Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman

Text to Speech

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

modern difficulty.



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

without delay.

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

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