The reply (to my telegram of October 16, 1863, from Cairo
, announcing my arrival at that point) came on the morning of the 17th, directing me to proceed immediately to the Gait House
, where I would meet an officer of the War Department with my instructions.
I left Cairo
within an hour or two after the receipt of this dispatch, going by rail via Indianapolis
Just as the train I was on was starting out of the depot at Indianapolis
a messenger came running up to stop it, saying the Secretary of War
was coming into the station and wanted to see me.
I had never met Mr. [Edwin M.] Stanton
up to that time, though we had held frequent conversations over the wires the year before, when I was in Tennessee
Occasionally at night he would order the wires between the War Department and my headquarters to be connected, and we would hold a conversation for an hour or two.
On this occasion the Secretary
was accompanied by Governor [John] Brough
, whom I had never met, though he and my father had been old acquaintances.
dismissed the special train that had brought him to Indianapolis
, and accompanied me to Louisville
Up to this time no hint had been given me of what was wanted after I left Vicksburg
, except the suggestion in one of Halleck
's dispatches that I had better go to Nashville
and superintend the operation
of troops sent to relieve Rosecrans
Soon after we started the Secretary
handed me two orders [dated October 16], saying that I might take my choice of them.
The two were identical in all but one particular.
Both created the “Military division of the Mississippi,” (giving me the command), composed of the Departments of the Ohio
, the Cumberland
, and the Tennessee
, and all the territory from the Alleghenies
to the Mississippi river
north of Banks
's command in the south-west.
One order left the department commanders as they were, while the other relieved Rosecrans
and assigned Thomas
to his place.
I accepted the latter.
We reached Louisville
after night and, if I remember rightly, in a cold, drizzling rain.
The Secretary of War
told me afterwards that he caught a cold on that occasion from which he never expected to recover.
He never did.
A day was spent in Louisville
, the Secretary
giving me the military news at the capital and talking about the disappointment at the results of some of the campaigns.
By the evening of the day after our arrival all matters of discussion seemed exhausted, and I left the hotel to spend the evening away, both Mrs. Grant
(who was with me) and myself having relatives living in Louisville
In the course of the evening Mr. Stanton
received a dispatch from Mr. C. A. Dana
, then in Chattanooga
, informing him that unless prevented Rosecrans
would retreat, and advising peremptory orders against his doing so.
As stated before, after the fall of Vicksburg
I urged strongly upon the government the propriety of a movement against Mobile
had been at Murfreesboro, Tennessee
, with a large and well-equipped army from early in the year 1863, with Bragg
confronting him with a force quite equal to his own at first, considering it was on the defensive.
But after the investment of Vicksburg Bragg
's army was largely depleted to strengthen Johnston, in Mississippi
, who was being reinforced to raise the siege.
I frequently wrote General Halleck
suggesting that Rosecrans
should move against Bragg
By so doing he would either detain the latter's troops where they were or lay Chattanooga
open to capture.
strongly approved the suggestion, and finally wrote me that he had repeatedly ordered Rosecrans
to advance, but that the latter had constantly failed to comply with the order, and at last, after having held a council of war, had replied in effect that it was a military maxim “not to fight
two decisive battles at the same time.”
If true, the maxim was not applicable in this case.
It would be bad to be defeated in two decisive battles fought the same day, but it would not be bad to win them.
I, however, was fighting no battle, and the siege of Vicksburg
had drawn from Rosecrans
' front so many of the enemy that his chances of victory were much greater than they would be if he waited until the siege was over, when these troops could be returned.
was ordered to move against the army that was detaching troops to raise the siege.
Finally he did move, on the 24th of June, but ten days afterwards Vicksburg
surrendered, and the troops sent from Bragg
were free to return.
It was at this time that I recommended to the general-in-chief
the movement against Mobile
I knew the peril the Army of the Cumberland was in, being depleted continually, not only by ordinary casualties, but also by having to detach troops to hold its constantly extending line over which to draw supplies, while the enemy in front was as constantly being strengthened.
was important to the enemy, and in the absence of a threatening force was guarded by little else than artillery.
If threatened by land and from the water at the same time the prize would fall easily, or troops would have to be sent to its defence.
Those troops would necessarily come from Bragg
My judgment was overruled, and the troops under my command were dissipated over other parts of the country where it was thought they could render the most service.
Soon it was discovered in Washington
was in trouble and required assistance.
The emergency was now too immediate to allow us to give this assistance by making an attack in rear of Bragg
It was therefore necessary to reinforce directly, and troops were sent from every available point.
had very skilfully manoeuvred Bragg
south of the Tennessee River
, and through and beyond Chattanooga
If he had stopped and intrenched, and made himself strong there, all would have been right and the mistake of not moving earlier partially compensated.
But he pushed on, with his forces very much scattered, until Bragg
's troops from Mississippi
began to join him. Then Bragg
took the initiative.
had to fall back in turn, and was able to get his army together at Chickamauga
, some miles south-east of Chattanooga
, before the main battle was brought on. The battle was fought on the 19th and 20th of September, and Rosecrans
was badly defeated, with a heavy loss in artillery and some sixteen thousand men killed, wounded and captured.
The corps under Major-General George
stood its ground, while Rosecrans
, with Crittenden
, returned to Chattanooga
returned also, but later, and with his troops in good order.
followed and took possession of Missionary Ridge
, overlooking Chattanooga
He also occupied Lookout Mountain
, west of the town, which Rosecrans
had abandoned, and with it his control of the river and the river road as far back as Bridgeport
The National troops were now strongly intrenched in Chattanooga Valley
, with the Tennessee River
behind them and the enemy occupying commanding heights to the east and west, with a strong line across the valley from mountain to mountain, and with Chattanooga Creek
, for a large part of the way, in front of their line.
On the 29th [of September] Halleck
telegraphed me the above results, and directed all the forces that could be spared from my department to be sent to Rosecrans
Long before this dispatch was received Sherman
was on his way, and McPherson
was moving east with most of the garrison of Vicksburg
A retreat at that time would have been a terrible disaster.
It would not only have been the loss of a most important strategic position to us, but it would have been attended with the loss of all the artillery still left with the Army of the Cumberland and the annihilation of that army itself, either by capture or demoralization.
All supplies for Rosecrans
had to be brought from Nashville
The railroad between this base and the army was in possession of the government up to Bridgeport
, the point at which the road crosses to the south side of the Tennessee River
; but Bragg
, holding Lookout and Raccoon mountains
west of Chattanooga
, commanded the railroad, the river and the shortest and best wagon-roads, both south and north of the Tennessee
, between Chattanooga
The distance between these two places is but twenty-six miles by rail; but owing to the position of Bragg
, all supplies for Rosecrans
had to be hauled by a circuitous route north of the river and over a mountainous country, increasing the distance to over sixty miles.
This country afforded but little food for his animals, nearly ten thousand of which had already starved, and not enough were left to draw a single piece of artillery or even the ambulances to convey the sick.
The men had been on half rations of hard bread for a considerable time, with but few other supplies except beef driven from Nashville
across the country.
The region along the road became so exhausted of food for the cattle that by the time they reached Chattanooga
they were much in the condition of the few animals left alive there-“on the lift.”
Indeed, the beef was so poor that the soldiers
were in the habit of saying, with a faint facetiousness, that they were living on “half rations of hard bread and beef dried on the hoof
Nothing could be transported but food, and the troops were without sufficient shoes or other clothing suitable for the advancing season.
What they had was well worn.
The fuel within the Federal
lines was exhausted, even to the stumps of trees.
There were no teams to draw it from the opposite bank, where it was abundant.
The only way of supplying fuel, for some time before my arrival, had been to cut trees on the north bank of the river at a considerable distance up the stream, form rafts of it and float it down with the current, effecting a landing on the south side within our lines by the use of paddles or poles.
It would then be carried on the shoulders of the men to their camps.
If a retreat had occurred at this time it is not probable that any of the army would have reached the railroad as an organized body, if followed by the enemy.
On the receipt of Mr. Dana
's dispatch Mr. Stanton
sent for me. Finding that I was out he became nervous and excited, inquiring of every person he met, including guests of the house, whether they knew where I was, and bidding them find me and send me to him at once.
