Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman

Text to Speech

The Union--esto perpetua."

Recent events foreshadow a great change, and it becomes all men to

choose. If Louisiana withdraw from the Federal Union, I prefer to

maintain my allegiance to the Constitution as long as a fragment of

it survives; and my longer stay here would be wrong in every sense

of the word.

In that event, I beg you will send or appoint some authorized agent

to take charge of the arms and munitions of war belonging to the

State, or advise me what disposition to make of them.

And furthermore, as president of the Board of Supervisors, I beg

you to take immediate steps to relieve me as superintendent, the

moment the State determines to secede, for on no earthly account

will I do any act or think any thought hostile to or in defiance of

the old Government of the United States.

With great respect, your obedient servant,

W. T. SHERMAN, Superintendent.


January 18, 1861.

To Governor Moore:

My Dear Sir: I take it for granted that you have been expecting for

some days the accompanying paper from me (the above official

letter). I have repeatedly and again made known to General Graham

and Dr. Smith that, in the event of a severance of the relations

hitherto existing between the Confederated States of this Union, I

would be forced to choose the old Union. It is barely possible all

the States may secede, South and North, that new combinations may

result, but this process will be one of time and uncertainty, and I

cannot with my opinions await the subsequent development.

I have never been a politician, and therefore undervalue the

excited feelings and opinions of present rulers, but I do think, if

this people cannot execute a form of government like the present,

that a worse one will result.

I will keep the cadets as quiet as possible. They are nervous, but

I think the interest of the State requires them here, guarding this

property, and acquiring a knowledge which will be useful to your

State in after-times.

When I leave, which I now regard as certain, the present professors

can manage well enough, to afford you leisure time to find a

suitable successor to me. You might order Major Smith to receipt

for the arms, and to exercise military command, while the academic

exercises could go on under the board. In time, some gentleman

will turn up, better qualified than I am, to carry on the seminary

to its ultimate point of success. I entertain the kindest feelings

toward all, and would leave the State with much regret; only in

great events we must choose, one way or the other.

Truly, your friend,


January 19, 1881--Saturday.

Dr. S. A. Smith, President Board of Supervisors, Baton Rouge,


Dear Sir: I have just finished my quarterly reports to the parents

of all the cadets here, or who have been here. All my books of

account are written up to date. All bills for the houses, fences,

etc., are settled, and nothing now remains but the daily tontine of

recitations and drills. I have written officially and unofficially

to Governor Moore, that with my opinions of the claimed right of

accession, of the seizure of public forts, arsenals, etc., and the

ignominious capture of a United States garrison, stationed in your

midst, as a guard to the arsenal and for the protection of your own

people, it would be highly improper for me longer to remain. No

great inconvenience can result to the seminary. I will be the

chief loser. I came down two months before my pay commenced. I

made sacrifices in Kansas to enable me thus to obey the call of

Governor Wickliffe, and you know that last winter I declined a most

advantageous offer of employment abroad; and thus far I have

received nothing as superintendent of the arsenal, though I went to

Washington and New York (at my own expense) on the faith of the

five hundred dollars salary promised.

These are all small matters in comparison with those involved in

the present state of the country, which will cause sacrifices by

millions, instead of by hundreds. The more I think of it, the more

I think I should be away, the sooner the better; and therefore I

hope you will join with Governor Moors in authorizing me to turn

over to Major Smith the military command here, and to the academic

board the control of the daily exercises and recitations.

There will be no necessity of your coming up. You can let Major

Smith receive the few hundreds of cash I have on hand, and I can

meet you on a day certain in New Orleans, when we can settle the

bank account. Before I leave, I can pay the steward Jarrean his

account for the month, and there would be no necessity for other

payments till about the close of March, by which time the board can

meet, and elect a treasurer and superintendent also.

At present I have no class, and there will be none ready till about

the month of May, when there will be a class in "surveying." Even

if you do not elect a superintendent in the mean time, Major Smith

could easily teach this class, as he is very familiar with the

subject-matter: Indeed, I think you will do well to leave the

subject of a new superintendent until one perfectly satisfactory

turns up.

