Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman


Text to Speech

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

precipitating matters.

Yours truly,

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.

Yours truly,

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

family.

For these reasons especially I shall soon ask leave to go to St.

Louis, to resume my proper and legitimate command. With great

respect,

W. T. SHERMAN, Lieutenant-General.

[Inclosure]

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.

To--Lieutenant-General SHERMAN.

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

with you.

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

following:

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.

Yours truly,

U. S. GRANT.

[TELEGRAM.]

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.

[TELEGRAM]

HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSOURI,

St. Louis, February 14, 1868.

General U. S. GRANT, Washington, D. C.

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