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Chapter 4:

Hostile criticism of Generals Buell, Rosecrans, and Thomas, the successive commanders of the Army of the Ohio, forms one of the salient features of the Memoirs. General Rosecrans particularly distinguished himself in the battles of Iuka and Corinth, in the autumn following the first occupation of the latter place. From General Sherman's account, however, the reader would suppose that General Rosecrans had behaved badly in both these actions. Of the battle at Iuka, he says:
In the early part of September the enemy in our front manifested great activity, feeling with cavalry at all points, and on the 13th General Van Dorn threatened Corinth, while General Price seized the town of Iuka, which was promptly abandoned by a small garrison under Colonel Murphy. Price's force was about eight thousand men, and the general impression was that he was en route for Eastport, with the purpose to cross the Tennessee River in the direction of Nashville, in aid of General Bragg, then in full career for Kentucky.

General Grant determined to attack him in force, prepared to regain Corinth before Van Dorn could reach it. He had drawn Ord to Corinth, and moved him by Burnsville on Iuka, by the main road twenty-six miles. General Grant accompanied this column as far as Burnsville. At the same time he had dispatched Rosecrans by roads to the south, via Jacinto, with orders to approach Iuka by the two main roads coming into Iuka from the south, viz., the Jacinto and Fulton roads.

‘On the 18th General Ord encountered the enemy about four miles out of Iuka. His orders contemplated that he should not make a serious attack until Rosecrans had gained his position on the south; but, as usual, Rosecrans had encountered difficulties in the confusion of roads. His head of column did not reach the vicinity of Iuka till 4 P. M. of the 19th, and then [45] his troops were long drawn out on the single Jacinto road, leaving the Fulton road clear for Price's use. Price perceived his advantage, and attacked with vehemence the head of Rosecrans' column, Hamilton's division, beating it back, capturing a battery, and killing and disabling seven hundred and thirty-six men, so that when night closed in Rosecrans was driven to the defensive, and Price, perceiving his danger, deliberately withdrew by the Fulton road, and the next morning was gone. Although General Ord must have been within four or six miles of this battle, he did not hear a sound, and he or General Grant did not know of it till advised the next morning by a courier who had made a wide circuit to reach them. General Grant was much offended with General Rosecrans because of this affair; but in my experience these concerted movements generally fail, unless with the very best kind of troops, and then in a country on whose roads some reliance can be placed, which is not the case in northern Mississippi. If Price was aiming for Tennessee he failed, and was therefore beaten. He made a wide circuit by the south aid again joined Van Dorn.’ * * * *

To what extent this action was a reverse for General Rosecrans, and in what degree General Grant was offended, the reports of the last-named officer will show:

Iuka, Miss., September 20, 1862.
To Major-General Halleck, General-in-Chief.
General Rosecrans, with Stanley and Hamilton's divisions of Missouri cavalry, attacked General Price south of this village about two hours before dark yesterday, and had a sharp fight until night closed in.

General Ord was to the north with an armed force of about five thousand men, and had some skirmishing with rebel pickets. This morning the fight was resumed by General Rosecrans, who was nearest to the town, but it was found that the enemy had been evacuating during the night, going south. Hamilton and Stanley, with the cavalry, are in full pursuit.

This will, no doubt, break up the enemy, and possibly force them to abandon much of their artillery. The loss on either side in killed and wounded is from four to five hundred.

The enemy's loss in arms, tents, etc., will be large. We have about two hundred and fifty prisoners. I have reliable information that it was Price's intention to move over east of Tennessee. In this he has been thwarted. Among the enemy's loss are General Little, killed, and General Whitfield, wounded. I can not speak too highly of the energy and skill displayed by General Rosecrans in the attack, and of the endurance of the troops under him. General Ord's command showed untiring zeal, but the direction taken by the enemy prevented them taking the active part they desired. Price's force was about fifteen thousand.

