Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman

Text to Speech

prosperity, it will require a close calculation to determine

whether England, her laws and history, claim for a home the

Continent of America or the Isle of Britain. Therefore, finding us

in a death-struggle for existence, she seems to seek a quarrel to

destroy both parts in detail.

Southern people know this full well, and will only accept the

alliance of England in order to get arms and manufactures in

exchange for their cotton. The Southern Confederacy will accept no

other mediation, because she knows full well that in Old England

her slaves and slavery will receive no more encouragement than in

New England.

France certainly does not need our cotton enough to disturb her

equilibrium, and her mediation would be entitled to a more respect

consideration than on the part of her present ally. But I feel

assured the French will not encourage rebellion and secession

anywhere as a political doctrine. Certainly all the German states

must be our ardent friends; and, in case of European intervention;

they could not be kept down.

With great respect, your obedient servant,

W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General.


23, 1862

Dr. E. S. PLUMMER and others, Physician in Memphis, Signers to a


GENTLEMEN: I have this moment received your communication, and

assure you that it grieves my heart thus to be the instrument of

adding to the seeming cruelty and hardship of this unnatural war.

On my arrival here, I found my predecessor (General Hovey) had

issued an order permitting the departure south of all persons

subject to the conscript law of the Southern Confederacy. Many

applications have been made to me to modify this order, but I

regarded it as a condition precedent by which I was bound in honor,

and therefore I have made no changes or modifications; nor shall I

determine what action I shall adopt in relation to persons

unfriendly to our cause who remain after the time limited by

General Hovey's order had expired. It is now sunset, and all who

have not availed themselves of General Hovey's authority, and who

remain in Memphis, are supposed to be loyal and true men.

I will only say that I cannot allow the personal convenience of

even a large class of ladies to influence me in my determination to

make Memphis a safe place of operations for an army, and all people

who are unfriendly should forthwith prepare to depart in such

direction as I may hereafter indicate.

Surgeons are not liable to be made prisoners of war, but they

should not reside within the lines of an army which they regard as

hostile. The situation would be too delicate.

I am, with great respect, your obedient servant,

W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General.


SAMUEL SAWYER, Esq., Editor Union Appeal, Memphis.

DEAR SIR: It is well I should come to an understanding at once

with the press as well as the people of Memphis, which I am ordered

to command; which means, to control for the interest, welfare; and

glory of the whole Government of the United States.

Personalities in a newspaper are wrong and criminal. Thus, though

you meant to be complimentary in your sketch of my career, you make

more than a dozen mistakes of fact, which I need not correct, as I

don't desire my biography to be written till I am dead. It is

enough for the world to know that I live and am a soldier, bound to

obey the orders of my superiors, the laws of my country, and to

venerate its Constitution; and that, when discretion is given me, I

shall exercise it wisely and account to my superiors.

I regard your article headed "City Council--General Sherman and

Colonel Slack," as highly indiscreet. Of course, no person who can

jeopardize the safety of Memphis can remain here, much less

exercise public authority; but I must take time, and be satisfied

that injustice be not done.

If the parties named be the men you describe, the fact should not

be published, to put them on their guard and thus to encourage

their escape. The evidence should be carefully collected,

authenticated, and then placed in my hands. But your statement of

facts is entirely qualified; in my mind, and loses its force by

your negligence of the very simple facts within your reach as to

myself: I had been in the army six years in 1846; am not related by

blood to any member of Lucas, Turner & Co.; was associated with

them in business six years (instead of two); am not colonel of the

Fifteenth Infantry, but of the Thirteenth. Your correction, this

morning, of the acknowledged error as to General Denver and others,

is still erroneous. General Morgan L. Smith did not belong to my

command at the battle of Shiloh at all, but he was transferred to

my division just before reaching Corinth. I mention these facts in

kindness, to show you how wrong it is to speak of persons.

I will attend to the judge, mayor, Boards of Aldermen, and

policemen, all in good time.

