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i presented all the features, serious and comical,
usual to such occasions. At our counter happened
that identical case, narrated of others, of the French-


man who was nearly squeezed to death in getting to
the counter, and, when he received his money, did
not know what to do with it. If you got the money
I no want him ; but if you no got him, I want it
like the devil.

Many depositors shared the feelings of the French
man. When they received their money and found
the bank still solvent, they began to re-deposit it.
In short, the pluck and apparent placidity of Sher
man, combined with the precautions he had taken
to keep the bank in funds, saved the day. The firm
of Lucas, Turner and Company emerged from the
ordeal triumphantly, amid the wreckage of other
banks and other fortunes. But public confidence
in general finances was greatly shaken ; business
became unsettled ; and finally the San Francisco
house of Lucas, Turner and Company wound up its
affairs in honorable fashion. Its closing was done
at the suggestion of Sherman, who reported to Mr.
Lucas, the senior partner, that the latter s capital
could be used much more profitably in St. Louis.
In July, 1857, the ex-captain was established in
New York, as manager of a new Wall Street firm,
bearing the old name of Lucas, Turner and Com
pany. 1

Owing to the failure of Mr. Lucas, in St. Louis,
the new house was soon obliged to go out of business.

1 Before dismissing Sherman s California experiences it may
be noted that he was commissioned major-general of the Second
Division of the State Militia, and narrowly escaped an exciting
brush with a local Vigilance Committee, which tried to set
itself above the law.


It is pleasant to record, however, that when the af
fairs of the firm were straightened out, as they
speedily were, no one lost a cent through the crash.
Lucas and Sherman emerged with honor unscathed.

Sherman now went back to San Francisco, at the
request of Mr. Lucas, to make a final liquidation of
the business of the California house. In the latter
part of July, 1858, he was again at his old home, in
Lancaster, Ohio. "I was then unhampered," he
records, "but the serious and greater question re
mained, what was I to do to support my family,
consisting of a wife and four children, all accus
tomed to more than the average comforts of life ?
In writing to John Sherman, about this time, he
made two remarkable prophecies, one of which was
to come true in several years, while the other would
not be verified until he had gone over to the great
army of the dead :

" I think in the next ten years we will have plenty
to do in the war line Mormon war, civil broils and
strife, contests for political power, growing out of
slavery and other exciting topics, and last a war
with Spain, resulting in the conquest of Cuba.

Events were certainly moving apace ; history was
being made rapidly. Already the present Repub
lican party was an accomplished fact. Politics,
however, were hardly so engrossing to our ex-officer
and ex-banker as the thought of mouths to be fed.
In this predicament, while discussing "what to do
next," Sherman went out to Leavenworth, Kansas,
as a partner in a law firm established by two of


Thomas Ewing s sons. He was not expected to
give more than passing attention to the purely legal
business of the firm ; his duties were to be in the
line of collections and such details as his banking
experience had qualified him for more eminently.
Yet it was expedient that Sherman should take out
a "license" as a lawyer. "What examination
must I submit to f " he inquired of Judge Lecompte.
"None at all," replied his honor; "I will admit
you on the ground of general intelligence ! " Thus
Sherman became a member of the bar.

Fortunately for his country, as it came to pass,
Sherman s income from the firm proved hardly suf
ficient for the wants of his growing family. He
looked around for something more to do. Being a
man who always stared things frankly in the face,
he must have asked himself more than once whether
life had been a failure. As good luck would have
it, a military college was about to be organized
near Alexandria, Louisiana. Sherman applied for
the position of superintendent, was elected thereto,
and started for his new scene of work in the autumn
of 1859. If "civil broils" could only be averted,
he would doubtless spend many a year in the

