Edward Robins.

William T. Sherman online

. (page 17 of 22)
Online LibraryEdward RobinsWilliam T. Sherman → online text (page 17 of 22)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


by a more pitiless enemy than the detested Yan
kees. Various causes are assigned to explain the
origin of the fire. I am quite sure that it origi
nated in sparks flying from the hundreds of bales



272 WILLIAM TECUMSEH SHEBMAN

of cotton which the rebels had placed along the
middle of the main street, and fired as they left the
city. . . . There were fires, however, which
must have been started independent of the above-
named cause. The source of these is ascribed to
the desire for revenge from some two hundred of
our prisoners, who had escaped from the cars as
they were being conveyed from this city to Char
lotte, and, with the memories of long sufferings in
the miserable pens I visited yesterday on the other
side of the river, sought this means of retaliation.
Again it is said that the soldiers who first entered
the town, intoxicated with success and a liberal
supply of bad liquor, which was freely distributed
among them by designing citizens, in an insanity
of exhilaration set fire to unoccupied houses."

No one can say now what was the exact measure
of license and intentional disorder on the night of
the fire. Naturally, the mischief was minimized
by the Northerners and, no less naturally, greatly
exaggerated by the Southerners, who were now all
the more disposed to regard Sherman as a brute.
But we can well hold him guiltless in the premises.
The evidence is in his favor. And the subsequent
decision of the Mixed Commission on American
and British Claims, concerning cotton then des
troyed at Columbia, relieved Sherman s army of
all official responsibility for the general fire.

In this connection the following excerpt from
Sherman s testimony before the Mixed Commission
may be apropos, as well as interesting :



SAVANNAH AND THE CABOLJNAS 273

Question : "General Sherman, it is alleged that
Von Moltke said your army was an armed mob f "

Answer : l Von Moltke was never fool enough
to say that. I have seen Von Moltke in person ; I
did not ask him the question, because I did not pre
sume that he was such an ass as to say that.
The Prussian army learned many a lesson, and prof
ited by them, from our war, and their officers were
prompt to acknowledge it."

Question: "General, I have often heard your
enemies in the South admit the perfect discipline of
your army?"

Answer : i i We could not have done what we
did do, unless we had kept them under good disci
pline."

Question : i Can you tell me anything about the
Fifteenth Corps !"

Answer : " Yes, indeed I can. I know all about
it ; they were as fine a body of men as ever trod
shoe leather."

Question: "They had the reputation of doing
their work well ?

Answer: "Yes, thoroughly."

Question : " Had they not a reputation for leav
ing their mark upon the country ?

Answer : "Yes ; they left their marks wherever
they went."

Question : "You were aware of this? "

Answer : i Perfectly.

Question : " They were a wild set, were they
not!"



274 WILLIAM TECUMSEH SHEBMAN

Answer : u No, sir ; they were composed of first-
rate men farmers and mechanics, men who are to
day as good citizens as we have in our country, but
who went to war in earnest. They were mostly
western men."

Question : " They were good men for destroying
property?"

Answer : " Yes ; when told to do so, they des
troyed it very quickly."

Question: "When not told to do so, if they
thought they might do it, and if not objectionable
to their officers "

Answer : < l They could do their work very thor
oughly when they undertook it."

Question : "Were they in the habit of destroy
ing property?"

Answer : " No ; I do not think they were, more
than was necessary. They were a very kind set of
men, and I have known them frequently to share
their rations with citizens and people along the
country ; I have often seen it done."

Question : " Do you mean to say that you were
not aware that the Fifteenth Corps was a corps
distinguished for the marks they left upon the
country through which they passed?"

Answer : "I may have known it, and very
likely I did ; I generally knew what was going
on."



Question: "Do you not believe that individ



SAVANNAH AND THE CAEOLINAS 275

uals assisted in spreading the conflagration at
Columbia!"

Answer : u My own judgment was that the fire
originated from the imprudent act of Wade Hamp
ton in ripping open the bales of cotton, piling it in
the streets, burning it, and then going away. . . .
Some soldiers, after the fire originated, may have
been concerned in spreading it, but not concerned
at all in starting it."

The morning sun of the 18th of February had
risen brightly over ruined Columbia. On the same
day Charleston was evacuated by General Hardee,
who found the latter city of no further strategic
value, and hoped to make himself more useful in
the field. Four days later Wilmington, N. C., was
captured by General Terry. Sherman, who was al
ready continuing on his march northward to Golds-
boro, was well pleased with the results of the cam
paign thus far. It was evident, indeed, that the end
was near. In the meantime Charleston was taken
possession of by a brigade of General Foster s troops,
while General Hardee had retreated eastward,
across the Pedee Eiver.