Use your influence to reestablish system, order, government. You

may rest easy that no military commander is going to neglect

internal safety, or to guard against external danger; but to do

right requires time, and more patience than I usually possess. If

I find the press of Memphis actuated by high principle and a sole

devotion to their country, I will be their best friend; but, if I

find them personal, abusive, dealing in innuendoes and hints at a

blind venture, and looking to their own selfish aggrandizement and

fame, then they had better look out; for I regard such persons as

greater enemies to their country and to mankind than the men who,

from a mistaken sense of State pride, have taken up muskets, and

fight us about as hard as we care about. In haste, but in

kindness, yours, etc.,

W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General.


MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE, July 27, 1882.

JOHN PARK, Mayor of Memphis, present.

Sir: Yours of July 24th is before me, and has received, as all

similar papers ever will, my careful and most respectful

consideration. I have the most unbounded respect for the civil

law, courts, and authorities, and shall do all in my power to

restore them to their proper use, viz., the protection of life,

liberty, and property.

Unfortunately, at this time, civil war prevails in the land, and

necessarily the military, for the time being, must be superior to

the civil authority, but it does not therefore destroy it. Civil

courts and executive officers should still exist and perform

duties, without which civil or municipal bodies would soon pass

into disrespect--an end to be avoided. I am glad to find in

Memphis a mayor and municipal authorities not only in existence,

but in the co-exercise of important functions, and I shall endeavor

to restore one or more civil tribunals for the arbitration of

contracts and punishment of crimes, which the military have neither

time nor inclination to interfere with. Among these, first in

importance is the maintenance of order, peace, and quiet, within

the jurisdiction of Memphis. To insure this, I will keep a strong

provost guard in the city, but will limit their duty to guarding

public property held or claimed by the United States, and for the

arrest and confinement of State prisoners and soldiers who are

disorderly or improperly away from their regiments. This guard

ought not to arrest citizens for disorder or minor crimes. This

should be done by the city police. I understand that the city

police is too weak in numbers to accomplish this perfectly, and I

therefore recommend that the City Council at once take steps to

increase this force to a number which, in their judgment, day and

night can enforce your ordinances as to peace, quiet, and order; so

that any change in our military dispositions will not have a

tendency to leave your people unguarded. I am willing to instruct

the provost guard to assist the police force when any combination

is made too strong for them to overcome; but the city police should

be strong enough for any probable contingency. The cost of

maintaining this police force must necessarily fall upon all

citizens equitably. I am not willing, nor do I think it good

policy, for the city authorities to collect the taxes belonging to

the State and County, as you recommend; for these would have to be

refunded. Better meet the expenses at once by a new tax on all

interested. Therefore, if you, on consultation with the proper

municipal body, will frame a good bill for the increase of your

police force, and for raising the necessary means for their support

and maintenance, I will approve it and aid you in the collection of

the tax. Of course, I cannot suggest how this tax should be laid,

but I think that it should be made uniform on all interests, real

estate, and personal property, including money, and merchandise.

All who are protected should share the expenses in proportion to

the interests involved. I am, with respect, your obedient servant,

W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General commanding.


MEMPHIS, August 7, 1862.

Captain FITCH, Assistant Quartermaster, Memphis, Tennessee.

SIR: The duties devolving on the quartermaster of this post, in

addition to his legitimate functions, are very important and

onerous, and I am fully aware that the task is more than should

devolve on one man. I will endeavor to get you help in the person

of some commissioned officer, and, if possible, one under bond, as

he must handle large amounts of money in trust; but, for the

present, we most execute the duties falling to our share as well as

possible. On the subject of vacant houses, General Grant's orders

are: "Take possession of all vacant stores and houses in the city,

and have them rented at reasonable rates; rent to be paid monthly

in advance. These buildings, with their tenants, can be turned

over to proprietors on proof of loyalty; also take charge of such

as have been leased out by disloyal owners."

I understand that General Grant takes the rents and profits of this

class of real property under the rules and laws of war, and not

under the confiscation act of Congress; therefore the question of

title is not involved simply the possession, and the rents and

profits of houses belonging to our enemies, which are not vacant,

we hold in trust for them or the Government, according to the

future decisions of the proper tribunals.

Mr. McDonald, your chief agent in renting and managing this

business, called on me last evening and left with me written

questions, which it would take a volume to answer and a Webster to

elucidate; but as we can only attempt plain, substantial justice, I

will answer these questions as well as I can, briefly and to the


First. When ground is owned by parties who have gone south, and

have leased the ground to parties now in the city who own the

improvements on the ground?

Answer. The United States takes the rents due the owner of the

land; does not disturb the owner of the improvements.

Second. When parties owning houses have gone south, and the tenant

has given his notes for the rent in advance?

Answer. Notes are mere evidence of the debt due landlord. The

tenant pays the rent to the quartermaster, who gives a bond of

indemnity against the notes representing the debt for the

particular rent.

Third. When the tenant has expended several months' rent in

repairs on the house?

Answer. Of course, allow all such credits on reasonable proof and


Fourth. When the owner has gone south, and parties here hold liens

on the property and are collecting the rents to satisfy their


Answer. The rent of a house can only be mortgaged to a person in

possession. If a loyal tenant be in possession and claim the rent

from himself as due to himself on some other debt, allow it; but,

if not in actual possession of the property, rents are not good

liens for a debt, but must be paid to the quartermaster.

Fifth. Of parties claiming foreign protection?

Answer. Many claim foreign protection who are not entitled to it.

If they are foreign subjects residing for business in this,

country, they are entitled to consideration and protection so long

as they obey the laws of the country. If they occupy houses

belonging to absent rebels, they must pay rent to the quarter-

master. If they own property, they must occupy it by themselves,

tenants, or servants.

Eighth. When houses are occupied and the owner has gone south,

leaving an agent to collect rent for his benefit?

Answer. Rent must be paid to the quartermaster. No agent can

collect and remit money south without subjecting himself to arrest

and trial for aiding and abetting the public enemy.

Ninth.. When houses are owned by loyal citizens, but are


Answer. Such should not be disturbed, but it would be well to

advise them to have some servant at the house to occupy it.

Tenth. When parties who occupy the house are creditors of the

owner, who has gone south? Answer. You only look to collection of

rents. Any person who transmits money south is liable to arrest

and trial for aiding and abetting the enemy; but I do not think it

our business to collect debts other than rents.

Eleventh. When the parties who own the property have left the city

under General Hovey's Order No. 1, but are in the immediate

neighborhood, on their plantations?

Answer. It makes no difference where they are, so they are absent.

Twelfth. When movable property is found in stores that are closed?

Answer. The goods are security for the rent. If the owner of the

goods prefers to remove the goods to paying rent, he can do so.

Thirteenth. When the owner lives in town, and refuses to take the

oath of allegiance?

Answer. If the house be occupied, it does not fall under the

order. If the house be vacant, it does. The owner can recover his

property by taking the oath.

All persons in Memphis residing within our military lines are

presumed to be loyal, good citizens, and may at any moment be

called to serve on juries, posses comitatua, or other civil service

required by the Constitution and laws of our country. Should they

be called upon to do such duty, which would require them to

acknowledge their allegiance and subordination to the Constitution

of the United States, it would then be too late to refuse. So long

as they remain quiet and conform to these laws, they are entitled

to protection in their property and lives.

We have nothing to do with confiscation. We only deal with

possession, and therefore the necessity of a strict accountability,

because the United States assumes the place of trustee, and must

account to the rightful owner for his property, rents, and profits.

In due season courts will be established to execute the laws, the

confiscation act included, when we will be relieved of this duty

and trust. Until that time, every opportunity should be given to

the wavering and disloyal to return to their allegiance to the

Constitution of their birth or adoption. I am, etc.,


Major-General commanding.

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