Part 5 out of 7
ready to resume the pursuit of the enemy on the expiration of the
forty-eight hours' truce, and messages were sent to General
Gillmore (at Hilton Head) to the same effect, with instructions to
get a similar message through to General Wilson, at Macon, by some
General Grant had brought with him, from Washington, written
answers from the Secretary of War, and of himself, to my
communications of the 18th, which I still possess, and here give
the originals. They embrace the copy of a dispatch made by Mr.
Stanton to General Grant, when he was pressing Lee at Appomattox,
which dispatch, if sent me at the same time (as should have been
done), would have saved a world of trouble. I did not understand
that General Grant had come down to supersede me in command, nor
did he intimate it, nor did I receive these communications as a
serious reproof, but promptly acted on them, as is already shown;
and in this connection I give my answer made to General Grant, at
Raleigh, before I had received any answer from General Johnston to
the demand for the surrender of his own army, as well as my answer
to Mr. Stanton's letter, of the same date, both written on the
supposition that I might have to start suddenly in pursuit of
Johnston, and have no other chance to explain.
WAR DEPARTMENT, WASHINGTON CITY, April 21, 1865.
GENERAL: The memorandum or basis agreed upon between General
Sherman and General Johnston having been submitted to the
President, they are disapproved. You will give notice of the
disapproval to General Sherman, and direct him to resume
hostilities at the earliest moment.
The instructions given to you by the late President, Abraham
Lincoln, on the 3d of March, by my telegraph of that date,
addressed to you, express substantially the views of President
Andrew Johnson, and will be observed by General Sherman. A copy is
The President desires that you proceed immediately to the
headquarters of Major-General Sherman, and direct operations
against the enemy.
EDWIN M. STANTON, Secretary of War.
The following telegram was received 2 p.m., City Point, March 4,
1865 (from Washington, 12 M., March 3,1865)
OFFICE UNITED STATES MILITARY TELEGRAPH,
HEADQUARTERS ARMIES OF THE UNITED STATES
The President directs me to say to you that he wishes you to have
no conference with General Lee, unless it be for the capitulation
of Lee's army or on solely minor and purely military matters.
He instructs me to say that you are not to decide, discuss, or
confer upon any political question; such questions the President
holds in his own hands, and will submit them to no military
conferences or conventions.
Meantime you are to press to the utmost your military advantages.
EDWIN M. STANTON, Secretary of War.
HEADQUARTERS ARMIES OF THE UNITED STATES
WASHINGTON, D.C. April 21, 1865.
Major-General W. T. SHERMAN, commanding Military Division of the
GENERAL: The basis of agreement entered into between yourself and
General J. E. Johnston, for the disbandment of the Southern army,
and the extension of the authority of the General Government over
all the territory belonging to it, sent for the approval of the
President, is received.
I read it carefully myself before submitting it to the President
and Secretary of War, and felt satisfied that it could not possibly
be approved. My reason for these views I will give you at another
time, in a more extended letter.
Your agreement touches upon questions of such vital importance
that, as soon as read, I addressed a note to the Secretary of War,
notifying him of their receipt, and the importance of immediate
action by the President; and suggested, in view of their
importance, that the entire Cabinet be called together, that all
might give an expression of their opinions upon the matter. The
result was a disapproval by the President of the basis laid down; a
disapproval of the negotiations altogether except for the surrender
of the army commanded by General Johnston, and directions to me to
notify you of this decision. I cannot do no better than by sending
you the inclosed copy of a dispatch (penned by the late President,
though signed by the Secretary of War) in answer to me, on sending
a letter received from General Lee, proposing to meet me for the
purpose of submitting the question of peace to a convention of
Please notify General Johnston, immediately on receipt of this, of
the termination of the truce, and resume hostilities against his
army at the earliest moment you can, acting in good faith.
Very respectfully your obedient servant,
U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.
HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI
IN THE FIELD, RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA, April 25, 1865.
Lieutenant-General U. S. GRANT, present.
GENERAL: I had the honor to receive your letter of April 21st, with
inclosures, yesterday, and was well pleased that you came along, as
you must have observed that I held the military control so as to
adapt it to any phase the case might assume.
It is but just I should record the fact that I made my terms with
General Johnston under the influence of the liberal terms you
extended to the army of General Lee at Appomattox Court-House on
the 9th, and the seeming policy of our Government, as evinced by
the call of the Virginia Legislature and Governor back to Richmond,
under yours and President Lincoln's very eyes.
It now appears this last act was done without any consultation with
you or any knowledge of Mr. Lincoln, but rather in opposition to a
previous policy well considered.
I have not the least desire to interfere in the civil policy of our
Government, but would shun it as something not to my liking; but
occasions do arise when a prompt seizure of results is forced on
military commanders not in immediate communication with the proper
authority. It is probable that the terms signed by General
Johnston and myself were not clear enough on the point, well
understood between us, that our negotiations did not apply to any
parties outside the officers and men of the Confederate armies,
which could easily have been remedied.
No surrender of any army not actually at the mercy of an antagonist
was ever made without "terms," and these always define the military
status of the surrendered. Thus you stipulated that the officers
and men of Lee's army should not be molested at their homes so long
as they obeyed the laws at the place of their residence.
I do not wish to discuss these points involved in our recognition
of the State governments in actual existence, but will merely state
my conclusions, to await the solution of the future.
Such action on our part in no manner recognizes for a moment the
so-called Confederate Government, or makes us liable for its debts
The laws and acts done by the several States during the period of
rebellion are void, because done without the oath prescribed by our
Constitution of the United States, which is a "condition
We have a right to, use any sort of machinery to produce military
results; and it is the commonest thing for military commanders to
use the civil governments in actual existence as a means to an end.
I do believe we could and can use the present State governments
lawfully, constitutionally, and as the very best possible means to
produce the object desired, viz., entire and complete submission to
the lawful authority of the United States.
As to punishment for past crimes, that is for the judiciary, and
can in no manner of way be disturbed by our acts; and, so far as I
can, I will use my influence that rebels shall suffer all the
personal punishment prescribed by law, as also the civil
liabilities arising from their past acts.
What we now want is the new form of law by which common men may
regain the positions of industry, so long disturbed by the war.
I now apprehend that the rebel armies will disperse; and, instead
of dealing with six or seven States, we will have to deal with
numberless bands of desperadoes, headed by such men as Mosby,
Forrest, Red Jackson, and others, who know not and care not for
danger and its consequences.
I am, with great respect, your obedient servant,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General commanding.
HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI
IN THE FIELD, RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA, April 25, 1865.
Hon. E. M. STANTON, Secretary of War, Washington.
DEAR SIR: I have been furnished a copy of your letter of April 21st
to General Grant, signifying your disapproval of the terms on which
General Johnston proposed to disarm and disperse the insurgents, on
condition of amnesty, etc. I admit my folly in embracing in a
military convention any civil matters; but, unfortunately, such is
the nature of our situation that they seem inextricably united, and
I understood from you at Savannah that the financial state of the
country demanded military success, and would warrant a little
bending to policy.
When I had my conference with General Johnston I had the public
examples before me of General Grant's terms to Lee's army, and
General Weitzel's invitation to the Virginia Legislature to
assemble at Richmond.
I still believe the General Government of the United States has
made a mistake; but that is none of my business--mine is a
different task; and I had flattered myself that, by four years of
patient, unremitting, and successful labor, I deserved no reminder
such as is contained in the last paragraph of your letter to
General Grant. You may assure the President that I heed his
suggestion. I am truly, etc.,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General commanding.
On the same day, but later, I received an answer from General
Johnston, agreeing to meet me again at Bennett's house the next
day, April 26th, at noon. He did not even know that General Grant
was in Raleigh.
General Grant advised me to meet him, and to accept his surrender
on the same terms as his with General Lee; and on the 26th I again
went up to Durham's Station by rail, and rode out to Bennett's
house, where we again met, and General Johnston, without
hesitation, agreed to, and we executed, the following final terms:
Terms of a Military Convention, entered into this 26th day of
April, 1865, at Bennett's House, near Durham's Station., North
Carolina, between General JOSEPH E. JOHNSTON, commanding the
Confederate Army, and Major-General W. T. SHERMAN, commanding the
United States Army in North Carolina:
1. All acts of war on the part of the troops under General
Johnston's command to cease from this date.
2. All arms and public property to be deposited at Greensboro',
and delivered to an ordnance-officer of the United States Army.
3. Rolls of all the officers and men to be made in duplicate; one
copy to be retained by the commander of the troops, and the other
to be given to an officer to be designated by General Sherman.
Each officer and man to give his individual obligation in writing
not to take up arms against the Government of the United States,
until properly released from this obligation.
4. The side-arms of officers, and their private horses and
baggage, to be retained by them.
5. This being done, all the officers and men will be permitted to
return to their homes, not to be disturbed by the United States
authorities, so long as they observe their obligation and the laws
in force where they may reside.
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General,
Commanding United States Forces in North Carolina.
J. E. JOHNSTON, General,
Commanding Confederate States Forces in North Carolina.
U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.
I returned to Raleigh the same evening, and, at my request, General
Grant wrote on these terms his approval, and then I thought the
matter was surely at an end. He took the original copy, on the
27th returned to Newbern, and thence went back to Washington.
I immediately made all the orders necessary to carry into effect
the terms of this convention, devolving on General Schofield the
details of granting the parole and making the muster-rolls of
prisoners, inventories of property, etc., of General Johnston's
army at and about Greensboro', North Carolina, and on General
Wilson the same duties in Georgia; but, thus far, I had been
compelled to communicate with the latter through rebel sources, and
General Wilson was necessarily confused by the conflict of orders
and information. I deemed it of the utmost importance to establish
for him a more reliable base of information and supply, and
accordingly resolved to go in person to Savannah for that purpose.
But, before starting, I received a New York Times, of April 24th,
containing the following extraordinary communications:
WAR DEPARTMENT WASHINGTON, April 22, 1885.
Yesterday evening a bearer of dispatches arrived from General
Sherman. An agreement for a suspension of hostilities, and a
memorandum of what is called a basis for peace, had been entered
into on the 18th inst. by General Sherman, with the rebel General
Johnston. Brigadier-General Breckenridge was present at the
A cabinet meeting was held at eight o'clock in the evening, at
which the action of General Sherman was disapproved by the
President, by the Secretary of War, by General Grant, and by every
member of the cabinet. General Sherman was ordered to resume
hostilities immediately, and was directed that the instructions
given by the late President, in the following telegram, which was
penned by Mr. Lincoln himself, at the Capitol, on the night of the
3d of March, were approved by President Andrew Johnson, and were
reiterated to govern the action of military commanders.
