Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman

Text to Speech

arrived the third steamer, the Panama; and, as the vessels were

arriving with coal, The California was enabled to hire a crew and

get off. From that time forward these three ships constituted the

regular line of mail-steamers, which has been kept up ever since.

By the steamer Oregon arrived out Major R. P. Hammond, J. M.

Williams, James Blair, and others; also the gentlemen who, with

Major Ogden, were to compose a joint commission to select the sites

for the permanent forts and navyyard of California. This

commission was composed of Majors Ogden, Smith, and Leadbetter, of,

the army, and Captains Goldsborough, Van Brunt, and Blunt, of the

navy. These officers, after a most careful study of the whole

subject, selected Mare Island for the navy-yard, and "Benicia" for

the storehouses and arsenals of the army. The Pacific Mail

Steamship Company also selected Benicia as their depot. Thus was

again revived the old struggle for supremacy of these two points

as the site of the future city of the Pacific. Meantime, however,

San Francisco had secured the name. About six hundred ships were

anchored there without crews, and could not get away; and there the

city was, and had to be.

Nevertheless, General Smith, being disinterested and unprejudiced,

decided on Benicia as the point where the city ought to be, and

where the army headquarters should be. By the Oregon there arrived

at San Francisco a man who deserves mention here--Baron

Steinberger. He had been a great cattle-dealer in the United

States, and boasted that he had helped to break the United States

Bank, by being indebted to it five million dollars! At all events,

he was a splendid looking fellow, and brought with him from

Washington a letter to General Smith and another for Commodore

Jones, to the effect that he was a man of enlarged experience in

beef; that the authorities in Washington knew that there existed in

California large herds of cattle, which were only valuable for

their hides and tallow; that it was of great importance to the

Government that this beef should be cured and salted so as to be of

use to the army and navy, obviating the necessity of shipping salt-

beef around Cape Horn. I know he had such a letter from the

Secretary of War, Marcy, to General Smith, for it passed into my

custody, and I happened to be in Commodore Jones's cabin when the

baron presented the one for him from the Secretary of the Navy.

The baron was anxious to pitch in at once, and said that all he

needed to start with were salt and barrels. After some inquiries

of his purser, the commodore promised to let him have the barrels

with their salt, as fast as they were emptied by the crew. Then

the baron explained that he could get a nice lot of cattle from Don

Timoteo Murphy, at the Mission of San Rafael, on the north aide of

the bay, but he could not get a boat and crew to handle them.

Under the authority from the Secretary of the Navy, the commodore

then promised him the use of a boat and crew, until he (the baron)

could find and purchase a suitable one for himself. Then the baron

opened the first regular butcher-shop in San Francisco, on the

wharf about the foot of Broadway or Pacific Street, where we could

buy at twenty-five or fifty cents a pound the best roasts, steaks,

and cuts of beef, which had cost him nothing, for he never paid

anybody if he could help it, and he soon cleaned poor Don Timoteo

out. At first, every boat of his, in coming down from the San

Rafael, touched at the Ohio, and left the best beefsteaks and

roasts for the commodore, but soon the baron had enough money to

dispense with the borrowed boat, and set up for himself, and from

this small beginning, step by step, he rose in a few months to be

one of the richest and most influential men in San Francisco; but

in his wild speculations he was at last caught, and became

helplessly bankrupt. He followed General Fremont to St. Louis in

1861, where I saw him, but soon afterward he died a pauper in one

of the hospitals. When General Smith had his headquarters in San

Francisco, in the spring of 1849, Steinberger gave dinners worthy

any baron of old; and when, in after-years, I was a banker there,

he used to borrow of me small sums of money in repayment for my

share of these feasts; and somewhere among my old packages I hold

one of his confidential notes for two hundred dollars, but on the

whole I got off easily. I have no doubt that, if this man's

history could be written out, it would present phases as wonderful

as any of romance; but in my judgment he was a dangerous man,

without any true-sense of honor or honesty.