It is significant of the bitterness engendered by
the Civil War that two of Sherman s biographers
(the authors of < Sherman and His Campaigns, pub
lished in 1865) should have regarded his appointment
as superintendent as part of a great conspiracy of
the Southern leaders. Here is the scheme these


biographers set forth, as it affected Captain Sher
man : During President Buchanan s administra
tion there was started throughout the slave states a
movement for the reorganization of the militia, the
establishment and enlargement of state military
academies, and the collection of arms and other
munitions of war. The Federal Secretary of War,
Mr. Floyd, l i thoroughly in the interests of the pro-
slavery conspirators, aided them by sending to the
arsenals in the slave states large quantities of the
national arms and military supplies," and caused
large sales of arms to be made secretly, at low
prices, to the agents of these states. "The pro-
slavery leaders then began, quietly, to select and
gather round them the men whom they needed, and
upon whom they thought they could rely. 7 Among
the men thus fixed upon, according to this ingenious
theory, was Captain William Tecumseh Sherman.
" Eecognizing his aptitude in military art and sci
ence, the leaders in Louisiana determined to place
him at the head of the new State Military Acad
emy at Alexandria. It was explained to him that
the object of establishing the school was to aid in
suppressing negro insurrections ; to enable the state
to protect her borders from the Indian incursions,
then giving trouble in Arkansas and Texas ; and to
form a nucleus for defense, in case of an attack by
a foreign enemy."

The question as to what extent, how much or
how little the Southern leaders prepared for the
inevitable war now, happily, merely an academic


question need not be discussed here. But it is
absurd to think that there was any plot to bring
Sherman to Louisiana for the purpose of winning
him over to Southern allegiance. Had he ulti
mately thrown in his fortune with the Confeder
acy, Louisianians would have been pleased, natu
rally enough, but there was nothing of the under
hand in the appointment. At the time the above-
mentioned biography was written, however, North
erners and Southerners were not devising compli
ments about each other ; the " era of good feeling "
had not yet dawned.

On New Year s Day of 1860 the "Louisiana Semi
nary of Learning and Military Academy" was
opened " auspiciously," with an attendance of about
sixty cadets who were to be educated on lines as
near as possible to the West Point standard. Every
thing promised a happy and congenial existence for
the superintendent, who was taking a deep interest
in the progress of the new institution. But as the
weeks went on he began to see that, owing to the in
creasing political turmoil, his position was not a bed
of roses. John Sherman was a candidate, in the na
tional House of Representatives, for the speakership,
against Bocock, of Virginia, and as he was regarded
in the South as an Abolitionist "the most hor
rible of all monsters" a great many people in
Louisiana began to look upon his brother, the cap
tain, with a good deal of suspicion. Was it wise,
they asked, to have the brother of an Abolitionist at
the head of their military college ?


One evening, at Baton Rouge, Sherman attended
a large dinner party given by Thomas O. Moore,
the Governor of Louisiana. A number of men
prominent in the official life of the state were pres
ent. When the ladies had left the table, and the
wine and coffee were circulating, the superintend
ent heard his name being frequently used at the end
of the board over which the host presided. At
length the governor called to him : " Captain Sher
man, you can readily understand that with your
brother the Abolitionist candidate for speaker, some
of our people wonder that you should be here, at
the head of an important state institution. Now,
you are at my table, and I assure you of my confi
dence. Won t you speak your mind freely on this
question of slavery, that so agitates the land ? You
are under my roof, and, whatever you say, you have
my protection."

This was a sufficient challenge to Sherman. He
answered : " Governor Moore, you mistake in call
ing my brother, John Sherman, an Abolitionist.
We have been separated since childhood I in the
army, and he pursuing his profession of law in
northern Ohio, and it s possible we may differ in
general sentiment ; but I deny that he is considered
at home an Abolitionist. Although he prefers the
free institutions under which he lives to those of
slavery which prevail here, he would not of himself
take from you by law or force any property what
ever, even slaves."