On the night of the 3d of March, while President Lincoln and his
cabinet were at the Capitol, a telegram from General Grant was
brought to the Secretary of War, informing him that General Lee had
requested an interview or conference, to make an arrangement for
terms of peace. The letter of General Lee was published in a
letter to Davis and to the rebel Congress. General Grant's
telegram was submitted to Mr. Lincoln, who, after pondering a few
minutes, took up his pen and wrote with his own hand the following
reply, which he submitted to the Secretary of State and Secretary
of War. It was then dated, addressed, and signed, by the Secretary
of War, and telegraphed to General Grant:
WASHINGTON, March 3, 1865-12 P.M.
The President directs me to say to you that he wishes you to have
no conference with General Lee, unless it be for the capitulation
of General Lee's army, or on some minor or purely military matter.
He instructs me to say that you are not to decide, discuss, or
confer upon any political questions. Such questions the President
holds in his own hands, and will submit them to no military
conferences or conventions.
Meantime you are to press to the utmost your military advantages.
EDWIN M. STANTON, Secretary of War.
The orders of General Sherman to General Stoneman to withdraw from
Salisbury and join him will probably open the way for Davis to
escape to Mexico or Europe with his plunder, which is reported to
be very large, including not only the plunder of the Richmond
banks, but previous accumulations.
A dispatch received by this department from Richmond says: "It is
stated here, by respectable parties, that the amount of specie
taken south by Jeff. Davis and his partisans is very large,
including not only the plunder of the Richmond banks, but previous
accumulations. They hope, it is said, to make terms with General
Sherman, or some other commander, by which they will be permitted,
with their effects, including this gold plunder, to go to Mexico or
Europe. Johnston's negotiations look to this end."
After the cabinet meeting last night, General Grant started for
North Carolina, to direct operations against Johnston's army.
EDWIN M. STANTON, Secretary of War.
Here followed the terms, and Mr. Stanton's ten reasons for
The publication of this bulletin by authority was an outrage on me,
for Mr. Stanton had failed to communicate to me in advance, as was
his duty, the purpose of the Administration to limit our
negotiations to purely military matters; but, on the contrary, at
Savannah he had authorized me to control all matters, civil and
By this bulletin, he implied that I had previously been furnished
with a copy of his dispatch of March 3d to General Grant, which was
not so; and he gave warrant to the impression, which was sown
broadcast, that I might be bribed by banker's gold to permit Davis
to escape. Under the influence of this, I wrote General Grant the
following letter of April 28th, which has been published in the
Proceedings of the Committee on the Conduct of the War.
I regarded this bulletin of Mr. Stanton as a personal and official
insult, which I afterward publicly resented.
HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI
IN THE FIELD, RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA, April 28,1865.
Lieutenant-General U. S. GRANT, General-in-Chief, Washington, D. C.
GENERAL: Since you left me yesterday, I have seen the New York
Times of the 24th, containing a budget of military news,
authenticated by the signature of the Secretary of War, Hon. E. M.
Stanton, which is grouped in such a way as to give the public very
erroneous impressions. It embraces a copy of the basis of
agreement between myself and General Johnston, of April 18th, with
comments, which it will be time enough to discuss two or three
years hence, after the Government has experimented a little more in
the machinery by which power reaches the scattered people of the
vast country known as the "South."
In the mean time, however, I did think that my rank (if not past
services) entitled me at least to trust that the Secretary of War
would keep secret what was communicated for the use of none but the
cabinet, until further inquiry could be made, instead of giving
publicity to it along with documents which I never saw, and drawing
therefrom inferences wide of the truth. I never saw or had
furnished me a copy of President Lincoln's dispatch to you of the
3d of March, nor did Mr. Stanton or any human being ever convey to
me its substance, or any thing like it. On the contrary, I had
seen General Weitzel's invitation to the Virginia Legislature, made
in Mr. Lincoln's very presence, and failed to discover any other
official hint of a plan of reconstruction, or any ideas calculated
to allay the fears of the people of the South, after the
destruction of their armies and civil authorities would leave them
without any government whatever.
We should not drive a people into anarchy, and it is simply
impossible for our military power to reach all the masses of their
I confess I did not desire to drive General Johnston's army into
bands of armed men, going about without purpose, and capable only
of infinite mischief. But you saw, on your arrival here, that I
had my army so disposed that his escape was only possible in a
disorganized shape; and as you did not choose to "direct military
operations in this quarter," I inferred that you were satisfied
with the military situation; at all events, the instant I learned
what was proper enough, the disapproval of the President, I acted
in such a manner as to compel the surrender of General Johnston's
whole army on the same terms which you had prescribed to General
Lee's army, when you had it surrounded and in your absolute power.
Mr. Stanton, in stating that my orders to General Stoneman were
likely to result in the escape of "Mr. Davis to Mexico or Europe,"
is in deep error. General Stoneman was not at "Salisbury," but had
gone back to "Statesville." Davis was between us, and therefore
Stoneman was beyond him. By turning toward me he was approaching
Davis, and, had he joined me as ordered, I would have had a mounted
force greatly needed for Davis's capture, and for other purposes.
Even now I don't know that Mr. Stanton wants Davis caught, and as
my official papers, deemed sacred, are hastily published to the
world, it will be imprudent for me to state what has been done in
As the editor of the Times has (it may be) logically and fairly
drawn from this singular document the conclusion that I am
insubordinate, I can only deny the intention.
I have never in my life questioned or disobeyed an order, though
many and many a time have I risked my life, health, and reputation,
in obeying orders, or even hints to execute plans and purposes, not
to my liking. It is not fair to withhold from me the plans and
policy of Government (if any there be), and expect me to guess at
them; for facts and events appear quite different from different
stand-points. For four years I have been in camp dealing with
soldiers, and I can assure you that the conclusion at which the
cabinet arrived with such singular unanimity differs from mine.
I conferred freely with the best officers in this army as to the
points involved in this controversy, and, strange to say, they were
singularly unanimous in the other conclusion. They will learn with
pain and amazement that I am deemed insubordinate, and wanting in
commonsense; that I, who for four years have labored day and night,
winter and summer, who have brought an army of seventy thousand men
in magnificent condition across a country hitherto deemed
impassable, and placed it just where it was wanted, on the day
appointed, have brought discredit on our Government! I do not wish
to boast of this, but I do say that it entitled me to the courtesy
of being consulted, before publishing to the world a proposition
rightfully submitted to higher authority for adjudication, and then
accompanied by statements which invited the dogs of the press to be
let loose upon me. It is true that non-combatants, men who sleep
in comfort and security while we watch on the distant lines, are
better able to judge than we poor soldiers, who rarely see a
newspaper, hardly hear from our families, or stop long enough to
draw our pay. I envy not the task of "reconstruction," and am
delighted that the Secretary of War has relieved me of it.
As you did not undertake to assume the management of the affairs of
this army, I infer that, on personal inspection, your mind arrived
at a different conclusion from that of the Secretary of War. I
will therefore go on to execute your orders to the conclusion, and,
when done, will with intense satisfaction leave to the civil
authorities the execution of the task of which they seem so
jealous. But, as an honest man and soldier, I invite them to go
back to Nashville and follow my path, for they will see some things
and hear some things that may disturb their philosophy.
With sincere respect,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General commanding.
P. S.--As Mr. Stanton's most singular paper has been published, I
demand that this also be made public, though I am in no manner
responsible to the press, but to the law, and my proper superiors.
W. T. S., Major-General.
On the 28th I summoned all the army and corps commanders together
at my quarters in the Governor's mansion at Raleigh, where every
thing was explained to them, and all orders for the future were
completed. Generals Schofield, Terry, and Kilpatrick, were to
remain on duty in the Department of North Carolina, already
commanded by General Schofield, and the right and left wings were
ordered to march under their respective commanding generals North
by easy stages to Richmond, Virginia, there to await my return
from the South.
On the 29th of April, with a part of my personal staff, I proceeded
by rail to Wilmington, North Carolina, where I found Generals
Hawley and Potter, and the little steamer Russia, Captain Smith,
awaiting me. After a short pause in Wilmington, we embarked, and
proceeded down the coast to Port Royal and the Savannah River,
which we reached on the 1st of May. There Captain Hoses, who had
just come from General Wilson at Macon, met us, bearing letters for
me and General Grant, in which General Wilson gave a brief summary
of his operations up to date. He had marched from Eastport,
Mississippi, five hundred miles in thirty days, took six thousand
three hundred prisoners, twenty-three colors, and one hundred and
fifty-six guns, defeating Forrest, scattering the militia, and
destroying every railroad, iron establishment, and factory, in
North Alabama and Georgia.
He spoke in the highest terms of his cavalry, as "cavalry,"
claiming that it could not be excelled, and he regarded his corps
as a model for modern cavalry in organization, armament, and
discipline. Its strength was given at thirteen thousand five
hundred men and horses on reaching Macon. Of course I was
extremely gratified at his just confidence, and saw that all he
wanted for efficient action was a sure base of supply, so that he
need no longer depend for clothing, ammunition, food, and forage,
on the country, which, now that war had ceased, it was our solemn
duty to protect, instead of plunder. I accordingly ordered the
captured steamer Jeff. Davis to be loaded with stores, to proceed
at once up the Savannah River to Augusta, with a small detachment
of troops to occupy the arsenal, and to open communication with
General Wilson at Macon; and on the next day, May 2d, this steamer
was followed by another with a fall cargo of clothing, sugar,
coffee, and bread, sent from Hilton Head by the department
commander, General Gillmore, with a stronger guard commanded by
General Molineux. Leaving to General Gillmore, who was present,
and in whose department General Wilson was, to keep up the supplies
at Augusta, and to facilitate as far as possible General Wilson's
operations inland, I began my return on the 2d of May. We went
into Charleston Harbor, passing the ruins of old Forts Moultrie and
Sumter without landing. We reached the city of Charleston, which
was held by part of the division of General John P. Hatch, the
same that we had left at Pocotaligo. We walked the old familiar
streets--Broad, King, Meeting, etc.--but desolation and ruin were
everywhere. The heart of the city had been burned during the
bombardment, and the rebel garrison at the time of its final
evacuation had fired the railroad-depots, which fire had spread,
and was only subdued by our troops after they had reached the city.
I inquired for many of my old friends, but they were dead or gone,
and of them all I only saw a part of the family of Mrs. Pettigru.
