Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman

Text to Speech

and the Crows on the upper Yellowstone, to meet us in May, 1868, at

Fort Laramie. We proceeded up the river to the mouth of the

Cheyenne and turned back to Omaha, having ample time on this

steamboat to discuss and deliberate on the problems submitted to

our charge.

We all agreed that the nomad Indians should be removed from the

vicinity of the two great railroads then in rapid construction, and

be localized on one or other of the two great reservations south of

Kansas and north of Nebraska; that agreements not treaties, should

be made for their liberal maintenance as to food, clothing,

schools, and farming implements for ten years, during which time we

believed that these Indians should become self-supporting. To the

north we proposed to remove the various bands of Sioux, with such

others as could be induced to locate near them; and to the south,

on the Indian Territory already established, we proposed to remove

the Cheyennes, Arapahoes, Kiowas, Comanches, and such others as we

could prevail on to move thither.

At that date the Union Pacific construction had reached the Rocky

Mountains at Cheyenne, and the Kansas Pacific to about Fort

Wallace. We held council with the Ogallallas at the Forks of the

Platte, and arranged to meet them all the next spring, 1868. In

the spring of 1868 we met the Crows in council at Fort Laramie, the

Sioux at the North Platte, the Shoshones or Snakes at Fort Hall,

the Navajos at Fort Sumner, on the Pecos, and the Cheyennes and

Arapahoes at Medicine Lodge. To accomplish these results the

commission divided up into committees, General Augur going to the

Shoshones, Mr. Tappan and I to the Navajos, and the remainder to

Medicine Lodge. In that year we made treaties or arrangements with

all the tribes which before had followed the buffalo in their

annual migrations, and which brought them into constant conflict

with the whites.

Mr. Tappan and I found it impossible to prevail on the Navajos to

remove to the Indian Territory, and had to consent to their return

to their former home, restricted to a limited reservation west of

Santa Fe, about old Fort Defiance, and there they continue unto

this day, rich in the possession of herds of sheep and goats, with

some cattle and horses; and they have remained at peace ever since.

A part of our general plan was to organize the two great

reservations into regular Territorial governments, with Governor,

Council, courts, and civil officers. General Harney was

temporarily assigned to that of the Sioux at the north, and General

Hazen to that of the Kiowas, Comanches, Cheyennes, Arapahoes, etc.,

etc., at the south, but the patronage of the Indian Bureau was too

strong for us, and that part of our labor failed. Still, the

Indian Peace Commission of 1867-'68 did prepare the way for the

great Pacific Railroads, which, for better or worse, have settled

the fate of the buffalo and Indian forever. There have been wars

and conflicts since with these Indians up to a recent period too

numerous and complicated in their detail for me to unravel and

record, but they have been the dying struggles of a singular race

of brave men fighting against destiny, each less and less violent,

till now the wild game is gone, the whites too numerous and

powerful; so that the Indian question has become one of sentiment

and charity, but not of war.

The peace, or "Quaker" policy, of which so much has been said,

originated about thus: By the act of Congress, approved March

3,1869, the forty-five regiments of infantry were reduced to

twenty-five, and provision was made for the "muster out" of many of

the surplus officers, and for retaining others to be absorbed by

the usual promotions and casualties. On the 7th of May of that

year, by authority of an act of Congress approved June 30, 1834,

nine field-officers and fifty-nine captains and subalterns were

detached and ordered to report to the Commissioner of Indian

Affairs, to serve as Indian superintendents and agents. Thus by an

old law surplus army officers were made to displace the usual civil

appointees, undoubtedly a change for the better, but most

distasteful to members of Congress, who looked to these

appointments as part of their proper patronage. The consequence

was the law of July 15, 1870, which vacated the military commission

of any officer who accepted or exercised the functions of a civil

officer. I was then told that certain politicians called on

President Grant, informing him that this law was chiefly designed

to prevent his using army officers for Indian agents, "civil

offices," which he believed to be both judicious and wise; army

officers, as a rule, being better qualified to deal with Indians

than the average political appointees. The President then quietly

replied: "Gentlemen, you have defeated my plan of Indian

management; but you shall not succeed in your purpose, for I will

divide these appointments up among the religious churches, with

which you dare not contend." The army officers were consequently

relieved of their "civil offices," and the Indian agencies were

apportioned to the several religious churches in about the

proportion of their--supposed strength--some to the Quakers, some

to the Methodists, to the Catholics, Episcopalians, Presbyterians,

etc., etc.--and thus it remains to the present time, these

religious communities selecting the agents to be appointed by the

Secretary of the Interior. The Quakers, being first named, gave

name to the policy, and it is called the "Quaker" policy to-day.

Meantime railroads and settlements by hardy, bold pioneers have

made the character of Indian agents of small concern, and it

matters little who are the beneficiaries.

As was clearly foreseen, General U. S. Grant was duly nominated,

and on the 7th of November, 1868, was elected President of the

United States for the four years beginning with March 4, 1869.

On the 15th and 16th of December, 1868, the four societies of the

Armies of the Cumberland, Tennessee, Ohio, and Georgia, held a

joint reunion at Chicago, at which were present over two thousand

of the surviving officers and soldiers of the war. The ceremonies

consisted of the joint meeting in Crosby's magnificent opera-house,

at which General George H. Thomas presided. General W. W. Belknap

was the orator for the Army of the Tennessee, General Charles Cruft

for the Army of the Cumberland, General J. D. Cox for the Army of

the Ohio, and General William Cogswell for the Army of Georgia.

The banquet was held in the vast Chamber of Commerce, at which I

presided. General Grant, President-elect, General J. M. Schofield,

Secretary of War, General H. W. Slocum, and nearly every general

officer of note was present except General Sheridan, who at the

moment was fighting the Cheyennes in Southern Kansas and the Indian


At that time we discussed the army changes which would necessarily

occur in the following March, and it was generally understood that

I was to succeed General Grant as general-in-chief, but as to my

successor, Meade, Thomas, and Sheridan were candidates. And here I

will remark that General Grant, afterward famous as the "silent

man," used to be very gossipy, and no one was ever more fond than

he of telling anecdotes of our West Point and early army life. At

the Chicago reunion he told me that I would have to come to

Washington, that he wanted me to effect a change as to the general

staff, which he had long contemplated, and which was outlined in

his letter to Mr. Stanton of January 29,1866, given hereafter,

which had been repeatedly published, and was well known to the

military world; that on being inaugurated President on the 4th of

March he would retain General Schofield as his Secretary of War

until the change had become habitual; that the modern custom of the

Secretary of War giving military orders to the adjutant-general and

other staff officers was positively wrong and should be stopped.

Speaking of General Grant's personal characteristics at that period

of his life, I recall a conversation in his carriage, when, riding

down Pennsylvania Avenue, he, inquired of me in a humorous way,

"Sherman, what special hobby do you intend to adopt?" I inquired

what he meant, and he explained that all men had their special

weakness or vanity, and that it was wiser to choose one's own than

to leave the newspapers to affix one less acceptable, and that for

his part he had chosen the "horse," so that when anyone tried to

pump him he would turn the conversation to his "horse." I answered

that I would stick to the "theatre and balls," for I was always

fond of seeing young people happy, and did actually acquire a

reputation for "dancing," though I had not attempted the waltz, or

anything more than the ordinary cotillon, since the war.

On the 24th of February, 1869, I was summoned to Washington,

arriving on the 26th, taking along my aides, Lieutenant-Colonels

Dayton and Audenried.

On the 4th of March General Grant was duly inaugurated President of

the United States, and I was nominated and confirmed as General of

the Army.

Major-General P. H. Sheridan was at the same time nominated and

confirmed as lieutenant-general, with orders to command the

Military Division of the Missouri, which he did, moving the

headquarters from St. Louis to Chicago; and General Meade was

assigned to command the Military Division of the Atlantic, with

headquarters at Philadelphia.

At that moment General Meade was in Atlanta, Georgia, commanding

the Third Military District under the "Reconstruction Act;" and

General Thomas, whose post was in Nashville, was in Washington on a

court of inquiry investigating certain allegations against General

A. B. Dyer, Chief of Ordnance. He occupied the room of the second

floor in the building on the corner of H and Fifteenth Streets,

since become Wormley's Hotel. I at the time was staying with my

brother, Senator Sherman, at his residence, 1321 K Street, and it

was my habit each morning to stop at Thomas's room on my way to the

office in the War Department to tell him the military news, and to

talk over matters of common interest. We had been intimately

associated as "man and boy" for thirty-odd years, and I profess to

have had better opportunities to know him than any man then living.

His fame as the "Rock of Chickamauga" was perfect, and by the world

at large he was considered as the embodiment of strength, calmness,

and imperturbability. Yet of all my acquaintances Thomas worried

and fretted over what he construed neglects or acts of favoritism

more than any other.

At that time he was much worried by what he supposed was injustice

in the promotion of General Sheridan, and still more that General

Meade should have an Eastern station, which compelled him to remain

at Nashville or go to the Pacific. General Thomas claimed that all

his life he had been stationed in the South or remote West, and had

not had a fair share of Eastern posts, whereas that General Meade

had always been there. I tried to get him to go with me to see

President Grant and talk the matter over frankly, but he would not,

and I had to act as a friendly mediator. General Grant assured me

at the time that he not only admired and respected General Thomas,

but actually loved him as a man, and he authorized me in making up

commands for the general officers to do anything and everything to

favor him, only he could not recede from his former action in

respect to Generals Sheridan and Meade.

Prior to General Grant's inauguration the army register showed as

major-generals Halleck, Meade, Sheridan, Thomas, and Hancock.

Therefore, the promotion of General Sheridan to be lieutenant-

general did not "overslaugh" Thomas, but it did Meade and Halleck.

The latter did not expect promotion; General Meade did, but was

partially, not wholly, reconciled by being stationed at

Philadelphia, the home of his family; and President Grant assured

me that he knew of his own knowledge that General Sheridan had been

nominated major-general before General Meade, but had waived dates

out of respect for his age and longer service, and that he had

nominated him as lieutenant-general by reason of his special

fitness to command the Military Division of the Missouri, embracing

all the wild Indians, at that very moment in a state of hostility.

I gave General Thomas the choice of every other command in the

army, and of his own choice he went to San Francisco, California,

where he died, March 28, 1870. The truth is, Congress should have

provided by law for three lieutenant-generals for these three

pre-eminent soldiers, and should have dated their commissions with

"Gettysburg," "Winchester," and "Nashville." It would have been a

graceful act, and might have prolonged the lives of two most

popular officers, who died soon after, feeling that they had

experienced ingratitude and neglect.

Soon after General Grant's inauguration as President, and, as I

supposed, in fulfilment of his plan divulged in Chicago the

previous December, were made the following:


WASHINGTON, March 8, 1869.

General Orders No. 11:

The following orders of the President of the United States are

published for the information and government of all concerned


WASHINGTON CITY, March 5, 1869.

By direction of the President, General William T. Sherman will

assume command of the Army of the United States.

The chiefs of staff corps, departments, and bureaus will report to

and act under the immediate orders of the general commanding the


Any official business which by law or regulation requires the

action of the President or Secretary of War will be submitted by

the General of the Army to the Secretary of War, and in general all

orders from the President or Secretary of War to any portion of the

army, line or staff, will be transmitted through the General of the


J. M. SCHOFIELD, Secretary of War.

By command of the General of the Army.

E. D. TOWNSEND, Assistant Adjutant-General.

On the same day I issued my General Orders No. 12, assuming command

and naming all the heads of staff departments and bureaus as

members of my staff, adding to my then three aides, Colonels McCoy,

Dayton, and Audenried, the names of Colonels Comstock, Horace

Porter, and Dent, agreeing with President Grant that the two latter

could remain with him till I should need their personal services or

ask their resignations.

I was soon made aware that the heads of several of the staff corps

were restive under this new order of things, for by long usage they

had grown to believe themselves not officers of the army in a

technical sense, but a part of the War Department, the civil branch

of the Government which connects the army with the President and


In a short time General John A. Rawlins, General Grant's former

chief of staff, was nominated and confirmed as Secretary of War;

and soon appeared this order:



WASHINGTON, March 27, 1869.

General Orders No. 28:

The following orders received for the War Department are published

for the government of all concerned:


WASHINGTON CITY, March 26, 1869.

By direction of the President, the order of the Secretary of War,

dated War Department, March 5, 1869, and published in General

Orders No. 11, headquarters of the army, Adjutant-General's Office,

dated March 8, 1869, except so much as directs General W. T.

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