Friday, March 15, 2013

General Sherman arrives at Pittsburg Landing, March 1862

Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee

In October 1861, Sherman told Secretary of War Cameron that if he had 60,000 men, he would drive the enemy out of Kentucky, and if he had 200,000 men, he would finish the war in that section. When Cameron returned to Washington, he reported that Sherman required 200,000 men. The report was given to newspapers and a cry of indignation arose from the public. A writer of one of these newspapers even went as far as saying that Sherman must be "crazy" in demanding such a large force. The public accepted this insinuated statement as a valid one, thus writers have always declared that he was crazy. 

Due to the pressure of the press and politicians that believed the insinuation, on November 12, 1861, Brigadier-General  Don Carlos Buell relieved Sherman of his command, and Sherman was assigned to the Department of the West, in St. Louis, Missouri under Major-General Halleck.  After moving to Missouri, newspapers and gossip continued to harass him with reports that he was insane and that he was not fit to command, demanding his recall. He was in a state of depression from all the harassment, but not mentally incompetent. Halleck, in a letter to Sherman's foster father stated, "I have seen newspaper squibs charging him with being "crazy", etc. This is the grossest injustice. I do not however, consider such attacks worthy of notice."

On February 13, 1862, Sherman assumed the command of the post at Paducah, Kentucky relieving  U.S. Grant of that position. On March 11, 1862,  Sherman was placed in command of the Fifth Division of the Army of the Tennessee.
William Sherman
Sherman wrote a letter to his wife Ellen from the Steamboat Continental, anchored on the Tennessee River at Pittsburg Landing.  Sherman believed the area around the landing to be well suited for a campsite of over 100,000 men, thus making it an ideal point for Federal forces to gather for the eventual campaign against Corinth, Mississippi, one of the key railroad junctions of the Western Confederacy. As Sherman wrote this letter to his wife, the stage was being set for the Battle of Shiloh.

Pittsburg Landing
March 17, 1862

Dearest Ellen,
I wrote you from Savanna Landing sending you a Paymasters certificate for my months pay. I started in command of eleven Regiments, landed at Tylers Landing 18 miles above this and in the midst of a perfect flood attempted to cross over the intervening space of 17 miles to break the Memphis and Charleston Road. The rain fell in torrents and streams began to rise, and the Cavalry which led had to turn back for the swollen water. It was very unfortunate, so I had to return the Boats. The Tennessee River rose 15 feet in one day and the Landing was under water. I was compelled to drop down again to this place where there is a high Bluff Landing.
Generals Grant and [C.F.] Smith are at Savannah 19 miles below, and I command here, but as the Force has swollen to 25,000 men, and more are coming I take it for granted that some one else will come to command. I hear Halleck is coming, may be Grant, and on the whole we are furthest advanced into Secession. In a circuit of many miles I find houses abandoned, the People having fled, because they are told, we take everything we can lay our hands on, all the pretty girls and leave the Old Ones for the negros. I had an old man who really believed this, and was much assured when I said if he would stay at home and mind his own business I would not permit the Soldiers to disturb him. Upon going to his house, his wife and children had fled to the woods as though we were savages—Our soldiers do in spite of all efforts burn rails, steal geese chickens &c. &c. 
The boat is ringing her bell, and I must ashore to my tent.
I am very tired having ridden for two days, the enemy under Bragg and Beauregard are to our front from Florence to Corinth with the country full of never ending cavalry. We may have fights at Purdy [TN] and Corinth [MS]. My love to all.
W.T. Sherman

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