Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman

Text to Speech

insersection of Meeting and Broad was the heart of the city, marked

by the Guard-House and St. Michael's Episcopal Church. The

Custom-House, Post-Office, etc., were at the foot of Broad Street,

near the wharves of the Cooper River front. At the extremity of

the peninsula was a drive, open to the bay, and faced by some of

the handsomest houses of the city, called the "Battery." Looking

down the bay on the right, was James Island, an irregular triangle

of about seven miles, the whole island in cultivation with

sea-island cotton. At the lower end was Fort Johnson, then simply

the station of Captain Bowman, United States Engineers, engaged in

building Fort Sumter. This fort (Sumter) was erected on an

artificial island nearly in mid-channel, made by dumping rocks,

mostly brought as ballast in cotton-ships from the North. As the

rock reached the surface it was levelled, and made the foundation

of Fort Sumter. In 1846 this fort was barely above the water.

Still farther out beyond James Island, and separated from it by a

wide space of salt marsh with crooked channels, was Morris Island,

composed of the sand-dunes thrown up by the wind and the sea,

backed with the salt marsh. On this was the lighthouse, but no


On the left, looking down the bay from the Battery of Charleston,

was, first, Castle Pinckney, a round brick fort, of two tiers of

guns, one in embrasure, the other in barbette, built on a marsh

island, which was not garrisoned. Farther down the bay a point of

the mainland reached the bay, where there was a group of houses,

called Mount Pleasant; and at the extremity of the bay, distant six

miles, was Sullivan's Island, presenting a smooth sand-beach to the

sea, with the line of sand-hills or dunes thrown up by the waves

and winds, and the usual backing of marsh and crooked salt-water


At the shoulder of this island was Fort Moultrie, an irregular

fort, without ditch or counterscarp, with a brick scarp wall about

twelve feet high, which could be scaled anywhere, and this was

surmounted by an earth parapet capable of mounting about forty

twenty-four and thirty-two pounder smooth-bore iron guns. Inside

the fort were three two-story brick barracks, sufficient to quarter

the officers and men of two companies of artillery.

At sea was the usual "bar," changing slightly from year to year,

but generally the main ship-channel came from the south, parallel

to Morris Island, till it was well up to Fort Moultrie, where it

curved, passing close to Fort Sumter and up to the wharves of the

city, which were built mostly along the Cooper River front.

Charleston was then a proud, aristocratic city, and assumed a

leadership in the public opinion of the South far out of proportion

to her population, wealth, or commerce. On more than one occasion

previously, the inhabitants had almost inaugurated civil war, by

their assertion and professed belief that each State had, in the

original compact of government, reserved to itself the right to

withdraw from the Union at its own option, whenever the people

supposed they had sufficient cause. We used to discuss these

things at our own mess-tables, vehemently and sometimes quite

angrily; but I am sure that I never feared it would go further than

it had already gone in the winter of 1832-'33, when the attempt at

"nullification" was promptly suppressed by President Jackson's

famous declaration, "The Union must and shall be preserved!" and by

the judicious management of General Scott.

Still, civil war was to be; and, now that it has come and gone, we

can rest secure in the knowledge that as the chief cause, slavery,

has been eradicated forever, it is not likely to come again.




In the spring of 1846 I was a first lieutenant of Company C,1,

Third Artillery, stationed at Fort Moultrie, South Carolina. The

company was commanded by Captain Robert Anderson; Henry B. Judd was

the senior first-lieutenant, and I was the junior first-lieutenant,

and George B. Ayres the second-lieutenant. Colonel William Gates

commanded the post and regiment, with First-Lieutenant William

Austine as his adjutant. Two other companies were at the post,

viz., Martin Burke's and E. D. Keyes's, and among the officers were

T. W. Sherman, Morris Miller, H. B. Field, William Churchill,

Joseph Stewart, and Surgeon McLaren.

The country now known as Texas had been recently acquired, and war

with Mexico was threatening. One of our companies (Bragg's), with

George H. Thomas, John F. Reynolds, and Frank Thomas, had gone the

year previous and was at that time with General Taylor's army at

Corpus Christi, Texas.

