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Chapter 4:

    • Appointed Major General of volunteers.
    • -- Halleck's notions. -- General Smith. -- enemies and Unbelievers. -- misrepresentations unnoticed. -- Misconception of Grant's abilities. -- Grant's strategy. -- I “up, Guards, and at them!” -- appreciative friends. -- Mr. Stanton and General Sherman. -- Grant and Sherman contrasted. -- undeserved censure by Halleck. -- Grant's noble reply. -- his conduct justified. -- up the Tennessee. -- Pittsburg Landing. -- battle of Shiloh. -- his energy on the field. -- the day saved by his obstinate resistance. -- stragglers' stories. -- Grant's ideas of retreat. -- he didn't intend to be beaten. -- he assumes the offensive. -- promptness and energy. -- his orders given personally. -- the battle renewed. -- Leads the charge of Ohio troops. -- victory. -- jealousy and ignorance seek to deprive him of the honors. -- Halleck restive. -- he takes command. -- over -- Caution. -- Grant's position. -- his sense of wrong. -- Grant and Sherman. -- a friendship fortunate for the country. -- Halleck called to Washington, and Grant resumes command. -- defensive operations.--“honor to whom honor is due.”

In recognition of his victory Grant was at once nominated by the President as a Major General of volunteers, and the nomination was promptly confirmed by the Senate, February 19, 1862. General Halleck, commanding the Western Department, and thus Grant's superior officer, appears to have ignored Grant, and in his letters and despatches speaks of “our” movements and “our” victory, without a word for him to whom belonged the honor of the victory. Halleck also recommended that Smith should be appointed a Major General, and said that to him belonged the credit [39] of the victory; but he made no mention of Grant, who had not yet been promoted. Yet Halleck had nothing to do with the operations against Fort Donelson, except to send forward reinforcements. Grant was the projector of the movement as well as the commanding officer; and all the operations and attacks, including the assault by Smith's division, were ordered by him. Smith did not claim the honor, but declared that he only obeyed orders; and he was subsequently recommended by Grant, who was always generous to his subordinates, for promotion for his services. Smith was Grant's senior in years and in the service. He was commandant at West Point when Grant was a cadet, and the latter felt some delicacy in assuming command over his old instructor. But the veteran soldier was trained to subordination, and he soon put at rest all Grant's doubts, and carried out his orders with the greatest vigor and alacrity.

Grant appears to have had at that time, as at all times during the war and since, secret enemies, who depreciated his abilities and his achievements, and did not hesitate to circulate malignant calumnies concerning him. They were either jealous of his success, or were the enemies of the country, who did not wish to have the rebels conquered, and therefore hated an officer who was disposed to seek out the enemy and defeat him. These same enemies have followed him through all his career, no less since the war than during its continuance, only, as his reputation increased and he became firmly fixed in the affections of the people, their attacks have been more wary and insidious. Then there were others who detracted from his real [40] merits because they did not understand the man or his purposes, and were governed by the misrepresentations of his enemies.

To correct misrepresentations, or counteract the machinations of enemies, Grant never made any effort. Obedient to orders, faithful to his duties, aiming always to serve his country in any capacity, never jealous of his fellow-officers, and never insubordinate, he neither found time nor showed any desire to set himself right before the government or the country, except by his deeds, He did not, like some generals, take pains to keep his “communications with the press” open. He did not divulge his plans to newspaper correspondents, nor boast of what he was going to do or what he had done. He did not encourage toadyism, nor listen to flatterers. He was reserved, and kept his own counsels as far as possible. He was therefore only known by what he accomplished; and because his plans were not known before, it was supposed that his successes were simply accidental, or due to his subordinates.

General Badeau, in his admirable “Military history” of General Grant, says,

It is impossible to understand the early history of the war, without taking it into account that neither the government nor its important commanders gave Grant credit for intellectual ability or military genius.

