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Military Reminiscences of the Civil War V2 by Jacob Dolson Cox

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it, and that wagoning would be possible by that line into East
Tennessee. It did not turn out to be so, and the only relief we got
was by way of Chattanooga, where light-draught steamboats added
something to the facilities for supply. As his own most pressing
needs were relieved, General Thomas sent the steamboat "Lookout"
with a small cargo of shoes and clothing to Loudon. There our little
railway train met the boat and brought the goods to Knoxville, so
that in my own command we began to receive a little about the 10th
of January. It was very little, but it was greatly encouraging as a
foretaste of better things to come.

On the 12th General Foster was obliged to telegraph Grant that
things had grown worse rather than better since his visit.
[Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxxii. pt. ii. pp. 71, 72.] Many
animals were dying daily. The weather was still intensely cold, and
floating ice combined with high water, in the Holston had twice
broken the pontoon bridge at Knoxville. Food for man and beast was
all eaten out on the north side of the Holston River, and he
proposed to move most of the troops to the south and east of the
French Broad, in the hope of finding a region in which some corn and
forage might still remain. The great trestle bridge at Strawberry
Plains was completed, and a strong post would be left there to
protect it. A regiment was at work upon the bridge at Loudon. To
diminish the number of mouths to be fed, Foster gave the "veteran
furlough" at this time to several more of the regiments which had
re-enlisted. Trustworthy evidence showed that Longstreet was quite
as badly off as we were, and that he was not likely to move unless,
like us, he was forced to do so to find forage. Cavalry parties had
reported to us that there were considerable quantities of corn in
the neighborhood of Sevierville, and this was the inducement to send
most of our troops to that side of the French Broad River. To avoid
any appearance of retreat, it was ordered that we march from
Strawberry Plains to Dandridge, which was a flank movement to our
right, one day's march. There we should extemporize some sort of
ferry to cross the French Broad and seek camps in regions which
promised some supplies, but within supporting distance of our
several detachments. The men whose clothing was most lacking and who
were without shoes would remain in our present camp and be
temporarily attached to the post established to protect the bridge.
The cavalry, which had been near Mossy Creek (fourteen miles up the
Holston), was directed to move straight across the angle between the
two rivers, and cover the flank march of the infantry to Dandridge.
It was thought probable that the cavalry might subsist for a short
time in the neighborhood of Dandridge and in the valley of the
Nolachucky, the principal tributary of the French Broad from the
north; indeed, the time of crossing the larger river by the infantry
was not fixed, but would be determined by our good or bad fortune in
finding forage and bread-stuffs near Dandridge. [Footnote: Official
Records, vol. xxxii. pt. ii. pp. 82, 87, 99, 101.]

The 15th of January was the day fixed for the march. The weather was
not so cold as it had been, but was very raw and uncomfortable. At
the last moment General Foster found it necessary to have a
consultation with Parke and Granger; and Sheridan, whose division of
the Fourth Corps led off on the road, was directed to select
positions for the infantry of that corps and mine as we reached
Dandridge. He was also authorized to assign mills to the use of the
different commands so as to systematize our means of supply and
prevent disorder. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxxii. pt. ii.
p. 102.] The march was nineteen miles to Dandridge, and our
positions were about a mile in front of the village, on the hills
covering it. Both the Fourth and the Ninth Corps had remained in
their camps at Blain's Crossroads up to this time, and the Ninth now
took my place at Strawberry Plains, covering Knoxville from that
direction. It had less than 4000 men present for duty. [Footnote:
_Id_., p. 292.] Our moving column consisted of Sheridan's and Wood's
divisions of the Fourth Corps and parts of three brigades from the
Twenty-third; less than 10,000 men in all. The ground was frozen,
and as we were moving over roads which had not been much travelled,
the way was comparatively smooth for our artillery and wagons. It
was not so much so for the infantry, and the little unevenness being
sharpened by frost, quickly cut through the men's old shoes. Those
who were barefoot were ordered to stay behind, but the shoes of
others were in so bad a state that there were places where I saw the
road marked with bloody tracks from the wounded feet of the

Reaching Dandridge a little in advance of my command, I reported to
Sheridan, and he showed me the line he had selected, on which we
were to occupy the left. Colonel Sterling, my inspector-general, was
assigned the duty of placing the brigades in position as they
arrived. The cavalry had preceded us, and we found them occupying
the town and picketing the roads toward Morristown and the elbow of
the Nolachucky River northeast of us, locally called the Bend o'
Chucky. A range of hills known as Bay's Mountain was the water-shed
between the valleys of the Holston and the French Broad, and we
expected the cavalry to cover the front on a line from Kimbrough's
Cross-roads near the mountain to the Bend o' Chucky. This line would
be nine or ten miles from Dandridge, and would communicate also with
Mott's brigade of my command, which had been left in its post at
Mossy Creek, on the Holston, under orders to fall back deliberately
to Strawberry Plains if attacked by superior forces. [Footnote:
Official Records, vol. xxxii. pt. ii. p. 99.] If these positions
could be held, the cavalry could not only collect the forage in the
Nolachucky valley as far up as their detachments could reach, but
would also threaten the left flank of Longstreet's position at

Those who only knew Sheridan after the war would hardly recognize
him in the thin and wiry little man I met at Dandridge. His hollow
cheeks made his cheekbones noticeably prominent, and his features
had a decided Milesian cast. His reputation at that time was that of
an impetuous and vehement fighter when engaged, rousing himself to a
belligerent wrath and fury that made his spirit contagious and
stimulated his troops to a like vigor. At other times he was
unpretentious and genial, and whilst regarded as a good division
commander was not thought of as specially fitted for large and
independent responsibilities. He was not considered cool enough for
the broader duties of a commander, and indeed had had rather bad
luck in the great battles of Stone's River and Chickamauga, where
the qualities called for were those which enable a perfectly
self-possessed officer to extricate his command from a perilous
position. He has told me himself that he was slow in learning to
have confidence in his own power to direct in such cases, and that
it was only after he had tested himself, step by step, that he came
to rely on his own judgment and will, as he did in the Shenandoah
valley and at Five Forks. It was his blazing impetuosity in action
that made Grant think of him as specially fitted for a cavalry
leader, and his growth into the able commander of an army was a
later development of his talents. He received me very cordially, and
in our trying wintry experience at Dandridge began a friendly
acquaintance which continued unbroken till his death.

General Thomas J. Wood was not with his division, and it was under
the command of General August Willich, whom I had seen drilling
Robert McCook's German regiment, the Ninth Ohio, as its adjutant, at
Camp Dennison in the spring of 1861. I had expected to find
Brigadier-General William B. Hazen in temporary command during
Wood's leave of absence, but when I went to his quarters was
surprised to find him in arrest. Hazen had been one of the first of
the officers of the regular army with whom I became acquainted at
the beginning of the war, and he had offered to accept a staff
position with me. I had a real regard for him, and naturally offered
my friendly services in his present predicament. It seemed that
Sheridan had called on him for a report as to the condition of
things in his front, and Hazen had taken advantage of some
peculiarity of the situation which he thought Sheridan did not
sufficiently understand, to make a report which was ironical and so
irritating that Sheridan's answer was to order him to keep his
quarters in arrest. Their quarrel, however, dated from the battle of
Missionary Ridge, where Sheridan accused Wood's division, and Hazen
in particular, with usurping the honors of being first on the crest
and capturing part of Bragg's artillery. Sheridan honestly thought
his division entitled to the honor, but the official evidence seems
to me to be against him. At any rate, it began a very pretty quarrel
which never was wholly made up, and which had many queer little
episodes, in war and in peace, on the Indian frontier and at
Washington, for many years thereafter. Hazen was an officer of real
ability, of brilliant courage and splendid personal presence. His
fault was that he was too keen in seeing flaws in other people's
performance of duty, and apt to dilate upon them in his official
reports when such officers were wholly independent of him. This made
him a good many enemies notwithstanding his noble qualities and his
genial kindliness to his friends. A military officer usually finds
it hard enough to submit gracefully to the criticisms of his
superiors, and naturally takes it ill if this prerogative is
exercised by those of equal grade without authority. Such a practice
puts into the official records matter which does not belong there,
and which, however honestly stated, may be very unjust, because all
the explanatory circumstances are not likely to be known to the
critic. At any rate, the person criticised is not amenable to that
tribunal, and this is enough in itself to cause a sense of injury.
[Footnote: See Review of General Hazen's Narrative of Military
Service, "The Nation," Nov. 5, 1885.] Sheridan took very kindly my
mediation in Hazen's behalf, and probably had never intended more
than a temporary arrest. After Granger came to the front and resumed
command of the corps, I heard no more of the trouble.

We had escorted a small train in which were some wagon-loads of
clothing and shoes for the cavalry, and the mounted corps remained
at Dandridge during the 15th of January, issuing these supplies. The
rear of our infantry column came up on the next day, so that we were
assembled and in position before evening. The cavalry moved out in
the afternoon of the 16th, part on the right toward the Nolachucky
River, and the left toward Kimbrough's Cross-roads on the Morristown
road. The right wing found the enemy's cavalry in their front about
five miles from town, but the left wing found Kimbrough's occupied
by Longstreet's infantry. His whole force, except Ransom's division,
had advanced upon information of the movement of our cavalry on the
14th. In doing this Longstreet had turned the position of the
brigade of infantry left at Mossy Creek, and Colonel Mott retired on
the 16th to Strawberry Plains in accordance with his orders. Toward
evening the cavalry on our right were driven back in a lively
skirmish, and those on the left were recalled to give them support.
The whole were united and repulsed the enemy's horsemen, taking
position for the night about a mile in front of our infantry camps.
On the 17th the enemy's infantry advanced, and reached the posts of
our cavalry in the afternoon. Longstreet now made a vigorous attack
with his troops of both arms, and gradually drove back our horsemen,
who resisted him with their carbines, fighting dismounted. Sheridan
supported the cavalry with some infantry and a lively skirmishing
combat continued for an hour or two till darkness came on. The
affair was something of a surprise to both parties. Longstreet had
evidently made his movement in the hope of giving our cavalry a
lesson which might check their enterprise and make them keep their
distance, and was astonished to come upon our infantry at Dandridge.
We were in motion to put our infantry on the south side of the
French Broad, and were equally surprised to find the enemy in force
on the same route.

General Parke and General Granger had ridden over from Strawberry
Plains and reached Dandridge in the afternoon. Hearing of the
presence of what was reported to be the whole of Longstreet's army,
and not liking to accept battle with superior forces with the river
at his back, Parke had caused an examination of the river to be
made, and learned that just below the town was a shallow, fordable
at an ordinary stage of water, and now about waist-deep for the men.
In the low physical condition of our troops and their lack of
clothing he very wisely thought it would not do to make them march
through the river, but devised a foot-bridge by putting army wagons
end to end and making a path over the boxes of the wagons. Sheridan
was ordered to detach a brigade immediately to make this bridge, and
it set to work at once. The plan was to march the infantry to the
south side of the river and afterward remove the wagons, covering
the operation by the cavalry who could then ford the stream, which
though very cold and running with ice was not impracticable for

About dusk, as the skirmishing in front ceased, Sheridan and myself,
with Sturgis, the commandant of the cavalry, were called to meet
Generals Parke and Granger at a house in the town to report the
condition of affairs in our front and to receive orders for
marching. The bridge had been completed, as was supposed, and the
brigade which had made it had been ordered across, when, on reaching
the land on the left bank, they found, to their amazement, that they
were upon an island with an equally deep and wide channel beyond!
This news had just been received when we assembled at headquarters.
Sheridan was greatly mortified at the blunder, but there was then no
help for it. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxxii. pt. i. p. 79.]
It was impracticable to complete the bridge before morning, and it
was doubtful if wagons enough could be got together. My own command
was on the extreme left of the line, partly covering the road back
to Strawberry Plains, and we had not been engaged. The fighting had
been in front of the centre and right. I could therefore throw no
light on the question of the enemy's force. The information from
other parts of the line and from prisoners left no doubt that
infantry had engaged in the attack late in the afternoon and that
Longstreet was present in force. There was therefore no dissent from
the conclusion that it would be unwise to accept a battle with the
river behind us, and orders were given to leave the position in the
night and retire to Strawberry Plains. The wagons and most of the
artillery were to follow the advance-guard, which was Sheridan's
division, my command to march next, and Willich's (Wood's) division
of the Fourth Corps to be the rear-guard. The cavalry were to march
on a road a little to the right, leading to New Market, and would
thus cover our flank. [Footnote: For the Dandridge expedition, see
Official Records, vol. xxxii. pt. i. pp. 79 _et seq_.]