In that year (1846) I received the regular detail for recruiting

service, with orders to report to the general superintendent at

Governor's Island, New York; and accordingly left Fort Moultrie in

the latter part of April, and reported to the superintendent,

Colonel R. B. Mason, First Dragoons, at New York, on the 1st day of

May. I was assigned to the Pittsburg rendezvous, whither I

proceeded and relieved Lieutenant Scott. Early in May I took up my

quarters at the St. Charles Hotel, and entered upon the discharge

of my duties. There was a regular recruiting-station already

established, with a sergeant, corporal, and two or three men, with

a citizen physician, Dr. McDowell, to examine the recruits. The

threatening war with Mexico made a demand for recruits, and I

received authority to open another sub-rendezvous at Zanesville,

Ohio, whither I took the sergeant and established him. This was

very handy to me, as my home was at Lancaster, Ohio, only

thirty-six miles off, so that I was thus enabled to visit my

friends there quite often.

In the latter part of May, when at Wheeling, Virginia, on my way

back from Zanesville to Pittsburg, I heard the first news of the

battle of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma, which occurred on the

8th and 9th of May, and, in common with everybody else, felt

intensely excited. That I should be on recruiting service, when my

comrades were actually fighting, was intolerable, and I hurried on

to my post, Pittsburg. At that time the railroad did not extend

west of the Alleghanies, and all journeys were made by

stage-coaches. In this instance I traveled from Zanesville to

Wheeling, thence to Washington (Pennsylvania), and thence to

Pittsburg by stage-coach. On reaching Pittsburg I found many

private letters; one from Ord, then a first-lieutenant in Company

F, Third Artillery, at Fort McHenry, Baltimore, saying that his

company had just received orders for California, and asking me to

apply for it. Without committing myself to that project, I wrote

to the Adjutant-General, R. Jones, at Washington, D. C., asking him

to consider me as an applicant for any active service, and saying

that I would willingly forego the recruiting detail, which I well

knew plenty of others would jump at. Impatient to approach the

scene of active operations, without authority (and I suppose

wrongfully), I left my corporal in charge of the rendezvous, and

took all the recruits I had made, about twenty-five, in a steamboat

to Cincinnati, and turned them over to Major N. C. McCrea,

commanding at Newport Barracks. I then reported in Cincinnati, to

the superintendent of the Western recruiting service, Colonel

Fanning, an old officer with one arm, who inquired by what

authority I had come away from my post. I argued that I took it

for granted he wanted all the recruits he could get to forward to

the army at Brownsville, Texas; and did not know but that he might

want me to go along. Instead of appreciating my volunteer zeal, he

cursed and swore at me for leaving my post without orders, and told

me to go back to Pittsburg. I then asked for an order that would

entitle me to transportation back, which at first he emphatically

refused, but at last he gave the order, and I returned to

Pittsburg, all the way by stage, stopping again at Lancaster, where

I attended the wedding of my schoolmate Mike Effinger, and also

visited my sub-rendezvous at Zanesville. R. S. Ewell, of my class,

arrived to open a cavalry rendezvous, but, finding my depot there,

he went on to Columbus, Ohio. Tom Jordan afterward was ordered to

Zanesville, to take charge of that rendezvous, under the general

War Department orders increasing the number of recruiting-

stations. I reached Pittsburg late in June, and found the order

relieving me from recruiting service, and detailing my classmate H.

B. Field to my place. I was assigned to Company F, then under

orders for California. By private letters from Lieutenant Ord, I

heard that the company had already started from Fort McHenry for

Governor's Island, New York Harbor, to take passage for California

in a naval transport. I worked all that night, made up my accounts

current, and turned over the balance of cash to the citizen

physician, Dr. McDowell; and also closed my clothing and property

returns, leaving blank receipts with the same gentleman for Field's

signature, when he should get there, to be forwarded to the

Department at Washington, and the duplicates to me. These I did

not receive for more than a year. I remember that I got my orders

about 8 p. m. one night, and took passage in the boat for

Brownsville, the next morning traveled by stage from Brownsville to

Cumberland, Maryland, and thence by cars to Baltimore,

Philadelphia, and New York, in a great hurry lest the ship might

sail without me. I found Company F at Governor's Island, Captain

C. Q. Tompkins in command, Lieutenant E. O. C. Ord senior

first-lieutenant, myself junior first-lieutenant, Lucien Loeser and

Charles Minor the second-lieutenants.

The company had been filled up to one hundred privates, twelve

non-commissioned officers, and one ordnance sergeant (Layton),

making one hundred and thirteen enlisted men and five officers.

Dr. James L. Ord had been employed as acting assistant surgeon to

accompany the expedition, and Lieutenant H. W. Halleck, of the

engineers, was also to go along. The United States store-ship

Lexington was then preparing at the Navy-Yard, Brooklyn, to carry

us around Cape Horn to California. She was receiving on board the

necessary stores for the long voyage, and for service after our

arrival there. Lieutenant-Commander Theodorus Bailey was in

command of the vessel, Lieutenant William H. Macomb executive

officer, and Passed-Midshipmen Muse, Spotts, and J. W. A.

Nicholson, were the watch-officers; Wilson purser, and Abernethy

surgeon. The latter was caterer of the mess, and we all made an

advance of cash for him to lay in the necessary mess-stores. To

enable us to prepare for so long a voyage and for an indefinite

sojourn in that far-off country, the War Department had authorized

us to draw six months' pay in advance, which sum of money we

invested in surplus clothing and such other things as seemed to us

necessary. At last the ship was ready, and was towed down abreast

of Fort Columbus, where we were conveyed on board, and on the 14th

of July, 1846, we were towed to sea by a steam-tug, and cast off:

Colonel R. B. Mason, still superintendent of the general recruiting

service, accompanied us down the bay and out to sea, returning with

the tug. A few other friends were of the party, but at last they

left us, and we were alone upon the sea, and the sailors were busy

with the sails and ropes. The Lexington was an old ship, changed

from a sloop-of-war to a store-ship, with an aftercabin, a

"ward-room," and "between-decks." In the cabin were Captains

Bailey and Tompkins, with whom messed the purser, Wilson. In the

ward-room were all the other officers, two in each state-room; and

Minor, being an extra lieutenant, had to sleep in a hammock slung

in the ward-room. Ord and I roomed together; Halleck and Loeser

and the others were scattered about. The men were arranged in

bunks "between-decks," one set along the sides of the ship, and

another, double tier, amidships. The crew were slung in hammocks

well forward. Of these there were about fifty. We at once

subdivided the company into four squads, under the four lieutenants

of the company, and arranged with the naval officers that our men

should serve on deck by squads, after the manner of their watches;

that the sailors should do all the work aloft, and the soldiers on


On fair days we drilled our men at the manual, and generally kept

them employed as much as possible, giving great attention to the

police and cleanliness of their dress and bunks; and so successful

were we in this, that, though the voyage lasted nearly two hundred

days, every man was able to leave the ship and march up the hill to

the fort at Monterey, California, carrying his own knapsack and


The voyage from New York to Rio Janeiro was without accident or any

thing to vary the usual monotony. We soon settled down to the

humdrum of a long voyage, reading some, not much; playing games,

but never gambling; and chiefly engaged in eating our meals

regularly. In crossing the equator we had the usual visit of

Neptune and his wife, who, with a large razor and a bucket of

soapsuds, came over the sides and shaved some of the greenhorns;

but naval etiquette exempted the officers, and Neptune was not

permitted to come aft of the mizzen-mast. At last, after sixty

days of absolute monotony, the island of Raza, off Rio Janeiro, was

descried, and we slowly entered the harbor, passing a fort on our

right hand, from which came a hail, in the Portuguese language,

from a huge speaking-trumpet, and our officer of the deck answered

back in gibberish, according to a well-understood custom of the

place. Sugar-loaf Mountain, on the south of the entrance, is very

remarkable and well named; is almost conical, with a slight lean.

The man-of-war anchorage is about five miles inside the heads,

directly in front of the city of Rio Janeiro. Words will not

describe the beauty of this perfect harbor, nor the delightful

feeling after a long voyage of its fragrant airs, and the entire

contrast between all things there and what we had left in New York.

We found the United Staten frigate Columbia anchored there, and

after the Lexington was properly moored, nearly all the officers

went on shore for sight-seeing and enjoyment. We landed at a wharf

opposite which was a famous French restaurant, Farroux, and after

ordering supper we all proceeded to the Rua da Ouvador, where most

of the shops were, especially those for making feather flowers, as

much to see the pretty girls as the flowers which they so

skillfully made; thence we went to the theatre, where, besides some

opera, we witnessed the audience and saw the Emperor Dom Pedro, and

his Empress, the daughter of the King of Sicily. After the

theatre, we went back to the restaurant, where we had an excellent

supper, with fruits of every variety and excellence, such as we had

never seen before, or even knew the names of. Supper being over,

we called for the bill, and it was rendered in French, with

Brazilian currency. It footed up some twenty-six thousand reis.

The figures alarmed us, so we all put on the waiters' plate various

coins in gold, which he took to the counter and returned the

change, making the total about sixteen dollars. The millreis is

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