" Give us your own view of slavery as you see it


here, and throughout the South, " replied the gover

This was, in substance, the superintendent s an
swer : " The people of Louisiana are hardly respon
sible for slavery, because they have inherited it. I
have found here two distinct conditions of slavery,
domestic and field hands. The domestic slaves, em
ployed by the families, are probably better treated
than any slaves on earth ; but the condition of the
field hands is far different, depending more on the
temper and disposition of their masters and over
seers than are those employed about the house.
Were I a citizen of Louisiana and a member of the
legislature I would deem it wise to bring the legal
condition of the slaves more near the status of
human beings under all Christian and civilized
governments. In sales of slaves made by the state
I would forbid the separation of families, letting the
father, mother and children be sold together to one
person, instead of each to the highest bidder.
Again, I would advise the repeal of the statute
which enacted a severe penalty for even the owner
to teach his slave to read and write, because that
actually qualified property and took away a part of
its value. For instance, there s the case of Henry
Sampson, once the slave of Colonel Chambers, of
Eapides Parish, who went to California as the serv
ant of an officer of the army, and who was after
ward employed by me in my bank in San Fran
cisco. At first he could not read or write, and I
could only afford to pay him $100 a month j but he


was taught to read and write by Beilly, our bank-
teller, when his services became worth $250 a
month, which enabled him to buy his own freedom,
and that of his brother and his family."

One of the listeners (Sherman thought it was At
torney-General Hyams) struck the table with his fist,
making the wine glasses ring, as he exclaimed :
"By Heaven, he is right!" Then followed for
an hour a discussion which was pursued to its
finish in all moderation and fairness on both

There is no doubt that many a Southerner would
have been only too glad to see slavery abolished
then and there, had he been able to divine how it
could be done without involving him in financial
ruin. But the most rabid Abolitionists in the North
refused to see this financial phase of the situation,
although they would have been the very first to cry
out had any one sought to attack their own vested

Sherman still hoped for moderation and compro
mise on the part of all concerned. "It would be
the height of folly to drive the South to despera
tion," he tells John Sherman, "and I hope, after
the fact is admitted that the North has the majority
and right to control national matters, they will so
use their power as to reassure the South that there
is no intention to disturb the actual existence of
slavery. ... If our country falls into anarchy
it will be Mexico, only worse. Disunion would be
civil war, and you politicians would lose all charm.


Military men would then step on the tapis, and you
would have to retire."

As the year 1860 progressed the position of Cap
tain Sherman in Alexandria became more and more
strained "too strained for comfort." The elec
tion of Lincoln to the presidency in November,
only increased the storm-clouds. " All attempts at
reconciliation will fail," said Sherman several
weeks later. As he was determined to remain true
to the cause of the North, in case of open rupture,
he lamented that his probable resignation from the
Military Academy would make his fourth change
of occupation in four years, " each time from ca
lamity." And John Sherman was writing to
him imperatively from Washington : * i The very
moment you feel uncomfortable in your position in
Louisiana, come away. Don t, for God s sake, sub
ject yourself to any slur, reproach, or indignity."

The break soon came. South Carolina seceded
in December, and Mississippi soon afterward ;
Louisiana was now ripe for revolt from the Union.
Early in January, 1861, Governor Moore ordered
the seizure of all the United States forts at the
mouth of the Mississippi and Lake Pontchartrain,
and of the United States arsenal at Baton Eouge.
It seemed the irony of fate that 2,000 muskets, 300
rifles, and a large amount of cartridges, which
formed part of the contents of the arsenal, should
have been sent, after its quick surrender, to the
custody of Captain Sherman, in Alexandria. "This
grated hard on my feelings," he says, "and on


counting the arms I noticed that they were packed
in the old familiar boxes, with the <U. S. simply
scratched off." It was, therefore, not long before
he had despatched to Governor Moore the following
letter, which is a classic in its way :

"Sra: As I occupy a guosi-military position
under the laws of the state, I deem it proper to ac
quaint you that I accepted such position when
Louisiana was a state in the Union, and when the
motto of this seminary was inserted in marble over
the main door : l By the Liberality of the General
Government of the United States The Union :
Esto Perpetual

"Keceut events foreshadow a great change, and
it becomes all men to choose. If Louisiana with
draw from the Federal Union, I prefer to maintain
my allegiance to the Constitution as long as a frag
ment of it survives ; and my longer stay here would
be wrong in every sense of the word.

