely 
out of the way. Inasmuch, however, as the enemy 



did not press us and our men were steady veterans 
who had been in tight places many times before, 
the movement was completed without loss or con- 
fusion, and with my escort I was the last to cross. 

During this episode Sheridan was as much ex- 
cited as any man in the command. He evidently 
thought the corps was in an exceedingly dangerous 
position, and that if attacked in force he might lose 
a large part, if not the whole, of his command. He 
certainly had no thought of assuming the offensive 
or attacking the fortifications, but was bent upon 
getting out of a bad box as best he could. That 
done, the next step was to march to a junction with 
Butler, then supposed to be at or in the neighbor- 
hood of Bermuda Hundred. We needed rations and 
forage badly and had no means of knowing that 
the Confederate capital was without an adequate 
garrison. In his reports, as well as in his less for- 
mal explanations, Sheridan always claimed that he 
did not go into Eichmond merely because he had 
no orders to do so, and this was literally the truth, 
but from the Confederate accounts of the situation 
it is now certain that the capture of that place would 
have been easy work for the twelve thousand 
troopers Sheridan had with him. According to the 
facts, it was an opportunity in which audacity and 
a bold stroke might gain a notable success. With 
Eichmond firmly in our possession, and Butler's 
army only a few miles to the southeast, we could 
easily have made good our position, and this must 
have" produced a tremendous impression upon Lee 
and the Confederacy. 

As it was, our advance had hardly got across 
the Chickahominy before that part of Stuart's com- 



mand we had fought the day before at Yellow Tav- 
ern, having cut across country, undertook to bar 
our further progress, but it was an easy task to 
brush them out of the way and resume our march 
by Mechanicsville and Pole Green Church to Gains ' 
House, where we encamped that night. 

The next day we crossed the Chickahominy at 
Bottom's Bridge and marched thence to Malvern 
Hill, the scene of McClellan's greatest defensive 
battle, to Haxall's Landing on the James, where we 
encamped early on the morning of the 14th. The 
country was familiar to our officers and men, but 
it was entirely stripped of forage and food, and, 
therefore, we were anxious to get through it and 
open communications with Butler's transports and 
depots beyond. On arriving at the river we got 
the New York papers, from which we first heard 
of Sedgwick's death and of Grant's encouraging 
message: "I propose to fight it out on this line if 
it takes all summer." 

Having reached a place of safety and plenty, 
both officers and men felt quite exultant over their 
long and successful march, and were encouraged 
by the hope that with our assistance Butler would 
be able to isolate Eichmond, destroy its communi- 
cations, compel Lee to let loose in front of Grant, 
and hurry back to the defense of Richmond. But 
this hope, like many others during that summer, was 
destined to disappointment. As far as we could 
make out, Butler was doing but little, and, while 
it was pretty certain that Lee was slowly falling 
back before Grant, Sheridan, as soon as he had se- 
cured supplies, determined to retrace his steps and 
rejoin Grant, wherever he might be found. Mean- 



while, knowing what I did from service along the 
southern coast, I wrote to Dana, urging that the 
forces employed in useless coastwise expeditions, 
amounting to some eighteen or twenty thousand 
men, should be at once brought to Butler 's support, 
although it was evident even at that early date that 
Butler was at outs with Gillmore and perhaps with 
other subordinate commanders, and that, therefore, 
it would be better to put that part of the army 
under someone in whom it would have greater con- 

While the men were resting and drawing sup- 
plies I accompanied Sheridan to Bermuda Hundred, 
where I met Butler as well as Baldy Smith, his 
next in command, and was not long in discovering 
that they were at outs with each other. The entries 
in my diary at the time show that the divided com- 
mand and responsibilities of that Department were 
far from working satisfactorily. Subsequent de- 
velopments made it certain that this view was cor- 
rect, and as they were confirmed by Morgan and 
Bowen, both regular officers of high character and 
great ability, I was justified in the conclusion that I 
ought to make both Bawlins and Grant acquainted 
with the real situation on the James as soon as I 
could safely do it. 

On May 16 we learned through Richmond 
papers that Stuart had died of the wounds received 
at Yellow Tavern and that the Confederate authori- 
ties regarded his loss as irreparable. 

For some reason, not explained and now diffi- 
cult to understand, Sheridan decided to begin his 
return march by night of the 17th. His route lay 
nearly due north to Jones' Bridge and Mount Oli- 



vette Church, but as the roads were bad and our 
teams worse, our progress was but slow. On the 
18th we made only five miles, and on the 19th three. 
Starting at dawn of the 20th, my division camped 
at an early hour on the Mattadequin Creek near 
the house of President Tyler's widow, where we 
enjoyed strawberries and cream, ice water, and hos- 
pitality in exchange for protection. In this fine old 
house and others like it along the line of march I 
found a lot of old-time but excellent books, among 
others Zimmerman's " Solitude, ' ' "The Life of 
Thomas Jefferson," and the "Life of Suvarrow," 
all published before 1810. I was familiar, of course, 
with the campaigns of the Russian General, but had 
never before seen an analysis of his character, the 
author's summary of which praised him for per- 
sonal activity and bravery, for never hesitating a 
moment to attack his enemy, whether en route or 
in position, and for never waiting to receive an on- 
slaught. His plans were praised as conforming to 
correct principles, which were always carried out 
with such frenzy of desperation as to make them 
invariably successful. The lesson was a good one 
for our army till the end of the war. 

In our deliberate march northward I had con- 
siderable time for reflection, as well as for reading. 
The Eichmond papers fell into our hands almost 
daily and told us how Grant was pressing steadily 
but slowly by the way of Guiney and Milford sta- 
tions along the Fredericksburg Railroad toward 

After conferring fully with Sheridan in regard 
to Butler's campaign on the James and its rela- 
tions to Grant's more important movements north 



of Richmond, we concurred in the conclusion that 
we should put our views in writing and send them 
by courier, mine to Rawlins and Sheridan's to Col- 
onel Comstock, and this was done. Both urged that 
Butler should be relieved and his army turned over 
to Baldy Smith, with orders to push the enemy vig- 
orously, first to capture Petersburg, and second to 
destroy the railroads south of Petersburg and Rich- 
mond for the purpose of cutting of! the supplies 
passing through those places to Lee's army north 
of them. 

While still resting at Mrs. Tyler's house and 
reading criticisms from her library of Napoleon, 
Wellington, and Washington, we heard heavy can- 
nonading toward Fredericksburg, and this contin- 
ued at intervals the whole of the next day, but what 
it meant we did not find out till after we rejoined 
the army. 1 

Marching at 3:30, May 22, we arrived at the 
White House, near the head of York River, at 11 
a. m v and there replenished our supplies from trans- 
ports at that place. Sheridan had sent to Fortress 
Monroe for a pontoon train, but the next day we 
crossed the Pamunkey on the railroad bridge, two 
hundred and seventy yards long, which we planked 
over with boards gathered from the neighboring 
country. Our route lay through King William Court 
House and Dunkirk to Aylett's Station, and during 
the whole day we heard heavy and continuous sound 
of artillery from the direction of Hanover Junction, 
more than twenty miles to the westward. The roar 
was as loud and continuous as any I ever heard ex- 

ir The enemy attacked the Sixth Corps at Spottsylvania, O. E. 
Serial No. 67, p. 193. 



cept on the battlefield. Custer had been detached 
in that direction for the purpose of destroying the 
bridges just north of that place, and the sounds 
which reached us were from his guns, but, having 
encountered a strong force moving northward, his 
efforts were unsuccessful. Had the whole corps gone 
with him the result must have been different, but, 
operating as we did far to the eastward, our whole 
movement, so far as it concerned Lee's communica- 
tions was disappointing. While we broke his rail- 
roads going south, first at Beaver Dam and later 
at Ashland, capturing three trainloads of provisions 
with one million five hundred thousand rations, a 
supply of forage for our half-starved horses, and a 
large quantity of medical stores, besides recapturing 
three hundred and seventy-five Union prisoners, we 
did not pay sufficient attention to the destruction 
of the enemy's railroads, either going or returning. 
But the enemy's mistakes were much greater than 
ours. While our force was generally united in a 
compact mass, his was scattered, part in our rear 
and part in our front, and although this was more 
or less disconcerting, as it caused Sheridan to mini- 
mize the work of destruction, it did not prevent him 
from moving against and engaging the enemy when- 
ever he came within reach. But, having no precise 
information as to Grant's progress, or of Lee's ex- 
act position from day to day, we were perhaps over- 
cautious in our own movements, which we carried 
on as far to the east as the necessity of crossing 
the rivers and estuaries flowing into the Chesapeake 
would allow. 

Withal we rejoined the Army of the Potomac on 
May 24 at Old Chesterfield Court House, having 



been sixteen days absent, four of which we passed 
on the James and two on the York, leaving ten spent 
in marching and fighting. Our entire loss was two 
hundred and ninety-five men and officers. The total 
distance traveled was approximately one hun- 
dred and forty miles, or, not counting the 
days in camp, an average of about fourteen miles 
per day. 

It should be observed that from the time Sheri- 
dan cut loose from the army at Spottsylvania till 
he rejoined it he was practically operating in the 
open country against Lee's communications and the 
Confederate capital with his three divisions of cav- 
alry, united and well in hand, while Stuart had but 
two divisions and not more than two-thirds as many 
men operating separately for their defense. The 
advantages were largely in our favor and the op- 
portunity a great one for striking a vital blow. Now 
that it is all over and the records of both sides avail- 
able, it is apparent that we might not only have 
defeated the Confederates again, as we did at Yel- 
low Tavern, but could easily have destroyed the rail- 
roads and captured Eichmond, had we but known 
their defenseless condition. 

The fact is that neither Sheridan, his generals, 
nor his command had yet entirely found themselves. 
The generals were more or less unacquainted with 
each other and with Sheridan, and this sufficiently 
accounts for the absence of that vigor and coherence 
which afterward characterized their operations. 
Sheridan was operating not only in a new field, but 
with a new command. While he had led a cavalry 
regiment for a few weeks in west Tennessee and 
had commanded a division of infantry for two years, 



he was essentially an infantry officer till he was 
transferred to the Army of the Potomac. He be- 
longed to that arm of the service since leaving West 
Point, and, although he had shown extraordinary 
steadiness and courage as a division commander, he 
had not yet acquired the self-confidence and inde- 
pendence which finally characterized him as one of 
the boldest and most successful cavalry leaders of 
his time. His career shows plainly that whatever 
may be a soldier 's natural qualities or however high 
his education, it takes experience to give him con- 
fidence in an independent command and in fighting 
battles. Books teach most lessons of war fairly 
well. They lay down the established principles of 
strategy, logistics, and administration, and the in- 
dustrious student may get almost everything out of 
them to make the perfect general except experience. 
That comes only with hard knocks and constant serv- 
ice, and experience thus acquired is the greatest of 
all requisites to a successful commander. 

Immediately after rejoining the army we found 
it facing Lee on the South Anna Eiver, where the 
situation had again become that of checkmate. Lee 's 
position, covered as it was by the river, seemed to 
be unassailable by direct attack and Grant had evi- 
dently already made up his mind to turn it again 
by a side march to a lower crossing of the Pamun- 
key near Hanovertown. This brought the cavalry 
again to a condition of dispersion. My division, al- 
though just as tired and needing rest as badly as 
the others, was transferred at once to the right at 
Jericho Mills, where it crossed to the south side of 
the North Anna beyond the right of the Sixth Corps, 
whence it detached a dismounted force to cross Little 



Eiver for the purpose of making a demonstration 
against Lee's left and rear. 1 While this was going 
on the other two divisions remained at rest two 
days in camp at Polecat Station in rear of the army. 
Had they been sent with me and all three divisions 
been hurled against the left and rear of the enemy, 
he must have been greatly shaken, if not thrown 
into inextricable confusion. As it was, my move- 
ment, taking Lee's left flank completely in reverse 
and threatening his communications with Hanover- 
town, was a complete success and, accompanied by 
a spirited carbine fire, which might well have been 
mistaken for the crashing roar of an infantry divi- 
sion, as well as by a noisy pretense of bridge build- 
ing, all under the cover of darkness and a heavy 
cannonade from our twelve guns, was well calcu- 
lated to shake Lee out of his position. As the pos- 
sible advance of Grant's whole army, it certainly 
drew Lee's attention sharply to that quarter of the 
field, and, although I was forced by lack of weight 
and by ignorance of lay of the land to suspend my 
movement in the full tide of success, it was not till 
toward midnight that I ceased firing or withdrew 
my skirmishers, and recrossed both rivers to 
bivouac at Canfield's house. It was a hard day's 
work, followed by a night of great exposure and 
excitement, but I afterward learned, much to my 
gratification, that our operations were not only 
alarming and disconcerting to the enemy, but gave 
Grant a full day's start in his new turning move- 
ment. 2 

During the next three days I held the right of 

1 O. E. Serial No. 67, pp. 21, 794, 795, 808, 881. 

2 lb., pp. 21, 194, 872-5. 



our army, conforming to and covering its move- 
ments and keeping watch and ward over its rear 
along the rivers which separated the hostile forces. 
In doing this we kept our horses constantly out of 
sight and showed only our dismounted men > and 
field guns to the enemy, and this we did so effect- 
ually and with such a show of force as to conceal 
our real movements till the army made its appear- 
ance south of the Pamunkey some thirty miles 

Although it was a period of ceaseless labor and 
constant vigilance, it afforded me an opportunity 
to visit Grant's headquarters at Chesterfield Court 
House and to confer with him and his staff. All 
gave me a hearty welcome and received my reports 
of marching, fighting, and observation with a full 
appreciation of their importance. Both Grant and 
Eawlins were deeply interested in what I told them 
of Butler's opportunities and of the unfortunate 
dissensions which marred the efficiency of his army. 
Eawlins had received my letter by courier and I 
have never doubted that the personal reports made 
independently of each other by Sheridan and my- 
self were influential in moving Grant a few days 
later to withdraw Smith's corps from Butler's col- 
umn to reenforce his own army, between the Toto- 
potomoy and the Chickahominy. The front of man- 
euvers gradually grew narrower as we advanced 
toward Eichmond and the battles became bloodier 
and more costly. These facts fully justified Eaw- 
lins' constant anxiety for reinforcements, whether 
by draft or by enlistments, while they imposed upon 
Grant the imperative duty of making his advance 
not only safe but invincible by calling every man 



within reach to strengthen the army under his im- 
mediate control. 

During this period I not only saw Grant and his 
staff frequently, but received several visits from 
Dana, Eawlins, and Babcock, all of whom showed 
unabated interest in my welfare and success. It 
was in the first of these visits that they explained 
the work of detraction and misrepresentation which 
had been carried on more or less openly against my 
division since I had been in command of it. They 
named a staff officer who had been talking and I 
reported him to Sheridan, who at once gave him 
an admonition which silenced him for good and all. 
The prejudices, selfish interests, and idle talk of 
an army made up of men from all callings and all 
parts of the country, although generally founded 
on gossip, are nearly always productive of evil. 
They mar or make fortunes without reference to 
conduct or real merit. The braggart and boaster, 
especially if he is skillful in getting in with the 
newspapers, frequently gains popular favor for 
much more than he is really worth, while the faith- 
ful and modest officer who attends strictly to duty 
is far too often condemned unheard. Our army 
showed many instances of this sort, and yet candor 
compels me to add that the modest man is not al- 
ways the best soldier, nor the braggart always the 
worst. Some of the poorest officers I ever knew 
were as modest as women, while some of the best, 
while shamelessly sounding their own praises, were 
brave, dashing, and enterprising to an unusual de- 
gree. Such men frequently act as though conscious 
of having committed themselves to deeds of daring 
and feel compelled to make good at every hazard. 



They rarely reach the highest distinction, while 
those of the more thoughtful and more steadfast 
kind are content to do their duty from time to time 
according to their best judgment and leave the rest 
to their record and to those in authority over them. 
In the long run the latter class prevail. The man 
who knows when to use his brains instead of his 
sword, when to put his command in and follow its 
movements with a watchful eye, and when to place 
himself at the post of danger, resolved to win or 
lose it all by his personal leadership, is a far more 
useful officer than the reckless and thoughtless man 
who undertakes to do all the fighting himself. This 
is just as true in our great war as in the other great 
wars of history. While it is sometimes hard for a 
subordinate to follow a campaign or a battle closely 
enough to know just what the next movement should 
be, it is still harder to judge correctly when to throw 
prudence, which is often a i l rascally virtue, ' ' to the 
wind and stake all on personal courage and leader- 
ship. But the really good officer, when the time 
comes, takes the risk, far too frequently with a fatal 
result, though in the long run he and his kind win 
out and achieve real glory. 




Operations on Pamunkey and North Anna — Fights at Han- 
over Court House — Ashland and South Anna — Toto- 
potomoy — Haw's shop — Behind Lee's left — Captain 
Ulffers — Prepared rations — Sheridan detached — De- 
feated by Hampton — Cold Harbor — Upton 's comments. 

During Grant's movement to the left along the 
north bank of the Pamunkey on the last days of 
May, 1864, I followed close behind his rear guard, 
picking up stragglers from the Ninth Corps and an 
occasional deserter from Lee's forces. From one of 
the latter I learned that Lee had begun his retro- 
grade movement to Ashland Station almost imme- 
diately after my night attack against his left flank, 
and this information I deemed important enough to 
send to General Grant, as it indicated that Lee's 
new position would be twelve or fourteen miles 
south of Chesterfield, a few miles beyond the South 
Anna, behind which he would be free to move in 
any direction. It also made it certain that we were 
in but little danger of an offensive return. The 
march was therefore in the nature of rest and recrea- 
tion. While it was under way I overtook my class- 
mate, Captain Andrews, of the Eighth Infantry, who 
since the death of Sedgwick, on whose staff he had 



been serving as an aid-de-eamp, was in command 
of his company on foot. His entire baggage was 
tied up in a bandanna handkerchief and carried on 
his sword over his shoulder. He was weary, foot- 
sore, and despondent, and as soon as he saw me 
asked seriously if I knew where he could get the 
mouth-piece of a key bugle or any other part of a 
brass musical instrument. This puzzling question 
at once aroused my curiosity as well as my interest. 
He was a veteran of imperturbable temper and ap- 
proved courage who had taken an honorable part 
in all the eastern campaigns and in many of the most 
important battles. I knew, therefore, that there was 
something behind his singular inquiry, but as I could 
not imagine what it was, I answered at once : ' ' No ! 
Why do you ask?" And this brought the reply, 
without the glimmer of a smile: 

"Oh, I merely want to be considered as belong- 
ing to the band, which, you know, remains behind 
the fighting line and carries off the wounded. This 
is the only berth in this army where a man's life 
is worth a cent. Nearly everybody I know has been 
killed or wounded, and if this campaign, with its 
senseless assaults of entrenched positions and its 
ceaseless tributes of blood and death, is to continue 
much longer, my turn is sure to come soon, and I 
want to avoid that if I can honorably do so. Like 
our classmate, Martin, commanding his regiment 
at the vortex of the battle at Peach Orchard, where 
he could hear the bullets breaking the bones of his 
men like icicles falling from the eaves on a sunny 
morning, 'I feel exactly as though every minute 
might be my next!' " 

The captain's grim but impressive humor was 


followed by the first comment I had heard upon the 
rude and costly methods and the incompetency of 
corps and division commanders in that army, and 
from the specifications which followed I became con- 
vinced that the courage and confidence of both offi- 
cers and men were not only slipping away, but that 
unless better methods and greater successes could 
be assured, we might meet with an overwhelming 
disaster any day. The condition of affairs was a 
grave one and, unfortunately, there was no sign 
from any quarter that a change for the better might 
be expected. Lee and his decimated ranks still 
grimly barred our road to Eichmond and, as it 
turned out, exacted greater and greater tributes of 
blood and treasure before yielding to the inevitable. 

A few days later I asked for and obtained An- 
drews ' detail to my staff as aid-de-camp. Beaumont 
and Noyes, from the same staff, had already joined 
and, I may add, remained with me to the end of the 
war. They were all West Pointers, young, gallant, 
and accomplished, and, while they had many close 
calls from captivity and death, they escaped serious 
injury and disablement, led long and useful lives, 
and finally retired as colonels of the regular army. 
They were well fitted for high command, but those 
were strenuous days, in which the highest merit 
did not always receive adequate recognition or re- 

The Pamunkey, formed by the North and South 
Anna Eivers, is an exceedingly crooked stieam, with 
many bends, swamps and small tributaries. My 
route lay through Mangohick Church and Pounce's 
Swamp toward New Castle Ferry and Hanover- 
town, and I was especially required to remain be- 



hind, covering the trains and driving in the strag- 
glers. Later I was directed to divide my command, 
sending one brigade south of the river for the pur- 
pose of occupying the line of Crump 's Creek and to 
follow with the other as soon as everything in front 
had crossed the Pamunkey. This service was all 
safely accomplished by the last day of the month, 
when with my reunited division I was ordered to 
turn northwest up the river toward Hanover Court 
House. This speedily brought me in contact with 
the enemy's cavalry near Doctor Price's house, 
where a sharp and successful skirmish lasting till 
night took place. 

Late on May 1 I was ordered to push out and 
destroy the railroad bridges northwest of Hanover 
Court House, to begin my march in that direction 
after dark, and to continue the work of destruction 
till it was all finished or till I was reenforced or 
withdrawn. This was a most important task. Four 
railroad bridges, two across the South Anna and 
two across Little Eiver, were involved, and the pri- 
mary object was to break the railroads north of 
Eichmond connecting that place with the western 
part of the state through Gordonsville and Lynch- 
burg. As this was an operation of the first impor- 
tance which necessarily carried me in a circle 
around and toward Eichmond, with the Pamunkey 
at my back, while our army was moving away from 
me to the southeast, it exposed me to the attack of 
the entire rebel cavalry, which, based on Eichmond, 
had the short line against me from start to finish. 
The proper tactical use of the cavalry under the 
circumstances was to send the entire corps to assist 
in the work committed to me. This would have en- 



abled it to destroy the bridges and railroad effectu- 
ally in a few hours and would have given us, besides, 
an opportunity to crush or drive Hampton into the 
fortifications of Kichmond or to compel him to take 
refuge behind Lee's army. As it was, the entire 
burden of the operations fell upon my division of 
four thousand sabers. My movement began at dark 
and soon brought me in contact with Pierce M. B. 
Young's Confederate brigade. He had been a West 
Point companion of mine, a private in my cadet 
company, and was an exceedingly handsome, gal- 
lant, and enterprising officer who accepted the gage 
of battle with all confidence when I offered it 
to him. Both Mcintosh and Chapman, my brigade 
commanders, were men of dashing courage and at 
the word pushed their dismounted men across the 
creek, wounding Young himself through the body, 
and driving his men with a rush from the field to- 
ward the west. 1 

Our rest that night was but short, and at four 
o'clock the next morning we moved forward about 
four miles against the railroad. Mcintosh with the 
stronger brigade struck it at Ashland Station, near 
the birthplace of Henry Clay, while Chapman moved 
divergently against the bridges several miles fur- 
ther to the northwest. At an early hour both 
were actively engaged, Chapman, under my special 
direction, with fire and torch and Mcintosh 
with carbine and sword. It was a day of intense 
activity and excitement. All four bridges were suc- 
cessfully burned under the cover of a fierce fight 
front and rear between Mcintosh and Hampton, five 
miles to the southwest. Nothing was permitted to 

1 O. R. Serial No. 67, pp. 21, 84, 880, 882. 


interfere with the burning of the bridges and the 
breaking of the railroads. Chapman, the first to 
finish his task, was drawn back to form a junction 
with Mcintosh, who was fiercely pressed on all sides. 
Much sharp fighting ensued and some confusion re- 
sulted, but our work was accomplished, the division 
reunited, and the road opened for our return to the 
army. After nineteen hours ' marching and fighting 
we bivouacked at eleven o'clock that night in our 
old position at Hanover Court House, where we held 
on the whole of the next day, waiting for orders, 
during which we picked up a brigade of reinforce- 
ments coming from Port Eoyal under Colonel Ces- 
nola. It was composed of motley detachments on 
the way to the army, and added but little to our 
strength and nothing to our mobility. 

During the whole of the perilous operations 
about Hanover Court House and Ashland I was 
without orders from Sheridan and did not even know 
where or in what direction he was operating. My 
instructions came directly from Meade's headquar- 
ters and necessarily left me in doubt as to. every- 
thing except what concerned my command. All the 
pickets between us and the army had been with- 
drawn and, finding myself entirely isolated, late on 
June 2 I determined to march toward Cold Har- 
bor, but just before starting I received orders to 
follow up and conform to the movements of the 
army. Accordingly, at 7 p. m. I took the road, de- 
termined to go as far that night as Totopotomoy 
Creek, between twelve and fifteen miles to the south- 
east. It was raining hard and was dark and dis- 
agreeable, but for that reason exceedingly favor- 
able to our operations. At 1 :30 a. m. my advance 



formed connection with Burnside's right, but Ces- 
nola and his slow-marching infantry were not in 
position till ten o'clock the next morning. 

For the first time my division was safely in 
reserve behind the right of Burnside's corps, but, 
notwithstanding our three days' constant fighting, 
marching, and vigil, no rest was permitted to us. 
Our losses since crossing the Pamunkey in killed 
and wounded had been about two hundred men, all 
of whom, except the dead, had been brought off and 
properly cared for, so that our ambulances were 
full of sick and wounded, while our cartridge boxes 
were almost empty. Besides, my men were so tired 
that they could hardly sit their jaded and half -fam- 
ished horses. 

Under these trying circumstances I received or- 
ders at ten o'clock that morning to sally out from 
behind Burnside, pass around Lee's left flank, and 
attack him in rear. Another day of fighting and 
blood was before us, and, while the exposure and 
peril were great, there was nothing left for us but 
to undertake it. Boots and saddles were sounded 
and our weary troopers remounted as soon as pos- 
sible. Not a man murmured, but with scanty ra- 
tions and forage it was slow and discouraging work 
to get ready for the road again. Withal, the entire 
division was soon in column, moving briskly against 
the enemy, which we expected to find at or near 
Haw's Shop and Salem Church, and we were not 
disappointed in our expectations. Sheridan found 
them there several days before and, as the country 
was well supplied with rifle pits for the defense of 
the roads leading toward Richmond, the prospect 
was recognized by every officer as an exceedingly 



good one for a rough time, and a rough time 

Chapman's brigade, with the gallant First Ver- 
mont leading, soon found themselves in contact with 
the enemy, but this time it was Gordon's old bri- 
gade of infantry, which meant a more determined 
resistance than even their best cavalry could give 
us. Dismounting the best regiments of both bri- 
gades and cheering them to the charge, the fight 
was on at once in earnest. Our horses were left 
behind and our gallant troopers of the First Ver- 
mont, the Fifth and Eighth New York in open or- 
der, with their rapid-fire carbines pouring out vol- 
ley after volley, rushed with all the steadiness of 
the best infantry to the attack. The enemy made a 
brave but ineffectual stand in three successive lines 
of breastworks, but our men swept over them, one 
after the other, without hesitation, capturing 
prisoners and clearing up the country as they went 
along, but at a fearful cost of officers and men. The 
knightly Colonel Preston and the hard-fighting Cap- 
tain Cushman of the Vermont regiment were killed 
at the head of their men, while the intrepid Colonel 
Benjamin of the Eighth New York and several jun- 
ior officers and many men were wounded. 1 No bet- 
ter fighting was ever done by dismounted troopers, 
but the day's work was not yet over. 2 In gaining 
the shop and church and driving the enemy back 
on Mount Carmel Church, we had merely made 
good our possession of a congeries of cross-roads, 
uncovered the enemy's left, and opened the way to 
the Totopotomoy, two miles beyond Via's house 

1 O. R. Serial No. 67, pp. 874, 875, 882. 
' lb., pp. 84, 87, 88, 194. 



in rear of Lee's left, something over three miles 
from the scene of our first successes. 

Although nightfall was now at hand, we pushed 
forward again, but this time the Second New York 
and the Third Indiana led the advance with four 
hundred dismounted troopers, forded the Totopoto- 
moy and, with all the noise and racket they could 
make, threw themselves headlong against everything 
in their front. They soon found themselves fight- 
ing rebel infantry and under cover of the woods 
creating a tremendous commotion, but this time it 
was the left and rear of Lee 's main line which they 
were pressing. A few more prisoners were taken, 
but, as we were engaged in a tangled forest which 
the shades of night made almost impenetrable for 
anything like a regular fighting line, I made my ar- 
rangements to withdraw, sounding the recall and is- 
suing formal orders as soon as I became convinced 
that with Lee's infantry in front our attack had 
spent its force. As both our advance and our with- 
drawal were covered by a noisy fire of our two bat- 
teries at an effective range, our success was height- 
ened, while the confusion of the enemy as to its 
extent and purpose was much increased. With three 
times the force the result might have been decidedly 

As may be easily understood, our retirement in 
the dark was without disorder or delay, but it was 
well toward midnight before we were again in 
bivouac, with pickets properly posted and our ex- 
hausted and hungry men and horses again at rest. 

I, of course, sent frequent couriers by the road 
on which we came to army headquarters, but when 
our work was done and the stories told by the 



prisoners had been collected I sent my engineer, 
Captain UlfYers, an accomplished German topogra- 
pher and surveyor, long resident in the States, in 
person to Meade's headquarters with a full report, 
but, relying on his knowledge of the country, I left 
him free to take what route he pleased. Being a 
man of but few words, he said nothing, and, unfor- 
tunately, decided to make a bee line by compass to 
the point at which he supposed he would find Meade 
and his staff. As it was pitch dark and the enemy's 
army lay directly across his route, he soon found 
himself riding into Lee's headquarters instead of 
Meade's. His surprise was, however, not greater 
than that of the Confederates from whom he in- 
quired his way, but there was nothing further for 
him to do but surrender when told that he was in 
the midst of the rebel camps. Thus realizing that 
the longest way around is sometimes the shortest 
way home, he was chagrined to find himself a 
prisoner of war. 

He was taken at once to Lee, who questioned 
him closely, but he was fully on his guard and told 
only what he thought would add to the night's con- 
fusion. The next day he was sent to Richmond and 
shortly afterward to Salisbury, North Carolina, 
where he was imprisoned and, as he always alleged, 
treated with cruelty which impelled him to escape 
if possible. Upon two occasions he got away, but 
was recaptured and taken back to the prison pen. 
On the third, guided by the stars, he escaped into 
South Carolina, and finally by traveling only at 
night succeeded in joining Sherman's army near 
Savannah. Being well known to all the leading gen- 
erals, he received a hearty welcome, but, oddly 



enough, his friends, instead of offering him food, 
which he needed badly, opened wine or poured out 
whisky so freely that he became hopelessly and help- 
lessly drunk, and did not get over it for three days. 
He rejoined me at Macon just as the war was 
closing, after a full year's absence, during which 
he had evidently suffered great hardship and priva- 
tion. Reduced to skin and bones, the story of his 
adventures was touching in the extreme. In mak- 
ing his way south he avoided the highways and 
public roads and traveled through the woods, mostly 
by night. His only friends were the negroes, some 
of whom he had been warned against. He generally 
slept in the woods, but preferably in gin-houses, 
where he found a comfortable bed under the un- 
ginned cotton. On one occasion he was sleeping 
soundly when his uncovered head and his long and 
unkempt hair betrayed him. A violent blow on the 
head not only aroused but brought him to his feet in 
fear and trembling. He was greatly relieved by see- 
ing that the blow had come from a little negro who 
had climbed into the window and mistaken his mat 
of hair in the dim light for a cat which he was hunt j 
ing. Seeing the long, specter-like figure rising from 
the cotton, the boy screamed, fell out of the window 
backward, and ran yelling to the house as though 
a devil were after him. This brought the colored 
overseer to the scene, who, perceiving that an es- 
caped Union prisoner had raised the alarm, got him 
across the field into the woods as soon as possible 
with such supplies and traveling directions as he 
needed for the next day and night. He had been 
especially warned against this man, but his kindness 
showed that however devoted he might be to his 



master, he was at heart a Union man, anxious to 
see the Union armies prevail and slavery abolished. 
The captain averred that throughout his long and 
perilous journey he never failed to receive aid and 
comfort from the negroes, and never expected either 
from the white natives, no matter how poor they 
were. He was, therefore, one of the few Union men 
who was slow to forgive. After the war he became 
an assistant civil engineer on public works with me 
and afterward with General Weitzel, and finally died 
in the service, honored and respected by all who 
knew him. He was a gentleman of high education, 
worth, and modesty, belonging to the family of 
UlfTers von Nostitz, and while a prisoner his family 
anxiously inquired after him through Prussian 
diplomatic channels. 

