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The country was almost in a state of nature few or no roads, nothing that a European could understand, but where the bullet killed its victim as surely as at Sevastopol. Johnston had meantime picked up his detachments, and had received reënforcements from his rear which raised his aggregate strength to 62,000 men, and warranted him in claiming that he was purposely drawing us far from our base, and that when the right moment should come he would turn on us and destroy us. We were equally confident and not the least alarmed. He then fell back to his position at Marietta, with Brush Mountain on his right, Kenesaw his center, and Lost Mountain his left. His line of ten miles was too long for his numbers, and he soon let go his flanks and concentrated on Kenesaw. We closed down in battle array, repaired the railroad up to our very camps, and then prepared for the contest. Not a day, not an hour or minute was there a cessation of fire. Our skirmishers were in absolute contact, the lines of battle and batteries but little in rear of the skirmishers; and thus matters continued until June 27th, when I ordered a general assault, with the full coöperation of my great lieutenants, Thomas, McPherson, and Schofield, as good and true men as ever lived or died for their country's cause; but we failed, losing 3000 men, to the Confederate loss of 630. Still, the result was that within three days Johnston abandoned the strongest possible position and was in full retreat for the Chattahoochee River. We were on his heels; skirmished with his rear at Smyrna Church on the 4th day of July, and saw him fairly across the Chattahoochee on the roth, covered and protected by the best line of field intrenchments I have ever seen, prepared long in advance. No officer or soldier who ever served under me will question the generalship of Joseph E. Johnston. His retreats were timely, in good order, and he left nothing behind. We had advanced into the enemy's country 120 miles, with a single track railroad, which had to bring clothing, food, ammunition, everything requisite for 100,000 men and 23,000 animals. The city of Atlanta, the gate city opening the interior of the important State of Georgia, was in sight; its protecting army was shaken but not defeated, and onward we had to go,- illustrating the principle that an army "once on the offensive must maintain the offensive."
We feigned to the right, but crossed the Chattahoochee by the left, and soon confronted our enemy behind his first line of intrenchments at Peach Tree Creek, prepared in advance for this very occasion. At this critical moment the Confederate Government rendered us most valuable service. Being dis
satisfied with the Fabian policy of General Johnston, it relieved him, and General Hood was substituted to command the Confederate army. Hood was known to us to be a "fighter," a graduate of West Point of the class of 1853, No. 44, of which class two of my army commanders, McPherson and Schofield, were No. I and No. 7. The character of a leader is a large factor in the game of war, and I confess I was pleased at this change, of which I had early notice. I knew that I had an army superior in numbers and morale to that of my antagonist; but being so far from my base, and operating in a country absolutely devoid of food and forage, I was dependent for supplies on a poorly constructed, single-track railroad back to Louisville, five hundred miles. I was willing to meet our enemy in the open country, but not behind well-constructed parapets.
Promptly, as expected, the enemy sallied from his Peach Tree line on the 18th of July, about midday, striking the Twentieth Corps (Hooker), which had just crossed Peach Tree Creek by improvised bridges. The troops became commingled and fought hand to hand desperately for about four hours, when the Confederates were driven back within their lines, leaving behind their dead and wounded. These amounted to 4796 men, to our loss of 1710. We followed up, and Hood fell back to the main lines of the city of Atlanta. We closed in, when again, Hood holding these lines by about one-half his force, with the other half made a wide circuit by night, under cover of the woods, and on the 22d of July enveloped our left flank "in air," a movement that led to the hardest battle of the campaign. He encountered the Army of the Tennessee,— skilled veterans who were always ready to fight, were not alarmed by flank or rear attacks, and met their assailants with heroic valor. The battle raged from noon to night, when the Confederates, baffled and defeated, fell back within the intrenchments of Atlanta. Their losses are reported 8499 to ours of 3641; but among these was McPherson, the commander of the Army of the Tennessee. Whilst this battle was in progress, Schofield at the center, and Thomas on the right, made efforts to break through the intrenchments at their fronts, but found them too strong to assault.
