Part 9 out of 10
Europeans frequently criticised our war, because we did not always
take full advantage of a victory; the true reason was, that
habitually the woods served as a screen, and we often did not
realize the fact that our enemy had retreated till he was already
miles away and was again intrenched, having left a mere
shirmish-line to cover the movement, in turn to fall back to the
Our war was fought with the muzzle-loading rifle. Toward the close
I had one brigade(Walcutt's)armed with breech-loading "Spencer's;"
the cavalry generally had breach-loading carbines, "Spencer's" and
"Sharp's," both of which were good arms.
The only change that breech-loading arms will probably make in the
art and practice of war will be to increase the amount of
ammunition to be expended, and necessarily to be carried along; to
still further "thin out" the lines of attack, and to reduce battles
to short, quick, decisive conflicts. It does not in the least
affect the grand strategy, or the necessity for perfect
organization, drill, and discipline. The, companies and battalions
will be more dispersed, and the men will be less under the
immediate eye of their officers, and therefore a higher order of
intelligence and courage on the part of the individual soldier will
be an element of strength.
When a regiment is deployed as skirmishers, and crosses an open
field or woods, under heavy fire, if each man runs forward from
tree to tree, or stump to stump, and yet preserves a good general
alignment, it gives great confidence to the men themselves, for
they always keep their eyes well to the right and left, and watch
their comrades; but when some few hold back, stick too close or too
long to a comfortable log, it often stops the line and defeats the
whole object. Therefore, the more we improve the fire-arm the more
will be the necessity for good organization, good discipline and
intelligence on the part of the individual soldier and officer.
There is, of course, such a thing as individual courage, which has
a value in war, but familiarity with danger, experience in war and
its common attendants, and personal habit, are equally valuable
traits, and these are the qualities with which we usually have to
deal in war. All men naturally shrink from pain and danger, and
only incur their risk from some higher motive, or from habit; so
that I would define true courage to be a perfect sensibility of the
measure of danger, and a mental willingness to incur it, rather
than that insensibility to danger of which I have heard far more
than I have seen. The most courageous men are generally
unconscious of possessing the quality; therefore, when one
professes it too openly, by words or bearing, there is reason to
mistrust it. I would further illustrate my meaning by describing a
man of true courage to be one who possesses all his faculties and
senses perfectly when serious danger is actually present.
Modern wars have not materially changed the relative values or
proportions of the several arms of service: infantry, artillery,
cavalry, and engineers. If any thing, the infantry has been
increased in value. The danger of cavalry attempting to charge
infantry armed with breech-loading rifles was fully illustrated at
Sedan, and with us very frequently. So improbable has such a thing
become that we have omitted the infantry-square from our recent
tactics. Still, cavalry against cavalry, and as auxiliary to
infantry, will always be valuable, while all great wars will, as
heretofore, depend chiefly on the infantry. Artillery is more
valuable with new and inexperienced troops than with veterans. In
the early stages of the war the field-guns often bore the
proportion of six to a thousand men; but toward the close of the
war one gun; or at most two, to a thousand men, was deemed enough.
Sieges; such as characterized the wars of the last century, are too
slow for this period of the world, and the Prussians recently
almost ignored them altogether, penetrated France between the
forts, and left a superior force "in observation," to watch the
garrison and accept its surrender when the greater events of the
war ahead made further resistance useless; but earth-forts, and
especially field-works, will hereafter play an important part in
war, because they enable a minor force to hold a superior one in
check for a time, and time is a most valuable element in all wars.