Shortly after one o'clock the morning of our 
demonstration against Lee's left I received a note 
from Meade, thanking me for my success and con- 
gratulating me on its good effect, but I could not 
help thinking how much more might have been ac- 
complished had the whole corps gone with us, as 
it might well have done. By daylight the enemy 
had disappeared from the neighborhood of Via's 
house and was moving toward his right and rear. 

Later in the day heavy firing prevailed in the 
direction of Cold Harbor, as though a battle were 
raging in that quarter. We kept constantly on the 
qui vive for the next forty-eight hours and, although 
not positively engaged, our patroling parties were 
heavy and our anxiety great. To make matters 
worse, we were on short rations. My headquarters 
had nothing in the camp chest and on Sancho 
Panza's principle that "he who sleeps, eats," my 



officers and I had gone to bed, not only to rest, but 
to allay the pangs of hunger. About nine o'clock 
I was aroused by the quick, sharp challenge of the 
sentry : ' ' Halt ! Who comes there ! ' ' — followed by, 
"Advance, friend, and give the countersign ! ' f I was 
lying on a bed of pine leaves under a fence rail 
shelter at the forks of the road. A moment later 
an orderly from Grant's headquarters handed me 
a small package with an envelope addressed in 
Grant's own hand. It inclosed a note running about 
as follows: 

Brigadier General Wilson is hereby detailed to test 
and report upon Hosford's prepared rations, samples of 
which are herewith transmitted: 

For three days preceding his tests, General Wilson will 
live off of the country through which he is marching, and 
during his tests he will live solely upon the rations here- 
with supplied. Having consumed the same, he will report 
his conclusions to these headquarters. 

Inasmuch as I had not had a square meal for a 
week and the country in which we were operating 
had been swept clean of all food supplies, a fact 
which nobody knew better than Grant himself, I 
considered the order a grim piece of humor, but as 
I was half -famished, I proceeded at once to test the 
rations. They consisted of three desiccated, con- 
densed, black meat biscuits, very much the size and 
color of a cake of shoeblacking, and of three half- 
pound packages of cracked wheat which had been 
toasted and slightly sweetened. I fell to imme- 
diately, finding the former impossible to masticate 
till broken into fragments and made into a stew, but 
the latter was palatable and refreshing from the 
first. On the whole the rations were so satisfactory 



that I immediately made requisition for ten thou- 
sand, which, by the way, were never furnished, but 
I am sure they would have been most useful and ac- 
ceptable to both officers and men engaged in raids 
or distant operations where the country was short 
of food. The next time I met the General we had 
a pleasant chat about the rations and my requisition 
for a supply of the same. The joke was on him and 
not on me. 

But as the army was still operating by its left 
flank, there was no time for business outside of the 
usual. The next day Sheridan called upon me and 
later in the afternoon Dana rode over to learn how 
matters were going in our front. He remained to 
dinner and seemed to find the Hosford's prepared 
rations somewhat palatable, though hardly suitable 
for a steady diet. I had succeeded in adding hard- 
tack, coffee, and bacon to the meal, all of which he 
found agreeable additions to what the General had 
contributed. It was a laughable episode, which welL 
emphasized the conditions about us. 

The next day Torbert 's division took position on 
my left, filling the gap made by the gradual with- 
drawal of the infantry toward Cold Harbor. Heavy 
firing was continuous in that direction, and for two 
nights the cavalry kept constantly on the alert, but 
as the enemy disappeared and the cannonading 
grew more distant and more intermittent our men 
and horses gradually got rested. 

During Sheridan's visit he informed me that he 
should soon start with two divisions to operate 
against the railroads north of Eichmond, and this 
would leave me and my division to look after both 
the left and right of the army, which had been heav- 



ily engaged for several days and had suffered great 
loss in its efforts to dislodge Lee from his position 
in front of the Chickahominy at Cold Harbor. 
Meanwhile, Sheridan, in carrying ont his instruc- 
tions, concentrated Torbert and Gregg at New 
Castle Ferry in onr rear, leaving me to watch 
Grant's entire right as far around as the Pamunkey 
with one brigade, while the other was transferred 
to the left of the army, with instructions to cover 
the country to Jones' Bridge, on the Chickahominy. 
With my small force thus scattered, it was impos- 
sible to do more than keep watch and ward over 
the enemy's movements in either direction. It was 
work of observation and patrol. Pickets were 
posted and couriers were kept on the move in all 
directions and, although the division was watching 
a front of at least twenty-five miles, the enemy made 
no move which it did not discover. Fortunately 
for us, however, Lee was strictly on the defensive, 
and still more fortunately, perhaps, Sheridan's 
movement toward Gordonsville attracted Hampton's 
attention to his operations in that quarter. 

While it is not my intention to comment upon 
Sheridan's operations, I cannot let them pass with- 
out calling attention to the insufficiency of his force 
and the futility of his efforts to break further the 
roads north of the James and by joining Hunter 
to cut off Lee's communications with Lynchburg. 
My destruction of the bridges over the South Anna 
and Little Eivers a few days before had so dis- 
abled the roads in that quarter they could not be 
used till the bridges were rebuilt. Sheridan's de- 
tachment, therefore, was premature and had no 
other immediate result than to draw Hampton after 



him. Each of those great leaders had two divisions, 
and while the preponderance of strength was doubt- 
less with Sheridan, his superiority of numbers was 
not sufficient to give him a ready victory over his 
opponent. They met in one of the bloodiest cav- 
alry battles of that war at Trevillian Station, some 
sixty miles west of Cold Harbor, and while Sheri- 
dan always claimed a substantial victory, 1 it should 
be noted that he neither joined Hunter at Lynch- 
burg, nor returned directly to the army, but made 
a wide detour to the northeast through Spottsyl- 
vania nearly as far north as Fredericksburg, and 
came back to the army by a circuitous or zigzag 
route through Bowling Green, Walkerton, King and 
Queen's Court House, and West Point to the White 
House. Near White House he found his way again 
obstructed by Hampton, who, moving on shorter 
lines, had again blocked his way. He finally pushed 
Hampton aside and rejoined the army, but this was 
with much heavy fighting and no substantial fruits 
of victory. Had my division been with Sheridan, 
or had his operations been delayed till the army 
was safely south of the James, when he could have 
united his three divisions, he might have been en- 
tirely successful. As it was, the advantages were 
really with Hampton, for he not only foiled Sheri- 
dan, but some days later fell upon me after I had 
gained a substantial success and gotten almost back 
to the Army of the Potomac. For some unexplained 
reason, neither Grant, Meade, nor Sheridan had 
yet grasped the importance of using cavalry en 

1 O. R. Serial No. 67, pp. 796, 797, but compare Hampton 's re- 
port, pp. 1095-1098, describing operations and claiming a substantial 
victory over Sheridan. 



masse against either the enemy's communications 
or his mounted forces. 

Our experience at Yellow Tavern, where the 
whole corps was united or within close supporting 
distance for the first and only time, should have 
shown that; although only a part of our mounted 
troops were actually engaged, they were invincible 
with the whole united against any mounted force 
the enemy could put in the field. This was not only 
true then, but remained true till the end of the war, 
and the simple fact is that Grant deprived himself 
of two-thirds of his cavalry and dissipated its 
strength in a secondary, if not useless, operation 
north of Eichmond, when united it would have been 
of incalculable value in covering his great turning 
movement to the south side of the James. As will 
be shown, my own operations with a single division 
at the same time were entirely successful in con- 
cealing Grant's march, but with the other two divi- 
sions present we might have demonstrated so 
strongly against Eichmond as to convince Lee that 
that important point, rather than Petersburg, was 
our real objective. 

From the 1st to the 12th of June the Army of 
the Potomac was almost constantly engaged in 
fighting at Cold Harbor the bloodiest battle of the 
campaign and gaining no decided result. As has 
been shown, my division had not only conformed 
to the movement by the left flank, but had done its 
full share in marching, skirmishing, and serious 
fighting. The transfer of Chapman's brigade to the 
aggressive flank of the army gave me an oppor- 
tunity, while going to my new station, to call at 
Grant's headquarters and to confer with him and 



with the staff, as well as with Meade and Hum- 
phreys, whom I found nearby. It was during this 
call that Meade warmly complimented and thanked 
me for the part I had so far played in the campaign 
and especially at Little River, Haw's Shop, and 
Via's House. I found him walking up and down 
in front of his tent, flecking his top-boots nervously 
with his riding whip. He knew my intimacy with 
Grant and my interest in his success, and, while 
he was cordial and unconventional in my reception, 
it was apparent that he was uneasy and not over- 
confident. This was shown by his comments on the 
course and costliness of the campaign up to that 
time, and especially by the question: "Wilson, 
when is Grant going to take Richmond I" To which 
I replied: "Whenever the generals and troops in 
this theater all work together to that end." Meade's 
question would not have been so noticeable but for 
his emphasis on Grant's name, and the impression 
thereby conveyed that it was Grant's special con- 
tract and not that of his subordinates and their 
forces, as well. It showed clearly that in his own 
mind, at least — and Meade was an able, loyal, and 
patriotic soldier — no honors had so far been gained 
that he thought worth claiming. At that juncture 
he was apparently willing Grant should have all the 
credit, along with all the responsibility. 

At Grant 's headquarters I found a different feel- 
ing, if not one of despondency. Grant himself, 
while neither cast down nor discouraged, evidently 
felt disappointed at his failure to overwhelm Lee, 
and especially at the failure of his subordinates 
to whom the details of carrying his general orders 
into effect were left, to select proper points, form 



proper plans of attack, and, above all, to provide 
carefully for the contingency of success. He was 
then becoming conscious of the fact that his general 
orders, instead of being elaborated and conscien- 
tiously carried into effect, as they should have been, 
were far too frequently transmitted to those below, 
literally, without any special explanation whatever, 
and that the inevitable result would be to place the 
responsibility upon him. And this view of the matter 
was not only fully concurred in by Eawlins and 
others, but also by Dana, who represented and made 
hourly reports to the War Department. 1 This was 
not all, nor the worst. Both of those able and ex- 
perienced men were disposed to hold Grant himself 
primarily responsible for the policy, if not for the 
practice, of making head-on attacks in the simple 
parallel order against the enemy's entrenched and 
almost impregnable positions. They concurred in 
regarding this policy as faulty and costly in the 
extreme. Both favored the flanking and turning 
movements which brought the army from Spottsyl- 
vania to Cold Harbor, and which, if not yet suc- 
cessful in giving it a decided victory, were gradu- 
ally pressing the enemy back upon his base and 
capital, without unusual delay or excessive loss. 
They contended that this policy, though lacking in 
the element of brilliancy, would ultimately bring 
success, while they feared that the policy of the 
direct and continuous attack, if persisted in, would 
ultimately so decimate and discourage the rank and 
file that they could not be induced to face the enemy 
at all. 

It was at this time that I first heard of that omi- 

1 O. E. Serial No. 67, pp. 63, 96. 


nous and pathetic incident in which private soldiers 
of the fighting line at Cold Harbor wrote their 
names on pieces of paper and pinned them inside 
their coats, so that their dead bodies might be iden- 
tified if they were killed in the attack. 

Both Eawlins and Dana visited me the next day. 
Shortly after they arrived Warren, commanding the 
Fifth Corps, next to my right, put in his appearance 
and, while he had but little to say, it was quite 
apparent that he was far from happy or hopeful. 
As soon as he left, Rawlins and Dana resumed the 
account of affairs at headquarters. While they 
united in commending Grant's steadfastness and de- 
termination, they reiterated their disapproval of a 
certain baleful influence which had finally become 
paramount at Grant's headquarters. It was at this 
juncture that Rawlins, whose face, already pale and 
wan from disease, grew white with rage while he 
denounced the influence of Colonel Comstock, 
Grant's chief engineer in the campaign and siege 
of Vicksburg and now attached to the Lieutenant 
General's personal staff. 1 That officer, he declared, 
with blenched lips, glittering teeth, and flashing 
eyes, having won Grant's confidence, was now lead- 
ing him and his army to ruin by senselessly advo- 
cating the direct attack, and driving it home by 
the deadly reiteration of " Smash 'em up! Smash 
'em up!" 

As I had no sympathy with that bloody and futile 
policy, it gave me special pleasure to assure Raw- 
lins of my willingness to assist him, not only in 

x O. R. Serial No. 60, p. 1019, Babcock to W. F. Smith: "I 
would send your letter to Wilson, but I am sure Comstock has more 
influence than he (Wilson)." 



getting it set aside, but in getting a better one 
adopted in its place. Thereupon, he and Dana 
urged me to return to the staff, on the plea that 
no one could fill the place I had previously held, 
and there was no one in whose judgment Grant had 
so much confidence as he had in mine. While greatly 
flattered by this invitation, I called attention to the 
fact that I was the junior brigadier general in that 
army and could not give up one command nor take 
another without positive orders. I declared my will- 
ingness to obey any order that might be issued by 
competent authority, no matter where it might take 
me nor what it might cost. With that assurance I 
urged Eawlins to assert and stand by his own opin- 
ions as he had always done in the great emergencies 
of Grant 's life, adding that if he needed help at any 
time, he might call upon me with the assurance that 
I would go to his assistance on the shortest notice. 
I do not know what passed after that between 
Grant and Eawlins in reference to methods of oper- 
ation, but it is certain that the " smash- 'em-up ' ' 
policy was abandoned about that time and was never 
again favored at headquarters. Grant was nat- 
urally a reticent man, somewhat slow to show a 
change of mind even after reaching the conclusion 
that a change was necessary, but he was far from 
being blind to the practical lessons of experience or 
deaf to the voice of his subordinates, however ex- 
pressed. He was as quick as any general to per- 
ceive from unsatisfactory results the necessity for 
changing his policies and plans, and it is but fair 
to allow that he required no argument after Cold 
Harbor to convince him that he should resume the 
practice of flanking the enemy rather than attack- 



ing his entrenchments head-on without the aid of 
heavy and well-directed columns or without patient 
preparation for support and success. 

Certain it is that for the time he abandoned the 
direct attack of fortified positions, and, while his 
movements thenceforth were not always properly 
correlated and therefore not always victorious, they 
were, with few exceptions, much safer and far less 
costly than they had formerly been. 

It is to be observed that Cold Harbor marked 
an interesting epoch in Grant's career. It was 
properly the end of the Overland campaign, which 
had lasted about thirty days, during which the army 
had been constantly marching and fighting. Its 
losses had been greater than for any similar period 
of its existence. Its courage and constancy had 
been tested to the utmost, and, while it had gained 
no complete victory, it moved forward with vary- 
ing and inconclusive results something over eighty 
miles, but at last it had become painfully apparent 
that its fighting impulse had been greatly dimin- 
ished. It was as though the loss of blood it poured 
out so freely was distinctly lowering its fighting 
temper and decreasing its confidence of success. 
These general facts were freely admitted by all ob- 
servant participants, and, while the younger and 
more aggressive generals, such as Upton, Ames, 
Barlow, and McKenzie, had noted with unerring 
instinct the mistakes of their superiors, Upton, more 
bold than the rest, gave vent to his feelings in lan- 
guage now within the reach of all. On June 4 
he wrote: 

. . . I am disgusted with the generalship displayed. 
Our men have in many instances been foolishly and wan- 



tonly sacrificed. Assault after assault has been ordered 
upon the enemy's entrenchments, when those ordering them 
knew nothing about the strength or the position of the 
enemy. Thousands of lives might have been spared by the 
exercise of a little skill; but, as it is, the courage of our 
men is expected to obviate all difficulties. I must confess 
that so long as I see such incompetency there is no grade 
in the army to which I do not aspire. . . .. 

The next day he added: 

We are now at Cold Harbor, where we have been since 
June 1. On that day we had a murderous engagement. 
I say " murderous* ' because we were recklessly ordered to 
assault the enemy's entrenchments, knowing neither their 
strength nor position. Our loss was very heavy and to 
no purpose. Our men are brave, but cannot accomplish 
impossibilities. My brigade lost about three hundred men. 
My horse was killed, but I escaped unharmed. . . . 

I am very sorry to say I have seen but little generalship 
during the campaign. Some of our corps commanders are 
not fit to be corporals. Lazy and indifferent, they will not 
even ride along their lines; yet, without hesitancy, they 
will order us to attack the enemy, no matter what their 
position or numbers. Twenty thousand of our killed and 
wounded should to-day be in our ranks, but I will cease 
fault finding and express the hope that mere numbers will 
yet enable us to enter Richmond. 1 

It was in this spirit that Generals Smith and 
Eawlins talked at that time, and there can be no 
doubt that the real fighting men of the army held 
the views which Upton so fearlessly and feelingly 
expressed. Years afterward he confirmed these 
views in his work on the "Military Policy of the 
United States.' ? Fortunately, Grant took warning 

w< Life and Letters of Emory Upton,' ' Appleton & Co., p. 108, 
et seq. 



before it was too late, and, no matter under what 
influences, changed his practice and pursued thence- 
forth a more prudent course. In this he had not 
only the approval of the army, but the thanks of the 
country whose cause it so steadfastly upheld. 

It has often been observed that American sol- 
diers, both regular and volunteers, are unusually 
intelligent men who learn their duty rapidly and 
soon come to observe, consider, and pass judgment 
on the plans and combinations of their leaders with 
unerring precision. It has also been observed that 
the general who does not read success or failure in 
the faces of his men as soon as the combinations 
are well under way is unworthy to lead them. It 
was greatly to Grant's credit that he always re- 
garded our soldiers "as smart as town folks," and 
when he pushed them beyond their powers he did 
not fail to recognize it and had no hesitation either 
in changing his plan or in adopting some other less 
bloody and more certain to lead to victory. 




Crossing the Chickahominy — Charles City Court House — 
Saint Mary's Church— Parker the Indian — Covering 
the rear — Crossing the James — Visit from Dana and 
Rawlins — Prince George Court House — Operations 
against Weldon, Danville and Southside Railroads — 
Destruction of railroads — Return from Staunton River 
— Sapony Creek — Reams Station — Failure of Sheridan 
and the infantry to keep door open. 

Having failed to dislodge Lee from his entrench- 
ments at Cold Harbor, Grant now determined to 
flank him out of them, and, after passing the Chicka- 
hominy, instead of advancing directly on Kichmond 
he decided to make a flank march and then, after 
crossing the James, to throw himself upon Peters- 
burg. To make this movement sure, he detached 
Smith with the movable part of Butler's army by 
transport to Bermuda Hundred, near the mouth of 
the Appomattox, to march rapidly against Peters- 
burg. This was, also, to cover the operations of 
the forces under Grant 's immediate command. 

In the movement to the James River, my divi- 
sion, the only cavalry left with the army, was as- 
signed to the duty of covering both its front and 



rear. On June 7, under definite instructions from 
Grant to unite with Hunter and return with him to 
the Army of the Potomac, 1 Sheridan crossed the Pa- 
munkey at New Castle and, turning west between the 
North and the South Anna on the 12th, fought the 
drawn battle of Trevillian Station, after which he 
retreated by a circuitous route to the northeast as 
far as Spottsylvania Court House, thence southeast 
and south to White House on the York Eiver, and 
finally to Douthat's Landing, or Windmill Point, 
on the James. He was absent three weeks and, for 
all purposes connected with Grant's operations 
against Lee's army and the bases covered by it, he 
was just as completely out of the real theater of 
operations as he would have been had he gone north 
of the Potomac. This was no fault of his, but, inas- 
much as he was followed off by the most of Hamp- 
ton's cavalry, supported in turn by infantry, his 
success or failure from first to last necessarily had 
but little effect on the general campaign. As before 
stated, Hampton had the short lines on him, till he 
reached White House, whether Eichmond or Peters- 
burg was considered as the base, and was, therefore, 
able to anticipate, if not to defeat, him at every turn 
of his operations. 2 

Meanwhile my division was constantly marching 
and skirmishing from the time the forward move- 
ment began, on the night of June 12, by the way of 
the Long Bridge. The passage of the Chickahominy 
was made after nightfall, as previously described. 
The whole of the next day was passed in heavy skir- 

x O. R. Serial No. 70, pp. 593, 598, 626, 651. See also Serial 
No. 67, p. 795. 

8 O. R. Serial No. 81, p. 231. 



mishing, with but little, if any, support from the 
infantry. It was a period of extraordinary anxiety 
and hard work, during which much ammunition was 
expended and much noise made between White Oak 
Swamp and Malvern Hill, Philip's Plantation, and 
Nance's Shop. On June 14 we bivouacked near 
Charles City Court House, having gone there to re- 
plenish ammunition. This done, both brigades 
turned toward Lee and resumed the offensive with 
severe fighting and the loss of fifty-odd men, killed, 
wounded, and missing. But my observations satis- 
fied me that Lee was moving not so much to inter- 
pose between Grant and the river as to cover Rich- 
mond and protect his own crossing of the James 
later at Drury's and Chapin's Bluffs. St. Mary's 
Church and its vicinity were for the next forty- 
eight hours the scene of about as much active cav- 
alry work as took place in so contracted a space at 
any time during the war, and it was doubtless on 
account of that activity that Lee, with his cavalry 
following Sheridan, completely lost touch with 
Grant's army, and failed for two days at least to 
detect his plans or to foresee his destination. 1 

As the senior cavalry officer present, I was con- 
stantly in close touch with both Grant and Meade 
as well as with Eawlins and Dana during this pe- 
riod, which practically ended June 20, when my 
division, having crossed the river at Douthat's 
Landing, was about ready to begin operations 
against the railroads south of the James. While at 
St. Mary's Church, Parker, the Indian chief, one of 
Grant's staff, joined me, somewhat under the influ- 
ence of liquor, and asked me for a squadron of cav- 
1 0. R, Serial No. 80, p. 20; Serial No. 81, pp. 659, 662, 667. 



airy. As we were good friends, and he was ordinal 
ily a man of dignified behavior and fine military in- 
stincts, I received his request with amiability, as- 
suring him that if properly authorized he should 
have anything he called for. Thereupon I asked 
what he wanted with a squadron, to which he replied 
that he intended to go out, find General Lee, who 
would not be closely guarded, capture, and bring him 
in as a prisoner to General Grant's headquarters. 
Fortunately, his credentials were insufficient and 
hence I turned him off with a laugh, but the captain 
was by no means disposed to take my refusal as a 
joke, though he finally yielded to my decision. 

By 4 a. m. on Friday, June 17, the entire army, 
with all its trains and stragglers, having completed 
its crossing of the James, I withdrew my pickets 
and transferred my entire division by the floating 
bridge to the south side of the river and went into 
camp near the Black Water. We spent the next two 
or three days in resting and feeding, and furbish- 
ing up our arms and equipments. On Saturday I 
visited army headquarters and on Sunday, the 19th, 
Rawlins and Dana made me a return visit. The 
army had taken position in front of Petersburg 
without accident or delay, but otherwise its success 
had been merely strategical. Smith's movements, 
intended as a coup-de-main, had resulted in the cap- 
ture of the enemy's outworks, south and east of the 
town, but, failing to receive prompt and proper sup- 
port, Smith did not push home his advantage, al- 
though he had the cover of darkness. Owing partly 
to defective staff arrangements, but still more to a 
lack of definite instruction to Meade and Hancock to 
support and cooperate with him, his movement was 



an abortive one. Smith himself moved cautiously 
and slowly, and while Hancock came on the ground 
before nightfall and offered his help all movements 
were too uncertain and too torpid to command the 
success which should have otherwise crowned 
Smith's operations before Lee occupied the en- 
trenchments covering the town in force. I have 
never doubted that this was due primarily to the 
defective staff arrangements, already pointed out. 
Had Grant been in direct personal command of all 
the cooperating columns without the intervention 
of others, or had it been customary at that time 
that all details should be framed and supervised 
from his own headquarters instead of leaving those 
for the Army of the Potomac to Meade and his staff, 
for the Army of the James to Butler and his sub- 
ordinates, and for the Ninth Corps to the loyal but 
inefficient Burnside, the plan of campaign must 
have been fa^more coherent and far more success- 
ful. 1 While it cannot be asserted that Petersburg 
would certainly have fallen, there is good reason 
for agreeing with the subsequent declarations of 
Meade and Hancock that Petersburg would have fal- 
len had they known that that result was expected. 

But whatever may have caused the failure of 
Smith's movement or wherein that movement could 
have been bettered, both Rawlins and Dana were 
most unhappy over it when they came to my camp. 
They concurred in the declaration that the army 
was far too disjointed in its organization and in the 
cooperation of its various parts, and far too slug- 
gish in its aggressive movements. They again ex- 
pressed the wish that I should return to headquar- 

1 See Wilson 's ' ' Life of William Farrar Smith, ' ' p. 85 et seq. 



ters for the purpose of helping to regulate and 
"push things/ ' This was most flattering, and I 
was too anxious to help to the utmost of my ability 
to positively decline, but I pointed out, as I had 
done a fortnight before, that my duty was to serve 
wherever placed, while leaving those in authority 
over me to determine where and in what capacity 
that should be. 

Whether Eawlins and Dana fully represented 
Grant or brought my reply to his attention I never 
knew, but the next morning I received orders to re- 
port at Meade's headquarters. When there he di- 
rected me, in pursuance of instructions from Grant, 
to get ready for an active campaign against the Dan- 
ville and Southside Eailroads, 1 and asked me 
when I could take the field with my own division 
reenforced by Kautz, my old assistant at the Cav- 
alry Bureau, with a small division of two thousand 
men belonging to the Army of the James. Having 
answered that I could start early on June 22, and 
having received verbal instructions accordingly I 
rode on to Grant's headquarters at City Point, 
where Eawlins informed me that it had been decided 
to relieve Warren from command of the Fifth 
Corps if a suitable officer could be found to take his 
place. Thereupon I recommended Sheridan in 
terms as strong as I could frame, and both Eawlins 
and Dana agreed that he was the best man in the 
army for the detail, but on reflection they came to 
the conclusion that he could not be spared from the 
cavalry for the special reason that I, whom they 
would recommend to succeed him, had not sufficient 
rank for the position. It will be remembered that 

1 0. E. Serial No. 81, pp. 232, 234, 256, 257. 


I was still the junior brigadier general of the cav- 
alry corps, and had not yet been confirmed by the 
Senate. 1 The changes, as far as they might affect 
me, were therefore clearly out of the question. Mat- 
ters were, however, moving rapidly. Cheerful and 
willing officers were in great demand. My two bri- 
gade commanders, Colonels Mcintosh and Chapman, 
had fully won their stars and, before I took my 
leave, Grant promised that both should have them. 

Here it may be remarked that no man ever com- 
manded an army who was more generous to his 
subordinates or more anxious to promote them when 
worthy of it than Grant, but the most he could do 
in such cases was to secure advancement for the 
colonels who deserved it to brevet brigadier gen- 
erals, on which there was no limit. No American 
general ever had the right by law to promote his 
subordinates on the field. Occasionally in cases of 
extreme necessity or as a reward for extraordinary 
services a general exercised that privilege, but it 
was always subject to the approval of the Secretary 
of War and the President, who were in turn subject 
to the laws enacted by Congress. 

The next day Kautz reported at Prince George 
Court House with his so-called division, amounting 
in fact to nothing more than a small and poorly 
organized brigade of about two thousand men for 
duty, which went into camp near by. The day was 
a busy one, for there was much to be done in the 
way of issuing supplies and delayed clothing, but 

1 0. E. Serial No. 68, p. 746, Stanton to Grant reports my con- 
firmation as having been made by the Senate. Serial No. 82, p. 176, 
Stanton reports Senate adjourned without my confirmation and that 
I had been reappointed from date of original appointment. 



everybody was anxious to do all in his power to 
make our expedition a success. All regarded it as 
an important one, though it required us to cut loose 
from the army and to swing straight out into the 
Confederacy against the railroads connecting Pe- 
tersburg and Kichmond with Lynchburg, as well as 
with Danville and Weldon in the interior of the 
South. These were the only railroads south of the 
James by which supplies could reach Lee's army, 
and it was believed that, if they were thoroughly 
broken and destroyed, Lee could no longer feed his 
troops and would therefore be forced to evacuate 
those strongholds and take to the open country. An 
examination of the maps will show that the opera- 
tion entrusted to me with five thousand five hun- 
dred men was one of the first magnitude and impor- 
tance. 1 My column should, therefore, have been 
made as strong as possible. It was known that on 
the evening of June 20 Sheridan had got back to 
within supporting distance of the army and that a 
few days ' delay would enable him to reunite the en- 
tire cavalry corps of not less than twelve thousand 
men for duty. 2 

Meade', as we shall see, favored this view, 3 but 
Grant, while willing to strengthen me by part of 
Kautz's command, thought it best not to wait. The 
night before starting, I received my written orders. 4 
They gave me all the latitude required with such 
preliminary assurances as I asked for. They espe- 
cially authorized me, in case I found it impracti- 

1 O. R. Serial No. 81, p. 257. 

2 O. R. Serial No. 81, pp. 237, 255. 

» O. R. Serial No. 81, pp. 232, 234, 267, 268. 
* O. R. Serial No. 81, pp. 285-6. 



cable to retrace my steps, to cross the Carolinas and 
join Sherman in Georgia or wherever else I might 
find him. I went over the entire project with Hum- 
phreys, the chief-of-staff, but on full consideration 
of the case and of the obvious disadvantage it would 
be to the army to have so large a part of its cav- 
alry permanently detached, I wrote him, as soon 
as I received my written instructions, that I had 
no doubt of my ability to carry out my orders and 
fully destroy the enemy's railroads, but that it 
might be necessary for many reasons to return from 
the Staunton or Eoanoke Eiver and in that case I 
should have a hard time unless the country roads 
to the rear were kept open and Sheridan were re- 
quired to follow Hampton wherever he might go. 
To this Humphreys replied in substance that I need 
have no apprehension, that the army would extend 
its left to and across the Weldon Eailroad the next 
day and soon after across the southside road to 
the Appomattox Kiver, thus covering all the roads 
south of Petersburg to the interior of the country. 
This, with the further assurance that Sheridan 
would be required to follow Hampton wherever he 
went, put my mind entirely at rest. This under- 
standing was confirmed that night by Humphreys to 
Captain Whitaker, my aid-de-camp, and later by 
Meade to Grant. 

