Chapter 20:

  • Conclusion
  • -- the case against the Memoirs summed up.

In closing this review, based throughout upon facts disclosed by the official files, the case against the author of the Memoirs may be summed up as follows:

Ten years after the close of the war, when the open, and all the secret official records, collected and arranged for ready reference, were at his service, he has published to the world a story of his campaigns, crowded with inaccuracies, and stained with injustice done associate commanders and cooperating armies.

The kindly years which, for most who followed the flag, have effaced whatever jealousies and misunderstandings arose in the field, leaving prominent in memory only the central and enduring fact of common service in a worthy cause, seem to have exerted no such influence upon him, but rather acted as mordants to fix all unpleasant things indelibly upon his pages. By following the statements of his book, and comparing them with the records of the same events, made at the time of their occurrence, and often by his own hand, many grave differences have been established.

Where the Memoirs give the credit of the move on Forts Henry and Donelson to Halleck, the records show that it belongs to Grant. Where General Sherman argues against the idea of a surprise at Shiloh, the records prove it to have been complete, and due mainly to his own blindness and neglect. Where he seeks to detract from the service rendered there by Buell and his army, the records set that service in [273] clear light. While he intimates that Rosecrans acted discreditably at Iuka and Corinth, and that Grant was deeply offended over some failure or blunder not clearly defined, the reports of the latter are found to commend Rosecrans strongly for these brilliant battles. Where he now visits severe censure, in connection with his failure at Chickasaw Bayou, his own report of the action, written at the time, commends the very officers, thus unjustly arraigned, for having done the heaviest fighting, and accomplished all that was possible. Where he assails General Sooy Smith for causing the partial failure of his Meridian expedition, his own orders, then issued, claimed complete success; and while he now declares he never had any intention of going to Mobile, the letters of General Grant (who ordered his movement) to Halleck and Thomas, informed these officers that in certain contingencies Sherman was to push for Mobile. He describes Rosecrans' flanking movement to capture Chattanooga as a march from that city to attack the enemy; and the battle which secured this stronghold, as a defeat before it, and its occupation after the battle as a retreat into it. He describes the terrible condition of affairs in Chattanooga, following the battle of Chickamauga, and seeks to create the impression that Rosecrans alone was in fault, when the records show that Burnside failed him on one flank and Sherman on the other—this too after the pressing necessities of the case had been repeatedly represented to them both-and that finally Burnside never came, and Sherman himself was seven weeks behind the time set for his arrival at Chattanooga, exhibiting no special activity in his advance until after Rosecrans was removed, when suddenly, under Grant's request to come on, the energy of his movement surpassed praise. While he states that Grant was afraid the Army of the Cumberland could not be drawn out of its trenches to attack Bragg, and wanted Sherman's men to come up and coax them into fighting by the power of their example, the records show that Grant had confidence enough in Thomas' army to order it-before Sherman was within [274] supporting distance even—to do what the latter afterward failed to perform; and further, that when General Thomas insisted upon giving orders for an attack without waiting for Sherman, who was still delayed with the greater part of his troops, Grant assented, and Thomas actually accomplished that part of the battle assigned for the first day, before Sherman arrived; and lastly, that the Army of the Cumberland stormed and carried the whole line of Missionary Ridge hours before Sherman even received the news of the great success, he alone, of the three army commanders, having failed, though after splendid fighting, to carry the point assigned to him. While he contends that the failure to bring Johnston to battle at Resaca, was due to the timidity of General McPherson, the records show that this officer acted exactly in accordance with Sherman's own orders; and while the latter claims that from the outset of the movement, it was his intention merely to feign through Buzzard Roost on Dalton, and press the bulk of the army through Snake Creek Gap on Johnston's rear, the records show that for three days he ‘assaulted precipices’ in front of Dalton, with Thomas' and Schofield's armies, before he allowed McPherson to make more than a diversion on Johnston's rear, so that the latter, being warned in time, withdrew safely. At Kenesaw he assaulted impregnable works to teach his veterans that flanking was not the only means of attacking an enemy, and failed at a cost of two thousand men, claiming now that Thomas, McPherson, and Schofield agreed with him that the assault was necessary, when the records clearly reveal Thomas' stern dissatisfaction, and a bold extension to the right by Schofield, which plainly indicates that the latter looked for success in the direction from which it finally came, through their old and sure method of flanking.

He describes the battle before Atlanta, where McPherson fell, in such a manner that no reader would dream of its being a great surprise, and well nigh serious disaster; but the records disclose an army, plunged by the flank against an enemy in position behind heavy works, on the supposition [275] that Atlanta was evacuated, suddenly and unexpectedly attacked by the enemy upon its left and rear, before it had ceased to exult over the announcement from Sherman that the enemy had abandoned Atlanta, and his order for a vigorous pursuit. While he claims that he originated the March to the Sea, and had it in his ‘mind's eye’ by the 21st of September, the records prove that Grant had planned the campaign through to Mobile in the previous January, notified Halleck of it on the 15th of that month, Thomas on the 19th, and that in February Thomas was arranging the details of the move as far as Atlanta. The records show further, that on the 10th of September Grant suggested a move from Atlanta on Augusta or Savannah, instead of Mobile, since the control of the latter had passed into the hands of the Union forces.

Concerning Savannah, the records reveal an escape of Hardee with ten thousand, from Sherman's sixty thousand, without disclosing even a plausible excuse. Here the Memoirs show Sherman looking back to Nashville, from whence alone, through defeat of Hood, could come a success that should vindicate his March to the Sea, and finding fault with Thomas, who, though crippled in all ways by Sherman, was through superhuman efforts there, saving him from the jeers of the Nation.

In treating of Savannah, he also attacks Mr. Stanton for carelessness in connection with the captured cotton, and transactions relating thereto, while the records show not only that he had absolutely no foundation for his charges, but that in most respects the exact opposite of what he wrote was true. After a magnificent and really wonderful march through the Carolinas, with every warning, as the Memoirs relate, that the enemy was rapidly concentrating in his front, the records show that he neglected all precautions, and marched the two wings of his army, neither moving in close order, so far apart that when the head of the left wing was attacked at 10 o'clock one forenoon, by the whole rebel army, estimated by himself to have been from thirty-seven to forty thousand, the advance [276] of his right wing, marching to the sound of battle, to support the left, did not arrive till the next morning, while the bulk of this wing did not reach the field till the following afternoon; and then, when his whole force was in front of and on the flank of the enemy, the latter escaped. Such is the record history of Bentonville, the last battle of his army.

What shall be said of the political negotiations which followed? What need be said further than the records show, that, beginning with a proposition to receive the surrender of Johnston's forces upon the same terms Grant had extended to Lee, he ended by surrendering to Johnston upon terms drawn up by a member of the rebel Cabinet?

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
W. T. Sherman (14)
George H. Thomas (10)
U. S. Grant (10)
W. S. Rosecrans (5)
Joseph E. Johnston (5)
McPherson (4)
J. M. Schofield (3)
H. W. Halleck (3)
Burnside (2)
Edwin M. Stanton (1)
Sooy Smith (1)
Stephen D. Lee (1)
Hood (1)
Hardee (1)
D. C. Buell (1)
Bragg (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
September 21st (1)
September 10th (1)
March (1)
February (1)
January (1)
19th (1)
15th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: