Hurlbut: “An accumulation of force from east and west was suddenly thrown upon Rosecrans to destroy his army”

Sept. 29 1863.  I have received the following dispatches from Gen. Hurlbut in Memphis.  Apparently the situation with Gen. Rosecrans in Tennessee is more dire than I thought.  He writes,

HEADQUARTERS SIXTEENTH ARMY CORPS, Memphis, Tenn., September 27, 1863.

Brig. General JOHN A. RAWLINS,
Department of the Tennessee, Vicksburg, Miss.:

GENERAL: I send you the correspondence between myself and the General-in-Chief. Like everything else connected with the river, this correspondence has been delayed. It is evident that the General-in-Chief does not expect the troops forced forward beyond our reach into Middle Tennessee, and that he did expect that Sherman’s corps was to be moved up. If I correctly understand the nature of things in the Army of the Cumberland, the extreme urgency of the case has passed. An accumulation of force from east and west was suddenly thrown upon Rosecrans to destroy his army; thence intended to strike with like effect and the same purpose on Burnside. General Thomas, by his heroic resistance, has saved that Army of the Cumberland from actual destruction, and the enemy are too severely crippled to pursue the advantage gained. Burnside has probably joined before this and is safe. Meade is moving on Richmond, and the eastern force must return, and that rapidly, to save the capital. Rosecrans should be re-enforced to enable him to profit by the reflux of this tide. The movement was a dash and has failed.

Osterhaus has reported to me to-day, and moves out to and beyond Corinth to-morrow by rail. John E. Smith will be up to-morrow. In four days these divisions will be in readiness to move wherever directed. My entire corps is to-day ready to move. I have only two divisions of infantry, excluding colored troops, on this line, and cannot, in my judgment, spare more than one brigade [four regiments]. I am very strong in artillery and have now 4,500 cavalry. The line cannot be abandoned, and it is far easier to send troops through the country than to relieve those on guard.

I am perfectly willing and ready to go, but unless ordered so to do, do not propose to leave my own army corps and assume command of strange and fragmentary troops, when the good of the service will be promoted as well by putting them under command of another general. Prentiss is here. If the troops move at all, I shall assign him to command.

The expedition as prepared will consist of Osterhaus’ division, John E. Smith’s division, and Bane’s brigade from Corinth, consisting of about 9,000 infantry.

If relief is given by proper officers and commands to hold Memphis and its line, I can take my own command as it stands. I am ready to move with 11,000 infantry and 4,500 cavalry, leaving to my successor, whomever he may be, 1,500 cavalry and the negro regiments, say 4,000. I dare not leave this line until adequate force is provided to hold it. The major-general thinks I can spare one or two divisions. I have but two.

I still insist that a corps established east and south of Corinth will cover Vicksburg better than the Big Black and will give a better hold for future movements. In any event, I shall have here when Osterhaus and Smith are fully in place 12,000 disposable men to be moved wherever the exigency of the service demands, and will await orders from the commander-in-chief, to whom I report the substance of the above. The route proposed for the troops to Rosecrans is to Tuscumbia, thence crossing the Tennessee by Jackson’s Ford, near Florence, through Athens to Fayetteville and Decherd. If I take my corps complete, I shall move by Huntsville to Stevenson, keeping nearer the river than with a smaller force.

Smith’s division reports only 2,000 men. I send the substance of this to Major-General Halleck by telegraph from Cairo, and await his orders.

I have the honor to be, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,




Memphis, Tenn., September 29, 1863.

Brig. General JOHN A. RAWLINS,

A. A. G., Dept. of the Tennessee, Vicksburg, Miss.:

GENERAL: I have waited until the last moment that I might send the very latest dispatches, but none come. The river is so low as very seriously to impede navigation.

Osterhaus’ division is moving by rail to Corinth, and will get through by to-night or to-morrow. I have filled all his requisitions and he is in order for the field. John E. Smith’s division comes up without camp or garrison equipage, shelter-tents or blankets, all of which, he informs me, are below. I hold them near Memphis until these necessaries are supplied.

I have a heavy supply and ordnance train organized and ready to move whenever directed.

It is manifestly of no special advantage to move now unless it be to cover Nashville and the communications. At all events, as I understand General Halleck’s wishes, we are to hold on until ordered. I dislike to throw troops from this line to Rosecrans, because they will be lost forever; nothing returns from the Cumberland army.

If not ordered off, I shall move in a few days to Columbus, Miss., and thence, or rather under cover of that move, send Spencer with the Alabama cavalry to Montgomery, to destroy the Montgomery and West Point road and the steamers between Selma and Montgomery. This is all prepared for if we are not ordered away.

Lee is raising quite a force from Columbus to Grenada and needs breaking up. I shall smash him effectually when we go on the Columbus expedition.

Your obedient servant,




The Papers of Ulysses S Grant, Vol 9, p 254-56

O.R., I, xxx, part 3, p 888, 924

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