Part 6 out of 7
realize the condition of that old officer of artillery who thought
the army would be a delightful place for a gentleman if it were not
for the d-d soldier; or, better still, the conclusion of the young
lord in "Henry IV.," who told Harry Percy (Hotspur) that "but for
these vile guns he would himself have been a soldier." This is all
wrong; utterly at variance with our democratic form of government
and of universal experience; and now that the French, from whom we
had copied the system, have utterly "proscribed" it, I hope that
our Congress will follow suit. I admit, in its fullest force, the
strength of the maxim that the civil law should be superior to the
military in time of peace; that the army should be at all times
subject to the direct control of Congress; and I assert that, from
the formation of our Government to the present day, the Regular
Army has set the highest example of obedience to law and authority;
but, for the very reason that our army is comparatively so very
small, I hold that it should be the best possible, organized and
governed on true military principles, and that in time of peace we
should preserve the "habits and usages of war," so that, when war
does come, we may not again be compelled to suffer the disgrace,
confusion, and disorder of 1861.
The commanding officers of divisions, departments, and posts,
should have the amplest powers, not only to command their troops,
but all the stores designed for their use, and the officers of the
staff necessary to administer them, within the area of their
command; and then with fairness they could be held to the most
perfect responsibility. The President and Secretary of War can
command the army quite as well through these generals as through
the subordinate staff-officers. Of course, the Secretary would, as
now, distribute the funds according to the appropriation bills, and
reserve to himself the absolute control and supervision of the
larger arsenals and depots of supply. The error lies in the law,
or in the judicial interpretation thereof, and no code of army
regulations can be made that meets the case, until Congress, like
the French Corps Legislatif, utterly annihilates and "proscribes"
the old law and the system which has grown up under it.
It is related of Napoleon that his last words were, "Tete d'armee!"
Doubtless, as the shadow of death obscured his memory, the last
thought that remained for speech was of some event when he was
directing an important "head of column." I believe that every
general who has handled armies in battle most recall from his own
experience the intensity of thought on some similar occasion, when
by a single command he had given the finishing stroke to some
complicated action; but to me recurs another thought that is worthy
of record, and may encourage others who are to follow us in our
profession. I never saw the rear of an army engaged in battle but
I feared that some calamity had happened at the front the apparent
confusion, broken wagons, crippled horses, men lying about dead and
maimed, parties hastening to and fro in seeming disorder, and a
general apprehension of something dreadful about to ensue; all
these signs, however, lessened as I neared the front, and there the
contrast was complete--perfect order, men and horses--full of
confidence, and it was not unusual for general hilarity, laughing,
and cheering. Although cannon might be firing, the musketry
clattering, and the enemy's shot hitting close, there reigned a
general feeling of strength and security that bore a marked
contrast to the bloody signs that had drifted rapidly to the rear;
therefore, for comfort and safety, I surely would rather be at the
front than the rear line of battle. So also on the march, the head
of a column moves on steadily, while the rear is alternately
halting and then rushing forward to close up the gap; and all sorts
of rumors, especially the worst, float back to the rear. Old
troops invariably deem it a special privilege to be in the front
--to be at the "head of column"--because experience has taught them
that it is the easiest and most comfortable place, and danger only
adds zest and stimulus to this fact.
The hardest task in war is to lie in support of some position or
battery, under fire without the privilege of returning it; or to
guard some train left in the rear, within hearing but out of
danger; or to provide for the wounded and dead of some corps which
is too busy ahead to care for its own.
To be at the head of a strong column of troops, in the execution of
some task that requires brain, is the highest pleasure of war--a
grim one and terrible, but which leaves on the mind and memory the
strongest mark; to detect the weak point of an enemy's line; to
break through with vehemence and thus lead to victory; or to
discover some key-point and hold it with tenacity; or to do some
other distinct act which is afterward recognized as the real cause
of success. These all become matters that are never forgotten.
Other great difficulties, experienced by every general, are to
measure truly the thousand-and-one reports that come to him in the
midst of conflict; to preserve a clear and well-defined purpose at
every instant of time, and to cause all efforts to converge to that
To do these things he must know perfectly the strength and quality
of each part of his own army, as well as that of his opponent, and
must be where he can personally see and observe with his own eyes,
and judge with his own mind. No man can properly command an army
from the rear, he must be "at its front;" and when a detachment is
made, the commander thereof should be informed of the object to be
accomplished, and left as free as possible to execute it in his own
way; and when an army is divided up into several parts, the
superior should always attend that one which he regards as most
important. Some men think that modern armies may be so regulated
that a general can sit in an office and play on his several columns
as on the keys of a piano; this is a fearful mistake. The
directing mind must be at the very head of the army--must be seen
there, and the effect of his mind and personal energy must be felt
by every officer and man present with it, to secure the best
results. Every attempt to make war easy and safe will result in
humiliation and disaster.
Lastly, mail facilities should be kept up with an army if possible,
that officers and men may receive and send letters to their
friends, thus maintaining the home influence of infinite assistance
to discipline. Newspaper correspondents with an army, as a rule,
are mischievous. They are the world's gossips, pick up and retail
the camp scandal, and gradually drift to the headquarters of some
general, who finds it easier to make reputation at home than with
his own corps or division. They are also tempted to prophesy
events and state facts which, to an enemy, reveal a purpose in time
to guard against it. Moreover, they are always bound to see facts
colored by the partisan or political character of their own
patrons, and thus bring army officers into the political
controversies of the day, which are always mischievous and wrong.
Yet, so greedy are the people at large for war news, that it is
doubtful whether any army commander can exclude all reporters,
without bringing down on himself a clamor that may imperil his own
safety. Time and moderation must bring a just solution to this
AFTER THE WAR
In the foregoing pages I have endeavored to describe the public
events in which I was an actor or spectator before and during the
civil war of 1861-'65, and it now only remains for me to treat of
similar matters of general interest subsequent to the civil war.
Within a few days of the grand review of May 24, 1865, I took leave
of the army at Washington, and with my family went to Chicago to
attend a fair held in the interest of the families of soldiers
impoverished by the war. I remained there about two weeks; on the
22d of June was at South Bend, Indiana, where two of my children
were at school, and reached my native place, Lancaster, Ohio, on
the 24th. On the 4th of July I visited at Louisville, Kentucky,
the Fourteenth, Fifteenth, Sixteenth, and Seventeenth Army Corps,
which had come from Washington, under the command of General John
A. Logan, for "muster out," or "further orders." I then made a
short visit to General George H. Thomas at Nashville, and returned
to Lancaster, where I remained with the family till the receipt of
General Orders No. 118 of June 27, 1865, which divided the whole
territory of the United States into nineteen departments and five
military divisions, the second of which was the military division
of the "Mississippi," afterward changed to "Missouri," Major-
General W. T. Sherman to command, with, headquarters at St. Louis,
to embrace the Departments of the Ohio, Missouri, and Arkansas.
This territorial command included the States north of the Ohio
River, and the States and Territories north of Texas, as far west
as the Rocky Mountains, including Montana, Utah, and New Mexico,
but the part east of the Mississippi was soon transferred to
another division. The department commanders were General E. O. C.
Ord, at Detroit; General John Pope, at Fort Leavenworth; and
General J. J. Reynolds, at Little Rock, but these also were soon
changed. I at once assumed command, and ordered my staff and
headquarters from Washington to St. Louis, Missouri, going there in
person on the 16th of July.
My thoughts and feelings at once reverted to the construction of
the great Pacific Railway, which had been chartered by Congress in
the midst of war, and was then in progress. I put myself in
communication with the parties engaged in the work, visiting them
in person, and assured them that I would afford them all possible
assistance and encouragement. Dr. Durant, the leading man of the
Union Pacific, seemed to me a person of ardent nature, of great
ability and energy, enthusiastic in his undertaking, and determined
to build the road from Omaha to San Francisco. He had an able
corps of assistants, collecting materials, letting out contracts
for ties, grading, etc., and I attended the celebration of the
first completed division of sixteen and a half miles, from Omaha to
Papillon. When the orators spoke so confidently of the
determination to build two thousand miles of railway across the
plains, mountains, and desert, devoid of timber, with no
population, but on the contrary raided by the bold and bloody Sioux
and Cheyennes, who had almost successfully defied our power for
half a century, I was disposed to treat it jocularly, because I
could not help recall our California experience of 1855-'56, when
we celebrated the completion of twenty-two and a half miles of the
same road eastward of Sacramento; on which occasion Edward Baker
had electrified us by his unequalled oratory, painting the glorious
things which would result from uniting the Western coast with the
East by bands of iron. Baker then, with a poet's imagination, saw
the vision of the mighty future, but not the gulf which meantime
was destined to swallow up half a million of the brightest and best
youth of our land, and that he himself would be one of the first
victims far away on the banks of the Potomac (he was killed in
battle at Balls Bluff, October 21, 1861).
The Kansas Pacific was designed to unite with the main branch about
the 100 deg. meridian, near Fort Kearney. Mr. Shoemaker was its
general superintendent and building contractor, and this branch in
1865 was finished about forty miles to a point near Lawrence,
Kansas. I may not be able to refer to these roads again except
incidentally, and will, therefore, record here that the location of
this branch afterward was changed from the Republican to the Smoky
Hill Fork of the Kansas River, and is now the main line to Denver.
The Union and Central Railroads from the beginning were pushed with
a skill, vigor, and courage which always commanded my admiration,
the two meeting at Promontory Point, Utah, July 15, 1869, and in my
judgment constitute one of the greatest and most beneficent
achievements of man on earth.
The construction of the Union Pacific Railroad was deemed so
important that the President, at my suggestion, constituted on the
5th of March, 1866, the new Department of the Platte, General P.
St. George Cooke commanding, succeeded by General C. C. Augur,
headquarters at Omaha, with orders to give ample protection to the
working-parties, and to afford every possible assistance in the
construction of the road; and subsequently in like manner the
Department of Dakota was constituted, General A. H. Terry
commanding, with headquarters at St. Paul, to give similar
protection and encouragement to the Northern Pacific Railroad.
These departments, with changed commanders, have continued up to
the present day, and have fulfilled perfectly the uses for which
they were designed.
