James Senefeld writing as Nevill C. Blacklidge, Richmond, Virginia, Feb. 10, 1864
By a complex series of communication links the Shadow has transmitted to us a series of interviews from Gen. Grant’s headquarters in Chattanooga. These span a number of days and include the comments of generals as well as journalists on the scene. These begin with Sylvanus Cadwallader, prominent correspondent who works for the Chicago Times and the New York Herald news service and Capt. Horace Porter.
Nashville, January 28, 1864
Reflections on General Grant
My connection with Gen. Grant goes back to Oct. 1862 when I was sent by the Chicago Times to cover his campaigns in west Tennessee. The previous reporter, one Mr. Warren P. Isham, brother-in-law of the editor of the Times, had been placed under arrest on orders of Gen. Grant to Gen. Sherman. Gen. Grant wanted him confined to Alton Prison for the duration of the war, and Gen. Sherman was happy to speed along the process. The sinful article detailed how the Confederacy had a fleet of iron-clads at Pensacola. This was based upon some grapevine Isham claimed to have. As he was never one t0 let the facts get in the way of a good story, he was soon out of the game, and I was contacted while minding by own business helping my brother-in-law run the Milwaukee Daily News. I had no knowledge of Gen. Grant, knew not the man, and objected to being sent to a war zone in west Tennessee, but I came to this state and have stayed.
With all types of reference letters, I was to go on to Cairo and from there to Gen. Grant’s headquarters with my credentials as Chief War correspondent for the Chicago Times. My actual mission was to attempt to present the facts to Grant and win Mr. Isham’s release. The paper was known for sensational reporting skirting the line of actual disloyalty, and Isham had committed his third serious offense with the Rebel Navy story. However, the Times had excellent circulation among the troops, and this was not to be endangered. I saw first that I must ingratiate myself and be given free access to the camp first and help poor Isham later.
In a short time, I had my pass to go from camp to camp within the Dept. of the Tennessee. I still had concerns as to Gen. Grant’s possible reaction when he became acquainted with my true motives, the release of poor Isham. I met first with Major John A. Rawlins, the adjutant to Gen. Grant, who was soon bored with my conversation, and passed me on to other members of the staff.
I cannot fault these trained military men for a level of suspicion as some journalists wrote flattering articles for pay, often about the “political” generals and high-ranking officers, whose commissions were the creation of powerful friends. Other reporters would purloin letters or hang around officers’ tents to overhear c0nversations. Many had no intention of submitting their articles for military review; they wanted to feed the unlimited public appetite for news from the front.
I found in the camp a nephew of our former Presbyterian pastor from Ross Co., Ohio, Col. Thomas Lyle Dickey, and we had many mutual acquaintances and stories to share. Through him I was able to meet Gen. Grant and share the true purpose of my presence. I planned to tell him that Mr. Isham was sufficiently punished for what he had done and that his family was suffering and in need. The Times agreed with the punishment of poor Isham, and felt he had learned his lesson. Col. Dickey was pleased that the Times agreed with the punishment, and agreed to bring up the matter with Gen. Grant. He did so on the next day on our ride to the camp of Gen. John A. Logan. When Grant learned that Isham had been in prison some two-three months, he relented and sent a staff officer the next day to have Isham released from the prison.
From that time in West Tennessee, I saw h0w Grant sized up the opposition. When he heard of a cavalry raid by the Rebels, he would ask, who was in command. If it was Joe Wheeler, he would simply smile, but if it was Nathan Bedford Forrest, he was very concerned.
Forrest’s knowledge of the country and his boldness even to a fault, made the late 1862 and early 1863 campaigns very warm in terms of a southern welcome. He and Gen. Van Dorn created a significant amount of damage wherever they attacked.
Now I want to pass on to what has happened since Gen. Bragg’s defeat on this front. I had by Nov. 24, 1863 written a full account of the Battle of Lookout Mountain. I needed approval before telegraphing my story. If I did not quickly transmit my story, I would have lost my job with the two newspapers. The procedure was this; first to Major William McMichael on Gen. Thomas’s staff for approval, but he as the military censor objected to some of the content, and refused to approve it, which meant delay; then I hastily turned to Gen. Grant, who without reading the manuscript wrote across it, “Send”.
I knew the only telegraph lines in Chattanooga would be consumed for the next two or three days with military communications, so I had to get to free lines. The morning of the 25th dawned, and it was evident the battle would end that day, and not one in ten reporters had access to telegraphs in the battle zone. I knew the nearest lines likely to be free were in Stevenson, Alabama, some 70 miles away. I could ride there by night and catch the 6 A.M. train for Nashville. I spent ten hours in the saddle as I made it the trip over muddy roads, I arrived with three minutes to spare. The road I had crossed through Chattanooga over the river crossing, then to Nickajack, the mile long bridge at Bridgeport, where the soldier who walked across with me was told of the great victory, which many on the bridge heard, and then my ride paralleled the railroad all night. I met in a the station a courier of Gen. Grant’s, and he took charge of my horse.
On the train I corrected my article, and I knew that I was in advance of all the other correspondents. At Anderson there was a wreck and we lost four hours. Then at Wartrace another wreck and a 16 hour delay. When in sight of Nashville, our engine gave out, and I walked the last 3-4 miles. I then went to the post commander in Nashville, Gen. R. S. Granger, who approved my article and by dark I had all sent by telegram. I was on the sidewalk when I saw Mr. W. F. G. Shanks of the New York Herald hurrying up the street at a half run and almost breathless.
