Part 10 out of 10
General W. T. SHERMAN.
[Special Field Orders, No. 11.]
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE TENNESSEE
MEMPHIS, January 27, 1864
V. The expedition is one of celerity, and all things must tend to
that. Corps commanders and staff-officers will see that our
movements are not encumbered by wheeled vehicles improperly loaded.
Not a tent, from the commander-in-chief down, will be carried. The
sick will be left behind, and the surgeons can find houses and
sheds for all hospital purposes.
VI. All the cavalry in this department is placed under the orders
and command of Brigadier-General W. S. Smith, who will receive
By order of Major-General W. T. SHERMAN
L. M. DAYTON, Aide-de-Camp.
NOTE.-That same evening I started in a steamboat for Vicksburg.
W. T. S.
St. Louis, 1885.
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE TENNESSEE
MEMPHIS, January 27, 1864
Brigadier-General W. S. SMITH, commanding Cavalry, etc., present.
DEAR GENERAL: By an order issued this day I have placed all the
cavalry of this department subject to your command. I estimate you
can make a force of full seven thousand men, which I believe to be
superior and better in all respects than the combined cavalry which
the enemy has in all the State of Mississippi. I will in person
start for Vicksburg to-day, and with four divisions of infantry,
artillery, and cavalry move out for Jackson, Brandon, and Meridian,
aiming to reach the latter place by February 10th. General Banks
will feign on Pascagoula and General Logan on Rome. I want you
with your cavalry to move from Colliersville on Pontotoc and
Okolona; thence sweeping down near the Mobile & Ohio Railroad,
disable that road as much as possible, consume or destroy the
resources of the enemy along that road, break up the connection
with Columbus, Mississippi, and finally reach me at or near
Meridian as near the date I have mentioned as possible. This will
call for great energy of action on your part, but I believe you are
equal to it, and you have the best and most experienced troops in
the service, and they will do anything that is possible. General
Grierson is with you, and is familiar with the whole country. I
will send up from Haines's Bluff an expedition of gunboats and
transports combined, to feel up the Yazoo as far as the present
water will permit. This will disconcert the enemy. My movement on
Jackson will also divide the enemy, so that by no combination can
he reach you with but a part of his force. I wish you to attack
any force of cavalry you meet and follow them southward, but in no
event be drawn into the forks of the streams that make up the Yazoo
nor over into Alabama. Do not let the enemy draw you into minor
affairs, but look solely to the greater object to destroy his
communication from Okolona to Meridian, and thence eastward to
Selma. From Okolona south you will find abundance of forage
collected along the railroad, and the farmers have corn standing in
the fields. Take liberally of all these, as well as horses, mules,
cattle, etc. As a rule, respect dwellings and families as
something too sacred to be disturbed by soldiers, but mills, barns,
sheds, stables, and such like things use for the benefit or
convenience of your command. If convenient, send into Columbus,
Mississippi, and destroy all machinery there, and the bridge across
the Tombigbee, which enables the enemy to draw the resources of the
east side of the valley, but this is not of sufficient importance
to delay your movement. Try and communicate with me by scouts and
spies from the time you reach Pontotoc. Avoid any large force of
infantry, leaving them to me. We have talked over this matter so
much that the above covers all points not provided for in my
published orders of to-day. I am, etc.,
W. T. SHERMAN, Mayor-General, commanding.
MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE, January 27, 1864.
Brigadier-General J. P. HATCH, in charge of Cavalry Bureau, St.
SIR: Your favor of the 21st inst. is just received. Up to the
present time eight hundred and eighteen horses have arrived here
since Captain Hudson's visit to St. Louis. I wrote you upon his
return several days ago that it would not be necessary to divert
shipments to this point which could not reach us before February
1st. We shall certainly get off on our contemplated expedition
before that time. The number of horses estimated for in this
department by its chief quartermaster was two thousand, and this
number, including those already sent, will, I think, completely
mount all the dismounted cavalry of this department. Recruits for
cavalry regiments are arriving freely, and this will swell our
requisitions for a couple of months to come. I will as far as
possible procure horses from the regions of country traversed by
Yours truly, W. SOOY SMITH, Brigadier-General,
Chief of Cavalry, Military Division of the Mississippi.
MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE, January 28, 1864
Brigadier-General GEORGE CROOK, commanding Second Cavalry Division,
I start in about three days with seven, thousand men to Meridian
via Pontotoc. Demonstrate on Decatur, to hold Roddy.
W. SOOY SMITH, Brigadier-General,
Chief of Cavalry, Military Division of the Mississippi.
MAYWOOD, ILLINOIS, July 9,1875
General W. T. SHERMAN, Commander-in-Chief, United States Army.
SIR: Your letter of July 7th is just received.
Your entire statement in the "Memoirs" concerning my part in the
Meridian campaign is incorrect.
You overstate my strength, placing it at seven thousand effective,
when it was but six. The nominal strength of my command was seven
You understate the strength of my enemy, putting Forrest's force at
four thousand. On our return to Nashville, you stated it, in
General Grant's presence, to have been but twenty-five hundred.
Before and during my movement I positively knew Forrest's strength
to be full six thousand, and he has since told me so himself.
Instead of delaying from the 1st to the 11th of February for "some
regiment that was ice-bound near Columbus, Kentucky," it was an
entire brigade, Colonel Waring's, without which your orders to me
were peremptory not to move. I asked you if I should wait its
arrival, and you answered: "Certainly; if you go without it, you
will be, too weak, and I want you strong enough to go where you
The time set for our arrival at Meridian, the 10th of February, had
arrived before it was possible for me, under your orders, to move
from Memphis, and I would have been entirely justifiable if I had
not started at all. But I was at that time, and at all times
during the war, as earnest and anxious to carry out my orders, and
do my full duty as you or any other officer could be, and I set out
to make a march of two hundred and fifty miles into the
Confederacy, having to drive back a rebel force equal to my own.
After the time had arrived for the full completion of my movement,
I drove this force before me, and penetrated one hundred and sixty
miles into the Confederacy--did more hard fighting, and killed,
wounded, and captured more of the enemy than you did during the
campaign--did my work most thoroughly, as far as I could go without
encountering the rebel cavalry set loose by your return from
Meridian, and brought off my command, with all the captured
property and rescued negroes, with very small loss, considering
that inflicted on the enemy, and the long-continued and very severe
fighting. If I had disobeyed your orders, and started without
Waring's brigade, I would have been "too weak," would probably have
been defeated, and would have been subjected to just censure.
Having awaited its arrival, as I was positively and distinctly
ordered to do, it only remained for me to start upon its arrival,
and accomplish all that I could of the work allotted to me. To
have attempted to penetrate farther into the enemy's country, with
the cavalry of Polk's army coming up to reenforce Forrest, would
have insured the destruction of my entire command, situated as it
was. I cannot now go into all the particulars, though I assure you
that they make the proof of the correctness of my conduct as
conclusive as I could desire it to be. I was not headed off and
defeated by an inferior force near West Point. We had the fighting
all our own way near West Point, and at all other points except at
Okalona, on our return, when we had the worst of it for a little
while, but finally checked the enemy handsomely, and continued our
return march, fighting at the rear and on both flanks, repulsing
all attacks and moving in perfect order. And so my movement was
not a failure, except that I did not reach Meridian as intended,
for the reason stated, and for many more which it is not necessary
for me to detail here. On the other hand, it was a very decided
success, inflicting a terrible destruction of supplies of every
kind, and a heavy loss of men upon the enemy. You should have so
reported it in the beginning. You should so amend your report, and
"Memoirs" now. This, and no less than this, is due from one
soldier to another. It is due to the exalted position which you
occupy, and, above all, it is due to that truthfulness in history
which you claim to revere. If you desire it, I will endeavor to
visit you, and in a friendly manner "fight our battles o'er again,"
and endeavor to convince you that you have always been mistaken as
to the manner in which my part in the "Meridian campaign" was
performed. But I will never rest until the wrong statements
regarding it are fully and fairly corrected. Yours truly,
WILLIAM SOOY SMITH
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE UNITED STATES
St. Louis, Missouri, July 11, 1875.