I doubt whether any city was ever more terribly punished than
Charleston, but, as her people had for years been agitating for war
and discord, and had finally inaugurated the civil war by an attack
on the small and devoted garrison of Major Anderson, sent there by
the General Government to defend them, the judgment of the world
will be, that Charleston deserved the fate that befell her.
Resuming our voyage, we passed into Cape Fear River by its mouth at
Fort Caswell and Smithville, and out by the new channel at Fort
Fisher, and reached Morehead City on the 4th of May. We found
there the revenue-cutter Wayanda, on board of which were the Chief-
Justice, Mr. Chase, and his daughter Nettie, now Mrs. Hoyt. The
Chief-Justice at that moment was absent on a visit to Newbern, but
came back the next day. Meantime, by means of the telegraph, I was
again in correspondence with General Schofield at Raleigh. He had
made great progress in paroling the officers and men of Johnston's
army at Greensboro', but was embarrassed by the utter confusion and
anarchy that had resulted from a want of understanding on many
minor points, and on the political questions that had to be met at
the instant. In order to facilitate the return to their homes of
the Confederate officers and men, he had been forced to make with
General Johnston the following supplemental terms, which were of
course ratified and approved:
MILITARY CONVENTION OF APRIL 26, 1865.
1. The field transportation to be loaned to the troops for their
march to their homes, and for subsequent use in their industrial
pursuits. Artillery-horses may be used in field-transportation, if
2. Each brigade or separate body to retain a number of arms equal
to one-seventh of its effective strength, which, when the troops
reach the capitals of their states, will be disposed of as the
general commanding the department may direct.
3. Private horses, and other private property of both officers and
men, to be retained by them.
4. The commanding general of the Military Division of West
Mississippi, Major-General Canby, will be requested to give
transportation by water, from Mobile or New Orleans, to the troops
from Arkansas and Texas.
5. The obligations of officers and soldiers to be signed by their
6. Naval forces within the limits of General Johnston's command to
be included in the terms of this convention.
J. M. SCHOFIELD, Major-General,
Commanding United States Forces in North Carolina.
J. E. JOHNSTON, General,
Commanding Confederate States Forces in North Carolina.
The total number of prisoners of war parolled by
General Schofield, at Greensboro', North Carolina,
as afterward officially reported, amounted to ........ 38,817
And the total number who surrendered in Georgia
and Florida, as reported by General J. H. Wilson,
was .................................................. 52,458
Aggregate surrendered under the capitulation of
General J. E. Johnston ............................... 89,270
On the morning of the 5th I also received from General Schofield
RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA, May 5, 1866.
To Major-General W: T. SHERMAN, Morehead City:
When General Grant was here, as you doubtless recollect, he said
the lines (for trade and intercourse) had been extended to embrace
this and other States south. The order, it seems, has been
modified so as to include only Virginia and Tennessee. I think it
would be an act of wisdom to open this State to trade at once.
I hope the Government will make known its policy as to the organs
of State government without delay. Affairs must necessarily be in
a very unsettled state until that is done. The people are now in a
mood to accept almost anything which promises a definite
settlement. "What is to be done with the freedmen?" is the
question of all, and it is the all important question. It requires
prompt and wise notion to prevent the negroes from becoming a huge
elephant on our hands. If I am to govern this State, it is
important for me to know it at once. If another is to be sent
here, it cannot be done too soon, for he probably will undo the
most that I shall have done. I shall be glad to hear from you
fully, when you have time to write. I will send your message to
General Wilson at once.
J. M. SCHOFIELD, Major-General.
I was utterly without instructions from any source on the points of
General Schofield's inquiry, and under the existing state of facts
could not even advise him, for by this time I was in possession of
the second bulletin of Mr. Stanton, published in all the Northern
papers, with comments that assumed that I was a common traitor and
a public enemy; and high officials had even instructed my own
subordinates to disobey my lawful orders. General Halleck, who had
so long been in Washington as the chief of staff, had been sent on
the 21st of April to Richmond, to command the armies of the Potomac
and James, in place of General Grant, who had transferred his
headquarters to the national capital, and he (General Halleck) was
therefore in supreme command in Virginia, while my command over
North Carolina had never been revoked or modified.
WAR DEPARTMENT, WASHINGTON, April 27 9.30 a.m.
To Major-General DIX:
The department has received the following dispatch from Major-
General Halleck, commanding the Military Division of the James.
Generals Canby and Thomas were instructed some days ago that
Sherman's arrangements with Johnston were disapproved by the
President, and they were ordered to disregard it and push the enemy
in every direction.
E. M. STANTON, Secretary of War.
RICHMOND, VIRGINIA, April 26-9.30 p.m.
HON. E. M. STANTON, Secretary of War:
Generals Meade, Sheridan, and Wright, are acting under orders to
pay no regard to any truce or orders of General Sherman respecting
hostilities, on the ground that Sherman's agreement could bind his
command only, and no other.
They are directed to push forward, regardless of orders from any
one except from General Grant, and cut off Johnston's retreat.
Beauregard has telegraphed to Danville that a new arrangement has
been made with Sherman, and that the advance of the Sixth Corps was
to be suspended until further orders.
I have telegraphed back to obey no orders of Sherman, but to push
forward as rapidly as possible.
The bankers here have information to-day that Jeff. Davis's specie
is moving south from Goldsboro', in wagons, as fast as possible.
I suggest that orders be telegraphed, through General Thomas, that
Wilson obey no orders from Sherman, and notifying him and Canby,
and all commanders on the Mississippi, to take measures to
intercept the rebel chiefs and their plunder.
The specie taken with them is estimated here at from six to
thirteen million dollars.
H. W. HALLECK, Major-General commanding.
Subsequently, before the Committee on the Conduct of the War, in
Washington, on the 22d of May, I testified fully on this whole
matter, and will abide the judgment of the country on the
patriotism and wisdom of my public conduct in this connection.
General Halleck's measures to capture General Johnston's army,
actually surrendered to me at the time, at Greensboro', on the 26th
of April, simply excited my contempt for a judgment such as he was
supposed to possess. The assertion that Jeff. Davis's specie-
train, of six to thirteen million dollars, was reported to be
moving south from Goldsboro' in wagons as fast as possible, found
plenty of willing ears, though my army of eighty thousand men had
been at Goldsboro' from March 22d to the date of his dispatch,
April 26th; and such a train would have been composed of from
fifteen to thirty-two six-mule teams to have hauled this specie,
even if it all were in gold. I suppose the exact amount of
treasure which Davis had with him is now known to a cent; some of
it was paid to his escort, when it disbanded at and near
Washington, Georgia, and at the time of his capture he had a small
parcel of gold and silver coin, not to exceed ten thousand dollars,
which is now retained in the United States Treasury-vault at
Washington, and shown to the curious.
The thirteen millions of treasure, with which Jeff. Davis was to
corrupt our armies and buy his escape, dwindled down to the
contents of a hand-valise!
To say that I was merely angry at the tone and substance of these
published bulletins of the War Department, would hardly express the
state of my feelings. I was outraged beyond measure, and was
resolved to resent the insult, cost what it might. I went to the
Wayanda and showed them to Mr. Chase, with whom I had a long and
frank conversation, during which he explained to me the confusion
caused in Washington by the assassination of Mr. Lincoln, the
sudden accession to power of Mr. Johnson, who was then supposed to
be bitter and vindictive in his feelings toward the South, and the
wild pressure of every class of politicians to enforce on the new
President their pet schemes. He showed me a letter of his own,
which was in print, dated Baltimore, April 11th, and another of
April 12th, addressed to the President, urging him to recognize the
freedmen as equal in all respects to the whites. He was the first
man, of any authority or station, who ever informed me that the
Government of the United States would insist on extending to the
former slaves of the South the elective franchise, and he gave as a
reason the fact that the slaves, grateful for their freedom, for
which they were indebted to the armies and Government of the North,
would, by their votes, offset the disaffected and rebel element of
the white population of the South. At that time quite a storm was
prevailing at sea, outside, and our two vessels lay snug at the
wharf at Morehead City. I saw a good deal of Mr. Chase, and
several notes passed between us, of which I have the originals yet.
Always claiming that the South had herself freed all her slaves by
rebellion, and that Mr. Lincoln's proclamation of freedom (of
September 22, 1862) was binding on all officers of the General
Government, I doubted the wisdom of at once clothing them with the
elective franchise, without some previous preparation and
qualification; and then realized the national loss in the death at
that critical moment of Mr. Lincoln, who had long pondered over the
difficult questions involved, who, at all events, would have been
honest and frank, and would not have withheld from his army
commanders at least a hint that would have been to them a guide.
It was plain to me, therefore, that the manner of his assassination
had stampeded the civil authorities in Washington, had unnerved
them, and that they were then undecided as to the measures
indispensably necessary to prevent anarchy at the South.
On the 7th of May the storm subsided, and we put to sea, Mr. Chase
to the south, on his proposed tour as far as New Orleans, and I for
James River. I reached Fortress Monroe on the 8th, and thence
telegraphed my arrival to General Grant, asking for orders. I
found at Fortress Monroe a dispatch from General Halleck,
professing great friendship, and inviting me to accept his
hospitality at Richmond. I answered by a cipher-dispatch that I
had seen his dispatch to Mr. Stanton, of April 26th, embraced in
the second bulletin, which I regarded as insulting, declined his
hospitality, and added that I preferred we should not meet as I
passed through Richmond. I thence proceeded to City Point in the
Russia, and on to Manchester, opposite Richmond, via Petersburg, by
rail. I found that both wings of the army had arrived from
Raleigh, and were in camp in and around Manchester, whence I again
telegraphed General Grant, an the 9th of May, for orders, and also
reported my arrival to General Halleck by letter. I found that
General Halleck had ordered General Davis's corps (the Fourteenth)
for review by himself. This I forbade. All the army knew of the
insult that had been made me by the Secretary of War and General
Halleck, and watched me closely to see if I would tamely submit.
During the 9th I made a full and complete report of all these
events, from the last report made at Goldsboro' up to date, and the
next day received orders to continue the march to Alexandria, near
On the morning of the 11th we crossed the pontoon-bridge at
Richmond, marched through that city, and out on the Han over
Court House road, General Slocum's left wing leading. The right wing
(General Logan) followed the next day, viz., the 12th. Meantime,
General O. O. Howard had been summoned to Washington to take charge
of the new Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, and,
from that time till the army was finally disbanded, General John A.
