From: Los Angeles
150 Years Ago Today:
Although just the day before, U. S. Grant had wired that "I deem it of the utmost importance to drive Longstreet out immediately", on this date he changed his mind. General Foster had been relieved in eastern Tennessee by John Schofield, but before he went Foster had talked with Grant and brought up some of the problems with attacking the Confederates in the area. Grant thought it over and agreed, and sent out the appropriate telegram to Washington:
General,—I have got General Thomas ready to move a force of about fourteen thousand infantry into East Tennessee to aid the force there in expelling Longstreet from the State. He would have started on Monday night if I had not revoked the order. My reasons for doing this are these: General Foster, who is now here (or left this morning), says that our possession of the portion of East Tennessee is perfectly secure against all danger. The condition of the people within the rebel lines cannot be improved now after losing all they had. Longstreet, where he is, makes more secure other parts of our possessions. Our men, from scanty clothing and short rations, are not in good condition for an advance. There are but very few animals in East Tennessee in condition to move artillery or other stores. If we move against Longstreet with an overwhelming force he will simply fall back towards Virginia until he can be reinforced or take up an impregnable position. The country being exhausted, all our supplies will have to be carried from Knoxville the whole distance advanced. We would be obliged to advance rapidly and return soon whether the object of the expedition was accomplished or not. Longstreet could return with impunity on the heels of our returning column, at least as far down the valley as he can supply himself from the road in his rear. Schofield telegraphs to the same effect. All these seem to be good reasons for abandoning the movement, and I have therefore suspended it. Now that our men are ready for an advance, however, I have directed it to be made on Dalton, and hope to get possession of that place and hold it as a step towards a spring campaign. Our troops in East Tennessee are now clothed; rations are also accumulating. When Foster left most of the troops had ten days’ supplies, with five hundred barrels of flour and forty days’ meat in store, and the quantity increasing daily.
I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
U. S. Grant, Major-General.
Acting on the principle that it is easier to get forgiveness than permission, Grant had already instructed that furloughs be given to his veteran troops. He wanted them rested for the major campaign that was sure to begin in the spring.
In Mississippi, the Confederate cavalry that had been probing around Sherman's army finally found an opening, and very nearly bagged Sherman himself:
Toward evening of the 12th, Hurlbut's column passed through Decatur, with orders to go into camp four miles beyond at a creek. McPherson's head of column was some four miles behind, and I personally detached one of Hurlbut's regiments to guard the cross-roads at Decatur till the head of McPherson's column should come in sight. Intending to spend the night in Decatur, I went to a double log-house, and arranged with the lady for some supper. We unsaddled our horses, tied them to the fence inside the yard, and, being tired, I lay down on a bed and fell asleep. Presently I heard shouts and hallooing, and then heard pistol-shots close to the house. My aide, Major Audenried, called me and said we were attacked by rebel cavalry, who were all around us. I jumped up and inquired where was the regiment of infantry I had myself posted at the cross-roads. He said a few moments before it had marched past the house, following the road by which General Hurlbut had gone, and I told him to run, overtake it, and bring it back. Meantime, I went out into the back-yard, saw wagons passing at a run down the road, and horsemen dashing about in a cloud of dust, firing their pistols, their shots reaching the house in which we were. Gathering the few orderlies and clerks that were about, I was preparing to get into a corn-crib at the back side of the lot, wherein to defend ourselves, when I saw Audenried coming back with the regiment, on a run, deploying forward as they came. This regiment soon cleared the place and drove the rebel cavalry back toward the south, whence they had come.
--Memoirs of General W. T. Sherman
The commander of the infantry regiment had seen the dust of an approaching column, and concluded that his troops were no longer needed. But the dust was actually from a small group of staff officers, plus a small detachment of supply wagons. Luckily for Sherman, the men escorting the wagons managed to hold off the Rebel horsemen just long enough (though they lost four or five mules in the skirmish).
Civil war? What does that mean? Is there any foreign war? Isn't every war fought between men, between brothers?