Part 7 out of 7
OMAHA, NEBRASKA, September 2,1870.
General U. S. GRANT, Washington, D. C.
DEAR GENERAL: I have received your most acceptable letter of August
18th, and assure you that I am perfectly willing to abide by any
decision you may make. We had a most enthusiastic meeting at Des
Moines, and General Bellknap gave us a fine, finished address. I
have concluded to go over to San Francisco to attend the annual
celebration of the Pioneers, to be held on the 9th instant; from
there I will make a short tour, aiming to get back to St. Louis by
the 1st of October, and so on to Washington without unnecessary
Conscious of the heavy burdens already on you, I should refrain
from adding one ounce to your load of care, but it seems to me now
is the time to fix clearly and plainly the field of duty for the
Secretary of War and the commanding general of the army, so that we
may escape the unpleasant controversy that gave so much scandal in
General Scott's time, and leave to our successors a clear field.
No matter what the result, I promise to submit to whatever decision
you may make. I also feel certain that General Belknap thinks he
is simply executing the law as it now stands, but I am equally
certain that he does not interpret the law reviving the grade of
general, and that fixing the "peace establishment" of 1868, as I
For instance, I am supposed to control the discipline of the
Military Academy as a part of the army, whereas General Belknap
ordered a court of inquiry in the case of the colored cadet, made
the detail, reviewed the proceedings, and made his order, without
my knowing a word of it, except through the newspapers; and more
recently, when I went to Chicago to attend to some division
business, I found the inspector-general (Hardie) under orders from
the Secretary of War to go to Montana on some claim business.
All I ask is that such orders should go through me. If all the
staff-officers are subject to receive orders direct from the
Secretary of War it will surely clash with the orders they may be
in the act of executing from me, or from their immediate
I ask that General Belknap draw up some clear, well-defined rules
for my action, that he show them to me before publication, that I
make on them my remarks, and then that you make a final decision.
I promise faithfully to abide by it, or give up my commission.
Please show this to General Belknap, and I will be back early in
October. With great respect, your friend,
W. T. SHERMAN
I did return about October 15th, saw President Grant, who said
nothing had been done in the premises, but that he would bring
General Belknap and me together and settle this matter. Matters
went along pretty much as usual till the month of August, 1871,
when I dined at the Arlington with Admiral Alder and General
Belknap. The former said he had been promoted to rear-admiral and
appointed to command the European squadron, then at Villa Franca,
near Nice, and that he was going out in the frigate Wabash,
inviting me to go along. I had never been to Europe, and the
opportunity was too tempting to refuse. After some preliminaries I
agreed to go along, taking with me as aides-de-camp Colonel
Audenried and Lieutenant Fred Grant. The Wabash was being
overhauled at the Navy-Yard at Boston, and was not ready to sail
till November, when she came to New-York, where we all embarked
Saturday, November 11th.
I have very full notes of the whole trip, and here need only state
that we went out to the Island of Madeira, and thence to Cadiz and
Gibraltar. Here my party landed, and the Wabash went on to Villa
Franca. From Gibraltar we made the general tour of Spain to
Bordeaux, through the south of France to Marseilles, Toulon, etc.,
to Nice, from which place we rejoined the Wabash and brought ashore
From Nice we went to Genoa, Turin, the Mont Cenis Tunnel, Milan,
Venice, etc., to Rome. Thence to Naples, Messina, and Syracuse,
where we took a steamer to Malta. From Malta to Egypt and
Constantinople, to Sebastopol, Poti, and Tiflis. At Constantinople
and Sebastopol my party was increased by Governor Curtin, his son,
and Mr. McGahan.
It was my purpose to have reached the Caspian, and taken boats to
the Volga, and up that river as far as navigation would permit, but
we were dissuaded by the Grand-Duke Michael, Governor-General of
the Caucasas, and took carriages six hundred miles to Taganrog, on
the Sea of Azof, to which point the railroad system of Russia was
completed. From Taganrog we took cars to Moscow and St.