" In that event, I beg you will send or appoint
some authorized agent to take charge of the arms
and munitions of war belonging to the state, or ad
vise me what disposition to make of them.

"And furthermore, as President of the Board of
Supervisors, I beg you to take immediate steps to
relieve me as superintendent, the moment the state
determines to secede, for 011 no earthly account will
I do any act or think any thought hostile to or in
defiance of the old Government of the United

" With great respect, your obedient servant,

4 Superintendent. J

Nothing could be more admirable in its construe-


tion, temper and air of polite yet dignified adhesion
to Federal principles than this letter. It was a
graceful yet decisive move to relieve the writer
from an untenable and illogical situation.

In addition to this official letter Sherman sent a
private one to the governor wherein he said
frankly : "I have never been a politician, and
therefore undervalue the excited feelings and opin
ions of present rulers, but I do think, if this people
cannot execute a form of government like the pres
ent, that a worse one will result. I will keep the
cadets as quiet as possible. They are nervous, but
I think the interest of the state requires them here,
guarding this property and acquiring a knowl
edge which will be useful to your state in after
times. 7

Throughout this whole episode Sherman acted
with the scrupulousness that always marked him,
and with a tact which he did not always choose to
show. It was argued in certain Southern quarters
during the war that he had been guilty of a breach
of hospitality in taking up arms against the Seces
sionists, but that was merely a criticism engendered
by the acrimony of civil strife, and, possibly, by
disappointment that so accomplished an army
officer had been lost to their cause.

The moderation of the captain in his views on
the slavery issue, his hopes for compromise, his
want of sympathy for the fanatical " negro wor
shippers," and the fact that he understood the
intricate economic conditions existing in the slave


states, may have made some of the Louisianians
hope that he would throw in his lot south of Mason
and Dixou s line. And here one is confronted
with an interesting if somewhat idle query. Had
Sherman been a resident of Louisiana for, say, ten
years, at the outbreak of the " late unpleasantness,"
and had he come to look at things more and more
from the view-point of Dixie, might he not have
decided, when the final word came, to fight for his
"adopted state" ? Some readers may indignantly
cry, "No; it is impossible! What an idea!"
But let it not be forgotten that environment moulds
even the strongest men, and much talking of poli
tics may wear away even a native of Ohio. There
is certainly something entertainingly paradoxical
in the thought of Sherman enlisted under the
"stars and bars," and a possible substitution of
"Marching through Pennsylvania" for "March
ing through Georgia!"

One thing is certain. The authorities of the
Military Academy, including the governor and
other officials, parted from Sherman with a sense
of deep personal regret, which they showed by
adopting resolutions, hardly less laudatory than the
minutes that boards of bank directors are wont to
adopt for their deceased presidents or cashiers.
The superintendent said farewell to Alexandria
and proceeded to New Orleans, where he wound up
his connection with the financial affairs of the insti
tution. His accounts were audited and found to be
correct ; he was now ready to go North with a clear


conscience and the esteem of the men who were to
be his political enemies for four long years.

At the hotel in New Orleans he sat at the
table with Colonel (afterward General) Braxtou
Bragg and Mrs. Bragg. Jefferson Davis and Alex
ander H. Stephens had just been elected President
and Vice-President, respectively, of the Confeder
acy. During one of the meals Mrs. Bragg, in re
ferring to a recent military appointment made by
Mr. Davis, said : " You know that my husband is
not a favorite with the new President."

Captain Sherman s mind was dwelling upon
Abraham Lincoln as the new President, so he
answered : "I didn t know that Colonel Bragg had
ever met Mr. Lincoln."

"I didn t mean your President, but our Presi
dent," pointedly replied Mrs. Bragg. It was evi
dent, although Fort Sumter had not yet been fired
upon, that the conflict between the states had al
ready earnestly begun.

While in New Orleans, Sherman visited Colo
nel A. C. Myers, quartermaster, who had resigned
from the United States army, and accepted service
under the Confederacy. Myers occupied his old
office in the Lafayette Square Building, with the
letters "U. S." still plainly in evidence on his
desk, papers and articles of furnishing. " Don t
you feel funny?" asked the captain.