Mr. Shanks had left Chattanooga on the 26th and paid some $100 in greenbacks for a fast ride to Nashville; he saw as the train left a greasy individual mount the tender car and after two hours with the instincts of a reporter, questioned the man to find that he was Mr. Woodward, reporter for the Cincinnati Times, who was now along for a free ride. The train was stopped, and there everything short of physical violence to eject the freeloader, then Woodward in turn threatened both reporter and engineer. The end of the drama was they had just arrived in Nashville and Shanks had just escaped his adversary.
My part in this drama was to delay Woodward until Shanks had gotten his story approved and then sent on the wire. As Woodward leisurely strolled up, I took him into a nearby restaurant and ordered an elaborate supper for two as I selected dishes that would take an inordinate amount of time to prepare, and occasionally ordered an extra dish to extend the wait. We easily consumed more than an hour with our supper.
Woodward then drew out his manuscript to go to the telegraph office, and we began to compare notes, which consumed more time. He finally climbed the steps to the telegraph office only to be told that no dispatches could be sent unless approved by Gen. Granger. I told him that Gen. Granger’s approval was the first thing to secure, and he trudged off only to find the office closed. I then suggested we hire a hack, and we visited all the hotels and most of the public places in search of Gen. Granger until it was 11:00 at night. Between that hour and 12 we found the General at the theatre, but he was so displeased to be disturbed by Mr. Woodward, that he refused to be of any help.
Then I accompanied Woodward to the St. Cloud Hotel, where he registered, paid $5.00 in greenbacks, and asked to be called in the early morning to catch the train for Louisville. A short time later, for an additional five dollars, Shanks bribed the clerk to erase Woodward’s name from the list to be called in the morning, and he was left in Nashville for another day. That day especially in the evening, I spent a good deal of time in the telegraph office handling my correspondence, which was voluminous, at midnight I had every employee treated to a hot dinner. At 2 AM all seemed hopeless as the Louisville operator was swamped. I telegraphed him that I had deposited ten dollars to his account in Nashville if he would work until 4 A. M. and at 3:30 he said all my dispatches had been sent; Shanks’ dispatches followed mine, but we had missed the morning edition. We then went by train to Louisville to send more dispatches but Shanks’ were so delayed that the lost his job. Mine were a success and I have just returned from a Christmas visit to my family in Milwaukee. I am now also safely employed by the New York Herald, and I plan to winter in Nashville. I also have lists of Wisconsin veterans and plan to seek out the wounded in the Nashville hospitals and camps.
Capt. Horace Porter
I first met Gen. Grant on Oct. 23, 1863 in Chattanooga at the headquarters of Gen. George B. Thomas, at that time on Walnut St. near 4th. There had been a raging storm for two days, and there was still chilling rain falling. I was summoned to headquarters near nightfall, and found Gen. Thomas, three members of his staff, and several officers I did not know. In an armchair facing the fireplace was a man of slight figure and medium stature. He had on muddy, wet boots and a wet uniform splattered with mud. His face bore an expression of weariness. He held a lighted cigar in his mouth and had a stooping posture. Gen. Thomas turned to me, mentioned my name, and said, “I want to present you to General Grant.” He looked up at me from the chair and gave me a firm hand shake and a “How do you do?”
The members of Grant’s staff included Asst. Sect. of War, Charles A. Dana. Gen. Grant and his staff had ridden some two days in the rain, most recently from Bridgeport; he had telegraphed from Louisville that Gen. Thomas was to hold Chattanooga at all costs, to which the response came, “We will hold it till we starve,” and now here was the man ready to take command. He had fallen several weeks before and also slipped on the road to Chattanooga, and I was told he had to be lifted from his horse, but here he was, showing no signs of fatigue.
He did not change his clothes but concentrated on the “map talk” given by Gens. Thomas and William F. “Baldy” Smith. He sat immovable as they talked and then asked a series of perceptive questions. These showed he had a thorough knowledge of the enemy’s condition. Then he turned to me as Chief of Ordnance of the Army of the Cumberland and asked, “How much ammunition is there on hand?” We had talked from dusk to about 9:30 and then he began to write messages to Gen. Halleck which placed Gen. Sherman in command of the Army of the Tennessee. About an hour later he retired for the evening.
He had made an appointment for the next day with Gens. Thomas and Smith to make a personal inspection tour of the lines. He stopped a good while to study Brown’s Ferry, and that evening requested an interview with me. He asked me about the position and ammunition to support several large guns we had recently been put into position. He started to dictate messages, and as I rose to leave, he said, “Sit still.” I observed that he wrote nearly of his messages himself swiftly and uninterruptedly. He tossed the dispatches in a pile, later put them in order, read them over, and then asked me to look at them. He was bringing up Gen. Sherman from Corinth and planning to relieve Gen. Burnside.
He demonstrated from the beginning his singular mental powers. He soon began the night movement of troops and supplies by pontoons that resulted in victory at Chattanooga. He is a man who speaks little, but is a good listener; he is about 5′ 8″ in height and weighs about 135 pounds; he has a full beard which is neatly trimmed. He has a clear, penetrating voice. In conversation he has only two gestures, he strokes his beard with his left hand, and he gestures by raising and lowering his right hand.
Soon I was in almost daily contact with him in my role as part of Gen. Thomas’ staff. About two weeks later around Nov. 5th Gen. Grant interceded so that I could remain in Chattanooga and not be sent to Washington to assist Gen. Halleck in the reorganization of the Ordnance Bureau. He wrote to ask that I be assigned to his staff and be given the rank of brigadier-general. I am soon to go to Washington to present that letter and await the results.
Cadwallader, Sylvanus. Three Years With Grant.
Porter, Horace. Campaigning with Grant.