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Chapter 6:

    • Appointed Major General in the regular army.
    • -- his military genius developed by the war. -- his comprehensive ideas of the rebellion. -- a true Representation of the policy of the government. -- a believer in emancipation. -- an opponent of trade with the rebels. -- speculators and illegal Traders at a Discount. -- recognized as a great leader and “the coming man.” -- Grant's plans after the capture of Vicksburg. -- the necessity of postponing them. -- Visits New Orleans. -- Accident and injury. -- critical position of Rosecrans. -- Grant called to Cairo. -- Meets Secretary Stanton. -- New and important command. -- confidence of the government. -- Assumes command. -- affairs at Chattanooga. -- Grant's prompt and energetic preparations. -- journey to Chattanooga. -- triumph of will over physical weakness and difficulties. -- extent of his command. -- energy and administrative ability. -- Chattanooga relieved, and the army encouraged. -- Burnside. -- Grant's purpose to attack Bragg. -- impatient of delays. -- the battle of Chattanooga. -- fought directly under Grant's orders. -- his headquarters. -- the crisis and the charge. -- Grant's confidence.--“They'll do it.” -- the victory. -- Grant at the front. -- his Watchfulness. -- complete defeat of the enemy. -- pursuit.--“one of the most remarkable battles in history.” -- recognition of Grant's services. -- modesty of the great republican soldier.

Soon after the capture of Vicksburg, and in recognition of his distinguished services, Grant was appointed a Major General in the regular army, his commissions hitherto having been in the volunteers. With his characteristic generous regard for his subordinates, he recommended many of them for promotion; and Sherman and McPherson were, at his request, appointed brigadier generals in the regular army. All [73] Grant's promotions had been won by merit and eminent services. He had risen in rank without personal or political influence, and in spite of the opposition and prejudices of men whose opinions essentially controlled the government.

The war had gradually developed his military capacity, and he had grown in his abilities with each new difficulty and each new campaign. Already the most successful and the ablest general in the Union army, in the coming campaigns he was destined to surpass himself, and to secure still more the gratitude and admiration of his country and the respect of all the world.

General Grant had grown not only in military capacity, but he had grown more comprehensive in his ideas of the rebellion. In all the army the government had no better representative of its policy. For Grant had always shown the most exact subordination, and declared his purpose to be, to carry out in all cases the orders of his superiors. He had learned what the rebellion was, and he had learned that it was necessary to deal with it with the utmost rigor. Never having been an abolitionist, he yet had learned that slavery was the cause, the object, and the strength of the rebellion, and he not only felt no scruples in striking it down, but earnestly carried out the emancipation policy. He did not hesitate to avow, still more decidedly than by passive obedience to orders, his sentiments on this subject, and in a letter to some loyal men of Memphis, who tendered him a public reception in 1863, he wrote, “I thank you, too, in the name of the noble army which I have the honor to command. It is composed [74] of men whose loyalty is proved by their deeds of heroism and their willing sacrifices of life and health. They will rejoice with me that the miserable adherents of the rebellion, whom their bayonets have driven from this fair land, are being replaced by men who acknozwledge human liberty as the only true foundation of human government.”

When the policy of enlisting negroes in the army was adopted by the government, he gave it his hearty support, and he was not slow to acknowledge the bravery and discipline of the colored troops, nor to secure to them the full rights of soldiers.

He gave his hearty concurrence and his ready obedience to all orders and every policy which was calculated to weaken or break down the rebellion. But to such orders as he believed would indirectly aid and strengthen the enemy, he frankly presented his objections; and thus he urged cogent reasons against the policy of opening trade with the rebels for the sake of cotton, though he declared, what was always his rule of action, “No theory of my own will ever stand in the way of executing in good faith any order I may receive from those in authority over me.”

Speculators seeking profit from indirect trade with the enemy found no favor at his hands, but were persistently excluded from his lines. It is related that he once even kicked out of his tent one of this class who had the audacity to attempt to bribe him by the offer of a share of the profits of such illicit trade. This scrupulous integrity and devotion to the cause undoubtedly made him enemies, who disparaged and calumniated him; but it proved him all the more [75] worthy of the love and respect of the people, and stamped him as an incorruptible patriot, to whom the highest trusts may be safely committed.

