Sunday, July 1, 2012

Brigadier General William T. Sherman To Senator John Sherman, April 22, 1862

April 22, 1862.

Dear Brother:  My hand is still very sore but I am able to write some. The newspapers came back to us with accounts of our battle of the 6th and 7th inst. as usual made by people who ran away and had to excuse their cowardice by charging bad management on the part of leaders. I see that we were surprised, that our men were bayoneted in their tents, that officers had not had breakfast, &c. This is all simply false. The attack did not begin until 7 3-4 A.M. All but the worthless cowards had had breakfast. Not a man was bayoneted in or near his tent. Indeed our brigade surgeon, Hartshorn, has not yet seen a single bayonet wound on a living or dead subject. The regiments that profess to have been surprised lost no officers at all, and of the two that first broke in my division 53 and 57 Ohio, the 53 lost no officers and only 7 men, the 57 two officers and 7 men. Some of my Ohio regiments that did fight well lost as many as 49 and 34, but not a bayonet, sword or knife wound, all cannon and musket ball. Those of my brigade held our original position from 7 3-4 A.M. when the attack began, until 10 h. 10 m. when the enemy had passed my left and got artillery to enfilade my line when I ordered them to fall back. We held our second position until 4 P.M. and then fell back without opposition to the third and last position, more than a mile from the river.

As to surprise, we had constant skirmishes with the enemies’ cavalry all the week before, and I had strong guards out in front of each brigade, which guards were driven in on the morning of the battle, but before the enemy came within cannon range of my position every regiment was under arms at the post I had previously assigned to them. The cavalry was saddled and artillery harnessed up, unlimbered, and commenced firing as soon as we could see anything to fire at.

On Saturday I had no cavalry pickets out because I had no cavalry in my division. General Grant had made a new assignment of cavalry and artillery on Friday. The Ohio Fifth which had been with me was ordered to Hurlburt, and eight companies of the fourth, III., Colonel Dickey, assigned to me did not get into camp till near Saturday night and I ordered them into the saddle at midnight.

I occupied the right front, McClernand was to my rear, and on his left in echelon with me was Prentiss. I watched the Rondy road and main Corinth, Prentiss the Ridge Corinth road. . . .

The enemy did not carry either of my roads until he had driven Prentiss and got in on my left. . . .

Whether we should have been on this or that side of the Tennessee river is not my business. I did not apprehend an attack from Beauregard because I thought then and think now he would have done better if he could have chosen ground as far back from our stores as possible. We are bound to attack him, and had we run out of cartridges or stores or got stampeded twenty miles back from the Tennessee the result would have been different from now. But we knew the enemy was in our front, but in what form could not tell, and I was always ready for an attack. I am out of all patience that our people should prefer to believe the horrid stories of butchery, ridiculous in themselves, gotten up by cowards to cover their shame, than the plain natural reports of the officers who are responsible and who saw what they describe. My report with all the subordinate reports of Brigadiers and Colonels with lists of killed and wounded and missing went to General Grant on the 11th.

The enemy is still in our front, we can get a fight the hour and minute we want it. Halleck, Buell, Grant all in authority are now here and responsibility cannot be shifted. The common soldiers and subordinates ran away and now want to blame the commanders. . . .

Your affectionate brother,

SOURCE: Rachel Sherman Thorndike, Editor, The Sherman letters: correspondence between General and Senator Sherman from 1837 to 1891, p. 143-5

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