His other qualities were also rated low. Because he was patient, some thought it impossible to provoke him; and because of his calmness, it was supposed he was stolid. In battle, or in campaigning, he did not seem to care or consider so much what the enemy was, doing, as what he himself meant to do; and this trait, [41] to enthusiastic and even brilliant soldiers, appeared inexplicable. A great commander, it was imagined, should be nervous, excitable, inspiring his men and captivating his officers; calling private soldiers by their names, making eloquent addresses in the field, and waving his drawn sword in battle. Great commanders had done all these things and won; and many men, who could do all these things, fancied themselves, therefore, great commanders. Others imagined wisdom to consist in science alone; they sought success in learned and elaborate plans, requiring months to develop, when the enemy was immediately before them; they manoeuvred when it was time to fight; they intrenched when they should have attacked, and studied books when the field should have been their only problem.

Grant was like none of these. If he possessed acquirements, he appeared unconscious of them; he made no allusions to the schools, and never hesitated to transgress their rules when the occasion seemed to him to demand it. So he neither won men's hearts by blandishments, nor affected their imaginations by brilliancy of behavior; nor did he seem profound to those who are impressed only by a display of learning.

But by his career, when uncontrolled by his superiors, he proved to these sceptics that he possessed both intellectual ability and military genius, and upset their preconceived notions of a great commander.

Grant did not have a very exalted opinion of “strategy” in the common acceptation of the word, though he was in fact a successful strategist and a master of grand tactics. [42]

“I don't believe in strategy in the popular under-standing of the term,” he once said to one of his officers. “I use it to get up just as close to the enemy as is practicable with as little loss as possible.”

“And what then?” asked the officer.

“Then? ‘up, guards, and at 'em!’ ” replied Grant, with more than his usual animation. And that was a fair general statement of his style of campaign.

Among those who early appreciated, if they did not do full justice to Grant's capacity, was Hon. Edwin M. Stanton, secretary of war, who thoroughly believed in Grant's “strategy” of seeking out the enemy and striking him. In a public announcement of the victory at Fort Donelson, he said that “the true organization of victory and military combination to end this war was declared by General Grant's message to General Buckner: ‘I propose to move immediately on your works.’ ” Possibly the implied rebuke to certain other commanders, contained in this, served to add to the prejudice of some against Grant. Mr. Stanton, however, never saw reason to change his estimate of Grant, and gave him the heartiest support through the war, till out of their official relations arose a cordial friendship.

General Sherman was another who was not slow to appreciate Grant's merits. He was in command at Cairo when the battle of Fort Donelson occurred, and labored with great zeal to send forward troops and supplies. He warmly. congratulated Grant on his victory and his deserved promotion. To this Grant replied in a manner which shows his modesty, his generosity, and his patriotism: “I feel under many obligations to you for the kind terms of your letter, and [43] hope that, should an opportunity occur, you will earn for yourself that promotion which you are kind enough to say belongs to me. I care nothing for promotion so long as our arms are successful, and no political appointments are made.” The last words refer to the appointment of high officers from civil life, for political considerations alone, and not for military capacity, an instance of which Grant had already experienced. The friendship, which commenced with this correspondence, between these two distinguished officers is well known to the country. It has been of the most cordial character, free from all jealousy on the part of each, generous, self-sacrificing, and altogether worthy of these two.greatest commanders of the war.

The two men possess the most opposite qualities in many respects, Sherman being nervous, impulsive, and excitable, while Grant is cool, firm, and imperturbable. Professor Mahan, a tutor at West Point while both were there, compares Grant to a powerful low-pressure engine, which condenses its own steam and consumes its own smoke, and which pushes steadily forward and drives all obstacles before it; and likens Sherman to a high-pressure engine, which lets off both steam and smoke with a puff and a cloud, and dashes at its work with resistless vigor.

