Friday, April 05, 2019

'The ball is in motion': Where Grant learned Shiloh had begun

The Cherry Mansion was used as headquarters by Union generals Charles Ferguson Smith, Ulysses Grant
and Don Carlos Buell.  It is a private residence today. (CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE.)
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On the morning of April 6, 1862, Ulysses Grant sat with a cup of coffee at the breakfast table in the Cherry Mansion in Savannah, Tenn., the nerve center of his Army of the Tennessee. The general's headquarters tent was pitched in the yard of the beautiful home on the bluff overlooking the Tennessee River. Grant slept in the mansion owned by ardent Unionist William Cherry and his wife, Annie, a staunch supporter of the Confederacy.

On the morning of April 6, 1862, Ulysses Grant 
was at Annie Cherry's breakfast table 
when he heard the report from a cannon. 
Then the 39-year-old commander heard the booming of cannon in the distance. Grant's army was camped miles upriver at Pittsburg Landing and Crump's Landing.

"The ball is in motion," the general said, according to Annie Cherry.  Grant and his staff boarded a steamship and headed toward Pittsburg Landing.

The Battle of Shiloh had begun.

THE GENERAL WAS SOBER -- Decades after the war, Annie Cherry, whose two brothers served in the Confederate Army, dismissed rumors that Grant was drunk the morning of the battle. "You will please accept my assurance, gladly given, that on the date mentioned I believe Gen. Grant was thoroughly sober," she wrote in a letter published in Confederate Veteran  in February 1893. Added Cherry: "During the weeks of his occupancy of my house he always demeaned himself as a gentleman; was kind, courteous, genial, and considerate, and never appeared in my presence in a state of intoxication."

GRANT'S PIANO: The general and other Union officers were  entertained in the house by Annie and her sisters. The piano they played remains on the first floor of the house, a private residence today.

HOSPITAL SITE: After the Battle of Shiloh, which resulted in nearly 24,000 casualties, a makeshift hospital was set up in the yard of the mansion. Days after the battle, hospital boats were moored in the Tennessee River below the house.

Mortally wounded at Shiloh, General W.H.L. Wallace died
in his wife's arms at the Cherry Mansion. She never remarried.
"WE MEET IN HEAVEN" On the first day of the battle, Union General W.H.L Wallace, a lawyer in civilian life, was shot through the back of the head. The projectile exited through 40-year-old general's left eye. Left behind as Confederates overwhelmed Union lines, Wallace lay overnight in the rain, wrapped in a blanket. The next day, he was discovered by comrades and taken to the Cherry Mansion, accompanied by his wife, who had traveled from Illinois. Martha Ann Wallace was "occasionally made happy by a smile or act of recognition," but the general died in his wife's arms in the library of the mansion on April 10. His last words to her: "We meet in heaven." 

Charles F. Smith
ANOTHER GENERAL DIES: Union Major General Charles Ferguson Smith, whom Grant idolized, died on the second floor of the mansion on April 25, 1862, a day after his 55th birthday. Cause of death: An infection following a foot injury and dysentery.

In early May, Smith's body lay in state at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, where he was buried in Laurel Hill Cemetery. (Read my Civil War Times column on the cemetery.) "An unceasing stream of visitors, a great portion of whom were ladies, thronged towards the Hall for the purpose of viewing the remains, from the time the doors were opened until six o'clock, when they were closed," the Philadelphia Inquirer reported on May 6, 1862. "It was estimated by officers of the bodyguard that the number of visitors during the day amounted to 100 per minute."

"There was no better soldier in the army," the Philadelphia newspaper noted, "than General Smith."

A view of the mansion from the Tennessee River side. 
A view of the mansion through an iron gate from the Tennessee River side. 
A Civil War Trails marker notes the significance of the Cherry Mansion.

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1 comment:

  1. God that battle was terrible. Its also where William Tecumseh Sherman earned his reputation as one of Grant’s most trusted fighting generals.