During the years 1865 and 1866 the great plains remained almost in
a state of nature, being the pasture-fields of about ten million
buffalo, deer, elk, and antelope, and were in full possession of
the Sioux, Cheyennes, Arapahoes, and Kiowas, a race of bold
Indians, who saw plainly that the construction of two parallel
railroads right through their country would prove destructive to
the game on which they subsisted, and consequently fatal to
The troops were posted to the best advantage to protect the parties
engaged in building these roads, and in person I reconnoitred well
to the front, traversing the buffalo regions from south to north,
and from east to west, often with a very small escort, mingling
with the Indians whenever safe, and thereby gained personal
knowledge of matters which enabled me to use the troops to the best
advantage. I am sure that without the courage and activity of the
department commanders with the small bodies of regular troops on
the plains during the years 1866-'69, the Pacific Railroads could
not have been built; but once built and in full operation the fate
of the buffalo and Indian was settled for all time to come.
At the close of the civil war there were one million five hundred
and sixteen names on the muster-rolls, of which seven hundred and
ninety-seven thousand eight hundred and seven were present, and two
hundred and two thousand seven hundred and nine absent, of which
twenty-two thousand nine hundred and twenty-nine were regulars, the
others were volunteers, colored troops, and veteran reserves. The
regulars consisted of six regiments of cavalry, five of artillery,
and nineteen of infantry. By the act of July 28, 1866, the peace
establishment was fixed at one general (Grant), one lieutenant-
general (Sherman), five major-generals (Halleck, Meade, Sheridan,
Thomas, and Hancock), ten brigadiers (McDowell, Cooke, Pope,
Hooker, Schofield, Howard, Terry, Ord, Canby, and Rousseau), ten
regiments of cavalry, five of artillery, and forty-five of
infantry, admitting of an aggregate force of fifty-four thousand
six hundred and forty-one men.
All others were mustered out, and thus were remanded to their homes
nearly a million of strong, vigorous men who had imbibed the
somewhat erratic habits of the soldier; these were of every
profession and trade in life, who, on regaining their homes, found
their places occupied by others, that their friends and neighbors
were different, and that they themselves had changed. They
naturally looked for new homes to the great West, to the new
Territories and States as far as the Pacific coast, and we realize
to-day that the vigorous men who control Kansas, Nebraska, Dakota,
Montana, Colorado, etc., etc., were soldiers of the civil war.
These men flocked to the plains, and were rather stimulated than
retarded by the danger of an Indian war. This was another potent
agency in producing the result we enjoy to-day, in having in so
short a time replaced the wild buffaloes by more numerous herds of
tame cattle, and by substituting for the useless Indians the
intelligent owners of productive farms and cattle-ranches.
While these great changes were being wrought at the West, in the
East politics had resumed full sway, and all the methods of
anti-war times had been renewed. President Johnson had differed
with his party as to the best method of reconstructing the State
governments of the South, which had been destroyed and impoverished
by the war, and the press began to agitate the question of the next
President. Of course, all Union men naturally turned to General
Grant, and the result was jealousy of him by the personal friends
of President Johnson and some of his cabinet. Mr. Johnson always
seemed very patriotic and friendly, and I believed him honest and
sincere in his declared purpose to follow strictly the Constitution
of the United States in restoring the Southern States to their
normal place in the Union; but the same cordial friendship
subsisted between General Grant and myself, which was the outgrowth
of personal relations dating back to 1839. So I resolved to keep
out of this conflict. In September, 1866, I was in the mountains
of New Mexico, when a message reached me that I was wanted at
Washington. I had with me a couple of officers and half a dozen
soldiers as escort, and traveled down the Arkansas, through the
Kiowas, Comanches, Cheyennes, and Arapahoes, all more or less
disaffected, but reached St. Louis in safety, and proceeded to
Washington, where I reported to General Grant.
He explained to me that President Johnson wanted to see me. He did
not know the why or wherefore, but supposed it had some connection
with an order he (General Grant) had received to escort the newly
appointed Minister, Hon. Lew Campbell, of Ohio, to the court of
Juarez, the President-elect of Mexico, which country was still in
possession of the Emperor Maximilian, supported by a corps of
French troops commanded by General Bazaine. General Grant denied
the right of the President to order him on a diplomatic mission
unattended by troops; said that he had thought the matter over,
world disobey the order, and stand the consequences. He manifested
much feeling; and said it was a plot to get rid of him. I then
went to President Johnson, who treated me with great cordiality,
and said that he was very glad I had come; that General Grant was
about to go to Mexico on business of importance, and he wanted me
at Washington to command the army in General Grant's absence. I
then informed him that General Grant would not go, and he seemed
amazed; said that it was generally understood that General Grant
construed the occupation of the territories of our neighbor,
Mexico, by French troops, and the establishment of an empire
therein, with an Austrian prince at its head, as hostile to
republican America, and that the Administration had arranged with
the French Government for the withdrawal of Bazaine's troops, which
would leave the country free for the President-elect Juarez to
reoccupy the city of Mexico, etc., etc.; that Mr. Campbell had been
accredited to Juarez, and the fact that he was accompanied by so
distinguished a soldier as General Grant would emphasize the act of
the United States. I simply reiterated that General Grant would
not go, and that he, Mr. Johnson, could not afford to quarrel with
him at that time. I further argued that General Grant was at the
moment engaged on the most delicate and difficult task of
reorganizing the army under the act of July 28, 1866; that if the
real object was to put Mr. Campbell in official communication with
President Juarez, supposed to be at El Paso or Monterey, either
General Hancock, whose command embraced New Mexico, or General
Sheridan, whose command included Texas, could fulfill the object
perfectly; or, in the event of neither of these alternates proving
satisfactory to the Secretary of State, that I could be easier
spared than General Grant. "Certainly," answered the President,
"if you will go, that will answer perfectly."
The instructions of the Secretary of State, W. H. Seward, to Hon.
Lewis D. Campbell, Minister to Mexico, dated October 25, 1866; a
letter from President Johnson to Secretary of War Stanton, dated
October 26, 1866; and the letter of Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of
War, to General Grant, dated October 27th, had been already
prepared and printed, and the originals or copies were furnished
me; but on the 30th of October, 1866, the following letter passed
WASHINGTON, D. C., October 30,1866.
SIR: General Ulysses S. Grant having found it inconvenient to
assume the duties specified in my letter to you of the 26th inst.,
you will please relieve him, and assign them in all respects to
William T. Sherman, Lieutenant-General of the Army of the United
States. By way of guiding General Sherman in the performance of
his duties, you will furnish him with a copy of your special orders
to General Grant made in compliance with my letter of the 26th
inst., together with a copy of the instructions of the Secretary of
State to Lewis D. Campbell, Esq., therein mentioned.
The lieutenant-general will proceed to the execution of his duties
Very respectfully yours,
To the Hon. EDWIN M. STANTON, Secretary of War.
At the Navy Department I learned that the United States ship
Susquehanna, Captain Alden, was fitting out in New York for the use
of this mission, and that there would be time for me to return to
St. Louis to make arrangements for a prolonged absence, as also to
communicate with Mr. Campbell, who was still at his home in
Hamilton, Ohio. By correspondence we agreed to meet in New York,
November 8th, he accompanied by Mr. Plumb, secretary of legation,
and I by my aide, Colonel Audenried.
We embarked November 10th, and went to sea next day, making for
Havana and Vera Cruz, and, as soon as we were outside of Sandy
Hook, I explained to Captain Alden that my mission was ended,
because I believed by substituting myself for General Grant I had
prevented a serious quarrel between him and the Administration,
which was unnecessary. We reached Havana on the 18th, with nothing
to vary the monotony of an ordinary sea-voyage, except off Hatteras
we picked up one woman and twenty men from open boats, who had just
abandoned a propeller bound from Baltimore to Charleston which
foundered. The sea was very rough, but by the personal skill and
supervision of Captain Alden every soul reached our deck safely,
and was carried to our consul at Havana. At Havana we were very
handsomely entertained, especially by Senor Aldama, who took us by
rail to his sugar-estates at Santa Ross, and back by Matanzas.
We took our departure thence on the 25th, and anchored under Isla
Verde, off Vera Cruz, on the 29th.
Everything about Vera Cruz indicated the purpose of the French to
withdraw, and also that the Emperor Maximilian would precede them,
for the Austrian frigate Dandolo was in port, and an Austrian bark,
on which were received, according to the report of our consul, Mr.
Lane, as many as eleven hundred packages of private furniture to be
transferred to Miramar, Maximilian's home; and Lieutenant Clarin,
of the French navy, who visited the Susquehanna from the French
commodore, Clouet, told me, without reserve, that, if we had
delayed eight days more, we would have found Maximilian gone.
General Bazaine was reported to be in the city of Mexico with about
twenty-eight thousand French troops; but instead of leaving Mexico
in three detachments, viz., November, 1866, March, 1867, and
November, 1867, as described in Mr. Seward's letter to Mr.
Campbell, of October 25, 1866, it looked to me that, as a soldier,
he would evacuate at some time before November, 1867, all at once,
and not by detachments. Lieutenant Clarin telegraphed Bazaine at
the city of Mexico the fact of our arrival, and he sent me a most
courteous and pressing invitation to come up to the city; but, as
we were accredited to the government of Juarez, it was considered
undiplomatic to establish friendly relations with the existing
authorities. Meantime we could not hear a word of Juarez, and
concluded to search for him along the coast northward. When I was
in Versailles, France, July, 1872, learning that General Bazaine
was in arrest for the surrender of his army and post at Metz, in
1870, I wanted to call on him to thank him for his courteous
invitation to me at Vera Cruz in 1866. I inquired of President
Thiera if I could with propriety call on the marshal. He answered
that it would be very acceptable, no doubt, but suggested for
form's sake that I should consult the Minister of War, General de
Cissey, which I did, and he promptly assented. Accordingly, I
called with my aide, Colonel Audenried, on Marshal Bazaine, who
occupied a small, two-story stone house at Versailles, in an
inclosure with a high garden wall, at the front gate or door of
which was a lodge, in which was a military guard. We were shown to
a good room on the second floor, where was seated the marshal in
military half-dress, with large head, full face, short neck, and
evidently a man of strong physique. He did not speak English, but
spoke Spanish perfectly. We managed to carry on a conversation in
which I endeavored to convey my sense of his politeness in inviting
me so cordially up to the city of Mexico, and my regret that the
peculiar duty on which I was engaged did not admit of a compliance,
or even of an intelligent explanation, at the time. He spoke of
the whole Mexican business as a "sad affair," that the empire
necessarily fell with the result of our civil war, and that poor
Maximilian was sacrificed to his own high sense of honor.