Logan was in command of the right wing, and of the Army of the
Tennessee. The left wing marched through Hanover Court House, and
thence took roads well to the left by Chilesburg; the Fourteenth
Corps by New Market and Culpepper, Manassas, etc.; the Twentieth
Corps by Spotsylvania Court-House and Chancellorsville. The right
wing followed the more direct road by Fredericksburg. On my way
north I endeavored to see as much of the battle-fields of the Army
of the Potomac as I could, and therefore shifted from one column to
the other, visiting en route Hanover Court-House, Spotsylvania,
Fredericksburg, Dumfries, etc., reaching Alexandria during the
afternoon of May 19th, and pitched my camp by the road side, about
half-way between Alexandria and the Long Bridge. During the same
and next day the whole army reached Alexandria, and camped round
about it; General Meade's Army of the Potomac had possession of the
camps above, opposite Washington and Georgetown. The next day (by
invitation) I went over to Washington and met many friends--among
them General Grant and President Johnson. The latter occupied
rooms in the house on the corner of Fifteenth and H Streets,
belonging to Mr. Hooper. He was extremely cordial to me, and
knowing that I was chafing under the censures of the War
Department, especially of the two war bulletins of Mr. Stanton, he
volunteered to say that he knew of neither of them till seen in the
newspapers, and that Mr. Stanton had shown neither to him nor to
any of his associates in the cabinet till they were published.
Nearly all the members of the cabinet made similar assurances to me
afterward, and, as Mr. Stanton made no friendly advances, and
offered no word of explanation or apology, I declined General
Grant's friendly offices for a reconciliation, but, on the
contrary, resolved to resent what I considered an insult, as
publicly as it was made. My brother, Senator Sherman, who was Mr.
Stanton's neighbor, always insisted that Mr. Stanton had been
frightened by the intended assassination of himself, and had become
embittered thereby. At all events, I found strong military guards
around his house, as well as all the houses occupied by the cabinet
and by the principal officers of Government; and a sense of
insecurity pervaded Washington, for which no reason existed.
On the 19th I received a copy of War Department Special Order No.
239, Adjutant-General's office, of May 18th, ordering a grand
review, by the President and cabinet, of all the armies then near
Washington; General Meade's to occur on Tuesday, May 23d, mine on
Wednesday, the 24th; and on the 20th I made the necessary orders
for my part. Meantime I had also arranged (with General Grant's
approval) to remove after the review, my armies from the south side
of the Potomac to the north; both for convenience and because our
men had found that the grounds assigned them had been used so long
for camps that they were foul and unfit.
By invitation I was on the reviewing-stand, and witnessed the
review of the Army of the Potomac (on the 23d), commanded by
General Meade in person. The day was beautiful, and the pageant
was superb. Washington was full of strangers, who filled the
streets in holiday-dress, and every house was decorated with flags.
The army marched by divisions in close column around the Capitol,
down Pennsylvania Avenue, past the President and cabinet, who
occupied a large stand prepared for the occasion, directly in front
of the White House.
I had telegraphed to Lancaster for Mrs. Sherman, who arrived that
day, accompanied by her father, the Hon. Thomas Ewing, and my son
Tom, then eight years old.
During the afternoon and night of the 23d, the Fifteenth, Seventeenth,
and Twentieth Corps, crossed Long Bridge, bivouacked in the
streets about the Capitol, and the Fourteenth Corps closed up to
the bridge. The morning of the 24th was extremely beautiful, and
the ground was in splendid order for our review. The streets were
filled with people to see the pageant, armed with bouquets of
flowers for their favorite regiments or heroes, and every thing was
propitious. Punctually at 9 A.M. the signal-gun was fired, when in
person, attended by General Howard and all my staff, I rode slowly
down Pennsylvania Avenue, the crowds of men, women, and children,
densely lining the sidewalks, and almost obstructing the way. We
were followed close by General Logan and the head of the Fifteenth
Corps. When I reached the Treasury-building, and looked back, the
sight was simply magnificent. The column was compact, and the
glittering muskets looked like a solid mass of steel, moving with
the regularity of a pendulum. We passed the Treasury building, in
front of which and of the White House was an immense throng of
people, for whom extensive stands had been prepared on both sides
of the avenue. As I neared the brick-house opposite the lower
corner of Lafayette Square, some one asked me to notice Mr. Seward,
who, still feeble and bandaged for his wounds, had been removed
there that he might behold the troops. I moved in that direction
and took off my hat to Mr. Seward, who sat at an upper window. He
recognized the salute, returned it, and then we rode on steadily
past the President, saluting with our swords. All on his stand
arose and acknowledged the salute. Then, turning into the gate of
the presidential grounds, we left our horses with orderlies, and
went upon the stand, where I found Mrs. Sherman, with her father
and son. Passing them, I shook hands with the President, General
Grant, and each member of the cabinet. As I approached Mr.
Stanton, he offered me his hand, but I declined it publicly, and
the fact was universally noticed. I then took my post on the left
of the President, and for six hours and a half stood, while the
army passed in the order of the Fifteenth, Seventeenth, Twentieth,
and Fourteenth Corps. It was, in my judgment, the most magnificent
army in existence--sixty-five thousand men, in splendid physique,
who had just completed a march of nearly two thousand miles in a
hostile country, in good drill, and who realized that they were
being closely scrutinized by thousands of their fellow-countrymen
and by foreigners. Division after division passed, each commander
of an army corps or division coming on the stand during the passage
of his command, to be presented to the President, cabinet, and
spectators. The steadiness and firmness of the tread, the careful
dress on the guides, the uniform intervals between the companies,
all eyes directly to the front, and the tattered and bullet-ridden
flags, festooned with flowers, all attracted universal notice.
Many good people, up to that time, had looked upon our Western army
as a sort of mob; but the world then saw, and recognized the fact,
that it was an army in the proper sense, well organized, well
commanded and disciplined; and there was no wonder that it had
swept through the South like a tornado. For six hours and a half
that strong tread of the Army of the West resounded along
Pennsylvania Avenue; not a soul of that vast crowd of spectators
left his place; and, when the rear of the column had passed by,
thousands of the spectators still lingered to express their sense
of confidence in the strength of a Government which could claim
such an army.
Some little scenes enlivened the day, and called for the laughter
and cheers of the crowd. Each division was followed by six
ambulances, as a representative of its baggage-train. Some of the
division commanders had added, by way of variety, goats, milch-
cows, and pack-mules, whose loads consisted of game-cocks, poultry,
hams, etc., and some of them had the families of freed slaves
along, with the women leading their children. Each division was
preceded by its corps of black pioneers, armed with picks and
spades. These marched abreast in double ranks, keeping perfect
dress and step, and added much to the interest of the occasion. On
the whole, the grand review was a splendid success, and was a
fitting conclusion to the campaign and the war.
I will now conclude by a copy of my general orders taking leave of
the army, which ended my connection with the war, though I
afterward visited and took a more formal leave of the officers and
men on July 4, 1865, at Louisville, Kentucky:
[SPECIAL FIELD ORDERS NO. 76]
HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI,
IN THE FIELD, WASHINGTON, D.C. May 30, 1865
The general commanding announces to the Armies of the Tennessee and
Georgia that the time has come for us to part. Our work is done,
and armed enemies no longer defy us. Some of you will go to your
homes, and others will be retained in military service till further
And now that we are all about to separate, to mingle with the civil
world, it becomes a pleasing duty to recall to mind the situation
of national affairs when, but little more than a year ago, we were
gathered about the cliffs of Lookout Mountain, and all the future
was wrapped in doubt and uncertainty.
Three armies had come together from distant fields, with separate
histories, yet bound by one common cause--the union of our country,
and the perpetuation of the Government of our inheritance. There
is no need to recall to your memories Tunnel Hill, with Rocky-Face
Mountain and Buzzard-Roost Gap, and the ugly forts of Dalton
We were in earnest, and paused not for danger and difficulty, but
dashed through Snake-Creek Gap and fell on Resaca; then on to the
Etowah, to Dallas, Kenesaw; and the heats of summer found us on the
banks of the Chattahoochee, far from home, and dependent on a
single road for supplies. Again we were not to be held back by any
obstacle, and crossed over and fought four hard battles for the
possession of the citadel of Atlanta. That was the crisis of our
history. A doubt still clouded our future, but we solved the
problem, destroyed Atlanta, struck boldly across the State of
Georgia, severed all the main arteries of life to our enemy, and
Christmas found us at Savannah.
Waiting there only long enough to fill our wagons, we again began a
march which, for peril, labor, and results, will compare with any
ever made by an organized army. The floods of the Savannah, the
swamps of the Combahee and Edisto, the "high hills" and rocks of
the Santee, the flat quagmires of the Pedee and Cape Fear Rivers,
were all passed in midwinter, with its floods and rains, in the
face of an accumulating enemy; and, after the battles of
Averysboro' and Bentonsville, we once more came out of the
wilderness, to meet our friends at Goldsboro'. Even then we paused
only long enough to get new clothing, to reload our wagons, again
pushed on to Raleigh and beyond, until we met our enemy suing for
peace, instead of war, and offering to submit to the injured laws
of his and our country. As long as that enemy was defiant, nor
mountains nor rivers, nor swamps, nor hunger, nor cold, had checked
us; but when he, who had fought us hard and persistently, offered
submission, your general thought it wrong to pursue him farther,
and negotiations followed, which resulted, as you all know, in his
How far the operations of this army contributed to the final
overthrow of the Confederacy and the peace which now dawns upon us,
must be judged by others, not by us; but that you have done all
that men could do has been admitted by those in authority, and we
have a right to join in the universal joy that fills our land
because the war is over, and our Government stands vindicated
before the world by the joint action of the volunteer armies and
navy of the United States.
To such as remain in the service, your general need only remind you
that success in the past was due to hard work and discipline, and
that the same work and discipline are equally important in the
future. To such as go home, he will only say that our favored
country is so grand, so extensive, so diversified in climate, soil,
and productions, that every man may find a home and occupation
suited to his taste; none should yield to the natural impatience
sure to result from our past life of excitement and adventure. You
will be invited to seek new adventures abroad; do not yield to the
temptation, for it will lead only to death and disappointment.
Your general now bids you farewell, with the full belief that, as
in war you have been good soldiers, so in peace you will make good
citizens; and if, unfortunately, new war should arise in our
country, "Sherman's army" will be the first to buckle on its old
armor, and come forth to defend and maintain the Government of our
By order of Major-General W. T. Sherman,
L. M. DAYTON, Assistant Adjutant-General.
List of the Average Number of Miles marched by the Different Army
Corps of the United States Forces under Command of Major-General W.
T. SHERMAN, United States Army, during his Campaigns: 1863-'64-'65.
4th 14th 15th 16th 17th 20th
Corps. Corps. Corps. Corps Corps. Corps.