Grant was in truth the legitimate and complete product of the war, and after his triumph at Vicksburg began to be regarded as the man for the crisis. Hitherto the country had looked in vain for the great leader who should conduct to victory the grand army of men and the grand power of ideas furnished by the loyal North. One more campaign, another growth of power, another manifestation of military genius, another victory, and the government and people alike were ready to hail Ulysses S. Grant as the great captain raised up by Providence to be the deliverer of his country.

After the capture of Vicksburg, and the complete accomplishment of the purpose of the campaign, Grant suggested to the government an expedition against Mobile. He desired that his success should be promptly followed up by vigorous movements which should weaken and dispirit the rebels, and he considered Mobile as the next most important point of attack in the south-west, and at that time not very difficult to capture. His suggestions were no longer treated with contempt or indifference by Halleck, who joined him in wishing he had a sufficient force at his disposal to accomplish the purpose. But at this time England and France were meddling in the affairs of Mexico, and France was especially forward not only in crushing out Mexican republicanism, but in its propositions to mediate, or rather to interfere, in the contest between the government and the rebels. It was therefore deemed of much political importance [76] that a strong United States force should occupy the line of the Rio Grande, to check any hostile movement which France, under false pretences, might make into United States territory. This required the forces which would have been used against Mobile, and for these reasons Grant was obliged to abandon a movement which he believed desirable, and which under his direction would probably have met with early success. But he was called to take command of more important operations, and to win the more splendid victory at Chattanooga.

Having sent many of the troops with which he was temporarily reenforced back to their several departments, and having despatched others to reenforce Banks, Grant went to New Orleans to confer with the latter general. While in that city he was thrown from his horse at a review and severely injured. For a long time he was helpless; but he continued to direct the operations and movements of his command. Before he had recovered, he received urgent despatches from Halleck to send reenforcements to Rosecrans, who was at Chattanooga confronted by Bragg. The despatches to Grant were unaccountably delayed; but as soon as received, with his usual promptness he hurried forward the reenforcements under Sherman. But in the mean time Rosecrans had not proved equal to the task confided to him, and having suffered a severe repulse at Chickamauga, was shut up in Chattanooga, short of supplies and closely besieged. The government then determined to unite all the departments between the Alleghanies and the Mississippi in one grand division, as Grant had, many months before, suggested, though [77] he had then stated that he did not desire the command. Now, as the most successful and distinguished general in the army, he was naturally selected for-this new and extensive command.

On his way up the Mississippi he received a despatch ordering him, as soon as he was able to take the field, to go to Cairo with his staff. Though yet very weak, he arrived at Cairo on the 16th of October, and immediately reported that he was ready for duty. He was at once ordered to Louisville, where he met the Secretary of War, Mr. Stanton, who brought from Washington the orders creating the new department and appointing Grant to the command. The secretary also bore other orders, which gave the general full power over all the troops in his department, with authority to conduct the campaign according to his own plans. The whole proceeding showed how much confidence the government reposed in Grant, and how much they expected of his military capacity.

There were already rumors, unfounded, however, that Rosecrans was preparing to evacuate Chattanooga, a position of the utmost importance to hold; and it was feared, from the posture of affairs, that, if not abandoned, it would be captured, and thus a still greater disaster would follow the repulse at Chickamauga. Grant, therefore, at the desire of the government, at once assumed the command and sent forward orders, by telegraph, to prevent the deprecated movement, and to relieve Rosecrans.

There was need of prompt action. Rosecrans's army was closely besieged, and Bragg felt confident that he could soon starve him out and, compel a surrender. [78] The whole force was on half rations, and had scarcely ammunition enough for a single battle. Three thousand wounded soldiers lay in the camps, suffering and dying for the want of medical supplies. Ten thousand horses and mules had died for want of forage; and even had a retreat been contemplated, all artillery and baggage must be abandoned. From their elevated position on Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge the enemy was throwing shells into the town and the Union camps. The rebel forces, greatly increased and holding strong and commanding positions, were confident that they would soon possess and maintain this important strategic point, while the Union troops were daily becoming weaker and more dispirited.