While on board the Susquehanna, on the 1st day of December, 1866,
we received the proclamation made by the Emperor Maximilian at
Orizaba, in which, notwithstanding the near withdrawal of the
French troops, he declared his purpose to remain and "shed the last
drop of his blood in defense of his dear country." Undoubtedly
many of the most substantial people of Mexico, having lost all
faith in the stability of the native government, had committed
themselves to what they considered the more stable government of
Maximilian, and Maximilian, a man of honor, concluded at the last
moment he could not abandon them; the consequence was his death.
Failing to hear of Juarez, we steamed up the coast to the Island of
Lobos, and on to Tampico, off which we found the United States
steamer Paul Jones, which, drawing less water than the Susquehanna,
carried us over the bar to the city, then in possession of the
Liberal party, which recognized Juarez as their constitutional
President, but of Juarez and his whereabout we could hear not a
word; so we continued up the coast and anchored off Brazos
Santiago, December 7th. Going ashore in small boats, we found a
railroad, under the management of General J. R. West, now one of
the commissioners of the city of Washington, who sent us up to
Brownsville, Texas. We met on the way General Sheridan, returning
from a tour of inspection of the Rio Grande frontier. On Sunday,
December 9th, we were all at Matamoras, Mexico, where we met
General Escobedo, one of Juarez's trusty lieutenants, who developed
to us the general plan agreed on for the overthrow of the empire,
and the reestablishment of the republican government of Mexico. He
asked of us no assistance, except the loan of some arms,
ammunition, clothing, and camp-equipage. It was agreed that Mr.
Campbell should, as soon as he could get his baggage off the
Susquehanna, return to Matamoras, and thence proceed to Monterey,
to be received by Juarez in person as, the accredited Minister of
the United States to the Republic of Mexico. Meantime the weather
off the coast was stormy, and the Susquehanna parted a cable, so
that we were delayed some days at Brazos; but in due time Mr.
Campbell got his baggage, and we regained the deck of the
Susquehanna, which got up steam and started for New Orleans. We
reached New Orleans December 20th, whence I reported fully
everything to General Grant, and on the 21st received the following
WASHINGTON, December 21,1866.
Lieutenant-General SHERMAN, New Orleans.
Your telegram of yesterday has been submitted to the President.
You are authorized to proceed to St. Louis at your convenience.
Your proceedings in the special and delicate duties assigned you
are cordially approved by the President and Cabinet and this
EDWIN M. STANTON.
And on the same day I received this dispatch
GALVESTON, December 21, 1866.
To General SHERMAN, or General SHERIDAN.
Will be in New Orleans to-morrow. Wish to see you both on arrival,
on matters of importance.
LEWIS D. CAMPBELL, Minister to Mexico.
Mr. Campbell arrived on the 22d, but had nothing to tell of the
least importance, save that he was generally disgusted with the
whole thing, and had not found Juarez at all. I am sure this whole
movement was got up for the purpose of getting General Grant away
from Washington, on the pretext of his known antagonism to the
French occupation of Mexico, because he was looming up as a
candidate for President, and nobody understood the animus and
purpose better than did Mr. Stanton. He himself was not then on
good terms with President Johnson, and with several of his
associates in the Cabinet. By Christmas I was back in St. Louis.
By this time the conflict between President Johnson and Congress
had become open and unconcealed. Congress passed the bill known as
the "Tenure of Civil Office" on the 2d of March, 1867 (over the
President's veto), the first clause of which, now section 1767 of
the Revised Statutes, reads thus: "Every person who holds any civil
office to which he has been or hereafter may be appointed, by and
with the advice and consent of the Senate, and who shall have
become duly qualified to act therein, shall be entitled to hold
such office during the term for which he was appointed, unless
sooner removed by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, or
by the appointment with the like advice and consent of a successor
in his place, except as herein otherwise provided."
General E. D. Townsend, in his "Anecdotes of the Civil War," states
tersely and correctly the preliminary circumstances of which I must
treat. He says: "On Monday morning, August 5, 1867, President
Johnson invited Mr. Stanton to resign as Secretary of War. Under
the tenure-of-civil-office law, Mr. Stanton declined. The President
a week after suspended him, and appointed General Grant, General-
in-Chief of the Army, to exercise the functions. This continued
until January 13, 1868, when according to the law the Senate passed
a resolution not sustaining the President's action. The next
morning General Grant came to my office and handed me the key of
the Secretary's room, saying: 'I am to be found over at my office
at army headquarters. I was served with a copy of the Senate
resolution last evening.' I then went up-stairs and delivered the
key of his room to Mr. Stanton."
The mode and manner of Mr. Stanton's regaining his office, and of
General Grant's surrendering it, were at the time subjects of
bitter controversy. Unhappily I was involved, and must bear
testimony. In all January, 1868, I was a member of a board ordered
to compile a code of articles of war and army regulations, of which
Major-General Sheridan and Brigadier-General C. C. Augur were
associate members. Our place of meeting was in the room of the old
War Department, second floor, next to the corner room occupied by
the Secretary of War, with a door of communication. While we were
at work it was common for General Grant and, afterward, for Mr.
Stanton to drop in and chat with us on the social gossip of the
On Saturday, January 11th, General Grant said that he had more
carefully read the law (tenure of civil office), and it was
different from what he had supposed; that in case the Senate did
not consent to the removal of Secretary of War Stanton, and he
(Grant) should hold on, he should incur a liability of ten thousand
dollars and five years' imprisonment. We all expected the
resolution of Senator Howard, of Michigan, virtually restoring Mr.
Stanton to his office, would pass the Senate, and knowing that the
President expected General Grant to hold on, I inquired if he had
given notice of his change of purpose; he answered that there was
no hurry, because he supposed Mr. Stanton would pursue toward him
(Grant) the same course which he (Stanton) had required of him the
preceding August, viz., would address him a letter claiming the
office, and allow him a couple of days for the change. Still, he
said he would go to the White House the same day and notify the
President of his intended action.
That afternoon I went over to the White House to present General
Pope, who was on a visit to Washington, and we found the President
and General Grant together. We made our visit and withdrew,
leaving them still together, and I always supposed the subject of
this conference was the expected decision of the Senate, which
would in effect restore Mr. Stanton to his civil office of
Secretary of War. That evening I dined with the Hon. Reverdy
Johnson, Senator from Maryland, and suggested to him that the best
way to escape a conflict was for the President to nominate some
good man as Secretary of War whose confirmation by the Senate would
fall within the provisions of the law, and named General J. D. Cox,
then Governor of Ohio, whose term of office was drawing to a close,
who would, I knew, be acceptable to General Grant and the army
generally. Mr. Johnson was most favorably impressed with this
suggestion, and promised to call on the President the next day
(Sunday), which he did, but President Johnson had made up his mind
to meet the conflict boldly. I saw General Grant that afternoon at
his house on I Street, and told him what I had done, and so anxious
was he about it that he came to our room at the War Department the
next morning (Monday), the 13th, and asked me to go in person to
the White House to urge the President to send in the name of
General Cox. I did so, saw the President, and inquired if he had
seen Mr. Reverdy Johnson the day before about General Cox. He
answered that he had, and thought well of General Cox, but would
say no further.
Tuesday, January 14, 1868, came, and with it Mr. Stanton. He
resumed possession of his former office; came into that where
General Sheridan, General Augur, and I were at work, and greeted us
very cordially. He said he wanted to see me when at leisure, and
at half-past 10 A.M. I went into his office and found him and
General Grant together. Supposing they had some special matters of
business, I withdrew, with the remark that I was close at hand, and
could come in at any moment. In the afternoon I went again into
Mr. Stanton's office, and we had a long and most friendly
conversation; but not one word was spoken about the
"tenure-of-office" matter. I then crossed over Seventeenth Street
to the headquarters of the army, where I found General Grant, who
expressed himself as by no means pleased with the manner in which
Mr. Stanton had regained his office, saying that he had sent a
messenger for him that morning as of old, with word that "he wanted
to see him." We then arranged to meet at his office the next
morning at half-past nine, and go together to see the President.
That morning the National Intelligencer published an article
accusing General Grant of acting in bad faith to the President, and
of having prevaricated in making his personal explanation to the
Cabinet, so that General Grant at first felt unwilling to go, but
we went. The President received us promptly and kindly. Being
seated, General Grant said, "Mr. President, whoever gave the facts
for the article of the Intelligencer of this morning has made some
serious mistakes." The President: "General Grant, let me interrupt
you just there. I have not seen the Intelligencer of this morning,
and have no knowledge of the contents of any article therein"
General Grant then went on: "Well, the idea is given there that I
have not kept faith with you. Now, Mr. President, I remember, when
you spoke to me on this subject last summer, I did say that, like
the case of the Baltimore police commissioners, I did suppose Mr.
Stanton could not regain his office except by a process through the
courts." To this the President assented, saying he "remembered the
reference to the case of the Baltimore commissioners," when General
Grant resumed: "I said if I changed my opinion I would give you
notice, and put things as they were before my appointment as
Secretary of War ad interim."
We then entered into a general friendly conversation, both parties
professing to be satisfied, the President claiming that he had
always been most friendly to General Grant, and the latter
insisting that he had taken the office, not for honor or profit,
but in the general interests of the army.
As we withdrew, at the very door, General Grant said, "Mr.
President, you should make some order that we of the army are not
bound to obey the orders of Mr. Stanton as Secretary of War," which
the President intimated he would do.
No such "orders" were ever made; many conferences were held, and
the following letters are selected out of a great mass to show the
general feeling at the time:
1321 K STREET, WASHINGTON,
January 28,1868, Saturday.
To the President:
I neglected this morning to say that I had agreed to go down to
Annapolis to spend Sunday with Admiral Porter. General Grant also
has to leave for Richmond on Monday morning at 6 A.M.