Sherman now began to experience some strong
opposition to his progress. At Cheraw the Con
federates concentrated under Hardee (who had
with him the soldiers previously in garrison at
Charleston), in an effort to stem the Union advance,
but they were out-mano3iivred and obliged to
evacuate the place. Sherman found Cheraw full
of supplies, including a large quantity of Madeira



276 WILLIAM TECUMSEH SHERMAN

which the general (no mean authority) considered
the finest he had ever tasted. General Kilpatrick
and his cavalry, operating on the outskirts of the
marching army, were given plenty to do, too, by
Hampton s cavalry. On one occasion Kilpatrick
had divided his force into two parts, occupying
roads behind the Twentieth Corps, and interposing
between the infantry of Sherman and Hampton s
horse. Hampton broke across this line, and
actually captured the house wherein General Kil
patrick was taking temporary shelter. The latter
and most of his men made for a neighboring
swamp, where they reorganized their demoralized
forces, and, returning, drove off Hampton s party.
However, the enterprising Confederate took with
him Kilpatrick s private horses and several hundred
prisoners, and the Union cavalry general was thus
warned to be more prudent in future. 1

It was in Cheraw, in the very house that General
Hardee had occupied, that Sherman came across a
fairly recent copy of the New York Tribune. He
read it, of course, and found it to contain one item
of news which he considered li extremely mischiev
ous" an announcement that General Sherman
would next be heard from about Goldsboro, be
cause his supply -vessels from Savannah were
rendezvousing at Morehead City (on the North

1 Sherman seems to have had, even after the war, a particular
aversion for Wade Hampton, whom he calls, in his "Memoirs,"
" a braggart." But Hampton deserves a better name that of
a gallant fighter. It is a name that Sherman if now living,
would, doubtless, give to the dead "cavalry Crichton."



SAVANNAH AND THE CAKOLINAS 277

Carolina coast, southeast of Goldsboro). There
are times when the truth is unwelcome, as Sher-
inau now felt, since he realized that this num
ber of the Tribune must have been in Hardee s
hands. It is safe to infer that he indulged in
his usual strong terms against war correspondents,
for he says : i i Up to that moment I had en
deavored so to feign to our left that we had com
pletely misled our antagonists ; but this was no
longer possible, and I concluded that we must be
ready for the concentration in our front of all the
forces subject to General Joseph Johnston s orders,
for I was there also informed that he had been
restored to the full command of the Confederate
forces in South and North Carolina. 7

Sherman s information was quite correct. The
much criticised Johnston, whose Fabian policy
had called forth the condemnation of Jefferson
Davis, had been assigned by General Lee to com
mand the Confederate troops (probably numbering
26,000 in all), available for opposition in front of
Sherman. It was a sort of vindication for the
deposed general, but it came too late.

Johnston, speaking of the new assignment (which
was made whilst he was quietly living in Lincoln-
ton, N. C.), says his orders from Lee were to
" concentrate all available forces, and drive back
Sherman." Before assuming command he visited
General Beauregard, whose headquarters were at
Charlotte, and found that the latter was much
pleased at the selection of Johnston for this work,



278 WILLIAM TECUMSEH SHEKMAN

none the less so on account of the feeble state of
his own health. u He also," adds Johnston, "gave
me a copy of a despatch that he had addressed to
General Lee the day before, in which the same feel
ing was expressed. I therefore accepted the com
mand, confident of the same loyal and cordial
support from that distinguished officer, in the final
operations of the war, that he had given me at its
commencement. This was done with a full con
sciousness on my part, however, that we could have
no other object in continuing the war than to ob
tain fair terms of peace ; for the Southern cause
must have appeared hopeless then to all intelligent
and dispassionate Southern men. I therefore re
sumed the duties of my military grade with no
hope beyond that of contributing to obtain peace
on such conditions as, under the circumstances,
ought to satisfy the Southern people and their
government."