With the assurance which all this fully justified 
I completed my arrangements as rapidly as pos- 
sible. Leaving the Third New Jersey and the 
Eighteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry with a total of 
one thousand one hundred and forty-six men be- 
hind to guard the trains and for such other service 
as might be required, I took the road at 3 a. m. on 



June 22, with Kautz's force and my own division 
of two brigades, the first under Colonel John B. Mc- 
intosh and the second under Colonel George H. 
Chapman, amounting in all to about five thousand 
1xve hundred men and horses. I also had two 
regular batteries of six guns each, all marching 
from Mount Sinai Church near Prince George 
Court House by the road leading to Eeams Sta- 
tion on the Weldon Eailroad, just twelve miles dis- 

A standing rule in the division required that the 
leading brigade commander, with his head of col- 
umn, should start exactly on time, and if he did not, 
no matter for what reason, the next brigade com- 
mander should take the road at the minute and have 
it for the day. An hour or so before the time set, 
Colonel Mcintosh requested that the first brigade 
might delay starting long enough to issue clothing 
which had just been received. As the weather was 
both hot and dry, I declined to grant the permission 
and directed him to leave his clothing with the divi- 
sion train behind the army. But much to my sur- 
prise when I took the road I found Mcintosh issu- 
ing clothing, whereupon Chapman instantly took the 
lead and I seized the opportunity to lecture Mcin- 
tosh severely. He was both an active and a gallant 
officer, but in the severest tones I could command I 
told him that I could not overlook his disobedience 
and under ordinary circumstances should relieve 
him from command and send him to the rear in ar- 
rest. He seemed greatly astonished as well as hurt 
but, like the good soldier he was, he made no reply 
whatever. The incident turned out to be a fortunate 
one, for every officer in the division soon heard of 



it, and Mcintosh above all never after that failed to 
give instant obedience to the orders sent him. 
Within the limits of his abilities and opportunities 
he was as good a brigade commander as the army 
ever had in it, and from that day we became fast 

From Reams Station the "Wilson" road led us 
northwest to Sixteen-mile Turnout on the South- 
side Railroad, which we struck about 2 p. m. with- 
out meeting any resistance whatever. The direction 
and boldness of our movement were evidently a sur- 
prise to the Confederates. Fortunately we found 
two loaded freight trains at the station, disabled the 
two engines, burned sixteen cars of army supplies, 
the station, wood piles, water tank, sawmill and, 
besides, tore up the tracks and the sleepers, piled 
up the crossties, and burned them, which, in turn, 
heated the rails so that they were bent easily around 
the trees. We then turned southwestward and fol- 
lowed the railroad till midnight, burning every 
wood pile, station, water tank, section house, and 
bridge and, as before, bending the rails by the 
method we had found so efficacious. The weather 
was dry and exceedingly hot, the country level and 
without streams, the forests full of withered leaves, 
the roads dusty, and the sun beating down with a 
blistering intensity. But, withal, the men worked 
to the best of their ability. Both men and horses 
bivouacked that night dirty, hungry, tired, and al- 
most worn out, but success had made everybody en- 
thusiastic and confident. We had met nothing ex- 
cept here and there a picket that fled on our ap- 
proach, but shortly after passing Reams Station, 
the rear brigade, covering our operations, was at- 



tacked by W. H. F. Lee's cavalry and sharp skir- 
mishing followed till darkness put an end to it. 

At one the next morning Kautz started as rap- 
idly as possible to Burkeville Junction, at the cross- 
ing of two railroads, which he was to destroy effect- 
ively in all directions. It was thought that my di- 
vision, between him and the enemy, would enable 
him to carry on the work of destruction till finished, 
and this was done with commendable success. But 
one or two of his impatient or careless colonels, 
under the burning sun, did not do their work as well 
as they should have done. The Third Division, how- 
ever, completed the destruction in every case, and 
then marched through Nottaway Court House to the 
Burkeville and, Danville Eailroad, farther south. In 
this way we broke the railroads at so many points 
as to entirely disable them for an indefinite period. 
The hot weather favored us, for it made buildings, 
crossties, bridges, trestles, wood piles, cars, and 
stations so dry and inflammable that they burned 
like tinder, filling the air with clouds of cinders and 
smoke, and setting fire to the dry leaves and grass 
on both sides of the track. 

After leaving the Southside-Lynchburg Railroad 
we forded the Nottaway, and passing through a 
dense forest recrossed it near Nottaway Station, 
where we again met the enemy shortly after noon. 
A sharp fight ensued with W. H. F. Lee's cavalry, 
but as it was in heavy woods we were satisfied with 
holding the field till we heard that Kautz had suc- 
ceeded at Burkeville and was approaching Meherrin 
Station, where I figured on forming a junction with 
him. For nine hours we had heavy skirmishing and 
fighting, during which we captured the enemy's 



guns, and after disabling them abandoned them to 
fall again into his hands. My staff and I were con- 
stantly exposed. Captain Andrews had a lock cut 
from his beard and one shoulder strap knocked off. 
Captain Sayles, of Ehode Island, was killed carry- 
ing an order to an outlying detachment. He was a 
most promising officer, young, handsome, gallant, 
and debonair, and his loss was a great sorrow to his 
companions, but such is the priceless tribute a 
country often pays for its liberties and its institu- 

Leaving our bivouac on the field, we formed a 
junction with Kautz by ten o 'clock the next day, and 
this gave us an ample force with which to continue 
the work of destruction. 

The 25th was our fourth day out, and we passed 
it in systematic destruction and in fighting off the 
enemy as we had done for the three previous days. 
Kautz, now in advance, pushed on rapidly, brush- 
ing the hostile pickets out of the way, while my divi- 
sion, with one brigade under cover of the other, 
burned the depot at Drake's and the bridge at Moss- 
ing Ford, as well as all the mills along the line, sev- 
eral of which were sawing timbers at the time for 
the railroad. Every depot, turntable, freight car, 
wood pile, water tank, bridge, and trestle from Six- 
teen Mile Turnout to the Staunton Eiver was ef- 
fectively destroyed, and as far as we knew neither 
materials nor machinery were left for their repair. 
It was the best job of the kind I ever saw, and as 
I afterward learned from General J. M. St. John, 
the Confederate officer in charge of military rail- 
roads, it was the heaviest blow of the kind that ever 
befell the Confederacy till Appomattox wiped it out 



forever. He added that with all the resources at 
his command it was nine weeks, or sixty-three days, 
before a train from the south ran into Petersburg 
on either road. 

At two o'clock on June 25 Kautz reached Roan- 
oke Station, near the Staunton River, and imme- 
diately advanced to the attack, hoping to force his 
way through a bottom wheatfield covering the north- 
ern end of the bridge and set it on fire. But, un- 
fortunately, the enemy concentrated all his available 
force within his entrenchments south of the bridge, 
and, by the help of six guns at close range, swept 
the bridge from end to end, as well as the fields and 
roads over which we were trying to pass. The mili- 
tia of eight counties, with a well-drilled company 
from Danville, were so effectively covered that we 
could not get closer than seventy-five yards. The 
place was found to be impregnable. 

The wheat was so high and the sun so hot that 
many men fainted, and as the river was wide and 
deep, with neither fords nor highway bridges at 
hand, after a careful reconnoissance under a coun- 
ter fire from our field guns I decided to give up try- 
ing to carry or turn the defenses, and to take the 
back track as soon after dark as possible. The very 
contingency I foresaw had arisen, and the only 
question left was: Should we find the roads open 
or closed as we approached our own army! 

My division, with the best troops, had been en- 
gaged all day tearing up the railroad, burning build- 
ings, and fighting off the enemy. Our route from 
Prince George Court House to Burkeville was al- 
most due west from Petersburg, about fifty miles, 
and from Burkeville southwest to the Staunton 



Eiver about thirty-five miles further. The map 
shows that our operations had been straight out to- 
ward the heart of the Confederacy, and, as we could 
go no farther, there was nothing left but to "get 
back" as fast as possible. 

The strategic advantages were, henceforth, de- 
cidedly with the Confederates, who were now free 
not only to concentrate the whole of their cavalry 
but to reenforce it with as much infantry as they 
might think necessary. They boldly continued to 
press us till after dark, but Chapman, who com- 
manded the rear that day, succeeded, without much 
loss, in holding them at bay till further offensive 
operations were impossible. Both forces slept on 
their arms without unsaddling. Fortunately the 
country was well supplied with horses, grain, for- 
age, bacon, fowls, eggs, and corn meal, but, withal, 
it was an anxious time for us all. I had not only to 
choose my route and bring of! my wounded, but 
make my way rapidly toward our army through the 
forest and small farms which covered the interven- 
ing country. It was, of course, almost impossible 
to return by the road I had come out on, and, look- 
ing over my maps, I concluded that my best chances 
lay due east through Wyliesville, Christianaville, 
and Greensborough, toward Jarratt 's Station on the 
Petersburg and Weldon Eailroad. After resting, 
feeding, and caring for our horses and for our 
wounded, of whom we now had something like two 
hundred in ambulances and country carriages, we 
silently took the road at midnight, passing noise- 
lessly under the enemy's guns not over four hundred 
yards away, and pushed on till daylight, when we 
found ourselves at Wyliesville with no enemy in 



sight. He had lost our trail completely, but doubt- 
less realizing that we should endeavor to rejoin 
Grants army he took the shortest road west and 
north of us to his own supports, leaving us to fol- 
low the road we had chosen without meeting any- 
thing but scouting parties. We again rested, and, 
after making coffee, continued our march without 
pause till five o'clock that afternoon, when we en- 
camped on Buckhorn Creek in Mecklinburg County. 
Before daylight the next day we were again on the 
march, crossing the Meherrin at SafTold's Bridge, 
and continuing eastward to Poplar Mountain and to 
the Nottaway River, which we crossed at the Double 
Bridges near the mouth of Hardwood Creek at noon 
on the 28th. It was a wild, poor country, mostly 
forest, broken here and there by small clearings. 
But few people were about, none, indeed, except ne- 
groes, from whom we learned that the enemy had 
a small force of infantry at Stony Creek Depot, sup- 
ported by two small detachments of cavalry. As 
the direct road from Double Bridges to Prince 
George Court House passes two miles west of Stony 
Creek Depot, and as the country farther east was 
still more intricate and unknown, I sent a small 
detachment to clear the way for the main column. 
A sharp fight ensued in the vicinity of the Depot, in 
which we were at first successful, but we soon found 
the resistance so sharp as to indicate clearly that 
Hampton was in our front. This was soon con- 
firmed by the capture of prisoners from his various 
organizations, who told us that Hampton had 
dropped Sheridan a few days before near White 
House, north of the James, and was now in front 
of us with his whole corps to dispute our farther 



march northward. It was now dark, and a fierce 
fight ensued with alternating charge and counter- 
charge till nearly midnight without either side gain- 
ing any substantial advantage. It was evident, how- 
ever, that we were up against a sufficient force to 
hold both the railroad and the Stony Creek bridges. 
So far as we could learn, there were no fords in the 

This made it necessary to turn the position by 
the left or right, and, as our maps indicated smaller 
streams and better roads north toward Beams Sta- 
tion than northeast toward Prince George, I took 
Kautz from the fighting line and sent him to the left 
with directions to force his way by the first avail- 
able crossroad to Beams Station, while my own 
division would hold Hampton in its front till I could 
see to follow the roads on which Kautz had 
marched. This made it necessary to confront Hamp- 
ton till daylight, and with intermittent charge and 
countercharge it was a night of unusual peril and 
excitement. The enemy, feeling that he had us in 
the toils, made three successive attacks on our dis- 
mounted line nearly a mile long. I lay with my staff 
in the edge of a cleared field personally watching 
and directing the defense. Of course, we got no 
sleep, and when a courier came about daylight with 
a dispatch from Kautz saying that the road was 
clear to Beams Station, I withdrew all the men 
except a rear guard, remounted, and pushed rapidly 
to the left and north. This movement was success- 
fully begun and successfully ended, but as the rear 
guard made some noise in withdrawing, the enemy 
sallied out in force. Still the movement was not in- 
terrupted, for Chapman, who conducted it, dis- 



played his usual steadiness and skill. He fell, how- 
ever, into great personal peril, owing to the fact that 
he was near-sighted, and came near being captured 
while hunting for his horse. But he succeeded in 
extricating himself and rejoining me before we 
reached Reams Station. Here the whole force was 
reunited in order of battle, well in hand, by ten 
o'clock of the 29th. 

Kautz had reached there at seven that morning 
and made a sharp dash at the Station, where he en- 
countered Mahone's Confederate division, captur- 
ing fifty or sixty prisoners. But this was a great 
surprise, for according to our understanding a week 
before we counted on finding our own army and not 
the enemy at that place. We had had no word from 
headquarters since we left, but after a hasty confer- 
ence with Kautz and a rapid reconnoissance along 
the front, I became satisfied that no part of the Army 
of the Potomac was on the railroad in that region, 
but, on the contrary, Reams Station was occupied 
in force by the enemy. A division of Confederate 
infantry was in our front, lying down in battle order 
with artillery in position to sweep both the roads 
and the fields which separated us. My whole com- 
mand was, however, well in hand with guns, wagons, 
ambulances, and wounded men in their proper 
places, but as they had been marching, fighting, and 
tearing up railroads night and day for a week in the 
hottest weather, during which they had rested at 
no time more than six hours, both men and horses 
were well nigh exhausted. The enemy's cavalry 
lay in plain sight to the left and front on the Peters- 
burg road. 1 To make the situation still more des- 

1 O. R. Serial No. 80, pp. 632, 633, see sketch map. 


perate, we saw reinforcements deliberately going 
into position on the field. It was a discouraging out- 
look. The morning was clear, hot, dry, and silent. 
Everything seemed at peace except the forces gath- 
ering for battle. The prospect, which was bad to 
start with, was rapidly growing worse. Judging the 
night before, from the absence of news as well as 
from the strength of the enemy, that our road back 
to the army had not only not been kept open but 
that no part of our army was near at hand, I had 
already detached the gallant Captain Whitaker of 
my staff with an escort of forty troopers, com- 
manded by Lieutenant E. L. Ford, Third New York 
Cavalry, half of whom were lost in the dash, 1 to 
make his way as rapidly as possible to army head- 
quarters, to report our near approach, and to ask 
that the necessary measures should be taken 
promptly to open the road for us. When it is re- 
membered that Meade's headquarters in the rear 
of his army were at that hour within eight miles of 
Eeams Station, that the enemy had practically to 
march around his left flank in order to put himself 
across our road, that there had been plenty of ar- 
tillery firing that morning, and that the dashing and 
fearless Whitaker broke his way through the en- 
emy's lines to army headquarters by ten o'clock, it 
will be seen that, in spite of their prior neglect, 
those in authority must have had ample notice to 
send either cavalry or infantry or both to our as- 
sistance, and that their failure to do so was, under 
the rules, entirely inexplicable. 

They had apparently forgotten our existence as 
well as their assurances that the army would cross 

a O. R. Serial No. 81, p. 492. 


the Weldon road the day after I left, and the South- 
side road soon after, and that Sheridan would fol- 
low Hampton wherever he might go. It is now 
known that Grant's first efforts 1 to seize the Wel- 
don road were foiled, and that he did not succeed in 
reaching it till August 23, 2 and finally that he did 
not reach the Southside Eailroad for nearly a year 
afterward. But how or why the operations, which 
carried me fully one hundred miles into the inte- 
rior to the great peril of my command, had been for- 
gotten is past my understanding. The puzzle be- 
comes all the greater when it is recalled that 
Meade's outposts detected and reported the move- 
ment of both rebel cavalry and infantry toward the 
left and rear of his army several days before we got 
back to Beams Station, and the only notice taken 
of the report was an order to those concerned 
to look out for a rebel raid against our herds and 

As all communication between my column and 
army headquarters was suspended from June 22 
to June 29, I was in absolute ignorance of Grant's 
failure and of Sheridan's defeat, while both Meade 
and Grant were without anything more reliable in 
regard to my movements and fortunes than the ru- 
mors which reached them through the ' l reliable con- 
trabands ' ' of the country. What had actually taken 
place I could not even guess. While it is inconceiv- 
able that the probability or even the necessity of my 
return to the army should have been forgotten, I 

1 See Serial No. 81, p. 685. Lee to Seddon, June 24, 1864. 

'Reached, crossed and held firmly after August 23, 1864. See 
Meade, O. R. Serial No. 87, p. 31. Also Grant, Serial No. 95, p. 20, 
and Serial No. 87, p. 19. Also Serial No. 88, pp. 1194, 1198, 1199. 



found the doors not only closed but strongly barred 
by the enemy. 

Discouraging as the outlook was, however, I lit- 
erally hoped for Sheridan or night to help us out 
of our straits before the enemy could begin his at- 
tack. Firing an occasional gun and displaying as 
much deliberation and confidence in posting my bat- 
teries and forming my cavalry for vigorous action 
as did Hampton, Lee, and Mahone in fronting me, 
I felt that our army could not be far away and that 
my duty was to gain as much time as possible to per- 
mit Meade to send troops to my assistance. Unfor- 
tunately, however, I did not even know that our 
army was still in front of Petersburg, though I felt 
that if it had been driven back the news would prob- 
ably have reached me through the country people. 
With great deliberation I therefore got everything 
ready either to attack or to begin the retreat. I 
had decided to make a mounted charge in brigade 
columns and had given orders accordingly, when 
two of my most trusted and experienced officers re- 
monstrated. They urged that the enemy's line was 
entirely too strong to justify a hope of breaking 
through it with tired cavalry and advised that we 
should again swing out into the Confederacy and 
work our way by a wide circuit to the rear of our 
army. This was the plan I adopted, though I waited 
till after one o'clock before beginning to put it into 
effect. I had early issued all the ammunition the 
troops could carry, and ordered the destruction of 
our wagons and caissons, so that in any event we 
might travel as light as possible. 

By one o 'clock all arrangements were completed, 
and shortly afterward our leading column swung 



out by the stage road and the Double Bridges for 
the south side of the Nottaway Eiver. But the en- 
emy was not idle. While our front was diminishing 
by withdrawals from the flanks the rebels started to 
our left for the purpose of taking it in reverse. The 
situation was becoming perilous, but Fitzhugh's 
rapid fire, the sound of which reached our army, de- 
layed the rebel movement till Mcintosh got entirely 
strung out and clear of the field. This was between 
two and three o 'clock. 

Kautz, on the right, undertook to follow the gen- 
eral course marked out for the retreat, but, soon 
finding himself with no enemy near or between him 
and the railroad, he turned to the east and made his 
way through the forest without molestation to the 
rear of our army, where he arrived that night, 
and was, of course, entirely safe. Two regiments 
and over a third of his men got separated from him 
and, rejoining my column, remained with it till the 
campaign ended. 1 Shortly after recrossing the Eow- 
anty, I received word directly from Kautz that he 
was traveling parallel with me and would endeavor 
to rejoin the column, but, failing in that, would re- 
join the army by some other route. This is what 
he did, and, as he was not pursued, he suffered no 
further loss. As soon as he got into camp and re- 
gained his breath, he gave out an overdrawn ac- 
count of our desperate straits which Dana tele- 
graphed to the War Department. 2 The fear of our 
capture spread rapidly through the army, but Gen- 
eral Grant, a few days later, assured me he had not 
at any time believed it, that he was sure I would be 
a hard man to capture, and that I would certainly 

1 0. R. Serial No. 80, p. 29. 2 O. R. Serial No. 81, pp. 580-581. 



turn up with my command substantially intact in 
some unexpected quarter. 

As our retreat was well under way by three 
o'clock and the road to the rear was entirely clear, 
we were subject to no further annoyances that day 
but the loss of a few stragglers, though the com- 
mand suffered for food and forage and from the loss 
of sleep, which it so much needed. While recross- 
ing Stony Creek the enemy charged our rear guard, 
and for a time it looked as though the main column 
could not pass the defile at the bridge without mate- 
rial loss. Mcintosh, however, covered the operation 
in a masterly manner, and although we thought it 
best, because the artillery horses were exhausted, 
to spike our guns later and throw them into the river 
we succeeded in crossing the Dpuble Bridges and 
reaching Jarratt's Station on the railroad shortly 
after two o 'clock the next morning. Here we rested 
for two hours without unsaddling or making camp, 
during which time we got new guides and prepared 
to push on toward the east. Starting again at dawn 
by a wood road we reached Peters Bridge near Lit- 
tleton and recrossed the Nottaway to the eastward 
at 1 p. m. on June 30. Fortunately, the country, 
although thinly settled, had paid but little tribute 
to the war. It had a fair amount of supplies for 
both man and beast, and, although the troopers were 
worn out by fatigue and loss of sleep, they soon 
gathered in all the food and forage necessary. Rest- 
ing only four hours we began the march again at 
nightfall, making our way northeast toward the 
Blackwater at Blunt 's Bridge, where our guides 
informed us we should either find a standing bridge 
or a passable ford. 



That night march was the most trying and exas- 
perating one in which I ever took part. The coun- 
try was covered almost the entire distance between 
the Nottaway and the Blackwater by an unbroken 
forest, in which the trees were large and the under- 
brush at many places almost impenetrable. The 
roads were obscure and difficult to follow, and con- 
sequently our progress was slow. The columns 
halted frequently and, as soon as halted, the troop- 
ers would fall asleep in their saddles, and in the 
blackness of the forest it was always difficult to find 
where the halt had occurred or to learn what caused 
it. Flankers were of course kept well out in the 
direction from which the enemy might be expected, 
and shortly after dark they captured a few pris- 
oners from Hampton's advance, moving down the 
Jerusalem plank road in a direction squarely cross- 
ing our column. My own orderly, Private Chance, 
of the Second Ohio Cavalry, had obtained permis- 
sion to join the flankers for the purpose of getting 
a remount to replace his played-out horse. About 
ten o'clock that night he rejoined me with two pris- 
oners, who had at first surprised and captured him 
in a farmer's stable yard, but in the darkness they 
failed to discover his revolver which, in those days, 
the self-confident orderly generally carried thrust 
down his boot leg. The captors, who were in a 
hurry and not over-scrupulous as to the practices 
of cavalrymen, required him to mount his stolen 
horse and take the road with them. As was the 
good-natured practice of the times, the three troop- 
ers soon became interested in each other, and, as 
my orderly was not slow to discover that they be- 
longed to the advance guard of Hampton's cavalry, 



which could not be far behind, he watched for his 
opportunity, and, when he caught both in front and 
in range, drew his revolver and not only compelled 
them in turn to surrender but to hurry with him to 
my headquarters. 

Fortunately for us, the prisoners were bright, 
intelligent young fellows, who talked freely, doubt- 
less on the theory that we should draw but little 
consolation from the information they might im- 
part. As it turned out, however, they confirmed 
what had already reached me from other sources, 
and this caused us to quicken our march as much 
as possible, so as to cross the plank road and reach 
the Blackwater before the enemy. Still more for- 
tunately, however, Hampton was not aware of his 
advantage nor of our exhausted condition, and there- 
fore, although he had the radius while we were 
moving on the arc of the circle, he failed to 
intercept us. 

But our troubles were not yet at an end. Al- 
though I reached the Blackwater just after mid- 
night, where the entire command, covered by a 
strong rear guard, soon joined me, but, instead of 
finding a passable bridge, I found the burned and 
blackened ruins of one, and, instead of a ford, a 
river apparently wide and deep enough to float the 
Great Eastern. It was a dark and dismal scene in 
the midst of a river bottom crowded with forest 
trees clad with festoons of black hanging moss and 
resounding with the hooting of distant owls and the 
baying of distant dogs. But it was no time for dis- 
couragement by difficulties in front or by dangers 
in rear. I had built many military bridges in my 
day, but was now face to face with a problem such 



as I had never met before. Hitherto, my task had 
been to get an advancing army across in pursuit of 
one trying to get away. Now the conditions were 
reversed, and it was my task to build a bridge which 
would carry my own retreating command to a place 
of safety on the other side of ^ river dividing two 
military zones. 

Providentially the center trestle was standing, 
but there was absolutely no bridge material at hand 
except two string pieces, one of which, half burned 
through, we used with the other as a connection 
over which a man with a steady head might make his 
way to the farther side of the stream. With these 
two beams as platform and directrix, I had a pass- 
able structure ready in less than an hour. I had 
promptly taken in the situation, and sent men into 
the forest to cut four young pine trees of the proper 
length, which were soon in position, and covered by 
a roadway made of fence rails and pine boughs. 
The column started across dismounted, each man 
leading his horse by the light of fence-rail fires at 
the ends of the bridge, but only one or two squad- 
rons had got over when the burned stringer gave 
way and toppled the passing column into the river 
twelve or fifteen feet below. With men and horses 
struggling in water as black as the Styx, the scene 
was one never to be forgotten, but without wasting 
time I called for another tree already at hand, and 
in less than thirty minutes the breach was repaired 
and the column again in motion. It may be noted 
that, although I was standing on the bridge and felt 
it giving away, I stepped on to the only stable cross- 
beam as the span was going down, and was the only 
man on the structure that did not fall into the river. 



By daylight on July 1, the body of the com- 
mand was safely over, but as stragglers were still 
coming in I kept the rear guard well out tiL after 
sunup. It was a brilliant, hot morning, and when 
the last man, horse, wagon, and contraband had 
passed on toward the James Eiver and just as the 
enemy made his appearance at 6:15, I personally 
set fire to a pile of dried leaves and pine fence rails 
which I had got ready under the bridge while the 
column was crossing, and almost instantly had the 
pleasure of seeing the improvised structure, 
wrapped in a cloud of smoke, burning like a bonfire, 
as it really was. 

A few minutes later a Confederate officer closed 
in on the bridge and, seeing not only that our last 
straggler had escaped, but that further pursuit was 
impossible, he cheerily called a truce with a ' ' Good- 
by, boys, I am sorry to see you safely over." This 
pleasing episode put my mind at rest. For the first 
time in ten days I was slowly becoming conscious 
of hunger. As my command was now well on the 
road to the James River, with all doubt of its safety 
at an end, my reply was one of cheerful badinage 
and exultation, while his rejoinder was one of good- 
natured regret, but we parted like soldiers with a 
polite "hail and farewell/ ' which he will surely 
recall if he ever reads this narrative. 

My steward and purveyor, foreseeing that I must 
now be fed, had impressed a neighboring farm house 
and its resources for a hearty breakfast of ham, 
eggs, fried potatoes, and corn bread, and I was 
about ready to mount when he made his appearance 
with his savory viands. Seated near the river, 
under a shade tree, I made a substantial meal, which 



I washed down with army coffee. My staff and or- 
derlies were even more hungry and more exultant 
than I was, for they were now sure that neither 
prison nor further exposure awaited them. Every 
man had had a hard time, and each had his story of 
adventure to tell. 

As our horses played out on the march, it 
became necessary to be constantly on the lookout 
for new ones. One of my aids had changed several 
times, and one evening, just after we went into biv- 
ouac, he came in from the flank riding a handsome, 
high-headed chestnut single-footer which would 
have delighted the heart of a Kentucky horse 
breeder. Calling on the staff to admire his new 
charger as the finest in the command, I answered: 
" As he seems to be fresh, and all you claim for him, 
please ride back and tell Chapman not to go into 
camp till he crosses the bridge and then to picket 
the creek strongly to the rear till we take the road 
again about midnight." 

Wheeling about, the aid dashed off, kicking up 
the dust finely, but had hardly been gone ten min- 
utes when he returned looking somewhat confused, 
and remarked that he couldn't find Chapman. As 
Chapman made his appearance on the same road al- 
most immediately afterward, a question arose why 
the aid had not found him. Brief consideration re- 
vealed the fact that they had met, but it was in the 
dark on the bridge and before they recognized each 
other the aid-de-camp found himself pushed off the 
bridge to the creek bottom ten feet below. The fall 
having confused him, he came out on the wrong side 
and was back at headquarters before he knew it. 
But, greatly to his chagrin, he now found that his 



new horse was stone blind. Of course, he didn't 
hear the last of the chaffing for some time. 

On another occasion, while passing to the head 
of the halted column in a dense wood at the dark- 
est hour of the night, the same officer fell asleep 
in his saddle, but rousing himself by a strong effort, 
all unconscious that he was on horseback, he started 
forward again but, as he thought, this time on foot. 
He had hardly moved, however, when an overhang- 
ing limb struck him across the face, making him lit- 
erally see lights, which he at once thought were on 
Broadway, New York. Thirsty and hungry, it at 
once occurred to him that he should cross the street 
and go into the Metropolitan Hotel for a drink and 
something to eat. Accordingly he moved again, but 
had hardly got under way when he ran into a tree 
which brought him up standing, this time wide 
awake. Dazed for a moment, and unable to recall 
where he was or how he got there, his consciousness 
slowly returned with a realizing sense that it was all 
a phantom and that he was really a staff officer in- 
volved in a halted column trying to get out of the 
woods of southeast Virginia. The entire incident 
could not have lasted more than a second, but it 
seemed like a long but indefinite part of a disagree- 
able night. 

That afternoon at one o 'clock we went into camp 
at Chipoak Swamp, about halfway between the 
Blackwater and Lighthouse Point, on the James 
Eiver, and for the first time in ten days the entire 
command unsaddled, picketed, fed, and went regu- 
larly to sleep. It was an open, sandy country, 
fairly supplied with forage, and our rest at last was 
unbroken and perfect. We had marched and coun- 



termarched in all, as near as I could figure it, from 
the map, something like three hundred and twenty- 
five miles, the last one hundred and twenty-five from 
the camp south of Stony Creek to Reams Station, 
and from Reams Station to the final camp south 
of Fort Powhattan between 2 a. m. of June 28 and 
2 p. m. of July 1. During these two days and a 
half, or sixty hours, the command rested from 
marching and fighting not more than six hours al- 

Having reached at last a place of absolute safety, 
I selected a small shade tree at the edge of an old 
field, and while my orderly and servant were unsad- 
dling and arranging my equipments for a bed, I 
got out my tablets and began a dispatch announc- 
ing the safety of myself and command. I wrote: 
f f Camp at Chipoak Swamp, July 1, 1864, 2 p. m. 
Major General A. A. Humphreys, Chief-of-StafT, 

Sir: I ha " I intended to say: "I have the 

honor to report, etc., etc., ' ' but after completing the 
"a" and starting the down stroke of the "v" I felt 
myself falling asleep. Possessed by the idea that 
it was important to finish my dispatch, I pulled 
myself up out of the stupor which was fast over- 
coming me, and started the up stroke of the "v," 
when I fell asleep again. Still half unconsciously 
struggling to complete what I had undertaken, I be- 
gan the final upstroke, but before finishing it I felt 
myself going again, and with the hazy thought that 
my news would keep, which must have flashed 
through my mind like lightning, I succumbed, and 
fell back upon my blanket in a state of absolute stu- 
por and forgetfulness which continued till ten 
o'clock the next morning without a break and with- 



out the slightest consciousness. It was the longest 
straight sleep I ever had, but when it ended I 
found myself as completely refreshed as if I had 
lost no sleep and undergone no fatigue whatever. 
The command had evidently shared my sense of 
safety and relief as well as my rest. I had ordered 
pickets and camp guards posted as usual, and knew 
that the proper details were told off, but I never 
dared to ask whether they had performed their duty 
according to the rules and practice of war for fear 
I might learn that both officers and men had uncon- 
sciously followed my example and succumbed to 
sleep also. Be this as it may, I found the command all 
astir when I awoke; the air was filled with the 
smell of coffee and frying bacon, and the men were 
ready to lead out, mount, and take the road. We 
camped that night back of Fort Powhattan not far 
from the James River, and I wrote my report be- 
fore going to bed, though it was not sent till 
July 3. 1 

The loss of the entire command at first was as 
follows: Four light howitzers, twelve brass field 
guns, thirty wagons and ambulances, which were 
abandoned or thrown into the river, besides some- 
thing less than nine hundred men killed, wounded, 
and missing. Of the latter a large part, mostly men 
whose horses had been played out, finally found 
their way into camp and rejoined the colors, so 
that the actual loss, exclusive of the guns, was but 
little, if any, in excess of five hundred men, all 
told. 2 

1 See O. R. Serial No. 80, p. 620, et seq. 

3 Kautz 's total loss, as at first reported, was 421 ; Wilson 's total 
loss, as at first reported, was 602. Serial No. 80, pp. 232, 238. 