Granger had been ailing for a day or two and had not been with the
troops. He was lying on a bed in the room where we met, and the rest
of us sat about the fireplace, a tallow candle being on a rude table
in the middle of the floor. Sturgis came in later than the others,
having had a longer ride. He was a handsome fellow, with full, round
features, sharp black eyes, and curly black hair and mustache. He
had been seated but a few minutes when he noticed a bottle of
whiskey on the table and a glass which had been placed there as camp
hospitality for any one that wanted it, but had apparently been
neglected. Glancing that way, Sturgis said, "If I had a little bit
of sugar, I believe I'd take a toddy." A colored boy produced a
sugar-bowl and the toddy was taken. The conversation ran on a few
moments, when, as if it were a wholly new suggestion, the same voice
repeated, "If I had a little bit of sugar, I believe I'd take a
toddy;" and again the attendant did the honors. Our orders were
received and we were about ready to go to our commands, when again,
with polite intonation and a most amusing unconsciousness of any
repetition, came the words, "If I had a little bit of sugar, I
believe I'd take a toddy." The incident was certainly a funny one in
itself, but I should not have cared to repeat it had not the
official records of Sturgis's defeat by Forrest in the Tishimingo
affair later in the year emphasized the mischief of lax habits as to
temperance. The judgment of his superiors and of those who knew him
well was made severer by the knowledge of his weakness in this
respect. Railway officers insist upon absolute sobriety in
locomotive engineers; but if there be one employment in which such
coolness of head is more absolutely essential than in another, I
believe it is in commanding troops in the field. [Footnote: See
Marbot's Memoirs, vol. ii. p. 242, for results of Wittgenstein's
reliance on an intemperate officer, Kulnieff, in the Russian
campaign of 1812.] Sturgis's military downfall was a severe lesson,
but he gave every evidence afterward of having learned it, and
"lived cleanly" through many years of service after the Civil War
was over.

The march back to Strawberry Plains began by starting the wagon
train to the rear as soon as it was dark. Sheridan's division was
drawn out soon afterward. My command was ordered to leave the line
at eight o'clock, and Willich's to follow when the road should be
clear as far as the first defensible ridge beyond the village where
a rear-guard could make a successful stand. The cavalry were to
maintain their position till morning and cover the movement. It was
about half-past eight when my column closed up upon the wagons ahead
of me, but as they had not yet climbed the first hill, we found
ourselves necessarily halted in the main street of the village.
General Willich had prudently placed a tent a little to the right of
the road where it leaves the town, and there he made his quarters
until the column should completely pass that point. He could thus
keep his division in their bivouac in support of the cavalry till he
knew the rest of the little army had cleared the place and could
secure some rest, whilst he was still in easy communication with
both the marching column and his own men. He reaped the advantage of
his forethought. As my command had to assist the wagons and the
artillery, no such means of bettering the situation was possible for
us. I had notified Willich that I would be in person at the extreme
rear of my command so that he could communicate with me most
promptly and obtain my support if he were seriously attacked. The
brigade in the lead was directed to give the wagons and cannon every
help in getting forward, and the column was ordered to keep well
closed up.

The day had been a mild one in comparison with the fortnight
preceding, and rain set in early in the evening. The surface of the
clayey roads soon became very slippery, then cut into deep ruts, and
the moisture was just enough to give the mud the consistency of
tenacious putty. The teams, half starved, were very weak, and it
seemed as if they would never mount the hills before them, which
were the southern end of the ridge of Bay's Mountain, separating the
Holston valley from the Nolachucky. Three or four teams had to be
united to drag up a single cannon or caisson, and the time as well
as the distance was thus trebled or quadrupled. In some instances
more than twenty horses were thus hitched to a single piece, besides
having infantrymen at the wheels as thick as they could cluster,
pushing and lifting. The column which was halted thus waiting for
the wagon trains and artillery to climb a hill, grew weary of
standing. The men would break ranks and sit down in the fence
corners, where they built little camp-fires, and, rainy as it was,
they fell asleep leaning against each other in these little
bivouacs. Then would come word from the front to close up, and the
regimental officers would give the command to fall in. The men would
rouse themselves, the column would march, perhaps less than a
hundred yards, when the road would be blocked again, the men would
again seek the fence corners and stir up the fires that had been
left by those who were now in advance. Thus in cold and wet and
weariness the night wore on, till when day broke about six o'clock
next morning we had put a distance of less than two miles between us
and the village, and Willich's division had barely reached the first
wooded ridge beyond the town.

During all the last hours of the night we were anxious lest we
should be attacked by the enemy, who by crowning the hills above the
road would have had us at great disadvantage. I had concerted with
General Willich a plan of action if we were assailed, but the enemy
took no advantage of our situation, and I have always believed that
as the meeting at Dandridge was a mutual surprise, by a similar
coincidence both parties were retiring at the same time. Our cavalry
moved off toward New Market at daybreak, but it was not till late in
the forenoon, when we had toiled on several miles further, that the
Confederate cavalry approached our infantry rear-guard and
accompanied its march for a time with some light skirmishing.

The weather grew colder during the day, and in the afternoon the
rain changed to moist driving snow. The sleepy, weary troops toiled
doggedly on; the wagons and the cannon were helped over the bad
places in the way, for we were determined not to abandon any, and
the enemy was not hurrying us. When night fell, on the 18th, my own
command and Willich's division were still three miles from
Strawberry Plains, though Sheridan's division and part of the wagon
train had reached that place and crossed the Holston. We halted the
men here and went into bivouac for the night. It had been a
wretchedly cheerless and uncomfortable march, but the increasing
cold and flying snow made the camp scarcely less inclement. The
officers were, as was frequently the case, worse off than the men,
for they could not carry their rations in haversacks, and the
separation from the wagons in such a desolate country meant a
prolonged fast. The delay caused by the rain and mud had been
unexpected, and the march we had hoped to make in the night had
taken more than twenty-four hours. During that time myself and staff
had not eaten a mouthful, and we had no expectation of seeing food
till we should get across the Holston next day and reach our
headquarters wagons. Better luck happened us, however. We found a
deserted and unfinished log cabin which had a roof and a
stick-and-clay chimney, though it had no floor or chinking. The snow
drove through between the logs, but the roof was over our heads and
we soon had a lively fire roaring in the chimney. Some bundles of
corn-stalks were found in a field near by, and of these we made a
bed on the ground in front of the fire, and began to think we might
forget our hunger in thankfulness for fire and shelter such as it
was. But still better was in store for us. One of our tired forage
trains had gone into park near us, and the teamsters offered to
share their supper with us. They had corn "pone," some salt pork,
and for a rarity some newly arrived coffee. We sat on the
corn-stalks around the fire with an iron camp-kettle in the midst
containing the black coffee which we dipped out with battered tin
cups, and we held in our hands pieces of the corn-pone and slices of
fried pork, congratulating each other on the unexpected luxury of
our supper. Hunger and fatigue were so good a sauce that it seemed
really a luxury, and we banished care with an ease which now seems
hardly credible. The supper ended, sleep was not long a-wooing,
though my rest was more broken than that of the others, for frequent
dispatches came from headquarters which I had to answer, and orders
had to be sent to the troops to continue the march on the morrow in
accordance with the directions which I had received. I had provided
myself in Cincinnati with a field dispatch book in form of a
manifold letter-writer which I myself carried in a sabretasch during
all the rest of the war. In this, by means of the carbon sheets and
agate-pointed stylus, a dispatch and its copy were written at once,
and a valuable record kept of every day's business. I could sit by
the bivouac fire and write upon my knee without troubling a weary
aide-de-camp to make a copy. I had in my saddle portmanteau also a
little pair of brass candlesticks screwing together in form of a
large watch-case, so that I could be provided with a light at the
root of a tree in the darkness, if it was necessary to send or
receive dispatches where there was neither shelter nor fire. These
were necessaries; for food we could take our chances.

We halted the troops in wooded slopes where they were sheltered from
the storm and where the evergreen boughs were speedily converted
into tents of a sort, as well as soft and fragrant beds. Their
ration was still scant, but nearly all of them picked up some
addition to it on a day's march, so that the camps were more
cheerful than they had been in the intensely severe weather of the
first half of the month. On the next day we continued the movement,
passing through Strawberry Plains and three miles further on the
road to Knoxville. The Fourth Corps troops were ordered to go to the
last-named city, there to cross the Holston and move out toward
Sevierville into the country we had expected to reach by way of
Dandridge. The Ninth Corps remained a little longer at Strawberry

On the 18th of January General Foster's plans were unsettled by a
dispatch received from General Grant, dated at Nashville on the
16th, but in some manner delayed in transmittal. This conveyed the
rather startling information that Longstreet had been reinforced by
a division of Ewell's Corps with expectation of another also, and
that the Confederate commander was in fact moving in force on
Knoxville. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxxii. pt. ii. pp. 109,
127.] The source of the information is not disclosed, but the news
was stated with a positiveness uncommon with Grant. It reached
Foster just as he had Parke's report of our having most unexpectedly
met Longstreet's infantry at Dandridge and of our retreat on
Strawberry Plains. The news was without foundation, for Longstreet
had not been reinforced and his movement had no other significance
than that which I have given it; but, coming on the heels of the
accidental collision at Dandridge, there was a curious coincidence
in the events which gave strong apparent confirmation to the report,
and it was a matter of course that Foster should accept it as true
and act upon it.

He directed the sick and all extra baggage to be sent at once to
Knoxville. Part of the Fourth Corps troops were ordered to the same
place. The cavalry, except two regiments left with General Parke for
picket duty, was ordered to pass through Knoxville toward
Sevierville to obstruct any further movement of the enemy on the
Dandridge line. Parke was ordered to hold the rest of the army
together, resisting Longstreet's advance, and retiring deliberately
on Knoxville. Preparations were made to destroy the long trestle
bridge at Strawberry Plains, and this important structure was
devoted to ruin for the third or fourth time since Sanders entered
the valley in the preceding summer. [Footnote: Official Records,
vol. xxxii. pt. ii. pp. 129, 162.] Grant had said to Foster that the
impossibility of supplying more troops in East Tennessee made it
useless to send reinforcements, and that he must keep between
Longstreet and Thomas, retiring toward Chattanooga if necessary.
Halleck complicated the situation by telegraphing direct to Thomas
that he must aid Foster to any extent needed, and that the line from
Knoxville to Cumberland Gap must be maintained at all hazards.
[Footnote: _Id_., p. 130.] Foster reported to Grant that he had so
greatly improved the defences and armament of Knoxville that it
could not be taken, and that he would not retire further than this
place unless it were explicitly ordered. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 138.]
This was in accordance with General Grant's wish, and his confidence
in the information as to Longstreet's reinforcement was such that he
telegraphed Halleck on the 20th that the siege of Knoxville was
about to be renewed. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxxii. pt.
ii. p. 149.] The chronic inability of Halleck to understand East
Tennessee affairs is shown in his insistence on still maintaining
the Cumberland Gap line, which was necessarily uncovered whenever
the enemy approached Strawberry Plains. Chattanooga had now become
our base, and remained so for all troops in East Tennessee till the
end of the war. We at the front got the first authentic information
which disproved the report of Longstreet's reinforcement and showed
that he had retired to Morristown. Foster was thus enabled to
telegraph Grant on the 20th that the evidence did not sustain the
report, and that he doubted whether the Confederate commander would
again attempt Knoxville. [Footnote: _Id._, p. 151.]



Sending our animals to Kentucky--Consultations--Affair with enemy's
cavalry--Roughing it--Distribution of troops--Cavalry engagement at
Sevierville--Quarters in Knoxville--Leading Loyalists--Social and
domestic conditions--Discussion of the spring campaign--Of Foster's
successor--Organization of Grant's armies--Embarrassments in
assignment of officers to duty--Discussion of the system--Cipher
telegraphing--Control of the key--Grant's collision with
Stanton--Absurdity of the War Department's method--General Stoneman
assigned to Twenty-third Corps--His career and character--General
Schofield succeeds to the command of the Department of the Ohio.