Johnston bravely took up a thankless burden.
Sherman, moving forward, as his army broke rail
roads and foraged on the country, reached Fayette-
ville, N. C., on the llth of March. Here he wrote
several important letters which must have given
joy to the recipients. To the secretary of war,
he said "I have done all that I proposed, and
the fruits seem to me ample for the time em
ployed. Charleston, Georgetown, and Wilmington
are incidents, while the utter demolition of the
railroad system of South Carolina, and the utter
destruction of the enemy s arsenals of Columbia,



SAVANNAH AND THE CAEOLINAS 279

Cheraw, and Fayetteville, are the principals of the
movement. These points were regarded as in
accessible to us, and now no place in the Con
federacy is safe against the army of the west.
Let Lee hold on to Eichmond, and we will destroy
his country ; and then of what use is Eichmond !
He must come out and fight us on open ground, and
for that we must ever be ready. Let him stick be
hind his parapet, and he will perish. . . . My
army is as united and cheerful as ever, and as full
of confidence in itself and its leaders."

To Grant Sherman wrote, among other things :
i l We have had foul weather, and roads that would
have stopped travel to almost any other body of
men I ever heard of. Our march was substantially
what I designed straight to Columbia, feigning on
Branchville and Augusta. ... I could leave
here to-morrow, but want to clear my columns of the
vast crowd of refugees and negroes that encumber
us. Some I will send down the river in boats, and
the rest to Wilmington by land, under small escort,
as soon as we are across Cape Fear Eiver. I hope
you have not been uneasy about us, and that the
fruits of this march have been appreciated. . . .
If I can now add Goldsboro without too much cost,
I will be in a position to aid you materially in
the spring campaign. Joseph Johnston may try to
interpose between me here and Schofield about
Newbern ; but I think he will not try that, but
concentrate his scattered armies at Ealeigh, and I
will go straight at him as soon as I get our men re-



280 WILLIAM TECUMSEH SHEEMAN

clothed and our wagons reloaded. ... I ex
pect to make a junction with Schofield in ten
days."

To reach Goldsboro, where the junction with
Schofield was to be effected, so that the last play in
the game of war might be made, was Sherman s
next ambition. "I knew," he says, "that my
special antagonist, General Johnston, was back,
with part of his old army ; that he would not be
misled by feints and false reports, and would some
how compel me to exercise more caution than I had
hitherto done."

How sincere an admirer of Johnston, even amid
the din of war, General Sherman always was ! The
latter was determined to give the Confederate leader
as little time for reorganization as possible, and so
crossed Cape Fear Eiver, with his army, on the
13th and 14th of March.

Hardee s forces, infantry and cavalry, were now
offering stubborn resistance to the invaders. On
the 16th he was in a good position near Averysboro,
before which General Slocum, commanding the left
wing of the Union army, deployed a portion of the
troops of the Twentieth Corps. Kilpatrick was on
the right front with the cavalry. Sherman, coming
up at this time, gave an important order. " Let a
brigade make a wide circuit by the left," he said,
"and catch this line in flank!" The movement
met with success ; the first line of the enemy was
swept away, and Sherman captured over two hun
dred men and Captain Macbeth s battery of throe



SAVANNAH AND THE CAROLINA^ 281

guns. Hardee now retreated toward Smithfield.
Among the Confederate wounded was a "pale,
handsome young man," whose left arm, when
Sherman visited the improvised hospital, had just
been cut off near the shoulder. He spoke to the
general in a feeble voice, announcing himself as
Captain Macbeth, and saying he remembered Sher
man when the latter used to visit the house of his
father, in Charleston. It is needless to add that
the young Southern officer received every atten
tion. After the war Sherman had the pleasure of
renewing his acquaintance with the captain, in St.
Louis, under less painful circumstances.

From Averysboro the left wing of the advancing
army turned eastward, in the direction of Golds-
boro. Sherman remained with this wing until the
night of the 18th, when, within twenty-seven miles
of Goldsboro, and five of Bentonsville, he crossed
over to join Howard, of the right wing. He
fondly supposed that all dangerous opposition was
now past. But for once he reckoned badly. The
next day he received a message which told him
that near Bentonsville Slocum and his left wing
had unexpectedly come upon " Johnston s whole
army!" Johnston, indeed, knowing that Sher
man s forces were fairly well separated, and hoping
to strike him a hard blow before he could make
junction with Schofield, had concentrated all his
forces at Bentonsville.

Sherman sent word to Slocum to make a "de
fensive" fight, to save time, until he himself should



282 WILLIAM TECUMSEH SHEKMAN

arrive with reinforcements. Troops were at once
turned toward Slocuni, as the booming of cannon,
unpleasantly loud, came from the direction of
Bentonsville. Then ensued the spirited actions
of the 19th and 20th, wherein the Confederates and
Slocum s left wing fought each other with con
spicuous gallantry, not to say, ferocity j and the
Northern troops several times were engaged on op
posite sides of the same breastworks, " so com
pletely were they surrounded by the Confederates."
But the invaders held their ground ; reinforcements
finally reached Slocuni, and Johnston was forced to
retire. He found no further chance to inflict mis
chief on his foes. According to his own estimate,
his loss aggregated about 2,350, including killed,
wounded and missing, while the Union loss was
1,600 in all. Sherman afterward thought that he
had made a mistake in not trying to overwhelm
Johnston s whole army whose numbers he had
overestimated. But he was content then to let the
Confederate general go, while he himself pushed on
to Goldsboro, which he soon reached, with his entire
force (March 23d and 24th), and formed the desired
junction with Terry and Schofield.

Thus, as Sherman himself says with honest
pride, was concluded i l one of the longest and most
important marches ever made by an organized army
in a civilized country." The distance from Sa
vannah as it was marched, was over four hundred
miles, and the route traversed was hampered by
swamps, rivers and muddy roads which were often



SAVANNAH AND THE CAKOLINAS 283

worse than no roads. Columbia, Cheraw and
Fayetteville, with their munitions and supplies,
had been captured along the march ; a vast amount
of food and forage of value to the enemy had been
consumed ; the railroads had been broken up ; the
evacuation of Charleston and her harbor had been
indirectly effected. And yet the army arrived in
Goldsboro in "superb order," believing more
firmly than ever in "Uncle Billy."



CHAPTEE XI

ENDING THE WAR

THE finale of the war was now but a few days in
the distance. Sherman, in his march, had l l drawn
a line of steel from the Appalachians to the Atlan
tic 7 j Sheridan had made a brilliant raid north of
the James Eiver in Virginia ; and Grant, with a force
of one hundred and twenty-five thousand men, was
threatening the undaunted but doomed Lee, who de
fended the approaches to Eichmond and Petersburg.
With the coming of success the North had regained
her old-time enthusiasm for the war ; the South was
bleeding, sore, dispirited, tired. The "rebels"
had fought with a courage that did honor to Ameri
can manhood, and called forth the admiration of
their opponents. We speak of the admiration of
the opponents who fought against them, not of stay-
at-home bigots who called all Confederates l cowardly
traitors. 7 But bravery could do no more. The
North, no less brave, had triumphed, fortunately for
the whole Union ; and the time was to come, after
designing politicians had ceased to wave the
" bloody shirt, 7 when there would be a country
united in fact as well as in theory. l

1 " The population of the South was growing tired of the man
ner in which the politicians were conducting the war. . . .
Only the despairing courage of the leaders remained, and their
dwindling retinue. The means of carrying on the struggle had
been exhausted."" Bird s Eye View of our Civil War."



ENDING THE WAE 285

Though the end of the contest was apparently in
view, there was still some important work to be done.
After his arrival at Goldsboro Sherman determined
to go in person to City Point, where he could have
an interview with General Grant. So, leaving Gen
eral Schofield in chief command, he started north
ward on a locomotive ; then took a steamer at More-
head City, sailed along the coast to Fortress Mon
roe, and from there up the James Eiver to City Point.
Here, on the afternoon of March 27th, Sherman
found Grant, with his family and staff, occupying a
"pretty group of huts," on the banks of the river,
and, of course, was most cordially received. After
an interview lasting for more than an hour, Grant
casually remarked that President Lincoln was then
on board the Eiver Queen, a steamer lying at the
City Point wharf, and proposed that they should call
upon him. This they did ; Lincoln was delighted to
see Sherman ; conversed with him freely about the
Atlanta and Carolina campaigns, and the l march to
the sea ; " and, with his keen sense of humor ever to
the fore, wished to know all about the peculiarities,
makeshifts and whims of the famous l i bummers.
He was somewhat disturbed, however, by the idea
that some accident might happen to Sherman s
army while the gyneral was away. The latter ex
plained to him tlirt the army was "snug and com
fortable," collect HUT t ood and supplies for the farther
inarch north war* ; f tftid that General Schofield was in
every way competent to command in his own ab
sence, hearing which Lincoln seemed to be relieved.



