Footnotes are at the end of the chapter.
Right-hand-page heads are set right-justified before the appropriate paragraphs.
Small caps have been transcribed as upper-and-lower-case, except the page heads.
The dieresis is transcribed by a preceding hyphen.
Non-standard spellings: partizan, despatch, Kenesaw, skilful, practised, intrenchments, brevetted, reconnoissance, Chili, envelop.
LoC call number: E467.1.S35 A2
Submitted May 11th, 2007
FORTY-SIX YEARS IN THE ARMY
[Frontispiece] FROM A PHOTOGRAPH BY FALK. [Facsimile Signature] J.M.Schofield
THIS VOLUME IS DEDICATED TO THE YOUNG CITIZENS WHOSE PATRIOTISM, VALOR AND MILITARY SKILL MUST BE THE SAFEGUARD OF THE INTERESTS, THE HONOR AND THE GLORY OF THE AMERICAN UNION
FORTY-SIX YEARS IN THE ARMY
BY LIEUTENANT-GENERAL JOHN M. SCHOFIELD
NEW YORK THE CENTURY CO. 1897
Copyright, 1897 by The Century Co.
The De Vinne Press.
Most of the chapters constituting the contents of this volume, were written, from time to time, as soon as practicable after the events referred to, or after the publication of historical writings which seemed to me to require comment from the point of view of my personal knowledge. They were written entirely without reserve, and with the sole purpose of telling exactly what I thought and believed, not with any purpose of publication in my lifetime, but as my contribution to the materials which may be useful to the impartial historian of some future generation. These writings had been put away for safe-keeping with "instructions for the guidance of my executors," in which I said:
"All the papers must be carefully revised, errors corrected if any are found, unimportant matter eliminated, and everything omitted which may seem, to a cool and impartial judge, to be unjust or unnecessarily harsh or severe toward the memory of any individual. I have aimed to be just, and not unkind. If I have failed in any case, it is my wish that my mistakes may be corrected, as far as possible. I have not attempted to write history, but simply to make a record of events personally known to me, and of my opinion upon such acts of others, and upon such important subjects, as have come under my special notice. It is my contribution to the materials from which the future historian must draw for his data for a truthful history of our time."
Now, in the winter of 1896-97, I have endeavored to discharge, as far as I am able, the duty which I had imposed on my executors, and have decided to publish what I had written in past years, with corrections and comments, while many of the actors in the great drama of the Civil War are still living and can assist in correcting any errors into which I may have fallen.
After my chapters relating to the campaign of 1864 in Tennessee were in type, the monograph by General J. D. Cox, entitled "Franklin," was issued from the press of Charles Scribner's Sons. His work and mine are the results of independent analysis of the records, made without consultation with each other.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Chapter I. Parentage and Early Life—Appointment to West Point— Virginian Room-Mates—Acquaintance with General Winfield Scott—Character of the West Point Training—Importance of Learning how to Obey—A trip to New York on a Wager—The West Point Bible-class—Dismissed from the Academy Without Trial—Intercession of Stephen A. Douglas —Restoration to Cadet Duty—James B. McPherson—John B. Hood— Robert E. Lee.
Chapter II. On Graduating Leave—Brevet Second Lieutenant in the 2d Artillery at Fort Moultrie—An Officer's Credit Before the War— Second Lieutenant in the 1st Artillery—Journey to Fort Capron, Florida—A Reservation as to Whisky—A Trip to Charleston and a Troublesome Money-Bag—An "Affair of Honor"—A Few Law-books—An Extemporized "Map and Itinerary"—Yellow Fever—At A. P. Hill's Home in Virginia—Assigned to Duty in the Department of Philosophy at West Point—Interest in Astronomy—Marriage—A Hint from Jefferson Davis—Leave of Absence—Professor of Physics in Washington University.
Chapter III. Return to Duty—General Harney's Attitude—Nathaniel Lyon in Command—Defense of the St. Louis Arsenal—Service as Mustering Officer—Major of the First Missouri—Surrender of Camp Jackson—Adjutant-general on Lyon's Staff—A Missing Letter from Fremont to Lyon—Lyon's Reply—Battle of Wilson's Creek—Death of Lyon—A Question of Command During the Retreat—Origin of the Opposition of the Blairs to Fremont—Affair at Fredericktown.
Chapter IV. Halleck Relieves Fremont of the Command in Missouri— A Special State Militia—Brigadier-General of the Missouri Militia —A Hostile Committee Sent to Washington—The Missouri Quarrel of 1862—In Command of the "Army of the Frontier"—Absent Through Illness—Battle of Prairie Grove—Compelled to be Inactive— Transferred to Tennessee—In Command of Thomas's Old Division of the Fourteenth Corps—Reappointed Major-General—A Hibernian "Striker."
Chapter V. In Command of the Department of the Missouri—Troops Sent to General Grant—Satisfaction of the President—Conditions on which Governor Gamble would Continue in Office—Anti-Slavery Views—Lincoln on Emancipation in Missouri—Trouble Following the Lawrence Massacre—A Visit to Kansas, and the Party Quarrel There —Mutiny in the State Militia—Repressive Measures—A Revolutionary Plot.
Chapter VI. A Memorandum for Mr. Lincoln—The President's Instructions —His Reply to the Radical Delegation—The Matter of Colored Enlistments—Modification of the Order Respecting Elections Refused —A Letter to the President on the Condition of Missouri—Former Confederates in Union Militia Regiments—Summoned to Washington by Mr. Lincoln—Offered the Command of the Army of the Ohio—Anecdote of General Grant.
Chapter VII. Condition of the Troops at Knoxville—Effect of the Promotion of Grant and Sherman—Letter to Senator Henderson—A Visit from General Sherman—United with his other Armies for the Atlanta Campaign—Comments on Sherman's "Memoirs"—Faulty Organization of Sherman's Army—McPherson's Task at Resaca—McPherson's Character—Example of the Working of a Faulty System.
Chapter VIII. Sherman's Displeasure with Hooker growing out the Affair at Kolb's Farm—Hooker's Despatch Evidently Misinterpreted —A Conversation with James B. McPherson over the Question of Relative Rank—Encouraging John B. Hood to become a Soldier—Visit to the Camp of Frank P. Blair, Jr.—Anecdote of Sherman and Hooker under Fire—The Assault on Kenesaw—Tendency of Veteran Troops— The Death of McPherson before Atlanta—Sherman's error in a Question of Relative Rank.
Chapter IX. The Final Blow at Atlanta—Johnston's Untried Plan of Resistance—Hood's Faulty Move—Holding the Pivot of the Position —Anecdotes of the Men in the Ranks—Deferring to General Stanley in a Question of Relative Rank—The Failure at Jonesboro'—The Capture of Atlanta—Absent from the Army—Hood's Operations in Sherman's Rear—Sent Back to Thomas's Aid—Faulty Instructions to Oppose Hood at Pulaski—At Columbia—Reason of the Delay in Exchanging Messages.
Chapter X. Hood Forces the Crossing of Duck River—Importance of Gaining Time for Thomas to Concentrate Reinforcements at Nashville —The Affair at Spring Hill—Incidents of the Night Retreat—Thomas's Reply to the Request that a Bridge be Laid over the Harpeth—The Necessity of Standing Ground at Franklin—Hood's Formidable Attack —Serious Error of Two Brigades of the Rear-Guard—Brilliant Services of the Reserve—Yellow Fever Averted—Hood's Assaults Repulsed— Johnston's Criticism of Hood—The Advantage of Continuing the Retreat to Nashville.
Chapter XI. The Correspondence with General Thomas previous to the Battle of Franklin—The Untenable Position at Pulaski—Available Troops which were not Sent to the Front—Correspondence with General Thomas—Instructions Usually Received too Late—Advantage of Delaying the Retreat from Duck River—No Serious Danger at Spring Hill— General Thomas Hoping that Hood might be Delayed for Three Days at Franklin.
Chapter XII. After the Battle of Franklin—The Arrival at Nashville —General Thomas's Greeting—A Refreshing Sleep—Services of the Cavalry Corps and the Fourth Army Corps—Hood's Mistake after Crossing Duck River—An Incident of the Atlanta Campaign Bearing on Hood's Character—An Embarrassing Method of Transmitting Messages in Cipher—The Aggressive Policy of the South.
Chapter XIII. Grant Orders Thomas to Attack Hood or Relinquish the Command—Thomas's Corps Commanders Support Him in Delay—Grant's Intentions in Sending Logan to Relieve Thomas—Change of Plan before the Battle of Nashville—The Fighting of December 15—Expectation that Hood would Retreat—Delay in Renewing the Attack on the 16th —Hopelessness of Hood's Position—Letters to Grant and Sherman— Transferred to the East—Financial Burden of the War—Thomas's Attitude toward the War.
Chapter XIV. Hood's Motive in Attempting the Impossible at Nashville —Diversity of Opinions Concerning that Battle—No Orders on Record for the Battle of December 16—That Battle due to the Spontaneous Action of Subordinate Commanders—Statements in the Reports of the Corps Commanders—Explanation of the Absence of Orders—The Phraseology of General Thomas's Report.
Chapter XV. General Thomas's Indorsement on the Report of the Battle of Franklin—Courtesies to Him in Washington—Peculiarities of the Official Records in Regard to Franklin and Nashville— Documents Which Have Disappeared from the Records—Inconsistencies in General Thomas's Report—False Representations Made to Him— Their Falsity Confirmed by General Grant.
Chapter XVI. Sherman's "March to the Sea"—The Military Theory On Which It Was Based—Did It Involve War or Statesmanship?—The Correspondence Between Grant and Sherman, and Sherman and Thomas— The Effect of Jefferson Davis's Speech on Sherman—Rawlins's Reported Opposition to the March, and Grant's Final Judgment On It.