In connection with the movements of concentration about Knoxville,
General Foster carried out his scheme of sending back to pasture in
Kentucky and Tennessee all the horses and mules, except a very few
teams needed to distribute supplies and two or three horses at each
division headquarters for the commanding officer and an aide or two.
[Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxxii. pt. ii. pp. 203-204.] The
animals were herded and driven together, an escort of cavalry
accompanying them, and the whole put in charge of Captain Day of my
staff, as quartermaster, the same whose energy in our journey over
the mountains I have already noted. This measure definitely
committed us, of course, to a quiet and defensive line of conduct
for the next three months. On the 21st of January we were
deliberately closing in around Knoxville, where the Fourth Corps was
already concentrated, and General Foster had called upon the three
corps commanders to meet him at his headquarters in the city for the
purpose of putting in official form our opinion upon the necessity
of suspending active operations in view of the condition of the
troops and animals. We met there on the next day, and submitted our
reports in response to interrogatories on several points. My own
statement summarized the facts in regard to the supplies of food,
forage, clothing, and the impossibility of drawing anything more
from the country except some very limited quantities of
bread-stuffs. My conclusion was that economy of life, animals,
property, and (taking the next six months together) of time also,
required that the troops should go into permanent quarters for a
short period to be devoted to recuperation, drill, and instruction,
organization of means of supply, and general preparation for an
active campaign in the spring. [Footnote: Official Records, vol.
xxxii. pt. ii. p. 176.] I, however, added that this was on the
hypothesis that no imperative military reasons existed for continued
active campaigning; for in presence of such a necessity every
officer and man of the corps would most cheerfully continue to
undergo every hardship and endure every privation. There was
complete unanimity among us in regard to the subject, and General
Foster's orders were issued accordingly.

Whilst we were in conference, reports came in from General Willcox,
who had been left in command of the Ninth Corps at Strawberry
Plains, that the enemy were pressing him rather vigorously. Word
came also from General Spears that hostile infantry and cavalry had
appeared in large force at Blain's Cross-roads. Sturgis also
reported from the direction of Sevierville that the whole rebel army
had gone to Strawberry Plains. [Footnote: _Id_., pp. 163, 174.]
Toward evening of the 22d our troops had come within some five or
six miles of Knoxville, but the enemy showed so strong a disposition
to attack that Foster ordered me to return to the front, take
command of both corps (Ninth and Twenty-third) and of the cavalry
with them, and check the Confederates, as there was some danger that
our troops would change the concerted movement into a precipitate
retreat. General Parke was suffering in health from recent exposure
and remained in Knoxville. Galloping out from the town, I reached
the troops a little before dark, halted them, and by a personal
reconnoissance satisfied myself that only cavalry were before us.
Our men had passed some wooded hills which were important to cover
our position and give a starting-point for an aggressive movement on
our part. Reversing their movement, I reoccupied these hills,
brusquely driving back the enemy's advance-guard and checking their
main body. It was now dark, and putting our forces in line of battle
ready for an advance at daybreak, they were allowed to bivouac for
the night, whilst I rode rapidly back to Knoxville, in accordance
with my arrangement with General Foster to report to him in person
the particulars of the situation. He approved my suggestion that I
should advance the whole line in the morning and settle the question
what force was before us. The wagons had come into the town, and my
headquarters with them; so taking each of us a blanket, myself and
the two staff officers who had accompanied me (Colonel Sterling and
my brother) rode back again at midnight to the front, and rested
till daybreak on the rough floor of a log cabin. The line then was
advanced, but the enemy had taken the hint from the preparations of
the evening and had decamped. [Footnote: Official Records, vol.
xxxii. pt. ii. p. 184.] Detachments went in pursuit some eight
miles, but the Confederates had definitely withdrawn, and we
obtained conclusive proof that only their cavalry had followed us
across the Holston River.

The interrupted movement toward Knoxville was resumed, but it
required me to remain another night in roughest bivouac, and another
day without food, except as a mouthful could be found at hazard. I
had begun the Dandridge movement with a cold which threatened
pneumonia, but had grown steadily better through all the exposure,
finding, as often happened to me in the course of the war, that the
physical and mental stimulus of active campaigning even in the worst
of weather was tonic and health-giving.

As soon as the situation was cleared up by trustworthy information
of Longstreet's movements, General Foster resumed his plans for
winter quarters. His first intention of sending the Fourth Corps
toward Sevierville was modified by Grant's directions to put that
corps where it could most readily rejoin the Army of the Cumberland.
He therefore ordered me to move the Twenty-third Corps in that
direction, and formally united to the corps the brigade of East
Tennessee troops under Brigadier-General James G. Spears, which had
theretofore been an independent organization. [Footnote: Official
Records, vol. xxxii. pt. ii. p. 162.] Sturgis, who had marched with
most of the cavalry on the route thus assigned to me, reported that
the road was the worst he ever saw, and, with all the experience of
bad roads we had had, this meant that it was impracticable for our
few and weak teams. [Footnote: _Ibid._] This put an end to all hope
of living on the country, and Foster accepted the necessity of
distributing his troops about Knoxville and along the lines leading
to Chattanooga.

On the 22d of January orders were issued assigning the Fourth Corps
to quarters extending from Kingston to Loudon along the river and
railroad. The Ninth Corps took post between Campbell's Station and
Knoxville. The Twenty-third Corps encamped at Knoxville and in the
immediate vicinity. [Footnote: _Id._, p. 183.] The cavalry occupied
the country southeast of the Holston holding a front on the French
Broad River. A few small outposts further up the valley were
maintained for observation.

A brilliant cavalry combat near Sevierville on the 27th ended the
active work under General Foster's command. Longstreet, hearing of
the presence of our cavalry south of the French Broad, directed
General Martin, commanding his cavalry corps, to get his forces
across the river and meet Sturgis at once. [Footnote: Official
Records, vol. xxxii. pt. ii. p. 611.] The latter had McCook's
division in advance, supported by Garrard's near Pigeon River.
Martin advanced upon McCook, but was surprised to find his adversary
seize the initiative. Learning of the Confederate advance, McCook
marched to meet them on the road leading to Fair Garden. Martin was
driven back, his right (Morgan's division) being routed by a gallant
charge led by Colonel La Grange, First Wisconsin Cavalry, who
commanded a brigade. [Footnote: Id. pt. i. pp. 139, 141.] Two
regimental commanders, seven other commissioned officers, over a
hundred privates, and two pieces of artillery were captured by the
charge. General Morgan's battle-flag was also among the trophies.
Our own casualties amounted to only thirty-one. Martin beat a hasty
retreat across the French Broad to Dandridge, and Longstreet frankly
admitted Martin's defeat with a loss of 200 men and the two guns.
[Footnote: _Id_. pp. 149-150.] He attributed it to the inefficiency
of his cavalry commander, and urged that one more competent be sent
him. [Footnote: _Id_pt. ii. p. 632.] Sturgis followed on the 28th to
Fair's Island Ford near Dandridge, where he was met by Armstrong's
division of the Confederates. Longstreet now passed over an infantry
force in rear of our cavalry, and they fell back to Maryville.
[Footnote: _Id_., p. 653.] Both parties found the winter work too
costly, and were now glad to take a few weeks for rest and

As my headquarters were assigned to Knoxville, I had the opportunity
of increasing my knowledge of the people and of the social
complications which grew out of the war. I found quarters for myself
and Lieutenant Theodore Cox, my aide, at the house of Mr. Cowen, a
young merchant of the city, whose father was one of the prominent
business men. The house was on the north side of a suburban street
running parallel to the river, and not far from the buildings of the
East Tennessee University, which were partially fortified and
connected with Fort Sanders by a line of infantry trench. The fields
on the opposite side of the road were open, and sloped down to the
river bank, and in these my headquarters guard pitched their tents
and the general quarters of the staff were also placed. A near
neighbor, in the direction of the college, was the Rev. Dr. Humes,
rector of the Episcopal parish, and after the war President of the
University. General Burnside had spoken of him as a noble man, of
devoted loyalty as well as earnest piety, and I was glad to know him
as one who by his high intelligence and character was an authority
on all that related to Holston valley. [Footnote: Thomas W. Humes,
S.T.D. He has, since the war (1888), published a volume devoted to
the East Tennessee loyalists, entitled "The Loyal Mountaineers of
Tennessee."] John Williams, John M. Fleming, and O. P. Temple were
among those who represented the Union sentiment of Knoxville, as did
Perez Dickinson among the merchants. [Footnote: Since this chapter
was written, Chancellor Temple has contributed a valuable work to
the history of the Rebellion, in his "East Tennessee and the Civil
War," Cincinnati. 1899.] John Baxter, afterward Judge of the United
States Circuit Court, was a strong and wise friend of the
government. Horace Maynard represented the district in Congress both
before and after the war, and was regarded at Washington as its
official representative even in the period when the Confederate
occupation made him an exile from his home. William G. Brownlow was
in Knoxville also, having returned as soon as our army had opened
the way. His son, "Colonel Jim," was doing gallant service at the
head of the First East Tennessee Cavalry. Around this group of
leading men were arrayed the great majority of the people, devoted
in their attachment to the Union. The men of property among them had
sometimes been forced to dissimulate in order to protect their
persons and their possessions; but now that the National army was in
the valley, there was no mistaking the earnest satisfaction and the
hearty sympathy of these people. There was a minority who had been
open Secessionists, and these had been influential beyond their
numbers, by reason of their wealth and social standing; for here, as
well as everywhere else in the South, owners of slaves easily became
champions of the extreme doctrines of what they called the
constitutional guaranty of their property. They claimed to include
most of the "upper class" in their numbers, though this was by no
means true in this region.

The feelings of both Union men and Secessionists were very bitter,
and social life was as strongly marked by these divisions as the
hostile camps. The number of slaves was comparatively small, but
they were the house servants in the towns, and their disposition to
assert their liberty added to the social turmoil. The mistress of
the house where I lodged hired her cook from a neighbor who claimed
the woman as a slave; but the employer found herself obliged to make
another bargain with the cook, and to pay her a second wage in order
to keep her at work at all. The Unionists of East Tennessee were not
yet fully advanced to the emancipation of the slaves as a result of
the war. Parson Brownlow had fiercely denounced the Secessionists
for arguing that secession was necessary to preserve property in
slaves. Our army commanders thought it prudent not to agitate this
question, and contented themselves with keeping within the limits of
the statutes and the general orders of the War Department, which
forbade military interference to return fugitives to the masters or
to compel their obedience. The matter was left to work itself out,
as it rapidly did.

After the first of February the weather became settled and gave us a
more favorable opinion of the East Tennessee climate. We had sharp
frosts at night with occasional light flurries of snow, but the days
were usually bright, it thawed about midday, and the average
temperature was such as to make active exercise delightful. The
summits of the Great Smoky Mountains were covered with snow, and
made a picturesque framing for the natural loveliness of the
valleys. The roads were nowhere metalled, and the alternate freezing
and thawing made them nearly impassable; but if we had been able to
bring forward proper forage and supplies, we should have overcome
the other obstacles to active campaigning. As it was, we could only
await the approach of spring, when the settling of the roads and the
opening of railroad communication with Chattanooga and Nashville
would make it possible to bring back from Kentucky and feed our
horses which had been sent to the rear.

There was, beside, the question of the change necessary in the
command of the department, since there was no probability that
General Foster's health would permit him to retain it and he had
urgently requested that his successor should be assigned to duty.
Indeed, the question of organization reached down to the regiments
and brigades, and was a burning one in all the armies of Grant's
Military Division. Besides this, the revival of the grade of
Lieutenant-General was already mooted in Congress, and it was nearly
a foregone conclusion that Grant would have the command of all the
armies and the task of co-ordinating their movements. Our little
army in East Tennessee was agitated not only with the speculations
as to our new commander, but with debates as to our probable part in
the next campaign, and the forces which would be given to us with
which to do our work. Would the Ninth Corps remain in the
department, or would it be ordered to the East for duty under
Burnside, as was already rumored? Would our task be simply to
garrison East Tennessee; should we make Longstreet's army our
objective and follow him into Virginia; or should we be united to
Sherman's and Thomas's armies for a campaign in Georgia? We eagerly
listened for every hint which might be dropped at headquarters, but
Grant's proverbial reticence left us to our conjectures, and each
question was answered only when official orders were finally
published. Much that was very blind to us is now easily traced in
the Official Records.