The Army of the Tennessee was then shifted, under its new commander (Howard), from the extreme left to the extreme right, to reach, if possible, the railroad by which Hood drew his supplies, when he again, on the 28th of July, repeated his tactics of the 22d, sustaining an overwhelming defeat, losing 4632 men to our 700. These three sallies convinced him that his predecessor, General Johnston, had not erred in standing on the defensive. There
after the Confederate army in Atlanta clung to his parapets. I never intended to assault these, but gradually worked to the right to reach and destroy his line of supplies, because soldiers, like other mortals, must have food. Our extension to the right brought on numerous conflicts, but nothing worthy of note, till about the end of August I resolved to leave one corps to protect our communications to the rear, and move with the other five to a point (Jonesboro') on the railroad twenty-six miles below Atlanta, not fortified. This movement was perfectly strategic, was successful, and resulted in our occupation of Atlanta, on the 3d of September, 1864. The result had a large effect on the whole country at the time, for solid and political reasons. I claim no special merit to myself, save that I believe I followed the teachings of the best masters of the "science of war" of which I had knowledge; and better still, I had pleased Mr. Lincoln, who wanted "success" very much. But I had not accomplished all, for Hood's army, the chief "objective," had escaped.
Then began the real trouble. We were in possession of Atlanta, and Hood remained at Lovejoy's Station, thirty miles south-east, on the Savannah railroad, with an army of about 40,000 veterans inured to war, and with a fair amount of wagons to carry his supplies, independent of the railroads. On the 21st of September he shifted his position to Palmetto Station, twenty-five miles south-west of Atlanta, on the Montgomery and Selma railroad, where he began his systematic preparations for his aggressive campaign against our communications to compel us to abandon our conquests. Here he was visited by Mr. Davis, who promised all possible coöperation and assistance in the proposed campaign; and here also Mr. Davis made his famous speech, which was duly reported to me in Atlanta, assuring his army that they would make my retreat more disastrous than was that of Napoleon from Moscow. Forewarned, I took immediate measures to thwart his plans. One division was sent back to Rome, another to Chattanooga; the guards along our railroad were reënforced and warned of the coming blow. General Thomas was sent back to the headquarters of his department at Nashville, Schofield to his at Knoxville, and I remained in Atlanta to await Hood's "initiative." This followed soon. Hood, sending his cavalry ahead, crossed the Chattahoochee River at Campbelltown with his main army on the 1st of October, and moved to Dallas, detaching a strong force against the railroad above Marietta which destroyed it for fifteen miles, and then sent French's division to capture Allatoona. I followed Hood, reaching Kenesaw Mountain in time to see in the dis
tance the attack on Allatoona, which was handsomely repulsed by Corse. Hood then moved westward, avoiding Rome, and by a circuit reached Resaca, which he summoned to surrender, but did not wait to attack. He continued thence the destruction of the railroad for about twenty miles to the tunnel, including Dalton, whose garrison he captured. I followed up to Resaca, then turned west to intercept his retreat down the Valley of Chattooga; but by rapid marching he escaped to Gadsden, on the Coosa, I halting at Gaylesville, whence to observe his further movements. Hood, after a short pause, crossed the mountains to Decatur, on the Tennessee River, which, being defended by a good division of troops, he avoided, and finally halted opposite Florence, Alabama, on the Tennessee River. Divining the object of his movement against our communications, which had been thus far rapid and skillful, I detached by rail General Schofield and two of my six corps to Nashville, all the reënforcement that Thomas deemed necessary to enable him to defend Tennessee, and began my systematic preparations for resuming the offensive against Georgia. Repairing the broken railroads, we collected in Atlanta the necessary food and transportation for 60,000 men, sent to the rear all impediments, called in all detachments, and ordered them to march for Atlanta, where by the 14th of November were assembled 4 infantry corps, I cavalry division, and 65 field guns, aggregating 60,598 men. Hood remained at Florence, preparing to invade Tennessee and Kentucky, or to follow me. We were prepared for either alternative.