Petersburg. Here Mr. Curtin and party remained, he being our
Minister at that court; also Fred Grant left us to visit his aunt
at Copenhagen. Colonel Audenried and I then completed the tour of
interior Europe, taking in Warsaw, Berlin, Vienna, Switzerland,
France, England, Scotland, and Ireland, embarking for home in the
good steamer Baltic, Saturday, September 7, 1872, reaching
Washington, D. C., September 22d. I refrain from dwelling on this
trip, because it would swell this chapter beyond my purpose.
When I regained my office I found matters unchanged since my
departure, the Secretary of War exercising all the functions of
commander-in-chief, and I determined to allow things to run to their
necessary conclusion. In 1873 my daughter Minnie also made a trip
to Europe, and I resolved as soon as she returned that I would
simply move back to St. Louis to execute my office there as best I
could. But I was embarrassed by being the possessor of a large
piece of property in Washington on I Street, near the corner of
Third, which I could at the time neither sell nor give away. It
came into my possession as a gift from friends in New York and
Boston, who had purchased it of General Grant and transferred to me
at the price of $65,000.
The house was very large, costly to light, heat, and maintain, and
Congress had reduced my pay four or five thousand dollars a year,
so that I was gradually being impoverished. Taxes, too, grew
annually, from about four hundred dollars a year to fifteen
hundred, besides all sorts of special taxes.
Finding myself caught in a dilemma, I added a new hall, and made
out of it two houses, one of which I occupied, and the other I
rented, and thus matters stood in 1873-'74. By the agency of Mr.
Hall, a neighbor and broker, I effected a sale of the property to
the present owner, Mr. Emory, at a fair price, accepting about half
payment in notes, and the other half in a piece of property on E
Street, which I afterward exchanged for a place in Cite Brilliante,
a suburb of St. Louis, which I still own. Being thus foot-loose,
and having repeatedly notified President Grant of my purpose, I
wrote the Secretary of War on the 8th day of May, 1874, asking the
authority of the President and the War Department to remove my
headquarters to St. Louis.
On the 11th day of May General Belknap replied that I had the
assent of the President and himself, inclosing the rough draft of
an order to accomplish this result, which I answered on the 15th,
expressing my entire satisfaction, only requesting delay in the
publication of the orders till August or September, as I preferred
to make the changes in the month of October.
On the 3d of September these orders were made:
WAR DEPARTMENT, ADJUTANT-GENERAL'S OFFICE, WASHINGTON, September 8,
General Orders No. 108.
With the assent of the President, and at the request of the
General, the headquarters of the armies of the United States will
be established at St. Louis, Missouri, in the month of October
The regulations and orders now governing the functions of the
General of the Army, and those in relation to transactions of
business with the War Department and its bureaus, will continue in
By order of the Secretary of War:
E. D. TOWNSEND, Adjutant-General.
Our daughter Minnie was married October 1, 1874, to Thomas W.
Fitch, United States Navy, and we all forthwith packed up and
regained our own house at St. Louis, taking an office on the corner
of Tenth and Locust Streets. The only staff I brought with me were
the aides allowed by law, and, though we went through the forms of
"command," I realized that it was a farce, and it did not need a
prophet to foretell it would end in a tragedy. We made ourselves
very comfortable, made many pleasant excursions into the interior,
had a large correspondence, and escaped the mortification of being
slighted by men in Washington who were using their temporary power
for selfish ends.
Early in March, 1676, appeared in all the newspapers of the day the
sensational report from Washington that Secretary of War Belknap
had been detected in selling sutlerships in the army; that he had
confessed it to Representative Blackburn, of Kentucky; that he had
tendered his resignation, which had been accepted by the President;
and that he was still subject to impeachment,--would be impeached
and tried by the Senate. I was surprised to learn that General
Belknap was dishonest in money matters, for I believed him a brave
soldier, and I sorely thought him honest; but the truth was soon
revealed from Washington, and very soon after I received from Judge
Alphonso Taft, of Cincinnati, a letter informing me that he had
been appointed Secretary of War, and should insist on my immediate
return to Washington. I answered that I was ready to go to
Washington, or anywhere, if assured of decent treatment.
I proceeded to Washington, when, on the 6th of April, were
published these orders:
General Orders No. 28.