While the campaign ended in disaster for us, it 
was far more costly to the enemy. 

From this summary it must be admitted that, 
with the proper cooperation of Sheridan and the 
Army of the Potomac, both Petersburg and Rich- 
mond must have been isolated and starved out, 
and must have fallen within a few days or a few 
weeks at most instead of at the end of almost an- 
other year under an entirely different set of cir- 

Improbable as it may seem, it is also true that, 
for much of the time during the suspension of traffic 
on the Weldon Railroad, the Confederates were per- 
mitted to run regular wagon trains by the country 
roads under convoy around our left flank in sight 
of our signal stations and outposts, drawing sup- 
plies from Weldon and the neighboring country, 
and that no effort whatever was made to interfere 
with that practice. 1 It is said that warning was sent 
out on one or more occasions "to look out for the 
rebel cavalry" in rear, but this did not prevent the 
rebel cavalry from rounding up and driving off a 
herd of over two thousand four hundred head of 
beef cattle belonging to our commissariat. This 
was the crowning blow against us. 

If I have dwelt on this humiliating episode at 
greater length than seems to have been called for, 
it is because the military lesson it teaches is an im- 
portant one. The fatal mistake made by those in 
higher authority of dividing the cavalry corps into 
two weak bodies, when it should have been kept 
united and sent out with strength enough to go and 
return in spite of all the enemy could do to prevent 

1 0. R. Serial No. 81, p. 477. 


it, should not be overlooked by the military student. 
While the failure to keep open the roads on which 
we were operating and to require Sheridan to fol- 
low Hampton wherever he might go seems inex- 
cusable, it will be shown that the fault was neither 
Grant's, Meade's, nor Humphreys '. 

Our consolation is that we did our part thor- 
oughly, although we suffered greatly, and that 
Grant, both personally and officially, always de- 
clared that the damage inflicted on the enemy by 
the destruction of his communications was worth 
far more than it had cost. This will be more readily 
understood when it is recalled that Eichmond and 
Petersburg, as well as Lee's army, from June, 1864, 
till the end of the war, drew by far the greater part 
of their food supplies from the interior of South 
Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, 
and Alabama, by the roads I had broken so effect- 
ually. Fortunately, the naval blockade had so com- 
pletely closed the principal southern seaports that 
Lee's main dependence for supplies of every sort 
rested upon the two lines of railroads connecting 
Richmond and Petersburg with Lynchburg to the 
west and with Danville to the southwest. As those 
lines cross each other at Burkeville, that junction 
was a place of the first importance. It was these 
two vital arteries which were the objects of my 
operations.. Both might have been hopelessly de- 
stroyed had Sheridan's forces cooperated with and 
supported mine. 




Grant scatters his cavalry — Sheridan's failure north of 
Richmond — Wilson's destruction of railroads south of 
Richmond — Sheridan at White House — Slow to rejoin 
Army of Potomac — Hampton beats him to Weldon 
Railroad — Records and dispatches in the case — Sheri- 
dan's delays and excuses — Wilson's return to Reams 
Station — Whitaker takes word to Meade — Grant, 
Meade, and Humphreys order assistance — Wilson runs 
for it — Sheridan still a laggard — Kautz lies down and 
quits — Sheridan's efforts to exculpate himself — Wilson 
crosses Blackwater and arrives at Chipoak Swamp — 
Case fully stated from the records — Grant, Meade and 
Dana declare expedition a success — Confirmation of 
Confederate records. 

Grant 's efforts to set Hunter, Sheridan, and Wil- 
son on Lee's lines of supply and then draw them 
back to the Army of the Potomac are both histori- 
cally and strategically worthy of a fuller statement 
and discussion than have yet been given. 

The Records show that Sheridan, in his move- 
ment north of the James, was especially ordered to 
form a junction with Hunter and return with him to 
the Army of the Potomac. 1 But Hunter's orders 
were not so specific, though Grant, on July 6, 

*0. E. Serial No. 70, pp. 573, 578, 626, 651. 


tried hard to put him on notice as to Sheridan. It, 
now seems probable that Hunter never received 
Grant's letter, notwithstanding that Siegel and Sta- 
hel did their best to get it through to him. 1 Hunter 
knew, however, that Sheridan was operating about 
Louisa Court House. 2 

So Grant's efforts to unite Hunter and Sheridan 
failed, (1) because Hunter moved on Lynchburg 
from Staunton via Lexington and not, as Grant 
hoped, from Staunton by the way of Charlottesville ; 
(2) because Sheridan found Hampton in his path 
at Trevillian on June 11 and 12, and, therefore, 
withdrew to the northeast 3 instead of to the north- 
west, forty-five miles, toward a detachment of Hun- 
ter's troops under Duflfie at Waynesborough. If he 
had kept the field and pushed on resolutely, drop- 
ping Hampton as he did so, and, if necessary, dodg- 
ing Charlottesville, which, next after Hunter, was 
his chief objective, he would have united with Hun- 
ter at Amherst Court House or in the vicinity of 
Lynchburg by the 15th or 16th in ample time to 
take part in the attack on Lynchburg on the 18th. 
Whether he could have made this march with Hamp- 
ton dogging his steps is another matter, but it 
would seem that he might have done that just as eas- 
ily as to leave the field and retreat through Spott- 
sylvania by a roundabout route to White House. 4 

Sheridan failed ten days before I started, while 
Hunter held on in front of Lynchburg until the 18th, 
when, discouraged doubtless by news of Sheridan's 

1 O. R. Serial No. 70, p. 508. 

2 lb., pp. 98, 99. 

8 O. R. Serial No. 67, pp. 795-796. 

* O. R. Serial No. 81, pp. 232, 267, 268 and 285. 



reverse at Trevillian on the 12th, he ran for it, but 
unfortunately again through West Virginia to the 
Ohio instead of by way of Staunton down the val- 
ley. Thus the forces which should have been united 
were hopelessly scattered, and this, followed by 
Sheridan's circuitous march northeast and south, 
away from the enemy instead of directly back to 
the army, gave him his only excuse for failing to 
keep the door open for my return. 

The situation in which Grant now found himself 
because of these scattered and divergent retreats, 
superadded to Meade's failure to extend his. lines 
across the railroads to the Appomattox, together 
with the fear of an outbreak in the loyal states 
against the enforcement of the draft, is well indi- 
cated by Lincoln's pathetic dispatch, asking Grant 
to hold on where he was "with a bull-dog grip and 
chew and choke as much as possible. ' ' 1 

This homely language is not difficult to fatliom. 
Grant had scattered his forces; Hunter and Sheri- 
dan, failing to form a junction, had been driven off 
on eccentric lines; I had been handled roughly in 
returning to the army ; Meade had been foiled in his 
efforts to extend his lines across the railroads south 
of the James; Lee was gaining confidence and as- 
suming an aggressive attitude, as shown by his de- 
taching Early and sending him down the valley to 
menace Washington; but as a whole the army was 
to hold its grip with all its might till the Lieutenant 
General could correct his errors and convert a cam- 
paign of mistakes into one of proper combinations 
and victory. While the parts played by the various 
actors in bringing about existing conditions were of 

1 O. K. Serial No. 88, p. 243. 


secondary importance, they appear upon personal 
examination even at this late date to justify a brief 
analysis and summary of their import. 

The experienced soldier, as well as the careful 
military student, will readily perceive the evils 
which might result from dual commanders in any 
army and which did result more than once from that 
cause in the Army of the Potomac. It is but fair, 
however, to admit that Sheridan's apparent disre- 
gard of Meade 's orders to take his place on the left 
of the army, and his unusual tardiness on this and 
other occasions, may have had their origin more in 
the defective machinery and the loose practice that 
prevailed at that time in transmitting orders and 
in supervising their execution than in any intention- 
al slowness or indifference to the success of his oper- 
ations. Prior to Grant's coming, Meade was in sole 
command. His word was law to all subordinates, 
not one of whom would have dared to show the in- 
difference to his explicit orders that was manifested 
throughout this juncture by Sheridan. But the lat- 
ter, as has been already stated, was one of the prin- 
cipal officers whom Grant brought with him from the 
West and it was to Grant that Sheridan appears to 
have looked, and not to Meade, for the last word. 1 
Between Meade and Sheridan there was, if not a 
feeling of positive jealousy and dislike, at least a 
noticeable lack of that comradeship and sympathy 
which usually grow out of common dangers and in- 
timate personal acquaintance. 

When I started, on the morning of June 22, 
from Mount Sinai Church, Sheridan had been a full 
day and night at White House on the Pamunkey, 

1 0. R. Serial No. 81, p. 374. 


something less than fifty miles from Eeams Sta- 
tion, and the left of the Army of the Potomac. Hav- 
ing failed to form a junction and return with Hun- 
ter to Grant's army, there was no longer any justifi- 
cation for his remaining north of the James. Keal- 
izing this, Grant, on June 20, the same day he de- 
cided to send me against the railroads south of that 
river, instructed Meade to order Sheridan's "im- 
mediate return,' ' but left Meade free to determine 
the "manner of returning and the route." 1 

On the same day Meade ordered Sheridan "as 
soon as practicable" to move his command and 
trains from White House to City Point, for the pur- 
pose of crossing the James by the pontoon bridge 
at Deep Bottom, or, if that was impracticable, to 
proceed to Douthat's Landing, opposite Fort Pow- 
hattan, where ferryboats would be provided. 2 
Meanwhile Hampton, with most of the Confederate 
cavalry north of the James, was watching for a 
chance to intercept and crush Sheridan, 3 and, with 
the infantry reinforcements he was expecting, he 
was confident of being able to do this. 4 But with a 
keener instinct for correct movements Lee ordered 
him on the 18th: 

If Sheridan escapes and gets to his transports at White 
House, you must lose no time in removing your entire com- 
mand to our right near Petersburg. 5 

Meanwhile Hampton claimed that his command 
needed forage and supplies, and that many of 

1 0. R. Serial No. 81, p. 231. 
2 lb., p. 255. 
»/&., p. 660. 
'lb., pp. 669-670. 
•/&., 667. 



his horses were broken down. 1 Although reen- 
forced by the 21st, he did not then attack Sheri- 
dan, who was that day and the day before leis- 
urely crossing the Pamunkey, nnder the protec- 
tion of gunboats, while Hampton's forces were hold- 
ing the bluffs surrounding the White House farm. 2 
As soon as Sheridan got across the river he drove 
Hampton from the bluffs and from Tunstall's Sta- 
tion on the York River Railroad. This done, he ar- 
ranged to abandon White House as a post and to 
move everything, including a train of over eight 
hundred wagons, belonging mostly to the infantry, 
to the James. On the 22nd he sent Torbert to se- 
cure Jones's Bridge over the Chickahominy, and 
with the short line to that point he had no trouble 
in doing so. 3 By the night of the 22nd he had safely 
parked his train on the south side of the Chicka- 
hominy, but, instead of going on to the James, Sher- 
idan rested all the 23rd and did not march till the 
morning of the 24th. On the afternoon of that day 
Gregg, while covering Sheridan's right flank, was 
vigorously attacked by Hampton, and although he 
resisted stoutly till after dark, was finally forced to 
retire. The train under Torbert 's protection was 
at no time attacked but reached Douthat's Landing 
on the morning of the 25th. From that place both 
the troops and the trains were finally ferried to the 
south side of the river. 4 

With his command and trains brought safely to 
the north bank of the James, Sheridan's activity 

1 O. E. Serial No. 81, pp. 669, 670, 681. 

7 O. E. Serial No. 71, p. 651. 

8 O. E. Serial No. 82, p. 14. 

«0. E. Serial No. 67, pp. 798-799 (Wilson's Eeport). 


ended. Grant was, however, under the impression 
that he was crossing the river on the 26th, but the 
fact is that he waited contrary to all rule until his 
trains were entirely over and did not begin crossing 
until the evening of the 27th, 1 and did not complete 
that operation till eleven o'clock on the 29th. 2 Why 
he did not cross before his train he does not ex- 
plain, but as the river was patroled by our gunboats 
his trains were entirely safe on either side of the 
river and could have crossed in perfect safety at 
their leisure. Hampton took position on Lee's left 
by the 26th. Thus it will be seen that, with an entire 
day lost on the Chickahominy and two days lost on 
the James, Sheridan was now throwing away three 
days more. Meanwhile he was asked to explain his 
delay, and, in reply, attributed it to an insufficiency 
of supplies at White House. 3 But in this he was 
positively contradicted by Ingalls, the chief quarter- 
master, who showed that he had an abundance of 
both grain and hay. 4 

Three full days, the 22nd, 23rd, and 24th, were 
certainly ample to cover the twenty miles from 
White House to the James, even if the columns had 
been encumbered by a large train, with Hampton on 
its flank. But as Hampton made no attack till the 
afternoon of the 24th, and did not even then delay 
the trains or in any way engage Torbert, there is 
no reason why both Torbert and the trains should 
not have gone directly to the river bank. The sim- 
ple fact is that Sheridan, for some unexplained rea- 

*0. R. Serial No. 81, p. 743. 
*Ib., p. 512. 

8 lb., p. 402; also 76., p. 255. 

* Ingalls to Williams, June 25, 1864, O. R. Serial No. 81, p. 402. 
See, also, O. R. Serial No. 82, p. 14. 



son, was killing time, and even after reaching the 
river he took four and a half days more to ferry his 
trains and troops to the south bank. Thus nearly 
ten full days, from the evening of June 20 to June 
29, elapsed between his arrival at White House 
and his getting to the south bank of the river. 
Surely this was not the celerity that should have 
been expected from the great cavalryman. As be- 
fore intimated, an explanation may be found in the 
fact that Sheridan was looking to Grant rather than 
to Meade for his orders. 1 Be this as it may, it was 
not till June 26 that Grant turned him unre- 
servedly over to Meade, saying: "Sheridan is now 
safe in as comfortable a place as he can be for re- 
cruiting his men and horses. You can [therefore] 
send him such orders as you think best. I think he 
should be got up leisurely to your left, where he 
can rest and at the same time add strength to your 
position." 2 It is also likely that Grant imparted 
this view to Sheridan, who visited headquarters 
June 26, but, whatever may have been the actual 
facts, it is certain that Meade ordered Sheridan at 
12:30 that day "to take up a position on the Pe- 
tersburg and Jerusalem plank road on the left flank 
of the army, sending a staff officer to headquarters 
in advance of your reaching the plank road to re- 
ceive special instructions for your guidance. The 
officer who takes this dispatch . . . will acquaint 
you with the position now occupied by this army." 
Sheridan duly acknowledged this dispatch, 3 and at 
4 p. m. the same day Grant wired Halleck: 

1 0. E. Serial No. 81, p. 374. 

*!&., p. 431. 

■ /&., pp. 448, 449. 



Sheridan is crossing the river near Powhattan unmo- 
lested by the enemy. . . . Nothing heard from Wilson 
since he left Burkeville. 1 

How Grant got this impression is not explained, 
but it is certain, as heretofore stated, that Sheridan 
did not begin to cross " until the evening of the 
27th/ ' 

It will be recalled that Meade expressed the hope 
to Grant June 21 that Sheridan would keep 
Hampton occupied. It should also be recalled that 
Meade, on the 20th, advised that Sheridan and Wil- 
son should be joined and moved together on the 
south side of the James to communicate with and 
assist Hunter, remarking that the force thus united 
11 could not be stopped/' 2 Meade followed this on 
the 21st with a note to Grant, saying : 

Wilson will be ordered to leave at 2 v a. m. to-morrow 
and directed to proceed as rapidly as possible to the junc- 
tion of the Lynchburg and Danville roads. Hampton be- 
ing yesterday at White House will relieve Wilson of any 
apprehension of being disturbed, and I trust Sheridan will 
keep Hampton occupied. . . . Wilson will be in- 
structed when at the junction, Burkeville, to endeavor to 
communicate with Hunter near Lynchburg. The junction 
is about halfway between this point and Lynchburg. If 
Sheridan were here there would be no doubt, I think, of 
Wilson and he going to Lynchburg. Do you wish to send 
any instruction to Hunter by Wilson ? 3 

To this Grant replied the same day: 

The only word I would send Hunter would be simply 
to let him know where we are, and that he could use his 

1 0. E. Serial No. 81, p. 430. 
•lb., p. 232. 
•lb., p. 267. 



army in the way he thinks best, either by getting back 
into his own department or by joining us. . . . * 

The interest in this correspondence lies in the 
fact that Meade fully endorsed the views heretofore 
expressed as to the weight which such an expedition 
would have if made with our united cavalry forces, 
and also in the fact that it shows that both Grant 
and Meade knew that Hunter had already failed on 
the 18th in his attempt to capture Lynchburg, and 
was in full retreat. It will be noted that this failure 
relieved the enemy of all danger from the west, just 
as Sheridan's retreat from Trevillian by the way 
of Spottsylvania to the White House had set Hamp- 
ton's entire cavalry free to concentrate against me 
south of the James. 

It is obvious that Grant's purpose to cross the 
Weldon Eailroad and hold it from Beams Station 
northward would have not only made good Hum- 
phreys's assurance to me, but would have been in 
accordance with the well-considered advice that Gen- 
eral Barnard, the chief engineer, had given on June 
28, that "the best use we can make of Hancock's 
and Warren's corps is to put them across the Wel- 
don Railroad. ' ' 2 Had this been done, even without 
Sheridan's cooperation it must have opened the 
door and thus put it in my power to return to the 
army without any loss except that incurred in my 
outward march. 

No one can read the Records without seeing 
plainly that from the 22nd of June to the 29th, when 
I appeared at Reams Station, the whole country 
on both sides of the Weldon road was as open and 

1 O. E. Serial No. 81, p. 268. 
2 0. B. Serial No. 70, p. 479. 



as easy for Sheridan and Meade as it was for Hamp- 
ton and Lee. On the 26th at 9 a. m. Meade reported 
to Grant that the enemy was moving down the Wel- 
don Railroad ". . . that our cavalry had followed 
as far as Reams Station, where it found a small 
force trying to repair the railroad. But the weather 
was extremely hot, and the men needed rest, hence 
this force did not follow up the enemy nor retain 
its position on the road. . . ." He concluded as 
follows: "I have no report from Sheridan, but 
such as you received when last here, and as you sent 
him orders direct I presume his movements and 
progress are known to you." x > 

This shows clearly that the country was fully 
open to the enemy, who was more vigilant than our 
people. It also shows how much was lost by the 
divided command and responsibility as well as by 
defective staff arrangements. 

Meanwhile Hampton was neither idle nor rest- 
ing, but, acting under Lee's orders of June 18, 
crossed the James, as soon as Sheridan was off his 
hands, at Cox's Ferry with his entire command, ex- 
cept Fitzhugh Lee's division. This was during the 
afternoon of the 26th, and it is certain it was Hamp- 
ton 's troops which were reported by Meade to 
Grant as moving "down the Weldon Railroad." 
On the same day Fitzhugh Lee telegraphed General 
Lee that Hampton's division and Chambliss's bri- 
gade were on the south side of the river, while he 
was on the north side near the pontoon bridge — 
"can't I assist in catching raiders on Danville 
Road?" 2 His request was promptly granted, but 

1 O. R. Serial No. 81, p. 431. 

2 lb., p. 690. 



his crossing was fully observed by General Butler's 
lookout, and this was duly reported to General 
Grant, who telegraphed Butler at 4:30 p. m. on the 

The force crossing the James River is probably the 
enemy's cavalry, which was after Sheridan. The latter is 
now all safe, and no doubt the enemy have abandoned all 
idea of further molesting him. 1 

At 8 :35 a. m. on the 27th Meade notified Grant 

A heavy column of cavalry was seen this morning mov- 
ing along the Weldon Railroad, undoubtedly with a view 
to meet Sheridan's force, or perhaps to attempt to annoy 
our rear. To secure the rear of this army and prevent 
annoyance from cavalry raids the enemy's force must 
either be occupied or a force stationed on our left and 
rear. 2 

To this Grant replied at 9 :30 a. m. : 

The enemy's cavalry . . . were seen to cross the 
James River yesterday. It is highly probable that this 
cavalry will take position to try to prevent operations by 
us on the Weldon road. You can give Sheridan such direc- 
tions as you deem best under the circumstances. 

To this Meade at 10 a. m. replied : 

. . . I have already notified you the enemy's cavalry 
have been seen passing to our left and rear by the Weldon 
Railroad. I have no doubt their object is to interpose be- 
tween Wilson and Sheridan, 3 and in the meantime to make 
a dash into our rear, if practicable. Orders were yester- 

1 0. R. Serial No. 81, pp. 451-2, 455-6. 

8 lb., p. 462. 

• Italics not in original record. 



day sent to Sheridan after crossing the river to move up 
the Jerusalem plank road and take post on the left of the 
army. . . . The Sixth Corps will hold the Jerusalem 
plank road. . . . The withdrawal of two divisions will 
make it necessary to hasten Sheridan's movements. 1 

On the 27th at 6 p. m. Grant wired Meade : 

If Wilson finds his return cut off he will be apt to go 
out by New Berne, or if it is found that Hampton's cavalry 
has gone south, Sheridan will have to be put on his track. 2 

From the 25th till the evening of the 28th both 
the enemy 's cavalry and infantry were seen moving 
on the roads west of the Weldon Eailroad toward 
Eeams Station, and these movements were duly 
reported to Meade, but necessarily remained un- 
known to Wilson. 3 

Meanwhile General Humphreys appears to have 
concluded that these movements menaced not only 
the left of our army, but the safety of my column. 
Eegarding them as an effort to cut me off he vigor- 
ously ordered everything demanded by the situa- 
tion except the two things which he had definitely 
promised in his final dispatch before I started: 
"Our infantry will hold across the Weldon road to- 
night" 4 and "Sheridan will keep Hampton occu- 
pied. ' ' 5 Both were entirely practicable. While the 
former depended on his own orders, the latter de- 
pended on Sheridan, who was ordinarily most alert 
and active. While Meade's chief reliance was evi- 
dently on Sheridan and orders were sent to hasten 

1 O. B. Serial No. 81, p. 463. 

* lb., p. 463. 

■ lb., pp. 465, 469, 470, 471, 485, 486. 

*/&., p. 286. 

•lb., p. 286. 



his movements, but to meet any cavalry attack until 
he could arrive, Gibbons 's division was sent to the 
southeast on the Norfolk pike at the crossing of the 
Blackwater instead of to the southwest, Ferrero's 
division to Prince George Court House behind the 
army, and some dismounted cavalry were stationed 
at the Old Court House at the crossing of Bailey's 
Creek, quite remote from any point where they 
could be helpful to me. "The Sixth Corps [Wright] 
will hold the Jerusalem plank road," four or five 
miles east of the Weldon road and parallel to it. 
It will be observed that all of these dispositions 
were primarily intended "to meet any cavalry at- 
tack until the arrival of Sheridan." ? But it should 
be noted that not one of them was in the slightest 
degree an offensive movement to keep open the 
door for me or to facilitate my return. This was 
Sheridan's job. It was apparent that Meade relied 
wholly on him to follow Hampton and to extend me 
a helping hand. This is explicitly set out and reit- 
erated in a dispatch from Humphreys to Sheridan, 
dated June 27, 10 a. m. : 

A body of the enemy's cavalry, exceeding one thousand 
strong, was seen leaving Petersburg this morning in a 
southerly direction on a road near the Weldon Railroad, 
probably for the purpose of reinforcing the enemy's cav- 
alry that followed Wilson, or of interposing between Wilson 
and us on Wilson's return. . . . The left of the army 
covers the Jerusalem plank road as far as four miles from 
Petersburg. The commanding general desires you to join 
the army as soon as practicable and be prepared for active 
cooperation with General Wilson to aid his return. 2 

1 O. E. Serial No. 81, pp. 463-467. 

2 lb., p. 472. 



This dispatch was sent by telegraph to Ingalls, 
chief quartermaster, at City Point, who forwarded 
it by special messenger to General Sheridan, who 
received it in turn at 3 :15 p. m. He replied at once 
that he would "make every effort to cross the river 
rapidly. The wagons and ambulances will all be 
over to-night, and the whole command to-morrow 
night. I will cross one brigade of Gregg's division 
over the river this evening. ,, 

It is to be observed that Meade's order, as above, 
while more urgent, was hardly more than a repeti- 
tion of the order sent Sheridan at White House on 
June 20, directing him to move to City Point. 
Obviously Grant 's emphatic phrase, ' ! immediate re- 
turn/ ' was translated into "as soon as practicable. ' ' 
From White House to the James, Sheridan had the 
short line on Hampton, and it is of interest that the 
distance from the James at Cox's Ferry, where 
Hampton crossed, to Beams Station is almost to a 
mile by the military maps the same as from Wind 
Mill Point, where Sheridan crossed. The latter 
would travel southwest by Prince George Court 
House and Lee's Mills to Reams while Hampton 
marched south through Petersburg down the wagon 
road on the west side of the Weldon Railroad. In 
neither case did the distance exceed twenty-five 
miles, or one easy day's march for cavalry. It is 
also true that Hampton crossed by pontoon in four 
hours and a half, while it took Sheridan four days 
and a half, although his dispatch, and what he ac- 
tually did at the Pamunkey, indicated that it was 
possible to ferry his troops across in one day. We 
have seen, however, that his command was not all 
across until about noon on the 29th. If this was 



due in any degree to Grant's phrase, . . . M I 
think he should be got up leisurely to your left," 
it is a clear case of the unhappiness of two masters 
of one army. 

On the 28th, for some unaccountable reason, in 
apparent forgetfulness of the enemy's known move- 
ments, and in reply to Grant's inquiries of the 27th, 1 
Meade notified him at 8 p. m. that he had " heard 
nothing from General Wilson, except the reports 
of contrabands that the railroads out of Petersburg 
have been cut. ' ' 2 

It is but fair to say that General Meade could 
not have received my report dated June 27, giving 
a full account of my expedition and its complete 
success throughout, except at the Eoanoke Bridge, 
beyond which under the circumstances I could not 
be expected to go. This report sent by scout ap- 
pears at its proper place in the Official Eecords, 3 
but there is nothing to indicate when it was re- 
ceived, though I had certainly been gone long 
enough to put my superiors on the lookout for my 
return. Besides, my written instructions were ex- 
plicit to rejoin the army as soon as the object of 
my expedition was accomplished. My going else- 
where was merely contingent. Meade's order above 
shows that I was expected and that he confidently 
believed Sheridan was moving up, and relied on 
him to give me such help as I might need. Hum- 
phreys was anxiously looking for me. Sheridan was 
fully notified the 27th of his part and duty. Grant, 
true to his confidence in me, rested largely on my 

1 O. E. Serial No. 81, p. 463. 

2 lb., p. 477, see, also, p. 470. 
»/&., p. 473. 



own energy and resourcefulness, but also trusted 
that Meade would get Sheridan up and place him 
wherever necessary. 

The events of June 28 and 29, momentous 
in the history of my expedition, have already been 
told. 1 While Meade was writing his dispatch of the 
28th to Grant, I was less than thirty miles away, 
and by the middle of the afternoon I had crossed 
the Nottaway at the Double Bridges, and was ap- 
proaching Stony Creek Depot, there to find myself 
confronted by Hampton, backed strongly by in- 
fantry. Where was Sheridan? Still on the north 
side of the James, 2 whither he had come pursuant 
to Grant's direction June 20 for his "immediate 
return' ' to the Army of the Potomac. 3 On the 26th, 
as we have seen, Sheridan had been explicitly or- 
dered to its left flank, to a position on the Jerusalem 
plank road, which, with any celerity whatever, would 
have brought him within five miles of Eeams, and 
within less than fifteen miles of Stony Creek Depot 
that night. He received his order. at 1:30 p. m. on 
June 26, while at Grant's headquarters, 4 and it 
is beyond doubt that he was fully informed. His 
third order reached him July 27 at 3:15 p. m. at 
Douthat's House north of the James. It particu- 
larly ordered him to join the army "as soon as prac- 
ticable' ' for the express purpose of aiding my re- 
turn. 5 As yet, no portion of his command had 
crossed the James, but he promised to make every 

1 0. B. Serial No. 81, pp. 304, 306, 307, 310, 332, 336, 350, 373, 
402, 430, 476, 478. 

8 O. E. Serial No. 80, p. 28. 
*lb., p. 231. 
4 76., p. 499. 
8 lb., p. 473. 



effort to cross rapidly, and to cross one brigade of 
Gregg's division that evening. It is also evident 
from Meade's dispatch to Humphreys at 12 a. m. on 
June 29 that he had on the 28th sent a further and 
fourth dispatch to Sheridan ordering him "to the 
crossing of the Warwick Swamp by the Jerusalem 
plank road, and is, I hope, now en route for that 
point. He should be hurried up without loss of 
time and Wright advised of his expected arrival." 1 
The dispatch of the 28th is not in the Official Rec- 
ords, but there is, however, an answer from Sheri- 
dan to Humphreys from Windmill Point, June 29, 
1864, at 8:30 a. m., saying: 

All my command will be over the river by 9 :30 a. m. to- 
day. I may be detained here to-day, supplying my troops 
with subsistence, forage, and clothing. "Will march to-mor- 
row morning. Shall try, however, to move to-day. 

But before the hour of this telegram my advance 
was in front of Beams Station, almost in sight of 
our lines, cut off from them by a formidable force 
of the enemy's cavalry and infantry. From what 
precedes, it is clear that, notwithstanding three, if 
not four, specific orders, the last most imperative 
and urgent, to cross the James and join the army 
on its left, Sheridan, so far as concerned any active 
help to the army or to me, was as completely out 
of the impending battle as if his two powerful di- 
visions had no existence. At the hour he was send- 
ing the above dispatch, at 8 :30 a. m., my gallant aid, 
Captain Whitaker, was slashing his way through 
the rebel lines at Eeams, bearing my message to 
Meade, and at 10:20 a. m. he was at Meade's head- 

1 0. E. Serial No. 80, p. 494. 


quarters, with but eighteen of his men, bloody, dirty, 
and worn to a frazzle, but indomitable, and burning 
with a desire to lead the infantry to my relief. 1 All 
day, late into the night, and all the next day he was 
untiring, but, through no fault of his, neither 
Wright nor Gibbon, nor anybody else came to my 
relief. 2 

Of course, Whitaker's unexpected appearance 
made a great stir. Meade was unfortunately absent 
at Burnside's headquarters, and it was 11:45 a. m. 
before Humphreys could get Whitaker's report to 
him and receive back his orders. 3 Indeed, it was 
not until 12:45 p. m. that Humphreys received his 
final instructions. Meanwhile that excellent officer, 
never idle, had informed Hancock of the Second 
Corps 4 and Wright of the Sixth, 5 and the latter, 
pursuant to Meade's orders at 12:15 p. m., was in- 
instructed to send a division to Beams at once, and 
to follow with his whole corps. This was fine, but 
all far too late. Wright moved promptly and reso- 
lutely, but did not arrive at Beams until 7 :45 p. m. 
Before 12 a. m. he had heard my guns, 6 and at 1 :10 
p. m. he knew from a corporal of my command who 
made his way through the fight with two prisoners 
that I was up against both infantry and cavalry. 7 
In fact, as has been shown, I was confronted by the 
whole of Hampton's, Fitzhugh Lee's, and W. H. F. 
Lee's 8 cavalry, supported by Anderson's entire in- 

1 O. E. Serial No. 80, p. 493. 
8 76., pp. 492, 507, 508, 526. 

• lb., p. 493. 
4 lb., p. 499. 