According to the great Napoleon, the fundamental maxim for successful war is to "converge a superior force on the critical point at the critical time." In 1864 the main " objectives" were Lee's and Johnston's armies, and the critical point was thought to be Richmond or Atlanta, whichever should be longest held. Had General Grant overwhelmed or scattered Lee's army and occupied Richmond he would have come to Atlanta; but as I happened to occupy Atlanta first, and had driven Hood off to a divergent line of operations far to the west, it was good strategy to leave him to a subordinate force, and with my main army to join Grant at Richmond. The most practicable route to Richmond was near a thousand miles in distance, too long for a single march; hence the necessity to reach the sea-coast for a new base. Savannah was the nearest point, distant three hundred miles, and this we accomplished from November 12th to December 21, 1864. According to the Duke of Wellington, an army moves upon its belly, not upon its legs; and no army dependent on wagons
can operate more than a hundred miles from its base, because the teams going and returning consume the contents of their wagons, leaving little or nothing for the maintenance of the men and animals at the front, who are fully employed in fighting; hence the necessity to "forage liberally on the country," a measure which fed our men and animals chiefly on the very supplies which had been gathered near the railroads by the enemy for the maintenance of his own armies. "The march to the sea" in strategy was only a shift of base for ulterior and highly important purposes.
Meantime Hood, whom I had left at and near Florence, Alabama, three hundred and seventeen miles to my rear, having completely reorganized and re-supplied his army, advanced against Thomas at Nashville, who had also made every preparation. Hood first encountered Schofield at Franklin, November 30, 1864, attacked him boldly behind his intrenchments, and sustained a positive" check," losing 6252 of his best men, including Generals Cleburne and Adams, who were killed on the very parapets, to Schofield's loss of 2326. Nevertheless he pushed on to Nashville, which he invested. Thomas, one of the grand characters of our civil war, nothing dismayed by danger in front or rear, made all his preparations with cool and calm deliberation; and on the 15th of December sallied from his intrenchments, attacked Hood in his chosen and intrenched positions, and on the next day, December 16th, actually annihilated his army, eliminating it thenceforward from the problem of the war. Hood's losses were 15,000 men to Thomas's 305.
Therefore at the end of the year 1864 the war at the west was concluded, leaving nothing to be considered in the grand game of war but Lee's army, held by Grant in Richmond, and the Confederate detachments at Mobile and along the sea-board north of Savannah. Of course Charleston, ever arrogant, felt secure; but it was regarded by us as a "dead cock in the pit," and fell of itself when its inland communications were cut. Wilmington was captured by a detachment from the Army of the Potomac, aided by Admiral Porter's fleet and by Schofield, who had been brought by Grant from Nashville to Washington and sent down the Atlantic coast to prepare for Sherman's coming to Goldsboro', North Carolina, all "converging" on Richmond.
Preparatory to the next move, General Howard was sent from Savannah to secure Pocotaligo, in South Carolina, as a point of departure for the north, and General Slocum to Sister's Ferry, on the Savannah River, to secure a safe lodgment on the north bank for the same purpose. In due time-in February,
1865-these detachments, operating by concentric lines, met on the South Carolina road at Midway and Blackville, swept northward through Orangeburg and Columbia to Winnsboro', where the direction was changed to Fayetteville and Goldsboro', a distance of 420 miles through a difficult and hostile country, making junction with Schofield at a safe base with two good railroads back to the sea-coast, of which we held absolute dominion, The resistance of Hampton, Butler, Beauregard, and even Joe Johnston was regarded as trivial. Our 66 objective" was Lee's army at Richmond. When I reached Goldsboro', made junction with Schofield, and moved forward to Raleigh, I was willing to encounter the entire Confederate army; but the Confederate armies - Lee's in Richmond and Johnston's in my front -- held interior lines, and could choose the initiative.