After the victory at Fort Donelson, General Halleck, who, if he did not entertain a positive dislike for Grant, was not disposed to give him the credit he deserved, and was inclined to find fault with him, censured him for going to Nashville,--which Grant did for the sake of better understanding the position of affairs,--and complained that he did not make reports. This censure [44] and complaint were utterly undeserved. But though Grant was thereby placed under a cloud for a time, and seemed likely to be superseded in his command of active operations, he made no complaint, but showed that subordination which he knew was essential to the service, and manifested his readiness to do all in his power for the good of the cause, and to carry out the orders of his superior. “I have done my very best to obey orders,” he wrote, “and to carry out the interests of the service. If my course is not satisfactory, remove me at once. I do not wish in any way to impede the success of our arms.” Unselfish and patriotic, he had no thought for himself, but only for the cause. Finding that he was misrepresented by secret enemies, and still censured, he repeatedly asked to be relieved from duty until he could be placed right in the estimation of those higher in authority. But Halleck at last perceived that the country could not spare so true and subordinate an officer, and wrote to him, “Instead of relieving you, I wish you, as soon as your new army is in the field, to assume the immediate command, and lead it on to new victories.” This was enough, and Grant at once showed his readiness, in spite of all calumnies, to “give every effort to the success of the cause.” Halleck also made explanations to the War Department, which relieved Grant from the censure to which his (Halleck's) previous despatches had given rise.

Grant was thus justified by his own acts, as well as by the judgment of all true soldiers, on the only occasion when his conduct was called in question at Washington; though his unselfish patriotism was subjected to yet further trials by his immediate superior. He had [45] already been appointed to the command of the District of West Tennessee, and when relieved from his unmerited disgrace, assumed command of the forces which were moving up the Tennessee, and the advance of which was encamped at Pittsburg Landing, awaiting reinforcements. The rebels, alarmed at the movements in Tennessee, were concentrating large forces at Corinth, Miss., and Buell was ordered to march from Nashville with forty thousand men to support Grant. The latter intended, as soon as these troops arrived, to advance on Corinth. But Buell's movements were slow, and the rebels determined to attack Grant's army before it was reinforced; and accordingly they advanced from Corinth, sixty thousand strong.

The position of the Union army at Pittsburg Landing was not selected by Grant, but by Smith before the former resumed command. It was naturally a good one, and it only required intrenchments to make it entirely safe till the time for an advance; but the western armies had not then learned the use of the pick and shovel. Grant made every effort to hurry forward the troops coming up from Cairo, and urged Buell to hasten on also. But the enemy, after various threatening movements, made their attack when the latter was a day's march away, and seemed in no great haste to reach the. Tennessee, where he would be a subordinate.

The limits of this work will not allow the giving of the details of the battle of Shiloh, or of any of Grant's campaigns, but simply the narration of some of the leading events which show the ability and character of the general himself. Grant's headquarters were at Savannah, [46] and he was preparing to go in search of Buell; but as soon as the attack was made, on the morning of April 6th, he hastened to the field, despatching an urgent message to Buell, and promptly making all the provision possible for the support of the troops already engaged. He anticipated the call for ammunition, and when cartridges were wanted they were already at hand, and a constant supply maintained. He was in all parts of the field, advising and commending his subordinates, constantly under fire, cool, energetic, and making unwearied exertions to maintain his position. At times he was vigorously engaged in sending deserters back to their regiments, and in organizing temporarily the numerous fugitives who crowded to the river with exaggerated stories of disaster. He sent again and again for Buell's advance to hurry forward, and for Lewis Wallace to hasten from Crump's Landing. But Buell's advance, slow to move, was yet a long way off, and Wallace strangely mistook the road, and did not arrive. Confident that with these reinforcements he could defeat the enemy, Grant held on with a tenacity which alone saved the day. The Union line was forced back more than a mile, but it was nowhere pierced. The enemy made desperate attacks; but the Union troops, encouraged by such officers as Grant and Sherman, fought like veterans, although many were new levies, and showed the dogged obstinacy which their commander seemed to inspire. The last desperate attacks upon the left of the Union line were met with such firmness, that the rebels were repeatedly thrown back until exhausted. At this time Buell's advance, under General Nelson, arrived, and some of [47] his regiments were placed in position; but the enemy made only a feeble renewal of their efforts. The day had been saved by Grant's obstinate resistance, and not by the arrival of Buell's troops.

