Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman

Text to Speech

to be supplied with one hundred thousand dollars out of the civil

fund, subject to his control, and with this to purchase at

Sacramento flour, bacon, etc., and to hire men and mules to send

out and meet the immigrants. Major Rucker fulfilled this duty

perfectly, sending out pack-trains loaded with food by the many

routes by which the immigrants were known to be approaching, went

out himself with one of these trains, and remained in the mountains

until the last immigrant had got in. No doubt this expedition

saved many a life which has since been most useful to the country.

I remained at Sacramento a good part of the fall of 1849,

recognizing among the immigrants many of my old personal friends--

John C. Fall, William King, Sam Stambaugh, Hugh Ewing, Hampton

Denman, etc. I got Rucker to give these last two employment along

with the train for the relief of the immigrants. They had proposed

to begin a ranch on my land on the Cosumnes, but afterward changed

their minds, and went out with Rucker.

While I was at Sacramento General Smith had gone on his

contemplated trip to Oregon, and promised that he would be back in

December, when he would send me home with dispatches. Accordingly,

as the winter and rainy season was at hand, I went to San

Francisco, and spent some time at the Presidio, waiting patiently

for General Smith's return. About Christmas a vessel arrived from

Oregon with the dispatches, and an order for me to deliver them in

person to General Winfield Scott, in New York City. General Smith

had sent them down, remaining in Oregon for a time. Of course I

was all ready, and others of our set were going home by the same

conveyance, viz., Rucker, Ord, A. J. Smith--some under orders, and

the others on leave. Wanting to see my old friends in Monterey, I

arranged for my passage in the steamer of January 1, 1850, paying

six hundred dollars for passage to New York, and went down to

Monterey by land, Rucker accompanying me. The weather was

unusually rainy, and all the plain about Santa Clara was under

water; but we reached Monterey in time. I again was welcomed by my

friends, Dona Augustias, Manuelita, and the family, and it was

resolved that I should take two of the boys home with me and put

them at Georgetown College for education, viz., Antonio and

Porfirio, thirteen and eleven years old. The dona gave me a bag of

gold-dust to pay for their passage and to deposit at the college.

On the 2d day of January punctually appeared the steamer Oregon.

We were all soon on board and off for home. At that time the

steamers touched at San Diego, Acapulco, and Panama. Our

passage down the coast was unusually pleasant. Arrived at

Panama, we hired mules and rode across to Gorgona, on the

Cruces River, where we hired a boat and paddled down to the

mouth of the river, off which lay the steamer Crescent City. It

usually took four days to cross the isthmus, every passenger taking

care of himself, and it was really funny to watch the efforts of

women and men unaccustomed to mules. It was an old song to us, and

the trip across was easy and interesting. In due time we were rowed

off to the Crescent City, rolling back and forth in the swell, and

we scrambled aboard by a "Jacob's ladder" from the stern. Some of

the women had to be hoisted aboard by lowering a tub from the end

of a boom; fun to us who looked on, but awkward enough to the poor

women, especially to a very fat one, who attracted much notice.

General Fremont, wife and child (Lillie) were passengers with us

down from San Francisco; but Mrs. Fremont not being well, they

remained over one trip at Panama.

Senator Gwin was one of our passengers, and went through to New

York. We reached New York about the close of January, after a safe

and pleasant trip. Our party, composed of Ord, A. J. Smith, and

Rucker, with the two boys, Antonio and Porfirio, put up at

Delmonico's, on Bowling Green; and, as soon as we had cleaned up

somewhat, I took a carriage, went to General Scott's office in

Ninth Street, delivered my dispatches, was ordered to dine with him

next day, and then went forth to hunt up my old friends and

relations, the Scotts, Hoyts, etc., etc.