When General Foster informed the War Department that the opening of
his old wound made it necessary to relieve him of command in East
Tennessee, the President was in some perplexity in regard to several
prominent officers. He was disposed to find some adequate employment
for Rosecrans, who was still backed by a very strong political
coterie in Washington. He was convinced that injustice had been done
Burnside, and was thinking of sending him with the Ninth Corps,
largely increased in numbers, to his old field of successful work on
the Carolina coast. The opposition of influential politicians of
Kansas and Missouri to Schofield, whose confirmation as
major-general was still obstructed in the Senate, he felt as a
personal hostility to himself. Grant was also desirous of suitable
assignments to command for McPherson, W. F. Smith, and Sheridan. The
almost certain passage of the bill to give a higher grade in the
army, and the assumption that Grant would be promoted to it, gave
the opportunity to make a satisfactory arrangement of all these
cases. Burnside's return to active work and the removal to the East
of the Ninth Corps were determined on, with General Parke's return,
at his own desire, to the position of Burnside's chief of staff.
McPherson was to take the Army of the Tennessee when Sherman should
be promoted to the command of the Military Division of the
Mississippi. Smith and Sheridan were to have high assignments in the
Eastern army. Rosecrans was sent to Missouri, and Schofield, to his
great content, was appointed to command the Army of the Ohio. These
changes were gradually shaped in the correspondence of Grant with
army headquarters during the fall and winter. [Footnote: Official
Records, vol. xxxi. pt. iii. pp. 122, 277, 458, 529, 571; vol.
xxxii. pt. ii. pp. 79, 80, 182, 202, 209, 229, 230, 251, 336; also a
curious letter of Hooker to Stranton, _id_., pp. 467-469. See also
Schofield's "Forty-six Years in the Army," pp. 108-110. I have
treated these changes more in detail in chapter vii. of Force's
"General Sherman" (Great Commanders' series). See preface of the
work last named.] They were followed by others in the corps
divisions and brigades, so that the organization of all the Western
armies took permanent form before Grant was called to Washington to
assume his new rank at the beginning of March.

In regard to general officers the question of assignments and
promotions was always an embarrassing one for commanders of armies
in the field. As the law prescribed the maximum number of
major-generals and of brigadiers, political and military pressure
combined to keep the list always full. [Footnote: In reply to
Grant's request for the promotion of General W.F. Smith, Halleck
Informed him, on Jan. 13, 1864, that there was not only no vacancy,
but that by some error more had again been appointed that the law
authorized, and some already in service would have to be dropped.
Official Records, vol. xxxii. pt. ii. p. 80. As to brigaders, see
Halleck to Grant, _Id_., p. 481.] Closest watch was kept by
politicians and others at Washington, and if a vacancy occurred, the
pressure to fill it was exactly such as would be made for a civil
office in the gift of the government. Officers of the regular army
found in General Halleck a powerful support, and it was assumed that
those appointed from civil life would be looked after by their
political friends. The effort which was made by the War Department
in the winter to force into active service or into retirement all
officers who for any cause had been "shelved" was well intended, but
in practice it accentuated the feeling of experienced commanders
that a radical reform was essential. An intelligent system was
demanded, reaching from top to bottom of the army, separating its
discipline, its assignments to duty, its promotions and its removals
from political influences, and making merit alone the basis of
advancement. In the condition of public affairs no such thorough
work was possible. The embarrassments of army commanders had been
very bluntly explained to the War Department in the confidential
dispatches of Mr. Dana from Chattanooga. His judgments may sometimes
have been hasty, but he gives a very vivid picture of the mischiefs
which follow from having incompetent, intemperate, or inefficient
men saddled upon an army. The same dispatches, however, showed also
how unwillingly the commanders resorted to extreme severity with men
toward whom they had feelings of personal kindness. In strong hands
like Grant's or Sherman's the power to get promptly rid of such
incumbrances (which Dana recommended) would be ably used and work
well. As to political considerations, the President on more than one
occasion admitted that he felt obliged, at times, to let these
control his action, instead of reasons based on the efficiency of
the army. [Footnote: For Dana's dispatches on this subject, see
Official Records, vol. xxx. pt. i. p. 220; vol. xxxi. pt. i. pp. 69,
73, 265; pt. ii. pp. 54, 63. In his published "Recollections of the
Civil War" (1898), Mr. Dana has omitted some of his most trenchant
personal criticisms.]

Along with the graver embarrassments which General Grant found in
organizing his armies for a new campaign were smaller ones, which
though sometimes concerned with trivial matters were not on that
account likely to be less annoying. When the general visited us at
Knoxville and Strawberry Plains in the severe weather of early
January, he came practically unattended. He had with him
Lieutenant-Colonel C. B. Comstock of the engineers, who continued in
confidential staff relations to him to the end of the war, well
known then and ever since as an officer of rare ability and
discretion. At Knoxville Grant received a dispatch in cipher which
he could not read because the telegraph operator at his headquarters
at Nashville alone had the key. This gave him great annoyance and
might have had very serious consequences. When therefore he reached
Nashville on his return ride over the mountains, he directed the
operator to reveal the key to Colonel Comstock, who was always with
him. The operator of course reported the fact to the superintendent
of military telegraphs at Washington (Colonel Anson Stager), and on
the report of the latter to the Secretary of War, Mr. Stanton
ordered the operator summarily dismissed from his employment, and
formally reprimanded Colonel Comstock as if the revelation had been
merely on his personal order. Of course Grant, who had never dreamed
that he was treading upon anybody's toes, immediately assumed the
full responsibility. He showed the folly of making details of method
override the public necessity to which they were subservient, and
asked that the operator should be restored to his employment and not
made to suffer for obeying his personal order. He said: "I could see
no reason why I was not as capable of selecting a proper person to
intrust with this secret as Colonel Stager." One would think this
ought to have ended the matter, but it did not, though the operator
was restored to duty. Mr. Stanton had the old cipher thrown away,
issued a new one, and stuck to the plan of trusting it to an
ordinary civilian operator, whilst it was not allowed to be known to
the commanding general or the most responsible staff officer. Grant
made the sensible suggestion that the key be given to military
officers only, and be kept from the civilian operators; but Mr.
Stanton adhered to the farcical notion of carrying on a cipher
correspondence which should be open to the irresponsible
transmitter, but secret as to the responsible commanding general to
whom it was addressed. If it were meant for a system of espionage
upon the general by thus inseparably tying to him a civilian over
whom he had no control, like an agent of a secret police reporting
to a Fouche or a Savary, it would be an intelligible though bungling
contrivance; but as a means of secret communication with a general
it was ridiculous in the extreme. [Footnote: Official Records, vol.
xxxii. pt. ii. pp. 150, 159, 161, 172, 323, 324, 361.]

The telegraph operators were young men who had learned the art
usually in the northern telegraph offices and were hired for
military service like other civilian employees. The operator at
Grant's headquarters at Nashville had a busy place, and could not be
spared to accompany the general whenever he visited a distant post,
even if such inseparable attendance had been agreeable to the
commander. Many of the operators were faithful and intelligent men,
but there were some who were not; and an incident occurred in the
Nashville campaign in the next year which showed what mischiefs were
likely to happen when a telegraph operator was cowardly or
untrustworthy. [Footnote: See "The Battle of Franklin," by the
present writer, pp. 29, 30.]

Returning to the affairs of the Army of the Ohio, at the same time
that General Schofield was ordered to report to Grant for duty,
Major-General George Stoneman was sent from the East with a similar
order. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxxii. pt. ii. pp. 166,
182.] It had not then been announced that the Ninth Corps would
return to the East, and apparently assuming that the Army of the
Ohio would include more than one corps of infantry, General Grant
suggested the assignment of Schofield to the department and Stoneman
to the Twenty-third Corps. This was ordered accordingly on the 28th
of January. [Footnote: _Id_., pp. 229, 251.] Stoneman's last service
had been as Hooker's chief of cavalry in the Chancellorsville
campaign, and under Hooker's orders he had been upon a separate
expedition of cavalry during that unfortunate battle. In the general
miscarriage of the campaign, he was, with questionable justice, held
responsible in part for the failure and was displaced. In the
general plan of setting everybody to work again, he was sent to
Grant, though, as time had brought about a more favorable judgment
regarding him, it would have been fair to assign him to duty again
with the Army of the Potomac. I think he expected the command of the
cavalry of the western army, but Grant had selected
Brigadier-General William Sooy Smith for that position, and looking
about for suitable duty for Stoneman, the Twenty-third Corps was
seen to have no permanent commander assigned by the President, and
Stoneman was nominated for it. As events turned out, the appointment
was for a very short period.

My command of the corps with the rank of brigadier was of course
anomalous, and would necessarily be temporary unless the appropriate
rank were restored to me. Had Burnside remained in East Tennessee,
it is probable that his wish would have prevailed; but he was
absent, and I was a comparative stranger, forming new relations to
Grant and his principal subordinates. Foster had also assured me
that he would wish no change in the corps command if he stayed at
the head of the Department, but as his health caused his withdrawal,
the new arrangements were made without consulting him. Under these
circumstances there was nothing for me to do but to accept the
inevitable and take such active work as my seniority in my present
rank would give.

When General Foster learned that he would soon be relieved, he very
cordially offered to do anything in his power to further my wishes
in regard to any choice of duty when I should be superseded in the
corps. I replied that my strong desire was to get the most active
field service, and as it was doubtful whether the corps would not be
kept to garrison East Tennessee, I would like to be transferred to
the Army of the Cumberland, which was certain to make the next
campaign in Georgia. On his suggestion I wrote a letter to General
Grant asking the transfer on the grounds stated. This application
General Foster forwarded with a letter of his own supporting it in
very friendly manner. Nothing came of this, but it was the reason
for the delay which occurred in my assignment to permanent work in
the Army of the Ohio. Some of my friends in the Fourth Corps,
knowing that Sheridan was to leave his division, had suggested my
appointment there, but the surplus of general officers prevented.
Major-General Newton, one of those who came west from the Potomac
army, was assigned to that division. [Footnote: Official Records,
vol. xxxii. pt. i. p.18.]

Generals Schofield and Stoneman reached Knoxville on the 9th of
February, and the changes in command were promptly made. [Footnote:
_Id._, pt. ii. pp. 356, 358, 359, 364, 365.] For a fortnight I was
off duty, awaiting orders. General Foster took his leave of us,
thoroughly respected by all, though his crippled physical condition
had interfered with his personal activity.

My separation from the corps command only affected myself and my two
personal aides-de-camp. I had recommended Major Bascom, my
adjutant-general, and Major Treat, my commissary, for permanent
positions on the corps staff, and these recommendations were kindly
adopted by General Stoneman, so that they ceased to belong to my
military family, though both offered to follow my fortunes. The
other staff appointments were in the nature of details, most of
which were temporarily continued. Pending General Grant's action on
my application, I remained at Knoxville, looking on and making the
acquaintance of the officers newly arrived.

General Stoneman was a tall, thin man, full bearded, with large
eyes. He had an air of habitual sadness, or gravity approaching it,
and was commonly reputed to have an irritable temper, but I saw
nothing of it. I think he would have made an acceptable commander of
the corps if fortune had left him in that position. His place in the
regular army (Major of the Fourth United States Cavalry [Footnote:
He and General Sturgis were the two majors of the same regiment.])
had led to his assignment to a cavalry command at the East, and he
returned to that arm of the service a little later. Grant took a
dislike to Stoneman, partly on account of the manner in which he had
been sent to him from the East. When the suggestion was made that,
if the opposition in the Senate to Schofield's confirmation should
defeat his promotion, Stoneman should succeed to his command, Grant
dryly replied that he did not know General Stoneman's merits.
[Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxxii. pt. ii. p. 394] Even a year
later he showed the same distrust by speaking of him as an officer
who had failed. This was by no means just, but showed the
persistence of Grant's impressions. [Footnote: General Stoneman
retired from the army at the close of the war and made his home in
California, of which State he became governor.]

With General Schofield's arrival began my close association with him
which was to last until the end of the war. In person he was a
solid, rather stout man, of medium height, with a round bald head
and long black beard coming down on his breast. He had a reputation
for scientific tastes, and had, after his graduation at West Point,
been instructor in astronomy there. He was two or three years my
junior in age, and was among the younger general officers. The
obstruction, thus far, to his confirmation in his higher grade so
far resembled my own experience as to be a ground of sympathy
between us. As I was glad of his better luck in his prompt
reappointment, I may also say that his hearty recognition of my own
service and experience inspired me with sincere friendship. I look
back to my service as his subordinate with unmixed satisfaction.



