* OFFICIAL *
Regtl. Quartermaster Antietam 2021
- Feb 5, 2017
In his recent, admiring biography of William Tecumseh Sherman, Brian Holden Reid terms him a “dazzling literary stylist.” Well, watch out for that razzle-dazzle, at least in Sherman’s Memoirs (1875…
I read his memoirs a couple of years ago and I noticed there was no mention of anything that had to do with loss. Of course he wasn't the only one, just one of the major ones! I didn't realize some of his veterans resented it.
The late, great Albert Castel, in fact, wrote an entire article on “Prevaricating Through Georgia: Sherman’s Memoirs as a Source on the Atlanta Campaign” (Civil War History, March 1994). One of the dozen-and-a-half items Dr. Castel accumulates to make his point concerns the battle of Pickett’s Mill. There, twenty-five miles northwest of Atlanta on May 27, 1864, Sherman pressed Maj. Gen. O. O. Howard to order a frontal attack on Pat Cleburne’s division, which was waiting for the Yankees to do that very thing. In two hours of repeated assaults, Brig. Gen. Thomas J. Wood’s division lost 212 killed, 927 wounded and 318 missing, for a total of 1,457 casualties (OR, vol. 38, pt. 1, 387). Cleburne’s troops, who easily repulsed each attack, sustained a loss of 85 killed and 363 wounded—they were fighting without entrenchments.
It was, as Castel notes, “the second bloodiest defeat experienced by the Union forces during the Atlanta.” But in his Memoirs Sherman provides not a single word about it. “It is as if it never occurred,” Albert resignedly shrugs. (See for yourself—vol. 2, pages 44-45.)
But back to Cump. Even his veterans caught on to the way he ignored Pickett’s Mill, and they resented it. Here, from the National Tribune of Feb. 5, 1903:
There is something strange in the fact that not only in Gen. Sherman’s Memoirs but in most of the histories or accounts of the Atlanta Campaign, the Army of the Cumberland has never received full credit for its losses.
Stranger still, Gen. Sherman in his Memoirs makes no mention, nor does he seem to take into account, the losses of one of the bloodiest battles fought during the campaign—the battle of Pickett’s Mill, May 27. This battle was mainly fought by Gen. Wood’s Division of the Fourth Corps, and in no other battle during the campaign did any single division suffer as did Gen. Wood’s Division in the battle.
It suffered almost as great a loss as did both Gen. Jeff. C. Davis’s and Gen. Newton’s Divisions in their celebrated charge on Kenesaw, just a month later. In this charge Davis’s Division lost 824, and Newton’s 654; total, 1,478.
Gen. Wood’s Division at Pickett’s Mill lost 1,457, only 21 less than both Davis and Newton at Kenesaw. Yet Gen. Sherman thought the conflict not worthy of mention.
Would that W. T. Sherman had been as scrupulous in relating history as B. A. Dunn proved himself to be. In other words, so much for “dazzling”; I’d settle for honest.