Few military critics who have treated of the civil war in America have ever comprehended the importance of the movement of my army northward from Savannah to Goldsboro', or of the transfer of Schofield from Nashville to coöperate with me in North Carolina. This march was like the thrust of a sword towards the heart of the human body; each mile of advance swept aside all opposition, consumed the very food on which Lee's army depended for life, and demonstrated a power in the National Government which was irresistible.
Therefore in March, 1865, but one more move was left to Lee on the chess-board of war-to abandon Richmond; make junction with Johnston in North Carolina; fall on me and destroy me if possible, a fate I did not apprehend; then turn on Grant, sure to be in close pursuit, and defeat him. But no! Lee clung to his intrenchments for political reasons, and waited for the inevitable. At last, on the 1st day of April, General Sheridan, by his vehement and most successful attack on the Confederate lines at the "Five Forks" near Dinwiddie Court House, compelled Lee to begin his last race for life. He then attempted to reach Danville, to make junction with Johnston, but Grant in his rapid pursuit constantly interposed, and finally headed him off at Appomattox, and compelled the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, which for four long years had baffled the skill and courage of the Army of the Potomac and the power of our National Government. This substantially ended the war, leaving only the formal proceedings of accepting the surrender of Johnston's army in North Carolina and of the subordinate armies at the South-west.
All these movements were on a grand scale, strictly in conformity with the lessons of the great masters, and illustrate every branch of
the science of war as defined by Soady,-strategy, logistics, grand and minor tactics, and engineering.
In thus summarizing these controlling events, extending through four years of time and embracing a continent, I have endeavored to confine myself to the chief campaigns and battles which illustrate military principles. The first year of the war was necessarily one of preparation, but in the last three I contend that every principle of the science of war was illustrated and demonstrated by examples in our war. "Divergent" operations were generally use less or failures; "convergent" operations, with good "bases," though far apart, when persevered in resulted in success and victory. All I aim to establish is that the civil war brought forth, on both sides, out of the mass of the American people, the knowledge, talents, and qualities which were necessary to the occasion; that success resulted from the same qualities, the same knowledge and adherence to the rules of war, which have achieved military success in other ages and in other lands; and that military knowledge acquired beforehand was most valuable, though not conclusive. The same knowledge might have been and was acquired in actual war, though often at a terrible expense in human life and misery. There is an old familiar maxim, "In peace prepare for war," so that I would deem it the part of wisdom for our Government to accumulate in our arsenals a large supply of the best cannon, small arms, ammunition, and military equipments, ready for instant use; to encourage military education, and to foster a national militia.
I will quote here an expression of a personal friend who was a good soldier of the civil war, now a senator in Congress, contained in an address which he recently delivered to the graduating class of a college in Michigan:
Of course knowledge is power, we all know that: but mere knowledge is not power, it is simply possibility. Action is power, and its highest manifestation is action with knowledge.
How true this is, is felt by every soldier who has been in battle. 'Tis not the man who knows most, but the one who does best, that wins. Grant, and Meade, and Sheridan at the close of the war could have been taught many lessons by our learned professors, but none of these could have guided the forces to victory as Grant did at Chattanooga, defended his position as Meade did at Gettysburg, or hurled his masses as Sheridan did at Winchester. Action guided by knowledge is what is demanded of the modern general. He must know as much of the school of the soldier as any man in the ranks; he must know what
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men can do, and what they cannot do; he must foresee and forereach to provide in advance the food, clothing, ammunition, and supplies of every nature and kind necessary for the maintenance of his command; and, moreover, he must gain the confidence and affections of all the men committed to his charge. Above all, he must act according to the best knowledge and information he can obtain, preferably coupled with experience acquired long in advance. If we demand of the engineer of a locomotive, composed of bits of iron, both knowledge and experience, how much more should we demand these qualities of the commander of an army, composed of living men, of flesh and blood, with immortal souls! There may be such men as born generals, but I have never encountered them, and doubt the wisdom of trusting to their turning up in an emergency.