Fresh reports of Longstreet's advance--They are unfounded--Grant's
wish to rid the valley of the enemy--Conference with
Foster--Necessity for further recuperation of the army--Continuance
of the quiet policy--Longstreet's view of the situation--His
suggestions to his government--He makes an advance again--Various
demonstrations--Schofield moves against Longstreet--My appointment
as chief of staff in the field--Organization of the active
column--Schofield's purposes--March to Morristown--Going the Grand
Rounds--Cavalry outpost--A sleepy sentinel--Return to New
Market--Once more at Morristown--Ninth Corps sent East--Grant
Lieutenant-General--Sherman commands in the West--Study of plans of
campaign--My assignment to Third Division, Twenty-third
Corps--Importance of staff duties--Colonel Wherry and Major
Campbell--General Wood--Schofield and the politicians--Post at
Bull's Gap--Grapevine telegraph--Families going through the
lines--Local vendetta--The Sanitary Commission--Rendezvous assigned
by Sherman--Preliminary movements--Marching to Georgia--A spring
camp on the Hiwassee--The Atlanta campaign begun.

On assuming command in East Tennessee, Schofield was met by
directions from General Grant, full of fresh urgency that Longstreet
should be driven beyond the Virginia line. The occasion for this was
the receipt of new intelligence that Longstreet was reinforced from
the East, and would make another effort at an aggressive campaign.
[Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxxii. pt. ii. p. 337.] The
recurrence of this stereotyped form of alarm looked very much like
information sent from the Confederates themselves for the purpose of
keeping us on the defensive; but perhaps it is only of a piece with
other evidence which shows the slight value of all information which
is not got by contact with the enemy. The truth was that none of the
reports that Ewell and others had been sent to Longstreet had any
foundation. He was left to his own resources, with only the
authority to call his next neighbor in southwestern Virginia to his
assistance if he were in danger of being overwhelmed. But Grant was
annoyed by these recurrent alarms, and his aggressive nature chafed
at it. "I intend to drive him out or get whipped this month," he
said to Thomas before Schofield's arrival; and on the 11th of
February he wrote to the latter: "I deem it of the utmost importance
to drive Longstreet out immediately, so as to furlough the balance
of our veterans and to prepare for a spring campaign of our own
choosing, instead of permitting the enemy to dictate it for us."
[Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxxii. pt. ii. p. 367.]

Nothing would have pleased Schofield better than to have had
Longstreet come down to Knoxville and fight there, but the cogent
reasons which had made Foster suspend active operations and devote
every energy to getting his men and animals in condition for a
vigorous spring campaign, had lost none of their force. Our animals
had already been sent away to save their lives, and by the help of
the little steamboats built at Kingston and for which General Meigs
had sent engines from the North, we were beginning to receive at
Knoxville some of the clothing for which our men were suffering.

Grant had already ordered Thomas to be prepared to march at once to
reinforce Schofield, [Footnote: _Id._, p. 359.] when he had a
personal interview at Nashville with General Foster, who was on his
way home. Foster so fully explained the impossibility of supplying
troops much further up the valley than Knoxville, and the absolute
need of building up the physical strength of man and beast after the
half starvation since winter set in, that Grant yielded to the
inevitable and directed Schofield to remain on the defensive till
the approach of spring should give a prospect of activity which
should not be destructive to the little army. [Footnote: Official
Records, vol. xxxii. pt. ii. pp. 373-375.] He ordered that the
re-enlisting veterans should have their furloughs as soon as
possible, and that men and animals should have all the rest they
could get, preparatory for early operations in the spring.

After his retreat from Knoxville, Longstreet had kept up an active
correspondence with Mr. Davis, and with Lee, Johnston, and
Beauregard, in reference to further plans of campaign. The ease with
which Thomas could reinforce Schofield was so plain to him that he
saw nothing attractive in another advance on Knoxville. The plan
which seemed to attract him most was to mount his infantry on mules
and make a dash through the mountains into Kentucky by way of Pound
Gap. [Footnote: _Id._, pp. 652-789, 790-792.] To collect ten
thousand mules and send them to him, to make a depot for rations and
forage at Abingdon sufficient to support the column on its journey
through the mountains, to furnish a train to carry it,--all this
seemed evidently chimerical to those to whom he proposed it.
[Footnote: _Id._, p. 760.] The Confederacy had all it could do to
feed its existing armies where they were, and was living from hand
to mouth.

The thing which the Confederate government seemed most to desire was
that Longstreet should effect a junction with Johnston and the two
open an offensive campaign against Thomas. [Footnote: _Id._ pp. 806,
808, 810.] The evil consequences of Bragg's blunder in detaching
Longstreet before the battle of Missionary Ridge became more evident
every day; but how were the commands to be reunited? A long and
perilous flank march must be made by both armies, with an almost
certainty that Grant would concentrate first and fall upon them in

Longstreet was restless and anxious to do something pending this
discussion, [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxxii. pt. ii. p.
699.] and resolved to try an advance from Morristown upon Knoxville.
He began his movement just as Grant had concluded to allow
Schofield's army to remain quiet till spring. On the 19th of
February he reached New Market, seven or eight miles above
Strawberry Plains and twenty-five from Knoxville. The information he
got gave him the idea that our troops were "demoralized," and that
it was a favorable opportunity for an effort to capture Schofield's
army. [Footnote: _Id.,_ p. 735.] He was quite wrong as to the
_morale_ of our troops, though we were depleted by furloughs and
were nearly immovable for lack of train animals. He urged Johnston
to move toward Knoxville to co-operate with him, [Footnote: _Id.,_
p. 744.] but Polk was now in trouble by reason of Sherman's march
from Vicksburg upon Meridian and Johnston was ordered to assist
Polk. [Footnote: _Id.,_ p. 763.] Then Grant, to balk both efforts,
ordered Thomas to make a demonstration against Johnston, which was
effective in preventing co-operation in either direction. [Footnote:
_Id.,_ p. 480.]

Schofield was at first disposed to regard the enemy's advance as an
effort to find forage and to strip the country more bare than it
already was, if that were possible. On the 18th, however, Longstreet
advanced again, and threatened to cross the Holston at Strawberry
Plains, scouring the country in the angle between that river and the
French Broad. The rumors which reached Schofield were [Footnote:
_Id.,_ p. 415.] that his real purpose was to cross the French Broad,
move along the foot of Chilhowee Mountains and make his way to
Johnston. It is very probable that this was his real purpose. On the
19th he was ordered to send at any rate Martin's cavalry to rejoin
Johnston, [Footnote: _Id.,_ p. 772.] and to make the junction
complete would so evidently please the Confederate government that
it may be assumed Longstreet would do it if he saw the way open.
Schofield therefore prepared to concentrate and move in either
direction, but took no active step for a few days. On the 23d the
information was sufficient to make it clear that Longstreet was not
moving in force toward Georgia, but was retiring toward Morristown,
[Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxxii. pt. ii. pp. 449, 455.] and
Schofield immediately issued orders of march to his troops to
follow. The fact was that Longstreet was so much disturbed by the
withdrawal of Martin's cavalry [Footnote: Martin's cavalry at this
time was what remained of Wheeler's corps which had accompanied
Longstreet from Bragg's army the previous autumn.] that he declared
this forced him to leave East Tennessee and place his forces at
Bristol on the Virginia border. On getting a second dispatch from
Mr. Davis, he modified his reasons, saying that Schofield had been
reinforced from Chattanooga. [Footnote: _Id._, pp. 788-790.] This
was incorrect, for the Fourth Corps was the only part of the Army of
the Cumberland which joined the Army of the Ohio at any time during
the winter, and only Wood's division of it participated in
Schofield's present movement. He also wrote as if he had been near
enough to Knoxville to discover for himself that the fortifications
were greatly strengthened;[Footnote: _Id._, p. 810.] but as he had
not approached nearer than seventeen miles, he could hardly have
gained much information on this subject. No doubt rumors of work on
the defences of the city had spread through the country during the
winter, but there could hardly have been any discovery at this time.
The use of it to smooth the appearance of an abortive effort was
only a passage in military apologetics.

I had been awaiting orders in Knoxville a fortnight when the advance
against Longstreet began, and as no definite answer had come to my
application for transfer, General Schofield invited me to act as his
chief of staff in the field during active operations or until my
assignment to permanent duty should be settled. I gladly accepted
the general's proposal and joined headquarters at once. [Footnote:
See Official Records vol. xxxii. pt. ii. p. 495.] Our little army
consisted nominally of parts of three corps, but the column in the
field consisted of one division of the Twenty-third Corps, under the
immediate command of General Stoneman, one of the Fourth Corps under
Brigadier-General Thomas J. Wood, and the skeleton of the Ninth
Corps under General Parke. [Footnote: _Id_. p. 455.] We had also
Colonel Garrard's division of cavalry. Another division of the
Twenty-third Corps under Brigadier-General Milo S. Hascall was left
as the garrison of Knoxville, with the heavy artillery organization
under Brigadier-General Davis Tillson and a small detachment of
cavalry. Hascall was particularly directed to scout far out to the
eastward, watching for any attempt of the enemy to pass along the
mountain base, as well as against any effort to capture the city by
a _coup de main_.

Our marching column numbered 13,873 officers and men, distributed
thus: Wood's division, 5477; Parke's detachments of two divisions of
the Ninth Corps, 3031; Stoneman with the second division of the
Twenty-third Corps, 3363; Garrard's cavalry, 2002. [Footnote: _Id_.
pp. 502, 504.] Longstreet's forces were 20,787, of which 5034 were
cavalry. Schofield's purpose was essentially that of a
reconnoissance in force to learn definitely the composition and
apparent plans of the enemy, though willing to accept a defensive
battle if a favorable opportunity should occur. If Longstreet were
finally leaving East Tennessee, Grant's intention was to send all
troops of the Fourth Corps back to Thomas, so as to concentrate the
Army of the Cumberland in preparation for the spring campaign in
Georgia. [Footnote: _Id_., pp. 456, 490.]

On the 24th of February we were at Strawberry Plains. The long
trestle bridge of the railway had been destroyed when our forces had
concentrated at Knoxville a month before, and our first task was to
complete a wagon bridge across the Holston so that we could move
onward toward New Market and Morristown with a possibility of
keeping up a supply of food. We did not wait for the bridge to be
completed, however, and orders were issued on the 26th to begin
crossing, [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxxii. pt. ii. p. 474.]
using flatboats for the men, whilst the artillery and wagons used a
ford that was then passable. Grant did not expect Schofield to march
his infantry farther than Strawberry Plains, but to push the
reconnoissance beyond that point with cavalry. [Footnote: Id., p.
495.] Schofield, however, felt that to do his work thoroughly, his
horsemen should be strongly and closely supported. On the 29th our
headquarters were at New Market and the column on its way to
Morristown. We overtook it in the afternoon and occupied the town
that evening. As so often happens in war, our movement had hardly
begun when the fine weather ended, and we marched from Strawberry
Plains in pouring rain, over wretched roads which rapidly became
worse. This delayed the troops and only part were at Morristown when
darkness fell. These were disposed so as to cover the town in front
with pickets well out, and a detachment of cavalry a mile or two
farther forward. Most of the horsemen were on our flanks, covering
roads by which our position could be turned.

All the information we could get pointed to an abandonment of East
Tennessee by the enemy, but it was hard for us to believe that the
sudden retreat of Longstreet, after his announced intention to
attack Knoxville, was not under orders which indicated a plan we
ought to fathom. We had heard of his first purpose at many places on
our road, for it is almost impossible to keep the people of the
country from learning the destination of a moving column, and now
the inhabitants who remained at Morristown were aware that
Longstreet's men regarded Bristol as their destination. There were,
however, rumors and some evidence that Longstreet had stopped his
retreat and was about to turn upon us. This called for a careful
disposal of our troops and preparation for supporting them promptly
with those that were still on the road. As nothing came of it, there
would be no reason for mentioning it, except that it was the
occasion for an amusing bit of personal experience of my own.