• lb., pp. 500-506. 
•lb., p. 506. 
T 7b., p. 507. 
•lb., p. 517. 



fantry division, composed of Finnegan's, Sanders' 
and Perry's brigades, under Mahone, one of Lee's 
bravest fighting division commanders. 1 The com- 
bined forces thus arrayed against my five thousand 
live hundred worn and weary troopers were, accord- 
ing to the latest returns, cavalry ten thousand four 
hundred and ninety-three, infantry seven thousand 
five hundred and sixty-nine, a total of eighteen thou- 
sand and sixty-two men, of whom it is safe to say at 
least fifteen thousand were in line of battle. 2 

But Sheridan was still absent. If Wright's in- 
fantry had only been cavalry! Sheridan's orders, 
three or four times repeated, required him, as we 
have seen, to cross the James and take position on 
the left. Lee's orders to Hampton, June 18, were 
to follow Sheridan and take position on the rebel 
right. 3 This should have kept them in touch, the 
movement of one determining that of the other, and 
should have resulted in bringing them again face 
to face at or near Reams Station, which, of course, 
would have placed Sheridan in position by the morn- 
ing of the 29th to afford me all the help I needed. 
Such were the plans for him, both of Grant and 
Meade, and such was Grant's expectation, while 
Humphreys ' last promise to me was * ' Sheridan will 
keep Hampton occupied." Both expectation and 
promise were entirely reasonable and practicable, 
but both required promptitude and decision. In 
view of the fact that Sheridan had in fourteen days, 
June 12 to 25, marched only about one hundred 
and forty miles from Trevillian by the way of Spott- 

1 0. E. Serial No. 80, pp. 336, 375. 
a O. E. Serial No. 82, p. 762. 
•/&., p. 667. 



sylvania Court House, Bowling Green, King and 
Queen Court House, White House, and Charles City 
to escape Hampton, 1 it surely should have been 
1 1 practicable \ ' to cross the James and march less 
than twenty-five miles more in five days to find him 
and take him in rear at Beams Station while I was 
attacking him in front. Eeams is just eight miles 
due south of the Weldon Railroad terminus in 
Petersburg. It is just ten miles from Reams north- 
east to Prince George Court House and just twelve 
miles from there to Wind Mill Point. As the crow 
flies it is a shade over twenty miles from Wind Mill 
Point to Reams Station, and by the winding roads 
it is less than twenty-five miles. Let us now see 
from the Records just what Sheridan did under the 
impulse of imminent peril and impending disaster 
to me, and under the stimulus of Meade's peremp- 
tory orders, given with Grant's full knowledge and 

On receipt of Whitaker's startling report Meade, 
on the 29th, after expressing the hope that Sheri- 
dan was now en route to Warwick Swamp, instructed 
Humphreys to hurry him up without loss of time, 
and to advise Wright of his expected arrival. 2 
Humphreys ' orders were sufficiently explicit, but he 
caused them to be repeated through General Ingalls 
at City Point. This dispatch, the fifth in order, and 
all to the same effect, was sent at 12:55 p. m. on 
June 29. It contained the statement that: 

. . , An officer had been sent to meet Sheridan on 
the Prince George Court House road and inform him that 
General Wilson was in the vicinity of Reams Station, 

1 0. E. Serial No. 82, p. 645. 
8 lb., p. 494. 



where the enemy's cavalry had concentrated to prevent his 
return. It directed Sheridan to move with all the expedi- 
tion possible to Reams Station to relieve General Wilson. 

It also notified him that General Wilson was un- 
able to cross Stony Creek last night, but had "sent 
Kautz on a detour to the left with the trains, ' ' and 
finally that Kautz had reached "the vicinity of 
Eeams Station this morning between seven and 
eight o'clock, and found the enemy in force and 
position there. ' ' * 

But, not content with what he had already or- 
dered his Chief -of -Staff to do toward hurrying 
Sheridan, 2 Meade, at 1 p. m., made the sixth distinct 
effort to get him to the front. This time he de- 
clared: "Wilson is engaged with the enemy at 
Eeams Station. . . . Please hurry up to Wil- 
son's assistance as rapidly as possible." 3 

General Sheridan received this dispatch at 2:45 
p. m. at White House, near Wind Mill Point 4 and 
the last of his command crossed the James River 
at 11 a. m. 5 

It is clear from the foregoing that Meade had 
as early as the 28th directed Sheridan definitely to 
take position at the crossing of the Warwick Swamp, 
which, if he had marched at once, would have 
brought him within four miles of me, easily, by noon 
of the 29th, with the enemy between us. 

At last he moved, but not until 5 p. m., and his 
orders to Gregg, commanding his Second division, 

1 0. R. Serial No. 81, pp. 510, 511. 
' 2 I&., p. 511. 
8 25., p. 511. 
4 76., p. 511. 
8 16., p. 512. 



were not issued until 3:45 p. m., an hour after the 
receipt of the above-mentioned imperative and press- 
ing telegrams and, while they directed Gregg to 
move with the utmost dispatch to Prince George 
Court House, they instructed him to halt there, and 
1 'await the arrival of the First Division." His 
whole command was massed there that evening. 1 It 
was only ten miles further to Reams Station, but 
he did not arrive there or communicate with Wright 
until after 3 :30 p. m. on June 30. 2 Wright, having 
from eight to ten miles to march with his infantry, 
moving at 2 p. m. of the 29th, arrived within a mile 
and a half of Eeams at 6 p. m., but, fully six hours 
too late, his advance did not occupy the Station till 
7:35 p. m. 3 Wright, while not an over-aggressive 
soldier, was never a laggard, and, if he had heard 
the noise of combat, which by that time had faded 
far away, he would no doubt have hastened to lend 
a hand. He sent Meade all the information he was 
able at that hour, 7:35 p. m., to pick up about 
me, and it was sufficiently correct in substance. 
It was in effect that I was engaged with the ene- 
my's cavalry and apparently doing well until their 
infantry came up at four o'clock and attacked 
my left. 4 

The record leaves Sheridan at Prince George, ten 
miles away, on the evening of the 29th, where he 
camped that night. At what hour he marched and 
where he was all day of the 30th and until late in 
the afternoon is not disclosed. He certainly did 

1 O. R. Serial No. 81, p. 512. 
*Ib., p. 527. 

3 lb., pp. 507-8. 

4 lb., p. 508. 



not follow Hampton, and Meade evidently did not 
know where he was. On the morning of the 30th, 
at 9 a. m., he telegraphed Grant at City Point, send- 
ing a prisoner's statement, "somewhat confirmed 
by General Kautz." He feared "that Wilson was 
in a very precarious position, and that his command 
was pretty much scattered.' ' 

The prisoner's entire statement appears in the 
record. It was taken down and reported by the 
provost marshal general of our army, Colonel 
George H. Sharpe, and gives a sufficiently distress- 
ing, but somewhat overdrawn, account of my trou- 
bles, and confirms in the main the tally of the forces 
opposed to me. It adds one most significant and 
important item in any proper comparison of the 
relative condition of Sheridan's horses and mine: 
"The horses taken from Wilson were found to be 
very badly knocked up. ' ' * 

Then Grant, imperturbable and optimistic as 
usual, took a hand. At 12:30 a. m. on the 30th he 
replied to Meade : 

The showing is against us by Kautz's dispatch, but with 
Wright at Reams Station, Wilson south of the enemy, and 
Sheridan marching in that direction, you have done all 
possible, and it will be queer if the count does not turn 
in our favor. I am very much in hopes that the enemy 
will be struck in the rear most disagreeably to him, and 
that his railroad in the meantime will be destroyed effect- 
ually as far as our troops occupy the line of it. I see 
nothing you can do beyond what you have done. If the 
enemy should follow Wright and Sheridan with infantry, 
of course, we will follow with infantry. All that I see 
beyond what you have already done is to follow up the 
1 0. E. Serial No. 81, p. 517. 


same principle you have started upon — follow up the force 
of the enemy with a larger one. 1 

This was all sound, thorough, and admirable, but 
belated. If only its execution had been equal, or 
if, happily, Grant, under a less cumbersome organi- 
zation, could have kept himself in closer' touch with 
or personally superintended the operations. Even 
if it was all too late to be of any great help to me, 
there was a splendid chance all that day and during 
July 1 to clean up Hampton and to turn the count 
"in our favor." Meanwhile, I was helping myself 
fairly well. 

But Sheridan did not reach Eeams Station un- 
til almost seven o'clock of June 30, after the 
enemy's infantry had returned to Petersburg, "leav- 
ing the pursuit of Wilson to Hampton's cavalry." 2 

Both Hancock and Wright were vigilant and ac- 
tive, but with slow moving infantry they could not 
hope to come up with the enemy in time. 3 They 
received no tidings from Sheridan or Kautz. 4 

At 12:30 p. m. on June 30 the faithful Whit- 
aker, who was out in charge of Wright's cavalry 
scouts, sent word to Humphreys that two hundred 
empty wagons, "guarded by North Carolina infan- 
try, eight men to a wagon, with front and rear 
guards, had passed south, going from Petersburg 
to Stony Creek for forage." 5 At 3 :30 p. m. the same 
day Wright telegraphed Humphreys that, as Sheri- 
dan was at the junction of Warwick Swamp and the 

'O. R. Serial No. 81, p. 518. 

a lb., p. 518. 

•Tb., p. 520. 

*/&., pp. 521-2, 525-6. 

O. R. Serial No. 82, p. 526. 



Jerusalem road, about seven miles in rear, where 
he would remain, he (Wright) would withdraw at 
once "in order to get over the intricate part of the 
road before dark." 1 

Then followed Wright's justification of his retro- 
grade march, for which there was no real occasion, 
but which he had evidently been asked to explain. 2 
That night, however, he received explicit orders to 
remain in the field to support Sheridan. At 12:30 
p. m. on June 30 Humphreys was advised that 
"General Merritt's advance guard had just reached 
the plank road, about six miles from army headquar- 
ters." 3 This was Sheridan's leading division, which, 
after a march of six or seven miles in twenty hours, 
brings him again into the light. 

At 3 :25 p. m. on the 30th he notified Humphreys 
that he had "reached the plank road one mile and 
a half in advance of Warwick Swamp, and was push- 
ing on to Eeams Station, distant three or four 
miles ; that he could learn nothing of General Wil- 
son 's command except from' stragglers coming in, 
all giving different accounts. Parties coming up 
the plank road report the enemy's pickets on that 
flank, but some distance off. One of your staff offi- 
cers reports a rebel cavalry force having crossed 
the plank road on my left and going toward my 
rear. ' ' 4 

On June 30 at 9 p. m. Meade directed him to 
move with his whole command in pursuit of the 
enemy, who was reported to have followed General 

1 0. E. Serial No. 81, p. 527. 
2 J&., pp. 527-8. 
8 lb., p. 530. 
4 lb., p. 530. 



Wilson. After ascertaining definitely where Gen- 
eral Wilson had gone he was to make every effort 
in his power to form a junction and return with 
him to the army. Meanwhile Wright was to remain 
where he was and give Sheridan such support as 
might be necessary. Finally he was ordered to keep 
the commanding general advised as often as pos- 
sible of his operations. 1 These orders were right 
and not only covered the case, but offered Sheridan 
a fine chance to wipe out Hampton or to drive him 
to the interior of south Virginia. 

The Lieutenant General, true to his duty, had 
also the same morning telegraphed General Butler 
to "send Kautz back to our left to report to Sheri- 
dan as soon as possible. It will take all our cav- 
alry to extricate Wilson from his present perilous 
position." 2 

Thus, as we see, pursuant to Grant's plan "to 
follow up the force of the enemy with a larger one, ' ' 
Meade sought to execute it by setting into the field 
in vigorous pursuit of the enemy the combined 
forces of Sheridan and Kautz — all the available cav- 
alry, supported by Wright and the entire Sixth 
Corps — a force ample not only to relieve me but 
to turn the count in our favor by wiping Hampton 
and Mahone from off the face of the earth. It was 
one of those opportunities which knock rarely at our 
doors, and which the best of us — even a great soldier 
— sometimes miss. Hampton's return after I had 
successfully eluded his pursuit might surely have 
been cut off and in the tired condition of his men 
and with his worn-out horses his force brought to 

1 O. E. Serial No. 81, p. 531. 

2 lb., p. 531. 



bay and severely punished, if lie had not been 
smashed up entirely. Even the two hundred wagons 
with their heavy infantry escort reported by Whit- 
aker would have been an excellent objective and an 
ample reward for the effort necessary to their cap- 
ture. 1 

But what came of it all f Absolutely nothing, for 
the reason that both Sheridan and Kautz failed to 
execute the orders that were given to them. 

Kautz simply lay down and quit. On receipt of 
the stirring orders from Grant direct, 2 as well as 
from Meade 3 and Butler, 4 he went to Meade and 
begged off. Forgetting that the rest of us were 
marching and fighting for our lives, he put up the 
unsoldierly plea that his command was in no con- 
dition to do anything, and that the main cause of 
our rout was the worn-out condition of the men; 
that his men and horses had had nothing to eat for 
forty-eight hours; and that they were exhausted 
from loss of sleep. On this plea he hoped the order 
would be rescinded. 5 

Both his men and horses, while they had marched 
step for step with the rest homeward from Eoanoke 
Bridge, had plenty both of provisions and forage. 
All lived largely on the country, it is true, but that 
country had not been foraged before and was by no 
means bare of supplies. At most, it was only the 
last twenty hours that had been especially exhaust- 
ing, but when ordered to turn back and join Sheri- 
dan Kautz had already had more than fourteen 

1 0. B. Serial No. 81, pp. 500, 526. 
a Ib., p. 540. 
9 lb., p. 513. 
*Ib., pp. 531, 537. 
* lb., p. 540. 



hours ' quiet sleep in the midst of our army and its 
abundance, while the rest of us, on his own showing, 
were still marching and fighting for our existence. 
Looking back after nearly fifty years, in the light 
of the printed record and the cold facts which I had 
never inquired into before, it all seems weak and 
contemptible in the last degree. Kautz, undoubt- 
edly, rendered good service during the expedition 
and behaved with satisfactory efficiency down to the 
crucial moment in the afternoon of the 29th, when 
the need was greatest that every man should hang 
on to the last, "one for all and all for one. ,,1 

Fortunately, he had sense enough to direct him- 
self toward Prince George Court House and our 
army, which he easily succeeded in joining, but just 
when or where his dispatch to Meade announcing 
his return does not state. He at first sent me word 
that he would follow my route, but finally drifted 
off on one of his own. Many of his wounded and 
far more relatively of his command than he had of 
mine joined my column and followed it in safety to 
our lines, where in due time they were turned over 
to him. 2 But it is perhaps enough to say that 
Kautz was a typical infantryman and never a suc- 
cess as a cavalry commander. It was a misfortune 
much more serious for the army than for himself. 

Sheridan was a brilliant soldier, perhaps the 
most brilliant, and certainly one of the most aggres- 
sive and successful on either side. But, strangely 
enough, his greatest successes were not won as a 
leader of cavalry alone, but with mixed commands, 
as in the Valley of Virginia and in the culminating 

1 Compare O. E. Serial No. 80, p. 624, with p. 629. 

2 O. E. Serial No. 81, pp. 580-2. 



campaign with Grant south of Richmond in the 
spring of 1865, in which with his united cavalry 
and the infantry of Warren and Wright he ren- 
dered heroic and decisive service. A great, well-de- 
served and lasting fame such as his, resting as it 
does on so firm a foundation, requires no suppres- 
sion of the truth, especially when it demands that 
the whole truth should he told to others. 

The truth is that Sheridan failed just as flatly 
and far more unpardonably than Kautz, and instead 
of obeying promptly and cheerfully Meade's orders, 
directing him to march with his whole command 
to my relief, gave reasons which were shown by 
both Grant's Quartermaster and his own to be un- 

In a telegram of July 1, 1864, at 8 a. m., Sheri- 
dan said in reply to the order instructing him to 
follow in the direction my command had gone : 

I will move in the morning, but it will be at the risk 
of dismounting my command. I marched from the river 
without forage and without preparation. My horses are 
worn out. Some of them have been without forage for 
forty-eight hours. I am satisfied General Wilson cannot 
keep any considerable body of his command together. I 
thought it best to keep open the roads leading to the south, 
so that small parties can come in, as they are now doing. 1 

To this excuse for not even trying, Humphreys 
promptly and curtly replied on July 1 at 5 p. m. : 

. . . The commanding general instructs me to say 
that whenever you can ascertain anything definite of either 
General Wilson or the enemy, and be satisfied from actual 
trial that no material aid can be rendered General Wilson 

1 0. E. Serial No. 81, p. 573. 


or injury inflicted on the enemy, you can desist and re- 
turn to the position assigned you on the left flank of the 
army. 1 

Even after that Sheridan adhered to his opinion 
and did not move until 6:25 a. m. of July 1, and 
then only to concentrate his command on the Jeru- 
salem plank road, from whence during the day he 
was content to send one division south on that road, 
two regiments of which reached Freeman's Bridge 
over the Nottoway and one Stony Creek, neither 
of which were more than ten miles from his camp, 
where he remained all day. At 3 p. m. he sent a 
hard luck story to Humphreys based on what some 
straggling officers had told him that I had been 
completely routed and that my command was re- 
duced to the remnant of Mcintosh's brigade and 
one hundred and fifty men of Chapman 's. 2 His ad- 
vance went near enough to Jarratt's Station, where 
I had crossed two days before to find it occupied 
by Hampton's troopers. In other words, he was 
at last in easy reach of his old antagonist, whom I 
had stood off and eluded late in the evening of the 
29th, but for reasons never given Sheridan failed to 
attack him. 

Later in the day, but at what hour does not ap- 
pear, Sheridan sent another report to Humphreys, 
this time on negro information, "that our cavalry, 
seven thousand, encamped on Mr. WesselPs farm, 
near Littleton, last night. This report has come to 
me from two or three sources, and unless troops 
have come up from Suffolk it must be General Wil- 
son," and happily it was. He further stated: 

1 O. R. Serial No. 81, p. 574. 

2 lb., pp. 574-5. 



. . . Men have been coming in all day in small 
squads, but none from General Wilson after Wednesday 
evening. Scouting parties report his having crossed the 
Nottoway, but I have all kinds of reports, and am afraid 
that, after he fell back from Reams Station, he was badly 
broken up. 1 

As the record shows, he did have "all kinds of 
reports,' ' precisely such as might have been ex- 
pected from men who did not stay to learn the 
exact truth, but left early in the fight, and, naturally 
enough, lied in self-justification. Doubtless he was 
so impressed by these reports that he did not 
think it worth while to march in my direction 
as ordered, with his whole command, and thus 
missed an opportunity such as Hampton rarely of- 
fered him. 

That Meade was impatient with Sheridan and 
did not accept his excuses is clear from the fact that 
he ordered an investigation. At 9 a. m. on July 1 
he telegraphed Grant: 

I cannot understand how General Sheridan at Wind 
Mill Point could be forty-eight hours without forage, and 
have directed an investigation to ascertain upon whom the 
responsibility rests. As to the fatigue of his animals, I 
presume the enemy cannot be in much better condition, 
and Hampton must have made a forced march from the 
White House via Richmond. 2 

Meade followed this by sending Ingalls an ex- 
tract from Sheridan's report claiming that he had 
marched from the river without forage and without 
preparation, that his horses were worn out, and that 

1 O. E. Serial No. 81, p. 574. 

2 /&., p. 560. 



some of them had been without forage for forty- 
eight hours. 1 

As Ingalls> reply of July 21 is important and 
conclusive, it is here given entire : 

Your dispatch . . . conveys the first information 
that Sheridan's command had not plenty of forage. On 
his arrival at Douthat's I visited his headquarters to ascer- 
tain his wants. His Chief Quartermaster reported two 
days' [supplies] on hand then. He was told that there was 
an abundance . . . which could be delivered at any 
point on the river. I suspect General Sheridan means to 
convey the idea that his orders and the emergency of the 
case compelled him to leave hurriedly [and] without having 
time to make necessary preparations. He had but just 
crossed over his command. There was no good reason why 
he had not sufficient forage so far as the Quartermaster's 
Department was concerned. 2 

After further investigation Ingalls reported on 
July 1, on the authority of Sheridan's Chief Quar- 
termaster : 

. . . That there was an abundance of hay and grain 
at Wind Mill Point when the cavalry left that place, but 
that the movement was so hurried it was not taken; that 
one division did leave with two days', but the other none. 
I can discover no failure or neglect in my department. 
Colonel Howard has a train now ready to start for Sheri- 
dan's command with two days' forage and three of sub- 
sistence. He has just learned where to send the train. 3 

These dispatches tell the whole story, and, when 
it is remembered that Sheridan had ten days 7 rest 
from June 20 to 29, inclusive, amid the abun- 

1 0. R. Serial No. 81, p. 562. 
-lb., p. 563. 
•76., p. 563. 



dance of White House, 1 Douthat's Landing, and 
City Point, and that when he sent his dispatch of 
2 a. m., July 1, to Meade he had been out from 
Wind Mill Point only about twenty-four hours, in 
which time he had marched less than twenty miles 
and with two days' supply for one of his divisions, 
which was ample for his whole command for one 
day, the case becomes still more difficult to under- 
stand. As to tired horses, Meade's comments on 
the inevitable condition of Hampton's is all the com- 
ment that need be made. It will not be forgotten, 
however, that my command had just finished a cir- 
cuitous march of about three hundred and twenty- 
five miles in ten days, during the most of which 
Sheridan was resting quietly in the midst of abun- 

Meanwhile, as already shown, Hampton's com- 
mand, although his horses were tired and worn, had 
managed to march by a similar route against Sheri- 
dan's shorter line, to fight and shut me out on my 
return. Or, as Grant tersely put it, in his dispatch 
to Halleck on July 1 : 

The enemy's cavalry, finding that Sheridan was secure 
where he was crossing the James River, left him and inter- 
posed themselves on the Weldon Railroad between Wilson 
and his return. 2 

It cannot be denied that after two months of 
hard campaigning both men and horses were tired 
and run down and needed rest, but there is no es- 
cape from the conclusion that as between Sheridan, 
Hampton and myself, Sheridan's mounts were al- 

1 0. R. Serial No. 82, p. 14. 
a O. R. Serial No. 81, p. 557. 



together the best fed, best rested, and most capable 
of the lot. In reaching this conclusion I do not ig- 
nore the strenuous battle at Trevillian, in which 
Hampton claims that he defeated Sheridan "with 
heavy loss, ,, and forced him to retreat "in con- 
fusion. ' 9 * Nor do I forget that Hampton fought 
Gregg on the 24th at Nance's Shop and claimed 
"after a stubborn fight to have routed them com- 
pletely. ,,2 Hampton made substantially the same 
claim to Lee in my case, both as to Stony Creek 
on the 28th and Beams on the 29th. 3 The fine old 
fighter was evidently claiming everything in sight, 
and, as the Confederate combinations were better 
than ours, I freely confess, he had a good deal of 
substantial success to his credit. Why Sheridan 
should have ignored all this and claimed a victory 
in his own campaign, while he designated mine as 
a "disaster" and "defeat," and declared that my 
command was "all broken up and dispersed," it 
is difficult to understand. It evidently, in most 
cases, depends on the point of view of the person 
writing the report or telling the story. In any 
event, it is sufficient to say that I was not idle, and 
from the 22nd to the 25th was marching, fighting, 
and standing off W. H. F. Lee's division, as well 
as the infantry and home guards at Staunton River, 
with one hand, while tearing up railroads, burning 
and destroying the main lines of supply and the 
vital resources of the Confederacy with the other. 
From June 25 to the morning of July 1, while 
others were resting by the wayside, my command 

1 O. E. Serial No. 81, p. 645. 
«!&., p. 688. 
•76., p. 72. 



was marching forty miles a day and fighting day 
and night to extricate itself from the toils of the 
enemy, during which it was, according to all rule, 
Sheridan 's special and particular duty with or with- 
out orders to follow Hampton wherever he went. 

Surely it cannot be imagined that Sheridan had 
had enough of Hampton, or that he wanted to be 
"counted out" of another "free fight" with his old 

In sharp contrast with Sheridan's readiness to 
believe the worst is the declaration of the Lieuten- 
ant General ' '■ that the work done by Wilson and his 
cavalry is of great importance, * ' * and ' ' more than 
compensated for the loss we sustained." 2 

Dana reported July 1 to the same effect : 

. . . This raid seems to have surpassed all others 
except Hunter's in the damage inflicted on the enemy. 3 

Neither were Meade nor Humphreys ready to 
give up in despair. Both insisted to the last that 
Sheridan should go to my assistance, and they, as 
well as Burnside, expressed their gratification at my 
return. 4 

But while Sheridan admits in his "Memoirs" 
that the Weldon Eailroad near Reams Station was 
not covered by our infantry, as General Humphreys 
informed Wilson it would be, he strenuously denies 
that his orders required him to look after or to re- 
tain Hampton. On the contrary, he claimed that 
his instructions required him to break up the depot 
at White House and then bring the train across the 

1 0. R. Serial No. 80, p. 560. 

2 0. R. Serial No. 81, pp. 516 and 578; also No. 80, p. 28. 
"See Dana's reports, O. R. Serial No. 80, p. 30 et seq. 
4 0. R. Serial No. 81, pp. 509, 572. 



peninsula as soon as practicable ; that these instruc- 
tions were never modified; and that he began the 
duty thus imposed on him on the morning of the 
23rd, totally in the dark as to "what was expected 
of Wilson,' ' and yet he admits from some corre- 
spondence between Generals Grant and Meade, 
which he never saw till after the war, that Grant 
thought Wilson could rely on Hampton's absence 
from the field of operations throughout the ex- 

But how under the pressing orders, sent by spe- 
cial messenger on June 27 and urgently repeated 
on the 28th and 29th, Sheridan could say he never 
knew "till after the war" what was expected is 
difficult to understand. To deny that it was his 
clear duty to go to Wilson's assistance as soon as 
he knew that Hampton had withdrawn from his 
front is to deny that Grant and Meade knew the 
meaning of the English language. Clearly, he 
should have left his train under the guns of the 
navy and crossed his troops without delay to the 
south side of the James. 1 Not to do so was to vio- 
late the plainest rules of scientific warfare, as well 
as to act contrary to his own most earnest convic- 
tions that about the worst use that could be made 
of cavalry was guarding wagon trains. Moreover, 
he falls into two specific errors as to dates, both 
bearing on his ability to reach Reams in time to be 
of service to me. He moved from the White House 
on June 22, and not June 23, as he states, and 
Kautz did not rejoin the army June 28, but late 
in the night of June 29. Under such circumstances 
a whole day, or even four or five hours, earlier for 

1 0. E. Serial No. 71, p. 559. 


either Wright or Sheridan might have made all the 
difference between disaster and the crowning suc- 
cess of my expedition. 

Strategically considered, Sheridan's admission 
as to Humphreys' promise that our infantry should 
hold across the Weldon Railroad is relatively unim- 
portant in comparison with the Cavalry Corps' 
presence on the left flank of our army, in position 
to engage Hampton, or to follow him wherever he 
might go. Wright, while waiting for other infantry 
to take its stand in front of the enemy, had no diffi- 
culty in reaching Reams and holding his position 
across the road within five or six hours from the re- 
ceipt of his orders. Nor would Sheridan have had 
if he had, even with his late start, marched as 
rapidly as cavalry should have done to the crossing 
of the Jerusalem plank road and Warwick Swamp. 

His next statement that the moment he received 
orders to go to the relief of Wilson he "hastened 
with Torbert and Gregg by way of Prince George 
Court House and Lee's Mills to Reams Station" 
is not in accordance with the Records. 1 That a 
great soldier like Sheridan, in face of his orders on 
June 20 and subsequent dates, especially the 26th, 
27th, and 28th, could indite, even after the lapse, 
of a quarter of a century, such a paragraph as that 
above shows that his memory must have failed or 
that he wrote carelessly to say the least. If the or- 
ders he received at 2 :45 p. m. of the 29th, to march 
"with all the expedition possible," and "as rapidly 
as possible," authorized him to delay until 5 p. m. 
and then to march only twelve of the twenty miles 
between him and Hampton, then the word "hasten" 

1 " Sheridan 's Memoirs," p. 244. 


has surely lost its meaning for cavalry. If to take 
twenty hours more to cover the remaining ten miles 
between Prince George Court House and Beams 
Station is the best cavalry could do, then it has no 
advantage over the infantry. Napoleon's phrase 
about Grouchy 's "s'amuse a Gembloux" alone fitly 
describes such slowness at such a juncture. 

But further on Sheridan, writing as my corps 
commander, does me the justice to say that my 
retreat from the perilous situation at Beams Sta- 
tion in the face of two brigades of infantry and 
three divisions of cavalry was a most creditable 
performance. Then, as though the praise was too 
great, he criticizes me for relying too much on meet- 
ing our infantry and for not marching on the 28th 
by Jarratt's Station to Peter's Bridge, on the Not- 
toway, and to Blunt 's Bridge, on the Blackwater, 
to the rear of the army of the Potomac instead of 
to Beams Station. 

To all this the sure and unanswerable reply is 
that in Sheridan's absence with his two splendid 
divisions no route was open for my return and none 
across which I might not have found Hampton's 
entire cavalry, supported by Mahone's infantry, 
within easy reach. Obviously, if I had not met 
Hampton at Stony Creek and Beams Station, I 
should certainly have found him at Jarratt's Sta- 
tion or at Peter's Bridge, on the Nottoway, or at 
Blunt 's, on the Blackwater. At any of these places, 
as well as at Beams, his far heavier weight would 
inevitably have occupied me until his infantry had 
joined, in which event my last fate would have been 
far worse than my first. 

It is pleasant to add that in his final report at 


the close of the war General Grant did not, like 
Sheridan, measure my services in terms of doubt- 
ful equivalents, but tersely declared that "the dam- 
ages to the enemy in this expedition more than com- 
pensated for the losses we sustained. It severed 
all connection by railroad with Eichmond [and 
Petersburg] for several weeks. ' ' 1 

Here, with the count decisively in my favor, I 
might well leave it, but perhaps, after all, the most 
conclusive evidence of the greatly preponderating 
value of the expedition to us, in its results weighed 
against our losses, will be found upon a brief glance 
at the Confederates' side of the case. 

The Richmond Examiner of July 5, 1864, imme- 
diately after my return, urged that no prisoners 
should thereafter be taken from raiding parties. 2 
The Richmond Examiner of the 7th and 8th were 
full of fury over Wilson's Said; 3 and, judging the 
hurt to the enemy by the bitterness of his outcry, 
his wounds, if not mortal, were painful, indeed, and 
their effects continued to be felt till the close of 
the war. 

The Southern newspaper phase is fully covered 
by the above extract and by the results of special 
inquiry made by General Meade in reference to an 
editorial of the Examiner of July 2, to which he 
called my special attention. The curious reader will 
find that subject in Meade's letter transmitting the 
Examiner to me and in the reply of my subordinate 
and myself thereto. 4 But altogether the most 
weighty and conclusive testimony as to the deadly 

1 0. E. Serial No. 95, p. 25. a O. E. Serial No. 80, p. 35. 

