Last night, six transports with numerous barges loaded with hay, corn, freight, and provisions, were drifted past Vicksburg; of these the Tigress was hit, and sunk just as she reached the river-bank below, on our side: I was there with my yawls, and saw Colonel Lagow, of General Grant’s staff, who had passed the batteries in the Tigress, and I think he was satisfied never to attempt such a thing again. Thus General Grant’s army below Vicksburg now has an abundance of stores, and boats with which to cross the river.
TO ELLEN EWING SHERMAN
Camp before Vicksburg, April 27, 1863
Last night another Batch of transports were prepared to run Vicksburg Batteries. In order to afford assistance to the unfortunate, I crossed over through the Submerged Swamp with 8 yawls, and was in the Mississippi about 4 miles below Vicksburg and three above Warrenton. The first boat to arrive was the Tigress, a fast sidewheel boat, which was riddled with shot & reported struck in the hull. She rounded to, tied to the Bank & sunk a wreck. All hands saved. The next was the “Empire City” also crippled but afloat. Then the Cheeseman that was partially disabled. Then the Anglo-Saxon, and Moderator, both of which were so disabled that they drifted down stream catching the Warrenton Batteries as they passed. The Horizon was the sixth & last. She passed down about daylight. The Cheeseman took the Empire City in tow & went down just after day, catching thunder from the Warrenton Batteries.
Five of the Six boats succeeded in getting by, all bound for Carthage, where they are designed to carry troops to Grand Gulf or some other point across the Mississippi. This is a desperate and terrible thing, floating by terrific Batteries without the power of replying. Two men were mortally wounded, and many lacerated & torn, but we Could not ascertain the full extent of damage for we were trying to hurry them past the Lower or Warrenton Batteries before daylight.
The only way to go to Carthage is by a Bayou Road, from Millikens Bend. Over that narrow Road, our army is to pass below Vicksburg, and by means of these boats pass over to the east side of the Mississippi. I look upon the Whole thing as one of the most hazardous & desperate moves of this or any war. A narrow difficult Road, liable by a shower to become a quagmire. A canal is being dug on whose success the coal for steamers, provisions for men and forage for animals must all be transported. McClernand’s corps has moved down. McPherson’s will follow and mine come last. I don’t object to this for I have no faith in the whole plan. Politicians and all sorts of influence are brought to bear on Grant to do something. Hooker remains status quo. Rosecrans is also at a deadlock & we, who are now six hundred miles ahead of any are being pushed with a most perillous & hazardous enterprise.
I did think our Government would learn something by experience if not by reason. An order is received today from Washington to consolidate the Old Regiments. All Regiments. below 500, embracing all the old Regiments which have been depleted by death & all sorts of causes are to be reduced to Battalions of 5 Companies. In each Regiment, the Colonel & Major & 1 assistant surgeon to be mustered out, and all the officers, sergeants & Corporals of 5 companies to be discharged. This will soon take all my colonels: Kilby Smith, Giles Smith, & hundreds of our best captains, Lieutenants and sergeants & corporals. Instead of drafting & filling up with privates, one half of the officers are to be discharged and the privates squeezed into Battalions. If the worst enemy of the United States were to devise a plan to break down our army a better one could not be attempted. Two years have been spent in educating colonels, captains, sergeants & corporals, and now they are to be driven out of service at the very beginning of the Campaign, in order that Governors may have a due proportion of officers for the drafted men. I do regard this as one of the fatal mistakes of this war. It is worse than a defeat. It is the absolute giving up of the Chief advantage of two year’s work.
I don’t know if you understand it, but believe you do. The order is positive and must be executed. It is now too late to help it, but I have postponed its execution for a few days to see if Grant wont suspend its operation till this move is made.
All the old Politician Colonels have been weeded out by the process of the war, and now that we begin to have some officers who do know something, they must be discharged because the Regiments have dwindled below one half the Legal Standard. We all know the President was empowered to do this, but took it for granted that he would fill up the Ranks by a draft, & leave as the sinews of the men who are now ready to drill & instruct them as soldiers. Last fall the same thing was done, that is, New Regiments were received instead of filling up the old ones, and the consequence was these new Regiments have filled our Hospitals & depots, and now again the same thing is to be repeated. It may be the whole war will be turned over to the negroes, and I begin to believe they will do as well as Lincoln and his advisors. I can’t imagine what Halleck is about. We have Thomas and Dana, both here from Washington, no doubt impressing on Grant the necessity of achieving something brilliant. It is the same old Bull Run Mania. But why should other armies lay passive and ours be pushed to destruction?
Prime is here, and agrees with me, but we must drift on with events. We are excellent friends. Indeed, I am on the best of terms with everybody, but I avoid McClernand, because I know he is envious & jealous of everybody who stands in his way. He knows I appreciate him truly and therefore he would ruin me if he could. He knows he shew the white feather at Shiloh, that he hung round me like a whipped cur, that his troops reported to me for orders in his presence. Then danger made him complaisant, but when that was past and his self arose, he hated me the more for what I knew. The Same thing was repeated at Arkansas post. He was helplessly ignorant, but when we had the enemy bowed, then he was the Hero. He is a true type of an American Modern Hero. He should not seek fame in the Field, but at Springfield Illinois by means of the press & newspapers.
McClernand now has the lead. Admiral Porter is there, and he is already calling, “For God’s sake send down some one.” He calls for me. Grant has gone himself, went this morning. I know they have got their fleet in a tight place. Vicksburg is above & Port Hudson below, and how are they to get out? One or other of the Gates must be stormed & carried or else none. I tremble for the result. Of Course, it is possible to land at Grand Gulf & move inland, but I doubt the Capacity of any channel at our Command equal to the conveyance of the supplies for this army. This army should not all be here. The great part should be at or near Grenada, moving south by Land.
I want Charley & Hugh to describe these brilliant scenes of cannonading, but Charley says you sent his letter of the Deer Creek expedition to Mr. Stanton. He won’t trust you any more as a confidante. What does Stanton care for the fine drawn pictures of a young Captain of Regulars? I have no doubt you will have the mortification of seeing me abused for the passage of the Fleet below Vicksburg & attempt to reach Jackson via Grand Gulf, though the truth is, I opposed the movement at incipio. The best use that we could put present affairs to would be to go down & help Banks who it seems instead of bagging Port Hudson is drawing in his Lines to New Orleans.
What think you now of the Grand attack on Charleston? I accomplished far more at Vicksburg alone, and yet the world is amazed at the mighty promises of Hunter & Dupont.
If Lincoln do not very soon resort to the draft and don’t stop discharging our armies, Davis will walk over the track on the summers campaign without opposition. Weather is getting hot here and I have no cotton socks or Mosquito net. Dayton has gone home sick. He has been drooping for some weeks. He will see you of course. Tell him I will march for Carthage via Millikens Bend in about 4 days, but where to fetch up, I don’t know. He may have to join us via New Orleans, for I take it for granted the enemy will swop Rivers with us. We take the lower reach & they the upper. For we leave no Guard above Vicksburg except the Sick and Negroes to be manufactured into Soldiers.
We are all very well. I had the bones to ache, indicating ague, but it went no further. Hugh & Charley are very well. Both write you occasionally.
As ever yours,
W. T. Sherman