Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman

Text to Speech

so-called Confederate Government, or makes us liable for its debts

or acts.

The laws and acts done by the several States during the period of

rebellion are void, because done without the oath prescribed by our

Constitution of the United States, which is a "condition


We have a right to, use any sort of machinery to produce military

results; and it is the commonest thing for military commanders to

use the civil governments in actual existence as a means to an end.

I do believe we could and can use the present State governments

lawfully, constitutionally, and as the very best possible means to

produce the object desired, viz., entire and complete submission to

the lawful authority of the United States.

As to punishment for past crimes, that is for the judiciary, and

can in no manner of way be disturbed by our acts; and, so far as I

can, I will use my influence that rebels shall suffer all the

personal punishment prescribed by law, as also the civil

liabilities arising from their past acts.

What we now want is the new form of law by which common men may

regain the positions of industry, so long disturbed by the war.

I now apprehend that the rebel armies will disperse; and, instead

of dealing with six or seven States, we will have to deal with

numberless bands of desperadoes, headed by such men as Mosby,

Forrest, Red Jackson, and others, who know not and care not for

danger and its consequences.

I am, with great respect, your obedient servant,

W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General commanding.



Hon. E. M. STANTON, Secretary of War, Washington.

DEAR SIR: I have been furnished a copy of your letter of April 21st

to General Grant, signifying your disapproval of the terms on which

General Johnston proposed to disarm and disperse the insurgents, on

condition of amnesty, etc. I admit my folly in embracing in a

military convention any civil matters; but, unfortunately, such is

the nature of our situation that they seem inextricably united, and

I understood from you at Savannah that the financial state of the

country demanded military success, and would warrant a little

bending to policy.

When I had my conference with General Johnston I had the public

examples before me of General Grant's terms to Lee's army, and

General Weitzel's invitation to the Virginia Legislature to

assemble at Richmond.

I still believe the General Government of the United States has

made a mistake; but that is none of my business--mine is a

different task; and I had flattered myself that, by four years of

patient, unremitting, and successful labor, I deserved no reminder

such as is contained in the last paragraph of your letter to

General Grant. You may assure the President that I heed his

suggestion. I am truly, etc.,

W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General commanding.

On the same day, but later, I received an answer from General

Johnston, agreeing to meet me again at Bennett's house the next

day, April 26th, at noon. He did not even know that General Grant

was in Raleigh.

General Grant advised me to meet him, and to accept his surrender

on the same terms as his with General Lee; and on the 26th I again

went up to Durham's Station by rail, and rode out to Bennett's

house, where we again met, and General Johneton, without

hesitation, agreed to, and we executed, the following final terms:

Terms of a Military Convention, entered into this 26th day of

April, 1865, at Bennett's House, near Durham's Station., North

Carolina, between General JOSEPH E. JOHNSTON, commanding the

Confederate Army, and Major-General W. T. SHERMAN, commanding the

United States Army in North Carolina:

1. All acts of war on the part of the troops under General

Johnston's command to cease from this date.

2. All arms and public property to be deposited at Greensboro',

and delivered to an ordnance-officer of the United States Army.

3. Rolls of all the officers and men to be made in duplicate; one

copy to be retained by the commander of the troops, and the other

to be given to an officer to be designated by General Sherman.

Each officer and man to give his individual obligation in writing

not to take up arms against the Government of the United States,

until properly released from this obligation.

4. The side-arms of officers, and their private horses and

baggage, to be retained by them.

5. This being done, all the officers and men will be permitted to

return to their homes, not to be disturbed by the United States

authorities, so long as they observe their obligation and the laws

in force where they may reside.

W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General,

Commanding United States Forces in North Carolina.

J. E. JOHNSTON, General,

Commanding Confederate States Forces in North Carolina.


U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.

I returned to Raleigh the same evening, and, at my request, General

Grant wrote on these terms his approval, and then I thought the

matter was surely at an end. He took the original copy, on the

27th returned to Newbern, and thence went back to Washington.

