Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman


Text to Speech

Louisiana, and advised me to apply for the superintendent's place,

saying that General G. Mason Graham, the half-brother of my old

commanding-general, R. B. Mason, was very influential in this

matter, and would doubtless befriend me on account of the relations

that had existed between General Mason and myself in California.

Accordingly, I addressed a letter of application to the Hon. R. C.

Wickliffe, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, asking the answer to be sent to

me at Lancaster, Ohio, where I proposed to leave my family. But,

before leaving this branch of the subject, I must explain a little

matter of which I have seen an account in print, complimentary or

otherwise of the firm of Sherman, Ewing & McCook, more especially

of the senior partner.

One day, as I sat in our office, an Irishman came in and said he

had a case and wanted a lawyer. I asked him to sit down and give

me the points of his case, all the other members of the firm being

out. Our client stated that he had rented a lot of an Irish

landlord for five dollars a month; that he had erected thereon a

small frame shanty, which was occupied by his family; that he had,

paid his rent regularly up to a recent period, but to his house he

had appended a shed which extended over a part of an adjoining

vacant lot belonging to the same landlord, for which he was charged

two and a half dollars a month, which he refused to pay. The

consequence was, that his landlord had for a few months declined

even his five dollars monthly rent until the arrears amounted to

about seventeen dollars, for which he was sued. I told him we

would undertake his case, of which I took notes, and a fee of five

dollars in advance, and in due order I placed the notes in the

hands of McCook, and thought no more of it.

A month or so after, our client rushed into the office and said his

case had been called at Judge Gardner's (I think), and he wanted

his lawyer right away. I sent him up to the Circuit Court, Judge

Pettit's, for McCook, but he soon returned, saying he could not

find McCook, and accordingly I hurried with him up to Judge

Gardner's office, intending to ask a continuance, but I found our

antagonist there, with his lawyer and witnesses, and Judge Gardner

would not grant a continuance, so of necessity I had to act, hoping

that at every minute McCook would come. But the trial proceeded

regularly to its end; we were beaten, and judgment was entered

against our client for the amount claimed, and costs. As soon as

the matter was explained to McCook, he said "execution" could not

be taken for ten days, and, as our client was poor, and had nothing

on which the landlord could levy but his house, McCook advised him

to get his neighbors together, to pick up the house, and carry it

on to another vacant lot, belonging to a non-resident, so that even

the house could not be taken in execution. Thus the grasping

landlord, though successful in his judgment, failed in the

execution, and our client was abundantly satisfied.

In due time I closed up my business at Leavenworth, and went to

Lancaster, Ohio, where, in July, 1859, I received notice from

Governor Wickliffe that I had been elected superintendent of the

proposed college, and inviting me to come down to Louisiana as

early as possible, because they were anxious to put the college

into operation by the 1st of January following. For this honorable

position I was indebted to Major D. C. Buell and General G. Mason

Graham, to whom I have made full and due acknowledgment. During

the civil war, it was reported and charged that I owed my position

to the personal friendship of Generals Bragg and Beauregard, and

that, in taking up arms against the South, I had been guilty of a

breach of hospitality and friendship. I was not indebted to

General Bragg, because he himself told me that he was not even

aware that I was an applicant, and had favored the selection of

Major Jenkins, another West Point graduate. General Beauregard had

nothing whatever to do with the matter.

CHAPTER VII.

LOUISIANA

1859-1861.

In the autumn of 1859, having made arrangements for my family to

remain in Lancaster, I proceeded, via Columbus, Cincinnati, and

Louisville, to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where I reported for duty to

Governor Wickliffe, who, by virtue of his office, was the president

of the Board of Supervisors of the new institution over which I was

called to preside. He explained to me the act of the Legislature

under which the institution was founded; told me that the building

was situated near Alexandria, in the parish of Rapides, and was

substantially finished; that the future management would rest with

a Board of Supervisors, mostly citizens of Rapides Parish, where

also resided the Governor-elect, T. O. Moore, who would soon

succeed him in his office as Governor and president ex officio; and

advised me to go at once to Alexandria, and put myself in

communication with Moore and the supervisors. Accordingly I took a

boat at Baton Rouge, for the mouth of Red River.