It was one of Prof. Mahan's maxims that the spade was as useful in
war as the musket, and to this I will add the axe. The habit of
intrenching certainly does have the effect of making new troops
timid. When a line of battle is once covered by a good parapet,
made by the engineers or by the labor of the men themselves, it
does require an effort to make them leave it in the face of danger;
but when the enemy is intrenched, it becomes absolutely necessary
to permit each brigade and division of the troops immediately
opposed to throw up a corresponding trench for their own protection
in case of a sudden sally. We invariably did this in all our
recent campaigns, and it had no ill effect, though sometimes our
troops were a little too slow in leaving their well-covered lines
to assail the enemy in position or on retreat. Even our
skirmishers were in the habit of rolling logs together, or of
making a lunette of rails, with dirt in front, to cover their
bodies; and, though it revealed their position, I cannot say that
it worked a bad effect; so that, as a rule, it may safely be left
to the men themselves: On the "defensive," there is no doubt of the
propriety of fortifying; but in the assailing army the general must
watch closely to see that his men do not neglect an opportunity to
drop his precautionary defenses, and act promptly on the
"offensive" at every chance.
I have many a time crept forward to the skirmish-line to avail
myself of the cover of the pickets "little fort," to observe more
closely some expected result; and always talked familiarly with the
men, and was astonished to see how well they comprehended the
general object, and how accurately they were informed of the sate
of facts existing miles away from their particular corps. Soldiers
are very quick to catch the general drift and purpose of a
campaign, and are always sensible when they are well commanded or
well cared for. Once impressed with this fact, and that they are
making progress, they bear cheerfully any amount of labor and
In camp, and especially in the presence of an active enemy, it is
much easier to maintain discipline than in barracks in time of
peace. Crime and breaches of discipline are much less frequent,
and the necessity for courts-martial far less. The captain can
usually inflict all the punishment necessary, and the colonel
should always. The field-officers' court is the best form for war,
viz., one of the field-officers-the lieutenant-colonel or major
--can examine the case and report his verdict, and the colonel
should execute it. Of course, there are statutory offenses which
demand a general court-martial, and these must be ordered by the
division or corps commander; but, the presence of one of our
regular civilian judge-advocates in an army in the field would be a
first-class nuisance, for technical courts always work mischief.
Too many courts-martial in any command are evidence of poor
diacipline and inefficient officers.
For the rapid transmission of orders in an army covering a large
space of ground, the magnetic telegraph is by far the best, though
habitually the paper and pencil, with good mounted orderlies,
answer every purpose. I have little faith in the signal-service by
flags and torches, though we always used them; because, almost
invariably when they were most needed, the view was cut off by
intervening trees, or by mists and fogs. There was one notable
instance in my experience, when the signal-flags carried a message.
of vital importance over the heads of Hood's army, which had
interposed between me and Allatoona, and had broken the
telegraph-wires--as recorded in Chapter XIX.; but the value of the
magnetic telegraph in war cannot be exaggerated, as was illustrated
by the perfect concert of action between the armies in Virginia and
Georgia during 1864. Hardly a day intervened when General Grant
did not know the exact state of facts with me, more than fifteen
hundred miles away as the wires ran. So on the field a thin
insulated wire may be run on improvised stakes or from tree to tree
for six or more miles in a couple of hours, and I have seen
operators so skillful, that by cutting the wire they would receive
a message with their tongues from a distant station. As a matter
of course, the ordinary commercial wires along the railways form
the usual telegraph-lines for an army, and these are easily
repaired and extended as the army advances, but each army and wing
should have a small party of skilled men to put up the field-wire,
and take it down when done. This is far better than the
signal-flags and torches. Our commercial telegraph-lines will
always supply for war enough skillful operators.