But all day, while the battle raged, the banks of the river had been crowded with stragglers from the front, some slightly wounded, some never in the battle, but all full of stories of surprise, overwhelming forces, terrible disasters, horrible slaughter, and all the exaggerations of men unused to battle, and of cowards who deserted their posts. Seen from the rear, it looked as if the contest was resulting in utter and irreparable defeat; and colored by these unworthy and untrue reports, the country was made to see the first day's battle at Shiloh as a disaster, which was only saved from utter completeness by Buell's arrival. Buell himself, who arrived in advance of his troops, apparently took a similar view, and as soon as he met Grant inquired, “What preparations have you made for retreating, general?” But he was quickly interrupted by Grant, who exclaimed, with firmness, “I haven't despaired of whipping them yet!” He knew how the brave men at the front were resisting the enemy, and he knew that if he held out through that day, the victory could be won the next, and so he never thought of retreat. Such was his determined spirit in all his campaigns, and in all his battles.

After the battle, it is said — though the anecdote is not so authentic as the above statement — that Buell, in criticising the position of Grant's army, with the Tennessee in their rear, again recurred to the question of retreat, and asked, “Where would you have retreated, general, if beaten?” [48]

“I didn't intend to be beaten,” was Grant's reply.

“But suppose, in spite of all your efforts, you had been defeated?”

“Well, there were the transports.”

“But all your transports would not carry more than ten thousand men, and you had forty thousand.”

“Well,” replied Grant, “they would have been sufficient for all that would have been left of us.”

As soon as the rebels showed signs of exhaustion in their last efforts against his left, Grant was giving orders to assume the offensive on the morrow. He believed that, as at Fort Donelson, the condition of either side was such that the party first attacking would be successful. He would then have at least one division of Buell's army, and Wallace's division, to strengthen him, and he was confident of success. His preparations were made promptly and decisively. His shattered brigades were reorganized, stragglers were returned to their places, and ample supplies brought up. Buell's army, as it arrived, was placed in position on the left, and Wallace's division on the right, and by early morning the new line was formed. Grant gave his orders personally to each division commander, and after completing his plans, he lay down on the ground, with the stump of a tree for a pillow, and slept soundly in spite of the raging storm. The attack was made this time by the Union troops, and the rebels were beaten back. The battle was severe, though not so fierce as on the previous day. The rebels retired slowly, but were at last driven from the field, and retreated rapidly towards Corinth. Grant's plans were carried out, and he was ever active on the field in [49] directing new movements. Seeing a portion of his line, in front of an important position, struggling unsuccessfully and about to give way, he ordered up an Ohio regiment, which was passing not far distant, and him-self led them to support the wavering troops. Recognizing, their general, these men charged with great enthusiasm, while he shared their exposure, and encouraged them with his presence. The wavering troops also recognized him, and closing up their ranks, they joined, with loud cheers, in the charge, which drove the enemy from their position, and achieved the final success of the contest.

Jealousy and ignorance would again have deprived Grant of the honor of victory. He was supposed to have been hopelessly defeated the first day, and the success of the second day was supposed to be due to Buell and his army. But neither was true, as all official records, of both the Union and rebel forces, and the testimony of unprejudiced soldiers, show. Moreover, had the army of General Buell been as ready to endure and persist as were General Grant's own troops, the victory would have been more complete. But Buell's officers considered their men too much exhausted to pursue the routed foe; and the real victory, which Grant desired to achieve, was thus lost. But what was accomplished is due to the ability and persistency of Grant.

General Halleck, seeing his subordinates winning the laurels of the war, grew somewhat restive; and having formed a grand strategical plan — of the campaign, desired naturally to assume command of his forces in the field. He did so, and superseded Grant, who, [50] though nominally second in command, was practically ignored, and placed in a very awkward and unpleasant position. The misrepresentations of jealousy and ignorance had their effect upon Halleck, and he seemed to believe that Grant had hopelessly failed at Shiloh.1 The latter was not consulted, and orders were issued by Halleck direct to the corps commanders, instead of being sent through Grant. The spade and pick were now brought into requisition, as if in contrast to the only omission of Grant in taking position at Pittsburg Landing. For weeks the grand army under Halleck was throwing up breastworks, advancing a short distance and again throwing up breastworks, till it had dug its way almost into Corinth, advancing fifteen miles in six weeks. The rebels meanwhile were equally busy in erecting defences at Corinth.