Some of the more pronounced Secessionists had left the town with
Longstreet, through fear that the loyalists might take vengeance on
them for some of the wrongs they had suffered. We occupied as
headquarters a house thus vacated, but it was absolutely empty and
gave us only a roof over our heads. We had a few camp stools and a
camp desk or two, and slept on the bare floor wrapped in our
blankets, with our saddles for pillows. Late in the evening some
loyal men brought in such reports of the enemy advancing to attack
us at daybreak, that as a measure of prudence determined to go the
"grand rounds" an hour or two before day, and especially to visit
the cavalry outpost at the front and send forward a reconnoissance
from it to make sure of full warning if there was any need of it.
When I was roused by the sergeant of the headquarters guard and my
horse was brought to the door, it was not a night for a pleasure
excursion. A cold winter rain was pouring down, and the blackness of
darkness was intense. I took only a single orderly with me, buttoned
my cape close over my great-coat, pulled down the rim of my felt hat
and started off, trusting to my horse to keep the road till my eyes
should get a little used to the darkness. As both armies had
encamped around the town, the fences were of course all gone and the
wagons had cut so many tracks to right and left that it seemed all
road, or rather all mire and no road. Whilst we were among the camps
the smouldering camp-fires were of some help, but when we got beyond
these we could only splash along cautiously, steering for the
smaller fires which marked the picket reserves. Beyond the line of
sentries there was nothing to guide us, and keeping our direction as
well as we could, we plodded on until a faint glimmer showed the
camp of the cavalry outpost. It was in an open wood, and the dying
camp-fires gave only light enough to show the tall trunks of the
forest trees, black against a background of dull red. Part of
Longstreet's army had been in cantonments here during the winter,
and many of the huts were still standing, their dim outlines and
irregular forms hardly visible, but giving an air of weird mystery
to the surroundings. Some of these huts were occupied by the
cavalry, and the first we came upon had as its tenant an Irish
dragoon, and him we turned out to guide us to the captain's
quarters. The occasionally flashing light only seemed to make the
darkness visible, and the Irishman told us to follow him closely,
"and look out," says he, "for there's pits every little way where
thim ribils dug foundations for their chimbleys." He started on and
I followed, keeping my horse's nose close to his shoulder. Suddenly
he disappeared, and as I jerked my horse back on his haunches, Paddy
sung out: "Och! I've found one, sorr!" and sure enough he had gone
in, head and heels, in one of the "pits." He scrambled out and
cautiously led my horse around the hole, but we had hardly gone a
rod further before Pat went out again, like a candle, with "Be
jabers, I've found another." But he took his mud baths
good-humoredly, and led us without further accident to the captain.
From him I got the reports from the vedettes at the front, and after
ordering a reconnoissance to be pushed well forward, turned back to
inspect the infantry line of sentinels. These were generally found
on the alert and well instructed, but as we went across ditches and
miry fields we came suddenly upon one asleep in a fence corner where
he had tried to make some shelter from the storm. When the horses
halted beside him, he sprang up bewildered, and stood bolt upright,
trying to look at us, evidently uncertain whether we were rebels,
but too confused to utter a single word. I ordered him to call the
corporal of the guard, and asked him if that was the way he guarded
the camp. He began to stammer out denials of being asleep with a
foreign accent and in broken English, which made his stupidity seem
more stupid. I reported him to the officer of the guard, but finding
he was a raw recruit, I refrained from ordering him before a general
court-martial, and directed a lighter summary punishment that his
regimental officers could impose.

After examining the more important part of the line, we splashed
back to quarters as day was breaking, got a fire built in our
cheerless room, hung my coat, which was heavy with water, before it
to dry, and crossing my mud-cased legs, sat down for half an hour of
rest and revery, listening for carbine shots at the front that would
tell if the scouting party had found an enemy. The rest of the staff
were still sleeping, oblivious of war's alarms and preparing for the
work of the day by trusting the watching to those on duty, as they
would be trusted in turn when similarly on guard. How often were
such incidents repeated, night and day, through campaign after
campaign, till they became so familiar that it seems almost puerile
to mention them!

On beginning the movement to Morristown, orders had been given to
press the rebuilding of the railroad bridge at Strawberry Plains,
for our continuance so far from our supplies depended upon it. We
had no trains of wagons to keep up our communication with our base,
and the utmost we could do was to carry four or five days' supply
with us. We therefore spent three or four days in vigorous efforts
to gain information of the enemy by means of our cavalry. We learned
that Longstreet held the line of Bays Mountain, where the railway
passes through Bull's Gap, thirteen miles above Morristown. His
right flank seemed to be at Rogersville on the Holston, and his left
rested near the Nolachucky beyond Greeneville. We could not learn
that any of his forces except Martin's cavalry had left him, though
we were mystified by the disappearance of Ransom's division from the
accounts of the enemy's organization. The fact was that that officer
was transferred to the cavalry command, and the organization of his
division was merged in the others.

On the 2d of March Grant directed that McCook's division of cavalry
should go back to Thomas as soon as they could possibly be spared,
and on Schofield's reporting the results of our reconnoissances, he
advised the latter not to bring on an engagement, but to content
ourselves with holding as much of the country as we could.
[Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxxii. pt. iii. p. 14.] The bill
creating the grade of lieutenant-general was now the law, and Grant
had been promoted to it. On the invitation of the President he was
about to go to Washington for consultation, keeping in telegraphic
communication with his department commanders. [Footnote: _Id_., p.
17.] Consequently it agreed well with his views to let affairs
remain quiet during his absence. The rains continued, however, and
even if he had desired further advance it would have been out of the
question till the bridge at Strawberry Plains was rebuilt. The
rations brought with us were exhausted, and on the 4th we withdrew
the infantry fourteen miles, to a position four miles above New
Market, where we hoped to be able to feed the troops with our few
wagons, until the railroad should again be available.

Headquarters in the field were established at New Market, and I
remained there with authority to direct and support the cavalry
movements actively kept up in our front. General Schofield was thus
enabled to spend part of his time at Knoxville attending to the
clothing and supply of the troops, the gathering of reinforcements,
return of veterans, and all the matters of department administration
which centred there. In case of the necessity of combined action in
Grant's absence, Thomas was authorized to assume command.

The Holston bridge at Strawberry Plains was completed on March 11th,
and our forces were at once put in motion for Morristown, where we
once more encamped on the 12th. Nothing new had been learned of the
enemy; but there was nothing to learn, for Longstreet quietly
occupied the line of Bays Mountain, and, like ourselves, was busy
getting his troops clothed and shod, while he discussed with the
Richmond authorities various plans of campaign. The cavalry ordered
back to Johnston was making its way along the base of the mountains,
and occasional news of their advance was exaggerated into stories of
all Longstreet's army being in motion. Schofield very wisely thought
the best way to know what his enemy was doing was to be as near him
as practicable without assaulting his strong positions with an
inferior force, and therefore ordered the fresh advance as soon as
the railway could be made to transport supplies.

On the 14th Grant was again at Nashville, and took immediate steps
to send the Ninth Corps to Burnside at Annapolis, [Footnote:
Official Records, vol. xxxii. pt. iii. p. 67.] in accordance with an
arrangement which was settled at the Washington conferences.
Schofield was directed to have no delay in getting the Ninth Corps
off, and he issued his formal orders to that effect on the 16th.
[Footnote: _Id_., p. 82.] This reduced the forces in East Tennessee
to a very small number, but a bold front was preserved and active
reconnoitering kept up. On the 18th Stoneman's infantry was placed
at Mossy Creek, between New Market and Morristown, and Wood with two
brigades of his division was ordered to Rutledge about half-way to
Cumberland Gap. The other brigade was placed at Strawberry Plains to
protect the stores accumulated there. The cavalry which remained to
Schofield was divided, part reporting to Stoneman and part to Wood,
and the country was carefully watched from the Nolachucky on the
east to Cumberland Gap on the northwest. [Footnote: Official
Records, vol. xxxii. pt. iii. pp. 88, 89.] I was personally directed
to keep headquarters in the field, with power to act, in emergencies
and in matters of detail, in Schofield's name, while the general
returned to the department headquarters at Knoxville, where he made
to Sherman, as his now superior, a full report of the situation,
with suggestions as to the future work of the army of the Ohio.
[Footnote: _Id_., p. 96.] It was now settled that a new campaign,
both East and West, should open in April, if possible, and
everything else was to be made subservient to preparation for it.
Steps were taken to bring back the furloughed veterans, to remount
the cavalry in Kentucky and bring it forward, and to secure such
additional infantry as should enable Schofield to take the field
with three strong divisions of foot, and at least two of horse,
besides leaving about ten thousand men in Kentucky and five thousand
in East Tennessee.

The question what should be the work of the Army of the Ohio had
naturally interested us who belonged to it, and while Grant was in
Washington I prepared and submitted to General Schofield a sketch of
a plan of campaign. It was based on the assumption that the Army of
the Potomac would not operate by its left along the lowlands of
Virginia, as McClellan had done, but would follow the railway
through Culpepper and Orange Court House to Richmond. This route was
in a high and healthy country, the streams would be crossed where
they were comparatively insignificant, and the natural obstacles to
an advance seemed much less formidable than upon the coast line.
True, the army would have to depend upon the railway for its
supplies, but so must Sherman in the West, and the Virginia line was
only a fraction of his in length. It had the advantage of covering
the Shenandoah valley as it advanced, and saving the large
detachment which had to be devoted to that region and to the
protection of Washington. But besides this (and this was the feature
directly affecting us in East Tennessee), it opened for the Army of
the Ohio a rôle of usefulness which seemed to me very important.

If Schofield were to take the field in Georgia, he could carry to
Sherman, at most, some twelve or fourteen thousand infantry and six
or eight of cavalry. The proper protection of Kentucky and East
Tennessee required just about the same number of troops. His active
column in the decisive campaign would therefore be only half of the
forces in his department. Whenever it should be apparent that
Georgia was our field of operations, Longstreet's twenty thousand
men would be set free to join Lee in Virginia (as actually
happened), or could be used in any other theatre of operations,
whilst our garrisons could not be greatly reduced because small
raids of mounted men could harry the wide expanse of country behind
us unless all the important points were fully guarded. This also was
demonstrated by our actual experience, and was a plain deduction
from facts and principles. To drive Longstreet into Virginia and
destroy the railroad so that he could not return was, therefore, to
force the enemy to do the thing most advantageous to himself; that
is, to concentrate his forces at the East in entire security that he
would not be troubled by any advance on our part into southwestern

If, on the other hand, we could move eastward along the railroad, we
could bring our supplies to our camps as we advanced. Sherman's army
behind us would make our base at Chattanooga safe; the great
mountain barrier on the right would so cover our flank that scarce
any force need be left in Tennessee, but all could be put in the
aggressive column: the troops in Kentucky could be brought forward
as we progressed, for our movement would cover that district;
finally, on reaching the New River valley we could be joined by the
forces in West Virginia. The advance, therefore, instead of being
with a dwindling column would be with a growing one, and when the
Army of the Potomac should approach the valley of the James, we
should be ready with about forty thousand to come into line as the
right wing of that army. Approaching Richmond from the north and
west, the south side railroad would be at once in our grasp, and
that to Petersburg within easy reach.

The objection to such a plan which would first occur to a critic,
would be that convergent movements from so distant bases are
proverbially uncertain; but this objection is greatly weakened by a
study of the topography of the country. The Holston valley is so
isolated that, approached by the railway line with a good base
behind the column, it is strongly defensible, and if the advance is
so timed as not to pass the New River before the Army of the Potomac
should be swinging in toward Richmond from the northwest, Lee's army
would be too fully occupied to make a detachment strong enough to
oppose us, and the line by which he would operate against us would
be threatened by the army of our friends. There would also be a safe
line of retreat always open for us, in case of check. [Footnote:
Napoleon was a master of strategy who fully appreciated the
objections to exterior lines, but in the campaign of Wagram in 1809
he ordered Marmont to lead a column from Italy to Vienna by a route
having strong resemblances to that which I have sketched. He
regarded the character of the route itself, protected as it was by
mountain ranges, and giving the assurance of a line of retreat, as
making an exception to ordinary cases and overcoming the objections
which would have been conclusive against attempting it in an open
country.] Another interesting feature in this plan is that if
railway communication between Sherman and the Potomac Army had been
opened in the summer of 1864, it would have been an interior line of
immense importance, not improbably modifying essentially the final
campaign of the war.

General Schofield thought well enough of my sketch to adopt it as a
suggestion to General Grant, which he submitted as soon as the
latter returned from the East. The General-in-Chief had, however,
already made arrangements which committed him to operating by the
left of the Potomac Army. He had sent General W. F. Smith to
Fortress Monroe for the purpose of taking the field at the head of
the movable part of Butler's Army of the James, and Burnside's
command at Annapolis was at that time expected to make another line
of operations from the seacoast in North Carolina. There was also a
disposition to leave in Sherman's hands all the departments which
constituted the Military Division of the Mississippi, and allow him
to concentrate the movable forces of all in his operations against
Johnston. Grant therefore adhered to his original purpose of
destroying enough of the railroad near the Watauga River to make a
serious obstruction to hostile movements against East Tennessee from
the east, and turn everything that could be spared into the advance
upon Atlanta. Another thing which had weight with him was the fact
that Schofield's confirmation as major-general was still delayed and
opposed in the Senate, and he intended, if it were finally defeated,
to consolidate the Department of the Ohio with that of the
Cumberland under General Thomas. [Footnote: Official Records, vol.
xxxii. pt. iii. p. 11.]

On the 29th of March General Sherman visited Schofield at Knoxville,
and a full understanding was reached regarding the place the Army of
the Ohio was to take in the great campaign of the spring. All the
troops in the department were to constitute the Twenty-third Corps,
and Schofield was to command the moving column in the field as well
as the department. To avoid the inconvenience of having a double
head to this column, Stoneman was to be transferred to the command
of the cavalry in place of Sturgis, and Schofield was to be assigned
to the formal command of the corps. [Footnote: Official Records,
vol. xxxii. pt. iii. pp. 221, 268, 312.] Sturgis was then to be sent
to Memphis to take command of the column there organizing for the
purpose of operating against Forrest.

As to operations in the upper valley of the Holston, it was
determined to occupy Bull's Gap at an early day, and to keep up such
an apparent purpose of advancing as should detain Longstreet in East
Tennessee as long as possible. If he retreated he was to be
followed, so as to induce him to burn the railway bridges, and thus
to avoid disclosing our own purpose of leaving that portion of the
valley which we should plainly proclaim if we ourselves should
destroy the railway. Everything was to be ready for movement, and at
the last moment, if the enemy had not already done it, we were to
burn railway bridges and tear up the track for a considerable
distance. Then the divisions which were to take the field in Georgia
were to march rapidly to Cleveland, and come in on the left of
Sherman's grand army as he advanced from Chattanooga.

As the plan of campaign thus took definite shape, it gave the
occasion also for a settlement of my personal problem of permanent
assignment to duty. It had become evident that there was no room for
transfer to another command, and the active part marked out for the
Twenty-third Corps removed the only ground for wishing it. No better
soldiers could be found than those which made up our divisions, and
my acquaintance with General Schofield had ripened into a confidence
which made me entirely content to follow him as my commander. He
warmly invited me to continue permanently in the position of chief
of staff, but gave me the alternate choice of one of the divisions
of the active column. My preference for responsible command in the
field decided me to take a division, and by his further permission I
chose the third, in which were a considerable number of officers who
had served with me in other campaigns. [Footnote: Official Records,
vol. xxxii. pt. iii. p. 245.] I would not be understood, however, to
depreciate the position of chief of staff of such a department and
army. Properly filled, few positions in active service could be
pleasanter or more useful. I had tested this during the six weeks
preceding, and had found the associations and the duty every way
most agreeable. The general was always prompt to assume his proper
responsibility and to order the movements or the administrative acts
which are peculiarly the province of the commander; but he gave me
the task of arranging the subordinate details, and the authority to
direct them in his name. To distribute the parts each corps or
division was to perform; to co-ordinate all the arrangements so that
they should move harmoniously; to bring to a common centre all the
information, external and internal, which affected the conduct and
efficiency of the whole; to supervise the matters of organization,
of equipment, and of supply; to consult with the medical director as
to hospital work and the sanitary condition of the army, and to be
guarantor that the common end is vigorously and intelligently
pursued by every part of the army,--all this, as scarcely needs
telling, makes a chief of staff the right arm of the commander, and
his most trusted adviser and confidant. He makes his commander feel
free to give his own thought to the larger problems of a campaign,
with confidence that the whole machinery of the army will work
smoothly toward the object which he has in view. I did not then, nor
do I now, underestimate the importance of the duty which an
industrious staff officer may thus perform, and I had found it made
personally pleasant by the even temper and appreciative justice of
General Schofield's rule. I had, however, formed so strong a
predilection for the immediate and active conduct of troops in the
field, that this determined me to choose the division command. In
the new organization of the corps I should, in this, report directly
to the general, and should be next in rank to him (in the infantry)
by virtue of seniority, so that in his absence, or when two
divisions were temporarily detached from the army, I should exercise
a superior command. These were advantages which every experienced
soldier estimates highly, and I was to enjoy them, until good
fortune and the steady friendship of my superiors gave me, a second
time, and this time in permanent form, the corps command with the
rank belonging to it. There was no mistake, therefore, in my choice
of duty; and considering the part Sherman's whole army was to play
in the remaining campaigns of the war, it was a matter of personal
good fortune also that the Army of the Ohio became an integral part
of the great western organization, and marched southward, not

On the staff I had been thrown into intimate relations to Colonel
William M. Wherry, senior aide-de-camp, and Major J. A. Campbell,
adjutant-general. These officers continued to the end of the war in
these positions, which they filled with great credit and usefulness.
Major Campbell was admirably fitted for the supervision of the
records and the correspondence of the army, and for reducing to the
form of clear and succinct orders the directions of the general. He
was accurate, systematic, and untiring; always at his post, whether
it were at his desk in camp, or by the side of his chief in the
field. Of slight, almost frail body, with an intellectual face, he
looked unequal to rough field work, but showed a stamina in fact
which many a more robust man envied. Colonel Wherry was the
incessantly active personal representative of the general, intrusted
with his oral orders, and making for him those examinations and
investigations which are only satisfactory when the commander has
learned to trust the eye and the cool judgment of his assistant as
his own. Wherry had been with General Schofield from the first
campaign in Missouri in 1861, and both were with Lyon when he fell
at Wilson's Creek. He remained his confidential aide through the
whole war, and for years afterward, being early appointed from
Missouri to the line of one of the new regiments of the regular
army. Lithe, graceful, and genial, he was always welcome, when he
came to a point where fighting was going on, to learn for the
general the actual situation or to bring his orders. [Footnote:
Wherry is now (1899) Brigadier-General of the United States Army,
retired, after brilliant service in the campaign of Santiago, Cuba.]

During the winter the division of the Fourth Corps commanded by
Brigadier-General Thomas J. Wood had been in closest connection with
us. It had taken part in all the marchings and countermarchings of
the period when I was chief of staff, and I had thus begun an
acquaintance with its commander which was to grow into lasting
friendship. General Wood was colonel of the Second Regular Cavalry,
a Kentuckian who had earnestly taken the National side, and an
influential officer of the old army. His intelligence and activity
were very marked, and his courage was of the cool indomitable
character most highly prized in divisions of a great army. Of medium
height, solid but not large build, dark hair and complexion, high
forehead, he was a noticeable man in any assemblage of officers. A
fluent talker, attentive to polite forms of speech as well as of
conduct, he was liked and respected throughout the army, and
especially in the Army of the Cumberland, where he had served
throughout the war. He had won promotion by gallant and meritorious
services again and again, when at the battle of Chickamauga it was
his ill fortune to receive the famous order to "close up on Brannan
and support him." The situation made the order ambiguous, but Wood
understood it to mean that he should move to the left till he should
find himself in rear of Brannan's division, since another division
was between them in the line. He thought it a strange order, but
thought also that Rosecrans must know why he sent it, and that it
was "his not to reason why" but to obey. The obedience opened the
gap through which Longstreet's men poured, breaking the line and
routing part of the right wing. Wood took the place assigned him by
Thomas in the horse-shoe curve around the Snodgrass hill, and did
his full share of the desperate fighting which held that part of the
field. But he had thus become the subject of a controversy, and the
friends of Rosecrans charged him with a too literal obedience, and a
failure to use a sound discretion in his action. The result was that
whilst Rosecrans was removed from active field service, Wood still
found himself under a cloud, and opposed by influences which stood
in the way of his promotion till the war was almost ended. He
continued to be distinguished in every engagement of the Atlanta
campaign and that of Nashville, and no division saw harder or more
honorable service than his.

The first week in April saw the changes in the organization of the
Twenty-third Corps which I have indicated. On the 3d I was relieved
of staff duty and assigned to the third division, with orders to
proceed at once to Bull's Gap and take temporary command of the
corps whilst General Stoneman should hasten to Kentucky to prepare
the cavalry corps for active service. [Footnote: Official Records,
vol. xxxii. pt. iii. pp. 245, 259, 268.] I think the change was
agreeable to Stoneman, for he was most at home with mounted troops
and liked that service. Schofield's permanent assignment to the
Twenty-third Corps was made on April 4th by the President, though
the general had still to await for some time the action of the
Senate on the confirmation of his promotion. [Footnote: Official
Records, vol. xxxii. pt. iii. p. 258.] His enemies were still
persistent, and even succeeded in obtaining a report of the Senate
committee against his confirmation. General Sherman wrote to his
brother, the senator, in behalf of his subordinate;[Footnote: _Id_.,
pp. 332, 343.] but it was not till General Grant was back in
Washington and used his powerful personal influence that the
confirmation was finally secured after the campaign had opened. It
seemed at one time that not even the manifest mischief of deranging
the organization of the army, as deliberately settled by both Grant
and Sherman, would overcome the political hostility arrayed against
him. This was without any reasonable foundation. Although Schofield
was not given to political discussion, my closeness to him enabled
me to know that he was an earnestly loyal man whose heart was warmly
engaged in the National cause. He believed in emancipation as a
right and politic war measure, and in fighting the rebellion
vigorously till it should be conquered. He had made enemies among
the Kansas politicians because he tried to prevent the war on that
frontier from degenerating into a vendetta when murder and robbery
should take the place of civilized warfare. Some influential
radicals in Missouri were hostile because he held the scales even
between them and the conservative Union men.

At Bull's Gap I found the corps headquarters in a shingle-palace
which had been built for a hotel at the railway station, and which
was now the only house there. It was empty as a barn and fast going
to ruin, but it gave shelter for our office work. Wood's division of
the Fourth Corps was put in march to join the Army of the
Cumberland, and we were left to watch the enemy and await the moment
when the destruction of the railway and our own march southward
should begin. We soon had a curious bit of evidence that Longstreet
had finally abandoned the expectation of re-occupying East
Tennessee. It was found in the applications made by women to join
their husbands who were in the Confederate service. The "grapevine
telegraph" was an "institution" during the whole war. News which was
either interesting or important was passed on through the lines, and
it was impossible to be so rigid in precautions as greatly to delay
it. To stop it was utterly futile. Longstreet had hardly received
the orders from his government to prepare to rejoin Lee's army in
Virginia, when the headquarters of our army at Knoxville felt the
pressure of applications for leave to pass the lines. On the 6th of
April a party of forty women and children came up by railway, to be
sent through the lines under a flag. They were of course without
tents or any means of camping out, and the crazy building in which I
had my quarters was that night as crowded and as picturesque as an
Asiatic caravanserai. The rain and the almost impassable roads made
their journey anything but one of pleasure, but by the aid of the
few wagons at the post they went forward in a day or two. A second
party, about as large, followed in the course of a week, and had
even a rougher time than the first. There were delays on the part of
their friends, in sending trains and escort to meet them at the
break in the railway, but the hope of rejoining loved ones gave them
courage, and they bore cheerfully their sufferings and privations.

The bitterness of the feud between the loyalists and disunionists in
the Holston valley can hardly be imagined by those who did not
witness it. The persecutions of the loyal mountaineers had been such
that when their turn of ruling came they would have been more than
human if they had not retaliated. The organization of home-guards
gave to these armed bodies of men the power, and with it came the
temptation to abuse it. The memory of the men who had been hanged
for bridge-burning, and of those who had languished and died in
prison charged with no crime but disloyalty to the Confederacy, was
a constant stimulus to severity. Their blood seemed to cry from the
ground. We found a constant necessity for moderating their passions,
and it was not always possible to keep them within the bounds of
civilized warfare. My experience in West Virginia was repeated with
some phases of still greater intensity. When we got these loyal men
away from home, campaigning on distant fields, there was no trouble
in enforcing discipline, and they showed no more fierceness of
personal retaliation than other troops. I suspect this will
everywhere be true, in greater or less measure, and that in all wars
it will be found for the interest of humanity not to allow local
troops to garrison their own homes.

The scouts and irregular organizations were, as usual, the most
likely to fall into excesses. I had an example of this, falling
under my own eye at the time I am speaking of, and showing how,
under this intense exasperation, the "bush-whacking" degenerated
into guerilla war in which no quarter was given on either side. I
had sent out a reconnoissance of a party of Indiana cavalry
accompanied by some thirty of the Tennessee scouts, the whole force
about a hundred in number. They had encountered a hostile party of
"irregulars" some thirty strong, and had routed them. They brought
in fifteen prisoners, and reported ten of the enemy killed. Those
who were captured had all surrendered to the Indiana men, and the
Tennesseeans were disposed to complain that quarter had been given.
True, the party which had been attacked was said to have committed
great outrages, and to have been engaged in forcing loyal men into
the Confederate Army under their conscription laws. The chief of the
scouts came to my quarters, and I put to him the ordinary question
as to the luck of his last expedition. "Oh," said he, in a dejected
nasal tone; "some pretty good luck and some bad luck." "What bad
luck?" said I, thinking some of his men had got hurt. "Oh, them
Indiana cavalry fellows let the captain of the gang and fourteen of
his men surrender to 'em." "And what became of the rest?" "_We_ had
to deal with them," said he, significantly; "and they didn't
surrender." Such is civil war when it becomes a deadly feud between
old neighbors and acquaintances.

The month of April ran on with continued activity of reconnoitring
parties, but no larger movements. The spring was unusually backward.
There was a flurry of snow on the 16th, but it did not lie on the
ground, and about the 20th lovely spring weather began in earnest.
The best evidence we had that our lines of communication were
getting in more efficient condition, was the arrival of an agent of
the Sanitary Commission with a large shipment of fresh vegetables
for gratuitous distribution. We were sorely in need of them. There
was a good deal of incipient scurvy in camp, and scarce any one was
wholly free from disorders caused by too restricted diet. Our
regular rations were bacon and flour, varied occasionally by a small
issue of dried white beans or rice. This was nutritious enough, but
after some months' steady use, nature pretty imperatively demanded a
change. The noble organization of the Commission had been watching
for the opportunity, and the arrival of a generous supply of
potatoes, onions, and pickled cabbage made feast days for everybody
from the general down. At my headquarters we had been confined to
the soldiers' rations, and it was impossible to get anything else.
The only ferment to raise our bread was saleratus, and we had become
very tired of saleratus biscuit. No luxuries ever tasted so well as
these plain vegetables. Our physical condition craved them, and they
were food and medicine at once. The sauerkraut was finely shaved
cabbage laid down in brine, and a steaming platter of it made the
_pièce de résistance_ of our camp dinner as long as it lasted. The
onions we sliced and ate raw with a dressing of vinegar. The gusto
with which we enjoyed this change of diet remains a vivid
remembrance after a quarter of a century, and is the best proof of
our need of it. The health of the whole camp was restored, and we
were "hard as nails" during the year of rough campaigning that was
to follow.

The first week in May was the time of rendezvous for Sherman's grand
army in northern Georgia, and with the opening of the last week in
April the signal was given to destroy the railroad between Bull's
Gap and the Watauga River, or further if the enemy should leave the
crossing of that stream unharmed. Our position at the gap was high
in the cleft of Bays Mountain through which the railway passes and
then turns southeastward to the Nolachucky. The road then goes up
the valley of that stream and over a ridge to the Watauga, which
runs to the northwest, joining the Holston again by a route which is
nearly at right angles to the general trend of the valley. The
Watauga is not easily fordable at an ordinary stage of water, and
thus the triangle between the Holston on the left, the Watauga in
front, and the Nolachucky on the right, made the debatable ground of
the upper valley. Whilst we held the barrier at Bull's Gap the enemy
could not stay on the hither side of the Watauga, nor could we pass
the river and stop short of a strong position an equal distance

We made a strong demonstration of cavalry supported by infantry, as
if we were determined to cross the Watauga and push on into
Virginia. The Confederate cavalry set fire to the bridge, as we
expected them to do. One brigade was ordered to Jonesboro, to march
back destroying all the railway bridges and tearing up and twisting
the iron rails as far as possible. [Footnote: Official Records, vol.
xxxii. pt. iii. pp. 477, 492.] With another force I began in person
a similar work of destruction on the section nearest Bull's Gap.
Time could only be given us for this work till the 27th of April,
but on the evening of that day my division was reunited at the gap,
having torn up and twisted about one third of the track over a space
of fifty miles, and thoroughly destroyed all the wooden bridges.
[Footnote: _Id_., pp. 500, 512.]

The footsore and sick were put on a railway train, and with the rest
I began the march for Knoxville. As General Sherman was urgent for
speed in our movement, the columns were kept near the railway and
the trains were run to meet them, taking the men in detachments. The
first day of May found us at Charleston, the crossing of the
Hiwassee River, with two divisions of the Twenty-third corps and
with General Schofield in our midst. A new division from Indiana was
on its way, by rail, to join us at Cleveland, and it was certain
that we could be in our place as left wing, before the 5th, the day
assigned by Sherman. Two days were given to getting up and
organizing our trains, and on Tuesday, the 3d, we marched at
daybreak, with our field organization complete. The Atlanta campaign
was begun. General Schofield went over to Chattanooga to meet
Sherman, and the command of the corps on the march was committed to
me. [Footnote: _Id_., xxxviii. pt. iv. pp. 5, 22, 32, 48.] On the
4th, leaving Cleveland, we crossed the Georgia line and advanced to
Red Clay, where, with the Army of the Cumberland on our right, the
union of Sherman's forces in the field was completed.

At the Hiwassee we were a hundred and forty miles from Bull's Gap,
and had made the distance in three days, marching half the way and
being carried the other half by rail. In going south we seemed to
meet the advancing spring. In the upper valley we could only see a
suspicion of green, here and there, on an early tree, but at our
Sunday camp at Charleston in a fine bend of the Hiwassee, a fresh
green robe covered all the hills, and the sun was so bright and warm
that the shade of my clean new tent was very comfortable. It would
be hard to find a scene better making a romance of campaigning than
that about us. Chilhowee and the great Smoky Mountains piled their
deep blue masses against the eastern horizon, whilst at our feet
rolled as beautiful a river as ever bore a musical Indian name. The
grassy banks rise about a hundred feet above the water, and then the
hills roll and rise around us in charming variety. Near the water's
edge a great spring pours out from the bank in a swift steady stream
two yards wide and six inches deep, giving sweet and pure water
enough for a whole army, and the zigzag paths to it are filled with
picturesque groups of soldiers loaded with camp kettles or canteens.
We should have been dull indeed if we had not felt the exhilaration
of the scene.



Grant's desire for activity in the winter--Scattering to
live--Subordinate movements--The Meridian expedition--Use of the
Mississippi--Sherman's estimate of it--Concentration to be made in
the spring--Grant joins the Potomac Army--Motives in doing so--Meade
as an army commander--Halleck on concentration--North Carolina
expedition given up--Burnside to join Grant--Old relations of
Sherman and Halleck--Present cordial friendship--Frank
correspondence--The supply question--Railway administration--Bridge
defences--Reduction of baggage--Tents--Sherman on spies and
deserters--Changes in Confederate army--Bragg
relieved--Hardee--Beauregard--Johnston--Davis's suggestion of
plans--Correspondence with Johnston--Polk's
mediation--Characteristics--Bragg's letters--Lee writes
Longstreet--Johnston's dilatory discussion--No results--Longstreet
joins Lee--Grant and Sherman have the initiative--Prices in the

The threshold of the new campaign is a fit place to pick up the
threads of the relations of Sherman to his superiors and his
subordinates, and to notice the manner in which he laid out the
responsible work before him.

Grant had no thought of suspending operations in winter, further
than circumstances should make it imperative. As soon as the siege
of Knoxville was raised, he applied himself earnestly to the
question, What next? His first choice would have been to start from
Chattanooga as a base, and make the Confederate Army his object. The
insuperable obstacle to this was the impossibility, at the time, of
supplying the forces already collected on the upper Tennessee.
[Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxxi. pt. iii. p. 503.] The
railroad to Nashville must be practically rebuilt and made much more
efficient than it was, or both Thomas's and Foster's armies would be
tied fast without the possibility of advancing. To make it possible
to feed Sherman's auxiliary force, he sent it down the river to
Bellefonte, some thirty miles below Bridgeport, opened steamboat
communication with it, and set it at work repairing the railway from
Nashville to Decatur and from Decatur to Stevenson. This would
furnish an additional line to Chattanooga when completed, and would
make an accumulation of stores there a possibility. He saw the risks
involved in this scattering of forces, but he had no choice; they
must scatter to live. He did not mean that the army should be
inactive, however; as early as the 7th of December, 1863, he wrote
quite fully to Halleck suggesting a movement from the lower
Mississippi on Mobile, using for this purpose the forces that would
be relieved from guarding the lines about Chattanooga. [Footnote:
Official Records, vol. xxxi. pt. iii. p. 349.]

By the middle of the month he had begun to organize a cavalry force
under Gen. W. Sooy Smith, to move against Forrest in West Tennessee,
and was giving shape to other plans of activity. [Footnote: _Id._,
pp. 429, 431, 473.] Sherman had taken a short leave of absence to
visit his family upon the death of one of his sons, a bright lad,
whose loss was a severe bereavement. On his return to duty, he was
directed to go down the Mississippi, visit the important posts of
his department, and take steps to suppress guerilla interference
with the navigation of the Mississippi. Before leaving his command,
he had suggested an active movement of part of his army in northern
Alabama, to break up the railroad in the neighborhood of Corinth,
whilst he himself led a force up the Yazoo River to attack Granada
from the south, with a similar purpose. He thought he could do this
and get back in time to take part in the "plan of grand campaign"
which Grant was studying. In the same letter he said he deemed Sooy
Smith "too mistrustful of himself for a leader against Forrest," and
suggested Brigadier-General Joseph A. Mower, of whose energy and
courage he had a high opinion. [Footnote: Official Records, vol.
xxxi. pt. iii. p. 445.]

On the subject of the necessity of protecting the river navigation
by every means, Sherman expressed himself in superlatives, as he was
apt to do, but his meaning was plain and sensible. He said to Logan,
to secure its safety "I would slay millions. On that point I am not
only insane, but mad," and will convince the natives that "though to
stand behind a big cotton-wood and shoot at a passing boat is good
sport and safe, it may still reach and kill their friends and
families hundreds of miles off." [Footnote: _Id._ vol. xxx. pt. iii.
p. 459.] Out of this discussion came finally his suggestion of an
extensive movement from Vicksburg upon Meridian for the purpose of
destroying the railway lines, especially in the vicinity of the
latter place, and of isolating the region bordering on the
Mississippi, so that a small force could garrison it and protect
commerce. The suggestion was adopted by Grant. With Sherman's column
the cavalry under Sooy Smith was to co-operate. [Footnote: _Id._,
pp. 473, 527.]

Meridian was made the objective point of this movement, though Grant
intimated to Halleck that if Sherman found it would not too greatly
prolong the subordinate campaign, he might march on Mobile.
[Footnote: _Id._, vol. xxxii. pt. ii. p. 100.] When the march began,
Sherman allowed it to be given out that he would attack Mobile, but
this was to deceive the enemy. In his correspondence with General
Banks he limited his task to that which has been stated, though he
asked Banks to help him keep up the notion that Mobile was aimed at,
as it would deter the enemy from heavily reinforcing General Polk by
the garrison there and by troops sent from Atlanta. "I must return
to the army in the field in Alabama in February," said he, "but
propose to avail myself of the short time allowed me here in the
department, to strike a blow at Meridian and Demopolis." [Footnote:
Official Records, vol. xxxii. pt. ii. p. 114.] In this view the
movement was a success, notwithstanding the failure of the cavalry
column to co-operate. [Footnote: _Id._, p. 498.] The biographer of
General Polk disputes the importance and the permanence of the
interruption of railway communication in Mississippi; [Footnote:
Leonidas Polk, Bishop and General, vol. ii. p. 309.] but it is
certain that no important hostile movement from that region was made
again till Hood's campaign against Thomas a year later, and that was
seriously if not fatally delayed by the want of railway
communication between Florence or Tuscumbia and the interior of the
Gulf States.

On his first visit to Washington after he became lieutenant-general,
Grant found that it was the general expectation of members of
Congress that he should infuse his personal energy into the next
campaign of the army in Virginia. He learned also that the
President, the Cabinet, and General Halleck despaired of the
accomplishment of this by any stringency of orders from a distance,
and thought it could be done only when he should be near enough to
solve questions as they arose by his personal presence and
influence. As a subordinate, few men could do better service than
General Meade; but he seemed to develop a caution amounting almost

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