Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman

Text to Speech

quartered, close by.

That same day, which must have been about July 26th, I was near the

river-bank, looking at a block-house which had been built for the

defense of the aqueduct, when I saw a carriage coming by the road

that crossed the Potomac River at Georgetown by a ferry. I thought

I recognized in the carriage the person of President Lincoln. I

hurried across a bend, so as to stand by the road-side as the

carriage passed. I was in uniform, with a sword on, and was

recognized by Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Seward, who rode side by side in

an open hack. I inquired if they were going to my camps, and Mr.

Lincoln said: "Yes; we heard that you had got over the big scare,

and we thought we would come over and see the 'boys.'" The roads

had been much changed and were rough. I asked if I might give

directions to his coachman, he promptly invited me to jump in and

to tell the coachman which way to drive. Intending to begin on the

right and follow round to the left, I turned the driver into a

side-road which led up a very steep hill, and, seeing a soldier,

called to him and sent him up hurriedly to announce to the colonel

(Bennett, I think) that the President was coming: As we slowly

ascended the hill, I discovered that Mr. Lincoln was full of

feeling, and wanted to encourage our men. I asked if he intended

to speak to them, and he said he would like to. I asked him then

to please discourage all cheering, noise, or any sort of confusion;

that we had had enough of it before Bull Run to ruin any set of

men, and that what we needed were cool, thoughtful, hard-fighting

soldiers--no more hurrahing, no more humbug. He took my remarks in

the most perfect good-nature. Before we had reached the first

camp, I heard the drum beating the "assembly," saw the men running

for their tents, and in a few minutes the regiment was in line,

arms presented, and then brought to an order and "parade rest!"

Mr. Lincoln stood up in the carriage, and made one of the neatest,

best, and most feeling addresses I ever listened to, referring to

our late disaster at Bull Run, the high duties that still devolved

on us, and the brighter days yet to come. At one or two points the

soldiers began to cheer, but he promptly checked them, saying:

"Don't cheer, boys. I confess I rather like it myself, but Colonel

Sherman here says it is not military; and I guess we had better

defer to his opinion." In winding up, he explained that, as

President, he was commander-in-chief; that he was resolved that the

soldiers should have every thing that the law allowed; and he

called on one and all to appeal to him personally in case they were

wronged. The effect of this speech was excellent.

We passed along in the same manner to all the camps of my brigade;

and Mr. Lincoln complimented me highly for the order, cleanliness,

and discipline, that he observed. Indeed, he and Mr. Seward both

assured me that it was the first bright moment they had experienced

since the battle.

At last we reached Fort Corcoran. The carriage could not enter, so

I ordered the regiment, without arms, to come outside, and gather

about Mr. Lincoln, who would speak to them. He made to them the

same feeling address, with more personal allusions, because of

their special gallantry in the battle under Corcoran, who was still

a prisoner in the hands of the enemy; and he concluded with the

same general offer of redress in case of grievances. In the crowd I

saw the officer with whom I had had the passage at reveille that

morning. His face was pale, and lips compressed. I foresaw a

scene, but sat on the front seat of the carriage as quiet as a

lamb. This officer forced his way through the crowd to the

carriage, and said: "Mr. President, I have a cause of grievance.

This morning I went to speak to Colonel Sherman, and he threatened

to shoot me." Mr. Lincoln, who was still standing, said,

"Threatened to shoot you?" "Yes, sir, he threatened to shoot me."

Mr. Lincoln looked at him, then at me, and stooping his tall, spare

form toward the officer, said to him in a loud stage-whisper,

easily heard for some yards around: "Well, if I were you, and he

threatened to shoot, I would not trust him, for I believe he would

do it." The officer turned about and disappeared, and the men

laughed at him. Soon the carriage drove on, and, as we descended

the hill, I explained the facts to the President, who answered, "Of

course I didn't know any thing about it, but I thought you knew

your own business best." I thanked him for his confidence, and

assured him that what he had done would go far to enable me to

maintain good discipline, and it did.

By this time the day was well spent. I asked to take my leave, and

the President and Mr. Seward drove back to Washington. This spirit

of mutiny was common to the whole army, and was not subdued till

several regiments or parts of regiments had been ordered to Fort

Jefferson, Florida, as punishment.

