Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman

Text to Speech

Long Bridge, Newmarket, Bermuda Hundred, and the extreme left of

the army around Petersburg. He will make no halt with the armies

operating here, but will be joined by a division of cavalry, five

thousand five hundred strong, from the Army of the Potomac, and

will proceed directly to the Southside and Danville roads. His

instructions will be to strike the Southside road as near

Petersburg as he can, and destroy it so that it cannot be repaired

for three or four days, and push on to the Danville road, as near

to the Appomattox as he can get. Then I want him to destroy the

road toward Burkesville as far as he can; then push on to the

Southside road, west of Burkesville, and destroy it effectually.

From that point I shall probably leave it to his discretion either

to return to this army, crossing the Danville road south of

Burkesville, or go and join you, passing between Danville and

Greensboro'. When this movement commences I shall move out by my

left, with all the force I can, holding present intrenched lines.

I shall start with no distinct view, further than holding Lee's

forces from following Sheridan. But I shall be along myself, and

will take advantage of any thing that turns up. If Lee detaches, I

will attack; or if he comes out of his lines I will endeavor to

repulse him, and follow it up to the best advantage.

It is most difficult to understand what the rebels intend to do; so

far but few troops have been detached from Lee's army. Much

machinery has been removed, and material has been sent to

Lynchburg, showing s disposition to go there. Points, too, have

been fortified on the Danville road.

Lee's army is much demoralized, and great numbers are deserting.

Probably, from returned prisoners, and such conscripts as can be

picked up, his numbers may be kept up. I estimate his force now at

about sixty-five thousand men.

Wilson started on Monday, with twelve thousand cavalry, from

Eastport. Stoneman started on the same day, from East Tennessee,

toward Lynchburg. Thomas is moving the Fourth Corps to Bull's Gap.

Canby is moving with a formidable force on Mobile and the interior

of Alabama.

I ordered Gilmore, as soon as the fall of Charleston was known, to

hold all important posts on the sea-coast, and to send to

Wilmington all surplus forces. Thomas was also directed to forward

to Newbern all troops belonging to the corps with you. I

understand this will give you about five thousand men, besides

those brought east by Meagher.

I have been telegraphing General Meigs to hasten up locomotives and

cars for you. General McCallum, he informs me, is attending to it.

I fear they are not going forward as fast as I world like.

Let me know if you want more troops, or any thing else.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.

The railroad was repaired to Goldsboro' by the evening of March

25th, when, leaving General Schofield in chief command, with a

couple of staff-officers I started for City Point, Virginia, in a

locomotive, in company with Colonel Wright, the constructing

engineer. We reached Newbern that evening, which was passed in the

company of General Palmer and his accomplished lady, and early the

next morning we continued on to Morehead City, where General Easton

had provided for us the small captured steamer Russia, Captain

Smith. We put to sea at once and steamed up the coast, reaching

Fortress Monroe on the morning of the 27th, where I landed and

telegraphed to my brother, Senator Sherman, at Washington, inviting

him to come down and return with me to Goldsboro. We proceeded on

up James River to City Point, which we reached the same afternoon.

I found General Grant, with his family and staff, occupying a

pretty group of huts on the bank of James River, overlooking the

harbor, which was full of vessels of all classes, both war and

merchant, with wharves and warehouses on an extensive scale. The

general received me most heartily, and we talked over matters very

fully. After I had been with him an hour or so, he remarked that

the President, Mr. Lincoln, was then on board the steamer River

Queen, lying at the wharf, and he proposed that we should call and

see him. We walked down to the wharf, went on board, and found Mr.

Lincoln alone, in the after-cabin. He remembered me perfectly, and

at once engaged in a most interesting conversation. He was full of

curiosity about the many incidents of our great march, which had

reached him officially and through the newspapers, and seemed to

enjoy very much the more ludicrous parts-about the "bummers," and

their devices to collect food and forage when the outside world

supposed us to be starving; but at the same time he expressed a

good deal of anxiety lest some accident might happen to the army in

North Carolina during my absence. I explained to him that that

army was snug and comfortable, in good camps, at Goldsboro'; that

it would require some days to collect forage and food for another

march; and that General Schofield was fully competent to command it

in my absence. Having made a good, long, social visit, we took our

leave and returned to General Grant's quarters, where Mrs, Grant

had provided tea. While at the table, Mrs. Grant inquired if we

had seen Mrs. Lincoln. "No," said the general, "I did not ask for

her;" and I added that I did not even know that she was on board.

