After the fall of Forts Henry and Donelson, U.S. Grant embarked on what would become a triumphant military career. However, shortly after these victories he was surprised by the Confederate attack on his encampment at Pittsburg Landing. A major defeat here could have led to his removal from command. Another officer caught off guard by the sudden assault was William Tecumseh Sherman, who commanded a division in Grant's Army of the Tennessee. Had events turned differently, both officers probably would have been cashiered and their essential services lost to the Union cause. After the war, Grant authored his reminiscences entitled Personal Memories of U.S. Grant from which this selection is taken.
When I reassumed command on the 17th of March I found the army divided, about half being on the east bank of the Tennessee at Savannah, while one division was at Crump's landing on the west bank about four miles higher up, and the remainder at Pittsburg Landing, five miles above Crump's. The enemy was in force at Corinth, the junction of the two most important railroads in the Mississippi valley—one connecting Memphis and the Mississippi River with the East, and the other leading south to all the cotton states. Still another railroad connects Corinth with Jackson, in west Tennessee. If we obtained possession of Corinth the enemy would have no railroad for the transportation of armies or supplies until that running east from Vicksburg was reached. It was the great strategic position at the West between the Tennessee and the Mississippi rivers and between Nashville and Vicksburg.
I at once put all the troops at Savannah in motion for Pittsburg Landing, knowing that the enemy was fortifying at Corinth and collecting an army there under Johnston. It was my expectation to march against that army as soon as Buell, who had been ordered to reënforce