U. S. Grant, Major-General.


Subsequently, General Grant made an extended report of this battle, which bears date October 22d. The chief expression in it which can be construed into dissatisfaction with General Rosecrans' movements, is where he says, speaking of the delay of his column through the fault of a guide; ‘this caused some disappointment and made a change of plans necessary,’ and before closing his report he calls attention to the fact that this delay was ‘the fault of a guide.’

This report sums up the movement and its results as follows:

On the 16th of September we commenced to collect our strength to move upon Price at Iuka, in two columns; the one to the right of the railroad, commanded by Brigadier-General (now Major-General) W. S. Rosecrans; the one to the left, commanded by Major-General O. E. C. Ord. On the night of the 18th the latter was in position to bring on an engagement in one hour's march. The former, from having a greater distance to march, and through the fault of a guide, was twenty miles back. On the 19th, by making a rapid march, hardy, well disciplined, and tried troops arrived within two miles of the place to be attacked. Unexpectedly, the enemy took the initiative and became the attacking party. The ground chosen was such that a large force on our side could not be brought into action; but the bravery and endurance of those brought in was such that, with the skill and presence of mind of the officer commanding, they were able to hold their ground till night closed the conflict. During the night the enemy fled, leaving our troops in possession of the field, with their dead to bury and wounded to care for. If it was the object of the enemy to make their way into Kentucky, they were defeated in that; if to hold their, position until Van Dorn could come up on the south-west of Corinth and make a simultaneous attack, they were defeated in that. Our only defeat was in not capturing the entire army, or in destroying it, as I had hoped to do.

It was a part of General Hamilton's command that did the fighting, directed entirely by that cool and deserving officer.

I commend him to the President for acknowledgment for his services. * * * * I can not close this report without paying a tribute to all the officers and soldiers comprising this command. Their conduct on the march was exemplary and all were eager to meet the enemy. The possibility of defeat I do not think entered the mind of a single individual, and I believe this same feeling now pervades the entire army which I have the honor to command. * * * *

U. S. Grant, Major-General.

In his account of the battle of Corinth, which took place [47] about two weeks after the action at Iuka, General Sherman is still more unjust to General Rosecrans. The battle was a brilliant and most decisive one, and General Rosecrans' conduct throughout, such as merited and secured the highest praise, and a few days after his return from a long pursuit of the enemy, he was relieved and promoted to the command of the Army of the Cumberland, in place of General Buell.

In regard to the affair at Corinth the Memoirs say:

Still by the 1st of October, General Grant was satisfied that the enemy was meditating an attack in force on Boliver or Corinth; and on the 2d Van Dorn made his appearance near Corinth, with his entire army. On the 8d he moved down on that place from the north and north-west.

General Rosecrans went out some four miles to meet him, but was worsted and compelled to fall back within the line of his forts. These had been begun under General Halleck, but were much strengthened by General Grant, and consisted of several detached redoubts bearing on each other, and inclosing the town and the depots of stores at the intersection of the two railroads. Van Dorn closed down on the forts by the evening of the 3d, and on the morning of the 4th assaulted with great vehemence.

Our men, covered by good parapets, fought gallantly, and defended their posts well, inflicting terrible losses on the enemy, so that by noon the rebels were repulsed at all points and drew off, leaving their dead and wounded in our hands. * * * *

Meantime, General Grant at Jackson, had dispatched Brigadier-General McPherson with a brigade directly for Corinth, which reached General Rosecrans-after the battle; and in anticipation of his victory, had ordered him to pursue instantly, notifying him that he had ordered Ord's and Hurlbut's divisions rapidly across to Pocahontas, so as to strike the rebels in flank. On the morning of the 5th, General Ord reached Hatchie River at Davis' bridge, with four thousand men; crossed over and encountered the retreating army, captured a battery and several hundred prisoners, dispersing the rebel advance and forcing the main column to make a wide circuit by the south in order to cross the Hatchie River.

Had General Rosecrans pursued promptly and been on the heels of this mass of confused and routed men, Van Dorn's army would surely have been utterly ruined; as it was, Van Dorn regained Holly Springs somewhat demoralized.

General Rosecrans did not begin his pursuit till the next morning, the 5th, and it was then too late.