There is only one favor I would ask. The seminary has plenty of

money in bank. The Legislature will surely appropriate for my

salary as superintendent of this arsenal. Would you not let me

make my drafts on the State Treasury, send them to you, let the

Treasurer note them for payment when the appropriation is made, and

then pay them out of the seminary fund? The drafts will be paid in

March, and the seminary will lose nothing. This would be just to

me; for I actually spent two hundred dollars and more in going to

Washington and New York, thereby securing from the United States,

in advance, three thousand dollars' worth of the very best arms;

and clothing and books, at a clear profit to the seminary of over

eight hundred dollars. I may be some time in finding new

employment, and will stand in need of this money (five hundred

dollars); otherwise I would abandon it.

I will not ask you to put the Board of Supervisors to the trouble

of meeting, unless you can get a quorum at Baton Rouge.

With great respect, your friend,


By course of mail, I received the following answer from Governor

Moore, the original of which I still possess. It is all in General

Braggs handwriting, with which I am familiar

Executive Office,

BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA, January 23, 1861

MY DEAR SIR: It is with the deepest regret I acknowledge receipt of

your communication of the 18th inst. In the pressure of official

business, I can now only request you to transfer to Prof. Smith the

arms, munitions, and funds in your hands, whenever you conclude to

withdraw from the position you have filled with so much

distinction. You cannot regret more than I do the necessity which

deprives us of your services, and you will bear with you the

respect, confidence, and admiration, of all who have been

associated with you. Very truly, your friend,

Thomas O. Moore.

Colonel W. T. SHERMAN, Superintendent Military Academy, Alexandria.

I must have received several letters from Bragg, about this time,

which have not been preserved; for I find that, on the 1st of

February, 1861, I wrote him thus:

Seminary of Learning

Alexandria, LOUISIANA, February 1, 1881.

Colonel Braxton BRAGG, Baton, Rouge, Louisiana.

Dear Sir: Yours of January 23d and 27th are received. I thank you

most kindly, and Governor Moors through you, for the kind manner in

which you have met my wishes.

Now that I cannot be compromised by political events, I will so

shape my course as best to serve the institution, which has a

strong hold on my affections and respect.

The Board of Supervisors will be called for the 9th instant, and I

will cooperate with them in their measures to place matters here on

a safe and secure basis. I expect to be here two weeks, and will

make you full returns of money and property belonging to the State

Central Arsenal. All the arms and ammunition are safely stored

here. Then I will write you more at length. With sincere respect,

your friend,


Major Smith's receipt to me, for the arms and property belonging

both to the seminary and to the arsenal, is dated February 19,

1861. I subjoin also, in this connection, copies of one or two

papers that may prove of interest

BATON ROUGE, January 28, 1881.

To Major SHERMAN, Superintendent, Alexandria.

My DEAR SIR: Your letter was duly receive, and would have been

answered ere this time could I have arranged sooner the matter of

the five hundred dollars. I shall go from here to New Orleans

to-day or tomorrow, and will remain there till Saturday after next,

perhaps. I shall expect to meet you there, as indicated in your

note to me.

I need not tell you that it is with no ordinary regret that I view

your determination to leave us, for really I believe that the

success of our institution, now almost assured, is jeopardized

thereby. I am sore that we will never have a superintendent with

whom I shall have more pleasant relations than those which have

existed between yourself and me.

I fully appreciate the motives which have induced you to give up a

position presenting so many advantages to yourself, and sincerely

hope that you may, in any future enterprise, enjoy the success

which your character and ability merit and deserve.

Should you come down on the Rapides (steamer), please look after my

wife, who will, I hope, accompany you on said boat, or some other

good one.

Colonel Bragg informs me that the necessary orders have been given

for the transfer and receipt by Major Smith of the public property.