Mrs. Grant then exclaimed, "Well, you are a pretty pair!" and added

that our neglect was unpardonable; when the general said we would

call again the next day, and make amends for the unintended slight.

Early the next day, March 28th, all the principal officers of the

army and navy called to see me, Generals Meade, Ord, Ingalls, etc.,

and Admiral Porter. At this time the River Queen was at anchor out

in the river, abreast of the wharf, and we again started to visit

Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln. Admiral Porter accompanied us. We took a

small, tug at the wharf, which conveyed us on board, where we were

again received most courteously by the President, who conducted us

to the after-cabin. After the general compliments, General Grant

inquired after Mrs. Lincoln, when the President went to her state-

room, returned, and begged us to excuse her, as she was not well.

We then again entered upon a general conversation, during which

General Grant explained to the President that at that very instant

of time General Sheridan was crossing James River from the north,

by a pontoon-bridge below City Point; that he had a large,

well-appointed force of cavalry, with which he proposed to strike

the Southside and Danville Railroads, by which alone General Lee,

in Richmond, supplied his army; and that, in his judgment, matters

were drawing to a crisis, his only apprehension being that General

Lee would not wait long enough. I also explained that my army at

Goldsboro' was strong enough to fight Lee's army and Johnston's

combined, provided that General Grant could come up within a day or

so; that if Lee would only remain in Richmond another fortnight, I

could march up to Burkesville, when Lee would have to starve inside

of his lines, or come out from his intrenchments and fight us on

equal terms.

Both General Grant and myself supposed that one or the other of us

would have to fight one more bloody battle, and that it would be

the last. Mr. Lincoln exclaimed, more than once, that there had

been blood enough shed, and asked us if another battle could not be

avoided. I remember well to have said that we could not control

that event; that this necessarily rested with our enemy; and I

inferred that both Jeff. Davis and General Lee would be forced to

fight one more desperate and bloody battle. I rather supposed it

would fall on me, somewhere near Raleigh; and General Grant added

that, if Lee would only wait a few more days, he would have his

army so disposed that if the enemy should abandon Richmond, and

attempt to make junction with General Jos. Johnston in North

Carolina, he (General Grant) would be on his heels. Mr. Lincoln

more than once expressed uneasiness that I was not with my army at

Goldsboro', when I again assured him that General Schofield was

fully competent to command in my absence; that I was going to start

back that very day, and that Admiral Porter had kindly provided for

me the steamer Bat, which he said was much swifter than my own

vessel, the Russia. During this interview I inquired of the

President if he was all ready for the end of the war. What was to

be done with the rebel armies when defeated? And what should be

done with the political leaders, such as Jeff. Davis, etc.? Should

we allow them to escape, etc.? He said he was all ready; all he

wanted of us was to defeat the opposing armies, and to get the men

composing the Confederate armies back to their homes, at work on

their farms and in their shops. As to Jeff. Davis, he was hardly

at liberty to speak his mind fully, but intimated that he ought to

clear out, "escape the country," only it would not do for him to

say so openly. As usual, he illustrated his meaning by a story:

A man once had taken the total-abstinence pledge. When visiting a

friend, he was invited to take a drink, but declined, on the score

of his pledge; when his friend suggested lemonade, which was

accepted. In preparing the lemonade, the friend pointed to the

brandy-bottle, and said the lemonade would be more palatable if he

were to pour in a little brandy; when his guest said, if he could

do so "unbeknown" to him, he would "not object." From which

illustration I inferred that Mr. Lincoln wanted Davis to escape,

"unbeknown" to him.

