« PreviousContinue »
General Sherman to Wade Hampton. HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, IN THE FIELD, February 24, 1865. GENERAL: It is officially reported to me that our foraging parties are murdered after capture, One inand labelled "Death to all foragers." stance of a lieutenant and seven men near Chesterville, and another of twenty, "near a ravine eighty rods from the main road," about three miles from Feastersville, I have ordered a similar number of prisoners in our hands to be disposed of in like manner.
I hold about a thousand prisoners, captured in various ways, and can stand it as long as you, but I hardly think these murders are committed with your knowledge, and would suggest that you give notice to the people at large that every life taken by them simply results in the death of one of your confederates.
cuted at once two of yours, giving, in all cases,
In reference to the statement you make regard-
Of course you cannot question my right to "forage on the country." It is a war-right as old as history. The manner of exercising it varies with circumstances, and if the civil authorities will supply my requisitions I will forbid all foraging. But I find no civil authorities who can respond to calls for forage or provisions, therefore must collect directly of the people. I have no doubt this is the occasion of much behavior on the part of our men, but I cannot permit an enemy to judge, or punish with wholesale murder.
Personally I regret the bitter feelings engendered by this war; but they were to be expected; and I simply allege that those who struck the first blow, and made war inevitable, ought not, in fairness, to reproach us for the natural consequences. I merely assert our warright to forage, and my resolve to protect my foragers to the extent of life for life.
I am, with respect,
W. T. SHERMAN,
Commanding Cavalry Forces, C. S. A.
Wade Hampton to General Sherman.
HEADQUARTERS IN THE FIELD,
Before dismissing this portion of your
It is a
You are particular in defining and claiming war-rights." May I ask if you enumerate among these the right to fire upon a defenceless city without notice; to burn that city to the ground after it had been surrendered by the protection which is always accorded in civilized inhabitants, who claimed, though in vain, that warfare to non-combatants; to fire the dwellinghouses of citizens after robbing them, and to perpetrate even darker crimes than thesecrimes too black to be mentioned.
You have permitted, if you have not ordered, the commission of these offences against humanYou fired into the ity and the rules of war. city of Columbia without a word of warning, after its surrender by the mayor, who demanded protection to private property; you laid the whole city in ashes, leaving amidst its ruins thousands of old men and helpless women and children, who are likely to perish of starvation and exposure. Your line of march can be traced by the lurid light of burning houses; and in more than one household there is an agony far more bitter than that of death. The Indian scalped his victim regardless of age or sex, but with all his barbarity he always respected the persons of his female captives. Your soldiers, more savage than the Indian, insult those whose In conclusion, I have only to request that 'murdered" natural protectors are absent. whenever you have any of my men or "disposed of "-for the terms seem synonymous with you-you will let me hear of it, that I may know what action to take in the matter.
GENERAL PLEASONTONS NARRATIVE.
To the Honorable B. F. Wade, Chairman of the
The first most important and prominent step in the prosecution of the war, and one whose consequences were felt to the end, was the defective and injurious organization given to the Army of the Potomac in the winter of 1861-62. It was most unfortunate, that with the finest men and material ever furnished to any army of the world, that army should have been organized with so little reference to the rules of war governing the organization of armies.
could not have been removed by twenty thou sand cavalry, properly supported by that army
So little interest was taken in the organiza tion, support, and efficiency of the cavalry, that it became more of a farce than the earnest effort to create an important arm to advance against the enemy.
I served with the Army of the Potomac from October, 1861, until March, 1864, in the various capacities of regimental, brigade, division, and corps commander of cavalry. My constant theme was the proper increase and organization of the cavalry, and from what has since been done I am confirmed in the opinion formed at that time, that if the proper steps had been taken that winter of 1862, a superb cavalry corps could have been organized by the spring; in which event the Peninsula campaign, one of the bad consequences resulting from the neglect of the cavalry, would not have been forced on us. McClellan dreaded the rebel cavalry, and supposed that by placing his army on a peninsula, with a deep river on each side, he was safe from that arm of the enemy; but the humiliation on the Chickahominy of having a few thousand of the enemy's cavalry ride completely round his army, and the ignominious retreat to Harrison's Landing, are additional instances in support of the maxim that a General who disregards the rules of war finds himself overwhelmed by the consequences of such neglect when the crisis of battle follows.
