Chapter 8: from the battle of Bull Run to Paducah--Kentucky and Missouri. 1861-1862.
And now that, in these notes, I have fairly reached the period of the civil war, which ravaged our country from 1861 to 1865--an event involving a conflict of passion, of prejudice, and of arms, that has developed results which, for better or worse, have left their mark on the world's history — I feel that I tread on delicate ground.
I have again and again been invited to write a history of the war, or to record for publication my personal recollections of it, with large offers of money therefor; all of which I have heretofore declined, because the truth is not always palatable, and should not always be told.
Many of the actors in the grand drama still live, and they and their friends are quick to controversy, which should be avoided.
The great end of peace has been attained, with little or no change in our form of government, and the duty of all good men is to allow the passions of that period to subside, that we may direct our physical and mental labor to repair the waste of war, and to engage in the greater task of continuing our hitherto wonderful national development.
What I now propose to do is merely to group some of my personal recollections about the historic persons and events of the day, prepared not with any view to their publication, but rather for preservation till I am gone; and then to be allowed
to follow into oblivion the cords of similar papers, or to be used by some historian who may need them by way of illustration.
I have heretofore recorded how I again came into the military service of the United States
as a colonel of the Thirteenth Regular Infantry, a regiment that had no existence at the time, and that, instead of being allowed to enlist the men and instruct them, as expected, I was assigned in Washington City
, by an order of Lieutenant-General Winfield Scott
, to inspection duty near him on the 20th of June, 1861.
At that time Lieutenant-General Scott
commanded the army in chief, with Colonel E. D. Townsend
as his adjutant-general, Major G. W. Cullum
, United States Engineers, and Major Schuyler Hamilton
, as aides-de-camp.
The general had an office upstairs on Seventeenth Street, opposite the War Department, and resided in a house close by, on Pennsylvania Avenue. All fears for the immediate safety of the capital had ceased, and quite a large force of regulars and volunteers had been collected in and about Washington
Brigadier-General J. K. Mansfield
commanded in the city, and Brigadier-General Irvin McDowell
on the other side of the Potomac
, with his headquarters at Arlington House.
His troops extended in a semicircle from Alexandria
to above Georgetown
Several forts and redoubts were either built or in progress, and the people were already clamorous for a general forward movement.
Another considerable army had also been collected in Pennsylvania
under General Patterson
, and, at the time I speak of, had moved forward to Hagerstown
, on the Potomac River
My brother, John Sherman
, was a volunteer aide-de-camp to General Patterson
, and, toward the end of June, I went up to Hagerstown
to see him. I found that army in the very act of moving, and we rode down to Williamsport
in a buggy, and were present when the leading division crossed the Potomac River
by fording it waist-deep.
My friend and classmate, George H. Thomas
, was there, in command of a brigade in the leading division.
I talked with him a good deal, also with General Cadwalader
, and with the staff-officers of General Patterson
, viz., Fitz-John Porter
, and others, all of whom
seemed encouraged to think that the war was to be short and decisive, and that, as soon as it was demonstrated that the General Government
meant in earnest to defend its rights and property, some general compromise would result.
's army crossed the Potomac River
on the 1st or 2d of July, and, as John Sherman
was to take his seat as a Senator in the called session of Congress, to meet July 4th, he resigned his place as aide-de-camp, presented me his two horses and equipment, and we returned to Washington
The Congress assembled punctually on the 4th of July, and the message of Mr. Lincoln
was strong and good: it recognized the fact that civil war was upon us, that compromise of any kind was at an end; and he asked for four hundred thousand men, and four hundred million dollars, wherewith to vindicate the national authority, and to regain possession of the captured forts and other property of the United States
It was also immediately demonstrated that the tone and temper of Congress had changed since the Southern Senators
and members had withdrawn, and that we, the military, could now go to work with some definite plans and ideas.
The appearance of the troops about Washington
was good, but it was manifest they were far from being soldiers.
Their uniforms were as various as the States and cities from which they came; their arms were also of every pattern and calibre; and they were so loaded down with overcoats, haversacks, knapsacks, tents, and baggage, that it took from twenty-five to fifty wagons to move the camp of a regiment from one place to another, and some of the camps had bakeries and cooking establishments that would have done credit to Delmonico.
While I was on duty with General Scott
, viz., from June 20th to about June 30th, the general frequently communicated to those about him his opinions and proposed plans.
He seemed vexed with the clamors of the press for immediate action, and the continued interference in details by the President
, Secretary of War
, and Congress.
He spoke of organizing a grand army of invasion, of which the regulars were to constitute the “iron column,” and seemed to intimate that he himself would take the
field in person, though he was at the time very old, very heavy, and very unwieldy.
His age must have been about seventy-five years.
At that date, July 4, 1861, the rebels had two armies in front of Washington
; the one at Manassas Junction
, commanded by General Beauregard
, with his advance guard at Fairfax Court-House, and indeed almost in sight of Washington
The other, commanded by General Joe Johnston
, was at Winchester
, with its advance at Martinsburg
and Harper's Ferry
; but the advance had fallen back before Patterson
, who then occupied Martinsburg
and the line of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.
The temper of Congress and the people would not permit the slow and methodical preparation desired by General Scott
; and the cry of “On to Richmond
which was shared by the volunteers, most of whom had only engaged for ninety days, forced General Scott
to hasten his preparations, and to order a general advance about the middle of July.
was to move from the defenses of Washington, and Patterson
In the organization of McDowell
's army into divisions and brigades, Colonel David Hunter
was assigned to command the Second Division, and I was ordered to take command of his former brigade, which was composed of five regiments in position in and about Fort Corcoran, and on the ground opposite Georgetown
I assumed command on the 30th of June, and proceeded at once to prepare it for the general advance.
My command constituted the Third Brigade of the First Division, which division was commanded by Brigadier-General Daniel Tyler
, a graduate of West Point
, but who had seen little or no actual service.
I applied to General McDowell
for some staff-officers, and he gave me, as adjutant-general, Lieutenant Piper
, of the Third Artillery, and, as aide-de-camp, Lieutenant McQuesten
, a fine young cavalry-officer, fresh from West Point
I selected for the field the Thirteenth New York, Colonel Quimby
; the Sixty-ninth New York, Colonel Corcoran
; the Seventy-ninth New York, Colonel Cameron
; and the Second Wisconsin, Lieutenant-Colonel Peck
These were all good,
strong, volunteer regiments, pretty well commanded; and I had reason to believe that I had one of the best brigades in the whole army.
's battery of the Third Regular Artillery was also attached to my brigade.
The other regiment, the Twenty-ninth New York,