Chapter XVII. Sherman's Purpose in Marching to the Sea—His Expectations that the Change of Base Would Be "Statesmanship," If Not "War"—The Thousand-Mile March of Hood's Men to Surrender to Sherman—The Credit Given by Grant to Sherman—"Master of the Situation"—The Fame of Sherman's Grand Marches—His Great Ability as a Strategist.
Chapter XVIII. Transfer of the Twenty-Third Corps to North Carolina —Sherman's Plan of Marching to the Rear of Lee—The Surrender of J. E. Johnston's Army—Authorship of the Approved Terms of Surrender —Political Reconstruction—Sherman's Genius—Contrast Between Grant and Sherman—Halleck's Characteristics—His Attempt to Supplant Grant—Personal Feeling in Battle—The Scars of War.
Chapter XIX. The Restoration of Civil Government in the Southern States—The Course Pursued in North Carolina—An Order from General Grant in Regard to Cotton and Produce—Suggestions for the Reorganization of Civil Government—A Provisional Governor for North Carolina.
Chapter XX. French Intervention in Mexico—A Plan to Compel the Withdrawal of the French Army—Grant's Letter of Instructions to General Sheridan—Secretary Seward Advocates Moral Suasion—A Mission to Paris With That End in View—Speechmaking at the American Thanksgiving Dinner—Napoleon's Method of Retreating with Dignity —A Presentation to the Emperor and Empress.
Chapter XXI. Reconstruction in Virginia—The State Legislature Advised to Adopt the Fourteenth Amendment—Congressional Reconstruction as a Result of the Refusal—The Manner in Which the Acts of Congress Were Executed—No Resort to Trial by Military Commission—The Obnoxious Constitution Framed by the State Convention—How Its Worst Feature Was Nullified—Appointed Secretary of War.
Chapter XXII. Differences Between the Commanding General of the Army and the War Department—General Grant's Special Powers—His Appointment as Secretary of War Ad interim—The Impeachment of President Johnson—Memorandum of Interviews with William M. Evarts and General Grant in Regard to the Secretaryship of War—Failure of the Impeachment Trial—Harmony in the War Department—A New Policy at Army Headquarters.
Chapter XXIII. Assignment to the Department of the Missouri—A Cordial Reception from Former Opponents in St. Louis—Origin of the Military School at Fort Riley—Funeral of General George H. Thomas—Death of General George G. Meade—Assigned to the Division of the Pacific—A Visit to Hawaii—Military Men in the Exercise of Political Power—Trouble with the Modoc Indians—The Canby Massacre.
Chapter XXIV. Superintendent at West Point—General Sherman's Ulterior Reasons for the Appointment—Origin of the "Department of West Point"—Case of the Colored Cadet Whittaker—A Proposed Removal for Political Effect—General Terry's Friendly Attitude—A Muddle of New Commands—Waiting Orders, and a Visit to Europe—Again in Command in the West—The Establishment of Fort Sheridan at Chicago.
Chapter XXV. The Death of General Hancock—Assigned to the Division of the Atlantic—Measures for Improving the Sea-Coast Defense— General Fitz-John Porter's Restoration to the Army—President of the Board Appointed to Review the Action of the Court Martial— General Grant's Opinion—Senator Logan's Explanation of His Hostile Attitude Toward General Porter.
Chapter XXVI. The Death of General Sheridan—His Successor in Command of the Army—Deplorable Condition of the War Department at the Time—A Better Understanding Between the Department and the Army Commander—General Sheridan's Humiliating Experience—The Granting of Medals—The Secretary's Call-Bell—The Relations of Secretary and General—Views Submitted to President Cleveland—The Law Fixing Retirement for Age—An Anecdote of General Grant.
Chapter XXVII. President of the New Board of Ordnance and Fortifications—Usefulness of the Board—Troubles with the Sioux Indians in 1890-1891—Success of the Plan to Employ Indians as Soldiers—Marriage to Miss Kilbourne—The Difficulty with Chili in 1892.
Chapter XXVIII. Services of the Army During the Labor Strikes of 1894—Military Control of the Pacific Railways—United States Troops in the City of Chicago—Orders Sent to General Miles, and his Reports—The Proclamation of the President—Instructions to Govern the Troops in Dealing with a Mob—The Duties of the Military Misunderstood—Orders of the President in Regard to the Pacific Railways.
Chapter XXIX. Lessons of the Civil War—Weakness of the Military Policy at the Outbreak of the Rebellion—A Poor Use of the Educated Soldiers of the Army—Military Wisdom Shown by the Confederate Authorities—Territorial Strategy—General Military Education Indispensable to Good Citizenship—Organization of the National Guard—General Grant Without Military Books—Measures Necessary to the National Defense.
Chapter XXX. The Financial Lesson of the Civil War—Approaching Bankruptcy of the Government near the Close of the War—The Legal- Tender Notes an Injury to the Public Credit—A Vicious Clause in the Constitution—No Prejudice in the Army Against Officers Not Educated at West Point—The Need of a Law Reforming the Relations Between the President and the Commander of the Army—Devotion to the Chosen Leader in Times of Public Peril.
Chapter XXXI. General Sherman's Friendship—His Death—General Grant's Recognition of Services—His Great Trait, Moral and Intellectual Honesty—His Confidence in Himself—Grant, Like Lincoln, a Typical American—On the Retired List of the Army—Conclusion.
FORTY-SIX YEARS IN THE ARMY
FORTY-SIX YEARS IN THE ARMY
CHAPTER I Parentage and Early Life—Appointment to West Point—Virginian Room- Mates—Acquaintance with General Winfield Scott—Character of the West Point Training—Importance of Learning how to Obey—A trip to New York on a Wager—The West Point Bible-class—Dismissed from the Academy Without Trial—Intercession of Stephen A. Douglas— Restoration to Cadet Duty—James B. McPherson—John B. Hood—Robert E. Lee.
I was born in the town of Gerry, Chautauqua County, New York, September 29, 1831. My father was the Rev. James Schofield, who was then pastor of the Baptist Church in Sinclairville, and who was from 1843 to 1881 a "home missionary" engaged in organizing new churches and building "meeting-houses" in Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri. My mother was Caroline McAllister, daughter of John McAllister of Gerry. We removed to Illinois in June, 1843, and, after a short stay in Bristol, my father made a new home for his family in Freeport, where he began his missionary work by founding the First Baptist Church of that place.
In all my childhood and youth I had what I regard as the best possible opportunities for education, in excellent public schools where the rudiments of English were taught with great thoroughness, and in a fair amount of all kinds of manly sports, and in hard work, mainly on the farm and in building a new home, which left no time and little inclination for any kind of mischief. At sixteen years of age I spent three months in surveying public lands in the wilds of northern Wisconsin, and at seventeen taught district school in the little town of Oneco. By that time I had chosen the law as my profession, and was working hard to complete the preparatory studies at my own expense.
APPOINTMENT TO WEST POINT
The winter's school term in Oneco having closed early in the spring of 1849, I returned to Freeport and resumed my struggle with Latin. Then an unforseen event turned the course of my life. The young man who had been appointed to West Point from our district only a year or two before had failed to continue his course in the Military Academy. Thus a vacancy occurred just at the close of Mr. Thomas J. Turner's term in Congress. There was no time for applications or for consultation. He must select another candidate to enter the following June, or leave the place to be filled by his successor. Fortunately for me, Mr. Turner, as one of the public-school directors, had been present at an examination where the subject with which I had to deal was mathematical; if he had caught me at Latin, the result must have been fatal to all my prospects. Besides, Mr. Turner had heard from his brother James of the stamina I had shown in the public land-surveying expedition; and also from my father of my determination to get a good education before beginning the study of law. So he brought me a cadet appointment when he came home, and said he believed a boy with that record could get through West Point, the training there being, in his opinion, a good preparation for the study of law.
The little savings from all my past work had been invested in a piece of land which was sold to fit me out for my journey to West Point, including some inexpensive visits en route. I reported at the Academy on June 1, 1849, with less than two dollars in my pocket, which I conscientiously deposited with the treasurer, as required by the regulations. My reception was of the most satisfactory character. William P. Curlin of the second class, and Hezekiah H. Garber of the third, both from Illinois, found me out very soon after I reported, took me under their protection in a brotherly way, and gave me some timely advice—not to take too seriously any little fun the "men" might make of my blue dress-coat and fancy gilt buttons, or anything like that; but I never experienced anything even approaching to hazing. My rather mature appearance may have had something to do with the respect generally paid me. It was true I was only seventeen years and nine months old, as recorded in the register, but my experience may have had some visible effect.
I was assigned to a room in the old South Barracks, which were demolished the next year. My room-mates were Henry H. Walker and John R. Chambliss, two charming fellows from Virginia. We had hardly learned each other's names when one of them said something about the "blank Yankees"; but instantly, seeing something that might perhaps have appeared like Southern blood in my face, added, "You are not a Yankee!" I replied, "Yes, I am from Illinois." "Oh," said he, "we don't call Western men Yankees." In that remark I found my mission at West Point, as in after life, to be, as far as possible, a peacemaker between the hostile sections. If the great West could have been heard, and its more dispassionate voice heeded, possibly peace might have been preserved.
My experience at West Point did not differ in many particulars from the general average of cadet life, but a few incidents may be worthy of special mention. My experience in camp was comparatively limited. The first summer I was on guard only once. Then the corporal of the grand rounds tried to charge over my post without giving the countersign, because I had not challenged promptly. We crossed bayonets, but I proved too strong for him, and he gave it up, to the great indignation of the officer of the day, who had ordered him to charge, and who threatened to report me, but did not. That night I slept on the ground outside the guard tents, and caught cold, from which my eyes became badly inflamed, and I was laid up in the hospital during the remainder of my encampment. On that account I had a hard struggle with my studies the next year. While sitting on the east porch of the hospital in the afternoon, I attracted the kind attention of General Winfield Scott, who became from that time a real friend, and did me a great service some years later.