The river being low, and its navigation precarious, I there took

the regular mail-coach, as the more certain conveyance, and

continued on toward Alexandria. I found, as a fellow-passenger in

the coach, Judge Henry Boyce, of the United States District Court,

with whom I had made acquaintance years before, at St. Louis, and,

as we neared Alexandria, he proposed that we should stop at

Governor Moore's and spend the night. Moore's house and plantation

were on Bayou Robert, about eight miles from Alexandria. We found

him at home, with his wife and a married daughter, and spent the

night there. He sent us forward to Alexandria the next morning, in

his own carriage. On arriving at Alexandria, I put up at an inn,

or boarding-house, and almost immediately thereafter went about ten

miles farther up Bayou Rapides, to the plantation and house of

General G. Mason Graham, to whom I looked as the principal man with

whom I had to deal. He was a high-toned gentleman, and his whole

heart was in the enterprise. He at once put me at ease. We acted

together most cordially from that time forth, and it was at his

house that all the details of the seminary were arranged. We first

visited the college-building together. It was located on an old

country place of four hundred acres of pineland, with numerous

springs, and the building was very large and handsome. A

carpenter, named James, resided there, and had the general charge

of the property; but, as there was not a table, chair, black-board,

or any thing on hand, necessary for a beginning, I concluded to

quarter myself in one of the rooms of the seminary, and board with

an old black woman who cooked for James, so that I might personally

push forward the necessary preparations. There was an old

rail-fence about the place, and a large pile of boards in front. I

immediately engaged four carpenters, and set them at work to make

out of these boards mess-tables, benches, black-boards, etc. I

also opened a correspondence with the professors-elect, and with

all parties of influence in the State, who were interested in our

work: At the meeting of the Board of Supervisors, held at

Alexandria, August 2, 1859, five professors had been elected:

1. W. T. Sherman, Superintendent, and Professor of Engineering, etc.;

2. Anthony Vallas, Professor of Mathematics, Philosophy, etc.;

3. Francis W. Smith, Professor of Chemistry, etc.;

4. David F. Boyd, Professor of Languages, English and Ancient;

5. E. Berti St. Ange, Professor of French and Modern Languages.

These constituted the Academic Board, while the general supervision

remained in the Board of Supervisors, composed of the Governor of

the State, the Superintendent of Public Education, and twelve

members, nominated by the Governor, and confirmed by the Senate.

The institution was bound to educate sixteen beneficiary students,

free of any charge for tuition. These had only to pay for their

clothing and books, while all others had to pay their entire

expenses, including tuition.

Early in November, Profs. Smith, Yallas, St. Ange, and I, met a

committee of the Board of Supervisors, composed of T. C. Manning,

G. Mason Graham, and W. W. Whittington, at General Graham's house,

and resolved to open the institution to pupils on the 1st day of

January, 1860. We adopted a series of bylaws for the government of

the institution, which was styled the "Louisiana Seminary of

Learning and Military Academy." This title grew out of the

original grant, by the Congress of the United States, of a certain

township of public land, to be sold by the State, and dedicated to

the use of a "seminary of learning." I do not suppose that

Congress designed thereby to fix the name or title; but the subject

had so long been debated in Louisiana that the name, though

awkward, had become familiar. We appended to it "Military

Academy," as explanatory of its general design.

On the 17th of November, 1859, the Governor of the State,

Wickliffe, issued officially a general circular, prepared by us,

giving public notice that the "Seminary of Learning" would open on

the 1st day of January, 1860; containing a description of the

locality, and the general regulations for the proposed institution;

and authorizing parties to apply for further information to the

"Superintendent," at Alexandria, Louisiana.

The Legislature had appropriated for the sixteen beneficiaries at

the rate of two hundred and eighty-three dollars per annum, to

which we added sixty dollars as tuition for pay cadets; and, though

the price was low, we undertook to manage for the first year on

that basis.

Promptly to the day, we opened, with about sixty cadets present.

Major Smith was the commandant of cadets, and I the superintendent.