■ 0. E. Serial No. 80, p. 37. 

«0. E. Serial No. 81, p. 632; No. 82, pp. 15-18; No. 68, p. 113. 



nature of the blow is to be found in General Lee's 
correspondence with the Confederate Secretary of 
War, June 21, 1864. . . . "It is of the last im- 
portance, then, that the Danville, Piedmont, and 
Southside roads be well stock . . . and guarded 
as effectively as possible against raiding parties of 
the enemy. ' ' * Again, Lee, writing to Seddon, June 
26, at the very time I was in the midst of the 
operations against the Danville roads, and, refer- 
ring to the necessity for its repair at once and to 
its operation to its full capacity, concluded: "But 
if this cannot be done, I see no way of averting the 
terrible disaster that will result. f ' 2 

As the concurrent evidence of the damage done 
at the time shows that the railroad was put com- 
pletely out of operation "for several weeks,' 9 it may 
readily be inferred from Lee's language that the 
blow was most effectual, if not fatal, in its results. 
Great additional importance is given to the subject 
by the further urgent appeals made by Lee to the 
Confederate Secretary of War, to stimulate in every 
possible way "the utmost exertion in repairing the 
Danville Kailroad," and to that end to advise the 
robbing of other railroads "by removing the rails 
from those railroads not of prime necessity." This 
correspondence further discloses a peculiar interest 
and care for this particular line, inasmuch as it 
directed that when the repairs were completed, the 
fact should not be made known to the enemy and 
that the newspaper publishers "should abstain 
from any reference to it, even by implication. ' ' 3 

1 0. R. Serial No. 81, p. 671. 
"!&., p. 690. 
»/&., pp. 696, 697. 



Seddon's replies are also interesting. On June 
29 he wrote Lee two letters, in one of which he 
referred to a letter of the 28th instant, "relative 
to the necessity of obtaining a supply of railroad 
iron," and said: "I agree with you as to the only 
mode of accomplishing it and have already taken 
active measures to remove the iron from the less 
important roads. I shall have to encounter injunc- 
tions and vexatious litigations, but the necessity, 
in my judgment is too imperative to allow hesita- 
tion in disregarding such proceedings so far as they 
would prevent immediate command of iron. ' ' 1 

In spite of this imperative use of all the re- 
sources of the Confederacy available at Richmond 
and vicinity for the repairs of the Danville Eailroad, 
it remained out of commission certainly as late as 
July 31. 2 At least ten miles of it south of Meherrin 
Station had not then been repaired. 3 How much 
longer it was lost to the Confederacy and how bit- 
terly the deprivation was felt is not altogether a 
matter of conjecture. John Tyler, a son or near 
relative of a former president of the United States, 
writing from Richmond to General Sterling Price, 
July 9, 1864, acknowledging the damage done both 
by Sheridan's raid and mine, bears unwilling wit- 
ness to the thoroughness with which Wilson and 
Kautz * * succeeded in cutting all our communications 
with the provisioning states of Georgia and Ala- 
bama,' ' which brought the Confederate people to 
"actual want and starvation,' ' from which "the 

1 0. E. Serial No. 81, p. 701 ; No. 82, p. 754. 
"Read in this connection Lee, Davis and Seddon, O. R. Serial 
No. 88, p. 1194. 

8 0. R. Serial No. 82, p. 692. 



army itself cannot altogether escape.' ' This the 
writer feared "more than the muskets and cannon 
of the enemy. Onr situation in Georgia under 
Johnston is similar to that here, but he is nearer 
provisions and is in less danger of starvation. Flour 
here is now commanding in market $400 per barrel 
and everything else in proportion. Many in and out 
of Eichmond must starve to death this coming 
winter. ' ' 1 

Perhaps the grimmest evidence that ' ' starvation 
— literal starvation — was doing its deadly work" in 
breaking down the Confederacy is found in the 
"Beminiscences of General John B. Gordon.' ' That 
sturdy and determined fighter, whom no one will 
accuse of weakness or exaggeration, frankly de- 
clares that many of Lee's men were so weakened 
and poisoned by unsound and insufficient food that 
wounds which would have hardly been reported at 
the beginning of the war afterward often caused 
blood poisoning and death. In illustration he told 
how a man made sick at night by eating parched 
corn would call out the next morning: w Hello, Gen- 
eral, I'm all right now, and if you will have the 
commissary issue me a good mess of minced hay 
for breakfast, I'll be ready for the next fight." 
Quoting one of the surgeons, he declared, "famine 
oppressed them everywhere. ' ' A quarter of a pound 
of rancid bacon and a little cornmeal was the ordi- 
nary ration, but even that failed when the railroads 
broke down or were destroyed, and the bacon, meal 
and flour were left piled up beside the tracks in 
the southwest. 2 

1 O. E. Serial No. 82, p. 758. 

2 Gordon's ' « Eeminiscences of the Civil War," pp. 381, 419. 



Mrs. Burton Harrison, in her happily written 
reminiscences of the dark days in Richmond, con- 
firms the above, and it is now well known that my 
deep cut into the vitals of the Confederacy was the 
beginning of that ' ' terrible disaster ' ' feared by Lee 
and which followed in the spring after a hard win- 
ter had sapped the strength and morale of his army. 
It is also an interesting fact that the work of de- 
stroying the resources and communications of the 
Confederacy, thus successfully begun in Virginia 
by Hunter, Sheridan, and myself, was thoroughly 
completed and the last blow struck by troops under 
my command in March and April, 1865, during the 
final campaign through the states of Alabama and 

Measuring then the success of my operations 
in south Virginia by the severity of the distress 
and injury inflicted upon the enemy, it is apparent 
that my blow struck home against the vitals of the 
Confederacy and made it more than probable that 
if Sheridan had united with either Hunter or my- 
self, Lynchburg would have been captured and the 
railroads south of the James would have been de- 
stroyed beyond the hope of repair. With this done 
our victorious return to the Army of the Potomac 1 
would have enabled it not only to occupy the rail- 
roads south and west of Richmond and Petersburg 
permanently, but would have made it feasible for 
Grant to end the war nearly a year earlier than 
he did. 

It should be noted that the cavalry operations 
by which the railroads around Eichmond and Peters- 
burg were so seriously interrupted have been com- 

1 0. E. Serial No. 70, pp. 650, 652. 


monly called raids, but the military student will re- 
gard them as serious and necessary parts of a gen- 
eral campaign, which should have compelled the 
evacuation of both those cities. That they fell short 
of this expectation was certainly due, first, to 
Grant's scattering instead of concentrating the 
forces available for their execution ; second, to the 
failure of the infantry confronting Petersburg to 
extend its lines across both the country and rail- 
roads to the Appomattox; and, third, to Sheridan's 
failure, with or without orders, to follow Hampton 
from the hour he disappeared from his front north 
of the James, to the left of our army, where it would 
have been easy for Sheridan to keep open the road 
for my return to a junction with the Army of the 




Charges of Richmond newspapers — Meade asks for explan- 
ations — Serious epoch — Early crosses Potomac and 
threatens Washington — Sheridan in command against 
him — Wilson goes to Sheridan's assistance — Interview 
with Stanton at Washington — Covers Sheridan's rear 
from Winchester to Halltown — Affair at Kearneyville 
— Revisits Antietam battlefield — Return to Valley of 

We had hardly got back and received the con- 
gratulations of our friends when a Richmond news- 
paper was sent me by General Grant claiming to 
contain a correct account of my captured headquar- 
ters wagon and of the articles found in it. It also 
printed a note from Dana, written in such a char- 
acteristically bad hand that it could not be deci- 
phered, and hence as published made nothing but 
nonsense. It alleged that a service of church plate 
had been found among my effects, along with a lot of 
wines and delicacies, on which they charged me with 
being * ' a highwayman, a wine-bibber, and a modern 
Sardanapalus. ' ' Grant and my friends considered 
these denunciations as the best evidence that our 



expedition had succeeded, not only in doing what it 
had been sent for, but in giving a serious blow to the 
enemy. As it was well known that I drank nothing 
stronger than coffee and did not even permit liquor 
to be brought to my headquarters, neither of these 
charges gave me much concern. But Meade at first 
took a more serious view of the matter, for without 
delay he sent an official communication through the 
regular channels, 1 calling my attention to the state- 
ment of the Richmond Examiner, July 2, 1864, and 
asking an explanation of its allegations against my- 
self and my command. Sheridan brought the com- 
munication in person and as he handed it to me he 
called out, without waiting for my comments: 
"Damn him! Give him hell! ,, 

Of course, I replied at once in a formal report, 
supported by certified copies of circular orders for 
the government of my command, accompanied by 
statements on honor of my assistants, adjutant, in- 
spector, and provost marshal general. 2 It was easy 
enough for me to disclaim all knowledge of the 
church service, the wines and liquors, and the high- 
way robbery charges. Having done that, I called 
attention to the fact that the outcry of the Rich- 
mond newspapers in face of the precautions I had 
taken to maintain discipline, instead of being a basis 
of charges against me and my command, should be 
considered rather as conclusive testimony to the suc- 
cess of our raid and to the injury it had inflicted 
upon the enemy. I am glad to add that as soon 
as my report and the accompanying documents were 
reached General Meade accepted them as " entirely 

1 0. E. Serial No. 81, p. 632. 

a O. B. Serial No. 82, pp. 15, 16, 17, ia 



satisfactory," 1 and the incident was closed. Meet- 
ing him a few days later, he not only assured me 
"that it was not his design to reflect upon either 
myself or my command, ' f but then and there he ten- 
dered me and my division his heartiest thanks. He 
recognized fully our success and the great damage 
we had inflicted upon the enemy's communications, 
but, singularly enough, he made no reference what- 
ever to the far more important matter of Sheridan 's 
failure to follow Hampton, or to his own failure 
to keep the roads open for our return to the army. 
I learned afterward from Dana and Eawlins 
that Meade 's action in this case was strongly disap- 
proved by Grant, and that the latter was on the 
point of making it the final grounds for removing 
Meade from command of the Army of the Potomac 
and for simplifying the organization of the forces 
under his command. While neither proposition was 
carried into effect, the former serves to show that 
the relations between Grant and Meade, although 
externally friendly, were really in what might be 
rightly designated as a state of unstable equilibrium. 
It indicates also that Grant was far from satisfied 
with the arrangements as they existed, or with the 
results obtained, and that it would have required 
but little additional friction to bring about a reor- 
ganization of the army at that time. Both Dana 
and Rawlins declared that they had never seen 
Grant so disturbed as he was on that occasion and 
that he had more than once said openly that he 
intended to remove Meade from command. 2 

1 0. R. Serial No. 82, p. 68. 

2 See also "Dana's Recollections of the Civil War," pp. 226, 
227, 228. 



Naturally, the storm blew over, and yet the mili- 
tary student, reflecting upon Meade's and Sheri- 
dan's failure to hold the door open for me, might 
well regret that it had not ended in Grant's taking 
immediate and direct command of all the troops 
serving in that theater of war and reducing Meade, 
in spite of his undoubted merits, to the command 
of an army corps. With Rawlins as chief-of-staff 
and Humphreys as his professional assistant, no 
better team could have been arranged for working 
out the details of army movements and of securing 
their prompt, orderly, and coherent execution. It 
would, at least, have placed the responsibility upon 
them as Grant's principal assistants and made it 
known that to them and them alone should all fail- 
ures in the details of military operations be 
ascribed. How much sooner the war would have 
ended, no one can state, but that it would have gone 
forward in that theater at least in a much more 
methodical and effective manner can hardly be ques- 
tioned. Meade, although somewhat lacking in ag- 
gressive temper, was an able and accomplished sol- 
dier, but he, like the rest, would have found it much 
easier to command an army corps than an entire 
army, and much simpler to execute detailed instruc- 
tions than to frame them himself, or to cause others 
to carry them into effect with the promptitude and 
regularity necessary for the success, without which 
all military plans and operations are but wasted 
effort and expense. 

The war had now reached an important epoch. 
Grant, after two months' continuous fighting and 
fearful loss, had pushed his own army up against 
Lee's fortifications with such reinforcements and 



counter-works as to make his position practically 
unassailable. He must, therefore, be dislodged by 
strategy, as McClellan had been dislodged from the 
north bank of the James two years before. The two 
main armies having fought each other to a stand- 
still at Petersburg and Hunter having been defeated 
at Lynchburg and retreated toward the Ohio, in- 
stead of down the valley of Virginia, an impasse 
now followed, during which Lee seems to have be- 
come somewhat overconfident. Eegarding his lines 
as impregnable, he detached an additional force 
from his army, with orders to menace Washington 
and the country north of the Potomac. Confusion 
and excitement followed at the national capital. 
Grant, as Lieutenant General, had naturally absorbed 
all power and responsibility. He was the actual 
commander-in-chief, and it was then the custom for 
all inferior commanders to take their orders directly 
from his headquarters. In consequence of this cus- 
tom, aided as it was by Grant's indisposition to 
give detailed instructions, the generals commanding 
at Washington and vicinity were more or less left 
to their own devices, and, neither having supreme 
authority over the other, military movements were 
uncertain, while effective combinations were almost 

As the enemy made his appearance on the Mo- 
nocacy in July, threatening to invest Washington, 
Grant, who had not left the James, was called to 
the new scene of action by the Secretary of War. 
Dana had already advised him to come at once, if 
he wished an effective defense to be made. 1 He had 
thereupon ordered the Sixth Corps to Washington. 

1 ' ' Dana 's Becolleetions, ' ' p. 229 et seq. 


Hunter, the senior general in that quarter, was get- 
ting old. While a most gallant and aggressive 
leader, he not only lacked decision, but his eccentric 
retreat to the Ohio had effectually removed him 
from his true field of operations. What the situa- 
tion called for now was an active and vigorous 
commander over all the forces covering the 
national capital. After the battle of Monocacy and 
the appearance of the Sixth Corps in the de- 
fenses of Washington, Early and his Confederate 
forces withdrew to the Valley of Virginia. This 
made an aggressive campaign against him neces- 

Sheridan, the cavalry commander, was detailed 
to the new department, which included all northern 
Virginia. The two divisions under his immediate 
command, operating, resting, and refitting on the 
James Eiver for nearly a month, were now in ex- 
cellent condition for the first time. 

Sheridan started for the Valley of Virginia on 
August 1, where he was soon joined by Torbert 
and later by myself with our respective divisions. 
Mine at that time consisted of two brigades. The 
first was commanded by Brigadier General John B. 
Mcintosh, with the First Connecticut, Third New 
Jersey, Second New York (four troops), Fifth New 
York, Second Ohio, and Eighteenth Pennsylvania. 
The second brigade, commanded by Brigadier Gen- 
eral George H. Chapman, consisted of the Third In- 
diana Detachment, First New Hampshire (seven 
troops), Eighth New York, Twenty-second New 
York, and the First Vermont. Battery M, Second 
United States Artillery, with six guns, was attached 
to the first brigade, and Batteries C and E, Fourth 



United States Artillery, with six guns, was attached 
to the second brigade. While all of the regiments 
were small, they now mustered nearly five thousand 
men for duty. 

During the last five days, with the Army of the 
Potomac, my division held the left flank from the 
end of our infantry line to Lee 's Mill, where it con- 
nected with the Second Cavalry Division. Having 
been directed to cooperate with Torbert in an as- 
sault upon the enemy's position near the Lead 
Works, I made all my arrangements accordingly, 
dismounting my entire division, sending the horses 
to the rear, and deploying the troopers in single line, 
ready to advance at the word when Torbert rode 
upon the ground and asked me what the situation 
was in my front. 1 

As I understood it, my orders required an as- 
sault of the fortified line in front, without waiting 
for anybody, but I pointed out the probability that 
our attack would prove too light to break through 
the enemy's entrenchments, whereupon, without 
more ado, Torbert ordered me to withdraw my men 
and remount. Without further action, much to my 
surprise, he then reported that we had made a recon- 
noissance against the enemy, and, finding him too 
strongly fortified to justify a hope of success, had 
not ventured to make the attack ordered, but had 
gone into bivouac with both divisions in rear of 
the ground they had occupied. 

While Torbert in this case doubtless saved many 
lives which would have been uselessly expended in 
an assault in open order, as was the custom in those 

J 0. R. Serial No. 82, p. 670, Wilson to Forsyth; also p. 670, 
Torbert to Humphreys. 



days, his exercise of such discretion was quite new 
to me. It was the first time I found myself along- 
side either of the other divisions in line of battle, 
and I naturally felt anxious that mine should acquit 
itself creditably, but my surprise at the order not 
to attack, after receiving positive orders from army 
headquarters to do so, was greater, if possible, than 
my anxiety that the division should give a good ac- 
count of itself. It was new practice, and, I am 
glad to say, one I never copied, for the idea that 
any subordinate should fail to carry out positive 
orders, or should report that he had carried them 
out when he had not really tried to do so, had never 
occurred to me as admissible in a great army with 
such tasks before it as then confronted the Army 
of the Potomac. Torbert was a good soldier who 
had won special distinction with the infantry and 
had done well with cavalry, but his military habits 
were entirely different from mine. It seemed then, 
and it has seemed ever since, that the exercise of 
discretion in regard to a movement ordered from 
head'quarters as a part of a general plan was haz- 
ardous in the extreme. 

Up to that time I had never failed to carry out 
any order received from proper authority. So long 
as plans or movements were open for discussion, I 
gave my views fully and freely, but when time came 
for action I left the responsibility to those in author- 
ity over me and did the very best I could with the 
means at my disposal, whether I approved the plan 
decided upon or not. Under this rule I can truth- 
fully aver that I never received an order to attack 
or to go to any part of the field that I did not start 
promptly at the time designated. Nor did I ever 



fail to reach the point toward which I was directed. 
This, it seems to me, should be the rule for all sub- 
ordinate commanders, and yet the practice in the 
Army of the Potomac was frequently different, often 
leading to failures, as well as to ill-timed and dis- 
jointed efforts, which generally ended in loss and 

On August 4, 1864, I withdrew from the left 
of the army and took steamer at City Point for Gies- 
boro Depot, near Washington, to refit my divi- 
sion, to remount the dismounted men, and to ex- 
change our heterogeneous assortment of firearms 
for the Spencer magazine carbine, which had been 
adopted as the standard for the cavalry largely on 
my recommendation. 

With the whole division refitted as fully as the 
resources of the depot would permit, I began my 
march through Washington and Georgetown on the 
afternoon of August 12 to join Sheridan in the 
Valley of Virginia. 

It was a beautiful day, the division was in bet- 
ter condition than ever before, many had new uni- 
forms, the guidons were unfurled, the brigade bands 
playing and the column of platoons, with clanking 
sabers and clattering hoofs, made its impressive 
way by Pennsylvania Avenue and Georgetown to 
the Potomac bridge and country beyond. But the 
weather was as hot and dry as it could possibly be. 
Dana, who had joined me and was riding at my side, 
suggested that we should both relish a plate of ice 
cream. Thereupon we left the column to continue 
its march, while we dismounted at Kidenour's, then 
the principal restaurant in Washington, and pro- 
ceeded to refresh ourselves, and I do not recall an 



instance in all my life when I enjoyed an ice more 
thoroughly than I did upon that occasion. Of 
course, we ate quickly and took to horse before the 
rear of the column had passed. 

Just beyond the war department an orderly over- 
took me with the information that Secretary Stan- 
ton wanted to see me at his office, and I reported 
there immediately. Clad in field uniform, forage 
cap, jacket, baggy trousers, top boots, a pair of sil- 
ver spurs, and a rattling saber, I was shown at once 
into the Secretary's office. I had not met him for 
nearly three months, but as our relations had been 
in no way intimate, I expected but little courtesy 
and no civility at his hands. I am free to confess, 
however, that when he received me without saluta- 
tion or asking me to be seated, but broke out in a 
loud and menacing voice : * ' General Wilson, I want 
to know why you wrote that letter to Senator Har- 
ris," I was somewhat surprised. As I did not re- 
call the letter, I coolly asked : " What letter, Mr. Sec- 
retary '?" Whereupon in a still louder and fiercer 
tone he said: "That letter about reorganizing the 
Second New York Cavalry.' '. With that explana- 
tion I recalled the facts and at once answered : ' ' Be- 
cause the Second New York Cavalry, although worn 
down to four troops, is one of the best regiments 
in the service and I wanted to interest the Senator, 
for whom it is named the Harris Light Guard, in 
its reorganization. I felt that with his influence I 
could get Governor Seymour to fill up and return 
the regiment to the field more promptly than it could 
be done through the regular channels.' ' This said, 
I concluded with some emphasis: "I therefore 
wrote that letter because the interests of the public 



service required it!" Thereupon the Secretary ex- 
claimed with still greater violence: "Well, I am 
surprised, Sir! By God, Sir, I am surprised! If 
you had been one of those damned volunteers, I 
should have thought nothing of it, but, coming from 
you, Sir, a regular, who ought to know better, I am 
surprised, Sir, that you should write such a letter 
to any one except through the official channels. ,, 

After I had correctly and fully explained I 
paused and then calmly asked if he had anything 
further to say. To this he replied: "That's all!" 
Thereupon I saluted, withdrew, and rejoined my 
command on the march. The Secretary's outburst 
was both violent and surprising, and when I state 
that the Second New York rejoined a few weeks 
later in the Valley of Virginia, under its boy colo- 
nel, the gallant Hull, with one thousand three hun- 
dred men and horses, I am sure I not only took the 
right course, but gave the irascible Secretary ex- 
actly the right answer. 

I recount this trifling incident to illustrate the 
irascible temper and undignified behavior of the 
Secretary whenever he met an officer who did not 
fear him or stand trembling in his presence. It is 
too true that just such violent language was likely 
to come from him whenever he met any one against 
whose conduct he could raise either a technical or 
a valid objection. He was undoubtedly a man of 
great patriotism and determination, but I am sure 
his violent outbursts of temper and profane lan- 
guage arose from a serious defect of character. Had 
he been capable of self-control, or had the manners 
of a gentleman, he would have been a far greater 
and more admirable Secretary. It has been fre- 



quently stated that no living American could have 
taken his place as Secretary of War, but, with some 
personal knowledge and a good deal of corrobora- 
tive information, I have always believed that his 
temper and his bad manners were a serious blemish 
upon his character and a serious detriment to his 
usefulness. I am equally sure that there were other 
men, even in his own department, who could have 
filled that office much better than Mr. Stanton, not- 
ably Mr. Dana, who was much better qualified by 
actual contact with the army and its leading officers, 
by business experience and natural capacity, as well 
as by conviction, sanity of temper, and method. 

The column reached Leesburg by night on 
August 12. The next day I pushed on through 
Snicker's Gap and Whitepost to Winchester, where 
I formed a junction with Sheridan just as he was 
retreating by the way of Berry ville toward Harper's 
Ferry. Having joined Torbert's cavalry and Pen- 
rose's infantry, I at once took charge of covering 
their rear. With a good deal of sharp skirmishing 
I drove the enemy's advance back upon Brecken- 
ridge's corps, and thus closed the day, but we con- 
tinued the march by night to Summit Point, where 
we bivouacked just before daylight. 

The army found a strong position at Charles- 
town, a few miles farther on, but, for some reason 
never explained, it retreated the next day to Hall- 
town, three miles west of Harper's Ferry. Sheri- 
dan had evidently not yet found himself. He per- 
sistently overestimated Early's strength, not only 
then, but till the end of the campaign. At all events, 
he maneuvered most cautiously for the next four 
weeks, during which time there was much comment 



in the newspapers upon the uncertain outlook in his 
military division. His caution, whatever its cause, 
gave rise to much criticism of his assignment to so 
important a command. Although over thirty-three 
years of age and famed as an Indian fighter as well 
as a successful commander of both cavalry and in- 
fantry, he w T as thought by many too young and by 
others too inexperienced for so great a responsibil- 
ity. The country, therefore, grew exceedingly un- 
easy, for, while Grant was making no progress south 
of the James, Early's army in the lower Shenandoah 
Valley was regarded as a great menace both to 
"Washington and to Pennsylvania. While its real 
strength was doubtless understated by the Confed- 
erate authorities, there can be but little doubt that 
Sheridan, on the other hand, overestimated it 
largely from first to last. It will be recalled that 
Grant finally made a demonstration at Petersburg 
with the view of preventing further detachments, 
but his operations were both futile and disappoint- 
ing, and this served to increase the anxiety for 
Sheridan. The price of gold rose rapidly to a height 
never before reached. The country became almost 
panic-stricken and even Grant himself, while pro- 
fessing every confidence in his gallant lieutenant, 
was evidently growing uneasy. During this season 
of doubt and hesitation my division did its full share 
of the work. It covered the rear, as usual, on the 
retreat and one flank or the other next to the enemy 
on the advance. At Halltown it held the extreme 
right, connecting with the infantry and the Potomac 
at Harper's Ferry. Torbert, Merritt, and Averell 
were near Shepherdstown, where the Valley Turn- 
pike crossed the Potomac. This was the situation 



on August 25, when I received orders to cooperate 
with Torbert in a movement by the way of Kear- 
neyville, south of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, 
for the purpose of developing the enemy's position 
and purposes. 

Having joined Torbert promptly on time in a 
clear, rolling, open country at Walper's Crossroads, 
near the railway station, and, as this was the first 
time the entire mounted force were united in an ag- 
gressive movement, I was anxious that my division, 
newly armed and equipped, should show what it 
could do. Many of our cavalry commanders had ex- 
pressed their incredulity as to the merits of the 
Spencer magazine carbine with which all my regi- 
ments were now armed, and, as it was the first 
time in the history of war that an entire division 
of troops had ever appeared on any battlefield with 
magazine guns, both my brigade and regimental 
commanders were alert to show what they could do. 

Just after crossing the railway our pickets, well 
out, reported the enemy as approaching. Hastily 
dismounting the entire division, sending the led 
horses to the rear and pushing the artillery close 
to the front, our strong skirmish line, deployed at 
intervals of only five feet, soon struck the enemy, 
marching in column toward the north. With a for- 
ward rush and a fire of surprising volume, we were 
soon hotly engaged, overthrowing the enemy's head 
of column and pushing him rapidly back a thousand 
yards or more, capturing between sixty and seventy 
prisoners, who were promptly brought to the rear 
for examination. As they represented regiments 
from all parts of Breckenridge 's corps, it soon be- 
came clear that Early's whole army was again on 



the road for Maryland. Kealizing that a solid line 
of battle would be upon us as soon as it could form, 
I reported these facts promptly to Torbert and took 
the liberty of remounting my skirmishers with the 
least delay possible. By this precaution I was ready 
to withdraw as soon as orders to that effect could 
reach me. 

Having accomplished the purpose of this recon- 
noissance in force, Torbert promptly directed that 
the corps withdraw and that our respective divi- 
sions should return to Shepherdstown and Halltown. 
One of my officers, having gone to Torbert 's head- 
quarters for such orders as he might wish to send 
me, while waiting, overheard Torbert and Merritt 
conferring and the latter say: "Give Wilson the 
rear, with orders to hold on strongly till we get out 
of the way. This will delay him, so that the enemy 
will follow him to Halltown and give him hell, while 
we return leisurely to our camps at Shepherds- 
town. ■ ' My aid promptly reported this amiable sug- 
gestion to me still on the field. 

Fully perceiving the trap thus set for me, I has- 
tily mounted the skirmish line and rear guard and 
directed the officer in charge, while making as great 
a show of resistance as possible, to fall back slowly 
in open order, firing as the enemy advanced and 
maneuvering with all the deliberation possible, with 
the hope that we should thereby so delay the enemy 
as to gain ample time for the division with its bat- 
teries, after passing through the woods and gain- 
ing the side road to Halltown under the screen of 
the forest, to take the trot, with the calculation that 
by the time the enemy got through we should have 
disappeared entirely from sight. The skirmishers 



were well and rapidly handled by Captain Blount, 
a gallant young aid-de-camp, who in the midst of 
it all, received a shot back of the ear, grooving his 
skull and knocking him senseless to the ground. The 
fall, however, revived him and, quickly remounting, 
he rode by, holding his bleeding ear from the side 
of his head and calling out cheerfully: "General, 
do you think this good for twenty days?" As I said : 
"Yes, go on," he rejoined his command, leaving the 
rest of us with the escort to cover our disappearing 
squadrons from the enemy behind the woods till 
we reached Halltown. 

Meanwhile, Early, losing sight of us, marched 
straight down the turnpike till late in the evening, 
when he fell upon Torbert 's unguarded camps with- 
out warning and drove most of his troops into the 
neighboring woods or into the Potomac. They were 
so completely surprised that they made no effective 
resistance. They had not even posted their pickets, 
nor had they begun to unsaddle, hence the result 
was not so disastrous as it might have been. Men 
and officers scrambled to their saddles as best they 
could in the darkness and confusion. Custer forded 
the river to Sharpsburg, while Torbert and Merritt, 
with several mixed and miscellaneous detachments, 
drifted into my camp between nine and ten o'clock 
that night in a state of disorder and confusion. Of 
course, we sounded to arms and stood to horse at 
once, waiting for the enemy or for orders, while 
our unexpected visitors rode on to Sheridan's head- 

Having already bivouacked, unsaddled, groomed, 
watered, and fed our horses and eaten our supper, 
we were quietly resting behind our regular guards 



and pickets when the alarm was sounded at our out- 
posts, but the first I knew of what had actually 
taken place was from Torbert himself, who reached 
my headquarters almost immediately afterward. 

A half hour later Sheridan sent me orders, in- 
spired by the discomfiture of his subordinates and 
the fear that the enemy would, without opposition, 
make a new invasion of Maryland, directing me to 
march at once by Harper's Ferry through Pleasant 
Valley and Boonsboro to Sharpsburg for the 
purpose of joining Custer and watching the river 
closely as far up as Williamsport. I was on the road 
by eleven o 'clock. It was a beautiful, starlight night 
and, as I was familiar with the country from the 
Antietam campaign, I lost no time looking for roads, 
but the incident of the night, unexpected as it was, 
was not lacking in romance, slightly tinged with a 
sense of gratification. Of course, I was sorry that 
any part of the cavalry had been surprised and 
driven from its camps, but, having been in no way 
responsible for its division, and still less for Tor- 
bert 's carelessness, I took no blame for extricating 
my own division from the trap, nor for feeling glad 
that the trap had closed rather on those who had 
set it than on those for whom it was intended. 

I marched all that night by the north bank of 
the river, through the beautiful valleys separating 
the parallel mountain ranges, and by daylight had 
found Custer at Antietam Furnace, and, later in the 
day, Averell still farther up the Potomac. It took 
but a few hours more to make sure that the enemy 
had given up his plan of again crossing the Poto- 
mac and invading the North. 

Obviously, it was now our duty to close in and 


push Early as far south as our strength would per- 
mit. Accordingly, without waiting for orders, I 
recrossed the river at Shepherdstown on the 28th 
and, marching by the turnpike to Charlestown, re- 
occupied my old camp at Berryville, overlooking 
the valley of the Opequan, in the direction of Win- 
chester. It was a beautiful region of mountains and 
fertile valleys, which had been the abode of Vir- 
ginia 's most distinguished families for nearly a hun- 
dred years. Its clear streams and rich harvests 
had made it a favorite theater from the outbreak 
of the war for the march of contending armies, and„ 
while it had been measurably stripped of its stock 
and surplus provisions, it was still the cavalryman's 
delight. Charlestown, the scene of John Brown's 
trial and execution, had fully paid the penalty of its 
intolerance. From the first its houses had been 
looted and its people scattered. Its site was now 
marked by a desolate array of standing chimne} r s 
and every Northern detachment that passed through 
it felt justified in singing at its loudest: "John 
Brown's body lies moldering in the grave, while his 
soul goes marching on!" 