CHARACTER OF THE WEST POINT TRAINING
In our third-class encampment, when corporal of the guard, I had a little misunderstanding one night with the sentinel on post along Fort Clinton ditch, which was then nearly filled by a growth of bushes. The sentinel tore the breast of my shell-jacket with the point of his bayonet, and I tumbled him over backward into the ditch and ruined his musket. But I quickly helped him out, and gave him my musket in place of his, with ample apologies for my thoughtless act. We parted, as I thought, in the best of feeling; but many years later, a colonel in the army told me that story, as an illustration of the erroneous treatment sometimes accorded to sentinels in his time, and I was thus compelled to tell him I was that same corporal, to convince him that he had been mistaken as to the real character of the treatment he had received.
That third-class year I lived in the old North barracks, four of us in one room. There, under the malign influence of two men who were afterward found deficient, I contracted the bad habit of fastening a blanket against the window after "taps," so that no one could see us "burning the midnight oil" over pipes and cards. The corps of cadets was not as much disciplined in our day as it is now. If it had been, I doubt if I should have graduated. As it was, I got 196 demerits out of a possible 200 one year. One more "smoking in quarters" would have been too much for me. I protest now, after this long experience, that nothing else at West Point was either so enjoyable or so beneficial to me as smoking. I knew little and cared less about the different corps of the army, or about the value of class standing. I became quite indignant when a distinguished friend rather reproved me for not trying to graduate higher—perhaps in part from a guilty conscience, for it occurred just after we had graduated. I devoted only a fraction of the study hours to the academic course—generally an hour, or one and a half, to each lesson. But I never intentionally neglected any of my studies. It simply seemed to me that a great part of my time could be better employed in getting the education I desired by the study of law, history, rhetoric, and general literature. Even now I think these latter studies have proved about as useful to me as what I learned of the art and science of war; and they are essential to a good general education, no less in the army than in civil life. I have long thought it would be a great improvement in the Military Academy if a much broader course could be given to those young men who come there with the necessary preparation, while not excluding those comparatively young boys who have only elementary education. There is too much of the "cast-iron" in this government of law under which we live, but "mild steel" will take its place in time, no doubt. The conditions and interests of so vast a country and people are too varied to be wisely subjected to rigid rules.
But I must not be misunderstood as disparaging the West Point education. As it was, and is now, there is, I believe, nothing equal to it anywhere in this country. Its methods of developing the reasoning faculties and habits of independent thought are the best ever devised. West Point training of the mind is practically perfect. Its general discipline is excellent and indispensable in the military service. Even in civil life something like it would be highly beneficial. In my case that discipline was even more needed than anything else. The hardest lesson I had to learn was to submit my will and opinions to those of an accidental superior in rank, who, I imagined, was my inferior in other things, and it took me many years to learn it. Nothing is more absolutely indispensable to a good soldier than perfect subordination and zealous service to him whom the national will may have made the official superior for the time being. I now think it one of the most important lessons of my own experience that, while I had no difficulty whatever in securing perfect subordination and obedience in a large public school when I was only seventeen years old, or ever afterward in any body of troops, from a squad of cadets up to a body of men, others did not find it by any means so easy to discipline me. What I needed to learn was not so much how to command as how to obey.
My observation of others has also taught much the same lesson. Too early independence and exercise of authority seem to beget some degree of disrespect for the authority of others. I once knew a young major-general who, in his zeal to prevent what he believed to be the improper application of some public funds, assumed to himself the action which lawfully belonged to the Secretary of War. The question thus raised was considered paramount to that of the proper use of the funds. The young officer lost his point, and got a well-merited rebuke. But it is not to be expected that complete military education can be obtained without complete military experience. The rules of subordination and obedience in an army are so simple that everybody learns them with the utmost ease. But the relations between the army and its administrative head, and with the civil power, are by no means so simple. When a too confident soldier rubs up against them, he learns what "military" discipline really means. It sometimes takes a civilian to "teach a soldier his place" in the government of a republic. If a soldier desires that his own better judgment shall control military policy, he must take care not to let it become known that the judgment is his. If he can contrive to let that wise policy be invented by the more responsible head, it will surely be adopted. It should never be suspected by anybody that there is any difference of opinion between the soldier and his civil chief; and nobody, not even the chief, will ever find it out if the soldier does not tell it. The highest quality attributed to Von Moltke was his ability to make it clearly understood by the Emperor and all the world that the Emperor himself commanded the German army.
A TRIP TO NEW YORK ON A WAGER
My constitutional habit once led me into a very foolish exploit at West Point. A discussion arose as to the possibility of going to New York and back without danger of being caught, and I explained the plan I had worked out by which it could be done. (I will not explain what the plan was, lest some other foolish boy try it.) I was promptly challenged to undertake it for a high wager, and that challenge overcame any scruple I may have had. I cared nothing for a brief visit to New York, and had only five dollars in my pocket which Jerome N. Bonaparte loaned me to pay my way. But I went to the city and back, in perfect safety, between the two roll- calls I had to attend that day. Old Benny Havens of blessed memory rowed me across the river to Garrison's, and the Cold Spring ferryman back to the Point a few minutes before evening parade. I walked across the plain in full view of the crowd of officers and ladies, and appeared in ranks at roll-call, as innocent as anybody. It is true my up-train did not stop at Garrison's or Cold Spring, but the conductor, upon a hint as to the necessity of the case, kindly slackened the speed of the express so that I could jump off from the rear platform. In due time I repaid Bonaparte the borrowed five dollars, but the wager was never paid. The only other bet I made at West Point was on Buchanan's election; but that was in the interest of a Yankee who was not on speaking terms with the Southerner who offered the wager. I have never had any disposition to wager anything on chance, but have always had an irresistible inclination to back my own skill whenever it has been challenged. The one thing most to be condemned in war is the leaving to chance anything which by due diligence might be foreseen. In the preparations for defense, especially, there is no longer any need that anything be left to chance or uncertainty.
THE WEST POINT BIBLE-CLASS
I attended the Bible-class regularly every Sunday after I went to West Point, and rejoiced greatly in that opportunity to hear the Scriptures expounded by the learned doctor of divinity of the Military Academy. I had never doubted for a moment that every word of the Bible was divinely inspired, for my father himself had told me it was. But I always had a curious desire to know the reason of things; and, more than that, some of my fellows were inclined to be a little skeptical, and I wanted the reasons with which I could overwhelm their unworthy doubts. So I ventured to ask the professor one Sunday what was the evidence of divine inspiration. He answered only what my father had before told me, that it was "internal evidence"; but my youthful mind had not yet perceived that very clearly. Hence I ventured very modestly and timidly to indicate my need of some light that would enable me to see. The learned doctor did not vouchsafe a word in reply, but the look of amazement and scorn he gave me for my display of ignorance sealed my lips on that subject forever. I have never since ventured to ask anybody any questions on that subject, but have studied it out for myself as well as I could. Soon after that the doctor preached a sermon in which he denounced skepticism in his own vigorous terms, and consigned to perdition all the great teachers of heresy, of whom he mentioned the names—before unheard, I am sure, by the great majority of cadets, thought their works were to be found in the West Point and all other public libraries. I never looked into any of those books, though other cadets told me that they, at his suggestion, had sought there for the information the good doctor had refused to give us. I have never, even to this day, been willing to read or listen to what seemed to me irreverent words, even though they might be intended to convey ideas not very different from my own. It has seemed to me that a man ought to speak with reverence of the religion taught him in his childhood and believed by his fellow-men, or else keep his philosophical thoughts, however profound, to himself.
Another sermon of the good doctor of divinity, which I did not happen to hear, on the Mosaic history of creation, contained, as stated to me, a denunciation of the "God-hating geologists." That offended me, for I had, in common with all the other cadets, learned greatly to admire and respect our professor of geology. So I did not go to the Bible-class any more. But the professor of ethics continued to drive his fine fast horse, much the best one on the Point, and I believe the best I had ever seen. Hence he continued to enjoy my esteem, though perhaps he did not know it.
Near the beginning of the last year of my cadet life an event occurred which very nearly proved fatal to my prospects, and I have often wondered that it did not have some effect on my hopes. But, singularly enough, I never had a moment's doubt or anxiety as to the final result. It was then the custom for candidates to report on June 1, or within the next few days. They were organized into sections, and placed under the instruction of cadets selected from the second class to prepare them, as far as possible, for examination about the middle of the month. I was given charge of a section in arithmetic, and have never in all my life discharged my duty with more conscientious fidelity than I drilled those boys in the subject with which I was familiar, and in teaching which I had had some experience. We had gone over the entire course upon which they were to be examined, and all were well prepared except two who seemed hopelessly deficient upon a few subjects which they had been unable to comprehend. Not willing to omit the last possible effort in behalf of those two boys, I took them to the blackboard and devoted the last fifteen or twenty minutes before the bugle-call to a final effort to prepare them for the ordeal they must face the next morning. While I was thus employed several of my classmates came into the room, and began talking to the other candidates. Though their presence annoyed me, it did not interfere with my work; so I kept on intently with the two young boys until the bugle sounded.
