Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman

Text to Speech

discipline and military control. Its fiscal arrangements properly

belong to the administrative departments of the staff and to the

Treasury Department under the direction of the Secretary of War.

"49. The general of the army will watch over the economy of the

service in all that relates to the expenditure of money, supply of

arms, ordnance and ordnance stores, clothing, equipments,

camp-equipage, medical and hospital stores, barracks, quarters,

transportation, Military Academy, pay, and subsistence: in short,

everything which enters into the expenses of the military

establishment, whether personal or material. He will also see that

the estimates for the military service are based on proper data,

and made for the objects contemplated by law, and necessary to the

due support and useful employment of the army. In carrying into

effect these important duties, he will call to his counsel and

assistance the staff, and those officers proper, in his opinion, to

be employed in verifying and inspecting all the objects which may

require attention. The rules and regulations established for the

government of the army, and the laws relating to the military

establishment, are the guides to the commanding general in the

performance of his duties."

Why was this, or why was all mention of any field of duty for the

head of the army left out of the army regulations? Simply because

Jefferson Davis had a purpose, and absorbed to himself, as

Secretary of War, as General Grant well says, all the powers of

commander-in-chief. Floyd succeeded him, and the last regulations

of 1863 were but a new compilation of their orders, hastily

collected and published to supply a vast army with a new edition.

I contend that all parts of these regulations inconsistent with the

law of July 28, 1866, are repealed.

I surely do not ask for any power myself, but I hope and trust, now

when we have a military President and a military Secretary of War,

that in the new regulations to be laid before Congress next session

the functions and duties of the commander-in-chief will be so

clearly marked out and defined that they may be understood by

himself and the army at large.

I am, with great respect, your obedient servant,

W. T. SHERMAN, General.


WASHINGTON, January 29, 1866.

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

From the period of the difficulties between Major-General (now

Lieutenant-General) Scott with Secretary Marcy, during the

administration of President Polk, the command of the army virtually

passed into the hands of the Secretary of War.

From that day to the breaking out of the rebellion the general-

in-chief never kept his headquarters in Washington, and could not,

consequently, with propriety resume his proper functions. To

administer the affairs of the army properly, headquarters and the

adjutant-general's office must be in the same place.

During the war, while in the field, my functions as commander of

all the armies was never impaired, but were facilitated in all

essential matters by the Administration and by the War Department.

Now, however, that the war is over, and I have brought my head-

quarters to the city, I find my present position embarrassing and,

I think, out of place. I have been intending, or did intend, to

make the beginning of the New Year the time to bring this matter

before you, with the view of asking to have the old condition of

affairs restored, but from diffidence about mentioning the matter

have delayed. In a few words I will state what I conceive to be my

duties and my place, and ask respectfully to be restored to them

and it.

The entire adjutant-general's office should be under the entire

control of the general-in-chief of the army. No orders should go

to the army, or the adjutant-general, except through the general-

in-chief. Such as require the action of the President would be

laid before the Secretary of War, whose actions would be regarded

as those of the President. In short, in my opinion, the general-

in-chief stands between the President and the army in all official

matters, and the Secretary of War is between the army (through the

general-in-chief) and the President.

I can very well conceive that a rule so long disregarded could not,

or would not, be restored without the subject being presented, and

I now do so respectfully for your consideration.

U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.

General Belknap never answered that letter.

In August, 1870, was held at Des Moines, Iowa, an encampment of old

soldiers which I attended, en route to the Pacific, and at Omaha

received this letter:

LONG BRANCH, New Jersey, August 18,1870.

General W. T. SHERMAN.

DEAR GENERAL: Your letter of the 7th inst. did not reach Long

Branch until after I had left for St. Louis, and consequently is

just before me for the first time. I do not know what changes

recent laws, particularly the last army bill passed, make in the

relations between the general of the army and the Secretary of War.