I herewith transmit a request to the secretary to convene the Board

of Supervisors, that they may act as seems best to them in the


In the mean time, Major Smith will command by seniority the cadets,

and the Academic Board will be able to conduct the scientific

exercises of the institution until the Board of Supervisors can

have time to act. Hoping to meet you soon at the St. Charles, I


Most truly, your friend and servant, S. A. Smith

P. S. Governor Moors desires me to express his profound regret that

the State is about to lose one who we all fondly hoped had cast his

destinies for weal or for woe among us; and that he is sensible

that we lose thereby an officer whom it will be difficult, if not

impossible, to replace.

S. A. S.

BATON ROUGE, February 11, 1881.

To Major Sherman, Alexandria.

Dear Sir: I have been in New Orleans for ten days, and on returning

here find two letters from you, also your prompt answer to the

resolution of the House of Representatives, for which I am much


The resolution passed the last day before adjournment. I was

purposing to respond, when your welcome reports came to hand. I

have arranged to pay you your five hundred dollars.

I will say nothing of general politics, except to give my opinion

that there is not to be any war.

In that event, would it not be possible for you to become a citizen

of our State? Everyone deplores your determination to leave us. At

the same time, your friends feel that you are abandoning a position

that might become an object of desire to any one.

I will try to meet you in New Orleans at any time you may indicate;

but it would be best for you to stop here, when, if possible, I

will accompany you. Should you do so, you will find me just above

the State-House, and facing it.

Bring with you a few copies of the "Rules of the Seminary."

Yours truly,

S. A. Smith

Colonel W. T. SHERMAN.

Sir: I am instructed by the Board of Supervisors of this

institution to present a copy of the resolutions adopted by them at

their last meeting

"Resolved, That the thanks of the Board of Supervisors are due, and

are hereby tendered, to Colonel William T. Sherman for the able and

efficient manner in which he has conducted the affairs of the

seminary during the time the institution has been under his

control--a period attended with unusual difficulties, requiring on

the part of the superintendent to successfully overcome them a high

order of administrative talent. And the board further bear willing

testimony to the valuable services that Colonel Sherman has

rendered them in their efforts to establish an institution of

learning in accordance with the beneficent design of the State and

Federal Governments; evincing at all times a readiness to adapt

himself to the ever-varying requirements of an institution of

learning in its infancy, struggling to attain a position of honor

and usefulness.

"Resolved, further, That, in accepting the resignation of Colonel

Sherman as Superintendent of the State Seminary of Learning and

Military Academy, we tender to him assurances of our high personal

regard, and our sincere regret at the occurrence of causes that

render it necessary to part with so esteemed and valued a friend,

as well as co-laborer in the cause of education."

Powhatan Clarke, Secretary of the Board.

A copy of the resolution of the Academic Board, passed at their

session of April 1,1861:

"Resolved, That in the resignation of the late superintendent,

Colonel W. T. Sherman, the Academic Board deem it not improper to

express their deep conviction of the loss the institution has

sustained in being thus deprived of an able head. They cannot fail

to appreciate the manliness of character which has always marked

the actions of Colonel Sherman. While he is personally endeared to

many of them as a friend, they consider it their high pleasure to

tender to him in this resolution their regret on his separation,

and their sincere wish for his future welfare."

I have given the above at some length, because, during the civil

war, it was in Southern circles asserted that I was guilty of a

breach of hospitality in taking up arms against the South. They

were manifestly the aggressors, and we could only defend our own by

assailing them. Yet, without any knowledge of what the future had

in store for me, I took unusual precautions that the institution

should not be damaged by my withdrawal. About the 20th of

February, having turned over all property, records, and money, on

hand, to Major Smith, and taking with me the necessary documents to

make the final settlement with Dr. S. A. Smith, at the bank in New

Orleans, where the funds of the institution were deposited to my

credit, I took passage from Alexandria for that city, and arrived

there, I think, on the 23d. Dr. Smith met me, and we went to the

bank, where I turned over to him the balance, got him to audit all

my accounts, certify that they were correct and just, and that

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