DISMISSED FROM THE ACADEMY WITHOUT TRIAL
I then went to my quarters without paying any attention to the interruption, or knowing anything of the character of what had occurred. But one of the candidates, perhaps by way of excuse for his failure, wrote to his parents some account of the "deviltry" in which my classmates had indulged that day. That report found its way to the War Department, and was soon followed by an order to the commandant of cadets to investigate. The facts were found fully to exonerate me from any participation in or countenance of the deviltry, except that I did not stop it; and showed that I had faithfully done my duty in teaching the candidates. After this investigation was over, I was called upon to answer for my own conduct; and, the names of my guilty classmates being unknown to the candidates, I was also held responsible for their conduct. I answered by averring and showing, as I believed, my own innocence of all that had been done, except my neglect of duty in tolerating such a proceeding. My conscience was so clear of any intentional wrong that I had no anxiety about the result. But in due time came an order from the Secretary of War dismissing me from the academy without trial. That, I believe, shocked me a little; but the sense of injustice was too strong in my mind to permit of a doubt that it would be righted when the truth was known. I proposed to go straight to Washington and lay the facts before the government. Then I realized for the first time what it meant to have friends. All my classmates and many other cadets came forward with letters to their congressmen, and many of them to senators whom they happened to know, and other influential men in Washington. So I carried with me a great bundle of letters setting forth my virtues in terms which might have filled the breast of George Washington with pride.
There was no public man in Washington whom I had ever seen, and probably no one who had ever heard of me, except the few in the War Department who knew of my alleged bad conduct. The Secretary of War would not even see me until I was at last presented to him by an officer of the army. Then he offered me his forefinger to shake, but he could give me no encouragement whatever. This was after I had been in Washington several weeks. My congressman, Mr. Campbell, who had succeeded Mr. Turner, and several others received me kindly, read my letters, and promised to see the Secretary of War, which no doubt they did, though without any apparent effect. The only result was the impossible suggestion that if I would give the names of my guilty classmates I might be let off. I had made an early call upon the "Little Giant," Senator Douglas, to whom I had no letter, and whom I had never met; had introduced myself as a "citizen of Illinois" in trouble; and had told my story. He said he was not on good terms with that administration, and preferred not to go near the War Department if it could be avoided, but if it proved necessary to let him know. Hence, after all else failed, including my personal appeal, which I had waited so long to make, I told Mr. Douglas all that had occurred, and suggested that there was nothing left but to "put in the reserve," as the tacticians call it. He replied: "Come up in the morning, and we will go to see about it." On our way to the War Department the next morning, the senator said, "I don't know that I can do anything with this —— Whig administration"; but he assured me all should be made right in the next. That seemed to me the kind of man I had looked for in vain up to that time. I waited in the anteroom only a few minutes, when the great senator came out with a genial smile on his face, shook me warmly by the hand, and bade by good-by, saying: "It is all right. You can go back to West Point. The Secretary has given me his promise." I need not go into the details of the long and tedious formalities through which the Secretary's promise was finally fulfilled. It was enough to me that my powerful friend had secured the promise that, upon proof of the facts as I had stated them, I should be fully exonerated and restored to the academy. I returned to West Point, and went through the long forms of a court of inquiry, a court martial, and the waiting for the final action of the War Department, all occupying some five or six months, diligently attending to my military and academic duties, and trying hard to obey all the regulations (except as to smoking), never for a moment doubting the final result. That lesson taught me that innocence and justice sometimes need powerful backing. Implicit trust in Providence does not seem to justify any neglect to employ also the biggest battalions and the heaviest guns.
JAMES B. McPHERSON
During all that time I continued to live with my old room-mate, James B. McPherson, in a tower room and an adjoining bedroom, which LaRhett L. Livingston also shared. I had been corporal, sergeant, and lieutenant up to the time of my dismissal; hence the duties of private were a little difficult, and I found it hard to avoid demerits; but with some help from our kind-hearted inspecting officer, Milton Cogswell,—bless his memory!—I contrived to get off with 196 demerits in a possible 200 that last year. In a mild way, McPherson was also a little under a cloud at that time. He had been first captain of the battalion and squad marcher of the class at engineering drill. In this latter capacity he also had committed the offense of not reporting some of the class for indulging in unauthorized sport. The offense was not so grave as mine, and, besides, his military record was very much better. So he was let off with a large demerit mark and a sort of honorable retirement to the office of quartermaster of the battalion. I still think, as I did then, that McPherson's punishment was the more appropriate. Livingston was one of those charming, amiable fellows with whom nobody could well find any fault, though I believe he did get a good many demerits. He also seemed to need the aid of tobacco in his studies. William P. Craighill, who succeeded McPherson as first captain, had no fault whatever, that I ever heard of, except one—that was, standing too high for his age. He was a beardless youth, only five feet high and sixteen years old when he entered the academy; yet he was so inconsiderate as to keep ahead of me all the time in everything but tactics, and that was of no consequence to him, for he was not destined to command troops in the field, while, as it turned out, I was. It has always seemed to me a little strange that the one branch which I never expected to use afterward was the only study in which I graduated at the head. Perhaps McPherson and Craighill thought, as I did, that it made no difference where I stood in tactics.
Among all the tactical officers of our time, Lieutenant John M. Jones was esteemed the most accomplished soldier and tactician, and the most rigid but just and impartial disciplinarian. It had been my good fortune to enjoy his instruction while I was private, corporal, sergeant, and lieutenant, and I fully shared with others in the above high estimate of his character. I even flattered myself that my soldierly conduct in all that time had not escaped his favorable notice. When my case was before the court of inquiry in the summer of 1852, the professors who had been called to testify gave me a high character as a faithful, diligent student. When Lieutenant Jones was called to testify as to my character as a soldier, he replied that, in his opinion, it was very bad! While I was not a little surprised and disappointed at that revelation of the truth from the lips of the superior whom I so highly respected, and did not doubt for a moment his better judgment, I could not be unmindful of the fact that the other tactical officers did not know me so well and had not so high a reputation as Lieutenant Jones in respect to discipline; and I felt at liberty to avail myself, in my own interest, of the opportunity suggested by this reflection. Hence, when, after my complete restoration to the academy in January, I found my demerits accumulating with alarming rapidity, I applied for and obtained a transfer to Company C, where I would be under Lieutenant Cogswell and Cadet Captain Vincent, my beloved classmate, who had cordially invited me to share his room in barracks.
ROBERT E. LEE
John B. Hood was a jolly good fellow, a little discouraged at first by unexpected hard work; but he fought his way manfully to the end. He was not quite so talented as some of his great associates in the Confederate army, but he was a tremendous fighter when occasion offered. During that last period of our cadet life, Colonel Robert E. Lee was superintendent of the academy; he was the personification of dignity, justice, and kindness, and he was respected and admired as the ideal of a commanding officer. Colonel Robert S. Garnett was commandant of cadets; he was a thorough soldier who meted out impartial justice with both hands. At our last parade I received "honorable mention" twice, both the personal judgment of the commandant himself. The one was for standing at the head of the class in tactics; the other, for "not carrying musket properly in ranks." Who can ever forget that last parade, when the entire class, officers and privates together, marched up in line and made their salute to the gallant commandant! To a West-Pointer no other emotion equals it, except that of victory in battle.
CHAPTER II On Graduating Leave—Brevet Second Lieutenant in the 2d Artillery at Fort Moultrie—An Officer's Credit Before the War—Second Lieutenant in the 1st Artillery—Journey to Fort Capron, Florida— A Reservation as to Whisky—A Trip to Charleston and a Troublesome Money-Bag—An "Affair of Honor"—A Few Law-books—An Extemporized "Map and Itinerary"—Yellow Fever—At A. P. Hill's Home in Virginia —Assigned to Duty in the Department of Philosophy at West Point— Interest in Astronomy—Marriage—A Hint from Jefferson Davis—Leave of Absence—Professor of Physics in Washington University.
An old army colonel many years ago described a West Point graduate, when he first reported for duty after graduating leave, as a very young officer with a full supply of self-esteem, a four-story leather trunk filled with good clothes, and an empty pocket. To that must be added, in my case, a debt equal to the full value of trunk and clothes and a hundred dollars borrowed money. My "equipment fund" and much more had been expended in Washington and in journeys to and fro during the period of administrative uncertainty in respect to the demands of discipline at West Point. Still I had so good a time, that graduating leave, as any millionaire in the United States. My good father was evidently disturbed, and began to fear—for the first time, I think—that I was really going to the bad! His worst fears as to the possible effects of a military education had, after all, been realized! When I showed him the first check from New York, covering my pay account for July, he said that it was enough to ruin any boy in the world. Indeed, I myself was conscious of the fact that I had not done a stroke of work all that month for those sixty-five and a half dollars; and in order that my father might be convinced of my determination not to let such unearned wealth lead me into dissipation, I at once offered to lend him fifty dollars to pay a debt due to somebody on the Freeport Baptist meeting-house. Confidence was thereby restored.
BREVET SECOND LIEUTENANT
My first orders assigned me to duty at Fort Moultrie, South Carolina, as brevet second lieutenant in the 2d Artillery. The steamer landed me at Charleston, September 29, 1853, the day I became twenty-two years of age. The next morning I found myself without money enough to pay my hotel bill and take me over to Sullivan's Island, but pay was due me for September. Upon inquiry, I found that the paymaster was not in the city, but that he kept his public funds in the Bank of South Carolina. Being unacquainted with any of the good people of Charleston, the well-known rules of banks about identification seemed a serious obstacle. I presented my pay account at the bank, informing the cashier with a confident air that I was well aware of the fact that the major's money was there, but that the major himself was out of town. The accomplished cashier, after scrutinizing me for a time, handed me the money. My older brother officers at the fort had a good laugh at what they were pleased to call my "brass"; but I consoled myself with the reflection that I had found out that my face was good for something. It is an instructive fact that before the Civil War an officer of the army needed no indorser anywhere in this country. His check or his pay account was as good as gold. All that was required was identification. It is lamentably true that such has not been the case since the war.