The value of railways is also fully recognized in war quite as much
as, if not more so than, in peace. The Atlanta campaign would
simply have been impossible without the use of the railroads from
Louisville to Nashville--one hundred and eighty-five miles--from
Nashville to Chattanooga--one hundred and fifty-one miles--and from
Chattanooga to Atlanta--one hundred and thirty-seven miles. Every
mile of this "single track" was so delicate, that one man could in
a minute have broken or moved a rail, but our trains usually
carried along the tools and means to repair such a break. We had,
however, to maintain strong guards and garrisons at each important
bridge or trestle--the destruction of which would have necessitated
time for rebuilding. For the protection of a bridge, one or two
log block houses, two stories high, with a piece of ordnance and a
small infantry guard, usually sufficed. The block-house had a
small parapet and ditch about it, and the roof was made shot proof
by earth piled on. These points could usually be reached only by a
dash of the enemy's cavalry, and many of these block houses
successfully resisted serious attacks by both cavalry and
artillery. The only block-house that was actually captured on the
main was the one described near Allatoona. Our trains from
Nashville forward were operated under military rules, and ran about
ten miles an hour in gangs of four trains of ten cars each. Four
such groups of trains daily made one hundred and sixty cars, of ten
tons each, carrying sixteen hundred tons, which exceeded the
absolute necessity of the army, and allowed for the accidents that
were common and inevitable. But, as I have recorded, that single
stem of railroad, four hundred and seventy-three miles long,
supplied an army of one hundred thousand men and thirty-five
thousand animals for the period of one hundred and ninety-six days,
viz., from May 1 to November 12, 1864. To have delivered regularly
that amount of food and forage by ordinary wagons would have
required thirty-six thousand eight hundred wagons of six mules
each, allowing each wagon to have hauled two tons twenty miles each
day, a simple impossibility in roads such as then existed in that
region of country. Therefore, I reiterate that the Atlanta
campaign was an impossibility without these railroads; and only
then, because we had the men and means to maintain and defend them,
in addition to what were necessary to overcome the enemy.
Habitually, a passenger-car will carry fifty men with their
necessary baggage. Box-cars, and even platform-cars, answer the
purpose well enough, but they, should always have rough
board-seats. For sick and wounded men, box-cars filled with straw
or bushes were usually employed. Personally, I saw but little of
the practical working of the railroads, for I only turned back once
as far as Resaca; but I had daily reports from the engineer in
charge, and officers who came from the rear often explained to me
the whole thing, with a description of the wrecked trains all the
way from Nashville to Atlanta. I am convinced that the risk to
life to the engineers and men on that railroad fully equaled that
on the skirmish-line, called for as high an order of courage, and
fully equaled it in importance. Still, I doubt if there be any
necessity in time of peace to organize a corps specially to work
the military railroads in time of war, because in peace these same
men gain all the necessary experience, possess all the daring and
courage of soldiers, and only need the occasional protection and
assistance of the necessary train-guard, which may be composed of
the furloughed men coming and going, or of details made from the
local garrisons to the rear.
For the transfer of large armies by rail, from one theatre of
action to another by the rear--the cases of the transfer of the
Eleventh and Twelfth Corps--General Hooker, twenty-three thousand
men--from the East to Chattanooga, eleven hundred and ninety-two
miles in seven days, in the fall of 1863; and that of the Army of
the Ohio--General Schofield, fifteen thousand men--from the valley
of the Tennessee to Washington, fourteen hundred miles in eleven
days, en route to North Carolina in January, 1865, are the best
examples of which I have any knowledge, and reference to these is
made in the report of the Secretary of War, Mr. Stanton, dated
November 22, 1865.
Engineer troops attached to an army are habitually employed in
supervising the construction of forts or field works of a nature
more permanent than the lines need by the troops in motion, and in
repairing roads and making bridges. I had several regiments of
this kind that were most useful, but as a rule we used the
infantry, or employed parties of freedmen, who worked on the
trenches at night while the soldiers slept, and these in turn
rested by day. Habitually the repair of the railroad and its
bridges was committed to hired laborers, like the English navies,
under the supervision of Colonel W. W. Wright, a railroad-engineer,
who was in the military service at the time, and his successful
labors were frequently referred to in the official reports of the
For the passage of rivers, each army corps had a pontoon-train with
a detachment of engineers, and, on reaching a river, the leading
infantry division was charged with the labor of putting it down.