General McDowell had resumed his headquarters at the Arlington

House, and was busily engaged in restoring order to his army,

sending off the ninety-days men, and replacing them by regiments

which had come under the three-years call. We were all trembling

lest we should be held personally accountable for the disastrous

result of the battle. General McClellan had been summoned from the

West to Washington, and changes in the subordinate commands were

announced almost daily. I remember, as a group of officers were

talking in the large room of the Arlington House, used as the

adjutant-general's office, one evening, some young officer came in

with a list of the new brigadiers just announced at the War

Department, which-embraced the names of Heintzehvan, Keyes,

Franklin, Andrew Porter, W. T. Sherman, and others, who had been

colonels in the battle, and all of whom had shared the common

stampede. Of course, we discredited the truth of the list; and

Heintzehvan broke out in his nasal voice, "Boys, it's all a lie!

every mother's son of you will be cashiered." We all felt he was

right, but, nevertheless, it was true; and we were all announced in

general orders as brigadier-generals of volunteers.

General McClellan arrived, and, on assuming command, confirmed

McDowell's organization. Instead of coming over the river, as we

expected, he took a house in Washington, and only came over from

time to time to have a review or inspection.

I had received several new regiments, and had begun two new forts

on the hill or plateau, above and farther out than Fort Corcoran;

and I organized a system of drills, embracing the evolutions of the

line, all of which was new to me, and I had to learn the tactics

from books; but I was convinced that we had a long, hard war before

us, and made up my mind to begin at the very beginning to prepare

for it.

August was passing, and troops were pouring in from all quarters;

General McClellan told me he intended to organize an army of a

hundred thousand men, with one hundred field-batteries, and I still

hoped he would come on our side of the Potomac, pitch his tent, and

prepare for real hard work, but his headquarters still remained in

a house in Washington City. I then thought, and still think, that

was a fatal mistake. His choice as general-in-chief at the time

was fully justified by his high reputation in the army and country,

and, if he then had any political views or ambition, I surely did

not suspect it.

About the middle of August I got a note from Brigadier-General

Robert Anderson, asking me to come and see him at his room at

Willard's Hotel. I rode over and found him in conversation with

several gentlemen, and he explained to me that events in Kentucky

were approaching a crisis; that the Legislature was in session, and

ready, as soon as properly backed by the General Government, to

take open sides for the Union cause; that he was offered the

command of the Department of the Cumberland, to embrace Kentucky,

Tennessee, etc., and that he wanted help, and that the President

had offered to allow him to select out of the new brigadiers four

of his own choice. I had been a lieutenant in Captain Anderson's

company, at Fort Moultrie, from 1843 to 1846, and he explained that

he wanted me as his right hand. He also indicated George H.

Thomas, D. C. Buell, and Burnside, as the other three. Of course,

I always wanted to go West, and was perfectly willing to go with

Anderson, especially in a subordinate capacity: We agreed to call

on the President on a subsequent day, to talk with him about it,

and we did. It hardly seems probable that Mr. Lincoln should have

come to Willard's Hotel to meet us, but my impression is that he

did, and that General Anderson had some difficulty in prevailing on

him to appoint George H. Thomas, a native of Virginia, to be

brigadier-general, because so many Southern officers, had already

played false; but I was still more emphatic in my indorsement of

him by reason of my talk with him at the time he crossed the

Potomac with Patterson's army, when Mr. Lincoln promised to appoint

him and to assign him to duty with General Anderson. In this

interview with Mr. Lincoln, I also explained to him my extreme

desire to serve in a subordinate capacity, and in no event to be

left in a superior command. He promised me this with promptness,

making the jocular remark that his chief trouble was to find places

for the too many generals who wanted to be at the head of affairs,

to command armies, etc.

The official order is dated:

[Special Order No. 114.]


Washington, August 24, 1881.

The following assignment is made of the general officers of the

volunteer service, whose appointment was announced in General

Orders No. 82, from the War Department

To the Department of the Cumberland, Brigadier-General Robert

Anderson commanding:

Brigadier-General W. T. Sherman,

Brigadier-General George H. Thomas.

