Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman

Text to Speech

proffers of generous care and assistance; for all the neighbors

knew that mother could not maintain so large a family without help.

My eldest brother, Charles, had nearly completed his education at

the university at Athens, and concluded to go to his uncle, Judge

Parker, at Mansfield, Ohio, to study law. My, eldest sister,

Elizabeth, soon after married William J. Reese, Esq.; James was

already in a store at Cincinnati; and, with the exception of the

three youngest children, the rest of us were scattered. I fell to

the charge of the Hon. Thomas Ewing, who took me to his family, and

ever after treated me as his own son.

I continued at the Academy in Lancaster, which was the best in the

place; indeed, as good a school as any in Ohio. We studied all the

common branches of knowledge, including Latin, Greek, and French.

At first the school was kept by Mr. Parsons; he was succeeded by

Mr. Brown, and he by two brothers, Samuel and Mark How. These were

all excellent teachers, and we made good progress, first at the old

academy and afterward at a new school-house, built by Samuel How,

in the orchard of Hugh Boyle, Esq.

Time passed with us as with boys generally. Mr. Ewing was in the

United States Senate, and I was notified to prepare for West Point,

of which institution we had little knowledge, except that it was

very strict, and that the army was its natural consequence. In

1834 I was large for my age, and the construction of canals was the

rage in Ohio. A canal was projected to connect with the great Ohio

Canal at Carroll (eight miles above Lancaster), down the valley of

the Hock Hocking to Athens (forty-four miles), and thence to the

Ohio River by slack water.

Preacher Carpenter, of Lancaster, was appointed to make the

preliminary surveys, and selected the necessary working party out

of the boys of the town. From our school were chosen ____Wilson,

Emanuel Geisy, William King, and myself. Geisy and I were the

rod-men. We worked during that fall and next spring, marking two

experimental lines, and for our work we each received a silver

half-dollar for each day's actual work, the first money any of us

had ever earned.

In June, 1835, one of our school-fellows, William Irvin, was

appointed a cadet to West Point, and, as it required sixteen years

of age for admission, I had to wait another year. During the

autumn of 1835 and spring of 1836 I devoted myself chiefly to

mathematics and French, which were known to be the chief requisites

for admission to West Point.

Some time in the spring of 1836 I received through Mr. Ewing, then

at Washington, from the Secretary of War, Mr. Poinsett, the letter

of appointment as a cadet, with a list of the articles of clothing

necessary to be taken along, all of which were liberally provided

by Mrs. Ewing; and with orders to report to Mr. Ewing, at

Washington, by a certain date, I left Lancaster about the 20th of

May in the stage-coach for Zanesville. There we transferred to the

coaches of the Great National Road, the highway of travel from the

West to the East. The stages generally travelled in gangs of from

one to six coaches, each drawn by four good horses, carrying nine

passengers inside and three or four outside.

In about three days, travelling day and night, we reached

Frederick, Maryland. There we were told that we could take

rail-cars to Baltimore, and thence to Washington; but there was

also a two-horse hack ready to start for Washington direct. Not

having full faith in the novel and dangerous railroad, I stuck to

the coach, and in the night reached Gadsby's Hotel in Washington


The next morning I hunted up Mr. Ewing, and found him boarding with

a mess of Senators at Mrs. Hill's, corner of Third and C Streets,

and transferred my trunk to the same place. I spent a week in

Washington, and think I saw more of the place in that time than I

ever have since in the many years of residence there. General

Jackson was President, and was at the zenith of his fame. I recall

looking at him a full hour, one morning, through the wood railing

on Pennsylvania Avenue, as he paced up and down the gravel walk on

the north front of the White House. He wore a cap and an overcoat

so full that his form seemed smaller than I had expected. I also

recall the appearance of Postmaster-General Amos Kendall, of

Vice-President Van Buren, Messrs. Calhoun, Webster, Clay, Cass,

Silas Wright, etc.