On reaching New York, most of us had rough soldier's clothing, but

we soon got a new outfit, and I dined with General Scott's family,

Mrs. Scott being present, and also their son-in-law and daughter

(Colonel and Mrs. H. L. Scott). The general questioned me pretty

closely in regard to things on the Pacific coast, especially the

politics, and startled me with the assertion that "our country was

on the eve of a terrible civil war." He interested me by anecdotes

of my old army comrades in his recent battles around the city of

Mexico, and I felt deeply the fact that our country had passed

through a foreign war, that my comrades had fought great battles,

and yet I had not heard a hostile shot. Of course, I thought it

the last and only chance in my day, and that my career as a soldier

was at an end. After some four or five days spent in New York, I

was, by an order of General Scott, sent to Washington, to lay

before the Secretary of War (Crawford, of Georgia) the dispatches

which I had brought from California. On reaching Washington, I

found that Mr. Ewing was Secretary of the Interior, and I at once

became a member of his family. The family occupied the house of

Mr. Blair, on Pennsylvania Avenue, directly in front of the War

Department. I immediately repaired to the War Department, and

placed my dispatches in the hands of Mr. Crawford, who questioned

me somewhat about California, but seemed little interested in the

subject, except so far as it related to slavery and the routes

through Texas. I then went to call on the President at the White

House. I found Major Bliss, who had been my teacher in mathematics

at West Point, and was then General Taylor's son-in-law and private

secretary. He took me into the room, now used by the President's

private secretaries, where President Taylor was. I had never seen

him before, though I had served under him in Florida in 1840-'41,

and was most agreeably surprised at his fine personal appearance,

and his pleasant, easy manners. He received me with great

kindness, told me that Colonel Mason had mentioned my name with

praise, and that he would be pleased to do me any act of favor. We

were with him nearly an hour, talking about California generally,

and of his personal friends, Persifer Smith, Riley, Canby, and

others: Although General Scott was generally regarded by the army

as the most accomplished soldier of the Mexican War, yet General

Taylor had that blunt, honest, and stern character, that endeared

him to the masses of the people, and made him President. Bliss,

too, had gained a large fame by his marked skill and intelligence

as an adjutant-general and military adviser. His manner was very

unmilitary, and in his talk he stammered and hesitated, so as to

make an unfavorable impression on a stranger; but he was

wonderfully accurate and skillful with his pen, and his orders and

letters form a model of military precision and clearness.




Having returned from California in January, 1850, with dispatches

for the War Department, and having delivered them in person first

to General Scott in New York City, and afterward to the Secretary

of War (Crawford) in Washington City, I applied for and received a

leave of absence for six months. I first visited my mother, then

living at Mansfield, Ohio, and returned to Washington, where, on

the 1st day of May, 1850, I was married to Miss Ellen Boyle Ewing,

daughter of the Hon. Thomas Ewing, Secretary of the Interior. The

marriage ceremony was attended by a large and distinguished

company, embracing Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, T. H. Benton,

President Taylor, and all his cabinet. This occurred at the house

of Mr. Ewing, the same now owned and occupied by Mr. F. P. Blair,

senior, on Pennsylvania Avenue, opposite the War Department. We

made a wedding tour to Baltimore, New York, Niagara, and Ohio, and

returned to Washington by the 1st of July. General Taylor

participated in the celebration of the Fourth of July, a very hot

day, by hearing a long speech from the Hon. Henry S. Foote, at the

base of the Washington Monument. Returning from the celebration

much heated and fatigued, he partook too freely of his favorite

iced milk with cherries, and during that night was seized with a

severe colic, which by morning had quite prostrated him. It was

said that he sent for his son-in-law, Surgeon Wood, United States

Army, stationed in Baltimore, and declined medical assistance from

anybody else. Mr. Ewing visited him several times, and was

manifestly uneasy and anxious, as was also his son-in-law, Major

Bliss, then of the army, and his confidential secretary. He

rapidly grew worse, and died in about four days.

At that time there was a high state of political feeling pervading

the country, on account of the questions growing out of the new

Territories just acquired from Mexico by the war. Congress was in

session, and General Taylor's sudden death evidently created great

alarm. I was present in the Senate-gallery, and saw the oath of

office administered to the Vice-President, Mr. Fillmore, a man of

splendid physical proportions and commanding appearance; but on the

faces of Senators and people could easily be read the feelings of

doubt and uncertainty that prevailed. All knew that a change in

the cabinet and general policy was likely to result, but at the

time it was supposed that Mr. Fillmore, whose home was in Buffalo,

would be less liberal than General Taylor to the politicians of the

South, who feared, or pretended to fear, a crusade against slavery;

or, as was the political cry of the day, that slavery would be

prohibited in the Territories and in the places exclusively under

the jurisdiction of the United States. Events, however, proved the


I attended General Taylor's funeral as a sort of aide-decamp, at

the request of the Adjutant-General of the army, Roger Jones, whose

brother, a militia-general, commanded the escort, composed of

militia and some regulars. Among the regulars I recall the names

of Captains John Sedgwick and W. F. Barry.