General J. D. WEBSTER, Chicago, Illinois
DEAR GENERAL: General W. Sooy Smith feels aggrieved and wronged by
my account of his part in the Meridian campaign, in my "Memoirs,"
pages 394, 395, and properly appeals to me for correction. I have
offered to modify any words or form of expression that he may point
out, but he asks me to completely change the whole that concerns
him. This, of course, I will not do, as his part was material to
the whole, and cannot be omitted or materially altered without
changing the remainder, for his failure to reach Meridian by
February 10th was the reason for other movements distant from him.
I now offer him, what seems to me fair and liberal, that we submit
the points at issue to you as arbitrator. You are familiar with
the ground, the coincident history, and most, if not all, the
I propose to supply you with
1. Copy of my orders placing all the cavalry under General Smith's
orders (with returns).
2. My letter of instructions to him of January 27th.
3. My official report of the campaign, dated Vicksburg, March 7,
4. General W. Sooy Smith's report of his operations, dated
Nashville, Tennessee, March 4, 1864.
After reading these, I further propose that you address us
questions which we will answer in writing, when you are to make us
a concise, written decision, which I will have published in close
connection with the subject in controversy. If General Smith will
show you my letter to him of this date, and also deliver this with
his written assent, I will promptly furnish you the above
documents, and also procure from the official files a return of the
cavalry force available at and near Memphis on the date of my
orders, viz., January 27, 1864.
With great respect, your friend and servant,
W. T. SHERMAN, General.
NOTE:--General Smith never submitted his case to the arbitration
offered. The whole will be made clear by the publication of the
official records, which are already in print, though not yet
issued. His orders were in writing, and I have no recollection of
the "peremptory" verbal orders to which he refers, and quotes as
ST. Louis, Missouri, 1895. W. T. S.
MAYWOOD, ILLINOIS, July 14, 1875.
General W. T. SHERMAN, Commander-in-Chief, etc.
DEAR GENERAL: Your letter of the 11th of July reaches me just as I
am starting to spend the first vacation I have ever allowed myself
--in the Territories, with my wife and son.
It indicates a spirit of fairness from which we have better things
than an arbitration to hope for. Though, if we should reach such a
necessity, there is no one living to whom our differences might
more properly be referred than to General Webster. I make no
objection to your writing your "Memoirs," and, as long as they
refer to your own conduct, you are at liberty to write them as you
like; but, when they refer to mine, and deal unjustly with my
reputation, I, of right, object.
Neither do I wish to write my "Memoirs," unless compelled to do so
to vindicate my good name. There were certain commands which were
to make up mine. These, Waring's brigade included, were spoken of
by us in the long conversation to which you refer. This brigade we
knew was having a hard time of it in its movement from Columbus to
Memphis. I asked you if I should move without it if it did not
arrive, and you answered me as stated in my last letter to you.
Those who immediately surrounded me during the painful delay that
occurred will inform you how sorely I chafed under the restraint of
that peremptory order.
In the conversation that occurred between us at Nashville, while
all the orders, written and verbal, were still fresh in your
memory, you did not censure me for waiting for Waring, but for
allowing myself to be encumbered with fugitive negroes to such an
extent that my command was measurably unfit for active movement or
easy handling, and for turning back from West Point, instead of
pressing on toward Meridian. Invitations had been industriously
circulated, by printed circulars and otherwise, to the negroes to
come into our lines, and to seek our protection wherever they could
find it, and I considered ourselves pledged to receive and protect
them. Your censure for so doing, and your remarks on that subject
to me in Nashville, are still fresh in my memory, and of a
character which you would now doubtless gladly disavow.
But we must meet and talk the whole matter over, and I will be at
any trouble to see you when I return.
Meantime I will not let go the hope that I will convince you
absolutely of your error, for the facts are entirely on my side.
WILLIAM SOOY SMITH