Little by little the rains of that season grew less and less, and

the hills once more became green and covered with flowers. It

became perfectly evident that no family could live in San Francisco

on such a salary as Uncle Sam allowed his most favored officials;

so General Smith and Major Ogden concluded to send their families

back to the United States, and afterward we men-folks could take to

camp and live on our rations. The Second Infantry had arrived, and

had been distributed, four companies to Monterey, and the rest

somewhat as Stevenson's regiment had been. A. J. Smith's company

of dragoons was sent up to Sonoma, whither General Smith had

resolved to move our headquarters. On the steamer which sailed

about May 1st (I think the California), we embarked, the ladies for

home and we for Monterey. At Monterey we went on shore, and

Colonel Mason, who meantime had been relieved by General Riley,

went on board, and the steamer departed for Panama. Of all that

party I alone am alive.

General Riley had, with his family, taken the house which Colonel

Mason had formerly used, and Major Canby and wife had secured rooms

at Alvarado's. Captain Bane was quartermaster, and had his family

in the house of a man named Garner, near the redoubt. Burton and

Company F were still at the fort; the four companies of the Second

Infantry were quartered in the barracks, the same building in which

we had had our headquarters; and the company officers were

quartered in hired buildings near by. General Smith and his aide,

Captain Gibbs, went to Larkin's house, and I was at my old rooms at

Dona Augustias. As we intended to go back to San Francisco by land

and afterward to travel a good deal, General Smith gave me the

necessary authority to fit out the party. There happened to be

several trains of horses and mules in town, so I purchased about a

dozen horses and mules at two hundred dollars a head, on account of

the Quartermaster's Department, and we had them kept under guard in

the quartermaster's corral.

I remember one night being in the quarters of Lieutenant Alfred

Sully, where nearly all the officers of the garrison were

assembled, listening to Sully's stories. Lieutenant Derby,

"Squibob," was one of the number, as also Fred Steele, "Neighbor"

Jones, and others, when, just after "tattoo," the orderly-sergeants

came to report the result of "tattoo" roll-call; one reported five

men absent, another eight, and so on, until it became certain that

twenty-eight men had deserted; and they were so bold and open in

their behavior that it amounted to defiance. They had deliberately

slung their knapsacks and started for the gold-mines. Dr. Murray

and I were the only ones present who were familiar with the

country, and I explained how easy they could all be taken by a

party going out at once to Salinas Plain, where the country was so

open and level that a rabbit could not cross without being seen;

that the deserters could not go to the mines without crossing that

plain, and could not reach it before daylight. All agreed that the

whole regiment would desert if these men were not brought back.

Several officers volunteered on the spot to go after them; and, as

the soldiers could not be trusted, it was useless to send any but

officers in pursuit. Some one went to report the affair to the

adjutant-general, Canby, and he to General Riley. I waited some

time, and, as the thing grew cold, I thought it was given up, and

went to my room and to bed.

About midnight I was called up and informed that there were seven

officers willing to go, but the difficulty was to get horses and

saddles. I went down to Larkin's house and got General Smith to

consent that we might take the horses I had bought for our trip.

It was nearly three o'clock a.m. before we were all mounted and

ready. I had a musket which I used for hunting. With this I led

off at a canter, followed by the others. About six miles out, by

the faint moon, I saw ahead of us in the sandy road some blue

coats, and, fearing lest they might resist or escape into the dense

bushes which lined the road, I halted and found with me Paymaster

Hill, Captain N. H. Davis, and Lieutenant John Hamilton. We waited

some time for the others, viz., Canby, Murray, Gibbs, and Sully, to

come up, but as they were not in sight we made a dash up the road

and captured six of the deserters, who were Germans, with heavy

knapsacks on, trudging along the deep, sandy road. They had not

expected pursuit, had not heard our horses, and were accordingly

easily taken. Finding myself the senior officer present, I ordered

Lieutenant Hamilton to search the men and then to march them back

to Monterey, suspecting, as was the fact, that the rest of our

party had taken a road that branched off a couple of miles back.

Daylight broke as we reached the Saunas River, twelve miles out,

and there the trail was broad and fresh leading directly out on the

Saunas Plain. This plain is about five miles wide, and then the

ground becomes somewhat broken. The trail continued very plain,

and I rode on at a gallop to where there was an old adobe-ranch on

the left of the road, with the head of a lagoon, or pond, close by.