Not having this law or other statutes here, I cannot examine the

subject now, nor would I want to without consultation with the

Secretary of War. On our return to Washington I have no doubt but

that the relations between the Secretary and yourself can be made

pleasant, and the duties of each be so clearly defined as to leave

no doubt where the authority of one leaves off and the other


My own views, when commanding the army, were that orders to the

army should go through the general. No changes should be made,

however, either of the location of troops or officers, without the

knowledge of the Secretary of War.

In peace, the general commanded them without reporting to the

Secretary farther than he chose the specific orders he gave from

time to time, but subjected himself to orders from the Secretary,

the latter deriving his authority to give orders from the

President. As Congress has the right, however, to make rules and

regalations for the government of the army, rules made by them

whether they are as they should be or not, will have to govern. As

before stated, I have not examined the recent law.

Yours truly,


To which I replied:

OMAHA, NEBRASKA, September 2,1870.

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

DEAR GENERAL: I have received your most acceptable letter of August

18th, and assure you that I am perfectly willing to abide by any

decision you may make. We had a most enthusiastic meeting at Des

Moines, and General Bellknap gave us a fine, finished address. I

have concluded to go over to San Francisco to attend the annual

celebration of the Pioneers, to be held on the 9th instant; from

there I will make a short tour, aiming to get back to St. Louis by

the 1st of October, and so on to Washington without unnecessary


Conscious of the heavy burdens already on you, I should refrain

from adding one ounce to your load of care, but it seems to me now

is the time to fix clearly and plainly the field of duty for the

Secretary of War and the commanding general of the army, so that we

may escape the unpleasant controversy that gave so much scandal in

General Scott's time, and leave to our successors a clear field.

No matter what the result, I promise to submit to whatever decision

you may make. I also feel certain that General Belknap thinks he

is simply executing the law as it now stands, but I am equally

certain that he does not interpret the law reviving the grade of

general, and that fixing the "peace establishment" of 1868, as I

construe them.

For instance, I am supposed to control the discipline of the

Military Academy as a part of the army, whereas General Belknap

ordered a court of inquiry in the case of the colored cadet, made

the detail, reviewed the proceedings, and made his order, without

my knowing a word of it, except through the newspapers; and more

recently, when I went to Chicago to attend to some division

business, I found the inspector-general (Hardie) under orders from

the Secretary of War to go to Montana on some claim business.

All I ask is that such orders should go through me. If all the

staff-officers are subject to receive orders direct from the

Secretary of War it will surely clash with the orders they may be

in the act of executing from me, or from their immediate


I ask that General Belknap draw up some clear, well-defined rules

for my action, that he show them to me before publication, that I

make on them my remarks, and then that you make a final decision.

I promise faithfully to abide by it, or give up my commission.

Please show this to General Belknap, and I will be back early in

October. With great respect, your friend,


I did return about October 15th, saw President Grant, who said

nothing had been done in the premises, but that he would bring

General Belknap and me together and settle this matter. Matters

went along pretty much as usual till the month of August, 1871,

when I dined at the Arlington with Admiral Alder and General

Belknap. The former said he had been promoted to rear-admiral and

appointed to command the European squadron, then at Villa Franca,

near Nice, and that he was going out in the frigate Wabash,

inviting me to go along. I had never been to Europe, and the

opportunity was too tempting to refuse. After some preliminaries I

agreed to go along, taking with me as aides-de-camp Colonel

Audenried and Lieutenant Fred Grant. The Wabash was being

overhauled at the Navy-Yard at Boston, and was not ready to sail

till November, when she came to New-York, where we all embarked

Saturday, November 11th.

I have very full notes of the whole trip, and here need only state

that we went out to the Island of Madeira, and thence to Cadiz and

Gibraltar. Here my party landed, and the Wabash went on to Villa

Franca. From Gibraltar we made the general tour of Spain to

Bordeaux, through the south of France to Marseilles, Toulon, etc.,

to Nice, from which place we rejoined the Wabash and brought ashore

our baggage.

From Nice we went to Genoa, Turin, the Mont Cenis Tunnel, Milan,

Venice, etc., to Rome. Thence to Naples, Messina, and Syracuse,

where we took a steamer to Malta. From Malta to Egypt and

Constantinople, to Sebastopol, Poti, and Tiflis. At Constantinople

and Sebastopol my party was increased by Governor Curtin, his son,

and Mr. McGahan.

It was my purpose to have reached the Caspian, and taken boats to

the Volga, and up that river as far as navigation would permit, but

we were dissuaded by the Grand-Duke Michael, Governor-General of

the Caucasas, and took carriages six hundred miles to Taganrog, on

the Sea of Azof, to which point the railroad system of Russia was

completed. From Taganrog we took cars to Moscow and St.

Petersburg. Here Mr. Curtin and party remained, he being our

Minister at that court; also Fred Grant left us to visit his aunt

at Copenhagen. Colonel Audenried and I then completed the tour of

interior Europe, taking in Warsaw, Berlin, Vienna, Switzerland,

France, England, Scotland, and Ireland, embarking for home in the

good steamer Baltic, Saturday, September 7, 1872, reaching

Washington, D. C., September 22d. I refrain from dwelling on this

trip, because it would swell this chapter beyond my purpose.

When I regained my office I found matters unchanged since my

departure, the Secretary of War exercising all the functions of

commander-in-chief, and I determined to allow things to run to their

necessary conclusion. In 1873 my daughter Minnie also made a trip

to Europe, and I resolved as soon as she returned that I would

simply move back to St. Louis to execute my office there as best I

could. But I was embarrassed by being the possessor of a large

piece of property in Washington on I Street, near the corner of

Third, which I could at the time neither sell nor give away. It

came into my possession as a gift from friends in New York and

Boston, who had purchased it of General Grant and transferred to me

at the price of $65,000.

The house was very large, costly to light, heat, and maintain, and

Congress had reduced my pay four or five thousand dollars a year,

so that I was gradually being impoverished. Taxes, too, grew

annually, from about four hundred dollars a year to fifteen

hundred, besides all sorts of special taxes.

Finding myself caught in a dilemma, I added a new hall, and made

out of it two houses, one of which I occupied, and the other I

rented, and thus matters stood in 1873-'74. By the agency of Mr.

Hall, a neighbor and broker, I effected a sale of the property to

the present owner, Mr. Emory, at a fair price, accepting about half

payment in notes, and the other half in a piece of property on E

Street, which I afterward exchanged for a place in Cite Brilliante,

a suburb of St. Louis, which I still own. Being thus foot-loose,

and having repeatedly notified President Grant of my purpose, I

wrote the Secretary of War on the 8th day of May, 1874, asking the

authority of the President and the War Department to remove my

headquarters to St. Louis.

On the 11th day of May General Belknap replied that I had the

assent of the President and himself, inclosing the rough draft of

an order to accomplish this result, which I answered on the 15th,

expressing my entire satisfaction, only requesting delay in the

publication of the orders till August or September, as I preferred

to make the changes in the month of October.

On the 3d of September these orders were made:



General Orders No. 108.

With the assent of the President, and at the request of the

General, the headquarters of the armies of the United States will

be established at St. Louis, Missouri, in the month of October


The regulations and orders now governing the functions of the

General of the Army, and those in relation to transactions of

business with the War Department and its bureaus, will continue in


By order of the Secretary of War:

E. D. TOWNSEND, Adjutant-General.

Our daughter Minnie was married October 1, 1874, to Thomas W.

Fitch, United States Navy, and we all forthwith packed up and

regained our own house at St. Louis, taking an office on the corner

of Tenth and Locust Streets. The only staff I brought with me were

the aides allowed by law, and, though we went through the forms of

"command," I realized that it was a farce, and it did not need a

prophet to foretell it would end in a tragedy. We made ourselves

very comfortable, made many pleasant excursions into the interior,

had a large correspondence, and escaped the mortification of being

slighted by men in Washington who were using their temporary power

for selfish ends.

Early in March, 1676, appeared in all the newspapers of the day the

sensational report from Washington that Secretary of War Belknap

had been detected in selling sutlerships in the army; that he had

confessed it to Representative Blackburn, of Kentucky; that he had

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