Hardly was General Taylor decently buried in the Congressional

Cemetery when the political struggle recommenced, and it became

manifest that Mr. Fillmore favored the general compromise then

known as Henry Clay's "Omnibus Bill," and that a general change of

cabinet would at once occur: Webster was to succeed Mr. Clayton as

Secretary of State, Corwin to succeed Mr. Meredith as Secretary of

the Treasury, and A. H. H. Stuart to succeed Mr. Ewing as Secretary

of the Interior. Mr. Ewing, however, was immediately appointed by

the Governor of the State to succeed Corwin in the Senate. These

changes made it necessary for Mr. Ewing to discontinue house-

keeping, and Mr. Corwin took his home and furniture off his hands.

I escorted the family out to their home in Lancaster, Ohio; but,

before this had occurred, some most interesting debates took place

in the Senate, which I regularly attended, and heard Clay, Benton,

Foots, King of Alabama, Dayton, and the many real orators of that

day. Mr. Calhoun was in his seat, but he was evidently approaching

his end, for he was pale and feeble in the extreme. I heard Mr.

Webster's last speech on the floor of the Senate, under

circumstances that warrant a description. It was publicly known

that he was to leave the Senate, and enter the new cabinet of Mr.

Fillmore, as his Secretary of State, and that prior to leaving he

was to make a great speech on the "Omnibus Bill." Resolved to hear

it, I went up to the Capitol on the day named, an hour or so

earlier than usual. The speech was to be delivered in the old

Senate-chamber, now used by the Supreme Court. The galleries were

much smaller than at present, and I found them full to overflowing,

with a dense crowd about the door, struggling to reach the stairs.

I could not get near, and then tried the reporters' gallery, but

found it equally crowded; so I feared I should lose the only

possible opportunity to hear Mr. Webster.

I had only a limited personal acquaintance with any of the

Senators, but had met Mr. Corwin quite often at Mr. Ewing's house,

and I also knew that he had been extremely friendly to my father in

his lifetime; so I ventured to send in to him my card, "W. T. S.,

First-Lieutenant, Third Artillery." He came to the door promptly,

when I said, "Mr. Corwin, I believe Mr. Webster is to speak

to-day." His answer was, "Yes, he has the floor at one o'clock."

I then added that I was extremely anxious to hear him. "Well,"

said he, "why don't you go into the gallery?" I explained that it

was full, and I had tried every access, but found all jammed with

people. "Well," said he, "what do you want of me?" I explained

that I would like him to take me on the floor of the Senate; that I

had often seen from the gallery persons on the floor, no better

entitled to it than I. He then asked in his quizzical way, "Are

you a foreign embassador?" "No." "Are you the Governor of a

State?" "No." "Are you a member of the other House?" "Certainly

not" "Have you ever had a vote of thanks by name?" "No!" "Well,

these are the only privileged members." I then told him he knew

well enough who I was, and that if he chose he could take me in.

He then said, "Have you any impudence?" I told him, "A reasonable

amount if occasion called for it." "Do you think you could become

so interested in my conversation as not to notice the door-keeper?"

(pointing to him). I told him that there was not the least doubt

of it, if he would tell me one of his funny stories. He then took

my arm, and led me a turn in the vestibule, talking about some

indifferent matter, but all the time directing my looks to his left

hand, toward which he was gesticulating with his right; and thus we

approached the door-keeper, who began asking me, "Foreign

ambassador? Governor of a State? Member of Congress?" etc.; but I

caught Corwin's eye, which said plainly, "Don't mind him, pay

attention to me," and in this way we entered the Senate-chamber by

a side-door. Once in, Corwin said, "Now you can take care of

yourself," and I thanked him cordially.

I found a seat close behind Mr. Webster, and near General Scott,

and heard the whole of the speech. It was heavy in the extreme,

and I confess that I was disappointed and tired long before it was

finished. No doubt the speech was full of fact and argument, but

it had none of the fire of oratory, or intensity of feeling, that

marked all of Mr. Clay's efforts.

Toward the end of July, as before stated, all the family went home

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