The following orders of the President of the United States are
hereby promulgated for the information and guidance of all
The headquarters of the army are hereby reestablished at Washington
City, and all orders and instructions relative to military
operations or affecting the military control and discipline of the
army issued by the President through the Secretary of War, shall be
promulgated through the General of the Army, and the departments of
the Adjutant-General and the Inspector-General shall report to him,
and be under his control in all matters relating thereto.
By order of the Secretary of War:
E. D. TOWNSEND, Adjutant-General.
This was all I had ever asked; accordingly my personal staff were
brought back to Washington, where we resumed our old places; only I
did not, for some time, bring back the family, and then only to a
rented house on Fifteenth Street, which we occupied till we left
Washington for good. During the period from 1876 to 1884 we had as
Secretaries of War in succession, the Hon's. Alphonso Taft, J. D.
Cameron, George W. McCrary, Alexander Ramsey, and R. T. Lincoln,
with each and all of whom I was on terms of the most intimate and
And here I will record of Washington that I saw it, under the magic
hand of Alexander R. Shepherd, grow from a straggling, ill-paved
city, to one of the cleanest, most beautiful, and attractive cities
of the whole world. Its climate is salubrious, with as much
sunshine as any city of America. The country immediately about it
is naturally beautiful and romantic, especially up the Potomac, in
the region of the Great Falls; and, though the soil be poor as
compared with that of my present home, it is susceptible of easy
improvement and embellishment. The social advantages cannot be
surpassed even in London, Paris, or Vienna; and among the resident
population, the members of the Supreme Court, Senate, House of
Representatives, army, navy, and the several executive departments,
may be found an intellectual class one cannot encounter in our
commercial and manufacturing cities. The student may, without tax
and without price, have access, in the libraries of Congress and of
the several departments, to books of every nature and kind; and the
museums of natural history are rapidly approaching a standard of
comparison with the best of the world. Yet it is the usual and
proper center of political intrigue, from which the army especially
should keep aloof, because the army must be true and faithful to
the powers that be, and not be subjected to a temptation to favor
one or other of the great parties into which our people have
divided, and will continue to divide, it may be, with advantage to
It would be a labor of love for me, in this connection, to pay a
tribute of respect, by name, to the many able and most patriotic
officers with whom I was so long associated as the commanding
generals of military divisions and departments, as well as
staff-officers; but I must forego the temptation, because of the
magnitude of the subject, certain that each and all of them will
find biographers better posted and more capable than myself; and I
would also like to make recognition of the hundreds of acts of most
graceful hospitality on the part of the officers and families at
our remote military posts in the days, of the "adobe," the "jacal,"
and "dug-out," when a board floor and a shingle roof were luxuries
expected by none except the commanding officer. I can see, in
memory, a beautiful young city-bred lady, who had married a poor
second-lieutenant, and followed him to his post on the plains,
whose quarters were in a "dug-out" ten feet by about fifteen, seven
feet high, with a dirt roof; four feet of the walls were the
natural earth, the other three of sod, with holes for windows and
corn-sacks for curtains. This little lady had her Saratoga trunk,
which was the chief article of furniture; yet, by means of a rug on
the ground-floor, a few candle-boxes covered with red cotton calico
for seats, a table improvised out of a barrel-head, and a fireplace
and chimney excavated in the back wall or bank, she had transformed
her "hole in the ground" into a most attractive home for her young
warrior husband; and she entertained me with a supper consisting of
the best of coffee, fried ham, cakes, and jellies from the
commissary, which made on my mind an impression more lasting than
have any one of the hundreds of magnificent banquets I have since
attended in the palaces and mansions of our own and foreign lands.