I made no notes of this conversation at the time, but Admiral

Porter, who was present, did, and in 1866 he furnished me an

account thereof, which I insert below, but the admiral describes

the first visit, of the 27th, whereas my memory puts Admiral

Porter's presence on the following day. Still he may be right, and

he may have been with us the day before, as I write this chiefly

from memory. There were two distinct interviews; the first was

late in the afternoon of March 27th, and the other about noon of

the 28th, both in the after-cabin of the steamer River Queen; on

both occasions Mr. Lincoln was full and frank in his conversation,

assuring me that in his mind he was all ready for the civil

reorganization of affairs at the South as soon as the war was over;

and he distinctly authorized me to assure Governor Vance and the

people of North Carolina that, as soon as the rebel armies laid

down their arms, and resumed their civil pursuits, they would at

once be guaranteed all their rights as citizens of a common

country; and that to avoid anarchy the State governments then in

existence, with their civil functionaries, would be recognized by

him as the government de facto till Congress could provide others.

I know, when I left him, that I was more than ever impressed by his

kindly nature, his deep and earnest sympathy with the afflictions

of the whole people, resulting from the war, and by the march of

hostile armies through the South; and that his earnest desire

seemed to be to end the war speedily, without more bloodshed or

devastation, and to restore all the men of both sections to their

homes. In the language of his second inaugural address, he seemed

to have "charity for all, malice toward none," and, above all, an

absolute faith in the courage, manliness, and integrity of the

armies in the field. When at rest or listening, his legs and arms

seemed to hang almost lifeless, and his face was care-worn and

haggard; but, the moment he began to talk, his face lightened up,

his tall form, as it were, unfolded, and he was the very

impersonation of good-humor and fellowship. The last words I

recall as addressed to me were that he would feel better when I was

back at Goldsboro'. We parted at the gangway of the River Queen,

about noon of March 28th, and I never saw him again. Of all the

men I ever met, he seemed to possess more of the elements of

greatness, combined with goodness, than any other.



The day of General Sherman's arrival at City Point (I think the

27th of March, 1866), I accompanied him and General Grant on board

the President's flagship, the Queen, where the President received

us in the upper saloon, no one but ourselves being present.

The President was in an exceedingly pleasant mood, and delighted to

meet General Sherman, whom he cordially greeted.

It seems that this was the first time he had met Sherman, to

remember him, since the beginning of the war, and did not remember

when he had seen him before, until the general reminded him of the

circumstances of their first meeting.

This was rather singular on the part of Mr. Lincoln, who was, I

think, remarkable for remembering people, having that kingly

quality in an eminent degree. Indeed, such was the power of his

memory, that he seemed never to forget the most minute


The conversation soon turned on the events of Sherman's campaign

through the South, with every movement of which the President

seemed familiar.

He laughed over some of the stories Sherman told of his "bummers,"

and told others in return, which illustrated in a striking manner

the ideas he wanted to convey. For example, be would often express

his wishes by telling an apt story, which was quite a habit with

him, and one that I think he adopted to prevent his committing

himself seriously.

The interview between the two generals and the President lasted

about an hour and a half, and, as it was a remarkable one, I jotted

down what I remembered of the conversation, as I have made a

practice of doing during the rebellion, when any thing interesting


I don't regret having done so, as circumstances afterward occurred

(Stanton's ill conduct toward Sherman) which tended to cast odium

on General Sherman for allowing such liberal terms to Jos.


Could the conversation that occurred on board the Queen, between

the President and General Sherman, have been known, Sherman would

not, and could not, have been censored. Mr. Lincoln, had he lived,

would have acquitted the general of any blame, for he was only

carrying out the President's wishes.

My opinion is, that Mr. Lincoln came down to City Point with the

most liberal views toward the rebels. He felt confident that we

would be successful, and was willing that the enemy should

capitulate on the most favorable terms.

I don't know what the President would have done had he been left to

himself, and had our army been unsuccessful, but he was than

wrought up to a high state of excitement. He wanted peace on

almost any terms, and there is no knowing what proposals he might

have been willing to listen to. His heart was tenderness

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