I had been to New Orleans, where I had bought a supply of

mattresses, books, and every thing requisite, and we started very

much on the basis of West Point and of the Virginia Military

Institute, but without uniforms or muskets; yet with roll-calls,

sections, and recitations, we kept as near the standard of West

Point as possible. I kept all the money accounts, and gave general

directions to the steward, professors, and cadets. The other

professors had their regular classes and recitations. We all lived

in rooms in the college building, except Vallas, who had a family,

and rented a house near by. A Creole gentleman, B. Jarrean, Esq.,

had been elected steward, and he also had his family in a house not

far off. The other professors had a mess in a room adjoining the

mess-hall. A few more cadets joined in the course of the winter,

so that we had in all, during the first term, seventy-three cadets,

of whom fifty-nine passed the examination on the 30th of July,

1860. During our first term many defects in the original act of

the Legislature were demonstrated, and, by the advice of the Board

of Supervisors, I went down to Baton Rouge during the session of

the Legislature, to advocate and urge the passage of a new bill,

putting the institution on a better footing. Thomas O. Moors was

then Governor, Bragg was a member of the Board of Public Works, and

Richard Taylor was a Senator. I got well acquainted with all of

these, and with some of the leading men of the State, and was

always treated with the greatest courtesy and kindness. In

conjunction with the proper committee of the Legislature, we

prepared a new bill, which was passed and approved on the 7th of

March, 1860, by which we were to have a beneficiary cadet for each

parish, in all fifty-six, and fifteen thousand dollars annually for

their maintenance; also twenty thousand dollars for the general use

of the college. During that session we got an appropriation of

fifteen thousand dollars for building two professors' houses, for

the purchase of philosophical and chemical apparatus, and for the

beginning of a college library. The seminary was made a State

Arsenal, under the title of State Central Arsenal, and I was

allowed five hundred dollars a year as its superintendent. These

matters took me several times to Baton Rouge that winter, and I

recall an event of some interest, which most have happened in

February. At that time my brother, John Sherman, was a candidate,

in the national House of Representatives, for Speaker, against

Bocock, of Virginia. In the South he was regarded as an

"abolitionist," the most horrible of all monsters; and many people

of Louisiana looked at me with suspicion, as the brother of the

abolitionist, John Sherman, and doubted the propriety of having me

at the head of an important State institution. By this time I was

pretty well acquainted with many of their prominent men, was

generally esteemed by all in authority, and by the people of

Rapides Parish especially, who saw that I was devoted to my

particular business, and that I gave no heed to the political

excitement of the day. But the members of the State Senate and

House did not know me so well, and it was natural that they should

be suspicions of a Northern man, and the brother of him who was the

"abolition" candidate for Speaker of the House.

One evening, at a large dinner-party at Governor Moore's, at which

were present several members of the Louisiana Legislature, Taylor,

Bragg, and the Attorney-General Hyams, after the ladies had left

the table, I noticed at Governor Moore's end quite a lively

discussion going on, in which my name was frequently used; at

length the Governor called to me, saying: "Colonel Sherman, you can

readily understand that, with your brother the abolitionist

candidate for Speaker, some of our people wonder that you should be

here at the head of an important State institution. Now, you are

at my table, and I assure you of my confidence. Won't you speak

your mind freely on this question of slavery, that so agitates the

land? You are under my roof, and, whatever you say, you have my

protection."

I answered: "Governor Moors, you mistake in calling my brother,

John Sherman, an abolitionist. We have been separated since

childhood--I in the army, and he pursuing his profession of law in

Northern Ohio; and it is possible we may differ in general

sentiment, but I deny that he is considered at home an

abolitionist; and, although he prefers the free institutions under

which he lives to those of slavery which prevail here, he would not

of himself take from you by law or force any property whatever,

even slaves."

Then said Moore: "Give us your own views of slavery as you see it

here and throughout the South."

I answered in effect that "the people of Louisiana were hardly

responsible for slavery, as they had inherited it; that I found two

distinct conditions of slavery, domestic and field hands. The

domestic slaves, employed by the families, were probably better

treated than any slaves on earth; but the condition of the

field-hands was different, depending more on the temper and

disposition of their masters and overseers than were those employed

about the house;" and I went on to say that, "were I a citizen of

Louisiana, and a member of the Legislature, I would deem it wise to

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