Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman

Text to Speech

to Lancaster. Congress was still in session, and the bill adding

four captains to the Commissary Department had not passed, but was

reasonably certain to, and I was equally sure of being one of them.

At that time my name was on the muster-roll of (Light) Company C,

Third Artillery (Bragg's), stationed at Jefferson Barracks, near

St. Louis. But, as there was cholera at St. Louis, on application,

I was permitted to delay joining my company until September. Early

in that month, I proceeded to Cincinnati, and thence by steamboat

to St. Louis, and then to Jefferson Barracks, where I reported

for duty to Captain and Brevet-Colonel Braxton Bragg, commanding

(Light) Company C, Third Artillery. The other officers of the

company were First-Lieutenant James A. Hardie, and afterward

Haekaliah Brown. New horses had just been purchased for the

battery, and we were preparing for work, when the mail brought the

orders announcing the passage of the bill increasing the Commissary

Department by four captains, to which were promoted Captains

Shiras, Blair, Sherman, and Bowen. I was ordered to take post at

St. Louis, and to relieve Captain A. J. Smith, First Dragoons, who

had been acting in that capacity for some months. My commission

bore date September 27,1850. I proceeded forthwith to the city,

relieved Captain Smith, and entered on the discharge of the duties

of the office.

Colonel N. S. Clarke, Sixth Infantry, commanded the department;

Major D. C. Buell was adjutant-general, and Captain W. S. Hancock

was regimental quartermaster; Colonel Thomas Swords was the depot

quartermaster, and we had our offices in the same building, on the

corner of Washington Avenue and Second. Subsequently Major S. Van

Vliet relieved Colonel Swords. I remained at the Planters' House

until my family arrived, when we occupied a house on Chouteau

Avenue, near Twelfth.

During the spring and summer of 1851, Mr. Ewing and Mr. Henry

Stoddard, of Dayton, Ohio, a cousin of my father, were much in St.

Louis, on business connected with the estate of Major Amos

Stoddard, who was of the old army, as early as the beginning of

this century. He was stationed at the village of St. Louis at the

time of the Louisiana purchase, and when Lewis and Clarke made

their famous expedition across the continent to the Columbia River.

Major Stoddard at that early day had purchased a small farm back of

the village, of some Spaniard or Frenchman, but, as he was a

bachelor, and was killed at Fort Meigs, Ohio, during the War of

1812, the title was for many years lost sight of, and the farm was

covered over by other claims and by occupants. As St. Louis began

to grow, his brothers and sisters, and their descendants, concluded

to look up the property. After much and fruitless litigation, they

at last retained Mr. Stoddard, of Dayton, who in turn employed Mr.

Ewing, and these, after many years of labor, established the title,

and in the summer of 1851 they were put in possession by the United

States marshal. The ground was laid off, the city survey extended

over it, and the whole was sold in partition. I made some

purchases, and acquired an interest, which I have retained more or

less ever since.

We continued to reside in St. Louis throughout the year 1851, and

in the spring of 1852 I had occasion to visit Fort Leavenworth on

duty, partly to inspect a lot of cattle which a Mr. Gordon, of Cass

County, had contracted to deliver in New Mexico, to enable Colonel

Sumner to attempt his scheme of making the soldiers in New Mexico

self-supporting, by raising their own meat, and in a measure their

own vegetables. I found Fort Leavenworth then, as now, a most

beautiful spot, but in the midst of a wild Indian country. There

were no whites settled in what is now the State of Kansas. Weston,

in Missouri, was the great town, and speculation in town-lots there

and thereabout burnt the fingers of some of the army-officers, who

wanted to plant their scanty dollars in a fruitful soil. I rode on

horseback over to Gordon's farm, saw the cattle, concluded the

bargain, and returned by way of Independence, Missouri. At

Independence I found F. X. Aubrey, a noted man of that day, who had

just made a celebrated ride of six hundred miles in six days. That

spring the United States quartermaster, Major L. C. Easton, at Fort

Union, New Mexico, had occasion to send some message east by a

certain date, and contracted with Aubrey to carry it to the nearest

post-office (then Independence, Missouri), making his compensation

conditional on the time consumed. He was supplied with a good

horse, and an order on the outgoing trains for an exchange. Though

the whole route was infested with hostile Indians, and not a house

on it, Aubrey started alone with his rifle. He was fortunate in

meeting several outward-bound trains, and there, by made frequent

changes of horses, some four or five, and reached Independence in

six days, having hardly rested or slept the whole way. Of course,

he was extremely fatigued, and said there was an opinion among the

wild Indians that if a man "sleeps out his sleep," after such

extreme exhaustion, he will never awake; and, accordingly, he

instructed his landlord to wake him up after eight hours of sleep.

