Part 10 out of 10
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that he had repealed his own orders, but not mine, and that he had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:
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.