General Grant was again displeased with him, and never became fully reconciled. General Rosecrans was soon after relieved, and transferred to [48] the Army of the Cumberland in Tennessee, of which he afterward obtained the command in place of General Buell, who was removed.

‘The effect of the battle of Corinth was very great. It was, indeed, a decisive blow to the Confederate cause in our quarter, and changed the whole aspect of affairs in West Tennessee. From the timid defensive, we were at once enabled to assume the bold offensive. In Memphis I could see its effects upon the citizens, and they openly admitted that their cause had sustained a death-blow.’

The several insinuations against General Rosecrans (who had struck this death-blow), which the above extracts contain, are placed in their true light, through the telegrams sent by General Grant at the time of the movement, and his full report made later:

Yesterday the rebels under Van Dorn, Price, and Lovell were repulsed from their attack on Corinth with great slaughter. The enemy are in full retreat, leaving their dead and wounded on the field. Rosecrans telegraphs that the loss is serious on our side, particularly in officers, but bears no comparison with that of the enemy. General Hackleman fell while gallantly leading his brigade. General Oglesby is dangerously wounded. McPherson reached Corinth with his command yesterday. Rosecrans pursued the retreating enemy this morning, and should he attempt to move toward Boliver, will follow him to that place. Hurlbut is at the Hatchie with five or six thousand men, and is no doubt, now with the pursuing column. From seven hundred to a thousand prisoners, beside wounded, are left on our hands.

U. S. Grant, Major-General.

General Ord, who followed Hurlbut and took command, met the enemy to-day on the south side of the Hatchie, as I understand from a dispatch, and drove them across the stream and got possession of the heights with our troops. Ord took two batteries and about two hundred prisoners. A large portion of Rosecrans' forces were at Chewalla. At this distance every thing looks most favorable, and I can not see how the enemy are to escape without losing every thing but their small arms. I have strained every thing to take into the fight an adequate force, and to get them to the right place.

U. S. Grant, Major-General.

Generals Ord and Hurlbut came on the enemy's rear yesterday, Hurlbut [49] having driven in small bodies the day before. After several hours hard fighting they drove the enemy five miles back across the Hatchie toward Corinth capturing two batteries, about three hundred prisoners, and many small arms. I immediately apprised General Rosecrans of these fact, and directed him to urge on the good work. The following dispatch just received:

Chewalla, October 6, 1862.
To Major-General Grant.
The enemy are totally routed, throwing every thing away. We are following sharply.

Under previous instructions, Hurlbut is also following. McPherson is in the lead of Rosecrans' column. Rebel General Martin said to be killed.

U. S. Grant, Major-General.

Jackson, October 8, 1862.
General H. W. Halleck, Wasington, D. C.
Rosecrans has followed rebels to Ripley. Troops from Bolivar will occupy Grand Juction to-morrow. With reenforcements rapidly sent in from the new lines, I can take any thing on the Mississippi Central road. I ordered Rosecrans back last night, but he is so adverse to returning that I have directed him to remain still, until you can be heard from.

U. S. Grant, Major-General.

General Rosecrans' protest against giving up the pursuit, thus referred to by General Grant, was as follows:

headquarters, Jonesboro, Miss., October 7, 1862, midnight.
Major-General Grant, Jackson, Tenn.
Yours, 8:30 P. M., received. I most deeply dissent from your views as to the policy of pursuit. We have defeated, routed, and demoralized the army which held the Lower Mississippi Valley. We have the two railroads leading south to the Gulf, through the most populous parts of this State, into which we can now pursue them by the Mississippi Central or Mobile & Ohio Road. The effect of returning to our old position will be to give them up the only corn they have in the country west of Alabama, including Tuscumbia Valley, and to permit them to recruit their forces, advance, and reoccupy their old ground, reducing us to the occupation of a defensive position, barren and worthless, on a long front, of which they can harass us until bad weather precludes any effectual advance, except along the railroads, where time, fortifications, and rolling stock will render them superior to us.