Miles: 110 1,586 2,289 508 2,076 1,525
CONCLUSION--MILITARY LESSONS OF THE WAR.
Having thus recorded a summary of events, mostly under my own
personal supervision, during the years from 1846 to 1865, it seems
proper that I should add an opinion of some of the useful military
lessons to be derived therefrom.
That civil war, by reason of the existence of slavery, was
apprehended by most of the leading statesmen of the half-century
preceding its outbreak, is a matter of notoriety. General Scott
told me on my arrival at New York, as early as 1850, that the
country was on the eve of civil war; and the Southern politicians
openly asserted that it was their purpose to accept as a casus
belli the election of General Fremont in 1856; but, fortunately or
unfortunately, he was beaten by Mr. Buchanan, which simply
postponed its occurrence for four years. Mr. Seward had also
publicly declared that no government could possibly exist half
slave and half free; yet the Government made no military
preparation, and the Northern people generally paid no attention,
took no warning of its coming, and would not realize its existence
till Fort Sumter was fired on by batteries of artillery, handled by
declared enemies, from the surrounding islands and from the city of
General Bragg, who certainly was a man of intelligence, and who, in
early life, ridiculed a thousand times, in my hearing, the threats
of the people of South Carolina to secede from the Federal Union,
said to me in New Orleans, in February, 1861, that he was convinced
that the feeling between the slave and free States had become so
embittered that it was better to part in peace; better to part
anyhow; and, as a separation was inevitable, that the South should
begin at once, because the possibility of a successful effort was
yearly lessened by the rapid and increasing inequality between the
two sections, from the fact that all the European immigrants were
coming to the Northern States and Territories, and none to the
The slave population m 1860 was near four millions, and the money
value thereof not far from twenty-five hundred million dollars.
Now, ignoring the moral side of the question, a cause that
endangered so vast a moneyed interest was an adequate cause of
anxiety and preparation, and the Northern leaders surely ought to
have foreseen the danger and prepared for it. After the election
of Mr. Lincoln in 1860, there was no concealment of the declaration
and preparation for war in the South. In Louisiana, as I have
related, men were openly enlisted, officers were appointed, and war
was actually begun, in January, 1861. The forts at the mouth of
the Mississippi were seized, and occupied by garrisons that hauled
down the United States flag and hoisted that of the State. The
United States Arsenal at Baton Rouge was captured by New Orleans
militia, its garrison ignominiously sent off, and the contents of
the arsenal distributed. These were as much acts of war as was the
subsequent firing on Fort Sumter, yet no public notice was taken
thereof; and when, months afterward, I came North, I found not one
single sign of preparation. It was for this reason, somewhat, that
the people of the South became convinced that those of the North
were pusillanimous and cowardly, and the Southern leaders were
thereby enabled to commit their people to the war, nominally in
defense of their slave property. Up to the hour of the firing on
Fort Sumter, in April, 1861, it does seem to me that our public
men, our politicians, were blamable for not sounding the note of
Then, when war was actually begun, it was by a call for seventy-
five thousand "ninety-day" men, I suppose to fulfill Mr. Seward's
prophecy that the war would last but ninety days.
The earlier steps by our political Government were extremely
wavering and weak, for which an excuse can be found in the fact
that many of the Southern representatives remained in Congress,
sharing in the public councils, and influencing legislation. But
as soon as Mr. Lincoln was installed, there was no longer any
reason why Congress and the cabinet should have hesitated. They
should have measured the cause, provided the means, and left the
Executive to apply the remedy.
At the time of Mr. Lincoln's inauguration, viz., March 4, 1861, the
Regular Army, by law, consisted of two regiments of dragoons, two
regiments of cavalry, one regiment of mounted rifles, four
regiments of artillery, and ten regiments of infantry, admitting of
an aggregate strength of thirteen thousand and twenty-four officers
and men. On the subsequent 4th of May the President, by his own
orders (afterward sanctioned by Congress), added a regiment of
cavalry, a regiment of artillery, and eight regiments of infantry,
which, with the former army, admitted of a strength of thirty-nine
thousand nine hundred and seventy-three; but at no time during the
war did the Regular Army attain a strength of twenty-five thousand
To the new regiments of infantry was given an organization
differing from any that had heretofore prevailed in this country--
of three battalions of eight companies each; but at no time did
more than one of these regiments attain its full standard; nor in
the vast army of volunteers that was raised during the war were any
of the regiments of infantry formed on the three-battalion system,
but these were universally single battalions of ten companies; so
that, on the reorganization of the Regular Army at the close of the
war, Congress adopted the form of twelve companies for the
regiments of cavalry and artillery, and that of ten companies for
the infantry, which is the present standard.
Inasmuch as the Regular Army will naturally form the standard of
organization for any increase or for new regiments of volunteers,
it becomes important to study this subject in the light of past
experience, and to select that form which is best for peace as well
A cavalry regiment is now composed of twelve companies, usually
divided into six squadrons, of two companies each, or better
subdivided into three battalions of four companies each. This is
an excellent form, easily admitting of subdivision as well as union
into larger masses.
A single battalion of four companies, with a field-officer, will
compose a good body for a garrison, for a separate expedition, or
for a detachment; and, in war, three regiments would compose a good
brigade, three brigades a division, and three divisions a strong
cavalry corps, such as was formed and fought by Generals Sheridan
and Wilson during the war.
In the artillery arm, the officers differ widely in their opinion
of the true organization. A single company forms a battery, and
habitually each battery acts separately, though sometimes several
are united or "massed;" but these always act in concert with
cavalry or infantry.
Nevertheless, the regimental organization for artillery has always
been maintained in this country for classification and promotion.
Twelve companies compose a regiment, and, though probably no
colonel ever commanded his full regiment in the form of twelve
batteries, yet in peace they occupy our heavy sea-coast forts or
act as infantry; then the regimental organization is both necessary
But the infantry composes the great mass of all armies, and the
true form of the regiment or unit has been the subject of infinite
discussion; and, as I have stated, during the civil war the
regiment was a single battalion of ten companies. In olden times
the regiment was composed of eight battalion companies and two
flank companies. The first and tenth companies were armed with
rifles, and were styled and used as "skirmishers;" but during 'the
war they were never used exclusively for that special purpose, and
in fact no distinction existed between them and the other eight
The ten-company organization is awkward in practice, and I am
satisfied that the infantry regiment should have the same identical
organization as exists for the cavalry and artillery, viz., twelve
companies, so as to be susceptible of division into three
battalions of four companies each.
These companies should habitually be about a hundred one men
strong, giving twelve hundred to a regiment, which in practice
would settle down to about one thousand men.
Three such regiments would compose a brigade, three brigades a
division, and three divisions a corps. Then, by allowing to an
infantry corps a brigade of cavalry and six batteries of
field-artillery, we would have an efficient corps d'armee of
thirty thousand men, whose organization would be simple and most
efficient, and whose strength should never be allowed to fall below
twenty-five thousand men.
The corps is the true unit for grand campaigns and battle, should
have a full and perfect staff, and every thing requisite for
separate action, ready at all times to be detached and sent off for
any nature of service. The general in command should have the rank
of lieutenant-general, and should be, by experience and education,
equal to any thing in war. Habitually with us he was a major-
general, specially selected and assigned to the command by an order
of the President, constituting, in fact, a separate grade.
The division is the unit of administration, and is the legitimate
command of a major general.
The brigade is the next subdivision, and is commanded by a
The regiment is the family. The colonel, as the father, should
have a personal acquaintance with every officer and man, and should
instill a feeling of pride and affection for himself, so that his
officers and men would naturally look to him for personal advice
and instruction. In war the regiment should never be subdivided,
but should always be maintained entire. In peace this is
The company is the true unit of discipline, and the captain is the
company. A good captain makes a good company, and he should have
the power to reward as well as punish. The fact that soldiers
world naturally like to have a good fellow for their captain is the
best reason why he should be appointed by the colonel, or by some
superior authority, instead of being elected by the men.
In the United States the people are the "sovereign," all power
originally proceeds from them, and therefore the election of
officers by the men is the common rule. This is wrong, because an
army is not a popular organization, but an animated machine, an
instrument in the hands of the Executive for enforcing the law, and
maintaining the honor and dignity of the nation; and the President,
as the constitutional commander-in-chief of the army and navy,
should exercise the power of appointment (subject to the
confirmation of the Senate) of the officers of "volunteers," as
well as of "regulars."
No army can be efficient unless it be a unit for action; and the
power must come from above, not from below: the President usually
delegates his power to the commander-in-chief, and he to the next,
and so on down to the lowest actual commander of troops, however
small the detachment. No matter how troops come together, when
once united, the highest officer in rank is held responsible, and
should be consequently armed with the fullest power of the
Executive, subject only to law and existing orders. The more
simple the principle, the greater the likelihood of determined
action; and the less a commanding officer is circumscribed by
bounds or by precedent, the greater is the probability that he will
make the best use of his command and achieve the best results.
The Regular Army and the Military Academy at West Point have in the
past provided, and doubtless will in the future provide an ample
supply of good officers for future wars; but, should their numbers
be insufficient, we can always safely rely on the great number of
young men of education and force of character throughout the
country, to supplement them. At the close of our civil war,
lasting four years, some of our best corps and division generals,
as well as staff-officers, were from civil life; but I cannot
recall any of the most successful who did not express a regret that
he had not received in early life instruction in the elementary
principles of the art of war, instead of being forced to acquire
this knowledge in the dangerous and expensive school of actual war.
But the vital difficulty was, and will be again, to obtain an
adequate number of good soldiers. We tried almost every system
known to modern nations, all with more or less success--voluntary
enlistments, the draft, and bought substitutes--and I think that all
officers of experience will confirm my assertion that the men who
voluntarily enlisted at the outbreak of the war were the best,
better than the conscript, and far better than the bought
substitute. When a regiment is once organized in a State, and
mustered into the service of the United States, the officers and
men become subject to the same laws of discipline and government as
the regular troops. They are in no sense "militia," but compose
a part of the Army of the United States, only retain their State
title for convenience, and yet may be principally recruited from
the neighborhood of their original organization: Once organized,
the regiment should be kept full by recruits, and when it becomes
difficult to obtain more recruits the pay should be raised by
Congress, instead of tempting new men by exaggerated bounties. I
believe it would have been more economical to have raised the pay
of the soldier to thirty or even fifty dollars a month than to have
held out the promise of three hundred and even six hundred dollars
in the form of bounty. Toward the close of the war, I have often
heard the soldiers complain that the "stay at-home" men got better
pay, bounties, and food, than they who were exposed to all the
dangers and vicissitudes of the battles and marches at the front.
The feeling of the soldier should be that, in every event, the
sympathy and preference of his government is for him who fights,
rather than for him who is on provost or guard duty to the rear,
and, like most men, he measures this by the amount of pay. Of
course, the soldier must be trained to obedience, and should be
"content with his wages;" but whoever has commanded an army in the
field knows the difference between a willing, contented mass of
men, and one that feels a cause of grievance. There is a soul to
an army as well as to the individual man, and no general can
accomplish the full work of his army unless he commands the soul of
his men, as well as their bodies and legs.
The greatest mistake made in our civil war was in the mode of
recruitment and promotion. When a regiment became reduced by the
necessary wear and tear of service, instead of being filled up at
the bottom, and the vacancies among the officers filled from the
best noncommissioned officers and men, the habit was to raise new
regiments, with new colonels, captains, and men, leaving the old
and experienced battalions to dwindle away into mere skeleton
organizations. I believe with the volunteers this matter was left
to the States exclusively, and I remember that Wisconsin kept her
regiments filled with recruits, whereas other States generally
filled their quotas by new regiments, and the result was that we
estimated a Wisconsin regiment equal to an ordinary brigade. I
believe that five hundred new men added to an old and experienced
regiment were more valuable than a thousand men in the form of a
new regiment, for the former by association with good, experienced
captains, lieutenants, and non-commissioned officers, soon became
veterans, whereas the latter were generally unavailable for a year.
The German method of recruitment is simply perfect, and there is no
good reason why we should not follow it substantially.
On a road, marching by the flank, it would be considered "good
order" to have five thousand men to a mile, so that a full corps of
thirty thousand men would extend six miles, but with the average
trains and batteries of artillery the probabilities are that it
would draw out to ten miles. On a long and regular march the
divisions and brigades should alternate in the lead, the leading
division should be on the road by the earliest dawn, and march at
the rate of about two miles, or, at most, two and a half miles an
hour, so as to reach camp by noon. Even then the rear divisions
and trains will hardly reach camp much before night. Theoretically,
a marching column should preserve such order that by simply halting
and facing to the right or left, it would be in line of battle; but
this is rarely the case, and generally deployments are made
"forward," by conducting each brigade by the flank obliquely to the
right or left to its approximate position in line of battle, and
there deployed. In such a line of battle, a brigade of three
thousand infantry would occupy a mile of "front;" but for a strong
line of battle five-thousand men with two batteries should be
allowed to each mile, or a division would habitually constitute a
double line with skirmishers and a reserve on a mile of "front."
The "feeding" of an army is a matter of the most vital importance,
and demands the earliest attention of the general intrusted with a
campaign. To be strong, healthy, and capable of the largest
measure of physical effort, the soldier needs about three pounds
gross of food per day, and the horse or mule about twenty pounds.
When a general first estimates the quantity of food and forage
needed for an army of fifty or one hundred thousand men, he is apt
to be dismayed, and here a good staff is indispensable, though the
general cannot throw off on them the responsibility. He must give
the subject his personal attention, for the army reposes in him
alone, and should never doubt the fact that their existence
overrides in importance all other considerations. Once satisfied
of this, and that all has been done that can be, the soldiers are
always willing to bear the largest measure of privation. Probably
no army ever had a more varied experience in this regard than the
one I commanded in 1864'65.
Our base of supply was at Nashville, supplied by railways and the
Cumberland River, thence by rail to Chattanooga, a "secondary
base," and thence forward a single-track railroad. The stores came
forward daily, but I endeavored to have on hand a full supply for
twenty days in advance. These stores were habitually in the
wagon-trains, distributed to corps, divisions, and regiments, in
charge of experienced quartermasters and commissaries, and became
subject to the orders of the generals commanding these bodies.
They were generally issued on provision returns, but these had to
be closely scrutinized, for too often the colonels would make
requisitions for provisions for more men than they reported for
battle. Of course, there are always a good many non-combatants
with an army, but, after careful study, I limited their amount to
twenty-five per cent. of the "effective strength," and that was
found to be liberal. An ordinary army-wagon drawn by six mules may
be counted on to carry three thousand pounds net, equal to the food
of a full regiment for one day, but, by driving along beef-cattle,
a commissary may safely count the contents of one wagon as
sufficient for two days' food for a regiment of a thousand men; and
as a corps should have food on hand for twenty days ready for
detachment, it should have three hundred such wagons, as a
provision-train; and for forage, ammunition, clothing, and other
necessary stores, it was found necessary to have three hundred more
wagons, or six hundred wagons in all, for a corps d'armee.
These should be absolutely under the immediate control of the corps
commander, who will, however, find it economical to distribute them
in due proportion to his divisions, brigades, and even regiments.
Each regiment ought usually to have at least one wagon for
convenience to distribute stores, and each company two pack-mules,
so that the regiment may always be certain of a meal on reaching
camp without waiting for the larger trains.
On long marches the artillery and wagon-trains should always have
the right of way, and the troops should improvise roads to one
side, unless forced to use a bridge in common, and all trains
should have escorts to protect them, and to assist them in bad
places. To this end there is nothing like actual experience, only,
unless the officers in command give the subject their personal
attention, they will find their wagon-trains loaded down with
tents, personal baggage, and even the arms and knapsacks of the
escort. Each soldier should, if not actually "sick or wounded,"
carry his musket and equipments containing from forty to sixty
rounds of ammunition, his shelter-tent, a blanket or overcoat, and
an extra pair of pants, socks, and drawers, in the form of a scarf,
worn from the left shoulder to the right side in lieu of knapsack,
and in his haversack he should carry some bread, cooked meat, salt,
and coffee. I do not believe a soldier should be loaded down too
much, but, including his clothing, arms, and equipment, he can
carry about fifty pounds without impairing his health or activity.
A simple calculation will show that by such a distribution a corps
will-thus carry the equivalent of five hundred wagon-loads--an
immense relief to the trains.
Where an army is near one of our many large navigable rivers, or
has the safe use of a railway, it can usually be supplied with the
full army ration, which is by far the best furnished to any army in
America or Europe; but when it is compelled to operate away from
such a base, and is dependent on its own train of wagons, the
commanding officer must exercise a wise discretion in the selection
of his stores. In my opinion, there is no better food for man than
beef-cattle driven on the hoof, issued liberally, with salt, bacon,
and bread. Coffee has also become almost indispensable, though
many substitutes were found for it, such as Indian-corn, roasted,
ground, and boiled as coffee; the sweet-potato, and the seed of the
okra plant prepared in the same way. All these were used by the
people of the South, who for years could procure no coffee, but I
noticed that the women always begged of us some real coffee, which
seems to satisfy a natural yearning or craving more powerful than
can be accounted for on the theory of habit. Therefore I would
always advise that the coffee and sugar ration be carried along,
even at the expense of bread, for which there are many substitutes.
Of these, Indian-corn is the best and most abundant. Parched in a
frying-pan, it is excellent food, or if ground, or pounded and
boiled with meat of any sort, it makes a most nutritious meal. The
potato, both Irish and sweet, forms an excellent substitute for
bread, and at Savannah we found that rice (was) also suitable, both for
men and animals. For the former it should be cleaned of its husk
in a hominy block, easily prepared out of a log, and sifted with a
coarse corn bag; but for horses it should be fed in the straw.
During the Atlanta campaign we were supplied by our regular
commissaries with all sorts of patent compounds, such as desiccated
vegetables, and concentrated milk, meat-biscuit, and sausages, but
somehow the men preferred the simpler and more familiar forms of
food, and usually styled these "desecrated vegetables and
consecrated milk." We were also supplied liberally with
lime-juice, sauerkraut, and pickles, as an antidote to scurvy, and
I now recall the extreme anxiety of my medical director, Dr. Kittoe,
about the scurvy, which he reported at one time as spreading and
imperiling the army. This occurred at a crisis about Kenesaw, when
the railroad was taxed to its utmost capacity to provide the
necessary ammunition, food, and forage, and could not possibly
bring us an adequate supply of potatoes and cabbage, the usual
anti-scorbutics, when providentially the black berries ripened and
proved an admirable antidote, and I have known the skirmish-line,
without orders, to fight a respectable battle for the possession of
some old fields that were full of blackberries. Soon, thereafter,
the green corn or roasting-ear came into season, and I heard no
more of the scurvy. Our country abounds with plants which can be
utilized for a prevention to the scurvy; besides the above are the
persimmon, the sassafras root and bud, the wild-mustard, the
"agave," turnip tops, the dandelion cooked as greens, and a
decoction of the ordinary pine-leaf.
For the more delicate and costly articles of food for the sick we
relied mostly on the agents of the Sanitary Commission. I do not
wish to doubt the value of these organizations, which gained so
much applause during our civil war, for no one can question the
motives of these charitable and generous people; but to be honest I
must record an opinion that the Sanitary Commission should limit
its operations to the hospitals at the rear, and should never
appear at the front. They were generally local in feeling, aimed
to furnish their personal friends and neighbors with a better class
of food than the Government supplied, and the consequence was, that
one regiment of a brigade would receive potatoes and fruit which
would be denied another regiment close by: Jealousy would be the
inevitable result, and in an army all parts should be equal; there
should be no "partiality, favor, or affection." The Government
should supply all essential wants, and in the hospitals to the rear
will be found abundant opportunities for the exercise of all
possible charity and generosity. During the war I several times
gained the ill-will of the agents of the Sanitary Commission
because I forbade their coming to the front unless they would
consent to distribute their stores equally among all, regardless of
the parties who had contributed them.
The sick, wounded, and dead of an army are the subjects of the
greatest possible anxiety, and add an immense amount of labor to
the well men. Each regiment in an active campaign should have a
surgeon and two assistants always close at hand, and each brigade
and division should have an experienced surgeon as a medical
director. The great majority of wounds and of sickness should be
treated by the regimental surgeon, on the ground, under the eye of
the colonel. As few should be sent to the brigade or division
hospital as possible, for the men always receive better care with
their own regiment than with strangers, and as a rule the cure is
more certain; but when men receive disabling wounds, or have
sickness likely to become permanent, the sooner they go far to the
rear the better for all. The tent or the shelter of a tree is a
better hospital than a house, whose walls absorb fetid and
poisonous emanations, and then give them back to the atmosphere.
To men accustomed to the open air, who live on the plainest food,
wounds seem to give less pain, and are attended with less danger to
life than to ordinary soldiers in barracks.