The highest military authorities have laid While the cavalry arm was thus neglected down, that in the proper organization of an in the organization of the army, the infantry army, the cavalry should form one fourth to one force, which was upward of one hundred and sixth of the infantry which compose it. This thirty thousand men, was kept in divisions unrelation of the cavalry to the infantry is so im- til the army entered the field in the spring, portant, in consequence of the necessary duties when the corps formation was adopted; but so assigned to each in time of war, that it may indiffierently, however, that the command of the fairly be said no army is fit to take the field corps fell upon officers of no higher grade than unless these two arms are properly organized, that of Brigadier-General. This carelessness of and bear the proper proportion to each other assignment, by rendering every high officer unwith respect to numbers. And it is also a strong certain of the position he held, was a fruitful fact, which the war has demonstrated, that the source of the jealousies and dissensions that more closely these proportions are observed afterward occurred among the commanders in throughout the campaign, the greater will be this army, and which did so much to retard and the success, and the greater will be the confi- frustrate the best-devised plans that were dence reposed by the troops of the different attempted to be executed, and taken in connecarms in each other, which greatly tends to lighten tion with the useless superabundance of artiltheir most arduous duties. It is a vicious organ-lery with which at that time the army was supization that requires the infantry to supply the deficiencies of service, for want of sufficient cavalry, or the reverse; or that imposes upon a small body of cavalry the arduous and ruinous service that should only be borne by thrice their numbers.
With eighty thousand cavalry on the payrolls of the country in the winter of 1862, the Army of the Potomac was kept so deplorably deficient in cavalry as to be unable to ascertain what the enemy were doing at Fairfax and Manassas-were unable to raise the blockade of the Potomac; and the rebels had finally moved away from those places in the spring, before our army had started in pursuit.
Does any one now assert that those obstacles
plied, and which was without higher organization than that of the battery, added to the other causes mentioned, prevented that unity of action, compactness, confidence, mobility, courage, energy and enterprise, in the army, which is so essential in the prosecution of successful warfare.
General Hooker was the first commander of the Army of the Potomac to exhibit a correct appreciation of organization in an army. He consolidated and increased his cavalry, organized them into a corps, supplied them with artillery, and was rewarded by some distinguished service, that made the march of his army a triumph from Falmouth to Frederick City.
The campaign of Gettysburg which he commenced so brilliantly, was afterward conducted by his successor with such results as to produce the deepest mortification throughout the country. The doubt, hesitation, and fear of consequences displayed by General Meade was in striking contrast to the heroic valor 80 constantly and stubbornly exhibited by the army. Never did the cavalry, though few in numbers for the labors assigned them, perform more brilliant and successful deeds of arms than those which, after the battle of Gettysburg, brought to bay a shattered, baffled and beaten army at Falling Waters, on the banks of the Potomac, in July, 1863! The army was eager for the attack, they knew the end of the rebellion was within their grasp, but their commander, General Meade, receiving no inspiration from their genius, only held them back until the enemy had escaped. The same fear of consequences which animated General Meade, caused the army to fall back from Culpepper to Centreville, in the fall of 1863, when the rebels advanced and took from the campaign of Gettysburg whatever might have been claimed for it on the score of generalship, and the Mine Run campaign showed so plainly that General Meade was deficient in the qualities required for a commander, that it was not surprising to see Lieutenant-General Grant, a short time after, assume the personal direction of the Army of the Potomac.
It is a very important fact, that the numbers of the cavalry in that Army were then more nearly in the proper proportion to those of the infantry than at any other time in its history; and the noble record of the cavalry and of the Army, while under General Grant, can consequently be accepted as one of the results of observing that important principle of war-the proper organization of an army.
In reviewing this subject, it is well to observe that the success of the rebel army in Virginia, for the first two years of the war, was mainly due to its superior organization, and to the splendid corps of cavalry it was able to maintain. That army was not hampered with a surplus of artillery, and its numerous and efficient cavalry kept its commander well informed of our movements; but when the casualties of war reduced this cavalry faster than they could replace them which was the case in the campaigns of 1863-the Army was soon thrown upon the defensive, from which it was never after able to recover. We, then, deduce the following facts: that the Army of the Potomac was better organized in the later periods of the war than at the beginning; while the reverse was the case with the rebel army. The successes of either army bore a marked correspondence to its superior organization to that of its opponent, at the time of achievement. The question then recurs, could not the war have been much sooner closed by giving to the Army of the Potomac a proper organization at the beginning?
The Government should now decide this question; and if responded to in the affirmative, make the necessary corrections to prevent similar evils in our military system hereafter.
CAMPAIGN OF THE PENINSULA.
In the campaign of the Peninsula I commanded the Second regiment of United States cavalry, until the Army arrived at Harrison's landing, when I was made a Brigadier-General of volunteers, and commanded a brigade of cavalry in the second action at Malvern Hill, on the fifth of August, 1862, and also covered the withdrawal of the Army from the Peninsula.
Throughout this campaign there was a decided want of vigor in the conduct of the Army, and the first great mistake was made in permitting the rebels to occupy and reinforce Yorktown, before taking possession of it. Some thirty days' delay occurred in laying siege to Yorktown, when it might have been taken by assault the first few days after the Army arrived before it. At all events the importance of time at that period was such as to make an attempt worthy of a trial.