At a conversation with the General after our interview, wherein I
offered to go with him on Monday morning to Mr. Stanton, and to say
that it was our joint opinion be should resign, it was found
impossible by reason of his (General Grant) going to Richmond and
my going to Annapolis. The General proposed this course: He will
call on you to-morrow, and offer to go to Mr. Stanton to say, for
the good of the Army and of the country, he ought to resign. This
on Sunday. On Monday I will again call on you, and, if you think
it necessary, I will do the same, viz., go to Mr. Stanton and tell
him he should resign.
If he will not, then it will be time to contrive ulterior measures.
In the mean time it so happens that no necessity exists for
W. T. SHERMAN, Lieutenant-General.
DEAR GENERAL: On the point of starting, I have written the above,
and will send a fair copy of it to the President. Please retain
this, that in case of necessity I may have a copy. The President
clearly stated to me that he relied on us in this category.
Think of the propriety of your putting in writing what you have to
say tomorrow, even if you have to put it in the form of a letter to
hand him in person, retaining a copy. I'm afraid that acting as a
go-between for three persons, I may share the usual fate of
meddlers, at last get kinks from all. We ought not to be involved
in politics, but for the sake of the Army we are justified in
trying at least to cut this Gordian knot, which they do not appear
to have any practicable plan to do. In haste as usual,
W. T. SHERMAN.
HEADQUARTERS ARMIES OF THE UNITED STATES,
January 29, 1888.
DEAR SHERMAN: I called on the President and Mr. Stanton to-day, but
without any effect.
I soon found that to recommend resignation to Mr. Stanton would
have no effect, unless it was to incur further his displeasure;
and, therefore, did not directly suggest it to him. I explained to
him, however, the course I supposed he would pursue, and what I
expected to do in that case, namely, to notify the President of his
intentions, and thus leave him to violate the "Tenure-of-Office
Bill" if he chose, instead of having me do it.
I would advise that you say nothing to Mr. Stanton on the subject
unless he asks your advice. It will do no good, and may embarrass
you. I did not mention your name to him, at least not in
connection with his position, or what you thought upon it.
All that Mr. Johnson said was pacific and compromising. While I
think he wanted the constitutionality of the "Tenure Bill" tested,
I think now he would be glad either to get the vacancy of Secretary
of War, or have the office just where it was during suspension.
U. S. GRANT.
WASHINGTON D. C., January 27, 1868.
To the President.
DEAR SIR: As I promised, I saw Mr. Ewing yesterday, and after a
long conversation asked him to put down his opinion in writing,
which he has done and which I now inclose.
I am now at work on these Army Regulations, and in the course of
preparation have laid down the Constitution and laws now in force,
clearer than I find them elsewhere; and beg leave herewith to
inclose you three pages of printed matter for your perusal. My
opinion is, if you will adopt these rules and make them an
executive order to General Grant, they will so clearly define the
duties of all concerned that no conflict can arise. I hope to get
through this task in the course of this week, and want very much to
go to St. Louis. For eleven years I have been tossed about so much
that I really do want to rest, study, and make the acquaintance of
my family. I do not think, since 1857, I have averaged thirty days
out of three hundred and sixty-five at home.
Next summer also, in fulfillment of our promise to the Sioux, I
must go to Fort Phil Kearney early in the spring, so that, unless I
can spend the next two months at home, I might as well break up my
house at St. Louis, and give up all prospect of taking care of my
For these reasons especially I shall soon ask leave to go to St.
Louis, to resume my proper and legitimate command. With great
W. T. SHERMAN, Lieutenant-General.
WASHINGTON, D. C., January 25, 1868.
MY DEAR GENERAL: I am quite clear in the opinion that it is not
expedient for the President to take any action now in the case of
Stanton. So far as he and his interests are concerned, things are
in the best possible condition. Stanton is in the Department, got
his secretary, but the secretary of the Senate, who have taken upon
themselves his sins, and who place him there under a large salary
to annoy and obstruct the operations of the Executive. This the
people well enough understand, and he is a stench in the nostrils
of their own party.
I thought the nomination of Cox at the proper juncture would have
been wise as a peace-offering, but perhaps it would have let off
the Senate too easily from the effect of their arbitrary act. Now
the dislodging of Stanton and filling the office even temporarily
without the consent of the Senate would raise a question as to the
legality of the President's acts, and he would belong to the
attacked instead of the attacking party. If the war between
Congress and the President is to go on, as I suppose it is, Stanton
should be ignored by the President, left to perform his clerical
duties which the law requires him to perform, and let the party
bear the odium which is already upon them for placing him where he
is. So much for the President.
As to yourself, I wish you as far as possible to keep clear of
political complications. I do not think the President will require
you to do an act of doubtful legality. Certainly he will not
without sanction of the opinion of his Attorney-General; and you
should have time, in a questionable case, to consult with me before
called upon to act. The office of Secretary of War is a civil
office, as completely so as that of Secretary of State; and you as
a military officer cannot, I think, be required to assume or
exercise it. This may, if necessary, be a subject for further
consideration. Such, however, will not, I think, be the case.
The appeal is to the people, and it is better for the President to
persist in the course he has for some time pursued--let the
aggressions all come from the other side; and I think there is no
doubt he will do so. Affectionately, T. EWING.
LIBRARY ROOM, WAR DEPARTMENT,
WASHINGTON, D. C., January 31, 1868.
To the President:
Since our interview of yesterday I have given the subject of our
conversation all my thoughts, and I beg you will pardon my reducing
the same to writing.
My personal preferences, as expressed, were to be allowed to return
to St. Louis to resume my present command, because my command was
important, large, suited to my rank and inclination, and because my
family was well provided for there in house, facilities, schools,
living, and agreeable society; while, on the other hand, Washington
was for many (to me) good reasons highly objectionable, especially
because it is the political capital of the country; and focus of
intrigue, gossip, and slander. Your personal preferences were, as
expressed, to make a new department East, adequate to my rank, with
headquarters at Washington, and assign me to its command, to remove
my family here, and to avail myself of its schools, etc.; to remove
Mr. Stanton from his office as Secretary of War, and have me to
discharge the duties.
To effect this removal two modes were indicated: to simply cause
him to quit the War-Office Building, and notify the Treasury
Department and the Army Staff Departments no longer to respect him
as Secretary of War; or to remove him and submit my name to the
Senate for confirmation.
Permit me to discuss these points a little, and I will premise by
saying that I have spoken to no one on the subject, and have not
even seen Mr. Ewing, Mr. Stanbery, or General Grant, since I was
It has been the rule and custom of our army, since the organization
of the government, that the second officer of the army should be at
the second (in importance) command, and remote from general
headquarters. To bring me to Washington world put three heads to
an army, yourself, General Grant, and myself, and we would be more
than human if we were not to differ. In my judgment it world ruin
the army, and would be fatal to one or two of us.
Generals Scott and Taylor proved themselves soldiers and patriots
in the field, but Washington was fatal to both. This city, and the
influences that centre here, defeated every army that had its
headquarters here from 1861 to 1864, and would have overwhelmed
General Grant at Spottsylvania and Petersburg, had he not been
fortified by a strong reputation, already hard-earned, and because
no one then living coveted the place; whereas, in the West, we made
progress from the start, because there was no political capital
near enough to poison our minds, and kindle into life that craving,
itching for fame which has killed more good men than bullets. I
have been with General Grant in the midst of death and slaughter
when the howls of people reached him after Shiloh; when messengers
were speeding to and from his army to Washington, bearing slanders,
to induce his removal before he took Vicksburg; in Chattanooga,
when the soldiers were stealing the corn of the starving mules to
satisfy their own hunger; at Nashville, when he was ordered to the
"forlorn hope" to command the Army of the Potomac, so often
defeated--and yet I never saw him more troubled than since he has
been in Washington, and been compelled to read himself a "sneak and
deceiver," based on reports of four of the Cabinet, and apparently
with your knowledge. If this political atmosphere can disturb the
equanimity of one so guarded and so prudent as he is, what will be
the result with me, so careless, so outspoken as I am? Therefore,
with my consent, Washington never.
As to the Secretary of War, his office is twofold. As a Cabinet
officer he should not be there without your hearty, cheerful
assent, and I believe that is the judgment and opinion of every
fair-minded man. As the holder of a civil office, having the
supervision of moneys appropriated by Congress and of contracts for
army supplies, I do think Congress, or the Senate by delegation
from Congress, has a lawful right to be consulted. At all events,
I would not risk a suit or contest on that phase of the question.
The law of Congress, of March 2, 1867, prescribing the manner in
which orders and instructions relating to "military movements"
shall reach the army, gives you as constitutional Commander-in-
Chief the very power you want to exercise, and enables you to
prevent the Secretary from making any such orders and instructions;
and consequently he cannot control the army, but is limited and
restricted to a duty that an Auditor of the Treasury could perform.
You certainly can afford to await the result. The Executive power
is not weakened, but rather strengthened. Surely he is not such an
obstruction as would warrant violence, or even s show of force,
which would produce the very reaction and clamor that he hopes for
to save him from the absurdity of holding an empty office "for the
safety of the country."
This is so much as I ought to say, and more too, but if it produces
the result I will be more than satisfied, viz., that I be simply
allowed to resume my proper post and duties in St. Louis. With
great respect, yours truly,
W. T. SHERMAN, Lieutenant-General.
On the 1st of February, the board of which I was the president
submitted to the adjutant-general our draft of the "Articles of War
and Army Regulations," condensed to a small compass, the result of
our war experience. But they did not suit the powers that were,
and have ever since slept the sleep that knows no waking, to make
room for the ponderous document now in vogue, which will not stand
the strain of a week's campaign in real war.
I hurried back to St. Louis to escape the political storm I saw
brewing. The President repeatedly said to me that he wanted me in
Washington, and I as often answered that nothing could tempt me to
live in that center of intrigue and excitement; but soon came the
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE UNITED STATES,
WASHINGTON, February 10, 1868.
DEAR GENERAL: I have received at last the President's reply to my
last, letter. He attempts to substantiate his statements by his
Cabinet. In this view it is important that I should have a letter
from you, if you are willing to give it, of what I said to you
about the effect of the "Tenure-of-Office Bill," and my object in
going to see the President on Saturday before the installment of
Mr. Stanton. What occurred after the meeting of the Cabinet on the
Tuesday following is not a subject under controversy now;
therefore, if you choose to write down your recollection (and I
would like to have it) on Wednesday, when you and I called on the
President, and your conversation with him the last time you saw
him, make that a separate communication.
Your order to come East was received several days ago, but the
President withdrew it, I supposed to make some alteration, but it
has not been returned.
U. S. GRANT.
WASHINGTON, D. C., February 18, 1868.
Lieutenant-General W. T. SHERMAN, St. Louis.
The order is issued ordering you to Atlantic Division.
U. S. GRANT, General.
HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSOURI,
St. Louis, February 14, 1868.
General U. S. GRANT, Washington, D. C.
Your dispatch is received informing me that the order for the
Atlantic Division has been issued, and that I am assigned to its
command. I was in hopes I had escaped the danger, and now were I
prepared I should resign on the spot, as it requires no foresight
to predict such must be the inevitable result in the end. I will
make one more desperate effort by mail, which please await.
W. T. SHERMAN, Lieutenant-General.
WASHINGTON, February 14, 1868.
Lieutenant-General W. T. SHERMAN, St. Louis.
I think it due to you that your letter of January 31st to the
President of the United States should be published, to correct
misapprehension in the public mind about your willingness to come
to Washington. It will not be published against your will.
(Sent in cipher.)
HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSOURI,
St. Louis, MISSOURI, February 14, 1868.
General U. S. GRANT, Washington, D. C.
Dispatch of to-day received. Please await a letter I address this
day through you to the President, which will in due time reach the
public, covering the very point you make.
I don't want to come to Washington at all.
W. T. SHERMAN, Lieutenant-General.
HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSOURI,
St. Loins, MISSOURI, February 14, 1868.
Hon. John SHERMAN, United States Senate, Washington, D. C.
Oppose confirmation of myself as brevet general, on ground that it
is unprecedented, and that it is better not to extend the system of
brevets above major-general. If I can't avoid coming to
Washington, I may have to resign.
W. T. SHERMAN, Lieutenant-General.
HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMY,
WASHINGTON, D. C., February 12, 1868.
The following orders are published for the information and guidance
of all concerned:
U. S. GRANT, General.
WASHINGTON, D. C., February 12, 1868.
GENERAL: You will please issue an order creating a military
division to be styled the Military Division of the Atlantic, to be
composed of the Department of the Lakes, the Department of the
East, and the Department of Washington, to be commanded by
Lieutenant-General W. T. Sherman, with his headquarters at
Washington. Until further orders from the President, you will
assign no officer to the permanent command of the Military Division
of the Missouri.
GENERAL U. S. GRANT,
Commanding Armies of The United States, Washington, D. C.
Major-General P. H. Sheridan, the senior officer in the Military
Division of the Missouri, will temporarily perform the duties of
commander of the Military Division of the Missouri in addition to
his duties of department commander. By command of General Grant:
E. D. TOWNSEND, Assistant Adjutant-General.
This order, if carried into effect, would have grouped in
1. The President, constitutional Commander-in-Chief.
2. The Secretary of War, congressional Commander-in-Chief.
3. The General of the Armies of the United States.
4. The Lieutenant-General of the Army.
5. The Commanding General of the Department of Washington.
6. The commander of the post-of Washington.
At that date the garrison of Washington was a brigade of infantry
and a battery of artillery. I never doubted Mr. Johnson's
sincerity in wishing to befriend me, but this was the broadest kind
of a farce, or meant mischief. I therefore appealed to him by
letter to allow me to remain where I was, and where I could do
service, real service, and received his most satisfactory answer.
HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSOURI,
St. Louis, MISSOURI, February 14, 1868.
General U. S. GRANT, Washington, D. C.
DEAR GENERAL: Last evening, just before leaving my office, I
received your note of the 10th, and had intended answering it
according to your request; but, after I got home, I got your
dispatch of yesterday, announcing that the order I dreaded so much
was issued. I never felt so troubled in my life. Were it an order
to go to Sitka, to the devil, to battle with rebels or Indians, I
think you would not hear a whimper from me, but it comes in such a
questionable form that, like Hamlet's ghost, it curdles my blood
and mars my judgment. My first thoughts were of resignation, and I
had almost made up my mind to ask Dodge for some place on the
Pacific road, or on one of the Iowa roads, and then again various
colleges ran through my memory, but hard times and an expensive
family have brought me back to staring the proposition square in
the face, and I have just written a letter to the President, which
I herewith transmit through you, on which I will hang a hope of
respite till you telegraph me its effect. The uncertainties ahead
are too great to warrant my incurring the expense of breaking up my
house and family here, and therefore in no event will I do this
till I can be assured of some permanence elsewhere. If it were at
all certain that you would accept the nomination of President in
May, I would try and kill the intervening time, and then judge of
the chances, but I do not want you to reveal your plans to me till
you choose to do so.
I have telegraphed to John Sherman to oppose the nomination which
the papers announce has been made of me for brevet general.
I have this minute received your cipher dispatch of to-day, which I
have just answered and sent down to the telegraph-office, and the
clerk is just engaged in copying my letter to the President to go
with this. If the President or his friends pretend that I seek to
go to Washington, it will be fully rebutted by letters I have
written to the President, to you, to John Sherman, to Mr. Ewing,
and to Mr. Stanbery. You remember that in our last talk you
suggested I should write again to the President. I thought of it,
and concluded my letter of January 31st, already delivered, was
full and emphatic. Still, I did write again to Mr. Stanbery,
asking him as a friend to interpose in my behalf. There are plenty
of people who know my wishes, and I would avoid, if possible, the
publication of a letter so confidential as that of January 31st, in
which I notice I allude to the President's purpose of removing Mr.
Stanton by force, a fact that ought not to be drawn out through me
if it be possible to avoid it. In the letter herewith I confine
myself to purely private matters, and will not object if it reaches
the public in any proper way. My opinion is, the President thinks
Mrs. Sherman would like to come to Washington by reason of her
father and brothers being there. This is true, for Mrs. Sherman
has an idea that St. Louis is unhealthy for our children, and
because most of the Catholics here are tainted with the old secesh
feeling. But I know better what is to our common interest, and
prefer to judge of the proprieties myself. What I do object to is
the false position I would occupy as between you and the President.
Were there an actual army at or near Washington, I could be
withdrawn from the most unpleasant attitude of a "go-between," but
there is no army there, nor any military duties which you with a
host of subordinates can not perform. Therefore I would be there
with naked, informal, and sinecure duties, and utterly out of
place. This you understand well enough, and the army too, but the
President and the politicians, who flatter themselves they are
saving the country, cannot and will not understand. My opinion is,
the country is doctored to death, and if President and Congress
would go to sleep like Rip Van Winkle, the country would go on
under natural influences, and recover far faster than under their
joint and several treatment. This doctrine would be accounted by
Congress, and by the President too, as high treason, and therefore
I don't care about saying so to either of them, but I know you can
hear anything, and give it just what thought or action it merits.
Excuse this long letter, and telegraph me the result of my letter
to the President as early as you can. If he holds my letter so
long as to make it improper for me to await his answer, also
The order, when received, will, I suppose, direct me as to whom and
how I am to turn over this command, which should, in my judgment,
not be broken up, as the three departments composing the division
should be under one head.
I expect my staff-officers to be making for me within the hour to
learn their fate, so advise me all you can as quick as possible.
With great respect, yours truly,
W. T. SHERMAN, Lieutenant-General.
To the President.
DEAR SIR: It is hard for me to conceive you would purposely do me
an unkindness unless under the pressure of a sense of public duty,
or because you do not believe me sincere. I was in hopes, since my
letter to you of the 31st of January, that you had concluded to
pass over that purpose of yours expressed more than once in
conversation--to organize a new command for me in the East, with
headquarters in Washington; but a telegram from General Grant of
yesterday says that "the order was issued ordering you" (me) "to
Atlantic Division"; and the newspapers of this morning contain the
same information, with the addition that I have been nominated as
brevet general. I have telegraphed my own brother in the Senate to
oppose my confirmation, on the ground that the two higher grades in
the army ought not to be complicated with brevets, and I trust you
will conceive my motives aright. If I could see my way clear to
maintain my family, I should not hesitate a moment to resign my
present commission, and seek some business wherein I would be free
from these unhappy complications that seem to be closing about me,
spite of my earnest efforts to avoid them; but necessity ties my
hands, and I must submit with the best grace I can till I make
In Washington are already the headquarters of a department, and of
the army itself, and it is hard for me to see wherein I can render
military service there. Any staff-officer with the rank of major
could surely fill any gap left between these two military officers;
and, by being placed in Washington, I will be universally construed
as a rival to the General-in-Chief, a position damaging to me in
the highest degree. Our relations have always been most
confidential and friendly, and if, unhappily, any cloud of
differences should arise between us, my sense of personal dignity
and duty would leave me no alternative but resignation. For this I
am not yet prepared, but I shall proceed to arrange for it as
rapidly as possible, so that when the time does come (as it surely
will if this plan is carried into effect) I may act promptly.
Inasmuch as the order is now issued, I cannot expect a full
revocation of it, but I beg the privilege of taking post at New
York, or any point you may name within the new military division
other than Washington. This privilege is generally granted to all
military commanders, and I see no good reason why I too may not ask
for it, and this simple concession, involving no public interest,
will much soften the blow, which, right or wrong, I construe as one
of the hardest I have sustained in a life somewhat checkered with
adversity. With great respects yours truly,
W. T. SHERMAN, Lieutenant-General.
WASHINGTON, D. C., 2 p.m., February 19, 1888.
Lieutenant-General W. T. SHERMAN, St. Louis, Missouri:
I have just received, with General Grant's indorsement of
reference, your letter to me of the fourteenth (14th) inst.
The order to which you refer was made in good faith, and with a
view to the best interests of the country and the service; as,
however, your assignment to a new military division seems so
objectionable, you will retain your present command.
On that same 19th of February he appointed Adjutant, General
Lorenzo Thomas to be Secretary of War ad interim, which finally
resulted in the articles of impeachment and trial of President
Johnson before the Senate. I was a witness on that trial, but of
course the lawyers would not allow me to express any opinion of the
President's motives or intentions, and restricted me to the facts
set forth in the articles of impeachment, of which I was glad to
know nothing. The final test vote revealed less than two thirds,
and the President was consequently acquitted. Mr. Stanton
resigned. General Schofield, previously nominated, was confirmed
as Secretary of War, thus putting an end to what ought never to
have happened at all.