I found only one officer on duty with my battery at Fort Moultrie, and he was awaiting my arrival so that he might go on leave. He turned over the command with a manifestation of confidence which surprised me at the time, but which was fully explained the next day. In the morning the first sergeant reported to me, with the quarterly and monthly returns prepared for my signature, and made out more beautifully than anything in writing I had ever before seen, and explained to me in detail all the business affairs of the battery, as if he were reporting to an old captain who had just returned from a long leave of absence. Next to General Scott and Colonel Lee, with whom I had the honor of some acquaintance, I was quite sure there stood before me the finest-looking and most accomplished soldier in the United States Army. What a hard time young officers of the army would sometimes have but for the old sergeants! I have pitied from the bottom of my heart volunteer officers whom I have seen starting out, even in the midst of war, with perfectly raw regiments, and not even one old sergeant to teach them anything. No country ought to be so cruel to its soldiers as that.
In September we had the usual artillery target practice, which was afterward recalled to my mind many times by the bombardment of Fort Sumter in 1861 by the same guns I had used in practice, and at the same range. Then came the change of stations of troops, which took the Moultrie garrison to Florida, and some of the 1st Artillery to their place. For a time the fort was left without garrison except a few officers who were awaiting the arrival of their regiment. I also was ordered to remain until I "got off my brevet" and was appointed "full second" in the 1st Artillery. It had been a yellow- fever summer, and the cottages on Sullivan's Island were even more fully occupied than usual, mostly by families of planters from the rice plantations of South Carolina. Hospitality was unbounded, and of the most charming character. Nothing I have experienced at home or in the great capitals of Europe has surpassed or dimmed the memory of that first introduction to Southern society.
JOURNEY TO FORT CAPRON, FLORIDA
In December, 1853, the order came announcing my appointment as second lieutenant, 1st Artillery, and directing me to join Battery D at Fort Capron, Indian River, Florida. A steamer took me to Palatka, stopping a short time at Jacksonville, which was then little more than a landing on the St. John's River. After a week's delay at Palatka, another little mail-steamer carried me and few other passengers up the river to lake Monroe, whence a mule served for transportation across to New Smyrna, on Mosquito Lagoon, opposite the inlet. It was a great day's sport going up the river. The banks seemed almost lined with alligators, and the water covered with water-fowl of all kinds, while an occasional deer or flock of turkeys near by would offer a chance shot. At New Smyrna Mrs. Sheldon provided excellent entertainment during the ten days' waiting for the mail-boat down Mosquito Lagoon and Indian River, while Mr. Sheldon's pack of hounds furnished sport. At length old Captain Davis took the mail and my baggage and me on board his sloop, bound for Fort Capron, opposite the mouth of Indian River. He divided his time fairly between carrying the United States mail and drinking whisky, but he never attempted to do both at the same time. I am not sure but it was the captain's example which first suggested to me the rule which I adopted when commanding an army in the field—to do no drinking till after the day's fighting was over. But, in fact, I never liked whisky, and never drank much, anyhow.
We arrived in twenty-five days from Charleston, which was regarded as a very satisfactory journey. At the fort I found Captain and Brevet-Major Joseph A. Haskin, commanding; First Lieutenant A. P. Hill, afterward lieutenant-general in the Confederate army; Dr. A. J. Foard, assistant surgeon; and my classmate Livingston, brevet second lieutenant; besides sixteen enlisted men—rather a close approximation to the ideal of that old colonel who once said the army would be delightful if it were not for the —— soldiers. But that was changed after a while by the arrival of recruits— enough in one batch to fill the battery full. The battery had recently come from the gulf coast, where yellow fever had done destructive work. I was told that there happened to be only one officer on duty with the battery—a Lieutenant somebody—when the fever broke out, and that he resigned and went home. If that is true, I trust he went into the Civil War and got killed in battle; for that was the only atonement he could possibly make for leaving his men in that way. But such cases have been exceedingly rare, while those of the opposite extreme have not been uncommon, where officers have remained with the sick and died there, instead of going with the main body of their men to a more healthy place. The proper place for a line officer is with the fighting force, to care for it and preserve its strength by every means in his power, for war may come to-morrow. The surgeons and their assistants must and do fully care for the sick and wounded.
Life at Fort Capron was not by any means monotonous. It was varied by sailing, fishing, and shooting, and even the continuity of sport was broken twice a month, generally, by the arrival of the mail- boat. But at length this diversion failed us. Some difference occurred between the United States Post-office Department and the mail-contractor on the St. John's River, and we got no mail for three months. Then the commanding officer ordered me to go to Charleston by the sloop that had brought us supplies, and bring back the mail by the regular route. I made the round trip in little more than a month. That same paymaster whom I had found away from his post on my first arrival in Charleston intrusted to me a carpet- bag full of gold and silver, to pay off the garrison for the past six months, with as much advance pay as the officers would consent to take, so that he would not have to make the trip down for a long time to come. I had to carry the money-bag and a revolver about with me for twenty-five days or more. I have never consented to handle Uncle Sam's money since that time.
AN "AFFAIR OF HONOR"
It was during that short visit to Charleston that I became engaged, for the first and only time, in an "affair of honor." A young man who had been in my class at West Point, but had resigned before the class had graduated, came to me at the hotel, and asked me, as his "friend," to deliver a note he held in his hand. I replied: "Yes. If you will place yourself in my hands and do what I decide is honorable and right, I will be your friend. Tell me about it." My condition was accepted without reserve. My friend, whose home was in a distant city, had been in Charleston some weeks, and had spent all the money he had and all he could borrow. He was on the eve of negotiating a further loan from a well-known banker when the son of that banker, who had met my friend about town, told his father the plain truth about my friend's habits and his probable value as a debtor. The negotiation was ended. My friend had become a stranger in a strange land, without the means to stay there any longer or to go home. It was a desperate case—one which could not be relived by anything less than the blood of the young "villain" who had told his father that "infamous"—truth! I replied: "Yes, that is a bad case; we will have to fix that up. How are you off at home?" He said the "old man" had plenty of money, but had sent him enough to come home once or twice before, and would not send any more. Upon further inquiry, I found that my friend's hotel bill and expenses home would amount to a little less than the sum I had just drawn on my pay account up to date; so I handed him the money, saying that he could return it when convenient, and his "honor" was fully satisfied. I never afterward heard anything from him about that money, and my tailor had to wait a little longer for his pay; but I had done my duty, as I understood it, under the code of honor. I saw that friend once afterward. He went into the army in 1861, accidentally shot himself, and died miserably on the march, an old musket-barrel, placed there by my order, marking his grave by the wayside. It was not granted to him, poor fellow! to fight a battle for his country.
I took with me to Florida some law-books—Blackstone, Kent, and a few others: so few, indeed, that I learned them nearly all by heart; then, for want of anything better, I read over the entire code of the State of Florida. Several times in after years I found it necessary, in order to save time, to repeat to great lawyers the exact words of the Constitution of the United States; but their habit was much the better. It is seldom wise to burden the memory with those things which you have only to open a book to find out. I recollect well that answer once made by William M. Evarts, then attorney-general of the United States, to my inquiry whether he would give me, offhand, the law on a certain point, to save the time requisite for a formal application and answer in writing. He said if it was a question of statute law he would have to examine the books, but if only a question of common law he could make that as well as anybody. But I had nothing better to do for a time in Florida, and when I got out I did not find my memory half so much overloaded with law as my blood was with malarial poison. Luckily, I got rid of the poison after a while, but held on to the law, and I never found it did me any harm. In fact, I would advise all young officers to acquire as much of it as they can.
AN EXTEMPORZIED "MAP AND ITINERARY"
In the winter of 1853-4 there was an armed truce between the United States of America and the Seminole nation. A new policy was soon inaugurated, which had for its object to establish a complete line of posts across the State from Jupiter to Lake Okeechobee, and thence westward to the gulf, so as more securely to confine the Seminoles within the Everglade region, although, so far as I know, nobody then wanted the use of that more northern part of this vast territory. The first step was to reopen the old military road from the mouth of Indian River across to the Kissimmee River, and thence to Tampa. Being the second lieutenant of the single company, I was given the privilege of doing that work, and nine men and one wagon were assigned me for that purpose. I spent the larger part of my time, going and coming, in hunting on either the right or left of the road, thereby obtaining all the deer and turkeys the command could consume, but paying very little attention to the road itself, in utter disregard of the usual military rule which requires that a sketch be made and an itinerary kept of all such marches. Hence I was a little puzzled when Acting-Inspector-General Canby, from Washington, wanted to go across from Indian River to Tampa, and called on me for a copy of my map and itinerary. But I had stood very high in drawing at West Point, and could not allow myself to be disturbed in any such way as that; so I unlocked what little recollection I had of the route and my general knowledge of the country, and prepared a very beautiful map and a quite elaborate itinerary, with which the inspector-general seemed greatly pleased. But I took great care, in addition, to send a man with him who had been with me, and who was a good guide, so I felt quite safe respecting any possible imperfections that the inspector-general might find in my work. I never heard anything more about that matter until General Sherman and I met General Canby at Portland in 1870. At that time we had a little laugh at my expense respecting the beauty of that map of mine, and the accuracy with which I had delineated the route. But as I was then a major-general, and Canby was a brigadier-general under my command, I was not subjected to the just criticism I deserved for having forgotten that map and itinerary at the time I made the march.