Still more would I like to go over again the many magnificent trips
made across the interior plains, mountains, and deserts before the
days of the completed Pacific Railroad, with regular "Doughertys"
drawn by four smart mules, one soldier with carbine or loaded
musket in hand seated alongside the driver; two in the back seat
with loaded rifles swung in the loops made for them; the lightest
kind of baggage, and generally a bag of oats to supplement the
grass, and to attach the mules to their camp. With an outfit of
two, three, or four of such, I have made journeys of as much as
eighteen hundred miles in a single season, usually from post to
post, averaging in distance about two hundred miles a week, with as
much regularity as is done today by the steam-car its five hundred
miles a day; but those days are gone, and, though I recognize the
great national advantages of the more rapid locomotion, I cannot
help occasionally regretting the change. One instance in 1866
rises in my memory, which I must record: Returning eastward from
Fort Garland, we ascended the Rocky Mountains to the Sangre-de-
Cristo Pass. The road descending the mountain was very rough and
sidling. I got out with my rifle, and walked ahead about four
miles, where I awaited my "Dougherty." After an hour or so I saw,
coming down the road, a wagon; and did not recognize it as my own
till quite near. It had been upset, the top all mashed in, and no
means at hand for repairs. I consequently turned aside from the
main road to a camp of cavalry near the Spanish Peaks, where we
were most hospitably received by Major A---- and his accomplished
wife. They occupied a large hospital-tent, which about a dozen
beautiful greyhounds were free to enter at will. The ambulance was
repaired, and the next morning we renewed our journey, escorted by
the major and his wife on their fine saddle-horses.
They accompanied us about ten miles of the way; and, though age has
since begun to tell on them, I shall ever remember them in their
pride and strength as they galloped alongside our wagons down the
long slopes of the Spanish Peaks in a driving snow-storm.
And yet again would it be a pleasant task to recall the many
banquets and feasts of the various associations of officers and
soldiers, who had fought the good battles of the civil war, in
which I shared as a guest or host, when we could indulge in a
reasonable amount of glorification at deeds done and recorded, with
wit, humor, and song; these when memory was fresh, and when the old
soldiers were made welcome to the best of cheer and applause in
every city and town of the land. But no! I must hurry to my
conclusion, for this journey has already been sufficiently
I had always intended to divide time with my natural successor,
General P. H. Sheridan, and early, notified him that I should about
the year 1884 retire from the command of the army, leaving him
about an equal period of time for the highest office in the army.
It so happened that Congress had meantime by successive "enactments"
cut down the army to twenty-five thousand men, the usual strength
of a corps d'armee, the legitimate command of a lieutenant-general.
Up to 1882 officers not disabled by wounds or sickness could only
avail themselves of the privileges of retirement on application,
after thirty years of service, at sixty-two years of age; but on
the 30th of June, 1882, a bill was passed which, by operation of
the law itself, compulsorily retired all army officers, regardless
of rank, at the age of sixty-four years. At the time this law was
debated in Congress, I was consulted by Senators and others in the
most friendly manner, representing that, if I wanted it, an
exception could justly and easily be made in favor of the general
and lieutenant-general, whose commissions expired with their lives;
but I invariably replied that I did not ask or expect an exception
in my case, because no one could know or realize when his own
mental and physical powers began to decline. I remembered well the
experience of Gil Blas with the Bishop of Granada, and favored the
passage of the law fixing a positive period for retirement, to
obviate in the future special cases of injustice such as I had seen
in the recent past. The law was passed, and every officer then knew
the very day on which he must retire, and could make his
preparations accordingly. In my own case the law was liberal in
the extreme, being "without reduction in his current pay and
I would be sixty-four years old on the 8th of February, 1884, a
date inconvenient to move, and not suited to other incidents; so I
resolved to retire on the 1st day of November, 1883, to resume my
former home at St. Louis, and give my successor ample time to meet
the incoming Congress, But, preliminary thereto, I concluded to
make one more tour of the continent, going out to the Pacific by
the Northern route, and returning by that of the thirty-fifth
parallel. This we accomplished, beginning at Buffalo, June 21st,
and ending at St. Louis, Missouri, September 30, 1883, a full and
most excellent account of which can be found in Colonel Tidball's
"Diary," which forms part of the report of the General of the Army
for the year 1883.
Before retiring also, as was my duty, I desired that my aides-
de-camp who had been so faithful and true to me should not suffer
by my act. All were to retain the rank of colonels of cavalry till
the last day, February 8, 1884; but meantime each secured places,
Colonel O. M. Poe was lieutenant-colonel of the Engineer Corps
United States Army, and was by his own choice assigned to Detroit
in charge of the engineering works on the Upper Lakes, which duty
was most congenial to him.
