Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman

Text to Speech

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 It will not be published against your will.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.)



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.



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.


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.

Respectfully yours,



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.


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

telegraph me.

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

other arrangements.

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.


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,

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