The next step in the strategical operations designed by the War Department for Florida was the occupation of Fort Jupiter, and the construction of a new post there, reopening the old military road of General Jessup and building a block-house on the bank of Lake Okeechobee, similar work to be undertaken from the other shore of the lake westward. The work was commenced about midwinter of 1854- 5, and it was my privilege to do it. When the hot weather came on at Jupiter, fever began to break out among the troops. Jupiter Inlet had been closed for several years, and the water had become stagnant. Within a very few weeks, every man, woman, and child was down, or had been down, with fever. The mortality was such that there were hardly enough strong men remaining to bury the dead. As soon as I had sufficiently recovered to go in a boat to Fort Capron, the major sent me back with all the convalescents that were fit to be moved, and soon afterward broke up that pest-house at Jupiter and moved the command back to Capron. So far as I know, Fort Jupiter was never again occupied, and I think the block-house on Lake Okeechobee was never completed. At all events, as good luck would have it, I got through with my part of the work and was ordered out of Florida before the Seminoles found out what the plans of the War Department were. My old friend and companion George L. Hartsuff, who had like duty to perform on the west side of the lake, was attacked by the Indians and severely wounded, several of his men being killed. He and a few others made their escape. Hartsuff was one of the strongest, bravest, finest soldiers I ever knew, and one of my most intimate friends; but, unlike myself, he was always in bad luck. He got caught by the Seminoles in Florida; was shipwrecked on Lake Michigan; came very near dying of yellow fever; and after organizing the Twenty-third Army Corps and commanding it for a time, finally died of the wounds he had received in Florida.
I had a new and peculiar experience at Fort Capron during my convalescence. I had there twenty-five or thirty convalescent soldiers, and no doctor, but an intelligent hospital steward. I was like the lawyer who was asked to say grace at the table of one of his wealthy clients, and who was unwilling to admit, under such circumstances, that there was any one thing he could not do. So I had sick-call regularly every morning, carefully questioned every patient as to his symptoms, and told the steward what to give him, taking care not to prescribe anything which some doctor had not tried on me. All my patients got well. At length A. P. Hill came up from Jupiter, on his way home on sick-leave. At Capron he had a relapse, and was desperately ill. I had to send a barge to Jupiter for some medicine which he knew was necessary. Mr. Jones, the sutler, and some of the men helped me to nurse him night and day for a long time. At length he recovered so far as to continue his journey.
About the same time came orders promoting me to first lieutenant and detailing me for duty at West Point. So Hill and I came out of Florida together. On board the St. John's River steamer I had a relapse, and was very ill. Hill cared for me tenderly, kept me at Savannah awhile, and then some days at Charleston, where I became so much better that he ventured to leave me long enough to go over to Fort Moultrie to see some of our brother officers. While he was away I became so ill again that the doctor had to put me under the influence of chloroform. When Hill came back in the evening he cursed himself for all that was mean in the world for having left me even for an hour. That's the kind of friends and comrades soldiers are! As soon as I was well enough to travel, Hill took me to his home at Culpeper Court-House in Virginia. There they kept me quite a long time. That dear old gentleman, his father, brought to my bedside every morning a brandy mint-julep, made with his own hand, to drink before I got up. Under its benign influence my recovery was very rapid. But let none of my young friends forget that the best gifts of Providence are those most liable to be abused. The wise Virginian never offered me too many of them. By the first of December Hill and I went together to West Point, I to report for duty, and he to visit his numerous warm friends at that delightful station. There we parted, in December, 1855, never to meet again. With the glad tidings from Virginia that peace was near, there came to me in North Carolina the report that Lieutenant- General A. P. Hill had been killed in the last battle at Petersburg. A keen pang shot through my heart, for he had not ceased to be esteemed as my kind friend and brother, though for four years numbered among the public enemy. His sense of duty, so false in my judgment, I yet knew to be sincere, because I knew the man. I wish all my fellow-citizens, North and South, East and West, could know each other as well as I knew A. P. Hill.
IN THE DEPARTMENT OF PHILOSOPHY AT WEST POINT
I was assigned to duty in the department of philosophy, under Professor W. H. C. Bartlett, one of the ablest, most highly esteemed, and most beloved of the great men who have placed the United States Military Academy among the foremost institutions of the world. At first it seemed a little strange to be called back, after the lapse of only two years, to an important duty at the place where my military record had been so "bad." But I soon found that at West Point, as elsewhere, the standard of merit depended somewhat upon the point of view of the judge. A master of "philosophy" could not afford to look too closely into past records in other subjects. Besides, philosophers know, if others do not, that philosophers are sure to profit by healthful experience. I never had any more trouble at West Point, though I did have much difficulty in helping younger men out. I had the great good fortune never to be compelled to report a cadet for any delinquency, nor to find one deficient in studies, though I did sometimes have, figuratively speaking, to beat them over the head with a cudgel to get in "phil" enough to pass the academic board.
I had then a strong impression, which has grown still stronger with time, that "equations A and B" need not be developed very far into the "mechanics of molecules" to qualify a gallant young fellow for the command of a squadron of cavalry; but this is, in fact, generally and perfectly well understood at West Point. The object there is to develop the mental, moral, and physical man to as high a degree as is practicable, and to ascertain his best place in the public service. It is only the hopelessly incorrigible in some respect who fall by the way. Even they, if they have stayed there long enough, are the better for the training they have received.
In this congenial work and its natural sequence I formed for the first time the habit of earnest, hard mental work to the limit of my capacity for endurance, and sometimes a little beyond, which I have retained the greater part of my life. After the short time required to master the "Analytical Mechanics" which had been introduced as a text-book since I had graduated, and a short absence on account of my Florida debility, which had reduced me to 120 pounds in weight, I began to pursue physics into its more secret depths. I even indulged the ambition to work out the mathematical interpretation of all the phenomena of physical science, including electricity and magnetism. After three years of hard labor in this direction, I thought I could venture to publish a part of my work in book form, and thus submit it to the judgment of the able scientists whose acquaintance I had made at the meetings of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.( 1)
INTEREST IN ASTRONOMY
While I was engaged in this work upon physics, a young gentleman named Drown came to West Point, and asked me to give him some private lessons in mechanics and astronomy, to perfect his qualifications as a teacher. I went over those subjects with him in about one hundred lessons, including a few in practical astronomy. He was the most ardent student I have ever known. Like, I doubt not, all the most earnest seekers for divine truth, in whatever way revealed to man, he would not be satisfied with his own perception of such truth unless he could feel it "burn in his brain." In that brief experience I became for the first time intensely interested in practical astronomy, about which I had thought little before, although I had had sole charge of the observatory for some time. I have always since given Professor Drown credit for teaching me practical astronomy by first leading me to the discovery that I had a natural taste and aptitude for such work, theretofore unsuspected. That new "lead" was followed with all possible zeal, day and night, for many months, until all the instruments in the observatory, fixed and movable, including the old mural circle, had gone through a season's work. Although my scientific experience has been very limited, I do not believe anything else in the broad domain of science can be half so fascinating as the study of the heavens. I have regretted many times that necessity limited my enjoyment of that great pleasure to a very few years instead of a lifetime.
In that West Point observatory I had one of the many opportunities of my life—one which I always enjoyed—of protecting the unfortunate from the stern decree of "justice." The old German custodian came to me one morning in great distress, saying that he had let the "astronomical chronometer" run down, and that the professor would kill him. I went with him to the transit tower, made an observation, and set the chronometer. The professor never knew the difference till I told him, after the lapse of time named in the military statute of limitations. Then he seemed to rejoice as much as I over the narrow escape of his faithful subordinate. The professor was not half as stern as he sometimes appeared to be.
I need hardly say that in the midst of these absorbing occupations I forgot all about the career I had chosen in my boyhood. The law had no longer any charms for me. Yet I found in after life far more use for the law than for physics and astronomy, and little less than for the art and science of war.
In June, 1857, I married Miss Harriet Bartlett, the second daughter of my chief in the department of philosophy. Five children were born to us, three of whom—two sons and one daughter—grew to maturity and survive their mother, who died in Washington soon after I was assigned to the command of the army, and was buried at West Point by the side of our first-born son, who had died in 1868, soon after I became Secretary of War.
In the summer of 1860 came the end of my term of duty at West Point. My taste for service in the line of the army, if I ever had any, was gone; and all hope of promotion, if I ever had any, was still further away. I had been for more than four years about nineteenth first lieutenant in my regiment, without rising a single file. I was a man of family, and had already become quite bald "in the service of my country." There was no captaincy in sight for me during the ordinary lifetime of man, so I accepted the professorship of physics in Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri. But Mr. Jefferson Davis, an intimate friend of my father-in-law, gave me a timely hint that promotion might be better in a year or two; and his bitterest personal enemy, General Scott, gave me a highly flattering indorsement which secured leave of absence for a year. Thus I retained my commission.
PROFESSOR OF PHYSICS IN WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY
As the period of the Civil War approached a very large part of my time was occupied in reading and studying, as coolly as possible, every phase of the momentous questions which I had been warned must probably be submitted to the decision of war. Hence, when the crisis came I was not unprepared to decide for myself, without prejudice or passion, where the path of duty lay, yet not without some feeling of indulgence toward my brother officers of the army who, as I believed, were led by the influence of others so far astray. I took an early occasion to inform General Scott of my readiness to relinquish my leave of absence and return to duty whenever my services might be required, and I had the high honor of not being requested to renew my oath of allegiance.
My life in St. Louis during the eight months next preceding the Civil War was of great benefit to me in the delicate and responsible duties which so soon devolved upon me. My connection with Washington University brought me into close relations with many of the most patriotic, enlightened, and, above all, unselfish citizens of Missouri. Some of them were of the Southern school of politics, but the large majority were earnest Union men, though holding the various shades of opinion then common on the question of slavery. By long and intimate intercourse, in the joint prosecution of the work of the highest philanthropy, such men had learned to respect the sincerity of each others's adverse convictions, and had become the exact exemplars of the many shades of honest, patriotic Unionism so clearly described in 1863 by President Lincoln in his letter to a delegation of partizans who had not learned that principle of charity which seems to have been born in the great martyr of freedom.