By command of Lieutenant-General Scott:

E. D. TOWNSEND, Assistant adjutant-General.

After some days, I was relieved in command of my brigade and post

by Brigadier General Fitz-John Porter, and at once took my

departure for Cincinnati, Ohio, via Cresson, Pennsylvania, where

General Anderson was with his family; and he, Thomas, and I, met by

appointment at the house of his brother, Larz Anderson, Esq., in

Cincinnati. We were there on the 1st and 2d of September, when

several prominent gentlemen of Kentucky met us, to discuss the

situation, among whom were Jackson, Harlan, Speed, and others. At

that time, William Nelson, an officer of the navy, had been

commissioned a brigadier-general of volunteers, and had his camp at

Dick Robinson, a few miles beyond the Kentucky River, south of

Nicholasville; and Brigadier-General L. H. Rousseau had another

camp at Jeffersonville, opposite Louisville. The State Legislature

was in session at Frankfort, and was ready to take definite action

as soon as General Anderson was prepared, for the State was

threatened with invasion from Tennessee, by two forces: one from

the direction of Nashville, commanded by Generals Albert Sidney

Johnston and Buckner; and the other from the direction of

Cumberland Gap, commanded by Generals Crittenden and Zollicoffer.

General Anderson saw that he had not force enough to resist these

two columns, and concluded to send me in person for help to

Indianapolis and Springfield, to confer with the Governors of

Indiana, and Illinois, and to General Fremont, who commanded in St.


McClellan and Fremont were the two men toward whom the country

looked as the great Union leaders, and toward them were streaming

the newly-raised regiments of infantry and cavalry, and batteries

of artillery; nobody seeming to think of the intervening link

covered by Kentucky. While I was to make this tour, Generals

Anderson and Thomas were to go to Louisville and initiate the

department. None of us had a staff, or any of the machinery for

organizing an army, and, indeed, we had no army to organize.

Anderson was empowered to raise regiments in Kentucky, and to

commission a few brigadier-generals.

At Indianapolis I found Governor Morton and all the State officials

busy in equipping and providing for the new regiments, and my

object was to divert some of them toward Kentucky; but they were

called for as fast as they were mustered in, either for the army of

McClellan or Fremont. At Springfield also I found the same general

activity and zeal, Governor Yates busy in providing for his men;

but these men also had been promised to Fremont. I then went on to

St. Louis, where all was seeming activity, bustle, and preparation.

Meeting R. M. Renick at the Planters' House (where I stopped), I

inquired where I could find General Fremont. Renick said, "What do

you want with General Fremont?" I said I had come to see him on

business; and he added, "You don't suppose that he will see such as

you?" and went on to retail all the scandal of the day: that Fremont

was a great potentate, surrounded by sentries and guards; that he

had a more showy court than any real king; that he kept senators,

governors, and the first citizens, dancing attendance for days and

weeks before granting an audience, etc.; that if I expected to see

him on business, I would have to make my application in writing,

and submit to a close scrutiny by his chief of staff and by his

civil surroundings. Of course I laughed at all this, and renewed

my simple inquiry as to where was his office, and was informed that

he resided and had his office at Major Brant's new house on

Chouteau Avenue. It was then late in the afternoon, and I

concluded to wait till the next morning; but that night I received

a dispatch from General Anderson in Louisville to hurry back, as

events were pressing, and he needed me.

Accordingly, I rose early next morning before daybreak, got

breakfast with the early railroad-passengers, and about sunrise was

at the gate of General Fremont's headquarters. A sentinel with

drawn sabre paraded up and down in front of the house. I had on my

undress uniform indicating my rank, and inquired of the sentinel,

"Is General Fremont up?" He answered, "I don't know." Seeing that

he was a soldier by his bearing, I spoke in a sharp, emphatic

voice, "Then find out." He called for the corporal of the guard,

and soon a fine-looking German sergeant came, to whom I addressed

the same inquiry. He in turn did not know, and I bade him find

out, as I had immediate and important business with the general.

The sergeant entered the house by the front-basement door, and

after ten or fifteen minutes the main front-door above was slowly

opened from the inside, and who should appear but my old San

Francisco acquaintance Isaiah C. Woods, whom I had not seen or

heard of since his flight to Australia, at the time of the failure

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