I saw one or two of the soldiers getting water at the pond, and

others up near the house. I had the best horse and was

considerably ahead, but on looking back could see Hill and Davis

coming up behind at a gallop. I motioned to them to hurry forward,

and turned my horse across the head of the pond, knowing the ground

well, as it was a favorite place for shooting geese and ducks.

Approaching the house, I ordered the men who were outside to go in.

They did not know me personally, and exchanged glances, but I had

my musket cocked, and, as the two had seen Davis and Hill coming up

pretty fast, they obeyed. Dismounting, I found the house full of

deserters, and there was no escape for them. They naturally

supposed that I had a strong party with me, and when I ordered them

to "fall in" they obeyed from habit. By the time Hill and Davis

came up I had them formed in two ranks, the front rank facing

about, and I was taking away their bayonets, pistols, etc. We

disarmed them, destroying a musket and several pistols, and, on

counting them, we found that we three had taken eighteen, which,

added to the six first captured, made twenty-four. We made them

sling their knapsacks and begin their homeward march. It was near

night when we got back, so that these deserters had traveled nearly

forty miles since "tattoo" of the night before. The other party

had captured three, so that only one man had escaped. I doubt not

this prevented the desertion of the bulk of the Second Infantry

that spring, for at that time so demoralizing was the effect of the

gold-mines that everybody not in the military service justified

desertion, because a soldier, if free, could earn more money in a

day than he received per month. Not only did soldiers and sailors

desert, but captains and masters of ships actually abandoned their

vessels and cargoes to try their luck at the mines. Preachers and

professors forgot their creeds and took to trade, and even to

keeping gambling-houses. I remember that one of our regular

soldiers, named Reese, in deserting stole a favorite double-

barreled gun of mine, and when the orderly-sergeant of the company,

Carson, was going on furlough, I asked him when he came across

Reese to try and get my gun back. When he returned he told me that

he had found Reese and offered him a hundred dollars for my gun,

but Reese sent me word that he liked the gun, and would not take a

hundred dollars for it. Soldiers or sailors who could reach the

mines were universally shielded by the miners, so that it was next

to useless to attempt their recapture. In due season General

Persifer Smith, Gibbs, and I, with some hired packers, started back

for San Francisco, and soon after we transferred our headquarters

to Sonoma. About this time Major Joseph Hooker arrived from the

East--the regular adjutant-general of the division--relieved me,

and I became thereafter one of General Smith's regular


As there was very little to do, General Smith encouraged us to go

into any business that would enable us to make money. R. P.

Hammond, James Blair, and I, made a contract to survey for Colonel

J. D. Stevenson his newly-projected city of "New York of the

Pacific," situated at the month of the San Joaquin River. The

contract embraced, also, the making of soundings and the marking

out of a channel through Suisun Bay. We hired, in San Francisco, a

small metallic boat, with a sail, laid in some stores, and

proceeded to the United States ship Ohio, anchored at Saucelito,

where we borrowed a sailor-boy and lead-lines with which to sound

the channel. We sailed up to Benicia, and, at General Smith's

request, we surveyed and marked the line dividing the city of

Benicia from the government reserve. We then sounded the bay back

and forth, and staked out the best channel up Suisun Bay, from

which Blair made out sailing directions. We then made the

preliminary surveys of the city of "New York of the Pacific," all

of which were duly plotted; and for this work we each received from

Stevenson five hundred dollars and ten or fifteen lots. I sold

enough lots to make up another five hundred dollars, and let the

balance go; for the city of "New York of the Pacific" never came to

any thing. Indeed, cities at the time were being projected by

speculators all round the bay and all over the country.

While we were surveying at "New York of the Pacific," occurred one

of those little events that showed the force of the gold-fever. We

had a sailor-boy with us, about seventeen years old, who cooked our

meals and helped work the boat. Onshore, we had the sail spread so

as to shelter us against the wind and dew. One morning I awoke

about daylight, and looked out to see if our sailor-boy was at work

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