Wounds which, in 1861, would have sent a man to the hospital for
months, in 1865 were regarded as mere scratches, rather the subject
of a joke than of sorrow. To new soldiers the sight of blood and
death always has a sickening effect, but soon men become accustomed
to it, and I have heard them exclaim on seeing a dead comrade borne
to the rear, "Well, Bill has turned up his toes to the daisies."
Of course, during a skirmish or battle, armed men should never
leave their ranks to attend a dead or wounded comrade--this should
be seen to in advance by the colonel, who should designate his
musicians or company cooks as hospital attendants, with a white rag
on their arm to indicate their office. A wounded man should go
himself (if able) to the surgeon near at hand, or, if he need help,
he should receive it from one of the attendants and not a comrade.
It is wonderful how soon the men accustom themselves to these
simple rules. In great battles these matters call for a more
enlarged attention, and then it becomes the duty of the division
general to see that proper stretchers and field hospitals are ready
for the wounded, and trenches are dug for the dead. There should
be no real neglect of the dead, because it has a bad effect on the
living; for each soldier values himself and comrade as highly as
though he were living in a good house at home.
The regimental chaplain, if any, usually attends the burials from
the hospital, should make notes and communicate details to the
captain of the company, and to the family at home. Of course it is
usually impossible to mark the grave with names, dates, etc., and
consequently the names of the "unknown" in our national cemeteries
equal about one-half of all the dead.
Very few of the battles in which I have participated were fought as
described in European text-books, viz., in great masses, in perfect
order, manoeuvring by corps, divisions, and brigades. We were
generally in a wooded country, and, though our lines were deployed
according to tactics, the men generally fought in strong
skirmish-lines, taking advantage of the shape of ground, and of
every cover. We were generally the assailants, and in wooded and
broken countries the "defensive" had a positive advantage over us,
for they were always ready, had cover, and always knew the ground
to their immediate front; whereas we, their assailants, had to
grope our way over unknown ground, and generally found a cleared
field or prepared entanglements that held us for a time under a
close and withering fire. Rarely did the opposing lines in compact
order come into actual contact, but when, as at Peach-Tree Creek
and Atlanta, the lines did become commingled, the men fought
individually in every possible style, more frequently with the
musket clubbed than with the bayonet, and in some instances the men
clinched like wrestlers, and went to the ground together.
Europeans frequently criticised our war, because we did not always
take full advantage of a victory; the true reason was, that
habitually the woods served as a screen, and we often did not
realize the fact that our enemy had retreated till he was already
miles away and was again intrenched, having left a mere
skirmish-line to cover the movement, in turn to fall back to the
Our war was fought with the muzzle-loading rifle. Toward the close
I had one brigade (Walcutt's) armed with breech-loading "Spencer's;"
the cavalry generally had breach-loading carbines, "Spencer's" and
"Sharp's," both of which were good arms.
The only change that breech-loading arms will probably make in the
art and practice of war will be to increase the amount of
ammunition to be expended, and necessarily to be carried along; to
still further "thin out" the lines of attack, and to reduce battles
to short, quick, decisive conflicts. It does not in the least
affect the grand strategy, or the necessity for perfect
organization, drill, and discipline. The, companies and battalions
will be more dispersed, and the men will be less under the
immediate eye of their officers, and therefore a higher order of
intelligence and courage on the part of the individual soldier will
be an element of strength.
When a regiment is deployed as skirmishers, and crosses an open
field or woods, under heavy fire, if each man runs forward from
tree to tree, or stump to stump, and yet preserves a good general
alignment, it gives great confidence to the men themselves, for
they always keep their eyes well to the right and left, and watch
their comrades; but when some few hold back, stick too close or too
long to a comfortable log, it often stops the line and defeats the
whole object. Therefore, the more we improve the fire-arm the more
will be the necessity for good organization, good discipline and
intelligence on the part of the individual soldier and officer.
There is, of course, such a thing as individual courage, which has
a value in war, but familiarity with danger, experience in war and
its common attendants, and personal habit, are equally valuable
traits, and these are the qualities with which we usually have to
deal in war. All men naturally shrink from pain and danger, and
only incur their risk from some higher motive, or from habit; so
that I would define true courage to be a perfect sensibility of the
measure of danger, and a mental willingness to incur it, rather
than that insensibility to danger of which I have heard far more
than I have seen. The most courageous men are generally
unconscious of possessing the quality; therefore, when one
professes it too openly, by words or bearing, there is reason to
mistrust it. I would further illustrate my meaning by describing a
man of true courage to be one who possesses all his faculties and
senses perfectly when serious danger is actually present.
Modern wars have not materially changed the relative values or
proportions of the several arms of service: infantry, artillery,
cavalry, and engineers. If any thing, the infantry has been
increased in value. The danger of cavalry attempting to charge
infantry armed with breech-loading rifles was fully illustrated at
Sedan, and with us very frequently. So improbable has such a thing
become that we have omitted the infantry-square from our recent
tactics. Still, cavalry against cavalry, and as auxiliary to
infantry, will always be valuable, while all great wars will, as
heretofore, depend chiefly on the infantry. Artillery is more
valuable with new and inexperienced troops than with veterans. In
the early stages of the war the field-guns often bore the
proportion of six to a thousand men; but toward the close of the
war one gun; or at most two, to a thousand men, was deemed enough.
Sieges; such as characterized the wars of the last century, are too
slow for this period of the world, and the Prussians recently
almost ignored them altogether, penetrated France between the
forts, and left a superior force "in observation," to watch the
garrison and accept its surrender when the greater events of the
war ahead made further resistance useless; but earth-forts, and
especially field-works, will hereafter play an important part in
war, because they enable a minor force to hold a superior one in
check for a time, and time is a most valuable element in all wars.
It was one of Prof. Mahan's maxims that the spade was as useful in
war as the musket, and to this I will add the axe. The habit of
intrenching certainly does have the effect of making new troops
timid. When a line of battle is once covered by a good parapet,
made by the engineers or by the labor of the men themselves, it
does require an effort to make them leave it in the face of danger;
but when the enemy is intrenched, it becomes absolutely necessary
to permit each brigade and division of the troops immediately
opposed to throw up a corresponding trench for their own protection
in case of a sudden sally. We invariably did this in all our
recent campaigns, and it had no ill effect, though sometimes our
troops were a little too slow in leaving their well-covered lines
to assail the enemy in position or on retreat. Even our
skirmishers were in the habit of rolling logs together, or of
making a lunette of rails, with dirt in front, to cover their
bodies; and, though it revealed their position, I cannot say that
it worked a bad effect; so that, as a rule, it may safely be left
to the men themselves: On the "defensive," there is no doubt of the
propriety of fortifying; but in the assailing army the general must
watch closely to see that his men do not neglect an opportunity to
drop his precautionary defenses, and act promptly on the
"offensive" at every chance.
I have many a time crept forward to the skirmish-line to avail
myself of the cover of the pickets "little fort," to observe more
closely some expected result; and always talked familiarly with the
men, and was astonished to see how well they comprehended the
general object, and how accurately they were informed of the sate
of facts existing miles away from their particular corps. Soldiers
are very quick to catch the general drift and purpose of a
campaign, and are always sensible when they are well commanded or
well cared for. Once impressed with this fact, and that they are
making progress, they bear cheerfully any amount of labor and
In camp, and especially in the presence of an active enemy, it is
much easier to maintain discipline than in barracks in time of
peace. Crime and breaches of discipline are much less frequent,
and the necessity for courts-martial far less. The captain can
usually inflict all the punishment necessary, and the colonel
should always. The field-officers' court is the best form for war,
viz., one of the field-officers-the lieutenant-colonel or major
--can examine the case and report his verdict, and the colonel
should execute it. Of course, there are statutory offenses which
demand a general court-martial, and these must be ordered by the
division or corps commander; but, the presence of one of our
regular civilian judge-advocates in an army in the field would be a
first-class nuisance, for technical courts always work mischief.
Too many courts-martial in any command are evidence of poor
discipline and inefficient officers.
For the rapid transmission of orders in an army covering a large
space of ground, the magnetic telegraph is by far the best, though
habitually the paper and pencil, with good mounted orderlies,
answer every purpose. I have little faith in the signal-service by
flags and torches, though we always used them; because, almost
invariably when they were most needed, the view was cut off by
intervening trees, or by mists and fogs. There was one notable
instance in my experience, when the signal-flags carried a message.
of vital importance over the heads of Hood's army, which had
interposed between me and Allatoona, and had broken the
telegraph-wires--as recorded in Chapter XIX.; but the value of the
magnetic telegraph in war cannot be exaggerated, as was illustrated
by the perfect concert of action between the armies in Virginia and
Georgia during 1864. Hardly a day intervened when General Grant
did not know the exact state of facts with me, more than fifteen
hundred miles away as the wires ran. So on the field a thin
insulated wire may be run on improvised stakes or from tree to tree
for six or more miles in a couple of hours, and I have seen
operators so skillful, that by cutting the wire they would receive
a message with their tongues from a distant station. As a matter
of course, the ordinary commercial wires along the railways form
the usual telegraph-lines for an army, and these are easily
repaired and extended as the army advances, but each army and wing
should have a small party of skilled men to put up the field-wire,
and take it down when done. This is far better than the
signal-flags and torches. Our commercial telegraph-lines will
always supply for war enough skillful operators.
The value of railways is also fully recognized in war quite as much
as, if not more so than, in peace. The Atlanta campaign would
simply have been impossible without the use of the railroads from
Louisville to Nashville--one hundred and eighty-five miles--from
Nashville to Chattanooga--one hundred and fifty-one miles--and from
Chattanooga to Atlanta--one hundred and thirty-seven miles. Every
mile of this "single track" was so delicate, that one man could in
a minute have broken or moved a rail, but our trains usually
carried along the tools and means to repair such a break. We had,
however, to maintain strong guards and garrisons at each important
bridge or trestle--the destruction of which would have necessitated
time for rebuilding. For the protection of a bridge, one or two
log block houses, two stories high, with a piece of ordnance and a
small infantry guard, usually sufficed. The block-house had a
small parapet and ditch about it, and the roof was made shot proof
by earth piled on. These points could usually be reached only by a
dash of the enemy's cavalry, and many of these block houses
successfully resisted serious attacks by both cavalry and
artillery. The only block-house that was actually captured on the
main was the one described near Allatoona. Our trains from
Nashville forward were operated under military rules, and ran about
ten miles an hour in gangs of four trains of ten cars each. Four
such groups of trains daily made one hundred and sixty cars, of ten
tons each, carrying sixteen hundred tons, which exceeded the
absolute necessity of the army, and allowed for the accidents that
were common and inevitable. But, as I have recorded, that single
stem of railroad, four hundred and seventy-three miles long,
supplied an army of one hundred thousand men and thirty-five
thousand animals for the period of one hundred and ninety-six days,
viz., from May 1 to November 12, 1864. To have delivered regularly
that amount of food and forage by ordinary wagons would have
required thirty-six thousand eight hundred wagons of six mules
each, allowing each wagon to have hauled two tons twenty miles each
day, a simple impossibility in roads such as then existed in that
region of country. Therefore, I reiterate that the Atlanta
campaign was an impossibility without these railroads; and only
then, because we had the men and means to maintain and defend them,
in addition to what were necessary to overcome the enemy.