The time lost at Yorktown, and on the Chickahominy, gave the rebels an opportunity to gather their forces to defend Richmond; and the error committed in placing the Army on both sides of the Chickahominy enabled the enemy to cripple first our left wing on Fair Oaks and Seven Pines, and afterward our right wing at Mechanicsville and Gaines' Mill; and by the moral effect of these partial actions caused the Army to retreat to James river. There appeared no disposition throughout this campaign to bring the entire Army into action as an army: there was no controlling spirit so decidedly strong as to effect the necessary concert of action in the different portions of the Army, and as a consequence the battles that took place re sulted, from the enemy's successively massing heavier forces on our detached corps, which were outnumbered, beaten in detail, and compelled to retreat.
It has been claimed that more troops should have been furnished the Army for the purpose of taking Richmond; but the facts of the case do not support this assertion, as the troops that were in the Army were never all used, and fought in connection with, and in support of each other, as should have been done. To have increased these large masses, without material change in the manner of fighting them from that which had been adopted, would not have changed the ultimate result from what it was, and would have only added to the embarrassments which already existed.
Besides the causes already mentioned, there were numerous oversights and neglects, bearing upon discipline, and which also had a serious influence upon the success of the campaign. Very little was done to excite the energy, emulation, and enthusiasm of the troops, while some measures were adopted that had a decided tendency to diminish these necessary qualities in a
marked degree. At Yorktown, an order from the headquarters prohibited all music by bands, and all calls, by either drums or bugles; and they were not resumed until after the army had arrived at Harrison's landing.
When the large masses of men which composed the Army of the Potomac were moving among the swamps of the Chickahominy, without any of the enlivening sounds of martial music, or the various well-known calls of an army life, the effect was very depressing, and caused the soldiers to exaggerate the issue that required of them to lose the most agreeable part of their profession.
The army, however, had gone to the Peninsula very enthusiastic; the soldiers always earnest and faithful in the discharge of their duties, and although the field for the campaign had been badly selected, and there were numerous drawbacks to disappoint their hopes, there were also several occasions won by their valor, when a bold, determined, resolute commander could have forced the result to a successful issue.
CAMPAIGN OF ANTIETAM.
In this campaign I commanded the cavalry division of the army, and took the advance from Washington City through Maryland, and until the field of Antietam was reached, when I fought my command in front of the bridge leading from Keedysville to Sharpsburg, and held the centre of our army throughout the battle. The same mistakes were made in this campaign that characterized that of the Peninsula: the army was not moved with sufficient rapidity or vigor from the Peninsula, or through Maryland, and the enemy was again given time to prepare and concentrate. When the battle was delivered it was fought by detached commands, in such positions as to be unable to give or receive assistance from each other. Hooker, Franklin, and Sumner's corps were on the right, too distant to receive support from the rest of the forces, while Burnside's force was on the left, at least three miles from where my command was, without any troops being between us, and with Antietam creek, which was not fordable, behind
Fitz John Porter's corps was behind my position, a mile and a half on the opposite side of Antietam creek, as a reserve, but it was never brought into action except in small squads.
Notwithstanding the disadvantages our army labored under from these arrangements, a decisive victory could have been won at four o'clock on the afternoon of the seventeenth of September, if a strong attack had been made on Sharpsburg from our centre. My command had cleared the enemy from my front, and were in high spirits, while the stubborn fighting of the army generally had told fearfully upon the rebels. I therefore recommended this attack, and request ed to be permitted to take the initiative in it. The proposition was not approved and I was directed to hold the position I then had. The enemy were then so far off, falling back, my
guns could not reach them, and the battle ended so far as my command was concerned. On the next day, the army was not permitted to advance, and on the nineteenth the enemy had crossed the Potomac and escaped. The rebel army had suffered so much more than ours in this campaign, and their ammunition was so much exhausted, that I was convinced a rapid and energetic pursuit would have routed them, if it had not caused Lee himself to surrender. Colonel Davis, of the Eighth New York cavalry, had, before the battle, destroyed all the ammunition belonging to Longstreet's corps, and the heavy demands of the fight had nearly exhausted the supply for the rest of their army. This, with the disappointment of the rebel soldiers at the failure of their enterprise to invade Pennsylvania, were advantages which should not have been thrown away.
Another opportunity for success was offered when the army was at Warrenton, in the fall of 1862. The rebel force was then divided. Longstreet, and A. P. Hill, with their corps, being at Culpepper, while Stonewall Jackson and D. H. Hill were in the Shenandoah valley, at Front Royal.
By crushing Longstreet at Culpepper, the army would cripple that of the rebels, and would cut it off from Richmond. Culpepper should have been occupied. It was at this time that General Burnside assumed command of the army, and unfortunately decided to march on Fredericksburg.
THE FREDERICKSBURG CAMPAIGN.
The details of that campaign have already been so thoroughly examined by your honorable committee, as to leave nothing to be said in reference to it except, perhaps, that the cavalry bore no prominent part in it.
CAMPAIGN OF CHANCELLORSVILLE.
In this campaign, my command was the First cavalry division of the Army of the Potomac, the First brigade of which, during the battle, was with General Stoneman on his raid toward Richmond, in rear of Lee's army. With one brigade, I preceded the Eleventh and Twelfth corps as far as Chancellorsville. The movements of the Fifth, Eleventh, and Twelfth corps across the Rappahannock and Rapidan rivers were very fine and masterly, and were executed with such secrecy that the enemy were not aware of them. For, on the thirtieth of April, 1863, I captured a courier from General Lee, commanding the rebel army, bearing a despatch from General Lee to General Anderson, and written only one hour before, stating to General Anderson he had just been informed we had crossed in force, when, in fact, our three corps had been south of the Rapidan river the night previous, and were then only five miles from Chancellorsville.
The brilliant success of these preparatory movements, I was under the impression, gave General Hooker au undue confidence as to his
being master of the situation, and all the neces-
one of my regiments to charge the woods from
Dusk was now rapidly approaching, with an
In the third day's fight at Chancellorsville, General Hooker was badly stunned by the concussion of a shell against a post near which he In an instant an aide-de-camp galloped out to was standing, and from which he did not recover sufficiently during the battle to resume the proper command of the army. The plan of this ascertain the truth, when a withering fire of campaign was a bold one, and was more judi- musketry was opened on us by this very gallant cious than was generally supposed, from the foe, who now dropped our ensign, displayed large force General Hooker had at his com- ten or twelve rebel battle-flags, and with loud mand. There is always one disadvantage, how-yells charged the guns. I then gave the comever, attending the sending off of large detach- mand," Fire !" and the terrible volley, delivered ments near the day of battle. War is such an at less than two hundred yards' distance, caused uncertain game, it can scarcely be expected the thick, moving masses of the enemy to stagthat all of the details in the best-devised plans ger, cease from yelling, and for a moment diswill meet with success, and unless a general is continue their musket fire; but they were in prepared and expects to replace at once, by new such numbers, had such an indomitable leader, combinations, such parts of his plans as fail, he and they had so great a prize within their reach, will be defeated in his campaign; and as these that they soon rallied, and came on again with changes are often rapid, he cannot include his increased energy and force, to be met by the ardistant detachments in his new plans with any tillery, served well and rapidly, and with such certainty, and the doubt their absence creates advantage that the rebels were never able to reduces the army he can depend on to the ac- make a permanent lodgement at the guns, which This fight lasted about an hour, tual number of men he has in hand. If Gen- many of their adventurous spirits succeeded in eral Hooker had not been injured at the com- reaching. mencement of the final battle, I am not certain when a final charge was made and repulsed. It was at this time that General Jackson was his splendid fighting qualities would not have when they sullenly retired to the woods. won for him the victory. It was in this battle that, with three regiments of cavalry and twen-mortally wounded; and as the rebel authorities ty-two pieces of artillery, I checked the attack of the rebel General Stonewall Jackson, after he had routed the Eleventh corps.
have published that he had been killed by his strong a character as to refute this statement. own men, I shall mention some facts of so
Soon after the last attack, I captured some of the rebel soldiers in the woods, and they told me it was Jackson's corps that had made this fight; that Jackson himself had directed it, and had been mortally wounded, and that their loss was very heavy.
Jackson had been moving his corps of twenty-five or thirty thousand men through the woods throughout the day of the second of May, 1863, from the left to the right of our ariny, and about six o'clock in the evening he I have since met rebel officers who were then struck the right and rear of the Eleventh corps with one of those characteristic attacks that made the rebel army so terrible when he was engaged, and they corroborated the above statebelieved by Jackson's men that he had been with it, and which was lost to them in his ment, and they added that it was known and death. In a very short time he doubled up the Elev-mortally wounded by our fire. Again, one of my enth corps into a disordered mass, which soon sought safety in flight.
My command of three cavalry regiments and one battery of six guns happened to be near this scene, and perceiving at a glance that if this rout was not checked the ruin of the whole army would be involved I immediately ordered
own officers, who had been taken prisoner in that engagement, told me, after he was exchanged, that he had been taken up to Jackson soon after his capture; that Jackson questioned him about our force, and that he was then not far from our lines. This clearly proves that Jack son was on the field in command, and had not.