INDIAN PEACE COMMISSION.
On the 20th of July, 1867, President Johnson approved an act to
establish peace with certain hostile Indian tribes, the first
section of which reads as follows: "Be it enacted, etc., that the
President of the United States be and is hereby authorized to
appoint a commission to consist of three (3) officers of the army
not below the rank of brigadier-general, who, together with N. G.
Taylor, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, John B. Henderson,
chairman of the Committee of Indian Affairs of the Senate, S. F.
Tappan, and John B. Sanborn, shall have power and authority to
call together the chiefs and head men of such bands or tribes of
Indians as are now waging war against the United States, or
committing depredations on the people thereof, to ascertain the
alleged reasons for their acts of hostility, and in their
discretion, under the direction of the President, to make and
conclude with said bands or tribes such treaty stipulations,
subject to the action of the Senate, as may remove all just causes
of complaint on their part, and at the same time establish security
for person and property along the lines of railroad now being
constructed to the Pacific and other thoroughfares of travel to the
Western Territories, and such as will most likely insure
civilization for the Indians, and peace and safety for the whites."
The President named as the military members Lieutenant-General
Sherman, Brigadier-Generals A. H. Terry and W. S. Harney.
Subsequently, to insure a full attendance, Brigadier-General C. C.
Augur was added to the commission, and his name will be found on
most of the treaties. The commissioners met at St. Louis and
elected N. G. Taylor, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs,
president; J. B. Sanborn, treasurer; and A. S. H. White, Esq., of
Washington, D. C., secretary. The year 1867 was too far advanced
to complete the task assigned during that season, and it was agreed
that a steamboat (St. John's) should be chartered to convey the
commission up the Missouri River, and we adjourned to meet at
Omaha. In the St. John's the commission proceeded up the Missouri
River, holding informal "talks" with the Santees at their agency
near the Niobrara, the Yanktonnais at Fort Thompson, and the
Ogallallas, Minneconjous, Sans Arcs, etc., at Fort Sully. From
this point runners were sent out to the Sioux occupying the country
west of the Missouri River, to meet us in council at the Forks of
the Platte that fall, and to Sitting Bull's band of outlaw Sioux,
and the Crows on the upper Yellowstone, to meet us in May, 1868, at
Fort Laramie. We proceeded up the river to the mouth of the
Cheyenne and turned back to Omaha, having ample time on this
steamboat to discuss and deliberate on the problems submitted to
We all agreed that the nomad Indians should be removed from the
vicinity of the two great railroads then in rapid construction, and
be localized on one or other of the two great reservations south of
Kansas and north of Nebraska; that agreements not treaties, should
be made for their liberal maintenance as to food, clothing,
schools, and farming implements for ten years, during which time we
believed that these Indians should become self-supporting. To the
north we proposed to remove the various bands of Sioux, with such
others as could be induced to locate near them; and to the south,
on the Indian Territory already established, we proposed to remove
the Cheyennes, Arapahoes, Kiowas, Comanches, and such others as we
could prevail on to move thither.
At that date the Union Pacific construction had reached the Rocky
Mountains at Cheyenne, and the Kansas Pacific to about Fort
Wallace. We held council with the Ogallallas at the Forks of the
Platte, and arranged to meet them all the next spring, 1868. In
the spring of 1868 we met the Crows in council at Fort Laramie, the
Sioux at the North Platte, the Shoshones or Snakes at Fort Hall,
the Navajos at Fort Sumner, on the Pecos, and the Cheyennes and
Arapahoes at Medicine Lodge. To accomplish these results the
commission divided up into committees, General Augur going to the
Shoshones, Mr. Tappan and I to the Navajos, and the remainder to
Medicine Lodge. In that year we made treaties or arrangements with
all the tribes which before had followed the buffalo in their
annual migrations, and which brought them into constant conflict
with the whites.
Mr. Tappan and I found it impossible to prevail on the Navajos to
remove to the Indian Territory, and had to consent to their return
to their former home, restricted to a limited reservation west of
Santa Fe, about old Fort Defiance, and there they continue unto
this day, rich in the possession of herds of sheep and goats, with
some cattle and horses; and they have remained at peace ever since.
A part of our general plan was to organize the two great
reservations into regular Territorial governments, with Governor,
Council, courts, and civil officers. General Harney was
temporarily assigned to that of the Sioux at the north, and General
Hazen to that of the Kiowas, Comanches, Cheyennes, Arapahoes, etc.,
etc., at the south, but the patronage of the Indian Bureau was too
strong for us, and that part of our labor failed. Still, the
Indian Peace Commission of 1867-'68 did prepare the way for the
great Pacific Railroads, which, for better or worse, have settled
the fate of the buffalo and Indian forever. There have been wars
and conflicts since with these Indians up to a recent period too
numerous and complicated in their detail for me to unravel and
record, but they have been the dying struggles of a singular race
of brave men fighting against destiny, each less and less violent,
till now the wild game is gone, the whites too numerous and
powerful; so that the Indian question has become one of sentiment
and charity, but not of war.
The peace, or "Quaker" policy, of which so much has been said,
originated about thus: By the act of Congress, approved March
3,1869, the forty-five regiments of infantry were reduced to
twenty-five, and provision was made for the "muster out" of many of
the surplus officers, and for retaining others to be absorbed by
the usual promotions and casualties. On the 7th of May of that
year, by authority of an act of Congress approved June 30, 1834,
nine field-officers and fifty-nine captains and subalterns were
detached and ordered to report to the Commissioner of Indian
Affairs, to serve as Indian superintendents and agents. Thus by an
old law surplus army officers were made to displace the usual civil
appointees, undoubtedly a change for the better, but most
distasteful to members of Congress, who looked to these
appointments as part of their proper patronage. The consequence
was the law of July 15, 1870, which vacated the military commission
of any officer who accepted or exercised the functions of a civil
officer. I was then told that certain politicians called on
President Grant, informing him that this law was chiefly designed
to prevent his using army officers for Indian agents, "civil
offices," which he believed to be both judicious and wise; army
officers, as a rule, being better qualified to deal with Indians
than the average political appointees. The President then quietly
replied: "Gentlemen, you have defeated my plan of Indian
management; but you shall not succeed in your purpose, for I will
divide these appointments up among the religious churches, with
which you dare not contend." The army officers were consequently
relieved of their "civil offices," and the Indian agencies were
apportioned to the several religious churches in about the
proportion of their--supposed strength--some to the Quakers, some
to the Methodists, to the Catholics, Episcopalians, Presbyterians,
etc., etc.--and thus it remains to the present time, these
religious communities selecting the agents to be appointed by the
Secretary of the Interior. The Quakers, being first named, gave
name to the policy, and it is called the "Quaker" policy to-day.
Meantime railroads and settlements by hardy, bold pioneers have
made the character of Indian agents of small concern, and it
matters little who are the beneficiaries.
As was clearly foreseen, General U. S. Grant was duly nominated,
and on the 7th of November, 1868, was elected President of the
United States for the four years beginning with March 4, 1869.
On the 15th and 16th of December, 1868, the four societies of the
Armies of the Cumberland, Tennessee, Ohio, and Georgia, held a
joint reunion at Chicago, at which were present over two thousand
of the surviving officers and soldiers of the war. The ceremonies
consisted of the joint meeting in Crosby's magnificent opera-house,
at which General George H. Thomas presided. General W. W. Belknap
was the orator for the Army of the Tennessee, General Charles Cruft
for the Army of the Cumberland, General J. D. Cox for the Army of
the Ohio, and General William Cogswell for the Army of Georgia.
The banquet was held in the vast Chamber of Commerce, at which I
presided. General Grant, President-elect, General J. M. Schofield,
Secretary of War, General H. W. Slocum, and nearly every general
officer of note was present except General Sheridan, who at the
moment was fighting the Cheyennes in Southern Kansas and the Indian
At that time we discussed the army changes which would necessarily
occur in the following March, and it was generally understood that
I was to succeed General Grant as general-in-chief, but as to my
successor, Meade, Thomas, and Sheridan were candidates. And here I
will remark that General Grant, afterward famous as the "silent
man," used to be very gossipy, and no one was ever more fond than
he of telling anecdotes of our West Point and early army life. At
the Chicago reunion he told me that I would have to come to
Washington, that he wanted me to effect a change as to the general
staff, which he had long contemplated, and which was outlined in
his letter to Mr. Stanton of January 29,1866, given hereafter,
which had been repeatedly published, and was well known to the
military world; that on being inaugurated President on the 4th of
March he would retain General Schofield as his Secretary of War
until the change had become habitual; that the modern custom of the
Secretary of War giving military orders to the adjutant-general and
other staff officers was positively wrong and should be stopped.
Speaking of General Grant's personal characteristics at that period
of his life, I recall a conversation in his carriage, when, riding
down Pennsylvania Avenue, he, inquired of me in a humorous way,
"Sherman, what special hobby do you intend to adopt?" I inquired
what he meant, and he explained that all men had their special
weakness or vanity, and that it was wiser to choose one's own than
to leave the newspapers to affix one less acceptable, and that for
his part he had chosen the "horse," so that when anyone tried to
pump him he would turn the conversation to his "horse." I answered
that I would stick to the "theatre and balls," for I was always
fond of seeing young people happy, and did actually acquire a
reputation for "dancing," though I had not attempted the waltz, or
anything more than the ordinary cotillon, since the war.
On the 24th of February, 1869, I was summoned to Washington,
arriving on the 26th, taking along my aides, Lieutenant-Colonels
Dayton and Audenried.
On the 4th of March General Grant was duly inaugurated President of
the United States, and I was nominated and confirmed as General of
Major-General P. H. Sheridan was at the same time nominated and
confirmed as lieutenant-general, with orders to command the
Military Division of the Missouri, which he did, moving the
headquarters from St. Louis to Chicago; and General Meade was
assigned to command the Military Division of the Atlantic, with
headquarters at Philadelphia.
At that moment General Meade was in Atlanta, Georgia, commanding
the Third Military District under the "Reconstruction Act;" and
General Thomas, whose post was in Nashville, was in Washington on a
court of inquiry investigating certain allegations against General
A. B. Dyer, Chief of Ordnance. He occupied the room of the second
floor in the building on the corner of H and Fifteenth Streets,
since become Wormley's Hotel. I at the time was staying with my
brother, Senator Sherman, at his residence, 1321 K Street, and it
was my habit each morning to stop at Thomas's room on my way to the
office in the War Department to tell him the military news, and to
talk over matters of common interest. We had been intimately
associated as "man and boy" for thirty-odd years, and I profess to
have had better opportunities to know him than any man then living.