Would that I could do fitting honor to the names of those patriots, nearly all of whom have gone to their rest, including Dr. Elliot, President of Washington University. James E. Yeatman, President of the Sanitary Commission, still lives to honor his country and the great cause of humanity of which he was the faithful and efficient servant. I did not meet Hamilton R. Gamble until after he had become governor. I shall have occasion to say more of him later. He was the foremost champion of the Union cause in Missouri, and the most abused by those who were the loudest in their professions of loyalty. Of the younger generation, I will mention only one, whose good deeds would otherwise never be known. While himself absent in the public service, wherein he was most efficient, he made me occupy his delightful residence near Lafayette Park, and consume all the products of his excellent garden. We knew each other then only as fellow-workers in the Union cause, but have been the most devoted friends from that day to this. The name of that dear friend of mine is Charles Gibson. Among the earliest and most active leaders in the Union cause in Missouri, I must not fail to mention the foremost—Frank P. Blair, Jr. His patriotism and courage were like a calcium light at the head of the Union column in the dark days and nights of the spring of 1861.
[( 1) Much of my time in St. Louis during the winter preceding the Civil War was spent in revising this work, preparing illustrations, and getting it ready for the press. Then it was packed up in a box and carefully stored away in the St. Louis Arsenal, to abide the results of war.]
CHAPTER III. Return to Duty—General Harney's Attitude—Nathaniel Lyon in Command —Defense of the St. Louis Arsenal—Service as Mustering Officer— Major of the First Missouri—Surrender of Camp Jackson—Adjutant- general on Lyon's Staff—A Missing Letter from Fremont to Lyon— Lyon's Reply—Battle of Wilson's Creek—Death of Lyon—A Question of Command During the Retreat—Origin of the Opposition of the Blairs to Fremont—Affair at Fredericktown.
When it became probable that military force would be required by the government to maintain its authority in the Southern States, I informed the War Department of my readiness to return to duty whenever my services might be required, and was instructed to await orders in St. Louis. Upon President Lincoln's first call for volunteers, I was detailed to muster in the troops required of the State of Missouri. With the order of detail was furnished a copy of the old instructions for mustering into service, etc., which required me to call upon the governor of Missouri for the regiments to be mustered, and to accept only fully organized regiments. It was well and publicly known that the executive of Missouri was disloyal to the United States, and that compliance with the President's demand for volunteers was not to be expected from the State government; yet my instructions authorized me to take no action which could be effective under such circumstances, and the then department commander, Brigadier-General William S. Harney, would not consent that any such action be taken without orders from Washington. I called upon Governor Jackson for his regiments, but received no reply.
RETURN TO DUTY
In my visit to General Harney after the attack on Fort Sumter, I urged the necessity of prompt measures to protect the St. Louis Arsenal, with its large stores of arms and ammunition, then of priceless value, and called his attention of a rumor of an intended attack upon the arsenal by the secessionists then encamped near the city under the guise of State militia. In reply, the general denounced in his usual vigorous language the proposed attempt upon the arsenal; and, as if to clinch his characterization of such a "—— outrage," said: "Why, the State has not yet passed an ordinance of secession; she has not gone out of the Union." That did not indicate to me that General Harney's Union principles were quite up to the standard required by the situation, and I shared with many others a feeling of great relief when he was soon after relieved, and Captain Nathaniel Lyons succeeded to the command of the department. Yet I have no doubt General Harney was, from his own point of view, thoroughly loyal to the Union, though much imbued with the Southern doctrines which brought on secession and civil war. His appropriate place after that movement began was that of the honorable retirement in which he passed the remainder of his days, respected by all for his sterling character and many heroic services to his country.
Two days later, Captain Lyon, then commanding the St. Louis Arsenal, having received from the War Department authority to enroll and muster into the service the Missouri volunteers as they might present themselves, I reported to him and acted under his orders. Fortunately, a large number of the loyal citizens of St. Louis had, in anticipation of a call to take up arms in support of the government, organized themselves into companies, and received some instruction in tactics at their places of secret nightly meeting in the city. On the other hand, the organized militia of the State, mostly disloyal, were in the city of St. Louis near the arsenal, which contained many thousand muskets, and which was defended by only a small body of regular troops. There was great danger that the arsenal would follow the fate of the public arsenals in the more Southern States. To avert this danger was the first great object.
Upon receipt of the necessary authority by Captain Lyon, I was called out of church on Sunday morning, April 21, and the loyal secret organizations were instructed to enter the arsenal at night, individually, each member being furnished with a pass for that purpose. The mustering officer employed himself all night and the following day in distributing arms and ammunition to the men as they arrived, and in stationing them along the arsenal walls. Thus the successful defense of the arsenal was secured, though its garrison was neither mustered into service nor organized into regiments, nor even enrolled. The organization of the volunteers now began, the mustering officer superintending the election of officers, enrolling the men, and perfecting the organization in conformity to the militia laws of the State.
On June 4 I transmitted to the adjutant-general "the muster-rolls of five regiments of infantry; of four rifle battalions of two companies each, attached to the 1st, 2d, 3d, and 4th regiments; of one artillery battalion of three companies; and of a company of pioneers"; also "the muster-roll of Brigadier-General Lyon's staff, mustered by himself." Accompanying the muster-rolls was a return showing the strength of each regiment and of the brigade.
Lyon had previously been elected brigadier-general of the brigade the regiments of which I had mustered in, but I had no authority to muster in a brigadier-general and staff.
MAJOR OF THE FIRST MISSOURI
The Missouri United States Reserve Corps, organized in St. Louis about the same time, consisting of five regiments, was mustered into service by General Lyon, under special authority from the War Department. Upon the cordial invitation of the officers of the 1st Regiment, I accepted the place of major of that regiment, mustered myself into service as such, and devoted all the time that could be spared from my mustering duties to instructing the officers in tactics and military administration—a labor which was abundantly repaid by the splendid record soon made by that regiment.
On June 24 I made a full report to the adjutant-general of the discharge of my duties as mustering officer, including three new regiments of three years' volunteers whose muster would be completed in a few days. With this report my connection with that service was terminated. On the following day I was relieved from mustering duty, and at General Lyon's request was ordered to report to him at Boonville, remaining with him as adjutant-general and chief of staff until his death at Wilson's Creek.
The foregoing account gives the organization (the strength was about 14,000) of the volunteer force with which the war in Missouri was begun. To this was added Lyon's company of the 2d Infantry, a detachment of regular recruits, about 180 strong, commanded by Lieutenant Lothrop, and Totten's battery of the 2d United States Artillery. Lyon, who, as described, had been elected brigadier- general of the militia, was on May 17 appointed by the President to the same grade in the United States volunteer forces; and when, on May 30, General Harney was relieved from the command of the Department of the West, General Lyon became the commander of that department.
General Lyon was a man of ability and scholarly attainments, an earnest patriot, keenly alive to the nature and magnitude of the struggle in which the country was about to engage, and eager to take the initiative as soon as he had at his command sufficient force to give promise of success. To his keen foresight the State militia at Camp Jackson, near St. Louis, though a lawful State organization engaged in its usual field exercises, was an incipient rebel army which ought to be crushed in the bud. This feeling was shared by the more earnest Union men of St. Louis, who had the confidence of the President and were in daily consultation with Lyon; while the more prudent or conservative, hoping to avoid actual conflict in the State, or at least in the city, advised forbearance. Subsequent events showed how illusive was the hope of averting hostilities in any of the border States, and how fortunate it was that active measures were adopted at once.
On May 10 General Lyon marched out with the force then organized, surrounded Camp Jackson, and demanded its surrender. The militia commander, Brigadier-General Daniel M. Frost, after protesting in vain against the "wrong and insult" to his State, seeing resistance hopeless, surrendered his command, about 1500 men, with their arms and munitions of war. After the surrender, and while preparations were making to conduct the prisoners to the arsenal, some shots were fired upon our troops from a crowd that had assembled round the camp-ground. The fire was returned by some of the troops, in spite of all efforts of the officers to prevent it, and a number of persons, mostly inoffensive, were killed and wounded. In this affair I was designated by General Lyon to receive the surrender of the commander of Camp Jackson and his troops, and to take charge of the prisoners, conduct them to the arsenal, and the next day to parole them. I extended to the commander and other officers the courtesy of permitting them to retain their swords, and treated the prisoners in such a manner as to soothe somewhat their intensely excited feelings. One of the colonels, not anticipating such courteous treatment, had broken his sword and thrown the pieces upon the ground, rather than surrender it to the hated Yankees.
ADJUTANT-GENERAL ON LYON'S STAFF
The possession of St. Louis, and the supremacy of the national authority therein, being now secured, General Lyon directed his energies toward operations in the interior of the State. On June 13 he moved up the Missouri River with the 1st Missouri Volunteers, Totten's battery of the 2d United States Artillery, one company of the 2d United States Infantry, two companies of regular recruits, and nine companies of the 2d Missouri Volunteers, and attacked the enemy under Sterling Price on the 17th, near Boonville, and gained an easy victory. The loss on our side was two killed and nine wounded; that of the enemy, ten killed and a number of prisoners.