The aggressive demands a great moral force, the defensive less. A man who has not experienced the feeling cannot comprehend the sensation of hurling masses of men against an intrenched enemy, almost sure to result in the death of thousands, and, worse still, the mangling of more, followed by the lamentations of families at the loss of fathers, brothers, and sons. We in America, with a free press behind us, which sympathized with their neighbors and rarely comprehended the necessities of battle, felt this moral force far more than would any European general with his well-organized corps and battalions which he could move with little more feeling than he would the ivory figures on a chess-board.
In 1872 I visited Europe in the frigate Wabash, and was landed at Gibraltar, held by England with a full war garrison, composed of all arms of service, commanded by Sir Fenwick Williams of Kars, a general of great renown, whose officers were thoroughly educated and of marked intelligence. They naturally questioned me as to the conduct of our civil war; they could comprehend how we might, out of our intelligent citizens, create battalions of infantry, but were incredulous when I explained that we had been equally successful with artillery, engineers, ordnance and staff, the scientific branches of the military service; and when I further claimed that most of our campaigns had been conducted according to the highest military principles, as taught by their General Hamley in the staff school at Aldershot, I could read in their faces signs of more than doubt. The same or similar experiences occurred afterwards at Malta, and in the clubs of London.
In Russia I found the army officers specially well informed about American affairs. At Vladi Kavkas, a city at the north base of the
Caucasian range of mountains, Mr. Curtin and I, with our party, were entertained by a brigadier-general and the officers of his command, who welcomed us in a speech referring to Grant and Sheridan, Farragut and Porter, with as much precision as could have been expected at Denver. In Italy also there prevailed a similar public feeling, and there I encountered several who had been to America, and had shared in some of our campaigns.
In Germany the army officers seemed so well satisfied with themselves, by reason of their then recent victories over the French, that they gave little heed to our affairs on this side of the Atlantic. In all their garrisoned towns they were drilling morning, noon, and night, at the squad drill, at the company drill, and in the school of the battalion; and if industry and attention to details are ruling elements in the science of war, then will the German battalions maintain the cohesion and strength they displayed in the war of 1870-71. With such battalions as units, there can be no scarcity of skilled officers and generals.
In like manner the French had not yet recovered from their defeats at Woerth, Metz, Gravelotte, Sédan, and Paris. With them the separation of the officer from the soldier was much more marked than in any other of the military establishments I witnessed in Europe, and one of their most renowned generals attributed to this cause their defeat and national humiliation; specifying that when their armies were hastily assembled on the Rhine, the soldiers did not personally know their captains and company officers, and these in turn could not distinguish their own commanders. I infer, however, from recent accounts, that General Boulanger, who attended our
NEW YORK, May 1, 1887.
centennial celebration at Yorktown in 1881, has corrected much of this, and has infused into the French army somewhat of his own youthful ardor and spirit, so that if a new war should arise in Europe we may expect different results.
Nevertheless, for service in our wooded country, where battles must be fought chiefly by skirmishers and "thin lines," I prefer our own people. They possess more individuality, more self-reliance, learn more quickly the necessity for organization and discipline, and will follow where they have skilled leaders in whom they have confidence. Any one of the corps of the Army of the Potomac, or of the West, would not have hesitated to meet after 1863, in open ground, an equal number of the best drilled German troops. This, of course, may seem an idle boast; it is only meant to convey my opinion that the American people need not fear a just comparison in warlike qualities with those of any other nation. We are more likely to err in the other direction, in over-confidence, by compelling inferior numbers and undisciplined men to encounter superior troops, exposing them to certain defeat-a “cruel and inhuman" act on the part of any government. Strength in war results from organization, 'cohesion, and discipline, which require time and experience; but war is an expensive luxury, too costly to maintain even to secure these important results: therefore the greater necessity for fostering a national militia, and supporting military schools like that at West Point, which has proven its inestimable value to the nation as General Washington predicted, and as every war in America during this century has demonstrated.
W. T. Sherman.
So thou to me, O jestful girl of June!
Cold calculations of thy worth
Summed up in beauty, brain, and birth:
Thou art the rarest one,
The very fairest one,
The soul most lovely-wise
That ever looked through eyes!
Richard E. Burton.