In due time I took my departure for West Point with Cadets Belt and

Bronaugh. These were appointed cadets as from Ohio, although

neither had ever seen that State. But in those days there were

fewer applicants from Ohio than now, and near the close of the term

the vacancies unasked for were usually filled from applicants on

the spot. Neither of these parties, however, graduated, so the

State of Ohio lost nothing. We went to Baltimore by rail, there

took a boat up to Havre de Grace, then the rail to Wilmington,

Delaware, and up the Delaware in a boat to Philadelphia. I staid

over in Philadelphia one day at the old Mansion House, to visit the

family of my brother-in-law, Mr. Reese. I found his father a fine

sample of the old merchant gentleman, in a good house in Arch

Street, with his accomplished daughters, who had been to Ohio, and

whom I had seen there. From Philadelphia we took boat to

Bordentown, rail to Amboy, and boat again to New York City,

stopping at the American Hotel. I staid a week in New York City,

visiting my uncle, Charles Hoyt, at his beautiful place on Brooklyn

Heights, and my uncle James, then living in White Street. My

friend William Scott was there, the young husband of my cousin,

Louise Hoyt; a neatly-dressed young fellow, who looked on me as an

untamed animal just caught in the far West--"fit food for

gunpowder," and good for nothing else.

About June 12th I embarked in the steamer Cornelius Vanderbilt for

West Point; registered in the office of Lieutenant C. F. Smith,

Adjutant of the Military Academy, as a new cadet of the class of

1836, and at once became installed as the "plebe" of my

fellow-townsman, William Irvin, then entering his Third Class.

Colonel R. E. De Russy was Superintendent; Major John Fowle, Sixth

United States Infantry, Commandant. The principal Professors were:

Mahan, Engineering; Bartlett, Natural Philosophy; Bailey,

Chemistry; Church, Mathematics; Weir, Drawing; and Berard, French.

The routine of military training and of instruction was then fully

established, and has remained almost the same ever since. To give

a mere outline would swell this to an inconvenient size, and I

therefore merely state that I went through the regular course of

four years, graduating in June, 1840, number six in a class of

forty-three. These forty-three were all that remained of more than

one hundred which originally constituted the class. At the Academy

I was not considered a good soldier, for at no time was I selected

for any office, but remained a private throughout the whole four

years. Then, as now, neatness in dress and form, with a strict

conformity to the rules, were the qualifications required for

office, and I suppose I was found not to excel in any of these. In

studies I always held a respectable reputation with the professors,

and generally ranked among the best, especially in drawing,

chemistry, mathematics, and natural philosophy. My average

demerits, per annum, were about one hundred and fifty, which.

reduced my final class standing from number four to six.

In June, 1840, after the final examination, the class graduated and

we received our diplomas. Meantime, Major Delafield, United States

Engineers, had become Superintendent; Major C. F. Smith, Commandant

of Cadets; but the corps of professors and assistants remained

almost unchanged during our whole term. We were all granted the

usual furlough of three months, and parted for our homes, there to

await assignment to our respective corps and regiments. In due

season I was appointed and commissioned second-lieutenant, Third

Artillery, and ordered to report at Governor's Island, New York

Harbor, at the end of September. I spent my furlough mostly at

Lancaster and Mansfield, Ohio; toward the close of September

returned to New York, reported to Major Justin Dimock, commanding

the recruiting rendezvous at Governor's Island, and was assigned to

command a company of recruits preparing for service in Florida.

Early in October this company was detailed, as one of four, to

embark in a sailing-vessel for Savannah, Georgia, under command of

Captain and Brevet Major Penrose. We embarked and sailed, reaching

Savannah about the middle of October, where we transferred to a

small steamer and proceeded by the inland route to St. Augustine,

Florida. We reached St. Augus

at the same time with the Eighth

Infantry, commanded by Colonel and Brevet Brigadier-General William

J. Worth. At that time General Zachary Taylor was in chief command

in Florida, and had his headquarters at Tampa Bay. My regiment,

the Third Artillery, occupied the posts along the Atlantic coast of

Florida, from St. Augustine south to Key Biscayne, and my own

company, A, was at Fort Pierce, Indian River. At St. Augustine I

was detached from the company of recruits, which was designed for

the Second Infantry, and was ordered to join my proper company at

Fort Pierce. Colonel William Gates commanded the regiment, with

Lieutenant William Austine Brown as adjutant of the regiment.

Lieutenant Bragg commanded the post of St. Augustine with his own

company, E, and G (Garner's), then commanded by Lieutenant Judd.

In, a few days I embarked in the little steamer William Gaston down

the coast, stopping one day at New Smyrna, held by John R. Vinton's

company (B), with which was serving Lieutenant William H. Shover.

In due season we arrived off the bar of Indian River and anchored. The boat that sustained a journey so turbulent has been reviewed at in case you're curious. A whale-boat came off with a crew of four men, steered by a

character of some note, known as the Pilot Ashlock. I transferred

self and baggage to this boat, and, with the mails, was carried

through the surf over the bar, into the mouth of Indian River

Inlet. It was then dark; we transferred to a smaller boat, and the

same crew pulled us up through a channel in the middle of Mangrove

Islands, the roosting-place of thousands of pelicans and birds that

rose in clouds and circled above our heads. The water below was

alive with fish, whose course through it could be seen by the

phosphoric wake; and Ashlock told me many a tale of the Indian war

then in progress, and of his adventures in hunting and fishing,

which he described as the best in the world. About two miles from

the bar, we emerged into the lagoon, a broad expanse of shallow

water that lies parallel with the coast, separated from it by a

narrow strip of sand, backed by a continuous series of islands and

promontories, covered with a dense growth of mangrove and

saw-palmetto. Pulling across this lagoon, in about three more

miles we approached the lights of Fort Pierce. Reaching a small

wharf, we landed, and were met by the officers of the post,

Lieutenants George Taylor and Edward J. Steptoe, and

Assistant-Surgeon James Simons. Taking the mail-bag, we walked up

a steep sand-bluff on which the fort was situated, and across the

parade-ground to the officers' quarters. These were six or seven

log-houses, thatched with palmetto-leaves, built on high posts,

with a porch in front, facing the water. The men's quarters were

also of logs forming the two sides of a rectangle, open toward the

water; the intervals and flanks were closed with log stockades. I

was assigned to one of these rooms, and at once began service with

my company, A, then commanded by Lieutenant Taylor.

The season was hardly yet come for active operations against the

Indians, so that the officers were naturally attracted to Ashlock,

who was the best fisherman I ever saw. He soon initiated us into

the mysteries of shark-spearing, trolling for red-fish, and taking

the sheep's-head and mullet. These abounded so that we could at

any time catch an unlimited quantity at pleasure. The companies

also owned nets for catching green turtles. These nets had meshes

about a foot square, were set across channels in the lagoon, the

ends secured to stakes driven into the mad, the lower line sunk

with lead or stone weights and the upper line floated with cork.

We usually visited these nets twice a day, and found from one to

six green turtles entangled in the meshes. Disengaging them, they

were carried to pens, made with stakes stuck in the mud, where they

were fed with mangrove-leaves, and our cooks had at all times an

ample supply of the best of green turtles. They were so cheap and

common that the soldiers regarded it as an imposition when

compelled to eat green turtle steaks, instead of poor Florida beef,

or the usual barrelled mess-pork. I do not recall in my whole

experience a spot on earth where fish, oysters, and green turtles

so abound as at Fort Pierce, Florida.

In November, Major Childs arrived with Lieutenant Van Vliet and a

detachment of recruits to fill our two companies, and preparations

were at once begun for active operations in the field. At that

time the Indians in the Peninsula of Florida were scattered, and

the war consisted in hunting up and securing the small fragments,

to be sent to join the others of their tribe of Seminoles already

established in the Indian Territory west of Arkansas. Our

expeditions were mostly made in boats in the lagoons extending from

the "Haul-over," near two hundred miles above the fort, down to

Jupiter Inlet, about fifty miles below, and in the many streams

which emptied therein. Many such expeditions were made during that

winter, with more or less success, in which we succeeded in picking

up small parties of men, women, and children. On one occasion,

near the "Haul-over," when I was not present, the expedition was

more successful. It struck a party of nearly fifty Indians, killed

several warriors, and captured others. In this expedition my

classmate, lieutenant Van Vliet, who was an excellent shot, killed

a warrior who was running at full speed among trees, and one of the

sergeants of our company (Broderick) was said to have dispatched

three warriors, and it was reported that he took the scalp of one

and brought it in to the fort as a trophy. Broderick was so elated

that, on reaching the post, he had to celebrate his victory by a

big drunk.

There was at the time a poor, weakly soldier of our company whose

wife cooked for our mess. She was somewhat of a flirt, and rather

fond of admiration. Sergeant Broderick was attracted to her, and

hung around the mess-house more than the husband fancied; so he

reported the matter to Lieutenant Taylor, who reproved Broderick

for his behavior. A few days afterward the husband again appealed

to his commanding officer (Taylor), who exclaimed: "Haven't you got

a musket? Can't you defend your own family?" Very soon after a

shot was heard down by the mess-house, and it transpired that the

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