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but he was known to be near at band. General BuelPs troops took no essential part in tbe first day's fight, and Grant's army,, though collected together hastily, green as militia, some regiments arriving without cartridges even, and nearly all hearing the dread sound of battle for the first time, had successfully withstood and repelled the first day's terrific onset of a superior enemy, well commanded and well handled. I know I had orders from General Grant to assume the offensive before I knew General Buell was on the west side of the Tennessee. I think General Buell, Colonel Fry, and others of General Buell's staff, rode up to where I was about sunset, about the time General Grant was leaving me. General Buell asked me many questions, and got of me a small map, which I had made for my own use, and told me that by daylight he could have eighteen thousand fresh men, which I knew would settle the matter
"I understood Grant's forces were to advance on the right of the Corinth road and Buell's on the left, and accordingly at daylight I advanced my division by the flank, the resistance being trivial, up to the very spot where, the day before, the battle had been most se* vere, and then waited till near noon for Buell's troops to get up abreast, when the entire line advanced and recovered all the ground we had ever held. I know that, with the exception of one or two severe struggles, the fighting of April 7th was easy as compared with that of April 6th.
"I never was disposed, nor am I now, to question anything done by General Buell and his army, and I know that approaching our field of battle from the rear, he encountered that sickening crowd of laggards and fugitives that excited his contempt and that of his army, who never gave full credit to those in the front line, who did fight hard, and who had, at 4 in the afternoon, checked the enemy, and were prepared the next day to assume the offensive. I remember the fact better from General Grant's anecdote of his Donelson battle, which he told me then for the first time—that at a certain period of the battle, he saw that either side was ready to give way if the other showed a bold front, and he determined to do that very thing, to advance on the enemy, when, as he prognosticated, the enemy surrendered. At four o'clock in the afternoon of April 6th, he thought the appearance the same, and he judged with Lew. Gen. Sherman's Letter. 259
Wallace's fresh division, and such of our startled troops as had recovered their equilibrium, he would he justified in dropping the defensive and assuming the offensive in the morning. And, I repeat, I received such orders before I knew General BuelPs troops were at the river. I admit that I was glad that Buell was there, because I knew his troops were older than ours and better systematized and drilled, and his arrival made that certain, which before was uncertain. I have heard this question much discussed, and must say that the officers of Buell's army dwelt too much on the stampede of some of our raw troops, and gave us too little credit for the fact that for one whole day, weakened as we were by the absence of BuelPs army, long expected, of Lew. Wallace's division, only four miles off, and of the fugitives from our ranks, we had beaten off our assailants for the time. At the same time, our Army of the Tennessee have indulged in severe criticism at the slow approach of that army which knew the danger that threatened us from the concentrated armies of Johnston, Beauregard and Bragg that lay at Corinth. In a war like this, where opportunities of personal prowess are as plenty as blackberries to those who seek them at the front, all such criminations should be frowned down; and were it not for the mili • tary character of your journal I would not venture to offer a correction of a very popular error.
"I will also avail myself of this occasion to correct another very common mistake in attributing to General Grant the selection of that battle-field. It was chosen by that veteran soldier, Major-Gen. Charles F. Smith, who ordered my division to disembark there, and strike for the Charleston Railroad. This order was subsequently modified by his ordering Hurlbut's division to disembark there, and mine higher up the Tennessee to the mouth of Yellow Creek, to strike the railroad at Burnsville. But floods prevented our reaching the railroad, when General Smith ordered me in person also to disembark at Pittsburg, and take post, well out, so as to make plenty of room, with Snake and Lick creeks the flanks of a camp for the grand army of invasion.
"It was General Smith who selected that field of battle, and it was well chosen. On any other we surely would have been overwhelmed, as both Lick and Snake creeks forced the enemy to confine his movements to a direct front attack, which new troops are better qualified to resist than where flanks are exposed to a real or chimerical danger. Even the divisions of that army were arranged in that camp by General Smith's order, my division forming, as it were, the outlying picket, whilst McClernand's and Prentiss' were the real line of battle, with W. H. L. Wallace in support of the right wing, and Hurlbut of the left; Lew. Wallace's division being detached. All these subordinate dispositions were made by the order of General Smith, before General Grant succeeded him to the command of all the forces up the Tennessee—head-quarters Savannah. If there was any error in putting that army on the west side £f the Tennessee, exposed to the superior force of the enemy also assembling at Corinth, the mistake was not General Grant's—but there was no mistake. It was necessary that a combat, fierce and bitter, to test the manhood of the two armies, should come off", and that was as good a place as any. It was not then a question of military skill and strategy, but of courage and pluck, and I am convinced that every life lost that day to us was necessary; for otherwise at Corinth, at Memphis, at Vicksburg, we would have found harder resistance, had we not shown our enemies that, rude and untutored as we then were, we could fight as well as they.
"Excuse so long a letter, which is very unusual from me, but of course my life is liable to cease at any moment, and I happen to be a witness to certain truths which are now beginning to pass out of memory, and form what is called history.
"I also take great pleasure in adding that nearly all the new troops that, at Shiloh, drew from me official censure have more than redeemed their good name; among them that very regiment which first broke, the 53d Ohio, Colonel Appen. Under another leader, Colonel Jones, it has shared every campaign and expedition of mine since, is with me now, and can march and bivouac and fight as well as the best regiment in this or any army. Its reputation now is equal to any from the State of Ohio.
"I am, with respect,
"Yours, truly, "W. T. Sherman, Major-Gen."