I immediately made all the orders necessary to carry into effect

the terms of this convention, devolving on General Schofield the

details of granting the parole and making the muster-rolls of

prisoners, inventories of property, etc., of General Johnston's

army at and about Greensboro', North Carolina, and on General

Wilson the same duties in Georgia; but, thus far, I had been

compelled to communicate with the latter through rebel sources, and

General Wilson was necessarily confused by the conflict of orders

and information. I deemed it of the utmost importance to establish

for him a more reliable base of information and supply, and

accordingly resolved to go in person to Savannah for that purpose.

But, before starting, I received a New York Times, of April 24th,

containing the following extraordinary communications:

[First Bulletin]


Yesterday evening a bearer of dispatches arrived from General

Sherman. An agreement for a suspension of hostilities, and a

memorandum of what is called a basis for peace, had been entered

into on the 18th inst. by General Sherman, with the rebel General

Johnston. Brigadier-General Breckenridge was present at the


A cabinet meeting was held at eight o'clock in the evening, at

which the action of General Sherman was disapproved by the

President, by the Secretary of War, by General Grant, and by every

member of the cabinet. General Sherman was ordered to resume

hostilities immediately, and was directed that the instructions

given by the late President, in the following telegram, which was

penned by Mr. Lincoln himself, at the Capitol, on the night of the

3d of March, were approved by President Andrew Johnson, and were

reiterated to govern the action of military commanders.

On the night of the 3d of March, while President Lincoln and his

cabinet were at the Capitol, a telegram from General Grant was

brought to the Secretary of War, informing him that General Lee had

requested an interview or conference, to make an arrangement for

terms of peace. The letter of General Lee was published in a

letter to Davis and to the rebel Congress. General Grant's

telegram was submitted to Mr. Lincoln, who, after pondering a few

minutes, took up his pen and wrote with his own hand the following

reply, which he submitted to the Secretary of State and Secretary

of War. It was then dated, addressed, and signed, by the Secretary

of War, and telegraphed to General Grant:

WASHINGTON, March 3, 1865-12 P.M.

Lieutenant-General GRANT:

The President directs me to say to you that he wishes you to have

no conference with General Lee, unless it be for the capitulation

of General Lee's army, or on some minor or purely military matter.

He instructs me to say that you are not to decide, discuss, or

confer upon any political questions. Such questions the President

holds in his own hands, and will submit them to no military

conferences or conventions.

Meantime you are to press to the utmost your military advantages.

EDWIN M. STANTON, Secretary of War.

The orders of General Sherman to General Stoneman to withdraw from

Salisbury and join him will probably open the way for Davis to

escape to Mexico or Europe with his plunder, which is reported to

be very large, including not only the plunder of the Richmond

banks, but previous accumulations.

A dispatch received by this department from Richmond says: "It is

stated here, by respectable parties, that the amount of specie

taken south by Jeff. Davis and his partisans is very large,

including not only the plunder of the Richmond banks, but previous

accumulations. They hope, it is said, to make terms with General

Sherman, or some other commander, by which they will be permitted,

with their effects, including this gold plunder, to go to Mexico or

Europe. Johnston's negotiations look to this end."

After the cabinet meeting last night, General Grant started for

North Carolina, to direct operations against Johnston's army.

EDWIN M. STANTON, Secretary of War.

Here followed the terms, and Mr. Stanton's ten reasons for

rejecting them.

The publication of this bulletin by authority was an outrage on me,

for Mr. Stanton had failed to communicate to me in advance, as was

his duty, the purpose of the Administration to limit our

negotiations to purely military matters; but, on the contrary, at

Savannah he had authorized me to control all matters, civil and


By this bulletin, he implied that I had previously been furnished

with a copy of his dispatch of March 3d to General Grant, which was

not so; and he gave warrant to the impression, which was sown

broadcast, that I might be bribed by banker's gold to permit Davis

to escape. Under the influence of this, I wrote General Grant the

following letter of April 28th, which has been published in the

Proceedings of the Committee on the Conduct of the War.

I regarded this bulletin of Mr. Stanton as a personal and official

insult, which I afterward publicly resented.



Lieutenant-General U. S. GRANT, General-in-Chief, Washington, D. C.

GENERAL: Since you left me yesterday, I have seen the New York

Times of the 24th, containing a budget of military news,

authenticated by the signature of the Secretary of War, Hon. E. M.

Stanton, which is grouped in such a way as to give the public very

erroneous impressions. It embraces a copy of the basis of

agreement between myself and General Johnston, of April 18th, with

comments, which it will be time enough to discuss two or three

years hence, after the Government has experimented a little more in

the machinery by which power reaches the scattered people of the

vast country known as the "South."

In the mean time, however, I did think that my rank (if not past

services) entitled me at least to trust that the Secretary of War

would keep secret what was communicated for the use of none but the

cabinet, until further inquiry could be made, instead of giving

publicity to it along with documents which I never saw, and drawing

therefrom inferences wide of the truth. I never saw or had

furnished me a copy of President Lincoln's dispatch to you of the

3d of March, nor did Mr. Stanton or any human being ever convey to

me its substance, or any thing like it. On the contrary, I had

seen General Weitzel's invitation to the Virginia Legislature, made

in Mr. Lincoln's very presence, and failed to discover any other

official hint of a plan of reconstruction, or any ideas calculated

to allay the fears of the people of the South, after the

destruction of their armies and civil authorities would leave them

without any government whatever.

We should not drive a people into anarchy, and it is simply

impossible for our military power to reach all the masses of their

unhappy country.

I confess I did not desire to drive General Johnston's army into

bands of armed men, going about without purpose, and capable only

of infinite mischief. But you saw, on your arrival here, that I

had my army so disposed that his escape was only possible in a

disorganized shape; and as you did not choose to "direct military

operations in this quarter," I inferred that you were satisfied

with the military situation; at all events, the instant I learned

what was proper enough, the disapproval of the President, I acted

in such a manner as to compel the surrender of General Johnston's

whole army on the same terms which you had prescribed to General

Lee's army, when you had it surrounded and in your absolute power.

Mr. Stanton, in stating that my orders to General Stoneman were

likely to result in the escape of "Mr. Davis to Mexico or Europe,"

is in deep error. General Stoneman was not at "Salisbury," but had

gone back to "Statesville." Davis was between us, and therefore

Stoneman was beyond him. By turning toward me he was approaching

Davis, and, had he joined me as ordered, I would have had a mounted

force greatly needed for Davis's capture, and for other purposes.

Even now I don't know that Mr. Stanton wants Davis caught, and as

my official papers, deemed sacred, are hastily published to the

world, it will be imprudent for me to state what has been done in

that regard.

As the editor of the Times has (it may be) logically and fairly

drawn from this singular document the conclusion that I am

insubordinate, I can only deny the intention.

I have never in my life questioned or disobeyed an order, though

many and many a time have I risked my life, health, and reputation,

in obeying orders, or even hints to execute plans and purposes, not

to my liking. It is not fair to withhold from me the plans and

policy of Government (if any there be), and expect me to guess at

them; for facts and events appear quite different from different

stand-points. For four years I have been in camp dealing with

soldiers, and I can assure you that the conclusion at which the

cabinet arrived with such singular unanimity differs from mine.

I conferred freely with the best officers in this army as to the

points involved in this controversy, and, strange to say, they were

singularly unanimous in the other conclusion. They will learn with

pain and amazement that I am deemed insubordinate, and wanting in

commonsense; that I, who for four years have labored day and night,

winter and summer, who have brought an army of seventy thousand men

in magnificent condition across a country hitherto deemed

impassable, and placed it just where it was wanted, on the day

appointed, have brought discredit on our Government! I do not wish

to boast of this, but I do say that it entitled me to the courtesy

of being consulted, before publishing to the world a proposition

rightfully submitted to higher authority for adjudication, and then

accompanied by statements which invited the dogs of the press to be

let loose upon me. It is true that non-combatants, men who sleep

in comfort and security while we watch on the distant lines, are

better able to judge than we poor soldiers, who rarely see a

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