His fame as the "Rock of Chickamauga" was perfect, and by the world
at large he was considered as the embodiment of strength, calmness,
and imperturbability. Yet of all my acquaintances Thomas worried
and fretted over what he construed neglects or acts of favoritism
more than any other.
At that time he was much worried by what he supposed was injustice
in the promotion of General Sheridan, and still more that General
Meade should have an Eastern station, which compelled him to remain
at Nashville or go to the Pacific. General Thomas claimed that all
his life he had been stationed in the South or remote West, and had
not had a fair share of Eastern posts, whereas that General Meade
had always been there. I tried to get him to go with me to see
President Grant and talk the matter over frankly, but he would not,
and I had to act as a friendly mediator. General Grant assured me
at the time that he not only admired and respected General Thomas,
but actually loved him as a man, and he authorized me in making up
commands for the general officers to do anything and everything to
favor him, only he could not recede from his former action in
respect to Generals Sheridan and Meade.
Prior to General Grant's inauguration the army register showed as
major-generals Halleck, Meade, Sheridan, Thomas, and Hancock.
Therefore, the promotion of General Sheridan to be lieutenant-
general did not "overslaugh" Thomas, but it did Meade and Halleck.
The latter did not expect promotion; General Meade did, but was
partially, not wholly, reconciled by being stationed at
Philadelphia, the home of his family; and President Grant assured
me that he knew of his own knowledge that General Sheridan had been
nominated major-general before General Meade, but had waived dates
out of respect for his age and longer service, and that he had
nominated him as lieutenant-general by reason of his special
fitness to command the Military Division of the Missouri, embracing
all the wild Indians, at that very moment in a state of hostility.
I gave General Thomas the choice of every other command in the
army, and of his own choice he went to San Francisco, California,
where he died, March 28, 1870. The truth is, Congress should have
provided by law for three lieutenant-generals for these three
pre-eminent soldiers, and should have dated their commissions with
"Gettysburg," "Winchester," and "Nashville." It would have been a
graceful act, and might have prolonged the lives of two most
popular officers, who died soon after, feeling that they had
experienced ingratitude and neglect.
Soon after General Grant's inauguration as President, and, as I
supposed, in fulfilment of his plan divulged in Chicago the
previous December, were made the following:
HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMY,
WASHINGTON, March 8, 1869.
General Orders No. 11:
The following orders of the President of the United States are
published for the information and government of all concerned:
WASHINGTON CITY, March 5, 1869.
By direction of the President, General William T. Sherman will
assume command of the Army of the United States.
The chiefs of staff corps, departments, and bureaus will report to
and act under the immediate orders of the general commanding the
Any official business which by law or regulation requires the
action of the President or Secretary of War will be submitted by
the General of the Army to the Secretary of War, and in general all
orders from the President or Secretary of War to any portion of the
army, line or staff, will be transmitted through the General of the
J. M. SCHOFIELD, Secretary of War.
By command of the General of the Army.
E. D. TOWNSEND, Assistant Adjutant-General.
On the same day I issued my General Orders No. 12, assuming command
and naming all the heads of staff departments and bureaus as
members of my staff, adding to my then three aides, Colonels McCoy,
Dayton, and Audenried, the names of Colonels Comstock, Horace
Porter, and Dent, agreeing with President Grant that the two latter
could remain with him till I should need their personal services or
ask their resignations.
I was soon made aware that the heads of several of the staff corps
were restive under this new order of things, for by long usage they
had grown to believe themselves not officers of the army in a
technical sense, but a part of the War Department, the civil branch
of the Government which connects the army with the President and
In a short time General John A. Rawlins, General Grant's former
chief of staff, was nominated and confirmed as Secretary of War;
and soon appeared this order:
HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMY,
WASHINGTON, March 27, 1869.
General Orders No. 28:
The following orders received for the War Department are published
for the government of all concerned:
WASHINGTON CITY, March 26, 1869.
By direction of the President, the order of the Secretary of War,
dated War Department, March 5, 1869, and published in General
Orders No. 11, headquarters of the army, Adjutant-General's Office,
dated March 8, 1869, except so much as directs General W. T.
Sherman to assume command of the Army of the United States, is
All official business which by law or regulations requires the
action of the President or Secretary of War will be submitted by
the chiefs of staff corps, departments, and bureaus to the
Secretary of War.
All orders and instructions relating to military operations issued
by the President or Secretary of War will be issued through the
General of the Army.
JOHN A. RAWLINS, Secretary of War.
By command of General SHERMAN:
E. D. TOWNSEND, Assistant Adjutant-General.
Thus we were thrown back on the old method in having a double--if
not a treble-headed machine. Each head of a bureau in daily
consultation with the Secretary of War, and the general to command
without an adjutant, quartermaster, commissary, or any staff except
his own aides, often reading in the newspapers of military events
and orders before he could be consulted or informed. This was the
very reverse of what General Grant, after four years' experience in
Washington as general-in-chief, seemed to want, different from what
he had explained to me in Chicago, and totally different from the
demand he had made on Secretary of War Stanton in his complete
letter of January 29, 1866. I went to him to know the cause: He
said he had been informed by members of Congress that his action,
as defined by his order of March 5th, was regarded as a violation
of laws making provision for the bureaus of the War Department;
that he had repealed his own orders, but not mine, and that he had
no doubt that General Rawlins and I could draw the line of
separation satisfactorily to us both. General Rawlins was very
conscientious, but a very sick man when appointed Secretary of War.
Several times he made orders through the adjutant-general to
individuals of the army without notifying me, but always when his
attention was called to it he apologized, and repeatedly said to me
that he understood from his experience on General Grant's staff how
almost insulting it was for orders to go to individuals of a
regiment, brigade, division, or an army of any kind without the
commanding officer being consulted or even advised. This habit is
more common at Washington than any place on earth, unless it be in
London, where nearly the same condition of facts exists. Members
of Congress daily appeal to the Secretary of War for the discharge
of some soldier on the application of a mother, or some young
officer has to be dry-nursed, withdrawn from his company on the
plains to be stationed near home. The Secretary of War, sometimes
moved by private reasons, or more likely to oblige the member of
Congress, grants the order, of which the commanding general knows
nothing till he reads it in the newspapers. Also, an Indian tribe,
goaded by the pressure of white neighbors, breaks out in revolt.
The general-in-chief must reenforce the local garrisons not only
with men, but horses, wagons, ammunition, and food. All the
necessary information is in the staff bureaus in Washington, but
the general has no right to call for it, and generally finds it
more practicable to ask by telegraph of the distant division or
department commanders for the information before making the formal
orders. The general in actual command of the army should have a
full staff, subject to his own command. If not, he cannot be held
responsible for results.
General Rawlins sank away visibly, rapidly, and died in Washington,
September 6,1869, and I was appointed to perform the duties of his
office till a successor could be selected. I realized how much
easier and better it was to have both offices conjoined.
The army then had one constitutional commander-in-chief of both
army and navy, and one actual commanding general, bringing all
parts into real harmony. An army to be useful must be a unit, and
out of this has grown the saying, attributed to Napoleon, but
doubtless spoken before the days of Alexander, that an army with an
inefficient commander was better than one with two able heads. Our
political system and methods, however, demanded a separate
Secretary of War, and in October President Grant asked me to scan
the list of the volunteer generals of good record who had served in
the civil war, preferably from the "West." I did so, and submitted
to him in writing the names of W. W. Belknap, of Iowa; G. M.
Dodge, the Chief Engineer of the Union Pacific Railroad; and Lucius
Fairchild, of Madison, Wisconsin. I also named General John W.
Sprague, then employed by the Northern Pacific Railroad in
Washington Territory. General Grant knew them all personally, and
said if General Dodge were not connected with the Union Pacific
Railroad, with which the Secretary of War must necessarily have
large transactions, he would choose him, but as the case stood, and
remembering the very excellent speech made by General Belknap at
the Chicago reunion of December, 1868, he authorized me to
communicate with him to ascertain if he were willing to come to
Washington as Secretary of War. General Belknap was then the
collector of internal revenue at Keokuk, Iowa. I telegraphed him
and received a prompt and favorable answer. His name was sent to
the Senate, promptly confirmed, and he entered on his duties
October 25,1869. General Belknap surely had at that date as fair a
fame as any officer of volunteers of my personal acquaintance. He
took up the business where it was left off, and gradually fell into
the current which led to the command of the army itself as of the
legal and financial matters which properly pertain to the War
Department. Orders granting leaves of absence to officers,
transfers, discharges of soldiers for favor, and all the old
abuses, which had embittered the life of General Scott in the days
of Secretaries of War Marcy and Davis, were renewed. I called his
attention to these facts, but without sensible effect. My office
was under his in the old War Department, and one day I sent my
aide-de-camp, Colonel Audenried, up to him with some message, and
when he returned red as a beet, very much agitated, he asked me as
a personal favor never again to send him to General Belknap. I
inquired his reason, and he explained that he had been treated with
a rudeness and discourtesy he had never seen displayed by any
officer to a soldier. Colonel Audenried was one of the most
polished gentlemen in the army, noted for his personal bearing and
deportment, and I had some trouble to impress on him the patience
necessary for the occasion, but I promised on future occasions to
send some other or go myself. Things went on from bad to worse,
till in 1870 I received from Mr. Hugh Campbell, of St. Louis, a
personal friend and an honorable gentleman, a telegraphic message
complaining that I had removed from his position Mr. Ward, post
trader at Fort Laramie, with only a month in which to dispose of
his large stock of goods, to make room for his successor.
It so happened that we of the Indian Peace Commission had been much
indebted to this same trader, Ward, for advances of flour, sugar,
and coffee, to provide for the Crow Indians, who had come down from
their reservation on the Yellowstone to meet us in 1868, before our
own supplies had been received. For a time I could not-comprehend
the nature of Mr. Campbell's complaint, so I telegraphed to the
department commander, General C. C. Augur, at Omaha, to know if any
such occurrence had happened, and the reasons therefor. I received
a prompt answer that it was substantially true, and had been
ordered by The Secretary of War. It so happened that during
General Grant's command of the army Congress had given to the
general of the army the appointment of "post-traders." He had
naturally devolved it on the subordinate division and department
commanders, but the legal power remained with the general of the
army. I went up to the Secretary of War, showed him the
telegraphic correspondence, and pointed out the existing law in the
Revised Statutes. General Belknap was visibly taken aback, and
explained that he had supposed the right of appointment rested with
him, that Ward was an old rebel Democrat, etc.; whereas Ward had
been in fact the sutler of Fort Laramie, a United States military
post, throughout the civil war. I told him that I should revoke
his orders, and leave the matter where it belonged, to the local
council of administration and commanding officers. Ward was
unanimously reelected and reinstated. He remained the trader of
the post until Congress repealed the law, and gave back the power
of appointment to the Secretary of War, when of course he had to
go. But meantime he was able to make the necessary business
arrangements which saved him and his partners the sacrifice which
would have been necessary in the first instance. I never had any
knowledge whatever of General Belknap's transactions with the
traders at Fort Sill and Fort Lincoln which resulted in his
downfall. I have never sought to ascertain his motives for
breaking with me, because he knew I had always befriended him while
under my military command, and in securing him his office of
Secretary of War. I spoke frequently to President Grant of the
growing tendency of his Secretary of War to usurp all the powers of
the commanding general, which would surely result in driving me
away. He as frequently promised to bring us together to agree upon
a just line of separation of our respective offices, but never did.
Determined to bring the matter to an issue, I wrote the following
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE UNITED STATES,
WASHINGTON, D. C., August 17, 1870.
General W. W. BELKNAP, Secretary of War.
GENERAL: I must urgently and respectfully invite your attention
when at leisure to a matter of deep interest to future commanding
generals of the army more than to myself, of the imperative
necessity of fixing and clearly defining the limits of the powers
and duties of the general of the army or of whomsoever may succeed
to the place of commander-in-chief.
The case is well stated by General Grant in his letter of January
29, 1866, to the Secretary of War, Mr. Stanton, hereto appended,
and though I find no official answer recorded, I remember that
General Grant told me that the Secretary of War had promptly
assured him in conversation that he fully approved of his views as
expressed in this letter.
At that time the subject was much discussed, and soon after
Congress enacted the bill reviving the grade of general, which bill
was approved July 25, 1866, and provided that the general, when
commissioned, may be authorized under the direction and during the
pleasure of the President to command the armies of the United
States; and a few days after, viz., July 28, 1866, was enacted the
law which defined the military peace establishment. The enacting
clause reads: "That the military peace establishment of the United
States shall hereafter consist of five regiments of artillery, ten
regiments of cavalry, forty-five regiments of infantry, the
professors and Corps of Cadets of the United States Military
Academy, and such other forces as shall be provided for by this
act, to be known as the army of the United States."
The act then recites in great detail all the parts of the army,
making no distinction between the line and staff, but clearly makes
each and every part an element of the whole.
Section 37 provides for a board to revise the army regulations and
report; and declares that the regulations then in force, viz.,
those of 1863, should remain until Congress "shall act on said
report;" and section 38 and last enacts that all laws and parts of
laws inconsistent with the provisions of this act be and the same
are hereby repealed.
Under the provisions of this law my predecessor, General Grant, did
not hesitate to command and make orders to all parts of the army,
the Military Academy, and staff, and it was under his advice that
the new regulations were compiled in 1868 that drew the line more
clearly between the high and responsible duties of the Secretary of
War and the general of the army. He assured me many a time before
I was called here to succeed him that he wanted me to perfect the
distinction, and it was by his express orders that on assuming the
command of the army I specifically placed the heads of the staff
corps here in Washington in the exact relation to the army which
they would bear to an army in the field.
I am aware that subsequently, in his orders of March 26th, he
modified his former orders of March 5th, but only as to the heads
of bureaus in Washington, who have, he told me, certain functions
of office imposed on them by special laws of Congress, which laws,
of course, override all orders and regulations, but I did not
either understand from him in person, or from General Rawlins, at
whose instance this order was made, that it was designed in any way
to modify, alter, or change his purposes that division and
department commanders, as well as the general of the army, should
exercise the same command of the staff as they did of the line of
I need not remind the Secretary that orders and reports are made to
and from the Military Academy which the general does not even see,
though the Military Academy is specifically named as a part of that
army which he is required to command. Leaves of absence are
granted, the stations of officers are changed, and other orders are
now made directly to the army, not through the general, but direct
through other officials and the adjutant-general.
So long as this is the case I surely do not command the army of the
United States, and am not responsible for it.
I am aware that the confusion results from the fact that the
thirty-seventh section of the act of July 28, 1866, clothes the
army regulations of 1863 with the sanction of law, but the next
section repeals all laws and parts of laws inconsistent with the
provisions of this act. The regulations of 1863 are but a
compilation of orders made prior to the war, when such men as Davis
and Floyd took pleasure in stripping General Scott of even the
semblance of power, and purposely reduced him to a cipher in the
command of the army.
Not one word can be found in those regulations speaking of the
duties of the lieutenant-general commanding the army, or defining a
single act of authority rightfully devolving on him. Not a single
mention is made of the rights and duties of a commander-in-chief of
the army. He is ignored, and purposely, too, as a part of the
programme resulting in the rebellion, that the army without a
legitimate head should pass into the anarchy which these men were
shaping for the whole country.
I invite your attention to the army regulations of 1847, when our
best soldiers lived, among whom was your own father, and see
paragraphs 48 and 49, page 8, and they are so important that I
quote them entire:
"48. The military establishment is placed under the orders of the
major-general commanding in chief in all that regards its
discipline and military control. Its fiscal arrangements properly
belong to the administrative departments of the staff and to the
Treasury Department under the direction of the Secretary of War.
"49. The general of the army will watch over the economy of the
service in all that relates to the expenditure of money, supply of
arms, ordnance and ordnance stores, clothing, equipments,
camp-equipage, medical and hospital stores, barracks, quarters,
transportation, Military Academy, pay, and subsistence: in short,
everything which enters into the expenses of the military
establishment, whether personal or material. He will also see that
the estimates for the military service are based on proper data,
and made for the objects contemplated by law, and necessary to the
due support and useful employment of the army. In carrying into
effect these important duties, he will call to his counsel and
assistance the staff, and those officers proper, in his opinion, to
be employed in verifying and inspecting all the objects which may
require attention. The rules and regulations established for the
government of the army, and the laws relating to the military
establishment, are the guides to the commanding general in the
performance of his duties."
Why was this, or why was all mention of any field of duty for the
head of the army left out of the army regulations? Simply because
Jefferson Davis had a purpose, and absorbed to himself, as
Secretary of War, as General Grant well says, all the powers of
commander-in-chief. Floyd succeeded him, and the last regulations
of 1863 were but a new compilation of their orders, hastily
collected and published to supply a vast army with a new edition.
I contend that all parts of these regulations inconsistent with the
law of July 28, 1866, are repealed.
I surely do not ask for any power myself, but I hope and trust, now
when we have a military President and a military Secretary of War,
that in the new regulations to be laid before Congress next session
the functions and duties of the commander-in-chief will be so
clearly marked out and defined that they may be understood by
himself and the army at large.
I am, with great respect, your obedient servant,
W. T. SHERMAN, General.
WASHINGTON, January 29, 1866.
Hon. E. M. STANTON, Secretary of War:
From the period of the difficulties between Major-General (now
Lieutenant-General) Scott with Secretary Marcy, during the
administration of President Polk, the command of the army virtually
passed into the hands of the Secretary of War.
From that day to the breaking out of the rebellion the general-
in-chief never kept his headquarters in Washington, and could not,
consequently, with propriety resume his proper functions. To
administer the affairs of the army properly, headquarters and the
adjutant-general's office must be in the same place.
During the war, while in the field, my functions as commander of
all the armies was never impaired, but were facilitated in all
essential matters by the Administration and by the War Department.
Now, however, that the war is over, and I have brought my head-
quarters to the city, I find my present position embarrassing and,
I think, out of place. I have been intending, or did intend, to
make the beginning of the New Year the time to bring this matter
before you, with the view of asking to have the old condition of
affairs restored, but from diffidence about mentioning the matter
have delayed. In a few words I will state what I conceive to be my
duties and my place, and ask respectfully to be restored to them
The entire adjutant-general's office should be under the entire
control of the general-in-chief of the army. No orders should go
to the army, or the adjutant-general, except through the general-
in-chief. Such as require the action of the President would be
laid before the Secretary of War, whose actions would be regarded
as those of the President. In short, in my opinion, the general-
in-chief stands between the President and the army in all official
matters, and the Secretary of War is between the army (through the
general-in-chief) and the President.
I can very well conceive that a rule so long disregarded could not,
or would not, be restored without the subject being presented, and
I now do so respectfully for your consideration.
U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.
General Belknap never answered that letter.
In August, 1870, was held at Des Moines, Iowa, an encampment of old
soldiers which I attended, en route to the Pacific, and at Omaha
received this letter:
LONG BRANCH, New Jersey, August 18,1870.
General W. T. SHERMAN.
DEAR GENERAL: Your letter of the 7th inst. did not reach Long
Branch until after I had left for St. Louis, and consequently is
just before me for the first time. I do not know what changes
recent laws, particularly the last army bill passed, make in the
relations between the general of the army and the Secretary of War.
Not having this law or other statutes here, I cannot examine the
subject now, nor would I want to without consultation with the
Secretary of War. On our return to Washington I have no doubt but
that the relations between the Secretary and yourself can be made
pleasant, and the duties of each be so clearly defined as to leave
no doubt where the authority of one leaves off and the other
My own views, when commanding the army, were that orders to the
army should go through the general. No changes should be made,
however, either of the location of troops or officers, without the
knowledge of the Secretary of War.
In peace, the general commanded them without reporting to the
Secretary farther than he chose the specific orders he gave from
time to time, but subjected himself to orders from the Secretary,
the latter deriving his authority to give orders from the
President. As Congress has the right, however, to make rules and
regulations for the government of the army, rules made by them
whether they are as they should be or not, will have to govern. As
before stated, I have not examined the recent law.
U. S. GRANT.
To which I replied: