Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant

Thomas’s dispositions were deliberately made, and always good.
He could not be driven from a point he was given to hold. He
was not as good, however, in pursuit as he was in action. I do
not believe that he could ever have conducted Sherman’s army
from Chattanooga to Atlanta against the defences and the
commander guarding that line in 1864. On the other hand, if it
had been given him to hold the line which Johnston tried to
hold, neither that general nor Sherman, nor any other officer
could have done it better.

Thomas was a valuable officer, who richly deserved, as he has
received, the plaudits of his countrymen for the part he played
in the great tragedy of 1861-5.

General Canby was an officer of great merit. He was naturally
studious, and inclined to the law. There have been in the army
but very few, if any, officers who took as much interest in
reading and digesting every act of Congress and every regulation
for the government of the army as he. His knowledge gained in
this way made him a most valuable staff officer, a capacity in
which almost all his army services were rendered up to the time
of his being assigned to the Military Division of the Gulf. He
was an exceedingly modest officer, though of great talent and
learning. I presume his feelings when first called upon to
command a large army against a fortified city, were somewhat
like my own when marching a regiment against General Thomas
Harris in Missouri in 1861. Neither of us would have felt the
slightest trepidation in going into battle with some one else
commanding. Had Canby been in other engagements afterwards, he
would, I have no doubt, have advanced without any fear arising
from a sense of the responsibility. He was afterwards killed in
the lava beds of Southern Oregon, while in pursuit of the hostile
Modoc Indians. His character was as pure as his talent and
learning were great. His services were valuable during the war,
but principally as a bureau officer. I have no idea that it was
from choice that his services were rendered in an office, but
because of his superior efficiency there.



Things began to quiet down, and as the certainty that there
would be no more armed resistance became clearer, the troops in
North Carolina and Virginia were ordered to march immediately to
the capital, and go into camp there until mustered out. Suitable
garrisons were left at the prominent places throughout the South
to insure obedience to the laws that might be enacted for the
government of the several States, and to insure security to the
lives and property of all classes. I do not know how far this
was necessary, but I deemed it necessary, at that time, that
such a course should be pursued. I think now that these
garrisons were continued after they ceased to be absolutely
required; but it is not to be expected that such a rebellion as
was fought between the sections from 1861 to 1865 could
terminate without leaving many serious apprehensions in the mind
of the people as to what should be done.

Sherman marched his troops from Goldsboro, up to Manchester, on
the south side of the James River, opposite Richmond, and there
put them in camp, while he went back to Savannah to see what the
situation was there.

It was during this trip that the last outrage was committed upon
him. Halleck had been sent to Richmond to command Virginia, and
had issued orders prohibiting even Sherman’s own troops from
obeying his, Sherman’s, orders. Sherman met the papers on his
return, containing this order of Halleck, and very justly felt
indignant at the outrage. On his arrival at Fortress Monroe
returning from Savannah, Sherman received an invitation from
Halleck to come to Richmond and be his guest. This he
indignantly refused, and informed Halleck, furthermore, that he
had seen his order. He also stated that he was coming up to
take command of his troops, and as he marched through it would
probably be as well for Halleck not to show himself, because he
(Sherman) would not be responsible for what some rash person
might do through indignation for the treatment he had
received. Very soon after that, Sherman received orders from me
to proceed to Washington City, and to go into camp on the south
side of the city pending the mustering-out of the troops.

There was no incident worth noting in the march northward from
Goldsboro, to Richmond, or in that from Richmond to Washington
City. The army, however, commanded by Sherman, which had been
engaged in all the battles of the West and had marched from the
Mississippi through the Southern States to the sea, from there
to Goldsboro, and thence to Washington City, had passed over
many of the battle-fields of the Army of the Potomac, thus
having seen, to a greater extent than any other body of troops,
the entire theatre of the four years’ war for the preservation
of the Union.

The march of Sherman’s army from Atlanta to the sea and north to
Goldsboro, while it was not accompanied with the danger that was
anticipated, yet was magnificent in its results, and equally
magnificent in the way it was conducted. It had an important
bearing, in various ways, upon the great object we had in view,
that of closing the war. All the States east of the Mississippi
River up to the State of Georgia, had felt the hardships of the
war. Georgia, and South Carolina, and almost all of North
Carolina, up to this time, had been exempt from invasion by the
Northern armies, except upon their immediate sea coasts. Their
newspapers had given such an account of Confederate success,
that the people who remained at home had been convinced that the
Yankees had been whipped from first to last, and driven from
pillar to post, and that now they could hardly be holding out
for any other purpose than to find a way out of the war with
honor to themselves.

Even during this march of Sherman’s the newspapers in his front
were proclaiming daily that his army was nothing better than a
mob of men who were frightened out of their wits and hastening,
panic-stricken, to try to get under the cover of our navy for
protection against the Southern people. As the army was seen
marching on triumphantly, however, the minds of the people
became disabused and they saw the true state of affairs. In
turn they became disheartened, and would have been glad to
submit without compromise.

Another great advantage resulting from this march, and which was
calculated to hasten the end, was the fact that the great
storehouse of Georgia was entirely cut off from the Confederate
armies. As the troops advanced north from Savannah, the
destruction of the railroads in South Carolina and the southern
part of North Carolina, further cut off their resources and left
the armies still in Virginia and North Carolina dependent for
supplies upon a very small area of country, already very much
exhausted of food and forage.

In due time the two armies, one from Burkesville Junction and
the other from the neighborhood of Raleigh, North Carolina,
arrived and went into camp near the Capital, as directed. The
troops were hardy, being inured to fatigue, and they appeared in
their respective camps as ready and fit for duty as they had ever
been in their lives. I doubt whether an equal body of men of any
nation, take them man for man, officer for officer, was ever
gotten together that would have proved their equal in a great

The armies of Europe are machines; the men are brave and the
officers capable; but the majority of the soldiers in most of
the nations of Europe are taken from a class of people who are
not very intelligent and who have very little interest in the
contest in which they are called upon to take part. Our armies
were composed of men who were able to read, men who knew what
they were fighting for, and could not be induced to serve as
soldiers, except in an emergency when the safety of the nation
was involved, and so necessarily must have been more than equal
to men who fought merely because they were brave and because
they were thoroughly drilled and inured to hardships.

There was nothing of particular importance occurred during the
time these troops were in camp before starting North.

I remember one little incident which I will relate as an
anecdote characteristic of Mr. Lincoln. It occurred a day after
I reached Washington, and about the time General Meade reached
Burkesville with the army. Governor Smith of Virginia had left
Richmond with the Confederate States government, and had gone to
Danville. Supposing I was necessarily with the army at
Burkesville, he addressed a letter to me there informing me
that, as governor of the Commonwealth of the State of Virginia,
he had temporarily removed the State capital from Richmond to
Danville, and asking if he would be permitted to perform the
functions of his office there without molestation by the Federal
authorities. I give this letter only in substance. He also
inquired of me whether in case he was not allowed to perform the
duties of his office, he with a few others might not be permitted
to leave the country and go abroad without interference. General
Meade being informed that a flag of truce was outside his pickets
with a letter to me, at once sent out and had the letter brought
in without informing the officer who brought it that I was not
present. He read the letter and telegraphed me its contents.
Meeting Mr. Lincoln shortly after receiving this dispatch, I
repeated its contents to him. Mr. Lincoln, supposing I was
asking for instructions, said, in reply to that part of Governor
Smith’s letter which inquired whether he with a few friends would
be permitted to leave the country unmolested, that his position
was like that of a certain Irishman (giving the name) he knew in
Springfield who was very popular with the people, a man of
considerable promise, and very much liked. Unfortunately he had
acquired the habit of drinking, and his friends could see that
the habit was growing on him. These friends determined to make
an effort to save him, and to do this they drew up a pledge to
abstain from all alcoholic drinks. They asked Pat to join them
in signing the pledge, and he consented. He had been so long
out of the habit of using plain water as a beverage that he
resorted to soda-water as a substitute. After a few days this
began to grow distasteful to him. So holding the glass behind
him, he said: “Doctor, couldn’t you drop a bit of brandy in
that unbeknownst to myself.”

I do not remember what the instructions were the President gave
me, but I know that Governor Smith was not permitted to perform
the duties of his office. I also know that it Mr. Lincoln had
been spared, there would have been no efforts made to prevent
any one from leaving the country who desired to do so. He would
have been equally willing to permit the return of the same
expatriated citizens after they had time to repent of their

On the 18th of May orders were issued by the adjutant-general
for a grand review by the President and his cabinet of Sherman’s
and Meade’s armies. The review commenced on the 23d and lasted
two days. Meade’s army occupied over six hours of the first day
in passing the grand stand which had been erected in front of the
President’s house. Sherman witnessed this review from the grand
stand which was occupied by the President and his cabinet. Here
he showed his resentment for the cruel and harsh treatment that
had unnecessarily been inflicted upon him by the Secretary of
War, by refusing to take his extended hand.

Sherman’s troops had been in camp on the south side of the
Potomac. During the night of the 23d he crossed over and
bivouacked not far from the Capitol. Promptly at ten o’clock on
the morning of the 24th, his troops commenced to pass in
review. Sherman’s army made a different appearance from that of
the Army of the Potomac. The latter had been operating where
they received directly from the North full supplies of food and
clothing regularly: the review of this army therefore was the
review of a body of 65,000 well-drilled, well-disciplined and
orderly soldiers inured to hardship and fit for any duty, but
without the experience of gathering their own food and supplies
in an enemy’s country, and of being ever on the watch. Sherman’s
army was not so well-dressed as the Army of the Potomac, but
their marching could not be excelled; they gave the appearance
of men who had been thoroughly drilled to endure hardships,
either by long and continuous marches or through exposure to any
climate, without the ordinary shelter of a camp. They exhibited
also some of the order of march through Georgia where the “sweet
potatoes sprung up from the ground” as Sherman’s army went
marching through. In the rear of a company there would be a
captured horse or mule loaded with small cooking utensils,
captured chickens and other food picked up for the use of the
men. Negro families who had followed the army would sometimes
come along in the rear of a company, with three or four children
packed upon a single mule, and the mother leading it.

The sight was varied and grand: nearly all day for two
successive days, from the Capitol to the Treasury Building,
could be seen a mass of orderly soldiers marching in columns of
companies. The National flag was flying from almost every house
and store; the windows were filled with spectators; the
door-steps and side-walks were crowded with colored people and
poor whites who did not succeed in securing better quarters from
which to get a view of the grand armies. The city was about as
full of strangers who had come to see the sights as it usually
is on inauguration day when a new President takes his seat.

It may not be out of place to again allude to President Lincoln
and the Secretary of War, Mr. Stanton, who were the great
conspicuous figures in the executive branch of the government.
There is no great difference of opinion now, in the public mind,
as to the characteristics of the President. With Mr. Stanton the
case is different. They were the very opposite of each other in
almost every particular, except that each possessed great
ability. Mr. Lincoln gained influence over men by making them
feel that it was a pleasure to serve him. He preferred yielding
his own wish to gratify others, rather than to insist upon having
his own way. It distressed him to disappoint others. In matters
of public duty, however, he had what he wished, but in the least
offensive way. Mr. Stanton never questioned his own authority
to command, unless resisted. He cared nothing for the feeling
of others. In fact it seemed to be pleasanter to him to
disappoint than to gratify. He felt no hesitation in assuming
the functions of the executive, or in acting without advising
with him. If his act was not sustained, he would change it–if
he saw the matter would be followed up until he did so.

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