When aroused at last, he saw by the clock that he had been asleep

twenty hours, and he was dreadfully angry, threatened to murder his

landlord, who protested he had tried in every way to get him up,

but found it impossible, and had let him "sleep it out" Aubrey, in

describing his sensations to me, said he took it for granted he was

a dead man; but in fact he sustained no ill effects, and was off

again in a few days. I met him afterward often in California, and

always esteemed him one of the best samples of that bold race of

men who had grown up on the Plains, along with the Indians, in the

service of the fur companies. He was afterward, in 1856, killed by

R. C. Weightman, in a bar-room row, at Santa Fe, New Mexico, where

he had just arrived from California.

In going from Independence to Fort Leavenworth, I had to swim Milk

Creek, and sleep all night in a Shawnee camp. The next day I

crossed the Kaw or Kansas River in a ferry boat, maintained by the

blacksmith of the tribe, and reached the fort in the evening. At

that day the whole region was unsettled, where now exist many rich

counties, highly cultivated, embracing several cities of from ten

to forty thousand inhabitants. From Fort Leavenworth I returned by

steamboat to St. Louis.

In the summer of 1852, my family went to Lancaster, Ohio; but I

remained at my post. Late in the season, it was rumored that I was

to be transferred to New Orleans, and in due time I learned the

cause. During a part of the Mexican War, Major Seawell, of the

Seventh Infantry, had been acting commissary of subsistence at New

Orleans, then the great depot of supplies for the troops in Texas,

and of those operating beyond the Rio Grande. Commissaries at that

time were allowed to purchase in open market, and were not

restricted to advertising and awarding contracts to the lowest

bidders. It was reported that Major Seawell had purchased largely

of the house of Perry Seawell & Co., Mr. Seawell being a relative

of his. When he was relieved in his duties by Major Waggman, of

the regular Commissary Department, the latter found Perry Seawell &

Co. so prompt and satisfactory that he continued the patronage;

for which there was a good reason, because stores for the use of

the troops at remote posts had to be packed in a particular way, to

bear transportation in wagons, or even on pack-mules; and this firm

had made extraordinary preparations for this exclusive purpose.

Some time about 1849, a brother of Major Waggaman, who had been

clerk to Captain Casey, commissary of subsistence, at Tampa Bay,

Florida, was thrown out of office by the death of the captain, and

he naturally applied to his brother in New Orleans for employment;

and he, in turn, referred him to his friends, Messrs. Perry

Seawell & Co. These first employed him as a clerk, and afterward

admitted him as a partner. Thus it resulted, in fact, that Major

Waggaman was dealing largely, if not exclusively, with a firm of

which his brother was a partner.

One day, as General Twiggs was coming across Lake Pontchartrain, he

fell in with one of his old cronies, who was an extensive grocer.

This gentleman gradually led the conversation to the downward

tendency of the times since he and Twiggs were young, saying that,

in former years, all the merchants of New Orleans had a chance at

government patronage; but now, in order to sell to the army

commissary, one had to take a brother in as a partner. General

Twiggs resented this, but the merchant again affirmed it, and gave

names. As soon as General Twiggs reached his office, he instructed

his adjutant-general, Colonel Bliss--who told me this--to address a

categorical note of inquiry to Major Waggaman. The major very

frankly stated the facts as they had arisen, and insisted that the

firm of Perry Seawell & Co. had enjoyed a large patronage, but

deserved it richly by reason of their promptness, fairness, and

fidelity. The correspondence was sent to Washington, and the

result was, that Major Waggaman was ordered to St. Louis, and I was

ordered to New Orleans.

I went down to New Orleans in a steamboat in the month of

September, 1852, taking with me a clerk, and, on arrival, assumed

the office, in a bank-building facing Lafayette Square, in which

were the offices of all the army departments. General D. Twiggs

was in command of the department, with Colonel W. W. S. Bliss

(son-in-law of General Taylor) as his adjutant-general. Colonel A.

C. Myers was quartermaster, Captain John F. Reynolds aide-de-camp,

and Colonel A. J. Coffee paymaster. I took rooms at the St. Louis

Hotel, kept by a most excellent gentleman, Colonel Mudge.

Mr. Perry Seawell came to me in person, soliciting a continuance of

the custom which he had theretofore enjoyed; but I told him frankly

that a change was necessary, and I never saw or heard of him

afterward. I simply purchased in open market, arranged for the

proper packing of the stores, and had not the least difficulty in

supplying the troops and satisfying the head of the department in


About Christmas, I had notice that my family, consisting of Mrs.

Sherman, two children, and nurse, with my sister Fanny (now Mrs.

Moulton, of Cincinnati, Ohio), were en route for New Orleans by

steam-packet; so I hired a house on Magazine Street, and furnished

it. Almost at the moment of their arrival, also came from St.

Louis my personal friend Major Turner, with a parcel of documents,

which, on examination, proved to be articles of copartnership for a

bank in California under the title of "Lucas, Turner & Co.," in

which my name was embraced as a partner. Major Turner was, at the

time, actually en route for New York, to embark for San Francisco,

to inaugurate the bank, in the nature of a branch of the firm

already existing at St. Louis under the name of "Lucas & Symonds."

We discussed the matter very fully, and he left with me the papers

for reflection, and went on to New York and California.

Shortly after arrived James H. Lucas, Esq., the principal of the

banking-firm in St. Louis, a most honorable and wealthy gentleman.

He further explained the full programme of the branch in

California; that my name had been included at the insistance of

Major Turner, who was a man of family and property in St. Louis,

unwilling to remain long in San Francisco, and who wanted me to

succeed him there. He offered me a very tempting income, with an

interest that would accumulate and grow. He also disclosed to me

that, in establishing a branch in California, he was influenced by

the apparent prosperity of Page, Bacon & Co., and further that he

had received the principal data, on which he had founded the

scheme, from B. R. Nisbet, who was then a teller in the firm of

Page, Bacon & Co., of San Francisco; that he also was to be taken

in as a partner, and was fully competent to manage all the details

of the business; but, as Nisbet was comparatively young, Mr. Lucas

wanted me to reside in San Francisco permanently, as the head of

the firm. All these matters were fully discussed, and I agreed to

apply for a six months' leave of absence, go to San Francisco, see

for myself, and be governed by appearances there. I accordingly,

with General Twiggs's approval, applied to the adjutant-general for

a six months' leave, which was granted; and Captain John F.

Reynolds was named to perform my duties during my absence.

During the stay of my family in New Orleans, we enjoyed the society

of the families of General Twiggs, Colonel Myers, and Colonel

Bliss, as also of many citizens, among whom was the wife of Mr.

Day, sister to my brother-in-law, Judge Bartley. General Twiggs

was then one of the oldest officers of the army. His history

extended back to the War of 1812, and he had served in early days

with General Jackson in Florida and in the Creek campaigns. He had

fine powers of description, and often entertained us, at his

office, with accounts of his experiences in the earlier settlements

of the Southwest. Colonel Bliss had been General Taylor's adjutant

in the Mexican War, and was universally regarded as one of the most

finished and accomplished scholars in the army, and his wife was a

most agreeable and accomplished lady.

Late in February, I dispatched my family up to Ohio in the

steamboat Tecumseh (Captain Pearce); disposed of my house and

furniture; turned over to Major Reynolds the funds, property, and

records of the office; and took passage in a small steamer for

Nicaragua,, en route for California. We embarked early in March,

and in seven days reached Greytown, where we united with the

passengers from New York, and proceeded, by the Nicaragua River and

Lake, for the Pacific Ocean. The river was low, and the little

steam canal-boats, four in number, grounded often, so that the

passengers had to get into the water, to help them over the bare.

In all there were about six hundred passengers, of whom about sixty

were women and children. In four days we reached Castillo, where

there is a decided fall, passed by a short railway, and above this

fall we were transferred to a larger boat, which carried us up the

rest of the river, and across the beautiful lake Nicaragua, studded

with volcanic islands. Landing at Virgin Bay, we rode on mules

across to San Juan del Sur, where lay at anchor the propeller S. S.

Lewis (Captain Partridge, I think). Passengers were carried

through the surf by natives to small boats, and rowed off to the

Lewis. The weather was very hot, and quite a scramble followed for

state-rooms, especially for those on deck. I succeeded in reaching

the purser's office, got my ticket for a berth in one of the best

state-rooms on deck, and, just as I was turning from the window, a

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