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[467] the great strategic unit in all the Federal armies. This was a considerable improvement. These corps, composed of troops of all arms, were, in the hands of the generals-in-chief, an instrument much more easy to handle than the small divisions which had previously existed as separate organizations, and the feeling of comradeship existing among those who composed them, faithfully maintained through all the vicissitudes of the war, increased the individual valor of both officers and men.

Public opinion in the North was greatly agitated by the reverse of Chickasaw Bayou. Grant was already somewhat unpopular; Sherman became the subject of attacks from the entire press— attacks the more violent because he had shown great severity toward the newspaper correspondents who accompanied his army. They even renewed the absurd calumnies which at the beginning of the war had been set afloat against this sagacious and profound mind. It is certain, however, that in many respects his expedition deserved criticism; either through his own fault or the intervention of circumstances, he had been unable, with an army of more than thirty thousand men, to push more than three thousand combatants to the assault of formidable works, and had sacrificed two thousand without any chance of success. He had failed to exhibit on that occasion all those great qualities which finally raised him above the level of his companions in arms, as well as of all his adversaries. But he knew how to profit by experience; while waiting for a more favorable opportunity, this brave and modest general had the merit of openly assuming the whole responsibility of the defeat, and of accepting without a murmur the subordinate's position in which he was placed by McClernand's arrival. Just as his troops were about to embark he felt the necessity of doing something to revive their courage; by agreement with Porter, he determined to lead them to the assault of a fort situated on the Arkansas, whose garrison of four or five thousand men offered an easy prey, but one by no means to be despised. This plan was approved by McClernand, who, it appears, had conceived a similar one. Sherman did not lose a minute's time in carrying it into execution, and on the 4th of January the fleet left Milliken's Bend with the greater portion of the army, and ascended the Mississippi to enter the Arkansas.

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