286 WILLIAM TECUMSEH SHEBMAN

When they returned to Grant s headquarters, and
had taken afternoon tea with Mrs. Grant, that lady
asked : i i And did you see Mrs. Lincoln ! " " Why
no," said Grant; "I did not ask for her." "I
didn t even know she was on board," added Sher
man. "Well, you are a pretty pair," cried Mrs.
Grant ; "your neglect was unpardonable ! "

The next morning Grant and Sherman, accom
panied by Admiral Porter, called upon Mr. and
Mrs. Lincoln on the Eiver Queen. The latter
"begged to be excused," but the President received
them as pleasantly as before. Grant explained how
he was closing in upon Lee, and Sherman told
Lincoln that his own army, at Goldsboro, was strong
enough to fight Lee s and Johnston s armies com
bined, "provided General Grant could come up
within a day or so," etc.

Lincoln said, more than once, "there has been
blood enough shed already," and inquired if it were
not possible to avoid another battle. "We can t
control that event," answered Sherman. "That
necessarily rests with the enemy." He then asked
the President if he " was all ready for the end of the
war" ; if he knew "what was to be done with the
rebel armies when defeated" ; and what was to
be the fate of Jefferson Davis and his colleagues.
Lincoln answered that he was " all ready " for the
close of the contest, and anxious to see the Confeder
ate soldiers back at home, and at work. As to Mr.
Davis he intimated that if the Confederate President
would leave the country "unbeknown" to him



ENDING THE WAR 287

the expression was used in one of his apropos stories
he would be relieved from an embarrassing situa
tion. l

Sherman says and his very words should be
quoted : l i He [Lincoln] distinctly authorized me to
assure Governor Vance and the people of North
Carolina that as soon as the rebel armies laid down
their arms, and resumed their civil pursuits, they
would at once be guaranteed all their rights as
citizens of a common country, and that to avoid
anarchy the state governments then in existence, with
their civil functionaries, would be recognized by him
as the government de facto till Congress could provide
others." Sherman, who never saw the President
again, parted from him with the idea that Lincoln
desired to have the war ended as soon as possible ;
"to restore all the men of both sections to their
homes" ; and to behold once again a peaceful, re
united country. And we can quite believe that Lin
coln, who had neither malice nor a petty spirit of tri
umph in his nature, was ready to bind up the gaping
wounds of the South, and to act as he would have
acted had he lived the part of the Great Reconciler.

In view of future events, it is well to note what the
two witnesses of this now historic interview between
Lincoln and Sherman afterward said about it.
Grant in his " Personal Memoirs," records that
" General Sherman had met Mr. Lincoln at City
Point . . . and knew what Mr . Lincoln had said

See Oberholtzer s " Abraham Lincoln," in the American
Crisis Series.



288 WILLIAM TECUMSEH SHERMAN

to the Peace Commissioners when he met them at
Hampton Roads, viz. : that before he could enter
into negotiations with them they would have to agree
to two points : one being that the Union should be
preserved, and the other that slavery should be
abolished, and if they were ready to concede these
two points he was almost ready to sign his name to a
blank piece of paper, and permit them to fill out the
balance of the terms upon which we would live to
gether. 77 J

It is safe to infer from the above, although Grant
does not actually say so, that Mr. Lincoln had ex
pressed practically the same views to General Sher
man as he had done in the presence of Messrs.
Stephens, Campbell and Hunter.

What Admiral Porter has to note of the interview
(written a year after it occurred, and dated at the
Annapolis Naval Academy) is much more detailed,
although no stronger, perhaps, in the way of infer
ence. The admiral says in his statement that he
took notes of the meeting at the time, and is glad
he did so, owing to what subsequently occurred
Joseph Johnston s surrender to Sherman, and i i Stan-
ton s ill -conduct" toward the latter, which "tended
to cast odium" on him for allowing "such liberal
terms to Johnston." And in the account that fol
lows Porter writes we give only a portion of his
statement that in his opinion u Mr. Lincoln came

1 This Hampton Roads Conference, which proved useless,
had taken place early in February, when the Southern "Peace
Commissioners " were Alexander H. Stephens, Judge Campbell,
and R. M. T. Hunter.



ENDING THE WAR 289

down to City Point with the most liberal views to
ward the rebels. He felt confident that we would
be successful, and was willing that the enemy should
capitulate on the most favorable terms. . . . He


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 17 19 20 21 22

Online LibraryEdward RobinsWilliam T. Sherman → online text (page 17 of 22)