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afterward became that army, was at Paducah, Ky., late in 1861. I had served in the three months campaign as a Lieutenant in the 9th Indiana, and had a share in the honor of driving the rebels out of West Virginia. I was supposed to be a veteran. In acknowledgment of my great services and in recognition of my comprehensive grasp of the art of war, Mr. Lincoln had appointed me a Captain and I had been ordered to report to General C. F. Smith at Paducah, Ky. [laughter] I never saw a steamboat until I embarked on one at Evansville, to proceed to my post; though I had ridden across the Ohio on a wheezy ferry-boat during the three months service. When you consider that within a few weeks I was called upon to purchase steamboats, to charter steamboats, to put crews aboard steamboats that had been abandoned, and in various ways prepare to transport a large part of Grant's entire army up the Tennessee, you may imagine how well equipped I was for carrying out my share of the plan for destroying the rebellion. I have a son who is now just about the age I was at the. time I reported to General Smith for duty. When I look at that boy I can realize how the General felt on the morning I entered his room and exhibited my orders from Washington. And he looked all he felt.
Distinguished men are rarely handsome. Lincoln was homely, though sometimes with the light of his great soul shining through his eyes, his face became transfigured. Grant was a man who would
pass unnoticed in a crowd and Sherman-(here the speaker was interrupted by uproarious laughter, General Sherman joining in as heartily as the rest. It broke out afresh when Colonel Pierce resumed by saying): “Well, Sherman can speak for himself. But General Smith was an exception to this rule; he looked as great Generals look in pictures and books. Of elegant form, wearing a uniform in which no crease or wrinkle appeared, iron-grey hair and long iron-grey mustache, he appeared to me the ideal soldier as I stood twirling my gloves before him that morning, and he sat dissecting me, and no doubt mentally damning General Meigs. I got along well enough, for I found a sincere friend and helper in General Smith; and when, after his heroic action at Donelson a few months later, he died at Savannah, I lost an excel. lent friend, and he had at least one sincere mourner.
I mention this circumstance to show in what a haphazard way our first campaigns and armies were organized. It would be difficult to imagine one less fitted by age and experience for the duties into which I was projected. During the time I was in this position, and just prior to the movement against Fort Henry, I was present at two consultations; one between General Smith and the assistant Secretary of War, and the other between the General and General Grant. I never passed through two such ordeals before or since, and never grew old so fast as in those few weeks.
General Smith was succeeded at Paducah by W. T. Sherman, a gentleman who was heard from several times during the four years of war that followed. [Laughter and applause. I did not report to General Sherman, he reported to me. He came down to my quarters, asked me what I wanted, told me what he wanted, and cordially invited me to call at headquarters.
When I left General Smith on the occasion of my first visit, his Adjutant-General informed me that all staff officers were required to report at noon each day in full uniform, and at his suggestion I had sent to Philadelphia for a gorgeous outfit which was daily expected.
I supposed it would be required just the same by General Sherman, so I did not worry about a non-paying investment. But when I visited headquarters, I was told to walk right into the General's room, and there I found a dozen officers, some in full uniform, some in fatigue uniform, some with swords and some without swords, talking and smoking and writing, and in a corner the General himself seated at a table smoking and writing both.
I realized then that Sherman didn't care much for formal dress except on formal occasions, and that when work was to be done, working clothes were good enough to do it in. Indeed, simplicity marked the lives of our greatest Generals, as it did and does always of our greatest men. Easy of approach, with no red tape formulas, simple-minded, unostentatious men. Like the students at Athens, who, we are told, were first of all wise, then lovers of wisdom, and finally only plain, common-sense men.
These were the soldiers who made their mark on the records of our time, who won the victory over rebellion.
When quarrels reach their last analysis, how vain seem learned judges and solemn preachers. Did you ever think how the men we had placed on pedestals began to drop out of sight as the rebellion developed? We may have listened with awe to the thunderings of the pulpit, to the logic of statesmen, to the eloquence of orators; we may have admired poets, and gone into rhapsodies over composers; but how they all shrank and shrivelled when the drums beat and men put on their armor for a life and death struggle. Then from behind the curtain of obscurity stepped the men unknown to fame, and those who had been leaders were content to follow, satisfied to be led by those with the genius for war and the courage for danger. Let us get over the notion, if we ever entertained it, that our victories were lucky accidents. This idea was at one time quite prevalent, but I think we are beginning to realize now, as the inside history of the war is written, that we owe the salvation of this nation to the very highest order of generalship. We had the soldiers and the eause. When we finally got the leaders, we marched forward to victory everywhere. Boldness, comprehension, tenacity, activity, promptness, these are some of the requisites of successful leadership, and were possessed in a remarkable degree by our three foremost leaders in the war. Timidity wrecked many a commanding officer and came near frustrating some of Grant's best laid plans in Virginia. He wanted Hunter to get after Early and follow him, but he found it difficult to have this done, for his orders which passed through Washington were modified to suit what the War Department and the General-inChief supposed to be the emergency. On one visit to General Hunter, General Grant says, “I asked where the enemy was. He replied, that he didn't know. He said, the fact was, he was so embarrassed with orders from Washington, moving him first to the right and then to the left, that he had lost all trace of the enemy."
Finally, Grant telegraphed to General Halleck as follows: "I want Sheridan put in command of all troops in the field, with instructions to put himself south of the enemy, and follow him to the death. Where. ever the enemy goes, let our troops go also.”
This was disregarding that timidity that kept a large force dodging to the right and left in front of Washington for fear that the enemy might otherwise slip by and capture the city.
Lincoln got hold of this telegram some way, and sent this characteristic dispatch to General Grant:
“ You are exactly right, but please look over the dispatches you may have received from here ever since you made that order and discover if you can that there is any idea in the head of any one here of putting our army south of the enemy or of " following him to the death” in any direction. I repeat to you, it will neither be done nor attempted, unless you watch it every day and hour and force it.
“That's a very
Grant “watched it” and “ forced it," and Sheridan not only caused Early to abandon his northern raid, but secured a victory which electrified the country.
Sheridan himself possessed this quality of boldness in a remarkable degree. When he first joined the army of the Potomac he was required to make a reconoissance. He came back, and in his report to General Meade, spoke of a brush he had had with Stuart's cavalry, then famous for its daring and its successes. “Never mind Stuart!” said Meade," he will do what he pleases anyway. Tell me about Lee."
Sheridan was nettled. “ Stuart!” he exclaimed, “Stuart do what he pleases! Why, I can thrash him every day in the week.” Meade reported the conversation to General Grant.
confident young man, that Sheridan," said Meade; " he says he can thrash Stuart every day in the week."
Why didn't you tell him to do it,” was Grant's answer, and Meade told him.
Sheridan prepared himself. He rode with his troopers directly for Richmond; Stuart turned and followed him. Sheridan kept on till the second night and then he rested his men and horses. Stuart made a forced march around Sheridan's column and in the morning appeared in his front, but jaded by his journey. Sheridan saddled and was on him like a thunderbolt. Stuart had done precisely what Sheridan wished. He had given battle out of supporting distance of Lee's army His command was literally ridden down, it was scattered, divided, defeated, put to rout, and Stuart himself was killed.
What a treasure is that officer on whom the commanding general can depend for a prompt execution of his orders. I do not wish to dwell upon these points, but I often think of that comparatively slight matter, the relief of General Burnside at Knoxville, as an admirable exhibition of the trait mentioned. Just prior to the battle of Chattanooga it was known that Burnside was besieged at Knoxville, and was short of both provisions and ammunition. The authorities at Washington were in an agony of suspense regarding his army, and were constantly beseeching Grant to relieve him. Then it was impossible to do this until the result of the battle of Chattanooga was decided; but that victory won, Grant at once prepared for his relief. Orders were issued for a corps to proceed while Grant went to Graysville to confer with Sherman, who had gone on to that point after the battle. When Grant returned to Chattanooga he found that the corps ordered to the relief of Burnside had not gone. "The commanding officer thought," says Grant, “ that it was a bad move to make." Sherman had left Chattanooga with three day's rations, expecting to be back in camp by that time, and to be doing a great deal of fighting. Meanwhile, they took neither blankets nor overcoats. The weather was cold, and three day's rations had already lasted them five days. Grant knew well these things, and hated to impose further duty upon them; but he had become satisfied, as he says, that Burnside would not be rescued at all if he depended upon the commander of the corps previously ordered to his relief, and so he fell back on the man and the men who had never yet failed him in any emergency. Sherman and the Army of the Tennessee, which had just completed their long march from Memphis, about their only rest being their day of hot battle in Chattanooga and their storming of Missionary Ridge, were ordered to march to the relief of Burnside. And they went. Not only did they relieve Burnside, but, sans blankets and overcoats, and, notwithstanding the cold, they proposed to join Burnside in an onward march to drive Longstreet out of Tennessee.
Of such stuff was the Army of the Tennessee and its commanders made. No wonder after all this was accomplished that Mr. Lincoln telegraphed:
“I wish to tender to you and all under your command my more than thanks-my profoundest gratitude for the skill, courage and perseverance which you and they have displayed. God bless you all.”.
Tenacity and confidence were exhibited in striking relief many times by Grant. He telegraphed Halleck that, if permitted, he would take and hold Fort Henry, and again, “ I shall advance and take Fort Donaldson on the 8th." Once choosing his position on the road to Richmond he sent the familiar dispatch : “I shall fight it out on this line if it takes all summer.” Being told that there were but ten boats to take back his army in case of a retreat from Belmont, he replied that two would be enough to carry what would be left in case of retreat. When Buell asked him what preparations he had made for retreat at Shiloh, his characteristic answer was: “I have not despaired of whipping them yet."