About eleven o'clock I returned to the hotel, and on my way, when near the house, every person met was a messenger from the Secretary
, apparently partaking of his impatience to see me. I hastened to the room of the Secretary
and found him pacing the floor rapidly in his dressing-gown.
Saying that the retreat must be prevented, he showed me the dispatch.
I immediately wrote an order assuming command of the Military Division of the Mississippi, and telegraphed it to General Rosecrans
I then telegraphed to him the order from Washington
to the command of the Army of the Cumberland; and to Thomas
that he must hold Chattanooga
at all hazards, informing him at the same time that I would be at the front as soon as possible.
A prompt reply was received from Thomas
, saying, “We will hold the town till we starve.”
I appreciated the force of this dispatch later when I witnessed the condition of affairs which prompted it. It looked, indeed, as if but two courses were open: one to starve, the other to surrender or be captured.
On the morning of the 20th of October I started, with my staff, and
proceeded as far as Nashville
At that time it was not prudent to travel beyond that point by night, so I remained in Nashville
until the next morning.
Here I met for the first time Andrew Johnson
, Military Governor
He delivered a speech of welcome.
His composure showed that it was by no means his maiden effort.
It was long, and I was in torture while he was delivering it, fearing something would be expected from me in response.
I was relieved, however, the people assembled having apparently heard enough.
At all events they commenced a general hand-shaking, which, although trying where there is so much of it, was a great relief to me in this emergency.
I telegraphed to Burnside
, who was then at Knoxville
, that important points in his department ought to be fortified, so that they could be held with the least number of men; to Admiral Porter
, that Sherman
's advance had passed Eastport, Mississippi
, that rations were probably on their way from St. Louis
by boat for supplying his army, and requesting him to send a gunboat to convoy them; and to Thomas
, suggesting that large parties should be put at work on the wagon-road then in use back to Bridgeport
On the morning of the 21st we took the train for the front, reaching Stevenson, Alabama
, after dark.
was there on his way north.
He came into my car and we held a brief interview, in which he described very clearly the situation at Chattanooga
, and made some excellent suggestions as to what should be done.
My only wonder was that he had not carried them out. We then proceeded to Bridgeport
, where we stopped for the night.
From here we took horses and made our way by Jasper
and over Waldron's Ridge to Chattanooga
There had been much rain, and the roads were almost impassable from mud, knee-deep in places, and from wash-outs on the mountain sides.
I had been on crutches since the time of my fall in New Orleans, and had to be carried over places where it was not safe to cross on horseback.
The roads were strewn with the debris
of broken wagons and the carcasses of thousands of starved mules and horses.
, some ten or twelve miles from Bridgeport
, there was a halt.
General O. O. Howard
had his headquarters there.
From this point I telegraphed Burnside
to make every effort to secure five hundred rounds of ammunition for his artillery and small-arms.
We stopped for the night at a little hamlet some ten or twelve miles farther on. The next day [October 23] we reached Chattanooga
a little before dark.
I went directly to General Thomas
's headquarters, and remaining there a few days, until I could establish my own.
During the evening most of the general officers called in to pay their respects and to talk about the condition of affairs.
They pointed out on the map the line, marked with a red
pencil, which Rosecrans
had contemplated falling back upon.
If any of them had approved the move they did not say so to me. I found General W. F. Smith
occupying the position of chief engineer of the Army of the Cumberland.
I had known Smith
as a cadet at West Point
, but had no recollection of having met him after my graduation, in 1843, up to this time.
He explained the situation of the two armies and the topography of the country so plainly that I could see it without an inspection.
I found that he had established a saw-mill on the banks of the river, by utilizing an old engine found in the neighborhood; and, by rafting logs from the north side of the river above, had got out the lumber and completed pontoons and roadway plank for a second bridge, one flying bridge being there already.
He was also rapidly getting out the materials and constructing the boats for a third bridge.
In addition to this he had far under way a steamer for plying between Chattanooga
whenever we might get possession of the river.
This boat consisted of a scow, made of the plank sawed out at the mill, housed in, and a stern wheel attached which was propelled by a second engine taken from some shop or factory.
I telegraphed to Washington
this night, notifying General Halleck
of my arrival, and asking to have General Sherman
assigned to the command of the Army of the Tennessee, headquarters in the field.
The request was at once complied with.