Berryville, in whose outskirts my camps were 
pitched, had suffered no such misfortune. There 
was no animosity against it, and its people were 
treated as well as possible under the circumstances. 
Guards were placed over their residences and their 
little belongings were duly respected, though the 
existence of a horse in the neighborhood fit for a 
mount was a temptation that no cavalry soldier, 
whether Federal or Confederate, could be expected 
to resist. Just as we were going into camp the 
staff officer who had been pushed off the bridge in 



south Virginia had again swapped horses, this time 
with a lad whom he met on the road. He had given* 
a serviceable but somewhat antiquated mare in ex- 
change for an exceedingly likely young horse and 
was rejoicing in the exchange when, just as our 
tents were rising, he cried out in a tone of anguish: 
"By heavens, there comes the old mare!" There- 
upon, an exceedingly handsome, well-dressed woman 
was shown in and had hardly explained what she 
wanted when the officer very gallantly accepted his 
old jade and gave up the young horse. But this was 
not the end; the lady immediately explained that 
our men had also taken an excellent pair of young 
mules, without which it would be impossible for her 
to make a crop and carry on her farm work, both 
of which were necessary for the support of her 
young and innocent children. Her appeal was too 
touching for me and I replied at once with such 
gallantry as I could command that she might have 
her mules also if she could find them. As we had 
several hundred in our train and as all mules look 
more or less alike, I had no idea that she could pick 
out hers. Indeed, I did not suppose that there was 
a woman in the Confederacy who could have done 
so. But I was greatly mistaken, for within five 
minutes she walked out of our camp, leading two 
mules, much to the satisfaction of the aid-de-camp 
who had taken back the old mare. We afterward 
got to know the lady quite well and to regard her 
both for beauty and intelligence as a most charming 
person. During her next call I complimented her 
by saying how glad I was she was not a man, and 
when asked why I replied, because if she were a 
man, she would be a Confederate brigadier, accord- 



ing to my judgment, with brains enough to supply 
a half dozen of the ordinary kind. As it turned out, 
she was the wife of Lee's staff surgeon, and, I am 
glad to add, her children not only grew up none the 
worse for our presence in the neighborhood, but 
afterward married greatly to the mother's satis- 

The entire lower valley had a special interest for 
me from the fact that my father was born near 
Front Royal, a few miles further up, and, according 
to tradition, his father had represented that dis- 
trict in Congress from 1804 to the close of 1808. 1 
I had in my boyhood often heard my father speak 
of it as a region abounding in good land, beautiful 
streams, and patriotic people. From these circum- 
stances I felt strongly drawn toward it and always 
said that if the war should reach that stage in which 
"our army should be divided as Parson Brownlow 
is said to have proposed: * first the fighters, second 
the burners and third the surveyors, 9 ' 9 1 hoped the 
Government would set off my share in the Valley of 

1 ll Biographical Congressional Directory," Alexander Wilson, p. 





Sheridan rests and reeonnoiters — Mcintosh captures 
South Carolina regiments — Grant orders Sheridan to 
"go in" — Battle of the Opequan or Winchester — Wil- 
son opens the engagement — Torbert and Wilson in 
pursuit — Gooney Run — Staunton — Browntown Gap — 
Return to Harrisonburg — Wilson ordered West to re- 
organize and command Sherman's cavalry. 

From August 30 till September 13 we spent 
our time in resting, feeding, setting shoes, drilling, 
skirmishing, reconnoitering, and organizing an in- 
telligence corps. Our front from Berryville ex- 
tended from the Blue Ridge, through Millwood and 
Whitepost to the Opequan. Our officers became en- 
tirely familiar with the country and scarcely a rab- 
bit could stir without their knowing it. The enemy, 
especially the redoubtable partisan Mosby, was con- 
stantly on the alert. Mosby was a dashing and en- 
terprising fellow, liable when least expected to fall 
upon an outlying detachment by night or to assail 
one from a hidden nook in the woods by day. We 
made special efforts to capture him and several offi- 
cers told how near they were to success, but none 
ever brought him in. He came there once, however, 
on his own account, but did not remain long enough 



to be counted a prisoner. It was early one Septem- 
ber night, when the camp guards, pickets, and sen- 
tinels were the only part of the command on watch. 
Neither I nor my staff had yet gone to bed. My 
adjutant, Captain Siebert, a herculean man and an 
excellent volunteer, a native of Darmstadt, and two 
of my aids were chatting with me by a smoldering 
camp fire when suddenly we heard sharp and rapid 
firing at the outposts, followed almost instantly by 
still closer firing and a racket as though we had been 
attacked by the enemy. The adjutant, ever vigilant, 
instantly ordered the bugler to sound : ' ' To arms ! ' ? 
The call rang out clear at once, and was repeated 
from brigade and regimental headquarters till the 
whole command had responded to the notes of the 
bugle. The brigade commanders reported in less 
than five minutes that their men were under arms 
and ready for orders. Almost immediately a gal- 
loping rush was heard through the camp within a 
hundred yards of my own tent, followed in turn by 
the rattle of carbines and then by silence. It took 
but little to learn that Mosby, in a spirit of bravado, 
had charged our camp, doubtless expecting to sur- 
prise it and to pick up enough horses and prisoners 
to repay him for his enterprise. But the firing at 
the outposts and the sudden blare of the bugles 
quickly convinced him that a surprise was impos- 
sible. Such alarms were not infrequent. They cost 
my division nothing more than broken rest, but they 
were always welcome as good practice. 

A few days later General Grant came to the Val- 
ley of Virginia to confer with our commander, and 
just before his arrival a spirited affair, in which 
Mcintosh's brigade took the prominent part, stirred 



up our camp and sent a thrill of excitement through- 
out the army. On September 13 I sent Mcintosh 
toward Winchester for the purpose of developing 
exactly the enemy's position. The two armies were 
separated by the Opequan and its tributaries. The 
intervening country was well covered with timber 
and the accidents of the ground were such as to 
make concealed and secret approaches practicable. 
Bushing rapidly by the Winchester Turnpike 
through a deep gorge crossing the Opequan, Mc- 
intosh struck the enemy's outpost near the stream, 
and so great was his impetus and so unexpected his 
coming that he captured two officers and thirty-seven 
men. Without halting, he galloped rapidly through 
the rising ravine, which screened him on both sides, 
till he came within two miles and a half of Win- 
chester, where he struck an infantry grand-guard 
so posted as to cover the approach to the town. His 
impulse carried him through the enemy's camp, and 
gave him an entire regiment, which turned out to 
be the Eighth South Carolina Infantry, with their 
colonel, fifteen other commissioned officers, and a 
hundred and twenty-seven enlisted men, and their 
battle flags, all of which were brought to camp by 
the middle of the forenoon. 1 The affair not only re- 
flected great credit upon Mcintosh but gave us an 
exact view of the enemy's position, as well as the 
ground over which our army had to advance in or- 
der to engage him. 

I met General Grant on September 17 at Sheri- 
dan's headquarters, and, after receiving his con- 
gratulation on our success, told him that so far as 

x O. R. Serial No. 90, Sheridan to Grant, p. 24; also Mcintosh 
and Wilson's official reports, pp. 530, 531. 



I could see we should no longer delay our advance. 
With the same advice from others and everything 
ready he ordered Sheridan to "go in. ,, Accord- 
ingly at 2 a. m. on September 19 the general ad- 
vance was begun from my flank of the army. Mc- 
intosh, having been over the ground so recently, 
naturally had the lead and before daylight was again 
in contact with the enemy, this time followed 
closely by the entire division, which debouched upon 
the plain in front of Winchester. It started at two 
o'clock and was soon in contact with Bamseur's 
division, occupying the same position it held when 
our first advance was made. Without waiting for 
daylight, I put Pierce's battery of horse artillery, 
supported by Chapman's brigade, in a position to 
the right and then ordered Mcintosh with his en- 
tire force, mounted and dismounted, to rush the 
enemy's works, which he did in the finest possible 
manner, breaking through and driving back the 
enemy all along the line. But Eamseur, a classmate 
of mine, and an accomplished soldier, quickly recov- 
ered from his surprise and in turn led his men 
against us with firm determination to regain his 
lost ground and entrenchments. A fierce melee of 
charge and countercharge ensued, in which both 
sides put forth their best efforts. Every man of 
the division became sharply engaged and, as every 
man seemed to know the importance of success, but 
few orders were necessary. Both brigade com- 
manders fully understood that we had to hold the 
captured entrenchments, and must continue to hold 
them till our infantry arrived, and hold them we did. 
With my staff and escort of Indiana troopers we 
were in the midst of it, firing and slashing right and 



left wherever we could see a rebel soldier. I dis- 
charged twelve shots from my revolvers at close 
range and then, with bugles blowing, drew my saber 
and charged with the men as best I could. 

In the midst of the excitement, before we knew 
what would be the result, a little waif of a boy, not 
yet in his teens, and known only as Jimmie, rode 
up to me, crying as though his heart was broken: 
"General, give me a squadron. The rebels have 
captured Billy Brinton [Lieutenant Colonel com- 
manding the Eighteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry] and 
I want to charge and bring him out. ,, But every- 
body was engaged and there was no squadron, even 
for this little paladin to lead. Brinton really was 
a prisoner, but that night he rolled under a hedge 
and escaped, rejoining us well up the valley the next 
day. Meanwhile, we finally drove Eamseur's divi- 
sion from its rifle pits and fence rail ' ' lay-out ' ' and 
made good our possession. This was the most im- 
portant performance of the day's operations, for 
the captured ground and entrenchments were a part 
of the field which we held till the following infantry 
could deploy and develop a proper front for the final 
advance against Early's position in rear. 

In the midst of the fighting Colonel Sandy For- 
syth of Sheridan's staff rushed upon the field, ex- 
claiming: "This is splendid; you have got a bully 
fight on hand!" Then, waving his hat, he dashed 
into the thick of it, but, being an experienced sol- 
dier, his enthusiasm soon cooled down, and, recog- 
nizing the importance of making good our position, 
he swung about and, galloping to the rear, called 
out as he passed me: "What you need here is in- 
fantry and I am going to hurry it forward as 



rapidly as possible." With this he disappeared, but, 
withal, it was eight o'clock before the Sixth Corps 
arrived on the position we had captured. 

During this action we lost quite a number, killed 
and wounded, but captured something like a hun- 
dred prisoners. The position we had gained, with- 
out the prisoners, was worth far more than it cost. 
It commanded an extensive plateau overlooking the 
Opequan valley behind and the fields in front, which, 
when occupied by our infantry, made it easy for 
Sheridan to deploy his entire force in such an or- 
derly manner as to give battle with the certainty 
of success. 1 The rest of the cavalry, which had been 
watching the country in front of his right flank, 
now pushed its way across the valley to the Win- 
chester and Shepherdstown turnpike, where it finally 
took up an important part in the operations of the 

Upton's brigade of Russell's division was the 
first infantry on the ground. As soon as it made 
good its position I moved well round toward the 
Millwood pike, where I covered the left and front 
of the army, and held my troops well in hand, ready 
to advance at the word. Upton had been a cadet 
with me for four years and was my intimate friend. 
His service as an artillerist, a colonel of infantry, 
and a brigade commander had been second to none 
in the army. He was justly and generally even then 
regarded as one of the best and most promising 
officers of his age in the army. His conduct through- 
out the day was most conspicuous and exemplary, 
and it has always been my belief that to his action 

1 0. R. Serial No. 90, p. 47, Sheridan's Eeport; also Wilson's 
Report, pp. 516 et seq. 



more than that of any other man the final victory 
was due. He was the one infantryman who was 
ever pushing to the front and it was to him, after 
the death of his division commander, that splendid 
soldier, General David A. Eussell, that the enemy's 
position and its weakness became fully known. Al- 
though badly wounded in the thigh by a fragment 
of shell, which laid bare the femoral artery, he de- 
clined to leave the field, although Sheridan in per- 
son ordered him to the rear. Instead of going, he 
caused his surgeon to stop the bleeding of the wound 
by a tourniquet, and then threw himself upon a 
stretcher and had himself carried about the field 
till the battle was won and the enemy in full re- 
treat. 1 This was the most heroic action that came 
under my observation during the war. It led, a 
few weeks later, to my request that Upton, as soon 
as able to return to duty, should be sent west to 
command a division and assist me in reorganizing 
Sherman's cavalry. His prompt acceptance and the 
splendid service he rendered during the last cam- 
paign led to a still closer personal and official in- 
timacy, which lasted to the date of his melancholy 
death. I shall have many occasions before closing 
this narrative to refer to his high character and 
gallant behavior while under my command. 

Having gone to Sheridan's left front by nine 
o'clock, I was constantly engaged throughout the 
day in making reconnoissances and keeping careful 
watch over that part of the field, though we had 
but little actual fighting till late in the afternoon, 
when we came in contact again with the enemy's 

x O. E. Serial No. 90, Sheridan to Grant, p. 26; Sheridan's 
Official Keport, pp. 46, 47, 54. 



extreme right. Finding it concealed in a piece of 
woods, I threw Mcintosh's brigade forward to dis- 
lodge it. With his accustomed spirit, he led his 
dismounted skirmishers, driving the enemy back and 
taking possession of his shelter, but in the midst 
of success his leg was shattered below the knee by 
a bullet, which compelled him to leave the field. Bid- 
ing by me to the rear with his leg dangling and his 
face ashen pale, he briefly reported what had hap- 
pened in order that I might direct the next in com- 
mand to take his place. His leg was amputated that 
night. Chapman's brigade strengthened our attack 
and assisted in making good our advantage. In 
turn Chapman himself was knocked from his saddle 
by a bullet which struck his belt plate and put him 
hors de combat for an hour or two, and finally sent 
him on leave for twenty days, during which he won 
and married a charming wife. Such incidents as 
this make the soldier's life both interesting and ro- 
mantic. 1 

But with all our earlier success and the advan- 
tage it gave us, the battle developed slowly. The 
enemy held every foot of ground as though he were 
fighting for right rather than for victory. For- 
tunately, my position gave me timely notice of every 
favorable indication, so that when the enemy's line 
broke and he finally gave way I led my division 
across country to the Millwood pike, for Kernstown 
and the Valley turnpike, with the view of intercept- 
ing his retreat. The Second New York, under the 
gallant Hull, so young and boyish that his sprout- 
ing blond mustache could hardly be seen, followed 
closely by the Third New Jersey and the Eighteenth 

1 0. R. Serial No. 90, pp. 25-55, Sheridan '■ Report. 


Pennsylvania, rushed with cheerful alacrity to the 
work before them. In column of fours the exultant 
troopers soon found themselves at the edge of an 
old field opening in front of a cavalry brigade oc- 
cupying the other side in full line of battle. Without 
a moment 's hesitation, the youthful but veteran Hull 
called out: "Draw sabers! Front into platoon! 
Gallop, charge \" And as they emerged from the 
woods and took the new formation they galloped 
straight through the enemy, scattering them in all 
directions like leaves before the wind. It was as 
prompt and efficient a piece of cavalry work as ever 
took place, and, as it was helped on by Captain 
Boice with his newly organized scouts, which struck 
the enemy at the same time on his right and rear, 
the rout was complete. It overwhelmed the enemy 's 
last brigade and opened the way to the rear of 
Early's main line. 1 Hull was closely followed by 
the other regiments, but, as their route lay through 
forest and farms, the march, especially for the bat- 
teries, was materially delayed by the ravines, stone 
fences, and rough country of that region. This ex- 
plains why my division did not strike the retreating 
rebel army full in flank till after nightfall. But, 
withal, the pursuit continued till ten o'clock, our 
troopers repeatedly charging the enemy, scattering 
his detachments, picking up prisoners, and capturing 
his impedimenta. Darkness at last made it impos- 
sible to distinguish friend from foe. More than one 
of our detachments charged another. Much con- 
fusion and doubt ensued and this prevented the cap- 
ture of as many prisoners as should have fallen to 
our lot. As it was, I bivouacked near Kernstown, 

x O. R. Serial No. 90, Wilson's Report, p. 518 et seq. 



five miles south of Winchester, at ten o'clock, but 
it was not till toward midnight that my regiments 
were all in hand and their whereabouts known. 

The battle, while counted a brilliant success, hung 
in the balance from 8 a. m., when the Sixth Corps 
began to arrive on the field, till the middle of the 
afternoon, and this uncertainty was due to the ir- 
resolute action of the infantry and especially of the 
Nineteenth Corps under Emory and the so-called 
Army of West Virginia under Crook. For reasons 
never satisfactorily explained, those organizations 
were slow to reach the field and still slower to de- 
velop line and attack the enemy. Upton always 
claimed that they were not only slow and timid, but 
badly handled throughout the day. 

Sheridan limits his fighting force in that battle 
to twenty-six thousand men, but whether this is an 
under- or over-estimate is not important, since the 
rebel figures given after the war, while habitually 
understated, 1 still leave it probable that Early had 
not over half as many in the battle as we had. But, 
whatever may have been our preponderance of force, 
and there can be no doubt that it was considerable, 
both in the battle and in the campaign which fol- 
lowed, Winchester was the first battle of the war in 
which the cavalry was properly handled in coopera- 
tion with the infantry, and in which it played the 
decisive part. Without reference to the additional 
trophies it might have won had the infantry acted 
with as much elan and decision as it might have 
acted, it seems certain that, but for the capture of 
the entrenchments and the field on which the in- 

X C. F. Adam's "Studies; Military and Diplomatic, ' ' p. 282 
et seq. 



fantry formed its line and from which it advanced, 
although with much delay, it could not possibly have 
won the signal victory of that memorable day, and 
there are many who believe that it might have been 
driven from the field had Early at any time after 
eight o'clock assumed a vigorous offensive. The 
simple fact is that the infantry was slow, and that 
with all his energy and dash Sheridan was not yet 
the whirlwind of battle he afterward became. 

It is equally certain that the victory, although 
overwhelming, did not give us as many prisoners 
or as many spoils of war as it should have done. 
Had the break come sooner or had the cavalry been 
kept united and thrown earlier in the day against 
the enemy's line of retreat, it might have captured 
Early's entire force. 

As soon as light enough to see the next morning, 
I renewed the pursuit, but without any great addi- 
tions to our captures. Sheridan had ordered my 
division to leave the main valley road at Middletown 
and turn toward Front Royal, but it had not gone 
far before it struck Wickham's cavalry, which it 
drove rapidly across the Shenandoah. In the run- 
ning fight my inspector, Captain Russell of Maine, 
one of our best and bravest officers, was wounded 
in the knee by a shot so small that none of us thought 
it serious, but his leg was amputated that night, 
which was followed by death in less than forty-eight 
hours. In these days of antiseptic surgery he would 
have lost neither his leg nor his life. 

At daybreak on September 21 we forced our 
way across both branches of the Shenandoah and 
attacked the rebels at Front Royal, but the morning 
was so foggy that the men in the fighting line could 



not see thirty yards. As the lay of the land was 
unknown, I ordered that every bugler should sound 
the charge and, when it is remembered that we had 
two buglers at our headquarters, two at each bri- 
gade and regimental headquarters, and two with 
each battery and troop, and that we had ten regi- 
ments in the division, it will be seen that we had 
about two hundred and fifty buglers all blowing at 
the same time. As the hills reechoed the bugle notes 
and the shouting of the captains, the air was filled 
with a swelling volume of sound, which might well 
have frightened a larger force than the one before 
us. Ten thousand men could not have made a 
greater noise and as it came from all sides the enemy 
broke and ran in all directions, but in the gray of 
the morning and the dense fog but few prisoners 
were taken. 1 The line of retreat was up the Luray 
Valley through Massanutten Gap to Newmarket and 
the pursuit was renewed as soon as it was light 
enough to see the road. Later the same day Tor- 
bert with his division overtook us and held command 
of the united force till we rejoined the army on Sep- 
tember 25. 

While pressing the enemy that morning my ad- 
vance came near plunging headlong into the chasm 
of Gooney Eun, where the enemy had paused long 
enough to burn the bridge at the foot of a sharp 
down-grade. The rocky chasm thus left was many 
feet deep and impassable for any creature except 
mountain goats. As it extended both ways for a 
mile or so, it took several hours to find a way of get- 
ting our guns and horses across. This annoying 
circumstance gave the enemy ample time to burn 

l O. E. Serial No. 90, p. 26, Sheridan to Grant. 


other bridges and make fence rail M layouts,' ' 
which delayed us from rejoining Sheridan in the 
valley beyond till after the battle of Fisher's 

The day after that, however, we were further re- 
enforced by Lowell's brigade, and pushed up to 
Staunton, arriving there at 7 p. m. on the 27th. The 
town, with a large number of convalescent and 
wounded men, a great quantity of hard-bread, to- 
bacco, military equipments, clothing, and camp 
equipage, fell into our hands. After taking what 
we needed and destroying the remainder, we pushed 
on to Waynesborough, where we spent several hours 
burning the bridges and tearing up the tracks of 
the Gordonsville and Staunton Eailroad. 

We left Sheridan resting at Harrisonburg. With 
the beautiful country and the fine, bracing weather, 
all the conditions for continuing the campaign were 
unusually favorable, but the enemy, by burning the 
bridges behind him, had made it impossible to over- 
take him. With but one turnpike in each valley, 
the minute we left that and took to the country roads 
we lost, while the enemy gained, both time and dis- 
tance. As a consequence we did not bring him to 
bay again till he got beyond the Browntown Gap, 
through which Torbert concluded it was not prudent 
to follow him. Sheridan remained far behind, 
though there is now but little doubt that he might 
have continued the pursuit till he had driven Early 
back on Lee, instead of putting that off till six 
months later. 

Perceiving doubtless that our infantry was not 
at hand, Early turned fiercely upon us late in the 
afternoon of the 29th between Waynesborough and 



Browntown Gap, driving in our pickets and pushing 
us back so fiercely that we at once concluded his 
retreat was at an end, or that he had received re- 
enforcements and intended to drive us down the 
valley if possible. But, while this was dawning on 
us, Torbert, instead of fighting, gave orders to re- 
tire, as he alleged, in compliance with orders from 
Sheridan, and we were arranging to do so when 
the enemy appeared in full force. With our bat- 
teries in position we opened on his and soon became 
hotly engaged. Torbert and I met in the turnpike 
with our officers and escorts and were consulting as 
to the manner of withdrawing when it became ap- 
parent that the enemy had got our range far too 
closely for comfort. I, therefore, suggested that 
we had better get out of the road and take position 
in the open field, but our horses had hardly moved, 
when flash, whiz, bang! came two shots, raking the 
turnpike exactly where we had stood facing each 
other, scattering both officers and men and maiming 
a lot of horses, but, fortunately, wounding none of 
us. It was an exciting moment. The thought of 
danger, the slight movement of Torbert and myself, 
and the flash of the rebel battery followed each other 
"in the twinkling of an eye." My servants were 
getting supper a few yards away when a shot struck 
the camp fire, scattering pans and skillets and scar- 
ing the servants out of their wits. Gathering them- 
selves hastily together, packing up their effects, and 
tossing them into the mess wagon, they took the 
road to the rear in a hurry while my colored boy, 
who had been with me from Vicksburg, rode up, ex- 
claiming: "Gene'l, there ain't going to be no sup- 
per, 'case it's all broke up and scattered, an' you'd 



better light out and take care of yo'self, for if you 
get killed, I can't stay in dis wa' nohow !" 

Meanwhile Torbert had, as usual, given me the 
rear, with notice that the other troops would "get 
back" as rapidly as possible and leave me "a clear 
road.'' In retreat this is about the best thing one 
cavalryman can do for another, and it was most ac- 
ceptable at this juncture. The enemy's guns were 
now pouring roundshot and canister from the hills 
beyond, while his infantry was in full swing toward 
us, their rifles flashing in the gathering gloom like 
an innumerable swarm of fireflies. There was not 
a minute to lose. Hastily sending my aids to the 
brigade and regimental commanders with orders to 
withdraw from the outer flanks till only two regi- 
ments were left in line, and directing headquarters 
to take the road without delay, I held on till the 
movement was well under way. Night was now on. 
My officers and orderlies were all guiding troops 
to the rear, but it was now so dark that I could not 
see whether the last two regiments had gone or were 
still facing the enemy. There was nothing to do but 
go in person to find out. I, therefore, gave my horse 
the spur and had hardly got started when I found 
myself under a heavy fire, with none of my men in 
sight. I turned about and rode to the rear at once. 
Not a soul but the enemy was in sight, and it was 
then so dark I could not make out clearly what was 
going on. Hence I took a sharp trot down "the 
middle of the road," and soon found myself in a 
deep cut, with the enemy firing sharply at me from 
both sides. I was in a perilous position, expecting 
every moment to be killed, but the sunken road saved 
me by causing the enemy's shots to pass over my 



head. I had already drawn my revolver and as I 
caught the flash of the nearest rifle I fired in return, 
aiming low and hoping to kill. My speed was fast, 
and yet I had time before getting clear of the enemy 
to empty both pistols, and this I did with as much 
deliberation as I could bring to the task. I always 
regarded this as the narrowest escape of my life. 

I had hardly replaced my pistol and dropped 
into a leisurely pace when I heard spurs jingling, 
sabers rattling, and horses' hoofs clattering on the 
turnpike. Fearing that the enemy had passed around 
and would finally capture me, I heard with bated 
breath a hail out of the darkness : ' ' Halt ! who comes 
there ?" But, as described elsewhere, I recognized 
the familiar voice of Captain Hull, who was coming 
with a squadron of the Second New York Cavalry 
to rescue me if possible. While the recognition was 
mutual, I have always regarded this incident as a 
great tribute to the character and devotion of that 
splendid young soldier. 

We were finally clear of the enemy, but contin- 
ued our night march through Staunton to Spring 
Hill, where we halted the next morning at daylight. 
After resting and feeding we leisurely resumed the 
march to Harrisonburg, where the campaign ended 
for the present to the satisfaction of all concerned. 
But, fortunately for us, Early was not willing to 
let it rest at that. With blundering fatuity, but un- 
usual daring, he pushed his fortunes to a fatal dis- 
aster, for he was overwhelmingly defeated a few 
days later at the decisive battle at Cedar Creek. 

My campaigning in the East had, however, ended 
at Harrisonburg on September 30 by an order 
relieving me from further duty with Sheridan and 



directing me to proceed without delay to Atlanta, 
Georgia, and report to General Sherman for the 
purpose of reorganizing and commanding the cav- 
alry of his military division. 

I had led the Third Cavalry Division constantly 
for nearly six months. It was first to cross the 
Eapidan and first to engage the enemy in the Wild- 
erness. It was the only division to occupy Spott- 
sylvania Court House. It did its full part in the 
battle of Yellow Tavern, where Jeb Stuart was de- 
feated and killed. It marched to the James Eiver 
and then rejoined the army with the cavalry corps 
at Chesterfield Station, where it made a successful 
turning movement against Lee's left and rear. It 
took part in all Grant's operations till he confronted 
and besieged Lee in his works at Petersburg. From 
the Chickahominy to Prince George Court House, 
including the passage of the James, it was the only 
cavalry division present with the army. From 
Prince George it moved by the way of Reams Sta- 
tion against the Weldon, the Southside, and the Dan- 
ville railroads, destroying them so completely that 
they were out of service for nine weeks. With only 
four weeks' rest it rejoined Sheridan in the valley, 
where it took a leading part in the battle of Kear- 
neyville, Winchester, and Waynesborough. During 
this period it captured many prisoners and partici- 
pated in twenty-six fights and skirmishes. It 
marched one thousand three hundred and fifty miles 
from the 1st of May to the 1st of September, and 
did its full share of the cavalry work at all times 
and in all places. 1 And yet the division grew stead- 
ily in strength and efficiency. With only three thou- 

1 O. E. Serial No. 90, p. 520, Wilson 's Keport. 



sand six hundred troopers in the saddle, we crossed 
the Rapidan five months before, and, yet, with all 
our losses, the division numbered about five thou- 
sand men for duty when I left it. Every man was 
mounted and every non-commissioned officer and pri- 
vate was armed with a Spencer carbine. All things 
considered, it had become as good a division of cav- 
alry as ever upheld the Union cause. This is shown 
not only by the extraordinary services I have just 
outlined, no less than by its splendid deeds under 
Custer, my gallant successor. Its two best regi- 
ments were the Fifth New York and the First Ver- 
mont from the opposite sides of the Champlain Val- 
ley. They were almost to a man of Anglo-American 
stock, steady, amenable to discipline, natural cav- 
alrymen, devoted to the Union and without hatred 
or passion, they were ever ready for the fray. The 
division contained, besides two other New York regi- 
ments, one Connecticut, one New Hampshire, one 
Ohio, and one Pennsylvania regiment, one troop 
from Indiana and two regular batteries of horse ar- 
tillery, all splendid specimens of the American sol- 
dier and a complete epitome of the Northern people. 
By constant work, constant instruction, constant at- 
tention to the details of discipline and equipment 
and by the gradual perfection of their armament 
they had become, without bravado or bluster, model 
American cavalry, fully competent to grapple with 
any military task that might confront them. 

On the day I left I was aroused before sunrise 
by the reveille, which, as custom required, started 
with my own buglers and was taken up in turn at 
brigade and regimental headquarters, and then by 
troop and battery, till mountain and valley, forest 



and field, reechoed with the strains of martial music. 
Nothing conld have been more stirring than bugle 
answering bugle on that clear, chilly morning. 
Borne, at first softly, in upon the awakening sense, 
gradually swelling as note answered note and finally 
dying out in the distance with a delicious and linger- 
ing concord of sweet sounds, it was an experience 
never to be forgotten. The regret which I naturally 
felt at parting with the gallant comrades whom I had 
come to regard as brothers in the great cause, filled 
my heart with sympathy and affection which have 
lasted to this day. Perhaps it was a similar feeling, 
mingled with grateful ambition, that warmed the 
heart of my successor and inspired his tongue with 
pleasant words and generous assurances, ending in 
an offer to serve with me in the West, and making 
us better friends than ever before. 

After turning the division and its permanent 
staff over to him, with the brief remark that he 
knew it as well as I did, I took my leave and started 
with my aids and an escort of fifty men to Martins- 
burg, on the way to Washington, for the purpose 
of completing my arrangements for the great com- 
mand and responsibilities which had been imposed 
upon me in the West. While Grant authorized Sher- 
idan to send either Torbert or myself to reorganize 
and command Sherman's cavalry, both Sheridan 
and I felt that the great task was really intended 
for me, and, as Torbert did not care to leave the 
Army of the Potomac, the detail fell to my lot. 



Ames, General Adelbert, 447. 
Ammen, Daniel, U. S. N., 96. 
Anderson, General, C. S. A., 

Anderson, Major Robert, U. S. 

A., 60. 
Andrew, Governor, 341. 
Andrews, General John W., U. 

S. V., 57. 
Andrews, John N., U. S. A., 

18, 59, 399, 427, 462, 477 

et seq., 545 et seq.; joins 

staff, 426. 
Antietam campaign, 100 et seq., 

Army of Potomac, 401. 
Army reorganization, plan of, 

229 et seq. 
Asboth, General, 251. 
Averell, General, 540, 544. 


Babcock, Lieutenant Colonel, 

283, 361, 378, 424. 
Badeau, Adam, 81, 89, 191, 

192, 347, 361, 378. 
Baird, General Absalom, 298, 

Banks, General N. P., 238. 