Colonel J. C. Tidball was assigned to command the Artillery School
at Fort Monroe, by virtue of his commission as lieutenant-colonel,
Third Artillery, a station for which he was specially qualified.
Colonel John E. Tourtelotte was then entitled to promotion to
major of the Seventh Cavalry, a rank in which he could be certain
of an honorable command.
The only remaining aide-de-camp was Colonel John M. Bacon, who
utterly ignored self in his personal attachment to me. He was then
a captain of the Ninth Cavalry, but with almost a certainty of
promotion to be major of the Seventh before the date of my official
retirement, which actually resulted. The last two accompanied me
to St. Louis, and remained with me to the end. Having previously
accomplished the removal of my family to St. Louis, and having
completed my last journey to the Pacific, I wrote the following
HEADQUARTERS ARMY UNITED STATES,
WASHINGTON, D. C., October 8, 1883.
Hon. R. T. LINCOLN, Secretary of War.
SIR: By the act of Congress, approved June 30, 1882, all
army-officers are retired on reaching the age of sixty-four years.
If living, I will attain that age on the 8th day of February, 1884;
but as that period of the year is not suited for the changes
necessary on my retirement, I have contemplated anticipating the
event by several months, to enable the President to meet these
changes at a more convenient season of the year, and also to enable
my successor to be in office before the assembling of the next
I therefore request authority to turn over the command of the army
to Lieutenant-General Sheridan on the 1st day of November, 1883,
and that I be ordered to my home at St. Louis, Missouri, there to
await the date of my legal retirement; and inasmuch as for a long
time I must have much correspondence about war and official
matters, I also ask the favor to have with me for a time my two
present aides-de-camp, Colonels J. E. Tourtelotte and J. M. Bacon.
The others of my personal staff, viz., Colonels O. M. Poe and J.
C. Tidball, have already been assigned to appropriate duties in
their own branches of the military service, the engineers and
artillery. All should retain the rank and pay as aides-de-camp
until February 8,1884. By or before the 1st day of November I can
complete all official reports, and believe I can surrender the army
to my successor in good shape and condition, well provided in all
respects, and distributed for the best interests of the country.
I am grateful that my physical and mental-strength remain
unimpaired by years, and am thankful for the liberal provision made
by Congress for my remaining years, which will enable me to respond
promptly to any call the President may make for my military service
or judgment as long as I live. I have the honor to be your
W. T. SHERMAN, General.
The answer was:
WASHINGTON CITY, October 10, 1888.
General W. T. SHERMAN, Washington, D. C.
GENERAL: I have submitted to the President your letter of the 8th
instant, requesting that you be relieved of the command of the army
on the 1st of November next, as a more convenient time for making
the changes in military commands which must follow your retirement
from active service, than would be the date of your retirement
under the law.
In signifying his approval of your request, the President directs
me to express to you his earnest hope that there may be given you
many years of health and happiness in which to enjoy the gratitude
of your fellow-citizens, well earned by your most distinguished
It will give me pleasure to comply with your wishes respecting your
aides-de-camp, and the necessary orders will be duly issued.
I have the honor to be, General, your obedient servant,
ROBERT T. LINCOLN, Secretary of War.
On the 27th day of October I submitted to the Secretary of
War, the Hon. R. T. Lincoln, my last annual report, embracing among
other valuable matters the most interesting and condensed report of
Colonel O. M. Poe, A. D. C., of the "original conception, progress,
and completion" of the four great transcontinental railways, which
have in my judgment done more for the subjugation and civilization
of the Indians than all other causes combined, and have made
possible the utilization of the vast area of pasture lands and
mineral regions which before were almost inaccessible, for my
agency in which I feel as much pride as for my share in any of the
battles in which I took part.
Promptly on the 1st of November were made the following general
orders, and the command of the Army of the United States passed
from me to Lieutenant-General P. H. Sheridan, with as little
ceremony as would attend the succession of the lieutenant-colonel
of a regiment to his colonel about to take a leave of absence:
HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMY
WASHINGTON, November 1, 1885.
General Orders No. 77:
By and with the consent of the President, as contained in General
Orders No. 71, of October 13, 1883, the undersigned relinquishes
command of the Army of the United States.
In thus severing relations which have hitherto existed between us,
he thanks all officers and men for their fidelity to the high trust
imposed on them during his official life, and will, in his
retirement, watch with parental solicitude their progress upward in
the noble profession to which they have devoted their lives.
W. T. SHERMAN, General.
Official: R. C. DRUM, Adjutant-General.
HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMY
WASHINGTON, November 1, 1885.
General Orders No. 78:
In obedience to orders of the President, promulgated in General
Orders No. 71, October 13, 1883, from these headquarters, the
undersigned hereby assumes command of the Army of the United
P. H. SHERIDAN, Lieutenant-General.
Official: R. C. DRUM, adjutant-General.
After a few days in which to complete my social visits, and after a
short visit to my daughter, Mrs. A. M. Thackara, at Philadelphia, I
quietly departed for St. Louis; and, as I hope, for "good and all,"
the family was again reunited in the same place from which we were
driven by a cruel, unnecessary civil war initiated in Charleston
Harbor in April, 1861.
On the 8th day of February, 1884; I was sixty-four years of age,
and therefore retired by the operation of the act of Congress,
approved June 30, 1882; but the fact was gracefully noticed by
President Arthur in the following general orders:
WAR DEPARTMENT, ADJUTANT GENERAL'S OFFICE,
WASHINGTON, February 8, 1984.
The following order of the President is published to the army:
EXECUTIVE MANSION, February 8, 1884.
General William T. Sherman, General of the Army, having this day
reached the age of sixty-four years, is, in accordance with the
law, placed upon the retired list of the army, without reduction in
his current pay and allowances.
The announcement of the severance from the command of the army of
one who has been for so many years its distinguished chief, can but
awaken in the minds, not only of the army, but of the people of the
United States, mingled emotions of regret and gratitude--regret at
the withdrawal from active military service of an officer whose
lofty sense of duty has been a model for all soldiers since he
first entered the army in July, 1840; and gratitude, freshly
awakened, for the services of incalculable value rendered by him in
the war for the Union, which his great military genius and daring
did so much to end.
The President deems this a fitting occasion to give expression, in
this manner, to the gratitude felt toward General Sherman by his
fellow-citizens, and to the hope that Providence may grant him many
years of health and happiness in the relief from the active duties
of his profession.
By order of the Secretary of War:
CHESTER A. ARTHUR.
R. C. DRUM, Adjutant-General.
To which I replied:
St. Louis, February 9, 1884.
His Excellency CHESTER A. ARTHUR,
President of the United States.
DEAR SIR: Permit me with a soldier's frankness to thank you
personally for the handsome compliment bestowed in general orders
of yesterday, which are reported in the journals of the day. To me
it was a surprise and a most agreeable one. I had supposed the
actual date of my retirement would form a short paragraph in the
common series of special orders of the War Department; but as the
honored Executive of our country has made it the occasion for his
own hand to pen a tribute of respect and affection to an officer
passing from the active stage of life to one of ease and rest, I
can only say I feel highly honored, and congratulate myself in thus
rounding out my record of service in a manner most gratifying to my
family and friends. Not only this, but I feel sure, when the
orders of yesterday are read on parade to the regiments and
garrisons of the United States, many a young hero will tighten his
belt, and resolve anew to be brave and true to the starry flag,
which we of our day have carried safely through one epoch of
danger, but which may yet be subjected to other trials, which may
demand similar sacrifices, equal fidelity and courage, and a larger
measure of intelligence. Again thanking you for so marked a
compliment, and reciprocating the kind wishes for the future,
I am, with profound respect, your friend and servant,
W. T. SHERMAN, General.
This I construe as the end of my military career. In looking back
upon the past I can only say, with millions of others, that I have
done many things I should not have done, and have left undone still
more which ought to have been done; that I can see where hundreds
of opportunities have been neglected, but on the whole am content;
and feel sure that I can travel this broad country of ours, and be
each night the welcome guest in palace or cabin; and, as
"all the world's stage,
And all the men and women merely players,"
I claim the privilege to ring down the curtain.
W. T. SHERMAN, General.