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be a real general, and not a figure-head, while the
secretary would be shorn of some of his powers and
influence. But the new secretary of war, General
Rawlins (Grant s old-time friend and staff-officer,
who succeeded General Schofield in the cabinet posi
tion) soon complained, as did many politicians, that
the department was now subservient to the com
manding general, and that the secretary himself had
become the real figure-head. The result was that
Grant, whose views as President were often different
from his views as lieutenant-general, and who him
self was becoming more and more fond of power and


its fruits, rescinded his reform orders. 1 Bawlins,
and, after his death, the malodorous Belknap, re
verted to the old type of secretary, and Sherman
found himself little more than an illustrious puppet.

Sherman was disgusted, disheartened, but his pro
tests with Grant were of no avail. For once the
strong friendship between the two men came near
the breaking-point. Some time later, in the summer
of 1871, he wrote to his brother : "My office has
been by law stripped of all the influence and pres
tige it possessed under Grant, and even in matters
of discipline and army control I am neglected,
overlooked, or snubbed." How a person of Sher
man s temperament must have writhed under this
reversal to the bureaucratic power of the War
Office ! In answer to this complaint John Sherman
wrote back urging his brother to go on maintaining
the same friendly relations with Grant " for though
he seems willing to strip your office of its power, yet
I have no doubt he feels as warm an attachment for
you, as, from his temperament, he can to any one." 2

It is a wonder that Sherman did not impetuously
resign his commission, and break with Grant. But
he kept calm, in spite of his disappointment.

1 " His [Grant s] success as a soldier produced an entire
change in his character. . . . After accepting the highest
position in the army as a right, he entered upon the perform
ance of the duties of the highest civil position without fear.
. . . He had the disposition, and only needed the oppor
tunity, to become a dictator." Hugh McCulloch in " Men and
Measures of Half a Century."

9 ; The Sherman Letters," p. 333.


From his grievances the general obtained a pleas
ant respite in a leave of absence for a European
trip, which he took in the autumn and winter of
1871 and during the spring and summer of 1872.
He was made a veritable lion and not merely by
people of the Mrs. Leo Hunter type. Royalty
whose attentions are ever dear to the republican
heart was as polite as the rest of the world.

Sherman, on his return, lived for a time in Wash
ington, but finally, in the summer of 1874, he got
leave to remove his headquarters to St. Louis, and
thus escape Secretary of War Belknap and the poli
ticians. It was while in St. Louis that he published
his " Memoirs," two volumes of interesting and
characteristic narration, infinitely superior, from a
literary point of view, to the usual reminiscences of
the successful military commander. The distin
guished author spoke plainly, as was his wont, and
many of us can remember the storm which the work
evoked from some quarters. The criticisms were
rather welcome than otherwise to Sherman ; they
bespoke national interest, and gave him an admi
rable excuse for letter- writing and argument. Pos
terity may be thankful that he had the industry to
prepare these " Memoirs." They form, with the
possible exception of Grant s " Personal Memoirs,"
the most valuable autobiography connected with the
Civil War. Indeed, their reading, combined with
references to the "Sherman Letters," so well but
unpretentiously edited by his daughter, Mrs. Thorn -
dike, will give one otherwise ignorant of the sub-


ject a graphic idea of certain phases of the conflict,
military and political.

Throughout these years Sherman 7 s name was con
stantly being mentioned for the presidency, but
he always deprecated the use of it, and with evident
sincerity. His correspondence contains frequent
disclaimers of any White House ambitions, as when
he writes to John Sherman in August, 1874, "not
to give any person the least encouragement to think
I can be used for political ends. I have seen it
poison so many otherwise good characters, that I am
really more obstinate than ever. I think Grant will
be made miserable to the end of his life by his eight
years experience."

The resignation and fall of Secretary of War
Belknap, in the spring of 1876, indirectly resulted
in the return to Washington of General Sherman.
Judge Taffc, the succeeding secretary, was a great
admirer of him, and was instrumental in having,
through executive order, the powers of the com
manding general restored. The headquarters of the
army were re-established at the national capital,
while Sherman found his position much more con
genial than before. Life passed with comparative
serenity, and decidedly uneventfully, until his re
tirement from the army, February 8, 1884, when he
had reached the prescribed age of sixty-four years.
He had, several months previously, turned over the
command of the army to General Sheridan.

The politicians, or at least some of them, were
now " booming " Sherman for the Republican nomi-


nation for the presidency. The general returned to
St. Louis, in no mood to seek the honor. He had
witnessed Grant s loss of prestige in the White
House ; he had found nothing particularly to envy
in the lot of President Hayes ; he had seen nothing
more to envy in the tragic end of Garfield, or in the
succession of Chester A. Arthur. He felt, too,
that a military man was not suited to the exactions
of the office of chief magistrate. But there seemed,
at one time, to be a very strong movement in favor
of the hero of the " March to the Sea." Shrewd
observers knew that the very name of Sherman had
in it an irresistible appeal to a whole legion of

In May, 1884, John Sherman wrote to the general :
"It is certain that if Elaine is not nominated in the
early ballots a movement will be made for your
nomination, and, if entered upon, will go like wild
fire. Some one should be authorized to make a
definite and positive refusal if you have concluded
to decline the nomination, if tendered. My own
opinion is still that while you ought not to seek,
or even beforehand consent, to accept a nomination,
yet if it comes unsought and with cordial unan
imity you ought to acquiesce. . . . Elaine
could readily turn his strength to you if he cannot
get a majority, and, I think, means to do so."

In his answer to this letter General Sherman said
that the more he reflected, the more firmly was he
convinced that he was wise in putting behind him
1 1 any false ambition. " " Why should I, " he asked,


"at [nearly] sixty-five years of age, with a reason
able provision for life, not a dollar of debt, and with
the universal respect of rny neighbors and country
men, embark in the questionable game of politics ?
The country is in a state of absolute peace, and it
would be a farce to declare that any man should
sacrifice himself to a mere party necessity."

So far did the movement in favor of General Sher
man go that Elaine wrote a letter marked, char
acteristically, "strictly, absolutely confidential"
in which this brilliant but always shifty statesman
stated that in case of a deadlock in the Eepublican
nominating convention between himself and Arthur
the name of Sherman would come to the fore in
which instance, argued Elaine, it was the duty of
the general, as a soldier, to accept the duty thus
thrust upon him. * l You can no more refuse, wrote
Elaine, " than you could have refused to obey an
order when you were a lieutenant in the army."

But as it came to pass, Elaine and Logan were
nominated for President and Vice-President, shining
marks for defeat in the following November. Sher
man heaved a sigh of relief, sincere rather than af
fected, when the convention was over. To his brother
he wrote: "I feel such a sense of relief that I
would approve of anything. My instructions to Hen
derson, 1 verbal, telegraphic, and written, were all
short, emphatic, and clear, and, so far as I am con
cerned, all may be published ; viz., first, to do what
was possible to prevent even the mention of my
1 J. B. Henderson.


name ; and, second, that though there should occur
a break after the first ballots, and my name should
be presented as a compromise, to decline ; and, lastly
if in spite of such declination I should be nominated,
I would decline with an emphasis which might be
construed as disrespectful to the convention itself,
which, of course, I did not want to do. ...
Anyhow, I escaped, and that to me was salvation."

Sensible Sherman ! Had he been nominated and
elected, and turned loose to wrestle with the politi
cians, with his irritable, undiplomatic ways and igno
rance of the pitfalls of the presidency, his fame and
his peace of mind would have suffered sadly.
Would that Grant had been equally coy !

The final years of Sherman s life, from the sum
mer of 1886 to the end in 1891, were spent in New
York city. Here he resided peacefully, respected
and happy, ever in demand for festive occasions.

Mrs. Sherman died in 1888 ; she had been a de
voted wife, and the parting was hard to bear, but he
comforted himself with the thought that the separa
tion would be a short one. She had been a devout
Bornan Catholic, whilst he was not, but the differ
ence as to belief had worked no estrangement.

Sherman s life in New York, particularly after he
moved into his house in West Seventy-first Street,
was far from idle. He rose early, ate a light break
fast, and then spent a goodly portion of his morning
in the library, a most interesting "den," filled with
books and maps. His correspondence consumed a
great deal of time, dealing, as it did, with all sorts


of subjects, including numerous invitations to speak
before gatherings of veterans. At night he was al
ways in demand for dinners, and he seldom refused
to go forth and do battle with his digestion.

A lady once asked the general how he managed
to attend so many elaborate dinners without com
mitting " gastronomic suicide 7 ? "I do not touch
fifteen per cent, of the dinners I go to," the old war
rior answered. "I go to see the diners and enjoy
their enjoyment, which I never could do if I was
foolish enough to treat my stomach disrespectfully.
You see, it has been too staunch a friend to neglect.
I eat to live, and am satisfied with the simplest kind
of food. Then I take great pains to give hunger a
show, and while I believe most thoroughly in the
value of regular meals and rest, I have learned how
to go through a dining-room without eating a morsel,
without being detected, and without hurting the
feelings of the hostess." Indeed, Sherman confined
himself to the plainest dishes, and never touched
champagne or heavy wines. Of all things he ab
horred what he called those "mixed-up French
dishes," which might be " anything or nothing."

As a host he was no less a model than as a guest.
As a story-teller, drawing from the fund of his vast
experiences, he was inimitable. On his seventieth
birthday, in February of 1890, he gave a little din
ner at his home, when he said, in his straightfor
ward, sincere way : " Yes, I am seventy years old
to-day, the time allotted for man to live, but I can
truly say that I have never felt better for any time


within ten years. Seventy years is a long time, and
it seems a great while since I was a boy. Still, I
can recall incidents that happened when I was not
more than four years of age." His memory was
astonishing, and so continued unto the last.

"Sherman s life in New York," said the late John
Eussell Young, "was as unique as Wellington s in
London after Waterloo. He was the first citizen
of the metropolis, and no gathering seemed com
plete without his cheery, dominant presence. He
had a rapid, sketchy way of putting things,
Turneresque, one might say brilliant, vivid,
memorable, in contrast with the concentrated,
epigrammatic style of Grant. . . . Sherman
was fond of the theatre, and was a special
favorite among the actors. He believed in the
elevation of the stage, as an important element in
the welfare of society. I remember how this was
shown at the supper given by Augustin Daly to
Henry Irving and his company. It was a brilliant
occasion, with seventy or eighty guests the table
circular, the centre a parterre of roses, the com
pany the most distinguished. After Daly opened
the supper he coaxed Sherman into the chair, and
there he sat until six o clock in the morning, taking
Irving by the hand at the close, and, as the com
pany stood, making a graceful and elegant speech
of farewell. I remember that some of the younger
guests ran away about three in the morning for
reasons of health and physical endurance. The
general remained until the end, and as we passed


out into Broadway the sun was shining and the
milk carts were hurrying over the stony streets on
their morning errand. 7

It is attractive to think of a great war horse
growing old so gracefully, amid the incense of
roses and admiration, far away from the smell of
gunpowder, or the carnage of the battle-field.
There was nothing about the war more worthy of
remembrance," Mr. Young went on to relate, "than
the affectionate relations of Grant, Sherman, and
Sheridan. Grant never seemed to tire of talking
about Sherman, nor Sherman about Grant. Con
cerning the rivalries, the ambitions, heartburnings
perhaps one might say the human nature of the
war the friendship of these three great men
should have everlasting remembrance. We have
had no public man, with the exception of Lin
coln, who could furnish more material [for the
biographer] than Sherman. This came from
the temperament, the originality, the overflowing
genius of the man. Grant and Sheridan were
reserved men Grant especially, unless he was
among intimates. But Sherman had no reserve.
His genius seemed perennial. There was his
marvelous memory, his vivid portraiture, his
eloquence which never failed him, and that
singularly sweet, penetrating voice, with so much
gentleness, and at the same time with so much
power, which no one who ever heard can ever for
get. I never heard Sherman say an unkind word
of any one ; I never heard him speak harshly of


his comrades. He was especially kind to Southern
men, and all his opinions of the South were stamped
with the utmost charity and consideration. No one
who had fought against him and accepted the results
of the war ever came to Sherman in vain. He was in
tolerant only of falsehood and enmity to the flag."

It was on the third of February, 1891, that Gen
eral Sherman wrote to his brother John : "I am
drifting along in the old rut in good strength,
attending to about four dinners a week at public
or private houses, and generally wind up for gossip
at the Union League Club. 77 Of the many letters
which he had sent his brother, from early boyhood,
this was to be the last. He went to the theatre on
the evening of the day following ; caught cold,
presumably in returning home, and soon became
very ill with erysipelas of the face and throat. His
seventy-first birthday occurred on the 8th ; on the
14th of February, 1891, he died. He had joined,
as Grant and Sheridan had already done, the
phantom army of the conquerors.

Charles De Kay finely expressed the thought of
Sherman 7 s passing away to join Grant and Sheridan
when he wrote the lines ending with :

" Kumble, and grumble, ye drums,
Strain in your throat, O pipes !
Last of the warriors of oak that were hewn
Into strength by failure and stripes !
Last, not least of the heroes old,
Smoke-begrimed, fervid, crafty, bold
Sheridan, Grant, your comrade boon
Comes to your haven comes,"


Sherman s death was the signal for eulogies and
overflowing press notices throughout the North.
Even many Southern editors dealt kindly with his
memory, after a chivalrous fashion. " He had his
faults," said the Atlanta Constitution, " very serious
ones, but he also had many shining virtues. He
always, in his heart, really liked Southerners, and
had many personal friends among them. The re
building of Atlanta gratified him very much, and
he was a firm believer in the future greatness of this
region. When all is said that can be said, the fact
looms up that this man was one of the greatest
soldiers of the age. . . . He was a hard fighter,
and never grew sentimental in the presence of
bloodshed and death. But when the business of
war was over when he had accomplished his
mission he showed a softer side, and men and
women, even among his former foes, found him a
very lovable man."

The body of Sherman was laid to rest in Calvary
Cemetery, St. Louis, next to the grave of his wife,
with all the attending circumstances of military
pomp. It was a soldier s funeral, and therefore an
appropriate one. It suggested lines from Tenny
son s ode on the burial of the Duke of Wellington :

"Hush, the dead march wails in the people s ears :
The dark crowd moves, and there are sobs and tears :
The black earth yawns : the mortal disappears ;
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust ;
He is gone who seemed so great
Gone; but nothing can bereave him


Of the force he made his own

Being here, and we believe him

Something far advanced in state,

And that he wears a truer crown

Than any wreath that man can weave him."

Thus passed away one of the greatest figures in
the history of the nineteenth century. Loyal,
brave in mind and body; in war a relentless genius;
in peace kindly and simple; frank to the verge of
imprudence; impetuously honest; intolerant of
sham; brilliant of brain; with small faults and
large virtues ; a born commander, stern and bold,
yet withal a pleasant gentleman such was William
Tecumseh Sherman. His name will last so long as
the Union lasts. Aptly did the stone-cutter chisel
upon his tombstone :

" Faithful and Honwable."



ANECDOTES, Poetry and Incidents of the War, North and
South, collected and arranged by Frank Moore, 1882.

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CONYNGHAM, CAPTAIN DAVID P. Sherman s March Through
the South, 1865.

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Commanders, edited by Theodore F. Dwight, 1895.

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"AGREEMENT," or peace
treaty, between Generals
Sherman and Johnston, 286-
301 ; its rejection by An
drew Johnson and Stauton,
301-306 ; followed by a new
"Agreement, "306.

Alexandria (La. ), military col
lege at, formed, with General
Sherman as superintendent,
42 ; Sherman resigns from,
49, 50.

Alva, Duke of, Sherman com
pared to, 216.

Anderson, General Robert,
commands at Sumter, 58;
in Kentucky, 79, 80.

Anthony, Colonel , warns Sher
man of the enemy, 148.

Arnold, Isaac N., quoted, 299.

Arthur, Chester A., as Presi
dent of the United States,
326 ; as a convention candi
date, 327.

Atlanta, campaign of, and
final fall, 162-221.

Atlanta, fire in, 230, 231.

the Mississippi, 122 ; on the
Red River, 166.

Beauregard, General P. G. T.,
bombards Sumter, 66; at
Manassas Junction, 69, 72 ;
at Shiloh, 91. 98 ; abandons
Corinth, 101 ; commands
" Military Division of the
West," 228; appeals to

Georgians, 244 ; visited by
Joseph E. Johnston, 277,
278 ; conversation with
Johnston, 292.

Belknap. W. W., as Secretary
of War, 323-325.

Benjamin, Judah P., sees

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Online LibraryEdward RobinsWilliam T. Sherman → online text (page 20 of 22)