I joined General Lyon at Boonville on June 26, and began duty as his adjutant-general. Preparations were now made as rapidly as possible to push operations into the southwestern part of Missouri. A force consisting of about 1500 infantry and one battery of four guns, under Colonel Franz Sigel, was sent from St. Louis, via Rolla, to Springfield; while a force of regular troops under Major Samuel D. Sturgis, 1st Cavalry, consisting of one company of the 2d Dragoons, four companies of the 1st Cavalry, Du Bois's battery of four guns, three companies of the 1st Infantry, two companies of the 2d Infantry, some regular recruits, the 1st and 2d Kansas Infantry, and one company of Kansas Cavalry Volunteers, was ordered from Fort Leavenworth to join General Lyons's immediate command, en route to Springfield. General Lyon's march was begun on July 3, and Major Sturgis joined him at Clinton, Mo., on the 4th. The command reached Springfield on July 13, and there met Colonel Sigel's brigade, which we learned had pushed as far to the front as Newtonia, but, meeting a superior force of the enemy at Carthage on July 5, had fallen back to Springfield. General Lyons's intention was, upon effecting this junction with Sturgis and Sigel, to push forward and attack the enemy, if possible, while we were yet superior to him in strength. He had ordered supplies to be sent from St. Louis via Rolla, but they remained at Rolla, the railroad terminus, for want of wagon transportation. The troops had to live upon such supplies as could be obtained from the country, and many of them were without shoes. A continuous march of more than two or three days was impossible. General Lyon's force was rapidly diminishing, and would soon almost disappear by the discharge of the three months' men, while that of the enemy was as rapidly increasing and becoming more formidable by additions to its supplies of arms and ammunition. General Lyon made frequent appeals for reinforcements and for provisions, but received little encouragement, and soon became convinced that he must rely upon the resources then at his command. He was unwilling to abandon southwestern Missouri to the enemy without a struggle, even though almost hopeless of success, and determined to bring on a decisive battle, if possible, before his short-term volunteers were discharged. Learning that the enemy was slowly advancing from the southwest by two or three different roads, Lyon moved out, August 1, on the Cassville road, had a skirmish with the enemy's advance-guard at Dug Springs the next day, and the day following (the 3d) again at Curran Post-office. The enemy showed no great force, and offered but slight resistance to our advance. It was evident that a general engagement could not be brought on within the limits of time and distance to which we were confined by the state of our supplies. It was therefore determined to return to Springfield.
General Lyon was greatly depressed by the situation in which he was placed, the failure of expected reinforcements and supplies from St. Louis, and an evidently strong conviction that these failures were due to a plan to sacrifice him to the ambition of another, and by a morbid sensitiveness respecting the disaster to the Union people of southwestern Missouri, (who had relied upon him for protection) which must result from the retreat of his army. Lyon's personal feeling was so strongly enlisted in the Union cause, its friends were so emphatically his personal friends and its enemies his personal enemies, that he could not take the cool, soldierly view of the situation which should control the actions of the commander of a national army. If Lyon could have foreseen how many times the poor people of that section were destined to be overrun by the contending forces before the contest could be finally decided, his extreme solicitude at that moment would have disappeared. Or if he could have risen to an appreciation of the fact that his duty, as the commander in the field of one of the most important of the national armies, was not to protect a few loyal people from the inevitable hardships of war (loss of their cattle, grain, and fences), but to make as sure as possible the defeat of the hostile army, no matter whether to-day, to-morrow, or next month, the battle of Wilson's Creek would not have been fought.
A MISSING LETTER FROM FReMONT TO LYON
On August 9 General Lyon received a letter from General John C. Fremont, then commanding the department, which had been forwarded to him from Rolla by Colonel John B. Wyman. The letter from General Fremont to Colonel Wyman inclosing that to General Lyon appears among the published papers submitted by Fremont to the Committee on the Conduct of the War in the early part of 1862, but the inclosure to Lyon is wanting. The original letter, with the records to which it belonged, must, it is presumed, have been deposited at the headquarters of the department in St. Louis when the Army of the West was disbanded, in the latter part of August, 1861. Neither the original letter nor any copy of it can now (July, 1897) be found. It can only be conjectured what motive caused General Fremont to omit a copy of the letter from the papers submitted to the committee, which were at the time strongly commented upon in Congress, or what caused to be removed from the official files the original, which had again come into his possession.
General Lyon's answer to this letter, given below, the original draft which was prepared by me and is yet in my possession, shows that Fremont's letter to Lyon was dated August 6, and was received on the 9th. I am not able to recall even the substance of the greater part of that letter, but the purport of that part of it which was then of vital importance is still fresh in my memory. That purport was instructions to the effect that if Lyon was not strong enough to maintain his position as far in advance as Springfield, he should fall back toward Rolla until reinforcements should meet him.
It is difficult to see why General Fremont did not produce a copy of those instructions in his statement to the committee. It would have furnished him with the best defense he could possibly have made against the charge of having sacrificed Lyon and his command. But the opinion then seemed so strong and so nearly universal that Lyon's fight at Wilson's Creek was a necessity, and that Fremont ought to have reinforced him before that time at any cost, that perhaps Fremont had not the courage to do what was really best for his own defense, namely, to acknowledge and maintain that he had ordered Lyon to fall back, and that the latter should have obeyed that order.
At my suggestion, General Lyon instructed me to prepare an answer to General Fremont's letter on the morning of August 9. He altered the original draft, in his own hand, as is shown in the copy following; a fair copy of the letter as amended was then made, and he signed it.
"Springfield, Aug. 9, 1861. "General: I have just received your note of the 6th inst. by special messenger.
"I retired to this place, as I have before informed you, reaching here on the 5th. The enemy followed to within ten miles of here. He has taken a strong position, and is recruiting his supplies of horses, mules, and provisions by forays into the surrounding country; his large force of mounted men enabling him to do this without annoyance from me.
"I find my position extremely embarrassing, and am at present unable to determine whether I shall be able to maintain my ground or be forced to retire. I can resist any attack from the front, but if the enemy moves to surround me I must retire. I shall hold my ground as long as possible, [and not] though I may without knowing how far endanger the safety of my entire force with its valuable material, being induced by the important considerations involved to take this step. The enemy yesterday made a show of force about five miles distant, and has doubtless a full purpose of making an attack upon me.
"Very respectfully your obedient servant, "N. Lyon, "Brigadier-General Vols., Commanding. "Major-General J. C. Fremont, "Comdg. Western Department, St. Louis, Mo."
The words in my handwriting which were erased ("and not" in brackets) and those substituted by General Lyon, given in italics, clearly express the difference of opinion which then existed between us upon the momentous question which we had then been discussing for several days, namely: What action did the situation require of him as commander of the army?
I was then young and wholly inexperienced in war; but I have never yet seen any reason to doubt the correctness of the views I then urged with even more persistence than my subordinate position would fully justify. And this, I doubt not, must be the judgment of history. The fruitless sacrifice at Wilson's Creek was wholly unnecessary, and, under the circumstances, wholly unjustifiable. Our retreat to Rolla was open and perfectly safe, even if began as late as the night of the 9th. A few days or a few weeks at the most would have made us amply strong to defeat the enemy and drive him out of Missouri, without serious loss to ourselves. Although it is true that we barely failed winning a victory on August 10, that was, and could have been, hoped for only as a mere possibility. Lyon himself despaired of it before the battle was half over, and threw away his own life in desperation. In addition to the depressing effect of his wounds, he must probably have become convinced of the mistake he had made in hazarding an unnecessary battle on so unequal terms, and in opposition to both the advice of his subordinates and the instructions of his superior. But this is only an inference. After Lyon had with the aid of Sigel (as explained hereafter) decided to attack, and arranged the plan, not a word passed between him and me on the question whether an attack should be made, except the question: "Is Sigel willing to undertake this?" and Lyon's answer: "Yes; it is his plan."
We went forward together, slept under the same blanket while the column was halted, from about midnight till the dawn of day, and remained close together nearly all the time until his death. But he seemed greatly depressed, and except to give orders, hardly uttered a word save the few I have mentioned in this narrative.
He was still unwilling to abandon without a desperate struggle the country he had occupied, thought the importance of maintaining his position was not understood by his superior commander, and in his despondency believed, as above stated, that he was the intended victim of a deliberate sacrifice to another's ambition. He determined to fight a battle at whatever risk, and said: "I will gladly give my life for a victory."
BATTLE OF WILSON'S CREEK
The enemy had now concentrated his forces, and was encamped on Wilson's Creek, about ten miles from Springfield. There had been some skirmishing between our reconnoitering parties and those of the enemy during the past few days, and a general advance had been determined on for the night of August 8, but it was postponed on account of the fatigued condition of the troops, who had been employed that day in meeting a reconnaissance of the enemy. The attack was finally made at daylight on the morning of the eventful August 10.
The plan of battle was determined on the morning of the 9th, in a consultation between General Lyon and Colonel Sigel, no other officers being present. General Lyon said, "It is Sigel's plan," yet he seemed to have no hesitation in adopting it, notwithstanding its departure from accepted principles, having great confidence in Sigel's superior military ability and experience. Sigel's brigade, about 1200 strong, was to attack the enemy's right, while Lyon, with the main body, about 4000 strong, was to attack the enemy's left. The two columns were to advance by widely separated roads, and the points of attack were so distant that communication between the two columns was not even thought of. The attack was made, as intended, by both columns at nearly the same instant, and both drove the enemy from his advanced position, Sigel even occupying the enemy's camp. Here he was soon after assailed by a superior force, and driven from the field with the loss of his artillery and 292 men killed, wounded, and missing. He did not appear upon the scene again that day, and the result of his attack was unknown to any one in the other column until after the close of the battle. The main body, under Lyon's immediate command, made no general advance from the position first gained, but maintained that position against several fierce assaults. The enemy manifestly did not make good use of his superior numbers. He attacked us in front several times, but with a force not greatly superior to our own, and was invariably repulsed. Our men fought extremely well for raw troops, maintaining their ground, without any cover whatever, against repeated assaults for six hours, and losing in killed and wounded fully one third of their number. General Lyon received two wounds, one in the leg and one in the head, about the middle of the engagement; he then became more despondent than before, apparently from the effects of his wounds, for there appeared nothing in the state of the battle to dishearten a man of such unbounded courage as he undoubtedly possessed. A portion of our troops had given away in some disorder. Lyon said: "Major, I am afraid the day is lost." I looked at him in surprise, saw the blood trickling down his face, and divining the reason for his despondency, replied: "No, General; let us try it again." He seemed re-encouraged, and we then separated, rallied, and led forward the only troops then not in action—two regiments. Lyon was killed at the head of one of these regiments while exposing himself with utter recklessness to the enemy's fire.