Our force, including what can be spared with Hurlbut, will garrison Corinth and Jackson, and enable us to push them. Our advance will cover even Holly Springs, which will be ours when we want it. All that is needful is to combine, push, and whip them. We have whipped, and should now [50] push to the wall, all the forces in Mississippi, and capture the rolling stock of tile railroads west of the Alabama & Mobile. Bragg's army alone could repair the damage we have it in our power to do them. But I beseech you to bend every thing to push them while they are broken, weary, hungry, and ill supplied. Draw every thing from Memphis to help move on Holly Springs. Let us concentrate, and appeal to the governors of the States to rush down some twenty or thirty new regiments to hold in our rear, and we can make a triumph of our start. Respectfully and truly,

W. S. Rosecrans, Major-General.

In reply to this he received an order from the general commanding, directing him to desist from pursuit, and return with his command cautiously, but promptly, to Corinth.

Washington, 10 A. M., October 8, 1862.
Major-General U. S. Grant.
Why order a return of your troops? Why not reenforce Rosecrans, and pursue the enemy into Mississippi, supporting your army on the country?

H. W. Halleck, General-in-Chief.

An army can not subsist itself on the country except in forage. They did not start out to follow but a few days, and are much worn out; and I have information, not only that the enemy have reserves that are on their way to join the retreating column, but that they have fortifications to retreat to in case of need. The Mobile road is also open to the enemy to near Rienzi, and Corinth would be exposed by the advance. Although partial success might result from further pursuit, disaster would follow in the end. If you say so, however, it is not too late yet to go on, and I will join the moving column and go to the farthest extent possible. Rosecrans has been reenforced with every thing on hand, even at the risk of this road against raids.

U. S. Grant, Major-General.

It was decided, however, to order General Rosecrans back, on the ground that he was not strong enough, or sufficiently prepared, for such a pursuit as he designed to make.

The following extract from orders issued by General Grant at Jackson, October 7th, shows that he then thought General Rosecrans had accomplished all possible for him to do in the place assigned him. [51]

[General order no. 88.]

headquarters Department of West Tennessee, Jackson, Tenn., October 7.
It is with heartfelt gratitude the General commanding congratulates the Armies of the West for another victory, won by them on the 3d, 4th, and 5th inst., over the combined armies of Van Dorn, Price, and Lovell. * * * While one division of the army, under Major-General Rosecrans, was resisting and repelling the onslaught of the rebel hosts at Corinth, another from Bolivar, under Major-General Hurlbut, was marching upon the enemy's rear, driving in their pickets and cavalry, and attracting the attention of a large force of infantry and artillery. * * * *

To these two divisions of the army all praise is due, and will be awarded by a grateful country.

Between them there should be, and I trust is, the warmest bonds of brotherhood. Each was risking life in the same cause, and on this occasion risking it also to save and assist the other. No troops could do more than these separated armies. Each did all possible for it to do in the place assigned it. * * * *

By command of Major-General Grant,

John A. Rawlins, A. A. G.

General Grant closed his formal report of this battle as follows:

As shown by the reports, the enemy was repulsed at Corinth, at 11 A. M. on the 4th, and not followed until next morning.

Two days hard fighting without rest, probably, had so fatigued the troops as to make earlier pursuit impracticable. I regretted this as the enemy would have been compelled to abandon most of his artillery and transportation in the difficult roads of the Hatchie crossing had the pursuit commenced then.

The victory was most triumphant as it was however, and all praise is due officers and men for their undaunted courage and obstinate resistance against an enemy outnumbering them as three to two.

When it became evident that an attack would be made, I drew off from the guard along the line of the railroad all the troops that could possibly be spared (six regiments) to reenforce Corinth and Bolivar, as before stated; four of these were sent under General McPherson to the former place and formed the advance in the pursuit. Two were sent to Bolivar, and gave that much additional force to be spared to operate on the enemy's rear.

When I ascertained that the enemy had succeeded in crossing the Hatchie, I ordered a discontinuance of the pursuit. Before this order reached them the advance infantry force had reached Ripley, and the cavalry had gone beyond possibly twenty miles. This I regarded, and yet regard, as absolutely necessary to the safety of our army. They could not have possibly caught [52] the enemy before reaching his fortifications at Holly Springs, and where a garrison of several thousand troops was left that were not engaged in the battle of Corinth. Our own troops would have suffered for food, and suffered greatly from fatigue. Finding that the pursuit had followed so far, and that our forces were very much scattered, I immediately ordered an advance from Bolivar to be made, to cover the return of the Corinth forces. They went as far south as Davis' Mills, about seven miles south of Grand Junction, drove a small rebel garrison from there, and entirely destroyed the railroad bridges at that place.

The accompanying reports show fully all the casualties and other results of these battles.

I am, Colonel, very respectfully your obedient servant,

U. S. Grant, Major-General commanding.

The following is the close of General Rosecrans' report of this battle:

Thus by noon ended the battle of the 4th of October. After waiting for the enemy's return a short time, our skirmishers began to advance, and found that their skirmishers were gone from the field, leaving their dead and wounded. Having ridden over it and satisfied myself of the fact, I rode all over our lines, announcing the result of the fight in person; and notified our victorious troops that after two days of fighting, two almost sleepless nights of preparation, movement, and march, I wished them to replenish their cartridge boxes, haversacks, and stomachs, take an early sleep and start in pursuit by daylight. Returning from this I found the gallant McPherson with a fresh brigade on the public square, and gave him the same notice with orders to take the advance.

The results of the battle briefly stated are: We fought the combined rebel forces of Mississippi, commanded by Van Dorn, Price, Lovell, Villipigue, and Rust in person, numbering, according to their own authorities, thirty-eight thousand men.

We signally defeated them with little more than half their numbers, and they fled leaving their dead and wounded on the field. The enemy's loss in killed was fourteen hundred and twenty-three officers and men; their loss in wounded, taking the general average, amounts to fifty-six hundred and ninety-two.

We took twenty-two hundred and forty-eight prisoners, among whom are one hundred and thirty-seven field officers, captains, and subalterns, representing fifty-three regiments of infantry, sixteen regiments of cavalry, thirteen batteries of artillery, and seven battalions, making sixty-nine regiments, seven battalions, and thirteen batteries besides separate companies.

We took, also, fourteen stands of colors, two pieces of artillery, thirty-three hundred stands of small arms, forty-five hundred rounds of ammunition, and a large lot of accouterments. [53]

The enemy blew up several ammunition wagons between Corinth and Chewalla, and beyond Chewalla many ammunition wagons and carriages were destroyed, and the ground was strewn with tents, officers' mess chests, and small arms.

We pursued them forty miles in force and sixty miles with cavalry. Our loss was only three hundred and fifteen killed, and eighteen hundred and twelve wounded, and two hundred and thirty-two prisoners and missing.

It is said the enemy was so demoralized and alarmed at our advance they set fire to the stores at Tupello, but finding we were not close upon them they extinguished the fire and removed the public stores, except two car loads of bacon which they destroyed. * * * *

W. S. Rosecrans, Major-General.

Another report of General Rosecrans shows that General McPherson with his fresh troops, reached him just before sunset after the battle, and together with the whole command began the pursuit at daylight the next morning.

Rosecrans' force in the battle of Corinth was fifteen thousand seven hundred infantry, and two thousand five hundred cavalry, an aggregate of eighteen thousand two hundred against an enemy of thirty-eight thousand.

General Sherman admits that ‘beyond doubt the rebel army lost at Corinth fully six thousand men.’

The records set forth with sufficient clearness the brilliant character of the battle, the energy of the pursuit, and the satisfaction felt by General Grant at the results. So far as the differences which arose between Generals Grant and Rosecrans about this time, grew out of these movements, they appear to have had their origin chiefly in General Rosecrans' insisting upon pursuing the enemy beyond where General Grant considered it prudent to do so, and persisting in expressing his opinions against those of his commanding officer. But whatever the causes of difference were, General Grant's report, setting forth that an earlier pursuit than the one made was probably impracticable, is a full answer to General Sherman's version of the cause of trouble.

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W. S. Rosecrans (45)
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