Generally the single pontoon-train could provide for nine hundred
feet of bridge, which sufficed; but when the rivers were very wide
two such trains would be brought together, or the single train was
supplemented by a trestle-bridge, or bridges made on crib-work, out
of timber found near the place. The pontoons in general use were
skeleton frames, made with a hinge, so as to fold back and
constitute a wagon-body. In this same wagon were carried the
cotton canvas cover, the anchor and chains, and a due proportion of
the balks, cheeses, and lashings. All the troops became very
familiar with their mechanism and use, and we were rarely delayed
by reason of a river, however broad. I saw, recently, in
Aldershot, England, a very complete pontoon-train; the boats were
sheathed with wood and felt, made very light; but I think these
were more liable to chafing and damage in rough handling than were
our less expensive and rougher boats. On the whole, I would prefer
the skeleton frame and canvas cover to any style of pontoon that I
have ever seen.
In relation to guards, pickets, and vedettes, I doubt if any
discoveries or improvements were made during our war, or in any of
the modern wars in Europe. These precautions vary with the nature
of the country and the situation of each army. When advancing or
retreating in line of battle, the usual skirmish-line constitutes
the picket-line, and may have "reserves," but usually the main line
of battle constitutes the reserve; and in this connection I will
state that the recent innovation introduced into the new infantry
tactics by General Upton is admirable, for by it each regiment,
brigade, and division deployed, sends forward as "skirmishers" the
one man of each set of fours, to cover its own front, and these can
be recalled or reenforced at pleasure by the bugle-signal.
For flank-guards and rear-guards, one or more companies should be
detached under their own officers, instead of making up the guard
by detailing men from the several companies.
For regimental or camp guards, the details should be made according
to existing army regulations; and all the guards should be posted
early in the evening, so as to afford each sentinel or vedette a
chance to study his ground before it becomes too dark.
In like manner as to the staff. The more intimately it comes into
contact with the troops, the more useful and valuable it becomes.
The almost entire separation of the staff from the line, as now
practised by us, and hitherto by the French, has proved
mischievous, and the great retinues of staff-officers with which
some of our earlier generals began the war were simply ridiculous.
I don't believe in a chief of staff at all, and any general
commanding an army, corps, or division, that has a staff-officer
who professes to know more than his chief, is to be pitied. Each
regiment should have a competent adjutant, quartermaster, and
commissary, with two or three medical officers. Each brigade
commander should have the same staff, with the addition of a couple
of young aides-de-camp, habitually selected from the subalterns of
the brigade, who should be good riders, and intelligent enough to
give and explain the orders of their general.
The same staff will answer for a division. The general in command
of a separate army, and of a corps d'armee, should have the same
professional assistance, with two or more good engineers, and his
adjutant-general should exercise all the functions usually ascribed
to a chief of staff, viz., he should possess the ability to
comprehend the scope of operations, and to make verbally and in
writing all the orders and details necessary to carry into effect
the views of his general, as well as to keep the returns and
records of events for the information of the next higher authority,
and for history. A bulky staff implies a division of
responsibility, slowness of action, and indecision, whereas a small
staff implies activity and concentration of purpose. The smallness
of General Grant's staff throughout the civil war forms the best
model for future imitation. So of tents, officers furniture, etc.,
etc. In real war these should all be diacarded, and an army is
efficient for action and motion exactly in the inverse ratio of its
impedimenta. Tents should be omitted altogether, save one to a
regiment for an office, and a few for the division hospital.
Officers should be content with a tent fly, improvising poles and
shelter out of bushes. The tents d'abri, or shelter-tent, carried
by the soldier himself, is all-sufficient. Officers should never
seek for houses, but share the condition of their men.
A recent message (July 18, 1874) made to the French Assembly by
Marshal MacMahon, President of the French Republic, submits a
projet de loi, with a report prepared by a board of French generals
on "army administration," which is full of information, and is as
applicable to us as to the French. I quote from its very
beginning: "The misfortunes of the campaign of 1870 have
demonstrated the inferiority of our system.... Two separate
organizations existed with parallel functions--the 'general' more
occupied in giving direction to his troops than in providing for
their material wants, which he regarded as the special province of
the staff, and the 'intendant' (staff) often working at random,
taking on his shoulders a crushing burden of functions and duties,
exhausting himself with useless efforts, and aiming to accomplish
an insufficient service, to the disappointment of everybody. This
separation of the administration and command, this coexistence of
two wills, each independent of the other, which paralyzed both and
annulled the dualism, was condemned. It was decided by the board
that this error should be "proscribed" in the new military system.
The report then goes on at great length discussing the provisions.
of the "new law," which is described to be a radical change from
the old one on the same subject. While conceding to the Minister
of War in Paris the general control and supervision of the entire
military establishment primarily, especially of the annual
estimates or budget, and the great depots of supply, it distributes
to the commanders of the corps d'armee in time of peace, and to all
army commanders generally in time of war, the absolute command of
the money, provisions, and stores, with the necessary staff-
officers to receive, issue, and account for them. I quote further:
"The object of this law is to confer on the commander of troops
whatever liberty of action the case demands. He has the power even
to go beyond the regulations, in circumstances of urgency and
pressing necessity. The extraordinary measures he may take on
these occasions may require their execution without delay. The
staff-officer has but one duty before obeying, and that is to
submit his observations to the general, and to ask his orders in
With this formality his responsibility ceases, and the
responsibility for the extraordinary act falls solely on the
general who gives the order. The officers and agents charged with
supplies are placed under the orders of the general in command of
the troops, that is, they are obliged both in war and peace to
obey, with the single qualification above named, of first making
their observations and securing the written order of the general.
With us, to-day, the law and regulations are that, no matter what
may be the emergency, the commanding general in Texas, New Mexico,
and the remote frontiers, cannot draw from the arsenals a pistol-
cartridge, or any sort of ordnance-stores, without first procuring
an order of the Secretary of War in Washington. The commanding
general--though intrusted with the lives of his soldiers and with
the safety of a frontier in a condition of chronic war--cannot
touch or be trusted with ordnance-stores or property, and that is
declared to be the law! Every officer of the old army remembers
how, in 1861, we were hampered with the old blue army regulations,
which tied our hands, and that to do any thing positive and
necessary we had to tear it all to pieces--cut the red-tape, as it
was called, a dangerous thing for an army to do, for it was
calculated to bring the law and authority into contempt; but war
was upon us, and overwhelming necessity overrides all law.
This French report is well worth the study of our army-officers, of
all grades and classes, and I will only refer again, casually, to
another part, wherein it discusses the subject of military
correspondence: whether the staff-officer should correspond
directly with his chief in Paris, submitting to his general copies,
or whether he should be required to carry on his correspondence
through his general, so that the latter could promptly forward the
communication, indorsed with his own remarks and opinions. The
latter is declared by the board to be the only safe role, because
"the general should never be ignorant of any thing that is
transpiring that concerns his command."
In this country, as in France, Congress controls the great
questions of war and peace, makes all laws for the creation and
government of armies, and votes the necessary supplies, leaving to
the President to execute and apply these laws, especially the
harder task of limiting the expenditure of public money to the
amount of the annual appropriations. The executive power is
further subdivided into the seven great departments, and to the
Secretary of War is confided the general care of the military
establishment, and his powers are further subdivided into ten
distinct and separate bureaus.
The chiefs of these bureaus are under the immediate orders of the
Secretary of War, who, through them, in fact commands the army from
"his office," but cannot do so "in the field"--an absurdity in
military if not civil law.
The subordinates of these staff-corps and departments are selected
and chosen from the army itself, or fresh from West Point, and too
commonly construe themselves into the elite, as made of better clay
than the common soldier. Thus they separate themselves more and
more from their comrades of the line, and in process of time
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'a 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 aarived 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 be 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 DEPAETMERT,
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 band, 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 Preaident'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: