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Chapter 18

  • The Storming of Newmarket Heights
  • -- a draft ordered -- battle of the Weldon Railroad -- battle of Reams's Station -- General Grant's family visit him -- the relations between Grant and Sherman -- a mission to Sherman -- the captor of Atlanta -- an evening with General Thomas

It was found that Lee had sent a division of infantry and cavalry as far as Culpeper to cooperate with Early's forces, and on August 12, 1864, Grant began a movement at Petersburg intended to force the enemy to return his detached troops to that point. Hancock's corps was marched from Petersburg to City Point, and there placed on steamboats. The movement was to create the impression that these troops were to be sent to Washington. Butler relaid the pontoon-bridge, and his forces crossed to Deep Bottom. The same night, August 13, the boats which carried Hancock's corps were sent up the river, and the troops disembarked on the north side of the James. Hancock was put in command of the movement.

General Grant said, in discussing the affair: “I am making this demonstration on the James, not that I expect it to result in anything decisive in the way of crippling the enemy in battle; my main object is to call troops from Early and from the defenses of Petersburg. If Lee withdraws the bulk of his army from Meade's [276] [277] front, Meade will have a good opportunity of making a movement to his left with one of his corps.” The 14th and 15th were spent in reconnoitering and maneuvering and in making one successful assault. On August 16 I was directed to go to Hancock with important instructions, and remain with his command that day. This gave me an opportunity to participate in the engagements which took place. Early in the morning the movement began by sending out Miles's brigade and Gregg's cavalry, which drove back a body of the enemy to a point only seven miles from Richmond. At ten o'clock a vigorous attack was made by Birney's corps upon the works at Fussell's Mills. The intrenchments were handsomely carried, and three colors and nearly three hundred prisoners taken; but the enemy soon returned in large force, made a determined assault, and compelled Birney to abandon the works he had captured. He succeeded, however, in holding the enemy's intrenched picket-line. In the mean time the enemy brought up a sufficient force to check the advance of Gregg and Miles and compel them to withdraw from their position. Our troops fell back in perfect order, retiring by successive lines. Gregg took up a line on Deep Creek. That evening the enemy made a heavy attack on him, but only succeeded in forcing him back a short distance. The fighting had been desperate, and all the officers present had suffered greatly from their constant exposure to the heavy fire of the enemy in their efforts to hold the men to their work and add as much as possible to the success of the movements. This day's fighting was known as the battle of Newmarket Heights. In these engagements I was fortunate enough to be able to render service which was deemed to be of some importance by the general-in-chief, who wrote to Washington asking that I be breveted a lieutenant-colonel in [278] the regular army for “gallant and meritorious services in action” ; and the appointment to that rank was made by the President. As a result of these operations, Hill's command had been withdrawn from Petersburg and sent to Hancock's front, and a division of Longstreet's corps, which had been under marching orders for the Valley, was detained.

General Grant was now giving daily watchfulness and direction to four active armies in the field-those of Meade, Butler, Sheridan, and Sherman. They constituted a dashing four-in-hand, with Grant holding the reins. These armies no longer moved “like horses in a balky team, no two ever pulling together.” While some of them were at long distances from the others, they were acting in harmony, and cooperating with one another for the purpose of keeping the enemy constantly employed in their respective fronts, to prevent him from concentrating his force against any particular army. The enemy had short interior lines upon which to move, and railroads for the prompt transportation of troops; and it was only by these vigorous cooperative movements on the part of the Union armies that the enemy was kept from practising the fundamental principle of war-namely, concentrating the bulk of his forces against a fraction of those of the enemy.

The affairs of the country were now like a prairie in the season of fires: as soon as the conflagration was extinguished in one place it immediately broke out in another. While General Grant was hourly employed in devising military movements to meet the situation in the field, his advice and assistance were demanded for a grave state of affairs which had now arisen in the Northern States. A draft had been ordered by the President for the purpose of filling up our depleted regiments, and the disloyal element at home was making [279] it a pretext to embarrass the government in its prosecution of the war. On August 11 Halleck sent Grant a confidential letter, in which he said, among other things of a disturbing nature: “Pretty strong evidence is accumulating that there is a combination formed, or forming, to make a forcible resistance to the draft. . .. To enforce it may require the withdrawal of a very considerable number of troops from the field. . . . The evidence of this has increased very much within the last few days. . . . Are not the appearances such that we ought to take in sail and prepare the ship for a storm?” General Grant replied, suggesting means for enforcing the draft without depleting the armies in the field, and saying he was not going to break his hold where he was on the James.

On the evening of August 17 General Grant was sitting in front of his quarters, with several staff-officers about him, when the telegraph operator came over from his tent and handed him a despatch. He opened it, and as he proceeded with the reading his face became suffused with smiles. After he had finished it he broke into a hearty laugh. We were curious to know what could produce so much merriment in the general in the midst of the trying circumstances which surrounded him. He cast his eyes over the despatch again, and then remarked: “The President has more nerve than any of his advisers. This is what he says after reading my reply to Halleck's despatch.” He then read aloud to us the following:

I have seen your despatch expressing your unwillingness to break your hold where you are. Neither am I willing. Hold on with a bulldog grip, and chew and choke as much as possible.

A. Lincoln.


Throughout this period of activity at headquarters General Grant was not unmindful of the rewards which were due to his generals for their achievements. On August 10 he had written to the Secretary of War: “I think it but a just reward for services already rendered that General Sherman be now appointed a major-general, and W. S. Hancock and Sheridan brigadiers, in the regular army. All these generals have proved their worthiness for this advancement.” Sherman and Hancock received their appointments on the 12th, and Sheridan on the 20th. General Grant was very much gratified that their cases had been acted upon so promptly.

Warren moved out at dawn on August 18, in accordance with orders, to a point three miles west of the left of the Army of the Potomac, and began the work of tearing up the Weldon Railroad. Hard fighting ensued that day, in which the enemy suffered severely. Lee hurried troops from north of the James to Petersburg, and in the afternoon of the 19th a large force turned a portion of Warren's command and forced it to retire. Two divisions of Parke's corps had been ordered to support Warren; our troops were now reformed, the lost ground was soon regained, the enemy fell back in great haste to his intrenchments, and the position on the railroad was firmly held by Warren's men. General Grant remained at City Point this day in order to be in constant communication with Hancock and Butler as well as with Meade. When he heard of Warren's success he telegraphed at once to Meade: “I am pleased to see the promptness with which General Warren attacked the enemy when he came out. I hope he will not hesitate in such cases to abandon his lines and take every man to fight every battle, and trust to regaining them afterward, or to getting better.” He said after writing this despatch: “Meade and I have had to criticize Warren [281] pretty severely on several occasions for being slow, and I wanted to be prompt to compliment him now that he has acted vigorously and handsomely in taking the offensive.” His corps being greatly exposed in its present position, and knowing that the enemy would use all efforts to save the railroad, Warren on August 20 took up a position in rear of his line of battle the day before, and intrenched. All of Hancock's corps was withdrawn from the north side of the James. Lee soon discovered this, and hurried more troops back to Petersburg. On the morning of August 21 Hill's whole corps, with a part of Hoke's division and Lee's cavalry, attacked Warren. Thirty pieces of artillery opened on him, and at ten o'clock vigorous assaults were made; but Warren repulsed the enemy at all points, and then advanced and captured several hundred prisoners. The enemy had failed in his desperate efforts to recover the Weldon Railroad, and he was now compelled to haul supplies by wagons around the break in order to make any use of that line of supplies.

On August 22 Gregg's division of cavalry and troops from Hancock's corps were sent to Reams's Station, seven miles south of Warren's position, and tore up three miles of the Weldon Railroad south of that place. Hancock discovered the enemy massing heavily in his front on the 25th, and concentrated his force at the station, and took possession of some earthworks which had been constructed before at that place, but which were badly laid out for the purpose of defense. That afternoon several formidable assaults were directed against Miles, who was in command of Barlow's division, but they were handsomely repulsed. At 5 P. M. Hill's corps made a vigorous attack. Owing to the faulty construction of the earthworks, Hancock's command was exposed to a reverse fire, which had an unfortunate effect upon the [282] morale of the men. A portion of Miles's line finally gave way, and three of our batteries of artillery were captured. Our troops were now exposed to attack both in flank and reverse, and the position of Hancock's command had become exceedingly critical; but the superb conduct displayed by him and Miles in rallying their forces saved the day. By a gallant dash the enemy was soon swept back, and one of our batteries and a portion of the intrenchments were retaken. Gibbon's division was driven from its intrenched position, but it took up a new line, and after hard fighting the further advance of the enemy was checked. As the command was now seriously threatened in its present position, and none of the reinforcements ordered up had arrived, Hancock's troops were withdrawn after dark.

Hancock's want of success was due largely to the condition of his troops. They had suffered great fatigue; there had been heavy losses during the campaign, particularly in officers, and the command was composed largely of recruits and substitutes. The casualties in this engagement, in killed, wounded, and missing, were 2742; the number of guns lost, 9. The enemy's loss was larger than ours in killed and wounded, but less in prisoners. General Miles, who thirty-one years thereafter became general-in-chief of the army, in all his brilliant career as a soldier never displayed more gallantry and ability than in this memorable engagement, which is known in history as the battle of Reams's Station.

The enemy had subjected himself to heavy loss in a well-concerted attempt to regain possession of the Weldon Railroad, which was of such vital importance to him, but in this he had signally failed. Lee had been so constantly threatened, or compelled to attack around Petersburg and Richmond, that he had been entirely [283] prevented from sending any forces to Hood to be used against Sherman.

Mrs. Grant had come East with the children, and Colonel Dent, her brother, was sent to meet them at Philadelphia, and bring them to City Point to pay a visit to the general. The children consisted of Frederick D., then fourteen years old; Ulysses S., Jr., twelve; Nellie R., nine; and Jesse R., six. Nellie was born on the 4th of July, and when a child an innocent deception had been practised upon her by her father in letting her believe that all the boisterous demonstrations and display of fireworks on Independence day were in honor of her birthday. The general was exceedingly fond of his family, and his meeting with them afforded him the happiest day he had seen since they parted. They were comfortably lodged aboard the headquarters steamboat, but spent most of their time in camp. The morning after their arrival, when I stepped into the general's tent, I found him in his shirt-sleeves engaged in a rough-and-tumble wrestling-match with the two older boys. He had become red in the face, and seemed nearly out of breath from the exertion. The lads had just tripped him up, and he was on his knees on the floor grappling with the youngsters, and joining in their merry laughter, as if he were a boy again himself. I had several despatches in my hand, and when he saw that I had come on business, he disentangled himself after some difficulty from the young combatants, rose to his feet, brushed the dust off his knees with his hand, and said in a sort of apologetic manner: “Ah, you know my weaknesses --my children and my horses.” The children often romped with him, and he joined in their frolics as if they were all playmates together. The younger ones would hang about his neck while he was writing, make a terrible mess of his papers, and turn everything in his [284] tent into a toy: but they were never once reproved for any innocent sport; they were governed solely by an appeal to their affections. They were always respectful, and never failed to render strict obedience to their father when he told them seriously what he wanted them to do.

Mrs. Grant, formerly Miss Julia Dent, was four years younger than the general. She had been educated in Professor Moreau's finishing-school in St. Louis, one of the best institutions of instruction in its day, and was a woman of much general intelligence, and exceedingly well informed upon all public matters. She was noted for her amiability, her cheerful disposition, and her extreme cordiality of manner. She was soon upon terms of intimacy with all the members of the staff, and was quick to win the respect and esteem of every one at headquarters. She visited any officers or soldiers who were sick, went to the cook and suggested delicacies for their comfort, took her meals with the mess, kept up a pleasant run of conversation at the table, and added greatly to the cheerfulness of headquarters. She had visited her husband several times at the front when he was winning his victories in the West, and had learned perfectly how to adapt herself to camp life. She and the general were a perfect Darby and Joan. They would seek a quiet corner of his quarters of an evening, and sit with her hand in his, manifesting the most ardent devotion; and if a staff-officer came accidentally upon them, they would look as bashful as two young lovers spied upon in the scenes of their courtship. In speaking of the general to others, his wife usually referred to him as “Mr. Grant,” from force of habit formed before the war. In addressing him she said “Ulyss,” and when they were alone, or no one was present except an intimate friend of the family, she applied a pet name which she had adopted after the capture of Vicksburg, and called [285] him “Victor.” Sometimes the general would tease the children good-naturedly by examining them about their studies, putting to them all sorts of puzzling mathematical questions, and asking them to spell tongue-splitting words of half a dozen syllables. Mrs. Grant would at times put on an air of mock earnestness, and insist upon the general telling her all of the details of the next movement he intended to make. He would then proceed to give her a fanciful description of an imaginary campaign, in which he would name impossible figures as to the number of the troops, inextricably confuse the geography of the country, and trace out a plan of marvelously complicated movements in a manner that was often exceedingly droll. No family could have been happier in their relations; there was never a selfish act committed or an ill-natured word uttered by any member of the household, and their daily life was altogether beautiful in its charming simplicity and its deep affection.

A little before nine o'clock on the evening of September 4, while the general was having a quiet smoke in front of his tent, and discussing the campaign in Georgia, a despatch came from Sherman announcing the capture of Atlanta, which had occurred on September 2. It was immediately read aloud to the staff, and after discussing the news for a few minutes, and uttering many words in praise of Sherman, the general wrote the following reply: “I have just received your despatch announcing the capture of Atlanta. In honor of your great victory I have ordered a salute to be fired with shotted guns from every battery bearing upon the enemy. The salute will be fired within an hour, amid great rejoicing.”

In the mean time the glad tidings had been telegraphed to Meade and Butler, with directions to fire the salute, and not long afterward the roar of artillery communicated [286] the joyful news of victory throughout our army, and bore sad tidings to the ranks of the enemy. An answer was received from Sherman, in which he said: “I have received your despatch, and will communicate it to the troops in general orders. ... I have always felt that you would take personally more pleasure in my success than in your own, and I reciprocate the feeling to the fullest extent.” Grant then wrote to Sherman: “I feel that you have accomplished the most gigantic undertaking given to any general in this war with a skill and ability which will be acknowledged in history as unsurpassed, if not unequaled. It gives me as much pleasure to record this in your favor as it would in favor of any living man, myself included.” This correspondence, and the unmeasured praise which was given to Sherman at this time by the general-in-chief in his despatches and conversations, afford additional evidences of his constant readiness to give all due praise to his subordinates for any successful work which they accomplished. He was entirely unselfish in his relations with them, and never tired of taking up the cudgels in their defense if any one criticized them unjustly.

The above correspondence with Sherman recalls the letters which were interchanged between them after General Grant's successes in the West. The general wrote to Sherman at that time: “What I want is to express my thanks to you and McPherson as the men to whom, above all others, I feel indebted for whatever I have had of success. How far your advice and assistance have been of help to me you know. How far your execution of whatever has been given you to do entitles you to the reward I am receiving, you cannot know as well as I. I feel all the gratitude this letter would express, giving it the most flattering construction.” Sherman wrote a no less manly letter in reply. After insisting that [287] General Grant assigned to his subordinates too large a share of merit, he went on to say: “I believe you to be as brave, patriotic, and just as the great prototype, Washington; as unselfish, kind-hearted, and honest as a man should be; but the chief characteristic is the simple faith in success you have always manifested, which I can liken to nothing else than the faith a Christian has in the Saviour. . . . I knew, wherever I was, that you thought of me, and if I got in a tight place you would help me out if alive.” The noble sentiments expressed in this and similar correspondence were the bright spots which served to relieve the gloomy picture of desolating war.

Now that Sherman had captured Atlanta, the question at once arose as to what his next move should be; and a discussion took place at General Grant's headquarters as to the advisability of a march to the sea. Such a movement had been referred to in a despatch from Grant to Halleck as early as July 15, saying: “If he [Sherman] can supply himself once with ordnance and quartermaster's stores, and partially with subsistence, he will find no difficulty in staying until a permanent line can be opened with the south coast.” On August 13 Sherman communicated with Grant about the practicability of cutting loose from his base and shifting his army to the Alabama River, or striking out for St. Mark's, Florida, or for Savannah. Further correspondence took place between the two generals after Sherman had entered Atlanta. The subject was one in which the members of the staff became deeply interested. Maps were pored over daily, and most intelligent discussions were carried on as to the feasibility of Sherman's army making a march to the sea-coast, and the point upon which his movement should be directed.

On September 12 General Grant called me into his tent, turned his chair around from the table at which he [288] had been sitting, lighted a fresh cigar, and began a conversation by saying: “Sherman and I have exchanged ideas regarding his next movement about as far as we can by correspondence, and I have been thinking that it would be well for you to start for Atlanta to-morrow, and talk over with him the whole subject of his next campaign. We have debated it so much here that you know my views thoroughly, and can answer any of Sherman's questions as to what I think in reference to the contemplated movement, and the action which should be taken in the various contingencies which may arise. Sherman's suggestions are excellent, and no one is better fitted for carrying them out. I can comply with his views in regard to meeting him with ample supplies at any point on the sea-coast which it may be decided to have him strike for. You can tell him that I am going to send an expedition against Wilmington, North Carolina, landing the troops on the coast north of Fort Fisher; and with the efficient cooperation of the navy we shall no doubt get control of Wilmington harbor by the time he reaches and captures other points on the sea-coast. Sherman has made a splendid campaign, and the more I reflect upon it the more merit I see in it. I do not want to hamper him any more in the future than in the past with detailed instructions. I want him to carry out his ideas freely in the coming movement, and to have all the credit of its success. Of this success I have no doubt. I will write Sherman a letter, which you can take to him.” The general then turned to his writing-table, and retaining between his lips the cigar which he had been smoking, wrote the communication. After reading it over aloud, he handed it to me to take to Atlanta. It said, among other things: “Colonel Porter will explain to you the exact condition of affairs here better than I can do in the limits of a letter. . . . My [289] object now in sending a staff-officer is not so much to suggest operations for you as to get your views and have plans matured by the time everything can be got ready. It will probably be the 5th of October before any of the plans herein indicated will be executed. . . .”

I started the next day on this mission, going by way of Cincinnati and Louisville; and after many tedious interruptions from the crowded state of traffic by rail south of the latter place, and being once thrown from the track, I reached Chattanooga on the afternoon of September 19. From there to Atlanta is one hundred and fifty miles. Guerrillas were active along the line of the road, numerous attempts had recently been made to wreck the trains, and they were run as far as practicable by daylight. Being anxious to reach General Sherman with all despatch, I started forward that night on a freight-train. Rumors of approaching guerrillas were numerous; but, like many other campaign reports, they were unfounded, and I arrived in Atlanta safely the next forenoon. Upon this night trip I passed over the battle-field of Chickamauga on the anniversary of the sanguinary engagement in which I had participated the year before, and all of its exciting features were vividly recalled.

Upon reaching Atlanta, I went at once to General Sherman's headquarters. My mind was naturally wrought up to a high pitch of curiosity to see the famous soldier of the West, whom I had never met. He had taken up his quarters in a comfortable brick house belonging to Judge Lyons, opposite the Court-house Square. As I approached I saw the captor of Atlanta on the porch, sitting tilted back in a large arm-chair, reading a newspaper. His coat was unbuttoned, his black felt hat slouched over his brow, and on his feet were a pair of slippers very much down at the heels. He was in the prime of life and in the perfection of physical health. [290] He was just forty-four years of age, and almost at the summit of his military fame. With his large frame, tall, gaunt form, restless hazel eyes, aquiline nose, bronzed face, and crisp beard, he looked the picture of “grim-visaged war.” My coming had been announced to him by telegraph, and he was expecting my arrival at this time. I approached him, introduced myself, and handed him General Grant's letter. He tilted forward in his chair, crumpled the newspaper in his left hand while with his right he shook hands cordially, then pushed a chair forward and invited me to sit down. His reception was exceedingly cordial, and his manner exhibited all the personal peculiarities which General Grant, in speaking of him, had so often described.

After reading General Grant's letter, he entered at once upon an animated discussion of the military situation East and West, and as he waxed more intense in his manner the nervous energy of his nature soon began to manifest itself. He twice rose from his chair, and sat down again, twisted the newspaper into every conceivable shape, and from time to time drew first one foot and then the other out of its slipper, and followed up the movement by shoving out his leg so that the foot could recapture the slipper and thrust itself into it again. He exhibited a strong individuality in every movement, and there was a peculiar energy of manner in uttering the crisp words and epigrammatic phrases which fell from his lips as rapidly as shots from a magazine-gun. I soon realized that he was one of the most dramatic and picturesque characters of the war. He asked a great deal about the armies of the East, and spoke of the avidity with which he read all accounts of the desperate campaigns they were waging. He said: “I knew Grant would make the fur fly when he started down through Virginia. Wherever he is the enemy will never find any [291] trouble about getting up a fight. He has all the tenacity of a Scotch terrier. That he will accomplish his whole purpose I have never had a doubt. I know well the immense advantage which the enemy has in acting on the defensive in a peculiarly defensive country, falling back on his supplies when we are moving away from ours, taking advantage of every river, hill, forest, and swamp to hold us at bay, and intrenching every night behind fortified lines to make himself safe from attack. Grant ought to have an army more than twice the size of that of the enemy in order to make matters at all equal in Virginia. When Grant cried ‘Forward! ’ after the battle of the Wilderness, I said: ‘This is the grandest act of his life; now I feel that the rebellion will be crushed.’ I wrote him, saying it was a bold order to give, and full of significance; that it showed the mettle of which he was made, and if Wellington could have heard it he would have jumped out of his boots. The terms of Grant's despatch in reply to the announcement of the capture of Atlanta gave us great gratification here. I took that and the noble letter written by President Lincoln, and published them in general orders; and they did much to encourage the troops and make them feel that their hard work was appreciated by those highest in command.”

After a while lunch was announced, and the general invited me to his mess, consisting of himself and his personal staff. Among the latter I met some of my old army friends, whom I was much gratified to see again. The general's mess was established in the dining-room of the house he occupied, and was about as democratic as Grant's. The officers came and went as their duties required, and meals were eaten without the slightest ceremony. After we were seated at the table the general said: “I don't suppose we have anything half as [292] good to eat out here as you fellows in the East have. You have big rivers upon which you can bring up shellfish, and lots of things we don't have here, where everything has to come over a single-track railroad more than three hundred miles long, and you bet we don't spare any cars for luxuries. It is all we can do to get the necessaries down this far. However, here is some pretty fair beef, and there are plenty of potatoes,” pointing to the dishes; “and they are good enough for anybody. We did get a little short of rations at times on the march down here, and one of my staff told me a good story of what one of the men had to say about it. An officer found him eating a persimmon that he had picked up, and cried out to him, ‘Don't eat that; it's not good for you.’ ‘I'm not eatin‘ it because it's good,’ was the reply; ‘ I'm tryin‘ to pucker up my stomach so as to fit the size of the rations Uncle Billy Sherman's a-givin‘ us.’ ”

After lunch we repaired to a room in the house which the general used for his office, and there went into an elaborate discussion of the purpose of my visit. He said: “I am more than ever of the opinion that there ought to be some definite objective point or points decided upon before I move farther into this country; sweeping around generally through Georgia for the purpose of inflicting damage would not be good generalship; I want to strike out for the sea. Now that our people have secured Mobile Bay, they might be able to send a force up to Columbus. That would be of great assistance to me in penetrating farther into this State; but unless Canby is largely reinforced, he will probably have as much as he can do at present in taking care of the rebels west of the Mississippi. If after Grant takes Wilmington he could, with the cooperation of the navy, get hold of Savannah, and open the Savannah River up to [293] the neighborhood of Augusta, I would feel pretty safe in picking up the bulk of this army and moving east, subsisting off the country. I could move to Milledgeville, and threaten both Macon and Augusta, and by making feints I could maneuver the enemy out of Augusta. I can subsist my army upon the country as long as I can keep moving; but if I should have to stop and fight battles the difficulty would be greatly increased. There is no telling what Hood will do, whether he will follow me and contest my march eastward, or whether he will start north with his whole army, thinking there will not be any adequate force to oppose him, and that he can carry the war as far north as Kentucky. I don't care much which he does. I would rather have him start north, though; and I would be willing to give him a free ticket and pay his expenses if he would decide to take that horn of the dilemma. I could send enough of this army to delay his progress until our troops scattered through the West could be concentrated in sufficient force to destroy him; then with the bulk of my Army I could cut a swath through to the sea, divide the Confederacy in two, and be able to move up in the rear of Lee, or do almost anything else that Grant might require of me. Both Jeff Davis, according to the tone of his recent speeches, and Hood want me to fall back. That is just the reason why I want to go forward.”