Barlow, General, 447. 

Barnes, John S., U. S. N., 83, 

Battle above the clouds, 293. 
Beard, Lieutenant Colonel, 81, 

Beaumont, E. B., 399. 
Beauregard, General G. T., 60. 
Ben Deford, steamship, loading, 

77 et seq. 
Benham, General, 87, 96. 
Benjamin, Colonel, 433. 
Benton, Major James G., 16. 
Black Hawk War, 4. 
Blair, Francis P., 63, 64. 
Blair, Montgomery, 64. 
Blount, Captain, A. D. C, 543. 
Boice, Captain, 53. 
Borland, Harold, cadet, 21. 
Bowen, General, C. S. A., 220. 
Bowen, Nicolas, 103, 106, 416. 
Bowers, Theodore F., 136, 138, 

347, 348, 361, 389, 390 et 

Bowman, Charles S., 19. 
Bragg, General Braxton, C. S. 

A., at Chattanooga, 284, 

292, 296; retreats, 301, 

Brannan, General J. M., 298. 
Brinton, Lieutenant Colonel, 

Bruinsburg Landing, 171. 



Buckner, General Simon B., C. Congo plantation, 170. 

S. A., Ill, 403. 

Buell, General D. C, 60, 150. 

Buford, General Napoleon B., 

Burnside, General A. E., 104, 
106, 110 et seq., 357, 364, 
394, 432, 454; at Knox- 
ville, 281 et seq.; anxious 
to cross Holston, 283. 

Butler, General Benjamin F., 
357, 360, 368, 415, 416, 
417, 423, 509, 510. 

Cady, Surgeon, 255. 

Casey, Samuel K., 7. 

Casey, Thomas L., U. S. En- 
gineers, 16. 

Cavalry Bureau, 321 et seq. 

Chance, Orderly, 473. 

Chapman, Colonel George H., 
381, 382, 384, 407, 408, 
430, 433, 442, 459, 464, 
466, 477, 513, 533, 551; 
promoted, 456 ; wounded, 

Chattanooga campaign, 263 et 

Class of 1855-1860, 9 et seq. 

Cleburne, General, C. S. A., 

Clitz, Henry B., 16. 

Cogswell, Milton, 16. 

Colburn, A. D. C, 122. 

Collins, Napoleon, 96. 

Comstock, Colonel Cyrus B., 
317, 418, 445. 

Conspiracy, 354 et seq. 

Cosby, George B., C. S. A., 16. 

Couch, General, 109. 

Cracker line, 279. 

Craig, Captain Thomas E., Illi- 
nois Rangers, 3-4. 

Craighill, William P., 16. 

Crawford, General, 380. 

Crocker, 223, 322. 

Crook, General George, 49, 348, 
358, 557. 

Cullom, Shelby M., U. S. Sen- 
ate, 24, 25. 

Cullum, General, 61. 

Cunningham, John M., 7. 

Cunningham, Mary (Mrs. John 
A. Logan), 7. 

Cushing, Samuel T., 19. 

Cushman, Captain, 433. 

Custer, George A., 101 et seq., 
361, 364, 407, 413, 419, 
543, 544. 


Dahlgren, Admiral, Ulric, 370. 

Dana, Charles A., 161, 330, 
339, 342, 348, 416, 424, 
444, 445 et seq., 454, 455, 
471, 530, 536, 539; "eyes 
of the government", 161, 
166; letters of, to Stan- 
ton, 177, 184, 188, 193, 
214, 265; rides to Chatta- 
nooga, 268; at Knoxville 
with Wilson, 281, 307; re- 
turns to Washington, 316, 
325 ; recommends Wilson 
for Cavalry Bureau, 326. 



Davies, Henry E., 361. 

Davis, General Jefferson C, 

Davis, Jefferson, President 

Southern Confederacy, 4, 

DeHart, Henry V., 49. 
Delafield, Colonel R., 16. 
Dennison, Governor, 343. 
Dickey, Colonel T. Lyle, 67. 
Dixon, Joseph, 36. 
Douglas, Stephen A., 23, 25, 

Drayton, Percival, U. S. N., 

Duane, Major James C, 16, 

Duff, Colonel W. L., 317. 
Dunn, William M., A. D. C, 

DuPont, Admiral, 70, 96. 


Eagle Valley Retreat, 15. 
Early, General, 485, 543, 558; 
menaces Washington, 540. 
Edson, Theodore, 17. 
Ekin, Colonel, 339. 
Ellard, Colonel, 329, 330. 
Emory, General, 557. 

Featherstone, General, C. S. A., 

Ferrero, General, 496. 
Finnegan, General, C. S. A., 


Fisher, Colonel, 104. 
Fitzhugh, Charles L., 381, 412, 

Floyd, John B., 32. 
Floyd-Jones, 49. 
Foraker, Senator, 34. 
Forrest, N. B., 409. 
Forsyth, James W., 387. 
Forsyth, Sandy, A. D. C, 552. 
Fort, Lieutenant, 468. 
Foster, Samuel A., 18. 
Franklin, General, William B., 

Fries, Andre, librarian, 10. 
Fry, James B., 16. 


Garrard, Kenner, 327. 

Gibbes, Wade H., 20. 

Gibbon, General John, 16, 105, 
496, 501. 

Gillmore, Quincy A., 70, 87, 
95, 96, 357, 360, 416. 

Goddard, Captain, A. D. C, 

Gogorza, Anthoine de, 33. 

Gordon, 382. 

Gordon, General John B., 386; 
anecdote concerning, 525. 

Grand Gulf, 170. 

Granger, General Gordon, 296; 
detached, 303; slow start- 
ing on part of, 304; char- 
acter of, 306, 327. 

Grant, Frederick D., 193. 

Grant, Ulysses S., 33, 95, 100, 
137 et seq., 147 et seq., 
225, 237; 456, 469, 471, 



482, 485, 486, 491, 497, 
506, 526 et seq.; recom- 
mends consolidation of de- 
partments, 149, 155; runs 
batteries at Vicksburg, 
166; lost on river, 167; 
crosses at Bruinsburg, 171 
et seq.; at Battle of Port 
Gibson, declines reconcil- 
iation with McClernand, 
174 et seq., 193 et seq.; 
occupies Jackson, 202 ; 
concentrates army, 204, 
206, 207; closes in on 
Vicksburg, 208 et seq., 
212; relieves McClernand, 
217; visits New Orleans, 
239 et seq.; horse falls, 
244; is ordered to Chat- 
tanooga and meets Stan- 
ton, 260; Military Di- 
vision of the Mississippi, 
and, 262; arrives at 
Bridgeport, rides to Chat- 
tanooga and meets Thomas, 
268, 273; sends orders to 
Burnside, 284 et seq.; 
makes plans at Missionary 
Ridge, 292, 299; rides to 
front, 300; losses of, at 
Missionary Ridge, 301 ; fol- 
lows Sheridan, 302; so- 
licitude of, for staff, 303; 
future plans , of, 315 ; at 
Nashville, 317; "War in 
this country now," 319; 
headquarters of, at Nash- 
ville, and plans for future, 
321 ; characteristics and es- 
timate of, of officers, 322, 


326, 327, 341, 344; promo- 
tion of, 346,347,348; vis- 
its Washington, 349, 354, 
355 ; overland campaign 
of, 357, 358, 360, 361, 
362, 365, 366, 374, 375, 
376, 378 et seq., 384, 388; 
in Wilderness, 389 et seq., 
393, 394, 401, 402, 403, 405, 
415, 416, 417,419, 422, 423 ; 
advances to the James, 
426, 440, 441; dissipates 
cavalry, 442, 443; respon- 
sible for head-on attack, 
444; abandons "Smash 'em 
up" policy, 446 et seq.; 
takes warning, 448; at 
Cold Harbor, 450, 451; 
crosses the James, 453; 
telegraphs Butler, 494 ; 
dissatisfied with Meade, 
530; assumes direct com- 
mand, 531; absorbs all 
power, 532, 540; in Valley 
of Virginia, 549 et seq. 

Gregg, David, McM., 364, 383, 
384, 395, 413, 440, 504 et 
seq., 517. 

Griffith, Sergeant, 179 et seq. 

Grimshaw, Dr., 56. 


Hains, Peter C, U. S. En- 
gineers, 205. 

Hall, Robert H., 18. 

Halleck, General Henry W., 
98, 339, 359, 490. 

Halpine, Charles G., 92. 


Hamilton, John, 70, 87. 

Hammond, Colonel John, 380, 

Hampton, General Wade, 380, 
382, 408, 409, 430, 440, 
451, 458, 465, 469, 470, 
473 et seq., 482, 487 et seq., 
492, 497, 501, 502 et seq., 
507, 509, 516 et seq.; not 
idle, 493; claims success, 
517 et seq. 

Hancock, General, 403, 454, 

Hardee, William J., 11, 12, 100. 

Hardie, James A., 49, 60. 

Harris, Ira, Senator, 537. 

Harrison, Elinor, 1. 

Harrison, General W. H. H., 3. 

Harrison, Mrs. Burton, 526. 

Hartsuff, General, 104. 

Hecker, Colonel, Illinois Volun- 
teers, 312 et seq. 

Hickenlooper, Captain, 206. 

Hilton Head, 72 et seq. 

Hodges, Henry ft, 48, 49. 

Hodson, of Hodson's horse, 52. 

Hoffman, Ernest F., Engineer, 
309; romantic career of, 

Holabird, -Samuel B., 16. 

Hooker, Goneral Joseph, 104, 
105, 116; wants Grant to 
call, 264; marches through 
Lookout Valley, 277; Bat- 
tle of Wauhatchee, 278; 
slow at Missionary Ridge, 
296; on the right, 301. 

Hopkins, Edward R., 19, 116. 

Horse contractors arrested, 

Hovey, Albin P., 344. 
Howard, General O. O., 16, 

264; at Missionary Ridge, 

Huger, Frank, 20. 
Hull, Colonel, 555 et seq., 563. 
Humphreys, General A. A., 33, 

443, 458, 479, 482, 492, 

495, 498 et seq., 507. 
Hunter, General David, 87 et 

seq., 91, 92, 95, 119, 440, 

483, 485, 491, 492, 526, 

Hurlbut, General Stephen A., 

25, 252. 

Ingalls, General Rufus, 497; 
investigates Sheridan, 515. 

Inspection orders and instruc- 
tions, 245. 

Jackson, William H. ("Red")., 

Jayne, William, 26. 

Jimmy ("The Boy"), 552. 

Johnson, Andrew, 332 et seq. 

Johnston, General Albert Sid- 
ney, C. S. A., 41, 60. 

Johnston, Joseph E., C. S. A., 
4, 60, 199, 204, 403. 

Jones, Mason (colored), 170, 

Jones, William G., 18. 

Jordan, William H., 19. 



Kautz, Colonel A. V., 339, 455, 
456, 461, 462, 463; at 
Reams Station, 466 et seq., 
471, 509; quits, 510; a 
typical infantryman, 511, 

Kearney, General, 58. 

Kellogg, Josiah H., 18. 

Kerr, John M., 20, 102. 

Kidnapping in Illinois, 5. 

Kilpatrick, General, 361, 368 
et seq., 409. 

Kingsbury, Colonel, 110 et seq. 

Kittoe, Dr., 210, 257, 317. 

Kossuth's nephews, 252. 

Lewis, Martin, V. B., 19. 
Lincoln, Abraham, 4, 23, 24, 

351, 353; pathetic dis- 
patch of, 485. 
Lockett, Samuel H., 223. 
Logan, Confederate Colonel, 

Logan, John A., 25, 46, 171, 

Logan, Mrs. John A. (Mary 

Cunningham), 7. 
Lomax, L. L., 381. 
Long, Lieutenant, 382. 
Longstreet, General, C. S. A., 

238, 327, 381, 393; at 

Knoxville, 304. 
Lowell, Colonel Charles, 343, 

Lynn, Daniel D., 19. 
Lyon, General, 55. 

Lagow, Clarke B., 138, 302. 

Lamon, Ward, 350. 

Lamont, Captain, 153. 

Latham, Mr. and Mrs., of Mag- 
nolia Hall, 212. 

Lawler, General Michael K., 
25, 177 et seq., 204. 

Lee, Colonel A. L., Jayhawker, 

Lee, Fitzhugh, 493, 501. 

Lee, General W. H. F., 461, 
470, 501, 517. 

Lee, Robert E., 60, 64, 347, 357, 
358, 376, 393, 394, 403, 
405, 409, 415, 419, 420, 
422, 430, 432, 434, 435, 
437, 440, 442, 451, 485, 
493; the assailant, 386; 
correspondence of, 523 et 



McClellan, General George B., 
60, 94, 100, 104 et seq., 
107, 110 et seq., 118 et seq., 

Mc demand, General John 
A., 25, 46, 119, 121 et 
seq., 159, 174, 176, 178, 
181 et seq., 204, 205; dis- 
patches of, 216;; relieved, 

McCook, Alexander McD., 16. 

McCreery, W. W., 20. 

McDowell, General Irvin, 54, 
60, 65, 100. 

McFarland, Walter, 21. 


Mcintosh, Colonel, 380, 382, 
430, 459, 471, 513, 533, 
550, 551; promoted, 456; 
wounded, 555. 

McKenzie, Ranald S., 13, 447. 

McMahon, Purser, 246, 247. 

McNutt, Captain, 70. 

McPherson, General James B., 
14, 19, 49 et seq., 54, 58, 
65, 132, 142, 146, 149, 181, 
188 et seq., 198 et seq., 236, 
322, 402. 

Macfeeley, Robert, 140. 

Mahone, General, C. S. A., 
470, 502, 509. 

Mansfield, General, 115. 

Marsh, Salem S., 18. 

Marshall, Samuel S., 7. 

Martin, James P., 17, 18, 126, 
328, 339, 427. 

Maynard, Hon. Horace, 286. 

Meade, General George G., 58, 
115, 357, 360, 365, 378, 
388, 395, 396, 435, 437, 
441, 443, 454, 468, 482, 
485, 486, 490, 491, 493, 
494, 495, 497, 498, 504 et 
seq., 506, 510; impatient 
with Sheridan, 514, 529 et 
seq.; failure of, described, 

Meigs, General, Q. M., 293. 

Merritt, Wesley, 11, 18, 361, 
364, 413, 508, 540, 543. 

Michler, Nathaniel, 48. 

Milliken's Bend, 155. 

Mishler, Lyman, 19. 

Missionary Ridge, 289 et seq.; 
mistaken claims at, 300; 
losses at, 301. 

Mizner, Colonel J. K., 143. 
Morgan, Michael R., 97, 416. 
Morton, Colonel A. St. Clair, 

Morton, Governor O. P., 343. 
Mosby, Colonel John S., 548 

et seq. 
Mudd's Cavalry, 172. 
Munday, Mark, Pilot, 153. 


New Harmony, 6. 
Nicolay and Hay, 23, 64. 
Noyes, Henry E., 399. 

Officers, meeting of, at Chat- 
tanooga, 280. 

Oglesby, Richard J., 25. 

Ord, General E. O., 358. 

Orchard Knoll headquarters, 

O'Rorke, Patrick H., 70. 

Osterhaus, General, 175. 

Overland campaign, 402 et seq. 

Palmer, General John M., 25. 

Panama Canal, 33. 

Parke, General John G., 283, 

Parker, Indian Chief, 400, 452. 
Pelouze, Louis H., 70, 77, 85. 
Pemberton, General John S., 

C. S. A., 177, 199, 403; 

surrender of, at Vicks- 

burg, 221 et seq. 



Pennington, Alexander C. M., 

18, 381, 412. 
Perry, Alexander J., 16. 
Perry, General, C. S. A., 502. 
Pierce, Captain, 551. 
Pleasanton, General, 104, 362, 

Po' whites, 287. 
Politics at West Point, 22 et 

Pool, Orval, 7. 
Pope, John, 100, 163, 166, 167 

et seq., 170, 196. 
Port Royal, 69, 70, 225. 
Porter, Admiral, 159, 166, 196. 
Porter, General Fitz John, 100, 

Porter, Horace, 68, 70, 89 et 

seq., 270, 361, 378, 391; 

falls sick, 75, 85; meets 

Grant, 268. 
Powell, Albert M., 19. 
Preston, Colonel, 407, 433. 
Price, General Sterling, C. S. 

A., 524. 
Pulaski, Fort, 74, 88. 

Vicksburg, 239 et seq., epi- 
sode of Grant and, 249; 
letters of, 254, 255; in 
love, 256; at Orchard 
Knoll, 297; marries, 317; 
relations of, with Grant, 
323 et seq.; statement of, 
390 et seq. 

Rawlins family, 6. 

Reno, General, 104. 

Riggin, John, A. D. C, 138. 

Riley, Edward B. D., 20. 

Riley, General Bennett H., 20. 

Rodgers, Captain John, 83, 84. 

Rodgers, Raymond, 96. 

Rogniat's line, 224. 

Rosecrans, General, 60; leaves 
Chattanooga, 265. 

Rosser, General, C. SrA., 380, 
382, 383. 

Rowley, Colonel, A. D. C, 138. 

Russell, Captain, Ordnance, 
mortally wounded, 558. 

Russell, General David A., 553 
et seq. 


Ramseur, Stephen D., 19, 551. 

Randol, Alanson M., 18. 

Rawlins, John A., 133 et seq., 
156 et seq., 190, 195, 196, 
345, 346, 348, 349, 361, 
365, 378, 389, 401, 416, 
418, 423, 424, 444, 445 et 
seq., 454, 455, 530; letter 
of, to Grant, 210 et seq.; 
guardian of ladies at 

St. John, General J. M., 462. 
Sanders, General, C. S. A., 502. 
Saunders, John S., 223. 
Saxton, Rufus, 70, 76. 
Sayles, Captain, killed, 462. 
Schneyder, Augustus, 5. 
Schneyder, Katharine, 5, 40. 
Schurz, Charles, 312. 
Scott, General Winfield, 4, 59 
et seq., 65. 



Seddon, Confederate Secretary 
of War, 523 et seq. 

Sedgwick, General John, 386, 
396; killed, 415. 

Sharpe, Colonel, 506. 

Shawneetown, 2-6. 

Sherman, General T. W., 67, 

Sheridan, Philip H., 18, 361, 
362, 363, 364, 365, 374, 
383, 385, 387, 388, 395, 
396, 405, 408, 409, 412, 
416, 417, 418, 419, 424, 
431, 432, 439, 440, 455, 
458, 465, 469 et seq., 482, 
483 et seq., 485, 487 et 
seq., 491, 492 et seq., 
493, 494 et seq., 495, 
538, 544, 554, 558, 560; at 
Missionary Ridge, 298 ; 
gains Grant's favor, 307; 
bridges Chickahominy, 413, 
414; at Haxall's Landing, 
415; operating in new 
field, 420; rejoins army, 
421; at Trevillian, 441, 
451; at White House, 457; 
disregards Meade's orders, 
486; slow, 497, 498 et seq.; 
still absent, 502 et seq., 504 
et seq.; reaches Reams 
Station, 507; best with 
mixed commands, 511 et 
seq.; special and particu- 
lar duty of, 518; admis- 
sions of, 520; absence of, 
521, 526 et seq., 529; fail- 
ure of, 531; commands 
new department, 533 ; 
fighting force of, 557. 

Sherman, General W. T., 60, 
158, 181, 197, 204, 225, 
264, 323, 344, 347, 402; 
operates eastward, 234 
• et seq.; at Chattanooga, 
290; slow in marching, 
291; at Missionary Ridge 
and crossing Tennessee, 
294; halts to fortify, 295; 
claims of, 299; fails, 301; 
march to Knoxville, 307; 
reaches Knoxville and 
countermarches, 315. 

Shunk, Francis J., 70. 

Siebert, Captain A. A. G., 399, 

Sill, Joshua, 16. 

Silvey, William, 16. 

Sixteenth Army Corps, 252. 

Sloan, Ben, 19. 

Slocum, General, 264. 

Smalley, George W, 116. 

Smith, Alfred T., 18. 

Smith, General C. F., 322. 

Smith, John E., 223, 322. 

Smith, Morgan L., 223, 322. 

Smith, General William Farrar 
("Baldy"), 16, 109, 265, 
325, 357, 360, 361, 363, 368, 
403,416,418,448; at Chat- 
tanooga, 271; at Brown's 
Ferry, 291; at Petersburg, 
450, 453 ; failure at Peters- 
burg, 454. 

Snuff dipping scene, 308. 

Spaulding, Colonel George, 

Spears, Brigadier General, 282. 

Spottsylvania Court House 
393, 394, 395. 



Stanton, Edwin M., 121, 327, 
338, 341, 354, 366, 537; 
irascible temper of, 538 
et seq. 

States Rights, 26, 27. 

Stevens, General Isaac I., 70, 
91 et seq. 

Stone, General Charles P., 239. 

Stoneman, General George, 327, 
362, 363. 

Stoughton, Edwin H., 348. 

Stuart, General J. E. B., 363, 
381, 393, 395, 405 ; wound- 
ed, 408; died of wounds, 

Sumner, General Edwin V., 39, 
47, 109, 112 et seq., 160. 

Sweet, John Jay, 12, 18. 

Torbert, General A. T. A., 363, 
364, 395, 439, 440, 488 et 
seq., 533, 534 et seq., 540 
et seq., 543, 544, 559, 560 
et seq., 566. 

Turner, General John W., 97, 

Tybee, 86. 

Tyler, John, house of, 417, 418, 


Ulffers, Captain von Nostitz, 
201, 435 ef seq. 

Upton, General Emory, 20, 181, 
370, 403, 147 et seq.; at 
Winchester, 553, 554, 556. 

Talcott, Colonel, 33. 

Tardy, John A., 19, 68, 70. 

Tatnall, Commodore, 85. 

Taylor, General Z., 4. 

Tennessee, Department and 
Army of, 146. 

Third Cavalry Division, 361 et 

Thorn, George, 35. 

Thomas, General George H., 
65, 150; at Chattanooga, 
272, 275; unbends, 280; at 
Orchard Knoll and Mis- 
sionary Ridge, 297, 298, 

Thomas, Lorenzo A. G., 148, 
165, 190, 256. 


Valley of Virginia, 547 et seq. 

Vancouver, Fort, 37, 38. 

Vanderbilt, George W., 19. 

VanDorn, General Earl, 20, 

Vicksburg, campaign of, 154 et 
seq.; plans for capture of, 
156 et seq.; running the 
batteries at, 158 et seq. 

Viele, General Egbert L., 70, 
81, 96. 

Vilarceau, Count de, 103. 


Wabash, frigate, 71. 
"Waif," the, 318, 384. 


Walker, General W. H. T., 16. 

Wallace, General Lew, 138. 

War College, 17. 

Warner, James M., 18. 

Warren, General G. K., 395, 
401, 455; refuses to co- 
operate, 396 et seq. 

Washington, Thornton A., 16. 

Washburne, E. B., 345, 348. 

Weed, Thurlow, 128. 

Weitzel, Godfrey, 16. 

West Point, 7 et seq., 29 et 

Whitaker, Captain E. W., 411, 
458, 468, 500, 501, 503, 

Whittemore, James M., 18. 

Wickham, General, 393, 558. 

Wildrick, Abram K., 35. 

Williams, General, 154. 

Wilson, Alexander, 547; in Il- 
linois legislature, 1, 3. 

Wilson, Bluford, 40 et seq., 177 
et seq. 

Wilson, Harrison, 348; ensign, 
captain, etc., 1 et seq. 

Wilson, Henry S., 40, 130, 131. 

Wilson, Isaac, sergeant in Vir- 
ginia line, 1, 2. 

Wilson, James H., born, 6 ; en- 
ters college, 7; at West 
Point, 8; appointed corpo- 
ral, 10 ; classmates of, 17 et 
seq.; loyalty of, 26 et seq.; 
graduation and assign- 
ment of, 31; at Panama, 
California and Washing- 
ton Territory, 32; at Fort 
Vancouver, 35; at Puget 
Sound, 37; a loyal corre- 

spondent, 41 et seq.; or- 
dered east, 47; ship- 
wrecked, 48 et seq.; sails 
from San Francisco, 49 et 
seq.; interview with Gen- 
eral Scott, 60 et seq.; seeks 
service in War for Union, 
57 et seq.; ordered to Bos- 
ton, 67; reports to T. W. 
Sherman, 67; at Port 
Royal, 70 et seq.; acting 
ordnance officer, 75; loads 
steamship, 76 et seq.; 
thrown into bay, examin- 
ing volunteers, 78; recon- 
noiters, 79; at Venus 
Point, 84; at Tybee, 85; 
first infantry fight of, 86; 
at Fort Pulaski, 87; at 
Secessionville, 92; in war 
balloons, 93; judge advo- 
cate, 93; acting assistant 
inspector general, 94 ; 
army and navy friends of, 
95 et seq.; ordered to 
Washington, 98; on Mc- 
Clelland staff, 100 et seq.; 
at the Battle of Antietam, 
108 et seq.; in Washing- 
ton, 119; conversation of, 
with McClernand, 120; at 
Pleasant Valley, interview 
with McClellan, 122 et 
seq.; on Grant's staff, 131 
et seq.; meets Rawlins, 
132; conversations of, 135 
et seq.; meets Grant, 138; 
joins McPherson, 141; in- 
spector general Tenth 
Corps, 142; tells Grant 



Government's plan, 144 ; 
inspector general of 
Grant's army, 147; down 
the Mississippi, 148; at 
Yazoo Pass, 151; suggests 
plan of operations, 156 
et seq.; counsels Grant 
against canals, 164; takes 
Grant to Porter's fleet, 
166 ; constructs bridges, 
169; at Bruinsburg Cross- 
ing, 170; at the Battle of 
Port Gibson, 174; fails to 
reconcile Grant with Mc- 
Clernand, 176; carries or- 
ders to McClernand, 182; 
relieves McClernand, 185; 
supervises bridge building, 
188 ; recommends Badeau 
for private secretary, 191; 
horsemanship of, 194; re- 
pairs Bayou Pierre bridge, 
195; on Porter's flagship, 
196 ; at Hankinson's Ferry, 
197; orders to McPherson, 
198; advises movement to 
Jackson, 200; incidents at 
Jackson, 202 et seq.; at 
Champion's Hill, 204; at 
Big Black Bridge, 206; at 
the siege of Vicksburg, 
208 et seq.; rides with 
Grant to Magnolia Hall, 
211; at the corduroy 
bridge, 214 ; carries Grant's 
reply to Pemberton, 221; 
rides rebel entrenchments, 
222; comments of, there- 
on, 224; necessity for 
army reorganization, real- 


ized by, and plans therefor, 
227 et seq.; predicts failure 
of Sherman's campaign 
east from Vicksburg, 
234 ; opposes detachment 
of Thirteenth Corps, 
238; takes sick prisoners 
to Monroe, 245; personal 
inspections by, 245; leaves 
Vicksburg on tour, 249; 
visits home for first time 
since war began, 249; in- 
spection by, at Cairo, 250; 
at Memphis and west Ten- 
nessee, 254; return of, to 
Vicksburg, 256; reports to 
Grant, 257; carries dis- 
patches to Cairo, 259 et 
seq.; accompanies Grant, 
260 ; recommended for 
colonel of engineer regi- 
ment, 265 ; introduces Por- 
ter to Grant, 266 ; promot- 
ed to brigadier general, 
267; rides to Chattanooga 
with Dana, 268; meets 
General Thomas, 272; 
friendly relations of, 276; 
engaged in the situation 
at Chattanooga, guides 
Hooker through Lookout 
Valley, 277; receives news 
of promotion to brigadier 
general, 280; goes to 
Knoxville to confer with 
Burnside, 281-283; gives 
Grant's orders to Burn- 
side, 284; returns to Chat- 
tanooga, 285 ; receives 
commission brigadier gen- 


eral, 289; assists Sherman 
and rejoins Grant, 297; 
accompanies Grant in pur- 
suit, 300; finds Thomas, 
302; chief engineer of 
Sherman's march to Knox- 
ville, 307 ; bridging the Hi- 
wassee, 309; on the Little 
Tennessee, 313 et seq.; re- 
turns to Chattanooga, 317; 
accompanies Grant via 
Cumberland Gap to Nash- 
ville, 318 ; chief of Cavalry 
Bureau, 325 et seq.; calls 
on Stanton, 327; speech 
of, to horse contractors, 
329; favors the Spencer 
carbine, 331, 374; spends 
ten weeks in Washington, 
332; interview of, with 
Andrew Johnson, 333; re- 
lieved of Cavalry Bureau, 
339; habits of work of, 
342, 343; inspects horse 
markets, 343 et seq.; meets 
Lincoln, 348; attends thea- 
ter with President, 349; at 
reception, 351 ; at ball, 352 
et seq., 359 et seq.; But- 
ler asks for, 359; reports 
to Meade, 360; assigned to 
Third Cavalry Division, 
362, 364, 366; takes com- 
mand, 367; methods of 
discipline and drill of, 
375; in the Wilderness, 
379; first cavalry engage- 
ment of, 381 et seq.; with 
Forsyth, 387; Grant com- 
pliments, 389 ; conversa- 


tion of, with Rawlins and 
Bowers, 390; interview of, 
with Grant, 391; occu- 
pies Spottsylvania Court 
House, 393 ; laying of pon- 
toon bridge, 398 ; interview 
of, with Grant, 400; in the 
Richmond raid, 406; at 
Yellow Tavern, 407; night 
march of, 410; night fight 
of, 411 et seq.; writes 
Dana, 415; visits Grant's 
headquarters, 423 ; meets 
friends, 424; covers rear, 
420; at Hanover Court 
House, 429 et seq.; in re- 
serve, turns Lee's left, 432, 
434; tests rations, 438; on 
the right, 440; conversa- 
tion of, with Meade, 443; 
at St. Mary's Church, 452, 
455; detached against rail- 
roads, 457; gets back, 464 
et seq.; at Reams Station, 
468; withdraws, 472 et 
seq.; bridges the Black- 
water, 474 et seq.; in Chip- 
oak Swamp, 478 et seq.; 
losses of, 480 et seq.; ref- 
erences to, in correspon- 
dence, 491, 492, 494 et 
seq., 504, 506, 508 et seq.; 
Richmond Examiner and, 
522; thoroughness of work 
of, 524; last blow of, 526; 
refitting on the James, 
528 ; Richmond newspa- 
pers and, 529 ; joins Sheri- 
dan in the Valley, 533; 
rule of action of, 535; re- 


fits at Giesboro and 
marches through Washing- 
ton, 536 et seq.; interview 
of, with Stanton, 537 et 
seq.; covers rear, 539 ; first 
action of, with Spencer 
carbines, 541 et seq.; cov- 
ers rear, 542; night march 
of, to Sharpsburg, 544; 
horse swapping and, 546; 
"To Arms!", 549; meets 
Grant, 550; at Battle of 
Winchester, 551 et seq.; 
covers rear, 562; ordered 
to Sherman, 563 ; summary 
of service of, with Third 
Cavalry Division, 564 et 
Wilson, John A., 5. 

Wilson, John M., 18, 102, 103. 

Wilson family, 1 et seq. 

Wood, General T. J., at Mis- 
sionary Ridge, 298. 

Wright, George, 35, 39, 60. 

Wright, H. G., 70, 71, 92, 496, 
501, 505 et seq., 507 et seq. 

Yard, Lieutenant, A. D. C, 

Yates, Governor of Illinois, 175. 
Yazoo Pass expedition, 151 et 

Yellow Tavern, 407. 
"Young Napoleon, The," 107. 
Young, Pierce, M. B., 430. 


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