Such was the condition of affairs when Grant assumed command. Besides the reenforcements which he had already ordered forward under Sherman, other troops were placed at his disposal, including the eleventh and twelfth corps from the army of the Potomac, under the command of General Hooker, and he was assured of the fullest support by the government. Although still lame and weak, Grant entered at once into the conduct of the campaign with his usual energy. He sent forward orders to hold Chattanooga at all hazards till he arrived, gave directions for Burnside's operations at Knoxville, prescribed the movements of reenforcements, ordered forward fresh provisions and medical supplies, studied the whole field, mastered its difficulties, and laid his plans. He hastened to Chattanooga as soon as possible over the precipitous mountain roads, which were rendered almost impassable by the heavy rain, but by which alone he could [79] reach that place. He moved with a small party on horseback, and in his weak physical condition only his strong will carried him through the difficult and dangerous journey. Often the entire party were obliged to dismount in order to pass some point of extreme difficulty and danger, and then Grant, unable to walk, was carried in the arms of soldiers. But his resolution carried him through, his mind all the time occupied with the great work before him, and framing orders and despatches to be sent to every part of his wide command and to the government, which was anxiously awaiting his action.

Grant's command extended a thousand miles, and comprised three armies, numbering about two hundred thousand men. The command was more extensive than that of any other general during the war; the operations of greater magnitude, the positions and the interests at stake more important, than had yet been intrusted to one man. And the condition of the army at Chattanooga, and the urgent necessity of the speediest action, made the command still more responsible and difficult; But Grant, in spite of his physical condition, which was but slowly improving, devoted himself to his great responsibility with the most untiring energy, and the most patient attention to all the countless details of opening communications, providing supplies, forwarding troops, watching the enemy, foiling his movements, and planning defence or attack. Every movement was made by his orders; his care of every department and of every position was wonderful, and his letters, orders, and despatches, sent daily, and almost hourly, to some part of his command or to [80] Washington, testify not only to the amount of his labors, but to his comprehensive generalship, his fidelity to every duty, and a remarkable administrative power, which qualifies him for the highest civil as well as military position. And all was done with his characteristic quiet and self-reliance, without haste or impatience, and without ostentation.

In five days after Grant's arrival at Chattanooga, communication with Nashville was opened, by dint of energy, skilful movements, and some sharp fighting, and supplies were brought in abundance to the army, which had been living on half rations. The soldiers thus relieved, regained their spirit and enthusiasm, and hailed Grant as a leader whom they were proud to serve under. With wondrous energy, aided by his able subordinates; Thomas and Hooker, he had changed the aspect of affairs, loosened the clutch of the enemy, brought up supplies, and secured the safety of Chattanooga. And this, so promptly done, was an augury of future movements and future success, by which the defeat at Chickamauga should be avenged.

The first and most important operation, the relief and safety of the army at Chattanooga, had been accomplished, but it must be followed promptly with a similar service for Burnside's army in East Tennessee. To this Grant also gave his personal attention, his first measure being to provide supplies for Burnside in his distant and not easily accessible position. This was followed by still more important measures, contemplating the relief of Burnside's army from the superior forces of the enemy. As soon as Bragg found himself foiled at Chattanooga, he sent Longstreet, with a large [81] force, to drive Burnside from East Tennessee. The government was exceedingly anxious to hold this section of country, not only on account of its strategic importance, but for the sake of the loyal inhabitants who had suffered the malignant persecution of the rebels. Grant was informed of the importance attached to this by the government, and appreciated the urgency of the case. But it was impossible to reenforce Burnside, for the latter had no supplies for additional troops, and there was no way of sending supplies; while to weaken the forces at Chattanooga would invite an attack on that place by Bragg's strong army. Grant therefore determined that the only way in which he could relieve Burnside was to attack the rebels before Chattanooga, and compel Longstreet to abandon his movement. For this purpose he was most anxious for the arrival of Sherman, without whose forces such an attack could not be made. But Sherman encountered many difficulties in moving his forces hundreds of miles through the enemy's country, and Grant was for once impatient, not at Sherman's delay, for he knew that was unavoidable, but lest he might be too late, and Burnside be captured or driven from East Tennessee. He urged the latter to maintain himself as long as possible, promising soon to relieve him by a movement at Chattanooga; and as Sherman's forces drew near, he several times issued orders for an attack, but was compelled to countermand them, for the very elements seemed to conspire to retard the movement of Sherman's column.