To some able officers, and among them General Grant, it appeared that there was a surer and quicker way of carrying the rebel position, and defeating the rebel army before it escaped. But when Grant ventured to suggest it, Halleck scouted it in an insulting manner. Grant had hitherto borne his disagreeable position with patience and entire subordination, as became a good soldier and a patriotic, unselfish man, trusting that time would bring all things right. But this indignity was almost past bearing. He felt it keenly, and was much depressed; but he showed no insubordination, made no complaints, and sought no sympathy from his fellow-officers, [51] which might have affected the efficiency of the army. He simply remarked to his chief of staff that Halleck had deeply wronged him.

One day General Sherman bolted into Grant's tent, and found him suffering under his sense of wrong. He inquired the cause of this unusual manifestation of feeling. Grant then, for the first time, spoke at length of his position, and the indignities he had suffered, and concluded by saying, “The truth is, I am not wanted here. The country has no further use for me, and I am about to resign and go home.”

“No, you are not!” replied Sherman, in his nervous and impatient manner; “you are going to do nothing of the sort. The country has further need of you, and you must stay here and do your duty, in spite of these petty insults.”

Sherman's earnest manner, generous sympathy, and cheering words prevailed with Grant, and encouraged him to stay. Fortunate was it for the country, that at this critical moment of his career Grant had so appreciative, true, and outspoken a friend.

When Corinth was evacuated by the rebels, and entered by the Union troops after their six weeks of fruitless toil, it was apparent that Grant's plan would have secured the capture not only of Corinth, but the greater part of the rebel army. The inefficient pursuit which followed, under the direction of Buell, assumed the form of seventy thousand men acting on the defensive, against twenty thousand rebels retreating from them! This barren issue of the “siege of Corinth” served to distract attention from the alleged mistakes of Shiloh, and Grant was no longer subject to the [52] calumnies which had been heaped upon his capacity as a general, and his habits as a man.

Halleck was soon after called to Washington as general-in-chief, and Grant resumed his former command; not, however, till Halleck had offered it to Colonel Robert Allen, a quartermaster, who had the good sense to decline it. Buell's army had already gone towards Chattanooga, and Grant's army was still further depleted by the departure of four divisions to reinforce the former. Grant was, therefore, compelled to act entirely on the defensive, an irksome duty for him; and his task was the difficult one of guarding several important points against an enemy who could readily concentrate at any one of them a force equal to his entire command. He strengthened the defences of Corinth, while he narrowly watched the threatening movements of the rebels, and proved himself active and prudent in a defensive campaign, though his genius was for offensive operations. He would have defeated the rebels at Iuka if his plans had been carried out; but Rosecrans, who commanded one of the columns moving against the enemy at that place, was slower than he promised to be, which caused a necessary detention of the other column, under Ord, and communication being difficult, the attacks were not well timed. The enemy effected his retreat by a road which Rosecrans was expressly ordered to hold, but which he failed to occupy.

Afterwards the rebels, combining their forces, attacked Corinth, to which place Grant had hurried Rosecrans, and made other provisions for its defence. With the aid of the strengthened fortifications Rosecrans [53] made a gallant defence, and repulsed the enemy with heavy loss; but he failed to pursue the demoralized forces of the rebels until it was too late. Grant was somewhat chagrined at this, for his plans always contemplated the prompt following up of a success until its full benefits were reaped. The result, however, was advantageous to the Union cause, and Grant's district was relieved from apprehensions of a renewal of important movements on the part of the enemy. For the defence of Corinth Rosecrans received deserved commendation; but more was due to Grant than partial observers allowed. His were the plans by which success was achieved, and had they been carried out, would have resulted in a more complete victory.

1 General Badeau's excellent work, “The military history of Ulysses S. Grant,” throws new light on this battle, and shows, by official documents and the testimony of General Sherman and others, that Grant not only did not fail, but that he was entitled to the highest honor for his ability and persistency.

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