« PreviousContinue »
ordered to Hiawasse, was directed to assume command of the relief movement, and push it with all his energy. The situation at Knoxville was getting desperate, on account of the scarcity of provisions. Grant was fully advised of this, and sent Burnside the following dispatch, written in duplicate, with the intent that one copy should be let fall into the hands of the enemy:
"I congratulate you on the tenacity with which you have thus far held out against superior forces. Do not be forced into surrender by short rations. Take all that the citizens have, to enable you to hold out a few days longer. As soon as you are relieved from the presence of the enemy, you can replace everything taken from them. Within a few days you will be relieved. There are now three columns in motion for your relief. One from here, moving up the south bank of the river, under Sherman; one from Decherd, under Elliott (this movement suffered delay); one from Cumberland Gap, under Foster. These three columns will be able to crush Longstreet's forces, or drive them from the valley, and must all of them be within twenty-four hours' march of you, by the time this reaches you, supposing you to get it on Tuesday, the ist.” (Dec.)
Sherman infused all his energy into his tired forces, and soon had the Eleventh and Fifteenth Corps hastening toward Knoxville, building bridges, making forced marches, driving off an intercepting enemy at crossings and from available points. Elliott was sent ahead with a large cavalry force, and orders to reach Knoxville at atl hazards. Grant's dispatch fell into the hands of Longstreet, as designed. It had the effect anticipated. That officer immediately raised the siege of Knoxville, and made hasty preparations to escape the ingathering of the Federal forces. By December 4th, his lines of investment were entirely broken up and his troops in retreat. On the same date Sherman reached Knoxville, so that Longstreet got away none too soon. Grant's express orders were to pursue the enemy, capture, if possible, at least drive him entirely fro'n the
valley. Sherman deferred to Burnside in command of the Department, and that officer feeling strong enough for future operations with Granger's Fourth Corps, sent Sherman with the Fifteenth Corps back toward Chattanooga, so as to be within striking distance of Thomas, in case Bragg should again assume the offensive. But Burnside miscalculated. He lost valuable time which should have been occupied in active pursuit of the enemy, as Grant had designed and ordered. True, he sent Major-General Parke, with Manson's and Potter's commands, after Longstreet's fleeing forces, but only to find out what every army and naval officer should know, that “a stern chase is necessarily a long one." Longstreet escaped to the south of the Holsten river, where he was protected from pursuit by the approach of winter. In the spring, he joined his army to that under Lee, in Virginia. On November 11th, Burnside was removed by Halleck,
GEN. J. G. FOSTER. General-in-Chief at Washington, and General J. G. Foster, who had pushed his relief columns through the Cumberland Gap, and arrived in Knoxville on the roth, was given command of the Department of the Ohio.
Although Grant's intention to "crush Longstreet" had been frustrated, his other thought to "drive him out of East Tennessee," was more nearly carried out, rather by virtue of the masterly concentration of troops for the purpose than by the uses which Burnside made of them after they came under his control. And when it became apparent that East and Southern Tennessee were safe and that military operations must cease for the winter, and further, when the full effects of Grant's Chattanooga campaigns began to be realized, there came a response from the Government and country such as
few military officers have ever drawn and fewer still more highly deserved.
On December 8th, President Lincoln telegraphed out of the fullness of a grateful heart the following: “Understanding that your lodgment at Chattanooga and Knoxville is now secure, I wish to tender you and all under your command my more than thanks, my profoundest gratitude for the skill, courage and perseverance with which you and they, over so great difficulties, have affected that important object. God bless you all !”
On the 7th, the day before the above dispatch was sent, the President appointed a day of thanksgiving recommending “all
loyal people to assemble in their places of worship and return thanks to God for this great advancement of the national cause.” On December 17th, Congress unanimously voted a resolution of "thanks to Major-General Ulysses S. Grant and the officers and soldiers who have fought under his command during this rebellion." A gold medal was struck, which the President was authorized to present to General
Grant "in the name of the people of the United States of America.” The Legislatures of various States voted him reso. lutions of thanks. As if to show appreciation which could not be measured by words, a movement was set on foot in the Congress to revive the ancient and highly honorable grade of lieutenant-general and to conser it upon Grant, together with a call to the chief command of all the armies of the United States. The measure did not go through at once, but it was already clear that appreciation of exalted service was co-operating with exigency in military affairs in such a way as to make its final passage desirable.
In the midst of all these rejoicings and fervent expressions of thanks, and heart-felt manifestations of gratitude, and proffers of added honors, the modest, unmoved general was quictly disposing of his forces for the winter, carefully turning over plans for the spring, and anxiously working on his official report of stewardship since the consolidation of the Western Departments. One clause from this report shows all the man: “The armies of the Cumberland and the Tennessee, for their energy and unsurpassed bravery in the three days' battle of Chattanooga, their patient endurance in marching to the relief of Knoxville; and the army of the Ohio for its masterly defence of Knoxville and repeated repulses of Longstreet's assaults upon that place, are deserving of the gratitude of the country.” Self is lost sight of. His able lieutenants, his brave men, his invincible armies—these deserve, these only receive, mention and the meed of praise.
With time on his hands to look over the situation, Grant saw the error, due to Burnside's tardiness, of permitting Longstreet to stop inside the State of Tennessee.
On December 17th, he wrote to Washington, saying: “I feel deeply interested in moving the enemy beyond Saltville this winter, so as to be able to select my own campaign in the spring, instead of having the enemy dictate it for me." Foster
was ordered to observe matters closely, and to take advantage of any winter opportunity that offered to force the enemy further east. This was in keeping with all of Grant's military plans. He knew well the value of an initiative blow, and to such had been due Paducah, Belmont, Donelson, Vicksburg and Chattanooga. The enemy had struck first at Shiloh, Corinth and luka, and had made Federal victory costly.
He studied over the feasibility of a mid-winter campaign into Georgia and directly against Bragg. But the roads were bad, the country mountainous, and supplies scarce. Nothing offered to warrant a move in this direction before spring. He however revived his old scheme of a campaign against Mobile, and submitted it to the authorities at Washington, where it was again received coldly.
Immediately after the battle of Chattanooga, Bragg was relieved of the command of the Confederate army and succeeded by Hardee. This was a repetition of the fatality which overhung the Confederate generals opposed to Grant. Floyd, Pillow, Buckner, Van Dorn, Price, Pemberton, Bragg, had either surrendered outright, or succumbed to an inexorable sentiment engendered by their defeat.
In order to aid Foster in his efforts to harass Longstreet and drive him further east, Grant went to Knoxville in person about Christmas. The winter had by this time settled deeply. Foster was suffering from the outbreak of an old wound received in the Mexican War. The men were not properly shod or clad. Many were going home by reason of expiration of term of service, and their places would not be filled before spring. The matter of supplies was precarious. Nothing could be done but to make such disposition of the forces as would give them new foraging ground, and present them as squarely to the enemy as possible when the time came for a movement.