But at last the wished — for troops arrived, weary with their long and difficult march, but having all the toughness [82] and discipline of veterans, and the confidence and ardor of victors. By skilful movements, concealed from the enemy, Sherman's army was moved through Chattanooga and across the river to confront the rebel right. The rapidity and energy with which this movement was made, involving the constructiou of bridges and transportation of troops, artillery, and supplies, were worthy of the army which, under the prompt, vigorous, and persistent lead of Grant, had made the brilliant campaign of Vicksburg. Contrast the movements of this army, not only in that arduous campaign under Grant, but in its long and difficult march under Sherman from Memphis to Chattanooga, through swamps, across rivers, over mountains, fighting and skirmishing, with the slow progress of the army of the Potomac under McClellan up the Peninsula, where there were no serious obstacles! But there was a new order of things in the army now, and especially at the west; and Hooker, who had chafed at the delays and want of vigor in the Peninsular campaign, at Chattanooga found a general who gave him all he wanted to do, expected him to surmount stupendous difficulties and fight the enemy at the same time, and who would not pause when the golden moment for decisive action came, and say, This is all that was intended for the day.

The battle of Chattanooga was one of the most remarkable in the war, and indeed one of the most notable in modern history. Notwithstanding the great advantage of position the enemy enjoyed, and the difficult character of the ground, Grant so laid his plans, and they were so carried out by the skill of his subordinates [83] and the gallantry of their troops, that the rebel forces were compelled to move as. he desired, and if he had given the orders himself, their movements could not have been more consonant with his purpose. It is not necessary to give the details of the operations, or even to attempt a sketch of the brilliant movements, the gallant deeds, the splendid success of the Union army. The reader knows the story well,--how Hooker on the right, climbing the precipitous sides of Lookout Mountain, drove the enemy from point to point, from redan and rifle-pit, over cliff and boulder, till, fighting above the clouds, he planted the Stars and Stripes on the summit of the rugged mountain, and rolled back the rebel flank defeated; how Sherman on the left stormed with such energy the rebel right on Missionary Ridge, that Bragg was forced to send column after column from his centre to maintain his ground and protect his rear and stores; how, when the rebel centre was thus weakened, as by the very orders of Grant, he gave the word for the assault, and the gallant army of the Cumberland swept with irresistible force across the plain and up the steep and rugged hill, and fighting stubbornly against stubborn resistance, broke through the centre and planted their colors all along the ridge; how thus the victory began, and then the long line of Union troops with triumphant shouts pressed upon their dispirited foes, until Bragg's whole army was routed and flying before the victorious national arms. But it was no brief conflict or easily won success, for the battle lasted three days, and the victory was won only by skill, gallantry, persistency, and a heavy cost of life. [84]

No battle of equal magnitude was ever fought more directly under the orders of the commanding general. Grant's plans were complete and well-digested, and his orders to his subordinates were clear and explicit, looking to one result, but providing for emergencies. Those orders were carried out with precision and alacrity by his able subordinates, not only because Grant was their superior officer, but because they had entire confidence in his ability. On the second, and decisive day of the battle, the general established his headquarters with Thomas, on Orchard Knoll, from which the rebels had been driven the preceding day. It was well to the front, and thus he had a full view of the whole field of operations, from Lookout Mountain on the right, down whose sides Hooker was driving the rebel left, to the extreme of Missionary Ridge on the left, where Sherman was making his vigorous assault on the strong and obstinately defended positions of the rebel right. In his front lay Thomas's army of the Cumberland, waiting for the important crisis when they should be allowed to join in the conflict, and avenge their defeat at Chickamauga.

Smoking his cigar, Grant quietly but keenly watched the tide of battle, waiting for Hooker to get into the designated position, when he might order the attack on the centre. Sherman was having a difficult task, for Bragg, regarding his right as the key to his position, or believing that to be the main attack of the Union army, concentrated heavy forces there. Seeing Sherman had paused, Grant ordered another division to his support. The movement was seen by the enemy, and it had the effect desired by Grant. A strong column [85] was moved from the rebel centre to their right, and Grant, perceiving the opportunity for which he laid his plans, without waiting longer for Hooker, ordered the assault on the enemy's weakened centre. The troops eagerly obeyed the order, and advanced in splendid style towards the enemy's lines, utterly regardless of the heavy artillery fire which was poured into them. Without firing a gun, they charged with glistening bayonets through the enemy's first line, completely overwhelming it by their irresistible advance. Then they began to climb the steep and rugged sides of the ridge, met by a stout resistance, but steadily advancing their colors, struggling up the difficult ascent, and fighting with untiring energy and bravery.

While Grant and Thomas anxiously watched the progress of this assault, a portion of the line seemed to halt half way up the ridge, as if the troops there had met with an overpowering resistance, and the numbers of wounded men who straggled down the hill gave the appearance of a repulse. Thomas, though usually cool and collected in battle, was keenly alive to the importance of success at this crisis, and said, with much feeling and some hesitation as he watched,--

“General, I'm afraid they won't get up.”

But Grant, watching more narrowly for a few minutes, saw that the colors still advanced, though slowly, and knowing that the troops must be fatigued by the extraordinary exertions of their rapid charge, but still having full confidence in them and in the success of his plans, he replied in his usual quiet manner, still smoking his cigar,-- [86]

“O, give 'em time, general; they'll do it.”

And they did it. Mounting persistently up the steep ascent, they at last reached the summit, and drove the rebel centre in disorder from the field, capturing artillery and many prisoners. But as the brave troops reached the summit, Grant and Thomas mounted their horses and rode forward to the front. When they reached the ridge, the victory had been achieved, and the soldiers, wild with joy, greeted their commanders with enthusiastic cheers. Crowding around Grant, they grasped his hand and embraced his legs, and caressed his horse, till he was compelled to order them away. His eye was still upon the field, and he saw that some of the rebel troops which had gone to resist Sherman were turning to attack the victors at the centre. The “boys in blue” were in disorder from very joy for their victory, and there was danger that they would not soon enough rally to resist the threatened attack. Seeing this, Grant ordered up a brigade yet fresh and under discipline, and this being placed in position, the others also formed. The enemy, instead of attacking, retreated. The rebel left as well as centre had been utterly routed, nearly their whole force was flying panic-stricken, and the brilliant victory was won.

But Grant was not one to sit down and exult over what he had done while there was anything more to do. He immediately ordered pursuit, and himself followed to direct it. Bragg's defeated army retreated in all haste, or rather fled, much of it utterly demoralized, though a portion, at one or two points, offered a vigorous resistance to the pursuers. The [87] roads were strown with artillery and small arms, ammunition and baggage, and the wounded and stragglers were found in large numbers. No such utter defeat had been inflicted upon the rebel forces in any great battle of the war. At Antietam and Gettysburg the enemy had been worsted with heavy loss, and, his invasion thoroughly checked, he had retired suddenly, but in order, and choosing his own time. At Chattanooga the rebel army had been driven from a position of great natural strength, fortified with skill and defended with stubbornness, and, routed and. demoralized, it had been chased back with heavy losses into the heart of the rebel Confederacy.

As soon as the pursuit terminated on the day following the victory, Grant sent Sherman to East Tennessee to the. relief of Burnside, who had already repulsed Longstreet in a desperate assault at Knoxville. The approach of Sherman's forces caused Longstreet to retire, and Knoxville was left secure.

“Considering the strength of the rebel position,” says General Halleck, “and the difficulty of storming his intrenchments, the battle of Chattanooga must be regarded as one of the most remarkable in history.” And such is the testimony of other experienced and scientific soldiers at home and abroad. Without forgetting the gallant services of the officers and soldiers under him, the great glory of that splendid victory must be awarded to Grant, who came, fed, strengthened, and encouraged a besieged and dispirited army, and marshalled it for battle. To him the untiring director of all the operations, the vigorous mover and efficient feeder of troops, the able strategist and skilful [88] tactician, the persistent and confident commander, the country is indebted for that signal success which was the forerunner of other victories, and one of the severest blows to the rebel Confederacy.

The country recognized its obligations, and everywhere among the gallant soldiers and the loyal people the name of Grant was hailed with grateful joy. President Lincoln promptly sent him a telegram, in which he said, “I wish to tender you, and all under your command, my more than thanks, my profoundest gratitude, for the skill, courage, and perseverance with which you and they, over so great difficulties, have effected that important object. God bless you all.” Congress unanimously voted a resolution of thanks, and ordered a gold medal, commemorating the victory, to be presented to Grant by the President, “in the name of the people of the United States of America.”

But amid all the praise and admiration with which he was everywhere received by citizens and soldiers, and all the honors awarded by the government, he was never elated, and he assumed no superiority, but was always the same simple, honest, and unpretending man that he had been before he became the ablest and most successful general of his time,--a genuine republican soldier.

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Ulysses S. Grant (52)
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