The general then went into a long discussion of the details which would have to be carried out under the several contingencies which might occur. He said: “In any emergency I should probably want to designate a couple of points on the coast where I could reach the sea as compelled by circumstances; and a fleet of provisions ought to be sent to each one of the points, so that I would be sure of having supplies awaiting me.” I told [294] him that this had been discussed by General Grant, and it was his intention to make ample provisions of that nature. The general said further: “You know when I cut loose from my communications you will not hear anything from me direct, and Grant will have to learn of my whereabouts, and the points where I reach the coast, by means of scouts, if we can get any through the country, and possibly depend largely upon the news obtained from rebel newspapers. I suppose you get these papers through the lines just as we do here.” I said: “Yes; and I think more readily. The enemy is always eager to get the New York papers, and as we receive them daily, we exchange them for Richmond and Petersburg papers, and obtain in that way much news that is valuable. There will be no difficulty in hearing of your movements almost daily.” At the close of the conversation I told the general I was anxious to get back to headquarters as soon as it would suit his convenience. He asked me to stay a couple of days, saying he would talk matters over further, and would write some communications for General Grant, a report, and also a list of the names of officers whom he wished to have promoted, if it could be prepared in time. I was invited to share the quarters of one of the staff-officers, and spent a couple of days very advantageously in looking over the captured city, and learning many points of interest regarding the marvelous campaign which had secured it.

That evening I paid a visit to my old commanding officer, General George H. Thomas, who had quartered himself in a house on Peachtree street, now known as the Leyden House, and passed a very pleasant hour with him. The house was surrounded by a broad porch supported by rows of fluted columns, and was very commodious. The meeting revived a great many stories of the [295] Chickamauga campaign. The general said in the course of the conversation: “Do you remember that jackass that looked over the fence one day when we were passing along a road near the Tennessee River? He pricked up his ears and brayed until he threatened to deafen everybody within a mile of him; and when he stopped, and a dead silence followed, a soldier quietly remarked, ‘Boys, did you hear him purr?’ I thought that was about the loudest specimen of a purr I had ever heard.” Then the general lay back in his chair and shook with laughter at the recollection. While grave in manner and leonine in appearance, he had a great deal more fun in him than is generally supposed. When quartered at Murfreesboro, Tennessee, the year before, a piano had been secured, and it was the custom to have musical entertainments in the evening at general headquarters. There were some capital voices among the officers, and no end of comic songs at hand; and these, with the recitations and improvisations which were contributed, made up a series of variety performances which became quite celebrated. General Thomas was a constant attendant, and would nod approval at the efforts of the performers, and beat time to the music, and when anything particularly comical took place he would roll from side to side and nearly choke with merriment.

That day Sherman wrote to Grant: “I have the honor to acknowledge, at the hands of Lieutenant-colonel Porter of your staff, your letter of September 12, and accept with thanks the honorable and kindly mention of the services of this army in the great cause in which we are all engaged.” Then followed three or four pages, closing with the sentence: “I will have a long talk with Colonel Porter, and tell him everything that may occur to me of interest to you. In the mean time, know that I admire your dogged perseverance and pluck more than [296] ever. If you can whip Lee, and I can march to the Atlantic, I think Uncle Abe will give us a twenty days leave of absence to see the young folks.” Two days later I started back to City Point, and reached there September 27.

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