Habitually, a passenger-car will carry fifty men with their
necessary baggage. Box-cars, and even platform-cars, answer the
purpose well enough, but they, should always have rough
board-seats. For sick and wounded men, box-cars filled with straw
or bushes were usually employed. Personally, I saw but little of
the practical working of the railroads, for I only turned back once
as far as Resaca; but I had daily reports from the engineer in
charge, and officers who came from the rear often explained to me
the whole thing, with a description of the wrecked trains all the
way from Nashville to Atlanta. I am convinced that the risk to
life to the engineers and men on that railroad fully equaled that
on the skirmish-line, called for as high an order of courage, and
fully equaled it in importance. Still, I doubt if there be any
necessity in time of peace to organize a corps specially to work
the military railroads in time of war, because in peace these same
men gain all the necessary experience, possess all the daring and
courage of soldiers, and only need the occasional protection and
assistance of the necessary train-guard, which may be composed of
the furloughed men coming and going, or of details made from the
local garrisons to the rear.
For the transfer of large armies by rail, from one theatre of
action to another by the rear--the cases of the transfer of the
Eleventh and Twelfth Corps--General Hooker, twenty-three thousand
men--from the East to Chattanooga, eleven hundred and ninety-two
miles in seven days, in the fall of 1863; and that of the Army of
the Ohio--General Schofield, fifteen thousand men--from the valley
of the Tennessee to Washington, fourteen hundred miles in eleven
days, en route to North Carolina in January, 1865, are the best
examples of which I have any knowledge, and reference to these is
made in the report of the Secretary of War, Mr. Stanton, dated
November 22, 1865.
Engineer troops attached to an army are habitually employed in
supervising the construction of forts or field works of a nature
more permanent than the lines need by the troops in motion, and in
repairing roads and making bridges. I had several regiments of
this kind that were most useful, but as a rule we used the
infantry, or employed parties of freedmen, who worked on the
trenches at night while the soldiers slept, and these in turn
rested by day. Habitually the repair of the railroad and its
bridges was committed to hired laborers, like the English navies,
under the supervision of Colonel W. W. Wright, a railroad-engineer,
who was in the military service at the time, and his successful
labors were frequently referred to in the official reports of the
For the passage of rivers, each army corps had a pontoon-train with
a detachment of engineers, and, on reaching a river, the leading
infantry division was charged with the labor of putting it down.
Generally the single pontoon-train could provide for nine hundred
feet of bridge, which sufficed; but when the rivers were very wide
two such trains would be brought together, or the single train was
supplemented by a trestle-bridge, or bridges made on crib-work, out
of timber found near the place. The pontoons in general use were
skeleton frames, made with a hinge, so as to fold back and
constitute a wagon-body. In this same wagon were carried the
cotton canvas cover, the anchor and chains, and a due proportion of
the balks, cheeses, and lashings. All the troops became very
familiar with their mechanism and use, and we were rarely delayed
by reason of a river, however broad. I saw, recently, in
Aldershot, England, a very complete pontoon-train; the boats were
sheathed with wood and felt, made very light; but I think these
were more liable to chafing and damage in rough handling than were
our less expensive and rougher boats. On the whole, I would prefer
the skeleton frame and canvas cover to any style of pontoon that I
have ever seen.
In relation to guards, pickets, and vedettes, I doubt if any
discoveries or improvements were made during our war, or in any of
the modern wars in Europe. These precautions vary with the nature
of the country and the situation of each army. When advancing or
retreating in line of battle, the usual skirmish-line constitutes
the picket-line, and may have "reserves," but usually the main line
of battle constitutes the reserve; and in this connection I will
state that the recent innovation introduced into the new infantry
tactics by General Upton is admirable, for by it each regiment,
brigade, and division deployed, sends forward as "skirmishers" the
one man of each set of fours, to cover its own front, and these can
be recalled or reenforced at pleasure by the bugle-signal.
For flank-guards and rear-guards, one or more companies should be
detached under their own officers, instead of making up the guard
by detailing men from the several companies.
For regimental or camp guards, the details should be made according
to existing army regulations; and all the guards should be posted
early in the evening, so as to afford each sentinel or vedette a
chance to study his ground before it becomes too dark.
In like manner as to the staff. The more intimately it comes into
contact with the troops, the more useful and valuable it becomes.
The almost entire separation of the staff from the line, as now
practised by us, and hitherto by the French, has proved
mischievous, and the great retinues of staff-officers with which
some of our earlier generals began the war were simply ridiculous.
I don't believe in a chief of staff at all, and any general
commanding an army, corps, or division, that has a staff-officer
who professes to know more than his chief, is to be pitied. Each
regiment should have a competent adjutant, quartermaster, and
commissary, with two or three medical officers. Each brigade
commander should have the same staff, with the addition of a couple
of young aides-de-camp, habitually selected from the subalterns of
the brigade, who should be good riders, and intelligent enough to
give and explain the orders of their general.
The same staff will answer for a division. The general in command
of a separate army, and of a corps d'armee, should have the same
professional assistance, with two or more good engineers, and his
adjutant-general should exercise all the functions usually ascribed
to a chief of staff, viz., he should possess the ability to
comprehend the scope of operations, and to make verbally and in
writing all the orders and details necessary to carry into effect
the views of his general, as well as to keep the returns and
records of events for the information of the next higher authority,
and for history. A bulky staff implies a division of
responsibility, slowness of action, and indecision, whereas a small
staff implies activity and concentration of purpose. The smallness
of General Grant's staff throughout the civil war forms the best
model for future imitation. So of tents, officers furniture, etc.,
etc. In real war these should all be discarded, and an army is
efficient for action and motion exactly in the inverse ratio of its
impedimenta. Tents should be omitted altogether, save one to a
regiment for an office, and a few for the division hospital.
Officers should be content with a tent fly, improvising poles and
shelter out of bushes. The tents d'abri, or shelter-tent, carried
by the soldier himself, is all-sufficient. Officers should never
seek for houses, but share the condition of their men.
A recent message (July 18, 1874) made to the French Assembly by
Marshal MacMahon, President of the French Republic, submits a
projet de loi, with a report prepared by a board of French generals
on "army administration," which is full of information, and is as
applicable to us as to the French. I quote from its very
beginning: "The misfortunes of the campaign of 1870 have
demonstrated the inferiority of our system.... Two separate
organizations existed with parallel functions--the 'general' more
occupied in giving direction to his troops than in providing for
their material wants, which he regarded as the special province of
the staff, and the 'intendant' (staff) often working at random,
taking on his shoulders a crushing burden of functions and duties,
exhausting himself with useless efforts, and aiming to accomplish
an insufficient service, to the disappointment of everybody. This
separation of the administration and command, this coexistence of
two wills, each independent of the other, which paralyzed both and
annulled the dualism, was condemned. It was decided by the board
that this error should be "proscribed" in the new military system.
The report then goes on at great length discussing the provisions.
of the "new law," which is described to be a radical change from
the old one on the same subject. While conceding to the Minister
of War in Paris the general control and supervision of the entire
military establishment primarily, especially of the annual
estimates or budget, and the great depots of supply, it distributes
to the commanders of the corps d'armee in time of peace, and to all
army commanders generally in time of war, the absolute command of
the money, provisions, and stores, with the necessary staff-
officers to receive, issue, and account for them. I quote further:
"The object of this law is to confer on the commander of troops
whatever liberty of action the case demands. He has the power even
to go beyond the regulations, in circumstances of urgency and
pressing necessity. The extraordinary measures he may take on
these occasions may require their execution without delay. The
staff-officer has but one duty before obeying, and that is to
submit his observations to the general, and to ask his orders in
With this formality his responsibility ceases, and the
responsibility for the extraordinary act falls solely on the
general who gives the order. The officers and agents charged with
supplies are placed under the orders of the general in command of
the troops, that is, they are obliged both in war and peace to
obey, with the single qualification above named, of first making
their observations and securing the written order of the general.
With us, to-day, the law and regulations are that, no matter what
may be the emergency, the commanding general in Texas, New Mexico,
and the remote frontiers, cannot draw from the arsenals a pistol-
cartridge, or any sort of ordnance-stores, without first procuring
an order of the Secretary of War in Washington. The commanding
general--though intrusted with the lives of his soldiers and with
the safety of a frontier in a condition of chronic war--cannot
touch or be trusted with ordnance-stores or property, and that is
declared to be the law! Every officer of the old army remembers
how, in 1861, we were hampered with the old blue army regulations,
which tied our hands, and that to do any thing positive and
necessary we had to tear it all to pieces--cut the red-tape, as it
was called, a dangerous thing for an army to do, for it was
calculated to bring the law and authority into contempt; but war
was upon us, and overwhelming necessity overrides all law.
This French report is well worth the study of our army-officers, of
all grades and classes, and I will only refer again, casually, to
another part, wherein it discusses the subject of military
correspondence: whether the staff-officer should correspond
directly with his chief in Paris, submitting to his general copies,
or whether he should be required to carry on his correspondence
through his general, so that the latter could promptly forward the
communication, indorsed with his own remarks and opinions. The
latter is declared by the board to be the only safe role, because
"the general should never be ignorant of any thing that is
transpiring that concerns his command."
In this country, as in France, Congress controls the great
questions of war and peace, makes all laws for the creation and
government of armies, and votes the necessary supplies, leaving to
the President to execute and apply these laws, especially the
harder task of limiting the expenditure of public money to the
amount of the annual appropriations. The executive power is
further subdivided into the seven great departments, and to the
Secretary of War is confided the general care of the military
establishment, and his powers are further subdivided into ten
distinct and separate bureaus.
The chiefs of these bureaus are under the immediate orders of the
Secretary of War, who, through them, in fact commands the army from
"his office," but cannot do so "in the field"--an absurdity in
military if not civil law.
The subordinates of these staff-corps and departments are selected
and chosen from the army itself, or fresh from West Point, and too
commonly construe themselves into the elite, as made of better clay
than the common soldier. Thus they separate themselves more and
more from their comrades of the line, and in process of time