"Why no, not at all," replied Myers. "The
thing was inevitable ; secession is a complete suc
cess j there will be no war ; the two governments


will settle all matters of business in a friendly
spirit, and each will go on in its allotted sphere
without further confusion." Indeed, there were
many good people, North and South, who thought
that the Union would be split in twain without the
loss of a drop of blood. This mood is reflected in
the memorable lines by Oliver Wendell Holmes on
the secession of South Carolina:

" She has goiie she has left us in passion and pride,
Our stormy-browed sister so long at our side !
She has torn her own star from our firmament s glow,
And turned on her brother the face of a foe !

41 O Caroline, Caroline, child of the sun,
We can never forget that our hearts have been one,
Our foreheads both sprinkled in Liberty s name,
From the fountain of blood with the finger of flame !

" Has our love all died out? Have its altars grown cold ?
Has the curse come at last which the fathers foretold ?
Then Nature must teach us the strength of the chain
That her petulant children would sever in vain.

" Go then, our rash sister ! afar and aloof,
Kuu wild in the sunshine, away from our roof ;
But when your heart aches, and your feet have grown sore,
Kemember the pathway that leads to our door."

In this poem we have regret at the secession of
" Sister Caroline," and the prophecy that she will
finally come back into the Union ; but there is no

" Brother Jonathan s Lament for Sister Caroline."


tliouglit that her conduct will cost the lives of thou
sands upon thousands of men on both sides.

It was this " Lament" that brought forth, in re
ply, the famous verses which began :

" Farewell ! We must part ; we have turned from the land
Of our cold-hearted brother, with tyrannous hand,
Who assumed all our rights as a favor to grant,
And whose smiles ever covered the sting of a taunt."

Speaking of the sentiment in New Orleans at this
time, Sherman records that the people there con
sidered that Louisiana, by a mere declaration of the
fact, had become a free and independent state, free
to enter into any new alliance or combination which
she chose. i i Men were being enlisted and armed,
to defend the state, and there was not the least evi
dence that the national administration designed to
make any effort, by force, to vindicate the national
authority. I therefore bade adieu to all my friends,
and, about the 25th of February (1861) took my de
parture by railroad for Lancaster, via Cairo and

Sherman had closed another phase of his career.
He was now about to emerge upon a stage where he
would become, in time, one of the commanding
figures, as well as one of the most hated of men
among many of his old friends in the Southern



SHERMAN went northward with feelings of a
gloomy nature. During his stay in Louisiana he
had maintained his family comfortably in Lancaster,
O. ; but now his salary as superintendent was at
an end, and once more he was compelled to ask :
"How am I to support my wife and little ones?"
Even if civil war should come, he did not see how
it could give him an employment generous enough
to provide for those dependent upon him. He
seems, at this time, to have been disposed to take a
bitter, sarcastic view of the country s situation.
He argued that the national crisis had been brought
about by the politicians, North as well as South,
and he believed, as a matter of ironic justice, that
they should " fight it out" themselves. There was
always that same loathing, wherein one insensibly
sympathizes, for the mischief-making of the aver
age " statesman," selfish and dangerous of tongue.

On the way home to Lancaster, the captain lis
tened carefully to the talking, ofttimes loud and vio
lent, of his fellow passengers. In the South, as he
tells us, the people were earnest and angry in their
determination to break their bonds with the old
Union ; whereas to the northward he saw nothing


but apathy. It looked to him as if the people of the
North would tamely submit to secession. "The
orators of the South used, openly and constantly,
the expressions that there would be no war, and
that a lady s thimble would hold all the blood to be

On reaching Lancaster, and rejoining his family,
Sherman found two important letters awaiting him.
One was from his brother, John Sherman, urgently
asking him to come to Washington ; the other was
a hint from St. Louis that he would, if he so de
sired, be made president of the Fifth Street Passen
ger Kail way in that city, at a salary of $2,500 a

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Online LibraryEdward RobinsWilliam T. Sherman → online text (page 3 of 22)