« PreviousContinue »
On February 22d Congress ordered the illumination of the Capitol and public buildings in honor of the recent victo
ries of the army and navy." The Congress adjourned for the day. It was made a day of general congratulation in association with the memory of Washington and “of the triumph of the Government which his valor and wisdom had done so much to establish.”
And now, where was Grant? In spite of Halleck's conservative dispatches "to move only with the greatest caution," and to do, or
rather not to do, other foolish things, Grant, on February 21st, ordered Gen. C. F. Smith to take and hold Clarksville, fifty miles above Donelson. Cullum at Cairo was informed of this fact, and of his (Grant's) proposition to capture Nashville. On the 24th Smith was reported in possession of Clarksville with four regiments, and General Halleck's pleasure was asked. On the 25th Grant reported that Nelson's division of Buell's army had arrived at Nashville, and that the Confederates had fallen back to Chattanooga, instead of to Murfreesboro. "I shall go to Nashville immediately, in person, unless orders come to prevent it. I am getting anxious to know what the next move is to be.” Grant was bound to be master of the strategic situation, and he knew the value of every moment of time.
He made his visit to Nashville and returned on the 28th, reporting that the enemy had fallen back on Chattanooga or Decatur, and that Buell had called Smith from Clarksville to his assistance. On the same day came a dispatch from Halleck. It read: “It will be better to retreat than to risk a general battle. Avoid any general engagement with strong forces.”
The whole command was, at Halleck's request, moved from the Cumberland back to the Tennessee, with a view to an expedition up the latter river to Eastport and even to Corinth. Grant received this word on March 2d. On March 4th his army was in motion for the Tennessee, and he himself was back at Ft. Henry.
Now comes an episode which shows what General Grant, an officer without political influence, and whose promotions and genius were eclipsing those older and politically stronger than himself, had to contend with. On March 3d, without previous explanation or intimation, Halleck sent this to Washington: "I have had no communication with General Grant for more than a week. He left his command without my authority and went to Nashville. His army seems to be as much demoralized by the victory of Donelson as was that of the Potomac by the defeat of Bull Run. It is hard to censure a successful general immediately after a victory, but I think he richly deserves it. I can get no returns, no reports, no information from him. Satisfied with his victory he sits down and enjoys it, without any regard to the future. I am worn out and tired by this neglect and inefficiency. C. F. Smith is almost the only officer equal to the emergency."
On March 4th Grant received orders from Halieck to place Maj.-General Smith in command of the proposed expedition, and to remain himself at Ft. Henry. To this Grant replied: “ Troops will be sent under Smith as directed. I had prepared a different plan, intending to send Smith to Paris and Humboldt, while I commanded the expedition against Eastport, Corinth and Jackson. I am not aware of ever having disobeyed any order from your headquarters. Have reported almost daily the condition of my command and every position occupied. You may rely on my carrying out your instructions in every particular to the best of my ability.”
On the 6th of March Halleck dispatched : “McClellan
directs you to report to me daily the number and position of your forces. Your neglect of repeated orders to report the strength of your command has created great dissatisfaction and seriously interfered with military plans. Your going to Nashville without authority, and when your presence with your troops was of the greatest importance, was matter of very serious complaint at Washington, so much so that I was advised to arrest you on your return."
To this Grant replied on the same date :-“I did all I could to get you returns of my strength. Every move I reported daily to your chief of staff, who must have failed to keep you properly posted. I have done my best to obey orders and carry out the interests of the service. If my course is not satisfactory, remove me at once. I do not wish in any way to impede the success of our arms. I have averaged writing more than once a day since leaving Cairo to keep you informed, and it is no fault of mine if you have not received my letters. My going to Nashville was strictly intended for the good of the service and not to gratify any desire of my own. Believing sincerely that I must have enemies between you and myself who are trying to impair my usefulness, I respectfully ask to be relieved from further duty in the department.”
This was followed by another rebuke from Halleck, and another request from Grant (March gth) “ to be relieved from duty.” On the rith Grant again wrote asking “to be relieved from further duty until I can be placed right in the estimation of those higher in authority.” On the 13th Halleck wrote: “ You cannot be relieved from your command. There is no good reason for it. I am certain that all the authorities at Washington ask, is that you enforce discipline and punish the disorderly. Instead of relieving you, I wish you as soon as your new army is in the field to assume command and lead it on to new victories.”
What brought about this change of tone? Halleck had been asked to substantiate charges at Washington. This forced him into an examination of Grant's conduct. He found that his reports had been forwarded daily, and that his visit to Nashville was proper, since his district had no limits. He therefore wrote lengthily to Washington, stating his own change of mind toward Grant, and fully exonerating him. This was on March 15th.
This timely vindication lifted the cloud which had shadowed General Grant for a fortnight, but which had not interfered with his co-operation with General Smith. On the oth Grant said to Smith, “ Anything you may require send back transports for, and if within my power you shall have it.” With the reinforcements sent to Smith on the 11th Grant sent word, “Halleck telegraphs me that when these arrive I may take general direction. It is exceedingly doubtful whether I shall accept; certainly not until the object of the expedition is accomplished.” Smith replied, “I wrote you yesterday how glad I was to learn from your letter of the uth that you were to resume your old command, from which you were unceremoniously and, as I think, unjustly stricken down." This cordiality was striking in view of the fact that Smith had been commandant at West Point when Grant was a cadet. On mention by Grant of the delicate relationship which now existed between the two by reason of recent promotions, the chivalric Smith replied, “I am now a subordinate and I know a soldier's duty. I hope you will feel no awkwardness about our new relations.” Smith was sixty years old, and as faithful and gallant an officer as ever drew sabre. The exposure he underwent at Donelson brought on an illness which proved fatal the next summer.
Halleck was extremely cautious about this expedition up the Tennessee. “Don't bring on a general engagement at Paris ” he wrote to Grant. “If the enemy prove strong, fall
back. These orders must be strictly obeyed." The operations brought no vivid results. Smith returned to Pittsburg Landing, which place he selected to hold for the purpose of
awaiting the Confederate policy of concentration now rapidly unfolding. It is on the west side of the Tennessee river, just north of the southern boundary of the State. In itself it had no significance, and even the name has given place to Shiloh in war history, the latter spot being the scene and centre of the battle which had Pittsburg Landing for a base of operations.
Nine miles further down the river is Savannah, a small town